It's cruising Jim, but not as we know it - life on the 1,000-footers
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It's cruising Jim, but not as we know it - life on the 1,000-footers

The first 100,000-tonners were introduced when Carnival Destiny was named in Venice in 1996, with Grand Princess following in 1997.
While the first 100,000-tonners brought real economies of scale to cruising they were not that different from the modern cruise ships that had preceded them.
A dozen years later, however, and there will soon be fifty ships of more than 100,000 tons.

But now, for the first time since the two original Queens and the Normandie and France, ships are being built to exceed 1,000 feet (305 metres). With the arrival of these 1,000-footers, the whole nature of cruising is about to change in a major way.

It began in 1999, when Royal Caribbean's 1,020-foot Voyager of the Seas brought us a Royal Promenade, rock climbing and and ice skating. And recently, the trade has been deluged with news and images of the next generation of 1,000-footers, Royal Caribbean's 1,181-foot Genesis Class, NCL's 1,120-foot F3's, MSC's 1,092-foot Fantasias and Celebrity's 1,033-foot Solstices.
Twenty-four ships will soon form a new class that will be far different from the ships we have known so far.

The Genesis Class - Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas

The 1,020-foot Voyager class of five ships built between 1999 and 2003 were followed by three 1,112-foot Freedom class between 2006 and 2008, one of which, the Independence of the Seas, will be based in Southampton this summer.

The Freedoms, a lengthened version of the Voyagers, upped the lower berth count from 3,100 to 3,600 and brought us the first FloRider surfing machines and boxing rings as well as rock climbing and ice skating. Plus a 445-foot long shopping, dining and entertainment boulevard.

But the new Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will be of a different order completely. Not only will they include the tree-lined Central Park area, mentioned here on April 21, with 668 passengers enjoying inward views, but they will have the first amphitheatres at sea, called the AquaTheatre, at the stern end of the Royal Promenade, and 28 two-level Loft Suites high up in the ship.

The AquaTheatre pool area will be encircled by sun loungers by day and at night will become a stage for acrobatics, synchronized swimming, high diving and fountain displays.
The Loft Suites will be the highest accommodation at sea and will include floor-to-ceiling windows to emphasize the views. Each loft suite, measuring 545 square feet, will be decorated with modern art and will feature a veranda with stunning views.

NCL's F3 Class

The first announcement on the F3's was about its New Wave.Staterooms, with wavy walls, as mentioned here on April 28. And the latest NCL concepts include a champagne welcome as well as lobster twice a week and every night in the alternative restaurants.
But as well as the additional levies for dining in the alternative restaurants, NCL seem to have come up with another way of making some on board revenue - charging admission to other venues.

This week's news is about lounges, bars and night clubs. The F3's won't have massive void spaces and rooms only used for one thing like the massive show lounges that sit empty twenty hours a day except for rehearsals. Each night club space will have multiple uses - sunning, bowling, dining and, of course, hip night club ambience. Here's what NCL has in store:

The Ice Bar, a chill out and chat up venue inspired by the original ice bars and ice hotels of Scandinavia. In this frozen chamber of iced vodka the centrepiece will be a giant ice cube that glows and changes colors.
Ice Bar will accommodate 25 guests who will be given fur coats, gloves and hats as the room's temperature will not rise above -8 degrees Celsius. To enter, guests will pay a cover charge although NCL says it has not yet determined the price.

The members-only POSH Beach Club - With a Miami South Beach vibe by day and night the venue will include four unique cover charge experiences: (1) POSH Vive, from 6 to 9 am, when people can partake in yoga classes and treatments in private cabanas. (2) POSH Rehab till noon, with guests relaxing and recovering from a hard night with Bloody Marys and chill out music. (3) POSH Sol, from noon till 6 pm, when guests can lounge on day beds and enjoy a beach-themed atmosphere. (4) Pure POSH, echoing the Las Vegas nightclub at Caesar's Palace, guests will drink and dance under the stars.

Halo, the Uber Bar, where garden and courtyard villa guests have exclusive access, although other guests will be able to pay a cover charge.
This bar sits on top of the ship on Deck 16 and will showcase art and jewelry (modeled by servers), which will of course be available for purchase.

Bliss Ultra Lounge and Nightclub. Already popular on the Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Pearl, this bowling alley by day hot bed club by night will also feature on board the new F3 ships.

The Spice H2O will be an aft tiered pool complex for adults only. Like the POSH club, Spice will feature four unique experiences. A screen over the pool will provide a smaller version of RCCL's AquaTheatre.
With all-day-long music and a huge video screen, different themes will prevail: (1) Sunny Spice from 8 am to 11 am, including spicy drinks and breakfast. (2) daytime Aqua Spice with sun and water and Chinese take-aways. (3) evening Sunset Spice, with a perfect sunset every day (4) All Spice at night, offering a show of aqua ballet and dancing.

Charges haven't yet been announced for each venue, but NCL says it will offer a "Beyond the Velvet Rope" package for all clubs.

MSC Fantasia

MSC's contribution to this wave of change is not only its European on board atmosphere on board, enlarging industry choice, but with its MSC Fantasia and her sister, a new Yacht Club concept.that will include Butler service in the best suites on the ship.

The largest ship ever built for a European cruise line, MSC Fantasia will be the first to have an exclusive VIP area with 99 suites, a bar, solarium, two hydro-massage pools, a skydome swimming pool, a reserved observation lounge with bar, concierge and an observation lounge forward where huge clear glass windows will provide guests with amazing forward views.
A forward view is now something that a lot of ships don't offer as their owners' concentrate on trying to get passengers to increase their on board spend.

Disney's New Ships

Although not due for delivery until 2011 and 2012, the artist's impressions of these two ships show a development of the present Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, but with two more decks.
While Disney have extended their terminal lease at Cape Canaveral to 2022, the new ships can also be expected to introduce new itineraries, possibly once more from Marseilles in connection with Disneyland Paris or from Los Angeles with Disneyland Anaheim, or even from Tokyo in connection with Disneyland Tokyo.
No further details have yet been announced but they will be 1,082 feet long.

Celebrity Solstice

The grass is greener on Celebrity as it introduces what it calls its Lawn Club, a half-acre country club-style venue featuring real grass on the top decks and a lounge called the Patio on the Lawn for those who enjoy quiet. Activities will include lawn bowling and a putting green,

Elsewhere, the ship will have its own new Aqua class, where, along with a Solarium and Persian Garden, guests will have access to the Aqua Spa included in their package, complete with assigned seating in their own dining room called Blu and an AquaSpa Cafe.

Carnival, Costa and Princess

Of the twenty-four 1,000-footers, only three will belong to the Carnival Corp: the Queen Mary 2 and the new Carnival Dream and Carnival Wonder, However, the rest of the world's 100,000-tonners, which number twenty-six ships of between 892 and 952 feet in length, are owned by Carnival, Costa and Princess. Mickey Arison was once quoted when asked about RCCL's huge new ships, "we're comfortable with our size of ships," and Bob Dickinson, then Carnival president, responded "we're not in an arms race."

Carnival Cruise Line's biggest and newest ship, the 130,000-ton 1,004-foot Carnival Dream, due to enter service in September 2009, will be the first to join the 1,000-footers club.
Originally reported at 982 feet but now longer, she will cruise year-round from Cape Canaveral. Her claim to innovation will be a new entertainment concept called The Piazza, an indoor/outdoor café and live music venue.

However, in a fascinating quotation from a recent release, it seems that unlike RCCL and NCL who are going for more bells and whistles, Carnival is going more traditional.
"Carnival Dream will take the traditional cruise ship promenade to new heights with a half-mile, open-air promenade encircling the ship on Promenade Deck 5. Here, guests can take a stroll while enjoying spectacular ocean vistas, read a book, or just take in the sun from one of the many deck chairs that will line this unique open deck area."

This sounds very unlike Carnival, whose Carnival Destiny, the first 100,000-tonner, had promenades with just two doors and no deck chairs at all.

Where The Market is Going

While RCCL have been heading the parade on hardware features, NCL has concentrated more on software, adding greater choice of venues.
RCCL's Royal Parade, rock climbing, ice skating, boxing and surfing venues will compete with NCL's array of clubs and restaurants, both attracting a much younger cruiser.
Meanwhile, RCCL, with its Loft Suites, NCL, with its Uber Bar, and MSC, with its Yacht Club, are all inventing a new class system in an effort to retain their higher-spending clientele as well.

Traditionalists will probably look in on these ships and go back to where they were, while younger first-time cruisers, the future lifeblood of the industry, will return, meaning more new customers.
And the lines hope to please families as well.

RCCL's activities particularly are attractive to both the younger market and the family market - who will get the rock-climbing wall? The 17-year-old or the 30-year-old? At least we know there will be multiple routes.

Meanwhile, it is interesting that Carnival is not part of this sea change and in fact even seems to be getting a little more traditional in its approach.
But it is also interesting that, with its concentration on brands rather than gimmicks, Carnival remains the most profitable cruise organization in the world.

(Source: By Mark Tré -

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