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The Late Delivery Effect: When Cruise Ships Are Not Built On Time

Scenic Cruises recently made an announcement we don’t hear very often: the new ship they are building will not be ready on time.  More commonly reported on this topic: lots of ships across nearly all cruise brands are coming our way in the next few years. So what happens when cruise ships take longer to build than anticipated?  The answer is as complicated as we might imagine and involves a number of departments at the cruise line.  More importantly to us here, what happens to the passengers booked on those sailings that won’t happen now?  It’s what I call the Late Delivery Effect.

To illustrate the late delivery effect, we begin with Austrailia’s Scenic Cruises.  Scenic began with coastal cruises in the Land Down Under before heading inward, focusing on rivers with a fleet of their signature Scenic Space Ships, about a decade ago. Set to debut this year, Scenic’s first ocean ship, what they have promoted as ‘the world’s first discovery yacht’.   A tiny 17-ton vessel, Scenic Eclipse will be less than a tenth the size of Oasis-class ships when we eventually see the new 228-passenger ship, now scheduled for late 2019.  That’s bad news for more than just Scenic river fans looking sail in the ocean again.  That one single affects a bunch of people:

Itinerary Planning-
People who plan itineraries for cruise ships do so quite far in advance.  Right now, we’re waiting for 2020 to open for booking on many cruise lines.  Itinerary planners put 2020 down for a nap long ago and are working on 2021 or later.  They will revisit years when something comes up to disrupt the planned itinerary. Those efforts are commonly linked to safety issues. Istanbul, Turkey comes to mind as one that has an on again off again relationship with itineraries.

We might think the main job of someone who plans cruise ship itineraries is making them interesting.  Well, that’s one part and surely an important one to us.  But they also have to keep the ships supplied on those itineraries. Shore excursion planning and supplying the ship are other important parts of planning that Scenic will have to rethink with an updated delivery date for the new ship.


Shore Excursion Planning-
Ranking right up there with Itinerary planners, those who plan shore excursions.  Itinerary planners get us to destinations.  Shorex people bring the destinations to life.  We got an up-close look at this topic on the last Windstar President’s Cruise with John Delaney and Star Legend Godmother Gloria Bohan. Sailings canceled, a number of factors come into play other than simply rescheduling tours.  Pricing might have been based on a total number of bodies projected to take season’s worth of tours.  Vehicles to move those people, scheduling time at attractions, designing unique experiences and more are all affected when any ship of any size changes course.


Supplying The Ship-
Obviously, those trucks that deliver supplies to ships don’t just happen by with supplies, should a ship happen along that might want them. The logistics of keeping ships supplied is a whole other department at the cruise line which travelers will probably never hear about.  Still, imagine if you were going to the grocery store


Cruise Travelers- Passengers, perhaps Scenic river cruise fans excited about getting into the ocean on their new ship, have nowhere to go. That’s the cover story.  Actually, to make up for their inconvenience, cruise lines often go out of their way to make an attractive offer.  That might mean rebooking on a later sailing, one that is at a time of the year when demand normally drives pricing up, at the same price.

Displaced Groups-
Those who plan group cruises hope this will never, ever happen.  They wrangled their friends and family through the intricate process of choosing a cruise everyone would agree on, got it booked and started dreaming of how it might go when the shoe drops: your cruise has been canceled. They have few options other than looking for another sailing that will work with the schedules of many more people than just themselves.  It’s a process I would not wish on anyone.  Still, if handled right, the cruise line will make it as painless as possible.  That’s one kind of group.

Layered Groups-
Top luxury land tour operator Abercrombie & Kent books space on ships owned by others, layering what they do on top of the standard ship fare offered by that cruise line.  We saw this first hand on A&K’s Connections European river cruise.  In that case, the cruise line was one you may never have heard of either, Luftner Cruises.  Layered on top of what Luftner does, Abercombie & Kent luxury that to this day remains the gold bar standard for luxury travel in my book.

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Well, A&K had space sold on new Scenic Eclipse for some very attractive Antarctica sailings.  Now, those have been delayed, but for about as good of a reason that we cruise travelers could hope for. In a statement, Scenic broke the news: Despite their best efforts to make up construction time, they are not prepared to compromise the quality of the vessel or the impact guest experiences to meet the original delivery date.  Still, for those eager to travel to Antarctica, A&K still has limited availability (and attractive promotional pricing) on their December 12, 2018 and January 16, 2019 departures, with savings up to $8,000 – 9,000 per couple.

  • Classic Antarctica cruise (December 12-24, 2018): 12 days from $11,995 (was $14,995). Savings of up to $9,000 per couple: $3,000 per person on categories 1-3, plus receive a $1,500 per person international air credit on any stateroom or $3,000 per person on select suites when you plan your international air through A&K.
  • Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands (Jan 16-Feb 1, 2019): 17 days from $19,995, (was $23,995).  Savings of up to $8,000 per couple: $4,000 per person on stateroom categories 1-3.


There is good news on the horizon for cruise travelers: this late delivery effect rarely happens.  It is far more common for cruise lines to add sailings because a ship was ready early.



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