These are not your typical cruise ships

The terrace at NH Collection Palazzo Cinquecento in Rome.
The terrace at NH Collection Palazzo Cinquecento in Rome. –NH Hotel Group via The New York Times

Say so long to the flaming baked alaska paraded around the dining room during your appointed hour in the cavernous dining room on your mega-ship, at least among the newest vessels.

The tradition of the showy dessert and the practice of appointment dining may continue elsewhere, but a tide of new cruise line launches promises more modern menus, contemporary design and flexible schedules aboard their vessels.

The Virgin Group, founded by Richard Branson, recently revealed details on its Virgin Voyages, launching in 2020. In June, the Ritz-Carlton hotel company released plans for the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, scheduled to begin sailing in 2019.

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A new line is also coming to the expedition cruise category in Norwegian Yacht Voyages. Another company, Haumana, based in Tahiti, resumed operations in June after a six-year hiatus.

Among river cruise lines, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection plans to launch U by Uniworld, which will focus on millennial guests next spring.

Cruises have long been proliferating as lines expanded. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 60 cruise companies, some 25.8 million passengers are projected to cruise in 2017, a 47 percent increase since 2009.

But the spate of new cruise lines announced is unusual and an indication of an industry moving into more specific demographic and geographic niches.

“It is remarkable in the industry,” said Colleen McDaniel, the senior executive editor of CruiseCritic.com, a website that covers cruising. “We’ve seen steady growth, but it’s been among the same lines.”

Many of the newcomers aim to attract travelers who are new to cruising.

“Companies like Virgin and Ritz-Carlton already have built a brand that people recognize,” McDaniel said. “They might say, ‘I don’t know anything about cruising, but I know Ritz and if they’re doing it, sign me up.’”

Other launches see an opportunity to appeal to younger travelers or to make expedition cruising to adventurous destinations more comfortable. As McDaniel put it, “No more camp bunk beds.”

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Most of the new lines skip using the c-word altogether. “The word ‘cruise’ has associations with old people and boring stuff, which of course is not true,” said Ulf Henrick Wynnsdale, the president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Yacht Voyages, which adopted its name to avoid conflict with Norwegian Cruise Lines.

 

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