Royal Caribbean Orders New Ship

| 02.29.12

The line picks up the option to build a second iteration of the brand-new Project Sunshine class.

In what has recently been a "world of pain" in the cruise industry finally we have some truly good news to report - Royal Caribbean is feeling confident enough about the future to commit to building a second ship of the "yet to be revealed" Project Sunshine class.

The announcement was made (on all days) "leap day" of 2012. Does this mean the line has a "leap of faith?" concerning the future of the cruise business. You might think so if you believed half of the sensationalistic bad press about cruising lately. But in fact veteran cruise reporters such as myself have never doubted that they would choose to build two of these beauties. In fact, Royal Caribbean has never flagged its ambition to continue building new ships for its own line or for its subsidiary; Celebrity Cruises, throughout any of the recent economic downturn.

The first Sunshine-class cruise ship is scheduled to be completed in the of Fall 2014. The shipyard is the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany, the same shipyard that just finished construction on the new Disney Dream and Fantasy. Meyer Werft also built all of the Celebrity Solstice class ships. Project Sunshine will represent the largest ships yet to be built at the Meyer Werft yard in Papenburg, Germany. These will be the first Royal Caribbean ships built in Germany for quite awhile as the previous Royal Caribbean ships, the iconic "biggest ships in the world" Oasis and Allure of the Seas, were built in Turku, Finland.

Why the change? Royal Caribbean has had a stellar relationship with the shipyard in Finland - the company and the nation of Finland were instrumental in helping the line finance Oasis back in 2008 when credit was as rare as a wooly mammoth. They needed just about exactly $1-billion to bring Oasis on line, and the government of Finland provided nearly 90% of that money. But Meyer Werft has been very competitive lately, also winning business for the new "Project Breakaway" ships by Norwegian (NCL) who formerly had used the Chantiers De L'Atlantique shipyard in Nantes, France, to build Norwegian Epic.

Royal Caribbean exercised the option to build the second 4,200-passenger ship in the Sunshine class at a cost of €697-million, or about $938-million at current exchange rates at the Meyer Werft yard in Germany. These will be the largest ships ever built in Papenburg, not far from Hamburg. The Papenburg shipyard is largely indoors, and it is situated about 40 miles upstream a narrow river called the River Ems. The river is so narrow that bringing out new ships from the yard requires timing the tides. It has become a ritual now known as the "conveyance."

A Look at Project Sunshine

The first Project Sunshine ship will be delivered in fall 2014. An official name has not yet been chosen. It will be the first new ship for Royal Caribbean International since the 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas, sister ship to Oasis of the Seas. Both ships retained the title "world's largest cruise ship," when they debuted, Oasis in 2008 and Allure in late 2010.

"This confirms our continued confidence in the success of this new generation of ships and our strong conviction about the Royal Caribbean International brand," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, in a statement. Royal Caribbean is the world's second-largest cruise ship company.

The second ship of Project Sunshine is scheduled for delivery to Royal Caribbean in the Spring of 2015. Both Project Sunshine ships will be 158,000 gross registered tons and accommodate 4,200 guests. All together, there may be as many as four Project Sunshine ships built, if the options for a third and fourth are picked up by Royal Caribbean. The new Project Sunshine class ship design is being headed up by Executive VP Harri Kulovaara and chief designer Kelly Gonzalez.

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