Top 10 Cruise Stories of 2021

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Cruise Industry News looks back at the top 10 cruise stories of 2021 – the eventful year that saw the industry’s staggered return to service.

Celebrity Edge Relaunches Service From US

The Celebrity Edge departed Port Everglades on June 26 with 1,105 passengers onboard, marking the first revenue sailing for a large cruise ship from a U.S. port in 15 months.

The Celebrity Cruises vessel was the first ship above the 250-person mark to sail in the country, having received the green light from authorities just weeks before.

Several cruise ships followed its lead and returned to U.S. ports, resulting in a July uptick in the global cruise restart.

Nearly 35 New Ships Entered Service in 2021

Pandemic delays led to several newbuilds’ launch dates being pushed back, meaning more vessels entering service in 2021.

In January, Cruise Industry News predicted that 46 cruise ships would welcome guests for the first time by the end of the year. The figure included 16 ships delivered in 2020 and 30 vessels set to be delivered by the end of December.

Some of the year’s new ships had their deliveries postponed to 2022, with a total of 34 vessels debuting in 2021.

Azamara Sold to Private Equity Firm

In a surprising move, Royal Caribbean Group sold off one of its cruise brands in March. Azamara – which was created in 2007 – was sold to Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm specializing in consumer, retail and distribution investments.

The deal – described as a “huge opportunity for all parties” – included Azamara’s entire three-ship fleet.

Sycamore went on to acquire the Pacific Princess just a few weeks later for its new cruise operation. The vessel is set to debut in 2022 becoming Azamara’s fourth ship.

Cruise Ship Drydock Frenzy

As predicted by Cruise Industry News in March, 2021 saw an unprecedented number of cruise ship drydocks.

The global fleet was preparing to return to service, so the shipyards were kept busy with an above-the-average number of cruise ships projects. The trend especially manifested in the second half of 2021.

The Navantia shipyard, for instance, worked on 18 cruise ships projects during the year. Just in October, the facility worked on eight cruise ships simultaneously, which included Azamara, Carnival and Royal Caribbean vessels.

CDC Releases Updates for Conditional Sail Order

After a long wait, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally released updates to its Conditional Sail Order in May and April.

The updates paved the way for the effective restart of cruise operations in the United States after a nearly 15-month hiatus.

Carnival was one of the first cruise lines to get the CDC approval for operations in Florida and Texas.

2021 Alaska Cruise Season Saved by Bill

In May, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law, temporarily allowing foreign-flagged cruise ships to sail in the region without having to dock in Canada first.

With Canadian ports closed for cruise ships until 2022, the bill effectively saved the Alaskan season for the major cruise lines that don’t operate U.S.-flagged vessels.

Royal Caribbean International was the first cruise line to resume operations in the region, with the Serenade of the Seas on July 9. The brand was soon followed by Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

60% of the Cruise Fleet Now Back in Service

Since the first big cruise ship resuming revenue operations in July 2020, the cruise industry has grown to nearly 60 percent of its fleet back in service.

Cruise Industry News kept track of the restart operations around the world during the entire year, publishing its exclusive Cruise Ships in Service Report by Cruise Industry News every month.

According to the December edition of the report, 239 ships are set to be in service by the end of the year sailing for 68 cruise lines.

Mardi Gras Debuts as Carnival’s Biggest Ever Ship

The 5,200-guest Mardi Gras finally entered service for Carnival Cruise Line in late July after a long wait, sailing from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean.

The 180,000-ton vessel was built by Meyer Turku in Finland and is the first of a series of three ships that will also include the Carnival Celebration and the Carnival Jubilee. It was originally scheduled to enter service in 2020.

The Mardi Gras didn’t just make history by being Carnival’s biggest ever vessel, it was also the first LNG-powered cruise ship to operate in North America.

New Cruise Lines Are Introduced

Despite the pandemic’s impact on the sector, several new brands emerged in 2021. Some were new operators entering the business during the year, others were announced before 2021 but welcomed guests onboard for the first time this year.

Cruise Industry News recapped all the new cruise lines in March. These include regional operators – such as India-based Cordelia Cruises and China-based Foresee Cruises – and niche brands like Swan Hellenic and Tradewind Voyages.

Other brands joined the lineup later – including Ambassador Cruise Line, Margaritaville at Sea and Explora Journeys.

First China-Built Big Cruise Ship Floats Out

The first Carnival China Cruise Shipping newbuild was floated out in Shanghai in December. The vessel is the first big cruise ship built in China. It is set to enter service in 2023.

The currently unnamed ship is one of two on order for Carnival's joint venture brand with CSSC, where Carnival is a minority partner.

The newbuilds are based on the Carnival Vista-class platform and are being built in partnership with Fincantieri.

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