Yet another supply chain issue is plaguing cruise ships, though this one has the potential to unsettle an entire industry working to gain ground after a two-year disruption.
By now we’re all familiar with how these supply chain interruptions have impacted our own lives, making it difficult to buy a new car, find certain items in stock online, or start that construction project. However, these growing supply shortages have now coupled with the fallout from the ongoing war in Ukraine to result in a scarcity that will impact the cruise industry and others for possibly years to come: steel.
In a recent discussion with Norwegian’s president Harry Sommer, he mentioned that the biggest supply chain concern for the cruise line is in fact steel.
“It affected Prima just a little bit, which is why we had to cancel one cruise, but we don’t think it’s going to affect Viva [the second Prima Class ship],” Sommer told us. “It’s possible that the third ship in the series will be impacted — it’s too soon to tell. That ship isn’t due to be delivered until November 2025.”
The inaugural revenue sailing on Norwegian Prima, the first ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Prima Class, has been delayed just a few weeks from August 17 to September 4, 2022. In a letter sent to impacted guests, the line cited “supply chain challenges.”
Norwegian Cruise Line utilizes shipbuilder Fincantieri to construct many of its ships, including Prima. Sommer mentioned that the yard had secured all of its steel from a plant in Romania on the border of Ukraine, and many workers from the plant are Ukrainians who can no longer cross the border.
The Italian shipyard is popular with many cruise lines, which means it won’t be a materials problem unique to Norwegian. Other ships slated to be delivered this year from Fincantieri are Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady, MSC Cruises’ Seascape, and Viking Ocean’s Viking Neptune.
But according to Sommer, problems will likely mount for new-builds set to debut in 2025 and beyond, “because now is when you would need that steel fabrication.” At least six ships are on order at Fincantieri for 2025; not to mention all of the other ships on order at shipyards around the world like Chantiers in France or Meyer-Werft in Germany.
Supply chain disruptions were the villain in the story of Margaritaville at Sea’s first ship, delayed from April to May 2022; Emerald Azzurra, which was delayed six weeks and had issues securing furniture for its first voyage; and lack of supplies caused yet another delay for Ritz-Carlton Collection’s first ship Evrima, now expected in August 2022.
“Listen, there are issues getting everything; there are issues getting chairs, getting carpet, getting doors. Everything is getting more difficult to find now than it was before,” Sommer said. “And it’s not just for the new ships.”
Sommer explained that with 17 ships in the Norwegian fleet on an estimated three-year cycle, there are always a handful of vessels in dry dock for refurbishment in any given year. Sommer said that on a regular basis, “We’re ordering thousands of yards of carpet, wall coverings, upholstery — all of those things.”
On our Azamara Journey sailing in December 2021, the much-delayed arrival of wall coverings from Japan meant that the crew had to remain flexible and get the work done with guests onboard. We were told that carpet was so hard to find during Journey’s summer ’21 refurbishment that Azamara in fact temporarily borrowed carpet from Celebrity Cruises so guests wouldn’t be walking on unfinished flooring.
Five months later on the inaugural voyage of Azamara Onward, which departed Monte Carlo on May 2, 2022, a letter went out to guests mentioning that due to supply chain issues, it was recommended to bring your own hairdryers and umbrellas. But if steel supply orders aren’t fulfilled in the coming months, wet hair won’t be cruising’s biggest concern. Fresh from a pandemic shutdown, we could once again face a time in the future with no new cruise ships to inaugurate.