It took two years to build, but the entire construction process for a huge new ship from P&O Cruises can be viewed in just over a minute thanks to this incredible timelapse video.
The mesmerizing footage shows the many sections of Iona, the largest ship ever built for the UK cruise market, being put together piece by piece at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.
During the final moments, the 185,000-ton vessel, which has a 5,200-guest capacity, can be seen leaving the shipyard and taking to the water.
Measuring 345 meters (1,132 feet), Iona is powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG,) and consists of 17 guest decks, 13 entertainment venues, four swimming pools, including an infinity pool, and a gin distillery.
Its most impressive feature is arguably its two-deck SkyDome, which holds a swimming pool that can be transformed into a stage at night.
“Whilst our operations are currently paused until early 2021 Iona will not be sailing for the moment,” Paul Ludlow, P&O Cruises president, said at the official handover ceremony in October.
“But we look forward to our guests experiencing this game-changing ship as we will continue to offer unparalleled holidays at sea whilst also upholding the latest approved travel protocols.”
While Iona is one of the world’s first cruise ships to be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), it will be followed by several more.
Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises also have upcoming cruise ships that will run on the eco-friendlier gas that cools down until it becomes a liquid.
Iona was originally scheduled to join the P&O Cruises fleet in April, but this was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
P&O Cruises has stalled operations until at least early 2021.
Despite the pandemic, 18 new ships have been delivered or are scheduled for delivery to cruise lines this year, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA,) an industry body representing many of the world’s largest cruise lines.
Five ships slated for 2020 have been delayed until next year, but the CLIA stress that orders remain close to a historic high.
Iona is likely to begin her new maiden season to Northern Europe, Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands from Southampton at some point next year.
Princess Cruises’ the Enchanted Princess is one the other large cruise ships to be delivered in recent months, and the first that the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy has completed since the pandemic.
Meanwhile Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, still under construction in France, had her float out in September and Saga Cruises took delivery of Spirit of Adventure – a sister ship to Spirit of Discovery – last month.
Such developments have provided a much-needed boost for the cruising world, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic.
“It’s a good sign that lines continue to introduce new ships – and plans for new ships – especially given the current climate,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of cruise travel site Cruise Critic.
“We’ve seen the retirement of some older ships and the delay of new ships, but lines are still dedicated to investing in the future of their fleets.
“And for consumers, it shows that there is confidence from the lines – they’re doubling down on the industry and in their fleet.”
A staggering blow to the cruise industry
The industry was worth $150 billion worldwide in 2018, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
However, Covid-19 pretty much brought cruises to a halt. Early this year, a series of outbreaks on ships led to both passengers and crew being stranded at sea for months, with closed ports refusing to allow them to disembark.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a No Sail Order for ships traveling from US ports on March 14 and much of the industry’s ship fleet was docked.
Back in August, Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association, stressed that the CLIA is confident that cruising will recover, pointing out that demand for 2021 vacations is already high.
However, with most cruise operations still suspended, the economic impact has been staggering.
According to the Financial Times, 19 new ships worth more than $9 billion were due to launch this year.
But the majority have been delayed due to coronavirus-related issues. Some shipyards have totally shut down, while work has slowed down in many of those that are still operating.
Some companies have opted to delay launching completed ships. For instance, the debut of Scarlet Lady, cruise line Virgin Voyages’ first ship, has been pushed back twice.
“Beyond the pause in service, shipyards also have experienced delays due to the virus and obstacles like lockdowns and lower manpower,” adds McDaniel.
“That’s also had an effect on lines’ ability to launch ships when they originally intended to.
“A handful of new ship debuts set for 2020 moved to 2021, including highly-anticipated vessels like Carnival’s Mardi Gras, Ritz-Carlton’s Evrima and Crystal Endeavor.
“The bright side for cruisers is, when cruising is allowed to safely return, they’ll have a wide range of new ships from which to choose.”
Starts and stops as cruise lines look to resume sailing
While some Mediterranean cruises geared toward EU travelers began in late summer, a second coronavirus wave in many parts of Europe has led to new quarantine measures, lockdowns and more cancellations.
AIDA Cruises, part of the Carnival Cruises empire, recently announced it will cancel all planned voyages for November due to new measures in Germany to contain the new Covid-19 outbreak.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.”
The order, which applies to cruise ships in US territorial waters that have capacity to carry at least 250 passengers, is considered a tentative step toward the resumption of cruising.
Trade group CLIA said it will work with the CDC to resume sailings as soon as possible, but that its members would continue a voluntary suspension of operations through the end of 2020.
Forrest Brown and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report