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Thomson Cruises has announced that from April 2016 they will be leasing Splendour of the Seas, currently sailing for Royal Caribbean. The new ship will replace Island Escape which I believe will be leaving the Thomson fleet.

Splendour of the Seas (SotS) is being bought by TUI Cruises, Thomson’s parent company, and will then be leased to the UK operator. No word yet on a new name, nor on the itineraries she will be doing. Island Escape currently does 7-night fly-cruises out of Palma on an all-inclusive basis – I believe she’s the only ship in the Thomson fleet that operates this way – but it’s not necessarily the case that Splendour of the Seas will replace Island Escape exactly, either in location or cruising style.

I would be surprised if this was the case, in fact. As a ship SotS is a huge improvement on Island Escape, which was originally built as a ferry in the Baltic Sea. SotS is nearly twice the size (70k tons as against 40k) but carries just 25% more passengers, so there will be a lot more space per passenger. She’s also a lot newer – built in 1996 as compared with 1982 for Island Escape. In fact, SotS takes Thomson Cruises to an  entirely new level. She will be the most recently-built ship in the Thomson fleet – currently, that’s Thomson Majesty, built in 1992, while the rest of the fleet date from the 1980s. SotS will also be the biggest ship in the fleet, and is of a much more modern design; for example, nearly half her cabins have balconies which are rare in the current Thomson fleet. Helen Carron (Thomson Cruises MD) made this comment about the ship:

This is the first step in our fleet modernisation and transformation strategy and will bring an enhanced offering to our customers

_MG_0717So while Thomson will still be using older tonnage, it won’t be quite so old. There’s an image alongside of Thomson Dream as an example of the ships that Thomson currently use. At 53,000 tons she’s currently Thomson’s largest ship, and she can take about 1500 passengers (standard occupancy). Although probably state-of-the-art originally – she was built as Westerdam for Holland America in 1986 – you can see that she’s from an entirely older generation: no balconies, for example, and are those open lifeboats I can see in the front three positions?

Mind you, I’m stuck by the contrast between what TUI is doing for the UK and what they’re doing for their German customers. As I mentioned in a recent post, TUI have ordered 4 newbuilds for TUI Cruises in Germany, each at around 100,000 tons. The first has already been delivered, the second is due this year, there are two more on order,  and they have options for another two after that. Still, this is a definite step up for Thomson Cruises, and it sounds as if it may be just the first step. Let’s have some more.

2 Responses to “Thomson to get Splendour of the Seas”

  1. Good morning Tom.

    I loved your expression…”In fact, SotS takes Thomson Cruises to an entirely new level”.

    The fact remains that they are adding a 19 year old ship to their fleet – and one must presume that Royal Caribbean, and their cruisers, have tired of it.

    Now I am often on record as stating that these cruise lines know what they are doing and would suggest that Thomson is no exception. Thomson have already this year abandoned the exclusive marketing of their ships to their own high street branded shops and are now prepared to pay ‘online’ cruise travel agents commission: effectively raising their prices. Dyed in the wool Thomson cruisers are now moving to the likes of P&O.

    2016 will no doubt see Thomson cruise prices increase yet again. Their advantage does lay in the fact they cross subsidise with their fleet of aircraft.

    As a slight aside, Thomson Spirit has been laid up in Piraeus for months and is due to restart its cruise programme on 25th March. That itinerary is going to prove very interesting.

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Richard.

      Obviously Splendour of the Seas is 19 years old, and yes it must no longer fit with Royal Caribbean’s business model. It must be difficult for them to maintain a consistent marketing message for ships of so many different classes and sizes, from the Vision class to the Oasis class and now the Quantum class. I’ll stick with my view that this is a significant shift for Thomson, however: SotS does appear to be a better ship than anything they’e got at the moment.

      I didn’t know about the layup of Thomson Spirit. However, could this have been for winter? I’m not familiar enough with Thomson’s itineraries to know whether she should have been in service over the winter.

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