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Be warned, cruisers: That exciting new cruise ship you’re waiting for might be delayed

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There are several dozen major new cruise ships scheduled to debut over the next few years, with some already available to book.

But be warned if you’re starting to plan your future vacations around them: They might not all arrive on time.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction of a growing number of cruise vessels scheduled to be completed over the next few years is falling behind, sometimes by many months.

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Just last week, two major cruise lines announced significant delays in the arrival of new vessels:

  • Cunard pushed back the debut of its first new ship in 14 years, the 2,794-passenger Queen Anne, by four months to May 3, 2024. It was originally due to start service in January 2024.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line said the arrival of the third and fourth vessels in its new Prima-class series would be pushed back from 2024 and 2025, respectively, to 2025 and 2026.

The debut of the second ship in the Prima-class series, Norwegian Viva, was delayed twice, from June 2023 to July 2023 to August 2023.

The delays come just months after Virgin Voyages delayed the arrival of its third ship by nearly a year and startup luxury line Explora Journeys pushed back the debut of its first ship by two months.

Other recent ship unveilings that have been delayed, in some cases significantly, include the arrival of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first vessel, luxury line Seabourn’s first expedition-style cruise ship and Disney Wish, the first new Disney cruise ship in a decade.

Related: New Disney cruise ship delayed by 6 weeks

Like most of the lines before them, both Cunard and Norwegian last week blamed shipyard construction delays caused in part by pandemic-era supply chain issues for the delayed ship unveilings.

“Due in part to unforeseen events that have occurred in recent years, the shipbuilding industry, like other industries, has faced numerous challenges including energy shortages and global supply chain constraints,” Cunard said in a statement sent to TPG.

The line said passengers already booked or waitlisted on Queen Anne’s previously announced maiden voyage, which had been scheduled for Jan. 4, 2024, would have the booking or waitlist position transferred to the vessel’s new maiden voyage.

The Norwegian ships were delayed “100% as a result of shipyard delays from supply chain constraints,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Chief Financial Officer Mark Kempa said last week during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Virgin Voyages' latest ship, Valiant Lady
A new sister vessel to Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady was delayed by nearly a year. VIRGIN VOYAGES

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The company announced the Norwegian ship delays Nov. 8 as part of its quarterly earnings release.

While the arrival dates of the two Norwegian ships have been pushed back into later calendar years, Kempa said the actual time delay for the construction of each of the two vessels was in the “four to five months” range.

Related: Why the best value in travel right now might be a cruise

Neither Norwegian ship had opened for bookings before the delays were announced.

Not all of the ship delays of late have been entirely due to fallout from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The delay of the debut of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first vessel, Evrima, was partly caused by shipyard troubles that predated the pandemic. The line initially used a shipyard with little experience in building luxury cruise vessels, and construction of the ship quickly ran into problems.

Supply chain issues in the wake of the pandemic just made the situation for Evrima worse.

Evrima finally debuted in October after eight delays that pushed back the ship’s arrival by three years.

Other lines that have announced delays for new ships in the past year include Atlas Ocean Voyages, P&O Cruises, Oceanwide Expeditions, Swan Hellenic, Viking and Ambassador Cruise Line.

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