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
So 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.