With the ink barely dry on their closing papers, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Silversea Cruises said they will order three Silversea ships, including two that will represent a new class for the luxury line.

The order suggests that RCCL has been using the time since its acquisition of controlling interest in Silversea was announced in mid-June to finalize growth plans at its first entrant in the luxury segment.

RCCL was short on details but said two luxury ships will form the Evolution Class that will begin sailing in 2022. 

No information about the size of the ships, the amenities or the itineraries were given, but RCCL said a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany to build them. 

"We are excited to get to work helping Silversea grow and realize its ambitions," RCCL chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in a statement. 

RCCL purchased a 66.7% stake in Silversea at the end of July for $1 billion plus the assumption of some debt.

In addition to the luxury vessels, RCCL will also build a ship for Silversea's expedition fleet, which has to date been cobbled together mainly by acquiring used tonnage from other operators.

The new ship will be devoted to the Galapagos, where supply is limited by laws requiring vessels to carry 100 passengers or less. 

RCCL is also building a Galapagos vessel for its Celebrity Cruises subsidiary at Shipyard De Hoop in the Netherlands, which will build the Silversea ship, as well.

The ship, to be called the Silver Origin, will replace Silversea's Silver Galapagos, RCCL said.

The ship is expected to be delivered in March 2020.

RCCL brings an experienced and innovative shipbuilding team to bear on the design of the new class for Silversea. However, that team, led by Harri Kulovaara, executive vice president of maritime and newbuilding, is best known for working on very large ships with capacities of up to 5,400 guests.

Silversea's most recent and largest vessel, the Silver Muse, accommodates just 596 passengers.

Silversea is already in expansion mode, with 596-passenger ships to be called the Silver Moon and the Silver Dawn due in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

They are part of a wave of luxury ships that have been ordered in the past few years as a strengthening economy encouraged new capacity in a segment with high fares to match its high costs.

Next year, a luxury brand will debut when Ritz-Carlton launches its first cruise vessel in what is being called the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. 

That will be followed in 2020 by a new Regent Seven Seas ship to be called the Seven Seas Splendor. 

Carnival Corp.'s Seabourn luxury brand is scheduled to add new ships in 2021 and 2022, while Crystal Cruises plans to take in 2022 the first of three 67,000-ton luxury oceangoing ships capable of carrying 800 passengers. 

One question for Silversea is whether the new ships will increase the size of its fleet or serve as replacements. Its original ships, the Silver Cloud and the Silver Wind, will be around 30 years old by the time the second Evolution Class ship is delivered in 2023 or after.

Silversea's first ship, the Silver Cloud, was built in 1994 and was recently strengthened for polar cruising and was moved to expedition itineraries.


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