Small-ship demand is soaring says Scenic boss

Moroney says expedition ships have changed people's perception of cruising

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours’ Founder, Glen Moroney, says his brand is ideally positioned to swoop on the rise in small-ship ocean cruising, as rival luxury cruise operators continue to boost capacity and vessel size.

Speaking of the future of expedition cruising on the Kathy Sullivan Explores podcast – the Astronaut and now Godmother of Scenic Eclipse II – Moroney said small ship cruising is the “fastest-growing segment” of cruising. That comment comes after Scenic conducted a “detailed market analysis” that found the small-ship market was growing at 20% a year.

“There’s been a huge increase,” Moroney told Sullivan in the podcast, which appears to have been recorded some time ago but only made public last week, ahead of the christening ceremony in Malaga, Spain on Sunday.

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The luxury and high-end expedition cruise market is currently served by the likes of Seabourn with Seabourn Venture, Silversea with Silver Endeavour, PONANT with Le Commandant Charcot, Viking with Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis, as well brands such as Lindblad Expeditions and Swan Hellenic.

Scenic Group operates two polar class ultra-luxury ships for its namesake luxury brand, Scenic Eclipse and the freshly christened Scenic Eclipse II, each with a capacity of 228-passengers. The company also operates the warmer water 100-guest superyacht Emerald Azzurra, and the soon-to-launch sistership, Emerald Sakara.

Moroney said the influx in expedition newbuilds was driven by new polar codes to Antarctica, which had long been dominated by Russian ice breakers and research vessels. Upgrading those vessels – which had an average age of 26 years – to the new polar code would be too expensive.

Scenic Eclipse II in Malaga, Spain for her christening by Astronaut Kathy Sullivan

“A lot of the new tonnage has replaced that which has exited, but there’s still been a lot of increase in capacity.”

While Scenic doesn’t define Eclipse I and II as expedition ships, choosing the term ‘Discovery Yacht’ instead, Moroney did note the significant capacity rise in that market.

“There’s been quite a large increase over the past two or three years,” Moroney said. “I think the growth in numbers – as there’s not many more new builds coming… most have already been delivered – I think we’ll see a really, really strong market for small ship cruising, and in particular, expedition.”

He said the swing to small ships is fueled by the pandemic, and these new ships are “changing people’s perception of cruising.”

“I know that a lot of people that we’ve had on board would not go on a two-, three-, four-, five-, six-thousand passenger ship. It’s just not what they’d do.”

Eclipse is just a completely different concept, and I think it’s going to be more and more popular.”

Scenic Eclipse II

Moroney also noted other luxury cruise brands, including Silversea, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas, have mostly upped their capacity over the years from around 200- to 300-odd passenger ships to now be around 600 to 750, which he says is “purely economics”.

“The economic get better and better the bigger you build”, Moroney said, “but the experience doesn’t get better.”

“That was another reason for us to build at an ultra-luxury level rather than just an expedition ship, because we believe that in the regions like the Med and Baltic and other areas that are typically where all the cruise ships go, we can deliver that experience the market had left,” he told Sullivan.

Scenic is also developing a new series of ultra-luxury ships to supersede Eclipse I and II. While nothing has been formally revealed about those ocean ships, foreshadowed by Moroney back in 2021, based on his podcast comments, it’s suspected they too will be small ships.

Dr. Sullivan officially christened Scenic Eclipse II on Saturday 3 June 2023. View a video of the highlights from the event and speeches from Moroney and Sullivan on the social media post below.

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