Monday, 30 June 2014

Travel Power List

2014 Power List


2014 POWER LISTTwo online titans dominated this year's Power List, separated by just a few hundred million dollars, which is not a lot at the heady levels of sales at the top. Expedia, with sales of $39.4 billion in 2013, squeezed past Priceline, at $39.2 billion. A fairly distant third was American Express, at $30.3 billion.

The list continues to reflect strong recovery in the industry; most listees did better than the previous year, and the overall number on the list rose from 53 to 58.

Following are some highlights of this year's Power List of businesses that were the agency of record for $100 million or more in travel-related sales in 2013.

• Five companies registered more than $20 billion in sales, the same number as in 2013, although three had more than $30 billion, up from one last year.

• Sixteen companies recorded sales of more than $1 billion, the same as the last two years.

• Priceline continued to come on strong, partly on the strength of its division, vaulting from $28.5 billion in 2012 to $39.2 billion last year.

• Smaller firms continued to grow impressively, with and without acquisitions. Ovation Travel moved from $828 million to $910 million, and Direct Travel soared from $575 million to $767 million as it continued an aggressive acquisition strategy.

• Companies continued to report increases in sales from hosted or outside travelsellers.

• There were several new listees this year: International Cruise & Excursions, or ICE (No. 22); the Appointment Group (50); Gant Travel Management (51); Conlin Travel (55); CruCon (56); and Campbell (58).

• Firms were asked to describe their business model. Most said they sell directly to consumers, although some do white label. And many described a mix of centralized agency and hosted structures.

• Companies that operate outside the usual travel-selling model continue to thrive. ICE does business through partnerships, such as opening travel stores in Sears locations.

• Leisure agencies continued to grow by offering creative packaging and good deals. Listees that are leisure-dominant include Expedia, Priceline, FC USA, AAA, Travelong, World Travel Holdings, ICE,, H.I.S.-USA, Avoya, Travel Experts, Cruise Planners, CruCon and Quality Reward Travel.

• Not surprisingly, technology dominated the replies when it came to recent developments and projections. A number of companies said they were developing proprietary technology solutions.

• For the first time this year, companies were chosen for "breakout" profiles to demonstrate the diversity of Power List companies. ICE, new to the list, has an unusual business model, serving as a travel provider to corporations and associations; Christopherson Business Travel demonstrates how many agencies, while not at the top of the list, continue to grow and innovate; Conlin Travel, another newcomer to the list, continues to operate out of traditional storefronts.

The 2014 Power List proves again the resilience and adaptability of an industry that many seem to believe is disappearing. On the contrary, it is a channel that is gaining strength even as it evolves.

To view this survey in its entirety, click here.


The compilation of Power List 2014 began late last year, and early this year, the questionnaire was sent to roughly 70 companies that:
  • Had appeared on the list in previous years.
  • Had been in the news because of acquisitions or had grown for other reasons.
  • Had contacted Travel Weekly believing they qualified.
To qualify for the list, agencies had to reach $100 million in sales in 2013. For purposes of this survey, sales are defined as gross sales of travel products, whether to consumers or corporate travelers, for which the company is the merchant of record from a supplier's perspective. At least 15% of the sales volume must have been generated in the U.S.

"Travel products" does not include licensing income or royalties from developing booking platforms, user interfaces, apps, etc. Included are only the booked components of a trip: cruises, tours, forms of conveyance (air, car, train, etc.), attractions, accommodations, entertainment, etc.

Gross sales volume, the primary number for ranking, had to be certified by a company's owner, CEO or CFO.

Responses showed that most companies were happy to cooperate with that stipulation. In a small number of cases, certification was made by an executive at the vice president level but with financial oversight.

In one case (BCD Travel), sales totals were based on publicly disclosed information because the company did not respond to the survey.

We believe the following companies are among those that may have qualified for the list but opted not to participate: Adtrav, Travizon, Travelocity and STA Travel.

While all cooperating listees did certify sales (or make them public), it must be kept in mind that even those numbers are difficult to verify because the great majority of travelsellers are privately held and under no obligation to disclose financial data.

Also, there is no commonly accepted standard for calculating sales volume, and there is no clearinghouse in the U.S. that tracks non-airline sales, as ARC does for airline sales.

Where possible, Travel Weekly sought to confirm accuracy in the figures by referring to other data and to articles published in the past year. We also reviewed responses for consistency and used whatever resources we had at our disposal to ensure accuracy.

The survey on which these rankings was based included questions involving sales figures; ARC sales; travel-related subsidiaries; percentage of sales from business, leisure, etc.; corporate structure; and other topics. There were several open-ended questions about recent and planned developments to which companies could reply.

Responses to the questionnaire determined the length of the profiles that accompany each listed agency. Companies were offered the option of having an executive interviewed by a Travel Weekly editor; several took advantage of that opportunity. 

Cruise and Maritime charters 'classic ship'

Cruise and Maritime charters 'classic ship'

550-passenger ‘classic cruise ship’ is being chartered by Cruise and Maritime Voyages next year to replace Discovery after it is withdrawn from service.
The vessel Azores, which was re-built in 1994 for $150 million, will operate year round sailings, with its first departure from Bristol Avonmouth on January 26 on a 30-night voyage to the Caribbean.
The Azores has been chartered from Lisbon-based Portuscale Cruises on a long term basis. All crewing and ship management services will be handled directly by CMV.
Full details of the ship’s Azores programme for next year alongside CMV’s and Astor will be unveiled tomorrow (Tuesday)  when a 2015 first edition preview brochure is released featuring more 50 sailings until October 2015.
Eight five per cent of Azores’ 277 cabins have an ocean view and almost 20% are of a de-luxe standard including nine balcony suites. All cabins also have a bath tub and mini bar.
CMV commercial director Chris Coates said: “Azores is an excellent, upgraded addition to our cruise fleet and has been affectionately and very well maintained by her owners.
“We are confident that Azores will prove to be a real winner with our dedicated growing number of loyal customers and will also attract new clients seeking smaller ship alternatives and regional ex-UK no fly cruise options.”
Rui Alegre, CEO of Portuscale Cruises, added: “I’m a strong believer in developing close and long term business partnerships. I’m very pleased to have concluded a charter with CMV and look forward to working closely with their team in successfully establishing Azores on to the British market.
“Azores is a beautiful ship and has been operating very well in achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. I am proud that she will be carrying CMV passengers next year and for many years to come”.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Today the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera saw the launching of the "Viking Star", the first of three cruise ships that Fincantieri is currently building for Viking Ocean Cruises. The ship will now move into the fitting-out stage, leading to its scheduled delivery in the spring of 2015.
Fincantieri has already started work on the "Viking Sea" and the "Viking Sky", the second and third ships in the series, which will be respectively delivered at the Marghera shipyard in the spring of 2016 and at the Ancona shipyard during the summer of the same year.
Attending the ceremony for the shipowner was Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises, while Fincantieri was represented, among others, by Antonio Quintano, the yard manager.

"Viking Star", like its two sister ships, will be positioned in the small cruise ship segment. In fact, with a gross tonnage of about 47,800 tons, it will have 465 cabins with accommodation for 930 passengers.
The ship has been designed by SMC Design of London, while Rottet Studio in Los Angeles has been engaged to design its interior, where every attention will be paid to style and elegance.

The construction of this series of ships is evidence of the solid business relationship between Viking and Fincantieri. 

Fleet-wide renovations planned for Norwegian ships

Fleet-wide renovations planned for Norwegian ships

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed it plans to invest $250 million (£147 million) in fleet-wide renovations that will take place during the course of 2015.
The NEXT makeover programme will focus on bringing "new enhancements, experiences and transformations" across the fleet and will include improvements to food and drink facilities, as well as entertainment amenities.
According to the firm, the renovations will bring older ships inline with the more modern Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway liners.
Kevin Sheehan, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, said: "The youngest fleet at sea continues to get even better with our robust enhancement taking place over the next two years, and we want to continue to provide fresh and relevant experiences to our guests every time they sail with us.”
The firm will continue its partnership with children’s television network Nickelodeon and plans to create further entertainment options for its youngest passengers.
According to Norwegian, the iConcierge app will be rolled out to all ships and Wi-Fi facilities will be upgraded. In addition, touch screens and digital signage will be fitted across the whole fleet.
Further technological improvements are planned, focusing specifically on improving efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of the fleet.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

‘Exorcist’ temple falls into the hands of jihadists in Iraq

‘Exorcist’ temple falls into the hands of jihadists in Iraq

Editor Comment;
 I know this has Nothing to do with Cruising but I feel Very Strongly about this problem, Buildings and places of historical significant's should not be damaged, pillaged, destroyed, or looted by any group whether the buildings, or area of special interest, does not fit into their believes or teachings. These 

Buildings and Statues belong not only to the country they are in, but to the people of the world, not just some mindless fanatics who know no better. We as a species learn from or mistakes and from our history and we need these buildings and statues as a reminder that we have got a past and all that has gone with it.
I hope all of you who read this feel the same as I do, and repost the article on your sites, and you never know somebody out there might just stop and think before we lose more history.

Thank you

Dave Jones     

The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra in Iraq, a vast network of sun-god temples that is a UNESCO world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist.
The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra in Iraq, a vast network of sun-god temples that is a UNESCO world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist.PHOTO: PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
By Colin Freeman in Baghdad
An ancient temple that featured in the film The Exorcist has fallen into the hands of jihadists who have taken over northern Iraq.
The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra, a vast network of sun-god temples that is a UNESCO world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic.
It now lies in the territory claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), prompting fears that its stone statues could be destroyed as idolatrous images by the militants.
Already, Isis fighters in the city of Mosul, 110 kilometres north-west of Hatra, have demolished a statue of Othman al-Mousuli, a 19th-century Iraqi musician and composer, and a statue of Abu Tammam, an Abbasid-era Arab poet.
A councillor from the Hatra area told The Daily Telegraph that the 20-strong squad of Iraqi policemen who had guarded the temple from looters had fled after the area fell to tribal militants and Isis fighters a fortnight ago.
Locals say that since then, the area has been targeted by Iraqi warplanes that have bombed the jihadists less than a mile from the temple.
“The guards all ran and left their weapons behind when they heard that the tribes and ISIS were coming,” said Mohammed Abdallah Khozal, the councillor whose own son was killed in the fighting with the jihadists.
“Currently there is no one protecting the temple at all, and it is in control of the rebels. I am concerned about its safety, although I am also worried about government forces doing bombing.”
An oasis of pre-Christian civilisation in the middle of the desert that stretches toward Syria, Hatra’s columns and statues make it one of the most impressive of Iraq’s archaeological sites.
Dating back to about the 3rd century BC, it is dedicated mainly to the sun god Shamash, whose statues and masks adorn its limestone and gypsum walls.
William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, filmed the first scene in Hatra in which a priest at an archaeology dig unearths a talisman belonging to Pazuzu, an ancient Mesopotamian demon. A child bogeyman in Mesopotamian folklore, Pazuzu is said to be alerted whenever his talismans are disturbed or touched, and in The Exorcist he goes to possess a young girl.
For most of 40 years, Hatra and its Hollywood connection have been all but forgotten. Under Saddam Hussein, the site was effectively closed to outside visitors and since his fall, Iraq has been largely too dangerous for tourists.
Its potential as a tourist site was spotted in 2003 by U.S. troops from the 2-320 Field Artillery Regiment who guarded it after Saddam’s fall, when they were billeted in a disused hotel nearby.
They stumbled on its film connection by chance, when a captain serving with the regiment watched The Exorcist on his DVD player and realized that the opening sequence, showing the sun rising over the temple’s skyline, had been shot from his hotel window.
The troops then trained up local guides, hoping what they called “The Exorcist Experience” would help to attract tourists. But Iraq’s growing insurgency meant the scheme never came to fruition. Since then, the only foreign visitors to the site have been a handful of archaeologists, while some of its more valuable artefacts have been removed for safekeeping in the Mosul and Baghdad museums.
Dr Lamia Al Gailani Werr, a London-based archaeologist who works with the Iraqi national museum, said she had heard from friends that so far no harm had come to either Hatra or any of the other ancient sites around Mosul, which lies on the foundations of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.
But last week, UNESCO issued an urgent warning that the sites were at risk. There are fears that they could suffer the same fate as the Buddha statues in the Afghan town of Bamyan, which were blown up by the Taliban.
Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, said: “I call on all actors to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites. Their intentional destruction are war crimes and a blow against the Iraqi people’s identity and history.”

Scenic Cruises unveils new pool concept for upcoming river ships

Scenic Cruises unveils new pool concept for upcoming river ships

By Michelle Baran
Scenic Cruises plans to christen two river cruise ships in Europe next year, the 169-passenger Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper.

The Opal and Jasper will introduce a new pool concept — a relaxation pool filled with warm water on one side, and a pool with a jet stream (enabling lap-like swimming) on the other.

The vessels will also feature a redesigned bar and lounge area and an indoor/outdoor extension of the Portobello restaurant, with the ability to enclose the area with a moving glass wall of windows.

The two new vessels will bring Scenic’s Europe fleet to 12, including the Scenic Gem, which is launching this year on the Seine in France.

In addition to launching two more ships, Scenic is adding several new itineraries in 2015, including a Bordeaux sailing and a Rhone-only sailing in France.

Other new sailings in 2015 will include a 16-day Vienna to the Danube Delta itinerary that traverses six countries, and a 21-day Jewels of Europe adventure that adds three nights each in Prague and Berlin to a 15-day Amsterdam-to-Budapest river cruise.

Scenic’s river cruises include complimentary beverages, wines and spirits at any time; open bar service in the lounges; complimentary mini-bar items; personal butler service in all cabins; a personal GPS commentary device, which serves as on onboard tour guide service; all airport transfers; all meals; all gratuities; and free WiFi throughout the ship.

Scenic Cruises is owned by Australian parent company Scenic Tours.

Tour company in development at Royal Caribbean

Tour company in development at Royal Caribbean

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. confirmed that it is working on a new subsidiary that would be focused on developing and marketing land tours around the globe.

The company is still in formation, but RCCL has named John Weis, its former vice president of global tour operations, to spearhead development of the unit.

RCCL already offers cruise guests thousands of tours in hundreds of destinations. It said the new subsidiary, to be called TourTrek, will operate in 90 countries.

In a brief statement about the company, Royal Caribbean described TourTrek as a technology company that will be wholly owned by RCCL.

Weis will report to Larry Pimentel, president of Azamara Club Cruises and chief destination experience officer for Azamara, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

Pimentel has made destination a core attribute of Azamara, starting with Azamazing Evenings, a program of customized night events for guests on Azamara cruises.

Celebrity has also been venturing into more elaborate shore excursions. In March, Celebrity said it would begin offering a a land-sea package this fall that combines five nights in Africa with an 11- or 12-day Black Sea cruise.

The land portion includes bookings at game lodges or four- and five-star hotels in Kenya and three safari expeditions, followed by transfers to Istanbul, where guests board Celebrity Constellation with stops on the Black Sea and in the Greek isles.

Celebrity President Michael Bayley said the tours quickly sold out.

RCCL said that it has hired longtime Carnival Corp. executive Roberta Jacoby to move into the role previously occupied by Weis. Her title will be managing director of global tour operations.

Jacoby retired in 2011 after 35 years with Carnival. Her final job was as senior vice president of corporate special projects.

RCCL said that further details about TourTrek will become available over the coming months. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Carnival Corporation sees Q2 profits treble

Carnival Corporation sees Q2 profits treble

Carnival Corporation delivered an improved set of second quarter year on year financial figures and revealed that bookings for the remainder of 2014 are ahead of last year.
The world’s largest cruise conglomerate admitted yields in the current quarter – covering the main summer months - would be affected by a “significant” industry capacity increases in the Caribbean but raised its forecast for full year trading amid falling costs and an improved economic picture.
The group saw profits almost treble in the three months to May 31 to $106 million from $4 million in the second quarter of 2013, based on revenue up to $3.6 billion from $3.5 billion.
Carnival Corporation president and chief executive Arnold Donald said the company had been helped by better than expected revenue and lower cruise costs.
"We benefited from effective marketing initiatives, which combined with a gradually improving economic environment, led to revenue yield improvement for our continental European brands in the quarter compared to the prior year and is expected to continue through the remainder of the year," he said.
"In addition, we achieved a six percent improvement in fuel consumption."
Donald said Carnival expects revenue for 2014 to surpass last year’s level.
Advance bookings for the rest of 2014 are slightly ahead of last year and at higher prices, even though bookings for the next three quarters are slightly behind last year.
Donald said: “Collectively our brands are gaining momentum in our efforts to drive higher ticket prices and we continue to expect sequential improvement in revenue yields, despite a more competitive environment in the Caribbean this summer.
“We remain focused on further understanding our guests and refining the exceptional customer experience we provide.
“We have also made significant strides in our efforts to identify opportunities for cross-brand operational efficiencies. This work is still in the early stages, but we are making progress and beginning to see encouraging signs.”
The company hopes to have recovered from multiple cruise ship incidents last year involving Carnival Cruise Lines.
Several ships had power problems, including Carnival Triumph, which stranded passengers for days at sea in squalid conditions in February 2013.
"We believe we have reached a positive inflection point for our company as we return to earnings growth in 2014 and work hard to ensure that growth accelerates in the years to come," Donald said.
The third quarter saw the introduction of Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in the Mediterranean and the brand’s first programme of sailings from China on Sapphire Princess.
Costa Cruises announced that it will position Costa Serena in China next year, bringing the company’s total to four ships based in the world’s fastest growing cruise market.
The corporation said it believes it is the largest provider of cruise holidays home-ported in China.

5 Things Not to Do on Your First Cruise

5 Things Not to Do on Your First Cruise
man screaming in frustrationSo my first cruise -- a week-long Bermuda cruise sailing on Norwegian Dawn -- wasn't perfect (credit the rain, a couple lacklustre shows and several cancelled activities), but it was pretty great. It took me a couple days to figure out how to make the most of my time on-board. As the days progressed and I learned the lay of the ship, my experience improved exponentially. I might have thought I knew a lot about cruising, but until you actually experience a cruise … well, you experienced cruisers know what I mean. So what did this first-time cruiser learn?
Don't overdo it your first day on-board. Most mainstream cruise ships are bigger than you think -- even if they're not among the largest afloat. Most modern ships are composed of deck upon deck of cabins and public spaces and can accommodate thousands of people. The last thing you want to do is wear yourself out trying to unearth every nook and cranny of the ship before your vacation is even under-way. It's easy to want to see and do it all on the first day, but avoid the temptation.
people sitting in cruise specialty restaurant NCLDon't try to eat at every speciality restaurant.Most major cruise lines have made a habit of building multiple for-fee speciality restaurants into newer ships, and while these restaurants can be fantastic, you could end up shelling out a fistful of cash by the time your cruise commences. Plus, you risk missing some of the special items found in the ship's main dining room. During my cruise, I was in such a hurry to start trying out the speciality restaurants that I neglected to realize that Night No. 1 was lobster night in the MDR. I was so sad to miss it -- and those passengers raving about the quality didn't help.
Don't think you're too cool to participate in corny cruise activities. Sure you can sit in your cabin all day or loaf about on the pool deck, but the real fun comes when you dip your toe in the cheesy cruise waters. No, I won't sing karaoke, and bingo is not really my thing, but I found that even playing spectator at some of these events resulted in gut-busting good times. And don't forget, cruising's much better when you meet new people -- and these cruise line organized activities are the best way to do so.
cruise ship cabin with towel animalDon't stay in your cabin for hours at a time.While a few short naps are nice (especially if you have a balcony to veg on), if you spend too long of a stretch in your cabin, you're sure to miss some fun on-board activities. It took me a couple days to realize I was missing things like movies on the big screen, trivia sessions and game shows like "Battle of the Sexes." When cruising, there's something going on every hour of the day, and the only way you're going to have the best time possible is to venture out of your cabin and get involved.
Don't forget to be nice to the crew. These guys and gals work hard for your enjoyment. Remember to smile at them and thank them for their hard work. You'll be rewarded with personalized service and great conversation. It was awesome to have crew members addressing me by name and stopping in the halls to chat me up at every turn. Be sure to set the right tone from the beginning, and your effort will surely be reflected in your experience.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Carnival dining changes slow to gel

Carnival dining changes slow to gel

By Tom Stieghorst
ABOARD CARNIVAL FREEDOM — Carnival Cruise Lines’ implementation of a new main dining room program is taking longer than anticipated, said the line’s chief marketing officer, Jim Berra.

After a news conference, Berra said Carnival has been tweaking the features of American Table and American Feast, the dining room concepts it developed with the input of Union Square Hospitality Group.

Four of Carnival’s 24 ships have been piloting the concept. Berra said Carnival wants to make sure it has the bugs worked out before the changes expand to the rest of the fleet. There is currently no ship being targeted for expansion of the program, he said.

Carnival has been doing what Berra termed “A/B testing” of variations on ships with similar itineraries. One discovery is that the idea of sharing common appetizers at a table isn’t playing as well at sea as it does in land restaurants. It works best during “Anytime Dining,” when guests are generally eating with people they know, but less well when dining with strangers, Berra said.

He said the upgraded bread and water service has been well received, as has the “Port of Call” items on the menu, which are matched to the port the ship is visiting on the day of the meal.

American Table is the everyday complimentary dining in Carnival’s main dining room on the Carnival Glory, Liberty, Inspiration and Imagination.

American Feast is a more elegant, celebratory version that is offered twice during each voyage.

Both feature redesigned menus, a new style of service and cuisine with an emphasis on American origins.

On Europe cruises, getting acquainted with VAT

On Europe cruises, getting acquainted with VAT

By Tom Stieghorst
*Insight I got a question last week from a travel agent whose clients were surprised to see an added charge on their cruise bill whenever they went to the bar. It was an 8% fee for a Value Added Tax, a common feature of taxation in Europe that doesn’t exist in the U.S.

The tax comes on top of the 18% gratuity affixed to bar bills on most cruise ships, meaning the two charges together add nearly a quarter of the cost of the drink or bottle of wine to the price.

How was this possible? the agent asked.

It is a good reminder that European cruises can bring exposure to VAT. It is a tax that members of the European Union are expected to charge, but each country has its own way of doing so.

The cruise in question was an Oceania Cruises voyage from Spain, which of all the European countries seems to enforce its version of VAT on cruise ships most vigorously.

Different purchases are taxed at different rates. The VAT on bar sales and specialty restaurant cover charges is 8%, while the tax on items bought from retail shops on the ship is 18% and spa treatments can be taxed at either 8% or 18%, depending on the item.

Cruises that do a roundtrip itinerary from a Spanish port must charge the tax. Ships making a port of call in Spain are supposed to charge the tax while they are in port or in Spanish waters.

There is a further wrinkle. If the cruise visits a non-EU destination, such as Gibraltar or Tangier, the tax no longer applies.

Upon leaving the EU, guests from non-EU countries can apply for a refund of the VAT under certain conditions. Be sure to have clients ask for a pamphlet from the cruise line outlining the refund procedure.

Receipts from a single store that add up to more than 90.16 euros, or about $130, are eligible for a refund. Receipts from different vendors (i.e. the spa, the photo concession, shops) can’t be combined.

Alas, spirits and other goods that have already been consumed aren’t eligible for a VAT refund.

Monday, 23 June 2014

I think we all should talk

I think we all should talk

By Michelle Baran
InsightAmid another busy river cruise ship christening season, talking shop and comparing notes about the competition with executives in the river cruise industry, it occurred to me that the river cruising sector could use a good old-fashioned coffee talk.

Whenever I meet up with executives in the river cruise industry, inevitably some of the same issues come up: things like whether crowding on the rivers in Europe is increasingly becoming an issue as more newbuilds continue to launch, and the pros and cons of onboard amenities like balconies and pools.

In a recent post, I addressed the fact that the river cruise industry could benefit from an association dedicated to the issues that are specific to this quickly growing segment of the travel marketplace.

But until that happens, I think those of us who cover river cruising, those who sell the product and, of course, the river cruise lines themselves would benefit from a meeting in which the heads of the major river cruise companies all got together and had a sort of working group discussion.

I have proposed the idea of moderating such a forum with some of the major river cruise lines, and interest was expressed. With all of our busy travel and work schedules, and with an already jam-packed calendar of industry events ahead of us, I’m not sure how and whether we can pull it off.

But I’m putting it out there anyways. This is a critical time for the river cruise industry. Things are developing quickly, and the business is growing at a lightning pace. This is exactly the time to tackle potential problems as well as to highlight the opportunities that lie ahead.

A certain degree of cooperation already exists between the river cruise lines — they aren’t entirely silent foes — especially when it comes to concerns that everyone has to address, such as staggering departures in a way so that lines can share limited port space and not overwhelm the smaller towns they visit by all pulling in at once.

But beyond that, there are topics that could use further dissection, and circumstances that could become detrimental to the industry if not addressed, such as crowding and sustainability.

Royal Caribbean finalizes Taiwan port deal

Royal Caribbean finalizes Taiwan port deal

By Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) has agreed to co-develop a cruise port in Taiwan with the Taiwan International Ports Co.

The port would be the first to be developed in Asia by RCCL, although it also has a stake in the company that operates the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said its nonbinding memorandum of understanding is for a site that currently serves as a Taiwanese Navy and Coast Guard facility.

"The island, which has good infrastructure but is relatively underdeveloped for tourism, offers beautiful beaches, ancient culture, natural beauty and great local seafood cuisine,” the statement said.

In an article in the Taipei Times, RCCL's vice president of commercial development, John Tercek, said that one of the main reasons Penghu was chosen is that it is convenient to Hong Kong and Xiamen, two base ports.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong and Taiwan founded a regional cruise development fund that will pay cruise lines that visit two or more participating ports in a single itinerary.

RCCL and Taiwan International Ports Co. plan to spend $33 million to develop a pier for the first phase of the project, scheduled to open in 2016, the Taipei Times said. 

Voyager of the Seas to spend next summer in Hong Kong

Voyager of the Seas to spend next summer in Hong Kong

By Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean International will homeport Voyager of the Seas in Hong Kong for the summer of 2015.

The 3,138-passenger ship will sail 22 cruises of three to 10 days between the end of June and October.

Destinations include Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and ports in China.

“Hong Kong has immense potential as a homeport for Chinese vacationers to board a Royal Caribbean cruise,” said Zinan Liu, RCCL's regional vice president of Asia and managing director of China.

He added that Voyager will get an extensive revitalization before it arrives in Hong Kong next summer.

To support the ship’s operations, RCCL has opened a fully staffed Hong Kong office, augmenting the Asia offices it now maintains in Beijing and Shanghai.

Voyager’s move to Hong Kong will coincide with the arrival of Quantum of the Seas to do year-round cruises from Shanghai.

Royal Caribbean is a partner in the company that operates the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, which opened last year.

Friday, 20 June 2014

RoboScreens on Royal Caribbean cruise ships to add visual intrigue

RoboScreens on Royal Caribbean cruise ships to add visual intrigue

Robotics Online has a great piece about the new RoboScreens coming to Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class cruise ships. 
Six 100” video screens attached to six industrial robots that were developed by ABB RoboScreens are a big reason Royal Caribbean will be taking on-board entertainment on its newest class of cruise ships to the next level.
Onboard it's upcoming Quantum-class cruise ships, guests will find these amazing innovations in the Two70 signature venue. 
A RoboScreen is a graphical screen mounted to the arm of an ABB articulated arm robot, which creates a unique viewer experience by bringing virtually unlimited, 6-axis movement to the video media. Available in various sizes, the Two70° RoboScreens feature six ABB IRB 6620 robots, each holding a 100” diagonal Daktronics LED screen.
On Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships, the RoboScreens are stored in the ceiling when not in use but during shows in Two70, the RoboScreens extend down on the gantry to a position above the stage, displaying unique video and imagery while performing choreographed movements, all custom produced for the specific performance.  
The RoboScreens were developed by Andy Flessas and were first introduced in 2010 as part of the Bon Jovi Circle Tour. They have also been a part of concerts and shows for Kis-My-Ft2, a Japanese Pop band; the Las Vegas house show for deadmau5, world famous music producer and performer; and the Ultra-Music Festival in Miami. 
On the Quantum-class, the RoboScreens will periodically assemble in various formations, such as six screens in a row to form one continuous, long screen; a three by two stack to form one big square screen; or a serpentine row, much like a ‘W’ and a ‘V’ strung together.
The project involves the close collaboration of a number or parties, both within ABB and externally. Being the first installation of an ABB robot on any ship, the ABB Marine Power Group in Helsinki, Finland and the ABB Robotics North American team in Auburn Hills, Michigan worked together for the first time. The ABB PC software team in Gothenburg, Sweden is also involved, working on the programming software and addressing the unique challenges of operating robots at sea.
The external partners include Royal Caribbean, andyRobot, Daktronics, Waagner Biro, the gantry provider, Coolux, the video server manufacturer, and Meyer Werft, the shipbuilder based in Papenburg, Germany.