Thursday, 28 May 2015

MSC Cruises unveils TV ad

MSC Cruises unveils TV ad


Photo by Dave Jones

MSC Cruises has launched its first long-term TV branding campaign in the U.S. with an ad titled “In the Summertime.” The commercial will appear on a variety of cable channels.
The commercial’s music, “In the Summertime,” is a 1970 pop hit rerecorded with MSC’s own lyrics by the original artist, Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry. “In the Summertime,” which features a washboard introduction, topped the pop charts in 26 countries in the summer of 1970. 
“As we plan for MSC Divina to sail year-round from Miami starting in November 2015 and then our next-generation, newbuild, MSC Seaside, to come to Miami in 2017, you’ll see a significant increase in MSC’s marketing efforts,” said Bonnie Levengood, MSC Cruises USA's senior vice president of marketing.
In June, the company will launch MSC Book, a new booking engine for travel agents that it says will improve the end-user experience and make the booking process as quick and simple as possible. 
At the same time, MSC will reveal a revamped travel agent site with a new look and feel, and later this summer it will launch a new consumer website.

Norwegian Cruise Line reverses ban on taking food to cabins

Norwegian Cruise Line reverses ban on taking food to cabins


Norwegian Cruise Line said it will once again allow passengers to take food to their cabins from dining venues, reversing a month-old policy.
Norwegian President Andy Stuart said the decision was made after getting considerable customer feedback from a number of channels. In particular, the issue became subject of in-depth discussion on the website Cruise Critic, where a thread attracted more than 65,000 views.
Passengers also called and wrote Norwegian and discussed the change on social media.
Stuart said the ban came about after new Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio toured one of the ships and observed piles of dishes and trays lining corridors and passenger spilling food on their way back to their cabins. It roughly coincided with the adoption of a new room service menu and a $7.95 delivery fee.
Stuart said the idea behind the ban on restaurant food going back to the room was never about revenue, but rather about cleaning up the corridors and improving the passenger experience.
“We're changing the policy,” Stuart said. “We're still going to fix the issue because the issue is the same,” he said.
So instead of banning food, Norwegian will have more frequent inspections of the corridors so dishes get removed quickly.
“It’s another good example of how we listen to customer feedback and act on it,” Stuart said. “We picked the wrong solution."

European Commission reveals strategy for digital single market

Special Report: European Commission reveals strategy for digital single market

Special Report: European Commission reveals strategy for digital single market

Ian Taylor reports on a move that is likely to have significant implications for travel along with an e-commerce anti-trust investigation
Digital: EC prioritises single market for the sale of goods and services
The European Commission plans a rapid push towards a digital single market in Europe as it lowers barriers to cross-border selling.
The EC announced a series of moves for completion “by the end of 2016” as it made a single market in the sale of digital goods and services “a top priority” and launched an e-commerce antitrust competition inquiry.
The commission said: “The aim is to tear down regulatory walls and move from 28 national markets to a single one.”
The move to a single digital market is acknowledged in the new Package Travel Directive (PTD), which will shift the regulation of financial protection for holidays from the country of sale to the member state where a travel organiser is established.
The council and parliament of Europe have agreed the final text of the directive and it should be published this week. The proposals will bring cross-border business opportunities but bring new entrants to the UK market and pose difficulties to regulators.
G√ľnther Oettinger, European commissioner for the digital economy, pledged the proposals would “balance the interests of consumers and industry”.
EC president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market, wherever they are in Europe.”
EC plans include harmonising consumer protection and contract rules across Europe and ending the online practice of‘geo‑blocking’.
The commission identified car rental companies as a target, noting that, at present, “car rental customers in one member state may end up paying more for an identical car rental in the same destination” as customers in another state.
The EC pledged to reduce the VAT burden on businesses from different tax regimes.
It noted that small businesses trading in another EU country faced VAT compliance costs of at least €5,000 a year.
It is unclear how this might affect VAT arrangements in the UK, where aspects of the Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme do not comply with current EU rules on VAT.
The EC also promised to investigate online platforms and the transparency of search results and pricing.

Antitrust: Inquiry probes firms' online barriers
An EC antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector is now under way, having been announced in March.
The inquiry will focus on “barriers erected by companies to cross-border online trade in goods and services where e-commerce is most widespread”.
This seems likely to include travel. The EC identifies the barriers as including “contractual restrictions in distribution agreements” that prevent retailers selling goods or services to customers in other EU countries.
The commission said it would investigate “restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant market positions”.
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “European citizens face too many barriers to accessing goods and services online across borders. Some of these are put in place by companies themselves.
“My aim is to determine how widespread these barriers are and what effects they have on competition and consumers.
“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action under EU antitrust rules.”

EC's digital plans
  • Ease cross-border e-commerce and harmonise rules on consumer protection and contracts.
  • Enforce consumer rules “more rapidly and consistently” across Europe.
  • End ‘geo-blocking’ – “a discriminatory practice, when online sellers deny consumers access to a website based on their location or reroute them to a local store with different prices”. The EC says geo-blocking is “typical for the internet economy” and argues: “In the majority of cases, it is not justified.”
  • Reduce the administrative burden of different VAT regimes across Europe.
  • Examine the market role of online platforms (search engines, social media, app stores), including “non-transparency of search results and pricing policies, relationships between platforms and suppliers, and promotion of their own services to the disadvantage of competitors”.
  • Reinforce trust and security in digital services “concerning the handling of personal data”. It notes 72% of EU internet users “worry they are asked for too much personal data”.
  • Complete an anti-trust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Cunard liners mark 175th anniversary in Liverpool

Cunard liners mark 175th anniversary in Liverpool
Video: Red Arrows fly over the three Queens in Liverpool

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 3 Queens and the Red Arrows visit Liverpoolss enter to return or tab to continue.Media c
Three famous ocean liners have sailed together in Liverpool for the first time to mark Cunard's 175th anniversary.
The Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth saluted the city where Samuel Cunard began his transatlantic line in 1840.
Thousands of people lined the River Mersey to watch the "three queens" perform a synchronised sailing display.
As the fleet completed its manoeuvres, the Red Arrows performed a fly-past.
Captain Christopher Wells, who was at the helm of the Queen Mary 2, said it was a "very special weekend".
"It allows us to celebrate our anniversary in the city where the company was founded.
"To have that celebration is very important not only to us, but also to the city," he said.
The three Cunard Queens on the River Mersey
The three Cunard Queens sailed on the River Mersey
Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 off Crosby Beach ready to enter the River Mersey
Crowds gathered at Crosby Beach
Red Arrows fly-past
As the fleet completed its manoeuvres, the Red Arrows performed a fly-past
Three Cunard liners
The event celebrates the famous shipping line's formation 175 years ago in its original home port
Queen Mary 2 leaves Liverpool to meet sister Liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria
The display was part of a three-day celebration
The display was part of a three-day celebration, which ends on Tuesday, marking the company's first transatlantic crossing from Liverpool.
Sir Samuel Cunard, who founded the service, sailed aboard the RMS Britannia to Boston on its maiden voyage on 4 July 1840.
The Cunard company revolutionised travel in the 19th Century with its steam ships which added speed and safety to journeys which had previously been made on less reliable sailing ships.
By the early part of the 20th Century, the company's "big three" liners - Mauretania, Berengaria and Aquitania - were the primary means of passenger transport across the Atlantic
The shipping company moved its headquarters from the Cunard Building on Liverpool's waterfront to Southampton in 1965.
line break

Cunard at 175: Facts and figures

  • Since the first scheduled service across the Atlantic, Cunard ships have crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic, in peace and war, without fail every year
  • More than 109,000 bottles of red wine are consumed every year on board Queen Victoria
  • The annual sugar consumption on Queen Mary 2 is enough to make eight million scones

Friday, 22 May 2015

Cunard boss welcomes calling off of rail strike

Cunard boss welcomes calling off of rail strike

Cunard boss welcomes calling off of rail strike
The boss of Cunard has voiced relief that the Bank Holiday Monday rail strike, which threatened the journeys of thousands of spectators to the line’s historic 175th anniversary celebrations in Liverpool, was suspended yesterday.
The suspension of the threatened industrial action came as the line puts the finishing touches to its plans for the ‘Three Queens on the Mersey’ event on Monday.
Cunard’s three ships - Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria - are due to appear together for the first time in the company’s spiritual home in an event expected to draw huge numbers of visitors.
Cunard director, Angus Struthers, said: “It’s a great relief to know that the rail strike is suspended and that the crowds who we know are looking forward to seeing the three Queens in Liverpool on Bank Holiday Monday can now make their travel plans with confidence.
“The three Queens event involves the biggest ships ever to manoeuvre together on the Mersey performing a ‘river dance’ in front of the Three Graces, on Liverpool’s historic waterfront, to celebrate Cunard’s 175th anniversary year.
“It’s promising to be the biggest event on the Mersey for decades and we are delighted to know that the many people who feel a connection with Cunard will be able to travel in and out of Liverpool without disruption on the day.
“We are looking forward to weLcoming the three Queens into our spiritual home in just a few days.”

Allure of the Seas refurbished in drydock

Allure of the Seas refurbished in drydock

Allure of the Seas in dry dock

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, received new restaurants, suites and public spaces in its first major drydock since its debut in 2010.
New restaurants include Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, a “re-imagined” version of Royal Caribbean's Izumi Japanese restaurant, and Sabor Taqueria & Tequila, its modern Mexican concept.
Also new is Coastal Kitchen, the restaurant reserved for suite guests on Royal Caribbean's newer ships. 
Royal Caribbean said it has added 10 new suites to Allure, with views of the aft Aqua Theater and Boardwalk neighborhood. They include two new Royal suites, six Grand suites and two Royal Family suites. Guests will have access to a new Suite Lounge and a new sun deck area both exclusive to suite passengers.
Allure also got new shops including Kate Spade New York and Michael Kors.
The ship will sail in Europe from Barcelona through November, when it will return to Fort Lauderdale. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Crystal Cruises to open Miami office

Crystal Cruises to open Miami office


Crystal Cruises, newly acquired by Genting Hong Kong, said it will open a branch office in Miami on June 1.
The headquarters for the cruise line will remain in Los Angeles. The Miami office will bolster Crystal’s presence on the East Coast, said CEO Edie Rodriguez. It will also help Crystal source experienced cruise talent, create partnerships and foster existing business relationships in the region, she said.
Crystal said the Miami branch office, located at 1501 Biscayne Blvd. in the Omni Building, will be home to newly created management positions at Crystal while serving as a secondary location for Los Angeles-based executives to conduct business as needed. 
It will also feature a reservations call center, which will begin to accept bookings in summer 2015, and provide support on both coasts for Crystal to serve the domestic and international markets. 

Celebrity to add overnight port stays on long Caribbean cruises

Celebrity to add overnight port stays on long Caribbean cruises


Celebrity Cruises said it will add an overnight stay to the itinerary of Caribbean cruises of 10 days or longer, starting in January 2016. The decision affects 43 cruises, said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, trade support and services.
Ritzenthaler stressed that overnights are typically a feature of cruises outside the Caribbean, so Celebrity is breaking ground with the move.
“This gives us the ability to say we have more overnights in the Caribbean than any cruise line in the industry,” Ritzenthaler said. "While overnights have been a trend in the marketplace in Europe and in Asia, there really hasn’t been a movement and we believe we are a leader in this initiative." 
The destinations where overnights are planned include Aruba, Barbados, Cartagena, Cozumel, Curacao and St. Maarten. Ritzenthaler said they are among the highest-rated destinations in the Caribbean by guests.
"Consumer and trade research indicates this is something they desire,” Ritzenthaler said.
Of Celebrity’s 10 ships, five are scheduled to be in the Caribbean in the first quarter of 2016, but not all do itineraries of 10 days or longer.
Celebrity has been selling the 2016 Caribbean winter season since the fall of 2014 and cruises have been booking well, Ritzenthaler said. Now booked guests will get the bonus of an overnight stay. “This will be a really wonderful gift for these folks,” she said. “This will be something that will be a really nice opportunity for them. We think it will be a differentiator."

Norwegian Dawn on schedule for next voyage

Norwegian Dawn on schedule for next voyage

Norwegian Dawn

The Norwegian Dawn is structurally sound and will sail its next scheduled cruise from Boston on May 22, Norwegian Cruise Line said on Wednesday.
The Dawn ran aground on the sea bed near Bermuda after departing King’s Wharf on Tuesday. Norwegian Cruise Line said there was a temporary malfunction of the steering system.
Later on Tuesday, the ship was refloated to Heritage Wharf in Bermuda to be assessed by a team consisting of cruise line personnel; an independent dive team; and inspectors from the Dawn's classification society, DNVGL.
“The team confirmed the structural integrity of the ship, and the technical issue which caused the steering malfunction was identified and corrected,” Norwegian said Wednesday on its Twitter account.
The ship is expected to depart Bermuda at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and resume sailing to Boston.
All guests on the current voyage will receive a credit of 15% of their cruise fare to use toward a future sailing.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Viking Star draws thousands to christening

Viking Star draws thousands to christening

Viking Star's Christening.

Viking Cruises christened its first new ship in Bergen, Norway, in a ceremony that attracted thousands on the nation’s Constitution Day.
The May 17 christening marks the formal debut of the 930-passenger Viking Star, which has been sailing with passengers since early April. 
“We believe the arrival of Viking Star signals a new era in destination-focused cruising, and I could not be more proud that she will call my favorite city in the world home,” said Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, who got his start in the cruise business four decades ago in Bergen.
The city’s mayor, Trude Drevland, served as ceremonial godmother and offered a blessing of good fortune and safe sailing for the 47,800-gross-ton  ship.

Cruise Liner Refloated After Running Aground

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Giant Cruise ship MSC Splendida To Return to Dublin Port This Thursday

Giant Cruise ship MSC Splendida To Return to Dublin Port This Thursday


MSC Splendida pictured in Tunis, by Dave Jones
Report by: Afloat.ie


MSC Cruises operators of the massive MSC Splendida have confirmed that the ship will be back for a second visit to Dublin Port at 4.30am this Thursday, May 21.
Following MSC Splendida's debut call last week (Monday, May 11)  as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the cruiseship had been scheduled to anchor offshore at Dun Laoghaire, but has now changed its plans to re-enter Dublin Port.
"Getting MSC Splendida into Dublin Port is no mean feat," said Giles Hawke, MSC Cruises executive director for the UK and Ireland.
"But judging by the amazing feedback we have received, it is certainly an effort worth making. Our cruise guests love the convenience of being able to disembark quickly and make the most of their time in such a beautiful and friendly city."
MSC Splendida made maritime history as the largest cruise ship ever to dock in Dublin Port during her recent visit, and staff were "blown away" by the amount of people lining the Liffey to wave it off, Hawke added.
Having carried out preparations for the anticipated visit, however, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company expressed dismay over the change of plans.
"We are disappointed and surprised that the MSC Splendida has transferred its call to Dublin Port, considering that this was a scheduled anchorage call to Dun Laoghaire Harbour," said Captain Simon Coates, Harbour Master, Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
Dun Laoghaire had expected to welcome 21 cruise ships this season; while Dublin Port is set to welcome 83.
Afloat.ie adds that Royal Princess (see previous report) which is even larger than the MSC Splendida was due to make a return call to Dun Laoghaire this Sunday, however according to the Dublin Port cruise schedule she is also instead to call to the capital on Sunday.
The Royal Princess had been due to make a repeat anchorage call off Dun Laoghaire Harbour that same day next weekend though this will be her first call to Dublin Port.
Royal Princess at 142,000 tonnes is in fact larger than MSC Splendida (137.936 tons) and will so outpace last week's record for the largest ever ship of any type to visit Dublin Port. As for length, MSC Spendida still holds that title as the longest cruiseship ever at 333m to enter the port. 
Afloat.ie will have more to add to this latest developmment. 
In the meantime, Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company can look forward tomorrow (May 20) to the visit of Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2, the cruise-liner having made her debut off the south Dublin Bay port in 2013. 

Disney Cruise Line to return to  New York and Galveston in 2016

Disney Cruise Line to return to
New York and Galveston in 2016

Disney Dream enters New York.

Disney Cruise Line is to return to the US ports of New York and Galveston, and offer new seven-night cruises from PortMiami to the Caribbean in 2016.
Departing from New York on 2 October, Disney Magic will sail a five-night cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick in Canada. The ship will then return to New York to offer an eight-night Bahamas cruise on 7 October, which will include calls at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and.
On 15, 22 and 29 October, Disney Magic will offer seven-night voyages from New York to Castaway Cay and Port Canaveral. Each guest will receive a one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper ticket and roundtrip transportation between the ship and Walt Disney World Resort when the ship calls at Port Canaveral.
Disney Magic will then offer the line’s first season of seven-night cruises from Miami to the Caribbean in November and December.
On 20 November and 4 December, the ship will sail from Miami to destinations in the Western Caribbean including Key West in Florida, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Castaway Cay. Meanwhile, on 27 November and 11 December, she will offer sailings to Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay in the Eastern Caribbean. On 23 December, Disney Magic will sail to Tortola, San Juan in Puerto Rico and Castaway Cay.
Additional Miami sailings include a four-night Bahamas cruise departing on 16 November, a five-night Bahamas cruise departing on 18 December and a six-night Western Caribbean cruise departing on 30 December. Each sailing will include call at Castaway Cay.
Meanwhile, Disney Wonder will return to Galveston in Texas to offer a series of seven-night itineraries to destinations in the Bahamas, Mexico and the Caribbean. These include Key West, Castaway Cay, Nassau, Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Costa Maya. The ship will also offer two four-night roundtrips from Galveston to Cozumel on 10 and 14 November.

Cruise suite classes help lure luxury clients

Cruise suite classes help lure luxury clients


Norwegian Star Suite, photo by Dave Jones

Royal Caribbean International is the latest cruise line to develop a suite class, extending the privileges that come with upper-level stateroom bookings beyond the four walls of the suite itself.
Suite guests now constitute a special class on brands ranging from deluxe Cunard Line and Celebrity Cruises to mass-market players such as Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and, soon, Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean president Michael Bayley told travel agents attending the Vacation.com annual conference onboard Oasis of the Seas that Royal is working on a Suite Class package of amenities and will roll it out sometime in 2016.
Bayley said the general idea was to make it an all-inclusive product, though Royal spokesman Harrison Liu said the exact list of all-inclusive elements is still being determined.
Bayley was president of Celebrity Cruises when that line conceived its suite class. The category became operational last month on all Celebrity ships except the Xpedition.
Suites have always been larger, nicer and more expensive than ordinary cruise staterooms. What is new is the effort to make areas outside the suite itself exclusive to suite guests and to generally raise the level of service, value and privilege that go with suites.
Celebrity’s new suite class, for example, includes a 120-seat restaurant, Luminae, reserved exclusively for suite guests.
Those in higher category suites, such as Celebrity suites and above, have exclusive access to Michael’s Club, a lounge that was originally a pub-style venue on Celebrity ships.
And in top quarters — Royal, Penthouse, and Reflection suites — guests get more perks including a free premium beverage package, unlimited specialty dining, free unlimited Internet access and a minibar restocked daily with beer, soda and water.
Suite class on some brands, including Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises, includes segregation from the rest of the ship in an enclave of cabins behind a key-card access point.
The top suites on Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the Reflection, also have this feature.
Beth Butzlaff, managing director of cruise at the Virtuoso luxury consortium, said that the spread of suite class is mainly a result of non-luxury cruise lines trying to retain their top-shelf customers.
“I think it’s a trend because all these premium [lines] aren’t trying to pretend to be luxury, but they all have luxury travelers,” Butzlaff said, referring to passengers who are susceptible to pitches from lines higher on the luxury food chain.
Keeping guests loyal by carving out areas of the ship where they can congregate with other luxury customers is an attempt to forestall such defections.
“It’s been successful, from what we can see,” Butzlaff said.
Another factor has been the growing recognition of the revenue brought in by the highest-value passengers on a ship.
The Loft Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.
“The premiums are finding this type of client is more loyal, they spend more onboard, they obviously book the higher suites and they take more shore excursions, so the investment they’re making is going to pay off,” Butzlaff said.
A third wrinkle is the growth of multi-generational travel and the desire of some customers who would typically go on small, luxury ships to travel with extended families.
Suite classes respond to that. Butzlaff said The Haven or SeaPass, a gold-colored version of a key card now used by Royal Caribbean for suite guests, “accommodates that luxury client [who] is wanting to travel with their families and still have a luxury experience.”
As to whether the addition of suite class perks gives cruise lines cover for raising suite prices, Butzlaff said it wasn’t clear.
“There’s different models for different lines,” she said. “With these suites, there is some comparison with the luxury lines as far as price, but the value is still very strong.”
Travel agents can make lucrative bookings from suite products, so the spread of the suite class concept is a boon for agent commissions. Butzlaff said the suite class idea goes back at least as far as the 2004 introduction of Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, which resurrected the liner concept and its formal class structure.
Cunard offers Grill Class on its ships, which gives suite customers access or priority seating at its Queen’s Grill and Princess Grill restaurants and associated lounges. On Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, Cunard offers suite guests an outdoor courtyard area for exclusive al fresco dining.
Around the same time, Norwegian began building a separate suite section on its ships that eventually came to be called the Haven. The concept has been picked up by MSC as the MSC Yacht Club starting in 2008 with the launch of its four Fantasia-class ships.
On MSC, the concept includes a separate lounge, pool area, bar, concierge reception area and restaurant, as well as a private entrance to the ship’s spa. Royal Caribbean has built increasingly elaborate suites as its new ships bulked up and passenger counts rose.
The 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Sea and Allure of the Sea offer Royal Loft Suites, duplex accommodations that are a feature of Cunard and some other luxury lines. Already, Royal offers an exclusive concierge lounge to senior-suite guests on most ships and a private area of the pool deck to suite guests beginning with Voyager-class ships and those built afterward.
It also provides private breakfast and lunch seating in specialty restaurants on Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, as well as a separate restaurant on Quantum-class ships, with plans to add them to Oasis-class ships.