Thursday, 30 July 2015

Norwegian Escape Hull Art Being Painted On

Famed marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey laid eyes upon his hull artwork on the new Norwegian Escape for the first time this week. The ships debuts this November in Miami.

The ship yard visit took place as Harvey’s artwork is now beginning to take shape, bringing to life his perspective of the spectacular Caribbean marine life on the expansive canvas of Norwegian Escape’s hull.

Spanning more than 1,000 feet in length from bow to stern, the custom-designed artwork features a scene of marine wildlife which blends two underwater seas seamlessly together. 
Featuring Harvey’s signature sailfish, the design also showcases key Caribbean sea life including stingrays, sea turtles, whale sharks and a variety of tropical fish.

“I'm so proud to showcase the incredible marine life of the Caribbean on the largest canvas a human could possibly paint,” said Dr. Guy Harvey. “After weeks of work, the artisans at Meyer Werft have done an incredible job of recreating my art on such a vast format. 
I'm overjoyed at the level of detail that has been achieved and I can't wait to see Norwegian Escape in her element out on the ocean.”
The process of creating the artwork is a lengthy one, beginning with a laser that projects the design onto the hull. A team then outlines the art onto the curved hull, pencilling in the lines and then taping the edges in preparation for applying the paint by hand.

“We had great expectations for this artwork, which reflects the marine life of the spectacular waters on which this ship will sail,” said Andy Stuart, president and chief operating officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. “Guy’s vision for Norwegian Escape’s signature artwork is the perfect complement to everything this ship stands for.

Costa creates Italian regional menus

Costa creates Italian regional menus

Costa Cruises has overhauled the menus on its ships, creating 14 regional Italian lunch and dinner menus and 252 new dishes. 
Examples include Gricia-style rigatoni pasta with jowl bacon and Pecorino Romano cheese cream (from the Lazio region) and golden fried breaded pork cordon bleu with potato croquettes and grilled tomato (from the Friuli region). 
"We chose the recipes that truly represent the tastes and aromas of Italian history and culture, creating a real culinary voyage through 14 different regions that's based on the itinerary of each ship," said Filippo Bertuzzi, Costa's corporate director, food and beverage operations.
The new menus are part of Costa's "Italy's Finest" campaign — an effort to focus more on Italian cuisine by partnering with food and beverage brands such as Barilla, Illy CaffĂ© and Ferrari wines. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Should river lines be worried about Crystal?

Should river lines be worried about Crystal?

By Michelle Baran

Throughout the last several years of seemingly unstoppable growth in the river cruise market, ocean cruise lines have resisted getting in on the river action, a segment of the cruise market that, while clearly very popular, represents entirely different economics of scale (in other words, much lower passenger volumes) than ocean cruising. 

So when Crystal Cruises announced a massive expansion initiative, including plans for two new river cruise vessels, it effectively became the first ocean line to cross into the river world. 

Until the Crystal announcement, the only significant crossover in Europe had been in the opposite direction: river cruise heavyweight Viking Cruises launched its first ocean-going vessel this year (there are several smaller scale examples, such as Haimark, which has both river cruise vessels and a coastal cruise vessel, as well as the now-defunct Peter Deilmann Cruises and Cruise West, both of which dabbled in river and coastal cruising). And Crystal has been involved on the rivers before, via a marketing partnership with AmaWaterways. 

Crystal hasn’t revealed much detail about the river cruise piece of its ocean-yacht-river-jet expansion plan. Lloyd Werft, the German shipyard that will construct Crystal’s new ocean ships, is also building two luxury, Crystal-branded river cruise vessels that will operate in Europe. (Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez told Travel Weekly’s Tom Stieghorst that Crystal will reveal additional information about its river cruise product at a later date for competitive reasons.) 

Looking at all of this, should river cruise lines be somewhat nervous? Could Crystal entering the river cruise business put a dent into the all the hard work they’ve put into creating, growing and developing the market these past years?

Well, Crystal still has to fit those plans into the same 38-by-410-foot dimensions that all river cruise vessels are limited to, due to the locks and bridges along Europe’s inland waterways. In that regard, Crystal will be up against the same innovation challenges the river lines have been grappling with through these growth years: how to maximize space and onboard offerings when square footage is so limited. 

Additionally, for now at least, it's only talking about two vessels, a tiny fraction of the overall river cruise inventory in Europe. 

But under its new ownership of Genting Hong Kong, which clearly has ambitious plans for the company, Crystal could have enough resources at its fingertips to at least make some waves in the river cruise market, both from a hardware as well as from a marketing point of view. 

“I think Crystal is doing a very smart thing,” said Donald Baasch of American Canyon, Calif.-based LastCallCruises. “They might as well make money on their customers instead of letting someone else have them, especially if they believe that a lot of them will inevitably want to try a river cruise.”

So, all told, surely the highly competitive river cruise industry has its eye on Crystal’s plans, but I doubt they are shaking in their boots quite yet. 

Fred. Olsen's four ships converge on Bergen

Fred. Olsen's four ships converge on Bergen

All four ships in Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet have come together for the first time in Bergen today (Tuesday).
Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch carrying almost 4,000 passengers have converged on Norway’s second city for a joint ‘Four Bs in Bergen’ celebration.
All four ships arrived in the port of Bergen at 8am and will depart at 6pm.
The Fred Olsen Company originated in the village of Hvitsten, outside Oslo, in 1848, when three Olsen brothers – Fredrik Christian, Petter and Andreas – bought their first ships and began an international shipping company.
The company is now into the fifth generation of the family.
Managing director, Mike Rodwell, said: “This is a very special occasion for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, and we know that the city of Bergen is looking forward to welcoming our fleet on this unique day.
“We are committed to the city of Bergen – known as the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’ – on our Norwegian cruise itineraries.
“The Olsen association with Bergen can be traced a long way back, probably as far as the original Olsen brothers themselves, and we shared in a very successful partnership with Bergen Line during the 1960s and 1970s.
“In fact, the number of days that Fred Olsen ships have spent in Bergen from 2006 to 2015 is 176 in total, and we know that the city is a highlight to many of our guests on cruises to our historic homeland.”

Monday, 27 July 2015

Virgin Cruises tasked with offering distinctive experience on smaller ships

Virgin Cruises tasked with offering distinctive experience on smaller ships

Virgin Cruise Concept Drawing.

Virgin Cruises’ decision to order ships that are smaller than those commissioned recently by its future competitors has prompted questions about whether it will have enough room to fashion a distinctive onboard experience.
The line, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group business empire, in June ordered three ships from the Fincantieri shipyard for delivery after 2020, when it plans to launch weekly Caribbean cruises.
The ships will each be about 110,000 gross tons and carry 2,860 passengers at double capacity, Branson revealed at an appearance in Miami last month along with Virgin executives.
That capacity is far less than recent orders, for example, for as much as 6,000 passengers for Carnival Corp.’s Aida Cruises brand in Germany, 5,400 for Royal Caribbean International, 4,500 for MSC Cruises, 4,200 for and 3,954 for Carnival Cruise Line.
All those lines sail at least one ship from Miami, the homeport where Branson said Virgin will launch its line.   
When it comes to setting prices, larger ships provide economies of scale that can help reduce fares while still generating profits.
“Virgin is in a very difficult position to differentiate themselves from everybody else. The key for their success is how they differentiate their onboard product.” — Art Rodney, Crystal Cruises founder
Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Cruises, said that while pricing has not been disclosed, it will likely be above the cheapest fares advertised for seven-day itineraries.
“We’re not going to be a budget brand,” McAlpin said in an interview. “What Virgin has done in the past has been to give you a better experience at the same price point.”
To do that, it helps to have a generous amount of public space to work with. Virgin has not disclosed its onboard activities or designs yet but has emphasized that it will stand apart from the pack.
A key measure for new ships is the space ratio, which divides gross tonnage into the number of passengers carried. The higher the ratio, the more room for larger cabins and public spaces.
Mark Conroy, who helped design several ships as president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises in the 1990s, said the key question is how big the cabins will be on Virgin Cruises.
 “There is only so much square footage, particularly outside space, that needs to be divided between technical space, public spaces and staterooms,” Conroy said. “The technical space is pretty standardized, so then it becomes a balancing act between public space and suites and cabins. The larger you make the suites/cabins, the less space you have for public room.”
Art Rodney, one of the founders of Crystal Cruises, said that at 38.5, the Virgin ship’s space ratio is “no better than and in some cases worse than other large ships,” such as the MSC Divina or Royal Princess, both of which have space ratios of 40.
“Virgin is in a very difficult position to differentiate themselves from everybody else,” Rodney said. “The key for their success is how they differentiate their onboard product.”
McAlpin agreed, saying the “different programmatic elements” will set Virgin apart.
He said the ships are still in the design phase and urged potential passengers to weigh in on Virgin’s website to say what they would want to see and do on a Virgin vessel.
But McAlpin also said that if the ship is smaller than its competitors, that will make it different too.
“If everyone out there is building ships of one size and you have a different size, it does provide a level of differentiation,” he said.
McAlpin cited consumer research as the main factor in deciding how big to build. He said those surveyed expressed concerns about being on a mega ship with thousands of fellow passengers.
“We believe a slightly smaller ship gives us a good platform,” McAlpin said. “It’s big enough to provide us with a variety of experiences but small enough to provide a more intimate atmosphere.”

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Princess Cruises to deploy another ship to China

Princess Cruises to deploy another ship to China

Golden Princess.

The Golden Princess will sail seasonal cruises from Tianjin in 2016, joining the Sapphire Princess in China.
The Sapphire Princess has been sailing seasonally from Shanghai since 2014 and will start sailing year-round from the port in 2016. Both ships carry about 2,600 passengers.
In addition, Princess Cruises will deploy a new 3,600-passenger ship to China in 2017, the cruise line said in May.
Another Carnival Corp. brand, Costa Cruises, will base four ships in China in 2016: the Fortuna, Serena, Atlantica and Victoria. Carnival Corp. announced in April that the Fortuna would be added to its China fleet.
"Our Costa and Princess brands are performing extremely well in China, and these new ship deployments will strengthen our growth position and enable us to carry nearly 1 million passengers in 2016," said Alan Buckelew, Carnival Corp.’s chief operations officer.

Carnival Corp. to build second cruise terminal in Barcelona

Carnival Corp. to build second cruise terminal in Barcelona

Norwegian Jade in Barcelona.

Carnival Corp. has received approval to build and operate a second private cruise terminal in Barcelona, Europe’s busiest cruise port.
The cruise company said it will spend more than 30 million euros (about $33 million) on the project. Carnival said construction is slated to start in 2016 and that the facility could open as early as 2018.
The terminal, to be built at the port’s Adossat wharf, will be one of Europe’s largest at nearly 125,000 square feet, Carnival said.
There has been a “consistent surge in growth” in Barcelona over the past several years, said Giora Israel, Carnival Corp.’s senior vice president of global port and destination development. Barcelona is a destination and homeport for seven of Carnival Corp.’s 10 cruise brands.
Besides the terminal, Carnival Corp. will build and operate a new parking facility on the cruise pier.
The Port of Barcelona said it had 764 cruise calls in 2014.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Royal won't retrofit ships for Dynamic Dining

Royal won't retrofit ships for Dynamic Dining

Royal Caribbean International has decided not to install its Dynamic Dining concept on the Oasis, Allure and Harmony of the Seas, as it once planned to do.

The concept, which splits the main dining room into four smaller themed restaurants, will be limited to ships that have been designed from the beginning to accommodate it, Royal said in a statement.

Currently, the Quantum class ships, including the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, are the only ones pre designed for Dynamic Dining.

Dynamic Dining originally also meant elimination of fixed dining times, but Royal later added a "classic" option with early and late seatings.

Royal had already converted the main three-deck dining area on Oasis of the Seas into single restaurant spaces on each floor.

Guests on the Oasis, Allure or Harmony who have already preselected the classic option for their upcoming cruise will be assigned to either early or late seating to match their original choice of time. Guests who have selected the "choice" option will be assigned to the My Time Dining program, Royal said.

Crystal Cruises announces massive expansion plan

Crystal Cruises announces massive expansion plan

Crystal Cruise's Dreamliner

By Hollie-Rae Merrick

Crystal Cruises has announced a massive expansion plan which includes three new ocean ships and the line’s entry into yachting and the growing river cruise market.
The luxury line, which currently operates just two ships, today announced that over the next three years it would introduce new ships, a yacht and a plane.
Crystal chief executive and president Edie Rodriguez has signed a letter of intent with a German shipyard to build three all-suite vessels.
Rodriguez said: “We continue to think bigger, aiming to create unparalleled luxury experiences and adventures for our loyal and new guests, who – like Crystal – continue to seek broader horizons and new perspectives on the world.”
“We are ecstatic to continue pioneering new areas of luxury travel. Crystal’s newly expanded fleet will truly be travellers’ passport to virtually the entire world.”
Crystal chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said: “Our intent is to make Crystal Cruises the core of what will become the world’s premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio, not only for the immediate future but for years to come.”
The ships will carry rubber zodiac boats for expedition style cruising and the three builds will also be designed with polar ice-rated hulls to allow them to travel in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The first all-suite, all balcony ocean ship, which is being built at the Lloyd Werft shipyard, is expected for completion in late 2018 and will accommodate 1,000 guests.
Tan Sri Lim added: “Our vision and revolutionary plans for Crystal’s ocean vessels requires us to partner with a premium shipyard that has the expertise and resources to deliver the ‘Crystal Exclusive Class’.
“Lloyd Werft is synonymous with successful world-class new builds and luxury mega yachts, including Luna, the second largest expedition private yacht in the world, measuring at 337 feet long.”
Each ship will have 48 residences on board and travellers will be able to buy the residences as a second home. Those guests will have access to an exclusive restaurant and reception, as well as other facilities which are yet to be announced.
The line will also enter the river cruise sector in 2017 with two custom-built ships. The ships will operate under the new brand Crystal River Cruises.
In addition, Crystal will also gain a new 62-passenger yacht this December. The yacht, called Crystal Esprit, will have a 32-foot long boat for zodiacs, jet skis, kayaks and a two-person submarine. This brand will be called Crystal Yacht Cruises and Rodriguez hopes to add more yachts to the fleet eventually.
The yacht will sail around the Seychelles, Dubai and the Adriatic Coast between 2016 and early 2018, visiting the likes of Croatia, Venice, Montenegro and Greece.
The expansion of Crystal, which comes four months after Genting Hong Kong purchased Crystal from Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, also includes the plan to acquire a 60-passenger Boeing 787 under the new Crystal Luxury Air banner. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Jammed: Overcrowding at the world's most popular tourism sites

Jammed: Overcrowding at the world's most popular tourism sites

A jam-packed scene at Versailles. Photo Credit: pryzmat/

This past Christmas, Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom temporarily reached maximum capacity and were forced to close their gates and turn away guests until the crowds thinned. And while these highly popular theme parks both routinely rank among the 20 most visited sites in the world, they are hardly the only destinations grappling with the challenge of how to balance a surging global traveling population with the finite capacity that tourist hot spots can sustain.

The 10 most visited tourist attractions in the world

10. Forbidden City, Beijing
Annual Visitors:
 15.3 M

9. Disneyland Park, Anaheim
Annual Visitors:
 16 M

8. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Orlando
Annual Visitors:
 17.5 M

7. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston
Annual Visitors:
 18 M

6. Grand Central Terminal, New York 
Annual Visitors:
 21.6 M

5. Niagara Falls
Annual Visitors:
 22.5 M

4. Union Station, Washington
Annual Visitors:
 32.9 M

3. Central Park, New York
Annual Visitors:
 37.5 M

2. Times Square, New York
Annual Visitors:
 39.2 M

1. Las Vegas Strip
Annual Visitors:
 39.7 M
This list is an excerpt of international home exchange clubLove Home Swap's 50 Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World. Data was gathered from multiple sources. Attractions that don't sell tickets provided estimates. Attractions that could not distinguish between tourists and general visitors were not included.
In 2014, the number of international tourists reached 1.14 billion, 51 million more than in 2013, according to the World Tourism Organization, making it the fifth consecutive year of above-average growth in global tourism since the 2009 economic crisis. At the same time, the majority of the sites all those travelers are visiting aren't getting any bigger.

"Overcrowding is becoming a major issue at many global touristic destinations," said Randy Durband, president of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. "All tourism destinations need meaningful destination-management plans and management structures that ensure sustainability in a very broad sense, and that includes [addressing the issue of] overcrowding."

Within private enterprises, such as Disney parks or museums, officials in charge of those institutions can work to implement crowd control measures however they deem fit, but when the problem spills out into public spaces, such as in the entire city of Venice or New York's Times Square, it's a bit less apparent whose problem crowding is.

"There's really nobody who has any authority or jurisdiction to manage this," Durband said.

Indeed, when the problem is not confined to a single institution, crowd management is often tackled by a patchwork of solutions and strategies.

"Who pays for it? If you're at Disney, Disney is going to pay for it," said Harold Goodwin, professor of Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Metropolitan University and director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. 

However, when it comes to London, where Goodwin lives, crowding has become a burden on the city and its residents. 

"There are parts of London which I would now regard, as a Londoner, as a no-go area because there are too many tourists," he said.

Increasingly, the inevitable logjam of travelers during peak travel periods is creating myriad logistical and security problems for the companies, cities and institutions that manage these tourist draws. At best, travelers are often forced to visit places like Istanbul's Grand Bazaar and New York's Time Square crammed among hoards of selfie stick-toting tourists, or to wait in hours-long lines to get into places like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Beijing's Forbidden City. At worst, they can't get in at all. The Palace of Versailles now has a "crowded days" calendar on its website asking visitors to simply stay away during those times. 

"If you can, avoid the days of high attendance," the website advises. This includes the majority of June, July and August, the high-season months for travel to Europe. But if and when institutions have to actually turn away visitors, or if visitors can't get through the crowds to see what they came to see, that would appear to defeat the whole purpose of travel. That is, in fact, the moment at which the travel industry's success becomes its own downfall.

"Limiting the number of visitors must be seen as a means of last resort," Durband said. "So much can be done long before that step is even considered."
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul consistently ranks among the most-visited sights in the world. Love Home Swap named it the 11th Most Visited Tourist Attraction in the World. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul consistently ranks among the most-visited sights in the world. Love Home Swap named it the 11th Most Visited Tourist Attraction in the World. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
He said that tourism institutions need to explore methods to disperse visitors over various times in the day, seasons of the year and areas within or near the destination, which can alleviate many of the biggest problems with overcrowding. Transportation control issues often hold the key to better regulating visitor flow, Durband said, including policies and practices related to parking, the use of shuttle buses, regulating cruise ship access and requiring visitors to use a public transit system. But anyone who has been physically squeezed while trying to visit a popular museum or a jam-packed event might consider these strategies a case of doing too little too late. 

"There is no one-way solution on the crowding of tourist destinations, as the issues and the resolutions are often site specific," the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) wrote in an email statement in response to questions about the issue of crowd control in tourism destinations.

"With more and more people traveling, it is important that travel and tourism grows sustainably," the WTTC wrote. "Nearly 2 billion people are expected to travel internationally by 2030, with significantly more people traveling domestically. Tourism boards, governments and the private sector should work closely together in order to protect and preserve cultural heritage and traditions while accommodating this growing number of visitors at their destinations."

Sample solutions

Companies like Disney, institutions like the Louvre or destination marketing organizations (DMOs) that promote popular cities and countries live with the crowding dilemma day in and day out, and many of them have been quietly ramping up their efforts to address the issue in recent years. They are often working behind the scenes to implement a variety of tactics to improve flow, to disperse visitation over a greater area if possible and to spread attendance more evenly over the course of the year.
According to Atout France, France’s tourism development agency, Sacre Coeur in Paris welcomes some 10.5 million visitors annually. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
According to Atout France, France’s tourism development agency, Sacre Coeur in Paris welcomes some 10.5 million visitors annually.Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, for example, has been able to accommodate a few thousand more guests per day during some peak travel periods due to its recently implemented MyMagic+ program. MagicBand radio-frequency identification bracelets enable guests to reserve time slots on attractions, vastly improving park visitation efficiency, according to Disney executives.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts last month polled guests for their opinion on a potential three-tiered pricing strategy that theme park insiders said could be another step toward alleviating crowding. Disney asked survey participants about a system in which tickets would be sold at three pricing levels, with the highest priced tickets valid any day of the year, the middle-tier tickets valid on most days save for peak and holiday weeks, and the lowest priced tickets valid on off-peak weekdays. 

"There's the possibility that such as system could reduce overcrowding on the busiest days in the parks, as higher prices, theoretically, would reduce the demand for those days," Robert Niles, editor of, wrote on his site. "The downside is that the demand would shift to less popular days, increasing the crowd sizes on days that now enjoy lighter crowds."

NYC & Company, the tourism marketing arm for New York City, home to several of the world's most-visited tourist attractions, including Times Square, Central Park and Grand Central Terminal, continues to push toward its target of welcoming 67 million visitors by 2021. But it is also looking for ways to get those travelers to sprawl out across the entire city, not just congregate in tourism choke points. 

"NYC & Company has a five-borough promotional strategy, and our goal is to spread visitors out across the entire city," said Chris Heywood, the DMO's senior vice president for global communications. "This strategy has been in place for several years. For two and a half years, we have put a stronger focus on neighborhood travel." 

The campaign, initially called Neighborhood X Neighborhood, was rebranded earlier this year as NYCGO Insider Guides. Recent neighborhood spotlights have included the Flatiron District and Coney Island, with NYC & Company providing itineraries and insider tips via documentary-style short films about these lesser-known areas of the city. Next, it plans to promote Governors Island, St. George on Staten Island and Jackson Heights in Queens.

"We also have marketing strategies in place to shift demand to slower periods like January and February," Heywood said. "We run programs like Restaurant Week and Broadway Week during those times, for instance."

The trend of DMOs promoting off-season travel and off-beat locales has been gaining momentum in recent years.

Robin Johnson, head of overseas operations for VisitBritain, said, "A big part of our work going forward will be to address the issue of regional dispersal. Only recently, we set a number of targets to counter London-only travel."
Throngs of tourists crowd the entry to Buckingham Palace in London to get a glimpse of the changing of the guards ceremony. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
Throngs of tourists crowd the entry to Buckingham Palace in London to get a glimpse of the changing of the guards ceremony. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
In an attempt to address crowding head-on, the Louvre in Paris in the fall released details of an ambitious Pyramid Project, a $59 million initiative scheduled to be completed by 2017 that is intended to improve traffic flow, reduce noise and better accommodate the mounting number of guests who pass through the I.M. Pei-designed crystal pyramid that serves as the Louvre's reception area.

"At the time of their inauguration in 1989, the museum's reception areas were designed to receive 3 to 5 million visitors," said Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre's president and director. "Twenty years on, annual museum attendance has reached 9.5 million visitors."

Martinez said that the new project would double the entry points to the pyramid, which should help alleviate the frustrations and challenges of crowding significantly. The museum is attempting to reduce noise pollution through the installation of sound-absorbing partitions and a sheltered ticket office and to offer visitors better access to information through improved signage.  

An age-old problem

The crowding problem is as antiquated as some of the ancient treasures tourists are trampling all over one another to see.  
The Grand Palace in the Thai capital of Bangkok is said to welcome some 8 million travelers each year. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
The Grand Palace in the Thai capital of Bangkok is said to welcome some 8 million travelers each year. Photo Credit: Michelle Baran
Tom Jenkins, president of the European Tour Operators Association, said, "This is a very old subject. It's been going on forever. Famously, Rome had a major problem with visitor overcrowding in [the year] 1300 when there were too many Jubilee pilgrims. People have been complaining about the crowds at European tourists sites for over 100 years."

Jenkins predicts that the crowding issue will ultimately sort itself out.

"This is a problem of success and has a pattern of being self-regulating," he said. "When people see it's too crowded, they have a tendency to stay away. ... It's not news that popular places are very crowded."

Jenkins represents a segment of the marketplace that in some ways stands to gain from the crowding. Tour operators often benefit from their ability to get groups past the lines and into popular sites after hours. 

Likewise, Trafalgar President Paul Wiseman said, "We overcome the crowding with our VIP entrance program," which gets guests past the lines and straight into popular attractions. "That part actually is a huge selling point for us on the guided side."

Wiseman said the crowding of popular destinations during the busy summer months is also beginning to have another effect: increasing bookings in the off-peak travel season. The autumn, winter and spring programs are now upwards of 15% of Trafalgar's business, said Wiseman, who added that the shoulder or off-peak seasons offer three essential selling points: "Beat the crowds, beat the heat, the prices are lower." 

Companies like Trafalgar are also seeing more demand for off-the-beaten-path destinations. And while that's as much about repeat travelers searching for new experiences as it is about crowding, a byproduct of extreme crowds in popular destinations is that they can make lesser-known attractions suddenly seem more appealing to the crowd-averse traveler.
A crowd touring the grounds of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Visitors are often forced to wait in hours-long lines to gain access to the attraction, which was named the 10th Most Visited Tourist Attraction in the World by Love Home Swap, a home exchange club that offers 70,000-plus properties in 160 countries.
A crowd touring the grounds of Beijing’s Forbidden City. Visitors are often forced to wait in hours-long lines to gain access to the attraction, which was named the 10th Most Visited Tourist Attraction in the World by Love Home Swap, a home exchange club that offers 70,000-plus properties in 160 countries.
"There are lots of very cool, very appealing destinations that are being developed," Durband said of up-and-coming destinations that see overflow elsewhere as an opportunity to attract more travelers. "There are places getting ready for more mainstream travel."
Still, the fact remains that many travelers, especially first-time globe trotters of which a whole new crop is emerging from developing source markets such as China, will want to visit trendy locales during the summer, when the weather is likely to be best and, consequently, when the crowds are biggest.

"First-time travelers, they still want to see the icons," Wiseman said. "It can be Rome in the middle of summer, 100 degrees on the busiest day of the year, and they want to see the Colosseum."

That means that the crowding issue is going to continue to challenge the travel industry well into the foreseeable future. According to one industry veteran, it is in fact the single biggest challenge. 

"We used to say in the land-tour business that the cruise business was our competition," Arthur Tauck Jr., chairman of Tauck, said recently. But today, he said, "the competition of the entire travel industry is crowds. The world is becoming jammed."

Friday, 17 July 2015

Queen Mary 2 to get major refurbishment in 2016

Queen Mary 2 to get major refurbishment in 2016

NEW YORK -- At an event commemorating the 175th anniversary of Cunard, the line's North America president, Rick Meadows announced some additional features and major refurbishments for the 11-year-old Queen Mary 2 to be added during a 25-day drydock next year.

The flagship of Cunard Line will for the first time get 15 single-occupancy cabins. During the drydock, workers will also install 30 more Britannia Club Balcony staterooms that come with anytime dining privileges in the Britannia restaurant.

A unique feature of the Queen Mary 2, the dog kennels, will be expanded. Currently there are accommodations for 12 dogs or cats and another 10 kennels will be added.

Also coming will be a statuary lamp post and fire hydrant in the dog walking area, a feature first introduced on the QM2's flagship predecessor, the Queen Elizabeth 2.

Parent company Carnival Corporation chairman Micky Arison, CEO Arnold Donald, Cunard CEO David Noyes, Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse and Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy were among the company executives who joined travel agents, former Cunard officers, descendants of the line's founder Samuel Cunard and media in celebrating Cunard's anniversary.
Commodore Ron Warwick (Ret.), the first master of the Queen Mary 2, with Valerie Wilson Travel International co-president Jennifer Wilson and Cunard North America President Rick Meadows at the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Cunard. The Queen Mary 2 is in the background, just above Wilson. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann
Commodore Ron Warwick (Ret.), the first master of the Queen Mary 2, with Valerie Wilson Travel International co-president Jennifer Wilson and Cunard North America President Rick Meadows at the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Cunard. The Queen Mary 2 is in the background, just above Wilson. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann
 The Queen Mary 2 herself also made an appearance, pausing in New York Harbor to put on a light show for the crowd before heading out on a transatlantic crossing.

Other new features will be announced later. The QM2 is scheduled to emerge from drydock June 21, 2016.

Arnie Weissmann contributed to this report.

Norwegian again raises suggested gratuity

Norwegian again raises suggested gratuity

Norwegian Cruise Line said it will raise its suggested daily gratuity amount to $13.50 from $12.95, effective Aug. 1. For guests staying in suites, the new rate is $15.50, up from $14.95.

Anyone already booked can prepay at the old rates; guests booking by Aug. 1 can also prepay at the old rates.

It is the second time this year that Norwegian has raised gratuities for staff members. On March 1, the rate went up from the previous suggestion of $12.

When not pre-paid, gratuities in the suggested amounts are automatically added at the end of a cruise to a customer's onboard account. They can be adjusted upwards or downwards by visiting guest services.

Other cruise lines are also raising gratuities, including Royal Caribbean International, which raised its rate on June 1 to $12.95 for most cabins and $15.95 for suites.

Staying on track and ahead of the curve

Staying on track and ahead of the curve

By Carrie Finley-Bajak 
When it comes to social media strategy, it's not OK to turn on cruise control: If a reset is in order, take one. Granting yourself a do-over can actually refresh stale campaigns and force you to break bad habits. Here are some ways to keep your social media marketing on track for success. 

Stay focused on your goals

It's easy to get caught up in the buzz when it comes to social media. While I enjoy learning about new trends in digital marketing, I have to remind myself to stay focused on growing my business.

Using Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and reports from social media analytics companies like Simply Measured helps me leverage data to identify opportunities and to optimize activities.

My overall goal is to use social media to get visitors to my website. Almost all of my social media updates and campaigns fit my keyword strategy, and if I am doing my job right, then promoting my brand yields a measurable increase in fans and followers and a rise in website traffic.

Besides building brand awareness and increasing a fan base, social media can be used as a tool for prospecting, lead qualification and customer service. 

To get leads on social media, it takes time and a commitment to consistency. A steady stream of product announcements does not perform well on social networks. Instead, focus on showcasing expertise and experience. Use different types of content formats to capture attention.

Using supplier resources can be a time- saver and a way to get new ideas for what to post on social media.

Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, public relations and guest services at MSC Cruises USA and chairman of CLIA's Trade Relations Committee, reports that MSC Cruises continues to provide the most updated promotional tools on its agent website.

Within the marketing tools section is a social media tab offering ready-made tweets and Facebook updates based on the cruise line's latest news and promotions. 

Grow with social media marketing

Social media messaging should include a robust mix of unique calls to action that drive visitors to click on links to your website, where visitors can subscribe to your mailing list or find a number to call for more information.

Make sure you have a system to monitor and track leads from social media. 

Even social media-savvy agents with an established presence on social media need to keep abreast of current trends to remain relevant.

One of the key findings in the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report published by Social Media Examiner was that marketers still value Facebook and even though a large number of respondents use Facebook, 68% want to learn more about it and 62% plan to increase Facebook activities.

If you are one of the estimated 40 million small businesses using Facebook to promote your brand and to connect with customers, fighting for attention is a constant challenge. 

A lot of people are looking for creative ways to generate leads without paying for Facebook ads.

In an article posted on, social marketing consultant and writer Jayson DeMers wrote "50 Free Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Likes." 

Some of the highlights from Jason's article include the following tips:
  • Use images as a regular part of your Facebook content strategy.
  • Engage with other pages in your niche through leaving "thoughtful comments in response to other people's posts."
  • When leaving Facebook comments, post as your page rather than from your personal profile.
If your Facebook page has been on cruise control, go back and refresh the about section, and add relevant events and detailed descriptions to photos. 

In Travel Weekly's Focus on Social Media article, there was a great example of an agent's Facebook page that can inspire you to revamp lackluster Facebook pages. 

Jill LaBarre's page, Jill's Great Escapes, has incorporated all the elements that will increase the chance of getting leads. I am impressed by the "book now" call-to-action button that drives leads to her website as well as the use of custom tabs to get leads to "register to win a trip." Jill also has leveraged the events tab to highlight her upcoming trips -- three excellent examples of how to leverage Facebook.

Another Facebook feature that you might not know about is the ability to auto-schedule updates. This time-saver could be enormous help to agents who can set aside a few hours a week to schedule Facebook updates. Find out more at the Facebook Help Center.

Twitter is another social media platform that generates a lot of buzz. For travel sellers, Twitter is a good place to engage with suppliers, network with other agents and stay current on industry news.

There are ways to get leads on Twitter, but I would recommend getting comfortable with the platform before investing in Twitter ads. 

I get that Twitter is not for everyone, but according to the Social Media Examiner survey, marketers indicated it as an area where survey responders planned to increase their use.

At a minimum, Twitter accounts should be established and a header image and description with a link to an agent's website should be set up.

There are many ways to use Twitter. For example, Travel Weekly hosts a live Twitter chat every month about trending topics in travel. We use the #TWchats hashtag to promote and engage with industry insiders, including agents, suppliers and influencers.

I would suggest getting started and using the list feature to help create customized streams specific to your niche. For example, create a list of your preferred suppliers to quickly see their posts. 

The advanced search feature enables users to create custom searches based on keywords and variables like location.

Best in show

These are my favorite tweets from June's #TWchats about social media best practices within the travel industry:

Larry Pimentel admits to using social media to find "a unique luxe wellness lodge in #NewZealand called @SplitApple." The CEO of Azamara Club Cruises added in his tweet, "Travelers loved the experience. So did I."
Catherine Heeg: "I really like Pinterest as you can organize your photos and message boards and pins to clients."

Seiche Wave: "A great social media campaign stimulates dialogue, attracts new followers and increases new visitors to all associated sites."

No conversation about social media marketing is complete without mention of video.

Whether an agent uses a smartphone, digital camera or expensive video recorders, we know that videos capture the attention of people on social media.
  • Anyone can set up a YouTube channel, and a lot of suppliers will give you permission to upload their content onto your agency's branded channel.
  • Instagram has a video-sharing feature as well as Vine, which can be easily shared on Twitter.
  • Facebook allows users to directly upload video. Pinterest allows users to "pin" videos, and your website should have a blog where you can easily embed videos to leverage content.