Monday, 31 August 2015

What's New, What's Hot: August 2015

What's New, What's Hot: August 2015

What's New, What's Hot is Travel Weekly's look at useful and fun travel gadgets, edited by Joe Rosen. First up, NokHoo Laptop Backpacks. Designed to fit laptops up to 16 inches in size, the fully-padded and water resistant bags have numerous zippered and side pockets and an easy-to-reach shoulder pocket. What really makes them standout is the unique, custom artwork that adorns each bag. They are available in four styles, characterized by their fabric, color and design work: Sirrush, DeLoverly, Raining Paradise and Icarus.
NokHoo Laptop Backpacks: NokHoo, according to Nicole Roberts, who first designed this line of stylish bags when living in Thailand, is the Thai word for "owl" and it is the wise traveler who has one of these backpacks at the ready when on the go. All NokHoo bags are fully padded, at once protecting you and your contents; have numerous zippered pockets, side pockets and an easy-to-reach shoulder pocket; are water resistant; and are manufactured to last. What really makes them standout, however, is the unique, custom artwork that adorns each bag, including screen prints and embroidery. They are available in four styles, characterized by their fabric, color and design work: Sirrush ("toasted sesame"), DeLoverly (red), Raining Paradise (periwinkle) and Icarus (gun metal gray). All fit laptops up to 16 inches in size. $150;
LAMOVE Mobile Closet: A joint project of luggage designer Max Mirani and closet designer Lisa Adams, this imaginative and functional product combines the organization of a wardrobe trunk minimized to the portability and practicality of a carryon (21 by 14.5 by 9 inches, with four swivel wheels). Featuring a hard shell case with a textile surface, the LAMOVE Mobile Closet has two separate sections: a garment portion for hanging dresses, slacks and blouses, and a removable wardrobe portion that can be zipped out and carried separately as a tote. Other attributes: a cantilevered shelf; magnetically closed pockets; a shoe section that fits heels and flats; a heat-resistant storage packet for flat or curling irons; and a detachable jewelry roll that can be used as a clutch or placed in a hotel safe. Two styles are available: Hollywood, with black exterior and gray interior, and New York, gray exterior and charcoal interior. Both have leather interior trims. $649;
Two carriers for the peripatetic pet:
• SturdiBag Pet Carrier: This light-weight, in-cabin traveling bag, which includes a seatbelt, seatbelt safety straps, harness and privacy flaps, is collapsible, providing a safe and comfortable trip for your portable furry friends. Available in small or large sizes (the large, divided SturdiBag is capable of carrying two pets in separate compartments), the carrier is made from 600-denier polyester; has an adjustable, four-point padded shoulder strap and leather hand grip; interior fleece pad; zipper security clips; and a leash tether. $68 and up;
• Classic Carrier: This product, from the aptly named LazyBonezz company, boasts breathable mesh panels for excellent visibility and ventilation; two sturdy handles and removable shoulder strap; a collar-to-leash attachment; a soft, removable bottom cushion; and an outside pocket for pet and owner essentials. At 15.5 by 7.25 by 10 inches, the Classic Carrier fits under most airline pet carrier restrictions. Materials used: faux leather, tweed, mesh and mixed metal. $139;

Eyebrow Grooming Set and Recover-E Cucumber Eye Pads: This eye-opening combination from Earth Therapeutics, a skin and body care line, was created with the female traveler in mind. The grooming kit offers an eyebrow shaver, tweezer, eyebrow scissors and lash/brow groomer. The eye pads, which are designed to reduce dark circles and puffiness associated with the tired eyes of long-distance travelers, are infused with cucumber extract, green tea and Vitamin E when refrigerated in a cold pack. Grooming set, $14.99; eye pads, (five pairs per pack), $5.99;

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The rise of coastal cruising

The rise of coastal cruising

By Tom Stieghorst for Travel Weekly

Cruising in the coastal waters of North America is starting to gain attention as more companies enter the market and introduce new ships to the long overlooked niche.

Small, domestic ships are plying the bays, sounds and islands in New England, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the Canadian Maritimes and docking in fresh, less-visited ports of call. 

Coastal ships appeal to an older, well-traveled group of passengers seeking a small-ship experience that doesn't require distant travel and affords easy access to places they haven't yet seen.

New entrants, such as Haimark Line and Pearl Seas Cruises, are bringing different and larger vessels to the market. And new destinations are cropping up, particularly Cuba, which coastal cruise firms say is ideally suited to their scale and style of cruising.

"It's definitely growing," said Debbi Robertson, a AAA agent in Lake Oswego, Ore. "The appeal, obviously, is the fact that it's a smaller ship, it's a small footprint with a few passengers, and you can get into nooks and crannies that you can't otherwise. It's a much more relaxed and easy way to go."
Blount Small Ship Adventures vessel the Grande Caribe at Oswego on an Erie Canal itinerary. The line says it is the only overnight cruise ship on the canal.
Blount Small Ship Adventures vessel the Grande Caribe at Oswego on an Erie Canal itinerary. The line says it is the only overnight cruise ship on the canal.
Coastal cruising is similar to river cruising, except it's done in saltwater rather than fresh. The ships top out at a little more than 200 passengers, cabins are intimate, getting on and off the ships is a breeze and destination is key.

Price-wise, coastal cruises are also closer to many river ships, charging in the $3,000 to $5,000 range for a seven- to 10-night cruise.

Each coastal company has a slightly different product lineup, with some mixing river, ocean and lake cruising depending on the time of year. 

And an important distinction for most coastal cruisers is that their ships are predominantly U.S. flagged, which allows for itineraries that go between U.S. ports without a foreign stop. 

"That's part of our whole strategy, our boats being U.S.-owned," said Tim Jacox, president of Seattle-based Un-Cruise Adventures. "In Hawaii with [the ship] Safari Explorer we're able to operate island to island to island.  In Alaska, the fact that we're able to operate right in the heart of the Inside Passage, Juneau to Ketchikan, there's no wasted time whatsoever."

In a sense, coastal cruising is an offshoot of the U.S. shipbuilding industry. The two oldest players, American Cruise Lines and Blount Small Ship Adventures, both own shipyards: Maryland-based Chesapeake Shipbuilding and Rhode Island-based Blount Boats, respectively. That stands in contrast to much of the ocean cruise fleet, which is built overseas, mainly in Europe.
The cabins on coastal cruise ships tend to be small and cozy, like this one on the Legacy.
The cabins on coastal cruise ships tend to be small and cozy, like this one on the Legacy.
The ships are different, too. Rather than stress luxury, coastal ships tend to have simpler, more functional decor. Several are built as modern replicas of vintage coastal steamers.

The coastal ships tend to have a lounge, a bar and a restaurant that can accommodate a single seating, along with open space on a top deck for sightseeing. Most cabins range from 150 to 200 square feet. 

"They're not large cabins," said Thomas Markwell, managing partner of sales and marketing at Haimark Line. "They're comfortable, but they're not suites."

On some ships, access to cabins is from an open deck rather than an interior corridor.
The topside sun deck on the 210-passenger Pearl Mist.
The topside sun deck on the 210-passenger Pearl Mist.
Typically, coastal ships have a shallow draft, which enables ships to access close-in harbors and dock rather than tender in most ports. 

Blount Small Ship Adventures has engineered two further advantages: a bow ramp that permits a ship to practically dock on the beach in the Caribbean and a retractable pilot house to pass under low bridges.

Because of that feature, Blount can sail the Erie Canal, along which some bridge clearances are under 22 feet. Nancy Blount, company president, said it is the only overnight cruise ship on the canal.

People who gravitate toward coastal cruising are a distinct breed, according to cruise line executives.

"These people are intrepid travelers," Markwell said. "They have been everywhere, but at the same time they have been no place close; they have no exposure or limited exposure to destinations of interest in North America." 

Most of them are between the ages of 55 and 75, with some in their 80s, he said. Most don't want to be on a motor coach tour.

"They've taken their love of cruising and looked for an application of that concept in North America," Markwell said. "They say, 'We cannot physically do long coach rides anymore,' and beyond that, especially for this aged demographic, the concept of packing and unpacking is not appealing at all anymore."

Many have exhausted their "bucket list" destinations in exotic places that they waited their whole lives to see. Now, Markwell said, they're on a second bucket list. 

"Their interest doesn't die," he said. "It doesn't wane as they get older. With that in mind, they sort of develop a new list. And that new list seems to be closer to home."

Where they're going on coastal voyages are places like the tiny towns on Maryland's eastern shore; the historical districts of Quebec City or Beaufort, S.C.; or the peaks and evergreens surrounding the San Juan Islands in Washington state's Puget Sound.
The American Cruise Lines ship the American Spirit has 51 cabins, some with individual balconies.
The American Cruise Lines ship the American Spirit has 51 cabins, some with individual balconies.
A classic coastal itinerary is a 15-day voyage offered by American Cruise Lines that sails from Baltimore down through the Chesapeake Bay and along the Intracoastal Waterway to Jacksonville, Fla.

Along the way, passengers visit Kitty Hawk, N.C., site of the Wright brothers' first flight; Charleston, S.C., with its side-yard colonial houses; and the turn-of-the-century robber baron retreat of Jekyll Island, Ga. 

Fares for the cruise, offered in late spring and fall, start at $7,725 and range up to $13,290 for the owner's suite on one of three American ships: the American Glory, American Star or Independence. All the ships have three decks of accommodations and carry fewer than 100 passengers.

"The small nature of it, it becomes a family on board," said Judy Roman, vice president of marketing for American and its affiliate, Pearl Seas. "It's quite an intimate experience, as opposed to typical cruising."

Passengers form a naturally close bond on such small ships, both with each other and with the crew, coastal cruise executives said. And the crew on U.S.-flagged ships is predominantly American, so there are no language barriers, they said. 

Small coastal lines do face competition from bigger, foreign-flagged ships that offer coastal itineraries of their own.

Holland America Line has summer cruises on the Veendam along the St. Lawrence River, the Canadian Maritimes and in New England, while multiple cruise lines have coastal Pacific trips, including Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

The West Coast itineraries include California ports of call such as Santa Barbara, Monterey, Catalina Island and San Diego. Because the ships are foreign-flagged, they all include a stop either in Canada or Mexico in order to comply with cabotage laws.

With a draft of 25 feet, a larger ship such as the Veendam is more stable on the open ocean but less nimble in reaching small ports than coastal ships that need only six or seven feet of water.

"What we're trying to emphasize is the navigability of the vessel, because she can get to where larger ships cannot operate," Markwell said. As an example, he pointed to the Great Lakes, where the Welland Canal between lakes Erie and Ontario limits the size of vessels to 740 feet.

Jacox, of Un-Cruise Adventures, said some of the value in a coastal cruise comes from hugging the coast.

"I think you have part of the population that wants both the security of coastal cruising -- they know they're not going to be out on the open oceans -- and also that they'll have a great vantage point. They're going to see scenery pretty much all the time."

At Un-Cruise, many of the shoreline excursions also have an outdoorsy adventure component, including wildlife watching, hiking, kayaking and paddle boarding, which can be done best on small ships, Jacox said.
The Legacy, sailing for Un-Cruise Adventures, is a replica of a turn-of-the-century coastal steamer.
The Legacy, sailing for Un-Cruise Adventures, is a replica of a turn-of-the-century coastal steamer.
Coastal lines tend to put a lot of thought into shore excursions to take advantage of their small-group dynamics. 

"You bring 5,000 people into Quebec City, and you feel that. You bring 200 people in, and it just feels comfortable. It's really easy to deliver unique experiences," Markwell said.

One example is a visit to a "sugar shack" in Quebec, where maple sap is turned into syrup and candies in a small barn out in the countryside. 

Most coastal cruises offer at least one complimentary excursion in each port, plus several optional ones.

Enrichment is another pillar of coastal cruising, and ships typically have a lecturer onboard who is an expert in the history, natural environment or other aspects of the destinations that the cruise visits.

Each line includes alcohol in some fashion. American Cruise Lines offers wine and beer with dinner, plus a cocktail hour. At Un-Cruise, six of nine ships include premium spirits, fine wine and microbrews in the fare.  

On a Blount cruise, wine and beer are served with lunch and dinner, plus guests can bring and store their own liquor at the ship's bar, an opportunity that "our passengers love," Blount said. 

In keeping with its relaxed nature, coastal cruising's fleet is expanding at a casual pace. The newest entrant, Haimark Line, started sailing in April using the former Cape May Light, a 210-passenger ship built in 2001 for the now-defunct American Classic Voyages.
The only recent newbuild is the Pearl Mist, the sole ship sailing for Pearl Seas Cruises. It features relatively large cabins with individual balconies, a stabilizer, four decks of cabins rather than three and six lounges.
Pearl Seas is the latest line to announce cruises from South Florida to Cuba, which it plans to begin in April.

Cuba solves one of the challenges for coastal U.S. cruisers: where to go in the winter when most of the U.S. is too cold to be an attractive cruise destination. Several lines had focused on cruises in Central America, especially Costa Rica and Panama, where they faced little competition. But with the recent diplomatic opening in Cuba, they're re-evaluating.
The Pearl Mist is one of the few coastal cruise ships to have individual balconies.
The Pearl Mist is one of the few coastal cruise ships to have individual balconies.
Markwell said an attractive program in the winter is a key to profits. 

"It's important that the ships sail full all year round," he said. "We cannot make money in the summertime in the Great Lakes to lose it in the winter."

Haimark also plans cruises from Miami to Cuba starting in February, in cooperation with United Caribbean Lines, which already has Treasury Department approval for ferry service between Florida and Cuba.

Blount, too, has Cuba in its sights, though probably not until 2017. Nancy Blount said that as a U.S.-flagged vessel, there are additional complications to getting Commerce Department approvals. 

Jacox said that Un-Cruise Adventures will continue to operate on the West Coast of North and Central America, where it sails one ship in Mexico's Sea of Cortez from November to March and another in Costa Rica and Panama.

While it shares some similarities with river cruising, U.S. coastal cruising is small even by river cruise standards. The segment in its entirety is only a couple of thousand berths. 

"Because there's very limited capacity, every time we see an opportunity, we grab it," said Joann Bell, vice president of programming for Road Scholar, a tour operator with an educational focus. 

Road Scholar has chartered Haimark's St. Laurent for two of its four cruises in August in the Great Lakes. 

"They have similar philosophies, so they have their own educational content onboard, which just enhances what our product type is," Bell said.

Road Scholar already sends groups to Cuba on people-to-people trips, so there is synergy in that market, as well. Other operators with a similar focus, such as Smithsonian Journeys, have also placed groups on Haimark and American Cruise Lines. 

Because of their small size, coastal cruise ships attract an active charter clientele. Markwell said a third of Haimark's 15 cruises on the St. Laurent for the balance of the year are charters.

Haimark, which also has river cruises in Europe and Asia, cross-sells U.S. coastal cruises to groups taking those trips. 

Markwell said Japan, Australia and France are among the countries that have provided passenger groups for Haimark. 

"Because we have grown so quickly and we need that volume, it is important for us to get into those other markets," he said.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Disney Cruise Line tightens alcohol policy

Disney Cruise Line tightens alcohol policy

Starting in October, Disney Cruise Line guests will no longer be able to bring spirits on board with them.
The cruise line posted a change in its policy, limiting guests over 21 to two bottles of wine on embarkation or at each port of call, or one six-pack of beer.
Disney was one of the few cruise lines that allowed passengers free rein to bring alcohol on board.
As before, guests bringing alcohol aboard must bring it in carry-on luggage, not checked baggage. Carry-on alcohol cannot be consumed in public areas or lounges, Disney said.
A corkage fee of $25 will apply to carry-on wine or champagne consumed in the dining room.
Spirits or wine and beer in excess of the limits will be safeguarded until the end of the cruise, Disney said.
The policy takes effect for cruises departing on or after Sept. 30.

Why Falkland Islands' cruise ship tourism is booming, with 60,000 visitors expected to arrive this year.

Why Falkland Islands' cruise ship tourism is booming, with 60,000 visitors expected to arrive this year.

  • The return of Norwegian Cruise Lines' visits provides a massive boost
  • Falkland Islands expecting 60,000 arrivals by cruise ship this season
  • Last year's arrival figures rose to 43,437 after a low of 29,000 in 2012-13
  • Nature tourism is the main draw with many marine bird species and seals 
Falkland Islands tourism has made a remarkable comeback in the past few years with the number of cruise ship visitors rising from less than 30,000 in 2012-13 to potentially double that this year.
The boost comes thanks in no small way to the return of the Norwegian Cruise Line's services to South America this season from October to March, including stops at Falklands' capital Stanley.
Their Sun vessel, which has a maximum passenger capacity of 1,900 and spends the Northern Hemisphere summer around Alaska, is planning nine stops at Stanley as part of its cruise around Cape Horn this season.
Stanley-based vessel agent estimates 60,000 arrivals by cruise ship this year, following last year's official figure of 43,437 passengers, despite six trips cancelled by poor weather.

Should Mother Nature be kind and the estimate ring true, the Falklands could be nudging their heights of 2007-08 and 2008-09 when they welcomed more than 62,000 visitors before the global economic crisis hit and numbers slumped to 29,000 three years ago.

'Of course we are very much at the mercy of the weather here in the Falkland Islands,' Samantha Marsh, Tourism Coordinator for Sulivan Shipping, tells MailOnline. 

The Norwegian Sun cruise ship, which holds 1,900 passengers, is planning nine stops at Stanley this year

'Large ships need to tender their passengers into Stanley harbour so high winds which are a characteristic of summer in the Southern Hemisphere can cause issues.
'On average we will have six cancellations a season due to unfavourable weather. So the anticipated estimate seems very high in comparison to last year's actual landed figures, but when we take into account some cancellations due to bad weather, we are probably looking at a conservative estimate of 50,000 landed.' Even so, it remains a substantial period of growth for the archipelago with a resident population of less than 3,000

And with a Falklands’ Tourism Board office opening in London this year, further building a bond with the UK after an overwhelming 98 per cent majority voted to remain under the Union Jack amid continued tensions with Argentina, that figure appears only set to rise.

They are also pushing to attract more visitors from the US and other untapped markets. 
Marsh adds that the growing capacity of expedition and research ships has also boosted numbers. 

'When I first started working here, many years ago, the average expedition vessel had an average 50-80 passenger capacity. These ships are now around 150 in average capacity,' she says.  

'The increase in numbers can only be a positive for the local economy, but as a small Island, we do quite often find it difficult to meet the demand in the way of excursions. 

'With practically zero unemployment, many people will take the day off to drive a coach, or to take guests to visit the penguins in order to cater for a large ship visit.' 

The first passenger boat this season will be the Russian research and tourist vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov on October 17, one of eight smaller ships in the first month also including the Sea Adventurer and the Akademik Ioffe.

In November come the big cruise ships, starting with the 1400-berth Zaandam and followed by the return of Norwegian Cruise Lines’ to Stanley when the Norwegian Sun makes its first visit on December 10.

It returns for a bumper day on December 28 when it will arrive with Star Princess and MS Marina whose potential 5,600 passengers almost double the Falklands’ entire population.
So what do visitors see when they arrive? By far the greatest attractions of the Falklands is its abundance of unspoiled wildlife, the marine bird species in particular.

Tourists walk by the Falkland Islands' visitor information centre found near the jetty on arrival

After arriving in Stanley, a town with a mostly English feel and British food the predominate offering, visitors usually seek out the five species of penguin, four species of seal and many other creatures who call the islands home. 

Albatross, petrels, the Falkland Flightless Steamer duck geese, and birds of prey including hawks, falcons and the Striated Caracara (Johnny Rook), which is found only on the Falklands and on small islands off Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. Porpoises and dolphins can also be seen in playing in the waves.
Another draw for the more than 3,000 UK visitors expected this year are the memorials marking the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina as interest in military history is boosted by the 100th anniversary of the First World War. 

Tours of the battlefields of Goose Green and Mount Tumbledown are available while a recently-opened museum at Port Stanley has a section focussed on the conflict in the South Atlantic, also recalling the islands' long maritime history. 

Tender left hanging from Costa Cruises ship

Tender left hanging from Costa Cruises ship

Photo Credit: Facebook (unknown photographer)  Thanks to

A lifeboat was left hanging from the side of a Costa Cruises ship due to a malfunction during a tendering operation.
No passengers or crew were hurt in the incident off Kotor in Montenegro involving the ship Costa Mediterranea.
Italian media reported that the tender boat was being lowered into the water but was left hanging over the side of the ship. 
The cruise line said: “Costa confirms that Costa Mediterranea experienced a technical problem with one of the ship’s lifeboats during operations for tendering while anchored in Kotor as per planned itinerary.
“The safety of the ship and of its passengers and crew has never been put at risk, as the tender was not carrying any passenger or crews members.”
However, the ship cancelled a call in Argostoli in Greece and is due to arrive from Kotor to the next scheduled port of call in Corfu tomorrow (Wednesday).

P&O Cruises unveils itineraries to mark 180th anniversary

P&O Cruises unveils itineraries to mark 180th anniversary

By Phil Davies, Travel Weekly

P&O Cruises is to run two full world cruises in 2017 to mark its 180th anniversary.
Aurora’s 104-night eastern circumnavigation from Southampton echoes the trade routes of the British Empire, calling at 35 destinations in 21 countries and sailing almost 30,000 nautical miles.
Departing on January 9, 2017, the cruise features 23 new ports of call, overnight stays in Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and San Francisco, seven evening calls and transits of both the Panama and Suez canals.
Arcadia’s 114-night western circumnavigation from Southampton calls at 37 destinations in 21 countries, sailing more than 36,000 nautical miles. 
The voyage, departing on January 2, 2017, includes 22 new ports, overnight stays in San Francisco, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore and nine evening calls.
Prices lead in at £10,299 per person on a Select Price rate for Aurora’s world cruise, including onboard spending money of between £350 and £1,000, depending on cabin grade.
The sailings feature in a 2017 World Cruise Collection brochure which goes on general sale on September 9.
The programme also includes a 50-night Oriana cruise to the Caribbean and Amazon departing from the UK on January 3, 2017 and a 12-night Northern Lights itinerary including an overnight stay Alta and a late evening in Tromso. Prices start at £3,999pp and £899pp respectively.
The line’s marketing director, Christopher Edgington, said: “P&O Cruises has a reputation for offering original and appealing world cruise itineraries which we spend a lot of time planning, based on extensive research and trends.
“Our round the world cruises are not a once-in-a-lifetime dream but a truly affordable and realistic holiday for empty nesters looking for long haul adventure and ‘this is the life’ memories.”

Monday, 24 August 2015

Cruise lines leaving Houston high and dry as attention turns to Asia

Cruise lines leaving Houston high and dry as attention turns to Asia

Houston Cruise Port-Bayport Terminal
By Tom Stieghorst/ Travel Weekly
The Port of Houston is losing both of its homeported ships next year, a victim of a growing focus by North American cruise lines on shifting deployments to Asia.
Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have announced 2016 schedules that do not include a ship sailing from Houston, where western Caribbean itineraries are typically offered.
It is the most tangible fallout yet from the cruise industry’s high interest in China, Australia and other Asian markets.

Po Dong, Shanghai at night, photo by Dave Jones
Brian O’Connor, vice president of public relations at Princess Cruises, said the departure from Houston is the final domino in a chain that started when the line moved the Sapphire Princess from Australia to China. The China cruises were announced in 2013 and started in May 2014.
The redeployment of several ships ultimately led Princess to move the Caribbean Princess from Houston to Fort Lauderdale in late 2016, where it will still offer some western Caribbean routes.
But for Texas cruisers, the news means a reduced choice of cruise lines and homeports. Following the moves, instead of five lines sailing from the state, there will be three, and they will depart only from Galveston.
The change doesn’t sit well with Vic Freeland, a retired firefighter who lives about 45 minutes from Austin and is a huge Norwegian Cruise Line supporter.
“Certainly, we’re sad that they’re leaving,” said Freeland, who has tried Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International but has cruised much more with Norwegian.
Though Asia deployment is the first cause cited by Princess and others in accounting for the change, another factor could be the expiration next year of financial incentives offered by Houston to lure cruise lines to its Bayport Cruise Terminal.
And Carnival has made a strong push in the last several years in New Orleans and Galveston, raising the level of competition in the crowded western Caribbean.

Norwegian Star in Cabo San Lucas, Photo by Dave Jones
Norwegian was the pioneer of what it dubbed “Texaribbean” cruising when in 1997 it launched weekly service with the old 848-passenger Norwegian Star. Since then, it has dropped the market and returned twice, first in 2007 and again in 2014.

Norwegian did not provide a direct rationale for the latest pullout. But in comments on a teleconference with Wall Street analysts, Frank Del Rio, CEO of the cruise line’s parent, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, highlighted new Asian service as the cutting edge of its latest deployments.
For the first time in recent memory, Norwegian is sending a ship, the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star, on Asian and Australian itineraries next year. That will be independent of any decision to position a ship there for Asian-sourced passengers.
Without identifying it, Del Rio said the new deployment “replaces our lowest-yielding seven-day product.”

Norwegian Jade in Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo taken by Dave Jones
At the same time, the Norwegian Jade will move from Houston to Tampa, where it will continue to offer seven-night western Caribbean cruises but also mix in a few 10- and 11-night itineraries. The Jade replaces the Asia-bound Norwegian Star, which has been sailing from Tampa.

A somewhat similar game of musical chairs sent the Sapphire Princess to China from Singapore and the Diamond Princess to Singapore from Australia. The Emerald Princess, which had been sailing from Houston, was moved to Australia this year to cover the hole left by the Diamond Princess. Princess plugged the gap by moving the Caribbean Princess to Houston but concluded that wasn’t a good long-term strategy.
“It didn’t make commercial sense for us to market and operate one ship from Houston, so we moved the Caribbean Princess to Fort Lauderdale, where we get economies of scale,” O’Connor said.
That will leave Houston with no cruise ships and a deserted 96,000-square-foot terminal after next spring.
Stan Swigart, port director of marketing and communications, confirmed the view that the port’s misfortune arises from the ascendency of Asia.
“The reasons we’re getting is that they’re redeploying vessels to the Asian and Australian markets, and Houston was just not in the mix,” Swigart said.
Next year also marks the expiration of a reported $6.7 million in financial incentives extended to Princess and Norwegian in 2012 to induce them to sail from Houston’s then-vacant terminal.
A drawback for Houston is the building’s interior location off the Houston Ship Channel some 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
“Galveston’s closer to open water than we are. That may play into it,” Swigart said. “Cruise lines are really finicky. They shuffle the deck a lot, just to keep it fresh.”
After Norwegian’s last departure, in 2007, the $81 million terminal saw no cruise passengers from 2008 to 2013. It was used as a lay-berth port and for ship repairs, Swigart said. At the moment, there are no cruise ships on the horizon that want to dock there, he said.
That’s not the case in Galveston, where Texas-based cruising will consolidate after next year. Carnival has bulked up its presence there, announcing that it will move its newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, to Galveston in 2016 to join the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Freedom. It also reached a marketing partnership with the Dallas Cowboys and took other steps to attract business.
Galveston is also home to a Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Wonder, and to a Royal Caribbean International ship, the Navigator of the Seas.

Disney Wonder

In November, Royal plans to replace the 3,276-passenger Navigator with the 4,000-passenger Liberty of the Seas. A 60,000-square-foot expansion of the terminal that Royal uses in Galveston was to have been completed by then, but a redesign has pushed back the opening until the spring, port spokeswoman Cristina Galego said.
The expanded terminal will seat an additional 2,000 passengers. Galego said Royal Caribbean has asked the port to provide an air-conditioned tent as a passenger waiting area until the terminal work can be completed.

MSC Announces Grand Voyage to Shanghai

MSC Announces Grand Voyage to Shanghai

MSC Cruises has officially announced plans to make its first sailing to China, with the newly-renovated MSC Lirica calling in Shanghai on May 1, 2016 after having traveled across continents.

The 65,000-ton ship will make the company’s maiden call in China’s biggest megalopolis after a 60-day round-the-world Grand Voyage which departs on March 3, 2016 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“We are delighted to once more be able to offer our guests a brand new itinerary – from Brazil to China via Europe – which offers the chance to visit some of the most appealing places on earth, certainly across a huge array of people and cultures,” said MSC Cruises CEO, Gianni Onorato.
Onorato added: “This new Grand Voyage offering is proof of our steadfast commitment to offer our guests innovative and sought-after destinations. As MSC Cruises continues to expand the destinations it calls – such as Cuba which we recently announced – we are further enhancing our global offering while providing travelers best-in-class experiences and service.”
MSC Cruises is offering travelers the opportunity to choose from three different versions of the Grand Voyage, with the ability to embark in either Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (60 nights), Genoa in Italy (41 nights) or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (26 nights), before arriving in Shanghai.

Shanghai at night taken by Dave Jones
Before setting sail, MSC Lirica will be fully renovated and enlarged under MSC Cruises’ Renaissance Program, which entails a comprehensive overhaul of the ship due to be completed in November 2015.
Prices for the full 60-day Grand Voyage on MSC Lirica will start at $4,799 per person. Included in the price are beverage and laundry packages as well as 8 shore excursions.
During the first leg of MSC Lirica’s 60-day journey, the ship will depart on March 3, 2016 from Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro and sail north along the coast of Brazil – with calls in Buzios, Salvador, Maceio and Fortaleza. The ship  will then cross the Atlantic on a northeast course towards the Canary Islands – with a stop in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife – before reaching mainland Europe and visiting Cadiz, Spain.
From there, MSC Lirica will call the three largest ports in the Mediterranean – Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France; and Genoa, Italy – providing travelers an opportunity to embark in any of these ports in Europe and providing maximum flexibility as guests journey towards Asia.
After leaving Genoa, MSC Lirica will call Naples, Italy and the island of Crete with Heraklion in Greece. The ship then heads south to Aqaba in Jordan; Muscat, Oman; and Khor Al Fakhan and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  The ship is scheduled to stay in Dubai overnight and travelers interested in sailing from Dubai to Shanghai will have the ability to embark.
During the last leg of the journey, MSC Lirica sets sail towards the East and the Indian cities of Goa and Cochin, prior to calling Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. She then heads to Phuket, Thailand, and Penang and Port Kelang/Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, before reaching Singapore.
After an overnight stay in Singapore, the ship will bring its guests to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and then to visit Hong Kong. Shanghai is the next call and includes an overnight stay before sailing across the China sea to Fukuoka in Japan. From the Land of the Rising Sun, MSC Lirica heads back to the high seas one more time, returning to Shanghai on May 1, 2016.

Shower glass reinstalled on Viking Star after shattering incidents

Shower glass reinstalled on Viking Star after shattering incidents

Viking Cruises said it has re-installed the shower glass in virtually all of the cabins on its Viking Star ship because several shower panels have shattered unexpectedly at sea.
A spokesman for Viking said the incidents were isolated and were related to the installation process of the glass.
A Viking passenger posted an account on the Cruise Critic message board about how she was injured when the shower glass exploded in her cabin.
The 920-passenger Viking Star is the company's first ocean ship. It debuted in April and has been sailing on European itineraries.
The spokesman said the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy where Viking Star was built has "taken care of the situation” by re-installing almost all of the shower glass.
"The safety of our guests and staff is always our top priority and we regret that some of our guests experienced this situation,” the spokesman said.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Harmony of the Seas to Debut New Aquatic Adventure Park

Harmony of the Seas to Debut
New Aquatic Adventure Park

The Harmony of the Seas will debut Splashaway Bay, an interactive aqua park for kids, Royal Caribbean announced today.
The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea touting a 100 foot dramatic plunge, The Perfect Storm trio of water slides and Splashaway Bay are the latest in a collection of activities.

Slashaway Bay will be a vibrant waterscape for kids and toddlers with sea creature water cannons, winding slides, a gigantic drench bucket and a multi-platform jungle-gym.
There is the Ultimate Abyss, a 10 story slide that begins in the Pool and Sports Zone at the aft of the ship down to the Boardwalk neighborhood below. 
Spiraling five decks above the lushly landscaped, open-air Central Park in the center of the ship, water slides Supercell, Typhoon and Cyclone come together as The Perfect Storm, inviting travelers to slide into an adventure. 
Thrill seekers can test their mettle in Supercell, featuring a champagne bowl swirling guests around as they descend into their approach towards a big splash finale.

Royal Caribbean and STB in Marketing Deal to Promote Singapore

Royal Caribbean and STB in Marketing Deal to Promote Singapore

Royal Caribbean International has signed a first-ever multi-million  dollar  marketing  collaboration  with the  Singapore  Tourism  Board  (STB)  and Changi Airport Group (CAG) to promote cruising out of Singapore and, in turn, attract the cruise line's largest number of overseas fly-cruise guests here.
The tripartite collaboration – which runs between 2015 and 2018 – is estimated to pull in over
170,000 overseas visitors to Singapore to sail on Royal Caribbean’s cruises over that period, resulting in a projected growth of over 50 percent.
This will be done via a series of marketing campaigns, research studies and channel development activities, such as partnerships with the media and trade, in markets not only within Asia such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, but also beyond the region in Australia, Europe and North America.
Royal Caribbean also plans to increase its number of sailings from Singapore during this period to over 40 a year. Currently, the cruise line’s 3,840-guest Mariner of the Seas makes around 30 voyages annually. Her next Singapore season which will be the largest ever starting from this

October will feature more long cruises of seven to 15 nights, aimed at attracting more overseas fly-cruise guests.
Sean Treacy, Managing Director, Singapore and Southeast Asia of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said: “Having deployed ships here regularly for the last seven years, Royal Caribbean now looks
forward to its next phase of significant growth in Singapore. Our three-year deployment plan is our strongest commitment ever to this market and we see great potential in Singapore as a
source market and regional cruise hub. We highly appreciate this collaboration which will be a tremendous support for our business goals in Singapore and Southeast Asia, as well as the strong efforts of the Singapore Government for being so proactive in driving the cruise business in the country.”

Said  Neeta  Lachmandas,  Assistant  Chief  Executive  (Business  Development  Group),
Singapore Tourism Board: “The tripartite collaboration is a significant development not just for Singapore but also for Southeast Asia. We hope Royal Caribbean’s commitment will inspire new cruise itineraries around the region to offer more reasons for travellers to take to cruising, and also motivate our neighbouring ports and destinations to invest and realise fully the tremendous potential of the Asian cruise industry.”
Providing a link between Royal Caribbean International, Singapore and its regional neighbours is Changi Airport’s strong connectivity to 320 cities worldwide, along with some 6,700 weekly flights, giving Singapore a strategic advantage to effectively tap fly-cruise traffic from across the globe and serve as a cruise hub for Asia.
CAG’s Senior Vice President for Market Development, Mr Lim Ching Kiat, said: “This collaboration represents the synergistic efforts by CAG, Royal Caribbean and STB to effectively tap fly-cruise traffic from across the globe and serve as a cruise hub for Asia. Changi Airport will continue to  leverage  on  its  network and  work with airlines  and  travel  agents to  promote fly-cruise packages through Singapore.”

Princess Cruises gives The Voice a floating stage

Princess Cruises gives The Voice a floating stage

The Voice UK Judges.

Princess Cruises is preparing to take TV singing competition The Voice to sea.
The Voice of the Ocean sailings will start in October with Regal Princess, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in November, before further sailings next year.
There cruises will host karaoke sessions for over-16s and opportunities to audition before fellow guests and cruise staff, who decide which hopefuls go further.
Selected singers will be assigned a mentor before a live show on the last night of the cruise. Coaches will pick team members before the audience votes for a winner.
Adrian Fischer, entertainment vice-president at Princess Cruises, said: “Guests will perform on a high-tech set almost identical to the hit show, including rotating red chairs and a live Princess band with backup singers.
“We’re excited to foster undiscovered talent.”
The initiative is part of Princess’s ‘come back new’ tagline.