Thursday, 28 March 2013

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

Former Co-operative Travel head Mike Greenacre has questioned Thomas Cook’s plans to close shops and appoint ‘cluster managers’.

Writing for this Business:am, Greenacre, architect of the joint venture with Thomas Cook, asks Cook to consider whether the plan “will deliver”.

He also queries the future for The Co‑operative Travel name, arguing: “There appears little attempt to continue differentiation between brands.”

Greenacre ran The Co-operative Travel for three decades, retiring at the end of 2011 after completing the joint venture.

He says the deal to combine the retail businesses “aimed to ensure The Co-operative Travel would continue to flourish while as many jobs as possible were protected”.

Greenacre argues the company was “still profitable” at the time, although its profitability was declining. “We knew not all jobs would be protected [and] unprofitable shops and businesses would close”, he says. But he said only about 15 shops “were losing significant money”.

Thomas Cook this month announced the closure of 195 shops – 103 of them Co-operative Travel branches – and is in consultation over the loss of 2,500 jobs.

Greenacre acknowledges the seriousness of Cook’s financial situation, but pleads: “Make certain the branches on the closure list really have no future.”

He says in his experience “less business transfers [to other branches] when a shop closes than you think”.

He also advises Cook to rethink the policy on cluster managers, saying: “This has been tried many times and never delivered.” Cook plans for assistant managers to run shops day to day, with ‘cluster managers’ having overall responsibility for two to five shops.

Greenacre’s biggest concern is the future of The Co-operative Travel brand.

“There has been little commentary about the part The Co-operative Travel will play in the long term,” he says.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: 
“We are absolutely committed to The Co-operative Travel.”

World's largest cruise ship to make UK call in 2014

World's largest cruise ship to make UK call in 2014

World's largest cruise ship to make UK call in 2014
The world’s largest cruise ship is to make its debut call in the UK in autumn 2014.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will offer itineraries in Europe for the first time in September, 2014, with round-trip sailings from Barcelona.
It will call into Southampton on its return to the US on October 15, having received routine maintenance in the Netherlands.
Accommodating 6,400 guests at full capacity, Oasis of the Seas is a 225,282 gross registered ton vessel and the largest passenger ship in the world alongside its sister Allure of the Seas.
It will be 40% larger than any other cruise ship to ever dock in the UK and will join two further Royal Caribbean International ships based in the port.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents' sales

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents' sales

Thomas Cook price parity sparks rise in indie agents' sales
Independent agents have reported an increase in sales of Thomas Cook product following a move to single pricing across its in-house channels.
Cook introduced price parity across its shops, call centres and online in December. This allowed third-party agents to compete with the operator as the difference between Cook’s prices and independent agents’ narrowed.
In the coming weeks, the company plans to extend price parity to include sales through independents.
Hays Travel Independence Group has reported triple-digit percentage growth in sales of Thomas Cook holidays for summer 2013, while Advantage Travel Centres has reported a strong post-Christmas performance.
For years, online discounts have been a bugbear for independents because they could not compete on price and were forced to discount commission to win a sale.
Hays attributed its sales hike to Cook’s move towards price parity and the fact it had gained members who are strong sellers of Cook holidays.
Advantage head of commercial John Sullivan said consumers were shopping around less because prices differed “only by a few pounds”.
He added: “While price parity is not yet 100%, it’s now a lot easier for members to compete.”
It is understood Cook is also reviewing levels of commission to third-party agents.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “Following the launch of price parity, we’ve received fantastic feedback and we’ve seen an increase in sales through our agent partners.
“Our commercial agreements remain confidential, but there is no intention to reduce income levels; we’re maintaining a level playing field so they can match our retail and online pricing.”

New Princess ship to toot the 'Love Boat’ theme

New Princess ship to toot the 'Love Boat’ theme

By Tom Stieghorst
MONFALCONE, Italy – The Royal Princess cruise ship, being readied here for a June debut, will play the first two bars of the theme from the 1970s television show “The Love Boat” on its horn.

The theme will be sounded when the ship departs and arrives in port, said Ray Calouri, Princess’ executive vice president of fleet operations. The Pacific Princess appeared on “The Love Boat,” an ABC series that ran from 1977 to 1986.

Calouri tripped a switch on the unfinished bridge of the Royal Princess to play the theme for the first time publicly on a media tour of the ship, which will be dedicated in Southampton, England, in a little over two months. 

“The Love Boat” will not be a part of the promotional campaign for Royal Princess, Calouri said. The horns were “a whimsical decision,” he said.

“We’re not using ‘The Love Boat’ consciously as a marketing theme,” he said.

In past focus groups, Princess has found that too many prospective passengers have never heard of the show.

“It either didn’t mean anything, or it had a negative connotation,” because it was considered too dated, Caluori said.

On some cruises, individual Princess cruise directors play the theme over the ship’s public address system on departure but there is no uniform policy, Caluori said.

The difference on Royal Princess is that the theme will actually be sounded on the ship’s horn, which has been custom designed by Swedish firm Klockum Sonics. The installation involves five individual horns that are activated by compressed air and sequenced by computer.

There are two other horns on the ship that can be sounded independently and used for emergency signals, fog warnings and other purposes. 

Sea trials to test Royal Princess' Seawalk promenade

Sea trials to test Royal Princess' Seawalk promenade

By Tom Stieghorst
Regal Princess SeawalkMONFALCONE, Italy — The Fincantieri shipyard here will take the Royal Princess to sea for the first time this weekend to test the ship's systems before its scheduled debut in June in Southampton, England.

One of the areas that will be looked at is the wind protection around the ship’s signature feature, the Seawalk, a semi-elliptical glass-bottomed walkway that will extend over the ocean on a top deck.

Princess Cruises' engineers have modeled the wind around the walkway in a wind tunnel but won’t know for sure how it performs until the sea trial. The walk is fully screened with glass panels on the exterior, but has waist-high glass panels on its interior-facing side.

“I would be surprised if it’s an issue,” said Stuart Hawkins, vice president of newbuilds for Princess.

On a tour of the unfinished ship for the media, Hawkins credited Fincantieri for executing an idea that was faithful to the rendering that Princess presented to the yard.

“We were surprised that they could make it as free-standing as they did,” he said.

Rai Caluori, Princess' executive vice president of fleet operations, said the walkway will be shown to finest effect at night, when fiber-optics built into the ceiling and beneath the glass bottomed structure will illuminate the way.

Calouri and his design team detailed a host of new features packed into the ship designed to make it stand apart from previous Princess ships and vessels from competitors.

The Horizon Court buffet restaurant has been expanded to include a total of nearly 1,500 seats, including 150 in an alfresco area facing the main pool deck. Caluori said this will be a big improvement for passengers.

“Buffets on cruise ships tend to be an Achilles heel because of the heavy traffic,” he said.

Princess has eliminated beverage stations in Horizon Court and will have wait staff bring drinks to passengers’ tables.

The adjacent Bistro Lounge will include a 1,200-square-foot pastry kitchen that will turn out everything from breakfast waffles to after-dinner deserts.

Princess' vice president of hotel operations, Jonathan Wilson, said the cruise line prides itself on its pastries.

“This is not a gimmick,” he said, noting that the kitchen is as large as the homes of some potential passengers. “It’s not just one-of-a-kind to Princess, it’s one-of-a-kind anywhere [at sea],” he said.

Another new dining feature will be Chef’s Table Lumiere, a 12-seat circular private dining area in the middle of the ship’s traditional dining room that will be encircled by a fiber-optic illuminated curtain.

The dining area will feature a table with a six-foot Murano glass sculpture rising through it. When diners arrive, the retracted floor-to-ceiling curtain will move on an automatic track, closing around them and illuminating vertically at the same time, Caluori said.

There are less dramatic chef’s tables in the ship’s other two main dining rooms. On current Princess ships, they are only available on some nights of a cruise, but on Royal Princess they will be used every night, Caluori said.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Smaller Cyprus banks reopen as tourism season nears

Smaller Cyprus banks reopen as tourism season nears

Smaller Cyprus banks reopen as tourism season nears
The two biggest banks in Cyprus remained closed on Tuesday despite other island banks reopening following a €10-billion deal to stave off financial collapse.
The deal came as Cyprus's tourism season is poised to begin, with more than 200,000 UK visitors expected in the next three months.
Cyprus’s banks have been closed for a week and a half. The biggest of them, Bank of Cyprus, is now due to re-open on Thursday. But the second largest, Laiki Bank, will be wound up.
The bail-out is expected to end the immediate crisis and keep Cyprus in the eurozone.
The Cyprus finance minister had said a disorderly exit would be “disastrous”.
However, analysts warned Cyprus faces a deep recession, with its economy expected to shrink sharply.
One estimate put the likely contraction at 20% as the island’s main industry - offshore banking - shuts down.
The chair of the Cyprus parliament’s finance committee warned: “We are heading for a deep recession [and] high unemployment.”
European Union commissioner for economic affairs Olli Rehn said: “The near future will be difficult for the country and its people.”
The deal saw the ‘troika’ of EU, European Central bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) agree to make €10 billion available to Cyprus’s banks in return for Laiki Bank being wound up.
Deposits under 100,000 will be transferred to the Bank of Cyprus and an unspecified amount of larger deposits seized after an earlier deal - which would have spread the pain to smaller savers - was rejected by the Cyprus parliament.
The deal will fall heavily on Russian investors who hold about one-third of deposits in the country. The Russian Prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev referred to it as “stealing”.
The Russian and German tourism markets to Cyprus are expected to be severely hit by the crisis
However, industry figures have expressed confidence the UK market to the island will not be adversely affected.
Sunvil managing director Noel Josephides said last week: “I don’t see a problem for the UK market.”
Yet there are concerns the crisis will have a knock-on effect on the wider eurozone and therefore on the UK economy, providing a fresh dampener on demand.

Boeing says Dreamliner test flight 'went to plan'

Boeing says Dreamliner test flight 'went to plan'

Boeing says Dreamliner test flight 'went to plan'
Boeing has said a flight to test the new batteries on the Dreamliner "went to plan".
All 50 Dreamliners in operation have been grounded and orders delayed following a fire in a battery on a Japan Airlines 787 in Boston on January 7 and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways aircraft in Japan shortly afterwards when a battery started producing smoke.
A 787 took off at 12:11pm Pacific Time from the airfield at Boeing’s main production plant in Everett, Washington, for the “functional test flight” and returned two hours later.
The aircraft was the first to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries designed to reduce the risk of overheating.
Boeing said it would assess the data and prepare for another test flight to reassure regulators.
The battery redesign plan was approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month.
US transportation secretary Ray LaHood said at the time: "This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed.”
But he added: "We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers."

Young agents organize to reinvent travel retail for millennial age

Young agents organize to reinvent travel retail for millennial age

By Kate RiceAS
After years of industry hand-wringing over the graying of travel agents, young travel professionals are taking it upon themselves to recruit more of their own into an industry that one young organizer recently called “sexy.”

In recent months, young travel professionals have formed a handful of industry groups — significantly, none exclusively for travel agents. They hold virtual as well as actual cocktail parties. They communicate as much by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as by email.

And when they hold an event, be it a website launch party or a regularly scheduled monthly meet-up, the venue is packed.
YoungTravelProPartyTheir goal is to spread the word about travel careers to a generation that grew up in an online world.

“I never knew anyone who used a travel agent,” said Karen Magee, 26, a member of the board of New York-based Young Travel Professionals and manager of hotel sales and marketing for Ultramar Travel Management in lower Manhattan.

At present, three distinct groups have been formed, though at the 30,000-foot level, they have similar goals: Each is targeting young travel professionals, and each wants to attract new, young talent to a “fun, exciting, sexy industry,” in Magee’s words.

And they’re getting a response.

California-based Millennials in Travel budgeted for 60 people to attend their launch party in Los Angeles last month and attracted more than 100, said Joshua Smith, Millennials’ director of strategic development and independent journeys manager for Travcoa.

Before the group even held the event, he got email queries from peers in Miami and Chicago interested in starting their own chapters.

“I think it’s great,” 36-year-old Ryan McGredy, president of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society (YPS) and president of Moraga Travel in Moraga, Calif., said of the mushrooming number of groups for young people in the travel industry. “It means that there are enough of us out there now to have some different ideas about how these groups can run.”

Most of the differences between the groups lie in their membership requirements and focus.

ASTA’s youth chapter

ASTA’s YPS, the most senior of the three groups, celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. But in the past year, it has undergone some radical changes.

Last summer, it morphed from committee status to a full-fledged chapter, becoming ASTA’s first chapter to not be based on geography.

“We were coming up with events, fund-raising, doing all the things that a chapter board does but without the power of a chapter,” McGredy said.

A classic example of a young travel pro, McGredy came to travel from the tech industry, finding travel, fun, interesting, challenging and lucrative.
“It’s a great business to be in,” he said. “You can make a lot of money doing it.”

Getting the word out that being a travel agent is an attractive career is one big goal, he said, as are training and networking.

Joining forces is important, he said.

“We can benefit from each other, and not just networking-wise,” McGredy said. “We are such a heavily regulated industry [that] it’s important for us to start understanding advocacy.”

Noting that federal, state, county and local governments all regulate travel, he said, “It can affect us, from making our jobs harder to raising our costs of doing business to cutting our margins.”

For example, he pointed to sequestration as a federal budget issue that could have a constraining impact on travel. A Members-Only Day in Washington last November saw YPS members going around the capital to talk to high-ranking staffers of their representatives on Capitol Hill and meeting with legislative analysts.

“People came out saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know that you could do this, that people care about what you say,’” McGredy recalled recently.

At the same time, YPS is addressing a gap that McGredy saw when he first entered the travel business, between the old guard’s way of doing business and young turks coming in and reinventing the wheel.

He wanted to find a way for young industry entrants to connect with their peers and also connect with the legacy of the travel industry, and he sees YPS as a way to accomplish that.

Senior members of ASTA last year voiced strong support for YPS’ efforts to become a full-fledged chapter.

Because YPS is part of ASTA, it is focused on agents, but it is not limited to agents. McGredy stressed that suppliers are just as active in the group.

Membership in YPS is currently about 400, but it changes as new members enter and as older members “age out” at 40. The only limitation on suppliers is that they cannot attend the group’s retreats, which YPS calls its “fams.” That’s because retreat sponsors want agents who will sell their destination or product on these trips.

The group says it plans to play a larger role at ASTA’s Travel Retailing and Destination Expo in Miami in September.

Young Travel Professionals

Magee said that Young Travel Professionals, a group based in New York, has three goals.

The first is relationship building. To that end, the group holds monthly events at hotels or bars as well as special events such as their website launch party in February. It has 800 members and averages about 100 attendees at its monthly get-togethers.

The second goal is career development, helping people network to find new jobs. It also encourages members to post new jobs on its Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Allison Davis, 24, social media manager for YTP and social media coordinator of marketing for Ultramar Travel Management, said she got a job thanks to one such posting, and her involvement in YTP is attractive to employers because she’s connected to a talent pool of young people enthusiastic about the industry.

The third goal is to bring new blood to the industry. Magee said that event attendees include people from other fields such as finance and media. The group is planning a mentoring program and ultimately plans to expand to other cities.

YTP is hospitality-focused but defines hospitality very broadly. Its members include hotels, restaurants, meetings and event planners, airlines, other transportation providers, operators, agencies, online travel agencies and deal sites such as Jetsetter. It has no age requirements.

Millennials in Travel

The main goal of Millennials in Travel is career development, Smith said. It is looking at a mentorship program that pairs young professionals with one or two years in the industry with more experienced, five- or 10-year veterans.

Millennials is targeting colleges and universities to show students the value of a travel career. It’s creating a jobs board and has already seen one person change careers thanks to one such posting. Its membership is open to those born between 1979 and 2000.

“That is the millennial generation,” said Smith, who adds this group is differentiated from previous generations by the acceleration of technology and by the rise of a global economy.

It will hold elections to its board every two years and has an advisory board of high-level executives who are guiding the group.

Millennials is headquartered in Los Angeles, but the group plans to expand into Washington and Atlanta this year and into New York, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Dallas in 2014.

Its members include travel agents, suppliers, destinations, marketing rep companies and media. Because of its Los Angeles roots, the group is attracting members from companies such as HBO and Paramount, which Smith said are a part of the travel industry, though a different sector of it.

He added that Millennials is open to alliances.

LAN Airlines was a sponsor of its February launch event, giving away two roundtrip tickets.

Smith said the group’s core values were a passionate commitment to the travel industry, behaving professionally in both social and work environments, a strong belief in the potential of travel and a desire to help drive tourism on a global level.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Carnival takes a PR hit, but veteran cruisers stay loyal

Carnival takes a PR hit, but veteran cruisers stay loyal

By Tom Stieghorst
Carnival TriumphWhile there is no question Carnival Cruise Lines' image has been stained among the public at large by recent malfunctions on its ships, cruise sellers said last week that its reputation remains solid among experienced cruisers.

On the other hand, they said, consumers who have never before cruised are growing more leery of cruising in general following a series of incidents on Carnival ships, several of which were widely sensationalized by 24-hour TV news channels.

"People who have not sailed before, it makes them more fearful of sailing," said Karen Gurley, of Athena Travel in Laurel, Md.

To mend a hole in bookings that opened after the Carnival Triumph incident, Carnival is offering promotions, including a "Friends and Family" discount of up to $600.

But while that might well fill Carnival cabins, the anticipated hit to fares, plus new costs associated with planned fleet-wide safety improvements, led two top credit agencies to revise parent Carnival Corp.' s ratings outlook to "negative."

Carnival wasted no time implementing the safety enhancements. It has scrubbed 10 additional cruises on the Carnival Triumph, and the first two cruises of its newly remodeled ship, the Carnival Sunshine, keeping them in drydock longer to add more redundant safety features.

"We sincerely regret canceling these cruises and disrupting our guests' vacation plans," Carnival President Gerry Cahill said.

A string of glitches that, independent of each other, might seem minor has instead evolved into a public relations challenge for Carnival as it seeks to weather recent hits to its reputation and emerge in calmer seas.

Its difficulties started with the Feb. 10 engine room fire that disabled Carnival Triumph. Then, a balky emergency generator on Carnival Dream resulted in that ship ending a cruise prematurely in St. Maarten.

As Dream passengers were flown home, reports of minor propulsion and steering problems on Carnival Legend and Elation raised reliability questions that were fueled by hyperactive media coverage.

"Sadly, we've just been hit by a run here that is very unfortunate," Carnival Corp. Vice Chairman Howard Frank said in a conference call to discuss the company's first quarter results.
Micky ArisonIn the same call, Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison sought to put the run in perspective, both in numbers and guest satisfaction.

"The Dream was 4,000 passengers on a base of 4.4 million passengers that Carnival Cruise Lines carries," each year, he said. "And they come back 98%, 99% very happy."

Frank said a review of 10 years of incidents revealed that the number involving Carnival Corp. brands was no greater than the worldwide fleet average. But he added that since the 2012 Costa Concordia accident, it has been "a little bit higher."

Carnival's business suffered at least a temporary setback as a result of the series of incidents.

Arison said there was a double-digit decline in bookings immediately after the Triumph fire. But there were few cancellations, and price promotions have worked to restore interest.

"Price always makes a difference," said Heather Morris, owner of Onderland Travel, in Lancaster, Pa. "If people believe they're going to get an excellent deal, people will choose to go."

Still, Morris said some travelers who haven't cruised before "adamantly refuse" to consider it. "They will not do it," she said, adding that she suggests all-inclusive resorts to them as an alternative.

Kyle Miller, a CruiseOne agent in North Little Rock, Ark., agreed it is people unfamiliar with cruising who are spooked by the incidents.

"People keep hearing, 'Oh, another one's happened,' and they don't understand it's not the same thing that happened on the Triumph," Miller said. "They're completely minor issues that shouldn't even be on the news and ordinarily wouldn't be."

Miller said only one customer had called to cancel, though she added, "It's hard to know if there were people who didn't call at all because of this, but overall we're still getting bookings. We're still fairly busy."

Carnival launched its Friends and Family promotion on March 18 to help persuade reluctant cruisers. The sailings are mostly close-in dates, with sample fares ranging from $249 for an interior cabin on a four-night cruise from Tampa departing April 11 to $929 for a balcony on an eight-day Carnival Breeze sailing from Miami in late May.
Howard FrankSeveral agents said the offers are lighting up the phones, but they're coming more from previously booked guests seeking a match than from new customers.

Jill LaBarre, of Cruise Brothers in Orlando, said she spent four hours on the phone with Carnival one day trying to rebook clients at lower prices. Although one got a substantial price reduction, others were offered small upgrades. In one case, they were offered an upgrade from interior to oceanview cabins, but at $40 more per person, LaBarre said.

The clients had been anticipating a lower price or equivalent onboard spending credits.

LaBarre was most upset about the 90 minutes she spent on hold waiting to talk to a Carnival representative. "I'm spending all my time and making less money for it when I could be doing other things for my business," she said.

Carnival has not said how much the price promotions would reduce earnings, but Arison said the promotions are no greater than the reductions it made last year.

Even so, both Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's revised the ratings outlook on Carnival Corp. to negative, citing the potential for lower yields and higher costs as ships get upgrades after the Triumph fire.

If ratings on Carnival Corp.'s debt are lowered, it could raise the company's cost to borrow money.

Carnival is already signing contracts to improve the Triumph and Sunshine ships. It has identified three areas it will improve: fire prevention, detection and suppression; redundancies in operations; and a wider scope of hotel services that can be run from emergency power.

The Carnival Triumph, already being repaired in Mobile, Ala., after its engine room fire, had been scheduled to resume sailing April 13 but will now stay in drydock until early June to get the new upgrades.

The Carnival Sunshine, the former Carnival Destiny, is at the Fincantieri shipyard in northern Italy, where its 49-day drydock has been extended to add the new safety features to the list of improvements it was already getting.

Scheduled to emerge in mid-April, the Carnival Sunshine will now make the first of its nine- and 12-day Mediterranean sailings on May 5.

Carnival said the sourcing of supplies and scheduling of improvements will take less time for the other ships in its fleet because the company will have greater familiarity with the process.

It expects to take each of its ships out of service sometime in 2013 or 2014 for improvements that emerge from reviewing the Carnival Triumph experience. It has a capital improvements budget of $800 million for refurbishment and maintenance in 2013 but isn't saying how much of that will go toward fleetwide safety upgrades.

"Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we'll have a full plan with estimated costs to doing all this work," Frank told analysts. "I don't see it as being enormous, but it will be some amount of money." 

Royal Caribbean Int'l reducing Europe deployments

Royal Caribbean Int'l reducing Europe deployments

By Johanna Jainchill
Royal Caribbean International will reduce its ships deployed in Europe next year to eight, down from 12 in 2012.

This year, the cruise line will operate nine of its 22 vessels on the Continent; 2014's one ship reduction will be the Vision of the Seas, which will operate in Northern Europe this year but not next. Royal Caribbean has not yet announced the vessel's 2014 deployment.

In Europe next year will be the Liberty of the Seas, the Navigator of the Seas, the Serenade of the Seas and the Splendour of the Seas in the Mediterranean, and the Independence of the Seas, the Adventure of the Seas, the Brilliance of the Seas and the Legend of the Seas in Northern Europe.

Next year's Northern Europe cruises opened for booking this week; the line's Mediterranean cruises go on sale March 28. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Take-off for Google Flight Search in UK

Take-off for Google Flight Search in UK

by Lee Hayhurst
by Lee Hayhurst

Google has rolled out Flight Search in the UK as part of a first move into international markets.
The product, which is the result of Google’s controversial buyout of software firm ITA, has been live in the US since September 2011.
Its speed and ability to search for flights according to a diverse range of criteria has made it the source of much speculation, although Google has not rolled it out as quickly as expected.
However, today’s launch in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands with local pricing and in eight languages ends speculation that Google has reined in its ambitions for Flight Search.
The main difference between the US and UK product is the absence of a commercial unit that sits at the top of natural search results.
Google said it was assessing this before deciding whether or not to include this in its international version.
Other than that the non-US version is an exact copy, the Google spokesman saying it was aimed at people in the early stages of research when they do not know where they want to go.
Using a map-based interface, Flight Search allows users to filter their results based on how much they want to spend and flight time.
The biggest omission for the European market is the absence of Ryanair and easyJet, although Google said negotiations were ongoing.
In terms of fulfilment partners, Google has struck deals with a number of European intermediaries including Bravo Fly, Budget Air and
The Google spokesman said: “These are big markets. The plan with all our products is to go global as quickly as we can.
“With something as complex as flights there are a lot more partners to negotiate with. This is the first market beyond the US, but logic would suggest there are more to come.”

Chancellor: no change on APD

New York senator proposes cruise passenger bill of rights

New York senator proposes cruise passenger bill of rights

By Jerry Limone
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has proposed a cruise passenger bill of rights in response to what he described as “a string of horrifying and dangerous incidents aboard international cruise ships.”

He said the proposal is modeled after the air passenger bill of rights implemented by the Department of Transportation. Schumer’s proposed guarantees for cruise passengers are:

• The right to disembark a docked ship if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided onboard.

• The right to a full refund for a trip that is abruptly canceled due to mechanical failures.

• The right to full-time, onboard professional medical attention in the event of a major health crisis.

• The right to real-time information updates as to any adjustments in the travel plan of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency.

• The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.

• The right to backup power in the case of a generator failure.

Schumer wrote a letter to CLIA and the International Maritime Organization, calling on those groups to adopt an international bill of rights for cruise passengers.

Schumer urges the cruise industry to adopt his proposed passenger bill of rights voluntarily, while calling on the Secretary of State and the International Maritime Organization to begin an investigation into the “problems with the ‘flagged’ countries of cruise ships that serve United States passengers.”

“Because these ships are flagged in other counties,” Schumer said, “they are primarily regulated by countries other than the U.S., and existing international standards are clearly not working.”

Fewer new ships but many new features

Fewer new ships but many new features

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightIt is no secret that cruise lines aren’t taking delivery of as many new ships as they have in the recent past. Executives have explained their strategies as a more measured approach to capacity growth. So deliveries are spaced out, and some lines may get a new ship only once every three or four years.
One consequence is that more new features are being packed into newbuilds than ever before. The innovations come so fast and furious it becomes hard to remember them all.
At a briefing for the media at Cruise Shipping Miami, Princess Cruises highlighted 20 features to debut on its Royal Princess ship coming in June.*TomStieghorst 
Some, like a larger outdoor movie screen, are evolutions of features that are on many Princess ships already.
Others will be brand new, such as Princess Live, a 300-seat TV studio that will host entertainment ranging from cooking demonstrations to art-house movies from 8 a.m. to midnight. Many of the shows will be piped into cabins via an on-demand video system that will offer guests access to hundreds of movies at no additional charge.
Passengers with smartphones can take an art and architecture tour of Royal Princess. In keeping with its construction in Italy, the ship will have what Princess says is the largest selection of hand-crafted gelatos and Super Tuscan wines at sea.
The ship will also have Princess’ first concierge lounge for suite passengers and touch-screen digital kiosks with face recognition technology that promise to make buying onboard photos faster and easier.
Princess didn’t even touch on some of the standout features already unveiled, like the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed promenade that will extend 30 feet out over the edge of the ship.
The same pattern can be seen at work at Norwegian Cruise Line, which will have a cornucopia of firsts when its Norwegian Breakaway debuts in May. For anyone who wants to see the next new thing, these two ships should keep them well occupied in coming months.

Carnival cancels more Triumph cruises, plus Sunshine sailings

Carnival cancels more Triumph cruises, plus Sunshine sailings
By Tom Stieghorst

Carnival Cruise Lines said it will cancel an additional 10 scheduled sailings of the Carnival Triumph, moving back the date the ship resumes service from mid-April to June 3.

Also, Carnival canceled the first two cruises of the Carnival Sunshine, which was scheduled to emerge from drydock in April after a $155 million refurbishment of the former Carnival Destiny.

Carnival said it is pushing back the re-entry of service for both ships to install additional operating redundancies and fire-control measures, and to broaden the scope of hotel services that can be run off of emergency power supplies.

The changes are the first implementation of measures covered in Carnival's fleet-wide operations review following the Carnival Triumph engine room fire in February.

The Sunshine's first European cruise is now scheduled for May 5. Guests on the two canceled cruises will get a full refund, reimbursement for nonrefundable travel costs and a 25% discount on a future cruise.

Guests on the canceled Triumph cruises will get similar compensation.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Downtown Disney to be transformed into Disney Springs

Downtown Disney to be transformed into Disney Springs

By Jerry Limone
DisneySprings-entryway-renderDisney on Thursday unveiled plans to transform Downtown Disney, a shopping and dining district at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, into Disney Springs.

The re-imagined destination will “draw inspiration from Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty,” Disney said.

Construction is slated to begin next month, with new areas opening in phases. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Disney Springs will include four outdoor neighborhoods: Town Center, The Landing, Marketplace and West Side.

The Town Center will offer shopping and dining along with a promenade. Disney describes The Landing as a commercial district “with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.”

Marketplace will feature an over-the-water pedestrian causeway and an expanded World of Disney store.

Disney said the West Side neighborhood will “provide an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.”

Neighborhoods will be interconnected by a flowing spring and lakefront. Disney also plans a new gateway and a signature water tower for the destination.

Disney Springs will have twice as many shops, restaurants and other venues (about 150 establishments) as Downtown Disney, the company said.

Carnival Dream guests to be flown home from St. Maarten

UPDATED: Carnival Dream guests to be flown home from St. Maarten

By Tom Stieghorst
Carnival Cruise Lines said Thursday morning that while personnel continue to work on a "technical issue" with the Carnival Dream's backup emergency diesel generator in St. Maarten, Carnival is making arrangements to fly all guests home on a combination of charter and scheduled flights.

Carnival also has canceled the March 16 departure of the Dream.

Carnival said it has traced the technical issue to a malfunction during a regularly scheduled test of the emergency diesel generator on March 13. That led to periodic outages in elevator service and restroom services, Carnival said.
"While the ship’s propulsion systems and primary power source were not impacted, in an abundance of caution, we prefer not to sail with guests on board without an operational back up emergency generator," Carnival stated.
The Dream operates from Port Canaveral, Fla., and was on the last leg of a seven-day cruise when the problem occurred, Carnival said.

The ship did not lose power and its propulsion and primary power generators were not affected, Carnival said.

All hotel systems are functioning normally on the Dream, after periodic interruptions to elevators and toilets in the evening hours on Wednesday while the ship was docked in St. Maarten.

CNN reported on the problems, citing passengers who claimed the ship had lost power and didn't have functioning toilets. It quoted a passenger who e-mailed saying guests were not allowed to leave the ship.

In a statement, Carnival said at no time did the Dream lose power. 
Regarding restrooms, Carnival stated, "Based on the ship’s service logs and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom. Aside from that there have been no reports of issues onboard with overflowing toilets or sewage."

Hotel functions were restored around 12:30 a.m. "The ship has full power but is still at dock while personnel continue to work on the technical issue," Carnival said.
Guests on the current cruise will get a refund equal to three days of the cruise, plus a 50% discount off a future cruise. Guests on the upcoming cruise will get a refund and a 25% discount off a future cruise, Carnival said.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Thomas Cook reviews future of its airline

Thomas Cook reviews future of its airline
Thomas Cook reviews future of its airline
The future of Thomas Cook’s airline business is under review as part of chef executive Harriet Green’s turnaround plans for the loss-making group.
The disclosure came in the wake of moves to dispose of unspecified non-core assets to bring in as much as £150 million.
Green yesterday announced an additional £50 million of cost savings, taking the total to £350 million by 2015. This helped lift Cook shares almost 16% to 100.75p.
Part of those savings include £65 million from bringing its four airlines, which have 86 aircraft and employ 6,500 people, into one group.
Green would not rule out the disposal of all or part of the airline business.
“Does Thomas Cook need to have an airline in the future?” she told the Financial Times. “We have options. We are reviewing whether we should continue with the airlines that we have.”
The group had “over-complicated the business” through a series of acquisitions, including airlines, said Green.
“In essence, it is not a complex business that shouldn’t demand huge amounts of debt,” she said.
Green believed the group had become weak in its city break and winter sun offers, and would start to offer new products pitched at women and children.
The restructuring includes the closure of 195 high street agencies, contributing to the loss of 2,500 jobs.
New targets include 50% online sales and an earnings before interest and tax margin of 5%, both by 2015.
Cook earns about one-third of its revenues from online sales and the remainder from its outlets, according to the FT.
The group confirmed that a review of its capital structure could result in a future share placing.
“When that review is complete we will decide on what action we should take, if any, including whether to raise new debt and/or equity capital and the amount and structure of any such capital raising,” the company said.
Wyn Ellis, analyst with Numis, told the newspaper: “We wait to see how it progresses: a lot of hard work needs to be done if it is to succeed with its ‘high-tech, high-touch’ approach.”
James Hollins, analyst at Investec, said: “There is no update on a potential equity issue or refinancing...Current trading is stated to be ‘progressing well’ for the key summer period and the full-year 2013 outlook is ‘encouraging’.”

Harriet Green insists 'Cook is not in decline'

Harriet Green insists 'Cook is not in decline'

Thomas Cook chief executive Harriet Green today hit out at any suggestion the group is in decline.
Green said: "Cook is a super brand in a growth industry."
Having outlined the new strategy for the group yesterday, Green insisted the company would retain a presence on the high street.
"Retail is a very important part of Thomas Cook's future," she said.
"We do not want to be an online travel agent with every piece of product out there and with no assurance.
"Everything on our website will be fully quality assured and checked by Thomas Cook."
Green said: "We have made extraordinary progress in 32 weeks. This company was not very well when I joined. Now we are into transformation. We have a credible, profitable, growth story. The company has to prove it can execute it."
She insisted: "Thomas Cook will grow and grow profitably. We have no intention of shrinking to greatness but it's about being simpler and clearer."

Norwegian Cruise Line unveils magic-themed dinner theater

Norwegian Cruise Line unveils magic-themed dinner theater

By Tom Stieghorst
IllusionariumMIAMI BEACH — Norwegian Cruise Line unveiled a magic-themed dinner theater called Illusiionarium for the Norwegian Getaway ship, a ship that will debut in Miami in early 2014.

Speaking at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan said the concept was inspired by magicians, the science fiction of Jules Verne and popular blockbuster movies featuring supernatural characters.

Illusionarium will replace the space occupied by Cirque Dreams on Norwegian Epic and Breakaway. It will have between 230 and 240 seats and the charge will be in the range of $35.

The centerpiece of the restaurant will be a video dome 30 feet in diameter that will serve as a projection screen for mystical places and scenes.

"When we saw some depictions of this, it was unbelievable to me that we could actually pull this off," Sheehan said.

The Illusionarium will offer 12 shows a cruise, two shows a night.

Norwegian also announced it will feature a fireworks show on each Getaway cruise.

Carnival chief says Nassau port project is in the works

Carnival chief says Nassau port project is in the works

By Tom Stieghorst
MIAMI BEACH — Carnival Cruise Lines President Gerry Cahill said the line is working on a port-improvement project in Nassau, Bahamas.

Cahill made the disclosure on the State of the Industry panel at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference.

Carnival has previously partnered to build Caribbean port infrastructure in the Turks & Caicos and on the island of Roatan in Honduras.

Cahill would not discuss the scope or nature of the project, but said Carnival is working with a third party and getting cooperation from the Bahamian government to facilitate it.

In an interview after the panel discussion, Cahill said he wasn't prepared to say more, but that details could be forthcoming in several weeks.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

FAA approves Boeing plan to fix Dreamliner battery

FAA approves Boeing plan to fix Dreamliner battery

By Kate Rice
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Boeing's certification plan for the redesign of the 787 Dreamliner.

The certification plan is the first step toward returning the 787 to service, and will require extensive testing and analysis.

"This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.