Tuesday, 30 April 2013

'Transformational' space on a cruise ship

'Transformational' space on a cruise ship

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightAs cruise ships get larger, how do ship designers find ways to distribute passengers throughout the ship and not bunched at a few headline attractions?
Maximizing space so that it accommodates different activities is starting to get more thought.  
Efforts at several cruise lines involve creating spaces with different activities for night and day. Designers refer to “transformational space,” and a prime example will be Two70Degrees on Royal Caribbean International’s coming Quantum of the Seas.

The space is an aft lounge with a three-deck-high wall of windows that wrap the stern of the ship, giving passengers a 270-degree view of the fantail, the wake and the ocean beyond.
For day use, Two70Degrees will resemble a grand den, with a library, an activities room, a gourmet market, a bar and nested seating zones that occupy terraces cascading from the entry to the floor.*TomStieghorst 
At twilight, the lighting in the room will begin to change, and ambient music will clue guests that something is about to happen. Blackout screens descend to cover the glass, and fourteen hidden devices will use a new technology called 3D Mapping Projection to throw startling three-dimensional images across the curved blackout surface.
The scene can be anything from a jungle to a Spanish galleon to the daytime exterior view from the ship, said Tim Magill, a partner in the California firm of 5+Design, which helped create the room.
To date the technology has been mostly used to stage elaborate promotions on the sides of buildings, such as a 2010 installation on the side of New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
On the Quantum, the screens will be used to bring a feeling of outdoors inside the ship, expanding its visual volume, Magill said.
In front of the screens, entertainers will descend on apparatus from the ceiling or ascend through the floor on hydraulic platforms.
The next morning, like Cinderella’s carriage, the space will be a lounge with a view of the sea.
“If we can make the spaces transform over time through the cruise,” said Magill, “then it provides more variety, more excitement, more things for the guest to do.”

All brands on deck

All brands on deck

By Tom Stieghorst
Carnival Cruise Lines partners with Guy Fieri to add Guys Burger JointsIn 2011, Carnival Cruise Lines concocted Fun Ship 2.0, a package of branded experiences meant to rejuvenate its older ships and provide a consistent fleetwide product.

The anchor was a 40-something celebrity chef with spiky blond hair and a brash, everyman demeanor.

Two years later, Carnival has served more than 1 million hamburgers at Guy's Burger Joint, and Food Network star Guy Fieri has been exposed to millions of Carnival guests.

"It just goes to show you how successful you can be aligning yourself with a celebrity that fits your brand," said Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerry Cahill.

Fieri is just one of dozens of brand names now sailing the seven seas, as cruise lines increasingly forge partnerships with recognized commodities that reinforce their market message.

A familiar brand is a bridge that first-time cruisers can safely cross to try cruising if they're uncertain about what it is. Agents can use what they know about clients to find the brand that excites them, then leverage the emotion the client associates with that brand to drive home a sale.

Scott Koepf, vice president for marketing at Avoya Travel, said, "The key is to know your customer and then present the brand that actually resonates with what that customer's interests are."

The roll call of brands at sea includes kids' favorites like Nickelodeon, DreamWorks and Hasbro, entertainment ranging from Dancing With the Stars to Blue Man Group and celebrity chefs from Todd English to Geoffrey Zakarian and a host of others.

Mass-market lines with the biggest budgets tend to have the broadest stable of well-known names, though upscale lines also partner with upscale brands. Oceania Cruises, for example, has partnerships with Lalique crystal, Wine Spectator magazine and the designer Ralph Lauren.

At every price point, cruise lines affiliate with names that mean something special to a target passenger base and help define a unique selling proposition in the market.
All brands on deckFor Carnival these days, that boils down to two buzzwords: unpretentious and fun.

Fieri fit the bill on both counts. While some celebrity chefs strive to impress with refined meals and elegant presentation, Fieri's signature show is called "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

His personality is down-to-earth but outgoing and a bit outrageous. There's nothing on the menu at Guy's Burger Joint that is hard to pronounce, said Lania Rittenhouse, vice president of product development at Carnival.

"We did some research, and Guy Fieri scored very, very high in terms of who our guests like to watch and who they related to," Rittenhouse said. "He was just a rock star, and everyone loved him. There was this chatter he created."

Carnival is in the process of installing a Guy's Burger Joint on 16 of its 24 ships. It was important that the burgers be free of charge, Rittenhouse said. "We want to deliver the best burger at sea, and not only that, but have it the best value, so we have it complimentary."

In entertainment, Carnival has partnered with comedian George Lopez to manage and supply talent to a branded comedy club. Lopez is known for his plainspoken take on Hispanic family life.

A deal with Hasbro brings branded toys and games into the mix. Carnival plans a Twister game on the Carnival Sunshine, which will debut in May.
Vicki Freed at the Starbucks on the Allure of the Seas"Our guests love game shows," Rittenhouse said. "They're the kind of people who like to be in the audience or on the stage. They participate, they're very vocal, and they love challenges.

"When we took a look at who was out there to see who was all-American and who had a lot of brands people grew up with ... Hasbro has that cachet," she said.

No secondary brands

At Royal Caribbean International, the brand watchwords might be top-shelf and innovative.

"We don't want to be affiliated with secondary brands," said Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president for sales, trade support and service. "We want to be the best brand in the category."

Examples include fashion names Coach and Guess, ice cream purveyor Ben & Jerry's, children's characters created by DreamWorks Studios and vintage diner concept Johnny Rockets.

In the coffee category, Royal made a deal with Starbucks to serve its name brand on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas, and a second Starbucks brand, Seattle's Best, on other vessels.

"The coffee is more expensive than having our own little Royal Coffee Emporium," Freed said. "But that first-time cruiser, when they come aboard and they see brands they're familiar with, they go 'oooh.'"

Royal's newest brand partnership is with Mattel, which makes America's favorite doll, Barbie. To appeal to young girls and their parents, Royal is incorporating a Barbie movie night and Barbie story time into its Ocean Adventure youth club.
Royal Caribbean offers the Barbie ExperienceA $349 Barbie Premium Experience is also offered on a dozen Royal ships and should be fleetwide by May. It includes lots of Barbie merchandise, a fashion show, a Barbie-themed cabin and other extras. Freed said the price is more to offset costs than to make money.

"We're not looking to make significant dollars off of this," she said.

Perhaps no line has been as active in signing brand partnerships as Norwegian Cruise Line, where the desired market profile can be summed up as edgy and contemporary.

Sailing with Blue Man Group

One of the first brand names to define the latest iteration of Norwegian is Blue Man Group, a trio of humanoid actor-musicians who wear bald caps and uniform blue makeup.

"Everyone loves Blue Man Group," said Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan. "But it is a little different when you think about the traditional cruise entertainment with the old-fashioned Broadway shows, where [the cast] is running around dancing and singing like they've been doing for 40 years on the ships.
Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Blue Man Group are partnering up"When I say to anyone in New York or anywhere, we have Blue Man Group, they always say 'Oh my God! You have Blue Man Group on the ships?' It's like an $80 or $90 show in Vegas, and they can watch that for free as part of their cruise fare."

Other familiar names on Norwegian ships include Nickelodeon children's characters, Second City comedy, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and the "Howl at the Moon" dueling piano show.

The company's latest branding frontier is the Norwegian Breakaway, a New York-centric ship debuting in May. It has formed a number of partnerships with New York institutions large and small to help recruit first-time cruisers from the area where it will homeport.

A high profile example is the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, who will serve as godmothers to the ship. Breakaway will also have Sabrett hot dog stands and a pastry shop based on the reality show "Cake Boss."

One factor driving the growth of branded partnerships has been the large number of new franchises created by cable TV.

"Cake Boss" first aired on the TLC channel in 2009. It follows baker Buddy Valestro and his family as they operate Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, N.J. In its first season, 2.3 million people, on average, watched each episode.

Andrew Coggins, a business professor at New York's Pace University who follows the cruise industry, observed, "What TV brings is widespread brand awareness; it reaches a wide market."

Other examples include the Hub, a digital and satellite TV vehicle for Hasbro products created with Discovery Channel. And, of course, Disney Channel, which has synergies with Disney Cruise Line -- a line that was itself created from one of the most recognizable consumer brands.
Holland America features Dancing With the Stars performancesAnother hit show that has crossed over to cruising is ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars," which pairs accomplished dancers with celebrities in a season-long competition.

Performers from the show will headline six Holland America Line theme cruises in 2013 and 2014, and dance lessons and shows developed in collaboration with the program will be featured on all 15 Holland ships.

The price tag for brand partnerships is rarely disclosed, and the Holland-ABC deal is no exception. All Holland Executive Vice President Rick Meadows would say is, "It's an investment, but it's worth it."

Deals not made, partnerships dropped

Some intriguing tandems never make it to the alter because of financial cold feet. The luxury suite section of Norwegian Epic is branded "The Haven," but it could have carried the St. Regis name. Likewise, the legendary Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn was considered as a partner for the Epic's steak restaurant, but no agreement was reached.

"We kind of edged away from a lot of those," Sheehan said. "To do the deals, you had to give them economics."

Cruise lines can recoup some of the upfront expense by charging for branded experiences onboard. On Royal Caribbean, it costs $4.95 to get into Johnny Rockets, although the food itself is free. A Ben & Jerry's cone runs from $2.50 to $4.75, even though there is free ice cream elsewhere on Royal ships.
The Eurodam has a BB King Blues ClubRoyal Caribbean's Freed said that most branded products are not big contributors to onboard revenue, and some of the most expensive deals Royal has signed cost the passenger nothing.

"DreamWorks is a completely complimentary experience," she said. "We took a brand that we pay a lot of money for, we do the complimentary character breakfasts, we don't charge for those, we do the parades, an ice show with DreamWorks characters. There's even an Aqua Theater show."

Some brand partnerships aren't meant to last. The Cirque du Soleil deal with Celebrity Cruises has fizzled, and Cunard did not put a Todd English restaurant on its most recent ship. The chef's draw with foodies isn't what it once was, Cunard Vice President Stan Birge said.

An early effort at Costa Cruises to ride a brand was its 1999 partnership with Zeffirino, a renowned restaurant in Genoa. It didn't work because of the line's multinational clientele.

"What may be big in Italy probably in the U.S. is going to be unknown, and vice versa," said Ruben Perez, Costa's general manager for North America.

As cruise lines increasingly source passengers from outside their traditional waters, they either have to tailor their brands to regional markets or have partners that have global traction.

Royal Caribbean thinks it has found such a brand in DreamWorks, Royal President Adam Goldstein told an audience at the recent Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami Beach.

"I think its very compelling to first timers that such entertainment appears on our ships, not only in the United States but, for example, in China where, if anything, the characters are more popular than they are here," Goldstein said.

For travel agents, brands can be a chance to demonstrate value both to customers and to cruise lines.

Andrea Botto Joyce, a Cruises Inc. agent in Wallkill in New York's Hudson River valley, said she uses Royal Caribbean's new Barbie tie-in to market to families with small children.

"I think people tend to spoil their children on vacation and want them to get a dream experience, so I think this package would interest many people who have little girls between the ages of 4 and 11," she said.

But Joyce said many clients don't know about Barbie yet, and might find out only after it is too late.

"It shows how important a travel agent is to someone, because they could go on the Oasis and see the [Barbie fashion] show happening, and they would like to have had their child be part of it."

Koepf, of Avoya Travel, said agents likewise are invaluable to cruise lines that have invested in brands but need agents to match the right customers with the right brands.

He said agents shouldn't lead with the brands, because not every one appeals to every client.

"If Norwegian has Nickelodeon, but I don't have kids, then I'm not interested. I don't care," he said.

Once you find a client's hot button, however, a brand that speaks to that interest can be a final argument that wins the sale for an agent.

"It's a huge benefit for them to close by saying, 'Well if you like blues, you like jazz, guess what this ship has? If you like Broadway musicals, guess what this ship has?" Koepf said. "Those are all very strong closers, basically." 

Norwegian says sales uplift vindicates 10% commission move

Norwegian says sales uplift vindicates 10% commission move

Norwegian says sales uplift vindicates 10% commission move
Norwegian Cruise Line attributed its switch to 10% commission a year ago to a big lift in UK business - and stressed there are no plans to alter its course on remuneration.
Executive vice president sales Andy Stuart revealed that business from the UK was 25% ahead of this time last year.
This vindicated the move to cut commission as it helped eradicate retail cruise discounting and provide price clarity to consumers.
And Stuart stressed that his door was always open to negotiate with Advantage Travel Centres after the consortium took the rare decision to take the line off its preferred supplier list due to the reduction in commission.
"We were clearly disappointed because we felt we were doing something positive to discourage rebating in the industry," he said.
Speaking as Norwegian showcased new 4,000-passenger ship Norwegian Breakaway in Southampton to 2,000 UK agents, he claimed Advantage had "misunderstood" the company's intentions and there continued to be ongoing positive dialogue.
"We believe 10% is a fair commission which will result in a higher retention and better margins for agents while ensuring that consumers are less confused about pricing," Stuart added.
More than 100 Advantage agents were on board for the overnight showcase of the ship and the opportunity to earn additional commission by ensuring they saw different parts of the vessel.
Stuart conceded that the line would continue to run tactical promotions such as the current short-term bonus commission offer to coincide with the introduction of Norwegian Breakaway.
But he insisted that there would be no shift in the ongoing 10% level as part of Norwegian's Partners First philosophy.
He declined to be drawn on a rise in the company's share price but industry observers believe investors see positive returns from ongoing improvements in profitability and the introduction of both Breakaway and sister ship Norwegian Getaway from Miami from January 2014.
Stuart revealed that there would be tweaks to the second new ship to reflect its Florida home port.
Norwegian expects UK passengers to be attracted to the Miami-based ship due to the popularity of Florida as a holiday destination and good levels of airline capacity.
The line is aiming for "more than double digit" percentage growth from the UK in 2014.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Dreamliner completes first flight since grounding

Dreamliner completes first flight since grounding

Dreamliner completes first flight since grounding
The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight has been successfully completed since the aircraft was grounded in January.
The Ethiopian Airlines 787 flew passengers from Addis Ababa to Nairobi after aviation authorities approved a revamped battery design.
Japanese airlines, which have been the biggest customers for the new-generation aircraft, were due to begin test flights yesterday.
Boeing is expected to complete repairs on all 50 of the grounded Dreamliners by the middle of May.
UK launch customer Thomson Airways is expected to receive the first of its delayed 787s in June followed by British Airways.

Norwegian Breakaway arrives in Southampton

Norwegian Breakaway arrives in Southampton

Norwegian Breakaway arrives in Southampton
Norwegian Breakaway becomes one of the biggest ships to make its debut in Southampton today for a special trade preview.
The latest Norwegian Cruise Line ship made a pre-inaugural overnight sailing from Rotterdam to arrive in the UK port this morning.
Hundreds of agents will be on board as the 4,028-passenger ship is showcased today by senior executives led by chief executive Kevin Sheehan.
They will be able to earn up to 4% bonus commission for their agencies by attending educational sessions onboard.
Norwegian believes the Engage and Reward initiative on board new ship Norwegian Breakaway is a first for the travel industry.
Agents will be given a unique barcode on arrival, which they will have scanned as they attend ship tours and presentations from senior managers, Ace and Travel Weekly among others.
The maximum bonus commission they can earn is 4%, which will be available to all staff in their agencies between May 15 and June 14 for sailings before the end of 2013.
Agents are being given the opportunity to meet representatives from key cruise destinations as they move through check-in and embarkation at Southampton.
Participating destinations include Alaska, Seattle, Miami, Clearwater Beach, Barcelona, Malaga and Palma.
Norwegian is also providing £25 bonus commission on new bookings made by May 14 as part of promotional campaign involving price cuts of up to £150 per cabin across various ships in the fleet.
UK & Ireland business development director Nick Wilkinson said: “Our Partners First philosophy recognises the central part that the trade plays in product distribution, and the Engage & Reward programme idea is rooted in that.
“Attending agents will have the opportunity to earn incremental commission for their organisation through attending the various educational elements of the launch activity.”
Norwegian Breakaway leaves tomorrow for its homeport of New York where it will be officially named on May 8. Summer cruises to Bermuda start two days later.
Norwegian Breakaway features seafood restaurant Ocean Blue by New York celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, three Broadway shows, a quarter mile long ‘broadwalk’ and five water slides.
The vessel will be joined in April 2014 by sister ship Norwegian Getaway.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Disney Magic renovation aims for 'something for everybody'

Disney Magic renovation aims for 'something for everybody'

By Tom Stieghorst
Disney Magic AquaDunk renderingGALVESTON, Texas -- The 15-year-old Disney Magic will get new water features and more exciting slides in a September refurbishment that will be the biggest in the ship's history.

The tone is set by the AquaDunk, a thrill slide in which riders step into a chamber, a door closes, the bottom falls out, and a plunge of 40 feet ensues before riders loop out over the ocean in an enclosed tube.

Also new will be "Twist N' Spout," which Disney executives describe as a family slide.

It will replace the tamer slide that goes into the Mickey Pool, which will be reborn as AquaLab after the renovations.

The general idea is to make the pool and water areas on the Disney Magic less age-specific, said Joe Lanzisero, senior creative vice president at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Lanzisero, the ship's chief designer, led a preview tour of upgrades for a handful of journalists during a recent turnaround, using iPads to display renderings of the new features.

He said families on Disney ships prefer to stay together rather than be broken up into smaller units (although the Quiet Cove pool remains adults-only).

"We think now, between the family slide, the AquaLab, the thrill slide, that there should be something for everybody out there," Lanzisero said.
Disney Magic Andys Room renderingCurrently sailing from Galveston, the Disney Magic will spend the summer in the Mediterranean before its six-week drydock in Cadiz, Spain. Afterward, it will head to Miami to replace the Disney Wonder for the rest of 2013.

The pool deck will get the most noticeable makeover, but Disney is making changes throughout the ship to freshen it, change the predominant color scheme and replace some of the more dated concepts.

One area in need of an update, Lanzisero said, is the casual restaurant now called Parrot Cay, which has a quasi-tiki design. Under its new name, Carioca's, it will get a more contemporary and "timeless" look, he said.

The children's play areas will be redone, in part to accommodate Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, whose stable of superheroes, including the Avengers, will be represented for the first time at sea on the Disney Magic, Lanzisero said.

"We definitely wanted to do something with Marvel, especially for boys," Lanzisero said.
Disney Magic Cabanas renderingAnother big change will be additional space for Topsider, the upper-deck buffet restaurant, which will gain seats by enclosing some walkways and adjacent exterior deck areas. It will be rechristened Cabanas, given an Australian beach theme and have serving stations rather than cafeteria-style lines.

Two areas that won't change much are Animator's Palette and the adult restaurant Palo's, which are both so popular that Disney plans to leave them essentially as they are.

The Magic will keep its art deco design elements but have a lighter, more aquatic color scheme.

The pool changes include building stairs beside the ship's forward funnel to access the AquaDunk, a follow-on to the bigger AquaDuck water coaster developed for the Disney Dream and Fantasy.

The Disney Magic's pool changes will also include adding waterplay features from newer Disney ships, such as bucket dumps and, for children under 3, an interactive Nephew's Splash Zone with pop jets and bubblers similar to Nemo's Reef on the Disney Dream. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Royal Caribbean CEO defends agent compensation to investors

Royal Caribbean CEO defends agent compensation to investors

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean International CEO Adam Goldstein said he sees stability in the compensation paid to travel agents.

Asked by a Wall Street analyst to elaborate on commission strategy during Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s conference call on first-quarter earnings, Goldstein said Royal Caribbean takes pride in its travel agent relations.
_Adam Goldstein"Clearly, that relationship is predicated on us giving them competitive compensation to produce business for us," he said. "If they don’t feel we're giving them a fair shake on compensation, they may love us and our products, but they're going someplace else."

Goldstein said he doesn't blame travel agents for asking for more compensation, nor does he blame investors for pushing for lower commission costs.

"It is our responsibility to navigate the right balance to reflect the great value they bring to the success of our business model and neither underpay nor overpay," Goldstein said.

He said the foundations of travel agent compensation in recent years "have been much more stable than unstable."

"It's pretty clear what the building-block elements of travel agent compensation are, and it's pretty clear travel agents are willing to produce good business for us with the existing components of their compensation," Goldstein said.

Thomas Cook launches 24/7 social media 'listening lab'

Thomas Cook launches 24/7 social media 'listening lab'

Thomas Cook launches 24/7 social media 'listening lab'
Thomas Cook’s move to embrace social media has taken a step forward with the introduction of a dedicated 24/7 social media monitoring facility.
A specially trained social media listening team will provide real-time global brand reputation management, listening in over 180 languages to “chatter” around their brands.
The ‘Thomas Cook Listening Lab’ will identify social ‘brand champions’ who the company should be interacting with socially to help increase sales.
Data will also be collected to be used for future marketing campaigns and to provide insight on how to heighten social brand awareness.
The Lab will aid in crisis management, provide real time comparison of competitor brands and listen to all customer feedback.
The facility also features tools to engage with customers directly through countless social media channels.
Chief executive Harriet Green said: “We were the first major high street travel agency in the UK to offer online bookings, last year we had 310 million visits to our websites, ThomasCook.com was labelled #5 travel/e-travel site in 2012 eDigital Research Best Site benchmark and just this month our new mobile website was said to ‘set the standard’ and received a 10 out of 10 by travel technology consultant Paul Richer.
“As we expand our digital capabilities, my vision for Thomas Cook is to be the leading online tour operator and to have the highest share of bookings online.
“Our Thomas Cook Listening Lab will allow us to better position Thomas Cook as the leading travel authority by listening and monitoring customer sentiment, enabling us to discovering useful and valued information about our customers. The Listening Lab will further help our customer services team to better engage with our customers in active dialogues, and provide relevant, fresh and valuable content to key audiences.”
Global head of social media Jonathan Roberts added: “Being proactive and having to monitor thousands of social mentions a day can be difficult and time consuming, but with the Thomas Cook Listening Lab, coupled with social media listing experts, we are able to see and resolve social concerns with our social media customer care team.
“Monitoring is also instrumental in Thomas Cook’s success, whereby the real-time data collected through social media is ‘key’ in all future marketing, PR and advertising campaigns.
“We can also quickly see what is being discussed in real time about any of our major competitors or our own marketing campaigns, television adverts or product launches, and within hours, our marketing teams can create additional sales messages, and then direct fans via social platforms to learn more about special offers or holiday packages.
“Through the Listening Lab we now have the ability to target a specific customer base, for example if we want to target people in London who have recently tweeted, ‘I need a holiday’, we now have the tools to reach out to those people and make an informed pitch based on their online social profile; revealing their age, gender and likes and dislikes.”
The Lab features six large monitors, contains specially designed computers, with speakers, and a video conferencing camera that allows for meetings with regional marketing teams and to help co-ordinate with teams at live-location events.
There are four additional desktop systems for the purpose of social engagement with customers. The larger monitors show real-time tracking with various data visualisations and dashboards, aided by a variety of software integrated into a platform ideal for social media listening and engagement needs.

Carnival Triumph evacuated after nearby explosions

Carnival Triumph evacuated after nearby explosions

Carnival Triumph evacuated after nearby explosions
Explosions in a US port have promoted Carnival Triumph, which was undergoing repairs nearby, to be evacuated.
Work on the 2,758-passenger ship has been on-going since an engine fire in February left it without power and drifting in the Gulf of Mexico.
Multiple explosions were reported in the port in Mobile, Alabama, caused when two fuel barges were said to have slipped their moorings.
Triumph, which was moored across the river from the incident, has many workers living on board undertaking the repairs ahead of an expected return to service on June 3.
Earlier this month the ship broke free of its moorings in Mobile and collided with a barge. A shipyard worker who was on an adjacent pier at the time was killed in the incident.
Three people were reported to be critically injured by today’s explosions, although none associated with Carnival. The fire was said to have burned out by 8am local time this morning.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Royal Caribbean will reduce European capacity in 2014

Royal Caribbean will reduce European capacity in 2014 IN: 
  • Europe

Royal Caribbean is planning to make more reductions to its fleet of cruise ships offering European sailings in 2014.
Included in Royal Caribbean's first quarter financial results, the company indicated it plans to reduce 2014 year-over-year capacity in Europe by an additional 10%.  This change will mean in 2014 its European cruises will account for 25% of its capacity.
Royal Caribbean has steadily been scaling back the number of cruise ships it sends to Europe after a few years in a row of mediocre sales thanks in part to financial instability in the region as well as negative media related to the Costa Concordia tragedy.
Royal Caribbean did report demand for its "micro-deployment" of Oasis of the Seas to Europe in 2014 is showing "exceptionally strong" demand.  The two-month adventure to Europe for Oasis of the Seas centers around a scheduled drydock stop in Rotterdam.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Cruise lines 'are paying agents extra under the table'

Cruise lines 'are paying agents extra under the table'

He added: “The fact that Princess moved back from 5% to 10% shows it was a mistake. You have to have mutual respect for agents and, by cutting commission, they were basically saying the value of an agent wasn’t important any more.”
Cruise lines 'are paying agents extra under the table'
Cruise lines that have cut commission are giving money back to travel agents “under the table” as they accept that reducing payments to 5% was a mistake, according to the UK boss of MSC.
Giulio Libutti, UK managing director, told Travel Weekly: “Under the table, these lines are now starting to give money back.
“They aren’t going back to fixed rates of 15% or up to 18%, but they are offering double commission for certain months, or bonus commissions.
“Through variable means they are making it back up.”
Libutti’s comments come a month after he accused lines of “underestimating the value of agents” by cutting commission.
MSC revised its terms to offer performance-based commission rates of up to 13%, a move Libutti claimed had increased revenue by 35% year on year in 2013, and had also developed new agent partnerships.
“We are now working with some small cruise specialists that a year ago were doing no business with us at all,” he said.
Libutti said competition was particularly challenging as growth in the cruise market had stalled due to the economic crisis and high-profile incidents involving Costa, Carnival and Thomson Cruises.
“Cruise will continue to grow but it is suffering so we all need to find travel agent partners who understand and share our targets.”
MSC expects to attract about 100,000 passengers from the UK in 2014, up from an anticipated 70,000-75,000 in 2013.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Royal Caribbean set to upgrade Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean set to upgrade Independence of the Seas

As part of Royal Caribbean's Revitalization program to upgrade all of its cruise ships to include amenities first introduced on the Oasis of the Seas, Independence o the Seas has recently been scheduled to have its upgrade take place in April 2013.
Independence of the Seas will receive
  • Outdoor movie screen
  • Cupcake Cupboard
  • Digital Signage
  • Pervasive Wi-Fi
  • Nursery 
  • Giovanni’s Table specialty restaurant
The $7 million refurbishment will take two weeks, at which point Royal Caribbean will deploy Independence of the Seas to Southampton, England where on May 2, 2013 she will begin her summer season.  Some of the itineraries offered include some new shorter sailings such as a two-night cruise to Le Havre for Paris and three-night cruises to Le Havre for Paris and Zeebrugge for Bruges. 

UPDATE; Independence has just left Southampton, and is on her way to Hamburg to start her refit. 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

ISS spotted

ISS spotted

I know this does not have anything to do with travel/cruise but i think this is worth blogging, i have just watch the International Space Station fly over my home in North Wales-FANTASTIC.

Downloaded an App called; ISS Detector worked excellently.

PS not my photo, i need a bigger lens for the camera! :)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Dreamliner grounding poised to be lifted

Dreamliner grounding poised to be lifted

Dreamliner grounding poised to be lifted
A three-month grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners could begin to be lifted as early as today.
The US Federal Aviation Administration is tipped to announce Boeing has demonstrated that the 787's redesigned batteries are safe.
Regulators have been convinced that various internal enhancements and a new protective metal container will prevent fires and automatically suck smoke or toxic fumes out of the aircraft, theWall Street Journal reported.
Foreign regulators are expected to follow the FAA's lead. That means many of the fuel-efficient 787s could resume carrying passengers as early as May.
FAA chief Michael Huerta and transportation secretary Ray LaHood are poised to give the green light for Boeing to help airlines retrofit more than 50 Dreamliners.
The 787s were grounded globally in January after lithium-ion batteries burned on a pair of aircraft in little more than a week.
The fixes are expected to take less than a handful of days, but other aircraft testing and refresher training for pilots could stretch into additional weeks.
After the expected announcement, Boeing will issue a service bulletin instructing airlines how to revamp the battery systems, and the FAA will issue a formal safety directive mandating the changes.

Royal Caribbean unveils Quantum schedule from Bayonne, N.J.

Royal Caribbean unveils Quantum schedule from Bayonne, N.J.

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Caribbean International's next ship, Quantum of the Seas, will sail four itineraries from Bayonne's Cape Liberty terminal after debuting in late 2014.

According to Royal Caribbean's website, Quantum will do a seven- or eight-day base itinerary that includes Port Canaveral, Coco Cay and Nassau.

There will also be an eight-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary with stops in Labadee, Haiti; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Samana, Dominican Republic.

Longer itineraries include an 11-day trip that includes the three stops on the shorter Eastern Caribbean trip plus St. Thomas, St. Maarten and St. Kitts, and a 12-night Southern Caribbean voyage that will stop in Barbados and Martinique.
Quantum cruises are scheduled to go on sale June 4. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Carnival fleet review to cost £500 million

Carnival fleet review to cost £500 million

Carnival fleet review to cost £500 million
Carnival Corporation expects a group-wide operational review of 101 ships across ten of its brands will cost up to £500 million.
The action is being taken following an engine fire on Carnival Cruises Lines’ ship Carnival Triumph and a number of other technical faults on some of the brand’s other ships.
Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed that it will be spending more than £200 million on improvements to its back-up services across all 24 ships in the fleet in the wake of the problems.
The work, which is already underway, aims to “significantly enhance” emergency power capabilities, introduce new fire safety technology, and improve the level of operating back-up across all ships.
The company said the work will not affect scheduled itineraries, but it has already had to cancel a number of cruises on Carnival Triumph and the rebuilt Carnival Sunshine which was originally due to re-enter service at the end of the month in the Mediterranean.
The plan is the result of a comprehensive operational review, overseen by Carnival Corporation and initiated immediately after the Carnival Triumph fire in the Gulf of Mexico in February.
Carnival Corporation chairman and chief executive Micky Arison said: “The investments announced today for Carnival Cruise Lines, and those we will continue to make, will reinforce our ability to consistently deliver the customer experience that 10 million people every year have come to expect from us across our fleet of 101 ships.
“Absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of our guests and crew, and we will use the full resources of our company to meet that commitment.”
The initial increase in emergency generator power across the 24 Carnival Cruise Lines ships will be completed over “the next several months”.
An additional emergency generator will be installed on each vessel to provide for all cabin and public toilets, fresh water and lifts in the event of a loss of main power.
The line will install a second permanent back-up power system on each ship to provide an improved level of hotel and guest services if main power is lost, including expanded cooking facilities and cold food storage, as well as internet and telephone communications.
The company also pledged to invest in the “newest and most technically advanced” fire prevention, detection and suppression systems.
Carnival Cruise Lines is drafting in five outside experts to form a safety and reliability review board to “provide an additional, independent third-party perspective, drawing from deep experience across a number of relevant fields and organisations”.
“The actions by Carnival Cruise Lines will expand the availability of hotel services for the comfort of its guests in the rare instance of a shipboard event that involves the loss of main power,” the company said.
“In addition, the plan will reinforce key shipboard operating systems to further prevent a potential loss of primary power.”
Carnival Cruise Lines’ president and chief executive Gerry Cahill said: “All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today. Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements.
“However, by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations.”
He added: “These initiatives reflect our commitment to safe and reliable operations and an enjoyable cruising experience for the nearly 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year.
“Although every ship in our fleet currently has emergency back-up power which is designed to enable the continuous operation of safety equipment and some hotel services, it is our intent to significantly bolster that back-up power to support the core hotel services. With this improvement, we will better ensure guest comfort in the rare instance of a loss of main power.
“On Carnival Triumph, our fire systems were effective and our teams performed well in controlling and extinguishing the fire. However, we want to take advantage of the latest and most-advanced generation of fire safety systems to enhance the current extensive capabilities across our fleet,” said Cahill.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Letter to Agents from Carnival Corp.

Dear Valued Travel Partner,

Our goal is to drive continual improvement across all aspects of our customer experience. To that end, we launched an operational review this February to learn all that we could from recent incidents and find new solutions. Today, we are announcing a fleetwide enhancement program and will be investing more than $300 million to expand the availability of hotel services in the rare instance of a shipboard event that involves the loss of primary power. Please see attached for the Press Release. In addition, we will also reinforce key shipboard operating systems and add new technologies to further prevent a potential loss of primary power. Work is underway and you can learn more about these initiatives in this brief video.

It's important to note that all of our 24 vessels operate safely today, and have strong systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations. We meet or exceed all current regulatory requirements and are committed to delivering our guests a safe, reliable and enjoyable holiday experience.

With our investment, we will introduce new technologies and enhance current systems to our fleet. Additionally, we are forming a new Safety & Reliability Review Board comprised of leading third party experts from organizations such as United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, as well as leading airlines and equipment manufacturers. The addition of external experts to our new Safety & Reliability Review Board will provide us with further expertise and perspective in support of our goal of continuing to drive constant improvement.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyalty to Carnival Cruise Lines. My goal as the leader of Carnival Cruise Lines is to improve everyday across all aspects of your experience with us. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to continue to improve our product and provide your clients with a fun and memorable cruising experience.

Gerry Cahill
President and CEO
Carnival Cruise Lines

© 2013 Carnival Cruise Lines