Friday, 30 May 2014

Is an end to the Nile drought in sight?

Is an end to the Nile drought in sight?

By Michelle Baran
 As with Egypt overall, it’s been touch and go with travel on the Nile River since the country’s January 2011 revolution introduced an era of political instability that has been hard to shake.

But with this week’s presidential elections, combined with pent-up demand from passengers who have been waiting it out with Egypt, there are glimmers of hope that the ships on the Nile will soon start to move again.

Viking Cruises, which has continued offering Egypt sailings through the slowdown, said things are looking up for the back half of 2014 and into 2015.

“We are seeing some booking activity for the fall 2014 dates that are available,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. “We’ve also received enough interest from customers that we made the decision to begin selling 2015 dates.

“Yes, there is still some uncertainty among some travelers who would like to visit the region. But we are optimistic about the 2015 season, and we have slightly increased our number of departures for next year.” 

Viking charters the 150-passenger Mayfair, built in 2010, on the Nile, and the 160-passenger Omar El Khayam, built in 2011, on Lake Nasser.

Abercrombie & Kent has added five departures this fall for its “Egypt & the Nile” itinerary and has announced additional dates for 2015. The itinerary includes a four-night Nile sailing onboard the 80-passenger Sun Boat IV.

“The current interest in travel to Egypt has even surprised us,” A&K President Phil Otterson said in a release about adding the departures. Otterson traveled to Egypt in March with 69 A&K guests. “It’s been a waiting game, for travelers, tour operators and Egyptians, but it looks like it’s finally turning a corner.”

For some operators, though, it’s too soon to make a call on Egypt just yet. They’ve been burned with having had to cancel departures or, in the case of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, which sails the 82-passenger River Tosca, a luxury vessel that was built exclusively for Uniworld, the company doesn’t have the option of returning unsold cabins.

“The River Tosca is our ship, and once we re-enter the market, we have a commitment and obligation to deliver a certain number of guests to make sure that we can operate the itinerary profitably,” said Uniworld President Guy Young. “Given the relative uncertainty in Egypt and our selling cycle for this destination, the earliest opportunity we see to re-enter the market would be the fall of 2015.”

Young noted that prior to the uprising in Egypt, the Tosca was operating at very high occupancy levels and the itinerary received fantastic feedback from guests.
Avalon Waterways, which had to cancel departures last year due to the unrest, will only reintroduce Nile itineraries when the situation appears considerably more stable.

“We do not have plans to reintroduce Egypt in 2015,” noted Avalon’s Managing Director Patrick Clark.

“We hope the presidential election brings stability — and tourists — to Egypt. It would be great to see Egypt return to its previous popularity among travelers,” he added. “And, while we prepare our 2016 plans for Avalon Waterways, we will be closely monitoring developments.”

Thursday, 29 May 2014

AmaWaterways to launch new Mekong vessel

AmaWaterways to launch new Mekong vessel

By Michelle Baran
AmaWaterways will introduce a new 124-passenger ship, the AmaDara, on the Mekong River in 2015.

The AmaDara will join its sister ship, the 124-passenger AmaLotus, which Ama introduced in 2011. It will replace the 94-passenger La Marguerite, which Ama introduced on the Mekong in 2009.

The AmaDara is slated to make its inaugural sailing on Aug. 17, 2015, and will sail as part of a 16-day river cruise and land tour through Vietnam and Cambodia.

The vessel will feature French colonial-style d├ęcor accented by Mekong design elements within the air-conditioned cabins and public spaces.

The ship’s outside-facing staterooms and suites range between 226 and 452 square feet and feature Ama’s twin balcony concept, which consists of a French balcony adjacent to a step-out balcony.

The vessel will have two restaurants that will serve Western-style cuisine alongside regionally inspired dishes. Onboard entertainment will include folk dances, live musical performances, cultural discussions and themed dinners.

There will be a salon and spa services; a sun deck and swimming pool; a fitness center; and a complimentary in-room infotainment system with internet, music, movies and English-language television programming.

Complimentary wine will be available with lunch and dinner, and complimentary house spirits, local beer, soft drinks and bottled water will be offered all day. Complimentary bottled water will be provided daily in all staterooms.

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK questions how lines sell port excursions

Carnival UK’s Gerard Tempest (pictured) believes cruise lines need to reassess their shore-excursion model as 
third-party suppliers continue to expand.
Speaking at the Clia Selling Cruise Conference in Southampton, chief commercial officer Tempest said in light of the expansion of third-party suppliers he was putting a lot of thought into the best approach for selling shore excursions and tours.
Attraction World recently started selling cruise excursions and increased its agent commission at the end of April.
Tempest said: “I just wonder whether third parties have been in our blind spot and we have let some of those parties eat our lunch. We, and I dare say some other cruise lines, are wondering about our traditional model of offering shore excursions and tours. How fit for the future is it? And is there another model we could look at?
“That requires a lot of thought and understanding of the marketplace, but it is something that we are certainly paying attention to.”
Tempest, who was a keynote speaker at the Clia conference, also spoke about the excitement surrounding P&O Cruises’ Britannia and Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas, which will both sail from Southampton on launch next year.
“Anthem of the Seas and Britannia will complement each other and will work together to stimulate the market,” he said. “The customers for Britannia and those for Royal Caribbean will sit comfortably together.
“We are excited about Anthem coming into the UK because of what it will do to stimulate cruise.”
Stuart Leven, UK boss of Royal Caribbean, agreed, saying: “The industry’s job becomes far easier with companies such as Royal Caribbean and P&O deploying their newest and best hardware in the UK.”

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Boy was found unconscious in outdoor pool on Independence of the Seas

British boy, 6, fights for life after being found unconscious at bottom of swimming pool during luxury cruise holiday

  • Boy was found unconscious in outdoor pool on Independence of the Seas
  • He was treated on ship before French Navy helicopter flew him to hospital
  • His condition at Morvan Hospital in Brest, France, is described as 'serious' 
  • Youngster was with his parents on a European luxury cruise at the time
A six-year-old British boy is fighting for his life in hospital after being found unconscious at the bottom of a swimming pool during a luxury cruise holiday.
The young boy was reportedly found at the bottom of one of the main outdoor pools on the Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas cruise liner.
He was travelling with his parents when the incident occurred as the ship passed off the Breton coast, off the north of France, yesterday.

The six-year-old British boy was reportedly found at the bottom of one of the main outdoor pools on the Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise liner (pictured)

The six-year-old British boy was reportedly found at the bottom of one of the main outdoor pools on the Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise liner (pictured)
Emergency services were alerted after the youngster was allegedly found unconscious in the crowded pool shortly after lunchtime. His heart had stopped and he was no longer breathing, it was reported.
Yann Bouvard, a spokesman for the maritime prefecture in the port of Brest, said: ‘The child was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest at the bottom of the ship's pool.’
He was pulled from the pool and the cruise liner’s on-board doctor carried out CPR, which was successful in getting his heart beating again.
    A French Navy NH90 twin-engine helicopter was scrambled to the scene just before 2pm after the ship’s captain raised the alarm to the Operational Centre for Maritime Surveillance and Rescue in Brittany.
    The boy was flown to Morvan Hospital in Brest where his condition was last night described as ‘serious’.
    It is not known how the incident occurred but it is thought an investigation will be launched into the circumstances surrounding it.
    The youngsters’ parents are said to be by his bedside in hospital after joining him on the flight from the luxury cruise ship to the mainland.

    A French Navy NH90 twin-engine helicopter was scrambled to the scene just before 2pm yesterday and took the boy to Morvand Hospital in Brest, France (file picture)

    A French Navy NH90 twin-engine helicopter was scrambled to the scene just before 2pm yesterday and took the boy to Morvand Hospital in Brest, France (file picture)
    Last night, Mr Bouvard described the incident as ‘incomprehensible’ and told The Times: ‘What is terrible is that children can drown without making any noise at all.
    ‘We’ve never had a case of a boy drowning in a pool on a ship before, but we have, unfortunately, a lot of experience of that happening in pools on land, and we know that it can happen to anyone, anywhere.’

    The Independence of the Seas is a 1,112 ft long vessel belonging to US company Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL), which sails under the flag of the Bahamas.
    According to its website, it is capable of carrying up to 4,375 passengers and 1,360 crew members.
    It has three pools, including an adults-only Solarium pool, six whirlpools and a wave machine which it describes as an ‘interactive water park for kids and families filled with geysers, sculpted fountains and waterfalls.’

    A seven-night stay on the Freedom-class 15-deck cruise liner for a family of four costs from around £1,600. 
    The luxury ship is currently on a six-night sail across western Europe, having departed from Southampton on Sunday.

    Royal Caribbean to expand Cape Liberty

    Royal Caribbean to expand Cape Liberty

    By Tom Stieghorst

    Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) said it will build a second terminal at Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., a facility that serves the New York area.

    Ground breaking on the $55 million project has already occurred, and the terminal is expected to be completed in time for the arrival of Quantum of the Seas in November.

    The 125,000-square-foot terminal will include check-in, customs and immigration, and luggage-processing space, as well as a 900-car parking structure and pier improvements.

    RCCL opened Cape Liberty 10 years ago this month. Currently, the port is the year-round home of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas and seasonally for Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit. 

    MSC pays 5% commission on prepaid cruise activities

    MSC pays 5% commission on prepaid cruise activities

    By Tom Stieghorst
    MSC Divina 410MSC Cruises said it will pay 5% commission on cruise activities that cost extra, if they are prepaid and booked through a travel agent.

    The line said commissionable activities include spa treatments, specialty restaurants, beverage packages and celebration packages. MSC said they are in addition to the current commissionable shore excursions, hotel packages, transfers and air. Details are at

    Few if any other cruise lines pay commission on such items.

    MSC also said it will pay 25% commission on balcony cabins on MSC Divina later this year on sailings between Aug. 2 and Dec. 20. The travel must be booked May 27 through July 31 and apply to categories B1, B2 and B3.

    Also, starting June 2, agents can earn tour conductor credits for selling a certain number of FIT bookings. The credits are typically earned when booking groups, but MSC said agents to not need to block group inventory.

    One tour conductor credit will be awarded for every 20 full-fare guests on the same sail date, for bookings made up to 75 days prior to departure.

    Tuesday, 27 May 2014

    Top tips for an adventure at sea

    Fancy unleashing your inner Sir David Attenborough or Bear Grylls? Here are our top tips for going off the beaten track…

    Only 100 passengers are allowed to land at one time on Antarctica, so small ships are best.Go in November/December to see penguins or in January/February to see whales.
    “Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of Scott and Shackleton, be overwhelmed by the  number – and smell – of the penguins or just witness the serenity and beauty of wind-sculpted ice then the Antarctic will be your ultimate challenge. The spectacular wildlife includes orcas, humpback whales and sea birds.”Deborah Stone, Contributing Editor
    Most Antarctic expedition cruises start from Ushuaia (Argentina), followed by a two-day sail across Drake’s Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. Captain’s Choice has luxurious trips to Chile and Antarctica 
    Interested in learning while you cruise? Specialist cruise lines such as Voyages to Antiquity( have well-known lecturers on board to help you discover more about the history and culture of the places you’re visiting.
    Specialist cruises tend to be casual, and entertainment will be a lecture about geography, history or culture. They usually involve early morning starts to help you make the most of the destinations you’re visiting.
    Cruise International
    Luxury cruise line SeaDream ( has Asia cruises for diving and snorkelling in Komodo Island’s National Park. And one of the hottest trends right now is cruise and safari. Spend a few days in Namibia or Kenya and join a game drive before heading off for your cruise. Fred. Olsen, Voyages to Antiquity,Cunard, MSC and P&O all offer cruises to Africa.
    Voted winner of Best Destination (Rest of World) in the 2013 Cruise International Awards, the untamed landscape of Alaska is a cruise adventurer’s dream, where you can experience everything from whale spotting to dog-sledding and white-water rafting. And in the Arctic you disembark and explore by zodiac boat, taking you up close to glaciers and icebergs

    Cruise to the Galapagos Islands to see giant tortoises and flamingos. Variety Cruises ( visit the Seychelles for rare black parrots and the bird nature reserve on Cousin Island, while Princess Cruises ( offers a range of cruises to South America and the Pacific..
    Go in search of the Northern Lights on a Scandinavian cruise. The best time to catch this natural phenomenon is between autumn and early April when it’s dark from 6pm to 1am, and the best spots are above the Arctic Circle. Hurtigruten ( has cruises departing from 1 November to 31 December 2014 with snowmobile safaris and reindeer driving.
    Amazon cruise
    A cruise on the Amazon River takes you into the heart of the jungle, past villages and banks covered by dense rainforest, plus the chance to spot wildlife including spider monkeys, three-toed sloths and macaws.Fred. Olsen sails the Amazon and the Caribbean on 22 March 2014 (
    For cruises to the Arctic take rubber fishing boots, with extra-thick soles, to keep feet warm and dry. You’ll also need waterproof trousers and layers to stay warm. For the Amazon, you’ll need insect repellent, sturdy footwear, antihistamines, anti-diarrhoea tablets and rehydration sachets may be useful. Always check with your GP in case you need any vaccinations before travelling, and travel insurance is a must.

    How to upgrade your cruise

    How to upgrade your cruise

    We all love getting a great deal, an upgrade or a little VIP treatment. Here are some invaluable insider tips for making your holiday even more special

    Book early
    “MSC Cruises is keen to reward clients who book early,” says Giles Hawke, Executive Director, MSC. “For 2015 sailings we have rejigged our pricing structure into four distinct sales periods. Bookings made before the end of June this year attract the very best deals – an ‘experience’ upgrade and up to £200 off the published brochure price. We’re also offering some excellent deals on MSC Yacht Club for early bookers. An upgrade from a balcony cabin with Fantastica to an MSC Yacht Club Suite, which includes exclusive areas, butler service, private restaurant and all-inclusive dining and drinks, is available from £650.”
    In the rapidly growing river cruise market, planning ahead is essential. Viking River Cruises Managing Director Wendy Atkin-Smith advises, “As a matter of course, our guests book early. River cruising is an early-booking market and so we encourage our guests to plan ahead – offering incentives to do so.”
    “If you book early, you can name your cabin, pre-book dining and you’ll be offered extra incentives, such as free onboard spending money,” says Simone Clark from “And with some cruise lines, you can state you’ll accept an automatic upgrade if available.”
    Some companies also offer online booking discounts so you can take advantage of add-ons, knowing that you’ll pay less overall.
    Top tip
    Early booking not only gives you a better choice of stateroom, it may also give you free onboard spend and the potential for a cabin upgrade.

    Monday, 26 May 2014

    Some personal advice about Facebook

    InsightTravel agents may feel under pressure to use Facebook to promote themselves, but they should first consider how and why they are doing it and make a plan before spending too much time on Facebook, just as they do with other social media, says Denise Vogel, who operates Click of the Mouse, a travel technology consulting firm.

    “You're bombarded with the newest and the greatest social media all the time,” she said in a recent webinar titled “Sane Social Media Strategies” produced by the Travel Institute.  “Step back and think about what you want to do with social media. This will keep you focused.”
    LauraDelRossoVogel discussed Facebook during the presentation, encouraging agents to use their own personal Facebook accounts more effectively. The personal account can be as important as having a Facebook business page, she said. “Use your own personal page. It's important to share great information that you have” with your Facebook friends.

    She recommended changing profile photos often, using travel photos, because when they change they show on your Facebook news feed. Post often to your status updates, but without sales pitches and specific promotions, Vogel said.

    “By sharing good travel information on your posts, you have a chance to connect on a genuine level, without mentioning your business,” she said.

    Facebook prohibits users from promoting businesses on personal pages. For example, agents cannot use their personal Facebook page to sell a cruise or offer a discounted package. Users' personal pages can be shut down if Facebook becomes aware of such practices.

    Instead, use your Facebook business page for promotions and link such posts to your agency website. However, use caution even on your business page from becoming overly promotional.

    “On your business page you can be more casual and friendly than on your website. But don't bombard people with sales information. It's something people don't like.”
    Use your personal Facebook account and post regularly with relevant, interesting travel information, she said. And make it short: Studies have shown, she said, that users click away from posts if they don't find them interesting within eight seconds.

    Agents also should actively engage with others on Facebook, commenting on friends' and clients' posts within 24 hours, using their name in the comment box and sharing thoughts and information. Again, don't be too promotional, she said.

    “Be genuine, that's most important. And, be honest and trustworthy.”

    Be selective about what you post, using news aggregators that include travel news, the travel trades or travel associations that offer interesting and valuable information, particularly about the benefits of using a travel agent.

    “Take time to look at articles and make sure there's no offensive material,” Vogel said. When you see something interesting, take a quote from an article and use it in your status update as a link.

    But check links and make sure you're not sending people to consumer websites where they can book direct from suppliers.

    Vogel also recommended “mixing up” Facebook posts, sometimes using status updates with links, other times posting photos and albums, sometimes using polls or quotes about travel and humor that's not crude or rude.

    Polls should use open-ended questions about travel such as “Would you rather take a Caribbean or Alaska cruise” that are more likely to get responses than questions such as “Where would you like to go on vacation?”

    Then, when your clients and friends respond to the poll, engage in a conversation with them about their answer.

    “We use all kinds of means to stay connected with our clients,” said Vogel. “Facebook is a connection and a genuine connection if you use it correctly.”

    Some personal advice about Facebook

    By Laura Del Rosso

    Norwegian spending big on fleet upgrade

    Norwegian spending big on fleet upgrade

    Norwegian Cruise Line has set out on a major overhaul of its fleet, which will see the giant investing a quarter of a billion dollars over the next year.

    The company is investing $250 million in a fleetwide renovation project called Norwegian Next that will see many of the entertainments and dining venues from its newer Breakaway-class ships rolled out across the rest of its fleet in the coming months.

    A number of ships have already been refurbished recently including Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Spirit. Norwegian Gem is set to get a makeover this year, while Norwegian Star and Norwegian Epic will go into the dry dock in 2015.

    The Norwegian Next programme features a large number of changes including entertainment, children's activities and onboard connectivity. In terms of the dining establishments found on Getaway and Breakaway, Norwegian will be bringing O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill and Carlo's Bake Shop to all of its ships, along with the Sugarcane Mojito bar.

    It will also be bringing the main dining room on the other ships in line with its newest vessels and introducing Garden Cafes. There will also be new wine and cocktail menus, while bartenders and wine stewards across the rest of the fleet are set to receive additional training.

    Among the new children's activities will be more Nickelodeon entertainments and a special area at the cruise line's private island Great Stirrup Cay. It is also introducing new bars on the island and ensuring that passengers calling here have access to larger beach areas and more cabanas.

    "The youngest fleet at sea continues to get even better with our robust enhancement program taking place over the next two years," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive.

    "We want to continue to provide fresh and relevant experiences to our guests every time they sail with us. We are investing significantly in making sure that our guests have the vacation of a lifetime and fully experience what it means to Cruise like a Norwegian."

    Independence of the Seas seized by bailiffs!

    Independence of the Seas seized by bailiffs!

    You might think that a global company the size of Royal Caribbean is good at paying its fees, but it turns out that even having a whole accounting department isn't enough to stop a few things from falling through the cracks.
    The forgotten fees in question? A relatively small 600,000 Norwegian kroners (approximately £60,000) in pilot fees that was supposed to be paid in October.
    But Royal Caribbean is unlikely to be making the same mistake again. In fact, the Norwegian authorities have made sure that they're at the top of the agenda for the cruise line, by impounding one of the world's largest cruise ships.
    Independence of the Seas, a 150,000-tonne behemoth capable of carrying nearly 4,400 passengers, was seized by a Norwegian bailiff, but it was only held for an hour, as the cruise line quickly paid its dues and rectified the situation.
    While it may seem like the Norwegian Coastal Administration was making an undue fuss over the delay, it requires on fees from ships to fund its operations along the country's most dangerous stretches of coastline.
    And it seems that Royal Caribbean is not alone in missing the due date on their bills. Arve Dimmen, of the NCA, said that the organisation is currently 7.6 million kroner short (approximately £760,000) due to cruise ships not paying their bills on time.
    "It's a lot of work for us to follow up these cases," he said.

    Saturday, 24 May 2014

    Carnival CEO downplays MSC growth but sees pricing risk

    Donald - Impact of MSC newbuilds depends on how they're positionedDonald - Impact of MSC newbuilds depends on how they're positioned
    Addressing how the big MSC newbuilds may reshape the competitive climate, given they are headed to 'the most sought-after warm weather destinations in the Mediterranean, South America and Caribbean,' Carnival chief first downplayed the impact then conceded there may be risk for pricing.
    'It's four ships. We have 102. In the scheme of things, you're looking at a tiny percent impact, depending how they're positioned in the market,' the Carnival Corp. & plc CEO said Thursday, shortly after MSC's orderbook went from two to four big ships, all above 150,000gt.
    MSC ordered today at Carnival's traditional builder of choice—Fincantieri—and broke the news just as Donald headed into the second informal media call of his tenure as CEO.
    After his initial remarks, Donald was pressed on the potential impact to the Caribbean business of large capacity increases. And how can pricing go up for Carnival if it constrains capacity growth but competitors don't?
    Cruising's major players have reported lower net yields in the industry's most important region this year. Recently Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan singled out MSC Divinaas a big factor in the softer Caribbean rates.
    The Caribbean issues weren't due to one new ship, Donald told reporters, adding: 'It was a 20% increase in a market that's highly saturated anyway' and coming during a period of recovery from incidents.
    Yet Donald allowed there is the 'risk of a psychological impact' on customers. If they see very low pricing they may think 'cruises only cost so much and I'm not going to pay more.'
    Also, the Carnival chief said MSC, or any single brand that adds new ships, risks 'cannibalizing' its existing vessels.
    'On a positive note,' he added, 'I'm sure they will be nice ships' and newbuilds create 'energy and excitement.'
    As for Carnival's strategy to raise pricing, the company is looking at best practices of all the brands for ways to push up on-board and ticket revenue. Given its scale, if Carnival can do so by even a small amount, 'we will generate extraordinary returns,' Donald said.
    At the same time the company will leverage its scale to cut costs. As an example, Carnival is the fifth largest purchaser of airline travel in the world yet 'we never behaved like that. We behaved like 10 brands.'
    The greater focus, though, is on revenue. 'Best practices across brands will lift us a dollar, 2 dollars or 3 dollars. An extra few dollars on cruise tickets means a lot with 78m cruise days,' Donald said.
    These efforts are needed to get back to double-digit returns, 'where we should be.'

    Friday, 23 May 2014

    Carnival to again sail Mexico's Pacific Coast year-round

    Carnival to again sail Mexico's Pacific Coast year-round

    By Gay Nagle Myers
    Carnival Cruise Lines will resume year-round sailings to the Mexican Riviera from Long Beach, Calif., beginning in October.

    The line last sailed to Mexico's Pacific Coast year-round in 2012, although it has operated some cruises on a seasonal basis since then.

    The Carnival Miracle will operate three seven-day itineraries, starting next April. 

    One itinerary is a three-port sailing with calls in Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. That cruise will mark the return of Carnival to Mazatlan since its pullout in early 2011, citing safety and security issues for passengers following several incidents of crime near the port.

    Other lines also cut the Mazatlan stop at the time but have since returned.

    "With the return of Carnival, five major cruise lines have now resumed service to Mazatlan, including Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Azamara Club Cruises," said Frank Cordova, secretary of tourism for the state of Sinaloa.

    "We are extremely pleased with the positive developments that have transformed Mazatlan over the past several years, including those in the cruise industry, and are excited about the prospect of future growth in tourism to the destination," he said.

    Those developments include a new $3 million tourism corridor between the Port of Mazatlan and the city's historic center, making it easier and safer for cruise visitors to reach the heart of the city.

    Carnival's two other Mexican Riviera itineraries include a two-port voyage that pairs a stop in Cabo San Lucas with a two-day overnight stay in Puerto Vallarta.

    The third itinerary pairs a visit to Puerto Vallarta with a two-day call in Cabo San Lucas.

    Thursday, 22 May 2014

    MSC Cruises signs contract for two 'revolutionary' ships

    MSC Cruises signs contract for two 'revolutionary' ships

    MSC Cruises signs contract for two 'revolutionary' ships
    MSC Cruises is to build two "revolutionary" cruise ships for 2017 and 2018, and has an option for a further ship.
    The cruise line today signed a contract worth up to €2.1 billion with Italian shipyard Fincantieri for the new prototype project, codenamed 'Seaside'.
    They will be the largest cruise ships ever built by the shipyard and feature a "revolutionary architectural style" which MSC believes will lead the way for the next generation of cruise ships.
    Features include a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants, a spacious theatre, terraced balcony and panoramic lifts with sea views.
    The two new ships will cost €700 million each, with the first scheduled for delivery in November 2017 and the second in May 2018, with an option for one more ship.
    The deal follows MSC Cruises' letter of intent with STX France, signed in March this year. It will allow the cruise line to double the capacity of its fleet to around 80,000 passengers a day by 2022. The line currently has 12 ships.
    The ships will be 323 metres long, 41 metres wide and 70 metres in height, with a gross tonnage of 154,000 tons and accommodating 5,300 passengers plus 1,413 crew. The ships will also reduce fuel consumption by 25%.
    They will boast 2,070 passenger cabins and 43,500 square metres of public space. According to the cruise line, it will be able to dock at any port worldwide thanks to its design and versatility. Construction will be funded with the support of insurance and financial company SACE.
    MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfranscesco Vago said: "From the moment we started talking with Fincantieri, we had in mind to design and build two completely new ships, revolutionary in their structure, unlike anything that exists on the market today.
    "Seaside is a futuristic prototype because of its structure, shape and versatility. We are getting ready for the new and compelling challenge that the construction of these ships represents. It will be a real revolution in the world's cruise market, an excellent product for its unique and innovative architectural features and cutting-edge technology."

    Wednesday, 21 May 2014

    Adventures by Disney unveils short city tours

    By Arnie Weissmann
    Responding to changes in consumer behavior, Adventures by Disney is offering a long-weekend product in San Francisco and New York for the 2015 season.

    Disney said that some vacationers want just a bite-size sample of their tours.

    “We live busy lives,” said Adventures by Disney’s senior vice president and general manager, Ken Potrock. “A lot of people have concerns about whether they want to commit to a seven-, 10- or 14-day experience.”

    The three-night, four-day Long Weekends are nonetheless designed to give a “deep dive” of the city, linked to Adventures by Disney’s format of storytelling, said Heather Killingbeck, the tour operator’s director of trip and program development.

    The San Francisco tour will be based out of the Fairmont, and include a tour of LucasFilm, a Disney production partner, which is not typically open to the public; a day trip to Napa Valley and Silverado Winery, owned by members of the Disney family, where adult guests can blend their own private label wine (while their children infuse olive oil in another room); and a bicycle ride from the Embarcadero to the base of the Golden Gate.

    A Long Weekend in Manhattan will include a visit to the “Good Morning America” studio during a broadcast (Disney owns the show’s parent company, ABC), dance lessons in a professional studio, a performance of “Aladdin” at Disney’s New Amsterdam Theater (including a hands-on backstage tour), an afterhours tour of the Tenement Museum that includes conversations with matriarchs from several immigrant families, as well as an immersive tour of Harlem which includes a meal of soul food at Amy Ruth’s.

    Also, Disney will be going to the Amazon for the first time in 2015 — or more exactly, to the Napo River, a major tributary, in Ecuador. The river cruise will be aboard a new 20-cabin vessel, the Anakonda. In addition to looking for wildlife, the group will stop in villages and create their own souvenirs.

    In the next phase of the 12-day/11-night Ecuador trip, guests will fly to Quito and learn to make ceviche in an upscale restaurant, then continue to the Galapagos for a land-based tour based out of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Santa Cruz Island. They’ll also take a private yacht to Santa Fe Island to view wildlife.

    The inventory will be available for booking on May 21.

    Two Holland America ships will move to P&O Australia

    Two Holland America ships will move to P&O Australia

    By Tom Stieghorst
    Holland America's RyndamCarnival Corp. said it will transfer two of Holland America Line's ships, the Ryndam and Statendam, to its P&O Australia subsidiary to capitalize on growth prospects in that country.

    The ships will depart the HAL fleet in November 2015.

    HAL is scheduled to take delivery of a 2,600-passenger newbuild in 2016, and that will more than replace the capacity of the two smaller, older ships.

    Statendam and Ryndam, delivered in 1993 and 1994, respectively, each carry 1,260 passengers at double occupancy.

    After the move and the delivery of the newbuild in 2016, HAL would have 14 ships in its fleet, and P&O Australia would have five.

    The move fits a trend towards replacing a number of smaller ships with fewer, larger ones. Seabourn, a Carnival Corp.-owned luxury line, last year sold three of its 212 passenger ships to Windstar and is taking delivery of a 604-passenger ship in 2016.

    Cruise industry capacity has been expanding rapidly in Australia. For Carnival Corp., growth has gone from two P&O ships 10 years ago to six full-time ships, including three from P&O, two from Princess Cruises and one from Carnival Cruise Lines.

    The return of the Sun Princess full-time to Australia next year and the two additional P&O ships will increase that number to nine.

    Other companies have made similar moves.

    The number of Australians taking a cruise has grown 130% in five years, Carnival said. The total of 800,000 last year is projected to grow to 1 million by 2016.

    “Our ability to work among our brands to make strategic deployment decisions is a great example of our focus on leveraging our scale and increased collaboration,” commented Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald. "This is an exciting development on many levels."

    Data suggest that leisure travel has recovered

    Data suggest that leisure travel has recovered

    By Danny King
    Girl on vacationU.S. leisure travel’s recovery appears to be widening beyond the wealthiest Americans, resulting in a 7% growth in the number of vacation travelers last year, PhoCusWright reported earlier this month.

    In many ways, that figure explains industrywide metrics from sources as varied as ARC and hospitality analyst STR, both of which have reported data that suggest the industry is returning to prerecession levels, in some cases even exceeding them.

    The growth reported by PhoCusWright came from across the demographic spectrum as baby boomers resumed prerecession travel habits while more young adults managed to free up enough discretionary income to travel last year.

    PhoCusWright also reported that much of this additional travel spending was a result of travelers booking private homes and apartments, while preferred booking methods inched away from online travel agencies (OTAs) and suppliers’ websites and toward metasearch engines.

    The overall 7% growth in the number of American adults who traveled for leisure purposes resulted from 65% of all U.S. adults traveling, according to PhoCusWright.
    051914PHOCUSWROGHTCHART1Notably, the survey, which polled some 4,100 U.S. adults in early March, revealed that the biggest percentage increases came from millennials: Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 boosted their leisure travel last year by about 11%, while those in the 45-to-64 range increased their leisure travel by 9%.

    In a May 13 webinar unveiling the research, Marcello Gasdia, PhoCusWright’s senior analyst for consumer research, reported, “The boomer generation made a huge comeback. This group had the most to lose out from the recession, and close to half of this age group was skipping out on vacations for the entire year.”

    Gasdia and fellow analyst Colie Hoffman co-authored the 37-page report for PhoCusWright, whose parent company, Northstar Travel Media, publishes Travel Weekly.

    From a retailer’s perspective, Eric Ardolino, president of A&S Travel Center in Wallingford, Conn., observed that many of those who were already spending on travel are now spending more lavishly. That is especially true among professionals whose best earnings years are still ahead of them, he said.

    “If I say to them, ‘Do you want to do the $3,000 honeymoon or the $6,000 honeymoon?’ … most people are taking the better trip,” Ardolino said. “These young honeymooners are spending more now than ever.”

    The widespread uptick in leisure travel saw the average travel spend for a U.S. household rise by 15% last year, to $3,311. In addition, the number of U.S. adults who took at least three leisure trips last year rose almost 20%, as did the number who spent at least $3,000 on leisure travel.
    051914PHOCUSWROGHTCHART3Yet, while the overall picture of the travel economy painted by the research is clearly positive, details about how that money is being spent might cause some consternation among lodging companies and OTAs.

    On the lodging front, the portion of U.S. travelers who stayed in a private home, apartment or condominium for leisure-travel purposes last year jumped to 14% from 8% in 2012, while the portion of leisure travelers choosing midscale hotels and all-inclusive resorts fell.

    That type of jump in private home rentals turns the spotlight on so-called “shared economy” practitioners such as Airbnb and the car-sharing service Lyft. Both companies increasingly are the targets of demands from local governments and traditional hospitality companies for more regulation.

    “There’s been a lot of industry attention, thrusting the sharing model into the mainstream,” Gasdia said. “Whether these accommodations are nibbling at traditional accommodations or creating demand is a highly debated issue.”

    Booking methods are also shifting. While the portion of travelers who book travel exclusively online rose 2 percentage points, to 39%, last year, that increase is not necessarily helping the OTAs or suppliers who are hoping to increase direct consumer bookings on their websites.

    In fact, a lower percentage of leisure travelers booked airline tickets and hotel rooms through OTAs and supplier websites last year than in 2012, PhoCusWright found, while metasearch sites like Kayak attracted a larger percentage of those bookings. And while overall online bookings continued to increase, the survey found that travel-agency bookings were also up for both air and hotel reservations.

    Regardless, the overall rising tide is benefitting the U.S. airline and lodging industries. Moreover, bolstered by a record number of overseas travelers coming to the U.S. last year, hoteliers here recorded 1.11 billion room-nights booked in their 4.9 million hotel rooms, up 2.2% from 2012 and marking a 10% increase from three years prior, according to STR.

    “The growth of the domestic leisure travel segment has been an important contributor to the ongoing recovery of the U.S. lodging industry,” said Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research. “While the persistently high levels of unemployment remain troubling, those that have the means to travel have continued to do so.”
    051914PHOCUSWROGHTCHART4What’s more, 2013’s trends appear to be flowing over into this year. U.S. hotels boosted first-quarter revenue per available room by 6.8% from a year earlier as occupancy advanced 1.7 percentage points, to 59.2%, while average room rates rose 3.8%, to $112.45 a night, according to STR.

    Meanwhile, through April, ARC’s travel agent transactions rose 2.1% from a year earlier, to 52.5 million, the highest January-through-April figures since 2008. Passenger numbers for American, Delta and JetBlue were all up more than 4% through April.

    Last week, the trade organization Airlines for America forecasted that air travel this summer will rise 1.5% from a year earlier, to 2.3 million passengers per day, the highest number in six years.

    And going forward, the FAA estimated that enplanements for the year ended Sept. 30, 2015 would increase 3.4% from the current fiscal year, to 771.4 million, beating the previous 2007 peak of 765.3 million.

    All of which, Ardolino said, is giving the industry reason to believe that it can up-sell products to a wider swath of the U.S. population.

    “I have a sign on my desk that says, ‘If you don’t travel first class, your heirs will,’” Ardolino said.

    QE2 crew on strike amid Ukranian political crisis

    QE2 crew on strike amid Ukranian political crisis

    QE2 crew on strike amid Ukranian political crisis
    The crew of the former Cunard flagship QE2 in Dubai is on strike ahead of plans to sail it to China to be refitted as a floating hotel.
    Ukrainian workers on the ship say they were not paid in March or April.
    Owners Oceanic Group said an agency had been paid and blamed the political situation in Ukraine for difficulties in dealing with crew issues.
    The company said it was still planning on eventually locating the vessel in Hong Kong or Singapore where it is due to become a 'heritage hotel' with 400 bedrooms and suites.
    The BBC said it had obtained a letter from the Ukrainian captain to the ship's owners stating the 48-strong crew has been on strike since May 15.
    Winnie Ip, vice chairman of owners QE2 Holdings Ltd, said: "We are waiting for new crew to replace the existing ones on a sign-on/sign-off rotation basis, but, given the present political situation in Ukraine, it is difficult and a little slow."
    She said the consortium was still committed to sailing the QE2 to a Shanghai shipyard under its own steam for the refit.
    Its 900 cabins are to be converted into 400 larger suites as part of the planned £62 million refurbishment.