Saturday, 30 July 2016

Crystal Cruises redeploys new river vessels away from France

Crystal Cruises redeploys new river vessels away from France

The new river cruise arm of Crystal Cruises is delaying plans to deploy two new vessels on rivers in France.

Instead Crystal River Cruises is to increase its presence on the Danube, Main and Rhine, deploying four of its planned new build ‘river yachts’ in the region in 2017 and 2018.

The shift in focus means redesigning and enlarging the company’s two Paris-class river vessels - Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel - as Rhine-class boats, and redeploying them east in 2018.

Previously, Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel were to travel along the Seine, Rhone and Dordogne rivers in France from June and August 2017 respectively.

No mention was made of recent terrorist incidents in France and the extension of the country’s state of emergency for six months following the deadly truck attack in Nice earlier in July.

The luxury line, which draws a large proportion of passengers from the US, said the change away from France was based on passenger feedback “lauding the itineraries planned in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Amsterdam and Holland”.

As a result, “the company has elected to delay its entrance into the French river cruise market, choosing instead to prioritise its offerings in the German/Austrian region in order to meet travellers’ demand for those experiences”.

Chief executive and president Edie Rodriguez said: “Unlike an ocean-going ship that can accommodate a change in itinerary with short notice, a river ship operates within more confined parameters and is unable to re-route easily.

“We are listening carefully to what travellers are telling us and have concluded that the best way to anticipate, meet and surpass their expectations is by making this move earlier rather than later.”

The line is offering a series of compensation packages to people who have booked 2017 voyages on Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel including on board credits and future cruise credits worth up to $1,000.

No details were given of how many bookings the line has received for the sailings in France.

The new design places the vessels as part of the line’s 106-passenger Rhine-class series currently comprising Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler, which are due to enter service June 18 and August 29, 2017 respectively.

Crystal Debussy and Crystal Ravel are now due for maiden voyages in April 2018 and May 2018 respectively with detailed itineraries to be announced shortly, the company said.

They will be increased in size from 110 metres to 135 metres, the maximum size permissible on the Rhine, Main and Danube. The increased length allows for the addition of a swimming pool with a sliding glass roof and more large suites.

The move follows the recent launch of the line’s first luxury river cruiser, Crystal Mozart.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Norwegian Getaway embarks on Olympic charter

Norwegian Getaway embarks on Olympic charter

The Norwegian Getaway departed Miami on July 24 on the first leg of its 40-day charter for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Details of the charter were provided for the first time by Landry & Kling, the Miami specialist in meetings at sea and incentive cruises, which brokered the deal.
Landry & Kling said the charter was first discussed in 2007 and is the largest in its 34-year history. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
The 4,000-passenger Getaway will take the better part of 10 days to get to Brazil before taking up residence at Pier Maua in Rio from Aug. 4 to 22. Chartered by the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, it will provide supplemental housing for corporate sponsors and Olympic committees.
The Getaway’s departure leaves Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Sky to hold down Norwegian’s Caribbean cruise business from Miami in August.
Firm co-founder Joyce Landry is blogging from the ship during the charter.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Hull art revealed for China-bound Norwegian Joy

Hull art revealed for China-bound Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Joy's Hull Artwork by Tan Ping

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Joy, a new ship bound for China next year, will feature a large red phoenix on its hull, the latest in a series of hull paintings for Norwegian ships.
Chinese artist Tan Ping is responsible for the design, which will also include waves and other stylized nautical motifs.
“The Phoenix symbolizes beauty and good luck in Chinese culture, and Norwegian Joy will bridge across the West and the East and bring Chinese people’s best wish to the world and everyone in her path,” said Tan Ping, a painter, print maker and educator.
Joy, the first Norwegian ship to be custom-built for the Chinese market, is scheduled to begin sailing from Beijing and Shanghai next summer.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

12 Tips for Queen Mary 2  Transatlantic Cruises

12 Tips for Queen Mary 2  Transatlantic Cruises

Queen Mary 2 in New York

Crossing the ocean onboard Queen Mary 2 with Cunard Line is a unique cruise experience. With a very rich mix of nationalities offering a complete world at sea, the ship is a hive of activities from enrichment lectures and classes to shows in the Planetarium, special meals and celebrations, dancing and much more. Knowing these 12 tips in advance will add a great deal to your clients’ enjoyment onboard.
Cooler Than You Think. All those pictures of passengers wrapped in blankets on deck chairs? At sea, any form of additional warmth is needed. Even if it’s summer, take a warm jacket and hat.
Reserve Ahead. Without port days, everything from spa treatments to dining fills up much earlier on most cruises.
Show Up. Line up at 9 a.m. outside ConneXions to get Planetarium tickets for any of the shows of the day, and be sure to arrive 15 minutes before the start of the show. The Planetarium dome covers a portion of the Illuminations theater, and seats are limited, so it gets filled very early. And if you come just before show time, you won’t be admitted.
Dress Code. Don’t be daunted by the dress code. Women in particular on our cruise were very worried about the frequent formal nights and the nature of informal ones. Cocktail dresses are perfectly acceptable on formal nights, and passengers showed up in all levels of dress on other nights. What is typically referred to as “country club casual” on other lines is accepted on Queen Mary 2’s informal nights.
Theme Nights. Theme nights are similarly flexible. Masquerade balls and other themes were celebrated by a few people on our cruise, mostly at the dancing that follows dinner and not at mealtime.
Casual Only. If you decide to go extra casual on a formal night, you are welcome in two public areas: the Kings Court buffet restaurant and the adjoining Winter Garden.
Bridge Brigade. Bridge is huge on these crossings. If you want to join in, you can be connected to other guests who are similarly inclined, and tournaments are announced in the daily schedule. There are also classes for beginners.
Bring Your Talents. Participation in a guest talent show requires only attending one rehearsal.
Time Changes. The time adjusts by an hour practically every afternoon. This prevents the huge adjustment at the end of the cruise, but it also means being alert so you don’t miss lunch or midday activities.
Todd English. The Todd English restaurant onboard is a bargain, with a la carte pricing and wonderful food and service. But book early, or you’ll also have to be dining earlier than usual.
Healthy Cruisers, FYI. There’s a special healthy corner of the Chef’s Galley at breakfast.
Celebrity-Spotting. Actors and actresses, musicians and artists, scientists, statesmen and more sail with Queen Mary 2, so match your interests to the featured guest, and you might get to hang out with a celeb.

Monday, 25 July 2016

'I choose to live'

'I choose to live'

Arnie WeissmannThe inaugural cruise of the Regent Seven Seas Explorer departed Monte Carlo, Monaco, early on the morning of Bastille Day. I was in Nice, France, two days before and, one week later, flew out of the city.

During the cruise, I found that every European port where the ship called was crowded (in the case of St. Tropez, vastly overcrowded). Flags flew at half-mast, but otherwise Europe's sunny holiday season appeared, on the surface, to proceed undimmed by the terror attack in Nice.

And during that week, I mingled with 600-plus travel advisers, media, cruise line executives and invited guests aboard the ship. Their responses to the incident in Nice were insightful; for the most part, they're sophisticated executives with experience in the cycles of travel disruption.

My first conversation was with Walter Revell. That name may not be familiar even to travel agents who loyally book the lines of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) -- Regent, Norwegian and Oceania -- but he has had a hand on the tiller of NCLH and its predecessor entities for the past 23 years. As the longest-serving director and, today, chairman, he has a unique perspective on the past, present and future of travel and cruising.

We lunched with our wives at a small restaurant off Piazza San Michele in Lucca, Italy, just hours after we learned about the Nice tragedy.

Out of 7 billion people on Earth, he said, "point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero one" is going to be deranged enough to heed a call to kill scores of innocent people.

The link between extreme mental instability and the threat of violence positions terrorism in a context that doesn't completely remove the political and religious aspects, but puts the scope of the threat in rational perspective.

Those very few unstable individuals, Revell continued, should hardly be the ones to "govern, ruin or rule" our travel choices.

NCLH's CEO, Frank Del Rio, cast it slightly differently but again brought a sense of scale to the issue. 

"It would be easy to say that if you don't keep traveling, the terrorists have won," Del Rio said. "You can say that at 30,000 feet, but how do you communicate that to the individual who is sitting in front of a travel adviser, wanting to take a trip somewhere? It's very difficult to take something that's so emotional, so personal, and turn it into a statistic. But we need to remember: It's never absolute. It's not that no one is traveling. After the Paris attacks, air arrivals were down 11%. Hotel nights were down 20%. It's not down 95%, it's down 20%."

His comments reminded me that even in the dark days after 9/11, air travel was still at 80% of pre-attack numbers. The problem for travel-related businesses is, of course, that depending on operating margins, a 20% drop in traffic can easily spell the difference between viability and bankruptcy.

"It's in the margins," Del Rio agreed, "but we'll boost it up to where it needs to be."

Van Anderson, co-founder of the host agency Avoya, had yet a different perspective, framed within the broader profile of life and risk. 

"You have to be aware of risk, no matter what you do," he said. "Some choose to surf, dive and bungee jump. We all make choices, and you have to do what makes you comfortable. Even having gone through Nice the day before that horrific tragedy, and after what happened in Orlando, I'm not hesitating one bit to travel this summer with my grandchildren to Orlando."

Anderson continued, "I don't think we live in a more dangerous world. It's just a world that's more aware of the dangers. So we have to choose, by ourselves, with our friends and families, what we're comfortable with.

"I don't travel because I'm trying to beat terrorists," he concluded. "I travel because I enjoy it. Life is about making choices. I choose to live."

All three perspectives are thoughtful, astute, complementary and can help in counseling clients.

I will add one more perspective.

Summer may be the high season for travel within Europe, but we're also concurrently in the quadrennial high season of politics. The recent terror incidents, though in aggregate statistically representing only a small risk, are amplified by political agendas, and clients of travel advisers might be susceptible to politically motivated arguments that will inhibit the desire to travel.

Revell's, Del Rio's and Anderson's perspectives could help blunt those arguments. I hope so.

But I'll point out that small scale can be deceiving. History often turns on events that involve relatively few participants but whose impact is outsize:

The Boston Tea Party. The siege of the Alamo. Rosa Parks.

These incidents became pivotal because they represented the hopes and desires of great numbers of people.

I find it hard to conceive, however, that the slaughter of innocent people represents anything but a perversion of theology or a philosophy that appeals only to the sickest among humanity.

If politicians present this as an existential threat, I believe they're acting cynically to replace rational thought with purely emotional, fear-based responses.

But there's also an emotionally resonant appeal to keep traveling, even in the face of terror. Anderson said it succinctly: "I choose to live."

Cruise companies reducing Mediterranean presence

Cruise companies reducing Mediterranean presence

Ongoing instability in the Mediterranean region is prompting cruise companies to trim capacity there, with the latest example coming from Celebrity Cruises, for summer 2017.
Celebrity said it will keep the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox in Miami next spring after it completes its winter cruise schedule, instead of returning to the Mediterranean, where this summer it will operate cruises out of Athens and Barcelona.
The move will draw down Celebrity’s Europe deployment next summer from five ships to four and give it a year-round ship in the Caribbean for the first time since 2010.
Other companies also plan to move capacity out of the Mediterranean and into the Caribbean.
Carnival Corp. in a June 28 conference call said it expected a 10% capacity reduction in the Mediterranean region next year, and a 5% increase in Caribbean capacity.
“We are rebalancing our portfolio to optimize the current demand environment,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said.
The moves come as the Mediterranean was again rocked, this time by a failed coup attempt in Turkey and the truck massacre in Nice, the third major terrorist attack in France in the past nine months.
Cruise lines had already largely stopped calling in Istanbul after a series of terrorist attacks there this year. After the coup, many cruise lines also suspended calls elsewhere in Turkey, such as Kusadasi.
Most are in a wait-and-see mode, such as Carnival Cruise Line, which replaced the Carnival Vista’s calls in Kusadasi on July 17 and 20 with sea days and said it will evaluate future calls there “in the coming days.”
Some travel agents said client demand for Europe remains healthy.
“For us, our European business is still very strong,” said Jeffrey Bateman, vice president of operations at Crown Cruise Vacations in Princeton, N.J.
Bateman said most of his clients on Equinox cruises that had been scheduled for Europe next summer had rebooked other Celebrity European cruises.
Prices have been softening for Europe, according to a survey by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Patrick Scholes, who said advertised prices for cruises in southern Europe in June fell 1.3% year over year, compared to a 7.4% increase in May.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said cruise lines remain reluctant to drop Europe in the summer.
“Analysts ask me, why don’t you put the ship in the Caribbean in the summer instead?” he said. “Well, because even a bad year in Europe is better than a good year in the Caribbean, especially in the summer.”
In 2014, a mass migration of ships from Europe to the Caribbean led to a pricing bloodbath. Donald said that’s unlikely in 2017, when Carnival’s expected Caribbean capacity growth will be 5%. In 2014, it was 20%.
The Equinox will add to the overall capacity in the Caribbean, but several travel agents liked having more itinerary options for Celebrity in the summer.
“I view the year-round vessels in the Caribbean as a plus,” said Valerie Harris, a CruiseOne franchisee in Atlanta. “They lend a hand with creating and maintaining a cruise line’s presence in the region, which in turn may establish brand loyalty.”

Delfin Amazon Cruises employs armed guards after robbery

Delfin Amazon Cruises employs armed guards after robbery

The Amazon Discovery was robbed on July 14.

Following an early morning robbery aboard the Amazon Discovery on July 14, Delfin Amazon Cruises has implemented improved security measures on all of its vessels.
Prior to the robbery, the Discovery had cruised with 24-hour unarmed guards and a spotlighting system for surveillance. All entrances to the ship have metal security doors, which are sealed at 6:30 p.m.
Now, Delfin has added plainclothes armed members of Peru’s National Police. They are on duty around the clock. Also, a laser alarm system is being installed on all ships. The alarm triggers when a mass of more than 150 pounds approaches. These new measures will be in place indefinitely. 
The robbery took place at 3:30 a.m. on July 14 while the ship was on the Amazon River about two hours south of Iquitos, Peru. Seven assailants carrying small firearms boarded the ship from the stern after approaching in a motorboat. The bandits took approximately $22,000 in cash as well as valuables that have yet to be appraised. No guests were injured.
The search for the bandits is ongoing, and Delfin is working with local authorities to identify them.
“Last week’s robbery was an isolated incident. It was the first event of its kind in Delfin Amazon Cruises’ 10 years of cruising the Amazon River,” the company said. “We do not believe the region is any less safe for visitors.” poised to be sold for £50 million poised to be sold for £50 million

by Amie Keeley is reported to be up for sale for £50million.

Private equity firm Risk Capital Partners, which acquired the website just under three years ago, is in talks to sell the company to Bridgepoint Development Capital, according to Sky News.

Sky claims a deal could be announced next week.

The cruise specialist’s business grew by 67% after investment and backing from Risk Capital Partners, which was founded by entrepreneur Luke Johnson.

Other parties rumoured to have put in offers include TripAdvisor; the owner of; and Inflexion Private Equity.

Bridgepoint has owned French-based Ponant, which specialises in luxury polar excursions.

Sky said both Risk and Bridgepoint declined to comment.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Fred Olsen to fly passengers home after Black Watch fire

Fred Olsen to fly passengers home after Black Watch fire

by Phil Davies

Almost 700 Fred Olsen Cruise Lines passengers are to be flown home from Madeira today (Monday) by private charter flights following a fire on board the ship Black Watch.

Crew extinguished the fire in the auxiliary engine room on Friday morning and there were no injuries to passengers or crew.

But the fire damaged three of the ship’s seven auxiliary engines, which generate electrical power on board. Some electrical power was then restored to the ship.

Black Watch, which originally entered service in 1972, was on a 13-night ‘Portuguese Island & Cities’ cruise which left Dover on June 25 with 696 mainly British passengers and 365 crew on board.

The vessel had left Ponta Delgada in the Azores on Thursday with the line describing weather conditions as good with calm seas.

“There has been some cabling damage on board, which is affecting lighting and communications, but all other services are working as normal,” the line said.

“However, the cabling damage has prevented the other two main engines from running, and it is anticipated that the repairs will cause disruption to guests during the re-cabling.

“Therefore, we have made the decision - in the best interests of guests’ comfort and enjoyment - to fly them home from Funchal.”

Three charter flights will return passengers to Stansted and Gatwick. Affected passengers will be offered a full refund, 50% off a future cruise and the cost of out of pocket expenses.

Special arrangements have been made for passengers who are unable to fly for medical reasons, the company said.

Managing director Mike Rodwell flew out to join the ship in Funchal on Saturday with a support team of senior executives to address passengers and ask for any feedback.

He circulated a letter to cabins on board the ship yesterday afternoon and fully briefed passengers, advising them of the latest situation.

“Fred Olsen appreciates guests’ understanding and co-operation with these new arrangements. All guests will be compensated for loss of enjoyment and facilities.

Black Watch arrived at the Atlantic island capital of Funchal on Saturday afternoon.

“We hope that Black Watch will be able to undertake her next cruise – a nine-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ cruise from Tilbury on 8th July 2016 – as scheduled,” the company said.

“The safety of all guests and crew on board Black Watch is Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ utmost priority.”