Wednesday, 30 November 2016

MSC says world cruise generating buzz, but will it fill up?

MSC says world cruise generating buzz, but will it fill up?

MSC Magnifica

Filling the 2,250-passenger MSC Magnifica for its first world cruise could pose a challenge for MSC. Most world cruises are on luxury lines such as Silversea Cruises or Cunard Line, not contemporary lines.
None of the U.S.-based contemporary cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International or Norwegian Cruise Line, offer a 119-day cruise like MSC's.
However, Costa Cruises, which competes closely with MSC in the Mediterranean, does offer a world cruise in 2017 on the 92,700-gross-ton Costa Luminosa, which carries about the same number of passengers as the 95,128-gross-ton Magnifica.
Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises North America, said the Magnifica was picked for the world cruise because it is the right size for the ports included on the itinerary.
"The pool has a magrodome -- making the ship ideal for all weather -- and the ship has a high proportion of balcony staterooms," he said.
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Fusaro said adding a world cruise will help MSC gain attention.
"We've already heard a ton of buzz and excitement from our travel agent partners," he said. Clients like the wide range of activities and entertainment and multiple dining options a ship the size of the MSC Magnifica affords, he said.
Another feature that might help MSC fill the Magnifica is a relatively low price. MSC lists a lead-in price for the cruise of $16,999. A 120-day cruise on Cunard Line's 2,014-passenger Queen Elizabeth departing in January has a starting price of $19,998. MSC's price also includes 15 shore excursions.
The 7-year-old MSC Magnifica is scheduled to set off from Genoa, Italy, on Jan. 5, 2019, and sail west until it arrives back in Genoa 119 days later.
Along the way it will stop at 49 destinations in 32 countries and stay four days in French Polynesia, three days in both Hawaii and San Francisco and two days in Los Angeles.
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Following a week in the Mediterranean, the Magnifica will spend five days at sea before reaching the Caribbean in mid-January. It will transit the Panama Canal on Jan. 25 and proceed up the coast of Central America, Mexico and north to San Francisco.
The next month will be spent crossing the Pacific with stops in Hawaii, French Polynesia and Fiji before arriving in New Zealand in mid-March. Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the Maldives precede an April 15 arrival in Dubai. The ship transits the Suez Canal in late April to arrive back in Genoa on May 3.
MSC and its predecessor company, Lauro Lines, have been in the cruise business since 1960, but had never entered the world-cruise derby.
"As one of the world's truly international cruise companies, making available to our guests and travelers from around the globe a product such as a world cruise is a natural progression," said Gianni Onorato, CEO MSC Cruises.

Celebrity Cruises reveals identity of new ships for Dublin and Southampton

Celebrity Cruises reveals identity of new ships for Dublin and Southampton

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Celebrity Eclipse, home porting in Southampton 

Celebrity Cruises has revealed Celebrity Eclipse will become the first ship from a major line to home port in Dublin in 2018 after spending the last eight years sailing out of Southampton.

Solstice-class sister vessel Celebrity Silhouette will replace Eclipse in Southampton, offering northern Europe and Mediterranean itineraries from 2018. The deployment is the most significant ever made in the UK and Ireland by Celebrity Cruises.

Silhouette will sail seven and eight-night Norwegian Fjord sailings, 12 to 14 night Scandinavia and Russia itineraries and 13 to 14 night Mediterranean, Canaries and Azores itineraries.

Jo Rzymowska, vice president and managing director for the UK, Ireland and Asia, said: “The performance of the Celebrity Cruise UK and Ireland business has gone from strength to strength in recent years and we are pleased to be able to grow our offering in the region with both Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Eclipse home porting from here during the 2018 season.

“After speaking with our trade partners we saw this as a great opportunity for us to expand and this is the biggest ever change made to UK and Ireland deployment.”

Rzymowska said Celebrity Eclipse is well known by customers and trade so would build a solid foundation as the line’s first ship sailing out of Dublin.

“Eclipse is a much-loved ship, so by moving her to Dublin we believe some guests will follow, as well as attracting new passengers too.

“Dublin is very popular with our north American guests who have great affinity with the country plus with its upgrades Silhouette can offer an enhanced experienced with sailings out of Southampton.”

Russia sailings on Celebrity Silhouette from Southampton in July 2018 include the chance to attend the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Moscow including the third position match in Saint Petersburg.

During its farewell season in 2017, Celebrity Eclipse will host a special ‘Modern Luxury’ two-night sailing to Le Havre as well as a President’s Cruise attended by the line’s president and chief executive Lisa Lutoff Perlo.

The Solstice-class ships will be joined by two other Celebrity vessels in Europe in 2018.

Celebrity Constellation will sail out of Venice, Rome and Barcelona while Celebrity’s newest ship Reflection will sail out of Rome with eastern and western Mediterranean itineraries. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

AIDAperla Kisses Nagasaki

AIDAperla Kisses Nagasaki

Above image of the AIDAperla, the twelfth ship in AIDA Cruises’ fleet, which has undergone a paint job at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI) shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan. 
Following the completion of the works on the 300-meter long hull of AIDAperla, the newbuilding vessel has now received the mouth and the eyes, the symbols gracing AIDA Cruises’ fleet.
The bow design of the AIDAperla is 261 meters long, according to AIDA Cruises.
Finishing touches to the new ship will follow in the spring of 2017, the company said.
Once completed, the new cruise ship will be able to accommodate 3,300 passengers and 900 crew members.
The AIDAperla is expected to start voyages from September 1, 2017, sailing on four different routes in the Mediterranean Sea.
Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona will be the first and the last ports of call for seven-day voyages.
Apart from Mallorca and Barcelona, the AIDAperla will also visit Corsica, Florence/Livorno and Rome/Civitavecchia.
Image Courtesy: AIDA Cruises

Monday, 28 November 2016

MSC hails strength of UK market as first Seaside ship floated out

MSC hails strength of UK market as first Seaside ship floated out

MSC Cruises has celebrated the ‘float out’ of its newest ship MSC Seaside as UK sales show 'strength'.

The first of the cruise line's new Seaside-class ships transferred from dry to wet dock at the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard in Trieste, Italy, at the weekend.

Speaking at the event, UK managing director Antonio Paradiso said he was pleased with the strong response the operator was already seeing from the British market.

“This is another exciting milestone in our ambitious expansion plans as we see the second of our 11 next-generation ships entering the final stages of her construction.

"MSC Seaside has been specifically designed to provide our guests with a unique onboard experience in warmer regions.

"The UK market is very important and we are delighted with the strength of sales for MSC Seaside so far. The Caribbean continues to be an ever popular destination for UK holidaymakers."

The ship, which will launch in December 2017, will homeport in Miami and complete year round sailing in the Caribbean.

At 323 metres long the ship will feature a maximum capacity of 5,179 guests on completion and is the first of two identical ships in the Seaside generation. Her sister ship MSC Seaview will enter service in spring 2018.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Port Everglades enables mobile customs declaration

Port Everglades enables mobile customs declaration

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Passengers disembarking from cruise ships at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale will be able to use an app on their smartphones to fill out re-entry forms for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Airports, including those in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, already have this feature but Port Everglades will be the only U.S. cruise port to offer it, port director Steve Cernak said.
"An added bonus is that [the system] will be in service in time for the arrivals of Royal Caribbean International's Harmony of the Seas and Holland America Line's Koningsdam," Cernak said.
Port Everglades plans to go live with the service on Nov. 4.
The app is currently available for Apple phones and is expected to be available for Android phones later this month.
Developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnership with the CBP, the app allows U.S. citizens with a passport debarking a cruise ship to complete their customs declaration using their smartphones or other mobile devices, expediting their clearance process in the terminal.
A physical passport or passport card is still required for re-entry.
The Fort Lauderdale port also recently completed pilot testing of the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks in two of its cruise terminals, another CBP initiative to streamline the traveler-screening process.

Carnival Corporation strikes deal to tighten security

Carnival Corporation strikes deal to tighten security

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Carnival Corporation is to strengthen its security procedures through an agreement with international criminal police organisation Interpol.

The deal, claimed as a first for the maritime industry, will see advanced security screening across the group’s 10 brands and fleet of 101 ships that carry almost 11 million passengers a year to more than 700 ports around the world.

Carnival Corporation is to integrate its global passenger check-in process with Interpol's I-Checkit system, a secure method for screening travel document information against its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database, containing more than 69 million records from 175 countries.

The agreement follows a three-month trial of I-Checkit on four Princess Cruises ships which included 34,000 travel documents that were successfully checked against the SLTD database to demonstrate the system's ability to enhance security for the global cruise industry.

I-Checkit will be deployed across Carnival Cruise Line, Fathom, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line and P&O Cruises in the UK and Australia.

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Staff will be able to automatically query the SLTD database before and during the boarding process to see if any travel documents have been reported lost or stolen.

Interpol head of the I-Checkit system Micheal O’Connell said: "With its real-time secure global alert system, criminal intelligence potential and compliance framework, I-Checkit provides an invaluable preventative and investigative capability for global policing.

"I-Checkit's initiative with Carnival Corporation offers an additional layer of safety in the travel sector by creating an international standard for security screening."

Carnival Corporation chief maritime officer Bill Burke – a retired vice admiral of the US Navy – said: "One of our top priorities at Carnival Corporation is the safety and security of our guests, our crew and our ships.

"As the world's largest cruise company carrying hundreds of thousands of daily passengers, having a highly effective and efficient security screening process is a crucial part of how we serve our guests every day.

Partnering with Interpol enables us to seamlessly enhance security across our global fleet while also maintaining our commitment to providing our guests with a great vacation experience.

“This is another important step for our company and industry as we continue taking proactive measures to enhance the safety and security of our passengers and crew members."

San Juan becomes a cruise hot spot

San Juan becomes a cruise hot spot

The Monster zipline at Toro Verde adventure park, at 1.57 miles long, has been certified as the world’s longest by the Guinness Book of Records. 

Blessed with a natural harbor, San Juan has been working on attracting more cruise traffic and is having success with new calls and turnaround operations scheduled from several lines.

One of the most awaited is a visit from Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, in December.

Norwegian Cruise Line has several week long cruises for the Norwegian Gem scheduled from San Juan in November and plans to return to seasonal home porting there from next November to early January 2018.

Windstar Cruises is in its second year of San Juan winter departures, after expanding its fleet in 2014.

Piers 3 and 4 can accommodate up to four large ships at a time, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels.And starting in October, Viking Cruises began regular calls in San Juan, sailing its 930-passenger Viking Star on 10- and 11-day southern Caribbean itineraries.

"We're super-excited about that," said Mari Jo Laborde, chief sales and marketing officer for the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. "It's their first immersion into [Caribbean] sea cruises, and they're doing it out of Puerto Rico." 

San Juan is a traditional gateway to the southern Caribbean because it is well positioned geographically and has the biggest airlift in the Caribbean. Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International have long had seven-day ships in the market. Currently they are the Fascination for Carnival and the Adventure and the Jewel of the Seas for Royal.

In 2014-15, Puerto Rico hosted a record 1.5 million cruise visitors. "It's looking like we're going to break it again in two years, in 2017-18, at 1.6 million," Laborde said, as 2017 visits from Norwegian, Viking and others are added up.

San Juan has been paving the way for new arrivals with improvements to its piers and facilities. 

In 2014, Pier 3 was lengthened for use by Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, including the Harmony. During the recent Florida-Caribbean Cruise Conference, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said that Duty Free Americas would be investing $8 million to add a two-story building at Pier 3 that will offer duty-free shopping, restaurants, galleries and entertainment for arriving passengers.

Four large ships can be docked simultaneously at Pier 3 and the adjacent Pier 4, which is mostly used by Carnival.
Piers 3 and 4 can accommodate up to four large ships at a time, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels.
Piers 3 and 4 can accommodate up to four large ships at a time, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels. 
Once ashore, there are new things to do, Laborde said. An exciting new zipline called the Monster has been added at the Toro Verde adventure park, in Orocovis, about 90 minutes from San Juan by motor coach. The 1.57-mile cable has been certified as the world's longest by the Guinness Book of World Records. The zipline ride costs $135, and the park draws 80% "excellent" reviews on TripAdvisor.

Another new attraction closer to town is the Vivo Beach Club, in San Juan's Isla Verde neighborhood near the airport. "That's been doing very, very well among cruise lines, because they offer packages for passengers to go and spend the day," Laborde said.

A redevelopment of the former Tropimar Beach Club, it features a pool, a beach area, a restaurant and an event space for concerts as well as a microbrewery, Laborde said. She said prices vary by cruise line.

Another arrival in San Juan is the Mall of San Juan, which opened in 2015 and has a lineup of high-end retailers such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, putting it a step above the Plazas las Americas mall.

Also new in the Condado tourist area are several stands that offer bike rentals and stand-up paddleboard tours, Laborde said.

Close to the port is the Bahia Urbana, a redevelopment of some old piers into a park that opened in 2013. Bike rentals are offered by a shop in a condo across the street.
The pool at the Vivo Beach Club, a popular shore excursion in San Juan’s Isla Verde neighborhood.
The pool at the Vivo Beach Club, a popular shore excursion in San Juan’s Isla Verde neighborhood. 
There are also several new places to stay, mostly around the 10-year-old Puerto Rico Convention Center, the largest in the Caribbean. Additions in the last few years include a Hyatt Place and a Hyatt House, which complement a Sheraton that adjoins the convention center building.

"You basically walk to the convention center," Laborde said. "It's so much easier."

The FCCA convention and trade show in September, held for the first time in five years in San Juan, attracted 1,000 delegates and resulted in between 2,500 and 2,700 room nights, with an estimated economic impact of $2 million, Laborde said.

The convention will go to Mexico next year and then return to San Juan from 2018 to 2022. That's a departure for the organization that has previously rotated the event each year around the Caribbean.

"The FCCA is basically changing its strategy," Laborde said.

San Juan's facility affords the show the chance to grow, with an eventual target of 3,000 delegates, Laborde said. Just on hotel bookings alone, Puerto Rico could see an impact of up to $25 million during the four-year run, she said.

By the time the convention returns in 2018, San Juan will also be receiving calls from the 4,140-passenger MSC Seaside. Royal Caribbean also plans more regular visits with its Oasis-class ships, Laborde said.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Royal Caribbean history, as seen through its ship naming's

Royal Caribbean history, as seen through its ship naming's

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Anthem of the Seas Christening 

By Tom Stieghorst 
The Harmony of the Seas christening was as grand as the ship itself, an impressive feat of logistics and technology that took place within the confines of the 226,000-ton behemoth, rather than dockside.

It involved Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd chairman Richard Fain and godmother Brittany Affolter at the aft of the ship in the Aqua Theater, an oversized bottle of champagne rigged to the ship's zipline in the middle of the ship, and somewhere deep down in the innards, a robotic bartender as a relay of Affolter's signal to release the champagne.

Oh, and bagpipers. 

I've come to understand that bagpipers are a Royal Caribbean christening signature. In this case, it was the Dunedin Pipe Band from Dunedin, Fl., doing the honors as part of the warm up entertainment before the christening.

They seemed as out of place as ever on a ship, but also provided a kind of familiarity and continuity that I'm sure is part of the intended effect. If memory serves, bagpipers were part of the first Royal Caribbean christening I witnessed, the 1990 naming of the Nordic Empress at the Port of Miami.

That event was notable chiefly for the grit of the godmother, Miami Sound Machine singer Gloria Estefan, who was still in a back brace recovering from a bus accident while on tour three months earlier.

Royal Caribbean has learned a few things about christenings since then. The dockside Miami Empress event was sweltering in June. With the Harmony, although Royal took delivery in May it sailed the ship in Europe for the summer and then christened it on a picture-perfect evening in November.

Also, when Estefan swung the 77-pound bottle of California sparkling wine into the side of the Empress, it bounced rather than smashed. No second attempt was necessary for the Harmony's French champagne, which exploded on cue.

Twenty-six years after it was christened, the Nordic Empress is sailing alongside Harmony of the Seas from South Florida, now offering 4- and 5-day cruises under the name Empress of the Seas, instead of the 3-and 4-day cruises it started with.

And although inflation has made nearly everything more expensive since 1990, a four-day cruise on the Empress of the Seas in January can be had for as little as $219, plus $100 in taxes, fees and port charges.

In 1990, a four-day cruise on the Nordic Empress started at $615, minus a $100 per person deduction for passengers who didn't need airfare to and from Miami. Port charges ranged from $29 to $32.

Demand and inventory, a delicate balancing act

Demand and inventory, a delicate balancing act

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When you have more bookings than you know what to do with, that's the good kind of problem to have in the travel industry, right?
Well, sort of. No travel company ever wants to have too many empty beds/seats/cabins. But not having enough openings to meet demand, that's a tricky problem too, because that's when you risk losing clients to the competition.

And when demand is a bit in flux, as it currently is in the river cruise market, it's hard to plan for unknown growth and an unknown future. For those watching closely, you may have noticed that shipbuilding momentum has eased up in the river cruise industry. Viking River Cruises is only building two ships next year, down from the six it debuted this year, 12 last and the record 18 the company launched in 2014.

AmaWaterways too is only launching one new vessel each in 2017 and in 2018 (the company typically launches two each year). And Avalon Waterways doesn't have any new ships planned for 2017, after several years of consistently building two or three vessels annually. The shipbuilding frenzy clearly has died down a bit for now, even as some newer players (I'm looking at you, Crystal) have entered the market.

But then there is the issue of pent-up demand following a softer year such as the one the river cruise market just experienced, driven by the terror attacks in Paris and Nice and by high water levels that disrupted some departures. River cruisers who put off the popular travel style in 2016 may now be looking to get onboard in 2017.

Noting pent-up demand from the U.S. market and on the heels of two promising future booking months, AmaWaterways this month announced its 2018 sailings are open for booking. And several other river cruise lines have been promoting their 2018 availability as well. If there really was some pent-up demand as AmaWaterways claims, a shipbuilding slowdown could potentially create a capacity bottleneck that might force river cruise lines to offer up 2018 cabins as an overflow alternative to 2017.

Then again, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This past year was a challenging one, and river cruise lines will likely be happy to simply fill their 2017 inventory at higher capacity levels than they did in 2016. If demand for river cruising returns with a fervor strong enough to have some river cruise lines regretting they didn't put in some additional ship orders, that is a problem they would probably prefer to have over figuring out how to fill empty ships.

Friday, 25 November 2016

ACL's first 'modern' Paddlewheeler to launch in 2019

ACL's first 'modern' Paddlewheeler to launch in 2019

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American Cruise Lines (ACL) has pushed back the expected launch of its more modern fleet of river cruise vessels by two years, to 2019.

Last year, when ACL first laid out plans for a fleet of modern ships for American rivers, they were slated to begin launching in 2017. This month, ACL said that construction is under way on the first of those riverboats, but that it is now expected to debut in 2019. The steel is currently being fabricated for what the company described as a "modern" paddlewheeler that will carry approximately 195 passengers. 

ACL did not provide any additional details about the new vessel, such as where it will sail, but did say that it is being built with the standards of European river cruising in mind and "with a level of comfort unprecedented on the American rivers."

Timothy Beebe, vice president of ACL, said in a statement that by "continually designing and building brand new ships", the company was able to increase the quality of its product. 

Earlier this year, American Cruise Lines launched its eighth ship, the 185-passenger Mississippi paddlewheeler, the America.

ACL has also begun construction on two new coastal cruise ships, with the first expected to launch in May 2017, and the second in 2018.

A rendering of the American Constellation. 

American Cruise Lines said it has two new coastal ships under construction that will carry 170 passengers each.
The first ship, the American Constellation, is expected to begin cruising in May. The second ship, yet unnamed, is scheduled for completion in 2018.
The summer inaugural season will be devoted to a new 10-night round-trip itinerary from Boston to destinations including Bar Harbor, Newport, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Both ships are being built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., which is affiliated with American Cruise Lines. The design includes marbled tile bathrooms and large sliding glass doors in each cabin. 

Gate 1 quietly enters river cruise fray

Gate 1 quietly enters river cruise fray

Gate 1 Travel launched the 144-passenger Monarch Empress earlier this year. 

Earlier this year, Gate 1 Travel did something few escorted tour operators do: It built its own river cruise ship.

While tour operator conglomerates, companies like The Travel Corporation and The Globus Family of Brands, long ago added river cruise lines to their brand mix, smaller tour operators have generally steered clear from investing in their own vessels.

But this past spring, Gate 1 Travel launched the 144-passenger Monarch Empress on the Danube River, the company's first European river cruise ship which it built and is operated solely by Gate 1. Constructed in 2015, it embarked on its inaugural sailing on April 3, 2016.

The Monarch Empress has a subdued elegance to it, with some faux-antique furnishings alongside slightly more modern pops of color. The cabins range in size from 140 to 210 square fee each and 80% have French balconies. The public areas include a bar and lounge area, a sundeck with a putting green, a library, a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a fitness center, and an elevator between the second and third decks. There is also WiFi throughout ship, an in-house musician and a 24/7 tea and coffee station.

And for 2017, Gate 1 is increasing its river cruise capacity by adding two privately chartered ships to is lineup, the 144-passenger Monarch Queen and 144-passenger Monarch Baroness. These sister ships were built in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

"We acknowledge that vessel ownership is a major investment in both capital and time," said Marty Seslow, vice president of sales and marketing for Gate 1. "Therefore, we decided our best strategic approach was to build the Monarch Empress as our premier offering, while also offering itineraries aboard fully chartered ships." 

Seslow said that the Monarch Empress was built by the Teamco Shipyard in Heusden, Holland.

The Monarch Empress and the Monarch Baroness will sail along Holland's waterways in spring 2017. After spring, the Monarch Empress and the Monarch Queen will sail the Danube River between Regensburg and Budapest, and the Monarch Baroness will sail Germany's Rhine River between Basel and Amsterdam.

The two new charters represent a 50% increase in river cruise inventory for Gate 1 Travel and the company said that two-thirds of its river cruise inventory is already booked for next year. Consequently, Gate 1 Travel has already opened up its 2018 river bookings.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

MSC Cruise; Not just any cruise

MSC Cruise; Not just any cruise

Not just any cruise

MSC Cruises has evolved its branding to reflect its commitment to delivering the details that matter to its guests. Chief marketing Officer Riccardo Casalino tells Rebecca Gibson more
Not just any cruise
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

Swiss-based operator MSC Cruises is in the midst of a €9 billion, 10-year expansion that will see it launch 11 next-generation smart cruise ships between 2017 and 2026. This will include three Seaside Class, two Meraviglia Class, two Meraviglia Plus Class, and four LNG-powered World Class ships.

In addition, the world’s largest privately owned and fourth-largest cruise company is involved in a US$200 million to build a private marine reserve in the Bahamas as part of its strategy to become a significant player in the Caribbean. Named Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the exclusive island will feature a traditional Bahamian village, restaurants and bars offering local specialities, a 2,000-seat open-air amphitheatre, shops, watersports facilities, beaches, a lagoon, a zip wire crossing the island, and a spa sanctuary for MSC Yacht Club guests.

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To aid this planned growth and generate worldwide interest in its enhanced cruise offering, MSC Cruises aims to showcase the world-class facilities on the island resort and the new innovations onboard its newbuilds to as many consumers and travel agents as possible.

Developing a marketing campaign that not only captivates global audiences, but is also tailored to appeal to the varied tastes of consumers in different passenger markets requires meticulous planning. According to chief marketing officer Riccardo Casalino, MSC Cruises considers several factors when developing its national and international marketing campaigns.

“We start by assessing the industry landscape, then move on to studying our target groups and carrying out proper brand equity and positioning work, and eventually, we plan and execute the marketing programme,” he explains. “New digital technologies have deeply influenced the first three phases, while platforms such as social media have fundamentally reshaped how we execute our promotional campaigns for different passenger demographics and markets.”

In January 2015, MSC Cruises began a year-long global consumer research study to determine the success of its existing marketing campaigns, as well as loyal and prospective guests’ perceptions of its cruise offering and core brand qualities. The line commissioned research agencies TNS and IPSOS to carry out nearly 3,000 hours of interviews with consumers in MSC’s key markets, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK and US. Insights from the interviews indicated that both loyal and prospective guests perceived the MSC cruise experience as ‘distinctly more elegant, professional and more reliable’ than the experiences offered by other cruise lines.

This January, MSC Cruises launched a new, €65 million global marketing and multimedia advertising campaign: ‘Not just any cruise’. Moving away from its prior emphasis on ‘The Mediterranean Way of Life’, the latest promotional campaign highlights what MSC considers as its ability to master the tiny details that create an exclusive cruise and holiday experience.

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“We evolved our global brand positioning and created a new promotional and advertising campaign to showcase the many ways in which MSC Cruises truly is a master of the seas run by a family with 300 years of maritime experience,” says Casalino. “Our ‘Not just any cruise’ brand positioning is now even closer to how our passengers already perceive us: an elegant, competent cruise line offering total luxury to its guests.”

MSC Cruises kicked off its new international ‘Not just any cruise’ campaign with a series of three TV commercials in key European markets, including Germany, Italy, France and Spain. In total, the company pledged a €19 million investment in advertising the brand and its cruise experience in Germany, €15 million in Italy and €6 million in both France and Spain.

Created by Oscar-nominated British film director Daniel Barber, the international TV commercials are set to an exclusive soundtrack written by longstanding MSC partner and Italian composer Ennio Morricone. The three adverts – Drop, Note and Tomato – highlight the key elements that MSC Cruises believes differentiate its ships, onboard experience, itineraries and shore excursions from every other cruise brand. Footage in the clips show guests relaxing in luxurious accommodation, testing out the water slides and swimming pools, enjoying the food, onboard entertainment and other hospitality services.

Later this summer, MSC Cruises plans to air different TV commercials featuring the same ‘Not just any cruise’ tagline, but with specific messaging targeted towards guests in North America.

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“MSC Cruises’ maritime skills and ability to offer hospitality at sea are unmatched, while our exclusive partnerships with multiple world-leading brands, such as Cirque du Soleil, LEGO, Samsung and Technogym, as well as our collaborations with various esteemed Michelin-starred chefs elevate the onboard experience,” says Casalino. “Our marketing campaign certainly shows guests worldwide why MSC Cruises offers the best possible cruise experience.”

WeSwap breaks records in £2.4 million crowdfunding campaign

WeSwap breaks records in £2.4 million crowdfunding campaign

WeSwap breaks records in £2.4 million crowdfunding campaign

The world’s first peer-to-peer currency exchange has raised more than £2.4 million through crowdfunding, breaking the UK record for investors in a single campaign.
London-based WeSwap closed its recent funding round on Seedrs on Sunday night, bringing in £2,420,269.
Almost 3,000 investors – including tennis world number one Andy Murray – have backed the company since October 26.
The start-up also closed a second round of VC funding in July 2016, totalling £6.5million, in a round led by Ascot Capital Partners, EC1 Capital and IW Capital.
Jared Jesner, WeSwap’s founder and CEO says: “The aim of WeSwap’s crowdfunding was to make as many of the public – people who use travel money abroad every year – part-owners of the company. We want all our investors to help shape the future of the travel money industry and attracting such high levels of support is really encouraging ahead of a year of international growth.
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“There is clearly huge appetite for more transparency in the currency exchange market.
“By setting a new record for the number of investors in a Seedrs’ campaign, WeSwap has achieved its number one goal of being The People’s Currency Exchange.”
Ben Aronsten, Chief Marketing Officer at Seedrs added: “It has been very exciting to see how engaged the WeSwap community has been in supporting this fundraising activity and helping the company exceed its £1m target before the campaign had even opened to the public.”

Fathom to lose only ship as Adonia rejoins P&O fleet

Fathom to lose only ship as Adonia rejoins P&O fleet

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Small ship Adonia is to rejoin the P&O Cruises fleet in 2017 after just a year operating for US-based social impact sister brand Fathom.

Parent company Carnival Corporation confirmed that the 710-passenger vessel would be returning to Southampton-based P&O Cruises for next summer.

Adonia moved across to Fathom in May to launch the first US departures from Miami to Cuba in more than 50 years.

The ship was revamped during a period in dry dock in the Bahamas and has also been running alternate seven-day cruises to the Dominican Republic, using Amber Cove, Carnival Corporation’s dedicated port on the north of the Caribbean island.

The corporation announced earlier in the month that social impact excursions pioneered by Fathom brand in the Dominican Republic are to be extended to six of the group’s other cruise lines including P&O Cruises.

The shore trips include helping at a women's’ chocolate-making co-operative and at a craft-making business using recycled paper.

The company said at the time that it was also exploring additional opportunities globally and with sister brands to bring the Fathom concept on board and on shore to deliver “engaging, purposeful experiences” to a broader audience of travellers.

A spokesman said last night: “The Fathom experience has been expanded across our many Carnival Corporation brands sailing to the Dominican Republic and beyond, and the Adonia is being scheduled to sail in the UK for the summer season for our P&O guests.”

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Fathom (P&O Adonia) visiting Cuba

Carnival Corporation has requested approval from Cuba to sail there with other brands from June 2017.

The spokesman said: “We plan to continue sailing to Cuba for many years to come based on the success of our first cruises to the country, which have proven extremely successful.

“Fathom continues to receive some of the highest ratings in the company based on guest surveys, and we hope to expand the Fathom experience to other markets in the future.”

However, demand for Fathom’s Cuba cruises outstripped interest for the Dominican Republic sailings.

Prices for sailings to Amber Cove have been discounted from $449 to $299 for an outside cabin for departures up until May 21, 2017, while the lowest priced Cuba sailings currently cost $999 for an inside cabin.

P&O Cruises senior vice president Paul Ludlow said: "The Fathom experience has been expanded across our many Carnival Corp brands sailing to the Dominican Republic and beyond and we are extremely pleased to have Adonia, our well loved small ship, here for our guests beginning with the summer season, sailing a range of discovery itineraries."

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

1st Celebrity ships in new class to be named Edge and Beyond

1st Celebrity ships in new class to be named Edge and Beyond

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Celebrity Edge steel cutting ceremony

 Celebrity Cruises has named two new ships being built for 2018 and 2020: Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Beyond.
They will be the first two ships in a new class. Two additional Edge-class ships are due in 2021 and 2022.
It will be Celebrity's first new ship class since the debut of Celebrity Solstice in 2008. There are five Solstice-class ships (Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection).
Celebrity and shipyard STX France cut the first steel for the Celebrity Edge this week.

How Virgin can really shake up the cruise industry

How Virgin can really shake up the cruise industry

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First, a bias reveal: I have long been a fan of Richard Branson and the Virgin brand. Although we have never met, I have great admiration for the way he does business and the manner in which he takes responsibility for sharing some of his financial success. I also think Virgin has generally been unwilling to accept the fact that new travel products must be designed with tradition in mind. Branson is willing to break the mold.

I remember my first flight on Virgin Australia out of Los Angeles. As we were seated, a total of five crew members walked, one by one, up to each guest seated in business class, personally introduced themselves, shared a bit of their background, talked for a moment or two about our travel plans and then each, in a slightly different way, explained that, "I want this to be the very best flight you've ever taken. Please let me know if there is anything at all that we can do to assure that happens."
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After that process was complete, the second officer came around and did the same. Before takeoff, passengers in our cabin were convinced that they were going to be traveling with a flight crew that truly cared about their comfort.

So when Virgin announced in June 2015 that it was, at long last, entering the cruise business, I sat up and took notice. This could be among the biggest thrill rides that those who write about the industry are going to ever experience. All the rules are out the window. Or so it seemed.

Virgin always manages to position itself as the upstart, the underdog, the David up against a galaxy of Goliaths. 

There was evil British Airways to be fought in epic battles on its home turf, a domestic battle pitting the upstart against American, Delta and United and record labels to be challenged.

Now, Virgin is taking on the cruise Goliaths on their home turf, announcing that its first ship will be placed in, of all places, Miami, aka the lion's den.

To lead his new army, Branson tapped the estimable talents of Tom McAlpin, who helped launch Disney Cruise Line and served as CEO of the World, a luxury condo ship. Each of those, in different ways, was a highly successful product that was unconventional on a number of levels. 

I will always remember my first evening on the Disney Magic. It was the captain's cocktail party, and he walked down a huge stairway to greet the waiting passengers. This was only unusual because the captain linked arms as he descended with his date for the evening, Snow White. 

A few hours later, I was with my family in the gift shop when the calm was broken by a huge chipmunk running through the premises, chased by Captain Hook.

Later, on the World, I observed a ship that normally sailed at under 50% capacity. On my sailing, it was about one-third full. Every stateroom and apartment was cleaned each day by a smiling staff. There were times aboard that ship when I felt I was the only guest. And no one cared, because the World is always sold out and fully invested. Again, not exactly your typical cruise product.

So Branson and McAlpin -- what would they produce? How off the charts would the Virgin Cruises product be?

It was very clear from the beginning that this would not be what I call "a teaser launch," offering morsels of design hype every few weeks. Virgin has clearly taken the position that secrecy has its virtues. You can read things into the plans but the overall approach was, I think, best summarized by an interview Branson gave to the Miami Herald in which he said he didn't much like cruising, so he would try to design an experience that he could personally enjoy.

"A lot of the things I've heard is that you get onto cruise ships and you've got these massive rooms, big buffets and you feel a little bit like you're cattle or sheep being herded on or off," he said. "We think we can create something that is really fun."
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Virgin Cruises did something unusual soon after its launch announcement, implying that it had no specific plans and would be starting with "a blank page." It immediately set up a website and asked travelers how it should establish a cruise line that might really appeal to those dedicated to the fun ethic and might have been put off by traditional, big-ship cruising. 

So all we knew, for 18 months, was that Virgin Cruises was collecting feedback, and this feedback was coming at them from people they didn't know, rather than the usual run of industry consultants.

Last month, McAlpin hosted a press event at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, where new details would be provided to a travel media eager for specifics.

In his typically over-the-top manner, Branson made his appearance onstage dressed as a somewhat loopy cabana boy, serving dancers some cocktails. When that was over, the more serious non-news was announced.

Fincantieri, the Italian shipyard, would be cutting steel for the first of three 2,700-passenger ships in February. The first would be delivered in 2020, with the next two arriving in subsequent years. But we already knew this. So what was the purpose of the press conference?

Ah, but then things took a turn as Branson took on the Goliaths in Miami Beach. "The name 'cruise' is pretty awful, so I don't like that," he proclaimed from under his wide-brimmed summer hat and shades. He then announced that Virgin would shake up the cruise industry, and it would start by removing the word "cruise" from its moniker, renaming the company Virgin Voyages. It now falls to Virgin to delineate the differences between a cruise and a voyage.

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There are a few things I will be looking for as the product is finally defined:
  • I expect that itineraries will not be set in stone, that captains will be able to make some at-sea choices as to where to dock or anchor, lending elements of surprise to every itinerary.
  • Look for a fair number of private-island stops where Virgin land parties will top anything else in the Caribbean.
  • Look for a younger demographic with lots of options rather than prebooked arrangements.
  • The ships should have youth-oriented stores, coffee bars and music lounges tied in to the Virgin Records brand.
  • They should be the most high-tech ships at sea, with major refinements in WiFi hot spots, meals that can be ordered on iPads and an onboard app that will enable guests to completely control their on-board reservations and service experience.
  • It would not surprise me to see major onboard partnerships with firms like Apple, Uber or Airbnb.
  • Look for entirely new approaches to food and drink, not appealing strictly to millennials but more to Gen-Xers who feel that the cruise experience is too much like a vacation for their parents. Instead of huge dining halls, I see smaller venues, craft beers, organic onboard gardens, authentic street foods in a stroll-and-graze environment and serious ethnic cuisine.
  • I am looking for design-your-own shore excursions that tend to avoid the same old Caribbean port tours while emphasizing "Wow! I never thought I'd try this" experiences like skydiving, hang gliding and snorkeling off private islands.
  • I am not expecting an all-inclusive onboard experience, as I believe Virgin wants to be price-competitive while trying to exceed the onboard spend statistics of its rivals. By giving adult fun-seekers attractive onshore options geared toward the active traveler, it might occupy a unique niche.
Of course, if Virgin really wants to think outside the box, it might consider becoming the first line to require that bookings be made with the assistance of a travel consultant, endearing it to the industry, possibly ensuring full ships and saving considerable cost for in-house reservations staffing. But I doubt even Virgin Voyages will think that far outside the box.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Thomson Cruises adds Guatemala to winter programme

Thomson Cruises adds Guatemala to winter programme

Thomson Cruise ship (the shadow is of MSC Poesia); photo by Dave Jones

by Phil Davies
Guatemala is being introduced together with more Cuba calls in an expanded Caribbean programme by Thomson Cruises for winter 2017-18.

Three ships will be based in the region including Thomson Celebration moving to a new homeport of La Romana in the Dominican Republic.

All-inclusive ships Tui Discovery and new addition Tui Discovery 2 will join Thomson Celebration and will sail out of Bridgetown, Barbados and Montego Bay, Jamaica respectively.

Thomson Celebration’s move to the Dominican Republic opens more opportunities to combine cruises with beach stays, with the new Sensatori Resort Punta Cana among properties added to the portfolio.

The port of Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala is introduced on new Tui Discovery 2 itinerary, as well as Nassau in The Bahamas as part of re-positioning sailing.

The number of Cuban sailings on the new ship will be increased, giving passengers more chance to explore Havana during overnight stops.

Other destinations include St Lucia, Grenada and Antigua, St Maarten and Martinique.

Tui Discovery will sail on two new itineraries from Barbados, which include calls St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The cruises will be served by new regional Thomson Airways flights from Cardiff, Doncaster Sheffield, East Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle and Stansted in addition to Birmingham, Manchester and Gatwick.

Thomson Dream will move to its new homeports of Santa Cruz, Tenerife and Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in November 2017.

Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit will both embark on their last sailings in November 2017 from Malaga and Limassol respectively before they leave the fleet.

The winter 2017 programme goes be on sale from Thursday (November 17).

Free all-inclusive upgrades are available on selected cruises on board Thomson Celebration, Thomson Dream, Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit which set sail between November 2017 and April 2018. Tui Discovery and Tui Discovery 2 offer all-inclusive packages as standard.

Thomson Cruises managing director Richard Sofer said: “We’re really excited about the introduction of the Dominican Republic as Thomson Celebration’s base for next winter.

“This is the first time we’ll have had three ships in the Caribbean and that means we can continue to offer more choice and flexibility to our customers, who we know are looking more and more for holidays further afield.”