Friday, 30 December 2016

World's biggest cruise ship helps boost Puerto Rico tourism

World's biggest cruise ship helps boost Puerto Rico tourism

Image result for harmony of the seas in Puerto Rico
Harmony of the Seas

SAN JUAN (AP) -- The world's biggest cruise ship has docked in Puerto Rico for the first time as the U.S. territory reports a boost in tourism amid an economic crisis.
Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas arrived Wednesday in the historic district of the capital of San Juan. The ship can carry up to 6,700 passengers and 2,300 crew members.
The arrival follows an $8 million port renovation.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says Puerto Rico expects to welcome a record 1.7 million cruise ship passengers next year.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' Frank Del Rio

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' Frank Del Rio

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Norwegian Sky will cruise from Cuba.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio has been seeking permission for his U.S.-based cruise ships to dock in Cuba for over a year. On Dec. 7, the Cuban-born Del Rio was called to Havana to sign agreements that finally enable all three of the company's brands to sail there next year. He spoke with senior editor Tom Stieghorst about the process.

Q: Were you aware when you were down there that the other cruise lines had also been approved?
Frank Del Rio
Frank Del Rio
A: I was pulling into the terminal building where the signing ceremony was taking place, and as I was pulling up with my driver and my team, [Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. president and COO] Adam Goldstein was walking out with his team and we exchanged pleasantries as we always do, congratulated each other and had a good laugh about it.

Q: So you almost had a CLIA quorum?

A: Adam even mentioned that. He said, "Frank, I understand there's a CLIA meeting today," so that was one of the reasons we had a good laugh.

Q: What building were you in and who were your Cuban counterparts?

A: Oh, there's too many to mention, and they may not want us to mention them, but the ceremony took place at the terminal building where the cruise ships actually tie up. It's a very nice building. As I told the officials there, I think that terminal facility is as nice a facility as any in the world, certainly the premier one in the Caribbean basin and Central America that I've been to, at least. 

Q: Do you plan to visit other ports besides Havana?

A: We do, but not in this first round that covered 10 sailings of the three brands through May 31. 

Q: Do you have any insight as to why the Cubans acted now? 

A: I don't. I think one could speculate. Is it because Fathom pulled out? Is it because of the rhetoric around president-elect Trump's views on Cuba? It could hypothetically mean that after some time Cuban authorities felt comfortable with additional cruise lines. I didn't ask. I don't really care. I'm just happy as all can be that we're finally in.

Q: Will this be too much at once? Is there anything that concerns you about the infrastructure arrangements?

A: No, on both counts. Because of the infrastructure limitations, the maximum number of vessels in Havana at any given point in time are two: a mid-size vessel like a Sky or a Marina, for example in our case, and one smaller ship, like an Oceania R ship or Regent Mariner. So the number of cruise guests who can be in Havana at any given time is in the 2,500 to 2,700 range. Havana's a large city. Cuba handles over 3 million tourists a year. So I don't see that as a burden whatsoever. 

Q: Will your shore-excursion department plan the people-to-people program? Do you have someone in Cuba that can help?

A: Both. I don't see the shore excursions that we would offer in Cuba to be significantly different than the ones we provide when we go to any major historical metropolitan area. Whether it's Rome or Istanbul or St. Petersburg, Russia, our target customer, especially for the upscale brands, isn't going to the beach when they go to the Greek islands; they aren't necessarily going to the beach when they go to Hawaii. They're looking for experiences, they're looking for cultural exchanges, they're looking to visit museums and things of that nature. That's a lot of what Havana has to offer.

10 Cruise Ship New-Builds to Look Forward to in 2017

10 Cruise Ship New-Builds to Look Forward to in 2017

10 Cruise Ship New-Builds to Look Forward to in 2017
MSC Seaside, Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises, Credit: Ivan Sarfatti

Seabourn Encore
Technically, Seabourn's new Seabourn Encore has already launched, but its official inaugural sailing is scheduled for January 7, 2017, making it the first in the new year. The 600-guest ship will have all the luxuries of the preceding Odyssey-class and more thanks to a slightly larger design.
Viking Sky
Viking Cruises will continue its rapid expansion with the launch of its third oceangoing vessel, the Viking Sky. The award-winning ocean brand is already making waves with a stunning set of luxurious hardware features paired with excellent service software that will be reprised in February 2017.
Norwegian Joy
Also coming online in February 2017 is Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Joy for the Chinese outbound market. While it is not slated for North American travelers, we’re hoping its unprecedented go-kart racetrack on deck will make its way to the next Breakaway Plus-class ship, the Norwegian Bliss, coming to Alaska in 2018.
Silver Muse
Plussing the current flagship Silver Spirit’s design will be Silversea Cruises new Silver Muse in April 2017. Hallmark features of the luxury line will return while several additional restaurant options are introduced such as dedicated Asian and seafood dining, as well as an expanded pizzeria.
MSC Meraviglia
One of two separate prototypes being constructed for MSC Cruises, the MSC Meraviglia will set sail in June 2017. The “ship for all seasons” will highlight a 262-foot synthetic LED sky above an interior promenade and showcase Cirque du Soleil performances in the Carousel Lounge.
National Geographic Quest
Not all the new ships are of the mega variety as Lindblad Expeditions will welcome the National Geographic Quest in June 2017 beginning expedition cruises in Alaska. The ship will cater to only 100 guests with 24 kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling equipment and zodiacs for adventuring.
Viking Sun
Not slowing up at all, Viking Cruises will again launch the fourth of six planned ocean sister-ships, the Viking Sun, in October 2017. This one will almost immediately set out on the line’s first-ever 141-day world cruise from Miami, Florida to London, England starting on December 15, 2017.
MSC Seaside
MSC Cruises other new prototype ship, the MSC Seaside, is being specifically constructed for warm-weather cruising year-round from Miami, Florida. It will begin sailing from its homeport in December 2017 with an expansive water park and wraparound al fresco boardwalk.
Majestic Princess
The second ship next year dedicated to the Chinese outbound market will be Princess Cruises’ new Majestic Princess in late 2017. Already making changes from its earlier sisters, the ship will sport a French bistro in place of the Crooners lounge, a modification that might make its way to the fourth Royal-class ship as well.
Flying Clipper
When Star Clippers’ new Flying Clipper launches in late 2017, it will be one of the smallest vessels to come out next year, but it will also be the largest square-rigged sailing ship. It will carry 300 guests within its 8,770 tons.

Top Reason to Cruise is Value for Money

Top Reason to Cruise is Value for Money

The top reason for choosing an ocean cruise is value for money, according to new trade research.

Clia’s first Travel Agent Research Panel Questionnaire found the value of a cruise was ranked first, ahead of itineraries and standards of services. More than 75% of respondents said customers spent more on ocean cruising in 2016.

High standards of dining and promotional offers were ranked fourth and fifth as key reasons in choosing an ocean cruise.

Clia surveyed just under 100 agencies from the high street and online, as well as homeworkers.

Almost 75% of agents said the industry had grown in the past year, the biggest increase being sales from couples, followed by families.

The survey’s results were released at Clia’s cruise forum in Windsor this week, where it also announced that Royal Caribbean’s vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Stuart Leven, will succeed Lynn Narraway, managing director of Holland America Line and Seabourn, as chairman of the association.

Andy Harmer, director of Clia UK and Ireland, said: “I don’t think it’s a surprise that customers are choosing cruise for value for money.

“People are more conscious of not only a holiday’s price, but what they spend during the trip.

“More people want to go all-inclusive. Cruise is the best value for money because so much is included.”

Phil Evans, managing director of agency Cruise Nation, said: “Consumers take everything into account including spending and activities. This is why families are a massive, growing market segment.”

The key factor in customers choosing a river cruise was destination, followed by standards of service and value for money.

Royal Caribbean seeking lifeguards

Royal Caribbean seeking lifeguards

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Royal Caribbean International has put a help-wanted ad for lifeguards on its website, according Cruise Law News
The report features a screen shot of an ad entitled "Posting: Lifeguard Staff" that says the applicant would monitor swimming pools, the H2O Zone, Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions. It said the job is a 1.5 stripe officer position within the Marine Department and would report to the Lifeguard Supervisor.
Asked about the posting, Royal Caribbean said the company does not have anything to announce at this time.
Currently, Disney is the only cruise line that staffs lifeguards at pools. Other lines have said guests swim at their own risk, the same policy adopted by many resorts and hotels.
Several children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on cruise ships in recent years, leading critics to question the industry's pool safety practices. In June, an 8-year-old boy was pulled from the pool on Anthem of the Seas after being submerged for eight to 10 minutes, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. He died two days later.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

MSC Cruises Finalizes Two-Ship Construction Contract with STX France

MSC Cruises Finalizes Two-Ship Construction Contract with STX France

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STX France and MSC Cruises have announced they have finalized the contracts for two new 177,000-ton cruise ships for MSC.
The two next-generation ships will be the largest ever built for a European cruise line.
Delivery is scheduled for 2019 and 2020, respectively.
The ships will be known as the “Meraviglia-Plus” class, an evolution of the smaller 167,000 GRT “Meraviglia” class. The first of two “Meraviglia” ships are scheduled to enter into service in June 2017. The will have capacity for 6,300 passengers in 2,450 cabins.
“I am extremely pleased to see us continuing to deliver against our industrial plan with the coming into force of the final contract for the two “Meraviglia-Plus” ships,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises. “I view this as a further reflection of the strength of the relationship in place from day one between MSC Cruises and STX France. It is for this reason that, in addition to having built at STX France all twelve of our existing ships, through 2026 up to eight more are currently planned to be built in France at STX.”
MSC Cruises said the two units finalized this week are part of the company’s €9 billion investment plan for eleven new next-generation cruise ships to coming into service by 2026

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Innovations keep Norwegian sailing as it celebrates 50 years

Innovations keep Norwegian sailing as it celebrates 50 years

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart, second from right, with passengers on a mid-1990s sailing in Hawaii.

Fifty years ago, a new name in travel was launched, along with a new concept for a vacation.

The first voyage of Norwegian Caribbean Line (now Norwegian Cruise Line) marked the birth of the regularly scheduled Caribbean leisure cruise. 

It was impossible to anticipate the outlines of today's cruise industry in that beginning. 
A 1968 ad for the Sunward, with a seven-day price starting at $175.
A 1968 ad for the Sunward, with a seven-day price starting at $175.
The line's first ship, the Sunward, was a converted ferry of 8,666 tons that carried 558 passengers and offered none of the modern amenities or luxuries associated with cruising.

But after that first voyage on Dec. 19, 1966, travelers would begin flocking to the Caribbean, and travel agents would find a new source of income.

"I don't think we would be talking about cruising today like we are had they not had that idea to be in cruising in the Caribbean 50 years ago," said Brad Anderson, co-owner of Avoya Travel.
To mark the line's 50th anniversary, Travel Weekly asked some agents to recall memorable moments in Norwegian's history, events that were significant or shaped the line that passengers know today.
Norwegian was a pioneer in many areas of developing the cruise product. It was the first to have a private island, in the Bahamas, the first to package cruises with included airfare and the first to create a department for corporate and incentive sales.

It daringly bought the liner France for use in the Caribbean in 1979 but floundered until its acquisition in 2000 by what was then Star Cruises, now Genting Hong Kong.

It was the acquisition by an Asian line that led to what travel agents said was the most significant development in Norwegian's history: the advent of Freestyle Cruising on the Norwegian Sky in 2000.

"Freestyle Cruising really was a turning point for [Norwegian]," said Rich Skinner, president of Cruise Holidays of Woodinville, Wash.

Significant milestones in Norwegian Cruise Line history

1966: First voyage of Norwegian Caribbean Line from Miami on Dec. 19.

1979: The France bought and converted to the Norway at a cost of $100 million.

2000: Company acquired by Star Cruises; Freestyle Cruising developed.

2005: Interisland cruises in Hawaii launched by NCL America.

2013: The company, now called Norwegian Cruise Line, goes public.

2014: Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises join Norwegian under Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The decade preceding the sale had not been auspicious. Norwegian was weighed down by debt dating to the $80 million conversion of the France into the Norway.
It acquired Royal Viking Line and Royal Cruise Line to no great advantage. There were layoffs, a revolving door in the executive suite and a scattershot marketing message. Norwegian also faced two dynamic competitors in Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

After Star Cruises completed its purchase in February 2000, there were immediate discussions about how to differentiate the brand, said Andy Stuart, then Norwegian's vice president of sales, now the line's president and CEO.

Star Cruises chairman KT Lim, having sailed on Western-style cruises in the early 1990s, decided that the rigid, two-seating dining format wouldn't work in Asia because his customers would not show up on schedule, Stuart said.

Star's dining was flexible, and Norwegian studied it and then opted to adopt it as a point of difference for its line.

"The operations team believed they could execute it on the existing fleet," Stuart said. "And then the opportunity was [that] we would have the ability to design ships for it on a go-forward basis."

The idea almost sank at first on the Sky, Stuart said, because no one had prepared the guests.
The  Norway, acquired in 1979, was advertised by Norwegian Cruise Line as a $100 million resort.
The Norway, acquired in 1979, was advertised by Norwegian Cruise Line as a $100 million resort.
"It was all based on the existing marketing, which was about first- and second-seat dining and so forth," he said.

After a near-riot on the first cruise, Stuart said, guests were given the option of either set dining times or showing up when they liked.

"People started to take advantage of the new freedom and flexibility," he said. "While people I don't think knew Freestyle Cruising was what they wanted, once they were presented with the option, with the right tone, they were thrilled. And so was born the new experience."

Agents said Freestyle is clearly Norwegian's identity now.

Regent Seven Seas to commemorate silver anniversary

When the company turns 25 next year, Randall Soy, executive vice president for sales and marketing, will be one of the few employees who has been with it since the beginning. Read More
Ross Spalding, president of Crown Cruise Vacations, Princeton, N.J., said, "The creation of Freestyle Cruising has not only changed the thought of cruising from 'my grandparents' vacation' to one the entire family can enjoy but also to one that lets me spend my vacation as I would like to, with whom I'd like to, doing what I would like to."

Spalding and Rob Clabbers, president of Q Cruises + Travel in Chicago, also cited the creation of the high-end Haven enclave on many Norwegian ships as another milestone.

"It is a popular option for people who want to have a more upscale experience while still enjoying the amenities of a big ship," Clabbers said.

Norwegian's cultivation of cruises in Hawaii, starting in 2005, also stands out to Clabbers. 

"It brought us new clients who wanted to explore multiple Hawaiian islands from the convenience of a modern cruise ship," Clabbers said.

While the initial three ships in Hawaii proved too ambitious, Norwegian remains the only major cruise line in the market with the Pride of America.
Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, said that the 2011 introduction of the Partners First program, coupled with de-emphasizing direct sales, has been a key to Norwegian's growing popularity with travel agents.

He cited the Breakaway class of ship as "a demonstrable jump up, and creative on many fronts."
An ad from 1981 for Norwegian Caribbean Line’s four ships.
An ad from 1981 for Norwegian Caribbean Line’s four ships.
"Finally," he said, "I think the appointment of Andy Stuart as president and now CEO was as applauded a move as any in the industry. A longtime veteran of [the company]gets his shot and has done a great job."

Avoya's Anderson said a largely forgotten milestone for Norwegian was its development of homeports outside of Miami, including Houston where it pioneered "Texaribbean" cruises in 1997, and Seattle, where it based a ship for Alaska cruises for the first time in 2000.

Anderson said his first personal memory of a Norwegian ship came touring the Skyward more than 30 years ago.

"I remember thinking, 'This looks like a lot of fun, and I want to sell more of it,'" Anderson said. "The ship looked gorgeous. Today, obviously, she would look pretty tiny. But back then, 10,000 or 20,000 tons looked pretty big."

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Carnival Splendor To Make Drastic Move To P&O In 2019

Carnival Splendor To Make Drastic Move To P&O In 2019

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Carnival Splendor will be transferred to P&O Australia 

Carnival Cruise Line has just revealed that its vessel, Carnival Splendor, will be transferred to P&O Cruises Australia in late 2019.
The move is to boost guest capacity and maintain the line’s growth in the Australian market. The 113,000gt Carnival ship is 50% larger than P&O’s biggest ship and will accommodate 3,000 guests.
P&O Cruises Australia president, Sture Myrmell, stated: ‘Welcoming a transformed and renamed Carnival Splendor to the P&O Cruises’ fleet in 2019 on the back of the addition of Pacific Explorer in mid 2017 cements our position as Australia’s leading cruise line and the only true home grown Australia brand’.
‘In four years P&O Cruises will have doubled capacity by welcoming four ships- Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden and Pacific Explorer as well as the additional ship in 2019- as part of the remarkable evolution of the brand’.
A newbuild originally designed for P&O Cruises Australia will now join the Carnival fleet as the third in its Vista Class whilst Carnival Splendor will be transformed into P&O Cruises Australia.
Myrmell continues: ‘We benefit from being part of a global organisation with a worldwide fleet of cruise ships that ensure we have the flexibility to make the most of opportunities in our region and to adjust our strategies accordingly. Having reviewed the market, we believe a 3,000 passenger ship is the right sized ship for the P&O fleet to drive further sustained growth in our market.’
P&O Cruises Australia hopes that Carnival Splendor will enable it to maintain its position as the region’s largest and longest-serving cruise operator.
Before joining the fleet, Carnival Splendor will be refurbished ‘to reflect the P&O look-and-feel and build in the experiences core to our offering’, Myrmell said. And while P&O’s desire to grow its position in an increasingly competitive market was the core reason for the change in plans, Myrmell has further stated that other longer term factors could not be ignored in the recent market review.
Carnival Splendor will join P&O at the end of 2019 and more details regarding the ship’s features and itineraries will be revealed in due course.

Fincantieri Finalizes Shipbuilding Contracts with Virgin Worth 2 Billion Euros

Fincantieri Finalizes Shipbuilding Contracts with Virgin Worth 2 Billion Euros

File Photo: Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Voyages' President and CEO Tom McAlpin as he arrives by helicopter for a news conference at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
File Photo: Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Voyages’ President and CEO Tom McAlpin as he arrives by helicopter for a news conference at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper


Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri says it has finalized construction contracts for three new cruise ships worth a combined 2 billion euros with Virgin Voyages, the new cruise ship arm of Virgin Group.
The three ships will be built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri Ponente (Genoa), Italy with delivery scheduled for 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Each ship will weigh about 110,000 gross tons, be 278 meters long and 38 wide. The ships will feature over 1,400 guest cabins that can host more than 2,800 passengers, accompanied by 1,100 crew members on board to deliver the famed Virgin service.
Based in South Florida, Virgin Voyages, formerly Virgin Cruises, is backed by lead investors Bain Capital Private Equity and London-based Virgin Group, whose founder and CEO is billionaire Sir Richard Branson. The shipbuilding contracts were first signed October but depended on closing of the multi-billion dollar financing package.
Steel cutting on the first of the three new ships is scheduled for early 2017, followed by keel laying in Genoa in the fourth quarter of 2017.
“These ships will stand out for original design and craftsmanship,” Fincantieri said in a statement Tuesday. “They will include some highly innovative ideas and design solutions, notably for energy recovery, reducing the overall environmental impact. For example, they will be equipped with an energy production system of approximately 1 MW, which uses the diesel engine’s waste heat. The result is, therefore, a project which distinguishes Virgin Voyages in the worldwide cruise scenery.”
Virgin Voyages’ first ship is expected to arrive at PortMiami in 2020 for a range of Caribbean itineraries.

Carnival Reports Record $2.8 Billion Profit in 2016

Carnival Reports Record $2.8 Billion Profit in 2016

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Carnival Corp.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise ship company, posted a record $2.8 billion profit for its full fiscal year 2016 as the company looks towards another solid year for the cruise industry in 2017.
Carnival Corp. reported the record full year and fourth quarter earnings Tuesday. Carnival announced net income for the full year 2016 of $2.8 billion, or $3.72 diluted EPS, compared to $1.8 billion, or $2.26 diluted EPS, for the prior year.
Carnival Corp. said revenues for the full year 2016 were $16.4 billion, $700 million higher than the $15.7 billion in the prior year.
“We achieved the most profitable year in our company’s history as well as record fourth quarter earnings,” said Carnival Corporation & plc President and Chief Executive Officer Arnold Donald. “The continued execution of our core strategy to drive consumer demand in excess of measured capacity growth, contain costs and leverage our industry-leading scale resulted in our third consecutive year of significantly higher earnings and return on invested capital. The delivery of over $5 billion in cash from operations for our shareholders enabled increased dividend distributions reaching $1 billion and the investment of over $2.3 billion in the repurchase of Carnival Corporation stock.”
Highlights from the fourth quarter 2016 included the U.S. debut of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista. Holland America’s Koningsdam also made its North American debut in November while Seabourn took delivery of ultra-luxury cruise ship Seabourn Encore.
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Seabourn Encore

During the quarter, Carnival Corp. also signed a memorandum of agreement with Meyer Werft for three new 180,000-ton cruise ships that will be powered by liquefied natural gas, the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel. Two of the ships are for Carnival Cruise Line and are scheduled for delivery in 2020 and 2022. The third ship is designated for P&O Cruises (UK) and is scheduled for delivery in 2020. The company also signed an agreement with Shell to begin fueling its LNG-powered ships, starting with AIDA and Costa ships scheduled to launch in 2019.
Looking ahead, Carnival said it expects another solid year in 2017, forecasting adjusted earnings per share to be in the range of $3.30 to $3.60, compared to 2016 adjusted earnings per share of $3.45 in 2017.
“We are anticipating another solid year of operational improvement in 2017. Despite the unusual and significant impact of fuel and currency working against us simultaneously, the underlying strength in our fundamental business leaves us well positioned to achieve sustained double digit return on invested capital and to create continued value for our shareholders,” Donald added.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Royal's Empress refreshingly retro refurb

Royal's Empress refreshingly retro refurb

The pool deck on the renovated Empress of the Seas has a more airy design than the ships built more recently for Royal Caribbean International. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

When Royal Caribbean International received the Empress of the Seas back from Pullmantur Cruises early this year, hopes were running high that the U.S. was on the cusp of a new era in its relations with Cuba.

Now it looks like it will get a chance to deploy the 1,590-passenger Empress as intended, following the news that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has received Cuban governmental permission for cruises there.

Until last week, the ship had been stuck in limbo waiting for a decision that had been expected much earlier in the year.

Royal has spent $50 million on renovations to the Empress of the Seas — known as the Nordic Empress when inaugurated in 1990 — and on a tour in July I found the ship to be a pleasant change from the style of vessels currently being built.

The two-story dining room on the Empress.<br /><br /><strong>Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst</strong>
The two-story dining room on the Empress.

Start with the top deck, where the pool area feels more airy and open than the current designs. Instead of another whole deck running around the pool to provide shaded areas, there are canvas canopies stretched on a framework, making the feel lighter and brighter than on modern ships.

The airy feeling continues inside the ship, which was designed with lots of exterior glass to enhance the connection to the sea. 

The effect is noticeable throughout but particularly in the two-deck main dining room, which unlike today's designs is located in the aft, with double-deck windows in the rear.

Part of the reason the Empress feels different from modern ships is its use of materials. 

The architects employed shiny chrome surfaces as liberally as the car designers of the 1950s, particularly in the stairwells and staircases.

In other spaces there's more wood than you would see on a newer ship, such as the trim around cabinets, vanities, dresser drawers and door frames in the staterooms.

In many cabins, travelers will find the old-style, fold-down third and fourth berths fastened to the walls, instead of concealed in the ceiling. Also notable is the paucity of balcony cabins: only 71 were included in the original design.

In upgrading the cabins, Royal has paid the most attention to the suites, which got new furniture, carpeting, drapes and linens. The suites are also the only accommodations that have bedside USB outlets.

Other improvements include the ship's lounge, which has been updated as a Boleros, the Latin-themed bar and dance space found on three other Royal ships. A Chops Grille steakhouse has also been added.

At 1,590 passengers and 48,563 gross tons, the Empress is about a quarter of the size of Royal's largest ships, giving fans of smaller vessels a chance to experience the Royal brand attributes without the crowds.

"It truly is our boutique ship," said Mark Tamis, Royal's senior vice president for hotel operations. "So many of our guests love the intimate smaller spaces. This is the ship they grew up with."

Monday, 19 December 2016

Fourth Viking Ocean Cruises ship floated out

Fourth Viking Ocean Cruises ship floated out

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Viking Ocean Cruises’ fourth ship has been floated out a year before its planned debut.

The 930-passenger Viking Sun is under construction at Fincantieri’s in Italy.

The vessel is due to enter service in late 2017 in the Caribbean before undertaking a 141-day world cruise covering 35 countries and 66 ports.

Yi Lou, vice president of China Merchant Bank Financial Leasing (CMBFL), served as Viking Sun’s madrina during the float out ceremony.

Viking Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen said: “It is always a proud moment for the entire Viking family when a new ship meets water for the first time.

“CMBFL is an important partner, and we wanted to honour our relationship by naming one of their executives as madrina to our newest ship.”

Sunday, 18 December 2016

CLIA: Cruise Industry Continues to See ‘Steady Growth’

CLIA: Cruise Industry Continues to See ‘Steady Growth’

The worlds largest cruise ship, the 361 metres long, Harmony of the Seas, arrives in port  for her mayden voyage, in Southampton, Britain May 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
The worlds largest cruise ship, the 361 metres long, Harmony of the Seas, arrives in port for her maiden voyage, in Southampton, Britain May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The international cruise industry is continuing to see a steady pace of cruise travel interest and significant investment in the industry, according to the Cruise Lines International Association’s 2017 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report.
In the report, released Friday, the world’s largest cruise industry association says cruise travel is expected to continue to increase in 2017, with an estimated 25.3 million passengers expected to cruise during next year. This represents a strong surge from the 15.8 million passengers who took cruises just ten years ago, in 2007, CLIA says.
More ships are set to set sail in 2017 as well. CLIA reports that cruise lines are scheduled to debut 26 new ocean, river, and specialty cruise ships in 2017 representing a total investment of $6.8 billion. Over the next ten years, the industry is expected to introduce a total of 97 new cruise ships, marking an estimated investment of $53 billion through 2026.
“The cruise industry is responding to global demand and we are highly encouraged by both the short-term and long-term outlook,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA. “From technological advancements and deployment of new ships to new ports and destinations around the world, the industry continues to respond to desires of today’s travelers resulting in steady growth and strong economic impact around the world.”
In 2015, cruise industry expenditures generated $117 billion in total output worldwide, supporting 956,597 full-time equivalent employees collectively earning $38 billion in income, according to new figures released by CLIA.
Along with the new data, CLIA also provided its list of the top eight cruise travel trends to watch next year. The list is provided below:
  1. New Generation Takes to the Water – A recent study found that younger generations—including Millennials and Generation X — will embrace cruise travel more than ever before, rating it as better than land-based vacations, all-inclusive resorts, tours, vacation house rentals, or camping.
  2. Travel Agent Use Increases – According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, consumer use of a travel agent increased nearly eighty percent from 2015 to 2016. Supporting this, CLIA is forecasting that travel agents will continue to be the matchmakers between travelers and cruise lines in 2017. Today, there are more than 25,000 CLIA-member travel agents globally compared to 12,000 in 2010. CLIA also found that cruisers report high levels of satisfaction with their travel experience when assisted by an agent.
  3. River Cruise Demand Increases – River cruises offer travelers a unique and intimate travel experience. Due to demand, CLIA cruise line Members currently deploy 184 river cruise ships with 13 new river cruise ships on order for 2017, an increase of about 7 percent.
  4. More Private Islands on Cruise Itineraries – As more cruise lines introduce private island destinations, travelers are responding and booking these itineraries. In 2017, cruise lines offer ports on a total of seven private islands.
  5. New Cruisers Will Take to the Sea – Interest in ocean cruising is projected to remain strong in 2017. When asked what kind of vacations might be of interest in the next three years nearly half (48 percent) of non-cruisers expressed interest in taking an ocean cruise while a striking 85 percent of cruisers also expressed interest.
  6. Drivable Port Locations in Favor – The cruise industry offers a variety of small and large market port location options across the United States and internationally. Citing the advantages of a myriad of locations seven out of ten (69 percent) non-cruisers believe the greatest benefit is cost savings and three quarters (74 percent) of cruisers like the convenience of driving to a cruise ship.
  7. Lure of Celeb Chefs – Cruise travelers are embracing specialty dining and will continue to consider cruise dining experiences based upon celebrity chefs. This year, several cruise lines feature restaurants and dishes created by famous chefs including Guy Fieri, Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and Geoffrey Zakarian.
  8. Demand for Expedition Cruises – According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel is growing at a record pace and CLIA is reporting that cruise expeditions are seeing the impact. In fact, itineraries for Antarctica regularly sell out.