Thursday, 30 November 2017

Class warfare: The rise of luxury enclaves at sea

Class warfare: The rise of luxury enclaves at sea

Several cruise lines employ butlers in their exclusive accommodations. Onboard Royal Caribbean International's ships, they are called Royal Genies.
As the co-owner and president of a Virtuoso-affiliated agency, Paul Largay never had much interest in Norwegian Cruise Line. The Waterbury, Conn., travel seller had cultivated a luxury clientele who preferred upscale lines such as Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Seabourn.

But after Norwegian added the Haven to its ships, Largay began selling the line.

"It's a very viable alternative," he said.

The Haven, a secured enclave of luxury cabins around a courtyard, has re-engineered Norwegian into a line with both a mass-market and a luxury clientele, and its arrival on the scene has led almost every other operator of large cruise ships to tout some sort of exclusive accommodation.

Each has its own variation: MSC Cruises has the MSC Yacht Club, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have Suite Class, Disney has Concierge Level and Holland America Line offers the Neptune Lounge.

Even Carnival Cruise Line, the most egalitarian of the bunch, offers the Havana Cabana enclave on its newest ships.

The reasons that luxury enclaves have evolved on ships are many, but a common thread is the premium pricing that cruise lines can command by creating an aura of exclusivity to which guests can aspire.

Suites in the enclaves tend to be among the largest at sea, an attraction for some guests and yet another revenue enhancement.

In most cases, these cabins come with exclusive use of other areas, such as private pools, restaurants and lounges.
Guests with Suite Class accommodations aboard the Celebrity Silhouette have access to the exclusive Michael’s Club lounge.
Guests with Suite Class accommodations aboard the Celebrity Silhouette have access to the exclusive Michael’s Club lounge.
Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel, said, "I think it has created the aspiration for people to say, 'How do I get to that next level? I want that perk, that experience. What do I have to do to get there?'"

Several agents compared the rise of luxury enclaves at sea to similar choices in other hospitality sectors, such as a business class on international airlines or private luxury railcars added to trains.

Airlines have started opening unadvertised invitation-only dining venues in some airports for their best customers. And hotels-within-hotels are proliferating, especially in Las Vegas. At the Wynn Tower Suites, located in the 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas, guests have a private entrance, a personal shopper, an exclusive restaurant and a private pool, with amenities.

Gaming also played a role in the creation of the Haven, which can trace its origins to large villa suites built for Star Cruises, an Asian line that shares common ownership interests with Norwegian through parent company Genting Group.

After acquiring Norwegian in 2000, Genting began to swap ships intended for Star Cruises into the Norwegian fleet. Ships such as Norwegian Dawn have a pair of three-bedroom, $25,000-a-week Garden Villas on the top deck. Those evolved into the Courtyard Villa, an enclave of 12 access-controlled suites when Norwegian launched its Jewel class of ships in 2005.

The exclusivity of the Courtyard Villas was one component of a package of extras that has continued to evolve. Rebranded as the Haven in 2011, the enclave cabins now come with access to a private restaurant, a private sun deck, private pool and a dedicated lounge and bar, all within the complex.
When Norwegian Cruise Line began offering the Courtyard Villa enclave in 2005, it opened the mass-market line to luxury clientele and prompted other cruise lines to follow suit. The Villa concept evolved into the Haven by 2011.
When Norwegian Cruise Line began offering the Courtyard Villa enclave in 2005, it opened the mass-market line to luxury clientele and prompted other cruise lines to follow suit. The Villa concept evolved into the Haven by 2011.
Other benefits include the services of a concierge and butler, priority embarkation, debarkation and tendering and preference for seating at shows and for shipwide dining reservations.

In-suite amenities include a cappuccino machine, white-tablecloth room-service dining and sparkling wine, fruit and bottled water on embarkation day.

Bathrobes, linens, bath products and mattresses are all top of the line.

Enclaves such as the Haven tend to be found on mass-market ships, or at least ships above a certain size. One reason is that smaller luxury ships have no need for a separate high-end product. Just as important, they don't have the real estate.

Holland America Line, whose largest ship is the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, does not offer a luxury enclave but does have the Neptune Lounge, a midship social area with refreshments and concierge service. It is reserved for guests booking the top Neptune and Pinnacle suite categories, who also get exclusive access to the ship's premier Pinnacle Grill for breakfast.

Sally Andrews, vice president of public relations for Holland America, said it's a question of economics. 

"Dedicating private space for a segment of guests related to their accommodations really comes down to [return on investment] on use of that space for a small versus a larger number of guests," Andrews said.
A table in the Queens Grill on Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria, which offers a sweeping view. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
A table in the Queens Grill on Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria, which offers a sweeping view. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
It began with 20 penthouses

Some observers trace the origins of the enclave idea to Queen Elizabeth 2.

In 1972, a refurbishment of the Cunard Line ship resulted in the addition of 20 penthouses to the 70,000-ton ship. A nearby bar/nightclub was converted to an exclusive restaurant called the Queen's Grill.

By the time Carnival Corp. commissioned a successor for the ship in 1998, the Queen's Grill accommodations had become a status symbol, and Carnival incorporated them into the Queen Mary 2, as well as into later ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

Larry Pimentel, one-time president of Cunard and currently president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said Cunard was a bridge between the transport era of passenger shipping and modern cruising.

Queen Elizabeth 2 was designed with separate classes in mind, with segregated spaces for each price level. 

"They represented a bygone era of cruising, a bygone era of transport, actually," Pimentel said.

Ships designed for cruising post-Queen Elizabeth 2 were one-class ships, Pimentel said. Only recently have separate classes crept back into the equation, in part to attract and keep a discerning type of customer.

The creation of a ship within a ship enables mass-market lines to pitch their cruises to more-affluent guests.

"While it is not strictly class-communicated, the reality is that there is a group of people who always want the best," Pimentel said. "What's happened in the industry is that there's going to be a bigger and bigger play for these people who have these desires to have the most space, to have the most in elegance and luxury, have their own space, their own pools, their own restaurants, etc."

The premium for staying in an enclave like the Haven can be five to 10 times the cost of an inside cabin, depending on deployment and time of year. MSC Cruises calculates that the per-person cost of staying in its Yacht Club enclave averages about $1,500 more than for a standard cabin.

One longtime observer of luxury cruising said it might or might not be worth the price.

"Theoretically, it's good," said Mark Conroy, managing director of the Americas for Silversea Cruises.

Conroy said one of the most appealing parts of the enclave idea is the ability to offer two ships in one. There's an "uptown" sanctuary with refined furnishings and service and a "downtown" for energy, variety and scale. But to make it work, the "downtown" has to be worth going to, he said.

"The challenge is in the execution, and some companies have been better than others," Conroy said.

Another way the uptown/downtown idea plays out is in attracting large family groups. 

"It's been wonderful for the multigen families," said Valerie Wilson's Wetty. "If you have a very luxury client, let's say it's grandparents, or mom and dad, but they might want to take the whole family, they're not willing to compromise their standards."

With an enclave, the luxury client can afford luxury accommodations without springing for a luxury ship for the entire group, she said.
A staircase embedded with Swarovski crystals connects two decks in MSC Cruises’ exclusive section, the MSC Yacht Club. Access to a concierge desk and the Top Sail Lounge are some of the perks for Yacht Club guests.
A staircase embedded with Swarovski crystals connects two decks in MSC Cruises’ exclusive section, the MSC Yacht Club. Access to a concierge desk and the Top Sail Lounge are some of the perks for Yacht Club guests.
MSC Cruises has earned a reputation for affordable family cruising with its kids-sail-free promotion. Its Miami-based ship, the MSC Divina, is one of five in its fleet equipped with an MSC Yacht Club enclave.

The enclave includes 66 suites arrayed over two decks connected by spiral staircases with embedded Swarovski crystals. There is a private lounge, a library and butler service for all Yacht Club guests. They also get an adjacent private pool, access to a VIP area of the disco and special access to the spa.

Bernard Stacher, vice president of hotel operations for MSC, said guests are paying for more than exclusivity.

"That's a portion of it, but it's not the majority," Stacher said. "It also comes down to the personalized, tailored service, to really unique and fast access to the ship on and off, the choice of the finishings we choose and the no-questions-asked attitude from the staff in the Yacht Club. I think that plays a big part.

"Yes, you are away from the crowds, you have your own private pool, but it's the sum of all the parts that make the Yacht Club so exciting," Stacher said. "It's not one thing."

In marketing the enclaves, cruise executives walk a fine line between appealing to discriminating customers and coming off as elitist.

Wetty said exclusivity inevitably rubs some people the wrong way. 

"There was a pushback in the industry of saying, 'Hey, that doesn't feel fair or right,'" she said. "How can you create a ship that you pay a certain price and you only get access to a certain part of the ship?"

Wetty said the key for lines that have made an enclave product successful was positioning it as an extra to an already handsome package.

"Those lines are creating a consistent experience for everybody, so nobody feels they got less than somebody else," Wetty said. "But then if you pay more, you get something a little extra special."
The Royal Loft Suite on the Anthem of the Seas.
The Royal Loft Suite on the Anthem of the Seas.
Not every line offering exclusive luxury accommodations has gone the route of building a full enclave.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, both brands owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., offer guests a Suite Class package of benefits that includes a separate lounge and restaurant, among other perks.

Suites are in different areas depending on which of Royal's eight ship sizes they are sailing.

On Celebrity, Suite Class guests have the Luminae restaurant and Michael's Club to themselves. On Royal, Suite Class includes a suite lounge and sun deck and the Coastal Kitchen restaurant on some ships.

Top suites come with Royal Genies, a name for what other cruise lines call butlers. 

"We thought it was a fun twist on this idea of a butler," Royal Caribbean president Michael Bayley said. "We think part of our success is not taking ourselves too seriously."
Bayley said that Royal has the same package of amenities that competitors do, but "we just haven't put them in one place."  Royal guests, he said, "want to be engaging with the world around them." Still, he said, he wouldn't rule out building a dedicated luxury enclave area on future ships.
Even Carnival Cruise Line, which prides itself on being unpretentious, has cosied up to the enclave concept. On its latest ship, the Carnival Vista, it has created the Havana Cabana, an area of 61 cabins with a lounge and pool area with a tropical-leisure theme.

Most of the cabins are on deck five and feature a sliding door that opens to a 100-square-foot patio with a swing chair. A key-card gate keeps the aft part of the promenade that encircles Deck Five closed during the day. Also behind the gate is the aft pool and hot tub area. A few Havana cabins are located on decks six and seven and have enlarged balconies rather than patios; these cabins also include access to the pool.
In the Havana Cabana section onboard the Carnival Vista, guests have exclusive access to an aft pool area and a promenade. Carnival is expanding the 61-cabin exclusive section on the Horizon, due next year. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
In the Havana Cabana section onboard the Carnival Vista, guests have exclusive access to an aft pool area and a promenade. Carnival is expanding the 61-cabin exclusive section on the Horizon, due next year. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said that limiting access to the pool hasn't caused any issues. The Havana Cabana is the only area on Carnival's 25 ships that aren't open to all passengers.

"We really haven't had any complaints, as there are so many other options on the Carnival Vista," Duffy said.

Carnival is expanding the area on the Horizon, due in April, by 18 cabins. Other luxury enclaves are also growing. The Yacht Club on MSC Seaside, which will be christened in Miami in December, will have 80 suites, the most ever.

In the future, cruise executives said, the enclave concept could be expanded to include more dedicated entertainment. MSC has a piano player in its Yacht Club, and it will rotate a violin duo into the mix on the Seaside.

Pimentel said that other ideas will percolate for small musical ensembles. 

"I think it is possible that some of the units that have a lot of space begin to have venues for that space that could be a small, tiny jazz club," Pimentel said. "I think the industry's just going to push the edges on that one."

Princess Cruises reveals first details of future Royal class ships

Princess Cruises reveals first details of future Royal class ships

Related image

Princess Cruises has revealed further details of its next three Royal class ships, which are set to be built by 2022.

Tony Roberts, the line’s vice-president, UK & Ireland, announced the fourth Royal class ship will make four weeks of sailings in the Mediterranean from October 2019.

Speaking at a media and trade event, he added that it was a “great opportunity to get on to the newest ship” when itineraries go on sale in a “few weeks’ time”.

The ship’s name will be announced later this week.

Roberts also chose not to reveal the name of the fifth ship in the class, launching in summer 2020.

However, he did hint that the vessel would operate not far from the Italian shipyard where it was built.

“I am not going to place any bets on where she is but she has been built in Italy so there is a pretty good chance that she will be around [in Europe] for part of summer 2020,” Roberts added.

Princess will also launch another Royal class ship in 2022.

He added: “It is really exciting that Princess continues to grow and that favourite class of ship continues to be built.”

Roberts told the audience that TV presenter Jane McDonald had recently filmed on one of Princess’ ships as part of her cruising programme.

“We started to get very excited about it when we had [Channel 5] on,” he said. “I cannot tell you what the ship was but [McDonald] had a great time on board.”

Earlier, Princess Cruises announced 2019 would be its longest ever season sailing out of the UK.

More than one million cruise nights will be available from Southampton and Dover.

The 2,670-guest Sapphire Princess will spend 198 days sailing from her home port of Southampton – the longest recorded time for a UK-based Princess ship.

MSC Cruises takes delivery of new flagship MSC Seaside

MSC Cruises takes delivery of new flagship MSC Seaside

Image result for MSC seaside

MSC Cruises has taken delivery of its new flagship MSC Seaside at the Fincantieri shipyard.

It is the second new MSC ship to come into service in 2017 and will homeport in Miami for Caribbean itineraries. It is the first in MSC’s Seaside Class.

MSC Seaside weighs 169,380 tonnes and can take 5,179 passengers.

At the ceremony, in Italy, MSC Cruises and Fincantieri also signed firm orders for the €1.8 billion construction of two Seaside EVO ships.

MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “MSC Seaside coming into service marks another key milestone in the history and future of our company, but she also embodies a pivotal moment for the industry. In fact, she is the first ship of the fifth new prototype that we bring into service and introduces a wholly-innovative product that sets a new standard for the industry to follow.

“The Seaside Class of ships is designed to bring guests closer to the sea and to operate in sunny waters while continuing to push the boundaries of maritime and guest-centric technology.”

Italian president Sergio Mattarella and Graziano Delrio, Italy’s minister of infrastructures and transports were among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

MSC Seaside’s sister ship MSC Seaview will come into service in June 2018, starting her summer season in the Mediterranean. At the delivery ceremony, Vago also announced that MSC Seaview will be christened in Civitavecchia, Italy, on June 2, 2018.

He added: “As we are nearing the end of 2017, we can look back on a year when we enjoyed unprecedented capacity growth. With two of the more innovative new ships in the industry have come into service in the past six months and now with the addition of two Seaside EVO ships to our investment plan, we are now even better positioned to further extend our global footprint. We are expecting the delivery of at least one new ship each year through 2026, with six to have come into service between 2017 and 2020.”

Giuseppe Bono, chief executive of Fincantieri, added: “We are proud to have accomplished such an important project: a ship, for a new customer, the largest one ever built in Italy. This demonstrates not only our ability to satisfy the needs of the shipowners but also the extraordinary operational level which Fincantieri has achieved.

“We believe we have built a highly innovative ship with MSC. She marks a further technological quality leap. Such a milestone has allowed us to gain the customer’s loyalty with another order for two new ships, which will [again] represent a real evolution.”

In total, 12 new MSC ships are to be built by 2026, for an overall investment of €10.5 billion.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Newcastle Terminal Design Unveiled

Newcastle Terminal Design Unveiled

Newcastle Cruise Terminal Rendering

The NSW Government and Port of Newcastle have revealed the design of the new Newcastle Cruise Terminal which will transform the cruise passenger experience in Newcastle, according to a prepared statement. 
The purpose-built facility will cover approximately 3,000 square meters and will include facilities for passenger drop-off and pick up, coach parking and vessel provisioning.
Port of Newcastle’s CEO, Geoff Crowe, said the Newcastle Cruise Terminal would provide a professional transit experience for passengers arriving in Newcastle and a positive first impression of the city.
“We are excited to share the concept design for the Newcastle Cruise Terminal which reflects Newcastle’s position as a world-class cruise ship destination. The traveller experience is central to GHD Woodhead’s design, with harbour views, ease of movement, natural daylight and a generous sense of spacing greeting passengers.
“The new cruise terminal, to be built at the Channel Berth, will enable the Port to receive more and larger cruise ships in the future. Importantly, it will position Newcastle as a home port where ships can start and finish their destination in Newcastle. Eventually cruise visits could also be aligned with major events, such as the V8 Supercars, adding another dimension to the visitor and tourism experience,” said Crowe.
“According to the Australian Cruise Association’s estimates, cruise shipping in Newcastle currently injects around $11 million per annum to the local economy. Homeporting has the potential to deliver even more economic value to the region via more cruise ships and more visitors and the opportunity for local businesses to provide goods and services for the provisioning of vessels.”
The $12.7 million Newcastle Cruise Terminal is funded by the NSW Government’s Restart NSW Hunter Infrastructure Investment Fund.
The design was unveiled by the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, the Central Coast and the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, who said the Newcastle Cruise Terminal would be a major boost for the Hunter’s tourism sector.
“The Newcastle Cruise Terminal is a big win for the region and a key part of Newcastle’s revitalisation. It cements the city as an international cruise destination and will deliver flow on benefit to the region’s already thriving tourism industry. Additionally, it complements the increased capacity of Newcastle Airport,” said MacDonald.
“The NSW Government has contributed $13.1 million towards the $13.5 million Newcastle cruise upgrades*. The Hunter Research Foundation has estimated the projects will contribute around $26.7 million to the local economy and an additional 76 jobs through construction and flow-on effects.”
Crowe said he was thrilled to share the design with the community after many months of detailed planning.
“Throughout the design process, Port of Newcastle has worked with the cruise industry, tourism representatives and Australian border agencies to factor in their requirements.
“Unveiling the design is a significant step and it is only going to get more exciting from here. Construction will commence in early 2018 and Novocastrians will have a cruise terminal to call their own by the end of next year,” said Crowe.
“We look forward to welcoming the Explorer of the Seas on her maiden visit to Newcastle in February 2019 – the largest cruise ship to visit our port carrying 3,900 passengers.”

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Carnival raises price of beverage package

Carnival raises price of beverage package

Image result for carnival cruise drink menu 2017

Carnival Cruise Line has increased the cost of its Cheers! beverage package effective Jan. 1.
The pre-cruise purchase cost will go from $49.95 per person, per day to $51.95, a 4% increase.
On the ship, the package will sell for $56.95, up from $54.95. The prices do not include the 15% gratuity.
The package includes spirits, beer, and wine and champagne by the glass with a menu price of $50 and below, plus speciality coffees, sodas, juices, non-alcoholic cocktails, milkshakes, energy drinks and bottled water.

Virgin Rethinks Funnel Design Concept

Virgin Rethinks Funnel Design Concept

Virgin Funnel

Virgin Voyages is promising to reinvent the cruise experience, and one of the most traditional parts of a cruise ship – the funnel – will be rethought and redesigned for the company’s upcoming trio of Lady-class ships.
“We’re at the top of the game in super yacht design,” said Kristian Arens, exterior design lead for England-based Redman Whiteley Dixon (RWD).
The design firm has been tapped by Virgin to redevelop the cruise ship funnel.
“This big cruise ship needed elements to be more of a superyacht than a cruise ship,” continued Arens.
“What Virgin Voyages really wanted to do was to create something very different. They wanted the funnel to be a funnel, but not a funnel.”
Added Adrian Chisnell, project manager:  “It was actually known as the non-funnel … traditionally (the funnel) has been a bit of an afterthought. It has been put on top of the boat.
“This is the first time we know the funnel is not being used in that way,” he said.
The duo from RWD described their design brief for Virgin as luxurious and iconic, while being different, exciting and new.
 “The Virgin Voyages ship will hopefully be one of the most recognizable in the world,” Chisnell said.

Rio de Janeiro: Transforming Potential into Reality

Rio de Janeiro: Transforming Potential into Reality

Image result for rio de janeiro port
Rio de Janeiro Port.

Rio de Janeiro is among the two main ports in Brazil, second to Santos in passengers and ship calls, but with a bright future, both as a homeport and key transit stop.
Last year, Rio welcomed 265,188 passengers, down from the year prior, like most other South American ports. For this season (2017-2018), Rio is expecting around 240,000 cruise guests.
To change the picture, the CompanhiaDocas do Rio de Janeiro (CDRJ), which essentially runs the port, wants to make the port experience more attractive to the cruise lines.
“Our goal is to bring in as many passengers as possible. We need to understand the problems, present the questions and, try to achieve the better solutions," explained Tarcísio Tomazine, president of CDRJ.
Tarcísio Tomazine, president of CDRJ
“My job is to solve the bureaucratic problems and improve the attractivity of Rio de Janeiro’s port. We believe is Rio is a valuable destination, there’s great potential. Our job here is to transform that potential in reality," he said.
Tomazine claims that his port is an exception in a country like Brazil.
He said Rio de Janeiro doesn’t have significant infrastructure problems.
“We can receive, without much trouble eight or nine ships at once, and we have a deep harbour," Tomazine noted.
The Norwegian Getaway in Rio during her Olympic charter
Still, there are operational improvements. The navigational channel was adjusted so ships up to 346 meters in length can call, and the water depth is being dredged further to allow ships with drafts up to 14 meters.
The season started with Oceania's Insignia calling on Nov. 4, with 24 calls expected through April 29.

Monday, 27 November 2017

MSC Cruises Donates School in Rebuilding Caribbean

MSC Cruises Donates School in Rebuilding Caribbean

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
PHOTO: The semi-permanent school will serve the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. (photo via Flickr/kansas photo)

MSC Cruises continues to assist in the rebuild of the Caribbean following September's devastating hurricanes.
The Swiss-based cruise line announced Thursday that it has joined forces with government officials in the British Virgin Islands to donate a new 4,000 square-foot, the pre-fabricated building that will function as a semi-permanent school on the island of Virgin Gorda.
All 15 of the territory's schools were destroyed in the recent hurricanes.
"It is our responsibility as a family-owned company in the seafaring business for more than 300 years, to come to the aid of our family, friends and neighbours in dire times," said MSC Cruises USA chairman, Richard Sasso in a statement. "This donation is one of many ways we are working to set the industry standard to help those who need it most and we’re proud to utilize our global resources to assist as the Caribbean works to recover and rebuild."
The donation represents just one example of MSC Cruises' ongoing effort to restore the British Virgin Islands and the surrounding Caribbean as a whole.
"With most cruise ports in the Caribbean region now open for business, MSC Cruises, along with other players in the cruise industry, are working to support local governments in their efforts to restore normality and rebuild the damaged infrastructures on the islands impacted," the cruise line stated on its website.
With the help of its global network of partners, MSC Cruises has already helped ship food, water, medical supplies and building materials to the British Virgin Islands as well as hard-hit places in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and Dominica.
The cruise line recently provided shipping services to bring emergency lighting to Puerto Rico.
Another aspect of the global cruise's effort to assist the islands is by ultimately returning to the coveted destinations.
Travelers seeking a holiday sailing to the Caribbean with MSC Cruises this December can have their pick of the MSC Divina or the brand new MSC Seaside.
Click here to learn more about some of the ways MSC Cruises is aiding in the Caribbean's recovery.

Meet MSC Cruises' Next Two New Ships

MSC Cruises celebrates the initial steel-cutting of the MSC Grandiosa
PHOTO: MSC Cruises celebrates the initial steel-cutting of the MSC Grandiosa. (photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

MSC Cruises is already anticipating the launch of its next new ship—the MSC Seaside—in December 2017, but another two just progressed further along.
The MSC Bellissima had its traditional coin ceremony, and MSC Grandiosa witnessed its first steel-cutting.
In fact, MSC has a total of four ships currently being built right now as part of its staggering $10 billion, ten-year investment endeavour. The other is the MSC Seaside’s sister-ship, the MSC Seaview. Both are under construction by Fincantieri in Italy.
Over at the STX France shipyard, the Meraviglia-class Bellissima and newly named Meraviglia Plus-class Grandiosa round out the quartet.
“Today we are celebrating a truly unique moment, as it is the first time that key shipbuilding milestones for two different ships are celebrated on the same day,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, in a press release. “This is a testimony of the strength and ambition of our investment plan.”
“The Meraviglia generation of ships is already setting a new standard for the cruise industry and is just one of the three brand new prototypes that we have designed to bring the cruise guest experience to the next level. MSC Grandiosa is named to signify magnificence and grandeur, a fitting name for this even richer, ultra-modern mega-ship.”
The Bellissima is the second of the Meraviglia-class following its recently launched sister-ship and namesake MSC Meraviglia. Increasing some in size will be the Grandiosa as the first Meraviglia Plus-class ship.
Vago explained, “Additionally, with MSC Grandiosa we also continue to innovate in the product. Just as MSC Cruises ‘democratized’ the luxury cruise experience when we were the first cruise brand to introduce a ship-in-ship luxury concept, the MSC Yacht Club, we are now doing the same for art and culture with the very first fine art museum at sea. Similarly, MSC Grandiosa will be the third of only four MSC Cruises ships to feature Cirque du Soleil at Sea, hosted in the uniquely complex, custom-built Carousel Lounge.”
Vago also pointed out that the ships will be environmentally-friendly thanks to technologies including hybrid exhaust gas cleaning systems, SCR-Catalysts, state-of-the-art waste management and recycling, emission-reducing energy and heat recovery systems and advanced wastewater treatment.
"Today as we celebrate a cutting of the first steel and then a keel laying in the same day, we are living an unprecedented experience that marks the beginning of a new era, both for our client and for our yard,” said Laurent Castaing, general manager of STX France, in the release.
“For MSC Cruises, it is the realization of an extraordinary investment plan, which will elevate the Company to become one of the three largest players in the global cruise industry; for us, it is the illustration of our very healthy order book, which leads us to deliver two ships a year until 2022. We are partners in the same virtuous circle, where boldness and the performance of each is a benefit to the other."
The MSC Bellissima—which celebrated its coin ceremony with the placement of two commemorative coins as a blessing and for good luck—will first set sail during March 2019. The MSC Grandiosa will then follow shortly behind in November 2019.
The latter Meraviglia Plus-class ship will build upon the original Meraviglia and Bellissima at 181,000 GRT; 1,086 feet in length and a capacity of 6,334 guests. Featured onboard will be the aforementioned fine art museum with classic and contemporary pieces, as well as the exclusive partnership with Cirque du Soleil.
The Meraviglia, Bellissima, Grandiosa and a second to-be-named Meraviglia Plus-class ship will each showcase two unique Cirque du Soleil shows onboard.
Besides the Meraviglia-class, Meraviglia Plus-class and Seaside-class, MSC has the new World-class scheduled as well. Altogether, the line will almost double its fleet capacity in only three and a half years between June 2017 and November 2020 as six out of 11 new ships come online.
For now, the MSC Bellissima is already available to book its first Mediterranean summer season, and MSC Grandiosa reservations will be announced soon.
The Seaside will be introduced in the North American market from its very beginning, and the Meraviglia will also join regionally by 2019. By then, both will be locally positioned year-round.
For more information, visit

Modern Mississippi riverboat to be named American Song

Modern Mississippi riverboat to be named American Song

The first of American Cruise Lines' modern riverboats will be named American Song.
The vessel will launch on the Mississippi River in fall 2018 and will head to the Pacific Northwest's Columbia and Snake rivers for 2019.
The American Song will be wider, faster, and quieter than any of ACL's other river cruise ships. Like ACL's other vessels, the American Song is being built at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., and thus will be U.S. flagged and crewed.
The vessel will have a four-story glass atrium and large lounge areas. It is being designed to have sweeping views throughout the ship. The staterooms will be the largest in the industry, according to ACL, and will have private balconies and large bathrooms.
With the launch of American Song next year, ACL will operate a fleet of 10 vessels, including coastal cruisers and paddlewheelers.
The company sails along the coasts and inland waterways of Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River region, the Southeast and New England.

Cruise ‘breaking through glass ceiling’ as it goes mainstream

Cruise ‘breaking through glass ceiling’ as it goes mainstream

Image result for norwegian bliss construction

The cruise industry is “breaking through the glass ceiling” and is finally being recognised as a mainstream holiday.

David Dingle, Clia Europe’s deputy chair, also said the number of UK cruise passengers will hit two million by 2020.

He said: “We are getting to that two million figure. We hit 1.9 million passengers in 2016, so I definitely think we will hit two million by 2020.

“We are really breaking through the glass ceiling. I think we are at the stage where cruising is being recognised as a mainstream holiday.

“Whether we see the same year on year growth yield as we did this year that will unfold, but at the moment we are seeing further growth.”

The cruise industry is undergoing a “significant” new shipbuilding programme following the financial slump in 2008.

“During that period there has been a lag in the introduction of new capacity,” Dingle said. “So as much as anything we are going through a catching up exercise.”

There are 72 ships on order all of which are set to be built before 2025. The value of that order is $50billion.

All the major lines, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises and Carnival, have ships launching in 2018.

Marella and AIDA Cruises, Germany’s largest line, also have new vessels due to launch.

“The year of 2017 has been a very good year for yield growth but whether we can have that much growth year on year remains to be seen,” Dingle added. “At the moment they are good indicators.”

Dingle pointed to the role of the trade press in helping to boost the cruise sector and also highlighted how comedian Rob Brydon might not have fronted a P&O Cruises television advertisement campaign “five or 10 years ago”.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Cruise liners may BOYCOTT Majorca and Ibiza

Cruise liners may BOYCOTT Majorca and Ibiza unless Balearic government changes its mind about two-euro-a day-charge for passengers

Costa and MSC in Majorca Port
  • The Cruise Lines International Association says the new fee is undemocratic 
  • Cruise passengers had been exempt from the new Balearics tourist tax charge 
  • But now the authorities want them to pay two euros for every day on the islands
  • Cruise association has threatened legal action and might leave islands off routes
Cruise liners are threatening to shun Majorca and Ibiza unless the Balearic government changes its mind about charging passengers two euros (£1.78) a day to stay on the islands under the new tourist tax rules.

The association of cruise companies in Europe, the Cruise Lines International Association, says the new fee is undemocratic and could force companies to leave the islands out of its routes.

And it says that unless the Balearics rescinds the decision to slap the tourist tax on all cruise passengers for the first time next year, it might take the issue to court.

The islands' government has already come under fire for doubling the so-called eco tax for all holidaymakers in the high season of 2018, meaning guests in luxury accommodation will pay a much as four euros (£3.56) a day.

Until now, cruise ship passengers have been exempt from the fee unless they were docked for more than 12 hours.

But from summer 2018, they will pay two euros a day regardless of the duration of the stay and the Balearic government says this move alone will generate revenue of about 1.8 million euros (£1.6million).

P&O Cruises cancels 50-night sailing for ‘technical maintenance’

P&O Cruises cancels 50-night sailing for ‘technical maintenance’

Image result for p&o oriana
P&O Oriana

A 50-night cruise has been cancelled by P&O Cruises due to “technical maintenance” required for the ship Oriana.

The 1,880-passenger vessel was due to depart Southampton on January 6 for the voyage to the Caribbean, Mexico and US, returning on February 25.

But the line today issued an apology for cancelling the Caribbean and America Discovery itinerary due to Oriana requiring three weeks of maintenance.

Agents will still receive commission and have been advised to try and re-book their customers on one of four similar cruises early next year.

“We apologise to guests due to travel on Oriana’s X801 but our technical team has advised us that it’s necessary for Oriana to undergo a 3 week technical maintenance from Jan 6, 2018,” the company tweeted. “As a result we will be cancelling this cruise.

“We have contacted all those affected guests today and we are extremely sorry for the late notice and disruption.”

P&O Cruises
We apologise to guests due to travel on Oriana's X801 but our technical team has advised us that it's necessary for Oriana to undergo a 3 week technical maintenance from Jan 6 2018. As a result we will be cancelling this cruise. (1/2)
10:30 AM - Nov 21, 2017
 3 3 Replies   5 5 Retweets   9 9 likes

Alex White, VP sales, Carnival UK, said: “We understand how disappointing this is for our guests but our ships sail 365 days a year and they do occasionally require unplanned maintenance, the only available slot for us to undertake this work is in January.

“Via agents, we have written to guests and advised that there are four other similar cruises that sail to the Caribbean from Southampton early next year, including all of the information and itineraries for these departures.

“As a result of this cancellation we are giving guests a 5% Future Cruise Credit of the fare paid on the original Oriana cruise, which is available to use on one of the cruises mentioned or any other P&O Cruises holiday booked before December 31 2019. We will also honour the 500 Peninsular Club loyalty points they would have earned from the original Oriana cruise.

“We have asked them to contact their travel agent by Friday December 8 2017 if they wish to transfer to another cruise. If, by this date they have not done so then the booking for the Oriana cruise will be cancelled and all monies paid will be refunded.

“If they do not wish to book an alternative cruise at the moment, the 5% Future Cruise Credit will be applied to their P&O Cruises unique reference number (URN) until they the new cruise booking is made.”

“P&O Cruises will be paying agent commission on X801 cancelled sailings. If agents are able to transfer guests on to an alternative sailing they will also receive their standard commission on the new booking plus the commission on the X801 booking.”

Friday, 24 November 2017

Untapped German demand is still very high, survey finds

Untapped German demand is still very high, survey finds

AidaPrima in Hamburg. Photo credit James Jones

Many Germans want to go on a cruise holiday even though relatively few have actually been on an ocean trip so far, according to a new survey by GfK.
Plenty of pent-up demand in Germany for Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines, researchers say
Photo: RCL/Michel Verdure

Cruises are not only one of the fastest-growing holiday segments in Germany but also have the greatest potential, a recent study by market researchers GfK found. Only 7% of German tourists have taken a vacation on a ship over the past five years. Yet as many as one in four finds this way of travelling personally very attractive.
This gap between high attractiveness and an actual lack of travel experience is bigger than with any other kind of holiday, according to GfK. This means that more than two-thirds of those who find cruises very attractive were not yet on a cruise ship.
Almost 2.4 million ocean cruises were undertaken by Germans in 2016. It was the first sea voyage for a good third of the passengers while 63% had booked a cruise again. Both these factors support continued growth for this holiday segment, as the level of attractiveness for cruises more than doubles once tourists have actually been on a cruise holiday.
"Cruise operators are managing to win a high proportion of first-time customers," commented Dörte Nordbeck, Head of Travel & Logistics Germany at GfK. "It is very likely that many of them would like to repeat this special experience.”
Cruises are particularly attractive to those who have already been on an ocean cruise (60%) or a river cruise (41%).
In general, the attractiveness of cruises increases with age. Although every third woman between the ages of 25 and 34 is enthusiastic about a holiday at sea, only 16% of young men are. Only with increasing age do the holiday preferences in favour of a cruise between women and men become more and more similar.
In contrast, river cruises are only an ‘in-trend’ for 24% of Germans and just 18% describe this form of holiday as “very attractive”. Yet even this figure is three times higher than the 6% of Germans who have holidayed on a boat in the past five years.
River cruises are considerably less attractive for younger people, with only 10% of men and 18% of women aged 25-34 describing it as “very attractive”. Respondents aged 65 and over, however, favor river cruises just as much as ocean trips.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Virgin Voyages vows to get trade back on board

Virgin Voyages vows to get trade back on board

Related image

Virgin Voyages has confirmed it will sell through agents and instigate an “epic sea change” in the organisation to make the company a business the trade wants to work with again.

Acknowledging that agents in the UK were hurt when Virgin Holidays severed ties with the trade and became a direct-sell-only brand in 2015, vice‑president of sales and business development Stacy Shaw said: “One of my challenges is agents in the UK assuming we won’t be interested in them selling Virgin Voyages.

“But this is more than just having an interest in the trade selling us. My job is one of creating an epic sea change for the organisation and our partners.
“My job is to create a really good news story for the trade that makes us a company that agents really want to do business with.”

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Shaw added: “However transactionally profitable and amazing selling Virgin Voyages will be, we want to do more than that. We want to focus on the pain points for agents and take them away.”

A new UK-based international sales director is due to be in place by January who will recruit field sales managers. Shaw said: “Their next job will be looking at commission structures, contracts and how we are going to support the trade with marketing.”

She added: “I expect this to take until mid-year, but from then we will really start engaging with accounts and doing a big blitz with the trade.

“We have a big job to do kicking off all the education. One of the most important jobs for next year with the trade is helping them to understand how we’re different.

“We don’t think our product is for everybody and we will be explicit about that. If agents have customers who are looking for Broadway shows and FlowRiders, Virgin Voyages is not for them.”

Monday, 20 November 2017

Contrasting calls on Royal Caribbean sailing

Contrasting calls on Royal Caribbean sailing

Labadee is situated on a mile-long peninsula, with the ocean on one side and a bay on the other. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas at Labadee’s concrete pier, built in 2009 to accommodate Oasis-class ships. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
By Tom Stieghorst
I recently had a chance to visit two of the Caribbean destinations developed at least in part by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. One, the Haitian private port of call of Labadee, exceeded my expectations. The other, in Falmouth, Jamaica, did not.
Both are big enough to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world: Royal Caribbean International's Oasis class, which includes the hulking Harmony of the Seas, my transport to the two ports. Neither is devoid of interest. But for my money, Labadee is the more enjoyable of the two.

Part of it is simply a matter of time. Labadee has been around since 1986 and has had a chance to grow into itself. Its facilities don't look like they just came out of the box, as do those at Falmouth, opened in 2011.

Labadee is situated on a peninsula perhaps a mile or so in length, with the ocean on one side and a bay on the other. Forested mountains offer a backdrop. There is a stout pier built in 2009 to accommodate the Oasis-class ships, making it easy to go back and forth between the ship and the facilities.
The giant Labadee sign is a good spot to pose for photos. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
The giant Labadee sign is a good spot to pose for photos. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
The setting is quite attractive, more so than I expected. The bay side, in particular, has some beautiful, calm swimming beaches and is a natural spot for the rentable cabanas that have been installed along its shores. 

There are actually three distinct beaches on the bay side, which feels nicely sheltered and different from the ocean side. The Barefoot Beach Club area includes the cabanas close to the water. At least some are reserved for the use of Suite Class guests who shell out for the top-end suites on Royal ships.

It also has the more elaborate of two spa treatment areas at Labadee.
A bungalow at Columbus Cove. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
A bungalow at Columbus Cove. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
Nellie's Beach is somewhat similar. Columbus Cove, the largest of the three beaches and the most distant from the ship, is a good spot for families. It has a collection of inflatable floating slides and rafts offshore as well as the Dragon's Splash waterslide, a twisty, low-slung, blue metal slide that must look like it's worth every penny of its $27.50 daily cost to kids of a certain age, if not their parents.

One could easily make a day of it at Columbus Cove alone. There is a cafe, bars, restrooms, a trading post, beach chairs and a station for the island tram.

There is also a free one-way shuttle boat from the pier.

The tram operates on a sand road that forms the spine of the island and really makes it easier to get around, especially for guests who are older, have young kids or are not very mobile. I walked the length of the place to see it but was happy to hop the tram to go back.

One of the most pleasant parts of Labadee is that there's lots of shade provided by mature Australian pines, coconut palms and other trees. The walk from the ship along the pier was hot on a late October morning, but the rest of it was pretty breezy.

The ocean side of Labadee is protected by a reef, so the waves broke rather gently on shore when I was there. A promontory point anchors the crescent curve that at the far end becomes Adrenaline Beach, where there is a breakwater and daybed-style cabanas.
The Dragon’s Splash waterslide. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
The Dragon’s Splash waterslide. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
As for activities, personal watercraft, parasailing, kayaking and snorkelling are all available. There's a nicely done splash park for little kids and volleyball for adults. The star attraction is undoubtedly the five-line, 2,600-foot-long Dragon's Breath zipline that starts high atop an overlook and swoops over the ocean beach. It costs $95.75 per ride.
There's also the Dragon's Tail, a tracked coaster with two-person sledges that curves around the side of a steep, forested hill. It costs $19.75 for a five-minute ride.
Entertainment at Labadee includes Haitian musicians and dancers. There is an extensive Artisan's Village with native crafts of a somewhat higher calibre, I thought than those for sale at other Caribbean ports. Be prepared for a friendly but aggressive pitch.
Falmouth a port in progress
I left Labadee wanting to spend more time there. The next stop on the Harmony's itinerary at Falmouth left me feeling I'd seen it all in an hour.
The Harmony of the Seas looms over the buildings of the shopping village at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
The Harmony of the Seas looms over the buildings of the shopping village at the cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
The cruise port, developed by RCCL and the Jamaican government along with some partners, is a triangle jutting into the sea with two long wharves with new shops meant to mimic Falmouth's 18th-century Georgian architecture. There's a very healthy assortment of jewellery shops along with a large Margaritaville complex and not a lot of natural shade.Outside the gates of the triangle lies the town of Falmouth, which boomed in the late 18th and early 19th century as a slave market and sugar depot and thereafter fell into decay. Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said there are efforts underway to restore some of the historical architecture, and a cab driver who took me to Montego Bay Airport confirmed they have started, but most of the town remains somewhat ramshackle.

Two showcases of the Georgian era, the courthouse and the Anglican church, fit squarely in the colonial style of much of the Caribbean, and I was mildly disappointed that the quality wasn't as high as in some American colonial villages, much less the London originals on which they are based.

Beyond the gates, there are vendors and would-be tour guides trying to drum up business, but I didn't find them as aggressive as some reports might suggest. On the whole, however, a first-time visitor to Falmouth might be better off taking the excursion to Ocho Rios rather than hanging around in town.