Wednesday, 27 June 2018
MSC Cruises to Install Ocean Guardian Software
Thursday, 21 June 2018
A tale of two cruise lines
Two European businessmen created two different cruise lines in the 1990s. Both have been successful in their own terms, but one formula for success has a lot more scale than the other one.
The two lines are Silversea Cruises and MSC Cruises. Silversea was formed in 1994 by building two new ships straight out of the gate for the luxury market. It was marketed primarily, if not exclusively, in North America.
MSC took a different route. Created from the leftovers of the Lauro Lines in 1995, MSC operated used, some would say very used, tonnage. Like Carnival Cruise Line, it deployed its older ships to cater to the mass market. It was marketed primarily to Europeans, with a few winter itineraries in the Caribbean.
Silversea's first newly built ship, the Silver Cloud, was a thing of beauty. It was instantly competitive with other luxury vessels.
MSC's first newly built ship didn't arrive until a decade after the Silver Cloud was delivered and it was a takeover of an option that couldn't be exercised by the Greek line Festival Cruises when it went into bankruptcy.
Since launching, Silversea has acquired a fleet of nine ships, with two more vessels on order.
With the delivery of the MSC Seaview, MSC has 15 ships in its fleet, with another nine on order through 2026.
Last week, Silversea and Royal Caribbean announced an agreement in which Royal will get a 67% equity stake for $1 billion. Silversea gives up its autonomy as a private company in exchange for continued growth and investment in its brand.
MSC is investing in its own future with a $10.5 billion newbuild program, and its autonomy is not in doubt.
MSC took a slower, less glamorous route to success but in the end, it is the company that stands independent.
Two major differences steered MSC and Silversea towards different outcomes. The first is that MSC Cruises was a side project for MSC chairman Gianluigi Aponte, whose main business, container shipping, made it easier to secure the financing that kept MSC's order book growing.
The second is that MSC operates in the low-price, high-profit segment of the cruise business. Catering to the mass market may not be where the glamour is, but it is where the money is. The finances of both MSC and Silversea are private, so it is perhaps unfair to say one is more profitable than the other.
Yet there's no doubt about the economies of scale that big ships produce, and the comments of executives at public companies that operate in both segments suggest that while luxury produces higher per-diems, big ships produce a more overall profit.
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Saturday, 16 June 2018
Friday, 15 June 2018
Rule Britannia: P&O Cruises’ flagship still rules the roost
Britannia may have just celebrated her third birthday, but she is still a special way to see the Caribbean
Cocktail in hand, basking in the warm glow of the Caribbean sun as it disappeared into the sea, I couldn’t think of a place I’d rather be.
High up on P&O Cruises’ flagship, Britannia is The Sunset Bar. You would often find me here, tucked away from the stresses of life, completely embracing the Caribbean vibes.
It was hard to believe that a week had passed since my early departure from Gatwick Airport.
Yet here I was sipping a Long Island Iced Tea in tropical conditions without a care in the world. In the famous words of P&O Cruises: ‘This is the life’.
My adventure? Sailing on Britannia as she finished her Caribbean season and travelled home across the Atlantic.
Two years of planning, a number of family celebrations and an amazing itinerary all added to the anticipation we felt. It had been a long time coming, but here I was, finally cruising the Caribbean.
It’s only fair to start with the aspect that truly made this cruise incredible – the itinerary. We spent twelve days sailing the Caribbean calling at six islands in total.
Embarking Britannia in St Lucia, famous for its lush valleys of coconut and banana plantations, the journey time from the airport to ship was an hour and a half, accompanied by a local guide.
From St Lucia we crossed to the ‘island of spice’, Grenada, one of my favourite ports of call. Here I explored how nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa was produced before sampling the locally brewed spiced rum, which certainly had a kick! A stop at the immersive Annandale Falls within the heart of the rainforest followed, watching the water cascade down whilst witnessing sponsored jumps to help raise money for the local community – a picture perfect memory if I ever saw one.
From Grenada we cruised the islands of St. Kitts, home to some of the best rainforest in the Caribbean, the French Territory of Martinique, the historic Antigua and, of course, Barbados, the Caribbean home of P&O Cruises.
It is true what they say – no two Caribbean islands are alike – and each has something unique to offer: whether it is culture, history, activities or exports.
If I had to choose my favourite, there is one that stands out, a favourite place of my late uncle’s, the gorgeous island of Antigua.
Usually, when you look forward to something this much there is always a risk it won’t live up to your expectations. But I needn’t have worried. The locals were friendly, the scenery incredible and the history intriguing, it’s truly a magnificent island and encompasses everything I love about the Caribbean.
Antigua also happened to be our last port in the Caribbean. And though it was incredibly bittersweet, I was excited to start my transatlantic crossing, even if it meant leaving the Caribbean behind.
Departing Antigua, eight sea days and a call into the Azores separated us from Southampton. I love sea days and after a very port intensive itinerary, these provided ample time to recharge with plenty of opportunities to explore onboard. It had been two years since I last sailed on Britannia, so how was she fairing?
There are signs of wear-and-tear, which you would expect, but the crew have maintained her well and there is no denying that she is still a stunning ship, radiating elegance and charm.
Her public spaces are well-designed from a practical viewpoint and, despite her size, she has an ambience which remains intimate and inviting, with echoes of her smaller sister Aurora creeping through. Certainly, at no point did I ever feel overwhelmed by the number of passengers onboard, something I was grateful for.
As for our accommodation, we plumped for neighbouring deluxe balcony cabins. Impressive and modern, almost minimalistic in decoration, they have the usual layout and amenities you would come to expect.
The balconies are narrow making them difficult to use comfortably but remain perfect for enjoying a glass of bubbly or two whilst sailing into the sunset.
Interestingly, there are no bedside lamps for reading, nor any coat hooks within the cabin. Minor issues, perhaps, but it seems strange that features which have been a staple part of cruise cabins for many years are missing. However, senior management did say these minor omissions should be addressed during her first refit in October 2019.
Regardless, Britannia’s atrium is spectacular, with her starburst feature illuminating the surrounding decks. It is undoubtedly the social hub of the ship, with many choosing to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat here.
Early on I developed an unexpected love with the Market Café, headed by celebrity chef, Eric Lanlard. On offer are crêpes and patisseries along with a selection of gourmet boards, all of which were delicious. In fact, a visit to the Atrium became a staple part of my daily routine, ensuring I received my much-needed afternoon tea and cake!
The Atrium’s glamour ripples throughout the rest of the ship’s numerous entertainment venues, bars and lounges – each having its own unique ambience and character. The Crow’s Nest was a favourite haunt of mine. A sophisticated feel with a nautical, yet modern theme, a spectacular view by day transforms to an evening of piano music and cocktails, or if like me, a journey through the rather large gin menu!
Given the itinerary, I didn’t particularly use the evening entertainment. The Headliners Theatre Company are worth mentioning, leading some of the best shows I’ve seen onboard, all developed to suit Britannia’s hi-tech theatre and LED screens, creating shows which are a spectacle to witness.
From productions celebrating the music of Queen to fairy tale stories with a touch of magic, there was something for everyone.
Unfortunately, Britannia’s top deck signature light spectacular left much to be desired. This is where her age was showing. Many lights appeared to be malfunctioning and the production quality was lacking.
Daytime entertainment was packed with activities, quizzes, events, movies, speakers, with more than enough to keep you occupied. As for me? I spent most of my time mesmerised by the sea, engrossed in a thrilling read or drinking a cocktail or two.
Speciality dining was incredible. Britannia has six speciality venues, including my favourites, The Beach House and Sindhu, along with The Glass House, Epicurean and The Limelight Club.
Each offers a varied menu with foods inspired from both home and away. We celebrated Mother’s Day in the finery of Epicurean, revelling in the culinary delights and flambé displays!
The main dining room didn’t make the best first impression, with food being served cold on several occasions. However, this was addressed with apologies from the Restaurant Manager who re-seated us in the Peninsular restaurant. Here we met the star of the crew, Francisco, who certainly made our dining experience a fun one. Thereafter we dined in ‘Francisco’s corner’, making memories to last a lifetime.
As the weather grew too cold to brave the outside bars, my last couple of day were spent looking through the ship's windows at the ever-darkening sea. Savouring every moment of my final days on board, I had time to reflect on the incredible itinerary that I had witnessed and the memories I had made, eager to find my next adventure.
Daniel Bradley is The Cruising Baker who writes about his two passions: cruising and baking! Check out his blog here to read more of his work.
Royal Caribbean announces a brand-wide withdrawal of single-use plastic straws
Single-use plastic straws are to be withdrawn across all 50 ships across Royal Caribbean Cruises brands by the end of the year.
The move is the first step towards a comprehensive plastics elimination across Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Tui Cruises and Pullmantur.
A “straws upon request” policy running for more than a year will see paper straws replacing plastic versions by early next year.
Passengers will start to see Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks as part of the company’s plastic reduction strategy.
The focus will then switch to other single-use plastics such as condiment packets, cups, and bags.
A full plastics audit is underway, with the overall plan to be completed in phases by 2020.
Chairman and chief executive Richard Fain said: “Healthy oceans are vital to the success of our company.
“For over 25 years, our Save the Waves programme has guided us to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything we can. Eliminating single-use plastics is another step in that programme.”
MSC Cruises unveils plans to build fifth Meraviglia class vessel
MSC Cruises aggressive fleet expansions plans are set to continue after the brand revealed plans to build a fifth Meraviglia-class vessel.
The line announced its decision to build a ship, due to be delivered in 2023, during a ceremony today (June 14) at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard in STX France.
The vessel will be the 13th ship to be built during MSC Cruises’ 10-year investment plan which will see the line double its capacity by 2020 and more than triple it by 2026.
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ executive chairman, said: “Our fifth Meraviglia-class cruise ship will bring a new generation of cutting-edge environmental technology to the market, benefiting from a new generation of LNG-powered engines.
“This will help us further reduce our environmental footprint and advance in our journey of constant improvement.”
The line also revealed at the event that the fourth Meraviglia-class vessel would be called MSC Virtuosa, which underwent its steel cutting ceremony today.
For the first time in Saint-Nazaire’s history, three cruise ships belonging to a single cruise brand are under simultaneous construction at the shipyard.
MSC’s agreement with STX France to add another ship to its order book represents an investment of €900 million.
Thursday’s event was held to mark three shipbuilding milestones: the steel cutting ceremony of the fourth Meraviglia class vessel, the coin ceremony of MSC Grandiosa and the float of MSC Bellissima.
MSC Bellissima will be christened at a ceremony in Southampton on March 2 2019.
The event will be attended by more than 2,000 guests, including VIPs and important British stakeholders.
Thursday, 14 June 2018
Royal Caribbean Reveals China-Bound Spectrum of the Seas
Monday, 11 June 2018
Sunday, 10 June 2018
Carnival wins a challenge against Bermuda same-sex marriage ban
A ban imposed against same-sex marriages on cruise ships registered in Bermuda is being lifted after a successful Carnival Corporation-backed legal challenge on the island
The Supreme Court in the British Overseas Territory yesterday upheld a constitutional challenge against the Domestic Partnership Act, allowing gay couples to once again be able to marry.
Chief justice Ian Kawaley, delivering his judgment, said the sections of the Act which revoked the right to same-sex marriage were invalid because they were inconsistent with provisions in the Constitution which give the right to freedom of conscience and creed.
It came after a court battle fought by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the gay rights charity OutBermuda, with part funding by Carnival.
The ban, which came into force in February, meant P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises ships registered in Bermuda were prevented from conducting same-sex marriages on board.
Carnival had faced calls for a boycott due to some of its ships being registered in Bermuda.
Carnival UK president Josh Weinstein said: “We are delighted that the supreme court of Bermuda has decided that same-sex marriage is legal in Bermuda and we congratulate OutBermuda on its hard-won challenge.
“As a result of the judgment, it will also now be legal for same-sex couples to marry onboard cruise ships registered in the country.
“As a company committed to equality, inclusion and diversity, we believe everyone deserves equal dignity and respect, and we are proud to have provided our support to OutBermuda’s efforts to champion marriage equality.
“We will now be working closely with the Bermudan authorities to understand when we will be able to resume marrying same-sex couples on board.”
The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Bermuda’s parliament in December, reversing a supreme court ruling from May last year, which enabled gay couples to marry on the island.
The new legislation came into force on Friday, revoking the right of gay couples to marry and offering them – and heterosexual couples – the option of a legally-recognised civil union.
But chief justice Kawaley’s ruling will mean gay couples can wed once more and domestic partnerships will also be available.
The DPA meant Bermuda was the only country in the world to have allowed gay marriage and then revoked that right.
Ferguson then launched a crowdsourced civil case on the grounds that his constitutional rights had been breached.
Jackson and OutBermuda, with partial funding from Carnival Corporation, later filed a separate lawsuit and asked for it to be joined with Ferguson’s case.
However, the Bermuda government has an automatic right to appeal the ruling and it will not go into effect immediately.
The chief justice agreed to an application by solicitor-general Melvyn Douglas to stay the effect of the judgment for six weeks until it decides whether to appeal, meaning the current ban on same-sex marriage will remain in place, according to Bermuda’s Royal Gazette newspaper.