L’Austral Joins La Compagnie du Ponant

On Tuesday, 26th April 2011, L’Austral, newest cruise ship of La Compagnie du Ponant, was inaugurated in a ceremony that included live music and fireworks in Marseilles, headquarters of La Compagnie du Ponant and its parent company CMA CGM.

During the event, L’Austral was joined by her identical sister Le Boréal for a side-by-side cruise to the Frioul Islands and famous Chateau d’If. A third Compagnie du Ponant ship, Le Levant, joined later in the day and all three ships saluted each other in the port of Marseilles – a truly moving moment. The evening began with a speech in both French and English from Jean Emmanuel Sauvée, ceo and co-founder of the Company.

Veronique Saadé, deputy director general and the Capt Rémi Genevaz of of L’Austral expressed their pride and joy in celebrating the arrival of a fifth ship. Guests then took their places in the gourmet restaurant for an exquisite lyrical dinner, with the presence of the Bel Canto performers, crowned by a “dessert surprise” from the Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.

The evening continued in the Theatre with a unique show of the Crazy Horse Saloon, and ended with a magnificent display of fireworks in shades of red, gold and silver, visible from the pool decks of L’Austral and her sister ship Le Boréal, introduced in 2010. These ships are very comfortable, sophisticated and were built by Fincantieri in Ancona on a human scale.  Both ships being French-flag, the cuisine is of course tops!

Kevin Griffin from The Cruise People attended the event, as did quite a number of international cruise agents from the UK, Scandinavia and other European countries, as well as France. While agents cruised overnight in Le Boréal, which has now seen a year’s service, journalists and other company guests were accommodated in the brand new L’Austral.

Please call The Cruise People on 020 7723 2450 or email cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk for further information or the latest brochure.

A Day in the Life of Crystal Serenity, 1st October 2010

Crystal Serenity

A Day in the Life of the Crystal Serenity

0730 Stewardess wake-up call followed by an in-room breakfast of miso soup and grilled salmon with vegetables and Japanese condiments as the Crystal Serenity anchors off Portovenere at 0800

0830 Board tenders for a quick walk around Portovenere prior to boarding our coach at 0900 for a full-day excursion to the Cinque Terre, starting with a quick tour of the west side of the Gulf of La Spezia en route to the Cinque Terre.

1000 Arrive at the second village of Manarola and walk down into the town. These five towns, which are mostly located at the bottom of cliffs and high rocky hills, had no highway access until 1960, so other than for certain government and special delivery vehicles, one walks down into the town from hilltop parking lots. And although each town also has a railway station these were not opened until about 1925.

1045 We walk the cliffside promenade, called Via del Amore to the first village of Riomaggiore, where we arrive at 1100 for an independent tour of the town, its little harbour and castle. In the meantime, our guide, Fulvia, manages to perform magic when she gets permission from her bosses to change the whole itinerary of our tour from what might have been a somewhat boring return trip by rail to La Spezia for a coach transfer back to Portvenere. Instead, we will all return by boat along the Cinque Terre coast. This is the kind of guide that Crystal hires (complete with her little miniature pincher dog). Her father had been a naval officer and she lives on the other side of the Gulf of La Spezia.

1212 We catch the train from Riomaggiore for a 25-minute ride to the northernmost Cinque Terre town of Monterosso and then walk south from the railway station toward old Monterosso (there is a newer town to the north that has sprung up since the railway arrived from Genoa and Rapallo to the north in 1879..

1300 Lunch at Monterosso’s Enoteca Internazionale consists of tomato, arugala and Parmesan bruschetta with a couple of glasses of Cinque Terre’s renowned white wine, produced from grapes that are grown on 4,000 miles of terraces arranged along the cliffs and hillsides of this six-mile coast. We decide to acquire a couple of bottles to take back to the ship. For those who wish, lunch is followed by a brief guided tour of the old town of Monterosso.

1500 Thanks to Fulvia’s persuasiveness, we catch the coastal ferry back to Portovenere, passing en route all the Cinque Terre towns of Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, none of which we call at today because the seas are slightly rough (in fact we had originally booked to tour the Cinque Terre by boat but the tour had been cancelled because of sea conditions)

1600 After an hour’s boat trip along the sunny coast we arrive back at Portovenere for the 1605 tender back to the ship. Back on board for 1615, by 1630 we are enjoying an ice cream on the lido deck of Crystal Serenity.

1700 Back at our deluxe stateroom with verandah for half an hour checking emails and bank balances on my notebook, connected to Crystal’s satellite internet service. Through Crystal’s University at Sea one can connect in the privacy of one’s stateroom as well as from the internet centre. After this, we enjoy a glass of Cinque Terre white wine on our private verandah.

1945 Captain’s cocktail party in the Palm Court. But having made 8 pm reservations at one of the ship’s alternate restaurants that evening (Prego for Continental fare and Silk Road for Asian), we make our excuses and leave the cocktail party early for dinner.

2000 Dinner at the Nobu alternative restaurant, Silk Road. Both here and at Prego one need only pay an additional gratuity of $7 per head, as opposed to the $20/25 charges made y some of the more mainstream lines. That evening we enjoy a tasty lobster roll followed by spicy seafood soup, Oriental mushroom salad and Nobu’s very special lobster entree. xx.

2130 After dinner we adjourn to the Avenue Saloon on 6 deck aft, where drinks are accompanied by a pianist. However, we quickly move to the Crystal Cove, where an all-female string quartet from Odessa is providing the after-dinner entertainment..

2230 After a full day we adjourn to our private balcony for some more of that marvelous Cinque Terre wine and prepare for tomorrow in Livorno, the port for Florence. But that is another day.

Call Gay Scruton on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk for further details on any Crystal cruise. And remember, Crystal Cruises goes all-inclusve after the first Transatlantic crossing of the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony.

The French Cruise Market Finally Awakens – AidaSol Enters Service and Costa Favolosa Soon To Follow – Disney Cruise Line Expands – A Discovery II?

Finally, the French cruise market is starting to get interesting as growth continues and cruise lines begin to look for more business from France. Meanwhile, Aida’s eighth cruise ship, the AidaSol is christened in Germany while Costa’s Costa Favolosa is being prepared for her maiden voyage from Venice in a few weeks.

As Halifax and Saint John on Canada’s east coast and Victoria on the west coast prepare to welcome Disney Cruise Line in 2012, Vancouver suffers a big loss as Disney announces its Alaska cruises will sail from Seattle next year instead of Vancouver. Europe loses too. Meanwhile, will there be a Discovery II?

THIS WEEK’S STORY

The French Market Continues To Grow

While France was the last cruise market in Europe to show any signs of growth, now that the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain have all surged ahead, the French market is finally starting to show some signs of life. It has now grown at 12% annually, although admittedly from a lower base, for three years.

As a sign of events, in two weeks there will be a joint inauguration ceremony for Compagnie du Ponant’s 264-berth L’Austral and Le Boréal in Marseilles. And both Croisières de France and Croisières Paquet will now move to larger ships. At Paquet, the Grand Mistral will replace the Costa Allegra this year, while Crosières de France will replace the Bleu de France with the Horizon in 2012.

Meanwhile, looking for more business from France, P&O Cruises announced on Friday the appointment of Compagnie Internationale de Croisière as its general sales agent. Based in Paris, CIC already represents Cunard and Seabourn so this seems a natural move into the French market. How much demand there might be for a British cruise product in France may be debatable but Marks & Spencer is returning to Paris after an absence of several years, with an outlet on the Champs Elysées. Possibly of particular interest to the French is P&O’s latest fleet addition, the Adonia, ex-Royal Princess, which was built at St Nazaire (as of course was the Queen Mary 2).

On the same day as P&O appointed CIC, Royal Caribbean International announced that it would open its own office in Paris (after having failed with an earlier one in 1999-2001). The new RCI Paris office will employ the fifteen employees of the present general sales agent Latitude Sud, who booked 15,000 passengers for Royal Caribbean in 2010. Starting in 2012, the Liberty of the Seas will make more than fifty turnaround calls at French ports, 29 at Marseilles, 23 at Toulon and three or four at Le Havre.

In the meantime, this summer, French passengers will be coached from Nice to Genoa for embarkation on board the line’s Mariner of the Seas. Liberty of the Seas, while an American-sounding name, is appropriate for a Royal Caribbean ship serving the French Market, It was the French who donated the Statue of Liberty to the United States and one of the last great French ocean liners, along with the Ile de France and the France, was called Liberté.

Meanwhile, another arm of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Croisières de France, which falls under Pullmantur as the Paris-based marketing arm for a dedicated French market ship, will be graduating from the 752-berth 37,301-ton Bleu de France, built in 1982, to the 1,506-berth 46,811-ton Horizon, built in 1990, in 2012, after the Bleu de France becomes Saga Sapphire.

Meanwhile, after having built whole series of ships for the likes of Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Renaissance and MSC Cruises, as well as notable one-offs such as the Queen Mary 2 and Crystal Serenity, Chantiers de l’Atlantique, now known as STX France, is down to three orders – the MSC Divina, the mooted Phoenicia, which was launched as X32 on December 15, 2010, and the mooted Europa 2 for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

With Meyer Werft’s order book full, Hapag-Lloyd had wanted to build in Germany, but that yard had been unable to deliver the Europa 2 by 2013. So STX won the order almost by default. Meanwhile, Fincantieri also has orders for enough ships to keep it relatively busy as well. But STX needs more orders and one wonders with Aida up to eight ships now whether STX will be able to tempt TUI Cruises with ships they can deliver earlier than any other shipyard.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

AidaSol Enters Service As Costa Favolosa Is Prepared

The 71,000-ton AidaSol, fifth of Aida Cruises’ new “Sphinx” class cruise ships and eighth ship in the fleet, was officially named in Kiel on Saturday at another star-studded event. Like the AidaBlu that preceded her and the sixth “Sphinx” class ship to follow, the AidaSol has an extra deck compared to the first four ships of her class, her own brewery and a 25,000 sq ft spa. Her 1,097 passenger cabins give her a double occupancy capacity of 2,198 passengers.

With dimensions of 252 by 32.2 metres (827 x 106 feet), vessels of this class were built at Meyer Werft in Papenburg and can just make it through the present Panama Canal. In fact, near sister AidaLuna became the largest cruise ship ever to reach Montreal, on the St Lawrence River, when she arrived there last year. She is one of the larger ships that can pass under the Quebec Bridge 139 nautical miles downstream at Quebec City.

After Saturday’s naming ceremony the AidaSol departed on Sunday on a 9-night maiden voyage, a cruise of major north European ports and capitals calling at Copenhagen, Oslo, Dover (for London), Le Havre (for Paris), Amsterdam and Hamburg. This will be followed by two similar 7-night Hamburg to Hamburg cruises and from May to September, in an attempt to get further growth from the German cruise market, she will be engaged on a series of short 4-night sampler cruises from Warnemünde to Oslo, Copenhagen and back.

The European capitals cruises resembles closely an itinerary that has recently been offered by Aida’s parent company Costa Cruises, and in fact all the Aida ships, although serving the German-speaking market, are registered Costa’s head office city of Genoa.

The 114,500-ton Costa Favolosa, meanwhile, fourth of five of Costa Cruises’ “Conquest” class ships and sixteenth ship in the Costa fleet, was presented to Costa Cruises in Trieste on Friday. This ship has a 65,000 sq ft Samsara Spa, with lunch and dinner at the Samsara Restaurant included in the fare for passengers booked in Samsara cabins and suites.

Her 1,508 passenger staterooms give her a double occupancy capacity of 3,016 passengers. With sixteen ships, not all in the Mediterranean, Costa will this year make 2,800 calls in 92 ports, carrying almost nine million passengers – a 33% increase over 2010. Costa Favolosa makes her maiden voyage from Venice on July 4.

Disney in Canada, Europe and Texas

Last Wednesday in New York, Disney Cruise Line announced that while it will be pulling into Halifax and Saint John for the first timein 2012, it would be abandoning Vancouver for a new base in Seattle. Not only that, but the line will be abandoning Europe, at least for now.

So 2011 will be Disney’s one and only season sailing out of Vancouver. Except for one or two calls at Vancouver in 2012, the Disney Wonder will call at Victoria BC, thus allowing her to comply to US coasting laws that permit a ship to cruise from and to the same US port as long as her itinerary includes a foreign port of call.

In addition to its homeport of Port Canaveral, Disney will be sailing from three new US ports in 2012 – New York, Seattle and Galveston.

The 1,754-berth Disney Magic, cruising in Europe this summer, will move to New York in May 2012 for a series of twenty cruises through to summer and autumn. Galveston will then be added in September 2012, with Disney Magic offering twelve 7-night cruises from then until December. Her sister ship, Disney Wonder, will also move her Alaska cruises from Vancouver this summer to the US port of Seattle in the summer of 2012. Both Europe and Vancouver will therefore be losing Disney Cruise Line at the end of this summer’s season.

In New York, meanwhile, one will be pardoned next year for thinking they see a Cunard Line or a French Line Transatlantic liner berthed at Manhattan’s west wide liner piers. It won’t be the Queen Mary or Normandie, however, but the Disney Magic. Like all Disney ships, she has been built to evoke the great “ships of state” from the 1930s. The Disney Magic will offer eight 8-night cruises to the Bahamas and nine 5-night cruises to Canada, thus adding more cruises to New York’s port statistics. In 2010, New York counted over 582,000 embarking passengers and 241 ship calls, 30% up from 445,000 passengers and 181 calls in 2009.

The new 2,500-berth Disney Dream, meanwhile, has taken over the line’s traditional 3-, 4- and 5-day sailings out of Port Canaveral and will be joined in 2012 by her sister ship Disney Fantasy. On delivery of the Fantasy, the Disney fleet will not only stand at four ships, but its lower berth capacity will have risen from 3,508 to 8,508, an increase of 2.4 times.

Discovery II?

In November 2009, All Leisure Group PLC purchased Phoenix Reisen’s Alexander von Humbolt, second ship of that name and built as Crown Cruise Line’s Crown Monarch in 1990. Her previous owner had been the now-defunct Club Cruise of the Netherlands.

All Leisure then chartered the ship back to Phoenix to complete a 2010 program, with P&O’s Artemis due to be delivered to Phoenix as Artania in 2011. Meanwhile, All Leisure have kept quiet as to which of their three brands, Hebridean Island Cruises, Swan Hellenic (whose Minerva was the first Alexander von Humboldt) or Voyages of Discovery, might get the ship.

The Alexander von Humboldt completed her Phoenix cruises in November and is now in Genoa undergoing refurbishment for All Leisure, but still with an unannounced future. Part of the work under way appears to be the addition of about twenty new balconies. Meanwhile, her graceful clipper bow, which was prone to damage in heavy seas, has been turned into something a little bit more snub-nosed.

On Friday, All Leisure announced 2012 itineraries for the existing three ships, Discovery, Hebridean Princess and Minerva, which would seem to indicate that the latest acquisition might become a replacement for either Discovery or Minerva and not an addition. No announcement was made of any new ship or any additional itineraries but work on the fourth ship continues in Genoa.

One report indicates that the 508-berth fourth vessel might be renamed Discovery II when her refit is finished, but that it is not known whether she will be an addition to the 710-berth Discovery or a replacement for her. We wait to hear further but here are the details for the three larger ships:

All Leisure's Fleet

If one looks at the age of the ships the answer to the riddle might be obvious but on the other hand the Minerva also carried the name Alexander von Humboldt for a time.

Courtesy of Mark Tré at www.cybercruises.com – first published 11th April 2011.

New Two-Ship West Coast to UK & Continent Transatlantic Service – Update 26.01.12: Service Withdrawn – Update 05.05.12: New Four-Ship Service Between Italy and California via Suez and Asia

NSB have now introduced a new four-ship cargo-passenger service to operate between Italy and California by way of the Suez Canal and Asian ports. Further details can be found by clicking on this link. The Cruise People Ltd, London, 5th May 2012.

It has been announced that the Europe to West Coast service via Panama has been withdrawn. The Cruise People Ltd, London, 26th January 2012.

The Cruise People Ltd are pleased to announce cargo-passenger service between Europe and the West Coast of North America with the Hansa Magdeburg and Hansa Regensburg, operating on a route between the UK and Continental ports and Panama, California, Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest.

With a round voyage of 70 days, two ships operate on this route, with calls at Tilbury, Hamburg, Le Havrein Europe and Cartagena in Colombia and the Panama Canal, then Puerto Quetzal, Lazaro Cardenas, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Vancouver and return to Tilbury by way of Oakland, Long Beach, Manzanillo, Lazaro Cardenas, Puerto Quetzal, the Panama Canal, Cartagena, Tanger Med in Morocco, and Rotterdam.

The sister ships are owned by Leonhardt & Blumberg, and feature two Owners and four twin cabins, so they can carry a maximum of twelve passengers on their cross-Atlantic voyages. Bookings are possible between your choice of ports with fare charged for the number of days spent on board.

Further details on either service can be obtained from Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London, England, at 020 7723 2450 or cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Did the Octopus Salvage the Explorer’s Black Box?

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Paul Allen's 414-foot yacht Octopus, owned by Navigea Ltd

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s 414-foot yacht Octopus has been down in southern Argentina and Antarctica this winter and, according to today’s Norwegian shipping paper TradeWinds, on February 8 she may have salvaged the black box recorder from GAP Adventures’ pioneer expedition cruise ship Explorer, lost by sinking in ice on November 27, 2007.

On Wednesday, March 30, Navigea Ltd, owners of the Octopus, filed suit in Seattle against Kelvin-Hughes NDR 2000 Voyage Data Recorder and GAP Shipping Ltd for the cost of salvage, which it is said could be between $2 and $3 million. GAP of course did not sanction this work and will resist any responsibility for this effort. As well as helicopters, the Octopus is outfitted with two submersibles that could have carried out this work.

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GAP Adventures' 345-foot expedition ship Expedition replaced the Explorer.

While the merits of this case are debated why not think about a cruise in GAP’s new ship Expedition, commissioned in 2009 to replace the original Explorer. The Expedition cruises the Antarctic by winter and the waters around the British Isles and Svalbard, or Spitsbergen, by summer.

Call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 for further details.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and GAP Adventures.

Rickmers Stops Carrying Passengers Through The Gulf of Aden

Possibly related to this week’s ban by Hamburg-based Rickmers on carrying passengers through the Gulf of Aden is a report of a pirate attack on a similar-sized ship, also owned in Hamburg, last month.

The Liberian-flag ER Lübeck evaded  pirate attack in the Somali Basin some 450 nautical miles NE of the Seychelles  in the late hours of 11th March, stretching into the early hours of 12th.

The ER Lübeck was en route to Salalah when it was attacked from the rear of  the ship, with pirates opening fire with automatic weapons. The ship sustained  some minor small arms fire damage to the funnel and crane forward of the ship’s  bridge. All personnel are reported to be safe and well.

On Wednesday. Rickmers Reederei in Hamburg issued the following notice to agents booking passengers on their cargo ships:

Although measures are now being taken by the international community to repress piracy in the area and provide protective measures for merchant shipping, the risk of hijacking still remains.

Special protective measures recently implemented on board the Rickmers fleet restrict passengers in their routine of the day for a period of about 10 to 14 days. This has already led to some complaints. Beside this, we have unfortunately experienced a few cases where passengers violated the Captain’s orders whilst the vessel was proceeding through the high risk area, so that the vessel and the people on board were exposed to a greater risk than necessary.

As a consequence the management of the Rickmers Group has decided today that, with immediate effect, no passengers will be accepted to board any of the Rickmers vessels transiting the areas affected by the acts of pirates.

CMA CGM continue to accept passengers on their full 76-day Pacific Express 3 Round-the-World loop in fast container ships. For further details of alternatives please contact The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or at cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk

Around the World in German ships (124 days with an 18/25-day break)

m/v RICKMERS ANTWERP, m/v RICKMERS GENOA, m/v RICKMERS HAMBURG, m/v RICKMERS JAKARTA, m/v RICKMERS NEW ORLEANS, m/v RICKMERS SEOUL, m/v RICKMERS SHANGHAI, m/v RICKMERS SINGAPORE and m/v RICKMERS TOKYO – (2 Double and 2 Single cabins, swimming pool, maximum 7 passengers), 30,000 dwt tons.

NOTE: Until further notice passengers will not be carried on the stretch between Genoa and Singapore. Unfortunately, this ban has had to be imposed because some passengers have ignored officers’ instructions to stay off the decks in areas where pirates are active. The duration of this passage is about 18-25 days, which would allow passengers about a three-week break in either Europe and/or Southeast Asia before rejoining the ship in Singapore. Alternatively, we can arrange passage through Suez on fast container ships.

Itinerary: – Houston – Baltimore – Philadelphia – Hamburg – Antwerp – Genoa (All passengers must disembark here until further notice) – Suez – Jakarta -Singapore (Passengers may embark or re-embark here)- Hong Kong – Shanghai – Dalian – Pusan – Yokohama – New Orleans – Houston, ports subject to change.

Transatlantic, Transpacific and part voyages possible.