The Cruise Examiner for 30th May 2011: The Market for Middle Size Ships – Some Background And A Survey of Mid-Size Cruise Ship Opportunities

by Kevin Griffin

The Market for Middle Size Ships – Some Background And A Survey of Mid-Size Cruise Ship Opportunities

 Now that cruise lines have evolved into mass market operations with mega-ships of well over 1,000 feet long and up to 225,000 tons, capable of carrying up to 6,000 passengers each, the whole industry has changed. Nevertheless, there is a still very much of a market for mid-size cruise ships and new ships continue to be added to those already in service. And contrary to public perception, not all these ships are ultra-luxury ships that the general public cannot afford. There still remains a good element of choice. So this week, we have a look at the mid-size cruise ship market and survey some of the choices that remain.


The Cruise Examiner For 23rd May 2011: Local Politics Becomes A Pain in Certain Cruise Ports – Other News: Growth Trends in European Cruise Markets 2010 – Polar Star Expeditions Closes

by Kevin Griffin

Local Politics Becomes A Pain in Certain Cruise Ports – Other News: Growth Trends in European Cruise Markets 2010 – Polar Star Expeditions Closes

As if cruise lines do not have enough to worry about with poor economies, high fuel costs and advancing emission control areas, in the past month concerns have started to come to light at the local level in three important cruise ports – first in Victoria, BC, then in Charleston, SC, and now in Europe, in Venice. We also take a look at trends in European cruise market growth in 2010. And, eight months after Cruise West went down in September 2010, Polar Star succumbs after their ship’s January grounding in Antarctica.


85 Years Ago: The First Cruise Ship To Come To Miami

Have you thought about cruising the West Indies, in a ship that offers space, service and no crowds, to out of the way islands, like it used to be? It’s eighty-five years since the first cruises were offered from Miami, but it’s still possible, if you look around, to find ships that carry just a few hundred passengers and are not overwhelmed by children and attractions. When you get a chance, give us a call on 020 7723 2450 and ask, but, meanwhile, we thought you might find this little story of interest.

Eighty-five years ago, in the winter of 1926-27, the Clarke Steamship Co Ltd of Quebec became the first company to operate weekly cruises from Florida, in its s.s. New Northland. Here is a little background on an important part of history that is now long forgotten.

Winter cruises had been offered from Key West in 1913 and then from Jacksonville in 1914 by the Plant Line’s 3,786-ton Evangeline, the first ship of that name, that operated between Boston, Halifax and Charlottetown in the summer months. These longer 11-night cruises, which took guests down to see the Panama Canal, then under construction, and also called at Kingston, Jamaica, and Havana, Cuba, ended with the First World War. Twenty years earlier, in 1893, another Plant Line ship, the 1,738-ton Halifax, had offered an experimental series of three 10-day cruises between Tampa and Jamaica.

The New Northland arriving at Palm Beach in January 1927

Completed in April 1926 by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the same shipyard that had built Cunard’s famous 31,938-ton Mauretania twenty years earlier, the Clarke ship had actually entered service as the Northland. Before she arrived in Florida, however, she was renamed New Northland, chiefly in order to prevent confusion with the twenty-seven-year-old 3,282-ton North Land that ran between Key West and Havana in the winter (and Boston and Yarmouth NS by summer). With both the Northland and the North Land planning to be in Havana at the same time, there was no point in confusing passengers, let alone port authorities, ship chandlers and others as to which ship they should be going to! Besides, the change of name emphasized the age of the older ship, with which the New Northland also competed for one-way passengers between Florida and Cuba.

While the New Northland had been built to cruise the Gulf of St Lawrence from Montreal to Newfoundland, in the winter time, when the St Lawrence was blocked by ice, she needed to find alternative employment. Thus, for the winter of 1926-27  Clarke chose to place their new flagship into a new weekly cruise service from Palm Beach and Miami to Nassau and Havana. As a cruise ship, she could cater for about 140 first-class passengers.  In order to promote these cruises, a $5,000 model of the New Northland was put on display in the main window of Burdine’s department store (now Macy’s) in downtown Miami.

Downtown Miami, as it appeared in 1927

The New Northland left Montreal at the end of her first Gulf of St Lawrence cruise season on November 26, 1926, and took a cargo south to Havana before presenting for her new duties in Florida.  She arrived in Miami on Sunday, January 9, 1927, and Palm Beach the following day. Several thousand Miamians came out to inspect the new cruise ship on her maiden call and a similar event was held the next day in Palm Beach, where the new Breakers Hotel had opened twelve days earlier. Unlike today, when ships generally sail on the weekend, the New Northland‘s weekly cruises left Palm Beach and Miami every Wednesday during the winter months. Typical of advertisements that appeared in the Miami Daily News was this one for her third cruise:-

Cruise Havana – Nassau from Miami and Palm Beach. Sailing Wednesday, January 26. s.s. NEW NORTHLAND (British Registry). This palatial ship is your hotel for six days, Full day in Nassau – three in Havana. No baggage transfers. All outside cabins, many with twin beds, private baths. $90 and up.

While she would later be registered at Quebec, for the first few years the New Northland indeed remained registered at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she had been built, hence the British flag.

The first season went well, but things had been going on in the background. In January 1926, the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company, which had been operating the Miami-Nassau overnight service for thirty years, had been replaced by Munson Steamship Lines of New York, who also owned the British Colonial Hotel (now the British Colonial Hilton) in Nassau. In 1926-27, while the New Northland was cruising, Munson had contented themselves with the Red Cross Line’s 2,568-ton Rosalind, a fifteen-year-old second-hand ship that usually ran between New York, Halifax and St John’s NF. But by the time the 1927-28 winter season rolled around, Munson had arranged to charter the much more luxurious New Northland with her two sumptuous lounges, all-outside staterooms, verandah cafe and plentiful outdoor deck areas, to operate its three sailings a week between Miami and Nassau.

Today, there is a wide choice of Caribbean cruises, but the absolute best are from the likes of Azamara Club Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Crystal Cruises, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and SeaDream Yacht Club, to name just a few that will take you off the beaten path. Not to San Juan, St Thomas and St Maarten but to places like Marigot and Soufrière, Jost van Dyke and Spanish Town, Havana and Santiago, St Barthelemy and Saba. Despite what some may try to tell you, the ship is not the destination at all, it is the means of getting there in great comfort and with good company and a means of enjoying the sea, with excellent cuisine and the type of understated service that really marks out luxury

The Tere Moana, for example, a 3,504-ton ship owned by Paul Gauguin Cruises, has almost exactly the same tonnage and dimensions as the New Northland, although her appearance is totally different. She carries just 90 passengers in great comfort, and no cargo, and visits many smaller ports where the big ships cannot enter. Formerly Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Levant, she sails from St Martin on her inaugural cruise on December 29, 2012.

For further details on any of these ships call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail

The Cruise Examiner For 16th May 2011: Holland America To Cruise Year-Round From Rotterdam – Other News: American Lines Show European Weakness – MSC Takes Over Starlight Cruises – Mediterranean Port

by Kevin Griffin

Holland America To Cruise Year-Round From Rotterdam – Other News: American Lines Show European Weakness – MSC Takes Over Starlight Cruises – Mediterranean Ports

At last week’s Cruise Europe meeting in Stavanger, Holland America Line announced that it would become the latest North American line to base a ship in Europe year-round and the second to base a ship year-round in northern Europe. Meanwhile, two American lines have now announced redeployments away from the eastern Mediterranean for the winter of 2011/12. In South Africa last week, MSC took over local cruise seller Starlight Cruises. And as Genoa and Marseilles announced booming cruise numbers, the MSC Opera sailed from Southampton and SeaDream I arrived in London, each for the first time.


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New US East Coast to West Coast Passenger Route via Suez Canal Retraces Original World Cruise Route of 1909

Colombus LoopThree ships, the CMA CGM Figaro, CMA CGM La Scala and CMA CGM Tosca (shown below), now offer an interesting itinerary between New York and Seattle, as well as Vancouver BC, via the Suez Canal. Known as CMA CGM’s Columbus Loop, the full 112-day round voyage is made via ports in the Far East. Eastbound, ships leave New York via Norfolk and Savannah and sail directly to Tanjung Pelepas, a port in Malaysia located just across the water from Singapore. Calls are then made at Hong Kong, Yantian and Shanghai before proceeding to Pusan, in South Korea, and on to Seattle and Vancouver.

The CMA CGM Tosca and fleetmates now connect New York and Seattle (as well as Vancouver BC) via the Suez Canal and Far East ports. © Kevin Quick

The return voyage is made from Vancouver to Yokohama and then calls at the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong and Yantian before returning to New York via Tanjung Pelepas.

Voyage time from New York to Seattle is 60 days and from Seattle to New York 52 days (Vancouver to New York is 49 days). This voyage is for those who love the sea, with the longest transit being 32 days from Savannah to Tanjung Pelepas (on the return, Tanjung Pelepas to New York is 23 days).

World Cruises - Cleveland 1909The new routing retraces the route of the first World Cruise, which was offered by Hamburg America Line’s Cleveland before the Panama Canal had even been opened – but takes half the time. Chartered by Frank C Clark of New York, an early cruise organizer, the Cleveland left New York on October 16, 1909, and took 108 days to proceed across the Atlantic to ports in the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, India and the Far East before finishing the world’s first Round-the-World Cruise in San Francisco on January 31, 1910. Passengers then returned to their homes from the West Coast by train while the Cleveland retraced her steps on a second world cruise. Equally, passengers taking the new Columbus Loop cruise can travel around the world in either direction and complete their circumnavigation in less than two months by making the rail journey across North America.

The CMA CGM Figaro and CMA CGM La Scala carry seven passengers each in three double cabins and one single, with fares set at €80 per person per day or €90 per day for sole occupancy of a double cabin. The CMA CGM Tosca carries up to eight passengers in three double cabins and two singles. Fares include full board, port charges, deviation insurance and complimentary French table wine with lunch and dinner. Part voyages are also possible but the full 112-day round voyage starts at €11,200. New York to Seattle is €6,000 for 60 days and Seattle to New York is €5,200 for 52 days.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail

Cruising Returns to the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence

Cruising has slowly  been returning to the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence, with Baie Comeau, Sept Iles and Havre St Pierre all having hosted modern cruise ships for the first time in the past few years. The first international cruise ship to visit Sept Iles was Holland America Line’s Maasdam, which called on May 19, 2009, on a voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal. The Maasdam berthed at the Monseigneur Blanche Wharf, where until 1961, the Clarke Steamship Company’s North Shore had offered weekly cruises from Montreal as far as Havre St Pierre and Natashquan. That service also carried regular passengers and freight but was closed down fifty years ago after the highway was extended along the North Shore from Quebec City and Baie Comeau. The North Shore then went to cruise in the Greek islands. Recently, however, a $20.4 million 124-metre extension has been added to the wharf to allow cruise ships of up to 985 feet to dock.

Cruising to the North Shore and Labrador was most popular with the Clarke Steamship Co, founded in 1921 by what up until then had been a family involved in publishing and pulp and paper. To the right is a typical scene from 1935, with Clarke’s North Voyageur, the first of three ships to carry that name, berthed at Clarke City wharf at Pointe Noire, now part of the Port of Sept Iles.

Meeting the ship is the Gulf Pulp & Paper Company’s locomotive number 20, a unit that had been built for the Intercolonial Railway in 1900 and acquired by Gulf Pulp & Paper in 1924. Behind her are a combination passenger and freight car and a number of flat cars. The bell-mouthed smokestack was to prevent sparks from starting forest fires along the nine-mile railway line that linked the wharf with the pulp mill  town of Clarke City.

Cruises on the North Voyageur, which had berths for 62 overnight passengers, ran 12 nights round trip  from Montreal and started at $100. Ports of call included Quebec, Godbout, Clarke City, Havre St Pierre, Natashquan and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, returning via Natashquan, Sept Iles and Franquelin. Today, ships as large as the Queen Mary 2 call at Corner Brook, which has also seen a revival in cruising.

A new cruise terminal has gone into service at Sept Iles, with ships now calling regularly from New York and Europe. And the new wharf extension allows cruise passengers to board another train that takes them to visit an Innu summer camp on the Moisie River, a famed salmon river that has been fished by prime ministers.
In 2012, Crystal Cruises picked up on a formula that has not been used for twenty years now, a 7-night round trip from Montreal on Crystal Symphony, departing September 30. Indicative of the gradual progress being made by the new Gulf of St Lawrence cruise ports, three of her four ports of call, Sept Iles, les Iles de la Madeleine and the French Atlantic islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, were first time calls for Crystal. The fourth port, Quebec, which was visited before returning to Montreal, has recently been voted the most popular cruise port in North America. The 51,0440-ton Crystal Symphony carries 960 guests in great comfort and will be going all-inclusive in 2012.  This Montreal round trip itinerary will be repeated on September 26, 2013, while other Crystal Symphony itineraries will include Havre St Pierre.
Saga’s Quest for Adventure also offered a new 14-night itinerary last September. Sailing for its Spirit of Adventure brand, she departed Halifax on the 17th for St Pierre et Miquelon, then called on les Iles de la Madeleine, Havre St Pierre, Sept Iles, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Saguenay, Baie Comeau and Gaspé before returning to Halifax. This 18,591-ton vessel can accommodate 446 passengers.
For further details of opportunities to cruise the Gulf of St Lawrence in particular or Canada/New England in general please call The Cruise People Ltd on 020 7723 2450 or email us at

The Cruise Examiner For 9th May 2011: Could Europe Become the World’s Largest Cruise Market? Other News: Australasia: The World’s Fastest-Growing Market – San Diego Loses Another Ship to Australia – UK Cruise Convention 2011

by Kevin Griffin

Could Europe Become the World’s Largest Cruise Market? Other News: Australasia: The World’s Fastest-Growing Market – San Diego Loses Another Ship to Australia – UK Cruise Convention 2011

Coinciding with the Association of Cruise Expert’s fifth UK Cruise Convention, held in Southampton last week, the UK’s Passenger Shipping Association posed an interesting possibility, noting that Europe could become the world’s largest cruise source market by 2020. Meanwhile, down under, the Australia/New Zealand market produced 509,578 cruisers in 2010, making it the fastest growing in the world. And San Diego licks its wounds as it loses a second ship to Australia. We also report on last week’s UK Cruise Convention.


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A Solution For Rickmers Round-the-World Freighter Cruise Passengers Affected by Their Decision Not to Carry Passengers through Suez

When the Rickmers Pearl String round-the-world service announced last month that it would no longer carry passengers in the sector between Genoa and Singapore, an 18-21 day stretch out of a 124-day circumnavigation, specialist agent The Cruise People Ltd of London had to rebook seven passengers whose immediate round-the-world bookings were threatened. The reason Rickmers gave for this ban was passengers going out on deck against officers’ orders in waters frequented by pirates. But The Cruise People have found a solution that will still allow people to sail all the way around the world.

To come to the aid of those being put ashore in Genoa, The Cruise People have been able to substitute a fast container ship voyage from either La Spezia or Trieste in Italy to Singapore, so that passengers can rejoin the Rickmers service at the latter port. This particular solution works even better for European-boarding passengers as they are able to board one ship at a nearby port, say Southampton or Hamburg, and change to a Rickmers ship in Singapore for the return to Europe via the Far East, and US Gulf and East Coast. This will mean taking only two ships, where North Americans will for the most part be forced to take three.

Immediately, The Cruise People were able to rebook one couple from Philadelphia to Genoa on an earlier ship in order to allow them enough time to connect to their next sailing, the Hanjin Basil from La Spezia to Singapore, and then rejoin the Rickmers service at Singapore for their voyage back to North America. The cost came to slightly less than the original one-ship through booking, although they had to allow for stays ashore between ships. Another couple booked through The Cruise People have decided to disembark in Europe, fly to Bali and cruise around Indonesia with Songline Yachts while they wait for their Rickmers ship to catch up to them at Singapore.

For more on round-the-world freighter travel call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail Just some of our many routes can be found here. And for those wishing to take just one ship round the world there is still the 76-day CMA CGM service.

A Cruise in the Azamara Quest

The account below is from an avid cruiser who sailed from Rome to Venice last autumn:-

Right from joining ship in October in Civitavecchia, things got off to a good start. The first thing we were offered was a tray of drinks and arriving at the cabin, glass of champagne in hand, the television screen greeted all of us by name. After a week on board, one thing you can say about this ship is that Capt Carl Smith, an ever-present and welcoming host, has a great crew under his charge.Touring the ship, we made ourselves familiar with the various lounges and dining venues as well as the open decks before going to drill and eventually after we sailed at 7 pm to dinner in the main Discoveries restaurant. We never did get to dine in either of the alternative restaurants, Aqualina for Continental fare or Prime C for steak, but most people said with food as good as it was in Discoveries why would one want to? And the staff everywhere were tops, always smiling, always helpful, seeing if more could be done to please us.

From Rome, we sailed overnight to our anchorage in Sorrento, intending to stay there for two days so we could explore Capri, Pompeii, Amalfi and Positano and even Naples if we wanted to. This is the new Azamara Club Cruises, whose tag line,”You’ll love where we take you,” is now so destination-oriented. This is a line that is not afraid to spend more time in ports of call, rather than sailing in a hurry in order to make money in the casino.

From Sorrento, it was on for calls at the walled city of Kotor in Montenegro and lovely Split, with its palace of the former Roman governor Diocletian. The final port of call, for yet another overnight stay, was Venice. And a bonus port was Naples, which substituted for the second day at Sorrento when the autumn winds built up.

As we cruised, we soon got the feel for the Azamara Quest. Our captain was someone who loves his job and communicates with both his crew and his passengers. And his crew also communicate with the passengers. Crew members answered questions and if they didn’t have an answer they took your cabin number and got back to you later. Half-way through the cruise we filled out a brief questionnaire on what was good and what might not be so good and I received two phone calls from two different crew members thanking me for my input.

A few comments on the master. Capt Smith is from the Isle of Man and once sailed with easyCruise. When it came to matters of navigation, he gave us in his announcements all the detail that we might have wanted and more on the planned manoevres for entering or leaving each port, how many lines would be used, what speed and what engines and how we would steer. When we hit a patch of rough weather between the Strait of Messina and the Adriatic he explained how he had changed course to minimise the movement of the ship and changed course again to get back where we wanted to be.

One will find his praises sung on the internet. To pick just three comments: “The lectures were amazing! He was young, funny, and a wonderful ‘people person’.” “He was as excited and enthusiastic about everything we saw as we were. I have never sailed with a captain who was as outgoing and approachable as him.” “He is the friendliest and most approachable captain I have ever sailed with and his enthusiasm for what he does is infectious.”

And he was there every day and at all the functions he could attend.

We mentioned a bridge tour to one officer and the next thing we knew we had invitations through the door to visit the bridge at sea. Despite the rubbish some lines might give you about this no longer being possible because of security, it is. This is of course confirmed by the fact that Princess Cruises now charge $150 a person for a bridge visit, thrown in with a bunch of other places people don’t necessarily want to see!

On our final day at sea, we attended the disembarkation briefing, something we didn’t intend to do. So why did we attend? Because we ran into Capt Smith and he steered us in to see it. What followed was fascinating. Not your usual cruise director’s blather about which colour tags etc. But an introduction to 41 members of the crew representing the 41 nationalities that worked on board. This was fascinating as each was presented on stage and asked to say a few words. And in addition to Capt Smith, cruise director Tony Markey, hotel manager Ryszard Gusmann and food and beverage manager Rudi Lainer are all top notch and ever present. And this from someone who can’t stand cruise directors!

Oh, did we forget to add that wines are now included with lunch and dinner? Sampled on our cruise were some quite very tasty boutique wines from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Chile and South Africa, to name a few. These are all reds and whites, although it might be nice sometimes to have a choice of rosé at lunch. Specialty coffees, bottled water, soft drinks and teas are also now included in the fare, as are gratuities. And there is something many call for on ships, a self-service laundry.

These changes have all occurred since the rebranding from Azamara Cruises to Azamara Club Cruises six months ago, and it is said that while Azamara passenger numbers are down year-on-year after raising some of the fares, revenues are up, which is a result parent company Royal Caribbean will be pleased with.

This turnaround is down not only to the ships’ crews but also Azamara ceo Larry Pimentel, who came from SeaDream Yacht Club after his earlier terms as president of both Cunard Line and Seabourn. And there is room for growth. Our shoulder season sailing, for example, had about 450 guests on board out of a maximum of 694. And it was interesting that around 100 guests remained on board to take the next leg from Venice to Athens, many of whom had booked on board. Now that is a good measure by anyone’s rule.

This ship is well tied together and we wish Azamara great success in the future.

For further information please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail

The Cruise Examiner For 2nd May 2011: The Cruise Examiner has a new writer – The Cruise Market Today – L’Austral “Revealed” in Marseilles – Fleet Changes at Saga

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner has a new writer – The Cruise Market Today – L’Austral “Revealed” in Marseilles – Fleet Changes at Saga

Just as the “We Are Cunard” blog falls to a new writer with Cunard president Peter Shanks, “The Cruise Examiner” column at is also being entrusted to new hands. After thanking Mark Tré for his three years of producing this column, we are pleased to announce that Kevin Griffin, managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd of London has agreed to take over the weekly spot. Born in England, Kevin emigrated to Canada (by sea) as a child but has returned to live in the UK three times, the last in 1992 when he established The Cruise People Ltd. He has worked in the shipping industry and is a director and past chairman of the Leading Cruise Agents of the UK as well as being a qualified shipbroker.