Cruise “Bill of Rights” Uncalled-For – Lindblad Expeditions To Cruise The Northwest Passage – Who Owns The American Empress?

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 27th May 2013

National Geographic Explorer

Last week, the new US-led global CLIA surprised everyone by announcing a new cruise passenger bill of rights. Brought out in reaction to a press release by a US senator, these new rules should instead have been announced as a cruise line code of conduct. Who are the people demanding this bill of rights? They come down to a single grandstanding senator. CLIA should be spending its time on more important things than introducing a toothless code that is not a law and has no remedies. Today we look at this issue in more detail. Elsewhere, Lindblad Expeditions has announced that it will be returning to the Northwest Passage in 2014. It was Lindblad that ran the first passenger ship across the full Northwest Passage in 1984. Meanwhile, the American Queen Steamboat Company has announced the aquisition of the 223-berth Empress of the North, which it will rename American Empress for operation on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                  (See previous columns)

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Viking Cruises Announces Details Of Its 925-Berth Viking Star – P&O Cruises Lays Keel For Its New 3,600-Berth Flagship – And 210-Berth Canadian-Built Pearl Mist Is Finally Delivered

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 20th May 2013

Viking Star new

Today sees news of three different ships with tonnages in the four-digit, five-digit and six digit ranges. Thursday saw the announcement by Viking Cruises of details of its new 47,800-ton 925-passenger ocean-going cruise ship Viking Star, which will be offically named in Bergen in May 2015. The new ship will be built by Fincantieri in Italy. The day before this, P&O Cruises laid the keel for its new 141,000-ton 3,600-passenger flagship (above), also at Fincantieri. No name has yet been announced but she is based on the design of Princess Cruises’  Royal Princess, due to be named by the Duchess of Cambridge in Southampton next month, and the Regal Princess. The new P&O flagship is due to enter service in March 2015. Meanwhile, in North America, Pearl Seas Cruises, a sister company of American Cruise Lines, finally took delivery of its 4,985-ton 210-berth Pearl Seas, a ship that was completed in 2009. The Canadian-built ship is intended to cruise the Great Lakes and East Coast of North America.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                  (See previous columns)

Viking Cruises Reveals Details Of Its New 925-Passenger Viking Star

Viking Star newThis Thursday, Viking Cruises finally announced details of  its first ship, to be named Viking Star, which is due to enter service in May 2015. She will be the first of a pair of 925-passenger ocean-going cruise ships for Viking Cruises, the new cruise operation that has sprung from Viking River Cruises. The line also has options for a further four such ships, all with Fincantieri, which could eventually produce a fleet of six. Interestingly, this design is a development of the original Renaissance “R” ships design, but with many significant changes.

Together with Azamara Club Cruises, with two ships, and Oceania Cruises, with five, there will eventually be thirteen ships serving this segment of the market, which is above premium but not ultra-luxury.

Viking is a line that emphasizes geography, culture, history, good food, comfort and value for the money. Viking guests are 55 plus, well-educated, affluent, curious and active, a s well as interested in history, culture and music.

When Vking polled its guests, they found that many thought that:

Ocean ships have become too big
– Too little time is spent at the destination
– They are not as good value as you think when you purchase
– The small ships are far too expensive

So the announcement of these new ships can only be good news to those who have grown tired of ships growing bigger and more impersonal as they are built to carry 3,000. 4,000 or even 5,000 passengers.

Some of the features of the new Viking Star include:-

all cabins with a private balcony
– a two-deck high observation lounge at the forward end
– an outdoor pool at the stern as well as a midships pool with Magrodome
– a full walk-around promenade beneath the lifeboats and tenders
– the main dining room will have “the best food”
– it will also have floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open
– the spa has been vanquished from deck 9 on top to deck 1 below

Moving the spa area is particularly important as instead of being located in a prime area with forward views on top of the ship it has been relocated to a lower deck area. Why so many cruise lines chose to locate the spa area in prime real estate is a mystery but Viking is showing respect to its clients by locating the spa elsewhere and giving the views back to them. Another area that would have been the card room, internet center and Horizons Lounge has been dedicated instead to suites.

Viking Cruises will provide excellent value for the money, with fares starting at $420 per person per day, including airfare,  shore excursions in each port, concierge service,  free WiFi, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner as well as specialty coffees, complimentary self-service laundry, free room service and all port taxes and transfers to and from the ship.

Viking Star and Europa 2Interestingly, details of the new 47,800-ton 745-foot 925-passenger Viking Star (above left) were announced just six days after Hapag-Lloyd Cruises christened its new 42,839-ton 739-foot 516-passenger Europa 2 (above right) in Hamburg. But while cruise-only fares on Europa 2 start at €600 ($800) per person per night, fly/cruise fares on Viking Star will start at $420, with a passenger space ratio of 51 tons per passenger compared to 83 on Europa 2.

For further details on Viking Cruises and how to book new Viking Star or Europa 2, which is already in service, please contact Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or Freephone 0800 526 313 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Photos courtesy of Viking Cruises except Europa 2, courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Europa 2: A Game Changer – Another Australian Cruise Record – Carnival Abandons Europe, Again – New Names For Portuguese Ships

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 13th May 2013

Europa 2 Pool

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new Europa 2 features a pool area with retractable roof adjacent to the walkaround promenade

Last Monday, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new 42,830-ton Europa 2 departed Southampton on a pre-inaugural cruise before sailing for Hamburg, where she was formally named on Friday. The Cruise Examiner was on board and files his report. Meanwhile, Down Under, the Australasian cruise market reached a grand total of 694,062 cruisers in 2012. And while Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it would send the Carnival Legend to Australia on a seasonal basis to join the Carnival Spirit, this means that the line will also be abandoning Europe, and not for the first time. Finally, new Portuguese operator Portuscale Cruises, has announced patriotic new names for its Madeira-registered fleet of classics.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                 (See previous columns)

Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 Turns Out To Be A Real Game Changer

Europa 2 at Southampton (Wikipedia)As we predicted in April 2012 after seeing the artist’s depictions of the public rooms and restaurants, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 has indeed turned out to be a real stunner. Compared to her fleetmate Europa, now fourteen years in service, it is difficult to see how cruise rating aficionados will not be able to give her an even higher rating, which would make her the top-rated ship in the world. With her high ceilings, large windows and open decks and a passenger space ratio of about 80 tons per passenger (a world record), this is a ship where everywhere you go the sea is with you.

Along with the great and the good of the cruise and travel press, about sixty top UK cruise agents were invited on a one-night cruise from Southampton along the English Channel towards Cornwall last week. Also on board was Douglas Ward, editor of the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.

Europa 2 French RestaurantTwo of the themes on the new ship are “Relaxed Luxury” and a “Hideaway at Sea.” This is quite different from what is on offer in the rest of today’s cruise market, even from ultra-luxury operators. Europa 2 is aimed squarely at a different audience – the affluent executive and professional classes still in work, younger in age and with growing children. The new ship’s dress code is therefore smart casual, not formal.

To reach this audience, the new ship’s operation is quite different from others. Her summer cruises in the Mediterranean are based on 7-day itineraries that can be extended to 14 or 21 days, with no itinerary repeated before three cruises have elapsed. In addition, nannies will be engaged on a ratio of one for every four children. Because of this and the need to house entertainers, although the ship has been designed to accommodate 516 guests, it is unlikely that her passenger loads will ever exceed 480.

Her shorter routes are ideal for a new audience. With 7-day combinable Mediterranean cruises and 13-to-20 day combination cruises to far-away destinations by winter, Europa 2 meets the requirements of young high-earning professionals and families with limited holiday time. Calling at 123 ports on twenty-six different itineraries this year, her cruises will take guests to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia and China, and then in 2014/15 to the Americas.

119All itineraries are based on ports that have plenty of air service and are easy to get in and out of – for example, Barcelona, Monte Carlo (Nice) and Venice, Dubai in the Middle East, and in the Far East, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The ship’s size is a major advantage – with a length of 739 feet and a draught of 20.7 feet, Europa 2 is capable of calling at small, rarely-visited ports such as Bonifacio and Portofino, where larger ships cannot go. Twelve Zodiacs are also carried to take passengers ashore to lagoons and beaches that other ships cannot reach. The Europa 2 also introduces some new concepts. She has a magrodome, but it is not the usual cover over a pool deck but is two decks high.

The new ship’s accommodations are all Veranda Suites, with balconies each measuring at least 75 square feet. All suites come equipped with a free mini bar, Wi-Fi Internet access (at a charge) and a tablet computer. The ships 251 suites come in seven categories measuring from 301 to 1,066 square feet. The highest categories have whirlpools with ocean view.

144Sixteen Spa Suites have whirlpool tubs and rain showers with steam saunas, providing guests with a private oasis of well-being. For families traveling together, there are seven family suites, where parents and children live in two separate areas, connected by a door and a shared balcony. What’s more, children up to the age of eleven are carried free of charge as long as they occupy a suite with their parents.

Important to Europa 2 is that every cruise caters to international passengers who speak English. This is unlike the present practice, which is to nominate international cruises for each ship in the fleet. By this means, it is aimed to increase the number of English-speaking passengers by four- or five-fold, from ten to twenty per internatuonal sailing now to fifty to eighty in three to five years’ time.

There are eight different restaurants to choose from and wines and spirits are sold at prices that are cheaper than onshore, unlike virtually every other cruise line other than the all-inclusive ones. Beer is about €1.40, a cocktail around €4.20 and bottles of wine run from about €14. The usual practice on cruise ships has moved away from such duty free prices to charging full shoreside hotel prices. Hapag-Lloyd’s goal is not to maximise on board revenue but to offer value and a good experience. Also, in the alternative restaurants, it will not be possible to book more than forty-eight hours in advance, giving an opportunity for all to experience them where on some lines old hands have been able to monopolise these spaces.

All in all, some interesting ideas are coming out of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and this ship is a real game changer. The most interesting thing about this ship was that at the end of the voyage many said they did not want to leave her.  She was christened in Hamburg on Friday, May 10, 2013.

For further details on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and how to book the Europa 2 please contact Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or Freephone 0800 526 313 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Norwegian Breakaway Due New York – Monarch Enters Service For Pullmantur – Cruise Passengers Make Cheap Tourists

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 6th May 2013

Last Tuesday Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 144,017-ton Norwegian Breakaway departed Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York, where she is due on Tuesday. She will be named by the Rockettes this Wednesday. Meanwhile, another once-large ship, Royal Caribbean’s 73,937-ton Monarch of the Seas, has joined Spanish-based affiliate as the Monarch. And a survey from Norway tells us that cruise passengers are not necessarily those that spend the most money, at least ashore.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                         (See previous columns)