Viking Star Floated Out At Marghera – Saga Takes Space With MSC Cruises – And What Happened In 1914

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 30th June 2014..

 

Berengaria,ex-Imperator

Hamburg America Line’s giant Imperator became Cunard Line’s Berengeria after the First World War

Last week saw the float out at Marghera of the latest thing in ocean cruising. Viking Cruises’ Viking Star is a ship that is very traditional and yet is right up to date, with every stateroom having a balcony and all modern luxuries. We also look at Saga’s move back into outsourcing cruises from Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and MSC Cruises, something it has not done in a major way since the 1990s. And we look back at passenger shipping a century ago, how the war delayed the building of fifteen liners, and how it would denude the Hamburg America Line of its six finest ships, from the Imperator to the Tirpitz.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                          (See previous columns)

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Last Minute Transatlantic Availability from Philadelphia to Antwerp on Rickmers Line – July, September and October 2014

Due to changes in reservations, the following passenger cabins have opened up on three sailings from Philadelphia to Antwerp (dates are subject to change):

Rickmers Singapore – Owners cabin – approx. end of July (current ETS July 25, 2014, but subject to change). Fare including dues & taxes = €1,155 (about $1,635) per person.

Rickmers Dalian – Double cabin 513 – approx. late September/early October (current ETS Philadelphia September 25, 2014, but subject to change). Fare including dues & taxes = €1,035 (about $1,465) per person.

Rickmers Shanghai – Single cabins 611 & 604, Owners cabin and Cabin 513 – approx. late October/early November (current ETS Philadelphia October 21, 2014, but subject to change). Fares including dues & taxes = €1,035 (about $1,465)  per person for 513 and €1,155 (about $1,635) per person for Owners and singles.

Part of Rickmers Pearl String Round-the-World service, passenger bookings are also available from Philadelphia to Genoa, Houston to Antwerp, Houston to Genoa, Singapore to USA and Singapore to Europe. These voyages involve more port time and fewer containers obstructing the views.

For further information on passenger voyages on Rickmers Line multi-purpose cargo ships please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean by Container Ship by Client Scott Muc

Ind Accord Going Aboard

The view on boarding the Independent Accord – home for 11 days

Cruise People client Scott Muc sailed from Wilmington NC to Antwerp in the Independent Accord. Link here to Scott’s website.

June 24th, 2014.  I have finished the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean via container ship. It was a great experience that I’ll happily do again. 11 days wasn’t enough, and I would be happy to spend a month next time around.

Too Much Twine on my Hands

A blog post probably wouldn’t do the experience justice so I decided to play around with a basic word game engine to give you a more self-directed tour. Hope you enjoy it!

Working with Twine was quite enjoyable and I could see myself using it a lot in many different lines of work. If I was still consulting, it would become a prominent tool in my tool-belt. My biggest complaint with it is that the documentation is all online so I couldn’t figure out how to do anything more sophisticated than what I created.

Man Over-bored

Honestly, that header was just for the pun factor. What amazed me about the voyage was how quick it went by. I didn’t think once that I wanted it to end and that I was bored. I savoured not being in a rush to do anything. The only structure to my days revolved around meals which were at: 07:30, 12:30, and 17:30. That set my rythym for the 11 days.

Ind Accord Pax View Fwd © Scott Muc

The view from Scott’s cabin

Crew Man Group

The ship was run by a crew of 21, all male. The captain was Romanian and the rest of the officers were Croatian. The chief engineer was Ukrainian and the rest were Filipino. Everyone was very nice, but when asked for their name, they simply asked to be addressed by their position (Third, Chief, etc…).

Retrospective

What Went Well:

  • Scotch – Sipping 18yo Glenlivet was a wonderful way to be even more relaxed
  • Jambox – This dependable gadget has been filling rooms with tunes well for several years now
  • Offline Wikipedia – Wow! I cannot believe how much I perused Wikipedia while I was on this trip.
  • 11 days of no expenses – Being disconnected is a good way to not spend money.

Not So Well:

  • Gym clothes – There’s an exercise room with a stationary bike. I wasn’t always allowed on the main deck (to do laps around the ship) so being able to do 30min of hard cardio would have been good to stave off the belly I grew.
  • Scotch – One bottle was definitely not enough.
  • Offline map – I would have liked to better explore the route and plan the rest of my trip better.
  • Making Twine tour at the last minute – I wish I had a skeleton of it done much earlier so I could get more details from the crew.
Ind Accord Promenade Deck

The Independent Accord‘s “promenade deck” – good for exercise

Action Items: I’ll definitely do this again and I’ll be sure to come with a fitness plan. Though that directly opposes the action to bring more liquor.

Offline By Default

Being disconnected from the world for 11 days was a far better experience than I had expected. It’s made me realize I need to create a habit of disconnecting. It brought me back to the era when your computer was offline by default, and you had to explicitly connect to see what’s going on in the rest of the Internet universe. This experience has shown me that I like that. It may sound backwards to a lot of people, but the computer has always been a tool, not an entertainment device (gaming being the exception). My phone may eventually be the only always-connected device, but even then, I turn off all notifications and keep it silent.

Let the Eurotrip Begin

After a €140 ride through immigration and into Antwerp, I can begin the next phase of my journey!

Those wishing to know more about container ship travel can call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Content and all photos © Scott Muc

From The UK To Australia: By Container Ship From Southampton To Port Kelang In The CMA CGM Musca (And Flight Beyond)

Several months ago, our client Peter Giles travelled in the CMA CGM Musca and was kind enough to send his report. Travels have delayed us posting it but here it is now with Peter’s comments:-

CMA CGM Musca © Klaus KnepelSince returning from Australia in November, I’ve been preoccupied catching up with the inevitable consequences of two months’ absence as well as all Christmas and New Years.  I do, though, want to let you know how much I enjoyed my “cargo cruise” from Southampton to Port Kelang aboard the CMA CGM Musca.
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You had, quite rightly, emphasized the need for flexibility in one’s travel arrangements, as there are so many variables involved in the logistics of large container ship movements, some of which demand decisions with short times.  Over a long period of time our sailing date had moved from September 11th to the 13th, the 14th, then the 16th and finally the 19th.  Just the week before planned embarkation, the Southampton port agent was in contact with me advising that weekend movements in the port were somewhat chaotic due to multiple late arrivals.  Musca had meanwhile gone from Rotterdam straight to Zeebrugge rather than calling at Southampton first.  Even so, she was held off the Isle of Wight for hours before being allowed into port late on the night of 18th September with a planned departure of 12:00 the next day.  The port agent had telephoned me on the 18th to suggest I arrive at the Port Security Office as early as possible because they might be able to set sail as soon as 09:45.
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None of this caused any problem;  in fact, by arriving at the Container Port before 08:00, we avoided all the peak traffic, so my wife had a relaxing journey as my driver.  From this point on, I found my expectations were exceeded.  It’s a daunting sight to be standing on the quayside looking up at the ship’s gangway running all the way up to the upper deck:  with Musca‘s considerable freeboard, the gangway seems to go on for ever – very different to boarding a vessel like the P&O Aurora, where the gangway runs to the ship from high up on the terminal building!
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I had expected to carry all my luggage (1 large & 1 small case) aboard myself, but the port agent’s minibus driver insisted on taking my large case aboard.  Once brief reception formalities were completed, the steward took both my cases along the corridor to the lift and settled me in to my cabin on F deck.  To my surprise, although it was now 08:20 and breakfast time was officially 07:00 – 08:00, the steward (Syrel Alimpuyo, from the Philippines, official job title Messman)  invited me to come down to the Officers’ Mess, where he prepared a welcome meal of scrambled eggs with all the trimmings. Not that it mattered to me, but we did depart at 12:00.
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CMA CGM Musca
, one of twelve similar vessels on the FAL3 route, is big (11,040 TEUs, Summer DWT 131,830 tons, 347 m LOA) but is eclipsed by the company’s newest 16,000 TEU ships (CMA CGM Marco Polo, Alexander von Humboldt and Jules Verne), themselves now overtaken by Maersk Line’s brand new McKinney Møller at 18,000 TEUs.  Even so, to get acquainted with Musca is to understand the huge and sophisticated scale on which the modern commercial world operates.  If, like me, you’re interested in these things and prefer in any event not to share your transportation with thousands of other passengers, this is a remarkable and privileged experience.
CMA CGM Musca Lounge

Cabin living area

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Musca
has four double cabins on F deck (three face forward and one aft), the penultimate deck level before the bridge, and above container load height.  Only the captain and chief engineer have their cabins and office on G deck, together with a Pilot’s cabin.  On this voyage I was the only passenger, so not only did I have a very spacious cabin all to myself, but the entire passengers’ recreation lounge as well..

CMA CGM Musca is very typical of the international multiplicity which characterizes the maritime industry: French company owned and operated, registered in London (a port she never visits) and thus subject to British merchant marine regulations, captain and officers mainly Croatian plus Ukrainian and Filipino, lower ranks Filipino, official language on board being English – and there were notices on display reminding people of this fact.  ..

CMA CGM Musca Bedroom

Cabin sleeping area

Understandably, when a bunch of Croatians come together at lunch or dinner, they will speak their native language, often quite excitably;  but, since the Ukrainians and Croatians did not speak each others’ languages, there were usually interludes of English conversation, and the captain was always attentive to bringing me into discussions from my adjacent table.  I can handle Italian, German and French , but none of their languages.  The Filipino officers usually seemed to work differential shifts and took their meals in the crew mess, but I was struck by the polite and friendly behaviour of all 28 members of the ship’s complement..

Hospitality on the bridge, to which I had almost unrestricted access, was very enjoyable, where I could study the output of the control and navigation systems, monitor the charts and look up all manner of maritime details in the extensive library of reference manuals – and the watch officers competed with each other to make the best espresso or cappuccino with their fresh coffee machine.  I had expected the bridge to be out of bounds to me when a pilot was on board, but was delighted to be there during the Suez Canal transit – it might well have had to be different had there been several other passengers.
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On the first full day at sea I was given a very comprehensive introduction to and tour of all facilities and stations relevant to on-board safety and emergencies. Quite apart from the emergency procedures summarised in a folder in my cabin, together with hard hat, ear defenders, and full immersion suit, the formal safety introduction included familiarisation with one of the two fully enclosed lifeboats, as well as a visit to the “citadel”, which is a large secure facility accessed via the stern lower deck.  The citadel’s purpose is to provide impenetrable protection for crew (and passengers) in the event of a hostile boarding:  while the ship cannot be navigated or controlled from there, it does contain all forms of marine communication for continuous contact with emergency agencies, both military and civilian.  During our voyage to Port Kelang Captain Dakic organised two fire fighting emergency drills which were formally timed with all appropriate reporting and subsequent debriefing.  There is no substitute for the reassurance of knowing that everyone is quite clear what they have to do in the event of any type of emergency.
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While it is quite unlikely that anyone could actually manage a seaborn hostile boarding of a ship the size and design of Musca, all CMA CGM vessels operating in known areas of high risk are equipped with very effective anti-grappling devices around the stern lower deck – trained Royal Marine Commandos have failed to get past these, even when stationary in calm water.  When we passed through the Gulf of Aden a full lighting blackout was enforced, which meant all illumination except navigation lights was made invisible from the outside.  Again, the guiding principle was to make no convenient assumptions and to take nothing for granted..

CMA CGM Musca passes through Suez

CMA CGM Musca passes through Suez

My main motives in choosing to travel by container ship rather than simply catching an aircraft from London to Perth, Western Australia (my ultimate destination) were:  to enjoy the peace and rest of a long sea voyage, get plenty of sea air, pass gradually from one time zone to another, read and write at leisure, observe how these giants of the sea operate and how their crews live, and to eat three square meals a day – the latter being something I rarely do at home, despite being one of the minority who could actually benefit from gaining some weight!  I can say with confidence that these objectives were all very well served – my only regret being that Musca couldn’t take me all the way to Perth..
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I did miss two meals during my 26 days on board:  a breakfast one morning when I overslept (though Syrel subsequently reminded me that I could come down to the Mess at any time to get cereals, toast and coffee), and a dinner one evening when I simply had no capacity for any more food, settling instead for some fruit.  The meals were good and varied, with some amusing Filipino versions of the menu descriptions (e.g. Chicken Gordon for Cordon Bleu, Crockets for Potato Croquettes, Leche Flan which proved to be Creme Caramel).  Captain Dakic occasionally influenced the choice of menu by calling for fish as well as meat, and bringing out the ice cream or the blue cheese.  Wine was usually served with dinner, with the alternative of German lager if preferred – the only exception being while we were in port at Jeddah, when all alcohol had to be locked away in the ship’s bonded store:  “Saudi prohibition”, as the captain ruefully described it!  On two or three occasions meat was barbequed in a surprisingly large semi-enclosed BBQ facility on E deck:  there was room enough for the crew to sit and eat in the same facility, while the officers and I were served in the Mess..
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Keeping fit is a matter to be taken seriously when you’re at sea for months on end.  If you take two tours of the upper deck on Musca, you will have walked 1.5 km.  For me as a passenger, I was required to contact the bridge first, so they could advise me of any work in progress on the upper deck and they would be aware of where I was going;  I would then let them know when I returned.  One would not normally be allowed on the upper deck after dark or in extreme weather conditions and certainly not when cargo operations were underway in port.  Common sense is required on deck at all times, as much of the time no one will be able to see you – least of all from the bridge.  I always made a point of walking down from F deck to B deck for all meals, though it was a tall order to walk back up again after three courses, so the lift was usually preferred afterwards..
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The alternative, though, was the gymnasium – well equipped with treadmill, weights, punchbag, as well as table tennis and darts – although the most impressive sight was the oldest crewmember, the 61-year-old chief engineer, jogging round the upper deck.  He did this most days, irrespective of the high temperatures, finishing by returning to his cabin on G deck via the external stairs.  Even though I’m seven years older, he made me feel quite inadequate as I smiled at him through the window from my air conditioned comfort in the passenger lounge.  Then, if you’re not hot enough, there’s always the sauna!  Better still was the lure of the swimming pool, freshly filled with seawater pumped up from the Red Sea at 32°C..
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Management gurus will always emphasize the importance of teamwork and bonding when considering how the best organisations operate.  A real sense of mutual support, as well as personal commitment, was very evident aboard Musca, and there is always plenty for everyone to do, both mundane as well as technically complicated – in fact, it is remarkable that a complex vessel of this size, running 24/7, only requires a crew of 28.  Officers and crew rotate at different intervals, from three months to as long as nine or occasionally twelve, so individuals go on leave and are replaced on a continuous rolling basis.  Any running repairs are handled according to circumstances, with any major works being undertaken in port where, if necessary, additional spare parts might have to be made available.  The ship does, though, carry a wide range of spares:  I even noticed a new piston and connecting rod in the engine room.  If additional skills and manpower should be required, company engineers are flown out to join the ship at a port of call and will stay aboard for as long as it takes..

CMA CGM Musca passenger and captain with crew

Passenger Giles (check shirt) with captain and crew

An on-deck BBQ party was organised one evening as we cruised across the Indian Ocean – this was on the starboard side of F deck, which was large enough to have a big portable BBQ and tables and benches for all to be seated.  Several of the Filipino crew were keen amateur musicians and there was no shortage of entertainment, much enjoyed by all.  I was quite surprised by the number of guitars on board, together with microphones, amplifiers and speakers.  Making your own amusement is a valuable skill..
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Extended cargo operations which seemed to go on forever in both Beirut and Jeddah made a further dent in our schedule – and we had waited a whole day outside Beirut pending clearance to get in on a berth.  Such are the routine frustrations confronting these ships – even if the vessel is ready to go, you’re still dependent upon tugs and pilot.  While the plan had been to arrive at Port Kelang on 13th October (having originally been the 11th), we were only able to get there on the morning of 15th October.  What had originally been anticipated as a 28 day voyage had been replanned at 24 days when the Southampton and Zeebrugge calls were reversed, but had gone out again to 26 days due to the further delays.  CMA CGM’s operations manager responsible for the FAL3 route had once told me all his ships had operated to schedule over the last two years;  I know now how he did that:  by moving the goalposts!  To be fair and realistic, I don’t envy him the constant challenges of his job though.  As things worked out, I had no regrets at all..
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Captain Dakic had offered me my own on-board email account quite early on.  I didn’t do this, as I didn’t want to encourage a flood of incoming messages, especially those of a casual nature.  Instead, at his invitation, I used his email account to keep my wife up to date, to confirm progress with a friend of mine who had been trying to track the ship on-line via AIS – impossible between Suez and the Malacca Strait unless you can justify the cost of Satellite AIS –  and to contact the hotel I had prearranged in Kuala Lumpur.  When I disembarked, most crew-members made a point of saying farewell and wishing me luck, and they insisted on carrying my luggage down to the quayside.  The captain had also taken it upon himself to negotiate with the Port Agent in Port Kelang for him to get me to central Kuala Lumpur after taking me to the Malaysian Immigration Office outside the port for passport formalities.  This the agent did for US$20, good value considering how far he drove me and the 1¼ hour Kommuter train ride, for which he paid, and which deposited me just 100 metres from my hotel.  It’s not the captain’s job to do these things, but these people know how to use their contacts and get things done..
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The humidity in Kuala Lumpur was very oppressive and , while I had intended to look around for a couple of days, I was not displeased to be on a flight to Perth the next day.  After a month in Australia, winding up in Sydney, I was, however, less than thrilled to be subjected to 24 hours of flights to get back to the UK.  Where was Musca when I needed her?.
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Any regrets?  Well, I should have chosen to do an engine room visit in port rather than at sea, if only to make it easier to have a conversation – though it was reassuring to see the huge propeller shaft actually turning!  Would I do such a voyage again?  Without hesitation!.
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For details of how to book a cargo ship voyage with CMA CGM please contact Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

European River Cruising Guides: Stern vs Ward – To Dubai, Australia And Cape Town With MSC Cruises – Costa Joins The Outdoors Crowd

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 23rd June 2014..

 

Costa Diadema stern view

Costa joins NCL and Carnival in the Great Outdoors, MSC to follow.

Two interesting new books have just arrived on our desk, in Steven B Stern’s “European Riverboats and Hotel Barges” and Douglas Ward’s “Berlitz Guide to River Cruising in Europe”, both hot off the presses. This week, we compare the two books for our readers. Elsewhere, MSC Cruises is offering special fares on a November cruise from Venice to Dubai in the MSC Orchestra, which also incidentally offers a way to get to Australia. Meanwhile, Costa reveals that it too is getting into outdoor promenades, with some details of its new flagship Costa Diadema.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                          (See previous columns)

First CMA CGM Passenger Service From London Gateway Is To Colombia, Chile and Peru – More South America To Follow

CMA CGM Sambhar © Björn-Marco HalmschlagCMA CGM has just announced its first passenger service from the new London Gateway container terminal in the Thames will be the Eurosal 1 service to Cartagena (Colombia), Punta Manzanillo (Panama), Callao (Peru) and Valparaiso (Chile), returning via Callao, Punta Manzanillo and Cartagena. European boarding ports include Rotterdam, Hamburg, London Gateway and Antwerp.

So far, one passenger-carrying ship, the CMA CGM Sambhar (above) has been assigned to this service, although another chartered vessel, the Balthasar Schulte, also carries passengers. CMA CGM Sambhar counts five double cabins in her accommodations so she can take a maximum of ten (10) passengers.

Eurosal 1Sample fares on the new service are €1,650 from London to Cartagena, €2,420 from London to Callao and €2,860 from London to Valparaiso, all per person in double occupacncy. The full round voyages is 56 days and costs €6,160 per person double and €6,720 single. The Single Supplement is about 9.1%.

The six new deep-water berths at London Gateway will add 3.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) to the UK’s port capacity to handle the largest new ships, so expect more sailings from here in future. Routes to Brazil and Argentina will be next.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

 

 

To Alaska With The Pacific Princess – Top Marks For Crystal Symphony – Mein Schiff 3 On Maiden Voyage

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 16th June 2014..

Mein Schiff 3

This week, two interesting cruise reviews have arrived on our desk, one for the Pacific Princess, which is this summer offering 7-night round voyages from Vancouver to Alaska, the first time Princess has offered this itinerary in a decade, and the second on a coastal segment of Crystal Symphony’s Transatlantic voyage from New York earlier this month. For a change, and as they are both recent and topical, we thought readers might enjoy reading them. Finally, we bring news of the maiden voyage for TUI Cruises’ new Mein Schiff 3, delivered in late May by STX Finland.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                        (See previous columns)