Travel Daily News – On The Deck With Kevin Griffin, Proprietor of The Cruise People

By Sam Ballard, Travel Daily News, 12 December 2012, Wednesday 3:43 PM

StaffKevin10AYou have been in the industry for a long time. How did you get interested in the cruise sector?
I was born in the UK and  emigrated to Canada as a young boy, something that started my interest in ships and shipping. Then when I went to university in Canada I spent my summers working on cruise ships, first on the Great Lakes and then between Vancouver and Alaska. Upon graduation, I went into international shipping, where I spent more than two decades, including two assignments in the UK, involved in world trade. It was on my last UK assignment that I saw an opportunity to sell cruises here, so in 1992 I moved back to London and established The Cruise People.
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Tell us a little bit more about The Cruise People?
To start with I was going to buy the UK rights for a large American franchise cruise seller but instead I negotiated with the Canadian company of the same name to be able to use the name The Cruise People in the UK. I bought an existing retail travel agency, which gave me a London address, some furniture and some rudimentary computers. Within a year, I had closed down the general retail business and was doing 100% cruises and sea travel. Soon after opening we received an appointment to act as a wholesale (and retail) booking agent for a North American-based expedition company. That was followed by a request from a German company to put passengers on their container ships. In 1999, we took on the general passenger agency for the Polish Steamship Company, who had just built five passenger carrying cargo ships for service between Amsterdam and the US Great Lakes. And at the end of 2005, we dedicated one cruise consultant to selling nothing but the six most expensive cruise lines.
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Are you a traditional brick and mortar travel agency or do you only specialise in selling cruise?
We are a brick and mortar agency in that we are a twenty-first century business working from eighteenth century premises, concentrating on cruises and sea travel. But more than that, we are an international business, dealing not only in sterling, but also in euros and US dollars. Almost half of our business comes from outside the UK. We opened our first website in 1994 and that helped us internationally. Since we started a blog, however, it has been attracting twice as many visits as our own website’s main page. Visitors to our blog in the first six months came from the US (47%), the UK (21%), Canada (15%) and the rest mainly from Australia, Germany and France. Visitors to the main page of our web site, on the other hand, are totally different. More than half, 52%, come from the UK, 29% from the US, and the rest mainly from Australia, Canada, Brazil and France.
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Are there any particular segments of the cruise market your company targets?
Niche is key for us. We now target three markets: ultra-luxury cruising, small ship and expedition cruising and freighter travel. I have recently returned from visiting the University of Virginia, where we have started working with Semester at Sea, which as well as offering seagoing semesters for university students, offer shorter Enrichment Voyages for ordinary (or out of the ordinary) passengers. Their ship, the Explorer, which usually spends several nights in each port, will be sailing in Europe next year. In general, since we opened twenty years ago we have become much less mainstream and much more specialised, something that helps us when cruise lines cut commissions, as they are now. Our chosen product range generally pays well and, unlike the mass market, niche products are not afflicted by that peculiar British disease of rebating from commission to buy the business, something I regard as totally unprofessional.
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What do you see as the major challenges and threats facing your business?
The major challenges we face are suppliers failing, a greater number of lines prohibiting cross-border selling and, more recently, commission cuts. On the financial viability side, it’s usually agents that get the scrutiny, but in
one year alone, 2001, we had five principals go out of business. This included American Classic Voyages, Renaissance Cruises and three small ship operators. More recently, we had Cruise West and Hebridean International, the ashes of which were picked up by All Leisure. Not only do we have to ensure that our clients are protected when suppliers fail but we also have to try to protect our own commissions. We are still waiting for the courts in Seattle to decide on several thousand dollars owed to us by Cruise West and we also lost money on Hebridean. So a warning to agents – always check out your principals. But what hurts even more these days is cruise lines restraining trade by prohibiting crossborder sales. Unlike others, we are not a local neighbourhood agent, nor do we operate a national call centre. Almost half our clients (and also our product by the way) come from outside the UK, so cruise lines prohibiting cross-border sales are an increasing problem.
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Are there any areas that you believe cruise lines could improve on to assist your company to sell more cruises?
Yes, I believe they should allow clients to buy wherever they want, for one thing. And before you talk about consumer protection, the Consumer Protection Act itself provides quite explicitly for that. We highly recommend
that clients pay by credit card when they are booking offshore. Otherwise, the market should be free. The other thing cruise lines should do is to maintain base commission at 10% but offer incentives that allow agents to make more. I remind you that we will no longer support lines that don’t pay adequately as we have other products to sell that give us a better margin.
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What is your favourite cruise destination and why?
My favourite destination was Bermuda, but with the advent of larger ships the experience of cruising to that island is no longer what it was. Until about five years ago, purpose-built cruise ships operated in the New York-Bermuda trade, sailing right in to Front Street. But because of channel restrictions into Hamilton and the increasing size of cruise ships, they now go to a place called Dockyard, a sort of shopping mall located 45 minutes away from Hamilton by taxi. This is no longer a great cruise experience. In Europe, my favourite is Venice, but Venice too is suffering from an increase in ship size, and there are moves afoot to stop cruise ships sailing along the Grand Canal and past St Mark’s Square. If this happens, there is still Santorini, where ships anchor in the caldera and where the sunset is one of the most spectacular in the world.
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In your view what destination is emerging as the next big growth area for cruising?
In a word, BRIC – or in four, Brazil, Russia, India and China. Not only are these great destinations but they are also rapidly emerging consumer markets. There is not a week goes by when we do not get multiple enquiries from Brazil, and the same can be said of the Far East. There is a lot of money in these places. We get relatively fewer enquiries from India and Russia, but Mumbai and the Indian Ocean islands and St Petersburg and the Baltic are destinations that attract a lot of interest. We have clients doing a great tour of the Indian Ocean in December with Oceania, starting in Dubai and sailing to India, the Indian Ocean islands and East Africa before finishing in Cape Town. China too is growing, not only as western lines bring in newer and larger ships but also as the Chinese themselves prepare to build their first cruise ships. Popular ports in the Caribbean and Mediterranean are being spoiled as cruise ship crowds keep getting bigger, and there is in general more commission to be made by selling cruises to the BRICs.
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By Sam Ballard, 12 December 2012, Wednesday 3:43 PM           © Travel Daily News UK
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Round the World: Crossing The Pacific On A Cargo Ship

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Another container ship, another fantastic sea voyage. There is really no greater way to travel! My first cargo ship trip was three months earlier, from Germany to US, and it made me fall in love with the sea and this slow way to travel. This latest voyage, from US to Australia was equally wonderful, and happily a week longer. Three full weeks of great company, gorgeous views and excellent food – what more could anyone want?

Boarding the ship was quite relaxed. It took me and the friendly taxi driver three tries to find the correct spot where I would get a shuttle to take me to the ship, but after that it was smooth sailing. I got to the ship and hallooed the deck hand in charge of boarding, who helpfully came down and carried my luggage up the gangway to the ship. The third officer came shortly and took me to the ship’s office where we went over paperwork and the like. Then he took me to my cabin, and I was free to settle in. My cabin was all in one room, so it was smaller than the luxurious owner’s cabin on the Jamaica. But I had my own bathroom and a window, and I was at the end of the corridor in a nice quiet corner.

The Cap Capricorn was structured very much like the Jamaica, with several decks for social spaces, crew and passenger cabins and the bridge in one super structure toward the rear of the ship. My cabin was on deck F, which was two decks below the bridge and one above the deck with the laundry. Perfect. My cabin faced aft, which I wasn’t too happy about, but I saw some fabulous sunsets and sunrises (yes, both) from my window, so came to appreciate the view.

We were only three passengers on this trip, and the other two were a couple in their 70s. Like the passengers on the Jamaica, my fellow travelers were also very fond of travel and had in fact spent most of their lives living in fascinating places and traveling all over the world. Great company! The crew was quite mixed this time, mostly Indian, with Polish, Filipino, Romanian and Chinese mixed in. The crew overall didn’t socialize with each other much, so there was no partying like on the Jamaica. But I had great time with the other passengers, we spent much time walking around the deck, having a pre-dinner drink or watching movies after dinner. Oh and the food was fantastic! Due to the many Indians onboard, there was usually a vegetarian Indian option available at meal times, which kept me very happy. Our Romanian cook was also kind enough to cook something special for me when there otherwise wouldn’t have been anything suitable. So I ate really well, which gave me extra zest for burning up the calories up on the deck!

Crossing both the equator and the international date line brought some excitement to our journey. Of course the sea looks much the same on both sides of these imaginary lines, but few people ever cross either at sea. We also successfully outraced a typhoon less than a week into our journey, and actually enjoyed mostly calm seas and sunny skies during the three weeks. Unlike on the Atlantic crossing, I actually saw about a hundred dolphins overall! And lots of flying fish, scattering away from our path. On one of the last days I also had an unconfirmed whale sighting. It was all so quick that I didn’t get a photo, but it was definitely larger than a dolphin, traveling alone rather than in a pod and moved far too slow for a dolphin.

And best of all, in Auckland we loaded a half long container with five horses onboard. The crossing from New Zealand to Australia and back usually includes horses onboard, and the horse wrangler was thus a regular visitor. For us passengers this was new and exciting and much time was spent checking out the horses and asking the handler questions. No, the horses don’t mind the ocean swells. Yes, they sleep standing up. The pee and the poo goes overboard when away from ports. No, the horses do not need to get out of their stalls in the five day trip. Nor do they need constant supervision or company. The horses were really chill about the whole thing and absolutely no trouble at all.

This was the first time I had a port of call, and was happily able to meet some old dear friends for lunch in Auckland. After lunch we had a nice little walk around town, as between docking, formalities and the lunch, there was really only two hours until boarding time. I had spent four weeks touring New Zealand some years earlier, so on this trip I settled for only a short visit in favor of maximizing my time in Australia. I will miss all my new friends from the Cap Capricorn, but I look forward to all new adventures in Down Under!

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For further details of booking a cargo ship voyage please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

South Pacific Cargo Ship Voyage: Aranui 5’s Maiden Voyage To The Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands Is Set for 6th June 2015

Aranui 5Compagnie Polynésienne de Transport Maritime (CPTM), who operate the South Pacific island supply ship Aranui 3 from Papéeté to the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands, have announced that their new Aranui 5 (see image above) will make her maiden voyage from Papéeté on June 6, 2015. The Aranui 5, which is beiong built in China, will replace the present ship and will have additional capacity as well as more facilities for passengers. Details will follow later but below is a detailed outline of the usual itinerary. For further details please call Miri Lopusna at the Cruise People Ltd in London or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

    Day 1: Departure from Papeete dock at 10:30 am

Day 2: Fakarava is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu. There is snorkeling and scuba diving for people of all levels. You can swim and snorkel in the translucent lagoon to watch the colourful ballet of tropical lagoon fish. The entire morning will be spent on shore. Lunch will be served on board while we set sail for the Marquesas.
Day 3: You can relax with a book on one of the sun decks, swim in the small pool or enjoy the immense South Pacific. Balmy evenings mean reading in lounge/library or chatting with an authority on Marquesan culture or archaeology. You’ll probably spend many evenings socializing on the upstairs deck/bar with your fellow adventurers from around the world. The spirited Polynesian crew treat you like welcomed guests and proudly introduce you to their rich culture. Almost every night, they sing and strum hypnotic Polynesian rhythms on their ukuleles and will teach you to move your hips to hypnotic beat of the tamure.
Day 4: We sail into Taiohae’s spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheater dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. As the Aranui unloads, you can explore Taiohae, the tiny Administrative capital of the Marquesas. Taiohae Bay is where a 23-year-old sailor , He man Melville and a buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842. We follow their escape route by jeep along steep, winding dirt mountain roads to the village of Hatiheu to visit an archeological site. We’ll have lunch at Yvonne’s Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in the Marquesas, where the specialty is pig baked in an underground oven. You’ll meet the owner-chef, Yvonne, who also happens to be the town’s energetic mayor. After lunch, we will travel to the valley of Taipivai. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods and sacred ritual sites (me’ae) and immense stone platforms (paepae) where the Taipi built their houses. Enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, sacred turtles and fish are carved on huge boulders. The Aranui’s whaleboats will sail down the river to return you to the Aranui, which is anchored in the bay.
Day 5: From the deck, you’ll see the soaring mountain spires of Ua Pou. Whenever the Aranui stops, villages greet it. As the muscular crew unloads supplies – from cements to sugar – and loads sacks of copra (dried coconut meat), you’ll explore the tiny town of Hakahau with its church with a hand-carved wooden dais. You can meet some talented woodcarvers and hike up a hill for a breathtaking view of the distant cloud-covered mountains. At Rosalie’s Restaurant, you’ll taste your first Marquesan lunch: breadfruit, a marquesan staple, along with curried goat, barbecued rock lobster, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and soaked in coconut milk ), taro and sweet red bananas.
Day 6: We have plenty of time to explore Atuona, the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and did some of his best work. You can visit the colonial store where Gauguin shopped and go into a replica of the Impressionist’s infamous “House of Pleasure.” As you walk up the hill to the cemetery, you’ll have sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978. You’ll also enjoy another lavish Marquesan lunch at Hoa Nui Restaurant.
Day 7: This is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesan. It’s also a center of Marquesan crafts. As our guides lead you through the village of Omoa, you’ll see women hammering mulberry, banyan or breadfruit bark on logs. They dry it and then paint ancient Marquesan designs on their famous tapa cloth. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareus (sarongs) and monoi, a perfumed coconut oil scented with tiare blossoms and sandalwood. Skilled woodcarvers will invite you into their home/studios.
Day 8: We’ll travel by foot or by jeep to the most important archeological sites for tikis (ancient, human-like religious sculptures) other than Easter Island. Our trained guides will show you these mysterious jungle ruins of Puamau and tell the stories of these haunting statues of an ancient civilization. Bring plenty of film.
Day 9: On this leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with fragrant scent of tiare, frangipani and history. In the tiny village of Vaitahu, Spanish explorers landed in 1595 and opened fire on a crowd of the curious islanders, killing about 200. When the first missionaries came in 1797, the generous local chief left his wife with missionary John Harris, with instruction that he treat her as his own wife. Harris fled the next day. Tahuata also is the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. The huge church built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings. We’ll picnic in the Valley of Hapatoni and swim and snorkel at a nearby beach.
Day 10: We’ll visit a museum with exquisite replicas of Marquesan art. Some Aranui passengers will explore the island by four-wheel drive; others will ride the Marquesan horses. For three hours, we will explore the mountain landscape with heart-stopping views of the Pacific. The wild horses (brought from Chile in 1856) thrive here, outnumbering the islands 476 residents. We’ll have a Marquesan lunch at local restaurant and have plenty of time to visit studios of woodcarvers. We’ll visit the arboretum and the garden of fruits and flower. Back on the Aranui, it’s Polynesian night with dancing and buffet dinner on the decks.
Day 11: The Aranui will dock in Nuku Hiva at Taiohae in the morning. You may take the Le Truck back to the town center and spend free time there. At noon, the ship will sail to Ua Pou, returning to our first stop in the Marquesas, Hakahau. This is your last chance to buy Marquesan crafts.
Day 12: At sea.
Day 13: On lovely Rangiroa, the largest atoll in the world, we’ll picnic on coral beach. Aranui passengers can swim and snorkel in a translucent lagoon. Excellent snorkeling and scuba diving are available for people of all levels. “Rangi” is an underwater jewel box with stunning colors of corals and clouds of tropical fishes. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase black pearls from local black pearl.
Day 14: Arrival back in Pepeete about 9:30 am.For further details please call Miri Lopusna at the Cruise People Ltd in London or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Norwegian Joy Christened For China Trade – Fram To Sail Atlantic Canada & New England Waters – Cruiseco’s Ex-UK Music Cruises

The Cruise Examiner for 3rd July 2017

Norwegian Joy with go-kart race track

The two-deck high Ferrari-branded racetrack can clearly be seen aft of the funnel on the new China-dedicated Norwegian Joy

Last week, in Shanghai, Norwegian Cruise Line christened its first purpose-designed cruise ship for the China market, the “Breakaway Plus” class Norwegian Joy, or Xǐ Yuè Hoo in Chinese. With a Ferrari-branded go-kart racetrack on board, this ship offers a number of new attractions for the Chinese market. Elsewhere, Hurtigruten has announced a half dozen Atlantic Canada and New England cruises that include Newfoundland and the Gulf of St Lawrence for Spring 2018 in its 318-berth Fram. These waters were cruised a century ago by Bowring’s Red Cross Line. And, after its successes with music cruises in Australia, Cruiseco continues to grow with a series of UK music cruises from UK ports.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                    (See previous columns)

Grimaldi Lines Announces 12% Reduction For Europe – South America Departures In May And June 2017

Grande Francia

The Grande Francia and sister ships carry twelve passengers each

Grimaldi Lines in Naples has announced that for departures in May and June only, on the South America line, Antwerp/Hamburg/Tilbury – Montevideo/Brazil ports – Antwerp/Hamburg/Tilbury, and for full round voyages, a special reduction of 12% will be granted off passenger fares. This reduction does not apply to passages to and from Dakar.Grimaldi Lines South Atlantic routes

The full rotation of ports is Tilbury – Antwerp – Hamburg – Dakar – Vitoria – Rio de Janeiro – Santos – Paranagua – Montevideo – Santos – Rio de Janeiro – Vitoria – Dakar – Tilbury. Passenger vehicles are also accepted, but to and from Montevideo only.

Six ships are employed on this run, the 56,700-ton Grande Amburgo, Grande Brasil, Grande Buenos Aires, Grand Francia, Grand Nigeria and Grande San Paolo. Built in 2002-03, these sister ships carry up Grande Amburgo deck planto twelve passengers each in one Owners Cabin with double bed and separate dayroom, three outside cabins with twin beds and two inside cabins with upper and lower berths, all en suite. There is also a small gym and passengers dine with the officers.

For further details on any Grimaldi Lines voyage please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or email PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

Celebrate Christmas 2018 On Board The New Celebrity Edge In The Caribbean: Fort Lauderdale To St Maarten, St Thomas And Nassau

Celebrity Edge aeriel

Aeriel view of the Resort Deck forward and Roof Garden aft of the Celebrity Edge

Cruise in the new 2,900-berth 117,000-ton Celebrity Edge from Fort Lauderdale to St Maarten, St Thomas and Nassau, departing for 7 nights on December 23, 2018.

Cruise-only fares start from £1,444 person in an inside cabin, £1,804 in an outside or £2,014 in a balcony cabin, and include port charges, government fees and gratuities. Book an Oceanview stateroom or above and be rewarded with a free Classic Drinks Package.

Celebrity Edge

For further details please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or email PassageEnquiry@aol.com

Short Cargo Ship Voyages: 14-day Voyage From Liverpool to Portugal Replaced By 21-day Round Voyage From Felixstowe to Turkey

Earlier this year, The Cruise People Ltd announced a new fortnightly cargo-passenger service from Liverpool to Dublin and Bristol, Leixoes, Algeciras and Setubal with a return call at Leixoes on the northbound voyage.

elbstrand-helga-knitterThe 11,367 dwt tonne Elbstrand, built in 2002, featured two Single suites, one starboard and one port side, on C Deck, each with an open view to the side. The fare for the  14-night round voyage was £1,210, including full board, dues and taxes.

Update: The above voyage has now been withdrawn but instead we can offer the following 21-day voyage from Felixstowe to Antwerp and the Turkish ports of Gebze, Istanbul and Gemlik. This voyage is on the larger MSC Cordoba, with one Owners cabin and two Double cabins, for a total of six passengers.

MSC CordobaThe 63,352 dwt tonne MSC Cordoba, built in 2008, features one Owners and two Double cabins, and offers a 21-day round trip from Felixstowe to Turkey. Fares for the full round voyage, including full board, dues and taxes, are £2,050 or £2,140 per person, depending which cabin is occupaied, or for singles £2,635 or £2,740.

For further details on these cargo ship voyages please contact Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or email PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

Round the World: Crossing The Atlantic On A Cargo Ship

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I have just discovered my favorite way to travel. The 12 day voyage was wonderful and I didn’t want it to end, no matter how much I was looking forward to further adventures in the US.

Much of the success of the ship is due to the lovely fellow passengers and crew on board the CMA CGM JAMAICA. We were five passengers: a French couple, and three other women, an American, a German and myself. Everyone was friendly, sociable and willing to party. And party we did. We were invited to a party in the crew recreation room the first day at sea, and the party lasted until 2 am when I had to beg off. The party didn’t really stop until we arrived in Charleston. Sure, the crew had work from 8 am to 5 pm, plus the on call shifts on the bridge and engine room, but that just gave us passengers time to rest until the next party.

The crew onboard was part Ukranian, mostly the officers, and part Filipino, hence most of the crew. The messrooms and recreation rooms were split according to nationality, not officer/crew distinction. I guess it works for them, but as I have been used to very mixed international groups, both at work and with my friends, I find such divisions odd. The Filipino crew especially were absolute darlings and we spent most of our time with them. Imagine our very great surprise when they told us that in their collective many years at sea, we were the first passengers ever to party with them. It may have had something to do with us being mostly women and thus a welcome change from the all-male crew. Whatever the cause, it was magical.

We did take a few nights off, watching movies or BBC’s Jane Austen TV series in my room, and I had a few solitary evenings when I felt the need to re-charge. We also gathered for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the officers’ messroom, took turns around the open deck, and spent time at the forward deck, watching the sea go by. Of course we also got stellar tours of the ship, first inside the super structure including the bridge, then twice around the ship including the outside, and finally the engine room, which was very exciting.

Meal times for passengers were 8 am for breakfast, 12:30 for lunch and 18:30 for dinner. The food was good, plentiful, and mostly potatoes/pasta, meat/fish and vegetables. There was usually also a soup (mostly with meat), and always a few different salads, bread and cheese. Dessert was usually fresh fruit, which was lovely, with an occasional cake or ice cream. I had brought some hummus with me, and I had that usually at breakfast with toast, cucumber and tomatoes. I explained that I was vegetarian at first dinner, so for all other meals I was brought the food without the dead animals automatically. Great service!

The sea was mostly calm, with a few rocky nights, but I held up well. The weather prohibited us from going outside on some days, whether it was due to waves, wind or rain, but on most days we spent at least a few hours outside. I was walking laps around the long forward deck of the ship whenever I could. The last few days were hot and sunny, and despite a high SPF sun screen, I managed to get a sunburn.

The way the ship was organized is that the super structure, i.e. the tall part with all the crew and passenger quarters (in photo) shared spaces and engine control room, stands between the two decks. The back part is shorter, about 50 meters, and the long front part extends about 200 meters. The walkway along the edge in the front is mostly underneath the containers, which dominate both decks. There were nine decks accessible to us: the upper deck where the ship’s office was, decks A-G with cabins and shared spaces, and the bridge. We were allowed on the bridge most of the time, with permission from the officer on charge. Only when they were busy with either departure or arrival, and usually at night time, the bridge was off limits.

Boarding and disembarking went with little fuss and ceremony. I took a taxi to the harbor in Bremerhaven and was dropped off at the reception. They waved me through to a little shed next to the fence, and a shuttle bus picked me up from there. I walked up the gangway to what turned out to be the upperdeck level, submitted my passport, and signed a few papers, and that was it. I was in my cabin at around noon. The ship departed at 11 pm, and I spent it mostly in my cabin, reading. It had been a hectic few days and I was glad of the chance to take it easy. The outside areas were off limits during cargo loading and offloading anyway.

Leaving the ship was also quite straightforward. A US immigration officer came onboard to do a “face check”, i.e. comparing faces to passports, and asking a few questions about me, where I was coming from and what my plans in the US were. I got my stamps, and it all took about 5 minutes. We organized a taxi pickup from the ship with an agent who came to the ship at the same time as immigration. When we were ready, we just walked down the ramp and got on the taxi. There was no customs or further passport checks. Simple!

Two of my worries from an earlier post were thus dispelled. I was not sea sick at all, and there was no trouble with immigration. What I hadn’t expected was the emotional whiplash of leaving the ship after 12 days at sea. We were such a close group of people, amplified with the lack of contact with outside world, that leaving the ship was hard. I would have gladly continued on. After being fully pampered by the lovely crew, in my own suite of rooms, with everything prepared for us, the prospect of other people, traffic, noise, and dealing with my own accommodation, travel and food was daunting.

But, I had to get off, they wouldn’t let me stay. Besides, I had the whole of US waiting for me. And two more cargo ship passages to come.

This voyage set a really high bar for any other cargo ship trip, however, and I will never forget it, or the people I shared it with.

For further details of booking a cargo ship voyage please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

Last Minute Polsteam Cargo Ship With Open Cabins From Amsterdam To The Great Lakes, Second Half September, From $1,640 Plus Taxes

Polsteam Isadora DSCF21065

Polsteam’s Isadora, photographed by Gordon L Wolford in the St Lawrence River near Brockville, Ontario.

For those wanting to return to North America this autumn by sea, or sail into the Great Lakes we have an extra sailing by Polsteam’s m.v. Isadora, scheduled from Amsterdam/IJmuiden for Cleveland, Ohio, and Burns Harbor, Indiana, in the second half of Septober.

Available for last-minute booking are the Owner’s cabin on Bridge Deck, a double cabin on Main Deck and two single cabins on Main Deck, one with a forward hatch view and one with an outboard view to the side.

Arrival IJmuiden for loading is presently scheduled for about September 16 and sailing three or four days later. To qualify for this sailing, passengers that are not US or Canadian citizens require a full US visa as cargo ships are not party to the visa waiver scheme.

Fares for this departure are $1,640 per person single or double to Cleveland and $1,880 to Burns Harbor, while the Owners cabin is $1,835 to Cleveland and $2,035 to Burns Harbor. Port taxes are extra at $132 per person.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at passenger agents The Cruise People Ltd in London om +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

 

Boutique Riverboat Louisiane Makes Her Way Slowly South From Portland, Oregon, To Her New Home Port Of New Orleans

The tug Jack Brusco and her tow of the Louisiane head down the Columbia River to the open sea

Last Friday evening, June 24, saw the 347-ton ocean tug Jack Brusco pick up her tow of the 150-berth boutique river cruiser Louisiane, loaded and secured on board the deck of the semi-submersible barge Columbia Newark, which can also double as  a container barge.

The Louisiane was built in 2000 as Columbia Queen, the last riverboat to be built by the New Orleans-based Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Her new owner, the Great Northern & Southern Navigation Co LLC, trading as the French America Line, is also New Orleans-based.

In the scene above, she is shown leaving the Columbia River in the State of Washington to her new home in Gretna, Lousiana, part of the Port of New Orleans where French America Line will have its own dedicated terminal.

The Louisiane, ex-Columbia Queen, is loaded to the semi-submersible barge Columbia Newark

The 4,332-ton Louisiane has now passed San Francisco and is nearing San Luis Obispo on her way south along the long Mexican coast to Panama. Once she arrives at New Orleans in mid-July she will go to Bollinger Shipyards for drydocking and will then commence a major refit to convert her into a luxury boutique river cruiser.

The full tow can be followed by AIS on this link.

The Louisiane is due to enter service on September 30, 2016, with a Pullman train linking from Chicago for an Upper Mississippi cruise from St Louis, Missouri, to St Paul, Minnesota. More details of the 2016 season can be found here.

For a longer 14-night exclusive Cruiseco charter from New Orleans to Nashville in October there is at the moment an offer of half off for the second passenger. Further details of this offer can be found here.

For fares, availability and bookings please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail PassageEnquiry@aol.com.

The Kamchatka Coast: Siberia’s Forgotten Shore – On Heritage Expeditions’ 50-passenger Small Ship Spirit of Enderby

Spirit of EnderbyThe Spirit of Enderby will  take you to discover Siberia’s eastern coastline, one of the most remote and least visited regions of the globe, and the indigenous people that live there, as well as a most diverse array of wildlife and habitats of anywhere on a similar latitude. You will also join a group of naturalists and guides that have devoted their lives to field research on the areas visited by your ship.

KamchatkaDeparting on June 24, 2016, you will be immersed in a 14-day experience on a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research. Newly refurbished, she can carry up to 50 passengers accommodated in six different cabin grades, triple and double, 29 cabins in total.

From Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski to the Port of Anadyr, you will discover many Russian Far East places, encountering several interesting animal species, stopping in local villages, and walking through deep forested fjords.

2016: Available fares from US $8,000 or $9,200 per person, including pre- and post-cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodations, meals and expedition shore excursions. Flights are extra by private  charter. Only main deck triple and main deck accommodation is left.
 
2017: This same voyage operates from 27 June to 10 July 2017, all cabin categories available. Fares from US $8,000 to $11,900 per person for the Heritage suite.

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For further details please contact Giulia Marri at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail PassageEnquiry@outlook.com

The Louisiane: The “Ne Plus Ultra Of American River Cruising”

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The 4,225-ton twin-screw 75-stateroom upmarket river cruiser Louisiane

“Intimate, exclusive and elegant” is what the brochures call it, the “ne plus ultra of American river cruising” is how its founder and chairman Christopher Kyte describes it. The newly-established French America Line will introduce the new boutique river cruiser Louisiane to America’s river cruising scene this August.

The 150-berth Louisiane will offer twenty departures between August and December this year, with an exciting choice of exclusive voyages on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red Rivers.

The new line’s founder began his career with San Francisco-based Matson Lines and eventually established his own travel business in 1990, when he founded Uncommon Journeys as a purveyor of upmarket rail and cruise holidays.

Using Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Amtrak and Via Rail Canada, as well as the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Kyte built what is today a well-regarded operation that offers the best of rail and cruise holidays, usually in conjunction with each other. In 2012, Kyte helped bring the 360-berth sternwheeler American Queen out of lay up and back into service on the Mississippi River, in the process becoming the first president of the American Queen Steamboat Company.

French America Line ceo Ken Grigsby has also worked with Uncommon Journeys, for twenty-five years in his case, and had previous background in banking and hotels before becoming involved in Uncommon Journey’s first-class rail trips. London-based director Kevin Griffin founded The Cruise People in 1992.

Uncommon Journeys’ president Kevin Tam, meanwhile, another trusted hand, will act as general manager of the new river operator. His business is expected to supply about a quarter of French America Line’s passengers.

Outside investors include Sydney-based cruise specialist Cruiseco Pty Ltd, who have also taken a 14-night full ship charter of the Louisiane from New Orleans to Nashville between October 26 and November 9. Cruiseco has also been appointed exclusive general sales agent for the new line in Australia and New Zealand.

This cruise will tie in with Cruiseco’s exclusive charter of the 684-berth Azamara Quest, which is making a 32-night voyage from Montreal to New Orleans with nineteen ports and nine overnight stays. The Azamara Quest will leave Montreal on September 24 and passengers’ luggage will be transferred between their staterooms on the Quest and new accommodations on the Louisiane on Wednesday, October 26, as they explore New Orleans.

The 4,225-ton Louisiane was built by Leevac Shipyards in Jennings, Lousiana, in 2000 and completed by Cascade General shipyard in Portland, Oregon, who are very active today with cruise ship refits. The vessel, which has been laid up in Portland since 2008 was acquired by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, who took over the assets of previous operator Majestic America Line, in 2011. Xanterra is the parent company of Windstar Cruises, who now operate three tall ships plus three yacht-style ships acquired from Seabourn in 2014 and 2015, and decided to sell the Columbia Queen as the Louisiane was known, as surplus to their needs. Xanterra had already disposed of the 1926-built Delta Queen on the Mississippi.

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The Veranda overlooks the Louisiane‘s stern decks and provides an alternate dining venue

Setting the Louisiane apart from the other American river ships are a complimentary one-night pre-cruise deluxe hotel stay in the embarkation city, with transfers on sailing day, complimentary custom shore excursions in every port, complimentary house wines, select beers, house-brand spirits, coffees, teas, soft drinks and purified water, free 24-hour room service and complimentary Wi-Fi wherever it is available.

The Lousiane will also offer the finest cuisine on America’s rivers, with Southern and Continental menus created by award-winning chef Regina Charboneau, who has worked with Christopher Kyte in the past. As well as a main dining room that doubles as a supper club, guests will be able to dine in the relaxed atmosphere of The Veranda, Louisiane’s complimentary alternative casual dining venue.

The on board ambiance will be casual but sophisticated, with a distinctive French flair. Guests will be able to sail waterways not accessible by larger vessels, and as well as an iPad in every stateroom and suite, will benefit from plush spa-quality bathrobes, slippers and a pillow menu.

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This Panorama Stateroom is one of four that overlook the ship’s wake

To see the level at which the Louisiane is pitched, it is only necessary to look at the line’s branding agreements – with Hermes and L’Occitane en Provence for bath amenities, with New Orleans-based Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait, as well as boxed Ladurée macaroons from Paris as a welcome aboard gift and Vosges chocolates for turn-down service

Cruises will be divided into Sampler Cruise Tours (4 nights or less), Classic Cruise Tours (5 to 7 nights), Grand Cruise Tours (8 nights or more), and Collector’s Cruise Tours of varying lengths.

There are fifteen different itineraries on offer, with twenty departure dates in total – this is a snapshot of the available itineraries with Steling fares:

Sampler:  Frontier Fete – November 9 – 4 nights from Nashville return. Fares from £1,337 per person twin share.

Classic:  American Adventure – August 27 and September 4 – 7 nights from Pittsburgh to Louisville. Fares from £2,814 per person.

Grand:  Southern Spirit – December 30, 2016 ~ 9 nights from New Orleans to Memphis. Fares from £3,599 per person

Collector’s:  Red River Holiday ~ 8 nights from New Orleans return.
Fares from £3,138 per person.

This year the total number of North Americans taking European river cruisers is expected to exceed 500,000, representing a seven-fold increase since 2001. Even if Viking River Cruises add up to six proposed new 300-berth US-flag vessels starting in 2018, and with existing competition from the three boats operated by American Cruise Lines and American Queen, 14 million North Americans took a cruise last year. This should mean enough business for all lines on the Missisippi and its tributaries

For further details of the new French America Line please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail CruisePeopleLtd@aol.com.