Canada’s 150th Anniversary and Montreal’s 375th – Other Cruise News: – Oceania Chooses New York – Azamara Adds Alaska In 2019

The Cruise Examiner for 3rd April 2017

QM2 at Quebec

Queen Mary 2 at Quebec. The numbers cruising the St Lawrence are expected to exceed 350,000 this year.

This year sees the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s founding as a nation, so on this event we also look back fifty years to the special 100th Anniverary sailings that were offered in connection with Expo ’67 in 1967 that included stays on board. Ships such as the Shalom, Maasdam, FranconiaArgentina, Brasil and South American all offered stays at Montreal, as did the s.s. France and Michelangelo at Quebec.This year will also see a boom for cruising the St Lawrence, with traffic up more than a third on last year. Elsewhere, Oceania Cruises will be basing its Insignia at New York for the late summer this year as well as the summer of 2018. Finally, in a first for the line, Azamara Club Cruises has announced a series of eleven Alaska cruises based on Vancouver for its Azamara Quest in 2019.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                    (See previous columns)

Australians Outstrip Canadians In Their Own Port of Montreal

Montreal’s cruise season opened in May with Haimark Line’s 210-berth Saint Laurent (below) and closed last week with the Regent’s 490-berth Seven Seas Navigator.

The 210-berth Saint Laurent. In this pic she is moored in Montreal

In all, Montreal recorded 73 cruise ships visits this year, 29 more than the 44 received in 2014. Preliminary figures indicate that more than 92,000 passengers and crewmembers transited the cruise terminal this season, a near 30% increase over 2014 and a 94% hike since the creation of the Montreal Cruise Committee in 2011. The committee was established with a brief to attract more international cruise lines to the Canadian port.

The St Lawrence River cruise season generally runs from May through October, with the busiest months being September and October, for the autumn leaves. According to data collected by the Montreal Cruise Committee, clients are primarily American (72%), Australian (8.5%), Canadian (7.5%) and English (4.5%).

Like Quebec, Montreal has adopted a bad habit of counting crew members along with passengers. The cruise lines regard crew as a cost centre and passengers as the revenue centre. If we take a ratio of say 2.5 passengers to every crewmember, then 92,000 represents about 66,000 passengers and 26,000 crew.

The Maasdam departing Montreal on a cruise. On the left is  the Sailors’ Memorial clocktower on Victoria Pier. This is where the Canada Steamship Lines and Clarke Steamship Company cruise ships sailed from

Holland America Line’s Maasdam departing Montreal on a cruise. She is Montreal’s most frequent caller. 

Reducing the passenger number further means about 5,600 Australian passengers outnumbered the roughly 5,000 Canadians who took a cruise over Montreal by 12 to 13%, which is quite ridiculous. Montreal is inside in a country with a population of 35 million, while Australia has only 23 million. And Sydneysiders have to travel 10,000 miles to get to Montreal!

Perhaps as well as attracting foreign cruise lines, the Montreal Cruise Committee should start working on attracting more domestic passengers to their local port, which is just down the street, along the highway or less than a half-hour drive away from Trudeau Airport.Essentially, this research means the number of Canadians cruising through Montreal numbers only one in every 7,000 of the country’s population and the nearby Americans outnumber them almost ten to one.

By comparison, this year Vancouver is expected to handle some 805,000 cruise passengers to Montreal’s 66,000, or about twelve times as many as its St Lawrence sister port, with 228 calls compared to Montreal’s 73.

Azamara QuestIf you want to cruise from Montreal next year, The Cruise People Ltd highly recommends Cruiseco’s charter of the Azamara Quest from Montreal to New Orleans, a voyage of 32 nights, next September and October, with 19 ports and 9 overnights.  Further details of the Montreal to New Orleans cruise can be found here

Ironically, this cruise is being offered by the Australian group Cruiseco, who will be bringing several hundred more Australian passengers to Montreal next year.

One way to reach this cruise will be a Transatlantic sailing from Southampton from September 9 to 24. Further details of this Atlantic crossing can be found here. 

For further details on these or any other Montreal cruises call us in London on 020 7723 2450 or email cruisepeopleltd@aol.com.

Cruiseco’s Exclusive 2016 Azamara Club Cruises Charters – Lead-in Categories Are Already Sold Out So Book Now To Get Best Fares

Azamara Quest 

The great success of the “Mediterranean Montage” and “European Enchantment” charters for 2015 have paved the way for the creation of two extended charters aboard Azamara Club Cruises in 2016.

These exclusive Cruiseco charters have been designed to ensure your time ashore is maximised with a focus on overnight stays and late departures from ports that are unique and rarely seen on cruise itineraries. Regular cruisers will be surprised and enchanted by the original approach taken by these classic journeys.

Hidden Treasures of the Mediterranean ~ 20 April to 24 May 2016 – Azamara Journey
Nice to Venice – 34 nights – 30 ports – 10 countries – 5 overnights – 15 late departures
Ports Visited: Nice ~ St Tropez ~ Sanary-Sur-Mer ~ Cassis ~ Sète ~ Palamos ~ Ibiza ~ Mahon ~ Propriano ~ Olbia ~ Amalfi ~ Trapani ~ La Goulette ~ Porto Empedocle ~ Valletta ~ Mgarr ~ Chania ~ Limassol ~ Alanya ~ Kas ~ Marmaris ~ Hydra ~ Gythion ~ Itea ~ Dubrovnik ~ Korcula ~ Hvar ~ Ravenna ~ Koper ~ Venice

Fares from £6,300 per person double occupancy – Category 11 and 12 sold out

For further details online please click here

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MONTREAL TO NEW ORLEANS EDIT Discover the Atlantic Seaboard of Canada and USA ~ 24 September to 26 October 2016 Azamara Quest
Montreal to New Orleans – 32 nights – 19 ports – 9 overnights – 8 late departures
Ports Visited: Montreal ~ Québec ~ Charlottetown ~ Halifax ~ Saint John ~ Bar Harbor ~ Portland ~ Boston ~ Provincetown ~ Newport ~ New York ~ Baltimore ~ Norfolk ~ Charleston ~ Port Canaveral ~ Miami ~ Key West ~ Mobile ~ New Orleans

Fares from £6,210 per person double occupancy – Category 12 sold out

For further details online please click here

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Azamara

    Both Charters Include:
– Transfers at the beginning and end of your holiday
– All meals aboard Azamara Journey/Azamara Quest
– Gratuities to dining room and stateroom staff aboard ship
– House wine and beer served with lunch and dinner on board
– Bottled mineral water throughout your cruise
– Full on-board programme of entertainment, enhancement and port lectures

To book now please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)20 7723 2450 or e-mail cruisepeopleltd@aol.com.

Azamara Quest 19 Nights Singapore to Hong Kong, Best of Thailand and Vietnam, Ex-UK November 15, 2015, From £4,285

Azamara QuestAZAMARA QUEST – SINGAPORE TO HONG KONG – 19 NIGHTS BEST OF THAILAND & VIETNAM

Includes 2 Nights Singapore & 3 Nights Hong Kong

Departing UK November 15, 2015.  From £4,285 per person

Itinerary

Fly Overnight from the UK to Singapore (2 nights hotel stay) ~ Embark Azamara Quest ~ Day at Sea ~ Ko Samui (Thailand) ~ Klong Toey (For Bangkok – 2 nights on board) ~ Day at Sea~ Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam – overnight on board ) ~ Day at Sea ~ Hue (Danang – Vietnam) ~ Hanoi (Halong Bay – overnight on board) ~ Day at Sea ~ Hong Kong (3 nights hotel stay) ~ Fly Hong Kong to the UK

Inclusive Azamara Amenities

  • Select standard spirits, international beers and wines
  • Complimentary AzAmazing Evening event
  • Gratuities
  • Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas
  • Self-service laundry
  • Shuttle service to and from port communities where available
  • Concierge service for personal guidance and reservations

Package Includes

  • 14-night Best of Thailand & Vietnam cruise on board Azamara Quest from Singapore to Hong Kong
  • All meals and entertainment on board
  • Raft of exclusive Azamara inclusions as detailed above under “ Inclusive Azamara Amenities “
  • Economy class travel from the UK to Singapore and returning from Hong Kong, available from London, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh & Glasgow
  • 2-night pre-cruise stay at the 5-Star Mandarin Orchard Hotel in a standard double room with breakfast daily
  • Private car transfer Singapore Changi Airport to Hotel
  • Private car transfer Singapore hotel to Marina Bay Cruise Centre
  • 3-night post-cruise stay at the 5-Star Royal Plaza Hotel in a deluxe King double room with breakfast daily
  • Late checkout till 8pm on day of departure from Hong Kong
  • Private car transfer Hong Kong cruise centre to hotel
  • Private car transfer from hotel to Hong Kong International airport
  • Flight taxes
  • Port charges and fees

Fares from £4,285 Inside, £4,455 Outside or £5,715 Balcony, all per person in double occupancy with Business Class flights.

For further information on Azamara Club Cruises or any other Cruiseco cruise package please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruisepeopleltd@aol.com.

Check Out Our Recent Advertising Of Exclusive Ocean and River Cruises From Cruiseco in the “Daily Mail” and “Daily Telegraph”

Celebrity EclipseCheck out our Cruiseco Exclusive Cruises as advertised in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph over the past month – covering a 5-night May bank holiday:cruise from Southampton to Cherbourg, Le Havre and Zeebrugge in Celebrity Eclipse (above), luxury river cruises on the Irrawaddy, the Mekong and the Ganges, as well as the Rhone and the Danube, and extended month-long and longer cruises in Europe and North America on board the 682-berth Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest:

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” February 14, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” February 7, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Telegraph” January 31, 2015

Cruiseco Exclusive Charters in the “Daily Mail” January 11, 2015

For further details on any of these cruises please feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450, book online at our cruises web page or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Azamara Club Cruises’ Cruiseco Charters – Pullmantur Changes UK Agent (Again) – Funchal Cancels 2015 Season

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 16th February 2015

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Azamara Quest leaves Nice for Southampton via the Baltic on May 28 and has some balcony staterooms remaining from £5,129 pp for 37 days. Apply through Cruiseco agents.

This week we have a look at the relationship between Azamara Club Cruises and the rapidly growing Cruiseco cruise agents consortium in Australia, an entity that is now expanding into the UK. Meanwhile, Pullmantur Cruises is on its fourth UK agent in the past several years, having now appointed a division of Fred. Olsen Travel to look after its business in the UK. And Portuscale’s Funchal, having had her 2015 cruise season cancelled, is now available for long-term charter.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                                 (See previous columns)

Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises Win Hands Down In Cruise Critic Readers’ Awards, With Oceania Cruises Next In Line

Azamara QuestSister lines Celebrity and Azamara walked away with the top positions in the Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice awards last week. Looking at the top five ships in three categories in the US and UK polls, Celebrity scored nine firsts and Azamara eight, followed by Oceania and Thomson with six each in the categories we chose.

For purposes of its polls, Cruise Critic defined a medium-sized ship as carrying between 1,200 and 1,999 passengers, with anything above that being defined as large and anything below as small. The results are laid out below for the best five ships in each category for each of the UK and US, as well as the best ship in each category for dining, entertainment and service for the UK and US. The actual ships’ scores are given in brackets. Some of the surprising results: are given below.

Cruise Critic Cruisers Choice awards 2013 - Scores courtesy of Cruise Critic

       Cruise Critic Cruisers Choice awards 2013 – Courtesy of Cruise Critic

Celebrity EclipseThe most interesting outcome was that of the forty-eight results laid out above, Royal Caribbean brands collected eighteen of the top spots, compared to only four for Carnival brands, despite being severely outnumbered. Proof of a good design and concept, Celebrity’s nine wins were all by 2,850-berth Solstice class ships (Celebrity Eclipse pictured above) except for 1,814-berth Celebrity Century positioning third in the UK medium ships category. Celebrity also took the UK’s top three large ship positions.

Azamara did proportionally even better in that with only two 684-berth ships, it managed to pick up eight of these awards. The other Royal Caribbean win was the 5,408-berth Allure of the Seas, which took third-best large ship in the US results.

oceania_marinaOceania managed six wins in the categories we have chosen, all by its two newest ships, the 1,258-berth Marina and Riviera. But the real surprise was Thomson Cruises walking away with six awards, not only from their own market in the UK but also from US voters. We can think of only one reason for that and that is that the UK results must be included in the US ones, but the website is not clear as to the methodology.

Certainly, with Thomson selling off brands, such as its ski operation, Neilson, and contemplating unloading others to pay down £1.6 billion in debt, any aspiring bidder might look at Thomson Cruises as a possible acquisition. That its older ships should have achieved tops in the mid-size awards for entertainment in both polls and also outscored Carnival’s brand-new 3,690-berth Carnival Breeze makes Thomson worth a look.

Actual cruisers were polled here and of the Carnival brands only one ship from each of Carnival, Cunard, Holland America and Seabourn managed to score in this sample, and none from P&O or Princess. What makes it even odder is that Carnival Breeze won her spot in the UK survey and not the US one. In the US, Disney managed to score as many wins as all Carnival brands combined.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Crystal each achieved three places, but Azamara’s two ultra-premium ships taking eight places to only three for Crystal’s two ultra-luxury ships is an interesting surprise.

To book an Azamara or Celebrity cruise and to book an Oceania cruise please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Some Really Great Cruises Away From the Madding Crowd – on Seabourn Quest, Le Boréal and Azamara Quest

Some Great Cruises Away From the Madding Crowd

For those who have been cruising for many years, one of the worst things about the recent huge growth in cruising has been its new mammoth ships with the massive crowds they bring. For the many who dislike crowds, overweening entertainment, ziplines, Blue Man Group and Red Frog beer, here are three cruises that will take you away from all that to explore areas of real interest. For each cruise we also quote “Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation” for his “strong points” on each line type of ship.

Now that Seattle-based ultra-luxury line Seabourn has all three of its larger 450-guest luxury ships, Seabourn Odysssey, Sojourn and Quest, in service, its fleet numbers 1,986 berths, including the original trio of Seabourn Legend, Pride and Spirit. A threefold growth in capacity over two years means that Seabourn now offers more berths than and twice as many ships as its predecessor Royal Viking Line when it operated its original trio of ultra-luxury ships on itineraries worlwide. In fact, today’s Seabourn offers much better value on board as it is all-inclusive, whereas on Royal Viking one had to pay for one’s bar bills, wines and gratuities.

For a Caribbean cruise on Seabourn, one couldn’t do better than to choose the Seabourn Quest, which made her maiden North American land when she arrived in Fort Lauderdale last week. The Quest will typically sail on 10-, 12- and 14-night Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale in November and December, and rather than calling at the mass-market ports of St Thomas, Cozumel and Costa Playa, none of which have any cultural appeal, she calls at out-of-the-way islands that are for the most part off the beaten track.

Typical calls include St Kitts, St Vincent, Mayreau, St Barts and St John as well as the more popular Barbados and Martinique, and usually a call at San Juan as well. The latter is so the Americans can buy their double duty free allowance, but rather than go shopping with them, take advantage of this opportunity to do your own private tours. A verandah suite will cost about £4,500 to £5,000 per person double for a fortnight including flights from the UK.

Stern’s Strong Points: “Top-of-the-line luxury (at top-of-the-line prices except when special offers are available on selected cruises), superb food, impeccable service, and elegant, spacious accommodations, as well as the most desired itineraries… The new 450-passenger ships offer the same exceptional dining, service and accommodations with additional space, facilities and entertainment. Most seasoned cruisers consider these the best ships in service today.”

An up-and-coming company in the news of recent is Marseilles-based Compagnie du Ponant, which has introduced two 264-guest yachtlike ships, Le Boréal and L’Austral, over the past couple of years, and has just ordered a third. The recent sale of Le Levant to Paul Gauguin Cruises and Le Diamant to buyers affiliated with International Shipping Partners means that this fleet will become more uniform, with three new sister ships and the original 60-berth Le Ponant, which took the company name and is now becoming more of a mascot. For this cruise we nominate Le Boréal’s May 9th Gastronomic sailing from Honfleur to Copenhagen by way of Ostend, Amsterdam, Hamburg and the Kiel Canal.

On this 5-night sailing three top chefs, Michelin three-star Jacques Marcon, two-star Jean-Marc Delacourt and Philippe Joannes, best chef in France of 2000, will be serving up gastronomic delights to match the ports of call. Fares start at £1,304 per person double occupancy. For those who like to combine business with pleasure Ostend is called at on Thursday and Amsterdam on Friday if you want to make appointments, but Hamburg will be called on Saturday so you can go and see the Maritime Museum. The cruise is only five nights but with such chefs on board perhaps that is enough at one go.

Stern’s Strong Points: “Le Boréal and L’Austral feature staterooms that measure from 200 square feet with a 56-suqre-foor balcony to 398 square feet with an 86-square-foot balcony and 484 square feet with a 97-square-foot balcony for the owner’s suite. Ninety-five per cent of the accommodations sport balconies.”

Another interesting cruise that avoids crowds and offers little extras is Miami-based Azamara Club Cruises, whose Azamara Quest cruises the Mediterranean by summer and autumn. Obe can join this Quest on August 18 at Venice for an overnight stay before sailing at 6 pm on the 19th for visits to Split, Dubrovnik, Kotor (an overnight stay), Brindisi, Corfu, Taormina, Amalfi (another overnight stay), Capri and Sorrento before finishing in Civitavecchia for Rome on August 29.

Cruise-only balcony fares begin at £2,709 and include fine boutique wines with lunch and dinner and a focus on culture and destinations on a ship that carries no more than 684 passengers. The Azamara Quest and her sister ship Azamara Journey were once members of the Renaissance fleet.

Stern’s Strong Points: “A more initimate cruise experience to exotic ports that many larger sjips cannot reach on longer itineraries, with a variety of entertainments, fine dining options and attentive service throughout the ship.”

There is not a single trace of Shrek, Spongebob Squarepants or Mickey on any of these ships, just a sense of calm and sophistication, Where larger ships need to have Retreats, Sanctuaries and Tranquility areas to get away from the endless activity, such areas would be totally pointless on these ships.

To book any of these cruises please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on +44 (0)207 723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

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 cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.