Inland Cruising Market Shows Huge Promise – A Third Royal Class Ship, Fourth Of The Line – Celebrity Eclipse Gets A Refit

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 4th August 2014..

Pearl Mist at Sault Ste Marie ON 02.08.14 © Angela at Sault Ste Marie Tourist Information Centre

Europe’s inland cruising market has been booming, as marked by the christening of 24 new river cruisers in March of this year alone. Now this trend is beginning to spread to North America, as American Queen Steamboat Co adds the 233-berth American Empress and Un-Cruise Adventures  the 90-berth s.s. Legacy to the Columbia River, American Cruise Lines orders three new 150-berth river ships, Pearl Seas Cruises began service this summer (their 210-berth Pearl Mist is shown above at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, this weekend) and another new operator, Haimark Line, plans to revive a long laid-up coastal and inland vessel and bring her into service next year as the 214-berth Saint Laurent. Meanwhile Princess has ordered another ship, while the UK-based Celebrity Eclipse is due to go in for an update.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                  (See previous columns)

Queen Mary 2 Celebrates 10th Birthday – Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 Celebrates 1st Birthday – Pearl Mist To Cruise The Great Lakes

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 12th May 2014..

Three Queens © Rex Features

Queen Mary 2 en route to Southampton, flanked by Queen Elizabeth (foreground) and Queen Victoria (background)

At dawn last Friday, the Queen Mary 2, accompanied by fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, arrived in Southampton for her tenth birthday celebrations. During her stay, she was visited by His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Also in a celebratory mood, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have announced some special fares for seven 7-night summer cruises on the world’s top-rated cruise ship, Europa 2. And elsewhere, itineraries and fares have been announced to the Pearl Mist’s first season on the Great Lakes.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                             (See previous columns)

Plantours Cruises To Offer Two 16-night Great Lakes Cruises From Montreal and a Round Trip Montreal-New York Cruise in Autumn 2014

m s Hamburg

Plantours Cruises of Bremen have announced a revised season of cruises to be operated from Montreal in the autumn of 2014 that will include two 16-night cruises into the Great Lakes, a 16-night round trip cruise from Montreal to New York and back and a positioning cruise from Montreal to Nassau.

Plantours’ 400-guest ms Hamburg is no stranger to the region, having operated Great Lakes cruises between 1997 and 2011 as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Columbus.

The first two cruises, scheduled for September 24 and October 11, will tour the Great Lakes as far as Chicago, and the third, scheduled for October 27, will cruise Canada and New England as far as New York. These cruises will be followed by a 14-night voyage from Montreal to Nassau via St Lawrence and East Coast ports, departing Montreal November 12. Ports of call are laid out below for each cruise:

September 24-October 11, 2014: 16-night Great Lakes cruise from Montreal to Toronto, the Welland Canal/Niagara, Windsor, Tobermory, Little Current, Chicago, Milwaukee, Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Kingston and return to Montreal.
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October 11-27, 2014: 16-night Great Lakes cruise from Montreal to Toronto, the Welland Canal/Niagara, Windsor, Tobermory, Little Current, Chicago, Milwaukee, Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Kingston and return to Montreal.
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October 27-November 12, 2014: 16-night Canada/New England cruise from Montreal to Gaspé, Sydney, Boston, Cape Cod Canal, New York, Martha’s Vineyard, Halifax, Cape Eternity, Quebec and back to Montreal.
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November 12-26, 2014: 14-night cruise from Montreal to Nassau via Quebec, Halifax, Boston, New York, Charleston and Savannah.
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For further details please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk..
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Viking Cruises Announces Details Of Its 925-Berth Viking Star – P&O Cruises Lays Keel For Its New 3,600-Berth Flagship – And 210-Berth Canadian-Built Pearl Mist Is Finally Delivered

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 20th May 2013

Viking Star new

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

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                  (See previous columns)

On the Bridge On The Event Of The Return Of The Former Canadian Pacific Steamship Keewatin to Canada, June 23, 2012

Here we have Eric Conroy, project manager for s.s. Keewatin, in his role as Capt Rick and Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People Ltd on the day of her return to Port McNicoll. Kevin had been a waiter on sister ship s.s. Assiniboia and had been invalided off at Sault Ste Marie in late August 1965 with appendicitis. Some forty-seven years later, on his arrival at Port McNicoll, he met John Bell, the dishwasher at the time who had been promoted into his position as waiter. Both Eric and Kevin started their careers as 17-year-old waiters for Canadian Pacific Great Lakes Steamships and Kevin transferred out to Canadian Pacific BC Coast Steamships in 1966 to serve as chief night steward on the Alaska cruise ship t.e.v. Princess Patricia, summer work that helped put him through Western University in London, Ontario.

Here are some photos from that voyage:  Photo essay of the Keewatin‘s voyage from Mackinaw City to Port McNicoll.

For further information on cruising in the Great Lakes or to Alaska please feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London, England, on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk

Two Views of Canadian Pacific’s s.s. Keewatin Approaching Port McNicoll – Separated by About Ninety Years

The view on the right was taken on June 23, 2012, as the s.s. Keewatin approached Port McNicoll after an absense of forty-five years in Douglas, Michigan. The view on the left is a Notman Archives photo taken from a similar spot about forty-five years before that. Roughly ninety years separate the two photographs yet the deck looks the same, minus the passengers. The grain elevator and freight sheds ashore have meanwhile disappeared.

Here are some photos from this voyage:  Photo essay of the Keewatin‘s voyage from Mackinaw City to Port McNicoll.

To learn more about cruising in the Great Lakes feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London, England,  on 0230 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Former Canadian Pacific s.s. Keewatin, Last Surviving Edwardian Liner in the World, Sails on Tuesday For Her Old Home Port in Canada

This photo by “National Post” photographer Darren Calabrese shows the finish on this Clyde-built steamship.

From Kevin Griffin, managing director at The Cruise People in London: I have been posting recently on the subject of the s.s. Keewatin‘s voyage back to Canada and this week, at the invitation of former Keewatin crew member and project manager Eric Conroy, I will actually be joining this historic ship for the final leg of her homeward journey. Eric and I both started our careers as 17-year-old waiters on these ships, he on Keewatin and I on sister ship Assiniboia.

Conroy, who worked two summers on the Keewatin and wrote a book about it called “A Steak in the Drawer” (the title came from ordering an extra steak and putting it in a drawer for later consumption), has been in charge of this project. This involved purchasing the 3,856-ton vessel, the last surviving Canadian Pacific passenger ship and possibly the last surviving Edwardian liner in the world, and bringing her home to Canada. In November, the firm that engaged him, Skyline International Development Inc of Toronto, purchased the 105-year-old Clyde-built ship and after having dredged the harbor at Douglas, Michigan, where she had been used as a museum, at a cost of $1 million to release her, had her towed to Mackinaw City, where she has been waiting.  All of this has been made possible by Skyline International and its founder and president Gil Blutrich, whose vision has brought this about.

Photographer Darren Calabrese rolls up his sleeping bag after spending a night on board in Mackinaw City.

On Monday morning, I cross the Atlantic to join the ship as one of five riding crew, five sailors, a cook and a cameraman, for the final leg of her tow to the Georgian Bay port of Port McNicoll, her base for several decades. In Port McNicoll, the Keewatin will become the centrepiece of a new waterfront park and part of a new resort community being developed by Skyline International, which also owns the King Edward, Cosmopolitan and Pantages Hotels in Toronto and the Deerhurst and Horseshoe resorts in Muskoka and Barrie, Ontario. 

The subject of repatriating this 105-year-old cruise ship to Canada, brings to mind the cruising history of Canadian Pacific, whose Empresses, Duchesses and Princesses operated so many early cruises. Canadian Pacific, one of the early lines to go into cruising, offered a world cruise every year in the 1920s and 1930s, when the St Lawrence River was closed by ice, as well as cruises between Montreal and New York, to Bermuda, to Alaska, to the Mediterranean and to the West Indies, not to mention the Great Lakes. This, and crossing the Atlantic with Canadian Pacific as a four-year-old boy, was what got me into the shipping business and into cruising.

To know more about the this voyage go to Bringing the Keewatin Back to Canada and for photos see here:  Photo essay of the Keewatin‘s voyage from Mackinaw City to Port McNicoll. And for cruising in general please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.