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)

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A Prestige Ship For Bermuda At Some Time In The Future?

Norwegian Cruise Line ceo Kevin Sheehan was quoted in Bermuda recently as having said that with its acquisition of Prestige Cruises the “new” Norwegian group might take a bigger interest in the now underused Bermuda ports of Hamilton and St George’s. The maximum length of ship allowed in Hamilton is about 720 feet, on 26 feet of draft, and similar limitations apply at St George’s. The great advantage to Hamilton of course is that ships dock right on the city’s main thoroughfare of Front Street.

Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager in Hamilton April 2008

Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager together in Hamilton, Bermuda, in April 2008

Both Regent and Oceania have been to Bermuda in the past and indeed in 2003 Regent (then Radisson) ran the 560-foot 490- berth Seven Seas Navigator on eleven weekly cruises from New York and Norfolk to Hamilton and St George’s. Oceania, on the other hand, has put ships into Bermuda, on positioning voyages or seasonal cruises.

At 594 feet, Oceania’s 684-berth “R” class ships Insignia, Nautica and Regatta can get into Hamilton and St George’s, but because of their length, the 776-feet 1,250-berth Marina and Riviera are restricted to Bermuda’s outlying Naval Dockyard. The “R” ships are only slightly longer than the Furness Bermuda Line’s 580-foot Queen of Bermuda and Monarch of Bermuda, which at one time were the mainstay of the New York-Hamilton trade.

Of the three Regent ships, not only the Seven Seas Navigator but also the 709-foot Seven Seas Mariner and 677-foot Seven Seas Voyager, both with 708 berths, have docked on Front Street in the past. Indeed the Mariner and the Voyager became two of the largest ships to do so when they docked together in Hamilton in April 2008. At 732 feet, the 738-berth newbuilding Seven Seas Explorer, due in 2016, will be subject to approval by the local authorities as to whether she will be able to berth in Hamilton. That means that five or six out of the eight existing Prestige ships could be candidates for Bermuda.

But whether a regular upmarket service to Bermuda can survive since the relaxation of the shipboard casino opening laws has yet to be proven. Sheehan told the Royal Gazette, “We would be open to bringing more of the smaller ships into Bermuda – it seems like the perfect market.”

Hamilton will see only seven calls this year, with nothing between late April and mid-October, and St George’s only two cruise ship calls in the whole year.

Azamara Club Cruises tried one season with its 684-berth “R” ship Azamara Journey on the New York-St George’s-Hamilton run in 2007 and then left.

Between 2010 and 2012, in which year she made 19 voyages, Holland America Line ran its 719-foot 1,348-berth Veendam between New York and Hamilton, but she did not call at St George’s. After not being able to make enough money sailing to Bermuda, Holland America switched the Veendam to the Boston to St Lawrence trade at the end of 2012.

However, with ships’ casinos now allowed to open in port, Veendam will test the waters again in 2015, making six sailings between Boston and Hamilton between May and July, alternating with her Boston sailings to the St Lawrence.

Norwegian of course holds Bermuda contracts for the New York-Bermuda and Boston-Bermuda trades and has the largest ship in the Bermuda trade with the 4,000-berth Norwegian Breakaway serving New York, and the 2,476-berth Norwegian Dawn on the Boston route. Their ships will make 48 calls at Dockyard in 2015.

For further details of cruising with Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk. In North America call 1-800-961-5536 or e-mail cruise@thecruisepeople.ca.

Norwegian’s “All-Inclusive” Packages – A Prestige Ship For Bermuda? – Chinese Taishan Enters Service

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 15th September 2014...

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        NCL All-Inclusive

Last month, Norwegian Cruise Line announced its new 2015 all-inclusive program for North America, and this month it announced a similar program for the UK. There are some interesting comparisons between the two programs in that fare reductions that are a part of the package differ, as do rates of exchange used for different cruise lengths. Elsewhere in Norwegian’s “new” realm since they agreed to acquire Prestige Cruises, Norwegian ceo Kevin Sheehan remarked that Bermuda might see more Prestige ships in future years, as being a good destination fit for the Regent and Oceania cruise brands. And in China, Bohai Cruise has inaugurated its new cruise service using the 800-berth Chinese Taishan, formerly Costa Voyager.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                                  (See previous columns)

Weekly Sailings From Vancouver To Alaska With The Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess at SkagwayOne of our good clients has sent us this review of their late May Alaska cruise on board Princess Cruises’ 30,277-ton Pacific Princess (left):
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If you’re going to sail from Vancouver on an Alaska cruise then by all means stay at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel before sailing. This art deco hotel, completed in 1927, has a complimentary classic Bentley limousine that can deliver you in great style to Canada Place to catch your ship.
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Because the Pacific Princess carries only 680 passengers, the boarding process is more relaxed than for one of those behemoths with between 2,000 and 4,000 passengers. There are eight of this smaller class of ship in service, all having been built between 1999 and 2001 for the defunct Renaissance Cruises. Three operate for Oceania Cruises, two for Azamara Club Cruises, one for P&O Cruises and two, the Pacific Princess and the Ocean Princess, for Princess. Having travelled on sister ships with three other lines, we quickly found our way to our balcony stateroom. What better way to see Alaska than this, on a small ship with no crowds and a private balcony for whale watching?
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The standard balcony cabins are slightly short on space at 173 square feet (216 including the balcony) compared to some other ships, but quite suitable for a 7-night cruise. The closets feature real wooden coat hangers but this class of ship has never overcome the colliding doors of its closets and the en suite shower directly opposite. Princess’s bathrobes, meanwhile, leave a little to be desired, all seeming to have shrunk from too much washing. They could hardly stretch around a standard-sized person, let alone someone who might be fond of eating. The balconies on the Princess ships are finished in blue plastic marine decking rather than the teak found on Oceania.
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But other than such small quibbles, this is a great little ship and the service is enthusiastic. Getting to know the crew later, we found that the Pacific Princess’s officers are mostly Italian and the crew International. Assigned to the same table for dinner each evening, we got to know our fellow passengers, but also our waiter and station captain who thrived on coming up with special requests such as the Indonesian hot chili sauce Sambal Oelek we requested to go with our lobster the next night. Duly consulting the Indonesian sous-chef, they came up with a gravy boat full of this specialty sauce that our whole table enjoyed. I doubt we would have got the same service on the larger ships in the Princess fleet.
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Pacific Princess Club-Like Interiors
Pacific Princess’s public areas have been well maintained and live up to their original reputation as country houses at sea (left), the grand staircase still being at the centre of the ship. There is a modest cabaret lounge for this number of passengers, a great view forward from the Pacific Lounge atop the ship, main dining room in the stern and two alternative restaurants above, as well as the buffet restaurant on the pool deck that features an open air area overlooking the stern, not to mention the very classy library at the top of the main stairwell overlooking the pool from its aft perch. And on the main passenger deck, in addition to the photo gallery and two shops, there is a casino with its attached but separate Casino Bar with nightly entertainment as well as the Club Bar next to the main restaurant.
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Once aboard, there is quite a lot of pressure to buy a wine package as well as a ticket for the next day’s wine tasting session, but there is no drinks package on Princess’s two small ships. Nevertheless, compared to some other lines it is possible to get a drink for between $5.75 and $7.50 plus 15% gratuity, and a bottle of Chianti for $30 (plus 15%) for dinner. The drinks bill for two for our cruise was $305 and the wine package $185 for 7 nights, totalling $490, or $35 per person per day including gratuities. By comparison, the drinks package on Oceania Cruises runs to $50 per person per day.
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More quibbles: Internet on Pacific Princess ran to $204 for a week for their most extensive package. The extra tariff restaurants now charge $25 per person. The public washrooms could use more frequent service. And the music could be updated by three decades from 1950s-70s to 1980s-2000s.
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Overall, however, with the passengers she attracts, the Pacific Princess is a pleasing ship. The crew is solicitous and friendly and, with no crowds, the passengers are interesting and not loud. Many had actually booked this cruise because they had tired of larger ships. Canadians (182 passengers or 27.8% of the ship) formed the largest group on board and Americans (157 and 24%) came second, while there were many Brits (113 and 17.3%) and Australians (117 and 17.9%), making it a sort of Commonwealth at sea. The Americans were mostly Californians and Midwesterners plus some Texans and there were also 85 (13.0%) of other nationalities (of which there were 29) with quite a few Chinese. Total passengers: 654.
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White Pass steam train on Skagway dock
The ports of call on our cruise were Juneau, Skagway, cruising Glacier Bay and Ketchikan. While there are plenty of helicopter, float plane and glacier tours available, by far the most interesting for us was the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railway excursion (left at Skagway, dockside), which runs from Skagway through the White Pass into Canada before returning to Alaska. Built at the time of the Klondike gold rush, the railway reopened in 1988 as a seasonal tourist attraction and now serves about 370,000 passengers a year between May and September.
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The White Pass, which operates on the first 67½ miles (Skagway to Carcross, Yukon) of the original 110-mile line to Whitehorse, is today Alaska’s most popular shore excursion. The line rises 2,865 feet in 26 miles of steep grades and cliff-hanging curves on the way up from Skagway to the summit and passengers experience a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and maybe even the odd bear. All this while riding in the comfort of vintage parlour cars equipped with open platforms at each end.
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The White Pass rail fleet includes twenty diesel-electric locomotives, seventy open-deck parlour cars and two steam locomotives. The steam train excursion takes four hours and when purchased ashore costs $159, the diesel-electric ones three to three-and-a-half hours and $119. Trains come right alongside the ship at Skagway docks.
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Aside from the White Pass, there was Glacier Bay and its many different glaciers, Orcas and humpback whales aplenty and seals and eagles, and in Ketchikan, Annabelle’s on Front Street cannot be missed for its fine seafood chowder! Among the four ports and points of interest this makes for an excellent cruise with lots of variety (apart from the ubiquitous jewellery shops at all the ports of call). And the air is very fresh.
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On our return to Vancouver we were followed into port by sister ship Regatta, one of the three of this class of ship owned by Oceania, which after disembarking her San Francisco passengers moved over to Seaspan’s Vancouver Drydock Co Ltd for an 11-day upgrading to bring her to the same standards as that line’s newer ships, the 1,250-berth Riviera and Marina. Nautica and Insignia have undergone the same refit.
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The Pacific Princess offers eighteen 7-night cruises from Vancouver to Alaska this summer, every Tuesday until September 9, the first time Princess Cruises has offered round trip Vancouver-Alaska sailings for about a decade. On September 16, she sails for Hawaii on her way to the South Pacific. Oceania Cruises’ Regatta offers six 7- to 10-night Alaska cruises from Seattle, one 10-night Alaska cruise from Seattle to Vancouver, one 9-night Alaska round trip from Vancouver and a 10-night Alaska cruise from Vancouver finishing in San Francisco.

For futher details or bookings please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk or in North America 1-800-961-5536 or e-mail cruise@thecruisepeople.ca.

Anthem of the Seas To Be Southampton-Based – Insignia To Become 180-Day World Cruiser – P&O Cruises Questions & Answers

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 2nd December 2013..

InsigniaRoyal Caribbean has announced that it will base its second 167,800-ton “Quantum” class cruise ship Anthem of the Seas in the UK from 2015. She will be a fifth larger than P&O Cruises’ new 141,000-ton flagship Britannia, due to debut in the same year. She is Royal Caribbean’s contribution to the head-on-head battle for supremacy in the UK market from Southampton between Royal Caribbean and its Celebrity brand, on the one hand, and Carnival UK, with its P&O and Cunard brands, on the other. Elsewhere, Oceania Cruises has now scheduled two 180-day world cruises for its 30,277-ton Insignia (above), making her a year-round world cruiser. And we have a quick look at what’s happening on P&O Cruises’ blog.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                (See previous columns)

A Long World Cruise From Oceania – Early World Cruises – And A Different Kind of World Cruise, By Container Ship

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 29th July 2013

InsigniaWhile European lines such as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have traditionally offered longer world cruises each winter, stretching up to 180 days, most English-speaking lines have stuck to a formula that sees world cruises come in at 105 to 110 days. Oceania Cruises, however, has chosen for its first world cruise in 2015 in the 30,277-ton Insignia, an extended 180-day itinerary. Ironically, the Insignia (shown above) will be coming back from a charter to Hapag-Lloyd, which has been operating her as its Columbus 2, in April 2014. We also take the opportunity of this announcement to look at some earlier world cruises, dating back to 1891 and 1909, and not just to the usually-quoted 1922 of Cunard Line’s Laconia. Finally, we look at an alternative world cruise that is offered year-round – this time by CMA CGM container ship!

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Columbus 2 Enters Service April 17 – Other Cruise News: More Details Released For Europa 2 – Saga Sapphire Breaks Down on Delayed Maiden Voyage

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 16th April 2012

The casino on Oceania Cruises’ Insignia has been converted into the Martinis Lounge in her new guise with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises as Columbus 2. Note the banquettes where slot machines once stood and the dance floor replacing the former roulette and blackjack tables.
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Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ latest vessel, the 698-berth Columbus 2, arrived at Palma de Mallorca this morning after the second of two pre-inaugural cruises before she is renamed in Palma tomorrow. Operating until now as Oceania Cruises’ Insignia, she will replace the 420-berth Columbus, which goes to Plantours & Partner of Bremen next month as ms Hamburg. During the cruise, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises also chose to reveal further details of their latest newbuilding, Europa 2, now under construction at St Nazaire. Meanwhile, an earlier Europa, that of 1981, now operating as Saga Sapphire, has suffered not only a delayed maiden voyage but also an engine breakdown on the delayed cruise and passengers are being flown back today from Valencia, where she is undergoing engine repairs.


THIS WEEK’S STORY
                                          (See previous columns)