The Cruise Examiner – Expedition Ships: To Convert Or To Build?

The Cruise Examiner for 28th September 2015

Seabourn Quest © Robin West

The Seabourn Quest in Antarctica, in an image by Robin West, Seabourn’s manager of expedition operations

There have been many changes in the field of expedition cruising in recent years. New ships were built, a few of them. Russian ships were chartered, a few more. And ships were converted, variously from small ships, coastal vessels and ice-class ferries. Last week’s announcement by Silversea that it was converting its Silver Cloud into an ice-class ship followed a move two years ago by Seabourn to ice-strengthen its own Seabourn Quest. Meanwhile, ship managers, naval architects and shipbuilders have all come up with various proposals for new designs. First off the block, a few years ago, was Sunstone Ships of Miami with its Project Unlimited. Then, STX France introduced its Ulysseas design this March, and the Danish firm of Knut E Hansen followed up with its own design six months later. This week we look at the two alternatives of converting or building.

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Seabourn’s New Order Changes The Balance With Silversea – QE2 On The Way To Asia – Anthem of the Seas For Southampton?

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 21st October 2013.

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Two Queens: Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 (right) seen together in New York on April 25, 2008

Last week Seabourn announced that it was ordering a fourth ship of the Seabourn Odyssey class, which will serve to replace most of the capacity lost by the sale of its original trio to Windstar Cruises, with deliveries over 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, Silversea has increased its fleet of expedition ships to three. Elsewhere, QE2 Shipping has placed a contract with COSCO Shipyard Group for conversion of the Queen Elizabeth 2 (seen above in New York with her replacement Queen Mary 2) into a 400-room floating hotel, to be based at an as yet unnamed major city in Asia. Meanwhile, rumours seem to indicate that Royal Caribbean intends to replace the Independence of the Seas at Southampton in 2015 with the new Quantum class ship Anthem of the Seas.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                               (See previous columns)

Seabourn’s Six Ships Bring You The Utmost In Dining Style & Flexibility

Seabourn QuestDINING WITH SEABOURN

No ordinary cuisine…

  • “A la Minute,” prepared to guest order
  • Best executive chefs, members of the Chaine des Rotisseurs
  • The finest quality ingredients, which are selected with care
  • Galley tours are available
  • Shopping with the Chef – you can join the chef for his shopping!

No ordinary restaurants…
Dining Options

  • Each ship offers a choice of dining venues to suit your mood of the moment.
  • No matter where you dine, you will find award-winning cuisine, attentive service and standards of excellence rivalling the finest restaurants around the globe.
  • You can dine in their suite or on your veranda, with Seabourn’s compliments.
  • On Seabourn, there is never an extra charge for any dining choice, something that is not true on all luxury lines.
  • Generous seating in the dining venues means Seabourn guests have the true privilege of choice for every meal.

Most restaurants are open-seating, inviting guests to dine where, when and with whom they wish. Complimentary fine wines with lunch and dinner. Open bars available throughout the ship, and guests’ in-suite bars stocked with their preferences.

The Restaurant

  • A beautiful open seating venue where guests are seated as they wish by a Maître d’Hotel.  
  • A broad menu of delectable choices is prepared to order by talented chefs.
  • Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; reservations not required.

Restaurant 2 & Veranda Café/The Colonnade

  • Restaurant 2 provides innovative, small plates, tasting menus with a contemporary flair
  • Restaurant 2 is open for dinner only, by reservation.

Veranda Café/The Colonnade

  • Popular, more casual options for lavish buffet-style breakfasts and lunches, enjoyed indoors or overlooking the sea.  
  • Hot and cold dishes are prepared to order.
  • The Veranda Café is available aboard Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend.  
  • On Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest (above), The Colonnade offers nightly themed dinners, with service indoors and out.

Sky Grill/Patio Grill

  • The perfect place for a casual lunch where chefs serve up casual fare, al fresco.  
  • The Sky Grill is offered on Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend.  
  • The poolside Patio Grill is aboard Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest, and serves freshly-baked pizza all afternoon.

In-Suite

  • Seabourn guests may order a meal from The Restaurant menu and have it served in their suite or on their veranda.
  • The meal can be served course by course, with white linens, fine china and silver settings.  
  • As are all dining experiences, this option is complimentary.  
  • A menu of other in-suite treats is offered for service around-the-clock

To learn more about a Seabourn cruise, please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk

Seabourn Goes To Antarctica, The Right Way – Discovery To Replace Ocean Countess – MS Hamburg To Sail To Antarctica

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 3rd September 2012

Seabourn Quest © Robin West

Last week came news from Seabourn that it would be sending the Seabourn Quest to the Antarctic in 2013/14. This is a first for the line, although its now parent company Holland America Line, has been sending ships to the Antarctic for some time now. The difference is that Seabourn will make actual landings, instead of just cruising by. The whole idea of going to Antarctica without making any landings can best be compared to a date without a goodnight kiss! The surprise news also broke over the weekend that Voyages of Discovery will be chartering its Discovery to Cruise & Maritime Voyages as a replacement for the Ocean Countess. Voyages of Discovery, meanwhile, will take delivery of its newly-refitted single-sitting Voyager (above) in early December. Finally, Plantours is planning a return to the Antarctic in 2013 with its newly acquired MS Hamburg.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

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.

The Cruise Examiner for 28th November 2011: Some Great Cruises Away From the Mass Market – Other Cruise News: Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation 2012 – German Cruise Market Getting Close To Par With the UK

THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com
by Kevin Griffin

The Cruise Examiner for 28th November 2011

For those who have been cruising for many years, one of the worst things about the recent huge growth in cruising has been the 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. These three rather interesting cruises, away from the crowds and big ships, take place on ships of a certain size with refined and relaxed atmospheres and a total abscence of cartoon characters, ships that remind one of the golden age of cruising.  So today we investigate cruising the unspoiled Caribbean in Seabourn Quest, Atlantic Europe (with three top chefs) in Le Boréal and the Mediterranean from Venice in Azamara Quest. We also examine the 2012 issue of “Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation,” just out, and some of “Stern’s Strong Points.”  And the latest statistics from the German DRV reveal a very successful year in German cruising, with 1.2 million ocean cruisers and 420,000 river cruisers. Germany’s ocean cruise revenues exceeded €2 billion for the first time this year, while river cruise operators generated €472 million. With 1.62 German cruisers and 1.65 UK cruisers in total, the German cruise market will probably surpass the UK’s in size much sooner than we think.

Illustration courtesy of Compagnie du Ponant.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                     (See previous columns)