Friday, 8 December 2017

Carnival's Sending Sunshine to Charleston

Carnival's Sending Sunshine to Charleston

A sunlit Carnival Sunshine steaming to her next port-of-call
PHOTO: A sunlit Carnival Sunshine steaming to her next port-of-call. (photo courtesy of Carnival Corporation & plc)

Carnival Cruise Line is staying put in South Carolina.
The cruise liner is gearing up to homeport the Carnival Sunshine in Charleston. The newer and larger ship will replace the Carnival Ecstasy and depart from South Carolina year-round on four- and five-day voyages.
“With its convenient location and strong tourism appeal, Charleston is one of our most popular homeports and we’re delighted to build upon this success with the deployment of Carnival Sunshine,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release.
“Carnival Sunshine not only provides guests sailing from Charleston with a newer, larger ship with so much to see and do but also underscores our commitment to our year-round operations from this port.”
The 3,002-guest vessel boasts more elaborate amenities, including more than 550 staterooms with private balconies. Other grand features include a sizable WaterWorks aqua park and SportSquare recreation area, plus triple decker adults-only retreat complete with waterfall and pool.
“The decision by Carnival Cruise Line to homeport the Carnival Sunshine in Charleston is an important affirmation of their success and commitment to operations in Charleston,” added Jim Newsome, South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) president and CEO, in the release.
“SCPA’s cruise business is an important part of our maritime commerce mission and diversification of business segments. The Port succeeds through having world-class brands, such as Carnival Cruise Line, as its direct customers and looks forward to continuing this productive relationship.”
Approximately 220,000 passengers are expected to be carried onboard annually from the cruise port with each having a wide array of attractions to enjoy. The ship was dramatically converted from the Carnival Destiny in 2013 and now includes tons of dining and entertainment options ranging from the Havana Bar and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen to “Hasbro, The Game Show” and The Punchliner Comedy Club.
The ship’s new Charleston cruises will begin to set sail May 18, 2019. Four-day cruises will depart for Nassau. Five-day itineraries will head for Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.
Terry Thornton, Carnival’s SVP of Itinerary Planning told TravelPulse:
“We’ve been working on this for at least a couple of years. We knew that Charleston market was a fabulous market. We’ve known it for a very long time, and we knew that there was plenty of demand to support a newer and larger ship. Between 2016 and 2017, we actually operated 11 different cruises on the Carnival Sunshine from Charleston and we learned so many things about improving the guest experience and making all of the logistics work well. But also what we learned was they were really really popular."
"They were very successful. The guest satisfaction ratings were very high, and so we knew we were onto a winner. So, it was time then to go ahead and bring the Carnival Sunshine to Charleston in May of ’19 and it brings so many things to the market that we haven’t had before.”
Of course, there’s still love for the older Fantasy-class vessel too.
“The Carnival Ecstasy that’s operating there now is a great ship," said Thornton, "and it’s doing very very well. But this will allow us to evolve in Charleston so it will bring a whole host of new features to the Charleston market: Everything from the dining which will now have a fully-functioning Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, the BlueIguana Cantina and—a feature that people love across our fleet now—the Guy’s Burger Joint. Those are all going to be available on the Sunshine.
“It has a spectacular three-level Serenity adults-only section of the outdoor decks which people love. Families are really important to us in the Charleston market as they are across our fleet, and there’s so many things for the kids to do now: Everything from our really popular Dr. Seuss program to things we’re doing on all the outdoor decks now.
"But this has a really great water park. It has two large racing slides and the fully-functioning kids water park, and then we’ve just done a great job in terms of our children’s programming and so forth. So, it’s going to be really great for families.
“And one thing that the Carnival Ecstasy lacked that we really wanted to bring to the market were staterooms with private balconies," continued Thornton. "We have a hundred of them on the Carnival Ecstasy, but we’re going to have over 500 of them on the Carnival Sunshine. So, it’s going to just provide that feature that people love today—you know the fact that having a private balcony is very popular today and people want to be in their stateroom with the great views of the sea while the ship’s at sea.”
Besides the regular sailings, there will also be a special 11-day Carnival Journeys cruise available onboard during December 3-14, 2019.
“It goes to these kinds of great places: St. Thomas, Aruba, Bonaire—so we’re all the way down in the really deep part of the southern Caribbean—Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, which is our private island in the Bahamas. So, it’s just a very unique thing," continued Thornton.
“We bring onboard a lot of the onboard programming and features that we used to do on our cruises back in time. We have the grand midnight buffet. We have the waiters with the white glove service at certain times. We call the daily program today the Fun Times. (Back in the day it was called Carnival Capers.) We’ve gone back to Carnival Capers. So, we bring back some of the features that we used to do a long time ago that our guests love and that still resonate with guests today, but it kind of has a throwback feel to it if you want to think about it that way.”

Norwegian Hits the NY$E

Norwegian Hits the NY$E

Image result for new york stock exchange

A big change is coming to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
Pending a shift from the Nasdaq Global Select Market to the New York Stock Exchange, ordinary shares of the parent corporation to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are anticipated to make the switch on December 19, 2017, while remaining under the existing “NCLH” ticker symbol.
“We are pleased to partner with the New York Stock Exchange as the new home for our stock listing and look forward to joining the collection of preeminent companies listed on the exchange,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, in a press release.
“This move marks the latest initiative in our continuous drive to increase our Company’s profile in the marketplace and enhance shareholder value by drawing on the NYSE’s unique competencies and capabilities which make it the ideal listing platform for our Company. We are grateful for the support Nasdaq has provided us over the last five years since our successful IPO and our inclusion in the prestigious Nasdaq-100.”
Until the transfer is finalized, Norwegian will continue to be traded on Nasdaq.
“We are delighted to welcome Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to the NYSE community,” said NYSE President, Tom Farley, in the release.
“As the operator of three award-winning cruise brands — Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has been creating treasured vacation memories for its guests for over 50 years. We are committed to a long-term partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and its shareholders and look forward to being a valued partner in the company’s future growth by providing the highest quality markets and services.”

Costa Atlantica to Homeport in Shenzhen for 2018

Costa Atlantica to Homeport in Shenzhen for 2018

Costa Atlantica

Costa Crociere is making a big deployment move in China and announced earlier this week the Costa Atlantica will now homeport in Shenzhen starting in late January and continuing for the rest of 2018.
The move will help strengthen the company's position in Southern China, according to a press release. 
"The Southern China market is an important part of Costa's strategic plan in China," said Mario Zanetti, president of Carnival China. "In recent years, Costa has opened several routes, including sailing from Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Xiamen"
Starting on Jan. 28, the ship will launch its new program, offering a variety of itineraries, with six-day cruises to Japan, six-day cruises to Vietnam and six-day cruises to the Philippines.
Compared to other companies offering cruises in China, this Costa deployment features slightly longer itineraries. Most cruises offered in the Chinese market are four to five days.
Japan itineraries include two port calls, either Okinawa and the Yaeyama Islands or Okinawa and Miyako Island.
Shenzhen opened its new Prince Bay homeport facility last July and has since seen 118 cruise ships and 159,000 passengers, according to a statement. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Radio star Elvis Duran named Norwegian Bliss godfather

Radio star Elvis Duran named Norwegian Bliss godfather

Norwegian Bliss godfather Elvis Duran speaking at an event Wednesday. Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart looks on. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
NEW YORK -- Radio personality Elvis Duran, who hosts the popular "Elvis Duran and the Morning Show," will be the godfather of the upcoming Norwegian Bliss.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart presented Duran to a group of trade partners and media at an event here.
Duran said it was an honour to be named the ship's godfather. "We are so excited to partner with Norwegian Cruise Line," he said.
Duran's syndicated show is broadcast on nearly 80 stations, including top 40 station Z100 in New York, where the Elvis Duran team is based. The show also is available digitally on IHeartRadio, and it reaches more than 10 million listeners a month, Norwegian said.
"Over the next year-and-a-half at least, we've made a pledge to our listeners to include them in every aspect of our exploration of the Norwegian Bliss, inviting them to be a part of it," Duran said.  
The Norwegian Bliss, which will spend its summers sailing Alaska cruises from Seattle, enters service in April.

Andy Stuart on naming the Norwegian Bliss' godfather

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Royal Caribbean deploying second ship to sail Cuba cruises

Royal Caribbean deploying second ship to sail Cuba cruises

Royal Caribbean International will add a second ship that sails a Cuba itinerary, along with two new Cuba destinations, starting in the summer of 2018.
The Empress of the Seas, currently sailing Cuba cruises from Tampa, will be redeployed to Miami. In addition to a five-day trip that visits Key West and overnights in Havana, the Empress will sail a seven-night "Best of Cuba" itinerary that includes Cienfuegos, Havana and Nassau, Bahamas. An eight-night cruise will include Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, Grand Cayman and Labadee, Haiti.
Meanwhile, the Majesty of the Seas will shift from Miami to Tampa next summer to assume the four- and five-day cruises that that Empress had been scheduled to do. It will move to Fort Lauderdale from November 2018 to March 2019.
"Cruising remains the easiest way to visit Cuba, and with both Empress and Majesty sailing there in 2018 and 2019, we hope to make it that much easier for adventure seekers to experience the legendary island," Royal Caribbean president Michael Bayley said.

MSC is betting big on U.S. cruisers

MSC is betting big on U.S. cruisers

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MSC Cruises may be relatively small in North America, so it is easy to overlook the magnitude of the line, which has a much bigger presence in Europe and also claims a large market share in South America.

A presentation by executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago aboard the newly-delivered MSC Seaside offered a broadside of statistics, some of which were eye-opening.

Vago said the 2 million passengers MSC expects in 2017 will take 1.8 million shore excursions, see 8,960 Broadway-style shows while onboard its 12 ships and consume over 50 million meals.

He said MSC has the most international passenger base of any cruise line with 170 nationalities represented. The line visits 86 countries on 194 different itineraries and calls at 199 ports (Carnival Corp. claims over 700).

Founded in Naples, Italy, MSC sells in 67 countries around the world, Vago said, and the average passenger is 45 years old.

Without saying which day it was, Vago also said that MSC's record for a single day of sales was 10,993 bookings.

The company, a subsidiary of Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., has 17,778 onboard and shoreside employees and expects to create 25,000 new jobs by 2026 as it proceeds with a $10.2 billion shipbuilding program.

To date, MSC has only had one ship in the North American market at a time, but that is about to change as its new ship, the MSC Seaside, joins the MSC Divina in Miami on Dec. 21. The 4,138-passenger Seaside is the first MSC ship to have an English name, and the first newbuild to be sent to North America directly from the shipyard.

By the fall of 2019, they will be joined by a seasonal deployment of the MSC Meraviglia, giving MSC three ships in Miami for the 2019-20 winter season with a weekly combined capacity of over 12,000 passengers.

And that doesn't count the two ships MSC currently operates for Europeans (and Canadians) from Havana, Cuba, or the ship it deploys seasonally from Martinique and Guadeloupe.

By 2019, MSC plans to have opened a private island near Bimini that will serve all of those vessels. 

At a ceremony to accept delivery of the Seaside from Italian shipbuilding powerhouse Fincantieri, Vago and Mediterranean Shipping Co. owner and chairman Gianluigi Aponte announced a contract would be signed for two more Seaside ships, each with capacity for 350 more passengers than the Seaside.

"We are determined to become one of the most important cruise operators," Aponte said.

Star Wars makeovers coming to Disney Fantasy cruises

Star Wars makeovers coming to Disney Fantasy cruises

Guests on the Disney Fantasy can be made over into their favourite Star Wars characters at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique during Star Wars Day at Sea sailings.
Kids (and adults, too) can get costumes, makeup and hairstyling in a 30-minute makeover to re-create them as Poe Dameron, Princess Leia, Rey and Kylo Ren, among others.
Children ages 3-12 can sign up for a $99.95 package that includes exclusive Star Wars Day at Sea merchandise, such as a personalized name tag, lanyard with medallion and magnet set. They also receive a cinch bag to take home.
Adults get a Star Wars-themed tee and face painting--along with accessories including a name tag, lanyard, medallion and stateroom magnet, for $54.95.
Star Wars Day at Sea returns to the Disney Fantasy from January to April 2018.

St. Maarten welcomes first cruise ship since Hurricane Irma

St. Maarten welcomes first cruise ship since Hurricane Irma

The Viking Sea in St. Maarten. Photo Credit: RTGH Photography
St. Maarten has reopened as a port of call for cruise ships, three months after Hurricane Irma left the Dutch-French island in shambles. 
The Viking Sea sailed into St. Maarten on Dec. 4, followed by the Marella Discovery on Dec. 5. Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas will call on Dec. 17.
Signs of progress on the French side of St. Martin include the reopening of Tijon Parfumerie and the Spiga restaurant and the debut of Cafe Spiga in Grand Case later this month.
On the Dutch side, hundreds of villas are available for rent. Timeshare resorts Sapphire Beach Resort and Atrium Resort plans to welcome guests early in 2018, according to SXM Weekly News.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Norwegian Cruise Line unveils next-generation app

Norwegian Cruise Line unveils next-generation app

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Norwegian Cruise Line said the newest version of its mobile app is now available on the Norwegian Sky.
Called Cruise Norwegian, the app succeeds the current iConcierge app. The new app enables passengers to make reservations for shows, shore excursions and alternative restaurants, and purchase beverage or speciality dining packages. The app is also useful for finding one's way around Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
On embarkation day, the app will save time by allowing for paperless boarding, Norwegian said.
Onboard, passengers connect to the ship's WiFi and can call or send text messages to others in their party for a one-time fee of $9.95. Calls can be made off the ship through the app for 79 cents a minute.
Groups can organize meetups and share their favourite photos with everyone in their party with group messaging through the app. Passengers can also review their onboard account.
The new app will be available on the Norwegian Bliss when it launches next summer and will be available fleetwide by the end of next year.

MSC Meraviglia to sail three cruises from New York

MSC Meraviglia to sail three cruises from New York

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The 4,488-passenger MSC Meraviglia will come to America earlier than scheduled, sailing three cruises from New York in the fall of 2019.
The ship will sail two 10-night round trip Canada/New England cruises as well as a 13-night Caribbean cruise that ends in Miami.
As previously reported, after the Meraviglia arrives in Miami, MSC will have three ships in the Miami market in the winter of 2019-2020: the Seaside, Divina and Meraviglia.

Shipyard De Hoop scoops Celebrity Cruises expedition ship contract

Shipyard De Hoop scoops Celebrity Cruises expedition ship contract

Shipyard De Hoop scoops Celebrity Cruises expedition ship contract
A rendering of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora, which is being built by Shipyard De Hoop
Celebrity Cruises has struck a contract with Shipyard De Hoop for the design and construction of an expedition cruise ship.
The 5,635 GT 100 passenger-capacity vessel, to be named Celebrity Flora will have a keel laying ceremony later this year and is due to be delivered in May 2019.
De Hoop said the cruise vessel is “optimised for experiencing the land and marine environment of the Galapagos in high comfort”. Celebrity Flora will be the first vessel to be built to two-compartment damage stability regulations and additionally complies with the relevant damage stability requirements planned for implementation during 2020. De Hoop said the vessel also commits to specific Galapagos National Park Directorate Regulations, whereby explicit environmentally low-impact features were applied.
As this vessel is expected to be stationary – in a bay or near one of the islands – for 66% of the operational time, “considerable thought went into the design and selection of equipment, allowing the ship to perform efficiently under dynamic positioning (DP)”. Combined with a zero-speed stabiliser system, the DP system will choose a heading to minimise the roll and heave motions on the vessel, significantly improving passenger comfort.
The power and propulsion plant of Celebrity Flora is duplicated and housed in two separate engine rooms.
De Hoop said the introduction of an advanced propulsion system, its hull configuration (improved with CFD calculations) and specially designed diesel engines, guarantee an average 25% reduction in hull resistance, 15% reduction of overall fuel consumption and equivalently fewer air emissions.
The ship’s bow shape features a straight, wave-piercing stem, with an integrated bulb at the waterline. De Hoop said, “This characteristic bow both reduces resistance in waves when in transit and saves energy when staying in position, due to the highly efficient short bow thruster tunnel.”

Monday, 4 December 2017

MSC and Red Bull Partner for Seaside Crew Appreciation Event

MSC and Red Bull Partner for Seaside Crew Appreciation Event

Shock the Dock

More than 1,600 crew, staff and officers from the MSC Seaside celebrated the upcoming launch of the cruise line’s newest ship with a crew-only event, Shock the Dock, held on November 21.
With panoramic views overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, Magazzino 42 – a renovated warehouse located in the Trieste terminal – provided an ideal location for the occasion.
The night of celebration, hosted by Red Bull, capped off months of hard work preparing the MSC Seaside for its December 2017 launch.
Shock the Dock
Live musicians, dance performances and a trio of international DJs entertained the crowd throughout the evening.
Bernhard Stacher, Vice President of Corporate Hotel Operations at MSC Cruises, commented on the first time partnership with Red Bull: “As this was the first time, our crew did not know what to expect. They 'were simply blown' away! It was an outstanding teambuilding and motivational event for the entire crew.”
Red Bull, the world’s leading energy drink, released the following statement from its global headquarters in Fuschl, Austria. “An event like Shock the Dock is our way of saying thank you to our cruise line partners and the men and women who make it possible for their ships to sail. Red Bull believes in supporting the people who support us and we know that no one works harder in this industry than the crew.”

Next Vista-class ship to be named Carnival Panorama

Next Vista-class ship to be named Carnival Panorama

Carnival Cruise Line's new Vista-class ship debuting in November 2019 will be named the Carnival Panorama.

Vista-class ships are the largest constructed for the line and hold 3,954 passengers; the Panorama's sister ships are the Carnival Vista and the Carnival Horizon, which is set to make its debut in April.

The Panorama will feature a Havana section, complete with staterooms inspired by the tropics and a Cuban-themed bar and pool. It will have a Family Harbor section, as well, with larger accommodations and dedicated lounge. Also onboard will be a Cloud 9 Spa and the Ocean Plaza, a dining and entertainment venue with seating both indoors and outside.

Dining venues will also be located both inside and outside on the ship. The Panorama will have venues like the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Liberty Bar and Bonsai Sushi.

As far as entertainment, the ship will feature the Skyride, a bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction; a WaterWorks aqua park; and a SportSquare recreation area.

"Carnival Panorama is the perfect name to reflect the design inspiration of our Vista-class ships providing more venues and opportunities to connect with the sea," Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said. "Carnival Panorama will offer a wide variety of fun indoor and outdoor experiences along with exciting one-of-a-kind features that will provide our guests with a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories."

Carnival said the Panorama's homeport, itineraries and new features will be announced at a later date.

MSC Seaside offers sights, experiences unlike any other

MSC Seaside offers sights, experiences unlike any other

MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato in the two-story Top Sail Lounge, part of the MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave on MSC Seaside. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
ONBOARD THE MSC SEASIDE -- When executives at MSC Cruises went looking for a design completely different from any other in the industry, they found it gathering dust in a desk drawer at the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.
The line's newest ship, the MSC Seaside, was conceived 12 years ago by a visionary Fincantieri engineer, but it languished because no cruise line wanted it, according to MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato.
To start with, the ship's funnel was in the middle, not the back. That alone spooked buyers worried that soot would rain down on sunbathers gathered around the Deck 16 swimming pool behind it.
MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The design had an oddly narrowed tower of cabins in the back, opening space for a broad, uncovered promenade on Deck 8 and an expansive platform at the very aft where another pool was placed. A pair of glass-walled elevators connected the two pool decks.
When Onorato saw the plans, he knew he'd found something that wouldn't be mistaken for any other cruise ship afloat.
"This is what we wanted," Onorato said.
I had a chance to experience the nearly completed Seaside on a short cruise from Fincantieri's yard in Monfalcone, Italy, to Trieste, about 20 minutes away. I came away thinking that passengers are going to want to try this ship, which is just the response MSC is seeking in its ongoing bid for recognition in North America.
Start with that rear profile, which MSC likens to a Miami Beach condo. It wastes space extravagantly, but it looks very cool. And from my cabin on Deck 15, I could descend to poolside in about 30 seconds.
MSC intends to sail the Seaside in the Caribbean from Miami year-round starting on Dec. 23. The ship has what seems like acres of open space on the top deck, ideal for sun-searchers from cold climates.
Onorato said new exhaust scrubber technologies solve the soot problem. There's a giant LED screen for videos. And the pool on Deck 16 can be covered at night, creating a dance space beneath the tropical stars.
The midship funnel on the Seaside is the starting point for one of the ship's neatest features, a 344-foot zip line that threads riders through two sets of giant hoops before ending on an aft platform.
The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Several waterslides also start on the funnel structure, including one in which passengers ride a board that transmits electronic data, turning it into an interactive video game.
Inside, the design of the Seaside carries on some of the themes of MSC's first year-round North American ship, the MSC Divina. The Seaside has lots of shiny, sparkly metallic surfaces and an assertively neutral colour palette consisting mainly of white, black, grey and beige, with maroon in the carpets.
The levels of a four-story open atrium are linked by stairs that feature transparent steps embedded with tiny white lights and Swarovski crystals. Large LED screens with changing displays adorn the main wall of the atrium.
But the Seaside differs from the Divina, too.
The Seaside's MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave is larger and, unlike on Divina, it includes a restaurant. The two-story Top Sail Lounge has magnificent forward views. (If you're not staying in the Yacht Club, the Seaside has no public views from the bow).
The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
There's a trio of speciality restaurants (seafood, steak and Asian) on Deck 16, which creates a foodie destination, according to Onorato. The theatre is smaller, but there will be more frequent shows, giving diners the flexibility to eat when they want and still catch the entertainment.
And then there's that promenade, which brings cruisers as close to the water as they're likely to get on a 4,138-passenger vessel.
Inside the ship, one sure-to-be-talked-about feature is the wall of liquid chocolate in the Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar, which sends a sweet fragrance of chocolate wafting through several decks around it.
Although it is not entirely original, I liked the two-lane, full-size bowling alley in the arcade on Deck 7. I also enjoyed the Garage Club, a '50s car-themed room that is a teen club by day and a bar at night.
One thing yet to be determined on the Seaside is whether MSC has tailored the food and service to American sensibilities. Onorato said it has. He said past perceptions of indifferent service and Euro-centric foods are the legacy of a time when the North American market was an afterthought for Geneva-based MSC.
That changed several years ago, Onorato said, and the Seaside will reflect all that MSC has learned about appealing to North American passengers. The reality, he said, is that improvements have been made and should be evident onboard the Seaside.
"Obviously, it takes time for those improvements to be fully acknowledged by everyone," he said.

MSC Cruises to increase capacity out of Southampton in 2019

MSC Cruises to increase capacity out of Southampton in 2019

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MSC Prezioza

MSC Cruises is to increase capacity out of Southampton in summer 2019 by replacing MSC Magnifica with the larger and newer MSC Prezioza‎.

The 139,072-tonne Prezioza entered service in March 2013 and is the last of the line’s four Fantasia-class ships. It carries 4,345 passengers, 740 more than the 95,128-tonne Magnifica which began operations in 2010.

Revealing the increase in capacity for 2019, MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato said it was all part of an ambition to become “the leading international player in the UK market” within five years.

He said: “MSC represents 10% of the cruise market worldwide and we need to reach 10% in the UK. We are currently just under 5% but with Magnifica next summer and Prezioza the summer after, we will do it – but not without the strong support of the trade. 99% of our efforts will go to our travel agents. It’s not our strategy to go direct. As has happened in other markets like Brazil, Italy and France where we have become the leader, it’s been driven by agents, and we believe with their help we can do it in the UK.”

‎Speaking at the launch of the line’s newest ship MSC Seaside, Onorato said MSC would secure agents’ support, not just through healthy commissions but by investing in a product that gives agents complete confidence to sell and which will generate repeat bookings.

‎And UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso promised to get more agents onboard MSC ships in 2018 to give them better product knowledge.

“In 2017 alone we had 1,100 agents visiting MSC ships, 300 of which were on our new ship Meragvilia.

“Next year, Magnifica will make 23 turnaround calls in Southampton we’ll have another 25 calls in British and Irish ports from other ships as well. That’s 48 calls in total and we’ll invite 200 agents onboard for lunch and a tour at each,” he promised.

‎In total, four different classes of MSC ships will call in the UK next year.

‎Onorato said Prezioza, like Magnifica for 2018, would have tweaks made to the onboard entertainment and food to ensure it fully caters to the UK market.

He said the fact it has both an indoor and outdoor pool would make it perfect for ex-Southampton sailings when the weather isn’t always favourable.

Onorato added that MSC would also make it easier for British and Irish‎ guests to get to its fly-cruises in future to help achieve his desired growth.

“We need to have more and more programmes that appeal to the UK and Irish guests, so that means more itineraries to the Caribbean and Med in particular – and more regional flights from the UK and charters to get them there.‎”

Friday, 1 December 2017

Princess ship due in 2019 to be called Sky Princess

Princess ship due in 2019 to be called Sky Princess

Princess Cruises' fourth Royal-class ship, scheduled to debut in October 2019, will be named the Sky Princess.
The cruise line had a Sky Princess once before.
"Sky Princess continues a Princess Cruises legacy and honours one of our previous ships," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. "When Princess merged with Sitmar Cruises in 1988, Sky Princess joined our fleet and sailed with us for 12 years. Now more than 30 years later, a new Sky Princess will join the fleet featuring our modern design platform and contemporary innovations offered to exceed our guests' expectations."
The 3,660-passenger ship is the sister to Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess. A fifth Royal-class ship is under construction and will debut in 2020.
Sky Princess will have a number of features found on its sister ships, like a soaring Piazza-style atrium, an adults-only area, a Princess Live! Entertainment venue and youth and teen centres.
Among the ship's dining venues will be the Salty Dog Grill, Alfredo's Pizzeria, Vines Wine Bar, Chef's Table Lumiere and World Fresh Marketplace.
Princess said 80% of staterooms will feature balconies.
Sky Princess will sail Mediterranean cruises in October and November 2019, beginning with a seven-day roundtrip Rome voyage and culminating with a 14-day transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale.
Bookings open Dec. 14. Those with elite status in the Captain's Circle loyalty program can begin booking a day earlier. Princess is offering reduced deposits of 10% on bookings made by Aug. 31, 2018.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Class warfare: The rise of luxury enclaves at sea

Class warfare: The rise of luxury enclaves at sea

Several cruise lines employ butlers in their exclusive accommodations. Onboard Royal Caribbean International's ships, they are called Royal Genies.
As the co-owner and president of a Virtuoso-affiliated agency, Paul Largay never had much interest in Norwegian Cruise Line. The Waterbury, Conn., travel seller had cultivated a luxury clientele who preferred upscale lines such as Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Seabourn.

But after Norwegian added the Haven to its ships, Largay began selling the line.

"It's a very viable alternative," he said.

The Haven, a secured enclave of luxury cabins around a courtyard, has re-engineered Norwegian into a line with both a mass-market and a luxury clientele, and its arrival on the scene has led almost every other operator of large cruise ships to tout some sort of exclusive accommodation.

Each has its own variation: MSC Cruises has the MSC Yacht Club, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have Suite Class, Disney has Concierge Level and Holland America Line offers the Neptune Lounge.

Even Carnival Cruise Line, the most egalitarian of the bunch, offers the Havana Cabana enclave on its newest ships.

The reasons that luxury enclaves have evolved on ships are many, but a common thread is the premium pricing that cruise lines can command by creating an aura of exclusivity to which guests can aspire.

Suites in the enclaves tend to be among the largest at sea, an attraction for some guests and yet another revenue enhancement.

In most cases, these cabins come with exclusive use of other areas, such as private pools, restaurants and lounges.
Guests with Suite Class accommodations aboard the Celebrity Silhouette have access to the exclusive Michael’s Club lounge.
Guests with Suite Class accommodations aboard the Celebrity Silhouette have access to the exclusive Michael’s Club lounge.
Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel, said, "I think it has created the aspiration for people to say, 'How do I get to that next level? I want that perk, that experience. What do I have to do to get there?'"

Several agents compared the rise of luxury enclaves at sea to similar choices in other hospitality sectors, such as a business class on international airlines or private luxury railcars added to trains.

Airlines have started opening unadvertised invitation-only dining venues in some airports for their best customers. And hotels-within-hotels are proliferating, especially in Las Vegas. At the Wynn Tower Suites, located in the 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas, guests have a private entrance, a personal shopper, an exclusive restaurant and a private pool, with amenities.

Gaming also played a role in the creation of the Haven, which can trace its origins to large villa suites built for Star Cruises, an Asian line that shares common ownership interests with Norwegian through parent company Genting Group.

After acquiring Norwegian in 2000, Genting began to swap ships intended for Star Cruises into the Norwegian fleet. Ships such as Norwegian Dawn have a pair of three-bedroom, $25,000-a-week Garden Villas on the top deck. Those evolved into the Courtyard Villa, an enclave of 12 access-controlled suites when Norwegian launched its Jewel class of ships in 2005.

The exclusivity of the Courtyard Villas was one component of a package of extras that has continued to evolve. Rebranded as the Haven in 2011, the enclave cabins now come with access to a private restaurant, a private sun deck, private pool and a dedicated lounge and bar, all within the complex.
When Norwegian Cruise Line began offering the Courtyard Villa enclave in 2005, it opened the mass-market line to luxury clientele and prompted other cruise lines to follow suit. The Villa concept evolved into the Haven by 2011.
When Norwegian Cruise Line began offering the Courtyard Villa enclave in 2005, it opened the mass-market line to luxury clientele and prompted other cruise lines to follow suit. The Villa concept evolved into the Haven by 2011.
Other benefits include the services of a concierge and butler, priority embarkation, debarkation and tendering and preference for seating at shows and for shipwide dining reservations.

In-suite amenities include a cappuccino machine, white-tablecloth room-service dining and sparkling wine, fruit and bottled water on embarkation day.

Bathrobes, linens, bath products and mattresses are all top of the line.

Enclaves such as the Haven tend to be found on mass-market ships, or at least ships above a certain size. One reason is that smaller luxury ships have no need for a separate high-end product. Just as important, they don't have the real estate.

Holland America Line, whose largest ship is the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, does not offer a luxury enclave but does have the Neptune Lounge, a midship social area with refreshments and concierge service. It is reserved for guests booking the top Neptune and Pinnacle suite categories, who also get exclusive access to the ship's premier Pinnacle Grill for breakfast.

Sally Andrews, vice president of public relations for Holland America, said it's a question of economics. 

"Dedicating private space for a segment of guests related to their accommodations really comes down to [return on investment] on use of that space for a small versus a larger number of guests," Andrews said.
A table in the Queens Grill on Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria, which offers a sweeping view. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
A table in the Queens Grill on Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria, which offers a sweeping view. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
It began with 20 penthouses

Some observers trace the origins of the enclave idea to Queen Elizabeth 2.

In 1972, a refurbishment of the Cunard Line ship resulted in the addition of 20 penthouses to the 70,000-ton ship. A nearby bar/nightclub was converted to an exclusive restaurant called the Queen's Grill.

By the time Carnival Corp. commissioned a successor for the ship in 1998, the Queen's Grill accommodations had become a status symbol, and Carnival incorporated them into the Queen Mary 2, as well as into later ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

Larry Pimentel, one-time president of Cunard and currently president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, said Cunard was a bridge between the transport era of passenger shipping and modern cruising.

Queen Elizabeth 2 was designed with separate classes in mind, with segregated spaces for each price level. 

"They represented a bygone era of cruising, a bygone era of transport, actually," Pimentel said.

Ships designed for cruising post-Queen Elizabeth 2 were one-class ships, Pimentel said. Only recently have separate classes crept back into the equation, in part to attract and keep a discerning type of customer.

The creation of a ship within a ship enables mass-market lines to pitch their cruises to more-affluent guests.

"While it is not strictly class-communicated, the reality is that there is a group of people who always want the best," Pimentel said. "What's happened in the industry is that there's going to be a bigger and bigger play for these people who have these desires to have the most space, to have the most in elegance and luxury, have their own space, their own pools, their own restaurants, etc."

The premium for staying in an enclave like the Haven can be five to 10 times the cost of an inside cabin, depending on deployment and time of year. MSC Cruises calculates that the per-person cost of staying in its Yacht Club enclave averages about $1,500 more than for a standard cabin.

One longtime observer of luxury cruising said it might or might not be worth the price.

"Theoretically, it's good," said Mark Conroy, managing director of the Americas for Silversea Cruises.

Conroy said one of the most appealing parts of the enclave idea is the ability to offer two ships in one. There's an "uptown" sanctuary with refined furnishings and service and a "downtown" for energy, variety and scale. But to make it work, the "downtown" has to be worth going to, he said.

"The challenge is in the execution, and some companies have been better than others," Conroy said.

Another way the uptown/downtown idea plays out is in attracting large family groups. 

"It's been wonderful for the multigen families," said Valerie Wilson's Wetty. "If you have a very luxury client, let's say it's grandparents, or mom and dad, but they might want to take the whole family, they're not willing to compromise their standards."

With an enclave, the luxury client can afford luxury accommodations without springing for a luxury ship for the entire group, she said.
A staircase embedded with Swarovski crystals connects two decks in MSC Cruises’ exclusive section, the MSC Yacht Club. Access to a concierge desk and the Top Sail Lounge are some of the perks for Yacht Club guests.
A staircase embedded with Swarovski crystals connects two decks in MSC Cruises’ exclusive section, the MSC Yacht Club. Access to a concierge desk and the Top Sail Lounge are some of the perks for Yacht Club guests.
MSC Cruises has earned a reputation for affordable family cruising with its kids-sail-free promotion. Its Miami-based ship, the MSC Divina, is one of five in its fleet equipped with an MSC Yacht Club enclave.

The enclave includes 66 suites arrayed over two decks connected by spiral staircases with embedded Swarovski crystals. There is a private lounge, a library and butler service for all Yacht Club guests. They also get an adjacent private pool, access to a VIP area of the disco and special access to the spa.

Bernard Stacher, vice president of hotel operations for MSC, said guests are paying for more than exclusivity.

"That's a portion of it, but it's not the majority," Stacher said. "It also comes down to the personalized, tailored service, to really unique and fast access to the ship on and off, the choice of the finishings we choose and the no-questions-asked attitude from the staff in the Yacht Club. I think that plays a big part.

"Yes, you are away from the crowds, you have your own private pool, but it's the sum of all the parts that make the Yacht Club so exciting," Stacher said. "It's not one thing."

In marketing the enclaves, cruise executives walk a fine line between appealing to discriminating customers and coming off as elitist.

Wetty said exclusivity inevitably rubs some people the wrong way. 

"There was a pushback in the industry of saying, 'Hey, that doesn't feel fair or right,'" she said. "How can you create a ship that you pay a certain price and you only get access to a certain part of the ship?"

Wetty said the key for lines that have made an enclave product successful was positioning it as an extra to an already handsome package.

"Those lines are creating a consistent experience for everybody, so nobody feels they got less than somebody else," Wetty said. "But then if you pay more, you get something a little extra special."
The Royal Loft Suite on the Anthem of the Seas.
The Royal Loft Suite on the Anthem of the Seas.
Not every line offering exclusive luxury accommodations has gone the route of building a full enclave.

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, both brands owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., offer guests a Suite Class package of benefits that includes a separate lounge and restaurant, among other perks.

Suites are in different areas depending on which of Royal's eight ship sizes they are sailing.

On Celebrity, Suite Class guests have the Luminae restaurant and Michael's Club to themselves. On Royal, Suite Class includes a suite lounge and sun deck and the Coastal Kitchen restaurant on some ships.

Top suites come with Royal Genies, a name for what other cruise lines call butlers. 

"We thought it was a fun twist on this idea of a butler," Royal Caribbean president Michael Bayley said. "We think part of our success is not taking ourselves too seriously."
Bayley said that Royal has the same package of amenities that competitors do, but "we just haven't put them in one place."  Royal guests, he said, "want to be engaging with the world around them." Still, he said, he wouldn't rule out building a dedicated luxury enclave area on future ships.
Even Carnival Cruise Line, which prides itself on being unpretentious, has cosied up to the enclave concept. On its latest ship, the Carnival Vista, it has created the Havana Cabana, an area of 61 cabins with a lounge and pool area with a tropical-leisure theme.

Most of the cabins are on deck five and feature a sliding door that opens to a 100-square-foot patio with a swing chair. A key-card gate keeps the aft part of the promenade that encircles Deck Five closed during the day. Also behind the gate is the aft pool and hot tub area. A few Havana cabins are located on decks six and seven and have enlarged balconies rather than patios; these cabins also include access to the pool.
In the Havana Cabana section onboard the Carnival Vista, guests have exclusive access to an aft pool area and a promenade. Carnival is expanding the 61-cabin exclusive section on the Horizon, due next year. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
In the Havana Cabana section onboard the Carnival Vista, guests have exclusive access to an aft pool area and a promenade. Carnival is expanding the 61-cabin exclusive section on the Horizon, due next year. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst
Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said that limiting access to the pool hasn't caused any issues. The Havana Cabana is the only area on Carnival's 25 ships that aren't open to all passengers.

"We really haven't had any complaints, as there are so many other options on the Carnival Vista," Duffy said.

Carnival is expanding the area on the Horizon, due in April, by 18 cabins. Other luxury enclaves are also growing. The Yacht Club on MSC Seaside, which will be christened in Miami in December, will have 80 suites, the most ever.

In the future, cruise executives said, the enclave concept could be expanded to include more dedicated entertainment. MSC has a piano player in its Yacht Club, and it will rotate a violin duo into the mix on the Seaside.

Pimentel said that other ideas will percolate for small musical ensembles. 

"I think it is possible that some of the units that have a lot of space begin to have venues for that space that could be a small, tiny jazz club," Pimentel said. "I think the industry's just going to push the edges on that one."