GERMAN LINERS IN WORLD WAR TWO; A DOOMED BROOD

World War Two was nothing less than a second sunset for the German merchant marine

World War Two was nothing less than a second sunset for the German merchant marine

Just as in the previous war, the conflict of 1939 through 1945 would be incredibly hard on the German merchant marine. Rebuilt at almost superhuman cost in the doldrum years of the Weimar Republic, it was to become the tool of a totally nihilistic regime that neither valued it, nor really knew how to use it. What followed was depressingly predictable.

“On land I am a hero; at sea I am a coward.”

This untypical bit of critical self analysis from the mouth of Adolf Hitler gave proof of where his priorities- and zone of malign expertise- really rested. Throughout the war, the German Navy and it’s civilian counterpart would remain very much the beggar at the feast as far as materials and priorities for the German armed services were concerned.

Of the two great pre war, North German Lloyd speed champions, the Europa was safely in Germany, but the Bremen was in New York, with only hours to escape before the formal declaration of war. Unwilling to see the ship interned just like her Great War predecessors, her crew sailed her out of New York without passengers, but with her decks rigged with explosives. Her crew gave a collective Hitler salute to the Statue Of Liberty as she sailed past it,

Outside territorial waters, a Royal Navy cruiser lay in wait for the Bremen, but the big liner confounded it, with her crew painting her grey as she made a headlong dash for the totally implausible port of Murmansk, in Russia.

In December, after three months as a ‘guest’ of Hitler’s temporary allies, the Bremen took advantage of darkness and fog to sneak down the coast of Norway on her way home. A British submarine actually sighted her, but was forced to dive by a German patrol aircraft. To the relief of her crew, the Bremen somehow made it home in one piece.

Painted in zig zag camouflage for the scheduled Operation Sealion, the planned invasion of Great Britain, the Bremen was left idle when that plan was aborted. In June of 1941, a disgruntled member of her skeleton crew set fire to the mammoth liner. Somehow, the 50,000 ton Bremen burned down to the waterline, in circumstances that have never been fully explained. Her gutted corpse was ripped apart after the war.

In December of 1939, the 32,000 ton, 1924 built Columbus, the third ship in the same line’s service to America, was intercepted off Cape Hatteras by a Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hyperion. At the outbreak of war, the Columbus had headed for Cuba, where her cruise passengers were forcibly disembarked. Then, with her decks rigged with explosives just like the Bremen, she also attempted to run for home.

Her position was betrayed to the Royal Navy by a neutral American warship. Unable to outrun her heavily armed foe, the Columbus was scuttled by her crew. She was the first major liner casualty of the war on the Axis side. Events would prove that she would not be the last.

By January 1945, Germany had instituted Operation Hannibal, the evacuation by sea of as many civilians and soldiers as possible from East Prussia back to the interiors of the terminally contracting Reich. The approaching Red Army was unstoppable, and about to wreak a hellish vengeance for German atrocities committed across Russia itself.

On January 30th, the 28,000 ton Wilhelm Gustloff, a former ‘Strength Through Joy’ cruise ship built especially to cater to German workers and their families in peacetime, staggered out of the port of Gotenhafen, carrying anything up to an estimated ten thousand fear fuelled refugees and soldiers. The exact number was never recorded in the desperate haste of those times.

Emerging into the teeth of a howling gale, the wallowing liner became detached from her sole escorting warship. Just hours later, the Wilhelm Gustloff blundered into the cross hairs of a Russian periscope.

A trio of torpedoes from the Russian submarine S-!3 slammed into the liner. In little under an hour, amid scenes of indescribable horror, she capsized to port and sagged under the freezing Baltic waters. Just over 1300 survivors were plucked from the ice strewn seas, making for a never to be correctly ascertained death toll anywhere from six to nine thousand souls. To this day, the loss of the Wilhelm Gustloff remains the worst maritime disaster in history.

But in some ways, the sinking of the Cap Arcona on May 5th was even worse.

Hitler was already five days dead, but the war was not yet officially over, when RAF Typhoon fighter bombers discovered the three stack, pre war pride of the Hamburg-South America Line at anchor in the Baltic port of Neustadt, They promptly proceeded to fire rockets into the big liner, turning her into a huge, floating fireball,

Unknown to the British pilots, the Cap Arcona was actually loaded with over five thousand former concentration camp inmates, displaced from camps already overrun by the Allied advance. Within sight and sound of safety, most of these poor, emaciated souls would become unintended victims of the last great sea tragedy of the war. The bodies were still being washed up ashore for months afterwards.

This list, while depressing, is sadly by no means exhaustive.

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NAMING OCEAN LINERS- NOT JUST A ROYAL PREROGATIVE

Belfast was the scene of many famous launches, including Olympic, Titanic and Canberra

Belfast was the scene of many famous launches, including Olympic, Titanic and Canberra

In British maritime circles, the current buzz is that the new P&O flagship, Britannia, will be named by the Queen at a special ceremony in Southampton on March 10th, though Buckingham Palace has yet to officially confirm this.

As noted in a previous blog, it has been customary ever since the 1930’s for the premier passenger liners and cruise ships of major British companies to have some kind of royal sanction, be that in the form of an actual, physical launch, or the act of some royal patron acting as godmother. We saw it most recently in 2013, when the Duchess of Cambridge acted in that role for Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess.

So in the UK, monarchy and majesty at sea have always coexisted. But how have other nations with different systems of government handled such hugely ceremonial events in the past? In this context, it is vital to remember that the construction of the great ocean liners- especially in the 1930’s- were huge statements of national intent, destined to glean as much publicity on the world stage as possible. Different lines went about it in different ways.

In May 1912, the Hamburg America line prepared to launch the Imperator, the largest ocean liner in the world. It was just six weeks since the sinking of the Titanic. Festooned with extra lifeboats at the last moment and named for the Emperor, the bellicose, unstable Kaiser Wilhelm II, she was launched by none other than her sponsor himself.

Two years later, when the third and last of the Imperator class- destined to be named Bismarck- was ready for launching, the deed was supposed to be done by Otto Von Bismarck’s grand daughter. Her first swing of the bottle somehow managed to avoid hitting the biggest single steel structure on the planet. The returning bottle was caught by the Kaiser himself, who then managed to smash it against the prow with the same simple minded brutality with which his armies would help smash up much of Europe just six weeks later.

As for the Titanic herself, her launch at Belfast on May 31st, 1911 was the usual, under stated affair that was normal practice for the White Star Line. So there was no famous, titled patron in a huge, plumed hat, No champagne. In the opinion of the owners, the ship was deemed to be so spectacular and magnificent that no amount of pre release frippery and pretension could possibly do her true justice,

But the French, of course, could always be relied upon to do it with great panache, and more than just a little tongue in cheek subterfuge. When the Normandie was launched in front of a crowd of 250,000 people in October of 1932, the ship was first blessed on the slipway by the local bishop. His Eminence was ‘reassured’ by the owners that they had not committed the ‘sin of pride’ in building the most beautiful, blatantly ambitious vessel ever constructed.

With this helpful reassurance, Monsieur le Cardinal happily blessed the ship. Then, Madame Lebrun, wife of the living president, smashed a spectacularly huge bottle of champagne against  the bow. As  the great ship slid down the ways, she called out ‘I baptise three Normandie’  Then madame proceeded to blow a kiss to the Normandie as she lunged into the Loire, throwing up a spectacular tidal wave that left a whole conga line of sodden, top hatted dignitaries glowering at her..

Not exactly something that you could imagine any of the royal family doing, mind you. Plus ca change.

“I NAME THIS SHIP….” BRITISH ROYALTY AND CEREMONIAL LAUNCHES OVER THE YEARS

A Queen's eye view. The huge flank of QM2

A Queen’s eye view. The huge flank of QM2

With the media full of rumours that Queen Elizabeth II will launch the new P&O Cruises flagship, Britannia, this coming March, now seems as good a time as any to look back at some famous royal naming ceremonies of the past. Inevitably, most- but not all-of these are associated with Cunard. What might surprise many is that the first of these did not occur until as recently as September of 1934.

On that famous occasion, the ageing Queen Mary lent her name and prestige to a shop that become immortal. Hull no. 534 thundered down the slipways of the John Brown yard at Clydebank, to the cheers of over 200,000 rain sodden spectators. Thus began a tradition that remains- albeit in a different form- to this very day.

In those days, and for many years afterwards, a ship launch was exactly that; a physical progression of a newly christened hull from slipway to river. There would be the naming by a grand- hopefully royal- personality, and then the actual moment when the champagne bottle (or sparkling Australian wine in the case of the Queen Mary) was smashed against the prow. Immortalised in grainy black and white movietone reels. these still have an awesome retrospective splendour to this day.

Four years later, the young Queen Elizabeth did the honours for the second great new Cunarder from the same vantage point, beginning an intimate association with the RMS Queen Elizabeth that would last until that fabled ships’ eventual retirement a full three decades later. Present with her on the podium that day was the young Princess Elizabeth, whose own relationship with the ocean liner and cruise industry continues unbroken to this day.

In the post war world, it was this same young Princess Elizabeth that did the honours for the Caronia, the legendary ‘Green Goddess’ launched on the Clyde in October of 1947. But the future Queen was not solely to be associated with the great Cunarders.

In 1953, as Queen, she did the official duties for the launching of the Southern Cross over at the Harland and Wollf shipyard in Belfast. This new ship was revolutionary more in terms of design, rather than size. With a new, engines aft propulsion system, the new Shaw, Savill and Albion liner would be the trend setter copied by such future, ocean going aristocrats as the Rotterdam and Canberra.

In June of 1955, the Queen went over to the Fairfield yard at Govan, near Glasgow, to give her blessing to the Empress Of Britain, the new Canadian Pacific liner, built specifically for the Liverpool to Montreal run. This era marked the absolute high point of ocean liner evolution. It would be a dozen years before the monarch would again name a passenger vessel. But, when she did, it would begin an almost symbiotic relationship between the two.

“I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second…..”

On 20th September, 1967, the Queen returned to Clydebank to launch the successor to the two previous Queens. Aptly, she cut the cord holding the launch bottle with the same pair of scissors used on her two great predecessors. And, as the trim, magnificent hull began her stately progress down the ways, she was heard to exclaim; “Oh, look at her; she’s beautiful!”

The rest, as they say, is history.

After that landmark liner launch, the physical protocol of ship christenings evolved in line with new building processes. By the time that the Queen christened the new P&O Oriana in Southampton in 1995, the champagne bottle was deftly smashed against the side of a fully completed vessel, docked alongside in her future home port. From here on in, all major ship launches would follow a similar pattern.

Her Majesty would perform two similar honours for Cunard; first for the glorious new Queen Mary 2 in January 2004, and for a second, superb new Queen Elizabeth as recently as October, 2011. If the sovereign does, as expected, christen the new Britannia this coming March, it will be simply the latest in a long line of such gilded ceremonial events. But, while the Queen is the absolute gold standard for launching an ocean liner, she is by no means the only member of the family to engage in the time honoured process of naming such great ships.

Many have forgotten now that the late Diana, Princess of Wales, christened the 45,000 ton Royal Princess, again in Southampton, back in 1984. Not to be outdone, it was her sister in law, Princess Anne, that performed the same duty for the Aurora, the great new P&O cruise ship in 2000.

And, in 2007, the new Queen Victoria, the first ship ever to bear the name, was christened in Southampton by Camilla Parker Bowles, in her official capacity as Duchess of Cornwall.

Whatever your view of royalty, it seems completely right that these great, prestigious ships down through the years should be christened by such notable figures. For our current Queen, her interest and continued patronage of the ships she has named  is both very personal and, in the case of QE2 in particular, quite profound.

Britannia will almost certainly be next. It is to be hoped that she will not be the last.

NEW VISTAS FOR CARNIVAL IN 2016

Carnival is launching the new Carnival Vista in 2016

Carnival is launching the new Carnival Vista in 2016

The new Carnival Vista will make her maiden American landfall on November 3rd 2016, at the end of a thirteen day voyage from Europe. Leaving Barcelona on October 21st- Trafalgar Day in the UK- the new, 141,000 ton ship will call at Ponta Delgada and make an overnight stop in Bermuda before arriving in the Big Apple. Once there, the new ship-currently under construction at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard- will operate a series of round trip cruises to a series of as yet unspecified ports, before deploying to a yet to be announced home port for 2017.

Prior to this, the first of class vessel- the largest ever built for the Carnival fleet- will operate a series of some eighteen Mediterranean cruises after her delivery from the Trieste shipyard on May 1st, before making her October westbound voyage. Ranging in duration from eight to thirteen nights, many will sail round trip from Barcelona, but there will also be some very interesting grand sweeps across the region, sailing between Barcelona and Athens.

Ports on the menu will include several of the ‘greatest hits’ destinations including Rome, Florence and Valetta, but there will also be maiden calls at destinations such as Corfu as well.

In all, there will be six eight day cruises, a score of ten night itineraries, one twelve night cruise, and a pair of thirteen night voyages, including the westbound crossing to New York in October.

The Carnival Vista is a slightly larger version of the hugely successful Carnival Dream trio, but incorporates several new features of her own, including an amazing aerial track that will allow passengers to pedal around the ship, several two room family cabins, and a first-to-Carnival set of lanai cabins opening out onto the main promenade, complete with front ‘gates’ and hammocks out front.

The ship will also incorporate recent proven favourites, such as the Red Frog pub, this one complete with an on board brewery, plus a larger, upper deck Serenity Zone. Recently released interior renderings reveal a ship that follows the more muted, upscale style of the Dream class, rather than the Warhol-esque style so readily identified with the line’s long term chief interior designer, Joe Farcus.

A lot is riding on this new ship. She will be arriving in an American cruise market where recent new designs from rivals Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have been stealing all the plaudits for quite some time. And, with new offerings yet to come from both of those lines as well, the manner in which Carnival Vista is received by the cruising community could well be pivotal to the entire future operation of Carnival as a whole.

These are interesting times. As ever, stay tuned.

CRYSTAL SERVES UP WEEK LONG EUROPE CRUISES WITH OVERNIGHT PORT STAYS

Spend quality time ashore in Monte Carlo on an overnight stay with Crystal

Spend quality time ashore in Monte Carlo on an overnight stay with Crystal

Crystal Cruises has announced a series of week long cruise options in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe for 2015, each offering at least one overnight stay in a major port of call.

In what must be seen at least as a partial response to the overnight stays offered by Azamara Club Cruises, both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony will offer some very welcome opportunities to explore these key cities in depth, as well as the chance to sample some of the shore side night life as an optional extra- a delightful extra incentive in the long summer nights in these waters.

The bulk of these will inevitably be in the Mediterranean, and offered on the 68,000 ton, 1.07o guest Crystal Serenity. These are outlined here. Please note that all of these voyages are of seven nights’ total duration.

Crystal Serenity;

30th August Rome to Venice offers an overnight stay n Venice, as well as in Sorrento, mid cruise. However, bear in mind that the ship will anchor off Sorrento, and will use tenders which are unlikely to run ‘all hours’ of the night. If this option interests you, you’ll need to find out what time the last tender is.

6th September has a Venice to Istanbul run, that offers overnight stays in both of those fabled cities.

13th September has a round trip sailing from Istanbul that offers a first night, overnight stay in the only European city to actually straddle two separate continents.

11th October offers up an Athens to Venice sailing that stays overnight in Venice itself.

18th October is a Venice to Monte Carlo sailing that overnights in Venice on the first night.

6th November features a Monte Carlo to Lisbon sailing that has an overnight in Monte Carlo on day one.

22nd November has a Monte Carlo to Marseille sailing that also overnights in Monte Carlo.

 

Meanwhile, the 50,000 ton, 970 guest Crystal Symphony will be serving up a handful of memorable, week long itineraries in the waters around the Baltic and Russia. As currently listed, these are;

16th August round trip cruise from Copenhagen that overnights in Saint Petersburg.

23rd August Copenhagen to Amsterdam cruises features overnight stays in both Edinburgh and Hamburg.

 

Fares for both ships are all inclusive. Fly cruise fares for the Mediterranean voyages begin at £1,826 per person, and are valid through until March 2nd.

All things considered, all of these voyages are ideal ‘tasters’ for anyone wanting to dip a toe into the highly styled, elegant world of Crystal, or as a very welcome extra ‘top up’ break for regular connoisseurs of the company. As such, they represent extraordinary good value while remaining time sensitive and practical. I expect them to sell briskly.

QUEEN MARY 2-SOME TRANSATLANTIC SNAPSHOTS

This album is intended as an insight into some of the daily sights and routines of life as experienced aboard the last true North Atlantic liner- Cunard’s incomparable Queen Mary 2.

This series of pictures were taken during an implausibly calm westbound crossing to New York in December of 2014. Each shot captures a sight or a mood that briefly piqued my curiosity, and/or one that I thought would appeal to my readers out there- a way to savour the ‘virtual’ experience of sailing on this fabulous ocean liner.

So, without further ado, I give you- Queen Mary 2. Enjoy the crossing!

QM2 at Southampton

QM2 at Southampton

The huge flank of QM2

The huge flank of QM2

My room. stateroom 12104

My room. stateroom 12104

Atlantic panorama

Atlantic panorama

View over the stern

View over the stern

Two Deck corridor

Two Deck corridor

Two Deck, forward to aft view

Two Deck, forward to aft view

Britannia Restaurant

Britannia Restaurant

Out over starboard bow

Out over starboard bow

QM2 ballroom

QM2 ballroom

Winter Garden at night

Winter Garden at night

Sunny Atlantic disposition

Sunny Atlantic disposition

Looking up from Seven

Looking up from Seven

Forward covered promenade

Forward covered promenade

Seven Deck promenade

Seven Deck promenade

No words needed

No words needed

Mid Atlantic funnel shot

Mid Atlantic funnel shot

ATTEMPT TO SELL DEUTSCHLAND ENDS IN FAILURE

Traumschiff kaput?

Traumschiff kaput?

it is reported today that another attempt to sell off the boutique German cruise ship, MS Deutschland, has fallen through at the eleventh hour.

The 19,000 ton, 1998 built former flagship of Peter Deilmann cruises has been lying at anchor off Gibraltar for a while now, manned by a skeleton crew of around fifty who are maintaining the ship’s vital functions, as well as keeping her shipshape.

As a consequence, some forty-eight shore side staff involved in the admin side of operations have now been laid off, and the programme of cruises planned for the ship is officially cancelled as of now.

Things have spiralled rapidly for Deutschland since the abrupt cancellation of a scheduled November 2014 refit, which would have seen the addition of several Juliet balconies on cabins, as well as the installation of a new funnel.

Once put up for sale, between two to four still unspecified parties were said to have been interested in buying the ship. And, though no positive results have emerged, administrator Reinhold Schmid-Spreber, in charge of the sales negotiations, has said that talks with potential investors for the ship will continue.

For many years, Deutschland was the ‘star’ of Das Traumschiff, a kind of Germanic take on the popular Love Boat television series. Her role in that programme has now been taken over by the Amadea of the rival, Phoenix Reisen company.

As ever, stay tuned for any future updates.

SPOILT FOR CHOICE; UK MINI CRUISES IN 2015

Live it up for the weekend on the glamorous Queen Mary 2

Live it up for the weekend on the glamorous Queen Mary 2

For those looking to dip a first time toe into cruising’s alluring world, one of the best and most economical options is the mini cruise. With options ranging from between two to five days, these are a good deal both in terms of time and cash outlay. You can break the assumed preconceptions without breaking the bank.

And, no matter what type of ship and short break you might be into, 2015 serves up more options and styles of seagoing fun and fascination than ever before. From the seriously intimate to the stunningly spectacular, there’s a seagoing smorgasbord on offer in 2015 that has never been equalled before.

First up, Royal Caribbean International has the spectacular, ground breaking new Anthem Of The Seas doing some short, three night summer cruises to ports such as Le Havre and Zeebrugge. if you’re into technologically advanced ships laden with a wealth of fascinating gimmicks, this ship is an excellent, if rather expensive option.

Want smaller, more intimate ships that can access the spots that the big ships find difficult to access? Consider Cruise and Maritime, which is offering a series of two to five night options on the veteran Marco Polo, a classically styled, adults only ocean liner. Built in 1965, this unique ship- very much a one off- is celebrating her fiftieth anniversary this year.

Larger and more contemporary, but still human in scale, the line has a new flagship in the shape of the Magellan. The 46,052 ton ship also offers a series of short cruises and, with her large number of single cabins, she is an excellent buy for the solo traveller.

In similar vein, the highly styled quartet of ships belonging to Fred. Olsen Cruise Line remain perennially popular favourites on the short break market. With excellent food and service, plus some enticing overnight stays, these lovely ships have a style and atmosphere that is truly all their own.

Go bigger? No worries. P&O Cruises has long been one of the most established names in the cruising firmament. This year, the new Britannia– the largest ship ever built solely for the UK cruise market- joins her recently restyled fleet mates to offer a string of exhilarating short jaunts out of Southampton, varying in length from two to five days, throughout most of the year. Some of the pre Christmas sailings in particular make for fantastic shopping opportunities on the continent.

Of course, Cunard remains the very epitome of the great ocean going experience. The line celebrates an unparalleled 175 years of success this year, and you can be part of it on a mini cruise of between two and five nights on any one of their trio of opulent, expansive vessels.

And, if you are not too worried about flying one way, the magnificent Queen Mary 2 offers several opportunities throughout the year to sail between Southampton and Hamburg, or reverse, on a two night voyage that allows you to get an incisive little glimpse into this most storied of ocean liner experiences.

All of these voyages are short on time, but they do provide an experience somewhat akin to a film trailer for a major feature. And, because all of these lines want you to see them at their best, they will often push the boat out-pun wholly intentional- to offer up the best in food, service and, of course, entertainment. All are crucially aware that today’s two night neophyte passenger is next year’s potential two week voyager.

So-different stokes for different folks. And you can always tailor your break to suit your moods. I know many people who simply never leave the ships at all, staying on board to soak up all the luxury on board for the duration. Others treat them as extended, exotic spa breaks and spend the weekend in a bathrobe. Others consider sleep as an optional extra, and simply want to party from A to Z. And, of course, still others use them as an excuse for an indulgent shopping and sightseeing break.

Whatever your pleasure, there is more than enough on the menu on one of these enticing, exhilarating little breaks to leave you wanting more. Have fun,

SHIPS GOING NOWHERE? DEUTSCHLAND AND A SUPPORTING CAST

Are some lines moving ahead faster than others this year?

Are some lines moving ahead faster than others this year?

The last couple of weeks have seen a blizzard of new, very positive announcements in the mega ship market from the likes of MSC Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian and, of course, most recently Carnival.

In addition, the mid size, upscale market has had cause to celebrate with the keel laying of a superb new vessel for Regent Seven Seas, plus the acquisition of a fourth of the original ‘R’ class vessels by Oceania. The exciting new Viking Star is imminent. And, in just a few months, Windstar is set to showcase the pair of lavishly refurbished ex-Seabourn yachts that are being added to the fleet.

In so many ways, it seems like ‘full speed ahead’ for the industry. But, while all of the developments listed above are welcome and to be lauded, somewhere in between, other ships seem to be slipping, forgotten and neglected, between the cracks in the sweeping media spotlights.

What, for instance, of Deutschland? Last linked with a bizarre takeover by Crystal Cruises, the former Peter Deilmann stalwart- one of the most beautiful, stunningly decorated ships ever built- is still swinging idly at anchor off Gibraltar. There were stated to be between two to four buyers interested in purchasing her only two months ago. Now, the sound of silence is deafening,

And what of Gemini?

Last known to be laid up in Tilbury following her stint as a hotel ship during the 2012 London Olympics, the trim little cruise liner seems to have donned some kind of cosmic invisibility cloak. No one seems to know who-if anyone- might be interested in this lovely little ship, built as relatively recently as 1992.

And no word, either, from Portuscale Cruises after stories began to circulate that the partially refurbished, 1955 built Lisboa had been put up for sale, appearing on at least one shipbroker’s sales list. The ship is said to be mechanically sound, with some work needed on the bridge instruments. Many are thinking that her future is not looking good and, par for the course, Portuscale has been typically recitent to say anything, A state of affairs that serves only to confuse the issue further.

On the plus side, the similar sized (20,000 ton) Astor has found a happy home with Cruise and Maritime Voyages, who will also continue to operate the veteran, 1948 built Azores and, of course, the superb, 1965 built Marco Polo. That ship celebrates a well deserved 50th anniversary this summer.

The latter news is a welcome glimmer of light in what seems like an otherwise constant parade of smaller, more intimate cruise ships to the scrapyard. And their demise, while perhaps understandable from an economic point of view, deprives the industry as a whole of some of the charming, quirky diversity that used to be integral to its make up.

In the midst of all the welcome news about the big ships, some more positive developments in the smaller ship sector would be very welcome as well.

And should any such news transpire, it will be recounted right here as it comes in.

My advice? As always, stay tuned.

CARNIVAL RETURNING TO EUROPE IN 2016

The sun is rising on a brand new Carnival Vista

The sun is rising on a brand new Carnival Vista

Just announced will be the return to Mediterranean cruising by Carnival in 2016.

This marks the first return to Europe for Carnival since 2013.

Currently under construction at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, the brand new Carnival Vista will offer a series of cruises next year to a host of European destinations in both the Western Mediterranean and the Aegean. Ports so far advertised as offered include Athens, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Messina, Marseilles and Rome.

The 141,000 ton Carnival Vista is the largest ship ever built for the line, and the 25th ship to join the Carnival fleet. Early renderings reveal a ship that seems to be a slightly larger version of the previous, 135,000 ton Dream class vessels.

Full details of the new ship are currently being unveiled at simultaneous launch events in both New York and London right now to various assembled media.

A fuller blog will appear in due course.

As ever, stay tuned.