CMV TAKES DELIVERY OF MAGELLAN

The Norwegian Fjords will be a highlight of the 2015 Magellan season

The Norwegian Fjords will be a highlight of the 2015 Magellan season

Cruise and Maritime has today taken delivery of it’s ‘new’ flagship, the 46,052 to Magellan. The ship, built in Denmark in 1985 as the Holiday for Carnival, is at present en route to Genoa to begin an extensive refurbishment, prior to a string of media events before sailing on her maiden voyage- a Northern Lights itinerary- from Tilbury on March 15th.

Though initial artist impressions suggested otherwise, the ship will in fact retain the famous, swept back, gull wing funnel that was her trademark in her Carnival days. And, since her cruises went on sale on November 3rd last year, CMV is reporting that some sixty per cent of her entire 2015 programme has sold out, proving the truth that there is a market in the UK for smaller, more personalised ships.

Part of this success is due to the large number of single cabins that the company is making available on the ship. With even the inside cabins coming in at around 185 square feet, the Magellan actually offers the largest standard cabins- both inside and outside- of any cruise ship in the mainstream UK market.

With a programme of cruises sailing from Tilbury, Newcastle and Dundee over 2015, the Magellan offers a range of diverse sailings, from short, weekend city breaks to Amsterdam and Antwerp, to a season of Canary Islands cruises.

For more news as it becomes available, stay tuned.

CARNIVAL MIRACLE TO GET STRING OF SPRING UPGRADES

Carnival is making substantial enhancements to the Carnival Miracle in March

Carnival is making substantial enhancements to the Carnival Miracle in March

Carnival Cruises has announced that the Carnival Miracle will receive a string of enhancements and upgrades during a two week dry dock over late March.

One of four Vista class ships originally built for the line, Carnival Miracle will then sail year round from the Los Angeles port of Long Beach, on three different, week long Mexican Riviera itineraries. The ship will also offer some longer sailings to Hawaii and back later in the year.

The 92,000 ton ship will be upgraded as part of the continuing Funship 2.0 fleet wide roll out. From the end of March, passengers sailing on the relaunched ship can expect to find some sizzling new dining, drinking and leisure venues on board. Among them are;

Alchemy Bar

A vintage themed alcohol ‘pharmacy’ where trained mixologists can conjure up individually prepared cocktail ‘potions’ to order.

Cherry On Top

A kind of ‘olde worlde’ cave for sweet tooth lovers to indulge to the max. You’ll find bins of bulk candy to purchase, plus novelty items and branded clothing.

Hasbro; the game show

A uniquely interactive, audience participation show where guests can participate in such perennial, popular brand games as Connect 4 Basketball, Sorry Sliders, and Yahtze bowling.

New Sports Bar

A specially dedicated venue for sports fans of all disciplines, featuring live games and a full time, 24/7 screen ticker.

Playlist Productions

A quartet of sizzling, soulful new high energy theatre productions- Getaway Island, Heart and Soul, 80’s Pop To the Max, and 88 Keys. Each one promises to be a high intensity, visual treat from start to finish.

Red Frog Pub

Carnival’s signature, on board bar, serving up its very own Thirsty Frog beer, enjoyed in an ambience that combines the laid back style of the Caribbean with the free wheeling, bohemian fun lifestyle of Key West.

Seuss At Sea

Relive the whimsical world of Doctor Seuss, with such surreal treats as a Green Eggs and ham breakfast at sea with the Cat in he Hat and his friends, plus story time with Seuss-a-Poloosa, and more.

Spin U

A kind of master class academy for would be ‘teen jays’ between the ages of 15 and 17, developed in association with the renowned DJ Irie.

Carnival Miracle already has a slew of luxury lounging and dining options in place, including an adults only, outdoor Serenity Area, a Punchliners Comedy Club in association with George Lopez, a ‘Taste Bar’ that offers bite sized samples from all the menus right across the ship, an elegant, authentic American style steakhouse that serves up a whole conga line of prime cuts and succulent sea food.

As the Mexican market continues a slow but steady recovery, the substantially enhanced Carnival Miracle should prove to be a formidable, year round presence on the west coast, and a real alternative to the traditional Caribbean market.

 

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR MEXICO INAUGURAL CRUISE, 2009

In the summer of 2008, Carnival took delivery of it’s only one off ship design; the 113,000 ton Carnival Splendor. Intended for year long cruises to the Mexican Riviera, the new ship first made a few cruises in Europe. before crossing the Atlantic.

The immense ship- the largest ever built for the line up to that time- then made a series of sensational voyages that took her right around the coast of South America, before finally arriving in Los Angeles, ready to begin the season of cruises she had been intended for.

However, just before the seven night cruises began in earnest, the Carnival Splendor ran a one time, five day cruise down to Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas. It was an itinerary that has never been repeated since.

These pictures were taken on board during the course of that cruise. As you will see, the Carnival Splendor represented a total, Farcusian experience in terms of interior decor. She was, in fact, the last Carnival ship for which the legendary Joe Farcus had complete interior design responsibility; a role he had fulfilled with dazzling success ever since 1972, and the inauguration of the pioneering Mardi Gras.

Famous and distinctive funnel wing

Famous and distinctive funnel wing

The aft pool deck

The aft pool deck

The central lido deck

The central lido deck

Carnival Splendor at Ensenada

Carnival Splendor at Ensenada

Port side view of the Splendor

Port side view of the Splendor

Deck. Ship. At sea.

Deck. Ship. At sea.

Splendor perspective

Splendor perspective

My balcony stateroom

My balcony stateroom

The Atrium Bar

The Atrium Bar

Typical Farcusian whimsy

Typical Farcusian whimsy

Part of the main staircase

Part of the main staircase

Dessert, Carnival style

Dessert, Carnival style

Carnival and Cabo

Carnival and Cabo

Funnel and the far horizon

Funnel and the far horizon

Seabirds alfresco breakfast

Seabirds alfresco breakfast

Looking down to the big screen

Looking down to the big screen

The amazing indoor boulevard

The amazing indoor boulevard

Another boulevard shot

Another boulevard shot

Splendor is typically vibrant Farcus

Splendor is typically vibrant Farcus

Typical Carnival sea day

Typical Carnival sea day

Open Magrodome and funnel

Open Magrodome and funnel

Carnival Splendor buffet

Carnival Splendor lounge

Another interior lounge

Another interior lounge

Outdoor deck party

Outdoor deck party

The disco on Splendor

The disco on Splendor

Pool area with roof closed

Pool area with roof closed

The Lido Buffet

The Upper Lido

Statues outside the disco

Statues outside the disco

Promenade Bar

Promenade Bar

Entrance to one of the main restaurants

Entrance to one of the main restaurants

Serenity Deck

Serenity Deck

Beautiful terrace view...

Beautiful terrace view…

Love seats, Carnival style

Love seats, Carnival style

MAJESTY OF THE SEAS…..ON BORROWED TIME?

Majesty Of The Seas at Coco Cay, Bahamas

Majesty Of The Seas at Coco Cay, Bahamas

In the beginning, there were three.

As the eighties gave way to the nineties, Royal Caribbean International introduced the most stunning trio of mega ships that the maritime world had ever seen into service. Beginning with Sovereign Of The Seas in January of 1988, the line followed up with two near identical sisters four years later; Monarch Of The Seas and, lastly, the Majesty Of The Seas.

Their collective impact was nothing short of sensational; it immediately triggered a similar sized response from main rival, Carnival, in the shape of the Fantasy class ships. The three sisters were the first true mega ships built purposely for cruising, and people flocked aboard them in droves.

They were not only huge; they were also beautiful. With perfectly flared bows, graceful, cruiser style sterns clealy influenced by the brilliant Normandie, and snow white flanks, the three sisters, each one topped by the distinctive Viking Crown funnel, were stunning visual masterpieces. And they were just as exquisite on the inside, too.

At 74,000 tons each, the three sisters each accommodated over 2700 passengers in both inside and outside cabins. In those days, balcony cabins had not yet caught on. On these ships, most of the cabins were arranged in the forward part of the ship. And, like most of their rivals at the time, those cabins were often very small; the insides in particular measured only some 122 square feet each. And yet, people were more than happy with them at the time. The ships went out full, week after week.

Centrum on Majesty

Centrum on Majesty

The main public rooms were stacked up in the aft halves of the ships, like the tiers of a wedding cake. The dividing point between cabins and revnue centres came in the form of a beautiful, five story atrium lobby; a shimmering confection of brass, glass and polished wood that acted as a kind of maritime crossroads.

Everything about those ships marked them out as a palpable break with the past. In their first years, each of the three ships sailed from either Miami or San Juan, Puerto Rico, on seven night, western and eastern Caribbean cruises. They were sassy, stylish, and crammed with good things to do, and as such they were enormously popular, laying the foundation for the dramatic expansion of Royal Caribbean as a player capable of challenging even the mighty Carnival itself.

Ironically, in one respect, they were too successful. Their success was such that it triggered a whole new raft of mega ships for Royal Caribbean. But these new ships now spouted rows of balcony cabins, rock climbing walls, and the first flowering of alternative restaurants that are now a mainstay of the whole industry. And, unsurprisingly, they became the new industry standard.

By the first years of the new century, Sovereign, Monarch and Majesty Of The Seas were all sailing on shorter, three and four night cruises each week; from Miami and Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and- in the case of Majesty- a similar series of cruises out of Los Angeles, before she returned to Miami to replace Monarch Of The Seas on the Bahamas run. Again, the three ships were hugely popular on these short, destination intensive ‘party’ cruises.

Atrium level dance floor

Atrium level dance floor

Still, it was obvious that all were on borrowed time, at least as key elements of the Royal Caribbean portfolio. Sure enough, the Sovereign Of The Seas was rotated out of the fleet a few years ago, and hived off to Pullmantur, the Spanish satellite of Royal Caribbean. She now operates for them on year round, seven night cruises in the Mediterranean, under the cunningly abbreviated monicker of Sovereign.

Then, last year, Monarch Of The Seas also made the transition to Pullmantur. Now, in an ironic echo of her early days, she once again operates year round, seven night cruises in the southern Caribbean. She is known simply as Monarch these days.

And then there was one…

By this time, Majesty Of The Seas was operating three and four night itineraries out of Miami. The three night voyages sailed on a Friday, and called at Nassau and the company’s ‘private island’ at Coco Cay.  Four night, Monday departures added Key West to the three night run. It is an itinerary she still sails to this day.

The question is, for how much longer?

Logic would seem to dictate that, as soon as new tonnage becomes available- and that will not be too long- the Majesty will also make the pilgrimage to rejoin her two sister ships at Pullmantur. However, the state of the Spanish market is not good right now (just look at the gradual winding down of Iberocruises and the collapse of Quail Cruises). Whether Pullmatur could safely absorb another vessel with the 2700 passenger capacity of Majesty Of The Seas is highly questionable.

Boleros

Boleros

According to the Royal Caribbean website, Majesty Of The Seas has Bahamas sailings listed right through util February of 2016, though of course that could change in a heart beat.

I sailed on the Majesty Of The Seas twice, on a couple of short, sweet weekend breaks out of Miami. I found her to be a charming, beautiful and well run ship, immaculately clean, and brimming with fun things to do. Sure, the cabins were only marginally bigger than a pygmy’s postage stamp, but I spent very little time in mine on either cruise.

She has been updated as far as the parameters of a hull form decided in 1985 can allow; there is a branch of Johnny Rockets on board, the retro fifties burger bar cum diner that has become a popular franchise, while some sixty two cabins and suites also had balconies added during an earlier make over. The interiors got a comprehensive refreshment, and the night life handle of the ship also took a lift from the introduction of  Boleros, a Latin themed salsa bar, with a sizzling dance floor and wicked, weapons grade Mojitos.

As the last member of that pioneering trio of mega ships still sailing with the company, I hope that Royal Caribbean will continue to cherish her for a few more years.

Pool deck and Viking Crown on Majesty Of The Seas

Pool deck and Viking Crown on Majesty Of The Seas

IT’S A MIRACLE! CARNIVAL RETURNS TO YEAR ROUND MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISING

Carnival is going back to Mexico

Carnival is going back to Mexico

In a move that should prove hugely beneficial to the Mexican economy, Carnival has announced that it will return to year round, Mexican Riviera cruises from the port of Long Beach, in Los Angeles. The Vista class Carnival Miracle will undertake a series of three different, seven night itineraries, as well as a couple of longer swings out to the islands of Hawaii and back.

The seven day Mexican Riviera market had been in decline for several years; with on shore violence in Mazatlan especially being a reason cited for many companies withdrawing ships from what had once been a popular cruising circuit.

With the return of the 88,000 ton Carnival Miracle, the route gets it’s first year round vessel for several years. Carnival Miracle has yet to receive the series of Funship 2.0 series of dining and entertainment upgrades being gradually rolled out across the Carnival fleet; but she is scheduled for a dry docking in March, 2015 which is expected to bring her fully up to specification.

The first of the seven night offerings is a return to what was the original classic run; a seven night round trip that showcased day long stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and the famous seaside resort of Cabo San Lucas.

The second itinerary should prove really popular, combining a two day, overnight stop in the popular destination of Puerto Vallarta with another, day long stop in Cabo San Lucas.

Itinerary number three showcases a day in Puerto Vallarta with a two day, overnight stay in Cabo San Lucas. However, those contemplating sampling some of Cabo’s legendary night life are in for a disappointment. The resort is a tender port, and tenders do not run at night.

As also mentioned, the Carnival Miracle will also make a couple of exquisite, fifteen night forays from Long Beach out to the Hawaiian Islands and back the first in October 2015, and the second one a month later.

Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

In addition to the seven night runs, Carnival also operates two smaller sister ships, Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration,  from the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro, the main port of Los Angeles, on a weekly series of three and four night cruises.

Three night cruises call in at the Mexican port of Ensenada, while the four night sailings add in the resort of Avalon, on Catalina Island.

Combined with the return of the rival Norwegian Star to seven night Mexican Riviera sailings out of San Pedro, the arrival of Carnival Miracle in Long Beach offers another, no doubt welcome sign of better days ahead for this once popular cruise circuit.

GRAND CELEBRATION GOING TO COSTA CRUISES (Updated)

Costa ships now hold one of the most rigorous boat drills of any cruise line

Costa ships now hold one of the most rigorous boat drills of any cruise line

In a move that will surprise some and baffle a few, Iberocruises’ Grand Celebration will be transferring over to parent brand, Costa Cruises, later this year, The ship is currently in dry dock in Genoa, Italy, where she is undergoing a nineteen day, 4.5 million euro general overhaul involving hull cleaning, some mechanical work, and interior refurbishments.

The ship will be renamed Costa Celebration. The 47, 263 ton, 1,896 pax ship originally started life for Carnival Cruises as the Celebration in the mid 1980’s, and was for many years a staple of the seven day Caribbean circuit.

From November through to February 2015, the newly wrought Costa Celebration will operate a series of fifteen and sixteen day cruises that showcase the highlights of the eastern and western Mediterranean, sailing from Marseille. From April 21st onwards, Costa Celebration will offer a series of eight night itineraries between Venice and Istanbul.

This seems a strange fit for Costa, coming hard on the heels of that company taking over the similar sized,  former Grand Mistral, and then remaking her as the Costa NeoRiviera as one half of a more upscale, boutique cruise operation (The other ship is CostaNeoRomantica). However, no plans have been announced yet to incorporate Costa Celebration as a third vessel.

Until November, the ship is so far scheduled to remain with Iberocruises, for whom she is slated to sail on seven night, Venice to Istanbul itineraries.

With all eyes focused on the November christening of the new flagship, Costa Diadema in Genoa, Costa still seems to be trying to settle on a definitive, post Concordia direction. The period of retrenchment is obviously not anything like over yet for the venerable Italian flag carrier.

Costa has for many years been seen as almost exclusively a big ship operator, catering to the mass market in regions including the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Greek Islands, Caribbean, South America and, of late, Asia as well. There was a brief flirtation with small scale that ended abruptly with the cancellation of the Costa Voyager programme of scheduled winter cruises to Egypt and Sinai, and the subsequent sale of that ship to a Chinese company.

Similarly, the original ‘big’ Costa matriach, Costa Classica, is due for a major refurbishment. She was originally intended to be lengthened more than a decade ago; a project only cancelled at the last minute, when the mid section had already been built and the ship was actually in the Irish Sea, en route for Liverpool.

To find out what happens next, please stay tuned.

 

Update 11/5/2014

A report today on the highly reliable Cruise Industry News website states that the soon to be wrought Costa Celebration will, indeed, be getting a new, Costa style yellow funnel to replace the current, former Carnival model.

 

I’m very grateful to the always excellent and perceptive Phillippe Brebant for pointing me in the direction of this story. Merci, Phillippe.

RAISING THE GAME; NEW CRUISE SHIPS IN EUROPE FOR 2015

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Princess Cruises has announced that their new Royal Princess- launched just last year- will return to Europe for a full season of cruises over the summer. Her arrival- the latest in a slew of announcements from the major lines- points up just how much all the big players see Europe as seminal in filling- and for displaying- their prime movers and shakers. Just look at what else will be here next year.

Royal Caribbean’s new, second of class ship, Anthem Of The Seas will also be based in Southampton and, to no one’s great surprise, so will P&O’s new Britannia, a vessel being built on the same hull platform as Royal Princess.

The deployments by Princess and Royal Caribbean, in particular, represent a quite extraordinary statement of intent. Two of the world’s newest mega ships, with a capacity of well over 4,000 passengers each, will be based in the Hampshire port. It should be great news for the local business in Southampton for sure and, for the canny cruising purchaser, there should also be some great bargains available as well.

Nor is it simply Northern Europe that will be the recipient of state of the art mega ships. After four consecutive summer seasons in the Med, the game changing, 2010 built Norwegian Epic will be permanently home ported in Barcelona for 2015 onward. The one off mega ship significantly ups the ante for year round cruising from the Catalan port, though her itineraries will not be announced until next month, at the Seatrade Conference in Miami.

Larger still, Royal Caribbean took some people by surprise when it announced a full, summer season of 2015 Barcelona sailings on the jaw dropping Allure Of The Seas, one of the two largest cruise ships ever built. The gargantuan vessel will offer a series of seven night round trips from May through October. She will be by far the biggest ship to offer an extended cruise season in these waters and, with a passenger capacity in excess of 6,000, she will also offer roughly half as many berths again as her nearest rival. Should be interesting.

Pompeii's remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Pompeii’s remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Plus, next year will also mark the inaugural Med season for the new Costa flagship, the Costa Diadema. Due to debut this autumn, the ship is the biggest ever built by Carnival for the Italian franchise.

And, it has to be added, a few other players will stay their hands as regards dramatic new announcements until Seatrade. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, is on record as saying that the line might possibly return to Europe in 2015. Given that the newest Carnival ship- Carnival Vista- will not emerge from her Italian builders yard until 2016, the smart money would be on one of the Dream class trio coming back to the Mediterranean, though probably not the Baltic.

Though the numbers of ships being deployed are not really up on the 2012 figures, it is pretty obvious that nearly all of the major lines still see Europe as the prime arena for showcasing their new ships. Beside the big ticket, first time deployments in Southampton, Princess Cruises are also bringing over the huge Caribbean Princess and, for the first time ever, the line is offering an all inclusive drinks package in the fare.

So the European catwalk (cruisewalk?) season of 2015 looks like being quite a floor show, with each of the entrants bearing all the traits and positive selling points- both real and imagined- of their respective sponsors. One thing there will be no shortage of is choice.

Stay tuned.

CRUISE NEWS ROUND UP; GHOST SHIPS, CONCERT TRIPS AND OTHER BITS…..

"Oh, look, Jack! There's a ghost ship!"

“Oh, look, Jack! There’s a ghost ship!”

Well, we’ve seen it all this week, one way and another. What with ghost ships running amok, and Leann Rhimes singing for her supper on Carnival ships, there’s a boatload of high jinks going on in cruise land right now. Here’s a few of the things that have made me sit up and take notice over the last few days….

GHOST SHIP ON THE LOOSE

The story of the Lyubov Orlova has surfaced again this week. What was originally the sad tale of a dilapidated, derelict former expedition ship that had broken loose from an under powered tug in the middle of some vile Atlantic weather, has now been elevated to a ghastly saga of a grisly, fog shrouded ghost ship, looming menacingly toward the coast of Ireland, and all under the evil hegemony of a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, no less. Wow.

I think what we have here is a simple typo. What they actually meant to print was ‘cannibal rates’. This is obviously some kind of rodent theme cruise, I think. And, if I am wrong and these are, indeed, a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, does said crew have any kind of pecking order?

Still, I suppose we should be grateful that the media has, as yet, not found a way to connect the word ‘cannibal’ to ‘Carnival’. And, speaking of Carnival….

CARNIVAL ON SONG

At a gala event in New York last week, Carnival announced a stratospheric upgrade of its live, on board entertainment. The line will be bringing a whole raft of top of the range entertainers on board their ships to perform for passengers on certain cruises. Names in the frame include Olivia Newton John,  Leanne Rimes, and soul siren Jennifer Hudson, among many others.

These headliner performances will incur an extra charge, and there is also a supplement for a ‘meet and greet’ option, complete with a commemorative photograph. In recent years, Carnival has hosted a couple of short cruises, featuring the reformed New Kids On The Block, which have been hugely successful. These have obviously been the sounding board for this new, very extensive programme.

On other fronts, Carnival has also ramped up its live on board shows, with a greater emphasis on visuals and high tech features, as well as shorter, more punchy presentations. There is now a considerable emphasis on the quality of live music on board all the ships, all part of the Funship 2.0 evolution.

I’ll be on the Carnival Breeze next week to check out the new on board vibe. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.

SEABOURN TO BE FOUR

In a move that surprised absolutely no one (if you discount the crew of cannibal rats supposedly still adrift in the Atlantic), Seabourn has announced that it will build a fourth ship in the very popular Odyssey class, but with certain as yet unannounced enhancements.

Due to be delivered from the Italian Fincantieri yard in 2016, the as yet nameless ship will have a capacity for around six hundred guests. That puts her mid way between such rivals as Silver Spirit and Seven Seas Voyager in terms of capacity. More to the point, it almost makes up for the total number of berths that will be lost as the original trio- Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend- make the gradual transition over to Windstar.

CRUISE SHIPS TO SOCHI WINTER OLYMPICS 2014

Silver Whisper was used to host Vladimir Putin at the 2003 300th anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg

Silver Whisper was used to host Vladimir Putin at the 2003 300th anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg

One of the last publicised aspects regarding the hugely controversial 22nd Winter Olympics, due to be held in and around the Black Sea  city of Sochi between 7th and 23rd of February next year, is the surprising number of cruise ships and ferries that have been chartered for use as static hotel accommodation.

Of course, there is nothing new in the use of chartered cruise ships as temporary static accommodation. Events such as the Olympic Games of 1992 and 2004 saw the use as accommodation ships of some of the most illustrious names in the cruising firmament- including the then brand new Queen Mary 2. Similarly, the Barcelona Expo ’98 had no less than six cruise ships, including the then world’s longest liner, the SS. Norway, offering accommodation.

Last year’s London 2012 Olympics saw the use of Fred. Olsen’s Braemar and her original sister ship, the now laid up Gemini, as fully functioning, static hotels docked on the River Thames at Tilbury.

What is, of course, different about Sochi 2014 is the hugely controversial nature of these games, with widespread calls for a boycott over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s excessive, increasingly repressive crackdown on gay rights in Russia as a whole.

So, who is going to be there for the duration? Five cruise and ferry operators have thus far confirmed their operation of chartered tonnage.

First off, Russian owned St. Peter Line is sending both of it’s large cruise ferries- Princess Anastasia and Princess Maria- from their regular, year round overnight runs from Tallinn and Stockholm to St. Petersburg. The Princess Anastasia was once well known in the UK as the popular Pride Of Bilbao, a stalwart of the Northern Spain run for many years. Rooms on these two ships are advertised from 63 euros upwards per night.

There is also another ferry, the Italian SNAV Toscana, a 30,000 ton vessel usually operated on overnight runs between Civitavecchia and Palermo, Originally built as the Wasa Star back in 1981, she has accommodation for around 2200 people in normal service.

Seasonal Greek islands operator, Louis Cruises, is sending two ships, the aptly named 38, 000 ton Louis Olympia and the 33,000 ton Thomson Spirit; sensible and gainful employment for two ships that would have otherwise remained laid up in Piraeus until March. Unlike the two ferries mentioned above, these two vessels are full service cruise ships. Rooms priced from 168 euros per night.

Spanish operator, Iberocruises is sending the 46,000 ton Grand Holiday, which originally started life in 1985 as a Carnival ship. Rooms on board this ship start from 158 euros.

Largest of all, Norwegian Cruise Line is sending the 92,000 ton Norwegian Jade, with rooms on board starting at the highest rate of all, at at 208 euros per night. Unlike most of the others, the Norwegian Jade offers the added plus of a large number of balcony cabins.

Between them, these six very different ships can offer in excess of some twelve thousand berths. While the cruise ships of Louis, Norwegian and Iberocruises are usually in the Mediterranean for the spring season anyway, the long voyage to and from the Baltic by the two Russian ferries represents a significant redeployment on the part of their owners, albeit an obviously lucrative one.

CARNIVAL COURTS SINGLES…

Carnival is moving forward once again

Carnival is moving forward once again

In a move that has come as a surprise to many, Carnival has slashed single supplements for UK travellers in what amounts to an obvious bid to woo solo passengers.

The move has also partly been a response to the success of the studio cabins introduced by Norwegian in recent years and, to a much lesser extent, the handful of single cabins offered in a few of the Royal Caribbean ships. Nonetheless, the halving of the single supplement by Carnival is pretty substantial indeed.

Under the new rates- which cover an as yet unspecified range of cruises- new lead in fares are now as low as £159 on a four days Bahamas cruise, and that’s based on an ocean view cabin. A six day Mexican Riviera cruise under the same rules comes in at a cost of £369.

The value here is self explanatory, especially when viewed with the recent on board, fleet wide enhancements made to the Carnival fleet in the Funship 2.0 programme. New features such as Guy’s Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina have been generally well received by both regular passengers and industry experts alike.

The line has been going through a period of retrenchment right across the board following a string of damaging incidents. Recently, veteran Carnival head honcho Bob Dickinson returned to the line in an advisory capacity, with a mandate to restore the line’s reputation and financial viability. This single supplement reduction may well be a by product of this new thinking, and it’s a very welcome one.

It will be interesting to see whether this reduction applies simply to Carnival, or whether it will also be rolled out in due course across subsidiary brands such as Cunard, Princess and Holland America. P&O already offers a handful of single cabins aboard Azura, Ventura, and now also Oriana.

Single supplements aboard Cunard remain fixed at an eye watering seventy five per cent. Holland America does offer a singles share programme that allows passengers of the same sex to share certain stateroom grades- both inner and outer- at no extra supplement.

More to the point, Carnival has really thrown down the gauntlet to Royal Caribbean, which has made at best baby steps in accommodating single passengers on most of their sailings. And, while Norwegian has single cabins in just under half its fleet, most of the others have none. Their typical single supplement comes in at around fifty per cent for basic inside and outside rooms at the moment.

As developments go, this one has the ability to gather speed and sweep the mainstream market from top to bottom. In firing this first shot, Carnival has once again stolen a march on the competition. An indication of welcome forward momentum once again in an organisation that has seemed to be on the back foot for far too long.

Stay tuned.