CARNIVAL ORDERS FIRST NEW BUILD FOR P&O CRUISES, AUSTRALIA

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P&O Australia is ploughing full speed a head with a first ever, dedicated new build

Carnival Corporation has announced the construction of a first ever, purpose built cruise ship for it’s P&O Australia brand.

The ship is part of a brand new, four ship order from Italy’s Fincantieri yard for the Carnival portfolio of lines. In addition to the P&O Australia build, there will be two dedicated vessels for Costa’s operation for the Chinese market in Asia, and another ship for Princess Cruises, based on the popular Royal Princess platform.

All four new vessels are expected to be delivered between 2019 and 2020.

But it is the new build for the Australian market that is especially interesting. Thus far, all of the P&O Australia fleet has been reconditioned former tonnage, taken from the likes of Ocean Village, and Holland America Line.

The new, as yet nameless vessel is said to have a passenger capacity of 4,200. Following on from the projected 2017 debut of the Pacific Explorer (currently sailing as the Dawn Princess) the new ship will bring the P&O Australia fleet up to a total of six vessels- a quite remarkable achievement in such a relatively short space of time.

She will also constitute the first, purpose built vessel for the P&O Australia fleet, and her much larger passenger capacity puts her on a par with the 150,000 ton class of cruise ships that seems to be becoming the worldwide industry standard size these days.

Interesting times, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.

LITTLE ROYALS- SHORT EUROPEAN BREAKS ON CUNARD IN 2016

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QM2 is sailing full speed ahead for some substantial enhancements in 2016

Interested in trying the classic Cunard on board experience for yourself, but unwilling to make a first time commitment to a long, potentially expensive voyage?

Or maybe you’re already a die hard fan, short on time, but looking for a tasty little top up of that famous on board ambiance?

Both of these can be realised on a short, two to five night break on one of the storied ‘Three Queens’ in Europe next year.

Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will offer a whole raft of trips between them. Starting in January, you can visit prime European short haul ports such as Zeebrugge, Amsterdam, Guernsey and Hamburg, while still lapping up the on board vibe.

To coincide with some of her Atlantic crossings that embark in Hamburg, there are options to sail on the Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to Hamburg, or indeed vice versa. These jaunts give you two full days on the Cunard flagship-fresh from a substantial refurbishment and upgrade in the late spring of 2016.

In July, Queen Mary 2 also offers a special, four night round trip cruise from Southampton. Smaller sibling, Queen Elizabeth, offers a similar itinerary in May.

The voyages, running through until December, offer a cost effective way to experience life on board one of the famous famous trio of ships at sea, plus the chance to step ashore and enjoy the lifestyle in some of Europe’s more invigorating ports.

Worth a look for sure.

EMPRESS OF THE SEAS IS MIAMI BOUND

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Empress of the Seas is returning to the warm, welcoming waters of the Caribbean and Bahamas for 2016

Royal Caribbean International has announced that it’s soon to be re-integrated Empress of the Seas is to be based in Miami.

The 48,000 ton ship is returning to RCI after an eight year spell sailing as the Empress for Pullmantur, the troubled Spanish offshoot of RCI, in Europe.

Beginning in March 2016, the Empress of the Seas will embark on a series of short three, four and five night cruises to destinations such as Nassau, Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman and the company’s private island of Coco Cay, in the Bahamas.

Key selling points of the ship’s programme will be an earlier, expedited embarkation time from 110 onward, and a number of overnight stays in Cozumel on the longer, five night run. At present, she is the only ship out of Miami to offer such an option.

The vessel is being sold as very much a party experience rather than an in depth, cultural expedition ship of any kind. She will also undergo a refurbishment before returning to service, though exact specifics are few at this time.

At present, these short cruises are being sold as year round options. But speculation remains rife that Empress of the Seas may, in time, return to her old summer programme of seven night Bermuda cruises from New York- a role in which she was hugely popular in the late nineties.

Stay tuned for any updates.

CRYSTAL SERENITY TO OFFER SECOND ALASKA SEASON IN 2017

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It’s ‘adios’ to the Mediterranean for Crystal Serenity in 2017

In what amounts to a complete about face, Crystal Cruises has cancelled the entire 2017 European deployment for Crystal Serenity. Instead, the 2003 built, 68,000 ton ship will offer a whole new raft of itineraries, centered on the continental USA.

Summer will see the ship offering a second, consecutive season of Alaska cruises, ranging in length between seven and ten days, and the year is filled out by a string of Eastern Seaboard sailings, before the ship heads down into the Caribbean for a fall and winter season.

There will also be a series of New England itineraries in the fall, also typically in the seven to ten nights’ range.

A fourteen night repositioning cruise from Miami to Los Angeles will be the prelude to a series of seven night West Coast USA cruises, and at least one long, exotic, sixteen night swing out cruise to Hawaii and back. There will also be a longer, more in depth, fourteen night itinerary to Mexico as well the more conventional seven night options.

Bookings for these new itineraries open on December 31st.

This is the first time since her launch in 2003 that the Crystal Serenity has spent two consecutive seasons away from her usual run of peak season cruises in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

So far, there is no news of alternative itineraries for sibling vessel, Crystal Symphony. Her full season of Baltic and Northern Europe cruises, scheduled to operate from May to October, is thus far unchanged.

As always, stay tuned for updates.

 

DIANA ROSS TO HEADLINE CARIBBEAN CRUISE IN APRIL

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Carnival Breeze at Grand Turk

The legendary Diana Ross will lead an astonishing line up of musical talent on an eight day Carnival cruise to the Caribbean from Miami next April.

Also on the bill will be Patti Labelle, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, and a host of other stars on what amounts to a soul music festival at sea.

Other headline acts include Charlie Wilson, New Edition, and the Bar-Kays.

The cruise is being run as part of the Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage, which raises funds to support students attending what are described as ‘historically Black colleges and universities.’

The eight night cruise sails from Miami on April 23rd, calling at St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Grand Turk, before returning to Miami on May 1st.

The 135,000 ton Carnival Breeze will also be hosting a series of empowerment seminars during the cruise, as well as daytime parties and various theme nights.

While all of this amounts to a massive party on the ocean-one with a  charitable slant as well- there is no doubting that the centre spotlight will belong to Diana Ross.

As a recording artist, she found fame with the Supremes in the mid 1960’s before going solo. Since then, she has also recorded duets with Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias, among many others.

In all, she has scored some nineteen number one hit singles to date; twelve as lead singer of the Supremes, and seven solo smashes.

Fares for the cruise are currently listed from $2,860 for an inside cabin, to around $4,000 for an outside.

 

PULLMANTUR’S ZENITH IN REEF INCIDENT

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Grand Cayman remains a popular anchor port for Holland America Line, among many others. Photo @antnich

Pullmantur’s cruise ship Zenith was the inadvertent cause of reef damage at Grand Cayman on Tuesday.

The 47,000 ton ship was directed by the local pilot to a government assigned anchor position, where she duly stopped in preparation to tender her passengers ashore for the day.

Scott Prodahl, a local diving instructor, noticed that the water around the anchored Zenith was clouding over- a sign that the anchor chain was chafing against nearby coral. He subsequently filmed a five and half minute long video of the scene.

However, there is no suggestion from any quarter that the Zenith was to blame for the incident. A Cayman environment official, Scott Slaybaugh, told The Cayman Times exactly that. In evidence, he produced a software tracking graphic that clearly showed the Zenith correctly positioned at her designated spot.

All of this points up the need for proper berthing facilities at Grand Cayman. As of now, all cruise ships have to anchor offshore and then tender their passengers into the centre of George Town.

On many days, there can be upwards of five cruise ships tendering passengers ashore-a state of affairs that has increasingly exasperated all the major cruise companies for over three decades.

In October, the government finally gave the go-ahead for construction of the first, purpose built cruise terminal at Grand Cayman.

But even that is nowhere near enough to handle the huge volumes of winter traffic at this Caribbean hot spot, and there are still environmental concerns around the subject that need to be thrashed out at a local level.

That said, the unfortunate incident with the Zenith might prove something of a wake up call.

Stay tuned for further news.

ISLAND ESCAPE SOLD TO CRUISE HOLDINGS (DECEMBER 6TH UPDATE)

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New horizons venture for the well travelled Island Escape…

December 7th update:

The Cruise Industry News website (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the ship purchased by the new start up Chinese operator, Diamond Cruises, is actually Estur’s Aegean Paradise, and not the Island Escape, as previously cited by the same source.

As of this moment, the actual future deployment of the Island Escape -if any- has yet to be determined.

The Cruise and Ferry website (www.cruiseandferry.net) is reporting the sale by Thomson Cruises of the Island Escape to Cruise Holdings.

The vessel is apparently underway to the French port of Brest, where she will be renamed as Ocean Gala. News of any upgrades or future deployment is as yet unclear, but it seems that the popular budget vessel will continue in cruise service after all- welcome news for the many thousands of passengers with fond memories of this ship.

Island Escape actually started life as the Scandinavia of 1982. She was a dual purpose cruise and car ferry, intended to run on a regular service between New York and the Bahamas for DFDS Seaways.

The service was never the anticipated success, and the Scandinavia soon returned to Europe to operate on the overnight cruise ferry service between Copenhagen and Oslo.

It was Royal Caribbean international that first saw the potential for her as a ship ideally suited to short cruises. The ship was extensively refitted, including the installation of the trademark RCCL ‘Viking Crown’ lounge around her funnel, and she was put back into service under the name of Viking Serenade.

in this guise, she ran for many successful seasons on the three and four night cruise run from Los Angeles down to Ensenada, Mexico. Once more surplus to requirements by the turn of the new century, she was taken over by First Choice cruises, renamed as the Island Escape, and put into service on seven night cruises from Palma de Mallorca to the Mediterranean. In winter, the doughty little ship sometimes even sailed to Brazil to operate voyages there.

Increasingly however, over winter the Island Escape usually home ported in Tenerife for similar, week long budget cruise runs to the Canary Islands and Madeira, a role in which she proved very popular.

Once First Choice was assimilated into the Thomson Brand, the Island Escape continued to sail, but was often marketed separately from the main body of the Thomson Cruises fleet. With new tonnage becoming available to Thomson of late, the sale of Island Escape was seen as inevitable.

Island Escape gained a good reputation as a solid, high density cruise ship that was comfortable and familiar, rather than stunning and luxurious- very much an entry level product that, none the less, endeared herself to many. It is a matter of some gratitude that she will continue to sail on as a part of the global cruise family as the Ocean Gala.

I wish the ship and her new owners every success. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

UPDATE:

The respected industry website, Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the Island Escape has actually been sold to a start up Chinese cruise operator, Diamond Cruises.

She will operate for them on cruises from Shanghai after an extensive refurbishment designed to make her more suitable for the local trade. This refit will be carried out in Europe.

The website quotes the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association as it’s prime source of information.

 

 

 

 

STAR CRUISES BOUND FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 2016 (UPDATED)

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The Norwegian Dream docked in Hamilton, Bermuda, in June of 2008. She now sails for Star Cruises as their Superstar Gemini. In that role, she will be returning to the Mediterranean in 2016.

 

DECEMBER 7TH UPDATE;

In a brief, but very to the point press release addressed to Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) Genting Hong Kong, the parent company of Star Cruises, has stated that there will be no deployment by Star Cruises in the Mediterranean next year. The release reads thus;

Be informed there are currently no plans for Star Cruises to deploy a ship in the Mediterranean Sea next year.”

The Cruise Industry News blog goes on to attest that the story actually first surfaced via Italian news and media outlets.

For my original blog on the same story, please see below……

For the first time in more than a decade, Star Cruises will be offering an as yet unannounced series of Mediterranean fly cruises over the summer of 2016.

Star Cruises last attempted a similar, one off season more than a decade ago with the Superstar Libra, an unusual move at the time which has never been repeated since- until now.

The line will be sending the 50,000 ton, 1, 530 passenger Superstar Gemini to Genoa next summer. The vessel is perhaps best remembered as Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dream.

Built at the French shipyard of Saint Nazaire as the Dreamward in 1992, she was lengthened and renamed as Norwegian Dream in 1998. She was in many ways a pioneering ship for Norwegian, operating their first ever regular season of summer Scandinavia cruises from the UK. The ship was also a popular staple for many years on the summer run to Bermuda from the east coast of the USA.

In 1999, her bow had to be completely rebuilt after she collided in the English Channel in a thick fog with a container ship, the Ever Decent.

Later, the Norwegian Dream went on to pioneer new NCL routes around South America, before leaving the line for an intended 2008 sale to Louis Cruise Lines.

This fell through over alleged mechanical issues, and the unwanted ship spent almost five damaging years laid up at ports around the Greek islands, before parent company Star Cruises took her over a few years ago.

Refurbished and restyled as the Superstar Gemini, she has since sailed on a series of short, highly successful cruises from Singapore and other Far Eastern ports. Her bruited return to Europe in 2016 comes as something of a surprise to many, this writer included.

There are those who feel that the local Asian market is currently over capacity. And, with newer, even larger ships coming on line, perhaps Star Cruises- the current scion of mass market Far East voyages- has decided that now might well be the time to ‘test the water’ in other regions.

In any event, it will be nice to see this popular, fondly remembered ship back on the European circuit in 2016. I await her actual itineraries with interest.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

MSC TO ADD SECOND SHIP TO CUBA NEXT YEAR

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MSC is Cuba bound again in 2016- and how…

In an already predicted move that will surprise few, MSC Cruises has confirmed that it will add a second ship next year to the winter Cuba cruise market. The recently stretched and extensively refurbished MSC Armonia will take up station in Havana, Cuba, next November to offer a pair of alternating, seven night itineraries that run through until April of 2017.

One of these will gift passengers two days and an overnight stay in Havana itself, before shaping course for Roatan and Belize in Central America. From there, the ship will sail on to Costa Maya, and then a final ‘beach day’ at Isla Juventud, before returning to Havana.

Itinerary two will offer two full overnights in Havana, before sailing to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and thence heading back to Havana.

Both of these options can be combined to make one long, fourteen night itinerary. And, in order to help meet the rising demand for fly cruise options, MSC is looking at increasing and enhancing it’s airlift options to Cuba, both from mainland Europe and Canada as well.

The addition of the MSC Armonia follows the amazing sales for the coming inaugural Cuba season of the MSC Opera. That ship will also return to Cuba next December to operate similar, seven night cruises cruises.

The arrival of MSC Armonia will take the total number of cruise ships deployed to Cuba in winter up to four, with the Celestyal Crystal also continuing her yearly deployment from Havana. In addition, the newly refurbished Fathom cruise ship will be making Cuba the central focus of her Miami based cruises.

As yet, no true mega ships have been deployed down Havana way, but this doubling up off tonnage from MSC in just one season is a potent demonstration of the way things are heading. Once the American market can travel to Cuba again en masse, it will get far busier still.

As ever, stay tuned for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

NEWCASTLE’S PORT OF TYNE TO HOST THIRTY-NINE CRUISE VISITS IN 2016

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Always a welcome sight at Port of Tyne, the Marco Polo will be back to the port in 2016

2016 will see Newcastle’s Port of Tyne hosting some thirty nine cruise ship calls between April and September, including some of the most illustrious names in the cruising firmament.

Cruise and Maritime’s flagship, Magellan inaugurates the 2016 cruise season on April 2nd, with the first of five round trip sailings to Norway and the Baltic capitals, before she returns to Tilbury on an overnight sailing on May 20th.

Later in the year, her fleet mate- the veteran Marco Polo- returns to operate two cruises- a Baltic itinerary, and a round trip to Iceland and Greenland.

Long established in northern waters, Fred. Olsen introduces it’s flagship, the gorgeous Balmoral, to the Tyne for the first time in 2016. The ship will operate the largest single round trip deployment from Port of Tyne in 2016. Beginning in May, she will offer some eleven sailings to Norway, round Britain, and even down to the Mediterranean, ranging from five to fifteen nights in length.

2016 will also see the return of some platinum chip prestige vessels on cruise visits, with the sublime Crystal Symphony returning to Port of Tyne on July 7th in the course of a North Sea voyage.

Also back is Regent Seven Seas’ ultra luxury Seven Seas Voyager on both June 8th and August 16th, while Oceania’s highly styled Nautica and Marina also make guest appearances.

Most likely to draw multi generation attention will be the first ever visits by Disney Cruise Line. The Disney Magic will visit the port twice in June; once during the course of a round Britain circuit, and again during a follow on Baltic cruise.

Meanwhile, the arrival of the Kongingsdam on August 16th is a real coup for the port. The new Holland America Line flagship will be in ‘town’ on the same day as Seven Seas Voyager. And her slightly smaller sister ship- the Zuiderdam- will also be on the Tyne on July 2nd.

All in all, a busy and prestigious roster of cruise ship tonnage will be showcased at Newcastle/Port of Tyne in 2016. Stay tuned for any updates, or see the complete list (with arrival times and departures) at; http://www.portoftyne.co.uk

 

Thanks to Lisa Donohoe at Port of Tyne for supplying the arrivals list for the Tyneside 2016 season