Norwegian Cruise Line is Australia bound, and in a big way, too.

The recent delivery of Norwegian Escape from Germany’s Meyer Werft shipyard marked something of a watershed for Norwegian Cruise Line; she was nothing less than the fourth, 150,000 ton plus mega ship delivered to the company since 2010- an event that few would have foreseen even ten years earlier.

First off came the one of a kind Norwegian Epic, delivered from STX France in 2010, and only recently just refurbished in Southampton. Then came a trio of vessels from Germany; the Breakaway class sisters, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. And, finally, as noted above, the line took delivery of the ‘improved’ Breakaway class vessel, Norwegian Escape, as recently as October.

A second ship in that series has now been allocated to the burgeoning Chinese market. Another projected ship will be given the name of Norwegian Bliss, but she will not see the light of day for a few years.


Singapore beckons for the Norwegian Star

Thus, 2016 will mark a hiatus in the delivery of new ships to Norwegian Cruise Line. But that should not imply any loss of momentum for the line- now under the guiding hand of industry veteran, Frank Del Rio. Quite the contrary, in fact.

2016 will see the line expand its global offerings on a scale never seen before. Following on from her usual season in Northern Europe, the Norwegian Star will make her away down to Australia, offering some first ever Mediterranean cruises en route. Sailing via Singapore, the 2001 built ship will operate a full season of voyages in and around the Antipodes.

Next winter, Norwegian Sun will showcase a series of cruises down and along the east coast of South America. Always a trailblazer within the Norwegian fleet, the popular ship- another 2001 veteran- will offer a series of voyages between Rio De Janeiro and Buenos Aires, ranging from seven to ten days’ duration. There will also be some longer trips in the same region.

Like Kevin Sheehan before him, Frank Del Rio has thus far made no commitment to supply the home based UK market with a year round, dedicated ship. But he has reversed one of his predecessor’s prime deployments in the year round Mediterranean market.


Norwegian is going global for 2016

Last year, many people were surprised by the news that the company’s two dedicated, year round Europe ships- Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Spirit- would be replaced by the giant Norwegian Epic, which was to be based year round in Barcelona. The two smaller ships would be sent back to the more benign, year round waters of the Caribbean.

Now we learn that, after just this one current season sailing year round, the Norwegian Epic will return to the Caribbean- to be replaced by Norwegian Spirit once again. And, in another twist, Norwegian Jade will also return to Europe for seasonal summer sailings, mainly around Italy and the Greek Islands.


Atrium lobby on the Norwegian Spirit

Personally, I’m delighted to welcome the beautiful, hugely under promoted Norwegian Spirit back to our shores. Her raffish oriental decor and beautiful stepped terrace decks make her one of the most distinctive and appealing ships sailing these waters year round.

As for Bermuda and Alaska, Norwegian retains a strong, seasonal, multi ship deployment. There are also year round sailings to the Caribbean. And, for 2016, the Norwegian Sky is going to all inclusive pricing on her short, three and four day round trip sailings from Miami to the Bahamas.

I just wish that Norwegian would create some more upbeat, short haul routes for the Norwegian Sky. While her short cruises make for great little breakaways, they have become pretty much pedestrian, and far too predictable for a lot of people.


Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

Frankly, many people are sick and tired of Nassau, a place that has a very brittle charm at best. Ditto Freeport. Sure, Great Stirrup Cay has been massively enhanced recently, but is that one call alluring enough to book for alone?

A few years back, Norwegian were offering some great, five night cruises from Miami that took in both Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Now might be a good time to consider reviving this route, using the Norwegian Sky. 

At the very least, why not vary the current, four night itinerary to include Key West every second week, and maybe even Cozumel as well? My feeling is that Norwegian really are missing the boat on this one- pun wholly intentional.

Perhaps such ideas are already under consideration, who knows?

But one thing that is for sure; it really is nice to see Norwegian making real, palpable headway again after playing second fiddle to the likes of Carnival and Royal Caribbean for such a long time. The future of the innovators of Caribbean fly cruising is one that I will follow with interest.

As ever, stay tuned.







Vast open spaces are the hallmark of the Norwegian Getaway

Vast open spaces are the hallmark of the Norwegian Getaway

Southampton greeted the debut of the stunning new Norwegian Getaway with a typically British concoction of weak sunshine and some intense, blustery showers. But that did nothing to dampen the sensational impact of this latest giant cruise ship, with it’s twenty eight different restaurants, five different twisting water slides, and three full levels of indoor and outdoor watering holes. The ship is intended to stun and boy, does she ever.

Those who saw sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, last year will find a huge amount that is instantly familiar. The differences are largely decorative; Getaway flaunts a sunny, Miami style of decor that was rendered mute by a relentless Sotonian downpour; Breakaway is pure, razzle and sizzle New York ambiance.

What I liked about Norwegian Getaway is her beautifully styled, almost classic ocean liner interiors, Wide, open spaces flanked by causal groupings of tables and wide, high back chairs give her her a real feeling of deep, rich glamour. And the vast, central spiral chandelier, which changes colour at different times of the day, is just wondrous.

The ships’ vast beam allows for much of this spatial largesse. Although always busy with people at all hours of the day and night, the flow is largely good, and creates a very upbeat buzz that permeates those spaces from bow to stern.

Prelude to the Illusionarium fantasy fest

Prelude to the Illusionarium fantasy fest

The Illusionarium combines a theatre in the round show with the allure of a supper club. The menu is a set, three course affair and, inevitably, some people were not happy with it. But the real feast here is the show itself.

This is a dizzying, high energy joyride through a series of magical tricks and illusions, performed almost table side by a cast of quirky, sometimes spectral characters, with amazing lightning and special effects. It’s a high intensity, audio visual roller coaster that hits you straight between the eyes with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. It is, quite simply, the most stunning show that I have seen on any ship, and I would say that seeing it is a must if you are on board.

There’s a nice gallery outside the library and card room that displays the history of the company, going right back to the pioneering Sunward. A couple of colour posters of the Norway were particularly evocative. There is also a nice collection of black and white photographs here. As it ploughs full speed ahead with new ships and strategies, this nod by Norwegian to its past is as timely as it is engaging.

And the Tropicana Room is a knockout. Swathed in dark, sultry wood veneers, framed by gorgeous, Art Deco light fixtures, and with an enormous, floor to ceiling glass window at the stern right behind the stage, it will be stunning in the Caribbean, when this dance venue cum supper club comes alive to a soundtrack of blistering salsa. In many ways, this is the most gorgeous and evocative room on the ship.

Norwegian Getaway is bound for the balmy Caribbean

Norwegian Getaway is bound for the balmy Caribbean

The whole vibe of the Norwegian Getaway is swaggering, sensational, and swathed in floor to ceiling luxury. Like many of the old Italian liners of the thirties, most of her public rooms are relatively small, intimate spaces that flank the edges of the vast thoroughfares, linked in the central atrium by a deceptively delicate looking set of glass staircases. It gives her a richness and depth that will only be truly apparent when she is in regular service, but the ship as a whole is a causal, spectacular triumph, a feel good joyride, brimming with good things from bow to stern.


Norwegian Getaway was the venue for Kevin Sheehan's press conference

Norwegian Getaway was the venue for Kevin Sheehan’s press conference

At a press conference on board the brand new Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian CEO, Kevin Sheehan, ruminated on the future direction of the company in general, and some of the things that might change. What he had to say was worth hearing.

After the early initial setbacks for the Hawaii operation, Sheehan confirmed that the Pride Of America- the sole remaining member of an envisaged inter-island quartet, is doing very well indeed. So much so, in fact, that she is now the single most profitable vessel across the entire Norwegian fleet. Recently refurbished, the Pride Of America also had a number of single studio cabins added.

That single studio idea has been so successful for Norwegian that Sheehan intends to extend it to every single ship in the fleet. Right now, single cabins can be found on the three ships that Sheehan has helmed for Norwegian from the start- Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway- and the Pride Of America.

In addition, he confirmed that the popular, 24/7 service O’Sheehans Bar And Grill outlet- already a focal point in the last three ships- will be extended across the rest of the fleet. To make the venue a potentially more appealing evening dinner option, nightly ‘specials’ such as Prime Rib will be introduced to the culinary roster. On the recent press trip of Norwegian Getaway, the venue was packed to the rafters even in the early morning hours.

Sheehan also confirmed that each ship will also be getting its own Moderno Churrascaria. The Brazilian meat restaurants have proved very popular on Epic and Breakaway. Insofar as possible, these will be installed in close proximity to the Cagney’s Steakhouses, with an adjacent bar provided for each pair of venues.

He also confirmed the news that broke earlier in the week; the year round deployment of the 4,200 passenger Norwegian Epic in Europe from April, 2015. Sheehan was bullish about being able to fill the vast ship- one he describes as the one ‘best suited’ to the European market- but would not be drawn on the itineraries that have been planned for her. These will be announced at the forthcoming Seatrade conference in Miami this coming March.

There was no mention- or questions, to be fair- about the future of current Barcelona year round ship, Norwegian Spirit.

Sheehan, however, did confirm that the next two ‘Breakaway Plus ships’- Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Escape- are on schedule for delivery in autumn 2015 and spring, 2017. And, although he again ruled out any imminent deployment of a Norwegian ship out of the United Kingdom, he made it plain that it might be something he would consider in the future.


The awesome bulk of the Norwegian Epic

The awesome bulk of the Norwegian Epic

With next week’s debut of the hugely anticipated Norwegian Getaway bang on schedule, and two new, further enhanced ships in the same class now firm orders with Meyer Werft at Papenburg, Norwegian can begin contemplating possible expansion into other areas. The question is; where, and with what?

It might be first best to look at the current Norwegian fleet as it stands right now. The fleet comprises the near sisters, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Sky, as well as the Papenburg built sextet of Star, Dawn, Jewel, Jade, Pearl and Gem.

The Norwegian Spirit is unique in the fleet, having transferred over from Star Cruises, instead of vice versa, as was the norm.

The stand alone Norwegian Epic and the Hawaii- based Pride Of America rounded out the roster, until the debut last spring of the spectacularly successful Norwegian Breakaway. With the imminent addition of Getaway next week, that brings the total number of ships under the company colours to thirteen in all.

Currently, Sky is deployed year round on three and four night cruises from Miami. Sister ship, Norwegian Sun, spends summers in Alaska, and winters in the Caribbean.

Norwegian Spirit spends the year in Europe

Norwegian Spirit spends the year in Europe

In Europe, the company has a spring through fall annual deployment of the Epic, which returns to the Caribbean each winter; there is also a year round Mediterranean ship- Norwegian Jade- while the beautiful, oriental themed Spirit spends summer in the Med, and winters cruising to the Canary Islands.

Seasonal Scandinavia sailings are currently handled out of Copenhagen by the Norwegian Star. In the fall season, she relocates to Los Angeles for cruises down to the Mexican Riviera. As previously cited, the one off Pride Of America operates year round sailings around the Hawaiian Islands.

The new Norwegian Breakaway sails year round from New York; to Bermuda in the summer, and the Bahamas through the winter. The remainder of the Norwegian fleet- Jewel and Pearl- spend summers in Alaska, and winters in the Caribbean. Norwegian Dawn spends summers sailing to Bermuda from Boston, and winters in the Caribbean as well.

The addition of Norwegian Getaway- scheduled to operate year round, seven day cruises out of Miami- gives the line some limited options to expand into other markets. We’re not talking about the far reaching, large global redeployments of Carnival and Royal Caribbean- yet- but a new ship does allow a little flexibility in the Norwegian fleet as it stands.

So, what form might such deployments take?

Pool deck on the Norwegian Sun

Pool deck on the Norwegian Sun

Certainly not a year round ship in the UK in the immediate future. Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan told me himself that he has no plans to base a ship permanently in the British market.

Nor does Asia seem especially likely; sister company, Star Cruises, has that area pretty well covered and, with its own massive new build coming in a year or two, there seems little incentive for Norwegian to go in that direction, either.

Instead, Norwegian might go for an Australian deployment. The company briefly flirted with the Antipodes in the late nineties, with the short lived Norwegian Capricorn Line. It was an idea before it’s time, but that time could have finally come around.

Possibly the Norwegian Pearl, or even the Jewel, could make the switch to Australian sailings. Rumours have centered around the Norwegian Epic going south of the Equator, but she would be too big an act to follow up with in Europe for now, at least. I think one of the smaller ships might get a revamp, and then go to Australia.

Less adventurous, Norwegian could also reintroduce a ship on the five day circuit out of Miami, to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. It did this for a number of seasons (I sailed on a couple of them) but, in the last few years, these cruises have been left entirely to their rivals. It should be a realistic goal over the winter, at the very least.

And with two more ships coming over the next few years- Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss- the company will be replete with more new tonnage to utilize. A return to South America cruising (Norwegian used to specialize in long cruises along and through the Chilean Fjords at one time) could be on the cards, or even a possible entry into the South African cruise season might be on the cards.

In any event, next week’s debut of the Norwegian Getaway certainly moves Norwegian up a gear as a company. I’ll be on board next week for her inaugural celebrations, with a review to follow.

As always, stay tuned.


The classics are back, courtesy of Portuscale Cruises

The classics are back, courtesy of Portuscale Cruises

In my previous post, I wrote about the string of maritime casualties that have begun piling up like so many car wrecks over 2013, from the plain sad to the simply absurd. Thankfully, that has not been the whole picture for the cruise industry during the course of the year. There have indeed been a number of outstanding events, and some cracking new ships have arrived. Here’s some of my personal highlights.

Firstly, the Lazarus style resurrection of Portuscale Cruises from the wreckage of Classic International Cruises will have warmed the hearts of anyone that appreciates the simple pleasures of classical, well run ships. There has been no more resolute-or miraculous-statement of intent than the return to service of the flagship, the doughty, dignified little Funchal. And, with the rest of the fleet on course for a 2014 relaunch, the outlook is very promising.

Big ship of the year was unquestionably the stunning new Norwegian Breakaway, the Peter Max mentored floating tribute to New York style that debuted at the end of April. Brimming with life, and beautifully styled by Tillberg Design’s Fredrik Johansson throughout, Breakaway brings a whole host of outdoor eateries and bars to the balmy Bermuda run. With cutting edge entertainment and an easy, freewheeling vibe, this ship ups the ante for the contemporary mega ship experience by a long mile.

Stylish Regent has something new coming soon

Stylish Regent has something new coming soon

The announcement of a new ship for Regent Seven Seas is very exciting, and way overdue, too. Seven Seas Explorer will build on the obvious success and sumptuous style of her well established trio of upmarket siblings. And I had a delightful preview of the new ship, with some of her soon-to-be signature elements showcased aboard Seven Seas Voyager after a $25 million, bow to stern refurbishment. The whole look is more open and vibrant, with fresh carpeting and new artwork everywhere, while the new, cushioned comfy chairs on the balconies make them sublimely relaxing little enclaves.

The start up of new, traditionally styled Viking Ocean Cruises is a real, refreshing example of a new cruise line, actually listening to, and acting on, the ideas of potential passengers. With an identical quartet of traditionally styled , 47,000 ton siblings coming on line from 2015 onwards, there’s a firm emphasis on elegance rather than excess, and more than just an echo of those sybaritic Royal Viking Line stalwarts of the past. Certainly one that bears watching, for sure.

But, without doubt, the highlight of 2013 has been the debut of the sensational, stand alone Europa 2. With balconies for every single room- and even the smallest of those half as large again as on her nearest rival- this brilliant, uber-elegant new ship is designed to appeal to families of all ages, with many inter- connecting suites. Internally, the decor is sharp, linear and bright; a true ‘grand hotel’ on the ocean that offers no less than eight sumptuous, open seating restaurants for a maximum of 516 guests.

Pool area on the Europa 2

Pool area on the Europa 2

Owners Hapag Lloyd Cruise Lines have created what is, quite simply, the most diverse and dramatic luxury ship afloat. From her indoor/outdoor nightclub to her central pool with its sliding glass dome, the Europa 2 feels like as much of a clean break with traditional maritime luxe as did the Normandie back in the thirties. Time and tide might prove her to be every bit as epochal.

So, no, it’s not all doom and gloom out there. While there’s not yet as much diversity across the cruising spectrum as there once was, those ships that are emerging are more chock full of delightful innovations than anything that has preceded them before. At the same time, a slowly growing realisation is gathering pace that the industry per se is not a one size fits all shop. Lines are responding to demand, and that can only be good for all concerned.

As ever, stay tuned.


Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is looking forward to a bumper 2014 cruise season, according to a report in the Bermuda Sun newspaper.

Well, at least a part of it is.

The north western port of Kings Wharf, hugely and extensively developed for cruising since 2004, will play host to no less than 132 cruise ship calls, disgorging a total of 356,000 passengers onto the island in the peak season between May and October.

Meanwhile, the former landmark ports of Hamilton and St. George’s are practically barren all year round.

New to the island next year is Royal Caribbean International’s Vision Of The Seas. The recently refurbished ship will sail three ten night, round trip cruises from Fort Lauderdale on June 9th, August 18th and September 1st, 2014. Each will spend three days and two nights in Bermuda, as well as making calls at Charleston, Nassau, and the company’s private island at Coco Cay.

From New York, the Explorer Of The Seas is scheduled to make twenty-seven calls and, from Baltimore, the Grandeur Of The Seas is slated for some fourteen Bermuda landfalls.

Sister company, Celebrity Cruises also offers nineteen round trips from New York on the Summit, the line’s Bermuda stalwart of several years past.

Meanwhile, the ground breaking Norwegian Breakaway returns from New York for some twenty-two calls over the course of 2014. The new ship had a hugely successful first season in 2013, during which she brought some ninety thousand passengers to the island, making a net contribution of some $26 million to the Bermuda economy.

Rounding out the roster of Bermuda round trip ‘regulars’ over 2014 is the Boston based Norwegian Dawn, with some twenty-two round trips on sale.

Side streets of St. George's, Bermuda

Side streets of St. George’s, Bermuda

The island is also expecting a one off call from Carnival Splendor in June, and there will be three calls from Princess, with Emerald, Ocean and Ruby Princess making one visit each.

The Bermuda government is also said to be courting Germany’s Aida cruises with a view to future business. Over the last year, the government has made key concessions to cruise lines, including allowing them to open their casinos while docked in Bermuda for the first time ever. The move was widely seen as a response to the exodus of lines like Holland America, the last bastion of the typical ‘Bermuda run’.

The 2014 roster of Bermuda arrivals is expected to contribute something like $90 million in total to the Bermuda economy in all. As well as disposable income coming from passengers in terms of shore excursion sales, meals and drinks and taxi fares, these figures also take into account the spending patterns of off duty cruise members, taking time out ashore at the end of their working days and nights.


Terrace view from the Superstar Virgo

Terrace view from the Superstar Virgo

In a move that will surprise more than a few people, Star Cruises have entered into talks with a major European shipyard- widely believed to be Meyer Werft at Papenburg, Germany- about the possibility of a new build for the Asian market.

if this is true, this will be the first purpose built new vessel for the line since the 1999 built Superstar Virgo. She was preceded a year earlier by a sister, the 70,000 ton Superstar Leo.

It was this stunning pair of sister ships that previewed the Freestyle Dining concept that was transferred so successfully to sister company, Norwegian Cruise Line. Also transferred was the Superstar Leo, sent to Norwegian in 2004, and currently cruising very successfully in Europe as the Asian-themed Norwegian Spirit.

The aftermath of 9/11 saw a rationalisation of the two cruise lines, with Star Cruises choosing to concentrate on smaller, second hand vessels transferred from the Norwegian fleet and modified for the Asian market. Their fleet currently comprises the Superstar Gemini (ex-Norwegian Dream), her twin sister Superstar Aquarius (ex-Norwegian Wind), the Superstar Libra (ex-Norwegian Sea) and the aforementioned Superstar Virgo, very much the queen of the fleet.

Traditionally, Star Cruises has concentrated on the Asian, Chinese and Indian markets, offering short three to five day cruises from a range of hubs that includes Taiwan, Port Kelang, and Hong Kong. The line did make one foray into Mediterranean cruising, sending the Superstar Libra to the region for a season of fly cruises that has not since been repeated.

Interestingly, a request from Norwegian Cruise Line for the Superstar Virgo was turned down by Genting, the parent company of Star Cruises, a few years ago.

Asian styled lobby of the Norwegian Spirit, ex-Superstar Leo

Asian styled lobby of the Norwegian Spirit, ex-Superstar Leo

What has changed significantly is the entry of other mainstream players into the potentially limitless Asian market, notably Costa, Royal Caribbean, Princess and even Celebrity. All of these lines brought in more modern, state of the art tonnage to vie with Star Cruises for its previously unquestioned dominant role in the Far East.

Star has clearly decided to act. The choice of Meyer Werft as a partner is logical; the German company has built most of the recent Norwegian tonnage- including Norwegian Breakaway and the imminent Norwegian Getaway- and it has an enviable record for delivering a quality product, one time and within budget.

What will be interesting to see is whether this will be a single ship order, or whether we are actually looking at tentative orders for one, or perhaps more, siblings. Details of size, facilities and parameters are obviously not out in the public domain yet. But I would expect any new build (s) to be fully competitive on all levels with the current crop of European imports cruising the same waters.

I’ll keep you updated as, if and when these become available. Stay tuned,

UPDATE: Today (October 7th) Star Cruises announced an order for a new,  3,364 passenger cruise ship from Meyer Werft’s Papenburg yard, at a cost of some 707 million euros. No other details are at present available.


Crystal Symphony, tendering passengers into Hamilton, Bermuda

Crystal Symphony, tendering passengers into Hamilton, Bermuda

Cruise Industry News has posted a revealing little snippet about the possible future direction of summer cruises to Bermuda.

It says that the Bermuda government may be partnering with an un-named ‘major cruise line’ to deliver a new docking facility on the east end of the island, as well as upgrading existing docking facilities to allow the arrival of the largest classes of mega ships.

The latter part of this is a no brainer, It surely refers to the existing facilities on the west end of the island, over at Kings Wharf. These currently allow ships in excess of 150.000 tons to berth- the area is home port for the brand new Norwegian Breakaway-to dock, four at a time. Presumably, any further expansion is aimed at attracting seasonal visits from either the enormous, 22,000 plus tons Oasis and Allure of The Seas.

Those two giants regularly operate year round Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, but either could just as easily offer an alternative, one week round trip to Bermuda if demand was deemed to be sufficient. It would certainly be something extra for the ships to offer to attract passengers jaded with the Caribbean. And, with enhanced docking facilities at Kings Wharf, a trial run would be at least practical for Royal Caribbean.

The bruited new east coast passenger terminal is far more enigmatic, and infinitely more controversial. It could only be around the area of the original capital of St. George’s, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of outstanding natural beauty. Hamilton, the current capital, is on the north coast, midway between the western and eastern extremities, and so does not sound like the development in question.

Side streets of St. George's, Bermuda

Side streets of St. George’s, Bermuda

The problem with St. George’s is that the entrance to the harbour can accommodate nothing above 50,000 tons at present. The coral reefs that flank it would have to be cut away massively to allow access of any kind- a bone of contention that has bedevilled attempts to revive the once lucrative St. George’s cruise trade for the better part of two decades.

The area could desperately use a return of mainstream cruises. In the late nineties, St George’s was regularly attracting four overnight cruise ship calls a week, week in and out from May to October. In 2011, the same port attracted just two in six months.

Holland America Line tried to resurrect the traditional Bermuda cruise for a few years with the mid sized Veendam, but lack of berthing space at the east end eventually scuppered that. So, when both HAL and parent company, Carnival, reviewed options for the 2013 season, they decided to abandon Bermuda altogether. The loss of HAL in particular was a body blow to the rump of the island’s east coast trade.

So an east coast terminal would clearly be to the economic benefit of both cruise lines and locals. But who is the cruise line looking to actively build such a facility?

I’m guessing it’s Carnival, who have a fine track record for developing purpose built locations such as Grand Turk, and the terminals in Barcelona and Savona for their Costa brand. For years, their rivals- Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean- have been holding court over at the lucrative Kings Wharf side of the island. Making a play for a dedicated east coast base would give Carnival a quite unique location.

The beauty of Bermuda is legendary

The beauty of Bermuda is legendary

But there are other potential obstacles on the horizon, such as the Bermuda government’s so far apparently steadfast determination to refuse on board casinos and shops permission to open while in port; a huge revenue loss to consider when ships are berthed in Bermuda for a minimum of two nights. Yet there did seem to be some signs of concession from the authorities ashore a few years ago, faced with a rising tide of cruise ship losses to the Caribbean. Perhaps some leeway in these laws could be the sweetener for the proposed new venture?

In any event, this is one worth watching. It will also be interesting to see how the infrastructure of Bermuda- an island only some twenty one miles long- can adapt to the anticipated increase in cruise trade.  The network of ferries and buses that cover the island are inadequate, there are precious few taxis, and private car hire is non existent.

All of these points will have to be addressed if the Bermuda cruise trade is to be revived but, faced with continually losing out to its neighbours in the Caribbean, the Bermuda government really has very little room for argument here.

Stay tuned.

Original report source: Cruise Industry News, 2/10/13.

Additional information: As of October 4th, 2013, the Bermuda Parliament voted to allow cruise ship casinos to stay open from 9pm to 5am while docked in Bermuda. Ships will need to remain in port for one night or longer to qualify, and a casino licensing fee will also be payable.


The perfect spot for some personal down time...

The perfect spot for some personal down time…

For most people, a cruise is a fantastic holiday that takes them to a string of interesting places that they have never seen before in most cases. So the urge to get off and explore- to get out there and see what these places are all about- is quite obviously a totally compelling thing; numero uno for most passengers, in fact.

Yet there is a small, growing band of people who do not bother to get off the ship at all in maybe one, or even two, headline ports. They choose instead to remain on board, soak up the sun and maybe use the pools. The bars and buffet are still open, so it’s still a full service experience.

This is especially so on the modern ships, with their dizzying array of water parks, rock climbing walls and roller blading tracks. In the old days, the ship used to be a hotel that transported passengers around the highlights of a cruise region. Now, with mega ships like Norwegian Breakaway and Oasis of The Seas, the ship has become the destination in and of itself.

And yet…. this is not as new a phenomenon as you might think. Back in the eighties, I met a couple aboard the Norway. They were on their ninth Caribbean cruise aboard her, and they never, ever, went ashore at all. They simply enjoyed having that vast amount of floating real estate to kick back on.

I found this strange, but after a few years I found myself slowly sagging into a similar state of mind. Especially in the middle of a long Mediterranean or Baltic itinerary, a ‘cathedral day pass’ can be the perfect way to recharge your batteries, and just generally spoil yourself.

And few things beat just a good, old fashioned spot of in port decadence on your own private balcony. Nothing brought this home like a day docked in Nassau last year, aboard the Seven Seas Navigator.

And. Re-lax....

And. Re-lax….

Across the pier from us, an enormous mega ship almost blotted out the sun. Sadly, not nearly enough for the conga line of hot and bothered passengers that snaked back to the end of the pier and probably beyond that, par boiling in that pitiless heat.

I really felt for them, as I lay there in my bathrobe, drinking the champagne I had on ice and picking at succulent chunks of delicious cold lobster. Sometimes, less effort definitely produces greater rewards. Truly, we live and we learn.


Crystal cruises has some of the most generous standard sized balconies afloat

Crystal cruises has some of the most generous standard sized balconies afloat

Cruise ship balconies have been all the rage for the better part of two decades now, but some of the latest ships to enter service have come in for some pointed criticisms in the balcony stakes.

Both the new Norwegian Breakaway and Royal Princess have been slated for cutting back on space on their standard balconies; both do, indeed, look a little on the small side. Photos reveal sitting room to be more than a little tight on both. And the mini suite balconies on the later ship have been slated as positively miniscule.

By contrast, the new Europa 2 of Hapag Lloyd Cruises boasts the largest standard balconies ever seen on any ship; at a whopping seventy five square feet, they are bigger than some of those  turn of the century steerage cabins offered by the same line in the nineteen hundreds.

She is, admittedly a deluxe ship, And yet balconies at sea are not quite as newfangled as you might think.

Italia Line sister ships, Saturnia and Vulcania, had a small suite of upper deck balcony cabins as far back as the 1920’s. These two ships operated on the Italian Line’s ‘sunny southern’ route between Italy and North America. Needless to say, these were attached to only the most very expensive cabins.

Later, in the 1930’s, the record breaking Normandie had a pair of vast, sternward facing terraces attached to her two pre-eminent suites. Ironically, these lacked the one thing essential to all good balcony accommodation; any form of privacy. Anyone walking the aft terraces of the French masterpiece could be party to the platinum chip lounging of the top suite occupants. Interestingly, her great rival, Queen Mary, had none.

Three years after her 1969 debut, Queen Elizabeth 2 had a prefabricated block of penthouses hoisted on board, just aft of her mainmast. These had small balconies, and a big effect on her centre of balance. In the winter of 1986-7, another block was added further aft, extending to just forward of the new funnel.

SS. Norway before the balconies were added around her distinctive funnels

SS. Norway before the balconies were added around her distinctive funnels

Two years later, her great rival, the SS. Norway, had a whole deck and a half of brand new balcony cabins built on her upper decks, around the funnels. And while some purists claimed that the addition ruined her beautiful lines forever, those new decks were instrumental in keeping the ageing former French liner financially afloat for another decade and a half.

Two things emerge from this; balconies are not new, but they are certainly here to stay. It seems doubly ironic that shrinking balcony real estate on seagoing ships is being complemented by increasingly generous balconies on the newest generation of river cruisers.

If this is a new trend in passenger shipping, it will not be a popular one. A balcony at sea should be a space to lounge on, and not merely a ledge to perch on.