HARMONY, PERFECT HARMONY; THREE FOR ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Royal Caribbean International has finally announced that it’s third Oasis class behemoth, Harmony Of The Seas, will deploy on year round Caribbean cruises when she enters service in 2016.

Many people assumed that the 227,000 ton ship would head out to Asia as the trump card in RCCL’s voracious empire building pack. But other counsels have decreed that the huge ship will go to the Caribbean instead.

She will replace first of class Oasis Of The Seas on the lucrative, seven night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings out of Fort Lauderdale, joining twin sister ship, Allure Of The Seas, on alternating week long circuits. Oasis Of The Seas herself will move a few miles north to Port Canaveral to inaugurate a series of similar sailings.

Though it seems a foregone conclusion that one of these monster ships will now sail the Mediterranean each summer, winters will still see this formidable trio running the seven day circuits from Florida. And, whatever your feelings on mega ships in general, there is no disputing the monumental scale and sheer, organisatioanl wizardry involved in such a programme.

Consider this; three ships, totalling over three quarters of a million tons collectively, discharging and embarking some thirty-six thousand passengers, week in and out, over a six month season. On any level, this is an operation thought out- and carried through- with almost miltary precision, as the precisely co-ordinated sailings of both Oasis and Allure from Fort Lauderdale can testify.

Having invested a fortune in infrastructure over the last few years, the burghers of Port Canaveral must be clapping their hands with glee at at an eagerly anticipated footfall of some twelve thousand cruise passengers a week from the Oasis Of The Seas, not to mention the knock on effect for local shops, hotels, transportation and entertainment venues.

Of course, may wil simply roll their eyes and say that this is just one more mega ship feeding more fuel to an already overcrowded winter Caribbean season. For sure, there is not much in the way of real variety in thr destination offerings of any of the three ships.

But that misses the point, because these three ships- the largest sister ships ever built- are destinations in their own right; enormous floating theme parks, small islands that combine the best of Vegas with all the comfort, ease and spectacular dining and accommodation that you could possibly want.

Not very ‘adventurous’ for sure; but package all that up and dangle it in front of some denizen of New York, Boston or Toronto in the depths of a freezing winter, and the lure is magnetic. Not to mention the allure- pardon the pun- that those vast, sun drenched hulls, carousing around the Caribbean in winter- hold for a whole armada of sun deprived Europeans.

One thing is for sure; Royal Caribbean know exactly what they are doing by sending this third huge, enormous floating city to the sunshine of the sultry Caribbean.

Harmony Of The Seas is Caribbean bound in 2016

Harmony Of The Seas is Caribbean bound in 2016

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OASIS 4- GOING WHERE, EXACTLY?

Allure Of The Seas is Barcelona bound in 2015

Allure Of The Seas is Barcelona bound in 2015

As attention here in the UK focuses on two ship launches next month- P&O’s Britannia in Southampton on March 10th, and the Tilbury inauguration of Cruise and Maritimes’ Magellan at Tilbury on the 12th, STX shipyard in France has quietly begin cutting the steel for the fourth of the gigantic, 220,000 ton Oasis class shps yesterday over at Saint Nazaire.

To put her in some kind of context, this monster ship alone is more than twice the size of the combined total tonnage of the four ship Cruise and Maritime fleet. She rounds off- for now at least- the most physically spectacular quartet of passenger carrying vessels ever built. But the big question is; where will she go?

With her already complete pair of siblings sailing the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale- and Allure Of The Seas making her summer European debut this year- you have to wonder if there is a winter Caribbean market for even another one of these gigantic vessels, let alone the pair that are now officially underway.

Each week, Oasis and Allure both disembark  6,500 passengers, before embarking the same number again- an extraordinary through footfall of 26,000 passengers through the Florida port for these two ships alone. And, while no one can doubt that this is an extraordinary logistical feat- indeed, an unparalleled one- it has to be asked if one or two more such monsters could be viable in the serially overcrowded winter Caribbean cruise trade.

So, where would you send one or both of these ships- each of them the size of a small city- to fill them? Obviously, Royal Caribbean has long since done the numbers, and has a plan that works for them. But, as we are in the dark regarding the itineraries for these ships, we’ll have to indulge in a little speculation.

It is entirely possible that one, or perhaps even two, of this extraordinary quartet could go straight to China, for cruising in the Far East. Like the rival Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean fully recognises the vast potential of the Chinese market. In point of fact, I’d put money on one- or perhaps even both- of these new ships being China bound soon after completion.

I would also expect that we will now see an annual European cruise season each year for one of these ships, primarily in the Western Mediterranean. I expect the Allure Of The Seas will be hugely popular in 2015 as she gears up for her first ever season of seven day ‘Meddy-Go-Round’ cruises out of Barcelona. That being a given, it would be pretty unwise for Royal Caribbean not to repeat the experience on a yearly basis, though whether the line will keep a ship on this scale on year round European cruises might yet be a bridge too far.

Interesting times in the mega ship market, for sure. As ever, stay tuned for updates.

MSC ANNOUNCES NEW ORDER- PROJECT SEASIDE

Pool area on the MSC Magnifica

Pool area on the MSC Magnifica

As was widely expected, MSC Cruises has just announced a 2.1 billion euro order with the Italian Fincantieri shipyard for a pair of new ships, with an option for a third. The first of the new class- code named Project Seaside- is scheduled for delivery in November 2017, and the second in May, 2018.

The dimensions are quite staggering; with a length of 323 metres, the two ships will be 70 metres high, and have an extraordinarily wide draft of 41 metres each. At some 154,000 tons, these two ships will be the largest ever to be built in an Italian yard. Artist’s illustrations of the twin sisters reveal a silhouette that is substantially influenced by both the Oasis class juggernauts of Royal Caribbean, as well as the one off Norwegian Epic.

The two ships will be capable of accommodating 5,300 passengers across a total of 2,070 cabins, as well as a crew of some 1,413.

The extra wide beam will facilitate an extraordinary amount of interior public spaces, estimated at around 43,500 square metres. It is also claimed that the two ships will be able to dock in any port around the world, an incredible statement in light of their vast dimensions.

As far as general arrangements go, the ships will offer what is described as a ‘sea level promenade’ that will feature a string of outdoor bars, shops and restaurants. The line here has clearly been taking note of the phenomenal success of similar outdoor areas on the last two Norwegian new builds, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, as well as- to a lesser -extent- the three ships of the popular Carnival Dream series.

As things stand, MSC Cruises is entering a period of growth and enhancement that would make even Royal Caribbean look to its laurels. In addition to the new ships announced today, the line also has committed to a pair of 150,000 ton giant cruise ships from the STX shipyard in France.

In addition to that, Fincantieri will also begin a programme of chopping and stretching each of the four smallest ships in the MSC fleet- Lirica, Armonia, Sinfonia and Opera, over the coming winter through to spring, 2015. Each of the four extended, enhanced vessels will come in at around 65,000 tons. While big, this is still a long way smaller than the quartet of new behemoths that are in the pipeline.

The new builds will take MSC Cruises from a twelve ship fleet to sixteen within a timescale of only four years from now. By any standards you care to judge these new vessels, it is still a pretty staggering achievement for any line.

As always, stay tuned.

Update: MSC cruises has just announced that one of their massive, 133,000 ton Fantasia class ships will be coming to sail from the UK in eother 2016 or 2017.

OASIS 3 KEEL LAYING- THE GENESIS OF A GIANT. AND OASIS 4 IS GO, TOO….

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

As much of the UK media attention is focused on the historic celebrations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Queen Mary 2, a small ceremony is today taking place over in the shipyard that gave birth to the iconic Cunarder.

STX Saint Nazaire in France is the site of the keel laying ceremony for the third in the gargantuan Oasis class of mega ships, the largest passenger carrying vessels that the world has ever seen. The ship- with no name as yet- is scheduled to enter service in the spring of 2018, and is the first of the trio not to be built in Finland.

And, in a move which will surprise few, Royal Caribbean has just announced an order for a fourth vessel in the class, also from STX.

While many people expressed surprise at Royal Caribbean going to STX Saint Nazaire for the new behemoth, the two companies actually have a shared history.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was Saint Nazaire that produced the first class of mega ship for Royal  Caribbean. The Sovereign Of The Seas was first in January of 1988, and was soon followed by two almost identical sisters, Monarch Of The Seas and Majesty Of The Seas, in 1992.

This first generation of super ships were, in their day, every bit as groundbreaking and technically advanced as their siblings of the Oasis class. All three are still in service, though only the Majesty Of The Seas is still with Royal Caribbean.

The French yard also built the Nordic Empress, originally ordered for Admiral Cruises but then completed for Royal Caribbean, back in 1990.

It is true that Royal Caribbean has been associated with Finnish and German yards such as Meyer Werft in Papenburg over recent decades. The new ships from STX join a construction roster that includes a pair of new, twin sister ships for MSC Cruises. After years of playing second fiddle to Germany, the French shipyard has certainly come out swinging.

The most fascinating thing about the new Royal Caribbean ships will be in seeing how much they will differ from their earlier sisters. With both Oasis Of The Seas and Allure Of The Seas due to make their first European cruises- in 2014 and 2015 respectively- the huge European market is obviously being primed for the potential, perhaps year round deployment of one of these innovative, ground breaking  new giants.

Exciting times for future cruises in Europe, to be sure. As always, stay tuned.

OVERTURE TO OASIS: EUROPEAN LANDFALL IN 2014

Oasis Of The Seas is Europe bound this year

Oasis Of The Seas is Europe bound this year

With 2014 now a reality, excitement is starting to build over this year’s European debut of the giant Oasis Of The Seas in the autumn.

The 220,000 ton game changer will sail a pair of transatlantic crossings between America and Europe, together with a brace of five night Mediterranean cruises and an eight night cruise to Holland, on either side of her first scheduled dry docking and overhaul since her 2009 debut.

The first, twelve night transatlantic crossing sails from Fort Lauderdale on September 1st, and arrives in Barcelona on the 13th, with a stop at Malaga en route. This is followed by a pair of five night jaunts to Rome and Naples, departing on September 13th and 18th.

The Oasis Of The Seas then  heads for Rotterdam on September 23rd, on a seven night cruise that takes her via Malaga and Vigo. The giant ship will be in dry dock for two weeks, before a return crossing takes her from Southampton back to Fort Lauderdale on October 15th, with stops at Cozumel and Nassau en route.

This first major European landfall for the giant ship will surely be a trial run for future deployments. With a third ship in the class already on order from STX France, a fourth vessel as a distinct possibility, and sister ship Allure Of The Seas scheduled for her own major European overhaul in 2015, the short 2014 season for Oasis Of The Seas will determine such things as the intricacies involved in docking and supplying one of the two largest cruise ships ever built.

A longer deployment of one of these ships to Europe looks to be a certainty. With a capacity in excess of 5,400 passengers, the Oasis Of The Seas will present a unique set of logistical challenges for the Spanish and Italian ports she will visit. Any potential hitches that can be uncovered and overcome now will make for a more seamless series of future deployments.

While Rotterdam might seem a strange place for a two week, labour intensive overhaul, the Dutch port and Royal Caribbean actually have a shared history. The Vision class Enchantment Of The Seas was lengthened in the same Rotterdam dockyard a few years back, the first- and so far the only one- of that six ship class to get this treatment to date.

A highlight of the programme will be the arrival of Oasis Of The Seas in Southampton on October 15th. She will be by far the largest passengers ship ever to berth in the Hampshire port- bigger than the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth combined.

No doubt Royal Caribbean will take full advantage of the tidal wave of excitement her arrival will generate. Whatever your take on big, modern cruise ships, there is no doubt at all that the coming of Oasis Of The Seas raises the cruising ante in Europe by a couple of notches.

As always, stay tuned.

TRAVEL TRENDS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2014

The magnificent Swallow's Nest in Yalta

The magnificent Swallow’s Nest in Yalta

With the last rites for 2013 about to be intoned, now is as good a time as any to look at some of the potential highlights on offer in what could be quite a shiny 2014. So, for your consideration, here are some of the more tasty prospects on offer across the cruise spectrum.

Expect Nile Cruises to make a slow but steady comeback in 2014. It was barely noticed, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently lifted it’s advisory on not travelling to Egypt, and the numerous river cruise operators on the Nile are gearing up to rebuild that shattered trade. Expect low initial prices, plenty of availability, and some of the most fascinating and ageless sightseeing anywhere on the planet.

The Black Sea is hugely under rated as a cruise destination, quite astonishing when you consider the wealth of attractions it can offer within a relatively short distance. With evocative names such as Sevastopol, Odessa and Yalta, the region is a historical glut. Offering such sights as the famous Swallow’s Nest at Yalta, and the field where the Light Brigade made it’s infamous, doomed charge, it should be on everybody’s ‘to do’ list at least once.

Voyages To Antiquity offer a couple of Black Sea cruises in 2014 on the small, highly styled Aegean Odyssey. With all excursions included in the price, and top quality lecturers on board to put the region in its proper historical context, this is definitely the way to go ‘back to the future’.

More historical reminiscence is on offer with the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in June. With lines as diverse as Cruise And Maritime, Fred. Olsen and even Holland America offering invasion themed itineraries, there will be no shortage of options to relieve the first few months in the story of Operation Overlord, and the eventual Allied breakout from Northern France.

Meanwhile, the seemingly endless expansion of Caribbean cruise options gets another boost with the January debut of the new, Miami themed Norwegian Getaway. With a vibe and an on board lifestyle aimed at echoing the sultry, seductive ambiance of South Beach, the huge, new 154,000 ton ship will be cruising from Miami year round, and definitely ups the ante in terms of on board eateries, entertainment, and watering holes. She should be an absolute smash.

Rome will be a highlight for Oasis Of The Seas passengers in autumn 2014

Rome will be a highlight for Oasis Of The Seas passengers in autumn 2014

Heading the other way, the enormous Oasis Of The Seas begins a brief European season in the early autumn, as she brackets a handful of Mediterranean cruises in with essential dry docking in Rotterdam. One of the two largest cruise ships ever constructed, the mold breaking leviathan is using the cruises as a series of obvious trial runs for future deployment of one of these ships in the more crowded ports of Southern Europe.

These are just a handful of the forthcoming highlights for 2014. No doubt many, many more will be unveiled over the course of the next few months or so. My advice, as ever, is to stay tuned.

MSC ON THE MOVE; NEWS FROM A MAJOR PLAYER

MSC Orchestra is Australia bound next year

MSC Orchestra is Australia bound next year

After weeks of swirling rumours, news has come from Italian giant, MSC, on the next phase of the line’s direction.

Firstly, the line’s first ever dedicated newbuild, the MSC Lirica of 2003, will be lengthened to accommodate an extra two hundred cabins. The work is intended to be completed before the ship’s projected deployment to South America next winter, as part of a four ship line up which will also include the larger Preziosa, Poesia, and Magnifica.

As things currently stand, MSC Lirica comes in at just over 58,000 tons, and has a length of 830 feet (253 metres in new money). Built by Chantiers of Saint Nazaire, France, she presently accommodates 1,560 passengers in some 780 cabins.

No shipyard has yet been announced for the work, but the timescale almost certainly means the cancellation of at least a significant part of the MSC Lirica’s 2014 cruise schedule.

This also throws up the question of whether her twin sister, MSC Opera, is also slated for eventual similar expansion. With the line’s commitment to ever larger ships and continuing economies of scale, it seems much more likely than not.

In another move, MSC has announced that it will deploy the MSC Orchestra to Australia and the Far East next winter, after a season out of Dubai. Thus, the line emulates the moves of rivals such as Carnival, Celebrity and principally, Costa, in deploying a major ship ‘down under’.

MSC ships are known for their chic, stylish interiors

MSC ships are known for their chic, stylish interiors

And rumours of impending new builds continue to be floated, if not yet confirmed, by the company. Reports are that MSC is looking at building two new ships, with an option for a further pair at a later date. These new vessels would not be longer than the existing ships in the Splendida class; the line has concerns about being able to berth them in certain ports, and have apparently ruled out building longer vessels.

One possibility is that the new ships will be wider; if so, this would follow a trend inaugurated by Norwegian Cruise Line in the design of the Norwegian Epic in 2010, and subsequently emulated by the giant, groundbreaking Oasis and Allure Of The Seas.

One interesting story that surfaced a few years ago was that MSC might actually be contemplating a giant catamaran kind of design. If so, this would be the first since the former Radisson Diamond, a 20,000 ton design from 1992. Much was made at the time of the excellent stability of the Radisson Diamond design, but her main service speed was actually very low, and definitely hurt the itineraries she could offer.

With the benefits of two decades of advances in technology, it is possible that MSC has managed to find a way to solve that speed conundrum. And such a design would certainly be a striking, truly newsworthy coup in PR/publicity terms.

As always, stay tuned for updates.

BIGGING UP BERMUDA- NEW CRUISE TERMINAL DEVELOPMENTS ON THE WAY? (Updated)

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.  www.cruiseindustrynews.com

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.

STAYING ON BOARD-MAKING THE MOST OF THE SHIP….

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.

SUMMER CRUISING IN THE CARIBBEAN- THE PROS AND THE CONS

Summer or winter, cruising the Caribbean is still the stuff of dreams

Summer or winter, cruising the Caribbean is still the stuff of dreams

With the market for Mediterranean cruises flatlining for the foreseeable future, more and more of the big lines are starting to pull one or more of their ships out of Europe, choosing instead to deploy them out of US ports during the summer months.

Surprisingly, Alaska has not been a big beneficiary of this about turn; nor has New England really benefited too much (though signs are that may change). Bermuda is not slated to receive any more tonnage. Perhaps that’s just as well- the main piers at King’s Wharf are at almost maximum capacity now, as things stand.

No. The real winner will be the Caribbean.

For years- decades, in fact- the idea of summer Caribbean cruises was anathema to expansionist minded cruise lines. Europe, the great draw, could command far higher on board prices, plus much more of a mark up in terms of selling shore excursions and transfer packages. That combination of factors, plus the economy in fuel consumption gained by pottering overnight between not-too-distant ports of call, was a model followed by all the major players in the industry.

But now, the summertime Caribbean is firmly on the map. And I mean the Caribbean proper, and not just the year round succession of three and four day Bahamas junkets.

Grand Turk has become a Caribbean staple in recent years

Grand Turk has become a Caribbean staple in recent years

For our American friends, these trips are good news. They provide them with ‘drive-to’ options in many cases, sailing from ports such as Baltimore, Charleston, Galveston and even New Orleans, and allowing them to avoid the train wreck that is domestic air travel these days. And, of course, the mostly all inclusive nature of even a short cruise can beat any hotel for price and value.

Not forgetting Miami, of course, from where the gargantuan Oasis of The Seas and Allure of The Seas cruise the Caribbean year round. These incredible twin floating cities embark in the order of twelve thousand passengers between them, every week of the year.

And, of course, the region is less crowded in summer. Far fewer ships equals far more space to stroll, stretch, and just chill out. Temperatures are still going to make you smile. There’s less of a strain on the local infrastructures on all the islands; and that’s something that definitely puts everybody in a better, happier frame of mind.

So, availability and accessibility are all well and good. What about the negatives?

The obvious one is the stark fact that the summer months- June through November- still constitute Hurricane Season across the eastern seaboard as a whole. The arrival of the first hint of a storm can mean wholesale disruptions to Caribbean summer cruises, and sometimes a complete change of itinerary in extreme cases. If seeing Nassau is really important to you (though God knows why it would be) then you’re going to be more than a tad upset if you’re diverted to Newport, Rhode Island, instead. Chances are slight, to be fair; but they do exist.

St Maarten is a perennial beauty

St Maarten is a perennial beauty

Another factor is that, despite the downturn,  many lines still like to showcase their most up to date new ships during high season in Europe. Obvious exception- Royal Caribbean once again. So, if you want to cruise on the latest ship with all the most up to date attractions and diversions, summer in the Caribbean might not float your own personal boat.

For us Europeans, the principal bugbear is now the stratospheric cost of transatlantic flights. Not the flights per se, but the appalling amount of punitive taxes added to each fare. In an age where perception is everything, we see rising fares and diminishing quality in terms of product delivery. And, until those twin subjects are addressed- or at least prevented from going further downhill- that will not change any time soon.