Michael McCarthy, chair of Cruise Europe, noted cruising in North Europe continues to gain in strength and with 50-plus cruiseships on order valued at over $40bn he called on members to step up to the mark on facilities to take these ships and urged ports, destinations and national bodies to match the lines’ investment in facilities to welcome these ships.
Miguel Reyna, director commercial development at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd spoke of lessons learnt from his company’s experiences of operating megaships. Quoting Bermello & Ajamil numbers Reyna said: by 2040 60% of cruise ships will be over 1,000ft LOA whereas today the number is around 20% of the overall fleet.
Reyna said that Royal has spent a lot of time working on speeding up the check-in operations for the next generation cruise ships. Now we are focussing on the disembarkation process to make the collection of luggage in the terminal at the end of the cruise a much better experience, he remarked.
Stephen Young, director of port services & govt. affairs for Carnival UK highlighted the need for ports to talk to the naval architects of newbuilds as well as the cruise lines when planning terminals to accommodate 5,000 plus passenger vessels. ‘At least two gangways are required and to be able to accommodate two upper level gangways is the ideal,’ he commented.
Focussing on the shorex side of the business, Crystal Morgan director of itinerary planning Princess Cruises gave a digital presentation of the lines’ Partners Programme using local experts to talk about their destination and bringing it to life. Filming is being conducted across the globe this year with North Europe already completed. Morgan said Princess is also looking to broaden the film clips in future to use a local chef or winemaker or artist or designer to talk about their work and provide another layer of discovery in destinations.
Claire Ward praised the efforts of Hundested in Denmark where Fred Olsen recently visited for the first time during a mystery cruise: ‘They provided Vikings on the quayside, a very warm welcome, home visits and user-friendly maps highlighting seven things to experience in port during their stay,’ the senior commercial planning manager explained.
Russel Daya, exec director global port ops and developments, itinerary and strategic planning Disney Cruise Line described how it leverages the most out of the company’s intellectual property taking Disney characters and overlaying them in destinations such as meeting Anna, Elsee and Krishoff from Frozen on a shorex in Alesund or dance with Beauty and the Beast in Catherine’s Palace in St Petersburg.
Helen Caron, md Thomson Cruises spoke of the line’s growing fleet of soon to be six ships as potentially providing more opportunities for North European itineraries and she called for the growing demand for authentic, active and even dare-devil shore experiences.
Representatives from the smaller ship operators had a voice also: Nicolai Skogland, port ops manager at Viking Cruises said North Europe is perceived to be a safe place to cruise but he asked ports why are lines penalised and forced to pay over charges when wanting to stay late into the evening or overnight when we are bringing more money to the local economy?
Mary Shaw Delaney, director shoreside services Silversea Cruises stressed the need for ports not to forget the smaller ships whilst they are in pursuit of looking after the megaships. ‘Do not let the berth facilities in the middle of town be taken away from you if you build a super berth outside of the town as we want them.’
Sander Groothuis, director of marine ops Windstar Cruises, who undertook a survey of 40 port agents around the world asking them the differences between handling mega ships and smaller ships said, ‘the concensus is us small guys are easier to deal with and more organised!
Adding a lighter touch to the proceedings Groothuis also asked what was the most bizarre agency service requested by a cruise ship? Answers ranged from a donkey for the Xmas Party to fresh wild Norwegian strawberries out of season to 100 leather trousers for the German night.