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Exploring the New Cruise Hybrid

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Expedition Expert Liz GammonWho’s leading the way in the cruise hybrid model? 

We really are spoiled for choice at the moment! There are a lot of ships that fit the hybrid model to a T—that is to say ‘ultra-luxury expedition’. The itineraries are inspired, the onboard expedition teams are the best in the business, the ships are simply stunning; beautifully designed, environmentally conscious and sporting an ever-growing range of expedition extras.

Amongst several outstanding lines is Scenic Eclipse with her ice-strengthened hull, helipad (two Airbus H130 helicopters), aft marina, fleet of Zodiacs (large-capacity inflatable boats) and a 7-person submarine. Another showstopper due to set sail in 2020 is Crystal Cruises´ Crystal Endeavour, whose two excursion helicopters, submarine, and aft marina are just three of her standout features. Ponant’s Le Jacques-Cartier and Le Bellot are set to launch in 2020, along with Silversea’s Silver Moon and Silver Origin

Whilst further on the horizon but coming ever tantalisingly closer is Seabourn’s Seabourn Venture, which is scheduled to launch in June 2021, with a second yet-to-be-named sister ship slated to launch in May 2022. Both ships will be designed and built for diverse environments to PC6 Polar Class standards and will include a plethora of modern hardware and technology—like twin custom-built submarines and 24 Zodiacs—that will extend the ships global deployment and capabilities.


Where do you see this sector heading? 

I think that the small ships arena is going to be very exciting to watch develop over the next few years. Itineraries will get more adventures and there will be a lot of new, small port interest, bringing new opportunities for Ground Operators to get creative and craft exploration styled shore excursions. We’ll be discussing this more during the panel.

On the land side, there is definitely a trend, or should I say, a hankering for authentic, in-depth, expedition-style touring with longer pre/post land programmes. Guests have obviously been expressing a desire to spend more time on land and operators have been listening to that request. Generally, there is much less of an ‘organised shore excursion’ feel to the land programs of the new Hybrid fleet—no doubt thanks to the smaller excursion group sizes and the activities organised onboard. For example, zodiac landings, hiking and kayaking.
It might come as a surprise to some, but luxury expedition cruising is not just about visiting the Polar regions in order to view penguins and polar bears from close range. Cultural experiences and close interaction, learning and experiencing something new is a big part of the hybrid expedition model. It’s all about discovery.

I will say though, entertainment onboard a smaller expedition styled ship can be quite different to the glitzy West End styled productions frequently associated with cruising in general, and might even be considered, by some, to be pretty low-key. Instead, it often comes in the form of lectures and preparing for the next day’s exploration – which might be a hike, a zodiac excursion or a land-based experience, so an outstanding and experienced expedition team is a must. 

 

And regarding Seatrade Cruise Global 2020?

With the number of hybrid new builds on the order book, the future looks very promising for ports, destinations and tour operators. I can’t wait to discuss the new cruise hybrid, and can imagine the exhibition floor is going to be a-buzz with itinerary planners on the hunt for new and exciting ports! 

To hear more from Liz Gammon about this new cruise hybrid, or to get more insights on Expedition Cruising, register for Seatrade Cruise Global today!
 

Vow's Scanship wins contract for CSSC Carnival newbuild

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CSSC Carnival is a joint venture between Carnival Corp. & plc, China Investment Corp. and the CSSC shipyard.

Scanship will supply a system including garbage handling and food waste processing.

CSSC Carnival currently has two firmly contracted newbuilds with CSSC plus options for an additional four vessels.

Victory gets a second newbuild, Ocean Discoverer, for Alaska

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Ocean Discoverer is part of SunStone Ships' Infinty class expedition newbuilds under construction in China

This will become the fourth ship sailing for Victory, a brand operated by American Queen Steamboat Co. (AQSC).

The 200-passenger Ocean Discoverer is being built in China by SunStone Ships for delivery in September 2022 and will join Ocean Victory in Alaska in 2023. Ocean Discoverer will debut with the Discover Beyond Alaska Expedition Adventure Cruise itineraries, currently available for booking on board Ocean Victory.

John Waggoner, founder and CEO, AQSC, welcomed the expansion of Victory Cruise Lines' experiences following the success of the brand's inaugural season in the Great Lakes, the Canadian Maritimes and New England.

Infinity class

Like sister Ocean Victory, set for delivery to SunStone this year, Ocean Discovery is part of the Infinity class of expedition ships under construction at China Merchants Heavy Industries.

The 8,500gt, 104.4-meter/342.5-foot vessels each have 93 suites, 68 with balconies, nine with French balconies and 16 with panoramic windows. Each ship has two restaurants, an open-deck dining area, observation and lecture lounges, piano bar, library, gym, spa, pool, pool bar and Jacuzzi. And 100 crew will serve each vessel.

California Polytechnic experts

Victory plans immersive shore excursions led by marine biologists, scientists and naturalists throughout the 12- to 13-day expedition voyages. Featured on the expedition team are scientists from the Department of Marine Biology at California Polytechnic State University, through a partnership with the line. A fleet of kayaks and Zodiacs will facilitate exploration.

X-BOW design

The Infinity-class ships have Ulstein's patented X-BOW design for a smoother ride and reduced noise and vibration. Rolls-Royce zero-speed stabilizers reduce rolling and a dynamic positioning system eliminates the need for anchors in sensitive areas.

Carnival Cruise Line pre-empts calls at Cayman, Jamaica (updated)

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Carnival Horizon and Carnival Freedom

Update: Carnival Horizon is in Amber Cove today and will visit Grand Turk and Nassau later in the week. Carnival Freedom is in Key West today and will visit Belize and Cozumel later in the week.

'A number of Caribbean destinations continue to work through their policies with regards to cruise ship visits. And while we are following all US CDC and World Health Organization screening protocols and guidelines, we want to avoid any possibility of a visit to a destination where there is uncertainty or we risk being turned away,' the company said in a statement.

'No health situation on board to trigger concern'

'To be clear, there is no health situation on board to trigger this concern, but we are making this change to avoid even the possibility of a disruption.'

Follows MSC Meraviglia uncertainty last week

Last week, MSC Meraviglia was turned away by Jamaica and Grand Cayman and ultimately accepted by Cozumel. No coronavirus was detected on board.

Richard Fain: 'No cause for panic' over coronavirus

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'While the virus is to be taken seriously, it's not a cause for panic — not in a personal sense, and not in a business sense either,' Richard Fain said

'This is a tough time, a really tough time, and all of us know it because all of us are going through it together,' the Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO said. 'And after enough challenging days for your business, after reading enough of the endless media reports about coronavirus, it's really easy to think that the world is coming to an end.

'Well, I have a spoiler alert: It's not.'

Natural to worry in a storm

Fain continued: 'We're all spending time worrying and that's natural, because we're in a storm. And when you're in the middle of a storm, it certainly feels like it'll never end. But as with most storms, it gets worse before it gets better. It's hard to remember this, too, shall pass.

'And while the virus is to be taken seriously, it's not a cause for panic — not in a personal sense, and not in a business sense either.'

Like you, we're hurting

Fain acknowledged the impact on RCL's business 'ain't pretty. There's a technical term I learned in business school: It sucks.

'Like you, we're hurting. We've had to cancel cruises, we've lost revenue and our people are putting in long days looking out for the health and safety of our guests and crew.

'But we've absolutely sailed through rough waters like this before, and we've weathered every storm, side by side, with you.'

Fain recalled 9/11, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, the Ebola scare.

'In each one, it felt to me like the rough seas were never going to end, but in each case they did.'

Walking the walk

'We are a strong and growing company in a strong and growing industry, and that's the walk we're walking. Because when this is finally behind us, and it will be behind us, we are going to be in a position to take advantage and move forward at a fast pace, and you will be, too.'

'The bad news is we're in a tough patch. The good news is that we're in it together. And together we'll get to the better part sooner than you think.'

The video is here.

American ramps up builds, sees Viking arrival, AQSC growth as affirming

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At a time when many ocean lines have halted advertising due to coronavirus uncertainties, American continues its campaign, launched in November

Competition heats up

This comes at a time when Viking is poised to enter the US river market and as American Queen Steamboat Co. (AQSC) introduces a fourth paddlewheeler this spring.

American’s reaction to Viking’s entrance?

‘It’s good. It just brings more exposure to the market and increases the visibility of river cruising in the country. We’ve built our own market and will continue to define our own market. We’ve got a different market and there’s enough business for both of us,’ said Charles B. Robertson, who succeeded his late father as CEO of American in February.

AQSC, he added, 'has a different product also and is attracting a different segment' as that line grows its paddlewheeler fleet with the planned April introduction of American Countess.

Big market for small ships

The fact that multiple brands are thriving stateside ‘really speaks to the size of the market potential,’ Robertson said. ‘There’s such a big market out there.’

Everyone adding capacity means river cruising in America is ‘here to stay. People are realizing river cruises are available and are fantastic in this country,' he continued.

‘One challenge when we started was just educating people it is an option in this country.’ Now, with availability of modern boats like those in Europe, ‘There is more appeal. We’re really getting the message out.’

2021 newbuilds doubled

American Jazz is debuting on the Mississippi in the third quarter this year, bringing the fleet to 12, and the decision was recently made to add two newbuilds — not one — in 2021. American Melody's inaugural was moved forward to June from September, and construction just began on a sister vessel.

Robertson pinned the moves on 'extraordinary' demand for modern riverboats.

Though nothing has been announced, he wouldn’t be surprised if two more newbuilds also follow in 2022.

A competitive strength is the ability to build at affiliated company Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland. Steve McGee, president of Chesapeake, said the facility has five hull fabrication buildings and more than 1,000 feet of deep-water bulkhead to build and outfit multiple ships at the same time.

According to Robertson, production can ramp up without adding infrastructure but the workforce is increasing and Chesapeake is looking at new engineering processes to improve efficiency.

American continues tweaking its product with each newbuild, making small changes that will start to be announced in the near future. Passenger capacity will stay under 200, though, an 'important threshold’ to enable the delivery of the small-ship experience the line's known for.

Big rooms, lots of glass

Robertson said accommodations on American’s modern-style boats are 70% larger than the average European river vessel, while suites may be double the size. Balconies have gotten larger, and have more furniture (table and chairs), with the bigger suites adding chaise lounges.

The real distinction, though, is the design aesthetic. There are large glass areas to let in light and provide a better viewing experience which is so vital for river cruising. The color palette is more contemporary, the exercise room is expanded and a yoga venue added. In addition to the single-seating dining room is a top deck café serving casual fare like burgers, salads and pizza.

Pricing is inclusive. Because there are so few premium (extra-cost) items, there isn't even a point-of-sale system on board. Mississippi, Columbia/Snake rivers and Alaska programs include an excursion at every port; more extra-cost tours are available in New England.

No further paddlewheelers

American doesn’t plan to build more paddlewheelers, having switched focus to the modern-style boats with American Song in 2018, continuing with American Harmony in 2019.

‘We love the paddlewheelers we have and will continue to operate them, and there’s a fabulous market for them,’ Robertson said. ‘But the modern riverboat style is where we see a concentration of demand and market appeal.’

This type of vessel better accommodates the younger end of American’s market, where future growth lies. But Robertson was quick to state it’s ‘critical we don’t alienate the older end of the market, and we’ve seen they’re comfortable with either style: traditional or modern. We were concerned our loyal passenger base might not like the modern style as much and are thrilled that’s not the case.’

Close to home campaign

At a time when many ocean lines have halted advertising due to travel uncertainties surrounding coronavirus, American continues its ‘Cruise Close to Home’ marketing begun in November.

Ninety percent of the US mainland population can drive to an American cruise within a 'reasonable amount of time,' cutting out the need to get on a plane.

Coronavirus

‘We are definitely affected by [coronavirus], but it’s having less impact than on the rest of the industry,' Robertson told Seatrade Cruise News. 'We’re insulated a bit by virtue of the smaller ships and entirely domestic itineraries. We’re dealing with it like the rest of the industry and, yes, we take it absolutely seriously.’

American adheres to Cruise Lines International Association policy and procedures to avoid transmission of the virus.

Some travelers whose overseas cruises were canceled have come to American as an alternative. ‘That’s not something we’re promoting,' Robertson said. 'We're not looking to be opportunistic.'

Holistica advances $300m Grand Bahama development

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The first phase of the Lucaya Property includes a new hotel, shopping village, water and adventure theme park, restaurants and bars, entertainment and nightlife

Opening is set for winter 2022.

Two locations

Holistica — a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Mexico's ITM Group — has a plan spanning two locations. These entail the enhancement and expansion of the port, to be called Harbour Village, and the Lucaya Property, situated at the current Grand Lucayan resort.

The first phase of the Lucaya Property is envisioned as a world-class beachfront destination with a 526-room hotel, shopping village, spa/wellness center and water-based family entertainment. Elements include a massive water and adventure theme park, a 40,000-square-foot convention center, adventure activities such as zip lines and off-roading, restaurants and bars, entertainment and nightlife.

Cruise expansion

Harbour Village will be located nine miles west of the Lucaya Property, at the cruise terminal in Freeport Harbor. There, visitors will have multiple shopping and dining venues, beach areas, a shore excursions hub and more.

'With our partnership in Holistica Destinations, we believe that this new development will create a world-class experience for guests and deliver renewed hope for the rebirth of Grand Bahama,' said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. He thanked the Bahamas government for its 'continued partnership and shared vision to create a premier attraction which will be a catalyst for economic growth in the destination.'

Jobs and opportunities for residents

For his part, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis thanked Holistica for investing in Grand Bahama. This project will result in employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for its residents, he said. 

Job training, community investment and sustainable construction practices are part of the agreement.

World's largest cruise ships

According to Mauricio Hamui of ITM Group, the harbor's capacity will be vastly expanded. 'By the time we are finished in the winter of 2022, the port will be ready to host the largest cruise ships in the world,' he said.

With the participation of Bahamian companies, development plans for Freeport also envision a multimodal transportation hub with infrastructure for water ferries and ground transportation including buses, vans and jeeps. Holistica said it will work closely with local business owners and entrepreneurs as partners with opportunities at both Harbour Village and the Lucaya Property as well as additional shore excursions in Grand Bahama.

Holistica CEO Robert Shamosh referred to a 'long-term relationship with the community and the government of the Bahamas, essentially a marriage where we will grow together in prosperity welcoming millions of visitors to the destination for years to come.'

Economic impact

A May 2019 study by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, indicated that over a 22-year timeline, there would be a B$9.1bn increase in Bahamian GDP as a result of this project. Additionally, the project anticipates creating 3,000 direct jobs during peak construction and operation periods. Once the development is completed, Grand Bahama is projected to welcome more than 2m travelers annually.

Coronavirus enforces classic objections to cruising: Cornell expert

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Robert Kwortnik is associate professor and director of graduate studies at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

An expert on the cruise business, Kwortnik is associate professor and director of graduate studies at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

As lines work to contain coronavirus, change itineraries, deal with cancellations and combat misinformation, he's considering the longer-term perception challenge.

Being 'stuck' on a ship

For example, Kwortnik noted the cruise industry has worked hard for decades to overcome the perception that cruising involves being 'stuck' on a ship.

Widespread media coverage of exactly that due to quarantines or ships being unable to disembark at ports only exacerbate this concern, he said.

Fear of outbreaks

Another common concern is becoming sick on a ship due to an outbreak of illness. That's a battle of perception cruise lines have fought for years related to the highly common and very contagious norovirus.

'Cruise lines go to extraordinary lengths to sanitize ships and to encourage hand washing by travelers that no doubt far exceeds personal hygiene efforts at home,' Kworknik said. 'Nevertheless, if we see new cases of coronavirus outbreaks on board cruise ships, we can expect the public to question on-board health conditions.'

Virgin opts to postpone NYC showcase, Scarlet Lady not 'banned'

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Scarlet Lady's launch events in Miami are still on, Virgin Voyages said

Not 'banned' and no illness on board

Some media are reporting the ship was 'banned' on coronavirus concerns.

Not true, according to Virgin Voyages.

'There are absolutely no health concerns on the ship and our decision to reroute to Miami was solely based on what we deemed was best for the ship and those on board,' a company spokeswoman told Seatrade Cruise News. 'This was made over the weekend after much consideration and communicated as soon as it could be. We were not "banned" from NYC and there are no illnesses on Scarlet Lady.'

Launch plans in Miami going ahead

The spokeswoman added that the New York showcase events were 'only postponed' and that launch plans in Miami are going ahead.

Scarlet Lady had been scheduled to arrive in New York March 6.

Over the weekend, Virgin issued this statement: 'In light of the current news headlines, we want to ensure everyone feels it is the right time to celebrate with us. We understand people may want to focus on other things at the moment, so we have made the decision to reschedule our upcoming showcase tour stop and events in New York City.

'We have absolutely no health concerns or issues on board and elevated our health protocol and processes when we took delivery of Scarlet Lady to keep our crew and visitors well and happy.'

850 passengers on board

Scarlet Lady is currently carrying 'friends and family,' numbering 850 passengers, the spokeswoman said, adding: 'We are actively working to ensure everyone on the ship has the appropriate travel accommodations once reaching South Florida.'

Virgin had hosted media, first mates (travel advisors) and VIPs in Dover, then Liverpool, before Scarlet Lady embarked on its trans-Atlantic crossing.