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Articles from 2004 In April


AIDAblu sets records in Kiel

AIDAblu sets records in Kiel

AIDAblu became the biggest cruise ship to visit the north German city and, with more than 1,700 passengers embarking, the vessel broke its own capacity record by carrying at least 80 more guests than ever before.

AIDAblu will operate 20 cruises from Kiel until repositioning to Dubai at the end of September. In November, AIDAblu will return to the Canary Islands for her 2004/05 winter season.

The former A'ROSA BLU was converted at Blohm+Voss yard in Hamburg. Work included the addition of 34 cabins.

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UBS: on-board spend continues to rise

UBS: on-board spend continues to rise

UBS cites Steiner Leisure's 7% unit revenue gain in the first quarter as an indicator.

In its earnings report this week [see earlier story], leading spa provider Steiner pointed to an improvement in the passenger demographic mix, which has helped nudge up on board spending. Steiner management also increased its earnings per share guidance, implying that strong spending trends will continue, said UBS analyst Robin Farley. Steiner raised 2004EPS guidance to $1.79-$1.84 from $1.57-$1.62, above the currentconsensus estimate of $1.64.

On board revenues have been a significant contributor to yield, Farley noted. In the first quarter, Carnival Corp.'s proforma net on board revenue per unit increased 7.2%, above its 2.9% increase in net ticket revenue to generate a 4.1% increase in net yield. Similarly, Farley said, Royal's net on board revenue increased 6.8%, above its 4.7% increase in net ticket revenue to generate its 5.3% increase in net yield. (Part of the reason on board spend is a bigger component of Royal's net revenue is because it includes the company's tour business, which Carnival breaks out into a separate segment.)

'Over the past few years, growth in on board revenues has cushioned ticket price declines,' Farley said. On a per unit basis, Carnival's on board net revenues increased 0.5% in 2003even while passenger ticket net revenues declined roughly 4.3%, resulting in aproforma net yield decline of 3.2%. Royal Caribbean's on board net revenuesincreased 6.5% in 2003, while passenger ticket net revenues declined 2.9%,resulting in a proforma net yield decline of 0.6%. Farley suggested the biggest part of Royal's 2003 increase was bringing the Celebrity brand's food concession in-house; she said RCL's true on board increases may be closer to the 1-3% increases from previous years.

UBS reminded investors of the importance of on board revenues. 'Roughly 25% of net revenue consists of "onboard and other revenue," which tends to be high-margin, with the two biggest components of on board revenues coming from liquor sales and the casino,' Farley said. 'Furthermore, no commissions have to be paid to travel agents for the on board component of revenues, unlike cruise and air ticket revenues.'

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Raymond James upgrades Steiner

Raymond James upgrades Steiner

18% in very high volume trading at midday Friday, having gained $1.69 to $20.10.

The industry's leading spa provider reported record first quarter earnings this week, with management raising guidance on 2004 EPS. [See also next story.]

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Good news, bad news on norovirus

Good news, bad news on norovirus

The good news: the industry's actions to control and prevent outbreaks are serving as the standard for land-based facilities.

'Norovirus is fairly prevalent in the population and because of that, we'll continue to see ill people boarding the ships so the propensity for the virus to spread will always be there -- as it would be for any shoreside environment,' Forney told Seatrade Insider. 'It's really difficult to screen people for this illness before they board the vessel. There are no predictive symptoms.'

But while hotels are struggling to control the virus -- Las Vegas casinos in recent months have experienced outbreaks -- the cruise industry largely has things under control. 'Two years ago, many more people were getting sick for the duration of the cruise and illness was continuing into a second cruise and beyond. Now, that's completely different,' Forney said.

The VSP chief cited procedures that enable cruise ship personnel to more quickly identify and isolate people when their symptoms first crop up and immediately augment sanitation protocols. 'By the end of the cruise, there are usually very few people who are ill and subsequent cruises are basically back to normal levels of illness,' Forney said. 'That's fantastic. It's an excellent example of effectiveness in dealing with norovirus.'

Will the industry ever lose the onus of the so-called 'cruise ship illness?' 'I keep working on it,' Forney said.

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CDC urges more handwashing

CDC urges more handwashing

At the VSP's annual meeting in Florida this week, cruise executives, shipbuilders, sanitation consultants and medical personnel reviewed the VSP's revised Operations Manual and Construction Guidelines and got an update on norovirus.

'We reiterated what an excellent job cruise lines have been doing with controlling gastrointestinal outbreaks,' said VSP chief Dave Forney. 'Most land-based facilities like hotels are where the cruise lines were two years ago. There's currently a big norovirus outbreak in Las Vegas.'

That said, the VSP Operations Manual is nearly four years old and needs updating. Forney predicted 'significant changes' related to sections on gastrointestinal outbreaks and, specifically, an expansion of the housekeeping section.

More handwashing sinks for crew and passengers is a key recommendation in the new Construction Guidelines. The CDC wants sinks in areas like the crew galley to encourage washing up before eating, the provisions area to stem possible contamination of ready-to-eat produce by dirty hands and the ship's laundry, where workers could unwittingly transmit germs and viruses from soiled linens to clean laundry.

The cruise industry expects to give substantial comment on the new proposals, especially those related to gastrointestinal outbreaks. Currently, each line has its own procedures. 'A lot are things we're doing now; some are new,' said Angela Plott, vp of the International Council of Cruise Lines.

One point that raises industry concern is the CDC's recommendation that cruise lines inform hotels and airlines of incoming ill passengers. 'It's logistically almost impossible to do and given the fact that they don't notify us, it's putting us to a higher standard,' Plott told Seatrade Insider.

An industry working group will meet next week to discuss the recommendations. The CDC is inviting comments on the Operations Manual and has set a second meeting for August in Fort Lauderdale. It's likely that two meetings on the new Construction Guidelines will be held, including one in Europe to enable attendance by the major shipyards.

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CDC plans more specific travel advisories

CDC plans more specific travel advisories

Now the CDC is rewriting its advisories in more specific and understandable language, which should be helpful to both consumers and ship operators, said Angela Plott, vp of the International Council of Cruise Lines.

'There was some confusion last year between a travel alert and a travel advisory. An alert sounds more serious but actually an advisory is,' Plott noted. The CDC is drafting new notices with four levels that should be more understandable to the public, she said.

Last year, depending on the CDC's advice, passengers and crew were screened and sometimes denied boarding based on their transit to the ship through high-risk areas. Lines rerouted air-sea customers through different airports and vessels steered away from certain ports and even entire regions.

The plan to rewrite the notices emerged at a meeting this week of cruise executives and medical personnel with David Kim, the chief of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. The gathering followed the annual meeting of the Vessel Sanitation Program in Fort Lauderdale. Kim referred Seatrade Insider to Plott for comment.

'We talked about some issues of communication and if there was an outbreak, how we would coordinate with officials,' Plott said. Industry representatives met regularly with the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine during the last SARS outbreak. 'We developed a very good relationship. We need to continue this dialogue. SARS is not going to go away, and there could be other diseases that come up,' Plott said.

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Captain Cook explores Asian market

Captain Cook explores Asian market

New national sales manager Sherilyn Robinson told Seatrade Insider today the company that operates three-to-seven-night cruises around Fiji and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as Murray River and Sydney Harbour itineraries, has strong representation in the US, UK, South Africa and New Zealand.

Robinson, who joined CCC last week after two-and-a-half years as national sales and marketing manager for Air Pacific, following four years in Los Angeles with American Tours International, said Japan has already been identified as a source market. She said other Asian markets, including Singapore, are in Captain Haworth's sights.

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Seetours considers newbuilding

Seetours considers newbuilding

Clasen confirmed details on Seetours' newbuilding project will be released in a few months.

The AIDA fleet now numbers four ships with the addition of AIDAblu (former AROSA Blu) which emerged from Blohm+Voss shipyard after undergoing a EUR10m makeover. The newly refurbished ship sailed from Hamburg for Oslo on Wednesday evening with 1,650 passengers, 98% occupancy.

Seetours aims to reach a 90% fleetwide occupancy level and has introduced a modified price system for the next winter season to assist in reaching this goal.

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Atlantic Queens return home

Atlantic Queens return home

QE2 will have completed her last scheduled eastbound transatlantic crossing while QM2 will have completed her first. The conclusion of this first ever 'tandem' crossing of the Atlantic will witness two Cunard Queen liners berthed in Southampton simultaneously for the first time since Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in 1967.

QE2 celebrations on May 1 will also mark her 35th birthday (May 2, 1969 saw her depart on her maiden voyage to New York). In the afternoon QE2 sets sail for Germany for a refurbishment before embarking on a new career cruising European waters from Southampton.

The central event tomorrow will be the passing of the transatlantic baton from QE2 to QM2. This will be symbolised when the Boston Cup is handed over by the master of QE2 to Commodore R W Warwick, the Queen Mary 2 master. At this point QM2 becomes the flagship of Cunard Line and, in effect, the flagship of the British merchant fleet.

The Boston Cup is carried by the serving Cunard transatlantic flagship - a tradition that spans many years. It was presented to the company's founder, Samuel Cunard, by the citizens of Boston after the arrival there of his first ship, Britannia, in July 1840.

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Croisieurope welcomes its 24th ship

Croisieurope welcomes its 24th ship

The ship will ply the Rhine before offering 11 day cruises on the Danube between Passau (Germany) and Constanta (Romania) on the Black Sea, passing through eight countries and five capital cities. These cruises, together with the Danube/Tisza cruises from Budapest and 8-day Douro packages will be the highlights of the 2004 season.

For May 2005, the company is building a new 180-paasnegr ship with river and ocean-going capability which will cruise in Spain, both on the Guadalquivir and Guardiamar rivers and in the bay of Cadiz.

An EUR8m investment, the hull is currently under constructed in Belgium and the interior fitting will be done in Strasbourg at La Gare Fluviale.

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