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MSCapos;s world of Fantasia

MSCapos;s world of Fantasia

Pierfrancesco Vago, ceo MSC Cruises, and Jacques Hardelay, md of the yard, accompanied European media on a tour of MSC Splendida's engine room and then onto MSC Fantasia following her return from sea trials.

Earlier, on Sunday, MSC Splendida, the second of the two 133,000gt newbuilds, was floated out from the building dock to a fitting out berth where she will remain until her construction has been completed mid 2009.

MSC Fantasia will be first to enter service in December this year. The two post-Panamaxes, the first for MSC, herald a new era for the company, stated Vago, who has tagged them as 'the most beautiful ships in the world'. He asserts the big statement is justified in relation to the interiors, 'as they will contain materials never used before on a cruise ship', he told Seatrade Insider. Aker's Hardelay backed up the claim.

For example, Vago cited the 5,000sq mtr exclusive MSC Yacht Club which is built with 'yacht-style elegant materials such as walnut wood for the walls, decorated panels in Alcantara, furniture in wenge and marble bathrooms.' The flooring of the concierge lounge is wood with Siena yellow marble inlays. The stairs that connect this area on deck 15 and the MSC Yacht Club suites on the deck above will have steps in Swarovski crystal illuminated with LED lights whilst the internal flooring will be decorated with black Saint Laurent and Sienna yellow marble.

Fantasia has been designed by Studio de Jorio International and the 27,000sq mtr of public areas include a 1,649-seater theatre, the 1,615sq mtr Aurea Spa, four restaurants and two buffet areas, including a Tex Mex and panoramic restaurant, a jazz bar, sports bar and coffee bar, four pools including one with retractable roof (it is the brand's first purpose built ship for year-round Med cruising), 12 Jacuzzis, casino, 4D interactive cinema, squash court and special area dedicated to children and teenagers with pool, aqua park and dedicated disco.

Despite being 40mtr longer than the Musica-class, MSC Fantasia has a cosier environment with its 40 separate public areas, according to Vago. 'You will see many square-dimensional areas and you will find no long straight corridors on board,' he said. This latter point is also noticeable from outside the ship with a midships area that is indented breaking the traditional long straight bank of balconied cabins.

Vago believes the ship's environmental advances are key to the company's future success. He proudly showed off Splendida's suite of eco friendly technology designed to conserve energy and safeguard the environment which includes Scanship supplied advanced wastewater treatment system, waste management plant and thermal treatment plant (capable of treating 10 tons of waste a day), a Hamworthy Serck distillating plant and York manufactured CFC-free chilling system. The five Wärtsilä diesel engines are fitted into two rooms, two in the aft and three up front.

MSC Fantasia has also been awarded Bureau Veritas' highest notations and certification for Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) for cruise ships.

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Star Flyer to stay in Tahiti until 2011

Star Flyer to stay in Tahiti until 2011


The former government of Oscar Temaru signed a contract for a four-year time-charter of Star Flyer and the operation of the ship was handed over to the French Polynesia Development and Management Company.


According to Tahitipresse, there has been a 'consensual termination' of the Temaru government's contract.


The news agency has reported that the Tong Sang government will pay Star Clippers a contract termination indemnity of US$3.7m and the Monaco-based cruise line will now take over the operation of its four-masted ship.

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RCCL boosts overseas customer sourcing

RCCL boosts overseas customer sourcing

International customers tend to book longer and more expensive cruises, Fain told analysts during today's earnings call.

The company's results reflect economic weakness in Spain, with lower than expected second quarter yields from the Pullmantur division both on the cruise and tour sides. However, RCCL characterized advance bookings for Spain's peak travel season as 'quite strong.'

Despite signs of emerging economic pressures, the UK and Ireland source markets are holding up, according to Adam Goldstein, president and ceo of the Royal Caribbean International brand.

Asked about any weakness in the UK for 2009 bookings, particularly over the last few weeks, Goldstein said: 'The outlook is positive at this point.'

He added that Ireland, though a small country, is notable because 'Irish guests rate us the highest of any country the world.'

Goldstein described RCI as 'more globally oriented' than close competitors, pointing out that his brand bases ships in cities viewed as 'drive markets' such as Southampton, Barcelona ... 'and to some extent, even Shanghai.'

As earlier reported, Goldstein this month signed an agreement with Shanghai International Port (Group) Co. Ltd. to cooperate in developing China's cruise business. The move followed RCI's expanded regional commitment with the year-round Asia deployment in 2010 of Legend of the Seas, following the completion of seasonal sailings with Rhapsody of the Seas.

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Goldstein: Bolder itinerary changes to come

Goldstein: Bolder itinerary changes to come

Speaking to analysts during today's earnings call, Goldstein said the company is tweaking itineraries that are currently on sale.

'More meaningful adjustments' will begin with spring 2010 sailings, he added, without giving details.

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RCCL management accentuates the positive

RCCL management accentuates the positive

'Forward bookings for 2009 are ahead on both rate and volume,' chairman and ceo Richard Fain told analysts during today's earnings call.

He said there is no doubt the economy is affecting business, but not to the extent one might expect. There have been no material changes in the booking window or in cancellations.

In the throes of a major cost-cutting initiative, the company tried to emphasize the positive today, pinning its downward yield projection for 2008 (up 3% to 4% versus up more than 4%) on weakness at Spain's Pullmantur. Projections for on-board spending are flat for the balance of the year, however on-board yields are running at a historic high.

Management assured analysts the company has sufficient access to capital to fund its $7bn newbuild program and is not being adversely affected by the credit crunch.

Adam Goldstein, president and ceo of Royal Caribbean International, said the Caribbean has been performing well, and he described the profitability of new Freedom-class ships as 'outstanding.' Oasis-class ships will offer an even higher percentage of balconies than those (72% versus 49%).

Dan Hanrahan, president and ceo of Celebrity Cruises, said Celebrity Solstice is providing 'a nice ticket yield premium' in the fourth quarter. More than 80% of that ship's accommodations sport balconies, and there is 18% more on-board revenue space than on the Millennium-class vessels.

Hanrahan said both group and individual load factors are up for Celebrity in 2009.

Asked about recent news reports questioning the practices of art concessionaire Park West, Goldstein said: 'We expect [Park West] to operate with the highest standards.'

He noted Royal Caribbean had previously identified art sales as an area of weakness. That will command focus for all the brands, Goldstein added.

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Prominent RCCL names among those leaving

Prominent RCCL names among those leaving

'Officer level' is understood to mean vice president.

The company is not releasing or discussing individual names, but Seatrade Insider has learned a number of seasoned executives are among those whose jobs were eliminated. Their titles and tenure give an indication of the depth of the action being taken.

They include 18-year company veteran Lynn White, corporate vp tax and risk management, and Lynn Martenstein, vp corporate communications, with a dozen years at the company. Martenstein oversaw global public relations for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises.

Another departure is Maria Sastre, vp sales and marketing for Latin America. Sastre joined RCI in 2000 as vp total guest satisfaction. In early 2005, she moved to lead sales and marketing for Latin America and Asia Pacific, but most recently had focused on the company's Latin America expansion.

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Cruise stocks surge as oil drops

Cruise stocks surge as oil drops

Royal Caribbean gained 17.8%, while Carnival was up 12.17%.

Shares were also buoyed by a major Royal Caribbean cost-cutting initiative and the company's positive outlook, outlined in today's earnings call.

Wachovia analyst Tim Conder called the cruise operator's planned $125m restructuring an 'aggressive, but achievable goal.'

He added that oil prices should continue to set the near-term direction for cruise shares, with investors likely to remain cautious.

Oil futures went as low as $125.63 a barrel today before settling at $127.95, off the record of $147.27 on July 11.

Carnival shares rose as high as $39.86 before closing at $39.73, up $4.31. Royal Caribbean traded as high as $27.09 today before settling at $26.74, a gain of $4.04.

'We see RCL shares remaining in a near-term $21-$26 range pending further clarity on first-half 2009 demand and oil, but believe cruise shares in general continue to represent solid long-term values,' Wachovia's Conder said in a note following Royal Caribbean's call that reaffirmed his positive rating on the stock.

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Carnival switches calls to dodge Dolly

Carnival switches calls to dodge Dolly

The storm is expected to bulk up as it heads westward into the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters warned Dolly could become a hurricane by Tuesday.

Carnival Holiday is in Key West today, in lieu of Progreso.

Carnival Liberty delayed today's scheduled call in Cozumel to Tuesday, and Carnival Inspiration substituted Key West for today's planned stop at Grand Cayman.

Carnival Imagination flipped its Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman calls and is visiting Ocho Rios today and Grand Cayman tomorrow.

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Saga schedules apos;Antiques Seashowapos;

Saga schedules apos;Antiques Seashowapos;

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The 16-night 'Mediterranean Highlights' cruise sails from Southampton on Oct. 17.

Activities will include lectures, valuation sessions, quizzes, and a series of talks by experts led by former executive producer of the BBC's 'Antiques Roadshow,' Christopher Lewis.

Passengers are invited to take an heirloom or an item from home (or a photograph of anything too large to carry) for the team to identify and discuss.

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MSC supports Germanyapos;s Formula 1

MSC supports Germanyapos;s Formula 1

The MSC Cruises logo was displayed on various advertising panels around the track.

The line will also be a trackside advertiser at the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Brazil to be held in Sao Paulo on Nov. 11.

Pierfrancesco Vago, ceo of MSC Cruises, said his company's Formula 1 involvement 'reinforces our image and gives emphasis to our position on the market.'

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