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Articles from 2015 In August

MSC Cruises enters the booming China market with year-round deployment

Partnership siging today in Beijing: CAISSA Touristic president Chen Xiaobing (Front left) and MSC Cruises' ceo Gianni Onorato

The ship, currently undergoing a major lengthening and refurbishment, will target the Chinese source market exclusively, focusing on itineraries centred around Korea and Japan for an initial 24-month period.

‘It’s no longer a question of when will MSC Cruises be deploying a ship in China, it’s now a reality,’ company ceo Gianni Onorato told Seatrade Cruise News in an exclusive interview.

In what Onorato calls, ‘a different strategic approach’ to other major cruise lines currently operating ships in China, MSC Cruises has entered into a partnership with tour operator CAISSA Touristic Group, until recently a privately-owned Chinese-family run business, formed in Hamburg in 1993.

CAISSA is engaged in organizing trips to China and Asia for its German customers; and tours to Europe for China-based customers. It has branches in London, Paris, Hamburg, Los Angeles and other global core cities. In China, CAISSA Touristic has subsidiaries in numerous cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Onorato confirmed the company has played a major role in placing Chinese groups on MSC-operated cruises, especially across Europe and in the Mediterranean.

The tour operator has also be involved in booking Chinese groups on Princess and Costa ships undertaking ex-China sailings.

CAISSA Touristic’s president Chen Xiaobing emphasized the popularity of MSC Cruises’ European and South American itineraries said, ‘MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavour resonates well with Caissa Touristic’s brand spirit, as it also originates from Europe. The latest partnership sees the outbound Chinese a key part of the new agreement.’

Onorato commented, ‘MSC has been present in China selling cruises to Chinese passengers since 2010. We are now delighted and excited that through this partnership we are taking our presence in China to the next level and directly to Chinese consumers.’

According to Onorato what makes the partnership stand out from other traditional agreements between China-based tour agencies and cruise lines is the emphasis that will be placed on the training of on-board staff to ensure that guests receive the best-in-class MSC Cruises’ experience and service as well as a degree of the adaptation of the ship’s hardware and software to fit the customs and tastes of the Chinese guests that it is designed to serve.’

MSC Lirica entered Fincantieri’s Palermo shipyard yesterday, becoming the last (of four) ships to undergo a complete renovation in the company’s €200m Renaissance programme. ‘Because we knew the ship is destined for China we will introduce several features – including some industry firsts in service – specially designed for the cruising enjoyment of Chinese consumers. It will also offer popular as well as high-end Chinese cuisine, and traditional and popular entertainment, while maintaining its Mediterranean atmosphere and service, Onorato added.

Signs will be in Mandarin, cuisine, entertainment and shopping will be crafted for Chinese consumer needs. Over 30% of the guest-facing crew will be Mandarin speaking, Onorato confirmed.

MSC has also entered into another partnership with an undisclosed company which will start hiring and training of crew for the new venture at the beginning of November.

After spending the winter season in South America, the 65,000gt, 2,600-passenger ship is scheduled to reach her new homeport of Shanghai on May 1, 2016, after a 60-day voyage from Rio de Janeiro via Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa and Dubai. On arrival in China, the ship will undergoing its Sino-switch.

More details about MSC Lirica’s product and services tailored to serve the needs of Chinese consumers will be announced at a press conference in Beijing next month.

Referring to MSC Opera’s upcoming winter season out of Havana, Onorato said, ‘new deployments in Cuba and now China coupled with a strengthening of our ex-Miami sailings and expanded Caribbean presence plus continued presence in South America, Middle East, the Med and North Europe confirms our commitment of enhancing our global offering.’

At this stage Onorato would not be drawn on whether any of the line’s newbuilds (four firm orders plus three options) would  eventually be destined for Asia.

Skagen reports good feedback on $34m cruise facilities investment

Brilliance of the Seas alongside at Skagen's new cruise quay (Photo: Port of Skagen)

Ships have included Brilliance of the Seas, Azura, Balmoral, Seven Seas Voyager and Silver Whisper.

Port of Skagen managing director Willy B. Hansen said the response to the new shoreside welcome facilities from captains, passengers and crew has been very positive.

'Furthermore, it seems as if the cruise guests have also taken a great fancy to Skagen and the local Skageners have really enjoyed having visitors from all over the world walking, biking and driving 'round exploring Skagen,' he added.

Cruise Skagen and Port of Skagen will be exhibiting in the Cruise Baltic booth at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg, Sept. 9-11.

A&K’s Vass salutes Australian team for extraordinary growth

David Vass - A&K now provides land tours for 17 cruise lines in Australia

Vass, who has been holding ‘cruise team appreciation days’ in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for A&K/Akorn staff, said the company estimates it will handle more than 485 turnarounds in Australia next year.
He said this segment of the business generates jobs for 350 people in Sydney and 1,000 around the country.
Vass is also meeting with senior cruise executives before leaving Sydney next Tuesday to attend the annual Cruise Down Under conference in Darwin September 2-4. He is presenting the executives with copies of ‘Safari,’ A&K founder Geoffrey Kent’s memoir, which is currently No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in the travel division.
Vass, who has been discussing best practice standards with staff for Australia’s upcoming 2015/16 wave season, said everyone is excited about A&K’s ‘The Botanical Ark’ being short-listed for the 2015 Seatrade Cruise Innovative Shorex of the Year Award to be announced on September 9 at Seatrade Europe. He is travelling to Hamburg for the conference after leaving Darwin.

After Erika some ships resume original course, Ignacio impacts a Hawaii cruise

Pride of America's itinerary is adjusted to avoid Hurricane Ignacio, a powerful storm that is currently forecast to stay northeast of the main Hawaiian Islands

Pride of America's Aug. 29 itinerary was adjusted to call at Nawiliwili on Sunday, where the ship will overnight, followed by Hilo on Wednesday, Kahului on Thursday and returning to Honolulu on Saturday. Pride of America will skip Kona on the Big Island.

Ignacio has intensified into a major hurricane but forecasters at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center expect it to stay northeast of the main Hawaiian Islands. Tropical storm conditions are possible at the Big Island starting late Sunday or early Monday and at Maui starting Monday.

In the Caribbean, New York-based Norwegian Gem and Miami-based Norwegian Getaway will return to their scheduled itineraries, while Norwegian Sky's Aug. 28 cruise from Miami is sticking to its revised route and calling at Nassau on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Key West on Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.  The ship's Aug. 31 cruise is expected to operate as scheduled.

Carnival Cruise Line said Miami-based Carnival Breeze and Port Canaveral-based Carnival Valor will return to their original itineraries, and Carnival Conquest will extend its Saturday call in Nassau until 8 p.m.

Tropical Storm Erika may weaken before reaching Florida

On Saturday morning Tropical Storm Erika's projected path was moving away from South Florida

In abundant caution, preparations to secure PortMiami and Port Everglades continued, and interests in the Florida Keys and South Florida were advised to monitor Erika's progress.

Some cruise itineraries have been adjusted.

Both PortMiami and Port Everglades were ordered to go to Condition X-ray at 1:30 p.m. Friday. This means preparations for the possible onset of gale force winds (39 to 45 mph/34 to 37 knots) within 48 hours. The US Coast Guard captain of the port was expected to set Condition Yankee at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

On Friday Carnival Cruise Line made changes to four routes, and Royal Caribbean International moved one more departure earlier by a few hours.

Carnival Ecstasy's sailing from PortMiami on Friday will call at Nassau on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of overnighting, and spend Sunday at sea. Port Canaveral-based Carnival Valor will drop Nassau on Sunday and spend a couple more hours in St. Thomas on Tuesday.

The Miami-based Carnival Breeze will substitute Grand Cayman for Grand Turk, Roatán for Curaçao and Costa Maya for Aruba. The itinerary will drop La Romana and add Cozumel. Carnival Fascination's five-day cruise from Jacksonville will drop Half Moon Cay and add a call at Freeport.

Royal Caribbean moved Sunday's departure of the Port Canaveral-based Freedom of the Seas a bit earlier, to 3:30 p.m.

Already on Thursday, Royal Caribbean had moved forward by a couple hours Sunday's departure of Port Everglades-based Independence of the Seas, to 3 p.m., and Norwegian Cruise Line had adjusted three itineraries for sailings on Friday and Saturday.

Norwegian tweaked the schedule for the Miami-based Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Sky, and the New York-based Norwegian Gem.

Norwegian Sky's Aug. 28 cruise will call at Nassau on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Key West on Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Norwegian Getaway's Aug. 29 sailing will visit Cozumel on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Ocho Rios on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nassau on Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Norwegian Gem's Aug. 29 cruise will call at Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard from 8 a.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Royal Caribbean advised passengers sailing on Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas to monitor for any additional updates.

On Friday Erika was dumping heavy rains on the Dominican Republic. Maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph (85 km/h) with higher gusts.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said weakening is likely as Erika moves over land and, as of Friday evening, the storm was expected to degrade into a tropical depression on Saturday. There is a possibility Erika could dissipate to a trough of low pressure during or after its passage over Hispaniola.

Tropical storm warnings were in place for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, southeastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and central Bahamas. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the northwestern Bahamas and the Cuban provinces of Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin and Guantanamo. Interests elsewhere in eastern and central Cuba, the Florida Keys and South Florida were advised to keep an eye on Erika's progress.


Princess '3 For Free' sale offers upgrades, tips, specialty dining


The sale applies to Alaska, Caribbean and Europe cruises, as well as Alaska Land & Sea Vacations. More than 700 cruises are on sale in 2016 and 2017.

The upgrade pertains to room location in like-to-like categories—interior to interior, ocean-view to ocean-view, and so forth.

Sample rates, per person, double occupancy, include six-day Caribbean cruises priced at $599 in an interior stateroom and $849 in a balcony accommodation.

Seven-day Alaska cruises start at $749 in an interior room and $1,349 in a balcony room. Alaska Land & Sea Vacations of 10 nights are $1,349 in an interior room and $2,229 in a balcony category.

Eleven-day Scandinavia and Russia fares are $1,899 in an interior room and $2,499 in a balcony accommodation.

The sail runs through Oct. 29 and is available to residents of the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Bermuda.


More cruise newbuilds boost Scanship revenues, prospects

Anthem of the Seas - equipped with Scanship AWP system that processes all gray and blackwater to meet the new MARPOL MEPC 227(64) standard for special areas including Chapter 4.2 with nutrient removal

Revenue went to 50.3m Norwegian kroner ($6m), while Scanship swung to a profit of NOK1.36m ($164,000) compared to a loss of NOK2.97m a year ago.

Cruise-related orders in the quarter include a Carnival Vista sister at Fincantieri (2018 delivery) that includes a modification of the Scanship AWP system to meet the new MARPOL MEPC 227(64) standard for special areas including Chapter 4.2 with nutrient removal.

Meyer Werft signed four contracts for the supply of two Royal Caribbean newbuilds and two Norwegian Cruise Line newbuilds. The AWP systems are equal to the previous nine newbuild contracts signed since 2010 at Meyer Werft with systems that process all gray and blackwater to meet the new MARPOL MEPC 227(64) standard for special areas including Chapter 4.2 with nutrient removal.

Scanship's backlog at the end of Q2 totaled NOK221m ($26.5m), up from NOK102m. This includes an order for approximately NOK20m for a cruise ship that is subject to financing.

During the quarter Scanship completed main equipment deliveries to the third TUI Cruises newbuild at Meyer Turku and the Star Cruises newbuild at Meyer Werft. In addition, the last equipment deliveries were made to Ovation of the Seas at Meyer Werft and the second Viking Ocean Cruises newbuild, Viking Sea, at Fincantieri.

Also in the period, major engineering work was done for the MSC Cruises newbuilds at STX France. And commissioning teams started up the Scanship systems on Viking Star from Fincantieri, Anthem of the Seas from Meyer Werft and the second TUI newbuild at Meyer Turku.

The numerous cruise newbuild discussions between operators and shipyards in the quarter led to very high tendering activity for Scanship. Carnival Corp. & plc announced plans for 10 ships at Fincantieri and Meyer, Royal Caribbean ordered two more vessels at Meyer in Papenburg and TUI two more at Meyer Turku. Virgin Cruises announced orders at Fincantieri and Crystal Cruises plans to build at Lloyd Werft.

Scanship said more than 20 newbuilds with multiple options will be contracted for wastewater and waste management systems during the next months. 

Also, the AWP retrofit market for cruise ships, which was pushed back by the precedence of exhaust gas scrubber refits to comply with tougher standards in Emission Control Areas, is expected to get a boost from the IMO decision on implementation of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) standards for wastewater treatment.

Scanship estimates the AWP retrofit market for cruise ships at NOK2.3bn ($276m).

The company expects its high tendering activity will bring orders.

To increase its product offering with vacuum toilets and blackwater collecting, Scanship during Q2 entered into a cooperation agreement with fellow Norwegian company Jets Vacuum. Scanship said the aim is to increase its competitiveness in the cruise market. The agreement may also enable sales of Scanship technology beyond the company's core markets.



Carnival to chalk up 3 millionth cruiser post-Katrina at New Orleans

Carnival Conquest's festive arrival in 2011. Carnival Dream and Carnival Elation currently sail year-round from New Orleans (Photo: Port of New Orleans)

Carnival pioneered year-round cruising from New Orleans in 1994 and has become the port’s largest cruise operator with two ships offering more than 125 four- to seven-day departures on an annual basis.

Following Hurricane Katrina, Carnival resumed service in New Orleans in October 2006—14 months after the storm—with one year-round ship, Carnival Fantasy, carrying fewer than 16,000 passengers that year. The company gradually increased capacity, deploying newer and larger ships, and next year expects to carry a new record 450,000 passengers from New Orleans.

Currently Carnival Dream operates seven-day Caribbean cruises, while Carnival Elation sails four- and five-day Mexico cruises.  Carnival will increase capacity on short cruises from New Orleans by 34% when Carnival Triumph replaces Carnival Elation next spring.

Carnival and other cruise operators have a significant impact on the Louisiana economy, accounting for more than 8,000 jobs and in excess of $400m in direct purchases each year, according to a study commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association. Additionally, data collected by the Port of New Orleans indicate passengers spend an average two nights pre- or post-cruise in the city.

'Carnival has a long and deep history with the city of New Orleans,' said Carlos Torres de Navarra, Carnival’s vp commercial port operations. 'We not only enjoy a very successful New Orleans-based cruise program but strive to be valuable community partners providing strong economic impact and supporting a variety of philanthropic initiatives.'

Port of New Orleans president and ceo Gary LaGrange called Carnival a 'valuable partner not only to the port, but to the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.' He noted cruising has grown 180% since 2001, the year the port began in earnest marketing itself as a premier cruise destination.

'And we could not have realized such growth without Carnival’s investment in New Orleans,' LaGrange said.


Cunard trio to sail over 110,000 nautical miles on 2017 round-the-world voyages

Cunard trio to sail over 110,000 nautical miles on 2017 round-the-world  voyages

Also included is a history-making visit to the Amazon for Queen Victoria becoming the largest cruise ship to transit the river.

Options include full World Voyages of 118- to 120-nights as well as an extensive range of Exotic Cruises ranging from seven- to 71-nights.

Queen Mary 2 is sailing a 118-night east-west loop via South Africa, Asia and the Suez Canal calling at 38 ports in 22 countries with five maiden calls.

Queen Victoria is sailing a 120-night Pacific loop via South America, Australasia and the Panama Canal that features 32 ports in 17 countries with two maiden calls.

Queen Elizabeth is sailing a 120-night western circumnavigation via the Panama Canal, Asia and South Africa that offers 39 ports in 25 countries with four maiden calls.

In total the three ships will sail over 110,000 nautical miles.

Full world voyages start from £12,899 per person for 118 nights plus on board credit offers.

Friday services for marketing dynamo Jennifer Zighelboim

Jennifer Zighelboim

Zighelboim died Aug. 20 at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa from complications following a stem cell transplant. She was 48.

'Enormous energy, a positive attitude and fabulous sense of humor' characterized Zighelboim, according to Deborah Golden, a close friend, colleague and former neighbor in Coral Gables, Florida.

'She was engaging,' Golden said. 'She could weather any storm. There was no challenge too big for Jen.'

Zighelboim joined Royal Caribbean soon after college in 1991, hired by Adam Goldstein, who then led marketing. She worked in the marketing department in a number of roles until shortly after her first son was born in 1997. After leaving to focus on motherhood, Zighelboim continued to take on project after project, mainly for the marketing department but also for groups in hotel operations, newbuilds and shore excursions, among others.

'In fact, she was seen so much in the offices throughout the years I don't think people realized she even left,' said Tracy Quan, associate vp, global corporate communications. Zighelboim had worked closely with Quan's team since just before Oasis of the Seas' 2009 launch and during Quantum of the Seas' introduction, where she played 'a very integral part.'

'So many of us at Royal Caribbean were touched by Jen and will remember her for her eternal optimism, sunny disposition, kindness and compassion and the laser-focused dedication she gave to everything she ever did, whether it was for work, family or friends,' Quan said.

Recent efforts included a commemorative book, 'Bold Visions, Blue Seas' (2013) that detailed Royal Caribbean's innovative ships. For the '360 Cruise Staff' initiative, Zighelboim developed a five-day training program to teach a new activities strategy designed to differentiate the Royal Caribbean International brand. Ten sessions were held for cruise directors and cruise staff.

'When she consulted, she gave it her all,' said Golden of Miami-based Golden and Company, who worked with Zighelboim on several projects and described her dedication to Royal Caribbean as going above and beyond.

In a note to Royal Caribbean employees, Rob Zeiger, chief communications officer, said Zighelboim held a progression of roles that 'made the most of her gifts for getting challenging work done and bringing people together.'

Zighelboim's husband Ron also has a Royal Caribbean connection. From 2001 to 2008, he was the founder and chief marketing officer for The Scholar Ship, a globally recognized academic program at sea.

In April Zighelboim had undergone a stem cell transplant to treat myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare bone marrow disorder that was diagnosed in December.

Quan said that just before, she had been talking with Zighelboim about expanding her role.

In addition to her husband, Zighelboim is survived by sons Owen, 17, and Julian, 15.

A Mass will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at St. Augustine Church, 1400 Miller Road, Coral Gables. A celebration of life will follow from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center, 6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables.

In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations to the Touched by Jen Education Fund c/o United Way of Miami-Dade, set up for Owen and Julian by friends and colleagues at Royal Caribbean.