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Articles from 2018 In August


Tortola is back in Disney Cruise Line's charts

PHOTO: FCCA
A small parade welcomes Disney Fantasy passengers to Tortola Pier Park

Steel drums, welcome drinks and a small parade greeted Disney Fantasy passengers.

54 shops are open in Tortola Pier Park

Tours operated, and some 54 shops of the 72 in total were open in Tortola Pier Park, the five-acre shopping and entertainment facility adjacent to the cruise dock. Management and tenants of Tortola Pier Park continue working to attain a 100% operational status by year's end.

After getting a one-two punch from hurricanes Irma and Maria, the British Virgin Islands have made great progress in rebuilding over the past year.

'It looks like the island never even skipped a beat. I’ve never been here before but looking at it from the outside it looks amazing,' one Disney passenger said, a representative comment from nearly 20 provided to Seatrade Cruise News by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. The passenger continued: 'It looks like nothing bad ever happened here. We went snorkeling. The waters are crystal clear the people were nice also. Everyone had a lovely time.'

Assistance from the FCCA

'We were so happy to see Disney Fantasy berthed at our pier and their over 3,600 passengers and 1,531 crew members on ground enjoying our cruise and shopping facility and the destination,' said Vance Lewis, interim CEO of Tortola Pier Park. 'Our partner cruise lines and Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association have worked tirelessly with us over the past months ensuring the quick recovery of our islands, and Disney Fantasy being back here is yet another showing of their commitment to the BVI and our cruise product.'

Lewis added that the destination looks forward to the full return of all its cruise business.

Inside the new Azamara Pursuit

PHOTOS: Anne Kalosh
From upper left, clockwise - Larry Pimentel hosts guests including Virtuoso's Matthew Upchurch at a White Night Party, chaise lounges on the pool deck, the 'service that brings people back,' art curated by Michael Loveland contrasts with the ship's classical elements

In its conversion to join Azamara Club Cruises, the ship first underwent drydock for statutory and mechanical work and hull painting at Grand Bahama Shipyard before crossing to Belfast for wet dock outfitting at the legendary Harland and Wolff under the supervision of MJM Group.

Irish pride

What set this refurbishment apart was 'the passion. The Irish really took pride in this,' Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said.

The ship is the last in the eight-strong R series originally built for Renaissance Cruises, and most recently sailed as Adonia for P&O Cruises (and had a stint with Fathom).

The former R8 now shares the same stylish look—mingling classic and contemporary—of Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey (the former R7 and R6), gained during their revitalizations in the past two years.

Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, credited chief operating officer Carol Cabezas for an 'amazing job' leading the hotel and manning groups for the third ship.

Club Continent and Club Spa Suites

'There's no clue you're on a ship constructed in 2000. It looks brand new,' Pimentel said during Azamara Pursuit's two-night naming ceremony voyage this week. He praised the fittings and said additional suites make a total of 351 staterooms, more than the 345 on the sister ships, for passenger capacity of 702.

A number of Deck 8 staterooms were transformed into 16 larger Club Continent Suites, and a pair of Club Spa Suites were added next to the Sanctum Spa on Deck 9. At 414 square feet/38.5 square meters each, these spa rooms feel spacious and elegant, and they have a whirlpool tub enclosed in glass beside the 40-square-foot/3.7-square-meter veranda.

The Den, powered by AFAR

The main public room change was removing the casino that was central to Deck 5. 'The casino is not the essence of this brand,' Pimentel said.

In its place is The Den, a lounge with grand piano, bar and desks for future cruise sales and shore excursions (previously housed on Deck 4). Through a partnership with AFAR—a publication focused on experiential travel—The Den also offers travel books and resources.

Deck 4 retains the guest relations desk. Scrapping the casino also eliminated the need for 12 crew positions, adding passenger space.

Art curated by Michael Loveland

New artworks were curated by Michael Loveland, a Miami-based artist who traveled the world to uncover new contemporary talent. His collection for Azamara Pursuit nicely contrasts with the ship's classical elements.

The overall decor retains original details like dark wood paneling and white columns, while contemporary lighting, carpets and furnishings update the look, and an understated palette of taupes, beiges and creams adds sophistication. In the Deck 10 observation lounge, there are occasional pops of red in accent pillows and armchairs. A great addition there is the row of daybeds overlooking the forward-facing windows, making the perfect spot to curl up with a book or iPad.

'I was very impressed by the entire ship. You don't have any sense that this is a 20-year-old vessel,' Sean Flynn of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Montréal said.

'It reminded me of being on a riverboat,' he added. 'Everything is so close ... It reminded me of the pleasure of being on a smaller, more intimate ship. This leads to their prime objective: the focus on the ports.'

'The ship is marvelous and I can wholeheartedly endorse it,' said Marni Becker, director of cruise sales, Protravel International. 'The physical plant looks great. I love The Den. I'm so happy that they have this ship as a vehicle for growth. I hope they continue to grow.'

Flynn also singled out The Den. 'It's an inviting, informal area, a very relaxed environment. Instead of a businesslike shore excursions desk, it's open. There's a bar. When you consider the primary mission of Azamara, it invites engaging in conversation about the shore excursions. I can see the guests really enjoying it.'

When it comes to the staterooms, Flynn called his standard Club Veranda Stateroom 'beautiful.' The room was 'intelligently designed with a layout that makes the most of the space,' though the bathroom and shower are 'very small.' It would have been a tall task, Flynn said, to re-pipe the whole ship to enlarge those.

'It's the service that brings people back'

On the two-night naming ceremony voyage, Flynn didn't have the chance to sample the specialty restaurants Prime C (steaks and seafood) or Aqualina (Italian). However, he was 'exceptionally impressed' with the service at the indoor-outdoor Windows Cafe: 'You sit down and someone is there to assist you.'

This made Flynn think of Azamara's pitch: 'The itineraries are what bring people to Azamara but it's the service that brings them back.

'The staff on board were perfect. There was no occasion where I felt anything lacking.'

White Paper on growing India's cruise sector presented to shipping minister Gadkari

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Minister Nitin Gadkari and Subhash Chandra along with Jurgen Bailom (second from left), Sanjay Bhatia (third from left) and Nalini Gupta, executive committee member, INCLA (third from right) and other dignitaries at the Global Cruise Conclave

The White Paper outlines several necessary reforms in policy, tax and various regulatory laws, that are required to ensure a level playing field for the cruise business in India, compared to cruise operations based abroad.

Suggestions were also made for attracting investors, cruise ships and other stakeholders to set up cruise operations in India.

Key recommendations for growing cruise in India

The following are the INCLA recommendations for the Indian cruise industry:

  1. Indian cabotage laws to be further liberalized to allow foreign cruise ships to ply in Indian waters indefinitely
  2. Development of ports and related infrastructure as per international standards
  3. Relaxation of immigration regulations including visa regulations, filing of passenger manifest and issuance of Standard Operating Procedures on training and education of personnel handling the passengers
  4. Relaxation of custom laws and regulations relating to declaration of inventory and stocks present on-board a cruise ship and sealing it
  5. Relaxation of Indian entertainment and gambling laws for cruise ships
  6. Introduction of capital subsidy for sea / ocean cruises considering the capital intensive nature of cruise industry
  7. Direct tax reforms in the form of following clarifications under the Indian tonnage tax scheme
  8. Requisite clarification for cruise ships to be specifically included under the definition of ‘Qualifying ship’
  9. Clarification that income from sale of goods/provision of services on-board a cruise ship forms part of core activities of cruise business
  10. Relaxation of taxation provisions for international seafarers
  11. Requisite amendments under the Goods and Service Tax Law
  12. Permissibility of foreign direct investment in casinos operated on-board a cruise ship

Minister Gadkari, who delivered the keynote address at the meeting, said cruise terminals of international standard were being set up by the ports of Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai with the sort of immigration-friendly passenger facilities that were available at international airports, to help India become a cruise tourism hub.

‘Personally, I am not happy with the growth that the cruise sector in India has witnessed in the past three to four years,’ admitted Gadkari, who delivered the bulk of his address in the national language, Hindi. ‘In comparison, the road sector has been growing rapidly.

Indian government ready to invest in cruise sector

‘Our government is ready to invest in this sector for it to prosper, as it carries a lot of potential. Not only on the seas, but also the length of rivers and inland waterways in the country. Our work plans in the cruise tourism sector have created around 2.5 million job opportunities so far.’

The Indian cruise industry has been bolstered by the backing it has received recently from media mogul Subhash Chandra, chairman of the Essel Group that runs several entertainment and news television channels and a theme park, Esselworld.

He is set to launch Zen Cruises with Pacific Jewel, acquired from P&O Cruises Australia.

Earlier in the evening, an absorbing panel discussion featured Mark Robinson, chief commercial officer of Global Ports Holding; Philippe Faucher, vp global business development/European operations with The Apollo Group; Jurgen Bailom, convener of INCLA and president and ceo of Zen Tourism & Cruises; Sanjay Bhatia, chairman of Mumbai Port Trust and of the Indian Ports Association; Hemal Zobalia, partner of Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP; and Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Destinations, Costa's gsa in India.

 

25,000 spectators expected for AIDAnova christening

PHOTO: AIDA Cruises
AIDAnova is going to be christened in Meyer Werft's harbor tonight

David Guetta in concert

The ceremony is scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. local time. An open-air concert featuring French DJ David Guetta will follow. AIDAnova's christening is going to be accompanied by a light and laser show, for which some 550 lamps, lasers and spots have been set up on board and around the ship.

The winning godparents

AIDAnova's godparents, selected in a contest, are the Mirza family: Sonja, Asad, Sophia and Adria from Hanau in the federal state of Hesse.

AIDAnova's christening is part of the NDR 2 Papenburg Festival, a two-day event held by a local radio station. In addition to the spectators for the ceremony, another 25,000 people are forecast to attend the festival on Friday and on Saturday.

Costs create barriers to developing India's cruise potential

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Pacific Jewel is reportedly headed to Zen Cruises, a new venture of India's Essel Group

India would seem ripe for cruising. It has the world's fastest growing major economy, a rapidly expanding middle class and hefty outbound travel. More than 60,000 Indians a year fly to Singapore to join cruises.

As radical as opening the China market

'India as a destination for cruise ships is not going to make a radical transformation within the cruise market. But what would be radical—potentially as radical as opening the China market—would be developing a domestic market in India,' Carnival UK chairman David Dingle told Seatrade Cruise News.

Costa Cruises is coming up on its third winter season of sailings between Mumbai and the Maldives, which are starting to attract Indians. Other lines such as Star Cruises and Louis Cruises have tested the market in years past.

'It won't be long before India acquires vessels and starts offering cruises for Indians,' Dingle predicted.

Zen Cruises to launch with Pacific Jewel

In fact, news reports this week from India say the Essel Group, a Mumbai-based conglomerate with interests in media, technology, entertainment, infrastructure and financial services, plans to launch Zen Cruises with Pacific Jewel, acquired from P&O Cruises Australia. (P&O has announced Pacific Jewel's final voyage is Feb. 24, 2019.)

As in China, a main challenge is that the market initially requires short sailings of four to five days in line with cultural holiday norms. Mumbai has strong homeport potential; the population is so large, it probably could feed a ship. Chennai is another possibility, and has the benefit of proximity to Sri Lanka.

However, cost is a hurdle for cruise ships currently calling in India and for lines seeking to cultivate the domestic market.

Sales tax and duty on consumables

For starters, India applies a 5% general sales tax on domestic transport, including cruise tickets, and on tours, including sailings that embark in India for international destinations and even on fly-cruise programs where none of the voyage touches India.

'So why would a major cruise corporation deploying ships in all parts of the world consider India when straight away there's a 5% tax that it typically doesn't have to pay elsewhere?' Dingle said.

There's also a decade-old rule that ships have to pay duty on the consumption of alcohol, bonded stores and bunkers in territorial waters, out to 200 nautical miles. Cruise ships had been exempt until last season, when the customs commissioner in Cochin objected.

Dingle considers this duty 'unprecedented and thoroughly unreasonable' and said 'We are lobbying the government to maintain our exemption.

'A rule like that is completely unheard of everywhere else in the world,' he added. 'It's another barrier that reduces the attractiveness of India as a place for doing business.'

Still another cost is the GST applied to on-board revenues for cruises originating in India.

The government is 'quite firm' about GST for tickets, according to Keki Master, SVP-corporate for JM Baxi, one of India's leading ship's agents. Master has served on the Task Force on Cruise Tourism set up by the Ministries of Shipping and Tourism since its inception.

'This matter has been raised at the highest levels in the Ministries of Shipping, Tourism and Finance,' Master said.

The issue of duty on consumables has been escalated to the Ministry of Finance by the Shipping and Tourism Ministries and discussed at length at the Task Force on Cruise Tourism meetings. Master is hopeful that a final and positive decision will be reached before the cruise season commences in September.

He doesn't think costs have kept cruise ships from calling. 'However, if this matter is not resolved soon and positively, then I fear that a lot of international cruise lines will be doing a rethink on their Indian schedules.'

India Cruise Lines Association holds first meeting

In a new initiative, India's cruise stakeholders came together today in Mumbai under the auspices of the recently formed India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA). Nitin Gadkari, minister of shipping, road transport & highways, was scheduled to attend.

Dingle called the minister a strong supporter of the cruise industry: 'He's been very helpful. He's done what he can to encourage changes in customs rules and investment in infastructure.'

With INCLA's formation, there's a great optimism, Dingle added. 'The cruise association, with a number of Indian members and suppliers to the industry—GSAs and others—demonstrates that a lot of Indians in the travel industry are feeling very positive about the cruise industry,' he said. 'That will help to encourage the Indian government.'

Changes needed to make India competitive

The message to India's Finance Ministry is 'If you want the economic benefit of the cruise industry, you have to make changes because if not, your country is not competitive.'

INCLA's executive committee includes such members as Jurgen Bailom, president & CEO of Zen Cruises; Rajiv Duggal, CEO - tourism business, Essel Group; Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Destinations, Costa's GSA in India; a variety of tour operators and travel agencies and local representatives for Royal Caribbean International, Genting Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises and Avalon Waterways, among others.

India 'definitely welcomes the cruise business and various positive steps have been taken' by the government and especially shipping minister Gadkari, Master said. Changing regulations is 'formidable but not impossible,' he added. When the Ministry of Shipping has taken steps like rationalizing port fees, removing ousting charges and granting priority berthing to cruise ships, it's simple. But matters involving other ministries can take longer.

Master thinks the cruise lines have been playing a constructive role by being proactive and voicing their concerns about issues. He said this is taken very positively by the Indian authorities. Together with the various reforms by Gadkari, Master is hopeful that 'in the not too distant future, India and the South Asian region will emerge as the final frontier for the cruise industry.'

Putting the 'amazing' into AzAmazing events

PHOTOS: Anne Kalosh
French Market & Cabaret AzAmazing Afternoon - local wines, cheeses, pastries, flowers, a cabaret show. Pictured at center is the team that organizes AzAmazing Evenings. Roberta Jacoby with Maudrid Urdaneta, left, and Colleen Kastan

Wednesday, during a call at Cherbourg as part of Azamara Pursuit's two-night naming ceremony voyage from Southampton, an AzAmazing Afternoon gave retailers like Flynn and other guests a taste of the line's signature experience.

Authentic French market

Fabulous floral bouquets, a tower of macarons and chocolate eclairs, Normandy cheeses, baguettes, wines and Champagnes, local apple pastries, fruit jellies, espresso, stilt walkers and musicians transformed La Cité de la Mer cruise terminal into a French market with red umbrellas.

Passengers strolled, sipped, munched and mingled.

Destination immersion

'All these merchants are local,' in tune with the line's commitment to destination immersion and authenticity, president and CEO Larry Pimentel pointed out.

The one exception, according to Roberta Jacoby, managing director, global tour operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., was the 14-piece band, featured soloists and dance troupe from Paris who performed two Moulin Rouge-style cabaret shows on a stage set up in the terminal.

Jacoby with her team, Colleen Kastan, city manager, special events and destinations, and Maudrid Urdaneta, account executive, plan all the AzAmazing Evenings.

'We work with a local tour operator to come up with ideas then hone in on a venue and the entertainment and what, if any, food and beverages. Then we start working on refining the details. There are a lot of details,' Jacoby said.

Three huge events every seven to 10 days

'We have one AzAmazing Evening for every ship on every cruise. Now there are three ships, we're doing three huge events every seven to 10 days,' she explained. 'It's like planning a big wedding because every one is different.'

'This is just amazing,' enthused Jeannine Williamson, a British travel writer who was delighted to have her silhouette drawn by a local artist. When she tried to pay for it, her money wasn't accepted.

Everything on an AzAmazing Evening—or in this case, Afternoon—is covered by Azamara.

Something that makes Azamara different

'It was a very nice event that brought a French market to the pier, with great food and music,' said James Shillinglaw of Insider Travel Report, who sampled the wines and cheeses. 'It's definitely something that makes the Azamara experience different,' he said.

'I thought they pulled off something wonderful,' added Flynn of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, who took an excursion to Utah Beach in the morning then returned to the terminal, which had been transformed into the French Market & Cabaret AzAmazing Afternoon.

'I enjoyed the show. The food was great—the breads, fruit and apple turnover from Normandy,' he said.

One complaint: 'I ate too much.'

MSC Cruises extends loyalty benefits to Mohegan Sun casino members

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Cruise discounts

Beginning Sept. 1, Mohegan Sun Momentum members from the Connecticut-based entertainment, gaming, dining and shopping destination will be matched, based on their current membership level, to a corresponding MSC Voyager’s Club status to receive perks such as cruise discounts, priority embarkation and disembarkation, spa experiences, on-board amenities and more.

'A partnership with Mohegan Sun was a natural fit, considering our robust casino program, and we are eager to bring our distinct, internationally-inspired experience and MSC Voyagers Club benefits to members of such a recognized entertainment brand,' said Neil Gumbs, manager, casino VIP services & business development, MSC Cruises USA.

Wide variety of slots and table games

MSC Cruises’ casino program offers more than 1,300 different kinds of slot machines and a variety of table games fleetwide. Passengers can also earn rewards while they play that apply to experiences like specialty dining, spa treatments and future cruise discounts.

Canaveral green-lights long-term Carnival agreement

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New CT-3 terminal and related facilities will be single largest project in Port Canaveral's history

'I am extremely excited about this next chapter for Port Canaveral, and extraordinarily proud of the port’s leadership team, staff and our cruise partners who have brought us to where we are today. Carnival’s commitment to our port and their multiple decades of operations here is a tribute to our entire port community,' commission chairman Wayne Justice said.

25-year term with four five-year options

The new operating agreement, which begins Sept. 1 and replaces an existing six-year agreement set to expire next year, provides a 25-year primary term with four additional five-year renewal options. Carnival’s minimum annual guarantee increases from the current fixed $7m passenger fee to $14.5m with annual escalators.

185,000-square-foot terminal

Canaveral Port Authority and Carnival will invest in building and equipping a new two-story 185,000-square-foot terminal to accommodate the 180,000gt ship that will be the brand's first powered by LNG, and the first cruise ship to operate in North America that's LNG-driven. The vessel will have 5,286 lower berths with maximum capacity for approximately 6,500 passengers.

'We are excited, thrilled and honored to enter this new generation of an exceptional relationship with Carnival Corporation,' port CEO Capt. John Murray said.

'With its convenient location, excellent facilities and friendly staff, Port Canaveral is one of our most popular and fastest-growing homeports and we’re delighted to bring this exciting, one-of-a-kind ship to the Space Coast in 2020,' Carnival president Christine Duffy said.

CT-3 is port's largest single project ever

Constructing the new CT-3 terminal, plus an adjacent elevated parking facility to accommodate nearly 1,800 vehicles, and related wharf, road and access improvements will total $150m—estimated to be the largest single project in the history of the port. The new terminal is planned for completion by June 2020.

The arrival of the new Carnival ship in 2020 will mark 30 years that Carnival Cruise Line has been sailing from Canaveral, the longest of any of the port’s cruise partners.

Carnival floats US homeport advantage with AirShip tour

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The Carnival AirShip tour begins Aug. 29 in Memphis and wraps Sept. 26-30 in Atlanta

Chance to win a free cruise

Over the next 30 days, the AirShip will visit Houston, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta, with flyovers in 11 other cities. People who post pictures or videos of the blimp with hashtag #ChooseFun have a chance to win prizes, including a free cruise.

The AirShip highlights new vessels in Galveston, Port Canaveral and Miami—where newest Fun Ship Carnival Horizon will arrive with CFO (Chief Fun Officer) Shaquille O'Neal and Miami Heat players on hand. In Galveston, Carnival Vista godmother Deshauna Barber, a former Miss USA and a US military member, will return to welcome her ship there.

'We lovingly refer to these [deployment] moves as the Carnival ship shuffle. Working with the marketing team, our ad agency tried to come up with ideas to raise awareness. This really celebrates our new #ChooseFun marketing campaign,' Carnival president Christine Duffy told Seatrade Cruise News.

Catching cruise rookies' attention

'It's a great way to encourage rookies to think about cruising and for people to understand we've got these ships right in their own backyard,' Duffy continued.

In addition to the Carnival AirShip's flights at homeports Galveston, Mobile, Tampa, Miami, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville, the blimp will appear over key source market cities like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Orlando and Atlanta, and at events such as football season openers.

The AirShip debuted today at Carnival’s Sixth Annual Day of Play at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, with Duffy and all of Carnival's cruise directors gathered.

St. Jude benefit

Besides the chance to win prizes, anyone who posts an AirShip photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #ChooseFun hashtag will also trigger a donation to St. Jude, Carnival’s longtime charitable partner.

Carnival has 18 year-round and seasonal North American homeports—more than any other line. Roughly half of the US population lives within a day’s drive of a Carnival homeport, providing convenience and affordability to vacationers.

'The message [of the homeport advantage promotion] is of Carnival ships being accessible to so many markets,' Duffy said.

New ships to PortMiami, Galveston, Canaveral

Four Fun Ships will be arriving at new homes in September. Carnival Horizon will launch year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises from PortMiami beginning Sept. 22 following a special two-day cruise to Nassau Sept. 20. On Sept. 30, Carnival Magic will also debut in Miami, with new weeklong sailings.

Carnival Vista kicks off its new year-round deployment from the Port of Galveston on Sept. 23. The 2016-built ship will offer seven-day Caribbean cruises. On Sept. 30, Carnival Breeze begins seven- and 14-day itineraries from Port Canaveral.

AirShip dates are Dallas (Sept. 1-3), Austin (Sept. 4), San Antonio (Sept. 5), Galveston (Sept. 9), New Orleans (Sept. 10), Mobile (Sept. 13), Tampa (Sept. 15), Miami (Sept. 16-20), Orlando (Sept. 21), Port Canaveral (Sept. 22), Jacksonville (Sept. 23) and Atlanta (Sept. 26-30).

Duffy will be flying aboard the Carnival AirShip for the first time in Atlanta. She's excited, but not daunted, about going up in the blimp.

'After doing my military service with the Department of Defense in June, I think this will be easy,' she said.

Curtain closes on China's SkySea with ‘Golden Memories' cruise

PHOTO: SkySea Cruise Line
SkySea Golden Era crew gather for a farewell photo

The 2,000-passenger SkySea Golden Era departed Shanghai filled with loyalty guests, travel agents, industry leaders, vendor partners and employees with their families as the brand neared its official end as one of the pioneers of China's nascent cruise industry.

Special activities, memorabilia and Sasebo send-off

During the five-day ‘Golden Memories Farewell Cruise,' passengers were treated to special activities, memorabilia, the best entertainment acts from the line's past three years, a captain’s gala dinner, the finale of the 'SkySea Voice' competition and excursions in Sasebo, Japan, along with an enthusiastic send-off by Sasebo's mayor and the community.

The cruise culminated with an emotional black-tie gala event with tributes to the crew, employees, travel agents, vendors, industry officials and passengers. They were recognized for establishing the brand as an innovator that will leave a legacy in China's cruise market

Since the company launched in May 2015, founder and chairman Min Fan set out to establish a brand offering a perfectly blended East-meets-West experience. For more than three years, the company has done exactly that, earning accolades for food, service, theme cruises and its MICE business offering.

Nearly half a million passengers

Having operated close to 300 voyages carrying a total of nearly 500,000 passengers to destinations in Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, the brand delivered on its multiple homeport strategy with departures from Shanghai, Xiamen, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Zhoushan. It also launched creative ways to sell and market cruising through travel agents and brand partnerships, expanding the awareness of cruising to a broader audience.

'While we originally had every intention of growing the brand, it had become clear that the Chinese consumer was driven toward the newer and bigger hardware that had infiltrated the market in recent years, making it difficult for us to fulfill our dreams,' said Ken Muskat, CEO of SkySea Cruise Line. 'I could not be more proud of our shipboard and shoreside employees for their determination and commitment to the company.

'We not only established a brand name in the market,' Muskat continued, 'but after announcing last March that we were ending operation in September, the brand still broke all-time company records in the areas of employee satisfaction, crew satisfaction, guest satisfaction, load factors and on-board revenue performance. This is a true testament to the kind of employees I had the pleasure of leading and the partners I had the pleasure of working with.'

Ship is headed to Marella Cruises

SkySea Golden Era will sail a final voyage from Shanghai to Fukuoka, Japan, and returning to Shanghai Sept. 2 before its redeployment to Europe where Marella Cruises will take delivery in January. Renamed Marella Explorer 2, it will operate as an adults-only ship.