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Articles from 2007 In September

Destination cooperation, tour innovation needed

Destination cooperation, tour innovation needed

So said executives at Seatrade Europe's 'Destination Europe' panel last week in Hamburg.

Mai Elmar, executive manager of Cruise Europe, said destinations should focus on coordination, communication, organization and quality. 'Be as courageous to say "What's in it for us?" and not "What's in it for me?"' she advised.

Monica Bengtsson, business area manager-tourism, for Trade & Tourism Helsingborg, agreed that cooperation is vital, also on a local basis. She identified excursion trends as offerings families and more active people, links to special events and a focus on environmental issues, well-being, food and history.

Cruise lines should make use of the competence and innovation the destination can provide in these areas, Bengtsson added.

'A tour can make the cruise, becoming the most rewarding part of the holiday,' according to Philip Naylor, gm fleet, marine and shore operations for Carnival UK. But customer needs are changing, making tours a greater challenge.

The proportion of repeat versus first-time customers for P&O Cruises has shifted from 60/40 in 1998 to 51/49, a function of more capacity drawing passengers who reflect society as a whole, with more families and young couples than in the past.

As a result, Naylor said, his company is looking at how to provide appealing tours for families that don't disrupt participants without children. Also desirable are teen tours and ways to accommodate independent-minded customers such as podcasts for individual exploring. Traditional motorcoach tours are still needed, but increasingly customers seek simpler, shorter excursions rather than full-day programs with lunch.

'We need to move away from everything being predicated on scale and volume,' Naylor said, adding that operators tend to favor a conservative range of programs out of fear that something might go wrong.

Speaking from the audience, a tour operator said her company would gladly develop more options but it's hard to get those tours promoted on board. A colleague added that the operator carries the full risk in developing new options.

Today's shipboard excursion personnel are so busy with paperwork that many don't have time to personally experience new products, which harms sales, observed Mark Ittel, partner, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners.

However, online pre-booking of tours is boosting sales at many lines and gives the opportunity for more lively presentation such as video clips, said Nigel Lingard, marketing director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

Seatrade delegate Teresa Broccoli of tour provider Tumlare talked about a severe shortage of Italian- and Spanish-speaking guides in Northern Europe. Some ports can't even find sufficient German-speaking guides. Language students can be tapped, but guide courses in cities like Copenhagen are costly and the cruise season is short, she said.

Bob Harrison, director-cruise operations for Destination SouthWest, suggested that language skills supercede guiding skills today. He also noted that in a port like Falmouth, 32 volunteer 'ambassadors' turn out to assist cruise passengers. Many are themselves experienced cruisers.

Another issue that emerged was the rise of online tour sellers not sanctioned by the cruise lines. Established providers expressed numerous concerns, including congestion from such operators during tour dispatches.

But Carnival UK's Naylor said the numbers are still small and 'where it happens, it's generally because we're not offering what the market wants.' Or, the tour may be better presented to the consumer in an independent search than the cruise line's own description. 'Whose fault is that?' Naylor concluded.

Cruise executives on the panel expressed their surprise that more tourism entities don't get involved with ports in developing the business. When Colin Edley of Stansted Airport rose to state his facility's interest in the cruise sector, the audience applauded.


Big ships as a catalyst for apos;exciting changeapos;

Big ships as a catalyst for apos;exciting changeapos;

'Infrastructure and the ability to service larger vessels are critical factors for long-term success,' Ittel said, projecting that by 2023, there could be 140 ships and 1.8m cruise passengers sailing in Northern Europe. Long-term, ports have to be able to accommodate ships of 150,000 tons, he said.

At the same time, big ships can be 'a catalyst for exciting development in destinations,' suggested John Tercek, vp commercial development for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The focus has moved beyond docks to creating facilities that incorporate attractions for landside tourists and residents as well, he said.

Sounding a cautionary note, Nigel Lingard, marketing director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said it is 'unrealistic' of small ports to think they will attract big ships. With smaller ships leaving the market, will the mega-ships that replace them venture far beyond the marquee ports? Not likely, Lingard said.

'Let's focus on quality instead of quantity in terms of small ports fighting for the business,' the Fred. Olsen exec advised. He also suggested that very large ships in small ports create a 'Disneyesque' experience.

Joachim Köhn, terminal manager for Hamburg Cruise Center, noted that landside planning takes longer than building a ship. He outlined efforts to keep up with larger vessels, including the goal of transferring baggage between ship and shore in one single movement.

According to Ittel, 'destinations must be the visionaries' in identifying their core market, defining a plan that incorporates cruise and land tourism, preserving resources and identity and involving key stakeholders.

Some major ports like St. Petersburg are planning big investments but, Ittel cautioned others: 'If you don't need it, don't build it.'

St. Petersburg would seem to need it. Peak days already bring 11 ships with 15,000 passengers, resulting in 25,000 passenger tours per day (with people taking more than one tour) and the requirement for 650 coaches and guides. Cruise ships will be elements of a major real estate development in the Russian city which should be able to handle two or three vessels in 2008 during the first phase and up to seven ships when complete in 2012.

The Hague is also considering a major port development built around a real estate project.

Royal Caribbean's Tercek said most places are adequately addressing docks but the greater opportunity is to use big, new ships as 'a dynamic to create more interest in an attraction.' A number of Caribbean islands are doing so in preparation for Royal Caribbean's 220,000gt Genesis newbuilds, he noted.

Jamaica plans a facility in Falmouth that capitalizes on the historic town's Georgian architecture, and other projects are under way or planned in Aruba, Roatán, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and St. Lucia.

The level of Royal Caribbean's investment in such developments varies, Tercek said. 'In some places, we're an investor and in others, more of an advisor. Generally, local forces and people are involved,' he added, noting that governments often make the first approach.


Puttinapos; on the Ritz

Puttinapos; on the Ritz

With customary flair, Dudley is promoting the pleasure of taking afternoon tea at the Ritz in London where passengers on the 32-night voyage from Singapore to Southampton on March 19, 2009, will spend a post-cruise night.

The package built around this sector also includes a pre-cruise night at Raffles Hotel Singapore, economy-class air travel from and to Sydney with Qantas, transfers in Singapore and port charges and taxes. It costs A$11,799 (US$10,446) per person with a standard inside cabin aboard the 90,000gt Cunard liner.

The Los Angeles to Sydney package includes economy air travel ex- Sydney to Los Angeles with Air New Zealand, a night at the Beverly Hilton, the 23-night voyage which departs January 27, 2009 and calls at Honolulu, Apia, Nuku'alofa, Auckland, Christchurch and Hobart and costs from A$8,599 (US$7,613).

There is also an A$8,999 (US$7,967) package for Queen Victoria's 27- night voyage departing Sydney on February 20, 2009 for Singapore via Cairns, Rabaul, Saipan, Nagasaki, Pusan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok. It includes a post-cruise night at Raffles Hotel Singapore and air travel with Qantas to Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney.


Steel cutting month at St Nazaire

Steel cutting month at St Nazaire

The 4,200 lower berth ship will enter service in early 2010.

In three weeks, on October 24, a similar celebration is planned for MSC Splendida, sistership of MSC Fantasia, scheduled for delivery next year in November and MSC Cruises' first post-Panamax ship. MSC Splendida follows with a spring 2010 handover.


Expanded towel creations book from Carnival

Expanded towel creations book from Carnival

Entitled 'Carnival Towel Creations with Freddy' featuring the line's mascot Fun Ship Freddy, the new book offers easy-to-follow directions and diagrams for creating more than 80 different creatures, including new variations such as a snail, bat, cow, stingray and goat.

The new 90-page book expands upon Carnival's original towel creations book published two years ago which featured instructions for 40 animals and sold 100,000 copies.

It is estimated that each year Carnival stateroom stewards create 9m towel animals fleetwide.


Day of double milestones for NCL

Day of double milestones for NCL

NCL invited 45 of its top retail partners - members of the President's Club and President's Club Elite - to St. Nazaire to take part in the ceremony marking the start of construction for the F3 series, which stands for the third generation of Freestyle Cruising vessels.

The company selected its top retailer in 2006, Brad Anderson of America's Vacation Center, and its fastest growing retailer, Tom Coiro of Direct Line Cruises, to accompany NCL evp Andy Stuart in pushing the button to start the automated steel-cutting machine. Joining them was Jacques Hardelay, gm Aker Yards France.

Stuart called it 'a huge day for Norwegian Cruise Line.' He added: 'We would not be here without our travel agent partners and President's Club members.'

In a festive atmosphere of blue and white balloons with 'La Mer' piping through the hall, the quartet commanded the plasma cutter to slice a steel plate that will form a bracket in the double-bottom panel under the engine.

What was going through Coiro's head as he stood on the steel-cutting machine? 'Hope we don't push the wrong button,' he quipped.

'We expect great things from the next generation of Freestyle Cruising ships,' said Cedric Rivoire-Perrochat, gm of Echos du Large, a Paris-based cruise retailer who was on hand for the ceremony. 'In France NCL is getting more and more clientele just because of the Freestyle concept.'

Larry Jacobs of Bermuda's Ministry of Tourism and Transport said it was an honor to witness the ceremony. He added: 'Bermuda has a long-standing partnership with NCL and we look forward to doing business with them in the future.'

The keel for the first F3 ship is to be laid in April, with delivery set for January 2010. Hardelay said that at 150,000gt, the vessel will become the largest ever built at St. Nazaire, just edging out the Queen Mary 2 tonnage-wise.

Following the activities in France, NCL executives and the President's Club members flew to the Dutch port of Eemshaven where they will sail on the newly delivered Norwegian Gem to its introductory events in Rotterdam and Dover.

Bill Hamlin, evp fleet operations for NCL, accepted the ship from Meyer Werft managing partner Bernard Meyer during today's handover ceremony.


Why NCL didnapos;t pick up the F3 option

Why NCL didnapos;t pick up the F3 option

'Since we ordered the ship, we made quite a number of changes and we are not through the process of pricing those changes,' Stuart said. 'We're working through that on the first two.

'Our desire is to extend the option when we've finalized the issues related to the first two,' he continued. 'Our wish is to extend it and ultimately to exercise it.'

In September last year, NCL became the first owner to place an order at the St. Nazaire shipyard following its acquisition by Aker Yards. The largest contract in NCL history was priced at just under EUR1.5bn for two firm 150,000gt ships, each with 4,200 lower berths, for delivery in Q4 2009 (now revised to Q1 2010) and 2010, with an option for a third to be delivered in 2011. The option expired last month.

Asked about the option publicly today, Aker Yards France gm Jacques Hardelay threw his arm around Stuart's shoulders, smiled and said: 'We have not yet signed.'

When would NCL have to pick up the option in order to meet the planned 2011 delivery?

'Very soon,' Hardelay said, adding that the yard would also be glad to deliver in 2012. Aker France has no cruise orders beyond 2010.

Few details of the F3 design have been released. NCL has said the ship will offer 60% more passenger space than the largest vessels it has built so far, and that space will be used 'to introduce a major leap forward in the flexibility and variety of the cruise experience,' consistent with the Freestyle Cruising concept.

One striking feature is that 100% of the outside accommodations will offer balconies for a total of 1,415 balcony staterooms and suites, the richest mix of any NCL ship so far.

F3 will also use a new style of propulsion system being jointly developed by the shipyard and Paris-based Converteam. Alain Crouzols, svp contracts for Aker France, said NCL has reverted to a traditional podless propulsion system with new elements to boost efficiency.

A ship of F3's size would require at least three pods, and it was the owner's choice not to go that route because of cost, both up front and maintenance-wise, Crouzols told Seatrade Insider.

The new engine style is being tested on Pourquoi Pas, a small French sea research vessel.


Castaway Cay featured as a apos;Disney Dreamapos;

Castaway Cay featured as a apos;Disney Dreamapos;

The Disney Dreams Catalog includes such offerings as a private tropical island paradise for the day and a New Year's Eve stay inside Cinderella Castle Suite.

The dream experiences will be awarded through a random process to eligible guests at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts throughout 2008, as well as eligible mail-in participants.

Among the prizes is a day at Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay for a winner and up to three guests to be lavished with gourmet dining, recreation, beachfront cabana massages, entertainment and overnight accommodations on a private yacht.

The 2008 Disney Dreams Giveaway is part of 'The Year of a Million Dreams,' a Disney Parks celebration that includes new attractions, parades and entertainment.


Silversea outlines golf themes

Silversea outlines golf themes

The program features 35 courses in 16 countries and island destinations throughout the South Pacific, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Mexico.

'Silver Links' voyages provide escorted, optional golf excursions that vary in price from course to course and include transfers, pull or power-drive carts and fees. Nike Golf clubs and golf essentials are available for rental or purchase.

Split-screen swing analysis using a V1 digital coaching system is available on board, and a PGA-classed golf pro will organize personalized instruction, specialty group clinics, demonstrations and putting contests.

As an example of a 'Silver Links' voyage, Silver Whisper's seven-day Rome to Monte Carlo cruise on July 19 offers play at Golf Park Mallorca (Palma de Mallorca), PGA at Catalunya Golf Club (Barcelona), Servannes Golf Club (Sete) and Sainte Maxime Golf Club (St. Tropez).


Energy savings joins an array of hotel challenges

Energy savings joins an array of hotel challenges

At the same time, suppliers must meet the challenges of big volumes and ships with multiple restaurants and galleys, while also catering to the changing tastes of varied customer groups.

These key issues emerged last week at Seatrade Europe's 'Hotels Afloat' session, in which Ralf Hübner, md Hobart, outlined his company's water- and energy-saving warewashing equipment, Manfred Sussman, gm of Convotherm, discussed his space- and energy-saving combi steamers, and Sakari Krouvila, director of SeaKing Finland, the provider of catering systems, talked about changes in ship design and the new drive for efficiency.

'Ten years ago, nobody spoke about energy savings in the galley,' Krouvila said. Hotel suppliers have to adjust to new general arrangements, new dining concepts, big volumes, logistics on board and limited space for specialty galleys, he added. Dining as entertainment and better quality food for crew are other areas of current focus.

Krouvila predicted the traditional main-dining restaurants will become smaller as speciality restaurants proliferate. He also forecast more self-service dining.

Warewashing is an important part of waste treatment, 'a very big issue on cruise ships,' Hübner pointed out, with new equipment halving the amount of energy and chemicals. Multiple galleys to serve a growing number of restaurants add to the complexity of internal logistics and piping.

An area where equipment buyers for cruise lines differ from their landside counterparts is their focus on the initial product price instead of considering the entire cost chain or the lifetime of the equipment, Hübner added.

And Convotherm's Sussman noted that training is vital for the optimal use of equipment. Many users don't fully realize a product's capabilities or obtain the best possible results because the operators don't take advantage of training; buyers must be willing to 'read the manual,' so to speak.

Turning to the consumer experience, lines must cater to the needs of 'at least six ethnic groups which are constantly changing,' according to Marco-Andrea Cozzolino of MSC Italcatering. That can be further complicated by such regulations as no cooking with open fire, which is central in the preparation of Chinese cuisine.

When it comes to hotel innovations, MSC is developing a new VIP concept, the MSC Yacht Club, for an area of its upcoming post-Panamax ships.

Cozzolino urged suppliers to think of their business with cruise lines as a partnership, and he cited quality and creativity as the overriding factors.

Hans Heger, director of hotel operations and catering for V.Ships, noted that 'On-board revenue is a key element for survival.' Beverage sales and concessioned areas are among the top revenue generators.

Heger identified opportunities on the hotel side as creating new revenue streams, developing new features to give a 'wow' effect, devising products or services that address costs or quality, tailoring for the needs of smaller operators, forming strategic partnerships and any facet in the areas of environment, regulatory, security and safety.

Presenting the shoreside hotel perspective, Sebastian Heinemann, gm, Hotel Atlantic Kempinski, said that motivating staff through participatory management and the use of technology to reduce labor costs are key issues. He added: 'We land-based hoteliers can learn a lot from the cruise industry.'

Heinemann likes to hire former cruise-ship crew because of their flexibility and their capacity to work longer hours.

But when he posed a question for the cruise industry, it went unanswered in the 'Hotels Afloat' session. From the outside, everything looks the same, he said. How is each brand going to distinguish itself? With the focus on bigger and bigger, what will make it so interesting to cruise?