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Year-End Cruise Update 2008
As 2009 dawns on us, it is time to update some of the stories we carried in 2008. This is not a rehash but an update of important developments since we reported on them in 2008. So let's have a look at some of the things we said then and some of the things that have made the news since we started writing The Cruise Examiner in April.
Norwegian Cruise Line - New shareholders, Hawaii out, Bermuda in, and new ships for old (28-04-08)
A week before Christmas NCL and STX Europe announced that they had renegotiated the order for two F3 class ships down to one, for delivery in May 2010, and Kevin Sheehan has replaced Colin Veitch as CEO. Last week, NCL partner Star Cruises announced that it was withdrawing from the remaining one-ship NCL America operation in Hawaii, which is now profitable. Meanwhile, NCL begins its new Bermuda contract in 2009 and both NCL and MSC now battle it out as to who has the youngest fleet in the industry.
As Europe Grows - The Future of Cruising (05-05-08)
Well, it looks like Europe has stopped growing, or at least the rate of growth has slowed dramatically, at least for now. Spain, the fastest-growing market until recently, at annual rates of up to 32%, and one in which both Carnival and Royal Caribbean have become involved, has reported a number of cruise cancellations and cruise ship lay-ups.
Meanwhile, in the second-largest expanding market of Italy both Costa and MSC prepare to take on a lot of newbuildings over the next three years, by which time hopefully, the present downturn will be over. Cruise ships are a long-term investment after all.
The German market looks set for growth as TUI Cruises adds a ship but the UK may not grow as quickly as expected as three ships now operated by Ocean Village and Island Cruises are withdrawn. The real question will be whether Europe is as badly affected as North America in the present downturn, but as more US ships are withdrawn from the European market, this will ease the pressure somewhat on European lines.
Vancouver vs Seattle: The Great West Coast Battle (19-05-08)
It's now official, Seattle has finally outstripped Vancouver in the number of cruise passengers travelling through its port. The statistics for the 2008 Alaska season give Seattle a passenger count of 886,000, or 36,000 more than Vancouver's 850,000 (passengers are counted both on and off).
The Seattle number is well up on the originally forecast 780,000 that would have put them second. Vancouver has three consolations: it retains all the one-way business to or from Alaska, as it is illegal for these to start or terminate in Seattle; it retains the most upmarket line (Regent Seven Seas Cruises, most of whose cruises are one-way to or from Alaska; and it retains the highest number of actual vessel calls, at 254 to Seattle's 210.
This of course means that Seattle's per ship count is in excess of 4,200 (2,100 on and 2,100 off) while Vancouver's is 20% less at 3,370 (less easy to count as not every ship embarks and disembarks in Vancouver).
Holland America Line: Lucky No. 14? (30-06-08)
In addition to the cabanas that Holland America instqlled in the Eurodam's Retreat and Lido areas, Holland America has now announced five new Retreats for certain members of its fleet. To be installed first in its Statendam class ships that also include the Maasdam, Ryndam and Veendam, the fifth will go to the Rotterdam, and no doubt others will follow as drydockings are planned.
The zaniest thing about these new Retreats is that people will be able to sit in lounge chairs in nine inches of water on either side of the pool, while the middle section of the pool will be sixteen inches deep. However, this means that the old aft aft pool area in these ships has to go (more cabins will be added underneath by the way).
While you have to give it to Holland America for trying there have already been protests that these new Retreats will be fitted in an area of these ships that many say is the most comfortable to relax in.
Holland America has not so far reported that it will install tents in these Retreats as they have done on Eurodam (where the Retreat is found on the top of the ship forward), but as there will be a wide screen in the new Retreats this seems unlikely.
Food Court Cruising (11-08-08)
This one caught us slightly flat-footed. No sooner had we talked about Ocean Village and Island Cruises than it was announced that those lines would be disappearing and that was half the brands we talked about. This removes four ships from this category, one of which goes to Thomson (which may keep its buffets as a sub-brand), two to Australia and one to Spain, although it will be 2010 before Ocean Village is finally closed down.
While Aida Cruises goes from strength to strength, its British copycat's days are numbered. It is interesting that what brought this brand down was the fly/cruise concept and a combination of the fuel spike of 2008 and higher airfares. One wonders if the price of fuel had dropped to $40 a barrel instead of $150 a barrel a month or two earlier than it did whether the same decision would have been made.
Bermuda: Left Behind by Ship Size (18-08-08)
The problem of Front Street in Hamilton losing its cruise ship business was solved very quickly. In 2007, three ships called regularly on Front Street but this year there were none, although there was the occasional one-off call. But Holland America has come to the rescue by signing a contract with Bermuda to operate its 1,350-berth Veendam in weekly service between New York's Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal and both Hamilton and St George's.
Initially, in August, this was to have been a late summer and autumn season of 10 round voyages starting August 10, but this month it was extended to a full season of 24 cruises starting in April.
As the Veendam will be the first of the Statendam class to get her new Retreat, Bermuda passengers will be able to sit in their deck chairs in the pool, should they so wish.
Taking the Slow Boat to China (13-10-08)
Our colleagues in the freighter world may stand to gain as the dollar gains against the euro (more than 90% of freighter fares are charged in euros and the rest in dollars), but the question is whether more Americans will be willing to splash out on the 120-day round-the-world cruises offered by Bank Line (which charges US dollars anyway) and Rickmers Line (which charges in euros). The year 2008 has seen some changes in the field of freighter travel that are not so good.
For the first time in 170 years, although there are still routes between the US and the Mediterranean and between Canada and Northern Europe, it is no longer possible to book a freighter passage between the United States and Northern Europe. And in addition, there is no longer any freighter connection of any kind for passengers travelling between Asia and Australasia, the one exception being Bank Line's monthly one-way sailing from Auckland to Singapore.
For those that are interested in this kind of cruising, only a relatively few agents book it but it is easy to find those few by Googling either "freighter cruises" or "freighter travel."
Games with Olympic Charters (24-11-08)
A month ago we reported on the termination of a contract that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had signed with Cruise Connections Charter Management for the use of what appeared to be Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas and Legend of the Seas during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
But on December 3, Canadian Press reported that court documents stated the deal was for two Carnival ships and one from Holland America. Whatever the case, Cruise Connections allege that the RCMP reneged on an agreement to pay $7 million in taxes and also required the company to produce a letter of credit.
Thereafter, it alleges the Royal Bank of Canada withheld the financing for the deal and at that point the RCMP "terminated" the contract.
As Canadian Press further reported, "the court documents suggest a change in the RCMP personnel overseeing the file led to the unit also changing its position on the taxes and unexpectedly asking Cruise Connections to provide a 90 per cent letter of credit, 'even though the RCMP had expressly removed that provision from the Contract."
So far, no further word has been heard from the RCMP, although it said that it would be calling for new quotations in the first week of December. Stay tuned as they say.
In the meantime, The Cruise Examiner wishes all its readers a Most Happy and Prosperous 2009!
(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)