Vernon Buxton's Cruise News and Views

Apr 11, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton


RAZZMATAZZ set to 'rock n' roll' in SA waters

The prospect of cruising in a 220-berth vessel in local waters may sound very intimate, romantic and "yacht-like" but, as recent events have shown, the Mozambique Channel can be very tempestuous...indeed, it is known as one of the world's roughest stretches of water.

This less-than-5,000-gt ship begins cruising locally in August, the very month that OCEANOS went down off the Transkei in a strong south-westerly gale.

The prevailing south-westerly and north-easterly winds continue to dominate the entire area from Maputo to Cape Town until December...when tropical cyclones off Madagascar or Mauritius add their own brand of 'rock n' roll' to ships plying the Mozambique Channel.

Heaven only knows how some passengers will cope when even a stiff south-westerly pushes up the coast against the strong south-flowing Mozambique current....pushing up waves that are known to bring great discomfort aboard large cruise liners.

I personally remember weathering one of these storms off Lourenço Marques aboard the old BRAEMAR CASTLE...and I clearly remember getting not a wink of sleep on at least one of the nights. The RAZZMATAZZ is but a quarter of the size of the wonderful old Union-Castle vessel.

So, as you can imagine, things will go swimmingly on good days, but the slightest onslaught of 'weather' will be felt immediately aboard RAZZMATAZZ. Passengers on some departures will have to be "good sailors" to survive the pitching and rolling that is guaranteed to challenge them...never mind sending plate and glass hurling all over the show.

The newly-formed Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises is due to undergo a refit in Durban. The cruise programme, that commences on 31 August, can be viewed at http://www.razzmatazzoceancruises.co.za

Clearly, RAZZMATAZZ's first cruise season will indeed be telling! It will be interesting to see if this new venture makes a significant dent in Starlight Cruise's fortunes...a season just ended and which resulted in 45,000 very happy passengers enjoying holidays aboard the 36, 500-gt MELODY.



MSC Cruises to build 4th Panamax ship

MSC has signed up for a fourth Musica-class Panamax ship, MSC MAGNIFICA, thereby increasing the Company's fleet to 12 ships within the next three years. Since 2003, MSC Cruises has been taking delivery of one vessel a year. This makes MSC Cruises today the cruise line with the newest fleet and the highest balcony ratio in the world.



Royal Caribbean firms order for Genesis 2

Royal Caribbean International has placed a firm order for Aker Yards to build a second 'Genesis-class' vessel for them.

Aker will deliver the 220,000-gt vessel in 2010, about a year after the first is delivered, and it will become the 24th in the RCI fleet.

The contract price, according to Aker, is 900 million euros...or, about $ 260,000 per berth. (I have trouble imagining buying one berth.)

The 'Genesis' ships will be 43 percent larger than the Freedom-class. They will carry a total of 8,400 passengers and crew...5,400 of them passengers.

At this point, there aren't many places a ship this size can dock. Many ports are still scrambling to upgrade their infrastructure to be able to accommodate smaller Freedom-class ships and compete for those passengers.

Some are saying that a call by QUEEN MARY 2 already stretches their facilities to the limit, and it's doubtful they could be ready for something carrying 5,400 passengers in only a little more than two years.

So, Royal Caribbean may be looking at these ships spending more days at sea with more facilities onboard to dazzle passengers and limiting the number of port calls to only two or three ports in a week.

So it appears cruisers in the future are probably going to be choosing brands based on if they want a more ship-centred cruise, or smaller ships with more ports on the itinerary and standard shipboard amenities.



Things are Getting Really Busy in Italy

Fincantieri has cut the first steel for Costa's new 92,700-ton vessel at their Marghera yard near Venice,
meaning construction is officially underway.

Costa used the occasion to announce that ship's name, COSTA LUMINOSA.

This marks the first time that Costa will have three ships under construction at once, although one, COSTA SERENA is just about to be delivered on 15 May.

The other ship under construction is a sister to the 112,000-ton COSTA SERENA. Both that ship and COSTA LUMINOSA will be delivered in the spring of 2009. (A sister to COSTA LUMINOSA is also on order, with delivery set for March 2010, but construction is yet to begin.)

Legendary Joe Farcus has again been selected to be the interior architect.



SEA DIAMOND goes under

As the sun set Friday night in Santorini (6 April), it seemed like a successful evacuation of SEA DIAMOND with all aboard being safe, and the ship stabilised and ready for a repair survey. Then in Saturday's early morning hours the ship took on more water, listed and sank about 7am local time.

Also as of that morning, it's looked as if two passengers may not have been safely evacuated, although there is some possibility they may still be well and just unaccounted for?

The missing passengers are a man and his 16-year-old daughter, both French citizens. The wife and son, with whom they were travelling, got separated and were safely evacuated.

It wasn't exactly a textbook evacuation. Normally it would be expected that passengers would get into lifeboats and be picked up by several ships who would account for the people whom they picked up. In this case, due to the close proximity of the shore and more than a dozen other vessels involved, passengers were somewhat shuttled to shore by numerous craft, landing in a number of different places, and some simply didn't report their safety to anyone.

Meanwhile, Louis says they may have more information for us next week on the ship itself. Right now their focus, rightly so, has been on SEA DIAMOND's passengers and making sure they are taken care of.
The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry appeared to fault the ship’s captain for the grounding. “Initial investigation shows that the ship hit a clearly charted reef,” it said.
The hull hit submerged rocks between Santorini dockside and the black volcanic island offshore known as the Caldera. As the port is too small to handle large passenger ships, cruise passengers are taken back and forth on launches.


Contact Vernon Buxton on email vernon@dbn.stormnet.co.za


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