Vernon Buxton's Cruise News & Views

Apr 18, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton

Fred Olsen's BALMORAL to be Lengthened

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (FOCL) has entered into a contract with Blohm+Voss in Hamburg for a lengthening of the NORWEGIAN CROWN by approximately 30 metres, or almost 100 feet.

NCL has sold NORWEGIAN CROWN to the historic FOCL, and she begins operations as BALMORAL in January.

The lengthening will increase the passenger capacity by about 35 percent and provide more cabins with balconies.

The cost of the total project, which now includes the purchase of the cruise ship, the upgrade and the lengthening will amount to about US $ 210 million.

The 1988-built NORWEGIAN CROWN is a beautiful ship, as I discovered myself as a guest of Stewart Venn of Triton Cape Sea Travel, when I enjoyed a coastal voyage on her as CROWN ODYSSEY.

The vessel is of an ideal size, 32,000-gt, and enjoys an excellent 'passenger flow'. Her greatest asset is a wraparound observation lounge for'ard, enabling splendid 360-degree sea vistas.

Lengthening her is unlikely to do any harm and, if anything, her profile is going to look decidedly more elegant.

BALMORAL is destined to be a lucrative addition to the Fred Olsen fleet, which already enjoys good business with BLACK WATCH, BOUDICCA, BRAEMAR and its niche-market, BLACK PRINCE.

One seriously wonders why NCL would have parted with such a splendid vessel? All part of the complexities of the heady world of sea cruising, I guess. She'll be a top-of-the-list cruise choice for this cruise lover. NCL's loss is very much Fred Olsen's gain!


QUEEN MARY has been docked in Long Beach as a tourist attraction and hotel since the '60's (they are celebrating the 40th anniversary this year), but most people outside the area don't realize that the company also works to preserve maritime history.

Last Saturday, nearly 95 years to the day after the sinking of the TITANIC, QUEEN MARY hosted its second annual TITANIC Remembrance.

The event was presented in the Britannia Salon which, during its sailing days, served as QUEEN MARY's second class lounge. The formal event (or you could also wear period attire) featured dinner, lectures, a film and stargazing.

To demonstrate the depth to which they have interest in the history of TITANIC, the first speaker was Don Lynch who spoke about the life of J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line who was the driving force behind the planning process for TITANIC.

The other speaker was TITANIC specialist and expert model builder Tom Nicoli, who spoke about the design evolution of White Star liners.


Something has changed in the cruising world, and the more mature cruisers don't like it.

Correspondents to the very popular American publication 'Cruise Travel' are constantly bleating about the lack of formal attire at dinner. They want to "dress up and feel smart", as one baby boomer wrote.

With NCL's new branding, they are downplaying Formal Night even more, by officially referring to it as 'Dress Up or Not Night.'

'Dress Up or Not Night', is as far as NCL ever goes toward having a "formal night" anymore. Apparently, most remain casual, and tuxedos are a thing of the past. Even the ladies, it appears, don't appear in formal gowns.

In today's cruise market, according to 'Cruise Travel', most people are choosing a cruise simply for a relaxing time away, visiting a few beach-type resorts. For most people, it seems, relaxing doesn't include dressing up.

Of course, it's a different story if you are going on a trans-Atlantic crossing, for example, or some city-oriented itinerary such as a world cruise, where the ship is the destination and dressing up for formal dinners is part of the experience, but the vast majority of people booking cruises (or potential customers) are looking at the cruise simply as R&R.

'Freestyle' doesn't mean that everyone is walking around in swimming suits or T-shirts and cut-off's, however. After 5pm, they do expect long pants and shirts with sleeves in most restaurants. Most people naturally fit right into the resort casual theme.

I think NCL is getting it right with 'Dress Up or Not' night, and sooner or later all other mass market lines are going to have to play catch-up.

Over-trading hits NCL in Hawaii

A few weeks ago NCL reported large losses coming from the NCL America operation due to massive amounts of capacity coming into the Hawaii market from foreign flag lines.

CEO Colin Veitch outlined changes the line was making to build their market share, and warned that taking one of the American-flagged ships out of the market was under consideration, but that would be the last resort.

Apparently, that last resort is in sight because NCL announced that PRIDE OF HAWAII was being withdrawn from Hawaii and sent to Europe for the 2008 summer season. He said that NCL was viewing the move as a temporary measure.

The Hawaii cruise market has grown dramatically, as predicted, but what NCL didn't count on, however, was the sudden influx of capacity from foreign-flagged lines sailing itineraries from the West Coast and able to operate at a lower cost due to their
foreign crews.

First Passengers

The brand-new EMERALD PRINCESS, fresh from the yard, boarded its first passengers for its first cruise this week at Civitavecchia, near Rome.

The inaugural cruise won't be sailed for a few weeks (May 5), however. Princess chose to delay the naming of the ship until ROYAL PRINCESS (formerly Swan's MINERVA II) was finished with its refit and the two could be named in a double christening ceremony in Santorini. (Hope they don't crash into the sunken SEA DIAMOND?)

This summer, EMERALD PRINCESS will be sailing Greek Island and Grand Mediterranean cruises in the Mediterranean. Later, the ship repositions to Ft. Lauderdale for Caribbean cruises.



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