Vernon Buxton's Cruise News & Views

Apr 25, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton

Hello out there...welcome aboard!

Plenty happening in the heady world of cruising this week.

You'll read how NCL has taken a knock in Hawaii, and it looks as though the Mediterranean is destined to become a 'Clapham Junction' for ships too.

The potential in Europe is there! Of the 11,5 million cruisers world-wide last year, 10 million were from America. So there is still a vast market to be tapped world-wide, and cruise lines are certainly putting out the bait with bigger and bigger ships...if, indeed, bigger is actually better? A subject for intense debate one imagines?

The Asia-Pacific and Far East cruise markets are still in what could be described as 'infancy' stages, but the day is coming when millions upon millions of Chinese, Japanese and South-east Asians will be attracted by this perfect escape from the pressures and strains of contemporary life.

They'll come for the gambling too. OMG...I've seen this myself on Star Cruise's SUPERSTAR VIRGO out of Singapore. Talk about gambling up a storm!

Alright then...let's go see what's happening out there...

This correspondent's personal comments in the following reports are in red!

Star Cruises loses US $ 156M in 2006

The Malaysia-based Star Cruises, parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines, reported a net loss of $ 156M in 2006, as it "suffered from excess capacity on Hawaiian cruises, as well as weak yields from short cruises in the Caribbean," according to a report.

The world's third-largest cruise line operates a fleet in the Asia-Pacific region, but the thrust of the company has focused on the expansion of the Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America fleets.

As a consequence of the Hawaiian losses, NCL America is moving PRIDE OF HAWAII to Europe.

A surprise move indeed. Clearly, too many cruise lines have climbed on the band wagon in Hawaii. (See the story below!)

PRIDE OF HAWAII will undergo a short wet-dock in February, when a casino will be added, the ship will be re-registered in the Bahamas, and be renamed NORWEGIAN JADE.

She'll operate in the eastern and western Mediterranean, and also with itineraries out of Southampton to the Mediterranean, North Cape, Western Europe and British Isles. The Southampton sailings are designed specifically for the UK-sourced market.

(Cunard and P&O would do well to start polishing their brasses, what say you?)


Hawaii will miss PRIDE OF HAWAII

A report just in reveals that the loss of this vessel will markedly affect businesses in Hawaii...and the state estimates a loss of more than 94,000 visitors the ship would have taken to the region in 2008. Those passengers would have spent an estimated $ 220 million.

The hardest-hit, this news snippet reveals, will be the suppliers in Hawaii from whom NCL America buys food and services. It won't be as easy for them to replace NCLA with other cruise lines.

Even though NCLA is reducing its presence in Hawaii by a third, it still stands to be a major player in its cruise industry. Overall the state expects about 400,000 cruise passengers to Hawaii next year. With their two remaining ships, NCLA will carry about a quarter of a million, or more than half of the industry total, the report stated.

Pity Hawaii is so far away. South Africans would love those 'Freestyle Cruising' ships and the island destinations! I would! Wouldn't you?

Meanwhile, NCL's European plans include three of the line's newest ships (all Jewel-class), more than they have ever had in Europe at once, and with an extended season, more berth days in Europe than the line has had before.

MSC is Exp-a-n-d-i--n---g!

This was a big week for Mediterranean Shipping Cruises and Aker France. Two more MSC ships took major steps in construction at the St. Nazaire yard.

The keel was laid for MSC FANTASIA with the first block being lowered in place and, in line with tradition, two gold coins (one from the owner and one from the shipyard) were welded into the keel. The 133,000-ton vessel will be delivered in autumn 2008, only about a year and half away.

Its sister ship MSC SERENATA also passed a major construction milestone this week when the first steel was cut. MSC SERENATA will be delivered in the spring of 2009.

Both ships will feature the line's new La Dolce Vita concept that's much like a hotel concierge floor...or a ship within a ship. The 100 staterooms in the exclusive section will have dedicated butler service, their own reception area, a pool and solarium, plus private access to the health club and spa.

Oh. Yes. Please...I'll try this class out any time!!!
Ahoy there, Mr Allan Foggitt!!! (Allan is MD of Starlight Cruises, the general sales agents for MSC in South Africa, based in Johannesburg.)

These, of course, aren't MSC's only ships on order. They have what some smaller lines would consider practically a whole fleet under construction. MSC ORCHESTRA is virtually complete and will be delivered next month...and christened by Sophia Loren in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, on 16 May.

Sophia Loren has been the godmother to each of MSC's newbuilds. Even when she named the first, MSC LIRICA, she already had experience, previously godmothering a Princess vessel.

I bet Allan will be high-tailing it out to Rome to see the legendary 'La Loren' asking God to "bless ORCHESTRA, and all those who sail in her" Italian, of course!

Then, beginning June 2, this same MSC ORCHESTRA will sail a weekly round trip 7-day itinerary calling at Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik.

(An extremely becoming itinerary, for sure. I dream of one day sailing up through the Dardanelles, and into the Bosphorus, with Istanbul splayed out before me on both sides of this fabled waterway...yessssss!!!)

The ORCHESTRA will operate that itinerary through October 27, at which time the vessel will transition to its winter itineraries. She is a sister to the 89,600-ton MSC MUSICA that was launched last year, and it is the second in the class of a three-ship order.

Meanwhile, MSC POESIA's (po-ee-see-a...that's 'poetry' in Italian!) construction is well underway, and it will be delivered next year.

MSC MAGNIFICA is also on order with Aker, and it will be delivered in 2010.

Just as in the cargo industry with hundreds of ships, MSC has become one heck of a force to be reckoned with in Europe's rapidly expanding cruise industry.


Royal Caribbean last week took delivery of LIBERTY OF THE SEAS from Aker at their Turku (Finland) yard.

The ship arrived on Sunday at Southampton for trade events, prior heading out across the Atlantic.

The 160,000-ton ship is a sister to FREEDOM OF THE SEAS, which now shares the title of the world's largest cruise ship.

LIBERTY OF THE SEAS will be involved in trade events in New York before being welcomed to its new homeport of Miami...where it will be named before embarking on its maiden voyage on 19 May.

Carnival is edging towards Europe

At Carnival Corporation's annual shareholders' meeting in Southampton last week, it was revealed that Carnival''s international markets will play a steadily increasing role in the company's future...and particularly in Europe.

Last year North American passengers accounted for 70 percent of the company's business. By 2010, they expect North American numbers to shrink to 60 percent.

To accommodate the faster European growth, the European brands are going to receive 50 percent more new ships than the American brands will.

Carnival expects to build 20 ships by the end of 2010. Only eight of those are slated to go to American brands, and the other 12 will go to European brands.

Over the last four years (since the 2003 merger with P&O Princess), Carnival has funded $ 9 billion in newbuilds through its own cash flow.

How mind-boggling is that?

When the 20 newbuilds are added to the fleet, it will increase the capacity by 48,000 lower berths. They currently operate 80 ships with a capacity of 149,000 lower berths.

Carnival has five core business regions...America, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Europe comes to you!

Celebrity has a new element to their onboard programming on European cruises. They're calling it "Passaporto di Europa," and you'll find it on sea days during their cruises both in the Mediterranean and in northern Europe this summer.

The events are designed to highlight some of the countries you'll be sailing to in a lighthearted way.

For example, the pool deck becomes St. Mark's Square during 'Carnevale di Venezia' on itineraries including Italy. There's music, food and mask-making in the 'piazza'. It even included a gondola race; all that's missing are the pigeons.

In Greece, passengers may be treated to a candlelight taverna-style dinner followed by an on-deck Greek festival with music, food, dancing and bedsheets-as-tunics.

On the way to Spain, you might be treated to a Sangria-making demonstration, and more important, Sangria-sampling.

In the British Isles, passengers will be able to go back to the '60's when they attend the 'British Invasion Party,' or experience authentic English pub games, and discover Irish whisky during 'Irish Pub Night'

Like there's someone who doesn't know the Irish make whisky?)

The events will be taking place on European cruises this summer aboard CELEBRITY CENTURY, CELEBRITY GALAXY, CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION and CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM.

All Celebrity Ships Getting Something Extra

Do the longer names above sound a big strange to you? Yes?...well, all Celebrity ships are getting something extra to bring them in line with their newbuilds that will be delivered starting next year.

Celebrity's existing fleet were all named in the way ships used to be, with just the name, not the brand. When the name was announced for CELEBRITY SOLSTICE, the line decided that they would begin to add 'CELEBRITY' to the front of each of the new ships' names for branding purposes.

While the formal re-registration process isn't yet complete, they have already begun to use the new names.

(Having read much about Celebrity in recent years, it is a brand I would very much love to experience. It's a step above Royal Caribbean, and could well be nearly as good as many considerably more expensive cruise offerings?)


The 30,200-ton ROYAL PRINCESS entered service last week for Princess Cruises, sailing from Barcelona with its first passengers.

She is the former R8, and most recently, Swan Hellenic's MINERVA II...and now a sister to TAHITIAN PRINCESS and PACIFIC PRINCESS.

(I'm truly surprised Swan Hellenic failed. This destination-intensive offering with a culture of reputable lecturers and speakers appealed to a broad spectrum of cruisers seeking something more intellectually. It's a funny old world!

…In the wake of SEA DIAMOND

Following the sinking of the SEA DIAMOND outside Santorini two weeks ago, it remains a mystery how the ship happened to strike the reef which opened the hole in its side?...and who gave the order for the tow operator to tow the ship into deeper water?
The captain insists he had ordered it to be towed to shallower water.

More than 400 tons of oil is seeping out of the ship's tanks, which is hardly compatible with an 'azure Mediterranean' environment.

There are fears the ship may shift and break apart... resulting in an ecological disaster! The vessel is now resting precariously upside down about 133 metres below the surface of the water...on a ledge on the side of an undersea volcanic crater. It would be very easy for it to fall off and slide farther down the crater.

No sign of a missing man or his daughter yet either.

That's it! Please feel free to e-mail me with any personal comments, criticisms, news, views, opinions... remembering that we'd love to publish what you have to say.
Keep it short, and give us your full name and city/town of residence. You're welcome!

Wishing you fair skies and calm seas.



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