Vernon Buxton's Cruise News and Views

May 2, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton

Hello out there...welcome aboard

My personal comments are in red. I make no claims to being an expert...merely an enthusiast!

Our publisher, Terry Hutson, passed on an enquiry from a Ports&Ships reader called Brenda, thus...

"I am looking for a cruise with wedding facilities, can you help?"

I e-mailed Clifford Foggitt of Starlight Cruises here in Johannesburg for a response...and he kindly replied accordingly...

"Hi Vernon
I'm sure these people watch too much TV, or old episodes of 'The Loveboat'? Hear, hear, Clifford!

"As I'm sure you know, weddings 'at sea' no longer have any validity, so the closest they are going to get is a 'mock' wedding or 'exchange of vows' which can only take place provided they have tied the knot on land beforehand. There is a charge of R650 for this and, for their effort they get a certificate (of no legal standing), a wedding cake and a glass of sparkling wine.

"We offer this on board MELODY - but MSC limits the number that can take place on any cruise as the Captain doesn't like spending too much time on this.

"The facility is detailed in our brochure, so anyone interested will find it there, or on our website....

Kind regards

Thanks, Clifford...and we hope Brenda is more enlightened.
I don't see much point if its all going to be 'mock', but people enjoy doing strange things...because it's a funny old world.

On to some interesting snippets...the first just seen in Fairplay...and it's indeed newsworthy......

"We could start again... " says Lord Sterling

Former P&O chairman, Lord Sterling, has outlined his plans for reviving Swan Hellenic, the up-market cruise product he acquired from Carnival Corporation last month.

Interesting development, because there were fears this unique cruise concept would become defunct. Which is strange when you consider that Orient Lines has succeeded magnificently with a one-vessel operation, using the old MARCO POLO?

MINERVA ll was the former R8 (what a bloody stupid name for a ship, really!) and is a very attractive ship, with lovely balcony options and a generally very pleasing layout! All the former "R" ships are terrific and have been snapped up by other lines.

Anyway, back to the story
...and Lord Sterling has admitted he is still "seeking suitable tonnage." I've yet to establish what happened to MINERVA ll?

Speaking at the Cruise + Ferry conference in London this week, the former chairman explained that P&O had decided not to buy the company three years ago. But, recently loyal passengers had expressed their concern that Swan Hellenic was about to disappear forever, and encouraged him to become involved.

"If I can find one or two ships we could start again," he said.

"It is unlikely that operations would begin before 2009, even later, if the option to build new tonnage was taken," he said.

The company would also like to bring back river cruises on the Danube, Rhine, Neckar and Yangtze rivers.

Swan Hellenic is best known for its discovery cruises digging into culture and history, but Sterling believes the company's clientele is interested in current affairs as well as the past, and will plan cruise itineraries in accordance with that view.

We truly hope Lord Sterling can pull this one off. It may have been a niche market, but the line enjoyed a very loyal following.

Costa to open state-of-the art terminal in Barcelona

Carnival Corporations's Costa brand is opening a magnificent new cruise terminal in the Mediterranean's busiest port.

Barcelona will see an estimated 1.6 million passengers passing through the port this year, and Costa is projected to carry more than 20 percent of them on 126 planned operations at the port.

Competition is hotting up in the Med., for sure. Both Carnival and MSC have huge resources to throw at this market, so a bruising battle for market share is bound to ensue. Having your own terminal ensures your brand has places to go, and enjoys priority at ports, as well as the economics from a purely business perspective. A good move, hey folks, what say you?

Costa previously opened a similar project at Savona near their home base at Genoa. The Palacrociere Savona, opened in 2003, has two berths and handled about a half million passengers last year on 170 Costa calls.

According to the PR info, the philosophy is to "offer efficiency and comfort to cruise ships guests, and to make them feel they are on holiday from the moment they enter the new terminal."

Cruise passengers can expect 27 check-in counters, seating for 700, an internet cafe, shopping areas and a children's play room. It will also house Costa's new 20-strong offices in Barcelona.

Of course, Costa and all other Carnival brands have priority in scheduling the berth.

In addition to the Barcelona facility, Costa also built and manages a similar two-berth facility at Savona (Genoa), with plans to add a third berth. They have agreements to build and manage a two-ship facility at Civitavecchia (Rome), and to renovate and manage a terminal at Naples.

All for one little old lady...!

Last week, Royal Caribbean's VOYAGER OF THE SEAS was repositioning from Miami to Barcelona for the Med. summer season.

About 100 nautical miles east of Bermuda, a 91-year-old lady began experiencing chest pains, and the ship's medical staff decided she should get to a shoreside medical facility.

The US Coast Guard got the call for assistance, and launched two aircraft from North Carolina...a chopper and a C130. The distance was so great, that the aircraft had to stop in Bermuda for fuel on the way to meet VOYAGER OF THE SEAS. They ultimately reached the ship at 2:30pm.

The pick-up from the deck of the ship was relatively routine, and the patient was taken to a local hospital and was in stable condition by early evening.

Why the C-130, you may well ask? It goes along for safety, in case anything goes wrong with the is on the scene to drop life rafts, mark the spot and relay communications.

Imagine the costs? The planning...the effort? All for one for little old lady...boy, it's this kind of story that restores my flagging faith in humanity. It's the sort of First World behaviour that Americans are famous for, and is one of a myriad reasons why I would love to live in that country.

Who picks up the tab, I wonder?

"Zip-a-Dee-Doh, Zip-a-Dee Day"

The magic of Mickey Mouse has obviously worked for Disney Cruise Line because it has ordered two 124,000-ton ships from the German yard, Meyer Werft.

The new floating theme parks will more than double Disney's overall capacity...and will be considerably larger than the existing 83,000-ton DISNEY MAGIC and DISNEY WONDER.

Disney's profile has managed to combine streamlining with tradition and nostalgia, and each ship has two large red funnels (with Mickey's ears painted on them) to remind you of the ocean liners of the past.

Indeed, DISNEY MAGIC was the first cruise ship built with two funnels since the 1950s, and the ships' whistle plays 'When you Wish upon a Star'

I have to admit I'd love to have a ride and sing "Oh, oh, oh, what a wonderful day," too!!!

I personally feel these are two of the most handsome cruise ships afloat today. They actually look like ocean liners and not apartment blocks.
Not that balconies are not attractive...just wait until you see Cunard's QUEEN VICTORIA...which reflects exquisite lines. Unlike QUEEN MARY 2...which isn't high enough, or long enough?...whatever! The funnel is too stubby, for sure, but that was something to do with being able to sail under New York's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

But hey, I thought we were talking about Disney here? Forgive me, I digress easily when writing about ships!
Zip-a-dee.................aaah, fergeddit!!!

"Australia's first superliner!"

P&O Australia's has acquired the 70,000-ton PACIFIC DAWN, the former REGAL PRINCESS (built 1991). The ship hasn't yet been transferred to P&O, but it's already being billed as "Australia's first superliner."

The line also sails the 47,000-ton PACIFIC SUN (1986), formerly Carnival's JUBILEE, and PACIFIC STAR (1982), which at 35,000 tons was originally Carnival's TROPICALE.

Tired old crates, or what? OK...OK...perceptions! I'm sure they're great?

The itineraries come in varieties from 7 to 28 days and visit such exotic ports of call as Pago Pago, Bora Bora, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Cook Island, Tonga and a range of Australian ports. (VERY appealing, hey folks?) Like the onboard product, the itineraries are designed for the Australian lifestyle, so they don't repeat trip after trip.

Look at the P&O Australia website at
I've always thought there was potential for a cruise operator to home-port a ship or two in Cape Town? Imagine an itinerary including Durban, Richards Bay, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Mombasa? The operator could organise pre- and post-cruise stays in Cape Town and Mombasa, (and you'd fly in and out of here too) with many exotic optional excursions all along the way.

Cape Town enjoys abundant international lure...and in Durban the Zulu culture could be brought to the fore. Richards Bay would offer good game viewing at Hluhluwe/Umfolozi game reserve...and the islands to follow would reveal their individual idiosyncrasies and charms. Kenya boasts the Masai Mara reserve and other top game viewing attractions.

Kenya Airways would decidedly be one of the direct beneficiaries.

I picture two ships being operated, one in each direction, and they really ought to be appealing vessels...and more up to date than the early Carnival offerings being used for the Australian programme above. (Hey, who just offered me a saucer of milk?)

I mean, the MELODY is all we have in southern Africa! As popular and as lovely as these 3- and 4-day cruises are, they are over no sooner than they've begun. What I'm suggesting is 10- to 14-day itineraries that would attract the overseas market...Britain, America and Europe.

Stewart Venn of Triton Cape Sea Travel in Cape Town has already told me that Fred Olsen's 'Around Africa' itinerary on BLACK WATCH always sells out well in advance...and the Brits lap it up every step of the way. Of course they do...plenty of sunshine and exotic islands...what more could one ask for?

Why would it work in Australia and not here in South Africa? Go enlighten me, someone please! What do you think, Allan Foggitt? Stewart Venn? Come on, gentlemen, you are the local cruise fundis!

That's all for this week! Please don't hesitate to e-mail me with news and views, or even to take a swipe at me...especially take a swipe at me!

in Johannesburg




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