Terry Hutson's Cruise News & Reviews

Sep 29, 2007
Author: Terry Hutson


Silversea gets adventurous


An interesting piece of news in the past couple of weeks comes from the American offices of luxury cruise operator Silversea Cruises, owner of those fine ships SILVER WIND, SILVER CLOUD, SILVER WHISPER and SILVER SHADOW.

It turns out the line intends diversifying somewhat into adventure type cruising with the acquisition of the 6,072-gt ice-class ship WORLD DISCOVERER, which was owned by World Adventurer Pte and operated under the name of Discovery Cruises.

The deed is a done one, with the ship having been delivered to Silversea in Singapore on 17 September for an undisclosed price.

In announcing the acquisition, Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea’s chairman said they have been looking into ‘this segment’ for some time and when they heard of the availability of the World Discoverer they took immediate action.

He revealed that the ship will undergo a multi-million dollar refurbishment including reducing the number of passengers carried from about 170 to 140, in keeping with Silversea policy of having an atmosphere of spaciousness on board each of its ships, even though they are relatively small. Guests will be looked after by a crew complement of 106.

World Discoverer was built in 1989 and has operated under a variety of names, including Delfin Clipper, Sally Clipper, Baltic Clipper, Delfin Star and Dream 21. With an ice-strengthened hull and a Lloyd’s Register ice-class (1A) certificate, the ship is equipped to sail some of the remotest waters including those around Antarctica.

Silversea says it will unveil more detail about what it plans for the ship within the next couple of weeks, once the ink has dried on all the paperwork. In the meantime what has been disclosed is that the ship will undergo a complete refurbishment throughout all areas, although ensuring that all accommodation will continue to have ocean views. Nor will the outward appearance of the ship change very much except of course that the name is sure to change.

What you can also bet on is that the ship will take on Silversea’s upmarket club-like approach to cruising and will continue to appeal to the more discerning cruise guest rather than those who go on adventure cruises expecting to rough things. That’s not to say the ship won’t feel the effect of rough seas, in much the same way that some of its siblings have done particularly when visiting southern Africa and one or two other areas in the past - which hasn’t prevented them from coming back for more.

And while the ship will be marketed for upmarket-style adventure cruising (perhaps more accurately described as expedition cruising), guests on board won’t have to look far to find the luxuries taken for granted on other Silversea ships. Single sitting dining, elegant lounges, library and wi-fi internet access to enable guests to stay in touch with home, backed up with state-of-the-art satellite communication systems and all the other accoutrements necessary for fine modern day ocean cruising – beauty salon, boutique, fitness centre, whirlpools, sauna, flat screen television in all staterooms and so on. The word is the ship will even feature a cigar lounge similar to the humidor on Silversea’s other ships.

The addition of World Discoverer, which has still to be renamed, means that Silversea will have increased its fleet to six ships by the end of 2009, which is when Silversea is set to take delivery of yet another ship; this one at the other end of the scale - a new 36,000-gt, 540-passenger vessel is currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy.

Silversea has also signed an option for a second vessel of this class – what better proof that the line is both successful and growing… yet it was only a couple of years ago that the events of 9/11 forced the company to take first Silver Wind out of service for a year in a bid to control costs, followed by Silver Wind the following year as American clientele hesitated going on foreign travel.



And while on the subject of Silversea…


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Silversea’s SILVER WIND, sister ship to SILVER CLOUD which is heading for a three month cruise in the western Indian Ocean. Picture Terry Hutson

While we are on the subject of this distinctly Italian-feel cruise line (don’t be fooled by the Florida address, the ships are Italian throughout, although if you want to add a bit more to the cosmopolitan background of this company, throw in plenty of Russian heritage among the founders). SILVER CLOUD will be arriving in African waters in December for an extended three months of cruising – about as close as one gets to a homeporting without any one port becoming the centre of operations.

During the three months in these parts Silver Cloud will make a number of cruises up and down the South African coast between Richards Bay and Walvis Bay, as well as making cruises among the Mauritius and Reunion group (the Mascarenes) and Madagascar, and also among the Seychelles islands in addition to visits to the Comores, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Lamu.

The twin ships Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, both of 16,900-gt are not exactly everybody’s favourite ship, but I will happily confess to having had a fondness for all four ships in the fleet and in particular the two smaller vessels since first clapping eyes on them in the late 1990s. This appreciation for what I have seen (I can’t boast of having travelled on any of the four but have visited on board several of them in port) relates not only to the outward appearance but also the general atmosphere on board and it is easy to understand why so many passengers are repeat passengers each year.

Looking at the itinerary for Silver Cloud, the ship will be arriving in the western Indian Ocean in mid November (2007) from the Red Sea, making visits to East Africa and the Seychelles and then to Port Louis, Toamasina and Tulear in Madagascar before arriving in Richards Bay in mid December. She then undertakes a number of 14-day cruises along the South African coast as far as Walvis Bay in Namibia, returning to Richards Bay and Durban and retracing her steps back to Cape Town and Walvis Bay before eventually heading back again to Mauritius and Madagascar, East Africa and the Seychelles by the end of February.

With good air connections between South Africa and most of these destinations there are obviously some excellent opportunities available for discerning travellers.

This type of concentrated cruising in this end of the Indian Ocean is going to be good for the industry, even if it is at the top luxury end of the scale. Clearly Silversea has sampled the waters of the Zanj and likes the taste. May they be successful and be emulated by others in the years ahead.



Razzmatazz ready to go

That’s the word from Ian Powell, the man driving the former cruise ship MADAGASCAR and soon to be renamed RAZZMATAZZ, which he intends operating on an all year round basis out of Durban.

Powell says the transfer of the ship to his company, Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises is due to be completed within the next week or so after which work can begin on readying her for the first cruise in November – details of this are available on the website at
http://www.razzmatazzoceancruises.co.za

This work includes a compulsory drydocking for classification purposes and to take care of what he says are minor maintenance matters. Cruises planned for November include 2, 3, 4 and 5-day cruises of the ‘to nowhere’ variety or to the Mozambique islands. There is also a charter cruise called ‘Zest for Birds’ listed – presumably to Europa Island which seems to be a favourite among the tweeters.

There have been some predictions that the ship faces a rocky time at sea on account of its size, and attempts to launch the company have had a bumpy start with a legal wrangle involving Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises suing another cruise company, Starlight Cruises and the publishing house Nowmedia, which caters for the travel industry. This is on account of what Razzmatazz says are defamatory statements that led to a delay in the launch and therefore a loss of income.


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Madagascar arrives in Durban, October 2005. Picture Terry Hutson

The ship is at present berthed in a quiet corner of Durban harbour, still looking in remarkably good condition despite the two years in mothballs. From all reports she has been a popular ship in her previous history, with accounts from people who sailed on her attesting to their enjoyment on board.

It would be a pity if she were to languish in an African port for any longer and for that reason alone one hopes the wrangles and obstacles that have held up the ship’s re-launch can be cleared. Ports & Ships has no role to play other than of carrying information to the reader and won’t be drawn in to take sides in disputes. We believe in this market and we believe the market potential is large enough to support another ship operating locally, which is why we note with such interest the arrival of the SILVER CLOUD (see article above), and we’ll therefore watch with interest to see what transpires of this latest local attempt to launch an alternate cruise operation in this country.



Briefly speaking about cruising…

Cunard’s latest Queen completes sea trials


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Cunard’s new 90,000 ton QUEEN VICTORIA. Picture Cunard

Cunard’s latest ship QUEEN VICTORIA completed her sea trials this past week and has returned to the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy where final fitting out of her public spaces (described as magnificent), luxurious suites and staterooms, can be carried out.

The sea trials also allowed testing of the ship’s speed and manoeuvrability a well as to understand how the ship’s engines respond under stress of maximum speed. Although there has been no specific comment on this it would appear all went well – the last thing Cunard would want is a repeat of some of the early teething problems experienced when QE2 entered service 40 years ago, which included an enforced cancellation of her scheduled maiden voyage.

Queen Victoria is due to arrive at Southampton on Friday, 7 December where she will be named three days later by Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall.



Sea Diamond an ecological ‘time bomb’

Engineers are concerned about a large quantity of oil on board the sunken cruise ship SEA DIAMOND that has begun to leak into other parts of the ship. Sea Diamond sank off the island of Santorini in April this year, leaving a reported 450 tonnes of bunker oil trapped on the ship and experts undecided as to how they should go about recovering it without causing contamination of the coastline. Now it seems that fate is taking a hand although so far none of the oil has left the ship but is leaking into various rooms and compartments within the ship. Experts believe that it is only a matter of time before it begins to escape the vessel however.

Two French tourists died when the ship sank. Greek authorities have already fined the owner and operator as well as the master of the ship an amount of €1.17 million for polluting the ocean, yet it seems the worst may still be to come.



Prop damage brings and end to BLACK PRINCE cruise


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Four hundred passengers on Fred. Olsen’s BLACK PRINCE were forced to cut their cruise holiday short and return home by air last week when the 11,209-gt ship suffered propeller damage while transiting the Corinth Canal. A further two cruises have also been cancelled after the ship put into Algeciras in Spain to have the propeller examined, only to find it was missing several blades and has a damaged propeller hub which necessitates a dry docking to put things right.



India increases focus on cruising

India hasn’t always been thought of as a centre for cruising but all that is changing as more cruise ships discover the wonders of the sub-continent and make calls at the sub-continent’s ports, with the country emerging as an important destination for cruise tourism. The ports leading the way are Mumbai, often thought of as the gateway into India, Kochi port and Goa with cruise terminals being built to facilitate the movement of passengers. Of interest is the emphasis placed on providing shopping malls within the terminals bringing obvious benefits regarding employment but also acting as an encouragement to shopping by foreign visitors on the ships.

The Indian government has indicated its intention of making India an important cruise destination and provides incentive schemes to cruise operators in India. In addition more and more Indians themselves are taking cruises, according to several leading travel agency firms. India-based cruising received a kick-start a few years ago when Star Cruises placed a ship on the Indian coast, with short four and five night packages proving the most popular.



And now for bilingual cruises


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Hapag Lloyd’s cruise ship EUROPA has been widely rated for a number of years as the world’s best cruise ship (one or two other contenders might disagree) but one of the drawbacks among non-German speaking passengers has been the language barrier. The ship is of course German and it is that language which is obviously mostly spoken on board.

The last thing many people want to do, no matter what their nationality, is struggle while making oneself understood in an unfamiliar language, which takes much of the enjoyment and pleasure of cruising. But now Hapag Lloyd has come up with a simple solution – a bilingual cruise. The experiment, if it may be called that, saw six special cruises offered during 2007 in which all documentation, menus, notices, announcements, lectures and entertainment have been provided in both German and English, while the crew are required to be fluent in English as well.

The latter is quite common on many European ships, but an English-only speaker (or other nationality) struggles with other matters involving language. Imagine going on a tour when in port and not understanding a word that you are hearing from the guide, or sitting in the lounge or theatre as others split their sides laughing at the comedian and all you have to go on are facial expressions.

The bilingual cruises have apparently been a success and now Hapag Lloyd intends offering another five during 2008. Maybe other English-speaking ships ought to consider taking a leaf out of the Europa’s book by providing a similar service?



PRINSENDAM’s Grand Africa Cruise

We’ve all familiar with the concept of Round the World Cruising, something that used to be limited to one or two of the larger ships but which is now undertaken by a wider variety of cruise operators.

Well here’s news about something a little different. Early next year Holland America Line will send off the 37,845-gt PRINSENDAM on a 73-day Grand Africa Voyage that circumnavigates the continent, exposing almost 800 passengers (assuming the ship is full) to all that Africa has to offer by way of awe-inspiring scenery, exotic wildlife and rich cultural mixtures.

The ship departs Fort Lauderdale on 11 March 2008 and heads across the Atlantic for North Africa on a 20,500 nautical mile journey of wonder, making 28 port stops including three days spent in Cape Town and Mombasa to enable passengers to spend quality time ashore taking part in tours and wildlife safaris.

There are also late night departures from the following ports, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Funchal, Madeira; Durban, Victoria, Mahe (Seychelles); Safaga and
Alexandria (Egypt); and Malaga, Spain, allowing ample time to shop, dine ashore and enjoy local nightlife in these exciting cities.

We’ll have more details of this wonderful Grand Cruise Africa next week.




That’s it until next week, if you have any ideas or suggestions for this column let me know

Terry
info@ports.co.za


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