Terry Hutson's Cruise News & Views

Sep 7, 2007
Author: Terry Hutson

Once again much appreciation to Vernon Buxton for keeping us royally entertained in recent months with his sometimes zany and outrageous but always interesting and pertinent views and news from the wonderful world of cruising. It’s been great having you on board Vernon but bon voyage for now.

The summary of cruise news has now moved to Friday while we try to find the most suitable slot for it and while we hope to keep it as a weekly column this will depend of several factors not always controllable so occasionally there may be a slightly longer gap in between.

Also in preparation is the 2007/08 Cruise Schedule listing all cruise ships expected to call in southern Africa during the coming summer season. This should be up and available within the next week or two. At present it doesn’t look like any ships will be in South African waters until December, but there may be a few surprises. Keep a sharp lookout for this in PORTS & SHIPS.

To all travel agents and cruise line representatives out there, please keep PORTS & SHIPS informed of anything you think might interest our readers, who number in the tens of thousands – 28,000 at the latest count and rising. You never know, it might help fill a few places on that ship for you. You can always fly your banner on our masthead, you know!

Tropical storms scuttle cruise plans

Something topical to commence with, or should that read tropical! No sooner has the Caribbean area finished cleaning up after Hurricane Dean, than another comes along beating up the islands and mainland of central America, causing disruption and mayhem not only to those living in its path but also to shipping including of course some of the cruise ships.

What do you do when a hurricane comes your way – a sailor will tell you that if wise you get out of harm’s way, and that’s what several cruise lines did as Hurricane Felix, the sixth and latest storm of the summer, came whistling past the island of Granada. At that stage (earlier this week) the storm was quite low in density, with winds of less than 50 miles per hour but that soon changed in the warm waters around the islands, with winds rising in the region of 150 mph as the storm gathered strength and moved rapidly through the hurricane categories, eventually topping category five status – which is about as high as it goes. Once over the mainland of Central America however the storm quickly lost much of its power and has since been downrated to a tropical depression.

The worst affected area from a cruise perspective is probably the island and cruise port of Roatan off the coast of Honduras, leaving several ships to rearrange their itineraries for more peaceful zones. Ports such as Roatan, Belize and Cozumel found themselves suddenly on the no-go list until the storm had passed. CARNIVAL LEGEND was one of the ships affected having to divert shortly after sailing from Tampa although no doubt those on board found equal diversion in Key West, Grand Turk and Ocho Rios.

Carnival pulls out from German joint venture

After months of negotiating, US cruise giant Carnival Corporation and Germany’s TUI have decided separate is better and have cancelled all thoughts of making a marriage together.

The two companies have been in talks since last year and at one stage looked like creating a joint German venture known as TUI Cruises that would have included a newly built 3,000 passenger ship for delivery in 2010. As negotiations dragged on it was decided to bring in existing Carnival tonnage. Incorporated into the proposed j/v was also the existing club ship brand AIDA.

Both companies said in a statement this week that they were withdrawing anti-trust filings with the German and Austrian Federal Cartel agencies, with Carnival citing “an extremely difficult regulatory environment in Germany” as the reason for the breakup. Carnival said that given these circumstances it would have been impossible to have got the joint venture underway this year. “Failure to do so would create adverse tax consequences for the American company that would impact the economics of the transaction.”

So there it is, the couple remain fond of each other but daddy’s strict conditions proved just too much and the marriage is off!

Olé, Iberocruceros

Any sadness felt by the Carnival Corporation over the German failure would have been offset at much the same time this week by the confirmation of a different joint venture, this time with Spain’s Iberojet, which will result in a new venture known as Iberocruceros.

The deal is due to be packaged, signed and sealed next week, 14 September, with Carnival coming away with a 75 percent stake in the j/v and Spain’s largest travel company, Orizonia Corporation holding the balance. Orizonia throws in two ships – the 1,244-passenger GRAND MISTRAL and the 834-passenger GRAND VOYAGER, while Carnival comes to this wedding with the 1,486-passenger CELEBRATION, which was previously stationed in Jacksonville, USA from where she cruised the Caribbean.

The latter ship is to undergo an extensive refit and will only join the fleet in the Mediterranean from next year. Strangely all three ships are to be flagged in Italy, although Iberocruceros head office will be in Madrid and led by GM Alfredo Serrano.

”The new Iberocruceros joint venture will build upon the brand awareness of Orizonia's Iberojet operations, while providing a solid platform for expanding in the fast-growing European marketplace,” said Micky Arison, Carnival’s chairman.

Happy days ahead for ports in the land of Oz

So you thought things were rosy for the Australian cruise industry? Funnily enough so did we, until coming across a report issued by the Australian cruise industry.

Judging by the number of ships that are stationed in Australian ports it is easy to come to this conclusion, but an economic impact report for 2006/07, commissioned by ‘Cruise Down Under’ (CDU) – the marketing body for Australia and the Pacific region - and Australia’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources says there has in fact been a 17 percent decline in passenger days in port.

“The Australian cruise shipping industry recorded growth in the number of cruise ship visits to port, the number of different cruise ships visiting Australia and the overall passenger and crew capacities of these cruise ships in 2006/07. However, this did not translate into increased passenger and crew days at port,” the report reads.

The CDU report adds that figures for the previous season were in fact inflated because “passenger and crew numbers were based on an assumed 100 percent occupancy rate for passengers and crew relative to each ship’s capacity”. As a result several cruise-related expenditure and economic impact figures have had to be revised downwards for 2005/06.

The number of actual cruise ship visits to Australian ports increased in 2006/07 only slightly, by five to 420 port calls, while the number of individual cruise ships increased by seven to 35. Passenger capacity in these increased by 5,000 to 30,867.

In Australia total passenger expenditure was down to A$108 million (US$88 million), with the previous year’s figure being revised to A$124.7m. Crew days in port were down while crew expenditure whilst in port was slightly up.

Now how does this compare with southern African ports and cruise ship calls? As far as Ports & Ships knows only Tourism KZN has made any form of detailed study into the local cruise industry – this was back in 2003 which means the data gathered is by now sprouting a few whiskers.

In fact we wonder how seriously our respective local tourism authorities take the cruise industry, and how much effort actually goes into attracting cruise ships to these shores. Once again the exception is certainly with Tourism KZN which makes the effort of attending overseas cruise forums to promote the region, but is this a lone voice from the wilderness? Or perhaps not - someone tell us if we’re wrong.

The Aussie report concludes with the following interesting but encouraging statement: “After recording only a small increase in 2006/07 following significant growth in 2005/06, cruise ship visits to Australian ports are expected to increase by 60 – 70 visits in 2007/08. This expected increase would likely lead to a significant increase in passenger and crew expenditure in Australia and associated economic impact. One of the major industry developments will be the increase in large luxury cruise vessels based in Australia. The SUN PRINCESS will be based full time in Australia during 2007/08 with its sister ship, the DAWN PRINCESS, basing itself in Australia for the 2008/09 summer. This has the potential of significantly increasing the extensive expenditure associated with base ships. The new Darwin cruise ship terminal is expected to open in 2007/08 following on from the successful opening of the new Brisbane Cruise Ship Terminal in 2006. Construction is also expected to commence shortly on the Townsville Cruise and Military Ship Terminal.”

Would that South Africa could produce such a report on a national scale rather than something regional. Again we suspect that no-one actually knows how many ships will be calling at southern African ports this summer (PORTS & SHIPS intends helping rectify this within a few weeks) but this is something that ought to be undertaken by a marketing body given over to developing this highly sustainable and profitable, expanding industry.

Is anyone listening out there?

the full Australian CDU report can be found here

In a related sort of manner….

Some interesting figures were published by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recently, detailing the value of cruise ships both worldwide and for the United States. CLIA is North America’s largest cruise line marketing organisation and engages in travel agent training, market research and communication on behalf of 24 member lines.

The North American cruise industry last year generated $35.7 billion in gross US economic output and supported 348,000 American jobs paying $14.7 billion in wages, according to a new report prepared for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The report shows total cruise industry spending increased by 10 percent in 2006 and finds that the overall spending had an impact in all 50 states.

Direct purchases by the cruise lines for goods and services such as food and beverage, fuel, equipment, business services, port services, vessel maintenance and repair as well as purchases by crew and passengers of goods and services related to cruising, including pre- and post-cruise stays, airfare and lodging, totalled $17.6 billion in 2006. Adding the indirect economic impacts, such as transportation services to deliver finished products to the cruise lines and utilities needed to run manufacturing equipment, the total economic impact generated by the cruise industry was $35.7 billion.

Now those are some numbers worth taking note of…

The economic impact of the cruise industry reached into every [US] state, with 79 percent of direct purchases and 83 percent of total employment and income concentrated in 10 states: Florida, California, Texas, Alaska, New York, Hawaii, Georgia, Washington, Illinois and Massachusetts. US ports also saw the benefits from a growing cruise industry. Embarkations at US ports increased by over 4 percent, totalling 9 million, and accounted for 75 percent of total global embarkations.

The study analyses the economic benefits to the US economy from five principal sources: spending by cruise passengers and crew; shoreside staffing by cruise lines in US cities; expenditures by cruise lines for goods and services; cruise line spending for US port services; and expenditures in US shipyards for maintenance and repair.

“Given North America’s importance in the global cruise market, it is gratifying to report that it is also hits the mark on such critical economic factors as spending output and employment,” said Terry L. Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “The US economic benefits for 2006 reflect what we believe is a healthy rate of growth that supports an expanding industry.”

A few salient factors from the report:

* In 2006, 12 million people worldwide took a cruise vacation, an increase of 7 percent over 2005.
* US residents accounted for 78 percent of the industry’s total passengers.
* Based on passenger survey data, approximately 40 percent of embarking passengers stayed one or more nights in a port city and averaged $289 per visit.
* Global industry revenues increased 7 percent to $20.6 billion.
* The $17.6 billion in direct spending created over 153,800 direct jobs paying $5.7 billion in wages.
* By year-end 2006, the cruise industry’s fleet had increased to 151 vessels with a combined capacity of 249,691 lower berths.
* The cruise industry operated in 2006 at an occupancy rate of 104 percent.

Makes for interesting reading, doesn’t it? And ask yourself what we in Africa can do to get a bigger share of this.

Last word on the subject belongs to Terry Dale.

"As an industry, we've barely scratched the surface," Dale said. "There's such potential for us to continue to grow. We've literally brought cruising to the backyards of millions of Americans. It makes it much more accessible for folks, and as a result, you don't have additional costs to fly. ... It just makes the experience that much more affordable."

Two die in cruise ship collision

Two sailors off a cargo ship died when their vessel, the SHELLY was in collision with a Cypriot-owned cruise ship named SALAMIS GLORY off the Israeli port of Haifa, this past week.

According to Israeli radio broadcasts the cargo ship sank very quickly, leaving 13 crew members to abandon ship in the most undignified manner of jumping off as she went down. Eleven were rescued but two went missing and their bodies were later recovered by the Israeli Navy. No-one on the cruise ship was injured.

From initial reports it appears the cruise ship was underway and the cargo ship at anchor when the collision occurred, so you can make your own mind up on who was responsible.

SALAMIS GLORY was built in 1962 for a Brazilian company as the ANNA NERY and since conversion for cruising has had several owners. Salamis Tours purchased her in 1996 and she now carries up to 480 passengers.

Last word….

We thought the best story we heard this week was surely that of a ship touring the British Isles while being passed off as the pirate ship BLACK PEARL from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which has been shown to be a fake.

And it took a 12-year old boy who knows a thing or two about sailing ships to spill the beans. Or perhaps he knows the movies even better, having seen them ‘dozens of times.’

The three-masted ship is sailing round Britain as a sponsors’ exhibit and was being passed off as the real thing from the movie. That was until the young lad, who admits to being a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ freak, having seen it ‘dozens of times’, immediately challenged the crew, who were forced to admit he was right – the ship they were on was the replica HMS Bounty.

The youngster pointed out that the deck and cabins were not the same as on the ‘real’ Black Pearl. It turns out there is no Black Pearl, other than a floating set mounted on a barge. HMS Bounty on the other hand did appear in two of the movies, in the background of one scene as the EDINBURGH TRADER.

Until next time...


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