Ports & Ships Cruise News

Nov 21, 2008
Author: Terry Hutson


  • Tales from the Orient

  • Star Cruises sells SUPERSTAR GEMINI

  • QUEEN MARY 2 comes out of dock

  • New Love Boat on the water

  • SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR arrives in Cape Town



    Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/steffenz/

    Celebrity Cruises has introduced its latest ship, CELEBRITY SOLSTICE, the first of a planned series of five, which will embark on her inaugural season in the Caribbean on Sunday, 23 November. Initially the ship will operate out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida but in the northern spring of 2009 Celebrity Solstice will transfer to the Mediterranean to offer 10 and 11-night cruises from Rome.

    Before she began her transatlantic journey to Florida on 25 October the 121,878-gt vessel, which was built by Meyer Werft was handed over to her owners at a ceremony in Emshaven, Holland.

    The 2,850-passenger ship cost USD750 million to build and since being officially named a week ago by oceanographer Professor Sharon L Smith has received more than favourable comment from those who have been fortunate enough to have gone on board. Other ships in her class, CELEBRITY EQUINOX and CELEBRITY ECLIPSE are set to follow in 2009 and 2010 respectively with a fourth ship due in 2011 and a fifth in 2012.

    Details of where the two next Solstice-class ships will operate from when launched into service have also been revealed. Celebrity Equinox is going to be launched from Southampton in July next year and will then transfer to her homeport of Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, while the third ship Celebrity Equinox will make Southampton her homeport from 2010.

    Celebrity believes that much of its growth will come from the UK market over the next few years. "Celebrity Cruises has enjoyed a strong relationship with the UK and Ireland market and experienced steadily increasing guest numbers in recent years,” says Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan.

    “Investing in the future of that relationship with Celebrity Eclipse homeporting from Southampton is an exciting development for our business."

    One of the many attractions on board the Solstice is a real grass lawn on a half acre sports/recreation area where passengers can picnic by the sea or play bowls or golf while cruising. To ensure the grass stays green and at the right height, Celebrity has employed one of England’s top cricket groundsmen, Lancashire Cricket Club’s Peter Marron who has 33 years of experience in looking after the lawns at Old Trafford in Manchester.

    Marron said that just as he thought he was winding up a long career at the cricket ground – he has been at Old Trafford since 1975 – along came the offer from Celebrity. Now he’ll have a 14,000 sq ft (about half an acre) area to care for. “It’s a dream job,” he said while laughing at reports of more rain in Manchester.

    For those curious about such things, a lightweight clay and volcanic pumice has been used as soil.

    About 85% of the ship’s 1,425 rooms have outside balconies, so there is much emphasis on outdoor living on this ship.

    Tales from the Orient

    The former Orient Lines MARCO POLO on her 2006 visit to Durban. The ship is now in service with the German operator, Transocean Tours. Picture by David Shackleton

    Stewart Venn of Triton Travel Cape Sea Travel writes to say that the former Orient Lines MARCO POLO is still called MARCO POLO but since April 2008 has been operating for Transocean Tours of Bremen. He is referring to our article of 7 November in which we incorrectly alluded to the newly established Orient Lines as having acquired the Marco Polo whereas the ship ‘acquired’ for the new operation was in fact the former MAXIM GORKIY.

    According to Venn, Triton is actively promoting Transocean Tours’ English language cruise season featuring the original Marco Polo which has no relationship to Orient Lines at all. Transocean Tours also operates both of the former Safmarine ASTOR’s, one of which is due in South African waters shortly.

    The correction is timely and important because of the subsequent reports of the cancellation of the new Orient Lines’ 2009 summer (northern hemisphere) cruise season. In our 7 November article we reported on problems facing the new company including efforts to cut expenses by sending ten key personnel on furlough.

    Those efforts have not been enough and a further delay in starting operations seems hardly the most favourable way of inspiring confidence in the new venture. At this stage it appears that efforts to launch Orient Line have not been abandoned, simply postponed until a more favourable time but we’ll wait and see. Reservations had already opened but everything is now in limbo. 

    The cruise ship MAXIM GORKIY which it was hoped would begin cruising for the new reincarnated Orient Lines, a prospect that now looks increasingly unlikely – see report above. Picture by Terry Hutson

    Star Cruises sells SUPERSTAR GEMINI

    Star Cruises, the third largest cruise ship operator in the world with a combined fleet of over 20 ships and more than 32,000 lower berths, has sold the SUPERSTAR GEMINI for handover in the New Year.

    It is believed the 19,089-gt ship, which was built in 1992 as the CROWN JEWEL and was later acquired by Star Cruises to become the first Superstar vessel, has been sold to the Danish Clipper Group, although this has not been confirmed.

    Clipper, though better known as a bulk ship operator recently moved into the cruise sector and owns three other cruise ships, CORINTHIAN II, ISLAND SKY and QUEST.

    The sale went through in September with Star Cruises chartering the ship back until the end of December to complete a series of cruises.

    “SuperStar Gemini has an extremely loyal following especially from the Australians as it is a truly unique ship that offers an ambience that is filled with a very personalised level of service and genuine warmth and hospitality,” said David Chua, Star Cruises’ president.

    He said regular passengers saw the ship as part of an extended family, which kept many coming back again and again.

    “The sale is part of the company’s fleet optimisation plan in line with the realisation of new growth opportunities in the region. Such a need to sell or replace selected ships in the fleet will occur as and when opportunities from potential buyers arise to enable us to acquire bigger, better vessels as well as to renew and further enhance our products and services to better cater to our guests’ needs,” he said.

    “An example is the arrival of the SUPERSTAR AQUARIUS recently in June this year to Hong Kong, with greater capacity and features to cater to the needs and tastes of our guests.”

    Star Cruises says the sale means that it will now be able to focus on further improvements to its current ships such as the SUPERSTAR VIRGO, SUPERSTAR AQUARIUS and SUPERSTAR LIBRA, with continuous innovation and improvement of personalised services, ongoing new activities and ‘world-class’ themes and performances.

    ‘Star Cruises is the pioneer of the industry in this region for more than a decade, it has the local knowledge and depth of experience to know and understand what each guest's need is in order to provide them with the best cruise experience in the region,’ the company said in a statement.

    SUPERSTAR GEMINI which has been sold to the Danish Clipper Group

    QUEEN MARY 2 comes out of dock

    After a scheduled 20 days in the Blohm+Voss dry dock the liner QUEEN MARY 2 emerged on 13 November in time to leave for Southampton and a planned departure to New York two days later.

    The docking of the 150,000 ton ship enabled four propulsion pods - two fixed and two rotating - to be dismantled for general inspection and overhaul in conjunction with Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer. Also inspected and overhauled as necessary were the four stabilisers and three bow thrusters.

    Other work included extensive classification work (cleaning and inspection of fuel and water tanks, sea valves etc), surface preparation water blasting and a comprehensive hull painting programme to bring the ship back to pristine ‘good as new’ condition. The painting took about 35,000 litres of paint.

    Also inspected and overhauled were the 17 lifeboats, a job that was undertaken by the manufacturer Schat-Harding.

    The interior of the ship wasn’t neglected either and a number of innovations have been introduced along with a general refurbishment programme. The new items include providing improved telecommunications systems on the ship to enable mobile phone operation for those with roaming capabilities, and WIFI accessibility in the public rooms for guests using laptops.

    "Whether enjoying sea days on our legendary Transatlantic Crossings or World Cruises, or visiting ports around the world, our guests will appreciate the ability to stay in touch with home or work," explains Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

    Queen Mary 2 arrives in New York today (21 November) and will then begin her Caribbean season of cruises until January when the next World Cruise commences. In that month the ship will celebrate her fifth anniversary.

    New Love Boat on the water

    RUBY PRINCESS – the new Love Boat

    Princess Cruises’ latest ship RUBY PRINCESS was named this month in the traditional fashion with a bottle of bubbly broken across her bows. After the ceremony she sailed for a two-night cruise to provide VIP guests a taste of what the ship has to offer before commencing her season of seven-day cruises in the Caribbean from 8 November 2008.

    As part of the general naming ceremony a wedding was also held on board the ship, leaving Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises to observe that “of course the wedding during the ceremony added an appropriate touch to the festivities.”

    He was referring to Princess Cruises’ long association with romance on the high seas, in providing the setting for the long-running sitcom series The Love Boat, along with Pacific Princess, sister ship Island Princess and Royal Princess - the latter for at least one series. The company even maintains a Princess Cruises Department of Romance and a team of licensed marriage officers. Now that’s serious intent and Princess Cruises has recently been judged ‘Best Cruise Line for Romance’ and ‘Best Cruise Line for Weddings’ in the 2008 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards.

    The new ship offers plenty of scope for romance – Ruby Princess carries no less than 3,080 passengers. But the ship also features all the other amenities and attractions associated with cruising and boasts a special feature consisting of a piazza-like atrium that has small-bite eateries and various street performers on duty. A poolside screen for movies under the stars is another attraction.

    SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR arrives in Cape Town

    The SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR, seen here off Sea Point yesterday afternoon, has arrived in Cape Town having sailed from Richards Bay, her last port of call. Picture Aad Noorland

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