Ports & Ships Cruise News

Nov 28, 2008
Author: Terry Hutson

  • Oasis of the Seas breaks all barriers

  • Tears and cheers as Queen Elizabeth 2 completes her last voyage

  • Following in the steps of Magellan – in absolute luxury

  • Adventure cruising into the heart of Borneo

  • Even the Med can turn a trick or two

  • Australasia an untapped market for cruising - study

  • Two Queens pass in the day


    Oasis of the Seas breaks all barriers

    The world’s largest cruise ship has been floated for the first time at the STX Shipyard in Turku, Finland.

    The mammoth 225,000-gt OASIS OF THE SEAS far outweighs any other passenger ship ever built and sets new marks five years after the Cunard liner QUEEN MARY 2 created a new benchmark with a 150,000 tonne ship.

    Costing €837 million (USD1.084bn) the 360m long ship will carry up to 5,400 passengers and will now undergo fitting out ahead of her first cruise in December 2009.

    “This is a historic day for our company. After more than three years of intense planning and collaboration and with 65% of the ship already complete, it’s exciting to see Oasis of the Seas entering its final stages,” said Royal Caribbean International (RCI) chief executive Richard Fain.

    “Oasis of the Seas truly represents the innovative spirit that our company is known for and to see that come to fruition is wonderful.”

    The Oasis of the Seas is not only the largest cruise ship afloat (the next largest is about 40% smaller), but also one of the most unique in setting new standards. As an aside, such is her height at 65m above the waterline that the funnel has been designed to partly retract so the ship can pass under certain bridges.

    Many of the 2,700 staterooms, which are spread over 16 passenger decks, are kitted out as loft style apartment suites complete with indoor balconies, while the ship itself has a water park and seven themed ‘neighbourhoods’. These include Central Park, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

    Another of her innovations is a bar called the Rising Tide, which can move between three decks while yet another attraction is a 750-seat ‘Aqua Theatre’ styled on an ancient Greek amphitheatre.

    Oasis of the Seas will operate for Royal Caribbean International out of Port Everglade in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with cruises in the Caribbean. Two ships in the oasis class are planned with the second due in service in 2010.

    Tears and cheers as Queen Elizabeth 2 completes her last voyage

    There were misty eyes and open tears as perhaps the most famous cruise ship and liner of all time, Queen Elizabeth 2 or QE2 as she is fondly known, arrived in Dubai at the end of her final voyage.

    The ship steamed into Dubai harbour (Rashid Port) on schedule on Wednesday (26 November) to end her days as an ocean liner cum cruise ship and to begin a new career as a floating hotel and entertainment centre berthed alongside a special quay on Palm Island.

    The ship was bought from Cunard for approximately USD100 million – not a bad price for a 40 year old ship that has circumnavigated the globe 26 times and sailed more than 6 million nautical miles. Over 2.5 million passengers travelled on her, either on trans-Atlantic crossings or her famous world cruises.

    Even the British Army got a look in. During the Falklands War of 1982 the ship was converted into a troop carrier to rush thousands of troops to the South Atlantic.

    For most ships aged 40 it would be time for the cutting torches at the ship breakers. But for QE2, life begins at 40, says Manfred Ursprunger, the chief executive of QE2 Enterprises, the company which will transform the ship for her new role. That means a dramatic refurbishment of her rooms and public areas to fit her out as a luxury floating hotel alongside such extravaganzas as the new glittering Atlantis Hotel, brainchild of South African hotel and gambling magnate Sol Kerzner.

    The redesign of QE2 is expected to take up to three years but some of her famous features will remain, including the Queen’s Room, the Captain’s Quarters and The Bridge.

    The ship was formerly handed over yesterday to Nakheel, a division of Dubai World.

    For those who travelled with her one last time on the final voyage from Southampton it was a bitter sweet experience. Before her arrival in Dubai officers and crew who have served on board the ship were gathering to add their personal farewells, while on board the mood was described as emotional and melancholic. She arrived off the Persian Gulf harbour to be met by the Royal navy frigate HMS LANCASTER, the Royal Yacht DUBAI and a small flotilla of about 60 boats and yachts.

    QE2 is the longest serving ship ever in Cunard history

    Following in the steps of Magellan – in absolute luxury

    Residential Cruise Line has announced it is going ahead with plans for a new residential cruise ship, the MAGELLAN and last week inaugurated a sales campaign for the ship’s 210 residential units.

    Costing USD750 million the 76,000-gt, 15-deck ship will be built at the Aker shipyard in France for completion in 2011, says Randall B Jackson, chief executive officer of Residential Cruise Line. Included with the 210 residential units are 16 ultra luxurious penthouses.

    The Magellan features world-class amenities, such as a tennis court, retractable marina, putting green, four fine dining restaurants, an observatory, all-weather heliport, Aqua Spa, gourmet marketplace, live satellite broadcast theatre, Broadway-style theatre, two pools and more. The residential units all feature premium finishes and spectacular ocean views, Jackson revealed at the launch held in the Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai.

    He said the ship will be the most luxurious and largest residential cruise ship ever built. She will be staffed with a multi national hospitality crew of 500 and managed by a leading 5-Star hospitality management company.

    Among the ship’s features are a tennis court, retractable marina, two putting greens, an observatory, four fine dining restaurants, an all-weather heliport, Aqua Spa, casino, gourmet marketplace, microbrewery, 430-seat Broadway-style theatre, two pools and more.

    Owners will be able to reach the Magellan via the ship’s two executive jet helicopters, Venetian tenders or at ports.

    If you fancy the idea of owning one of the condos on board, be prepared to pay from USD2,34 million for full ownership. If that seems a trifle steep then Magellan also offers the unique opportunity of buying fractional ownership of one month or two weeks per year, starting at USD140,000.

    Adventure cruising into the heart of Borneo

    The Pandaw flotilla circa 1947. The modern ships are styled exactly like these.

    The next story comes from the other end of the cruising spectrum.

    Pandaw Cruises are about to launch a new expedition cruise on the Rajang River in Sarawak as from July 2009. For those not familiar with the geography, Sarawak is the former British section of the island of Borneo which is now a province of Malaysia.

    The cruise involves a brand new river cruise ship, the ORIENT PANDAW which will operate eight-night cruises three times a month travelling from Sibu to the Pelagus Rapids and beyond and up the Baleh River.

    The Rajang River, which is the longest river in Malaysia, is seldom visited by travellers on account of its inaccessibility and lack of tourist facilities. The ship takes care of the latter challenge, offering perfect comfort even to the most discerning traveller while providing the opportunity to visit Iban longhouses, make boat trips up tributary rivers and witness the vestiges of the colonial Brooke Raja.

    a modern Pandaw river ship

    For those unfamiliar with the history of Sarawak, the country was governed for many centuries by the sultanate of Brunei. In 1841 an Englishman James Brooke was appointed governor of Sarawak province by the Sultan, making him effectively the Rajah of Sarawak. In 1868 he was succeeded by his nephew Charles Brooke who in turn was succeeded by his son in 1917. The Brooke dynasty ruled Sarawak continuously for a hundred years until the Japanese invasion in World War 2 but unlike other colonials rulers they adopted a policy that protected the indigenous population against exploitation.

    deckside viewing

    Passengers on the Pandaw are able to view the rich tropical rain forest from close at hand, making jungle treks in certain parts of the journey to bring about a real sense of the expedition cruise. The area is described as one of the most diverse and exotic eco-paradises remaining on the planet.

    The cost of a main deck cabin starts at USD2,250 per person and an add-on, two-night stop in the capital Kuching is recommended. Kuching can be reached easily with flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Brunei.

    Pandaw Cruises operate a fleet of six luxury river ships and is the largest river cruise company in South-East Asia, being the first to pioneer and explore the region’s great rivers and their tributaries, the Irrawaddy and Chindwin in Burma (Myanmar), the Mekong and Tonle Rivers in Cambodia and the backwaters of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. And now the Rajang River in Sarawak.

    Being relatively small the ships are able to penetrate remote and otherwise inaccessible areas. But while describing them as adventure cruises, passengers are spoiled with comfort, fine dining, great cocktails at the end of the day and choice wines over dinner, added to by a high level of service provided by a ratio of one staff to every two passengers.

    cabin accommodation

    The ships are not elderly colonial era river boats dickied up but modern ships designed and finished to replicate the colonial steamers. On board a smart causal approach is maintained at night with no dressing up and there is no intrusion of one’s enjoyment from loud tannoy type announcements. Pandaw has been in operations for ten years.

    Even the Med can turn a trick or two

    How often do we hear the comment that certain ships are more suited to the Mediterranean, in the belief that it is always calm seas and easy sailing.

    More often than not that is the case but as those who have travelled extensively in the Mediterranean will know, the Middle Sea should never be taken for granted. Storms and strong winds can whip up any ocean or sea into the most frightening of sea conditions in quick order and the Mediterranean is no exception.

    These thoughts come to mind with reports received of bad weather affecting a number of cruises throughout the Mediterranean in the past week or so. P&O’s cruise ship AURORA, no stranger to wild seas in her round the world operations, encountered Gale Force 11 winds shortly after sailing from Rome, which delayed her arrival in Southampton on Wednesday despite a scheduled call at Gibraltar being cancelled to make up time.

    Another cruise ship affected by the strong winds in the region, Costa Cruises’ COSTA CONCORDIA smacked the quay at Palermo as she was leaving last Saturday, leaving a dent to her bow. Temporary repairs were affected and the ship was able to continue her seven-night voyage with only a loss of dignity.

    Royal Caribbean’s BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS, on a 12-night cruise from Barcelona was unable to make a scheduled call at Malta on account of the same weather conditions and passengers had to enjoy a frisky extra day at sea instead. What a pity, Malta is such a fascinating place to visit.

    Princess Cruises’ GRAND PRINCESS was also caught up while approaching Rome at the tail end of a 12-day cruise to Egypt and the Aegean and suffered a loss of power which delayed her further. Nevertheless the ship was able to depart Rome on her following 21-day trans-Atlantic cruise back on schedule.

    It’s pleasing to report the wind has abated and the Mediterranean has returned to her placid self, still a grand place to go cruising.

    Australasia an untapped market for cruising - study

    Despite an increase in the number of cruise ships operating out of Australian and New Zealand ports, the market is regarded as largely untapped, a new study has revealed.

    The study which was undertaken by P&O Cruises shows that from a current demand from 340,000 passengers this year, the market has the potential to reach at least 500,000 Australians and New Zealanders.

    Now travel agents are being asked to take advantage of the research that says Australians are likely to choose cruising as their preferred offshore holiday in 2009, overtaking such destinations as Thailand and the United States.

    The study suggested that only 10% of agents recommended cruises as a Pacific Island holiday.

    One wonders what the real potential is for South Africans and what up to date studies are available.

    Two Queens pass in the day

    The passenger liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, from a souvenir picture taken on 27 September, 1946, as the two ships passed at Southampton. Queen Mary was still in her wartime troopship grey. Picture submitted by Clive Jones of Durban North

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