Ports & Ships Cruise News

Dec 19, 2008
Author: Terry Hutson

  • Discovery set to discover South Africa and the Indian Ocean

  • MSC christens their latest ship MSC FANTASIA

  • NCL unveils its 2010-2011 summer cruise deployments

  • Melody comes home

  • NCL and shipyard reach agreement on F3 Project

  • DOULOS completes her probable last dry docking


    Discovery set to discover South Africa and the Indian Ocean

    Fancy a voyage of discovery? This is not just a play on words but with the arrival early in 2009 of the cruise ship DISCOVERY quite a number of options and special offers are becoming available to South Africans wanting a cruise without going too far.

    In fact South Africa is being spoiled for choice this summer. No longer is it a matter of a single ship offering cruising options – in 2008/09 a variety of ships ranging from 3-star to 5 and above have cruises to suit most pockets and tastes and all in local waters. Some of these have been covered in our previous editions.

    The cruise ship DISCOVERY probably fits in the middle range – although let it be qualified that this is said with no prior experience of the ship in her current guise although she is remembered as the Island Princess while sailing as one of Princess Cruises’ ships. In such a guise she has called previously in South Africa.

    Since 2002 however the 20,2160gt ship has been with Voyages of Discovery and this, as far as we know, will be the first time in these colours that she will cruise in southern African waters.

    Discovery arrives in Cape Town on 27 February fresh from South America, having not taken the direct route from Buenos Aires but instead embarking on a 21-night cruise via Ushuaia, Cape Horn, the Antarctic waters and Antarctic islands, including the Falklands and South Georgia, and visiting the isolated Tristan da Cunha in the mid South Atlantic. All of which sounds appealing and more than a bit interesting.

    Once in Cape Town the ship prepares for her next ‘Voyage of Discovery’ the following day (28 February), this time heading off on a 5-night cruise to Durban with stopovers made at Port Elizabeth and East London. Fares for this coastal cruise range from only R4,950 (inside cabin) up to R7,750 per person, outside cabin.

    Next up from Durban is the opportunity of a 9-night cruise to Mauritius between 5 and 14 March. It is of course possible to do the extended cruise all the way from Cape Town to Mauritius.

    Ports visited on this particular segment include Richards Bay, Maputo (now becoming a popular cruise destination), Tulear on the coast of Madagascar, St Denis on Reunion and finally Port Louis in Mauritius. Cruises on Discovery are accompanied as with other segments by distinguished guest speakers to add some insight to the places being visited.

    Fares start at R9,500 but remember you have to fly home afterwards but with the chance of spending a few days on Mauritius to round off an enjoyable cruise in the warm south Indian Ocean even flying home seems appealing.

    Staying with the ship, Discovery sails on from Mauritius to Mumbai on 14 March, a 14-night cruise that includes visits to northern Madagascar, the Seychelles, Male (Maldives) and Goa.

    From Mumbai the ship will head off on a 15-night cruise for the Persian Gulf and later to the Mediterranean before finishing at Istanbul.

    Hopefully it won’t be ‘too long before Discovery returns to these waters. Full details are available from Triton Cape Sea Travel at www.tritonsea.co.za or email info.nclsa@galileosa.co.za

    MSC christens their latest ship MSC FANTASIA

    Even the purists seem to agree with some of the superlatives that have been handed out about MSC Cruises latest newbuild, MSC Fantasia, although the jury may be out as to whether she really qualifies as “the most beautiful ship in the world”.

    Fortunately beauty lies in the eye of the beholder so judgement on that claim can be reserved, but without question this is the best looking of all the MSC Cruises ships so far.

    Yesterday (18 December) the new ship was officially named at the usual gala type event that MSC Cruises puts on so well, replete with internationally acclaimed artists – each with the required Neapolitan background in keeping with MSC’s origins – performing in a specially created high-tech arena. The naming took place - where else? - in Naples.

    And true to what is now a tradition, famous Oscar-winning Italian movie star Sophia Loren was there to cut the ceremonial ribbon and release the bottle of champagne across the bow of the ship and officially launch her as MSC Fantasia.

    According to the official media release MSC Fantasia was designed by one of the world’s leading names in naval architecture, De Jorio Design International. “She combines traditional Italian elegance with ground-breaking technological features, all dedicated to superior guest comfort and unprecedented environmental protection. MSC Fantasia marks the beginning of a new era in cruising, where the ship becomes a destination in itself.”

    “I am immensely proud that the christening of this exceptional vessel is taking place in the extraordinary city of Naples,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO of MSC Crociere. ”MSC Fantasia is not only a beautiful ship but also a triumph of environmentally- friendly design and technological innovation, where every step taken on board holds the promise of exciting new experiences.

    “Naples is famous for its vibrancy, creativity and professionalism, qualities that have greatly contributed to MSC Cruises’ success over the years, and which are amply reflected in tonight’s event. I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been involved in making this fantasy a reality.”

    The official christening ceremony was preceded by a suitably glamorous evening of entertainment, staged in an innovative, purpose-built structure that held more than 2,500 people.

    With a passenger capacity of 3,959 MSC Fantasy becomes the largest ship in the MSC Cruises’ fleet and introduces a new class of cruising, the MSC Yacht Club, a luxury area with 24-hour butler and concierge service.

    MSC Fantasia is the sixth new build for MSC Cruises to come from the STX France shipyard. Her sister ship MSC Splendida is due to join the fleet in July 2009, and will be followed by three further ships - MSC Magnifica, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Favolosa - by 2012, giving MSC Cruises the fastest-growing and most modern fleet in the world.

    After her inaugural cruise, the ship will be based in Genoa sailing the Mediterranean year-round.

    NCL unveils its 2010-2011 summer cruise deployments

    Norwegian Pearl – cruising freestyle in Alaska from Seattle

    Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has announced its 2010-2011 summer deployment and itineraries with new choices in Europe and Alaska, along with a long-term commitment to its profitable Hawaii deployment on Pride of America. These cruises went on sale to NCL's Latitudes members (past guests) from 9 December 2008 and to the general public two days later.

    "For the summer of 2010, we have some of the most diverse and interesting itineraries in the key summer destinations. With exciting new offerings from Venice and Vancouver, we have added to the already diverse range of choices in these popular destinations," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO.

    "These itineraries aboard the youngest fleet in the industry, combined with the freedom and flexibility that Freestyle Cruising offers, ensure that our guests will experience the vacation of a lifetime when sailing with NCL."

    In Europe, NCL will continue its largest ever deployment with three of its newest Freestyle Cruising ships positioned there. For the first time ever, NCL will homeport a ship, Norwegian Gem, in Venice, Italy sailing two different seven-day Adriatic, Greek Isles and Turkey cruises. Norwegian Jade will homeport in Barcelona and Norwegian Jewel will sail a 12-day Baltic Capitals cruise round-trip from London (Dover), England.

    In Alaska, NCL is positioning three Freestyle Cruising ships, including Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Star sailing seven-day Sawyer Glacier and Glacier Bay cruises from Seattle, and Norwegian Sun sailing a seven-day itinerary between Vancouver, British Columbia and Whittier, Alaska featuring Hubbard Glacier and College Fjord. Norwegian Sun's new itinerary also features two new ports -- Icy Strait Point and Sitka, Alaska. In addition, several land packages from Whittier will be offered as part of a pre- or post-cruise package.

    NCL continues sailing to Bermuda with Norwegian Dawn sailing seven-day cruises with three full days in Bermuda and the newly renovated Norwegian Spirit exclusively sailing seven-day cruises from Boston.

    Pride of America's successful deployment in Hawaii, sailing seven-day Hawaii inter-island cruises round-trip from Honolulu, Oahu, has been extended through January 2012.

    Melody comes home

    MSC Melody approaches Durban with rain squalls on the horizon. Picture by Steve McCurrach

    The cruise MSC Melody is in the midst of a successful summer season of cruising out of Durban, undertaking mostly three and four night cruises from Durban to the Mozambique islands and coast. This year the ship has been joined by a second MSC Cruises’ ship, MSC RHAPSODY in her last season with the Italian shipping company before going to Israeli interests.

    Rhapsody returned to Durban this week after a short period of cruising out of Cape Town, and has left for her longer Christmas and New Year cruises to Mauritius.

    Both ships will continue operating in South African waters until April.

    The rain squalls are all out at sea, over Durban where the ship is headed it remains clear – for now. Picture by Steve McCurrach

    NCL and shipyard reach agreement on F3 Project

    Visualisation of a stateroom on the F3 Project ship – the largest in the NCL fleet

    18 December 2008 - Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and STX France Cruise SA, STX Europe's French shipyard, announced today that they have reached an agreement and are moving forward with the construction of the F3 cruise ship project.

    NCL and STX Europe have agreed to revise the original F3 order. The shipyard will now build one F3 ship at 150,000-gross tons with a total of 4,200 passenger berths, representing the largest ship in NCL's fleet. This will mean a continuation of the original hull which is currently in the early phases of construction, with delivery set for late May 2010, as originally scheduled.

    The planned second vessel, currently only in the preparatory stages, will not be built. Further terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

    "With this agreement, we can all focus on completing the new vessel successfully," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO. "We are looking forward to the arrival of our much-anticipated F3 ship as it represents a major step forward for NCL in terms of ship size, design and innovation."

    "We are pleased that the ongoing construction of the ship for NCL will continue. We, along with our subcontractors, will now make the necessary adjustments to our plans for this project," said Jacques Hardelay, president of STX France Cruise SA.

    To date, information has only been revealed regarding F3's staterooms and nightlife. NCL plans to unveil the full F3 story in the near future.

    Today, NCL has the youngest fleet in the industry with 11 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed cruise vacation on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea.

    NCL is presently building a new third generation Freestyle Cruising project known as F3, for delivery in 2010.

    Visualisation of a deluxe stateroom on the F3 ship

    DOULOS completes her probable last dry docking

    Ask anyone which is the most famous passenger ship in the world and the chances are they will say QE2. Yet if you ask people anywhere in the world if they know of the DOULOS they’ll probably answer in the affirmative, such is her fame.

    Yet Doulos, all of 6,818-gt and anything but grand in appearance, is also the oldest ocean-going passenger ship afloat still in active service and dates back to 1914 when she was launched as an American cargo ship, the MEDINA.

    It was only in 1949 that she was converted for passenger ship purposes and utilised principally for carrying pilgrims in those turbulent post World War 2 years. Later her owners converted her for cruising, as the new ‘fad’ of taking holidays at sea began to catch on. In such a guise she might well have continued for a few years before ending her days quietly and unremarked on some shipbreaker’s beach.

    Instead she was sold in 1978 for the purpose for which she was to become famous – as a library ship for a Christian organisation, and as such she has plied the world’s oceans, spending weeks in ports across the globe bringing literature to the nations.

    Not all of it is religious literature either. Her library consists of thousands of titles of worthy books covering most subjects. On board are a team of volunteers who sign on to help spread the word that knowledge is power and that knowledge comes from books.

    But the life of the Doulos is ending. Despite having just concluded a dry docking and refit in Singapore, the ship is on borrowed time and new SOLAS regulations that come into effect in 2010 will probably signal the final message down to the engine room of ‘Finished with Engines’.

    Her owners, the German charity Good Books for All are hoping to raise funds to undertake the work necessary to comply with SOLAS. Alternately they hope to find a buyer who may wish to save the ship in some form or other. Its either that or she will be decommissioned in 2010 but could end her days as a floating museum or restaurant in some European port. Or, of course on the beach, awaiting the cutting torches.

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