Virgin confirms launch of two-ship cruise line

April 3, 2014

April 2014: Virgin boss Richard Branson has confirmed the launch of a cruise line after claiming in a newspaper interview that he has already secured most of the US$1.7 billion funding needed for two ships.

CRUISE_1

Speaking to The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, Branson said some of the investment has come from investors in the Arabian Gulf. Branson is believed to have hired Allen & Co, a small New York-based investment bank that specialises in media and leisure projects, to assist him in his search for partners.

He told the paper: “We will start by building two big ships from scratch and feel the Virgin brand will work very well in cruises.”

Branson said Virgin Cruises will be headquartered in Miami and the ships will cruise in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean markets. His aim, he said, was to “create a very different kind of cruise company” to attract those who would not normally consider taking a cruise.

“We have airlines, holiday companies that send a lot of people on cruises, we have a concept which is very sexy and hopefully it will be the kind of cruise ship I’d like to go on and the type my children will go on,” he added.

(Source: Travelmole)

 

In The Dog House

March 31, 2014
(RCI Image)

(RCI Image)

Royal Caribbean were not joking when they said their newbuild ‘Quantum of the Seas’ would have a Hot Dog ‘food truck’.

As part of their ne ‘Dynamic Dining’ initiative, The SeaPlex ‘Dog House’ will serve Hot Dogs and sausage in the ships sports complex, the SeasPlex.

The SeaPlex will feature the first bumper-car arena at sea, a circus school, enclosed basketball court, and a roller skating rink.

(Source: RCI)

Malcolm Says: It’s ironic that cruising used to mean the finest dining, yet ‘food trucks’ are as far away from that as you can possibly get! However it’s not a real food truck, it just looks like one. Anyway I guess the kids using the SeaPlex will not require fine dining. It’s certainly a bit of design-fun.

More about RCL’s ‘Dynamic Dining’: http://wp.me/pfRKD-2ur

Britannia Breaks Sales Record

March 30, 2014
(P&O Image)

(P&O Image – click to enlarge)

28/03/2014:  Technical issues did not stop P&O Cruises achieving a record increase in bookings on Thursday, the first day of sales for its new ship Britannia.

(P&O Image - Atrium)

(P&O Image – Atrium)

The company saw an 81% rise in bookings compared to the on sale day of Azura in 2009, and an increase of 24% compared to Ventura in 2007, which was the company’s most successful launch to date.

The cruise line blamed the technical failure,  on “unprecedented demand”, which led to the “unusual” failure of all three booking engines.

(Source: Travel Mole)

Malcolm Says:See Britannia’s interiors below:

Norwegian of the Seas? (Quantum)

March 27, 2014
'Chic' (RCI Image)

‘Chic’ (RCI Image)

“Oasis of the Seas” was always going to be  a very difficult act to follow. Not only is the scale of this ‘floating city’ amazing, unique spaces such as ‘Central Park’, ‘The Boardwalk’ and the ‘Aqua-Theatre’ were combined with Royal Caribbean’s  innovations that have been tried and tested on the ‘Voyager’ and ‘Freedom’ classes.: the ‘Royal Promenade’ and the ‘Studio B’ Ice rink.  Royal Caribbean may have set the bar too high with Oasis.

Opinions about Quantum seems to be divided firmly down the middle: some are saying “RC have done it again” others are not so impressed.  I must admit that I feel a little bit disappointed with what I know about the Quantum class. (At the time of writing the entertainment on-board Quantum is still largely a mystery, so I cannot compare it with Oasis).

In fairness Royal Caribbean  have not set out to make the ‘Quantum’ class a mini-version of Oasis. The design is loosely based on the ‘Radiance’ class, but bigger.  Most of the features revealed, apart from the Flo-rider and Climbing wall are very different. For example: Quantum is designed for cooler climates and has an indoor pool , Oasis does not.

The big difference between Quantum and all of the Royal Caribbean ships that have come before her is “Dynamic Dining”. This means the one-big-main dining room has gone and is replaced by multiple dining rooms, with flexible times.

‘Dynamic Dining’ looks (is) remarkably similar to the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) “Third Generation freestyle” system. NCL must be must be very flattered.  NCL invented it several decades ago and called it ‘Freestyle’.

The latest upgrade, “Third Generation Freestyle” is featured on-board Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and Getaway (with Escape and Bliss to follow). These are remarkable ships and I think their design finally convinced RC that a ‘freestyle’ system is the future of mass-market cruising.

(Norwegian Getaway review: http://wp.me/PfRKD-2i7 )

Any flexible dining system can of course benefit the passengers, although it does have it’s down side. It also allows the cruise line to introduce more surcharges for alternative dining. In fact I have always found myself with a bigger on-board account total at the end of an NCL cruise than at the end of an  RC one.

Having 18+ dining options on-board Quantum, unfortunately leaves little room for the ship to have many big “Wow” spaces, the sort  that we have come to love  from RC.  Every inch of the ship is full of restaurants, galleys and entertainment spaces. Double height rooms, tall atriums and big internal promenades become too much of a luxury in terms of space – and more importantly, they do not generate income.

You will notice that most of Quantum’s innovations (Seaplex, I-Fly and the North Star) are sitting on the deck and do not take-up any internal space.

I guess RC believe that have shifted the “Wow” factor on-baord the Quantum class, from large pubic spaces to the dining (although Two70 does look very impressive).

Curiously Quantum’s four main/large dining rooms (decks 3-4) do not appear to have many  windows. I do not see any big picture windows, for example.  This came as a bit of a surprise as the ship was coded-named “Project Sunshine”.

I have enjoyed both NCL and RC cruises because they were different. Now they are looking very similar.

AS for comparing NCL and RC’s newest ships: the big advantage of cruising on-board Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, over Quantum, is their lovely ‘Waterfront’ feature. Many of NCL’s alternative dining venues and some bars are located on a wide external promenade – so you get unobstructed seas views, with real fresh-air, while eating and drinking. (Designed for warmer climates of course).

(The Waterfront - NCL Image)

(The Waterfront – NCL Image)

In contrast Quantum looks to be a rather ‘internal’ ship, unless it has external features that have not yet been revealed.

I’m not suggesting Quantum is a bad ship. In fact she will probably be a great ship, but so is the ‘Breakaway’ class. I think the factor that would make passengers book Quantum over Breakaway will be how important the ‘gimmicks’ like I-Fly, Bumper-Cars and the North Star are to them. I can see these features being very popular with families, but they might leave us grown-ups less impressed. (Take a look at the poll below and see if the readers are impressed).

Don’t you think Two70 Degree lounge would have made a lovely main dining room?

Malcolm

If you disagree with me, please write and tell me!

*(At the time of writing Quantum has not been built/entered service. Not even all of the features have been revealed.  My comments  are purely based on what information has been released by March 2014. If I get to cruise on Quantum, I retain the right to completely change my mind and contradict everything that I have written!)

Quantum: ‘Dynamic Dining’ with Multiple Dining Rooms

March 25, 2014

Unlike previous Royal Caribbean ships, Quantum-class ships will not have a main dining room, nor will they have an option for traditional cruise dinners where passengers have the same table and servers each night. Instead, these ships will use a Dynamic Dining concept similar to the Freestyle concept used on Norwegian Cruise Line  with guests being able  to make reservations for their choice of restaurant for each night in advance.Each venue will maintain the same menu and staff throughout the cruise.

Complementary Dining

There are five complementary main restaurants (four of which are available to all passengers):

  • American Icon Grill — American Comfort Food (smart/casual), open for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • Chic — Contemporary cuisine (Smart/casual, dinner only).
  • The Grande Restaurant — Continental cuisine (formal, dinner only).
  • Silk — Pan-Asian Fusion  (Smart/casual, dinner only).
  • Coastal Kitchen* — Californian Mediterranean fusion (smart/casual, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner). *Restaurant available only to guests staying in junior-suite-level staterooms and above.

Other smaller complementary dining venues include:

  • The Café @ Two70° — Made-to-order sandwiches and salads (similar to the Park Café on other Royal Caribbean ships).
  • Café Promenade — Sandwiches and pastries.
  • SeaPlex Dog House — Hot dogs and sausages (similar to the Boardwalk Dog House on other Royal Caribbean ships).
  • Solarium Bistro — Complementary at breakfast and lunch only.
  • Sorrentos Pizza
  • Windjammer Marketplace — Complementary buffet. Includes a new The Grill area, which is open 24-hours and featurs all-day breakfast, cheese, steak sandwiches, rotisserie chicken and other food items.

Additional fee

There are several smaller dining concepts debuting on the Quantum class that will be available to passengers for an additional fee:

  • Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver
  • Michael’s Genuine Pub — À la carte gastropub from chef Michael Schwartz
  • Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine

Other additional-fee restaurants available on the Quantum class that are also offered on previous Royal Caribbean ships are:

  • Chef’s Table
  • Chops Grille — Steakhouse
  • Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro — Spa cuisine  by Devin Alexander
  • Izumi Japanese Cuisine  — À la carte sushi and Japanese food.
  • Johnny Rockets, Burgers/hot-dogs etc.

Location: Decks 3 and 4 will be divided into the four larger complementary dining rooms, American Icon Grill , Chic, The Grande Restaurant and Silk. (Coastal Kitchen is complimentary, deck 14, but is for selected cabin grades).  I believe each holds 400 passengers.

 

(Source: RCI)

'Chic' (RCI Image)

‘Chic’ (RCI Image)

'Silk'

‘Silk’

American Icon

American Icon

The Grand Restaurant/Formal

The Grand Restaurant/Formal

Jamie Oliver (Not related!)

Jamie Oliver (Not related!)

STOP-PRESS – More complete Quantum deck plans here:

http://www.cruisedeckplans.com/DP/Main/decks.php?ship=Quantum+of+the+Seas

Malcolm says:  Dynamic Dining sounds just like a COPY of NCL’s ‘Freestyle’ to me.  That represents a very significant departure for ‘Royal Caribbean’.  It’s a bit like the fall of ‘communism’ (one big main dining room) and the triumph of  ‘Capitalism’ (multiple dining rooms)!

  • I wonder how long before carnival follow with their own version of ‘freestyle’?
  • I must say that Epic, Breakaway and Getaway’s choice of dining venues and flexibility were making RC’s  ‘Main Dining Room’ concept look rather outdated.
  • ‘Dynamic Dining’ will also provide more opportunities for additional dining fees than ever before – NCL style again.
  • Curiously there are few  windows show on the renderings where the larger dining rooms are located. There are certainly no big windows apparent.
  • The problem with so many dining space on a ship, it leaves little room for the big ‘Wow’ spaces that we have come to love from royal Caribbean.

Viking Christens 16 River Boats in 24 Hours

March 25, 2014
(Image: Viking)

(Image: Viking)

March 2014

Viking River Cruises have set a new Guinness World Record after christening 16 new river cruise ships in less than 24 hours.

The river cruise specialist had actually set the previous record of naming ten new ships itself last year and said that this new feat was a testament to the rapid success and sustained growth it has enjoyed in the European river cruise market.

All 16 of the vessels are identical – Longship-style river boats capable of carrying 190 passengers – and will be deployed across various European rivers.

The company’s founder Torstein Hagen was at the central christening event, which took place in Avignon, France and saw the introduction of the Viking Buri, Heimdal and Hermod.

Other naming events took place in Rostock, Germany and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Two more longships are set to debut in Porto, Portugal, later this week as Viking moves ahead with its plans for dramatic expansion.

In the past three years, it has launched some 30 river boats and has also made the first steps into the ocean cruise market, with its first ship set to sail its inaugural voyage in May 2015.

(Source: Viking)

Malcolm Says: Viking must be doing something very right despite their high fares.  I can’t comment on their product, as my only experience of River Cruising so far, is on the Nile, see here: http://wp.me/PfRKD-1E

Viking Ocean Cruising:

.

Oasis 3 to have water slide?

March 23, 2014

EXCLUSIVE! The STX  shipyard in France have released a couple of renderings of ‘Oasis 3′ which they are building for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

The ship will be very similar to sisters to ‘Oasis of the Seas’ and ‘Allure of the Seas’, but NOT identical. She will be 227,700 GRT and 2.15 meters longer than Allure, having a maximum capacity of 6,360 passengers – 42 more than Allure.  This of course will make her the biggest cruise ship in the world.

The first steel was cut in September 2013 and the vessel will be delivered in spring 2016.

(RCI Image)

(RCI Image)

STX’s renderings do not really give much away. However it appears that the Solarium (at the front, above the bridge) has been re-designed. It appears to be more tiered, resembling the solarium on ‘Quantum of the Seas’.

(Image - STX)

(Image – STX)

As well as the Solarium occupying decks 16 and 15, the rendering may be depicting the solarium extending to deck 14, formerly the location of the ‘adventure/Kids’ area. (However this is just speculation from a tiny rendering).

(STX image)

(STX image)

Once again the rendering is far from clear, but is that blue ‘thing’ on the sun deck (behind the Solarium)  Royal Caribbean’s first water-slide? After all Carnival, NCL and Disney have them.

The forward lifeboats look well protected with the large ‘shield’ which originally ‘Oasis’ did not have. However she arrived in Miami, post-maiden transatlantic crossing, directly from the shipyard,  with damaged lifeboats. A bigger shield was added.

Malcolm

Comprehensive ‘Oasis of the Seas’ review:  http://wp.me/PfRKD-Bg

Steel Cut For Escape

March 22, 2014

20th March, 2014

!cid_image002_jpg@01CF4458

(NCL Image – Kevin Sheehan and Bernard Meyer)

The first piece of steel was cut at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany today for the construction of Norwegian Escape, the first of two new Breakaway Plus Class ships for Norwegian Cruise Line, set for delivery in autumn 2015.

(NCL Images)

(NCL Images)

Norwegian Cruise Line and Meyer Werft executives watched as the first plate of steel was cut by a plasma torch in the yard’s state of the art facility. This plate will become part of Block 46 that will comprise the new vessel.

Image1bbbb66666

“Norwegian Escape will be the largest ship in our fleet and will continue our legacy of innovation,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “Cutting the first piece of steel for Norwegian Escape marks the official start of construction for this remarkable ship. We are eagerly anticipating her delivery in October of 2015.”

Image2

(Source: NCL)

Escape Hull Art & Homeport: http://wp.me/pfRKD-2rf

Meet The World’s Third Biggest Ships!

March 20, 2014
(MSC - Click to enlarge)

(MSC – Click to enlarge)

20 March 2014

In a surprise announcement MSC cruises signed a letter of intent with STX France for the construction of two new ‘Vista Class’ cruise ships , with an option for two more. The two ships will join MSC Cruises’ fleet, currently comprising 12 ships, all built in the Saint-Nazaire yards.

The signature took place at the Hôtel de L’Industrie, in Paris in the presence of Gianluigi Aponte, President of MSC group, Laurent Castaing, General Manager of STX France and Pierre Moscovici, French Minister of Economy and Finance. Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, and Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises were also in attendance.

Growth and development have always been the characteristics that have defined MSC since the very beginning of our journey into the world of cruising. The launch of this prototype and the building of these two new ships confirm our commitment to further growth and to further development. MSC Cruises will expand its capacity by 31%: we will incredibly enrich our offerings on board and will broaden our horizons to ensure we meet the growing global demand in every region” said MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago.

(MSC)

(MSC)

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises went on to say that “The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner and the most versatile and flexible of the world: not only will it be able to call in most of the ports and destinations on earth, without compromise, but it will have extraordinary features that will make it the perfect choice at sea, in summer and in winter. The two new ships will reaffirm MSC Cruise’s dedication to outstanding and genuine dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic spaces, a bigger theatre and a spectacular amusement park connected to an outdoor aqua park as well as a two-deck inside promenade.”

The two units are due for delivery in 2017 and 2019 and will be 315 metres long and 43 metres wide, with a gross tonnage of about 167,600 tons, boasting 2,250 cabins for guests, nearly 820 crew cabins, and accommodating 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.

(MSC)

(MSC)

Among the new features of the ships there will be specially designed cabins for families and an “extend” MSC Yacht Club, the entirely self-contained private club on the prestigious foredecks that will now be completed with a vast solarium, a private lounge and restaurant and duplex suites.

(MSC)

(MSC)

The new prototype is the result of a long development process, conducted in the framework of STX’s ECORIZON ® programme, leading to the creation of a new generation of ships that are cleaner, more efficient and more technological. They will be water emission free, while its hull and propulsion system will be optimised for better energy efficiency. The installation of scrubbers will allow for fumes to be neutralised and CO2 emissions to be in accordance with the latest evolutions of international maritime regulations.

The contract signed is worth 16 million working hours for STX France and its subcontractors, 9 million for the prototype and 7 for the second unit. Building is due to start in spring 2015.

(Source: MSC)

*(Not to be confused with the Carnival ‘Vista’ ships deployed across a number of brands.)

Malcolm Says: Each of these new ships will be 167,600 gross tons, so just slightly smaller than Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class ships which will be  167,800 gross tons.  However the MSC ships will hold more passengers (at double occupancy) than Quantum and Anthem (4,180 passengers), with 2,250 cabins (4,500 double occupancy) and a maximum capacity of 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.

These new ships will be the third  biggest class in the world (based on gross tonnage). Quantum/Anthem will be in second place with the Norwegian Breakaway+ ships (Escape and Bliss) being pushed down to fourth place.

Royal Caribbean’s ‘Oasis’ class ships (Oasis, Allure and Oasis 3) will continue to hold the crown for being the biggest, by miles, at 220,000 gt.

MSC did not announce where the ships will be deployed, but speculation is high that one will be based in the Mediterranean and another could be deployed in the US.

“…a two-deck ‘inside promenade”, sound like a Royal Caribbean style ‘Royal Promenade’.  I note that there appears to be rows of windows low at the stern, maybe a restaurant or a lounge a little like Quantum’s Two70 Degree.

I wonder what “Prototype” means in this case? I wonder why they are “the most versatile and flexible of the world”?

See MSC’s other two newbuilds: http://wp.me/pfRKD-2BD

Review – World’s Biggest Cruise Ship: http://wp.me/PfRKD-Bg

Britannia Compared to Royal Princess

March 19, 2014

Blogger Tom Burke compares both ‘sister’ ships:

http://tomscruiseblog.co.uk/2014/03/19/deck-plans-britannia-compared-to-royal-princess


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