Thinking Of Taking Your First River Cruise?

April 20, 2017

A busy Danube – Three Amadeus vessels (Click to enlarge)

It’s spring, so the major European river cruise lines are once again starting to operate cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Seine, Rhone/Saone and other European rivers.

River cruising is actually is the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry.

There are many myths about river cruising and many truths too.

As a brand new convert myself, I have created a short article to dispel some of the myths and confirm some of the truths. Enjoy!

River Cruising – Myth & Reality: HERE

Malcolm

Viking Order Two More Ocean Ships + Two

April 20, 2017

(Courtesy Viking)

Viking Ocean Cruises and the Italian Fincantieri shipyard have signed a memorandum of agreement for the construction of two additional 47,800gt ocean cruise ships, with an option for another two.

The newbuilds will be sister ships to the six ships already delivered/or on ordered and will enter the Viking fleet in 2021 and 2022, respectively. That makes a total of eight ocean ships + a possible two.

The first ship to be built by Fincantieri for Viking, Viking Star was delivered in spring 2015. The second and the third ships, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, were delivered in early 2016 and early 2017. Viking Sun joins the fleet this October 2017, Viking Spirit launches in June 2018. A third unnamed ship joins the fleet in 2019.

All ships will have an be identical specification: 47,800 gross tonnes and will accommodate 930 passengers.

(Viking)

Malcolm says: Not only are Viking dominating the worlds rivers, there Ocean fleet is expanding!

Viking Cruises Partners with National Geographic

Viking Cruises has announced that it has signed on to sponsor National Geographic’s global anthology series, “Genius”.

The first season of the season tells the story of Albert Einstein.

Viking To Cruise The Nile

Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen has announced that Viking River Cruises will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River.

The new ship, named Viking Ra, will begin sailing March 2018.

(Viking)

Malcolm says: Viking seem to be intent on the world dominance of river cruising. They operate more than 60 river vessels. They certainly have a high media profile, a good reputation, an rapidly expanding fleet and are able sustain some high fares. They also plan to offer Mississippi cruises in the future.

My first river cruise was the Nile (see below), which I loved. They are 200 boats on the Nile and they all claim to be five star, but they ae not. I cruised on a very nice boat, but the food was simplistic buffet style and by no means fine-dining. However the fare was very low compared to European river cruise standards.

Viking will bring a brand to the Nile that people trust, some higher standards and fares to match.

Balloon ride over Luxor: HERE

The Pyramids: HERE

Ferrari Go-Karts At Sea

April 19, 2017

(Courtesy NCL)

The world’s first go kart complex at sea will enter service soon aboard NCL’s Norwegian Joy.

The track was put together by German karting technology specialist RiMO Supply and Dutch decking specialist Bolidt.

Norwegian Cruise Line has unveiled a new partnership with Scuderia Ferrari Watches, a division of Italian carmaker Ferrari, that includes the Ferrari-themed Go Kart track.

The 168,800 gross tonne, 3,850-passenger vessel also will feature a retail store next to the track that sells Scuderia Ferrari watches.

The Ferrari race track will accommodate up to 10 drivers at a time who will race each other in electric Go Karts

(Courtesy NCL)

See full ‘Cruise Industry News’ story HERE

(Courtsey NCL)

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Has Innovation Run Dry?

April 17, 2017

Over the past two decades we have seen unprecedented innovation in cruise ship design.

Not only has there been a quest to build the biggest cruise ships, they have increasing become floating resorts, rather than just ‘ships’.

There have been many defining moments in cruise ship innovation. However one moment which stands out to me is when ‘Carnival Destiny’ entered service in 1995. She was the first cruise ships to exceed 100,000 gross Tonnes.

Before Destiny, Cunard’s RMS Queen Elizabeth Ocean Liner (1929) was the biggest at 83,673 gross tonnes.

Carnival Destiny (Courtesy Carnival)

Another defining moment was in 1998 when Royal Caribbean’s ‘Voyager of the Seas’ entered service, at 138,194 gross tonnes.

Although external promenade decks and ‘sheltered’ promenades  date back to the great ocean liners, Voyager was the first cruise ship to have an internal ‘street’ down the middle, called the ‘Royal Promenade’. (Although the concept was originally featured on a Ferry).

Voyager was more like a floating theme park than any ship before her.

Royal Promenade (RCI)

Another milestone in ship design was the introduction of the world’s biggest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Oasis’ class at 225,282 gross tonnes.

Oasis had a unique split-superstructure design accommodating a Boardwalk, a Carousel and a Park.

The Norwegian Cruise line should also be credited for their ‘Freestyle’ dining innovation, which now dates back a couple of decades. Elements of it have been copied by most of the major lines. Today NCL also have a new cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss, with a Go-Kart track on the sun deck.

Norwegian Joy (Courtesy NCL)

Given all of this innovation in the past, is it still possible to build increasingly innovative ships in the future, or has the bar been set too high?

Are the major players running out of ideas to wow us?

RCI are famed for their originality, but personally I did not find RCI’s ‘Quantum’ class anywhere near as innovative as their previous, the ‘Oasis’ class, therefore a little disappointing.

RCI called their latest ship design, the ‘Quantum’ class,  innovative. RCI introduced much technology to the ‘Quantum’ class design and some sporty gimmicks (Bumper Cars and I-Fly ) plus an observation pod.

However take away the frills, and the Quantum ships internal design was very similar to NCL’s Epic/Breakaway/Breakaway+ ships. It has multiple dining and entertainment venues, coupled with flexible dining, but without the excellent NCL ‘Waterfront’ feature.  NCL call it ‘Freestyle’, RCI copied it and called it ‘Dynamic Dining’.

RCI have since revised Dynamic Dining, it did not impress their passengers.

North Star, Quantum of the Seas (RCI)

The Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (MSC) new mega-ship ‘Seaside’ features a wide promenade deck, which I assume will feature dining options etc. NCL pioneer this, with their ‘Breakaway’ design and it’s ‘Waterfront’ promenade. As I said earlier promenade decks are not a new idea, but NCL took the concept further than ever before.

MSC’s other newbuild, Meraviglia, features an internal street, RCI’ Royal Promenade’ in style. The main difference is MSC’s one will have a digital sky.

The Waterfront (NCL)

I’m not convinced about the innovations on-board Celebrity’s newest ship design, ‘Celebrity Edge’, either.

The new stateroom design called ‘Infinite Verandas’, which is very nice. However it was first featured on European river boats some years back.

The ‘Magic Carpet’ platform which climbs up one side of the ship is part ‘Rising Tide Bar’ (Oasis) and part ‘North-star’ (Quantum observation pod.) The jury is still out if this is a ‘real’ innovation or just another gimmick*.

The Magic Carpet (Courtsey Celebrity)

I certainly think it is increasingly difficult for the cruise lines to come up with something truly innovative, something that has not been done before on-board another cruise ship.

The cruise lines are intent in fitting more passengers on-board their newbuilds, so space can be a luxury, even on the biggest ships.  This is probably why many of the innovations are actually on the outside or sundeck of the ship.

However, when they do come up with something original, like a Go-Kart track on-board a ship, do we really need it?

Do we need constant ‘innovation’?

As somebody very wise once said: what happened to “just cruising”?

Malcolm

*(Definitions – Innovation: is a significant positive change.  Gimmick: a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade.)

A New Russian Cruise Line

April 16, 2017
Click to enlarge (Source unknown)

Click to enlarge (Source unknown)

A new Russian cruise line is set to commence service in the Black Sea in June.

The company Rosmorport, has purchased the former Royal Iris ship. The 764-passenger ship last sailed for Mano Cruises.

The ship will be renamed Prince Vladimir and undergo a refurbishment before starting its new summer program.

Cruises will depart every Sunday, round-trip from Sochi with calls in Novorossyisk, Yalta and Sevastopol. The ship will overnight in Yalta. The first sailing is scheduled for June 11.

(Rosmorport)

Bath Time (Courtney Mano cruises)

Bath Time (Courtesy Mano cruises)

Malcolm Says: MS Royal Iris (also formerly Azur) is a 1971 built car ferry which in 1981 was converted  into a cruise ship.

She is the last surviving ship ever owned by the Chandris Lines. She is the last surviving ship out of three near identical sisters, the others being the ill-fated Scandinavian Star* and the Fred. Olsen & Co. ferry Bolero. In late 2014, Mano Cruise stopped the ship’s service.

She is a modest 14,717 gross tons yet can carry 770 passengers. She looks a charming little vessel.

Mano Royal Iris promo-video HERE

*(The ship was set on fire by an arsonist in 1990, killing 159 people.)

MSC Magnifica, 22 Sailings From Southampton

April 16, 2017

(Courtsey MSC)

The Mediterranean Shipping Company have announced that MSC Magnifica will be based in Southampton for a season in 2018.

The 95,128 gross tonne ship, carrying up to 3,605 passenger, will be sailing a mix of Mediterranean and Northern European voyages.

The sailings will also offer special British touches such as roast dinners, afternoon tea, John Smith’s beer, a curry night, a full English breakfast, and various condiments like Marmite and HP Sauce.

The 22 sailing dates will also be all inclusive of drinks and wi-fi on-board!

(MSC)

Titanic Victims’ Families Furious At Chinese Replica

April 14, 2017

The story of the RMS Titanic holds as much fascination now as it ever did.

Tasteless, or not, a theme park in China is even building a full sized replica of the Titanic.

Replica Titanic – Daily Mail article: HERE

An Australia billionaire even said that he would build a cruising replica of the Titanic, until he lost interest.

Titanic II – Clive Palmer Gets Cold Feet: HERE

Bodies Of 3rd-Class Titanic Passengers Tossed Overboard

Rarely does a month go by without a story about the ill fated ship appearing in the media.

Here is a recent example.

Daily Mail article: HERE

Below is a link to my article comparing the worlds biggest ocean liner  in 1912, ‘RMS Titanic’, to the biggest modern class of cruise ship ‘Oasis of The Seas’.

Titanic v Oasis of the Seas: HERE  

Malcolm

Majestic Princess Substitutes Sydney For Shanghai.

April 13, 2017

(Courtesy Princess)

Princess Cruises has announced that their latest ship, Majestic Princess, which was tailored for the Chinese market, will be based in Sydney over the 2018-2019. She will not be cruising year-round in China, home-porting in Shanghai, China, as previously announced.

This 143,000 gross tonne, 3,560-passenger vessel, is the third Princess ship in their ‘Royal Princess’ class (although P&O’s Britannia is also based on the same design). She is sporting the new Princess hull art, complete with the ‘Sea Witch’.

Majestic will become the largest Princess vessel ever to serve Australian waters.

As well, in 2018, Princess will move the Sapphire Princess out of the Chinese market and re-deploy the ship to Europe.

(Princess Cruises)

Malcolm says: with all the major cruise lines sending ships to China, perhaps a lack of bookings has caused Princess Cruises to come to the conclusion the Chinese market is not yet mature enough to support all of the new tonnage. Fortunately, unlike hotels, ships are mobile and be sent to where the demand is.

Siverseas’s Silver Muse

April 12, 2017

Silversea’s ‘Silver Muse’ is their largest ship, but still a very modest 40,700 gross tonnes, accommodating 596 passengers.

She is an all-suite luxury ship which will enter service in spring 2017.

Lawsuit Claims Sheehan, Former NCL CEO, Had Improper Relations

April 11, 2017

Miami Herald Article: HERE

Malcolm says: I met Kevin Sheehan once. I cannot comment on the story above, but I can say that he  certainly has a very down-to-earth and likeable charisma. He oversaw the introduction of the ‘Breakaway’ class ships after the problematic ‘Epic’. He had a high profile with NCL passengers and was a popular figure.

In fact the NCL’ ‘Epic’, ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Breakaway+’ class ships have an Irish pub/Grill named ‘O’Sheehan’s’ after Kevin Sheehan.  The Pub is very popular and has been extended to the  older ships in the NCL fleet.

AIDAperla Starts Her Sea Trials

April 11, 2017

(Courtesy AIDA)

The AIDAperla has left Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan for her ‘sea trials’. These are the set of performance tests which newbuilds all undergo before entering service.

AIDAperla  will enter passenger  service from Palma de Mallorca on July 1, 2017, sailing week-long cruises from Palma to Barcelona, also calling on Civitavecchia, Corsica and Livorno.

In September the AIDAperla will sail four different cruise routes in the Western Mediterranean.

AIDAperla then moves to Northern Europe for summer 2018, picking up the AIDAprima’s previous route, form Hamburg with calls in Southampton, Le Havre, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

(AIDA)

Discover MSC Meraviglia

April 10, 2017

From Fred Olsen’s modest little ships, to a big state-of-the-art one:

MSC Meraviglia, (“Wonder” in English) is the lead ship of MSC’s new Vista class vessels with a gross tonnage of 167 600 and can accommodate 5,700 passengers.

MSC Meraviglia is the first of two identical ships on order from STX France, her sister being named “Bellissima.”

Meraviglia will be delivery in May 2017 and spends its first summer sailing the Western Mediterranean with three homeports: Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona.

(MSC)

Balmoral To Sail From Edinburgh

April 10, 2017

Balmoral (Courtesy Fred Olsen)

In 2018/2019, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral will be sailing from Edinburgh (Rosyth) U.K. for the first time, operating a total of nine cruises.

Cruises from May to July 2018, include a five-night “Norwegian Fjords” departure, a 14-night “Scandinavia & St. Petersburg” Baltic discovery, and a nine-night “German Waterways” experience.

Justin Stanton, Sales and Marketing Director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said:  “We are proud of Fred. Olsen’s long-standing links with Scotland, and we are looking forward to introducing our flagship Balmoral to Edinburgh in 2018, further enhancing our cruises for Scottish guests”.

(Fred Olsen)

My Balmoral review: HERE

Delta Queen Could Cruise Again

April 9, 2017

The Delta Queen (© Jeremy Atherton, 2003).

The U.S. Senate approved Monday a bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill that would let the historic Delta Queen riverboat operate once again on the Mississippi River.

Full St.LuisPublicRadio story HERE

dq_houma_slip

(Courtesy Delta Queen Steamboat Company)

The Delta Queen was launched in 1925 and first began cruising operations in 1927, to sail the Mississippi and its tributaries caring 176 passengers.

While designated as a National Historic Landmark, Delta Queen currently cannot sail with more than 50 passengers, based on requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea Act (SOLAS), passed in 1966.  That law prohibits overnight sailings on wooden vessels.

While the historic ship has a steel hull, the ship’s 88 staterooms and public spaces are mostly of wooden construction.

However she sailed for decades under a SOLAS exemption, but that expired in 2008.  The Delta Queen is currently docked in Chattanooga, TN, where it served as a hotel.

(Delta Queen Steamboat Company)

American Duchess Delays Inaugural Cruise

(Courtesy American Queen Steamboat Company)

American Duchess the third river boat in the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet (166 passengers), is moving its launch date back six weeks and changing its summer 2017 schedule.

Originally, the boat – a gambling vessel that’s being completely gutted and renovated – was going to launch on July 1, 2017. That’s been moved back to August 13.

Several itineraries have  been affected. Details can be found a the cruise lines web site.

It is believed that the renovation has simply over-run.

Malcolm

Project Infinity, Super-Yacht

April 8, 2017

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Inside the proposed £160 million 34 foot super–yacht complete with a glass elevator, helipad plus indoor AND outdoor cinemas.

(Fraser Yachts)