Tuesday, June 12, 2007

MSC Cruises to Have 3 Ships in South America

MSC Cruises will offer South America sailings from Brazilian ports on three ships next year, with MSC Sinfonia departing from Buenos Aires, MSC Armonia from Rio de Janeiro and MSC Opera from Santos.
Itineraries will include calls at ports such as Arraial, Ilheus, Ilhabela, Sal­vador de Bahia and Punta del Este.
“With so many choices, guests can choose the options that are best for them in terms of which exciting South Amer­ican ports they want to visit and — with cruises of 3 to 9 nights — how long they want to cruise,” said Richard Sasso, pres­ident and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA).
Prices range from $319 per person, double occupancy for 3-night mini cruises to $1,099 for 9-night sailings. Government fees and taxes are additional.
Clients must have a passport with a minimun validity of six months and a visa to enter Brazil.
For more information, visit MSC Cruises.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Norwegian Sun Sailing to Caribbean from NOLA

The 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun recently became the first cruise ship to homeport in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina when it docked at the city’s new $37 million Erato Street Terminal. The ship will offer 7-day Western Caribbean cruises from the port through April 2008, with calls at Costa Maya, Mexico; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.

Commitment to New Orleans

“We’re proud to demonstrate our commitment to the city of New Orleans by returning to the city with a big, new bal­cony-rich ship. With 47 million potential passengers living within a 500 mile radius of New Orleans, this vibrant city is a key partner fqr NCL,” said Bob Thye, senior vice pres­ident of revenue management and itinerary planning for NCL Corporation. In 2004, New Orleans was one of the fastest-grnwing homeports in the US, according to CLIA, with passenger traffic growing 818%
in the 11 years prior to Katrina, from approximately 80,000 in
1993 to 753,000 in 2004. The cruise industry also contributes $226 million to the city in direct and indirect sales, and supports more than 2,500 jobs.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cruise Passport Requirements

The U.S. State Department posted a notice last week that it is possible U.S. citizens traveling between the U.S. and Canadian, Mexican, Caribbean and Central and South American destinations by land or sea may be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents as early as Jan. 1, 2008. The announcement came despite the fact that Congress recently extended the requirement that Caribbean cruise passengers have valid passports to June 1, 2009. The department said the deadline will be determined by when the technology for scanning documents is put in place and consumers will have ample warning before it is enforced. The requirement that all air passengers arriving from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada and Mexico have valid passports by Jan. 8, 2007 is still in effect under the West­ern Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), part of the gov­ernment’s effort to strengthen post-9/11border security The department noted that even drive-up cruise pas­sengers departing next year should have a passport, because if a weather or other emeigency should force a ship to disembark passengers outside the U.S., they would still need a passport to fly home. In a press release, ASTA stated that the extension of the WHTI deadline “does not affect the Jan. 8, 2007 deadline that requires all U.S. citizens traveling by air to have a valid passport for exiting and re-entering the United States, but it does endorse an alternate instru­ment, a new economical travel document known as the Passenger Access Security Service Card (PASS) for sea and land border use in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.”

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seabourn Orders 2 New Ships

Seabourn Cruise Line, a division of Miami-based Carnival Corporation, announced Thursday that it will build two new ultra-luxury liners, for delivery in spring 2009 and 2010. Each ship will cost $250 million to build and construction will be handled by Genoa, Italy-based T. Mariotti S.P.A. The 32,000-GRT ships will each have 225 luxury suites, more than doubling Seabourn’s current fleet capacity of 634 berths.
The order reaffirms Carnival’s confidence in the luxury cruising market, according to Micky Arison, Carnival Corp.’s chairman and CEO. The letter of intent to build the ships is subject to conditions including definitive contracts, financing and other terms.
Seabourn Cruise Line.— David Eisen

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Caribbean Cruises still #1

Notwithstanding the recent soft market, Caribbean Cruises are still number one for cruising
BY JOE PIKE
jpike@questex.com

Travel agents polled in a survey by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) once again confirmed what cruise enthusiasts have known for a long time:
The Caribbean is the hottest cruise region in the world. In fact, nearly 80 percent of more than 500 CLIA travel agents polled named the destination as the most popular cruising ground for their agencies’ customers. Further cementing the survey findings was the fact that 88 percent of agents reported that the total number of Caribbean Cruises sold at their agencies in 2006 increased over 2005—with 93 percent of respondents predicting that 2007 sales totals would surpass 2006 levels.

A Strong Future
“It goes without saying that the trend toward Caribbean cruising will only get stronger in the future,” Terry Dale, CEO and president of Cruise Lines International Association. “More vacationers choose to cruise each year and the Caribbean remains a prime destination for both cruisers and land-based vacationers. Although Caribbean Cruises experience periods where demand ebbs and flows, that does not change the fact that it remains the number-one cruise destination in guest popularity and number of ships that visit the region’s ports.”
Customer satisfaction rates also soared, with nearly 90 percent of agencies reporting that their clients were very satisfied or extremely satisfied. Total satisfaction ratings were 98.5 percent. The high level of satisfaction comes as no surprise to CLIA member cruise lines, which have debuted large numbers of their newest and most cutting-edge ships in the region.
“Hands down, cruise vacationers will find the cruise industry’s most innovative ships in the Caribbean,” Dale said in a news release. “The Caribbean is a veritable candy store when it comes to the array of cruise lines and ships that are available to travelers.”
Sixty-four percent of respondents said their clients rated their chosen cruise lines and ships as the best attribute of Caribbean cruises, and also cited selling points as the Caribbean’s climate, overall ambiance, ports of call, beaches and shopping. Forty-nine percent said that a cruise was the perfect way to sample Caribbean islands that they wish to visit again by ship or by land. Generally comparable with capacity deployment, 53 percent of respondents sold Western Caribbean cruise itineraries most often, 34 percent Eastern Caribbean cruises and 9 percent Southern Caribbean cruises. Seventy-five percent cited seven-day itineraries as the most popular cruise length, 13 percent voyages of five days or fewer, and 10 percent cruises of eight to 10 days. “When booking cruises to the Caribbean, agents have price on their side,” says Michelle Fee, a member of CLIA’s Travel Agency Advisory Board and CEO of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, FL. “Plus, you can go from multiple places now. If you sell Alaska and Europe, you’re talking major vacations. For the Caribbean, you can get a call on a Monday and sell it for that Friday or Saturday. For Europe cruises and Alaska cruises, you have to get more in depth with the sale. For a Caribbean cruise, you are selling sun and fun, that’s it. It’s just an easier sale.”

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hospitable Ports Await Guests

Years ago, a cruise terminal at a U.S. port might have been a dimly lit warehouse facility, sometimes in a seedy area of a city. Cruisers tried to ignore these facilities and focus on boarding their ship. Today, ports recognize the importance of aesthetics and the economic valne of keeping cruisers happy. Many ports boast sparkling new terminals and parking garages.
New facilities are certainly welcome. But perhaps a more interesting development is that ports increasingly see themselves not just in the cruise business, but also in the hospitality business. For example, Port Canaveral officials often welcome cruise ships that arrive to add a personal touch.
We’ve seen that first hand. We disembarked (unannounced) from Seabourn Pride for a port call a few months back. To our surprise, David Poston, Port Canaveral’s assistant director of marketing, was meeting guests, ship staff and tour operators just outside the terminal. Poston and other executives regularly meet ships to see how everything is flowing and to make cruisers feel valued.
Many of these new facilities feature improved services. The Cruise Seattle Concierge at the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal and at the Terminal 30 Cruise Facility will store luggage before or after a cruise in a safe, secure location at a cost of $3 per bag. The concierge will also drop stamped letters or postcards in the mail, sell domestic and international phone cards, provide information about Seattle activities, make a dinner reservation, arrange for a taxi or limo and even address special requests.
In New Orleans, cruisers parking in the newest cruise terminal will find everything in one building. Before they park, a seacap (the cruise version of a skycap) will take their bags; they’ll simply drive in and park, then take an elevator to the check-in.
Many ports, including Cruise Philly, the Port of Charleston and the Port of Los Angeles, have developed attraction-and-dining discount booklets for cruisers. Many ports, including Port Canaveral, have worked with local hoteliers to create packages that include free parking at the hotel dnring the cruise and free shuttle service to and from the port.
Solidly in the “above and beyond” department is the Port of Mobile. Just before the Carnival Holiday returns to that port, port employees scour the parking garage. No, they’re not issuing tickets for parking in the wrong place or citing the guest for some other infraction. They’re in search of flat tires.
Most cruisers out of Mobile are drive-market customers, some driving fairly hefty distances to get there. It’s not that uncommon for cars in the garage to have a flat, says Sheila Gnrganus, operations manager of the Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal. Gurganus says coming off the ship and realizing you have a flat can be depressing after you just had such a wonderful cruise experience.
But at Mobile, dozens of cruisers every year head for their cars, only to find a friendly note on the windshield stating (in essence): “We noticed you had a flat tire. We took the liberty of fixing it. Enjoy your trip home.” And the port doesn’t charge a cent. Now that’s service!
Separately, while ports are doing much to satisfy cruisers, so are cruise lines. We had a chance to talk to Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises, at the annual Seatrade conference, and while he wouldn’t publicly reveal specifics to reporters about public spaces planned for the newest Oceania-class ships, he said that you can expect to see larger spas with plunge pools and cantilevered whirlpool spas that extend off the sides of the ship (similar to those on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas).

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Caribbean Cruise News

Cruising is big business for Trinidad, which will certainly put its new cruise-ship port to good use when it is completed as part of the new waterfront development program.
Balkaran Maharaj, supervisor of cruise shipping, Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT), says he expects 85,000 cruiseship passengers in the country this year, up from 67,000 in 2005. This year, Maharaj says, Port of Spain will get 30 to 40 port calls, while Tobago will receive between 40 and 50 visits.
According to PATT statistics, the overwhelming majority of cruise passengers are British (81 percent), followed by Americans (11 percent), Germans (3 percent) and Canadians (2 percent).
‘We look at working together with our neighboring destinations,” says Maharaj. “We have a close relationship with Barbados, Curaçao, Margarita and Grenada. We don’t really see them as competition, rather as the ‘deep southern Caribbean.’ We all have a chance of getting a piece of the pie.”

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