Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Royal Caribbean Orders Largest Ever Cruise Ship

In the cruise ship industry, the battle for bragging rights has turned into a QE2-size slugfest. In 2003, Cunard stole the crown for world’s largest cruise ship when it launched the 151,410-ton Queen Mary 2; three years later Royal Caribbean topped it with the 154,000-ton Freedom of the Seas. Now, Royal Caribbean is set to raise the stakes yet again with the 220,000-ton Genesis, slated to launch in 2009 from a shipyard in Turku, Finland. (A second Genesis will launch a year later.) Why is bigger better? “Having more real estate, we can provide more deck area,” says Royal Caribbean’s Harri Kulovaara. “That means more entertainment options and better amenities.”

Make no mistake, Genesis will be no lumbering behemoth. The ship’s three main propellers will swivel 360 degrees on independent bearings. All will be driven by electric motors powered by the ship’s central bank of six diesel generators, and steered by an integrated navigation and control system. From the bridge, the captain will be able to move the ship in any direction — forward, backward, sideways — with the flick of a joystick. No tugboats required.

Other Large Cruise Ships

Knock Nevis
Knock Nevis
Claim to fame Largest ship ever (now retired)
Length 1504 feet
Displacement 564,763 tons
Launched 1981
Capacity 4.1 million barrels

Emma Maersk
Emma Maersk
Claim to fame Longest ship (in service)
Length 1303 feet
Displacement 156,907 tons
Launched 2006
Capacity 11,000 shipping containers

USS Ronald Reagan
USS Ronald Reagan
Claim to fame Largest warship
Length 1092 feet
Displacement 98,235 tons
Launched 2003
Capacity 85 aircraft and a crew of over 6000

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wireless Maritime Services Announces New Contract with Royal Caribbean Ltd.

New Contract Will Continue Cellular Service at Sea

Wireless Maritime Services (WMS), the world leader in providing cellular service to the cruise line industry, announced today that they have signed a new five year contract to continue providing cellular at sea wireless service to guests and crew members on all ships from Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and Celebrity Cruises. New ships entering the fleets are also included under this agreement.

WMS service allows both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise line guests and crew members, with a qualified plan, to use their cell phones as they currently do on land while the ship is at sea away from land based cellular phone service. Connectivity is activated when each ship leaves port and turned off when in range of land-based providers. WMS is providing uninterrupted service to guests so they can stay in touch with family, friends or business associates back home while they enjoy the experiences of their cruise. Guests can make and receive calls, send text messages and surf the internet at rates similar to roaming internationally.

“We are excited about the new contract with WMS, both for the existing fleet and for new ships planned in the upcoming years,” said Royal Caribbean’s Director of Hotel Technology, Patrick Manuel. “As the world has changed, we saw the need to allow the guests and crew to stay connected, in a convenient way, to those back home. The signing of the new contract signals our recognition of the commitment WMS has shown for both service and support.”

“We are very excited to have grown the depth and breadth of our relationship with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity,” said Leighton Carroll, President and CEO of WMS. “We pride ourselves on delivering the best products and services to our customers, and this renewal is an indication of the value we bring to cruise line passengers and crew. Royal Caribbean International is a terrific company and we are very proud to have them as our customer.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

MSC Cruises Ideal Family Cruise Vacations

There are many additional benefits for families traveling with MSC Cruises. For the perfect holiday experience and those looking to combine a family escape with the desire to discover new places, without sacrificing the requirements of varying age groups, MSC Cruises has it all.

On board an MSC Cruise ship there is an entire team especially selected to cater for the specific needs of all ages - including the youngest guests. On all the ships in the fleet there is a special area exclusively dedicated to the under 18’s – cheerful and colorful, safe and equipped play areas for every different age group. MSC Cruise ships are completely child friendly, offering daily entertainment and plenty of space for running, exploring, diving, swimming and, most important of all...playing!

In addition, the MSC Kid’s Club provides specialized entertainers to organize fun activities for teenagers. Younger brothers or sisters will not be left out, as the staff will divide the children into two or three groups according to their ages: children from 3 to 9 in the Mini Club, those from 9 to 13 in the Juniors Club, and the over 13s in the Teenagers Club.

MSC Cruises also offer a Teen’s Card. This personalized credit card will provide children aged 12 to 17, with more freedom of movement and allow them to spend small sums on board. Two options are on offer - from 30 euros (with bonus addition of 5 euros) and 50 euros (with bonus addition of 10 euros). These can be used on board like a proper credit card as well as a cruise card. When you board the ship you’ll be given a flyer describing all the benefits and an order form. This way, your Teens’ Card will be delivered directly to your cabin.

Mums will be delighted with the decidedly Italian food offer, including kid’s favorites such as pasta and pizza. There are special menus (Stellar, Polar, Jungle, Farm) without mentioning the thousands of tantalizing pastries and desserts. Plus, if it’s someone’s birthday during the cruise, a fantastic birthday cake will be served at the end of dinner, including the candles!
Knowing you’ve entrusted your kids to our expert (and really friendly) staff, you can sunbathe without having to remember their sunblock and sun-hats. You can take a dip in the pool without sparing a thought of armbands or rubber rings....! You can indulge yourself by relaxing or keeping fit in the exclusive SPA, unwinding with a Turkish bath, an aromatic massage or a session at the fitness centre... to be followed with an evening enjoying a flutter in the casino.

If you want to enjoy an excursion for the whole family, MSC Cruises also offer really great prices with a 30% discount for children under 14¥!

Currently, MSC Cruises have fabulous limited last-minute special Mediterranean cruises for travel in September, October and November 2008. Cruise with MSC on a selected departure AND book an airfare with us to receive an extra $500^≠pp off your airfare. Call MSC Cruises for these fabulous offers.


CHILDREN CRUISE FREE – With MSC Cruises children under 18 sharing a cabin with their parents cruise free throughout the year!

FAMILY CABINS – The 7 night Mediterranean cruises on board MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra, MSC Musica and MSC Opera offer family cabins on various decks at a range of prices, giving the greatest amount of comfort, pleasure and peace for a family cruise holiday.

With MSC Cruises you can find the ideal holiday for all the family. All you have to do is choose where you want to go. You can choose a cruise in the western Mediterranean or a journey amongst the beautiful Greek islands or the fascinating ancient sites of Turkey.

MSC Cruises currently has a fleet of nine ships: MSC Poesia third flagship of the “Musica” class, MSC Orchestra, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Opera, MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Melody, MSC Rhapsody , cruising in the Mediterraneanall year round, Northern Europe, Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and South America. The fleet will increase to12 ships by 2010. In the winter of 2008 the MSC Fantasia will launch, followed in the spring of 2009 by MSCSplendida. These will be two of the largest ships built by a European ship owner. Then in 2010 MSC Magnifica, thefourth ship in the Musica class will enter service.MSC Cruises is a partner of the city of Venice and a member of the Club - 'Friends of Venice' as well as one of thesupporters for the project 'Venice Blue Flag' which sets the standards for the carbon emissions.

Small Ships Becoming More Popular with Cruisers

Size matters to cruisers who savor the joys of seeing the world up close and personal on a small ship.

In these days of ever-expanding megaships, with thousands of passengers pouring off at each port, there's something to be said about the more personal and intimate aspects of small-ship sailing.

We're talking small compared with Royal Caribbean's three enormous Freedom-class ships, including the new Independence of the Seas, carrying 3,634 passengers and thousands of crew.

Cruise Lines International Association says there are about 50 ships carrying from 50 to several hundred passengers, providing the chance to explore the world from a more personal perspective.

With their smaller size, the ships can visit the inland capitals of Europe and Asia, tiny islands in the tropics, somewhat undiscovered ports in the Middle East, remote coves and bays in Alaska, the U.S. Intra-Coastal Waterway and more.

Getting on and off the ship is much easier, with docking in the centre of the action of many destinations, and sightseeing is without crowds -- often in places where there are few other visitors.

Anyone who cruises knows how crowded and hectic ports are where several large ships have dropped anchor or tied up to the pier on the same day.

It's enough to keep some veteran cruisers on board where it's more relaxed than fighting the crowds on shore.

Here's a look at some of the small-ship cruise opportunities.

- Silversea Cruises' ( Prince Albert II is an exploration ship carrying 132 guests on expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctica and many points in between.

In its inaugural season, Mexican Sea of Cortez expeditions in September will have eight Zodiac boats for up-close viewing of birds, dolphins, whales and sea lions.

The line's Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, each holding 382 passengers, and Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, accommodating 296 guests, offer worldwide itineraries with ocean-view suite accommodations.

- Windstar Cruises ( has three sailing yachts, Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf, for that pampered luxury experience.

Carrying 148 to 312 passengers, they visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of some of the world's most sought-after destinations.

They ply the seas to 50 countries, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. This includes voyages through the Greek Islands and in-depth explorations of Costa Rica.

- Seabourn Cruise Line's ( yachts for 208 guests will be joined next year by the larger 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey.

On the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend, staff members almost outnumber the passengers who dine on gourmet cuisine created by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer and enjoy signature experiences such as Caviar in the Surf.

Along with world cruises and transatlantic crossings, Seabourn voyages cover the world from Asia to Europe to the Americas and Caribbean.

- Seadream Yacht Club's ( two 110-passenger ships, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, have a water sports marina offering equipment for enjoyment right off the ship.

From May through October, they offer seven-night itineraries to classical yachting ports in the French and Italian Riviera, Costa del Sol, the Amalfi Coast, Greek Islands and the Adriatic and Black Seas.

In the winter, SeaDream visits some of the most exclusive islands in the Caribbean, including St. Barts, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke and the Grenadines.

Other options include:

- Majestic American Line ( offers cruises of the mighty Mississippi River and U.S. waterways.

The legendary paddle wheelers Delta Queen (in its last season) and the newer American Queen ply the Mississippi, while the line also offers sailings in Alaska and the rivers of the Northwest U.S.

- American Cruise Lines' ( four ships carry up to 100 passengers with amenities such as onboard naturalists and historians. The American Star, Spirit, Glory and Eagle sail the U.S. East Coast, including the Rivers of Florida, Antebellum South, Mid-Atlantic Inland Passage, Chesapeake Bay, Hudson River, Maine and New England Islands.

- Hurtigruten (, formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage, specializes in cruises along the coast of Norway and popular sailings to Antarctica and Greenland.

- Uniworld Grand River Cruises ( offers itineraries on 12 rivers in 20 countries across four continents, including Europe, Russia, Egypt and China.

- Pearl Seas Cruises ( will begin service next year for voyages in the Caribbean along with the Maritimes, St. Lawrence Seaway and Thousand Islands, a circumnavigation of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the Great Lakes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Europe Cruises Very Popular

Cruise Lines are Increasingly Big In Europe

Like a growing number of British vacationers, Richard Scott has gotten hooked on cruising the past few years. And yet he's never seen anything quite like Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.

"This ship's a bustle of activity," says the 31-year-old scaffolding worker from Southampton, England, talking just steps away from the ship's four-story rock-climbing wall — a Royal Caribbean signature. "It's an amazing thing to see."

In just two days on board, Scott has scaled the rock-climbing wall, boogie-boarded on the ship's SurfRider wave pool, played miniature golf and gone to a show in the world's largest theater at sea. And he hasn't even made it to half of the 15-deck ship's attractions, which also include an ice-skating rink, a boxing ring and a luxurious spa.

"It's a big ship," says Scott, one of several thousand primarily British residents who sailed on its maiden voyage earlier this month out of Southampton. "But I like it big. There are a lot more things to do."

Traditionally cruise lines have launched their newest, most groundbreaking ships in the Caribbean, long the hub of the Cruise World. But the 3,634-passenger, 160,000-ton Independence, one of the three largest ships ever built, will spend its entire first season sailing out of the British port.

The deployment marks the first time a line has based a ship of this size in Europe and is a sign of just how important the Continent has become to cruise lines. Indeed, in some ways Europe is the new Caribbean — the place every cruise company worth its bunker oil wants to be.

"Europe is the hottest story in cruising these days," says Mike Driscoll, editor of industry watcher Cruise Week. "It's reaching the point where if a line has trouble selling a ship (anywhere else in the world), they pack up and move her to Europe."

Driscoll notes that cruise-ship capacity in Europe this year will be up an astounding 23%, even as capacity in the Caribbean drops by 5% — the first time on record that year-over-year growth in Caribbean capacity has been down.

Royal Caribbean alone will have a record seven ships in Europe this summer. Rival Holland America is sending six ships, including its newest and biggest vessel, the Eurodam, making its debut in Rotterdam on July 1. And even Carnival, a line synonymous with fun-in-the-sun Caribbean cruises, will base its newest, most advanced ship, Carnival Splendor, in England when it arrives in July.

A New Way to Do the Grand Tour

The growth is partly in response to demand from North American vacationers, who are more than ever looking at Europe for their next big voyage, says Richard Meadows, the head of sales, marketing and guest programs at Holland America.

"The driver is the value," says Meadows, noting that the weak dollar has made Europe prohibitively expensive for the more than 5 million Americans who take land-based vacations there each year. Cruises in Europe, by contrast, remain reasonably priced, he says. "The exchange rate is the single biggest thing that is driving the success of Europe (cruises) right now."

Meadows notes that Holland America has been selling 10-night European cruises this year for as little as $1,499 per person — or about $150 a day. That's a lot less than U.S. vacationers will pay for a comparable European experience if staying in hotels on land, he says.

"People can do the math," he says. "They recognize the value."

In effect, cruise ships are becoming the new way to do the old Grand Tour of Europe — an "if it's Tuesday it must be Barcelona" blitz around the highlights of the Mediterranean or the Baltic.

But growing demand from U.S. vacationers isn't the only factor behind the drive to deploy more ships to the region. Even more significant, many executives say, is the growth in demand from Europeans who are just discovering cruising.

"We're seeing the same phenomenon we saw in the United States 10 to 15 years ago," says Richard Fain, the CEO of Royal Caribbean. "We're getting a critical mass of people (in Europe) who now have taken a cruise, and they're telling their friends and co-workers — in effect becoming missionaries for cruising."

Fain notes that less than 3% of Europeans have taken a cruise, a far smaller percentage than the estimated 15% of Americans who have tried one. But Fain says the growth pattern among Europeans is almost identical to what he saw in the early days with Americans, and Europeans are "a great untapped market."

The Mediterranean and Baltic, he notes, are to Europeans what the Caribbean was to Americans — an easy-to-reach, low-cost cruise destination right in their own backyard.

Tea Makers and Indian Dishes

One of the byproducts of the rapid growth in the number of Europeans cruising is that many of the ships sailing there are taking on a more international flavor.

Some North American-based lines with ships in Europe, such as the Disney Cruise Line, still cater almost exclusively to Americans on their European voyages. But Susan Hooper, the head of Royal Caribbean's European operation, says more than 50% of bookings this year for the line's cruises in Europe are from Europeans, putting Americans in the minority on board. On the Independence, which is sailing out of Southampton through the summer, more than 80% of passengers will be British, she says.

The influx of non-American cruisers has prompted U.S.-based lines to tinker with their ships before sending them across the Atlantic. Royal Caribbean, for instance, has added more Indian dishes, a favorite of British vacationers, to the buffet on the Independence. The line also has had to beef up its supply of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio wines, which the British drink far more than the Chardonnay preferred by many Americans. And in one widely reported nod to its growing British customer base, Royal Caribbean has added tea makers in every cabin onboard the Independence.

So far, Hooper says, Americans aren't complaining about the changes. "If you get (the atmosphere) right for the Europeans, the Americans love it, too," she says.

Another byproduct of the growth in European cruises is increased crowding in popular ports.

"There are some small ports such as Dubrovnik and Venice that do have overcrowding, and they've got to put their foot down," says Hooper, an advocate for limitations on ship arrivals in Europe's more intimate destinations.

Hooper says with more ships heading to Europe, lines are looking for new, less-visited places to stop. Watch for more port calls in countries along the bottom of the Mediterranean in North Africa — places such as Tunisia, a gateway to the Roman-era ruins of Carthage.

Not Just a Summer Fling

Another sign of the boom in European cruising is that major U.S.-based lines are beginning to place ships there year-round, something that was unthinkable just a few years ago. Norwegian Cruise Line announced in February that the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Jade, originally scheduled to spend this summer in Europe, would remain on the Continent year-round through at least 2010. Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, meanwhile, will begin year-round cruising out of Barcelona this winter.

Europe traditionally has been a summer-only destination for cruise ships. But in recent years the season has expanded, starting as early as April and continuing for some ships until November.

The arrival of year-round deployments in Europe means ships will stay during the less-appealing winter months. But while the colder weather is a downside, "there's a lot of benefits for cruisers to winter trips," says Norwegian executive Andy Stuart. "It's less crowded, and the airfares (to fly from the USA to the ships) are half the price that they are in summer."

Airfares, indeed, are a growing issue for cruisers thinking of booking European trips — and a wildcard that some say could derail the rapid growth of European cruising. With the cost of oil soaring, airfares to Europe have been rising rapidly.

"The lines have done a good job with air promotions" that have kept air costs down, notes Driscoll. But the lines had negotiated bulk-rate fares with the airlines "before the fuel prices went out of control. Now, they're negotiating for bulk seats at a time when fuel is over $125 a barrel."

That said, the growth in European cruising is going to continue, says Driscoll, noting the big cruise companies have continued to order new ships for the European market — even as they slow ordering for North America. "Ships for the European market continue full throttle."

By Gene Sloan
USA Today; May 30, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hawaii Skirts Tourism Drop-Off Elsewhere in U.S.

Hawaii Cruises More Popular Than Ever!

Hawaii so far is largely escaping a tourism slowdown that has hit many other U.S. vacation spots, thanks in part to the state's efforts in recent years to diversify its visitor base.

The number of visitors to the islands rose to about 1.9 million in the year's first quarter, up 2.8% from the year-earlier period, according to the latest figures from Hawaii state officials. Hotel occupancies rose 1.5% in the period, compared with a 4.6% drop nationwide, estimates Smith Travel Research, an industry-tracking firm.

International tourism to the U.S. is up, and visitor numbers are holding up well in places popular among those tourists, such as New York, San Francisco, Miami or Walt Disney Co.'s theme parks. Regional statistics show slowdowns particularly in destinations popular with domestic tourists. Hotel occupancy in Orange County, Calif. -- home of several other attractions as well as Disneyland -- was down 3.2% the first three months of this year, while Phoenix occupancy dropped 8.6% and the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., market fell by 5.6%, according to Smith Travel. Las Vegas posted a 0.6% drop in visitors in January before rebounding some in February, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

The increase in Hawaii came despite drop-offs in visitors from two of its biggest markets: a 1.4% decline in tourists from the eastern U.S. and a 5.7% slide from Japan. Both places have been hit by rising fuel prices and other economic factors. However, there has been an increase in Hawaii cruise travel, which has offset the loss in tourism.

Tourism from other parts of the world to Hawaii has more than offset the declines, thanks both to expanded marketing and a weak dollar that has made cheap Hawaii cruises a bargain for many foreign travelers, from Europe to Canada. There were 8.1% more Canadians, for example, than in the same three-month period a year ago.

"Our economy is doing just fine; that's not a factor for me at all," said Celia Hudson, a 59-year-old retiree from Vancouver, British Columbia, at the Honolulu International Airport.

Hawaii's good fortunes now contrast with those in the early 1990s, when the number of visitors -- whose spending drives the state's economy -- plunged 13% following Japan's economic meltdown. Japanese accounted for a third of the state's visitors at the time; most of the rest were U.S. mainlanders.

To avoid a repeat, Hawaii pushed to diversify its tourism base. The state began marketing where it hadn't much before -- Germany and the United Kingdom, for example. Airlines started adding flights to new destinations, such as Manila, the Philippines, and Sydney, Australia. In addition to this, Hawaii made exclusive deals with the leading cruise lines, offered discount Hawaii cruises, and opened up many of their best ports, allowing their tourism base to widen even more.

Hawaii officials lobbied for an agreement, signed between the Department of Homeland Security and South Korea in April, that will allow South Koreans to travel visa-free to the U.S. "When you are an island, you do not want to be overly dependent on one tourism market," said Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle.

Meanwhile, the Oahu business community has been sprucing up Waikiki Beach, a fabled tourism center that had been showing its age. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. is spending $750 million to renovate three Waikiki hotels.

Tourism numbers are holding up despite some recent hits to the economy. However, various airlines have moved in. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s Hawaiian Airlines recently added new service to Honolulu from Oakland, Calif. Ms. Lingle said officials of United Airlines have told her that it won't be cutting seats to Hawaii as part of its plans to cut 9% of seats across its system by the end of this year from what it had at the end of 2007.

A spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, a unit of UAL Corp., confirmed the governor's account and added that the airline also plans to increase service to Hawaii this summer.

Hawaii's economy isn't immune to U.S. economic troubles. Bankruptcies in Hawaii have jumped 20% in the first four months of 2008 from the same time last year, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court here. A jump in airfares could cut further into tourism from the U.S. mainland. Revised economic forecasts by the Bank of Hawaii and University of Hawaii call for a nearly 4% drop in visitors this year from 2007's near-record total of 7.5 million visitors -- more than double earlier forecasts.

But such a drop, if it materializes, would leave Hawaii's visitor count above seven million, which was a high-water mark during its last heyday, in the late 1980s.