by Kevin Griffin
This week, we examine Norwegian Cruise Line’s recently announced deployment plans for 2013. With the delivery of the Norwegian Breakaway, Bermuda will benefit from more capacity, as will both Vancouver and Alaska as Norwegian Sun returns to a trade she left in 2009, while Europe will also gain as the larger Norwegian Star replaces the Norwegian Sun. Elsewhere, the now Bermudian-flag Queen Mary 2, which sails for New York today, shows off the results of a two-week refit at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg while Quark Expeditions announce the acquisition of a somewhat faster expedition ship with the Ocean Diamond, formerly Le Diamant. Meanwhile, Bermuda takes another hit as Princess Cruises cuts its New York-Bermuda program from eleven cruises this year to just two in 2012.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Norwegian Announces Its 2013 Program
Norwegian Cruise Line has just recently announced its 2013 programs, which involve four ships being sent to Europe, three to Alaska, up from two, and the Norwegian Breakaway in her maiden season boosting Norwegian’s capacity to Bermuda.
Norwegian will send four ships to Europe in 2013, the same as 2012. The 4,200-berth Norwegian Epic, 2,466-berth Norwegian Jade and 1,976-berth Norwegian Spirit, all scheduled to sail in the Mediterranean in 2012, will be back for summer 2013. But in the Baltic the 2,244-berth Norwegian Star will replace the 1,936-berth Norwegian Sun in 2013, bringing a 16% increase in capacity and freeing up the Norwegian Sun to move back to the Alaska trade.
Norwegian’s largest ship, the Epic will return to the Mediterranean for the third year in a row with 7-night summer cruises from Barcelona, but on a revised itinerary. While she will continue to call at Marseille and Civitavecchia (for Rome), Naples and Livorno, she will call at Mallorca instead of Villefranche in 2013. The Norwegian Jade will offer alternating 7-night Greek Isles and Adriatic, Greece and Turkey itineraries from Venice in 2013.
The Norwegian Spirit will meanwhile sail one-way, 12-night Grand Mediterranean voyages between Barcelona and Venice, calling at nine ports in five countries.
The Norwegian Star will offer 9-night Baltic cruises out of Copenhagen, with highlights including two full days in St. Petersburg and an afternoon cruise of the Stockholm Archipelago upon departure from Stockholm. One new feature will be a call at Helsingborg. The Star will also will offer one 14-night Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands cruise out of Copenhagen in September 2013.
Two Norwegian ships will remain in Europe throughout the winter of 2013/2014. From October through April, the Norwegian Jade will sail from Civitavecchia on a series of 10-night Eastern Mediterranean and 11-night Mediterranean and Holy Land voyages. And in late October, Norwegian Spirit will begin a series of twenty 9-night Canaries cruises.
With three ships scheduled to cruise to Alaska in 2013, Norwegian will offer added capacity, new land packages and a stop in a place no one has ever heard of called Hoonah. The Norwegian Sun will offer 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Whittier beginning in May 2013.
Sailing north through the Inside Passage, the Sun will visit Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier with stops in Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau. Southbound, the Sun will cruise a similar route with the addition of Sawyer Glacier and Icy Strait Point near Hoonah. Norwegian has not operated three ships in Alaska since 2009.
As the third ship to Alaska in 2013, the Sun will join the 2,376-berth Norwegian Jewel and the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl.
The Jewel will sail 7-day Sawyer Glacier itineraries from Seattle, with a departure every Saturday. And the Pearl will sail 7-day Glacier Bay itineraries from Seattle on Sundays. Both ships will stop in the popular Inside Passage ports of Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
Norwegian chose Hoonah, a tender port, for Icy Strait Point, a new Alaska attraction. This village on Chichagof Island will offer passengers the opportunity to go whale watching, fishing, kayaking, learn about the Tlingit community and culture and shop for local crafts.
As well as adding a ship to the Alaska trade, Norwegian has reaffirmed its loyalty to Bermuda for the next two summer seasons.
The cruise line’s 2013 schedule will include forty-four cruises to Bermuda by two ships. Its newest ship, the 4,000-berth Norwegian Breakaway, will cruise to Bermuda twenty-two times from New York between May and October 2013, while the 2,476-berth Norwegian Dawn will undertake twenty-two Bermuda cruises from Boston.
Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer, was quoted as telling the Bermuda Sun: “Bermuda is a beautiful and desirable destination for cruisers. We are pleased to be continuing our commitment to the island with Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn making regular calls in 2012.
In 2013, we will bring our newest and one of our largest ships, Norwegian Breakaway, sailing from New York to Bermuda. Having Norwegian Breakaway call in Bermuda for her inaugural season is a definite coup for Bermuda.”
The Norwegian Breakaway will leave New York on Sundays and spend three full days in Bermuda, plus three days at sea. And Norwegian Dawn will return to Boston for the summer of 2013, departing on Fridays.
This year two ships, the Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Gem, have visited Bermuda a total of forty-eight times and next year three ships, Norwegian Dawn, Star and Gem will cruise forty-eight times to Bermuda as well. The Norwegian Getaway will add substantial capacity in 2013, helping to offset the losses of Carnival, Princess and Holland America, which have all either cancelled their Bermuda programs or cut them to the bone (see story below).
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Queen Mary 2 Under Bermudian Flag
Now registered in Hamilton, Bermuda, with the change having taken place on December 1 as she was undergoing her refit at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 sails from Southampton today for the first time as a Bermudian-flag ship.
On arrival in New York on December 19, she will sail on her usual Christmas cruise to the West Indies. More than a thousand workers carried out the latest refurbishment, 1,250 loads were craned onto the ship, and 20,000 litres of paint and varnish were used in the two-week-long refit.
More than eighteen miles of new fabric and carpets have been fitted to the liner, and work has been carried out on all the ship’s staterooms, and several of its bars. The refurbishment sees new carpeting, curtains, and bedspreads for the ship’s 1,310 staterooms, and new furnishings and carpeting added to the Commodore Club, Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar, Sir Samuel’s Bar and the Queen’s Grill and Princess Grill restaurants. The work is by the Tillberg Design Company, a firm long known for its ocean liner and cruise ship work.
The traditional Golden Lion Pub has undergone a complete redesign, the Canyon Ranch Spa has been upgraded, and new gaming technology has been installed in the children’s Play Zone. One result of the Golden Lion Pub refit is new glass screens that mean there are many more intimate spaces where the room could be a bit noisy in the past.
A specially-commissioned portrait of HM The Queen has been mounted in the Grand Lobby of Queen Mary 2. The painting, depicting the Queen during her final visit to Queen Elizabeth 2 in July 2008, is by Gail Graham, an art director of The European magazine.
This is the second portrait of Her Majesty on board a Cunard ship, a specially commissioned painting already being on display in the Grand Lobby of the Queen Elizabeth, which Her Majesty launched in October 2010.
Elsewhere in the fleet, on December 3, fleetmate Queen Victoria, an earlier visitor,arrived at Bermuda once more, to become the first Cunard Queen to call there under Bermudian registry.
Ocean Diamond Joins Quark Expeditions
Quark Expeditions has announced a new addition to its fleet, with the charter of the 189-berth polar expedition vessel Ocean Diamond. To enter service next November for the 2012-13 Antarctic season, the ship is currently known as Le Diamant.
Compagnie du Ponant recently sold her to investors associated with International Shipping Partners of Miami, who also manage a number of other Quark ships. Prior to entering service with Quark, the Ocean Diamond will undergo an extensive refurbishment, which in addition to creating a contemporary environment, will upgrade the ship’s equipment to the same safety and operational standards as the rest of the Quark fleet.
The Ocean Diamond is the second new ship to join Quark operations after the Sea Spirit, the former Spirit of Oceanus, taken on charter for the first time last season.
The Ocean Diamond is fast and fuel efficient and has more on board amenities than any other ship in the Quark fleet. Shealso has twelve dedicated single cabins, and all cabins have exterior views. Remarking on her speed, Quark president Hans Lagerweij said “Quark is very pleased to have this modern, stable super-yacht in our Antarctic fleet. By reducing the transfer time at sea, Ocean Diamond will give our passengers an additional twelve hours to spend accessing all of the wildlife, rugged beauty, and adventure activities an Antarctic expedition has to offer.”
With ships such as the Sea Spirit and Ocean Diamond joining Quark Expeditions’ polar operations, the company has been able to redeliver some earlier ships where a number of cabins had shared rather than en suite facilities. Quark has also announced a 25% early booking reduction for bookings made before the end of February 2012
Princess Cuts New York-Bermuda Program to Two Cruises
On October 27, The Cruise Examiner broke the news that Holland America Line would be abandoning its New York to Bermuda route at the end of 2012. Then, on November 7, we wrote about Carnival Cruise Lines reducing its planned Bermuda calls for 2012 from twelve to just one. Now, with today’s issue, comes news that another Carnival group cruise line, Princess Cruises, will reduce the number of its New York-Bermuda cruises from eleven this year to just two in 2012.
In total, four Bermuda calls will be made in 2012, with two calls by the Grand Princess and single calls by each of the Pacific Princess and Caribbean Princess. Princess Cruises says increasing demand for ships on its Alaska run and the transfer of one vessel, the Royal Princess, to P&O Cruises, are what have caused the reduction in the number of Bermuda visits next year.
They hold out hope, however, that the delivery of the new Royal Princess in 2013 may allow them to increase service in due course.
Meanwhile, on the question of Carnival Cruise Lines, Bermuda’s new Transport Minister, Derrick Burgess, told the House of Assembly that the cruise line’s decision was based on not being able to secure premium berths, although the lack of on-board revenue while in port, public transport problems and Bermuda’s stores being closed on Sundays were also cited.
According to the Bermuda Government, existing contractual obligations with Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises mean that prime berths are not usually available for occasional callers wishing to arrive on Mondays through Fridays in the summer months as the berths are occupied every week, making it difficult to accommodate all.
Does this mean that Bermuda should be re-examining ways to get larger ships into the main harbour in Hamilton or indeed reviving the plan for a new cruise terminal at Albuoy’s Point that could accommodate larger ships?
On the subject of Princess, however, spokesperson Karen Candy was quoted as saying, “We know Bermuda is a popular destination and we hope we will be able to return some time in the future. But the decision is really based on moving our capacity. Our ships only berth in Bermuda for a day so the fact there is no gaming allowed while on island was not a factor.”
Bermuda’s Tourism Ministry said last week that projections indicate that 2012 will record the second highest number of cruise visitors in its history. The number of regular calls scheduled for 2012 is 140, the same as 2011, but the number of occasional callers for 2012 is only 22, as compared to 40 in 2011. Bermuda is expected to see a total of 162 ships, bringing more than 363,000 visitors, between March 1, 2012 and the season’s December 1 conclusion. Still, this is about 30,000 lower than the estimate for this year.
If one were cynical, one could speculate that Carnival Corp & PLC has a plan to force Bermuda to allow gaming in port. Other reasons were given, but the most important was the ability to make more money elsewhere compared to Bermuda.
But it’s worth remembering the case of the Alaska $50 head tax. In this column on April 6, 2009, Mark Tre quoted Micky Arison, talking about Alaska, as saying “The saddest thing is that we’ve been unable to find anybody willing to deal with the unintended consequences of this ill-conceived initiative [the head tax] and the impact on the Alaska economy.”
Mark went on to add that “Perhaps Governor Palin should be taking a closer look at this problem.”
In the end, as Mark reported on March 22, 2010, it was a new Alaska governor, Governer Parnell who took the action required.
In this case, Bermuda has not taken any negative action, as Alaska clearly had. But not being able to open shipboard casinos on overnight stay has for years been cited as a negative factor by cruise lines serving Bermuda. So perhaps Premier Paula Cox should be taking a closer look at this problem. Indeed, a recent poll by a Bermuda MP found that 62% of those polled were in favour of allowing landside gambling in Bermuda and the Bermuda Tourism Board is itself now promoting the opening of a casino in Hamilton.
So why not on the ships?
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)