Hapag-Lloyd Cruises To Expand Internationally – Other Cruise News: Carnival UK’s Commercial Management – Thomson Cruises’ Future Plans – Berlitz Best Ships for 2013

by Kevin Griffin

Last week Hapag-Lloyd announced that it would be continuing in the luxury and expedition markets while expanding further into the English-language market. As part of this process, much concentration will be on the new Europa 2, and the German-only Columbus 2 will be returned to Oceania Cruises at the end of her charter. Elsewhere, Carnival UK, the head company for Cunard Line and P&O Cruises, has announced the appointment once more of a chief commercial officer to be in charge of both lines. And over at Thomson Cruises we look at recent events there and the background of the line’s latest managing director. Finally, we reveal Berlitz’s list of top-rated cruise ships for 2013.


Hapag-Lloyd Cruises To Expand Internationally

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises last week announced that the two pillars of its future development will be luxury cruising and expedition voyages, while at the same time it will be looking to grow these sectors by expanding in the English-speaking market. The newbuilding Europa 2, to be introduced in May 2013, and fleetmate of the existing Europa, will be aimed at the 5-star luxury sector. And, in addition to the existing expedition ships Hanseatic and Bremen, new growth opportunities will be sought in the expedition sector.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is already known in German-speaking countries as one of the leading operators in the luxury and expedition sectors. And at the same time, the proposed expansion into international markets will go hand-in-hand with this focus.

“By consistently focusing on these two pillars, we strive to enhance further our strength and our leading position as regards quality in these segments and at the same time we will address new markets“, explains Dr. Wolfgang Flägel, Managing Director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, who succeeds Sebastian Ahrens.

Selected cruises aboard all ships in the present fleet except for Columbus 2 are already marketed internationally. But Flägel added that “with  Europa 2, we will put into service a ship designed to offer an international flair and address a sophisticated, cosmopolitan target group, planning in future to increase market share in English-speaking countries such as the USA, UK and Benelux.“

The first English-language Europa 2 brochure is to be released this week.

As a result of this new strategy, Hapag-Lloyd’s charter on the Columbus 2, which concentrates on the German-speaking four-star market, will not be extended when it expires in April 2014. Hapag-Lloyd took over Columbus 2 this May and has been operating her under bareboat charter from Oceania Cruises, where she had been operated as the Insignia.

It will be interesting to see if these decisions bring Hapag-Lloyd Cruises back into the mainstream of world cruising, where for many years its ships attracted a large English-speaking clientele. Hapag-Lloyd’s Bremen and the German Atlantic Line’s Hanseatic were considered amongst the best ships in service on the North Atlantic fifty years ago. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Hanseatic in Hamburg

Equally, today’s product is certainly one of the best in the cruise market and its attraction is not only the line’s great tradition, but also in its great attention to detail when it comes to service. As well, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is one of the last lines to sell drinks at real duty-free prices and not the landside hotel prices that have been adopted by all other lines today except the all-inclusive ones.


Carnival UK’s Commercial Management

Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle last week announced the appointment of hotel and restaurant marketing veteran Gerard Tempest as chief commercial officer, with responsibility for commercial and marketing activities for P&O and Cunard Line. Tempest has most recently been sales and marketing director for Whitbread, a firm he joined in 2003 and where he has worked with Premier Inn and Whitbread restaurants located near Premier Inns, namely Beefeaters Grill, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns. He had previously been with Thistle Hotels.

Under the new structure, commercial director Nigel Esdale, P&O managing director Carol Marlow and Cunard president and managing director Peter Shanks will all report to Tempest. According to Marketing Week, “the role has been created to add ‘more firepower’ to the commercial team and bring on board greater digital expertise.”

Travel Weekly UK had it wrong though when it carried the headline “Carnival UK appoints first chief commercial officer.”

Peter Shanks held that position before he was appointed president of Cunard. At that time, Carol Marlow, president of Cunard, reported to him, as did Nigel Esdale, who headed up P&O Cruises..

Along commercial lines recently, neither P&O nor Cunard has been nominated for any of the top ten nomination slots in one of this year’s UK cruise awards for best cruise sales team and best cruise sales individual (although Carnival Cruise Lines UK has been nominated). On the other hand, both P&O and Cunard have created animosity among agents by reducing sales commissions to 5%.

In the present economic climate it is also interesting to note that Shanks recently admitted that Cunard might carry fewer passengers in 2012 than it did in 2011. Tempest begins in early December.

Thomson Cruises’ Future Plans

A profile of Thomson Cruises’ new managing director Fraser Ellacott in last week’s Travel Weekly revealed that he is actually an airline man, and a technical one at that. After graduating from Glasgow University with a degree in aeronautical engineering, he worked for British Airways for fifteen years, holding engineering, operational and commercial roles.

From British Airways, he moved to First Choice as their engineering director and was there when it merged with Thomson in 2007. Ellacott then became engineering director of a combined charter airline with 80 aircraft and 700 engineers (some may remember that Thomson’s in house airline was once called Britannia).

When he became head of Thomson Cruises sixteen months ago he had never even set foot on a cruise ship (so at least he has not learned any bad habits). Among recent moves at Thomson Cruises has been the creation of a Platinum level, whereby first the Thomson Dream and then the Thomson Celebration will join Thomson Cruises’ more upmarket Platinum Collection, something that it has adopted from its shoreside resorts. The ships are being refitted and redecorated to bring them more upmarket. Thomson Dream

On the other hand, one ship, the Island Escape, which was taken over when Royal Caribbean withdrew from Island Cruises, continues as a buffet-style ship. This leaves Thomson Majesty, the line’s most recent acquisition from Louis Cruises, and Thomson Spirit, sister to the Thomson Celebration, as the odd men out.

One thing Ellacott said in his interview was an echo of something we had heard in the past — probably before the market crash in 2009. That is that Thomson has until now been surviving on second-hand tonnage, but when it comes to the next round there may not be suitable second-hand tonnage of the right size available as cruise ships have kept getting bigger — too big for Thomson.

So newbuildings may have to be part of the consideration when it comes time for fleet replacement. This is not the first time this subject has been mentioned in the context of Thomson Cruises. Island Escape in Rio

The question then becomes, given that Thomson Cruises is part of the TUI empire, might we eventually see a smaller version of TUI Cruises’ STX Finland newbuildings coming to the UK? Coming from a technical and aviation background, Ellacott may have some different ideas here from the norm.

Berlitz Best Ships for 2013

The Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships appears for the first time as an e-book this Saturday.Berlitz Best Ships for 2013: the top three ships in each category

This will be followed by the hard copy version on October 1, at which time The Cruise Examiner will publish a full review of the new edition.

Meanwhile, listed aside are the top three ships in each Berlitz category, with points scored out of 2,000.

(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)

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