Cruising: What A Difference Thirty Years Makes – Other Cruise News: Classic International Australia Calls In Administrators – New Liner Service Between Europe and Australia?

by Kevin Griffin

For something different this week, we look back thirty years. Looking at the third weekend of January, at the start of the Caribbean high season in the traditional cruise trades from Florida and Puerto Rico, we compare what is on offer now to the same weekend in 1982. Last week, we announced that Classic International’s Australian arm had succeded in finding a replacement ship for the arrested Athena. This announcement appears to have been premature, however, as only two days later Classic’s Australian went into administration. Finally, we look at what would normally be considered a hairbrain idea – a passenger liner service between Europe and Australia – except that the design for the two ships is apparently to be entrusted to one of the world’s pre-eminent naval architects.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

Cruising: What A Difference Thirty Years Makes

Thirty years ago, in 1982, the modern cruise business was just coming into its second generation. Two years earlier, Norwegian Cruise Line had acquired the fabulous Transatlantic liner s.s. France and converted her into the largest cruise ship in the world, the s.s. Norway, to, operate 7-night cruises from Miami.

As an indication of how successful the industry was becoming, as recently as the 1970s, people had been predicting that cruise ships would never exceed 20,000 tons. But by the early 1980s, cruise lines were starting to build ships such as Royal Caribbean’s 37,584-ton Song of America, Carnival Cruise Lines’ 36,674-ton Tropicale and Home Lines’ 33,800-ton Atlantic. Today, there are more than sixty ships above 100,000 tons, two of which are above 200,000 tons!

So this week, for something different, here is what was on offer from Florida ports and San Juan in the third weekend of 1982, compared to what is now on offer for the same weekend in 2012:

The ports are those that were most popular thirty years ago for the Caribbean, where modern-day cruising got its start – Miami, Port Everglades (the port for nearby Fort Lauderdale) and San Juan, an early fly/cruise port. Port Canaveral was a 3- and 4-day port in 1982 but has now joined the ranks of 7-day ports. Tampa is not included as it is in the Gulf of Mexico, where Galveston and New Orleans have also become more important today.

The most obvious difference is the size of the ships. Thirty years ago, they were on average about 20,000 to 25,000 tons but today they are over 100,000 tons at all four ports examined above. In 1982, the average passenger load was below 1,000. Today it is 3,000 or more. Ship size and passenger have both increased to four or five times what they were. Today, one has to search for a ship that takes only 1,000 passengers, but on the other hand this economy of scale is what has held cruise fares down to 1980s levels, allowing the market to expand.

There were also more longer cruises available in 1982. Royal Caribbean had a 14-day cruise ship in Nordic Prince and Holland America and Sitmar, a predecessor of Silversea, each offered 11- and 12-night itineraries. Today, there are more 5- and 8-night itinerarie but not as many long cruises from the same ports.

Oceania Marina in Miami

In 1982, there were half a dozen Saturday departures from San Juan. Today there are only two, with two additional sailings on Sunday, which at least means a better use of the port facilities.

In terms of destinations, several ships now call in the new ports of the Dominican Republic, but even thirty years ago the Carnivale was calling at Samana. The biggest change however has been the introduction of many new ports such as Grand Turk, Falmouth in Jamaica, Cozumel, Roatan and Mahogany Bay that have come on stream in recent years.

Sources: ABC Shipping Guide (1982), Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships and Official Steamship Guide (2012). The number of berths given is lower berths, i.e. two passengers per cabin.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Classic International Australia Calls In The Receivers

Last week we reported that Classic International Cruises’ Australia office had apparently succeeded in chartering Passat Kreuzfahrten’s Delphin to replace the Athena for its 2012/13 Australia cruise season.

This news turned out to be premature however. Although Cruise & Maritime Voyages had indeed been negotiating to charter this vessel for CIC Australia, two things prevented it. First, the Athena’s southbound departure from Marseilles to Fremantle was due to take place on November 12 or, in other words, a week from today, but as the Delphin is due for a November drydocking, it would never have been possible to meet this date.

Secondly, Passat has been selling its own South American and Antarctic program for this ship and would have been very loath to cancel its own program for the sake of CIC Australia.

As a result, by a resolution of the company last Wednesday, Brad Tonks and John Vouris of the Business Recovery & Insolvency team at Lawler Partners were appointed voluntary administrators of Classic International Cruises Pty Ltd (CIC Australia).

Hope never ends, however, as Brad Tonks has still been quoted as saying that they are seeking a suitable replacement ship for the Athena, which remains under arrest at Marseilles, along with three other Classic International ships held in Mediterranean ports.

CIC Australia explained that it had taken this step in order to isolate CIC Australia from its European parent and in order to ringfence the funds being held on behalf of its clients. About 6,000 cruisers are said to be affected and instead of receiving full refunds from Classic International they will now have to apply to Lawler Partners as administrators.

Although the amount of clients’ funds held and CIC Australia’s liabilities are unknown at this stage, even if CIC Australia is incorporated separately it is expected that clients will receive cents on the dollar when it is all over. Meanwhile, some crew on board the Athena in Marseilles are still reported not to have received their pay.

New Liner Service to Australia?

Last week, a new company called Project Orient Ltd announced that it was seeking investors for a two-ship ocean liner service between Southampton and Sydney. The new 100,000-tonners would also make calls en route at Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore and Fremantle.

Fares would start at £2,995 each way and it would take 20 days to reach Fremantle and 25 days to reach Sydney. With the Australian cruise market having grown 30% last year alone it could be expected that there would be plenty of locals willing to fill any empty cabins for the 5-night passage between Fremantle and Sydney.

In a survey on the new company’s web site, it seems to be looking for one-way fares of £2,500 per person for an “economy” cabin, £5,000 for a balcony and £10,000 for a “luxury suite.”

Investment is being sought from a sovereign wealth fund and/or a major leisure group and 2016 has been named as target for a start-up. And according to unconfirmed reports, PFJ Maritime Consulting, in which Stephen Payne, designer of the Queen Mary 2, is a principal consultant, will come up with the initial design.

Sydney

Chief executive of Project Orient Ltd is Asif Mashhadi, ceo of Inspired Consulting (UK) Ltd. The other directors are named as Nigel Lingard, consultant and former marketing director for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd; Larry Sylvestre, former P&O shipboard employee and cruise consultant and Mark Dugdale of Canterbury, Kent.

Service between Southampton and Australia is now offered only once a year, in January to March, by P&O Cruises, usually with two ships in each direction. In recent years, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has also been making voyages between Southampton and Australia. These ships are joined by others such as Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity, which is also a regular caller in Australia.

Meanwhile, ten passenger-carrying container ships operating on routes between Europe and Australia (four ships), the US and Australia (five ships) and Hong Kong and Australia (one ship) are always sold out, and are fully booked well into 2014.

Whether Project Orient has more credibility than Australian billionaire Clive Palmer’s project to build a new Titanic II, however, is yet to be seen.(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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