Crystal Cruises Extends Offer on Getaway Cruises – Other Cruise News: Cuba Back on the Map – The World’s Largest Container Ship Takes Passengers – South Africa Liner Voyages

by Kevin Griffin

Crystal Cruises has announced an extension until the end of April on its special offer fares for shorter 5, 6, 7 and 8-night cruises for summer 2013. These “Getaway” cruises allow busy executives and first-timers to sample the now all-inclusive Crystal ships at lower fares. While Silversea has also announced some 4-7 night cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new Europa 2 is due to enter service in May. Unlike the existing Europa, which offers longer cruises, she offers exclusively 7-night Mediterranean cruises this summer. Elsewhere, Cuba is back in the news with the announcement that Cuba Cruise will begin offering 7-night Round Cuba cruises from Havana this winter in the Louis Cristal. And CMA CGM, having opened up its largest container ship to passenger bookings, now offers almost 600 passenger berths on its various routes worldwide. Finally, Cruise & Maritime Voyages has just announced two South Africa liner voyages for 2014.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

Crystal Cruises Extends Offer on Getaway Cruises

In a response to demand for shorter, less expensive cruises, and in an effort to attract more business from time-pressed working executives, Crystal Cruises last year created a series of twenty-six new 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-night “Getaway” cruises in the Mediterranean and Europe for 2013.

Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity

Fares for these shorter cruises are per person in double occupancy and start at £1,248 for five nights from Barcelona to Rome on April 24. Originally due to expire on Thursday, February 28, Crystal Cruises has now extended these “Getaway” cruise offers until the end of April.

The shorter itineraries have been created by dividing longer cruises into two sectors so that those short of time as well as those wishing to create their own cruise and stay experiences can try Crystal for the first time at lower fares.

Since the 1,100-berth Crystal Serenity and 960-berth Crystal Symphony went all-inclusive last year these ships have attracted a lot of attention, and with these shorter cruises also including all drinks and gratuities in the fare, the line has seen record bookings this year. Fares given here are cruise-only in Sterling but they are also available in US Dollars.

Crystal Symphony

Sample 5-night “Getwaway” itineraries include Lisbon to London in June, from £1,418, Stockholm to St Petersburg and St Petersburg to Copenhagen in June and again in July, from £1,555, Palma to Lisbon in August, from £1,389, and Lisbon to Bordeaux in August, from £1,276.

Six-night Crystal Cruises itineraries include Rome to Venice in April from £1,492, Rome to Kusadasi in June from £1,645, Rome to Odessa and Odessa to Istanbul in July from £1,759, and Athens to Venice in October from £1,498.

There are three 7-night Crystal itineraries, Tromso to Stockholm in July, from £2,718, Barcelona to Palma in August, from £1,942, and Rome to Barcelona in November, from £1,525. A single 8-night cruise operates from Copenhagen to Tromso in July, starting at £3,106 per person.

Other lines offering short cruises in ultra-luxury ships include Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Silversea.

Dam Square - Amsterdam

Hapag-Lloyd’s new 516-berth Europa 2, now under construction at St Nazaire, enters service this May. Unlike the existing 420-berth Europa, which offers longer cruises, Europa 2 will offer exclusively 7-night cruises in the Mediterranean all summer long, with fares starting at £2,640 per person, for a cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona in late May.

The top-rated Europa is also offering a 9-night cruise from London to Antwerp, Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen and Travemünde (for Berlin) this September, starting at £2,878 per person.

Meanwhile Silversea is this summer offering eight voyages of four to seven nights, mostly in the Mediterranean, with fares for a 4-night sampler cruise starting at £1,040 per person. One of these cruises runs from Hamburg to Copenhagen this June. All fares are per person in double occupancy.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Cuba Back on the Map

Earlier this month, Toronto-based Cuba Cruise announced a series of 7-night cruises around Cuba, to depart from Havana. This is the second time round for Cuba Cruise as in July 2011 it announced a similar program of 7-night cruises by the same ship, the 966-berth Louis Cristal. These cruises were cancelled when the new cruise line said it needed more time to develop its sales channels.

Cuba - The Cathedral

The season will run from December 16, 2013, to March 31, 2014, and will offer a total of 15 departures. Cruise-only fares for the 7-night cruise will start at $586 in double occupancy and run to $1,204 per person in an Imperial Suite. Fly/cruise ackages will also be available from Thomas Cook in Germany, and the Holiday Place in the UK, as well as a number of tour operators in Canada, which sent about a million tourists to Cuba out of the 2.8 million that visited last year.

Louis Cristal’s 7-night cruises will leave Havana every Monday at midnight and call at  Bahia Nipe, Cayo Coco, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Montego Bay (Jamaica), Cienfuegos, Trinidad and sail past Isla de la Juventud. Available on her itinerary will be six UNESCO World Heritage sites and four national parks. It will also be possible to join ship on Fridays at Montego Bay in Jamaica, where departures are scheduled for 11 pm.

With the exception of a 5 pm departure from Cayo Coco on Tuesdays, most port departures take place between 9 pm and midnight, giving plenty of time to explore ashore.

Although cruise lines that are controlled in the United States are barred from cruising to Cuba, other operators, mainly European, also cruise to Cuba. This year, these include Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Thomson Cruises, both controlled by TUI, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery, while next year will see the addition of Star Clippers, which plans a Cuban series for 6- to 14-night cruises. These cruises are not sold to US citizens.

Since the Cuban Revolution, an American ban on its citizens travelling to Cuba and US-based companies trading with Cuba has kept cruise lines away from the largest island in the Caribbean. And under present US law, no ship calling on Cuba is allowed to trade into a US port for a period of six months after making a call in Cuba.

Nevertheless, there is slow progress towards a new future. While 900,000 Russians visited Cuba last year, almost 100,000 Americans also arrived on so-called people-to-people visits qnd charter flights have been allowed from many US airports.

Two cargo ships also now trade between the US and Havana. One tiny ship has begun service between the Miami River and Havana but for the past ten years Crowley Liner Services has held a license to carry US Government-approved cargo to Havana. Crowley operates a single chartered ship on a sailing every Saturday from Port Everglades to Havana, Santo Tomas and Puerto Cortes – although a second may be added next month. Ships sailing under Crowley auspices are exempted from the six-month ban.

The German-owned 10,700-ton K Breeze, which can carry four passengers in an Owners cabin and two singles, is now accepting non-US passengers for 7-day round trip freighter cruises from Port Everglades. The K Breeze is the first ship to carry passengers between the US and Cuba since September 1962, when the ferry City of Havana became the last vessel to leave Havana with American passengers after the revolution. Her 7-day round trip cruise from Fort Lauderdale can be booked for €697 (about $950) per person.

One day, in the not too distant future, Cuba will be back on the cruise maps again.

Passengers On The World’s Largest Container Ship

Still on the subject of passengers travelling on cargo ships, France’s CMA CGM last week announced that passenger cabins can now be booked on board its massive 187,625-ton container ship CMA CGM Marco Polo (16,020 TEUs).

The CMA CGM Marco Polo has five modern double cabins of 20 m2 (215 sq ft) each, a lounge with televison equipment,  library, fitness room and even a swimming pool. The Marco Polo, at 1,299 feet, is 10% longer than the Oasis of the Seas, at 1,181 feet.

France's CMA CGM Marco Polo - A massive container ship of 16,020 TEUs - Photo courtesy of CMA CGM

France's CMA CGM Marco Polo - A massive container ship of 16,020 TEUs - Photo courtesy of CMA CGM

The vessel participates in the world’s busiest trade route, between Europe and China, allowing travellers to visit Southampton, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre, Malta, Khor Fakkan, Jebel Ali, Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen, Hong Kong, Chiwan, Yantian, Port Kelang, Tanger and return to Southampton once more. One-way trips are also possible and the full round voyage can be booked from most ports of call as well.

Sample fares are €7,700 per person (€8,470 for sole use of a cabin) for the full 77-day round voyage; Le Havre to Hong Kong, 41 days at €4,100 per person (€4,570 sole use); Hong Kong to Southampton, 28 days at €2,800 per person (€3,080 sole use); or Port Kelang to Southampton, 22 days at €2,200 per person (€2,420 sole use). A sampler voyage from Southampton to Malta is also available, at 14 days for €1,400 per person (€1,540 sole use).

CMA CGM has been booking passengers on its container ships since 2000 and now provides travel opportunities on seventy of its ships, with almost 600 passenger berths.

South Africa Liner Voyages

Cruise & Maritime Voyages have now confirmed their intentions for South Africa with two liner voyages between South Africa and the UK in 2014. These will be undertaken as part of the m.v. Astor’s positioning voyages for her winter Australian cruises from Fremantle.

Astor

Quoting Douglas Ward from the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, he says, “There is an excellent amount of open deck and sunbathing space, plus cushioned pads for the sunloungers. There is a basketball court for active passengers, as well as a large deck-chess game on an aft deck, and shuffleboard courts.”

The 590-passenger Astor, second of the name, was originally designed for Safmarine passenger service between the UK and South Africa but was sold while still under construction and entered service in 1987 as a cruise ship.

On April 18, 2014, the Astor departs Cape Town on a 23-night line voyage to Harwich, with calls en route at Walvis Bay, St Helena, Ascension, Cape Verde, Tenerife, Lisbon and Le Havre. Fares will begin at £2,559 per person in an outside stateroom or £1,659 in an inside, based on double occupancy.

On November 5, 2014, she will depart Tilbury on a 21-night southbound voyage to Cape Town, with calls at Tenerife, Cape Verde, Ascension  and St Helena. Fares will begin at £3,449 per person in an outside stateroom or £2,129 in an inside, based on double occupancy.

This Week – Norwegian (NCLH) vs Facebook (FB)

With both shares trading around $28 on February 8, we decided to keep an eye on these two shares for a while. Here are the last two weeks’ result, at close of markets on Fridays:

Facebook – NCLH
08.02.13 = $28.55 – $27.91
15.02.13 = $28.32 – $30.27
22.02.13 = $27.13 – $29.99

(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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