Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 Is A Game Changer – Other Cruise News: Another Australian Cruise Record – Carnival Abandons Europe Again – New Names For Portuguese Ships

by Kevin Griffin

Last Monday Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new 42,830-ton Europa 2 departed Southampton on a pre-inaugural cruise before being sailing from Hamburg, where she was formally named on Friday. The Cruise Examiner was on board and files his report. Meanwhile, Down Under, the Australian cruise market reached a grand total of 694,062 cruisers in 2012. And while Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it would send the Carnival Legend to Australia on a seasonal basis to join the Carnival Spirit, this also means that the line will be abandoning Europe, not for the first time. Finally, new Portuguese operator Portuscale Cruises, has announced patriotic new names for its Madeira-registered fleet of classics.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 Is A Game Changer

As we predicted in April 2012 after seeing the artist’s depictions of the public rooms and restaurants, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 has indeed turned out to be a real stunner.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Europa 2 - Photo Christophe Dedieu at  Vesseltracker.com

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 – Photo Christophe Dedieu at Vesseltracker.com

Compared to her fleetmate Europa, now fourteen years in service, it is difficult to see how cruise rating aficionados will not be able to give her a higher rating, which would in turn make her the top-rated ship in the world. With a passenger space ratio in the vicinity of 80 tons per passenger, a world record, this is a ship where everywhere you go the sea is with you.

Along with the great and the good of the cruise and travel press, about sixty top UK cruise agents were invited on a one-night cruise from Southampton along the English Channel towards Cornwall last Monday. Also on board was Douglas Ward, editor of the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.

Two of the themes on the new ship are “Relaxed Luxury” and a “Hideaway at Sea.” This is quite different from what is on offer in the rest of today’s cruise market, even from ultra-luxury operators.

Europa 2 – The Reception (Photo Kevin Griffin)

Europa 2 is aimed squarely at a different audience – the affluent executive and professional classes still in work, younger in age and with growing children. The new ship’s dress code is therefore smart casual, not formal.

To reach this audience, the new ship’s operation is quite different from others. Her summer cruises in the Mediterranean are based on 7-day itineraries that can be extended to 14 or 21 days, with no itinerary repeated before three cruises have elapsed. In addition, nannies will be engaged on a ratio of one for every four children. Because of this and the need to house entertainers, although the ship has been designed to accommodate 516 guests, it is unlikely that her passenger loads will ever exceed 480.

Her shorter routes are ideal for a new audience. With 7-day combinable Mediterranean cruises and 13-to-20 day combination cruises to far-away destinations by winter, Europa 2 meets the requirements of young high-earning professionals and families with limited holiday time.

Calling at 123 ports on twenty-six different itineraries this year, her cruises will take guests to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia and China, and then in 2014/15 to the Americas.

All itineraries are based on ports that have plenty of air service and are easy to get in and out of – for example, Barcelona, Monte Carlo (Nice) and Venice, Dubai in the Middle East, and in the Far East, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Europa 2 – The Pool (Photo Kevin Griffin)

The ship’s size is a major advantage – with a length of 739 feet and a draught of 20.7 feet, Europa 2 is capable of calling at small, rarely visited ports such as Bonifacio and Portofino, where larger ships cannot go. Twelve Zodiacs are also carried to take passengers ashore to lagoons and beaches that other ships cannot reach. The Europa 2 also introduces some new concepts. She has a magrodome, but it is not the usual cover over a pool deck but is two decks high.

The new ship’s accommodations are all Veranda Suites, with balconies each measuring at least 75 square feet. All suites come equipped with a free mini bar, WiFi Internet access (at a charge) and a tablet computer. The ship’s 251 suites come in seven categories measuring from 301 to 1,066 square feet. The highest categories have whirlpools with ocean view.

Europa 2 – Elements Asian Restaurant (Courtesy Hapag-Lloyd Cruises)

Sixteen Spa Suites have whirlpool tubs and rain showers with steam saunas, providing guests with a private oasis of well-being. For families traveling together, there are seven family suites, where parents and children live in two separate areas, connected by a door and a shared balcony.
What’s more, children up to the age of eleven are carried free of charge as long as they occupy a suite with their parents.

Important to Europa 2 is that every cruise caters to international passengers who speak English. This is unlike the present practice, which is to nominate international cruises for each ship in the fleet. By this means, it is aimed to increase the number of English-speaking passengers by four- or five-fold, from ten to twenty per international sailing now to fifty to eighty in three to five years’ time.

Europa 2 – French Restaurant Tarragon (Courtesy Hapag-Lloyd Cruises)

There are eight different restaurants to choose from and wines and spirits are sold at prices that are cheaper than onshore, unlike virtually every other cruise line other than the all-inclusive ones. Beer is about €1.40, a cocktail around €4.20 and bottles of wine run from about €14.

The usual practice on cruise ships has moved away from such duty free prices to charging full shore side hotel prices. Hapag-Lloyd’s goal is not to maximise on board revenue but to offer value and a good experience. Also, in the alternative restaurants, it will not be possible to book more than forty-eight hours in advance, giving an opportunity for all to experience them where on some lines old hands have been able to monopolise these spaces.

All in all, some interesting ideas are coming out of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and this ship is a real game changer. The ms Europa 2 was christened in Hamburg on Friday, May 10, 2013.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Another Australian Cruise Record

The latest figures from CLIA Australasia indicate that a record number of 694,062 Australasians cruised in 2012, an 11% increase on the year before. This rate of growth was equaled only by Germany and means an impressive 3% of the Australian population took a cruise last year. This take-up rate is second only to North America.

Nautica in Sydney

In four years, the number of Australians taking a cruise has doubled as more ships were added to the Australian market and the Australian dollar continued to strengthen, meaning that more Australians were also able to cruise overseas. Australasia now accounts for 3.4% of the global cruising market, an impressive feat for a nation of only 23 million.

South Pacific cruises accounted for 36.4% of the market, in 2012, or 252,555 passengers, and the largest fly/cruise market is Europe, at 8.3% and 57,719 cruisers. European cruise numbers from Australasia rose 26% between 2011 and 2012. However, the same proportion, 8.3%, or 57,396 Australians, cruised in the United States, to either the Caribbean or Alaska.

With Australian ownership in the European river trade through APT, Australian river cruisers last year reached 39,275, for a 12% increase over 2011. APT accounts for about 40% of this market.

Almost half of Australasian cruisers are now below the age of 50, a quarter are aged under 40 and one-third are over 61, and of cruises that departed from Australia, 84% of those on board were from Australia and 16% from elsewhere. Some 11% of Australian cruises last year, or 76,719, were short voyages of 1 to 4 days. If these were taken as samplers the market is bound to grow more.

Carnival Abandons Europe Again

Carnival Cruise Lines announced on Friday that it would once again be abandoning Europe, having decided to keep the majority of its fleet sailing from US homeports. Given current market conditions, increasing Transatlantic air fares, and the fact that most Carnival passengers are Americans, it has decided not to deploy a Carnival ship to Europe in 2014.

Carnival Freedom in Venice

Despite its on-again off-again relationship with ships sailing from Europe, Carnival will continue to sell its year-round Caribbean itineraries in Europe. In the UK market particularly, Carnival is the only cruise line to offer year-round departures from Barbados.

Meanwhile, the 2,124-berth Carnival Legend, which has been operating Baltic and Mediterranean cruises from the UK and Barcelona, will be re-assigned to seasonal cruising from Australia, where she will compliment her twin sister Carnival Spirit, based there year-round.

Not surprisingly, Norwegian Cruise Lines also announced last week that it would not be basing any ships in the UK for the foreseeable future, as that market is too competitive. It does, however, offer regular sailings elsewhere in Europe.

New Names For Portuguese Ships

The new Lisbon-based cruise line Portuscale Cruises, which has taken over three of the ships previously owned by Classic International Cruises, has announced new names. Portuguese entrepreneur Rui Miguel Duarte Alegre heads the new line.

Athena - Ex Valtur Prima, ex Italia Prima, ex Caribe

Athena – Ex Valtur Prima, ex Italia Prima, ex Caribe

The 16,531-ton Princess Danae (568 lower berths) has been renamed Lisboa, the 16,144-ton Athena (556 berths) is now the Azores, and the 5,885-ton Arion (344 lower berths) is now the Porto. The 9,563-ton Funchal (430 berths), on which work has been resumed at Lisbon, will keep her original Portuguese name.

Future deployments are not yet known but the Athena is contracted for to cruise from the Black Sea for Russian charterers under the temporary name of Astoria. She will operate in the Black Sea, eastern Mediterranean and Adriatic from July till late November.

A fifth former Classic International ship, the Princess Daphne, a sister ship of the Lisboa, is now owned by the Potamianos Brothers and laid up in Crete. While the Portuguese ships go on and off dry-dock in Lisbon in preparation for re-entry to service, no plans have yet been announced for the Princess Daphne.

(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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