River Cruise Orders Dominate Order Book – Other Cruise News: QE2 To Sail For Singapore – Saga’s Price Guarantee Satisfies

by Kevin Griffin

We have a look this week at Cybercruises’ Cruise Ships Orderbook for 2014 to find that of the forty-two cruise ships on order for delivery next year, fully thirty-six of them are for river and coastal cruising, and fourteen of these are for Viking Cruises. Meanwhile news has arrived over the weekend that the Queen Elizabeth 2 is due to leave Dubai in October for conversion into a 400-suite hotel ship for an as yet undetermined major city in Asia. And we revisit fare guarantees as they are now offered in the UK market.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

River Cruise Orders Dominate Order Book

Cybercruises’ Cruise Ships Orderbook lists no fewer than forty-two new cruise vessels for delivery in 2014. Of these, fully thirty-six will be river or coastal ships, leaving only half a dozen ocean-going vessels. By tonnage of course, the ocean-going ships lead the way with almost 700,000 gross tons, but river craft now account for more than 85% of the number of orders.

Among the ocean-going vessels are the 132,500-ton Costa Diadema (3,700 berths), 143,500-ton Norwegian Getaway (4,000 berths), 141,000-ton Regal Princess (3,600 berths), 167,800-ton Quantum of the Seas (4,180 berths) and 99,300-ton Mein Schiff 3 (2,500 berths).

Three of these, Costa Diadema, Quantum of the Seas and Mein Schiff 3 will be first in class while the Norwegian Getaway and Regal Princess are second of their class.

Viking Star - Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Viking Star – Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Following on in 2015 will be another important first of class in Viking Cruises’ 47,800-ton Viking Star (928 berths), due to be introduced that May.

She could be the first of half a dozen such ships if all options are taken up.
Another 2015 first of class will be Aida Cruises’ 125,000-ton newbuilding from Mitsubishi (3,200 berths), first of a pair and the first new cruise ship from Mitsubishi in more than a decade since the 115,875-ton Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess (2,674 berths each) of 2004.

A further 2015 development of class will be Norwegian’s 163,000-ton Breakaway Plus (4,200 berths), a larger version of Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.

Meanwhile, the remaining ocean-going ship of 2014 will be an unusual one in that the Aranui 5 will be the new supply ship to run from Papeete to the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands.
The 406-foot Aranui 5 will carry 300 passengers, many of them in suites with balconies, and is being built by the Huanghai Shipbuilding Co Ltd in Shandong province, China.

Able to carry 3,300 tons of cargo and 171 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent) containers, she is due for delivery in July. This particular Chinese shipyard has a history of building roll-on roll-off passenger ferries, of which it has built fourteen for the Bohai Ferry Co Ltd.

With thirty-six of the forty-two cruise vessels on order being river or coastal ships, more than a third of this thirty-six are orders of Viking Longships for Viking Cruises. Viking Longships, at 443 feet in length and carrying 190 guests each, represent a significant development in river ship design.

Longship guests enjoy:

Viking Longship Freya in Cologne - Photo Viking River Cruises

Viking Longship Freya in Cologne – Photo Viking River Cruises

* A new patent-pending design that allows for full-size staterooms with full-size verandas
* Large suites with a veranda outside the living room and French balcony in the bedroom
* French balcony staterooms featuring floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors
* Two sumptuous 445 sq ft Explorer Suites with private wraparound verandas and 270° views
* An all-new Aquavit Terrace—an indoor/outdoor area at the bow of the ship for viewing, relaxing and casual dining
* Quiet, environmentally friendly hybrid engines, solar panels and an organic herb garden on the sun deck
* Fine cuisine, exemplary service and immersive, culture-rich itineraries.

The first six Viking Longships were launched in 2012, ten more are being introduced in 2013 and an additional dozen, the Viking Alsvir, Viking Bestla, Viking Buri, Viking Delling, Viking Eistla, Viking Gullveig, Viking Heimdal, Viking Hermod, Viking Idi, Viking Ingvi, Viking Kvasir and Viking Lif, in 2014.

Two smaller 262-foot 106-guest versions of the same design for Portugal’s Douro River, the Viking Hemming and Viking Torgil, will make a total of thirty river ships of this new design.

Details of the present world order book can be found here:
http://www.cybercruises.com/orderbook.htm

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

QE2 To Sail For Singapore

Reuters reported yesterday that the Queen Elizabeth 2 will depart Dubai under her own power on October 18 for Singapore. Ownership of the vessel will remain in Dubai but after Singapore she will reportedly go to a Chinese shipyard for conversion to a 400-suite floating hotel.

No final destination has yet been announced but it is understood that three Asian cities are bidding for the ship in terms of offering charges for different packages of services.

She will then be located in the city that offers the best deal.

QE2 in Invergordon (Photo courtesy Cromarty Firth Port Authority 2004)

Dubai will spend $90 million to refurbish the ship before she leaves Dubai. The QE2 will be owned by a Dubai-based entity called QE2 Shipping. Dubai World’s investment arm Istithmar paid Cunard Line $100 million for the vessel in 2007, but the 2008 debt crunch left the conglomerate heavily in debt and Dubai cancelled plans to turn her into a luxury hotel at the tip of Palm Island.

Dubai first announced its decision to move the ship to an Asian city in January. QE2 is expected to reach Singapore on November 1, where she will remain for three days before proceeding to Hong Kong for three days and thereafter to the selected shipyard in China to complete her transformation.

The ship’s memorabilia will be sent to Singapore and stored in a specially secured warehouse to be reassembled after renovation.

Her Dubai owners expect the all suite-hotel ship to turn a profit by 2024. The profits from the new hotel, which is expected to open next year, will be shared among the consortium of investors. The annual maintenance cost of the hotel ship, which will have 400 suite-size rooms varying in size from 645 to 1615 sq ft, has been estimated at about $2.5 million.
Some larger suites in the hotel will be available as long stay residences.

Saga’s Price Guarantee Satisfies

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Jane Archer pointed out that despite P&O, Cunard and Fred. Olsen Cruises all jumping on the bandwagon with price guarantees in the past few months and generating rancour amongst the public from the way they have done it, Saga Cruises has been operating a very successful price guarantee for eight years now without public protest.

Here’s how they all work:

A year ago now, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line introduced Vantage Fares, whereby early bookers paid a 15% deposit and were assured that any subsequent reductions in the Vantage fare would be honoured, with passengers being protected at the lower fare. But the fare guarantee did not apply to its cheaper Getaway fares, specially discounted fares that are quoted on the basis of 100% payment at time of booking and a 100% penalty if cancelled.

Some people who booked Vantage fares soon saw Getaway fares being advertised at up to £500 per person less than what they paid, then found out that they did not qualify for the lower Getaway fare as they had booked a Vantage fare.

Similarly, Fred. Olsen Cruises have more recently combined all their special offers under a single banner called Anchor Fares. This move was intended to make it easier for consumers to identify Fred. Olsen’s best buys and a special logo was developed to identify them.

But like P&O and Cunard’s Getaway fares, terms and conditions applied. As with the Getaway fares, full payment is required at the time of booking, there is a 100% cancellation penalty. Furthermore, fares are not transferable to another cruise, no cabin number is allocated at time of booking and dining room sitting is allocated at Fred. Olsen’s discretion, although guests can choose a sitting at time of booking for a supplement of £2 per person per night.

Fred. Olsen has suffered the same criticism as Cunard and P&O in that clients booking their normal fares later see these Anchor fares and feel they have been discriminated against. As with P&O and Cunard, a fares system that is too complicated can generate confusion and unhappiness amongst clientele, the results no doubt of trying to be too smart by half.

Balmoral - Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Balmoral – Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Furthermore, no cruise line should be charging 100% cancellation charges except very close in to sailing. To take German practice, for example, a 50% penalty does not apply until the 44th day before departure and even a no-show gets a 5% refund.

On the other hand, as pointed out by Jane Archer, Saga Cruises has been operating a well-tried fare guarantee system for eight years now. If a fare is reduced, customers are eligible for one of three things – first, a full refund, second an upgrade in standard of accommodation or third, an on board credit for the difference in fare.

In Saga’s words, “You can book as early as you like without missing out on any special offers that may be introduced later on, because if the price of your holiday comes down after you’ve booked, we’ll automatically pass the value of the saving on to you.”

(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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