Three 100,000-tonners For Crystal – Other Cruise News: More Cuba News From Haimark – Norwegian’s A La Carte Pricing
by Kevin Griffin
Two weeks ago The Cruise Examiner disclosed that the Megastar Taurus was about to join Crystal Cruises, which it will now do in December as the Crystal Esprit. But now comes even bigger news. As well as introducing Crystal Yacht Cruises, the brand will inaugurate Crystal River Cruises as an upmarket all-inclusive river product and Crystal Luxury Air for air cruises. But that’s not all. The really big news is that Crystal is about to order three new all-inclusive ultra-luxury 1,000-berth 100,000-ton Crystal Exclusive class ships, starting in late 2018. Elsewhere, Haimark Line has joined Carnival’s fathom brand in announcing that they will cruise to Cuba from Florida beginning next year. And Norwegian is changing many of its alternative dining venues to a la carte pricing.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Three 100,000-tonners For Crystal
Recently, The Cruise Examiner brought you exclusive news that Star’s Megastar Taurus would be joining Crystal Cruises as a luxury expedition ship. Now the news has broken and a new name has been announced. But that is only the first bit of news.
To be renamed Crystal Esprit, the new addition will carry just 62 passengers under the new brand Crystal Yacht Cruises. As well as four 10-passenger Zodiacs and a 12-passenger Wider 32-foot mega yacht tender, guests will have access to water skis, wake boards, kayaks, jet skis, fishing, scuba, and snorkel equipment.
The Crystal Esprit leaves on her first cruise on December 23, 2015, to explore the Seychelles, followed by a post-cruise New Year’s Eve celebration at the Taj Hotel in Dubai. For 2016 and 2017, and early 2018, Crystal Esprit will sail the Seychelles, the Arabian Gulf and the Adriatic Coast.
As alluded to above, Crystal Yacht Cruises is just the first of several expansive changes now being planned at Crystal since the line was purchased from NYK by Genting Cruises this spring. In addition to the new expedition ship, Crystal will now adopt a much more aggressive growth strategy.
In 2017, it will launch Crystal River Cruises, an all-inclusive operation, and Crystal Luxury Air, a luxury air tours operation with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner painted in Crystal.
The new plane, which would normally accommodate 300, will carry just sixty guests in business class seats, with itineraries lasting about four weeks. Other operators of such air cruises in the past have included Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Australia-based Captain’s Choice.
But the really big news is that Crystal has signed a Letter of Intent with Lloyd Werft of Bremerhaven for three 100,000-ton polar-capable ships to be called the new Crystal Exclusive class.
These newbuildings will have ice-strengthened hulls and will thus be expedition-capable worldwide. Their accommodation will be all-suite and of course all outside, as well as all having balconies.
The new ships, the first of which is due to enter service in 2018, will carry only about 1,000 passengers, giving them the highest space ratio in the industry, at 100 tons per passenger. The minimum suite size will be a very generous 400 square feet and the new ships will have a crew to passenger ratio of one-to-one.
The top deck will house forty-eight private residences in the style of The World, to be called Crystal Residences. These will start at 600 square feet and go to more than 4,000 square feet and will also have their own private restaurant. Presumably this area will not only compete with The World but will also be very economic compared to owning a mega yacht.
There is no question that the new Crystal is going after the very top of the market, and that they feel they can do this with large ships, as compared to the boutique-size ships that we have now become used to. Chairman Tan Sri Lim, stated, “Our intent is to make Crystal Cruises the core of what will become the world’s premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio, not only for the immediate future but for years to come.”
Lloyd Werft has not produced any pure newbuildings for some years now, the last being Pride of America, which it completed a decade ago on a hull started in the United States.
Other products have included the completion and fit-out of hulls built at other yards and the last pure newbuilding to have come from Lloyd Werft was the 2,000-berth Norwegian Sun of 2001.
Lloyd Werft is however an accomplished refitter, converter and lengthener of cruise ships, and most days of the year one cruise ship or another, or often several, can be seen in its Bremerhaven yard.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
More Cuba News From Haimark
Last week came news that MSC Cruises would be sailing from Havana (but not to Cuban ports) while Carnival’s fathom would be operating 7-night cruises from Miami to Cuba every other week from May 2016.
Now comes news of a further development from Colorado-based Haimark Line, operating in conjunction with Florida-based United Caribbean Lines, a ferry operator that already has a US Government license to operate to Cuba.
Pending a final government approval to include cruises as well as ferry service in United Caribbean’s license, Haimark said it plans to offer winter and spring trips on its 200-berth coastal cruiser Saint Laurent, which is presently cruising the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard.
Another 3,000 berths will thus be added to the winter market to Cuba. This will be followed in May by fathom, who will offer about another 10,000 berths between May and December.
Haimark’s nine-night round-trip itinerary from Miami will circumnavigate Cuba and offer seven ports, with two nights spent in Havana. Tom Markwell, managing partner of Haimark, said the cruise would visit five of Cuba’s seven UNESCO world heritage sites. With a draft of about fourteen feet, the Saint Laurent can access many more ports than today’s large cruise ships.
Haimark plans to offer fifteen such voyages beginning on February 16, 2016. The March 9 sailing is already sold out. All-inclusive pricing will start at $4,599 per person, plus taxes and port charges.
If we ignore the waters around the Bahamas, United Caribbean Lines proposes to become the first cruise-ferry operator in the Caribbean. It intends to offer ferry service between Florida and Cuba starting this autumn, with 1,500-berth ships chartered in from European operators.
Future service is also intended to serve Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula.
Norwegian’s A La Carte Pricing
Beginning with the introduction of the new Norwegian Escape in October, menus in Norwegian Cruise Line’s La Cucina, Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Bayamo, a new restaurant, will be priced a la carte. But Moderno Churrascaria and Teppanyaki will retain cover charges of $19.95 and $29.95, respectively, as will entertainment dining packages.
Norwegian plans to roll out a la carte dining fleetwide on January 1, 2016, while Ocean Blue on the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway will also switch to a la carte pricing in October.
Instead of a fixed cost of $29.99 for the line’s signature Cagney’s Steakhouse, for example, passengers will pay $4.99 to $7.95 for an appetizer and $17.99 to $29.99 for a main course, the line says.
Desserts will be extraNew menu additions at Le Bistro will include bouillabaisse and pan-seared jumbo bay scallops, starting at $15.99 each La Cucina will offer main dishes like osso buco alla Milanese or pan-seared sea bass filet at $12.99 each.
Guests who purchase Norwegian specialty dining packages can dine at La Cucina, Le Bistro and Cagney’s at no additional charge, but Bayamo will still carry a $15 fee.
Norwegian’s main dining rooms, the cafeteria, O’Sheehan’s and all of the Asian venues except Teppanyaki and Wasabi will remain complimentary.
Apart from a few specialty restaurants and grills on some of the great ocean liners of a century ago, it is thought that the only time a la carte has been applied at sea before was on three of the crack ships of the United Fruit Company’s Great White Fleet. In the 1920s, the Pastores, Calamares and Tenadores offered sailings from New York every Saturday for the Spanish Main, as the Caribbean was then sometimes known
As they put it then, “It is the intention of the United Fruit Company to keep the price of meals aboard their ships lower than the price for which they could be obtained at a first class restaurant ashore.” Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, it seems.
(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)