Norwegian Week – Other Cruise News: Genting Looking At Lloyd-Werft – Astor Returns To Australia In 2016-17

by Kevin Griffin

Last week saw much news emanating from Norwegian Cruise Line. As well as producing a tidy profit, it announced returns to markets such as Asia and Australia, where it is opening new offices in Sydney and Hong Kong, as well as to South America. Meanwhile, minority Norwegian owner Genting Hong Kong, now owner of the Crystal and Star brands, is having a look at buying part of the Lloyd Werft shipbuilding business in Bremerhaven. Elsewhere, Cruise & Maritime Voyages has announced that Astor will return to Australia in 2016-17, this time sailing in both directions via Panama.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

Norwegian Week

Last week, Norwegian announced a return to several world cruise markets, including Asia and Australia, where it is opening two new offices, and also South America. The line has been absent from these markets for about fifteen years, since it consolidated its Freestyle Cruising product in first North America and Europe.

The 2,348-berth Norwegian Star, second of the name, will lead Norwegian’s return to Asia and Australia, while the 1,936-berth Norwegian Sun will bring the line back to South America.

Norwegian Star (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Star (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

In Asia, new Norwegian Star itineraries will now depart from Istanbul, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, and in Australia, from Sydney and Auckland, marking the first return to the Asia and Australia regions since the 1,750-berth Norwegian Wind in 2001-02 and first-ever visits to the Gulf and India.

As well as opening an office in Sydney under former Silversea executive Steve Odell, who will take over as senior vice president and managing director Australia and New Zealand for all three of the holding company’s brands, Norwegian, Oceania and Regent, from October 1, Norwegian has revealed that it will build a team in Hong Kong under Bill Harber, former vice president of market development for Carnival Asia.
As senior vice president and managing director for Asia, Harber will be assessing the potential of the Asian market.

Norwegian’s president and chief operating officer, Andy Stuart, said, “We would look at taking a ship to Asia for our regular distribution channels – Europe, North America, Australia. That is one opportunity and it is easier to do and quicker. The second opportunity is to take a ship out to Asia for Asians, which would be more complicated. They would have different itineraries.”

In the Australian market, Norwegian Star will perform a short program of three cruises: Singapore-Sydney, Sydney-Auckland and Auckland-Singapore in early 2017. However, with its new office in Sydney, there may well be more to come.

Norwegian’s first experience in the Australian market was the 1997 launch of Norwegian Capricorn Line, which ran the 800-berth Norwegian Star, the first ship of that name, on 35 cruises annually out of Australia. The line was folded when Star Cruises became a half owner of Norwegian in 2000, and the first Norwegian Star now sails as Phoenix Reisen’s second Albatros.

Norwegian Epic in Miami (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Epic in Miami (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian will also return to cruising in South America, with a number of Norwegian Sun itineraries ranging in length from 7 to 20 nights, with embarkations in Buenos Aires, Valparaiso and Rio de Janeiro. The highlight of this program will be the return of Norwegian Sun to 14-night cruises between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso from November 2015 through April 2016.

In Europe, Norwegian Epic will continue to spend her summers there but she will once again return to the US in the autumn in order to sail from Port Canaveral, offering 3-, 4- and 7-night Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries.

The 1,976-berth Norwegian Spirit will meanwhile return to Europe year-round, sailing the Mediterranean with a variety of departures from Barcelona, Istanbul and Venice.

Over recent years, Norwegian has also taken a firm foothold in Bermuda, where two ships, the 4,028-berth Norwegian Breakaway, operating twenty-six sailings from New York, and the 2,476-berth Norwegian Dawn, with twenty-two sailings from Boston, make Norwegian the largest operator in the market, offering a total of 159,200 berths in 2015.

The Celebrity Summit

The Celebrity Summit

By comparison, Royal Caribbean International offers twenty-four sailings from New York with the 3,634-berth Liberty of the Seas and a dozen sailings by the 1,950-berth Grandeur of the Seas from Baltimore, giving it a capacity of 99,700 berths, less than two-thirds of what Norwegian offers.
If we add in the nineteen sailings offered from New York by the 2,158-berth Celebrity Summit, this brings the Royal Caribbean total for its two brands to 140,700, still about 12% below market leader Norwegian.

The parent company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, is quickly becoming a global cruise line operator, now spanning market segments from contemporary to luxury under the Norwegian, Oceania and Regent brands. Together, these brands operate twenty-one ships with approximately 40,000 lower berths and offer a variety of cruises ranging from one day to three weeks.

Norwegian also offers a Hawaiian inter-island itinerary with its 2,266-berth US-flag Pride of America, which according to insider reports has recently been scoring top of the Norwegian fleet in customer response surveys.

Pride of America (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

Pride of America (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line)

In other news, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings also let it be known they were interesting in sending one of its Oceania ships to Cuba in the near future.

Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings last week announced profits of 69 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 75 cents per share. The cruise operator posted revenue of $1.09 billion in the period. For the current quarter ending in September, Norwegian Cruise Line expects its per-share earnings to range from $1.30 to $1.35 and expects full-year earnings in the range of $2.80 to $2.90 per share.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings shares have risen 33% since the beginning of the year and 88% over the past 12 months.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Genting Looking At Lloyd-Werft

Coming on the heels of a five-ship Crystal Cruises order with Lloyd Werft, Genting Hong Kong is said to be in discussion with the shipyard regarding a significant ownership stake, according reports from Germany.

The Crystal Exclusive (Artist concepts courtesy of Crystal Cruises)

The Crystal Exclusive (Artist concepts courtesy of Crystal Cruises)

A Genting stake, which it is said would be at least 25%, would help the shipyard finance necessary upgrades to build Crystal’s ships, and could give Genting a leg up on future ship orders for its two cruise brands, Crystal and Star Cruises.

Lloyd Werft has been selected for the construction of the three new 100,000-ton 1,000-berth polar class vessels for Crystal Cruises and two of a new class of river vessels for new brand Crystal River Cruises.

Genting Hong Kong chairman Tan Sri Thay Kok Lim told a news conference in Bremerhaven that investment could help create a new cruise shipbuilding industry in Bremerhaven.

The 2,002-berth Norwegian Sky in 1999

The 2,002-berth Norwegian Sky in 1999

The shipyard is what remains of the once-powerful Bremer Vulkan after it went out of business in 1997. Together with Lloyd Werft, Bremer Vulkan, had delivered the 1,928-berth Costa Victoria in 1996, while Lloyd Werft itself completed the 2,002-berth Norwegian Sky in 1999.
The Norwegian Sun then followed from Lloyd Werft in 2001 on a hull built at Wismar, while the Pride of America was completed in 2004 on a hull started for the late American Classic Voyages at Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Just six months ago, Tan Sri Thay Kok Lim pushed the button to start cutting the first steel at Meyer Werft’s Papenburg yard for Star Cruises’ 3,364-berth newbuilding Genting World.

This new ship, the first of two ordered from Meyer Werft, will offer more than thirty food and beverage outlets, a night street market with hawker stalls, a children’s water park and a vast shopping area with international brands.

By acquiring a stake in Lloyd Werft, however, Genting Hong Kong would acquire in house capabilities for building new ships for both its upmarket Crystal brand and the newly expanding Star Cruises brand, which fifteen years ago went on the back burner by ceding most of its newbuilding program to the nascent Norwegian Cruise Line for its new Freestyle Cruising program.

Astor Returns To Australia Via Panama In 2016-17

Cruise and Maritime Voyages has announced that its 600-passenger Astor will return to Australia for a fourth season from October 2016 through March 2017.

The 550-berth Astor

The 550-berth Astor

The line also announced that following the success of Astor’s 2015 London to Fremantle 53-night voyage via Panama, which sold out in nine weeks, the ship will once more depart from London and sail to Fremantle via Panama in 2016.

She will depart Tilbury on October 16, 2016, and visit Antigua, Bridgetown and St Lucia before transiting the Panama Canal.  She will then call at Acapulco, Nuku Hiva, Papeete, Moorea and Auckland before arriving in Sydney.
Her voyage will then continue to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island before reaching her home port of Fremantle on December 9, 53 days after leaving London.

Early booking twin-saver fares, with savings of up to 40%, are available from now until the end of October, while a 10% past guest reduction is also available for the same period.
Tilbury to Auckland, Tilbury to Sydney and Tilbury to Adelaide sectors are being offered.

(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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