by Kevin Griffin
Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio has once again made reference to Silversea soon ordering three new ships for delivery in 2020, 2021 and 2023, but no further information has been announced. The company has been talking about three new ships since 2015. Elsewhere, Norwegian Cruise Line has stolen a march on its mass market competition by moving to Premium All Inclusive pricing in the UK and other European markets – this pricing is not available in North America. And finally, a new operator has plans to expand the Queen Mary tourist attraction in Long Beach into a village called Queen Mary Island, with a second hotel, cafés, amphitheatre and other attractions, which would also include the exisiting cruise terminal.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Silversea: Up To Three New Ships
Silver Muse, the newest member of the Silversea fleet was officially delivered by Fincantieri to Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio when the Fincantieri flag was lowered and the Silversea one took its place last week.
The changing of the flag ceremony eventually leads to the christening ceremony in Monaco on April 19.
In his deliberations Lefebvre promised travel agents that if they brought him the business Silversea would build three more ships to bring their fleet up to a dozen ultra-luxury and expedition vessels. Possibly involving a mix of both kinds of vessel, deliveries could be made as early as 2020, 2021 and 2023.
Silversea has been talking about ordering three new ships since 2015.
For Silversea, Silver Muse marks a new era in luxury cruising and design. A showcase of Silversea hallmarks, her sleek design, bespoke Italian craftsmanship, wealth of dining venues and unparalleled levels of service, make her the latest and most elegant upmarket ship to grace the oceans.
A quick comparison of Silver Muse with Seabourn’s Seabourn Encore, christened on January 7 in Singapore, shows how very similar the two ultra-luxury ships are, at least in terms of size, and how they compare with Hapag-Lloyd’s top-rated Europa 2:
The very small four-berth difference between Silversea and Seabourn marks the first time since the 740-berth Seabourn Sun (1999-2002) that Seabourn has operated a larger ship than Silversea. When the competition first began in 1994 it was between a Seabourn trio of 212-berth sister ships and Silversea’s 296-berth Silver Cloud and Silver Wind.
Silversea will make eleven UK calls in Southampton during 2017, offering cruises Round Britain and to northern and western Europe on Silver Muse, Silver Whisper, Silver Explorer and Silver Wind. The Silver Muse will debut in Southampton in September.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Norwegian’s Premium All Inclusive Fares
Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line introduced a new concept into the UK market by making all its cruise fares fully-inclusive. Called Premium All Inclusive, this move sets a new trend for contemporary large ship ocean cruising.
By bringing many all-inclusive elements into the fare, guests will be able to benefit from more peace of mind whilst cruising with Norwegian. By increasing the lead-in price for a typical 7-night Western Med cruise by about 21%, from £609 to £739, Norwegian will be able to eliminate in one fell swoop that end-of cruise shock when the bar bill and the bill for all the extras comes under the door on the last night out.
This should be good for Norwegian, as it has often been accused in the past of “nickel and diming” its clients. In other words, it will no longer be a case of “it’s not how much it costs to get on, it’s how much it costs to get off.”
Premium All Inclusive includes a varied selection of premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in all bars, lounges and dining venues at any time throughout the cruise. From spirits, tap and bottled beers, to wines, cocktails, other beverages, Lavazza coffee specialities during meals, a free bottle of water for each guest every day in the stateroom, as well as service charges and gratuities.
Nick Wilkinson, senior director and general manager Northern Europe & MEA, Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “the launch of our product as Premium All Inclusive is a game-changer for the large ship ocean cruise market and it offers a wealth of opportunity for our valued travel partners. We have armed them with a powerful sales tool, helping to convert customers who may not yet have considered cruise as a holiday option, whilst also introducing new-to-brand cruisers to the Norwegian product.”
In other words, Norwegian is going after people who are used to booking landside all inclusive resorts by offering the same at sea.
Premium All Inclusive pricing has already been introduced in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France. It is not available in North America.
Mass market lines that already offer this kind of cruise pricing in Europe include Pullmantur Cruises in Spain, TUI Cruises in Germany and, effective this summer, Celestyal Cruises in Greece
Queen Mary Village
The operators of the former 81,237-ton ocean liner Queen Mary in Long Beach say the best way to make it financially viable is to add more dining, shopping, concerts and adventure facilities to the exisitng venue.
Plans for a $250-million entertainment complex on the bayfront adjacent to the historic liner have been submitted to Long Beach officials by Urban Commons, the real estate firm that last year took over operation of the Queen Mary, on a 66-year lease from the city.
Revenue from the new development, which would include more hotel rooms, would help pay for repairs to the luxury liner, said Taylor Woods, a principal at Urban Commons.
The development plans arrive after a recent engineering report said the 81-year-old ocean liner urgently needs $5.7 million in updates and a total of $289 million in repairs over the next five years. The report by an independent engineering firm was requested by the company that previously operated the Queen Mary.
Woods acknowledged that the Queen Mary would be hard-pressed to generate enough revenue to pay for repairs such as structural upgrades needed to prevent problems such as flooding.
The Queen Mary generates income from visitor fees and events and rentals of its 314 hotel rooms. It earned $11.6 million from room rentals in 2014 and an additional $3.4 million from events.
Transformation of the 65 acres of waterfront land flanking the ship into a large-scale attraction should vastly increase that income stream, Urban Commons says. Queen Mary Island would stand on land used now mostly as parking lots.
The Queen Mary was in service from 1936 to 1967, so Urban Commons worked with architecture firm Gensler to come up with a concept intended to link the culture of Great Britain with a Southern California sensibility. The idea is to evoke the era when the liner sailed the Atlantic.
The plan is that visitors could enter Queen Mary Island via land, sea or air (Island Express Helicopters is based there). From the lobby, guests would stroll down a 2,400-foot-long boardwalk past a new small-boat marina and come across cafes, bars and shops. There would be a 200-room hotel and a large amphitheatre for concerts. A retail component of nearly 700,000 square feet would make it larger than a typical regional shopping center.
Woods hopes to break ground within two years after securing approvals from the City of Long Beach and the California Coastal Commission. The project would take several years to complete.
Queen Mary Island would also include the dome that once housed the Spruce Goose, an enormous wooden seaplane built by aviation mogul Howard Hughes. The plane was removed in 1992 and the dome is now used as a terminal by Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival is upgrading the facility to serve larger cruise ships.
Since the Queen Mary was docked in 1967, the city has brought in several firms, including Walt Disney, to manage the ship and develop its adjacent property. Disney’s elaborate plan would have covered a much larger area but it opted out in 1991 in order to focus on expanding Disneyland.
Urban Commons will raise the funds to develop Queen Mary Island on its own, without taxpayer assistance. The firm owns close to 5,000 hotel rooms primarily in California, Colorado and Florida and specialises in improving and redeveloping troubled properties.
(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)