Great Lakes Cruises And Expeditions – Other Cruise News: MSC Seaside Class: Ships That Look Like Hotels – Seabourn Ovation Launched
by Kevin Griffin
All of a sudden there is more activity on the Great Lakes, first with the announcement of the addition of the 202-berth Victory II in 2018 and then Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new 230-berth expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration in 2020. Another expedition ship is also said to be on the way. We also have a quick look at two impending newbuildings, MSC Cruises’ 4,134-berth MSC Seaside and the 600-berth Seabourn Ovation, new sister to the Seabourn Encore.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Great Lakes Cruises And Expeditions
After many years of doldrums, things are starting to happen on the Great Lakes and by 2020 this relatively unexplored body of water may be able to claim a flotilla of eight cruise ships during the summer season, three of which would be new additions.
To look at some recent history, in June 2014, the 5,109-ton 210-berth Pearl Mist became the first new cruise ship to enter the Great Lakes since Hapag-Lloyd’s 14,903-ton 420-berth Columbus in 1997. The Pearl Mist sails the Great Lakes for Pearl Seas Cruises, the foreign-flag affiliate of Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines.
The new ship had actually been completed by Halifax Shipyards in 2010 but delivery was delayed entering service for four years because of a legal dispute between owners and builders.
In May 2015, a new company called Haimark Lines came along to introduce a cruise ship to the Great Lakes that had last cruised there in 2001 and spent the majority of the time since in lay up. Her first season on the Great Lakes had been fourteen years earlier as Delta Qeen Coastal Voyage’s Cape May Light.
But the 4,954-ton 210-berth Saint Laurent lasted for just one season after she hit a fender in one of the locks on the St Lawrence Seaway and had to spend several weeks undergoing repairs.
At the end of 2015, Haimark Line closed, but with the new Great Lakes season of 2016, the Saint Laurent came back under the new name of Victory I under the auspices of Victory Cruise Lines, a company that is associated with the ship’s owners, Clipper Group.
More recently, it was announced that Victory Cruise Lines would take over Victory I’s sister ship Sea Discoverer in 2018, introducing her as Victory II. Completed as Cape Cod Light in 2004, the Victory II will make her inaugural sailing from Boston on May 20, 2018.
She will begin with a series of 7-night Canada and New England cruises, sailing between Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This will be followed by itineraries between Detroit and Halifax, sailing the St Lawrence Seaway and Canadian Maritimes, with calls at Cleveland, Niagara Falls by excursion, Montreal, Quebec City, the Saguenay Fjord and Charlottetown, as well as the line’s first cruises to Lake Superior. Ports on the latter will include Marquette, Muskegon and Houghton in Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; Thunder Bay, Ontario; and Milwaukee, Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin.
Both Pearl Seas and Victory Cruise Lines have now established a program of sailing the Great Lakes by summer and newly-opened Cuban waters by winter.
Of longer standing is Rhode Island-based Blount Small Ship Adventures, whose 96-berth Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner cruise the waters between Lake Michigan and the Saguenay River in the summertime. Blount is celebrating fifty years since its first overnight cruise ship, the 60-berth New Shoreham, cruised up to the Saguenay in 1967.
On the Canadian side, St Lawrence Cruise Lines’ 64-berth Canadian Empress cruises the waters between Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, something she has been doing now since 1981.
And last week came the news that Hapag-Lloyd’s new 15,540-ton 230-berth expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration will also offer itineraries in the Great Lakes in the spring of 2020. Like the same line’s Columbus of 1997, the new ship will be fitted with hinged bridge wings that will allow her to pass through the locks of the St Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal without hindrance.
The Hanseatic Inspiration is the second of two sister ships being built by Fincantieri’s Vard affiliate in Romania and Norway. Her maiden voyage will depart Antwerp on October 14, 2019, for a 15-day cruise to Lisbon, Casablanca and Honfleur, terminating in Tenerife.
Hanseatic Inspiration voyages in 2020 will include March 25 to April 11 on the Amazon River and June 3-17 on the Great Lakes. The last time Hapag-Lloyd offered Great Lakes cruises was 2011, meaning the Hanseatic Inspiration will be offering the line’s first Great Lakes cruises in nearly a decade.
The 14-night Great Lakes cruise will include the Detroit River, Lake Huron, including Tobermory, Parry Sound and Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Superior, including Thunder Bay, and Lake Michigan.
The fact that the Hanseatic Inspiration is a Zodiac-equipped expedition ship, as opposed to a pure cruise ship brings up the interesting subject of whether she will be able to use her Zodiacs when landing passengers in US waters.
As we reported on July 10, although Seabourn had permits to operate Zodiac in Alaska this summer, these were withdrawn at the last minute, meaning its Alaska Zodiac program had to dropped. The concern was an interpretation of the 1886 US Passenger Vessel Services Act, which restricts coasting in US waters to US-built, US-owned and US-flag vessels. There being no similar problem in Canada, Seabourn’s Zodiac tours proceeded as planned in British Columbia waters
In 1994, a company called Marine Expeditions had planned a series of five expedition voyages on the Great Lakes, which in the end they decided to restrict to the Canadian side of the border. There was a reason for this. The cruises never went ahead, but nevertheless a ruling was made by the US Coast Guard by on July 21, 1994, the holdings of which were:
1. The transportation of passengers by a foreign-flagged cruise vessel between two ports on the Great Lakes, when the port of embarkation is in Canada and the port of disembarkation is in the United States, and with various intervening stops at both United States and Canadian ports, does not constitute a violation of 46 USC12107 or 46 USC App 289.
2. The transportation of passengers by a foreign-flagged cruise vessel between two ports on the Great Lakes, when the port of embarkation is in the United States and the port of disembarkation is in Canada, and with various intervening stops at both United States and Canadian ports, does not constitute a violation of 46 USC12107 or 46 USC App 289.
3. A foreign-built and owned inflatable boat carried on board the above-described cruise vessel used to transport passengers on excursions in United States waters for the purpose of sight-seeing constitutes a violation of 46 USC App. 289.
Ponant too is showing signs that it may be considering adding Great Lakes itineraries to one of its four 184-berth “Explorer” class expedition ships, of which the first of the class, Le Champlain, would be the most obvious choice. The “Explorer” class, like the “Hanseatic” class for Hapag-Lloyd, are being bult by Fincantieri’s Norwegian affiliate Vard Holdings.
Ponant previously operated on the Great Lakes using its 90-berth Le Levant, since sold, and may have a little more flexibility as it operates two types of voyage, Expedition Voyages where Zodiac excursions are included and Yacht Cruises, where shore excursions are extra.
But after Seabourn’s experience in Alaska this summer, both Hapag-Lloyd and Ponant will want to pay close attention to this ruling from a quarter century ago before introducing their new ships in 2020. One interesting conclusion is that Canada, by allowing Zodiac excursions, will have a huge advantage in this market over US destinations.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
MSC Seaside Class: Ships That Look Like Hotels
They said about the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach when it first opened in 1954 that it looked like an ocean liner, and indeed on its premises until 2001 could be found a sculpture from the French Line’s famous s.s. Normandie.
Now, nearly sixty years later, we will have an ocean liner that looks like a Miami Beach hotel.
The eight-foot-high bronze sculpture of a woman named “La Normandie”, which was at the top of the grand stairway from the ocean liner Normandie was purchased by the Fontainebleau Hotel in 1955 and first displayed in the gardens near the formal pool and later indoors near the then Fontainebleau Hilton’s spa. In 2001, the hotel sold the statue to Celebrity Cruises, which installed in the Normandie dining room on board its 2,158-berth Celebrity Summit.
On August 23, MSC Cruises floated out the 160,000-ton MSC Seaview, sister ship to the Miami-bound MSC Seaside, in Fincantieri’s Monfalcone shipyard in Italy.
The 4,134-berth MSC Seaview is the second ship in the “Seaside” class and will enter service in June 2018. She will be deployed in the western Mediterranean before repositioning to Brazil for December 2018.
The two ships will be Identical, with the entire stern area given over to large balcony cabins with a Miami condo-style design aesthetic. The sisters will also feature fourteen aft corner suites, terraced balcony cabins that will have sea views and overlook the promenade below, cluster cabins designed for families and suites with outdoor tubs, as well as an expanded Yacht Club area.
They will have nine restaurants, including a Pan-Asian restaurant, a seafood restaurant with chef’s table, a casual restaurant exclusively for families, The Reserve, and a steak house, Butcher’s Cut, which debuted on MSC Meraviglia in June. There will also be twenty different bars.
The MSC Seaside departs on her maiden 15-night Transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Miami on December 6, 2017, making calls at Seville, Funchal, Tortola, St Maarten and San Juan en route before starting her winter season from Miami.
And so we have come full circle, from the Fontainebleau, the hotel that looked like a ship, to the MSC Seaside, the ship that looks like a hotel. This class also forms the first group of MSC ships to be given English names instead of Italian, something that shows the desire of MSC Cruises to expand its brand internationally..
Seabourn Ovation Launched
The Seabourn Ovation, second of Seabourn’s new ultra-luxury design after Seabourn Encore, was launched on Friday at Fincantieri’s Genoa shipyard at Sestri Ponente.
In attendence were Seabourn president Richard Meadows and Paolo Capobianco, director of the Sestri Ponente shipyard, on behlaf of Fincantieri.
Seabourn Ovation, due to join the Seabourn fleet in spring 2018, will feature modern design elements that make Seabourn one of the most prestigious brands in the ultra-luxury segment.
She continues the fleet modernization started in 2009. Her sister ship Seabourn Encore was delivered by Fincantieri at the end of 2016 by Fincantieri’s Venice shipyard at Marghera.
The 689-foot 600-berth luxury cruiser will measure 40,350 gross tons, giving her a passenger space ratio of 67.25 tons per passenger, and she will cruise at 18.6 knots. Every suite will feature a private veranda.
(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)