Great Lakes To Feature Nine Cruise Operators By 2020 – Other Cruise News: Captain Wendy Williams To Command Scarlet Lady – More Ships And Itineraries From Uniworld

by Kevin Griffin

After many years of stop-and-go come-and-leave progress, the Great Lakes are finally coming to a stage where in 2020 they will have a fleet of eleven vessels offering cruises, mostly of between 7 and 11 days. These ships will be able to accept a total of 1,852 berths among them at one time. Elsewhere in North America, Virgin Voyages has announced the woman who will command its first ship, the Scarlet Lady. And we observe that five new ships will be delivered to Uniworld Boutique River Cruises by next year, to serve variously Venice, Bordeaux, Portugal, the Nile and the Mekong.

THIS WEEK’S STORY

Great Lakes To Feature Nine Cruise Operators By 2020

After several years of Great Lakes cruises being offered by just a handful of operators, the 2020 season will see no fewer than nine lines offering such cruises on small ships, with a total berth capacity of 1,852 at one time. CroisiEurope, with its 120-berth La Belle des Océans, will be the ninth.

La Belle des Océans (Former Silver Discoverer)

La Belle des Océans (Former Silver Discoverer)

With the announcement of CroisiEurope’s itineraries for its newly-acquired ship, it was revealed that the 2020 summer season, from May to October, will consist entirely of cruises to the Great Lakes.

The Belle has operated until recently as Silversea’s Silver Discoverer. Built in 1989 and extensively refurbished in 2014, the ship had first operated as Oceanic Grace, then as Oceanic Odyssey and Clipper Odyssey.

Although her ultimate 2020 destination will be Quebec, La Belle des Océans will sail first between Singapore and Phuket taking 11 days. From October 17 to December 28, 2019, she will call at Port Kelang, Penang and Langkawi (Malaysia) as well as Ko Muk, Ko Lanta and Phang Nga Bay (Thailand).

Ponant Le Champlain tied up at Olden, Norway as guests kayak in the fjord (Photo credit: Roderick Eime)

Ponant Le Champlain tied up at Olden, Norway as guests kayak in the fjord (Photo credit: Roderick Eime)

Positioning to the Mediterranean, from January 2020, La Belle des Océans will sail two 11-day cruises from India and Abu Dhabi before transiting the Suez Canal to launch a variety of itineraries from Cyprus, Athens, Naples, Nice, Ajaccio and Lisbon.

These will be followed by a May Transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Quebec via the French islands of Saint Pierre et Miquelon to start a summer season of 11-day cruises lasting until October and visiting Montreal, Quebec, the Thousand Islands, Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake, with a special visit to Niagara Falls.

Two cruise ships at a Seaway lock is a rare occurrence, but this shot captures the 210-berth Saint Laurent in the lock and 64-berth Canadian Empress at the tie-up wall

Two cruise ships at a Seaway lock is a rare occurrence, but this shot captures the 210-berth Saint Laurent in the lock and 64-berth Canadian Empress at the tie-up wall

Great Lakes carriers now include Victory Cruises Lines, with two 200-berth ships, Pearl Seas Cruises, with the 210-berth Pearl Mist, Blount Small Ship Adventures, with two 88-berth ships, two local players, the 64-berth Canadian Empress and 68-berth Jacques Cartier and Plantours & Partners, with one or two cruises each autumn by the 400-berth Hamburg.

New ships now arriving from Fincantieri’s VARD shipyard in Norway include Ponant’s 184-berth Le Champlain this year and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ 230-berth Hanseatic Inspiration in 2020.

CroisiEurope had been booking passengers onto the 68-berth Jacques Cartier and more recently onto Victory Cruise Lines’ 200-berth Victory II, which was added to the Great Lakes trade last year.

OTHER CRUISE NEWS

Captain Wendy Williams To Command Scarlet Lady

Virgin Voyages has named Vancouver Island’s Captain Wendy Williams as its first commanding officer. She will command the 2,770-berth Scarlet Lady when she sets sail in 2020 on the inaugural cruise of Sir Richard Branson’s new line Virgin Voyages.

Sir Richard Branson and Captain Wendy (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

Sir Richard Branson and Captain Wendy (Courtesy Virgin Voyages)

Williams most recent appointment was as staff captain of Royal Caribbean International’s 4,180-berth Anthem of the Seas, and before that the 2,146-berth Radiance of the Seas. Williams was born in Sept Iles, Quebec, but grew up in Prince Rupert BC.
Her father was a marine electronics engineer.
Today, when they’re not at sea, she and her husband, a BC Ferries captain, live on their six-acre farm on Vancouver Island.

After attending the University of British Columbia and Concordia University in Montreal, Williams began working as an observer for Archipelago Marine Research, an environmental consulting group that specialises in fisheries.

Williams has spent twenty-eight years as a mariner, from humble deckhand on commercial fishing vessels to BC Ferries captain and fifteen years working on the bridge of mega cruise ships.
The first woman to captain a cruise ship was Karin Stahre-Janson of Sweden, in 2007 on Monarch of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship.

Scarlet Lady at the shipyard in Genoa Sestri Ponente - Feb.8, 2019

Scarlet Lady at the shipyard in Genoa Sestri Ponente – Feb.8, 2019

Virgin Voyages says it has a goal of making its gender split 50-50 and many other cruise lines have also appointed women as captains, including Celebrity, Cunard, P&O, Regent, Silversea, Windstar, and in Germany AIDA and Sea Cloud.

In Williams’ case, she started out working free, just to be out at sea. She isn’t aware of any male deckhands who had to do that and today she’s part of a mentoring organisation called Women Offshore.
The Scarlet Lady was launched by Fincantieri in February and is now fitting out. Williams will command a crew of 1,160 and the ship will carry 2,770 passengers. The ship herself is named as an ode to Virgin heritage as the name was first applied to one of the earliest Virgin Atlantic planes, an Airbus A340 acquired in 2006.

More Ships And Itineraries From Uniworld

The 130-berth River Countess will emerge from dry dock as S.S. La Venezia

The 130-berth River Countess will emerge from dry dock as S.S. La Venezia

In 2020, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will welcome three new ships to its European fleet, one each in Venice, Bordeaux and Portugal, and two ships overseas, one each on the Mekong and the Nile. The prefix S.S. Stands for Super Ship.

First, the 130-berth River Countess will be stripped back to steel and will emerge from dry dock next March as S.S. La Venezia, offering 8-day cruises through Venice and its islands, including a new call at Burano. The River Countess was the vessel that was hit by the 2,150-berth MSC Opera at Venice’s San Basilio Terminal on June 2. The collision led the cancellation of six River Countess cruises.

S.S. Bon Voyage

S.S. Bon Voyage

The River Royale has meanwhile undergone a $14 million rebuild and been renamed S.S. Bon Voyage. She sails in the Bordeaux-Medoc region. Like the River Countess the River Royale was cut back to raw steel.

The operator has added more suites, public spaces and dining venues serve the higher end of the market.

The Mekong Navigator

The Mekong Navigator

The third European addition is the S.S. Sao Gabriel, entering service in Portugal, whose entire top deck will be lavish suites for the best views of the Douro River.

Overseas, meanwhile, the Nile will see the addition of the S.S. Sphinx, with three gourmet dining venues and outdoor dining on the upper deck, and the Mekong the new Mekong Jewel to cruise between Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Mekong Jewel will replace the present Mekong Navigator.

(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)

(See the last columns)



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