Saga Cruises Introduces The Spirit of Discovery – Vancouver Welcomes Cunard and Hurtigruten – Ponant’s Ninth Ship – Mardi Gras (II) To Sail Southampton to New York
by Kevin Griffin
On Friday, July 5, Saga Cruises’ new ship Spirit of Discovery was named in Dover by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Elsewhere when Cunard’s 2,101-berth Queen Elizabeth left Vancouver for the first time in May, it also marked the first time in more than twenty years that a Cunard ship had docked in the city. And finally, Ponant has launched the ninth ship to its fleet and the fourth in its “Explorer” class.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Saga Cruises Introduces The Spirit of Discovery
On Friday, July 5, Saga Cruises’ new ship Spirit of Discovery was named in Dover by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The ship has been designed for Britons and management stressed that it was a British cruise line for the British public, with ships now registered in the UK.
In an interview for Dave Monk’s blog Ship Monk, Robin Shaw, ceo of Saga Travel said, “There is nobody else building ships of our size dedicated to the UK market. We home port out of Dover and Southampton, 98% of our guests are British, all the artists on board are British-based and we moved to the UK flag with this ship,”, “Some of our customers like to see the Red Ensign on the back of the vessel,” he added.
In designing Spirit of Discovery, Saga consulted three focus groups – existing customers, cruisers on upmarket lines and people who go on luxury holidays.
Although some loyal passengers questioned the need to make the new ship all-balcony, there was a general demand for a variety of eating and entertainment options.
“Existing customers wanted a promenade deck and many people said it was important how the ship looked,” Shaw told Ship Monk. “We have a proper raked stern of the vessel where people can walk from top to bottom. We think we have designed a proper looking ship. We did dabble with a different coloured funnel but went back to yellow so there is an element of tradition there.”
Last week, due to a technical problem, the column was not included in this newsletter. The Examiner wrote about Vancouver’s first million-passenger year in some time, the welcoming of Cunard Line back and Hurtigruten as a new Alaska carrier. Other stories covered Ponant’s ninth ship and the new Mardi Gras sailing from Southampton to New York in September of 2020.
Vancouver Welcomes Cunard and Hurtigruten
When Cunard’s 2,101-berth Queen Elizabeth left Vancouver for the first time in May, it also marked the first time in more than twenty years that a Cunard ship had docked in the city. It was thus a clear sign that Vancouver’s cruise sector is back on track.
Vancouver welcomed more than one million passengers annually for several years to start this century, but after Seattle opened up to cruising, suffered a prolonged slump in which annual passenger counts dipped as low as 578,986 in 2010.
Cruise-passenger counts have been on the rise more recently. Part of the new business in Vancouver has come from cruise lines new to the port, such as Hurtigruten, or returning after prolonged absences like Cunard Line.
Cruise lines making first time calls to Vancouver this year include Viking Ocean Cruises with its 930-berth Viking Orion, Azamara Club Cruises with the 684-berth Azamara Quest and Hurtigruten Cruises, with the 540-berth Roald Amundsen making her first cruises from Vancouver to Alaska.
Hurtigruten will then extend its Alaska sailings in 2020. The Norwegian expedition cruise specialist will run a series of seven voyages covering the highlights of the Inside Passage combined with off the beaten path destinations rarely visited by other cruise lines such as Petersburg.
Hurtigruten, which has two Alaska sailings in 2019, will introduce the first hybrid-powered cruise ship into the area the following year. MS Roald Amundsen, equipped with large battery packs, will feature green technology. Cruises on this vessel will include Hurtigruten’s expedition team of geologists, biologists, geographers, historians and activity guides.
MS Roald Amundsen will conclude its 2020 Alaska season by navigating a Northwest Passage transit from Nome, via Greenland to Halifax.
These ships combine to help put Vancouver on pace to welcome 1,077,000 cruise passengers in 2019, the first time it will have broken the one-million threshold since 2002, when it counted 1,125,252 cruise passengers.
The expectation this year is that forty-one different ships from twenty-four cruise lines will visit Vancouver’s three-berth Canada Place cruise terminal and that the range of options for passengers will include everything from luxury vessels to expedition-style ships, designed to carry small groups of passengers.
Cunard will offer four round-trip voyages out of Vancouver this year with those trips providing passengers the chance to leave the ship at six ports: Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Straight Point and Victoria.
There will also be more exotic trips, such as a 19-night voyage at the end of the 2020 season that will take passengers from Vancouver to Japan after stopping at various Alaskan ports.
Ponant’s Ninth Ship
Ponant has launched the ninth ship to its fleet and the fourth in its “Explorer” class. The 184-berth Le Dumont-d’Urville was delivered on June 14 to the line from the port of Søvik to Bergen.
The ship is now on her inaugural cruise and her official season starts on August 7.
“Such a delivery rate is a first in the history of the French merchant navy: this is the fourth ship in the series delivered in the last 12 months,” said ceo of Ponant, Jean Emmanuel Sauvée.
“The substantial expansion of our fleet allows us to offer our guests an increasing number of destinations, exceptional voyages and high-quality services. Market feedback is indeed excellent with very high levels of bookings.” The first itinerary for her maiden season is an 8-night sailing called the Historic Cities of the Baltic Sea. From there, the new ship will sail the French coast and the Atlantic coast with calls at Honfleur, Lisbon and Dakar.
Mardi Gras (II) To Sail Southampton to New York
Carnival Cruise Line’s new 5,200-berth “XL” class LNG-powered Mardi Gras will begin her inaugural season in 2020, with a cruise from Copenhagen starting on August 31.
She will then set off from Southampton on a Transatlantic voyage on September 9, 2020. There will also be exciting maiden cruises from the US ports of New York and Port Canaveral.
The mega cruise ship is currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. She has been named for the original Mardi Gras, which after a decade of sailing between Liverpool and Montreal as the Empress of Canada, was acquired by Carnival in 1972 and renamed Mardi Gras (I).
The new ship will have six themed zones which will be Grand Central on decks 6-8 mid-ship, French Quarter on deck 6 aft, La Piazza on deck 8 mid-ship, Summer Landing on deck 8 aft, Lido on deck 16-17 aft and The Ultimate Playground on decks 18-20 aft, as well as the first roller coaster at sea.
(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)