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Southampton Cruise Improvements: Fifth Cruise Terminal and More Boat Trains - Other News: Lines Bring In Higher Tips and Fuel Surcharges - TUI Cruises Succeeds - New Mexican Cruise Line

by Mark Tre' - "The Cruise Examiner"

Southampton's announcement last week of a fifth cruise terminal at the UK's largest cruise port follows earlier news from DB Schenker that the number of boat trains to the port would be doubled next year. Meanwhile, as the public is distracted by the run-up to Christmas, Royal Caribbean has increased recommended tipping amounts by 20% while P&O and Cunard are upping their fuel surcharges by 60% - TUI Cruises meanwhile succeeds in a profits turnaround while Mexico gets a new cruise line.


Southampton's Fifth Cruise Terminal

Southampton last week announced that it will build a fifth cruise terminal, capable of handling some of the biggest ships in the world, including the Oasis and Allure of the Seas. To be in operation by 2013, the new £30 million terminal is presently projected to be able to handle ships carrying up to 4,000 passengers.

This investment by Associated British Ports, the port's operators, will be in addition tot £41 million they have spent developing Southampton's facilities in recent years. The last major investment was £19 million in the Ocean Terminal, opened eighteen months ago to handle Cunard Line's Queens and other ships. The fourth exisiting terminal is the original Queen Elizabeth II Terminal.

The location of the new terminal, yet to be named, will be in the Western Docks between the existing City Terminal and the Mayflower Terminal. One interesting feature is that it will be a multi-use terminal and its massive baggage hall will be able to handle imported tomatoes from the Canary Islands during the winter months. In fact, the new location is already used today to unload fruit ships. There is no real conflict here as the number of winter cruises leaving Southampton is much reduced from summer levels.

With the P&O and Cunard fleets traditionally operating out of Southampton, joined more recently by Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (now year-round), and the Celebrity Eclipse during the summer time, Southampton counted more than 300 cruise ship calls in 2010.

Next year, with MSC transferring its operations from Dover, this number is expected to reach 360. On January 5, 2011, there are expected to be six ships in port, preparing to set out on world cruises. Cunard's Queen Elizabeth, P&O's Arcadia, Fred. Olsen's Balmoral and Black Watch and Saga's Saga Ruby are expected to handle more than 19,000 passengers among them.

The Return of the Southampton Boat Train

Meanwhile, several weeks before the announcement of Southampton's fifth cruise terminal, DB Schenker, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, announced that it would be doubling the number of its boat trains running to Southampton next year.

Operating together with Cruise Saver Travel, a division of Bath Travel in Bournemouth, DB Schenker has reintroduced "boat trains", dedicated passenger trains that will serve cruise ships sailing from the Port of Southampton.

The trains will operate to and from Glasgow Central station, taking hundreds of cruise liner passengers directly to Southampton where they will be able to disembark adjacent to their ship. Up until now. passengers have had to make a number of different air, car, rail and taxi journeys to get to and from Southampton, with each change involving the handling of heavy luggage.

The newly-introduced boat trains will each carry 324 passengers in comfort directly to the Port of Southampton, enabling cruisers to enjoy the opportunity of getting to know some of their fellow shipmates on board. The trains can drop passengers within yards of the Queen Elizabeth II and Mayflower terminals, with porters taking luggage straight from the baggage car to the ship. On some trains, cruise line staff will also be available to sort out check-in formalities en route.

The first of these boat trains left Glasgow Central this September, and called en route at Manchester and Birmingham. A further eight trains will depart from Glasgow over the next year, with another eight operating from Edinburgh to Southampton, calling at Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham. The September train was the first in twenty-five years to take passengers from Scotland directly to the Port of Southampton.

Stephen Bath of Cruise Saver Travel said: "These trains enable our guests to start their cruise from the station, and are a major part of our programme for this year and 2011. Their holiday begins from the moment they arrive at the station, where a comfortable and hassle free journey awaits with silver service dining. We are delighted that with DB Schenker we have been able to offer this service and look forward to a successful season of regular boat trains."

Stuart Boner, Managing Director Logistics for DB Schenker, said: "This train service has been designed to meet the needs of cruise passengers. Delivering them in a comfortable manner, direct to Southampton, while avoiding carbon intensive car journeys and flights."

More than 50 trains will carry thousands of passengers to and from Southampton in 2011, thus reducing road traffic and giving passengers a comfortable way to join ship. That will be double the number operated in the first year.

The only other UK port still to have a boat train service is Harwich International Port, with trains operating from London's Liverpool Street Station directly to Parkeston Quay, where passengers can cross the dock to board their ships. Cruise ships docking at Harwich share these trains with Stena Line's massive new overnight and daytime ferries operating daily between Harwich and Hook of Holland.


Christmas Cheer: Cruise Lines Sneak in Those Extras

Just as everyone is preparing for the festive season and getting ready for that Christmas turkey or ham, two cruise lines have come along with some bad news for cruisers.

First, Royal Caribbean International has announced that it will increase the amount passengers pay in daily tips for dining room staff and cabin stewards. From sailimngs departing on July 1, 2011, and after daily gratuities will go up from $9.75 to $11.65 per passenger per day and from $12 to $13.90 per day for those staying in suites. On the positive side, this is Royal Caribbean's first change in gratuities guidelines in thirteen years and gratuities continue to be at the discretion of the passenger, the only exception being those choosing the flexible My Time Dining option, which requires pre-payment.

These guidelines provide a recommendation that helps guests determine the appropriate gratuity for outstanding service on a Royal Caribbean International cruise holiday, Royal Caribbean said in a statement: "This adjustment is the result of a long period of consideration and assessment that places the cruise line's recommendations in line with its competitors."

Meanwhile, two UK-based cruise lines, Cunard Line and P&O Cruises, will be raising their daily fuel surcharge by 60% from the end of next week. The daily fee for all passengers, including children, will rise from £2.50 to £4 per day. The supplement does not apply to children who are travelling free as part of a special offer and is capped at £150 per person, but to reach that you must cruise for more than 38 days.

People who book a cruise before the end of next week will not have to pay the increase as it commences with bookings taken on December 31. Similar amounts will be levied for those paying in dollars.

Cunard and P&O reintroduced fuel surcharges last May but only one other UK cruise line presently maintains a fuel surcharge. Fred Olsen now charges £4 per passenger per day, capped at £100, for the first two passengers in a cabin, plus £2 per passenger per day for any third and fourth berths.

TUI Cruises Puts In A Good Performance

TUI Cruises, the German-based joint venture of TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, showed strong results for the fiscal year to September 30 and the future outlook remains encouraging.

TUI Cruises recorded an operating profit of Euros 7.6 million in the year under review, more than a Euro 10 million improvement over an operating loss of Euros 3.1 million in its first year of operation. "At a load factor of over 87 per cent and clearly improved results, Mein Schiff 1 has exceeded our expectations", noted Michael Frenzel, chairman of the TUI board.

TUI Cruises's second ship has met with positive market response as well. Mein Schiff 2, formerly the Celebrity Mercury, will be introduced in May 2011, and her Norway cruises that start that month are already almost fully booked at high fares.

After taking charge of Mein Schiff 2 at the end of February 2011 the feel-good concept will be further developed and expanded into the Spa & Fitness section. Likewise the reaturant facilities are to be extended by including significant elements of TUI's Premium All Inclusive concept. The TUI Cruises colour concept, entitled "1000 shades of blue," will be incorporated into the design of the cabins. In addition, Mein Schiff 2 will follow her sister ship Mein Schiff in that numerous balconies and verandas will be added to existing cabins.

Germany produced more than 1 million cruisers last year, second only to the UK in the European market, and with a larger population and economy than the UK, it is expected that the German market could in time grow as large as the UK's, which last years was 1.6 million.

New Mexican Cruise Line

Louis Cruises has announced the sale of its Aquamarine, which first entered service as Royal Caribbean's Nordic Prince, to Corporacion De Cruceros Nacionales of Mexico, for $23,375,000, and the ship has been renamed Ocean Star Pacific. The forty-year old ship has a capacity for 724 passengers. The ship has been with Louis Cruises, who acquired her from Airtours' Sun Cruises, since 2004.

There have been earlier efforts to start a cruise operation from Mexico, particularly one in 2009 by Madrid-based Pullmantur Cruises, which was to have used its Pacific Dream in cruises calling at Acapulco, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. However, the new cruise venture was cancelled when news broke of the Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico just as she was about to go into service.

This same ship, now renamed Horizon, has more recently been cruising from Cozumel by winter, with calls in Mexican at Cozumel, Majahual and Puerto Progreso, as well as at Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Carrying 15,000 passengers on thirteen cruises last winter, demand exceeded expectations by 15% so she will return to this route in March 2011. Pullmantur report that 70% of this year's passengers were Mexicans. This ship is known in Europe as the former Island Star of Island Cruises.

The last time a Mexican-based cruise operation was started was 1961. At the time, the state-owned Compania Navegacion Tur'stica Mexicana bought the thirty-nine-year-old Nassau from Incres Line, renaming her Acapulco. Instead of cruising, however, she ended up being used as a hotel ship at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and sold to for scrapping in Japan in 1964. This ship had been built as P&O's Mongolia in 1922.

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