Two Twentieth Anniversaries - Holland America Supports Tilbury - Carnival in Europe - MSC to Southampton - Cruise Ships and Haiti
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Two Twentieth Anniversaries - Holland America Supports Tilbury - Carnival in Europe - MSC to Southampton - Cruise Ships and Haiti

This week we cover the twentieth anniversary celebrations at Celebrity and Crystal, Holland America in Tilbury, plans for the Carnival Magic and MSC's move from Dover to Southampton. This week our special topic is cruise ships and Haiti after the earthquake


Two Twentieth Anniversaries

It is perhaps not a coincidence that both Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises got their start in 1990, at a time when people began to search for more upmarket cruise options.

Celebrity Cruises grew out of the longstanding operations of Chandris Cruises when they were awarded a new New York-Bermuda contract, part of the requirement being that Chandris bring its own image upmarket from its previous New York-based Fantasy Cruises to something more in line with Bermuda's rather more exclusive reputation. Hence Celebrity Cruises. To open the new line, Chandris ordered two new ships, the Horizon of 1990 and the Zenith of 1992, and converted a third into the more upmarket Meridian, also in 1990.

In 1997, however, partly in order to raise more capital for newbuildings, the Chandris family sold Celebrity to Royal Caribbean and a series of new ships followed, including three 1,800-berth "Century" class, four 2,400-berth "Millenium" class and now five 2,850-berth "Solstice" class ships, not to mention Azamara Club Cruises, with two ships, and Celebrity Xpeditions, with one ship in the Galapagos. In celebration of its 20th Anniversary, Celebrity has just announced that it will spend $200 million on adding "Solstice" class amenities to its "Millenium" class ships.
Among other things, a Tuscan Grill steak house will be added and new furniture, bedding, carpets and flat screen televisions installed in the existing cabins to give Celebrity a more uniform product. There will be no new lawns though.

Crystal Cruises itself was not entirely new either, stemming from the previous passenger operations of Japan's NYK Line. Its first ship, the 940-berth Crystal Harmony, was built in Japan in 1990, a second, the 960-berth Crystal Symphony, in 1995, and a third, the 1,100-berth Crystal Serenity in 2003. Meanwhile, the Crystal Harmony went on to become parent company NYK's Asuka II.

Crystal is publishing a 180-page 20th Anniversary Atlas and offering a 20th Anniversary gift selection as well as a 20th Anniversary Pinot Noir from the "C" vineyard in California and a 20th Anniversary Billecart-Salmon Champagne. But the line is best known at the moment for introducing last year's "Freedom" campaign, whereby each couple is given a $2,000 on board credit that they can spend on what they want, be it drinks, wine, spa treatments or shore excursions, allowing it thereby to compete with all-inclusive lines such as Regent, Seabourn or Silversea.

Holland America Reviving Tilbury, and Three UK ships in 2011

After a trial UK-UK cruise on the 2,100-berth Eurodam last year and successfully selling three UK to UK Eurodam cruises from Dover this year, Holland America has announced that it will run three ships from the UK in 2011. The Eurodam will be joined by the 1,400-berth Ryndam, with both ships offering cruises from Dover next year.
But the really interesting news is that the line is offering a number of cruises from Tilbury this summer with the 835-berth Prinsendam, which in 2011 will give Holland America three UK-based ships for the first time, and seven in Europe.

The Prinsendam's cruises mean a long-awaited revival for Tilbury's underused London Cruise Terminal. Although Tilbury has been supported by Cruise & Maritime Services for many years, the port had become more or less a one-pony show and the arrival of the Prinsdendam will give it a much higher profile than the usual budget ships such as Arion, Arielle, Astor and Marco Polo.

The Prinsendam has scheduled four Tilbury cruises for this summer between June and September. Two will be 14-day voyages, to the Baltic and Celtic nations, respectively, one will be a 15-day European sampler and the longest will be 22 days to the Top of the World. In 2011. The Prinsendam will also run four Tilburty cruises in 2011, two of which will be 14-night round-Britain cruises from and to Tilbury on July 11 and August 29.

Carnival Returns to Europe in 2011 with the Magic

Carnival Cruise Lines has been an on and off carrier in Europe, usually relying on its American passenger base rather than trying to develop a European market - and why not as it owns Costa and P&O anyway? But on delivery in 2011, the new 3,690-berth Carnival Magic will spend the summer on a series of 7-, 9- and 11-night cruises from Barcelona. While some sources have announced that Carnival would be "bringing" the Carnival Magic to Europe, this is not entirely true as she is actually being built in Europe, at Fincantieri's Monfalcone yard east of Venice, and her maiden voyage will be a 9-night delivery cruise from Venice to Barcelona.

Carnival did have a ship in Dover in 2008 but cancelled its 2009 program to retreat to the States during the recession. But it appears there is a certain amount of demand from Carnival customers to add Medterranean cruises to its product line.

MSC Leaves Dover for Southampton

In other news MSC Cruises has announced that it will be basing its 2,000-berth MSC Opera in Southampton for the summer of 2011. MSC's UK managing director Giulio Libutti said: "Ex-UK cruising is becoming ever more desirable and popular and we are delighted to be working with Southampton port in 2011. Southampton port is well suited to our new planned itineraries cruising to the north of France, Spain and Portugal."

He added that Southampton has "great transport links offered by road, rail and air, which will better service our passengers. The move also allows us to better penetrate Southampton's local markets, as well as the whole of the South West, which is saturated with established cruisers and an increasing number of first time cruisers."

While MSC is leaving Dover he didn't mention that the new high-speed train service between London's St Pancras Station and Dover now takes only 59 minutes using Eurostar track, compared to the 75 to 90 minutes it takes to reach Southampton from London Waterloo. The MSC Magnifica will also be showcased to the UK travel trade in Southampton this month. Although Southampton lost an NCL ship last year, it can now claim all of Cunard, P&O, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and MSC Cruises, just to name a few, as regular customers.


Cruise Ships and Haiti

One of the things the Haiti earthquake did was to lead to a certain amount of embarassment at Royal Caribbean Cruises, which has been operating a private cruise port at a place it once called Labadee, Hispaniola, for some years. Identifying the port with the island of Hispaniola, on which are located both Haiti and the Dominican Republic indicated that the line had been traditionally reluctant to admit that this place is actually in Haiti.

Put it down to Haiti's poor reputation for governance, poverty or voodoo if you like, but that is the case. Haitian-born musician Wylcef Jean pointed out just this weekend in "The Times" of London that "every year luxury cruises stop at a thriving Haitian port called Labadee. It is only years later that a lot of those tourists find out, actually, they were in Haiti."

Bert Archer, in a column in Toronto's "Globe & Mail" last week, wrote "When news broke this week that a cruise ship sailed into Haiti for a beach-resort stop three days after last week's cataclysm, hundreds of people expressed themselves on bulletin boards and in social media. They either were livid about the callousness of holidaymakers cavorting in sunny waters while people were dying mere kilometres away, or stubbornly held it was an irrelevant or even positive thing.
No one was debating whether people should have been cruising that week at all - or whether cruise ships should ever berth in Haiti, which has for decades been the poorest nation in the hemisphere, in perpetual need of the help that is finally flowing now.

No, the argument was over whether it was too soon or too close. Should cruise passengers, instead of drinking margaritas on their private beach at Labadee, 100 kilometres from Port au Prince, have hopped the fence that separates Royal Caribbean's leased land from the rest of the country and helped dig people out? Or should they have stayed on board to protest, as half of them did when the first ship, the Independence of the Seas, stopped there on Jan 15."

In earlier years, both Port au Prince and Cap Haitien had featured as regular ports of call for cruise ships, and shore excursions had been offered to Henri Christophe's Castle of Sans Souci, modelled after Versailles, or his massive Citadel, with its twenty-foot wide ramparts draped over the higher reaches of Bonnet Mountain. To reach the Citadel was an arduous climb, requiring mules and guides.
Compare that to the hedonist beach activity at Labadee, completely isolated from the country that hosts it. All Haiti sees of that is $10 as a head tax from each passenger that Royal Caribbean and its sister company Celebrity bring there.

Admittedly, Royal Caribbean has done a creditable job at Labadee. It has donated the services of John Weis, its associate vice president at Labadee to the relief effort for several months; it has donated $2 million, along with the current net revenue earned at Labadee, to relief; it has donated sun loungers, excess bedding and furniture for use as a temporary hospital in a gym in Cap Haitien; it is bringing in fresh water and emergency food supplies on each of its ships; and it continues to employ some 230 Haitians at Labadee, as well as allowing a n number of vendors onto its guarded site when ships come in.

But how many tourists know that the anchor of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria was once kept in a government building in Port ai Prince? Who knows where it is now. How many realize that the $10 head tax is paid by 500,000 passengers a year, producing $5 million on an annual basis.
How many realize that Labadee is only six miles from the once important cruise port of Cap Haitien. Passengers do not see the real Haiti and Haiti is offered little chance to progress by the cruise industry if it does not use its main ports.

But with the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas providing a weekly call at Labadee starting in 2011, that is a potential additional $3 million in head tax revenue from Labadee that could be used to improve the country's highways and infrastructure. Perhaps it is time that Royal Caribbean and some others gave Haiti's other ports a second thought rather than just treating the island as a location for an anonymous beach.

(Source: By Mark Tré -

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