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Transatlantic Competition? - Shipboard Lecturers Play Musical Chairs - Eight New Expedition Ships - Other Cruise News

by Mark Tre' - "The Cruise Examiner"

While Holland America Line announce two special Transatlantic voyages for next summer, is this really competition for Cunard Line? We don't think so. Meanwhile, both Holland America and Princess announce big name lecturers for 2011 while a Florida-based ship manager has plans to build up to eight new expedition cruise ships. Elsewhere, we have more news about Alaska small ships, British Columbia cruise ports and Saga's latest ship.


Holland America Celebrates Its Transatlantic Heritage

Some sources have been going on about Holland America coming to compete with Cunard Line next year in the North Atlantic. Not so, says The Cruise Examiner. First off, Holland America has always done Transatlantic voyages and secondly, although managed independently, both companies are part of Carnival Corp & PLC.

What has been announced is that their flagship, the Rotterdam, will make two Transatlantic voyages in 2011 that will be used to celebrate Holland America's Transatlantic heritage. The Rotterdam, still flagship although larger ships have since joined the fleet, will leave Rotterdam on July 3, 2011, and call at Southampton before heading for New York, where she will turn around and offer an eastbound Transatlantic voyage, departing New York on July 12 with a call at Cobh for Cork. Southampton and Cobh have been chosen for their historical roles as Transatlantic ports.

The Rotterdam's Crows Nest lounge will become a Museum at Sea and as part of this celebration Holland America has engaged author and ocean liner expert Bill Miller and marine artist Stephen Card as lecturers. Miller is the author of dozens of books about ocean liners, including "Great British Passenger Ships," "The Last Bluewater Liners" and "Passenger Liners American Style," not to mention "Going Dutch: The Holland America Line Story," and has lectured on more than fifty cruise ships.

Card is a master mariner and maritime artist who now has ship portraits hanging on every ship in the Holland America fleet, not to mention a few Cunard and Costa ones. Card, a native of Bermuda, is the author of "Holland America Line: The Spotless Fleet" and "Cunarder: Maritime Paintings," as well as co-author of "Queen of Bermuda and the Furness Bermuda Line." Miller has recently also become the subject of a documentary film by Robert Neal Marshall entitled "Mr Ocean Liner," which previewed on Queen Mary 2 in Brooklyn on July 1.

Both Miller and Card will be on board Rotterdam for the round voyage while Stephen Payne OBE, vice-president and naval architect for Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding, and master designer of the Queen Mary 2, will be on board for the July 12 eastbound voyage. Payne is also an author, having written "Grande Dame: Holland America Line and the s.s. Rotterdam." Each of the three lecturers thus has a Holland America Line book to his name. .

Of course, Transatlantic voyages are nothing new for Holland America, which has been in the business for 138 years. In fact, this year the Prinsendam left Fort Lauderdale for Istanbul in March, the Eurodam for Rome and the Westerdam for Venice in April, the Noordam for Barcelona in May, and the Maasdam left Boston for Copenhagen in July, returning from Dover to Boston in August, while the Eurodam left Amsterdam for New York in September and the Noordam and Westerdam both left Rome for Fort Lauderdale in October. That's nine Transatlantic crossings this year

The main difference is that the newly-announced voyages are meant to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Holland America Line's last regular Transatlantic liner service, so the Rotterdam's 2011 voyages will be only nine nights long instead of the usual fifteen it takes for a Transatlantic cruise with multiple ports of call.

The Rotterdam will also do a couple of those next year, however, taking 16 nights to sail from Fort Lauderdale to Zeebrugge via Cobh, Dublin, Liverpool, Ilfracombe, Cherbourg and Dover in May and 15 nights to sail from Rome to Fort Lauderdale via Ajaccio, Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Tangier and Funchal in November. In fact, Holland America will perform sixteen Transatlantic crossings in 2011, including the two commemorative voyages, but most will be between 15 and 21 days.


Lecturers Play Musical Chairs On Carnival Group Ships

While Bill Miller goes to lecture on Holland America, a very traditional Cunard lecturer, born, like Miller, in Hoboken, New Jersey, has now been recruited by Princess Cruises.

John Maxtone-Graham, New York-based author of the trilogy "The Only Way to Cross," "Liners to the Sun" and "Crossing and Cruising," as well as co-author of "Queen Mary 2: The Greatest Ocean Liner of Our Time," is the doyen of cruise ship lecturers. Author of several other books, including three Cunard histories, he has made hundreds of Transatlantic crossings, not to mention cruises, and he celebrated his 80th birthday on board Queen Mary 2 in New York on July 30, 2009.

Traditionally, but not exclusively, he has lectured on Cunard ships, spending about half his year at sea, but for 2011, in something new for Princess Cruises, they have engaged him to speak on nine of their sailings, on four different ships, next year.

Between January 26 and March 24 he will join Star Princess for three 14-night cruises between Santiago and Rio de Janeiro and a northbound 15-day positioning voyage from Rio to Fort Lauderdale.

On May 7-22, he will make the 15-night transatlantic crossing on Crown Princess from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton.

And between July 2 and August 25, he will speak on the Ocean Princess, on three 18-night northern sailings, one round trip from Dover to northern Norway and Russia, a cruise to the Top of the World en route from Dover to New York, and a return Fire and Ice cruise from New York to Dover. The Ocean Princess is of course one of Princess's boutique ships, whose sisters now work for Azamara and Oceania.

Maxtone-Graham will follow these voyages with an 18-day Transatlantic crossing on Ruby Princess from Venice to Fort Lauderdale, on October 19-November 6. With four Transatlantic crossings next summer, Maxtone-Graham will be putting in more Transatlantic time than Bill Miller on his two Rotterdam voyages.

Ashore, Maxtone-Graham lectures at New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, the Four Arts Society of Palm Beach and at Britain's National Maritime Museum.

In a few days time, on Friday, December 3, Maxtone-Graham will speak at the Metropolitan Museum on the subject "France's Last Ocean Liner," to be followed on December 10 by "Norway's First Caribbean Megaship." This two-part lecture series, entitled "Dames at Sea - from S.S. France to Norway," is in support of his new book "France/Norway" published this year by W W Norton.

For those in Europe who might like to hear him, Maxtone-Graham will be lecturing to the Ocean Liner Society in London on January 4, 2011, in a special presentation on "France/Norway." There are admission fees and details are available from the Metropolitan Museum and the Ocean Liner Society.

Eight New Expedition Ships?

In an interview with Norway's "Tradewinds" shipping magazine last week, Lars-Erik Lund, president of International Shipping Partners in Miami, disclosed that his company has potential backers for a fleet of up to eight 200-berth ice-class expedition ships. ISP is already equipped with a design that sees the ships having 100 cabins, of which 70 will have balconies.

Lund made it known that the price would have to be below $100 million per ship in order to go ahead. Last time quotations were received, in 2007, they were closer to $150 million. But European shipyards are now running out of cruise ship work and it is reported that they have recently been making approaches to earlier project managers with lower price ideas. There may also be some interest from Far Eastern shipbuilders.

ISP already manages a dozen cruise ships and ferries for the Clipper Group of Denmark and the Bahamas and recently arranged the purchase by other Danish owners of the Spirit of Oceanus, now Sea Spirit, from Cruise West. Clipper is said not to be involved as a backer for the new expedition ship project but ISP has a number of other interested parties, including some possible new players. It is expected that the new ships, if they go ahead, would be chartered to the mainstream Antarctic and polar expedition ship operators.

Antarctic operators have been adding conversions such as the Expedition, the National Geographic Explorer and the Plancius to the fleet in recent years but these have all been done on fairly old hulls, older than the original small Renaissance ships such as the Sea Spirit and Orion II, which will be delivered to Orion Expedition Cruises in April 2011.
The only new ships recently have been Compagnie du Ponant's Le Boréal, now on charter to Abercrombie & Kent, and the same company's L'Austral. As well, the number of Russian and Ukrainian former scientific research vessels that are available is diminishing as some of them are returning to their originally-intended use.

Alaskan Dream Cruises

News has now been received that two of the smaller Cruise West ships that were controlled by GE Capital will start work for a new company called Alaskan Dream Cruises, which has been formed by day cruise operator Allen Marine Tours of Sitka. The 78-berth Spirit of Columbia and Spirit of Alaska will be renamed Admiralty Dream and Baranof Dream and will be joined by the previously-acquired 40-berth Alaskan Dream, which once traded in the area as the Executive Explorer.

On September 27, we indicated that a company called West-Hardwick Marine, in which a member of the West family is reported to hold an interest, had mortgages on the 100-berth Spirit of Discovery, Spirit of Endeavour and Spirit of '98, but no further word has been heard on where these three ships might pop up.

With InnerSea Discoveries due to place the 49-berth Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Adventurer into service from Juneau and Ketchikan in 2011 and Lindblad National Geographic already operating the 70-berth Sea Bird and Sea Lion between Juneau and Sitka, the Alaska 7-night small ship market is becoming somewhat fragmented.

BC Cruise Statistics for 2010

In a release last Thursday the Cruise BC Association imparted some interesting news. Now that the 2010 season is over we know that Vancouver handled 575,000 passengers, most of these involving an embarkation or disembarkation, usually both, whilst over on Vancouver island, the port of Victoria handled 441,000 transit passengers. Victoria has benefited in recent years because it has become an important foreign port of call for non-US cruise ships operating from Seattle. Foreign cruise ships must make at least one call in a foreign country in order to qualify to perform round trip cruises from a US port.

Elsewhere, the relatively new cruise port of Prince Rupert, the traditional Canadian interchange port between BC Ferries and Alaska's state ferry system, handled 55,500 passengers and Nanaimo, north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, handled 6,800 transit passengers. Prince Rupert opened a new cruise terminal in 2004 and this year handled its 500,000th passenger, while Nanaimo is scheduled to open a new terminal in March 2011.

While Vancouver had 177 calls this year (of which 44 plugged in to shore electric power), Victoria handled 228 cruise ship calls, making it Canada's busiest cruise ship port in terms of number of calls. Vancouver will gain in 2011, however, when Crystal Cruises returns with the Crystal Symphony and the Disney Dream from Disney Cruises and Regatta from Oceania Cruises will be based in Vancouver for the first time.

Saga Update

Last week Saga finally confirmed what The Cruise Examiner announced on Monday, namely that they would be acquiring the Bleu de France from Pullmantur Cruises. To be delivered in November 2011, she would likely enter service for Saga in March 2012 with a capacity limited to 700 berths. Her casino and children's areas and her third berths are all to be removed and a general refit commissioned to bring her within Saga's usual more upmarket standard.

Pullmantur parent Royal Caribbean indicated a cash improvement of $55 million in their books, but no significant capital gain. No new name has been allocated yet but as we said last week bets are are on Saga Rose II to honour the original, very popular, Saga Rose, ex-Sagafjord, which was sold for scrapping last year after she no longer met the revised SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations.

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