Saturday, April 18, 2009

Man Overboard from Norwegian Sky

A 39-year-old man was reported going overboard from Norwegian Sky at approximately 3am Saturday morning. The ship was approximately 60 miles north of Nassau at the time.

The US Coast Guard was searching the area, having received a call at 4am. They dispatched a HU-25 Falcon jet crew and an HH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami, as well as an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island, Bahamas.

The USCG was assisted by Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Pearl, Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, and crews from Disney Cruise Line in small boats. The Royal Bahamas Defense Force also assisted the USCG.

The USCG now reports they suspended their search at 8pm Saturday night after having searched an area of nearly 590 square miles,

Norwegian Sky departed Miami Friday (April 17, 2009) on a 3-night cruise to Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. It will return to Miami on Monday.

Bahamian authorities determined there was no foul play involved, and the FBI reports they are not investigating.

Details will appear in Monday's edition (April 20) of Cruise News Daily.

Last updated Apr 21, 10:48am

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking Extra Precautions

It seems whenever an item runs about piracy on a website, you always see comments below it from readers who wonder why ship owners (and cruise lines) even send their ships near Somalia. The answer is easy. It's the only reasonable way to get the ships between the Mediterranean and the east coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf or Asia - all places where ships have to reposition seasonally.

The dangerous zone has expanded as the Somali pirates have increased the scope of the operation beyond the Gulf of Aden now to the south and west. As we reported earlier, in the case of cruise ships, the pirates basically aren't interested. (There is a link on the front page of the CND website to that article.) They present too many problems, so it of course makes sense that they'd rather concentrate their efforts on the low-hanging fruit of cargo vessels.

Even though there's less risk to cruise ships, they still take extra precautions, just like you would if you have to drive through "the bad part of town." You choose a route that can take you around the edge as much as possible, stay on better lit streets, lock your doors and get through as fast as you can. This is the case we saw today with MSC Melody which is currently repositioning from Durban, South Africa to Genoa.

The line said they are making some changes to the ship's northbound journey at the suggestion of the International Maritime Organization and the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa, a coordination center run by the EU Naval Force to safeguard shipping in the region. Basically, they are sailing farther east, and thus farther away from the coast.

The new route is about 400 miles longer than the original, so naturally, there needs to be some changes to the port calls to keep the cruise at its 21-night length. MSC Melody will drop its call at the Egyptian port of Safaga, but it will still be able to maintain its calls at Aqaba, Jordan (for excursions to Petra) and Sokhnan, Eqypt (for excursions to the Pyramids at Giza). The other bright spot is that it will allow for more time for an extended overnight call at Port Victoria in the Seychelles.

MSC said they are also taking other unspecified (naturally) precautions as they sail through the region. MSC Melody is scheduled to reach Genoa on May 8 to begin its Mediterranean season.

Update - April 26:
Despite the precautions, pirates did attack the ship on the evening of April 25 after it left Port Victoria, more than 500 miles from the Somali coast. Cruiseblogger is covering the attack in a separate posting.

Cunard Schedules Cruises from California

Cunard ships usually make only rare appearances sailing from ports on the west coast of the US, but the line has scheduled Queen Victoria to make a two-month long series of sailings to and from Los Angeles in early 2011.

Queen Victoria's cruises will include two 15-day Panama Canal cruises, two round trips to Hawaii and a 4-night round trip cruise to Ensenada (Mexico).

Details were in the April 17 (2009) article in Cruise News Daily.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Royal Caribbean Sets Year Round Caribbean Programs for 2010-2011

Royal Caribbean International is distinguishing itself from the rest of the Caribbean market by utilizing its four largest ships on its year round itineraries from its Florida ports of embarkation during the 2010-2011 season. These include Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas (220,000 tons) from Ft. Lauderdale, and Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas (158,000 tons) from Miami and Port Canveral, respectively.

The fifth ship in the year round program will be the smaller (90,000 tons) from San Juan.

The itineraries will also be tweaked. Details were in the Cruise News Daily article which appeared in the April 16, 2009 edition.

Hell's Kitchen Goes to Sea

Hell's Kitchen celebrity chef Marco Pierre White will be offering personal cooking lessons aboard three P&O's Ventura sailings. The interactive sessions, in one of the ship's galleys, will include no more than eight people and create a three-course meal.

Details were in the April 16 (2009) edition of Cruise News Daily.

Trouble for Windstar?

The parent company for Windstar Cruises, Ambassadors International, recently said it wanted to sell its non-Windstar assets and focus the business solely on Windstar. One of those businesses for sale is the dormant Majestic America Line. The company decided to dock those ships and is trying without success to either sell the line or the ships.

But the most ominous developments occurred yesterday. In a 10-K filing with the SEC, the line warned, "If we are not successful at a combination of selling our non-Windstar Cruises assets, raising additional financing and/or renegotiating existing debt obligations in order to raise funds for operations, we may not be able to continue as a going concern." In short, the filing didn't paint a very rosy picture for the company. (The complete filing is on the AMIE website.)

The company also is reported to have missed a $1.8 million interest payment on its debt, which was due yesterday. If it is not paid within a month, it could trigger a demand for the $97 million in principal and the interest. AMIE said they intend to pay the interest before that happens, however. In addition, the stock which closed at $0.39 yesterday faces delisting on the NASDAQ in mid-July if its price doesn't go above $1. (It hasn't been above $1 since December.)

While companies often turn around, and Windstar could well remain in business, we are suggesting that all readers with bookings on Windstar make sure that they have insurance that covers them for a possible bankruptcy or suspension of operation by the cruise line, or at least have paid with a credit card where they can recover their money. (Don't just assume you are covered; check with your insurance company or credit card company. They often have a watch list that says if you purchased your policy or made a payment after the company went on the list, you are not covered.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holland America Details Reduced Alaskan Schedule for 2010

Holland America Line released the details of their 2010 Alaskan program today. The line previously warned that it would mean a reduced number of berths in the market for 2010, and if pricing didn't increase, there would be further reductions in 2011.

The 2010 program will see four ships based in Vancouver, two operating 7-day round trips and two operating 7-day one-way itineraries. In Seattle, there will be three ships operating 7-day round trip cruises, but the change came in the fourth.

As CND earlier reported, Amsterdam will relocate from Vancouver to Seattle and change from 7-day one way itineraries to a new 14-day program. This effectively takes Amsterdam's 1,380 berths out of the market every other week. Even more important to the Alaskan economy, on the one way itineraries, the vast majority of the passengers spend several days touring in Alaska either before or after the cruise, an opportunity which doesn't present itself if traveling round trip from Seattle.

In the Cruise News Daily article, which appeared in the April 15 edition, we looked at where the cuts were likely to come in 2011 and why.

Royal Caribbean Explores Facet of Internet Marketing

Royal Caribbean International is exploring marketing via internet radio. The weekly program on the Voice America "network" and called "Why Not Talk Cruise," is hosted by the line's VP of Sales, Ken Muskat. It is broadcast live on Fridays at 2pm eastern time.

Details were in the April 15 (2009) edition of Cruise News Daily.

Royal Caribbean Completes Financing for Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean said today that they have secured financing for the 220,000-ton Oasis of the Seas, which will be delivered in November. The unsecured financing amounts to $1,050,000,000, or 80% of the contract price.

95% of the financing is guaranteed by Finnvera, the official export credit agency of Finland.

"We are very pleased to have secured the financing for Oasis of the Seas," said Brian Rice, RCCL's EVP and CFO. "With the tight credit environment and lack of liquidity in the financial markets today, this financing is a testimony to the strength of our company, the terrific partnership we have with Finland, and the outstanding long-term relationships we enjoy with our banks."

Even though many in the media kept trying to inject drama into the situation, RCCL said all along that they were confident the financing would be in place by the time it was necessary, but it just takes longer in today's credit market. Today's announcement has proven them correct.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nieuw Amsterdam Construction Proceeding

Holland America's 86,000-ton Nieuw Amsterdam is being constructed in an interesting way. The forward portion of the hull was constructed at Fincantieri's Sestri yard near Genoa (Italy). The rest of the ship is being put together at the builder's Marghera yard near Venice. Just prior to the construction beginning at Marghera, the bow was floated and towed all the way around Italy to Marghera where it was joined to the rest of the ship.

There are photos on the Cruise News Daily website.

Cruise ship charters house Summit of the Americas attendees

When delegates to the Organization of American States' Summit of the Americas - and the media - descend on Port of Spain, Trinidad, this week most of them will be staying aboard cruise ships (Caribbean Princess and Carnival Victory) rather than in hotels.

Cruise event specialists Landry & Kling arranged the charters, and Cruise News Daily spoke with Jo Kling about the rising tide of major events which are using cruise ships for housing and why. The CND article also details the operation this week in Port of Spain. Details were in the article which appeared in the April 14 (2009) edition.

Couple Falls from Cruise Ship

Local reports say that a couple from India went overboard from Star Cruises' SuperStar Virgo on Monday while the ship was about 17 miles south of Kendi Island (Malaysia). The 47-year-old woman was rescued, but her 49-year-old husband, has not been found.

According to local media reports quoting a family member, the man somehow accidentally fell overboard from a deck about 65 feet above the water, and his wife dove overboard in a rescue attempt, but the strong current swept him away from her.

The ship was traveling from Singapore to Penang at about 10am local time when the incident occurred. The woman was taken to a hospital on shore and is reportedly in stable condition.

View SuperStar Virgo incident in a larger map

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bickersons Go to Sea

No, this isn't the classic radio show, but passengers aboard Crystal Serenity may think they've tuned into an episode. Husband and wife political commentators (at opposite ends of the political spectrum) will be aboard Crystal Serenity's July 28 Mediterranean cruise to present their lecture series, "A Walk Through the Races...Where They're Going...What to Make of This Historic Time."

Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa will also be aboard the sailing, not to share his political views, but rather to demonstrate his talents and techniques. He will create a week of special Omakase - or chef's choice - menus in Silk Road, the onboard specialty restaurant featuring his signature dishes.

Crystal Serenity's July 28 sailing is a 12-night itinerary from Venice to San Marino (Italy), Corfu, Rhodes and Mykonos (Greece), Bodrum and Istanbul (Turkey), ending in Athens.

MSC Adds Short Cruises

Next winter MSC Cruises will be adding four short cruises to their Caribbean program from Ft. Lauderdale.

The 3- and 5-night sailings will be interspersed among MSC Poesia's regular 7- and 10-night cruises during the 2009-2010 Caribbean season.

Details appeared in the April 13 (2009) edition of Cruise News Daily.

Holland America's Passengers to Discuss What They've Read

Holland America Line is set to begin a new program in May on their longer cruises (14-days or longer). The ship's librarian will lead a discussion of a currently popular best-seller in the Explorations Cafe. The selection for the "Explorations Book Club" for each cruise will appear on the line's website two weeks before sailing to enable passengers to have read the book prior to embarking on the cruise.

Norwegian Epic Construction Progresses

A significant milestone in the construction of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic was reached last week when the bow section of the ship was attached to the hull, completing its lower portion, the part that touches the water. Photos of the operation at the STX Europe yard at St. Nazaire, France, are on the Cruise News Daily website.

The 153,000-gross-ton vessel is scheduled for delivery at the end of May 2010.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Galveston Recovery

Hurricane Ike came ashore at Galveston seven months ago closing the port only for a matter of days, but it took several weeks for cruise ships to return. The primary reason was because so much of the tourist infrastructure had been severely damaged.

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article today reporting on the area's recovery.

More Trouble for Alaska

Cruise lines recently announced cuts that would bring about 100,000 fewer passengers to Alaska in 2010. Part of the reason is that demand for Alaska is down, so rather than discount to fill the ships, they are reducing the supply of berths to more closely match demand and therefore increase pricing. Carnival Corp has already said that if the 2010 cuts aren't enough to move pricing as much as they need, there will be more reductions in capacity in 2011 for their brands (Carnival, Holland America and Princess).

Now the Fairbanks News Miner reports that interest in travel to Alaska is apparently waning because an annual blitz of television shows which spotlight Alaska and normally generates a surge of bookings has failed to produce that flurry of bookings this year.

Meanwhile the state's citizens continue to push for measures to increase the costs for cruise lines operating in Alaska (see our earlier CND article), making it more profitable for cruise lines to deploy their ships elsewhere.