Friday, October 23, 2009

Hail! Hail! The Crew's All Here!

In his blog, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain reports that the last of the crew members have arrived in Finland today for duty on Oasis of the Seas which will be handed over to RCCL next week.

The crew now totals 2,165. Earlier in an interview with Lisa Bauer, RCI's SVP of Hotel Operations, told Cruise News Daily subscribers that 95% of the crew is experienced on other Royal Caribbean ships. She said that the other 5% are filling jobs which are unique to Oasis and just don't exist on any other ship in the fleet, such as horticulturalists, bagpipers or high divers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pirate Available

High tech resumes and searches for work have even spread to the Gulf of Aden. Lloyd's List reports they have come across a profile on Linked In for Abdulla Ahmed. Abdulla is available for hire. His field is listed as "pirate in the Gulf of Aden," and he says his experience includes "Pirate, Shipping & Maritime Industry, January 2007 — Present (2 years 10 months)."

He's interested in job inquiries, business deals and expertise requests. The Lloyd's List article list the link to his profile, should you be in the market for a pirate in the Gulf of Aden.

Report: Talks under way for new Princess ships

Lloyd's List reports Carnival Corp is talking to Meyer Werft about a new two-ship order for their Princess brand.

Meyer Werft isn't really commenting. Carnival does have a history with Meyer with their latest class of ships for their German AIDA brand being placed with the German yard. In recent years, all the orders for their other brands seem to have been going to Fincantieri.

Strike Disrupts Cruise Traffic at Costa Rican Ports

Costa Rica's Tico Times reports that a strike by dockworkers at Port Limon on the country's Caribbean coast caused Holland America's Zuiderdam to have to bypass the port yesterday. Port Limon is a popular port on cruises to the western Caribbean, and several other cruise lines have upcoming calls scheduled there. There is no indication how long the work stoppage will continue.

Oasis to Receive Finishing Touches in Florida

When Oasis of the Seas sails out of the STX yard in Finland next week, it won't be quite complete. The thousands of plants aboard, especially those which will decorate the Central Park neighborhood, won't be installed until the ship reaches Florida.

The Miami Herald reports that the order for some 12,000 plants has been keeping a couple of South Florida nurseries busy growing the plants for Oasis, which will be the world's largest cruise ship. The Herald says that it comes at time when business has been down for landscapers and nurseries in the area due to economic downturn and the slow housing market.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Busy Week for Bermuda

The Bermuda Sun reports that the island of Bermuda expects 12,000 visitors arrive over the next six days on six cruise ships. The parade of ships begins today with Norwegian Dawn, followed by Silver Cloud, Jewel of the Seas, Caribbean Princess, Explorer of the Seas, and it ends with Norwegian Majesty.

The article notes that the "herd" is completed by the Bermuda Islander arriving tomorrow with two cows and a horse. They should fit right in.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How the Alaskans Are Getting Snowed

It's hard to believe - with the first of the cruise schedules already announced for next year showing reduced deployment in the state - there are still editorials being written in Alaska saying how Alaska's tax package on the cruise industry (and its passengers) isn't really deterring people from going to Alaska. Two of the arguments being used are that the ships are still filled, and that when asked, cruise passengers interviewed say the $50 tax didn't stop them from coming and they weren't even aware of it.

This is just nuts. Either the writers of these articles don't understand much about how the cruise industry operates or they don't want to.

The cruise industry's business model is built on the ships operating at or near capacity and doing whatever is necessary to get them booked to that level. The way they accomplish this is to keep reducing prices until they have enough people booking in the market to keep the ships filled. So of course you can look at the ships last summer and say they are filled, but they are also being sold at significantly reduced prices.

The cruise industry argues part of that reduction compensates for the $50 in taxes recently added by Alaska. The proponents of the tax say it is being paid by the passenger, so what's the problem? The problem for the cruise industry is that if the pricing weren't depressed, they could be charging $50 more, so in a way, the $50 is coming off the cruise lines' bottom lines.

It seems that whenever one of these articles is written for consumption in Alaska, they interview cruise passengers in Alaska and ask them if the $50 tax bothered them. Of course it didn't. They are the people who came to Alaska. Who they ought to be interviewing are the people who didn't come to Alaska.

Interview the people on the dock in Mazatlan and ask them if the $50 Alaskan tax influenced their decision to go to Alaska. Chances are you still may not find many people who say they didn't go to Alaska because of a $50 tax on Alaskan cruises, but ask them if they compared cruises to several destinations, and you may start to get a clearer picture.

You'll better understand people choosing other vacations if you ask any travel agent how people compare prices between options on their vacation. They will tell you people compare the total prices, including taxes and fees, because those can be significant. If there's a factor that influences the consumer to choose between the cruise to Mexico or the Caribbean or Alaska, that's where you'll find it - in the total price.

Still, you'll often find no big difference in the total price between cruises to Alaska and other North American destinations. That supports what the cruise industry says about it coming off their bottom line, because the $50 tax is there in the total price of cruises to Alaska.

But the selling price isn't really what concerns the cruise industry; it's their bottom line. That bottom line - how much profit is made selling that cabin - the difference between the amount the consumer pays and all their expenses for operating the ship - is probably the most important factor influencing cruising's future in Alaska. If cruise lines can make more money selling a cruise in the Caribbean, for example, than they can in Alaska, that's where they will put the ships. By reducing the number of ships in Alaska in 2010, that's what they are doing. Indications from the cruise industry say there will be even further reductions in 2011 as other markets develop which can support increased capacity.

The $50 head tax on passengers is only part of the taxation problem in Alaska. With other taxes and fees enacted at the same time as the $50 head tax, it's all just making Alaska a more expensive place for the cruise lines to do business, something Alaska can't afford to do.

To tell Alaskans everything is ok and everything they hear is just big business rhetoric, is just nuts, because there's no denying there are many fewer berths (about 140,000) coming to Alaska next year than this year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cruise prices too good to pass up - even for the unemployed

When even the unemployed go on cruises, it's a sign that not only are the prices down, but the value is just irresistible.

WFTV reports that George and Cindy Anthony were spotted returning from a cruise aboard Monarch of the Seas this morning at Port Canaveral. Their daughter, Casey, is in jail facing first degree murder charges of their toddler granddaughter, Caylee, in a highly-publicized case in Orlando which has drawn nationwide attention.

In a deposition in case released last week, George Anthony said the couple has been unable to work for the last year due to all the publicity surrounding their family, and finances are tight. WFTV reports that the Anthonys netted $17,000 for an interview which aired on CBS Saturday night. (The station says they were paid a $20,000, but they gave $3,000 of it to their attorney for negotiating the deal.)

In the raw video report the Anthonys didn't want to speak to the news media, but Mrs. Anthony can be heard saying they took the cruise to get away from the news media, but their presence at the pier had ruined the cruise for them.

The Anthonys sailed on 3-night cruise Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, where rates as low as $179 per person are currently being offered. As we mentioned, the current cruise rates are irresistible and apparently caused Anthonys to join the Nation of Why Not, even though they have been unemployed for a year.