Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weekly Cruise News Summary April 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Video of MSC Opera Collision in Buenos Aires

MSC Opera had a fender-bender last Friday as it was departing Buenos Aires. It appears to have cut a corner a little close and ran into the fender at the end of a pier, as shown in the YouTube video below taken by a passenger.

MSC said the ship remained at Buenos Aires for inspection, but only superficial damage was found, and the ship continued on the cruise. The delay did cause the ship to miss a call at Punta del Este, Uruguay, however.

Technically, there isn't much to see, but it's always fun to watch big things smash into things. (After all, David Letterman built a career on it.)

New Itineraries for Carnival Valor

Carnival is embarking on something of a different adventure in cruise itineraries with Carnival Valor next January.

The line has scheduled the 110,000-ton ship on a rotating series of four distinct 6- and 8-night itineraries that will offer customers some unique combinations of ports not available on shorter cruises.

Details of the new program, which begins January 15, 2012, were in the March 30, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

The Next Step for Mobile

Mobile is beginning its quest to replace Carnival Cruise Lines at the city's port once the line leaves in November. A few weeks ago, the cruise line abruptly announced it would pull its ship out of the Gulf Coast city in this fall due to the lack of profit potential.

The move stunned the city which said they had no previous indications from Carnival that anything was wrong. The mayor, Sam Jones, is going to Miami on Friday to meet with Carnival officials to try to get a better understanding of what was wrong for Carnival. That's a good move on his part because it's going to help the city put together a more viable package to offer other cruise lines.

Mobile is going to find itself in a highly-competitive arena trying to lure another ship to the market, but they have two big advantages. One is that they have a cruise terminal already built and ready for occupancy. (Of course so do at least two other top contenders, both barely used.) The other advantage is that Mobile has a real multi-year track record for other lines to look at. Although it wasn't as profitable as Carnival would have liked, Carnival will be the first to admit that they received tremendous community support from Mobile. Other cruise lines will be able to look at real data, something they can't do at the other ports without ships.

While the search for another cruise line is going on, there is something Mayor Jones could be doing that will improve chances. He needs to be on an education campaign that will change some of the community attitudes to make it more conducive for another likely candidate to sign on the dotted line.

One thing that needs to get across to the community is the reality of just how the businesses like cruise lines operate. For example, in the aftermath of Carnival's announcement we saw a lot of comments from Mobile's citizens that appear they don't understand that a cruise line's sole reason for existing is to make a profit, and the maximum profit they can over the long term. The community needs to understand that low prices do not equate to good business for the cruise line. (There were many people expressing pride that Mobile's prices were always lower than New Orleans' or Tampa's.) There needs to be an understanding, therefore, that cruise lines are not going commit to a long-term stay in the city upfront.

Another thing that always held Mobile back, in our opinion, was the constant agitation for something else from Carnival. From the moment Carnival began sailing from Mobile, there were cries for a larger ship, different itineraries, and even for an additional cruise line. That doesn't make a business feel comfortable to be constantly hearing that the community wants to create competition for them.

But the big thing is that the community needs to change their attitude about why they want a cruise line there. When the cruise industry comes to town, all the studies show it creates a tremendously positive economic impact on the area. What the community needs to realize is those benefits won't come for free. There may need to be some tax dollars spent or foregone to get that big economic impact.

In just about every article we see written about the subject, it's mentioned prominently that Mobile has a $26 million debt they still have to pay off on the cruise terminal, and they have been counting on revenue from Carnival's operation to pay it.

The cruise terminal needs to be viewed as part of the city's infrastructure, just like an airport, good roads, or quality schools. Those are all things you need to have to attract new industries to the area. In the same way you need to have an airport to attract airlines to serve it, or good highway and rail access to attract a large factory, you need to have a cruise terminal to attract a cruise line.

It's reasonable to spend tax dollars to maintain that infrastructure if the goal is attracting an industry that's going to return them in economic impact many times over.

There needs to be an understanding in the community that once a cruise line does replace Carnival, the financial need to spend to maintain that infrastructure won't automatically stop. The cruise line may not pay for it directly. Just like a special tax break may be granted to a factory that you are trying to entice to move to town, the city may need to grant a cruise line a special concession (like free use of the cruise terminal for a period of time) to entice them to town, or get Mobile chosen over a strong competitor, such as Houston. We know that Carnival said they couldn't make money in Mobile, and that may just be the push that's needed to ensure another line will make money.

Yes, it's proper to do that when balanced against the much, much larger economic benefits that a cruise line brings to an area. (In 2009, the last year for which complete data is available, the cruise industry had a $124 million annual economic impact through direct spending in the state of Alabama, mostly in Mobile, the only cruise port. That included 2,055 jobs and $75 million in wages.)

Mobile has a chance of replacing Carnival. In a market as keenly competitive as getting a cruise ship is, the city will need every little advantage they can get, and getting the community attitude right and behind the effort, could just be what tips the scales in the city's favor.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Little Girl with Cancer Who Just Wanted See a Cruise Ship

Ft. Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel is running an article about a little girl with terminal cancer who just wanted to see a big cruise ship. So last year her parents took her to Port Everglades.

While parked in the loading zone outside a terminal just looking for a place where they could see one closer, they also saw a woman in a Lincoln that was stalled in the loading zone. The little girl's father helped the woman get it started, but at the time, according to the article, he didn't know that the woman owned a cruise line. Of course during their meeting, Teresa Verrillo who is an owner of Celebration Cruise Line, heard why they were there. She not only arranged for them to see the ship, but she made sure the family of six got to sail on the ship (Bahamas Celebration) in a suite, and she also arranged for them to stay at the posh Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island making sure they had spending money for the trip.

That story is a small part of the Sun-Sentinel article, but it shows there are good people who do things not expecting to get anything in return. The little girl's father didn't expect to get anything for helping the woman start her Lincoln. The woman didn't expect to get anything because she gave away a trip. (There was no press release issued by the cruise line. The story came from the little girl's family when they told it to the Sun-Sentinel reporter as a part of a larger article about children with cancer.)

Something else good came from the incident, because it put Verrillo in touch with the South Florida-based group Children Battling Cancer, and now every month, Celebration Cruise Line quietly takes another child's family on a cruise to the Bahamas and treats them like royalty. But still, there's no press release from the cruise line. It's just something nice they do, expecting nothing in return.