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Royal Caribbean unveils Quantum of the Seas dining concept

Royal Caribbean has set a new course with its “Dynamic Dining” concept for the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas newbuildings.

At a special media event in New York City on Wednesday night, Royal Caribbean showed off what it calls a “new era of dining at sea.” Quantum of the Seas is set to launch this fall, with a Nov. 2 maiden voyage across the Atlantic from Southampton to its homeport Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J., and Anthem of the Seas will set sail in April 2015.

Some innovative onboard amenities had been known and well-publicized for months. For example, both ships will come loaded with unique activities such as a skydiving simulator, bumper cars, SeaPlex indoor active space and North Star, a London-eye type attraction that takes passengers in an enclosed capsule above the ship for 360-degree views.

Now, cruisers can also get a dining experience unlike anything they’ve seen before on a Royal Caribbean ship. Instead of a traditional main dining room with set dining times and assigned tables, passengers can choose from among 18 eating spots on Quantum and Anthem. The locations include five complimentary “main restaurants,” seven signature specialty dining options and six casual eateries.

The line also revealed an online reservation system that will become active May 15 and allow passengers to choose when and where they want to dine and book their reservations before departure.

How the line would handle its dining had served as a point of intense rumor and speculation as passengers booked on Quantum’s first cruises received cryptic responses when trying to determine whether they could book their preferred dining time in the main dining room.

Royal Caribbean finally shared its revolutionary plan. The array of smaller non-fee main restaurants marks a radical departure for the line, which has always featured main dining rooms with set dining times on its ships.

The line said the time was right to give its guests more flexibility.

“The guest experience has been the hallmark of everything we’ve done for more than 40 years,” said Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Adam Goldstein. “We’ve pushed the boundaries in everything that we’ve done. We’re known for a lot of firsts.”

Passengers on Quantum and Anthem may choose to eat at five complimentary, full-service main restaurants.

American Icon Grill offers classics like New England clam chowder, shrimp po boys, Buffalo mac and cheese, Southern buttermilk fried chicken, New Orleans gumbo and surf and turf (Maine lobster and ribeye). The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (reservations only needed for dinner).

Chic serves creative entrees such as potato encrusted Icelandic cod, salmon strudel and boneless beef ribeye with creamed spinach and roasted corn salsa. It’s open for dinner only.

Silk offers a pan-Asian menu with cooking influenced by the flavors of India, Vietnam, China, Japan and Thailand. Open for dinner only, options include pho chicken, coconut crusted prawn, hibachi steak, curried lamb and crispy Beijing duck.

The Grande Restaurant offers formal night every night. Appetizers include duck pate and bacon roasted scallops. The elegant dining spot features main courses like Chateaubriand Wellington, chicken a l’orange and rack of lamb.

Coastal Kitchen is available to suite class cabin holders. The menu works to blend Mediterranean and California influences and offers combinations like sea bass ceviche, asparagus and leek tart, salmon steak and an array of flatbreads, with toppings such as fig and prosciutto or fennel sausage. The restaurant serves breakfast lunch and dinner (make reservations for dinner only).

Coastal Kitchen seats 128 guests. The other main restaurants can accommodate about 430.

The ships will feature four new for-fee dining options, three with celebrity chef partners, as well as traditional Royal Caribbean specialty venues.

Wonderland plays on the Louis Carroll tale of Alice and leads diners “down the rabbit hole” to where chefs twist traditional culinary concepts to create truly imaginative meals. Try foods in a full range of flavors, temperatures, textures and portion sizes. These include tempura salmon caviar, liquid lobster, smoked salmon eggs, naan bread tacos with pork belly, sashimi of red and white tuna and milk chocolate panna cotta.

Jamie’s Italian is the first cruise ship eatery for British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The menu includes crab and avocado bruschetta, Italian spiced chicken wings, crispy squid, lamb lollipops and wild mushroom and smoked mozzarella risotto.

Michael’s Genuine Pub marks James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz’s first American gastropub at sea. The chef expands his partnership with Royal Caribbean after collaborating on the 150 Central Park restaurants on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. The pub on Quantum and Anthem will features such bar snack fare (priced a la carte) as crispy pig ears, smoked fish dip and deviled eggs, all to be washed down with Michael’s Genuine Home Brew craft beer or accompanied with a bourbon flight.

Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro offers healthy meal options for those who might want to track their calories more closely. Devin Alexander, New York Times best-selling author and chef of TV show “The Biggest Loser,” crafted a menu full of guilt-free versions of popular meals like a low-cal burger and fries, cheesy jalapeno chicken sandwich and sausage penne bake as well as 100-calorie sweet treats. Breakfast is complimentary at this venue.

Royal Caribbean also brings the line’s enhanced versions of its longtime familiar options: Chops Grille (for-fee steakhouse), Izumi Japanese Cuisine (a la carte pricing), Chef’s Table (16-seat exclusive meal experience inside Chops), Windjammer Marketplace (buffet with 24-hour grill), Café Promenade (24-hour snacks, sandwiches and pastries), Johnny Rockets (a la carte pricing for burgers, fries and shakes) and Sorrento’s (pizzeria).

Additionally, Quantum and Anthem will have two new complimentary eateries, SeaPlex Dog House (hot dogs and sausages) and The Café @ Two70 (pressed sandwiches and custom salads).

With all these dining possibilities, Royal Caribbean says it’s sure that it is offering something to suit all tastes.

“The culinary experience is so important to our guests,” Goldstein said.

Written by John Roberts

No end to Australia's cruise boom

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The recent spectacular growth of the Australian cruise market has hardly gone unnoticed within the industry, but if any confirmation was necessary, it came with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)'s decision to export its Cruise3Sixty conference concept, held Down Under in February. Over the past ten years, this has developed into the largest conference that brings together cruise companies and the travel-trade sector and which now attracts more than 2,000 delegates – but it had never previously been staged outside North America.

During those same ten years, the Australian market has grown an average of 20% annually, so it was a logical move for the new global CLIA to bring its premier event to Sydney as CLIA Cruise3Sixty Australasia. Brett Jardine, General Manager of CLIA Australasia (formerly the International Cruise Council Australasia), said: "This reflects the massive expansion of our local cruise industry, as well as its enormous potential. For the past two years, Australia has been the world's fastest-growing cruise market, and this event was a fantastic forum for agents and operators looking to build their cruise business further."

Cruise3Sixty Australasia was staged two-thirds of the way through another record-breaking summer cruise season, lasting from October 2013 to April 2014, which saw 34 ships (one more than during 2012/13) in the region, making 588 calls (versus 559) on 202 roundtrips (compared with 183). But an increasing number of ships are operating in the region year-round, and the stepped up deployments are boosting Australian passenger numbers, which rose from just short of 700,000 in 2012 to an estimated 760,000 in 2013. In just five years, Australia’s cruise market has increased by more than 130% and has given Australia a 3.6% share of global cruise passengers. It also means that Australia is now the fifth-largest source market, behind only the U.S., UK, Germany and Italy.

An even more significant statistic – given Australasia’s location so far from the world's major cruise source markets and cruise company bases – is that it now ranks fourth on the list of cruise destinations worldwide, based on berths deployed. For 2014, Australia accounts for 6% of all global itineraries, putting it behind only the Caribbean (37%), Mediterranean (19%) and Northern Europe (11%). But if market leader Carnival Australia is right, growth in Australia is set to accelerate still faster. Its market penetration is already on a par with the U.S. at about 3.5%, but Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry believes this will reach 10% by 2030. In other words, there will be 2 million Australian cruise passengers by that time, having passed the 1 million mark somewhere between 2015 and 2017.

Although Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has become a major player, with the seasonal deployment of Royal Caribbean International's Voyager of the Seas augmenting other RCI and Celebrity ships operating in the region, Carnival Australia is driving most of the growth. It currently carries about 80% of Australian passengers on seven brands: P&O Cruises Australia (which has about 40% of the market), Princess Cruises (now selling three instead of just two of its four seasonal Australasia-based ships on the local market), Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Holland America Line (now selling its two seasonal Australasia-based ships locally) and Seabourn Cruise Line.

In a significant move, these brands are now being marketed under the World's Leading Cruise Lines banner, which was dropped several years ago in favor of the Complete Cruise Solutions branding used in the UK retail sector. Between them, the seven lines are operating 21 ships out of Australasian ports in 2014. P&O Cruises Australia's three ships are making a record 143 cruises through 2014/15 and, for the first time, are offering cruises from every mainland state. This is because, in 2015, the brand is returning to Western Australia with the Pacific Jewel cruising out of Fremantle. This program includes two roundtrips to Asia with calls in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. The same ship will also make the brand's first-ever roundtrip sailings from Adelaide.

What’s more, sales for the brand's ex-Melbourne cruises in 2014 have sold so well that the season has been extended for 2015, and there are more cruises from Brisbane to Papua New Guinea (where significant port infrastructure investment has taken place). In addition, there has been an increase in the number of short-break (three-day) cruises out of three ports, including Sydney. These short cruises target first-time cruisers, and the brand has developed a DIY web marketing campaign for travel agents to support that aim.

The major boost to Carnival Australia’s capacity, though, was the introduction of Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Spirit beginning in October 2012. This ship – the largest to homeport year-round in Sydney – has been particularly successful in attracting first-time cruisers, who accounted for 60% of the first 100,000 booked. As a result, CCL is also deploying the Carnival Legend seasonally, as of this September, following a refit to "Aussify" its product (for example, the installation of a Green Thunder waterslide, which was previously installed aboard the Carnival Spirit). The ship will operate 8- to 12-day cruises to the South Pacific, calling at New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji through the austral summer before returning to the Northern Hemisphere, and will further boost Sydney's cruise traffic, which has more than doubled from 119 calls in 2009/10 to 259 in 2013/14.

Last April, Sydney opened its new AU$57 million cruise facility at White Bay and is now planning a major upgrade of the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay. But cruise companies are still battling for more facilities that can handle megaships of increasing size, which are too tall to pass under the Harbour Bridge to the White Bay terminal. Ann Sherry has always been vocal on this issue, while RCI President and CEO Adam Goldstein recently said, "The challenge in Australia is the need for Sydney, in particular, to augment its infrastructure so that the industry's newer, larger ships can homeport there. Every time I am in Sydney, I meet with government officials in New South Wales to advocate for infrastructure investment."

Most recently, both CEOs have been lobbying for the government to open up the Garden Island Royal Australian Navy site for regular cruise calls. Following a study into its use, cruise lines were given increased access but still on a largely ad hoc basis, so there is no clear understanding of how many calls will be allowed. The industry is now awaiting the results of a task force, set up last summer by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to look into moving some or all of the naval fleet to Queensland. Rudd has clearly seen the benefits of cruise tourism, which directly generates more than AU$1.7 billion for the national economy, including AU$1 billion just for New South Wales (NSW). In fact, including indirect benefits and the impact of the domestic cruise sector, the total economic impact approaches AU$2.9 billion. But the most recent impact study projects that the number of ships unable to pass under the bridge will increase from a third to 56% by 2020 – calling into question how much traffic (and therefore economic impact) can really grow.

There also are questions regarding the proposed development of a new terminal on Queensland's Gold Coast. A preferred developer (China Property Consortium) was announced last month, but now an economic impact study has been commissioned to test the whole project's viability, which has been undermined by the decision not to allow a casino license. Meanwhile, there have been a couple of other boosts to the Australasian cruise sector, starting with the decision by UK-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages to create an Australian division to operate the chartered Astor in the budget sector, which has been reduced in size by the failure of a previous operator. At the other end of the price scale, luxury brand Ponant Cruises has set up an Australian office (headed by industry veteran Sarina Bratton) and deployed one of its newest ships, L'Austral, to both Australia and New Zealand for the 2014/15 season.

In the current season of New Zealand cruising, there has actually been a slight reduction in traffic, with eight fewer cruises (121), on four fewer ships (33) spending 24 fewer days (739) in port. As a result, the number of cruise visitors is expected to fall 11,000 to exactly 200,000 – composed of 184,000 international (down nearly 10,000) and 15,700 domestic (down nearly 2,000). But this did follow a season (2011/12) which enjoyed a 22% increase in cruise visitors and a 7% increase to NZ$310 million in economic impact. The largest two source markets remain Australia (51%) and the US (19%) – although the largest drop in passengers is among Australians, while there has been an increase in U.S. passengers. While the overall numbers are expected to remain around 200,000 in 2014/15, the increase in U.S. passengers is expected to continue. And the 2012 dip in the total number of New Zealanders cruising is expected to be reversed this year.

Witten by Tony Peisley

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Asia event highlights 'fastest emerging market'

Cruise Shipping Asia-Pacific 2013, to be held October 9-10 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, is unique “as this is the only annual cruise event focused on the entire Pan-Asia region,” according to Jennifer Rosen, Head of Marketing, Cruise Portfolio, for the show’s organizers UBM. “The cruise lines told us this show is integral to the growth of the region and can open the door to those who are looking to get in on the ground floor and capitalize on that growth.”

Now in its third year, the event has been revamped with several new items on the agenda. “UBM and Seatrade Communications have partnered on this event to offer a much larger, more focused singular event only for the region, and will be bringing in the world’s leading industry voices as speakers on relevant topics for the market,” she adds. “These changes have also brought us additional cruise line participation from all over the globe, increasing the exposure for our exhibitors to those brands.”

Among the highlights of the event promises to be the introduction of the inaugural Rama Rebbapragada Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry in Asia. “Rama was a key player in the global cruise industry and a pioneer in opening the gateway to the Asia-Pacific cruise market. This award was established in his memory and will recognize someone who, like him, has played a significant role in developing the cruise industry in the region,” Rosen says. The award will be presented by Rama’s friend and colleague, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises Michael Bayley.

Although overall numbers are not available, the Asia-Pacific cruise region is being called the industry’s fastest emerging market, which represents great opportunity for suppliers who choose to exhibit. “As passenger growth continues to increase—predictions say over 7 million by 2020—and brands continue to homeport ships there, the opportunity for regional shipbuilding, repair, refurbishment and design companies are skyrocketing,” Rosen points out. In fact, Australia alone will see a record 34 ships from CLIA Australasia-member lines sailing its waters from October 1, 2013, through April 30, 2014, according to that organization.

Attendees at this year’s event will hear not only about the region’s potential, but the issues it faces and reasons behind its remarkable growth. Among the challenges are the need for training and education. “Many more travel agents will need to be trained in cruise marketing, and we are making a major effort to provide CLIA-standard training for the first time in Asia at CSAP 2013,” says Kevin Leong, General Manager of the Asia Cruise Association. “The consumers will also need to be educated on the value of cruise tourism as an option to land-based tourism. Cruise lines are doing their bit and the association will garner more NTO members to join and collaborate with the cruise lines on consumer campaigns to meet this need.”

More development is needed on the product side too, he says. “Cruise destinations are still quite limited today in Asia, and most cruise lines offer similar itineraries. To give consumers more choices, we are working with regional governments to open more ports of call. The true attractiveness of Asia as a cruising region will not be realized until ships are able to go beyond the same ports they have been calling at for the past 20 years and more.”

On the other hand, major brands continue to dedicate tonnage to the region, drawing upon newly emerging source markets, Leong explains. “Growth comes from two drivers. First is the additional deployment of ships by the major players, especially Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, both of which have announced the deployment of a second ship to be based in Asia. Additionally, Princess Cruises has homeported a ship in Japan and a second ship will be based in Singapore from 2014. Second is the development of Asian source markets.”

All this, taken together with other factors, is a recipe for future prosperity, he continues. “The deployment of newer, bigger ships to Asia from slower economic areas like Europe and the U.S. will drive the market, coupled with the relatively healthy economies and growing middle-class in source markets like China and India. Training of Asian travel agencies on marketing cruise holidays has intensified over the past year and more resources from CLIA Global for certification training in the near future will accelerate this growth in cruise tourism. The opening of new cruise terminals like the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong and others in China may be the catalysts for further cruise infrastructure development in the rest of Asia. These will also be major contributing factors to the expected growth,” Leong concludes.

For more information about Cruise Shipping Asia-Pacific 2013 or to register for the event, log on to www.cruiseshippingasia.com.

By M.T. Schwartzman

From Destiny to Sunshine – huge revamp for Carnival ship

The transformation of the Carnival Destiny into the Carnival Sunshine in a $155 million refit highlights the fact that leading cruise shipping lines are willing to spend large amounts of money to update their older tonnage to match the amenities available on their latest ships. In addition, the economic elements are also updated, so the revenue potential of these older vessels is brought into line with newer tonnage.

In most cases, a typical refit focuses more on the software side, so that restaurant concepts are updated and spa and fitness facilities receive attention. Bars and entertainment areas together with cabins are frequently upgraded as well. All this will be done on the Carnival Sunshine-to-be, but in addition to software enhancements, the ship will undergo significant structural changes.

The Carnival Destiny was built in Italy and delivered in 1996; at 101,353 gross tons, it was by far the largest cruise liner in service at the time. It was also the first post-Panamax size vessel and also the first passenger ship whose gross tonnage exceeded that of the biggest ship of the liner era – the first Queen Elizabeth at 83,673 grt.

Major structural and layout changes

The ship will spend 49 days at a Fincantieri yard in Italy before re-entering service in April 2013 on 9- and 12-night cruises in the Mediterranean. The refit will incorporate the Fun Ship 2.0 features that distinguish Carnival’s newest ships. Among the large number of changes that will take place, a large sun deck will be added forward on deck 14. The ship will receive a total of 168 additional cabins, some of which will be built forward on deck 12, where they replace an outdoor area with a Jacuzzi and mini golf.

Further cabins will be added forward on the deck below, currently occupied by the fitness center. A pool will be fitted in the outdoor area just aft of the cabins here. The cabins and suites on these two decks plus the ones forward on deck 10 will be given the new designation of Cloud 9 Spa, associated with a large fitness area and gym complex that will be fitted forward on deck 10, which is currently occupied by cabins.

Aft on deck 9, a sun deck and pool will make way for an expanded lido buffet. Cabin decks 8, 7 and 6 will be retained as they are in structural terms, although the cabins themselves will be refurbished. On deck 5 aft, a secondary lounge and two other small public rooms will be removed and replaced with cabins, some of which will have balconies overlooking the stern. Amidships on this deck, the traffic flow will be altered by replacing a passageway on the starboard side by an almost S-shaped corridor that links the atrium.

Perhaps the biggest structural change will embrace the forward section of decks 5, 4 and 3. Currently occupied by a large theatre that runs through these three decks, the area on decks 5 and 4 will be taken over by smaller entertainment areas that are just one deck in height. The area on deck 3 will be given up for additional cabins.

Effectively a new ship

The $155 million transformation of the Carnival Destiny to the Carnival Sunshine means that it will effectively be a new ship and offer a new guest experience. In addition to the structural changes and new public areas, passenger accommodations will be refurbished as well. They will adopt a crisp white-and-blue based color scheme instead of the present warm yellows and browns.

New venues onboard will include a food marketplace instead of a conventional lido buffet, a new steakhouse called Fahrenheit 555 and a casual restaurant concept dubbed The Comfort Kitchen. On the bars front, the Havana Bar in the marketplace will be in transition throughout the day—serving Cuban sandwiches at lunchtime, and then converting into a live Latin music venue after sundown, also serving late night snacks. The adults-only Serenity bar will offer a range of made-to-order shakes and salads.

Partner Ship Design, the Hamburg-based interior designers, will be in charge of the entire project. They were lead designers of the Carnival Breeze and designed many of the open deck spaces on the Carnival Magic before being chosen by Carnival for this project. The transformation of the Carnival Destiny to the Carnival Sunshine, a name that had been contemplated in-house for quite some time, is part of a $500 million program called Fun Ship 2.0, a comprehensive series of upgrades to the fleet carried out over a period of five years.

As yet there has been no announcement regarding the Carnival Victory and Carnival Triumph, which are younger sisters of the Carnival Destiny. However, they are likely to receive some kind of upgrade as well at a later date. At the same time, Evolutions of Fun, a $350-million investment program that entails eight ships of the Carnival Fantasy class, built between 1990 and 1998, has been carried out on six ships, with a further two to go. 
More passengers, better guest experience

Once it emerges from the shipyard, the Carnival Sunshine will not only be a newer ship, but a better one for guests and crew alike. “That from the beginning is about protecting, no about enhancing and improving the guest experience. So even though there will be some additional passengers, we look at the ways they use the ship, its spaces. The guest capacity is increasing by 14%. When we worked on the gym space, treadmills and ellipticals, [they were] increased by 58% over the current Destiny. We went through bar seats, square footage per kid, number of decks,” said Mark Tamis, Senior Vice President of Carnival Cruise Lines.

A key element of the Fun Ship 2.0 initiative is creating greater interaction between guests and crew. “A huge part of my passion is for the guest experience, but also the crew experience—ultimately they are the ones who deliver the guest experience. We’ve seen that success on Carnival Liberty. Not only do the guests love the new experience, but also the crews love working onboard. Carnival Liberty was the first ship we did Fun 2.0: Guy’s Burger Joint, new deck parties—not just creating a space where a guest can get a drink, but a stage for them to have an emotional connection with the crew,” Tamis concluded.

Cruise ship safety – Star Cruises stresses human element

Editor's note: This interview was made and published in Cruise Business Review 3/2011 issue prior the tragic events of January 13, 2012.

By Henrik Segercrantz

Safety is a top priority at Star Cruises, whose vessels operate in some of the most congested waters and ports in the world. Star was the first cruise line to have its own tailor-made bridge simulator back in 1998, and a new simulator is being planned. "There must be a total commitment to safety, both onboard and ashore," says Gustaf Grönberg, Fleet Captain and Senior Vice President of Marine Operations. "This is achieved through teamwork, training, openness and professionalism. We think it is very important to recruit the right people for the tasks, because in one way or the other the human factor plays a major role in all accidents."

Cruise ships of today can carry 6,000 or 7,000 people and cost upwards of a billion U.S. dollars. Psychological assessment is a vital part of Star Cruises’ recruiting process for deck officers. "We want to recruit the best people, and we see the money spent on such programs is very well spent," Grönberg says. "The driving force in the next ten years will be the increasing sensitivity of the general public worldwide to damage of the physical environment and the loss of human life," Grönberg continues. "This will affect the shipping industry at every level, from the technical to the operational aspects and including the selection and training of officers. Response to recent accidents shows that there is zero tolerance for accidents that involve damage to the physical environment or loss of life." He also points out that as cruise ships are increasing in size, insurance companies are increasingly looking at liability issues.

"When looking ten years forward, in terms of selection and training and operational practices, I think the focus on the human element will have to further increase, including more psychological assessment work when recruiting but also in the daily working life of seafarers. Because the ISM [International Safety Management Code] does not address the human factors, error management must be developed and implemented as a vital part of a proper safety management system for the shipping industry. In aviation, it is understood that because of our limitations, human error cannot be entirely eliminated but must be managed. In this regard, the shipping industry and particularly the cruise industry need to follow the example of aviation."

Star Cruises is responding to these demands and already uses a system consisting of a written evaluation followed by an interview of each individual officer after every working period of eight weeks. "Progress has been made, though there is still much to be done," Grönberg says, but adds a wish: "Hopefully, the ISM Code will address also the real onboard human decision-making process in the future," Grönberg says. "I think the focus on all aspects of ergonomics, with focus on usability and on safety, will continue to grow in importance." When the SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo were built, Star Cruises focused on the ergonomics of the wheelhouse. "We use a cockpit design where the panels are somewhat lower and the seat is not raised up, so that you can reach all important control panels from that position," Grönberg says, providing an example of their design philosophy. "The same layout has in fact been applied on all consecutive NCL vessels."

Another example is the SuperStar Virgo, which received a fourth dedicated working cockpit for the pilot when the vessel’s wheelhouse, including navigation system, was upgraded some two years ago. "This has become very popular. It is very important that the pilot is welcomed to be a part of the bridge team in order to avoid accidents." Grönberg definitely sees that bigger cruise ships need a separate safety officer relieving the officers on the bridge from other tasks not directly associated with safe navigation, "but the safety panels have to be adjacent to the bridge to maintain easy communication."

When talking about lifeboats and life-rafts, Grönberg thinks that using davits and cranes is becoming old-fashioned. "There are ideas to use an integrated part of a public space as a lifeboat, if required. This is a very complex system, which would also take away public space from the vessel and is a difficult question," he says, but he believes changes will take place regarding evacuation. He thinks the IMO SOLAS rule applied for ferries operating on shorter routes allowing evacuation using MES stations with chutes and rafts should also be applied to cruise ships. "Many argue that this system is safer in rough weather conditions than using lifeboats. I believe there might be a change here too in the years to come," he suggests.

"We enter Hong Kong and sail in the Singapore Straits every day. We operate in some of the most congested waters where vessel traffic is terribly intense and sometimes coupled with zero visibility due to dense fog. You really have to pay a lot of attention and make vital navigating decisions continuously. I am thankful that we have the best guys onboard. Although there are traffic control systems in these areas, the traffic is so enormous that there is no way they can be of any help," Grönberg says and notes further that in national waters, such as in the Hong Kong region, many vessels do not have AIS, and thus cannot even be identified. "I really hope that these systems will improve in the years ahead to adopt the system applied in the English Channel, where violation results in a fine. The legal responsibility though shall always remain onboard the vessels."


Viking Star