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MSC Cruises signs two plus two option 167,600 gross ton ship deal with STX France

MSC Cruises signed a letter of intent (LOI) with STX France for the construction of two new cruise ships with an option for two more. The two ships will join MSC Cruises' fleet, currently counting 12 ships, all built in the Saint-Nazaire yards, the Geneva based  cruise shipping company said in a statement.

The first two cruise ships are due for delivery respectively in 2017 and 2019. The ships will be 1033 feet (315 metre) long and 141 feet wide, with a gross tonnage of about 167,600 tons, boasting 2,250 cabins for guests, nearly 820 crew cabins, and accommodating 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.

"The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner and the most versatile and flexible of the world: not only will it be able to call in most of the ports and destinations on earth, without compromise, but it will have extraordinary features that will make it the perfect choice at sea, in summer and in winter,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises.

“The two new ships will reaffirm MSC Cruises' dedication to outstanding and genuine dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic spaces, a bigger theatre and a spectacular amusement park connected to an outdoor aqua park as well as a two-deck 'inside promenade."

Among the new features of the ships will be specially designed cabins for families and an extended MSC Yacht Club, the entirely self-contained private club on the prestigious foredecks that will now be completed with a vast solarium, a private lounge and restaurant and duplex suites.

The new prototype is the result of a long development process, conducted in the framework of STX's ECORIZON ® programme, leading to the creation of a new generation of ships that are cleaner, more efficient and moretechnological. They will be water emission free, while its hull and propulsion system will be optimised for better energy efficiency. The installation of scrubbers will allow for fumes to be neutralised and CO2 emissions to be in accordance with the latest evolutions of international maritime regulations.

The contract signed is worth 16 million working hours for STX France and its subcontractors, 9 million for the prototype and 7 million for the second unit. Building is due to start in spring 2015. The contract will be binding when the financial package is secured.

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"Growth and development have always been the characteristics that have defined MSC since the very beginning of our journey into the world of cruising. The launch of this prototype and the building of these two new ships confirm our commitment to further growth and to further development. MSC Cruises will expand its capacity by 31%; we will incredibly enrich our offer on board and we will broaden our horizons to ensure we meet the growing global demand in every region," said MSC Cruises' Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago.

"Once again our longstanding partnership with the STX yard has proved key for these plans."We are really proud of building this new generation of ships for MSC Cruises, a long-time appreciated partner. We invested a lot of R&D and design efforts to make sure that MSC Cruises' new flagship would truly be unmatched. The latest commercial negotiation was particularly challenging in the light of today's global competitive landscape in the shipbuilding industry. I would like to point out that the competitiveness agreement signed with our trade unions has been decisive to reach this LOI signature," said Laurent Castaing, STX France General Manager.

Carnival Corp & plc expected to report first quarter loss on 25 March

Carnival Corp & plc, the Anglo-American cruise shipping group, is forecast to report a loss when the company will publish earnings report for the first quarter of its financial year on 25 March.

Analysts forecast earnings per share (EPS) negative on average $0.08 for three months to 28 February, with estimates ranging from $0.06 to $0.11 in the negative territory. A total of 15 analysts have participated in the poll, the results of which are summed on the company’s website.

By comparison, Carnival reached EPS positive by $0.08 in the three months to the end of February 2013.

Viking Cruises breaks its own Guinness world record with launch of 18 new ships

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Viking Cruises yesterday announced it has set a new world record with the inauguration of its newest Viking Longships. In a multi-phased event taking place over 24 hours, the company christened 16 of its award-winning Viking Longships – nine were christened in Amsterdam; four were christened in Rostock, Germany; and three were christened in Avignon, France. The first-of-its kind ceremony was subsequently certified by a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ adjudicator as ‘The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company.’ Viking already held the previous record, having christened 10 new ships in one day in 2013. Adding to the festivities, on Friday, March 21, Viking will also christen two new, unique river vessels in Porto, Portugal – bringing the total to 18 new ships launched across four countries in five days.

All of Viking’s new ships will be deployed on its most popular itineraries in Europe, and 2014 marks the first year that the company’s award-winning Longships will sail in France. A total of four Viking Longships will be deployed on Viking’s itineraries in France, including one vessel dedicated specifically to the company’s new Châteaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary in Bordeaux. Also, as a testament to the popularity of Viking’s Portugal’s River of Gold itinerary, the two new ships there will double the  company’s current capacity on the Douro River.

"Today we mark a new milestone for Viking and for modern river cruising. We are proud to celebrate the arrival of our newest ships, and it is an honor to have each one named by a prominent godmother," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. "River cruising is the fastest-growing segment of travel, and it is in large part because of the enthusiasm of our guests and travel trade partners that we have enjoyed such success.”
 
Viking Godmothers

Recognizing the travel trade’s contribution to the growth of the river cruise industry, Viking highlighted esteemed travel agent partners by naming them as ceremonial godmothers for seven of the 18 new ships. With cultural enrichment and privileged access at the heart of every experience Viking offers its guests, women representing distinct elements of travel, food, wine and entertainment were selected to honor that focus and serve as godmothers for another seven of the new ships. And in the spirit of strong business partners, Viking selected four valued representatives from the banking and shipping sectors to serve as godmothers for the additional four new ships. The full list of godmothers includes:

Amsterdam Christenings – March 17
– Mary Berry, Godmother to Viking Alsvin, is a legendary TV baker and cookbook author. She currently stars in the new series Mary Berry Cooks, which airs on BBC 2.
– Kathryn Burney-Mazza, Godmother of Viking Baldur, is the Executive Vice President of Sales for TravelSavers.
– Vicky Garcia, Godmother of Viking Magni, is the Co-Owner and Chief Operating Officer of American Express’ Cruise Planners.
– Hanh Haley, Godmother of Viking Gullveig, is the partner of Travel Leaders Group Chairman Michael Batt.
– Sarah Henshall, Godmother of Viking Lif, is the Vice President of Travel & Branch Operations for AAA Carolinas.  
– Geraldine Ree, Godmother of Viking Eistla, is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
– Anne Morgan Scully, Godmother of Viking Ingvi, is the President of McCabe World Travel, Virtuoso’s top-producing agency.
– Ayako Ward, Godmother of Viking Delling, is a noted food and cruise travel writer and throughout her career has spent 25 years at sea, during which time she served as an interpreter and specialist in handling Japanese passengers, as well as serving as international hostess onboard the beloved ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2.
– Pam Young, Godmother of Viking Bestla, is the Vice President of Industry Relations for Travel Leaders Franchise Group. 

Avignon Christenings – March 18

– Susi Barrie, Godmother of Viking Heimdal, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and wine personality, well known from BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen.  
– Mireille Mathieu, Godmother of Viking Buri, has sung on stages all over the world, and in duets with some of the finest singers of our time. Originally from Avignon, she is now celebrating a 50-year career. With more than 130 million albums, 1,200 songs in nine languages and 55 singles sold worldwide, Ms. Mathieu, or “Marianne de France” as she is called, is one of France’s greatest artists.
– Anne Willan, Godmother of Viking Hermod, is recognized as one of the world’s preeminent authorities on French cooking. She founded École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris and has had more than 50 years of experience as a teacher, author, culinary historian and food columnist. She is the author of more than 30 books, including her memoir, One Soufflé at a Time: A Memoir with Recipes, which was released in 2013.  

Rostock Christenings – March 18

– Marion Krase, Godmother of Viking Hlin, is a senior employee in the repair and new-building department at the Neptun Werft shipyard.
– Regula Oderbolz, Godmother of Viking Idi, is managing director at UBS AG Switzerland and heads Global Trade & Export Finance for the bank.
– Monica Petitpierre, Godmother of Viking Kvasir, is the wife of CIC Bank’s Cedric Petitpierre, a banker for the river cruise industry. Originally from the Brazilian metropolis of São Paolo, she now lives in Switzerland and is now strongly involved with social projects in the health sector.
– Laura Pfleumer, Godmother of Viking Kara, is a corporate client assistant at UBS AG Switzerland and is responsible for the daily bank business of Viking.  

Porto Christenings – March 21

– Laura Ferreira, Godmother to Viking Torgil, is the wife of Pedro Passos Coelho, the Prime Minister of Portugal, and is currently the Coordinator of the Medical and Rehabilitation Center in the Mira Sintra Educational Center for the Handicapped Citizen.
– Ana Moura, Godmother to Viking Hemming, is one of the most prestigious fadistas – or female fado singers – in Portugal. The primary subject of a 2011 article in The New York Times about the country’s new fado movement, Ms. Moura is a Golden Globe® nominee and has collaborated with the Rolling Stones and Prince.  

Viking Longships

Since debuting in 2012, Viking Longships have amassed a long list of prestigious awards. They recently topped Condé Nast Traveler’s annual readers’ Cruise Poll for best river cruise ships – with Viking Odin specifically being named  the #1 top-ranking river cruise ship – and the entire class of vessels was  named “Best New River Ships of 2012” in Cruise Critic’s® Editors’ Picks Awards.

Viking Longships integrate a patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology with comfortable amenities that reflect guest preferences and current travel trends. These new features include a revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace that reinvents the onboard lounge experience by bringing the panoramic outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors and allows guests to enjoy the views and dine al fresco. Accommodating 190 passengers in 95 staterooms, Viking Longships have a patented layout that allows for two Explorer Suites – the largest river cruise suites in Europe – as well as seven two-room Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom; 39 Veranda Staterooms with full-size verandas; and 22 French Balcony Staterooms. Additionally, all Longships have sustainability upgrades, such as onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens, and energy-efficient hybrid engines that also reduce vibrations for a remarkably smooth ride.

Inspired by the design of the Viking Longships, the company’s two new vessels in Portugal will be smaller, hosting 106 passengers in 53 staterooms, but will tout many of the same popular features as Viking Longships – including an Aquavit Terrace, a wide variety of stateroom choices, onboard solar panels and an organic herb garden, as well as Viking’s signature Scandinavian design aesthetic.

The expansion of Viking’s fleet comes as a response to increased traveler demand for destination-focused cruises. In addition to the new Viking Longships and new vessels in Portugal, the company’s first ocean ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star®, is currently under construction and will set sail in early 2015. 

Regal Princess to operate season of 2015 Baltic cruises from St Petersburg

Regal Princess, the second in a class of two 143,000 gross ton newbuildings of Princess Cruises, will operate a series of Baltic cruises from St Petersburg in Russia next year, information on the company’s website shows.

It is believed that this will be the first time a major cruise liner will use the second city of Russia as a turn around port for an extended period of time.

The ship, which will enter service in the spring of next year, will start the season of mainly 10 night Baltic cruises on 9 may and the season will run until 27 August, when the ship will reposition from the Russian for to New York.

STX Europe sale seen finalised in June

STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, the troubled South Korean shipbuilding group, is reported to be in the final stages of selling its STX Europe unit that owns 100% of the Turku yard in Finland and 66% of the St Nazaire yard in France.

Citing Korea Development Bank, which is the principal creditor of the Seoul based shipbuilding group, the Yonhap news agency says that an agreement to sell STX Europe could be reached next month and finalised in June.

The French government owns about 34% of the shares in STX France, which again owns the St Nazaire shipyard.

STX Europe is in the process of closing down its smaller yard in Rauma. The larger Turku yard is building two 99,300 gross ton cruise ships for TUI Cruises in Germany, the last of which will be delivered in the spring of next year.

The Turku yard in Filand has a newbuilding dock 365 metres long by 80 metres wide, whereby the facility might interest a cruise ship builder that requires capability to build even larger vessels but is currently lacking facilities large enough to allow that.

Viking Star