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MSC Cruises suspends calls in Ukraine, Egypt

MSC Cruises, the world’s fourth largest cruise line, has announced that it has suspended remaining 2015 calls in Ukraine and Egypt, replacing them with a number of choice Mediterranean alternatives.

"MSC Sinfonia, MSC Opera, MSC Fantasia and MSC Musica will, from autumn 2015 to winter 2016, incorporate Bulgaria, the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete, as well as Cyprus and Israel into their sailings. The move has been taken in response to market demand and the on-going political unrest in Ukraine and Egypt," the company said in a statement.

The affected cruises are:

MSC Opera: 12-night Eastern Mediterranean sailings – Rhodes, Greece and Heraklion, Crete replace Alexandria, Egypt. Three departures affected [September 28, October 10 and October 22 2015].

MSC Sinfonia: 12-night Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea sailings from Genoa – Burgas, Bulgaria replaces Odessa, Ukraine. Two departure dates affected [September 17 and October 11 2015].

MSC Fantasia – 11-night Eastern Mediterranean sailings – Rhodes, Greece and Heraklion, Crete replace Alexandria, Egypt. Six departure dates affected [December 17 2015, January 8, January 30, February 21, March 14 and March 25 2016].

In addition, Egypt port calls have been removed from the repositioning ‘Grand Voyages’ of MSC Sinfonia and MSC Musica when the ships leave Europe in October and November and head for their winter home ports in Durban, South Africa and Dubai, UAE respectively. MSC Sinfonia will instead visit Heraklion, Crete and Eilat, Israel, and MSC Musica will call at Heraklion.

MSC Meraviglia to feature smart technology, cluster cabins for families

MSC Meraviglia, the first Vista project vessel of MSC Cruises, will feature smart technology and cluster cabins to accommodate large family groups, the cpmpany said in a statement.

“On board, guests will be able to access a whole range of facilities via the latest Near Field Communication technology. By using NFC wristbands, cruise cards or their smartphone, guests will be able to make payments, book spa treatments and speciality restaurants, access their cabin and safe, and even geo-locate their children,” MSC Cruises said.

Among the features planned for the ship is the creation of special interlinked ‘cluster cabins’, which will allow up to three cabins to be opened up to accommodate larger family groups.

Entertainment options will include a large outdoor waterpark connected to a double-deck indoor amusement park; double-deck aft lounge and entertainment space; and spectacular two-deck interior promenade styled like a Mediterranean village packed with shops, bars and speciality dining and covered by an awe-inspiring 480sq metre LED dome ceiling. The screen will form a ‘digital sky’ beaming out compelling images and jaw-dropping visual shows at scheduled times.

The ship will also feature an extended MSC Yacht Club area for guests in search of the ultimate in luxury and elegance. For the first time, the ‘ship within a ship’ area will include the option of duplex suites, along with its own solarium, lounge and fine-dining restaurant.

Despite their proportions - 330 metres in length -  MSC Meraviglia and the other Vista project ships will boast unrivalled manoeuvrability, meaning they will be able to access ports usually off-limits to the latest breed of mega ships.

MSC Meraviglia is the first of two identical ships on order from STX France, the second of which is scheduled to be delivered in 2019. In addition, MSC Cruises has options for two further Vista project ships to be delivered by 2022.

The Vista project is the result of a lengthy development process under STX’s ECORIZON programme to create cleaner, smarter, more efficient ships. They will be water emission free, and their hulls and propulsion systems will be optimized for extreme energy efficiency. Scrubber technology will neutralize fumes and CO2 emissions in accordance with the latest international maritime regulations.

MSC Cruises names first Vista project unit MSC Meraviglia

MSC Cruises, the world’s fourth largest cruise company, has decided to name the first unit of its 167,700 gross ton Vista project mega ships MSC Meraviglia - ‘wonder’ in Italian.

Speaking at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire during the ceremonial steel-cutting at the start of the construction, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said bookings for the ship — due to be delivered in May 2017 – would open in June this year.

The work on MSC Meraviglia marks the start of MSC Cruises seven-ship, €5.1 billion investment plan that will double the cruise line’s capacity by 2022. The ship, which will carry up to 4,500 passengers (double occupancy), will spend its first summer sailing the western Mediterranean.

In a first for the cruise industry, it will have three home ports – Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona. “MSC Meraviglia will be the biggest and most innovative cruise ship ever built by a global European-based cruise line,” said Vago. “We chose a name that denotes a sense of awe and wonderment, because of the many stunning features planned. Today, building started on a true maritime marvel.”

RCCL booking volumes rise; Caribbean, Western Med strong, China outpaces forecasts

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, (RCCL), the world's second largest cruise shipping company, said first quarter booking volumes have risen compare to the same period year-on on broad based strength of the market.

"Overall booking volumes during the first quarter were higher than prior year levels even after adjusting for our increase in capacity. Caribbean itineraries enjoyed particularly strong demand, and bookings were also up year-over-year for Europe and China itineraries," RCCL said in a sratement.

As previously discussed, the company has taken actions to extend its booking curve, as a result of which booked load factors and APDs are higher than historical levels. More recently, the company has taken further steps to improve the integrity of its pricing model including steps to eliminate last minute discounting.

Overall, European itineraries are booked at a higher load factor and APD than last year. Western Mediterranean itineraries have been booking well, while trends have been a little weaker for Eastern Mediterranean itineraries, particularly those that turn in Turkey. Demand for China remains strong and bookings have been outpacing expectations despite the significant capacity growth in the region. 

RCCL trims 2015 EPS forecast on strong dollar

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL), the world’s second largest cruise shipping group, has reduced its 2015 earnings per share (EPS) forecast on strength of the US dollar.

“The company has updated full year Adjusted EPS guidance to a range of $4.45 to $4.65 from $4.65 to $4.85. The strengthening of the US Dollar and the increase in fuel prices since our January guidance is expected to negatively impact earnings by $0.36,” RCCL said in a statement.

Constant currency net yields are expected to be in the range of up 2.5% to 4.0%, a slight reduction from previous guidance mainly due to the impact of the stronger US Dollar on the purchasing power of our non-US guests.

Net cruise costs excluding fuel are expected to be flat to down 1% on a constant currency basis, better than previous guidance of 1% or better. The fundamentals of the business as well as the company's focus on the targets associated with the Double-Double program remain on track and are unchanged.

"The business continues to perform well, despite the currency volatility," said Jason T. Liberty, chief financial officer. "Our unwavering commitment to cost consciousness has helped us identify further efficiencies that are driving a significant shift in our cost guidance for the full year. This type of operational focus throughout all facets of our business is a core enabler of our continued financial success."