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Windstar unveils plans for new Star Class yachts

Windstar Cruises, a leader in luxury small ship cruising, unveils new plans for its Star Class yachts  a collection of three all suite ships joining the fleet over the next two years. Windstar takes delivery of Star Pride on April 17, 2014, the first yacht of Windstar's 2013 purchase of the three luxury cruise ships.

Star Legend & Star Breeze introduction

Today, Windstar introduced Star Breeze and Star Legend, scheduled to join the Windstar fleet in May 2015. The yachts will spend their inaugural seasons in Europe, cruising new regions in Northern Europe, such as Iceland, as well as the Mediterranean.

"With only a maximum of 212 guests on board, these new Star Class yachts are the perfect fit for Windstars style of small ship cruising," said Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer of Windstar Cruises". All three of the new yachts will receive significant style changes and stem-to-stern upgrades to align with Windstar's yacht style cruising."

Star Pride inaugural

Star Pride will debut this year with its inaugural voyage and christening ceremony on May 5, 2014, in Barcelona, Spain, following a three-week transformation period. Mrs. Nancy Anschutz, wife of Mr. Phillip Anschutz, owner of Xanterra Parks & Resorts®, Windstar's parent company, will be honored as Godmother of the yacht. Captain Alan MacAry, 15-year Windstar veteran will serve as master of Star Pride. The six-day inaugural voyage will sail from Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy with media, trade, and Windstar's Yacht Club members on board.

"Star Pride is the first of the Star Class yachts, and we cant wait to introduce a new era of Windstar Cruises," said Birkholz. "We are honored to have Mrs. Anschutz serve in the prestigious role of Godmother. It's fitting to have her christen Windstar's first yacht in sixteen years as the Anschutz family has been an integral part of Windsta'rs transformation the last few years."

Star Class transformation

The three power yachts are identical, with a guest capacity of 212 in 106 suites. At 10,000 gross tons, each yacht is 440 feet long with a breadth of 63 feet and six passenger decks. Windstar will take delivery of Star Breeze on April 15, 2015, followed by Star Legend on May 4, 2015, in Genoa, Italy. Both yachts will undergo a major transformation to public spaces, suites, and dining venues to fit Windstars style of small ship cruising. Windstars signature experiences, including the lines famous deck barbecue gala, the Open Bridge experience, and the celebrated Sail Away party will be showcased on board.

Additionally, the Star Class yachts will introduce Windstar's new Destination Suites. Each of the previous Owner Suites will be transformed into a signature Windstar destination. The suite will highlight cultural décor and local art work. For example, the Mykonos Suite on Star Pride will feature paintings showcasing scenic Mykonos views and Greek touches throughout the suite. Destination suites will eventually be implemented fleet-wide.

New destinations

The fleet expansion provides Windstar access to new destinations including Asia, in addition to the fifty countries the company already sails to. The 2015 Voyage Collection will open for sale on March 24, 2014. Star Pride will cruise the exotic wonders of Asia and Arabia with a unique five-voyage collection. Star Legend, sailing its inaugural voyage from Rome, Italy, on May 25, 2015 will cruise new itineraries in Northern Europe. One of the voyages, Land of the Midnight Sun, will originate in Reykjavík, Iceland, a first for Windstar. Star Breeze will begin its maiden voyage from Nice, France, on May 6, 2015. The yacht will spend the summer season in the Mediterranean.

"Doubling the size of our fleet gives us the freedom and the flexibility to expand our voyage collection to new destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Arabia, and Iceland among others; which is something our guests are asking for," said Birkholz. "Additionally, these ships also allow us to visit beautiful new places in the Mediterranean, such as a scenic cruise down the Corinth Canal, something that was limited before due to the height of our sailing yachts."

Hong Kong and Taiwan launch Asia Cruise Fund to encourage cruise lines to develop the Asian cruise market

The world’s first-ever “Asia Cruise Fund” was announced today at Cruise Shipping Miami 2014 by Mr. Philip Yung, Commissioner for Tourism of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, Mr. Anthony Lau, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), and Dr. Wayne Liu, Deputy Director-General of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB).

Initiated by the HKTB and the TTB, the regional co-operation fund underlines the commitment of Asian ports to jointly develop cruise tourism. The fund, which will take effect on April 1 and run for three years, will be made up of contributions from participating ports and used to subsidize cruise companies to develop and market their cruise products. A major requirement is that cruise lines must deploy vessels to at least two participating ports or territories in a single itinerary.

HKTB Executive Director Mr. Anthony Lau said, “The launch of the fund marks a significant step towards regional cruise co-operation, which is vital if the industry is to successfully tap the potential created by the growing population of Asia’s middle class and booming outbound travel over the next decade. We believe the fund will show our dedication and commitment to cruise tourism development and reinforce cruise operators’ confidence in deploying more ships to Asia, benefiting not only the participating ports but also cruise lines and other industry stakeholders.”

Dr. Wayne Liu, TTB Deputy Director-General, said, “We will collaborate to encourage more Asian ports to join the fund in order to accelerate the development of the region’s cruise market and enhance the attractiveness of the region to cruise passengers.”

Mr. Philip Yung, Commissioner for Tourism of the Hong Kong SAR Government, said, “Given our geographic advantage, and riding on our existing infrastructure, Hong Kong has already proven it has everything it takes to be the cruise hub of Asia.  The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which are targeted for completion in the coming few years, will significantly improve the connectivity between Hong Kong and the Southern China. By working with neighboring ports in the region, we believe we can make Asia an opportunity too good to miss for international cruise companies – both as a destination and a rich source of potential passengers.”

Asia holds huge potential for the cruise industry. By 2030, around two-thirds of the world’s middle-class population will be based in Asia, according to a recent report by the United Nations Development Program. This shift in population dynamics will present cruise companies with new opportunities, as the growing Asian middle class seeks out new ways to spend its leisure time. In view of this trend, Asian ports have been working together to promote and develop the region’s cruise tourism and to encourage international cruise lines to explore the rapidly expanding market.

Norwegian cancels all calls at Tunisia after Israeli passengers not allowed go ashore

The government of Tunisia refused to allow Israeli nationals the right to disembark Norwegian Jade in the Port of La Goulette, Tunis on Sunday, 9 March, 2014, Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement.

In response to this discriminatory act, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it has cancelled all remaining calls to Tunisia and will not return.

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO. “We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.”

Norwegian Cruise Line employs more than 90 different nationalities and welcomes people of all nationalities aboard its vessels. The Company does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any type and with these cancellations hopes to send a message to those who do that such acts are completely unacceptable.

German cruise market expected to reach 2.0 million next year; 2.5 million in 2020

The German source market for cruises, which is among the fastest growing ones in the world, is anticipated to reach 2.0 million passengers next year and 2.5 million in 2015, Hamburg Cruise Center  (HCC) said in a statement.

“Experts forecast up to 2.0 million German ocean cruise passengers in 2015 and 2.5 million by 2020. This growth will further benefit the cruise hub Hamburg, which has to date 186 cruise calls scheduled for the 2014 season. As such, the number of passengers is due to increase to over 600,000 (+ 8%),” HCC said.

The year 2015 will see Hamburg take its next major step forward as a cruise destination, with the scheduled completion of the third cruise terminal and the positioning of the AIDAprima, which is planned to begin and end its cruises in Hamburg every seven days over 52 weeks of the year.

“Just in time, the new berth will go into operation. The location is across the river from Hamburg's current terminals, fewer than two kilometers away from many of the main sights in the center and a short ride by ferry. Traveling time to the international airport will be about half an hour,” the port said.

The facility will be constructed on a plot measuring approximately 20 hectares and comprise two terminal buildings (for incoming and outgoing passengers), a 1,800-square-meter baggage hall, vast quay space and parking for coaches and up to 1,546 cars. A separate landing stage will be built for local passenger ferries that will link the facility to the city center. This third terminal plans to open by June 2015, which will handle 6,000 to 8,000 passengers during a full 10-hour turnaround.

The cruise industry is a significant economic factor, justifying new infrastructure projects. The Chamber of Commerce has now for the second time presented accounts for the value creation of the cruise industry in Hamburg, based on the 2013 figures.

The total value creation resulting from cruise ships’ in port added up to nearly 25 million euros. This is supplemented by the value creation generated by cruise passengers and the ships’ crews. In total their spending is 21 million euros. But passengers are not the only ones to leave money behind them in the city – there are also day tourists who travel to Hamburg for ship’s christenings, Cruise Days and other events.

The value creation resulting from visits to the city by this category of person is around €32 million in the past year. As the fourth and last area, the study investigates the effects of the cruise industry on other industrial sectors. The value creation of all these associated with the cruise industry is around 192 million euros. All together this sector earns €270 million for the city.

AIDA Cruises reports 20% rise in 2013 passenger volume to 763,700

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AIDA Cruises, the German unit in Carnival Corp & plc group, said it carried 763,700 passengers last year, an increase of 20% on 2012. "This means that the cruise company has grown twice as fast as the market as a whole. A new study by the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) and the DRV (German Travel Association) shows that the German market for ocean cruises grew by 9.2 percent in 2013 to 1.69 million passengers," the company said in a statement.

"Interest in ocean cruises remains high. Since we offer exceptional value for money, the best service, and innovative product ideas, we are consistently able to persuade new target groups to take a cruise with AIDA, without losing sight of our regular guests," said Michael Ungerer, President of AIDA Cruises, on the occasion of the world’'s leading tourism fair, ITB, in Berlin. "This success would not be possible without our many partners in the travel agency business. I thank all of them for our excellent working relationship."

The cruise company is also set for further growth in the coming years. The AIDA fleet – one of the most modern and energy efficient in the world – will increase in size from its current ten vessels to twelve by 2016. The first ship of the new AIDA Generation, AIDAprima, will be inaugurated and put into service in 2015.

AIDAprima’'s maiden voyage will take place from March 22 – June 16, 2015, taking it on a unique 86-night journey from Yokohama, Japan to Hamburg. AIDA guests will have a chance to visit 39 ports in 22 countries on three continents. From June 20, 2015, the port of Hamburg will be the start and end point for AIDAprima'’s 7-night round trips to the metropolises of Western Europe.

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