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Jorge Vilches named President and CEO of Pullmantur

Jorge Vilches has been named president and chief executive officer of Pullmantur, one of  Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s six brands.  Vilches will be responsible for the strategic direction and leadership of the brand to ensure its continuous growth and success. He will report directly to Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Vilches has spent the past 10 years in the travel industry, holding various positions with the LATAM Group, a leader in the airline industry in South America.  Most recently, he served as CEO of LATAM's long haul business unit, the group's biggest division in terms of capacity and revenue.  Vilches' previous management positions at LATAM include CEO of LAN Peru, the main carrier in that South American country, and CEO at LAN Express, LAN's domestic operation in Chile.  Vilches was born in Spain and has lived in a number of Latin American countries, most recently in Brazil.

"Jorge has a proven track record of success in the travel industry, and extensive knowledge of the market.  I look forward to his leadership at Pullmantur," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Pullmantur plays an important role in Royal Caribbean's long term strategy, particularly as we expand the brand's reach into Latin America. We are confident that Jorge will use his strategic insights and market awareness to make Pullmantur the undisputed cruise leader in Spain and Latin America."

Said Vilches: "I am very excited to join the Pullmantur family.  I'm a believer in strong, committed teams and sharp strategic focus. Together with an outstanding group of employees, I look forward to delivering fantastic vacations to Pullmantur guests around the world. I also look forward to joining the team at Royal Caribbean, one of the true leaders of the travel industry."

Changi, STB and Princess partners to promote Singapore

Changi Airport Group (CAG), Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and Princess Cruises have announced an initiative aimed at growing Asia’s fly-cruise segment and promoting demand for cruise holidays from Singapore.

This multi-million dollar tripartite collaboration commenced last month with a series of marketing campaigns promoting Princess Cruises’ sailings not just in Asia, but also further afield in Australia, United Kingdom and the United States. The Asian countries earmarked are China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan. Princess Cruises is part of Carnival Corporation, the world largest cruise company

With a low penetration of cruising in Asia, there is a huge potential for cruise companies to grow in this region by developing new passenger source markets. Cruise lines that are looking to begin or extend sailings out of Singapore will benefit by working with CAG and STB. Jan Swartz, President of Princess Cruises said, “Princess Cruises is proud to be a partner of CAG and STB. We are confident that this collaboration will complement our expansion efforts in Asia and we look forward to developing the regional cruise market through continued investment in our people and resources.”

Further strengthening this collaboration is Changi Airport’s strong connectivity to 270 cities worldwide, combined with some 6,600 weekly flights, giving Singapore a strategic advantage to effectively tap fly-cruise traffic from across the globe and serve as a cruise hub for Asia.

According to the Asia Cruise Association, Asia has a penetration rate of less than 0.1% compared to 3.3% in the USA.

Long Term Commitment to Cruise

Since 2012, CAG and STB have been partnering cruise liners on initiatives to anchor more ships within Singapore’s waters. In September 2012, CAG and STB jointly supported Costa Cruises – one of the cruise brands under the Carnival Corporation – on a multi-million dollar collaboration to deploy more ships and to market the cruise liner within Asia Pacific. In the first year of collaboration, Costa Cruises received support to intensify marketing efforts to Asian consumers, yielding positive results, recording 5,000 Asian cruise passengers flying through Changi Airport and spending time in Singapore before and after their cruises.

In tandem, CAG has also been actively collaborating with airlines and travel agents on marketing campaigns to promote fly-cruise packages in markets such as China and India.

Mr Lim Ching Kiat, CAG’s Senior Vice-President for Market Development, said, “Changi Airport Group welcomes this opportunity to partner STB to grow passenger source markets in Asia and heighten awareness of cruising as a desired travel option. This second tripartite collaboration with the Carnival Corporation’s group of cruise brands further highlights our synergistic efforts to grow the fly-cruise segment in Singapore. With Changi Airport’s strong connectivity to destinations across the world, this serves to complement STB’s vision of making Singapore a global cruise hub, whilst supporting Princess Cruises’ new offerings in Singapore.”

As a champion for the Singapore cruise industry, STB is also committed to helping cruise stakeholders succeed. For example, market research indicated that many Asian consumers have low awareness but high receptivity towards cruising. Given that the majority of cruise bookings are made through travel agents, a training programme for travel agents across Southeast Asia was launched in 2013, led by the Asia Cruise Association and facilitated by STB. The on-going training is steadily building a pool of cruise specialists, thus expanding the trade network and making Southeast Asia even more attractive to cruise companies.

In particular, fly-cruise is a key topic of discussion during the training. Travel agents learn of the benefits of fly-cruise holidays, where consumers enjoy greater convenience, competitive prices, and a wider range of itineraries. This ties in with CAG and STB’s united objective. “Through this complementary partnership, STB and CAG will work together to promote the concept of flying into Singapore to cruise. We are excited that Princess Cruises has come on board, and look forward to more cruise lines joining us in tapping on the immense potential of cruising in Southeast Asia,” said Ms Neeta Lachmandas, Assistant Chief Executive, Business Development Group, Singapore Tourism Board.

“Changi Airport is world-renowned and travellers would be able to relate to the convenience and seamlessness associated with both Changi Airport and fly-cruise holidays. Together, our goal is to make Singapore the preferred regional cruise hub. We look forward to more of such fruitful collaborations in the future,” she added.

Norway leaves door ajar for more cruise ship arrests after RCCL ship held for unpaid charges

The Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) took arrest of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) cruise vessel Independence of the Seas whilst in  Aalesund harbor on Thursday. The reason for this was outstanding safety and  pilotage fees related to several port calls and sailings in the coastal  fairways during 2013, amounting to approximately NOK 600,000 (USD 101,000), said Arve Dimmen, Director Maritime Safety.

“In total, the Norwegian Coastal Administration is missing between NOK 6 to 7 million in fee payments from cruise ships (from various companies) for 2013, and we can not rule out that further arrests may be made in the weeks to come,” Dimmen said in a response emailed to questions by Cruise Business.

“After several payment reminders the Norwegian Coastal Administration saw  no other option than taking the claim to the district court to get a court  order in line with the The law of maritime liens. This enables them to act in the matter, and a representative of the local police then entered the ship to place it under arrest.”

“The Captain of the Independence of the Seas contacted Royal Caribbean Cruises  immediately, and an hour later the debt was paid and the ship was then released. The Independence of the Seas left Aalesund as planned.”

“The law of maritime liens is a privileged claim on maritime-connected property, such as a ship, for services rendered to, or the injuries caused by that property. It is historically rare that the Norwegian Coastal Administration takes such actions to solve issues of outstanding payments. However, the Norwegian pilotage service is 100 % user-financed and therefore depends on the fees being paid at the right time.” 

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Saga plc floats in London at 185p bottom of range price

Shares in Saga plc, the UK based company that offers a wide range of services from travel to investments to over 50s, has floated on the London Stock Exchange this morning at 185p per share, the bottom of its 185p to 245p indicated range.

The company has market capitalization of £2.1 billion following its flotation and it raised £550 milion in the process.

Saga is a major retailer of cruises and its Saga Cruises unit has two ships of its own.

The London market has seen several initial public offerings in recent weeks and toda four new companies said they plan to seek listing on the market. However, some others have pulled out from going public under the current trading conditionbs.

Carnival invests $400 million for scrubbers

Carnival Corporation & plc, the world's largest cruise company, today announced plans to significantly increase installations of its industry-first exhaust gas cleaning technology to more than 70 vessels. The expansion covering over 70 percent of its entire fleet represents an increase from the 32 ships announced in September 2013.

Carnival Corporation is investing as much as $400 million to design, build and install the systems, being used for the first time in the restricted space found on cruise ships. The systems will enable Carnival Corporation to meet new regulations that place a cap on sulfur content of fuel oil at 0.1 percent, resulting in significantly reduced air emissions. The systems will help the company meet its environmental sustainability goals, as well as mitigate escalating fuel costs.

The systems, known for their ability to clean – or "scrub" – exhaust from high-sulfur fuel, are scheduled to be installed over the next three years. The current installation schedule initially includes 22 Carnival Cruise Lines vessels, nine Holland America Line vessels, seven Princess Cruises vessels and three Cunard vessels. In addition to those 41 ships, two other Carnival Corporation brands, AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises, will also install the systems – 10 ships for AIDA Cruises and six ships for Costa Cruises. On May 5, AIDAluna emerged from a nine-day dry dock in Hamburg, Germany, with the first stage of the comprehensive exhaust gas treatment system installed.

The remaining schedule of installations will be forthcoming. In addition, Carnival UK brand P&O Cruises is assessing how the systems can be most effective on its vessels under European Union environmental law.

"This is a key step forward for Carnival Corporation and its 10 brands -- and most importantly for the environment," said Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald. "We believe Carnival Corporation's investment in this industry-leading technology will set a new course in environmental protection and cleaner air for years to come. Increasing environmental sustainability is one of our most important corporate goals, and having the new systems on our ships will be another effective way for us to meet that objective."

In September 2013, Carnival Corporation announced it had pioneered adapting a proven exhaust gas cleaning technology to use on its ships. The system is called ECO Exhaust Gas Cleaning (ECO-EGC™) for its ability to remove major pollutants from the exhaust gases at any operating condition of a ship—at sea, during maneuvering and in port.

The implementation of the ECO-EGC systems has also allowed Carnival Cruise Lines to return ships to homeporting in Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., in 2015.

The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) MARPOL Annex VI places a cap on sulfur within Emission Control Areas (ECAs) at 1.0 percent, which took effect in North America in 2012. In 2015, the limit in North American ECAs will be 0.1 percent. The IMO's global sulfur limits for seas other than specifically designated ECAs are currently 3.5 percent and are expected to drop to 0.5 percent by 2020, so Carnival's advanced ECO Exhaust Gas Cleaning systems have the added benefit of ensuring compliance with both North American and global IMO standards. Carnival Corporation's system combines two established technologies that have been successfully used in shore applications like power plants, factories and vehicles to clean – or "scrub" – the exhaust from high-sulfur fuel. For the first time this combination is being developed to accommodate restricted spaces on existing ships.

Carnival Corporation's plan incorporates a two-pronged system – one to reduce particulates from the ship's engine emissions, and another to use seawater to "scrub" sulfur compounds from the exhaust gases.

Though widely used on land, the system's incorporation in oceangoing vessels is considered a significant advancement in environmental technology.

This news follows the recent Earth Day announcement that Carnival Corporation will meet its goal to reduce its rate of greenhouse gas emissions from shipboard operations by 20 percent. The company has already reduced its emissions by more than 19 percent since 2005 and is on track to meet its goal of 20 percent by 2015.

Viking Star