Hosted by the French port city of Toulon, MedCruise celebrated its 51st General Assembly during 11-14 October. The focus of this gathering was steadfastly on defining Mediterranean’s place in the context of today’s global cruise tourism and – under the new presidency of Airam Diaz, Commercial Director of Tenerife Ports – preparing it for the challenges of tomorrow.
For quite a while now the region has been facing obstinate geopolitical problems in the east and in the south. In the years to come MedCruise recognises that it will also have to face the issues associated with over-tourism and hosting bigger ships.
While efforts are made to attract passengers from source markets in such regions as Asia and North America, the association and its members must prepare themselves for the diverse and changing needs of cruise lines and their passengers. Shore side services cannot be one-size-fits-all; they must be tailored to meet specific needs of individual cruise brands and, as much as possible, offer personalised services to passengers in accordance to market segments and nationalities.
To achieve this, stakeholders must begin dialogues with one another and further enhance cooperation among them in order to tell the story of cruising in the Mediterranean.
For the first time, a representative of Virgin Voyages attended MedCruise conference. The line will deploy its second newbuilding, scheduled for delivery in 2021, in the Mediterranean. Craig Milan, VP, Itinerary & Destination Development, has been exploring options in the region. In response, MedCruise members have been passionately promoting their ports to this new cruise line by actively starting dialogues with Milan.
A full analytical feature of this assembly will appear in the next issue of Cruise Business Review – MedCruise’s media partner.
Viking Cruises, the world’s largest river cruise line, has placed an order for seven new river ships that will debut in 2019. The newbuild order includes six additional Viking Longships, which will sail the company’s most popular itineraries on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, and one additional vessel, inspired by the Longships and specifically designed for Portugal’s Douro River. The announcement was first made by Viking Chairman, Torstein Hagen, during a press conference in New York City celebrating the first call in Manhattan for the company’s third ocean ship, Viking Sky. With the addition of the new river ships, Viking will operate a fleet of 69 river vessels around the world in 2019. Also by 2019, Viking will welcome its sixth ocean ship and will become the largest small ship ocean cruise line.
“We knew there was an opportunity to do things differently when we started this company 20 years ago,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “In the last two decades, we have spent more than $1 billion marketing the concept of river cruising to North Americans, and today we are a household name. The Viking way of exploration has resonated with our target audience of experienced travelers, and this new ship order is a reflection of strong demand for more destination-focused cruises.”
Of the seven vessels on order for 2019, six are Viking Longships, which have amassed a long list of prestigious awards since their debut. Viking’s accolades include recognition by the editors of Cruise Critic as “Best River Cruise Line” and “Best River Itineraries,” with the entire Viking Longships fleet being named “Best New River Ships” in the website’s “Editors’ Picks Awards.” More recently, Viking topped USA Today’s annual Readers’ Choice Cruise Poll for “Best River Cruise Line,” and was named “Best Danube River Cruise Operator” in AFAR magazine’s 2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards.
Viking Longships integrate a patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology with comfortable amenities that reflect guest preferences and current travel trends. These 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. Staterooms include comfortable amenities such as hotel-style beds, heated bathroom floors, mini fridge, and both U.S. and EU outlets. Additionally, all Viking 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.
Royal Caribbean International, the contemporary market unit in the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) group, has unveiled details of Symphony of the Seas, its fifth Oasis class ship, which is due to enter service next year.
“New dining concepts and family activities, awe-inspiring theater, aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, and the most dynamic suite in family travel will join the lineup of Royal Caribbean exclusives – such as the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr; the iconic AquaTheater showcasing unrivaled high-flying, high-diving performances; and the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea – for a thrilling crescendo of diverse experiences, all set in the unique seven-neighborhood concept of the award-winning Oasis-class ships,” the company said in a statement.
Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuts in April 2018 for her inaugural season in Europe. The architectural marvel will accommodate more balcony staterooms overlooking the open ocean and legendary Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods than her popular sister ship Harmony of the Seas. But there is much more to this ship than her impressive size.
"We're excited to introduce Symphony of the Seas, our boldest composition yet, offering the best of Royal Caribbean with some new surprises for our guests to create a vacation that adventurers of all ages can enjoy together," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "We set out to create a new level of vacation adventure and deliver the ultimate escape for families of all shapes and sizes. Symphony will introduce the most cutting-edge, customizable, and digitally-enhanced experiences in the Royal Caribbean fleet."
Symphony of the Seas will introduce the new generation of Royal Caribbean's famed Boardwalk neighborhood, infused with new energy, interactive experiences and lively venues conceptualized for endless entertainment for all ages. Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will be the place to watch the "big game" from around the world across 30 big-screen TVs, ensuring everyone has the best seat in the house to cheer on their favorite team.
Spanning the length of the Boardwalk, the vibrant sports bar and arcade will be a hot spot for families to enjoy wings, burgers and craft beer on draft, as well as friendly competitions of Ms. Pacman, Star Wars Battle Pod, Ice Skee-ball and other popular games. Across the way, aptly adjacent to the Boardwalk's iconic hand-carved carousel, Sugar Beach candy and ice-cream shop will bring a sugar high of sweet treats to adults and kids alike, enticing them with colorful candy-packed walls and tempting ice cream and toppings galore. The sweetest spot on the high seas also will feature family-friendly activities for aspirational bakers.
The highly anticipated additions to the Boardwalk will round out the signature offerings that propelled the neighborhood's popularity. The Ultimate Abyss will catapult only the brave from the tallest slide at sea into the heart of the Boardwalk to revel in their adrenaline rush. Johnny Rockets is where indulgences of burgers, fries and milkshakes will be celebrated with 1950s diner music and entertainment. The awe-inspiring AquaTheater will activate the ocean backdrop and starry nights with a breathtaking show of aquatic acrobatics and stunning high-diving aerial performances found only on Symphony of the Seas.
Symphony will introduce the world's most adventurous and interactive family suite. The next generation of family accommodations, the two-level Ultimate Family Suite is a dream come true for kids of all ages and will debut eye-popping features, including: an exclusive slide from the kid's only bedroom to the living room below; a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, an air-hockey table and hidden nooks for chilling.
A separate 3D movie theater-style TV room, complete with a popcorn machine and a library of video games across multiple gaming systems will bring a new level of euphoria and competition to gamers in every family. And that's just the inside; the 212-square-foot wraparound balcony touts a bumper pool table, a climbing experience and a full-size whirlpool that will provide unmatched ocean views.
The Ultimate Family Suite spans 1,346 square feet, accommodating a family of up to eight in two bedrooms, and uses every inch of space to activate the imagination and provide the most brag-worthy accommodations imaginable. And if that wasn't enough, guests in the Ultimate Family Suite will have their own personal Royal Genie to take care of their every need while they enjoy all the services and premium amenities of the Royal Suite Class. This ultimate expression of family vacation indulgence joins the wide variety of contemporary suite accommodations available throughout the ship, from the Loft Suites with their breathtaking views to the spacious multi-room Owner's Suites.
Symphony will debut new food and beverage concepts adding to an already diverse lineup of more than 20 specialty and complimentary restaurants across the ship's seven neighborhoods. Hooked Seafood, Royal Caribbean's first New England-style seafood restaurant, will feature fresh seafood and a robust raw bar complete with oysters shucked to order. Located at the front of the ship in the Solarium, the casually sophisticated restaurant will offer expansive views of the open water, serving lunch and dinner. El Loco Fresh will offer mouthwatering made-to-order tacos, burritos and other popular Mexican fare. The open-air restaurant in the Sports Zone will seat more than 100 guests.
The cruise line's signature culinary favorites, including Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park with its American seasonal menu, Park Café and Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, also will introduce refreshed designs and new menu specialties on Symphony, offering guests the widest choice and variety of dining options.
Back by popular demand, the hugely successful "Hairspray" – the brand's first Broadway musical at sea – will return on Symphony with a total refresh to headline the Royal Theater along with a new original Royal Caribbean show, "Flight," a historical satire on the evolution of air travel that ends with homage to the famed Wright Brothers. In the iconic AquaTheater open-air amphitheater, a new aqua show, "HiRo," offers serious wow factor with high-diving and acrobatics. Studio B will showcase a new time-travel adventure. A high-tech ice-skating show,"1977" will bring guests to London on the eve of the Queen's Silver Jubilee when her Crown Jewels are stolen in the heist of the century.
For thrilling live-action adventure at sea, guests can gear up for an epic glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience like no other. State-of-the-art technology and special effects will transform Studio B into the world's largest and ultimate laser tag arena as family, friends and foes battle over the fate of the last planet in the galaxy. Vacationers looking for a challenge can experience a new Puzzle Break experience on Symphony, where teams will race against the clock and learn to work together toward a common goal – to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.
The latest technological innovations will be integrated throughout Symphony, including a redesigned check-in experience that eliminates lines and bypasses the counter. The new process will leverage a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless.
Guests will check-in via the brand's new mobile app and seamlessly upload their security "selfie" to create their onboard account from the comfort of their home. Upon arrival, guests will go through a security screening and then head straight to their stateroom, where their key will be ready and waiting. In addition to mobile check-in, Symphony will feature all of the pioneering and award-winning guest technology the cruise line is known for, including VOOM – the fastest internet at sea, state-of-the-art wayfinding and virtual balconies.
One ship, seven distinctive neighborhoods for families to explore together or individually, Symphony is the ultimate playground for guests of all ages, with new surprises at every turn.
Boardwalk – Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and the Sugar Beach candy and ice-cream shop bring a new spin to this outdoor space inspired by the nostalgic seaside piers of yesteryear. The Boardwalk, with its original hand-carved carousel, will offer classic family fun combined with a high-energy vibe felt throughout its casual eateries, retail shops and activities for a day of family fun. The signature AquaTheater, located at the stern of the ship with a distinct ocean backdrop, is a dazzling amphitheater-style venue where guests can experience stunning aquatic acrobatics and high-diving aerial performances.
Central Park – With more than 12,000 lush tropical plants, this open-air neighborhood is a serene retreat that features meandering walkways with quiet nooks for reading and relaxing, retail boutiques and specialty restaurants including Chops Grille, Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park and Vintages wine bar. The expanded Park Café, with its communal table and additional outdoor bistro seating overlooking a central piazza, is the perfect spot for meeting friends and people watching.
Entertainment Place – A contemporary night club district, where more intimate venues cater to different moods and preferences, is anchored by Casino Royale, which will take the title of the largest casino at sea, and Studio B, home to a full-scale ice rink and newly introduced glow-in-the-dark laser tag game. The Attic exudes the vibe of a downtown comedy club and transforms into a lounge for late-night drinks and dancing, while Jazz on 4 features live jazz and blues performances with the convenience of table service for couples and groups.
Pool and Sports Zone – Home to the ship's most active adventures, including the Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea, The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, two FlowRider surf simulators, a mini-golf course, a nine-deck-high zip line, and the beach pool, plus the all new El Loco Fresh restaurant.
Royal Promenade – Dining, bar-hopping and shopping abound on this bustling main street at sea. The Promenade features a café, the industry-changing robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr, and the Rising Tide Bar that transports guests up to Central Park.
Youth Zone – From adventurous tots to teens, young travelers can dive into the widest array of youth facilities and innovative programming at sea, including a yet-to-be-revealed new Puzzle Break challenge where teams will race against the clock to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.
Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center – Chill out or work out at the largest spa and fitness center on the high seas.