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UK ocean cruise market seen hitting two million mark 2017, UK ports likely to exceed one million boardings

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

The UK and Ireland ocean cruise market is likely to hit the two million mark this year, one year after Germany reached the milestone, while the number of passengers embarking on their cruise at a UK port is likely to exceed the one million mark for the first time, CLIA UK & Ireland said in a statement.

In 2016, UK ports accounted for 912,000 of the 1.89 million total cruise passenger count. Their share of the total increased by 1.3 percentage points to 48.3%, while the share of fly cruises decreased to 51.7% a decrease of 1.3 percentage points, with 976,000 passengers.

Cruises accounted for 4.2% of all UK foreign holidays, the figure remained stable for the third year in a row, but it is nevertheless double the level of 2001, CLIA UK & Ireland said.


Celebrity Edge staterooms to feature “infinite balconies”

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

The Celebrity Edge class cruise ships will feature 918 standard balcony cabins with “infinite balconies” that can be used either as part of the cabin or the balcony.

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises ltd that owns Celebrity Cruises, said in a presentation that the cabins will be about 25sqm in size, about 23% larger than those on the Celebrity Solstice class and well above the 15 to 17 sqm average on large cruise ships built in the last decade.

The cabins feature French balcony doors that span the width of the cabin plus a sliding glass window that allow turning the balcony into an indoor or outdoor space.

Two large suites will be located immediately above the bridge and a Retreat range of suites, a new for the company, will feature a sun deck plus pool reserved for suite guests, company officials said. All cabins on the ships have been designed by Kelly Hoppen MBE, the British interior designer.

European river cruise market grew 2.7% to 1.36 million passengers 2016

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

The number of passengers on river cruises in Europe increased by 2.7% to 1.36 million last year, figures released by IG River Cruise, an industry association based in Basel in Switzerland said in statement.

The average daily rate rose by 4.7% to €149, while ticket sales rose by 3.1% to €448.7million. The Rhine attracted 35.5% of the passengers, followed by the Danube with a 34.4% share, IG River Cruise said.


Jamaica to unveil major cruise initiative

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Jamaica is poised to be the most significant cruise destination in the Caribbean with 518 cruise ship port calls in 2016 and more than two million cruisers expected in 2017. Recently, Jamaica welcomed six of the world’s largest cruise vessels on the same day in the ports of Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. With the six vessels in port, Jamaica played host to over 15,000 cruise passengers eager to explore the vibrant destination. Fittingly, Jamaica was awarded 2016 “World's Leading Cruise Destination” by the World Travel Awards.

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett and Director of Tourism Paul Pennicook will lead discussions on the island’s Cruise Jamaica initiative at the upcoming Seatrade Cruise Global event taking place March 13-16 in Fort Lauderdale. Jamaica’s tourism leaders, along with the Port Authority of Jamaica, will focus on increasing greater awareness of Jamaica as a leading cruise destination. Jamaica will be at Booth #2621.

“We’re pleased to be participating in this year’s Seatrade, the world’s largest cruise conference,” said Minister Bartlett. “Jamaica is experiencing monumental growth as a cruise destination and this is an invaluable opportunity for us to meet with key industry influencers, thought leaders and spokespersons. Together we will discuss issues faced by the industry as a whole and how Jamaica can continue to promote the growth of the cruise sector.”

Jamaica is home to five vibrant and bustling cruise ports including Montego Bay, Falmouth, Ocho Rios, Kingston and Port Antonio. These ports provide cruise goers access to Jamaica’s white sand beaches, cascading waterfalls, rugged mountain trails, world-class golf courses, historic landmarks, arts and culture, duty-free shopping and more.

MSC Cruises launches fleet-wide digital innovation program MSC for Me

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, has unveiled its fleet-wide digital innovation program, MSC for Me. After spending the past three years working with over eleven of the world’s leading digital, tech and behavioural science experts, among which Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Samsung , MSC Cruises’ holistic program puts guests at the heart of every step of the development, design and construction of its ships. The company envisions a fleet-wide roll-out of the program, to the 11 upcoming next-generation mega ships – to be built under its industry-unprecedented €9 billion, ten-year investment plan – as well as to its 12 existing ships.

MSC for Me will bring to the sea some of the very latest advances in customer-centric technology, in a program designed to meet the needs of guests for years to come. It will debut on MSC Meraviglia, the company’s first next-generation new mega-ship coming into service this June, which will be fitted with 16,000 points of connectivity, 700 digital access points, 358 informative and interactive screens, and 2,244 cabins with RFID/NFC access technology. The program will next be rolled out on MSC Seaside in November.

MSC Cruises’ Business Innovation team, supporting the vision and leadership of the company’s Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, has overseen the integrated development, design and construction of the new ships. There will be three new classes of ships built from three new prototypes under the company’s ten-year investment plan. As a result, MSC Cruises will ensure that state-of-the-art technology is fully incorporated into every step of the development process of each prototype, from conception and construction through to the coming into service of each individual ship.

MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago commented: “From day one, innovation has been at the very core of what MSC Cruises stands for. Each time we bring to the market a new class of ship we develop a brand new prototype, so that we can best address the evolving needs of guests. This distinct approach has led to over 800% growth over the first ten years since we entered the cruising business.”

Mr Vago added: “The length and scale of our investment plan is unprecedented in the industry and it means that we aren’t just planning ships and experiences relevant to our cruise guests in the next few years, but to those we will welcome on board as far out as 2030 and beyond. Technology at the service of the guest experience is advancing at a rapid pace and that is why we’ve already invested €20 million in the first two ships alone, to develop technology and infrastructure that is capable of meeting the needs of guests for years to come.

The holistic and guest-centric programme is focused on connecting guests to their desired holiday experience through cutting-edge technology that is specially engineered to meet their every need, regardless of how they prefer to use technology when travelling. Luca Pronzati, MSC Cruises’ Chief Innovation Officer, concluded: “This journey started three years ago and today guests are less than 90 days away to experience a whole new cruise experience. Together with over eleven of the world’s leading digital, tech and behavioural science experts, among which Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Samsung, we are bringing some of their latest and most-advanced solutions and technology on board our ships – in fact, this is where most of these will be available for the first time ever on a cruise ship. Like smart, connected cities, but with the added complexity of being at sea, our fleet will demonstrate MSC Cruises’ commitment to true innovation today and for years to come, making our ships a holiday destination in their own right.”

The need for more connectivity and digitally enhanced guest experience

Guest needs have informed and driven MSC Cruises’ investment in MSC for Me, directly shaping the cruise experience of the future. A research study carried out in partnership with Deloitte Digital identified some of the following key findings:

– Technology must enable our crew in providing an even better service to our guests, and ultimately must enrich human contact.
– With 170 different nationalities sailing with us, the challenge for communicating effectively with guests is complex. There is a need to provide relevant information based on the guest profile, and the digital channels must facilitate the effective delivery of this information.
– To simplify and optimise planning before and during the cruise to help guests better understand all of the offerings available, leaving more time to enjoy their holiday.
– To enhance the experience beyond ‘the life on board’ by integrating the guest experience before and after the cruise as part of a complete customer journey.

Additionally, research showed that more than one in two guests are increasingly looking at customising their holiday experience both before and during their cruise (59%), with one out of six guests (17%) claiming to do so only once they’re on-board. Furthermore, nearly three quarters (73%) of guests claimed to be interested in a holiday at sea on a more connected ship. The research also identified that more than two out of three guests (69%) wish to use a smartphone on board, and more than one in three (36%) uses a tablet whilst at sea.

In response to increasing demand for real-time flexibility, some of the innovative features that are available from MSC for Me are:

+ Navigation: this digital way finder will provide guests on board with advice, guidance and information on what’s on. The technology is similar to smart maps and helps them find their way on the 300+ metre long ships with a 5 metre precision. It also allows guests to locate their children, as needed.

+ Concierge: allows guests to easily book services, restaurants, excursions and more in real time, 24/7.

+ Capture: digital immersive discovery through virtual reality to preview excursions and a gallery with interactive screens showing the unique story of a guest’s trip, which they can share in real time.

+ Organiser: a planning tool for guests to check in with their mobile device, book trips, seats for shows, or the best dinner table, before embarking or when on board.

+ TailorMade: this digital, personal advisor will provide tailored recommendations, based on preferences. Intelligent face recognition will help staff take care of guests in a highly personalised way. Interactive bracelets will connect guests’ to the ship’s services and will activate geo-located suggestions through 3,050 Bluetooth beacons.

Overall, MSC for Me will provide guests with over 130 smart features geared toward a fully optimized holiday experience. These include a dedicated app to help guests tailor their holidays at any point on their journey, whether they are booking their excursions prior to embarkation or a specialty restaurant whilst relaxing by the top-deck pool. This will improve the overall guest experience, while also freeing up more time to enjoy one’s holiday at sea.

MSC for Me will see its initial roll-out across the Company’s new builds, with further refinement and enrichment taking place as each ship comes into service. Its key features will then be rolled out to all 12 ships comprised in MSC Cruises’ existing fleet.

In 2016, MSC Cruises welcomed on board its ships 1.8 million guests from 170 countries. By 2026, the Company expects to welcome over 5 million guests a year.

As market leader in Europe, South America and South Africa, this year marks a milestone for MSC Cruises as the Company will celebrate the christening of MSC Meraviglia in Le Havre on 03 June and MSC Seaside in Miami on 21 December. Two more ships, MSC Seaview and MSC Bellissima are currently under construction and will come into service in June 2018 and March 2019, respectively.