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Vard signs letter of intent for expedition cruise ship worth NOK1.0 billion

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Vard, the Norwegian specialist shipbuilder in the Fincantieri group of Italy, said it has signed a Letter of Intent for the design and construction of an expedition cruise vessel for an undisclosed international cruise company.

“Developed in close cooperation with the customer, the luxury vessel will be about 145 meters long and 20 meters wide, with accommodation for 220 passengers. The hull of the vessel will be built by Vard’s shipyard in Tulcea, Romania. Delivery is scheduled from one of Vard’s Norwegian yards in 2019,” the shipbuilder said in a statement.

The contract price is expected to be approximately NOK1.0 billion. The parties have a common intention to enter into a firm contract within 1Q17, subject to several conditions being met, including satisfactory financing, Vard added.

 

 

Ken Muskat to join SkySea as new CEO

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Veteran cruise industry executive Ken Muskat has been named the new chief executive officer of SkySea, a growing cruise line focused on the emerging Chinese cruise market.

Tailored to the specific tastes of Chinese consumers, SkySea is carving out a unique position in one of the world's fastest growing travel markets. Through the successful operation in the past 20 months, SkySea has earned its name as a leading cruise line with exceptional theme activities. Muskat, with a long background in sales and marketing, is expected to help SkySea accelerate its campaign to become the top choice for Chinese cruise guests seeking new vacation experiences in a familiar East-meets-West style.

"Ken Muskat is known for his ability to generate consumer excitement and revenue generation, which are key elements in building a new cruise line and setting the stage for long-term growth," said Min Fan, vice chairman of Ctrip.com and executive chairman of SkySea.

"There is no challenge I like better than creating a winning business proposition in a competitive market," Muskat said. "I appreciate the confidence shown in me by the owners of SkySea, and I look forward to using my experience to help this exciting new brand grow to be a leader."

Muskat comes to SkySea from MSC Cruises, where he spearheaded the commercial efforts in driving MSC's expansion in the competitive US market. He was also the former Chairman of CLIA's Trade Relations Committee. He also had a long career at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. before joining MSC.

"I look forward to bringing to bear everything I've learned in my career and helping SkySea become a standout performer," Muskat said. "There is an important role for a Chinese-centered brand like this in this large and growing market."

Muskat assumes the role beginning mid-January.

SkySea is a joint venture between Ctrip.com, a pioneer and leader in the online travel world, and Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world's second largest cruise company. SkySea's first vessel, Golden Era, sails regular itineraries from Shanghai.

All Leisure group collapses, chairman blames geopolical events

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

All Leisure group, the privately owned British company that owns boutique cruise brands Swan Hellenic, Voyages of Discovery, has collapsed, Travel Weekly reports, adding that chairman Roger Allard blamed a perfect storm of geopolitical events for what had happened.

“The lines currently have 400 passengers overseas, all of whom will be repatriated by the CAA. The lines also have 7,000 forward bookings with 13,000 passengers affected, according to Abta,” the report said.

Roger Allard, chairman, was quoted as saying: “Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery dealt in cruises for more mature guests to cultural and iconic destinations like the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Black Sea where there are lots of sights.”

“But increasingly over the last few years, since the Arab Spring, it has been increasingly difficult to operate to these areas, either because of Foreign Office advice or a dampening of demand from consumers to travel to certain areas where we specialised.

This is the first time that a cruise operator has gone out of business because of the events around the Mediterranean region in the past half a decade. The event highlights the fact that the operating environment of the cruise industry has become far more challenging in the past few years due to geopolitical events, mainly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and points out that similar kinds of developments elsewhere can also have far-reaching consequences.

Both Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery are destinational brands that included excursions to their cruise fares. They also had speakers on board their ships that ranged from diplomats to scientists and scholars.

Swan Hellenic’s Minerva and Voyages of Discovery’s Voyager are both small vessels, well under 20,000 gross tons both. They operated mainly open-ended fly cruise itineraries. This kind of model of operations allowed the brands to offer exciting itineraries, but it also meant high costs, because operations could not be centred in a single location.

 

Carnival Corporation introduces game-changing guest experience at CES

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Carnival Corporation & plc today announced it has developed the world’s first interactive guest experience platform capable of transforming vacation travel into a highly personalized and elevated level of customized service for millions of guests.

The company unveiled the Ocean Medallion, a first-of-its-kind wearable device that enables a personal concierge by bridging the physical and digital worlds to deliver a new level of personalized service not previously considered possible – including sophisticated wayfinding, food and beverage on demand, an array of interactive gaming, personalized entertainment experiences and more. The quarter-sized, 1.8-ounce disc can be accessorized with jewelry, clips, key chains and bands or simply carried in a pocket or pocketbook.

Powered by proprietary technology developed by Carnival Corporation that features an Internet of Things (IoT) network of intelligent sensors and experiential computing devices, the Ocean Medallion revolutionizes guest service not only for the cruise industry, but the broader vacation industry. It will be officially introduced by CEO Arnold Donald on January 5 when he becomes the first travel industry executive to deliver the opening keynote address at CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show.

The Ocean Medallion goes well beyond the growing number of wearables used by theme parks and other vacation companies by leaving behind the required action of “tap” and ushering in a new paradigm for guest interactions.

Some of its benefits will:

• streamline and expedite the port embarkation and disembarkation process

• allow guests to access their staterooms as they approach the door (no keycard required)

• locate friends and family around the cruise ship

• enable guests to purchase merchandise without any transaction, cards or paper

• deliver enhanced dining experiences based on food and beverage preferences

• power an array of interactive gaming and immersive entertainment experiences

• significantly enhance interactions with crew members and guests.

“With this interactive technology platform, we are poised to have our global cruise line brands at the vanguard of forever changing the guest experience paradigm – not just in the cruise industry but in the larger vacation market and potentially other industries,” said Carnival Corporation’s Donald. “Our focus is on exceeding guest expectations every single day and consistently delivering great experiences, and we do that extremely well. Now we are in prime position to take the guest experience to a level never before considered possible and build on cruising’s popularity and value as the fastest growing segment of the vacation sector.”

The Ocean Medallion is the only accessory needed to elevate the guest experience before, during and after each cruise in what the company is calling Ocean Medallion Class.

The Ocean Medallion pairs with an optional personalized digital concierge called the Ocean Compass, a digital experience portal available online, on smart devices, on kiosks in home ports, on stateroom TVs, on interactive surfaces located throughout the cruise ship and on devices carried by all guest service hosts.

Both innovations combine with an invisible network of proprietary sensors and computing devices embedded throughout the ship, home ports and destinations that collectively form the “Experience Innovation Operating System” – xiOS.

The proprietary xiOS uses a guest-centric, Internet of Things approach to enable guests to maximize their experiences in real-time based on their choices and preferences – delivering enhanced personalization across every aspect of their cruise vacation. The xiOS seamlessly leverages hardware and software to enable all experiences including access, lodging, food and beverage, entertainment, retail, navigation, payment and media.

The new guest experience platform will debut on Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess in November 2017, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in 2018. The new Medallion Class on Princess Cruises will be rolled out over multiple years on the entire Princess Cruises fleet.

The guest experience platform is a key element of O·C·E·A·N™ or One Cruise Experience Access Network™, a bold new effort by Carnival Corporation focused on expanding the cruise vacation market through guest experience innovation, the development of original experiential media content that includes new TV programs airing on national TV, and expanding its portfolio of exclusive and unique destinations.

Ocean Medallion Class leverages multiple technologies that work together to transform guest experience

Key elements include:

“Ocean Medallion” – a revolutionary, “wearable” device that enables a highly personalized vacation experience

The Ocean Medallion is a quarter-sized, 1.8-ounce disc that facilitates the enhanced guest experience. It has no discernible technology – no on-off switch, no charging, no menu to navigate – and can be worn as a pendant on a wristband in a clip or simply placed in a pocket to reveal enhanced services and personalized experiences without guests having to push a button or take any action. The device, laser-etched with the guest’s name, ship and date of sailing, is provided to all passengers at no cost. Inside each guest’s Ocean Medallion are multiple communication technologies including – Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

“Ocean Compass” – a digital concierge that creates the ultimate vacation experience

Ocean Medallion works in conjunction with Ocean Compass, a digital experience portal that serves as a vacation concierge before, during and after vacation. The Ocean Compass requires no education or instruction thanks to its intuitive, innovative interface. Ocean Compass is available online, on smart devices, on kiosks in port terminals, on stateroom TVs, on interactive surfaces located throughout the cruise ship and on devices carried by crew members. Guests can use Ocean Compass to enhance their vacations, select experiences and create personalized event-based itineraries. No guest is required to have a personal device to access Ocean Compass. The Ocean Compass also serves as a digital media platform that features custom experiential media content as well as access to vacation photos captured during a cruise.

xiOS - Experience Innovation Operating System – “IOT” intelligent sensor network – powers experience personalization from behind the scenes

The xiOS is an invisible network of interactive intelligent sensors and embedded devices mounted throughout the ship, home ports and destinations that uses a guest-centric, Internet of Things approach to enable a seamless guest experience. The xiOS unifies hardware and software to create an “Experience Platform.” The platform is deployable on any ship regardless of ship age or size.

Technology-enabled innovations create a new level of personalized guest service interactions.

“The Ocean Medallion creates an elevated level of service that’s made possible by technology but doesn’t feel like technology,” said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation. “Whether guests are exploring new experience options, having a drink delivered to their seat at the night’s show or trying their luck gaming while lounging poolside, we will assist our guests wherever they are, while engaging with them in a uniquely personal way. Our mission is to help our guests make the most of every moment of their vacation.”

Throughout each guest’s vacation, the Ocean Medallion will enable ease and simplicity, while also creating special moments to delight guests in unexpected ways, creating an entirely new level of service that will elevate the vacation experience. Examples of never- before-possible service innovations include:

– Ocean Ready: Streamlined and expedited port embarkation and disembarkation processes. For instance, at the terminal, Ocean Medallion-carrying guests can board the ship, engage with crew members and begin their vacation at their leisure as they already have the “key” to their stateroom (no check-in required).

– Easy Access to Everything: Allows guests to browse and purchase products (utilizing Medallion Pay) such as retail merchandise, photos, spa services and destination excursions both intuitively and conveniently from any Ocean Compass (mobile device, browser, stateroom, public) at anytime (before, during or after cruise).

– Seamless Navigation: Enables point-to-point wayfinding across the ship thanks to an intelligent navigation assistant – similar to a car or phone GPS app.

– Personalized Dining: Facilitates ordering, menu exploration and delivery of food and beverage services. Guests can even place orders and view the whereabouts of their food and beverage, as well as place future orders and have them delivered wherever they plan to be at a designated time.

– Anytime-Anywhere Entertainment and Gaming: Expands gaming options to include new digital games guests can play independently or with others, for fun or based on casino rules of the house, inside or outside of the casino including poolside, in staterooms or in any other ship location.

– Enhanced Crew Interactions: Takes personalized service to a new level because crew members are equipped with a Crew Compass that empowers personalized guest interactions. For example, when guests arrive at the airport, guest service hosts will be able to provide personalized greetings and guest services.

– Easy Payment: Enables guests to conveniently and securely make payment for experiences using their Ocean Medallion. Guests can associate any number of credit cards, reward cards, gift cards and advanced payment services with Medallion Pay.

Carnival Corporation will demonstrate its Experience Innovation Operating System at the company’s invitation-only Experience Center at CES Tech East, LVCC, South Hall 3, including in-depth and interactive displays of the new technology.

Fincantieri preferred bidder in the sale of STX France

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Fincantieri S.p.A. announces that it has received a letter from Samil PricewaterhouseCoopers, advisor appointed by STX Europe, with the notification that it has been selected as preferred bidder in the sale of the 66.66% stake in STX France SA.

STX France is a major cruise shipbuilder, which has several ships in its orderbook for MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

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