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Australis to order replacement vessel

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Alan Lam reports

Australis, the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego expedition cruise specialist, has confirmed that it is to build new vessel to replace its 130 passenger capacity Via Australis, which has recently been sold to Lindblad Expeditions and will leave its fleet at the end of the current season.

The sale of its smaller unit will leave the small cruise line with just one ship, the 2010-built Stella Australis, which has the capacity for 210 passengers. It was always the intention of the company to replace the vessel. Now it has confirmed that this will take place by the end of 2017.

The new ship will have more cabins, according to Australis, and comparable to Stella Australis in capacity.

Australis is the latest niche operator to order smaller tonnage. What has become clear is that the future capacity issue in the expedition cruise segment is beginning to be addressed. Only recently we learnt that both Lindblad and Scenic had ordered small newbuildings.

This development reflects the continuous growth in the expedition cruise market and the confidence in the demand to go on rising in the coming years. It also presents an opportunity, albeit still a small one, for smaller cruise ship builders.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders will construct the Lindblad units. Uljanik of Croatia will build Scenic’s 228 passenger ship. Stella Australis was built by the ASENAV shipyard in Chile.

Norwegian Cruise Line launches $400 million program to enhance the guest experience

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Norwegian Cruise Line revealed today The Norwegian Edge, an innovative program that promises to introduce a new standard of excellence that encompasses the entire guest experience, from ship hardware to culinary enhancements and exclusive private destination development. The Norwegian Edge reflects a significant two-year $400 million investment by the company through 2017 and demonstrates the line’s commitment to exceptional quality and extraordinary experiences. The centerpiece of the program is an extensive ship refurbishment initiative that will elevate the experience on board the Norwegian fleet to this new standard.

“Norwegian has a long history of investing in its fleet to offer guests the latest and greatest innovations, but the investment to raise our ships to The Norwegian Edge standard of excellence takes it to new levels,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line president and chief operating officer. “The new standards of The Norwegian Edge program will entice our guests to return again and again to ships that will look and feel as if they were just delivered, with all new menus and new dining experiences, visiting incredible exclusive destinations that reflect the quality finishes, amenities and outstanding service found across the Norwegian fleet.”

The Norwegian Edge program seeks to create modern, relevant and delightful vacation experiences for guests at every turn—an approach that dovetails perfectly with the brand’s unique promise of freedom and flexibility, all which is showcased through Norwegian’s new marketing campaign, Feel Free.

Fleet enhancements

The extensive ship revitalization program at the heart of The Norwegian Edge will completely transform many spaces on board nine of the fleet’s ships to reflect the premium look and feel of the line’s newest and most spectacular ships. As the cruise line with the youngest fleet in North America, this extensive enhancement program will offer much more than the traditional soft goods décor updates and serve to make the line’s ships into essentially new vessels.

The refurbishment program began in October 2015 with a full refresh of Norwegian Epic that included the debut of brand new venues like The Cavern Club; complete restaurant makeovers in La Cucina and a new look for Cagney’s, Le Bistro, Moderno Churrascaria, The Manhattan Room and the Garden Café, now with a sleek and crisp white palette; and refreshed décor, furniture and flooring in many public spaces, including The Haven Courtyard, Lounge and Restaurant, for a more modern and clean design.

Norwegian Gem followed in November, debuting significant enhancements including a complete makeover of Bliss Lounge; extensive interior refurbishments; refreshing of décor including new furniture and new flooring in all specialty restaurants and several complimentary outlets, as well as bars and lounges, to reflect a more contemporary look; new pool deck furniture; interactive digital signage and wayfinding technology; new teak flooring throughout outdoor spaces and corridors of upper decks; and upgrades to The Haven Courtyard and Sundeck with a new look including more shaded areas, cabanas and lounge chairs.

Throughout the course of the refurbishment program, a total of seven additional ships will go into dry dock for both guest-facing and technical enhancements: Pride of America and Norwegian Sun in spring 2016; Norwegian Dawn in summer 2016; Norwegian Spirit , Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Pearl in winter 2017; and Norwegian Jade in spring 2017.

Culinary program

As the innovator of freedom and flexibility at sea with no set dining times and up to 28 dining options per vessel, Norwegian understands that dining is central to guests’ vacation experience. Therefore, the line is continuing to expand investment in the onboard culinary program, to create exceptional experiences, from gourmet meals to superb service.

New for 2016, all ships in Norwegian’s fleet now offer upgraded complimentary dining room menus and the addition of optional à la carte priced items in the main dining rooms, such as grilled lobster tails and surf and turf entrees, providing guests additional choice and tastes to create their ultimate dining experience. The new complimentary dining menus offer an increased variety – featuring appetizers, soups and salads, featured entrees, and dessert – and have been carefully developed by Norwegian’s culinary team with a focus on balancing popular traditional dishes like prime rib, chateaubriand, rack of lamb and escargot with current dining trends and heightened guest expectations. New offerings include more seafood selections such as fresh grouper, along with contemporary dishes like shrimp ceviche, seared Atlantic scallops with fennel puree, and braised beef short ribs.

Beginning on January 31, Norwegian will also be expanding the new specialty dining menus that debuted on Norwegian Escape across the fleet. The introduction of these new enhanced menus at the line’s signature specialty restaurants - Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro and La Cucina - along with new offerings at Moderno Churrascaria and Teppanyaki, will further elevate guests dining experience by providing additional choices and new flavors. The menus include traditional French favorites at Le Bistro such as Bouillabaisse, Pan-Seared Jumbo Bay Scallops and Veal Medallions with Sauce Morrel, and a more robust menu at La Cucina featuring antipasti, risotto and traditional secondi courses like Osso Buco alla Milanese or Pan-Seared Sea Bass Filet. These new menus will be offered on Norwegian Breakaway as of January 31; Norwegian Getaway on February 14; Norwegian Epic on March 6; Pride of America after her dry dock on March 15; Norwegian Gem on April 1; and Norwegian Dawn after her dry dock in June.

In addition to the new menus, Norwegian is also further expanding training and certification for the fleet’s culinary and dining teams. All Executive Chefs, Executive Sous Chefs and other culinary staff are certified by American Culinary Federation (ACF). Established in 1929, ACF is the premier professional chefs’ organization in North America with more than 17,500 members in nearly 200 chapters nationwide. In addition to excellence in the kitchen, the line’s certified service training program has been expanded to include all guest-facing positions and three new training and development centers have opened across the globe to help train crew members prior to boarding ships, so they are immediately able to provide excellent service as soon as they step onboard.

Guests should also expect to see the expansion of popular existing partnerships with culinary experts for food and beverage outlets on board. More details and specific information will be shared closer to each ship’s dry dock date.

Destination experiences

Norwegian has further expanded plans for the line’s privately-owned destinations including the development of the Caribbean’s premier resort-style experience at Harvest Caye, Belize.This spectacular resort-style port of call will feature an expansive pool, exclusive beach, shallow lagoon for watersports, private luxury cabanas and many more exciting features, all in the richest ecosystems in the region with a diversity of flora and fauna that is core to the Harvest Caye experience.

Considerable new features are also in store for the line’s private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay. The island was recently enhanced in 2014 and will debut several new offerings and high quality amenities for guests by spring 2017. Specific details will be announced later this year, and guests should expect to find experiences on the island that complement those found on board Norwegian’s ships, including private spaces, luxury relaxation areas, multiple food and beverage outlets and interactive activities.

Regent Seven Seas announces $125 million fleet-wide renovation program

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced today plans for an extensive, $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment program. Beginning with Seven Seas Navigator this spring, the public spaces and suites to be refurbished will feature the same elegant style and undisputable attention to detail famously featured on Seven Seas Explorer, providing guests with a consistent look-and-feel, no matter which Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship they choose to sail.

The two-year $125 million investment includes significant renovations of most public spaces along with a complete redesign of all categories of suites. Seven Seas Navigator, the line’s most intimate ship carrying just 490-guests, will be the first to receive this luxurious upgrade, followed by Seven Seas Voyager in late 2016 and Seven Seas Mariner in the spring of 2017.

Seven Seas Navigator will emerge essentially a brand new ship following the upcoming dry dock, with all suite categories, all lounges, the library, casino, boutiques, reception area, and signature restaurants Compass Rose and La Veranda having recently been completely renovated.

“Seven Seas Navigator is one of our most beloved ships, so it’s fitting that she is the first to undergo this extraordinary refurbishment,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “These renovations will bring a new level of elegance to the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, strengthening our position as the undisputed leader in luxury cruising, operating the most luxurious ships at sea.”

The refurbishments on Seven Seas Navigator comprise the first phase of the $125 million renovation project. The ship’s renovations will commence when it enters dry dock in Marseille, France on March 31. The project will be completed by April 13, when the ship embarks on the 10-night Flawless French Riviera voyage from Barcelona to Rome, with calls across Spain, France, Monaco and Italy.

Some highlights of the upcoming Seven Seas Navigator refurbishment include:

– Navigator Suite: The spacious Navigator Suite will be updated with a fresh new design, featuring a crisp and elegant look. The bedroom features the new custom-made Elite Slumber Bed, dressed in luxurious 100% cotton sateen bedding. In both the bedroom and living room, an ebony-black wooden vanity with white marble top stretches the length of the room, harmonizing beautifully with the sultry green and yellow accent furniture, draperies and new carpeting.

– Penthouse, Concierge and Deluxe Suites: The largest collection of suites onboard the ship will receive a luxurious new look. The contemporary design accentuates the spaciousness of the suites. A stunning padded leather headboard supports the Elite Slumber Bed in the bedroom and the sitting area features a plush sofa with stylish accent table and new artwork.

– Reception Area: Guests’ first exposure to the renovations will take place in the completely-redesigned reception area, where contemporary and classical design elements seamlessly meet. Marble inlay flooring replete with a compass-like design and polished stone walls with metal inlays guides guests to the dark wooden reception desk. Illuminating the reception area is gypsum diamond cut lighting fixture embedded in the oval alabaster ceiling, evoking stylish elegance.

– Compass Rose: The ship’s flagship restaurant will be grander and more resplendent than ever before. Throughout the spacious, 384-seat dining room are subtle geometric patterns underscored by silver leaf, pewter and antique bronze elements. A beautifully ornate silver-leaf feature wall highlights one end of the dining room, while oversized windows run along both sides of the restaurant to provide incredible ocean vistas. Grand crystal chandeliers are enhanced by recessed ceiling lights, providing a dramatic dining experience for guests seated at intimate tables ringed by sleek leather chairs adorned with swirls of celestial blue fabric.

– La Veranda: Effortlessly chic, La Veranda will feature a fresh and airy design that is accentuated by a wealth of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows that encircle the restaurant. Guests can enjoy casual indoor and al fresco dining with incredible ocean views, and dine from a delectable buffet for breakfast and lunch. Each evening, the restaurant transforms into an elegant fine dining restaurant, Sette Mari La Veranda, for dinner.

– Galileo Lounge: True to its name, the Galileo Lounge on Deck 11 conveys a celestial feel, beginning with its tempered glass double-door entrance trimmed with an abstract design reminiscent of the solar system and featuring a decorative sun-shaped handle. That theme extends inside the 132-seat cocktail lounge, where a night-black oval-shaped ceiling twinkling with fiber-optic “stars” overlooks the inlaid wooden dance floor. Guests can be immersed in the action, or retreat to high-backed wing chairs that line the room’s windows.

– Navigator Lounge / Coffee Connection: By day, these intimate Deck 6 venues – connected by a central walkway – are bathed in natural light from a bank of windows overlooking the sea. The new design and furnishings enhance that airy look, with cream-colored fabrics on chairs and draperies, and white marble topped tables with hammered copper accents. By night, the Navigator Lounge transforms into a small night club, with a Steinway piano as the centerpiece. Adding to the elegance are leather-wrapped columns with a copper-topped capital and dark wooden base.

– Library: The bright yet intimate library exudes comfort and charm. From its faux fireplace to cream-colored sofas resting atop a glistening marble floor, the room is reminiscent of a library found in a residential estate home. Ringing the room are dark wood book shelves encased in glass, while a glistening, copper-adorned chandelier serves as the room’s glistening centerpiece. It’s the ideal spot for reading and quiet reflection.

Following the dry dock, Seven Seas Navigator will spend the summer traversing the Mediterranean and late fall in South Africa. In 2017, Seven Seas Navigator will offer Navigate the World, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ first world cruise in six years. Beginning and ending in Miami, the cruise will circumnavigate the globe in 128 nights, calling on six continents, 31 countries, 62 distinct ports and exploring 29 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

MSC Cruises suspends calls at Turkish ports after Istanbul terrorist attack on 17 January

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

MSC Cruises, the Swiss-based world’s fourth largest cruise line announced today that it has decided to suspend its calls in Turkish ports until further notice.

The decision will impact MSC Magnifica’s itinerary as the ship will be based out of Venice, Italy as of 26 March. "The weekly calls in the cities of Istanbul and Izmir from 29 March 2016 will, for the time being, be replaced by calls in the Greek capital – Athens – and on Mykonos, one of the most popular and glamorous Greek isles," MSC Cruises said.

“This decision was taken by the Company amid growing concerns by guests as a result of the recent tragic events in Istanbul,” the company said in a statement. Ten people were killed at the suicide bomb attack on 17 January.

48th MedCruise General Assembly to be held in Odessa

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Alan Lam reports

The next MedCruise General Assembly will be held on 22-25 June 2016 in Odessa, Ukraine.

This will be the 48th edition of the assembly, which will be the occasion to celebrate of the 20 years of the organisation.

During the four-day gathering, which is held twice a year and at six-monthly intervals, MedCruise port and associated member representatives, together with the press and other cruise industry guests will discuss issues and the latest developments in the sector, as well as debating the implications and prospects of cruising in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas.

In line with the MedCruise tradition, the assembly will offer opportunities for B2B meetings, local excursions and interactive workshops with cruise line executives.

MedCruise is also known for its excellent research and cruise market reports. At each assembly the latest sets of performance figures and forecasts are presented and scrutinised.

One of the main aims of this extensive cruise industry association, as with others, is to explore growth opportunities through promoting cooperation.

As before, Cruise Business Review will be attending and reporting directly from it.

CBR 3/2015 contents

CBR 2/2015 contents

CBR 1/2015 contents