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Aurora Expeditions to charter first SunStone newbuild

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Aurora Expeditions, Australia’s leading polar adventure cruising company, has today announced the delivery of its first brand new, purpose-built, expedition vessel.

With 25 years’ experience in expedition cruising to Antarctica and the Arctic, Aurora Expeditions has worked closely with US-based ship provider SunStone Ships Inc. to create a custom-designed ship that remains true to the company’s ethos of pioneering adventures, intimate experiences with nature and exploring new regions.

The state-of-the-art ice class 1A ship will be built to the latest polar code specifications, offering unprecedented levels of safety and environmental protection – for operations not just in the high latitudes, but across the planet. Exclusively designed for expedition cruising, the 104-metre vessel will allow Aurora Expeditions to continue to provide the authentic, small-ship experience for which they are renowned.

“With the development of our purpose-built expedition ship, we stay true to our small-ship philosophy where the focus is on the experience and engagement with the environment while at the same time providing the most comfortable form of travel in these challenging environments. In the polar regions, we will have the ability to reduce passenger numbers so we can continue to visit existing landings sites as well as explore new areas where strict regulations enforce no more than 100 people ashore at any one time.” says Robert Halfpenny, Managing Director of Aurora Expeditions.

Aurora Expeditions’ new ship will be the first in a new series of high-performance vessels designed to make the ocean- going experience as safe and comfortable as possible in the polar regions.

“We are excited to be the first to market with this exciting new design. The vessel is the first to use the patented X-BOW technology which has the ability to pierce waves with much greater stability, making open sea journeys – like Antarctica’s notorious Drake Passage – more pleasant for passengers than what is currently available from other small ships on the market today.” Halfpenny says.

While a traditional bow vessel rises on the waves and then drops violently onto the surface of the water, an X-BOW vessel, less subject to the vertical motions induced by the waves, continues on course more smoothly, while maintaining its speed. Because it uses less fuel to get through the waves, it also helps to save energy versus a conventional bow designed vessel.

Aurora Expeditions’ new ship will make access to nature easier and offer passengers a more comfortable experience than ever before. It will also allow for greater adventure opportunities with a custom-designed platform to cater for additional numbers of kayakers and divers, and a mud room for easier preparation for climbers and skiers. Small inflatable Zodiac crafts will continue to carry expeditioners between ship and shore, with a dedicated sea-level Zodiac loading platform for quick and easy boarding.

In between adventures, passengers will return to the warm, friendly and inclusive onboard atmosphere for which Aurora Expeditions is well-known. Whether it’s making new friends over dinner, sharing entertaining lectures, or briefings in the lounge, the small-group experience remains the same. Add to this private bathroom facilities, cabin balconies, a 180- degree indoor observation deck, wellness facilities including gymnasium, sauna and spa, and plenty of outdoor viewing areas for additional enjoyment and comfort.

At a time when the cruising industry is focused on 6-star luxury and onboard activities to attract passengers, Aurora Expeditions remains steadfast in its belief that its destinations are best-experienced in small groups, as close as possible to the heart of nature. This means getting off the ship as often as possible with multiple daily landings and getting amongst the action; seeing up close penguin adults feeding their chicks, polar bears hunting seals on pack ice or Galapagos sea turtles diving for a meal.

The yet-to-be-named ship will be delivered in time for Aurora Expeditions’ 2019/2020 Antarctic season (November to March) and will complement the company’s existing fleet of vessels and destinations. Itineraries for the new ship are expected for release later this year.

TUI interim loss deepens but cruises perform well

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

TUI AG, the German tour operator that is listed in London, has reported a deeper operating loss for second quarter of its financial year, but says its cruise operations in Germany and the UK perform well.

Operating loss (EBITDA) of continuing operations deepened to €82.1 million in the three months to 31 march from €45.6 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenues rose to €3.10 billion from €2.97 billion.

Underlying EBITDA of the group’s cruise operations that comprise 100% of Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten in Germany, Thomson Cruises in the UK and 50% of TUI Cruises in Germany, rose to €47.0 million from€37.0 million.

Thomson Cruises was included in the cruise operations of TUI for the first time – previously it had been part of the UK – and the second quarter 2016 figure was restated to include Thomson Cruises.

“In the Cruises segment, advance bookings were up year-on-year with sound demand levels, primarily due to continued fleet expansion,” the company said in a statement.

Demand for cruises remains buoyant in Germany, and TUI said it remains pleased with the performance of the TUI Cruises fleet. The company will introduce the 2500 passenger Mein Schiff 6 soon.

“Thomson Cruises continues its programme of modernisation with the launch of TUI Discovery 2. The 1,800 berth ship, recently acquired from Royal Caribbean, will be based in the Mediterranean this Summer before moving to the Caribbean for Winter 2017 / 18. We are pleased with sales for the new ship, as well as the performance of the rest of the Thomson Cruises fleet,” TUI said.



NCLH slightly raises 2017 guidance to EPS of $3.79 to $3.89, but warns of China uncertainties

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH), the world’s third largest cruise shipping group, has slightly raised its guidance for full year 2017 earnings per share (EPS) and it forecasts a record result for the year.

However, a senior company official warned about the possible negative impact of tension between China and South Korea to operations of Norwegian Joy, the company’s latest ship that is tailored to the Chinese source market.

“The Company expects to generate record earnings for full year 2017 and has increased its outlook, with Adjusted EPS now expected to be in the range of $3.79 to $3.89,” NCLH said in a statement. When the company published its final quarter and full year 2016 results, it forecast 2017 EPS in the range of $3.75 to $3.85. In 2016, the figure came at $2.78.

“2017 full year Adjusted Net Yield growth guidance on a Constant Currency basis increased 100 basis points to 2.75%,” the company added.

“A strong end to the most successful Wave season in recent history resulted in a meaningful improvement in our full year booked position, with both occupancy and pricing now well ahead of prior year," said Wendy Beck, executive vice president and chief financial officer of NCLH

 "I am pleased to report that the strong performance witnessed in our core markets and reflected in first quarter results also extended to our booked business in future quarters, allowing us to increase our full year Adjusted EPS and Adjusted Net Yield growth guidance,” she said.

 “This positive momentum has been partially offset by recent uncertainties in Norwegian Joy's Chinese source market caused by the South Korea travel restriction. Taking all factors into account, we are on track to deliver another year of solid financial performance and double-digit Adjusted EPS growth," she concluded

NCLH first quarter profit falls as costs rise faster than yields

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH), the third largest cruise shipping company in the world, has reported a fall in first quarter profit as costs rose faster than yields.

Net profit fell to $61.9 million from $73.2 million in the first three months of last year, while operating profit also fell, to $119.7 million from $131.2 million. Revenues rose to $1.16 billion from $1.08 billion.

The company said gross yield increased 5.7% while adjusted net yield improved 5.5% on a constant currency basis and 4.9% on an as reported basis.

Gross cruise cost increased 7.9% compared to 2016 due to an increase in total cruise operating expense and marketing, general and administrative expenses. Gross cruise costs per capacity day increased 6.8%.

Adjusted net cruise cost excluding fuel per capacity day increased 5.8% on both a constant currency and as reported basis primarily due to an increase in maintenance and repairs including dry dock and crew payroll and related costs.

Fuel price per metric ton, net of hedges increased 3.4% to $453 from $438 in 2016. The Company reported fuel expense of $88.9 million in the period. In addition, a loss of $0.4 million was recorded in other expense in 2017 related to the ineffective portion of the Company's fuel hedge portfolio due to market volatility.

Interest expense, net decreased to $53.0 million in 2017 from $59.8 million in 2016 reflecting a decrease in average debt outstanding partially offset by an increase in LIBOR rates.

The company also booked another expense of $2.8 million in 2017 compared to income of $2.8 million in 2016. In 2017, the expense was primarily related to losses on foreign currency exchange and unrealized and realized losses on derivatives. In 2016, the income was primarily related to unrealized gains on derivatives partially offset by realised losses on derivatives and losses on foreign currency exchange.

"2017 is off to a solid start with strong first quarter results which include record revenue of $1.2 billion for the quarter," said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

"The operating environment has remained favourable with strong close-in demand for Caribbean sailings and strength in onboard revenue driving topline growth above expectations," continued Del Rio.


Lindblad first quarter net profit takes sharp dive on voyage cancellations

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Lindblad Expeditions, the lised US based expedition cruise and travel company, has reported a sharp fall in net profit for the first three months of the year due to technical problems that forced the company to cancel cruises..

Net profit dived to $0.6 million from $10.5 million in the same period last year, while revenues rose slightly, to $63.1 million from $61.6 million.

The increase in revenues was primarily due to contributions from Natural Habitat, which was acquired in May 2016, mostly offset by lower Lindblad segment revenues due in large part to an estimated $9.1 million impact from voyage cancellations.

“These voyage cancellations included four highly booked expeditions on the National Geographic Orion to repair the engine and the cancellation of two highly booked expeditions on the National Geographic Sea Lion to repair the air conditioning system. Excluding the impact of these voyage cancellations, the Company estimates that total Company tour revenue would have increased 17% to $72.3 million,” Lindblad said in a statement.

The company forecast full year revenues to grow by 14% to 16% to up to $281 million and EBITDA to rise between 12% and 17% to up to $49 million.

“This outlook includes the estimated $9.1 million revenue impact and estimated $6.5 million adjusted EBITDA impact associated with the cancellation of four voyages on the National Geographic Orion and two voyages on the National Geographic Sea Lion for necessary repairs, Lindblad said.

As of 1 May 1,  the Lindblad segment had 92% of full year 2017 projected guest ticket revenues on the books versus 93% of full year 2016 revenue at the same time last year. The Company also continues to anticipate it will achieve its long-range revenue and adjusted EBITDA targets, it added.