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SCG 2016 report - Industry captains discuss innovation and Cuba

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Alan Lam reporting from Fort Lauderdale

During the customary opening State of the Industry address at this year’s Seatrade Cruises Global, currently underway at Fort Lauderdale, the four industry captains – Arnold Donald of Carnival Corporation & plc, Frank Del Rio of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, Richard Fain of RCCL, and Pierfrancesco Vago of MSC Cruises – shared their views on innovation, differentiation and potentials of the Cuban market.

On innovation

While ‘differentiation’ is now the buzzword of the rapidly maturing industry, the definition of ‘innovation’, too, has diversified.

For Arnold Donald, the President of Carnival Corporation & plc, innovation is all about meeting guest expectations and providing them with emotional experiences associated with cruising. Moreover, “To be innovative means thinking outside of the box,” he said. “It is not just about ship size; it is not just about spaces; it is about passenger interactions and transformative experiences.”

Frank Del Rio, President of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., was more specific. “To me innovation means, firstly, understanding your customers,” he said, “secondly, it means what works for your brand; what differentiates your brand. Otherwise it will be a total flop.”

He also pointed out that innovation did not necessarily mean building new ships “I think the industry made the mistake of only looking at new ships,” he said. “You can be innovative with older ships, too. In future, we will adopt a more balance approach by maintaining the existing fleet to a higher standard and generate better yields with them.”

For Richard Fain, President of RCCL, innovation was something very important. “It defines us as an industry,” he said. “Innovation has nothing to do with ship sizes; you can be innovative here, there, and everywhere; big or small. Creativity is about ideas; innovation is putting them into action.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, broadly concurred with his peers. “Innovation means designing something totally new,” he said. “Innovation must concern with the experience of the passengers. We want to create a different experience. But innovation can be seen in many different ways.”

As the industry matures, it is becoming ever more important for the brands to be innovative in the face of increasing competition, shifting operational geography and the changing customer tastes. Different approaches to innovation can only mean more product differentiation and choices in the future.

On Cuba

Aside from redefining the concept of innovation, the four chiefs of the cruise industry shared their perspective stances on cruise business in Cuba. Arnold Donald saw opportunities beyond the boundaries of the island. “Cuba will benefit the entire Caribbean,” he said. “People will return to the Caribbean because of Cuba.” But there were still many hurdles to overcome particularly for the US-based cruise lines, chiefly among them, for example, US credits cards still could not be used in Cuba.

Frank Del Rio was critical of the US policy towards the maverick island nation. “After 55 years of failed strategy, something must change,” he said. “We have had a shorter Cold War with Russia than we do with Cuba, and we are now doing business with China. It is time to change. This is nothing more than a family feud.”

Cuba has every attraction available: beaches, culture and a rich architectural heritage. But in practice, according to Frank Del Rio, when Cuba eventually opens up completely, it will be a low-volume start because of its limitations.”

It is widely accepted assertion that Cuba will not have a negative impact on cruise business in the rest of the Caribbean. “In terms of its size Cuba is not going to divert too much traffic from other destinations,” said Richard Fain. “Its infrastructure will not be able to support that.”

Cuba will become a part of the differentiation process. Perhaps it will occupy a different niche on account of its unique characteristics. As more players enter this market, they will be forced to be innovative in order to thrive.

As a non-US cruise line, MSC is already off the starting blocks on the great Cuban race and reaping the enviable rewards. But, to maintain its market share in the long run, it will need to be innovative.

Fincantieri’s Vard in four ship deal with Ponant

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Fincantieri has announced that its subsidiary Vard Holdings Limited has signed a Letter of Intent with the French ship owner Ponant, a subsidiary of Artemis Group, for the construction of four small-sized luxury cruise vessels. “The Letter, subject to several conditions including satisfactory ship owner financing, marks the entrance of Vard in the cruise shipbuilding sector,” Fincantieri said in a statement.

Vard is a Norwegian company active in the design and shipbuilding of offshore and specialised vessels. These markets have suffered significantly in the past two years following the sharp fall in the price of oil and other commodities. Fincantieri owns 55.6% of the shares in Vard.

The four exploration cruise vessels will be 128 meters long, 18 meters wide, and will be approximately 10,000 gross tons. They will have a cruise speed of 15 knots and they can accommodate 180 passengers in 92 cabins with a 110-member crew. The deliveries are scheduled in Norway in the period summer 2018 to the summer 2019.

“The ships will be arranged with the very latest environmentally friendly technologies and with high class of luxury facilities on board. They will be able, due to their small size, to reach ports and destinations inaccessible to larger vessels. The interior fittings will be designed on a “human scale” with the utmost attention to detail,” Fincantieri said.

Fincantieri has built four ships for Ponant, the entire current feet of the French company.

Cindy D’Aoust Appointed As Cruise Lines International Association President and CEO

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced today that its Global Executive Committee has appointed Cindy D’Aoust as President and Chief Executive Officer effective immediately. D’Aoust joined CLIA in December 2014 and has served as CLIA’s Acting CEO and Executive Vice President of Membership and Operations. She will continue to oversee CLIA’s operations globally while working with the senior leadership team to propel the organization forward and work on behalf of all CLIA members.

D’Aoust brings more than two decades of experience in the hospitality and travel industries, including a leadership position at Meeting Professionals International, where she served as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing global operations, marketing and member services. She held other senior roles with Maxvantage and Maritz Travel.

“Cindy has proven to be an extremely valuable and knowledgeable member of our executive team. Her extensive experience in the hospitality and travel industries, combined with her leadership skills and passion for the cruise industry, made her the right person to guide our global industry association on an exciting journey forward.” said Adam M. Goldstein, Global CLIA Chairman and President & COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

In the role of President and CEO, D’Aoust will direct CLIA’s global team to successfully unify, represent, advocate and promote the common interests of the organization’s members and the global cruise industry. Among her top priorities is the commitment to unite the industry and create a stronger voice, making cruise travel the best vacation choice for every traveler around the world.

“I am honored to take on the official role of President and CEO of CLIA, representing Cruise Lines, Travel Agencies and Agents, and Executive Partners across the globe” said D’Aoust. “CLIA is a strong and well-respected organization with an impressive global team. Now more than ever, it is important for the cruise industry to collaborate and create a stronger global voice. I look forward to building on the organization’s current success and delivering on our mission to be the unified global organization that helps our members succeed by advocating, educating and promoting for the common interests of the cruise community.

Crystal Cruises announces polar yacht Crystal Endeavor

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Months after the successful launch of Crystal Yacht Cruises of the 62-guest Crystal Esprit, and in response to traveler’s feedback and enthusiasm, the “World’s Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line” is again upping the ante with the world’s first purpose-built polar class megayacht. Measuring 600 feet (183 meters) long, the 25,000 gross ton new build with 100 guest suites will be the largest and most spacious megayacht afloat.

During a special press event today at the annual SeaTrade Cruise Global convention in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Crystal’s President and CEO Edie Rodriguez announced the introduction of the line’s first-ever expedition megayacht, Crystal Endeavor, which will debut in August of 2018. Named after Captain James Cooks’ research ship “HMS Endeavour,” which discovered Australia and New Zealand nearly 250 years ago – the newly built vessel will be designed for global expedition in Arctic, Antarctic and tropical conditions.

“With Crystal Esprit, we discovered there are many guests, young and young at heart, who enjoy sports at sea and discovering remote islands, and as the interests and age of luxury travelers increasingly vary, we will continue to expand our collection of luxury travel options,” says Crystal president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez. “Luxury means something different to virtually everyone, and we strive to meet and exceed the wishes of the discerning modern luxury traveler. Crystal Endeavor will cater to a particularly daring audience, one who values luxurious comfort and amenities as much as life-changing adventures.”

The megayacht will be the first purpose-built Polar Code compliant yacht in the world with a PC6 Polar Class designation. As such, Crystal Endeavor will be able to cruise in Polar Regions during the summer and autumn in medium “first year” ice which may include old ice inclusions. She will also be fitted with the state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, with computer-controlled systems to automatically maintain the ship’s position with its own propellers and thrusters. This will enable the megayacht to float atop coral reefs and other underwater wonders without utilizing anchors, which can damage the terrain or other underwater wonders in waters too deep for anchors.

With the state-of-the-art offshore dynamic positioning technology, Crystal Endeavor will cruise in the Arctic; then follow the route of migrating whales along the coast of the Americas and Europe to Antarctica during the winter. Along the way, she will visit remote islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, which cruise ships seldom call or cannot access. With a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV, used extensively in the offshore industry), expedition cruises will also be organized to see sunken galleons, warships and passenger ships, such as the Titanic at 12,500 feet, and with dynamic positioning, she will just hover over deep sunken attractions without using anchors.

The 200-guest capacity Crystal Endeavor will offer extreme adventures by air, sea and land with a complete range of “toys” which are not commonly found on today’s megayachts, including two helicopters and two landing pads for flightseeing expeditions, as well as two, 7-person submarines, eight electric amphibious zodiacs, jet skis, wave runners, kayaks, fishing facilities, paddle boards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, recompression chamber, dive support tender and a multi-person ATV. To further deliver guest experiences distinct from any other expedition vessels, Crystal Endeavor will be equipped with SEABOBs – the world’s most technically advanced and powerful underwater scooter – that allows you to move gracefully underwater.

The standard guest suites will measure a minimum 400 square feet (including balcony), larger than all current expedition and luxury cruise ships, while the yacht’s two Owner Suites’ will each boast a whopping 3,122 square feet (1,615ft2 interior and 1,507ft2 balcony), making them the largest guest suites of any megayacht afloat. Owner Suites’ guests will enjoy a master bedroom and two guest bedrooms, indoor and outdoor living areas, private conservatory, garden and outdoor Jacuzzi, private spa and gym outfitted with sauna, steam room and treatment room. The Owners Suite can be connected to a penthouse suite (806ft2) for a combined square footage of 3,928 feet (2,227ft2 interior and 1,654ft2 balcony), - surpassing any current and future build accommodations at sea.

“Crystal Endeavor will absolutely set a new bar for expedition luxury travel,” says Rodriguez. “We have proven time and again that Crystal is the pioneer in luxury, and this megayacht will change the game entirely – the possibilities for expedition travelers will be virtually limitless.”

Crowning the megayacht will be Crystal’s signature Palm Court, which will offer 270-degree panoramic views for whale-watching and viewing other wildlife. Crystal Endeavor will boast a combined Spa and Conservatory space of a 10,000 square feet, featuring a full-service Spa, Yoga, Pilates, Salon and Wellness Center; Jacuzzis; and an infinity pool whose base can be lifted to be a dance floor or an alfresco dining area. The megayacht will also feature six dining options, as well several guest amenities including a 200-seat theatre; numerous lecture rooms; cinema; card room; and a computer center.

True to the Crystal trend of spacious public areas, the vessel will offer numerous indoor and outdoor areas for guests’ independent leisure and relaxation. Further, Crystal Endeavor will be all-inclusive and will offer the award-winning service for which Crystal has been celebrated for more than 25 years. The line’s acclaimed butler service will be available for all guests, as the megayacht will boast a one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio, with 200 crew members serving the 200 guests on board.

Crystal Endeavor will be built by the Lloyd Werft Group, a collection of four shipyards in Bremerhaven, Germany, which has built over a thousand vessels, including cruise ships, ice-breakers, and megayachts. Crystal Endeavor voyages will open for booking in late 2016. Steel cutting for the ship will begin May 2016 and Crystal will take delivery in August 2018.

Celebrity Cruises expands Galápagos Islands capacity 65 percent

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Celebrity Cruises has announced the planned acquisition of award-winning Galápagos Islands tour operator Ocean Adventures and its two ships, the 48-guest ship M/V Eclipse and the16-guest catamaran M/C Athala II. The move expands Celebrity's guest capacity in the Galápagos by 65 percent.

Ocean Adventures' 64 permits will grow the Galápagos fleet capacity for Celebrity, which has operated the 100-guest Celebrity Xpedition for more than a decade.

The expanded lineup means modern luxury travelers looking to experience the Galápagos Islands will be able to choose a ship whose size and intimacy suits their personal preference.

"Our guests use the most amazing words to describe their journeys to the Galapágos Islands, said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “They tell us the experience is 'once in a lifetime,' 'awe-inspiring,' even 'life-changing.' That's why we’ve made Celebrity Xpedition such a special experience, and why we are thrilled to expand our Galápagos program with these two intimate ships. We want to make more lifetime memories."

New choices, greater intimacy – and more destinations

The unique range of ship sizes creates more opportunities for regular cruises, group bookings and custom charters. The ships’ smaller sizes – 100, 48 or 16 guests – will also present an exceptionally intimate modern luxury experience.

“Our unique Galapagos fleet will offer an up-close look at the region’s breathtaking natural beauty, paired with Celebrity's highly intuitive service and award-winning cuisine,” Lutoff-Perlo said.

The new ships also make possible distinctive itineraries that feature an expanded list of destinations for Celebrity – like Puerto Villamil, Darwin Bay, Black Turtle Cove, Chinese Hat Islet, and Wall of Tears.

Guests can choose from a number of immersive explorations of the local culture, including local hotel stays, encounters with local residents, and unique tours. The fleet expansion also allows Celebrity’s guests to take advantage of new packages that celebrate the most breathtaking spots in Ecuador – such as the Andes Mountains – and Peru, where Machu Picchu and Amazon packages are enduringly popular.

The two vessels will join the Celebrity Cruises fleet in the spring of 2016, pending the closing of the acquisition deal. Until a January 2017 drydock, the ships will continue to offer the Ocean Adventures experience; after the refresh, the ships will sail as part of Celebrity Cruises’ fleet, and guests will enjoy Celebrity’s signature modern luxury elements. All existing Ocean Adventures’ bookings and reservation commitments will remain unchanged, both before and after the drydock.

Ben Dod, President of Ocean Adventures, said, “After 16 years of building Ocean Adventures into the one of the leading operators in the Galapagos Islands, we are proud to have caught the attention of a world-class cruise company like Celebrity and proud to be part of their ambitious plans to expand in the region. The MV Eclipse and MC Athala II are the best vessels in their class and we are delighted that both ships will continue to deliver an unequalled level of service and experience to guests.”

Protection and preservation

As part of its commitment to the Galápagos Islands, Celebrity rigorously follows guidelines set by local authorities to protect the assets of the Ecuadorian archipelago, including the robust kaleidoscope of flora and fauna found there, like giant tortoises, prehistoric iguanas and blue-footed boobies.

"The most extraordinary part of a Galápagos journey is truly the destination, which is one of the most important environmental places in the world," Lutoff-Perlo said. "It is our obligation to protect this sensitive and beautiful place, and to educate our guests about its amazing qualities. Permits to sail these waters are carefully rationed, and we are committed to doing our part to protect these islands for future generations."

As part of RCL's global commitment to help ensure the long-term health of the oceans and the destinations its ships visit, Celebrity has had a longtime commitment to conservation work to help preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources in the Galápagos Islands. Past and current projects include a reforestation effort in Galápagos National Park, programs to give residents access to medical care, agricultural development, and support for local fishing families.

The acquisition of Ocean Adventures is subject to customary closing conditions.

CBR 1/2016 contents

CBR 3/2015 contents

CBR 2/2015 contents