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First Chinese built cruise ship seen to enter service 2020

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

A Chinese company is planning to build the first cruise ship in the country, tapping booming demand, Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. said on Wednesday.

It said that it would build the ship with technical support from Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, with construction starting in 2017 and hopefully completing in 2020, the Xinhua news agency reports.

“Parent firm China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) along with the China Investment Corporation (CIC) will set up a joint venture with £2.6 billion with America's Carnival Cruise Lines to purchase the vessel,” the report said.

However, Carnival Corporation & plc said during the recent state visit of the Chinese president to London that Carnival plc, the British holding company in the Carnival Corporation & plc group, would form a joint venture with CSSC and CIC to set up a Chinese domestic cruise brand.

However, Carnival group has a separate agreement with Fincantieri and CSSC to develop cruise ship building in China.

“As China gets into building cruise liners, it will focus on making luxury ships weighing more than 100,000 tonnes,” Chen Jun, vice manager of Shanghai Waigaoqiao, was quoted by Xinhua as saying. However, the size of cruise liners is usually measured in gross tons that is a measurement of volume, not weight.

The design of the new ship will incorporate traditional Chinese elements, with the total cost running to $1 billion Chen said.

By the time the liner is delivered in 2020, it is expected that 4.5 million Chinese will be taking cruise vacations and that the number will grow nearly four-fold over the following decade.

China will then become one of the world's largest markets for cruise travel and need five new cruise ships a year to meet demand.

The world currently needs 13 new cruise ships each year. Seven of them will replace older ships while the other six are for meeting increased demand for cruise travel, according to Chen.

"The world needs more shipbuilders as existing ones cannot take orders for cruise liners beyond those slated for delivery in 2022," he added.

Christian Schönrock appointed as new Vice President Newbuilding Costa Group

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Effective December 1, 2015, Christian Schönrock is taking up the position of Vice President Newbuilding Costa Group. In this newly created role he takes over the responsible for all newbuilding projects of the brands of the Costa Group: Costa, Costa Asia and AIDA Cruises and reports directly to Michael Thamm, CEO Costa Group.

“The New Building department has a key strategic role for the Costa Group. With our next ship generation we are setting a new trend for the whole industry, environmentally innovative and offering amazing features on board to ensure competitive advantage and sustainable growth”, said Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group. “Since last year Christian Schönrock and his team are developing the new common platform the Costa Group newbuilds - the first ever cruise ships powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).”

Christian Schönrock has been with AIDA Cruises since 1995. Starting with the first newbuild AIDAcara, he has been involved in all newbuilding projects for AIDA Cruises. As Director Newbuildings he successfully launched the seven ships of the AIDA Sphinx class, built at the Meyer Werft Papenburg, Germany. From 2009 onwards he and his team developed the next AIDA ships generation, which are under construction at MHI Nagasaki, Japan. AIDAprima, the first of the two sister ships currently under construction in Japan will start on April 30, 2016, from Hamburg its first seven-day round-trip voyages visiting the metropolises of Western Europe.

Viking Ocean Cruises expands to North American waters next year

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Viking Ocean Cruises yesterday announced that the line will expand its destination-focused cruising to North America and the Caribbean with five new itineraries launching in September 2016. As a nod to the most famous Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson, who set foot on North American soil 500 years before Columbus, Viking Star will also cross the North Atlantic – with a new itinerary that sails from Bergen to Montreal, with stops in the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. From Montreal, the award-winning ship will cruise the St. Lawrence River and down the coast of New England to New York, during the peak period of fall foliage in October. Viking Star will then make her way down the Eastern seaboard to San Juan, Puerto Rico, which will serve as her homeport for winter Caribbean itineraries. The ship will return to Europe in February 2017, with a transatlantic sailing from San Juan to Barcelona.

“We have always had a vision to reinvent ocean cruising – to bring destinations back to the forefront of the itinerary and to build ships that are designed to help our guests better explore their destinations,” said Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises. “We launched our ocean cruises in Europe earlier this year, and just as the Viking explorers before us, we are now looking across the Atlantic for new discoveries. Our new itineraries in North America and the Caribbean will offer travelers experiences that broaden their horizons both on and off the ship.”

New North America & Caribbean itineraries

Created in part to honor early Viking trade routes beyond Scandinavia, Viking’s new North American itineraries will allow guests to sail the North Atlantic and visit original Norse settlement sites that date back more than 1,000 years. Viking’s Caribbean itineraries will provide an alternative to the cruises typically offered in the region – with more time in port and experiences that go beyond the iconic and expected. Highlights from the new program include:

In the Wake of the Vikings (15 days; Bergen to Montreal) – Trace the route of Viking Leif Eriksson, setting off from his homeland, Norway, sailing from the old mercantile city of Bergen to the rustic Shetland Islands of Scotland the Faroe Islands, once home to the Viking Parliament. Witness the magnificent natural beauty of Iceland and Greenland; then, as Eriksson before you, land at Newfoundland, where L’Anse aux Meadows reveals evidence of Norse settlements. Sail on to Quebec, with explorations of Saguenay and Quebec City, before arriving in Montreal. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $6,499 per person. Sailing Date: September 18, 2016.

Eastern Seaboard Explorer (13 days; Montreal to New York) – Witness the shores of Canada and New England come alive with fall’s vibrant hues during this once-annual sailing. From cosmopolitan Montreal, cruise the St. Lawrence River to French-flavored Quebec City. Learn about Canada’s colonial past in Saguenay and about its Scottish and Acadian heritage on Prince Edward Island and in Halifax. An overnight in Boston gives you ample time to visit its historic treasures. Then, enjoy a rare crossing of the Cape Cod Canal en route to New York City, where you’ll experience the highlights of Manhattan. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $4,999 per person. Sailing Date: October 2, 2016.

Eastern Seaboard to the West Indies (15 days; New York to San Juan) – Trace the Atlantic seaboard of the United States into the Caribbean, calling on an array of vibrant capitals and lush islands. An overnight in exhilarating New York City lets you take in its dazzling sights. Then explore Newport’s grand mansions and Baltimore’s historic riches. Immerse yourself in colonial Jamestown from our port in Norfolk, and enjoy an overnight stay amid the coastal beauty of Port Everglades. Then explore the lush and lively Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos, Antigua and St. Thomas. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $4,999 per person. Sailing Date: October 14, 2016.

West Indies Explorer (11 days; San Juan to San Juan) – After time to explore the colonial treasures of San Juan, Puerto Rico, immerse yourself in the British, French and Dutch cultures of the Lesser Antilles. Take in the steep green hills of Tortola and Antigua. Explore settlement towns on St. Lucia and Barbados. Witness the rainforest beauty of Guadeloupe and the rich past of St. Kitts. And marvel at the French and Dutch sides of St. Martin and the splendid vistas of St. Thomas. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $2,999 per person. Sailing Dates: October 28, November 7, December 17 and December 27, 2016; January 6, January 16, January 26, February 5 and February 15, 2017.

West Indies to Iberia (18 days; San Juan to Barcelona) – Embark in colonial San Juan, and call upon the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Then, enjoy a leisurely six-day trans-Atlantic crossing, savoring the offerings onboard Viking Star. You’ll make landfall on the garden-draped Portuguese island of Madeira and visit the French-inflected Moroccan city of Casablanca before exploring Spain in Cádiz, Valencia and finally, Barcelona. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $3,299. Sailing Date: February 25, 2017.

HNA ceases cruise operation in China

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Alan Lam reports

Three years after its launch, HNA Tourism & Yacht management Co. Ltd., the first cruise ship and yacht management company in Mainland China, has decided to suspend its cruise operation in China.

The company’s only vessel, the 1986-built Henna, completed its last 5-night itinerary to Japan and returned to Shanghai with 1,000 passengers on board on 17 November. The ship left its Shanghai homeport on 27 November and is currently at anchor near Zhoushan (舟山).

Launched in 2012, the company is a subsidiary of the HNA Group, a major aviation, tourism and capital management conglomerate based in China with an extensive network of assets and partners around the world.

HNA has been one of the two Chinese domestic cruise brands. The company cited “decision by shareholders” to redefine its business areas as the reason for this cessation. It will however continue to be involved in cruise tourism in other capacities, such as a sales agent.

Based in Shanghai, Henna has undertaken cruises mainly to Taiwan and Japan. The company’s operation has not been smooth since its inaugural sailing in 2013. In September of the same year, the ship was impounded in Jeju, South Korea, with 2,300 passengers and crew onboard, over a commercial dispute with another Chinese firm. The incident cost the company dearly. Thereafter competition and the price pressure in the Chinese market have forced the company to retreat.

This development also raises the question as to whether or not, despite the recent exponential growth, there is as yet a big enough market in China for cruise operators.

President of Panamá meets cruise line executives in Miami

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

Alan Lam reports

Juan Carlos Varela, the incumbent President of the Republic of Panamá, travelled to Miami this week to promote his country’s ports to cruise business.

According to a communication from Panamá’s Ministry of External Relations, the President’s official agenda included meeting with top executives from Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean in his effort to promote Panama City and Colón as homeports.

The Panamanian President met with Micky Arison, Chairman of Carnival Corporation & plc, who expressed his profound interests in the development of the Colón port.

Later Juan Carlos Varela and his delegation also met with Richard Fain, CEO and Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International; and Federico González Denton, Associate Vice-President, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

He expounded the economic advantages of operating in Panamá, both for investors and the tourists, outlining homeport opportunities and potentials his country offered, especially in terms of excellent air connections and the forthcoming New Panamá Canal.

Also present in the meetings were Augusto Arosemena, Vice Minister of the Presidency; Luis Miguel Hincapié, Vice Chancellor; Gustavo Him, Tourism Authority Administrator; and Jorge Barakat, Maritime Authority Administrator.

Attracting cruise business forms part of the Panamanian government’s new tourism promotion strategy.

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