Focus On Cruising

Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

River Cruising Continues To Grow In Popularity

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Two announcements by major companies in the river cruising arena demonstrate the growing popularity of river cruises.

Viking River Cruises has announced its intention to devote $250 million to

VViking Pride

fleet development over the next three years.  The plan includes 8 new vessels and the complete refurbishment of two vessels already in service.  The addition of 8 new vessels will bring the total number of ships in the fleet to 26, representing a 40% increase in capacity.  With twice the market share of its nearest competitor already, the new ships will further solidify Viking’s dominance in this arena.

Viking Prestige will make its debut in Europe in 2011, while Viking Emerald will replace Viking Century Sun in China in the same year.  Additional ships will join the European fleet in 2012 and 2013.

Two ships already in service will receive full bow-to-stern refurbishments, Viking Schumann in 2010, and Viking Pakhomov in 2011.  Viking Schumann, purpose built to sail the Elbe River, will receive renovations matching those of her sister ship, Viking Fontane.  All public areas will be refurbished as will all standard staterooms.  In addtion, 8 new deluxe staterooms will be created.

The Viking Pakhomov, part of Viking’s Russian fleet, will be stripped down to its hull and rebuilt to the standards of the rest of the European fleet.  Once refurbished, it will rejoin sister ships Viking Surkov and Viking Kirov, which were relaunched after similar refurbishments in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Avalon Waterways, in an announcement not nearly so far-reaching, unveiled

Avalon Felicity

plans for a vessel they are dubbing the “Suite Ship”.  When the 166 passenger Avalon Panorama enters service in May 2011, she will feature staterooms 15% to 30% larger than the industry norm, with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows.

The majority of the staterooms will be Panorama Suites, measuring a substantial (for river boats) 200 square feet, with 11 foot wide windows that open an impressive 7 feet wide, giving an outdoors feel to the cabin.  The average cabin size on river boats in Europe is 150 square feet.

When christened in May 2011, the Avalon Panorama will spend most of her first season sailing Avalon’s popular 14 night Magnificent Europe itinerary between Amsterdam and Budapest.

Anchorage Has An Important Visitor

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The first cruise ship in 25 years, and the largest ever, docked in Anchorage on Monday.  As part of its new 14 day itinerary, Holland America’s Amsterdam and her 1390 passengers spent 16 hours in port.  This was the first of 9 scheduled visits this season.

Spirits ran high in Anchorage, amidst anticipation of the economic impact these visits will have and hopes that they perhaps presage additional visits by other cruise lines.

This first visit occurs against a backdrop of recent tensions between the cruise lines and the state government and its passenger head tax, viewed as onerous and ill-advised by the cruise industry.  The tax resulted in a reduction in ships visiting Alaskan waters and a threatened lawsuit.  The economic loss to Alaska as a result of the reduced number of passengers has been estimated to be as high as $150 million.

The reduction in the head tax last month has already been met with announcements of increased cruise traffic to Alaska in 2011.  The Anchorage visits are not in response to Juneau’s conciliatory gesture, having been planned well in advance of the state legislature’s vote.  They do, however, add to an elevation of spirit among those in Alaska who understand the benefits a robust cruise industry can bestow.

Technorati Tags: Alaska, Alaska cruises, Alaska head tax, Holland America

Libya Decides to Grant Tourist Visas to American Citizens

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When the United States lifted the ban on travel to Libya in 2004, a number of major cruise lines added Tripoli to their schedules.  Only a year later, the Libyan Government unexpectedly denied landing to any cruise ship carrying American citizens.

Yesterday unsubstantiated reports circulated that Libya had reversed its stance and would now grant tourist visas to US citizens, including offering group visas to cruise passengers.

Today we have word from the US Embassy that the Libyan Govenment has confirmed the new policy.  Yael Lempert of the US Embassy in Tripoli confirms in an email to Seatrade Insider that “from now on, American tourists can obtain Libyan tourist visas through the same procedures used by European tourists”.

While this is welcome news for those cruisers who are particularly interested in ancient history and the superb archaeological sites found in Libya, it does not mean that cruise ships in the Mediterranean are now going to turn right at Malta.  This year’s itineraries are fixed.  Next year’s are already open for sale and will have very little flexibilty.

Beyond that is Libya’s somewhat questionable reliabilty.  The major cruise lines have expressed interest in this new development, but they also well remember the cost and difficulty encountered in having to change their itineraries abruptly 5 years ago.   Libya will have to convince the lines that they intend to grant visas in a reliable and consistent manner.

I hope the day comes soon when cruise travel to Libya becomes a reality for Americans.  I’m sure there are many like myself who eagerly anticipate the opportunity to walk among the sites at Leptis Magna and Sabratha, experiencing them for ourselves.

You may read the report here.

Technorati Tags: cruise to Libya, Leptis Magna, Libya, Libyan tourist visas, Sabratha, world heritage sites

Accidents Happen

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MSNBC.com carries an interesting story today.  In a letter to their travel columnist, a reader reports on an unfortunate accident that resulted in the writer and the writer’s partner cancelling their first cruise.  Both travellers, excited by the adventure that lay ahead, arrived in Miami 2 days prior to their ship’s departure.  The first night, the writer fell in a park and suffered several leg fractures.  Immediate surgery was indicated.  The disappointed cruisers flew home.

Once home, they threw themselves on the mercy of Carnival Cruise Lines, at the suggestion of their online travel agency.  Carnival has offered the couple the equivalent of 50% of their cruise fare as on board credit to be used on the next cruise they purchase from the line.  This response, characterized by the letter writer as “utterly unacceptable”, is what elicited the written plea for help.

I have no idea which online agency the writer used, or how prominently the website encourages travel insurance.  I do think it is probably easier to ignore the suggestion on the screen than it is when someone expresses that admonition verbally.  This is, in any case, a painful and disappointing situation that could have been ameliorated to a certain extent by travel insurance.

In 23 years of selling travel, an important point has been hammered home time and time again  –  life happens.  No matter how certain a traveller may be that nothing is going to keep them from their trip, there are no guarantees.  I strongly suggest travel insurance for substantial travel expenses.  I’ve watched too many close calls, significant losses avoided by the simple act of purchasing insurance.  I’ve also sadly watched some clients lose thousands of dollars because they decided travel insurance wasn’t worth the cost.  Spend a little bit more, be prudent, buy insurance.

You can find the article here.

Technorati Tags: cruises, travel insurance

The Challenge

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This post is a bit of a departure.   Instead of writing about cruising, I’m going to write about…writing about cruising.  I started this blog last November for a number of reasons.  I wanted to express the enjoyment I experienced on board cruise ships, and I wanted to share what I’ve learned in over 20 years of advising clients on travel.  These are the outward reasons.  On a personal level, it’s also an opportunity to push the boundaries, to venture outside of my comfort zone.

The process has been enjoyable and rewarding.  I like the idea that someone may stumble upon this blog and, perhaps, enjoy what they read.  Other bloggers have asked permission to reprint my articles on their blogs, not all in English.  It’s exciting to think that something I wrote can be discovered by readers anywhere in the world.

Recently, a rather significant opportunity has been presented to me.  I’ve been asked to write for another travel website, one far larger than my little site.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I find this fairly daunting.  Since I can post directly to the site, there is the concern that I’ll do something wrong and wreak havoc with the site.  Once I decided that I was unlikely to do that, I submitted several news articles.  These articles were straightforward and factual, however, requiring very little writing ability or personal imput.

Eventually, I knew that I had to write an article that expressed something personal.  All the doubts loomed – would they like it?  is this what they want?  am I good enough?  My resistance was palpable.  I dragged my feet, occupying myself with mundane tasks rather than writing.  One of my mentors reminded me that resistance is always greatest just prior to a significant change.  That helped.  I quieted my fears and doubts as well as I could and wrote the article.  You can read it here.  I welcome and encourage your comments.

Technorati Tags: blogs, cruises, writing

Silver Spirit and the Mexican Riviera

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For those of you who are interested in learning a bit about life aboard a Silversea cruise, or perhaps glimpsing what a Mexican Riviera cruise is all about, this article should fit the bill.

Cunard Announces Fuel Surcharge

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Cunard Line President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks, made the following announcement yesterday:

“Because of the continued rapid escalation of fuel prices, Cunard Line and P&O (UK) will introduce a fuel supplement of $3.85 (USD) per person per day. These brands will also implement this fuel supplement on third and fourth passengers.

The new fuel supplements will apply to all new bookings effective May 10, 2010 and will apply to all departures from November 1, 2010. The fuel supplements will not exceed $154.00 per person per voyage.

For bookings made prior to May 10, 2010, no fuel supplement will apply.

We regret having to take this action, but fuel price increases have continued, and we now find it necessary to implement a modest supplement.”

With the price of oil hovering well above the $70 or so threshold most cruise lines have set as the trigger point for fuel surcharges, this announcement is not entirely surprising.  Given the recent assurances from industry executives that no such surcharges were in the works, however, the timing may be a bit of a surprise.  Cunard’s surcharges are not particularly high, and one hopes they can be absorbed by their prospective clients without too much pain.

Technorati Tags: cruise ships, Cunard Line, fuel surcharge, Peter Shanks