View Full Version : The World of Jumbo Cruise Ships
December 6th, 2006, 10:09 AM
Launch of the superjumbo cruising 'town'
MARSEILLE, France, Dec 3, 2006 (AFP) - The cruise line business is riding high and the luxury liner of tomorrow will be more like a floating town the length of four football pitches and capable of carrying 6,000 passengers.
The next generation of liner will contain 1,700-seat theatres, shopping malls and even wave pools for surfing and be up to about 410 metres long.
By comparison, the ill-fated Titanic, still substantial by recent standards, carried 2,500 passengers and was 883 feet (268 metres) long.
This quantum leap in the dimension of the luxury liner was apparant at the sixth "Top Cruise" show grouping cruise operators, travel agents and port managers here last week.
The president of the French cruise federation, Georges Azouze, said: "Fifteen years ago, cruise liners carried 500 to 600 passengers on average. Today, a ship of 1,000 passengers is small. Some ships carry 3,000 people or even 4,000 passengers."
Competition between two of the leading cruise operators, Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise (RCC) makes the point.
In 2004, Carnival displayed the Queen Mary 11, a monarch of the seas, 345 metres long with cabins for 2,620 passengers.
In 2006, RCC came up with Freedom of the Seas, 339 metres (1,140 feet) long but with room for 4,200 passengers.
The representative of RCC in France, Bernard Echevarria told AFP: "In 2008-2009 we will move on to 'Genesis' cruise liners which will be able to take up to 6,000 passengers".
The drive for size is explained by economies of scale. These liners, which ply their trade mainly in the Caribbean or Mediterranean seas, are able to operate at an ever falling rate of staff per 100 passengers.
On-board facilities such as casinos, shops and theatres generate extra revenue and enable the operator to reduce the headline price of a week aboard, thereby increasing the potential market.
These superjumbo liners also meet growing demand for package deals with extensive entertainment all included.
A representative of Carnival, Cedric Rivoire-Perrochat, told AFP: "Our biggest competitors at the moment are not necessarily the other cruise operators but holiday centres".
So the cruise liner has now become "a floating island of entertainment".
Customers have responded. In 2005, the cruise business attracted 14.4 million passengers, and increase of 7.5 percent from the figure in 2004, and bookings are expected to rise by 30 percent by 2009.
Echevarria remarked: "The average age of 70, which was the case before, has long been a thing of the past."
There is however a limit to the size of these giants.
Rivoire-Perrochat said: "There has been talk of giant islands, afloat and filled with entertainment, which would not have the shape of a ship. But part of the pleasure of a cruise is the arrival in harbour and a visit ashore."
The new ships also have an impact on the environment. A scientist for the environment organisation Greenpeace at Exeter University in Britain, David Santillo, told AFP: "You are taking several thousand people, a small town, to some of the most pristine and sensitive areas of environment and ecosystems."
Fines of up to 20 million dollars (15 billion euros) have been applied for pollution of the environment and operators have begun to change their ways.
Sewage is treated on board and the ships are equipped with incinerators.
However, the US environment organisation The Ocean Conservancy says: "A typical cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew can produce up to 30,000 gallons (113,000 litres) of sewage every day."
Santillo acknowledged said: "Monitoring what goes offshore is extremely difficult, be it for cruise vessels or for tankers. So I think it would be a good idea to rely on observers on the ships to make sure that the companies comply with the rules and promises they have made."
Marseille, the biggest port in France, is in competition with Barcelona in Spain, and Rome-Civitavecchia, Savona and Genoa in Italy, to attract cruise ships.
It expects a million cruise passengers to come alongside in 2010, from 380,000 this year, the president of cruise body Marseille Provence, Jacques Truau, said.
Of 195 cruise liners in the world, 56 are in the Mediterranean and 18 of 31 or 32 to be delivered in 2007-2009 would be based in the region, he said.
It is estimated that cruise passengers spent 49 million euros, or 130 euros each, in Marseille last year.
February 13th, 2007, 03:05 AM
Cruise trends: Families, Europe, innovations like onboard bowling, surfing
By BETH J. HARPAZ
7 February 2007
NEW YORK (AP) - Finding out what's new in the cruise industry is like playing "Can you top this?"
In case you missed it, ice skating rinks, giant trampolines, and rock-climbing walls on board ships are old news, along with wine cellars and menus from celebrity chefs.
The latest innovations for having fun in the middle of the ocean include a bowling alley aboard Norwegian Pearl, and a Flowrider, which lets you ride an artificial wave, on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. Norwegian Pearl took its inaugural voyage in December, Freedom of the Seas launched last May, and another Royal Caribbean ship, Liberty of the Seas, which will also feature a Flowrider, debuts this May.
"They're trying to outdo each other in terms of innovation," said Celebrity Cruises president Dan Hanrahan at a January news conference organized by the Cruise Lines International Association. CLIA represents 21 cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, MSC, NCL, Princess, Holland America, Crystal, Cunard and Royal Caribbean.
"We're betting that a roller coaster is going to be next," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, which offers consumers information about cruises. A readers' poll on the Web site asking for other pie-in-the-sky ideas for future cruise ship innovations suggested a ferris wheel, revolving decktop restaurant, and, Spencer Brown's favorite, balconies with private plunge pools.
In addition to an industry-wide emphasis on gee-whiz features, other trends in the cruise industry include the continued popularity of family cruising and European ports of call, along with overall growth, with a record number of guests last year and 30 new cruise ships under construction through 2010.
As for destinations, Mediterranean and European ports comprise 20 percent of the cruise market, second only to Caribbean itineraries, according to CLIA.
Interest among families is part of that trend. This summer marks the first time that a Disney cruise will hit European ports when the Magic ship launches a series of Mediterranean trips. "We poll our guests all the time as to what destinations they want to go to, and Europe was top of the list," said Disney Cruise spokesman Jason Lasecki. The 10- and 11-night itineraries include eight stops with 190 choices for excursions, from traditional sightseeing in places like Pompeii and the Coliseum, to a Ferrari test-drive and a visit to Narni, Italy, the town said to have inspired "The Chronicles of Narnia."
Vicki Freed, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines, said Carnival is also "seeing continued growth in the number of families taking our European cruises. By 2006, our second year of cruising in Europe, it was normal to have several hundred kids per voyage during the summer travel period and we expect that trend to continue."
She added that "a lot of families have moved way beyond the summer road trip and are looking for more enriching cultural experiences they can share together." A cruise makes it easy to explore a new place in a port of call, then return to your own room with familiar food and child-friendly activities on the ship at the end of the day. Besides, you only have to unpack once.
More than 1 million children under 18 now cruise each year, according to CLIA. While Disney's cruise ships, which launched in 1998, led the way in making cruising fun for kids, today there is hardly a big ship that doesn't try to appeal to families. It's not just children's menus and glorified babysitting; it's video arcades, spa treatments for teenagers, kids' karaoke competitions and scavenger hunts, not to mention basketball courts, teen nightclubs and on-board water parks.
Spencer Brown even admitted that she was "splitting hairs" when CruiseCritic.com came up with a recent list of "Best Family Ships." She does, however, think your kids will have the most fun in programs that are closely targeted to their age, like those on Royal Caribbean's Voyager class ships (Voyager, Adventure, Explorer, Navigator and Mariner of the Seas), which offer programs for kids age 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-17, and Carnival's Conquest-class ships (Carnival Conquest, Glory, Valor and Liberty), with programs broken down for ages 2-5, 6-8, 9-11, and 12-17. Disney Magic has a new space just for kids age 10-14 called Ocean Quest, in addition to programs for other age groups.
If the explosion in family cruising hasn't destroyed the stereotype of cruises as a vacation choice for older travelers, perhaps this will: Sixty-eight percent of Gen-Xers, those born roughly between 1965 and 1978, say they intend to take a cruise. That compares with 65 percent of baby boomers and 59 percent of seniors. The data comes from market research conducted online for CLIA last year among 2,000 people.
January, February and March comprise what's known in the cruise industry as the "wave season," when many cruisers book their vacations for later in the year. While 90 percent of cruises are still sold through travel agencies, many of those tickets are now sold over the Internet using Web sites like CruiseCompete.com, where consumers pick a ship and a sail date, get quotes from agents online, and then book the best deal. CruiseCompete sold close to 24,000 cabins in 2006, according to a spokeswoman, Heidi Allison-Shane.
Last year, a record 12.1 million passengers sailed on cruises worldwide, up from 11.2 million in 2005 and 10.6 million in 2004, according to statistics provided by CLIA. CLIA forecasts another increase this year to 12.6 million guests, including 10.6 million North Americans.
Seven new vessels were launched in 2006, but despite the resulting 4.6 percent increase in available berths, "we've been able to add this kind of capacity and keep the ships sailing full," said Hanrahan. CLIA reported cruise capacity at 104 percent, meaning that every room was full while some rooms accommodated more than two guests.
Nine newly built vessels are scheduled to launch in 2007: Carnival Freedom, Emerald Princess, MSC Orchestra, Costa Serena, Liberty of the Seas, American Star, Norwegian Gem, Queen Victoria, and Fram, under construction for Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Fram is being built for exclusive use in Greenland, and is named for a ship used by a Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, who took a three-year trip around Greenland in the late 1800s.
CLIA expects growth and demand will continue to increase. The association's surveys find that only 17 percent of Americans have taken cruises, and that 31 million Americans are likely to take a cruise within the next three years.
Of course, not all the news coming out of the cruise industry in the past year has been good. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control investigated 34 reports of norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships in 2006, and another one in January aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. The cruise industry says it gets a bad rap because norovirus also strikes day care centers, workplaces and eateries without the same type of scrutiny. By law, cruise ships calling on U.S. ports must report every case of gastrointestinal illness to the CDC.
The CDC provides details on its investigations and tips for avoiding norovirus at http://www.cdc.gov.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/nceh/vsp/ . Washing your hands, especially before and after eating, is a simple but important preventive measure.
How missing persons cases are handled at sea also made unwanted headlines for the cruise industry. The investigation into the 2005 disappearance of George Allen Smith IV from a Royal Caribbean ship resulted in congressional hearings in 2006 on maritime security. A review of data from 15 lines showed 24 reports of missing people between 2003 to 2005, according to CLIA.
Smith vanished from his honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean after an apparent late night of drinking. No one was charged and no body has been found. A Miami judge recently dismissed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean by Smith's family; his widow had already accepted a $1 million (euro770,000) payment from the cruise line to his estate.
February 15th, 2007, 11:23 AM
Yea, I went on an RCI ship last summer. HUUUGE. Like all things engineering, I have a thing for sleek huge city ships
February 1st, 2008, 10:17 AM
Cruise trends for 2008: New ships, more luxury, potential deals
28 January 2008
NEW YORK (AP) - More choices in food, activities, itineraries and luxury are some of the trends shaping the cruise industry for 2008. But the big unknown is what will happen with prices.
The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that 12.6 million people cruised worldwide in 2007 on the 24 cruise lines CLIA represents, a 4.6 percent increase over 2006. CLIA believes demand will hold, with a projected 12.8 million passengers for 2008 despite the weakening economy. A recent CLIA survey of 500 travel agents found 90 percent expect 2008 cruise sales to be as good or better than 2007.
But consumers with flexible vacation plans may be in for some deals. "The more uncertainty there is in the marketplace, the more deals there will be later in the year," said Heidi Allison Shane, spokeswoman for CruiseCompete.com. "When the cruise lines go out with high prices and they don't sell out, the bigger the discounts later on." The softest markets, she predicted, will be in mega-ships sailing to the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, also expects "more competitive prices for sure, because the economy is shaky, but where you'll find the real deals are on the older ships in cruise line fleets, not the newer and bigger models. Per diems on vessels like Cunard's Queen Victoria, Holland America's Eurodam and Celebrity's Solstice will be pricey and demand is strong because all three are new designs."
In addition to the Eurodam and the Solstice, other new big ships launching in 2008 are Royal Caribbean International's Independence of the Seas in May; MSC Cruises' Poesia in April; Carnival Splendor, July; Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess, November, and MSC Cruises' 3,300-passenger Fantasia, December.
Meanwhile Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the most famous ships in the world, will be decommissioned in November and turned into a floating luxury hotel in Dubai.
Here is some other cruising news for this year.
ACTIVITIES: Last year, ships with bowling alleys and mechanical waves for surfing joined vessels with rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks. Cunard's Queen Victoria, launched in December 2007, became the first ship to offer fencing lessons at sea.
In December 2008, Celebrity Cruises will launch Celebrity Solstice with a half-acre lawn of real growing grass on the top deck. Guests will be invited to play bocce and croquet, picnic with wine and cheese, or practice golf putts. Also aboard Solstice: glassblowing demonstrations created by New York's Corning Museum of Glass.
Princess ships will host a film premiere the week of Feb. 11: "Bonneville," starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen as three friends on a road trip. The movie is in theaters Feb. 29.
In August, Nickelodeon, the children's cable network, offers its first-ever family cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, with a Western Caribbean itinerary.
Shore excursions throughout the cruise industry continue to reflect consumer demand for active and authentic experiences, including kayaking, wildlife watches and bike tours. Regent Seven Seas' Mariner cruises offer a ride on a floatplane in Alaska as it delivers the mail. Silversea Cruises' "Silver Links" program offers excursions to golf courses around the world.
Most cruise ships now offer access to e-mail at sea, but at prices like 75 cents a minute, you might want to wait for an Internet cafe in port.
FOOD: Sure, most cruises still offer formal dining at 8:30 p.m. and midnight buffets. But more ships are offering casual dining, like Norwegian's successful Freestyle Cruising program, that does not involve scheduled seatings and formal dress at large tables with strangers.
Some cruises also offer restaurants with specialized menus and eateries designed by celebrity chefs. Ships may charge additional fees for the specialty restaurants.
The new Queen Victoria features a Todd English restaurant, as does one of Cunard's other ships, the Queen Mary 2. Famed sushi chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa - known for his Nobu restaurants around the world - will travel aboard Crystal Symphony to launch two onboard restaurants, Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, on a March 21 Hong Kong to Beijing cruise. Nobu already has restaurants on the Crystal Serenity.
Cruisers can also enjoy wine tastings at sea, cooking classes and behind-the-scenes food programs. Princess Cruises' Chef's Table dinners, which debuted in May and are now rolling out fleetwide, provides the chef's table experience at sea, in which a chef presents a special menu and then joins the group for dessert ($75 a person).
LUXURY: More cruise lines are offering larger and more luxurious accommodations with private elevators, private courtyards and suites located near spas. Spa suite guests typically get priority or upgraded access to spa services.
Even the mass-market cruise line Carnival is getting into the luxury act with Carnival Splendor, launching later this year with 68 spa suites that feature access by private elevator to a 21,000-square-foot spa. Another new ship, MSC Cruises' MSC Fantasia, will also feature 68 suites accessed by private elevators.
Norwegian Gem, which launched in 2007, not only has one of the most decorative exteriors of any ship at sea - a colorful jewel design on a white background - but it has large one- and two-bedroom suites in its Courtyard Villa. The shared private courtyard has a private lap pool, hot tub, steam rooms and fitness area.
In May, Celebrity Cruises launched a new luxury line, Azamara, with two midsize ships - Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest. Both ships carry 694 guests and offer Sky Suites with in-suite spa services. Most itineraries are 12-18 nights with less well-known ports of call like Cartagena, Colombia, and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. In the summer, both ships go to Europe. Azamara Quest will later sail in Asia.
ITINERARIES: A survey from Cruise Holidays, which calls itself North America's largest cruise specialty retail franchise, found that in 2007, the Caribbean accounted for 43 percent of cruise bookings, Alaska 15 percent, the Mexican Riviera 8 percent, and Europe/Mediterranean 8 percent.
Compared to 2006, the survey found bookings for Alaska were up 17 percent, the Caribbean was up 4 percent and Europe was up 42 percent.
No wonder so many cruise lines are offering more European trips this year. NCL America's Pride of Hawai'i will be renamed Norwegian Jade in February and will serve Europe this summer instead of Hawaii.
European cruises are attractive despite the weak dollar because they are booked in U.S. dollars in advance, covering all lodging and meals. The Cruise Holidays survey figured the average cost per person per day for a 12-day Mediterranean cruise is $269, about a 7.6 percent increase in the past year.
CLIA says some cruise lines are visiting South America this year for the first time, with Australia, New Zealand and Asia as emerging destinations as well.
BOOKING: While more than 50 percent of travel overall is booked online, only 7 percent of cruises are booked online, according to Douglas Quinby of PhoCusWright, a company that tracks online travel activity. Quinby attributes the continued reliance on travel agents to the complexity of cruise bookings and the need for advice, especially for first-time cruisers.
"Think about all the different decisions you have to make," Quinby said. "Where am I going to go, what cruise line do I want, what cabin do I want, what dinner seating, what excursions, what about my pre-embarkation documentation." Even consumers who research or choose cruises online typically follow up with phone calls.
Indeed, the few passengers who don't enjoy cruising probably just needed more guidance. When asked what accounts for customer dissatisfaction, the No. 1 answer from Cruise Holidays agents was: "They were on the wrong cruise line."
September 19th, 2009, 01:38 PM
Environmental group grades cruise lines on pollution, gives Holland America highest grade
17 September 2009
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An environmental group released its report card Wednesday on how well cruise ship companies operating in American waters are doing to reduce pollution, and not one received an overall grade of "A."
Friends of the Earth graded 10 major cruise ship lines, including some of the biggest names in the business, such as Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival received a "D-minus."
The report issued the highest grade -- a "B"-- to Holland America Line. Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises also scored relatively well, each getting a "B-minus."
The lowest grades --"Fs" -- went to Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises also scored poorly.
Cunard Cruise Line and Regent Seven Seas Cruises received about average grades.
"Typically, cruise ship passengers are attracted to cruise vacations with pictures of pristine waters and promises of unspoiled scenery and abundant wildlife, but these passengers are never told that their vacations could leave a dirty mark on the places they visit," said Marcie Keever, who spearheaded the "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card."
Cruise Lines International Association, a group representing 24 cruise lines, castigated the report, calling it arbitrary, flawed and ignoring "the fact that our cruise lines comply with and in most cases exceed all applicable environmental regulations."
"It is regrettable that Friends of the Earth authors such misinformation when in fact this industry has made tremendous progress in the past several years in advancing technology and developing programs that go a long way in protecting the environment," the association said in a statement.
Friends of the Earth graded the cruise lines on three categories: sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance in Alaska waters. It also issued a simple pass/fail grade for each line's accessiblity to environmental information.
The group said Florida, which has some of the least stringent laws preventing cruise ship pollution, also has the top three cruise ship departure ports: Miami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale.
Alaska and California have taken the strongest stance nationally against cruise ship pollution, the group said.
Keever said some of the cruise lines have been working to make its ships less polluting, especially in the area of sewage treatment. Holland America, Norwegian, Cunard and Celebrity received high marks for having advanced sewage treatment aboard their ships.
Carnival and Disney received "Fs" for sewage treatment.
Disney, with two ships and two under construction, could score better on sewage treatment next year because it has promised to make upgrades on all its ships, Keever said. The company announced last week that for the first time it would begin offering tours in Alaska beginning in 2010.
Keever said the technology is in place for cruise ship companies to meet Alaska's stringent environmental laws -- a claim disputed by Alaska Cruise Association president John Binkley. He has said cruise lines would be happy to adopt affordable new technology to meet Alaska's tougher standards if it were available, but there is nothing that is reliable.
Binkley was not available for comment Wednesday.
In 2008, 12 of the 20 ships allowed to discharge in Alaska waters received violations, mostly for ammonia and heavy metals, Keever said. The fact that eight ships had no violations shows it can be done, she said.
The 10 cruise lines received lower grades for reducing air pollution. Seven out of the 10 cruise lines received "Fs." Only Princess received a high grade.
Princess has spent millions to reduce emissions from its cruise ships, Keever said.
The company invested $4.7 million in the Juneau port so that ships tying up there can plug into shore-based power instead of running their own engines to provide power to passengers and crew. The company also has invested $1.7 million to upgrade the Seattle port. Keever said nine of Princess' 17 ships are equipped with electrical plug-ins.
The Los Angeles port later this year is expected to have shore-based power at its cruise ship terminal, she said.
Without the power upgrade at the ports and the retrofitting of the ships, cruise ships are forced to burn bunker fuel while in port, a "dirty-burning" fuel that is 1,000 to 2,000 times dirtier than diesel truck fuel, Keever said.
Cruise ships also can be equipped to burn marine distillate, a cleaner-burning fuel than bunker fuel, Keever said. California recently required all ocean going vessels, including cruise ships, to burn the cleaner fuel within 24 miles of shore.
September 22nd, 2009, 04:05 AM
Jamaica seeks large cruise ships with construction of terminal along north coast
19 September 2009
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - Construction of a cruise ship terminal expected to attract nearly 1 million visitors a year will begin now that Jamaica has secured financing, the government said Saturday.
The terminal will be the first in Jamaica's northern region to accommodate the largest of cruise ships and will create some 500 construction jobs and 900 permanent jobs, according to Finance Minister Audley Shaw.
The HSBC bank in London and a Danish credit agency will provide nearly $122 million to help build the Falmouth terminal just east of Montego Bay. It will be able to accommodate a large and small ship at the same time, he said.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has invested $102 million in the project, Shaw said in a statement.
The announcement comes as Jamaica struggles with a 15 percent drop in cruise ship visitors. Some 551,000 passengers arrived from January through June 2009 compared to 646,000 arrivals during the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Jamaica's Port Authority will oversee development of berths and construction of the terminal, while Royal Caribbean will be responsible for landscaping and construction of shops and restaurants.
The government expects to repay the 10-year loan through passenger fees, forecasting a minimum of 800,000 visitors a year.
Legislator Patrick Harris said the project would "redefine Jamaica's tourism product," according to a statement from the government's news agency.
September 22nd, 2009, 08:23 PM
no pics? :sly:
October 13th, 2009, 05:53 PM
Royal Caribbean CEO says industry stabilizing
NEW YORK, Oct 7 (Reuters) - The cruise industry has touched bottom and is now stabilizing, but questions linger about when a rebound will occur, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd's CEO said in an interview .
"We've been at the bottom and we've stabilized at the bottom," Chief Executive Richard Fain told Reuters. "There have been an awful lot of indicators that things are improving."
Miami-based Royal Caribbean will soon unveil the world's largest cruise ship for its namesake cruise line, the Oasis of the Seas. Its maiden voyage is slated for early December.
The ship is nearly 1,200 feet (366 meters) long, spanning the length of more than three football fields. It scales 16 passenger decks, or roughly 20 stories high, and features a "Central Park" with more than 12,000 plants.
The ship is being launched at a time when U.S. unemployment has climbed to nearly 10 percent, but Fain points out that consumer confidence has improved since earlier this year. Bookings and prices for the Oasis ship have been "heartwarming," he added.
The introduction of the Oasis has also spurred demand for the company's other offerings, casting a "halo effect" on the company and its cruises, Fain said.
Consumer confidence is a key precursor for an economic rebound, but "the operative syllable there is 'pre,'" said Fain, who has led the world's second-largest cruise operator for 21 years.
"We're still in the pre-stage," he said, adding: "We may look back on this a year from now and say that was a pretty good time, because that was the beginning of the end of the financial meltdown."
SUPPLY GROWTH TO SLOW
Wall Street analyst have grown increasingly bullish on the cruise industry as signs of a recovery emerge. Of the 23 brokers following the stock, 13 have a "buy" or a "strong buy" rating on Royal, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Royal Caribbean shares have risen about 80 percent in the third quarter, the best performance for the stock to date. But short interest has also stacked up, reflecting investor worry about the company's leverage and sustainability of the recovery.
As of June 30, the end of its second quarter, Royal reported net debt of $6.5 billion, while net asset value was slightly above $7 billion. Fain expressed confidence that the company will be able to pay off the debt from cash flow generated from its new ships.
"Once we start to take delivery of the ships and they start to generate their cash flow ... that pays down the debt pretty quickly," Fain said.
Royal Caribbean expects its capacity to grow 28 percent from the third quarter of 2009 to the end of 2012, according to its 2008 annual report. Next year marks the company's largest increase in supply.
Fain said the company has no plans to unveil another project of Oasis-like proportions as of now and said he expected industry supply growth to slow in coming years.
"Society has become more risk-averse," he said. "I think that attitudinal shift will lead to slower (capital expenditure) growth in many of these areas."
October 28th, 2009, 12:05 PM
World's biggest cruise ship offers activity extravaganza
26 October 2009
Agence France Presse
The world's biggest and most expensive cruise ship ever built, Oasis of the Seas, is to be handed over to the Royal Caribbean cruiseline on Wednesday at the Finnish shipyard where it was constructed.
At a cost of some 900 million euros (1.3 billion dollars), the mammoth vessel offers a world of luxury and a plethora of on-board activities for its 6,360 passengers and 2,000 crew.
STX Finland, a subsidiary of South Korean shipbuilder STX, will hand over the vessel to the US-based cruise company at a ceremony in Turku on Wednesday, and the ship will set sail on its four-night maiden voyage from the US port of Fort Lauderdale to Haiti on December 1.
Royal Caribbean has called the ship its "most innovative and imaginative ship yet, (where) entertainment areas have become neighborhoods at sea."
Catering to the traditional older crowd of cruise ship travellers as well as to young families, the Oasis of the Seas aims to be more of an activity centre than a traditional cruise ship that merely sails from port to port.
In an interview on the Oasis of the Seas' website, the head of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain, said the image of cruiseship travellers as being rich pensioners who lounge about poolside was a misconception.
"The average age of our passengers is 44. I don't call that old, do you?" he asked.
As a result, the new ship offers among other things pool surfing, rock-climbing or a whiz above the boardwalk on a zip line, providing passengers with enough activities to spend the entire cruise on board if they wish.
Real trees bring some nature on board and Broadway musicals and ice shows meet passengers' cultural needs as it sails primarily in the Caribbean.
The ship is 16 decks high, or 65 metres (213 feet) above the waterline, and measures 360 metres (1,180 feet) long and 47 metres (154 feet) wide.
She even has telescopic chimneys that can be lowered -- necessary to sail under the bridges in the straits of Denmark after she leaves Finland.
The ship outdoes Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, delivered in 2006 and which has until now been the world's biggest cruiseship with room for some 4,400 passengers and 1,350 crew.
Royal Caribbean ordered the Oasis of the Seas in 2006 and its sister vessel Allure of the Seas in 2007.
Allure of the Seas is scheduled to be ready in autumn 2010.
But times have changed since the orders were placed and both the shipyard and the cruiseline have seen their earnings hit by the global financial turmoil.
Middle class holiday-goers from the US and Europe have cut back on travelling and are instead saving their pennies -- as evidenced by the fact that there are still rooms available for the maiden voyage.
In July, Royal Caribbean reported a loss in the second quarter, citing the challenging economy and swine flu or influenza A(H1N1) virus outbreak, which also prompted many customers to cancel their cruise plans.
But there are some signs that consumer confidence and demand for cruises is picking up.
Royal Caribbean's archrival, US-based cruise company Carnival, said in late September it had experienced a stronger June-August period than expected and that booking volumes for the remainder of 2009 and the first half of 2010 were higher than in the same period 12 months earlier.
Things don't look as good yet for STX Finland though.
It has not received any new orders for new vessels since autumn 2008, as cruise companies have put off investing in ships as long as the economic outlook remains uncertain.
Unemployment or temporary layoffs loom over more than 70 percent of STX's 3,800 employees in the Nordic country.
November 1st, 2009, 05:34 AM
November 1st, 2009, 05:35 AM
November 1st, 2009, 05:43 AM
World's largest cruise liner sets sail for Miami from Finnish shipyard
30 October 2009
HELSINKI (AP) - The world's largest cruise liner Oasis of the Seas has set sail for South Florida from the Finnish shipyard where it was built.
The 1,200-foot (360 meters) ship has a price tag of almost $1.5 billion and was commissioned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. It is due to begin cruises out of Port Everglades in December.
The ship has 16 passenger decks with 2,700 cabins and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew. It has an open-air arena the size of a football field and features a 750-seat theater modeled on an ancient Greek amphitheater, a skating rink and a youth area.
Oasis of the Seas left the port of Turku on Friday. It is due to stop in the English port of Southampton before sailing to Florida.
November 2nd, 2009, 02:49 PM
ships are very important:cheers:
November 25th, 2009, 03:42 PM
China joins the cruise club
25 November 2009
CRUISE travel has become increasingly popular with affluent Chinese holiday-makers since the country relaxed its restrictions on international cruise voyages for its own people in 2005.
Cruises carrying hundreds of thousands Chinese travellers left major Chinese ports such as Shanghai last year, and the market is expected to grow quickly over the coming years.
The history of China’s cruise sector dates back to the 1970s. According to China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association vice-president Zheng Weihang, China first opened its cruise market when Japan Cruise’s Coral Princess sailed from Dalian to Hong Kong in September 1976.
Over the following 30 years, the number of cruiseship calls at Chinese ports was limited to a few times per year as the entry of foreign tourists to China was restricted. Chinese residents were not allowed to take cruises to leave the country.
“The industry did not see a breakthrough until 2005. The Chinese government decided to lift the ban to allow Chinese citizens to board cruises at Chinese ports to other countries. Since then, the number of departing Chinese cruise travellers has grown at a breakneck speed,” Mr Zheng says.
According to the CCYIA, the number of Chinese passengers departing from Chinese ports was only about 10,000 in 2005 but had leaped tenfold to about 110,000 in 2008.
“In 2008, about 60 cruises departed from Chinese ports. The number of cruiseship calls increased to about 80 in 2009,” he says.
In terms of cruise arrivals, the association says the number of cruiseship arrivals in Chinese ports would be 156 this year. Cruiseships were expected to carry about 200,000 domestic travellers out of the country. Combined with the passengers from Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and Europe, total passenger departures will grow to 380,000 this year.
Mr Zheng is positive about the development of the Chinese cruise market, especially the increase in the number of domestic travellers as a result of the country’s thriving economy.
“According to Chinese port authorities, cruise operators have so far made plans for 91 cruiseship calls in local ports for 2010, compared with 80 this year,” he says.
China Communications and Transportation Association chairman Qian Yongchang says previously China had become an ideal final destination and stopover for many Southeast Asian cruise voyages because of its geographical advantages as well as the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
In the wake of the lifting of restrictions for domestic cruise travellers, major Chinese ports have been stepping up their efforts to develop their cruise infrastructures.
Mr Zheng says 16 out of 23 Chinese coastal ports now have their own cruise terminals, whereas only a few ports, such as Shanghai, had these facilities in the 1980s.
Over the past three years, three new international cruise terminals have been completed, at Shanghai, Xiamen and Sanya, and a couple of new terminals will join the market over the coming years.
A cruise terminal at Tianjin will be operational in 2010, while another northern cargo port, Dalian, is about to kick off its construction of an international cruise terminal. The first berth of Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong will become operational in 2013.
Other Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao and Haikou, have expressed interest in building new cruise terminals or expanding their existing facilities.
In recent years, China has become one of the world’s hottest markets for multinational cruise operators. Top players such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Star Cruises and Costa Cruises made footholds in China several years ago and are differentiating their cruise packages from Singapore to Russia for domestic travellers.
US-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, which recently formed a strategic partnership with China’s largest port operator Shanghai International Port (Group), has set its sights on the fast-growing Chinese domestic market. Royal Caribbean managing director for China Liu Zinan says the company will significantly increase the number of its China-focused cruises next year.
“The company is now operating six to seven cruises departing from the port of Shanghai to neighbouring regions such as Japan and Taiwan each year, but the number of cruises will increase to 38 in 2010,” Dr Liu said.
Apart from increasing the number of voyages, he said the company would design three to four new cruises from the ports of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tianjin to Vladivostok in Russia and Hokkaido in Japan to meet the tastes of Chinese customers.
A Costa Cruises spokesman says the company will offer 15 cruise itineraries to Taiwan for Chinese tourists. The company will also replace its cruiseship Costa Allegra with the larger Costa Romantica to serve the Chinese market.
Dr Liu points out that the take-off of the cruise market is similar to the experience of the US cruise industry in the 1970s.
“The US cruise industry grew from 500,000 per year in passenger volume in the 1970s to its current level of 12m, but I think it will take much less time for China to achieve the same, because of its thriving economy,’ he says.
Dr Liu says the penetration rate of cruise travel in China is still at a very low level compared with western countries.
“The number of cruise travellers in China is currently about 100,000 per year. This is just a handful compared with the country’s 80m middle class population,” he says.
Despite the booming cruise business in China, Mr Zheng of the CCYIA says the industry still faces many challenges. He points out that many cruise itineraries do not meet local travellers’ tastes.
“Cruise operators prefer to promote six- to seven-day voyages, such as trips departing from Shanghai or Tianjin to Korea and Japan, to Chinese travellers, but we see the market has strong demand for longhaul cruises,” he says.
Mr Zheng suggests cruise operators should arrange more longhaul cruises, such as 14-day voyages from Dalian and Guangzhou to Singapore and Malaysia.
However, Dr Liu argues that paid vacation is still not common for Chinese citizens. It is difficult for a Chinese employee to take the required number of days off for a longhaul cruise journey.
He adds that insufficient sales channels are significantly hindering the penetration rate for cruises.
International cruise operators have no direct sales channel in China. They only can sell their cruise packages to Chinese residents through travel agents. However, Mr Zheng is doubtful about the efficiency of the sales platform, given that many local travel agents do not have a sufficient understanding of cruise travel.
“We have received many complaints from local customers that they have been misled by travel agents,” he says. “For instance, a travel agent interpreted one-price-for-all to its customer as meaning they did not need to pay additional charges even when they disembarked from the ship for excursions. It was a total misunderstanding.”
To avoid these kinds of disputes, Mr Zheng says the industry should provide training for travel agents to improve their standards.
Dr Liu is urging the Chinese authorities to open up direct sales channel to foreign cruise operators: “In the US, 20% of cruise travellers can directly access cruise operators to purchase cruise packages. We hope cruise operators can also have their own platforms to sell products to their customers in China.”
Dr Liu also says Chinese ports should streamline their arrival and departure procedures for cruise travellers in order to improve luggage and passenger flows at the ports.
A spokesman for Costa Cruises says the Shanghai authorities should facilitate the port’s cruise industry by establishing a mechanism to standardise different resources, and refining relevant regulations and laws to protect the rights and benefits of foreign cruise operators.
On October 26, the Chinese Ministry of Transport and Communications gave the nod to multiple calls for foreign cruise operators. The measure is expected to provide greater convenience for domestic travellers.
“Before the release of the measure, Chinese residents who boarded a cruise in one Chinese port such as Shanghai were not allowed to disembark at other Chinese ports of call. It significantly limited the consumption of local customers,” Mr Zheng points out.
Dr Liu applauds the measure and says it will provide greater flexibility for local customers and help to boost the number of Chinese cruise passengers.