Cruise Lines Flee Europe, Blame High Airfare, Again

cruise lines
Chris Owen

North American cruise lines really want to be friends with travelers from Europe. A number of times, various cruise lines have scheduled their largest deployment ever to Europe, only to pull back later when demand for their services was less than anticipated. Looking ahead to 2014, that trend looks to be continuing as major North American cruise brands cut back on European deployment. But there is more to this story than simply cutting back the number of ships in Europe, because the price of airfare for North Americans to fly across the pond is prohibitive.

Europe Out, Asia In?
Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it will leave the entire Europe cruise market behind in 2014, blaming the high cost of airfare to the region for its addition to an industry-wide exodus. Carnival will move Carnival Legend to Australia and leave the rest of its fleet in North America. Frankly, Carnival’s European deployment was mostly Mediterranean sailing and mostly in the summer as the line rolled out new ships Carnival Magic, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine. Those ships were going to be over there anyway because that’s where the shipyard is that built them. I always viewed Carnival’s European deployment as more of a deployment of convenience.

As a bit of a hint as to where Carnival may be headed, Carnival the corporation (which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and others) has officially launched its regional office in Singapore. That move signals a rock solid step towards developing these markets.

Tweaking A Good Thing
Princess Cruises is not entirely abandoning Europe. They will move Pacific and Crown Princess to Alaska in 2014, leaving five ships in Europe. This is where Princess’ long history of being destination focused is paying off for the line of the Love Boat. Princess has garnered a reputation for sailing around the world, to some of the most exotic destinations on the planet.Princess mixes it up every year to keep things interesting; they have drawn on experience from their many long-serving employees at various stops along the way. This year, Princess is featuring reduced-pricing airfare to offset objections by cruise travelers over the perceived high-cost of flying.

Royal Caribbean plans on sending eight ships to Europe next year, including sailing giant Oasis of the Seas to sail three times out of Barcelona while the ship is over there for some routine maintenance. That’s down from nine ships sailing European waters this year and 12 ships in 2013.

This year, families with children 12 and under who book a 2013 Royal Caribbean Europe cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas can enjoy free shore excursion tours for children when two adults in their stateroom purchase the same tour during May 2013.

Unlike Carnival Cruise Lines, a North American brand that has their trademark FunShip experience producing a fabulous cruise vacation like clockwork, Royal Caribbean is a truly international brand. Sending nine ships to Europe says one of two things, maybe more:

  1. They have been at it long enough that they figured out which ships are the right size to make money in Europe.
  2. Royal Caribbean just really has their act together and has the ability to sail around the world, all the time, year after year.

Oh, should I have sailed in Europe last year then?
This is not the first time North American cruise lines have pulled back on plans to offer what they do for European cruise travelers. Cruise lines were looking for more profitable waters to sail in when the economic depression occurred several years ago. Boasting their “biggest European deployment ever,” cruise lines were quick to turn back when Europe sailings did not fill up as they had anticipated.

The good part of all this is that cruise lines have the ability to move their mobile assets (floating hotels) to different parts of the world when economic issues, safety concerns or other reasons say repositioning is a good idea. Hotels that do not float cannot really do that.

Thinking about a European/Mediterranean cruise vacation? Now would be a good time to either go or begin planning. North American cruise lines want to sail there, but they need passengers to do that.

How to Plan an Affordable European Vacation

Passengers sick again, cruise line cancels sailing

PassengersLast weekend nearly 700 passengers, on three different ships, contracted the flu-like Norovirus causing Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines to delay departure of this week’s sailing for extensive cleaning. Now, another outbreak on one of the same ships has caused its cancellation, mid-sailing, and an early return to port for even more cleaning.

Princess Cruises Crown Princess was on a seven-night Caribbean cruise when the outbreak occurred and will skip calling at the ports of Curacao and Aruba to come back two days early.

“In consultation with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who has informed us that there are widespread outbreaks of Norovirus occurring in the US, it was agreed that the best course of action to stop the spread of the illness is for the ship to undergo a two-day extensive sanitization,” said Princess Cruises in a statement on their website.

To make that happen, Crown Princess, scheduled to return to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, February 11 will come back two days early, ending the current sailing on Thursday, February 9th.

Passengers on the current sailing will receive a full refund, assistance re-booking flights if they had been booked through the cruise line as well as hotel accommodations if necessary and 25% of what they paid as a credit to use on a future cruise.”On the current sailing 114 passengers (3.70% out of 3,078) and 59 crew (5.01% of 1,178) have reported gastrointestinal illness,” said Princess. On the previous cruise, 364 passengers (11.73% of 3,103) and 30 crew (2.57% of 1,168) were affected.

The move by Princess is unusual but not unprecedented. Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, is a common illness that is easily transmitted in closed environments like nursing homes, schools and cruise ships.


Virus Leaves Cruise Ship Passengers Seasick

Photo: Princess Cruises

Cruise ships bring nearly 700 sick passengers to shore

cruise shipsBetween two cruise ships arriving in Florida and one in New Orleans, nearly 700 sick passengers were brought to shore over the weekend. Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, hit passengers and crew causing hundreds to become ill, many to be quarantined and sailings to be delayed. Its a common ailment, magnified by the closed environment of a cruise ship, but avoidable for the most part with some basic precautions and help is on the way in the form of a new vaccine.

Investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went on board Ruby Princess and Crown Princess to monitor cleaning procedures said Princess spokesperson Julie Benson. “We’re working in close cooperation with the CDC to identify the cause,” Benson told CNN after 499 cases occurred between the two ships, both based out of Fort Lauderdale.

In New Orleans, WDSU-TV reported Royal Caribbean‘s Voyager of the Seas returned with 200 cases of the flu-like illness.

“At Royal Caribbean International we have high health standards for all our guests and crew,” said Royal Caribbean in a statement. “During the sailing, we conduct enhanced cleaning on-board the ship, to help prevent the spread of the illness. Additionally, when Voyager of the Seas arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, this past Saturday, February 4, we conducted an extensive and thorough sanitizing on-board the ship and within the cruise terminal, to help prevent any illness from affecting the subsequent sailing.”

The CDC notified officials in Louisiana Friday that a cruise ship might be coming in with a Norovirus outbreak, state epidemiologist Raoult Ratard said Sunday, reported CBS News. Putting the illness into perspective, Ratard said that on any given day about 10,000 people in the New Orleans area are likely to have diarrhea and about 30 percent of them because of the Norovirus.

“In a closed space like a cruise ship, in a nursing home, in a hospital, you want to be extra careful,” Ratard said.

On the horizon, new a new medical breakthrough might have the answer to cruise passenger concerns over Norovirus incidents.

“It is possible to prevent infection and illness with a vaccine for Norovirus,” Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Medicine Plus. But many questions remain unanswered, he said. For example, “we have to figure out the best way to give it and how long protection lasts.”

Tested on 98 people who received the vaccine or an inactive placebo, all of the participants tested positive for a gene that makes them more susceptible to the Norovirus. But those who received the new vaccine were less likely to develop the illness than their counterparts who received the placebo, the study showed.

Administered as two doses three weeks apart via a nasal spray, there were no safety issues seen in the study and side effects were minimal.

“Further study is needed to answer questions such as who should get the vaccine and how long the protection lasts,” said Dr. Thomas Hooton, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine noting the Norovirus is “a mess and spreads like wildfire.”

When will this new treatment be available?

No timetable has been set but Atmar suggested the likely initial candidates would be people in nursing homes, health-care workers, the military and segments of the food industry.

How to avoid Norovirus while we wait for the new miracle medicine? Here are some tips to maximize your chances of not getting the Norovirus bug while on your cruise:

  • Wash your hands- Like on land, our hands contact all sorts of things and people, many of which may have horrible sicko germs, waiting to attack us. Do you know how to wash your hands? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the people that police these things, have instructions on how to do it.
  • Don’t count on the hand sanitizers– Those hand sanitizer dispensers all over the ship are mostly for show in the grand scheme of things. They help but there is no substitution for a good hand washing.
  • Avoid touching things– Hand rails on stairs, elevator buttons, walls are all things that some sick person might have touched before you.
  • Don’t pick your nose– I know, gross, but a really good way to get germs on your fingers into your body.
  • Avoid closed spacesCruise ships themselves provide the closed environment that the Norovirus needs to multiply and thrive. Elevators then, are almost like a closed environment within a closed environment and should be avoided. It won’t kill most people to take the stairs and get some extra exercise either.


Virus Leaves Cruise Ship Passengers Seasick

Flickr photo by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Princess Cruises to Galveston: Here we come again

It was 2007 when Princess Cruises last sailed from the Port of Galveston but the Love Boat cruise line returns next year, offering 19 departures from Galveston between December 22, 2012 and April 27, 2013 with one of their most popular ships, Crown Princess.

“We’ve received a great deal of feedback from cruisers interested in sailing from Galveston again,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So we’re excited to be returning in 2012 to bring our Western Caribbean sailings back to Texas.”This is no shabby ship. Crown Princess is not an old rusty has-been with no place to go, on the way to the cruise ship glue factory. The 3,070-passenger Crown Princess offers greater capacity than Princess ships previously based in Galveston. The 113,000-ton vessel offers the line’s popular signature features, including a piazza-style atrium with International Café and Vines wine bar; the 300-square-foot Movies Under the Stars poolside theater; The Sanctuary, an adults-only “oasis of tranquility”; and a variety of dining, recreation and entertainment options.

“Welcoming back Princess Cruises and hosting Crown Princess is a great addition to the Texas cruise market. We’re excited that the return of Princess Cruises will offer our passengers additional options of cruise vacations sailing from Texas’ premiere cruise port,” said Steven M. Cernak, Galveston port director.

Things are looking up indeed for the Port of Galveston which will also get sister-line Carnival Cruise Lines shiny new Carnival Magic this year. New ships debuting someplace other than Florida are rare and Galveston seems to have what it takes to support the newer, larger ships.

Now if they can just control that pesky fog problem at the port, it should be an exciting season sailing from Texas.

Flickr photo by MoToMo

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