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

Nearly Constant Connectivity Almost Here, Right Now

rayand/Flickr

Being connected when traveling is getting easier all the time. As new technology rolls out, travelers worldwide find connecting to Wi-Fi hot spots easier than ever. Pricing is becoming more reasonable too, enabling more to enjoy constant connectivity wherever they may travel. The need is there and technology companies are delivering, as I found out on a recent international trip.

On land, Comcast has a new program for hotels, offering reliable, high-performance bandwidth that can easily scale up to meet increased demand. Prices are starting to come down too, as hotel chains provide complimentary Internet access to members of their loyalty programs. Look for more of the same as travelers list having to pay for Internet access second only to noisy neighbors as the most annoying part of staying at a hotel in a recent survey.

Air travelers have been connecting over the continental United States for years. Now they do it less expensively with day and hourly passes and bundled services from companies like GoGo Internet. Soon, American Airlines and others will add access over the Atlantic Ocean for international travelers. Through May 21, 2013, American had provided free International Internet access as they worked out the bugs. Going forward, American will offer a “duration of the flight” pass over international waters for $19.By rail, Amtrak’s new AmtrakConnect cellular-based Wi-Fi using 4G technologies is already complete on many lines and will be rolled out to all remaining Wi-Fi equipped Amtrak trains by late summer.

Not all that long ago, Cruise travelers resigned to seeing “no service” once they set sail. Today they can connect ship-wide all the time. Now equipped with Wi-Fi options that are costing less and doing more, cruise lines are increasingly adding content of their own with internal networks for cruise travelers. Soon, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will offer passengers high-speed, satellite-delivered, broadband service thanks to a multiyear, multimillion dollar agreement Royal made with O3b, a global satellite service provider.

Even those who travel by motor vehicle are finding more connectivity as giant networks like AT&T, local cable companies and municipalities make nationwide Wi-Fi hotspots readily available. This availability is combined with smartphones that easily switch between service providers either on their own or via a connection service like Boingo Internet.

In the not so distant past, I would reduce my smart phone to something just shy of brick-status in order to avoid hefty roaming, long distance and other surcharges when traveling internationally. It seems that with each trip abroad though, connecting gets easier, with stronger, more reliable signals. A trip to Italy last month required simply switching on an international data plan that enabled me to travel in Europe as though I had gone on a road trip within driving distance of my North American home.

Travelers who long for constant connectivity? Your ship is about to come in. Oddly, it may arrive at nations other than the United States first, as we see in this interesting video:

Romania Beats U.S. in High-Speed Internet Connectivity

Secret Cruise Ships Named, Construction Begins

cruise shipsIt has been almost two years since Gadling published “The Secret Is Out: Royal Caribbean To Build New Class Of Ships.” Details were few at the time, only that the mysterious new class of cruise ships would be referred to as code name “Project Sunshine” during development, which had already been underway for a year. This week, Royal Caribbean released a few details about the two new ships set to debut in 2014 and 2015.

This week, the first piece of steel was cut for Quantum of the Seas at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where both ships will be built. Quantum of the Seas will debut in the fall of 2014 and sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in the spring of 2015.

“After three years of design and advance planning this is the first step of the construction of the ship and I look forward to seeing it all come together in the coming months,” said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International in a press release.

Short on details about the two new “Quantum-class” ships, Royal Caribbean reminded fans of their rich history of being first with unique ship features like rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, zip lines across decks and more. Expect more of the same wow-factor features on new Quantum and Anthem of the Seas.”The new ship will be such a leap forward in terms of vessel design and guest experiences that we thought the name Quantum of the Seas was perfectly appropriate,” added Goldstein.

Royal Caribbean plans to release details of the ships over time, typical of most cruise lines constructing new vessels. Unique to Royal Caribbean’s rollout of all things Quantum-class, the line will release details first on its new Tumblr page.

The 158,000-ton Quantum-Class ships will be smaller than giant Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, carrying just over 4,100 passengers based on double occupancy. Oasis-class ships are 225,000 tons and over 5,400 passengers.

Here’s more about the steel-cutting in Germany and a (very) few details about the ships:




[Photo credit – Flickr user LinksmanJD]

Disney Cruise Line Takes Top Three In World’s Best Ships Poll

When Condé Nast comes out with a readers’ poll, cruise travelers worldwide take notice. To be mentioned near the top of their list is a sought-after award worth bragging about. In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Beating out Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox to round out the top five, classic Disney Cruise ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder took the first and second spots, respectively, followed by 2011’s Disney Dream in third place.

“With four ships in our fleet, more families than ever before can set sail on a Disney Cruise Line vacation filled with imaginative fun for the kids and exciting family time for all,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in a SILive report. “We’re thrilled that the experiences our cast and crew members deliver at sea continue to be recognized as outstanding by our guests.”

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It was all a part of Condé Nast’s 100 Best Cruise Ships In the World, a reader poll ranking travel experiences with categories of small ships, medium ships, large ships and river cruise ships.

Interestingly, it was Disney Cruise Line’s two older ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder that took top honors followed closely by 2011’s Disney Dream with the latest, greatest version of what Disney does at sea, Disney Fantasy trailing in eighth place. Not that eight place is bad mind you – just not quite as magical.

Here are all top ten in the large ship category. Click on any of them for more information from Condé Nast.

89.9 Disney Magic

89.6 Disney Wonder

89.5 Disney Dream

88.6 Celebrity Eclipse

88.2 Celebrity Equinox

87.0 Queen Mary 2

86.2 Celebrity Solstice

84.8 Disney Fantasy

83.7 Oasis of the Seas

82.7 Liberty of the Seas

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Docks in NYC


[Photo credit- Chris Owen]

Powerball Winner Travel Options

powerball

The nation’s multi-state Powerball lottery is up to $425 million for Wednesday night’s drawing, the largest jackpot ever. Would-be winners have dreams of financial freedom, never working again for the rest of their lives and more. Odds are, travel may be one of the options the big winner will choose. With a cash value of $278 million, that’s a lot of travel. But just what will $278 million buy?

Aircraft-
At a cost of $206 million, the winner could buy one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and have millions leftover for a flight crew and operating expenses. Don’t want to blow so much on a jet? Choose a 737 for as little as $74.8 million.

Looking for more adventure? How about a F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet for $150 million.

Cruise of a lifetime-
At an average cost of $1000 per person, per week, if the winner is an avid cruiser, they could sail with a dozen friends on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for over 70 years.

Bump that up to destination-immersive Azamara Club Cruises on an itinerary that takes the winner and his happy dozen friends around the world, and sail for over 20 years in ultra luxury.

Road trip of a lifetime, with friends-
Fancy a luxury road trip? At about $9 million each, the winner and about 30 friends could drive solid gold Rolls-Royce Phantom’s.

Or leave the friends behind and drive your gold Rolls-Royce to any one of 19 four to seven-story hotels you could build along the way.

Better yet, buy 14,000 of your closest friends a new Toyota Prius for $19,950 eachBuy an Island-
Tikina-I-Ra is a 10,000-acre, private island for sale in the South Pacific for just a bit over $11 million.

“One of the largest freehold estates in the Fiji Islands, this property is in pristine condition,” says Private Islands Online, adding, “With ocean frontage to the North, West, and South, the island enjoys approximately 25 kilometres of coastline.”

Talk about adventure-
Adventure travelers too would do well as winners.

Experiences of a Lifetime from TCS & Starquest Expeditions would take you by private jet to eight countries. Camping under the stars in India’s Great Thar Desert, gorilla trekking in Rwanda and elephant trekking in Thailand runs about $68,000 per person for a 23-day tour. You could bring 200 of your friends and do it for a year.

Feeling like there could be a better use for your half billion in winnings?

Feeding all the hungry people on the planet, your prize would not go far. Worldwide, 852 million people are hungry, up from 842 million a year ago.


[Photo by Flickr user live w mcs]