A Tiny Cruise Line With A Big Impact

cruise lineLike them or hate them, travelers have heard of cruise lines that travel around the world on city-like ships, ply the rivers of Europe or sail from convenient home ports around North America. Some have ships designed to be destinations in and of themselves, while others have purpose-built vessels with a shore-side focus, stopping at world class destinations. Between the brands of Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Corporation alone, millions of travelers take to the sea each year. A comparative handful of cruise travelers choose small, boutique lines that sail just a few ships to many of the same places with their own signature travel experience.

Lüftner Cruises, a family-owned Austrian company, is one of those tiny cruise lines. Lüftner operates Amadeus Cruises, a luxury river cruise line with just six ships that sail along Europe’s Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers in opulent luxury on voyages lasting four to 15 days.

Just launched, 443-foot Amadeus Silver is their largest and most luxurious river ship ever. The 90-cabin vessel is adorned in first-class interior furnishings, luxurious accommodations, authentic Austrian programming and an environmentally-friendly design.

Featured on the Amadeus Silver is Café Vienna, a traditional Austrian coffee shop serving Sachertorte specialties. An open-air lounge named the River Terrace is located in the ship’s bow and has special glazed windows to protect passengers from a windy or rainy day. The ship also has a two-story fitness studio, two restaurants and a sundeck with a golf putting green.

Passenger cabins are a roomy 172 square feet and have innovative French balconies with drop-down windows affording panoramic views. Spacious suites are 258 square feet and have walk-out exterior balconies with seating areas.

On the ship, activities include folklore shows, lectures on the history of the Rhine-Main-Danube canal and Bavarian evenings with live music. Off the ship, city excursions showcase the region’s rich cultural diversity and feature concerts in Vienna, wine tastings in Wuerzburg and castle tours.

Lüftner Cruises also has an uber focus on the environment, earning certification by Green Globe, the global travel and tourism industries’ certification program for sustainable tourism as well as Atmosfair, a climate protection organization with a focus on travel.

“We are well aware that tourism always impacts on the environment despite increasing efforts to offer environmentally-friendly travel arrangements,” said Dr. Wolfgang Lueftner, Founder and Owner of Lueftner Cruises in an Eturbonews report.

On board Lueftner ships, cruise travelers have the opportunity to positively impact the environment. Passengers can, and do, choose to offset their own CO2 consumption with a donation and are given the option to pay a suggested climate protection levy of €2 per day per cabin.

[Photo Credit – Amadeus Cruises]

Cruise Lines To Plug In Ships, Finally

cruise shipMore than a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. A year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes due to a $4 million price increase along the way. Now, Port Authority officials say they will approve the project and get going on it this month.

“The shore power project I expect will be on the Port Authority agenda for the June meeting,” Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye told the New York Daily News. “We’re working with our colleagues in city government to see what help they can provide and those discussions are ongoing. The environmental impacts to the local community – obviously it is an immensely populated area – are real and we’re focused on them.”

Concerned parties including state and local officials, Con Ed, Carnival Corporation and owners of ships that will use the facility, worked and debated for years to figure out how much electricity would cost and how to pay for it, before finally announcing a deal last April to split the cost.

Plugging in cruise ships is a big focus of cruise line environmental efforts, with several west coast ports already equipped to do so. When cruise ships come in to the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal they bring a lot of travelers. That business is great for the local economy. Each cruise ship also brings some 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually when they park and burn their diesel engines – bad news for the humans that live near by.

“It will be the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars per year from the road annually,” Seth W. Pinsky, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation told the New York Times.

In California, the ports of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco already have the ability for ships to plug in.


Port of San Diego Completes Shore Power System from Port of San Diego on Vimeo.

Photo by Ian Barbour via Compfight

Breaking: Fire breaks out on Costa ship near Seychelles islands

fireA fire broke out today on Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra leaving it adrift off the Seychelles islands. The vessel was carrying 413 crew members and 636 passengers from 25 countries, including eight Americans.

Costa Cruises told Gadling “today at 10:39 CET a fire broke out on board Costa Allegra in the electric generator room. The shipboard fire-extinguishing system and emergency procedures were activated promptly and special fire-fighting squads extinguished the fire.”

Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro told CNN that the ship’s captain confirmed the blaze was quickly extinguished, but the Costa Allegra’s engines are not working. The Italian Coast Guard has dispatched cargo ships near the Allegra to help, and the Seychelles is sending a motorboat, a plane, and two tugs to assist. No injuries or casualties have been reported.

In a statement, Costa reports:

“As a precaution, the general emergency alarm was sounded and all passengers and crew members not engaged in the management of the emergency reported to their muster stations.

Currently the ship is more than 200 miles southwest of the Seychelles and approximately 20 miles from Alphonse Island. Tugboats and other naval and aerial units have been dispatched to Costa Allegra.

According to standard procedures, Costa Allegra transmitted a distress signal and the relevant authorities were alerted, including the Maritime Rescue Control Center in Rome, Italy. Costa Crociere and the relevant authorities are actively monitoring the situation.”

Allegra is owned by the Italian-based Costa Crociere, also the owner of grounded Costa Concordia and a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation.

Built in 1969 by the Wärtsilä Turku Shipyard in Turku, Finland as the container ship MS Annie Johnson, the vessel was sold in 1986 to Regency Cruises to be converted into a cruise ship under the name MS Regent Moon, but in 1988 was sold to Compania Naviera Panalexandra and renamed MS Alexandra, then sold in 1990 to Costa Cruises who rebuilt the ship in Genoa, Italy, entering service as Costa Allegra.

Flickr photo by JorgeBRAZIL

Surge in oil prices signal talk of cruise line fuel surcharges

oil prices cruise fuel surchargeFinancial experts are talking about oil prices that could surge to $220 a barrel. Political unrest, mainly concern over a violent power struggle in Libya, could disrupt oil supplies. As oil prices rise, airline, cruise line, and other transportation sectors consider taking action.

Most cruise lines have held off adding fuel surcharges but all have implementation plans in place once the decision is made to add them back on. Most have set somewhere between $70 and $100 per barrel as the mark at which the unpopular fee can be added on to bookings. The price of oil has risen above that level on several occasions but cruise lines have held back from adding the fee last charged in 2008.

Still, even before the current situation, speculation began on the possibility of more fuel surcharges late last year.
Some airlines, already increased fuel surcharges earlier this month and Jet Airways announced an increase today. Will others follow?

“Brent crude, one of the key benchmarks for crude oil, was up 3 percent to $109.70 a barrel in European trading Wednesday. CNBC reported that some traders think oil could surpass $200 a barrel if disruptions continue” reported the South Florida Business Journal.

Yesterday saw a fall of 8 to 13 percent as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Carnival Corp, among others were affected by tumbling stock prices.

Flickr photo by nestor galina


Cruise line to raise fuel surcharges. Others to follow?

cruise fuel surchargesIt’s not just gas at the pump rising in price, cruise lines too are paying more for fuel and some are passing along the cost to passengers.

Cunard Line, already charging a fuel surcharge since last May, today announced an increase from $3.85 to $6.00 per person per day on new bookings made on or after December 31, 2010. The supplement is capped at $200 per person on longer voyages and includes all guests traveling.

Cruise lines have resisted adding back on the unpopular fuel surcharge even though fuel prices have exceeded the threshold they commonly notify guests it would take to resume the fee. Fuel surcharges started in 2007 when oil went above $100 per barrel but were removed in late 2008 after pricing went down below $70.

The current price of a barrel of crude oil is about $90.

Other signs point to seeing more of cruise line fuel surcharges too. Earlier this month, British Airways raised their fuel surcharge for the first time since 2008 on long-haul flights by 10 pounds (about $16) each way.

Still, the cruise industry does not want to add the fee back. When speaking of fuel surcharges earlier this month, Carnival Corp Vice Chairman and COO Howard Frank told USA Today, “I don’t see that in the cards … not based on where we see fuel for this year.”

Photo courtesy Cunard Line