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Carnival: We’re Decreasing Our Direct Business
Amid Carnival Corp.'s second quarter earnings call on Thursday, chairman and CEO, Micky Arison, stated that the company would rely even more heavily on travel agents and cut down its direct business practices for Carnival Cruise Lines.
"Since Bob Dickinson retired, two Carnival senior sales and marketing executives, who were clearly most aggressive in growing Carnival Cruise Lines’ direct business, left the company," Arison said. "Since then Gerry [Cahill] and his team have reevaluated that program and the fact is they have significantly reduced the business from that program. The result is, and will be for the time being, less direct business. We are very pleased with that kind of mid-course correction.
"I think it’s very important to state that the travel agency distribution system has been an effective and efficient distribution system for this company for 35 years, and it got us to where we are. So we clearly believe that we need to continue to support them [travel agents] and they have shown this year they can give us the yield improvements we need to overcome at least partially the higher fuel costs. Despite the fact that I would expect to have a little less direct business next year, particularly at Carnival Cruise Lines, the effect of that would be higher yields."
Jeff Kivet, chairman and CEO of Cruise Value Center in East Brunswick, NJ, was excited over the proposed prospect. "He [Arison] is a straight shooter; he talks the talk and walks the walk," Kivet said. "If he said it, you can take it to the bank. It's a great idea."
Meanwhile, Carnival Corp. earned $390 million in net profit in the second quarter, which was exactly the same profit it made at the same time last year.
Despite rising fuel costs and a tough economic climate, Carnival remained optimistic. "Despite the current difficult economic environment, our booking trends continue to be solid," Arison said. "Consumers continue to plan leisure travel but appear more cost conscious placing greater emphasis on finding more economical options. A cruise vacation is an attractive alternative for those seeking the most value for their vacation dollar."
Royal Caribbean Introduces Two New Oasis of the Seas Neighborhoods
NEW YORK- First Central Park, now a Boardwalk and Royal Promenade. Royal Caribbean International has a flare for the dramatic when introducing the new amenities and areas aboard its newest ship, Oasis of the Seas, launching in late 2009. Wednesday was no different. From the stage of the Nokia Theater in Manhattan's Times Square, flanked by multiple video screens and circus performers, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, introduced two more of Oasis of the Seas' neighborhoods: the Boardwalk and Royal Promenade.
The Boardwalk is a true family affair, reminiscent of beach boardwalks with carnival games, a carousel, eateries and retail outlets. Also part of the Boardwalk is the AquaTheater, which will offer different activities for day and night. In the daytime, passengers can swim in the theater's kidney-shaped pool or race through the air on a zip line that will be suspended nine decks above Boardwalk; nighttime will deliver performances featuring acrobatics, synchronized swimming, high diving shows and other escapades. There too will be six AquaTheater Suites overlooking the theater area, 221 Boardwalk-view balcony staterooms and eight Boardwalk-view window staterooms.
Speaking of rooms, Royal Caribbean also unveiled designs for 28 two-level loft suites, which will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and vary in space from 430 square feet to the 1700-square-foot Royal Loft. In total, Oasis of the Seas will boast 37 different room categories.
The Royal Promenade, prominently featured on Royal Caribbean's Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, will be twice the width of what it is on those Freedom-class ships and about the length of a football field. It will feature 18 Promenade View Staterooms, eight retail outlets including a men's salon, and nine restaurants and bars. A new twist, in lieu of using lower decks to embark on the ship, the Royal Promenade will serve as the entry point for all guests.
Fain called the new amenities and neighborhoods aboard the ship, "game-changing," and said everything onboard was driven by customer demand. "When we looked to expand the market, people said they wanted choice and alternatives," he said. "Well, here they all are in one place at one fixed cost."
Both Fain and Goldstein said they are convinced that the addition of Oasis of the Seas would ultimately lead to better, more premium pricing. "Our pricing rise as we give customers more," added Goldstein, "Customers usually pay a premium price for new ships."
Oasis of the Seas will homeport in Port Everglades, conveniently located minutes away from Fort Lauderdale Airport. Bookings for the ship open September 3, in preparation for its inaugural voyage December 12, 2009. The season will begin with 19 seven-night Eastern Caribbean sailings calling at Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau, the Bahamas. On May 12, 2010, the ship will alternate its Eastern Caribbean itinerary with a Western Caribbean itinerary visiting Labadee, Haiti, where Royal Caribbean is currently building a new dock; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico.
Fain said each destination will have ports big enough to handle the ship so that tenders would be unnecessary. Asked if Royal Caribbean ships could be built even bigger in the future, Fain said he didn't envision anything larger. But, he said, "Never say never."
Visit www.oasisoftheseas.com for images and a video on the new ship.
Avalon Waterways Adds Six New River Cruises for 2009
Avalon Waterways, which operates riverboats in Europe, China, Egypt and the Galapagos, is expanding its 2009 itineraries by adding six new voyages altogether. The line is doing so based on "outstanding 2008 sales."
Avalon's six new river cruises for 2009, which will range from eight to 23 days, were developed to meet increased demands from past guests. The following are the new itineraries:
* Christmas in the Heart of Germany—Eight Days (Frankfurt to Prague) and priced from $1,709.
* Windmills, Vineyards & Paris—13 or 14 Days (Paris to Amsterdam/Amsterdam to Paris) and priced from $3,529.
* Blue Danube to the Black Sea—14 Days (Vienna to Bucharest/Bucharest to Vienna) and priced from $3,559.
* European Splendor—13 Days (Amsterdam to Vienna/Vienna to Amsterdam) and priced from $3,649.
* North Sea–Black Sea Cruise—23 Days (Amsterdam to Bucharest/Bucharest to Amsterdam) and priced from $6,729.
* Fascinating China & Mongolia with Yangtze River Cruise—18 Days (Shanghai to Beijing) and priced from $5,709.
Avalon Waterways' European fleet in 2009 will total eight ships with the addition of Avalon Affinity and Avalon Creativity. Its newest riverboat, Avalon Scenery, will be christened in France this spring.
In anticipation for 2009, the line is offering an early booking promotion: Those booking travel between now and August 31 can receive $300 off the air-inclusive price or $125 off the cruise-only price of a 2009 Globus or Avalon Waterways cruise.
Additional Penthouses Being Added to Crystal Serenity
Crystal Cruises is one line that listens to its passengers. The luxury line, citing high demand, will convert 12 previously Deluxe Staterooms on Crystal Serenity into eight Penthouses during a two-week dry dock beginning November 12. The action will decrease the ship’s guest capacity, but up its luxury quotient.
The 403-square-foot Penthouses offer personal butler service, complimentary wine and liquor and Jacuzzi tubs. As an added bonus, Penthouse guests can order in-room dining from onboard specialty restaurants such as Nobu. When the conversion is completed, the ship will boast 72 Penthouses to go along with 32 Penthouse Suites and four Crystal Penthouses. The new Penthouses can now be reserved on a guarantee business. Visit www.crystalcruises.com.
Tauck's New Riverboat Named MS Swiss Jewel
Tauck World Discovery has unveiled the name of its new riverboat, which will debut next April, and the winning moniker is MS Swiss Jewel. The ship will be Tauck's third new riverboat in three years, joining sister ships MS Swiss Sapphire, launched in April of 2008, and MS Swiss Emerald, which was launched also in April two years ago.
Tauck says the addition of MS Swiss Jewel will increase its departures by 25 percent. The riverboat will alternate with Tauck's other ships on five of the line's seven river cruise itineraries. Few of the new ship's details have been revealed as Tauck is still incorporating guest feedback into the final design. Visit www.tauck.com.
2-for-1 South America & Antarctica Cruises
Voyages of Discovery, which operates exploration cruises in destinations such as South America and Antarctica, is offering 2-for-1 deals for its November 13 sailing to South America. Passengers must book by July 15.
The entire cruise is 24 nights from Lisbon to Buenos Aires. Pricing for the first guest begins at $6,660. Voyages of Discovery is also offering great deals on airfare from major U.S. cities including New York, Boston and Los Angeles. Visit www.voyagesofdiscovery.com.
Great Alaska Cruise Prices
Royal Caribbean is offering great Alaska cruise prices just in time before the season ends. Prices for Royal Caribbean's seven-night Alaska Hubbard Glacier cruise departing July 5 and July 19 from Vancouver on Serenade of the Seas begin at $1,099 per person for an inside cabin. Balconies are $599 per person. The itinerary includes cruising the Inside Passage and Hubbard Glacier, along with port calls in Skagway and Juneau. Visit www.rccl.com.