Dispatches from Cruise Shipping Miami – Part 1: Soaring European Traffic, New Terminal and the Royal Wedding

In figures released at Cruise Shipping Miami, Europeans who chose a cruise vacation have topped the 5 million mark for the first time to reach 5.5 million, the European Cruise Council (ECC) reported. Despite the challenging economy in Europe, the number of Europeans choosing a cruise has doubled in the past seven years.

In 2010, the European cruise industry posted double digit growth for the fourth year in a row. “Cruising is helping Europe maintain its position as the world’s number one tourism destination and is helping sustain Europe’s recovery,” said Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, chairman of the ECC and chairman of Silversea Cruises.

The United Kingdom continues to be the top sourcing country, with a growth of 6 percent more cruisers than the previous year; Germany is second, Italy third, Spain fourth, and France fifth.
Speaking of France, Marseilles maintained its position as the top French cruise port with 344 calls and 700,000 passengers in 2010, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2009. That included 269,000 turnaround guests, up 55 percent from the previous year. A new cruise terminal will open in 2012.

Costa Cruises said it will experience 33 percent growth in the Mediterranean this year, as it makes 2,800 port calls carrying nearly nine million passengers. Calls by Costa ships at Italian ports will increase by 50 percent this year, followed by increased visits to ports in Spain and Greece.

In a potpourri of news tidbits, Crystal Cruises reports that 300 guests have already booked its “full” 2012 World Cruise, a 94-day voyage departing Jan. 18. The line also says that 24 hours prior to disembarkation, it’s giving guests complimentary Internet access to check into flights and print boarding passes. And in an industry first, Crystal Cruises’ beverage staff recently began training to become accredited with the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild.

An underwater bow camera, high-tech kayak launchers and iPod docks are just a few of the new features being installed on InnerSea Discoveries’ two expedition ships, Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Adventurer, during preparation for the line’s inaugural season in southeastern Alaska starting May 2011. The underwater camera will stream video from the underwater world to flat screen televisions in all guest rooms and the lounge. Each ship will also carry 28 assorted styles of Necky kayaks, which are stable, roomy and good for both pros and novices.

Cruisers headed to Singapore in 2012 will enter a newly refurbished Singapore Cruise Center that fields a garden-like environment. Highlights will include porcelain designer light sculptures, ceilings with cove motifs, and “living” walls with tropical foliage. Passengers will also discover more check-in counters, faster security clearance and more spacious waiting areas.

Look for Belfast, Northern Ireland to roll out a series of events in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the launch of Titanic. The ship was built at the Harlan & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast. A new $150 million interactive “Titanic” attraction will open at the head of the slipway from which the vessel was launched. On April 15, 1912 in the midst of its maiden voyage, Titanic sunk in the north Atlantic after hitting an iceberg.

For decades, the SS United States, the transatlantic liner bearing America’s name, has languished at a Philadelphia shipyard. The ship needs a magnitude of repairs, environmental upgrades and outfitting if it’s ever to sail again or even be used as a docked hotel or event venue. NCL owned her for a bit, but nothing came of that. Now, the SS United States Conservancy owns the ship and has 20 months to find investors.

The group is concentrating its efforts on potential “docked” hotel or event usage in several cities, including Miami. Reportedly, the group is checking out the potential for using an old berth near the American Airlines arena; that’s not far from major cruise line operations at the Port of Miami.

Apparently cruise lines have been approached and at least a few have expressed interest in possible use of the ship for a pre- or post-cruise facility.

And finally, Travel Agent caught up with Peter Shanks, president and managing director, Cunard Line, prior to his appearance later in the week at Cruise Shipping Miami.

The question asked of Shanks: What’s planned onboard Cunard for the upcoming Royal Wedding?
“We’re going to do a very Cunard experience,” said Shanks. “All three of our ships will be at sea that day. So we’re going to be showing the royal wedding in each of our theaters on the main screen. We’re going to be having a very special royal ball that night in the Queens Room on all three ships. We will have a royal wedding cake which our guests will enjoy.”

Shanks also said Cunard guests will enjoy a special dinner, and “we may well be having the same menu as the royal family will be having.” Guests will also receive a special commemorative menu. The entire onboard experience the day of the wedding will resemble a royal celebration in feel. “Given our royal links, it’s probably the coolest place to be if you want to be at sea and take part in that royal experience,” Shanks emphasized.

For more insight from Shanks on Cunard, visit our separate Dispatches from Cruise Shipping Miami – Part 2. And for more news and gleanings of Cruise Shipping Miami, stay tuned here for more dispatches throughout the week.

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