This Week in Cruise: Back to Baltimore, ACL's Plans, New Azamara CEO

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International will return to Baltimore as a homeport later this week. Cruise lines and cargo companies temporarily ceased operations at Baltimore in March after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed. -- temporarily closing the channel. Now, ships are again using the Port of Baltimore, so Carnival Pride will resume cruises on May 26, while Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas will begin cruising from Baltimore on May 25.

On the American river cruise front, American Cruise Lines, which was the successful bidder for all four former American Queen Voyages’ riverboats earlier this year at auction, plans to scrap both American Duchess and American Countess.The fate of American Empress, which previously sailed in the Pacific Northwest, and American Queen, the largest U.S. river cruise vessel and beloved by many river cruisers, is not yet known. Currently, ACL is evaluating options. Separately, John Waggoner, AQV’s founder, who purchased AQV’s two former oceangoing small ships at that same auction, plans to relaunch them in the Great Lakes during 2025.  

Azamara Cruises officially has a new CEO at the helm -- veteran cruise industry executive Dondra Ritzenthaler. While her appointment to the post was announced last year, she officially began her new role this past week. Retiring from Celebrity Cruises in 2023, Ritzenthaler is well-known to advisors as that line's former senior vice-president of sales, trade support and service for the Americas. Look for an article this week in sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor with insight from Ritzenthaler about her new role and gleanings about what's ahead for the upper premium brand. 

Trade Support News 

Oceania Cruises debuted the new Oceania Insider Connect, a trade solution powered by technology from Approach Guides. It's designed to boost the sales and marketing efforts of its travel advisor partners. Separately, the line has introduced a four-category upgrade sale.

In other new trade support moves, Aqua Expeditions has launched a new travel advisor portal while Royal Caribbean International is giving travel advisors ready-to-use social media content. Separately, Royal Caribbean has partnered with InteleTravel to provide more than 450 top-selling travel advisors in that host agency's network with scholarships toward membership to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). 

New Ships, New Itineraries

In 2025, clients who love the cruise industry's upscale ship-within-a-ship concept will soon have another new option. MSC Cruises' MSC World America will sport the largest MSC Yacht Club at sea; that key-card-only-accessible area of the ship will offer exclusive dining, lounge and pool deck spaces reserved for those Yacht Club guests. Last week, MSC Cruises also announced that it will position a second ship,  MSC Grandiosa, at Port Canaveral to operate Caribbean itineraries in 2025. 

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection unveiled design details for its new Ilma while Viking floated out Viking Sobek, its newest Egypt river vessel.

On the itinerary front, Princess Cruises detailed a new “Historic America” cruisetour ahead of the United States' 250th anniversary. It includes a 2025 Canada & New England cruise sailing from New York City, plus land touring and hotel stays. For instance, guests will visit historic spots in Washington D.C.; Harper's Ferry, WV; and Philadelphia, PA; as well as at Richmond, Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg,and Charlottesville (for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), VA.

Improved Outlook 

And finally, the cruise industry's recovery continues unabated. Citing strong consumer demand and an improved 2024 outlook, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) today raised its 2024 earnings per share guidance -- to a range of $1.32 to $1.42. It also raised expectations for the company's net yield growth from 6.4 percent to 7.2 percent.