Readers may already know about the actions by crew and engineering officers on board several Princess ships, including Caribbean Princess, that has led to Princess Cruises being fined $40m for marine pollution. Essentially, on some ships the practice of discharging untreated (and therefore contaminated) bilgewater into the sea had arisen. These actions were apparently reported by a British engineering crew member (possibly temporary?) who reported them to UK authorities when the ship he was on (Caribbean Princess) reached Southampton. This was in 2013; Princess and various authorities have been investigating ever since, and the fine represents a proposed final settlement. It’s being dealt with in the US legal system and I’m not quite sure why that is, but perhaps it’s because there’s a very tangled international web here: the incident that was first reported occurred in UK waters; then it was discovered that the unlawful practices were commonly followed on the relevant ships on cruises all over the world; the ship was registered in the Bahamas, I believe; and Princess Cruises is ultimately an American corporation. So I suppose the ultimate sanction could only come via the US legal system.

Here are a few links: first, to a detailed story about the affair, and secondly to a page on the Princess website that gives Princess Cruises’ response. To their credit, they have not tried to minimise the seriousness of the issue but have cooperated with the authorities and have made appropriate changes internally.

P&O have announced the schedule of cruises that Adonia will undertake following her return from Fathom. The first cruise, a 7 night Western Europe cruise, will start on 16 June, and will be followed by a programme of mainly 7 and 14 night itineraries. The full details aren’t yet available – we don’t know which actual ports will be visited on these cruises – but they will be published on 7 December.

There is one unexpected point, however. Obviously Adonia has got a taste for the Caribbean, because from October and through the winter she will be deployed on Eastern Caribbean fly-cruises. I have a feeling this is a new development.

Then on return to England in March 2018 she will undertake a summer-long programme of cruises to the usual destinations – Western Europe, Western Mediterranean, etc. Interestingly most of these are for either 7 or 14 nights – it looks as if the ‘extended duration’ cruises are being left to Arcadia and Oriana.

It looks as if all the European cruises will depart from Southampton, so no use of regional ports. I can’t help feeling that P&O have missed a trick there.

Here’s link to the ‘pre-announcement page’ on the P&O website.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-09-52-01Here’s a webcam image taken just now (nearly 10am, 28 November) of Oriana and Black Watch in dock in Hamburg – Oriana on the left and Black Watch on the right. Here are a couple of links to other posts I’ve done about the refits to these ships – Oriana’s here, and Black Watch’s here. Black Watch will be back in service for a cruise starting from Tilbury on 15 December, while Oriana’s next cruise will start the day after, 16 December.

Here’s a link to the webcam page. You may have to wait for an ad to run, I’m afraid.

There are stories floating around this morning that Fathom will cease offering voyages at the end of summer 2017. Apparently, while the voyages to Cuba became very popular, the ‘social impact’ voyages to the Dominican Republic never found a market. So the line will stop offering voyages. It’s likely that other lines owned by Carnival Corporation – indeed, any number of lines, I would expect – will offer voyages to Cuba, given the way that relations between the US and Cuba have thawed in the last year or so. As regards the efforts in the Dominical Republic it’s suggested that the Fathom concept will continue, but as an add-on to other Carnival lines’ voyages to that country – ‘Fathom’ activities will be available on those voyages.

Adonia will be returned to P&O UK, but there’s no word yet about a set of itineraries for her.

Here’s a link to a story in the Miami Herald about it, and another link to a story on USA Today.

Finally, here’s link to the set of posts I did about Fathom.

Project EDGE will deliver small ship itineraries with large ship amenities

Celebrity Edge (which I don’t think I’ve mentioned before today) is a class of ship, an individual ship, and a concept. It’s also shrouded in deep mystery….

The concept appeared  in December 2014 when Celebrity Cruises announced that they would be building two new ships in a completely new class, the Edge class. There are very few details about these ships. We know their dimensions: at 300m (914 feet) long, 38m (123 feet) wide and with a tonnage of 117,000, the new ships will be very slightly smaller than the original Solstice class ships and also differently proportioned – shorter, wider, and possible higher. But no further information was given, and the design of the ship is all rumours.

One rumour that’s apparently gained some traction is that the ships won’t feature a main dining room in the traditional sense. Instead there will be a significant number of eateries – some suggest 14 – of which no more than 5 will be ‘free’ (i.e., included in the basic cost of your cruise); and the others will be extra-cost. I ought to stress that we don’t know how they will operate, but this sounds quite like Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining concept. This was launched on their ship Quantum of the Seas, extended to the second ship of the Quantum class (Anthem of the Seas), and there were plans to extend it to the Oasis class ships. But apparently passenger feedback has caused a reversal of the plans – you read about that in this post on Malcolm Oliver’s cruise blog. Celebrity Cruises is part of the Royal Caribbean empire, of course; are they going to try it again? Or is it just that the rumours about Edge-class dining not caught up with what has happened with Royal Caribbean’s experience?

About the only other thing we know is the statements that Celebrity has been making about the new class. “Project EDGE will deliver small ship itineraries with large ship amenities”, they say, and the quote is continued with “a perfect vacation experience in step with today’s premium vacationer”. (And I though it was just going on a cruise….) On the one hand I’m really not sure how you can deliver a small-ship itinerary in a 117,000 ton ship, but there again, if you look at the luxury ‘small ships’ – e.g. those from Oceania or Regent Seven Seas – they don’t deviate very much from the standard itineraries. OK, they may officially call at Sorrento rather than Naples but apart from the actual location of the berth it’s pretty much the same experience thereafter – excursions to Pompeii, drives along the Amalfi coast, and so on. You need to look at the likes of Fred Olsen to get genuinely different itineraries.

A few other hard facts have emerged recently:

  • Steel has recently been cut at the shipyard (STX St Nazaire) for the first in the class (Celebrity Edge);
  • A second ship, to be called Celebrity Edge, has definitely been ordered and there are options for two more after that;
  • And Celebrity Edge will go into service in autumn 2018, i.e. about 2 years from now.

That last point means that we will learn a lot more about the details of these new ships fairly soon. Autumn 2018 isn’t too far away in cruise booking terms, and Celebrity will need to publish a lot of information about her when the autumn 2018 schedules go on sale. Sometime ion the next 6 months, I reckon.

 

There’s been a conference in Madrid, the “International Cruise Summit”, and apparently they discussed the issues facing the future of cruising in Europe. A number of issues seem to have been raised – a ‘fear factor’ is one issue, according to the director of Celestyal Cruises (they used to be the Cyprus-based Louis Cruises). He was worried about the general drop in calls to the Eastern Med (and presumably business for his company) in the last 18 months.

Other issues raised were the need for lines and ports to reach agreements on operating together; and the Port of Rome representative spoke of the mistrust between ports and local authorities. Berth availability and congestion was also raised.

However, the report that especially interested me was a discussion on the issues apparently being caused by the rise in independent tour operators versus cruise line shore excursion sales. Apparently, there is a general decline in the latter, especially for Brits. Shirley Henderson, described as shore excursions manager for Carnival UK is quoted as saying “Brits are very independent and are happy to go off in search of an adventure”. Hmm – not sure I’ve seen many adventurous Brits on cruises, but maybe I was looking the wrong way. Ms Henderson must know – she presumably has the figures to hand. Another delegate’s comment to the effect that poor guides, incorrect descriptions of what’s being offered and operations that go wrong are the main issues with cruise line excursions certainly resonated with me. (That was Claire Ward of Fred Olsen.)

Val has just reminded me that we haven’t actually done any real third party excursions. We’ve done DiY trips ashore, using public transport to get around and then paying our own admission into attractions, but we’ve never really picked a third-party excursion for ourselves. In general, that must mean that either we’ve found the official excursions OK, or it’s been a port where we could DiY.

What has been my readers’ experiences with 3rd party excursions? Or, indeed, with official ones?

To cruise at Christmas?

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I wish I had something more festive….

We did a Christmas cruise in 2014 on Arcadia – here’s a link to the main page about the cruise. As you can see if you read the mini-review on that page, I said “So, did we enjoy Christmas on Arcadia? Yes we did, with reservations“; and our main reservation was “First of these would be the fact that we actually feel that we’ve missed Christmas“. So last year we didn’t even look for a Christmas cruise, nor this year in fact; but here we both are, wondering if we should have. As Val said the other day “I’ve lost the magic of Christmas”. We’ve reached the stage of life where our own children long since grown up and flown the nest – one of them will be on another continent this Christmas – and we seem to spend these holidays doing the same round of visits that we do throughout the year. We don’t think we’re rich – perish the thought! – but being honest with myself, we’re certainly very comfortable. After all, we can afford to go on cruises, and if you have a look at my other blog you’ll see the number of long-ish non-cruise trips I’ve been able to afford since I retired.

After we’ve done all the usual stuff this Christmas we’re going to reward ourselves with a couple of nights away  in January at a 5* hotel in northern England – that will be our present to ourselves. But we’ve begun to ask ourselves if we would enjoy another Christmas cruise, and we’re beginning to think that we would. Especially as this time we would know what to expect and what we ought to get ourselves involved in. Unfortunately we know that it will probably be December 2018 before we can do a one. There’s nothing terribly suitable for 2017, and in any case with Val still working we’re constrained on the number of days we can be away. That cruise on Arcadia required Val to take just three days off work – it was Saturday to Saturday, and Christmas & Boxing days (Bank Holidays, of course) were midweek. Most of the 2017 selection would require more time than that. We’re certainly not in a position to do a 14-night Caribbean cruise over Christmas & New Year. But maybe there’ll be something for Christmas 2018.

So let me ask my readers – how many of you have done Christmas cruises? Did you enjoy them? If you haven’t would you like to? And what sort of Christmas cruises? – longer ones away from the UK for a couple of weeks or more, or the shorter ones in and around the Channel and the Baltic? Please let me know what you think about this, via the comments form.