© Gilbert CAILLER

I don’t want to say I told you so, but I think you will find I did. Either that or STX is being a bit adventurous. Photos have arrived online suggesting that MSC has purchased the former Libyan cruise ship as MSC PREZIOSA. The ship is the same class as the soon to be launched MSC Divina and sister ships MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida.
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Christmas Presents for STX

STX looks set to have a bumber Christmas and New Years if everything goes to plan!

All Rivers Lead to the Ocean

Viking River Cruises has ordered two ocean going cruise ships, with the option of a third from STX in France. This is great news for STX workers, who have faced an uncertain future with the yards struggling for work in the recession.
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What Does 2012 Have In Store?

2012 is nearly upon us, so what do we have to look forward to in the next year. Well five new cruise ships will be joining the oceans, Norwegian Cruise Line will be listing on the stock market and Costa Romantica will emerge as Costa NeoRomantica, after a daring refurbishment. So heres our guesstimations for the next year:
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Growth in the Middle East?

We have previously discussed how there has been a strain of yields in the med (Too Many ships?). So does the Arabian Gulf offer an alternative?

Personally I think yes, Dubai has a growing tourist industry, with the worlds largest building, and the Palms to visit, as well as great weather the United Arab Emirates could be a great place for a pre cruise stay. Also Dubai is well-connected to the rest of the world thanks to Emirates Airlines.

In the future Dubai is looking to develop its tourism potential and a Universal Studios, Legoland and various other entertainment parks are planned to rival Orlando, In the future a cruise to be combined with these destinations, along with a stay at ‘Atlantis : The Palm’ would make for a great visit.

There is also significant opportunity for Cruise Lines to develop ‘Private Islands’ as destinations, to support the cruise schedule. Politically the region is still unstable however, and just a bit too far to tap the America cruise market. So I don’t believe

However this doesn’t mean that cruise lines aren’t trying, MSC has recently relocated MSC Lirica to Abu Dhabi, where she will be sailing around the Arabian Gulf, with calls at Muscat, Al Fujairah, Khasab in Oman and Dubai. Lirica will be offering a series of 19 cruises. The following year with 25 cruises will be the larger MSC Opera, Surely a significant committment by MSC in the Arabian Gulf cruise industry.

However just round the coast Costa Cruises have been operating out of Dubai since 2006, and was one of the first cruise lines to make a committment to the region. In a recent interview Costa President Giovanni Onorator has commented how there isn’t a real difference in itinerary as some ports such as Qatar don’t have the facilities, and Bahrain is currently not possible.

Dubai’s cruise port can currently accommodate two ships at a time, however plans are underway for the facility to be expanded, to offer space for five cruise ships by the end of 2012.

Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas has been operating out of Dubai from November to April each year, offering cruises round the Middle East and India. With India’s wealth of culture this is  a cruise which would interest me, However it would appear Royal Caribbean are returning Brilliance of the Seas to the Caribbean next year.

I don’t think this is something that can happen over night, and with the regional difficulties posed by the Arab Spring this could be something which in twenty years time is a highly developed cruise industry. If Dubai can develop its international appeal to families, just like Florida, there is no reason why it cannot succeed.

Just some facts and figures for you, This year there is expected to be 425,000 visitors to the United Arab Emirates on 120 different cruise ships, forecast suggest that 180 ships carrying 625,000 passengers will be calling in 2015.

I would love to know what you think? Could the United Arab Emirates ever develop a full cruise industry?

Thanks & Regards,
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For Sale. One Owner: Gaddafi

The cruise ship for Libya, known as Phoenicia, which is currently under construction in France is up for sale. This follows the default on payment for the second instalment of the payment plan.

Phoenicia is part of the Fantasia class, of which MSC have MSC Fantasia, MSC Spendida and MSC Divina. The similarity in the design has meant that MSC are seen as the lead bidder for the 140,000GT cruise vessel, the ship is currently due for delivery in December 2012. MSC Cruises head Pierfrancesco Vago has been quoted as saying the ship would make a suitable addition to the fleet, In addition Lloyds List reported that MSC FRANCE boss Erminio Eschena said his company was considering to buy the vessel.

When ordered, it was widely wondered why Libya’s GNMTC (General National Maritime Transport Company) has ordered one of the worlds largest cruise ships, who would cruise on Gaddafi’s cruise liner? And with 4000 passengers this would not have been a small operation, with Americans likely to stay away the ship would likely have been targeted to the Domestic and Southern european market. There was also a suggestion the ship would be chartered to MSC. At the time or ordering GNMTC were quoted as saying ‘We haven’t got any plans for the time being. We have just ordered it.’

As for the interior decoration of the vessel would also be similar to that of the others in the Fantasia class, which would mean that for a traditional cruise operator to take over changes in design could be small. 

Other possible bidders include TUI Cruises who have been continuously mentioned as requiring an additional cruise ship and P&O Austalia, as competition down under heats up. Perhaps even NCL, with their previous history of buying abandoned cruise ships will prevail? Who knows, but they will have to be quick for a December 2012 launch.

Personally I hope its MSC, as MSC Phoenicia sounds quite nice, and it would make a suitable addition for the rest of the fleet, with her three sister ships. Once MSC Divina is delivered next year MSC have no further ships on order.

Would you have cruised with Gaddafi? Facebook, Twitter, Comment & Email!

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MSC Orchestra Ship Visit

Yesterday I was in London (Southampton) to visit MSC Orchestra, If you have been reading this blog for a while you may remember I visited MSC Opera earlier this year. I was given the chance to visit the MSC Orchestra while docked in London (Southampton) as it repositioned from Northern Europe.

MSC Orchestra is one of the four Musica Class cruise ships, the Muscia class is MSC’s middle-sized ship, the larger being the Fantasia Class, and the smaller being the Lirica Class (Which Opera was part of). The picture below should be to scale. The pictures are from the excellent


MSC Orchestra entered service in 2007, she was built in STX France, and was named as always with MSC ships by Sophia Lauren.

As always with ship visits it was in Southampton so I took the train down arriving at Southampton Ibis at 23.40 the night before, however unusually for this time the room wasn’t ready so I was offered free drinks from the bar untill it had been cleaned. I finally got into the room around 0.20, although I was happy to wait longer with free drinks. The Ibis, Etap and Novotel are all directly over the road from the station, so great if you just need an easy hotel room.

The following day I met with @Linerlovers and @BenMontgomeryCD, before going on board. It was nice to meet and have a quick chat without it fitting in twitters character requirements. Upon making our way to City Cruise Terminal it appeared that MSC Orchestra would be late due to bad weather, however MSC laid on snacks and drinks in the cruise terminal and we got a great view of the ship approaching the cruise terminal. It was nice to see some familiar faces from the MSC Opera visit (Yes, Black Card holders).

Once onboard we were led to the buffet area and fed. The plates are huge, so you can really just keep piling up, after all one of the most important things on a cruise is food! It was great to experience this restaurant as we had been to one of the main restaurants on MSC Opera, and it was nice to see what else was available.

Inside the ship has numerous bars and restaurants, as well as a larger casino. The main facilities are also spread across three main decks. The theatre onboard is of double height, with no posts blocking views, and the ship has a great waterfall in the Atrium and a cool glass piano. I really enjoyed the Casino, now I’m not a gambling man (Unless its thousands of pounds and a Mersey Ferry) and the Disco on the back of the ship has a great view and a cool feel. There was lots of open deck space around the pool, with an outdoor TV and a performance area, where you can take dances under the stars.

The tour was finished with drinks and a presentation about MSC Cruises and the other ships in the MSC fleet, This was great as we got to see more of what MSC provides on its Fantasia class ships – MSC Fantasia, MSC Spendidia and soon to be joined by MSC Divina. (Although we believe another Fantasia class ship will be joining soon more on that in our next blog) All the MSC Staff also took part in a question and answer session, as well as advising us of some upcoming offers such as All-Inclusive for £1, Which sounds like a great way of promoting the All-Inclusive packages.

It was a great day and you can notice the difference in size from MSC Opera, with more bars and facilities on board, hopefully the UK will get a Musica class sister soon (and maybe Liverpool as a departure point for some cruises…maybe…hopefully). So well done MSC staff for putting on a great day.

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What is so great about No-Fly Cruising?

Well its obvious, isn’t it? No Airplane, no flights, no airports. Now we are fans of avoiding the Airport, The queues, the shops, the gates, the lighting, na… We would rather not go to the Airport.

This appears however to be the view of an increasing amount of cruisers, while this has been popular in the States for some time, the European market has been slow to follow, however in the past few years ‘ex-UK’ or ‘No-Fly Cruising’ has taken off, with 40 ships operating from the UK on a total of 506 cruises during 2011. It is also our understanding that 40% of UK cruise passengers sail on a no-fly cruise.

This rapid growth in cruising from the UK has meant that UK ports have been working hard to develop facilities for the ships, with Southampton adding to its five cruise terminals, and Portsmouth opening a new one, as well as ongoing problems regarding Liverpool’s Cruise terminal (check our previous article).

Southampton leads the way with 65% of all cruise departures from the UK, Royal Caribbean, P&O, MSC and Cunard all depart from here. The UK is perfectly positioned to operate cruises to Northern Europe, in the Norwegian Fjords, and to the Med, Across the Atlantic, or round the British Isles. We recently visited the MSC Opera which is currently operating out of Southampton (Check out our Ship Visit Article). RCI’s huge Independence of the Sea’s has also been operating out of Southampton.

However the only drawback from an Ex-UK cruise is that it can take a long time (2/3 Days) for a Cruise ship to arrive in warmer climates, which for those who cruise to the sun, and be a large portion of their holiday. We think the strength of these no-fly cruises will benefit those who don’t like flying, we recently recommended this to a friend who hates flying. Also For Northern European Cruises to Amsterdam, Denmark and the Baltic, what better place to start your cruise.

With the rapid increase in fuel prices expected to continue, airfares are only expected to keep rising too, So we expect to see the growth of No-Fly Cruising to continue. This is also the belief of the Cruise Lines, who have home-ported more vessels in the UK than ever before.

If you are considering a No-Fly Cruise, there is a free book which may interest you available from, this is free and we have our own copy, very useful when making this article and suggesting possible cruises to people.

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MSC Opera Ship Visit in Southampton


MSC Opera Ship Visit

If you are on Facebook, I suggest you like MSC Cruises, Or follow them on twitter. MSC have been arranging tours onboard the MSC Opera, and they are telling you about them through Facebook & twitter.

The ship visit was in Southampton, unfortunately living in Liverpool and not being able to drive, a 5 Hour train journey is required, so I decided to go down on the Monday and stay overnight in Southampton. I stayed in the etap hotel, which is a sister chain to Ibis, the hotel was basic but for one night at £39, it was value for money. The hotel is right over the road from the station and by the main shopping centre.

The MSC Opera was built in 2004 at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, the same yard that build the Normandy and Queen Mary 2, So has true Atlantic pedigree. She accommodates 2,000 passengers and has 740 Staff. As the last vessel in the Lirica class her sisters are MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia. She has 4 restaurants, 6 bars and 2 pools. MSC is a true European Cruise Line with its customers coming from across the EU.

The day started at Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal, where we where process through security and welcomed onboard the vessel. In total there was around 25 people on the tour, which included a mixture of new cruisers, regulars and travel agents.

The tour was conducted by one of the cruise lines social hosts, who walked us around the various areas onboard, he provided an interesting insight into how each of the lounges, bars and restaurants worked when the vessel was on a cruise. My favourite room being the Disco, looking out over the back of the ship. The outside area ‘Il Patio open Restuarant’ was a great area next below the funnel.

MSC Opera has an excellent theatre with 99% of seats having unobstructed views (a few seats at the back are slightly obstructed). We were also shown some of the cabins; an inside double, outside double and outside twin. All other cabin grades were full. These rooms are decent sized, with large bathrooms.

Afterwards there was a short question and answer session, where you can ask questions about MSC’s cruise products across the fleet and offers available. Following this we were taken to the dining room for a six course lunch, wine and soft drink where also available.
The food was amazing, I had a delicious soup and the sirloin steak was the best I have ever had. MSC also has amazing real Italian Ice Cream which I recommend!

Overall I think the ship looks great and I would definitely recommend it, if the effort that was put into the ship visit is matched by the cruise you will have an excellent time.

MSC has 11 vessels, and MSC Opera is currently operating on cruises out of Southampton Exploring Northern Europe, the Baltics, and a new cruise sailing to Amsterdam, La Rochelle, Bilbao and La Coruna. Check if you are interested.

MSC has a very interesting all-inclusive package, which can make the cost of the cruise much more defined from the outset, and I think it is an interesting concept, one which I will write about in a future blog post sometime next week. We have also posted additional pictures from the day on our Facebook page so have a look.

The MSC Staff were really helpful and interesting, I would like to thank them for the great day 😀

Have you been onboard an MSC vessel? How did you like it? Let us know!
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