Royal’s New Crystal


Royal Caribbean has today announced the purchase of Crystal Cruises from NYK, the purchase will see Royal Caribbean’s current Azamara brand merged into Crystal with Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey being renamed Crystal Quest and Crystal Serenity. Continue reading

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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Richard Branson’s Virgin Cruise Dream

For as long as I can remember Richard Branson has been linked to starting a cruise line, to date this has not yet surfaced, and recently its been even more quiet…

The core aspects of the Virgin brand is to create a memorable experience, with flair and fun. Virgin Atlantic succeeds very well in doing so, and their advertising campaigns show this. Richard Branson has said that any Virgin Cruise Line would target a 30-55 age group, so would likely carry over these core aspects.

The reason that such an endeavour may not have happened is that starting a cruise line is expensive, and the market is growing mature in Virgins UK home. However I believe there is also the problem that people actually like their cruise lines, with Royal Caribbean basically offering what Virgin Cruise Line would offer. Virgin has done well by going into an industry which isn’t particularly customer friendly – airline, telecoms and banking, and providing excellent customer service, something which is a core aspect of the Virgin brand.

Unfortunately for Virgin no cruise line actively annoys and disrupts their customers to make such a strategy worthwhile in the cruise industry. In 2003 I wrote to Virgin Holidays suggesting they should start a cruise line, their response being that they will look into all markets.

It was back in 2005 when Branson made lots of noise about starting a cruise line, he even met Stelios who had just launched ‘easyCruise’ (covered here) It is even reported he met with executives from Royal Caribbean over plans for a joint venture. Although the UK market quickly boomed with Island Cruises, Thomson and Ocean Village all quickly adding capacity. Ocean Village was probably most like what the Virgin product would have been like. It was a real belief at the time that it was just a few months away til Virgin Launched a cruise line there was even reports in Lloyds List.

Back in 2009 CruiseCritic suggested that Richard Branson would start his proposed cruise line within the year. While this has not yet been the case rumors still persist about Virgins entry into the cruising arena.

However if such a project was launched between Virgin and Royal Caribbean, we expect it would take a similar form as TUI Cruises, with Celebrity Century starting off the venture, with perhaps a new ship like what has been just ordered at STX Turku. Any Virgin Cruise Line would benefit from Virgin’s international airline system and worldwide brand partners, for which cross promotion would be irresistable!

Now with the closure of Ocean Village and the merger of Island Cruises and Thomson Cruises, it would be my belief that Virgin do not have a cruise product planned, as people are happy with what the market provides, only when the market gets it wrong will Virgin be able to make a valid attempt, otherwise we have another Virgin Cola.

Let us know what you think, Facebook, Twitter, Comment & Email!

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Links of Interest

Cruise Line Brand Positioning

Our last blog, On Where does Princess fit? made me us think about how cruise lines have moved an developed their brand positioning. In Bob Dickinsons ‘Selling The Sea’ [We’ve got a blog for that] it covers how Norwegian Cruise Line has changed it’s brand positioning.

From Memory we would say that Norwegian has had the most logos of any cruise line, but with some more research the ‘Freestyle’ cruise line hasn’t always been so laid back.
This advert from 1991 markets the ships in a slightly comic way, we think the joke at the end is just awful. But non the less.

However by 1995 Norwegian Cruise Line had grown up and sexed up. According to Bob Dickinsons ‘Selling the Sea’ this was because of Norwegians lack of new build orders, due to ongoing financial problems. The line had not launched a ship since 1993, while competitors where adding many new ships.

A change in management with a new President Adam Aron meant that NCL tried to differentiate itself from the competitors, so the slogan ‘Its Different Out Here’ was launched. The aim of the marketing campaign was to take the emphasis off the ship and put it on the benefits of taking a cruise.

The campaign was well received by the advertising industry, but less so by the cruise industry, who believed that NCL were overselling themselves. From the adverts it appeared that NCL was equivalent to Seabourn or any other premium line. Other said the campaign scared people away from cruising as to ‘snobby’.

Now in the 21st Century NCL promotes itself as a freestyle cruise line, decidedly different, we believe, from its previous advertising. However we believe that this position in the market suits it well. [We Have A History of NCL Blog]

Cunard Line has transformed itself from a transatlantic carrier into a premium cruise line, In the 1950’s passengers sailed on the Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth, but they were not the luxury ocean liners that they are now portrayed as, these ships had three classes. We don’t believe that 3rd Class was as luxurious as Cunard’s current product. The modern-day equivalent being airplane economy class.

Recently Royal Caribbean has transformed its self from an Upper-Mass Market cruise line into a Mass Market cruise line. This change started with the Voyager of the Seas, and has continued on both the Freedom and Oasis class.

Previously Royal Caribbean prided itself on all the free items you receive in your cabin, now they pride themselves in being innovative and modern. Royal Caribbean has they way it is perceived. If you compare the Vision class ships with the Oasis class you can see how much Royal Caribbean’s product has changed, it is so significant that Royal Caribbean has launched the Royal Advantage refurbishment program to bring the fleet into line. [We have a blog for that too]

Changing a market position for a cruise line is difficult, In our ‘The Rise and Fall of’ Series  we pointed out how Premier changed their market positioning more times than the weather, which probably assisted its demise [Check that blog here]

It was the Top Ten Cruise Adverts blog that inspired us to do this blog! –

Do you have any examples of cruise lines which have changed how they market themselves? Let us know! Facebook, Twitter, Comment and Email!

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Out with the old and….In with the refurbished?

As the Global Economy has stalled, cruise line have worked hard to keep vessels full, and weather the storm. Carnival axed its dividend…Royal Caribbean …er… got the Worlds two largest cruise ships drastically increasing capacity… okay, bad example. (We have a blog for that)

But as the growth of the industry has created a market of ‘large players’ namely Carnival, NCL/Apollo/Star, Royal Caribbean and MSC. The number of smaller-medium sized players have disappeared. This has been great as it has stabilised prices (as these smaller lines where heavy discounters). However the large players used the smaller players to dispose of excess capacity, such as the Song of Norway-era vessels.

However in the late 90’s and early 2000’s Festival, Royal Olympic, Regency, Premier and American Classic Voyages all collapsed into bankruptcy. These are the companies who would have purchased the excess capacity from the growing lines.

This has meant that lines have had to place tonnage elsewhere, the easy card has always been Australia, Asia and Europe. Pullmantur has seen a series of transfers from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Ibero Cruceros, Carnival’s Spanish brand, has seen a few vessels transferred from Carnival Cruise Lines, as they are no longer competitive in the Caribbean.
Once the worlds largest cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas has been sent to Asia in search of higher yields. (We have a blog for that too!)

The Norwegian Dawn has become the unwanted cruise ship, at an inappropriate age that no cruise market wants her, she has been idle for a few years now and is in ownership of Star Cruises.

Recently this has meant that cruise ships are having expensive ‘refreshment’ programs, keeping them up to date with the other vessels in the fleet. Royal Caribbean has launched a $300 Million refreshment of its fleet bringing aspects from the Oasis class across the fleet, this is widely covered on other websites and blogs, Royal Caribbean is calling it the Royal Advantage program. Interestingly Monarch & Majesty of the Seas are not on the refurbishment list, We expect them to join one of RCI’s other brands.

Carnival has been refurbishing the Carnival Fantasy ships, adding amazing water parks to the ships. Other lines have also been engaged in this such as Celebrity following the arrival of Solstice, and Holland America performed a ‘Signature of Excellence’ refurbishment across the fleet to standardise the product.

So cruise lines are having to keep hold of ships longer, and refurbish them to maintain standards and expectations across the brand, this is due to variety of reasons namely:
– Few middle tier players to sell to (Louis being the main)
Over capacity in the Med, leading to falling yield

But we are hearing great reviews following the refreshment of these ships such as Radiance of the Seas and Grand Princess. So long may it continue.

Please comment, email, follow us on Facebook and twitter! You can keep upto date with all are goings on!

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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.

Let us know what you think! Comment, Facebook, Twitter and Email

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MSC Opera Ship Visit in Southampton


Our Project Sunshine

Royal Caribbean is planning new ships, slightly larger than the Freedom class, but smaller than the Oasis class. Royal Caribbean is like Apple, and is amazing at keeping ship under wraps. So we have to guess, and this is what we think will happen.

Now if we were Royal Caribbean we would be building this new ship in the style of the Oasis class, the media and the public have fell in love with these ships. They love how amazing the split superstructure allows inside facing balconies and the feel of Central Park and the Boardwalk. So we believe that the split superstructure will be a feature, this is set to become a Royal Caribbean signature just like the Viking Crown lounge was and now the Royal Promanarde.

However due the constraints of shipbuilding at Meyer Werft we do believe that the cabins on these vessels will be rearranged, just like Viking River has done with the new Viking longships (check our previous article). The below picture shows how much space the ships have to fit through.

The codename ‘Project Sunshine’ is of interest as we think this means the vessels will, unlike the Oasis class, be suitable for use worldwide.  We’re expecting thats the ‘Central Park/Boardwalk’ area to have a glass roof, which can open and close, allowing the vessels greater flexibility. If you remember Royal Caribbean didnt stop in Southampton to show off the Oasis or Allure as the outside areas look rubish in the rain.

Meyer Werft and Royal Caribbean are expected to promote the vessels green credentials, this could mean LPG and other technologies currently envisioned in concept cruise ship EOSEAS (another previous blog). Like fleetmates Oasis and Allure the ship is expected to use solar energy.

We expect in general that the Project Sunshine ships will be slightly scaled down versions of the Oasis class, with the ability to be operated in both the Med and Caribbean. Other are however expecting the ship to be an evolved Celebrity Solstice-class ship, for which we have a picture for. (if you click on it, it gets bigger).

We hope it doesnt end up as a Solstice class ship, as I would love to see the features from Oasis and Allure in this new vessel, but until Royal Caribbean tells us we wont know!

So what are your expectations of Project Sunshine? Let us know Facebook, Twitter, Comment and Email.

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The Oasis. The Royal. And The Halo.

On the 3rd March 2009 Royal Caribbean stock was low, in fact very low at $5 a share. This was during the construction of the worlds largest cruise ship, The Oasis of the Seas.
Now, Just over two years later the stock price has soared, despite rising fuel costs and instability during the Arab Spring. The below stock value graph can be clicked on to make it bigger.

Now while some of this can be said to be the growth and improvement of the economy as a whole, I believe a lot is based on the initial disbelief that Royal Caribbean were adding a huge vessel in a terrible economic environment. Something which I remember Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean dismissing as irrelevant due to the growing nature of the cruise industry.

Also at this time Azamara Cruises where struggling to shine, with Oceania proving tough competition. Since then the Azamara product has been redefined, and that line appears to be now making its own mark, with the ships being voted highly in the recent CruiseCritic cruisers choice awards.

Many will remember that Azamara was split at last-minute from Celebrity Cruises meaning that the ship was unfinished and departed on her first cruise late.

Furthermore Celebrity was about to accept a continuous stream of new vessels, the largest they had ever ordered. All these capacity increases in troubled economic times worried investors. However the shares now stand at $34.19, a remarkable investment if anyone committed.

The buzz surrounding Oasis of the Seas was huge, the features onboard this vessel along with the news coverage of cruising during this time is likely to have filled a few cruise ships up. It was the early news coverage that encouraged my parents to book.

The size of the vessel, Central Park in the middle, the Boardwalk and the hundreds of other features on this vessel (zip wire, rock climbing, flowrider…) entertained the media who had previously only talked in such detail about Queen Mary 2, which is not the mainstream cruise experience. This vessel gave the industry a kickstart in the recession.

I think this has been good for the rest of the fleet who have benefitted from being associated with Oasis of the Seas and now Allure of the Seas. Like the iPhone & iPod for apple, Oasis & Allure have enlightened new people to the concept of cruising, and specifically that of Royal Caribbean.

Let us know what you think on Twitter & on Facebook or email

Liam (our new email addresses are finally sorted)
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