Going Down?

There has been debate that people from the North, Birmingham and up wouldn’t like to go down South for a Cruise, namely out of Southampton. This has been one of the points for Liverpool’s cruise ambitions. I disagree, just like the way Manchester serves the international market in the North, an Northern cruise port could do the same.

Realistically Liverpool suffers from being on the wrong side of the country, however it is only a few hours more sailing time from Portugal and the Canaries as Southampton, and I believe (somewhere from memory) that Liverpool is 6 hours less sailing time to New York than Southampton. To the North Liverpool could serve Iceland, Ireland and Greenland, as well as the historic link with Canada.

While Fred Olsen has left Liverpool due to the ongoing problems with the cruise terminal, it is clear that the ships were sailing full and Fred Olsen were happy with the performance. Liverpool’s very own Ocean Countess, which has been undertaking a series of cruises operating out of the Langton Dock facility will be returning next year for more cruises. This small ship operates a successful cruise operation from the port.

I know that people will travel down to Southampton to embark on a cruise, however I think that further growth can be achieved by offering cruises from across the country, as more people will be introduced to cruising in the North, a relatively untapped market. The physical presence of cruise ships in the Tyne, Clyde and Mersey can encourage people to go on cruises. Realistically I think Liverpool can achieve around 15 cruises operating out of the port if approval is granted.

I have done the trip to Southampton (three times) by Train, It is a long journey, and expensive, the most recent occurrence being that I travelled at the undesired time, arriving at Southampton at 23.45 and coming home stopping at Manchester and getting a coach as trains to Liverpool had finished, yet the trains still cost me £80 return.

Liverpool has however commented that the view is great and our world heritage waterfront is much better than Southampton’s, That’s true, Southampton has a glamorous IKEA but it is also an amazingly efficient cruise port, with numerous cruise facilities. It would be stupid to knock Southampton’s cruise industry when it has been amazingly successful. However I genuinely feel Liverpool can offer a better cruise experience it just needs the time and Investment to make these cruise facilities. Liverpool could be like Avis ‘We try harder’, a reference to Avis being smaller than Hertz, but trying harder!

In America many cruise line operate out of numerous cities across the country, to appeal to the local markets, I believe the same will happen in the UK, and Southampton will lose market share but still grow, as other UK ports grow their operations. I believe Newcastle is likely to be the main concern, not Liverpool, as Newcastle is on the right side of the Country to cruise the Fjords and Continent.

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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 www.nauticalcities.com.


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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Queen Mary 2 Ship Visit

Way back when I was young and cute, I wrote to Cunard Line asking about the new Queen Mary 2. I used to write to loads of cruise lines and get quite a few free stuff, postcards, caps, etc. (Any of the photos you click on will get bigger 😀 )

On New Years Eve, Just before the ship was named on 8th January 2003, Cunard Line called and asked if I would like to go on board on the 10th January with any guests, and my Dad and Uncle both decided they wanted to come along so we booked into the Travel Inn to spend the night.

The night in the Travel Inn, which has a great bar overlooking the city on the 5th Floor, we met the Piano player from the QM2 and then some engineers from the Caronia, and had a great night talking about ships and shipping.

The next day we made our way down to the Mayflower Terminal and were bussed to the QEII Terminal where the Queen Mary 2 was waiting. As this was before the maiden voyage and this was the ship of the decade, there was a lot of people. We made our way around the ship with a relatively free roam. I do remember parts of the ship still not being finished however, and we got to see the winter gardens, a variety of cabins including the Queens Grill accommodation.

We were also visited the various dining rooms and restaurants on board including the Todd English with its great view over the stern and the pool area. I also enjoyed the promenade with its classic wooden ‘Steamer’ deck chairs, and I still want one for sitting out in the Garden! The Britannia Dining room was amazing, I have never seen anything like it.We missed the planetarium unfortunately.

We ended our tour in the Queens Room, enjoying some music and drinks, We had a window seat, and probably stayed on board a bit too long, but she is a wonderful ship, which draws a crowd where ever she goes. I still havent taken a cruise on her but its on the bucket list! QM2 With Lucy would be great too! As we were leaving the QEII Terminal the Orient Express was outside which in itself is an amazing sight.

She is calling into Liverpool next Thursday so no doubt I will pop down to see her again, she has an amazing imposing profile, just like her transatlantic predecessors. But just before I finish, Just for my friend Kim, here is a picture of me with the Homer Simpson, as discussed on the Tesco checkouts!

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

If you are unfamiliar with the ‘Cruise War’ check our previous article first – Fred Olsen Quits Liverpool (Opens in a new window)
or Check Captain Greybeards blog for a quick Summary

Southampton has paused the building of Cruise Terminal 5 for at least a year, as it waits for the outcome of Liverpool’s Cruise Terminal bid. This can only be seen as an attempt to highlight the belief that state aid to Liverpool distorts competition and ruins free-enterprise. This is based on the currently untested assumption that Liverpool’s state aid could be illegal. In reality this makes no business sense other than to ’cause a scene’. Why Southampton would cut planned capacity increase in a growing industry is beyond me, they are in fact then sacrificing market share, or there was no longer an economic case for T5?

I am trying to write a balance argument, but I am from Liverpool, and want to see cruise ships in Liverpool more and more, but I love business and am passionate about free enterprise.

The flaws I see with Southampton’s argument;
– People don’t want to have to go down to Southampton for a cruise, it takes hours on the train, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and many others are closer to Liverpool, so choice should be provided.
– Liverpool has received backing from the Government because it needed it, like many other industries, car manufacturing and technology are perfect examples, grants are given to create economic growth.
– The increased awareness of cruising as people see these huge ships in Liverpool would encourage more people to cruise, inevitably sailing out of Southampton as the UK’s leading cruise port.

The flaws I see with Liverpool’s argument;
– As far as we know no cruise line has committed to using the facility, is it going to make economic sense?
– Peel Ports is a commercial business and a government grant is against the concept of free enterprise. A concept I believe very strongly in.
– The cost of building terminal’s and facilities in Liverpool is higher, due to the tidal patterns in Liverpool, The cost of the current floating landing stage is comparable to that of a full terminal in Southampton.

Since it was the late 60’s when Liverpool’s passenger shipping industry declined, Businesses in Southampton would benefit from opening in Liverpool to service the cruise industry, they already have the skill, knowledge and business relations that no local competitors can provide.

With one terminal used for both visiting cruise ships and the proposed turnaround service Liverpool could only really achieve 20/30 cruise turnarounds, and that’s with Cruise Line backing, which is never guaranteed.

The local newspapers, The Daily Echo (Southampton) and The Liverpool Echo & Daily Post have been blowing the news story out of proportion. One of The Daily Echo’s most recent news stories being the shock of Liverpool planning turnaround facilities if the turnaround ban was lifted…WHAT DID THEY EXPECT? If the ban is lifted surely it would make sense to build the suitable facilities. The shoddy journalism is widespread across the three papers.

If you are on twitter keep up-to-date with our #cruisewars updates! Let me know what you think? Is Liverpool flouting state-aid laws?  Twitter, Facebook, Comment & Email


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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 www.noflycruising.com, 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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Related Articles
Liverpool Cruise Terminal Woes
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 www.msccruises.co.uk 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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MSC Cruises – www.msccruises.co.uk