Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) President and CEO Frank Del Rio underscored his enthusiasm for Alaska on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.
He said the company will continue to make investments and cultivate partnerships in the region, noting the new pier NCLH has agreed to build in Ketchikan, its $20 million purchase of 2.9 acres of waterfront property in Juneau, and the construction of a second pier at Icy Point Strait.
“We are investing in port facilities and guest experiences,” he said. “Alaska is destination-centric and you much have the land capabilities in place. We have almost doubled our capacity in Alaska over the past three years and will be even stronger as we finalize our investments.”
NCLH’s Q3 Alaska capacity was up 17 per cent over the same period last year.
In Ketchikan, NCLH has entered into a 30-year preferential berthing agreement with Ward Cove Dock Group, which allows for the construction of a new double ship pier in Ward Cove.
Meanwhile, current zoning laws are said to prevent a pier from being built on the property in Juneau.
The pier will be built to simultaneously accommodate two of Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,200-passenger Breakaway-Plus class ships and is expected to be ready for the summer 2020 season.
NCLH partnered with the Port of Seattle in 2015 on the renovation and expansion of the Bell Street Terminal at Pier 66 which was ready for the 2018 season and the 4,000-berth Norwegian Bliss.
NCLH and the port entered into a 15-year lease agreement providing its ships priority berth space in Seattle for the full term of the lease in return for passenger volume guarantees. NCLH manages the cruise operations at Pier 66, while the port operates the facilities outside the cruise season.
Next year, the Norwegian brand will have three ships in Alaska, with the Norwegian Bliss, Joy and Sun will be from Seattle. In 2021, the new Encore will take over for the Joy. Oceania and Regent will each have one ship in the Alaska market, with the Regatta and the Seven Seas Mariner from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward.
Del Rio cited what he called “incredibly strong ticket pricing and onboard spend” in the Alaska market and also noted the lengthening of the season, which now runs all the way from April to October.
“In the coming years, we will further bolster our presence and commitment to the region,” Del Rio noted.
Shipyard problems have delayed Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s first ship, the Evrima.
The small-ship cruise sector is booming, but getting its ships built on time is proving to be a big challenge.
Expedition and small luxury ships are among the hottest segments when it comes to passenger demand. But unlike the mega-liners churned out like clockwork by the big shipyards, small ships tend to be built at small yards, where inexperience with cruise work is the general rule.
The latest example is the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, a new entrant to the cruise industry that had hoped to make a splash this winter with its 298-passenger Evrima before the Super Bowl in Miami.
Instead, on Oct. 4, three months before scheduled delivery, Ritz-Carlton announced that the much anticipated Evrima (Greek for “discovery”) would be delayed until June 2020 because of shipyard issues.
In a statement, Ritz-Carlton blamed “delivery and project cost” problems at the Hijos de J. Barreras shipyard in Vigo, Spain, for the delay.
“With additional challenges around the former shipyard management, both the new board of Hijos de J. Barreras and the board of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection are working cooperatively toward a long-term solution for the shipyard,” Ritz-Carlton’s statement said.
Ritz-Carlton joins Scenic Luxury Tours & Cruises, the German line Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Norway’s Hurtigruten in suffering delays, ranging from minor to extensive, in the past two years in attempting to bring their ships to market.
All were building ships of under 600 passengers, and all were being built at smaller, lesser-known yards.
The Scenic Eclipse was delayed several times before making its debut in September 2019.
The delays make life hard for travel advisors. Many have clients who want to be among the first to experience new vessels. Some agents are themselves booked on inaugural cruises in order to better evaluate new ships for clients.
When ships are delayed and inaugural plans cancelled, it is hard to explain to clients who have blocked out time off and who have high expectations that they will be the first to sample the ships.
“When it hurts the advisors, of course, it hurts us,” said Ann Chamberlin, vice president of sales at Scenic, which christened its 200-passenger Scenic Eclipse expedition yacht in New York on Sept. 10.
The ship, built in Croatia, was delayed not once but several times. All a line can do, Chamberlin said, is protect agent commissions, re-accommodate passengers and beg both groups for understanding.
The delivery of the Scenic Eclipse was hurt by multiple issues, including worker strikes, financial malfeasance, management turnover and frozen bank accounts. In February, Scenic owner Glen Moroney invested in Uljanik Shipyard in Pula, Croatia, along with Croatia’s DIV Group and Italy’s Fincantieri to get the ship finished.
Scenic is not the only line to become a shipyard owner. After delays on its 530-passenger Roald Amundsen last year, Hurtigruten bought the Kleven shipyard in Norway to expedite the project.
In March, Hapag-Lloyd cancelled the first two scheduled cruises of the expedition ship Hanseatic Nature because of delayed delivery from the Vard shipyard in Norway. Fincantieri, which owns Vard, said in its most recent financial report that reorganization of Vard is a top priority and that some of its best Italian employees have been assigned to the job.
Lawrence Rapp, a principal at Seawise Consulting, said that many small yards are better prepared to build simpler ships.
In general, Rapp said, “these small yards are not aware of just how complex the projects really are. To get a prototype fully approved by [country] flag and class take much more time than they would anticipate because you have to go through impact-stability calculations, damage-stability calculations. And each time you make adjustments to one of these things, it affects the others and also the functionality of the ship itself.”
In addition, small ships are more often designs from prototypes, rather than copies of previous ships.
“When Carnival or Royal Caribbean are building ships, they will build five, six, eight, 10 of the same class,” Rapp said. “Once the calculations have been gone through and the design has been accepted, it’s a whole lot easier to plan going forward.”
In March, Hapag-Lloyd cancelled the first two scheduled cruises of the Hanseatic Nature because of delayed delivery from the Vard shipyard.
Moreover, small yards sometimes have to bring in workers who have cruise experience.
“If you’re a small yard and you’re undertaking a project that is an order of magnitude bigger than anything you’ve ever done before, you’re probably bringing in a lot of people who are not used to you, and you’re not used to them, and relationships can be difficult to maintain,” Rapp said.
Daniel Schaefer, CEO of Sea Cloud Cruises, is currently building a 136-passenger ship at Metalships & Docks shipyard in Vigo, Spain. The project has been in the works since 2008 when it was at another shipyard that went bankrupt.
“Most of the time it’s that the yards have no experience in what they’re doing,” Schaefer said.
Small-ship owners are forced to work with them because getting a slot at one of the big yards is next to impossible.
“Going to Meyer Werft in Germany, you get a slot in 10 years,” he said. “So you have to go to some inexperienced yards and see if you get a berth there.”
One common stumbling block is weight, Schaefer said. And then there’s interior craftsmanship. “That creates a lot of problems. They come at the end because interior work is done at the end. And if you find out that it’s not the quality you were expecting, you don’t have much time to correct it.”
Schaefer said Sea Cloud made its mistakes on a ship built in 2001 and is confident that the Sea Cloud Spirit will be ready for its August 2020 debut. He said the ship is already in the water at the proper weight and ready to be finished.
“Looking at the mock-up quality work, we’re pretty sure our interior workers will do a good job,” Schaefer said.
here’s no shortage of travel industry awards and accolades.
Today I’ll offer some cruise-only nods — a mini Academy Awards lineup, if you will — based on my seven years of cruising for Travel Weekly. Unlike the Oscars, in which categories of longstanding tradition are properly judged, my award categories and winners are completely subjective and based mostly on one moment on one ship, rather than a studious fleetwide evaluation over time.
Plus, mine aren’t broadcast on national television. And there’s no statuette. But they’re fun. See what you think, and offer your own winners in the comment section below.
So, with no further ado:
Best naming ceremony: Princess Cruises. Skies were grey in Southampton, England, on that June day in 2013, but who can beat royal princess Kate Middleton christening the Royal Princess? The British pomp and pageantry and the ladies in their gowns and fascinators made it unforgettable. Runner up: More royals, plus opera great Andrea Bocelli singing “Nessun Dorma” for the Seven Seas Explorer in Monaco.
Meal: Celebrity Cruises. I think it was on the Celebrity Reflection with former Celebrity public relations spokeswoman Liz Jakeway that I had a nearly flawless Italian dinner at the Tuscan Grille. Runner up: Guy Fieri’s burgers on Carnival Cruise Line.
Suite: Viking Ocean Cruises. The Owner’s Suite on the Viking Star duplicates owner Tor Hagen’s book collection and comes with a (faux) fireplace and a sauna with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall for ocean viewing. Runner up: the duplex suites on Royal Caribbean.
Service: Azamara. I know, not what you’re expecting, but I say: try it. The relaxed style really made me feel at home on a 2016 Central America and Mexico cruise on the Azamara Journey. When my time was up, I didn’t want to leave. Runner up: Seabourn.
Entertainment: Norwegian Cruise Line. “After Midnight” and “Million Dollar Quartet” on the Norwegian Escape in 2016 was a knockout one-two punch, and Norwegian has kept up the pace with each new ship: “Jersey Boys,” “Kinky Boots.” Great value for guests. Runner up: Royal Caribbean, where too much is never enough.
Pool: Seabourn. The cosy aft pool on Seabourn’s 450-passenger ships puts sunbathers close to the water in stylish luxury. Runner up: the Solarium Pool on Celebrity, with its dancing waters fountain.
Cruise Director: Star Clippers. The line’s longest-serving cruise director, Peter Kissner, hails from Bavaria and is the most personable, knowledgeable, interesting person I’ve yet encountered in the job. Runner up: Azamara cruise director Eric de Gray does it all.
Internet: Royal Caribbean gets the nod for its Voom, which not only is fast and simple but was first to market. What a difference in seven years. Runner up: MedallionNet on Princess Cruises is also fast and simple (but was not first).
Children’s character: Disney Cruise Line for Cinderella. As played by one of Disney’s cast members, the Cinderella I saw could have stepped out of the 1950 animated feature film. The children were enchanted. Runner Up: Ellie, the towel elephant that prowls the post-turn-down cabins on Carnival ships.
Deck BBQ: Windstar Cruises. A twilight summer deck party anchored off the coast of Portofino. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than that. Runner up: Regent Seven Seas Cruises.