Disney Magic Appears in the Mediterranean in 2015

Disney Magic Appears in the Mediterranean in 2015

 By Scott Sanders

We finally have some evidence of the Disney Magic sailing to Europe in 2015 based on a few scheduled arrivals that were spotted by one of our readers on the Civitavecchia port calendar.  The Magic is listed on Civitavecchia’s port calendar 4 times between August 13 and September 1, 2015. The calendar, if accurate, may suggest that the Magic would sail a handful of Mediterranean cruises including three 7-night itineraries. The last three arrival dates appear to coincide with a sailing pattern at the end of the 2014 European cruise season where the Disney Magic is currently scheduled to sail three 7-night Mediterranean before embarking on a Westbound Transatlantic crossing.

Civitavecchia Disney Magic 2015 Arrivals

The lack of calls on the Civitavecchia calendar for the Disney Magic in June and July suggest she may be splitting her time in Europe. Assuming the Disney Magic will sail an Eastbound Transatlantic in mid-May, this could add credence to the Baltic rumors.  In 2010, the Magic’s European season included a series of 12-night Northern European Capitals cruises in June and July with a repositioning cruise to Barcelona to finish her summer season in the Mediterranean.

Preview 2013: Cruise

Preview 2013: Cruise

By Tom Stieghorst
Preview 2013As 2013 arrives, the cruise industry can only pray that there is no repeat of the signature event of 2012.

A year ago, travelers seemed ready to pay higher prices for cruises. Then the Costa Concordia accident happened, casting a pall over cruising that lasted for a good part of the year.

Looking at next year, Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival Corp., which owns Costa Cruises, said in September that prices are generally well positioned to reach parity with 2011 by Q2 2013.

However, for the Costa line in particular, “to climb back to where things were before will take a couple of years beyond 2013,” Arison said.

In some markets, there are signs that next year will be more normal. Starting in January, Norwegian Cruise Line is hiking prices 10% on its Pride of America ship in Hawaii.

Alaska will continue to regain capacity in 2013 that was lost to the ill-conceived passenger head tax several years ago. But trouble looms in 2015 with a tighter standard for low-sulfur fuel, though some breathing room remains for reaching a regulatory compromise.

The biggest unknown hanging over the industry for 2013 is Europe, both as a source of passengers and as a draw for North Americans faced with continued high airfares.

At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., capacity for 2013 is down 20% in the Western Mediterranean and 9% in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The European market continues to be the most puzzling market we’re facing,” said RCCL Vice Chairman Brian Rice.

Closer to home, cruise lines continue to bring more ships to within driving distance of their customers. Princess Cruises in 2013 will operate a ship year-round from San Francisco, giving the Bay Area drive-market itineraries to Alaska, Hawaii and coastal California.

Disney Cruise Line will offer a full year of cruising from Galveston, Texas, another popular drive market, while Norwegian, Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line will all operate additional cruises from Boston.

NCL BreakawayBut the port with the biggest potential increase in passengers next year is New York, which stands to gain 4,000 passengers a week starting in May with the introduction of the $840 million Norwegian Breakaway.

The Breakaway is staking its claim to New York-area loyalists with a ship that boasts Sabrett hot dog carts and Brooklyn Brewery beer among its food offerings. Five water slides, a two-story spa and Norwegian’s first seafood restaurant are some of the Breakaway’s other attractions.

Another big debut will take place across the pond next year with the delivery of the Royal Princess, the first new ship for Princess in nearly five years. The 3,600-passenger ship will do 12-day Mediterranean cruises before repositioning in October to the Caribbean. Among its noteworthy features will be a cantilevered, glass-enclosed skywalk that extends 28 feet beyond the ship’s edge.

MSC Cruises also has an entrant in the newbuild derby, the $742 million Preziosa, which will boast a 394-foot water slide, the world’s longest at sea.

Carnival Cruise Lines in 2013 will take the wraps off the largest ship makeover in its history when it refits the 17-year-old Carnival Destiny in a 49-day drydock. When it emerges in April, the vessel will sail under a new name, the Carnival Sunshine, and with a slew of new features.

The $155 million transformation will add part of a new deck and expand two others, giving the ship a new layout.

Another 182 cabins will be added to the ship, along with new restaurants, more sports activities and a three-story, adults-only Serenity space.

The Sunshine is emblematic of the trend toward reusing and upgrading older ships rather than ordering new ones. Cruise executives say they want to add new ships in a more measured way than in the past to avoid excess capacity, which dilutes cruise pricing.

They are putting capital into retrofitting older ships with features from newer ones to give them a contemporary feel.

Another example is the Royal Advantage program under way at Royal Caribbean International, which is spending $500 million to modernize 11 ships.

Due for a makeover in 2013 are the Legend, Brilliance, Independence, Vision and Navigator of the Seas, which range in age from 5 to 18 years old.

Prominent among the additional features will be specialty restaurants that boost onboard spending, but the whole package should enable Royal, and agents, to tout new amenities that command better prices.

Deployments in 2013 will feature more cruise segments that can be combined into longer voyages. Celebrity Cruises, for example, will offer more short cruises in Europe that can be paired with a second short cruise with a different set of port calls.

“We want to have more seven-day itineraries for that family or couple who can’t get away for a long time,” said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales at Celebrity.

Luxury lines, as always, will be focused in 2013 on destination development. Azamara Club Cruises will offer a night excursion with each cruise after its two ships come out of drydock early next year.

Another trend is a tighter watch on rebating, which makes for an uneven playing field among agents. Silversea Cruises cracked down on client poaching by saying that agents who rebook a client more than 30 days after they have already booked with a different agent will not receive a commission.

Whatever actions cruise lines take to improve their prospects, some of the key ingredients to prosperity remain beyond their control.

The wild card factors of the economy, oil prices and geopolitical stability can upend any strategy the industry has conceived.

That said, economic trends seem favorable going into 2013.

The wealth effect from a rising stock market could drive a more robust Wave season early in the year. At about $90 a barrel, oil prices were off their March high of $110 a barrel. And U.S. unemployment fell to 7.7% in November, meaning more consumers would be getting a paycheck to spend on vacations.

Although the jobless rate remains high, travel agent Grace Dieleman, owner of Vellinga’s Travel Service in Chatham, Ontario, said that inverting the equation gives 2013 a rosier hue.

“You always hear about 10% unemployment,” Dieleman said, “but that also means that 90% of the population is still working.”

Social media listen plots impact of Costa cruise disaster

Social media listen plots impact of Costa cruise disaster

by Lee Hayhurst
by Lee Hayhurst

A social media ‘listen’ conducted exclusively for Travolution by digital marketing specialist Shorthose Russell has suggested the impact of the Costa Concordia tragedy may be less serious than feared.

The results of the test underline the dominance of Tripadvisor-owned Cruise Critic which saw the vast majority of posts and chatter about cruising associated with the sinking of the ship.

Costa Concordia hit rocks off the Italian coast on the evening of January 13 and has since lain stricken on its side. It could be there for up to 10 months as salvage work continues.

To date 17 people have been confirmed dead and 15 are still missing and the ship’s captain has been arrested and is awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

Shorthose Russell retrospectively conducted the listening exercise over the period January 6 to 27, finding two spikes in activity relating to the ship on the 14th and again on the 27th.

This secondary spike coincided with news of an €11,000 compensation offer to survivors and appears to have been a major topic of interest among dedicated cruisers on Cruise Critic.

Analysis of which forms of online media featured the most chatter revealed microblogging (Twitter) represented the vast majority of posts (3,269).

This initial burst of activity largely consisted of people signposting their followers to news of the disaster as awareness of what had happened became more widespread on the Saturday morning.

Many posts related to people blaming the captain for the accident, Shorthose Russell said.

Interestingly the level of chatter returned to pre-incident levels very quickly before the upturn on January 27, suggesting interest quickly waned despite the 24-hour rolling news coverage.

In terms of influence traditional media outlets, social networking and forums came a lowly second third and fourth behind Twitter while video and photo-sharing sites were, maybe surprisingly given the visual nature of the incident, in a distant sixth.

However, a more detailed analysis of activity on individual sites placed Youtube in second behind Cruise Critic.

Costa listen - slide 1

Shorthose Russell said that when disasters like the Concordia sinking happen, video content is becoming increasingly important, as was demonstrated last year when right wing gunman Anders Behring Breivik ran amok in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing 69.

What was thought to have limited the impact of this content in the Concordia incident is the relatively older demographic of cruise customers meaning they are less likely to be equipped to take video; however, some footage has emerged and been widely shared online.

Looking at the sentiment of the online chatter, the Shorthose Russell analysis found just 5.29% was rated ‘negative’, with the vast majority being ‘neutral’ – a reflection of the sort of sentiment included in most tweets about the disaster.

Negative sentiment was skewed by a post on Huffington Post about the Concordia sinking that prompted a heated row between Italian and German posters.

Positive sentiment was limited (just 0.16), but largely consisted of posting heartfelt message of support and condolence.

The exercise also looked at what was being said more generically about cruise holidays.

Here a similar pattern of volumes of mentions was found, except the secondary spike on the 27th was far more pronounced.

This was almost entirely down to Cruise Critic and a debate about compensation – clearly a hot topic of debate among experienced cruise customers.

Again, Cruise Critic was far and away the most influential site and similar levels of positive and negative sentiment were recorded, although 90% was rated ‘neutral’.

Peter Joyner, Shorthose Russell head of public relations, said what was notable by its absence was negative sentiment expressed about cruising from outside of the established online cruise community.

Although he said this does not rule out the likelihood that previously held negative views were endorsed by the incident, just that the disaster did not prompt people to express and disseminate them online.

“What we seem to have picked up here is that for those people who don’t cruise the incident hasn’t prompted them to go online and express their fears and negative feelings about cruising.

“Among those who do cruise it has not put them off in the slightest but clearly, as we saw from the increased activity around the compensation issue, how the cruise line reacted to the event appears just as significant as the event itself.”

Costa listen - slide 2

Shorthose Russell launched Delve last year, the UK’s first social media listening agency which is accredited to use technology developed by US-based Alterian.