Two cruise lines regroup after Caribbean setbacks

The Norwegian Sky in Havana in a 2017 photo.

Norwegian Sky outside Havana Port, Cuba.

Two cruise companies affected by sudden upsets in the Caribbean and Bahamas region are slowly regaining their footing.

For Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), the big blow was the abrupt end to U.S. cruises to Cuba in June. NCLH had bet heavily on Cuba’s reopening, scheduling not only short cruises on its contemporary Norwegian Cruise Line brand but longer visits by its two premium brands, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

As detailed in a conference call with investors, the U.S. government decision to shutter Cuba with no advance warning hit NCLH third-quarter earnings big-time.

“Given the suddenness of the termination and the lack of lead time we had to make any meaningful fleet redeployment changes, the third quarter bears the largest negative earnings impact from the Cuba travel ban,” said Frank Del Rio, the company’s CEO.

The hit was more than $47 million.

Overnight, high yielding routes to Cuba for the Norwegian brand turned into low-yielding routes to the Bahamas. And several months later came Hurricane Dorian, which made its own dent in NCLH’s earnings through cancelled sailings and reworked itineraries.

Del Rio said Norwegian plans to redeploy half of its Bahamas capacity to higher-yielding areas such as Alaska, the eastern Mediterranean and Asia, and will slowly get out from under the Cuba aftermath.

Even more impacted by Dorian than Norwegian was Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, whose only destination is the Bahamas.

It suspended its two-day sailings to Grand Bahama for most of September, filling in the time by providing much-need relief and evacuation services.

The silver lining, of sorts, is that Dorian forced Bahamas Paradise into a new market, Nassau, which was not much affected by the storm. It now runs one of its ships from West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama and the other to Nassau.

Bookings for Nassau started slow, said Francis Riley, senior vice president of sales and marketing, but are now on par with those to Grand Bahama. Part of the attraction is the Cruise & Stay program where guest can vacation for two or four nights at one of four Nassau hotels:  Atlantis, The Melia, the Comfort Suites Nassau or the SLS Baha Mar.

Bahamas Paradise has a similar program in place on Grand Bahama with the Lucayan, which has reopened, and the Viva Wyndham, which plans to reopen Dec. 10.

Unlike Norwegian, Bahamas Paradise doesn’t have plans to go elsewhere, and it is busy selling the Bahamas to Canadians and New Yorkers, who have just started getting the frosty temperatures they can look forward to until next spring.

Cruise Lines Could Face Major Drydock Challenge Following Hurricane Damage

Grand Bahama Shipyard

The cruise industry could be looking at a monumental impact to their operations following Hurricane Dorian if the Grand Bahama Shipyard’s capacity is taken offline or further limited following an April incident.

The go-to-yard for drydocks and refurbishments in the cruise industry is partly owned by both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

It is ideally located in the Bahamas, meaning little out-of-service transit time on the way to or from various deployment regions, including the Caribbean in the winter.

The yard is regularly used by cruise vessels from almost all cruise lines for mandatory class drydocking and refurbishment work.

There are few alternatives for big vessels in the region. Shipyards in Newport News, Virginia, and Mobile, Alabama, both have facilities that can handle larger vessels but are generally used for naval purposes and are known to be well booked ahead of time.

Deytens, located in South Carolina, has also played host to the expedition and luxury ships and mid-sized vessels over the years.

Costs at U.S.-based facilities are also higher, and there are challenges in bringing in skilled labour and large amounts of the hotel and marine supplies from foreign countries that are needed for large scale refurbishments, which often see spending of up to $3 million per day in supplies and labour.

With reported widespread damage in Freeport, operations to the yard could be impacted. Housing both permanent and temporary workers could prove challenging unless accommodation vessels are brought in.

Another expensive option could be the Boka Vanguard, a semi-submersible heavy transport vessel operated by Netherlands-based Boskalis, which helped provide a platform for emergency repairs to the Carnival Vista earlier this year.

In Curacao, Damen Shipyards offers a drydock option and has plenty of cruise experience.

Cruise lines could also choose to wet-dock their vessels at industrial piers just about anywhere. The upside being the vessel would be empty and available for hotel refit. Crane access could be limited making logistics of getting supplies off and on the ship challenging.

However, classification societies require ships to come out of the water at regular intervals for inspection.

The most likely option, however, is the regular drydock facilities in Europe. The question is whether they have available space when needed, and the impact of moving ships that were scheduled to drydock in the Bahamas to Europe, mixing up some itineraries and deployment.

Cancelling a scheduled drydocking for the third or fourth quarter of 2019 or early 2020 and replacing it with a normal sailing would also pose challenges with a short booking window.

Amsterdam Axed as a Cruise stop.

Cruise liners cancel trips to THIS popular destination due to new tourist tax

Cruises: Amsterdam trip change

Cruises: A new tourist tax in Amsterdam has meant cruise ships are changing their itineraries (Image: Getty)

CRUISES travelling through Amsterdam have been cancelled for passengers who book holidays with MSC Cruises or Cruise and Maritime Voyages due to a new tourist tax introduced in the city.

Cruise passengers looking for a trip to Amsterdam may find themselves short for choice thanks to a new tourist tax. The city has announced a €8 head tax per day for tourists arriving by cruise, affecting passengers who stay for 24 hours or less, or €16 for those staying more than 24 hours. This has resulted in a number of cruise liners removing Amsterdam from their itineraries choosing another Dutch city instead. Thousands of passengers travelling in 2019 and 2020 could find their trips drastically altered.

Earlier this year, MSC Cruises announced they will change their overnight calls from Amsterdam to Rotterdam.

Central Station in Amsterdam. photo credit Dave Jones

Gianluca Suprani, head of global port development and shore activities at MSC Cruises, warned Amsterdam could lose thousands of pounds of spending by the loss of passengers.

He told Seatrade Cruise: “We decided to pull our business in 2019 and as a result, Amsterdam city stands to lose between €50-100 per passenger in respect of potential spend.”

Cruise and Maritime Voyages has followed in their footsteps and announced their 2019 and 2020 port calls to Amsterdam will also now be at Rotterdam.

This means 37 of their cruises will make the move, with 30 Columbus ships and seven Magellan ships avoiding the city.

Costa Mediterranea in the Port of Amsterdam. photo credit Dave Jones

According to Seatrade Cruise, more than 50,000 passengers will be affected.

CMV CEO Christian Verhounig warned of the last minute changes for customers who will have already booked for 2019, advising 80 per cent had already been purchased.

“The local politicians have failed to acknowledge or understand that the cruise industry plans their budgets two to three years ahead and have been unwilling to look into a proper implementation schedule,” he warned.

“The late introduction of these new and un-phased charges are therefore not budgeted and simply cannot be absorbed.”

Passengers travelling with either cruise liner should check for any changes to their trips.