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.

Alabama port gets another chance to woo cruisers

Image result for Alabama cruise port

Carnival Cruise in Alabama,

You might think that a city with its own Carnival Museum, like Mobile, Alabama, would be a good bet for Carnival Cruise Line.

However, Carnival pulled out of Mobile five years ago, citing poor financial results. This year, the line decided to give the city another try, returning this week for at least a year with one of its oldest ships, the 2,056-passenger Fantasy, to offer 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico.

The move will bring at least 100,000 visitors over the next year to Mobile, which has many of the same charms as New Orleans, and a lot to offer anyone who wants to tack on a pre- or post-cruise stay.

Take that Carnival Museum, for example. While New Orleans has the most famous and well-attended Mardi Gras in the United States, the Carnival celebration in Mobile pre-dates it and claims to be the oldest in the country. Like New Orleans, Mobile was in French and Spanish colonial territory until being annexed by the U.S. in 1813. There are many antebellum homes and seven historic districts within Mobile recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

The No. 1 tourist attraction in Mobile, according to TripAdvisor, is the USS Alabama, a World War II battleship that became a museum after it was retired in 1962. It is about three miles from the cruise terminal.

New since Carnival last sailed from Mobile is the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. Opened in 2015, the five-story attraction has more than 90 exhibits based on the Gulf of Mexico, and is walking distance from the dock.

Also new since 2011 are a Duck amphibious vehicle tour; an historic trolley tour; and a Mobile River/Port of Mobile boat tour from WildNative Delta Safaris that will run only on cruise departure days.

And baseball fans know Mobile’s minor league ballpark is named after native son Hank Aaron, but may not know that it hosts a Christmas light pageant in the off season.

Stacey Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Mobile, said the agency’s Very Important Cruiser program provides discounts to almost twenty attractions to anyone that shows a boarding pass.

Mobile is also trying to liven things up on Sunday for cruisers staying overnight before Monday departures.

Hamilton said Visit Mobile is working with the Mobile Arts Council and the Downtown Mobile Alliance to host an arts and crafts market in the historic Cathedral Square and has asked downtown area shops, museums and art galleries normally closed on Sundays to open on those days.

“We’ve branded this ‘Sunday Funday’ and will promote this heavily as a reason to come to town on Sundays and have some fun,” Hamilton said.

All of these additions helped make Carnival’s decision to return to the city.

“Since we were in Mobile in 2011, the Mobile officials have done a tremendous job of creating thousands of new jobs and business investments in the region,” said Terry Thornton, senior vice president of itinerary planning at Carnival.

Carnival Fantasy to sail Mexico cruises from Alabama

Carnival Fantasy to sail Mexico cruises from Alabama

Carnival Cruise Line will move the Carnival Fantasy to Mobile, Ala., for a year-long series of four- and five-night cruises to Mexico, starting November 2016.

The move cements Carnival’s return to Mobile, a drive-market port that it pioneered and then abandoned in 2011.

The Fantasy will depart Thursdays for Cozumel on four-night itineraries, and depart Mondays or Saturdays on five-night itineraries that will visit either Progreso or Costa Maya.

“Carnival Fantasy’s four- and five-day cruises from Mobile provide consumers with an affordable way to visit stunning Mexican ports from a convenient homeport while offering our valued travel agent partners an exciting new short vacation option to market to their clients,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

If current itineraries hold, Carnival will have ships based in Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile and Tampa for the 2016-17 winter season.

Before it starts service from Mobile, the Fantasy will be renovated, getting new venues such as Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Red Frog Rum Bar and Blue Iguana Tequila Bar.