Venice Cruise Traffic Plateaus For Now

Ongoing vessel tonnage restrictions in Venice have capped cruise traffic for now, with a limit of 96,000 tons. In 2017 the classic Italian port is looking at a forecast of 473 calls and just over 1.4 million passengers, which is down from 2016. Next year looks set to be similar to 2017, according to a port spokesperson.

Meanwhile, government officials are still working to lock down an alternative route for larger ships to reach the port facilities.

New callers in 2017 include the AIDAblue, the Artemis, Norwegian Star, Silver Muse, Seabourn Encore, Arethusa, and both the Viking Sky and Sun.

The board of directors for VTP (the port authority) agreed earlier this year not to adjust berth fees in order to help foster growth.

Future growth will need to depend on the identification and availability of a new alternative route for ships to reach port facilities – thus allowing large ships to use Venice again. The port spokesperson also told Cruise Industry News that they want to increase their week-day call portfolio. VTP offers 10 terminal choices.

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Norwegian Cruise Line Alters Norwegian Star Itinerary Due to Propulsion Issue

Norwegian Star Photo credit by Dave Jones

Weeks after repairs to Norwegian Star’s starboard-side azipod, a separate propulsion-related problem forced the line to alter the ship’s itineraries.

Problems arose in the 2,240-passenger ship’s port-side azipod midway through a 33-night Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand cruise that departed January 16 from Hong Kong. Azipods are engine components that help propel and maneuver ships.

Norwegian Star suffered a separate mechanical issue in December 2016 that affected its starboard-side azipod and forced the cruise line to alter itineraries. The cruise line fixed the starboard-side azipod and says the current azipod problem is unrelated.

To ensure the ship arrives in Sydney as scheduled February 6, the cruise line canceled calls at Komodo Island, Airlie Beach and Brisbane; it will instead call at Darwin and spend an additional three days at sea, according to Norwegian Cruise Line. The ship will leave Sydney as scheduled February 6 but will forego stops in Burnie, Milford Sound and Napier, adding a second day in Melbourne and two additional days at sea.

Itineraries for the February 18 and February 24 cruises are being finalized and will be shared with passengers in the coming days, according to a cruise line statement.

According to the statement, released Friday night: “The ship’s system experienced a technical malfunction on January 24, which resulted in the ship’s speed being restricted from full capacity. This is a very unusual situation and unrelated to the issue the ship experienced in December.

“Norwegian Cruise Line sincerely apologizes for this unexpected but necessary change in itinerary for our guests onboard this and the following cruises. We understand that our guests were looking forward to the original itinerary, and it is always our intention to sail that whenever possible.

“All guest activities, amenities and services onboard the ship are functioning normally. While the speed of the vessel has been affected, there has been no interruption to any guest services and there are no safety concerns. Safety and security is, and will always remain, our number one priority.”

Cruise Critic members onboard Norwegian Star reported passenger protests. Fieryme, who shared a video on the cruise’s Cruise Critic Roll Call, said: “The atrium on two floors were packed and everywhere I turn everyone is talking about it.”

Norwegian is sending members of its leadership team in Australia, including Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia Pacific Steve Odell, to board the ship Sunday. They’ll hold a town hall meeting with passengers and answer questions.

The cruise line also is offering compensation to passengers as follows:

  • Passengers currently onboard will receive a total of $500 per person in onboard credit. The payment can be used onboard or refunded via mail at the conclusion of the cruise. They’ll also receive a 50 percent  future cruise credit of their cruise fare paid that can be used within the next three years.
  • Passengers scheduled to sail on the February 6 12-night cruise from Sydney will receive a $250 onboard credit per person, plus a 25 percent future cruise credit of their cruise fare paid, to be used within two years;
  • Passengers scheduled to sail on the February 18 19-night cruise from Auckland will receive a $500 onboard credit per person, plus a 50 percent future cruise credit of their cruise fare paid, to be used within two years;
  • Passengers scheduled to sail on the February 18 six-night cruise from Auckland will receive a $150 onboard credit per person, plus a 50 percent future cruise credit of their cruise fare paid, to be used within two years;
  • Passengers booked on the February 24 13-night cruise from Auckland will receive a $350 onboard credit per person, plus a 50 percent future cruise credit of their cruise fare paid, to be used within two years.

Norwegian says it will reach out to affected passengers with information as it becomes available; alternatively, passengers booked on any of the affected cruises can call the guest services team at 1-800-327-7030 for information.

Norwegian Star also altered itineraries in October 2015 because of an azipod problem.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Andy Stuart ~ Q & A

Norwegian president and COO Andy Stuart
Norwegian Cruise Line has worked hard to make value-added amenities rather than price discounting its go-to tool for making sales. The current Free at Sea promotion offers a pick among five items, including shore excursions, WiFi, unlimited beverages, specialty dining and third and fourth berths free. But Norwegian introduced Sail Away fares in March designed to eliminate those amenities with a reduction in fare after finding that the value of Free at Sea was hard to convey in some online searches. It disclosed the fares in a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts. Norwegian president and COO Andy Stuart spoke with senior editor Tom Stieghorst about Sail Away.

Q: What are Sail Away fares?

Andy Stuart
Andy Stuart

A: As a brand, we want our business to be very focused on value and away from price. The majority of what we sell comes with some value-added feature, either a beverage package or an internet package or onboard credit or free shore excursion or some other way. The Sail Away fares … come without a value-add.

Q: Why were they created?

A: What we were seeing is there are environments where the fares look too expensive. If you just have a conversation, it’s quite easy to explain. If you move into a more price-driven environment, it becomes more complicated. Most online sites were designed to show a particular cruise for seven nights or three nights or four nights. It tends to be cruise, the number of days it is and price.

In an online environment, it starts to get a little more complicated. There are two things going on. The higher prices move the cruise down in the search results. The second thing going on is even when we were well-positioned in search results, with the higher price the value-add doesn’t come through.

Q: How long has Sail Away been available?

A: We started testing it in March and April on a relatively small number of cruises, and we were quite pleased with it. It’s been widely available since the beginning of May.

Q: How much lower are the fares?

A: It’s hard to generalize because of the varying length of cruises involved and different itineraries. In most cases, if a customer were choosing between the Sail Away fare and a fare that includes the value-added items, we would expect them to choose the value-add. The cost of a beverage package on its own can be $600, and I don’t think any of the Sail Away fares are reduced by that much.

Q: Are they available only to OTAs?

A: They’re generally available. In the conference call we were talking about the OTAs because that’s the environment where people are selling in an online world.

Q: Can Sail Away be purchased as soon as inventory becomes available?

A: Most of these are available close-in, but we’re testing a lot of different things. But they’re only available in four categories; you can’t buy them on a suite. So it’s a tiny percentage of our inventory. There’s one inside, one outside, one balcony and one minisuite. It’s less than 10% [of the inventory].

Q: Are Sail Away fares contrary to Norwegian’s value-add strategy? If not, why not?

A: It’s not contrary. The reason it isn’t is that it applies to such a small percentage of our inventory. Secondly, the discount will never equal the value of the value-add. It’s a tactic that we think will ultimately be used on a very small percentage of our business.