Guest onboard the Sapphire Princess viewed the annular solar eclipse that occurred early in the afternoon of Boxing Day along the Straits of Malacca.
More than 2,600 guests from around the world embarked Sapphire Princess in Singapore on Dec. 17 for an 11-day voyage around Southeast Asia visiting ports including Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Bangkok, Koh Samui and Port Klang before arriving in Singapore on Dec. 28.
Guests and crew were given solar filter glasses to safely view the phenomenon. Hundreds of guests gathered on the upper deck of the ship to witness the solar eclipse.
“Guests onboard were delighted to witness the once-in-a-lifetime ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse onboard Sapphire Princess while celebrating Christmas and Boxing Day,“ said Farriek Tawfik, Director Southeast Asia, Princess Cruises.
During this past decade, the cruise ship orderbook grew from 27 ships on order in 2010 to more than 110 ships entering 2020. Not only is the current orderbook a record, but it also contains more different ships than ever before from 9,000 to 100 passengers, from contemporary and mass-market ships to ultra-luxury and expedition vessels.
The expedition market has taken off in the last few years. Traditionally dominated by a handful of operators with older ships, new ships are taking over while also growing the market segment and attracting new players, including most of the major cruise companies.
China has been a roller coaster for the industry. When the market “discovered” cruising, too many operators put too many ships in there too fast which resulted in an adjustment period as the market and its sales model were overwhelmed. Having modified its sales model, the market now seems to be coming back, but operators are more cautious.
Better satellite service and more broadband have accelerated internet and phone services aboard the ships so passengers now essentially can enjoy the same connectivity they can at home. In addition, apps and services like Princess’ Ocean Medallion.
Increasingly stricter environmental regulations have been introduced, requiring ships to operate on low-sulfur fuel or use scrubbers to clean the exhaust gases from heavy fuel oil. These restrictions also extend to ports which may also require low sulfur fuels or that ships turn off their engines and connect to shorepower.
New technologies have also been explored and introduced due not only the environmental regulations but also the cost of fuel, seeking to reduce fuel consumption which in turn also reduces emissions. These technologies include LNG as a new fuel, research into hybrid solutions including fuel cells and batteries, optimized hull and bow shapes, hull coatings, trim optimization, LED lighting, and more.
Women have stepped up the plate and broken the so-called glass ceiling assuming top jobs as presidents and CEOs of cruise brands, as well as senior executives. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises have women at the helm. Also at sea, women have assumed roles as captains in addition to senior officer positions.
The decade has also seen the dramatic growth of MSC Cruises sailing up to be the third-largest cruise company. In addition, newcomer Viking Ocean has established itself in the premium market and is now also reaching into the expedition segment. Also launched has been the new brand of Virgin Cruises, so far with four ships being built.
Drydockings have evolved from being mainly class inspections, repairs and basic refurbishments to becoming major revitalization projects, including stretchings, sometimes transforming older ships into literally new ships, to the tune of as much as $200 million per project.
All was not positive during the decade, however, the grounding of the Costa Concordia with the resulting loss of life in addition to eventual scrapping of the ship, made a strong if temporary dent in the industry’s safety public perception. Incidents of violation of environmental regulations also took place, resulting in hefty fines.
Princess Cruises christened its newest ship the Sky Princess today in a tribute to the pioneering women of the U.S. Space Program.
Princess Cruises chose the theme of Reach for the Sky for the occasion and honoured two women of NASA for their achievements in the U.S. space program: Captain Kay Hire, and engineer Frances “Poppy” Northcutt, who served as the godmothers of the Sky Princess.
Captain Hire began her 30-year NASA career as a mechanical systems engineer, helping to launch more than 40 space missions. Then, as an astronaut, she logged 700 hours in space, flew over 12 million miles, and orbited the earth 475 times. She was the first female assigned to a military combat flight crew while serving in the U.S. Navy. And, she retired from the U.S. Navy with more 35 years of service. Poppy Northcutt served as the first female mission control engineer when NASA made history with its mission to the moon. When the crew of Apollo 13 became stranded in their service module, it was her team’s calculations that brought them home safely – a feat of heroism that earned the entire mission operations a Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award.
“As we celebrate our newest, most technologically advanced ship – one whose spirit of adventure and discovery match the grandeur of her name, Sky Princess, we also applaud the groundbreaking women of the U.S. Space Program,” said Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz. “Our godmothers, Captain Kay Hire and Poppy Northcutt, remind us all of what we can achieve when we reach for the sky.”
Sky Princess Captain Heikki Laakkonen also recognized two Sky Princess female officers who embody the Reach for the Sky theme, striving for success in leadership positions –Kerry Ann Wright, who started working in the cruise industry as a spa technician and went back to school to rise through the ranks to become a Second Officer working on the bridge; and Chief Security Officer Susan Morgan, who is the longest-serving woman in the British Royal Navy.
Captain Hire and Poppy Northcutt, recited the traditional cruise ship blessing before pushing a NASA-style “launch” button releasing and smashing a 15-litre bottle of champagne, officially naming Sky Princess.
Additional women of NASA recognized in a tribute video, included: • The first woman of colour to travel to outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison. • The first Hispanic woman in space who later became Director of the Johnson Space Center Dr. Ellen Ochoa. • The first woman to command the Space Shuttle Eileen Collins. • The first woman to command the International Space Stations Peggy Whiston. • The first woman to join a spacewalk, Kathryn D. Sullivan.
The ceremony featured entertainment adding to the exciting bottle break moment, including Princess Cruises Celebrations Ambassador and Love Boat actress Jill Whelan, serving as ceremony co-host with Sky Princess Cruise Director Alexander Yepremian; and performance of Dream On from America’s Got Talent Alum, Brian Justin Crum. The finale of the naming ceremony included a performance of This is Me from The Greatest Showman and featured in the cruise line’s new production show Rock Opera.
The new Princess ship is now sailing on voyages to the Caribbean through spring 2020.