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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cruising trends, ships for 2011

   Chilling on the pristine white sand beach of Half Moon Cay surrounded by turquoise Bahamian waters with Holland America's Maasdam at anchor on the horizon. (Jim Fox photo, copyright)

New ship smell, calming sea air attracts cruisers this year

   By Jim and Barb Fox

   That "new ship" smell and the calming, restorative effects of sea air continue to attract a record number of people to cruise vacations.
   There's smoother sailing ahead with the launch of 14 new ships this year and another eight next year while further diversifying global itineraries and shipboard experiences.
   "The industry has ridden the economic storm of the past 18 plus months with remarkable resiliency, skill and success," said Jan Swartz of Princess Cruises and Cunard Line.
   A survey of Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) travel agents predicts that cruises will outperform other types of travel in 2011 and in the coming years.
   CLIA, representing 25 of the major lines, said ships are sailing at full capacity and carried 15 million people in 2010, with a forecast increase of 6.6 per cent this year to 16-million passengers.
   Travel agents said cruising has earned the top ranking in consumer's travel interests largely because of perceived value, past cruise experience, price and excitement generated by new ships.

   Those 2011 new models
   Last year, 12 ships representing an investment of $5.9 billion, joined the CLIA fleet, ranging in capacity from 101 to 5,400 passengers.

   Looking to sail on the latest and greatest? Here's a look at this year's planned launches:
   Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Magic (3,652 passengers); Costa Cruises' Favalosa (3,502); Celebrity Cruises' Silhouette (2,850); Disney Cruise Line's Dream (2,500); Oceania Cruises' Marina (1,260); Seabourn Cruise Line's Quest (450); Pearl Seas Cruises' Pearl Mist (210); Avalon Waterways' Panorama (166); AMA Waterways' Amalotus (124), Amaverde (162) and Amakaterina (212); and Uniworld Grand Boutique River Cruises' Douro Spirit (128), SS Antoinette (164) and River Victoria (206).
   Cruise fares should continue to remain very competitive as fleet additions between 2010 and 2012 represent a capacity increase of 17.4 percent, or 51,306 berths (beds).

   Hot, hot, hot destinations
   Among the "hot" destinations this year predicted by CLIA lines and travel agents are the regions of Europe, including rivers now enjoying increasing consumer interest.
   Also hot and one of the top cruising destinations year-round is the Caribbean along with South America, Asia, and the Pacific.
   Other trends reported by the cruise lines include:
   - Globalization of itineraries, including shorter cruises in Europe and elsewhere.
   - Increased choice in dining experiences, with more specialty restaurants, guests chefs and local sourcing of food.
   - Continued evolution of onboard spas, including top-branded spa partners.
   - A focus on personalized cruise experiences both onboard and on shore, with private or exclusive shore excursions. Activities are targetting specific demographics, including families, children, sports, active vacationers and special-interest itineraries and programs.
   - Strong interest in theme cruises, particularly food and wine, music, culture and art.
   - Passenger growth among baby boomers, families/multigenerational groups, first-time cruisers and corporate/meeting groups.
   Most people are booking their cruise vacations five to seven months ahead, compared with an average of 4.5 month two years ago.

   The Caribbean remains one of the top year-round cruise destinations as this shows the Caribbean Princess docked right beside the beach in Grand Turk. (Jim Fox photo; copyright)

   Ahoy mateys
   Things are getting livelier on Half Moon Cay, that crescent-shaped private Bahamian island, where Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America ships drop anchor.
   Cruisers returning will notice something new on the horizon -- a two-deck, three-masted schooner that appears to be washed up on the island's sand-swept beach.
   It's actually a themed bar called a "truly unique watering hole" known as Captain Morgan on the Rocks.
   Said to be "inspired by the adventures of real-life privateer Captain Henry Morgan," there are bars on both levels holding 326 people. The mid-deck bar is surrounded by cannons that release mists of water to keep guests cool.
   There's outdoor seating with the upper level offering sweeping vistas of the cay's turquoise waters, white sand beach, migratory bird sanctuary and the ship at anchor.

    A two-deck themed bar called Captain Morgan on the Rocks appears to be washed up on the sand-swept beach of Half Moon Cay, Carnival and Holland America cruise lines' private sanctuary.
    A fun time will be had by all -- or else -- says Captain Morgan at a new themed pirate bar on Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. 

    - Disney Cruise Line has marked the keel laying for its next ship, Disney Fantasy, at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. It will be a sister to the Disney Dream that entered service last month. The 4,000-passenger Fantasy will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral with its maiden voyage on March 31 next year.
   - Royal Caribbean Cruises will have Meyer Werft build the first of its new generation of ships to carry 4,100 passengers and enter service in the fall of 2014. There's an option for a second similar ship for the spring of 2015.


   If you cruise:
   To find out more about cruising and cruise lines, go to the CLIA website: www.cruising.org

Article and indicated photos are copyright by Jim and Barb Fox.
Reprint rights are available. Contact outtosea50@hotmail.com

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