16 DECEMBER 2019


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Article from BTNews 16 DECEMBER 2019

DECEMBER CRUISE NEWS: Virgin is about to arrive

The cruise industry will close 2019 with a new record of 30m passengers (2m ex UK) and 2020 will see 22 new ships, an incredible figure, which means practically two new ships a month. The sector is booming, with an order book of 112 ships until 2027.

However, the industry faces challenges, with the environmental issues at the top of the list.  There is a commitment to a future of zero emissions, and difficulties due to tourist overcrowding in some ports, and in high profile Venice with its flooding problems and ship routing difficulties. 

Amsterdam's decision to impose a tax just on cruise passengers has led to a 40% reduction in the number of calls to the city during 2019. P&O Cruises, Cunard, MSC Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) pulled out of the port earlier this year when Amsterdam city council imposed an €8 per 24hr tax on cruise passengers from 1 January 2019. 

The arrival of 5,000-passenger cruise ships, plus crew, at small harbours, does cause disruptions, resented by some who have a tranquil life perhaps 340 days of the year.  Some communities thrive on cruise ships even when they don’t actually have a (docking) port, Guernsey a good example with local volunteers ready to meet holiday makers as they step off tenders.  Somehow the balance has to be made.

This was highlighted at the recent International Cruise Summit held in Madrid with keynote speaker the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MedCruise) President Airam Díaz Pastor, who spoke of the major challenges ahead.

In a speech that shaped the two-day discussions, President Pastor presented the excellent job that cruise ports in the Med and its adjoining seas are doing, adapting facilities and destinations to current trends in cruising.  He also stressed that the long-term engagement of cruise lines to destinations, and the improvement of the cooperation when scheduling / planning itineraries are the two most important challenges faced by cruise ports in the Med.

“A major priority in the MedCruise strategy is to improve the relationship between ports and municipalities. We must educate our local communities about the benefits of the cruise industry. We must also listen to our neighbours’ needs, in order to avoid in advance unnecessary conflicts. Communication and collaboration is the key”, he said before announcing that MedCruise will soon set up a new Working Group dedicated to the issue, while it will increase its efforts to develop cruise awareness in the local communities.




VMarking a major milestone ahead of its maiden voyage on 1 April 2020, Virgin Voyages’ first ship, Scarlet Lady, has successfully completed its first sea trials sailing from Genoa to Marseille from 15-18 November, and then back from Marseille to Genoa from 27-30 November.

Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson boarded Scarlet Lady in Marseille, touring the ship with his wife Joan and children Sam and Holly, as well as Virgin Voyages’ CEO Tom McAlpin, chief commercial officer Nirmal Saverimuttu, SVP of Design Dee Cooper and CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss. Branson ceremoniously painted the outline of the Virgin flag on the hull of the ship where the Virgin Voyages logo will appear.
Following sea trials, Virgin Voyages confirmed the Scarlet Lady is smooth, stable and quiet, gliding through the water in various weather conditions giving a thoroughly enjoyable sailing experience.

Virgin Voyages say that in addition to her superior performance, the ship’s interior design and backdrop truly breaks the mould in the cruise industry. Designed to reflect a yacht’s sleek luxury, her interior spaces are curated by a creative collective that includes some of the top names in contemporary aesthetic, offering a chic atmosphere paired with stunning sea views throughout. 

“We’re thrilled to have completed such a significant milestone with our sea trials and have our amazing crew to thank for their passion and tenacity in this achievement. We’re one step closer to getting our sailors on the Scarlet Lady and are grateful for all that have chosen to join us on this adventure,” said Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages CEO.

It seems a long way off but the inaugural maiden voyage will come around quickly enough. This first celebratory sailing will be packed full of celebrity-guest appearances, special events, exclusive surprises and what is termed “an overall enhanced Virgin Voyages experience” for clients, to be called “sailors” to revel in. 

For those of us who have experienced other Virgin branded introductions this could be the biggest yet and one suspects that Mr Weiss, always keen to promote Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays will ensure a very much Virgin flyover at Miami.

Sailors who are unable to join the maiden voyage can book the Sneak-a-Peek sailings, the first of which runs from Thursday 26 March – Sunday 29 March. The second sailing will run Sunday 29 March – Wednesday, 1 April. The three-night sailings will feature the ship’s marquee experiences including a day at the Beach Club at Bimini, a Scarlet Night Party, access to all restaurants and complete versions of entertainment offered onboard.

As Virgin Voyages first ship prepares for her maiden voyage, the brand announced their second ship, Valiant Lady. Debuting in May 2021, Valiant Lady will have a home port of Barcelona (Spain) and will sail 7-night Mediterranean itineraries.



Having not launched a new ship for 15 years until the arrival of Explorer in 2016 super luxury operator Regent Seven Seas Cruises is to introduce Splendor in Miami on 21 February 2020.  She will again be around 55,000tons with a 750-passenger capacity looked after by 552 crew, a ratio of 1:3.  A third, as yet unnamed vessel, is due in 2023.  The revitalised line seems to be going places

Godmother of the Splendor will be super model Christie Brinkley.  A centuries-old maritime tradition, a ship’s Godmother christens the vessel and is responsible for bestowing good luck over the ship and to all guests and crew who sail her.

“Christie Brinkley is a universally beloved icon who is synonymous worldwide for her beauty, style and commitment to health and happiness,” said Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “It’s fitting that the Godmother of Seven Seas Splendor reflects timeless elegance, vitality and sophistication, as Regent has perfected all the details of luxury onboard Seven Seas Splendor.”

The all-suite, all-balcony ship is claimed to be a work of art itself, from bow to stern, perfecting uncompromised luxury with elegance, comfort and personalized guest service. More than 46,000sq ft of Italian marble will adorn Seven Seas Splendor – over an acre of marble – and her 375 suites include nearly 52,000 square-feet of balcony space – among the largest balconies at sea. The beautifully appointed suites range from the 307sq ft Veranda Suite to the lavish 4,443 sq ft Regent Suite.

Seven Seas Splendor will feature a multi-million-dollar art collection, a Culinary Arts Kitchen with 18 stations for hands-on gourmet cooking demonstrations presented by master chef instructors, and Serene Spa & Wellness, a new globally inspired spa brand created for Seven Seas Splendor offering exclusive treatments that integrate techniques and ingredients from destinations around the world to soothe both the body and mind.

During her inaugural 2020 season, Seven Seas Splendor will sail the Caribbean and Mediterranean, helmed by 30-year veteran Captain Serena Melani.



Independently owned cruise line, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, has announced the acquisition of two more cruise ships to join their expanding ocean fleet – increasing to eight cruise ships in 2021.

CMV will take delivery of P&O Australia’s Pacific Dawn and Pacific Aria in Singapore on the 2 March and 2nd May 2021 respectively, increasing lower bed fleet capacity to 9000 berths and passenger capacity by 30% in 2021.

The duo will be officially re-named in summer 2021 following dry docking, some minor upgrade and re-livery works before embarking on maiden positioning voyages via the Suez Canal to Northern Europe.

Pacific Dawn (Previously Regal Princess and named by Margaret Thatcher) comes in at 70,000grt, with 798-passenger cabins and carrying about 1,400 passengers.  She will be deployed on the UK market in late May 2021 bolstering much needed capacity and cruising year-round alongside Columbus ex-London Tilbury.

Pacific Aria at 55,000grt, carrying about 1,100 passengers, will be deployed on the German market under the TransOcean Kreuzfahrten brand alongside Vasco da Gama and replacing the 580-passenger Astor. She is being re-named Jules Verne and will be re-deployed to the French market in May 2021.

Chris Coates, group commercial director added, “These two fine cruise ships perfectly complement our existing fleet providing trade partners and consumers alike with much needed extra capacity. For 2020, we expect close to 70% of capacity to be sold by the year end, in line with expectations. This provides an ideal platform for the early introduction of new tonnage and opportunities for summer 2021 with the focus very much on higher yield business”.  


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