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Malta’s Day Sign Of Cruise Future

Valletta Grand HarbourPhoto by John Haslem (Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere we read that 1 in 4 people don’t know where Malta is. That means three-quarters of us do and, while we couldn’t have come up with the co-ordinates on a map, we knew it was in the Mediterranean Sea — well, sort of — and that there must be falcons there because there once was a movie called The Maltese Falcon.

Whether that qualifies us to be 1 of the 3 in 4 or not, one thing we do know is that more people on cruise ships are finding Malta.

Take yesterday.

In Valletta, the capital of Malta, there was a record number of cruise ships — five — and 14,000 tourists were on them. This is a city of 6,444 residents, according to a 2014 census. The equivalent of that is having a million people arrive in Miami on the same day. Can you just imagine what the waterfront was like when the MSC Fantasia, Norwegian Jade, Celebrity Equinox, Costa neoRiviera and the CDF Zenith (?)  were all sending passengers ashore?

This tidbit comes from Cruise Industry News, one of the websites we regularly monitor for information on cruising. To say that CIN is the bible of cruising is probably not inaccurate, and purchasing that “bible” — its annual report — costs $895. 

The bottom line is when Cruise Industry News reports, everybody in the industry reads.

That brings us to another tidbit. In that annual report, and this part is free, it says “the average big-ship new-build” will carry between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers. That means the average ship of the future is going to carry a minimum of 4,000…think Quantum of the Seas, Norwegian Epic…maybe even Oasis of the Seas.

And they’ll probably all be going to Malta, right?

By the way, it’s south of Italy, about where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Adriatic. But you knew that, didn’t you?

In the news…

• Princess partners with TV celebrity chef and best-selling author Curtis Stone
• Bookings open for Holland America's ship Koningsdam, coming in April
• Royal Caribbean loyalty program taking new members before they cruise

Today at portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean's special-interest shore excursions

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
October 18, 2015
Southampton, Vigo, Lisbon, Grenada, Cartagena, Barcelona
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Quirky, funky, alternative…now No. 3


When we first sailed on a Norwegian ship (the Star), it was a cruise line that was considered a little quirky (have you seen the hull paintings?), a little funky (you could eat at whatever time you wanted) and a little alternative (it was a misfit in Gemthe world of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess).

How things have changed.

According to the Cruise Industry News Annual Report, Norwegian ranks third in total capacity, behind Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The fact that Norwegian added the Breakaway and Getaway in the last 14 months would account for the latest jump, and for the bulk of its 19 per cent increase in capacity.

Princess is No. 4, also with a huge jump (18.5)…can you say Royal Princess, the line's first new ship in five years? Costa, of all cruise lines, ranks fifth, thanks to two months of 2013 with its new ship (neoRiviera). MSC, with no new ship, slipped from third to sixth place, which made room for Norwegian to leap-frog the others.

With two more new ships on the horizon — the Escape next year and the Bliss in 2017 — it's a status that Norwegian figures to maintain. Barring attrition of its older vessels, those will be the 14th and 15th ships for a line that had only 10 when we boarded the Star six years ago. Carnival currently has 23, Royal Caribbean 21 with two Quantum Class ships in the works and Princess 17 with the Regal Princess coming.

The CIN annual report estimates that with double occupancy Norwegian can carry 1,722,400 passengers. Princess has a capacity of 1.6 million, about 200,000 more than Costa.

Not bad for what was a quirky, funky, alternative cruise line.

Celebrity Constellation
9 nights
November 29, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): LabadeeSan JuanSt. CroixSt. BartsSt. Maarten
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $77

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