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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

Cruise Question: To Surf Or To Drink?

An online travel agency called Cruise Holidays conducted a quickie survey on its Facebook page recently, asking readers to choose between two options for “something free” if going on a cruise:

• Free Internet

• Free drinks

The creators could’ve called it De-vices vs Vices but they didn’t. They also resisted the Burrowing Owl wineiPhoneurge to call it a “straw poll” although that’s what it was. What they did call it was “shocking” because when the results were compiled, nearly one-third of the respondents said “free Internet.”

Think about that. Drinks on cruise ships are expensive — all drinks, including soda pop. One estimate is that a couple could save more than $1,000 on a 10-day cruise with a free drinks package. Plus people go on cruise ships to get away from the office, so to speak, right? Plus holidaying and partying and socializing usually comes with a generous number of drinks (alcoholic or not), and that’s a big part of being on a cruise.

Yet 32 per cent of the people who responded to the question chose free Internet. Maybe it shouldn’t be such a shock. After all, people are infatuated with — dare we say addicted to? — “devices.”

What would you choose?

Today at portsandbows.com: More flights to ports from Canada

Norwegian Star
7 nights
November 30, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42

Amigos Return A Comeback for Mexico


The Mexican Riviera is cruising's enigma.So beautiful and so accessible. So dangerous and so unpredictable. At various times, it has been a hotspot for cruise ships and part of a country that scares away tourists with crimes ranging from pick-pocketing to murders.

Right now, for now…Mexico's back.

This was a line item in the Cruise Industry News Annual Report this month. After falling off a tourist cliff faster than the divers of Acapulco, the Mexican Riviera Acapulcowelcomed back ships from Carnival and Princess, to the point that it's possible for three-quarters of a million cruisers to visit this year, up from 447,452 last year.

That's a whopping increase of 67 per cent!

At this point, it is only an opportunity. However, cruise lines wouldn't go there if the ships were going to be empty, relatively speaking. It's a simple supply-and-demand calculation, and this year cruise lines are calculating there will be a demand.


The high point for the Mexican Riviera was five years ago, when 39 ships and almost 1.2 million passengers were visitors. Coincidentally, it wasn't just a dive caused by the threat of being robbed or injured. It was also 2008, the beginning of the financial crisis that hurt tourism everywhere.

Evidently, both safety and economy are better…at least on the Mexican Riviera.

Norwegian Pearl
7 nights
April 4, 2014
Miami (return): RoatanBelizeCozumelKey West
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49

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

Different Kind Of Month For Carnival!


It is now official. Carnival is no longer a four-letter word in the cruise industry. At least, not with the customers, the people who count the most.

Last Friday, the sometimes-beleaguered cruise line reported record sales figures. It was the biggest month in Carnival's history for "net bookings" — new reservations minus cancellations. The figure, 565,000-plus, was 17 per cent higher than the previous January.

Before you say that's like comparing apples and tomatoes because the engine-room fire on the Triumph took Carnival's rankings to a new low, the incident wasn't until February.

So Carnival's 23 ships appear to have completed the comeback…from the Triumph, from the generator-room fire on the Splendor…from the generator failure on the Dream that shortened a cruise…from the propulsion-pod problem on the Legend that sent it home at reduced speed…even from the horrid disaster of the Costa Concordia, which was linked to Carnival because Costa is a member of the corporate family.

So no matter what the pundits say, no matter what network news reports about a string of Carnival incidents in particular and about cruising in general, the people who cruise aren't buying it.

Instead, they're buying cruises. Carnival cruises.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth
7 nights
November 28, 2014
Inside: $986
Cost per day: $140

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