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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

How Catering to Crews Became Business

On every cruise ship we have sailed, in every interview we have done, the single most important secret to success is people. That's the people who make up the crews, who make officers and companies look good, and who make passengers want to come back.

So it's a cruise company mandate to do whatever is possible to keep the crew happy.

Enter David Hirsch, now 43.

He worked on Royal Caribbean ships for almost five years, as a cruise director. Some time after he left, Hirsch and his wife Ashley created Crew Concierge, with the idea of making cruise ship crews happier…and creating a business at the same time. What he later told Cruise Industry News best explains their idea:

"“There were times when I needed basics – shampoo, toothpaste and maybe some snacks when the mess was closed. I needed these items, but was unable to get off the ship because I was on duty. And when I was able to get off, the prices in the ports were two to three times more expensive."

So Crew Concierge sourced what crew members from dozens of countries needed or wanted — from their countries — and started pitching it, in Florida.

“We walked up and down the ports, handing out flyers at the crew gates, hoping for orders," he remembered. "After two weeks and no orders from crew, we got a $5,000 order from a ship. The flyer had made its ways into the hands of officers looking for a more efficient way to supply their ever growing crew needs."

The result has been on-board stores, solely for crew. If items are marked up at all, profits fund crew welfare activities.

Today, Crew Concierge services 40 ships. The $5,000 first order had grown, last year, to $3.2 million.

Lucky Hirsches. Lucky crews.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Golf lessons at sea?

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
September 1, 2014
Miami (return): NassauCoco CayKey West
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $62

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

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