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New ship No. 6 — Mein Schiff 5

Sixth in a series of new ships for 2016

Most North Americans, it’s safe to assume, know little about TUI Cruises. It’s a smaller cruise line, or a cruise line of smaller ships, or both. It is, however, owned by Royal Caribbean and that gives it a cache of credibility for people interesting in cruising on any of its “Mein Schiffs” (or “my ships”), two of which were once the Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. This year, TUI will inherit Splendour of the Seas from the parent company.

Launch date: July 15

Capacity: 2,534

Sister ships: Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4

Maiden voyage: Kiel, Germany return (9 days)

Home port: Hamburg

Ships then in TUI fleet: 5

Interesting: The latest of three new-builds, Mein Schiff 5 is also significantly larger than the first two ex-Celebrity ships. She is a carbon copy of Mein Schiff 3 and 4, which means 1,276 staterooms, 80 per cent of them with balconies and an interior design that has been described as “modern yet cozy.” German is the principal language yet the ship sounds like one that would appeal to North Americans, too, with a reputable buffet, along with specialty restaurants for Japanese fare and surf and turf. Activities include acrobatics, musicals, magic and comedy shows; fitness and aerobics opportunities; and a full range of shore excursions. Best of all, beverages and gratuities are included.

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Wave Season

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
February 20, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Mercury Just a Memory Celebrity

She disappeared a year ago last month, without a whimper, without a wake. If we hadn’t visited Celebrity’s website this week to check on the size of its fleet, even we may have forgotten the passing of the Mercury.

In horse vernacular, you’d say she was being retired to stud. Or maybe that should be HE was being retired to stud. Off to Germany, to live under an assumed name, Mein Schiff 2. Off to sail in Europe as part of a relatively new brand, co-founded with an old sibling, the Celebrity Galaxy, now living its new life as Mein Schiff I.

Somehow, the names will never sound as pleasant as Mercury and Galaxy, in German or in English, will they?

The Mercury’s flaw was she got old and small, which happens to people, too. At fewer than 1,900 passengers, it would take three of her to carry the load of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas. She’s only 15 but how much is that in ship years?

When cruise ships reach that day of reckoning, to be re-furbished they have to be in good enough shape to look like a 5-year-old. It’s a bigger chore than turning a 60-year-old person into a 20-year-old. Facelifts aren’t enough. Deep pockets aren’t needed, deep wells are, and when the job is finished she better be attractive to a couple of thousand people every week.

If not, they are sold to the highest bidder. In this case, the bidder happened to be in the Royal Caribbean family, so presumably TUI Cruises got a good deal. Fans of the Mercury will tell you TUI got a good ship. Cruisers get attached to ships, and the Mercury was no exception. It’s unlikely they feel the same affinity for Mein Schiff 2.

Like many broken relationships, it would never be the same.

Photos by Stan Shebs

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
17 nights
April 1, 2012
Fort Lauderdale, Punta Delgada, Lisbon, Portimao, Cadiz, Malaga, Barcelona
Inside $699

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