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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

Landmark Decision About Norovirus

We are told that life, in terms of the legal community, is all about precedent. Well, here’s a precedent for the cruise industry that is going to be celebrated in cruise headquarters from Miami (Royal Caribbean) to Santa Clarita (Princess) to Genoa (Costa).

And it happened in England.

The subject: norovirus.

In a lengthy, wordy document filled with legalese, a British judge last week ruled against passengers who were suing TUI Cruises for becoming ill with gastroenteritis (norovirus) while on the Thomson Spirit, a ship chartered from Louis Cruises. The 43 claimants alleged either that they contracted norovirus because the cruise line was negligent or they were at risk because the cruise line breached its contract with them.

The judge ruled no, in both instances.

In what will be hailed as a landmark decision for cruise lines, here is the most compelling part of the explanation from the law firm that defended TUI:

“The judgment…is of great importance to the cruise industry in recognizing that norovirus is not caused by the ship and that even with high levels of implementation of industry procedures, outbreaks of norovirus do occur.”

Where have you heard that before, in so many words? Right here, because we have long felt the cruise industry has become a poster child for norovirus, a gastrointestinal disease that can strike wherever large groups of people are in close contact.

Like on a cruise ship, but not only on a cruise ship.

The defendant satisfied the judge that the cruise line’s carrier fully implemented systems for cleaning the ship after 16 passengers had suffered from norovirus on its previous cruise, and for reacting to the outbreak on the subsequent cruise.

And guess what evidence was taken into consideration?

Complaints from the stricken passengers about TUI’s procedures. They were no longer allowed to have self-serve food at the ship’s buffet. They were given paper napkins. They were confined to cabins.

That, said the judge, proved the cruise line responded properly to the presence of norovirus.

Will this “landmark decision” change the linkage between cruise ships and norovirus? Probably not. Ships — not daycares or seniors homes or shopping malls — will likely remain the poster child for norovirus.

In the news…

• Viking Star aborts cruise and returns to Bergen for mechanical repair
• Quebec to be latest Canadian port with shore power for cruise ships 
• Kung-Fu Panda restaurant on Quantum of the Seas, now in Singapore

Today at portsandbows.com: The story of the Viking Star's cruise

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 14, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay 
Inside: $415
Cost per day: $59

New ships: Le Lyrial, Mein Schiff 4, AIDAprima

Fourth in a series about new ships


Ponant’s Le Lyrial

If you’d like to know how the wealthy French cruise, this could be as close as it gets. The Ponant ships are like large yachts, with a crew-to-passenger ratio better than 2-to-1, with a promise that every guest will be pampered, entertained and enlightened, and an idea of cruising synonymous with French elegance…beyond cuisine and fine wines, of course.

Launch date: April 18
Capacity: 264
Sister ships: Le Soleal, L’Austral, Le Boreal
Maiden voyage: Istanbul to Venice — 21 days
Home port: Venice
Ships now in Ponant fleet: 5

Interesting: Le Lyrial’s contemporary decor was inspired by the blue light of the Vega star in the Lyra constellation. All guests will have spectacular ocean views and access to a fitness center, library, swimming pool, beauty salon and all the usual amenities, only French style. After summering in the Mediterranean, it’s apparently heading to Antarctica, an unusual destination for French elegance.


Mein Schiff 4

TUI Cruises Mein Schiff 4

The second new-build from German-based TUI Cruises, a joint venture with Royal Caribbean. The other ships in the TUI fleet were purchased from Celebrity and re-named, the first the former Galaxy (2009) and the second the Mercury (2011), becoming Mein Schiff 1 and 2, respectively. The first new-build was Mein Schiff 3, which arrived last year.

Launch date: June 6
Capacity: 2,506
Sister ships: Mein Schiff 3
Maiden voyage: Eight days, from Kiel (return) to the Baltics
Home port: Kiel
Ships then in TUI Cruises fleet: 4

Interesting: By the time TUI is finished, there will be five sisters, once Mein Schiff 8 arrives in 2019, all of them new-builds and probably all like the first one, Mein Schiff 3. That means, like Mein Schiff 4, they’ll be environmentally friendly, carry 2,506 passengers, and have 15 decks, 11 restaurants and 82 per cent of its cabins with balconies.


AIDA Prima


The artwork on the hull is probably the tip-off that this 18-year-old German-based line is designed for young, fun-loving, German-speaking and physically active cruisers. Like Norwegian, it’s ultra-casual in both its dress code and dining options, and the AIDAprima will be its largest ship, the first of two, the second due to arrive next year. As yet, No. 2 is unnamed but it will be AIDAsomething.

Launch date: October 1
Capacity: 3,250
Sister ships: (Coming in 2016)
Maiden voyage: In two stages, the first from Tokyo to Dubai (49 days), the second from Dubai to Hamburg (38 days)
Home port: Hamburg
Ships then in AIDA fleet: 11

Interesting: Built for Germany’s largest cruise line at Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, AIDAprima will have 18 decks and 75 per cent of the rooms will come with balconies and one of its many activities is ice skating. With an opening voyage almost three months long, you can be sure the German cruise masters will have everything just right.

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's 12th FunShip 2.0

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 31, 2015
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau 
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Mercury's Moving to New Waters

When members of a cruise line start talking openly about the likelihood that a ship will be sold, you know it’s a done deal. In April, during an itineraries presentation on the Celebrity Millennium, Cruise Sales Manager Wes Savery made it clear he thought the good ship Mercury’s days were numbered. It is now official.

In what is essentially a family transaction, the Mercury will end its almost 13-year run with Celebrity next April and become the Mein Schiff 2, the second ship for German line TUI Cruises. Like Celebrity and Azamara, TUI Cruises is part of the Royal Caribbean conglomerate.

Mein Schiff 1, incidentally, was once the Celebrity Galaxy. Before launching it, TUI did some major renovations, which is what awaits the Mercury after its final Celebrity cruise on Valentine’s Day next year. Passengers already booked on the Mercury after that date will have cancellation or re-booking options.

With a 10% increase in Germans who cruise, the timing was perfect for the Mercury’s in-house transfer.

The demise of the Mercury leaves only the Century in the class of ships under the same name. Refurbished last year, it will soldier on as the standard bearer as Celebrity focuses on expanding its Millennium and Solstice Class ships to cater to the growth of cruisers looking for bigger or more-modern vessels.

That’s it, we’re done.

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