New Ships, New Itineraries, and a Fresh Look Forward

Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 begins! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The world’s largest cruise industry conference, Cruise Shipping Miami, kicked off at the Miami Beach Convention Centre in Miami, Florida on Monday, and yesterday was the official opening of the trade show floor and the State of the Industry Address.  And although my time here was a whirlwind one, the number of fascinating new people I met and old friends I saw made the trip very worthwhile indeed.

A few highlights of the day:

As you may have already heard, Carnival Destiny will undergo a refurbishment next year so dramatic that the 1996-built ship will emerge with an entirely new name: Carnival Sunshine.

Carnival Destiny, docked in Nassau last Friday, will undergo a radical transformation in 2013. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Clocking in at $155 million dollars, the refit will incorporate all of Carnival’s new Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements and will add a reconfigured layout that includes the addition of a partial deck and the expansion of two other decks in the forward section of the ship. Taking 49 days to complete between February and April of 2013, the refit work will be completed by the ship’s original builder, Italian shipyard Fincantieri.

The Fincantieri booth at Cruise Shipping Miami 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Speaking of Fincantieri, at their booth I was able to get my first glimpse of the forthcoming Royal Princess, courtesy of the detailed builder’s model they had on display, along with a few of my other favorite ships. Royal Princess is set to debut next year, and Princess Cruises is continually pulling back the curtain on this unique vessel’s tantalizing amenities, including a glimpse at some of her exciting new dining options.

Builder's model for the forthcoming Royal Princess. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Although Royal Princess will lack a traditional promenade deck, she makes up for it with a variety of upper-deck space. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The builder's model for my home-away-from home next month: Silver Spirit. Be sure to check out our Live Voyage Report beginning here on April 10! Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

One of the the warmest welcomes yesterday was given to me by my friends at the French Pavillion, representing the beautiful French ports of Le Havre, Cherbourg, Rouen, Saint-Malo, La Rochelle and Normandy.

My good friends at the French pavillion. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I had spoken to many of them over email in the past two years, but I had never met them before in person – and they are lovely people. I will not forget the warm and inviting welcome they gave me.

I can tell you this: they are passionate about the ports they represent, and I’m embarrassed to say I have never been to any of them. But I think I will have to make a tour of these exciting port cities later this year, because they really are the ones to watch: passenger traffic at Le Havre alone this year is seeing a marked increase not just in day calls, but in the all-important turnaround calls.

Port cities around the world are trying hard to attract new customers, including Hong Kong, which is constructing this imposing cruise terminal as we speak. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There was also an interesting initiative put forth by Cruise Scotland to establish Scotland’s Western Coast as “The New Alaska”, an idea I personally believe has a lot of merit as cruise lines look to expand and diversify their itinerary offerings. Their new brochure offered sample itineraries focusing on the numerous ports that exist within a relatively short cruising distance, allowing lines to save fuel and still offer passengers mulit-port itineraries. Sample itineraries were even shown that put forth the idea of weeklong voyages between Greenock, Scotland and Reykjavik, Iceland.

MSC Poesia in the fog off the coast of Spain. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

MSC Cruises announced they will launch a new ship next year, the MSC Preziosa, which will become the fourth Fantasia-class ship in the fleet. Originally ordered by another line, the plucky Italian company knew a good deal when they saw one and snapped up the partially-completed hull. This of course comes in addition to the fact that MSC is poised to take delivery of MSC Divinia next year, bringing the line’s total number of ships to 13 – an impressive accomplishment, considering that the vast majority of the fleet has been built post-2006.  We’ll have a special report on MSC Cruises coming up here on From the Deck Chair!

CruiseBC - an organization very important to yours truly. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

It was also nice to see and meet people from CruiseBC. Being from Vancouver, the continued relationship between cruise lines and British Columbian ports like Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, Campbell River and Prince Rupert is of enormous importance to me personally, as I truly believe the best Alaskan cruise vacations start and end right here in Vancouver. But then, I am a little biased on that front!

Conference attendees arrive for the State of the Industry address at Cruise Shipping Miami yesterday. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Although it was the first event of the day yesterday, the last thing I want to talk about is the opening State of the Industry Address, where executives from Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises addressed the challenges and exciting changes coming to this rewarding industry.

First and foremost on the agenda was the elephant in the room: Costa Concordia, and how important it is to emphasize that the cruise industry has an exemplary safety record.  Christine Duffy, president of CLIA stated that “any passenger loss is one too many”, but held firm that this industry was, is, and will remain one of the safest methods of travel. There was also emphasis on educating the public on safety procedures as well – not just crew.  Duffy stated the industry plans to continue to look at adapting and enhancing shipboard safety procedures so that a tragedy of this magnitude may never occur again.

Howard Frank addresses the audience. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

For me, though, it was Carnival PLC Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank who really brought home the most profound statement of the morning. He said his normal speech, to which he received warm applause.

Then he stayed on stage.

He took his glasses off slowly, and there was an uncomfortable silence as he cleared his throat. He looked down at the podium, then looked up candidly at us.  I was at the back of the room, and I couldn’t read Mr. Frank’s expression. But I felt a lump rise in my throat as he started to open his mouth, then stopped.  Then he spoke:

“They hate when I stray from the script.”

He pointed to the pin he wore on the lapel of his suit – the Costa Cruises pin. Ever since the tragic events of Giglio, he has worn that Costa pin to remind everyone, wherever he goes, of how proud he is of Costa, their officers and crew, and how proud he is of the line’s rich, Italian seafaring heritage.  He spoke of his profound sadness for the lives lost onboard the Concordia. You could have heard a pin drop in the room, because every one of us was thinking the same thing.

He spoke of his fondness for the Italian Captains and Officers around the world, and his voice cracked as he told the audience to remember that it was an Italian-built ship, manned by Italian officers and crew, who first discovered America.

It was a poignant lesson I think we would all do well to remember.

Costa Atlantica departs Nassau. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Stay tuned – we’ll have more exciting news from Cruise Shipping Miami tomorrow, and don’t forget Live Coverage of the Viking Longship’s Christening from Amsterdam starts here on From the Deck Chair on Monday!




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