Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Cruising’s Continuing Growth
When the first jet aircraft made many former passenger liners redundant, some were scrapped, but others gave birth to the modern cruise industry.
Although Bahamas/Caribbean cruises from Miami resurfaced in the 1950s with a ship named Nuevo Dominicano (ex-New Northland), it was not until the 1960s that cruising was updated and re-packaged for a society that had an increasing amount of leisure time on its hands.
Twenty-nine years ago, the first edition of this book listed 120 ships, some of which are still operating in one form or another. Today, that number has grown to more than 290 (around 350 including ships operating coastal cruises). Throughout the period, the cruise industry has maintained a global growth rate of over 7 percent each year. But many well-known cruise lines have also gone to the deep blue seabed in the past 30 years. Indeed, since 1990 more than 65 cruise companies have either merged, or been taken over, or simply gone out of business, including such well-liked companies as Chandris Cruises, Epirotiki, Renaissance Cruises, Royal Cruise Lines, Royal Viking Line, and Sun Line Cruises.
Some start-up lines, using older ships and aimed at specific markets, also came and went - operations such as American Family Cruises, Festival Cruises, Fiesta Marina Cruises, Premier Cruise Lines, and Regency Cruises. In came new shiny tonnage, complete with vanity logos and adornments painted on all-white hulls - the attributes of the industry’s emerging giants. Fresh thinking transformed the design of accommodation, the use of public spaces, and the growing number of food and entertainment venues.
Yield management, a term purloined from the airline industry, was introduced. These days company executives think of little else, because running a cruise company is all about economics.
Cunard linked up with BOAC in the early 1960s.
Who goes cruising
The global cruise industry had around 22.8 million passengers in 2013. The largest concentration of passengers came from the US (13.5 million), followed by Continental Europe (about 4 million, including Germany’s 1.69 million), but not including the UK (1.79 million.) The figures do not include the 300,000 passengers who took a coastal voyage aboard the Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Voyages) ships.
Modern cruising is born
In the early 1960s, passenger-shipping directories listed over 100 passenger lines. Until the mid-1960s, it was cheaper to cross the Atlantic by ship than by plane, but the introduction of the jet aircraft changed that rapidly, particularly with the appearance of the Boeing 747 in the early 1970s. In 1962, more than 1 million people crossed the North Atlantic by ship; in 1970, that number was down to 250,000.
The success of the jumbo jets created a fleet of unprofitable and out-of-work passenger liners that appeared doomed for the scrapyard. Even the famous big ‘Queens,’ noted for their regular weekly transatlantic service, were at risk. Cunard White Star Line’s Queen Mary (81,237 gross tonnage) was withdrawn in September 1967. Cunard tried to fight back with Cunard-Eagle Airways but then formed a short-lived BOAC-Cunard joint venture with the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation, flying 707s and Super VC10s.
Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, at 83,673 gross tonnage the largest-ever passenger liner (until 1996), made its final crossing in November 1968.
Ships were sold for a fraction of their value. Many lines went out of business, and ships were scrapped. Those that survived attempted to mix transatlantic crossings with voyages south to the sun. The Caribbean (including the Bahamas) became appealing, cruising became an alternative, and an entire new industry was born, with new lines being formed exclusively for cruising.
Then smaller, more specialized ships arrived, capable of accessing the tiny ports of developing Caribbean islands; there were no commercial airlines taking vacationers to the Caribbean then, and few hotels. Instead of cruising long distances south from more northerly ports such as New York, companies established their headquarters in Florida. This avoided the cold weather, choppy seas, and expense of the northern ports and saved fuel costs with shorter runs to the Caribbean.
Cruising was reborn. California became the base for cruises to the Mexican Riviera, while Vancouver was the focus for summer cruises to Alaska.
Flying passengers to embarkation ports was the next logical step, and soon a working relationship emerged between the cruise lines and the airlines. Air/sea and ‘sail and stay’ packages thrived - joint cruise and hotel vacations with inclusive pricing. Some of the old liners came out of mothballs, purchased by emerging cruise lines and refurbished for warm-weather cruising operations, often with their interiors redesigned and refitted. During the late 1970s, the modern cruise industry grew at a rapid rate.
Caribbean cruising as depicted in a 1947 advertisement.
Today’s cruise concept hasn’t changed much from that of earlier days, although it has been improved, refined, expanded, and packaged for ease of consumption. Cruising today attracts people of all ages, socio-economic backgrounds, and tastes. It’s no longer the shipping business, but the hospitality industry.
New ships are generally larger than their predecessors, yet cabin size is ‘standardized’ to provide more space for entertainment and other public facilities. Today’s ships boast air conditioning to keep out heat and humidity; stabilizers to keep the ship on an even keel; a high level of maintenance, safety, and hygiene; and more emphasis on health and fitness facilities.
Although ships have long been devoted to eating and relaxation in comfort, they now offer a greater number of activities, and more learning and life-enriching experiences than ever. For the same prices as a quarter of a century ago, you can cruise aboard the latest large resort ships that offer ice-skating, rock climbing, golfing, rollerblading, wave surfing, bowling, and so on, while dining at fine restaurants that offer varied cuisines, relaxing in luxurious spas, and being entertained by high-quality productions. And there are many more places to visit than ever, from Acapulco to Antarctica, Bergen to Bermuda, Dakar to Dominica, and St Thomas to Shanghai.
Complaints about ports
Berlitz constantly receives complaints about the forceful tactics of baggage handlers (porters) at the Port of Miami and at Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). As passengers alight from airport buses, which often have a sign stating ‘Tips Not Included,’ the baggage handlers ask passengers to identify their baggage, which they then place into nearby luggage cages. For this ‘service,’ passengers are asked to tip generously.
So, do the math. If each baggage handler receives the requested $1-2 per bag tip, and the ship carries 5,000 passengers, that’s a lot of money. Be smart: don’t let them bully you into thinking your luggage won’t get to your ship in time for your cruise - a threat often used. They are responsible for making sure that all bags, yours included, do reach the ship on time.
Bigger ships can mean overcrowded ports. Some large-city ports, such as Barcelona and St. Petersburg, can handle the influx of large resort ships during the busy summer months, helped by the number of shore excursion choices available. However, stretching the cruising season in these areas also helps lessen overcrowding. The most crowded in the world - where several ships carrying thousands of passengers may be in port at the same time - include the following:
Caribbean/Bahamas: Antigua, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Nassau, St. Maarten, St. Thomas.
Europe/Mediterranean: Barcelona, Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Kuşadasi, Venice.
Other ports: Cabo San Lucas, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mazatlan, Sydney.
The concept of ‘small is beautiful’ has really taken hold in the cruising world, particularly in the exclusive and luxury categories. Cruise lines offer high-quality ships of low capacity, which can provide a highly personalized range of quality services. This means better-trained, more-experienced staff (and more of them to serve fewer passengers), higher-quality food, and more meals cooked to order. Small ships can also visit the less-crowded ports.
Some cruise lines have expanded by ‘stretching’ their ships. This is accomplished by cutting a ship in half and inserting a newly constructed midsection, thus instantly adding more accommodation and public rooms, while maintaining the same draft.
Ships that have been ‘stretched’ (with year and length of ‘stretch’) include: Albatros (1983, 91ft/27.7m), Balmoral (2007, 98.4ft/30m), Black Watch (1981, 91ft/27.7m), Boudicca (1982, 91ft/27.7m), Braemar (2008, 102.4ft/31.2m), Enchantment of the Seas (2005, 72.8ft/22.2m), Berlin (1986, 65.6ft/20m), MSC Armonia (2014, 82 ft/25m), MSC Lirica (2015, 82 ft/25m), MSC Opera (2015, 82 ft/25m), MSC Sinfonia (2015, 82 ft/25m), SuperStar Aquarius (1998, 131.2ft/40m), SuperStar Gemini (1998, 131.2ft/40m), Thomson Dream (1990, 131.2ft/40m), and Thomson Majesty (1999, 98.4ft/30m.)
Disney Magic alongside Terminal 8, Port Canaveral, Florida.
Exclusive communities at sea are likely to proliferate. These ‘gated’ areas are for those willing to pay extra to live in a larger suite and gain access to ‘private’ facilities, concierge lounges, and private sunbathing areas. Ships that have them: MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, and Norwegian Pearl. Two-class cruising - in some cases, three-class cruising - is back in vogue.
Highlights of the past 20 years
1994 Radisson Diamond Cruises and Seven Seas Cruise Line merged to become Radisson Seven Seas Cruises.
1995 British company Airtours bought Southward from Norwegian Cruise Line and Nordic Prince from Royal Caribbean Cruises.
1996 Cunard (and parent company Trafalgar House) were bought by Kvaerner.
1997 Carnival Corporation, jointly with Airtours, purchased Costa Cruises. Royal Caribbean International bought Celebrity Cruises.
1998 Kvaerner sold Cunard to Carnival Corporation. Norwegian Cruise Line bought Orient Lines.
1999 Crown Cruise Line was reintroduced as an upscale part of Commodore Cruise Line.
2000 Star Cruises took full control of Norwegian Cruise Line (including Orient Lines) after buying the outstanding shares held by Carnival Corporation. P&O Group separated its cruising activities from the rest of the group. Costa Cruises became wholly owned by Carnival Corporation.
2001 Renaissance Cruises (10 ships) ceased operations after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US - one of several casualties.
2002 SeaDream Yacht Club began with SeaDream I and SeaDream II.
2003 NCL America launched its US-flag operation.
2004 Carnival Corporation and P&O Princess PLC merged to become the world’s largest cruise company, with 60-plus ships and 13 brands.
2005 Orion Expedition Cruises launched with one ship, Orion.
2006 Radisson Seven Seas Cruises became Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Royal Caribbean International bought Pullmantur.
2007 Celebrity Cruises created a sub-brand, Azamara Cruises. Queen Elizabeth 2 was sold for £50 million ($100 million) to a state investment company in Dubai, to be refitted and become a floating hotel and museum alongside the Palm Jumeirah.
2008 Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ‘stretched’ its Braemar by 102ft (31.2m). Almost all cruise lines increased fuel surcharges in the face of rising oil prices. Most paddlewheel riverboats ceased operations in the US.
2009 Island Cruises was acquired by TUI Travel’s Thomson Cruises division. TUI Cruises started cruising with one ship. Imperial Majesty Cruise Line ceased operations, replaced by Celebration Cruise Line. Azamara Cruises was renamed Azamara Club Cruises.
2010 The Ocean Village brand disappeared; its two ships joined the P&O Cruises (Australia) fleet. Island Cruises became a sub-brand of Thomson Cruises. NCL America was merged into Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Cruise West and Delfin Cruises ceased operations. India’s Blue Ocean Cruises began operations.
2011 Middle East conflicts forced cruise lines to cancel port calls in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Some cruise lines changed their around-the-world itineraries to avoid Somalia’s pirates. Disney Cruise Line introduced the first real water coaster at sea, AquaDuck. Happy Cruises ceased operations.
2012 Three new niche market cruise lines were started in Germany: Ambiente Cruises, FTI Cruises, and Passat Cruises, each with one ship. Delphin Cruises (1 ship) was also resurrected. In June all three Cunard Queens were in Southampton to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and in July P&O Cruises celebrated its 175th anniversary by assembling all seven of its ships in Southampton. Silversea Cruises purchased Galapagos operator Canodros (1 ship). Classic International Cruises went into administration (5 ships) following the death of its founder, George Potamianos. Ola Cruises ceased operation.
2013 Norwegian Cruise Line goes public on the NYSE. Saga Ruby (originally Vistafjord) was retired. Portuscale Cruises commenced operationsm with four ships previously belonging to Classic International Cruises.
2014 Cunard Line celebrated its 175th anniversary.
Ship captains at P&O’s 175th birthday celebrations.