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Ports & destinations

Christmas cruises in Hamburg – the alternative for winter cruising

The 2011 cruising season was the most successful Hamburg has ever had. The Hanseatic metropolis is increasingly coming to be a destination for all year round cruising. During the month of December, four cruise calls are scheduled. These include one double arrival, plus the first appearance of a river cruise ship.

Cruise fans in Hamburg will have a lot of treats to enjoy in December. Almost every Sunday in December a ship will be arriving or has arrived already at the Hamburg Cruise Center in HafenCity. Mainly British visitors will be taking Christmas Market Cruises, exchanging their traditional tea time for mulled wine and Spekulatius.

At the second Advent weekend, on 4 December, the Balmoral of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines moored at the Hamburg Cruise Center HafenCity. It remained in port until around 4.00 pm on 5 December.

On the third Sunday in Advent the Saga Pearl II of Saga Cruises will be returning to Hamburg in the run-up to Christmas. It is almost exactly a year since the ship celebrated her first appearance in the hanseatic city. On her Christmas Markets of Europe Cruise she will also visit Belgium and Holland.

The official end of the season, on 17 and 18 December, will be marked by a double arrival. On the evening of 17 December at 6.00 pm, the Albatros and the Amadea of Phoenix Reisen will make fast at the Cruise Center in HafenCity. Before both ships continue on their big global trips, going in the direction of South America, on the fourth Sunday in Advent singing Santas at the terminal will put the cruise passengers in a festive mood. 

When it comes to Christmas cruises, Hamburg has a lot to offer. Eight thematic Christmas markets at once are held in the vicinity of HafenCity Cruise Center, creating an unforgettable festive atmosphere. Once again these include the Christmas Market of the Überseequartier district, which takes place in full view of the terminal – this year with an extended programme, lots of surprises and atmospheric lighting.

And then there are even more cruise ships to admire. Two cruise liners have been on view at the docks opposite since last weekend. Back on November 16 the Oriana of the P&O Cruises shipping company docked near Blohm + Voss. And since 26 November Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has also been in port, for what is now its fifth maintenance visit to the traditional shipyard. The QM2 left on 5 December for another big trip. The Oriana, on the other hand, is likely to be staying at the dock until 17 December.

But the last cruiser of this year is not an ocean-going giant. On 27 December the Frederic Chopin of Nicko Tours will be in Hamburg. She offers a New Year's river cruise, exclusively to mark this special turn of the year. Travelling eastward on the Elbe, she will be visiting the towns of Wittenberge, Meissen, Dresden and Bad Schandau.

Prince Rupert implements Port Improvement Plan

Facing a significant reduction in cruise ship business booked for 2012, British Columbia, Canada, engaged in 2011 to assess its viability as a port of call on Alaska itineraries and offer recommendations to attract cruise lines.

Using the results of the Cruise Destination Fitness Test, Global Destinations Development concluded that the town's appeal, history and character, geographical attributes and potential to expand current attractions make Prince Rupert a viable cruise destination. GDD estimated that an investment of CA$15 million to $22 million (US$14.4 million to $21.1 million) over several years would transform Prince Rupert into a first-class port of call.

"Based on Global Destinations' findings we are acquiring property from the city and advancing development planning for the entire upland area, which will include pedestrian corridors, public spaces, commercial property developments and programming areas," said Shaun Stevenson, vice president, marketing and business development for Prince Rupert Port Authority. "We have completed concept development on an aboriginal cultural interpretive center for one of the development sites, and a port interpretive center will be complete in time for the 2012 cruise season."

Created by Michael Greve, the trademarked Cruise Destination Fitness Test provides a realistic assessment of a port's prospects in the industry, including recommendations for improvement. It analyzes major attributes that contribute to a cruise destination's success, including geographic location, docks, condition of the town, marketing attractiveness to cruisers and travel agents, direct costs of calling, on-board revenue potential, operations and guest satisfaction. The Fitness Test The test employs a simple A to F grading system, with pluses and minuses, and a 100-point scoring scheme.

"Potential homeports and ports of call around the world come to Global Destinations for expertise on how to be successful in the cruise industry," said Michael Greve, president. "Prince Rupert in British Columbia and Banana Coast in Honduras both used Global's Fitness Test to assess strengths and weaknesses, and to create capital plans for improvement."

For Prince Rupert Port Authority, the analysis was applied twice – to assess its current situation and to estimate the score after hypothetical improvements were made. On the second test, PRPA's score rose from C- to B+.

Based on the findings of the Fitness Test, PRPA embarked on a program to build community involvement with the City of Prince Rupert. A cruise task force was formed to develop volunteer programs, excursions and new businesses. The success of the community cruise task force initiatives in 2011 culminated in increased guest numbers ashore, guests lingering at waterfront markets to enjoy local artisans, First Nations carvers and student-led walking tours, and a higher concentration of activity near the ship, within reach of every guest who came ashore.

Prince Rupert Port Authority's 2011 Alaska season ended with more than 50,000 cruise passengers arriving on 21 ship calls from May through September.

Asia Cruise Terminal Association member ports expand and upgrade existing capacity

As cruise tourism takes off in Asia, established and emerging cruise port operators are already expanding or upgrading their port capacities to meet the cruise boom.

At the official launch of the Asia Cruise Terminal Association (ACTA) last week, member port Shanghai Wusongkou (WSK) International Cruise Terminal Development Co. announced that they are already building Phase 2 to double the length of their linear berths to 1500m by 2013, enabling four to five cruise ships to berth at the same time.

Their cruise terminal, strategically located at the mouth of the Huangpu River in Shanghai is already one of China’s largest cruise terminals. WSK is forecasting a passenger throughput of 300,000 in 2012, and this is expected to grow to 800,000 by 2016.

Similarly, in Taiwan, ACTA member port, Port of Keelung reported a four-fold increase in passenger throughput over the past five years. In 2006, throughput was 116,334 and by the end of 2011, throughput is expected to come in at 460,000. In addition to its current two berths, the Port of Keelung will be building a new harbour building to serve growing passenger traffic between Taiwan and mainland China.

Numbers at the two Japanese member ports – Kobe and Sakai – have spiked as well over the past five years. Kobe has almost doubled, while Sakai’s throughput has increased more than 10-fold.

Another ACTA member port, Port Klang Cruise Centre recently more than doubled the length of one of their berths. With a total of three berths, the terminal can now berth Oasis-class cruise ships that have gross tonnages of more than 200,000 and carry over 5,000 passengers. They are forecasting a throughput of 500,000 passengers by 2016, two and a half times of what they saw in 2010.

Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) is also in the midst of a S$14 million upgrade of its cruise terminal facility at HarbourFront which will yield about 25% more space for embarking and disembarking passengers. Passenger throughput at SCC has exceeded one million per annum over the past two years, and is expected to be close to the one million mark at year end.

ACTA was initiated by SCC and WSK about one and half years ago as a regional alliance dedicated to grow and develop the region as a captivating cruise playground. Today in addition to SCC and WSK, ACTA counts among its founding members, Port Klang Cruise Centre (PKCC), Port of Keelung (PKL), Sakai Port (SP), Port of Kobe (PK) and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Riding on this crest of growth, ACTA participated at the inaugural Cruise Shipping Asia 2011 where member ports networked with executives from cruise lines, shipping associations, travel and hospitality industries, national tourism bodies and other port operators.

Ms Christina Siaw, SCC’s CEO said: "Our vision at ACTA is to promote the region as a preferred cruise playground. We can only do this collectively, as we are inter-dependent on one another in cruising."

"We have to develop and grow at the same pace, subscribing to a common set of standards in design, security and safety, operations and customer service. We would welcome like-minded member ports to come on board with us."

ACTA member ports met in the Philippines two months ago to ratify the constitution and to agree on a work-plan. This work-plan will see member ports undertaking consumer surveys in their respective countries to find out consumer perceptions of cruising, and what they expect during a cruise vacation.

Survey findings will then be shared with cruise liners and will also help ACTA members to more effectively promote cruising in their own countries.

Member ports will also draw from SCC’s experience in setting up a cruise eco-system at each of their terminals to deliver best-in-class services to cruise ships. Cruise 360 was launched recently by SCC, and the partners include best-in-class service providers in food and beverage chandelling, ship repair and maintenance, crewing needs, shore excursions and marine bunkering. Other plans in the pipeline include media familiarisation tours, exchange visits, seminars and workshops. The sharing of best practices has already started. SCC is sharing what it has learnt from its 20 years as a cruise terminal operator with a team of five personnel from WSK in a month-long familiarisation training programme at its cruise terminal.

LCA members target Portsmouth

With new facilities at Portsmouth International Port helping to attract more cruise ships, Members of the Leading Cruise Agents of the UK took the opportunity, 23 November, to see for themselves how the Port has changed, and they were amongst the first travel professionals to view the recently completed canopy outside the new cruise terminal entrance.

The LCA delegation were in Portsmouth, not only to see the new passenger terminal, but also to view the Marriott Portsmouth Hotel, which is active in the pre and post-cruise market, and visit some of the city’s most famous attractions. The group, who began the day with a networking meeting and lunch, followed by a comprehensive tour of the Terminal, then visited the Historic Dockyard, Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays - all major attractions available to cruise travellers stopping off on a cruise, or embarking from the city’s port.

Ferry Port Manager, Phil Gadd commented, "We’ve invested more than £16 million in improving passenger facilities at the Port. It’s already paying off, with cruise operators like Fred. Olsen and All Leisure Group deciding to base some of their ships here. This was a great opportunity to show the people who actually sell these holidays to passengers just how the Port has changed, and what a wonderful city Portsmouth is to visit."

With the cruise market continuing to grow, the LCA has dedicated itself to offer expert, professional and unbiased advice on an ever-expanding range of holidays. Its aim is to make sure customers are matched with exactly the right sort of cruise, based on first hand knowledge of what is available. The LCA’s Kevin Griffin and his colleague-Directors were keen to show Members just what Portsmouth has to offer. He said, "LCA agents are focused on offering cruising with a difference - promoting new, exciting developments like Portsmouth, from a base of real expertise and experience. We’re delighted to be learning more about this superb new facility and its surrounding attractions."

Cruise visitors' views on Gothenburg: "A clean, green city with friendly people"

Gothenburg in Sweden is a clean city with beautiful green areas. The people have a good knowledge of languages and are friendly, particularly the taxi drivers. However, information at the quayside and transport into the city centre could be improved. These are just some of the views of the passengers on the cruise ships that put into Gothenburg during the summer.

There has been an explosion in the number of cruise visitors who have chosen to see Gothenburg in recent years. This year, 65,000 visitors arrived on 52 vessels. This can be compared to the 3,600 visitors who arrived on five vessels in 2002.

Jill Södervall, Head of Cruise Operations at the Gothenburg Port Authority, commented: "The increase is largely a result of focused collaboration between the Port of Gothenburg and Göteborg & Co."

The Port of Gothenburg and Göteborg & Co have for the first time conducted a major survey to find out what the cruise visitors felt about Gothenburg, and also to find out where they came from, what they did when they were in the city and their opinions on about how they were received.

The highest marks went to the green areas in the city, the friendliness and language skills of the people and the level of service among taxi drivers. The travellers also appreciated the many cafes and restaurants in the city, the range of shops and the fact that it was clean. On the other hand, they were not quite as satisfied with the transport to and from the city centre. Information at the quayside about what there is to see and do in the city could also be improved.

Jill Södervall continued: "The survey provides us with valuable information about areas in which we can improve to ensure visitors are even more satisfied."

Important source of income for the city

Cruise visitors spent a total of SEK 40 million in Gothenburg during the summer. Those who took a guided tour (37 per cent) spent around SEK 980, whilst those who made their own way around spent around SEK 480. The visitors spent most money on food, drink and shopping – and it was mainly clothes, local handicrafts and souvenirs that prompted them to open their wallets and purses.

First time in Gothenburg for many

The majority of cruise visitors to Gothenburg came from Germany, the UK, the USA and Spain although there were also visitors from Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and a number of other countries. Around 57 per cent had never been to Sweden before and for 77 per cent it was their first time in Gothenburg.

Sara Erikson, Head of Cruise Operations at Göteborg & Co, commented: "The survey shows how vitally important cruising is to the tourist industry when it comes to bringing visitors here for the first time."

Four out of five visitors were under the age of 65 years. The average age was 51 years. Cruise visitors to Gothenburg from Asia were considerably younger with an average age of 37 years.