The 52nd MedCruise General Assembly is currently under way in Malta. About 130 delegates from MedCruise partner organisations, cruise lines and international medias have gathered in Valletta — the European Capital of Culture 2018 — to discuss the latest trends in the Mediterranean cruise business and the issues it faces.
In this golden era of cruising, while the MedCruise partners continue to expand their collective vision of growth into the future and beyond its boundaries, especially to the emerging markets of China and other Asian regions, the focuses of the association are also firmly on other challenges and developments; one of them being making efforts to provide LNG bunkering services to cruise ships.
MedCruise’s dedicated LNG working group has carried out extensive studies and gathered valuable information on the viability of various methods of LNG supplies to cruise vessels operating to and from its ports — a service it considers to be essential for the future development of cruise business in the Mediterranean.
Experts from cruise lines and ports offered their views and suggestions for the way forward. There are many technical, social, commercial and regulatory hurdles ahead. Many Mediterranean ports, because of various idiosyncrasies, must confront unique challenges in this regard. With and increasing number of LNG-powered cruise ships coming on stream, the ports and all the stakeholders of the region need to work together to find a path through the labyrinth of rules, local oppositions and other obstacles in order to ensure the continuation of this golden era of cruising.
In this connection, the 52nd MedCruise General Assembly also discussed trends in shipbuilding and port development, with specific references to the region.
A full-length analytical feature on the key topics discoursed at the Assembly will appear in the next issue of Cruise Business Review
Global Ports Holding Plc (GPH), the London listed and Istanbul based company that is the world's largest independent cruise port operator, is pleased to announce that it has signed a 15-year management agreement with the Cuban company Aries S.A., for the operation of the cruise port in Havana, Cuba, GPH said in a statement.
Under the terms of the agreement, GPH will from 21 June 2018, use its global expertise and operating model to manage all of the cruise port operations over the life of the agreement. “As consideration, the Group will be paid a management fee that is based on a number of factors including passenger numbers, with growth based incentives,” GPH said in a statement.
In addition to operating the cruise port operations, GPH will continue to work with our Cuban partners on the design and technical specification of the cruise port investment programme, including proposed new terminals. “Once these have been completed GPH will take responsibility for the marketing and commercialisation of these new facilities,” the company said.
The agreement is part of significant investment by Cuba into the port area and the tourism infrastructure in Havana. The port currently has capacity of two berths and in 2017 welcomed about 328,000 cruise passengers, a growth rate of 156% compared to 2016, with over 500,000 cruise passengers forecast for 2018. As part of Cuba's significant investment program into the port and surrounding area the number of berths will increase to six by 2024, significantly increasing the passenger capacity of the Havana port.
TUI AG, the German travel company that owns Marella Cruises in the UK, is contemplating a newbuilding for the British cruise line, but lack of shipyard capacity means that it can hardly be introduced before 2025, so second hand acquisitions remain an option, Travel Wekly reports.
“We are thinking about it. A newbuild could be attractive for the UK market – but it’s hypothetical really because there’s no availability in the yards to build one. Unless we can somehow trade a slot with someone, the likelihood of us being able to build a new ship for Marella in the next five years is not very high. Even if I ordered it today, it’s almost impossible to get it before 2023. So it would be more like 2025,” chief executive Fritz Joussen of TUI was quoted by Travel Weekly as saying.
Marella Cruises has a 16% share of the UK cruise market, which produced just under 2.0 million passenger last year, TUI officials said at a capital markets day presentation last week..
“The size of the ship isn’t the important thing. It’s how much public space you have per customer. It’s no good having too many cabins and then too little public space as that doesn’t create the spaciousness of the kind of quality product we want in the market.”
TUI would upgrade the Marella fleet with second hand ships that offered a higher quality product, such as more balconies, to meet customer demand. “You need to make sure guests get used to a premium offering, We weren’t sure if we [TUI] were the kind of trusted brand that could sell this kind of product. But I think we have reached the point where we are completely trusted now for bringing quality products to the market – just looks at Sensatory,” the report cited Joussens.
He also indicated that he would like to grow expedition cruising from the UK. “Cruise is a big market for us. I think it is more likely that there is potential to grow expedition cruising in the UK. We have a great product and we think nationalities are far more likely to mix on an expedition cruise,” Jousssens was quoted as saying.
Marella Cruises has just introduced the 1996 built Marella Explorer that started life as Mercury of Celebrity Cruises in 1996. Next year, it will be joined by Marella Explorer 2, which is a year older, slightly smaller and originally Century of Celebrity cruises.
Marella Discovery and Marella Discover 2 are acquisitions from Royal Caribbean International. Both were built in the mid-1990s. The oldest ship in the fleet is the 1986 built Marella Dream, originally Homeric of the now defunct Home Lines, which sailed for Holland America Line and Costa Crociere before joining Marella Cruises.
Virgin Voyages, the Miami based cruise shipping newcomer that is part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group of companies in London, has unveiled some design features on board its forthcoming ships and talked to the designers involved.
Here is a summary of what they said:
“You're in a position where you’re encouraged very early on to be disruptive. That’s the whole idea right?” says Tom Dixon, in talking about diving into his highly-anticipated work for Virgin Voyages' first ship. “It’s like ok, we don’t want to be like anybody else. We want to be completely different. That’s a great brief.”
As with all of the designers, Dixon was purposely chosen, in part, because he’s never worked on a ship before. “I quite like coming at something from a completely different angle and presumably there is a method to that madness,” added Dixon. “If you’re going to be disruptive then maybe you shouldn’t know that much about how a cruise line is currently operated.”
From the VIP Deck to the modern, elevated Mexican eatery, his approach to designing for ocean voyages was not only fresh but modern and charmingly eccentric.
“There’s no point asking [Tom Dixon] to do the more regular spaces because that’s not his style,” said Dee Cooper, Senior Vice President of Design for Virgin Voyages. “We knew we wanted to ask him to do more premium spaces that were glamorous and fun.”With hubs in New York, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo, he’s known for creating futuristic and forward-thinking interiors and exteriors of tomorrow. “I think in general, big ships have got a romance about them and they are astonishing to see in so many ways. The scale of them as man-made objects is fascinating,” said Dixon. “What appealed to me about the project was doing something I’ve never done before which is always more interesting than doing something you’ve already done. It’s quite a risky business, you know?”
With a background in film, Roman and Williams, the design firm founded by Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, incorporate a deep level of understanding for storytelling and immersive experience in much of their work. “Roman and Williams brings a level of human-focused design and narrative to each space they create,” said Tom McAlpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages. “We thought their perspective would really help us to define and tell the Virgin Voyages story.”
They have designed a number of prominent hospitality spaces like The Chicago Athletic Association in Chicago and the Viceroy Hotel in New York City as well as personal residences for notable celebrities like Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow. They were named among Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2016 and were also awarded the Smithsonian’s prestigious National Design Award for excellence in Interior Design.
“To partner with Virgin on this project,” said Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, lead designers at Roman and Williams, “the making of a journey and an experience worthy of one of nature’s most beautiful models – the sea - is the pinnacle of experience and hospitality design.”
It was their work on the revolutionary Freehand hotel-hostels and New York City's perennial hotspots The GIlded Lily nightclub and The Boom Boom Room at The Standard Hotel, that made them the natural first choice for designing Virgin Voyages’ own onboard nightclub, The Manor.
“The Boom Boom Room and the Gilded Lily have an interesting thread that connects them,” said the Roman and Williams’ designers. “Though one is above the canopy of the city, and one markedly below it, both tap into our collective human desire to be around kinetic energy at nighttime.”
Inspired by Richard Branson’s first-ever Virgin music studio of the same name, the creative, dance music-fueled space has been expertly outfitted with details, platforms and corners that make it both somewhere to see and to be seen.
They talk about themselves as a firm that designs interiors ‘that work’. While this is true, the masterminds at Concrete Amsterdam go above and beyond perfection in function when it comes to their designs. They create strikingly beautiful spaces that evoke feeling, connection and emotion for all who experience them.
“It’s about connection, to yourself and to others,” said Lisa Hassanzadeh of Concrete Amsterdam. “So that’s why we always concentrate on spaces where people connect.”
As a design firm, Concrete is always eager to create spaces that challenge norms and offer unexpected surprises. Some primary designs for the ship include the minimalist-leaning Test Kitchen, a chef-forward, experimental dining space. They also designed the edgy, 1930s New York City inspired, Athletic Club on the ship.
According to the team at Concrete Amsterdam, people tend to enter spaces like gyms or restaurants blindly, with basic expectations, without realizing they are doing it. “If you take down more barriers for people,” says Rob Wagemans of Concrete. then they start doing what they really want to do.”
This focus on human-centric design is nothing new to Concrete Amsterdam, which already boasts renowned eateries like Spice Market London and 212 Amsterdam. “While the restaurants and spaces they do are beautiful,” said Dee Cooper, SVP of Design for Virgin Voyages, “they also serve a purpose at every turn.”
Their approach to The Athletic Club reflects another innovative notion with its raised jogging track that seems to float above the ship, rendered in an eye-catching shade of Virgin signature red. A massively unexpected catamaran-inspired net for people watching is also featured here, for lounging above it all. It’s the perfect cross section of athletic meets relaxation meets socializing.
"We knew we're responsible for the gym space and the sports bar, and we thought 'This could be one…’," says Rob Wagemans of Concrete. “Can the gym happen at the bar and can the bar happen at the gym? And in this discussion The Athletic Club concept came about.”
When it comes to the creative process, the designers at Concrete Amsterdam love to follow intuition, simplify ideas and strip a concept down to its essence. “We're sure our sailors will appreciate their focus on function when it comes to design,” said Tom McAlpin, President and CEO of Virgin Voyages in speaking about these inventive designs. “We know our sailors will love the look, feel and the element of surprise they've created as well.” It seems approaching design for life on the sea was equally exciting for Concrete as it was for Virgin Voyages, and it shows in each detail.
If you take down more barriers for people, then they start doing what they really want to do.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said that mega projects being implemented in the UAE are reinforcing the country’s profile globally as a model for sustainable growth driven by diversification, innovation and productive partnerships with the private sector.
His Highness also said the tourism sector is key to the development of the UAE’s economy, due to the value it adds through key projects and its ability to attract millions of visitors every year. “We welcome visitors from across the world and provide them with an exceptional tourism experiences. We want them to leave with lasting memories that they can share in their countries and communities. The continuous development of infrastructure has enabled our country to be a destination of choice in the region. Supported by the talent and creativity of our people, I am confident that we will be able to establish global leadership in several sectors. The UAE will continue to be a symbol of progress and prosperity,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
HH Sheikh Mohammed’s remarks came as he approved the ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ as the main hub for cruise tourism in Dubai. His Highness also attended the signing ceremony of a strategic partnership agreement between Meraas and Carnival Corporation & plc that aims to transform Dubai into a major regional maritime tourism hub.
The event was attended by Crown Prince of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Under the agreement, signed by His Excellency Abdulla Al Habbai, Group Chairman of Meraas, and Arnold W. Donald, Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company, the companies will collaborate across several strategic areas including port development, terminal management and new cruise development opportunities at Dubai Harbour and the broader region.
Dubai is set to become central to Carnival Corporation’s operations in the region. The agreement mandates Carnival Corporation to assist Meraas in ensuring the cruise terminal meets the highest international standards of the cruise industry, while the relevant authorities will be responsible for security, immigration and customs.
Dubai to become major maritime tourism hub
The agreement highlights Meraas' support for Dubai Tourism Vision 2020, which aims to attract 20 million visitors a year to the emirate, and strengthens the company’s contribution to Dubai Plan 2021, the strategic roadmap to establish Dubai among the world's best cities.
Operations at the ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ are scheduled to commence in October 2020. Following discussions with His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DP, it was agreed on 26 March 2018, that ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ will become the main cruise terminal in Dubai and all cruise ships visiting Port Rashid will be redirected gradually from its opening date.
Commenting on the signing of the agreement, His Excellency Abdulla Al Habbai said: “The development of the ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ reflects Meraas' commitment to implementing the vision and strategic plans of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to enhance Dubai’s global standing as a world-class business and leisure tourism destination. Dubai Harbour is a new and unique addition to the city’s infrastructure and our alignment with DP World to make ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ the main cruise terminal in the emirate will drive the transformation of Dubai into a fully integrated maritime tourism hub.”
He added: “In line with the agreement with Carnival Corporation, the cruise hub at Dubai Harbour will reinforce Dubai's status as an ideal holiday destination, a starting point for cruises to exclusive destinations and a gateway to exploring the world. Our partnership will enhance the city’s tourism offering with new options for families, such as sharia-compliant tours.”
His Excellency Abdulla Al Habbai also noted that the new agreement presents an opportunity to attract experts from all over the world to share experiences and exchange knowledge, reinforcing Dubai’s position among the best cities in the world. From an economic perspective, the move will boost the volume of inbound tourism to Dubai and develop new economic sectors, which will create employment opportunities for UAE citizens and residents in key areas, such as catering, entertainment and the maritime sector.
According to the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), more than 40 million people worldwide will travel on cruise ships annually by 2030, marking a 40 percent increase from 26 million passengers in 2017. At a local level, the maritime tourism sector is expected to contribute more than AED1.5 billion to Dubai’s economy by 2030.
Carnival Corporation is the world’s largest leisure travel company and is dually listed on both the New York Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. Operating international brands such as Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Cruises UK, P&O Cruises Australia, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard, the company has a fleet of over 100 cruise ships visiting more than 700 ports around the world. Carnival Corporation employs more than 120,000 staff and serves over 12 million passengers annually. The largest business of its kind in the GCC region, Carnival Corporation commands about 45 percent of Dubai's maritime tourism market.
The ‘’Dubai Cruise Terminal’ at Dubai Harbour will become Carnival Corporation’s primary hub for its homeporting and transit operations in the region. The partnership will also result in both parties working together to identify and grow the cruise tourism business in the Arabian Gulf region.
Speaking on the agreement, Arnold W. Donald, Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Corporation said: “We have a long history in Dubai with our world-leading cruise brands. We are excited to be part of this important venture that will drive new tourism opportunities for Dubai and the region through cruising.”
New routes and exclusive destinations
As Dubai transforms into a regional maritime tourism hub, residents of the GCC region and the wider Arab world will be able to enjoy premium cruises at competitive prices. To achieve this priority and attract tourists from new markets, discussions have taken place with Emirates to develop a strategy and devise tailored tour packages and offers to support the growth of this emerging sector.
Carnival Corporation will launch new cruises from “Dubai Cruise Terminal” and aims to attract new source markets from India and China. The cruise terminal is designed as a strategic maritime centre, providing easy access to and from the city, while offering passengers an unparalleled view of iconic landmarks, such as Ain Dubai and the upcoming Dubai Lighthouse, as well as the Dubai’s stunning urban skyline.
Dubai Harbour will be home to two cruise terminal buildings, spanning a total of 30,000 square metres, joined by a single quay of about 1 kilometre, capable of accommodating up to three cruise ships concurrently, including Carnival Corporation’s newest and most advanced cruise ships, as well as up to 13,200 passengers at a time. In anticipation of an upsurge in cruises, Meraas has planned for the addition of two more terminal buildings that will increase capacity to six cruise ships at the same time.
Unique addition to Dubai’s tourism offering
Launched in January 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Harbour will be located on King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street in the Mina Seyahi area and is set to span 20 million square feet,
The development will feature a shopping mall, luxury residential units, restaurants, cafés, hotels and a yacht club, as well as Dubai Lighthouse, a 135-metre high architectural masterpiece with a viewing platform offering stunning panoramic views of Dubai.
In addition, Dubai Harbour will boast the largest yacht marina in the Middle East and North Africa with 1,100 berths capable of accommodating some of the world's largest yachts up to 150 metres. Its diverse infrastructure will include an extensive road network, as well as marine and air transportation facilities, a monorail line, a bridge to Bluewaters and water taxi stations.
The project is being developed in phases and will create synergies with some of Dubai’s other iconic projects located in the area, including Bluewaters.