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Celebrity Edge starts cruising in just over 12 months’ time. As far as I can see her first cruise will start on 16 December 2018, and of course cabins are already on sale for cruise in her first season. This will be in the Caribbean, before she sails for Europe in April 2018. But how much do passengers know about the layout of the ship and her attractions? – not a lot…..

The image above, which I’ve taken from the Celebrity UK website today, is of Deck 5. This will be one of the main service decks – this is where there will be bars, perhaps restaurants, guest services, shops, and all the usual things – but as you can see Celebrity are still being remarkably coy. And this is how it’s been since they announced this new class.

I have no idea when they are going to reveal the details. Logically, it ought not to be until they take delivery of the ship, but that won’t be until late November 2018. (She’s being built at STX France in St. Nazaire.) If they reveal the details before that, my first question will be “why couldn’t you tell us all this sooner?”. It all seems very strange. Certainly if I were interested in booking I’d hold off until I knew more about her.

In fairness I ought to acknowledge that we’ve had the full plans for the accommodation decks (decks 7 to 12, plus bits of other decks e.g. deck 3) plus most of the details of the upper decks for some time. Just not the main service decks….

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Oceana in Hamburg

Above is grab from a webcam shot of Oceana, safely tucked-up at the B+V ship repair dry dock in Hamburg. I believe she arrived some time yesterday evening.

Still no real information from P&O about any major work, so it does appear that the aspects of this refit that passengers will see will simple be redecoration and refreshes rather than any dramatic changes. Additionally, of course, the opportunity will be taken to do a significant amount of technical work on engine and propulsion equipment and locations. She’ll be in Hamburg for nearly two weeks.

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Oceana arriving at Southampton in the early morning

Specifically, will Oceana’s Cafe Jardin be converted to the next Glass House?

Oceana is going in for a refit in a few days’ time – as far as I can see she’ll return from her current cruise (E722) on 29 November and her next cruise is E725 starting on 17 December. Allowing for transit times to and from Hamburg, that allows 14 days or so for the refit.

When this refit became known about (during spring and summer) there was considerable speculation on various forums that the work would include conversion of Cafe Jardin to a Glasshouse. For example, there were reports that officers on Oceana had told passengers that the conversion would happen. (Although you’d think by now that people would have realised that you should always take casual comments by crew members, even officers, with a generous pinch of salt.) Some people were in favour of the conversion, but I think it’s fair to report that the majority view expressed was one of regret if the conversion went ahead.

However for several reasons it’s now looking as if it may not:

  • the deck plans for next year on the P&O site continue to mark the space as ‘Cafe Jardin’;
  • and in a page on the P&O website there’s an article from the design consultancy that’s handled the changes (for both Oceana and Arcadia) that resolutely does not mention anything about Cafe Jardin. For Oceana there are references to outdoor areas, the Terrace Bar and the Yacht & Compass.

Of course, none of this is definitive. I’m hoping that P&O will make some sort of announcement when Oceana departs for Hamburg giving details of what the refit will cover, so we may have solid information by the end of this week. Indeed, it’s always possible that the Glass House approach could be implemented in the existing Cafe Jardin. There was another announcement from P&O this week announcing new menus for the Glass House with references to new food items and new draft beers. Here’s a link to this page. Given that the Glass House concept may perhaps be being revised from “a wine bar that does some bistro food” to something like “a bistro that serves drinks, including a wide range of wines by the glass” it wouldn’t take a full refurbishment of spaces that aren’t branded as ‘Glass House’ to be able to offer something similar.

My interest in the changes to Oceana is due to the fact that we will be cruising on her (for the first time) in September, of course – see here for some other info about that.

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Our next cruise

Once again it has been so long since I last posted that I ought to apologise. For whatever reason, nothing has caught my eye, or my interest in the last couple of months. But I have finally managed to crank the old brain into gear, and produced this pearl.

I posted some while ago that when we were on Azura this summer we had booked our next cruise. This will be a fly-cruise! – our first for nearly 10 years. It will be in September 2018, on Oceana, and just for seven nights – we’ll be doing the Adriatic section of her itinerary, with calls at Ravenna, Venice, Dubrovnik and Split. In addition we’ll be prefacing the cruise with two nights in Malta (the cruise starts and finishes at Malta) which we’re also doing through P&O, by using their ‘City Stay’ add-on package.

At the time we booked the cruise the flights were uncertain, and the documentation we received was a bit confusing – on the one hand it said it was a “round trip from Manchester” but on the other hand it said that the outbound flight would be from Gatwick. All of this was because at the time of booking (June 2017) flight details for September 2018 weren’t known. Obviously P&O would be chartering the regular flights for the start and end dates of the cruise itself, but not for the day we would actually be departing which will be two days before the cruise start date.

Now they are known, and we’ve got exactly what we wanted. Our outbound flight will be from Manchester with Air Malta. We’ll depart just before 11am, and arrive in Malta just after 3pm local time. That’s a pretty civilised time for a flight – we could even just about drive over the Manchester that morning (we’d want to be at the airport by 8 o’clock). However I suspect Val would prefer to not do that, so I think I hear the siren call of the Premier Inn on Runger Lane….

Coming back we’ll be on the Thomson Airline charter flight, departing mid-morning and arriving in Manchester early afternoon. We couldn’t really ask for anything more convenient.

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Adonia leaving P&O

[Updated – see below]

I’ve been emailed (thank you Neil Ringan) with information that Adonia is leaving P&O to join Azamara in March 2018. That will leave three of the R ships with Azamara – the other four are with Oceania Cruises. [Update] Here’s a link to the page on the P&O website with the news.

I must admit, I’m shocked by this news. It’s very unusual for a ship to transfer between the two big camps, yet this is what’s happening – P&O is Carnival, of course, while Azamara is in the Royal Caribbean empire. I suppose Azamara must have made them an off they couldn’t refuse – and to be honest, Princess’ last R-ship went to Oceania not that long ago.

I’m also surprised by the date – March 2018. That’s just 6 months away. I had thought that Adonia had cruises scheduled for some date after that. More digging required, I think.

But that’s the news – Adonia is leaving P&O, which can no longer claim to be a ‘small ship’ cruise line in any way.

Update – it looks as if all of Adonia’s existing cruises after D802 have been cancelled, and that cruise might have been changed – it’s now showing as D802A. Subsequent cruises e.g. D803 are no longer available on the P&O website, but can be found on other TA websites.

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Seatrade, the cruise industry body, is having one of its conferences (“Seatrade Europe”) in Hamburg this week. Ahead of the conference (which runs from 6 September to 8 September) Seatrade has released an infographic which shows the 2016 market numbers for the major territories. They are:

  • Germany – 2.02 million passengers;
  • UK & Ireland – 1.9 million passengers;
  • Italy – 751,000 passengers;
  • France – about 500,00 passengers.

Of those, Germany and the UK & Ireland showed significant growth over the previous year – 11.3% for Germany and 5.6% for the UK. In contrast, Italy experienced a fall of 7% in 2016.

The figure for France is derived (by me) from two figures provided in the infographic. First, there’s a figure of 4.45 million for ‘overnight stays’, and secondly an average cruise length of 7.8 nights. Dividing one by t’other gets me to about 500,000 passengers or perhaps a bit more. That’s also a drop over the previous year, apparently – the number of ‘overnight stays’ in 2015 was 4.825 million.

Finally, there are reports of growth in both the Spanish and Belgian markets – 4% in both cases – but no gross figures.

The gloss that’s being put on these figures is that the markets in France, Italy and Spain show significant ‘growth prospects’. Quite how that would fit, if achieved, with the reduction of access by the ports themselves (see yesterday’s post about Dubrovnik’s intention to limit daily cruise passenger numbers) isn’t at all clear.

Dubrovnik – the walls and the town

I’ve done a few posts about the way that cruise passenger numbers seem to be overwhelming some locations, and how in some cases those locations are responding by reducing access. Here’s another example – Dubrovnik.

There is concern over the congestion that can occur in the Old Town and on the walls when several ships are in port. One concern is that the ‘Dubrovnik experience’ that day, for all visitors not just cruise passengers, cannot be good. Another concern is that with such a large number of visitors, both the physical environment and the tourist infrastructure (toilets, food and water provision, etc) are in danger of being overwhelmed. In 2015 a UNESCO investigation visited the city (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site) and their report was published in March 2016. Here’s a link to a page from which the report can be downloaded.

The report itself consists mainly of lots of verbiage – background, legal framework, etc – and even the recommendations do not sound especially exciting. The main thrust of these visits is to report on the local and national management procedures – e.g., is there are a management plan in place? if so, is it being implemented successfully? However, in this case there is one recommendation concerning cruise ship passengers which is interesting:

The Mission recommends that the issue of cruise ship tourism and its future management should continue to be a key element of the forthcoming Management Plan, and should be supported through appropriate legislation, as necessary. The maximum number of cruise ship tourists also be addressed in the Management Plan and should be defined following further analysis having regard to the sustainable carrying capacity of the city and emergency evacuation requirements, but should not exceed 8,000 tourists per day.

I was a little puzzled by a comment earlier in the Report which said (with respect to cruise passengers) “Although these visitors represent only a small proportion of total visitors (2.5% in 2013), they have a disproportionate impact on the World Heritage property due to their concentration in time and space“. This puzzled me at first, but I think the answer is that while there may be many more holiday makers staying in and around Dubrovnik during the season, only a very small number of them are aiming to walk the walls or visit the Old Town on any specific day or time. In the case of cruise passengers, however, pretty much everyone who’s able is heading for precisely these locations.

The daily limit of 8,000 cruise passengers is already in place, but I gather it’s currently a ‘soft limit’ – it has apparently been voluntarily agreed with the cruise lines. (Calls at Dubrovnik may have been booked years in advance, of course.) However, there’s now a story that a new mayor of Dubrovnik is aiming to reduce that still further, to 4000 passengers a day. Here’s a link to a newspaper article about it.

This is another straw in the wind. It must be clear to anyone who’s visited any of these places in recent years that the numbers of visitors has become overwhelming, or nearly so. Cruise visitors seem to be especially criticised, but there may be some justification – we are only in a port for a few hours, and en masse we head straight for honeypot locations in ways that perhaps those visitors there for longer stays, don’t. And numbers of cruise passengers have certainly been increasing, even in the fairly short time (12 years) we’ve been cruising – I have a feeling that if we looked at total passenger load in some of these ports in the mid-2000s and compared them with, say, 2015, we might be shocked at the increase.

This issue isn’t going away. The ships are getting bigger and the passenger numbers are getting higher. Ten years ago P&O had a fleet of, I think, five ships – Oriana, Aurora, Oceana, Arcadia, and Artemis. Total capacity, maybe 9000. Today the fleet is Oriana, Aurora, Oceana, Arcadia, Ventura, Azura, Britannia and Adonia – total capacity, somewhere around 17000. And another even bigger ship to come. Other fleets have increased much more dramatically than that – MSC, for example – ten years ago they operated four vessels each with a capacity under 2000 passengers. Then there’s the two German lines, AIDA and TUI. Ten years ago TUI Cruises didn’t exist and AIDA had, I think, a couple of small ships. Now between them they’ve got about a dozen, including some significantly sized ships; capacity may be around 20,000 passengers or more.

A quart just won’t go into a pint pot….. Here are links to a couple of previous posts I did on this topic: one on Venice, and another about Santorini. As you can see, my view on this does keep changing.

 

I’m astonished to find that it has been a month since I last posted here. Apologies for anyone who might have been waiting with bated breath….

I suppose the main piece of news today is that P&O and Cunard have posted their Summer 2019 schedules. They’re obviously continuing the new scheduling pattern of releasing cruise details in six-months dollops (or thereabouts) – I think we were into late winter 2018/19 already. The latest information takes us to the end of October 2019.

I’ve had a brief look at the P&O schedule, and to be honest it looks rather like more of the same. Oceana will be based at Valetta for the summer doing the same mix of seven night cruises either into the Adriatic or the the Tyrrhenian seas, and the eastern Mediterranean. The mix for the other ships seems to be pretty much as before. Oriana and Aurora will be doing a number of 14+ night cruises, as will Arcadia (including the now-traditional 24 night cruise to North America and back); Ventura will be doing a lot of seven night cruises, including a number to the Fjords; Azura will doing a mix of seven and fourteen night cruises, plus one nineteen night cruise to the eastern Mediterranean; and Britannia will also be doing a mix of seven and fourteen night cruises.

No news yet of Adonia’s itinerary for any dates after March 2019. Surely she can’t be leaving the fleet again?!?

Nothing has really caught my eye, except perhaps a 12 night cruise on Arcadia in June 2019 to Norway. Interestingly, it sticks to the fjords; although it’s longer, the itinerary goes no further north than Trondheim. So lots of penetration of the long fjords as well as the expected calls at Stavanger and Bergen, and a possible return to Alesund. But we may well have other plans for 2019….

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I’d missed this article on the BBC News site. It makes interesting reading. Perhaps P&O is a little behind the curve – there weren’t many under-45s on our recent cruise to Norway and Iceland – but there gain, perhaps it was also at the wrong time of year.

Anyway, here’s the link. (Not so sure about the “faster and cheaper wifi” comment, though….)

Part of Dubrovnik harbour

I’m sure many people will have read this story on the BBC News website yesterday (16 July 2017). My response to the story has gone through the usual gamut of reactions – annoyance, analysis of the errors in the article, and eventual acceptance that there is a problem.

I did notice the following issues that I’d take issue with in the story:-

  • the ship in the picture is MSC Divina, and the location is St Mark’s Basin in Venice. Since regulations were introduced for the 2016 season, ships the size of the Divina (which I agree is huge….) no longer call at Venice, nor do they (as Divina did) start and finish cruises there. So that image is certainly a couple of years old;
  • Despite the picture of Venice at top of the article, the text hardly mentions that city. It’s mostly about Dubrovnik and Capri;
  • and the article does accept that cruise passengers aren’t the only visitors to those places.

But – there is no question that many places do experience tourist visitors on a scale that’s hard for them to accommodate; and that the number of visitors is affecting the experience that the visitors have. My own visit to the Acropolis in Athens, for example, was awful, and in Florence we felt that (as the article suggests) we were encountering only tourists or those serving their needs.

Of course, many of these small, comparatively remote places have become much easier to get to in the last couple of decades. It’s not just cruise companies but also budget airlines – easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, and so on – who have made access to Venice,  Dubrovnik or Capri so easy. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to get to Venice even as recently as, say, 1990 – flight to Rome (from where?), possibly followed by a really expensive flight to Venice airport, but more likely a complicated train journey through Mestre to Venice itself. Similarly, Dubrovnik might have been accessible during the 70s and 80s, as communist Yugoslavia followed its independent line (independent of Moscow, that is) but at that time tourism was quite tightly controlled – the great majority of tourists came on package holidays and were encouraged to stay in the resort areas, e.g. Pula or Rovinj in Istria;  visits to other places mainly took place as organised excursions. Then of course the Yugoslav war broke out in 1991 and it was the late 90s, or even the early 00s, before tourism recovered along the Dalmatian coast. By that time the budget airlines, and the cruise lines, were ready with their offerings.

I also think that in the places where the protests are biggest, there is another factor at play. I know that in the case of Venice many of the local people feel that they have lost control of their environment. This isn’t just because of the numbers of tourists, but because of the structure of local government. Many of these places are quite small – the population of historic Venice is around 50,000, for example – but they are included in larger local government units. For example, the municipality of Venice has a total population of about 250,000, some three-quarters of whom live on the mainland and not in the historic city. The elected officials – especially the mayor, who in the Italian system has considerable power – are likely to draw the majority of their support from outside the historic city, and from areas where the concerns will be different. Residents of the historic city may have a different view on tourism promotion from residents on the mainland, for example, but it is the latter – who make up the majority of the municipality’s population – who will have the major say in decisions. It’s also the case that a crucial player in the Venice infrastructure, the Port of Venice, does not appear to be controlled by the municipality; it’s an independent authority (or so I believe). And of course it, too, is mainly based on the mainland (where there are significant container-handling and bulk cargo facilities), so once again the people most connected with the historic city feel that decisions that affect them greatly are being taken by an entity over which they have little influence or power.

I apologise if this is coming across as rather rambling. That probably results from my own feelings, which tilt back and forwards on this issue. Of course I love going to these wonderful places, but more and more I’m wondering if, or to what extent, my presence (along with that of millions of other people, of course) is damaging the very places I enjoy visiting. It’s a difficult issue, and one on which I’m still undecided. Swithering, as the Scots say.

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