GOLDEN PRINCESS GOING TO P&O AUSTRALIA; CARNIVAL SPLENDOR TO STAY WITH CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR
Carnival Splendor

In something of a surprise move, Carnival Corporation has announced a ship swap for 2020; the proposed transfer of the Carnival Splendor to P&O Australia has now been cancelled, and the Australian company will now receive the 2001 built Golden Princess from Princess Cruises instead.

There’s little real difference in the size or passenger capacities of the two ships: I suspect the decision to retain the Carnival Splendor is simply a desire to keep a major fleet unit based permanently in Long Beach, California, where the Splendor will transfer to as of next year.

Ironically, the one off Carnival Splendor first began her regular career on that same, Mexican Riviera run in 2009. Launched in 2008, she did a few maiden sailings in Europe before making an epic circumnavigation around South America- Carnival Cruise Line’s first ever such voyage- before she took up station in the port of Los Angeles for regular, seven night Mexican Riviera cruises.

Once there, the Carnival Splendor endured a much publicised loss of power for two days, resulting in her having to be towed back for emergency repairs in San Diego. Since then, she has sailed successfully on many itineraries, including her current role in the Caribbean.

It was intended to send her back to California as a stop gap replacement for long standing veteran, Carnival Miracle, and then replace her in turn with another vessel out of Long Beach when she transferred to P&O Australia in 2012. That, as we now know, is not going to happen, and it’s more likely than not that the Carnival Splendor will become a more or less permanent Long Beach resident, at least for the next few years.

She beefs up the Carnival line up out of Long Beach with an increased passenger capacity in excess of 3,000, and joins the smaller Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination to round out the company’s west coast roster. While the two smaller ships sail on a series of three and four night options each week, the Carnival Splendor will almost certainly run the line’s prestige itinerary down to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.

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CUNARD ORDERS NEW BUILD FROM FINCANTIERI

NEW CUNARDER
An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Cunarder, slated to enter service in 2022. Image credit: Cunard Line

In a move that has surprised many, Carnival Corporation has signed an agreement with Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard for a new build for Cunard. The new ship, coming in at around 113,000 tons and with a passenger capacity of around 3,000, is currently slated to enter service in 2022.

While there will be many synergies with the current, three ship fleet, this new vessel will be of a different design to the popular duo of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, while also being a smaller, slightly more high density ship than the current flagship, Queen Mary 2. Inevitably, the name will also be the subject of much speculation to come.

Will Cunard go for a fourth ‘Queen’, or will the line itself seek to revive one of the more revered names from it’s storied past? While many think that another ‘Queen’ is a slam dunk in terms of a name, it’s worth remembering that the first so named ship was the Queen Mary back in 1936, by which time Cunard itself had been in the passenger business for almost a century. There was also the Berengaria of 1921, named after the wife of Richard the Lionheart. But she was an ex-German prize of war, built as the Imperator back in 1913.

By that time, many legendary Cunarders had already passed into the annals of seafaring lore, or were about to. Mauretania, Aquitania, Berengaria and Caronia are just a few of them. Reviving any one of these treasured names would signal both recognition of an illustrious heritage, and assumed continuity of what those great names represent. Cunard might just surprise everyone with this new ship.

And, for those who say that it won’t happen under Carnival management- well, it already did once. Recall the line’s restyling of the venerable Vistafjord into the Caronia back in 1999, a full year after the Carnival takeover. A repeat, while likely improbable, is by no means impossible.

And, it has to be noted, the availability of suitably regal names is actually pretty damned thin on the ground. Against that, the roster of evocative names from more than one hundred and seventy seven years of Cunard history is as substantial as it is stellar. While Cunard want a ship that will be complementary to the current trio, it will also be looking to make the ship as distinctive and original as practical. And nothing would do that quite so sweetly than by breaking with the sacred idea that all new Cunarders have to be named after a Queen. They don’t.

Interesting times, for sure. As always, stay tuned for updates.

NORWEGIAN JADE MAKES INAUGURAL CALL TO PORT OF TYNE

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Norwegian Jade at the Port of Tyne on September 1st, 2017. Photo: Anthony Nicholas

September 1st marked the auspicious debut of the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship ever to visit Newcastle’s Port of Tyne. The 93,558 ton Norwegian Jade- originally built in 2006 as the Pride of Hawaii- arrived in port on the penultimate leg of a round Britain cruise. As her 2,400 passengers poured ashore to visit such stellar local attractions as Alnwick Castle and the historic city of Durham, the ship played host to a small number of media, there to witness the formal exchange of visiting plaques between ship and port authority.

As well as the welcome news that the Norwegian Jade will be making a return to the UK next year (including three calls at Port of Tyne), there was also the chance to tour the ship (though not the cabins, which were all occupied by fare paying passengers) and sample a fine, three course lunch pared with some fulsome red wine in the ship’s beautiful Grand Pacific main dining room.

In the course of a recent, extensive refurbishment, the Norwegian Jade shrugged off many of her original colourful, slightly frantic decor elements. Now the ship is suffused with an aura of muted greys enhanced by a wash of sunlight from rows of floor to ceiling windows. The older, more funky style of furniture that once exploded around the ship like multi coloured mushrooms has been largely eschewed. In it’s place there now exists a calmer, more restrained palette that still has warmth but, at the same time, does much more to emphasise the scale and sweep of the ship.

Gone, too, are the upper deck, multi coloured water slides that resembled so many hallucinogenic spaghetti strands. This really is going against all current mainstream trends, and seems part of a more obvious resolve to raise the tone of the overall product. Though I doubt that other lines will follow soon, it’s still a pretty bold statement of intent. It fits the whole ‘pared back’ vibe of the ship quite nicely.

As always with Norwegian, a staple of in house, extra tariff dining venues take centre stage. Among them are the fabulous, French themed Le Bistro, the upper deck, American accented Cagney’s Steakhouse, and the Brazilian themed Moderno. Even the two main dining rooms continue to showcase the company’s signature ‘Freestyle Dining’; a concept that has more or less completely revolutionised the entire concept of cruise ship dining since it’s full scale introduction back in 2001.

But the Norwegian Jade is not some headlong rush into the future; parts of the ship showcase the Art Deco ocean liners of the past to near perfection. The Grand Pacific dining room is an out and out homage to the venerable old Queen Mary of 1936, with burled wood sheathing and evocative ceiling light fixtures. Meanwhile, the central, two storey ‘Bar Street’ has touches of Egyptian style lacquered panelling, and floor mounted ‘light fountains’ that are almost perfect copies of those once seen on the incomparable Normandie. And the large, upper deck SS. United States library pretty much speaks for itself.

Norwegian Jade left Port of Tyne for Southampton, there to embark on one last Scandinavia cruise before the ship returns to New York, sailing via Iceland. From there, the ship will showcase a brace of stunning fall cruises to Canada and New England, before redeploying to Miami to offer a full season of seven day Caribbean cruises from the Florida port.

With next year’s deployment of the Norwegian Jade aimed squarely at the British and German market, Norwegian Cruise Line will have a formidable competitor in place to fight for the best of the mainstream holiday family trade. And, with her on board prices now featuring all inclusive drinks as well, this stylish, thoughtfully redesigned ship offers a smart, elegant fun venue for all ages and tastes.