Tag Archives: balmoral

SMALL SHIPS; GOING SOUTH FOR GOOD?

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Black Watch at Flam. Photo is copyright of the author

When Saga Cruises takes delivery of it’s new Spirit of Discovery in 2019, that line’s current, popular Saga Pearl II will leave the fleet. Though no buyer has yet been announced, it is to be hoped that this charming, intimate ship will find another owner, and hopefully within the UK market at that.

One possible interested party could well be Cruise and Maritime Voyages, which operates the Astor on a winter programme of fly/cruises to and from South Africa and Australia over the autumn and winter. Saga Pearl II is the near identical sister ship to Astor, and there’s no doubt that the two ships would make a great working duo. And, by then, it has to be reckoned that the veteran Marco Polo might well be coming to her final sell by date around that period. The slightly smaller Saga Pearl II would make an ideal replacement, with her outdoor terraced decks and similar, intimate styling, so the logic is inescapable here, too.

Against that, Saga Pearl II has a passenger capacity of just over 500- significantly less than the 800 carried by the adults’ only Marco Polo. And the trend lately at CMV has been to buy more bigger, second hand ships than before. The line first acquired the 45,000 ton, 1,300 passenger Magellan, and then upped the stakes significantly this year with the introduction of the near 64,000 ton, 1,400 passenger Columbus. Though relatively intimate compared with the modern big ships of P&O and Cunard, these two ships are still respectively double and treble the size of the Marco Polo. And, though intimacy remains at the heart of the CMV philosophy, the size of the ships is moving inevitably upwards.

A similar, upward gradient has also taken hold at Fred. Olsen, whose last addition- the 43,000 ton Balmoral- is almost twice the size of the 24,000 ton Braemar, and much larger than either of the stable, popular 28, 000 ton sister duo of Black Watch and Boudicca. It’s interesting to note that all four of the Fred. Olsen ships have been ‘stretched’ with the addition of a new mid section. In fact, both Braemar and Balmoral endured the process when already under the Olsen flag.

Like CMV, Fred. Olsen has nailed it’s colours firmly to providing a more intimate, British oriented travel experience, aimed at the older passenger. And, while both lines have succeeded and gained much success with this approach, it’s difficult to see how they expand in the same market; quite simply, the availability of major tonnage is now becoming an ever increasing problem.

Fred. Olsen has failed to add any new tonnage since the Balmoral back in 2009 and, while all four of the fleet’s ships are undergoing significant refurbishments to keep them fresh and attractive, the line is clearly in need of a new ship, or perhaps two. For a long time, the line has cast a covetous eye on the 38,000 ton Prinsendam of Holland America Line. Up to now, the Dutch line has proved very reluctant to part with it’s widely admired ‘Elegant Explorer’. But that might be about to change.

Holland America itself is in the throes of a retrenchment, geared towards providing the line with larger, more luxurious and family friendly vessels. Two of the 50,000 ton, 1990’s built Statendam class vessels- Ryndam and Statendam herself- were recently sold off to the Carnival subsidiary of P&O Australia. The two remaining in Holland America’s portfolio-Maasdam and Veendam– are clearly on borrowed time, especially when Holland America takes delivery of the stunning Nieuw Statendam in 2018.

If those two do, indeed, go- and it is pretty certain that they will- then Holland America might also, finally, divest itself of the Prinsendam. Any of these three fine, well cared for vessels would make great additions to  Fred. Olsen or, indeed, to Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

Elsewhere, other potential pickings are slim. I’ve already mentioned the lovely little Saga Pearl II, but the 19,000 ton Celestyal Nefeli- the original twin sister of the Braemar– might also be in the mix. Her two year charter to Celestyal Cruises comes to an end this year and, thus far, the Greek line has shown no commitment to renewing it. It has returning tonnage of it’s own to hand at the end of this year, coming back from Thomson Cruises. But the latter line’s decision to retain the popular Thomson Spirit for one more season might yet cause Celestyal to rethink again about the Nefeli.

Other than the ships cited above, it seems that the only new route open for both lines is that of dedicated new builds. Indeed, this is the route that Celestyal itself is heading towards, with plans for a pair of new, 60,000 ton cruise ships. And, with the current, on going boom in the number of small sized expedition ships now under construction, builders are beginning to appraise the viability of more general purpose, smaller sized cruise ships, albeit to a limited degree.

That said, none of this is written in the sky, never mind set in stone. It’s food for thought rather than a set menu. But, as the next two years or so play out, the moving of chess pieces here and there should be fascinating to watch.

As ever, pray stay tuned.

 

 

 

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BALMORAL MOVING TO EDINBURGH FOR 2018 CRUISES

Upping the ante for 2018 in the Scottish cruise market, Fred. Olsen is sending it’s flagship, the 43,000 ton Balmoral, north to Edinburgh in 2018.

The ship, originally built in 1988 as the Crown Odyssey for the long defunct Royal Cruise Line, will operate a series of nine cruises from Edinburgh’s port of Rosyth between May and July. With a passenger capacity in excess of 1300 plus, each sailing thus offers some five hundred more berths than the current FOCL Scottish stalwart, the popular Black Watch.

Sample itineraries include a five night Norwegian Fjords cruise departing on May 28th, calling at both Bergen and Eidfjord at the height of the apple blossom season, as well as a fourteen night Scandinavian Capitals sailing, covering the ‘greatest hits’ ports of the summertime Baltic, departing on June 9th- right at the heart of the summer season.

Another particularly attractive option is a seven night ‘Diamonds, Chocolates and Canals’ cruise departing on June 30th. This one serves up an especially tasty platter of ports including Amsterdam, Ghent, and an overnight stay in cosmopolitan Antwerp.

All these itineraries are on sale now, and Fred. Olsen- enjoying a record wave of bookings this season- is sweetening the deal by offering three cruises for the price of two, or free tips for guests booking on board prior to May 3rd.

Some nice options in play here on a spacious, intimate ship that offers a generally very relaxing, value oriented cruise experience in very tasteful surroundings.

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FRED OLSEN ANNOUNCES 2017 CRUISES FROM NEWCASTLE

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Fred, Olsen’s stately Balmoral will be back at Port of Tyne for another season in 2017

Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines yesterday confirmed a second consecutive season of sailings from Newcastle’s Port of Tyne on it’s flagship, Balmoral.

The 43, 537 ton ship accommodates some 1,350 passengers across some 710 cabins. Beginning in May of 2017, she will offer some thirteen departures from Port of Tyne, sailing through until the end of September.

Highlights of the 2017 Balmoral programme will include a five night departure to western Norway, an eleven night ‘Swedish Waterways’ round trip, and a fifteen night ‘Authentic Andalusia’ sailing that will highlight seven ports of call in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar.

The news, announced last night, comes as a welcome boost following the recent announcement of the return of Thomson Cruises to the Tyne for 2017- their first such sailings since 2014. That company will offer a series of Norwegian and Baltic itineraries. And, with the continuing presence of Cruise and Maritime Voyages for several Newcastle sailings next year, the placement of Port of Tyne as one of the premier regional departure ports in the UK seems assured.

Located just eight  miles from the centre of Newcastle, Port of Tyne boasts easy, accessible links from London and the north west via rail, road and air travel, and a dedicated cruise and ferry terminal that offers a seamless embarkation process overall.

For 2016, the Port of Tyne season commences with the arrival of Cruise and Maritime’s Magellan for the first of a series of seven night sailings to the Norwegian Fjords.

Stay tuned for further details.