Israeli niche cruise operator, Mano Cruises, has just unveiled it’s new flagship, the 41,000 ton Crown Iris.
The much travelled ship (she began life in 1992 as the Royal Majesty) has benefited from an extensive refurbishment over the winter that entailed enhancements to all cabins and suites on board, as well as new decor and soft furnishings across many of the public areas on Five Deck.
Five restaurants are available for around 1400 passengers on a series of sailings from the port of Haifa. These range from two, three, four and five night ‘taster’ cruises to full, ten to fourteen day Mediterranean itineraries. The inaugural cruise is a fourteen day voyage to Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, scheduled to sail on March 3rd.
Nothing structural seems to have been done to change the vessel, other than the addition of a small, spiral water slide to the smaller, aft pool on the upper deck. That same upper deck now features new outdoor furniture as well.
Crown Iris takes over the role of the Golden Iris, fondly remembered by many as the Cunard Princess. The company has retained that ship, though it intends to try and charter her out in the foreseeable future. For now at least, Mano Cruises remains very much a one ship operation.
Israeli cruise operator, Mano Cruises, has announced that it will operate it’s recently purchased Crown Iris-formerly the Royal, Norwegian, and Thomson Majesty-on a series of Eastern Mediterranean itineraries next year.
The 40,900 ton, 1500 passenger ship will supplant the Golden Iris (originally the Cunard Princess) on a series of two to fourteen night itineraries, sailing from the port of Haifa. The ship will be targeted mainly at the local Israeli passenger market.
The two night cruises will call on the Cypriot port of Limassol while the longer, two week sailings will focus on port calls in Greece, as well as Black Sea destinations in both Bulgaria and Romania.
Prior to inaugurating this programme, the 1992 built ship will receive an extensive refurbishment that will cover all cabins. Some five restaurants will be available to passengers sailing on the ship.
It is possible that the 17,000 ton, 1977 built Golden Iris may go out on short term charter to another company, possibly for Greek islands cruises. At present, Mano Cruises is staying tight lipped on the subject but, only a few months ago, it did announce an intent to charter one of the two ships out during 2019.
The company purchased the ship from long term owners, Celestyal Cruises, after a long term charter to Thomson Cruises came to an end.
Renewing what has been a mutually beneficial arrangement for several years, Norwegian Cruise Line and the Bermuda government yesterday confirmed the cruise line’s weekly summer presence at the island for a further five years, from 2017-2022, according to a report on the local Bernews website (www.bernews.com)
While the company will still sail their large,contemporary mega ships from both Boston and New York to King’s Wharf in Bermuda, the real news here is that Norwegian will also guarantee a dozen additional calls a year at the port of St. Georges, on that north east corner of Bermuda. The original capital of Bermuda has been largely starved of cruise ship calls for several years- a consequence of both increasingly larger ships being deployed here, and the limitations imposed by it’s own, very narrow approach channel.
Speaking yesterday, Norwegian CEO, Frank Del Rio, implied that these calls may actually be made by the smaller ships of Oceania and Regent cruises, the two affiliate members of the group. Certainly, ships in excess of 50,000 tons cannot navigate the narrow channel entrance at St. Georges, and this would physically rule out any of the current Norwegian fleet from sailing through the channel, unless it were to be significantly widened. This is a process that would cause considerable environmental concern if it ever came to pass.
In any event, Del Rio is promising a return to the two and three night stays in St. Georges that were once a staple of the company. I have fond memories of just such cruises to Bermuda on board the old Norwegian Majesty (see photo at header), and these were immensely popular at the time.
Going even further, Del Rio has promised to finance construction of a pair of local, inter island ferries, designed to link the popular King’s Wharf area, where the mega ships dock, to the town of St. George as well. With much of its public transportation dependent on water ferries that sail around the island, this exercise should help boost the long overdue renaissance of Bermuda’s original capital quite considerably.
Also coming to St. George- and long overdue- is a new luxury hotel, built on the now vacant headland once occupied by the demolished Holiday Inn. This area has been desperately in need of a quality hotel for many years, if not decades.
It all adds to the feeling of renewed momentum for this hugely popular island and it’s ancient, very beautiful capital. And, after around a decade, it is also very gratifying to see Norwegian Cruise Line once more renewing links with the former capital.
Interesting times. Stay tuned for updates as they come through.
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