Crystal’s “Big News” – Other Cruise News: Pearl Seas Looks To Cuba – American Moots Modern Riverboats

by Kevin Griffin

In anticipation of an expected “big announcement” from Crystal Cruises last week, rumours began circulating in Germany that Crystal was about to buy the Deutschland, news that turned out to be false. The big news was only a new brochure, more details of which below. Elsewhere, Pearl Seas Cruises has its eyes on Cuba and American Cruise Lines is looking at a new more modern design of riverboat than the old paddle wheelers that have been built to date for the Mississippi and other American rivers.


Crystal’s “Big News”

A rumour broke ten days ago in Germany that Crystal Cruises was about to buy Peter Deilmann’s Deutschland from the liquidators. There was even a price attached of € 50 million. Of course, the rumour, even if printed in Bild and the Hamburger Abendblatt, turned out to be false.
But Crystal had scheduled a “big announcement” for last Monday and was busily tweeting this away. So people started speculating about a newbuilding. Edie Rodriguez, after all, had, since joining Crystal as its new ceo, been advocating building new ships. And what was this big announcement?

Crystal Serenity (Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises)

Crystal Serenity (Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises)

A brochure – here we have a lesson in how not to tweet. Here is what sprung forth from the tweet about the “big announcement”: –
“Crystal Cruises Unveils Complete Roster and Fares for 2017 Itineraries. Earlier Than Ever: Compelling Itineraries Announced; Worldwide Cruise Atlas Available and 2016/2017 Open for Booking.

“Crystal Cruises is delighted to announce its 2017 complete roster of global itineraries, with fares available for booking earlier than ever, a full two years in advance.  The 2017 cruises and fares are available in Crystal’s first complete two-year Worldwide Cruise Atlas.

“Following a 2016 season that boasts a history-making transit of the fabled Northwest Passage, plus a 102-day World Cruise circling the Pacific Rim and more maiden calls than ever before, 2017 promises for an exhilarating year of firsts, anticipated returns, remote locales and other highlights on all seven continents, including:

“Offering 57 voyages to 268 ports in 84 countries, with more than 150 overnights – the most ever offered in a single year.”

Admittedly, there was some news. The line’s first circumnavigation of the globe, for example, by Crystal Serenity is taking place this year, and round trip Caribbean cruises will now be available from Charleston. But not really big news.
By way of comparison, Azamara Club Cruises will do 65 voyages to 203 ports in 68 countries. In 2014, and Crystal is doing 63 voyages to 224 ports in 65 countries this year.
Nevertheless, Crystal Cruises is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year so, Congratulations Crystal Cruises.


Pearl Seas Looks To Cuba

It has been decades now since cruise ships full of Americans called on Cuba. And there has been much naysaying in the industry about how soon cruise lines will exploit Cuba as a destination.

Cuba - The Catedral de San Cristobal in Havana

Cuba – The Catedral de San Cristobal in Havana

But Pearl Seas Cruises, the foreign-flag division of American Cruise Lines is showing no hesitancy in announcing that it is studying new itineraries there.

Traditional Cuban ports of call have included Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Isla de la Juventud (the Isle of Youth, once called the Isle of Pines).
It is not generally realized that Juventud is actually the seventh largest island in the Caribbean.

Because of their shallow draft, Pearl Seas ships will also be looking to coastal ports and the company has started to explore new itineraries for the 210-berth Pearl Mist.

We know that Pearl Seas is quite serious about Cuba as this is not just a rumour but news from a press bulletin released last Wednesday.

Pearl Mist  (Courtesy of Dennis Jarvis, Halifax NS)

Pearl Mist (Courtesy of Dennis Jarvis, Halifax NS)

Pearl Seas is considering cruises that begin in Florida or other nearby islands and cover both the north and south coasts of Cuba. Such foreign calls would be extremely handy for Pearl seas as its Majuro-registered ships cannot do US point-to-point coastal cruises like those of its parent company.

At one time many American lines cruised to Cuba, including the historic Ward Line, the Clyde Line, the Munson Line and the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company (America’s P&O). The last to do so was the West India Fruit & Steamship Company, whose newest ships saw service to Alaska and Newfoundland and on the Great Lakes after the US Government closed off relations with Cuba.

American Moots Modern Riverboats

We have all heard the story of Viking River Cruises wanting to introduce European-style river cruise vessels to the Mississippi and other American rivers but news has been slow in coming forward, possibly due to building and ownership concerns.

Queen of The West. The new ships would be modern, have no paddlewheels and let lots of light in.

Queen of The West. The new ships would be modern, have no paddlewheels and let lots of light in.

Meanwhile, US-based American Cruise Lines has started to investigate new designs for its own fleet. The new ships would be modern, have no paddlewheels and let lots of light in, with cabin balconies, a glass-enclosed lounge with panoramic views and a variety of outdoor public spaces. Some have speculated that the new ships could carry more than 300 passengers.

The new river craft would have to be built in the US, which is no problem seeing that several foreign shipbuilders such as Aker, Austal and Fincantieri are already established on US soil and some even build for the US Navy.

But ownership of US-flag river ships cannot be more than 25% by non-US citizens and while not a problem from US-owned American Cruise Lines, this may have caused a hiccough to Viking River’s plans. Probably not much of a hiccough, however, as many foreign shipping companies including Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk and Neptune Orient Lines own US-flag ships.
But while there is no restriction on ownership of foreign-going ships, ships that trade within the United States must be at least 75% US owned.
ACL’s affiliated shipyard, the Chesapeake Shipbuilding Company, is also currently seeking additional drafting and engineering staff.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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