The Real Cruise Shipping Of Miami

Peter Knego’s behind the scenes 2011 Cruise Shipping Miami (formerly known as SeaTrade) recap with an extra twist or two.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I flew in on the Saturday night red eye to catch the Sunday cruise ship departures from Fort Lauderdale, my base for the next four nights.  What better way to begin a week of cruise industry immersion than by witnessing its latest hardware float on by?

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After a delicious lunch hosted by my friends Lis Kemp and Carly Sax, the ladies and I kicked off our shoes and walked down the beach to the north side of the cut. It was nearing 5:00 PM and although Holland America’s Vista Class ZUIDERDAM, the first to leave, beat us to the punch, her bigger semi-sister, the Signature Class NIEUW AMSTERDAM, was not far behind.

NIEUW AMSTERDAM departs Fort Lauderdale.

It was a long stretch of the imagination, but I couldn’t help but think of that classic poster of a traditionally-clad Dutch girl sitting on a jetty waving to the 1938 NIEUW AMSTERDAM as the latest incarnation motored past two pairs of seated onlookers.

Double Dutch Rush: NIEUW AMSTERDAM versus ZUIDERDAM off Ft. Lauderdale.

As NIEUW AMSTERDAM turned southward and slowed to drop off the pilot, the ZUIDERDAM belched an intensely dark cloud of diesel in the distance.

RUBY PRINCESS outbound.

I learned this past January while cruising the Eastern Caribbean that wherever NIEUW AMSTERDAM goes, Princess Cruises’ Crown Class RUBY PRINCESS is sure to follow.

Goodbye, RUBY Sunday...

RUBY turned southward while the HAL ship picked up speed in a view I had last witnessed from the balcony of my NIEUW AMSTERDAM stateroom.

ALLURing the crowds.

ALLURE OF THE SEAS, the world’s largest cruise ship, drew the biggest crowds. She is a fascinating vessel with pleasingly dynamic architectural nuances despite her gargantuan mass…

ALLURE backwash and SOLSTICE backing.

ALLURE’s wake created a miniature tsunami that slammed into the small cove near the breakwater. A handful of opportunistic body surfers obliged the short ride until the ricochet wave bounced back into the channel.

ALLURE southbound.

It didn’t take much of a zoom to catch the exiting ALLURE on her southbound turn.

CELEBRITY SOLSTICE exits.

And then my favorite, the edgy and angular CELEBRITY SOLSTICE, the first in a class of five breathtaking Celebrity Cruises behemoths and the last passenger ship to leave Fort Lauderdale that afternoon.

SOLSTICE southbound.

As the SOLSTICE made her turn into the Atlantic, we headed back up the beach.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cruise Shipping Miami.

Since 1992, when I became friends with a wonderful gentleman named Jan Loeff, I was strongly encouraged to attend SeaTrade, the annual cruise and shipping conference held in Miami.  Jan (who last worked with Silversea Cruises) had amassed one of the world’s most extensive collections of ocean liner ephemera in his North Miami home and was deeply passionate about all things cruise ship and liner-related. He assured me the brochures, alone, on the SeaTrade convention floor would be worth the expense of getting a day pass but scheduling was always a conflict — until this year, anyway.

Jan passed away by the time I began writing for the cruise industry but he was very much on my mind as the week sailed by.

Miami Convention Center.

I arrived at Miami’s Convention Center in the late afternoon to pick up my badge.

In the press room, there was a fortuitous opportunity to visit with veteran cruise industry executive Larry Pimentel, the new President and CEO of recently retooled Azamara Club Cruises. In January, I took the AZAMARA JOURNEY from San Diego to the Sea Of Cortez and had a superb time — the ship and crew were top-notch in every way. I posted a three part Sea Treks rave about the journey, the first of which can be read by clicking here.

I asked Mr. Pimentel about a shipbroker’s site that lists both Azamara ships for sale with delivery in 2012. Aware of the site, he assured me that the vessels are definitely not on the market and that despite the challenges of the current economy, Azamara is not only getting remarkably positive feedback from its passengers, it is also enjoying a surge in bookings for the rest of 2011 and well into 2012.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for news of an Azamara acquisition or two or perhaps even a newbuild…

It was also nice to meet the media-savvy Meet On Cruise guys and I wish them much luck with their new Web site.

Fontainebleau Hotel.

Before long, I was climbing back into my rental car for the short drive past the Art Deco landmarks of Collins Avenue to the Midcentury Modern Fontainebleau Hilton to join a frenzy of media at the Royal Caribbean/Celebrity/Azamara Club Cruises dinner in the Scarpetta Restaurant.

I was seated at Table 2, next to Royal Caribbean’s President and CEO, Adam Goldstein.
Mr. Goldstein is an avid runner, sports enthusiast and proud father. I did try to broach the subject of RCI’s recently announced “Project Sunshine” newbuilds but he told me it was too early to divulge any details.

It was also great to finally meet Tracy Quan, RCI’s Director of Brand Communications and to visit with Jennifer Yap, Managing Director of Singapore-based RCI Asia, one of the vast company’s upcoming markets.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

State Of The Industry panel.

Snippet of the week, overheard in passing:

Person A: “She (frazzled cruise line executive) isn’t looking so good these days.”
Person B: “She never did.”

After 20 years in the notoriously cutthroat music business, I can confidently say that the cruise industry is an even tougher arena.  Veteran sales and marketing people are often shuffled around like cards and with the consolidation of so many lines in recent years, the number of available positions has been reduced.  Sprinkle in additional cutbacks as a result of the sluggish economy and baste that with the entry of a new generation of workers that can master ever-evolving forms of social media and the result is a corporate casserole of over qualified, under (or un)employed workers in all sectors of the industry.

Nonetheless, a panel of cruise line titans, a virtual “Who’s Who of CEO’s”, presented an optimistic outlook for the future of cruising.  At 9:30 AM, I stood in the back of a vast conference hall housing hundreds of delegates and did my best to scribble down some notes during the “State Of The Industry” panel.

The positive: cruising has grown and more than 100% of berths are occupied (based on double occupancy capacity figures factored in with additional berths); order books are beginning anew and there is a surge in refits of older ships.

The negative: rising fuel costs; global instability; new emissions control laws that will severely impact itineraries.

A few “potent quotables” from some of the panelists:

Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Line: “I am an optimist.  The cruise industry has its best day ahead.”

Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Cruise Line: “This has been twice as bad as any recession since 1929.  Cutting our dividend by $1.3 billion has allowed us to continue to deliver new ships.”

“Customers will continue to focus on value.  We have not cut back on our product but have reallocated our marketing spending and automation has helped us reduce our operating expenses.”

“Don’t assume everything is cyclical and not long term.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO of MSC Cruises: “In Europe (MSC’s base), the perception that cruising is expensive and only for old people has changed.”

“A ship is like a cocoon, a safe place in times of danger.”

Dan Hanrahan, CEO of Celebrity Cruises: “Vacations are an inalienable right.”

“The slowing of capacity has helped revitalization.”

(Citing the turmoil in Egypt and the resulting change of itineraries) “Movable assets have helped us survive.  Land-based outfits don’t have that luxury.”

Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line: “It’s not just about what you can do but where you can do it (regarding where to put all the newfangled attractions and dining venues on today’s megaships).”

Jan Swartz, Executive VP of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service for Princess Cruises and Cunard Line: “We upgraded our product at a time when people least expected it.”

Revealing ROYAL PRINCESS: Princess Cruises Chairman and CEO Alan Buckelew.

And speaking of Princess, I was happy to attend a press conference that afternoon announcing Princess’ next class of ships, a pair of 141,000 gt, 3,600 passenger newbuilds. The first in the duo, due in 2013, will be named ROYAL PRINCESS (taking the name of Princess’ first purpose-built ship, the ROYAL PRINCESS of 1984).

Snippet of steel from the ROYAL PRINCESS' first plate.

Steel was being cut at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone shipyard that very day.  Innovations on the ROYAL PRINCESS unique to the Princess fleet will include the SeaWalk (top deck glass bottom walkway extending 28 feet over the ship’s side, 128 feet above the water) and a corresponding SeaView Bar on starboard and port sides, respectively.  Other enhancements include an adults-only pool surrounded by seven cabanas that appear to float; an expanded adults-only Sanctuary; expanded Movies Under The Stars screen amidships and a pair of pools that flank a tropical “island” that doubles as daytime pool seating and a nighttime disco.

Europe panel.

There was a little time for lunch and to explore the convention floor with all the exhibitors and their tantalizing booths (more on those later) before and after the Spotlight on Europe panel.

David Dingle, CEO of Carnival U.K. presented a not so rosy outlook for older, smaller ships not in the luxury business, citing that most will be out of the market by 2018.  There was also concern about what might occur if the new emissions control laws extended into the Mediterranean sector.

Sebastian Ahrens, Managing Director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises provided one of the most ironic metaphors at the panel while observing that there really is no such thing as (all-encompassing) European Cruising.  “For example, Germans like a certain style of breakfast.  If you give them grape jelly instead of jam, that turns them off…”

Tabu exterior.

After that, I was off in a shuttle to the legendary Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant for a media dinner with Carnival Cruise Corporation executives. The host of our table was Princess Cruises’ aforementioned Jan Swartz, who was ebullient after her splendid introductory address at the State of the Industry panel that morning.

Although I’m a novice at crab eating, it was great to rub elbows (often quite literally while trying to scrape fleshy tendrils out of shells) with the likes of retired industry executive turned freelance cruise reporter Art Sbarsky (a real gentleman), the always fab Marcy Levin and Porthole Magazine maestro Jeff Laign (whom we later accompanied to the magazine’s 15th anniversary party).

Porthole partying.

For years, I’ve been hearing about the legendary Porthole parties at SeaTrade. Tonight’s fete was held at Tabu, which is actually the 7th floor of a parking structure on Lincoln Mall. The open air space offers a bird’s eye view of South Beach. But the view inside the party was an equally spectacular, incongruous combination of drag queens, Miami socialites, cruise industry executives and go-go dancers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Susan Gibbs and Greg Norris of the United States Conservancy.

The morning began with the SS United States Conservancy press conference. President Susan Gibbs (granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs, America’s foremost marine architect and designer of the UNITED STATES) and Treasurer Greg Norris outlined some prospective plans to moor the ship in one of three cities (Philadelphia, New York, Miami) as a floating hotel and attraction. Unlike many preservation societies that have come and gone (along with many a lost ocean liner cause), these people have actually put their money where their mouths are and purchased the ship directly from her last owners, Norwegian Cruise Lines (who sold them the ship for less than scrap offers).

A Philadelphia-based philanthropist, Gerry Lenfest, has injected $5.8 million to keep the ship moored in Philadelphia for the next 18 months as the Conservancy seeks to find a home for the ship, once and for all. The 1952 built liner, a symbol of America’s past maritime might and once the world’s fastest, has been laid up since 1969. In 1984, she was stripped of her interior fittings and in the mid-1990s, she was sent to the Ukraine for removal of all asbestos, returning to the U.S. via Philadelphia in 1996, where she has been moored ever since. In 2003, NCL saved the UNITED STATES from scrap buyers by purchasing her for possible inclusion in their NCL-America brand but the poor performance of that division eventually shelved such plans.

Italia pavilion.

And the rest of the afternoon? It was spent with the delightful Lis Kemp traversing the endless rows of exhibitors, ogling displays and gathering brochures and various bits of cruise industry “swag”. Loved the aroma of espresso in the vicinity of the Italian pavilion and the elevation of VULCANIA in the green banners overhead.

Fincantieri booth.

The Fincantieri booth had stylish Mies van der Rohe chairs and a line up of scale models representing some of its latest ships.

Fincantieri models.

I had just witnessed the real life versions of Fincantieri’s NIEUW AMSTERDAM, ZUIDERDAM and RUBY PRINCESS sail by a few days earlier.

Modeling MARINA.

And Oceania Cruises’ gorgeous Sestri Ponente-built MARINA, which was berthed a couple miles away at the Miami Cruise Terminal that very day.

Mr. Meyer at the Meyer booth.

My favorite shipyard, Meyer Werft, had a pavilion in the German quarter. Hosting visitors in the midst of scale models of DISNEY FANTASY, CELEBRITY SOLSTICE and other brilliant newbuilds, was Mr. Bernard Meyer, himself.

STX booth.

STX Shipyards have also had an impressive delivery schedule in recent years with RCI’s OASIS OF THE SEAS and ALLURE OF THE SEAS in addition to a gaggle of MSC newbuilds and NCL’s NORWEGIAN EPIC.

STX models.

What I found most interesting was STX’s model for a futuristic class of newbuilds that, depending on perspective, could be something from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” or a very stylish, glute-tightening sneaker.

Yran and Storbraten booth.

There were even booths promoting the wares of some of the maritime industry’s most famous and prolific architects. Oslo-based Yran and Storbraten have been involved in some very high profile projects, including Oceania’s MARINA and RIVIERA (still under construction), HAL’s EURODAM and NIEUW AMSTERDAM, the DISNEY DREAM and FANTASY, the latest Seabourn trio and many more…

Azipod demo.

I’m always seeking out technical information and this was the place to get it. How about a display with a cut-away of an ABB Azipod above a table showcasing a paperback novel entitled “Sea Of Terror”?

Syndeck display.

And the samples! There were so many brochures, we had to make a few trips to the car to unload them as our “swag bags” threatened to tear off their handles. But there were also samples of decking and paneling to help weigh us down.

Wood simulation.

At one booth, I was shown how “wood” paneling is made. Basically, it is a high resolution scan of wood grain that is printed on laminated paper sheets to be affixed to bulkheads, elevator panels and other marine surfaces. Real wood has been banned from overnight passenger ships since the implication of SOLAS 2010.

More Malbec?

Some of the more clever exhibitors utilized food and drink to lure visitors. Argentina had a marvelous Malbec while Morocco enticed with a lemony cous cous. Malaysia dangled a number of deliciously exotic offerings and the Italians catered to copious clusters of coffee connoisseurs. Alas, the Bavarian Beer Bar in the German sector was by invitation only but less exclusive Croatia had an unbeatable selection of cheese and olives and the Belgians beckoned with handmade chocolate truffles.

DSME on display.

DSME (Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering) had an interesting booth that really grabbed my attention when a screen flashed “Project Mona Lisa”. MONA LISA is the historic former liner KUNGSHOLM of 1966 that was acquired for use as a floating hotel at Oman. Despite a brochure showing radical rebuilding, I was assured by one of the company’s representatives that the plan has since been altered and the ship’s lustrous woodwork and remaining historic fittings will remain intact. Fellow ocean liner lovers can now hopefully sigh with relief.

We had ships then!

And, speaking of ocean liners, the United States Conservancy had a booth where it premiered a short, updated version of the documentary “Lady In Waiting”, telling the story of the SS UNITED STATES.

Blohm and Voss bag swag.

And the winners of the best swag? Quite possibly the Hamburg-based shipyard Blohm and Voss, with its stylish, sturdy canvas bags. Who needs Dolce and Gabbana when they can don a Blohm and Voss? As Lis and I were admiring the display, a frazzled cruise line exec descended upon the stack and whisked off with three of them…

Skele-bration.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a multi-national parade of dancers rattled and shaked their way in a conga-like procession.

Things To Come...

And on the way out, there was parting sign of a resilient industry.

Very special thanks: Buck Banks, Ernie Beyl, Martin Cox, Vance Gulliksen, Liz Jakeway, Lis Kemp, Jeff Laign, Harrison Liu, Jan Loeff, Stuart Newman, Jodi Ornstein, Tracy Quan, Tavia Robb, Carly Sax

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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