Well, we’ve had the good news from Norwegian Cruise Lines, with the announcement that their new mega-ship, Norwegian Epic, will be sailing in the Mediterranean next summer. Now comes the bad news – the company is pulling out of Dover.
Norwegian Sun will be sailing from from the port for its 13-night Baltic cruises from May until September this year, but in 2011 the ship will be based in Copenhagen instead.
For the first time in many years, the company will have no ships operating from a British port, but UK general manager Stephen Park tells me their fly-cruises – particularly those on the Norwegian Gem out of Venice this year – are extremely popular among British passengers.
“What we have found is that we are more successful with shorter cruises, and in the Baltic in particular, the destinations are what people go for. So instead of wasting two days at the beginning and end of the cruise sailing up and down the North Sea, we can get our passengers to St Petersburg and Tallinn and Helsinki quicker by basing the ship in Copenhagen.
“They’ll see all the same sights in nine days instead of 13.
“We have had a great relationship with Dover over the years, and it’s important to realise we have not made the change because Dover has not been successful. I am disappointed we won’t have a ship sailing out of Dover next year – it would be great to have a ship in the UK, but as a company, we are confident of the success of our new itineraries.”
A spokesperson for the Port of Dover told me: ” We have enjoyed a successful partnership with NCL since their first call in 1998 and should they return to the UK for departures we will be sure to welcome them back.”
Dover was also keen to point out that with an expected 300,000 cruise passengers, 2010 will be a record year for the port, which will be welcoming a number of vessels for the first time.
And I’m sure that NCL’s decision has nothing to do with the rumours that the British port was about to be sold to the French !
Norwegian Sun will be one of three NCL ships in Europe next summer. Jade will be taking over the cruises based in Venice, which are this year being sailed by Norwegian Gem. And of course Epic will be based in Barcelona. Park expects that half the 4,200 passengers on each sailing will be from Britain and the rest of Europe.
Another cruise line by-passing the UK is Italy’s Costa, who will have four ships in northern Europe next year.
Costa Deliziosa – whose naming ceremony I shall be attending in Dubai in a couple of weeks – will be sailing from Amsterdam on cruises to the Baltic and the Norwegian fjords. Sister ship Costa Luminosa will be doing similar itineraries from Copenhagen, and Costa Atlantica will sail seven-night cruises, also from Copenhagen.
Costa Pacifica, home-porting in Kiel, will sail 11 to 17-night cruises to the fjords, North Cape, Iceland, Spitsbergen and the Baltic capitals.
Wouldn’t it be better, though, if just one of them could find a summer home in the UK?