Silver lining in the cruise clouds

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IMG_0063.jpgThere’s a bit of catching up to do after my week in the Baltic on Saga Sapphire – a lovely ship which is sure to earn its place in the hearts of a loyal band of ever-more-youthful Saganauts.
We were blessed with beautiful weather as we visited Rostock (from Warnemunde), Tallinn, St Petersburg and Helsinki. A couple of days ahead of me, the Mirror’s esteemed travel editor Nigel Thompson was not so fortunate – “Bring a brolly” was his advice from Peter the Great’s Russian capital, and he expressed little surprise when he discovered Helsinki had been under snow only last month.
Just in case he, or anyone else, doubts that the sun really does shine in those parts, take a look at the glistening domes of the chapel (above) at the magnificent Catherine Palace – have they ever shone as bright?
silvercloud.jpgBut what have I missed while I’ve been away?
My story about ships in London for the Olympic Games omitted to mention the arrival of Silver Cloud on a visit to Tower Bridge pier in the middle of the week. The Silversea vessel sailed up the Thames on Wednesday and passed under the Olympic rings to berth alongside HMS Belfast.
Now on a nine-day voyage to Iceland, she was in Edinburgh yesterday and is alongside at Lerwick in the Shetlands today. Tower Bridge will be opening again for her on August 13.
Elsewhere, it was not a good week for Royal Caribbean, whose second-quarter financial results revealed a loss of $3.6 million compared to a profit of $93.5 million during the same period last year.
Heavy discounting in Europe – largely to offset the combined effects of the Euro crisis and the Costa Concordia sinking on advance bookings – was largely to blame. Performance in north America and the Caribbean was good, and the Asian market is showing promise, but Europe is “a bummer” according to chairman Richard Fain.
“The steady drumbeat of negative news emanating out of Europe is certainly having an impact. We had not anticipated either the severity of the financial crisis or the roller coaster ride that the politicians and the media have precipitated. And, of course, the Concordia impact there has been the greatest and the slowest to dissipate. These European pressures have outweighed all the good news for the rest of the world.”
Perhaps Royal Caribbean should look beyond the Mediterranean a little more when planning their European itineraries. Nigel and I were not the only ones enjoying the pleasures of a cruise in the Baltic last week; figures issued by the European Cruise Council showed that the number of passengers visiting the region is expected to be up six per cent this year.
But that’s nothing compared to the growth in numbers cruising the Norwegian fjords (up 29 per cent), round the British Isles (a 16 per cent increase) and the Arctic region, including Iceland and the Svalbard archipelago (up by 37 per cent).
Overall, a total of 1.49 million cruise passengers are expected in northern European waters in 2012 – up 16 per cent on the 1.28 million who visited last year.
Bo Larsen, director of Cruise Baltic, an association of 25 Baltic Sea destinations, said: “The northern European cruise market is growing rapidly, benefitting both from the region’s newly extended range of destinations and also from the cruise lines’ desire to extend their season here well into the colder months of the year.
In all, cruise ships from 44 cruise lines serve a total of 253 ports in the northern European region, of which 52 are in the Baltic, 78 in Norway and the Arctic region, and 123 in North Western Europe (including the British Isles, North Sea and Atlantic ports).

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:45+00:00 29 July 2012|Cruise destinations, Cruise news|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Kevin Griffin 31 July 2012 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Cunard went to the British dependent territory of Bermuda for its reflaggings, not to an independent island state like Malta, as the Bahamas now are.

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