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   Cruise Travel - Cruise News

Cruise Club is a free service, and when you join, you will begin receiving weekly updates including the latest cruise news and cruise specialsWelcome to this week's edition of Cruise News, the best place on the Web to find up-to-date information about cruises. To automatically receive Cruise News via email each week, join our Cruise Club.

For up to the minute news, stop by Cruise Talk anytime to post a message or find out what your fellow passengers and industry insiders are saying about a particular ship, cruise line or destination.

Cruise Views - May 15, 2006

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver examines the emergence of low cost cruise line easyCruise and their plans for the future.

Easy does it

"Together with its second vessel easyCruise unveils an exciting new look and upgraded onboard facilities. easyCruiseTwo will sail weekly itineraries along the rivers and canals of Holland and Belgium from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp and back. easyCruiseOne will be transformed with the new easyCruise livery and will be offering a more upscale dining experience on board".

A lot of us here at the CruiseTalk forum were more than a little bit skeptical when Mr. easyjet (Stelios Haji-Ioannou serial entrepreneur and founder of the successful low cost European airline) announced the creation of easyCruise in 2005. For those unfamiliar with the product, here is the concept: 'easyCruise one' is a small vessel with tiny basic cabins, minimal onboard service and dining facilities. There is no onboard entertainment. The ship currently cruises the French Riviera in the summer and Barbados and the surrounding Caribbean Islands in the winter. It stays in port every night until 11 pm in the Caribbean and 4 am in the Riviera, allowing passengers to enjoy the life on shore - the beach, sightseeing, shopping, dining and clubbing. It then sets sail, arriving in a new port every morning. Passengers can board & depart anywhere along the route as long as you stay on the ship at least 2 nights. The prices are per cabin, per night and are extremely cheap starting at under £20 (but food is not included).

The easyCruise product is more like an 'easyferry' because all you really get for your money is transport between close together ports. This is especially so for the French Riviera. In fact 'easy-floating-hotel' is probably an even more accurate description, as the ship is really sold as a budget accommodation. However, in the playground for the rich and famous, where there is a shortage of cheap accommodation, this is very welcome.

Many of us though that this product would mainly appeal to back-packing students, but in reality it probably attracts more budget conscious thirty and forty-something's. Although I admire Stelios for finding a new niche is an existing market, he's hardly posing a big challenge to Carnival or Royal Caribbean, as yet. Stelios is great at generating publicity, but with just two ships in the current fleet, 'easyCruise' is still a VERY small operation. He can carry a total of 270 passengers (both ships), which is less that two lifeboats full onboard the new mega-ship 'Freedom of the Seas'. It hard to imagine that he's generating big profits from this venture. However from tiny acorns, mighty oaks can grow.

Stelious has just announced the signing of a letter of intent for the construction of two 500-passenger cruise ships, plus two options. The building of these ships will allow the brand to expand its cruise operations into the Greek islands as well as other parts of Mediterranean, Caribbean, Florida and the Bahamas and Dubai. Now when was the last time that two small ships cruise ships were constructed?

Personally, I do not think the terms 'no frills' and 'cruise' are entirety compatible, just as the words 'beer' and 'non-alcoholic' aren't either. Unlike flying, all cruising is associated in the publics mind as offering comfort, luxury and pampering. Even today's ferries offer a pretty up-scale, often near cruise ship standard of décor, food and service. I think Stelios is coming to realize this and the changes to his easyCruise product represent quite a U-turn. EasyCruise passengers are clearly demanding more extensive onboard dining, but Stelios is happy to oblige as it represents more onboard income. Food and drink will of course need to be purchased and will not be included in the fare. People (even younger ones) clearly could not tolerate orange cabins onboard an orange ship. They have also demanded more window cabins (Stelios originally sealed many up). Maybe the big lines had it right all along?

As for easyCruise two, a riverboat, once again I find myself a little skeptical. The likes of RCI, Carnival, Ocean Village and Island Escape have spent a lot of money telling the world that cruising can be fun and exciting. However, no one has spent a penny telling us that river cruising can be fun. I find it even harder to imagine younger people taking a river cruise than I do an Ocean cruise. It just sounds too sedate. However, Stelios does have an annoying habit of proving us all wrong and is not scared of modifying his products as it matures.

Check out these great deals from CruisePage.com

Royal Caribbean - Bahamas Getaway from $129 per person
Description: Experience the beautiful ports of Nassau and Royal Caribbean's private island - CocoCay on a 3-night Weekend Getaway to the Bahamas. Absorb everything island life has to offer as you snorkel with the stingrays, parasail above the serene blue waters and walk the endless white sand beaches. From Miami.
Carnival - 4-Day Bahamas  from $229 per person
Description: Enjoy a wonderful 3 Day cruise to the fun-loving playground of Nassau, Bahamas. Discover Nassau, the capital city as well as the cultural, commercial and financial heart of the Bahamas. Meet the Atlantic Southern Stingrays, the guardians of Blackbeard's treasure.
NCL - Bermuda - 7 Day from $499 per person
Description: What a charming little chain of islands. Walk on pink sand beaches. Swim and snorkel in turquoise seas. Take in the historical sights. They're stoically British and very quaint. Or explore the coral reefs. You can get to them by boat or propelled by fins. You pick. Freestyle Cruising doesn't tell you where to go or what to do. Sure, you can plan ahead, or decide once onboard. After all, it's your vacation. There are no deadlines or must do's.
Holland America - Eastern Caribbean from From $599 per person
Description: White sand, black sand, talcum soft or shell strewn, the beaches of the Eastern Caribbean invite you to swim, snorkel or simply relax. For shoppers, there's duty-free St. Thomas, the Straw Market in Nassau, French perfume and Dutch chocolates on St. Maarten. For history buffs, the fascinating fusion of Caribbean, Latin and European cultures. For everyone, a day spent on HAL's award winning private island Half Moon Cay.
Celebrity - 7-Night Western Mediterranean  from $549 per person
Description: For centuries people have traveled to Europe to see magnificent ruins, art treasures and natural wonders. And the best way to do so is by cruise ship. Think of it - you pack and unpack only once. No wasted time searching for hotels and negotiating train stations. Instead, you arrive at romantic ports of call relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Holland America - Alaska from From $499 per person
Description: Sail between Vancouver and Seward, departing Sundays on the ms Statendam or ms Volendam and enjoy towering mountains, actively calving glaciers and pristine wildlife habitat. Glacier Bay and College Fjord offer two completely different glacier-viewing experiences.
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