by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing for cybercruises.com
Two weeks before Holland America Line’s 1,346-passenger Veendam departs New York on her final cruise to Hamilton, Bermuda, comes news that yet another cruise line is cutting back the number of its Bermuda calls, this time from fifty-five to forty-four, a further reduction of eleven cruises.
This weekend, Royal Caribbean announced that it was going to reduce the number of Baltimore to Bermuda sailings next year on its 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, which will replace the 2,252-berth Enchantment of the Seas.
Instead, the Grandeur will alternate between Bermuda and Bahamas next year, making only fifteen cruises to Bermuda’s Dockyard. Not only will there be ten fewer Bermuda cruises from Baltimore but the berth capacity of the Grandeur is 15% less, meaning an effective reduction of almost half in the number of Baltimore passengers able to cruise to Bermuda.
This comes as a result of Royal Caribbean wanting to give its Baltimore guests more choice in their destinations.
The 3,114-berth Explorer of the Seas, will undertake twenty-nine cruises from New York to Bermuda compared to thirty this year. The number of Baltimore to Bermuda cruises will fall from twenty-five this year to fifteen next. On top of the change in plan, it has also been reported that some of Royal Caribbean’s Bermuda cruises were not selling that well.
By the end of this month, three major cruise lines, all owned by Carnival Corp & plc, will have either eliminated or reduced their Bermuda cruises.
Carnival Cruise Lines visited Bermuda sixteen times in 2011, but just once this year. And Princess Cruises, which called in Bermuda ten times in 2011, has just two calls scheduled for 2012. On top of this, Holland America Line will drop its regular service later this month.
As no replacement has been found, regular cruise ship visits to Hamilton will become a thing of the past after Veendam leaves New York on her final voyage on August 26. Thereafter, she transfers to the Canada/New England trade.
Veendam, the only ship sailing regularly into Hamilton for the past three years, will have made nineteen trips this year, but will not return in 2013.
Joanne MacPhee, head of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, told the Bermuda Sun, “it is a significant blow that there will be no regular cruise ship next year in Hamilton. The Veendam has provided a major boost to retailers and restaurants in the city over the last three years. The ship’s passengers have a higher spending power than the ships that come into Dockyard.”
Meanwhile, the Bermuda Government is hoping to lure more small ships into Hamilton and St Georges to make up for the drop in numbers. Also, officials are said to be talking to Disney Cruise Line.
Small ship operators that have been identified include Azamara Club Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, who have each sent occasional callers. Azamara Journey did a full Bermuda season on 2007.
Other ships that have been identified include Princess Cruises’ 688-berth Pacific Princess and Holland America’s 837-berth Prinsendam, both of which make occasional Bermuda calls.
The only good news in Bermuda is that Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 4,000-berth Norwegian Breakaway will substantially increase its Bermuda capacity next year. But one also wonders whether Bermuda should not be going after more of the old formula of weekly cruises from New York that served both Bermuda and Nassau, or even Florida for that matter.
The only other thing going for Bermuda may be the new North American Emission Control Area that came into effect on August 1 and applies to a 200-mile limit from the US coast.
Ships sailing to Bermuda can still burn the cheaper heavy bunker fuel once outside the ECA, and Bermuda, unlike Alaska and Canada/New England, is 697 nautical miles from New York and 683 from Norfolk, well outside the ECA.