cruise shipping

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Cruise Shipping: Up, up and away


The cruise industry is seeing an increase in newbuild activity thanks to heightened demand from the Chinese market, and entrance into the ocean cruise market from a number of new enterprises. Beyond announcing its new social impact cruising brand, Fathom, Carnival Corporation & plc is increasing its stake in the Asian market announcing that four of its brands will operate out of the region.

Carnival sees China developing into “the world’s largest cruise market based on surging demand for cruise vacations,” according to Carnival. Under its current plan Carnival Corp. will serve the Chinese market with Carnival Cruise Line, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises (Costa Asia) and Princess Cruises.

The cruise giant ended 2015 by signing an agreement with Fincantieri S.p.A. to build four new ships, including two for Costa Asia for deployment in China. In total, Carnival Corporation has a total of 17 new ships on order and scheduled for delivery between 2016 and 2020.

Carnival Corp. isn’t alone in its Chinese ventures. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has also announced its entry into the China cruise market—with its first purpose-built customized cruise ship for its Norwegian Cruise Line brand. The ship is slated for entrance into the region in 2017.

The Breakaway Plus-class vessel will have capacity for 4,200 guests and will be “designed specifically for the China market with accommodations, cuisine and onboard experiences that cater to the unique vacation preferences of Chinese guests,” according to NCLH. Furthering its support of the company’s expansion efforts in China, NCLH opened a number of offices in the country in order to support all three of its brands growth in the region—Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruise and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Newcomers enter the market
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is no stranger to new ventures. The billionaire businessman has had his hands in everything from the record industry to telecommunications to airlines.

Extending his reach further into the transportation sector—the Virgin Group operates an international airline as well as trains in the UK—Branson and his group are now entering the oceangoing cruise market with the launch of Virgin Cruises—a joint venture with Bain Capital. The goal for Virgin Cruises is to “shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love,” said Branson after the announcement of Virgin Cruises was made.

Leading Virgin Cruises is CEO Tom McAlpin who is no stranger to the cruise market having previously served as President of Disney Cruise Line.

Since its launch, Virgin Cruises has announced that it has signed an agreement with Fincantieri to build three mid-size 110,000- gross ton cruise ships, with delivery set for 2020 through 2022. The ships will each feature accommodations for 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew.

Virgin Cruises also announced that it has partnered with PortMiami, where the ships will homeport and depart from for seven-day itineraries to the Caribbean.

With the tag line of “Let’s Make Waves,” Virgin Cruises is offering its customers the unique opportunity to have a say in shaping the new cruise line. “Virgin is a customer-built brand that listens carefully to what customers want and then works hard to deliver for them,” said McAlpin. “We are committed to making waves in the cruise industry, and partnering with Fincantieri and PortMiami sets Virgin Cruises up to do just that.”

Meanwhile, a fairly recent newcomer to the ocean going cruise market, Viking Ocean Cruises, a spin off of the Viking River Cruises brand, took delivery of the Viking Star last year—the ship is the first in a series of three being built by Fincantieri for the brand. The two remaining ships, the Viking Sea and Viking Sky are scheduled for delivery in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Lindblad orders two from Nichols Brothers
A merger deal completed last year between Lindblad Expeditions and Capitol Acquisition Corp. III has breathed new life into the Lindblad fleet. Linblad Expeditions, a long-time expedition partner of National Geographic, recently signed a deal with Nichols Brothers Boat Builders for the construction of two U.S.-flagged coastal vessels.

The vessels are to be built at a purchase price of $48 million and $46.8 million, respectively, and will be designed by Seattle-based Jensen Maritime, Crowley Maritime’s naval architecture and marine engineering arm.

“These new ships mark an exciting step in the long-term growth of the company and enable us to capitalize on the substantial demand for our expeditions,” said Sven Lindblad, President and CEO of Lindblad. The new ships also help mark an important milestone for Lindbland as it is “the 50th anniversary of the birth of expedition travel begun by my father, Lars-Eric Lindblad,” added Lindblad.

One of Lars-Eric’s ultimate goals was to create an experience for passengers that would take them to places no tourists had gone before—and with that trip produce experiences that would help establish an understanding and appreciation for those remote places.

These new ships, in particular, will conduct tours between Baja, Costa Rica and Panama during the winter months and southeast Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Canada during the summer months.

GavinHIgginsShipbuilder Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is no stranger to working with the Lindblad brand. The shipyard built the operators current U.S.-flagged ships, the National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird, back in 1982.

The new 238 ft vessels, will be built with the same explorer spirit in mind, but will be “larger, more comfortable accommodations for 100 passengers,” says Gavin Higgins, Chief Executive Officer, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (pictured).

The twin-screw diesel ships will include 50 cabins, an outdoor walkway around the entire sun deck, a fully equipped fitness room and Wellness spa; and a number of dining and entertainment facilities. Additionally, the ships public spaces will be designed to provide maximum viewing of the vessel’s surroundings.

The shipyard is hiring 40 additional workers to help work on the vessel, and making additional modifications to its launch system to accommodate the vessels’ length and capacity, says Higgins.

The new expedition cruise vessels will feature state-of-the-art expedition technology, including a remotely operated vehicle, video microscope, and a hydrophone and bow-cam designed for immediate bow deployment to hear and film marine life, such as whales and dolphins.

The ships will also be equipped with a state-of-the-art A/V system for high quality presentations, including National Geographic instruction.

Before the new ships are built, however, Jensen will provide a 3D model detailing all of the structural, electrical, mechanical and HVAC systems of vessels. The full-size 3D computer model will enable Lindblad to assess and confirm the vessels layout and will also help ensure the vessels’ safety, maintainability and constructability.

The first new ship is scheduled for delivery second quarter of 2017, followed by the second vessel in 2018.

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Cruise Shipping: Travel with a purpose

Visionary, consistent, and determined—these adjectives are just some of the many that can be used to describe Tara Russell, Founder and President of Fathom, a new cruise brand launched under the Carnival Corporation & plc umbrella. What makes Fathom unique is its mission of providing a new kind of cruising experience to those on board—what it calls “social impact travel.”

From its logo to its leader, Fathom is a brand with its heart set on cruising with a well-intended purpose: Making the world a better place.  Russell, for her part, has years of practice in leading the way for social change. Throughout her 20 years of working in both the global and private sector—she’s worked for Nike, Intel and General Motors—Russell has founded (or co-founded) a number of organizations meant to make the world (and its people) better.

Before joining Carnival Corporation, she founded and served as CEO of Create Common Good, a non-profit that puts “love in action,” by providing foodservice job training and job placement assistance to those with difficulties in finding employment—this enables the individual to become self-sufficient and financially independent.

Prior to that, she co-founded Jitasa, a global social venture that provides financial services, predominately accounting and bookkeeping services, to the non-profit industry.

She also worked in Thailand for four years offering pro bono small business development training to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). During her stay in the country, she co-founded NightLight, an international organization that addresses the complex issues surrounding human trafficking and prostitution—this included helping women seek freedom from sexual exploitation in Thailand where a large number of the world’s sex trade takes place.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, there are “an estimated three to four million migrant workers in Thailand, most from Thailand’s neighboring countries.” Meanwhile, “Sex trafficking remains a significant problem in Thailand’s extensive sex trade—often in business establishments that cater to demand for commercial sex.” NightLight offers an outreach program of sorts, where it helps build support networks, provides intervention and assistance to those in need; and offers alternative job opportunities, training, and physical, spiritual and emotional development.

As for her approach and transition to Fathom, Russell explains, “Having worked in both the private sector at Fortune 50 companies and in the non-profit social impact space, I saw a real opportunity to bring the two together to create [an] authentic and enduring social impact.”

She adds, “The business leaders at Carnival Corporation shared my vision. So we worked together to find ways to harness the resources of the world’s largest cruise line and combine [it] with the talents and hearts of those working with social entities.”

The wheels started turning for Fathom during the summer of 2013 when CEO of Carnival Corporation Arnold Donald and Russell met. “The executive leadership of Carnival Corporation had been eager to find ways (where possible) to harness the scope and scale of the company’s global resources for social impact,” explains Russell. “As such, Carnival Corporation had been exploring unique opportunities—both tailored to individual brands and beyond—to integrate social impact into its operations.”

After their meeting in 2013, Russell and Donald spent the better part of 2014 “building the vision, designing the product, developing the impact travel concept, and testing and sizing the market.”

“Fathom’s vision,” explains Russell, is to “harness and leverage Carnival Corporation’s assets for the greatest possible transformative impact, globally. We will send 704 travelers on every trip—thousands of travelers a year—to communities in need, providing tremendous scale that will sustain several ongoing programs.

“This continuity of support—different travelers going to the same community on a regular basis—is what will make a major difference in the lives of people and communities,” adds Russell.

Going in deep
When Fathom was launched in June 2015, Carnival specifically chose the United Palace Theater in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan, NY, to announce the new brand to the world.

The setting for the launch was apropos as it was announced then that the Dominican Republic would be the first destination for Fathom’s impact travel. Washington Heights is a predominately Dominican neighborhood, with most of its residents moving to the area directly from the Dominican Republic.

AdoniaThe brand’s ship, the 704-passenger Adonia, will make its first trip to the Dominican Republic this coming April. Prior to joining Fathom, the 592 ft Adonia was the smallest ship in the P&O fleet. P&O is also a part of the Carnival Corporation brand.

Why the Dominican Republic? Fathom says that while the country is stunningly beautiful, it’s also a country very much in need. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) “The World Factbook,” 41.1% of the population in the Dominican Republic is living under the poverty line.

Fathom notes that the average household income is approximately $6,000 a year, more than three million Dominicans have no access to piped water, and education is incredibly underfunded—thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty with each new generation.

To see how Fathom could help, Russell explains that she and Donald met with “key Dominican Republic community leaders to understand the need and how best to leverage the existing infrastructure of local organizations to become involved in creating enduring impact in our first destination market.”

Among these key community leaders are Fathom’s “lead impact partners,” Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc. (IDDI). Entrena and IDDI helped Fathom “understand the specific needs in the northern region of the country and identified the areas of most need where Fathom travelers could provide meaningful, long-term and sustainable impact,” says Russell.

“We then collaborated with them to develop detailed projections regarding the scale of impact we intend to create together with our partners, our travelers and our communities.”

Entrena and IDDI are both already established organizations in the Dominican Republic. Entrena specializes in training, education and social entrepreneurship. Meanwhile IDDI’s primary objective is to contribute to the transformation of the human being, families and communities, so that they can live a productive and healthy life.

By partnering with entities such as these—that already have a system and structure in place—Fathom ensures that its travelers (the term it uses for its passengers) will be working within programs that are already making a difference in the region—and that the work will be continuous throughout the year—even as the travelers are different every week.

fathom chocalchocolatefactory hiresFathom’s impact travel to the Dominican Republic is a seven-day experience, with three days working on the island.

Upon reaching the Dominican Republic, Fathom travelers will be immersed in a variety of projects—operated by Fathom’s local impact partners—focused on economic development, education and the environment.

Travelers will participate in activities such as supporting the reforestation efforts in the region, cultivating cacao plants, supporting local youths learn/practice English, and assisting local women’s cooperative in producing artisan chocolates—just to name a few.

Fathom projects that its impact travel work with its partners, travelers and communities could lead to higher English proficiency through Student English Learning—this will help with employment opportunities; greater access to high-quality recreational enrichment activities for students during the school day; an increase in local entrepreneurship; the planting of 20,000+ trees which will lead to more nutrient rich soil and higher agricultural yields; and access to cleaner water, with the production of ceramic water filters—5,000+ filters are expected to be generated each year.

The route to Cuba
Shortly after Fathom’s launch, it was announced that the brand named its second destination: Cuba.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury granted approval to Carnival Corporation back in July. Since then, Carnival has been in active discussions with the Cuban government, according to Russell.

Cuba has been closed off to U.S. travelers by sea for more than half a century. And while a number of operators are jumping on the Cuba (mostly ferry) bandwagon—Fathom promises an entirely soul-enriching experience for both its travelers and the Cuban people.

“The overarching objective of our visiting Cuba will be to connect to the heritage of that country through an immersive program that encourages cultural, artistic, and faith-based exchanges between American and Cuban citizens,” says Russell.

“In Cuba, the focus of our travel is defined by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and authorized American travelers must engage in Cultural, artistic, religious and humanitarian exchanges with the Cuban people. There, we will collaborate with approved licensees or General licensees on initial itinerary development to ensure proper compliance is programmed and maintained throughout each voyage,” explains Russell.

According to Fathom, the itinerary in Cuba will include “diverse on-the-ground immersion experiences,” with activities including “engaging artists, experiencing the local food and music culture, meeting local Cuban business professionals, understanding micro-enterprise and the agricultural sector, connecting to the education system and youth.”

Pending approval from the Cuban government, Fathom could set out to Cuba as early as this May.

What comes next?
When asked what countries Fathom has next on its agenda, Russell says the goal for now is to focus on its work in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, ensure success in the regions, and establish long-term partners in each country.

Wherever Fathom goes, however, the goal will be the same: to leave that place and its people, better off.

Fathomlogo“Ten years from now,” says Russell, “I’d love to believe that we have helped eradicate unemployment in the Dominican Republic and in many of the places that we visit. I want to believe we have helped to give children and youth the tools to fall in love with education, have helped to improve the environment and health outcomes that have been a part of making people generally healthier. My hope and intent is that the locations we [Fathom] travel to, flourish.”

Fathom is a cruise line intent on changing the world—its led by a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, and is supported by a parent company that wants to have a positive impact on the global community. Fathom proves its purpose through its promises, through its partnerships and its actions. Even its logo is a reminder of its intention, take a glance at it and you’ll see what Fathom is all about—it “signifies open arms that embrace the world and serves as a reminder that the Fathom brand stands for love in action and transformative travel,” asserts Russell.

To join the movement and help create positive impact, visit