Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Cruises

IDEAS: Hurtigruten Norway Utilizes AI for Zero-Emission Cruise Ship

9 months ago

Hurtigruten Norway has unveiled the early concept designs for its first zero-emission ship, which is set to feature ‘numerous firsts and improved solutions that do not exist on cruise ships today.’

Credit: VARD Design

Initially announced by the Cruise Line in March 2022 as part of its ‘Sea Zero‘ project, the new designs showcase the vessels proposed retractable sails fitted with solar panels, which will be featured alongside an array of cutting-edge technologies, including contra-rotating propellers, multiple retractable thrusters, air lubrication systems, advanced hull coatings, and proactive hull cleaning.

Credit: VARD Design

Hurtigruten Norway predicts that advanced AI maneuvering capabilities will significantly reduce the size of the ship’s bridge and mimic that of an aircraft cockpit, with further AI technologies set to optimize docking operations by gathering real-time data for continuous operational improvement.

Credit: VARD Design

Guests are also set to play a key role in ensuring the green credentials of the vessel thanks to an on-board interactive app, where they will be able to monitor their water and energy consumption.

“When we initially announced the ‘Sea Zero’ project over a year ago, we were faced with the challenge of not knowing which technologies would be available to us in 2030. Our task was to pave the way for new innovations and enhance existing ones to align with our sustainability objectives. While some of these technologies have reached a relatively advanced stage, they still necessitate dedicated research and development to ensure successful implementation within the maritime context,” said Hedda Felin, CEO of Hurtigruten Norway.

“On the other hand, certain technologies are still in early development and require fundamental research and thorough testing. Following a rigorous feasibility study, we have pinpointed the most promising technologies for our groundbreaking future cruise ships. We are committed to delivering a ship that surpasses all others in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability within just a few years.”

The concept has now embarked on a two-year testing phase, where the proposed technologies will undergo further trials and development.


At the Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking for the organizations elevating the travel industry’s role as a force for good by affecting meaningful change, including the sustainability projects that are creating a positive impact for the planet.

If you have an exciting project to share, head to the Skift IDEA Awards today and start your submission. The final deadline for entries is June 20, 2023.

Hotels

Marriott CEO Frames Yacht-Like Cruises as a Bet on Luxury and Loyalty

1 year ago

Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano on Tuesday toured the Evirma, the first sailing vessel in The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Capuano said in an interview that yacht-style cruises on the 623-foot Evrima — which hosts fewer than 300 people at a time — represent an important pillar of growth for the world’s largest hotel operator by pulling the levers of loyalty and luxury.

More than 70 percent of the bookings since the first October sailing has come from members of Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program, and the company sees the yachts as a way to fill in the matrix of interest in its program members.

“Luxury is a big part of the appeal of the Bonvoy program and a big driver of engagement with Bonvoy,” Capuano said.

Fares on the Evrima start at a minimum of $5,000 per person for a week and can rise beyond $25,000 per person.

Drone shot of the Evrima, a custom-built ship from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Source: Marriott International.

About 70 percent of Evirma passengers have never been on the cruise before. So the offering is a way to leverage the Ritz Carlton brand name for additional spending from an existing customer base.

“It is core to our strategy to continue to look for ways to connect ourselves with our loyal customers throughout their travel journeys, whether you and I were talking about Marriott Homes and Villas or the launch of a mid-scale like City Express or the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection — they are all touchpoints that allow us to meet the needs of our consumers without ever looking outside the ecosystem,” Capuano said.

Yacht-style itineraries enable a more leisurely pace with more overnights in port than the typical large luxury cruise offers, plus the ability to access and explore smaller ports, such as Saint-Tropez, Ibiza, and St. Barts.

But playing in the luxury space has its perils. The more complex the product and the more high-touch the service, the more room there is for cost overruns. Spanish media have reported on financial filings from a shipyard claiming that the Evirma was budgeted at $300 million but cost twice as much.

Capuano said that the last few years brought a laundry list of “unusual challenges to owner economics,” with a mix of problems affecting supply chains. However, he said his company has long experience in executing luxury products well.

Marriott is the first of its hotel and resort peer companies to test the waters on yacht-style cruising, but three other companies in recent months — Four Seasons, Aman, and Orient Express — announced plans to offer luxurious yacht-style cruise lines.

A “grand suite” on the Evrima, a vessel that’s one of the custom-built yachts in The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Photo by Francisco Martinez. Source: Marriott International.

More broadly, luxury is a key segment in Capuano’s vision for company growth.

“I continue to drive focus within the organization on luxury,” Capuano said. “Luxury represents about 10 percent of our global room inventory but about 20 percent of revenues through related fees. So from a purely economic perspective, the luxury portfolio and footprint are critically important.”

Marriott runs nearly 500 luxury hotels and resorts, with plans to open about 35 more luxury hotels this year out of a pipeline of roughly 200 properties.

“You can continue to see us make investments movements of dedicated capital to ensure that we maintain our significant lead in the luxury tier,” Capuano said. “We have a singularly unique portfolio in that we have a really compelling blend of classic luxury brands like Ritz Carlton and Saint Regis and emerging lifestyle luxury brands like Edition and W Hotels.”

Cruises

Accor to Launch Yacht-Style Cruise Brand Orient Express Silenseas

1 year ago

One of the hottest areas for hotel companies is the open sea. Accor, the Paris-based hotel giant, hopes to launch a yacht-style cruise line Orient Express Silenseas by 2026, according to a report in Bloomberg News on Wednesday.

Adding to the multi-modal mindset, the 722-foot-long vessel will be branded after a famous railway brand, Orient Express.

Bloomberg reports that the ship will ply the waters of the Mediterranean and Caribbean and host about 120 passengers.

The move follows a multi-year effort by Ritz Carlton to create a yacht-like cruise line, as well as Virgin Voyages‘ semi-elite approach to cruising.

Bloomberg News

Cruises

A&K Travel Group Acquires Crystal Cruises Ships

2 years ago

The A&K Travel Group — the company owned by Geoffrey Kent, CEO of tour operator Abercrombie and Kent, and industrial holding corporation Heritagehas acquired cruise ships Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony in addition to the Crystal Cruises brand.

Both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony were acquired at an auction with the former ship going for $25 million while the latter was sold for $103 million. A&K said the two ships will resume service next year after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the Crystal Cruises brand. Crystal Cruises had ceased operations in January this year following the collapse of parent company Genting.

Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity ships were both seized in the Bahamas by U.S. marshals the following month after a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for Crystal Symphony. A lawsuit alleged Crystal Cruises had more than $4 million of unpaid fuel bills.

A Crystal Symphony ship (Wikimedia Commons)

Tour Operators

TUI Group’s $4 Billion Turnaround

2 years ago

Tour operator TUI has boosted its 2022 first-half revenue by $4 billion.

Posting its 2022 first-half results on Wednesday, which cover the period from Oct. 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the company said group revenue was $4.75 billion — an increase of $4 billion compared to the same six months in the previous year.

Its second-quarter revenue of $2.22 billion was also an “improvement” on the $0.2 billion revenue posted in the same quarter in 2021.

Tui said the turnaround reflected a “normalized pre-pandemic travel environment” with March achieving the highest monthly revenue within the quarter as operations ramped up after Omicron dented travel in January and February.

Its second quarter capacity also reached 71 percent of the same quarter in 2019. In March this year, operated capacity was at 75 percent. Some 1.9 million customers departed in the second quarter — an increase of 1.7 million customers versus the prior year.

However, its second quarter underlying EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) loss was $348.75, compared to $669.17 million in the 2021 second quarter.

Looking ahead, the UK market is its most advanced booked, with bookings up 11 percent versus Summer 2019.

And like NCL, its full fleet of cruise ships has returned, with the three brands are back in operation. However, compared to its other segments, sailings recovery is expected to be slower with short-term bookings continuing to represent a large share of overall bookings.

Its Musement division delivered 681,000 excursions, activities and tours in the second quarter, which TUI said reflected the more open travel environment and the successful integration of the company.