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It’s more like a movement than a full-fledged trend perhaps best
described as a rising tide. We’re talking about the cruise
industry’s increasing interest in far Pacific waters, from northern
Asia to Australia. Indeed, for the first time since being derailed
by the one-two punch of the SARS epidemic and the invasion of Iraq,
cruise lines big and small are angling for Asia. Among the brands
planning to add or expand tonnage in the region for 2005-2006 are
Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Cruise
Holland America will span the Pacific Rim with cruises and
crossings from Alaska to Australia. The 1,258-passenger Statendam
will call in such far-flung places as Bora Bora, New Zealand,
Japan, China, Korea and Russia. Though the line has dabbled with
Asia/Pacific cruises in the past, mostly on World Cruises and Grand
Pacific Voyages, this will be its most extensive Asia/Pacific
deployment to date. Itineraries on the Statendam range from two
weeks to 35 days, including two epic trans-Pacific crossings.
Even more impressive is a scheduled 62-day Pacific
circumnavigation from Seattle to San Diego aboard the
1,380-passenger Amsterdam. The cruise departs Oct. 6, and makes 20
port calls en route, including three overnights in Yokohama,
Xingang and Hong Kong.
Oceania Cruises also plans to make a big splash in Asia later
this year. Beginning on Nov. 28, the 684-passenger Nautica makes
its debut in the Far East and China. Designed to be port intensive,
these 15- to 35-day cruises feature overnight stays in Beijing,
Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kyoto,
Bombay, Luxor and Dubai, providing two full days to explore each
city. The line also offers pre- and post-cruise packages in Angkor
Wat, Beijing and Xian.
“We see these as a big selling point. So far, the agent response
has been phenomenal,” said public relations and marketing manager
No one has bigger ships in Asia than Princess, which is planning
an encore performance of sorts, following the Sapphire Princess’
inaugural cruises Down Under. The upcoming deployment features a
longer, three-month Australia season aboard the 2,674-passenger
Diamond Princess, cruise-tour options in China and Australia, a new
port call at Petropavlovsk in far eastern Russia, plus a variety of
Asia or South Pacific sailings aboard the 670-passenger Pacific
Princess or Tahitian Princess.
Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises recently reversed course on
announced plans to send the 1,950-passenger Summit to Asia in
“The demand for Celebrity’s current itineraries is strong, and
we want to capitalize on that in 2006-07, before moving into new
markets such as Asia,” said Celebrity president Dan Hanrahan.
“This in no way eliminates Asia from Celebrity’s potential
deployment lineup in the future,” added Hanrahan.
On the smaller end of the scale, Cruise West will launch its
first season in Japan and the South Pacific in 2006.
As with the company’s Alaska cruises, the itineraries are
designed to avoid crowded areas frequented by big ships. Zodiac
landing craft will bring passengers ashore, avoiding long bus rides
from remote docks. Local guides will lead excursions, and regional
entertainers will perform onboard.
Cruise West’s voyages to Japan are scheduled for March to
coincide with Hanami, the season of the cherry blossoms. Autumn
cruises are scheduled in October, during Momiji, the time of the
falling maple leaves. The 13- or 16-night itineraries feature more
than a dozen ports of call between Kobe and Niigata, including
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A bullet-train ride between the ship and
Tokyo is included on all sailings.
Before reaching the Land of the Rising Sun, Cruise West’s
114-passenger Spirit of Oceanus will island-hop across the Pacific
on a westward journey that begins in Hawaii. Rounding out the
program is a recently added “Ring of Fire” cruise that follows a
northern Pacific route.
“We keep reinventing ourselves. We’re always striving to improve
and find new programs,” said Cruise West chairman and CEO Dick
Those new programs may include cruises to Vietnam for 2007 or
2008, he added.