Norwegian Cruise Line announced on July 16 that it will be building two more of the Breakaway Class ships -- for the time being dubbed Breakaway Plus. The announcement is fuelling discussion about the new emission controls that will go into effect in 2015 under the North American Emission Control Area standard.
Embedded in Norwegian's announcement was the fact that the two newest ships, scheduled to arrive in 2015 and 2017, will have the latest innovations in scrubber technology. In case you're not familiar with scrubbers, they are pollution control devices.
Without going into a lot of the technological detail, starting Jan. 1, 2015, all ships -- including cruises ships sailing within a 320-kilometre limit of Canada and the United States -- must be compliant with 0.1-per-cent sulphur content in fuel when in North American waters.
The 320-kilometre limit starts at the tip of Labrador, extends all the way around North America up to Alaska and narrows in Florida, with some of the Caribbean and Mexico within the 320-kilometre limit. It also includes Hawaii.
Some older ships are testing various makes of scrubbers, which are less expensive alternatives to low-sulphur fuel. However, with just a year and half to go until the new rules are activated, will the testing be done and the limits be met?
Deadlines can be pushed, as we have seen with car emissions, and cruise lines will be asking for exemptions during the testing stage.
What if exemptions are not allowed? Then you would expect significantly higher prices for Alaska and for New England-Canada cruises; in both cases, they are within the limit (for most of the cruise) and would be burning higher-priced fuel.
I doubt that's going to happen.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that it will provide exemptions if the cruise lines are aggressive in developing new technologies to meet the standards.
However, Carnival has already pushed the "we're changing" button.
Carnival Pride is moving from Baltimore to Tampa at the end of 2014, and Carnival Glory is moving out of Boston and Norfolk in November this year. The line has also said it will "dramatically reduce" the number of Atlantic Canada cruises next year, all so the ships can spend less time inside the 320-kilometre limit.
So far, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have not announced any major changes to their 2014 schedules.
I assume the lobbyists are all over Washington on this one.
Port Canaveral plans expansion
Port Canaveral in Orlando has seen more and larger ships home-porting there, and more cruise lines with one-day port calls. Fort Lauderdale and Miami are the biggies as home ports, but Orlando offers something they don't have: Walt Disney World.
With increased popularity and nine ships that will call Port Canaveral home next year comes a proposal for a new and bigger terminal. It would accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world, such as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas -- both at 6,000 passengers each.
The cost is $75 million, and if the approvals arrive soon, the port says the new terminal will open next year.
With all the family attractions around Orlando, look for cruise ships that cater to that demographic.
Phil's Pick of the Week
They just lowered the price on this Princess Amazon River cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Manaus, Brazil. It's a 14-day cruise on the Pacific Princess, and I like that there are two overnights. It leaves Fort Lauderdale two days before Christmas.
After leaving Florida, you stop in the Caribbean at St. Maarten, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago before arriving at Devil's Island in French Guiana. Then it's on to Santar}m and Boca da Valeria on the Amazon, finishing with overnights in Parintins and Manaus.
Starting price: $2,899 (at time of writing). See Princess.com or a travel agent who specializes in cruises.
-- Postmedia News
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