Cruise Europe takes on the Atlantic Alliance mantle
Cruise Europe (CE) and the Atlantic Alliance (AA) made a joint announcement during Seatrade Europe in Hamburg in September, following a decision that the member ports will be better served under one umbrella.
Atlantic Europe is the new name being given to the Cruise Europe region which encompasses 30 ports, including the 14 from AA, which extends from Lisbon to Hamburg along the western coast of Europe.
Chairman of CE, Michael McCarthy comments: “As itinerary planning in Europe constantly moves between regions, it is vital that a consistency of message and product delivery is offered to the cruiselines. The Cruise Europe management team work in partnership with all the regions in delivering that clear message and we welcome the opportunity of working with all our members in the Atlantic Europe region to further strengthen such a vital area.”
Traditionally ports within this region have been included in repositioning voyages (and still are) but proactive marketing by the two associations, and the ports themselves, has led to cruiselines sailing itineraries within the region itself. Atlantic Europe has come of age.
AIDA Cruises’ AIDAprima has been a major bonus in terms of highlighting the region. Sailing year-round out of Hamburg following her christening in 2016, she calls Le Havre, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam (as well as Southampton). This year P&O Cruises is offering an itinerary out of Southampton to La Coruna, Bilbao, La Rochelle and Cherbourg.
However it was Costa Cruises which began the trend back in 2011 when it began partial turnarounds in Le Havre on its ‘seven capitals’ itineraries. Whilst the ports included extended beyond Atlantic Europe, it was a sea-change in thinking and the start of a different way of seeing the region. In addition ‘interporting’ became a familiar word in the cruise dictionary.
The following year the Italian brand offered a similar itinerary for three months beginning in May. At this point Princess Cruises with Caribbean Princess and Royal Caribbean International with Brilliance of the Seas followed suit, each sailing a few itineraries. In 2013 MSC Opera sailed itineraries from Le Havre which included Lisbon, Vigo, Bilbao, and Ijmuiden while Princess offered voyages on Caribbean Princess. In 2014, MSC Opera and MSC Magnifica sailed the region as did Ruby Princess.
Fast forward to 2018 and we find MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises offering round-trip itineraries from Le Havre: MSC Magnifica on roughly 18 to include ports such as Lisbon, Bilbao, Zeebrugge, Amsterdam and Hamburg. Meanwhile Costa Cruises is due to sail a trio which includes Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Zeebrugge and Amsterdam.
The southern part of AE has also benefited although itineraries from here tend to extend beyond the AE borders. In 2009 Vigo joined the interporting/baseport circuit. The first was a one-off from MSC Cruises as MSC Splendida emerged from construction at STX France and sailed to Barcelona for the official launch, picking up passengers in Vigo.
A year later Iberocruceros sailed a number of itineraries on Grand Voyager out of the Spanish port, one of which encompassed AE in terms of a roundtrip to La Rochelle. In 2011 Iberocruceros sailed a couple of AE voyages out of Vigo which included calls at Zeebrugge, Amsterdam and Le Havre. In 2012, Grand Mistral replaced Voyager, sailing a southbound route which included Lisbon and MSC returned with MSC Opera sailing northbound to Bilbao, Zeebrugge and beyond. The latter then sailed for two years on an itinerary which included Lisbon, Vigo, Bilbao, Le Havre and Ijmuiden. Pullmantur joined the scene in 2016 with just one cruise a year sailing north in the AE and beyond. Next year the Zenith itinerary includes Lisbon, Cherbourg and Ijmuiden.
Atlantic Europe is a region encompassing Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. It includes ports of varying sizes which means that there is something for every cruiseline and every type of ship whether small, luxury, large or premium.
From a destination point of view the diversity in culture, art, history, geography, flora and fauna and culinary offering is immense. In terms of activities, there is a wide array to choose from whether it be golf or wine-tasting or anywhere in between.