Majesty Cruise Line's Royal Majesty will be the first cruise line to enter the Boston to Bermuda seven-day cruise market this summer, beginning on May 28. But getting there has not been easy, as the cruise line has struggled with several challenges along the way.
For one thing, Majesty's plans to acquire Silja Line's Sally Albatross fell through. "We thought we would have the Albatross stretched at the Masa Yards in Finland and put her into the Bermuda market," said Ed Mass, Senior Vice President of Sales.
But the structural changes needed for the 1,452-passenger ferry to be seaworthy of a seven-day cruise proved extensive.
"The changes involved practically cutting the vessel in half to put in a section in the middle of it for about 100 additional cabins, adding on fuel and water capacities that she would need to make a seven-day voyage, and increase the size of the pools."
In the end, after evaluating the costs of stretching the vessel, Majesty officials decided it was not financially feasible, and decided the Royal Majesty would enter service there, according to Mass.
Letter of Credit
Dispute Another challenge, which is still apparently in the throes of negotiation, is a dispute between Majesty and Boston Bermuda Cruising.
Last November, a contract was signed between the two companies and the Bermuda government that would make the Boston company financially responsible for the operation of the summer sailings.
But according to Mass, Boston Bermuda did not live up to that agreement. "The arrangement was for them to provide us with X number of dollars, whether the ship was full or there was one passenger on it," he said. "But we want the industry to forget that ever happened. This is a Majesty Cruise Line product."
However, Stanley Buchin, president of Boston Bermuda Cruising, still has hopes that everything will go as planned on the contract that he said he signed for 10 years. Boston Bermuda, which is wholly owned by the General Ship Corporation, was formed to help Boston establish itself "as more of a cruise port," Buchin said.
"There is a dispute between us and Majesty over the technical details of a letter of credit," Buchin said. However, he also said that he is "optimistic and committed as Majesty is" that the Royal Majesty begin sailing on May 28.
ln addition, receiving approval from the Bermuda government to sail into Bermuda was another challenge, Mass said.
Attaining those rights was important to Majesty, Mass said, "because we view Bermuda as an upmarket destination, and we have an upmarket product." The cruise concept was tested in 1992, when the Royal Majesty made two six-night cruises into Bermuda from Boston and New York. ''We noted a very successful response from Boston," he said.
Despite the hurdles, Mass said the Royal Majesty will set sail on May 28. "We got a late start, but have achieved an upward tick since Easter," he said. The cruise line hopes to attract travelers from the northeast and the midwest who want to see Boston as a destination, either pre- or post-cruise, Mass said. "We are working with many travel agents now, and would welcome more." he said. "And we can give travel agents about $4.5 million in commissions for the summer season." Mass said.
For his part, Buchin said be is continuing to market the sailings. He said that Thomas Cook was interested in becoming a partner in the ownership deal, but, because the cruise product will depend on so many travel agencies for sales, "it would be better if Thomas Cook was a preferred marketing partner, and not a financial one."