Genting, owner of Star Cruises unarguably the fastest growing cruise line in Asia - will launch a U.S. operation next spring when the 1,000-passenger SuperStar Capricorn (ex-Golden Princess, ex Royal Viking Sky) repositions to the New York Passenger Ship Terminal.
The SuperStar Capricorn is scheduled to conduct 12- and 19-hour gaming cruises under a new joint venture, Manhattan Cruises. Manhattan Cruises is a partnership created between two Genting executives - K.T. Lim and Colin Au - and G. Michael Brown, former chief executive of the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Lim and Au are chairman and managing director, respectively, of Star Cruises.
This is the second collaboration for the trio Brown started the Foxwoods resort, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians, in the early 1990s with $60 million provided by Genting. Today, Foxwoods is considered one of the most profitable casino operations in the U.S.
In an interview with Cruise Industry News, Brown said that Manhattan Cruises hopes to initiate service by year's end using an alternate ship until the SuperStar Capricorn arrives in New York in mid-March. Before her debut in New York, the SuperStar Capricorn is set for a regularly scheduled drydocking in January at which time all necessary work will be done to ready her for North American service.
New York port officials, however, have the ship slated to start service on May 1. While declining to name the other vessel, Brown said he expects to announce a deal for the temporary ship - which is believed to the Edinburgh Castle (ex Eugenio Costa) from Lowline.
To begin service, however, Manhattan Cruises will have to undergo approval of a formal application and thorough background checks - both processes are mounted by a five-member city commission which was formed to oversee new gaming ventures.
Plans call for the SuperStar Capricorn - which is being chartered by Manhattan Cruises for an unspecified period to operate 12-hour sailings on weekdays which are priced from $99 per person. On weekends the ship will stay out seven hours longer with rates beginning at $199 per person.
The gaming cruises are designed to appeal to an older business crowd during the week, and to younger clientele on the weekend, according to Brown. "There exists 12 million people who are within a half-hour of the city," he explained, "and who are looking for reasonably priced entertainment options."
Rates are inclusive of accommodations, entertainment and three meals, including a sit-down dinner, midnight buffet and continental breakfast service, noted Brown.
And, while entertainment on week-night sailings will be lounge-style bands, Brown intends to headline nightclub acts of Las Vegas or Atlantic City quality on the ship during her weekend cruises.
In looking to the future, Brown noted that during summer months, the ship would likely conduct multi day cruises from New York to Bermuda and to Nova Scotia, although no details have been finalized.
When asked if Manhattan Cruises is the precursor to a full-fledged cruise line, Brown said, "This is a single overnight cruise ship and that's as far as we've gone." However, he did allude to Star Cruises' fast evolution from gaming operator to a leading, full fledged cruise line in the past three years.
Currently, Brown is implementing operations with a skeleton staff of about a dozen management and support people, none of which have been transferred from Star Cruises. He noted that Manhattan Cruises may tap into the talent pool of 200 or so former Cunard staffers who are not relocating to Cunard's new Miami headquarters.
The SuperStar Capricorn - which Star Cruises purchased from Birka Line for $50 million in 1996 - may emerge as Star Cruises' test ship for new markets. Earlier this year the SuperStar Capricorn launched the line's North Asia programs between Taiwan and Japan. Presently, the ship is conducting three-day cruises from Hong Kong to China until Jan. 18, 1998.