Games with Olympic Charters
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(24-11-2008)

Games with Olympic Charters

Static uses for cruise ships do come up from time to time but the most popular, and the one that attracts the most famous or interesting ships, is usually the Olympics. Barcelona and Athens in recent years have attracted their share of instant television crew and celebrity hotels, but the Vancouver Winter Olympics are hiring ships to use as hotels for their security forces.
The last big charter of two Royal Caribbean ships has just failed, however, and one is left to wonder why.


Barcelona 1992

Fifteen cruise ships were chartered for use during the Barcelona Olympics. While the most luxurious was the Crystal Harmony, chartered by Coca-Cola, Mars and Visa, others included the Club Med 1, used by the International Olympic Committee, the Crown Jewel by Budweiser, Seagram's and Evian, the Star Clipper by Heineken, Phillips and Audi, the Vistafjord by Sports Illustrated and Time magazine, and the Berlin by Xerox, to name just a few. These 15 ships could accommodate 11,000 guests, but as they were used for a few nights at a time by a rotating guest list, they in fact hosted up to 44,000.


Sydney 2000

Cruise ships were also used to house athletes at the Sydney Olympics. Among those present were the Fair Princess, Seabourn Sun, Clipper Odyssey, Norwegian Star, Seven Seas Navigator, Crystal Harmony, Deutschland and Nieuw Amsterdam, while the Capt Cook Explorer represented Australian interests.
Some of these ships had been at Barcelona, some had changed names and others were new, but it is interesting when looking at these lists now to see how the industry changes over the years.


Athens 2004

The most famous attendee at the Athens Olympics had to be Cunard's brand-new Queen Mary 2, chartered by the Athens Olympic Committee to house heads of state and government. In fact eleven cruise ships were able to host about 13,000 guests at one time at those games, some for broadcasting companies, others for Olympic or hospitality reasons. Others included AidaAura, Rotterdam, Westerdam, Four Greek-owned ships, the then Olympia Voyager, Olympia Explorer, Olympia Countess and World Renaissance represented the host country. The most luxurious attendees were the Silver Whisper and Silver Wind.


Vancouver 2010

Just last week, we mentioned that Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas had been chartered for two months' use between January and March of 2010 for the next Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The intention was to house about 5,000 members of the games security staff so that hotels could still be available for the public.

Three days later, however, came news that the deal had collapsed. Journalists were then unable to determine the reason for the collapse.


The Announcement

To go back to the beginning, on June 4, CTV, with files from Canadian Press, reported as follows:

The RCMP has secured a contract to house its security personnel in two cruise ships during the 2010 Olympic Games at a cost of more than $37 million. Service on the two ships will include 24-hour meal service and provide the same type of accommodation as an average hotel, the RCMP says. The ships will be docked in Vancouver, and rooms usually used for entertainment will be used for meetings.

Victoria-based Cruise Connections Charter Management won the contract after the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit put out a call for bids without specifying a cost.

Earlier this month the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit said it had also secured the downtown Blue Horizon Hotel for its security personnel during the games.

Although Cruise Connections Charter Management was said to be based in Victoria, BC, it is in fact headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where Mike Sloane is the contact, and has management in Madison, Georgia (Phillip Sloane), Seattle (Tracey Kelly) and Vancouver (Sue Edwards). But it names no one in Victoria. It says it offers "full ship charter management services for major events, including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada."

So, for six months the public knew a deal was in place that would see two Royal Caribbean ships coming to Vancouver. Speculation at one point even had the Mariner of the Seas coming to Vancouver instead of the Jewel. As the Mariner is too tall to fit under the Lion's Gate Bridge at the entrance to Vancouver's cruise port, it was even suggested that she would berth at Squamish, a pulp and paper port north of Vancouver but located on the highway to the ski hills at Whistler.


A Related Court Filing?

Two days after the original announcement, however, a $75 million lawsuit appears to have been launched in North Carolina Middle District Court, Office of Fraud or Truth in Lending. The plaintiffs are named as "Michael T Sloane, Cruise Connections Inc, Tracey Kelly, Susan Edwards and Cruise Connections Charter Management 1, LP" and the defendant is as Dennis Laliberte and Newwest Travel & Cruises Limited of Edmonton, Alberta.

The nature of the suit is given as "Torts - Property - Other Fraud" and the amount of $75 million is exactly double the price that was named for the RCMP contract. More than this is not published.


A Hotel Ship

Newwest Travel, meanwhile, on its own web site, is busy promoting tourist accommodation on board the Norwegian Star, to be berthed in North Vancouver:

Vancouver 2010 Accommodations - Winter Games Lodging

Looking for Vancouver hotel room reservations to book your luxury hotel suite for the 2010 Games? Look no further, stay on board and you can have the location you desire and the experience of a lifetime.

Newwest Special Projects 2010 LP has partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line to bring you the exciting and rare opportunity of staying on board a deluxe cruise ship, during this spectacular event. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the 2010 Winter Games in comfort on this beautiful resort hotel, the Norwegian Star. There are a variety of rooms and suites to choose from for your Olympic holiday.

The ship will be docked on the North Shore, 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver, directly across from world famous, Stanley Park, with excellent access to a variety of nightlife, restaurants, and trendy shops. Our transportation makes it easy to come and go as you please running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the ship to one of Vancouver's major transportation hubs, the Sea Bus Terminal. Once you arrive at the terminal, feel free to go off and experience the city on your own, or take one of several fabulous optional tours...

Imagine sitting on your private balcony, overlooking Stanley Park, mesmerized by the beautiful lights of Vancouver. Take in some Broadway style shows, have a drink in the lounge, swim in one of the pools, relax in a hot tub, take your chances in the casino, or just chill in your stateroom. Whatever the mood, the Norwegian Star has it covered!

Exactly what berth is not revealed but cruise ships never dock on that side of the harbour unless they are going to dry dock, and there are not that many docks that are just "10 minutes" from Vancouver over the Lion's Gate Bridge.


The RCMP Contract "Comes to an End"

Last Wednesday, November 19, the following notice suddenly appeared on MERX, the Canadian public tenders site, stating not that the contract had never been signed or that it had been terminated but rather obscurely that it had "come to an end." The text follows:

RCMP ACCOMMODATION REQUIREMENT - CRUISE SHIPS V2010

Notice to all Potential Bidders. The contract the RCMP had in place for accommodation on board Cruise Ships has come to an end. The RCMP still has a need for accommodations on board cruise ships.

In the next few days, the RCMP will issue a new solicitation seeking bids from the industry for its accommodation needs on board cruise ships during the V2010 Olympics.

Stay tuned. The Solicitation should be published on MERX by mid-week next week (November 26, 2008).

This text was authorised last week by Ian Arboleda of the RCMP Assets and Procurement Branch in Ottawa and the RCMP will evidently ask for new proposals. But nothing is said of why the original agreement cannot go ahead.


What's in the Press

On November 20, the Canadian Press carried a story that confirmed this, under the heading "Cops hoist anchor on cruise ship deal for 2010 Winter Olympics":

Plans have gone adrift to house cops on cruise ships for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

A deal to use two ships to serve as hotels for police during the Games has collapsed, the integrated security unit said late Wednesday. "The contract was terminated as both parties were unable to come to terms on elements of the contract," said Cpl. Jen Allan, a spokeswoman for the unit, which is made up of municipal, provincial and federal security personnel.

Last April, the unit had put out a call for proposals for accommodation on large vessels and in June, they announced they'd signed a contract. The winner was Victoria-based Cruise Connections Charter Management, which was to provide ships to house 5,000 people and around-the-clock service. A representative of the company gave a loud sigh and simply said "no comment" when reached by telephone on Wednesday.

Allan also refused to elaborate on what caused the $37.5-million deal to collapse. But she said the unit is still looking for ships and expects to reissue a contract tender shortly. "We remain confident that our accommodation needs will be met by industry," Allan said. It's unknown whether there were other bidders for the initial contract who may now get a second chance.

That gives the RCMP's view. Meanwhile, from the other side, "The Globe & Mail" managed to get hold of the lawyer for Cruise Connections, who is threatening to sue the RCMP. Under the same date, therefore, "The Globe & Mail" gives us just a little more detail, but not a lot:

"The company struck a deal, and I don't know anyone who's happy after a deal is breached," Jack Strauch, the North Carolina-based lawyer for Cruise Connections Charter Management, said yesterday, after news of the rupture surfaced on the website of the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit.

The $37.5-million contract with the cruise ship company had seemed signed, sealed and delivered in June, but subsequently encountered stormy weather, according to the ISU.

"Both parties were unable to come to terms on elements of the contract," the police force announcement said, adding that it could not divulge specifics.

Just exactly what is going on between the Canadian police and the original contractors is difficult to say as no one seems to be talking. Certainly markets have changed since the world financial crisis broke. But guessing that the RCMP wanted to pay less would be pure speculation.
If there is another reason, meanwhile, we have not been told. One thing that has come out of this though is that Cruise Connections Charter Management may be conducting two lawsuits at once if they follow through with their word, one against the RCMP for unstated damages and one against Newwest Travel for $75 million.


Other Players in Vancouver

Back in Vancouver, in addition to the Norwegian Star, one of the closest small ship lines, Cruise West of Seattle, normally lays a good part of its Alaska fleet up in Seattle during this period and it is negotiating with interested parties for 100-berth or 50-cabin ships. It is likely that a few of their ships could find charterers and berths in the False Creek or Granville Island area, a part of Vancouver that was revived during its own World's Fair in 1986, which is why Canada Place was built. Candidates could include the Spirit of Endeavour, the Spirit of Nantucket and the Spirit of '98, among others.


And London 2012?

Meanwhile, the 2012 Summer Olympics scheduled for London have already attracted some attention. As the Olympic site will be in London's East End, not far from dock space, there are bound to be more cruise ships attending, but no announcements have been made yet. There is some dockage available in Docklands, for example ships can tie up alongside the Excel Conference Centre, but other docks such as the Tilbury Cruise Terminal are further downstream.
Cruise ships that come to Greenwich or the Pool of London are generally handled either by tender or by a "floating terminal" that still requires boats for access, so the number of actual berthing spaces available may limit the possibilities.

(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)


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