That Was The Year That Was
Industry innovations keep the industry more than buoyant

by Vanessa Lee

My new dog Charlie on Labour Day.

With Jann Arden on Avalon Tranquility II

Wine tasting onboard the Uniworld River Royale. 

On the Windstar Wind Surf off Stromboli

Following is both my business and personal review of the year that will shortly exit - stage left. When one thinks about the months behind you and what has been achieved or accomplished, where you have been, what you’ve enjoyed and all the vagaries of life, all the good, the bad and certainly the sad, it makes one pause for reflection.

But come along with me and I will give you some insight into the news that permeated my thinking, the trials and tribulations, the top of the mountain moments and all that happened to send 2015 into the annals of time.

From a personal perspective this has been a year full of too much heart impacting loss than most in recent times. I lost my ex-husband Daryl McWilliams, a man many knew and who had a long and impressive industry career. He was one of the people who gave me my start in the Canadian travel industry, introducing me to cruising when Paramount represented Royal Caribbean, Chandris and Cunard back in 1981.

Then my great gal pal Heather Qually died far too soon from the disease we are constantly fighting. Her passing has been a huge loss for many.

And I also lost my beloved Golden Retriever Buchan in August. I also mourned the passing of a relationship – different of course but nevertheless something one has to come to terms with and shed tears over.

But, of course there were also many happy moments, and perhaps while not quite enough to assuage all the loss,  they were important and meaningful and I was thankful for them. I rescued a 5 yr. old Golden Retriever named Charlie and brought him back to my home from Thunder Bay – truly a “travels with Charlie” moment and he has uplifted my heart every day since. Check out  - a great charity in need of support from all you dog lovers. And on a personal note I have jumped back into the love “ring of fire” and found someone who may just give me the best times of my life – stay tuned on that one!

And then there was all the news from the industry as well as various trips and cruises. One thing I found out is that I have finally spent more than one year out of the last 15 staying in Starwood Hotels – just Starwood, never mind the rest. Yikes! It’s odd when you think about one whole year of your life staying in a hotel room of one brand. But that’s what we do and frankly that’s what I love. 

I only put about 51,000 miles on Air Canada this year – not sure why it wasn’t so busy but I did write a column back in January of ’15 about the 70% solution and saying “NO” more often. And I guess that worked to some degree. Less travel or perhaps more relevant travel occurred. But I am still going to work on achieving my million miles with AC so I too can receive a miniature metal plane!

I sailed on only 6 ships this year but, they were all remarkable and memorable experiences. I was fortunate enough to be invited on the Avalon Tranquility II with her delightful Godmother , Canadian icon Jann Arden. That woman is a gem and of course a huge talent as well. And I just bought her 1 st Christmas album,  go buy  it -  it’s fab.

After Avalon I drove myself across France from Basel to Bordeaux (that was an adventure in itself!) and happily boarded another great river line – Uniworld – for my 1 st foray into the Bordeaux wine region. Another fantastic trip which I also wrote about back in April in this space .

May found me on one of my favourite brands, Windstar Cruises on a 10 night cruise round-trip from Rome visiting many Italian ports, 3 on the island of Sicily and 2 in Malta. This Sicilian Splendours itinerary on my adored Wind Surf is one of the best I have sailed. Sailing past the volcanic isle of Stromboli as smoke burped from her peak was really a marvellous memory. And I adored Malta – my 90 th country at last.

I took my 1st Ponant cruise on Le Boreal in September on a short repo cruise from YVR to SFO. Great ship – fun times and all-inclusive with fab food. Check out that column from October.

And finally in recent weeks I did the inaugurals of both Anthem of the Seas and Norwegian Escape and you can check out my thoughts on both of these remarkable ships here too.  

And what were the impacts from industry news this year? Well the opening of Cuba for sure and the rampant rush to sail to and around Cuba. MSC made a big foray from a European base and will have the Opera sailing there soon. And, now they have announced that the Armonia will also sail Cuba next year. I think fathom, from Carnival Corp is an interesting new entry but frankly, the jury may still be out on that.

I like that the 1 st female captain at sea is on Celebrity Cruises and her story is an impressive one of hard work, determination and tenacity. All traits I applaud.

There was a lot of new ship buzz with high end cruise lines sharing news about the fantastic new builds coming our way. Literally every 5/6 star line is bringing new tonnage on – Regent, Seabourn, Silversea and of course ALL the amazing news from Crystal. That brand has been very busy  – a new river cruise line from them with their Crystal Mozart debuting next year, private jets, 3 new ocean going ships, polar-ice vessels for expeditions and residences to boot. Well done Edie to accomplish all of this –  very impressive!

Andy Stuart being appointed President of Norwegian – and about time too. Who doesn’t love Andy Stuart who has guided this brand for many a year in a sales and marketing capacity and who is the best choice going forward.

The launch of Viking Ocean and the Viking Star – to rave reviews. Concerns about too many river ships being built, China, China and China – SO interesting to see how many ships are heading over there. The Carnival revolutionary ship orders of next-gen vessels and green cruising. Virgin’s entry into the cruise market – coming in 2020 but done with the usual Branson razzmatazz. And Royal’s VOOM – fastest Wi-Fi at sea.  All the major lines (literally) ordering new and more ships that will keep the industry more than buoyant through the next decade – so many innovations we have yet to think of but that they are already well ahead of.

And the biggest question of all – are we in World War III – how will this impact us and please God don’t let the Americans vote in Trump. 2016 will unveil this and no doubt much more.

So I wish you all a wonderful Festive Season and the happiest of New Years, however you may choose to celebrate, and truly let us all hope for Peace on Earth.

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