New Operators: FTI and Harmony

The FTI BerlinCruise Industry News talks to two new cruise lines starting service in 2012,  FTI cruises will operate the 1980-built Berlin, and Seoul-based Harmony Cruises has started service with the Club Harmony, the ex-Costa Marina.

It made sense to enter the market with their own product, said Thomas Kusch, director of FTI Cruises, as demand is growing and FTI is already selling cruises for other companies via its subsidiary, BigXtra, and the company-owned TV channel, Sonnenklar TV.

FTI Touristik claims to be the fourth largest tour operator in Germany and the ninth largest in Europe.

“This is a growing market that we want to participate in,” Kusch continued. “We see a clear demand for smaller ships with a certain atmosphere sailing off-the-beaten-path itineraries and also calling at smaller ports.”

Thus, FTI has entered into a long-term charter for the FTI Berlin, which until recently sailed as the Spirit of Adventure for Saga Cruises, but was originally built at HDW in Kiel in 1980 as the Berlin.

Looking forward, Kusch said: “Within the next two to three years, we want to establish the Berlin as a very good, affordable, four-star product. We are convinced that we will be offering a perfect product, complementary to the existing market, and an alternative to the products of the large cruise lines.”

Club HarmonyHarmony Cruise has started operations with the ex-Costa Marina, now the 760-passenger Club Harmony. The line is operated under Seoul-based Polaris Shipping, which also runs 13 cargo ships.

The ship will homeport in Busan, South Korea, for most itineraries, and is offering three- and four-night itineraries, throgub April,  with calls in Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Jeju, Osaka, Nagasaki, Beppu and Incheon.

Itineraries for the latter part of the year were being developed when Cruise Industry News caught up with Harmony Cruise CEO, Jae-Hee Shin.

“The Far East region has witnessed steady and robust economic growth in recent years despite the global financial crisis, and it is considered one of the most promising markets in terms of cruise potential,” said Shin.

Shin said the line had teamed up with reputable service providers and tour operators before launching service.

Many of the operators in the region  are “heavily biased (towards) the gambling concept,” according to Shin, adding that some of them have dubious backgrounds.

“They were destined to fail from the outset,” he said. “Our product is targeted to ordinary people and families, including children, who enjoy their normal holidays and weekends. Another important target is the incentives market.”

Shin explained that the product is positioned between the mass market and premium market for now.

The ship will stay the same for the most part, with partial interior work carried out by DSON, although a drydocking is planned for November.

Hotel operations are run in collaboration with V.Ships.

Passenger source markets include Korea, China, Japan and the Russian Far East to start, but the company plans to market toward European and American clients more gradually.

“Our key is ‘Harmony,’ harmony among our staff, harmony with passengers, harmony with ports and harmony with the environment.”

The ultimate goal is to become a successful regional player, Shin said, and ultimately, a global player.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2012

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