Princess Cruises to Base Ship Year Round in San Francisco

Princess Cruises announced today that for the first time it will base a ship in San Francisco year round, beginning in May 2013. The extensively renovated Grand Princess will first offer a series of Alaska cruises during the summer months from the “City by the Bay,” followed by a schedule of Hawaiian Islands, Mexico and the California Coast sailings during the fall 2013 to spring 2014 season.

Last year the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess underwent the largest drydock in Princess Cruises history, adding a host of new features so that passengers will enjoy the same onboard experience as offered by the line’s other newer ships.

“Princess has been cruising from San Francisco nearly as long as our company has been in operation, so we have a rich history with the city, and we are the leading cruise line homeporting there,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Our Bay Area passengers and travel agents have long been asking for more cruise options from San Francisco and our new year-round schedule with Grand Princess will now give them a great selection of itinerary choices, plus the benefit of sailing on a ship that offers our signature features and amenities.”

“Princess ships have been cruising from San Francisco for more than 40 years, and we greatly appreciate the company’s longstanding partnership with our city,” said Monique Moyer, executive director of the Port of San Francisco. “We are delighted to now have our first year-round ship based here, and it is a natural fit that the vessel is the caliber of Grand Princess. Having this ship sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and berth at the foot of Coit Tower will be spectacular, both for the guests on board and the people of San Francisco.”

During the 2013-14 season Grand Princess will sail roundtrip from San Francisco to:

Alaska – Grand Princess’ first Alaska season features 10-day Inside Passage sailings. The ship will offer 13 voyages featuring the stunning scenery of Glacier Bay National Park or Tracy Arm, with calls at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria. Cruises depart between May 10 and September 7, 2013.

Mexico – Grand Princess will offer two sailings on a new 10-day itinerary to Mexico, featuring two new ports for Princess – Loreto and La Paz, both in Baja California. Passengers will also enjoy calls at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. Sailings depart on September 17, 2013 and March 5, 2014.

California Coastal – An increasingly popular Princess itinerary, Grand Princess will take passengers to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles (Long Beach), San Diego, and Ensenada. Four sailings are offered on September 27 and October 19, 2013; plus March 15 and April 6, 2014.

Hawaiian Islands – Passengers can explore each of the main Hawaiian islands on this 15-day voyage to the Big Island (Hilo), Oahu (Honolulu), Kauai (Nawiliwili), Maui (Lahaina), and Ensenada. Grand Princess will offer 12 departures between October 4, 2013 and April 28, 2014.

During last year’s drydock Grand Princess added a variety of passenger amenities, including a completely new Piazza atrium, several new eateries – including Alfredo’s Pizzeria and the Crown Grill – and the line’s first specialty tea lounge called Leaves. Also included in the renovation were a remodeled casino, boutiques and art gallery; enhancements to the Horizon Court, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel; and the addition of Crooner’s Martini Lounge and a new nightclub, The One5.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website at

SOURCE Princess Cruises

Gomes Haulage Ltd

The Zambian company putting community first

Jonny Williamson

Starting as a transport company, Gomes Haulage has constantly evolved and diversified throughout its illustrious history, branching out into construction, civil contracts and agriculture

“My father established the company back in 1976,” says Leroy Gomes, Managing Director. “I have been watching the business steadily grow since I was a boy, starting with a very small fleet and now we have close to 100 trucks and 750 employees.”

Gomes Haulage is a family-run business with a workforce made entirely from local Zambians, a fact that is a constant source of pride for the management team. As the business has developed and grown to have a more corporate set-up, this over-riding sentiment of family hasn’t been lost and still permeates every level from management down to the labour on the ground.

“We are an extremely close family and interact on a daily basis,” explains Gomes. “We have very open channels of communication; no-one is restricted from discussing problems and solutions with the management team. Everyone respects that ethos so that when we commit as a company, we commit wholeheartedly, we make sure that we see projects through from start to finish.”

Community Spirit

This family spirit can be clearly seen in the company’s interaction with local communities, such as its growing participation in local sporting events. Currently it fully sponsors a semi-professional football team as well as a number of smaller leagues, with most employees (regardless of pay-grade) being involved in games every night after a hard day’s work.

“In recent times we have collaborated with communities to offer them our expertise and labour,” Gomes says. “One community provided all of the materials for a church which we built for them, another project was a local school, which we donated an entire classroom block for, and presently we are constructing an orphanage, in this instance providing not just the labour but most of the materials as well.”

Dedicated workforce

This sense of community and family spirit has been a key factor in creating one of the business’ true strengths, a workforce totally dedicated to the betterment of Gomes Haulage.

“Our workforce is so motivated and the standards they are setting are so high that it has allowed us to really outperform a lot of our competitors,” Gomes states. “Sometimes they may fall short on skills and experience, such as in technical knowledge or computing, but they make up for it with the effort they put in on the ground.”

A shortage in skills and knowledge has been challenging for the company in the past, but rather than accept the situation, it has plans in motion to rectify the problem.

“Our new Finance Director is an Ivy-League MBA with a lot of valuable business exposure across Africa,” Gomes enthuses. “He has brought with him a range of alternative strategies and has been a very positive influence in reshaping the company. Through him we have started a variety of internal initiatives to increase our employees’ skills and offer them more opportunities. This doesn’t just apply to the labourers; we have programmes for management as well, such as driving home the importance of data-collection and analysing the findings to influence future decision-making.”

Business activities

The company has business interests across nearly every industry Zambia has to offer, from haulage where the business started, to construction, equipment-hire, mining and more recently agriculture.

“In regards to haulage, we deal a lot with the sulphuric acid used in the country’s copper mines,” says Gomes. “Part of our core business is transporting the majority of acid from the Mopani copper mine, part of the Glencoe Group Zambia, to Mutanda, part of the Glencoe Group Congo.

On the construction side, we work with the Chinese a great deal especially the CNMC (Chinese Non-Ferrous Metal Corporation), who we build a lot of asphalt roads for. We have also completed a number of contracts for the Zambian government, mostly civil works such as roads and dams, and now we are even starting to move into structural construction.”


Continual growth has always played an important role in the development of Gomes Haulage, a fact recognised by the creation of the Business Development Team.

“Every year the managers will sit down with the BDT and discuss what potential investments could prove lucrative for the company,” describes Gomes. “Recent acquisitions include a number of mining concessions around the country, a crusher plant, a new asphalt plant and a fishing operation, which is obviously very different to our core businesses, but is so far proving to have great potential.”

Technology has become increasingly crucial to the continued survival of the company, though thankfully Zambia appears to be “ideally situated” to take advantage of the shifting tides, says Gomes.

“Zambia is very much a developing country, industrially as well as technologically, and we are actually quite privileged to have some of the most state-of-the-art computers in the surrounding area. Cell phone coverage has also become a lot faster recently, as well as becoming more reliable as it has been significantly extended.”

Cell phone coverage plays an important part in the security side of the transport business, with thefts in the region a persistent threat. To aid in combating this danger trucks in the fleet are fitted with mounted control systems to monitor the level of fuel in the tank, as well as satellite navigation units to keep track of every trucks location.

“Our Finance Director, being so much more exposed to IT in his previous positions, has really dragged our systems into the modern age,” admits Gomes. “All of our processes and equipment have become computerised, we use Google Docs constantly now for live updates across our various sites within the country and we have even set up a dedicated IT department.”

Road ahead

The goals for the future look to take advantage of the many opportunities Zambia has to offer, diversifying the company’s portfolio accordingly, with the overall aim of increasing annual revenue to USD100million over the next 3-4 years.

“Over the next two years we are certainly going to try and move more into mining and agriculture,” explains Gomes. “We are currently expanding our fleet of trucks by 40, 30 will be acid-trailers for our core business and 10 will be site-trailers to complement our pressure plant set-up. I would like to see the fleet up to 180 and permanent employees up to 1,000 by 2015 at the latest.”

As has become expected of the benevolent company, future ambitions are as much about the family that call it home, as for the business itself.

“One thing I would hope to see continue is the improved policies for our employees,” Gomes concludes. “There has been a trend in the past for companies in Zambia to really exploit their workforce and we are working hard to turn this situation around. So far we have developed better employee facilities, more rewarding pension schemes, better social benefits and better medical care, and I would love to see these fully integrated over the next two years for both new and existing employees.”

Kenya’s Produce Purchasing Agents Ride Innovation Wave

Award-winning AgriManagr app assists more than 300,000 farmers


In 2010 John Waibochi, the founder, CEO, and chief innovator at of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, won the Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge. The award brought his company a US$1 million cash prize. Yet the recognition is not a laurel on which he wants his company to rest.

Waibochi says that Virtual City Group has been on the forefront of helping Africans, particularly Kenyans, understand that mobile phones are not just for communication and entertainment, but they are business tools that can help people make and save money. He has not only helped Kenyans understand that, but Virtual City Group has presented the population with many useful applications.

One successful app put out by Virtual City Group is AgriManagr, an application that assists more that 300,000 farmers. The app has been recognised internationally with The World Summit Award (WSA) on Mobile Content in 2010.

The AgriManagr system assists farmers and produce middlemen in automating produce purchasing transactions. It facilitates the management of weighing, grading and receipting of produce gathered from farmers at a rural or urban collection centres throughout the country. The app goes beyond mere record keeping by allowing purchasing agents to pay the farmers using cashless transactions on their phones. It also comes with the ability to automatically reward frequent and favoured suppliers.

Produce purchasing agents who combine AgriManagr with an electronic weighing scale can send the weight information directly to the AgriManagr app through Bluetooth technology. A complete report of the transaction including quality of the produce, quantity, farmer’s details, collection point, and the payment due are sent to the purchasing agent’s headquarters which can then make payment.

Having real-time information about purchases in the field gives the headquarters an accurate understanding of how much total produce, by type, they will have available to supply to their retailers in the next day or two.

The farmer can be given a receipt at the collection centre detailing the transaction including his dealings with the purchaser over the past several deliveries. This quick, real-time delivery of information creates trust and builds loyal relationships between the farmers, purchasing agents and the produce distributing corporations they represent.

Waibochi is striving to keep Virtual City Group of the crest of the innovation wave by planning to introduce between 30 and 50 new, prototype apps each month. It used to be said that Africa needs a lot from the developed world – but Waibochi and Virtual City Group are setting standards that the rest of the world will do well to emulate.

Richard Chowning is director of Africa Mentor which provides coaching and resources for entrepreneurs and non-profits working in Africa.

ForgetMeNot Africa launches Zimbabwean app competition

Developers encouraged to create new apps for Zimbabwean market

Budding Zimbabwean app developers will see their unique ideas for SMS-based mobile applications launched to more than three quarters of the country’s 7.7 million mobile subscribers.

A new app competition launching next week at a JumpStart Community meeting at the Harare Club will enable winning developers to earn revenue from their apps, which will be launched across Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s network of 6 million subscribers.

The ForgetMeNot Africa eTXT Apps Challenge – in partnership with developer community Jumpstart, leading Zimbabwean weblog TechZim and mobile operator Econet – encourages developers to create new apps and games that are particularly attractive to Zimbabwean mobile users.

Using ForgetMeNot Africa’s unique Optimiser Platform – which currently supports internet-free Facebook, email and online chat via Econet’s eTXT service – entrants can develop apps that reach user1s of all handsets via two-way SMS, from first generation mobile phones to the latest smartphone. Developers can use any programming language for their entry.

Winning entrants will win up to three iPads along with $2,000 seed capital to develop their ideas and, if successful, their apps will be launched to Econet’s 6 million mobile subscribers, from which they will receive an ongoing revenue share.

To submit their ideas developers must first become members of the Jumpstart community, then register on the ForgetMeNot Africa Developers’ Platform. Once developers have created their app they can submit it onto the Econet eTXT Platform.


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After an initial development period, the best app ideas will be shortlisted and developers will attend a Test Drive Final in May, where they will receive mentoring from ForgetMeNot Africa experts to fine tune their ideas. They will then present a business plan and code for their app to a panel of judges, who will choose the winners.

The launch of the competition follows the success of ForgetMeNot Africa’s Kipokezi Apps Challenge in Kenya. This inspired developers to submit unique app ideas for Kenyan mobile users, including a traffic information app, a treasure hunt game and an app that provided football fans the latest information on the Kenyan Premier League.

Jeremy George, Chief Operating Officer at ForgetMeNot Africa, said: “Our recent Apps Challenge in Kenya was a huge success with some truly unique and innovative ideas submitted. Zimbabwe also has a wealth of developer talent and we want to give them the same opportunity to earn revenue from their ideas. We are giving developers the chance to bring their ideas for unique apps or games that are useful, fun and highly relevant to Zimbabwean mobile users.”

ForgetMeNot Africa’s technology is already available to Econet’s entire subscriber base through its eTXT service, which launched in April 2011. This launch more than doubled access to internet messaging in Zimbabwe. Previously only one in eight

Zimbabweans (1.4 million people) had access to the internet, but the launch of eTXT provided all Econet subscribers with access to Facebook, email and online chat on even the most basic mobile handsets.

The competition will be launched at the JumpStart Community event at the Harare Club on Tuesday, March 27. ForgetMeNot Africa founder John Carroll will speak at the event, and will be running workshops to assist developers the next day.