• Cruise Ship Industry News

    When the Empress of the Seas reached dock in Key West shortly after noon on Sunday, Traci Brewington found a ghost town.
    The 46-year-old Indiana woman had been to Key West several times before, but as she and about 900 aboard Royal Caribbean’s oldest and smallest cruise ship arrived, the Southernmost City was devoid of its usual joyful noise and waves of people.
    What she found was silence and empty streets.
    The Empress was the first cruise ship to return to the Keys after Hurricane Irma hit earlier this month. Another Royal Caribbean ship, Enchantment of the Seas, was originally scheduled to arrive in Key West on Sunday but went to Freeport in the Bahamas instead.
    Brewington said she had been planning this trip with her husband since March but didn’t think they would make it to the Keys after the storm. After Irma hit, Royal Caribbean canceled all stops to the island.
    But on Thursday, she received an email from the cruise company indicating the stop was back on the itinerary. That left Brewington a bit uneasy.
    The Keys were hit hard by Irma — homes and boats were destroyed — but Key West escaped the worst. But there was damage, a curfew and lack of power and water for days.
    “I’m honestly not sure how I feel about being here when so many people are trying to recover,” she said.
    Instead, she decided to spend her six hours in port volunteering with Florida Keys SPCA, a nonprofit animal rescue organization. She said at least two others from the cruise also were planning to spend the day volunteering.
    She said she felt it was the right thing to do after Irma, and arranged it ahead of arrival.
    “You would want somebody to do that for you, if you were in that situation,” she said.
    As she headed off to volunteer, her husband and other passengers set out for Duval Street, the famous Gulf-to-Atlantic stretch of bars, souvenir shops, cafes and clubs.
    Curfew is lifted in Key West and water is flowing, so many businesses are open and ready for tourists.
    Among the open bars are Gilleran’s 801 Bar, The Speakeasy Inn, and The Porch. At Sloppy Joe’s, a Key West mainstay since 1933, the ship’s port of call offered a test run for even bigger crowds down the line, manager Charles Fraga said. The bar opened at noon Sunday, with a full staff of about 20 people and local musician Rolando Rojas ready to greet the cruisers.
    “We’re definitely hoping that this is the start to the return to things as they were,” Fraga said.
    Fraga said he came back from a wedding on Tuesday to find only minimal damage to the bar, made famous by author Ernest Hemingway. Employees had put sandbags against the doors, keeping water from seeping in.
    The next day, Sloppy Joe’s was back open, serving mainly to locals.
    But it’s been quiet without visitors, he said. The turn of events brings him back to the 1980s, before Key West became a major tourist destination. When he came back on Tuesday, less than half of the Duval Street businesses were open. Now, he said, most are, with more to come soon.
    Fraga said for most businesses, it’s simply a matter of making sure employees’ families are safe so everyone can return to work.
    For those wanting to visit Key West, Fraga has one message: Welcome back.
    “We can’t wait to show them that we’re still here and we’re open for business,” he said. “There might be a little mess but that’s OK. We’re Key West. It’s character, it’s like a scar.”
    By Caitlin Ostroff, Miami Herald
    Port of Palm Beach’s sole cruise ship — Grand Celebration — will begin a three-month sabbatical Saturday when it arrives in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on a hurricane relief mission, its operator Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line said.
    The 750-cabin cruise ship, which can accommodate up to 1,900 passengers, is being chartered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house National Guard members helping island residents to rebuild following damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
    St. Thomas was also facing an additional threat from Hurricane Maria, now barreling through the eastern Caribbean. Maria has already done significant damage in Puerto Rico and Dominica.
    “We are providing housing, meals and other hotel services to the first responders,” said Maria Miller, the cruise line’s chief marketing officer, in an email Wednesday. “The ship will be their ‘home base’ over the course of the charter.”
    While Bahamas Paradise would not discuss the value of the FEMA charter, Miller said the company was being compensated to cover its “loss of business and revenue over the period.”
    Grand Celebration is expected to remain in St. Thomas through late December, the cruise company said. The ship’s regular two-night sailings from the Riviera Beach seaport to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island should resume on Dec. 23.
    Customers who have already purchased Bahamas cruises directly from the cruise line for departures during the charter period are being offered refunds or a $100 onboard spending credit if they re-book for a later date.
    “We will be reaching out to all of our guests and travel partners this week,” said Oneil Khosa, company CEO, in a statement. “We feel badly about this 90 day disruption but believe the extensive needs of the St. Thomas people to be of greater importance at this time.”
    On Thursday and Friday, Bahamas Paradise offered a special $39 per person nightly rate for cabins on Grand Celebration to local residents seeking a cool refuge from overheated homes that lost power or sustained damage during Irma.
    Other South Florida-based cruise companies are involved in humanitarian relief efforts throughout the Caribbean in the wake of Irma.
    Last Friday, the Norwegian Sky arrived in Miami from St. Thomas with hundreds of stranded visitors and displaced residents after Irma damaged homes and businesses, Norwegian Cruise Line said.
    The ship also offloaded 35 palettes of much-needed relief supplies during that rescue mission, including plywood, tarps, hammers, nails, bedding and towels and non-perishable food.
    Last week, cruise behemoth Carnival Corp., the Miami Heat Charitable Fund and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation pledged up to $10 million in funding and in-kind support for Hurricane Irma relief. And $2.5 million was immediately donated to three relief organizations to support urgent hurricane recovery efforts.
    The Doral-based cruise company owns and operates nine cruise lines including Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Costa, Seabourn and Cunard. Eleven Carnival Cruise Line ships are transporting emergency supplies to impacted Florida and Caribbean ports as they sail to those regions.
    The relief aid will benefit hard-hit islands such as Grand Turk, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Antigua and Barbuda, Carnival Corp. said.
    “Hurricane Irma’s impact strikes close to home both in our home state of Florida and across the Caribbean, where we and our brands have made many friends and partners over many years,” company CEO Arnold Donald, said in a statement.
    Royal Caribbean International also sent three ships to impacted areas with provisions and to assist in evacuation efforts, and plans to continue assisting in the coming weeks. Provisions delivered so far include 17,060 gallons of water; 7,831 gallons of milk; 7,000 pounds of ice and 4,200 rolls of toilet tissue, the company said.
    By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
    Traditional Christmas markets throughout Europe have a special, unique holiday essence. It’s impossible not to feel nostalgic and sentimental as you explore these quaint locales brimming with the spirit of the season.
    From miles of twinkling colorful lights to skilled vendors displaying their handcrafted wares, these centers of holiday staples can evoke cheer in every visitor.
    AmaWaterways offers many options to celebrate the holiday season, however and wherever you like, thanks to their great selection of Christmas market cruises to many popular European locations.
    Immerse yourself in a real-life snow globe in Austria or be transported into a charming holiday village in Switzerland.
    Whatever your vision of the perfect holiday vacation experience may be, the expert dream trip planners at AmaWaterways can make it happen.
    Popular Destinations in Europe 
    The great thing about embarking on one of these voyages is that you also get the chance to explore some of the most popular destinations across Europe. If you join the seven-day Christmas Markets on the Rhine cruise, stops along the way include Heidelberg and Cologne, plus Amsterdam.
    You can also enjoy a gondola ride, explore villages on two wheels via a bike tour or indulge in a wine tasting.
    The Christmas Markets on the Danube voyage, meanwhile, takes you from Nuremberg to Budapest. Cruise through quaint villages and stroll through picturesque scenes that are like a holiday card brought to life.
    See the local sights on a walking tour through Regensburg or Passau. Take advantage of the rare opportunity to tour a Benedictine Abbey, or join a bike tour as a fun way to explore the streets of these towns.
     For the ultimate holiday experience, opt for the 14-night voyage. This combines the best of both cruises with some special bonuses and surprises. With a route that takes you to five countries, this is the perfect way to maximize your winter European adventure.
    From the romantic canals to the scenic countryside, you will encounter scenes straight out of a postcard at every turn. Optional experiences and activities can also be added on throughout the trip, offering the chance to tailor your voyage to your own individual preferences.
    These cruises offer the opportunity for you to visit some of the European Christmas villages that were named among the best in that region by Travel + Leisure. For those who love everything about the holiday season, this is truly the dream trip of a lifetime.
    All voyages offer luxury accommodations, personalized service that makes you feel like a VIP, including a long list of amenities, gourmet cuisine and onboard entertainment.
    Each ship is like a floating upscale resort skimming the water, with fitness facilities, pools, lounge decks, spas and everything you could want in an elite cruise environment. You will also get unlimited fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. 
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    Following Hurricane Irma, USA Today is reporting that PortMiami’s cruise operations are still closed due to sunken sailboats blocking the channel.
    As a result, Carnival Cruise Line is being forced to shorten several of its next voyages, and Royal Caribbean International is canceling another.
    Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean had originally hoped to resume departures from the Florida destination today, but that is not possible. It is now understood that two sailboats are sunk in the passage, blocking ships from entering and exiting.
    While the main shoreside facility has reopened, PortMiami's own website currently reads, “The port will remain closed for marine traffic until further notice. Upon conclusion of side sonar underwater inspections by NOAA we will update the public as to the opening of PORTMIAMI's navigational channels.”
    Provided it can be cleared to ship traffic in time, Carnival has now scheduled Carnival Glory and Carnival Vista to sail on Wednesday on cruises reduced in length by another day. Carnival Victory’s next voyage has, however, been altogether canceled. Carnival Sensation is also set to depart on Wednesday for an abbreviated sailing.
    Royal Caribbean’s next Enchantment of the Seas cruise has now also been canceled.
    Meanwhile, also according to the USA Today report, the two companies still plan to operate from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida today for the Carnival Conquest and Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas to depart on shortened sailings.
    Unlike PortMiami, the Port Everglades website indicates, “The U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port has approved daylight vessel operations at Port Everglades in Northport and Midport areas” and also lists Carnival Splendor as another ship scheduled to arrive.
    Other Floridian ports still affected include Port Canaveral, which has yet to reopen.
    Its website says, “We will begin assessing general harbor conditions soon to facilitate return to normal operations as soon as possible. Port remains closed until further notice.”
    Jacksonville’s JAXPORT website similarly reads, “The U.S. Coast Guard is currently assessing the condition of the Jacksonville harbor and port facilities following Hurricane Irma. All JAXPORT offices and terminals remain closed today. The Port of Jacksonville remains in condition Zulu.”
    Port Tampa Bay is in the same boat, so to speak, with its website simply displaying, “Port Tampa Bay security and operations personnel are at condition ‘Zulu’ for Hurricane Irma.” (That is to say, it too is closed to vessel traffic.)
    Lastly, Port of Palm Beach is also still at Zulu.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    As Hurricane Irma winds down, the cruise industry looks not only to rebound its business but also aid the regions most devastated by the storm. The big three: Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited are all in hurricane relief mode.
    As of Sunday, Carnival Cruise Line’s latest website update recognizes the continued closure of the Floridian departure points PortMiami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa.
    In the meantime, the company is already working to support the Caribbean destinations hit hard over the last several days as well as Florida directly and via its charitable Carnival Foundation: "Deliveries will be worked into ships’ cruise itineraries as part of our ongoing operations. And, as we await news of the full impact that Irma will have on Florida, we stand ready to provide support, as needed, to affected ports and communities.”
    The plan is to provide immediate and long-term support, and Carnival is in contact with Caribbean officials to best implement a strategy.
    Norwegian Cruise Line is also doing its part to help evacuate travelers from St. Thomas, according to a press release.
    The Norwegian Sky will come to the aid of those who could not get off the island before the storm arrived. The ship is scheduled to arrive late this evening to help in the effort being organized by the government of St. Thomas. Norwegian Sky is then expected to leave with the rescued and arrive back in its homeport of Miami on Thursday, September 14.
    Similar to Carnival, Royal Caribbean International says on its website that the company is mobilizing supplies. It is deploying ships to St. Thomas and St. Maarten in conjunction with U.S. and regional governments. It is standing by to assist Key West and other destinations as well.
    Adventure of the Seas headed to help St. Maarten on Sunday while Majesty of the Seas is also calling on St. Thomas and St. Maarten with supplies. The latter ship is additionally charged with safely evacuating people from St. Maarten. The Empress of the Seas is ready to assist Key West as needed too.
    No doubt, all of these efforts will be crucially important to the recovery of the Caribbean region. Rather than have ships sit idly in limbo as passenger sailings are necessarily canceled, it’s wonderful to see the cruise lines put their equipment to such admirable use.
    How quickly the cruise industry will again become fully operational from Florida is still to be determined, especially seeing how badly flooded the Miami area around its port was during the storm.
    The PortMiami website currently reads, “Ports and waterfront facilities shall remain closed to waterfront activities until the passage of tropical storm force winds and the COTP, in conjunction with the SWAT has determined it is safe to reopen the port.”
    Once it does, Caribbean destinations themselves will be affected for awhile.
    Royal Caribbean’s website indicates, “Given Hurricane Irma's impact to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Key West, we will be working on alternative ports for future sailings until these islands have fully recovered.”
    This leads me to reiterate my previous idea. Carnival Corporation’s Fathom brand is purpose-built to combine passenger sailings with volunteer opportunities. It may no longer have its own Adonia to dedicate to the Dominican Republic, but it could potentially send one of the ships from its nine other brands to affected areas with hundreds or even thousands of willing participants onboard.
    It could be the perfect interim solution for ships gearing back up to full service—from any cruise corporation really—to specifically head to the islands hit hardest during the hurricane. Cruise travelers and volunteers assemble!
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Image Credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines
    Celebrity Cruises has announced that it is collaborating with Fine Cooking magazine and its “Moveable Feast” television series for new fleet programming and a pair of Signature Sailings.
    “We’re absolutely thrilled to announce our partnership with Fine Cooking magazine and Moveable Feast. After all, it’s a show that blends two of the things we love most – and do best – traveling beyond borders to places that will inspire you and creating flavors that will thrill your palate like never before,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises, in a press release.
    “Now, we’re combining gastronomic forces to bring you our Moveable Feast with Celebrity Cruises program, a mouth-watering experience you can savor across our fleet.”
    Moveable Feast with Celebrity Cruises will take the Emmy Award-nominated show and showcase it onboard and off with Moveable Feast Night in the main dining room, interactive cooking demonstrations and special Chef’s Market Discoveries shore excursions.
    Also available will be two Moveable Feast Signature Sailings with series chefs along for the ride.
    The first on December 16, 2017, will feature Miami chef and James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein on a 7-night Caribbean voyage aboard the Celebrity Equinox. Another is scheduled for April 29, 2018, with James Beard Award-nominated chef Bryan Voltaggio onboard Celebrity Summit’s 7-night Bermuda cruise.
    Each Signature Sailing will include chef meet-and-greets, culinary demos and even the chance to join them on shoreside tours.
    “We are excited to welcome Celebrity Cruises as the corporate underwriting sponsor of the upcoming Season 5 of Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking,” said John Boland, SVP and Publisher of Fine Cooking Magazine, in the press release. “Being able to extend the consumer experience beyond the pages of our magazine and television show to on-board culinary adventures with Celebrity Cruises, brings it to life in a unique and fun way.”
    The new program pairs nicely with Celebrity’s already celebrated cuisine and more offerings are expected to be revealed soon.
    It picks up where the line’s previous partnership with Bravo’s “Top Chef” left off, providing guests similar enrichment opportunities. This time around, the pairings seem to go head to head with competitor Holland America Line’s recent collaboration with the similar “America’s Test Kitchen” television show.
    Just as “Moveable Feast” is associated with Fine Cooking magazine, so is “America’s Test Kitchen” affiliated with Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines.
    Top Chef at Sea was a fantastic set of activities, and Moveable Feast with Celebrity Cruises sets out to repeat its success by applying the fresh branding.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of PBS
    When they first boarded the Norwegian Escape a week ago, passengers knew exactly where they were going.
    Now they have no idea.The cruise ship, with about 4,000 guests on board, departed from Miami on Saturday, Sept. 2, and was scheduled to return a week later, after making stops in Honduras, Belize and Mexico.
    The boat made it to the Honduran island of Roatan on Monday and Belize the following day. But on Tuesday, passengers were told that their ports of call at Mexico's Cozumel island and the Costa Maya had been canceled.
    The dangerous and powerful Hurricane Irma, which had carved a path of death and destruction across a string of Caribbean islands, was headed straight for Florida, home to a fair number of passengers on the ship. Many of those passengers had already switched from relaxation to disaster-preparation mode, and were eager to get home to secure their belongings and ensure the safety of their pets.
    Michael Davis, who lives near the water in St. Augustine, Florida, was one of them.
    "Once they said, 'We're heading back,' then the mood shifted from vacation time to, 'Alright, let's get home and get it taken care of,'" said Davis, 42.
    But there was only a short window of time to drop them off before it would be too dangerous to dock in Miami.
    So the ship arrived in port Thursday afternoon, two days early, allowing hundreds of passengers to disembark.Hundreds more had no reason to get off, however, and knew that competing with Florida residents evacuating the state ahead of the storm for rental cars and flights was a losing proposition. So they chose a second option: a "cruise to nowhere."
    The Escape headed back out to sea Thursday evening, with a new manifest of about 4,000 that included some of the original passengers as well as some fellow travelers who disembarked early from another ship called the Norwegian Sky. They, too, had decided to prolong their seagoing adventures.
    The cruisers have no idea where they are headed or when they will return. A lot of it, they were told, would be up to Irma: which path she decides to take and how long she lingers.
    "We said to guests that we cannot confirm when or where you'll be coming back, but obviously we'll make every effort to return the ship to port as soon as it's safe to do so," said Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Vanessa Picariello.Picariello said the ship "is heading west," but she did not have a more precise route. She said the ship will try to make a port of call if it's safe to do so "but if not, guests will enjoy a cruise to nowhere and be able to be safe and out of the storm." Picariello added that the ship plans to return to Miami, but that cruise officials will look into alternate ports if the one in Miami is damaged by the hurricane.
    Margaret Cunningham of Battle Ground, Washington, said she decided to stay on board with her husband, Mike, after the captain assured them the ship could avoid Irma and even outrun a hurricane."They've been very clear that they're not going to run out of food. They're not going to run out of water. They're not going to run out of booze — very important — and so we're just going to stay on and enjoy the ride," said Cunningham, 65, who is recently retired.
    Barbara Engel, who could not get a flight home to Dallas, said she believed staying on the ship was her best option."I've got everything here and more than I would want, and we can run" from the storm if necessary, Engel, 49, said shortly before the ship pulled into port in Miami on Thursday. "So really, all told, I think I'm in the best place I can be at this time."
    Debbie Kendrick, of Courtland, Ohio, said she has enjoyed the cruise, even if she hasn't slept quite as well because she doesn't know when or where it will end."I appreciate that the cruise line wants to keep us safe," she said. "They're not just dropping us off."
    By Brian Witte, The Associated Press
    Associated Press Airlines Writer David Koenig contributed to this report
    For the first time in more than 100 years, Americans are eyeing the very real and potentially devastating possibility that the U.S. will be struck by back-to-back Category 4 (or higher) hurricanes.
    If you’re traveling this week, hopefully, your travel professional has already helped you purchase travel insurance. for your trip. Right about now, though, you might also be wondering just what is covered if a hurricane wrecks your plans for a much-needed getaway.
    In a post on their website, Allianz Global, a leading specialty insurance provider details just what your insurance does and doesn’t cover if you’re facing extreme weather or a hurricane on your next trip.
    If your trip is canceled or cut short, a policy provided by Allianz Global Assistance will likely include reimbursement for your travel costs as well as any costs incurred if you have to fly home early. If you can’t get home, your insurance will probably also reimburse any costs associated with extra nights at your hotel, meals and other essentials. And, of course, if you're injured, travel insurance will help you find medical services—including medical transportation—for any injuries that might occur, while also defraying those costs.
    What else should you know about travel insurance?
    If you’re headed to Florida but haven’t yet committed to travel insurance, while you will still likely be able to purchase a travel policy it probably won’t cover any damages incurred due to Hurricane Irma.
    “Travel insurance is designed to offer protection against sudden and unforeseen situations and events,” says Allianz Global. “When a hurricane (or any storm) becomes a named storm, it also becomes a ‘foreseeable event’ with known potential to affect your travel. If you buy travel insurance after a storm is named, your plan won't provide coverage for storm-related claims.”
    Travel insurance comparison website, SquareMouth says that in order for a traveler to be covered for Irma-related costs, you must have bought your policy on or before August 30, when Irma was named.
    Chalk up yet another reason for purchasing insurance as soon as you book your trip.
    When it comes to flight delays, sitting in an airport for hours—or even days—could make even the most patient traveler decide to give up and head home.
    “Don’t do it,” says Allianz Global. You need to have lost at least half of your scheduled trip due to a travel delay and you must have shown a good-faith attempt to try to get to your destination before insurance will even consider covering you.
    If the airline does ultimately cancel your flight due to Irma—and you’ve purchased the proper insurance in time—SquareMouth also recommends you keep a copy of your original itinerary and obtain a statement or updated itinerary from your airline verifying that the original flight was canceled.
    As for cruise passengers, travel insurance will likely not cover your costs if you decide to change your trip before your cruise line cancels the itinerary.
    The “weather event must force your airline, cruise line or tour operator to stop offering all services for at least 24 hours,” said Allianz Global. “Once that happens, your travel insurance would reimburse you for non-refundable travel costs.”
    It also good to note that if your cruise line changes your itinerary at the last-minute due to inclement weather, you must accept the change. As long as the new itinerary has the same “value” as your original itinerary, your insurance company doesn’t consider that you’ve suffered “a financial loss.”
    On the other hand, your insurance should protect you if you need to change hotels because weather damage made the property uninhabitable. Keep in mind that what annoys you might not necessarily be classified as uninhabitable by the insurance company. If your golf vacation is on the rocks thanks to weather damage to the golf course, for example, but the hotel can still accommodate you, it is unlikely you’ll be reimbursed for any changes.
    If your hotel does prove to be uninhabitable or if it is evacuated, again Squaremouth recommends you receive documentation, such as a local news story announcing the evacuation or a statement from the hotel as proof.
    It’s important to note that if local authorities order a “preemptive evacuation,” that will probably also not be covered by your policy.
    The most important thing to know when purchasing travel insurance is to read your inclusions and exclusions very carefully before setting off on your trip. It can help to have a seasoned travel professional on your side who can work with you to get exactly the right policy you need.
    Or, check out www.allianztravelinsurance.com or SquareMouth’s Hurricane Irma Fact Sheet for more information.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Pixabay Free Images
    Smoking on cruises has been a struggle for some time, but company policies and ship designs are finally beginning to eradicate conflicts.
    The reality is that smokers are now fewer and further between. Still, their presence—even in small numbers—greatly affects the experience of remaining passengers.
    Having just disembarked Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration, it’s amazing to note how one little casino bar at the center of an open deck plan can quickly spread second-hand smoke well beyond to the forward and aft ends of the ship.
    To non-smokers, it's truly a nuisance and a health hazard (one that almost immediately causes me to suffer from headaches). Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape on a mostly confined cruise ship when at sea.
    Some vessels are better designed than others in controlling the proliferation of fumes, and even the Inspiration featured a number of air purifiers nearby to help. The worst are those that allow it by a multilevel atrium where it can quickly drift to several decks. The only real answer is to completely enclose it or prohibit smoking entirely.
    Thankfully, more and more cruise lines are disallowing it on cabin balconies, which is as much a safety measure as a courtesy to the majority of guests. After all, fire is a serious danger at sea.
    Consider the massive outbreak of flames that overtook the side of Princess Cruises’ Star Princess in 2006 when a burning cigarette was the likely cause of ignited balconies and over a hundred cabins. The devastation ultimately resulted in the death of one elderly passenger.
    From a less dramatic perspective, smoking is becoming increasingly incongruent with cruising’s wellness concept. It has never gone hand in hand with onboard spas, nor does it line up with fresh focuses on fitness. Arguably, you could say the same thing about ship buffets, but even dining is starting to skew much healthier these days.
    The Carnival Inspiration once had a Fantasy-class sister-ship that was exclusively non-smoking. The Carnival Paradise was sadly ahead of its time, though, and the cruise line succumbed to economic pressure and has since allowed smokers free rein in select areas onboard. (I’m hopeful it will one day revert back.)
    In the meantime, smoking is seemingly less prevalent on newer ships by design. Cigar lounges have traditionally been encapsulated, but cigarette smoking zones are starting to head in the same direction.
    Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ latest Seven Seas Explorer was smart to realize that earmarking one side of the pool deck for smoking hardly contains the smell there. It thus has a separate glass-enclosed deck area for the practice.
    Next, Norwegian Cruise Line will dedicate casino space on its upcoming new Norwegian Bliss for smokers and nonsmokers, also physically apart. The company has discussed this as an option for awhile on its Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class ships, retroactively, but it has not yet happened. These new plans are making good on the earlier ones, hopefully with goals to still roll it back on existing vessels.
    In either case, it’s refreshing to see a change of approach among cruise lines favoring much cleaner air for their passengers.
    Until the time a completely non-smoking ship once again sets sail, Viking Ocean Cruises is the closest to what the Carnival Paradise once offered thanks to the absence of a casino and very limited smoking permissions.
    For anyone desiring such an atmosphere at sea, its ships are highly recommended.
      Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Pixabay Free Images
    “What will be the name of the world’s next most luxurious ship?”
    That is the question that Regent Seven Seas Cruises is asking. 
    Scheduled to launch in 2020, the new vessel will add to Regent’s growing fleet of “most-luxurious” ships, including the Seven Seas Explorer—the current holder of the title—the Seven Seas Voyager, the Seven Seas Mariner and the Seven Seas Navigator. Right now, plans are being finalized for the look and feel of the newest member of the Regent fleet.
    That’s where guests and travel agents come in.
    “We’re seeking the perfect name for our next new ship, and who would know better than our loyal guests and valued travel agent partners?” said Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
    Naming one of the most prestigious cruise ships in the world is a daunting task.
    “Regent Seven Seas Cruises is known for our fleet of the world’s most luxurious ships, our exciting worldwide itineraries, and the most exceptional staff and crew, who tirelessly deliver highly personalized service every day. The name of our new ship will embody all of these qualities, as well as our quarter-century legacy of the world’s most inclusive luxury experience," said Montague.
    Regent is inviting guests and travel agents to submit name suggestions through September 29, 2017. Qualifying submissions must be in English, begin with “Seven Seas”, and end with either “er” or “or.”
    Three lucky winners will be able to cruise onboard the cruise line's fifth ship. They will be randomly selected and announced on November 15, 2017, receiving a complimentary suite for themselves and a guest onboard the christening voyage.
    Consumers who would like to enter the contest should visit: RSSC.com/LuxuryPerfected 
    Travel agents can head to: RSSC.com/LuxuryShipName
    What would you name the most luxurious cruise ship in the world? Share with us in the comments. 
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas
    More people than ever before are going on cruises, and the industry expects record-breaking numbers for 2017, with over 24 million people expected to take a cruise this year. Another trend hitting the high seas is cruising for an extended period of time. Around-the-world cruises have long been the retirement dream, and today some people are even choosing to live aboard cruise ships for part or most of the year.
    Actually, the decision to live on a cruise ship isn’t revolutionary or new. A Florida man has spent almost 20 years living aboard cruise ships in Florida’s coastal waters, the Caribbean, Europe, and even China. Another full-time passenger hails from New Jersey, in addition to others who had careers, children, and lives in states across the country. Today all these individuals call cruise ships home.
    The decision to move onto a cruise ship permanently can’t be taken lightly, but there are several reasons why doing so offers a wonderful lifestyle. For some, full-time cruising might even make sense financially.
    Life Aboard a Cruise Ship Can Be Cost Effective
    You might think it would take a billionaire to live aboard a cruise ship for most or all of the year. However, several retirees are proving this isn’t the case. These people are accessing activities, entertainment, meals, and even social benefits for about $100 a day. Of course, there are additional expenses for excursions and alcohol, with which most people would spend around $70,000 or slightly more living on a cruise ship. For many retirees, life on land costs less than this amount, but that isn’t true for everyone. People who live in larger cities, continue to pay mortgages, or carry other considerable living expenses, might find these numbers enticing.
    Also, it is important to consider that living aboard a cruise ship provides other benefits that impact your spending. There is no need to splurge on a fancy restaurant, as meals are always prepared for you in the dining room. The cost of transportation and vacation is bundled into your daily living expenses, and so are other luxuries, such as nightly entertainment. When you consider all that is provided on a cruise, the amount could become a bargain. Moreover, there is no paying for utilities, cable, and other home expenses.
    Other reasons to live aboard cruise ships revolve around the experience. First, it is a unique opportunity to wake up somewhere new most days of the week. Cruise ships pull into ports across the globe, visiting even locations in Indonesia, Vietnam, Israel, and Egypt. It is possible literally to see the world while traveling by cruise ship. Few other life-style options can provide this opportunity with the same ease and consistency.
    Second, cruise ships offer plenty of social opportunities. Whether it is taking part in the scheduled entertainment or having a nightly drink in one of the cruise bars, there is always the possibility of conversation and interaction. While living aboard a cruise reduces the chances of building long-term friendships, it does provide an interesting way to meet people on a regular basis. People who live on cruise ships tend to spend very little time in their staterooms, opting instead for the activities and social events on the boat. Besides meeting fellow passengers, many people who live on cruise ships say the crewmembers and other staff adopt them into the cruise family.
    Lastly, living aboard a cruise ship is much more adventurous than the typical lifestyle in a townhome, assisted living facility, or retirement community. Even those passengers who forgo the activities and excursions still enjoy varied experiences and new places to visit every week. Quite simply, cruise ships can offer people a better quality of life than alternative lifestyles on dry land.
    How Cruise Companies Are Accommodating Those Who Live Aboard Their Ships
    The growing number of retirees and adventurous individuals who choose to live on cruise ships is catching the attention of certain cruise lines. Consequently, these companies highlight their loyalty programs and similar benefits, hoping that a good rewards program might entice people to take back-to-back voyages on their boat or book consistently with their company. Plus, people who choose to live on a cruise ship are likely to book with the same company because of practicality and familiarity. Accordingly, ships are doing more to pull in these passengers.
    Cruise lines have also introduced longer voyages, with routes between the United States and China, and itineraries all over Europe, calling at ports from England to Turkey. Cruise companies continue to introduce these longer voyages because they are preferred by some full-time passengers.
    While life on a cruise ship isn’t for everyone, this sector of the cruise market continues to grow. More people are choosing long-term cruise options, such as Oceania Cruises’ 180-day option, and a growing number of patrons are trying out a full 365 days aboard a cruise ship.
    By Spencer Aronfeld , Contributor - Huffington Post
    Passengers aboard a luxurious 104-day world cruise were ordered to go dark and remain silent at night for 10 days to thwart off possible “pirate threats,” news reports state.  
    The Sea Princess took off from Sydney and as it approached and crossed the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, it was turned into floating mass of darkness, according to The Telegraph. 
    Curtains had to be drawn, no late-night evening strolls on the deck, no movies under the stars.
    “No lights, no party atmosphere, no lapping up tropical breezes on their balconies,” passenger Carolyne Jasinski told The Telegraph. “All around the ship, as the sun set, all curtains were drawn and all shutters closed. Bright lights, which normally signal the presence of the Sea Princess on the ocean, were dimmed or turned off altogether.”
    Jasinski said the captain alerted the 1,900 passengers apologizing for alarming them, but insisting they must be prepared for a possible pirate attack, The Telegraph stated. 
    A spokesperson for the cruise line, who was not named, told The Telegraph: “Any measures aboard Sea Princess were simply taken out of an abundance caution and not in response to a specific threat and are common to international shipping sailing in the region.”
    Operated by Princess Cruises, The National said, the Sea Princess is expected to finish its journey in September in Dubai.
    By Sandra Nortunen, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    After extra week at sea due to storm,passengers reflect on their experience
    For the more than 3,000 passengers aboard the Carnival Breeze, an extra week at sea due to Harvey's wrath ended on a steamy Saturday morning in Galveston.
    The Breeze was the last of four ships to dock in the Port of Galveston's cruise terminal after being turned away Aug. 25 as Harvey strengthened from a tropical storm to a hurricane - leaving upward of 20,000 vacationers stranded at sea. The cruise was originally supposed to end Aug.  27 and was given clearance to dock early Saturday.
    "They were amazing, Carnival took such good care of us," said Vicky Knuckles of Dallas. "They treated all of us like we were VIPs; we just continued with our cruise."
    Many of the passengers were from Houston and the surrounding areas - Baytown's Kenneth and Sandra Martinez and their four kids said they were prepared for the long road to recovery ahead as their extended vacation came to a close.
    "We were trying to connect with neighbors; it was hard being out there," Sandra Martinez said.
    Both of the Martinezes had family members suffer losses in the storm. Sandra's brother in Baytown had 2 feet of water in his home; Kenneth's brother had 6.
    "There is a small feeling of guilt," Sandra Martinez said. "Even though we were stuck, we felt guilty to be there while everyone else is going through so much and we're not there to help."
    Those on board not from the afflicted areas were given a chance to disembark in New Orleans, where the ship docked twice, but Carnival advised against it, citing the inaccessibility of roads approaching Houston and Galveston.
    "They highly encouraged us to stay because it was the safest place to be," passenger Meghan Gray said.
    While they were unable to make port, Knuckles said, the crew went to great lengths to make the extended stay comfortable with free WiFi, phone calls and a continuation of all-inclusive amenities such as food and entertainment.
    Cruising is big business for Galveston, which reported nearly 1.1 million passengers through the first seven months of this year, an increase of 8 percent from the same period last year.
    More than 1.7 million passengers set sail in 2016 on cruises from Galveston, and an expanded cruise terminal also opened last year.
    By Marialuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle
    It will be the size of nearly three football fields.

    In the cruise world, bigger means more: more amenities, more days at sea, and of course, more people. Now, MSC Cruises just said it's going all-in on more by placing an order for its biggest cruise ship ever—and it'll fit the most passengers of any cruise ship on Earth.

    Called MSC's World Class, the new fleet of ships, built by STX France, will host 2,750 cabins, for a total maximum occupancy of 6,850 guests. The world's current largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, fits 6,780 at its maximum occupancy. For perspective: a little over 100 years ago, the world's largest ship, the ill-fated Titanic, fit only 2,344 passengers—about a third of the size of MSC's new World Class.

    Currently, MSC has orders with STX France for two ships, to be inaugurated in 2022 and 2024, with options for two more ships in 2025 and 2026. The boats' dimensions are quite staggering, measuring 1,082 feet by 154 feet. For comparison, an American football field is 360 feet by 160 feet, so each ship is nearly the size of three football fields. They'll also contain a massive 200,000 GRT—that's gross register tons, or the total volume permanently enclosed inside the ship. In other words, that's a lot—but just slightly behind Harmony of the Seas' 226,963 GRT.

    In addition, the World Class's "Y" shape will give the ships' balcony cabins more space, and they'll run on new liquified natural gas engines along with featuring "family-friendly villages, a panoramic aft, and a glass pool lounge."

    MSC Cruises announced the order for the new massive ships at the inauguration of its newest cruise liner, the Meraviglia, the biggest new cruise ship of 2017, which was attended by French President Emmanuel Macron. Meraviglia fits 5,714 passengers, ranking as the fourth-largest cruise ship ever, behind only Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, which includes Harmony of the Seas. While Meraviglia is the big, new kid on the block for 2017, in just a few years, its younger sisters will outgrow it—but there's certainly enough sea out there for everyone to keep playing nicely.
    By Ryan Craggs, Conde Nast Traveler
    Viking Ocean Cruises’ fleet of six planned ships has now become eight and possibly ten.
    The line and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri have signed a memorandum of agreement for two additional cruise ships, plus an option for two more. The next pair is set to launch in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
    Pending final financing and other closing conditions, the two ships will come online after the already launched Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky. Viking Sun is next set to be introduced in late 2017 followed by Viking Spirit during 2018 and the sixth as-yet-unnamed one in 2019.
    By then, Viking will be the largest small ship ocean cruise line.
    "Our guests and the industry have spoken, and they love the ocean ships that we have built with Fincantieri. In our first year of operation we were named the World’s Best Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure, and we are proud of Viking’s dominance in x’s 2017 Cruisers’ Choice Awards, where we won 10 categories, including ‘Best Overall’ and ‘Best for First-Timers,’” said Torstein Hagen, in a press release.
    “We set out to bring the destination back to cruising, and the cruising public has responded. These additional ships are needed to meet the demand we are experiencing. Once only known for being the leading river cruise line, we are now equally known for upscale, inclusive ocean cruise experiences.
    "As we celebrate our 20th year of operation in 2017, we are pleased to continue innovating and to introduce even more guests to The Viking Way of exploration.”
    According to the release and Cruise Industry News, it is anticipated that Viking will predominate the luxury ocean industry with a market share of 23.9 percent by 2020 on a per berth basis. It’s a statistic that will be further boosted by the extra ships through 2022.
    All the new ships will keep to the successful 47,800-ton, 930-guest design, complete with 465 all-veranda staterooms. Each will feature modern safety and “Safe return to port” systems while upholding the latest navigation standards.
    "The extraordinary moment of the cruise sector is continuing, and with this announcement Fincantieri reaffirms its worldwide leadership in the segment. The series – which began with the Viking Star prototype – reaches eight ships with these additional units, with the possibility to further grow thanks to the expansion plans of this dynamic cruise company,” said Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri, in a press release.
    “As the worldwide river cruise leader, Viking decided to enter the ocean cruise segment with a startup together with Fincantieri as shipbuilder, achieving great success. We can but consider this agreement as a strategic and commercial success, which allows us to further strengthen our already excellent partnership with Viking Ocean Cruises."
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Viking Ocean
    River cruising is increasing in popularity all the time, with new river cruise vessels launching every year.
    However, if you’ve never been on a river cruise before, you might not know what to expect. It’s definitely different from a traditional ocean excursion, so what else do you need to know?
    Ask A Pro:
    “My best advice is to get a travel professional who has been on a river cruise,” said Candie Steinman, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist. “This a tough trip to do on your own. If you have not done one, you would not know which river cruise company would best suit your needs or which river to travel on.
    "There are many things included in river pricing that are not included in most ocean options, and that needs to be explained. Many passengers are at first turned off by the higher prices for river, but when you compare everything that is included...river is actually a good value. Often, air rates are very competitive through the river cruise company and the agent can explore that for the new river cruiser.”
    Karen Quinn-Panzer, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist, emphasized how many choices there are, with notable differences between the top five to six brands and different rivers in Europe, Asia and the U.S.
    “So make sure you talk to a travel agent to learn what works best for you,” she said. “Wine or theme cruise? Which rivers are you most interested in? Do you want a very active river cruise with hiking/biking or one where you can tour the highlights of each port? These are just some of the questions a good agent will ask.”
    Take a Group Tour:
    “When traveling with a group tour, you'll get a far better, less expensive rate," said Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours.  
    "Our tours are all-inclusive, so everything from airfares, to transfers to most meals are included in our price. Traveling smarter with a group on river cruises equates to spending 50%-60% less, yet enjoying the same amazing sights.”
    “Understand your accommodations can vary based on the price level you are at,” said Greg Antonelle, managing director of MickeyTravels LLC.
    “Like regular cruises, hotels, or airline seats, there are value River Cruises and there are high-end river cruises.  Know what you’re looking for prior to booking to avoid any surprises.”
    Book Ahead:
    “Book at least nine months to a year in advance for the best options and pricing,” said Quinn-Panzer.
    Don’t Get Sticker Shock:
    “Many people think the price is high for a river cruise," said Amy Madson, Independent Vacation Specialist with Cruises Inc.  
    "When you consider all the included excursions, beer and wine with meals, intimate ships and a crew who knows you by name, river cruising is good value for this high service, culture-immersive cruise experience.”
    Don’t Worry:
    “You do not need to allow extra time for embarkation and disembarkation because there are no long lines for boarding the river cruise,” said Ronda Zeneri, Land & Cruise Specialist with Cruise Planners.
    “It’s similar to checking in for a hotel stay. Also, you do not need to worry about transportation in the ports because most of the towns are just a few steps away.”
    “If you’ve been afraid to cruise because of seasickness worries, rest assured you won’t get seasick on a river cruise,” said Madson. “The shore is always in sight and there are no real waves on the rivers."
    Be Entertained:
    “One of the biggest differences of river cruising vs. ocean cruising is the entertainment,” said Madson.
    “On river cruises, you won’t find casinos and big production shows. You find amazing local entertainers, such as a couple who will teach you how to waltz in Vienna or an Austrian Folk music group serenading you during dinner.  If you are lucky, the crew will put on a show for you and this will be one of the highlights of your cruise.”
    Get Out and Enjoy: 
    “Take comfortable, walking shoes for the many available tours,” said Zeneri.
    “Enjoy the sites,” said Margie Lenau of Wonderland Family Vacations. “You may only be in a city for a few hours, so don't miss out.”
    “[If] you are flying all the way to Europe, why not stay a few days before and/or after the river cruise to enjoy a little more of Europe?” added Zeneri.
    “Be ready to meet people and share stories,” suggested Madson. “River cruising usually offers an intimate group of 200 or fewer travelers with open seating for dining.  Sit with different people each day, learn their stories and share yours. You may make some amazing friends.”
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News  Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Viking River Cruises
    Norwegian Cruise Line announced Wednesday that it would begin employing certified lifeguards at onboard family pools on every ship in its fleet. The American Red Cross-trained and certified lifeguards will be tasked with monitoring family pools during scheduled hours. Passengers will begin seeing the new staff on Norwegian’s four largest ships—the Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Epic—this summer.
    As for the rest of the cruise line’s fleet, the lifeguards will be hired and in position by early 2018.
    “Norwegian has stationed pool monitors on our largest ships since 2015 and we are now taking further steps to ensure the safety of our youngest guests with the addition of certified lifeguards across our fleet,” Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart said in a statement.
    “While parents are always the first line of supervision when it comes to water safety, we felt it was important to provide this added measure across our fleet.”
    The cruise line will also offer complimentary swim vests for both adults and children on the company’s four largest ships. Passengers will be able to obtain the safety vests at towel stations on each ship's pool deck during daytime hours.
    In February, Royal Caribbean also announced that it would be adding licensed lifeguards on every ship in its fleet, starting with Oasis of the Seas. The process is expected to be completed by the end of June.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    Royal Caribbean International introduced Symphony of the Seas on Wednesday, revealing the long-awaited name and details of its fourth Oasis-class cruise ship.
    With a gross register tonnage of 230,000, it will be the largest cruise ship ever. 
    The cruise line confirmed that Symphony of the Seas will arrive in April 2018 before sailing the Mediterranean in the spring and summer of 2018, making stops in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Provence, Florence, Rome and Naples.
    In the fall of 2018, the ship will cross the Atlantic Ocean to its homeport in PortMiami, where Royal Caribbean has just broken ground on the 170,000-square-foot "Crown of Miami" cruise terminal in Terminal A. The cruise line said it will be the most innovative cruise facility in the U.S. when completed.
    Symphony of the Seas will be joined by its sister ship Allure of the Seas in Miami.
    From Miami, Symphony of the Seas will alternate between seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries featuring stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
    Confirmed amenities aboard the 1,188-foot-long ship include a FlowRider surf simulator, an ice skating rink, a rock climbing wall, a Splashaway Bay aqua park, a Vitality at Sea spa and an Ultimate Abyss slide with a new twist.
    Some of the Symphony of the Seas' more than 20 dining options will include Chops Grille, Jamie's Italian, Izumi, Solarium Bistro and Sabor.
    Bookings for the ship's sailings are currently available online, over the phone or via a travel agent. 
    Royal Caribbean plans to announce additional details about the ship in the coming months.
    Symphony of the Seas is currently under construction at STX France in St. Nazaire, France.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    On Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that it has opened escape rooms onboard several of the company’s ships, dubbing the new entertainment experience “Escape The Big Top.”
    For travelers unfamiliar with escape room attractions, passengers sailing with Norwegian will have the opportunity to put their critical thinking skills to the test in a physical adventure game to solve challenges and beat the clock.
    Escape The Big Top will be an onboard carnival that goes wrong, forcing passengers to solve the clues and escape the spell before the time runs out. The event is complimentary for guests and is open to passengers of all ages.
    The escape room experiences will be available several times per cruise and can be found on Norwegian Cruise Line’s four newest ships, including the Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Escape.
     To take part in Norwegian’s escape room attractions, passengers can make their reservations through the box office once they are onboard. Sign up information can be found in each ship’s Freestyle Daily.
    In addition to the new escape rooms, Norwegian features entertainment beyond anything at sea, including Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals, dinner theater experiences from Cirque Dreams, headline comedians, sing-along fun from Howl At The Moon, live music, theme parties, spectacular shows and much more.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    Viking River Cruises officially christened its new Viking Hild and Viking Herja at a festive event in Koblenz, Germany yesterday afternoon and extending through the evening.
    The ceremony marks the sixth such launch since 2012, commemorating a staggering total of 48 Longships built in the short period of time. In attendance were Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of parent company Viking Cruises; senior vice president, Karine Hagen, and godmothers Dr. Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg and Debbie Wiseman.
    The former christened the Viking Hild, with the latter christening the Viking Herja.
    Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg is the CEO of Weingut Fürst Löwenstein—a winery in Lower Franconia—and fellow steward for Schloss Löwenstein in Kleinheubach, the family’s 1725-built home. As the Longships pass the historic property, Viking presents what it calls a Privileged Access shore excursion for guests to tour the facilities and taste its wines onboard the riverboats and ocean ships.
    Wiseman is an award-winning British composer and conductor whose credits include film and television, as well as Classic FM Live’s Composer in Residence. Viking has commissioned Wiseman to write a new piece of music commemorating the cruise company’s 2017 20th anniversary. She will record it at Abbey Road Studios and premiere it on Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall on April 18, 2017.
    “Two decades ago when we started this company, modern river cruising was still unknown to most travelers. Now 20 years later, we are pleased that most travelers know river cruising, and they know Viking as a household name,” said Torstein Hagen, in a release.
    “The naming of a new ship by a ceremonial godmother is a sacred maritime tradition. We are honored that the godmothers of our two new Longships are also important partners who will help us deliver thoughtful and enriching experiences for Viking guests this year.”
    Now that the two ships have been christened, they are set to begin carrying their first official guests on March 20, 2017. We are currently aboard the Viking Hild for a 5-night preview sailing, and the new vessel exhibits the same innovative Longship design first introduced by the Viking Odin in 2012. Since then, there have been subtle changes, but the efficient layout remains to better accommodate each’s 190 passengers in great comfort and unpretentious style.
    A full review of the riverboat is forthcoming.
    The Viking Hild will soon depart on the line’s new Paris-to-the-Swiss Alps itinerary along the Rhine River in the spring, and both the Hild and the Viking Herja will later embark on classic Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway sailings.
    Altogether, Viking Cruises operates 60 vessels for its Viking River Cruises brand and three ships for its Viking Ocean Cruises label. While there are options for additional river builds, no more have yet been ordered, but another three ocean ships are set to come online through 2020.
    In the meantime, Viking also just announced it has purchased a riverboat for cruises in Egypt; it will be updated with the line’s understated but warm decor to be consistent with the rest of the fleet. That craft will begin operations next March along the Nile. What’s more, the line’s Ukraine ship is set to come back online soon, and the company’s Douro Longships are now fully under the company’s control.
    The existing Viking Odin and Viking Freya have also been customized for the China market and will start Mandarin-speaking voyages on March 28, 2017. Additionally, Viking continues to pursue eventual entry into U.S. river cruising along the Mississippi.
    When asked about lessons learned from the new ocean ships (for features or programming) to roll back to the riverboats, Torstein Hagen remarked that its expanded dining choice among alternative restaurants at sea provides a good model for how cuisine might be broadened along the river as well. Already, the signature Freyja Collection of toiletries from the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky have replaced the former L’Occitane ones on the Viking Hild and beyond.
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Travel Pulse
    Traveling costs money, but there are ways that you can cut back on your expenses and leave more cash for your next trip.
    Schedule at the right time: “The best way to save money when traveling is simply to schedule your trip at the right time,” said Anthony Tucker, All Inclusive Outlet. “Your destination may be in the middle of a season that is different from your home, so that can affect the rates for both transportation and accommodations. Seasonal rates vary depending on where you’re headed, so be sure to do your research to determine the best time of year for your chosen destination.”
    Book early: “At least nine months in advance if you can,” said Margie Lenau of Wonderland Vacations. “However, do not book until you are sure of your travel plans. There are change fees that can add up and cost you more in the long run.”
    Bring snacks: “I always take packets of instant oatmeal with me,” said Lenau. “It saves money on breakfasts or a snack, and I won't go hungry. All you need is hot water, which is readily available at most places.”
    Go all-in: Tucker explained that staying at an all-inclusive property is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck while traveling abroad. “While some may shy at the initial cost, keep in mind that all-inclusive resorts come with countless amenities to ensure your stay is comfortable and enjoyable,” he said. “An all-inclusive provides not only a great room to stay in, but also most (if not all) of your meals, beverages, and many onsite activities like snorkeling lessons and food tastings. The flat rate for an all-inclusive can be much easier to budget with, rather than having to account for small expenses here and there that can certainly add up.”
    Focus on preferences: “You can also save money by focusing on vacation preferences rather than a specific destination while planning,” said Mark Noennig, executive vice president at The Mark Travel Corporation. “Rather than being dead-set on a specific place, explore travel options by activity, theme and culinary preferences.”
    Book with a travel agent: “We always advise that people book with a travel agent,” said Noennig. “Contrary to what some people would probably assume, recent research by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) showed that agents could save consumers an average of $452 per trip. Travel agents have the optimal amount of experience and knowledge needed to build the best package possible, regardless of the budget.”
    Stick to a budget: “Once your trip is finalized, make sure to decide on a budget and stick to it,” said Noennig. “Planning your activities ahead of the trip through your travel agent can minimize unexpected in-destination expenses. That way you can manage how much money you and your family are willing to spend before you ever step foot on a plane, which can help make trips a lot less stressful. Pre-established budgets and plans let you focus on fun instead of your wallet.”
    Article Courtesy Travel Pulse and Seven Sea Journeys/News 
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
    Photo: Courtesy of Pixabay Free Images
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