• Cruise Ship Industry News

    Who needs a translator?
    Kids certainly don't aboard a cruise ship, even far from home. "We use a lot of sign language," explained Elizabeth Williams, who is 13 and from London, cruising in Japan aboard the Diamond Princess with her family. Forty percent of the guests were Japanese.
    Elizabeth made fast friends on board with two Canadian teens and Yuka Iwasa, who speaks very little English. "You meet a lot of different people from different parts of the world and you spend a crazy time with all of them," she explained, her friends all giggling at her side.
    Listen up parents and grandparents. If you think great sites are the reason you are treating your children and grandchildren to a cruise, think again. A lot of what they learn about the world takes place right on board in the kids' and teen clubs, especially when they are meeting so many youngsters from different cultures and countries. "We'd much rather be on the ship than touring," said Vivian Trinh, 14 and from Toronto.
    Dilini Desilva from Sydney, Australia, was pleasantly surprised when her two young daughters preferred time on board with their new multilingual friends to touring with their parents. "This is our first cruise and it's marvelous," she said.
    Families like the Desilvas like cruising because it offers the opportunity for family time, as well as guilt-free adult time because the kids are so happily ensconced in organized activities where they are also expanding their horizons.
    There are opportunities for learning together too. Princess Cruises has teamed up with Discovery Communications to offer families new science-focused activities based on hit TV shows -- think stargazing at sea or Animal Planet-recommended shore excursions.
    It's so easy too, parents and grandparents said on the Diamond Princess. They can tour a foreign country (or countries) without packing or unpacking or worrying about finicky eaters, as they can always find something to eat -- a burger, pizza, noodles. Families also like the all-inclusive nature of paying for transportation, lodging, entertainment and food. I just wish there were fewer upcharges -- everything from specialty coffee to specialty restaurants.
    Still, families don't tend to appreciate the opportunities their kids will have to mix and mingle with kids from around the world until they get on board. On the Diamond Princess, which underwent a $30 million renovation last year, for example, there were people from 39 countries, including more than 1,000 from Japan. The crew came from 44 countries. Princess Cruises adapted with Japanese-speaking staff, Asian food (think rice and miso soup among the breakfast offerings, a ramen bar in the afternoon and a sushi specialty restaurant, as well as Asian offerings in the dining room) entertainment (more magic and Japanese-style comedy), the chance to try on traditional Japanese dress and a Japanese Izumi bath experience -- think sitting in a big hot tub sans bathing suit (there is one for men and one for women) looking out at sea. More than 50 westerners turned up for a Japanese language lesson.
    "I've learned so much on board," said Josh Berkowitz, 13, cruising with his grandmother, Myrna Dukart from suburban Philadelphia. The trip was his bar mitzvah gift, he explained, and he didn't mind a bit that there were just 134 kids and teens as compared to 1,000 on some Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries. "You get to know people better," he explained adding that he was even taking some etiquette lessons back to school. "The Japanese are so polite," he added. "I'm going to try to be more polite when I get home."
    What else did the kids learn about Japan?
    "The sushi is different, much fresher," offered Vivien Tranh. But once was enough for unfamiliar ice cream flavors like squid ink ice cream.
    Japan is that rare combination of a commitment to tradition and cutting edge of technology in entertainment. "Kids and adults see in Japan that there is more than one way to do things and that one way isn't good or bad, just different, and that's what makes life interesting," said Heather Clement, a Japan expert who serves as the ship's ports expert and is working on innovative products for cruise passengers in Japan who want to tour independently.
    This particular itinerary started in Yokohama and traveled north stopping in towns like Kushiro, Otaru (time to try a traditional Japanese bath) and Hakodate where we sampled the most amazing sushi. At another port, we opted for an excursion in Japanese so we could tour a national park. It seems the Japanese go in for more active shore excursions. In Hakodate, Japanese teens in their school uniforms were waiting, hoping English-speaking passengers would allow them to practice their English. We did, of course, and they handed out rice cookies.
    What do you like to do for fun? We asked the Japanese teens.
    "Lucky Pierrot!" they declared. We figured out that was a local burger and ice cream place that certainly would appeal to the teens on board.
    "It's amazing how the kids communicate," observed Caroline Andrews, the mom of Jessica Maresca, 8. Andrews has had a lot of time to observe. Her husband, Fabrizio Maresca, is a veteran Princess captain commanding the crew of 1,050 when we were aboard recently. His wife and daughter sail with him whenever Jessica isn't in school. That the kids on board are from all over the world and might not speak English or Italian, Jessica's two languages, is never an issue, her mom said.
    "The older kids teach each other language," agreed Justine Pastor, the youth programs manager and a 10-year Princess veteran herself. "At the end of the day, they all play together. The kids help us translate." Of course, the crew, including kids' club staff, come from around the world as well and speak many languages.
    Josh Berkowitz, for one, says he plans to keep in touch with his new friends, just as he has with other kids he's met from around the world on past cruises. "You learn more being in a country for a week on a cruise than in school for half a year," he said. "I'm going to miss the friends I made and the crew and Japan. I'm going to come back for sure."
    Article Courtesy of Eileen Ogintz (10.23.16), Fox News/Seven Sea Journeys
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Fox News
    Entertainer Armando Christian Perez — aka Pitbull — will christen Norwegian Cruise Line's newest cruise ship.
    The Norwegian Escape will debut at PortMiami on Nov. 9, with Perez as "godfather."
    Perez, also known as Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide, will be the headline performer at the ship's naming ceremony, the Miami-based cruise operator announced Wednesday.
    The Miami native also performed at the christening ceremony for Norwegian Getaway when it debuted in Miami in February 2014. He also introduced his Voli vodka brand to cruisers at that time. Voli is now available across Norwegian's fleet and featured in several signature cocktails.
    The 4,200-passenger, 164,600 gross ton cruise ship will be the largest to be based year-round in Miami and will sail seven-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean starting Nov. 14, stopping at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.
    From Mariah Carey to Sally Ride to Tinker Bell to Queen Elizabeth, there have been many famous cruise ship godmothers over the years.
    Norwegian Escape's signature hull artwork is designed by marine wildlife artist and ocean conservationist Guy Harvey.
    By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    Disney Cruise Line is embracing the Force and really long hair as changes are coming to three of its four cruise ships.
    Star Wars features big on both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy while new Broadway-style show "Tangled: The Musical" will debut on Disney Magic.
    First up will be the revamp of Disney Dream, currently in dry dock until Oct. 24 in the Bahamas. Among new features coming to the nearly five-year-old ship will be two new spaces in the Oceaneer Club including the "Star Wars: Millennium Falcon" play area.
    Aimed at children ages 3-12, the new Star Wars-themed area will allow children to join the Rebel Alliance, punch up the hyperdrive and navigate Han Solo's ship across the galaxy. A large-screen TV will play the Disney XD series "Star Wars Rebels" while gaming stations will let kids play video games based on the TV series.
    Also coming to Dream is Disney Infinity Toy Box, a space dedicated to the company's figurine-based gaming system with a life-size Disney Infinity Base for children to step onto for interactive game play. On display and available for use will be a complete set of figurines from all of Disney's franchises including Pixar, Marvel and classic Disney characters. The Star Wars and Infinity play spaces replace the Monster's Academy and Disney's Explorer Pod play areas while Andy's Room and Pixie Hollow remain.
    Disney Dream debuted in 2010. It was the third Disney Cruise Line ship.
    Star Wars will also be embraced with the on-board version of Jedi Training Academy, a popular experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Young cruisers will become Padawans to master a lightsaber and use the Force in a showdown with Darth Vader.
    Dream's overhaul will also see the addition of Vanellope's Sweets & Treats, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, adults-only splash pool Satellite Falls and the addition of a "Muppets"-themed adventure to the Midship Detective Agency scavenger hunt.
    Dream's sister ship Disney Fantasy will also be feeling the Force farther down the road for a set of eight special Star Wars-themed sailings from January-April 2016. Those sailings will feature the Jedi Training Academy, but also screenings of all of the Star Wars films including "The Force Awakens" that debuts Dec. 18. In addition, there will be Star Wars trivia, a Star Wars deck party with lasers and fireworks and for the adults, a transformed nightclub to resemble the Mos Eisley cantina featured in the original 1977 film.
    The special Star Wars sailings on the Fantasy will be Jan. 9, Jan. 23, Feb. 6, Feb. 20, March 5, March 19, April 2 and April 16, 2016.
    Disney Magic had a major overhaul in 2013, but is debuting this November a new stage show based on the 2011 movie "Tangled" about Rapunzel and her extremely long hair. "Tangled the Musical" is the cruise line's first original production since 2012 and will feature three new songs along with popular numbers from the film, all written by Oscar-nominated songwriters Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.
    Replacing "Villains Tonight!," the new show debuts when Disney Magic begins sailing from PortMiami in November.
    The cruise line's fourth ship, Disney Wonder, has been in a holding pattern for any major overhaul, awaiting the completion of a Panama Canal project that would allow larger ships to make the trip to the West Coast. At this point, Disney Wonder is the only ship in the fleet that can traverse the canal and take advantage of the lucrative Alaska summer sailing season.
    By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    Norwegian Cruise Line officially got its hands on its brand new ship, its biggest ship ever.
    Norwegian Escape, the first of the line's new Breakaway Plus class of ship, takes over the title of the line's largest ship as officials took part in a handover ceremony in Bremerhaven, Germany today after the 164,600-ton ship completed its 17-month trip from drawing board to world's newest cruise ship, courtesy of Meyer Werft shipyard.
    "Norwegian Escape's arrival marks a true evolution for our brand," said line president and COO Andy Stuart in a press release. "We've capitalized on the best of our Breakaway Class ships and taken freedom and flexibility to the next level with this incredible new ship."
    Escape finished sea trials in the North Sea after making the trip from the shipyard last month. Now Escape will make its way to Hamburg, spend two nights in Southampton, England and then make the transatlantic trip to Miami on Oct. 29. The ship's christening, courtesy of Miami native and ship godfather Pitbull, will be on Nov. 9. After that, the ship will sail year-round out of PortMiami on 7-night Caribbean itineraries.
    "We are thrilled to deliver the first in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway Plus class," said Bernard Meyer, managing partner with Meyer Werft. "Norwegian Escape is the newest and most advanced cruise vessel on the seas and we are proud of the team that worked diligently to design and build her."
    The 4,200-passenger Escape becomes the line's 14th ship in the fleet, and now the largest over 155,873-ton Norwegian Epic. A sister ship to Escape, formerly known as Norwegian Bliss, but now awaiting a Chinese name, is currently under construction at Meyer Werft and due in 2017. That ship is being built specifically for the Chinese market. Two more Breakaway Plus class ships are expected in 2018 and 2019. Escape is now the fifth largest ship at sea, trailing only two Oasis-class and two Quantum-class ships from Royal Caribbean.
    Stewart Chiron, president and CEO of Miami-based industry website CruiseGuy.com, was in Germany and had a tour of the ship before its conveyance in September.
    "It was definitely an impressive ship," Chiron said. "There were definite improvements on the ship compared to Breakaway and Getaway. The look and the feel and the flow of the ship has been improved. The dining options were upgraded. The bars and lounges are going to be fun. There are some nice additions."
    Escape has a lot of Miami and South Florida influences, from the hull artwork from marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey to the first Margaritaville at Sea. Also on board will be a version of Miami's famed Tobacco Road blues bar, a craft beer hall partnering with Wynwood Brewing Company and a dining partnership with restaurateurs Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro of The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, which has opened six dining concepts in South Florida in the past three years.
    Other notable features of the ship include the largest water park at sea, largest ropes course at sea, a spa with a snow room and Tony Award-winning musical productions "Million Dollar Quartet" and "After Midnight" as well as an ode the 80s films of director John Hughes like "The Breakfast Club."
    By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    Disney Cruise Line is bringing its fleet back to Florida in early 2017 with a few trips offered from Puerto Rico and Galveston.
    The cruise line's four ships will be primarily based in Port Canaveral and PortMiami, a strategy the line has followed since 2014.
    Disney Magic, which will be sailing from Miami for fall 2016, will continue to offer 3-, 4- and 5-night cruises to the Bahamas as well as some 5-night western Caribbean cruises through March 2017.
    Disney Fantasy, Dream and Wonder will sail out of Port Canaveral with Fantasy continuing eastern and western 7-night cruises while both Dream and Wonder will be offering 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises. Wonder arrives in Port Canaveral in late January while Dream and Fantasy have never called another port home.
    Both Disney Magic and Wonder will offer sailings from San Juan, marking the third season the line will sail southern Caribbean itineraries from the U.S. commonwealth. Magic made the first sailing from Puerto Rico in 2014 and Wonder is set to sail from San Juan for four sailings this coming January.
    In 2017, Wonder will be the first to call on the island after completing its season in Galveston with a six-night journey from Galveston to San Juan on Jan. 20 with stops in Cozumel; Grand Cayman; and Falmouth, Jamaica. It will then sail a three-night voyage from San Juan to Port Canaveral on Jan. 26. Magic will make a longer stint with four sailings in April 2017.
    Magic's itineraries include stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua and St. Kitts. Those sailings will be on April 9, 16, 23 and 30.
    "Our San Juan itineraries have been very popular," Disney Cruise Line spokesperson Jennifer Haile-Tinn said. "Utilizing San Juan as a homeport enables us to offer a wider variety of destinations to our guests."
    No sailings beyond April 2017 have been announced. Bookings for the new sailings will be open to the public Oct. 8. Details and pricing can be found at disneycruise.com.
    By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    Just 30 months ago, the cruise news that broke earlier today would have been unimaginable. One company’s turnaround from villain to champion has turned them into a blueprint for how to turn corporate crisis into a large-scale impetus for evolution.
    No, we’re not talking about norovirus or tragedy here. This is good news for the industry and great news for Carnival Cruise Line.
    Readers’ Digest readers have named Carnival America’s Most Trusted Cruise Line. More than 4,500 respondents agreed – Carnival is No. 1.
    On the surface, it’s just another press release. This is the beginning of the travel award season, it's just another plaudit. But when you zoom out to Feb. 10, 2013, this news becomes a remarkable achievement.
    That’s the day that an engine fire broke out in an engine room aboard the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship was on the third-day of a four-night itinerary from Galveston to the Western Caribbean.
    Dream vacations quickly evolved into a nightmare as the ship drifted out at sea for four days with more than 4,000 passengers and crew members in agony. Air conditioning, lighting, water, food and even working toilets failed one by one before it was ultimately towed back to Mobile, Alabama.
    A subsequent investigation revealed that the crew set sail in February with only four of six generators fully operational – a fleetwide problem well known among Carnival crew.
    The perception then was that Carnival was OK with substandard, that company officials knew this ship was prone to fires, that the faulty generators were long overdue for maintenance.
    This after sister cruise line Costa suffered a fire aboard the Allegra in February 2012.
    It was a public relations nightmare, not only for Carnival but a perception problem for the entire industry. The company that built its reputation on being the Fun Ships with America’s sweetheart Kathie Lee Gifford belting out jingles was suddenly showing itself to be far from trustworthy.
    The company owned the mistakes, and it started an internal audit and a long road back to earning the public trust.
    Carnival dedicated $300 million to a fleetwide safety upgrade. It instituted a 110%-money-back “Great Vacation Guarantee.”
    From there, Carnival focused on making the guest experience better than ever. The arrival of the Breeze started a Fun Ships 2.0 drydock overhaul of the fleet, adding upgrades to the kids’ program that included the Dr. Seuss at Sea initiative, a new comedy partnership with George Lopez and new eateries such as Guy’s Burger Joint, to name just a few of the innovations.
    The corporate staff enhanced their travel agent outreach efforts, creating communication channels that made the agent community feel as if they were being heard when it came to onboard changes and compensated better for selling the Carnival experience.
    Carnival kept moving forward, creating the successful Carnival Live program, bringing well-known singers onboard for free shows.
    They recommitted themselves to cleanliness and safety and the results showed. The three cruises I’ve taken my family on aboard Carnival ships over the last two-plus years have been among the best vacations we’ve ever had. We saw all the efforts in action, from the cleaning staff to the entertainment staff to the stewards, a "how can we make this trip magical?" attitude shined through.
    The end result has been a turnaround rarely seen in any other economic sector, let alone in just 30 months. Carnival is strong financially once again, and this Readers’ Digest award is just the latest sign that they are once again beloved by the cruising public.
    New CEO Christine Duffy spoke to a packed house of travel agents last week at the Agent@Home Travel Summit in Atlantic City, N.J. As she spoke gleefully of the company’s newest ship, Vista, coming online in May 2016, she said with conviction that Carnival is focused on being America’s cruise line.
    Their rivals have made great strides in earning that title. Cynics might say this award is just the result of a voting public with a short-term memory. But Carnival has owned its flawed past and executed an extensive plan to earn that label once again. They have listened to their guests, worked in concert with the agent community and ultimately achieved in delivering a top-notch cruise experience.
    As a result, they’ve gone from being the poster child for failure to the blueprint for success.
    It’s a case study I hope U.S. airlines will follow, and quick.
    By Tim Wood, Travel Pulse
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    Smartships with cocktail-wielding robots is just the beginning.
    Cruise ships have long lagged the rest of the travel industry when it comes to technology. Wi-Fi connections have traditionally been painfully slow, and the only noteworthy technology investment cruise lines made usually involved systems designed to make it easier to pay for optional items like spa treatments, dinners and trips to the onboard casino.
    That is officially changing.
    Royal Caribbean Cruises just introduced a fleet of what it calls “smartships” that offer high-tech touches like cocktail-mixing robots, RFID powered wristbands, and mobile apps. And Carnival announced that it’s creating the cruise industry’s largest Wi-Fi network, which will offer the broadest possible high-speed global coverage across dozens of ships. Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises also said on its official blog that it will offer free unlimited Wi-Fi access for every passenger starting in late 2016.
    These upgrades promise to change the sailing experience, opening cruise vacations to passengers like always-connected Millennials and conference attendees, who would have never considered a cruise before. But as always, there’s a catch: Someone has to pay for the technology, and that someone is probably you.
    Faster Wi-Fi
    The centerpiece of these technology upgrades is faster Wi-Fi. O3b Networks, a company that provides ship-to-shore communication systems, started working with Royal Caribbean back in 2011 to upgrade its internet connections. It developed a new type of high-throughput satellite which quadrupled connection speeds, according to Steve Collar, O3b’s CEO.
    “It allows passengers to play interactive Microsoft Xbox online games with players around the world, stream Netflix HD videos to their devices, share their vacation experience via social media and even chat online,” he adds. “This is an unprecedented experience on a cruise ship.”
    Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s CEO, said passengers want a connected ship. “Access to reliable and fast internet access is now a requirement by our guests,” he says. “We have worked very hard to find ways to simplify how we provide our unique high speed internet service.”
    Royal Caribbean’s Wi-Fi packages, called Voom, will cost $15 per day per device with a second device half off, and offer download speed that was available for the entire fleet not long ago, according to the company.
    Demand for wireless connection is high, agrees Reza Rasoulian, a vice president for connectivity for Carnival. “Historically for the cruise and maritime industry, connectivity while sailing in the middle of the ocean has been a challenge,” he admits. But he says Carnival has pulled it off. Its new wireless network is deployed on 34 of its 100 ships, and represents a huge investment in satellites, networks and optimization technologies.
    Carnival’s system, called WiFi@Sea, allows guests to share photos and updates, and even call home from a computer. “Previously, a simple connection was a challenge,” says Rasoulian.
    It’s difficult to quantify the upgrades with any precision. Neither Royal Caribbean nor Carnival would disclose their exact connection speeds pre- or post-upgrade. A Carnival spokeswoman would only say that speeds “are similar” to those found in a public Wi-Fi setting. (Those can range from 1 to more than 4 Mbps.) Royal Caribbean claims its Wi-Fi service “exceeds” 500 Mbps per ship. The cruise lines declined to discuss the costs of the new, better-connected ships.
    Just the beginning of a tech renaissance
    “Customer experience across all segments of the travel industry is being transformed by technology,” says Umar Riaz, managing director of North American for Accenture Travel. Customers want better Wi-Fi, seamless booking and check-in, social media integration, and mobile device enablement, so the cruise industry is meeting that demand.
    Better Wi-Fi is just the beginning, says Chris Ruff, the CEO of UIEvolution, which provides software solutions to Enterprise companies in the cruise, automotive, and hotel industries. The entire industry is one on the cusp of a digital revolution.
    “Technology like faster Wi-Fi, improved in-cabin entertainment, and other tools like digital signage and wayfinding not only improves the experience for passengers, but provides opportunities for the brand to collect valuable guest intelligence that can be used to further enhance and personalize passengers’ experiences,” he says.
    Steve Griswold, an Atlanta-based travel agent who just cruised on the retrofitted Oasis of the Seas, is a convert to “smart” ships.
    “We used to lock our cell phones in the safe and then find an internet cafe at the cruise ports to catch up every few days on work emails,” he says. “Now all that has changed. Wi-Fi is everywhere.It’s a blessing, but also no longer are you device-less for a week, which I have to admit was kind of nice.”
    Griswold says he paid $15 per device per day for unlimited Internet access, and, he adds, “it just plain works.”
    How much will all of this cost?
    Certainly, cruise lines hope to cover the expense of the new technology with higher usage rates. Carnival, which is shifting from a pay-by-minute model to an “unlimited” model for wireless connections, claims the new system will cost passengers less. On Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas unlimited internet will be included in the price of the cruise, starting next May — something Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s CEO, calls “previously unthinkable.”
    “We’ve seen satisfaction rates jump by 50 percent on guest surveys, which was a major catalyst for us to continue to expand this solution across our brands,” notes Carnival’s Rasoulian.
    It also seems likely that some cruise lines will raise their prices or cruise fares — or both — in order to cover the substantial expense of these shipboard upgrades. And while the ships of the past may have been “dumb,” at least in terms of technology, they were also often cheaper.
    Attracting business customers
    All of the upgrades in tech could mean that cruising will appeal to a whole new set of passengers, beyond the traditional cruise-interest demographic, sometimes derisively (but not entirely inaccurately) referred to as the newlywed, overfed and nearly dead.
    “We anticipate more conference, training and incentive meeting sales opportunities across the board,” says Bernadette Stark, the vice president of conference, events, and training for Vacation.com. “In many cases, holding these events onboard a cruise ship can help minimize costs over a land-based event.”
    By Christopher Elliott, Fortune
    For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    A growing number of upscale cruise lines are beginning to include free unlimited Wi-Fi in the price of a ticket as lines lure customers with the promise of faster, more affordable Internet access.
    Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises Wednesday announced on its official blog that it will offer free unlimited Wi-Fi access for every passenger fleetwide starting in late 2016. The new service provides Internet access from any location on the ship via laptop, tablet or smartphone.
    Currently, unlimited Internet is free in top suite categories, while other guests get a package of 200 free minutes or more based on voyage length. The luxury line already offers many inclusions such as alcohol, gratuities and round trip airfare.
    Most cruise companies are improving Wi-Fi technology to enable passengers to stay connected while on the high seas and to be able share their vacation photos and comments on social media sites. Currently, most lines offer pay-as-you-go packages for Wi-Fi usage, and passengers can easily get caught with a bill for $50 to $100 a day just on Wi-Fi.
    But that paradigm is shifting.
    In August, luxury line Crystal began offering all passengers a limited amount of free Wi-Fi access per day. USA Today notes that Viking Ocean Cruises, the river cruise company’s new ocean ship that promises "no nickel-and-diming" mantra includes free unlimited Wi-Fi for every passenger.
    And Silversea and Oceania say they’ll soon offer free unlimited Wi-Fi for passengers in top suites, while offering free, limited Internet access for lesser cabins.
    But these lines are not the only lines looking to meet the growing demand for faster connectivity at a cheaper price.
    Last month, Carnival Corp. announced it is expanding Wi-Fi options with its WiFi@Sea, an Internet access system that charges clients based on how they use the service rather than by the traditional per-minute fees that have dominated the industry for years.
    The plans cost from $5 per day for basic social media only access, to $16 per day with access to the web for emailing, social media, and browsing, to the premium service at $25 per day that gives customers full web access, including calling sites like Skype.
    The line says the service will be available across most of the company's fleet by the end of 2016.
    “We know that each of our guests is looking for something different, whether that is being completely or partially unplugged from the Internet or staying plugged in,” said Reza Rasoulian, Carnival Corp.’s vice president of global connectivity and shipboard technology operations.
    Last year Skift reported that Royal Caribbean tested free Wi-Fi among 5,000 passengers on voyages aboard Oasis of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas and is looking at offering Wi-Fi while in port.
    By Grace E. Cutler, FOXNews.com
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    The arrival of the Carnival Victory opened the new port of Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. It is the first of many Carnival Corp. ships that will dock at the $85 million facility.
    Amber Cove is expected to revive cruise tourism on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, which has been dormant for 30 years.
    The port includes a pier capable of simultaneously docking two of the cruise company's largest vessels. It has a shopping village, bars and restaurants, a pool, ziplines, rental cabanas and a large excursion-staging area.
    Carnival Corp. has said that Amber Cove will be included on stops from eight of its 10 cruise lines, although at least half of the passengers are expected to come from Carnival Cruise Line.
    Amber Cove will serve as a base of operations for the Fathom social-impact brand when it begins sailing to the Dominican Republic next April.
    Source: Tom Steighorst (Travel Weekly, October 6, 2015 "Amber Cove Welcomes First Ship")
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Featured photo credit: Sun Sentinel
    Princess Cruises will raise the gratuity for service staff from $11.50 to $12.95 per passenger, per day for voyages that depart on and after Jan. 1.
    The increase would bring the suggested amount for two passengers on a seven-day cruise to $181.30.
    The line said guests in mini-suite categories and above, who currently pay $12 per day, will contribute $13.95 per day.
    The amounts are automatically added to a guest’s final shipboard bill, but can be adjusted upwards or downwards at the guest-services desk. Princess noted that gratuities will be deemed “undisputed” unless a request to modify is received prior to disembarking the ship.
    Princess said, “This gratuity will be shared amongst those staff who help provide and support your cruise experience, including all waitstaff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards and housekeeping staff across the fleet."
    The suggested gratuity has been $11.50 since 2013.
    Besides Princess, cruise lines that have increased or will increase their gratuity charge this year are Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Holland America Line.
    Source: Tom Steighorst (Travel Weekly, October 6, 2015 "Princess the Latest Cruise Line to Raise Gratuity")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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Featured photo credit: Princess Cruise Line
    Carnival Cruise Line has announced a multi-year agreement with the New Orleans Saints that includes in-stadium promotions, community partnerships, onboard game-day festivities, social media activities and advertising opportunities.
    As the Official Cruise Line of the New Orleans Saints, Carnival will offer a variety of in-game activities and promotions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, including the “Helmet Shuffle” contest that awards one lucky fan a free cruise during each home game. Additionally, stand-alone ads will be positioned throughout the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while Carnival messaging will be featured on the team’s website.
    Guests on board Carnival’s New Orleans-based ships can also enjoy the new Saints Sailgate Sailaways, football-themed deck parties that will include food and drink specials, games, prizes, a DJ, dancing and more.
    Saints fans will also have a chance to win a number of prizes, including autographed jerseys, footballs and helmets and free Caribbean cruises departing from New Orleans.
    Carnival is also teaming up with the Saints to support the team’s Read and Rise program that promotes children’s literacy in and around the New Orleans area.
    Carnival currently operates two year-round ships carrying 400,000 guests annually from New Orleans. Carnival’s New Orleans-based ships include Carnival Dream, which sails seven-day cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida, and Carnival Elation offering four- and five-day cruises to Mexico. Next spring, the newer, larger Carnival Triumph will assume Carnival Elation’s short-cruise program, increasing capacity on this route by 34 percent.

    Source: Travel Agent Central/Newswire, October 2, 2015 ("Carnival Partners with New Orleans Saints")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: biz new orleans dot com
    The refugee crisis in Europe is having an impact on cruise-ship travel in the region, according to Arnold Donald, chief executive officer of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise-line operator.
    Images of bodies washing ashore and refugees packed in rafts are having a psychological impact on customer behavior, Donald said in an interview Tuesday. Would-be guests are sharing their concerns in Carnival’s customer research and in questions posed to its call-center operators.
    “They’re asking, ‘Do I want to go to sea and have my vacation disrupted?,’” Donald said. “‘What if the ship has to stop to pick up refugees? I don’t know who they are, what am I exposing myself to?’ There is a consternation.”
    Carnival got 36 percent of its $15.8 billion in revenue from Europe last year. On Tuesday its shares fell fell after the company issued fourth-quarter guidance that missed analysts’ projections.
    The refugee crisis, coupled with an overall economic malaise, is affecting the entire tourism industry in Europe, but the cruise industry is hurt disproportionately because it involves ocean travel, Donald said.
    Carnival has had to stop its ships twice this year to pick up refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. That’s a fraction of the voyages the company’s ships have made, Donald said.
    In July, a Carnival ship, the Island Princess, rescued 117 refugees off the coast of Greece, according to the Migrant Report.
    The Miami-based company reported third-quarter profit on Tuesday that beat analysts’ estimates. The stock fell 5.5 percent to $49.79 at the close in New York, after Carnival forecast fourth-quarter profit, excluding some items, of 36 cents to 40 cents a share. Analysts projected 46 cents, the average of projections compiled by Bloomberg.
    Donald said the business is still strong and he can’t control what analysts anticipate. “We feel pretty good,” he said. “We feel like we deliver results.”
    The refugee crisis could have a negative impact on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second-largest cruise-line operator, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and closely held MSC Cruises Ltd., Patrick Scholes, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc., said in an e-mail. Royal Caribbean and MSC declined to comment.
    Two Norwegian lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, have altered itineraries that call on Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, a Greek island where thousands of Syrian refugees have landed.
    Seven Seas Mariner’s scheduled call on Sept. Sept. 29 will be replaced with a stop in Kavala, Greece, according to Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Norwegian. Kavala will also replace Seven Seas Voyager’s scheduled call to Mytilene on Oct. 29, and one by Oceania Cruises’ ship Nautica’s on Oct. 6.
    “We continue to closely monitor the situation and will make future itinerary adjustments should the need warrant,” Picariello said in an e-mail.
    All ships are bound by international law to assist those in distress at sea, the Cruise Lines International Assocation said in a statement Tuesday. The group said it supports efforts by the international community to address the crisis.
    One advantage cruise-ship operators have over other leisure businesses is the ability to move vessels, according to Jaime Katz, an analyst with Morningstar Inc.
    “If any particular coastal cities become worrisome, or if violence were to rise in a specific location, the cruise operators would alter their itineraries to visit other, more calm port locations in response,” Katz said in an e-mail.
    By Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg
    For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    The next five years will see a building bonanza in cruising, with both major lines and niche players adding new vessels to their fleets.
    A total of 55 new vessels will enter service through 2020, representing a total expenditure of more than $25 billion in ocean ship investment, according to statistics from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
    Even more ships are actually on the way; Carnival Corp. announced last March that it will add nine new ships to its global fleet by 2020.
    “These ships will be the most efficient in the fleet and have the largest guest capacity in the world,” said Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald on the company’s most recent earnings call. “We remain focused on initiatives to constrain costs by leveraging scale.”
    Incremental cost-savings and efficiencies on the new ships, along with the ability to charge higher fares and more for onboard services, will help improve cruise line profitability.
    “The cruise companies, especially publicly traded companies, need to grow their quarterly earnings and one way to do is to have more ships, meaning more capacity, more passengers, more revenue and thus hopefully increased net earnings,” said Oivind Mathisen, editor-in-chief of Cruise Industry News. “Not only will the new and usually bigger ships add to the revenue flow, they also tend to be more efficient (lower operating costs) and generate more onboard revenue on top of which they allow the cruise lines to charge higher ticket prices for their newest ships.”
    At the same time, only a modest growth in the number of cruisers worldwide is expected over the next five years. Industry analytics site Cruise Market Watch suggests that cruise ships will carry 25.3 million passengers in 2019, up from a projected 22.4 million in 2015, which amounts to 12.9 percent increase.
    Much like a hotel, a cruise ship can be sold to another company if it underperforms or simply has no place in a brand’s fleet anymore. But unlike a hotel, most cruise lines only make money by filling their ships for every sailing; profit is created by ancillaries like shore excursions, premium dining and beverage packages.
    By ditching ships that don’t perform well and replacing them, cruise lines can rejuvenate their brands and onboard experiences without taking a major hit.
    Older ships are already being sent to emerging markets like Asia, in order to capitalize on increased demand from cruisers with lower standards than those in more mature cruise markets. This also moves ships away from struggling or sluggish regions like Europe to regions with more upside.
    Mathisen thinks that cruise lines won’t be forced to reduce fares due to an abundance of supply.
    “Even if the cruise lines were forced to slash prices, the new ships will improve their economies of scale,” said Mathisen. “They are more efficient and offer more onboard revenue opportunities. In short, they are more profitable.”
    Even if the world economy sours and people stop spending on cruise vacations, cruise lines with ships on the way are well-positioned to continue making a profit.
    “In a worst case doomsday scenario, cruise lines could retire their older ships and only sail their new ships, which are more profitable,” said Mathisen. “So apart from taking a book-loss or write-down of the ships out of service, if that were to be the case, they will continue to make money with their new ships.”
    By Andrew Sheivachman, Skift
    For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    The Carnival Fantasy cruise ship will leave from the Alabama Cruise Terminal and sail for 13 months under an agreement the Mobile City Council approved Wednesday.
    The year-long schedule runs from Nov. 9, 2016 to Nov. 27, 2017.
    The 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will offer four-day cruises to Cozumel and five-day excursions to Cozumel and Costa Maya or Progreso.
    Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the agreement represents a $4 million swing in revenue coming to the city to help offset the cruise terminal's annual bond payment. The city currently spends about $1.8 million annually on the annual obligation that, for the past four years, has not had a revenue source to help offset the debt.
    "We hope it nets the city $2 million," Stimpson said, referring to parking fees that have yet to be disclosed. "It's a huge impact to the city. That's in a nutshell but he details revealed later."
    An 11 a.m. news conference is scheduled to provide more details about the agreement, which was approved with unanimous vote from the Mobile City Council.
    By John Sharp, Alabama.com
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
    The Norwegian Escape will be a bigger, and improved, version of the two ships that preceded it in the Norwegian fleet.
    On a tour here, Norwegian executives showed off the line’s 14th ship, which is about six weeks away from its debut in Miami in early November.
    Although it is based on the same platform as Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, the Escape will be notably different in its details and carry more passengers.
    Escape, designated Breakaway Plus in early discussions, will have one more deck of cabins, giving it a capacity of 4,270 at double occupancy, up from 3,969 for its predecessors.
    The extra deck also allowed for a two-story design in the deluxe Haven area, which now has an elegant glass-enclosed curving staircase connecting the two levels. The Haven also has an indoor-outdoor restaurant, a feature from Norwegian Epic that was skipped on Breakaway and Getaway but is being resurrected.
    On almost every deck, Escape has something that distinguishes it as new. On the top deck, the ropes course has been expanded to three levels and has 99 elements, including five zip tracks. The Plank, a balance beam that extends out over the side of the ship, is now on either side of the ship, doubling the opportunity for passengers to try it.
    The Aqua Racer water slide has been given a bigger diameter and can accommodate 1,000 riders an hour, up from less than 500 previously.
    Breakaway/Getaway’s ice bar has been deep-sixed in favor of The Cellars, Norwegian’s first wine bar. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville replaces the more generic Flamingo bar near the Spice H2O entertainment area, and his 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar will use the space occupied by the Fat Cats jazz and blues club on preceding ships.
    At the new Food Republic, guests will order dinner on iPads. “These ships come out with ever-more innovative features with every ship we build,” said Norwegian President Andy Stuart.
    Stuart said that the outdoor dining area in The Haven and the ropes course are among his favorite additions on Escape. “The ropes course is going to blow people away," he said.
    Source: Tom Stieghorst (Travel Weekly, September 16, 2015 "The Escape a Step Forward for Norwegian Cruise Line")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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Featured photo credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines
    Photo credit: Norwegian Cruise Line
    As Anthem of the Seas, the second Quantum-class ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, gears up for its arrival in New York, the line has announced the addition of new Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar characters as part of expanded entertainment offerings onboard the vessel.
    Po of "Kung Fu Panda;" Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots of "Shrek;" and Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien and the Penguins from "Madagascar " will be joining Anthem of the Seas when it begins sailing from its homeport of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ.
    Guests on Anthem can enjoy events and activities based on DreamWorks Animation's popular feature-film characters, including a DreamWorks Character breakfast in the main dining room, "meet and greet" experiences throughout the day, as well as photo ops. Royal Caribbean's younger guests can enjoy a lineup of activities, games and adventures rooted in the popular DreamWorks Animation films at the complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program. Additionally, guests can watch the latest DreamWorks Animation films at the ship’s movie theater or on a dedicated DreamWorks TV channel in their stateroom.
    Other entertainment options onboard Anthem of the Seas include Two70, a multi-level great room that showcases experiences created by the singers and dancers of Royal Caribbean Productions, who meld music and special effects with Vistarama – video projections on floor to ceiling windows spanning across 270 degrees at the aft of the ship.
    In addition, the Royal Theater is home to Royal Caribbean’s two headlining shows, the musical “We Will Rock You” and an original production created exclusively for Anthem, “The Gift.”
    Anthem of the Seas will sail out of New York Harbor from its new homeport of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J. from November 10, 2015.
    Source: Travel Agent Central/Newswire, September 16, 2015 "Royal Caribbean Expands Entertainment Onboard Anthem of the Seas”)
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Royal Caribbean
    Carnival Cruise Line confirmed that it is in final negotiations for a resumption of cruises from Mobile, Alabama.
    In a statement, Carnival said officials met with Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson on Sept. 2 in Miami.
    "We are in the final stages of contract negotiations with the City of Mobile for future cruises from the port,” the statement said. "We expect this process to be concluded by the end of the month.”
    Carnival operated at Mobile from 2004 through 2011, occupying a $28 million terminal that has gone largely unused since it departed four years ago.
    At the time, Carnival cited prices that were lower than achieved at other ports for the pullout. Carnival also has Gulf Coast cruises that depart from Galveston, New Orleans and Tampa.
    No other cruise line stepped in to take Carnival’s place in Mobile after it left.
    In a press conference, Stimpson said Mobile is not negotiating with any other cruise operators.
    Source: Tom Stieghorst (Travel Weekly, Sep. 4, 2015 "Carnival Negotiating Return to Mobile")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Shutterstock
    The new Amber Cove port on the north coast of the Dominican Republic is rapidly coming together a little more than a month before the first ship is scheduled to arrive on Oct. 6.
    The port, being developed by Carnival Corp. and a local partner, already has a 1,280-foot pier, a bus and taxi staging area, cabanas and the finished shells of bars, restaurants and shops.
    Landscaping is being planted and the interiors of the structures are ready for build-out.
    About 350,000 guests from eight Carnival Corp. brands are expected to use the facility in 2016. About half will come from Carnival Cruise Line, which will use Amber Cove year-round.
    The 25-acre project cost $85 million to develop. About half of the space is devoted to a transportation hub. Six acres along the shore have been reclaimed from the bay. There is a large pool area, but no beach on the port property. Carnival will offer multiple beach excursions.
    A total of 44 tours have been developed with a wide range of styles. Amilcar Cascais, vice president for tour operations at Carnival, said he expects tour participation of upwards of 60% initially because guests will be curious about the new destination. Participation is typically in the 30% to 50% range.
    The pier, with a channel dredged to 36 feet, is capable of handling two of the largest ships in the Carnival fleet at once, although initially only one ship at a time will dock there.
    Amber Cove is named for the amber mines in the interior near the port. There will be an amber wall art installation that will feature a caiman embedded in it.
    The northern coast of the Dominican Republic last received regular cruise calls 30 years ago, and the 300,000 residents of the area are excited to see the project nearing completion, said Julio Almonte, vice minister of tourism for the Dominican Republic. He said the countrys president visited the site two months ago to show support.
    The future of Puerto Plata is this project, Almonte said.
    Source: Tom Steighorst (Travel Weekly, September 1, 2015 "Amber Cove ... Nears Opening Date")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: DR Ministry of Tourism
    Carnival Cruise Line will provide its guests with a variety of new voyages to visit Bermuda in 2016 with nine departures that feature at least one overnight.
    From April through November 2016, guests can embark on four different Carnival ships departing from five convenient U.S. homeports offering itineraries ranging from five to eight days.
    Carnival’s 2016 Bermuda schedule includes:
    Carnival Pride: five-day cruises from Baltimore departing April 10 and Oct. 26, as well as seven-day voyages departing Sept. 4 and 18.

    Carnival Victory: an eight-day sailing from Port Canaveral departing May 19.

    Carnival Ecstasy: seven-day cruises from Charleston departing May 12 and Nov. 5.

    Carnival Sunshine: a seven-day cruise from New York departing Oct. 1, and a five-day sailing from Norfolk departing Oct. 23.

    Five-day itineraries feature an overnight call at Bermuda; seven-day cruises spend two nights docked at King’s Wharf; and the eight-day voyage features three nights on the island.
    “By offering Bermuda cruises from a variety of convenient drive-to homeports, we’re providing guests even more opportunities to experience and explore this incredible island paradise,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.
    “The island has tremendous tourist appeal and the wide range of cruises offer consumers maximum choice when planning their Bermuda vacation while providing travel agents with a sought-after destination to market to their clients,” she added.
    Source: Cruise Industry News, Aug. 31, 2015 ("Carnival Offering Varied Bermuda Program in 2016”)
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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Featured photo credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines
    (I wanted to share this poignant piece from a fellow cruise industry writer about why you can't put off that Alaskan vacation any longer!)
    "Relative to other glacier-covered areas of the globe, Alaska glaciers are losing mass rapidly.
    Statistics like this are appearing in more and more studies and we want to help raise awareness and encourage you to see them while you still can!
    Witnessing the awe-inspiring breaking off of a glacier as it falls into the sea is only surpassed by the creaking sounds followed by the roar as the pieces crash into the sea.
    A team of scientists analyzed 116 glaciers in the Alaska region, which includes the glaciers of Alaska, southwest Yukon Territory, and coastal northern British Columbia.
    The study spanned a 19-year period in which researchers estimated ice loss caused by melting and iceberg calving. The results published in the Geophysical Research Letters found:
    Alaskas glaciers have sent 75 billions of tons of water into the ocean every year for the past 19 years, increasing sea levels by two-tenths of a millimeter annually.
    The amount of water generated from this rate of melting would cover the state of Alaska in a foot of water if extended over a seven-year period.
    In the last 35 years, the Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound has retreated more than 12 miles due to iceberg calving and thinned by more than 1,500 vertical feet.
    The current sea level rise rate which started in 1990 is 2.5 times faster than it was from 1900 to 1990, thanks in part to melting glaciers.
    Alaskas contribution to rising sea levels is due to the record warm temperatures and glaciers located at much lower altitudes than those in Asia or Latin America.
    Disruptions to Alaskas ecosystems could include alterations to salmon spawning patterns, affecting fisheries.
    Vacations to Enjoy the Glaciers
    As temperatures warm, Alaskas sensitive glaciers will continue melting. The recent study does not make predictions about when they might disappear, but its safe to say that there will never be a better time to witness these majestic wonders of nature up close and in person.
    Cruise Glacier Bay from the romantic warmth of a Jacuzzi on the ships top deck. Glacier Bay offers 16 active tidewater glaciers. While the entrance to the Bay was a wall of ice in 1794, the ice has retreated 65 miles since then. Located in the heart of Glacier National Park and Preserve, a 3.2 million acre sanctuary, youll enjoy your time spent with knowledgeable park rangers who join you on board to guide you through the Bays landmarks and history.
    Cruise Glacier Bay from the romantic warmth of a Jacuzzi on the ships top deck. Glacier Bay offers 16 active tidewater glaciers. While the entrance to the Bay was a wall of ice in 1794, the ice has retreated 65 miles since then. Located in the heart of Glacier National Park and Preserve, a 3.2 million acre sanctuary, youll enjoy your time spent with knowledgeable park rangers who join you on board to guide you through the Bays landmarks and history.
    Cruise Glacier Bay with Princess CruisesTake the family on vacation to Mendenhall Glacier, one of Alaskas most accessible and spectacular glaciers. Drive out to the glacier lookout, take a guided hike with a park ranger, ride a dog sled, or kayak on Mendenhall Lake. The photo opportunities abound, and its a chance for your children to experience something in person that might not be possible for their own children to witness.
    Go glacier flightseeing at Denali Park. Look down on Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, from a helicopter. Surveying the 20,230-foot giant offers a breathtaking adventure.
    Hike Kennicott, a ghost town in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest National Park in North America with 13.2 million acres. Kennicott was once a thriving copper mine known as Glacier City due to its location alongside a glacier with ice so high that inhabitants could not see across the valley. The ice has since retreated, leaving only mounds of silt. Hikers from around the world come to enjoy the abundant alpine hiking opportunities in the treasured wilderness park with mind-blowing, above-the-tree-line views.
    Article Credit: Amanda Brooks (Insider-Vacation dot com, August 20, "Chase Your Dreams of Alaskan Ice While You Can")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: J. Neves
    The Port of Houston is losing both of its home-ported ships next year, a victim of a growing focus by North American cruise lines on shifting deployments to Asia.
    Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have announced 2016 schedules that do not include a ship sailing from Houston, where western Caribbean itineraries are typically offered.
    It is the most tangible fallout yet from the cruise industrys high interest in China, Australia and other Asian markets.
    Brian OConnor, vice president of public relations at Princess Cruises, said the departure from Houston is the final domino in a chain that started when the line moved the Sapphire Princess from Australia to China. The China cruises were announced in 2013 and started in May 2014.
    The redeployment of several ships ultimately led Princess to move the Caribbean Princess from Houston to Fort Lauderdale in late 2016, where it will still offer some western Caribbean routes.
    But for Texas cruisers, the news means a reduced choice of cruise lines and homeports. Following the moves, instead of five lines sailing from the state, there will be three, and they will depart only from Galveston.
    The change doesnt sit well with Vic Freeland, a retired firefighter who lives about 45 minutes from Austin and is a huge Norwegian Cruise Line supporter.
    Certainly, were sad that theyre leaving, said Freeland, who has tried Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International but has cruised much more with Norwegian.
    Though Asia deployment is the first cause cited by Princess and others in accounting for the change, another factor could be the expiration next year of financial incentives offered by Houston to lure cruise lines to its Bayport Cruise Terminal.
    And Carnival has made a strong push in the last several years in New Orleans and Galveston, raising the level of competition in the crowded western Caribbean.
    Norwegian was the pioneer of what it dubbed Texaribbean cruising when in 1997 it launched weekly service with the old 848-passenger Norwegian Star. Since then, it has dropped the market and returned twice, first in 2007 and again in 2014.
    Norwegian did not provide a direct rationale for the latest pullout. But in comments on a teleconference with Wall Street analysts, Frank Del Rio, CEO of the cruise lines parent, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, highlighted new Asian service as the cutting edge of its latest deployments
    For the first time in recent memory, Norwegian is sending a ship, the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star, on Asian and Australian itineraries next year. That will be independent of any decision to position a ship there for Asian-sourced passengers.
    Without identifying it, Del Rio said the new deployment replaces our lowest-yielding seven-day product.
    At the same time, the Norwegian Jade will move from Houston to Tampa, where it will continue to offer seven-night western Caribbean cruises but also mix in a few 10- and 11-night itineraries. The Jade replaces the Asia-bound Norwegian Star, which has been sailing from Tampa.
    A somewhat similar game of musical chairs sent the Sapphire Princess to China from Singapore and the Diamond Princess to Singapore from Australia. The Emerald Princess, which had been sailing from Houston, was moved to Australia this year to cover the hole left by the Diamond Princess. Princess plugged the gap by moving the Caribbean Princess to Houston but concluded that wasnt a good long-term strategy.
    It didnt make commercial sense for us to market and operate one ship from Houston, so we moved the Caribbean Princess to Fort Lauderdale, where we get economies of scale, OConnor said.
    That will leave Houston with no cruise ships and a deserted 96,000-square-foot terminal after next spring.
    Stan Swigart, port director of marketing and communications, confirmed the view that the ports misfortune arises from the ascendency of Asia.
    The reasons were getting is that theyre redeploying vessels to the Asian and Australian markets, and Houston was just not in the mix, Swigart said.
    Next year also marks the expiration of a reported $6.7 million in financial incentives extended to Princess and Norwegian in 2012 to induce them to sail from Houstons then-vacant terminal.
    A drawback for Houston is the buildings interior location off the Houston Ship Channel some 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
    Galvestons closer to open water than we are. That may play into it, Swigart said. Cruise lines are really finicky. They shuffle the deck a lot, just to keep it fresh.
    After Norwegians last departure, in 2007, the $81 million terminal saw no cruise passengers from 2008 to 2013. It was used as a lay-berth port and for ship repairs, Swigart said. At the moment, there are no cruise ships on the horizon that want to dock there, he said.
    Thats not the case in Galveston, where Texas-based cruising will consolidate after next year. Carnival has bulked up its presence there, announcing that it will move its newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, to Galveston in 2016 to join the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Freedom. It also reached a marketing partnership with the Dallas Cowboys and took other steps to attract business.
    Galveston is also home to a Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Wonder, and to a Royal Caribbean International ship, the Navigator of the Seas.
    In November, Royal plans to replace the 3,276-passenger Navigator with the 4,000-passenger Liberty of the Seas. A 60,000-square-foot expansion of the terminal that Royal uses in Galveston was to have been completed by then, but a redesign has pushed back the opening until the spring, port spokeswoman Cristina Galego said.
    The expanded terminal will seat an additional 2,000 passengers. Galego said Royal Caribbean has asked the port to provide an air-conditioned tent as a passenger waiting area until the terminal work can be completed.
    Source: Tom Stieghorst (Travel Weekly, August 23, 2015, "Cruise Lines Leaving Houston High and Dry as Attention Turns to Asia")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Bayport Cruise Port
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