• Cruise Ship Industry News


    sunluva7
    William Shatner will soon be taking fans where they've never gone before, to sea, hosting the first ever officially licensed Star Trek cruise.
    The Cruise will embark January 9, 2017, on the Norwegian Pearl from Miami. The six-day cruise is part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the Star Trek franchise, which first hit the airwaves in 1966.
    Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk, says on the cruise website that he's excited about the enterprise.
    When I was told that this was the first authorized Star Trek cruise and part of the 50th anniversary celebration, I just knew that my participation would be something that our fans would enjoy. It should be a lot of fun," Shatner says.
    Other Star Trek stars will also be onboard including Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Robert Picardo from Star Trek: Voyager, James Darren from Deep Space Nine and Denise Crosby from The Next Generation, as well as John de Lancie from The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine.
    The cruise will also feature a performance by the Enterprise Blues Band featuring Vaughn Armstrong, Steve Rankin and Casey Biggs. The band members have all appeared as actors on Star Trek shows.
    The actors will participate in activities throughout the sailing, with the cruise offering an anticipated 2,200 fans "a new way to engage with the global science fiction phenomenons past, present and future universe," according to the cruise website. Among other things, locations from the films and TV shows will be re-recreated shipboard.
    Producer of the show is St. Louis-based Entertainment Cruise Productions, which is known for such theme cruises as The Jazz Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise. There have been other Star Trek fan cruises over the years, but this is the first under license by CBS Consumer Products.
    The cruise will visit Cozumel, Nassau and Norwegian Cruise Line's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Fares are from $975 per person.
    Source: Fran Golden (USA Today, August 12, "William Shatner to Headline Star Trek Cruise")
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    Featured photo credit: Star Trek the Cruise dot com
    sunluva7
    Royal Caribbean International will amp up the adventure when the cruise line debuts Harmony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship and the first to feature Splashaway Bay, an interactive aqua park for kids. The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea touting a 100 foot dramatic plunge, The Perfect Storm trio of water slides and Splashaway Bay are the latest in a thrilling collection of activities that will make Harmony of the Seas the ultimate family vacation experience starting next summer.
    Harmony of the Seas will be the first in a new generation of Oasis class ships where groundbreaking architectural innovations are combined with breakthrough technologies of the Quantum class. The ship will debut in May 2016 for her inaugural summer season showcasing Europe's most popular cruise destinations on seven-night Western Mediterranean itineraries calling on Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence, France; Florence/Pisa, Rome and Naples, Italy. In November 2016, Harmony will arrive to her homeport of Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. offering seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.
    Splashaway Bay will be a vibrant waterscape for kids and toddlers with sea creature water cannons, winding slides, a gigantic drench bucket and a multi-platform jungle-gym to keep everyone entertained for hours. Guests of all ages will get the ultimate heart-pounding thrill ride on the Ultimate Abyss, a 10 story slide that begins in the Pool and Sports Zone at the aft of the ship down to the Boardwalk neighborhood below. Spiraling five decks above the lushly landscaped, open-air Central Park in the center of the ship, water slides Supercell, Typhoon and Cyclone come together as The Perfect Storm, inviting travelers to slide into an incredible adventure. Thrill seekers can test their mettle in Supercell, featuring a champagne bowl swirling guests around as they descend into their approach towards a big splash finale.
    Harmony of the Seas will be home to the seven distinct neighborhoods for which Oasis class of ships is known and feature technological advancements now synonymous with the award-winning cruise line. Revolutionary features include the Bionic Bar dancing robot bartenders on the Royal Promenade; Virtual Balconies in many interior staterooms offering sea and port views; the Royal WOWBands with RFID technology to simplify the guest experience; and VOOM, the fastest internet at sea found exclusively on Royal Caribbean ships. Catering to every craving, Harmony will offer the most dining options at sea, including new specialty restaurants Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, Sabor Taqueria and Tequila Bar, and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, a whimsical setting where Royal Caribbean chefs twist their culinary kaleidoscopes.
    Harmony of the Seas will span 16 guest decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,497 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis class is an architectural marvel touting Royal Caribbean's exclusive seven neighborhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. For more information about Harmony of the Seas, please visit RoyalCaribbean.com/HarmonyoftheSeas.
    Royal Caribbean International is an award-winning global cruise brand with a 46-year legacy of innovation and introducing industry "firsts" never before seen at sea. The cruise line features an expansive and unmatched array of features and amenities only found on Royal Caribbean including, jaw-dropping, Broadway-style entertainment and industry-acclaimed programming that appeals to families and adventurous vacationers alike. Onboard, guests are catered to with the cruise line's world-renowned friendly and engaging Gold Anchor Service by every staff and crew member. Royal Caribbean has been voted "Best Cruise Line Overall" for 12 consecutive years in the Travel Weekly Readers Choice Awards.
    The cruise line sails 23 of the world's most innovative cruise ships to the most popular destinations in Bermuda and the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, South America, Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. Media can stay up-to-date by following @RoyalCaribPR on Twitter, and visiting RoyalCaribbeanPressCenter.com. For additional information or to make reservations, vacationers should call their travel agent; visit RoyalCaribbean.com; or call (800) ROYAL-CARIBBEAN.
    Source: PRNewswire/Royal Caribbean International, August 17, 2015
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Royal Caribbean International
    Jason
    In early 2014, the cruise industry was steaming ahead with few surprises. New ships were on the horizon, including Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, which was headed where most new ships from North American companies sail: the Caribbean.
    But seven months before the ship’s launch, the Miami-based cruise line revealed a twist: After an initial season sailing to the islands from New Jersey, the 4,180-passenger “smart ship” would cross the globe for its new year-round home.
    In Shanghai.
    “I think that surprised a lot of people in the industry,” said UBS Investment Research analyst Robin Farley. “Because the growth in China had really ratcheted up in the last few years. I think it’s a decision they might not have made a year earlier.”
    Royal Caribbean’s move was just the first of a flurry of new deployment decisions that will send a parade of ships to China and its more than 1.3 billion residents in the next couple of years. Industry leaders are seeking to capitalize on a growing and affluent middle class, increased demand for outbound leisure travel and a government eager to build cruise infrastructure.
    Between 2012 and 2014, the number of passengers from mainland China grew 79 percent a year, from 216,700 to 697,000, according to a report released by Cruise Lines International Association. Globally, 22.1 million people took a cruise last year, the trade group says, up from 20.9 million in 2012.
    Estimates call for the Chinese cruise market to grow to more than 4 million passengers over the next several years. By comparison, in 2014, 11.3 million passengers from the United States took an ocean cruise, followed by nearly 1.8 million Germans, 1.6 million people from the UK and Ireland, and about a million from Australia and New Zealand.
    International cruise lines only ventured into China as a home base for ships in 2006, when Costa Cruises, Carnival Corporation’s Italian line, first deployed a vessel there catering to Chinese travelers. Royal Caribbean followed in late 2007, sailing itineraries from Shanghai and Hong Kong.
    But those lines typically tested the waters with older, smaller vessels that might not have commanded top fares elsewhere.
    With the Quantum move — and several since — that strategy is clearly changing. Royal Caribbean surprised observers yet again in March with the news that Ovation of the Seas, a Quantum sister, will sail from Tianjin, near Beijing in northern China, starting in the summer of 2016.
    Just last month, Doral-based Carnival Corp. revealed that its 2016 China deployment would include two vessels from Princess Cruises as well as four from Costa. Princess started serving the market last year with Sapphire Princess deployed seasonally in Shanghai; that vessel, which carries 2,670 passengers, returned this June. Next year, it will sail full-time from Shanghai, while the 2,636-passenger Golden Princess will be based seasonally in Tianjin.
    July’s announcement followed news in May that the next new ship from Princess Cruises would be designed specifically for Chinese guests. The 3,600-passenger vessel, which is under construction, will be based in Shanghai when it launches in summer of 2017.
    Analysts are expecting even more announcements in the near future, especially from major players that don’t yet have capacity based in China, such as Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line and European brand MSC Cruises.
    “You now have completely changed the formula for what’s going to happen in China,” said Mitchell Schlesinger, a longtime industry sales and marketing executive who runs MJS Consultants in Miami.
    Schlesinger, who last year spoke to students in Shanghai Maritime University’s executive MBA program aimed at cruise industry development, said he expects that Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC will both earmark an upcoming ship for the China market.
    “You want to get there in the throes of the excitement of all of these new ships going to China and be part of this incredible growth,” he said.
    Norwegian hasn’t yet committed, but executives have suggested that a decision on whether and how to move forward in China is near.
    During an earnings call with analysts earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO Frank Del Rio said the company had expected to announce plans by spring of 2016, but now believes a decision will come sooner. He said the company has had “the benefit of learning from the industry’s initial entry into the market.”
    “Other lines mention how their highest yielding ships are based in China,” Del Rio said. “Everything we have seen indicates that is correct. We want in on that action.”
    NEW WEALTH
    Why all the fuss over the new frontier?
    Cruise industry leaders point to China’s long period of sustained growth that has rapidly expanded the middle class, even with a recent slowdown and shaky stock market performance.
    “There’s a massive emerging middle-class [of] Chinese consumers who like American stuff,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “They like American brands, they like the American way of life.”
    An analysis by Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggested that 174 million Chinese tourists would spend $264 billion by 2019, up from 109 million travelers who dropped $164 billion last year, Bloomberg reported in March.
    Looking to benefit from anticipated growth in tourism, the Chinese government has made growth in cruising a priority, industry players say.
    After meeting with management from Carnival Corp., William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia wrote last month that officials in China have “ambitious plans for coastal port development” over 15 years, which include eight ports being built currently.
    Carnival and Royal Caribbean both say China’s interest in expanding cruising has fostered their companies’ growth there.
    “As we were interacting with the various government authorities, they had really clear vision about how they wanted to grow what effectively for them was a small, tiny piece of their tourism business,” said Bayley, who formerly oversaw international business development for parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises. “They were remarkably cooperative and collaborative and encouraged development of the cruise economy.”
    Much of the appeal also lies in China’s potential, executives said.
    “First of all, today it is a sizable market unto itself, but it’s a very small percentage of what it can be,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp. “Because China can be the largest cruise market in the world.”
    But to appeal to Chinese vacationers, cruise lines have had to adapt.
    Aside from practical changes such as hiring crew members that speak Mandarin and translating signs, Western cruise companies seeking to attract Chinese passengers are tweaking their onboard offering while holding on to their distinguishing characteristics.
    The new Princess vessel, for example, will boast the glass-bottomed walkway called SeaWalk found on two sister ships and outdoor movies, a brand favorite. But the ship will also feature market-specific offerings such as a traditional English afternoon tea, hot pot dinner with an ocean view and a focus on “an unparalleled duty-free shopping experience.”
    Alan Buckelew, the Shanghai-based chief operations officer at Carnival Corp., said breakfast was an especially important meal to get right. Chinese passengers typically want traditional dishes such as congee, a savory rice porridge that can come with fish, meat or poultry. “It’s not just bacon and eggs and pancakes,” he said.
    Donald said traditional wide-open casinos packed with slot machines are not as popular in China, where the gambling offerings are changed to smaller, more private setups and table games. And public spaces — especially outdoors — are important to include for group tai chi, he said.
    Also key: high-end retail featuring Western brands and activities that parents can take part in with their children.
    Royal Caribbean sent Quantum in part because the company sensed that status-conscious consumers would be drawn to a new, technologically advanced class of ship with simulated skydiving, robotic bartenders and an enclosed lift that stretches high into the sky.
    “Chinese cruisers, they take cruises not only because it’s holiday making, but also because they pursue this as a lifestyle; they see cruises are important concepts and symbolize the western civilization,” said Zinan Liu, Royal Caribbean International’s president for the China and North Asian Pacific region. “And they expect the best, the newest, the fanciest and often the most expensive thing.”
    And, Liu said, they are often willing to pay for it. Yields — or the amount a passenger pays per day — in China are higher than the average fleet, and guests are big spenders on board.
    Farley, the analyst, said that in some cases, yields in China have grown at a double-digit rate for a couple years in a row.
    “I think the potential for demand is very high,” she said. “If the industry grew yields last year at a double-digit rate despite very high capacity increases, you should be sending supply all day long.”
    YOUNG TRAVELERS
    Unlike in the United States, where the average cruise traveler is 49 — and lines have worked hard to attract the key millennial demographic — young Chinese travelers are flocking to cruises. More than four out of 10 passengers there were under 40, according to a CLIA study released earlier this year.
    Buckelew said that 25- to 45-year-olds in China tend to have more money. “Unlike most developed counties where the wealth tends to be concentrated in the retired or nearly retired, because of China’s history, most of the people who fall into that category lived through the cultural revolution and don’t really have a lot of savings to show for it,” he said.
    But younger passengers, especially those with a child, often travel with their own parents, making it common to see seven-member family groups taking a cruise together, he said.
    Because vacation time is limited in China and often scheduled around holidays, the standard cruise offering is much shorter than the weeklong voyages most Americans are accustomed to.
    Liu said that while three-night cruises were initially popular on Royal Caribbean, the average is moving closer to five nights.
    “I believe that cruises will get longer as [the market] gets more mature,” he said.
    Traveling abroad is is also regulated in China, where only some of the country’s travel agents are authorized to sell outbound travel. And while visa requirements for frequently visited cruise destinations such as Japan and South Korea are being eased, travelers most often obtain required documents through an agent.
    Typically, large travel agencies have chartered a block of cabins — or an entire ship — that they then re-sell to passengers. Cruise lines like the arrangement because it shifts the burden of filling staterooms to travel sellers.
    But insiders believe the charter approach is already shifting.
    “It’s evolving very quickly,” said Dwain Wall, a former vice president at CLIA and online cruise travel agencies CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “It’s going to become much more of an FIT [free independent traveler] market over the next 5 years or so as the cruise lines build out their distribution systems and travel agents become more familiar.”
    Wall moved to Beijing last year to serve as co-president of WorldCruise.cn, which is working to be “the leader in online cruise distribution for all the major cruise lines” in China.
    He said digital outreach is much more important in China for reaching potential passengers who are accustomed to buying everything from electronics to even groceries on their phones.
    “It’s hard to imagine buying a cruise on a smartphone, but people are doing it,” said wall, who is also president and CEO of consulting company AmChin.
    Even as Western cruise lines work to make their product more accessible, they are partnering with homegrown travel companies in China to foster industry growth there.
    Royal Caribbean Cruises announced a joint venture last year with Chinese travel company Ctrip to form SkySea Cruises, which the companies described as “a national cruise line for China.” The line, in which Royal Caribbean and Ctrip each own a 35 percent share, launched this year using the former Celebrity Century, now renovated for the Chinese market.
    And Carnival Corp. is exploring several joint ventures in China, including a possible agreement with Italian shipyard Fincantieri and China State Shipbuilding Corporation to build ships for the market. Other potential collaborations touch on port and destination development and the creation of a domestic Chinese cruise line.
    “Our feeling is it’s going to happen either with us or without us,” Buckelew said. “And so if we’re part of it, we can ensure that it’s successful.”
    OBSTACLES
    Since the industry started venturing into China, plenty of roadblocks have emerged. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, political tensions between Japan and China and the recent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in South Korea have all forced cruise lines to be flexible with itineraries.
    The June disaster involving the Eastern Star in the Yangtze River, which killed more than 430 passengers when the ship capsized during a storm, does not seem to have scared cruisers away from ocean cruising, executives said.
    “In no year do we have no challenges,” Liu said. “Every year. But despite challenges, despite obstacles, we grow rapidly.”
    He said port infrastructure within China and in other countries is a major challenge, as development has not kept up with demand and new ports are not always as functional as they could be.
    Donald, Carnival Corp.’s CEO, said the industry’s penetration rate in China is so low at this point that external factors have little impact.
    “You have to look at it over time,” he said. “When you look at it that way, you only see upside.”
    Eventually, cruise lines are hoping their work cultivating new cruisers within China will translate to increased travel outside Asia.
    While only 9 percent of Asian cruise passengers venture outside the region — predominantly to Europe, trailed by Alaska and the Caribbean — cruise lines are looking forward to someday welcoming more on ships across the globe.
    “We think that’s one of the opportunities. It’s not of particular focus at the moment, but we certainly recognize it’s a significant opportunity over time,” Bayley told an analyst during Royal Caribbean’s earnings call last month.
    “That outbound market is significant and we do see an increase in outbound to products certainly into Europe and to the West Coast.
    “So, yes, we think that's a good opportunity,” Bayley said.
    ASIAN CRUISE MARKET
    The North Asia branch of Cruise Lines International Association released results of a study of the Asian cruise market earlier this year. These are some key findings:
    ▪ Since 2013, passenger capacity grew at a 20 percent compound annual growth rate and is expected to reach almost 2.2 million in 2015 in Asia.
    ▪ Almost 1.4 million Asian travelers took a cruise in 2014, a 34 percent compound annual growth rate since 2012.
    ▪ The number of Chinese passengers alone grew 79 percent a year between 2012 and 2014, when 697,000 passengers from mainland China took a cruise.
    ▪ Travelers in Asia are young: In China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, more than four out of 10 cruise passengers were under 40.
    ▪ In 2015, 52 cruise ships will operate in Asia, with a total of 1,065 sailings scheduled this year.
    ▪ The vast majority of Asian cruise passengers — 91 percent — visit destinations within Asia.
    ▪ There are more than 168 destinations for cruise ships to visit in 18 countries across Asia.
    ▪ Short trips are the way to go for Asian passengers, whose vacation time is limited. Last year, 48 percent of Asian cruisegoers took a trip that lasted four to six days, 38 percent sailed for two or three nights and 12 percent went on a longer cruise between seven and 13 nights.
    Source: Cruise Lines International Association’s Asia Cruise Trends study
    By Hannah Sampson, Miami Herald
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    Jason
    Add Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to the list of cruise companies moving fast to offer Cuba sailings.
    The Miami-based parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas has applied for licenses from the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce to offer trips to the island nation, Norwegian president and CEO Frank Del Rio revealed Tuesday during a conference call to discuss the company's second quarter earnings.
    Norwegian also is talking with the Cuban government about obtaining necessary permission to visit, Del Rio said during the call.
    "I don't know the timeline for any of those three licenses to come through, but I am hopeful that they will happen before the year is out," Del Rio said.
    The licenses would be for the limited types of trips allowed under the USA's five-decade-old embargo of Cuba such as educational "people-to-people" trips. General leisure travel from the USA to Cuba including traditional cruises still is banned.
    Assuming the licenses come through, Del Rio suggested the first ship the company would send to Cuba would come from its Oceania brand, which operates relatively small vessels that would work best with Cuba's limited infrastructure. Oceania's smallest ships carry about 700 people.
    Oceania's move comes amidst a Gold Rush-like frenzy of travel companies announcing Cuba cruises. Just last week small-ship line Pearl Seas Cruises announced plans to offer people-to-people cruises to Cuba next spring on a 210-passenger vessel, and tour giant Globus and small-ship line Haimark also unveiled plans in recent weeks for people-to-people Cuba cruises to start in January and February, respectively.
    Globus is selling cruise tours out of Miami that include a week on a 960-passenger, Cuba-based ship operated by Celestyal Cruises. Haimark is selling sailings out of Miami on its 210-passenger Saint Laurent.
    Cruise giant Carnival Corp.'s new fathom brand also has announced plans to offer people-to-people cruises to the country on its 710-passenger Adonia starting in May, and tour company International Expeditions is starting people-to-people cruises to Cuba in December on a chartered, 48-passenger vessel.
    Like Norwegian, Pearl Seas and Haimark are awaiting U.S. and Cuban government approval for its trips. Carnival Corp. has U.S. government approval but still is awaiting Cuban approval. Globus and International Expeditions already have all necessary approvals.
    The cruise sellers are entering an increasingly crowded field of companies offering people-to-people tours to Cuba. Just last month, package tour giant Apple Vacations announced it would add such trips this fall, joining a growing number of land-based tour companies offering Cuba tours.
    Under U.S. government rules, people-to-people trips to Cuba must focus on educational exchanges between U.S. travelers and Cubans, and they typically feature a full-time schedule of interactions with Cuban musicians, artists, chefs and other locals. They aren't tourist-oriented, and breaking away from the group for self-directed exploring or skipping an activity isn't allowed.
    Travel executives long have said the demand for such trips is limited due to their restrictive nature, and Del Rio suggested on Tuesday that the big payoff from Cuba cruising won't come until the U.S. embargo is lifted and cruise lines can offer traditional voyages to the island.
    "We believe that once Cuba opens up totally, it's going to be a real windfall for the industry," he said.
    By Gene Sloan, USA Today
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    Jason
    A new cruise ship will sail into Tampa in 2016.
    Norwegian Cruise Line is bring its 2,402-passenger, 965-foot Norwegian Jade to Port Tampa Bay in the fall of 2016, according to a release.
    The ship, built in 2006, will replace Norwegian Star and will cruise to new Caribbean destinations, including Havest Caye, Belize.
    “We have strong demand from our guests to sail from Tampa, and are excited to offer a variety of itineraries next fall, including new 10- and 11-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean, as well as Western Caribbean sailings,” Andy Stuart, Norwegian president and COO, said in a release.
    The ship will sail a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise that departs on Sundays to Cozumel and Costa May, Mexico; Roatan (Bay Islands) Honduras; and Harvest Caye, Belize.
    The cruise line will also offer two eight-day holiday sailings in December and will offer 10 and 11 day Eastern Caribbean cruises, marking the first time Norwegian has offered sailings longer than a week.
    “Port Tampa Bay is excited that Norwegian Cruise Line is bringing the gorgeous Norwegian Jade to home port in Tampa in 2016,” said Paul Anderson, port president and CEO. “Norwegian has been an outstanding cruise partner, and we will look forward to many more years of welcoming them as an important part of our robust cruise business.”
    By The Tampa Tribune
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    Jason
    During a cruise, shaking hands with the captain is a small honor — the shipboard equivalent of shaking hands with the President of the United States.
    Funny thing is, there may come a day when it’s easier to get a handshake from a U.S. President than a cruise ship captain. That’s because on some cruise ships, passengers have been banned from shaking the captain’s hand at formal events.
    Writing in Spectator magazine, Charles Moore — the official biographer of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — recounts his trip aboard Crystal Cruises’ Serenity. Moore writes that a cruise bulletin informed passengers that shaking hands with the captain at an upcoming passenger/crew meet-and-greet was a big no-no.
    “While the captain is pleased to meet you,“ read the notice, according to Moore, "he and the other staff receiving you refrain from shaking hands in order to provide the most effective preventative sanitary measure.”
    This wasn’t the policy of an overly germaphobic captain. Crystal Cruises confirms to Yahoo Travel, it’s the cruise line’s official policy.
    "The safety and health of our guests and crew is paramount at Crystal Cruises,” says Crystal spokesman Paul Garcia. He points out the cruise line maintains extensive sanitation measures in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. “While the captain is very pleased to meet all our guests,” Garcia says, “he refrains from shaking hands as an additional preventive measure.”
    So why all hand-wringing over hand-shaking? You can thank the hysteria over norovirus, that nasty gastrointestinal illness that’s created a nauseauting image problem for cruise lines. Norovirus cases on cruise ships are relatively rare; according to the CDC, there were nine cruise ship outbreaks last year that sickened roughly 1,600 passengers. That’s less than 1 percent of North America’s 11 million cruise ship passengers in 2014, and an even smaller fraction of the 20 million norovirus cases recorded in the U.S. each year.
    Still, whenever norovirus does strike a cruise, it makes international headlines, reignites health fears about the safety of cruising and scares past and potential future passengers from stepping foot aboard a ship. As a result, cruise lines spend millions per year to prevent norovirus and the adverse effects the illness has on their bottom lines. In this environment, some cruise lines see anti-handshaking policies as yet another ounce of norovirus prevention that could help avert a ton of negative coverage.
    “Approximately 80 percent of infections diseases, including norovirus, can be spread via traditional palm-to-palm handshake,” says Atlanta-area physician John Bradberry, former medical director for Carnival Cruise Lines and supporter of Crystal’s handshake ban. “It’s a sound policy that makes good practical sense from a public health standpoint,” he says. “Policy will not prevent noro, but will significantly reduce the risk.”
    Dr. Bradberry points out that a ship’s captain can shake hands with hundreds of passengers at a given formal night or receiving line. If a passenger with norovirus shakes that captain’s hand, Dr. Bradberry says, that risks contaminating not only the captain, but every guest with whom the captain shakes hands — and, subsequently, anyone else those guests touch — throughout the evening.
    “The end result is the equivalent of hundreds or more passengers indirectly touching the contaminated hands of hundreds or more fellow passengers,” says Dr. Bradberry. “Avoiding the mass handshakes with the captain is not only for the protection and well-being of the captain, but for the passenger as well.”
    Crystal’s not alone in its hand-shaking policy. U.K.-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines reportedly also discourages captains from shaking hands during Formal Nights. As for the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival, a spokesperson tells Yahoo Travel it doesn’t ban hand-shaking outright. But “we will instruct our officers to cease hand-shaking at special events (during which they would normally be shaking multiple guests’ hands) if the medical team advises that we are seeing an elevated number of guests with gastrointestinal illness symptoms.”
    But there may be some good news for habitual handshakers: other cruise lines don’t seem quite ready to embrace such draconian hands-off policies. A spokesperson for another cruise line tells Yahoo Travel her line has no such policy. She then added, “That’s one I’ve never been asked before.”
    Regardless of whether your chosen cruise line bans passenger-captain handshakes outright, when there are outbreak fears, or not at all, experts recommend a better-safe-than sorry approach while on cruise ships — and, yes, that includes handshakes. Dr. Bradberry suggests replacing handshakes with fist bumps. “A fist-to-fist ‘handshake’ is less risky,” he says.
    If you’re really afraid of norovirus, you’re probably better off not obsessing over things like handshakes and, instead, paying more attention to the most effective way to stay healthy on a cruise: frequently washing your hands with soap and water (hand sanitizers are less effective but better than nothing). Especially if you plan on shaking the hands of the captain, or anyone else, on the cruise.
    “If all people washed their hands promptly after completing a handshake, and especially after a series of handshakes, there would be little to no infectious illness transmission issues,” says Dr. Bradberry. But he adds, “100 percent compliance is simply not going to happen.”
    That’s why cruise line are looking at all possible ways to prevent norovirus outbreaks, handshake bans. We can probably expect other eyebrow-raising measures, too, as cruise lines find that media-driven norovirus hysteria is very hard to shake.
    By Sid Lipsey, FOX News
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    sunluva7
    The newest upcoming ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Escape, passed another construction milestone when it unveiled its new hull art from marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey.
    Currently being built in Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will debut this November in Miami.
    Spanning more than 1,000 feet in length from bow to stern, the custom-designed artwork features a scene of marine wildlife which blends two underwater seas seamlessly together. Featuring Harvey’s signature sailfish, the design also showcases key Caribbean sea life including sting rays, sea turtles, whale sharks and a variety of tropical fish.
    The process of creating the artwork begins with a laser that projects the design onto the hull. A team then outlines the art onto the curved hull, pencilling in the lines and then taping the edges in preparation for applying the paint by hand.
    Norwegian Escape will sail weekly seven-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on November 14, 2015.
    Source: Travel Agent Central/Newswire, July 29, 2015 ("Cruise Ship Preview: Norwegian Escape’s Hull Art")
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    Featured photo credit: Orlando Sentinel/Hull art by Guy Harvey
    Jason
    Costa Cruises has announced plans to build the “next generation” of cruise ship, placing an order for what will be the two largest passenger vessels in the world based on total capacity.
    With over 2,600 guest cabins apiece, each ship will be able to accommodate up to 6,600 passengers. This is around 300 more than the current record-holder, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which has a maximum guest capacity of 6,296.
    The new additions to the Costa fleet will also be the most environmentally friendly cruise ships ever built, it claims. In an effort to drastically reduce exhaust emissions, both will carry Liquefied Natural Gas to power the dual-powered hybrid engines, the first ever cruise ships to do so.
    They will rely solely on the natural gas (a relatively clean-burning fuel), instead of the combination of gas turbines and diesel that most cruise ships use, thus cutting down dramatically on carbon emissions.
    “The two Costa ships are a real innovation for the market, setting new standards for the whole industry,” says Neil Palomba, President of Costa Cruises. “The order also confirms that the Costa brand will continue to grow, becoming even stronger and keep on generating a positive economic impact in the main countries where it operates, including Italy.”
    Mr Palomba further iterated that the new ships will be an expression of the Costa's new positioning, "Italy's finest", drawing on the company's national heritage to further define its brand. According to the press release, Italian "style, hospitality, gastronomy and entertainment” will be central to the passenger experience, while Costa expects to hire approximately 750 Italian crewmembers.
    The two new ships, each exceeding 180,000 gross tons, will be built by Meyer shipyard in Turku, Finland, and are expected to be completed in 2019 and 2020.
    They form part of a larger, multibillion dollar contract between Carnival Corporation (of which Costa is a subsidiary) and several major European shipyards for nine new ships between 2019 and 2022.
    Costa’s German brand, Aida Cruises, will also gain two new ships as part of the deal.
    By Tom Mulvihill, The Telegraph
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    Jason
    Add Pearl Seas Cruises to the list of companies touting voyages to Cuba.
    The small-ship line on Monday announced plans for seven- to 10-night sailings to the island nation out of Florida in spring 2016.
    The trips will take place on the line's 210-passenger Pearl Mist and include stops in such Cuban ports as Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Itineraries on both the southern and northern coasts of Cuba are in the works.
    Pearl Seas says the sailings will be structured as "people-to-people" exchanges that are allowed under the USA's five-decade-old embargo of Cuba. General leisure travel from the USA to Cuba including traditional cruises still is banned.
    Pearl Seas says the voyages still must be approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce as well as the Cuban government.
    The announcement comes just two weeks after tour giant Globus and small-ship line Haimark announced plans to market people-to-people Cuba cruises starting in January and February, respectively. Globus is selling cruise tours out of Miami that include a week on a 960-passenger, Cuba-based ship operated by Celestyal Cruises. Haimark is selling sailings out of Miami on its 210-passenger Saint Laurent.
    Cruise giant Carnival Corp.'s new fathom brand also recently announced plans to offer people-to-people cruises to the country on its 710-passenger Adonia starting in May, and tour company International Expeditions is starting people-to-people cruises to Cuba in December on a chartered, 48-passenger vessel.
    Like Pearl Seas, Haimark is awaiting U.S. and Cuban government approval for its trips. Carnival Corp. has U.S. government approval but still is awaiting Cuban approval. Globus and International Expeditions already have all necessary approvals.
    The cruise sellers are entering an increasingly crowded field of companies offering people-to-people tours to Cuba. Just last month, package tour giant Apple Vacations announced it would add such trips this fall, joining a growing number of land-based tour companies offering Cuba tours.
    Under U.S. government rules, people-to-people trips to Cuba must focus on educational exchanges between U.S. travelers and Cubans, and they typically feature a full-time schedule of interactions with Cuban musicians, artists, business owners and other locals. They aren't tourist-oriented, and breaking away from the group for self-directed exploring or skipping an activity isn't allowed.
    By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
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    Jason
    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship had a fire on board, forcing the passengers to go into their emergency drill positions.
    The fire started as the ship, called the Freedom of the Seas, was pulling into a Jamaican port, according to the company's spokesperson.
    "The ship's fire suppression system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire," Royal Caribbean communications director Cynthia Martinez said in a statement.
    The passengers were told to go to their assembly stations "in an abundance of caution," Martinez wrote.
    "The ship is currently alongside in Falmouth and all systems are functioning," Martinez said in the statement, issued shortly after 11:00 a.m. EST.
    Witness video of the ship alongside a dock in Falmouth, Jamaica shows that even though the fire took place in a mechanical space and was contained, the smoke was clearly visible from the port.
    By MEGHAN KENEALLY via GOOD MORNING AMERICA. ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.
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    Jason
    When you buy a cruise your travel agent or the cruise line will likely give you a pitch to buy cruise insurance to cover your vacation. The agent gets commissioned, and cruise lines view insurance as a profit area. A big selling point will likely be that you're making an investment in your cruise vacation and will want to protect that investment should you need to cancel. Without insurance, you'll be hit with a huge cancellation penalty and may not get any money back at all.
    If you're fine with taking a chance, just say no to the sales pitch.
    But if you're considering insurance, it pays to look at what's covered and what's not and to make sure what you're getting from the cruise line is the best deal. You may be better off going with a third-party travel insurance company. "You may find a more comprehensive policy for a cheaper price," said Megan Singh, spokeswoman for Squaremouth, a website where you can compare travel insurance products from dozens of providers. "It isn't always in the best interest of the traveler to go with the cruise line's policy."
    Travel insurance policies will typically cost you from 4% to 10% of your total trip cost – so you lay out $100 to $250, based on a $2,500 cruise vacation. If you go with the cruise line policy, you are opting for the cruise line's set pricing structure, which may be on the high side. Most people buy bundled policies, and that's what cruise lines sell. But what's in that bundle may vary, and the cruise line's insurance product may not be the most comprehensive on the market for the price.
    The most common travel insurance policies combine coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, baggage protection, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation. There might also be a set amount of death and dismemberment insurance. One thing not in cruise line policies, but is available when you buy other travel insurance policies, is protection should a cruise line suddenly go out of business, Singh said.
    When looking at trip cancellation and trip disruption insurance, you should carefully read the fine print in terms of what timeline may apply – does the insurance kick in after 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours or another amount of time? You'll also want to look at whether or not a cruise line's policy will give you cash back or whether the reimbursement is in the form of credit for a future cruise. Squaremouth lets you choose from a list of coverage options, but does not generally recommend you buy the type of insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason, Singh said. That's because it's the most expensive insurance and has some drawbacks – including that you can't usually cancel last minute.
    Another misnomer is that emergency evacuation means you'll be airlifted wherever you say. It doesn't. "If you get ill at a port in Mexico you would be taken to a hospital in Mexico," Singh said. Those who want medical evacuation coverage may want to look at plans offered by Medjet Assist, which will transport you to a location of your choice.
    You can dismiss travel insurance for your cruise as a waste of money, and for some people that's true. But there are circumstances where people will want to be insured including if you or a close relative has a medical condition that could flare up, if you're cruising in hurricane season or caught in a geopolitical crisis, or if you're not covered internationally for medical insurance.
    But again, that's where reading the small print comes in. Cruise line policies tend not to apply to pre-existing conditions. The cruise line policies also won't cover you for any air tickets you purchase on your own (not through the cruise line). Consider too that your homeowner's policy, health insurance and credit cards may already cover you in some areas – meaning the cruise line's bundled plan may provide coverage you already have.
    On the plus side, if you buy from the cruise line you can pay for your insurance at the same time that you pony up for your cruise fare.
    By Fran Golden, Special for USA TODAY
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    sunluva7
    Norwegian Cruise Line said most of its alternate dining venues will move to a la carte pricing rather than cover charges starting next year.
    The line is introducing a la carte pricing on the Norwegian Escape, due in November, for three of its specialty restaurants that now have cover charges. In addition, it will also introduce a new dining concept.
    The restaurants are La Cucina, Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse and the new Bayamo by chef Jose Garces. At the same time, diners will be able to choose how many courses to order.
    At Cagney's Steakhouse, starters on the new a la carte menu range from $4.99 to $7.95 and main courses from $17.99 to $29.99. Main courses at Le Bistro start at $15.99 and $12.99 at La Cucina.
    Moderno Churrascaria and Teppanyaki will remain at a cover charge of $19.95 and $29.95 respectively, and entertainment dining will also stick with a single fee.
    The new a la carte pricing will apply to Ocean Blue restaurants on the Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway starting Oct. 3. The plan will then go fleetwide in January.
    Norwegian said anyone buying a specialty dining package will have access to all menu items at La Cucina, Le Bistro and Cagney's Steakhouse at no additional charge, while dining in Bayamo by Jose Garces will cost an extra $15.
    Source: Tom Stieghorst (Travel Weekly, July 14, 2015 "Norwegian's Specialty Restaurants to go a la Carte")

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    sunluva7
    Carnival Cruise Line announced this week that it has extensively expanded its shore experiences, now featuring personalized private tours, family-friendly excursions, free activities and more.
    The cruise line is now offering “Only-On-Carnival” tours on select Caribbean cruises. Guests discovering Cozumel can experience the five-hour, 30-person La Casa en la Playa tour, which includes access to a five-star beach house, personal chef, cooking classes and a private beach. Guests can also indulge in the two-day Photo Safari & Beach Expedition, which includes a one-hour photography seminar, guided tours of Mexican beaches and hands-on learning at a national park.
    In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, guests can indulge in the Eat, Drink & Dance tour where they will sample traditional jerk cuisine, dine at the world-famous Miss T’s Kitchen and enjoy beachside Jamaican rum cocktails. For the day, guests can also enjoy the Jamaican Home for the Day experience, which includes a private villa and beach, home-cooked meals and plenty of frozen drinks.
    Guests cruising in St. Thomas can relax on Carnival’s Eat, Drink & Walk tour, which features a trip to St. Peter Mountain Great House & Botanical Gardens, island rum samples, cocktail making classes and a traditional island meal.
    Carnival is also offering experiences for the whole family throughout select Caribbean, Mexico and Bahamas trips. In Freeport, guests can enjoy the Family Beach Escape, which sails families to a beachside resort where they can build sandcastles, go treasure hunting, enjoy paddle boating and water activities for the day. Guests on the Island Beach Escape for Families tour can enjoy a relaxing ride on a power catamaran and beachside activities on Passion Island for the day.
    Families can also participate in Carnival’s Treasure Hunt with Lunch at Blue Lagoon in Nassau, Bahamas. To win the pirate’s booty, families must answer quizzes and search for clues before they settle down to indulge in a grilled lunch on Blue Lagoon Island.
    At Seawinds Beach Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica, families can spend the day exploring the beachfront property while enjoying an all-inclusive buffet lunch, kid-friendly pools and more.

    Source: Travel Agent Central, July 13, 2015 ("Carnival Launches New Shore Excursions and Family Experiences")

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    sunluva7
    For the first time in the cruise industry – and in Celebrity Cruises' history – an American female will take the helm of a mega-ton cruise ship.

    San Francisco native Kate McCue will command Celebrity Summit, sailing between the eastern United States and Bermuda. As Captain, she will be responsible for the safe navigation of the ship and the onboard experience of its 2,158 guests and 952 crew members.
    Celebrity said it has elevated McCue to the position of Captain based on her 15 years of successful experience and leadership in the maritime industry. During her tenure, McCue has managed ship logistics while sailing worldwide itineraries, including Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and along the Panama Canal. Captain McCue has also served as a maritime leader while sailing several transatlantic and repositioning cruises, and played a notable role in the revitalization of ships in Singapore.
    A graduate of California State University's California Maritime Academy, Captain McCue has held a variety of roles in the maritime industry, beginning as a cadet and deck officer, then working through a series of successively more responsible positions to her most recent role as Master Mariner with Royal Caribbean International. McCue has earned numerous certifications in a variety of areas pertaining to leadership navigation, ship management and security.
    McCue will begin her new role on Celebrity Summit in August of 2015.
    Source: Travel Agent Central/Newswire, June 14, 2015 ("Celebrity Cruise Names Kate McCue Industry's First-Ever American Female Captain")
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    Jason
    The weeklong cruises will be aboard the Adonia, which carries 710 passengers, during which the vessel is not allowed to stop at other counties
    Starting in May, Carnival Corporation plans to offer trips from Miami to the Caribbean island nation, the company announced on Tuesday. Carnival says it would become the first American cruise company to visit Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. The trips will be through its new brand, fathom, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there.
    CEO Arnold Donald called the Cuba plans “an important first step” for his company and for the cruise industry.
    “We’re certain this is the tip of the iceberg in what’s going to come in the years to come,” Donald told the Associated Press.
    The weeklong cruises will be aboard the Adonia, which carries 710 passengers. The ship is relatively small for the industry; ships sailing under the company’s namesake line carry nearly 3,000 passengers. Adonia won’t have a casino or Broadway shows. And guests shouldn’t expect to spend their time in Cuba snorkelling or riding Jet Skis. Each day, under US regulations governing Cuba visits, they will have to spend at least eight hours involved in some type of cultural experience.
    Donald notes that the Adonia’s small size allows the ship into Cuban ports that aren’t ready to accommodate larger vessels.
    Carnival is expecting high demand for the voyages and has priced them accordingly. Prices start at $2,990 per person plus taxes and port fees. A similar service-oriented trip on the same ship to the Dominican Republic starts at $1,540 per person.
    The itinerary is still being finalized as Carnival waits for approval from the Cuban government. The ship is expected to visit several ports and passengers will sleep on board each night.
    Cuba is still closed for general tourism for Americans, although as relations thaw between the two countries visitors have fewer hurdles to overcome. Americans can’t just vacation in Cuba but must go there as part of an approved cultural or humanitarian trip, unless they have family on the island.
    Carnival’s license comes as part of recent approvals for six passenger vessels from the Treasury Department. The government would not name the companies who received these licenses or what their specific line of business is. They could be ferries, yacht charters or cruises. Of those six, four of them are authorized to allow passengers and crew to spend the night aboard, even when docked in a Cuban port. Other major cruise lines did not immediately respond to inquiries about their efforts to sail to Cuba.
    The vessels are not allowed to stop at other counties, so don’t expect Cuba to become one of four or five stops on a typical Caribbean cruise anytime soon.
    Carnival isn’t the first cruise company to sail to Cuba. A handful of foreign cruises do come to the island. In 2013, Canadian company Cuba Cruise, in partnership with Greece’s Celestyal Cruises, launched cruises from Jamaica to Cuba, making six ports of call including Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Trips start at about $850.
    Tourism, a $2.6bn-plus industry, is one of the main engines that has kept Cuba’s economy sputtering along. Last year, the country welcomed a record 3 million visitors.
    About 600,000 US travellers are estimated to visit Cuba each year. Cuban officials estimate that 1.5 million Americans would travel to the island annually if all restrictions were removed, supplanting Canada as the No 1 source of tourism and potentially adding some $2bn a year to state coffers.
    There are many challenges ahead for the country as it opens up to US visitors. There isn’t yet enough infrastructure to handle the demand. But major travel companies including Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International have been closely eyeing developments there. JetBlue, which has run charter flights from Florida to Cuba for years, just launched a new nonstop flight from New York. It is only open to travellers who are approved to visit Cuba. American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines also offer charters.
    By The Associated Press
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    Jason
    A day after Carnival cruises announced it will be sailing to Cuba, the CEO of the company speaks out about the historic change between the island nation and the U.S. and what to expect in their new voyage.
    Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald says this will not be your typical cruise vacation. He believes Americans are curious about Cuba and want to visit the island whether it’s on a plane or a cruise ship.
    “There’s lots of pent up demand in the U.S., lots of curiosity,” said Donald. “Cuba has always been of interest, it was a great destination from the U.S. more than 50 years ago and people would love to go there.”
    Carnival has gotten U.S. government approval to operate cruises to the island as a provider of cultural exchange programs.
    Starting next may, the ms adonia, a 700-passenger ship, will sail to Cuba on what’s called fathom cruising, during which passengers take part in volunteer work programs and cultural exchanges.
    “There’s no casino on board, no Broadway shows, this is truly a cultural immersion, cultural exchange traveler experience facilitating exchanges between U.S. Citizens and Cubans,” said Donald.
    Florida Governor Rick Scott has said he opposes cruises to Cuba as long as Raul Castro is in power.
    “The Obama administration is rewarding the Castro brothers for not doing the right thing. They don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in political freedom,” said Scott.
    Donald said his cruises are intended to help the Cuban people, not the Cuban government.
    “It’s already occurring. U.S. citizens are going under these guidelines and now instead of going on a chartered aircraft you’re able to go on a ship,”
    By Elliott Rodriguez, CBS Miami
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    Jason
    Add cruise giant Carnival Corp. to the list of travel companies starting up trips to Cuba.
    The parent company of Carnival, Princess and eight other cruise brands says it'll launch seven-night "people-to-people" tours to the island via ship beginning in May 2016, contingent on approval by Cuban authorities.
    The cruises will be operated bi-weekly out of Miami by the company's new social impact-focused fathom brand, which will debut in April 2016 with volunteer vacations to the Dominican Republic.
    "All of our research suggests there is huge pent-up demand for the Cuba experience," Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald tells USA TODAY, noting that it's been decades since cruise ships sailed from the USA to the island.
    The announcement comes in the wake of the Obama administration's recent moves to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and loosen rules for U.S. travel to the island nation.
    While leisure travel to Cuba including traditional cruises still is banned under the USA's five-decade-old embargo, U.S. travelers who fall under one of 12 approved categories now can legally visit the country without needing a license in advance. The categories include traveling for educational activities such as people-to-people exchanges.
    Carnival Corp. says the new Cuba cruises will be offered on fathom's single ship, the 710-passenger Adonia, and provide "cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens" -- meeting the definition of people-to-people travel. Traveling for humanitarian projects and religious activities also are among the 12 approved categories of travel to Cuba.
    The company says it has been granted necessary approvals for the voyages from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce and hopes to have approval from the Cuban government soon.
    Carnival Corp. didn't release details of the itinerary it plans for the Cuba trips, citing the need for Cuban government approval. But U.S. travelers can reserve a spot on a voyage starting today by putting down a $600 deposit. Fares initially will begin at $2,990 per person plus taxes and port fees -- more than triple the starting price for a typical seven-night Caribbean sailing with Carnival Corp.'s flagship Carnival brand. The fare will include all on-board social impact-related activities and some on-the-ground cultural immersion activities.
    The announcement comes just two weeks after package tour giant Apple Vacations announced plans to start people-to-people tours to Cuba, joining a growing number of land-based tour companies offering such trips. But what Carnival Corp. will be offering with its trips on fathom's Adonia will be unique, says Donald, citing the ship's high-quality accommodations and on-board experience.
    The venture also could help position Carnival Corp. for the day when the U.S. embargo of Cuba is lifted and the company's mass-market brands such as Carnival and Princess can begin offering traditional-style cruises to the island.
    "We think this experience as a standalone (business venture) is warranted unto itself, but clearly ... it will give us a much more intimate understanding (of operating in Cuba) to prepare ultimately for whenever the embargo is lifted," Donald says.
    "It's hopefully a precursor to what's to come," Donald adds. "We can only do so much under the cultural exchange (style of travel). Right now we only have the one ship. Once the embargo is lifted you will have many, many ships going."
    By Gene Sloan, USA Today
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    sunluva7
    The Viking Sea, the second of three ships which Fincantieri is currently building for Viking Ocean Cruises, was launched today at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Ancona.
    Interior fittings will now begin, leading the ship to its delivery scheduled in spring 2016.
    The Viking Star, the first sister ship, was delivered in March, and Fincantieri is already working on the Viking Sky, the third ship, that will be delivered in early 2017.
    A prepared statement did not mention the fourth ship previously ordered.
    The ceremony was attended by Karine Hagen, godmother for the launch and daughter of Torstein Hagen, founder and CEO of Viking Cruises, while Fincantieri was represented by Giovanni Stecconi, Director of the shipyard in Ancona.
    Source: (Cruise Industry News, June 25, 2015 "Viking Sea Launched at Fincantieri")
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    sunluva7
    All nine people aboard a flightseeing tour, eight of them passengers on a Holland America Line cruise ship, died Thursday in a plane crash near Ketchikan, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
    Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan got a report at 2:06 p.m. that the float-equipped DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter was overdue. Officials tracked an emergency locator transmitter that was activated in the vicinity of Misty Fjords National Monument, said Clint Johnson, NTSB Alaska chief.
    Promech Air, a Ketchikan-based charter and sightseeing service, operated the plane and said in a statement late Thursday that the cause of the crash remained under investigation.
    Troopers reported that a Temsco Helicopters pilot spotted the downed plane about 800 feet above Ella Lake against a granite rock face, troopers said. Alaska State Troopers, the Coast Guard and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad responded to the crash site.
    The plane crashed in “an area of steep, mountainous terrain about 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan,” NTSB said in a statement.
    By 8 p.m., Johnson had confirmed that all nine people onboard the plane had died.
    Troopers said search-and-rescue workers reached the crash site around 6 p.m. and confirmed the deaths of the eight passengers and pilot. Due to bad weather, they will not attempt to recover the bodies until Friday.
    The identities of those killed in the crash will not be released until their relatives have been notified, troopers said.
    “There is nothing I can say that can alleviate the pain and overwhelming sense of loss that we and the loved ones of those affected are feeling,” Marcus Sessoms, president of Promech Air, said in a statement. “At this moment, all of us share the pain and anguish of this terrible event. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone touched by this tragedy.”
    Holland America Line said in a statement earlier Thursday that Promech owned the plane that crashed and was operating a shore excursion sold through the cruise line.
    "We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the plane and their families," the statement said. "Holland America Line is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved."
    The eight passengers had been aboard the Westerdam on a seven-day round-trip cruise that left Seattle on June 20, the statement said. On Thursday afternoon, the ship was docked in Ketchikan.
    Promech Air said in a statement that the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter single-engine plane that crashed was one of five Otters it operated.
    "The Magnificent Misty Fjords by Floatplane" is one of several tours offered by Promech Air, according to the company's website. The cost is listed at $229 per person for about a two-hour trip, which includes a 10-minute water landing on a lake or fjord.
    NTSB said it was sending a team from its Alaska regional office, led by investigator Brice Banning, to investigate the crash.
    Chris John of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said 13 volunteers with the organization went out to search the scene of the crash Thursday in two helicopters and two floatplanes. He described conditions as “very turbulent” with winds around 25 mph.
    “The conditions were really steep,” John said. “It was a bad crash site.”
    Jerry Kiffer, president of the rescue squad, said the plane was heavily damaged in the crash. It sat upright on a 60-degree slope at the base of a cliff when the responding crews arrived.
    "It's kind of hanging on the side of the mountain," Kiffer said. "The floats, of course, are broken off and it's actually (lying) on top of the floats with the tail hanging out over about a 30- or so foot drop."
    Those responding to the crash, he said, will likely have to use rope to steady the plane before rescue efforts move forward.
    "We'll have to do some stabilization and get the aircraft safe to get inside before we start moving the victims," he said.
    The National Weather Service reported scattered rain showers from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Ketchikan International Airport, with winds between 6 mph and 17 mph. Wind gusts hit 26 mph around noon, according to the weather service.
    In July 2013, a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter crashed at the Soldotna Airport, killing all 10 people onboard. The Anchorage Daily News reported it was the worst aviation accident in Alaska in at least 25 years.

    Source: Tegan Hanlon (Alaska Dispatch News, "Nine Dead in Southeast Alaska Plane Crash", June 25, 2015)

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    sunluva7
    At an event in Miami today, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and Tom McAlpin, president and CEO of Virgin Cruises, announced Fincantieri will build the line’s first three ships.
    The first vessel will homeport in Miami starting in 2020. Each ship will be around 110,000 tons with capacity for 2,800 passengers. Delivery dates are 2020, 2021 and 2022.
    “This is a very exciting day for Virgin and travelers around the globe”, said Branson. “We now have the right partners in place to build a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good. The Virgin Cruises approach will appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike, and we look forward to being in Miami and delivering an experience for people who want a new way to cruise”.
    Tom McAlpin, President and CEO of Virgin Cruises added: “Virgin is a customer built brand that listens carefully to what customers want, sharing their ideas on what the new cruise line can do to deliver an incredible experience at sea. We are committed to making waves in the cruise industry, and partnering with Fincantieri sets Virgin Cruises up to do just that. Today’s announcement and Fincantieri’s expertise in prototyping, their creativity and understanding of our vision bring together important ingredients in our future success”.
    The cruise line also launched its website this morning at www.virgincruises.com as well as a Facebook page.

    Source: Cruise Industry News ("Virgin Cruises Releases Details ...", June 23, 2015

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    sunluva7
    This week, Holland America Line was a recipient of two environmental sustainability awards: the Green Getaway Award and the Blue Circle Award.
    The Green Getaway Award, given by the Port of Seattle, recognized the cruise line’s determination to protect the environment and use of marine sanitation devices on its ships.
    The Blue Circle Award, given by Port Metro Vancouver, acknowledged the cruise line’s commitment to sustainability, particularly in its efforts to reduce onboard emissions and the fleet’s carbon footprint.
    Both awards reflect the company’s efforts to preserve marine life worldwide, especially in Seattle and Vancouver. Since the 1970s, Holland America Line has considered the Port of Seattle as a major port for many of its Alaska cruises. The port is home to three of the company’s vessels which are expected to sail 47 trips this summer season.
    The port in Vancouver, British Columbia, is also home to several of the cruise line’s more popular itineraries, including the 7-day Round-trip Vancouver voyage. On this cruise, guests will experience UNESCO world sites like Glacier Bay National Park, and hike in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, Alaska. The trip starts at $649 per person for itineraries available this summer.

    Source: Travel Agent Central (Newswire, June 22, 2015, "Holland America Line Awarded for Sustainability Efforts")

    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.

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    Featured photo credit: HollandAmericaBlog.com
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