• Cruise Ship Industry News


    Jason
    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
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    Jason
    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
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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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    Jason
    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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    sunluva7
    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
    sunluva7
    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
    sunluva7
    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
    sunluva7
    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
    sunluva7
    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
    sunluva7
    (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
    sunluva7
    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
    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")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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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
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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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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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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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    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more
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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
    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
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