• Cruise Ship Industry News

    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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    Featured photo credit: Alaska Dispatch News
    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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    Featured photo credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines
    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")

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    Featured photo credit: HollandAmericaBlog.com
    At first blush, the end of "cruises to nowhere" seemed like a cut-and-dried issue, with the industry simply responding to a new regulation.
    In a statement last week, CLIA said, “… beginning in 2016, in compliance with U.S. laws and regulations, foreign-flagged cruise lines operating out of U.S. ports are not to offer cruises for sale that do not include a call in a foreign port.”
    However, a closer look at the history of cruises to nowhere from U.S. ports suggests that they have probably long been in technical violation of existing immigration laws.
    Individual cruise lines last week said they were canceling their cruises to nowhere because of ship clearance “changes.”
    “Due to recent changes in how ships are cleared into and out of the United States by U.S. officials, certain short-duration cruises without a foreign port of call are subject to itinerary changes beginning in 2016,” Carnival said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this means that we will not be permitted to operate cruises-to-nowhere.”
    Norwegian Cruise Line’s statement said basically the same thing, adding that three two-day cruises on the Norwegian Breakaway in early 2016 “were affected by this change and will be cancelled, with guests receiving a refund.”
    But according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that controls the entry and exit of foreign nationals to the U.S., it is simply enforcing longstanding rules.
    The majority of cruise ship crew are foreign nationals, and many hold D-1 visas, making them eligible to, in the words of a CBP statement, “serve as a crew member on a vessel only if the crew member ‘intends to land [in the U.S.] temporarily and solely in the pursuit of his calling as a crewman and to depart from the United States with the vessel.’”
    CBP said it “has long explained that ‘cruises to nowhere’ do not ‘depart’ [the U.S.] because they do not land in a foreign port or territory. Therefore, D-1 visa holders are not eligible to serve as crew members aboard ‘cruises to nowhere,’ and such cruises must be staffed by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents authorized to work in the United States.”
    As for how it happened that cruise lines have been offering cruises to nowhere for as long as they have, it could be simply that ignorance was bliss.
    “It was never even brought up, to my recollection,” said Rod McLeod, a former cruise executive at various times with Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line. “We knew what our visa requirements were for our crew members. That was clear, and we were very careful with that. ... It was never brought to my knowledge or attention that this was in any way in violation or required an exemption.”
    McLeod said cruise lines have always been very aware of the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) of 1886, which requires that foreign-flagged ships sailing from one U.S. port to another stop in a foreign port. For example, a roundtrip California-to-Hawaii cruise might stop in Ensenada, Mexico, while cruises to Alaska from Seattle generally stop in Vancouver. But neither of those constitutes a cruise to nowhere because passengers are transported between U.S. ports via a foreign port.
    What the cruise lines are now calling a “change” arose from a ruling in a 2014 federal lawsuit filed by Bimini Superfast Operations, operator of the Resorts World Bimini Superfast, a ship owned by the Asian casino giant Genting.
    In 2013, Bimini Superfast began offering gambling-focused cruises to nowhere from the Port of Miami, with crew members holding D-1 visas. Bimini Superfast found itself in trouble when it tried to expand its cruise-to-nowhere operations to sailings out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
    At that time, CBP officials told the cruise line that in order to operate cruises to nowhere, they must “employ persons legally authorized to work in the United States, since such cruises did not touch a foreign port.” That ruling was upheld by a U.S. District Court judge in 2014.
    The results of that ruling are now trickling down to the major cruise lines.
    “A cruise to nowhere is a domestic form of travel,” a CBP spokesperson said last week. “The laws governing what visa is needed to be able to work aboard a cruise to nowhere have been in place and enforced since 1955. Since the legal case of Bimini SuperFast v. Winkowski, CBP has been working closely with the cruise-line industry to ensure that we are holding all cruise ships to the same standards.”
    While the ruling has little impact on the industry because cruises to nowhere are a tiny percentage of the lines’ overall cruise product, they do serve a purpose.
    Norwegian President Andy Stuart told Travel Weekly earlier this year regarding the Norwegian Breakaway’s two-day cruises to nowhere that “lots of people do it as a taster.”
    “People who cruise bring [non-cruisers],” he said. “It’s a good way for people who are unsure to get off the fence.”
    Depending on the extent to which the rules are enforced, travel agents could end up being affected more than consumers. It was not entirely clear last week if the rules would prohibit cruise lines from offering nonrevenue cruises to nowhere, such as the ones that they offer to introduce new ships.
    Cruise lines often bring new vessels to markets like New York and organize preview cruises to nowhere so that travel sellers can become familiarized with the product before selling it to their clients.
    CLIA’s statement said that the rules applied to “cruises for sale that do not include a call in a foreign port,” which would seem to suggest that inaugurals and other nonrevenue sailings could be exempt, but a CBP spokesperson said the rule would “apply to all cruises leaving U.S. ports as it pertains to the visa status of the crew members.”
    McLeod said he guessed that cruise lines would adapt either by holding such events on the pier, where they won’t be able to open their shops or casinos, or by perhaps asking for exceptions when they are introducing new vessels.
    The CBP, which has a long relationship with the cruise lines, understands that these sailings are special events and unlike with Bimini Superfast do not constitute its business model.
    “If you’re a good citizen like Carnival Corp. or Norwegian or Royal Caribbean, and you want to offer a nonrevenue cruise, you can file and ask for an exception,” McLeod said.
    Source: Johanna Jainchill (Travel Weekly, June 21, 2015 "Customs Says Cruises to Nowhere Were Never Legal")
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    Featured photo credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines
    [Everyone loves cruise itineraries with an overnight port stay. Here are some great tips to getting the most from your extended time there (Courtesy of Vacation Insider)]
    In the past, cruise ships made overnight port stays, preferring instead to use the time to travel to another destination.
    But some cruise lines want passengers to have more time to explore to explore and discover a destination for a more immersive experience.
    In the past, cruise ships made overnight port stays, preferring instead to use the time to travel to another destination.
    But some cruise lines want passengers to have more time to explore to explore and discover a destination for a more immersive experience.
    Following are ten tips to help you get the most out of any cruise overnight port stays!
    Talk with Your Travel Agent.
    The more knowledgeable a traveler is about a destination, the better their chances will be of finding that rare gem of a tour, expedition or attraction that could possibly be the highlight of their cruise. That is why it’s important for cruisers to discuss their itineraries with their travel agents as these professionals can provide them with valuable information about port cities and the surrounding areas.
    An experienced travel agent can also help a cruiser create a customized itinerary for their overnight stay that takes into account a traveler’s personal tastes and preferences.
    Book Excursions Early.
    Once a traveler has decided what tours and attractions they want to see, they should book their shore excursions as early as possible. Popular excursions tend to fill up quickly and you want to maximize your one shore time by having a plan before you debark…unless you are a more spontaneous traveler. In which case the next tip is for you!
    Festivals or Fairs.
    A great way to see a slice of the local culture is through fairs and festivals. Often times, you’ll stumble upon these simply by exploring on foot through the city.
    Most cities host numerous exciting cultural events throughout the year, particularly during the high season for travel when weather is the best. You can check the official tourism sites for the port city or of course seek recommendations from fellow passengers on the ship who may have received different recommendations before leaving.
    Local Cuisine.
    Yes, food on a cruise ship is free and often customized to the trip. But there is nothing like sampling the local fare from a small street vendor or restaurant to truly experience a destination.
    Local Nightlife.
    Whether your trip involves tasting the local wines or simply people watching, don’t discount the enjoyment of local nightlife. Every city changes just a bit as the sun goes down and you’ll find a new crowd emerging to cheer teams on tv, to dance the night away or simply strolling through the beautiful surroundings.
    Sporting or Cultural Events.
    Some destinations are famous for their cultural performances or sporting events and seeing them in person gives you an entirely new appreciation for them!
    Yes, a traveler could depend on taxi services to get them from one place or another, but in some cities, it may make more sense to hire a car or private tour service.
    A little up front investigation, may surprise you to find a private tour guide is extremely reasonable and less worrisome than attempting to obey their traffic laws on your own.
    We’re also a fan of foot power, both your own and local pedi-cabs which can often be found near the port! This mode of transportation is slower and that means you can truly take in the sights and even snap a picture.
    Dress Appropriately.
    Depending upon the location of your overnight port stay, you may need to consider changing weather conditions or cultural sensitivities.
    Travelers who will be staying overnight in an Islamic country, such as Oman, should dress appropriately. Women should make sure to keep their legs and shoulders covered. Many seasoned travelers recommend packing a large, lightweight scarf that can be worn around the shoulders and also be used for other purposes during a cruise.
    In other locations, the temperature may drop quickly once the sun goes down so leaving the ship with a jacket is always advised.
    Explore Outside the Port City.
    Many of a destination’s best attractions will be outside of the port of call, so don’t limit your exploration to the immediate city. This extended time in port means you can enjoy an all day experience without fear of missing your boarding time.
    Shop Local.
    Souvenirs with meaning or crafted by local artisans are those that we often treasure the most. With extended time in port, you’ll have time to explore street vendors and small shops, rather than ducking in to the last place you spot on your way back to the ship.

    (Article Credit: Amanda Brooks, Vacation Insider ("10 Tips to Get the Most of Overnight Port Stays", June 17, 2015)
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    Featured photo credit: J. Neves
    People often ask me, "when is the best time to cruise?" The answer all depends on where you're going and what you want out of a cruise. There are several variables that go into deciding when to cruise including personal preference, destination climate, best opportunities for viewing prime visitor sites, and more. Here are my recommendations for when to cruise where.
    High Season: June – August.
    Pros – Temperatures are generally warmer in summer, allowing for best wildlife, glacier and fjord viewing.
    Cons: Higher prices, larger crowds and some port congestion, weather – while generally warmer - can be unpredictable.
    Low Season: May – September.
    Pros – Lower prices, less crowded; more dramatic scenery with snow-capped mountains; best chance of catching the Northern Lights in late September.
    Cons – Colder with possibility of snow and weather-related excursion cancellations.
    High Season: Late November - March.
    Pros – Optimal temperatures in the western cities of Sydney and Perth; sub-tropical temps in the Northeastern Queensland region.
    Cons: - Typhoon season; large crowds and port congestion – especially December-January.
    Low Season: May – September.
    Pros – Lower prices, especially for year-round Great Barrier Reef cruising; less crowded; weather cooler, but rarely extreme.
    Cons – Expedition and Tasmania sailings can be limited during the rainier months of June, July and August.
    High Season: June – August.
    Pros – Water temperature is ideal for swimming and water sports; larger selection of ships from a wider variety of embarkation ports; best time for family cruising, with kids clubs in full swing.
    Cons: Higher prices, larger crowds and some port congestion; normally comfortable Bermuda weather tends to be steamy in summer.
    Low Season: April-May; September-October.
    Pros – Lower prices; less crowded; less humidity with comfortable weather for touring (except for rainier October).
    Cons – Hurricanes can threaten Bermuda in September and October, and since many itineraries consist of Bermuda alone, guests could find themselves re-routed to Canada.
    High Season: September - October.
    Pros – Colorful autumn foliage, beginning in Northern regions in late September and ending in Southern regions by mid-October; cool nights but mild days make strolling the ports very comfortable; quieter cruising due to fewer families and children.
    Cons: Late October can be colder, both day and evenings; although occurring less frequently than in the Caribbean, hurricanes are a possibility, especially in southern regions of New England.
    Low Season: May – August.
    Pros – Warmer days and nights; most comfortable time of year for touring; ideal weather; best time for whale watching.
    Cons – Southern New England can be humid in mid-summer.
    High Season: Late June - August; Christmas and New Year’s weeks; school and college break times, February - mid April.
    Pros – Great time to enjoy time with the family and the kids while they’re on school break; opportunity for cruising on ships that normally don’t cater to kids; best opportunity for fully functional onboard kids’ clubs.
    Cons: Higher prices, larger crowds, many more kids and teens; college breakers can get rowdy; weather can be uncomfortably hazy, hot and humid in the Caribbean; hurricane season, though not as prevalent as the fall months, can threaten cruises and cause rough seas, especially August.
    Low Season: April-May; September-January (excluding holiday weeks).
    Pros – Lower prices; fewer families, kids and crowds; more enjoyable, comfortable weather with less humidity.
    Cons – Hurricane season (September-October) can cause weather delays, rough seas, cancellations or re-routes; air travel risks the possibility of weather delays and cancellations during the winter months.
    High Season: Late December - April.
    Pros – Best selection of ships; best time of year for whale watching.
    Cons: Rainiest weather occurs between December and March; higher prices.
    Low Season: May-June; September-mid December.
    Pros – Great weather; less-crowded ships since kids are in school; best deals, especially weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    Cons – Possibility of hurricanes in September.
    Mexican Riviera
    High Season: Holiday weeks; February – mid April.
    Pros – Mild temperatures with dry and comfortable weather.
    Cons: Holiday weeks and school breaks bring crowded lots of kids, crowded ships and port congestion; during college breaks, ports become wild.
    Low Season: Early January and May; October - November.
    Pros – Fewer kids, more adult atmosphere
    Cons – Unpredictable weather, ranging from hot and humid to chilly.
    High Season: May - September.
    Pros – Best time for beach going and water sports, due to hot and humid weather; lots of families aboard bring the best in onboard kids activities; evenings in European cities are warm but comfortable, allowing for the best lively nighttime experiences and outdoor entertainment and restaurants; avoid kids in the shoulder months of May and September.
    Cons: Higher prices; larger crowds and more congestion, especially July and August family-travel months; summer touring in Europe can be brutally hot.
    Low Season: October - April.
    Pros – More comfortable weather brings more pleasant touring; prices are lower; fewer crowds; warmer regions such as the Canary Islands allow for cruising later in the season.
    Cons – fewer cruise options, especially mid-winter, though warmer regions (Canary Islands, Spain, etc.) will find year-round ships; March and November tend to be rainy.
    High Season: June – August.
    Pros – Best weather for touring port cities and the fjords, with warm temperatures (occasionally steamy) and generally sunny skies allowing for optimal outdoor activity.
    Cons: High prices.
    Low Season: May and September.
    Pros – Quieter cruising, as kids are in school; comfortable fall-like weather with cool evenings, mild days and colorful foliage.
    Cons – Weather can be brisk.
    High Season: November – March (Year-Round for Galapagos Islands)
    Pros – Widest selection of ships and itineraries; best cruise bargains are the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    Cons: Varied climate changes depending on destination; ships fill up fast with South Americans on vacation; large crowds over the Holiday periods.
    Low Season: April - October.
    Pros – Fewer crowds on ships and at top tourist attractions during the shoulder months of April and October; milder weather.
    Cons – Colder with possibility of snow and weather-related excursion cancellations. Seas around the Galapagos Islands can be choppy during August and September.
    High Season: May - October
    Pros – Best and driest weather - less likelihood of rain and tropical storms – making the South Pacific the perfect destination for honeymooners and summer vacationers.
    Cons: Strongest trade winds tend to occur during this time.
    Low Season: November - April.
    Pros – Lowest prices; water temperature is perfect for swimming.
    Cons – Wettest time of the year, with more rain and humidity.
    High Season: April - October
    Pros – Experience more of Europe’s heartland with port-intensive itineraries; quieter, small-ship cruising for adults seeking cruising without children, though summer months sometimes feature theme itineraries exclusively for families.
    Cons: Heavy rains can cause rising rivers and impassable locks, stopping boats in their tracks, and shifting the guests to bus touring.
    Low Season: March; Late November - December
    Pros – Enjoy the best European sites and cities without the summer crowds; Christmas itineraries are a great way to experience the holiday charm of the city markets during December.
    Cons – Weather can be bitterly cold.
    Contributor: Janice Neves - CruiseCrazies Member and Authorized Agent
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: Janice Neves
    Carnival Corporation today announced it has finalized a multi-billion dollar contract to build four next-generation cruise ships with the largest guest capacity in the industry.
    The contract with Meyer Werft is part of larger previously announced strategic memo of understanding with shipbuilders Meyer Werft and Fincantieri S.p.A for nine new ship orders between 2019 and 2022.
    The four new ships will also feature a new “green cruising” design. The ships will be the first in the cruise industry to be powered at sea by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
    The company said two of the ships will be manufactured for AIDA Cruises at Meyer Werft's shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Additional information about the ships, including which new ships will be added to each brand, will be made available at a later date.
    Based on Carnival Corporation’s innovative new ship design, each of the four next-generation ships will have a total capacity of 6,600 guests, feature more than 5,000 lower berths, exceed 180,000 gross tons and incorporate an extensive number of guest-friendly features. A major part of the innovative design involves making much more efficient use of the ship's spaces, creating an enhanced onboard experience for guests, said Carnival.
    The four new ships will be the first in the cruise industry to use LNG in dual-powered hybrid engines to power the ship both in port and on the open sea. LNG will be stored onboard and used to generate 100 percent power at sea.
    Using LNG to power the ships in port and at sea will eliminate emissions of soot particles and sulfur oxides.
    In addition to the two ships being built in Germany, Meyer Werft – which had the capacity to accommodate these four ship-building orders in its production schedule -- will also build the two additional ships detailed in today’s announcement at its shipyard in Turku, Finland.
    Each new ship will be specifically designed and developed for the brand and the guests it will serve, underscoring the company's goal to consistently exceed guest expectations and provide first-time and repeat guests with the vacation experience of a lifetime on each and every cruise.
    Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said the contract is consistent with the company’s measured capacity growth strategy to replace ships with less efficient capacity with newer, larger and more fuel efficient vessels over time.
    "We are looking forward to executing on the next step in our fleet enhancement plan," said Donald. "At a cost per berth in line with our existing order book, these new ships will enhance the return profile of our fleet. These are exceptionally efficient ships with incredible cabins and public spaces featuring a design inspired by Micky Arison and Michael Thamm and developed by our new build teams." Arison is chairman of the board of directors for Carnival Corporation & plc and Thamm is CEO of the Costa Group, which includes AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises.
    Added Donald: “It will be exciting to see our shipbuilding team bring these new ships to life. Every step of the way, our focus is on designing state-of-the-art ships that provide a vacation experience our guests will love, and we are putting all of our creative energy and resources into making sure we achieve that goal.”
    “These ships will expand our leadership position for the Costa Group, the market leader in all the major European markets,” said Thamm. “These will be spectacular ships designed specifically for our guests who sail on our Costa Group brands.”
    The new ship order will allow the Costa Group to continue to build on its leadership position in the European cruise market – a market in which five out of 10 cruise guests in 2014 sailed onboard a Costa Group ship. The Costa Group – along with Princess Cruise Lines, also part of the Carnival Corporation family -- also occupies the leading position in the rapidly growing cruise market in China.
    Source: Cruise Industry News, June 15, 2015, "Carnival Next Gen Ship Details-LNG, 180,000 Tons, 2 for AIDA")
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    Featured photo credit: Carnival
    Say good-bye to cruises-to-nowhere from U.S. homeports.
    Starting in 2016, foreign-flagged cruise ships can no longer operate voyages that do not stop at a foreign port. What isn’t immediately clear, however, is why.

    The Cruise Lines International Association issued this statement: “While itinerary decisions are made by individual cruise lines, beginning in 2016, in compliance with U.S laws and regulations, foreign-flagged cruise lines operating out of U.S. ports are not to offer cruises for sale that do not include a call in a foreign port. Ships are cleared into and out of the United States by officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

    When asked the reason for the change, CLIA’s spokeswoman said the statement is all she could provide at this time.

    Carnival Cruise Line has apparently already started to notify passengers booked on cruises-to-nowhere. Senior Cruise Director John Heald announced what he called “disappointing news” on Facebook.

    “Due to recent changes in how ships are cleared into and out of the United States by U.S. officials, certain short duration cruises without a foreign port of call are subject to itinerary changes beginning in 2016. Unfortunately, this means that we will not be permitted to operate cruises-to-nowhere. This does include the Carnival Vista’s 3 day cruise-to-nowhere from New York. Those who are booked on our cruises-to-nowhere will receive a letter very soon explaining this. So sorry.”

    He added that it applies to all cruise lines. The short cruises that don't visit any ports often are sold as getaways and are booked by people who like the sea. It was unclear how the cruise-to-nowhere itineraries would be adjusted.

    Meanwhile, in Norfolk, Va., Newschannel 3 WTKR reported that Carnival issued a statement that it could no longer operate a cruise-to-nowhere departing Oct. 30, 2016, on Carnival Sunshine. The story said the company offered to rebook passengers on another voyage with a $50 onboard credit. Or, refunds would be processed.

    According to the news station, Carnival issued a statement that said it will continue to operate cruises from Norfolk in 2015-16, but will adjust itineraries to 2016 departures “since we are no longer permitted to operate cruises-to-nowhere.”

    Source: Theresa Norton Masek (Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), June 11, 2015, "Say Farewell to Cruises-to-Nowhere")

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    Featured photo credit: Royal Caribbean
    Carnival Cruise Line is implementing a ban on most bottled beverages in an effort to keep passengers from smuggling alcohol disguised as bottled water aboard ships.
    Starting July 9, the cruise line announced that passengers will no longer be permitted to bring bottled beverages onboard at embarkation, reports USA Today. The new rule permits a single bottle of wine or champagne per passenger.
    Unopened beverages packed in cans or cartons including water, soda, or juice will be permitted but passengers are limited to a 12-pack in carry-on luggage.
    "We sincerely apologize for any disappointment these changes may cause," in a letter signed by Arlene Marichal, senior director, solutions and special services that will be distributed to cruise passengers. "However, we firmly believe this will result in a safer environment while also improving the embarkation process and the overall guest experience."
    Carnival will also be restricting the size of coolers that can be carried on board to 12 in by 12 in by 12 in or less. Passengers will not longer have the ability to tag beverages as checked luggage during embarkation.
    Carnival says that the new policy is an effort to combat passengers from bringing “unauthorized alcohol” aboard cruises. Some recent episodes “bad behavior” have been traced back to illicit alcohol and the inspection of a rising number of bottles was slowing down the boarding process.
    To help offset the cost for passengers, the cruise line announced it has lowered the price of bottled water—if purchased in advance of the itinerary. A $4.99 12-pack of 500 mL bottles will cost $2.99 if purchased in advance
    By FOX News
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    Sometimes the smallest things are the most touchy for clients. The onboard beverage policy – involving carry-on beverages and corking fees – is one of those. Passengers often rant and rave on the Facebook pages of a multitude of lines. Any small change or even the basic policies themselves cause a lot of noise from booked guests or potential cruisers.
    Today, Carnival Cruise Lines is gingerly wading into those waters with a policy change. Booked guests are receiving a letter and agents are being notified.
    Essentially, guests will no longer be able to bring any water, sodas, juices and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard in bottles. Carnival cites instances of alcoholic beverages being smuggled in those bottles – causing safety and security concerns. In turn, the line has reduced its price for bottled water to 12 bottles for $2.99, providing the water is reserved in advance. The price is comparable to what guests would pay in the grocery store.
    To receive that price, the guest must reserve the bottled water online in advance; it will then be delivered to the room. If guests wait to buy it onboard, the price is $4.99 per 12 bottles. The line says it will basically break even with the new fee structure, if that.
    Carnival stresses that people can still bring up to 12 cans or cartons (per person) containing juice, sodas and other nonalcoholic beverages. But bottles are not permitted. The carry-on wine policy and onboard corkage fee remains the same.
    Carnival says some safety issues onboard have been investigated and found to be caused by guests' use of smuggled alcohol. Guests are also bringing what Carnival considers as "excessive amounts" of bottled water - thus slowing down embarkation as inspections must occur.
    Not suprisingly, much of the abuse cited by the line is occurring with boarding in the U.S. for Caribbean itineraries. That said, all North American ports have a high complement of "drive market" guests -- who bring coolers and cart cases of water and other beverages, as they're not restricted by airline regulations or baggage fees.
    To a lesser extent, this happens in Europe or elsewhere, but the policy changes made by Carnival today are being implemented fleetwide for all itineraries, the line said.
    John Heald, Carnival's veteran cruise director who writes a personal blog and has a web site, told his readers today about this additional detail on the water front. He said:
    • We will allow guests to bring their own distilled water if they are bringing a CPAP machine.
    • We also allow nursery water for families with babies. You must have a baby with you.
    For the full range of policy changes, here’s the exact letter sent by Arlene Marichal, Carnival’s senior director, solutions and special services, to guests:

    “While your bags may not be packed just yet, we wanted to let you know about some changes to our Liquor & Beverage policy which is being modified effective with sailings departing July 9, 2015.

    “Often times, we find guests transporting alcohol onboard through unauthorized means resulting in unmonitored consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, this has led to behavioral and safety related concerns.

    “We have also found that bottled beverages are frequently used to transport alcohol and the screening measures needed to validate the contents delay the embarkation process for all guests.

    “For these reasons, we find it necessary to modify our Liquor and Beverage policy, including restricting guests from bringing bottled beverages aboard our ships. To avoid any potential disappointment at the start of your cruise, please familiarize yourselves with our new Liquor and Beverage Policy below, which will be strictly enforced.

    • Guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles.

    • A small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, juice, and milk) packaged in cans or cartons may be brought onboard on embarkation day only in guests’ carry-on luggage. A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less per person.

    • Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board with the following exception:

    At the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne per person in their carry-on luggage.

    A $15 corkage fee (a charge exacted at a restaurant for every bottle of wine served that was not bought on the premises), per 750 ml bottle, will be charged should guests wish to consume their wine or champagne in the main dining room, steakhouse or bar.

    • All liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages outside of the exceptions referenced above are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.
    • All alcohol purchased in ports of call or in the Fun Shops will be returned on the morning of debarkation.

    • Guests are prohibited from bringing large coolers onboard since screening and movement of large coolers through embarkation is an impediment to the boarding and security process. However small, personal-sized coolers, no larger than 12”H x 12”L x 12”W for the purpose of housing small quantities of non-alcoholic beverages and/or medications are permitted as carry-on luggage.

    We know some of our guests are accustomed to bringing on their own supply of bottled water so as part of this new policy we have significantly reduced the pricing for spring bottled water which will be conveniently delivered directly to your stateroom. Pricing is as follows:

    • $2.99 (plus tax) for a 12-pack of 500 ML of bottled water for pre-cruise purchase. Please visit www.carnival.com/funshops to place your order before your cruise to ensure we have an ample supply onboard.

    • $4.99 (plus gratuities) for a 12-pack of 500 ML of bottled water for purchase onboard.
    We sincerely apologize for any disappointment these changes may cause however, we firmly believe this will result in a safer environment while also improving the embarkation process and the overall guest experience. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. We look forward to welcoming you aboard."

    Source: Susan Young (Travel Agent Central, June 9, 2015, "Carnival Bans Bringing Bottled Water Onboard")
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    Sophisticated Asian flavors and designs are coming to Regent Seven Seas Cruises with the debut of its new Explorer ship in 2016.
    The luxury line has commissioned a new Asian restaurant to be called Pacific Rim, the third specialty restaurant to be announced for the 750-passenger Explorer.
    The menu in Pacific Rim will be pan-Asian, with ingredients drawn from culinary traditions in Japan, China and Korea, among other countries. Dishes being considered for Pacific Rim include a miso-spiced black cod wrapped in hoba leaf and grilled Korean barbecue lamb chops with wok-fried beans, eryngii mushroom and gochujang dressing.
    Regent is working with design firm RTKL Associates on the interiors of the new ship. The design for Pacific Rim starts with the lobby, where a modern interpretation of a Tibetan prayer wheel gives way to an entry flanked by doors reminiscent of an Asian temple.
    Inside, airy floor-to-ceiling partitions formed from a combination of traditional Japanese rain chains suspended from frames and customary Chinese screens will help convey a sense of intimacy, Regent said.
    Previously, Regent had announced that Explorer will include Chartreuse, a restaurant described as classic French cuisine with a modern twist, as well as a Culinary Arts Kitchen with 18 cooking stations.
    Jason Montague, president of Regent, said the Asian design elements and the "exquisite" menu of Pacific Rim will provide a gourmet-level experience that brings the richness of Asian cuisine to life.
    Explorer is currently set to make its first voyage on July 20, 2016 from Monte Carlo to Venice.
    By Tom Stieghorst, Special for USA TODAY
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    Playing off its half-acre lawns of real, growing grass on the top decks of its Solstice-class ships, Celebrity Cruises surprised several unsuspecting park-goers in New York City, Chicago, and the Bay Area this weekend.
    Hundreds of butlers emerged on the park lawns and presented packed, complimentary, luxe picnic baskets to lucky recipients. Several park-goers also received a Celebrity cruise.
    Celebrity launched the stunt to kick off the summer season as part of its "Grass is Greener" campaign, which highlights the ways in which Celebrity’s cruises are unmatched.
    “Real grass growing on our top decks, private and spacious veranda staterooms, our Suite Class, and globally inspired cuisine are some of the reasons why the grass is greener with Celebrity,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of the cruise line.
    “Through this campaign, we want to celebrate everything that makes Celebrity the ultimate modern luxury vacation.”
    On board, you can choose from two private veranda picnic experiences: for brunch or sunset.
    Curated by Celebrity’s new James Beard–featured chef, the picnic experience is the first of its kind and will roll out across the fleet beginning in June, to be available on all ships (Celebrity Xpedition excluded) in July.
    If you missed the action at the three city parks, you can enter for a chance to win one of five 7-night Celebrity cruises for two to the Caribbean by celebritycruises.com/sweeps through June 13, 2015.
    Source: Porthole Cruise Magazine (June 8, 2015, "Celebrity Cruises Kicks off summer: picnics for park-goers -- and free Caribbean cruises")
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    Featured photo credit: Travel Agent Central
    Carnival Corporation is launching a new brand, promising to create a new travel category. Called fathom (lower case), the new company will offer what it calls “social impact travel.”
    According to Carnival, fathom will cater to a “vastly underserved market of consumers” who want to have a positive impact on people’s lives by offering meaningful experiences working alongside locals helping them tackle community needs. Thus, the new company will give travelers an opportunity to work directly with people in unique, scalable ways to improve their lives.
    In practical terms this means that starting in April 2016 these consumers will be able book seven-day cruises with fathom’s ship, the 710-passenger Adonia, and sail to the company’s port in the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove, where they will have the opportunity to choose from a range of activities and experiences both onboard and ashore.
    Leading this effort will be Tara Russell, founder and chairman of Create Common Good, a food production social enterprise. She has been named president of fathom. The plan calls for bringing hundreds of travelers to the destination on a regular basis and tens of thousands a year.
    According to Carnival, fathom has identified a sizeable and growing market of potential social impact travelers -- approximately 1 million North Americans, in addition to global travelers seeking a service-oriented experience. And nearly 40 percent of these individuals who are expected to book have never taken a cruise before.
    Fathom has initially identified two impact partners in the Dominican Republic – Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral -- and will work alongside these organizations across the northern region.
    A portion of every ticket purchased will go directly to partner organizations to cover on-the-ground activities, including travel, supplies, personnel to assist with the activities and funding to support the organizations’ overall mission.
    For passengers, impact activities ashore will vary from a few hours to multiple days for a wide range of ages, skill levels and amount of physical activity.
    Sample activities may include economic development, such as helping to cultivate cacao plants at a nursery and assist a local women’s cooperative producing artisan chocolates. Other activities are educational, working alongside Dominican teachers in classrooms to teach English skills or participating in adult learning programs to teach conversational English to help improve their ability to quality for jobs and provide a higher level of income.
    There is also an environmental aspect providing hands-on support to craft and build water filters, using clay – a local resource – and deliver those filters to families to provide healthy drinking water. In addition will be participation in reforestation projects, from cultivating seedlings to planting trees in protected areas.
    When not participating in social impact activities, travelers can enjoy exploring the region and participate in any of the different recreational activities available to all the Carnival brands visiting Amber Cove.
    Fathom will accept reservations staring starting this month and prices begin at $1,540 per person for an exterior cabin with a window, all meals onboard, social impact immersion experiences onboard, three on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees and port expenses.
    The 2001-built Adonia will be transferred from Carnival’s P&O Cruises brand in the UK for the start-up of the operation.
    Carnival said that the root of the fathom word refers to a pair out outstretched arms, symbolizing the company’s fundamental premise that travel can create good in the world.

    Source: Cruise Industry News ("Carnival Corp. Launches New Brand: fathom"), June 4, 2015
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    Featured photo credit: Carnival Corp. and PLC
    The largest cruise ship ever built is looking snazzy and new again.
    Royal Caribbean's 225,282-ton Allure of the Seas has emerged from a major makeover that has brought 10 new suites, a revamped Japanese restaurant, and a new Mexican eatery and bar.
    The four-year-old vessel also boasts a new eatery for suite passengers called Coastal Kitchen and new boutiques.
    Formerly called Izumi Japanese Cuisine, the ship's Japanese eatery now serves a full teppanyaki menu along with sushi and sashimi and is called Izumi Hibachi & Sushi.
    The new Mexican eatery and bar, called Sabor, features hand-made table-side guacamole and a curated beverage menu of tequilas, mezcal and Mexican beers as well as sangrias and tableside-mixed margaritas.
    The 10 new suites offer views of the ocean or the ship's AquaTheater and Boardwalk neighborhood. They include two Royal Suites, six Grand Suites and two Royal Family Suites, and they come with new, exclusive suite amenities including a new, private sun deck area.
    The new boutiques include a Kate Spade New York and Michael Kors. Also added was a Regalia in the Park duty free boutique in the ship's Central Park neighborhood that offers fine jewelry and watches.
    The 18-day overhaul took place at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain. Allure of the Seas is sailing in the Mediterranean this summer out of Barcelona. It returns to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in November.
    The Allure of the Seas makeover comes just a month after the unveiling of Royal Caribbean's newest megaship, Anthem of the Seas.
    Source: Gene Sloan (USA Today, May 24, 2015, "Royal Caribbean World’s Largest Cruise Ship Gets a Major Makeover")
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    Featured photo credit: Royal Caribbean
    Embodying Carnival Cruise Line’s motto of Fun For All, All For Fun, the new Carnival Vista will offer family members of all ages the ultimate vacation experience, according to Carnival Cruise Lines, debuting a variety of one-of-a-kind on-board features when it enters service next spring.
    From a suspended cycling experience called SkyRide and the Family Harbor staterooms and suites featuring a “family concierge” to cruising’s first IMAX Theater, Carnival Vista promises fun for the whole family.
    “Carnival is the number one cruise line for families carrying more than 700,000 children annually and Carnival Vista will build upon our leadership position in this area with incredible outdoor attractions and engaging indoor spaces specifically designed with families in mind,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.
    Carnival Vista will take cruising to new “heights” – with SkyRide, a first-of-its-kind aerial attraction. Here, adventure seekers pedal hanging recumbent-like cycles at speeds of up to 18 miles an hour across an elevated 800-foot-long track, while enjoying panoramic views to the sea 150 feet below. There will be no charge for Sky Ride.
    Adjacent to SkyRide is SportSquare, an open-air recreation area for all ages with a 270-foot-long suspended ropes course, a two-level miniature golf course, a 700-foot-long jogging track, a variety of outdoor fitness equipment, and the new Clubhouse, a modern indoor sports hangout with mini-bowling, ping-pong, sports-themed video games, arcade-style sports games and more.
    When it’s time to cool off, the young – and the young at heart – can check out WaterWorks, the largest aqua park in the fleet highlighted by Kaleid-o-Slide, Carnival’s first inner-tube slide. Riders can zip down 455 feet of corkscrew turns enhanced by music and kaleidoscopic effects. And no Carnival water park is complete without the Twister slide, offering 300 feet of high-speed fun, as well as the PowerDrencher, a 300-gallon tipping bucket. A kiddie area with 30 different water spray toys and mini-racing slides will be available for younger cruisers.
    Carnival stated there will be indoor thrills, too, with the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theater with a three-deck-high screen that brings an immersive cinema experience to sea with the latest Hollywood blockbusters and family favorites, IMAX classics and IMAX documentary content. The 182-seat IMAX Theater is part of the Carnival Multiplex, which includes Thrill Theater, a multi-dimensional experience where seats move back and forth and side to side and viewers are sprayed with water and bubbles to make them feel like they’re part of the movie.
    The Warehouse, featuring video and arcade games, is located next door. And no trip to the multiplex is complete without popcorn and other movie favorites, available at a nearby concession stand.
    Families can also enjoy all-ages comedy shows at the 385-seat Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez as well as the audience participation in Hasbro, The Game Show. New for Carnival Vista will be an ice cream parlor within the Cherry on Top confection store where patrons can select their favorite ice cream and mix-ins and watch as their frozen creation is made right before their eyes.
    Exclusive to Carnival Vista is Family Harbor, located within a dedicated family zone aft on Deck 2 with 96 specially designed “family ergonomic” accommodations, including extra-large family suites accommodating five guests and featuring two bathrooms.
    The Family Harbor Lounge is a secluded space designed as the ultimate family hangout with large screen TVs, board games and complimentary breakfast, cookies and other snacks. An exclusive family concierge maximizes the fun on board, assisting with dining, spa and shore excursion reservations, registering kids for the youth programs and making recommendations on and off the ship for families with kids of all ages.
    Family Harbor staterooms include kid-friendly toiletries, bathrobes and slippers while suites feature separate sleeping quarters for parents and children and a walk-in closet. Guests in Family Harbor staterooms also receive a number of exclusive benefits and privileges, including 24/7 card key access to the Family Harbor Lounge, free meals for kids under age 12 in specialty restaurants, and one free evening in Night Owls, a late-night activities program held in Camp Ocean.
    Carnival Vista will also feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading and play venue featuring iconic décor and funky furniture inspired by the world of Dr. Seuss. Here, kids and their families can read Dr. Seuss books, enjoy arts and crafts, toys and play Dr. Seuss-inspired games. Dr. Seuss Bookville is part of Seuss at Sea, a fleetwide program that also includes the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends, and Seuss-a-Palooza Parade and Story Time.
    Carnival Vista will also include a 4,000-square-foot Camp Ocean play area where, the cruise line said, kids ages 2-11 can be immersed in the wonders of the sea through a variety of age-appropriate, fun-filled and engaging experiences and activities.
    Camp Ocean includes Party Reef, a common area for all ages, as well as a breakout room for arts and crafts called Creative Cove. Just outside Camp Ocean are two outdoor playgrounds: Camp Ocean Playground featuring climbing, tactile and exploratory activities for the little ones, while the interactive NEOS® Play Zone offers high-tech physical fun for older kids. For early teens, there’s Circle “C,” designed as the ultimate chill space for 12- to 14-year-olds, as well as Club O2, a cool hangout just for 15 to 17 year olds.
    Carnival Vista is scheduled to enter service from Europe May 1, 2016, then reposition to New York for a series of voyages in November 2016 followed by the launch of year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

    Source: Cruise Industry News, May 26, 2015
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    Featured photo credit: Carnival Cruise Lines
    Celebrity Cruises said it will add an overnight stay to the itinerary of Caribbean cruises of 10 days or longer, starting in January 2016. The decision affects 43 cruises, said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, trade support and services.
    Ritzenthaler stressed that overnights are typically a feature of cruises outside the Caribbean, so Celebrity is breaking ground with the move.
    “This gives us the ability to say we have more overnights in the Caribbean than any cruise line in the industry,” Ritzenthaler said. "While overnights have been a trend in the marketplace in Europe and in Asia, there really hasn’t been a movement and we believe we are a leader in this initiative."
    The destinations where overnights are planned include Aruba, Barbados, Cartagena, Cozumel, Curacao and St. Maarten. Ritzenthaler said they are among the highest-rated destinations in the Caribbean by guests.
    "Consumer and trade research indicates this is something they desire,” Ritzenthaler said.
    Of Celebrity’s 10 ships, five are scheduled to be in the Caribbean in the first quarter of 2016, but not all do itineraries of 10 days or longer.
    Celebrity has been selling the 2016 Caribbean winter season since the fall of 2014 and cruises have been booking well, Ritzenthaler said. Now booked guests will get the bonus of an overnight stay. “This will be a really wonderful gift for these folks,” she said. “This will be something that will be a really nice opportunity for them. We think it will be a differentiator."
    Source: Tom Stieghorst (Travel Weekly, May 20, 2015, "Celebrity to Add Overnight Port Stays on Long Caribbean Cruises")
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    An Ohio couple claims they were “held hostage” on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise because a private joke was mistaken as a suicide threat.
    Former Dayton resident Michele Baker told this reporter that she said, “Maybe I could go overboard and a dolphin could take me back to shore,” in a private conversation with her husband after he was nearly detained and arrested by Port Authority for a gun magazine that he had forgotten to take out of his bag.
    A security guard overheard Michele’s comment, reported it and she was placed on suicide watch.
    “It’s beyond me how anybody could think that a private conversation between a husband and wife joking around with each other after a very stressful day could be taken as a suicide threat,” Baker said.
    The couple was moved from their $3,000 suite with a balcony to a much smaller, inside room with no windows, hangars, silverware or anything else that could be used for self-harm. A security guard stood watch outside the door for 36 hours.
    “If she tried to leave, they would have thrown her back in,” Baker’s husband, Tim Baker, said.
    Michele and Tim Baker, who live in Hilliard, said they were ordered off the ship at the first port in Bermuda, where they caught a flight back to the United States.
    They said they spent about $5,000 with everything that happened.
    Officials with Royal Caribbean International did not return phone calls or respond to email requests for comment.
    By Lauren Clark, Palm Beach Post
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    Cruise lines are increasing their daily tip charge, offering a modest boost to some of the industry’s lowest-paid workers, as U.S. fast-food, retail, and airport workers push for raises of their own.
    Two of the three largest cruise lines are raising their automatic gratuity charges by 95¢ a passenger. Royal Caribbean Cruises, the second-largest line, said it will add $12.95 per guest per day for all Royal Caribbean and Celebrity sailings that depart July 1 and after; cruisers who stay in suites are assessed $15.95 a day. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings imposed a 95¢ increase effective March 1, with the charge for guests in suites rising to $14.95 a day. A couple on a weeklong cruise in a balcony or inside cabin would pay $181, with a family of four paying $363.
    Customers on the cruise brands that charge a default gratuity can choose to raise or lower the amount before they disembark, while upscale lines—including Regent, Crystal, Seabourn, and Silversea—incorporate the staff gratuity in their fares. The gratuities add up to an estimated $200 a week for crew members. A seven-day cruise aboard Royal's massive Allure of the Seas, which carries 5,400 passengers and almost 2,400 crew, could generate roughly $450,000 in gratuity income. The three largest cruise lines say they distribute all the tips to crew members who staff eligible positions.
    Since 2013, the Service Employees International Union has been coordinating a national “Fight for $15” campaign to increase wages and union representation for workers in fast food, retail, and home health care. Wal-Mart Stores recently began paying about 500,000 of its workers at least $9 an hour, spurring TJX, the parent of the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls retail chains, to match that wage starting next month. Seattle and San Francisco have both adopted a future minimum wage of $15 an hour, compared with the federal minimum wage of $7.25, with similar campaigns in at least eight other large cities and four states.
    The cruise industry, in which the lowest-paid workers don't belong to labor unions, has been attacked for years over its wages and work schedules, which can stretch to more than 80 hours a week. The cruise lines don't disclose the terms of their staff contracts. Norwegian said its gratuity increase was the first in nearly six years.
    The industry's wages “are in high demand because they are not only competitive with the international pay scale but often exceed compensation in crew members’ home countries,” according to the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade group. Americans generally don't staff the service jobs on cruises.
    This fall, Norwegian’s Oceania line will boost its daily gratuity charge $1, to $16 and to $22 for those in penthouse suites or above. The largest cruise line, Carnival, adds a flat $12 daily gratuity on its eponymous brand for all guests age 2 and older. Of that amount, the company says dining room staff receive $6.10 a day, stateroom staff $3.90, and other service crew $2. Royal Caribbean has five levels of gratuity distribution, ranging from $7.75 a day for employees in dining and food service to $1.35 for some housekeeping roles.
    Those who work in dining rooms and as cabin stewards, along with what Norwegian calls “behind-the-scenes support staff,” rely on the default gratuities as an integral component of their income, which is typically based on six- to 12-month employment contracts. Tabs at ship bars, spas, and specialty restaurants usually include a surcharge of 15 percent to 18 percent for staff who work in those venues.
    In the U.S., food preparation and food service have the highest concentration of workers who earn less than $15 an hour, the National Employment Law Center said in an April report, which found that 42 percent of workers make less than that amount. The center is among those campaigning for higher wages. On Friday, 18 U.S. senators wrote President Barack Obama requesting that he issue an executive order giving preference on federal contract awards to “model employers,” citing Costco as an example. Last month, Democrats introduced a “Raise the Wage” bill aimed at increasing the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020. The NELC report didn't research cruise line wages.
    The mix of salary and tip income on the high seas is more complex. Carnival’s Legend, which carries 2,124 passengers, will generate about $178,000 a week in gratuities this summer on its weeklong cruises in Alaska. The Legend has a crew of about 930, although many of those, such as senior officers, aren't eligible for the tips. Lines with larger ships, such as Royal Caribbean and Princess, and those that assess more per day for suites, would be expected to generate higher gratuity totals.
    By Justin Bachman, Bloomberg Business
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    A cruise ship carrying more than 2,000 passengers ran aground late Tuesday in Bermuda after losing power.
    Norwegian Cruise Line's 12-year-old Norwegian Dawn had just pulled out of Bermuda's King's Wharf when the incident occurred. The ship was returning to its home port of Boston after a three-day stay.
    "Norwegian Dawn temporarily lost power as the ship was departing King's Wharf, Bermuda. The ship's propulsion was affected and, at which time, the vessel made contact with the channel bed," the line says in a statement sent to USA TODAY
    Norwegian says all passengers and crew on board the vessel are safe. Power is back up on the ship and all on-board services are continuing as scheduled, according to the statement.
    "The ship's team is currently assessing the situation, and we will provide more information as it becomes available," Norwegian says.
    The captain of the vessel told passengers late tonight that the ship wouldn't be moving until at least the morning, according to a post at a popular cruise message board.
    One of 13 vessels in the Norwegian fleet, the Norwegian Dawn sails weekly to Bermuda from Boston from May through October. Built in 2002, it can carry 2,340 passenger at double occupancy and sails with a crew of more than 1,000.
    The Norwegian Dawn has had several power-related incidents over the years, including a power outage in 2013 that left it dead in the water for nearly two hours. The ship was heading to Bermuda at the time. A ship-wide power outage in 2009 while the vessel was heading to Miami left it without running water, air conditioning or working toilets.
    By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
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    Disney Cruise Line will be returning to New York next year, launching cruises from the city for the first time since 2012.
    "We're returning to the Big Apple in 2016 for sailings for both the Bahamas and Canada!" blogged Disney spokesman Jonathan Frontado.
    He made the announcement as the cruise ship Disney Magic docked in New York on Monday.
    Frontado said that New York cruises to the Bahamas will include visits to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Castaway Cay resort in the Bahamas. The cruise will include a Park Hopper ticket to Walt Disney World, as well as transportation between the ship and the resorts.
    Disney (DIS) will launch the first New York cruise on Oct. 7, 2016, as an eight-day cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, and Port Canaveral, Fl.
    Customers can start booking the New York cruises on Wednesday.
    Departure ports within the U.S. this year are in San Diego, Honolulu, Miami, Port Canaveral, as well as Galveston, Texas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. There are also departure ports in England, Spain, Denmark and Canada.
    The current destinations are in the Bahamas as well as the Caribbean, California, Hawaii, Europe, Mexico and the Panama Canal.
    Three-day cruises from Cape Canaveral to the Bahamas in the fall start at about $1,400 per person. Ten-day fall cruises from Vancouver to Hawaii cost about $3,700 per person.
    Disney has been expanding its cruise destinations in recent months, including a "Frozen" themed cruise to Scandinavia that it launched this summer.
    By Aaron Smith, CNN Money
    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
    River cruise giant Viking's move into ocean cruising officially kicked off Sunday in Bergen, Norway with the christening of its first ocean ship, the Viking Star.
    Bergen mayor Trude Drevland served as godmother for the 930-passenger vessel in an elaborate, music-filled evening ceremony along the Bergen waterfront that coincided with a citywide celebration of Norway's National Constitution Day.
    Watched by thousands, the nearly two-hour event included performances by a succession of world-renowned artists and musicians who have a connection to Bergen including violinist Charlie Siem and the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis. Norwegian soprano Sissel, actor Bjarte Hjelmeland and singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche also performed, and the night was capped by a fireworks display over the Bergen harbor.
    The performances took place against the backdrop of the Bryggen, Bergen's postcard-perfect, UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic wharf area, which dates back more than five centuries.
    The 47,800-ton Viking Star is the first of three ocean-going ships that Viking has ordered for delivery by early 2017. It debuted in April and initially is operating cruises in the Baltic and Mediterranean.
    The setting of the christening wasn't by accident. Viking's Norway-born founder and chairman, Torstein Hagen, was based in the town in the 1970s when he ran the Bergen Line, and he has said it holds a special place in his heart. The Bergen Line was one of the owners of the now-defunct Royal Viking Line, which Hagen ran in the 1980s and has cited as a inspiration of sorts for Viking's ocean line.
    “I fell in love with (Bergen)," Hagen, 72, said at a press event on the Viking Star in advance of the christening. "I had the best years of my life here."
    In addition to being christened in Bergen, the Viking Star is registered in Norway and carries the city's name on its stern. It also has a Norwegian captain.
    "We believe the arrival of Viking Star signals a new era in destination-focused cruising, and I could not be more proud that she will call my favorite city in the world 'home,'" Hagen said. "This is a ship that was built for exploration and designed with our Scandinavian heritage in mind, and our guests will experience it from the moment they step on board."
    A longtime leader in river cruising, Viking never before has operated ocean cruises. The company operates more than 60 river vessels, including a dozen new ships christened earlier this year.
    Viking's ocean cruise division, to be called Viking Ocean Cruises, is the first major ocean line to debut in nearly a decade and enters an arena dominated by a handful of big players such as Miami-based Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises. Carnival Corp. owns nine brands that offer ocean cruises, including Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Seabourn, and accounts for nearly half of the worldwide ocean cruise business. Royal Caribbean owns five ocean cruise brands, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara.
    Viking's ocean division likely will compete most directly with Oceania Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, both upscale lines with similar sized ships. Oceania has five vessels that carry from 684 to 1,250 passengers, and Azamara operates two 710-passenger ships.
    Source: Gene Sloan (USA Today Travel, May 18, 2015, "River Giant Viking Cruises Christens First Ocean Ship")
    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more.
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    Featured photo credit: USA Today
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