Windstar Cruises Announces Plans To Renovate & Lengthen Star-Class Ships

November 15, 2018.

Windstar Cruises today announces the $250 Million Star Plus Initiative.  The multi-million dollar, multi-year undertaking will impact and enhance all aspects of the guest experience for the highly awarded small ship cruise line’s three Star Class vessels.  All three ships were originally built for Seabourn Cruise Line and sold to Windstar over the past few years.

The initiative will expand guest accommodations on the all-suite vessels, increasing capacity from 212 to 312 guests per ship following the lengthening.  The work will be done to Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride in succession between October 2019 and November 2020, and take place at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. The project represents an overall capacity increase of 24% for the small ship line.

The project is expected to be partially financed through an export credit facility guaranteed by SACE, Italy’s export credit agency.

Each Star Class ship will be cut in half to allow the installation of a new section of ship that will lengthen each vessel approximately 25.6 meters bringing the total length to just over 138 meters.  The project adds 50 new suites, bringing the total number of suites per ship to 156, and represents an investment of more than $267,000 per passenger berth.

Also involved is the creation of new public spaces including two new dining locations; new shop and retail space; a much enlarged fitness center; and a new world-class spa.

The renovation includes a comprehensive re-engine project for each ship. This will involve the removal of the seven currently installed engines and replacing them with four more efficient and environmentally friendly engines.

Windstar has partnered with designer Ray Chung, Director of Design at The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry in New York, to create modern and inviting design aesthetics for the new public spaces and new suites.

Among new guest amenities and accommodations in the planning phase are:

  • 50 new suites featuring new suite categories and open floor plan configurations.
  • Creation of two brand new, larger Owner’s Suites, that combines existing suites to create up to a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite – the first of its kind in the cruise industry.
  • Two brand new dining experiences including: an intimate, alternative dining restaurant, and a casual barbecue space adjacent to the top deck Star Bar, perfect for outdoor grilling during Windstar’s Signature Onboard Barbecue celebration or enjoying while spending time on deck.
  • Expanded Veranda Restaurant to offer more seating and upgraded dining area.
  • For existing suites, all-new bathrooms and installation of new sliding doors for the Balcony Suites.
  • Larger pool and hot tub that will be reconfigured and elevated offering better views, along with more and enhanced outdoor deck area.
  • A completely re-imagined and enlarged spa and fitness center.
  • A new elevator mid-ship, making access to all decks easy from anywhere on board.
  • A comfortable, new tender loading area located mid-ship and two new 90-passenger tenders that will ferry guests to port when ships are at anchor.

In addition, ship staff and crew areas and accommodations will be expanded and upgraded. Additional crew will be hired and the increase will maintain the line’s 1.5:1 guest to hotel staff ratio.

As planning on the project progresses, additional details will be revealed in press releases and on a dedicated microsite that will launch in 2019.

Norwegian Bliss Arrives In Miami For Winter Season

November 15, 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss is in Miami to offer Eastern Caribbean cruises beginning November 17.

The ship will offer seven-day cruises with calls to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau through March 30, 2019.  In April, she’ll cross the Panama Canal, returning to Los Angeles for select sailings to the Mexican Riviera before moving to Seattle to meet sister ship Norwegian Joy, which will make its U.S. debut on April 25, 2019.

 

Construction Of First Carnival XL-Class Ship Begins

November 15, 2018.

Carnival Cruise Line and Meyer Turku shipyard have officially started construction for the line’s newest class of ship.  Also, Carnival revealed the new livery (paint job) for the 180,000-ton XL vessel that will be the first-ever ship operating in North America to use liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The traditional steel-cutting ceremony held at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, signified the official start of construction of the largest Carnival cruise ship ever constructed, to be delivered in 2020.  A second XL ship will start construction in 2020 and be delivered in 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Carnival Cruise Line’s founding.

At the ceremony, the company also revealed a dramatic new red, white and blue hull design that celebrates its legacy as “America’s Cruise Line” and pays homage to maritime tradition.  Developed by New York-based Bluarch Architecture, the design builds upon the company’s iconic color scheme that has made Carnival one of the most recognizable brands in travel and is highlighted by a navy blue hull with red and white accents running the entire length of the 1,130-foot-long ship.

Following the steel-cutting ceremony, construction began on the 5,200-plus lower berth ship which will offer a variety of new innovations.

As previously announced, the as-yet-unnamed ship will operate from Port Canaveral beginning in 2020.  The ship’s name is scheduled to be revealed in early December.  Details on the ship’s inaugural season are planned to be announced in January, with information on the vessel’s culinary, beverage and entertainment options to be revealed later in 2019.

Carnival Radiance Will Sail To Europe, Bermuda, Canada, AND Cuba In 2020 Inaugural Season

November 13, 2018.

At first glance, you’ll think that the Carnival Radiance is sailing to every port in the northern hemisphere when the totally rebuilt ship returns to service in 2020.  And, you won’t be far off.

Carnival Cruise Line today announced the diverse inaugural schedule for the transformed Carnival Radiance, including 9- to 13-day European voyages, the line’s first to Cuba from New York and Norfolk, four- to nine-day sailings to the Caribbean, Canada/New England from New York, and a winter season of voyages to the Caribbean and Cuba from Port Canaveral.

Additionally, the company revealed details of Carnival Sunrise’s 2020 schedule, including an expanded series of New York to Cuba cruises, as well as four- to nine-day voyages to the Caribbean from New York and Norfolk, Virginia.

Carnival Radiance’s Diverse 2020 Inaugural Season
Following a $200 million dry dock that will take place in Cadiz, Spain, Carnival Radiance will debut April 29, 2020, with a 10-day Mediterranean sailing from Barcelona followed by nine-and 12-day departures visiting top destinations throughout the region, including Italy, France, Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain. The ship will then embark on a 13-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New York June 11-24, 2020, positioning the vessel for its inaugural season in New York.

Once in New York, Carnival Radiance will offer a series of four- and six-day Bermuda cruises as well as a four-day cruise to Saint John, New Brunswick, eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages and the line’s first Cuba cruises from New York – nine-day sailings that include a full-day and overnight stay in Havana and two Bahamian ports of call.  The New York program will conclude with a series of Canada/New England voyages featuring stops in Boston, Portland, Saint John, and Halifax.

The ship will also offer four five- to seven-day voyages from Norfolk in October and November 2020, including the line’s first Cuba cruises from that port.  The week-long Cuba cruises will feature an extended stop in the capital of Havana along with visits to two Bahamian ports.  There will also be a five-day and a six-day Bahamas cruise.

Following the cruises from the Northeast, Carnival Radiance will reposition to Port Canaveral to operate a winter schedule of six- to eight-day voyages to the Caribbean and Cuba beginning Nov. 8, 2020.  The program includes six-day voyages featuring a day-long visit and overnight call in Havana and two Bahamian ports; a six-day sailing to Grand Turk, Amber Cove, Dominican Republic and Nassau, The Bahamas; and seven-and eight-day Caribbean voyages visiting Aruba, Curacao, St. Kitts and Grand Turk.

Carnival Sunrise to be Major Player in Bermuda and Cuba

Building upon the popularity of short Bermuda cruises introduced on Carnival Horizon, Carnival Sunrise will offer a series of “long weekend” getaways to Bermuda as well as longer length Caribbean voyages and cruises to Cuba from New York beginning May 21, 2020.

The program includes eight, nine-day voyages to Cuba featuring a full day and overnight call in Havana along with stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau.  Eight, four-day “long weekend” voyages to Bermuda will also be offered, departing Thursdays and returning Mondays and spending a full day on the island.  Seven, eight-day voyages visiting beautiful ports in the Caribbean and Bahamas will be offered as well. The program concludes with a 12-day Carnival Journeys partial Panama Canal transit from New York to Fort Lauderdale Oct. 19-31, 2020.

Carnival Sunrise will also sail from Norfolk, Va., in May 2020, offering a pair of five-day cruises to Nassau and Freeport, along with a three-port, six-day voyage featuring Half Moon Cay, Nassau, and Freeport. 

The Changes Being Made To The Ships

Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Radiance will each undergo extensive dry docks in 2019 and 2020, respectively, that will add an array of food, beverage and entertainment choices.   New culinary and beverage offerings will include Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse developed by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri, a classic American steakhouse called Fahrenheit 555, and the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub.   Carnival Radiance will also feature Big Chicken, a seagoing version of a landside restaurant operated by the line’s Chief Fun Officer, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.

A sprawling new WaterWorks aqua park featuring the new AquaTunnel slide as well as a SportSquare open-air recreation complex with a suspended ropes course will be added, as well.   All staterooms will be renovated with a tropical color palette reminiscent of the ships’ Caribbean itineraries.

Princess Cruises Gift Cards Now Sold in Select Grocery Stores Nationwide

November 12, 2018.

 

Wondering what to give the cruisers on your gift list?  Just in time for the holidays, Princess Cruises announced today that it will  distribute its gift cards through brick and mortar retail stores across the country.

You can purchase Princess Cruises gift cards in more than 3,500 Kroger, Harris Teeter and Giant Eagle locations nationwide. Available in denominations between $50 and $500, cards can be used to purchase cruises or be used toward onboard products and services. Princess Cruises gift cards will be activated upon payment and checkout at these locations.

Princess is also pleased to announce the release of its annual holiday e-gift cards, which can be purchased at princess.com/giftcard. This year more than five new original designs are available from which to choose, including cards with Christmas and Hanukkah-specific themes, Princess-branded options including Stanley the bear, and Happy Holidays greeting in the languages of some of the destinations we sail.

Princess Cruises gift cards can be redeemed on princess.com, through travel agent advisors and by calling 1-855-426-0168. For more information and to view Princess Cruises gift card options, visit www.princess.com/giftcard.

Holland America Debuts ‘Club Orange’ Program

November 12, 2018.

Holland America Line is introducing the unique Club Orange program that provides exclusive benefits and amenities to guests looking to elevate their cruise experience. From a private dining venue to priority services and a dedicated concierge hotline, Club Orange allows guests to opt in to extra privileges that are available to a limited number of guests on each cruise.

Club Orange will be included for all guests in Neptune and Pinnacle Suite categories.  The program will also be available to purchase for a small number of non-suite staterooms on each sailing.  The program is slated to launch on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam in December 2018, with a rollout to the rest of the fleet in 2019.

The name Club Orange pays homage to Holland America Line’s rich Dutch heritage. The company was founded in the Netherlands more than 145 years ago and it’s the color of the Dutch Royal Family, which hails from the House of Orange.

Private Dining
Aboard Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, the Culinary Arts Center dining venue is being transformed into an exclusive Club Orange restaurant that will be open every day for breakfast and dinner. The complimentary venue will serve the same menu featured in Pinnacle Grill (breakfast) and the Dining Room (dinner) and also include additional daily dishes exclusive to the Club Orange restaurant. When Club Orange is introduced on other ships of the fleet in 2019, a dedicated section of the Dining Room will be set-aside for the exclusive use of Club Orange guests for breakfast and dinner. Reservations in the private dining venue are not required but welcome.

Priority Access
Amenities that come with the exclusive Club Orange program include priority check-in and disembarkation, priority tender service and priority alternative restaurant reservations made on board. Club Orange guests also have a dedicated line at Guest Services and the EXC Tours shore excursion desk, as well as a dedicated concierge hotline on board for dining reservations, shore excursion assistance, general questions and support.

Additional benefits to Club Orange include an enhanced in-stateroom à la carte breakfast dining menu with complimentary premium selections such as steak and eggs or smoked salmon Eggs Benedict, a welcome glass of sparkling wine at dinner on embarkation day, premium bathrobe for use in stateroom (and available for purchase and monogramming), and an exclusive Club Orange tote bag.

The cost of Club Orange is $50 per person per day, and the first and second guest in the same stateroom are both required to purchase the program. Club Orange is included for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom. Club Orange must be purchased prior to cruise departure and is not available for purchase on board.

The fee for Club Orange will be commissionable to travel agents.

Carnival Radiance To Offer Shaquille O’Neal’s ‘Big Chicken’ Restaurant

November 12, 2018.

Carnival Cruise Line announced today that the totally transformed Carnival Radiance will be the first cruise ship to feature “Big Chicken,” a seagoing version of a new restaurant created by the line’s Chief Fun Officer, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.

The menu will feature a variety of fried chicken sandwiches and fries, with flavors to match Shaq’s larger than life personality, all free of charge.  The new food venue will be located on Lido Deck aft.

O’Neal opened his first land-based Big Chicken restaurant in Las Vegas in late October.  The Big Chicken aboard Carnival Radiance will be among the many food, dining and entertainment innovations incorporated into the 102,000-ton ship following a $200 million refurbishment in Cadiz, Spain, in 2020.

Breakfast will be offered as well with choices such as chicken and egg biscuits and omelets.  Patrons will place their order at the counter and pick up their items right away.  And as previously mentioned, there is no extra charge.

Big Chicken is among the many new culinary and beverage offerings that will be available on Carnival Radiance when it debuts in 2020.  Other outlets include Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse developed by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri,  the  Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, the Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant, and the RedFrog Pub.

A new WaterWorks aqua park featuring the new AquaTunnel slide as well as a SportSquare open-air recreation complex with a suspended ropes course will be added as well.   All of the ship’s staterooms will be renovated with a tropical color palette and new décor.

Itinerary and homeport details for Carnival Radiance will be announced shortly.

Princess Cruises Continues Year-Round Caribbean Cruises with Summer 2020 Program

November 7, 2018.

Princess Cruises continues to offer year-round Caribbean cruising from Florida with family-friendly summer vacations in 2020, featuring  Eastern  and Western Caribbean itineraries aboard Caribbean Princess, the first OceanMedallion activated ship.

The April through July 2020 summer season features 15 cruise departures roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting seven destinations on alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages, with the option to combine two cruises for a 14-day Caribbean East/West Adventurer.  Eastern Caribbean voyages visit St. Thomas, St. Maarten and the cruise line’s top-ranked private island Princess Cays. Western Caribbean cruises sail to Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel. A 21-day Circle Caribbean Adventurer also visits off-the-beaten path, southern ports including Antigua, St. Kitts, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad, Curacao and Aruba.

With OceanMedallion guests use their wearable medallion to discover how a personalized vacation can elevate their experience to a higher level by removing friction points, delivering enhanced levels of personalization and guest service all the while staying connected with land-like internet streaming speeds.

OceanMedallion-enabled features include:

Keyless Stateroom Access: Stateroom entry is a seamless experience where each guest is securely validated and the door automatically unlocks, with personalized greetings launching soon.
OceanNowTM: Using smart devices, guests have the ability to place a food or drink order and have it delivered directly to them in food and beverage locations throughout the ship.
OceanCompass™ featuring OceanNav™ and ShipMates: On select portals guests can use OceanNav for point-to-point wayfinding throughout the ship via an intelligent navigation assistant, and utilize ShipMates to easily locate friends, family and kids.
MedallionNet: Wi-Fi connectivity that is fast, reliable, unlimited and affordable. Guests on MedallionClass ships experience land-like connectivity for streaming sports, movies, music and videos, communicating on video phone calls from anywhere on the ship, and sharing their vacation experiences in real time with friends and family back home on social media platforms.

While guests enjoy their personalized experience aboard Caribbean Princess, they will continue to feel the destination with “Rhythm of the Caribbean,” an authentic regionalized program offering concerts, crafts and even presentations by local guests, such as shark experts, treasure hunters and more. The regional cuisine is also brought to life with a diverse fusion of flavors drawn from the Caribbean’s coasts with dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken, delicious red snapper, Creole black mussels, Puerto Rican mofongo or fried plantains, and pineapple crème brulée.

The cruise line also offers “More Ashore” ports calls (9 pm or later departures) in Cozumel or St. Thomas on all summer cruises.

Captain’s Circle Savings and Early Booking Deposit

Princess Past Guests are eligible for a special promotion when they book early. The special promotion consists of a $50 per person discount off the public fare, based on itinerary. This can be combined with launch and group promotions. These discounts do not apply to third or fourth berth guests. Additionally, a reduced deposit is available for Captain Circle guests when they book early.

Norwegian Breakaway Debuts In New Orleans

November 7, 2018.

NCL Breakaway

On Sunday, November 11, 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line returns to New Orleans with Norwegian Breakaway doing 5 to 11-night cruises to the Caribbean.

At 1,068 feet and 145,655 gross register tons, the recently renovated ship is the largest cruise ship to homeport in the city of New Orleans

 

Following the renovation in May 2018, Norwegian Breakaway debuted refreshed staterooms and public areas and introduced a new bar and lounge concept to the fleet with Syd Norman’s Pour House.  Modeled after influential rock houses such as CBGB’s, The Rainbow and The Fillmore, Syd Norman’s is a tribute to the grandfather of “Rock of Ages” playwright Chris D’Arenso and features vintage décor, diner-style seating, signature cocktails and an unforgettable playlist of classic rock from the late 1960s to 1980s. Additional entertainment options on board include the Tony Award®-nominated Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor and Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, all of which attest to the company’s commitment to providing world-class entertainment at sea.

Norwegian Breakaway will sail from New Orleans through April 12, 2019, offering five, seven, ten and eleven-day Western Caribbean cruises with calls to some of the top Caribbean destinations, including Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City and Harvest Caye, the company’s resort-style experience in Belize.

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Enters Final Phase

November 7, 2018.

MSC Cruises is entering the final phase of developing the cruise line’s private island in The Bahamas.

With just one year to go until Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve welcomes its first guests, MSC Cruises marked an important milestone in the island’s transformation with the planting of the island’s first trees.  Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will transform a former industrial sand extraction site into a flourishing marine reserve and private island destination exclusively for MSC Cruises guests, existing in harmony with the local ecosystem. 

With the landscaping work underway, over 75,000 native shrubs and plants will be planted including more than 60 types of indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs to create a lush, tropical environment.

Work on over 100 environmentally-friendly structures will soon begin, which will include bars and restaurants as well as housing for employees and staff who will live on the island. Work on the lighthouse will also be underway shortly – set to become an iconic landmark of the island and a focal point of the evening’s entertainment for guests.

One of the island’s most distinguishing features will be a pier that allows the ship to dock alongside the island so that guests can simply walk on and off at their leisure throughout the day and evening. MSC Cruises has designed each aspect of the island to create an authentic, immersive Bahamian experience that will allow visitors to immerse themselves in this beautiful environment. 

During the island’s clean-up, over 500 tons of industrial waste and scrap metal have been removed, with the final underwater debris clean-up about to begin. To create a solid foundation, over 500,000 tons of sand and soil have been moved and work has been carried out to shape the island itself. A shallow water lagoon will be created in the center of the island to provide a fun area for families to relax. The island will feature eight world class beaches each with a different character and ambience. The beaches are formed from aragonite sand, which is distinguished not only by its stunning white color but also by the key role it plays in the growth of coral reefs by maintaining the pH levels of the water.

MSC Cruises is working in close collaboration with environmental auditors, Bahamian environmental experts and other entities to ensure that best practices are followed. Plans are underway for a marine laboratory to be situated on Ocean Cay, which will research climate change-resistant coral in hopes of providing insights to similar island habitats.

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open November 2019 with four MSC Cruises ships calling at the island on different days. More information about the guest experience will be revealed in the coming months.