MSC Cruises Will Feature A Shipboard Artificial Intelligence Personal Assistant

March 21, 2018.

MSC Cruises revealed today the introduction of a digital cruise personal assistant as a new feature of MSC for Me, the Company’s digital innovation program. This new guest service, developed in partnership with HARMAN International, a  subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, will debut on MSC Bellissima, which is currently under construction at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. 

The Company also announced that MSC Bellissima, which will be MSC Cruises’ next flagship, will be christened in the port of Southampton, UK on March 2, 2019. The two announcements were made today in London at the launch of MSC Cruises’ new 2019-2020 brochure to travel agent partners and media.

The virtual personal assistant for MSC Cruises guests is a conversational, voice-enabled Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation that can communicate, learn and intelligently predict guests’ needs to make relevant suggestions. This new and unique offering will provide guests with tailored information to help simplify and enhance their MSC Cruises experience by providing quick and easy answers to questions from the comfort of their own stateroom.

Industry-Leading Digital Innovation

Unlike other home digital assistants that rely on cloud-based programs with internet-connected devices or applications, this digital offering will be designed around a ship-based solution, customized especially for MSC Cruises’ guests’ needs. The current ways in which guests seek their information on board will be further enhanced, allowing for a uniquely personalized experience.  Guests will be able to communicate with the new digital personal assistant device in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Mandarin. The personal assistant will initially launch on MSC Bellissima, but will be available on all future new ships and plans are in place to introduce the feature on the rest of the fleet.

The unique service is the latest feature of MSC for Me, a multi-channel digital experience that is designed to connect guests to their cruise with cutting-edge technology. It includes the MSC for Me App, in-cabin connected television, and interactive information screens around the ship, among other features. MSC for Me was first launched on board MSC Bellissima’s award-winning sister ship, MSC Meraviglia.


Carnival Panorama’s Sailings From Long Beach Open For Booking

March 21, 2018.

New Ship to Offer Seven-Day Cruises From Southern California Beginning in December 2019, First New Carnival Ship on the West Coast in 20 Years

Carnival Cruise Line today began accepting reservations for the 133,500-ton Carnival Panorama, which kicks off its year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera schedule from Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 14, 2019, becoming the first new Carnival ship homeported on the West Coast in 20 years.

Prior to the launch of seven-day service, Carnival Panorama will offer a special one-time three-day cruise to Ensenada from Long Beach Dec. 11-14, 2019.

Carnival Panorama will offer a three-port, seven-day itinerary from Long Beach, departing every Saturday to the Mexican Riviera, with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta.

Voyages will depart from the newly refurbished Long Beach Cruise Terminal, housed in a massive 146,000-square-foot geodesic dome that once housed Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose airplane.  The expanded facility offers a streamlined embarkation and debarkation process along with stunning design elements that pay homage to the Golden State, including a mural of the Sierra Nevada mountains and replicas of the Spruce Goose.

Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, Carnival Panorama will offer the bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, a massive WaterWorks aqua park, and the SportSquare open-air recreation area, along with a vibrant Havana section with tropics-inspired staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool, Family Harbor featuring extra-roomy accommodations and the luxurious Cloud 9 Spa.  Like its name implies, Carnival Panorama will also offer both indoor and al fresco food and beverage concepts, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, and Bonsai Sushi.

Additional innovations unique to this vessel will be announced at a later date.

Service Fees Increasing On Norwegian Cruise Line

March 21, 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the daily service charges will be increasing.  These are what are called ‘automatic gratuities’ by other cruise lines.  The overview is the rates for most of the fleet are going up 51 cents per person/per day.  For the Norwegian Sky and Sun, the increase is 1 dollar per person/per day.

For bookings made between April 1, 2017 – March 31, 2018:

If you have prepaid the service charges they will be at the current rates of:

• $16.99 USD per person per day The Haven and Suites;
• $13.99 USD per person per day for Mini-Suites and below.

Specific to the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun (Port Canaveral sailings only) –
$21.99 USD per person per day for Suites;
$18.99 USD per person per day for Mini-Suites and below.

For sailings on or after April 1, 2018:

For all service charges paid onboard, regardless of booking date, the rate will be:

• $17.50 USD per person per day The Haven and Suites;
• $14.50 USD per person per day for Mini-Suites and below.

Specific to the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun (Port Canaveral sailings only) –
$22.99 USD per person per day for Suites;
$19.99 USD per person per day for Mini-Suites and below.

Any guest that has made a booking by March 31, 2018 will have the option of prepaying their service charges at the current rate if done prior to sail date. Guests with existing cruise reservations who have already prepaid their service charges at the current rate are not affected.   So, if you want the lower rates, you need to call NCL or your agent and prepay them by March 31.

Royal Caribbean Investing $900 Million in Ship Modernization

March 19, 2018.

Royal Caribbean International is spending $900 million on the ‘Royal Amplified’ program, which will cover 10 ships in four years, and touches every facet of the guest experience on Oasis and Allure of the Seas, as well as all Freedom and Voyager Class ships.

In developing Royal Amplified, the cruise line analyzed multiple years of guest satisfaction ratings, venue utilization data and crew interviews to focus the major investment on key features and experiences that matter most to travelers. Full details on each ship’s new amenities will be revealed on a continuous basis in the next three years.

Iconic Pools and Attractions
With Royal Amplified, outside decks will be reimagined, from pools specifically designed for family fun and relaxing spa-like environments, to new activities day and night.   More specialized pool spaces will cater to diverse preferences.  Upper decks will be amped up and evolved with new attractions and first-of-its-kind attractions such as Sky Pad, a virtual reality, bungee trampoline experience along with waterslides, and waterparks.

Elevated Dining and Nightlife
Guests crave cornerstone cuisines, like Italian, seafood and Mexican, and Royal Caribbean will deliver on that with the introduction of more experiential dining concepts.  Travelers also will see more of the cruise line’s recently unveiled experiences, including Hooked Seafood, Royal Caribbean’s New England-style restaurant; Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, and family-friendly El Loco Fresh with popular Mexican fare. Additional casual, grab-and-go eateries to keep guests fueled between their adventures will also make their debut.

Additionally, cruisers will have the opportunity to live it up in distinct new bars and nightlife spots that deliver on the three tenets of a great night out: unique drinks, delicious food and live entertainment. This makes for more multidimensional nightlife venues offering food, live music and craft cocktails, like The Bamboo Room, and a signature outdoor Caribbean Bar. Other new concepts include a world-class music hall, a go-to spot for karaoke, and a lounge-style nightclub that will take the nightlife to a whole new level.

Redefined Short Caribbean Getaways
Royal Caribbean’s new mantra for millennials is that a cruise should provide maximum levels of adventure no matter how long or short. With quick getaways becoming increasingly popular and necessary for today’s traveler, the cruise line will strive to make its 3- and 4-night cruises just as alluring as longer escapes.

The cruise line is also set to raise the bar in vacation adventures on land with the introduction of its Perfect Day Island Collection of  private island destinations around the world. The first in the collection, Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas, scheduled for completion in fall 2019, will offer a number of distinct experiences and features giving guests first-time experiences.  Four Royal Caribbean ships in the Royal Amplified program, departing from New York, Maryland,  and Florida, will call at Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas.

A Look Ahead at Royal Amplified

  • Freedom Class – Independence of the Seas will be the first ship in the Royal Amplified program to reveal multimillion-dollar upgrades, including Sky PadBattle for Planet Z, a glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides and a new Escape Room: The Observatorium challenge, where competitors can solve a series of high-tech riddles to unravel a mystery. Not to mention the addition of new dining venues, from Fish and Ships – a seaside seafood spot with freshly battered fish and chips and other guest favorites – to Playmakers Sports Bar & ArcadeIzumi Hibachi and Sushi and Sugar BeachIndependence will offer 3- to 14-night sailings from Southampton, England beginning in May 2018, before she heads across the pond in Nov. 2018 to sail from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on 4- to 5-night Caribbean cruises. Freedom of the Seas will be up next, debuting new features in 2020, followed by Liberty of the Seas in 2021.
  • Voyager Class – In summer 2018, the transformation of Royal Caribbean’s short Caribbean cruises will begin with the $90 million amp-up of Mariner of the Seas. Mariner will redefine the quick getaway by giving guests the chance to take their weekends to new heights with the addition of new thrills, such as Sky Pad and laser tag; The Bamboo Room, a retro lounge with its tiki-chic décor; and the fun and vibrant Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade. The program will continue in 2019 on sister ship Navigator of the Seas, which also will be redesigned to specifically cater to those who seek a quick getaway.
  • Oasis Class – Oasis of the Seas will be completely reimagined in fall 2019, ten years after her revolutionary debut. The ship will gain new thrills, pools, bars and culinary creations, as well as introduce new restaurants and onboard adventures found on the newest Oasis Class ship, Symphony of the Seas. These enhancements will cascade to Allure of the Seas in spring 2020, making every ship in the class more adventurous than ever.

Update On The Royal Caribbean New Website Rollout

March 16, 2018.

Royal Caribbean has finally issued an official response over the inept rollout of their new website.  It only took a week.

This came in the form of a letter from Royal Caribbean International (RCI) President and CEO Michael Bayley, posted on Facebook this morning.

A Letter from Michael Bayley
Good morning everyone,
I wanted to write our loyal Crown & Anchor members to both acknowledge and apologize for the issues you are experiencing with our new Guest Account functionality and more importantly update you with the current status. I know that many of you are wasting valuable time and energy migrating to our new Guest Account system. Please know that we hear you, we read everything and we have mobilized the necessary resources to fix the problems.
Our new Guest Account capability is well-intended and will ultimately make everyone’s life easier by having one username and password and a unified account that will make using our various systems seamless whether onshore or at sea. We’ve also invested in upgrading our security capabilities to provide additional protection. The root cause of everyone’s frustration is a combination of many guests having created multiple accounts over the years, the elimination of being able to select amenities and preferences online for our loyal Crown & Anchor members, and mistakes we made in developing and implementing the first release of this new capability. Long story short, we simply did not deliver on this implementation despite our best intentions.
Recognizing all of this, we have assembled a focused team to fix every possible issue. We have a clear list of fixes and the team is working fast to implement solutions to resolve both data issues and restore functionality. They’re making progress and you will see an improved experience in the coming days. If you are continuing to have issues, we’ve also created an email account at to reach the dedicated team directly versus having to call customer service.
We realize that none of what I’ve said changes the fact that we’ve added complication and frustration for our loyal guests. Please know that we value your loyalty and rather than try to give you some vague excuses as to what’s taken place, I want you to know that we recognize our mistakes and are working hard to fix them quickly.
Thank you for your patience and your loyalty. We don’t take it for granted and are working hard and fast to address the situation.


Royal Caribbean ‘Perfect Day Island Collection’ Announced

March 15, 2018

It was a busy evening in New York on Wednesday, as several huge changes were revealed that will change the landscape of cruising – literally.

Royal Caribbean International unveiled the first details of the new ‘Perfect Day Island Collection‘, a series of private island destinations around the world.

The first in the collection, Perfect Day at CocoCay, will boast a number of distinct experiences and new features.  Coco Cay – the company’s private island in The Bahamas – will be getting:

  • The tallest  waterslide in North America
  • The Caribbean’s largest wave pool
  • The highest view in The Bahamas from a helium balloon 450 feet in the air
  • The largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean

Scheduled for completion in fall 2019, the new Perfect Day at CocoCay will offer seven distinctive island experiences.

The Perfect Day Starts Here

Setting the stage for the perfect day is the arrivals plaza, visible to guests as soon as they step ashore.  A welcoming party of live music will be playing as cruisers come ashore.  A zip line ride will fly across the harbor, and you can get soaked by more than 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked Galleon, or by the Sprayaway Geyser, spraying water 82 feet in the air.   Splashaway Bay will give kids fountains, pools, sprinklers, geysers, water cannons and whirlpools – plus five kid-size waterslides and two massive drench buckets.

At Captain Jack’s, the island hangout and meet-up spot, guests can grab a drink at the rowboat bar and enjoy waterfront views or chow down on chicken wings and crispy steak fries – the house specialty. For a nautical, world-traveled vibe, guests can opt to head to Skipper’s Grill for lunchtime favorites like burgers, sandwiches, tacos and salads.  Some food items will incur an added fee.

Thrill Waterpark will lie at the heart of Perfect Day at CocoCay, with two water towers with 13 slides – the most slides found in any waterpark in the Caribbean – as well as the Caribbean’s largest wave pool and a kid-friendly obstacle course pool.

Key features of Thrill Waterpark will include:

  • Daredevil’s Tower – seven slides, including twin Dueling Demons drop slides and the duo of Manta Raycers; the high-speed, fully vertical Screeching Serpent; the coiling Green Mamba; and the 135-foot-tall Daredevil’s Peak – the tallest waterslide in North America.
  • Family Tower – Adventurous squads will share the thrill with six multi-rider slides, including The Twister, a winding tube slide for two sharing a raft; The Slingshot, a zero-gravity slide for four; and the four-lane Splash Speedway racing slides. 

    Guests can ride the tide at the largest wave pool in the Caribbean, and soar above it all on the 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region.

    At Adventure Pool, youngsters will find an obstacle course with lily pads, a rock-climbing wall and swing ropes to bounce, climb and swing to their heart’s content.

    At Oasis Lagoon, guests of all ages can explore the coves of the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool.  Guests can make their way through three distinct coves, each with a vibe of their own.  Guests can splash right in at the kid-friendly beach entry, have drinks at the swim-up bar before catching some rays on one of three mini swim-up islands with in-water loungers, or treat themselves to total relaxation in a private cabana, complete with its own cabana attendant. ($)

A Sky-High Perspective

With Up, Up and Away, cruisers will go airborne 450 feet above in a colorful helium balloon, allowing them to take in the island from the highest vantage point in The Bahamas. The sure-to-be iconic attraction will be visible from anywhere on the island as well as ships docked in port.  This will be tethered to prevent any Wizard Of Oz moments from happening.

Discover an Out-of-Office Oasis

Guests will find a beach escape on Chill Island.   Chill Grill, the largest dining venue on the island, will offer beachside dining with fresh bites. Guests will also find beach day favorites here, including wave runner excursions, boat tours, snorkeling to see the spectacular marine life, as well as plentiful cabanas and daybeds for relaxation under the shade.

Amp Up and Wind Down

South Beach will feature volleyball, beachside basketball, soccer, paddle boarding, glass-bottom kayaking and zorbing in an inflatable zorb ball. After working up an appetite, guests will be able to grab a bite at the Snack Shack or wade out to the floating bar to cool off with a drink. If relaxation is more their speed, photo-worthy teepee cabanas, as well as daybeds, are perfect for napping and snapping in the shade.

Elevate the Perfect Day

At the exclusive Coco Beach Club, the first and only overwater cabanas in The Bahamas will offer guests a luxury stay at Coco Cay.  With an overwater hammock, waterslide, and private attendant, guests will have everything they need for a few hours of complete indulgence.

In addition, beachside cabanas and daybeds will offer up a private slice of paradise. Elsewhere, guests can find  a freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning an expansive 2,600-plus feet, or enjoy an exclusive dining venue that serves up freshly made Mediterranean fare with a side of ocean views.  The Coco Beach Club will be extra fee, and will be available for reservations by all guests regardless of their cabin category.

Perfect Day at CocoCay will roll out in phases, beginning September 2018 with the completion of the pier, and the majority of the island will launch spring 2019.  Coco Beach Club, the final experience to be completed, is set to open Nov. 2019. Additional Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in Asia, Australia and Caribbean will be announced at a later date.


Symphony Of The Seas To Elevate The Way Families ‘Stay and Play’

March 14, 2018.

Royal Caribbean International says they are redefining family and adventure travel with its newest ship, Symphony Of The Seas.   Families can go head to head in a glow-in-the-dark laser tag adventure, take the plunge down the tallest slide at sea, or soak up some sun after getting drenched on the ship’s waterslides and surf simulators, discovering exactly how Symphony of the Seas is the new sound of adventure for the whole family.

The Ultimate Family Suite
The new Ultimate Family Suite is two decks high and full of things never before seen in a cruise ship stateroom.  The 1,346-square-foot interactive space is designed for both the young and young at heart, providing a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while also offering enough room and amenities to relax during “me time.”


  • Accommodates up to eight guests across the two bedrooms – with a “Magic Door” crawl space in between – and a living room
  • In-suite slide, where even the biggest of kids can slide into fun from one level to the next
  • Private cinema with an 85-inch HD TV, featuring the ultimate family movie library (streaming services included) and video games on multiple consoles
  • LEGO wall, spanning floor to ceiling, for the smallest of aspiring architects
  • Hidden nooks to chill and recharge and enjoy some privacy
  • Royal Genie, the epitome of an ultimate insider and concierge extraordinaire, on hand to deliver surprise and delights as part of the many services and premium amenities included in the luxurious experience

And that’s just the inside; the 212-square-foot balcony touts table tennis, an interactive, three-dimensional vertical maze for kids called the Lucky Climber, and a full-size whirlpool that provides unmatched ocean views while guests soak in the sun.

Palate-Pleasing Menus
Symphony will make it easy for families to taste the ultimate kid’s menus at sea across more than 20 restaurants found on board, four of which are new concepts for the cruise line.

  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade is where families cheer on their home team playing on any of more than 30 big-screen TVs, while they munch on American classics like wings, popcorn shrimp, sliders, burgers and picture-perfect sundaes. After finding inspiration in celebrating a win, it is game on at the arcade with Ms. Pac-Man, Star Wars Battle Pod, Ice Skee-ball and a lineup of other popular arcade games.
  • El Loco Fresh is perfect for the family on the go with a fiesta of flavors, from made-from-scratch mole sauce and tangy salsa verde to the made-to-order tacos and burritos. This crazy delicious Mexican fare is fresh and fast for those looking to fuel up for their next onboard adventure.
  • Hooked Seafood is the ultimate catch for families looking for fresh seafood. Those angling for a real taste of New England-inspired classics can enjoy lobster and crab claws, or take their pick of local fish and just-shucked oysters at the ice-cold raw bar.
  • Sugar Beach candy and ice cream shop is the ultimate spot for that sweet tooth. Adults and kids alike can take their pick from a family’s favorite confections and ice creams, alongside a few sugarcoated surprises. The sweetest place on the high seas also features family-friendly DIY activities for aspirational culinary artists.

Entertainment Amped Up
Travelers will discover a variety of entertainment, with a lineup of high-tech, high-energy original productions that will captivate children and grownups alike. Shows spanning ice, water, air and stage will keep guests wowed, while brand new live-action adventures will bring out the kid in everyone.

  • Battle for Planet Z has family, friends and foes go head to head for control of the last planet in the galaxy in this new glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience, complete with state-of-the-art technology and special effects.
  • Puzzle Break: Escape the Rubicon challenges teams to race against the clock as they learn to work together toward one common goal – to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.

Adventure for All Ages
Alongside new experiences, Royal Caribbean continues to offer family favorites like the Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides; two FlowRider surf simulators; Splashaway Bay, a vibrant waterscape for kids and toddlers; skating in a real-ice rink at Studio B, a mini-golf course, a nine-deck-high zip line, two rock-climbing walls that stand 43 feet high, a full-size basketball court, table tennis, and 19 pools across 1,188 feet. The adventure extends on land for the whole crew. From grandchild to grandparent, guests can create lasting memories and discover new destinations together with a variety of shore excursions specifically designed with families in mind.

The cruise line’s robust and complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program continues to offer young vacationers, ages 3 to 17, a wide array of entertaining and educational experiences and activities infused with innovative fun and excitement. Highlights include:

  • Royal Babies (ages 6-18 months) offers the tiniest guests and their parents interactive classes filled with enriching activities developed by early childhood experts.
  • Royal Tots (ages 18-36 months) provides 45-minute interactive playground sessions filled with age-appropriate activities and toys.
  • Aquanauts (ages 3-5 years) serves up cool experiments and the chance to become Certified Jr. Adventure Scientists.
  • Explorers (ages 6-8 years) includes fun events and adventures, such as themed parties.
  • Voyagers (ages 9-11 years) offers a range of activities that puts the “cool” back into learning.

Tweens & Teens Program (ages 12-17 years) allows older kids the freedom to come and go from their dedicated spaces on board, while checking out games, sports and parties with others their age.

Azamara To Feature Rocky Mountaineer Tour Train Excursions

March 14, 2018.

Azamara Club Cruises has joined forces with Rocky Mountaineer, the largest privately-owned luxury tourist train company in the world, to develop special offerings of inclusive pre- & post-land programs for select Azamara Alaska voyages in 2019.

These land programs allow Azamara to bring their Destination Immersion® programming to guests in a whole new way thanks to the unique and authentic perspectives that train travel provides.

When travelers combine a Rocky Mountaineer pre- & post-land program with one of Azamara’s Alaskan itineraries, guests will be able to explore the region through the following:

  • Authentic experiences in marquee ports like Homer and Sitka
  • Bike rides alongside the Pacific Ocean and picturesque scenery with the exclusive Azamara Cruise Global, Bike Local program
  • Stays in premium hotels
  • Travel on a luxury train through unique, historical routes throughout the Canadian Rockies and gourmet cuisine with unparalleled on-board service

Alaskan voyages like the 10-day Alaska Intensive Voyage setting sail May 2019, the eight-day Alaska Adventure Voyage in June 2019 and the 10-day Alaska Showcase Voyage in July 2019 are all applicable for the Rocky Mountaineer package.

Important Note

While the pre & post land tours are not available online, guests can learn more at, and can book through a travel professional or by calling 1.855.AZAMARA.

First Look at the New Rapunzel’s Royal Table on the Disney Magic

March 14, 2018.

Exclusive to the Disney Magic, Rapunzel’s Royal Table is an all-new dining experience inspired by the beloved story of Disney’s “Tangled.” The festivities include live musical performances from Rapunzel and the Snuggly Duckling Thugs. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Rapunzel’s Royal Table is now open aboard the Disney Magic with an all-new dining experience inspired by the story of Disney’s “Tangled.” The first table service restaurant themed to “Tangled” that features characters and live entertainment transports Disney Magic guests to the kingdom of Corona for an evening of music and interactive fun featuring Rapunzel and the mischievous Snuggly Duckling Thugs.

(Matt Stroshane, photographer)

The new restaurant, along with other enhancements to the Disney Magic, debuted March 9, 2018, on sailings from Miami.

Here’s a couple of food photos:

Exclusive to the Disney Magic at Rapunzel’s Royal Table is the Tangled Pasta entrée. Angel hair pasta tossed in basil pesto with caramelized sea scallops, roasted vine tomatoes and a sun-dried tomato tapenade, served with roasted Meyer lemon. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
Exclusive to the Disney Magic at Rapunzel’s Royal Table is the Flynn Rider Platter entrée. Grilled, smoked pork loin served with roasted smoked pork belly, bockwurst, braised red cabbage, fried potato dumpling and a Spätburgunder wine jus. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Royal Caribbean’s New Website Rollout Hasn’t Gone Well

March 13, 2018.

Commentary, and admittedly a rant

Last week Royal Caribbean International rolled out their new website and to be polite, it’s been a less than stellar debut.

Various experiences have occurred, ranging from previous user login IDs and passwords being denied but not redirecting to set up a new (required) ID and password, to a message to ‘try again later’, to some lucky users being redirected to setup the new user ID and password.

After doing the usual things like clearing my browser cookies and trying different web browsers, but still being told to try later, I finally clicked on the ‘forget your password?’ link and it kicked me into the ‘create new login’ screens.  Only then could I experience the pain of the new website’s myriad problems.

The new layout is stark, with very little information.  I am one of the fortunate ones in that my currently booked cruises are still listed, my Crown & Anchor (C&A) points are correct, and my cruise history is mostly intact with only my first two Royal Caribbean cruises missing from the list.  Many people have not been as fortunate, with several saying they are listed as “Pre-Gold” C&A members.  (There is no such thing as a Pre-Gold member level.)  Some report that their bookings are missing, and some of those with upcoming cruises are not able to print their boarding passes.  There is no link to access the C&A webpage, so nobody can update their onboard preferences or loyalty gift selections.  You currently have to call them to do those things.   The link for the Cruise Planner -where you order excursions, drink and dining packages and so forth – requires you to re-enter your booking number, ship, and sailing date even though the Cruise Planner link is part of the existing booking information on your personal dashboard in the wondrous new website.  Or again, you need to call Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s social media and call center teams have been overwhelmed with requests for assistance, many of them from customers who are not especially gracious with their language.  I truly feel sorry for these employees and they’ve been doing a remarkable job in trying to handle the onslaught of complaints while taking needless abuse.  No doubt they have the following statement set up as a timesaving message template for their Facebook and Twitter feeds: “We are sorry.  The new website has many issues our IT Team is working hard to address.  Please send me a private message with your booking number and contact info and I’ll see what I can do.”

This was not a finished product.  It’s not up to beta testing viability.  Some could argue that it is barely above alpha testing level.  Billion dollar companies aren’t supposed to do things like this, but then Royal has a dubious history with IT-related activities, and in particular their website reliability and usability.

Royal Caribbean executives have been noticeably mute during this debacle, with nary a peep from them to at least admit they hosed this up quite thoroughly.   I find that unacceptable.  To spring this new website on the public, with all the problems, is also unacceptable.

As for me, my next Royal Caribbean cruise is in July.  I’m not touching this booking for at least another month lest some errant software coding cancel the cruise when I try to do online check-in.  Hopefully they will get this ironed out and suitable for use.

Oh, and part of this internet upgrade effort involves combining the website access processes for Royal, Celebrity, and Azamara into one.  So grab your popcorn.  I’m sure that will be something to behold.