Royal Caribbean Invests in Ultra-Luxury Line Silversea Cruises

June 14, 2018.

Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio and Richard Fain sign agreement

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (NYSE: RCL) and Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio today announced an agreement for RCL to acquire a stake in privately-owned Silversea Cruises, bringing together two companies with bold, long-term visions for the cruise industry.   .

Under the agreement, Royal Caribbean will acquire a 66.7% equity stake in Silversea Cruises based on an enterprise value of approximately $2 billion.  The purchase price of the equity being acquired is approximately $1 billion.  RCL plans to finance the purchase through debt.  In addition, Lefebvre will qualify for an estimated contingent consideration of approximately 472,000 RCL shares, payable upon achievement of certain 2019-2020 performance metrics.

The strategic rationale for the partnership includes:

  • Driving long-term capacity growth in the burgeoning luxury and expedition markets at a much larger scale than what Silversea would achieve independently;
  • Diversifying Royal Caribbean’s portfolio and increasing its expedition offerings by adding a premiere ultra-luxury brand;
  • Leveraging the global footprint of the combined companies to generate demand and increase vacation and destination options for the guests of both companies;
  • Realizing significant synergies related to global market access, supply chain, purchasing power and other economies of scale.

Lefebvre said he is confident that the significant investment stake he is retaining will sizably increase its value through the growth this long-term partnership will enable.

Lefebvre and Fain also confirmed that Silversea’s CEO Roberto Martinoli will continue in his role, working with the existing Silversea management team.

Silversea, with its intimate, all-suite ships, full spectrum of global cruise offerings sailing to more than 1000 global destinations, and unique luxury expedition vessels, adds a pioneering ultra-luxury brand to RCL’s industry-leading brand lineup. RCL’s largest brand, Royal Caribbean International, is a contemporary brand focused on adventure-seeking families, Celebrity Cruises is a premium brand providing a modern luxury experience to discerning global travelers, and Azamara Club Cruises is a destination immersive brand offering luxury voyages to unique ports. The company also operates the regional TUI Cruises and Pullmantur brands as part of long-term joint ventures.

The closing is expected to be completed later in the year, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Regarding 2018, Royal Caribbean reconfirmed its latest adjusted EPS guidance of $8.70 to $8.90 per share. This updated guidance does not include any potential impact from the transaction, although RCL does not expect the transaction to materially impact near-term adjusted earnings per share.

Operationally, the company’s forecast for the third and fourth quarters has remained unchanged, but increases in the market price of fuel and the strength of the dollar are expected to cost the company roughly 25 cents per share.  Fortunately, strong close-in demand for core products and better than expected performance below the line is expected to drive improved results for the second quarter.  These improved results are expected to completely offset the impact of the FX and fuel headwinds in the second half of the year, which allows the company to maintain its guidance for 2018.

 

Oprah Winfrey Named Godmother of Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam; Hosting 3-Day Girl’s Getaway Cruise

June 13, 2018.

Three-Day Girls’ Getaway Cruise Jan. 30, 2019, with Oprah Winfrey Aboard Nieuw Statendam
Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine announced today a three-day Girls’ Getaway cruise on Holland America Line’s newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, Jan. 30, 2019. Oprah Winfrey will embark on the cruise, joined by O, The Oprah Magazine Editor-at-Large Gayle King and other members of the magazine’s editorial staff, who will host special presentations and events on board the ship, currently under construction at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. Winfrey will serve as godmother of Nieuw Statendam, with an official dedication by Winfrey to take place in a private ceremony at a later date to be announced.

The Girls’ Getaway cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and spends a day at Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas. The Girls’ Getaway cruise celebrates the power of friendship and will feature exclusive onboard experiences that honor and pay tribute to the special bond between women.

As a highlight, guests will have the opportunity to attend one of three live “Conversations with Oprah.”  Additionally, editorial staff from O, The Oprah Magazine will be on board hosting special events, including Editor-in-Chief Lucy Kaylin, Creative Director Adam Glassman, Beauty Director Brian Underwood and Books Editor Leigh Haber.

Activities and Events on the Girls’ Getaway Cruise
A Conversation with Oprah: Winfrey will share highlights of her career, inspirational stories of the amazing women she has met over the years, and the desire for this cruise to be the start of something meaningful for those on board. King will join Winfrey on stage for a candid and entertaining chat that shows the deep bond between these two best friends.

Love That! Style Session with Adam Glassman: Glassman will host a style presentation revealing his tips, tricks and secrets for essential pieces that everyone needs in their wardrobe. Following his talk, Glassman will join guests in the onboard dedicated O Shop to offer shopping advice.

O’s Reading Room with Leigh Haber: Guests will have the opportunity to read the latest onboard book club selection (to be announced) and then join Haber for an intriguing discussion with the author. O’s Reading Room was introduced on Holland America Line ships in 2017, and due to its overwhelming popularity, is now available on all ships in the fleet.

Just Breathe: Led by a guest instructor to be announced, participants set their intentions for the day and are encouraged to become present with themselves and those around them through meditation and movement. On the at-sea day, Just Breathe will be held around the serene Lido Pool area, and the experience moves to the beach during the call at private island Half Moon Cay.

Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine Partnership
Building on the success of the exclusive partnership started in 2017, Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine have extended their agreement through 2019 to unite the soul-stirring power of travel with O‘s deep commitment to connection and personal growth. Two remaining Adventure of Your Life Cruises with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine also will feature members of the magazine’s editorial team, along with special guest speakers: Aug. 11, 2018, on a seven-day Alaska itinerary and Oct. 28, 2018, on a seven-day Caribbean sailing.

Holland America Line Launches New Website Design

June 11, 2018.

Holland America has launched a completely revamped website at HollandAmerica.com centered around a new online booking process, easy navigation, bold images that capture the cruise experience and detailed information for both consumers and travel professionals.  

The focal point of the homepage is a new cruise search toolbar that allows visitors to easily select where they want to cruise, the port of departure, dates and cruise length. The homepage also features a top navigational menu that provides quick access to Holland America Line’s cruising destinations, onboard experiences, cruise fare offers and information for guests who already are booked.

Planning a Holland America Line Cruise is Easy
Once a user selects where, when and how long they want to cruise, the resulting cruise itineraries are displayed on a new page with the option of using additional, deeper filters that include ship, specific ports of call, a more precise region, and Land First or Cruise First for Alaska Land+Sea Journeys.

Once a cruise itinerary is selected, a new page displays the itinerary, stateroom options, ship details and activities on that particular cruise. The Itinerary tab shows the day-to-day route with an interactive map that breaks the cruise down by day and follows the journey showing ports and points of interest. Web users may opt for a traditional list view as well.

The Rooms tab compares accommodations and pricing, giving guests the ability to select their preferred location (forward, midship or aft). The cruise fare then displays, showing alternative cruising dates for rate comparison. The Ships tab provides history and insight about the ship, while Activities showcases all of the  experiences on board, including Explorations Central, America’s Test Kitchen, Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club, BBC Earth performances and more.

When all cruise selections have been finalized, the booking can be reserved through an easy check-out process and assigned to a travel professional if the user chooses.

Additional Homepage Features Give Access to the Holland America Line Experience
Scrolling down the homepage, additional features include current promotions, select spotlight cruises and, initially for several weeks, a highlight video of the new website narrated by HAL President Orlando Ashford. Quick links go directly to the pages that provide information about Holland America Line’s noteworthy service and classic-style of cruising, details about the more than 470 ports of call on the cruise line’s carefully crafted itineraries, the onboard culinary experience, and enrichment activities and entertainment.  EXC Tours can be searched by port and tour type.

The development of the site experience will continue in the months to come to build out a robust site with information, visuals, interaction and easy booking tools.

Currently, Holland America Line’s website can be explored in English, German, Spanish and Dutch.

Royal Caribbean To Eliminate Plastic Straws From All The Corporate Brands

June 8, 2018.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has committed to removing plastic straws by the end of this year.  This includes all ships of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises, and Pullmantur.

Current policy has been that plastic straws would be offered on request but not automatically handed out with drinks.  Come 2019, when guests ask for a straw they’ll get a paper one.

In addition,  wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks will be used.

“Healthy oceans are vital to the success of our company,” said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “For over 25 years, our Save the Waves program has guided us to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything we can. Eliminating single-use plastics is another step in that program.”

Also in the wings are plans to eliminate plastic condiment packaging, cups, and bags.  A full plastics audit is underway, with the overall plan to be completed in phases by 2020.

Princess Cruises to Show 2018 FIFA World Cup

June 6, 2018.

Princess Cruises does an especially fine job of showing recently released movies and other programming on their poolside Movies Under the Stars big screens.  Now, guests sailing all over the world will be able to watch their favorite team during the most popular sport on the planet – the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. Broadcasting all 64 soccer games aboard nine cruise ships, the matches start June 14, culminating with the final in Moscow on July 15.

It was while on a cruise during the World Cup a few years ago that I first got hooked on what we call soccer in the U.S.   The crew really got excited over it and their enthusiasm was contagious.

2018 FIFA World Cup™ games will be shown aboard:

  • Sea Princess (World Cruise)
  • Crown Princess (Mediterranean)
  • Diamond Princess (Japan)
  • Emerald Princess (Alaska)
  • Majestic Princess (Taiwan and China)
  • Pacific Princess (Northern Europe)
  • Regal Princess (Scandinavia and Russia)
  • Royal Princess (British Isles)
  • Sapphire Princess (Northern Europe)

Soccer fans will also enjoy themed entertainment and activities, including interactive game play with PlayStation units on Movies Under the Stars®, obstacle course competitions, and penalty shoot outs for prizes, such as specialty dining, with a small entry fee going to charity, plus swag giveaways, themed bites and beverages.

The FIFA World Cup™ is just one of many special events shown on the Movies Under the Stars screens, including Monday Night Football, the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. The giant LED screens are more than 300 square feet in size, with a 69,000-watt sound system and have sufficient lighting power to be seen clearly at mid-day and heard even while the ship is moving at full speed.

New Features and Upgrades Debut Onboard Crown Princess

June 5, 2018.

Princess Cruises guests sailing onboard Crown Princess in the Mediterranean this summer will  be enjoying new onboard offerings after an extensive ten-day dry dock. Completed last month, these enhancements  continue the line’s “Come Back New Promise” campaign focused on investing more than $450 million across the global fleet.  

Crown Princess new and enhanced offerings onboard include:

  • The Salty Dog Grill (formerly Trident Grill) – guests can indulge in a variety of signature Princess burgers grilled up with 100 percent all-beef patties and buns freshly baked onboard, or choose from new Street Tacos made with grilled chipotle-lime chicken or roasted sweet potato-green chile at the new Salty Dog Grill. For a nominal charge, “The Ernesto” burger, from Chef Ernesto Uchimura, voted “#1 Burger at Sea” by Cruise Critic, is also available, where guests can accompany their selections with loaded fries in tempting varieties include chili cheese and bacon & cheese. Classic hot dogs round out the menu offeringsat the new on-deck dining venue.
  • Slice (formerly Prego Pizzeria) – featuring west coast and east coast offerings, Princess guests will enjoy the cruise line’s signature classic Neapolitan-style pizza that has been voted “Best Pizza at Sea” by USA Today. New menu items include Deep Dish Focaccia layered with marinara, meatballs and cheese, California Artisanal Toast including Cali-Avocado or Caprese, as well as Sliced Stromboli, an east coast take on an Italian calzone filled with deli meats and cheese.
  • Coffee & Cones (formerly Sundaes Ice Cream Bar) – offering treats of gourmet ice-cream sandwiches, complimentary ice cream cones and now brewing specialty coffee on the top deck, serving New Grounds Crafted Coffee.
  • The Mix (formerly Mermaid’s Tale) – the poolside bar has been refreshed and the brightly lit surroundings create a festive atmosphere for guests celebrating the day or catching up with friends and family.

Princess Luxury Bed – available in every stateroom aboard Crown Princess, the Princess Luxury Bed was developed by Princess Cruises in collaboration with board-certified sleep expert, Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV designer Candice Olson.

Club Class Mini-Suites – Crown Princess offers Club Class Mini-Suites, the new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities and exclusive dining. This elevated mini-suite category features select perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options, as well as priority embarkation and disembarkation.

Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center – for cruisers ages 3-17, Crown Princess will offer a reimagined youth center – Camp Discovery – created in partnership with Discovery™, as part of the cruise line’s Discovery at SEA program. Catering to specific age groups, kids and teens can make new friends and participate in activities specially designed to help them discover, play, create and huddle. Camp Discovery programs are being delivered onboard while we continue the transformation which will be completed by early summer.

Enhanced Boutiques – guests will enjoy aesthetic enhancements to the Shops of Princess, offering an upgraded shopping experience, such as a branded Effy Fine Jewelry boutique. There will also be new products to choose from featuring a collection of Princess branded athletic wear and logo apparel displayed in a newly designed Logo shop.

Casino – guests ready to take a gamble will take their chances surrounded by new carpet, light fixtures and bar TV screens.

Lotus Spa & Fitness Center – a space where guests can relax and invigorate, salon and treatments rooms have been upgraded and the latest in fitness equipment is now available.

Further general refurbishing and technical updates have also been implemented aboard Crown Princess.

Princess Cruises Unveils 2019-20 Mexico Voyages

 June 1, 2018.

Princess Cruises will again be bringing the flavors and fun of Mexico in 2019 and 2020.  The cruise line  has more experience in this market than any other line, with more than 50 years of experience sailing the region.

Highlights for the 2019-2020 season include the introduction of one of the line’s newest ships to Mexico, Royal Princess, for her first full season based in Los Angeles. Royal Princess will offer 27 total departures including seven-day Mexico itineraries, plus opportunities offering guests more time in port with an overnight in Cabo San Lucas on every 5-day Cabo San Lucas Getaway sailing.

As the only cruise line to sail year-round out of San Francisco, Princess also offers Grand Princess roundtrip 10-day Mexico itineraries in 2019. Star Princess will make her return to the west coast in 2019 as well, featuring 10-day Baja Peninsula & Sea of Cortez with roundtrip departures out of Los Angeles with an overnight in Cabo San Lucas.

Developed in collaboration with Bill Esparza, noted author and leading expert on Latin American cuisine, the line’s enhanced shore excursion offerings along the west coast take guests off the beaten path, on culinary excursions featuring the local flavors of the region. Esparza has developed the culinary shore excursions for Princess in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta.

You can check out the Princess Mexico itineraries at this link.

Enhanced Carnival Players Club Casino Program Debuts

May 31, 2018.

Carnival Cruise Line is refreshing its Carnival Players Club casino program to give members more unique offers and experiences, both on board and ashore.

The program includes a new “Dealer’s Choice” offer with exclusive cruise savings opportunities, complimentary in-casino drinks for qualified guests, and invitation-only Carnival Players Club events.

Carnival has also upgraded several new programs to offer guests an enhanced cruise and casino experience with value-added benefits, privileges and exclusive events based on level of play:

  • Getaway: a great way for players looking for a short vacation, Getaway is available on three- to five-day cruises with extras like in-stateroom gifts, priority check-in and luggage delivery, complimentary in-casino drinks to qualified players, and a chance to win up to $10,000 in free play, cash and prizes.
  • Premier: for our more avid casino players, Premier is available on cruises of six days or longer and offers all the benefits of the Getaway program plus a complimentary pre-cruise gift, priority debarkation, a special Welcome Aboard party, invitation-only casino tournaments, and a chance at $20,000 in free play, cash and prizes every cruise.
  • Ultra: loyalty matters, and our most loyal players will receive Ultra invites, which include all of the benefits of the Premier program plus a chance at $100,000 in cash and gifts on board.
  • Elite: reserved for our very best players, the Elite program provides exclusive experiences and perks like complimentary parking or local airport pick-up and drop-off, early stateroom access, complimentary drinks throughout the cruise, a free shore excursion and Wi-Fi, special Welcome Aboard and sailaway parties, and VIFP Platinum status for the entire voyage.

If you are a casino fan, here is the link for you to bookmark: www.carnivalplayersclub.com

Carnival Horizon Officially Named By Godmother Queen Latifah In New York City

May 24, 2018.

Carnival Horizon Godmother, Queen Latifah, officially names Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in New York.

Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, was officially named by godmother Queen Latifah in a ceremony in New York yesterday that showcased the talented young artists from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital whose artwork adorns the Dreamscape, a three-deck-high LED sculpture in the ship’s atrium.

Following the ceremony, Latifah squared off against Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl champion Jake Elliott in Lip Sync Battle: Horizon modeled after the Paramount Network TV series and rolling out across the Carnival fleet.

Latifah rocked the house with the Weather Girls classic “It’s Raining Men,” while Elliott performed Whitesnake’s arena anthem “Here I Go Again,” all performed with back-up dancers from Carnival Horizon’s Playlist Productions to a full house in the Liquid Lounge.

The big winner was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which received a $100,000 donation from Carnival representing monies raised from various fundraisers, both onboard and ashore.  The funds continue the line’s ongoing support of St. Jude with more than $16 million raised in the fight against childhood cancer since the partnership began in 2010.

As the newest ship in the fleet, Carnival Horizon introduces several innovations, including the first-ever Dr. Seuss water park, a new teppanyaki venue, and Smokehouse Brewhouse, a unique dining concept that combines real deal BBQ favorites created by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri, along with four craft beers brewed on board by brewmaster Colin Presby.

The second in the line’s Vista-class series, Carnival Horizon also includes features like the bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre, a Havana section with its own Cuban-themed bar and pool, and Family Harbor with extra-roomy staterooms and the Family Harbor Lounge.

Carnival Horizon kicks off a summer schedule from New York with a four-day cruise to Bermuda departing later today.  The ship will operate four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from New York through September then reposition to Miami for year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning later that month.

Royal Caribbean Website Update Makes Refundable Deposits Less Apparent

May 19, 2018.

Do you use the Royal Caribbean (RCI) website to do your own bookings online, or to check prices by doing a dummy booking?  If so you need to pay attention or you might lock yourself into a cruise with a non-refundable deposit.

Some time ago the cruise line changed its booking policy and made all suite reservations non-refundable and then extended this to offer both refundable and non-refundable options for non-suite cabins.  Up until a few days ago, when you booked a cruise online and selected a cabin category, two prices appeared on the screen.  One for non-refundable and one for refundable.  You then picked one and moved on to complete the booking.

However, earlier this week I started seeing posts on social media and in cruise forums asking if RCI had eliminated refundable deposits.  I investigated and discovered that the company hadn’t eliminated them, but had changed the booking screens so the pricing you see for your cabin category is only for the non-refundable deposit fares.   It now looks like this image. ( I don’t have an image showing the old screen but it would have shown two prices, side-by-side).

The new booking screens now have you fill out all the information such as name, contact info, birthdate, and then when you get to the screen for choosing dining time, insurance, prepaid gratuities, they have added a new checkbox that allows you to change to a refundable deposit.  It looks like this:

I don’t agree with this change, because at this stage of the booking process a person can look at the above check boxes as a way to “run up the check” and unless reading closely they might skip over them.  What would you think if you saw a box that wanted to add (in this example) $222 to the cost of your cruise and then also wanted to take away $50 in onboard spending credit?  So you say no and move on to the final screen to enter credit card info and boom, you have just made a booking with a non-refundable deposit.

So, my advice to you is to slow down and read each screen very carefully.