Royal Caribbean Wins Travel Weekly ‘Best Cruise Line Overall’ Award For 17th Consecutive Year

December 13, 2019.

Royal Caribbean International closed out another record-breaking year with five wins at the prestigious Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards last night.  The company received top recognition in the major cruise categories for “Best Cruise Line Overall” and “Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean” for the 17th year in a row and “Best Cruise Line Sales & Service” for the 12th consecutive year.

The 2019 awards gala in New York City, recognizing the best of the best in travel as voted on by the growing travel advisor community, also honored the cruise line with the following awards once again: “Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship” for Symphony of the Seas and “Best Entertainment.”

Travel Weekly recognized the 17th annual Readers’ Choice Awards honorees at the Conrad New York.  Winners were selected in 79 categories in the airline, car, hospitality, rail, agent education, tour, cruise, destination, loyalty program and theme park sectors. The awards are presented to suppliers considered by Travel Weekly readers as those that have led the way in product and service in the past year.

Royal Caribbean And Port of Galveston To Build New Terminal

December 12, 2019.

The Port of Galveston, the fourth most active cruise port in North America, has signed a long-term contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) for a new $100 million cruise terminal.  Through the joint partnership  RCL will build the terminal and then lease it from the port for an initial term of 20 years, with four 10-year extension options.

The two-story terminal will have a footprint of approximately 170,000 square feet on 10 acres in the eastern section of the port known as Pier 10. Construction is expected to begin in April 2020.  Anticipated to open in fall 2021, the facility will feature state-of-the-art technology, including mobile check-in and facial recognition to expedite guest arrival. The terminal will be designed and developed sustainably to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) certification standards.

Assuming on-time completion, in November 2021 the new terminal will welcome Allure of the Seas to Galveston.

Improvements to the pier bulkhead and apron will be made to safely accommodate the cruise line’s largest vessels.  In addition, a staging and loading area, bus and taxi staging areas and substantial parking will be constructed.

The port will be responsible for items including maintenance, parking, and improvements to the dock so that it can accommodate the larger vessels. RCL will contribute to the cost of improving the docks.

Following her $165 million amplification, Allure Of The Seas will pump up the adventure with the addition of the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea that touts a 10-story plunge; The Perfect Storm, a thrilling trio of multistory waterslides; and an array of culinary possibilities with more restaurants, including the introduction of Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and returning favorites Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and El Loco Fresh; and more.  Allure will sail 7-night Caribbean itineraries from Galveston and will be the biggest and boldest ship sailing form the Lone Star state.

‘Heroes Tribute Bar’ on Carnival Panorama Supports Operation Homefront for Military Families

December 12, 2019.

Continuing its longstanding support of military women and men, Carnival Cruise Line debuted the “Heroes Tribute Bar,” a first-of-its-kind venue on the new Carnival Panorama that salutes our military personnel.

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, was joined by military personnel and veterans on Carnival Panorama’s inaugural sailing for the grand opening celebration and toast Carnival’s extended military family of guests and employees.

She also said that a portion of the proceeds from the new entertainment and gathering spot will benefit Carnival partner, Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building strong, stable and secure military families.

The venue features a distinctive All-American décor with logos of the five armed service branches of the U.S. military as well as patriotic and military memorabilia throughout the room. The venue’s walls are lined with photos and messages centering on three main themes:  Welcome Home, Thank You for Your Service and America’s Heroes. 

Specialty cocktails will be offered and served in a custom pint glass with a portion of each sale benefiting Operation Homefront.  Pint glasses are also available for purchase.  While the concept will initially be a feature exclusively on Carnival Panorama, Duffy said that the line will look to amplify the spirit of the Heroes Tribute Bar at special moments across the Carnival fleet.

Carnival has been a longtime supporter of the military, hosting a military appreciation reception each cruise, shipboard concerts for military personnel, and events at U.S. bases.  Carnival received the U.S. Honor Flag in recognition of its military support and Duffy participated in the 88th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the Department of Defense.

Carnival Panorama sailed on its inaugural voyage yesterday and will launch year-round seven-day cruises to the Mexican Riviera December 14, calling at destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Oasis Of The Seas Sailing From Miami After $165 Million Transformation

November 25, 2019.

Royal Caribbean International’s iconic Oasis of the Seas has made a splash in its return to South Florida with a $165 million new look.  The ship that stood the cruise industry on it’s head in 2009 offers many new experiences, including the cruise line’s first barbecue restaurant, Portside BBQ; and guest favorites, from the tallest slide at sea–the Ultimate Abyss–to popular live music venue Music Hall, and a reimagined Caribbean pool deck.

Oasis is now sailing 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Miami before heading to the Big Apple in May 2020, where it will become the first of its kind and the largest cruise ship to sail from the area.

Pool Deck Changes

  • The Ultimate Abyss – A 10-story test of courage and the tallest slide at sea that twists and turns for the optimal thrill factor.
  • The Perfect Storm – The action-packed trio of multistory waterslides known as Typhoon, Cyclone and Supercell punch up the level of excitement on the pool deck.
  • A reimagined, Caribbean pool deck – With Splashaway Bay kids aquapark, signature poolside bar The Lime & Coconut, hammocks, casitas, in-pool loungers and live music, days and nights at sea take on a whole new meaning.

New Dining

  • Portside BBQ – Royal Caribbean’s very first barbecue restaurant serves up an authentic, meat-packed menu inspired by the barbecue from across the United States.
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade – With 80 big-screen TVs, tabletop games, arcade classics, an Owner’s Box VIP area, bar fare and ice-cold brews, Playmakers is where everyone in the family can enjoy themselves.
  • Bionic Bar by Makr Shakr – A dynamic duo of robotic bartenders mans this guest-favorite venue.
  • El Loco Fresh – Offering Mexican street fare to go, the casual spot’s menu includes made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas, mini salads and more.
  • Sugar Beach – More than 220 types of candy and a new walk-up ice cream window.

New Entertainment & Hot Spots

  • Aqua80 – In the unparalleled AquaTheater, Oasis debuts a brand-new aqua show of thrilling feats, high dives and acrobatics to iconic tunes from the 80s.
  • One Sky – A new, full-scale production takes center stage in the Royal Theater. This Royal Caribbean original guides travelers through a journey of discovery with music and choreography that explores human connections.
  • Spotlight Karaoke – The dedicated karaoke spot where daredevil singers can rock out to their favorite tunes at the venue’s main stage or in one of two private rooms.
  • Music Hall – The live music venue that first appeared on the Quantum Class ships makes its Oasis Class debut with a roster of live cover bands, an expansive dance floor, a pool table and intimate lounge seating across two levels.

Family Adventures

  • All-new Adventure Ocean – Featuring interactive, personalized and immersive experiences, the award-winning program’s major makeover encourages young guests to choose their own adventures across an entirely new layout.
  • Social298 – A 360-degree transformation debuts a new, maxed-out teens lounge with gaming consoles, music, movies, places to hang out and a new outdoor deck known as The Patio.
  • Glow-in-the-dark laser tag – In Clash for the Crystal City, two teams on the brink of extinction– the Yetis and Snowshifters–go head to head to take control of the mythical ice city.
  • Royal Escape Room – Mission Control: Apollo 18 – Guests walk into a replica of the original Apollo Mission Control Room, take their stations, and must maneuver a series of mind-bending puzzles to successfully launch Apollo 18.

The newly amplified Oasis also sets sail with the Royal Caribbean International mobile app. Guests can now check in for their cruise vacation from their phone, and once on board, enjoy a lineup of capabilities. With the easy-to-use digital stateroom key and in-app TV remote features, the ability to explore and plan activities for each day, and make dining, shore excursion and show reservations, travelers can seamlessly transition into vacation mode.

Oasis is the first of the cruise line’s renowned Oasis Class–the world’s largest cruise ships–to be modernized as part of the Royal Amplified fleet modernization effort.  An investment of more than $1 billion, across 10 ships in four years, the program touches every facet of the guest experience on board.

Vanna White Named Godmother For Carnival Panorama

November 22, 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line has selected one of the most popular television hostesses ever – Vanna White – as godmother for Carnival Panorama when the ship is officially named during a ceremony in Long Beach on December 10.

Carnival Panorama departed from the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy on Nov. 1, and is en route to Long Beach for her naming ceremony on Dec. 10 and inaugural sailing Dec. 11.  The vessel is the first new ship Carnival has deployed to the West Coast in 20 years, and is the third in Carnival’s popular Vista Class, joining her sister ships Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon.

Vanna and her colleague Pat Sajak are no strangers to Carnival Cruise Line.  The Wheel of Fortune slot machines are popular attractions in the casinos across the Carnival fleet, and Pat and Vanna have been on board to tape segments for Wheel of Fortune as part of several successful cross-promotions between the brands over the years.

Over the course of her 37 years on Wheel of Fortune, Vanna has appeared in more than 7,000 episodes, cheering on contestants and dazzling in a new outfit each night.  Her success has provided a foundation to help others in need.   Combining her passion for crocheting and helping children, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. native launched her own line of yarn called “Vanna’s Choice,” with a portion of the proceeds benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, of which Carnival is a longtime supporter.

Following an inaugural three-day cruise, Carnival Panorama will launch year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera service from Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 14, departing every Saturday on week-long voyages to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Rudi’s Seagrill To Debut On Carnival’s Mardi Gras

November 21, 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line announced today that a new seafood restaurant designed by renowned culinary artist Rudi Sodamin will be among the varied dining options on Mardi Gras when it debuts next summer.

Sodamin’s reputation for curating unique dining experiences will lend itself to Rudi’s Seagrill . In addition to an extensive selection of seafood entrees and sides, there will also be several dishes presented as playful “food faces” that double as Instagram-worthy pieces of art.

“We wanted to offer our guests a new and exciting dinner-time option that is as sophisticated as our steakhouses but takes our tradition of fun to the next level,” said Cyrus Marfatia, vice president of culinary and dining for Carnival Cruise Line. “Rudi’s Seagrill will feature next-level seafood delicacies and showcase Rudi’s innovative artistry and ‘plates with personalities’ where guests can feast their eyes on a new personable presentation every time they dine – we’re sure everyone will enjoy them.”

“I’ve spent decades perfecting dishes for my restaurants both onboard and ashore, but it has been such a special experience to partner with Carnival to bring this exciting restaurant concept to life,” said Sodamin. “I believe the quality of a restaurant starts on the plate, so with Rudi’s Seagrill, I want guests to enjoy the food and feel connected to their meals in a fun and engaging way.”

The menu at Rudi’s Seagrill will feature a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts presented as food faces including big eye tuna, grilled branzino, seared scallops and apple cheese cake.

Guests can also choose from a full menu of dishes including crab cake, salt-roasted prawns, broiled lobster tail, and chocolate truffle cake. For guests who prefer non-seafood options, there will be plenty of alternatives, as well.

Sodamin’s “entrée” into the culinary world began with an apprenticeship in Austria at age 14 which led to earning the title as youngest chef at sea leading a team of 260 culinary professionals.  Sodamin serves as Holland America Line’s Master Chef, is a member of a number of prestigious culinary organizations including the Club des Chefs des Chefs and has authored a dozen cookbooks including “Food Faces” which features 150 vibrant images of his edible creations.  The book as well as other merchandise will be sold onboard Mardi Gras.

Situated on Deck 8 between La Piazza and Summer Landing, Rudi’s Seagrill will have an 80-seat indoor dining room as well as an al fresco area on The Lanai.  Rudi’s Seagrill will carry a per-person reservations fee of $38 for adults and $12 for children.

Currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, Mardi Gras is slated to enter service in Europe August 31, 2020, before repositioning to New York for a series of voyages then shift to Port Canaveral for year-round seven-day Caribbean cruises beginning in October 2020.

Royal Caribbean Announces 2021-2022 Caribbean Sailings

November 20, 2019.

In Summer 2021 Symphony and Allure of the Seas will sail alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay. Both Oasis Class ships will do 7-night cruises, with Symphony sailing from Miami and Allure from Port Canaveral.  Following her $165 million amplification, Allure will see the addition of the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea that touts a 10-story plunge; The Perfect Storm, a trio of multistory waterslides; and an array of culinary options with more restaurants, including the introduction of Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and returning favorites Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and El Loco Fresh.  In November 2021, Allure will depart for her winter season, making way for Harmony of the Seas’ return to Port Canaveral. Sailing from Central Florida, Harmony will offer 7-night alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, all calling on Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Summer 2021 Caribbean sailings on board Symphony, Harmony and Allure open for bookings today.

The newly amplified Oasis of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty NJ for her 2021 summer season.   The updated ship offers new dining options, including Portside BBQ – another first for the cruise line,  as well as new entertainment venues Spotlight Karaoke and Music Hall.

After spending a summer in Southampton, England, in October 2021 Anthem of the Seas will make her way back to Cape Liberty to offer 7-night cruises to The Bahamas, along with a handful of Southern Caribbean sailings for the holidays.  Guests can begin to book sailings on Oasis today and sailings on Anthem the week of Dec. 2, 2019.

Also cruising from South Florida is Vision of the Seas.  Vision will sail another winter season in Fort Lauderdale, offering 10- and 11-night Southern Caribbean itineraries.  Rhapsody of the Seas will spend her winter in Tampa on 7-night Western Caribbean cruises.  Sailings on board Vision and Rhapsody are now open.

Sailings from San Juan, Puerto Rico will feature Freedom of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.  Both ships will take guests on 7-night itineraries for winter 2021-2022, which include visits to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, Bridgetown, Barbados and St. George’s, Grenada.  These cruises are also open for booking today.

New Ways to See Bermuda & Canada

Freedom of the Seas will homeport in Cape Liberty for the first time in summer 2021, touting brand-new features and fan favorites following a major $116 million amplification.  For the second consecutive summer, Empress will offer 7-night itineraries from Bayonne to Bermuda and select sailings that feature New England and Quebec City, Canada. Just in time for leaf viewing season, she will sail to Montreal offering 10- and 11-night Canadian adventure cruises.

Enchantment of the Seas will call Baltimore home, offering 5- and 9-night sailings to Bermuda and Perfect Day at CocoCay in the summer as well as a mix of 8- and 12-night sailings to The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay and the Southern Caribbean in the winter.  She will take vacationers to enjoy the fall foliage in Canada during select fall sailings.  Adding to the Canadian offerings from the brand, Brilliance of the Seas will spend the fall of 2021 offering 7-night Canada sailings from Boston.  Sailings will open the week of December 2.

Short Getaways

The amplified Mariner of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral year-round, offering 3- and 4-night Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay itineraries in the summer.  She will then transition to 4- and 5-night itineraries in the winter.  Sailing from Miami in the summer and Fort Lauderdale in the winter, the amplified Navigator of the Seas will also offer 3- and 4-night getaways to The Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay.  Sailings on board Mariner and Navigator will open the week of December 16.

Texas Sailings

Finally (!),   Liberty of the Seas will sail roundtrip from Galveston, Texas.  The guest favorite will set course for the Western Caribbean on 7-night sailings before she transitions to Miami for the winter to offer 3-and 4-night Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay itineraries.  Liberty’s 7-night itineraries are open for bookings today and her shorter itineraries will open the week of December 2

Carnival Unveils More About First Roller Coaster At Sea Aboard All-New Mardi Gras

November 19, 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line today revealed additional details on BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, and the centerpiece of the Ultimate Playground, an expansive open-air recreation area on Mardi Gras, set to debut in August 2020.

The announcement was made at the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Conference in Orlando by Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy who was joined by the line’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal.  Carnival partnered with Munich-based Maurer Rides, to showcase BOLT at IAAPA which brings together innovators from the world’s largest theme parks and attractions.

Duffy revealed that BOLT’s all-electric, motorcycle-inspired vehicles will be adorned with metallic red and blue stripes and an eye-catching yellow lightning bolt.  The vehicle will also feature a digital speedometer display and speakers with new sound effects that will activate to enhance the experience.

Cameras will be located along the 800-foot-long track, as well as within the vehicle itself, providing riders with unique photo keepsakes as they take in 360-degree views and race 187 feet above the sea with drops, dips and hairpin turns achieving speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Guests choose their own speed so no two rides will ever be the same.

BOLT will be the main attraction in the Ultimate Playground, one of Mardi Gras’ six themed zones, spanning Decks 18-20 and home to the largest WaterWorks aqua park in the Carnival fleet featuring three unique slides designed for all ages.

Blue Lightning will offer 312 feet of high-speed twists and turns, while the 229-foot-long Orange Thunder drop-down slide will propel guests into a wet ‘n wild splash zone.  Back by popular demand, Carnival’s signature Twister slide encompasses 265 feet of thrills for the young and young at heart.  Other features will include a splash-tastic zone just for kids with a 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and numerous water toys.

The expanded SportSquare recreation complex features a 600-foot-long suspended ropes course – the longest in the fleet – a nine-hole miniature golf course, a jogging track and outdoor fitness equipment, and a basketball court.

A virtual tour of The Ultimate Playground can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYLeJuLzHzs&feature=youtu.be

Further details on Mardi Gras’ features and themed zones will be announced in the coming months.

Currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, Mardi Gras is slated to enter service in Europe Aug. 31, 2020, before repositioning to New York for a series of voyages then shift to Port Canaveral for year-round seven-day Caribbean cruises beginning in October 2020.

‘Carnival Kitchen’ Culinary Studio To Debut on Carnival Panorama

November 14, 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line today announced Carnival Kitchen, a hands-on culinary experience led by the line’s chefs, debuting on Carnival Panorama in December. Guests sailing on Carnival’s newest ship can enjoy more than 15 onboard cooking classes inspired by the expansive array of international cuisines showcased on Carnival Panorama.

Sample Carnival Kitchen offerings include:

  • Carnival Classics Workshop Class with Dinner: discover the secrets behind Carnival’s most beloved dishes including tuna tartare from Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, saffron risotto from the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, and of course, the cruise industry’s most popular dessert, Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake.
  • The Orient Unknown Class with Dinner: master the flavors of the Far East by exploring the world of savory noodle dishes, silky soups, succulent satays and divine desserts that take participants on a journey through the cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines and more.
  • Cake Workshop: follow step-by-step instructions to create a confectionary masterpiece from layering and filling to using hand-made fondant, ornate and edible decorations and more.
  • Pasta Master Class: explore the art of Italian cooking and preparing homemade pasta by mixing, rolling and molding fresh dough into creative and unique shapes and pair them with delicious sauces from scratch.

Additional classes include sushi rolling, pizza making and pie baking, among many others, and participants have the opportunity to indulge in tastings and sample their creations. One-hour and two-hour morning, afternoon and early evening sessions are available primarily on sea days and can accommodate up to 18 guests at a time. Reservations can be made on Carnival.com pre-cruise or at any restaurant once on board.

Located on Deck 4 aft, Carnival Kitchen boasts nine marbled-granite cooking and prep stations with individual sinks, refrigerators and stove tops as well as all tools, utensils and ingredients necessary to create a memorable meal. The space is accented with white and grey pattern-tiled floors and steel ceilings and walls as well as a dedicated dining area within the Carnival Kitchen for guests in the evening classes to enjoy a themed sit-down dinner included in the price once the classes commence. Class prices range between $30 and $59, and Carnival Kitchen-branded items are available for purchase onboard.

A look at Carnival Kitchen can be viewed in the virtual video here: https://youtu.be/Bb9YRYU2hOA

Carnival Panorama debuts with a special three-day voyage on Dec. 11, 2019, followed by year-round Mexican Riviera cruises beginning Dec. 14, 2019. Voyages depart from the newly renovated Long Beach Cruise Terminal and feature stunning destinations including Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

Royal Caribbean Announces European Schedule for Summer 2021

November 14, 2019.

Royal Caribbean International is offering European cruises for the summer 2021 with 70% new itineraries on seven ships.   All 2021 Europe itineraries are now available for booking.

New itineraries from Southampton

  • Anthem Of The Seas will make its way to Southampton and sail 7- to 14-night cruises to Norway, including new port of call Stavanger, where guests can hike up the 1969-foot-Prekestol “Preacher’s Pulpit” to take in the breathtaking views, or embark on a fjord safari for an up-close-and-personal look at the stunning scenery.
  • Other new ports of call for Anthem include Copenhagen, Denmark – home to the Prince’s Palace and National Museum galleries that showcase centuries-old collections of antiques and art; Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus, and one of France’s most iconic destinations, Bordeaux.
  • Select sailings will also include late-night visits in Paris, as well as overnights in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Lisbon, Portugal.

Explore Europe from Barcelona 

  • Oasis Class returns with Harmony Of The Seas setting sail for the Western Mediterranean on 7-night cruises that include late nights in Florence/Pisa and Rome, Italy. For those wishing to start and end their trip in Italy, round-trip sailings from Rome are also available.
  • Vision of the Seas will continue to offer 12-night Mediterranean itineraries. The ship will visit destinations including the Greek Isles, Kotor, Montenegro; Nice, France; Rome and Florence/Pisa; an overnight in Venice, and late-night calls in Split, Croatia.
  • Jewel of the Seas will close out the summer homeported in Barcelona, where she’ll transport vacationers to the Iberian Peninsula and Greek Isles, including visits to Cannes, France; and Athens and Santorini, Greece.

Italian Adventures

  • Rhapsody of the Seas will spend another summer in Venice offering 7-night sailings that alternate between Greece, Croatia and the Greek Isles with select late-night calls in Kotor and Santorini.
  • Odyssey of the Seas, set to debut in November 2020, will be Royal Caribbean’s first Quantum Ultra Class ship to visit the spectacular shores of both Turkey and Greece on numerous itineraries. Odyssey will open for bookings the week of Dec. 9, 2019.

British and Baltic Exploration

  • Select Jewel itineraries from Amsterdam, the Netherlands and visiting the British Isles and the Baltics will include overnights in Edinburgh (S. Queensferry), Scotland and in St. Petersburg, Russia; as well as late-night visits in Liverpool, England.
  • This season marks the first time a Radiance Class ship calls on Liverpool and Bordeaux.
  • Adventure of the Seas, departing from Stockholm and Copenhagen will offer 7- to 11-night sailings that feature overnights in St. Petersburg and visits to Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia and Visby, Sweden. Adventure will be open for bookings the week of Dec. 9, 2019.