Royal Caribbean Sets Return to St. Thomas 

October 16, 2017.

Cruise Line’s Ongoing Commitment to the Caribbean Starts With Visits to St. Thomas On November 10 and Spearheads Restoration of Famed Magens Bay

Royal Caribbean International has set the date for its much-awaited return to St. Thomas since the Caribbean destination was impacted by the hurricanes last month. On November 10, the cruise line will make its way to St. Thomas for the first time since early September with Adventure of the Seas.

In partnership with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Royal Caribbean also has committed to undertaking the complete restoration of Magens Bay, one of St. Thomas’ most popular tourist attractions – with plans for a grand re-opening of the pristine destination during the November 10 visit by the Adventure.

“We are very excited to get back home to our friends in St. Thomas. The Caribbean is our family, having cruised there for nearly 50 years, and the long-standing relationships created in all this time are unwavering,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “We are committed to doing everything we can to help and proud to support the restoration of the iconic Magens Bay.”

In addition to returning to St. Thomas, Royal Caribbean has committed to returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten by the end of November and is working closely with local governments to announce the exact dates.

By December 1, all scheduled calls to the three islands will operate as planned – including calls from the world’s largest cruise ships each sailing with nearly 6,000 new visitors each week – Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean Reveals The ‘WOWs’ Coming To Symphony Of The Seas

October 11, 2017.

Royal Caribbean International has a well-deserved and hard earned reputation for delivering the “WOW” with their new ships and has done it again with today’s reveal of Symphony Of The Seas.   New dining concepts and family activities, awe-inspiring theater, aerial, ice and aqua entertainment, and the most dynamic suite in family travel will join the lineup of Royal Caribbean exclusives.

Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuts in April 2018 for her inaugural season in Europe. The ship will accommodate more balcony staterooms overlooking the open ocean and legendary Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods than her popular sister ship Harmony of the Seas. But there is much more to this ship than her impressive size.

Boardwalk Reimagined
Symphony of the Seas will introduce a new generation of Royal Caribbean’s renowned Boardwalk neighborhood, infused with new energy, interactive experiences and lively venues conceptualized for endless entertainment for all ages.

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will be the place to watch the “big game” from around the world across 30 big-screen TVs, ensuring everyone has the best seat in the house to cheer on their favorite team.

Spanning the length of the Boardwalk, the sports bar and arcade will be a hot spot for families to enjoy wings, burgers and craft beer on draft, as well as friendly competitions of Ms. Pacman, Star Wars Battle Pod, Ice Skee-ball and other popular games.

Across the way, adjacent to the Boardwalk’s iconic hand-carved carousel, Sugar Beach candy and ice cream shop will bring a variety of sweet treats to adults and kids alike, with colorful candy-packed walls and ice cream and toppings. The venue will also feature family-friendly activities for aspirational bakers.

The highly anticipated additions to the Boardwalk will round out the signature offerings that propelled the neighborhood’s popularity. The Ultimate Abyss will catapult the brave from the tallest slide at sea into the heart of the Boardwalk to revel in their adrenaline rush.

Johnny Rockets is still there with great burgers, fries and milkshakes in all it’s 1950s diner splendor.

The impressive AquaTheater will activate the ocean backdrop and starry nights with aquatic acrobatics and stunning high-diving aerial performances exclusive to Symphony of the Seas.

The Ultimate Family Suite
Symphony will introduce the world’s most adventurous and interactive family suite. The next generation of family accommodations, the two-level Ultimate Family Suite is a dream come true for kids of all ages and will debut eye-popping features, including: an exclusive slide from the kid’s only bedroom to the living room below; a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, an air-hockey table and hidden nooks for chilling.

A separate 3D movie theater-style TV room, complete with a popcorn machine and a library of video games across multiple gaming systems will bring a new level of euphoria and competition to gamers in every family. And that’s just the inside; the 212-square-foot wraparound balcony touts a bumper pool table, a climbing experience and a full-size whirlpool that will provide unmatched ocean views.

The Ultimate Family Suite covers 1,346 square feet, accommodating a family of up to eight in two bedrooms, and uses every inch of space to activate the imagination and provide the most brag-worthy accommodations imaginable. And if that wasn’t enough, guests in the Ultimate Family Suite will have their own personal Royal Genie to take care of their every need while they enjoy all the services and premium amenities of the Royal Suite Class.

All New Culinary Creations
Symphony will debut new food and beverage concepts adding to an already diverse lineup of more than 20 specialty and complimentary restaurants across the ship’s seven neighborhoods.

Hooked Seafood, Royal Caribbean’s first New England-style seafood restaurant, will feature fresh seafood and a robust raw bar complete with oysters shucked to order. Located at the front of the ship in the Solarium, the casually sophisticated restaurant will offer expansive views of the open water, serving lunch and dinner.

El Loco Fresh will offer mouthwatering made-to-order tacos, burritos and other popular Mexican fare. The open-air restaurant in the Sports Zone will seat more than 100 guests.

The cruise line’s signature culinary favorites, including Wonderland Imaginative CuisineJamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park with its American seasonal menu, Park Café and Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, also will introduce refreshed designs and new menu specialties on Symphony, offering guests the widest choice and variety of dining options.

Entertainment Elevated
Royal Caribbean’s unparalleled entertainment will once again raise the bar, touting immersive shows where theater magic extends beyond the stage and into the audience.

Back by popular demand, the hugely successful “Hairspray” – the brand’s first Broadway musical at sea – will return on Symphony with a total refresh to headline the Royal Theater along with a new original Royal Caribbean show, “Flight” a historical satire on the evolution of air travel that ends with homage to the famed Wright Brothers.

In the iconic AquaTheater open-air amphitheater, a new aqua show, “HiRo” offers serious wow factor with high-diving and acrobatics. Studio B will showcase a new time-travel adventure.

A high-tech ice-skating show,“1977” will bring guests to London on the eve of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee when her Crown Jewels are stolen in the heist of the century.

For thrilling live-action adventure at sea, guests can gear up for an epic glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience like no other. State-of-the-art technology and special effects will transform Studio B into the world’s largest and ultimate laser tag arena as family, friends and foes battle over the fate of the last planet in the galaxy. Vacationers looking for a challenge can experience a new Puzzle Break experience on Symphony, where teams will race against the clock and learn to work together toward a common goal – to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.

All New Mobile Check-in Debuts on Symphony
The latest technological innovations will be integrated throughout Symphony, including a redesigned check-in experience that eliminates lines and bypasses the counter. The new process will leverage a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and frictionless.

Guests will check-in via the brand’s new mobile app and seamlessly upload their security “selfie” to create their onboard account from the comfort of their home. Upon arrival, guests will go through a security screening and then head straight to their stateroom, where their key will be ready and waiting. In addition to mobile check-in, Symphony will feature all of the pioneering and award-winning guest technology the cruise line is known for, including VOOM – the fastest internet at sea, state-of-the-art way-finding and virtual balconies.

As with all Oasis-class ships, the neighborhood concept carries forward on Symphony Of The Seas.

  • Boardwalk– Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and the Sugar Beach candy and ice-cream shop bring a new spin to this outdoor space inspired by the nostalgic seaside piers of yesteryear. The Boardwalk, with its original hand-carved carousel, will offer classic family fun combined with a high-energy vibe felt throughout its casual eateries, retail shops and activities for a day of family fun. The signature AquaTheater, located at the stern of the ship with a distinct ocean backdrop, is a dazzling amphitheater-style venue where guests can experience stunning aquatic acrobatics and high-diving aerial performances.
  • Central Park With more than 12,000 lush tropical plants, this open-air neighborhood is a serene retreat that features meandering walkways with quiet nooks for reading and relaxing, retail boutiques and specialty restaurants including Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, 150 Central Park and Vintages wine bar. The expanded Park Café, with its communal table and additional outdoor bistro seating overlooking a central piazza, is the perfect spot for meeting friends and people watching.
  • Entertainment Place A contemporary night club district, where more intimate venues cater to different moods and preferences, is anchored by Casino Royale, which will take the title of the largest casino at sea, and Studio B, home to a full-scale ice rink and newly introduced glow-in-the-dark laser tag game.  The Attic exudes the vibe of a downtown comedy club and transforms into a lounge for late-night drinks and dancing, while Jazz on 4 features live jazz and blues performances with the convenience of table service for couples and groups.
  • Pool and Sports Zone Home to the ship’s most active adventures, including the Ultimate Abyss – the tallest slide at sea, The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, two FlowRider surf simulators, a mini-golf course, a nine-deck-high zip line, and the beach pool, plus the all new El Loco Fresh.
  • Royal Promenade Dining, bar-hopping and shopping abound on this bustling main street at sea. The Promenade features a café, the industry-changing robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr, and the Rising Tide Bar that transports guests up to Central Park.
  • Youth Zone From adventurous tots to teens, young travelers can dive into the widest array of youth facilities and innovative programming at sea, including a yet-to-be-revealed new Puzzle Break challenge where teams will race against the clock to escape the submarine-themed room before time runs out.
  • Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center Chill out or work out at the largest spa and fitness center on the high seas.

The 25th ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, Symphony of the Seas will set sail in April 2018 to kick off a summer season in the Mediterranean, calling on ports in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence, France; and Florence/Pisa, Rome and Naples, Italy. Beginning Nov. 24, 2018, the adventure-packed ship will make Miami, FL her year-round home, sailing 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages from the state-of-the-art new Terminal A at PortMiami.

MSC Cruises Has New ‘Man Overboard’ Detection Technology

October 10, 2017.

Today MSC Cruises’ has announced an innovative, industry-first technological advancement in man overboard detection. The video surveillance system was developed in collaboration with global leaders in security technology, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and will allow for rapid intervention in the unlikely event a person or object falls overboard.

The integrated system is part of a bigger MSC Cruises operation to further optimize security monitoring on board and will allow, among other features, for the speediest intervention in the unlikely event a person or object falls overboard. After a successful pilot phase of extensive stress-testing and continuous software upgrades, the intelligent video capturing and analysis system is now operational – initially on MSC Cruises’ latest flagship, MSC Meraviglia.

Key highlights of the system include:

  • 1,200 HD CCTV cameras on board the ship
  • These intelligent optical and thermal video cameras provide nonstop comprehensive surveillance of the relevant exterior parts of the ship.
  • Captured video images are streamed in real time to a Central Security Room where the video stream is monitored together with all other inputs from the 1,200 HD CCTV cameras on board the ship.

Through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%.

In case of alarm, an acoustic signal and light will alert the ship’s Security Officer in the Central Security Room who can immediately connect to the system and acquire all images and data and, if necessary, retrieve or review the relevant video images. With direct access to the ship command at the Bridge, the Security Officer can drive immediate action if necessary.

The system is now operational on MSC Meraviglia and is the first of its kind in the industry. Over time, similar integrated systems will be developed and deployed across MSC Cruises’ global fleet.

Carnival & Dr. Seuss Partner To Introduce ‘Be Kind/Dare To Care’ Program

October 9, 2017.

 

 

Carnival Cruise Line and Dr. Seuss Enterprises have teamed up to offer a series of fun, educational shipboard activities designed to promote kindness, compassion and generosity among its younger cruisers and inspired by Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s book Horton Hears a Who!

Part of an annual national campaign by Dr. Seuss, the new “Be Kind/Dare to Care” activities are rolling out this month across the Carnival fleet and complement existing programming within Seuss at Sea, the line’s exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Published in 1940, Horton Hears a Who! is one of Dr. Seuss’ most famous and cherished books.  It tells the story of Horton the Elephant, a loyal and faithful creature who discovers a tiny planet that is home to a community called Whoville.  Despite objections from his disbelieving friends, Horton vows to protect Whoville, proclaiming throughout the book that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Patterned after the book’s universal message of love and acceptance, the new shipboard programming will include a “pledge to be kind” activity where kids and their families are encouraged to write down their kindness pledges that will be posted on a special banner on board with prizes awarded for the most creative and heartfelt submissions.  Kids can also create friendship bracelets and other keepsakes as part of the Horton Hears a Who!-themed arts and crafts with screenings of the iconic movie shown on board throughout the month of October.

Horton Hears a Who! also takes center stage as part of the line’s ongoing Seuss-a-Palooza Parade and Story Time during which kids and their families participate in a swirly parade down the ships’ promenade followed by an interactive reading of the book in the main show lounge where the young and the young at heart portray different characters in the book.

 

In addition to the new “Be Kind/Dare to Care” shipboard activities, other offerings within Seuss at Sea include The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends, Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading venue on select ships, including the new Carnival Horizon set to debut next year, as well as character interactions, Dr. Seuss toys and games, and popular movies shown on board.

Royal Caribbean Returning To “All Adults Must Buy” Rule For Booze Package

October 4, 2017.

As previously reported, Royal Caribbean announced a ‘test’ of returning to their previous policy of requiring all adults in a cabin to purchase the alcohol drink package.  The cruise line changed that policy in 2015 and since then has been allowing individual adults to buy a drink package.  The test started on September 30 (all of 5 days ago) and it was claimed that it would run for eight sailings and only on Harmony Of The Seas.

So today, half way through the first week for the test run, Royal Caribbean announced quietly, via an edit to their website and by booked guests noticing it when they tried to buy a drink package online, that indeed, effective December 31, 2017, all those 21 and older in the same cabin will have to buy the Deluxe Beverage Package, or nobody can.

The new language from RoyalCaribbean.com states:

“Onboard, the all-inclusive packages are available for purchase throughout the voyage with at least 4 days remaining. Must be purchased for the duration of the cruise; prorated price based on date of purchase. Any guest wishing to purchase a Deluxe Beverage Package must do so for all other guests 21 years and older in the same stateroom, for sailings on or after December 31st, 2017.

All other beverage packages can be purchased by individual guests, however all packages are for single guest use and cannot be shared by multiple people.”

 

Carnival’s New Deli Menu

October 4, 2017.

Carnival is on a roll (pun intended) with new menus lately.  Yesterday John Heald announced new menus for the steakhouse and Cucina Del Capitano trattoria.  Today he featured the new menu for Carnival’s very popular deli sandwich venue on his Facebook page.

I love the deli on Carnival ships.  It’s often my lunch choice on embarkation day because new cruisers don’t know about it and they just see the main buffet and queue up there.  It’s also very good.  The new menu doesn’t have one of my favorites on it –  pastrami – but corned beef remains with the Reuben, and they will still make you a regular corned beef on rye.  Even if it’s not on the menu the deli staff has always made what you wanted as long as they have the ingredients in front of them.  I’ve often wondered why they didn’t have sandwich classics such as the BLT or a meatball sub.  I’m happy to report that both are now on the menu.

The new menu also adds potato salad and french fries.  One thing missing for years was a side item for the sandwiches so I’m glad to see these additions.

The new menu is currently on Carnival Vista, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory with more ships coming soon.

Carnival Rolling Out New Menus For Steakhouse And Cucina Del Capitano

October 3, 2017.

Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald has unveiled the new menus for the cruise line’s steakhouses and “Cucina Del Capitano” Italian restaurants.  John posted the new menus today on his hugely popular Facebook page.

Steakhouse Menus

The new steakhouse menus offer some exciting things that one doesn’t often see on a cruise ship, such as a bone marrow appetizer and a Wagyu steak.  This is remarkable given the cost for this premium dining will remain at $35 per person.  The new menu is currently used on Carnival Vista and Carnival Magic and will come to other ships “soon” according to Mr. Heald.

Cucina Del Capitano Menus

Cucina Del Capitano is a trattoria style eatery that costs $15 per person for dinner and offers a free pasta bar at lunch that is hugely popular.     John didn’t mention the timeline for this new menu being introduced to the fleet.

As I said above, there is a free pasta bar at lunch.  Here is that menu:

 

Norwegian Breakaway Coming to New Orleans For 2018/19 Winter Season

October 3, 2017.

As the largest ship to sail from New Orleans, Norwegian Breakaway will offer seven, 10- and 11-day cruises to the Caribbean, all including a port of call at the Caribbean’s premier resort-style destination in Southern Belize, Harvest Caye

Norwegian Cruise Line today announced an update to the line’s 2018/2019 deployment, offering guests a new opportunity to set sail from the Port of New Orleans to their Caribbean destinations on one of the line’s newest and largest ships. After returning from her summer  2018 season in the Baltic, the 4,000 passenger Norwegian Breakaway will reposition from the Big Apple to the Big Easy for her winter 2018/19 season and cruise to the Caribbean, visiting  ports of call including Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and the beautiful island destination of Harvest Caye, Belize. Harvest Caye offers a diverse, enriching experience highlighting the natural beauty and culture of Belize along with lush native landscaping, a swim up pool bar, luxury beach villas, private pool cabanas, thrilling aerial activities and water sports. The destination also features the first ever pier in Belize that allows guests to walk straight off the ship and into paradise.

By repositioning the Norwegian Breakaway to New Orleans, Norwegian is offering a more convenient departure port along with a newer and larger ship for cruisers sailing from the Crescent City to explore. Norwegian Breakaway features a wide variety of accommodations, from Studios for the solo cruiser to the exclusive, all-suite luxurious enclave, The Haven by Norwegian®; more than 25 different dining venues; an exhilarating aqua park with five slides and a thrilling ropes course with zip lines and The Plank; signature Broadway entertainment including Rock of Ages and so much more. Norwegian Breakaway, which debuted in 2013, was the first ship in the line’s signature Breakaway class, and features The Waterfront, a quarter-mile promenade deck with waterfront dining, shopping and entertainment, along with 678 Ocean Place, a three-story complex at the heart of the ship where guests can enjoy nightlife, gaming and more. The ship will undergo a two-week dry dock next spring, and will receive a full refresh in public spaces, including new flooring, updated furniture, new décor and new carpeting in staterooms. Norwegian Breakaway will arrive in her new homeport of New Orleans on November 11, 2018 and will sail a variety of cruises to the Caribbean through April 7, 2019.

The recently refurbished Norwegian Gem will remain in New York City and sail a series of cruises to the Caribbean, Canada & New England and the Bahamas & Florida.  She will share her Manhattan homeport with Norwegian Escape, which will reposition for summer 2018 for the first time since she was christened in 2015, sailing from New York City to Bermuda on seven-day cruises every Sunday beginning April 22, 2018. Norwegian Escape features entertainment from the Tony-award winning After Midnight and critically-acclaimed For the Record: The Brat Pack, along with a bevy of food and beverage concepts including the District Brewhouse featuring 25 beers on tap and including a selection of popular craft beers; the upscale food emporium, Food Republic; and The Cellars, a Michael Mondavi Family Wine bar.

Guests currently booked onboard Norwegian Gem from New Orleans will have their reservations protected and will be automatically moved to the new vessel and itinerary. Norwegian Breakaway’s new Caribbean itineraries from New Orleans will open for sale on October 24.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Partners with All Hands Volunteers for Hope Starts Here Hurricane Relief

September 26, 2017.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCHL), which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, today announced a partnership with All Hands Volunteers, the world’s leading disaster relief organization powered by volunteers, and set a goal to raise $2.5 million for the Hope Starts Here hurricane relief program. Under Hope Starts Here, the company is committing to match up to $1.25 million of donations from its valued guests, team members, suppliers and partners in order to substantially help All Hands Volunteers (hands.org), a 501(c)3 non-profit relief organization, and Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org) deliver early relief response for the Florida Keys, and rebuild safe, resilient schools in the Caribbean islands impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“The Caribbean is part of our family, and we are grateful to work with All Hands Volunteers and Happy Hearts Fund to create the Hope Starts Here hurricane relief program and do our part in giving back to these destinations, said Frank Del Rio, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCHL. We’re proud to start our campaign with a $600,000 donation to help begin the rebuilding efforts.”

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, NCHL immediately deployed Norwegian Sky to St. Thomas, USVI to bring 35 pallets of much-needed supplies and assist in humanitarian efforts to evacuate residents and visitors. Additionally, one of the company’s newest ships, Norwegian Escape, also housed approximately 4,000 displaced guests who were unable to secure flights home due to hurricane closures. The company is continuing to collect essential items, including medical supplies, diapers, baby formula, water, food, construction materials, blankets, sleeping pods and more, and is working with partners on the ground to support disaster relief efforts. To help hurricane relief and recovery, and to make a donation that will be matched by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., please visit http://www.ncl.com/hope-starts-here.

Azamara Adding 3rd Ship To Fleet

September 26, 2017.

Azamara Club Cruises announced today that it has entered into an agreement to purchase a sister ship to Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, with delivery taking place in March 2018.

The new addition will be named the Azamara Pursuit and most recently sailed as the P&O Cruises Adonia and also was the ship used by the short-lived “fathom” brand of Carnival Corporation, which did social impact cruises to Cuba and Dominican Republic.   All three of these ships began their service as one of the eight identical “R” ships of the defunct Renaissance Cruise Line.

The ship’s décor will be updated to match the brand’s upmarket position.  These updates will be similar to the renovations recently introduced on the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, bringing guests the experience of a boutique hotel at sea.

Information about deployment and itineraries for Azamara Pursuit will be available in October. For additional information please visit www.azamara.com/pursuit.