Carnival Victory Gets Several Popular Venues Installed

January 15, 2018.

Carnival Victory is in the midst of an extensive, multi-million-dollar dry dock that is adding what I call ‘the full treatment’ and what used to be called the Funship 2.0 upgrades.

The ship is currently in drydock at Freeport, The Bahamas, and is scheduled to complete the work on January 21.

The additions include:

• Guy’s Burger Joint:  The best burgers at sea, anywhere.  Trust me.  Guy’s is a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries enjoyed amidst a décor that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture.

• New Accommodations: Several new cabin categories will be added to Carnival Victory, including 260-square-feet Scenic Ocean View staterooms and 320-square-foot Scenic Grand Ocean View accommodations as well as Captain’s Suites, spacious 820-square-foot cabins offer a large extended balcony, two full-size bathrooms, separate sleeping quarters and a large living room.

• RedFrog Rum Bar: Poolside bar offering the quintessential Caribbean  rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red.

• BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar.

• BlueIguana Tequila Bar: the second poolside bar offering Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers.

• Bonsai Sushi Express:  walkup window in the Lido Buffet area featuring an array of sushi, sashimi, California rolls, etc. (a la carte pricing)

• Re-Branded Deli: the ship’s deli has been completely renovated with an updated design and new menu offerings, including seven sandwiches such as meatball, buffalo chicken, and The Cubano, along with Southwest chicken, falafel and turkey wraps.

• Cherry on Top:  The shop with bins of bulk candy,  gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.

Carnival Victory operates year-round three- and four-day cruises from PortMiami. Three-day cruises depart on Fridays and call at Nassau, while four-day voyages depart Mondays and visit Key West and Cozumel or Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.

Azamara Unveils 3 New Land & Sea Packages In South America

January 12, 2018.

Azamara Club Cruises has announced three new Land and Sea packages in South America that explore bucket list destinations with the brand’s signature Destination Immersion cruise experiences.  These new packages include a Galapagos immersion with sister brand Celebrity Cruises.

All three locations – the Galapagos in Ecuador, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Iguaza Falls in Argentina and Brazil- are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while Machu Picchu is acknowledged as one of the New Wonders of the World.  For both first-time South America travelers and return visitors, these experiences provide guests a chance to fully connect with locals and discover the local heritage, art and culture.

The Galapagos:  In partnership with sister brand Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Pursuit guests are afforded a post cruise experience in the Galapagos. The 11 Night Colombia, Panama & Peru voyage takes travelers to experience the islands on a 10-Night Galapagos Inner Loop, all-inclusive package, on the 100-passenger Celebrity Xpedition.  Guests will explore two destinations per day with several options for activities on the island with all tours led by a certified Galapagos National Park naturalist.  As the Galapagos were deemed the “living laboratory of evolution” by Charles Darwin, guests will take in the pristine environment and unique wildlife first hand, enjoy the chance to swim with sea lions, walk along barren volcanic landscapes and snorkel with penguins.

Machu Picchu:  The five-night Machu Picchu package follows the footsteps of the ancient Incans and tells the story of Peru’s rich history through the eyes of local communities, ancient ruins and artists continuing the legacy of their ancestors. Guests will have the opportunity to visit with local Peruvian artists at both a ceramic and weaver’s workshop, to explore the Maras Salt Mines and to view the Huaypo Lagoon.  Visits to the religious site of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Sun and Inca Bridge will take up the second half of the land stays that ends in Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire.

Iguazu Falls: The four-night Iguazu Falls experience will explore the most expansive waterfalls in the world through both the Argentinian and Brazilian perspective. Guests will embark on an exhilarating boat ride through the water formations, journey to the Jasy Pora Guarani Indigenous Village in the middle of the Yriapu rain forest and learn about the Guarani way of life that emphasizes a self-sustainable mindset.

Land and Sea packages can only be purchased through Azamara’s call center and can be added on to sailings already purchased.

Carnival’s ‘Late Night’ Room Service Menu With Prices

January 12, 2018.

Earlier this week, Carnival announced it was going to start charging for room service between 10pm and 6am.  This morning, the new menu was posted on John Heald’s Facebook page.

Late Night Room Service Menu

 

For comparison, here is the ‘free’ room service menu for the rest of the day and evening.  Note that many items are on both menus.

Carnival Adds Fees For Late Night Room Service, Fun Shop Deliveries

January 10, 2018.

Carnival is beginning the new year with new fees for various services.

For most purchases made online from the Fun Shops, a new 15% delivery charge will be tacked on.  This includes things such as six-packs of soda, cookies, cakes, but apparently if you buy bottled water it will still be delivered to the cabin for free.

When it comes to room service there are two big changes.  As announced by Brand Ambassador John Heald on his Facebook page, Carnival will now be charging for late night room service.

From 10pm to 6am, room service will offer an expanded menu of fee-based  salads, sandwiches, and specialty items such as Greek Salad; Chicken Caesar Salad; Portabella & Veggie Bun; Grilled Cheese, Bacon and Tomato Sandwich; and Roast Turkey Wrap; as well as a selection of new desserts including Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownies; Doughnut Sandwich; and Banana Split. Prices for menu items will range from $2 to $6.

Also, Carnival is going to discontinue offering room service breakfast on debarkation morning.

 

Star Princess Renovation Completed

 

January 9, 2018.

 

Star Princess has returned to service following a two-week multi-million dollar renovation that added some of the latest Princess Cruises innovations and enhancements.

Resuming a season of 15-day Hawaiian Island cruises roundtrip from Los Angeles and Vancouver through April before summer cruising in Alaska, Star Princess guests will enjoy the following updates:

Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria – this signature specialty restaurant now offers updated décor and a new menu developed in collaboration with Chef Angelo Auriana, Executive Chef and partner at the authentic Italian restaurants, The Factory Kitchen and Officine BRERA, in Los Angeles.  Inspired by fresh Northern Italian flavors the menu features handmade pasta dishes from Chef Auriana, as well as family recipes from Italian Princess executive chefs.

Princess Luxury Bed – available in every stateroom aboard Star Princess, the Princess Luxury Bed was developed by Princess Cruises in collaboration board-certified sleep expert, Dr. Michael Breus and renowned HGTV designer Candice Olson. The bed offers the ultimate night of sleep at sea combining the science of sleep with the pinnacle of design.

Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center – for cruisers ages 3-17, Star Princess now offers a reimagined youth center – Camp Discovery – created in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products, the licensing arm of Discovery Communications™, as part of the cruise line’s Discovery at Sea program. Catering to specific age groups, there are three center themes where kids and teens can make new friends and participate in activities specially designed to help them discover, play, create and huddle.

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 and a modern Fragrance & Cosmetic shop. There will also be new products to choose from such as a new collection of Princess and Under Armour branded athletic wear and Princess logo apparel featured in a newly designed Logo shop.

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

Casino – for guests ready to take a gamble, reconfiguration of machines and tables, as well new carpet tempt them to roll the dice.

Other general refurnishing upgrades of carpet and upholstery are found throughout Star Princess.

 

Carnival Rolls Out The Barrel With 4 New Craft Beers

January 9, 2018.

Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

WILL DEBUT AT CARNIVAL HORIZON’S ONBOARD BREWERY IN APRIL 2018

Carnival Cruise Line has announced the names of the four craft beers that will be brewed aboard the new Carnival Horizon which is set to debut in Europe April 2, 2018.

The new brews were developed by Carnival’s expert brewmaster Colin Presby and will be offered at Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse, a new dining concept that combines the best of both worlds – an onboard brewery and a full-service restaurant featuring “real deal” BBQ favorites and sides developed by Food Network star Guy Fieri, a member of the American Royal National Barbecue Hall of Fame.

The announcement was made by Presby and Carnival Vice President of Beverage Operations Edward Allen at a traditional keg-tapping ceremony held aboard Carnival Vista, the first North American-based cruise ship to feature an onboard brewery.

At a Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, beer-tasting event aboard Carnival Vista at PortMiami, Carnival Cruise Line’s Vice President of Beverage Operations Edward Allen (left) and Brewmaster Colin Presby tap the ceremonial keg of a craft beer that will be featured in the Smokehouse Brewhouse restaurant aboard the new Carnival Horizon. (Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

The names of the beers – whose names are playful takes on the line’s popular ThirstyFrog brews that debuted on Carnival Vista – are inspired by the varied barbecue offerings at Smokehouse|Brewhouse.  The four new beers on Carnival Horizon will include:

  • ParchedPig Smoked Porter – brewed with in-house smoked malt, this robust, full-bodied beer offers big and bold flavors and notes of molasses and hickory smoke, providing the perfect complement to Smokehouse|Brewhouse’s BBQ favorites
  • ParchedPig Farmhouse Ale – this lightly hopped beer is distinguished by its blond color, fruity and complex character with mild spice notes that balance the brew’s dry finish
  • ParchedPig Toasted Amber Ale – highlighted by its rich amber color and notes of toasted caramel and biscuit, this beer is well balanced, smooth and highly drinkable
  • ParchedPig West Coast IPA – the embodiment of a traditional West Coast India Pale Ale, this hoppy, intense beer is loaded with bitterness with a bright flavor profile and distinctive aroma of citrus and pine

 

The brewery takes center stage at Smokehouse|Brewhouse, which, in addition to delicious craft beers and custom cocktails, will offer a rustic, down-home décor as well as a variety of Fieri-designed favorites, all smoked “low and slow” using the chef’s signature rubs and spices.  The tantalizing offerings include smoked-on-board brisket, Memphis-style back ribs, dry-rubbed chicken, pulled pork, and cedar-smoked salmon, along with the chef’s own take on traditional sides and his signature sauces.  Dinner menu items are offered on an a la carte basis with a free-of-charge self-service BBQ lunch buffet available on embarkation day and sea days.

Carnival Horizon is scheduled to make its maiden voyage April 2, 2018, with a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona – the first of four round-trip departures from that port.  Carnival Horizon will reposition to the U.S. with a 14-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New York May 9-23, 2018.

Following its summer schedule of four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from the Big Apple, Carnival Horizon will shift to Miami and kick off a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning Sept. 22, 2018. Carnival Horizon will also offer a special two-day cruise to Nassau from Miami Sept. 20-22, 2018.

Royal Caribbean Raises VOOM Internet Pricing

January 6, 2018.

Along with their recently announced increase for the automatic gratuities, Royal Caribbean has rung in the new year by increasing the on-board pricing for the much lauded VOOM internet plans.

The increase is $2 or $3 per device/per day depending on which level of service is purchased, and how many devices are included in the internet plan.  Before and after photos show the details.

2017 VOOM Price List

2017 VOOM Pricing

2018 VOOM Price List

2018 VOOM Pricing

Examples: Buying Surf + Stream for 2 devices for a 7-night cruise will cost $3 more per day/per device, or $42 more for the cruise.  For the “Best Value” 4 Device plan, you’ll shell out $84 more for that 7-night cruise.

Members of the Crown & Anchor Society get varying discounts for onboard purchase of VOOM, which mitigates some of the price increase.  Also, RCI often has sales of the VOOM plans online for purchase prior to the cruise, both as a stand alone purchase or bundled with the deluxe drink package for 1 device.

Norwegian Cruise Line ‘Super Splash Sale’ Announced

January 3, 2018. 

Norwegian Cruise Line is kicking off 2018 with a limited time offer, perfect for those looking to escape the Arctic temperatures across the nation with a cruise vacation to warmer climes. Now through January 15, guests can take advantage of the Super Splash Sale* and receive up to $500 in free onboard spending on select five-day or longer sailings. The offer is combinable with Free at Sea, providing up to $3,100 in added value to their cruise.

  • Norwegian’s popular Free at Sea promotion will be extended through January 31. This signature value-added offer provides guests who book a new three-day or longer sailing in an oceanview, balcony or minisuite category stateroom with the opportunity to select their preference of two free choices from five onboard amenity offers, including free unlimited open bar, a free specialty dining package, $50 towards shore excursions in each port per stateroom, 250 minutes of free WiFi, or Norwegian’s Friends & Family Sail Free offer that allows the third and fourth guests to sail for free on many 2018 sail dates. Inside staterooms, as well as Norwegian’s Studio staterooms for solo travelers, can choose one free offer. Those who want to enjoy the more luxurious things in life, can book a cruise in a suite or The Haven by Norwegian® and enjoy all five free amenities†, providing up to $2,600 in added value to their cruise.
  • Guests looking to soak up the sun in the South Pacific can take advantage of Norwegian’s Free at Sea Hawaii offer, which has also been extended through January 31.  Guests who book a new cruise vacation aboard Pride of America can select one of five offers†*  including a free one-night pre-cruise hotel stay with an option to select reduced airfare starting at $399 from select gateways, a free specialty dining package, free pre-paid service charges for the first and second guest in the stateroom, free $50 per port shore excursion credit per stateroom, or Norwegian’s Friends & Family Sail Free, allowing the third and fourth guests in each stateroom to sail for free on many 2018 sail dates. Guests who book a suite aboard Pride of America can enjoy all five offers.
  • Guests who are looking to explore the Cuba can enjoy $50 in free onboard spending money** with Norwegian’s Havana Nights promotion now through January 31. Cruisers who book a new cruise to Cuba can take advantage of an all-inclusive onboard experience with unlimited open bar on Norwegian Sky from Miami or Norwegian Sun from Port Canaveral.

To book a cruise aboard a Norwegian ship, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 866-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit www.ncl.com.

Now for the explanations for all of those superscript characters you see in the above paragraphs:

*Offer not applicable to Sail Away Categories (categories IX, OX, BX or MX). Onboard credit amount is per stateroom based on category booked, in U.S. Dollars and will be applied to 1st and 2nd guest on the reservation. 

All sailings 3 nights or longer. Offer is not applicable to categories IX, OX, BX, MX (Sail Away Categories). Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Joy, Pride of America, and Norwegian Sun’s all-inclusive sailings from Port Canaveral are not eligible for this offer. Friends & Family sail free applicable only on select sail dates.  Guests are responsible for a 20% gratuity for retail value for Specialty Dining Package, Unlimited Beverage Package, and/ or the Soda Package, with pricing based on number of cruise nights. Number of meals for specialty dining package based on length of itinerary. $50 USD per port shore excursion credit is per stateroom and is applicable for each port; it is not transferable to other ports. Overnight stays count as one port, except Bermuda sailings which can receive up to 3 individual days of shore excursion credit. Wifi package offers one login per stateroom. On Norwegian Breakaway, stateroom receives an internet package of 250 minutes or 1000 MB of data.

†*Pride of America offer available for bookings for cruises through April 27, 2019. Offer is not applicable to categories IX, OX, BX (Sail Away Categories). Cruises must be booked more than 30 days prior sailing, when selecting hotel option; if choosing hotel option with air option cruises must be made more than 60 days prior to sailing. Offer valid for Waikiki Marriott Resort-city view room. In the event that the hotel scheduled to be used in package is unavailable, for any reason, Norwegian Cruise Line reserves the right to substitute the hotel included in package. One night pre-hotel offer is available on reservations with 4 guests or less.

**Offer not applicable to Sail Away Categories (categories IX, OX, BX or MX).

Princess Cruises Will Sail To Greenland From NYC In 2019

January 3, 2018.

For those who have always wanted to visit Greenland in comfort, Princess has a way to do it.

The Caribbean Princess will do a 16-day cruise from NYC departing August 19, 2019.  The ports will include Nuuk, Qaqortoq, and Nanortalik in Greenland.  The cruise will also visit Halifax, Sydney (Nova Scotia, not Australia), and St. John’s Newfoundland.

Nuuk, Greenland

Fares for the trip start at $2,499 per person plus $220 in port fees and tax.

Details can be seen here.

Royal Caribbean Increasing Automatic Gratuities (Again)

December 27, 2017.

Last week the Royal Caribbean International websites in the U.K. and Asia detailed an increase in daily gratuities that was coming on January 2.  This was reported in several cruise blogs,  which caused the U.S. based headquarters for the company to say they hadn’t announced anything.  Then came yesterday (Tuesday, December 26) when the cruise line indeed announced the rate increase.  This happens quite often with Royal Caribbean, where the non-U.S. websites post changes to policies before corporate is ready to spring the news.  Seems like they need to revisit their internal change management procedures, especially the part about controlling the release of information.

Anyway, come January 2 the daily gratuities charged will increase by $1 per person per day.  Junior Suites, balconies, oceanview, and inside cabins will pay $14.50, and those in Grand Suites and higher will see the lofty sum of $17.50 per person, per day.  The increase makes Royal Caribbean’s automatic gratuities the highest among mass market cruise lines.  For example, for standard cabins Carnival adds $12.95 per person, per day, Princess Cruises $13.50, and Norwegian Cruise Line  $13.99.

I received an email from Royal Caribbean detailing the change, and it used some curious reasoning for the increase:

“Royal Caribbean is constantly reviewing our competitive environment and this adjustment positions us in-line with our competitors. The additional gratuity collected will be disbursed to our onboard crew.”

So let me see if I understand this correctly.  Royal Caribbean is saying that having the highest gratuities makes them more competitive?

As always, guests can pre-pay gratuities for existing bookings prior to January 1 and get the old price.  And once aboard the ship you can also go to Guest Relations and change or remove them entirely.

Granted this is not a tremendous increase, but these incremental things tend to add up over time.  This is the third increase in three years at Royal Caribbean, and as reported by USA Today “With the coming increase, the line’s gratuity fee will have jumped by nearly 21% since May 2015. That’s more than five times the rate of inflation in the USA over the same period. ”

At Cruising.News we never support stiffing the hard working crews on cruise ships.  But constant increases in the gratuities automatically added to your account “as a convenience” can adversely affect the crew’s income as more and more people say “enough!” and remove the gratuities entirely.