In a ceremony at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg Germany earlier today, Royal Caribbean executives did the ceremonial cutting of the first steel for Odyssey Of The Seas. Odyssey will be the second of the Quantum Ultra class of ships, following the Spectrum Of The Seas which is scheduled for delivery this coming April.
Odyssey will be the 27th ship for Royal Caribbean International and is planned to be delivered in the fall of 2020.
Great news for those who sail from the United States was also announced, with word that Odyssey will sail from a U.S. port. The exact port is still to be determined and will be announced at a later date.
ZOE– the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant – is poised to take MSC Cruises’ Guest Services to a new level with guest-centric technology that will further enrich the cruise vacation. Developed in partnership with HARMAN and Samsung Electronics, ZOE is a voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) tool found in every stateroom. ZOE can speak seven languages, answer hundreds of questions about the cruise and provide information about on board services, guidance and suggestions or help to book a service. An easy to use device – guests simply say, “OK ZOE”, and she’s ready to help. The advanced voice recognition feature makes it easy for everyone to control and access information using only voice commands.
ZOE is a first in the cruise industry and another example of how MSC Cruises continues to lead the way by employing technology to enhance the guest experience. ZOE will launch on MSC Bellissima and will then be available on each following new ship, including the upcoming MSC Grandiosa in 2019 and MSC Virtuosa in 2020.
This ground-breaking AI guest service has been developed in partnership with the MSC Cruises’ Business Innovation team and HARMAN International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics. The collaboration has brought together the best-in-class expertise in voice-enabled technology and cruise expertise as part of a shared vision for connected living, now extended to the cruise industry.
ZOE’s physical design features advanced audio with far field microphones and a professional quality speaker to provide the best audio experience. Guests will enjoy fast response times, thanks to the integration of a top-of-the-line quad-core processor, and also have the opportunity to connect their phones directly to the device through Bluetooth to enjoy music, podcasts and more directly in their staterooms.
ANSWERING GUEST QUESTIONS FROM THE COMFORT OF THEIR STATEROOMS
To ensure ZOE could respond effectively to all guests, she has been programmed and trained to respond to more than 800 of the most commonly asked questions with thousands of different variants of each question. The conversation designs, ZOE’s natural speech recognition and ability to transform speech into text and back again has undergone significant testing, in addition to a variety of other behavioral, experiential and performance tests. As an artificial intelligence solution, ZOE is designed to continue learning and developing her responses based on real guest interactions.
While ZOE acts as a 24/7 virtual personal cruise assistant, she is not designed to replace human interaction between crew and guest, but rather to provide guests with the flexibility to communicate and discover information from the comfort of their staterooms.
To find out more about ZOE visit here and to find out more about MSC Bellissima visit here.
Kicks Off Sweepstakes, Continues #ChooseFun Social Media Campaign Benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®
After completing its successful month-long tour of California to celebrate the arrival of the new Carnival Panorama to the West Coast, Carnival Cruise Line’s #ChooseFun AirShip is extending its journey by taking to the skies over Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona.
The airship will begin a five-day tour of Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 2, with aerial visits to major attractions and including the Las Vegas Strip as well as travel agent events.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the airship will arrive in Phoenix for a five-day flyover of the city through Sunday, Feb. 17.
In conjunction with the extended West Coast tour, Carnival is hosting a sweepstakes where consumers have a chance to win a free cruise as well as additional prizes each week when they enter at carnival.com/choosefun.
And there’s never an end date to raising money for a great cause – continuing the charity component of the AirShip’s month-long flyover, for anyone who takes a picture of the AirShip and posts it on social media with the hashtag #ChooseFun, Carnival will make a $2 donation to its longtime charity partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® up to a maximum donation of $20,000.
Last month, the AirShip made its West Coast debut gaining the attention of tens of thousands of consumers across California in anticipation of the arrival of Carnival Panorama to Long Beach, Calif. in December – the first new Carnival ship homeported on the West Coast in 20 years and the world’s first ship to have a trampoline park at sea, in partnership with Sky Zone. Carnival Panorama will debut with a special three-day inaugural cruise from Long Beach on Dec. 11, 2019, followed by the launch of year-round, seven-day Mexican Riviera sailings on Dec. 14, 2019.
Yesterday we reported about a fire at the private resort of Princess Cays in The Bahamas. The resort is owned by Princess Cruises but is used by all cruise brands owned by the parent Carnival Corporation.
The initial news reports painted a dire picture that led many, including me, to believe the entire resort was destroyed. Well, while this wasn’t ‘fake news’ it seems it was ‘hyped news’. Soon after posting the original article word began to emerge that the fire was not as widespread.
Updated reports state that the only damage on the guest side of the resort was fire damage to a public restroom. The major fire damage was confined to four buildings in the resort support facilities, with the electrical generator and potable water treatment plant (reverse osmosis) being the worst of it. This is not insignificant since power and water are key to the resort operation. However, it should be a lot quicker to recover from the damage since new generators and a water treatment plant could be brought in on trailers for temporary use while the permanent facilities are restored. But you know how it is with “Bahamas Time”.
I would anticipate three or four weeks before ships return to Princess Cays, but this should not be a months long shutdown.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras (note that the ship is not named ‘Carnival Mardi Gras’) is now open for sale of its inaugural 2020 schedule.
Mardi Gras will offer a schedule of 6 to 15 night sailings in Europe and the Caribbean beginning in summer 2020.
Guests can choose from more than 20 different stateroom categories and suites, more than on any other Carnival ship. Stateroom options include both general and special stateroom and suite areas such as Family Harbor, Havana Cabana and Cloud 9 Spa accommodations.
The schedule includes:
A nine-night maiden voyage from Copenhagen to Southampton Aug. 31 – Sept. 9, 2020 calling at Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Gothenburg, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Zeebrugge (Brussels), Belgium; and Le Havre (Paris), France.
A 14-night trans-Atlantic crossing from Southampton to New York Sept. 9-23, 2020, with stops at Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain; and Funchal (Madeira) and Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal.
A six-night cruise round-trip from New York to Portland, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick Sept. 24-30.
A 15-night Carnival Journeys voyage departing New York Sept. 30, 2020 and arriving in Port Canaveral, Fla., on Oct. 15, 2020, calling at Amber Cove, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Aruba, Curacao, and Grand Turk, positioning the vessel for year-round voyages to the Caribbean.
Year-Round Caribbean Departures from Port Canaveral
Following a special eight-night Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral on Oct. 16, 2020, Mardi Gras will kick off its seven-night program from the Space Coast Oct. 24, 2020, offering two different three-port, seven-day itineraries, alternating weekly to the eastern and western Caribbean featuring some of the region’s most beautiful and popular ports.
Eastern Caribbean cruises will visit San Juan, Amber Cove and Grand Turk.
Western Caribbean sailings will stop in Cozumel, Costa Maya and Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan).
Additional Information and Reservations
Additional details on the six themed zones that will provide Mardi Gras guests with scores of ways to Choose Fun and have a great Carnival cruise vacation are scheduled to be announced over the coming weeks.
The private resort of Princess Cays was ravaged by fire Monday night, which by initial reports appears to be substantial. Owned by Princess Cruises and located on the southern tip of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, the resort recently completed several upgrades which included adding wifi for the cruise line’s MedallionNet system.
According to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises the fire encompassed several buildings on the south side of the island and was took approximately one hour to extinguish. An investigation is underway to determine the cause. Bahamian officials report the fire started in the electrical generator structure. The company is also assessing impact to scheduled ship visits.
You can see video and images of the blaze, and read more details from the Bahamas Press report here.
Carnival Cruise Line today revealed the first look at design details for the highly anticipated Mardi Gras, the line’s most innovative ship set to debut in 2020 and the first cruise ship in North America powered by Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). Mardi Gras will offer an extensive array of Carnival guest favorites along with new experiences highlighted by six themed zones.
The accommodations on Mardi Gras will include over 20 different stateroom categories and multiple levels of suites. Mardi Gras will also include the most expansive open decks on any Carnival ship, and an atrium that will serve as the hub of the ship as well as a focal point where guests will be welcomed on board.
Six Distinctive Zones
The six areas will be themed around Grand Central, French Quarter, La Piazza, Summer Landing, Lido and The Ultimate Playground and highlights include:
Grand Central (Decks 6-8, mid-ship): Grand Central takes the traditional atrium concept to new heights, combining a day-to-night entertainment complex with three-deck-high floor-to-ceiling windows and a bar overlooking the starboard side of the ship. Nearby are Bonsai Sushi and Bonsai Teppanyaki which will be expanded from designs on existing ships to reflect their popularity with guests. There’s also the first-ever dedicated Punchliner Comedy Club and the always popular Piano Bar 88.
French Quarter (Deck 6, aft): In a nod to the New Orleans’ culture that combines lively entertainment with an unparalleled food scene, French Quarter will be lined with new bars, music and eateries that perfectly capture the spirit of the Big Easy. And since the spirit of New Orleans is so closely tied to the jazz scene, this neighborhood is linked via a two-deck-high promenade leading to a traditional New Orleans jazz club with live entertainment and hand-crafted libations. More details on these new dining and entertainment choices and the introduction of a new Carnival celebrity partnership will be revealed this spring.
La Piazza (Deck 8, mid-ship): La Piazza features Italian cuisine from the casual family-style Cucina del Capitano and 24/7 Pizzeria del Capitano to a new Mediterranean-themed seafood restaurant. There’s also a bar where guests can have cappuccino by day or classic Italian cocktails at night, while roaming musicians keep everyone entertained.
Summer Landing (Deck 8, aft): Summer Landing will be home to an expanded Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse with smoked-on-board barbecue favorites created by longtime Carnival partner Guy Fieri, along with the line’s exclusive ParchedPig craft beers brewed right on board. There will be a pool and whirlpools, a new bar, the lunch counter for the Smokehouse Brewhouse along with ample lounging spaces and hang outs.
Lido (Deck 16-17, aft): Carnival is already known for its varied casual poolside restaurants and Mardi Gras’ expanded Lido will take this to a whole new level with existing Carnival favorites like Guy’s Burger Joint, the New England-inspired Seafood Shack, and BlueIguana Cantina Mexican eatery, along with some new concepts to be announced at a later date that are sure to inspire foodie fans.
The Ultimate Playground (Decks 18-20, aft): The Ultimate Playground will span Decks 18-20 and offer guests sea vistas highlighted by the largest and most elaborate Carnival WaterWorks aqua park in the fleet, along with an expanded SportSquare. The Ultimate Playground is also where guests will find the much-anticipated BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster, the first rollercoaster at sea announced in December 2018, where riders race along an 800-foot-long track achieving speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour.
Mardi Gras will also incorporate all of the line’s most popular signature features from its nearly completed $2 billion fleet enhancement program that has brought a consistent level of experiences to the more than five million passengers who annually sail on Carnival, such as Alchemy Bar, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, and the Serenity adult-only retreat, among others – many of which will offer an exciting twist, along with a variety of new innovations exclusive to this vessel.
Additional information on Mardi Gras, along with specifics on each of the six themed areas will be revealed in the coming months.
Reservations for Mardi Gras will be open for sale on Jan. 30, 2019. Carnival Cruise Line fans who want to be the first to book on Mardi Gras can get a head start by clicking here where they can register up until Jan. 27, 2019 to get a “first to know” alert and special promotional offer when reservations open.
Tauck has announced that it will offer its first-ever cruises on the Douro River in Portugal next year, and that the three itineraries will sail aboard a riverboat that’s being designed and built specifically for the Douro.
With the new ship, the ms Andorinha, Tauck will continue to defy the standard industry practice of maximizing passenger capacity to boost revenue, and will instead offer more suites, more spacious public areas, and the more intimate ambiance that naturally results from having fewer guests on board. In fact, Tauck is proudly noting that with a capacity of just 84 guests, the ms Andorinha will carry fewer guests than any other vessel currently operated by a major line on the Douro.
Even though the ms Andorinha will have far fewer guests than other ships, it will still have more director-level personnel to ensure Tauck’s guests enjoy the highest levels of care and service. As on Tauck riverboats fleet-wide, the newbuild will be staffed by a Tauck Cruise Director and three Tauck Director guides.
The new ship will have a crew of 36, and it will measure 263 feet in length with a beam of 38 feet. Guests will be accommodated in 42 cabins, including 12 300-square-foot suites on the upper Diamond Deck, and 20 225-square-foot staterooms primarily on the vessel’s Ruby or mid-level deck. The remaining accommodations – six 200-square-foot cabins and four 150-square-foot cabins – will be on the lower or Emerald Deck. The ms Andorinha will also feature a Panorama Lounge, Compass Rose restaurant for fine dining, and a second dining venue, Arthur’s (named for company chairman Arthur Tauck Jr.), serving more casual fare.
Tauck will offer three new Douro River itineraries aboard the ms Andorinha; a 12-day journey that bookends a seven-night Douro cruise with two-night hotel stays in Lisbon and Madrid, an eight-day “cruise-only” itinerary along the river, and an eight-day Tauck Bridges cruise designed specifically for families with four departures slated for late June/early July 2020. Itinerary details and pricing will be announced later this year.
Those interested in more information can contact their local travel professional, call Tauck at 800-468-2825, or visit the company’s website at www.tauck.com
Princess Cruises announced today the expansion of its Princess MedallionClass™ experience to three additional ships – Royal Princess, Crown Princess and Sky Princess – building on the enhanced and personalized cruise vacations guests are currently enjoying on the Caribbean Princess. Regal Princess will be next with a starting date of February 17, 2019.
Considered a breakthrough in the vacation industry and recently honored with a CES® 2019 Innovation Award, the OceanMedallion features leading-edge technology that delivers personalized service through enhanced guest-crew interactions, eliminates friction points and enables interactive entertainment.
Princess MedallionClass features include:
From curbside to poolside in a breeze – guests who arrive at the terminal with travel documents (i.e. passports) uploaded to their profile have a personalized check-in process that starts their vacation with ease. Personalization starts pre-cruise by guests becoming OceanReady™ while at home.
The best Wi-Fi at sea: MedallionNet is fast, reliable, affordable and unlimited. MedallionNet provides land-like speeds that allow guests to stay connected from anywhere on the ship including staterooms which are each equipped with a Wi-Fi access point.
On demand beverage delivery: Using smart devices, guests have the ability to order drinks using OceanNow and have them delivered directly throughout the ship or in their stateroom.
Hands-Free Keyless Stateroom Entry: Access to staterooms is a seamless experience where each guest is securely validated as the door automatically unlocks. Personalized greetings including loyalty level recognition welcome the guest on their door portal.
OceanCompass: Available on guests’ smart devices and portals throughout the ships, OceanCompass leverages the OceanMedallion to enable point-to-point wayfinding throughout the ship.
JourneyView: Available now on ship portals and coming soon to smart devices, this interactive timeline lets guests scroll through all of the events available on board during their voyage. Functionality will also soon give guests the ability to bookmark and add activities that appeal most to them to their own personalized itinerary.
MedallionPay: An easy to use payment feature, enabling crew members to focus on meaningful guest interactions.
OceanCasino: On smart devices and select portals, guests can wager real money on games, including slots, poker, bingo, roulette, keno and lottery from anywhere on board.
PlayOcean: On portals located shipwide and using smart devices, PlayOcean offers guests a new level of fun with interactive games, a digital scavenger hunt, customizable avatars, and more. PlayOcean also transforms guests’ mobile devices into game controllers for interactive gaming on the massive Movies Under the Stars screen.
OceanView: Guests can stream more than 100 hours of award-winning Ocean Original travel shows to their smart device anywhere on the ship at no cost – content which airs nationally on weekends on ABC and NBC. OceanView is also available on stateroom TVs as well as on Roku, Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
Ocean Cay (pronounced “key”) MSC Marine Reserve, the private island being developed by MSC Cruises, opens on November 9, 2019. The cruise line revealed more details about the new port this morning.
Here is a synopsis:
Creating a flourishing marine reserve: With Ocean Cay, MSC Cruises is transforming a former industrial sand-extraction site into a vibrant marine reserve. The company has hauled tons of debris out of the surrounding waters and a coral nursery is being established to encourage and sustain the growth of new coral. Overall, the vision is to create a sustainable destination that allow guests to connect with the surrounding nature.
Guest Experience: On the island guests will enjoy,
– Seven beaches, including a smaller family lagoon for younger guests to enjoy.
– A variety of shore excursions to explore nature’s beauty, including snorkel safaris, kayak tours and paddle boarding. This includes being able to rent your own private island nearby for the day ($$$$).
– Entertainment activities day and night.
– Docking at the island, so guests can easily move on and off the ship to refresh and enjoy evenings on Ocean Cay.
– A variety of food and drink options including a buffet, casual food carts with handhelds such as tacos and conch fritters, a variety of bars with different atmospheres, and an ice cream parlor.
– Island shopping with a Bahamian Shop & Market, hosting authentic arts and crafts by local artisans.
– Spa services on the island with a selection of body and facial treatments.
– Wi-Fi will be available on the island (that will be a first among all cruise line private islands).
Here are the details (with images!):
With over two miles of white sandy beach shore formed from the world’s best aragonite sand, guests will have a choice of seven distinct beach areas, each with their own character. Guests can either escape with warm sand between their toes and the sound of the ocean, or be more active with beach games and water sports.
Sun beds will be available on all beaches, and some beaches will offer cabanas that can be rented for the day. The Great Lagoon’s shallow crystal-clear water is perfect for protected swimming and water sports, while the smaller family lagoon is designed for younger guests to enjoy, offering very shallow, calm water and plenty of games. At over half a mile long, the Great Bimini Beach is the largest stretch of beach on the island, as well as the place to go to enjoy a variety of water sports.
The Ocean Cay excursions will allow visitors to explore, discover, relax and enjoy nature’s beauty at it’s very best. Discover the waters around the island through snorkel safaris, kayak tours and paddle boarding. The Family Explorer club will also offer fun activities for the entire family.
For those looking for a really special experience, Ocean Cay guests are able to privately rent a smaller island close to the main body of land for the day, which will include: a private boat that will take the group to the island and remain at their disposal; and a marquee, sun beds and loungers and food and drinks. Near the island is an old shipwreck, making it a wonderful spot for snorkeling.
In addition to the excursions, guests can participate in a wide range of entertainment activities including sports games and tournaments, dance lessons as well activities for the entire family.
One of the key highlights of Ocean Cay is that the ship will remain in port into the evening since the island is conveniently located just 65 miles south of Miami, allowing for a range of incredible evening experiences. Once the sun goes down guests can enjoy night time activities such as stargazing on the beach or romantic sunset catamaran tours to bring the day to a very special close. The entertainment on the island will focus around the iconic Lighthouse with breathtaking sunsets and with live music or DJs and a surprising visual experience that will further enhance the atmosphere.
Food And Drink
The choice of options for food and drink ashore will include:
Buffet: Conveniently located near the family lagoon, at the buffet guests will get freshly prepared meals from a variety of international culinary traditions, including American classics and authentic Bahamian flavors as well as some kids’ favorites.
Food carts: For guests not seeking a sit-down meal, food carts with casual street food will be available including a taco truck, conch fritter truck, and more. The trucks will be stationary during the day around the beaches and will move to the Marina area at night creating an atmospheric food festival-style feel.
Food and beverage services will be offered at an additional cost with upgrades available to the beverage package. As the ship is easily accessible guests are able to walk on and off at their leisure, allowing them to also be able to freely dine on board as they choose.
A range of different bars with varying atmospheres and ambiences are spread across the island. These include:
Authentic Bahamian Bar: Located in the Marina, this friendly bar offers cocktails and drinks in an authentic Bahamian style.
Lighthouse Bar: This Hemingway-style cocktail bar offers an ample selection of rums, other spirits and delicious cocktails, all with incredible sea views. It’s the perfect spot to take a break from one of the island’smany activities during the day.
Beach Bars: There are seven beach bars spread across the island, each with its own personality and its own special look and feel.
Ice Cream Parlor and Coffee Bar: Located in the Marina, this venue offers different kinds of ice cream, from classics to more innovative flavors. The coffee bar serves freshly brewed whole bean and ground coffee, espresso and cappuccino for an energetic start or a quick afternoon boost.
The Bahamian Shop & Market hosts authentic arts and crafts by local artisans and Bahamian companies to perfectly complement the spirit of the Bahamas. Meanwhile the Ocean Cay Trading Post offers a wide selection of exclusive Ocean Cay souvenirs and gifts inspired by nature with items for adults and children ranging from T-shirts, caps, beach items, towels and accessories.
Guests will be able to purchase essentials for the whole family from the MSC Shop, with a range of MSC Cruises branded products such as hats, flip flops, towels, beach bags, sunscreen and lip balms. Guests will also find a number of exclusive partnership products highlighting the marine and sustainable values of the island. Finally guests can collect pre-ordered essential items at the Welcome Center including Ocean Cay survival kits and other essentials and at the same time gather top tips for a day on Ocean Cay.
For those guests looking to relax and rejuvenate on the island, there will be services provided by the award-winning MSC Aurea Spa with a selection of relaxing body and facial treatments. All the beauty products used on the island are bio-degradable and eco-friendly. Some of the specially-designed treatments include the Ocean Cay Breeze Boost massage, which uses aromatic spray waters with soothing and refreshing properties, mainly aimed at the legs, feet and back — the areas of the body normally more exposed to sun. The Ocean Cay Breeze Facial offers the soothing properties of a calming mask and refreshing spray waters, providing relief for delicate facial skin exposed to the sun.
The island will welcome its first guests on November 9, 2019. To find out more visit www.msccruises.com.