Royal Caribbean Open First Year-Long Program To Cuba

May 10, 2017.

Expanded Sailings Introduce 58 New Cruises, Including 28 Havana Overnights through March 2019

Royal Caribbean International has greatly expanded their sailings to Cuba on Empress of the Seas.  The ship will sail 58 cruises of 4- and 5-night itineraries from January 2018 through March 2019, more than half offering overnight stays in Havana.  The Western Caribbean and Havana sailings are open for bookings as of today.

“Since arriving in Cuba for the first time last month, we’ve seen the excitement of our guests when sailing into Havana and the passion they have for the city at sail away – its people, its architecture, its food, its music. This is the enthusiasm we strive to bring to adventure-seekers who vacation with us,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.  “The positive reaction to our Cuba sailings is very encouraging, and we are thrilled to expand on the number of sailings for our 2018-2019 itineraries.”

Empress of the Seas will return to Tampa for summer 2018, offering a series of 4- and 5-night cruises, calling on Key West, Florida, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, as well as Havana on most sailings. The ship will reposition to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the winter 2018-2019 season, continuing short Caribbean adventures to the Caribbean destinations. Currently, Empress sails from Tampa through Nov. 4, 2017.  The ship then returns to Miami for the winter 2017-2018 season, adding calls to Royal Caribbean’s private island destination CocoCay and Nassau in The Bahamas.

Forbes Names Royal Caribbean As One Of ‘America’s Best Employers’

May 9, 2017.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) announced today that it has been named to the Forbes List of Best Large Employers for 2017. Forbes surveyed employees at mid-size and large companies or institutions. Respondents were asked to rate their employer on the quality of the work environment and whether they would recommend their company to potential employees as one of the most important factors in the assessment.

“I am extremely pleased that Forbes has recognized Royal Caribbean as one of America’s Best Employers of 2017,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “This recognition would not be possible without our employees.  It is because of their passion, determination and commitment that we are constantly able to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

America’s Best Employers are chosen by Forbes based on an independent survey from a vast sample of 30,000 American employees working for large or midsize companies. The employees participated anonymously through several online panels so they could openly state an opinion without influence from their employer. The survey has been conducted on companies from all industry sectors employing more than 1,000 employees in the United States. The recommended employers have been grouped into one or more of 25 industry sectors.

Azamara Club Cruises Adds More Cuba Voyages

 

May 3, 2017.

Want to see Cuba in style, on an all-inclusive upscale cruise with very attractive pricing?  Look no further than here.  Azamara Club Cruises has added four additional sailings to its lineup of Cuba voyages in 2017 and 2018.

Departing from Miami, the sailings feature overnights in Havana, as well as visits to two maiden ports of call – Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

 

Azamara has also created a variety of unique people-to-people shore excursions for Cuba.

These shore excursions feature a variety of experiences including a visit to the open air cabaret, Tropicana, a Nelson Dominguez art gallery tour, Havana by classic car along the Malecón waterfront and Hemingway’s Havana, with more experiences coming soon. All tour programs offered by Azamara are designed to meet U.S. requirements for travel to Cuba.

Two New Cuban Ports of Call

  • Cienfuegos:  Known as La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), Cienfuegos sits on the south-central coast of Cuba. Cienfuegos translates to “100 fires” and the town adds a bright light to this fascinating country.
  • Santiago de Cuba: Perched on the Caribbean Sea southeast of the capital of Havana is Santiago de Cuba. The soul of Cuba’s second largest city is bustling, diverse and bursting at the seams with fascinating history and cultural life.

Six Opportunities to Experience Cuba

Azamara’s full list of Cuba itineraries for 2017 and 2018 is below. Demand is high, so travelers are encouraged to book early.

 

Carnival To Develop New Cruise Facility On Grand Bahama Island

 

May 2, 2017.

Officials from Carnival Cruise Line and the Bahamian government signed an agreement today during a ceremony in Freeport, Grand Bahama, for the construction of a new cruise port facility to be funded and operated by Carnival Cruise Line on Grand Bahama Island.

The as-yet-unnamed planned port will be the largest purpose-built cruise facility ever constructed in The Bahamas and will take inspiration from the Bahamian people and their islands. Features will include a one-mile stretch of beach, food, beverage and shopping outlets, a wide array of water-based amenities and other recreational facilities. The port will also feature a pier capable of accommodating two of Carnival’s largest cruise ships simultaneously and is expected to eventually host up to 1 million guests annually.

The multimillion-dollar project will provide a significant economic benefit for the country of The Bahamas, including many employment and economic opportunities throughout the development, construction and ongoing operation once completed.

“Carnival Cruise Line is the leader in year-round cruising to The Bahamas and this new development will not only provide a truly extraordinary and one-of-a-kind destination experience for our guests but it will further solidify our partnership with the people of The Bahamas,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “In 2017, along with Carnival’s sister lines, Carnival Corporation will bring close to 3 million guests to The Bahamas via calls to Nassau, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays, the latter two of which were developed and are operated by Carnival Corporation brands Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.  Collectively, we represent the single largest cruise company investor in The Bahamas,” Duffy added.

During the signing ceremony, Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald said, “When Ted Arison, the founder of Carnival and the modern day cruise industry, embarked on his first cruise, it was to The Bahamas. From that day until now, The Bahamas continues to be one of the most strategic and important destinations for our company.” Donald continued, “Signing this agreement today is especially meaningful to me, as we strive to further contribute to the prosperity of the people of The Bahamas through providing experiences that continue to exceed our guests’ expectations.”

Prime Minister the Right Honourable Perry G. Christie stated, “The Government of The Bahamas has had a long and close association with Carnival which has been of great economic benefit to both parties.” He continued, “This new cruise port initiative in East Grand Bahama will deliver a cruise port in the traditional sense, but more than that, its shore project will create a new ‘destination’ with a distinctive flavour and characteristics that offer the broadest Bahamian entrepreneurial and employment opportunities, representing another phase in the development of Grand Bahama as a viable tourist centre.”

The project is subject to a detailed public discussion process, environmental studies and permitting.

Norwegian Sky Makes Inaugural Call In Havana

May 2, 2017.

Norwegian Sky Enters Havana Harbor

Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Cruise Line’s first ship to sail to Cuba, made her maiden call in the capital city of Havana this morning.  Norwegian Cruise Line executives were onboard to celebrate the voyage, including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President & CEO Frank Del Rio and Norwegian Cruise Line President & CEO Andy Stuart.

“Today is a momentous day for Norwegian Cruise Line, our guests and our travel agent partners, as we open our doors to Cuba’s natural beauty, warm people and historical treasures,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “Sailing into the Havana Harbor today, we were welcomed by the Cuban people with open arms and excitement to share their incredible culture with our guests.”

Today’s call was the first of Norwegian Sky’s weekly roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba.  The ship will sail a total of 53 four-day voyages to Cuba, with 52 including an overnight stay in Havana. Norwegian offers a selection of 14 half and full-day OFAC-compliant shore excursions, where guests aboard Norwegian Sky will have the opportunity to have a farm to table dining experience, explore the flora and fauna of Soroa, see modern Havana in an American classic car and much more.

The all-inclusive Norwegian Sky will also call on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas, during her four-day cruises to Cuba.  Great Stirrup Cay was recently enhanced to offer guests new ways to enjoy the island with additional pathways, seating and shaded lounge areas, with additional features still to come, including a private luxury lagoon enclave for suite guests and guests of The Haven.

Guests sailing on Norwegian Sky receive unlimited complimentary beverages as a part of the ship’s all-inclusive program.

For additional information or to book a cruise to Cuba on Norwegian, as well as documentation requirements, Frequently Asked Questions and more, please visit www.ncl.com/cruises-to/cuba-cruises.

Newest Princess Cruises Stage Shows Are Hits With Guests

May 2, 2017.

Two new Broadway-style stage shows offered to Princess Cruises guests are receiving rave reviews – “Born to Dance,” the latest show to debut in the cruise line’s Stephen Schwartz partnership and “Encore,” based on the highly popular opera performance “Bravo”.  I recently saw Encore on Island Princess and it was an excellent production.

“Born to Dance”

Born To Dance

Created in partnership with Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar®, Grammy® and Tony Award®-winning composer of “Wicked,”“Godspell,” and “Pippin,” “Born to Dance” is the second offering in the cruise line’s exclusive partnership. The show celebrates the aspirations, hurdles and triumphs of professional dancers, as told through tributes to Broadway’s greatest choreography in a feel-good story.

“We’re proud of our dynamic collaboration with Stephen Schwartz bringing our second revered show to life with ‘Born to Dance.’ Guests love the high-energy music and dancing,” added Saviss.

Princess audiences get a glimpse of what it takes to be a dancer, the highs and lows and that driving need to dance brought to life by some of Broadway’s most famous hits including “West Side Story,” “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago” and more. A who’s-who of acclaimed choreographers and dancers virtually join the multi-media production, tracing the journey of the great artists and shows that made musical theater history.

Overseeing the creative development of four brand new shows for Princess Cruises, Schwartz brings together a team of Broadway talent to support the productions through direction and design. “Born to Dance” is created and directed by Daniel C. Levine from Broadways’ “Les Misérables” and “Mamma Mia!” and is now showing aboard Golden Princess, Grand Princess and Star Princess. Additional talent includes costume design by six time Tony Award® winner William Ivey Long, musical arrangement by Bryan Perri, conductor for Broadway’s Wicked, choreography by Al Blackstone from the hit show So You Think You Can Dance, and scenic design by Tony Award® winner Beowulf Boritt.

The show will premiere next on Regal Princess in October.

“Encore”

Encore

“Encore” is inspired by the cruise line’s top-rated show “Bravo” and accompanied by an immensely talented onstage orchestra.

The show pays homage to the traditions of pop, opera and musical theater set amidst the romantic splendor of a beautiful Montecito garden. Showcasing new songs performed by a true soprano guest artist and combined with elaborate costumes and stunning sets, the show is conceived, directed and choreographed by American Idol’s Danny Teeson, with musical direction by Academy Awards arranger Nelson Kole and set design by Emmy® award-winner John Iacovelli.

Coral Princess, Island Princess and Sea Princess are currently showing “Encore,” with Royal Princess the next ship to receive the show in December.

Royal Caribbean Moving Two Ships To Gulf Coast In 2018

May 1, 2017.

I am really excited about this news and the opportunity to sail from New Orleans on Royal Caribbean again.  After a three-year hiatus, the cruise line will return to New Orleans with the newly announced repositioning of Vision of the Seas for the 2018-2019 winter season. The ship will sail 7-night itineraries to the Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula.  Her sister ship Enchantment of the Seas will move from Miami, Florida to join Liberty of the Seas in Galveston offering 4- and 5-night Caribbean cruises that will complement Liberty’s 7-night Caribbean vacations. The two new offerings bring more options and easy access from the Gulf Coast to fans of Royal Caribbean…like me.

Before repositioning to its new home in “The Big Easy” on December 15, 2018, Vision of the Seas will offer two 16-night sailings through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles and then from Los Angeles to New Orleans. This will be the first time in three years that Royal Caribbean will journey through the canal.

Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas also will embark on new adventures in 2018 when the longtime resident of Asia-Pacific returns to the United States to homeport in Miami.  Mariner will be the first Voyager-class ship to offer short Caribbean sailings perfect for first-time cruise travelers. The 3- and 4-night itineraries from PortMiami to the Bahamas begin on June 21, 2018, following the ship’s extensive, 32-day revitalization. Prior to going into drydock and her arrival to Miami, Mariner will embark on a previously announced “Global Odyssey,” consisting of three 13- to 15-night sailings from Singapore to Dubai; Dubai to Barcelona; and Barcelona to Miami.

Enchantment of the Seas arrives to Galveston on June 23, 2018. Guests currently booked on Enchantment for sailings departing Miami after June 23 will be contacted individually to transition the original booking to the freshly revitalized Mariner of the Seas from her new homeport in Miami.

Sailings onboard Mariner of the Seas will be available to book on May 1, 2017, Enchantment of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will be available to book as of May 5.

 

Disney Wonder Becomes First Passenger Vessel To Transit New Panama Canal Locks

 

April 30, 2017.

The Disney Wonder transited the Panama Canal on April 29, making it the first passenger vessel to go through the canal’s new set of locks, marking a milestone for the cruise industry.

I transited the original locks just a couple weeks ago and didn’t realize the new locks are just a few hundred feet east.  In the above photo you can see a red and white ship in the background preparing to enter the “old” Gatun Locks.

For some background on Disney Wonder, the ship was transformed in late 2016, expanding the length of the Disney Wonder to 984 feet and accommodating 2713 guests.  Headlining the ship’s enhancements are new imaginative spaces for children – including areas themed to the Marvel Universe and Disney’s “Frozen” –  a jazzy restaurant inspired by Disney’s “Princess and the Frog,” and an authentic neighborhood English pub with subtle nods to classic Disney films.

The Disney Wonder Panama Canal crossing is part of a 14-night voyage from Port Canaveral, Fla., to San Diego, where the ship will sail cruises to Baja, Mexico, before a summer season from Vancouver to Alaska.

 

Holland America Has A New Shipboard App

 April 28, 2107.

Holland America Line is changing the way guests digitally access shipboard experiences and information across the fleet with the launch of Holland America Line Navigator, a free mobile-friendly tool. Navigator does not need to be downloaded in advance, does not require a paid internet connection and works on the browsers of most personal devices including phones, tablets and laptops.  You simply connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi and open a browser window.  The Navigator screen will automatically appear as the homepage.

Smartphone view of Navigator web app

Using Navigator, guests can plan their daily activities, explore and book shore excursions, view restaurant menus and make dining reservations, view spa treatments, connect to paid internet and look at their shipboard account balance. Additional features include access to ship deck plans, a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and links to complimentary internet sites such as hollandamerica.com.

 

To access the full functionality of Navigator, guests can create an account by following a simple registration process. Registering allows guests to plan a personal itinerary, make dining reservations, book shore excursions, view shipboard account information and connect to paid internet. There are no charges to register or use Navigator.

Computer desktop image of Navigator

One of the key features of Navigator is that it allows guests to select and save specific activities to a personalized “my itinerary” to plan out their cruise days up to a week in advance. Those activities show up alongside booked dining reservations and shore excursions to truly help the guest get the most out of their time aboard.

 

Malala Yousafzai Named Godmother of Celebrity Edge

April 27, 2017 .

Celebrity has named 19-year old Nobel Laureate and U.N. Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai as the Godmother of their newest ship, Celebrity Edge, debuting late in 2018.

The company also announced a two-year partnership with the Malala Fund. With the shared commitment to diversity, inclusion and gender equality, the brand is partnering with Malala Fund whose mission is to secure 12 years of safe, free quality education for every girl.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, said that Malala’s dedication to girls’ education sets an example worth following. “Partnering with Malala Fund was a natural fit as we share the same passion and commitment to an incredible cause. We believe in opportunities for all, especially as our crew onboard represent more than 50 different cultures – and amazing stories of achievement, education and economic advancement.”

“Malala is an inspiration and a voice of hope,” said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “This young woman is on a powerful mission, and we support it 100 percent. We are deeply honored to name Malala the Godmother of Celebrity Edge, and we’re excited to team up with her and the Malala Fund to champion the global right to education.”

Fain added: “Malala Fund also advances one of our company’s key philosophies: that education is a great equalizer, providing opportunities to people who need it most.”

“We cannot get 130 million out-of-school girls into classrooms on our own. We are grateful to generous partners like Celebrity Cruises who support our work to help every girl learn and lead without fear,” said Philippa Lei, Malala Fund interim CEO.

A centuries-old maritime tradition, the role of Godmother is a lifetime title and honor. During the launch of a ship, the Godmother is responsible for bestowing good luck over a seagoing vessel and inspiring all that sail aboard by breaking a bottle over the bow as the ship is named, officiating the ceremony.

Malala began her life as an activist at 11 years old, writing a secret blog about life under the Taliban, who would not permit girls to go to school. She was targeted for her advocacy and, at 15, was shot on her school bus. Malala survived the attack and continued her campaign for girls’ education around the world.

In 2014, Malala became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient, donating her entire prize earnings to finance a secondary school for girls in Pakistan. With Malala Fund, she continues to fight for every girl’s right to education.

Celebrity will continue to reveal details regarding the partnership throughout 2017 and 2018. For more information, visit www.celebritycruises.com. To donate to Malala Fund visit www.malala.org/donate/celebritycruises.