Storm that rocked Anthem of the Seas called a 'weather bomb'
ABOARD THE AZAMARA JOURNEY — The Feb. 7 storm that rocked Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas and forced it back to Cape Liberty in New Jersey 10 days ago was likened to a “weather bomb” by a captain on Royal’s sister line, Azamara Club Cruises.
Magnus Davidson, captain of the Azamara Journey, said that based on what he’d heard from headquarters in the days after the storm, winds of 75 knots were forecasted but Anthem actually encountered gales of twice that velocity.
“The storm intensified very rapidly,” Davidson told a group of journalists on one of the Journey’s first cruises after an extensive drydock. But, he added, at no time was the ship in danger or unsafe.
The storm, off the coast of North Carolina, battered cabins and public areas and frightened guests. After assessing the damage and the likelihood that further bad weather was waiting as the ship continued on its planned itinerary, Royal Caribbean decided to abort the cruise and return to Anthem’s homeport.
Davidson said captains consult a variety of standard weather sources used by mariners, such as Passageweather.com, to decide how to proceed when storm conditions threaten.
Decisions are made in consultation with weather experts at the Miami headquarters of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the parent of both Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises.
In the case of the Carolina storm, Davidson said it was several hundred miles wide so it was not possible to simply go around it, as he said some Internet commenters had suggested.
However, he said that Anthem’s captain did make a course adjustment intended to take it more toward the edge of the storm.
Inside a floating city: Take a tour of mega Voyager of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas in Sydney Harbour.
‘IT’S a biggie,” a weather-worn old Darwinite in a battered bush hat observes dryly as the enormous Voyager of the Seas eases into Darwin Harbour.
The “floating city” is pausing for a day on a repositioning cruise from South-East Asia to Sydney where it’ll be based for the 2015-16 summer-autumn season.
Voyager truly is a “biggie”; it is one of the world’s largest cruise ships, 311m long, weighing almost 138,000 tonnes and accommodating 3989 guests in total in 1724 staterooms and suites with 1176 crew to pamper them.
Cushy lodgings include ocean-view staterooms, balcony staterooms, sumptuous suites and inside staterooms equipped with novel “virtual balconies” to inhibit claustrophobia. These 2m-high HD television screens mimic windows on to balconies and are linked to cameras placed around the ship to screen real-time sights and sounds of the passing ocean and port manoeuvres.
After checking in to a balcony stateroom, it’s time to check out the rest of the glamorous goliath on a journey that turns out to be a tasteful blitzkrieg of unadulterated razzle-dazzle.
At Voyager’s heart is an enormous atrium rising through four decks and, intersecting it on Deck 5, the Royal Promenade extends about three-quarters of the ship’s length, a bustling boulevard with a marble “pavement”, pumping cafes and bars, name-brand duty-free shops full of jewellery, clothing and perfumes, upbeat music and evening dance parties.
Swarovski is holding a sale with 40 per cent off jewellery and figurines not far from a trio of masseuses delivering a trio of neck massages. Nearby, the Pig & Whistle is a well-patronised pub with tables spilling out onto the marble. In the background, Bobby Day (remember him?) reprises the profound 1958 lyrics of Rockin’ Robin, mercifully Bobby’s only hit.
Pastries, pizzas, sandwiches and brewed illy coffee are on offer at Cafe Promenade with its red British phone booth and a glistening red 1954 Morgan sports car parked outside.
At the ’60s-style R Bar, just off the Promenade – the tasteful venue for fancy cocktails – a mixologist is demonstrating how to make a perfect martini and form guides are front and centre at the Tavern, outside the Casino Royale, a sports-themed bar with the obligatory wide-screen TV. “They’re racing at Randwick …”
Casino Royale is a red and gold contradiction of flashing slot machines with names such as Hoot Loot, Kitty Glitter and Rembrandt’s Riches blasting out electronic noises and set against the sober, studied concentration of the blackjack and three-card poker tables. A few players tackling Texas Hold’em frown and seem confused. It turns out they’re Australians. Malaysian croupier Chris confides that many Australians have no idea how to play the card game: “I have to teach them first,” he whispers, “but they do learn quickly.”
At the nautical-themed Schooner Bar, Claudette from the Philippines, pours a Boddington’s Ale, the first of several on this eight-night cruise and in the background it’s 1958 again with the Everly Brothers belting out Bye Bye Love.
Meanwhile, it’s all go outside on the sports deck with walkers and joggers wearing gym gear and serious expressions forming a continuous procession around the fitness track.
There’s a full-size basketball court, a nine-hole mini-golf course with infinite ocean views, an inline skating track and a golf simulator recreating some of the world’s best courses. For those seeking more challenging thrills, Voyager has a rock-climbing wall rising 9m. That’s 61m above sea level.
But the stellar attraction is Flowrider, a 12m wave-maker that generates a 72km/h rush of water surfed on a flowboard and, as Australian flowboarding champion Adam Wildman testifies: “One of the best experiences you can have in the middle of an ocean.”
Kids and teens gravitate to Deck 12 for the Outdoor Youth Area, a video arcade and a teen disco. One deck below is the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre with more than 100 treatments, the pool deck with two pools, six whirlpools, an adults-only solarium pool, tiers of sun decks and a huge 67sq m cinema screen.
Like the buoyant background music, the entertainment just goes on. There’s a new 3D cinema and at Voyager’s Ice Skating Rink, guests can rent skates and take lessons between the dazzling regular ice shows starring top international skaters.
On this voyage diverse performances in the La Scala Theatre encompass Broadway-style shows, electric rock violinist, Jane Cho, singer Michael Falzon, comedy hypnotist Mark Anthony, ballroom dance classes and, of all things, an enrichment lecture on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Dining demands daunting decisions. Designed like an opera house, the tasteful Sapphire Dining Room, with chandelier and included meals, revives the golden age of cruising. Also included are the buffets in the extraordinary Windjammer Cafe. Imagine a sort of swish Scandinavian-designed street-food market with wraparound windows and “stalls” serving a healthy choice of international food which, incidentally, is some of the ship’s best tucker.
Specialty dining restaurants include Izumi, an Asian but essentially Japanese restaurant with a la carte pricing and the prixe fixe, Italian cuisine Giovanni’s Table for $US25 ($A35), Chops Grille, a ritzy reef’n’beef with premium steaks, seafood and lobster ($US35) and the ’50s-style burger bar Johnny Rockets Diner ($US6.95).
Chops Grille also offers special cruise hot pot lunches self-cooked at the table for $US20 and a tasting menu with wine pairings from their exclusive cellar ($US45). At Giovanni’s Table, try the almond-crusted scallops with red bell pepper pesto and pan-seared sole fillets over parmesan roasted potatoes.
My pick is Izumi; for example, miso soup, seasoned wakame salad with sesame oil, tasty miso ramen noodles with chasu pork slice, menma fermented bamboo shoots and nori seaweed and the wonderful mixed seafood on a hot rock.
Meanwhile, poolside on Deck 11, tastefulness takes a brief back seat as cruise director Mitch celebrates “the glamour, the prestige, the recognition of the belly flop” with the popular Men’s International Belly Flop Contest.
“Enough,” I cry, withdrawing to the Schooner Bar for a creamy, cold Boddington’s Ale and a nostalgic toe-tap to Rock Around the Clock courtesy of Bill Haley & His Comets.
The writer was a guest of Holidays of Australia.
The 13-night Ghan and Voyager of the Seas Top End Escape departs Sydney on April 16, 2016, and includes seven nights aboard Voyager of the Seas cruising from Sydney to Darwin with a port call in Brisbane, on-board meals, entertainment, pre paid taxes and gratuities.
Also included are a four-night stay in Darwin at DoubleTree by Hilton Esplanade Darwin with breakfast, a “Charles Darwin” Sunset Buffet Dinner Cruise, a half-day Darwin City Sights tour, full day Kakadu National Park tour of Nourlangie rock art site, Yellow Water Billabong and Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre plus two nights aboard The Ghan travelling from Darwin to Adelaide in Gold or Platinum Service including all meals, drinks and off-train experiences.
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced fresh entertainment line ups for its two newest ships, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Getaway.
Due to the show’s overwhelming popularity on Norwegian Escape, For the Record: The Brat Pack – the critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters – will be offered to an expanded audience as a complementary show in the Escape Theatre beginning on 16 April.
As of 9 April, The Supper Club will feature an all-new dinner and live entertainment experience, with details to be revealed soon.
The Tony Award-winning Broadway hit After Midnight featuring Brenda Braxton will continue in the Escape Theater as regularly scheduled.
As For the Record: The Brat Pack moves to the Escape Theatre, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet will leave Norwegian Escape from the 5 March and will re-open on board Norwegian Getaway on 15 May.
Million Dollar Quartet is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.
Legally Blonde on Norwegian Getaway will close on 30 April and Burn The Floor will continue as currently scheduled.
From 5 March until 16 April when For the Record: The Brat Pack begins, the Escape Theatre will feature Vocal Over Drive, a contemporary pop a cappella group, before it moves to the Getaway Theatre from 1 May until 15 May, when Million Dollar Quartet opens.
What Was World’s Largest Cruise Liner Faces Unglamorous End As Floating Immigrant Hulk City
First Choice (Tui) Island Escape
Thanks to http://www.breitbart.com/
A luxury cruise liner which when built was declared the world’s largest has been selected to become a floating city to house Sweden’s massive surplus of migrants, in a deal that is likely to net the ship owners millions of crowns.
Sweden’s Migration Bureau, the fastest growing and one of the most influential government ‘Quangos’ in the country has after months of deliberation selected US Shipmanagers to fulfil their tender for but the deal is contingent on their finding a berth. The tendering process for the giant accommodation project has been under way since November last year when a spokesman said they were looking for a number of ships, offering at least 1,500 beds each.
Now the luxury cruise ship MV Ocean Gala has been selected, offering places for 1,790 migrants. Launched in 1982 as the MS Scandinavia, she was the largest cruiser of her kind in the world and has been operated by a number of luxury operators including Sundance, Royal Admiral, Royal Caribbean, and Thomson.
The ship was sold by Thomson cruises last year after a flurry of unfavourable publicity surrounding the ship. Britain’s reported nearly 100 former passengers were taking legal action against Thomson after alleged poor hygiene on-board led to a massive outbreak of “diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and dehydration”.
In her new role as a dormitory ship, she will earn her owners some 800,000 Swedish kronor (£66,000) every day in payments from the Migration Bureau and the initial contract will see it occupied for a year, reportsAftonbladet.
MV Ocean Gala
Owners US Shipmanagers boast on their website significant experience of providing emergency accommodation, having been founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, leasing two 1,200 bed cruise ships in New Orleans to provide space for students after their halls of residence were destroyed. Pages on their ships boast of “on-board amenities” making time on-board “enjoyable” and feature images of well-equipped gyms and residents relaxing on the sea-facing balconies of the former cruise liners.
The last remaining obstacle to the project getting under way is US Shipmanagers finding a suitable berth. The first choice in the deep-water port of Harnosand is expected to be rejected by the town council over concerns about the impact of having 1,790 migrants in the harbour, reports local paper Allehanda. All of Sweden’s major cities – Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have harbours, and may be approached next.
While accommodating 1,790 migrants on a single craft may seem like a lot, the numbers involved are just a fraction of the estimated 160,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Sweden last year, with many more expected in 2016. As reported by Breitbart London when the cruise accommodation plan was announced last year, the Migration Bureau said they were looking for a number of ships, and were even exploring the possibility of putting migrants on decommissioned oil rig accommodation blocks
The reinforced concrete sill can be seen below the gate. Photo credit: GUPC
A large crack that threatened the delivery of the Panama Canal expansion and pushed its planned opening back by several months has been fixed, the project’s contractor and Panama Canal Authority (APC) said Monday.
The ACP confirmed that Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), the Spanish-led consortium responsible for the design and construction of the Third Set of Locks Project, has successfully completed testing of the reinforcements in sill #3 of the Cocolí locks.
The crack first appeared in August in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canal’s expanded Pacific Locks. GUPC later determined that water seepage was the result of insufficient steel reinforcement in the area that was subject to extreme condition testing.
In addition to reinforcing the sill where the crack appeared, GUPC also reinforced the first and second sill in the Cocoli Locks and the first three sills in the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara Locks as a preventative measure.
The announcement that the crack has been fixed follows a testing process which consisted of gradually raising the water behind the lock gate to the level where water seepage was first detected.
The testing process was closely monitored by GUPC technical personnel, the designers and the ACP, and later inspected by a team of independent experts, professors and structural engineers from the Technological University of Panama (UTP), all of whom expressed satisfaction with the final results, the ACP said.
GUPC will now proceed to test the electromechanical components of the project.
The ACP says that less than four percent remains to complete the overall Expansion.
The project was initially set to be finished at the end of 2014 to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the original Panama Canal, but a dispute between GUPC and ACP over costs pushed the opening to April of this year. The ACP, acting on information from GUPC, initially denied that the crack would delay the opening even further, but as of now inauguration is set for end June.
One of two diesel-electric azipod units used to propel Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas sustained damage as the ship battled an intense hurricane-force storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on Sunday.
The storm-damaged cruise ship returned to the Liberty Cruise Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday evening and as crews continue to test the critical systems onboard the vessel while in port.
Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Bahamas Maritime Administration, and other organizations have been working closely with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and technical specialists to ensure the ongoing repairs to the ship’s equipment are functioning as designed, the Coast Guard said Friday.
While damage from the storm has been reported as mostly cosmetic, the Coast Guard said Friday that the cruise ship’s port azipod unit, which is one component of the vessel’s propulsion system, burned out all four clutches and as a precaution had to be shut down for ship’s the return voyage to Bayonne.
Technicians aboard the cruise ship are replacing the clutches on both the starboard and port azipods as a precaution. Repairs and subsequent testing of the azipods are still ongoing.
All critical safety and lifesaving systems are also being tested under the supervision of the Bahamas and the U.S. Coast Guard officials to ensure that all equipment is functioning as designed prior to departing on its next voyage, which as of now is still expected for this Saturday.
Minor damage to the ship’s lifeboats is being addressed and thoroughly tested by the lifeboat manufacturer, the Coast Guard says.
“At this time all repairs appear to be on track and all systems tests are progressing satisfactorily,” according to the Coast Guard. “However, if anything is discovered during testing, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port will not allow the ship to sail from Bayonne until both Coast Guard and Bahamas Maritime Authorities are satisfied. The vessel will not be cleared to leave the port until all safety of life at sea requirements are met.”
As gCaptain has reported, the Coast Guard is supporting the Bahamas Maritime Administration in an ongoing investigation that will help determine if there are any contributing causal factors or lessons learned from the incident that could help prevent injuries or damage in the future.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem of the Seas departed Bayonne, New Jersey last Saturday carrying 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew on what was scheduled to be a 7-day roundtrip to the Bahamas. But by Sunday afternoon, the ship had sailed directly into the path of an rapidly-developing storm off Cape Hatteras, with 75 m.p.h winds and waves greater than 30 feet.
Coast Guard officials conducting the investigation are being assisted by personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the Coast Guard. The ongoing investigation could take some time but should not delay the vessel’s scheduled departure.
Royal Caribbean’s two Quantum-class ships, the Quantum of the Seas and the Anthem of the Seas, are fitted with two 20.5-megawatt ABB Azipod XO2300 propulsion units.
A new livery is to be introduced across the Princess Cruises fleet in a move which reflects UK-based sister line P&O Cruises.
The ‘ocean waves’ design will feature on the bow of the ships, with the first to feature on new vessel Majestic Princess which was floated out in its building dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy yesterday.
The design, featuring the company’s iconic logo, will be introduced across the fleet over the next few years. This follows P&O Cruises introducing the union flag to the front of its ships.
The 3,560-passenger Majestic Princess, designed specifically to sail from China, is due to enter service next year.
The line’s president, Jan Swartz, said: “For nearly half a century our Princess logo has represented the adventure of cruise travel around the globe.
“Now our ships sail to more than 360 ports of call worldwide and will be instantly recognised from afar.
“As the very first cruise ship built for China, we take great pride that Majestic Princess is our first ship to proudly display our new livery design.”
Majestic Princess will offer many of the same features as Royal Princess and Regal Princess but will include a number of new venues and experiences created for Chinese passengers. Details will be revealed in the coming months, according to the company.
U.S. senator calls for probe of storm damage to Anthem of the Seas
MIAMI (AP) — Federal transportation officials might soon be looking into a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that ran into high winds and rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend.
Sen. Bill Nelson has called for the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the voyage that forced frightened passengers into their cabins overnight Sunday as their belongings flew about, waves rose as high as 30 feet, and winds howled outside.
"The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?" Nelson said Monday on the Senate floor, according to a news release from his office.
The National Weather Service's Ocean Prediction Center had issued an alert for a strong storm four days in advance, Susan Buchanan with the weather service said. The first warning was issued Saturday for possible hurricane-force winds in the area the ship was scheduled to sail through.
Royal Caribbean announced Monday that the ship was turning around and sailing back to its home port in New Jersey. No injuries were reported, and the ship suffered only minor damage.
"I was shaking all over," passenger Shara Strand of New York City wrote to The Associated Press via Facebook on Monday. "Panic attack, things like that. ... I've been on over 20 cruises, I've been through a hurricane, it was never like this. Never."
Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Lairson says she and her father, Sam, could feel the ship, Anthem of the Seas, begin to sway by 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The captain directed passengers to their cabins. There, the Lairsons heard glasses shatter in the bathroom, and they put their belongings in drawers and closets to prevent them from flying across the room. They ventured to the balcony, where Sam Lairson shot video of wave after wave rising below.
"The winds were so strong that I thought the phone would blow from my hands," Sam Lairson, of Ocean City, New Jersey, said in an email. "After that we had to keep the doors to the balconies sealed."
The ship — with more than 4,500 guests and 1,600 crew members — sailed Saturday from Cape Liberty, New Jersey. It was scheduled to arrive for a stop at Port Canaveral, Florida, at noon Monday, then move on to other stops in the Caribbean. But Royal Caribbean said on its corporate Twitter account that the ship would turn around and sail back to Cape Liberty.
"This decision was made for guests' comfort due to weather forecasts" that would continue to affect the ship's itinerary," Royal Caribbean tweeted.
Guests will get a full refund and a certificate toward a future cruise. Passengers onboard buzzed happily about that news, Strand said.
Gabriella Lairson said that by early Monday morning, people were out and about on the ship, checking out the minor damage in some public areas.
Lairson praised the crew and captain. "They did everything they could to make us feel comfortable," she wrote to the AP on Facebook. She said she and her father were a little disappointed the ship was turning around, but she called it "the best thing for the safety of everyone."
Fellow passenger Jacob Ibrag agreed. "I can't wait to get home and kiss the ground," said Ibrag, who saw water flowing down stairs and helped some people who were stuck in an elevator Sunday as he made his way to his cabin per the captain's orders. The 25-year-old from Queens, New York, then stayed in his cabin until noon Monday, at one point filling his backpack with essentials in case of an evacuation.
Robert Huschka, the executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, was onboard and started tweeting when the inclement weather hit. He told USA Today that the ordeal was "truly terrifying." He described the cruise director nervously giving updates, and he later posted photos of shattered glass panels on a pool deck.
But Huschka was among passengers who found a silver lining in the storm. On Monday, he posted: "The good news? They never lost the Super Bowl signal. Perfect TV picture throughout storm!"
Royal Caribbean gave guests free Internet access and a complimentary cocktail hour, spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in an email. "Feeling better after the happy hour they just put on for the guests," Sam Lairson joked.
And despite her own worries, Strand said her daughter, 8-month-old Alexa, slept through the entire episode.
The number of travelers booking directly with cruise lines keeps growing, despite efforts by cruise lines to direct business to travel agents.
On a recent cruise aboard the Ruby Princess, I surveyed 25 passengers at random about how they bought their cruise. It was an unscientific sample of a fraction of the ship’s 3,000 passengers.
Ten of the 25 passengers I talked with had booked directly with Princess Cruises. Of the 15 that booked with a travel agent, nine had used agents they had some personal relationship with, while six booked through online agencies or non-traditional travel retailers, such as Costco.
So about 40% of my sample group booked direct. That’s a little higher than the most recent CLIA survey data, which suggests about 30% are booking direct, up from a 20-80 split 10 years ago.
In this report, I’ll address the passengers who booked direct and the reasons they gave for doing so. In next week’s follow-up, I’ll discuss the passengers who used a travel agent.
Donald and Erika Smith, of Melbourne, Fla., cited convenience as the reason they booked directly with Princess. “If you want to make a change, it’s easier than going through an agent,” said Donald Smith, who is retired from the aircraft parts industry and was on his 26th cruise.
James Wetherill, from Queensland, Australia, said that agents in Australia are “not knowledgeable” about the details of cruises in North America.
Another passenger said she knows someone who works for Princess and got a friends and family discount.
Mark from Las Vegas, who declined to give his last name, sang the praises of the Princess website. “You can see exactly what’s available very clearly. You can make an informed decision,” he said.
Some passengers said they used travel agents for previous or future trips but decided to book this particular trip with Princess directly. Others expressed an indifference that is remarkable to anyone who sells cruises for a living or knows someone who does.
It was basically six of one, a half-dozen of the other to Karen Brown, of Southern California, who bought the seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise from Princess.com. Brown shrugged and said, “Sometimes we use a travel agent,” citing a past cruise when an agent offered a free gratuities promotion.
Large cruise lines increase practice of staggered check-in Disney cruise check-in terminal at Port Canaveral Florida
Big cruise lines are increasingly requiring passengers to pick a boarding time in hopes of streamlining embarkation on large ships.
The idea is to offer a smoother, more tranquil first day onboard.
In the past year, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have all rolled out staggered check-ins on some or all of their ships.
Norwegian is the furthest along. Last June, it began enabling guests on the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway to select their arrival time when they downloaded documents as part of the online check-in process. Guests select a half-hour window to board between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The line continued to expand the idea to its other ships; by November, almost anyone on a Norwegian ship departing from a U.S. port was able to take advantage of staggered check-in.
The only exceptions are Norwegian’s Hawaii-based Pride of America, due to later departure times, and its Anchorage/Seward itinerary because of cruise-tour complexities.
Carnival says it strictly enforces the staggered times and will ask guests to return to the terminal later if they show up early. Norwegian is less strict.
Carnival’s version started last year in Galveston, Texas. The line extended it to two of its New Orleans-based ships, the Carnival Elation and Carnival Dream, and is targeting Miami next, beginning March 4. The Carnival Triumph, also based in New Orleans, is scheduled to begin staggered check-in this April.
Royal Caribbean’s staggered check-in program is currently limited to the Anthem of the Seas. Royal assigns arrival times, rather than enabling guests to choose.
Andy Stuart, president of Norwegian, said staggered check-in helps break up the “big block” of passengers who tend to arrive around noon.
Stuart said that so far the idea has been a qualified success: “I won’t say it’s perfect; I think it’s improved it. It has started to spread people out a little more effectively.”
One important difference between Carnival and Norwegian is the policing of early arrivals. Carnival says it strictly enforces the staggered times and will ask guests to return to the terminal later if they show up early.
However, if guests show up later than their assigned times, “we allow them to come in and check in,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.
Norwegian is less strict, Stuart said. “We don’t force anyone to sit and wait. People embark as quickly as we can get them on,” he said.
“There are people who are rule keepers,” Stuart continued. “They say ‘OK, I was told to arrive between 11 and 11:30, and that’s what I’m going to do.’ And then there are rule breakers who say, ‘I don’t care what you tell me; I’m going to get there for lunch.’ So we like the rule keepers, but we don’t penalize the rule breakers.”
Stuart said Norwegian is working on other ways to speed the process of embarkation.
“Nobody books the trip to be on the embarkation; they book the trip to be on the ship,” he said. “We think investments in technology and automation to accelerate the process will continue to improve that experience.”
A good sign when another river line heads to the open seas?
Last month, Scenic announced that it will enter the ocean cruise market with the launch of the 228-passenger luxury mega yacht Scenic Eclipse in 2018, effectively making Scenic the second river cruise line after Viking to head to the open seas.
The fact that Viking and Scenic have invested in some serious ocean-going hardware can be viewed through many different lenses.
On the one hand, it may indicate some nice profits coming out of their river cruise endeavors, allowing for expansion. We can’t know for sure - these are private companies and investments (and capital) can come from many different sources - but there’s a case to be made that they wouldn’t be able to shell out for blue water product if their river cruise business one wasn’t holding up nicely. It may also be that these companies are looking for ways to bring a loyal customer base to destinations that they can’t via inland waterways.
But there’s also a case to be made that they might be heading into the ocean market to diversify their portfolios and reduce the risk of being fully invested in rivers, which has become a very bloated market over the last few years.
If you look at investment in the opposite direction, from ocean to river, the fact that Crystal Cruises is bankrolling a new fleet of river cruise ships could be seen as an indicator that the river cruise industry does show signs of continued promise into the near, and perhaps longer-term. But it also means a further inflation of the river bubble.
In the river cruise industry, there are some signs of headwinds in 2016; some increased discounting taking place, some post-Paris attacks challenges, and I’ve already written about a relative slowdown in shipbuilding momentum.
And it remains to be seen whether these recent river-to-ocean crossover moves are signs of further headwinds or rather indicate that the river cruising industry still has plenty of wind in its sails.
As you start to learn about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise and hop on message boards, social media and other avenues of talking about cruising, you may start to notice other guests talking about free money they are getting in the form of onboard credit.
The natural reaction to this is: what is onboard credit and how do I get onboard credit?
What is onboard credit?
Onboard credit is essentially free money that you can spend onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise.
When a guest receives onboard credit, their SeaPass account is credited with that amount of money to offset any onboard purchases, such as shore excursions, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, drink purchases and anything else you can charge to your SeaPass account.
Once onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise, a guest's SeaPass account will receive a credit that corresponds to the onboard credit value they were promised.
A common misconception is you can take onboard credit and apply it towards a specific purchase. Your onboard credit is applied against any and all onboard purchases you make in general. So there is no need to worry about ensuring you use it for one purchase or another.
You can only spend onboard credit once you are on your Royal Caribbean ship, so any purchases made in advance of your cruise cannot be applied towards your onboard credit.
How to get onboard credit
There are a lot of ways to get onboard credit, and not all means of getting onboard credit will always be available, but it is important to understand all the possibilities.
The simplest answer on how to get onboard credit is you have to be given onboard credit from someone else, either Royal Caribbean or another entity.
Let us explore the possibilities.
Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean booking promotion
The most common way guests receive onboard credit is to receive it from Royal Caribbean as part of a deal to book a cruise.
Royal Caribbean regularly offers onboard credit as an incentive to get guests to book a cruise.
These are typically periodic promotions, where the amount of onboard credit you receive is tied to the stateroom category you book, as well as the exact promotion offered. Some promotions will offer more onboard credit than others.
The amount of onboard credit will vary from promotion to promotion and it is important to read the deal's rules and conditions. In a best case scenario, Royal Caribbean offered up to $400 onboard credit for Balcony & Suite guests in a recent Cyber Monday promotion.
This may not be the most lucrative source of onboard credit, but it is regularly the simplest way of getting some.
Onboard credit by booking another Royal Caribbean cruise while onboard
If you happen to be on a Royal Caribbean cruise and cannot wait to reserve space on another sailing, then take advantage of Royal Caribbean's onboard booking bonus.
Royal Caribbean incentives its guests to re-book another cruise while still onboard by offering them extra onboard credit on top of whatever promotion is currently running.
Guests can visit the Next Cruise office and get up to $500 in onboard credit to spend on their current sailing or defer it to an upcoming sailing.
The onboard credit you get at the Next Cruise office is free money, because Royal Caribbean is rewarding you for reserving another sailing and is one of the best, and most lucrative means of getting a lot of onboard credit.
Onboard credit from a travel agent
We love using travel agents to book our Royal Caribbean cruises for the wonderful value they provide in terms of service, but travel agents are also a great source of onboard credit.
In general, many travel agents offer their own booking bonus for working with them.
The amount of onboard credit a travel agent can give you on top of whatever Royal Caribbean is offering will vary greatly, and depends on the agency size and the stateroom category you book.
Onboard credit is one way travel agents differentiate themselves from one another and take steps to earn business.
Onboard credit from the Royal Caribbean Visa card
Royal Caribbean has its own branded Visa credit card, which allows guests to earn points that can be redeemed for onboard credit on future cruises (as well as other rewards too).
Each purchase you make with the card earns you points, and as you save those points, you can redeem them for onboard credit.
As an example, the Royal Caribbean card will net a guest $100 in onboard credit for 10,000 points.
Onboard credit from a Royal Caribbean mistake
No one is perfect, certainly not Royal Caribbean, and while you probably will not like the mistake itself, the silver lining is often Royal Caribbean offers guests onboard credit as a means of making it up to them.
Incidents like poor service, billing inaccuracies and other frustrations are often handled with onboard credit (in addition to remedying the situation as best they can).
The exact amount of onboard credit will depend on the nature of the incident.
Onboard credit by referring friends
If you refer a first-time Royal Caribbean cruiser and they book a stateroom, Royal Caribbean will offer you onboard credit as a reward.
You will receive $25 in onboard credit for each stateroom your friends reserve on your cruise booked. You may refer up to a maximum of 5 staterooms for any length of cruise.
The first-time guest must be sailing on the same ship and sail date as you, the Crown and Anchor member.