Thursday, 30 June 2016

More lines are betting on adventure cruises

More lines are betting on adventure cruises

A rendering of one of Crystal’s forthcoming river yachts, which will feature excursions such as “flightseeing” tours on helicopters.

They may not be evolving into all-out expedition cruises, but just like their ocean going cousins, river cruises are being infused with a greater sense of adventure.

From more demanding activities in Europe, to more exotic destinations farther afield, it appears that river cruisers are ready to be taken a bit further out of their comfort zone.

In Europe, combining biking tours with river cruise itineraries has been gaining in popularity for several years. But now river cruise lines are taking the off-boat activities a step further and incorporating more innovative ways to see and experience the people and places that line the banks.

For example, Avalon Waterways has added a nine-day Active Discovery on the Danube cruise that will give cruisers the opportunity to bike, hike and canoe along the river. It will also include options to explore an ice cave, take an archery lesson, descend into an underground salt mine or ascend a mountain on a guided climb. 

When Crystal Cruises unveils its first river cruise vessel, the Crystal Mozart, on the Danube this July, the itineraries will be chock full of adventurous extras for an added price. Standard sightseeing excursions as well as plenty of included hiking and e-biking tours will be complimentary, but those in need of a bit more of an adrenaline rush can splurge for helicopter and small-plane "flightseeing" tours or opt for river rafting experiences. 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection recently expanded a partnership with Butterfield & Robinson to add several biking cruises along the Danube this year and next. Uniworld also has a kayaking excursion on the Gardon River on its Burgundy and Provence itinerary.

Similarly, AmaWaterways has a partnership for more active river cruises with hike-and-bike specialist Backroads.

For those seeking even more adventure, there continues to be more options for river cruising in exotic destinations.

For example, French river cruise company CroisiEurope this spring said it is building a river vessel that will sail the Chobe and Zambezi rivers in southern Africa in 2017. The 16-passenger boat will operate six-day cruises on the Chobe and Zambezi, which wind through and along several countries, including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, followed by a four-day land tour that includes safaris and a day at Victoria Falls.
Pandaw River Expeditions has introduced an itinerary on the Kapuas River System in western Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.
Pandaw River Expeditions has introduced an itinerary on the Kapuas River System in western Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.
Pandaw River Expeditions has been continuously pushing river cruise boundaries in Southeast Asia, where earlier this year the company introduced an itinerary on the Kapuas River system in western Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

The seven-day Into the True Heart of Borneo expedition is being offered on the company's 32-passenger Katha Pandaw. It will sail more than 300 miles along the upper part of the Kapuas, and will traverse the Danau Sentarum system of lakes, a national park that connects to the river. 

The Borneo rain forest is home to numerous species of flowering plants and animals, including the Bornean orangutan, the Bornean elephant, the Eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard and the Dayak fruit bat.

Pandaw is also building a ship for the upper Mekong River, the 28-passenger Yunnan, which is set to launch in September with a 14-night itinerary from Vientiane in Laos to Jinghong in China, a product that Pandaw introduced last year on the Laos Pandaw.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Carnival Corp.’s profit skyrockets in ‘remarkable’ Q2

Carnival Corp.’s profit skyrockets in ‘remarkable’ Q2

The launch of Holland America's Koningsdam was one of Carnival Corp.'s second-quarter highlights.

Driven by higher ticket prices and fuller ships, Carnival Corp. had net income of $605 million in the second quarter, up from $222 million a year earlier.
Net revenue yields rose 3.6%, significantly higher than the range of 1.5% to 2.5% in the company’s earlier forecast.
The results came despite a currency-exchange drag and fuel price increase equal to $127 million.
“This was among the most remarkable quarters in the history of the company,” said CEO Arnold Donald, citing not only the earnings but the introduction of three new flagships (Carnival Vista, Holland America Line’s Koningsdam and the AidaPrima) and the historic launch of Cuba cruises by the new Fathom brand.
Carnival’s revenue advanced slightly to $3.7 billion from $3.6 billion.
The increase in yield was a combination of a 3.5% increase in ticket prices and a 4% rise in onboard spending, CFO David Bernstein said.
Prices for Europe cruises on Carnival’s North America brands are lower although occupancies are up, Bernstein said.
Donald positioned the decision by Britain to leave the European Union as a boost for Cunard Line and P&O Cruises because their fares in the weakened pound sterling are now more competitive with land vacations abroad for British travelers.
Bernstein said every change of 10% or more in the pound’s value has an effect of about 8 cents a share, or about $60 million, on Carnival’s full-year results.
Donald said Carnival has looked at its U.K and European forecasts in light of the Brexit vote. “At this point, we have no reason to adjust anything,” he said.
Cruise stocks, including Carnival’s, were hit harder than the market in general after the British vote. After the earnings release, Carnival shares were up more than 4% but were up less than 0.25% by 11:30 am Eastern.
Asked about the future development of Fathom, Donald said that its cruises to the Dominican Republic are geared toward a “travel segment rather than cruise,” and that Carnival’s ability to access that segment is “challenging.” He said Cuba sailings on Fathom have been successful and are very strongly booked for fall, but that there are still unsold cabins on summer departures.

MSC Cruises partners with Jean Louis David hair salons

MSC Cruises partners with Jean Louis David hair salons

Hairdresser Jean Louis David has taken over the salons on several MSC Cruises ships, and the brand will be expanded fleetwide under a new partnership agreement.
Jean Louis David, founded in 1961 in Paris, has over 1,000 salons internationally. It will expand to 11 existing MSC ships and to new ships, beginning with the MSC Meraviglia in June 2017.
The first Jean Louis David salons are already open on the MSC Preziosa, MSC Fantasia and MSC Poesia. 
MSC’s agreement with Jean Louis David is the latest in a string of partnerships with brands that include Lego, Samsung, Cirque du Soleil and chocolatier Jean Philippe Maury.
Jean Louis David is owned by the Provalliance Group of Paris. 

Royal Caribbean to move Oasis ships to new Miami terminal

Royal Caribbean to move Oasis ships to new Miami terminal

The terminal will have two glass-faced buildings with slanted roofs facing each other.

MIAMI — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will move at least one and probably two of its Oasis-class ships to a new terminal it expects to open in Miami in 2018.
Two of the 5,400-passenger ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, currently sail from Port Everglades about 30 miles to the north. The new Harmony of the Seas will sail from Port Everglades from Nov. 17 to April 18.
At an event at the waterside Perez Art Museum in Miami, RCCL chairman Richard Fain announced that the new terminal will be designed by the architectural firm Broadway Malyan of Singapore. He unveiled renderings of the building, expected to be finished by the end of 2018.
The 170,000-square-foot terminal has two glass-faced buildings with slanted roofs facing each other, forming a shallow V. Royal Caribbean has dubbed it the “Crown of Miami.”
It is unusual because most cruise terminals are designed by engineers, not architects. “If we had been doing this 10 years ago, we would not have been so ambitious with the aesthetic side of it,” Fain said. 
But he said Miami has gone through an architectural renaissance. The Perez Art Museum, for example, was designed by the renowned Swiss firm Herzog & De Meuron.
The building will be part of a $200 million investment Royal Caribbean is making to build the terminal, which it will own, on land leased from Miami-Dade County. 
Fain said the terminal is intended to handle a single large ship at a time, and has room for a ship slightly larger than the 225,000-ton Oasis class. By 2018, Royal Caribbean will have four in the class, including a ship under construction for delivery in 2018. 
In a coup, Port Everglades in 2010 won the opportunity to be the home port for the first two Oasis ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. It will now lose one, possibly both, of those vessels. The Oasis of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral this winter.
“This will cement us as the cruise capital of the world,” said Port Miami director Juan Kuryla. He said the terminal is expected to boost the port’s annual traffic from 5 million to 6 million passenger movements and add 1 million passengers a year to RCCL's current total of 750,000.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Caribbean Princess

The new, wider locks on the Panama Canal will open June 26 with the first official transit of a cargo ship, but don’t expect much traffic through them from cruise ships.
Only one cruise ship has reserved space to move through the new locks, which are open to one cruise ship a day starting in June 2017, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess is scheduled to make a series of thirteen 10-day cruises through the canal beginning Oct. 21, 2017.
At 118 feet wide, the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess can’t fit into the 110-foot locks that were opened in 1914. The new locks had been scheduled to open in time for the centennial but were delayed by disputes between Panama and the consortia of contractors that built them.
The new locks rely on tugs rather than electric locomotives to move ships through them. Doubts have been raised about the ability to fit the tugs in the locks along with the longest ships, but at 951 feet, the Caribbean Princess will have room to spare in the 1,400 foot locks.
For cargo ships, questions have also been raised about the record-low depths of water in Gatun Lake, which connects locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal. Depths hit 81.75 feet earlier this year. But large cruise ships typically need only about 30 feet to operate.
Most cruise ships transiting the Panama Canal will continue to use the old locks. Cruise lines have several ships operating in Alaska that would need the new locks to move to the Atlantic, such as Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice. But for now they are stationed year-round in the Pacific, moving to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East during the winter.
A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line said Carnival doesn't have any full transit Panama Canal cruises scheduled through April 2018.
Holland America Line recently launched the Koningsdam, the first HAL ship that will not fit through the old locks, but it is currently deployed in Europe during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

New look QM2 sails into Southampton after £90m 'remastering'

New look QM2 sails into Southampton after £90m 'remastering'

Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 sailed into Southampton early this morning following a 25-day refit costing around £90 million.

The so-called ‘remastering’ of the 12-year old ship sees 50 new cabins added, including 15 for single travellers.

Ten additional kennels have been added for passengers taking their pets on transatlantic sailings, complete with a lamp post from Liverpool and a fire hydrant from New York to make dogs “feel at home”.

The work at a shipyard in Hamburg has seen a redesign and refurbishment of the Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites and restaurants, as well as Britannia cabins, with the remainder of the accommodation to be fully completed by the end of the year, according to Cunard.

A new speciality restaurant, The Verandah, has been introduced while the Kings Court buffet area has been completely restructured.

The redesign of key public spaces and restaurants includes transformation of the former Winter Garden into the Carinthia Lounge.

The ship’s exterior has been repainted, using more than 15,000 litres of paint applied to the hull alone, and “significant technical enhancements and structural changes” have been carried out.

More than one million man hours went in to the refurbishment over the 25 days with 55,200 square metres of new carpets laid - the equivalent of 10 football pitches.

A total of 4,000 new framed pictures have been brought on board as part of the refurbishment.

Cunard senior vice president, Simon Palethorpe, said ahead of the ship departing for New York later today: “Cunard’s passion for delivering a service and experience that both meets and exceeds guest’s expectations is transforming the way we travel by sea.

“Remastering Queen Mary 2 honours the heritage and iconic status of our magnificent ship to take our passengers forward into a new era of ocean travel.”

Fluctuating river levels could impact Europe cruise itineraries

Fluctuating river levels could impact Europe cruise itineraries

As another busy summer gets underway in Europe, river cruise passengers could once again face itinerary alterations due to high or low water levels.
Thus far, river cruise lines are reporting that water levels are a bit high on the Danube, Rhine and Rhone rivers, and a bit low on the Elbe.
Viking River Cruises has reported on its website that the Danube, Rhine and Rhone rivers currently have high water levels, which may result in delays, itinerary adjustments, and alternate embarkation or disembarkation points.
The high levels on the Danube are occurring near Passau, Germany, and the high levels on the Rhine are concentrated around southern Germany, Viking reported. Meanwhile, limited rainfall on the has disrupted sailings between Melnik in the Czech Republic and Bad Schandau in Germany, as well as the stretch between Wittenberg and Magdeburg in Germany.
Avalon Waterways on Monday updated its Facebook page to alert passengers that “due to increased rainfall this spring, water levels on some of Europe’s rivers are higher than normal.”
Avalon noted that there are cases where adjustments will be necessary, mostly affecting embarkation and disembarkation locations. “On occasion, when waters have been too high to navigate, we’re making alternate arrangements, which may include transferring guests to hotels. When this occurs, we offer our travelers complimentary accommodations, excursion choices as well as compensation for missed sailing days,” Avalon stated on Facebook.
“Weather forecasts look favorable this week,” the company stated, adding that “we ask that our guests understand that water levels change hourly, so much can change daily. In the meantime, we’re just ‘going with the flow.’”
Severe flooding on France’s Seine River caused river cruise disruptions there earlier this month.

Expanded Panama Canal Seen Greatly Increasing Insurance Risk

Expanded Panama Canal Seen Greatly Increasing Insurance Risk

The first trial run with a Post-Panamax cargo ship in the new sets of locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Panama June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
The first trial run with a Post-Panamax cargo ship in the new sets of locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Panama June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Thanks to for the update.

(The Loadstar) – Ahead of the official opening of the $5.25bn expanded Panama Canal this Sunday, the insurance industry is preparing itself for a big hike in risk from the increase in the value of insured goods as a consequence of the larger ships that will be transiting the waterway.
The new locks, which will create a third lane of traffic for larger neo-Panamax ships of up to around 13,000 teu, will allow more transits and potentially double the capacity of the canal, according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).
Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant at Allianz Global, said: “The expansion is significant because it impacts the size and frequency of vessels that call on the US east and Gulf Coast ports.”
A report by the insurer said that larger ships and more frequent transits could mean that up to an additional $1.25bn of insured goods would be passing through the canal in any given day.
“With the increase in size of vessels transiting the canal, you have a corresponding increase in operational, environmental and commercial risks,” explained Mr Kinsey.
The report noted that “bigger ships automatically pose greater risks” in that the sheer amount of cargo carried “dictates that a serious casualty has the potential to lead to a sizeable loss”.
The sinking of the 8,100 teu MOL Comfort after it broke its back in adverse weather off the Yemen coast in July 2013, is to date the largest containership to be recorded as a total loss.
The hull and machinery of the 2008-built ship were insured for $66m, but the biggest hit for insurers came from the 4,300 containers, where contents were reported to have had an insured value of between $50,000 and $1m, taking the estimated cargo claims to between $300m and $400m.
The 9,472 teu Cosco Shipping Panama, with a length of 300 metres and beam 48.25 metres will make the inaugural transit of the expanded Panama Canal on Sunday 26 June.
Prior to the expansion the maximum size of vessel able to navigate the canal was restricted by the 35-metre width of the locks allowing Panamax containerships of only up to around 5,100 teu to transit.
Toll revenues from Panama Canal transits were up 4.4% in 2015, compared to the previous year, at $1.994bn.
Since the canal first opened in 1914 more than 815,000 vessels have transited the waterway.
The Loadstar is fast becoming known at the highest levels of logistics and supply chain management as one of the best sources of influential analysis and commentary.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Meyer Turku Delivers Mein Schiff 5 Ahead of Schedule

Meyer Turku Delivers Mein Schiff 5 Ahead of Schedule

Mein Schiff 5 delivery. Credit: Meyer Turku
Mein Schiff 5 delivery. Credit: Meyer Turku
Thanks to

Finnish shipyard Meyer Turku on Monday delivered the cruise ship Mein Schiff 5 to TUI Cruises a full ten days ahead of schedule. 
Construction of the vessel began in November 2014 shortly after the Turku shipyard, formerly part of STX Finland, was acquired by State of Finland and German shipbuilder Meyer Werft. The order for Mein Schiff 5 – and Mein Schiff 6 – was actually finalized with the completion of the acquisition in September 2014. The vessels are sister ships to Mein Schiff 3 and Mein Schiff 4, completed in May 2014 and May 2015, respectively.
“Although this is already our third new build, it’s still incredibly exciting to see a new ship grow from the first steel cutting to the finishing interior touches. In a good two-year construction period, countless people have dedicated themselves to turning ten million components into our ship. We are looking forward to finally putting Mein Schiff 5 into service in mid-July,” said Wybcke Meier, CEO of TUI Cruises.
On Tuesday the Mein Schiff 5 and her approximately 1,000 crew members are expected to set sail for Kiel, the first German port of call where the ship will dock on June 23, 2016.
The 99,800 gross ton Mein Schiff 5 measures 295 meters long and will be able to accommodate 2,794 passengers. The vessel features an exhaust gas scrubber system that reduces sulphur emissions by approximately 99 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by around 75 percent. Combined with other eco-friendly technologies, energy consumption of theMein Schiff 5 is estimated to be 4 percent lower than on the sister ship Mein Schiff 3, making the vessel one of the most energy-efficient ships in its class.
“We had the unique opportunity to build on the high standard and success of Mein Schiff 3 andMein Schiff 4 to further perfect this series of ships with Mein Schiff 5. We are immensely proud of the result. This is in no small measure due to the trust and excellent cooperation with TUI Cruises,” Dr. Jan Meyer adds.
The keel for Mein Schiff 6 was laid in April.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Norwegian Dawn debuts after extensive refit

Norwegian Dawn debuts after extensive refit

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn sailed into her seasonal homeport of Boston, Massachusetts on 17 June following a month-long drydock.

Norwegian Dream, which was renovated as part of the US$400 million The Norwegian Edge programme, now has two new restaurants, three new bars and lounges, updated design and décor in all public spaces, and refurbished staterooms and suites.

“As with each of the ship refurbishments in the Norwegian Edge programme, this was not your average drydock,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and COO. “Norwegian Dawn was brought down to the steel in many spaces and rebuilt to evoke the look and feel of the newest Norwegian ships, allowing guests sailing on her to enjoy all of the freedom and flexibility that only Norwegian offers, along with a more premium experience from bow to stern.”

Norwegian Dawn debuts after extensive refit

New dining venues include Mexican restaurant Los Lobos Cantina, which will open on 1 July, and the popular O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill. Now, guests can also visit bars such as Sugarcane Mojito Bar, Bliss Lounge (formerly Spinnakers Lounge) and The Cellars, a Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar to enable guests to enjoy tastings and educational events. This venue was previously the Pearly King Pub.

Existing complimentary dining venues, such as The Venetian, Aqua, Bamboo Asian Restaurant and the Garden Café, have all been revamped with new flooring, wall coverings, furniture, artwork, signage and decorative lighting.

Similar upgrades where completed in the ship’s speciality restaurants, including Cagney’s Steakhouse and Moderno Churrascaria, which has been moved to Deck 13 adjacent to Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Le Bistro and La Cucina have also switched places, while Teppanyaki restaurant has been doubled in size to add to more tables and a divider between Bamboo and Teppanyaki.

The ship’s existing bars and lounges – such as Gatsby’s Champagne Bar and the Cigar Bar – have also been fitted with new flooring, furniture, decorative lighting, artwork and more. All staterooms received updated carpets, bedding, drapery, artwork, flat screen TVs and furniture. The two Garden Villas were completely remodeled with new flooring, inside and outside furniture, ceilings, lighting, bedding, décor and 42-inch flat screen TVs.

Other highlights include refreshed décor in the public spaces, elevators, toilets, the library and the Atrium – which also features an additional seating area – while the upgraded shopping area has been renamed Tradewinds. Tides, which sells jewellery, was added to the Atrium. The Photo Gallery also features individual digital monitors and larger photo display panels, while the Dawn Casino and Entourage teen space and video arcade were refurbished. The Stardust Theater has reupholstered and recushioned seats, and will offer performances of Band on the Run, Showdown and Elements.

Meanwhile, the pool deck has new decking, white awnings, exterior showers, pool loungers, and a fresh look to all exterior corridors. In addition, the Bimini Bar overlooking the main pool deck was redesigned, the Pulse Fitness Center now offers Techno Gym equipment, and the Mandara Spa has updated treatment rooms and a new barber shop, nail salon, spa pool and eight heated loungers.

Norwegian Dawn will sail from Boston to Bermuda each week until the end of October, spending three nights in port. In the winter, the ship will sail from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean, calling at Norwegian’s private island Harvest Caye, as well as Belize.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Cruise Review: Holland America Line's Koningsdam

Cruise Review: Holland America Line's Koningsdam

MS Koningsdam

With the recent launch of the groundbreaking 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, Holland America Line (HAL) has — in one fell swoop — refreshed and reenergized the brand with a musical hub, an elevated destination focus and culinary enhancements. Exceeding the incremental changes I had seen in previous HAL newbuilds, Koningsdam’s brighter and more daring interior design not only reflects the modern vision of designer Adam D. Tihany, but also emphasizes the line’s reach for new clientele, all while deftly striking a balance between contemporary and traditional styles.
While paying homage to HAL’s seagoing heritage with familiar public spaces such as Crow’s Nest and Explorer’s Bar, Koningsdam’s substantial departure from past HAL ship design is evidenced most clearly in its gorgeous dining room. With its cream-colored hues, rich feel and dramatic sweeping lines, the dining room makes a bold statement. Other public areas feature light woods and more colors than older sister ships, while white leather sofas and daybeds evoke a South Beach vibe on the upper pool deck. Sculptures, artwork, deck names and venues all follow a musical theme, while the line’s first purpose-built family and single staterooms enhance options for guests.
With a new focus on evening entertainment, HAL has upped the ante in the line’s Music Walk-branded trio of venues by featuring acts curated by prestigious institutions. Whether enjoying the soothing sounds of a five-piece chamber ensemble in Lincoln Center Stage; rocking to the beat of 50 years of pop music history in Billboard Onboard; or grooving to the soulful melodies of B.B. King’s All Stars, guests now have a wide range of high-caliber options in evening musical entertainment.
Main onboard showroom fare has been completely reimagined for the semicircular World Stage, where a 270-degree LED wall envelops both performers and audience members. New production shows such as One World — a music and dance performance featuring acrobatics, hauntingly beautiful music and impressive effects — is sure to wow cruisers. Meanwhile, a contemporary soundtrack courses through other public areas without overwhelming conversation.
While popular specialty restaurants The Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto are represented onboard Koningsdam, master chef Rudi Sodamin has introduced new venues and menus that lure diners in other directions.
In seafood brasserie Sel de Mer — HAL’s first a la carte restaurant — I enjoyed a delicious foie gras appetizer and bouillabaisse, while the casual Grand Dutch Cafe impressed me with authentic apple pancakes and Dutch pea soup. But Culinary Arts Center’s new farm-to-table dinner offers the most novel twist on alternative dining yet. Featuring show chefs and an open kitchen, the trendy menus — think celery and kale risotto and vacuum-poached seabass — are enhanced by microgreens grown in the Center’s CressOmatic “farm” system, adding a freshness factor that was previously unavailable. The $39 charge includes a welcome cocktail and unlimited organic wines.
HAL’s new Lido Market design, which is now rolling out fleetwide, delivers an upscale, international feel while further improving an industry-leading casual dining product. Themed stations present quality cuisine in an attractive, limited self-service environment, and guests are treated to high-quality dishes such as eggs florentine, roast duck, seared ahi tuna, carved leg of lamb and an extensive sushi selection, topped off by interesting demi-desserts and the line’s signature bread pudding.
Bringing the destination onboard, HAL’s Location Guides provide lectures that spotlight history, culture and context prior to port arrivals, while BBC Earth programming further enhances the experience for adults and Club HAL kids. On my sailing, a professional Spanish flamenco troupe entertained an appreciative, packed house in World Stage while the ship was docked in Gibraltar.
Koningsdam is HAL’s largest ship yet, as well as the first ship in the line’s new Pinnacle Class. While these game-changing factors will bring new attention to the line, familiar venues, quality cuisine and the always-warm and diverse crew ensure that the line’s loyal return passengers won’t be disappointed.

Royal Caribbean Teams With World Wildlife Fund

Royal Caribbean Teams With World Wildlife Fund

The small Philippine village of Donsol, a remote fishing community on the southern coast of Luzon island, played host early this year for the launch of a new partnership between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help conserve the planet’s oceans.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, and Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the WWF in the U.S., were on hand to announce the five-year initiative, a multitarget approach aimed at reducing the cruise line’s carbon emissions as well as boosting its seafood sourcing from certified vendors.
The partnership will also include new destination stewardship targets and sustainability assessment procedures for the many communities around the globe where Royal Caribbean calls, but those specifics aren’t scheduled for release until June 30.
“This is something we are passionate about and something that’s within our will to do,” Fain said. “So for us, this is a no-brainer.”
Explaining that he’s a strong believer in measurable goals, Fain noted that none of the targets will be easy to achieve, but he was confident the initiative would ultimately succeed. And according to Fain, while Royal Caribbean has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on water purifiers and exhaust emission scrubbers, teaming up with the WWF gives the cruise line an opportunity to do something better than it could do on its own.
“When you set the targets yourself, it’s a little bit like a self-imposed deadline,” he said. “If you don’t make it, you change your own deadline. But when you tie in with someone else, and you make a public commitment to those specific measures, it moves the needle.”
Major goals of the partnership include cutting cruise ship greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent over the next five years, responsibly sourcing 90 percent of its wild-caught seafood and responsibly sourcing 75 percent of its farmed seafood for North America and Europe operations from certified fisheries by 2020.
Royal Caribbean will also make $5 million in philanthropic contributions to the WWF’s global ocean conservation efforts over the next five years.
The targets in the new arrangement are clearly important to the WWF, but according to Roberts, an equally vital part of the deal is the chance to communicate with Royal Caribbean’s millions of customers onboard the company’s vessels, “to tell the story of the ocean, the plight of the ocean and to engage people to act and save the ocean.”
Plans to partner with Royal Caribbean on destination stewardship are also crucial for Roberts, who cited the model of his organization’s years of work with the people and government of Donsol — now home to a flourishing whale shark ecotourism economy — as a solid example of what could be achieved elsewhere.
The impoverished village of Donsol had been sitting on a tourism gold mine, thanks to its proximity to a healthy whale shark breeding ground. The WWF has since helped the community build regulation-based visitor products that not only profit from the region’s natural wonders, but also preserve them. 
“This was a small village with a mud path running through the center of town,” Roberts said of Donsol 10 years ago. “Now it’s a prosperous community because of the ability to connect people to the ecological riches here and build businesses around them.”

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Six Things Experienced Cruisers Would Never Do on a Norwegian Cruise

Six Things Experienced Cruisers Would Never Do on a Norwegian Cruise

Experienced cruisers are well prepared. From what to pack, to where to go, to what to do, these guests have traveling down to a fine art. Here are six things you would never catch a seasoned cruiser doing!


Boats in Italy
Though both ship and boat seem to be an interchangeable term among guests, seasoned cruisers know that calling these majestic beauties a “boat” is just not right. Due to factors like size and where and how the vessel operates, rightfully classifies our ships as... well ships.


Compass and Map
No matter how you cruise, there will come a time when you lose your sense of direction. If this isn't disorienting enough, try being told “aft, forward, starboard, and port.” Experienced cruisers know to brush up on their nautical terms before setting sail. When your captain announces, “complimentary lobster tails, Deck 15 Aft” you won’t want to miss a beat.


Shore Excursion Desk
There are two ways guests can go about their cruise, plan it out or play it by ear. Although both are fine options, you will never find an experienced cruiser with a checklist leaving it up to chance. These folks know what they want and they know that their wish list activities fill up fast. Whether it’s a specialty dining venue, a Broadway show, or a shore excursion, it pays to be proactive and book ahead of time!


Experienced cruisers are flexible with their travel plans. At any time the Captain can change a port of call due to things like inclement weather. Remember, the Captain has your best interest at heart if he has to reroute you to another destination.


Just like a draft can be created in your home, the same can be done onboard a cruise ship. Anyone who has ever stayed in a balcony room or a suite knows to be careful having the stateroom and balcony door open at the same time. With the ship reaching speeds of up to 26 knots (approximately 30 mph!), the right gust of wind could blow your valuables right out the door.


Garden Cafe
After a long day at the pool, there’s nothing better than heading over to the buffet for a cool drink and a bite to eat. “WASHY WASHY, HAPPY HAPPY, SMILEY SMILEY” the crew will echo as they greet you at the entrance, cleaning down your hands. Experienced cruisers embrace the “Washy Washy" crew, because they know the importance of cleanliness on a ship

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

MSC Cruises to open private island in Persian Gulf

MSC Cruises to open private island in Persian Gulf

MSC plans to open Sir Bani Yas Island Beach Oasis in December.

Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA, said a new private island that MSC plans to open in December off the coast of Abu Dhabi is a sign of the company’s global reach.
The island, called Sir Bani Yas Island Beach Oasis, includes about 1.5 miles of beachfront on a barrier island. It will offer horseback riding, water sports, and a dhow tour around the island, among other attractions. “It’s not just a beach with cabanas,” Sasso said.
A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species. “It will be a huge attraction because it's unique to the region,” Sasso said.
“We’re thinking very globally now,” said Sasso, noting that MSC has a “pause” between ship deliveries that has allowed it to focus on some off-ship projects.
A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species.
A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species.
MSC has 11 ships on order. The next to be delivered is MSC Maraviglia, due a year from now.
“We’ve got to start putting in some stronger anchors beyond the Mediterranean,” Sasso said. “South America was one of those, for the past 10 years. China has opened up as of two months ago. And North America is now getting a swarm of attention with the Divina here year-round and the Seaside coming."
Sir Bani Yas is the second private island announced by MSC in recent months. It previously disclosed plans for a large private island with extensive facilities in Bimini for use by its ships deployed in the Caribbean.
The island off the southwest coast of Abu Dhabi will initially host passengers from the MSC Fantasia. MSC has been working with the Abu Dhabi Port Authority for about two years to bring the project to fruition.

Norwegian Cruise Line giving Great Stirrup Cay a big upgrade

Norwegian Cruise Line giving Great Stirrup Cay a big upgrade

Great Stirrup Cay will have a new air-conditioned reception area.

VANCOUVER — Norwegian Cruise Line outlined plans to upgrade facilities at its Great Stirrup Cay private island in the Bahamas.
Norwegian will increase dining capacity by 50%, spend $1 million on new landscaping, and create 100,000 square feet of new pathways, including a new boardwalk along the beach.
Other features include a pair of parallel zip lines that will be 1,000 feet long and elevated 100 feet in the air, and a new air conditioned reception area where guests can get oriented, change clothes and make reservations.
New family activities will be available, including an underwater sculpture trail for snorkelers.
Great Stirrup Cay will have villas in its exclusive Lagoon Retreat area.
Great Stirrup Cay will have villas in its exclusive Lagoon Retreat area.
There will be a new lounge area with bar service in the center of the island, a new Landshark Bar & Grill and an Abaco Taco bar, as well as a redesigned buffet.
The amount of shaded area will be increased and more restrooms will be built.
A Lagoon Retreat aimed at high-end guests staying in Haven and Suite accommodations will have the Silver Palm restaurant, a private party room that can be reserved for groups of up to 75 and 22 air-conditioned villas (studio, one bedroom and two bedroom) for rent. A Mandara spa will be on site.
The Lagoon Retreat will be reserved for Haven guests, anyone who books a spa treatment and a limited number of guests on each cruise who will pay extra.
A posh Mandara Spa will have four treatment rooms.
A posh Mandara Spa will have four treatment rooms.
At a press conference at CLIA's Cruise360 conference, Norwegian president Andy Stuart said the features were not designed after MSC Cruises announced an island with similar amenities in Bimini last year. “We’ve had plans in place for a number of years,” Stuart said.
He declined to say what Norwegian will spend on the upgrades, other than to say it was part of Norwegian’s $400 million Norwegian Edge initiative.
The upgrades at Great Stirrup Cay are expected to be in place by spring 2017, except for the cabanas, which will open in the summer, Norwegian said.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Fantasy and Reality Mix on Harmony of the Seas

Fantasy and Reality Mix on Harmony of the Seas

Fantasy and Reality Mix on Harmony of the Seas
The world’s largest cruise ship — Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas — provides guests with a perfect blend of the ordinary and extraordinary

Escape from the everyday has always been a prime goal of vacationing. Travelers on a cruise not only want to travel to other parts of the world, but they also want to travel away from ordinary living — and many will try things they wouldn’t at home.
Nobody knows that better than Royal Caribbean International. The company’s most recent ship, the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, offers travelers a safe intersection between idealized reality and wild fantasy.
Nothing could be more centered in an iconic form of reality than the awnings and sidewalk tables of dining venue Sorrento’s pizzeria or the trees and benches of the vessel’s Central Park. But guests will also find fantastical elements onboard, such as a 5-ton metallic human head sculpture by Czech artist David Cerny; a greatly expanded; robotic bartenders; bracelets that open doors; and the “stowaway piano player,” which could appear on the ship’s elevators, by the buffet and in other unexpected places. In kid-centric waterpark Splashaway Bay, sea creature double as water cannons, and in optical illusions and more transform divers, acrobats and high-flying performers. 
Guests can feel like the main character of author Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” when they dine in Wonderland restaurant, which has been expanded to two decks and offers "maddeningly delicious" menu items and magical, elegant decor. Mysterious elixirs whisper “Drink me,” dishes arrive shrouded in smoke, and the magic extends to the flavors of the unusual menu. 
Out on deck, the familiar fantasy of the carousel is paired with the much more unusual ride of the ship’s new slides, which have been transformed from slippery speed runs to full sensory experiences. The most dramatic slide, Ultimate Abyss, has a drop of 150 feet and features twin slides made of stainless steel tubes about 2.5 feet in diameter. Adventurous guests step from a glass platform onto special mats and launch themselves at 9 mph through the toothy jaws of a fish along a twisting route 10 decks down, accompanied by audio effects. 
With all of its special features, which are brand new and brought over from earlier Quantum- and Oasis-class ships, Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship and 25th in the Royal fleet, comes in at a cost of more than $1billion. 
Arriving in Barcelona in early June, the vessel will launch initial inaugural sailings of 34 seven-night Western Mediterranean cruises. In November, it will arrive in the U.S., settling in its homeport of Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. 

Doing some water-level damage control

Doing some water-level damage control

By Michelle Baran 

Any river cruise enthusiasts who saw the images of France’s Seine River creeping towards the tops of Paris’ elegant bridges last week probably had the same thought I did — this can’t be good for the river cruise business.

River cruise lines admit that the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris dealt a pretty harsh blow to their 2016 France bookings and that the March attacks in Brussels didn’t help either. But slowly, sales were coming back. 

And then the rains came, pushing the Seine so high last week that iconic institutions such as the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay museums in Paris temporarily closed.

Obviously, no river cruise vessels were able to sail under those Paris bridges for a time. 

But as it turns out, the flooding was relatively short-lived and the water levels are receding. The Louvre reopened on Wednesday, and the river cruise lines reported minimal disruptions and anticipated that sailings would return to normal in line with the receding water levels.

What was likely more disruptive were the images of the floodwaters in Paris, which isn’t the kind of marketing the river cruise industry — especially in France where bookings are still fragile — needs right now. 

But river cruise lines have been learning how to cope. Over the past several years they have taken a fair amount of flak for a lack of transparency and clear communication about water level issues, and they are working on being much more open about exactly how high and low waters are impacting their sailings.

Viking, for example, now how has a dedicated page on its website where travel agents and passengers can see all updates on disruptions, no matter how big or small. Because the Viking fleet is so large and its operations so vast, this page can actually serve as a comprehensive resource for anyone with concerns about water levels that wants to check up on a river they plan to sail.

A river cruise tour guide has also put together a website documenting water levels in Europe throughout the season. Though by no means a comprehensive or official source, this is another good place for concerned passengers and travel sellers to check.

But ultimately, river cruise lines themselves should be and increasingly are the go-to source for questions about high and low waters and specific changes to itineraries, as each line has different contingency plans in place. The good news is that while water levels will always be a nagging problem on rivers, at least river cruise lines are learning how to do more and better damage control, which will ultimately mean smoother sailing through the issue than in the past.