The Voyager with Josh Garcia (photo courtesy of Carnival Corporation)
Three of Carnival Corp.’s travel television series have been extended for a second season ABC and NBC stations.
The company made the announcement at the ASTA Global Convention at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.
Season two of “The Voyager with Josh Garcia” will premiere on NBC stations beginning Saturday, September 30. “Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” and “Vacation Creation with Tommy Davidson and Andrea Feczko” will debut on ABC affiliates the following week on Saturday, October 7.
The renewals come a year after Carnival’s first original travel programming and is part of Carnival Corp.’s focus on producing and distributing compelling experiential content.
All three shows were ranked as number one or number two in their time slot during the inaugural season.
“Based on the exceptionally positive viewing results and the overall increased interest in cruise vacations following our shows’ inaugural year, we are extending our programming and growing our content library for the 2017 to 2018 season,” said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation
The company’s brands include Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises (Australia) and P&O Cruises (UK), as well as Fathom, its immersive, enrichment experience brand.
“Championing the extraordinary experiences that our guests enjoy while on a cruise vacation via original programming is key to expanding the market’s awareness and generating demand for cruising,” Padgett added.
According to Carnival Corp., cruise vacations are growing 20 percent faster than land-based trips. That stat is evidence that Americans’ interest in cruise vacations is becoming more and more popular, it said.
It also cited an Adobe Digital Insights study, released earlier this year, that showed the number of visits to cruise websites had increased 32 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2017.
Three of Carnival Corp.’s original series—which debuted in fall 2016 and are distributed by Litton Entertainment—were honored recently with 10 Telly Awards for the best in TV and cable, digital and streaming and non-broadcast productions.
“Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” broadcasts nationally as part of the daytime Emmy-winning block “Weekend Adventure,” a three-hour programming block airing Saturday mornings on 98 percent of the country’s ABC affiliate channels.
In season two, Corwin takes audiences to Iceland, Belize and Peru while also sharing his family with viewers as they visit Japan. There, Corwin connects with the one creature that’s alluded him for more than 20 years—the giant Japanese salamander.
The new season of the “Vacation Creation with Tommy Davidson and Andrea Feczko” will also be featured on ABC’s “Weekend Adventure.” It takes viewers beyond the typical travel show by personalizing vacations of a lifetime for couples, individuals and families facing hardship, in need of hope or seeking much-needed time together.
From revealing the wondrous glaciers of Alaska to encounters with the mystical Moko Jumbie of the Virgin Islands, the show celebrates the importance of spending time with family and friends, along with discovering how the world can help people learn more about each other and their family history. Along the way, viewers share their stories of overcoming adversity, while taking part in extraordinary experiences.
“The Voyager with Josh Garcia” returns for a second year as part of the network’s nationally broadcasted “The More You Know” programming block.
This season, viewers will travel with Garcia to Alaska’s majestic Mendenhall glacier, sample traditional Thai food in Bangkok and venture into the mountains of Taiwan to learn how traditional tea is farmed and prepared.
Carnival Cruise Line has now canceled two cruises from Galveston that it had hoped to offer in a shortened format.
Based on the uncertainty of the port reopening, Carnival said the Aug. 26 sailing of Carnival Freedom and the Aug. 27 departure of Carnival Breeze have been canceled.
Carnival, which had previously canceled the five-day Carnival Valor sailing from Galveston departing Aug. 26, also canceled the next Carnival Valor cruise leaving Aug. 31.
Guests will have a full refund processed to the original form of payment within three weeks, and will receive a 25% future cruise credit if a reservation is made in the next 60 days.
Coast Guard and port officials can’t say with any certainty when the port will reopen, Carnival added, but suggested it won’t be until late this week at the earliest.
The three Carnival ships will make stops in New Orleans during the next two days to let guests disembark if they want to make independent arrangements to return home. They can also wait and sail back to Galveston, Carnival said.
Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation and Carnival Chairman Micky Arison’s family foundation have joined forces to help Texas recover from the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the United States since 2004.
Carnival Cruise Line and its philanthropic arm, Carnival Corporation, are each donating $500,000, for a total of $1 million. Arison and his wife Madeleine are matching that with an additional $1 million donation from their foundation.
“Our hearts go out to all those who have been impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and all of us throughout the Carnival Corporation family feel a responsibility to do our part in supporting relief and rebuilding efforts in a region that we call home and where so many of our guests and business partners live and work,” Christine Duffy, Carnival Cruise Line president, said in a statement.
“We are very committed to the Gulf Coast as a vibrant and special part of the North American cruise industry, and our commitment will remain as strong as ever during the region’s recovery process.”
To help drum up even more donations for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, cruise guests sailing on some Carnival cruises will be given the option to make a donation when they check in for their cruise. The corporation’s brands and employees will be participating as well.
The cruise company said it is working with emergency response officials, community leaders and other key relief and recovery organizations to identify the most urgent needs and immediate allocations for the donation.
In particular, the cruise company wants the money to be used to support on-the-ground teams that are distributing emergency supplies as well as to support rebuilding efforts.
The money will help provide families with access to food, shelter, water, hygiene products, general necessities and medicines.
At least 12 people have died in the Texas flooding. One of them, Houston police Sgt. Steve Perez, drowned while trying to get to work, according to CNN.
Costa Cruises said it will overhaul its fare structure, giving guests four levels of amenities to choose from.
The new fares, which take effect April 1, are broken out into Basic, Total Comfort Classic, Total Comfort Premium and Deluxe categories.
Passengers wishing to build only the standard complimentary amenities, such as meals and entertainment, can opt for Basic, the most affordable fare. Cabins are assigned.
A step up, the Comfort level is divided into two sub-categories. With Total Comfort Classic, guests get a Pranzo e Cena beverage package, which allows unlimited wines, beers and soft drinks by the glass for lunch and dinner. Guests are also able to choose a specific cabin.
A Total Comfort Premium fare is similar but ups the beverage package to Brindiamo beverage package allowing guests to have their favorite drinks at any time of day. Costa said guests are able to choose "a specific cabin in a prime location, as well as select first or second seating at dinner."
The Deluxe fare is for suite guests. Amenities include one-day spa access and the Intenditore beverage package, which provides unlimited drinks priced up to $9 served by the glass, as well as other perks. With the Deluxe package, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the Club Restaurant, Costa said.
In 2014, one of Costa's most direct competitors, MSC Cruises, adopted a fare structure that offered four levels of distinction, dubbed Bella, Fantastica, Aurea and Yacht Club.
On most cruise lines, different fares are attached to inside, oceanview, balcony and suite accommodations.
The new mayor of Dubrovnik said he is in favor of halving the number of cruise passengers arriving daily at the Adriatic port city in Croatia.
Mayor Mato Frankovic, elected in June, told London's Telegraph newspaper that the current soft ceiling of 8,000 passengers a day should be reduced to 4,000.
He also called for limits on tour operators running day trips to the walled medieval city, which has been a Unesco world heritage site since 1979.
A 2015 Uneco mission recommended that a cap on cruise tourism be developed, and that it should not exceed 8,000 passengers per day.
The Dubrovnik Port Authority said on its website that the cap was exceeded 18 times in 2016 out of the 243 days when cruise ships called. It also said it refused 40 cruise call requests for this year.
Dubrovnik has become one of the most popular stops on an itinerary from Venice to the Eastern Mediterranean, or the reverse route. Last year Dubrovnik had 639 ship calls and handled 831,730 passengers, up 0.1% from the year before, according to Med Cruise, an association of Mediterranean cruise ports. Of those, 763,561 were transit passengers, ranking Dubrovnik behind only six other ports of call in the Mediterranean region.
Frankovic said he would like to see a "reset" for tourism, and that ship calls need to be spaced more evenly so the weekend crush is reduced.
The Unesco report said 90% of cruise calls to Dubrovnik come between May and October. And although cruise visitors accounted for only 2.5% of all visitors in 2013, "they have a disproportionate impact on the World Heritage property due to their concentration in time and space," the report said.
Genting World Dream sistership to the Genting Dream
Genting Cruise Lines is set to launch World Dream, the newest ship for Dream Cruises, this November at her dual homeports in Hong Kong and Guangzhou (Nansha) to continue to grow the Pearl River Delta cruise industry and provide fly/cruise options for the region with new itineraries to Vietnam and the Philippines.
Genting said in a prepared statement that the World Dream has been conceived as a floating high-end, integrated resort at sea leveraging on the parent company Genting Hong Kong’s core expertise in both land and sea based businesses. The debut of World Dream will further enhance the brand’s capacity to offer a broad spectrum of multi-generational programs and facilities for guests, highlighted by Asian hospitality and a market leading crew-to-guest ratio.
“Genting Cruise Lines is reinforcing our position in the Pearl River Delta Region by welcoming the World Dream to begin her service with dual homeports in Guangzhou (Nansha) and Hong Kong, following in the footsteps of the Genting Dream,” said Kent Zhu, president of Genting Cruise Lines. “Designed to cater to the growing Chinese market with tailor-made facilities, including quad occupancy staterooms to accommodate families, the World Dream will further build upon our ongoing commitment to this region, which has seen Guangzhou (Nansha) evolve into China’s second busiest port and the strengthening of Hong Kong as a premier fly/cruise hub.”
Six-day/five-night cruises will call at Manila and Boracay in the Philippines from Nov. 17 through March 31, alternating with same length sailings to Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang in Vietnam from Dec. 3 to October 2018, targeting both local and international guests.
The twin sister ship the Genting Dream, meanwhile, will be deployed at her new homeport in Singapore with new itineraries to North Bali and Surabaya in Indonesia, as well as Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia and Phuket in Thailand.
"By doubling Dream Cruises Fleet with the addition of World Dream, we are delighted to be offering our guests and valued travel partners diverse itineraries featuring new, authentic destination experiences," commented Thatcher Brown, President of Dream Cruises.
Celebrity's sleep-focused spa treatments are long overdue
Anyone who isn't sleeping well, or sleeping at all, knows that there's nothing more important than a good night's rest. And who hasn't had problems getting to sleep at some point, or suffered along with a partner who couldn't sleep?
So the new Celebrity Cruises wellness program that focuses on sleep is a fantastic idea and long overdue in the cruise industry.
Celebrity launched its "Mindful Dreams" program on the Celebrity Equinox and the Celebrity Summit this month, with the rest of the fleet to follow in September.
The program was developed in partnership with Canyon Ranch, which has been Celebrity's spa concessionaire since 2014.
How many spa treatments have the potential to change your life more than one that improves the amount and quality of sleep you get? How many would affect so many people?
According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder of some kind. About 10% of adults report chronic insomnia. Nearly half the population has problems with snoring.
When unable to sleep, far too many people turn to pharmaceutical solutions as a first option, rather than a last. A 2013 study from the National Institutes of Health found that 4.1% of Americans use a prescription sleep aid, with the number rising to at least 5.5% for those aged 50 and over.
"Mindful Dreams" instead offers a combination of a relaxation treatment, massage and meditation, and access to expert lectures and classes on a "holistic approach to mindful sleep both on land and at sea."
There is also a nutrition component.
While many cruise lines promote the relaxing quality of the mattresses and beds onboard, that relaxation lasts only as long as the cruise. This program could have an impact long after the cruise is over.
The cruise industry, which is forecast to post revenues in excess of $37 billion this year, could reach $55 billion over the next decade, according to the 2017-2018 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.(there is a charge for the report)
The projected growth track would make Carnival Corporation a $22 billion business in 2027, up from $16.3 billion last year, based on estimated passenger capacity, ship deployments and current spend per passenger per cruise of approximately $1,422 across all of its brands.
Royal Caribbean could see its revenues grow to $12.2 billion from $8.5 billion last year based on its current spend per passenger per cruise of $1,476; and Norwegian could reach $7.5 billion, compared to $4.9 billion last year, based on its current spend per passenger per cruise of $2,025 (including Oceania and Regent).
MSC Cruises could reach $6.6 billion from $2.4 billion last year. Being privately-held and not releasing financial results, the revenue for MSC is calculated based on an industry average spend of approximately $1,500 per passenger per cruise,
The average industry-wide spend per passenger per cruise has stayed in the $1,400 to $1,600 range for the past 10 years.
MSC Cruises latest new generation ship MSC Seaview was floated out at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy today.
The 5,179-passenger vessel is the second ship in the Seaview class of ships and is part of a €9 billion, ten year investment plan.
Sister ship MSC Seaside is due to enter service in November following MSC Meraviglia in June.
MSC Seaview is set to join the fleet in June 2018 with an inaugural season in the Mediterranean before transferring to Brazil for winter 2018-19.
Chief executive, Gianni Onorato, said: “We are truly leading the way with our ship designs, as each new class of ships that we bring into service is rooted in meeting the needs of holidaymakers of different ages, demographics and holiday desires.
“With MSC Seaview, in particular, our vision has been inspired by our passion for the sea and we are appealing to guests who are seeking the classic elements of a holiday – sun and sea – taken to the next level with a one-of-a-kind fully immersive and interactive seaside experience even whilst cruising at sea.”
Executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “The float out of MSC Seaview is another significant milestone in the expansion of our fleet.
“She is part of a ten year investment plan that will have already seen the delivery of six new ships by 2020.
“We are already the market leading cruise brand in the Mediterranean and Europe and the deployment of MSC Seaview in this key region will help us further push boundaries by bringing one of the most innovative cruise ships to an area that we are deeply committed to and is a cornerstone of our business.”
The report and complementary site detail the company's sustainability efforts and the progress made in 2016 toward its 2020 sustainability performance goals. The report was prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 "core" level, and a full copy can be downloaded from Carnival Corporation's new site, according to a prepared statement.
"We take our commitment to sustainability and the environment very seriously and take proactive measures to ensure that sustainability is ingrained in the core of our business practices," said Bill Burke, chief maritime officer for Carnival Corporation, whose industry-leading cruise lines sail to more than 760 ports around the world. "Our top priority is to consistently exceed our guests' expectations for a great cruise vacation – and that includes providing an exceptionally safe, comfortable and enjoyable environment for our guests and crew members, while at the same time maintaining our deep commitment to protecting the oceans, seas and destinations we visit."
Added Burke: "We have a great team of employees, most of whom work and live at sea, and we all understand a healthy environment is not just an operating necessity, but it is also the right thing to do. We want our guests to be confident that when they book a cruise vacation with one of our brands, they are doing so with a responsible global corporate citizen."
Among the highlights, according to Carnival:
Being ahead of schedule in achieving a nearly 25 percent reduction in CO2e (equivalent carbon dioxide) relative to the 2005 baseline.
Pioneering the use of LNG (liquefied natural gas), the world's cleanest burning fossil fuel, and introducing the first cruise ship ever fueled with LNG from trucks while in port.
Continuing to make progress in installing Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems, which significantly improve air emissions by reducing sulfur compounds and particulate matter from engine exhaust – by the end of 2016, 59 percent of the fleet was equipped with the systems (and a larger percentage is equipped with the systems as of today).
40 percent of the fleet was equipped with cold ironing capabilities by the end of 2016, which allows ships to use an alternative power source while in port.
Expanding its partnership with Wärtsilä to include a long-term diesel engine maintenance agreement with an energy-efficiency component.
Continuing installation of Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), which significantly reduce sulfur compounds and particulate matter from ship engine exhaust.
Making a significant commitment to its employees in terms of high-quality training by establishing the new Arison Maritime Center, home of the Center for Simulator Maritime Training Academy, also known as the CSMART Academy.
Opening the second of three planned state-of-the-art Fleet Operations Centers (FOC) in Seattle with the most advanced ship-to-shore communications technologies available to assist captains, chief engineers and deck and engineering officers with digital support, control and planning of all nautical and technical operations.
Royal Caribbean International cut steel to mark the start of construction for the Spectrum of the Seas (Quantum Ultra), which will be delivered from Meyer Werft in 2019 and head for the Asia market.
"Set to debut in 2019, Spectrum will be the next evolution of the cruise line’s groundbreaking and high-tech Quantum class of ships placing the ship in a new class of her own. The revolutionary Quantum Ultra ship will specifically be designed for guests in China and the Asia-Pacific region, and will feature cutting-edge and unprecedented experiences and amenities," the company said.
“Today is a very special day in the development of our new Quantum Ultra ship, Spectrum of the Seas. We are now one step closer to delighting our guests in Asia Pacific with this remarkable ship,” said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “Spectrum will be another giant leap forward in vessel design and guest experiences that will provide travelers with ample opportunities to create unforgettable memories.”
The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board announced that the city has reported an increase of over 6% in hotel occupancy for the first 6 months of the year, with an average occupancy rate for January to June of close to 90% compared to 73% in 2016 and 70% in 2015.
Similarly, the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) handled 1,843,600 international passenger arrivals, in the first half of the year, 12.1% more than the same period in 2016. In addition, 189,324 passengers visited the destination while on cruise calls to the Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port, a 2% increase compared to 2016.
The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board credits the success of its consistent and proactive promotional and communication campaign in its primary markets including as Mexico, the US and Canada as well as emerging markets in South America and Europe for the continued increase in visitor arrivals. In addition, the tourism board’s strategic PR efforts targeting specific niche markets have played a role.
Puerto Vallarta is home to the most hotels with Diamond Awards in Mexico and is also described as Mexico’s leading culinary beach destination, with more than 350 restaurants.
Royal Caribbean offers to give Parliament the horn
The Queen Elizabeth Tower holds the Big Ben Bell.
Royal Caribbean has offered up one of its ship’s horns to be played from Parliament Square after it was announced Big Ben would be silenced for four years.
Royal Caribbean Cruises has written to Speaker of The House of Commons, John Bercow MP, offering to adapt one of its horns to strike every hour to the note of E – accompanied by four quarter blasts every 15 minutes.
Yesterday, the House of Commons said it would look again at the length of time Big Ben will be silenced during renovation work after “concerns” were raised.
The bell is to be put out of use – except for special occasions – for four years on Monday to allow repairs to the surrounding Elizabeth Tower.
But Prime Minister Theresa May said “it can’t be right” that the famous bongs will not be heard again until 2021.
The letter from Royal Caribbean reads: “Having chimed – almost – unbroken for the past 157 years, we’ve heard The Great Bell will be out of action for four years and were compelled to try and help.
“Rather than leave the capital in silence, the Royal Caribbean team have put in a word with our UK and Ireland managing director, Ben Bouldin (the other Big Ben), and he would be more than happy to lend you one of our ship’s horns until 2021 to play from Parliament Square. To keep as close as possible to our great traditions, we could specially adapt our horn to strike every hour to the note of E – accompanied by four quarter blasts every 15 minutes.
Carnival Cruise Line has tacked on five more voyages featuring extended calls in Havana in 2018.
Like the previously scheduled ones, the cruises are on the Carnival Paradise sailing from Tampa.
They include three five-day cruises to Havana and Cozumel or Key West departing Feb. 17, July 2 and Sept. 5, 2018; a six-day sailing featuring Havana and Grand Cayman departing Aug. 26, 2018; and an eight-day voyage with stops at Havana, Grand Cayman and Cozumel departing Aug. 18, 2018.
All of the cruises include a day-long call and overnight in Havana and the eight-day cruise offers two full days at the Cuban capital.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has received approval to add a second vessel cruising to Grand Bahama from the Port of Palm Beach.
Bahamas Paradise said that next year it will add the Costa Cruises ship neoClassica. The neoClassica will leave Costa's fleet in March.
The port commission voted 5-0 to approve the line's plan, which will result in daily cruises to Grand Bahama starting in April 2018. The line currently sails to Grand Bahama every other day.
Bahamas Paradise operates the 1,500-passenger MV Grand Celebration on a schedule that departs the Port of Palm Beach in the evening, spends all day docked in Freeport the following day, and returns overnight to the Port of Palm Beach. The ship sailed for Carnival Cruise Line as the Celebration from 1986 to 2008.
The ship will do the same itinerary to Grand Bahama as the Grand Celebration.
The port projects that with two ships offering two-day cruises at 60% occupancy, it will attract 765,000 passengers.
Royal Caribbean lands Bonnie Tyler to perform on eclipse cruise
Bonnie Tyler will perform Total Eclipse of my Heart.
Google "Eclipse song" and you'll find the lyrics to Bonnie Tyler's 1983 pop hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
So it's appropriate that Tyler sing the song on a cruise celebrating the upcoming total eclipse on Aug. 21.
Tyler, 66, will roll out her biggest hit before a performance by the considerably more youthful Joe Jonas-led pop band DNCE, best known for "Cake By the Ocean," recorded 32 years later.
DNCE was previously announced as entertainment on the Royal Caribbean International's "Total Eclipse Cruise" aboard the Oasis of the Seas. The addition of Tyler was a surprise.
The Oasis will be cruising in the path of the total eclipse a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 21, giving guests an early look before the sun in eclipse reaches the coast of South Carolina.
The seven-night Total Eclipse Cruise sets sail on Aug. 20 from Port Canaveral, visiting St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau in the Bahamas.
Norwegian Cruise Line cancels ‘neo-Nazi’ cruise booking
Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled a Caribbean cruise booking for a far right group’s conference.
Rebel Media – which has been dubbed a “neo-Nazi” organisation – is advertising its planned week-long sailing on an NCL ship out of Miami in November on its website as a “great way to meet like-minded Rebels”.
The Canadian-based group has members including Gavin McInnes, who has taken to Twitter to write “10 things I hate about Jews”, and Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) – the former leader of the English Defence League (EDL).
Race-fuelled riots took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the United States, last week which sparked violent clashes.
The event has drawn the attention of campaign group Hope not Hate, which is calling on NCL to cancel the booking.
The cruise line issued a statement which said: “We recently became aware that one of several affinity groups that booked space on an upcoming sailing was associated with and espoused views that are inconsistent with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings core values.
The company has therefore exercised its right to cancel this group’s reservation and provide a full refund. As a matter of policy, the company neither discusses nor discloses the identities of our individual guests or groups.”
Ever been on a cruise, and browsed the Jewelry shop on board; then Stop and Think. On a recent Norwegian Jade cruise to Norway, Iceland and Scotland we went into the Colombian Emeralds International shop, full of tempting jewelry, from rings, watches, and necklaces.
My Son and I are interested in watches and between us we have a good collection, I'd see an advert in the Atrium for a Citizen Atomic Timekeeper, with a Titanium strap, the price on the label was over $1100 but with their discount became $560; Wow. Great sales pitch and with the guarantee of 'You Can't Buy This Cheaper At Home'; they were right. The Watch is not available in the UK or US markets; but thanks to the internet and a bit of hunting i found it, with a surprise only $65 cheaper; Not to bad.
Another story which prompted me to blog this topic was from a fellow guest. This lady and her friend looked at a Sapphire ring with diamonds around it, total of 4.6 carats. Price before the discount was $460k after the discount she was offered a price; came down by a whopping $241k to a attractive $219k. The ladies in question decided to go away and ponder on the price. The following day and a different sails person offered the same ring to her Husband for $485k after discount!!!! the ladies went there 20 minutes later and yes you have guessed it, she was given a price of $179k a price drop of $40k in 12 hours of their own price but $306k difference from her husband.
How can there be so many prices, for the same ring, nether mind a different price for a male. Needless to say they didn't buy the ring, and told me the story knowing i'm a cruise blogger. I've since researched Colombian Emeralds International quite deeply and found that on the Guarantee it states
' In the guarantee, it specifically says that there is no guarantee that the purchase will appraise for the purchase price, because "appraisals are subjective"'.
and on cruise website with forums there a lot of complaints about the value of their goods.
So whats the answer, if you like what you see and how it feels, and reminds you for a great cruise then is the price any concern, after all how many of us are willing to buy a photo we don't want for $15 to $20 each, when the average website photo print price is about $0.40 per photo. What price can you put on good memories, but do beware if they can knock off 70% straight away then red flags should be waved.
A rendering of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a 95-acre outcrop about 65 miles east of Miami.
Thirty years ago, the idea of going to a private island in the Bahamas was enough to get cruise passengers excited. A piece of rock with a strip of beach, a barbecue for lunch and some basic watersports was the formula, and it worked fine at the time.
But now, cruise lines are launching a new set of islands or upgrading old ones, adding luxury amenities and enhancements large and small, all meant to turbocharge the guest experience.
These 2.0 versions of private islands have better bars, acres of lounge chairs, more shade, improved landscaping and easier accessibility. Many have features such as ziplines, spas and deluxe beach pavilions. Even an entertainment amphitheater is in the works at MSC Cruises' project.
"They're definitely trying to make it more of an upscale experience," said Roger Blum, principal at Cruise & Port Advisors, a Miami consulting firm.
For cruise lines, private islands have become another front in the competitive battle that already includes ship design and construction, advertising and marketing strategies, field sales forces and travel agent relations.
All hope that cruise passengers will want to spend time on their islands, enjoying the white sands, leafy pathways, swimming pools, bars and recreation gear. None can afford to be left behind.
MSC's Ocean Cay
One of the most ambitious projects underway is the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a 95-acre outcrop about 65 miles east of Miami, near the Bahamian island of Bimini. The property had previously been used to mine sand and has very little in the way of natural vegetation or tourism infrastructure.
MSC has budgeted $200 million to transform the island into an attraction that its ships can use day and night.
"Our aim is to turn an industrial wasteland into a thriving environment for man and nature alike, bringing the island and its surrounding waters back to their original state," MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said in a January ceremony to mark the start of construction.
Until recently, MSC lacked the deployment in the Caribbean to justify the expense of a private island. But with the arrival of the MSC Seaside in November, the cruise line will have two big new ships sailing from Miami, plus two ships serving European winter fly-cruise passengers from Havana.
Together, the ships could send nearly 700,000 passengers a year to the island. Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is scheduled to open in November 2018.
Carnival's private Bahamian beach
Also putting together an outpost for its flotilla sailing in the Caribbean and the Bahamas is Carnival Cruise Line, which is the largest operator without a dedicated private island in the Bahamas.
In May, Carnival signed a long-awaited agreement to build a 226-acre private beach attraction on the eastern part of Grand Bahama Island. The northerly location is convenient to Carnival ships up and down the East Coast, cruising from cities such as Baltimore; Norfolk, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and even New York.
Carnival's year-round deployment in the Caribbean and Bahamas means it can justify the investment, estimated by the Nassau Tribune at $100 million.
At a signing ceremony, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said Carnival had been working for the better part of 15 years to establish a "new and authentic" Bahamian port experience.
"I am very pleased that this port is now on track to become a reality," he said.
The as-yet-unnamed Carnival port will rank as "the largest purpose-built cruise facility ever constructed in the Bahamas," Donald said. It is eventually expected to host up to 1 million passengers a year.
Bigger ships, bigger private islands
One reason that private beach attractions are getting bigger is that the ships going to them are getting bigger.
When Eastern Steamship Lines opened a private Bahamian island on Little Stirrup Cay in 1983, it was sailing the 962-passenger Emerald Seas there on three- and four-night cruises.
Today the successor to Eastern, Royal Caribbean International, has three ships that carry 5,400 passengers each at double occupancy. To accommodate them, Royal is upgrading the island, now called CocoCay.
The first step is to add a permanent pier, so guests don't have to take tenders from the ship to get ashore. When Disney Cruise Line opened its Castaway Cay island in 1998 with its own pier, it became the new standard for passenger convenience, as guests could easily come and go from the ship during a daylong stay.
"The installation of the fixed pier will allow for the additional safety of the cruise passengers and employees on the cay where they will be able to have direct access to the Island instead of tendering boats," Bahamas prime minister Perry Christie said in announcing the $40 million project.
On Grand Bahama, Carnival's plan includes a pier that can dock two 3,000-passenger ships at once. MSC is also planning to dredge a channel and build a pier for its large ships, making them easier to offload.
At CocoCay, after building the pier, a second phase of Royal's improvements will include a new craft marketplace, a shore excursion building, a bike and equipment rentals structure and a transportation center. Plans also call for a building for suite guests, a new active aquatic zone, additional food and beverage venues and more infrastructure and landscaping, Christie said.
A third phase is expected to add a ropes course, zipline, water park, lagoon cabanas and pools, Christie said. The $150 million project is targeted for completion by 2019, with the dock opening timed to the debut of the Symphony of the Seas next spring.
In making its improvements, Royal is keeping up with rival Norwegian Cruise Line, which opened a new island port of call in Belize with many similar features in 2016 and is in the process of upgrading its resort at Great Stirrup Cay, just a stone's throw from the smaller CocoCay.
Norwegian re-engineers its island
By most accounts, Great Stirrup Cay was the cruise industry's original private island, purchased by Norwegian in 1977. Guests go ashore in 300-person tenders with ramps that drop from the bow.
Norwegian has made improvements over the years but nothing as dramatic as those it made in 2016-17.
The line has learned from 40 years of operations what works and what doesn't. On a recent visit, Carlos J. Gonzalez, director of out-island projects at Norwegian, explained some of the new enhancements.
For one thing, Norwegian has re-engineered the beach, which drew complaints that it was too rocky. It built a jetty to block sand from eroding and found a sand mine on the island so it doesn't have to rely on dredged sand full of shell bits.
Norwegian has installed more irrigation to keep vegetation green and growing. It has focused on four or five trees that thrive in the Bahamas to introduce more of a canopy on the 72-acre property.
"One of the things we're trying to do is have a lot more shade," Gonzalez said. "So we're buying trees that are much more mature and things that will cast a lot more shade."
There's also more pavement in place, making it easier to move between the shops, bars, recreation centers and cabanas.
Seating areas at the bars have been upgraded, and table servers will be available for some ships. There's more live music planned at the bars, some of which will have added table umbrellas.
"So we're trying to create these spaces where people can come and hang out," Gonzalez said. "What's happening now is they'll come, eat and then run back to the beach, and you don't get that experience where maybe you'd meet a new friend or something."
When it comes to service, Norwegian has learned that speed counts. At the bars, machines have been added to make frozen and mixed drinks, cutting wait times in half.
The same goes for food. At the main restaurant, two small bars were demolished and rebuilt as larger outbuildings connected with pathways, to ease congestion. The grill has been streamlined from four lines to two.
"The food is fresher, turns over faster," Gonzalez said.
Nearby covered seating areas have also been decked, so that people aren't eating in the sand. That has the side benefit of making the area easier to clean. More landscaping suppresses windblown sand and dust.
"We wanted to make it seem like you're not just having a picnic on the beach," Gonzalez said. "You're on vacation. You're in a wonderful place."
Another small improvement: Norwegian is now making ice on site, which means better quality.
"These aren't terribly exciting things for the guest," said Gonzalez, "but they're things that make the guest experience much better, so the quality of the food, the freshness is much better."
On a bigger scale, Norwegian has built an infirmary with eight patient rooms, so that multiple cases of sunburn, sprained ankles, heat exhaustion or insect bites can be treated. More serious injuries don't necessarily have to be sent back to the ship or evacuated by helicopter to Nassau anymore.
Thirty custom-made underwater sculptures have been added to the snorkel garden. There are more and bigger bathrooms, including two family ones that are ADA-compliant.
Norwegian has rebuilt the private cabanas, making them larger with better amenities, such as refrigerators, and with more vista-like views of the beach. They have ramps to improve accessibility.
After Hurricane Matthew raked Great Stirrup Cay in September 2016, Norwegian did a redesign to reduce erosion through a combination of more concrete foundations and more local plantings.
The really fancy side of Great Stirrup Cay is still under construction. It will initially include 16 air-conditioned, oceanfront cabanas for use by guests of the Haven, Norwegian's secluded onboard luxury enclave. The cabanas will have locking doors, restrooms, covered patios and, in some, even bedrooms.
Adjacent will be a new five-bay spa, also air-conditioned, with a nice lobby, a deck and its own private beach.
"It brings exclusivity and just a higher level of service, and of course luxury," Gonzalez said.
On its island, MSC plans something similar for its exclusive Yacht Club guests.
Evolution of islands parallels ships
Blum, of Cruise & Port Advisors, recalls visiting Great Stirrup Cay in 1977 on a preinaugural voyage of the 756-passenger Sunward II, operated by Norwegian Caribbean Line, as it was then known.
"The original concept was pretty cool," he recalled. "Pull up to the beach and have this beach barbecue, and you were the only people there. That concept is still really cool, but it's not quite as intimate with thousands of people as it was on a 500- [to] 600-passenger ship."
Blum said the evolution of private islands has mirrored the evolution in cruise ships, which are almost nothing like the 1977 versions. "They're still ships, but the amenities and expectations have totally changed."
There are several reasons why cruise lines continue to increase their level of investment in private destination development.
One is that it gives them greater control over the entire experience. They can design the docks, the shopping and the excursion staging to what is ideal for cruise lines, or even to their specific brand and ships.
Another reason, Blum said, is that lines have greater say over who comes and goes. As a recent flare-up of concern over passenger harassment at the port of Falmouth in Jamaica shows, there are different levels of control, depending on whether a private port is connected to the mainland, or completely isolated, as at Great Stirrup Cay.
There are also financial reasons. At private islands, any ancillary spending the passengers might do on food and beverage, excursions, shopping or equipment rental flows to the cruise line rather than the destination.
However, Blum said the profit motive tends to be overstated. "On the one hand, yes, they're controlling the revenue flows, but they're paying a lot of expenses. It's not cheap to run a private island. That's not to say that at the end of the day it's not a profit center. But I think the real advantage to the cruise lines is driving demand for the cruise."
Passenger demand for private islands is strong. Blum said the cruise lines freely admit that their custom-built destinations are consistently the best-rated ports of call on their Bahamas/Caribbean itineraries. They're able to tailor the experience to what guests say they desire, he said.
"It's a really fun, cool experience on these islands," Blum said. "The waters are great. It's really a great day. If you're sitting at home visualizing what a Caribbean-Bahamian beach should look like, these islands are beautiful places."