Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cruise lines stop offering parasailing after tourist dies

Cruise lines stop offering parasailing after tourist dies

By Donna Tunney
A parasailing accident in which one cruise passenger was killed and another injured prompted Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International to indefinitely suspend the activity as a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion.

The suspension applies to the entire Caribbean. Norwegian Cruise Line also suspended the activity.

Carnival Cruise Lines suspended parasailing excursions following the death, but only on St. Thomas, where the accident happened.

The 60-year-old passenger who died had been sailing on the Celebrity Eclipse last week and was participating in a Celebrity-sponsored parasailing excursion. Her 34-year-old daughter was injured in the Nov. 15 accident.

The excursion crew provided initial care until both guests were transported by ambulance to the Roy L. Schneider Hospital in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Celebrity said in a statement. The injured guest is still being treated at the hospital.

“A member of our care team is providing support and assistance to the hospitalized guest and her family. Our thoughts are with their family and friends, and we will continue to do our very best to assist them,” Celebrity said.
According to USA Today, the St. Thomas parasailing death is the third this year involving North American tourists. In June, a California newlywed was killed and her husband seriously injured off Grand Bahama Island, and a South Carolina man died off Florida's Longboat Key after the tow boat's propeller failed and the parachute lost buoyancy, plunging him into the water.

The 2,800-passenger Celebrity Eclipse departed Miami Nov. 12 for a seven-night sailing visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten.

The Virgin Islands Department of Tourism said that the circumstances surrounding the incident are being “actively investigated and additional details will be shared as soon as they are available.” 

Royal Introduces Visionary Vertical Entertainment

Post Royal Introduces Visionary Vertical Entertainment

Vision-Class' Signature Centrum Will Transform into an Exciting New Experience for Guests

Royal Caribbean International continues to deliver the Royal Advantage with the transformation of the elegant and popular Centrum found aboard its Vision-Class ships.

Beginning with Splendour of the Seas, the Centrum with its sweeping views and central location on the ship will reemerge from an extensive revitalization as a new chic and sophisticated venue featuring enriching daytime activities, dazzling nightly entertainment and jaw-dropping aerial spectacles. The Centrum's Champagne Bar also will be reinvented, unveiled as a new venue - the R Bar - featuring a sophisticated 1960s vibe, complete with iconic furnishing and signature cocktails mixed by a savvy and personable mixologist.

"The rebirth of the spectacular 60-foot high Centrum found aboard the Vision-class ships brings new life to a popular gathering space by incorporating innovative technology and vertical entertainment elements to what was already the place to be and be seen," said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International. "When we complete our extensive revitalization program, guests sailing aboard Splendour of the Seas will be in for a multi-sensory experience that puts them at close proximity to amazing aerial performers from multiple viewpoints in a sophisticated and glamorous atmosphere."

Bringing the Centrum's new entertainment offerings to life is the latest in sound and light technology. The glass elevators facing into the Centrum will feature large LED panels across their entire length providing a spectacular backdrop of moving visuals 5 decks high. During the entertainment experiences, which takes place throughout the cruise, the soaring space comes alive with a series of aerial acrobatic vignettes blurring the lines between artful choreography and state-of-the-art technology.

The R Bar offerings will feature a return to the classics - gimlet, martini, brown liquors, gin and whiskeys - all served in unique glassware with surprising garnishes. The venue's resident mixologist, selected from the cruise line's fleet to be the face and personality behind the bar, will create drink specials that will complement each evening's theme and aerial spectacular.

Throughout each sailing, guests can gather in the Centrum for a variety of interactive daytime activities including chef demonstrations, towel folding demonstrations, dance classes, game shows, Nintendo Wii competitions and the popular Captain's Corner where guests can spend time with the Captain. Additionally, guests may sit back, relax and enjoy performances from musicians and singers or take a spin on the dance floor at themed parties such as the popular Disco Inferno dance party.

NCL Marks 500th Show by Blue Man Group

NCL Marks 500th Show by Blue Man Group

Norwegian Epic celebrated the 500th Blue Man Group performance earlier this month.

Executive chef Peter Haselsberger made the cake which was presented to the cast after the show on 11th November. The 35 members of the cast and crew were also treated to a private after-party.

Blue Man Group launched their show at sea in the 685-seat Epic Theatre in June 2010.

NCL said the show continues to be a favourite with guests. Eight performances are held, four nights a week.

 Have you ever seen the Blue Man Group aboard Epic? What did you think? Is it your kind of entertainment? If not, what is?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

P&O Cruises Introduce Compulsory Tipping Onboard

P&O Cruises Introduce Compulsory Tipping Onboard

Official Press Release 

From April 2012 (effective cruises below), P&O Cruises will be introducing a new scheme designed to remove the confusion over the age-old question of tipping.

We’ve always been a company both proud of and dedicated to providing our passengers with excellent customer service. Our reputation demands it and we are all passionate about delivering it. Our crew work extremely hard to deliver the high level of service that our passengers rightly expect of us. More recently many of our passengers have told us that tipping on board can be a source of confusion and embarrassment, not least for those who are trying cruising for the first time. And for our crew, this confusion can lead to some very significant variations in their take home earnings.. We have looked at how we can make it easier and fairer for both our passengers and crew and, as a result, have developed a new arrangement for tipping that will apply to all P&O Cruises holidays sailing from April 2012 onwards.

The recommended daily rate of £3.10 will now automatically be added to a passenger’s on board account on a daily basis. This will be shared out among restaurant and accommodation staff.

The new scheme is effective from the below cruises

Ventura - N206 - 23 March 2012
Oceana - E204 - 21 March 2012
Azura - A207 - 30 March 2012
Adonia - D203 - 9 April 2012
Oriana - X202 - 10 April 2012
Aurora - R202 - 12 April 2012
Arcadia - J202 - 27 April 2012

How do you feel about this change in the tipping policy? 

Stelios likens EasyJet to troubled Thomas Cook

Stelios likens EasyJet to troubled Thomas Cook

Stelios likens EasyJet to troubled Thomas Cook
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is reported to have likened the budget airline to troubled package holiday company Thomas Cook in a detailed submission to shareholders.
He does not rule out voting against the entire board at the company’s annual meeting in February, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
The 37.4% shareholder has dropped his demands for an increased dividend but in a detailed new presentation he is using to gain support from institutional shareholders seen by the newspaper, Sir Stelios calls on fellow investors to hold the airline’s board to account for what he sees as its recent failings.
Key to these is what he views as the airline’s obsession with buying a new fleet from Airbus, including a £713 million order for 15 new aircraft at the start of this year.
Sir Stelios also believes the airline’s chief executive Carolyn McCall is following the “flawed strategy of becoming a holiday airline”.
“The route network looks more like a charter airline with extensive summer-only routes operated two to three months of the year on less than daily flights,” he reportedly says in the 81-page presentation.
Another concern of Sir Stelios is the way the board calculates return on capital employed, particularly as this is the metric used to pay executive bonuses and fund share performance plans.
Although he has yet to decide whether he will vote against the entire board, chaired by ex-KPMG International chairman Sir Michael Rake, it is reported that he may vote against some non-executives, including new non-executive director Adele Anderson who worked under Sir Michael at the accountancy giant.
EasyJet has declined to comment.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Thomson campaign says 'You're in Safe Hands'

Thomson campaign says 'You're in Safe Hands'

Thomson campaign says 'You're in Safe Hands'
A new Thomson advertising campaign will seek to reassure potential customers that it is financially secure in the wake of rival Thomas Cook seeking additional borrowing from its banks.
In a move that might be seen as an attempt to capitalise on Cook’s woes, the Tui Travel operator is launching a ‘You’re in Safe Hands’ press campaign designed to reinforce the message that customers can book its holidays with confidence.
The advertising push does not mention Thomas Cook explicity by name but contains a reference to “the recent turbulence experienced by another holiday company”.
The move comes the day after dynamic packaging rival Lowcostholidays was forced to offer a public apology after a Google PPC advert refered to 'Thomas Crooked', prompting Cook to start legal action.
The Thomson promotion “reassures customers that the company is in strong financial shape, so they are in safe hands when booking. It also aims to address any confusion between the two holiday brands”.
Adverts will appear in the Daily TelegraphMirror and City A.M. today (Friday) and across key national newspapers over the weekend. 
It will also be supported by email and online marketing highlighting Thomson’s exclusive product range and reassuring customers that they can book with the operator with confidence.
Thomson said the campaign highlights three key points to demonstrate why it is different from its rivals:
  • That it hand picks and designs its hotels with its customers in mind - that's why 95% of them rate its holidays as good or excellent
  • Three quarters of its holidays are exclusive to Thomson, and cannot be found anywhere else
  • Lots of Thomson’s hotels come highly recommended on TripAdvisor
Tui UK and Ireland marketing director Jeremy Ellis said: “When there is uncertainty in the marketplace, consumers want to book their holiday with a company that they can trust, and we want to reassure them that Thomson is in great shape.
“This campaign also highlights the success of Thomson’s strategy of investing in distinctive, high quality product that the rest of the market is unable to copy.  When the economy is slow, customers’ hard-earned two weeks away in the sun become even more important to them, so they want to be confident that they will have a great holiday experience.
”We believe that we offer the very best holidays, not only in terms of experience and value but also peace of mind.”
Cook has consistently said since announcing a deterioration of business on Tuesday that customers can continue to book with confidence with the company.

Cook takes legal action over Lowcostholidays slur

Cook takes legal action over Lowcostholidays slur

By Travolution
By Travolution
November 24, 2011 01:00 PM GMT

Thomas Cook has said it is taking legal action against after it used the phrase 'been Thomas Crooked?' in its search engine advertising.
The dynamic packaging firm has bid against search terms including 'Thomas Cook' and  'Thomas Cook holidays' using the controversial headline. The link appears second on the list of pay-per-click results on Google.
The move has prompted an investigation from trade association Abta after it received a complaint.
Cook is claiming that the firm has breached Abta's code of conduct, which states that no member should make comments about another member's financial status. The code also stipulates that no member should denigrate another or bring them into disrepute.
Ian Ailles, chief executive of mainstream for Thomas Cook UK said: "It is shocking the tactics some will stoop to. This is totally unacceptable and defamatory and we're taking immediate legal action against them.
“Lots of our trade partners are working with us. It shows the childishness of this organisation. It’s almost unforgiveable.”
Speaking before Cook confirmed this morning that it was consulting its lawyers, Lowcostholidays chief executive Paul Evans said the wording was meant to be light-hearted, but added: "This is clearly a very worrying time for all the staff and we wish them well.  There is a lack of confidence in the brand and the company now.
"The question now is whether they will be able to build confidence for summer 2012."
Evans said the media had focused too heavily on the UK perspective. "You can't take a UK perspective - it's not a UK play it's a German, Scandinavian and French play. Ving - Cook's Scandinavian tour operator - makes up £100 million of their profits. The question is whether the retail trade in Scandinavia will continue to book it."
An Abta spokesperson said : “We have received a complaint about a Lowcost Holidays advert on Google which the Abta legal department is investigating for potential breaches of the Code of Conduct.”

Agents pledge support for Thomas Cook

Agents pledge support for Thomas Cook

Independent agents say they remain fully supportive of Thomas Cook, claiming its downfall would send shockwaves through the industry.
Thomas Cook yesterday responded to the situation by putting out messages of reassurance to the trade who had received queries from worried customers.
Advantage chief executive John McEwan said the consortium would continue to support Thomas Cook but admitted sales could drop as a result of recent media coverage and nervousness among consumers.
“We can’t prevent our members from making their own decisions [on selling Thomas Cook] and I’m sure Thomas Cook will lose some business. But it comes at a time of year when sales are not huge.
"We made the decision to trade with Thomas Cook as  normal  but what’s important is that is that Thomas Cook gets  an agreement with its banks and comes out with a positive communication about the company,” he said.
Miles Morgan Travel owner Miles Morgan said: “I think it’s bad news for my business and the industry in general because people get nervous about booking travel and that’s not good for any of us. It’s sad and disappointing for the staff at Thomas Cook and people in the industry full-stop.”
He said the situation would not change the way his staff sold Thomas Cook.
Paul Smith, owner and director of Quartz Travel in York, added: “We have had clients ringing us who are nervous about booking Thomas Cook. Everyone is nervous; we do not want the “big daddy” to go.”

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Agents will not need individual Atols - CAA

Agents will not need individual Atols - CAA

The Civil Aviation Authority says it is confident agents will not be left to apply for individual Atol licences in order to comply with the Flight-Plus regulations due to be introduced next April.
A CAA spokesman confirmed the authority is in discussions with several organisations interested in becoming approved bodies.
These would hold a Flight Plus Atol on behalf of member agencies, removing the need for businesses to go to the trouble and expense of acquiring their own licence.
The CAA publication of an Atol Reform Information Paper and draft Standard Terms this week appeared to rule out travel association Abta becoming an approved body because it is not prepared to take on the risk of members ceasing trading.
Advantage also appeared to rule out taking approved-body status in favour of offering its members franchise arrangements - although the effect of this would be the same.
The CAA spokesman said: “We are currently in discussions with several organisations which are looking at the options of becoming approved bodies and we are confident the option will be there for agents to take as an alternative to approaching us for a licence on their own.
“The idea of an approved body is to allow agents to undertake licensable business without the need, and the associated costs, of acquiring an Atol of their own in every circumstance. This has benefits for agents.”
Advantage appears to have baulked at the proposed £20,000 initial charge for being licensed as an approved body.
The spokesman said: “The cost for becoming an approved body reflects the level of due diligence the CAA has to do for firms wishing to become one.”

HAL's Veendam won't sail to Bermuda after 2012

HAL's Veendam won't sail to Bermuda after 2012

By Donna Tunney
Holland America Line's 1,350-passenger Veendam will not return to Bermuda on regularly scheduled cruises after the 2012 season.

The ship has operated seasonal Bermuda cruises from New York since 2010.

“The 2012 season will mark three years of Bermuda cruising roundtrip from New York, and in 2013 other destinations are being considered as part of our overall global deployment,” the cruise line said in a statement.

Holland America said that it would “continue to call in Hamilton occasionally on other itineraries.”

Holland America is the second Carnival Corp. brand to reveal plans to reduce its presence in Bermuda.

Carnival Cruise Lines recently notified Bermuda tourism officials that it would not require the use of several berths it had reserved for next summer.

Four Carnival ships — the Pride, Fantasy, Glory and Miracle — made a combined 16 calls to Bermuda this year. But in 2012, just one ship, the Pride, will make one call.

Holland America said the Veendam’s 2013 deployment would be announced next year. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hawaiian Airlines to launch New York nonstop

Hawaiian Airlines to launch New York nonstop

By Jerry Limone
Hawaiian Airlines will launch daily service between Honolulu and New York on June 4.

The 10-hour flight will depart Kennedy Airport at 10 a.m. and arrive in Honolulu at 3 p.m.

The overnight return flight departs Honolulu at 3:05 p.m. and arrives in New York at 6:55 a.m., making it a 10-hour, 50-minute flight.

Hawaiian will be the only airline operating a nonstop flight to Honolulu from Kennedy. Continental flies nonstop to Honolulu from Newark.

“New York is an important part of our growth strategy,” said Hawaiian CEO Mark Dunkerley. “Adding service to the largest market in the Eastern U.S., Hawaii’s second-largest tourism market, was a logical step.”

Hawaiian will operate the route with twin-aisle Airbus A330-200 aircraft that seat 294 passengers, with 18 first-class seats and the remainder in coach.

Every seatback has an entertainment system offering movies, music and video games. Premium-class customers have larger screens and iPod compatibility.

Hawaiian’s one-way introductory fares of $212 in economy and $808 in first class (212 and 808 are the area codes of New York City and Honolulu, respectively) are available for purchase through Nov. 20 and are valid for travel between June 4 and June 30, 2012. Additional taxes and fees apply.

Ryanair's new security feature blocks agent sales

Ryanair's new security feature blocks agent sales

A new verification step has been added to the Ryanair booking process, identical to the system many sites already utilise to ensure the inquiry is being made by a genuine human being rather than a machine.
It is understood the new procedure, that requires the customer to enter a unique code, was introduced this week. Agents could still book flights manually, but taking large numbers of flights by screen-scraping would be impossible.
On Holiday Group chief executive Steve Endacott said the move could present a major challenge for a number of UK-based dynamic packaging agencies, some of whom he estimated are up to 60% reliant on Ryanair flights.
He believes Ryanair may be unaware of exactly how much business comes from the trade and, despite chief executive Michael O'Leary's well documented antagonism to travel agents, may come to regret this latest attempt to cut them out.
"They could lose 30% of their business," he said. "It's a question of who blinks first; the trade or Ryanair."
The Irish budget carrier has fought and lost a number of legal cases around Europe in its attempts to prevent third party sales, although many firms are able to get around attempts to stifle screen scraping by using companies based outside of the EU.
Endacott described the move by Ryanair as "deeply anti-consumer".

Orbitz to power AOL Travel

Orbitz to power AOL Travel

By Johanna Jainchill
Orbitz Worldwide on Thursday signed a multiyear agreement for to be the primary travel booking partner for AOL Travel.

Orbitz replaces Travelocity, which has been AOL’s reservations engine since 1999.

The partnership will allow AOL users to book with Orbitz and give Orbitz access to AOL editorial content.

Beginning in January, AOL Travel visitors will be able to book hotels, vacation packages, flights, rental cars and cruises on Orbitz Worldwide brands will be promoted on AOL-owned sites.

In turn, Orbitz brands (including, and will feature AOL Travel travel guides and will have access to AOL Travel, HuffPost Travel and Gadling travel content, including destination reviews, overviews and blogs.

Orbitz CEO Barney Harford said that the editorial content would “help consumers make better decisions.”

In a statement, Jared Smith, general manager of travel for the Huffington Post Media Group, said, "As a one-stop-shop for travel news, inspiration, research and purchasing, it is important for us to partner with a top-notch travel-booking site.

"Given its reliability, breadth and quality, is the ideal booking partner for AOL Travel. We're also excited to provide our high-quality content to the Orbitz Worldwide family of brands to enhance their customer offering."

In September, Orbitz agreed to power American Express’ consumer travel website, beginning in the second half of 2012, also replacing Travelocity.

Drinking age lowered on Royal Caribbean

 Drinking age lowered on Royal Caribbean

I'm sure there will be a few young Royal Caribbean fans pleased to know that they'll no longer need their parents permission to have a drink next year... 

From spring 2012, the drinking age limit will be lowered aboard all Royal Caribbean ships that are sailing from Europe, South America, Australia/NZ and Asia.

The current policy does already permit 18-20 year-olds cruising in these areas to buy alcohol onboard -- but their parents have to sign a waiver first.

New policy = no waiver.

The minimum drinking age on Royal Caribbean ships sailing from North America will remain at 21.

In a statement, the line said the change is being made to "better accommodate the cultural norms in the regions of the world where Royal Caribbean ships sail." According to Adam Goldstein, the line's president and CEO, Royal Caribbean sources roughly half of its passengers from outside the United States.

The change in policy mirrors other cruise line policies such as Princess and NCL whose drinking age regulations relate to the region in which the ship is sailing.

What repercussions, if any, do you think there will be?

Celebrity Chefs take MSC by storm!

Celebrity Chefs take MSC by storm!

Official press release 


Five*top European*chefs*teach and delight

Starting this winter, MSC Cruises will be bringing its guests the additional pleasures and insights of world-class cuisine prepared to perfection by specially-invited celebrity chefs from Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. You can choose from five delicious cruises, each designed to provide a true gourmet voyage of discovery, beginning with MSC Fantasia on 27 November 2011, continuing with MSC Splendida on January and February 2012 and finishing with MSC*Lirica in June.

“We are delighted to have hand picked a group of celebrity chefs from five culinary capitals of the world,” explained Pierfrancesco Vago, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises. “While exploring the most alluring destinations in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, our guests will be able to enjoy demonstrations and tastings of outstanding European cuisine prepared to the highest gourmet standards on a cruise ship and indeed anywhere on land or sea.”

The celebrity line-up will be bringing their creative magic to the following voyages with MSC*Cruises:

MSC Fantasia, 27 November - 8 December 2011
Guests on MSC Fantasia will have the privilege of exploring the finest Spanish cuisine with two-time Michelin Star winner Paco Roncero at the helm. A specialist master of the different textures and flavours of olive oil, Paco Roncero is acclaimed as a leader of the molecular gastronomy movement. A modern Renaissance man, Paco is the Executive Chef and Manager of Casino de Madrid and Estado Puro, both praised for their innovative spin on traditional favourites, while also being a contributor to the gastronomy section of El Pais, Spain’s leading national daily newspaper and a much-admired star on Spanish television food shows.

MSC Splendida, 7-14 January 2012
In the same tradition that MSC Cruises greets its guests with genuine Italian hospitality, Chef Mauro Uliassi from Italy welcomes lovers of fine food and wine with authentic flavours from his home. With two Michelin Stars under his apron, this master of fish is the co-owner of Uliassi in his hometown, Senigallia, which has won a coveted Three Forks award from the renowned Italian Restaurant guide Gambero Rosso, the “Excellent Cuisine” award and the Accademia della Cucina Italiana’s “Recognition of Magnificence” from 2003 to 2010.

MSC Splendida, 28 January - 4 February 2012
Chef Gilles Epié joins MSC Cruises from France. Awarded a Michelin Star at the age of 22, Epié has seasoned his career with a 10-year tenure in the United States, where he was celebrated as Best Chef by Food & Wine magazine for L’Orangerie in Los Angeles. Gilles will be delighting MSC guests with the acclaimed fusion of French and New World cuisines that can also be found at Epié’s restaurant in Paris, Citrus Etoile.

MSC Splendida, 4-11 February 2012
Celebrity Chef Antony Worrall Thompson from the United Kingdom is familiar to many travellers and food lovers alike from the popular television show “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here” on ITV. Always at the forefront of food and health trends, Thompson brings more than 30*years’ leading gastronomic creativity to MSC Splendida’s tables. His latest book, The Essential Low Fat Cookbook: Good Healthy Eating for Everyday, highlights deliciously healthy dishes that are also offered aboard MSC Splendida. The recipe for his flavourful career includes his first restaurant, Ménage à Trois, which was a favourite of the late Princess Diana.

MSC Lirica, 1-12 June 2012
German Celebrity Chef Kolja Kleeberg will be on board MSC Lirica for a several nights in succession, making the cruise from Hamburg to Amsterdam an experience to savour. Kolja trained in Germany at the restaurant Rino Casati in Cologne, at Le Marron in Bonn and in Switzerland at the restaurant La Punt. In 1996 he opened his own restaurant, VAU in Berlin, serving gastronomic creations that won him a Michelin star and 17 points in the Gault Millau Guide within a year. Kolja’s vision and personality have in addition made him a popular guest on several German TV shows.

 Who's your favourite Celebrity Chef? Would you like to see them on a cruise?