Monday, 30 May 2016

Royal Caribbean’s Fain recalls milestones that broke new ground in cruising

Royal Caribbean’s Fain recalls milestones that broke new ground in cruising

Richard Fain started his history of milestones in 1962 with the S.S. France, which he called “a remarkable ship.” Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Whenever Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. starts a new project, CEO Richard Fain said the company likes to start with history.
Celebrity Cruises is currently working on Project Edge, which will bring a new class of ships in the fall of 2018, and the line has been considering milestones in cruise ship design leading up to that project — the key innovations in cruising that have changed the way ships are built.
Fain shared some of those milestones with travel agents at’s annual conference at the Diplomat Resort and Spa this week.
“The pace of change has been growing very quickly,” Fain said.
He started his history of milestones in 1962 with the S.S. France, which he called “a remarkable ship.”
“It was designed for transportation,” Fain said, and everything about the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique ship (like its long, sleek design) was aimed at transportation.
Fain jumped next to 1970 and the “transformational change” that Royal Caribbean International’s Song of Norway brought to the industry.
“This was a ship that was really built for cruising,” he said. Decks were open and cabins were designed differently than those on the France — instead of keeping the passengers in them while being transported, Song of Norway’s cabins were designed to get passengers out of their cabins and into public spaces.
“A fundamental shift was taking place,” Fain said, in what the purpose of the vessel was.
Then, in 1975, another influencer came into play, this time in the form of a television show: “The Love Boat.” Fain said cruising was shifting in how it presented itself to the world, becoming open to mass markets.
Then Carnival Cruise Lines came out with Kathy Lee Gifford’s “Fun Ship” commercials in the 1980s. Cruising was no longer something limited to an older, wealthier clientele. It was becoming something for everyone.
Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess in 1984 brought the concept of more outside cabins and more balconies.
The Sovereign of the Seas, “a dramatic new vessel,” arrived in 1988. The Royal Caribbean ship introduced an atrium and more activity choices onboard, and was the largest ship in the world when it was built.
In 1999, Royal Caribbean again introduced a ship that was the largest built at the time: Voyager of the Seas. It had an ice-skating rink and rock-climbing walls, a promenade and a plethora of other activities.
“You wanted things that helped convey that this [cruising] was an unusual activity, that you could do what you wanted,” Fain said. He said Voyager of the Seas was instrumental in continuing to shift the idea that cruising was for everyone.
Fain considered the Celebrity Solstice, which started sailing in 2008, as the next innovative vessel because it brought a level of elegance to a large ship.
And the next year, 2009, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas arrived, offering even more choices to cruisers. The model in the days of the Song of Norway was dinner, show, bed, Fain said. But with Oasis of the Seas, “that evolved to the point where you have 28 places to eat on board this ship,” he said. It offered specialty dining rooms and suites that appeal to a different crowd, and activities like the FlowRider surf machine for yet another.
The Disney Dream started sailing for Disney Cruise Line in 2011 with a focus on the outdoor decks, and making children the center of many offerings. It introduced all kinds of activities, like waterslides, that many would go on to follow, according to Fain.
Three years later, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas added more unexpected amenities to a cruise ship: a gondola-like ball that raises passengers in the air for a bird’s-eye view, a skydiving simulator and the Bionic Bar with its robotic bartenders.
Fain said he believes Celebrity’s Edge-class ships will bring the next milestone to cruising, but was tight-lipped on the details.
Fain’s history lesson was well-received by agents, who largely agreed with his sentiments of game-changers in the industry.
Sandra Cleary is the CEO of CruCon Cruise Outlet Plus in New Hampshire. She started her cruise-only agency 20 years ago, and in her mind, the Voyager of the Seas was one of the biggest milestones in the cruise world.
“We want the ship with the rock-climbing wall,” was a frequent call she got in the late 1990s.
Customers didn’t even know the ship’s name, but were attracted by the many activities it offered, she said. She also pointed to the Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas as game-changers.
Mark Comfort, owner of Cruise Holidays in Kansas City, Mo., said Fain and Royal Caribbean are “arguably the biggest innovators in the cruise industry.”
Comfort says Sovereign of the Seas was the greatest game-changer.
“The design was unthinkable — undoable,” he said. Most predicted it wouldn’t work, Comfort said, but it did, and the “unthinkable” ship went on to change the industry.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Disney Magic arrives in Liverpool

 Disney Magic arrives in Liverpool

It’s here! The spectacular Disney Magic cruise ship has arrived in Liverpool.
The visit is the luxury liner’s maiden voyage to the city - and it has brought some of Disney’s best known names with it.
The stunning vessel entered the Mersey this morning carrying 2,700 guests and an incredible 950 cast and crew members.
Packed with Disney characters - from princesses to super heroes - the cruise ship showcases the famous film-maker’s magical history.
Guests on board can enjoy Disney inspired dining, theatre, leisure and entertainment designed for children of all ages (and their big kid parents!).
Weighing 84,000 tonnes it boasts 10 different restaurants, five pools and two nightclubs.
You can even meet Disney royalty on board- from introducing yourself to Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to playing in a giant recreation of Toy Story Andy’s bedroom.
Today’s visit to Liverpool is one of only a handful of UK stops being made by the 12 night which started in Florida.
And while Merseyside’s biggest Disney fans may not be able to taste the experience today fear not - it returns next month.
And on when it does, on June 12, a host of events will celebrate its arrival.
There will be an outdoor cinema that will show Frozen, Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Mary Poppins in full.
A bandstand in front of the Cunard Building will play host to live music, with the Royal Marines Bands playing a Disney medley and performances from opera singer Danielle Thomas and Liverpool’s Ukulele Orchestra.
Youngsters will also be battling it out to be named Liverpool’s Young Town Crier.
A ‘magic garden’ event will run at Pier Head, themed with potting sheds, toadstools, giant flowers and fairy houses.
And, at around 10.15pm, a firework display will signal the moment the vessel leaves for Dublin.

Royal Caribbean criticised over Harmony construction work

Royal Caribbean criticised over Harmony construction work

Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International faces accusations from passengers that construction work was still taking place on board the world's largest cruise ship during its first sailing.

Harmony of the Seas left Southampton for Rotterdam on a four-night cruise on Sunday, but the first paying passengers complained about closed attractions and ongoing work, the BBC reported.

One was reported as describing the vessel as a "construction site and a serious risk to all passengers". Passenger Georgina Davie described "queues of complaining guests and distressed families".

"Ninety percent of the kids attractions that it was marketed for have been shut for the whole cruise and are still being worked on," she said. She also claimed drilling went on near cabins through the night.

Royal Caribbean admitted "final finishing touches" were being made after pictures of work being carried out during the sailing were posted on social media.

A spokeswoman told Travel Weekly: “We are excited to welcome our first guests onboard Harmony of the Seas for her pre-inaugural sailings this week, ahead of her official maiden voyage on Sunday, 29th May.

“Whilst the ship is cleared for operations and many of its features are already being enjoyed by thousands of guests, as with any new build, we are still finalising some finishing touches, and thank guests for their patience as we complete these.

“As always, Royal Caribbean's highest priority is to ensure the safety of all its guests and crew members and any final maintenance is being carried out in accordance with strict safety guidelines.

“These early sailings were made possible due to the early delivery of the ship and we hope this has been reflected in the great value offering guests secured for their holiday.”

Harmony of the Seas left Southampton again for a three-night cruise to Cherbourg yesterday, before finally departing for its summer base of Barcelona on Sunday.

The ship can carry 6,780 passengers. It has 20 restaurants, 23 swimming pools and took more than two-and-a-half years to construct.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Panama Canal Fever Sweeps Globe Again as New Era in Trade Nears

Panama Canal Fever Sweeps Globe Again as New Era in Trade Nears

The new Third Set of Locks for the expanded Panama Canal, pictured right, with the existing pictured on left in May 2016. Credit: Panama Canal Authority
Panamas new locks on the right, the old locks on the left.
The new Third Set of Locks on the Atlantic side of the expanded Panama Canal, pictured right, with the existing locks to the left in May 2016. Credit: Panama Canal Authority

A century after transforming global markets, the Panama Canal is about to redraw world trade once again.
Nine years of construction work, at a cost of more than $5 billion, have equipped the canal with a third set of locks and deeper navigation channels, crucial improvements that will double the isthmus’s capacity for carrying cargo between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
When the new locks slide open to receive traffic for the first time in late June, the reverberations will be felt from Asian gas terminals to Great Plains farms and ports from Miami to Long Beach to Santiago.
The debut coincides, fortuitously, with a surge in U.S. natural-gas production that has shale outfits suddenly seeking out new export markets. The deeper channels will be able to accommodate the kind of massive tankers that transport liquefied natural gas, shaving eleven days and a third of the cost off the typical round trip to the Far East. Markets from Chile to China will also become more accessible for oil drillers across the Americas while millions of tons of container shipments originating from Asia could start bypassing western U.S. ports and opt to dock instead along the Gulf Coast or Eastern seaboard.
The anticipated growth has triggered a multibillion-dollar dredging and building binge at ports in the U.S., Caribbean and South America, all seeking to win a share of the traffic boom. Panama is also bidding to become a distribution hub for global manufacturers, with plans to add space for more than 5 million additional cargo containers.
“There are going to be a lot of feeder services that develop around it,” Moses Kopmar, a Moody’s Investors Service analyst in New York, said in a telephone interview. “What it will do is basically unlock a huge amount of the global fleet in terms of being able to transit the canal.”
The expansion won’t solve all the canal’s challenges. While tripling the size of cargo vessels it can receive, Panama still won’t be able to take the biggest container ships or crude tankers. What’s more, its traffic will depend on the health of the global economy more than its dimensions, Kopmar said.
But expansion was critical, industry experts say, for a shipping route that risked losing relevance if it didn’t grow to handle the increasingly large vessels favored nowadays. The canal, which carried some 340 million tons of cargo in the fiscal year that ended last September, accounts for about 6 percent of total world trade.
3,200-Ton Doors
When it opened for business, the canal was an engineering marvel.
In the 34-year span that began with France’s failed attempt and ended with the U.S. completion in 1914, some 75,000 workers toiled to carve out the 50-mile long (80 kilometer) channel. In the process, they created an artificial body of water, Gatun Lake, and an earthen dam that at the time were the world’s largest. They also opened up the mammoth Culebra Cut, a ditch through the Continental Divide that required the removal of about 100 million cubic yards of rock and shale. By the time work was complete, some 25,000 people were dead, many succumbing to yellow fever, malaria and other tropical diseases, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
The latest construction has come with less tragedy but its own share of cost overruns and engineering snafus. Leaky locks were one major problem, helping delay the project by two years. Those locks — a set of chambers sealed by 3,200-ton doors that raise and lower water levels — provide access to a wider lane for vessels: 180 feet across, compared with 109 feet in the original locks. (Many cargo ships squeeze through nowadays with just a couple feet of clearance on each side.) In the middle of the isthmus, the canal authority has also dredged deeper, wider lanes through Gatun Lake, where ships spend much of the inter-oceanic voyage.
For gas and crude oil companies reeling from the recent collapse in prices, the drop in time and shipping costs will provide a much-needed lift. Corn, soybean and wheat growers in the U.S. also stand to benefit, along with importers like Dole Food Co. Inc. and Chiquita Brands International Inc.
“We can send gas ships that couldn’t fit through the canal before,” said Bill Diehl, president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau, a maritime industry trade group. “Asia looks like a good market for us now. The shipping costs look like a fair fight.”
While the current locks are too small for most natural-gas carriers, almost 90 percent of the world fleet will be able to use the canal after expansion, the authority says. That’ll cut the round trip from the U.S. Gulf to Asia to about 20 days, compared with 31 days through the Suez Canal or 34 around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Sailing from Louisiana to Tokyo via Panama would be about 35 percent cheaper than taking the Suez, according to Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Houston-based ship broker Poten & Partners.
“It certainly gives U.S. LNG producers options,” Feer said. “And it is a significant percentage of the reason that Asian buyers have been willing to sign contracts with U.S. producers.”
For a QuickTake explainer on liquefied natural gas, click here.
The impact on oil markets is likely to be more muted. While the canal will open to bigger “Post-Panamax” tankers, it still won’t fit Very Large Crude Carriers, the 2-million barrel behemoths that transport most of the world’s petroleum. Still, the canal anticipates the upgrades could open up new routes for oil from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia. The U.S. government lifted its 40 year-old ban on crude exports in December and so far just one shipment has crossed the canal: 380,000 barrels of West Texas Intermediate sold to a Nicaraguan refinery in April.
“It’s a new trade and we have to see how it evolves,” said Jose Ramon Arango, the canal’s senior specialist for liquid bulk shipments. “I’m quite confident we will play a role in that evolution.”
The bigger canal may also trigger a shift for container ships that carry everything from clothes to chemicals into the U.S., the world’s largest importer. With the latest generation of ships too large for the original locks, most of that traffic now unloads in Los Angeles, Seattle and other West Coast destinations.
Though Western ports will retain a time advantage even after the new locks are in operation, cities from New York to Houston have been scrambling to upgrade facilities so they can handle the larger ships and volumes they expect. American ports will spend about $150 billion over the next four years to reduce congestion and accommodate bigger ships, the American Association of Port Authorities estimates. Caribbean destinations are also bidding to become distribution and logistics hubs for the increased traffic. Jamaica alone envisions some $8 billion in investments.
“It’s something you’ve got to do to remain relevant,” said Brian Taylor, chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Port Authority, which is seeking federal aid for a $700 million plan to deepen its waters in northern Florida. “All ships are getting bigger.”
And so is the Panama Canal.

Royal confirms plans for fifth Oasis-class ship

Royal confirms plans for fifth Oasis-class ship

Royal Caribbean Cruises has confirmed plans to build a fifth Oasis-class ship and two more ships for Celebrity Cruises.

The parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises has signed a memorandum of understanding with French shipyard STX France for a fifth Oasis ship, to be delivered in Spring 2021. It comes just days following the launch of the third Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas (pictured). The fourth in class will launch in 2018.

An order has also been placed for two additional Edge-class ships for sister brand Celebrity Cruises, being delivered in autumn 2021 and 2022.

The line already has two Edge vessels on order, the first coming in 2018 and the second in 2020. Each will carry 2,900 passengers.

Royal Caribbean Cruises chairman and chief executive, Richard Fain, said: “The response to the arrival of Harmony of the Seas is staggering, eliciting excitement from eager cruisers from markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

“And Edge-class is one of the most highly anticipated new projects, following the high bar of Modern Luxury design set by its predecessors.”

Royal Caribbean International boss, Michael Bayley, added that the positive response to Harmony was proof that “this class of ship will continue to drive exceptional performance for the brand”.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and chief executive of Celebrity, said: “Although our first Edge-class vessel is still over two years away from delivery, there has been a tremendous amount of interest around the new standard of style Edge-class will introduce.”

Final contracts for the ships are set to be complete this financial quarter.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Little-known piece of history: A Cuba cruise from New Orleans

Little-known piece of history: A Cuba cruise from New Orleans

The Daphne when it was operated in the late 1970s by Karras Cruises. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Grace
Though cruises between the U.S. and Cuba had been embargoed for more than half a century, there were exceptions, now all but forgotten.
In 1977 and 1978, the Greek-registered cruise ship Daphne made several departures from the port of New Orleans to Cuba, circumventing a trade embargo imposed after Fidel Castro’s 1959 rise to power in the island nation.
The Fathom Adonia last week made its historic cruise into Havana harbor, a voyage that Fathom’s parent, Carnival Corp., has promoted as the first U.S.-Cuba cruise in 50 years. And in terms of a U.S.-owned ship making a round trip to Cuba, it was.
But amateur cruise historian Michael Grace recalled recently how he had sailed aboard the Daphne on a 1978 Cuba cruise.
Cruise historian Michael Grace on a 1978 Daphne sailing between New Orleans and Havana. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Grace
Cruise historian Michael Grace on a 1978 Daphne sailing between New Orleans and Havana.Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Grace
“It was right when the Super Bowl was [in New Orleans], and somebody said, ‘Do you want to go to Havana?’” said Grace, a Los Angeles-based writer and film-production manager. He jumped at the chance.
The year before, entrepreneur Fred Mayer had organized a New Orleans-Havana cruise on the Daphne through London-based Karras Cruises. It had been promoted as a jazz cruise, and among the 400 guests were several jazz legends, including saxophonist Stan Getz and pioneering bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Anti-Castro protesters were in New Orleans to demonstrate as the Daphne left on May 16, 1977. Cruising to Havana took nearly two days, and during the ship’s stay, Gillespie led a tribute concert for Chano Pozo, a Cuban percussionist and band mate who died in 1948.
After departing Cuba, the Daphne ended its cruise in the Bahamas, either to avoid protestors on a return trip to New Orleans or possibly as a way to skirt the embargo.
Travelers had to make their own way home from the Bahamas, according to contemporary reports. Four other cruises between New York and Havana had been scheduled for the following month, but they never took place, Grace said.
A year later, things had changed. The 1978 cruise to Havana was a round trip from New Orleans, and Grace recalled that, “When I went, there were no protests.”
The Daphne docked in Havana Harbor at night, and the port was dark, as was the rest of the Cuban capital, Grace said.
“Here you arrive in this enormous city, and it was sort of like in a blackout,” he recalled.
The ship stayed for two days. Grace said he made the trip with an art dealer who had hoped to buy Cuban products for resale, but there was nothing to buy. “There were cigars and bath soap in the shop,” he said.
Grace said there was also a Soviet cruise ship in port. “It was the height of the Russian support,” Grace remembered, and the administration of then-president Jimmy Carter was doing what it could to counter the Soviet influence.
Before Fathom's Adonia, the SS Florida was the last ship to sail regular cruises from Miami to Cuba, in 1959. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Grace
Before Fathom's Adonia, the SS Florida was the last ship to sail regular cruises from Miami to Cuba, in 1959. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Grace
“Politically, it changed or something,” Grace said. “[Karras Cruises] was able to operate to Havana.”
While in Cuba, passengers on the ship were taken to the Tropicana nightclub. Grace said the show was a classic costumed dance review. Instead of paper towels in the restrooms, guests were given sheets of toilet paper to dry their hands, he said.
In addition to Havana, the ship stopped in the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico, before returning to New Orleans, Grace said.
Roger Frizzell, the chief communications officer for Carnival Corp., said he was unaware of the Karras cruises, but he said Fathom’s voyage to Cuba was historic nonetheless.
“It appears to be a Greek line,” he said of the Daphne’s operators. “So I still believe our claim holds, since this is the first time in over 50 years that a U.S. cruise company has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba.”
According to Grace, the last ship to sail regular cruises from Miami to Cuba was the Florida, which gave up the route sometime in 1959.   

Avalon adds more Christmas cruises

Avalon adds more Christmas cruises

After having tripled the number of its Christmas-themed sailings during the past five years, Avalon Waterways is adding five new holiday itineraries to its roster for 2017.
“In addition to increasing our Christmas cruise departures to cater to the growing popularity of festive cruises, we are also offering travelers more diverse itineraries from which to choose,” said Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon, in a release.  
For 2017, Avalon has added these five cruises: Christmastime in Alsace & Germany; Christmas in the Heart of Germany; Christmas time from Prague to Basel; Christmas time from Frankfurt to Vienna and Christmas time from Vienna to Frankfurt.
Avalon’s holiday cruises range from five to 15 days in length and with the five added itineraries, Avalon now has 16 different holiday cruises to choose from.

Holland America's next ship to be called Nieuw Statendam

Holland America's next ship to be called Nieuw Statendam

Nieuw Koningsdam

Holland America Line said its next ship due in 2018 will be named Nieuw Statendam.
HAL officials made the disclosure at the Rotterdam christening ceremony of its latest ship, Koningsdam. Nieuw Statendam will be a sister ship to the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam. 
Last year, the 1,258-passenger Statendam was transferred to the fleet of P&O Cruises Australia and renamed the Pacific Eden.
Five previous ships in HAL history have carried the name. 

Royal Caribbean, taking its best from two classes, creates a Harmony

Royal Caribbean, taking its best from two classes, creates a Harmony

Harmony of the Seas Cut out.

ONBOARD THE HARMONY OF THE SEAS — The brand-new Harmony of the Seas, currently holding the title as the world's biggest cruise ship, is technically a sister ship of Oasis-class twins Oasis and Allure.
But more than six years have passed since the Allure sailed out of the yard; and since then Royal Caribbean International has launched another ship series, the Quantum class, which incorporated new guest technology and amenities.
The Central Park neighborhood is an oasis of green within the ship. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The Central Park neighborhood is an oasis of green within the ship. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The Harmony is like a Quantum-Oasis combo: The size and layout of the Oasis (albeit slightly larger at 223,963 gross tons and 5,479 passengers) with many top features of the Quantum ships.
The speedy check-in process that premiered on the Quantum in New Jersey was working well here at the Southampton terminal. Restaurants Jamie's Italian and Wonderland (expanded to two decks on the Harmony) are both on the Harmony. Royal preserved the open, three-deck main dining room from the Oasis, though each floor has a different design that corresponds to one of the contained restaurants on the Quantum.
On the Oasis-class side, the Promenade, Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods are here. Rising Tide, a bar masquerading as an elevator, floats between the Promenade and Central Park. Caffeine addicts will be happy to know that a Starbucks, which first opened on the Allure, is planned for the Harmony's Boardwalk.
Passengers line up for their turn on the Abyss slide. The entrance is through the mouth of an anglerfish sculpture. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
Passengers line up for their turn on the Abyss slide. The entrance is through the mouth of an anglerfish sculpture. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
But one can even take a longer view of the Harmony's offerings, which I did on the first day of a two-day cruise from England, when some media and European travel agents were invited by Royal to preview the vessel.
For example, the general structure of the long, interior Royal Promenade is still going strong. The robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar whir and mix and shake and pour across the hall from one of Royal's longest mainstays, the decidedly old-school Schooner Bar. The Latin-themed Boleros, which made its debut on the Navigator of the Seas, is down the hall. On the lower decks is the ice-skating rink, and up top is the rock-climbing wall, the two features that broke molds at Royal and, arguably, the industry when they debuted on Voyager of the Seas.
Royal has continued to refine its "neighborhood" concepts on the Harmony. For an escape from the busy-ness of other parts of the ship, nothing beats Central Park, a 12,000-tree midship oasis (this is also where two upscale alternative restaurants, 150 Central Park and Chops Grille, are to be found). 
The Royal Promenade, a feature Royal Caribbean introduced on its Voyager-class ships, is still going strong. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The Royal Promenade, a feature Royal Caribbean introduced on its Voyager-class ships, is still going strong. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
If busy-ness is what you're after, proceed directly to the sports deck, which contains miniature golf, a zipline, two FlowRiders and one of the Harmony's showcase features, the 10-deck Abyss slide. (Also new on the Harmony is a group of three of waterslides called the Perfect Storm, but since it was a breezy 60 degrees, most passengers were content to admire them from afar.)
The entrance to the two Abyss tube slides are encased in a colorful metal structure that looks like an anglerfish. The entrance, of course, is through its mouth. Each rider is given a mat that acts like a toboggan, and they're required to sit on it and hold the reins for dear life. The ride is fast and furious. And, dare I say, awesome. 
Kid-sized lounge chairs were set up next to the splash park. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
Kid-sized lounge chairs were set up next to the splash park. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The tube starts out bright with LED lighting, but about halfway through riders are plunged into pitch black and the mat picks up tremendous speed; that's when most will let out a scream or "wooooo!" that can be heard back in the anglerfish's body on Deck 16.
"There we go," the crew members said and nodded with satisfaction whenever the "wooooo!" wound up from inside the tube.  
The slide ends in the Boardwalk neighborhood on Deck 6. Some riders might stagger right into the perfectly-positioned adjacent Sabor restaurant for a stiff (or celebratory) margarita.
A guest braved the chill for a turn in one of the Perfect Storm waterslides. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
A guest braved the chill for a turn in one of the Perfect Storm waterslides. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

Carnival Corporation chief backs UK trade push

Carnival Corporation chief backs UK trade push

The chief executive of Carnival Corporation has backed his UK team to develop relations with the trade, but urged agents to speak out if they were unhappy with the.

Speaking at the 10th annual Clia conference in Southampton, Arnold Donald said he had “every confidence” in the Carnival UK team, who he said would “talk to the trade, listen and learn”.

His comments came after Carnival UK’s vice president for sales Alex White vowed to have “agents at the heart” of the P&O Cruises and Cunard business in the future, following a mixed history with the trade which included a swathe of commission cuts in 2011.

Donald said: “We have increased our team by 30% under the leadership of Alex White, we have our Cunard and P&O Cruises Partnership Team that we’ve implemented and we have our training academy which we are refining and revamping.

“You (the trade) told us that we were on the right track and we absolutely want to keep listening and figuring out how we can continue enhancing.

“I have every confidence in David Noyes, who leads Carnival UK, and Alex and his expanded team to make sure we have enough people contact (with the trade) and make sure we’re talking to you and listening and learning so we can deliver what you need to build your business and in turn build our business and I think we’re on the track.

"You tell us, and if we’re not we’ll correct it and make sure we get on the right track.”

Friday, 20 May 2016

Cruise chief targets 'pirate' shore excursion operators

Cruise chief targets 'pirate' shore excursion operators

Photo courtesy of Dave Jones
by Hollie-Rae Merrick
Cruise lines need to educate agents about the value of selling shore excursions to stop “pirate third-party operators stealing guests”, the boss of the world’s largest cruise company has claimed.

Carnival Corporation chief executive Arnold Donald told the Clia conference in Southampton that there was scope to improve the promotion and sales of both onboard and destination-based experiences.

“There has only been one year since 2006 that onboard revenues didn’t go up,” he said. “Despite any changes in the industry, onboard revenues have continued to grow.

“Those changes include shore excursions where you have a lot of, what we call pirates, but they call themselves independent operators, stealing our guests on shore excursions that they ought to be booking with us.

“It’s a missed opportunity for us.”

Donald said that working with agents would help customers differentiate between shore tours provided through cruise lines and others.

“Some of those tours aren’t the same,” he added. “They may go to the same places but they aren’t the same.

“They may not have the same insurance, they may not have the same quality guides and consumers buying online doesn’t know all that. We have to do a better job at that.

“There are so many opportunities on this.”

Donald went on to praise the performance of the UK market which he described as “robust” and performing well.

He claimed the UK was on a “positive trajectory from a Carnival standpoint”, but admitted that the industry needed to “manage smarter and not panic on price”.

He said it was important to “hang in there a little bit longer on price” to help drive up the average cruise fare.

Carnival Vista wears its innovations well

Carnival Vista wears its innovations well

The patio of a Havana Cabana suite includes a swing chair. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The patio of a Havana Cabana suite includes a swing chair. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

The Carnival Vista, four years in the making, is distinguished by a number of new features that seem so right on a cruise ship, you wonder why no one thought of them before.
At least three stand out in my mind as concepts that work intuitively to enhance a cruise.
The one that will send a lot of photos out onto social networks is SkyRide, the recumbent bicycle that riders propel beneath an 800-foot-long track suspended 150 feet above the waterline.
SkyRide is just fun, the heart of the Carnival brand promise. It lasts about 90 seconds at normal pace and riders can reach speeds of 18 miles an hour if they pedal hard.
The dual track on SkyRide allows for companions to cycle together or friends to race the 800-foot circuit. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The dual track on SkyRide allows for companions to cycle together or friends to race the 800-foot circuit. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
“It was excellent,” said Spencer Clarke, a film producer and director from Los Angeles who tried SkyRide on a recent cruise from Barcelona. “I liked the fact that it gave you a little bit of that weightless feeling as you come down that incline,” he said.
Although its appeal to kids is obvious, Carnival said its oldest rider on a recent cruise was 87.
Wait times on a recent cruise peaked at 35-40 minutes, but that may grow as more children board during the summer months.
Then there is the Family Harbor: a class of cabins grouped around a key-carded lounge for families. The concept is so functional, it’s hard to believe no one has tried it before.
The Family Harbor Lounge is surrounded by family-friendly cabins and access is controlled by key card. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The Family Harbor Lounge is surrounded by family-friendly cabins and access is controlled by key card. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Some family cabins are designed with a bed nook and TV that can be curtained off from the rest of the cabin, which both kids and parents will find a cool idea for different reasons.
In addition to a unified nautical design theme, the cabins come with perks such as free meals for kids at most specialty restaurants and a night of free babysitting.
Alex Aguilar, of Orange County, Calif., said she expects to use the Family Harbor Lounge two or three times a day. 
“I’m genuinely excited there’s milk,” she said. “And the fact I can just run out here and get it is great.”
Dreamscape is a central pillar in the atrium that projects moving images through LED technology. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Dreamscape is a central pillar in the atrium that projects moving images through LED technology. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Bringing IMAX to sea also seems a no-brainer, if a little complicated to execute. Carnival has taken a three-deck space in the interior to put 178 raked seats in front of the enormous IMAX screen.
To install the screen without damage, IMAX had to roll it up and thread it through a three foot hole in the side of the theater.
“It was an incredible challenge,” said IMAX Corp. chief executive Rich Gelfond.
Programming includes documentaries ($5.50), and 3-D family features and current Hollywood blockbusters ($12.95), which by the third quarter will be delivered digitally by satellite at the same time that they open in 1,100 IMAX land theaters.
The Vista has other innovations that merit high grades. Visitors gawk at Dreamscape, a multi-story mushroom-shaped pillar that is programmed with ever-changing images crafted in LED lights.
The Vista’s photo gallery is the first end-to-end digital gallery on Carnival. Photos display on a video wall and are available for purchase on a guest’s hand-held device through the Carnival Hub app.
Light fixtures that look like rocket nozzles are part of the design scheme for Carnival Vista. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Light fixtures that look like rocket nozzles are part of the design scheme for Carnival Vista.Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Another winning space on the ship is the Cuban-themed complex on Deck 5 aft. Havana Bar has been upgraded from the Carnival Sunshine to have more seating, a better bandstand/dance floor, and better theming, including dominos tables and a colonial map of Cuba on the wall.
It extends outdoor to an aft pool area, and is surrounded by Cuban-themed cabins and suites. The latter come with open air patios that connect via a deck walk to the pool. The whole outdoor area is private to Havana cabin guests from 6 am to 5 pm, giving it a club atmosphere.
I didn’t catch all of the entertainment, but more than ever before Carnival is taking musicians and dispatching them to parts of the ship you don’t expect to see them in. Examples include a strolling accordion player and a New Orleans jazz trio stationed at the entrance to one of the main dining rooms.
The stateroom corridors on Carnival Vista feature floor-to-ceiling photo panels. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The stateroom corridors on Carnival Vista feature floor-to-ceiling photo panels. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
For my money, the Vista’s design is the most elegant ever for a Carnival ship. I particularly liked the orange light fixtures that look like rocket nozzles and give the ship a lot of visual thrust.
Another neat trick is the use of floor to ceiling photo panels in the stateroom corridors, which make the cabin doors almost disappear and keep the corridors from being visual dead zones.
A few things about the Vista were disappointing, puzzling, or didn’t work.
Not building USB charging outlets next to the beds is a missed opportunity on any new cruise ship. The Vista doesn’t have them.
There are odd changes of elevation of an inch or two in some stateroom corridors that could catch walkers by surprise.
An eye-catching hammock in the renderings of the Havana Cabana suite patio has turned into a swing chair because there wasn’t adequate space for a full-body hammock, Carnival officials said.
The Pixels photo gallery is the first end-to-end digital gallery in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The Pixels photo gallery is the first end-to-end digital gallery in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet.Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The otherwise appealing Lido Marketplace buffet can feel overcrowded at breakfast, and the excursion staging areas at times are overwhelmed, resulting in long lines.
The new a la carte Seafood Shack seemed expensive to me, compared to the great value Carnival delivers in other specialty restaurants, and I wasn’t bowled over by a lobster roll I had there.
Robin Reed, a property manager from the Bronx who was dining on the $6 fish and chips, said they were fine, but that snow crab legs a companion ordered “weren’t really seasoned.”
“The prices are not bad compared to what you get someplace else,” Reed said.
There were a few things I didn’t get to try but that sounded intriguing: “Clue,” a murder mystery game, and “Lights. Camera. Interaction,” described as “Movie-oke” in which passengers re-enact scenes from famous movies.