Archive for the 'Cruise News' Category

New Ship for Celebrity Cruises

posted by Wayne
November 19, 2017

Celebrity is building a ship specifically designed for the Galapagos Islands.  The 100 passenger ship is the smallest ever built for Celebrity Cruises.  The Ecuadorian government restricts the size ships that are allowed to visit these islands that are rich in wildlife seen exclusively in this part of the world.  The ship will be named Celebrity Flora and will begin cruising in May of 2019.

This “soft adventure” cruise will be premium priced because this is one of the world’s most sought after destinations and government restrictions limit the number of visitors.

The Jones Act has been in the news because of the hurricanes and the need to get supplies into hurricane ravaged US territories.  It was enacted in 1920 and was designed to protect the American Merchant Marine which would be needed in time of war.  Its basic tenant is that in order to carry goods or passengers between US ports, a ship must have the hull of the ship built in the US and at least 75% of its crew must be US citizens.  During the ongoing emergency at St Thomas, St Johns and Puerto Rico, there are too few US flagged ships available to move supplies to these territories.  Therefore the Jones Act was temporarily suspended.

How does the Jones Act affect the cruise industry and its customers?

There are a number of cruise lines whose ships ply US rivers who meet the Jones Act requirements.  The most well known is the American Queen.

However, most of the large cruise ships were built in Europe and are flagged in small countries that have low tax rates.  They cannot carry passengers between US ports without stopping at a foreign port.  There is one large cruise ship that meets the Jones act provisions.  It is NCL’s Pride of America. Its hull was built in the U.S. It’s flagged in the US and carries an American crew.   It’s based in Hawaii has weekly cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

It is the only large cruise ship that can do this itinerary and therefore it is no competition.  NCL has the only 7 day cruise in the Hawaiian Islands.

How does the lack of competition affect price?

We compared a Balcony stateroom on a 7 day cruise around Hawaii with an NCL 7 day cruise to the Western Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway.  Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess and others provide stiff competition on this itinerary.

The lowest priced balcony on the March 3rd 2018 sailing of the Pride of America from Honolulu is $2599 per person while the lowest priced balcony on the March 4th Norwegian Getaway is $1179, less than half the price of the Pride of America.

Itineraries are also affected by the Jones Act.  For example, for a round trip Alaska cruise from Seattle, one of the ports must be in Canada.

You can go to Hawaii on a cruise line other than Norwegian Cruise Line.  However, the ship will stop in Ensenada or Vancouver on its way to or from the West Coast of the United States and it will be an 11 or 12 night cruise with a lot of days at sea..

Are there benefits to the Jones Act?

Yes, crews receive higher wages and working conditions are better and safer.  Also, there are stricter environmental requirements for US flagged ships.

When NCL initiated Hawaii cruises on the Pride of America, they hired young Americans as waiters and room stewards and guess what happened?  Passengers complained bitterly about the quality of service.  It seems that the young Americans pictured themselves as laying out on deck during the day and partying at night with a smidgen of work here and there.

NCL had to build a facility in Maryland to train American staff in the art of service.  They are now able to weed out the party people before they board the Pride and service is now very good.

Royal Caribbean’s New Price Program

posted by Wayne
June 23, 2017

Are you a Royal Caribbean Fan?  If yes, you must read this.

Beginning July 1st, Royal Caribbean will offer an additional discount if you are willing to forego your deposit if you cancel  your cruise.  However, all is not lost.  If you cancel and rebook another date with Royal Caribbean, your deposit less $100 per person will be moved to the new date. This new program will take effect on July 1st.

The key information, that is, how much you can save by taking the no refund route, will not be available until July 1st.

On the Edge

posted by Wayne
March 17, 2017
Artistic rendition of the Infinite Veranda

Artistic rendering of the Infinite Veranda

There was so much hype leading up to the announcement of Celebrity Edge, Celebrity’s new class of ship which is scheduled to debut at the end of 2018.  Now that we’ve seen the plans, we understand what all the fuss is about!

This groundbreaking ship is truly on the cutting edge in the world of cruising:

~~~ Its Infinite Veranda allows passengers to turn their entire stateroom into one open-air veranda by opening the glass door barriers (they fold to the side like French doors). Alternatively, you can enlarge your stateroom by leaving the “french doors” open and closing a second set of veranda doors which seal off the wind.

~~~ The Magic Carpet is a covered platform attached to the starboard side of the ship. It moves up and down on the side of the ship and stops on certain decks, adapting to each of those decks as an extension of what already exists (an extension to the pool area, an extension of one of the new restaurants, Raw on 5, a platform to streamline stepping onto a tender, etc.)

Artistic rendering of the Magic Carpet

Artistic rendering of the Magic Carpet

~~~ Suite passengers on the Edge have use of exclusive public spaces called “The Retreat”.  There is an exclusive lounge, sundeck, pool bar and pool along with Luminae, Celebrity’s suite-only restaurant.

~~~ Celebrity has introduced two new Edge-class suites. The 950 sq ft Edge Villas are awesome 2 story luxury residences that surpass any “suite” we’ve seen. The 1880 sq ft, 2 bedroom Iconic Suites are positioned above the bridge and enjoy sweeping panoramic views.

~~~ Celebrity has been moving n the direction of open air spaces on all of their ship classes.  The Edge expands on this theme with the Rooftop Garden, a space artfully decorated with tree-top sculptures. It’s a place where you can relax with a good book, grab a bite to eat, dance under the stars or watch a movie.

There is still quite a bit of information about the Edge that has not yet been released – as we receive more information we will provide updates.

The Edge will begin its season with an East/West Caribbean itinerary.  Reservations are available for sailings from December 2018 through April of 2019.  Pricing and promotions are competitive with other Celebrity ships, so call now to reserve your space!

Harmony of the Seas Inaugural Photos

posted by Wayne
November 17, 2016
Harmony of the Seas docked in Nassau

Harmony of the Seas docked in Nassau

Jonathan just returned from the Harmony of the Seas’ inaugural sailing!  He describes this new Oasis class ship as “amazing” and says “you have to see it to believe it”!   The Harmony, Royal Caribbean’s 3rd ship in the Oasis class, will be doing 7-night East and West Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale.

Call or email us to plan your next vacation on this magnificent new ship!

 

Harmony of the Seas has a bionic bar like the one found on the Anthem of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas is the first of the  Oasis class ships to host bionic bartenders.

Harmony's Pool Deck

Harmony of the Seas pool deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harmony of the Seas has two 10-story slides overlooking Boardwalk

Harmony of the Seas has two 10-story slides overlooking Boardwalk!

Bermuda Trip Ends in Bayonne

posted by Wayne
October 21, 2016
Grandeur of the Seas

Grandeur of the Seas

A category 3 hurricane hit Bermuda last week.  The Grandeur of the Seas was scheduled for a five night cruise to Bermuda and had to be diverted.  Royal Caribbean selected Bayonne as the alternate port.  Is Bayonne for Bermuda a good trade?  Before you scoff, let’s see what happened with the passengers.

First, they were given 100% credit toward a future cruise.

Second, Royal Caribbean provided a free ferry to Manhattan.

It seems to us that the Grandeur’s passengers got an all-expense paid trip to New York City.  Imagine the cost for 2 nights at a hotel and 3 meals per day.

Our clients who were aboard the Grandeur were very happy and can’t wait to book their next Royal Caribbean cruise.

We applaud Royal Caribbean for this more than fair offer.

The Answer is Cuba

posted by Wayne
January 23, 2016
Street in Havana - photo from Globus Journeys collectoin

Street in Havana – photo from Globus Journeys collection

We were looking for the word “Cuba” in your response to our question “Guess why Royal Caribbean brought her (Empress of the Seas) back?“. It’s one of the worst kept secrets that Royal Caribbean is bringing back the Empress of the Seas for cruises from Miami to Cuba. After all, could they let Carnival have Cuba by themselves?  Fathom Impact Travel, a Carnival subsidiary, has already announced cruises to Cuba beginning in May of this year. Globus has also begun a Cuba program and has created a few different land itineraries.

Royal Caribbean hasn’t announced dates nor have they officially admitted that the Empress of the Seas will be sailing to Cuba. However, it would be bizarre to bring back a relatively small 27 year old ship for Caribbean cruises when they have the stunning Allure and Oasis of the Seas already serving the Caribbean with much success.

Want to be among the first to visit this beautiful but slightly dilapidated island? You should know a few things.

1. You will go as a traveler, not a tourist. A traveler interacts with the inhabitants; a tourist rides a bus and sees the sights.

2. Don’t expect to go to a beach and sip Cuba Libres. This is still not allowed. You will have direct contact with Cuban people in person-to-person cultural exchanges.

3. It won’t be cheap. Expect to pay around $2000 per person for an oceanview stateroom plus taxes plus $150 for a Cuban visa.

4. Buy euros. Fidel charges more to exchange US dollars.

Do we think a trip to Cuba at this point is worth it?  You bet!  Cuba is the world’s biggest car museum.  Cars from the fifties and sixties are common in Cuba. The food is fantastic, the art is amazing and you will become immersed in the sounds of son (Cuba’s popular music).

Still want to be among the first in more than a half century to visit this up and coming jewel of the Caribbean?

Email us and we will contact you when Royal Caribbean makes an announcement.  Or, if you’d like to consider a “people-to-people” cultural exchange through Globus, we can help you with that, too (tours through April and part of May are already sold out).

Forty-seven people mentioned “Cuba” in their responses. The winner of the drawing is Sue Bass of Levittown, PA. She will receive a $25 gift card.

While we wait for Cuba:

The Empress of the Seas has some very low priced cruises on 4 (Bahamas) or 5 (Western Caribbean) night cruise beginning in April.

Viking River Cruises announced that New Orleans will be the home to 6 new Viking ships.  The first one is to arrive in 2017 and will sail to destinations like Memphis, St. Paul and St. Louis.  Viking’s move is expected to be a boon to the New Orleans’s tourism industry, with increased traffic to hotels and restaurants.

Because of Viking’s popularity in the European river cruising market, its move to the United States is likely to spark new interest in Mississippi itineraries in general.  The cruise line plans announcements on its Mississippi itineraries and ship design later this year. The boats which will be built in the U.S. are expected to be similar to the contemporary ships Viking uses on European rivers.

Interested in a Mississippi River cruise sooner than 2017?

The American Queen Steamboat Company operates the only true overnight steamboat on the Mississippi. The food is truly gourmet and the vessel, although a steamboat, has every modern amenity.

Although not a true steamboat, American Cruise Line’s new paddle wheeler, the America Eagle, will debut on the Mississippi April 11th.

Why a river cruise?

River cruising in general has exploded in popularity in recent years, offering a more intimate way to experience cruising than the mega-ships that carry thousands of people and are loaded with attractions such as rides and Broadway shows.  Some travelers say riverboats are a welcome throwback to an earlier era of cruising.

River cruising is also more destination-oriented, with boats navigating narrow waterways to port cities that massive ships could never reach.

Next Royal Caribbean Ship to Leave Fleet

posted by Wayne
January 16, 2015
Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas

The Majesty of the Seas is the last of its class in the Royal Caribbean fleet.  She will be heading to Europe in April of 2016 to sail for Pullmantour Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean International.  When she was built, she and her sisters, at 75,000 tons, were the biggest cruise ships in the world.  Twenty-two years later, she is dwarfed by the likes of the Oasis and Allure of the Seas at 220,000 tons.

She has been relegated to the short cruise market with 3 and 4 night cruises from Miami.  We sailed on her about 10 years ago and recall her wonderful crew and small (cozy) staterooms.  In Florida for the winter?  Why not take advantage of super low last minute rates?

Grandeur of the Seas anchored in Georgetown's harbor.

Grandeur of the Seas anchored in Georgetown’s harbor.

We were looking for an early November cruise that was reasonably priced and didn’t require flying. The ship that came closest to meeting our needs was the Grandeur of the Seas departing Baltimore on November 2nd. We had to make one compromise. While we would have preferred a balcony, the price for balconies was a lot higher than we planned to spend. This is common for the Grandeur and similar ships. Since there is only one deck of balconies, they are in short supply and can therefore command premium prices. However, there are lots of oceanview rooms and there were great deals on them so that’s what we chose.  As a bonus, the cruise was 10 days long which was good since we were leaving from Baltimore in cold weather so 10 days gave us lots of warm weather days.

Western Caribbean Ports of Call

The ports were Falmouth, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Labadee. These are standard cruise ship ports and except for Falmouth, we had visited the other ports before. Falmouth was a sleepy little town on the

Falmouth Cruise Port

Falmouth Cruise Port

north coast about 20 miles from Montego Bay. The port was developed specifically for the giant Royal Caribbean ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas. As soon as you get off the ship, you are in a large shopping area with newly built “fake” warehouses which are the stores. Jamaican people are required to have a permit to enter this gated area. This is to protect us from the folks who (sometimes pushy) hawk their wares. The real Jamaica is in Falmouth, just outside of this protected area.

We took a culinary tour, not offered by the cruise line. Two very competent and informed women escorted us around town where we visited street vendors, restaurants and a private home where we sampled typical Jamaican food including coconut water and jerk chicken. They not only explained the food but they also gave us a running history of Jamaica and its culture. We discovered that marijuana is a key part of the

Our culinary tour guides with one of the food vendors.

Our culinary tour guides with one of the food vendors.

Rastafarian religion but marijuana (ganja) is illegal in Jamaica. We highly recommend this tour to folks who are a bit adventurous. And it is only $45 per person.

Clients who were on the cruise with us took a private tour of Montego Bay which first went through the mountains to the area where the Maroons live. This is a community which descended from refugees who escaped slavery in the Americas and formed independent settlements. They thought the tour was excellent.  Another possibility is to go to Montego Bay and Doctors Beach. There is a small entrance fee but it is a beautiful and clean beach.

Our next port was Georgetown, Grand Cayman.  Sting-Ray City and 7 mile beach are the big attractions in Grand Cayman. Since we’ve experienced both, and we enjoy snorkeling, we found a great snorkeling spot within easy walking distance of the tender dock (note that all ships require tendering in Grand Cayman) where the fish were plentiful and you can rent fins and masks.

An artistic display on Cozumel's main street.

An artistic display on Cozumel’s main street.

We usually scuba dive in Cozumel (for divers, we recommend Sergio Sandoval). However, on this trip, we taxied into town, checked some of the shops and ended up in Pancho’s Back Yard (not a bad place to end up). The Margaritas are huge. Another favorite spot in Cozumel is Chankanaab Lagoon which is a short taxi ride from the ship. There are some Mayan ruins on Cozumel and the cruise line offers a tour to Tulum but you need to be aware that this tour requires a ferry ride which occasionally can be a bit rough.

The final stop was Labadee which almost everyone who has taken a Royal Caribbean cruise has visited. The beaches are beautiful. However, the food lines can be long if you don’t get in line early. There is a very appealing zip line but it is nearly $100 (we skipped it because of the price).

The Ship

The Grandeur of the Seas is a seagoing contradiction. As ships go, she is both small and old.  The Oasis of the Seas is 3 times as big as this 18 year old veteran.  Most of the size difference is in the width

Bar in the Centrum

(she is about half as wide as the Oasis of the Seas) and height (she has 6 fewer decks). However, her 866 foot length makes her feel pretty big.  As for the age, after her complete overhaul in 2012, she is completely up to date. Her sleek public spaces are as modern as any cruise ship, with the possible exception of the Quantum of the Seas. The wide wooden promenade deck is a feature that she has kept and we love it. It gave us (remember – no balcony) a chance to sit out, watch and listen to the ocean.

For a before dinner drink, Diamond members have their own lair where the drinks and appetizers are complimentary. The Schooner bar is always hopping before dinner usually with a musical trivia game. For those looking for a quiet drink with a view, head to the Viking Crown Lounge.

A sampling of Izumi

A sampling of Izumi

We were quite impressed with the food in the main dining room. The beef dishes were just OK but every other dish was excellent. We also tried each of the extra cost restaurants and we rank them as follows: Giovanni’s was the best in terms of both service (beyond outstanding, in part due to the warm and welcoming hostess) and food (fantastic). We had lunch at Izumi, a Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi. For sushi lovers, it was great. Non sushi people had the option of chicken or beef on a skewer. Chops was fine and if you want great beef, this is your spot. However, while the staff did their job correctly, there was no WOW to the service.

While we appreciated the “main stage” entertainment, we especially loved the crew’s creative use of the multi-level Centrum for aerialist acts and late night audience participation entertainment. The South Pacific lounge was also put to good use for game shows and a fun version of “crew” karaoke.

Aerialist entertainment in the Centrum

Aerialist entertainment in the Centrum

Embarkation could be lengthy if you arrive between 11AM and 1PM. Later arrivals should be able to board quickly. However, in order to board the ship, you must walk up about 5 decks through a zigzagging walkway. If you have any physical challenges or concerns, don’t be shy, ask for a wheelchair. The Royal Caribbean staff will wheel you aboard on the lowest deck where you can ride the elevator to your deck.

Overall this was a terrific cruise. The staff was superb the food well above average and the price of an oceanview room made this a great value. We booked the cruise 6 months in advance and were glad we did. As we got close to the cruise, the price went up and the sailing was full.