Friday, December 9, 2011

Refurbished Queen Mary 2 Returns to Service

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 just returned from a two-week refit at the Blohm+Voss yard in Hamburg. During the time, virtually every area inside the ship received attention and refurbishment. The photos show some of the updated public rooms.

Photos courtesy of Cunard Line.

Details of the refurbishment appeared in the December 9, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Additional Video from Queen Mary 2 Refit

Queen Mary 2 returned to service Thursday (December 8, 2011) after a two-week refit in the giant dry dock at the Blohm+Voss yard in Hamburg. In this video, entertainment director Paul O'Loughlin shows us around the refurbished ship and meets the ship's Master, Captain Kevin Oprey, at the bottom of the dry dock for a tour under the ship.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Video: Celebrity Cruises Using Design to Improve Fuel Efficiency

Interesting look, although brief, at how Celebrity Cruises uses marine technology and design to improve their ship's fuel efficiency.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Video: Martina McBride Visits Voyager of the Seas

Country superstar Martina McBride visited Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas to promote the ship being homeported for the winter at New Orleans. While aboard, she performed a concert for invited guests and toured the ship. This video shows some of the behind the scenes of her visit.

Along the way, Royal Caribbean may have picked up a new customer and a nice endorsement (as seen in the video starting at about 0:55). McBride said that she's never been on a cruise ship before, but it's something her family has thought about for a vacation. Now that she has seen it, she said it's something she definitely considering. And she got to blow the ship's whistle.

Video: Carnival Infested by Chipmunks

You are either going to love this or hate it, but the TV ad is now airing for "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" which is opening nationally later this month. If you are a Carnival fan, there's no mistaking that Carnival is involved in this with probably a case of ultimate product placement.

Royal Caribbean Declares Dividend

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, the parent of multiple cruise brands including Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, has declared a quarterly dividend.

The dividend is $0.10 per share, payable on January 11, 2012 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 22, 2011.

The company operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises, all based in the US and sourcing passengers worldwide. For European sourced passengers they operate Pullmantur, CDF Croisieres de France, and have a 50% stake in TUI Cruises.

Crystal Opens 2013 Sailings

Crystal says they have become the first luxury line to release their entire 2013 schedule and open all 2013 sailings for bookings.

More to follow.

Celebrity to Expand Suite Selection on Reflection

Celebrity Cruises said this morning that Celebrity Reflection will enter service next fall with an expanded selection of suites, including two new suite types.

The five Signature Suites will be located in a private area of the 14th deck, accessible only with a key card. The 441-square-foot suites will maximize the sea views and have floor-to-ceiling windows and doors which open out onto a 118-square-foot veranda. They will accommodate four people and offer 24/7 butler service.

The Reflection Suite will occupy a corner location of Deck 14 and be the line's first two-bedroom suite. Included in the 1,636-square-foot suite will be a bathroom with a rain shower in a bathroom that extends out over the side of the ship. The 194-square-foot wrap-around veranda features a private whirlpool tub. The Reflection Suite is also in the exclusive private area of the ship requiring key card access, and also offers 24/7 butler service.

Celebrity has opened the new suites for sale to their Captains Club members and will open them for bookings from the general public on December 12.

The complete story appeared in the December 7, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Alaska's Governor Welcomes Norwegian Capacity Increase

In a statement late Tuesday, Alaska's governor Sean Parnell expressed his pleasure at hearing Norwegian Cruise Line would add a third ship to their Alaskan fleet in 2013.

“We are pleased that Norwegian Cruise Line will bring even more passengers to our great state,” Parnell said. “This is more evidence that lowering taxes on an industry leads to increased investment that Alaskans will reap into the future.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Norwegian announced that Norwegian Sun would be deployed on 7-day one way cruises between Vancouver and Whittier during the summer 2013 season, the first time Norwegian has had three ships in Alaska in four years. Their third ship in the market was withdrawn due to a downturn in consumer demand for Alaska brought on by the sagging economy coupled with the increased taxes in Alaskan increasing costs (ultimately to cruise lines) making it harder to make a profit in the market.

The governor said that a large ship such as Norwegian Sun would add approximately 40,000 annual visitors to the state and approximately $40 million in direct and indirect spending within Alaska. Coupled with the additional 60,000 visitors the state projects will visit in 2012 due to capacity increases next year, the governor said it will begin to help offset the estimated 265,000 visitors lost and 5,000 jobs lost in recent years as cruise lines cut back.

The Norwegian Sun itineraries are the type the state has particularly sought since they allow for pre- and post-cruise stays in Alaska which translate into increased visitor spending directly in the state.

Reversing the decline in visitor travel has been a focus of the Parnell administration. Parnell sponsored legislation that reduced the cruise passenger head tax, lowering costs and thus incentivizing cruise lines to return capacity to the market.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Woman Falls From Queen Mary in Long Beach

A woman was fatally injured last night when she fell from the original Queen Mary ocean liner, which is now permanently moored in Long Beach for use as a hotel and entertainment center.

The incident occurred Monday evening (December 5, 2011) about 8:30pm. One bystander jumped into the cold water to try to rescue her, and two Long Beach police officers followed him. The woman was taken to a Long Beach hospital in critical condition and later died of her injuries. Her rescuers were treated for hypothermia.

The 26-year-old woman reportedly fell from a walkway at a height of about 75 feet from the water. No information is yet available about where they woman fell from on the ship, and according to local media, investigators are still trying to determine how and why she fell. A spokesman for the LA County Coroner's office indicated alcohol may have been a factor.

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces 2013 Deployment

Norwegian Cruise Line announced their 2013 summer deployment for several areas today. The new schedule will increase capacity in Alaska by adding one ship, which will operate one way 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Whittier, marking the first time Norwegian has had three ships in Alaska since 2009. The line will again have four ships in Europe for the summer season. Two of them will continue to be deployed there year round. Norwegian will increase capacity in Bermuda again operating two ships in the market, but the capacity increase will come with the previously-announced new Norwegian Breakaway operating from New York.

Norwegian also said they will continue their year round US-flag operation in Hawaii, opening bookings for the 7-day program through April 18, 2015. The line will also continue their year round operation of short cruises from Miami to the Bahamas, with the opening of the books through April 25, 2014.

The complete article appeared in the December 6, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Steve Jobs' Parents' Only Splurge

Here's an interesting posting by Princess Cruises' on their Facebook account:

Is anyone reading the Steve Jobs biography? Imagine our surprise when we found this on page 106:

“His biggest personal gift was to his parents, Paul and Clara Jobs … Their only splurge was to take a Princess cruise each year. The one through the Panama Canal “was the big one for my dad,” according to Jobs, because it reminded him of when his Coast Guard ship went through on its way to San Francisco to be decommissioned.”

We are honored to have been his parents’ “only splurge”!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Mexico

At the end of October we reported a sizable gunfight in Cabo San Lucas, previously thought by cruise lines to be isolated from the violence that's plagued other Mexican port cities on the west coast. As it turns out, just a couple days later there was a well-organized daylight armed robbery of an upscale jewelry store virtually across the street from the cruise ship pier in Puerto Vallarta - in the early afternoon while Holland America passengers were coming and going to their ship across the street.

Neither of these incidents directly targeted cruise passengers, nor were any directly involved, but these are the types of incidents which worry cruise lines and have caused them to cancel calls, because the violence could easily involve cruise passengers who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In this case, the robbery was in the GAD jewelry store in the exclusive Plaza Galerias. A large number of Holland America passengers were reported to be in the square adjacent to the shopping mall at the time of the robbery. Reports say that two armed robbers stood guard at the door of the store while four more moved quickly through the crowded store to the more expensive jewelry, clearly knowing what they wanted and where it was. There were no shots fired, but the store manager was beaten severely in the head with a pistol by one of the men. The robbers told employees not to call the police, or they would return and extract revenge.

At the end of the robbery, all six men fled in different directions. There was reported to be a large police presence outside the mall. If they had been informed, and a gun battle broke out, the Holland America passengers in the square probably would have been involved.

The November 1 incident was brought to our attention by a reader who saw a single article about the robbery in a local Puerto Vallarta newspaper.

Cruise lines again are probably considering the situation. Holland America and Carnival continue to call at Puerto Vallarta. Princess suspended calls, but has signaled their intention to return during the winter season. Disney has also returned for the winter season.

Ports along the west coast seem to be in full damage control mode lately, stressing that the extremely violent incidents Americans are hearing about in the news are far away from their ports. If the subject of violence in their cities comes up, they tell you that there were only a few incidents which involved tourists and they were just minor
street crimes. Never mind the ones that happened to local citizens who weren't tourists.

A couple of weeks ago, Mazatlan organized a large press trip to show how much the city has to offer, and reassure media about the safety. They only seemed to invite people whom they knew would write positive articles and not ask probing questions.

In one interview resulting from that trip, the person from the tourist board said there had only been a couple of minor incidents "targeting" tourists, and he went into detail describing two street crimes. The interviewer never
brought up the widely-reported incident when a Canadian tourist (not a cruise passenger) was killed by gunfire in
the parking lot of his Gold Zone hotel when the target of a drug-related execution ran and the rival gang sprayed the area with automatic weapon fire trying to hit the fleeing man. It was true that the tourist wasn't a target, but it also certainly wasn't a "minor street crime."

In another interview from that same trip, another reporter talked about how he "didn't feel unsafe." But then again with the way these incidents pop up and then disappear quickly, one wouldn't feel unsafe. In the recent Cabo San Lucas incident at a shopping mall, there was no inkling of trouble until the armed men, who were apparently hiding out from police in the parking lot were spotted by police and opened fire with AK-47's. Police returned fire, but it quickly stopped as the men fled into the mall, and shoppers were pinned down for hours, not wanting to come out while police searched, in case the gunfire would erupt again.

That same reporter who felt safe, also reported on the safety of the cruise port and interviewed the port manager. They talked about the 20-foot walls around the port, the guard tower, and the way tour buses can drive right up to the cruise ships so passengers never have to walk outside the port. The reporter never asked the obvious questions about if Mazatlan is so safe, why the port felt it necessary to build 20-foot walls around the port so most cruise passengers won't be exposed to the area around the port.

The Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta incidents seem to demonstrate that this "pop up" violence is spreading in Mexico, and can crop up even in areas thought to be "safe." The Puerto Vallarta incident especially is an example of the type of violence that cruise lines have feared most.

With the 2011-2012 winter season just beginning, and most cruise lines beginning to relax and return to their established Mexican Riviera itineraries, it's going to be interesting to see how the cruise lines respond.

The original article appeared in the November 28, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Queen Mary 2 Photos from the Bottom of the Dry Dock

The two-week refit of Queen Mary 2 is continuing at Blohm+Voss in Hamburg (Germany). Today, the action has moved to the bottom of the dry dock. The photos from Cunard show the ship sitting high and dry.

QM2, with its newly painted hull, sits in the drydock at Blohm+Voss in Hamburg.

Captain Kevin Oprey with Entertainment Director Paul O'Loughlin underneath Queen Mary 2's bulbous bow.

Here you can see the blocks on which the ship rests while it is in the dry dock and the bow thrusters on the ship's port side.

Photos courtesy of Cunard Line.

Norwegian to Enhance Loyalty Program

Norwegian Cruise Line said today they will change they way customers accrue points in their Latitudes loyalty program and move to higher, more feature-rich tiers. Points are now awarded based on the length of the cruise, with additional points for passengers booking suites and even advance booking.

The complete story appeared in the December 5, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Royal Caribbean to Sell Specialty Dining Packages

Royal Caribbean International said today in addition to traditional pay-as-you-go dining for their specialty restaurants, on four ships the line will also sell packages of specialty dinners in specific combinations of restaurants. The packages offered will vary depending on the ship, because each ship has different combinations of restaurants. The package price will represent an approximate 25% discount off the individual prices.

RCI will also begin to offer reservation-only pre-paid parties in some of the line's casual restaurants.

The specialty restaurant plan is similar to one sister-line Celebrity began offering a couple of months ago.

In the complete CND article, we also looked at RCI's motivation behind offering the new rates.

The complete article appeared in the December 5, 2011, edition of Cruise News Daily.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Video: Decorating Disney Dream

As you would expect, the holidays are a magical time aboard Disney Dream, and since this is its first Christmas, they are even more so. Unlike other lines, Disney can draw upon the same year round professionals who are responsible for decorating the park, and they transformed the entire ship - with Disney attention to detail - during its turnaround at Port Canaveral. And speaking of detail, there are new "hidden Mickey's" in the Christmas decorations, as seen in this video.