Tired Of Caribbean Islands? No Problem: We’ll Make More, Say Cruise Lines

Caribbean
breezy421/Flickr

After a few sailings in the Caribbean, North American cruise travelers can get tired of going to the same islands. Their cruise vacation may be a great value and easy to do but they want more. The problem is that ships can only go so far before having to turn around and get back in a week, the time most travelers have for vacation. The answer: make more islands.

While the cruise industry has not exactly figured out how to make there be land where there was none before, they have become good at building custom cruise ports. New Banana Coast cruise port in Honduras is a great example.

Beginning construction in 2011, the $30 million Banana Coast cruise destination is scheduled to open in November 2014. Billed as “Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea,” the western Caribbean port already has cruise lines adding Banana Coast as a port of call. So far, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Line and, just this week, Oceania Cruises have committed to regular stops with more lines expected as they roll out future itineraries.When the project is complete, Banana Coast will have a 50,000-square-foot shopping facility and transportation hub, which will take visitors to other places on the island. Possible experiences include a VIP airplane trip to the Mayan ruins, snorkeling, kayaking, ATV rides, a culinary tasting tour and more. The diverse climate and topography of Honduras offers waterfalls, rivers, streams, mountains, a tropical rainforest, a nature reserve, coral reefs and crystal clear waters all at the same destination.

This is not the first man-made Caribbean cruise destination either. The Jamaica port of Falmouth, a joint project between Royal Caribbean International and the Port Authority of Jamaica, is another good example. Reminiscent of the historic 1700’s and 1800’s when Falmouth was the big port for sugar exports worldwide, the port is built to handle Royal Caribbean’s huge Oasis-class ships. The location also allows visitors to do shore excursions from both existing ports of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, each about a half-hour away.

Back in Honduras, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center is a Carnival Corporation sponsored destination that has welcomed over one million cruise passengers since opening in 2009. The Roatan, Honduras, location is on 20 acres of waterfront property and is an attractive area to visit for guests of Carnival Cruise Lines. In addition, there are sister-lines Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises and non-Carnival Corporation vessels.

In the Dominican Republic, construction continues on the Amber Cove Cruise Center, a giant $65 million facility that will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. This one is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation. Amber Cove will feature a welcome center with a variety of retail offerings, including a marketplace for locally sourced Dominican crafts and souvenirs, as well as a wide range of themed restaurants and bars, water attractions and a transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to the surrounding destinations and attractions.

As the high price of airfare continues to keep North American cruise travelers sailing from home ports scattered around the United States, look for these man-made islands to continue gaining popularity.

Another Caribbean destination, which has become increasingly accessible by sea or air is Curacao. Boasting 35 beaches and an eclectic mix of history and culture, the capital city of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a good choice to visit as we see in this video:

Carnival To Spend Millons On Safety Program

safetyDigging deep into Carnival Corporation pockets to address the safety concerns of cruise travelers worldwide, Carnival Cruise Lines is looking to put the past behind them. Today announcing a multi-million comprehensive safety program, the cruise line that just can’t seem to get ahead of the game is taking a different approach: changing it.

This time last month in the article “Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing,” Gadling reported that Carnival was in the process of shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong.

“This review is very comprehensive; it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill. “But you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Today, the fruits of those efforts were revealed, with Cahill noting, “by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations.”Called the Operating Reliability and Guest Comfort program, the focus is deep, promising to tackle three major areas of concerns to travelers:

safetyEnhance emergency power capabilities- Each ship will have a new, emergency generator that will provide 100 percent of stateroom and public toilets, fresh water and elevators in the event of a loss of main power.

Improve the level of operating redundancies- All ships already have two separate, redundant engine rooms. But new modifications will include a reconfiguration of certain engine-related electrical components.

safetyIntroduce new fire safety technology- Fleet-wide, Carnival will invest in the newest and most technically advanced fire prevention, detection and suppression systems, upgrading the existing water mist systems.

On the guest comfort front, Carnival will expand the availability of hotel services for the comfort of its guests if a shipboard event involves the loss of main power.

Looking beyond Carnival Cruise Lines, the program will be applied to all 101 ships in the Carnival Corporation Fleet, which also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Line and Seabourn.

“The overall program of enhancements across the fleet, including Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships, is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million,” said Carnival Corporation spokesperson Lanie Morgenstern in an email.

Included in the announcement was a new video featuring Cahill and Carnival Corporation chairman, Mickey Arison. Accused by the Boston Globe of paying more attention to his Miami Heat than the heat passengers on the Carnival Triumph endured without air-conditioning, Arison goes on the record, describing where safety fits into Carnival’s plans.




[Photo Credit - Carnival Corporation]

Carnival Cruise Line Shake Down Begins, And That’s A Good Thing

carnival cruise

Carnival Cruise Lines fleet of FunShips have plied the oceans of the world for over 40 years, enabling travelers to sample a variety of destinations and cultures. Many of those travelers might not have ventured out of their own back yards without the affordable, normally safe and secure travel option largely pioneered by Carnival. Reporting this week from Cruise Shipping Miami, the South By Southwest of the cruise industry, Gadling was on the scene when the story broke: another Carnival ship in trouble.

Just days before reports of Carnival Dream, her passengers and crew stuck at the dock in St Maarten, Carnival’s President and CEO Gerry Cahill participated with other cruise industry leaders in a keynote panel discussion.

Addressing February’s Carnival Triumph incident, when an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, Cahill updated the crowd on hand for the annual State of the Industry discussion. A signature event of Cruise Shipping Miami, last year’s event was dominated by the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding. Costa Cruises, like Carnival Cruise Lines, are sister brands along with others that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.

“I can assure you since this fire has occurred it has been the number one priority for both Carnival Cruise Lines and Carnival Corporation,” said Cahill of a comprehensive safety review in-progress on the entire Carnival fleet.

Bringing in experts in fire safety, naval architects, marine engineers, electrical engineers, experts from shipyards and more, Carnival seemed committed to raising the bar on safety as never before. The U.S. Coast Guard determined the cause of Carnival Triumph’s fire to be a failed fuel return line, one that had been properly maintained at correctly scheduled intervals.

“This review is very comprehensive, it will take us a little bit of time to complete it,” said Cahill “but you can rest assured that it is our highest priority throughout the entire organization.”

Doubling down on safety protocols while the detailed fleet review continues, Carnival is taking nothing for granted.

carnival cruiseCarnival Dream‘s six massive diesel-electric engines offered over 84,000 in horsepower and were functioning properly. But before going to sea, all systems on the ship are tested and one of those is backup power.

Carnival Dream’s backup system did not pass the test. So with the Carnival Triumph incident fresh in their minds, the failed generator became a “no sail” issue. That’s the good part of the story. Carnival could have allowed the Dream to sail the over 1,100 nautical miles back to Port Canaveral; the ships propulsion system worked.

But taking a page from recent history, a mechanical issue that might not have caused concern before came under the microscope, much like Carnival Cruise Lines, if not the entire cruise industry.

What if some other unknown, unanticipated mechanical breakdown occurred half way between St Maarten and Florida’s Port Canaveral? Carnival has clearly adopted a laser-focused concentration on safety, looking for any issue that could disrupt what should be a fabulous FunShip cruise.

Dream Event Incomplete, Here Comes Another One
Just a day after Carnival Dream was held at the dock (the cruise line equivalent of being grounded, much like the Boeing Dreamliner recently), Carnival Legend was recalled to the port of Tampa, citing propulsion problems. The engines were working; the ship just did not have the ability to go fast enough.

This issue might sound a bit more familiar to frequent cruise travelers. Reduced propulsion issues happen with a bit more frequency on cruise ships from multiple lines and for a variety of reasons.

Design flaws aside, moving parts wear out and these engines and the propulsion systems they provide power for are moving all the time, every day of the year.

carnival cruiseEven docked, ships engines are running, albeit at a reduced speed or with a different fuel, for environmental impact reasons. A handful of ships can “plug in” to a shore side power grid but the amount of reduction in emissions is debatable (the power still comes from somewhere) and plugging in only reduces emissions while in port (there are no extension cords).

In the case of Carnival Legend’s recall to port, that move too might not have happened pre-Triumph. Ships with limited (but reliable) propulsion issues commonly run modified itineraries that do not require the drive system to be quite as vibrant.

Carnival Cruise Lines and its sister cruise lines are not taking any chances. They have brought in experts to look for issues not thought of before and are taking quick action when safety concerns come up.

“It is the thing we are most focused on and we will come up with solutions we will implement across our fleet,” added an obviously committed, apologetic and humble Cahill.

The Big Question
But the ugly elephant question in the room is, fairly: “OK, so maybe these things are freak accidents or an abundance of caution. Why are they all happening to Carnival Cruise Lines?”

Results from third-party sources indicate that Carnival Cruise Lines is operating at a level that meets or exceeds that of regulatory organizations world wide, including the very picky U.S. Coast Guard. Believe that, and the negligence hat does not fit.

Maybe the other cruise lines have higher standards. That dog won’t hunt either. Carnival Cruise Line is just one of the Carnival Corporation family of brands that also includes Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard Line, none of which have Triumph-like events in their history.

Still, bad things happen to good travel options and cruise travel is no exception. Like the hotel fires that occurred with some frequency in the first half of the last century, right now is a time when cruise lines are addressing safety concerns as never before.

Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com put it well in a recent Huffington Post article:

“One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the industry over the past 24 years is that policies and procedures are constantly evolving. Nothing is etched in stone and improvements will always be made, especially when safety is concerned.”

When thinking of the post-Truimph era of cruise travel, who better to pioneer raising the bar, creating new protocols regarding the issue of safety than the organization that created the industry in the first place?

While shoddy journalism by a whole bunch of news organizations clearly focus on sensationalizing the story, I’d hate to forget the contribution to the world of travel that cruises have made. Carnival Cruise Line is shaking down their ships, looking for and trying to anticipate anything that can go wrong. We hope their efforts keep that door to the world of travel open to those who might not otherwise have seen it.


[Photo credit - Chris Owen]

Cruise Line Builds Tropical Paradise, Again

cruiseTo many cruise travelers, “cruising” means “Caribbean” and a growing number have sailed to and around the warm blue waters there many times. Tiring of the same ports, those travelers want variety but don’t want to travel internationally. Cruise lines answer the call by literally “building” new destinations that add variety and help out local economies as well.

This week, Carnival Corporation, parent to a number of cruise lines, broke ground on the Amber Cove Cruise Center, a new $65 million facility in the Dominican Republic to be built exclusively for cruise ships.

“With this cruise terminal, tourism and economic activity in Puerto Plata and the north region will rise to occupy a pre-eminent regional position in the entire Caribbean,” said Dominican Republic president Leonel Fernandez Reyna in an article for Breaking Travel News.

The new two-berth Amber Cove Cruise Center will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. The facility is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation.

Amber Cove will feature a welcome center with a variety of retail offerings, including a marketplace for locally sourced Dominican crafts and souvenirs, as well as a wide range of themed restaurants and bars, water attractions and a transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to the surrounding destinations and attractions.

Cruise line cruise centers have been gaining in popularity with Mahogany Bay Cruise Center in Honduras, another Carnival-sponsored destination, welcoming over one million cruise passengers since opening in 2009. The Roatan, Honduras, location is on 20 acres of waterfront property and is an attractive area for guests of Carnival Cruise Lines and also host to sister-lines Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises and P&O Cruises, as well as non-Carnival Corporation vessels.

The Amber Cove Cruise Center opens in 2014.

Discover Barahona in the Dominican Republic


Photo: Chris Owen

Cruise Ships Still Choking Brooklyn, Not Plugging In, A Year Later

cruise ships at red hookAlmost a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was to become the first East Coast cruise operation with the capability to let ships “plug in” and access power off the grid. Now, almost a year later, ships have still not plugged in to cleaner, shore-side electric power and continue to spew fumes.

Cruise ships annually bring 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter when they park and burn their diesel engines.

Last April, Gadling reported that the $15 million project would be funded with $12 million from the Port Authority, nearly $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant and Carnival Corporation would spend $4 million to retrofit their Princess Cruises and Cunard Line ships that dock in Brooklyn.

Now, costs have shot up another $4.3 million and the Environmental Protection Agency has not paid the extra money, according to local elected officials.

“It is critical that this project not fall by the wayside,” said Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn) in an article appearing in the New York Daily News.

Apparently, the cruise ships are ready to go but the system is still not in place for them to plug in, even though West Coast cruise terminals have had the ability for quite some time.

“It seems fairly pathetic that all of these things are in place but the Port Authority are twiddling their thumbs,” Adam Armstrong, 48, a blogger and father of two who lives on Pioneer Street near the terminal, told the Daily News. “I thought it was quibbling over a small amount of money considering the impact of the emissions on people’s health.”

It has been almost three years since Carnival Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Port Authority first agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power.

Last year, community leaders applauded the move to shore-side power. This year, not so much.


Flickr photo by j_bary