Relaunched Cruise Ships Bring Sunshine and Magic

Disney Cruise Line

In the world of cruise travel, the big story is often about the latest, greatest, biggest cruise ships to be launched and what they have to offer travelers. Those new floating resorts often command the highest fares as cruise travel fans line up to book passage and be one of the first to sail. But while major cruise lines build new ships with the best of what they have to offer, they have not forgotten about their existing fleets. Older ships, relaunched with major updates, can often be one of the best cruise travel values available.

Disney Cruise Line is proud of new Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, the two new ships that more than doubled their fleet capacity. But Disney Magic, first launched in 1998, is not forgotten. The ship has been kept up to date with periodic dry dock maintenance but after living with new features rolled out with Fantasy and Dream, Disney imagineers have taken another look at Disney Magic. The result of that look is an extensive remodel that will bring a host of new reasons to sail the ship.

Disney Cruise Line

Headlining the new features on Disney Magic is The AquaDunk, a 37-foot body slide that starts by taking riders down three decks from Deck 13 to Deck 10 through a translucent tube. That tube extends 20 feet over the side of the ship above the ocean that is over 100 feet below.

We have always been committed to reinvesting in our fleet and continuously making shipboard enhancements that elevate the guest experience,” said Karl L. Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in an Orlando Sentinel article. Marvel comics is now a part of the Disney family of brands, so the Super Hero icons of Marvel have been introduced on Disney Magic as a new space for children. Marvel’s Avengers Academy will be a big part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club as young crime-fighters are transported to a high-tech command post used by The Avengers for special mission.Dining venues are also getting an update with Animator’s Palate getting all-new, larger high-definition flat-screens for better views of the animation magic that takes place all around. “Drawn to Magic” is a new dinner celebration where the black and white “blank canvas” of the Animator’s Palate turns full color, as Disney and Disney-Pixar characters come to life throughout the dinner event.

Carioca’s is a new restaurant tapping the current cruise industry trend to make public spaces multi-use areas. By day the area (which replaces the current Topsider buffet) is a fun quick lunch venue. By night, the now air-conditioned area is an elegant dinner place.

Disney has also added a bigger, better Spa area with a barber shop and more redesigned areas for adults only. Staterooms will get more room, storage and bathing space too. This new Disney video gives full details of all the re-imagined features to be on board Disney Magic:

Disney Magic will be taken out of service on September 10, 2013, returning with all of the above and more on October 8, 2013. But cruise travelers will not have to wait that long to see the result of Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Sunshine, sailing right now after a $155 million refit.

Formerly launched in 1996 as Carnival Destiny, Carnival Cruise Lines took that popular ship, gutted it, and added back all the best features from all their ships and then some. As the first ship in the Carnival fleet to incorporate all of the dining, bar and entertainment options that are part of Carnival Cruise Line’s refreshing Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program, this one is far more than a pit stop dry dock overhaul.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities through partnerships with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.

New on Carnival Sunshine will be:

  • WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide
  • Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar
  • Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and adult shakes and floats
  • JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites
  • Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant

For both Disney and Carnival, the name of the game is being relevant. Much of what worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are inundated by more ships, with more features every year. But that one new ship for any given line – the one that is the newest, best ship in the fleet – is a small percentage of the line’s capacity and not everyone can sail on it. Reworking older ships to bring relevant features is becoming more of a must-do item all the time and these two ships are great examples of the magic and sunshine that can come as a result.

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]

Carnival Triumph Being Towed To Shore After Engine Room Fire

Carnival TriumphCarnival Triumph was nearing the end of a four-night cruise when an engine room fire stopped the ship, about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Without propulsion and running on only backup generator power, Carnival Triumph will be towed to closest port where passengers will disembark and be flown back home.

Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the ship, posted a statement Sunday night on its website. Along with details on how passengers would get home, compensation they would receive and other pertinent information, the cruise line explained what happened and the current status of the ship.

The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. At this time, the fire is fully extinguished. There were no casualties or injuries to guests or crew. All appropriate authorities including U.S. Coast Guard have been notified.”

Meeting Carnival Triumph at the scene, another Carnival ship, Carnival Elation, transferred additional beverages and supplies to distressed ship as it drifted in open sea, waiting for a tugboat.

Expected to arrive in Progresso, Mexico, by Wednesday afternoon, passengers on board will make the best of what is now a free cruise with another free cruise coming in the future.

“All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise, along with transportation expenses,” reads the statement on the Carnival website. “In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.“Meanwhile, booked passengers preparing to depart on the next regularly scheduled sailing of Carnival Triumph are being contacted by the cruise line with the bad news. The next two sailings of Carnival Triumph have been canceled. Those passengers will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and any non-refundable travel expenses plus a discount on a future cruise.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it is. Gadling reported a fire aboard Carnival Splendor in November 2010. At the time, it was believed that the ship would be out of service for several sailings. But once repairs were underway, additional issues were discovered and some needed parts where not available, causing Carnival Splendor to stay out of service until February 2011.

We will provide updates as this story develops. Visit the Carnival website for the most current information.


[Photo credit - Flickr user Daniel Slaughter]

Cruise Lines Bring New Travel Choices By Remodeling Older Ships

cruise linesCruise lines have worked hard to shake off the idea that they are all the same. What was once thought to be an experience well suited to a big ship full of overweight “travelers” who come to graze on endless buffets night and day has changed. Today, cruise lines offer unique travel opportunities on ships that reflect the tastes of an evolving, diverse traveler.

New ships come loaded with all the latest options that are designed to attract a specific type of traveler, one that appreciates what any given cruise line has to offer. As older ships cycle through dry-dock remodeling, a time when ships are taken out of service to perform routine maintenance not possible while at sea, cruise lines are adding some of the most popular new options.

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, for example, recently received a $48 million makeover upgrading staterooms with new furniture, carpets, upholstery and flat-screen TVs. The 73,817-ton ship originally went into service in 1996 and was remodeled in 2007. This year’s remodeling also brought ship-wide technological upgrades, new trendy restaurants from newer ships and a poolside LED screen.

The idea is to make older ships competitive with new builds by adding today’s features from much bigger ships that are appropriate and will work well with smaller, older ships.
“If you walked onto Grandeur of the Seas you literally would think she was a brand new ship,” said Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing in a Vacation Starter report. “I would put her up against any ship in the fleet in terms of going from a ship that was maybe a little bit more mature in her age to absolutely looking like a brand new ship.”

This whole process is nothing new but some remodels are more extensive than others. Gadling reported similar news on a 12-day dry dock for Norwegian Cruise Line’s aging Norwegian Sun last year in “Old Ships Get Extreme Makeover” as well as another Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of the Seas that got a stroke of the remodeling brush in “Old Cruise Ships Get New Features.”

cruise linesAnother makeover coming up shortly, this one a 49-day, $155 million project, comes from Carnival Cruise Lines. Remember Carnival’s Funship 2.0 initiative that promised to revive, renew and re-energize the worlds most popular cruise line? That $500 million program is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’ Punchliners Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities by partnering with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.

Now, Carnival will embark on their most extensive makeover ever, spending $155 million to transform 1995′s Carnival Destiny into a ship so different that they will be changing its name to Carnival Sunshine.

When it enters service in April 2013, Carnival Sunshine will have all of the dining, bar and entertainment elements of the Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program, along with several new features.

New on Carnival Sucruise linesnshine will be: WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide; Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar; Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and “adult shakes and floats”; JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites; and Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant. Here, guests can watch as chefs prepare five different kinds of authentic Italian-style, thin-crusted pies and a full-service Asian restaurant.

It’s all part of being relevant. What worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are looking for more than worn out Vegas-like entertainment from the 1980s, like a never-ending buffet and men’s hairy chest contest. They may still be a little bit interested in those sort of things, but more often are looking for something new.

They want new, trendy dining options that offer healthy choices along with designer cupcakes. They want to kayak in the pristine waters of a UNESCO world heritage site, go hiking in South America or fly over Alaska’s Mount McKinley. Cruise lines hear that call loud and clear and are delivering all that and more as they sail into a new future of cruising.




[Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Lines]

Giant Pumpkin Cruise Ship Not A Scary Thing

pumpkin cruise ship

Carnival Cruise Lines is sponsoring Boo at the Zoo, a “spooktacular” event at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans which attracts thousands of families who will enjoy trick-or-treat houses, a Ghost Train, haunted houses, fun games with prizes and entertainment, children’s decoration stations, and more. One of the main attractions is a massive 70-foot-long giant pumpkin cruise ship display made up of more than 500 carved jack-o-lanterns.

Many of the pumpkins included within the Boo at the Zoo display feature designs showcasing various elements of Carnival’s new look at cruise vacatons, Fun Ship 2.0, with depictions of the RedFrog Rum Bar, the EA SPORTS Bar, and Guy’s Burger Joint developed in tandem with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, as well as the iconic winged funnel that adorns all Carnival ships.
Carnival’s history with New Orleans goes back to hurricane Katrina, when the line positioned ships off the coast of the state to house emergency rescue workers. Sponsorship of this event reconfirms the line’s commitment to the New Orleans community and the company’s role as the city’s number one cruise operator. Carnival carries 340,000 passengers annually on its two ships based year-round in New Orleans.

Interested in carving your own pumpkins? Click here for some stencils that make it easy.



How to Carve a Pumpkin

[Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Lines]