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]

Cruise Vacations: Not Your Mother’s Slow Boat To China

cruise vacationsOften believed to be the travel choice of the newly wed or nearly dead, the nature of cruise vacations has evolved in recent years. At one time, a cruise vacation meant shuffleboard, never-ending buffets and a few thousand older, overweight passengers on a spin around the Bahamas. Now, the old iconic activities, dining options and even older passengers are being replaced with an active lifestyle and options for adventure travelers.

As new ships come out, cruise lines are careful to build in an ability to be flexible and cater to the traveler of today. Relevant dining options ranging from lifetime event dining, like a steakhouse dinner to celebrate a graduation at a fraction of the cost on land, to comfort food dining, like Macaroni and Cheese in the ship’s main dining room, reflect an evolving passenger’s taste.

Pinpointing that taste and satisfying it, cruise lines are more rabidly focused on capturing the attention of would-be passengers with far more than low prices and bonus offers. Branded experiences ranging from an infusion of DreamWorks characters into the Royal Caribbean fleet, a Nickelodeon influence on Norwegian ships and even Apple products in iLounges on Celebrity Cruises are proving popular. Off the ship, adventurous shore experiences often put cruise travelers on a path similar to that suggested by popular travel bloggers going it on their own.

Flickr photo via Trey Ratcliff

Along with this “give-them-what-they-want” focus comes a branding effort designed to jumpstart the infusion of trendy, relevant elements to the onboard experience on older ship as well. Royal Caribbean has a Royal Advantage program being rolled out to older ships, replacing tube sets with flat-screen TV‘s, adding new trendy dining venues found on the newest of ships and upgrading other elements of the onboard experience as well.

On Carnival Cruise Lines some travelers may lament the near extinction of the party-going frat sailings (AKA “booze cruise”) but don’t have to look far for new, different venues that are becoming the place to be at sea.

Inspired by what is popular while traveling, Carnival unleashed its FunShip 2.0 initiative in New York last October. The $500 million enhancement program includes partnerships with popular celebrities and leading brands.

Funnyman George Lopez and celebrity chef Guy Fieri along with Miami Heat‘s DJ Erie are doing more than simply lending/selling their well-known names and star statuses to the Carnival brand in an attempt to draw a new breed of cruise passenger. Each has worked with Carnival to create experiences that fit the brand and infuse their own unique style.

cruise vacationsThe Food Networks Guy Fieri is working with Carnival to offer a dining venue called Guy’s Burger Joint, featuring the Food Network star’s (really amazing) hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries with special recipes created exclusively for Carnival.

Different, from previous product upgrades that have happened throughout the years, cruise lines are listening and communicating with passengers and targeted travelers, speaking their language. Also, reflecting a degree of transparency, cruise lines are letting us in behind the scenes to see what goes into bringing something new on board as never before.

At a press conference in New York, Fieri manned the outdoor grill most of the afternoon, making soon-to-be signature burgers and answering questions. When asked why he got involved with the project, straight-talking Fieri told us, “…because these people at Carnival really care about their customers. It really means a lot to them that the people who sail on their ships have a good time. I wanted to be a part of that.”

It’s funny how you can hear something like that from a cruise line a million times and think nothing of it, but let those words come out of a popular icon in the world of food and all of the sudden they have meaning.

Fieri’s influence goes beyond the burger recipe too and gets really detailed in its execution on board. Condiment stations will feature a suggested menu developed by the chef to show guests what condiments and toppings they can use to build a specialty burger. In addition to burgers, Guy’s Burger Joint will serve fresh, hand-cut French fries prepared on board. We sampled (OK make that “inhaled”) both in New York and agreed with most others that it was one of the best burgers ever.

Carnival is also teaming up with comedian and TV personality George Lopez who will become the cruise line‘s “creative director for comedy” as Carnival introduces the Punchliner Comedy Clubs Presented by George Lopez.

cruise vacationsTo become the cruise line’s curator of comedy, acting as a consultant on the vetting and hiring of comedic talent for the line’s existing fleetwide comedy clubs, Lopez will play an active role in the securing of top up-and-coming comedic talent, utilizing his vast resources within the North American comedy scene.

“Carnival’s ships offer a huge audience that truly appreciates comedic performances and the on-board clubs are fantastic,” Lopez told us. “I intend to help build and nurture an understanding among up-and-coming comedic talent that these ships represent a phenomenal environment to work and gain experience.”

Through the partnership, Carnival ships will feature a Lopez comedy routine shown on in-cabin televisions fleetwide and pre-recorded introductions by Lopez at comedy club shows, as well as a new Punchliner Comedy Brunch that will be offered on sea days. Lopez will also partner with the line on a comedy-themed consumer contest in 2012.

“Carnival’s guests absolutely love comedy which is why we are already the cruise industry leader in fleetwide comedic programming and, in fact, we host more guests in our shipboard comedy clubs than any land-based comedy chain in the U.S.,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “By partnering with George Lopez, an exceptionally talented, respected and popular comedian, Carnival’s comedy offerings will be taken to an entirely new level.”

Lopez is seriously into the comedy concept too, much like Fieri and his cooking. In an interview with CruiseRadio‘s Doug Parker and Matt Basford, Lopez detailed his involvement saying “I will bring people from television and movies and that will make it better. You start to see people on the ship that you have seen in movies and that makes it fun, that’s a great surprise,” adding, “I will be performing on the ships occasionally myself which I am excited about.”

cruise vacationDJ IRIE, song master to the stars and the official DJ of the Miami HEAT, will develop a first-of-its-kind DJ academy at sea that will train all Carnival DJs across the “Fun Ship” fleet. The DJ IRIE Spin’iversity promises to bring an exciting and relevant new vibe to the line’s legendary nightclubs, deck parties and beyond.

“Miami HEAT games are known for their high-energy and non-stop fun created by DJ IRIE and we want to tap into his unique skills and passion for music to create an unforgettable atmosphere on board,” Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations told us. “Music is the soundtrack of our lives and our goal is to create an emotional experience for our guests through the right mix of terrific music and a DJ with a unique personality who can energize a crowd.”

Whether spinning in clubs in Miami or Las Vegas, at a sporting event or hosting his popular South Florida radio show, the internationally known DJ IRIE has mastered the art of bringing a crowd to its feet and pumping up the energy and excitement – much like Carnival had done for 40 years.

But through his new comprehensive training program, IRIE will train Carnival’s DJs how to read a crowd and tailor song selections from every musical genre, appealing to guests of all ages. He will also instruct DJs on how to make maximum use of their own personality and energy to create their own persona and build popularity among guests to develop a fan following.

An important point to note: none of this costs extra. This is Carnival reinventing the at-sea experience, adding more options than ever, all included in the price.

The onboard experience is changing in other ways as well. Big name entertainment is lending their name to new cruise ships as Godmothers, or just to be were the entertainment action is.

Martina McBride performed on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas; Maroon 5 rocked Galveston with Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic as a backdrop. Other acts from Kid Rock to Dancing with the Stars contestants host themed cruises, allowing fans up-close-and-personal time like never before.

Off the ship too, cruise lines are taking a good hard look at what they have for travelers once ships reach their destinations. Taking a page from travel bloggers, cruise line “excursions” are far more than a busload of tourists complaining if the air conditioning is not cool enough.

Today we’re seeing cruise passengers getting off the bus and on to kayaks, scuba diving, surfing, hiking and climbing trails, viewing history, arts and culture up close in any given port. At the end of the day some ships may stay in port late or overnight before moving on to their next stop.

Always a solid reason for cruising, travelers get to see and sample destinations they may or may not want to return to later, for a longer land-based vacation.

No, today’s cruise vacations are not your parents’ idea of a good time, they’re yours, whatever that may mean.


Photos via Carnival Cruise Lines

Cruise Lines Court New Yorkers With More Ships, Better Value

New YorkersNew Yorkers and most of the upper east coast of the United States have had few cruise ships to choose from. Traditionally, cruise lines sailed most of their ships from warmer, southern ports, which added the cost of a flight to a cruise vacation package too. Now, cruise lines are positioning more ships from upper east coast ports with a special focus on the New York market. The end result is, and will continue to be, more choices, better pricing and the best value ever to New Yorkers.

Norwegian Cruise Lines‘ new 4,000-passenger ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will sail from her homeport of New York City to the Bahamas, Florida, and the Caribbean for her inaugural winter season in 2013. That adds one more drive-to-the-port option for cruise passengers in the often under-served New York market.

“Norwegian Breakaway is one of the most highly anticipated new ships and has seen great demand for her summer sailings to Bermuda,” Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan told TravelDailyNews. “We are also excited to announce that the ship will stop at our newly enhanced private island, Great Stirrup Cay, offering an exclusive beach experience.”

Embarking on seven- to twelve day cruises to the Bahamas and Florida from October 2013 to April 2014, the line is taking in ports including Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay, Orlando and Port Canaveral. Two 12-day Southern Caribbean voyages and two “Weekend Escape” cruises in January 2014 are also scheduled with the 12-day itinerary incorporating visits to San Juan, St Thomas, Philipsburg, Castries, Bridgetown and Basseterre.

As the largest ship to homeport year-round in New York City, Norwegian Breakaway is expected to bring 140,000 additional embarking passengers into New York City over two years creating an estimated $35 million in direct spending.

In another move, Carnival Miracle, once a seasonal ship, started sailing year-round from New York this month, marking the line’s first year-round sailings from that port.

“New York is one of the highest-rated homeports for Fun Ship cruising. Carnival Miracle’s new year-round, eight-day departures offer consumers the best of both worlds – a choice of three attractive year-round Caribbean and Bahamas itinerary options with the opportunity to depart from one of the world’s great cities,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill told BreakingTravelNews.

Carnival Miracle will offer three different eight-day itineraries that visit popular islands throughout the Caribbean and Bahamas. The itineraries include Eastern Caribbean departures to San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, offered on a rotating basis April through October with a series of Bahamas sailings featuring stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Nassau. November through April, Carnival Miracle sails to the Bahamas along with a stop in Florida with port calls to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau and Freeport.

On board, travelers will also find some new programming with an upscale New York flair.

The Taste Bar is Carnival’s newest casual dining option introduced this month on Carnival Miracle with fleetwide implementation expected to be completed by summer 2013.

The Taste Bar features complimentary bite-size offerings inspired by line’s Fun Ship 2.0 initiative dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to that eatery’s particular theme available for purchase for $5.

Sample offerings may include roasted pork tacos; meatballs and hand-whipped ricotta bruchetta; fried malanga (sweet potatoes) filled with ginger-scented pork and lime aioli; grilled ham and provolone cheese melt; and short rib croquettes with chipotle aioli.

Also on Carnival Miracle, the debut of the Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez, part of a recently announced partnership with the comedian who serves as the line’s “curator of comedy,” acting as a consultant on the vetting and hiring of both established and up-and-coming comedic talent.

The Punchliner Comedy Club will offer five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage with at least two comedians performing each night. Two early-evening shows are geared toward a family audience, while the later performances feature R-rated, adults-only comedy.

Carnival Miracle’s year-round schedule of eight-day Caribbean voyages from New York with three different eight-day itineraries are offered:

  • Eastern Caribbean departures to San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk;
  • Bahamas sailings featuring stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Nassau
  • Bahamas/Florida cruises with port calls to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau and Freeport.

“The cruise industry continues to be an economic boon for the City, and today’s announcement that the Carnival Miracle will start offering year-round cruises from New York City will do even more to stimulate our economy, bringing additional visitors and generating nearly $13 million in direct spending,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky in a release.

Also sailing seasonally from New York, beginning May 25, 2012, Disney Magic will sail 20 cruises from New York with three unique and varied itineraries. No stranger to Disney Ships, here is new Disney Fantasy arriving in New York earlier this year for inaugural festivities before heading south to her new home in Florida.

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Docks in NYC

[Flickr photo via Dr.DeNo]

Maroon 5 brings Texas sized cruise ship to town

Maroon 5Performing live to a standing-room only crowd, GRAMMY award-winning band Maroon 5 rocked the Port of Galveston over the weekend with 3,690 passenger Carnival Magic as a backdrop. It was a fitting welcome at the ship’s new year-round homeport that cast a spotlight on just how big cruise travel is in Texas.

“We’ve played every kind of venue imaginable across the world, but we’ve never helped to launch a new cruise ship,” said Adam Levine, Maroon 5 front-man and coach on the hit NBC series “The Voice. “We’re excited to work with Carnival and to be part of the Carnival Magic celebration for fans in Texas.”

Plenty of fans turned out at the dock-side event with Carnival Magic parked directly behind the stage. An estimated 5,000 fans, some of which won highly sought-after tickets in a Facebook contest, rocked to the 11-song, hour-long performance.

Wondering how the arrival of a cruise ship translates to bringing a hot, popular band with over 15 million albums sold to town?

Carnival expects to carry more than 450,000 guests annually and have a positive impact on the Texas economy. In 2010, the cruise industry added $1.1 billion in direct spending, generated 16,457 jobs and $828 million in income for Texas workers according to a report from the Cruise Lines International Association.

That was before Carnival Magic joined Carnival Triumph for year-round sailings from Galveston, making Carnival the largest cruise operator in Texas. The new deployment means a 24% increase in capacity for Carnival alone which should translate into even more income and jobs.

It’s big business and not limited to Carnival Cruise lines. Royal Caribbean brought Mariner of the Seas into town without much fanfare a day earlier, also adding to the port’s capacity. Next year, Carnival sister-line Princess Cruises returns to Galveston with one of their newest ships and Disney Cruise Line comes to town.

Reason enough to bring in Maroon 5? You bet. They’d bring in Elvis if they could.

Photo: Carnival Cruise Lines