Dancing With The Stars Comes To Sea

Dancing With The Stars“Dancing with the Stars” is one of the most popular television shows on the air right now, teaming celebrity and pro dancers to compete for the coveted mirror ball trophy. Week after week, viewers watch competitions in Tango, Quickstep, Paso Doble and more from the comfort of their own living rooms. Now, Holland America Line is bringing “Dancing with the Stars” to sea on board six theme cruises in 2013 and early 2014.

Featured “Dancing with the Stars” events include dance lessons; a chance to meet the dancers, ask questions and take photos; and a dazzling at-sea production starring celebrities and some of the famed dance pros, complete with glamorous costumes and routines from the TV show.

Cruise travelers on board any one of a series of six sailings will see two-time champion pro dancers Mark Ballas and Kym Johnson. Also along for the ride will be pros Tristan MacManus and Lacey Schwimmer with more dance pros and celebrities to be announced.

Choose from an Eastern Caribbean sailing February 16, 2013, on Holland America’s ms Eurodam, a Canada and New England sailing on June 22 aboard ms Veendam, either June 30 or July 7, 2013, in Alaska on ms Oosterdam or January 5 or 12, 2014, on ms Niew Amsterdam; all are seven-day sailings.Not just on these scheduled theme cruises, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet will feature an exclusive Dancing with the Stars program. Included are dance lessons and an opportunity for some lucky guests to dance center stage in an exciting dance-off performance, right on the ship. These special fleet wide activities will feature the ships’ professional dancers and the program will be developed in collaboration with the show’s dancers and choreographers.

Holland America does not have a total lock on dance stars though, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas this month hosted one themed cruise where guests could Dance With The Stars too. Stacked on top of the regular cruise experience, those on board also got to see a private dance finale performance by star dancers Tony & Chelsie, had dance parties with their fellow guests, Q&A sessions with Tony & Chelsie, photo and autograph sessions, welcome and farewell receptions and a bunch of Cruise with the Dance Stars’ goodies.

Not a big fan of dancing? Here’s more on Dancing With The Stars-



[Photo Credit- Holland America Line/ABC]

Old cruise ships get new features

Old cruise ships get new features

When a new cruise ship comes out, it has all the latest features and what cruise ship designers hope will provide the best, most relevant experience for today’s cruise passenger. Later, after those new features turn out to be of an enduring nature, cruise lines often add them to older ships. Sometimes this process adds value to older ships that would otherwise be lacking in features by comparison. Other times when old cruise ships get new features it only makes a good ship better.
Royal Caribbean’s (@RoyalCaribbean) Freedom of the Seas, one of the most popular ships in the fleet, just completed a series of upgrades at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. This is a ship that was already popular and selling well so new features, many made popular on the newest Oasis-class ships, will be a welcome addition to an already successful operation. Here is what has been added:
  • Royal Babies and Tots Nursery
  • Large 18.5-foot video screen overlooking family pool area
  • LCD wayfinder system
  • Cupcake Cupboard restaurant
  • Vintages lounge will be redone
  • DreamWorks Experience
  • 3D movie screen
  • Imaginocean! puppet show
  • Outdoor LED video walls

It’s not like Royal Caribbean got a special deal on giant TV screens so they needed someplace to put them either. Fueled by passenger response, the line is giving them what they want. Called the Royal Advantage program, the line is investing $70 million to keep older ships current.

“The outdoor video screen installed aboard Liberty of the Seas in January has already been so well received that we have decided to deploy it aboard all the ships scheduled to undergo the Royal Advantage revitalization in 2011.” said Royal Caribbean vice president of hotel operations Lisa Bauer said Royal Caribbean blog. (@theRCLblog)

Sometimes a bit of tweaking is done after that new ship launches but cruise lines know their passengers well and most often they get it right. Still, there are always some people who just don’t like change.

Princess Cruises
(@PrincessCruises) found that out when they invented Movies Under The Stars several years ago when Caribbean Princess debuted. The new feature was wildly popular with most guests but some did not care for the new feature. When the line (logically) announced it would be added to other ships in the fleet, tempers flared and cruise message boards were afire with heated debates.

Occasionally, cruise lines do get it wrong though and have to figure out what to do with/about features that don’t pan out to be everything they dreamed or are what they dreamed but just did not catch on.

In their ongoing efforts to be innovative, Norwegian Cruise Line (@NCLFreestyle) tried adding a mock-ice skating feature to new Norwegian Epic. When CEO Kevin Sheehan looked at shipboard operations from a different angle on the CBS television program Undercover Boss it was clear: this is not a good idea. That idea did not make it and was scrapped but you have to give them credit for trying something different. Still, popular features like Cirque Dreams and Dinner (the best at-sea entertainment I have ever seen), Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert and more get rave reviews on Norwegian Epic. The first-of-their-kind solo studios are the answer to solo traveler’s prayers.

Sometimes cruise lines take spaces already on existing ships that may under-utilized and do something different as multi-use spaces become more popular on new ships.

Carnival Cruise Lines (@CarnivalCruise) recently added Punchliner Comedy Clubs to every ship in the fleet after testing revealed them to be wildly popular with guests. Located in the ship’s aft lounge, each Punchliner Comedy Club offers guests loads of laughs with five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage, with at least two comedians performing each night. The two early-evening shows offer fun for the whole family while the later performances will feature adult-oriented comedy.

Cruise passengers are finding out that older ships can be some of the very best values too. With new ships demanding the premium “I wanna be on the newest ship” price, older ships which may indeed have some of the newest features, are almost always less expensive.

Flickr photo by Monica R

Royal Caribbean still helping Haiti- a year later

Royal Caribbean HaitiA year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

“Please go back to the ship and tell everyone to come ashore, we need them” I was told by local resident and Royal Caribbean island crew member “Franclin” at the time.

His plea was in response to a lower than normal number of passengers getting off ships calling at the island, a move that was hurting them financially as natives tried to sell hand-crafted items.

At the time, Royal Caribbean was scorned by some for visiting the island even though they were delivering much-needed relief supplies including much-needed basics like water at a time when ports elsewhere were damaged and unusable.

The effort continues today, a year later, as the cruise line continues to call at Labadee.

Humanitarian Relief to Haiti is an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean. Highlighted by opening one fo the first schools to be built after the earthquake in October 2010 and company blogs that helped keep the world informed, relief efforts started just three days after the earthquake. The efforts continue too as company lets those with Royal Caribbean Visa cards help by donating their points to help in aide programs. Guests aboard sister-lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises can donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via their onboard charge accounts while sailing.

Noted by AOL Travel as one of 2010’s Worst Natural Disasters, the question remains:

“Well, it can only get better there in 2011, right? Right??”

Royal Caribbean has made much more than a “show” of support as they continue efforts long after the TV cameras and journalists have moved on.

%Gallery-112525%
Photos: Whitney Owen

Bigger AND Sicker

We reported that Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas was the biggest ship in the world. Now, it turns out that the size of the ship correlates with the size of the viral outbreak.

More than 380 passengers and crew succumbed to the norovirus on a cruise from November 26 through December 3. Then, the ship was cleaned up and set sail, only to stick 97 more passengers and 11 crew members with more than they bargained for on a cruise this past week.

The ship carries more than 3,900 passengers. Today, they set sail again, but with 45 more cleaning staff and 2 more doctors, and, hopefully, a few less viruses.