Inside The Crime Statistics Of Major Cruise Lines

Thomas Quine, Flickr

In an aim for more transparency for travelers, you can now learn all about the crime statistics of major cruise lines, or at least those of the three major lines Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line.

According to the New York Times In Transit Blog, the three lines, which hold almost 80% combined market share, recently released the figures in response to a new Senate bill that would require all cruise lines that land in American ports to report their crime statistics.

The data released by the companies outline everything from suspicious deaths to kidnappings. Cruising is apparently fairly safe. You’ll be happy to know for example that there have been no homicides in this year. Theft however, seems to be a general trend, especially when it comes to crew members stealing more than $10,000 of goods.What other crimes happen on a cruise ship? Assault, sexual harassment and rape. In fact there are attorneys that specialize in in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault. But overall, it seems that travelers choose cruises no matter what the statistics.

Will this new form of transparency help make cruise ships a safer place? Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia who proposed the bill is convinced that it’s only in passing legislation and making cruise ships more accountable that changes will be made.

“It’s notable to see they’re trying, by voluntarily posting some crime data online, but serious gaps still remain in the information they’re making available. I’m convinced the only way we’re going to make a meaningful difference for consumers is by taking legislative action.”

The bill, if passed, would not only require transparency of cruise lines to release such data, but also set up a toll-free hotline for customer complaints.

Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

travel appsWhen we review travel apps that actually do something, they often tap crowd-sourced information that is as rich (or not) as the number of users who have contributed their opinions or reviews. GPS-based travel apps take existing technology and manipulate it in one way or another to bring every thing from finding a friend on the road to creating a virtual journal of our travels, step by step. In the world of cruise travel, the number of apps available is limited compared to other modes of transportation but they are often highly specific, producing information not available elsewhere.

travel appsNorwegian Cruise Lines has a newly updated travel app that can be a helpful planning tool in advance of sailing with information about destinations, ships and special offers. Once on board Norwegian’s newest ships, even more helpful features are available.

The free download for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 features photo galleries and videos; ship information including deck plans and on-board amenities; stateroom descriptions, images and floor plans; 360-degree virtual ship tours and more.

On board Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, passengers can log on, select an Internet package to buy then text and call others on the ship who are also connected, using time from their pre-paid plan. Free services include the ability to see previews of and book shore excursions, restaurants and other on-board products like spa services and shopping. Users can view their shipboard charge account as well as a list of daily activities at any time, also without using purchased Internet minutes.travel appsSailing some other cruise line? Cruise Ship Mate ($1.99), can be even more helpful in the planning stages of cruise travel as it has the ability to see all itineraries of all major cruise lines. Included among features that do not need an Internet connection to use are deck plans, cruise ship information and a packing list. Connected, users get cruise ship deck cam links and a chat feature that enables passengers on a specific ship and sailing date to communicate in advance of and during sailing.

A unique feature on the Cruise Ship Mate app is a Cruise Ship Tracker. This one allows users to see the exact location of any ship at any time, using technology similar to that of CruiseCal, the long running subscriber-based website that pinpoints where ships are and which ships will be in port at the same time you are.

But maybe you are not really into apps but have some favorite travel websites that you would like to access quickly on your Apple iPhone or iPad?

iPhone 5 users can create quick links to their most-visited websites using the “add to home screen” option, like I did for the Gadling site. On your favorite site, in Safari, just tap the “Share” button at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Add to Home Screen,” tap the “Add” button then launch the website from your Home screen by tapping its icon.

Looking for other helpful travel apps? Check this video for apps that tell us everything from what is going on at any given destination to where restrooms are located.


[Image credit - Chris Owen]

A Tale Of Two Cruise Ships Under Construction

cruise ships

Coming up this spring, Princess Cruises and Norwegian cruise lines – two of the most popular cruise lines with mainstream cruise travelers – have new cruise ships coming out. Considering that both are under construction right now and both offer sister ships being built for later delivery, choosing one might be difficult for cruise travelers. Before we get too far down the road, let’s take a look at the two new ships, what they have to offer and how construction is coming along.

cruise shipsNorwegian Cruise Line has a whole lot of New Yorkers talking about new Norwegian Breakaway, and for good reason. To be based in New York City year-round, the 4,000-passenger ship has been customized for the New York market with everything from shops, restaurants and bars to Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship.

Partnering with the New York City Rockettes (Godmothers of the ship), pop artist Peter Max (custom city skyline hull design) and others, Norwegian is making every attempt to pierce the New York market; it even set up “warming stations” around the city this winter.

That’s all in addition to some over-the-top features on the ship set to blow away other new builds that has everyone talking about this new Norwegian ship that will be sailing to Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

%Gallery-179356%An oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway will combine dining and drinking venues with entertainment and gaming. 678 Ocean Place will be a hub of activity spanning three decks that features seven more dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

Continuing what looks to be a pre-sold success story with Norwegian Breakaway, sister ship Norwegian Getaway will debut in 2014, claiming Miami, Florida, as its hometown. Embedding a South Florida theme in the new ship, Norwegian tapped David Le Batard (AKA the artist known as “LEBO”) to create art for the new ship’s hull. Set to debut in February 2014, we’ll have more on that one later.

First, here’s a gallery of photos featuring first-up Norwegian Breakaway, under construction:

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Royal Princess marks the first new build for the cruise line since 2008′s Ruby Princess, the last of Princess Cruises popular grand class ships. They built nine of those and already have a sister ship to Royal Princess in the works too.

Royal Princess
will be a careful evolution of the Princess product with a ship laid out in typical Princess patterns. Focusing on their mantra to let passengers “escape completely” Princess Cruises has designed a ship totally around that concept. It’s a success formula that has made Princess popular over the years and keeps travelers coming back for more.

But Princess goes a bit over the top themselves too, adding an over-the-water “SeaWalk” that will extend 28 feet over the side of the ship, offering views of the ocean 128 feet below off the ship’s starboard side. On the port side, a SeaView bar will be positioned to offer cocktails and some great views. Here is what that venue and others should look like when complete:

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Top-deck features are a focus of cruise ships industry-wide lately and Royal Princess is no exception. This Princess ship starts with a new adults-only pool surrounded by plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two more pools will flank a “tropical island” that will have pool seating by day then become a dance club with a dancing water and light show by night.

Next year’s Regal Princess will be a twin sister to 141,000 ton Royal Princess, complete with a central atrium Piazza area that is 50% larger area than previous versions and casual dining options that include an Italian gelateria, a seafood bar and expanded seating in the passenger-favorite International Cafe.

Under construction right now in Venice, Princess Cruises sent along these photos from the shipyard:

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We will be heading to Venice, Italy, at the end of March for a first-hand look at construction of Royal Princess in-progress. Stay tuned for updates.

So which ship to choose? Here are some points to consider:

  • The value is there for either ship. Both will stack up nicely compared to land vacations to the same places these ships sail, allowing passengers to unpack once but visit multiple destinations.
  • Norwegian Breakaway adds an additional choice, year-round for cruise travelers departing from the upper East coast, eliminating the need for airfare and sailing to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Florida.
  • Royal Princess will sail seven-night itineraries from Florida’s Port Everglades to the Eastern Caribbean from November 2013 through April 2014 after a Mediterranean season that begins June 9, 2013.
  • Traditional cruisers will find their dreams fulfilled on Royal Princess with standard features the line has become famous for – amped up for today’s traveler. Think: turbo Love Boat.
  • Norwegian Breakaway promises an entertainment experience as good if not better than the bar-raising elements added on their last new build, Norwegian Epic. Think: epic flavor, easy to swallow.

[Photo Credits- Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises]

Authentic, New York City Experience, On A Cruise Ship

New York City

Norwegian Cruise Line will launch new Norwegian Breakaway from New York City in May 2013. Busy getting New Yorkers into the idea of sailing away on their newest ship, Norwegian has everyone from the Rockettes to celebrity chef’s excited and involved in one way or another. Now Norwegian Cruise Line has good news for travelers who might not get into fancy restaurants or new-ship features.

Onboard Norwegian Breakaway will be authentic Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship in convenient places, much like on the streets of New York City. To wash down those dogs? Brooklyn Lager Beer.

“As a New Yorker, I’ve been a fan of Sabrett’s. Since we are launching New York’s ship, it made complete sense to bring New York’s favorite hot dog to Norwegian Breakaway,” said Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line in a Travel Pulse report.

Norwegian currently has the ship’s Godmother Rockettes dancing a Christmas show at a discounted rate courtesy of the cruise line. Norwegian used native pop artist Peter Max to paint the New York skyline on the hull of the ship and tapped New York restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian to create a luxury seafood dining experience with a dining room, a raw bar, and a more casual venue called Ocean Blue on the new ship.

Now, going a bit more casual, the all-beef Sabrett hot dogs will come with a choice of condiments including onion in tomato sauce, sauerkraut, mustard and relish. The carts will be positioned on the Breakaway’s extra-wide promenade, The Waterfront, and on the pool deck and forward deck.

“With Sabrett hot dogs and Brooklyn Lager beer, our guests will truly get a real taste of the city as a part of their whole New York experience while onboard,” added Sheehan.

Fascinated by the New York City hot dog scene yourself? Learn more via this video:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user WanderingtheWorld (www.LostManProject.com)]

5 Ways To Save On A Cruise Vacation, But Should You?

save on a cruise vacation

People who talk about how to save on a cruise vacation, often compare them to “floating hotels,” a way of thinking that can easily make cruise ships come out ahead financially. Just the all-inclusive nature of a cruise makes sailing popular. We get it. The issue is not which is a better value but how to save on cruises themselves. We understand it’s a good deal, but how do we maximize that value on a cruise vacation?

Buy far in advance- Cruise lines appreciate passengers who book far in advance and say so with lower prices. Passengers gain not only from that attractive pricing but also from a far better selection of cabins when booked a year or more in advance. Some fares are only offered by cruise lines right after releasing a new schedule of sailings or within a certain amount of time before sailing too.

Buy at the last minute- Travelers who are able to just drop everything and go to sea by booking 30 days or less in advance of sailing can find some great bargains too. These passengers need to be flexible not only about when they can sail but about their cabin location as well. By the same coin that makes buying in advance a good idea because of a superior selection of cabins, those who buy at the last minute need to be comfortable in less attractively located real estate.Be loyal- Cruise line packages and benefits for those who have sailed with them previously are considerable and can add up to real savings. Past guests are often the first to be offered special fares or discounts that will be available to the general public later. On board, past guest benefits are considerable, ranging from a welcome-back gift to special parties, wine tastings and other events exclusive to frequent cruisers.

Consider restricted fares but only if you’re sure- Most cruise vacations can be bought far in advance then canceled any time before final payment without penalty. Restricted fares lock in pricing, often at a rate lower than all others but require a non-refundable deposit and no other changes can be made without a hefty fee. This is not the fare for those who might change their minds later but can be the very best value for those with solid plans that are not apt to vary throughout the life of the booking. Traveling with the elderly, those with medical concerns, on a strict budget or even teens who might not think cruising is cool by the time the sailing rolls around, this is a great way to waste travel funds.

Cram as many people as possible into your cabin. It works. Some cruise lines have standard-sized cabins that will accommodate up to five people. Cruise lines base their world on double occupancy (two to a cabin). Solo travelers often pay twice as much but cabins with three, four or five pay far less as cruise lines commonly discount the third or more passengers in a cabin.

That’s good to know if on a really tight budget but begs the question: “Just because we can fit five in a cabin, should we?” In many cases the answer is a resounding “No!” I remember one time as a travel agent when a client called me from their fabulous cruise ship upon boarding then checking out their cabin. This lady was hoppin’ mad at me for allowing them to book four adults in a small, inside cabin, even though I’d warned her about the drawbacks.

Four people in one cabin means four people needing to use the shower and/or restroom at the same time to get ready for dinner. It’s trying to find a place for four people’s luggage, bodies and personal time. Add in that these were four very large people who barely fit in the third and fourth upper bunk bed-like berths and all of the sudden saving that money up front was not nearly as important.

That’s a very common flaw of cruise traveler buying habits too. Up front, there is a lot of concentration on price, much like they might spend on an airline ticket going from point A to point B. The travelers for whom this is a problem just want the rock bottom low price no matter what it means. After they get that price, some of those same people bounce back almost immediately, now concerned about their cabin location, type or even the ship and sailing date.

Those are the lucky ones. They still have time for a reality check to think about what it will be like in that obstructed view balcony cabin that saved them a few bucks. That’s time to consider if the loss of a perfect view for their cruise of a lifetime is worth it. To many, once they think about it, they realize that they would indeed not care for that and change.

Others wait and find out the hard way that their click-to-buy wonder deal was not all that much of a good value. It’s all about taking a realistic view at the price of a cruise, our personal travel budget and how those two can play nice with each other. Getting it right can make for a rich travel experience. Getting it wrong is just a waste of time and travel funds.


[Photo Credit: Chris Owen]