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]

Cruise line pays would-be passengers to watch TV

Cruise line paysNorwegian Cruise Line’s episode of the hit reality series Undercover Boss was first broadcast last January. But it’s summertime now and that brings reruns. The Undercover Boss episode featuring Norwegian’s CEO Kevin Sheehan replays July 17. In an interesting twist on summer TV viewing options, Norwegian Cruise Line pays an on-board cash bonus to anyone who books a cruise between July 16 and 18.

“While I may not have performed the tasks as well as our amazing crew during the experience, we’ve received a tremendous amount of support from guests and travel partners as a result of our Undercover Boss episode” said Sheehan.

The show, which first aired on January 2, 2011, was seen by more than 14 million people in the US and has also aired in Canada, Australia and Norway. Norwegian Cruise Line’s episode of Undercover Boss was also the most-recalled brand appearance in a prime-time broadcast show in January.Viewers will have the chance to relive everything from the awkward moment when Sheehan’s cover is blown by a waitress in a restaurant on Norwegian Epic to leading a crowd of 1,000 guests in a line dance. Watch as Sheehan attempts to work alongside a deck repairman (and fellow New Yorker) who was frankly critical of his performance. One of the best parts of the episode comes when Sheehan agrees with a crew member that what looked to be a great new feature on Norwegian Epic in the boardroom played out to be a dismal failure in real life. That segment alone is worth the watch.

As an exclusive offer for the rebroadcast of the episode, guests who book a Norwegian cruise vacation between July 16 and July 18, 2011 will get up to $200 to spend on board and a reduced deposit.

“I think the viewers were in awe of our amazing ships and phenomenal hard working crew and truly felt a connection with us” Sheehan added.

CBS’s pseudo-reality series, Undercover Boss, features a high-ranking executive posing as an entry-level worker in the company they manage. Camera crews, lights and associated production stuff is passed off as part of a “documentary” about what it’s like to be the new guy at work. Previous companies featured include Frontier Airlines, Johnny Rockets, Subway Restaurants and Direct-TV.

Undercover Boss can be seen July 17, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) on the CBS Television Network.

Flickr photo by Stephen & Katherine

Cruise lines offering new itineraries world-wide

Cruise lines offering new itineraries
A common concern among those who cruise often is wanting to see new ports on new itineraries. Carnival Cruise Line came up with some new ones recently that answer the call. Other lines as well hear passengers loud and clear, offering a new, diverse menu if itineraries for their ships as well.

Carnival’s latest itinerary update includes a change to sailings on the Carnival Valor, based in Miami year-round. This one is significant because it brings back 8-day, adds 6-day sailings that and will have the first Southern Caribbean sailings from Miami.

“What’s significant is the 8-night Southern Caribbean itinerary. This will be the first from Miami and follows Holland America’s industry first 7-night Southern Caribbean from Ft Lauderdale” said cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy.com.


Between now and December 2011, Carnival Valor will operate seven-day voyages which depart Sundays from Miami, alternating to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Beginning in January 2012, the ship will add six-day cruises that depart on Sunday and return the following Saturday and eight-day cruises depart on Saturday and return the following Sunday.

Three different four-port, eight-day cruise itineraries will be offered and include Eastern/Western Caribbean cruises calling at Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, Grand Turk and Nassau, Eastern Caribbean cruises featuring stops at St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau and Eastern/Southern Caribbean cruises to Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao and Aruba.

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse will sail from Southampton boasting new destinations such as Reykjavik in Iceland, Genoa in Italy, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores. The 2012 return of the popular ship will bring revised cruise itineraries in response to guest demand including a series of eight and fourteen night cruises.

“Celebrity Eclipse is the most popular ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet for UK and Irish holidaymakers, and we’ve further enhanced itineraries and destinations to keep guests coming back” explains Dominic Paul, Vice President & Managing Director, UK & Ireland.

New calls will be made to rarely-visited St Lucia in the 2012-2013 season too when Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun makes regular visits to the island.

Cruise lines headed back to Alaska this year in a big way with many sailings selling out fast in answer to built-up demand.

Last year, the Alaska legislature, on the heels of a low-capacity season, voted to lower the previously raised head tax on cruise passengers. Later in the year, Princess Cruises announced a fourth ship to be added to it’s popular Voyage of the Glaciers run after two years of running a reduced capacity.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Princess President and CEO Alan Bucklew.

Disney Cruise Line is sailing north to Alaska with Disney Wonder as the line will double its size by adding Disney Dream which debuted this year and Disney Fantasy in 2012. Another first-timer to Alaska, Oceania Cruises will send their Regatta on a series of departures from San Francisco, Vancouver or Anchorage.

Flickr photo by LaBellaVida

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Cruise line price scare: Just how dumb do they think we are?

cruise line price scare

Just last month, Norwegian Cruise Lines issued a cruise line price scare, what people in sales term a “call to action”, telling us that starting April 1st, prices would go up. Being the nice folks they are though, Norwegian also extended a current sale until the end of the month, just to give us the chance to get in on a good deal. At the time, we called foul. You did too. Now, the line has added another “sale” that lets us in on even a better deal. As my dad might have said if I told a lie as a little boy “I ain’t buyin’ it.”To help cushion the blow of a 10% price increase scheduled for April 1st, the line extended their current promotional offers until the end of March in a “we’re tough, but we’re fair” sort of way.

“We wanted to give consumers and travel agents the opportunity to take advantage of these offers before the price increase.” said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and former Undercover Boss Kevin (Sneaky) Sheehan.

At the time cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy.com called it accurately saying “This is NCL’s 2nd Annual April Fool’s Cruise Sale. For some, it’s a message of don’t book NCL after 3/31 because you’ll pay more.”

Gadling noted then that cruise lines often promote a call to action for booking in a number of ways that seem to have a bit of strategic ambiguity built in.

“NCL made the same comments last year, but (the timing) followed Carnival’s announcement that they were going to raise summer prices.” added Chiron reasoning “They may be trying to generate additional attention for their possible future IPO.”

Now, the line has added yet another “limited time promotion” to help us out.

In other words, the shocking announcement to buy now or pay dearly later did not work. However many cabins they had hoped to sell did not get sold. Now NCL feels the need to sweeten the deal with not just free upgrades but they’re throwing in onboard credit too along with asking for a reduced deposit to get signed up.

Years ago I was in the restaurant business and you could always tell the places that were having a hard time. Those were the ones that did the “buy one, get one free” promotions or the “All you can eat” offers that their business models did not really support. It was not long before those places went out of business as their last hail Mary pass went uncaught.

Is that where Norwegian Cruise Lines is right now? Are they in serious financial trouble?

Probably no more than they traditionally are. The line has a long history of financial woes fueled by not the economy, not the competition but the fact that they are their own worst enemy.

Don’t get me wrong, NCL does a lot of good things and have made efforts to put some real meat behind their claim of being innovative. This is not one of them.

An onboard credit plus reduced deposit strategy is a popular promotion that only a few lines do and they do it very sparingly. Royal Caribbean might have a “Wow” sale once a year, maybe twice, where they offer a 50% reduced deposit with some onboard credit. I know people that wait all year for that sale to happen because Royal Caribbean just does not do it often. Princess Cruises allows travel agencies to set up one-week sales, one each calendar quarter, to use in conjunction with ongoing and specific marketing strategies. Top-value line Carnival Cruise Line and all the rest, for the most part, never do.

NCL is just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

The cool part of all this is that you “ain’t buyin’ it” either.

The not-so-cool part is that moves like this paint a picture of the cruise industry as being a needy bunch that will stop at nothing to sell you a cruise. While cruise lines do need to sail full ships to be profitable, they’re far from needy. Cruise vacations are a hot travel choice for mainstream America and a growing part of the world. Scare tactics should not be necessary.

The really-not-so-cool/kinda-scary part is that Norwegian seems oblivious to their operational problems that cause this need in the first place. That’s scary when you think that they have a fleet of ships that sail around in the middle of the ocean with a whole bunch of human beings on board.

I’d like to have the confidence that they know what they are doing. You should too.

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Flickr photo by steamboatsorg

New cruise ship coming to New York in 2012, but at what price?

new cruise ship coming to new york

There is a new cruise ship coming to New York in 2012 and its a real pearl. Or should I say “gem”? No, Pearl is right. Norwegian Pearl will replace older Norwegian Jewel and make her New York debut in October, 2012. That’s good news. But poking around the New York cruise market I was reminded of something not so good. New Yorkers pay a premium price to sail on mostly older ships from the area. In other words, cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.That’s pretty much industry-wide with all cruise lines. Compared to sailing from a southern port like Florida where all the new ships are, prices are much higher sailing from New York, on mostly older ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line is about to change at least one of those concerns when it sends a newer ship to New York for the winter of 2012-13.

“With the arrival of Norwegian Pearl in New York, we will have two of our newer and larger Freestyle Cruising ships sailing from this very popular homeport,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer and former star of TV’s Undercover Boss.

That’s good, a newer ship is better than an older ship. Norwegian Pearl is a great ship too.

But what about that pricing?

Sailings from New York average much more than from southern ports like those in Florida. Let’s work though that with some actual numbers based on today’s pricing. Not to pick on Norwegian Cruise Line who is bringing the newer ship to the table, let’s look at a different line to see what is going on here.

new cruise ship coming to new york

In the dead heat of the Summer peak season, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas sails from Bayonne on July 7th for a 9 day Eastern Caribbean sailing starting at $2109 per person + tax. That works out to $234 per person, per day.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, a newer, bigger ship sailing from Florida sailing for 7 days on July 10th starts at $1049 per person + tax. That works out to $149 per person per day, about 50% less.

Even shiny new Allure of the Seas, sailing from Florida, sells for less than Explorer of the Seas from New York at a starting price of $1349 per person for 7 days on July 10th. That’s $192 per person for the largest, newest cruise ship in the world.

Not to pick on Royal Caribbean either, all the cruise lines do this. Some more than others but it’s the nature of the game. Supply vs. Demand. There are a LOT of people who want to sail from New York and few ships to serve them.

What drives that price? One really good reason would be the need/desire/fantasy to get out of the city in the heat of the Summer for a cool, relaxing cruise. Another might be the assumed high price of airfare flying to Florida or just the hassle of the flights. Still, prices per person, per day are much higher sailing from New York as you can see.

Is there something you can do about that? You bet there is. Go in October.

Brave it through the Summer and go in the Fall. There, you will find relative bargains in cruise vacations like Carnival Miracle sailing to the Caribbean on October 5th starting at $639 per person for an 8 day cruise. That’s $79 a day on one of their most popular ships.

new cruise ship coming to new york

Giving credit where credit is due, Royal Caribbean has Explorer of the Seas, that same ship that was going for $234 per person, per day in the Summer sails in October starting at $549 +tax per person for a 5-night sailing to Bermuda. That gets them down to less than half the per person, per day Summer price.

Back to Norwegian, they too have Fall bargains offering Norwegian Gem for $499 per person + tax on the October 2nd sailing. On seven days, that works out to $71.28 per person. Way better.

So let’s amend that claim that cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers.

Cruise lines really stick it to New Yorkers in the Summer, not so much in the Fall.

Yes, much more accurate.

When Norwegian Pearl comes to New York in October 2012 she will be sailing a seven-day itinerary that calls on Orlando & the Beaches (Port Canaveral, Disney World if you hurry, blah blah blah); Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s private island paradise) and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Norwegian Pearl will also sail three 12-day Southern Caribbean cruises, on January 6, January 20 and February 3, 2013 that include stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados and St. John’s, Antigua; as well as five relaxing days at sea. If you have the time, those are good ones.

new cruise ship coming to new york

Not sure if Norwegian Cruise Line is for you? Norwegian Pearl will also offer three opportunities to experience Freestyle Cruising on a two-day getaway sailing from New York on January 18, February 1 and February 15, 2013.

Continuing to homeport in New York, the 2,394-passenger Norwegian Gem will sail two newly extended itineraries to Eastern Canada and Quebec and the Eastern Caribbean. Norwegian Gem will begin her four 10-day sailings to Canada and Quebec on September 8, 2012; calling on Halifax, Nova Scotia; an overnight in Quebec City, Quebec; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Sydney, Nova Scotia. From October 20, 2012 to April 18, 2013, Norwegian Gem’s nine-day itinerary to the Eastern Caribbean will stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Samoa, Dominican Republic.

“New Yorkers love Freestyle Cruising because it suits their needs” added Sheehan. “With two of our Jewel-class ships in New York, we are giving guests more choice and the opportunity to sail longer cruises to the Caribbean.”

…you just have to be willing to pay the price.

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Flickr photos by Rodneykeene, Jmazzola ,Jemmingway and Pink Dispatcher