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

Cruise ship hits whale off Alaska

For the third time in the past decade a Princess Cruises luxury ship has struck and killed a whale in the waters off the coast of Alaska. That latest incident occurred last Tuesday evening just south of Juneau, where the ship the Sapphire Princess apparently hit the creature, whose corpse was discovered attached to the hull on Wednesday morning. Last year, the same ship arrived in Vancouver following a routine voyage, with a fin whale stuck to its hull.

This current whale was an adult female humpback that measured more than 43 feet in length. Humpbacks are found in waters all over the world, but in the summer months they tend to feed in colder, polar waters. The species is an endangered one and the giant mammals are protected under U.S. law, with stiff fines levied against those who do them harm. It is unclear at this time whether or not Carnival Corp., the parent company of Princess Cruises, will face any fines for this latest incident. They paid out a settlement of $750,000 for a similar incident that occurred in 2001.

On Friday, investigators were still studying the whale’s carcass to determine the exact cause of death. They have not ruled out the possibility that the beast was already dead when the ship struck it, and that the Sapphire Princess played no role in killing it.

[Photo credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson via WikiMedia Commons]

Carnival cruise passengers spend weekend in Antigua … in jail

It looks like Carnival could use some new passengers. Not even a week after banning a family for life – and then reversing the ban – six passengers on one of its ships have been detained in Antigua. Now, if you’re going to get stuck someplace, Antigua isn’t bad, but I’d rather be in a resort than involved with the criminal justice system – it just seems more fun.

Dolores Lalanne, 25, Mike Pierre Paul, 24, Joshua Jackson, 25, Shoshonnah Henry, 24, Nancy Lalanne, 22, and Rachael Henry, 27 have been charged with assault, battery and malicious damage. A fight over cab fare got out of hand and turned into an altercation with the local police. They are being held in Antigua until trial.

The alleged fight broke out on Friday, when the Carnival Victory passengers got off the ship for a 10-hour port call. The passengers refused to pay a cab driver, claiming they were being overcharged. Original reports of the story say that the cab driver quoted a $50 price for a tour that would end at a beach. He later told them, supposedly, that it would cost more to get back to the ship. The driver drove the passengers to a police station, which is where the fight is said to have broken out.

After spending the weekend in jail, the passengers were released on $5,000 bail but had to give up their travel documents and check in with the court regularly. Apparently, jail is unpleasant in Antigua, particularly because of the mosquitoes.



Cruise line trends to look out for

There are some trends in the cruise industry that might make you pleased or disgruntled, depending on if the trends tip in your favor.

Non-smokers may feel more pleased to find out that one growing trend is to restrict smoking to fewer and fewer places on a ship. Smokers, of course, may not be thrilled.

Another trend is for bigger ships. Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas is the biggest of them all. It can carry 3,634 passengers. Both Celebrity and Carnival Cruises have gone for larger ship sizes as well.

While on-board, you might be paying more fees than in the past. Even the snacks might cost you. Other fees are for on-board tours and eating at an alternative restaurant. Before you book a cruise, find out what your money will pay for and what it doesn’t so you don’t end up feeling mad, cheated or disappointed.

Because more and more people are looking to find R&R while on board, more ships are offering spa classes and areas for retreats where passengers can meditate or just hang out in peace and quiet.

Along with these cruise line trends, Jay Clarke also mentioned in his article in the Columbus Dispatch that there are half-dozen new ships in southern Florida. I imagine this means that if you’re looking for a travel bargain, consider a cruise.

Cruise Ship Work: It’s Possible

One place where I caught the travel bug was from my uncle, my mother’s younger brother. When I was 12 years-old or so, he started working on cruise ships; thus, began the postcards arriving from far off places. On his visits, he brought gifts and gave us his loose change. I have no idea what he did on the ship, (steward maybe?) since I was like most 12 year-olds and was fairly oblivious to job options. All I knew was that his life sounded grand and all my friends thought I had the coolest uncle.

With all my globe trotting I’ve never been on a cruise. I have thought ship employment might be a fine way to see the world on someone else’s dime. The how to land such a job seems a bit mysterious, but here are some avenues that could turn into a viable job offer.

Cruise Line Jobs has a list of cruise ship jobs and cruise lines. There is also a cruise job CD you can buy. It looks official, but after reading the next point, I wonder. Still, this might be a good place to at least check out possibilties.

Carnival Cruise Line provides information about how to get a job on one of their cruise ships. The website also sports a warning to not become caught up in a hiring scam from bogus companies.

For a print source that looks reliable, Cruise Ship Job in 14 Days: The Laser Stategy for the Next Generation Applying has several positive comments on Amazon.com.