Carnival Splendor back in service on the West coast, repairs complete

Carnival Splendor, the ship that was in the news after it caught fire in November, putting an abrupt end to sailings of the ship from the West coast, will be back in service February 20, 2011.

Taken out for repairs in November, Carnival Cruise Lines announced at the time that all sailings between then and January 16th had been cancelled for repairs to be made. Later, the line had to push that date forward when repairs took longer than normal. Now, the ship is ready to resume normal operations, doing seven-day sailings from Long Beach, California.

“Carnival Cruise Lines continues to be the number one West Coast operator with two ships based in Long Beach year-round, as well as a ship operating seasonal itineraries from San Diego and Laos Angeles. We have more year-round capacity dedicated to the West Coast than any other cruise line and we are committed to maintaining our leadership position in this important market,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.Carnival Splendor has been throughly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and Lloyds Registry, a ship classification society, which monitored the progress of repairs during the ship’s dry-dock period.

“We’re obviously very pleased that the Carnival Splendor is returning to service and we’re looking forward to welcoming our guests aboard this fantastic ship,” Cahill said. “We would also like to thank our guests for their patience over the past few weeks, as well as our travel agent partners, the ports of San Diego and San Francisco and all of the government agencies, repair contractors and countless others who have provided invaluable assistance and support.”

Carnival will carry nearly 400,000 passengers a year between Carnival Splendor doing seven-day sailings to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Pacific coast and Carnival Paradise doing three and four-day Baja, Mexico itineraries.

Photo courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Norwegian Epic studios win design award from Travel + Leisure

Hailed by single cruise travelers as the first and only cruise line to offer special accommodations for the solo cruiser, Norwegian Epic’s studio staterooms were recognized for their innovative design.

“The Studio staterooms on Norwegian Epic have been extremely well received and we are pleased to be able to offer solo traveler’s an opportunity to visit great destinations while experiencing Freestyle Cruising on board our most innovative ship,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer and former star of TV’s Undercover Boss.

Norwegian Epic was awarded “Best Transportation” for its innovative studio staterooms, a private key-card access complex on two decks consisting of 128 staterooms and the Studio Lounge.


The staterooms are secure and comfortable for one person…two on a lucky night at the Studio lounge, just steps away. (Well, the line does say “you’re free to do…whatever!”) Each Studio stateroom has about 100 square feet of living space and features a contemporary design with a full-size bed and separate areas for the bathroom, sink and a larger-than-average shower (two can easily fit). The separate areas for bathroom, sink and shower received mixed reviews when the ship was first launched, mostly by passengers sharing a stateroom with another person.

Singles, however, loved the design of the studios and gave the special accommodations rave reviews.

Design Awards were selected by an esteemed panel of judges, including Henry Urbach, curator of architecture and design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Norma Kamali, fashion designer; Danny Meyer, restaurateur; Paulette Cole, CEO and creative director of ABC Carpet & Home’s; and David Childs, Chairman of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill.

Photos- Nowegian Cruise Line

When you should buy a cruise predicted by new booking tool

In the not-so-distant past, booking early, watching for sales, using a Travel Expert or just being in the right place at the right time meant a good price on a cruise. A new website takes some of the guesswork out of the process by predicting when to buy.

Traditionally, cruise lines have appreciated those who book far in advance. Ships need to sail full to make money and those who booked early had historically been prized almost as much as past-guests coming back for more. If a lower fare that you qualified for came along after booking, the cruise line would gladly pass that price along.

That was then, this is now.

Now, a new web site claims to know that when you should buy a cruise can be predicted.Enter, a travel agency that uses months of historical pricing data to predict what is likely to happen to the pricing on any given cruise sailing from the U.S. Its predictions are similar to the Price Predictions that provides for airfares and tell you what your Travel Expert already knows. Trends.

The information is no big surprise but to have and it does give a graphic illustration of what has been happening with pricing. Cruise brokers, like stock brokers, would like this.

With cruise lines tightening up booking rules, your travel expert is more important than ever. Any additional data you can easily get and use will be helpful in your research phase but it needs to be tempered with review by a competent advisor.

Some cruise lines are moving away from courting those who book far in advance. On Royal Caribbean, for example, you could always count on them honoring any lower price that might come along throughout the life of a booking. It was wise to book far in advance, take advantage of the best cabin selection and often the best price. But with few exceptions, the line would lower your price if it went down along the way, no questions asked. If the price went down after final payment, they would issue onboard credit for the difference.

Now Royal Caribbean line has slipped in a Best Price Guarantee Program which gives 110% of the difference if you find a lower rate…within 48 hours. Now all of the sudden when you buy is important. You’ll have to weigh if price or cabin selection is more important and up until now you would have to pull out the crystal ball to predict when the best time to buy was.

Flickr photo by CubaGallery

Troubled Falmouth, Jamaica cruise port finally welcomes first cruise guests

Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas became the first cruise ship to visit the new port of Falmouth, Jamaica which unofficially opened today, months behind schedule.

“We are delighted to see Voyager of the Seas make the first-ever ship call at Historic Falmouth,” said Craig Milan, senior vice president of Land Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “By partnering with the Port Authority of Jamaica, we are working to deliver our shared vision of Falmouth’s rebirth. Together, we are bringing the town’s historic sites to life and integrating the culture and authenticity of this destination into a superior guest experience.”

The port construction is a joint effort between between mega-ship maker Royal Caribbean International and the government of Jamaica. Originally scheduled to open last May, ongoing construction delays pushed opening the troubled port back, rerouting giant sisters Oasis and Allure of the Seas to Costa Maya, Mexico instead. It looks like the port is on track for an official grand opening in March though when Oasis of the Seas will make her first stop at the new facility.

On the ground today in Jamaica, cruise expert Stewart Chiron CEO, tweeted “Crowds massing on rooftops, churches, roadways as town about to enter new Millennium. Feels like Christopher Columbus’ arrival.”Indeed, the historic area of Falmouth, Jamaica dates back to 1790 at a time when Jamaica was the world’s largest sugar producer. One of the major obstacles in the construction of the new port has been building up an infrastructure that dates back to the late 18Th and early 19Th century when it was a central hub of the slave trade.

That was then, this is now.

“Marching band welcoming @RoyalCaribbean #cruise passengers as 1st to visit historic port of Falmouth” chimed Chiron.

Today, guests from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas are experiencing a new and diverse variety of shore excursions while at Historic Falmouth, including:

  • Good Hope Great House:located fifteen minutes from Falmouth, guests can choose from the new horse & carriage ride, river-tubing, ATV exploring, among others, on this former 18th century Jamaican plantation
  • Dolphin Cove & Dunn’s River Falls:adventure seekers can climb Dunn’s River Falls; zip-line through the lush rainforest canopy or wind down the mountainside on a Jamaican bobsled at Mystic Mountain; or swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove.
  • Appleton Estate: after a scenic drive through the Cockpit Country and Bamboo Avenue, guests can indulge in one of Falmouth’s old-world delicacies by learning to make rum and sampling different aged rums.
  • Rafting on Martha Brae: located five minutes from Falmouth, guests can enjoy a tranquil ride on a 30-foot bamboo raft.

Once complete, the port’s master plan calls for 120,000 square feet of retail shopping and two berths capable of servicing the line’s Oasis-class ships. Located on the islands North side between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, most tours and excursions currently offered at either port will be available from Falmouth.

Some ships previously scheduled to call at Falmough had been redirected to Ocho Rios or Montego Bay where guests aboard Royal Caribbean ships got a discount on the very popular “JamaicaForADay” packages that sounded like just what they need and maybe what super-slow Falmouth construction workers shouldn’t have had.

The all-you-can-drink, all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-play excursion at Sunset Beach Resort pretty much washed away any post-ship diversion blues and brought on the trademark Jamaican party time with no problem mon.

Photos and video @CruiseGuy

Cruise Deal Watch: Onboard Credit on Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has a special onboard credit offer for new bookings on Oasis of the Seas for any March, April or May 2011 sailing.

Check this special cruise deal watch. Book a Boardwalk or Central Park Balcony on any sailing in March, April or May 2011 and get $100 onboard credit per cabin. These are the balcony cabins that have a view looking inside the ship, not out to the ocean. Pricing is good in comparison to oceanview balcony cabins too so see your travel expert today if interested.

Look for more special pricing and deals from Royal Caribbean in the near future too. The line has released it’s 2012-2013 Deployment schedule and very soon that coveted information will be available.They will be opening up the Caribbean/Bermuda, Canada/New England, Summer Europe and Transatlantic sailings in March. In April look for Alaska, Australia, more Caribbean and Winter Europe and Dubai. In August we’ll see pricing on Asia then in September more Caribbean (Colon, Panama) and Winter Europe. October 2011 will be the month to find out about Brazil.

Photos: Chris Owen