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

Ten cruise comments you would rather not hear, ever

ten cruise comments Cruise ship operations often get a lot of criticism for having too many announcements over the ship’s loudspeaker system. Some are essential for safety and just general organization of the many passengers on board. Others are not so essential and often aimed at just selling something. Some lines have more than others, some leave phone messages, others attempt to make announcements in crowded deck areas which are hard to hear.

It’s all part of the experience but some comments you would just rather not hear at all. Here are ten of them:

  1. “Hello, this is ship security. I have your son here and…” No matter what comes next, it can’t be good.
  2. “If your luggage has not yet been delivered to your stateroom, please report to…” (They found your smuggled booze)
  3. “HANG ON!” You are on Brilliance of the Seas and another “unexpected storm” will be encountered shortly.
  4. “Fire!” This means you will be having Spam for the next few days, delivered by aircraft carrier.
  5. “Is that your luggage floating in the ocean?” You should have tipped the porters.
  6. “Motion discomfort bags have been places about the ship for your convenience” (rough seas ahead. Get ready to say hello to that lobster you had for dinner again)
  7. “Oh look honey! There is a big sale at in the ship’s jewelry store! Let’s Go! Your husband won way more money in the casino than he said he did.
  8. “Oh look honey, the Golf Pro is giving lessons today!” She’s trying to get rid of you.
  9. “This is not a drill” Unless you are in a dentist chair and your dentist is Homer Simpson, you’re probably going for a swim. In the ocean. Without Rose or the diamond.
  10. “Customs is on board!” Actually this is one that strikes terror into the hearts of Royal Caribbean crew members/drug dealers. You may be short a waiter at dinner tonight.

Flickr photo by RAYANDBEE

Troubled Falmouth, Jamaica cruise port finally welcomes first cruise guests

Falmouith Jamaica cruiseRoyal 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, CruiseGuy.com 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

New-ship features added to existing cruise ships

features added to cruise shipsWant to go on the newest cruise ship but having a hard time justifying the premium price they sometimes demand? The cruise lines hear you and are adding features from the newest ships on older models that are often much less expensive to sail.

New features on new cruise ships are something we almost just expect to happen. The latest, greatest ship coming out always has the very newest and innovative attractions and reflects what we want out of a ship. Royal Caribbean International introduced the world’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas in 2010 but has not forgotten the rest of the fleet. Throughout 2011, the line is adding new features to older ships. Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming up.

On Oasis of the Seas, twin to Allure and not all that old, they’re adding the Dreamworks Experience animated characters as well as a 3-D Movie theater.

Down one class in size to Liberty of the Seas, starting January 30th, that one too will have the Dreamworks Experience and a Broadway hit, Saturday Night Fever:The Musical. Add on a 3-D theater here too as well as The Cupcake Cupboard made popular by Oasis-class ships and Vintages Wine Bar plus a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery.

Sister to Liberty, popular Freedom of the Seas sailing from Port Canaveral will have all that plus a BRITTO Gallery starting March 27. No need to get off the ship in the Caribbean for shopping, this one has it all right on board.

Older ship Radiance of the Seas will add new specialty restaurants Park Cafe, Giovanni’s Table, Samba Grill and Rita’s Cantina in the Summer and get new interactive flat-screen televisions in staterooms plus the Touch-screen signage made popular on Oasis-class ships that helps guests navigate the ship.

Splendour of the Seas
will see probably the biggest change. Royal Caribbean is adding 100 balcony staterooms and more inside and oceanview staterooms too. New specialty restaurants and special lounges for Diamond-level members of the line’s Crown and Anchor past guest club plus an exclusive Concierge Lounge for guests booked in suites.

Technology is front and center too on Royal Caribbean with iPod/iPhone docks in each cabin.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean either. Carnival Cruise Lines recently added their popular Punchliner Comedy Clubs, SuperStar LIVE karaoke, huge LED screen Seaside Theater and more to most ships and the popular Chef’s Table dining experience to the entire fleet. Older ships have gone through a $350 million Evolutions of Fun adding Carrnival Waterworks, Adult Serenity areas and more.

Over at Princess Cruises they may not be pumping out the new ships line other lines (although they do have a couple in the works), but they’ve been busy with a keen focus on quality and an evolution of their on-board product with some pretty cool new features.

The Sanctuary is a secluded spa-like setting complete with massage cabanas, light meals, and signature beverages provided by “Serenity Stewards” assigned to the area. For a minimal charge, guests can reserve space in the Sanctuary for the day and be treated to chilled face towels, music via the area’s MP3 players or Evian water atomizers. Tip: when you get on board, RUN to this place and reserve it for the entire cruise.

The Ultimate Ships Tour takes guests deep into areas of the ship normally off-limits on a 2 to 3 hour journey through the ships engine control room, medical center, print shop, laundry, photo lab, bridge and other crew-only areas of the ship. A$150 per person fee is a bargain for those interested in seeing just what makes a ship work

Even the Room Service Menu was recently revised, enhancing the standard menu with hearty fare such as Chili Con Carne, Baked Lasagna, Moroccan Vegetable Crock Pot with Pita Bread and more served 24 hours a day.

Princess added a Pub Lunch Enhancement for Longer Voyages offering more traditional British dishes, served on days at sea with items like Chicken Curry, Steak and Kidney Pie, Bread and Butter Pudding and more

Up-To-Date on technology is on all the ships too with flat-screen TVs and each ships atrium has Wi-Fi Internet access as do all passenger staterooms.

Something super fun they have is called the Bon Voyage Experience.Princess now makes it possible for friends or family to register from 120 days prior to sailing for a short visit on the day of embarkation in select ports of call. For a fee of $39 per person, guests enjoy a nice taste of on board life including a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and souvenir photo. Additionally, the $39 fee can be applied towards a future cruise within 3 months of their ship visit.

The only problem I can see with that one is that you have to get off the ship and say good-bye to your friends as they sail off into the sunset.

The worst cruise line values

worst cruise valuesCruise vacations can represent one of the best vacation values around, that’s for sure. The all-inclusive nature of a cruise makes it one of the easiest ways to go when budgeting too. Some cruises are better values than others though. Here are some of the worst cruise line values.

Cruises from New York
This is the whole supply and demand thing. Few ships sailing from the area with lots of demand equals higher prices in many cases. Summer sailings are a good example where fares for a 7-day cruise can easily be 30 to 50% higher than sailings from Southern ports.

Balconies on old ships
Old ships weren’t built for today’s demand. In the olden days of cruising, ships had mostly inside cabins and Ocean-view cabins with just windows. Just a few cabins had balconies, the popular option today. That makes balconies on old ships prime real estate that gets a premium price.

Sailing solo
While options are slowly improving, sailing by yourself is a horrible value compared to sailing with someone else in the cabin to share the cost with. Cruise lines base everything on double-occupancy and with few exceptions charge solo cruisers twice the cruise fare. Kudos to Norwegian Cruise Lines who introduced single studio accommodations on new Norwegian Epic last Summer, a first for the cruise industry.

Sailing during peak season
Spring Break
, Summer, and sailings which fall on holidays or pretty much any time school is out demand a premium price. On the flip side, times when kids are IN school have some of the best values, especially Fall sailings. Some of the best? First week in November or December.

Brand new ships
They always demand a premium price. On the latest, greatest new ship that’s not surprising. Normally, you’ll pay more to be one of the first on the most innovative ships out there than an older sister-ship of the same class.

A good way to measure and compare the value of a cruise, or any vacation package, is the cost per person, per day. Cruise lines like this number because it compares very well to other vacation options.

Another part of “value” though is more of a personal matter. It may very well be worth it to sail solo if the alternative is to not sail or sail with someone you would never take your clothes off in front of. Sailing during peak season may be the only time you can go, or you are just dying to try that new ship with all the latest bells and whistles. Your travel agent can help by being aware of or watching for special promotions, discounts or offers over the life of your booking that will soften the blow of these otherwise worst cruise values.

Flickr photo by kthypyrn