Brave Travelers Wanted: Your Cruise Ship Awaits

Brave travelers might sail on this cruise shipOtherwise brave and robust travelers have been having second thoughts about cruise vacations – and rightfully so. The grounding of Costa Concordia, a fire on Costa Allegra not long after and thoughts of the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic are all valid concerns. Wondering what the experience might be like, we bought a ticket for a ride on Princess Cruises‘ newly remodeled Grand Princess and lived to tell about it.

I know for a fact how very safe cruise vacations are; the numbers speak for themselves. I really do believe that cruise lines value our safety as the number one priority at sea and that only makes sense too. After all, at sea is where the show happens and if they don’t take care of business when completely surrounded by ocean in all directions as far as the eye can see, the future looks grim.

But as much as I love this business, I could not help but look at Port Everglades, full of ships as it commonly is on any given Saturday, a bit differently.

Was I scared to go on a cruise?


Did I have any doubt that Princess would deliver a safe, quality experience?

Absolutely not. They are, after all, the line of the Love Boat.

Still, I was about to board a cruise ship. Every single sailing we had done before this did not have the shadow of a modern day maritime event that seriously flirted with disaster hanging over it. Embarkation seemed normal but I found myself looking closely at procedures and precautions taken by the port authority and cruise line. “Were there always TSA agents present?” I asked myself and could not really remember if there were or not. I was glad to see them hanging around though.

Before boarding we were advised that there would be a mandatory safety drill at 3:15 p.m. That sounded like earlier than normal to me and we framed our early afternoon activities around it, giving that time more attention than on previous sailings in our minds. Unpacking, touring the ship and having lunch – everything seemed normal.

Brave travelers on a cruise shipA great deal of attention was given to sanitation procedures, especially in the buffet area where an obvious priority was being placed on good food-handling procedures and eliminating as much opportunity as possible for norovirus situations to happen or get out of control. That made sense after a recent outbreak that caused ships from a number of lines to pump up efforts in that area.

When time came for the safety drill we had already been watching the clock with more interest than on previous sailings and were not surprised to see muster stations fill quickly.

Our safety drill was held in a large public venue, normally used for shows of some sort. We were advised that when the drill began there would be an eight- or nine-minute safety briefing that we should pay attention to.

When that drill started, from the moment it began, those feelings of apprehension that a great many of those on board felt almost instantly went away.

Why? Because when that safety drill started you could have heard a pin drop in that room. The deafening silence was broken only by a small group of teens, probably on a senior trip for spring break. Teens, of course, are indestructible in their minds.

Every single person, and there must have been 300 of them, gave that safety briefing their undivided attention signaling that they understood the importance of it.

Actually listening to the safety briefing as though our lives may depend on the information we were receiving, it was also clearly apparent that the ship was in good hands.

They had a plan on what to do if things went wrong, they knew how to execute it, were practicing part of that plan right then and would be diligent to protect our safety.

No longer were we relying on the undisputed but impersonal statistics of how many millions of people travel safely by cruise ships each year. No longer did we blindly believe it was a safe way to go because we had been on a bunch of cruises and nothing bad ever happened.

When the safety drill was over, the room cleared quickly and passengers went about their business of having a fabulous cruise vacation, whatever that might have meant to each of them. I suspect they might be having an even better time of it too, armed with the truly important information we received that day.

The tragic death of those passengers that did not make it off Costa Concordia will be remembered as a lesson learned by cruise lines, affecting how they do business now and in the future. Still, that event and those people who died should be given credit for arming passengers for many generations to come with a sense of urgency about safety that actually could save many more lives some day.

[Flickr photo via flickrized]

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Cruise ship makeover: come along for the ride

Cruise ship makeover
There are new cruise ships and there are old cruise ships. The new ones have all the latest features, the old ones not so much. Well, at least not until they go in for scheduled maintenance. At that time, the cruise line has an opportunity to take care of routine repairs. Sometimes they add new features to those old ships, making them much more attractive to would-be cruise travelers looking for new features. Princess Cruises announced an extreme makeover for Grand Princess in February. Now, the line wants us to come along for the ride with a new series of video reports.

Grand Princess is going through the most significant transformation ever attempted by Princess Cruises. The ship will take on a new look with the addition of seven new suites, a remodeled casino, boutiques and art gallery, enhancements to the Horizon Court buffet area, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel plus the addition of Crooner’s Martini Lounge.

The line will also remove Skywalkers nightclub, the race car spoiler-looking venue perched high above the aft end of the ship. Apparently the place did nothing for fuel economy and/or did not get enough “Wow, that’s cool” comments at the ship wash.

Through May 4th, viewers can follow along with daily updates to a new video journal chronicling the 24-day drydock.

“Our passengers really loved following the photo journals we offered during previous drydocks,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So for this, our most extensive transformation, we wanted to take it to the next level and enable viewers to follow along with daily videos.”

Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, in the first installment audiences we see the beginning of the ship’s transformation as it sails to the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas.

We’re thinking Skywalkers would make a great place to visit while ashore in Freeport. A couple welders and a big crane could probably pop that baby off the ship and set it on the beach. At least there would be something worth seeing in Freeport.

Cruise ship gets extreme makeover

Cruise ship extreme makeoverCruise ships go in for routine, scheduled maintenance from time to time to take care of things they just can’t do with passengers on board. Cruise lines often take advantage of this time with no passengers on board to replace worn carpets or upgrade ship amenities. This is also a time when popular features on new ships can be added.
This Spring, Princess Cruises will pull Grand Princess out of service for much more than normal, week-long routine maintenance in what can best be described as an extreme makeover.

The 24-day process will not just change the carpets and put a fresh coat of paint on walls. As a result of this transformation, passengers who have sailed on Grand Princess before may not recognize her after completion.

“This is the largest makeover we’ve ever undertaken for any of our ships,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “When Grand Princess was launched she was the most innovative ship at sea, and now we’re adding some of the later innovations we introduced on subsequent ships.”

%Gallery-116296%The changes will be made during a drydock at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas from April 11 to May 4.

One5 Lounge – The new One5 lounge will replace Skywalkers, known as the best disco at sea, as the place to be for nighttime dancing and relaxing. I mean “replace” as in they are cutting it off the ship. This was the area all the way at the back of the ship that looked like the spoiler on a hot race car. It was also an excellent observation lounge to see far out over the ocean and favorite spot for underage drinkers to try to sneak into.

The new One5 lounge on deck 15 takes its inspiration from the chicest urban nightclubs, and will offer a cool vibe, contemporary seating and lighting, and a dramatic back-lit bar. This I have to see. An aerial view of the ship once this transformation has occurred will reveal an open, airy look to the back with an almost aquatheater-like openness.

Highlights of the other new additions bring Grand Princess up to speed with the newest ships in the fleet. New to this ship will be the Piazza Atrium combining always-changing quick bites and light meals, beverages, entertainment, shopping and guest services. The Piazza will feature an International Cafe for pastries, grilled panini sandwiches, salads, fresh-baked cookies and a variety of coffee drinks. Princess is also adding a new Vines wine bar offering a selection of more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a selection of tapas and sushi, and a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle.

Leaves Tea Lounge and Library – What a great idea. Libraries on cruise ships are one of the least-used areas but yet they continue to stock the latest novels and have a nice selection for guests to choose from. Now, this new space will offer a distinctive opportunity for passengers to custom-blend a variety of base teas with herbs, fruits and spices to create a personalized tea blend. Created in partnership with Mighty Leaf Tea Company, one of the world’s premier maker of artisan teas, Leaves will offer up to 500 different tea blends and a trained tea sommelier will be on hand.

Alfredo’s Pizzeria – a new sit-down pizzeria with made-to-order individual-size pizzas. Named for the line’s master executive chef, Alfredo Marzi, the pizzeria will feature an open kitchen where passengers can watch chefs create the pizzas they’ll enjoy with a glass of wine or other beverage.

Crown Grill
– A classic steakhouse with rich wood surroundings, this specialty restaurant features an open, theater-style kitchen where chefs custom-prepare a menu of premium aged beef and fresh seafood items, including live lobsters.

Princess stays a first-class cruise line by keeping ships up-to-date with a keen awareness of what their passengers are looking for. Like their dominance in the Alaska Cruisetour market, Princess will do whatever it takes to be a leader in all they do.