A Tale Of Two Cruise Ships Under Construction

cruise ships

Coming up this spring, Princess Cruises and Norwegian cruise lines – two of the most popular cruise lines with mainstream cruise travelers – have new cruise ships coming out. Considering that both are under construction right now and both offer sister ships being built for later delivery, choosing one might be difficult for cruise travelers. Before we get too far down the road, let’s take a look at the two new ships, what they have to offer and how construction is coming along.

cruise shipsNorwegian Cruise Line has a whole lot of New Yorkers talking about new Norwegian Breakaway, and for good reason. To be based in New York City year-round, the 4,000-passenger ship has been customized for the New York market with everything from shops, restaurants and bars to Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship.

Partnering with the New York City Rockettes (Godmothers of the ship), pop artist Peter Max (custom city skyline hull design) and others, Norwegian is making every attempt to pierce the New York market; it even set up “warming stations” around the city this winter.

That’s all in addition to some over-the-top features on the ship set to blow away other new builds that has everyone talking about this new Norwegian ship that will be sailing to Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

%Gallery-179356%An oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway will combine dining and drinking venues with entertainment and gaming. 678 Ocean Place will be a hub of activity spanning three decks that features seven more dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

Continuing what looks to be a pre-sold success story with Norwegian Breakaway, sister ship Norwegian Getaway will debut in 2014, claiming Miami, Florida, as its hometown. Embedding a South Florida theme in the new ship, Norwegian tapped David Le Batard (AKA the artist known as “LEBO”) to create art for the new ship’s hull. Set to debut in February 2014, we’ll have more on that one later.

First, here’s a gallery of photos featuring first-up Norwegian Breakaway, under construction:

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Royal Princess marks the first new build for the cruise line since 2008’s Ruby Princess, the last of Princess Cruises popular grand class ships. They built nine of those and already have a sister ship to Royal Princess in the works too.

Royal Princess
will be a careful evolution of the Princess product with a ship laid out in typical Princess patterns. Focusing on their mantra to let passengers “escape completely” Princess Cruises has designed a ship totally around that concept. It’s a success formula that has made Princess popular over the years and keeps travelers coming back for more.

But Princess goes a bit over the top themselves too, adding an over-the-water “SeaWalk” that will extend 28 feet over the side of the ship, offering views of the ocean 128 feet below off the ship’s starboard side. On the port side, a SeaView bar will be positioned to offer cocktails and some great views. Here is what that venue and others should look like when complete:

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Top-deck features are a focus of cruise ships industry-wide lately and Royal Princess is no exception. This Princess ship starts with a new adults-only pool surrounded by plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two more pools will flank a “tropical island” that will have pool seating by day then become a dance club with a dancing water and light show by night.

Next year’s Regal Princess will be a twin sister to 141,000 ton Royal Princess, complete with a central atrium Piazza area that is 50% larger area than previous versions and casual dining options that include an Italian gelateria, a seafood bar and expanded seating in the passenger-favorite International Cafe.

Under construction right now in Venice, Princess Cruises sent along these photos from the shipyard:

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We will be heading to Venice, Italy, at the end of March for a first-hand look at construction of Royal Princess in-progress. Stay tuned for updates.

So which ship to choose? Here are some points to consider:

  • The value is there for either ship. Both will stack up nicely compared to land vacations to the same places these ships sail, allowing passengers to unpack once but visit multiple destinations.
  • Norwegian Breakaway adds an additional choice, year-round for cruise travelers departing from the upper East coast, eliminating the need for airfare and sailing to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Florida.
  • Royal Princess will sail seven-night itineraries from Florida’s Port Everglades to the Eastern Caribbean from November 2013 through April 2014 after a Mediterranean season that begins June 9, 2013.
  • Traditional cruisers will find their dreams fulfilled on Royal Princess with standard features the line has become famous for – amped up for today’s traveler. Think: turbo Love Boat.
  • Norwegian Breakaway promises an entertainment experience as good if not better than the bar-raising elements added on their last new build, Norwegian Epic. Think: epic flavor, easy to swallow.

[Photo Credits- Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises]

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?

No.

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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