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]

Cruise Line Takes Sustainability From Sea To Shore, Wins Award

cruise lineSustainable Travel International (STI) is a global non-profit charged to help destinations, businesses and travelers protect the environment, adapt to climate change, preserve cultural heritage and more. This week, STI awarded their first-ever, Gold-Level Eco-Certification to a cruise line, honoring Royal Caribbean International for attractions and tour operations at their island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

Encouraging green travel, STI awards certification for businesses that are engaged in responsible travel practices that focus on economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability.

CocoCay is the first operation of its kind to receive the certification, which rates on-island tours, island operations, workplace practices, guest communications and environmental management policies. Rated by an expert third-party, independent of Sustainable Travel International and Royal Caribbean, the CocoCay operation demonstrated an ability to successfully apply its at-sea sustainability initiatives to its on-shore operations.But Royal Caribbean did not just get lucky. Winning the award took a global focus, much like we saw when sailing to their private destination of Labadee in Haiti, just after the major earthquake of a few years ago. Then, Royal Caribbean was self-charged to deliver thousands of pounds of food and supplies to the devastated island, which was also home to resident Royal Caribbean employees who work at Labadee when ships come calling.

“Royal Caribbean developed a very thorough, attainable action plan, designed to implement higher levels of sustainability over time,” said Robert Chappell, Sustainable Travel International’s Senior Director of Standards and Certification in a press release.

Will more cruise lines follow Royal Caribbean and work to get their own private islands certified green and sustainable? Probably. Other cruise lines as well have been working to make a green impact. By recycling cooking oil used on ships as fuel for vehicles on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line is making a difference.

Princess Cruises shore power program made history debuting in environmentally sensitive Juneau, Alaska, in 2001, expanding to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shore-side power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.

“I’m excited to see them expand their action plan while developing innovative new solutions that are leading the way in the cruise industry,” added Chappell.

STEP is among the first global standards to be formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay is the first cruise line private island to receive the certification.

Want to know more about Sustainable Travel International? Check this video:



[Photo Credit – Flickr user kuddlyteddybear2004]

Alaska Rail And Cruise Packages Add Value, Adventure

Alaska rail and cruise packages

Alaska rail and cruise packages, commonly called Cruise Tours, are heating up as more travelers opt to see more of what the land of the midnight sun has to offer. Choosing a multi-day land exploration, either before or after a seven-day cruise line sailing, gets passengers deeper into the Alaska heartland than possible by ship only. Now, a third-party travel source is offering to combine their package with a standard cruise line experience for something different.

Rocky Mountaineer is a rail line that offers over 45 Canadian vacation packages on four unique routes through British Columbia and Alberta, each rich in history and natural wonders. The luxurious train travels by daylight through the wild beauty of Canada’s West and is a great way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies either before or after an Alaska cruise.

Traveling eastbound or westbound on the Rocky Mountaineer, the all-daylight rail journey departs three times per week on both the First Passage to the West and the Journey Through the Clouds routes from the end of April until the beginning of October. The Rainforest to Gold Rush route runs from the middle of May until the end of September, as does the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb route.On board, Rocky Mountaineer offers different levels/choices of service for rail journeys too. All passengers get onboard attendants that provide friendly service and informative commentary of the regions through which the train travels. Gold, Silver and Red levels of service offer more onboard amenities.

Alaska rail and cruise packagesNow, combining Rocky Mountaineer extensive experience on land with Holland America Line’s experience at sea, comes a package that bundles it all.

Called Canadian Rockies Highlights & Coastal Passage with Pre-Tour Cruise – 2013, the package includes three days onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a seven-night Holland America Alaskan cruise, eight dinners, eight lunches, nine breakfasts and five nights of hotel accommodation. Also included are Banff & Seattle tours, a Yoho Park tour and Helicopter Flightseeing.

The offer is simple: book a Coastal Passage rail/cruise trip by March 28 directly through Rocky Mountaineer and earn up to $1300 in credits toward the cruise portion, or extra hotel nights/restaurant meals along the train portion in cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Banff.

Want to know more about what travel via rail in the Rockies is like? Check this video:




[Photo Credit- Rocky Mountaineer]

Trekking The Planet, Couple Passes 50,000 Mile Mark

trekking the planet

About a year ago, California couple Darren and Sandy Van Soye started trekking the planet on a global tour to raise awareness about world geography and make the subject more accessible to children. To make efficient use of their time and set an eco-friendly travel example, several legs of the journey have been traveled using Princess cruise ships. We caught up with the Van Soye’s recently for a progress report.

“We just passed the 50,000 mile mark on our journey (20,000 miles by cruise ship),” said Darren Van Soye via email this week.

The plan was to visit 50 countries, on six continents, in 424 days, sharing the journey with more than 700 classrooms representing 50,000 students. So far, Darren and Sandy have traveled to 40 countries with another dozen or so to go before returning to the United Sates.
Beating projections, 850 classrooms in 20 countries, representing 55,000 students, are following their journey online.As they have traveled the planet, the 25-year IT industry vets are compiling a library of education modules for teachers along with articles, weekly quizzes and videos, all free to educators.

trekking the planetWe can follow along too by visiting the Live Tracker feature on their Trekking The Planet website, which is becoming a rich resource for travelers as well as their intended audience, kids and classrooms.

In addition to 20,000+ miles via cruise ship, the trekking couple has traveled by rail (10,447 miles), road (7,021 miles) and air (17,035 miles).

“Our last cruise will take us from Valparaiso, Chile, to San Pedro, California,” added Van Soye.

Princess Cruises was keen on the idea from the start. The cruise line had just completed their 50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List, a year-long blog project where 15+ year Princess Cruises employees shared their personal travel stories, hoping to inspire others.

“We frequently hear stories from travelers who cruise to accomplish a goal – from celebrating milestones with family members to crossing something off their bucket list,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president in a statement. “Sandy and Darren are a great example of how cruise travel can be both relaxing and rewarding. We’re inspired by their story and we’re honored they’ve chosen Princess to help them achieve their trekking goals.”

Catching up with the Trekking the Planet team in December, Darren and Sandy review their time in Africa and the Middle East as we see in this video:




The Van Soyes will complete their global journey in March.

[Photo Credit- Trekking The Planet]

Pricing Travel Takes Creative Turn On Airlines, Cruise Lines

pricing travel
When it comes to pricing travel, common complaints from air travelers concern fees charged for checked luggage and changes to tickets after buying. Cruise travelers are often surprised to find out that the advertised price they see is not the total price. Both want more options, flexibility and pricing that fits their needs. Several travel companies are making moves to give them just that.

American Airlines recently rolled out simple three-tier pricing aimed to take the unknown out of the equation, make comparing prices among airlines easier and perhaps adding value.

“This will eliminate the fear about what-ifs,” Rick Elieson, managing director of aa.com


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/12/3139557/american-airlines-rolls-out-new.html#storylink=cpy

said in a Miami Herald report. He said it will encourage customers to compare airlines by quality and reward those, “like American, that invest so much in its product.”

Now, American Airlines lowest and refundable fare brackets are divided into three options:

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/12/3139557/american-airlines-rolls-out-new.html#storylink=cpy

Choice fares are the same as how tickets are done now and will be the lowest fare. If someone wants to check a bag, they pay for it. This is the basic fare. This is no doubt the fare to compare with other airlines.

Choice Essential fares add $68 per round trip but include one checked bag, no change fees and early boarding.

Choice Plus fares add $88 per round trip, and include the Choice Essential benefits plus bonus miles for frequent fliers, standby privileges, a free drink and other perks.

Will other airlines follow American? Probably, as disclosure, transparency and a traveler-friendly system of pricing and booking seem to be the direction travel companies are headed.

This year, we saw a new U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) rule that requires airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised fares, among other consumer-friendly features. Cruise lines have no such rules and commonly do not include taxes and other fees in advertised pricing.

But in what we believe to be an unprecedented move, Princess Cruises began advertising the total price per person, including port charges, taxes and government fees, in advertising for their Season of Saving sale, running through December 21.

“These cruise fares include government fees and taxes so you can see what each voyage actually costs from the start,” says Princess Cruises on its website. “It makes planning your next vacation easier and saves the surprises for the pleasant ones you’ll discover on your cruise.”

Reaching further, Carnival Cruise Lines added new pricing options this month with what appears to be something for everyone.

Some time ago, Carnival came out with their Early Saver Fare, a restricted fare that was guaranteed to be the lowest price, no matter what. Throughout the life of a booking, if the price went down, the difference went to the buyer in one way or another via the Early Saver Fare’s price protection quality.

Like a discounted airline ticket, the Early Saver Fare came with some restrictions too. Topping the list was that the deposit was non-refundable and any changes incurred a $50 per person, per change administrative fee. It was the best price but not for everyone. A traveler with uncertain travel plans? This was not for them.

So Carnival increased the number of fare codes they offer from four to seven, adding additional fare codes that allow more flexibility, options and the ability to find a better fit for each individual traveler. As booking a cruise is more complicated than booking an airline ticket, more complicated are the Carnival fare codes as well.

Some Carnival fares are available far in advance of sailing. As time grows closer to sailing, other fares with different rules, aimed at those who are entering the booking arena are introduced then fall off as time marches on.

Winning at the new Carnival Cruise Lines fare code system seems to be a lot about timing and determination.

For example, those who need or prefer to book at the last minute might like Carnival’s new Instant Saver Fare, available 30 to 45 days prior to sailing.

Choosing this option, the cruise line requires that full payment is due at the time of booking and is 100% non refundable, among other restrictions. But someone booking further in advance will have a different selection of fare codes to choose from.

Available between five and three months prior to sailing, Carnival’s Super Saver Fare has a non-refundable deposit, no changes can be made for any reason, there is no price protection and the cruise line selects the passengers stateroom on the day of check-in at the pier.

Aimed at travelers who missed out on the Early Saver Fare because they waited too long to book, the Super Saver Fare is offered closer to sailing but with more restrictions.

Significantly new to booking procedures on some fares is that the cruise line (rather than the passenger) selects the cabin at the time of pier check-in. Now we’re into that “determination” comfort level and passengers who need or want to have their stateroom at a certain location on the ship will not like this qualifier. Those prone to suffering from motion discomfort commonly look for a stateroom location closer to the middle of the ship, where the laws of physics say the ride is smoother.

At the end of the day, those booking Carnival Cruise Lines may want to consider travel insurance more seriously in response new restrictions and use the services of a travel agent that works with this system daily to be sure they select the right pricing option.


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[Photo Credit- Flickr user Simon_sees]