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]

Princess Cruises 2012-13 salings to open with a bang

Normally, cruise line ship deployment for upcoming seasons is a mysterious event that unfolds over time. Experienced travelers want to book as far in advance as possible but are often kept waiting this time of the year for next year’s deployment schedule to come out. This year, Princess Cruises, for the first time ever, is releasing all sailings for Summer 2012 through Spring 2013 at one time.

All sailings will be available to book starting March 17, 2011 at 3PM Eastern time. That is of particular interest to undecided travelers, trying to weigh options on where and when they might sail. Before, small pieces of the deployment puzzle would be doled out a little at a time over a period of months. Waiting for all options to consider might have meant losing out on the best stateroom selection or pricing.
Princess has good reason for this mass deployment schedule too. In the 2012-13 season, the line will have it’s biggest deployment ever in Europe with more than 125 voyages to the most popular places.

In addition, Princess will sail seven ships to Alaska with 21 cruisetour options. Normally we have to wait until the current season is almost over before knowing what will be offered for the next season. That’s huge and only Princess is doing it. That is a real testament to their commitment to the Alaska market that buyers should not forget when making a buying decision. No “wait and see what happens” attitude here, they’re ready to go right now. This is consistent with many reasons why Princess is the line to see Alaska with.

Earlier we reported that Crown Princess would be returning to Galveston….yes, Galveston, the home port with the fog problems but a hungry cruise audience. They have not sailed from there in years but join sister-line Carnival Cruise Lines who will debut shiny new Carnival Magic in the U.S. from the Texas port.

“We’ve received a great deal of feedback from cruisers interested in sailing from Galveston again,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So we’re excited to be returning in 2012 to bring our Western Caribbean sailings back to Texas.”

There must be some good things happening in Galveston for these two cruise titans to put such fabulous hardware in a location that has been considered secondary to traditional Florida homeports, let alone debut ports.

Continuing their “we sail more ships to more places than anyone else” thing, Princess has more voyages than ever to South America, the exotic Amazon, Asia, Canada & New England, the Panama Canal, Tahiti, the South Pacific and even epic cruises around the whole world.

If that’s not enough, Princess also has special Launch Savings of up to $200 per couple for members of their Captains Circle past guest club and the line has sweetened the deal for groups too, offering some of the most generous benefits of all cruise lines.

There is a lot going on at Princess Cruises these days for sure. Your travel agent can sort through all the options and help you find the best values for you. Be it your first cruise or your 100th, Princess has set themselves up for a record year of great values like no other line.

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.


Princess continues rule of Alaska cruise business

Princess Alaska CruisePrincess Cruises has worked hard over the years to offer the best and most flexible experience for travelers in Alaska. They have built self-sufficient lodge complexes in the heart of the wilderness, made a positive impact on sensitive Alaskan environmental issues and continued to refine their Alaska offerings. Recently, the line addressed one of the biggest challenges facing travelers making reserving land tours easier.

Alaska can be done as a cruise or as a cruisetour, a sailing with a land package added on to the front or back side of the cruise. Savvy travelers with the time and budget for it know that a cruisetour is the way to go. Adding just a few days on to a sailing and having the ability to book land excursions can get travelers much deeper into Alaska than possible from a shore excursion off a cruise-only vacation.

The new Princess system allows booked travelers to pre-reserve land excursions through Princess’ Cruise Personalizer along with their shore excursions from the ships. Previously, land excursions were pre-purchased separately or booked at the lodge.

Princess Cruises Alaska Wilderness Lodges
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“This new capability makes the cruisetour experience even easier for passengers, as they can now reserve all their Alaska tours in one convenient place at the same time,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president of Princess Cruises. “So now the toughest part of planning excursions will be whether to choose between dog sledding, flight seeing, rafting, or the many other exciting options presented by the local tour operators.”

Indeed, Alaska flightseeing by helicopter or plane can be expensive as are some of the other premiere excursions available in Alaska. By allowing travelers to book both land and sea excursions in the same place, budgeting and time management of the entire vacation experience will be much easier and more accurate.

Princess also added some new family-friendly tours recently, both from the ships and from their lodges in the wilderness. New from the Wilderness Lodges this year:

Worthington Glacier Hike — Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge
This tour offers travelers an opportunity to hike on the dramatic Worthington Glacier. Hikers don crampons, metal spikes fastened to the sole of a shoe to provide better traction on ice and snow, and then they’re off on a hike up the glacier to explore the crevasses and sculptured blue ice. Participants will learn the difference between blue and white ice, listen for the creaking sound of calving, and enjoy a lunch break and hot drink. Travelers will also take in the glacier’s intricate ice formations and enjoy expansive views of the Chugach Mountains. Tip: If being on a glacier or flightseeing are one of your goals, book it on multiple days if possible. There is a good chance your tour could get rained out and having a backup can get you there.

Explore Cooper Landing & Gold Panning Adventure — Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge
Passengers can fully explore the Cooper Landing area, known as “the gem of the Kenai Peninsula,” with this comprehensive tour. Participants will learn about the area’s history and try their own hand at gold panning. Visits include the Cooper Landing Historical Society featuring historic buildings, an actual sled dog kennel housing dogs that run the famous Iditarod race, K’beq Archaeological Site where native people share their culture and traditions, and a local homestead. If the salmon are running in the Kenai River, participants can also watch the action as fishermen “combat fish” trying to land a salmon.

Black Diamond Treasure Hunt — Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge
This family-friendly tour offers a geo-caching adventure through rugged backcountry trails on a zippy ATV. Participants set the pace, fast and furious or leisurely and relaxing, as they follow a list of scavenger hunt-style objectives. Kids of all ages will have a blast as they locate “treasures” that epitomize the Alaskan outdoors. Using the provided GPS, participants can unearth a treasure trove of mineral samples, Athabascan Indian artifacts, gold-rush era cabins, spectacular vistas and wildlife. Eventually, everyone finds the final missing piece of the puzzle: a hearty, mouth-watering meal of salmon, chicken, ribs and potato salad along with complimentary wine and beer.

Some new shore excursions are notable as well.

Potlatch Totem Park, Hatchery, Bird Show & Meal — Ketchikan
This enchanting overview of the sights, sounds and Native culture of Ketchikan offers passengers an intimate look at this part of Alaska. Passengers will enjoy a raptor show at the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery & Eagle Center and get a private, up-close showing of two birds of prey. At a visit to Potlatch Park, a recreated 19th-century Native village, travelers can examine beautifully carved totem poles, see how Natives lived in the 1800s, and even check out some antique cars. A delicious gourmet seafood meal rounds out this connoisseur experience.

Gold Panning, Sled Dogs & 40 Degrees Below Zero Experience — Skagway
A journey to the Klondike Gold Fields that offers a fun-filled time of gold panning, a sled dog demonstration and a chilly experience to delight the entire family. This kid-friendly tour offers the opportunity to meet and interact with Iditarod sled dogs and their puppies, and then feel the frosty temperatures of an Iditarod race personally in a cold chamber where temperatures drop to 40 degrees below zero. After this chilling experience, families can warm up with a little gold fever and try their luck at panning for gold.

Not all that long ago, cruise lines were pulling ships from the Alaska market, deploying them to more profitable waters. Alaska is back and booking like crazy right now. Princess Cruises continues to dominate the Alaskan market because they pay strict attention to details. This new tool allowing for a seamless method of booking all elements of the Alaska Experience is just one reason why.


Leggo my Love Boat

Lego Love boatWhat took more than 250,000 LEGO bricks, six months to build, measures 10.5 feet long and five feet high? That would be a full scale model of the original Pacific Princess Love Boat built by professional LEGO builder Ryan McNaught.

The son of a Melbourne, Australia travel agent, the 36-year-old McNaught was inspired by the many cruises he has enjoyed over the years.

“I wanted to do something with character so I chose the original Love Boat, Pacific Princess, and studied photos and deck plans to capture her features and her beauty,” McNaught said.

One of only 12 certified LEGO builders in the world, McNaught’s model shows the exterior of the famous Princess Cruises TV ship on one side. The other side is a cutaway showing everything from chefs in the kitchen to passengers working out in the health club. Captain Stubing, Gopher and cruise director Julie, along with some of the show’s most famous guests such as David Hasselhoff are on board too.

Looks like the Love Boat will be making another run too. After showing the creation in Australia, McNaught now plans to move it to Chicago for Brickworld, one of the largest LEGO conventions in the world.

Flickr photos by TheBrickMan

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