Cruise lines have worked hard to shake off the idea that they are all the same. What was once thought to be an experience well suited to a big ship full of overweight “travelers” who come to graze on endless buffets night and day has changed. Today, cruise lines offer unique travel opportunities on ships that reflect the tastes of an evolving, diverse traveler.
New ships come loaded with all the latest options that are designed to attract a specific type of traveler, one that appreciates what any given cruise line has to offer. As older ships cycle through dry-dock remodeling, a time when ships are taken out of service to perform routine maintenance not possible while at sea, cruise lines are adding some of the most popular new options.
Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, for example, recently received a $48 million makeover upgrading staterooms with new furniture, carpets, upholstery and flat-screen TVs. The 73,817-ton ship originally went into service in 1996 and was remodeled in 2007. This year’s remodeling also brought ship-wide technological upgrades, new trendy restaurants from newer ships and a poolside LED screen.
The idea is to make older ships competitive with new builds by adding today’s features from much bigger ships that are appropriate and will work well with smaller, older ships.
“If you walked onto Grandeur of the Seas you literally would think she was a brand new ship,” said Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing in a Vacation Starter report. “I would put her up against any ship in the fleet in terms of going from a ship that was maybe a little bit more mature in her age to absolutely looking like a brand new ship.”
This whole process is nothing new but some remodels are more extensive than others. Gadling reported similar news on a 12-day dry dock for Norwegian Cruise Line’s aging Norwegian Sun last year in “Old Ships Get Extreme Makeover” as well as another Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of the Seas that got a stroke of the remodeling brush in “Old Cruise Ships Get New Features.”
Another makeover coming up shortly, this one a 49-day, $155 million project, comes from Carnival Cruise Lines. Remember Carnival’s Funship 2.0 initiative that promised to revive, renew and re-energize the worlds most popular cruise line? That $500 million program is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’ Punchliners Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities by partnering with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.
Now, Carnival will embark on their most extensive makeover ever, spending $155 million to transform 1995’s Carnival Destiny into a ship so different that they will be changing its name to Carnival Sunshine.
When it enters service in April 2013, Carnival Sunshine will have all of the dining, bar and entertainment elements of the Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program, along with several new features.
New on Carnival Sunshine will be: WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide; Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar; Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and “adult shakes and floats”; JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites; and Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant. Here, guests can watch as chefs prepare five different kinds of authentic Italian-style, thin-crusted pies and a full-service Asian restaurant.
It’s all part of being relevant. What worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are looking for more than worn out Vegas-like entertainment from the 1980s, like a never-ending buffet and men’s hairy chest contest. They may still be a little bit interested in those sort of things, but more often are looking for something new.
They want new, trendy dining options that offer healthy choices along with designer cupcakes. They want to kayak in the pristine waters of a UNESCO world heritage site, go hiking in South America or fly over Alaska’s Mount McKinley. Cruise lines hear that call loud and clear and are delivering all that and more as they sail into a new future of cruising.
It’s a little girl’s dream (and the nightmare of many adults) – a Barbie-themed cruise. Thankfully, the pink and white Dream House hasn’t taken over an entire ship, but a dedicated area of the youth program on Royal Caribbean ships beginning in January 2013 and rolling out on the entire line by March of next year.
The partnership includes staterooms decorated in Barbie style (pink, naturally), a “Tiaras and Teacups” party, a mermaid dance class, a fashion-designer workshop and a special fashion show where the girls (or boys) can perform their new dance routine and show off their Barbie-inspired duds.
Of course, it isn’t cheap – at $349 a person, the experience can cost nearly as much as the price of a cruise.
What do you think? Is a Barbie experience fun for young women or is it continuing to foster an unrealistic expectation of what young women should aspire to look like? We’re inclined to think that it is lighthearted fun, but leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Often believed to be the travel choice of the newly wed or nearly dead, the nature of cruise vacations has evolved in recent years. At one time, a cruise vacation meant shuffleboard, never-ending buffets and a few thousand older, overweight passengers on a spin around the Bahamas. Now, the old iconic activities, dining options and even older passengers are being replaced with an active lifestyle and options for adventure travelers.
As new ships come out, cruise lines are careful to build in an ability to be flexible and cater to the traveler of today. Relevant dining options ranging from lifetime event dining, like a steakhouse dinner to celebrate a graduation at a fraction of the cost on land, to comfort food dining, like Macaroni and Cheese in the ship’s main dining room, reflect an evolving passenger’s taste.
Pinpointing that taste and satisfying it, cruise lines are more rabidly focused on capturing the attention of would-be passengers with far more than low prices and bonus offers. Branded experiences ranging from an infusion of DreamWorks characters into the Royal Caribbean fleet, a Nickelodeon influence on Norwegian ships and even Apple products in iLounges on Celebrity Cruises are proving popular. Off the ship, adventurous shore experiences often put cruise travelers on a path similar to that suggested by popular travel bloggers going it on their own.
Along with this “give-them-what-they-want” focus comes a branding effort designed to jumpstart the infusion of trendy, relevant elements to the onboard experience on older ship as well. Royal Caribbean has a Royal Advantage program being rolled out to older ships, replacing tube sets with flat-screen TV‘s, adding new trendy dining venues found on the newest of ships and upgrading other elements of the onboard experience as well.
On Carnival Cruise Lines some travelers may lament the near extinction of the party-going frat sailings (AKA “booze cruise”) but don’t have to look far for new, different venues that are becoming the place to be at sea.
Inspired by what is popular while traveling, Carnival unleashed its FunShip 2.0 initiative in New York last October. The $500 million enhancement program includes partnerships with popular celebrities and leading brands.
Funnyman George Lopez and celebrity chef Guy Fieri along with Miami Heat‘s DJ Erie are doing more than simply lending/selling their well-known names and star statuses to the Carnival brand in an attempt to draw a new breed of cruise passenger. Each has worked with Carnival to create experiences that fit the brand and infuse their own unique style.
The Food Networks Guy Fieri is working with Carnival to offer a dining venue called Guy’s Burger Joint, featuring the Food Network star’s (really amazing) hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries with special recipes created exclusively for Carnival.
Different, from previous product upgrades that have happened throughout the years, cruise lines are listening and communicating with passengers and targeted travelers, speaking their language. Also, reflecting a degree of transparency, cruise lines are letting us in behind the scenes to see what goes into bringing something new on board as never before.
At a press conference in New York, Fieri manned the outdoor grill most of the afternoon, making soon-to-be signature burgers and answering questions. When asked why he got involved with the project, straight-talking Fieri told us, “…because these people at Carnival really care about their customers. It really means a lot to them that the people who sail on their ships have a good time. I wanted to be a part of that.”
It’s funny how you can hear something like that from a cruise line a million times and think nothing of it, but let those words come out of a popular icon in the world of food and all of the sudden they have meaning.
Fieri’s influence goes beyond the burger recipe too and gets really detailed in its execution on board. Condiment stations will feature a suggested menu developed by the chef to show guests what condiments and toppings they can use to build a specialty burger. In addition to burgers, Guy’s Burger Joint will serve fresh, hand-cut French fries prepared on board. We sampled (OK make that “inhaled”) both in New York and agreed with most others that it was one of the best burgers ever.
Carnival is also teaming up with comedian and TV personalityGeorge Lopez who will become the cruise line‘s “creative director for comedy” as Carnival introduces the Punchliner Comedy Clubs Presented by George Lopez.
To become the cruise line’s curator of comedy, acting as a consultant on the vetting and hiring of comedic talent for the line’s existing fleetwide comedy clubs, Lopez will play an active role in the securing of top up-and-coming comedic talent, utilizing his vast resources within the North American comedy scene.
“Carnival’s ships offer a huge audience that truly appreciates comedic performances and the on-board clubs are fantastic,” Lopez told us. “I intend to help build and nurture an understanding among up-and-coming comedic talent that these ships represent a phenomenal environment to work and gain experience.”
Through the partnership, Carnival ships will feature a Lopez comedy routine shown on in-cabin televisions fleetwide and pre-recorded introductions by Lopez at comedy club shows, as well as a new Punchliner Comedy Brunch that will be offered on sea days. Lopez will also partner with the line on a comedy-themed consumer contest in 2012.
“Carnival’s guests absolutely love comedy which is why we are already the cruise industry leader in fleetwide comedic programming and, in fact, we host more guests in our shipboard comedy clubs than any land-based comedy chain in the U.S.,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “By partnering with George Lopez, an exceptionally talented, respected and popular comedian, Carnival’s comedy offerings will be taken to an entirely new level.”
Lopez is seriously into the comedy concept too, much like Fieri and his cooking. In an interview with CruiseRadio‘s Doug Parker and Matt Basford, Lopez detailed his involvement saying “I will bring people from television and movies and that will make it better. You start to see people on the ship that you have seen in movies and that makes it fun, that’s a great surprise,” adding, “I will be performing on the ships occasionally myself which I am excited about.”
DJ IRIE, song master to the stars and the official DJ of the Miami HEAT, will develop a first-of-its-kind DJ academy at sea that will train all Carnival DJs across the “Fun Ship” fleet. The DJ IRIE Spin’iversity promises to bring an exciting and relevant new vibe to the line’s legendary nightclubs, deck parties and beyond.
“Miami HEAT games are known for their high-energy and non-stop fun created by DJ IRIE and we want to tap into his unique skills and passion for music to create an unforgettable atmosphere on board,” Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations told us. “Music is the soundtrack of our lives and our goal is to create an emotional experience for our guests through the right mix of terrific music and a DJ with a unique personality who can energize a crowd.”
Whether spinning in clubs in Miami or Las Vegas, at a sporting event or hosting his popular South Florida radio show, the internationally known DJ IRIE has mastered the art of bringing a crowd to its feet and pumping up the energy and excitement – much like Carnival had done for 40 years.
But through his new comprehensive training program, IRIE will train Carnival’s DJs how to read a crowd and tailor song selections from every musical genre, appealing to guests of all ages. He will also instruct DJs on how to make maximum use of their own personality and energy to create their own persona and build popularity among guests to develop a fan following.
An important point to note: none of this costs extra. This is Carnival reinventing the at-sea experience, adding more options than ever, all included in the price.
The onboard experience is changing in other ways as well. Big name entertainment is lending their name to new cruise ships as Godmothers, or just to be were the entertainment action is.
Off the ship too, cruise lines are taking a good hard look at what they have for travelers once ships reach their destinations. Taking a page from travel bloggers, cruise line “excursions” are far more than a busload of tourists complaining if the air conditioning is not cool enough.
Today we’re seeing cruise passengers getting off the bus and on to kayaks, scuba diving, surfing, hiking and climbing trails, viewing history, arts and culture up close in any given port. At the end of the day some ships may stay in port late or overnight before moving on to their next stop.
Always a solid reason for cruising, travelers get to see and sample destinations they may or may not want to return to later, for a longer land-based vacation.
No, today’s cruise vacations are not your parents’ idea of a good time, they’re yours, whatever that may mean.
Between two cruise ships arriving in Florida and one in New Orleans, nearly 700 sick passengers were brought to shore over the weekend. Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, hit passengers and crew causing hundreds to become ill, many to be quarantined and sailings to be delayed. Its a common ailment, magnified by the closed environment of a cruise ship, but avoidable for the most part with some basic precautions and help is on the way in the form of a new vaccine.
Investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went on board Ruby Princess and Crown Princess to monitor cleaning procedures said Princess spokesperson Julie Benson. “We’re working in close cooperation with the CDC to identify the cause,” Benson told CNN after 499 cases occurred between the two ships, both based out of Fort Lauderdale.
“At Royal Caribbean International we have high health standards for all our guests and crew,” said Royal Caribbean in a statement. “During the sailing, we conduct enhanced cleaning on-board the ship, to help prevent the spread of the illness. Additionally, when Voyager of the Seas arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, this past Saturday, February 4, we conducted an extensive and thorough sanitizing on-board the ship and within the cruise terminal, to help prevent any illness from affecting the subsequent sailing.”
The CDC notified officials in Louisiana Friday that a cruise ship might be coming in with a Norovirus outbreak, state epidemiologist Raoult Ratard said Sunday, reported CBS News. Putting the illness into perspective, Ratard said that on any given day about 10,000 people in the New Orleans area are likely to have diarrhea and about 30 percent of them because of the Norovirus.
“In a closed space like a cruise ship, in a nursing home, in a hospital, you want to be extra careful,” Ratard said.
On the horizon, new a new medical breakthrough might have the answer to cruise passenger concerns over Norovirus incidents.
“It is possible to prevent infection and illness with a vaccine for Norovirus,” Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told Medicine Plus. But many questions remain unanswered, he said. For example, “we have to figure out the best way to give it and how long protection lasts.”
Tested on 98 people who received the vaccine or an inactive placebo, all of the participants tested positive for a gene that makes them more susceptible to the Norovirus. But those who received the new vaccine were less likely to develop the illness than their counterparts who received the placebo, the study showed.
Administered as two doses three weeks apart via a nasal spray, there were no safety issues seen in the study and side effects were minimal.
“Further study is needed to answer questions such as who should get the vaccine and how long the protection lasts,” said Dr. Thomas Hooton, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine noting the Norovirus is “a mess and spreads like wildfire.”
When will this new treatment be available?
No timetable has been set but Atmar suggested the likely initial candidates would be people in nursing homes, health-care workers, the military and segments of the food industry.
How to avoid Norovirus while we wait for the new miracle medicine? Here are some tips to maximize your chances of not getting the Norovirus bug while on your cruise:
Wash your hands- Like on land, our hands contact all sorts of things and people, many of which may have horrible sicko germs, waiting to attack us. Do you know how to wash your hands? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the people that police these things, have instructions on how to do it.
Don’t count on the hand sanitizers– Those hand sanitizer dispensers all over the ship are mostly for show in the grand scheme of things. They help but there is no substitution for a good hand washing.
Avoid touching things– Hand rails on stairs, elevator buttons, walls are all things that some sick person might have touched before you.
Don’t pick your nose– I know, gross, but a really good way to get germs on your fingers into your body.
Avoid closed spaces– Cruise ships themselves provide the closed environment that the Norovirus needs to multiply and thrive. Elevators then, are almost like a closed environment within a closed environment and should be avoided. It won’t kill most people to take the stairs and get some extra exercise either.
Roll back the clock and set those VCR‘s, the 2005 cruise line murder case of George Smith who went missing while on a Royal Caribbean cruise is back on network television. In an update on Dateline NBC this Friday (10PM Eastern), the news hounds go to the well one more time for an update on the tragic industry-changing case.
“Dennis Murphy tells the story of an active, ongoing investigation whereby FBI agents won’t talk on the record. However, the cruise line, Royal Caribbean has conducted its own internal investigation and ‘Dateline’ has the exclusive update about what happened aboard the ship in the early hours of July 5, 2005″ reports Greenwich-Post.com.
According to the preview at Dateline’s Website, Mr. Smith, a Greenwich, Connecticut resident, went missing from his honeymoon cruise. His family settled a lawsuit last year involving his estate. Royal Caribbean agreed to hand over its investigative file on Mr. Smith’s disappearance to the FBI as part of the agreement.
“This settlement brings us one step closer to achieving our objectives because Royal Caribbean has agreed to provide more extensive information from its investigation into George’s disappearance,” Maureen Smith, George’s mother had said, in a press release reported by the Post.