New-ship features added to existing cruise ships

Want to go on the newest cruise ship but having a hard time justifying the premium price they sometimes demand? The cruise lines hear you and are adding features from the newest ships on older models that are often much less expensive to sail.

New features on new cruise ships are something we almost just expect to happen. The latest, greatest ship coming out always has the very newest and innovative attractions and reflects what we want out of a ship. Royal Caribbean International introduced the world’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas in 2010 but has not forgotten the rest of the fleet. Throughout 2011, the line is adding new features to older ships. Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming up.

On Oasis of the Seas, twin to Allure and not all that old, they’re adding the Dreamworks Experience animated characters as well as a 3-D Movie theater.

Down one class in size to Liberty of the Seas, starting January 30th, that one too will have the Dreamworks Experience and a Broadway hit, Saturday Night Fever:The Musical. Add on a 3-D theater here too as well as The Cupcake Cupboard made popular by Oasis-class ships and Vintages Wine Bar plus a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery.

Sister to Liberty, popular Freedom of the Seas sailing from Port Canaveral will have all that plus a BRITTO Gallery starting March 27. No need to get off the ship in the Caribbean for shopping, this one has it all right on board.

Older ship Radiance of the Seas will add new specialty restaurants Park Cafe, Giovanni’s Table, Samba Grill and Rita’s Cantina in the Summer and get new interactive flat-screen televisions in staterooms plus the Touch-screen signage made popular on Oasis-class ships that helps guests navigate the ship.

Splendour of the Seas
will see probably the biggest change. Royal Caribbean is adding 100 balcony staterooms and more inside and oceanview staterooms too. New specialty restaurants and special lounges for Diamond-level members of the line’s Crown and Anchor past guest club plus an exclusive Concierge Lounge for guests booked in suites.

Technology is front and center too on Royal Caribbean with iPod/iPhone docks in each cabin.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean either. Carnival Cruise Lines recently added their popular Punchliner Comedy Clubs, SuperStar LIVE karaoke, huge LED screen Seaside Theater and more to most ships and the popular Chef’s Table dining experience to the entire fleet. Older ships have gone through a $350 million Evolutions of Fun adding Carrnival Waterworks, Adult Serenity areas and more.

Over at Princess Cruises they may not be pumping out the new ships line other lines (although they do have a couple in the works), but they’ve been busy with a keen focus on quality and an evolution of their on-board product with some pretty cool new features.

The Sanctuary is a secluded spa-like setting complete with massage cabanas, light meals, and signature beverages provided by “Serenity Stewards” assigned to the area. For a minimal charge, guests can reserve space in the Sanctuary for the day and be treated to chilled face towels, music via the area’s MP3 players or Evian water atomizers. Tip: when you get on board, RUN to this place and reserve it for the entire cruise.

The Ultimate Ships Tour takes guests deep into areas of the ship normally off-limits on a 2 to 3 hour journey through the ships engine control room, medical center, print shop, laundry, photo lab, bridge and other crew-only areas of the ship. A$150 per person fee is a bargain for those interested in seeing just what makes a ship work

Even the Room Service Menu was recently revised, enhancing the standard menu with hearty fare such as Chili Con Carne, Baked Lasagna, Moroccan Vegetable Crock Pot with Pita Bread and more served 24 hours a day.

Princess added a Pub Lunch Enhancement for Longer Voyages offering more traditional British dishes, served on days at sea with items like Chicken Curry, Steak and Kidney Pie, Bread and Butter Pudding and more

Up-To-Date on technology is on all the ships too with flat-screen TVs and each ships atrium has Wi-Fi Internet access as do all passenger staterooms.

Something super fun they have is called the Bon Voyage Experience.Princess now makes it possible for friends or family to register from 120 days prior to sailing for a short visit on the day of embarkation in select ports of call. For a fee of $39 per person, guests enjoy a nice taste of on board life including a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and souvenir photo. Additionally, the $39 fee can be applied towards a future cruise within 3 months of their ship visit.

The only problem I can see with that one is that you have to get off the ship and say good-bye to your friends as they sail off into the sunset.

Royal Caribbean revises tipping guidelines

Saying it was the first time in 13 years that they had an increase in their guidelines, mega-line Royal Caribbean today raised the amount of suggested gratuities for on-board staff members on all it’s ships.

Beginning July 1, 2011 the line is revising tipping guidelines to suggest that guests pay $11.65 per person per day, up from a suggested $9.75.

Tipping on Royal Caribbean is not required but the line offers a number of ways to get it done. Guests can either prepay gratuities for their entire cabin in advance of sailing, elect to have that amount automatically added to a guests on-board charge account or choose to use envelopes provided by the line to present cash gratuities to crew members at the end of the cruise.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said “Gratuities will continue to be given at the discretion of each guest, except for guests who choose My Time Dining, which require prepaid gratuities”

Tipping guidelines vary among lines. Compared to most other cruise lines, the Royal Caribbean plan offers the most flexibility. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, automatically adds gratuities to guest accounts, requiring them to visit the Pursers desk when on board to have them removed should they choose to present tips directly to crew members.

Flickr photo by Uhuru1701

Cruises from Baltimore sailing year-round

Royal Caribbean, the cruise line that brought us the largest cruise ships in the world is sailing from Baltimore sailing year-round.

Offering a series of five and nine-night sailings, 2,252 passenger Enchantment of the Seas replaced 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas. Initial five-night sailings to Bermuda will featured an overnight stay at Kings Wharf. Nine-night sailings to the Eastern Caribbean will call in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Samana, Dominican Republic and Labadee, Haiti; the line’s private beach destination.

Sailing year-round from Baltimore since 2009, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride offers a seven-night itinerary to Florida and the Bahamas with stops at Port Canaveral, Florida then Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas with three days at sea.

That’s more good news for the Port of Baltimore who recently set a new cruise passenger record for the port for the second year in a row. The future looks bright too with an anticipated 112 sailings scheduled in 2011, up from 91 in 2010.

Flickr photo by timmenzies

Cruise like a rock star

The recent announcement of a four-day cruise with a rock star musician and reality TV star Bret Michaels is a good example of what to expect when you cruise like a rock star.

Themed cruise vacations have been around for a long time but are gaining new popularity. Gathering like-minded passengers from around the world, promoters feature sailings with a focus on a common interest. Ranging from writers workshops to cruising with a favorite celebrity, guests pay a premium price to be included.

Sailing from Miami on November 10, 2011, the Carnival Destiny will be home to fans of Michaels paying up to $3500 per person for a luxurious Grand Suite package that includes a private party with the rock star.

Those accommodations have already sold out leaving standard staterooms starting at $939 per person. Those feature admission to a performance by Michaels and a farewell cocktail party.

Regular non-themed 4-night sailings of Carnival Destiny start at $239 per person with luxury suites starting at $1029.

Did you catch the math on that?

It looks to be about $700 and $2400 more than a normally priced sailing at that time of the year to be part of the action. $700 more for a ticket to the show and a cocktail party, $2400 more for groupie status and a private party with the rock star.

Other upcoming theme cruises include a cruise with Taylor Swift on Royal Caribbean, A Progressive Voices Cruise or a cruise for runners on Holland America and many more. All have a premium price to cover onboard events.

Most theme cruises are sponsored by travel agencies chartering part or all of a ship on a given sailing. Others are sponsored by cruise lines themselves and feature more mainstream interests.

Flickr photo: Jamiecat

World’s largest cruise ship to feature Samba Grill

The Allure of the Seas will debut a new specialty restaurant for Royal Caribbean International, the Samba Grill, a South America-style churrascaria.

The grill is one of the few unique features that will distinguish the 5,400-passenger Allure from its sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, when she debuts in November The Solarium Bistro, situated in the ship’s adults-only Solarium, will be transformed into Samba Grill by night, with waiters will wear gaucho costumes and serve grilled meat from skewers. By day it will serve healthy fare for breakfast and lunch.

On the Oasis, the Solarium Bistro serves healthy fare for all three meals, adding a dinner and dancing under the stars ambience at night for a $20 surcharge. Samba Grill will carry a $25 cover charge for the entire menu. It will also offer a $15 vegetarian option offering an extensive salad bar.

Norwegian Cruise Line also introduced a churrascaria on its newest ship earlier this summer; the Norwegian Epic debuted the Moderno Churrascaria.