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.

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.

Cruise line worker accused of using inside information to burglarize passengers homes

A vacation planner for Royal Caribbean has been arrested and charged with breaking in to the homes of 20 South Florida cruise line passengers.

Bethsaida Sandoval allegedly used the internal computer systems at Royal Caribbean to pick passengers who were on a ship, and determine which homes to burglarize. She then passed the information on to her husband.

The two would then check the homes for alarm systems, and break in, stealing jewelry, flat screen TV’s, sports memorabilia, video games, handbags and “pretty much anything that was small enough to put in pillow cases”.

Sandoval has a history of crime, and chances are she won’t be out in public committing any new crimes for a couple of years.

There is not much you can do to protect yourself against inside jobs like this, but it doesn’t hurt to start with some basic protection like an alarm system. Another option is to provide the address of a mail box to the cruise line instead of your home address.

Cruise art seller, Park West, accused of fraud

It looks like Royal Caribbean just dodged a bullet. The cruise line announced last month that it wasn’t going to renew its contract with art auction provider Park West – and the timing couldn’t be better. Passengers who have purchased pieces from Park West are coming out of the woodwork with accusations that Park West was peddling “fake, forged and overpriced work and using phony appraisals and certificates of authenticity,” according to USA Today.

One passenger, Marti Szosta, picked up 21 pieces from Park West while on Royal Caribbean cruises from 2005 to 2007 – some of the art market‘s hottest years – and dropped $48,000 in the process. “I was sick, I could hardly breathe” she was quoted as saying when she learned of the value of her art investment.

Says USA Today:

Szostak tells the news outlet she worked three jobs to pay for the art and then decided to sell, only to be told by art dealers that the art was largely worthless. She says experts told her signatures on limited-edition prints by Dalí she had bought at the auctions were forged.

Several buyers are now suing Park West, which faces charges of racketeering, fraud and violating consumer protection laws. Albert Scaglione, Park West’s founder, denies the allegations and says, “We have never done anything wrong.”

Royal Caribbean brings hammer down on art auctions

If you liked the art auctions on your Royal Caribbean cruises, brace yourself. In a post on his blog, the company’s president and CEO, Adam Goldstein, wrote that the contract it had with Park West Art Services to run its auctions on the ships expired and that it isn’t going to renew.

He adds that other art-related endeavors could be on the chopping block as well: “We are evaluating what if any art-related programming we may offer in the fleet in the future beyond Oasis of the Seas where Art Actually is our provider of art tours and art for purchase onboard.”

For now, Royal Caribbean and Park West Art Services are going through a “wind down period” as the art auctioneers wrap up on different ships over the next few months.