Art auction fight goes to court

In:
10Jun2010

It's always been a heated debated among cruise veterans about the role of art auctions on cruise ships.  The Detroit Free Press reports that recently, one person felt that she was "swindled" by a Park West art auction aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships in 2005 and 2007.  She claimed to have purchased 21 pieces of art, including limited-edition prints by Dalí and Rembrandt, for $48,000.  She subsequently went to art dealers and other art experts who told her that her art was worthless and sued Park West. 

"The suit, one of several nationwide, accuses Park West and its founder, Albert Scaglione, of selling fake, forged and overpriced artwork and using phony appraisals and certificates of authenticity.

Scaglione denied the allegations and said the negative publicity is killing his business. "These charges are ridiculous," he said. "We have never done anything wrong.""

In addition to that one lady, a few others are mentioned in the article with their own stories of purchasing art on their cruises only to find that they were valued at less than what they were lead to believe.  Seems things have not been good for Park West either, 

"Two cruise lines have ended their contracts with Park West since last year, decisions Scaglione attributed to economics rather than the legal controversy. The cruise lines wouldn't comment."

I'm no legal or art expert, so I'll leave it to the courts to decide.  The best advice I've ever received about the art auctions on board any cruise ship was from Jamie from CrownCast and it's okay to buy a piece if you think it looks nice and want it in your house, but don't buy art on cruise ships as a means of investment.

 

The fight for families

In:
10Jun2010

There's been a slew of articles all over the interwebs all about the Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks alliance and it seems everyone has an opinion on it.  MSNBC posted an article about the fight for families cruise lines are now engaging in with Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks, Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodean and Disney all vying for families to choose their ships.  The premise is that these alliances are hoping the kids will influence their parents to choose a cruise line, an idea we first posted about last week.

Anyone who doesn't think that the Royal Caribbean deal is about competing with Disney has their head in the sand.  Is Royal Caribbean looking to go head-to-head with Disney in terms of characters? Maybe not.  But what Royal Caribbean is trying to do is not cede the entire family cruise with young children demographic to Disney.  An under reported benefit of the Dreamworks deal is that Royal Caribbean also gets the rights to show the Dreamworks film library on board its ships.  That's a big bonus for kids who will be able to watch Shrek or Kung Fu Panda ad nauseum in their staterooms.

I know there's a lot of backlash from cruisers who are concerned their next cruise will be filled with character based entertainment that will ruin their cruise.  If you consider what Disney does on their ships the crux of character integration on a cruise ship, on Disney ships, you really have to go out of your way to see a character, much less interact with one.  You can be in the pool, or on the sun deck or at dinner and never see one.  The character entertainment on Disney is very compartmentalized and I imagine Royal Caribbean will have a similar model as well. 

How much of an impact this alliance will have remains to be seen but this deal shouldn't be vilified or feared.  Rather, it looks to be (on paper) a good deal for both sides and hopefully something that will fatten Royal Caribbean's bottom line, which in turn helps us all.

Ship Profile: Allure of the Seas

In:
09Jun2010

Royal Caribbean's newest ship is the Allure of the Seas.  This Oasis class ship and is set to take its maiden voyage late 2010.  The Allure is a sister ship of the Oasis of the Seas.  The Allure is 220,000 gross tons, 1,187 feet long, is 16 decks high and has 2,700 staterooms with a double occupancy of 5,400 guests. 
 
Guests aboard the Allure will get to experience 7 distinctly designed neighborhoods including:
 

Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness

  • Solo and couple massage suites
  • Youth spa
  • Complete hair and makeup services
  • 158 state-of-the-art cardio and resistance machines
  • Pilates, kickboxing, yoga and spinning classes
  • Vitality Café

Pool and Sports Zone

  • H2O Zone aqua park for kids
  • 4 pools and 10 whirlpools
  • Tranquil poolside Solarium area
  • 2 Flowriders®, sports courts, mini-golf and Zip line
  • Solarium Bistro, Wipe Out Café and Bar

Entertainment Place

  • Casino Royale
  • Studio B, featuring ice shows
  • Opal Theater - 1,380-seat venue
  • Blaze Nightclub, Jazz on 4, Comedy Live
  • Dazzles, featuring musical spectacles ranging from big band to disco

Youth Zone

  • Play - open gym and activity area
  • Adventure Ocean Theater and Science Lab
  • The Workshop - includes activities such as jewelry making & scrapbooking
  • Royal Babies & Royal Tots - nursery service
  • Teen Areas including Fuel disco, The Living Room lounge, the Back Deck and more
 
 Allure of the Seas is also the first to welcome the DreamWorks Experience onboard our already stunning collection of experiences for the whole family. Allure of the Seas will be the exclusive ship in our fleet with the How to Train Your Dragon Ice Show and Madagascar Aqua Show.
 

Royal Caribbean ditches cruise documents for eDoc

In:
09Jun2010

It's become a tradition before your cruise to get that packet of cruise documents in the mail that you will need for embarkation onto the ship.  It's a traditional part of the cruise planning process that's about to change completely.  Back in March 2010, Royal Caribbean announced they were doing away with the paper based cruise documents in favor of an e-ticket, that they've called "eDoc".

Royal Caribbean Director of Sales and Marketing Services Angela Stephen describes the eDoc as a "customized mini-website, pre-cruise planner, get-excited-about-your-cruise, and brag-to-your-friends-and-family-what-an-incredible-vacation-you-are-about-to-take” type of document.   The eDoc is basically a better means of marketing all that Royal Caribbean offers (read: activities that cost extra) to the cruiser who may not have been aware of it.  Given that the majority of cruises never visit cruise planning sites like this or Cruise Critic, they are unaware of many aspects of cruising until they got on board the ship.  The eDoc seems to be an attempt to educate guests about what is available on the ship before they board the ship so that they can book ahead of time.

Click here to preview what a sample eDoc looks like

For those that miss the old paper documents, you can order them for $35 per person, although Stephen mentions only 5% prefer the printed version (more like only 5% are willing to shell out the money for it, as opposed to expressing an opinion on the matter).  

What do you think of the eDoc idea?  Do you like it? Do you prefer the old way?  Share your thoughts!

Discussion: Mariner of the Seas leaving Los Angeles

In:
09Jun2010

Last month, Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein announced that Royal Caribbean was pulling Mariner of the Seas from it's Los Angeles port in favor of moving her to Europe to help with the ever rising demand.  This decision leaves Royal Caribbean without a ship cruising the Mexican Riviera at the moment and needless to say, it's left some folks upset.  Mariner of the Seas replaced Vision of the Seas, which also left it's Mexican Riviera route in favor of Europe.

The problems many have lay in a few categories.  First, there is no option for fans of Royal Caribbean out of Los Angeles.  Those in the western United States are without an option for a nearby ship that serves warm water ports.  Second, many Royal Caribbean fans in the United States are upset over the trend of much of the Royal Caribbean fleet heading to Europe to chase the all mighty Euro and the demand there for cruises. Third, many who have gone on Mariner of the Seas report that the ship is routinely full and that it's not like she was sailing half empty.  All of these concerns have left many with a combination of anger, disgust and frustration.

Royal Caribbean clarified its position on the move in a blog post by Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein when he acknowledged that while Mariner of the Seas was meeting its capacity while in Los Angeles, it was still being moved to Europe because "we are unable to generate acceptable levels of performance for Mariner of the Seas. We are obligated to our shareholders to deploy her where she can earn superior returns".  

For most in the United States, European cruises are interesting options, but ultimately too expensive for most given the high cost of airfare just to get onboard the ship as well as the time off needed for such vacations.  The problem of Mariner of the Seas leaving is compounded by the fact that there is no ship scheduled to replace her yet, and if you do live in a western state, it means you must travel east for warm water cruises, which adds extra cost for travel.  On the one hand, it's hard to blame Royal Caribbean for doing what they're doing.  After all, they are a corporation and their first goal is produce profit for their shareholders (as any publicly traded company does).  On the other hand, the cruise industry is built upon the notion of building customer loyalty and Royal Caribbean has demonstrated a strong will to retain its customers for future cruises.

So what do you think about the decision to move Mariner of the Seas to Europe?  Is Royal Caribbean justified in moving it, and many other ships to Europe to make larger profits?  Or should Royal Caribbean stem the flow of ships east and maintain the fleet it has serving the western hemisphere?

Cruising 101: Choosing your ship size

In:
08Jun2010

If you're brand new to cruising or still getting your feet wet, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is the size of the boat to go on.  Royal Caribbean features an assortment of ship sizes from a capacity of about 2000 passengers to well over 5000 passengers.  There are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding which cruise to go on.

Ship capacity

As previously mentioned, there's quite a difference in ship capacity and some people have strong feelings about big or small ships.  First, we should mention that "small" ships is a relative term and the smallest ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet can still accommodate over 2000 customers so it's by no means small (there are high schools bigger than that).  It's all relative and if you go on a smaller ship, you have less people to contend with you on board and at your ports of call, but at the same time, these ships are usually smaller in size and older in age and lack some of the amenities you may have read about in newer, larger ships.  

Larger ships offer lots more amenities on board but obviously bring with it a lot more people to contend with.  Some people prefer to cruise with less people while others prefer the bigger ships, regardless of the crowds.  The thing to keep in mind is that the capacity a ship has is in proportion to the boat's physical size.  So while a ship that handles between 2000 and 3000 people is smaller than other ships in the fleet, there's less room on board.  

Amenities 

What to do on board the ship can be just as important as where it goes.  The older ships while perhaps lacking the newest "cool things" like flowriders or ice rinks, are still a lot of fun and offer some superb cruising values.  The newer, larger ships will offer lots of the latest recreational activities that you find on a cruise.  It's important to determine which activities and opportunities are important to you.  If things like an ice rink, surfing lessons or a ton of specialty restaurants aren't important to you, a smaller ship will suit you just fine. It's important to look at the possible ships and see if what's offered on board is something you'd actually use or do and if not, go with a ship that will offer stuff for you to do.

Age vs Size

The tendency in the cruising industry is to build bigger ships each time, so typically the smaller ships are also the older ships.  There's lot of great things about older ships such as they being a better value (price wise), different itineraries than the usual ship and a more intimate feel.  Newer ships, which are typically larger, offer the latest and greatest.  Different people feel differently about the importance of the age of your ship.   Don't look at an older ship as the equivalent of driving an '86 Buick. These older ships are smaller and can be a lot of fun.  

Share your thoughts about ship size in the RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com Forum

Mariner of the Seas hosts second "Cougar Cruise"

In:
08Jun2010

You may have heard of specialty cruises where groups of people go cruising together, but the big trend that the media loves to talk about are "cougar cruises", where older women (over the age of 40 or so called cougars) look for younger men (in their 20's or so) to meet and the idea is women find young men for "companionship" while the young men find a woman who has financial stability, among other things.  This past May, Mariner of the Seas hosted the second cougar cruise but it didn't seem to be a huge success.

"But 20 or so other so-called "cougars" have taken the bait and signed on for what is billed as the second-ever International Cougar Cruise, a week-long Mexican Riviera sailing out of Los Angeles in May. From the get-go, the more vocal among the 25 or so "cubs" along for the ride are grousing about the lack of "Demi-ness" among the cougar contingent. And the more snarly cougars shoot back that there isn't necessarily a lot of Ashton-ness on display, either."

There have been specialty cruises like singles cruises that hope to offer potential soul mates the opportunity to find love while in paradise and there's been some controversy as to the validity of these events.  Personally, I think a lot of hype comes with this sort of news and the reality is it's not the sexy romp that some may lead you to believe.

Go cruising and support the people of Haiti

In:
08Jun2010

Obviously we all love a good cruise and there's a great reason to book your next cruise to help support he people of Haiti, who were devasted by that mega earthquake earlier this year.  Given that Royal Caribbean stops in Labadee, it makes sense for fans of Royal Caribbean to get together to help out a great cause.  A group called "Cruise 4 Haiti" is organizing a group cruise where a portion of the cost of the cruise will go straight to some really great charities that are assisting the people of Haiti that were affected by the earthquake.

 
Here's how it works: Book a cabin with the Cruise 4 Haiti group on the Liberty of the Seas departing on 11.14.10 from Miami, Florida.   $75 for each cabin booked will be donated to the the Cruise4Haiti non-profit partners For Haiti with Love and Airline Ambassadors.   You can be a part of a great cause while enjoying another fantastic Royal Caribbean Cruise.
 
I hope lots of people can support this great cause either by going on the ship or spreading the word about this charity. 

Video of the Day: A tour of Oasis of the Seas

In:
08Jun2010

I know it's only Tuesday, but take a virtual trip to Oasis of the Seas and check out this interesting video tour of Royal Caribbean's newest ship!

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