The Alaska Cruise Association, a group that Royal Caribbean is part of, has dropped its lawsuit against the state of Alaska over a cruise ship passenger tax. The bill passed by Alaska lawmakers this past Friday cuts the head tax from $46 to $34.50 and allows deeper offsets for ships stopping in at least one of two ports. It was signed by Governor Sean Parnell last week, and hailed as both as a way to settle the litigation and attract more ships and tourists.
In addition, cruise lines will be reimbursed an additional amount each time a ship calls in Juneau, Ketchikan or both.
The cruise association had placed at least partial blame on the tax and Alaska's regulatory climate for an expected loss of ships, and about 140,000 passengers, this season.
The tax was voted into law by Alaska residents in 2006 and was highly unpopular among the cruise lines and even argued to be illegal as it discriminates against the larger ships that carry more than 250 passengers. Experts blame much of the relocation of cruise ships away from Alaska stemming from the tax increase.
The cruise market in Alaska is heating up as cruise lines are showing higher demand for the cruise location than in the recent past. Royal Caribbean gave a positive assessment of the Alaska market in a report two months ago. Daniel Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises (Royal Caribbean operates Celebrity Cruises) said, "The Alaska product, where we are once again operating three ships, is also performing well and doing better than ... last year".
Competitor Carnival reported that "Alaska and other exotic locations," are helping drive increased revenue in Carnival Cruise Line's North American brands. In addition, Alaska has seen "significantly higher year-over-year pricing," according to David Bernstein, chief financial officer of Carnival Corp.
Last year one million cruise ship passengers came to Juneau, but this year only about 860,000 are expected after Carnival and others relocated ships to other destinations, citing the head tax as one reason for the decline.
Wired Magazine is featuring a series of photos of a photo gallery of awesome cockpits and they have featured Oasis of the Seas as one of them.
Situated on the center line of the ship, the captain’s station has two trackball-controlled 27-inch LCDs that are used to display the electronic chart and the ship information system, which aggregates mission-critical data like radar, GPS, and sonar. Nineteen additional screens are positioned less than 10 feet away, so the captain can quickly access, say, the machinery automation system, which tracks everything from the 5.5-megawatt bow thrusters to the fore and aft ballast tanks.
The country of Greece is trying to lure back companies looking to invest in the country by cutting bureaucratic red tape that can stall investment plans in the past. Greece, a country mired by debt, wants to make things easier on companies like Royal Caribbean.
Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean had plans to use the port of Piraeus as a hub in Greece, but after repeated strikes by unions left thousands of passengers and cruise ships stranded at ports, Royal Caribbean said last week it was dropping plans to use Greece's Piraeus Port as a hub.
Greece is seeking foreign investors to help spur its economy, expected to shrink by about 4 percent this year as it implements a draconian austerity programme to deal with the country's debt crisis. But it carries an unenviable reputation as one of the most difficult places to do business in the western world due to a web of regulations, restrictive laws and combative unions.
American Idol fans may remember Mandisa as a talented contestant from season five of the popular show. She made the top 10 finalists, before being voted off the show. Her new tour will bring her to perform aboard Majesty of the Seas in November 2010. From November 8 through 12, 2010, the 29 year old from Tennessee will take the stage aboard Majesty of the Seasas part of her current 2010 tour.
Mandisa has turned her songs to sing gospel now and she joins other acts such as Newsboys, Jeremy Camp and the David Crowder Band aboard "The Music Boat 2010" tour, which has a Gospel theme to it. In addition to the musical acts, Major League Baseball players Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers and Matt Diaz of the Atlanta Braves will also be on board for this themed cruise.
The Majesty of the Seas cruise is a four night cruise out of Miami, Florida and will visit Nassau, Bahamas, CocoCay® and Key West, Florida. If gospel music and cruising is your thing, perhaps this cruise is of interest to you.
Last month Royal Caribbean began accepting entries for a contest called "Culinary Challenge" where aspiring chefs could compete to become the next Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park, the signature restaurant onboard Allure of the Seas, the cruise line's newest ship which will make her debut in December 2010. Well, voting is now open for the contestants and you can view the video entries and vote on them!
There are six entries that made it to the vote stage. The chef with the highest number of votes will be awarded additional points to his/her overall score at the final challenge held at The Culinary Institute of America's Hyde Park campus in New York on August 5 & 6.
Voting ends on Sunday, July 18 at 11:59 p.m. ET and you can vote once per day.
With huge new ships like Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, new technology has been the solution for Royal Caribbean to make the experience onboard for guests as easy as possible. Royal Caribbean CIO Bill Martin spoke with InformationWeek magazine about five innovations Royal Caribbean has used to make the experience better for guests.
- Facial Recognition Software
When you board the ship for the first time, a high resolution photo is taken of you and this photo is used for security as well as for merchandise systems such as the point of sale system. Facial recognition software allows computers to categorize photos taken all over the ship by Royal Caribbean photographers for easy pick up later.
- Shape Recognition Cameras
At each of the 24 restaurants on the ship, shape-recognition cameras count the number of people seated and if any are waiting. Royal Caribbean works to ensure there is no waiting at its restaurants.
- Interactive Media
Remember the shape recognition cameras from the previous entry? Well that data on restaurant crowds gets sent in real-time, in the form of red-yellow-green signals, to 300 digital signs around the ship, so that people can self-select the least-crowded restaurants.
- Wireless Everywhere
There's Wi-Fi internet coverage onboard, along with wireless wristband for children to allow parents to track their kids movements on an iPhone app. The specially equipped iPhones are for rent during cruises.
- Real-Time Analysis
Royal Caribbean is using the data it receives during the cruise to help make decisions "on the fly" and bring attention to problems as they occur, not after.
Royal Caribbean has more real-time data than ever before because every point of sale terminal and booking system is networked, so analysts can know what’s selling well, what services are being under-used, plus the demographics of who’s on board. Analysts onshore have started crunching that data while the cruise is sailing. Combine that with the interactive media on the ships, and Royal Caribbean has a chance to put customized offers in front of people, say for a particular type of spa treatment that has more openings than usual, to a person most likely to want such a treatment, delivered direct to their interactive TV.
Royal Caribbean already serves a few Canadian ports but Canada is looking for even more cruises to stop north of the border. Canadian ports in Quebec, the Maritimes and Newfoundland are working hard collectively to attract more cruise ships to the region. Currently Royal Caribbean serves Canada from ships out of the port of Bayonne, New Jersey and there are plenty of flights out of Canada into Newark where it's only a 15-kilometre trip between the airport and the port.
Currently, European cruise lines, such as Costa and MSC, are very active in Canada. These cruises feature predominantly European tourists while Royal Caribbean rivals Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines have a long-standing Canadian presence and have the most capacity in this market.
If Canadian markets have their way, they'd like to see Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines increase their presence in Canada to create more options for Canadian cruisers as well as help generate more tourism money in the ports.