Increased police presence in St Thomas to combat violence


Following last week's killing of a cruise passenger, the United States Virgin Islands say they are making strides to make the island safer for tourists.  The police on the island are increasing their foot patrols across the island to stem violence from occuring.

Police commissioner Novelle Francis issued a statement regarding the measures the police are taking, "In response to the tragic incident at Coki Point on July 12, the (Virgin Islands police department) has quickly augmented its efforts to increase police officer presence on the streets and patrol specific areas visited most often by tourists, including but not limited to cruise ports, beaches, historical attractions, hotels and popular sightseeing areas".

The increased measures to combat violence include

  • Increased mobile patrols of other areas with high visitor traffic
  • The upgrading of security surveillance apparatus across the territory, including the addition of surveillance cameras in towns with 24 hour monitoring
  • New intelligence gathering prior to and during visits of the areas frequented by visitors
  • Monitoring of the movement of visitors
  • Increased high intensity patrols of popular attractions throughout the territory

In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands' tourist office announced plans this past Friday for a $1.2 million advertising and marketing campaign that will hopefully help portray the territory in a better light than it has been recently due to the news of the killing and violence on the island. The money will also be spent on new public relations efforts and to bring travel writers to the territory to write about it.

Smooth sailing and comfy lodging aboard Oasis of the Seas


Charles J. Adams III took a cruise recently on Oasis of the Seas to see what was so great about the ship and he came back with a simple conclusion: everything!  From the amenities to the layout of the ship, Charlie (as he's often called), liked all of it.

I found it surprisingly easy to find my way through the Oasis, despite its enormity. It is divided into distinct "neighborhoods" and "zones" and each passenger is provided with a pocket-sized map and guide. Interactive and static signs throughout the common areas also were very helpful.

Even after a week, Charlie admits he was hard pressed to find anything to complain about on Oasis, but did mention that some of the issues raised about Oasis are being addressed with its sister ship Allure of the Seas.

The Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line's bar-raising behemoth is incomprehensibly immense and, at first, intimidating. But after a bit of exhaustive virtual and exhausting physical exploration, I quickly became comfortable within the confines of the ship that is taller than the Berks County Court House and almost as long as the Maple Grove Drag Strip. Stood on end, it would easily be the tallest building in Philadelphia.

South African Woman hires lawyer firm to pursue rape case


A South African woman, only known as "Taryn" claims she was raped by a coworker aboard a Royal Caribbean ship.  She worked as a beauty therapist and says that she was raped by a fellow South African, a fitness instructor, and sent home after reporting the incident.  This week she hired Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkelman, who specialize in maritime law and cases involving passengers and crew injured on ships worldwide.

"I believe they sent me home to hide the case and protect their reputation - they didn't care about my wellbeing.
"The easy part was to get over the physical rape, the hard part was, and still is, trying to convince myself that I did the right thing by reporting the incident, despite being made to feel like I was in the wrong, despite still feeling like no justice was done and despite having no one but my family and friends to support me emotionally."

Taryn reports that after she reported the case, the cruise captain told her: "There are two stories, his and yours, but his sounds more believable, because you had been drinking."

She said she was advised to drop the matter or face an FBI investigation into the incident since the alleged rape had taken place on a US-registered vessel. After she decided to drop the matter, "I was given two hours to pack my bags and say goodbye."

Autumn will be bargain season for European Cruises


It's no secret that Royal Caribbean has been moving many of its ships to Europe in search of higher revenue but Fox Business reports that when companies like Royal Caribbean made their plans for the 2010 cruising season, they did so back in 2008 when they expected a higher demand and stronger Euro than is current here.  While that news isn't great for Royal Caribbean, it is good news for consumers looking for a cruise deal in Europe.

Here are some tips for those looking for a good deal on a European cruise vacation this year

  • Avoid cruise itineraries designed for Europeans. They prefer sunny resort destinations like the Canary Islands  (the European version of our Caribbean cruises) over port calls at the culturally significant places that draw Americans.
  • If you are going to fly all the way to Europe, you'll want see more – so longer cruises are better.
  • Avoid the traditional European vacation season of mid-July through August. You will still find plenty of shopping and tourist services, but with lower prices and shorter lines.
  • Airfare from the U.S. usually drops in autumn. 
  • Two cruise lines most Americans probably want to avoid (except for bargain hunters) are Costa and MSC Cruises. Both offer beautiful, modern cruise ships, but they market to non-English speaking passengers. Everything on board is presented in five languages -- Italian, French, Spanish and German and then English last. These ships are often bargain-priced, but the novelty wears off quickly. Most Americans prefer ships designed for our own tastes, especially when it comes to food, entertainment and shore tours.

Oasis of the Seas scores perfect sanitation score from CDC


Our friends at Cruise Critic alerted us to the newest cleanliness report on Oasis of the Seas.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency in the United States gave Oasis of the Seas a perfect 100 on its vessel sanitation inspection.  This inspection is a very stringent cruise ship cleanliness exam conducted twice a year and is done by surprise.

There were some minor infractions, but nothing large enough to cause the ship to lose points. An example is at the Buffet Solarium Center Island, "There was no serving utensils for the container of apples or containers of pears.".  Royal Caribbean responded to this by instructing the crew to ensure that there is a utensil for each food container on the buffet.

You can view the report in it's entirety on the CDC website.

Oasis of the Seas named a boating vacation not to be missed


Bloomberg BusinessWeek listed four types of boating vacations that you shouldn't miss and for the category of "the family", Oasis of the Seas was named its winner.  BusinessWeek liked the many options that the ship offers as well as the piece of mind of being on board.  They specifically chose the Eastern Caribbean itinerary for Oasis as well.

One key to bringing the brood together is being able to spend time apart. For all their flaws, cruises balance family and free time: You'll find activities aplenty—and containment that eases (some of) your worries about the kids.

I guess BusinessWeek should have called the category "the rich family" because it recommends the Royal Family Suite to stay in ($1,750 per person).

Canadian Skating Medalist Vaughn Chipeur to join Royal Caribbean show


Two-time Canadian silver medallist Vaughn Chipeur has announced he is retiring from competitive figure skating.  Instead of performing in front of judges, the 25 year old will skate in professional shows across Canada before joining the lineup on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

In addition to a pair of second-place finishes at the Canadian championships in 2009 and 2010, Chipeur was fourth in 2008 and seventh in 2007. He was 23rd at the Vancouver Winter Olympic this past February.

It isn't clear which ship he will be joining, but it will be likely limited to the fleet of Royal Caribbean ships that have an ice skating rink, the Oasis, Voyager and Freedom class vessels.

Best cruise ships ranked for getting away from it all


Cruise vacations can be great opportunities to see the world and do a lot of interesting and new things, but for some people, they may just simply want a break from the "daily grind" and look to get away from it all.  

Smarter Travel has ranked the best ships for getting away from it all and Royal Caribbean can be found in the list.  Chief among them, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is ranked as the "Best Ship to Get Lost In".

Why: The biggest ships are roomy enough to disappear into, with entertainment, sightseeing, sports, and activities to suit every sort of personality. Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Princess, Carnival, and Costa all boast ships measuring more than 100,000 tons that carry thousands of passengers. But, of course, none beats the world's largest passenger vessel, with its capacity for 6,296 passengers and 2,394 crew, seven neighborhoods, 16 passenger decks, nearly two dozen restaurants and bars, plus shops, theatres, and a myriad of other public spaces. The ambience on Oasis of the Seas is cordially anonymous: As one Cruise Critic reviewer put it, it's "simply too vast to inspire connections." You can be introduced to someone early on and never cross paths again—and that really is a plus for the loner. Sister ship Allure of the Seas, whose maiden sailing is December 1, 2010, promises more of the same.
Quiet Escapes: Leafy Central Park is the standout among the Oasis-class ships' many restful nooks. Pop in for tapas in the afternoon at Vintages, a mood-lit wine bar with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall looking out onto the park. Oasis' Promenade Deck is where you'll exercise away the tapas; it's actually a .46-mile jogging track with an ocean view and is practically deserted come early evening. What could be more serene?
Best Rest: Spacious suites, preferably with balconies, give the feel of a retreat and, thus, are a better choice for solitary cruising than windowless, cheerless inside cabins that force you out into the ship's hustle and bustle. Choose a sea-facing balcony cabin for fresh air without fighting over deck chairs, or a balcony suite facing the AquaTheater, where you have a V.I.P. view of the show without ever taking an audience seat. If you'd like to splurge, book one of the enormous Loft Suites—with two floors, private living and dining areas, and gigantic balconies, you may never need to leave.
Dining a Deux: The loner's nemesis is traditional assigned dining, which forces interaction with strangers who might, if you are so unlucky, chit-chat nonstop for an entire cruise. But, Royal Caribbean is one of scores of cruise lines forsaking tradition: Its "My Time Dining" offers a choice of open or assigned seating in the main dining room; dine at off-peak hours to enjoy a table for two. Or, take advantage of the many bistro-style alternative eateries, where tables for two are easier to come by. You can pre-book reservations over the Internet, or just show up hoping for a table. Best for intimate meals are Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. Conversely, don't expect peace at Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack, both situated on the noisy, well-lit Boardwalk.
Beware! Due to their size, Oasis-class ships are sticking to the most popular (read: congested) mega-ports in the Caribbean, such as Nassau, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. For tips on avoiding the crowds in port, read our sister site Cruise Critic's article, It's Tuesday in St. Thomas: Gridlock Alert?

Shooting in St. Thomas leaves future of tours undecided


Yesterday there was an unfortunate death in St. Thomas, as a 14 year old cruise passenger from a Carnival Cruise Line ship was on a beach excursion to Coki Beach when she was shot to death after being caught in a crossfire by rival gangs. This has prompted other cruise lines to make decisions about the immediate future of excursions on St. Thomas. 

According to CruiseCritic, Royal Caribbean hasn't made their decision yet, "A spokeswoman tells us that the lines do not have any ships in port today, but do tomorrow (Celebrity Solstice). However, a decision has not yet been made regarding tomorrow's tours; we'll keep you posted."

Carnival has cancelled their tours in the area while other cruise lines have not made any decisions yet.

Royal Caribbean updates its Haiti partnership


Last month, Royal Caribbean announced it was teaming up with RLJ Companies, Global Building Solutions, LLC and Haiti-based WIN Group to help with the economic reconstruction of Haiti. Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein gave an update on this partnership, saying that "Royal Caribbean will continue to take an active role in Haiti’s long-term rebuilding as promised".

The particular focus in the beginning will be to construct two factories that will build a special kind of structural panel that is hurricane and earthquake resistant, yet economical for applications such as our school project, housing development and other commercial applications.

Bob Johnson, the founder of BET, is working with Royal Caribbean to help with these projects and this partnership is part of a greater goal of Royal Caribbean to help the island nation recover from the mega earthquake that struck the region.