Want to see Europe? Try a cruise


Lots of Americans say that sooner or later, they are going to "see Europe" and hop on over "the pond" to see "the old world" but to be honest, Europe can be a little daunting if you aren't an experienced traveler but the Mercury News recommends trying a European cruise to get a sampling of Europe without the hassle of trying to figure all the details out yourself. 

Taking a cruise offers the chance to cover a lot of territory in Europe without the hassle of finding hotels, restaurants and transportation. It's the sampler approach to visiting Europe.

For fans of Royal Caribbean, seeing Europe is easy considering the cruise giant is increasing it's European fleet from eight to eleven ships next year, which will cover 27 countries and 78 ports.  If that isn't enough of Europe for you, Royal Caribbean also offers pre- and post-cruise tours for extended visits.

You can read a great report by the author's experience aboard Voyager of the Seas on her Mediterranean Cruise.

But we were more enthralled with Port Grimaud. The port is nicknamed the Venice of France because homes and business are built on canals, complete with boats and bridges. Kitschy jewelry and apparel shops line the canals, most of the restaurants feature outdoor seating, and boat tours show off the seaside town created by architect Francois Spoerry in the 1960s. A sandy beach is also the ideal spot to rest after a long week.

Royal Caribbean dominating holiday cruises in Bahrain


Good news for Royal Caribbean stock holders, travel agents in Bahrain have reported an 80 percent increase in bookings compared to the first six months of last year and Royal Caribbean is leading the way.

Travel agents said the US-Norwegian company Royal Caribbean International was leading the sales with Princess Cruises and the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) not far behind.

Travel agents there seem to be quite pleased with how well Royal Caribbean itineraries are selling.  Oasis of the Seas is generating a lot of interest as well as their most popular package that sets sail from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand and Penang, Malaysia and then back to Singapore over a period of two nights.

"Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise and NCL are all in the market selling like hot cakes."

Port Everglades competing with Miami for cruise capital of the world


Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is gaining ground quickly on Miami, Florida for most cruise passengers in the world.  Miami has been the traditional "cruise capital of the world" for many years but recent changes have made Port Everglades, located just 28 miles to the north, a close competitor.  If current trends continue, Port Everglades will overtake Miami by 2012, thanks to in part, Royal Caribbean.

Liberty of the Seas, currently serving Europe, will return to the United States next year and has been announced to call Port Everglades it's home port.  Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the two largest cruise ships in the world, already call Port Everglades home.  This leaves just Majesty of the Seas left in Miami as Royal Caribbean's presence.  

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s level of commitment is less clear. Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., declined to comment on its future plans to sail from Miami, nor would he say whether Royal, which owns several brands including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises, intends to keep its headquarters at the port after its building leases expire in 2011 and 2014.

Miami, for it's part, admits it needs to do more to lure Royal Caribbean back to Miami.  Recently the port of Miami inked a deal with Carnival to keep Carnival in Miami until at least 2018 and County Manager George Burgess said, "We need to roll up our sleeves and negotiate with Royal, just like we did with Carnival".

Port Everglades earned a lot of Royal Caribbean's new found loyalty thanks in part to how it handled the Oasis of the Seas situation.  When Royal Caribbean was shopping for a home port, it received a lukewarm reception from Miami but Port Everglades agreed to double the terminal budget from $37.4 million to $75 million. Royal Caribbean then promised to send even more passengers to Port Everglades to compensate for the extra cost of the 5.5-acre super terminal, which has 90 ticket counters.

Royal Caribbean ships help drive demand in new ports


Royal Caribbean has recently moved some of its ships around to new ports, serving Baltimore, Maryland and Maine and the result has been those ports have seen a surge in demand from customers ("If you build it, they will come" anyone?).  Enchantment of the Seas moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland and officials say there were 81 cruises with 329,000 passengers in 2009. Ten more cruises are scheduled this year and the total number is expected to grow to 113 next year. This leads to a potential problem because the 113 cruises in 2011 will max out the capacity of Baltimore's cruise terminal.

To counter the problem, the Baltimore Board of Public Works approved a $2.9 million gangway for passenger ships to make embarking and debarking more pleasant for passengers in all types of weather.  Even so, others are calling on Baltimore to do more and expand the potential amount of cruises the city can handle.

Meanwhile, Maine is also reporting a surge in demand and local businesses are feeling it.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay says it's booked 200 additional rooms because of the new ships. Enterprise Rent-a-Car says their bookings are up too. A recent University of Maine study found cruise ship passengers spend between $80 and $110 when they're in port, pumping as much as $8 million into the local economy.

Could this news help sway the trend of Royal Caribbean ships going to Europe to seek more money and keep them serving ports in the United States?

Alaska approves tax cut for cruise ship visitors


The Governor of Alaska, Sean Parnell, signed into law a bill that reduces the state head tax on cruise passengers that will lower the head tax from $46 to as little as $19.50 per person.  The tax hike had caused cruise lines like Royal Caribbean to send their ships elsewhere to avoid paying the higher costs.  Loss of business as a result of the withdrawal is estimated at $25 million for Juneau alone this year.

Last month, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell proposed the agreement to persuade several major cruise lines -- which claimed the tax was unfair and possibly illegal -- to drop a lawsuit they had filed against the state to contest the tariff, which was passed in a 2006 vote by Alaska residents as part of a larger initiative.

The new tax law comes into effect in October 2010, but it will be 2012 at least before ships can be re-routed as 2011 itineraries are already planned.

Update to passenger arrested for fondling child


We reported earlier today of a Pennsylvania man that was arrested by the FBI for fondling a young boy on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Royal Caribbean has issued a statement to USA TODAY newspaper regarding the incident.


"Royal Caribbean maintains a zero tolerance policy regarding any criminal activity onboard our ships. Any allegation of a crime is treated seriously and reported to law enforcement.

On December 18, a guest onboard Liberty of the Seas brought Mr. Stevenson's alleged inappropriate behavior to the attention of a crew member. Royal Caribbean's onboard security immediately responded and preserved information and potential evidence that could be helpful to law enforcement. The incident was immediately reported to the FBI and the Miami-Dade police department, and Mr. Stevenson was confined to his stateroom.

On December 20, the ship was met at the Port of Miami by the FBI and Miami-Dade Police Department officers who conducted an investigation onboard. We will continue to support law enforcement agencies during their prosecution of this allegation."

Royal Caribbean passenger took a cruise to fondle a boy


A 71 year old man from Clinton, Pennsylvania was charged with with traveling with intent to engage in illegal sexual conduct after he admitted he took a December 2009 cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas so he could have a sexual encounter a child.

Authorities say Stevenson went into the children's area during a December cruise and fondled a 6-year-old boy in a hot tub. The FBI says surveillance footage shows Stevenson putting his arm around the boy and pulling him onto his lap.

A trial date has not been set yet for the case.

Read these seven cruise absurdities


Christopher Elliott has written up some really interesting aspects of the cruise industry that you might want to look into before going on your next cruise to avoid these pitfalls.  Some you may know and others are less well known but the article as a whole is a good read.  These are definitely good to know about to safeguard yourself against a potential problem on your next cruise.  There are seven of these, but here's just one.

It isn’t just the best restaurants that are extra, of course. That margarita you ordered with lunch is $8. Sodas are extra, too. So are excursions, and pretty much anything else that isn’t bolted down on the ship.
Even amenities that you think would be included, aren’t. For example, Diane Hansen found that her luxury cruise didn’t allow her to use the sauna and steam room without paying a surcharge. Most cruise ships allow you to use thespa at no extra charge. So she blogged about her experience and then decided to take her business elsewhere. “We were going to get a couples massage on board,” she says. “Instead, we opted for one on shore and didn't spend any money at all in the on board spa.”

Royal Caribbean forms strategic partnership to aid economic development of Haiti


Royal Caribbean has partnered with RLJ Companies, Global Building Solutions, LLC and Haiti-based WIN Group, to build two structured insulated panel manufacturing facilities that will provide construction materials for building housing and critical infrastructure in and around key business centers in Haiti.  Royal Caribbean, the second largest investor in Haiti, is helping to rebuild a nation devastated by natural disaster.

"While the situation in Haiti is extremely challenging, our team was very encouraged by President Preval's leadership, his commitment to political stability, openness towards the international business community, and desire for further investment," said Johnson. "We had a very constructive visit, and I've no doubt that bringing together international and local businesses with a broad range of expertise will allow this project to help meet the country's crucial housing and infrastructure needs."

Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean hopes that the new plan will further assist in rebuilding Haiti and work in nicely with the initiatives Royal Caribbean has already undertaken to help the area, "Since the devastating earthquake earlier this year, we have been assisting Haiti in its recovery by providing basic life necessities: medical supplies, water, food and education. Royal Caribbean is currently building a model school in Labadee. What better way to help rebuild a country than by contributing to a strong education for its children? We will be acquiring materials from GBS and are using local Haitian labor to build the school. We are pleased to join with The RLJ Companies, GBS, and the WIN Group, in furthering our commitment in Haiti" .

Trumpeteer wins $1.7 million by Jury against Royal Caribbean


A Miami-Dade County Jury awarded Steven Pavone $1.7 in damages against Royal Caribbean for a fall Pavone suffered dating back to August 2001, where Pavone claimed he slipped and fell due to oil on the ground from a fog machine.  He claims that the shoulder injury, due to the fall, ended his trumpeting career.

Pavone's lawsuit claimed the shoulder injury ended a beloved trumpeting career, since he is only able to lift the instrument for about an hour at a time. The Miami Beach resident now works part-time as an usher at the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center. ``This whole thing has turned his life upside down,'' said Pavone's lawyer, Luis Perez.

In a statement by Royal Caribbean after the jury rendered their verdict, Royal Caribbean "feels the amount awarded is not supported by the evidence and are currently evaluating our appellate options".