Royal Caribbean largest reason for increase in tourism in Bahamas


The Ministry of Tourism in the Bahamas released new tourism statistics for the country that first quarter numbers for 2010 are "a new Dawn of Hope" for a country that has been hit hard by the global recession.  Cruise arrivals for Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama as first ports of call up by 22.9 per cent and 41.8 per cent for the three months of 2010 and the largest reason? Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas.

Assessing the reasons behind the increase in cruise passenger arrivals, the Ministry of Tourism said: "Most of the increase by first port of entry to the Bahamas overall came from Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas helped to push the increase in cruise arrivals even higher. With the introduction of the Oasis of the Seas and the Freedom of the Seas to the Bahamas itinerary, it increased the number of passengers brought in by Royal Caribbean by 68.3 per cent.

Royal Caribbean organizes day to promote sports for disabled athletes


On a recent cruise aboard Voyager of the Seas, Royal Caribbean used the ship as a showcase to educate the public about the virtues of sports that people with physical disabilities can participate in.  The special day, organized in conjunction with the UESC Foundation, was called "Everyone can" and held in Barcelona, Spain last Sunday.  A total of one hundred people enjoyed meeting with the athletes as well as participate in some pickup games.  The goal of this is to boost Royal Caribbean's integration and awareness to smaller physical disability using sport as a vehicle.

"Royal Caribbean is committed to both the environment and the community and is a reflection of this initiative," said Bethlehem Wangüemert, CEO of Royal Caribbean in Spain. "This time, our company has shown its concern for the company to disclose to the great work UESC Foundation is carrying out in the field of social integration of disabled people through sport and what better way to do it aboard the Voyager of the Seas, a ship that, like the rest of our fleet is 100% accessible for disabled people.. "

Maine town to cruises: slow down


Most ports of call welcome cruise ships and their many cruisers, who bring with them an influx of money to the local economy.  However the town of Rockland, Maine has presented some new guidelines to limit the amount of cruise ships that may come to town in a given year.  This move has infuriated local business owners who want more potential customers to come spend their money there.

The Harbor Management Commission, which presented preliminary guidelines to the council, recommended limiting the number of cruise ships to three megaships, 15 medium ships and 35 small ships annually. The commission also recommended that the city tack on a $600 fee for any cruise ship that needs to restrict public traffic by the parks or public landing.

This move impacts Royal Caribbean directly as the fee per passenger would go from $1 to $6 and Royal Caribbean has already requested that the decision be reconsidered or lowered because Royal Caribbean would have to take the loss as it's too late to pass the fee onto the passengers.  About 33 cruise ships visit Rockland each year.

Interesting story that will evoke different reactions, I'm sure.  To me, it seems like a case of the town wanting to have it's cake and eat it too; it wants the tourists to come and spend their money but they want their town to be pristine and devoid of tourists.   

Enchantment of the Seas debuts at Baltimore today


Today marks the debut of Enchantment of the Seas from it's new home port of Balitmore, Maryland.  You may recall that Enchantment of the Seas previously called Norfolk, Virginia home until Royal Caribbean decided to move the ship to Baltimore because of higher demand.  Baltimore is situated on the busy I-95 corridor between Boston - New York - Washington and is also close to many major airports.  Enchantment of the Seas will sail a series of five-night Bermuda and nine-night Eastern Caribbean round trip itineraries from Baltimore.

Starting in the fall, Enchantment will sail a series of nine-night cruises to Canada and New England (Enchantment also is sailing a special eight-night roundtrip itinerary to Canada and New England today that will boast extended port time in Halifax and Bar Harbor). The ship also will sail nine-night Bahamas and 12-night Southern Caribbean itineraries starting this coming winter.

Royal Caribbean revamps its online training


Royal Caribbean announced it is revamping its web based training program known as "Cruising for Excellence Online".  The program is meant to train travel agents that features  bite-sized learning modules, podcasts and games. Michelle Russell, Royal Caribbean’s trade training manager, UK and Ireland, said the aim was to make the online training portal bigger and better. 

Cruising for Excellence Online has seen an unprecedented increase since its launch in 2006, with 16,330 agents registering and using the program”.

Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line to introduce an online based web training program and over 6,000 travel agents have completed the training just last year.  Michelle Russell also announced that Royal Caribbean was going to increase the amount of day tours travel agents receive after research indicated that these tours were effective in helping agents to sell more cruises.

Cruise safety bill honors past victims


The Cruise Safety Bill was passed by the United States Senate last Friday and the new legislation requires tighter security and transparency on cruise ships.  The Congressional investigation that went along with the deliberations related to this bill were not kind to the cruise industry, and subsequent civil trials have revealed the statistics that the cruise industry is willing to acknowledge may be far less than in reality.  

After a civil lawsuit in 2006, Royal Caribbean was forced to turn over internal documents that showed that these numbers were actually much higher, with 273 sexual assaults from 2003 to 2006. Several other passengers have also been reported missing since then.

The Greenwich-Post posted an article detailing some of the stories of those who were victims of crimes aboard cruise ships and the new legislation hopes to make getting justice for the victims a far easier task than it has been in the past.  President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before July 5th, a move that is welcomed by many.  Meanwhile, the cruise industry has been against the bill. 

In March, Business Week reported that the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) spent almost $400,000 in federal lobbying in the fourth quarter, and a total of $2.9 million from January 2004 to July 2005. This total is in addition to lobbying money spent by individual cruise lines. Dr. Ross Klein, an industry analyst who is affiliated with Memorial University in Newfoundland, reported that Royal Caribbean alone spent nearly $3 million for lobbyists in the past three years.

The bill would require crimes on cruise ships to be reported to the Coast Guard as well as requires ship safety improvements such as 42-inch guardrails, peep holes in every passenger and crew member’s door, on-deck video surveillance, and an emergency sound system; and improvements to crime scene response by requiring “rape kits, anti-retroviral medications, and a trained forensic sexual assault specialist be aboard each ship.”

The cruise industry was against the bill because, among other reasons, it forced the industry to spend money to upgrade all it's ships to meet the standards as well as acknowledge there was a problem.  The CLIA has since dropped its opposition to the bill and had this to say about it, "“The safety and security of our guests and crew is CLIA’s number one priority. The cruise industry has reported allegations of serious crimes to federal law enforcement agencies for many years and looks forward to continuing our longstanding work with the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI and law enforcement both here and elsewhere around the world”.

Port of Balitmore booming with traffic


While recent news has Norfolk, Virginia losing it's Royal Caribbean ships, Balitmore, Maryland is experiencing an influx of growth that has made the port of Baltimore a new hub of cruise ship activity with the arrival of the second year-round cruise ship to call there. Carnival, Celebrity and Norwegian lines all have ships in Baltimore and now Enchantment of the Seas will call Balitmore home.

Baltimore's cruise terminal was built in 2006 and in 2008, 27 cruises left from Baltimore. In 2009 and 2010, cruise business grew three times that and a record 113 cruises are already scheduled for 2011, with an expected 240,000 passengers, compared to only 47,000 three years ago.

Port of Balitmore representative Richard Scher says the Port of Baltimore is such a hot spot because of its location.  It's right off I-95, just 10 miles away from BWI and within 90 miles of three other major airports.

Vision of the Seas suffers fifth cruise in two months with Norovirus


A Norwegian media site,, is reporting that Vision of the Seas has had five separate cruises in the last two months that have resulted in passengers getting ill from the Norovirus.  The latest cruise had 50 sick, according to the company with a total of around 600 passengers infected since the outbreak began on May 1st.

Vision of the Seas set sail from port this past Saturday and that evening was the first report of the disease case according to Norden manager Roar Meidal by the shipping company Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines told Dagbladet.  49 passengers and a crew member became ill during the seven-day cruise.

Compounding the issue of eradicating the disease from the ship is the fact of how easy it is to spread Norovirus.  Between people, the virus can spread quite easily and once an issue, it's difficult to fully remove it.

Royal Caribbean fires employee accused of burglarizing customer homes


Last week news of a Royal Caribbean trip planner arrested for organizing burglaries of her customers while they were on cruises was announced by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.  We've now learned that Royal Caribbean has fired the woman, Bethsaida Sandoval.  Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying the line "does not tolerate any form of criminal activity in its workforce or operations" and that it "cooperated fully with authorities during this investigation and will continue providing any assistance necessary to prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law."

From everything we've read, it looks like she is guilty, yet in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty and I wish Royal Caribbean would have just placed her on leave pending the outcome of the trial (she has allegedly confessed to the crimes to police).  That being said, I can imagine Royal Caribbean was under intense pressure to not only get rid of her, but ensure the public that it's safe to book with Royal Caribbean and that this isn't some sort of epidemic of corrupt planners.  I think it's clear that this was one bad apple and that it's very safe to book any trip with Royal Caribbean.

Oasis of the Seas breaks sound system record


Oasis of the Seas has a lot of distinctions already, such as being the largest passenger cruise ship in the world, but there's yet another record that Oasis of the Seas has set. It is the largest ocean-going Meyer Sound systems.  These sound systems are the top of the line music entertainment systems that feature 268 loudspeakers that include Meyer Sound's most compact subwoofer, custom designed to meet the stringent space requirements on the cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean contracted the sound system work to FUNA International and it was their task to make the sound system work onboard the new ship.  Derek Warner, FUNA's senior project manager for Oasis of the Seas described the installation of the sound system as, "This was like building a full-scale Las Vegas hotel-casino or themed resort inside a ship".

The Royal Promenade on Oasis of the Seas is an open boulevard more than 100 meters long and features, bars, cafés, and nightclubs.  To make the sound system work in this vast and cavernous area, FUNA installed 42 UPA-1P loudspeakers concealed in dual overhead beams. To provide low-end support for the Disco Inferno Street Party and other events, 13 ultracompact self-powered subwoofers were deployed. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' director of entertainment technology and technical design, Christopher Vlassopulos had an idea to conceal subwoofers in some of the lamp posts and in response, Meyer Sound custom designed the MM-10, which it has since released as a new product for sale to the pubic.