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Royal Caribbean adds new Odyssey of the Seas cruises from England & Spain in 2021

In:
21Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has added two new sailings on Odyssey of the Seas ahead of her published schedule to sail out of Southampton, England in 2021.

A 3-night Weekend Getaway Cruise from Southampton is available on April 2, 2021, which will include stops in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Following that sailing, Odyssey will have a 5-night repositioning cruise between Southampton and Barcelona, Spain.

In addition, Royal Caribbean added new sailings from Barcelona ahead of her previously scheduled cruises from Rome.

The Barcelona sailings include a 4-night cruise on April 26 and two 5-night sailings out of Barcelona on April 12 and 21.

Prior to these newly added sailings, Odyssey of the Seas was scheduled to debut in Europe with cruises from Rome in April 2021.

Odyssey will then spend her inaugural season sailing Eastern Mediterranean cruises from Rome, before arriving to the U.S. in November 2021.

The next new Royal Caribbean cruise ship was originally to debut in November 2020, but delays at the shipyard due to the global health crisis changed plans.

The Quantum Ultra Class ship will tout game-changing, technological innovations like the next generation SeaPlex, the largest indoor space for recreational activities at sea, which will see the addition of this venue’s first Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade with club-level views of the competition below; a reimagined Adventure Ocean kids program and a maxed-out teen lounge with gaming consoles, music and movies.

Guests onboard Odyssey can enjoy all-new dining, including Teppanyaki, serving East Asian flavors in a traditional Japanese style; and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar with rustic Italian dishes and a contemporary flair. Odyssey’s vibrant, two-level pool deck will feature two open-air, resort-style pools and four whirlpools with shady casitas and hammocks.

The ship will also feature guest favorites, including FlowRider surf simulator; skydiving with Ripcord by iFly; the iconic North Star glass capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level; and robot bartenders at Bionic Bar.

Cruise ports workers rally in support of cruise ships restarting sailings

In:
21Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Longshoremen, hotel workers, port officials and everyone affected by the effect of cruise lines shut down held a rally across different cruise ports on Wednesday in support of cruise lines being able to restart sailings again.

Cruise industry workers rallied in Florida and Texas to tell lawmakers to allow the cruise industry to restart.

Cruise lines have been shutdown since March due to the global health crisis, and are currently unable to restart cruises because of the U.S. Center for Disease Control's No Sail order that prevents passenger service in the United States.

Rallies were held in Port Canaveral, PortMiami and the Port of Galveston to protest the shutdown and the effect it has had on all the jobs.

Photos by the Port of Galveston

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) stated cruise activity in Florida supports over 150,000 local jobs, contributing $7.7 billion in wages and salaries to Floridians across a variety of local sectors and industries. 

U.S. Senator Rick Scott went on Fox News Radio to talk about the work he has been doing to try to convince the CDC to work with cruise lines on a way to restart the industry.

Senator Scott was clearly upset with the lack of any kind of progress with the CDC, "not being responsive. I don’t get it. It’s like a black hole."

Government, said Scott, should do as he did when he was Governor, and “tell people yes or no” and “make the regulations really clear.”

“Tell me no, that’s an answer,” Scott said.

Why the CDC has banned cruise ships

If you read the opening portion of the No Sail Order, it explains early on out why the CDC believes cruise ships should not operate.

"Cruise ships continue to be an unsafe environment with close quarters where the disease spreads easily and is not readily detected," is the direct rationale for why cruise ships may not sail.

In order to prove this, the Executive Summary cites CDC data on COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships.

"Cumulative CDC data from March 1 through September 28, 2020, show a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COV1D-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths. These data have also revealed a total of 102 outbreaks on 124 different cruise ships, meaning more than 82% of ships within U.S. jurisdiction were affected by COVID-19 during this time frame. In addition, four cruise ships still have ongoing or resolving COV1D-19 outbreaks on board. Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas continue to demonstrate that reduced capacity alone has not diminished transmission."

In addition, the CDC cited small-scale cases of the virus on a few sailings that have restarted outside the United States.

All of this lead the CDC to believe cruise ships, "would likely spread the infection  into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States."

Royal Caribbean will redeploy six cruise ships for winter 2021-2022

In:
21Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced some new changes to its winter 2021-2022 cruise schedule for the Caribbean and Australia regions.

The changes encompass six ships, which offer new ships, as well as new itineraries, from a few different ports. Royal Caribbean says, "we’ve listened to our guests and valued travel partners, and are ready to share some Winter 2021 – 2022 deployment updates."

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service announced the changes during a webinar with travel advisors, "We've modified our schedule to make room for some incredible new itineraries."

Royal Caribbean issued a statement that elaborated on the changes, "Our new deployment line-up provides guests with greater variety, including new itineraries in the Caribbean and Australia that will help strengthen the cruise line’s footprint globally."

These changes are in addition to five other Royal Caribbean ships that were redeployed for summer 2021.

Caribbean

Explorer of the Seas will sail 7-night Southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Explorer will replace previously scheduled sailings on Freedom of the Seas.

Freedom of the Seas will offer 3- and 4-night Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay cruises from Miami, Florida.

Radiance of the Seas will offer 5- and 9-night Caribbean cruises from Miami, Florida.  Radiance will replace Explorer of the Seas.

Australia

Royal Caribbean will offer new sailings from Brisbane and Sydney, including 25 itineraries sailing from Brisbane to 18 destinations across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Ovation of the Seas will sail from Sydney, Australia and offer guests a variety of sailings, including:

  • 9/12 night New Zealand cruises
  • 5/7 night Queensland cruises
  • 6/8 night Tasmania cruises

Quantum of the Seas will sail from Brisbane and offer 3-night Weekend Getaway cruises along with 7/9 night South Pacific sailings. Quantum of the Seas will be the newest and biggest ship to ever call Brisbane home

Serenade of the Seas will also sail from Sydney and offer 7-night Australia cruises.

These new itineraries are currently open and available to book immediately.

Guests who may have been booked on the previous sailings should be hearing from Royal Caribbean soon with their rebooking options.

Individual reservations will be moved to the new ship/sailing on-or-before October 30, 2020.

The re-accommodation of Groups with at least one (1) named reservation will be completed on-or-before November 18, 2020.

More helpful resources

The best reasons to get a Royal Caribbean drink package on your cruise

In:
21Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

A Royal Caribbean drink package offers unlimited drinks for a fixed price, which makes it a very attractive offer for many guests.

Should you spend the money to get a drink package, or is it better to pay for drinks as you go? This is a debate many cruise fans have time and time again.

While the decision to get a drink package or not is going to vary from person to person, here are the top reasons you might want to get a drink package on your cruise.

Convenience

The best part of having an unlimited drink package on your cruise is you can order a drink whenever and where you feel like onboard.

This means not having to compromise on when you feel like getting a drink, and it is great when traveling with friends or family.  There is no worrying about how much a drink costs, or if you will like a new cocktail.

With a drink package, there is no risk in trying new drinks and then being "stuck" with something you do not like.

Fixed cost

By pre-paying the cost of drinks on a cruise, having a drink package means an easier means of staying within your vacation budget.

For a lot of guests, not having to think about money on a vacation is a major relief.

Moreover, if you pre-purchase your drink package before the cruise begins on Royal Caribbean's website, there are often significant discounts that bring the daily cost down compared to waiting to buy it onboard.

There is no need to be concerned with receipts, gratuity, or how much one drink costs over another.

Not just alcohol

While the unlimited alcohol package gets a lot of attention for all the various beers, cocktails and wine included, there is way more included than just booze.

The Deluxe Beverage Package also includes a lot of non-alcoholic beverages that can greatly sway the value proposition for any guest.

It also includes bottled water, sparkling water, sodas, juices, and premium coffee or tea. 

Considering how so many of us rely on a morning espresso, as well as having bottled water available to bring on shore excursions or while in the gym, the fact these are included with the Deluxe Beverage package is a major benefit.

It can (potentially) save you a lot of money

If you can drink enough every day of your cruise, the drink packages will absolutely save you money compared to ordering the same amount of drinks individually.

When you calculate how many drinks per day you would need to drink to "break even" on a drink package, it often sounds a bit much to new cruisers. However, those that have bought the drink package in the past will tell you it is not as bad as it looks.

When you consider a beer will set you back around $8, a cocktail between $10-12, soda around $3 and a latte around $5, breaking even on a drink package investment is not that difficult to achieve.

When you spread your drink consumption out throughout the day and evening, the result tends to be a good value. Especially if your cruise visits a Royal Caribbean private destination where your drink package benefits also work.

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Odyssey of the Seas construction photo update - October 20, 2020

In:
20Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It has been a few weeks, but we have an updated construction photo to share of the progress being made on Odyssey of the Seas.

October 10 photo

The Meyer Werft shipyard webcam was updated this week, following a nearly month-long absence of new photo updates. However, the new photo is labeled as from October 10, so it may simply be a "not as old as the previous photo" update.

September 22 photo

This new photo is from the other end of Hall 6, with a good look at the bow of Odyssey of the Seas.

In a SEC filing last week, Royal Caribbean indicated that Odyssey of the Seas will be delivered within the planned time frame. The new ship has been delayed once due to the impact of the global health crisis.

Odyssey of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra Class cruise ship, and first to sail from Europe and North America.

She will debut with European cruises out of Rome in Summer 2021.

After her inaugural season in Europe, Odyssey will then continue its inaugural year in Fort Lauderdale, FL with 8- and 6-night Caribbean itineraries.

What is special about Odyssey of the Seas?

Like all new Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Odyssey of the Seas will feature some new changes and enhancements that make it stand out from the fleet.

When she debuts in Europe, Odyssey will offer longer stays in every destination and overnights across select Mediterranean cities.

In terms of features onboard, Royal Caribbean has not revealed the full extent of entertainment or things to do onboard, but here is what we do know about:

  • SeaPlex - the largest indoor space for recreational activities at sea
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade with club-level views of the SeaPlex
  • Reimagined Adventure Ocean kids program and a maxed-out teen lounge with gaming consoles, music and movies
  • Teppanyaki restaurant
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar
  • Two-level pool deck will feature two open-air, resort-style pools and four whirlpools with shady casitas and hammocks
  • FlowRider surf simulator
  • Skydiving with Ripcord by iFly
  • North Star glass capsule
  • Robot bartenders at Bionic Bar
  • SkyPad bungee trampoline experience 

Royal Caribbean trademarks name for contact tracing wristband

In:
20Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The current health crisis has lead Royal Caribbean to file a new trademark for something that sounds like a contact tracing bracelet concept.

Royal Caribbean has filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Tracelet".

The trademark lists the description of the trademark simply as:

A tracelet seems to be made of rubber or silicone, which is exactly the same material as the cruise line's WOWBands, which debuted in 2014 as RFID wristbands.

The exact purpose of a tracelet was not explained in the trademark, and it is not clear if it will be used for contact tracing at all.  The name seems to indicate it could be used for that purpose.

The trademark was filed on October 19, 2020, and is intended for cruise ship services. The trademark lists it as jewelry, as well as"Receptacles" and  "Horological Instruments".

Trademark applications usually quite vague in regard to their intended use, so it remains to be seen precisely how it will be used, if at all.

Royal Caribbean registed a trademark for its own brand of face mask, but ended up deciding not to do anything with it.

Wearable devices for all guests

While the trademark is vague, Royal Caribbean's new rules clearly indicate that a wearable device will be provided to all guests.

"Contact tracing is an important part of our enhanced protocols to keep all our guests and crew safe. Each guest will be provided with a wearable device that allows rapid tracing in the event it is necessary."

Based on the description provided by Royal Caribbean, the device may work with the TraceTogether app

"The TraceTogether App installed on their smartphones or keep their TraceTogether token with them for the duration of their sailing"

Contact tracing part of new cruise protocols

Contact tracing is a major component to the cruise industry's plan to restart cruising, as outlined in the Healthy Sail Panel's 74 recommendations.

The blue ribbon panel of health experts recommended Royal Caribbean "identify all potential cases on board using robust contact tracing". Part of mitigating the spread of an infection onboard is to determine who else might have been exposed. Contact tracing is one of the critical methods of identifying who these individuals might be.

The Panel also made a recommendation to employ different methods of collecting contact tracing data, including "collecting potential exposure data from cruise line-provided wearable devices."

"Potential contact tracing methodologies include, but are not limited to: identifying guest location/exposure by pulling transaction data, collecting information about potential exposure from applications utilizing Bluetooth technology, collecting potential exposure data from cruise line-provided wearable devices, using video analytics and facial recognition to determine exposure risk, and conducting interviews with suspected cases."

It remains to be seen if tracelets will be those wearable devices, and how they will function, but the trademark indicates a potential direction for the cruise line in developing an overall strategy.

Royal Caribbean expands double points offer to include nearly all 2021 cruises

In:
20Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

In the hours since Royal Caribbean announced it would offer double loyalty program points on 2021 cruises, the cruise line changed the terms and conditions so it is combinable with just about any 2021 sailing.

Initially the Loyalty 2X Points benefit was not available for certain fares, such as group rates, or even existing bookings

Royal Caribbean changed its mind and updated its terms and conditions so that Loyalty 2X Points applies to new, individual, and named group bookings confirmed at prevailing rates, and existing bookings made for bookings made before December 31, 2020 on sailings between January 1 – December 31, 2021.

Throughout the day, the terms and conditions of the Loyalty 2X Points benefit were changing, with existing bookings being added and then named group bookings. These changes lead to a lot of confusion among cruisers.

A named group booking is when a travel agency submits the names in their group block to Royal Caribbean.

As of Tuesday, the Loyalty 2X Points enhancement applies to an existing or new booking that is made prior to December 31, 2020, for sailings departing January 1 – December 31, 2021.

If you have an existing reservation made before December 31, 2020, there is no need to re-book in order to get this benefit. You just need to make certain that a valid Crown & Anchor Society membership number is included in the reservation

Crown and Anchor points will be applied once the guest has paid their booking in full and completed their sailing. If in a group, make sure the travel agent submits full booking details for you so that your cabin is now named.

On social media, Royal Caribbean explained this benefit is combinable with other offers, and is not a promotion, but rather a program enhancement for qualified bookings.

Double Points

The other big change with the Loyalty 2X Points benefit is Royal Caribbean changed how many points guests will receive.

Initially, it looked like guests would receive one additional point per night (thus "doubling" a standard room), but Royal Caribbean's social media team now says guests across all stateroom categories will receive double points.

  • Standard room: 2 points per night
  • Suite room: 4 points per night
  • Solo guest in standard room: 4 points per night
  • Solo guest in suite: 6 points per night

What is a group rate for a cruise?

In:
19Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

A reservation for a Royal Caribbean cruise comes in a variety of cruise fare choices, including a group rate that comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

So what is a group rate, and why might you want one?

Group rates are a type of cruise fare, where a travel agency reserves a bank of staterooms on a particular ship and sailing that locks in the price for a set period of time.

Traditionally, group rates are used to facilitate gatherings of guests sailing on the same same cruise ship in order to better organize their sailing, as well as provide additional benefits specifically for the group.

One key reason group rates are popular with travel agents are the fact the prices freeze, and even if the price for the same category room rises in the weeks and months after a group is made, the group rate remains frozen at the lower rate.

While group rates are most commonly associated with a gathering of people who are tied together somehow, there are no rules about who may or may not take advantage of a group rate.  This means, travel agents who are booking a new client that wants to sail on a cruise where there is an existing group set up, can book that client into the group and provide them additional savings.

In fact, many online websites that sell cruises tend to use groups as a tool for offering lower cruise fares. 

If you have ever shopped around for a cruise, and noticed a certain website offering a lower price than anywhere else, it is almost always the result of a group fare.

In most cases, being part of a group rate is something guests will never know about or need to be concerned with since it is has no impact on the onboard experience.

Differences between group rates and individual rates

There are a few differences between a group rate and an individual rate that occasionally pop up.

First, group rates require a full deposit when making the booking. This means if there is a discount on the cruise deposit offered by Royal Caribbean (i.e. NextCruise bookings), you must pay the difference in deposit amount in order to get into the group.

Likewise, some Royal Caribbean booking promotions may not be compatible with the group fares.  

Since there is a significant discount for being in a group, Royal Caribbean tends not to offer the same discounts as someone who is potentially paying more with an individual fare. While this sounds unfair, more often than not, the person in the group is still getting a lower price.

Different kinds of cruise fares: Here be dragons

If you are not confused yet, there is way more options available when it comes to cruise fares that can blur the line between individual rates and group rates.

Travel agents (and yes, third-party websites are a kind of travel agent) have a lot of leeway with how they book their customers. After all, nearly any client is interested in the best rate and the type of fare is almost always irrelevant.

You can be booked into a standard cruise rate and then be pulled into a group later. That means you have still a standard rate, but not a group rate.

Most good travel agents will tell you if you actually have a group rate versus a standard rate.

In addition, families of 3 or 4 do not get group rates.  Group rates tend to be for two people in a room, so someone booked with that many people in a room are just standard rates pulled into a “group space” or block.

Should I care if I have a group rate?

Most of the time, it does not matter at all what type of rate you get, as long as you are getting the lowest possible fare.

The two concerns are if you really value a lower deposit amount, or a specific promotion.

If you booked directly with Royal Caribbean, you can be assured you have a standard individual rate.

If you booked with a travel agent, you can ask what type of rate you currently have and if it is part of a group or not.

Royal Caribbean CEO warns crew members of e-mail scam

In:
19Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley took to social media on Monday to warn crew members not to fall for an email scam going around that targets private information.

Mr. Bayley posted on Facebook the warning that scammers are trying to get crew members to fill out information in order to get crew member's personal information.

Furthermore, Mr. Bayley emphasized crew not to click the links, and that all information will be shared via the Royal Caribbean employee portal.

"We will never ask you for your personal information via e-mail," he warned.

The scam email even went to the length of copying Royal Caribbean email letterhead and Mr. Bayley's email signature in order to convince employees it is legitimate.

Phishing scams not uncommon

Unfortunately, scammers using emails that look like the real thing are an all-too-common hack that works equally as well as it is prevalent.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the scammers are trying to steal someone's passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers.

Phishing emails like this one are designed to look like they are from a company you know or trust.

Carnival hit hard by similar hack

While this scam seems to target personal information, Carnival Cruise Lines was recently the victim of a similar attack, where ransomware ended up stealing personal information about the cruise company’s guests and employees.

The attack accessed an encrypted portion of technology systems for one of the cruise line's brands and certain data files were downloaded, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

While Carnival did not divulge how the hackers were able to install the ransomware, quite often legitimate looking emails targeted to employees are the preferred vector of attack.

Why you should skip the elevator on your cruise

In:
19Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Every cruise ship has a couple sets of elevators, but if you are able-bodied, there are some good reasons to skip the elevator.

Elevators are a convenient means of traversing many decks of your ship, but between the realities of cruising and new health protocols, skipping that elevator ride may make more sense.

As an alternative, you will find stairs near any elevator bank, usually in the middle of the ship and towards the back.

Here are a few good reasons to bypass the elevators on your next cruise and take the stairs instead.

Wasting time waiting for them

Elevators seem like a great idea, until you stand around waiting for one to not only arrive on your deck, but have room for you.

Unfortunately, elevators tend to take a while to get to your deck (especially during meals or on port days) and the time you stand around waiting for an elevator exceeds the time it would have taken you to just take the stairs.

Even when the elevator does arrive, they are often crowded and all too often it stops at every floor, taking forever.

Makes room for those that really need it

As I previously stated, if you are able-bodied and can take the stairs, it has an added benefit of freeing up the elevators for other guests who must rely on the elevator.

Shipmates with strollers or wheelchairs have no choice but to use the elevator, and your decision to bypass the elevators means more opportunity for them.

Healthier to take stairs

One of the best reasons to bypass the elevator and take the stairs is the opportunity to burn off a few extra calories.

By taking the stairs, you will not only get to your destination just as quickly as waiting for the elevator, but it you will help burn off all those extra calories you had earlier in the cruise.

Walking up and down the stairs is great for your body and you can burn off that cake from dessert without having to hit the ship's gym.

New health protocols will make elevators more difficult to get one

Another reason to use the stairs may be going on a cruise means the elevator will be very limited once cruises restart.

Royal Caribbean's new set of protocols that encourage social distancing stipulates that elevators are limited to four people at a time or your travel group only. 

Stairs are available as usual and railings are cleaned frequently.

Tip: Pick a room near a popular area

In order to reduce your dependency on an elevator, you might consider picking a stateroom near a popular area of the ship.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on the pool deck, perhaps book a cabin towards the top of the ship so you only have to go up a deck or two to reach the pool.  Plus, the Windjammer buffet and Adventure Ocean kids club tends to also be on the same deck as the pool.

Or you, might consider booking a cabin as close to the Royal Promenade to not only be accessible to the many events there, but only a few decks down to the dining rooms or gangway on port days.

Choosing a stateroom in close proximity to an area of the ship you may spend more time at can make the decision to use the stairs much easier.

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