Maine town to cruises: slow down

In:
21Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

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.   

Mariner of the Seas moving to Europe because of violence

In:
21Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

It's no secret that Royal Caribbean has been moving its ships from North America to Europe in large part to seek out the higher demand and bigger profits to be found in Europe.  The Los Angeles Business Journal is reporting that the real reason Mariner of the Seas is sailing to Europe after a short stint in Los Angeles is not to find bigger profits but because of the recent surge of violence in Mexico.

The widely publicized war between the country’s federal government and its powerful drug cartels has led to nearly 30,000 deaths since 2007. And on the West Coast – where 90 percent of cruises depart for the Mexican Riviera and other points south – the number of passengers in the last two years has dwindled by 21 percent.

Royal Caribbean stands by its claim that the move to Europe is just for economic reasons and not because of the violence.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line, for its part, will say only that the decision is an economic one.
“We’re looking to maximize our profits,” said Harrison Liu, a spokesman for the cruise line, owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Both Europe and the Caribbean are hotter tickets than the Mexican Riviera, and there’s a stable market out of Galveston.”
Personally, I don't think the violence in Mexico helps the situation any, but given that so many other ships have left American ports for Europe, it isn't hard to believe that Mariner of the Seas is (pardon the pun) in the same boat.  Royal Caribbean isn't trying to hide the fact that they are chasing larger profits based on the numerous statements from Royal Caribbean in the form of statements to the press as well as blog posts.

Enchantment of the Seas debuts at Baltimore today

In:
18Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

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.

Oasis of the Seas to move to Europe?

In:
18Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

There's a rumor swirling through the cruise industry right now that Oasis of the Seas may move over to serve European ports sooner rather than later.  Classic Cruises cites a few anonymous rumors they've heard that Oasis of the Seas could be headed for the Mediterranean as several ports are ramping up their facilities to handle larger passenger volumes.  In addition, And Royal Caribbean executives have been reminding Mediterranean port officials that Port Everglades and all the Caribbean ports where Oasis of the Seas pulls into required investments in their infrastructure upgrades.

Given Royal Caribbean's recent track history of moving their larger ships "across the pond", (Mariner of the Seas, Independence of the Seas just to name a few), it isn't out of the question and just recently Cruise Manager Carla Salvado said at the recent MedCruise assembly in Constantza that she would welcome the giant ship.

Royal Caribbean does have a 10-year agreement with Port Everglades that stipulates that the it must move 17 million passenger between 2008 and 2018 for its three brands, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara, according to a spokesperson.  Royal Caribbean has also said Oasis and Allure of the Seas will home port in Port Everglades.  Of course, at one point in time Royal Caribbean did also say that its Voyager Class ships would never leave Florida.  

It's likely too early to get worried that Oasis will be leaving soon, but you never know what can happen in just a few short years and given Royal Caribbean's recent love affair with Europe (and it's high cruise demand), you can never count this out as a possibility.

Photo of the Day: Majesty of the Seas

In:
18Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Here's a great photo of Majesty of the Seas pulling into port in Miami earlier this morning.

Photo by Erika

Royal Caribbean revamps its online training

In:
18Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

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

In:
17Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

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”.

Royal Caribbean teams with Ecospec on Pilot Test of Emission Abatement System

In:
17Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today it would be partnering with Ecospec to install a pilot test of the CSNOx system on Independence of the Seas.  The CSNOx system is the world's first abatement technology reported to remove sulfur dioxide (SOx), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from engine emissions in one process. Royal Caribbean is the first cruise operator to initiate a feasibility study with Ecospec to explore the potential for installation of CSNOx systems on a cruise ship.

The move by Royal Caribbean is part of an overarching plan to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint by one-third per available passenger cruise day by 2015.  The Royal Caribbean pilot test is expected to be complete by the spring of 2011.

If you're curious as to how effective this CSNOx system can be, the technology was previously installed and tested in 2009 on White Sea, a Tanker Pacific vessel.  The results of this test, revealed a 99 percent reduction of SOx, 66 percent reduction of NOx, and a 77 percent reduction of CO2.  Additionally, wash water test results also surpassed the International Maritime Organization's exhaust gas cleaning discharge criteria.

Video of the Day: Labadee, Haiti

In:
17Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Everyone has a favorite port (or 3) but it's hard to argue with a stop at Royal Caribbean's private island Labadee in Haiti.  It's peaceful, relaxing and they have the world famous "labadoozies".  Enjoy this quick trip back to Labadee!

Cruise Line and Ship Review

In:
17Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

AllVoices wrote up a review of the Royal Caribbean cruise line as a whole, as a means of introducing the line to others and comparing it against other cruise lines.  Based on it's review, here are the conclusions it drew about Royal Caribbean...

  • Royal Caribbean tends to build the biggest ships first.
  • This cruise line usually wins the race for new on board amenities
  • Of the four cruise lines reviewed, Royal Caribbean was by far the most efficient at embarkation
  • The food on Royal Caribbean is about standard fare for cruise ships
  • The cabin and dining room service were top flight
  • The cost of a Royal Caribbean cruise is slightly higher than some of the competition

The other 3 cruise lines compared were Costa Cruise Lines, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  I don't have much experience with Costa, but in terms of Carnival and Norwegian, I found the review to be about what I expected to read.  There's a big debate about the food on Royal Caribbean versus Carnival and the price issue, well, you do get what you pay for in many cases.

By in large, Royal Caribbean fared well in the review and came off sounding like a high quality cruise line.

AllVoices also posted a review of Enchantment of the Seas and it's a pretty favorable one at that.  The review covers many aspects of the ship from it's dining options to entertainment to its rooms.  If you have a cruise coming up on Enchantment or are considering a cruise on her, this might be a good read.

The dining room staff is top notch. They are personable as well as professional. The quality of the food is superior, and it is served in a timely manner. When multiple appetizers, entrees, or desserts or ordered, there is no delay in their arrival. Like all cruise ships, Enchantment of the Seas will provide some entertainment most nights during the dining experience.

The reviewer seemed mostly positive on Enchantment and only mentioned a few negatives such as, "The entertainment is good but not exceptional unless you happen to draw a particularly funny comedian or really enjoy musicals".  Overall, the review seemed to be highly favorable.

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