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.
Just a quick note that the first named storm of the 2010 hurricane season, Tropical Storm Alex, has altered Grandeur of the Seas. The ship was scheduled to call in Cozumel, Mexico on Sunday, but now it will stop in Nassau, Bahamas instead.
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."
There was an interesting article posted about the need for Information Technology (IT) to rebound in growth to help the economy and hidden inside was a tidbit about how Royal Caribbean uses IT to enhance their sales on board. Royal Caribbean International CIO Bill Martin uses an array of computing statistics on several of the company's newest, tech-rich cruise ships to help figure out what to sell next to cruisers.
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.
The fad these days is to have ships go to Europe to appease the large demand for cruise ships there but the future may lay in China, according to a report by the Shanghai International Port Group. In fact, double-digit growth is expected over the next few years.
Right now, 232 passenger liners serve China, which is an 87 percent rise from last year and it looks like Royal Caribbean is paying attention. Michael Bayley, senior vice president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, had this to say,
"China has a potential of around 40 million cruise guests annually if the market penetration reached the level of US and Europe"
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?
There's a new report that Jewel of the Seas has been struck by the norovirus once more.
Approximately 86 passengers were suffering symptoms of the dreaded gastro bug aboard the Royal Caribbean ship which arrived in Harwich today.
Earlier this month there was a report of Jewel of the Seas being affected by the norovirus where 292 guests and 16 staff members were affected by the virus. Royal Caribbean is once again giving the ship an “extensive and thorough sanitization”.
The day you arrive for your cruise is a big day. Odds are you've been looking forward to it for weeks, months, and in some cases, years so it makes sense for you to want to make this day as perfect as you can make it.
When to Arrive
When to arrive to the port depends on how cavalier you want to be. Many experts suggest arriving to the port the day before because that way, you don't have to worry about your flight being delayed or traffic holding you back. In addition, arriving a day early allows you to be more relaxed and ready to get your vacation started right. On the other hand, arriving a day early can cost you more money for hotel accommodations, rental car, etc. The bottom line is you want to be able to be at port and checked-in well in advance of the time the cruise line says the ship will leave.
Personally, I like to arrive the day before the cruise and on the day of the cruise's embarkation, arrive at the port in the late morning so I can be one of the first to board the ship. By arriving early, it maximizes the time I have on the ship that first day and the first day is usually a busy day on the ship. First, by boarding the ship around noon or so, you can have lunch on board the ship (instead of paying more money out of pocket to eat lunch somewhere else). Second, you'll be in prime position to book amenities on the ship if you haven't done so in advance such as spa appointments, excursions or to change dining requests.
Getting on board
Once you are on board the ship, there's lots to see and do. I already mentioned grabbing lunch and booking various things as possibilities. If you're new to the ship, be sure to take some time to explore the ship, especially since your cabin may not be ready yet for you to get into. Take a walk around the decks that circumnavigate the ship and get a feel for where things are and even scope out some things you'd like to do during your cruise. This is also a good time to take a tour of the spa, although be forewarned that the sales pitch can be a little heavy handed but there's nothing wrong with simply looking around.
Eventually, your cabin will be ready for you so you can see where you'll be calling home for the next few days. It's also a good opportunity to meet your steward, who will be keeping your room in the condition you'd like. If there are any special requests needed, now is a good time to mention it to him or her.
As the ship approaches the time to leave port, it's hard to beat the sail away party that occurs on the pool deck or if you have a cabin with a balcony, enjoy the view from there. Either way, you'll want to enjoy the fun of leaving port and getting the cruise started.
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.