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.

Royal Caribbean looking to expand to Nicaragua?

In:
16Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

The Spanish language site Estrategia Negocios is reporting that Royal Caribbean is working with the country of Nicaragua to rebuild the port of San Juan del Sur.  The idea is to rebuild the port, which will promote more cruise ships operating in the Pacific to stop in Nicaragua.  Nicaragua Tourism Minister Mario Salinas sees the cruise business as "a segment to exploit. "  In addition, the Nicaraguan government is also working on the construction of 'inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua tourism', a mechanical transport system move boats and yachts between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Perhaps Nicaragua is looking for something similar to the deal that Royal Caribbean has reached with Jamaica to open a $170 million port at Historic Falmouth Jamaica.  By opening a new sea port, Nicaragua seeks to increase the weight of the tourism industry in the country, to which the sector currently contributes about 5.2% of GDP, with about 930,000 visitors during 2009, which resulted in an increase of 8.6 % from a year earlier.  Nicaragua ranks low in tourism compared to its neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and so this, along with other measures taken, will hopefully increase tourism in this Central American country.

Cruising 101: Choosing your itinerary

In:
15Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

One of the first considerations (of many) is which cruising itinerary, or schedule of ports that your ship will visit, to take.  Royal Caribbean serves quite a number of ports around the world, so choosing the one for you to go one can be tricky for a first timer.  Like many choices on cruising, your budget will dictate a lot of what your options are.  

Budget

Sure that cruise to the Mediterranean sounds great, but given the cost of airfare and the cruise itself, it may not be financially practical.  Figure out about how much you're willing to spend on your cruise.  Be sure to include costs such as airfare, rental car, parking and of course the cruise itself when comparing it against how much you want to spend.  If you're living in the United States, odds are cruises that disembark from the United States will be cheaper overall due to the lower cost of both the cruise and transportation to get there.  

Ports of Call

Once you've figured out about how much you can play with, your list of potential cruises should be narrowed down. Next, you'll want to look at the ports they serve and determine which is of the most interest to you.  Some people are good with a cruise that serves ports close to the United States, while others prefer destinations far more exotic.  When choosing your ports, consider weather, political status, language and other cultural barriers.  

How many nights?

The length of your cruise matters just as much as where your ship takes you.  Shorter cruises will visit less stops but will cost less.  Longer cruises will visit more stops, cost more, but the cost per day may actually be cheaper than a shorter cruise.  If it's your first cruise, a cruise greater than one week may be too much to start with but a 3 night or less cruise may be too little to get a good feeling of if you like cruising.  You'll want something that will not be over or under whelming while fitting into your budget.

Port of Balitmore booming with traffic

In:
15Jun2010
By: Matt Hochberg

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.

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