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.
A Norwegian media site, dagbladet.no, 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.
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 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.
Allure of the Seas is set to have her maiden voyage in December of 2010 and already, Royal Caribbean is giving us all plenty of reasons to check her out. Sure the ship is enormous and goes to some great ports in the Caribbean, but how about amenities such as 3-D movie theaters, new restaurants and trendy retail stores? JourneyETC posted an article looking at some of these new features.
“Allure of the Seas will offer guests a new set of onboard amenities and entertainment and dining options that will help make a most memorable vacation,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International. “Though Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas are sister ships, each ship’s distinctive onboard experience will offer guests a wide selection of choices that appeals to every age and lifestyle. Throughout, guests will also enjoy the Royal treatment, delivered by every member of our world-renowned friendly and engaging staff and crew.”
One of the new restaurants on Allure of the Seas will be Rita's Cantina, a Mexican-California hybrid restaurant that will be in the Boardwalk area to include new nightlife to Boardwalk with live guitar music, drinks and dancing. In addition to Rita's, another new restaurant is slated to be added to the Boardwalk area, The Boardwalk Dog House, an outdoor hot-dog specialty counter located where the donut shop is on Oasis of the Seas.
If shopping is more your thing, GUESS Accessory boutique will be located in place of Focus Photo Shop on deck six and offer their signature line of accessories such as wallets, jewelry, handbags and more.
All of this is to differentiate Allure of the Seas from it's sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, and to give cruisers just as much reason to look forward to her debut as they did for Oasis.
Marc Liberts of edhat.com posted a very thorough trip report from his recent cruise to Alaska aboard Rhapsody of the Seas and shared not only his report of what happened, but also gave some tips and lessons he learned through his cruise. For those that enjoy reading some thorough reports about past cruises, this is a real treat.
"My wife and I have been on about 10 cruises of varying length and in cabins varying from inside to suites. Overall, we like to have a balcony, and we like suites, but have decided that the suites aren't worth the extra expense. Normally we would have done the balcony, but we wanted to be near the kids who had ocean-view cabins, and we were only 3 doors down from them. They had 2 adjoining cabins for the 5 of them. One of their cabins had 2 single beds and 2 bunk beds over the singles. The kids loved the bunk beds, so that was a great idea and mom & dad loved having their own room."
Seems like Marc had a great trip and also shared some fantastic photos he took from his trip. Definitely a good read.
This past Saturday marked the last cruise out of Norfolk, Virginia for Royal Caribbean. The company has decided to move Enchantment of the Seas north Baltimore, and the reason for the change seems to be about demand. Company spokesman Harrison Liu mentioned that Baltimore offers "a year-round demand for passengers".
Royal Caribbean had been serving Norfolk since 2007 and Enchantment of the Seas was the final ship to call Norfolk home.
Royal Caribbean has offered cruises to the New England coast area as well as Canada's eastern coast for some years now but ports in the area as projecting elevated number of cruisers to be visiting this year.
"Maine ports are expecting 335 cruise ship calls this year, up from 281 last year. Ports in the Canadian Maritimes and in Newfoundland are projecting 467 calls, 84 more than in 2009. Boston is anticipating a record 300,000-plus cruise ship passengers to pass through its port."
Currently three Royal Caribbean ships serve New England, including Jewel of the Seas (out of Boston), Explorer of the Seas (out of Bayonne, NJ) and Enchantment of the Seas (out of Balitmore). For those looking for something a little different than just a cruise to the Caribbean, a summer cruise to the northeast can be a fun and exciting opportunity. Interestingly enough, the peak season for a New England cruise is early fall, which coincides with the changing of the autumn leaves, which can make for some really pretty landscapes.
"September and October remain the peak months for cruise ship trips, but more ships are now showing up in the region in July and August and earlier."
Royal Caribbean lead the field in this years Readers’ Choice Platinum Award, which was awarded by Celebrated Living magazine. The magazine is described as "The Luxury Magazine for American Airlines Premium Class Passengers" and ranked a few different cruise lines but in the end, Royal Caribbean garnered the top choice.
"Despite its name, Royal Caribbean International has expanded beyond steel bands and limbo contests to make the whole world its oyster, including sophisticated operations in Asia and the Pacific as well as traditional itineraries in Alaska, Europe, and, yes, the Caribbean. Coming this December is the Allure of the Seas, sister ship of 2009’s spectacular 18-deck Oasis of the Seas, currently known as the world’s largest cruise ship."
Considering the competition for this award included cruise lines such as Seabourn, Princess, Norwegian and others, it's definitely an award that Royal Caribbean is sure to be proud of.
Royal Caribbean Vice-President of government relations for the Caribbean and Latin America, Michael Ronan, told Bahemian newspaper The Tribune, that in 2011 Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will "be back up over 800,000 passengers" brought to the Bahamas. That figure is over 100,000 more than in 2010, thanks in part to the anticipated delivery of Allure of the Seas.
These figures include stops in Nassau, Freeport and its Bahamian private islands. The news comes after a report that Oasis of the Seas was rumored to be ending stops in Nassau, but Ronan said the change was merely due to a difference in Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries, where Oasis of the Seas only stops in Nassau on it's eastern Caribbean trips. Ronan went on to explain that once Allure of the Seas became operational, it would start rotating Nassau calls with the Oasis of the Seas on a schedule that would be maintained through Spring 2012, with one of the ships stopping in Nassau opposite the other.
"With the Oasis vessels, we are significantly increasing the number of passengers that are going to be coming," Mr Ronan told Tribune Business. "We will be back up over 800,000 passengers in 2011. This year, I think we will be in the 700,000 in change, because we're still waiting for the arrival of the Allure, which will put us with a full year of Oasis class ships in Nassau every week. Last year, 2009, we bottomed out."
For the people of the Bahamas, the more cruisers that stop by, the better for the local economy. For cruisers, a better economy in the Bahamas typically means less crime and better upkeep of the city (that's a generalization).