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Maritime lobby buying up European Union officials

In:
12Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Fipra, a public relations consultant that actively lobbying on maritime issues in Europe, is busy plucking away European Union officials for their lobbying firm and that has some worried about transparency in the EU administration.  Malta's Joe Borg, the commissioner responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries until last year, has been hired by Fipra and the EU has allowed Borg to work there, citing no evidence of a possible conflict of interest.

Mr Borg is to join his old colleague John Richardson, a former director in the European Commission's "Directorate General Mare," the EU's maritime and fisheries department, who in September 2008 became Fipra's "maritime policy and diplomacy special advisor."

Thus far, a total so far of six of the 13 EU commissioners who retired earlier this year have now gone on to work for banks, lobbying firms, insurance companies and airlines.

This pertains to Royal Caribbean as John RIchardson announced to the EU commission that a client of his will be Royal Caribbean, the second largest cruise company in the world, and the EU reported back "It was considered at that point in time that his envisaged activities would not be incompatible with his former functions."  Making matters more interesting, Fipra's website says that Fipra's chairman, Peter Lehrell, "and his family have a special affection" for the company.

The concern by some is Fipra's close contact with Royal Caribbean and some of their members positions in the European Union could cause conflicts of interest.

Oasis of the Seas continues to enjoy premium pricing

In:
12Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Oasis of the Seas, the celebrated largest ship in the world and now seven months old, is still generating enough demand to maintain it's premium prices over other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, according to a report by Majestic Research.  In the report, cabins on Oasis of the Seas are selling for 41% more than the rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet during the current quarter.  Even interior cabins, the cheapest option, sell for typically 69% more.

Majestic Research's Matthew Jacob had this to say about the future outlook for Oasis of the Seas, "We expect the ship will continue to generate strong premiums throughout most of 2010, although premiums appear to be leveling off sequentially".

When Oasis of the Seas debuted in 2009, an interior cabin cost 142% more than a cabin on Royal Caribbean's other ships.  Majestic Research reports that the premium dropped to 112% in the first quarter of 2010 and then to 74% in the second quarter of the year.

This trend should continue until December 2010 when Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas' sister ship, debuts.

So this sounds like great news for Royal Caribbean, right?  Well, the bad news is Majestic Research says the higher prices on Oasis come at the cost of cannibalizing the premium for cabins found on the rest of Royal Caribbean's fleet.  

Jacob says Freedom class ships have seen their premium for interior cabins versus the rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet shrink to 4% during the current quarter from 27% during the same quarter last year (the last full quarter prior to the launch of Oasis). Celebrity's Solstice class ships have seen their premiums decline to 22% during the current quarter from 68% during the same quarter a year ago, he says.

Majesty of the Seas to host heavy metal themed cruise

In:
11Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

For fans of cruising and heavy metal music, there is news that a special concert will be held on Majesty of the Seas that will sail Monday, January 24, 2011.  The cruise is called  "70000 Tons Of Metal" and has been dubbed "the world's biggest floating heavy metal festival".  This themed cruise will feature a number of metal acts.  These include..

  • agent steel
  • amon amarth
  • death angel
  • epica
  • exodus
  • fear factory
  • finntroll
  • forbidden
  • moonspell
  • obituary
  • raven
  • saxon
  • sodom
  • sonata arctica
  • stratovarius
  • swashbuckle
  • testament
  • trouble
  • uli jon roth
  • witchburner

More bands will be announced and a total of 40 acts have been promised.

Video of the Day: Take a tour of Explorer of the Seas

In:
10Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Karen Schaler, a travel contributor for ABC News, takes a tour of Explorer of the Seas and shows you how to maximize the space in your cabin as well show off some of the fun things to do onboard Explorer.

Royal Caribbean confirms Dreamworks additions will not impact everyone

In:
09Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

When the Dreamworks alliance was announced last month, many Royal Caribbean fans were afraid that their favorite ships would be turned into a giant floating shrine to Shrek and his friends.  

In a blog post by Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein, he confirmed that if you have no desire to experience any of the Dreamworks entertainment, you won't have to.  All of it will be isolated in designated areas and like any other form of entertainment on the ship, you will need to seek it out to experience it.

On the other hand, some readers expressed concern that the DWA presence onboard Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas will create too much of kid-centric, theme park style environment.

For guests who are not interested in this additional offering, it will be just as possible as before on these same four ships to have a fantastic Royal Caribbean experience taking advantage of all of the entertainment, programming, culinary and destination experiences that are already so appealing.

The news is not shocking, given that Disney ships, world renown for their characters, make it very possible to cruise with them and never see their characters.  The announcement by Goldstein is in response to a vocal outcry across the internet by concerned cruisers who wanted to know the limits of the Dreamworks team up.

Travel and Leisure Magazine Ranks Large-Ship Cruise Lines

In:
09Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Travel and Leisure magazine has published their list of the World 's Best Awards including the category of large-ship cruise lines.  T+L readers were given a survey to fill out between December 2009 and March 2010 to rank the cruise lines. For cruise lines, readers rated them based on these categories

  • cabins
  • food
  • service
  • itineraries/destinations
  • activities
  • value
  • families (optional)

Here was the results:

  1. Crystal Cruises 90.47
  2. Regent Seven Seas 89.86
  3. Oceania Cruises 86.65
  4. Disney Cruise Line 84.93
  5. Azamara Cruises 83.91
  6. Cunard 83.35
  7. Celebrity Cruises 81.49
  8. Holland America Line 81.08
  9. Royal Caribbean International 80.92
  10. Princess Cruises 80.38

The good news is Azmara Cruises, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, ranked fifth.  The bad news is Royal Caribbean ranked ninth.  If you want to spin this in a more positive light, while Royal Caribbean was ranked ninth, competitor Carnival Cruise Line did not make the top 10. In addition, the difference between ninth place and fifth place is barely a few points.

Freedom of the Seas: Four Must Do Activities

In:
09Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

If you've got a cruise coming up on Freedom of the Seas, then this is your week as we have even more tips for your next cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, as provided by CruiseMates.com

  1. Explore the Promenade
  2. Sample the Cuisine
  3. Experience the Entertainment and Nightlife
  4. Activities for Kids

Here is one of the tips, explore the promenade

The Promenade is longer than on other RCI ships, and is similar to a large suburban mall. Three miles of corridors connect the public rooms, and are well marked so passengers don't get hopelessly lost. Boutiques that are on the other Voyager-class ships are on Freedom. The Royal Promenade has special lighting effects for the Mardi Gras-style parades. The Royal Promenade features several spots for snacks and has a book shop, The Book Nook.

Photo of the Day: Explorer of the Seas

In:
09Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Photo by Jillian Jasionowski

Cruising 101: Choosing Excursions

In:
08Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Once you have your cruise booked, you're going to want to figure out what you want to do when your ship stops at various ports of call.  There's a multitude of options available with different costs.

Types of Excursions

There are many type of excursions.  Some are simple, such as transportation to and from a local beach.  Others are complex and can last many hours.  It's hard to generalize the various types of excursions that all ports can encompass but here are the most common types of excursions.

  • Beach trip
  • Animal interactions
  • Guided tour
  • Snorkeling/Scuba

Length of Excursion

Each excursion requires a set amount of time.  Some are short, others allow you to be flexible and some will consume the entire time you are in port.  It's important to figure out what your priority is.  If you'd like to do multiple things in port, like go to the beach, do some shopping and visit a local point of interest, you're best not picking an excursion that takes up multiple hours.  On the other hand, if the port doesn't interest you much, you could do fine with an excursion that last much of the day.

Cost

You can flip through a list of excursions easily enough and highlight a dozen or so that sound interesting but money isn't an unlimited resource for most of us, so you have to be picky.  The cost of an excursion can range from less than $20 per person to well over $100 per person.  

While not always the case, sometimes it can be cheaper to book an excursion by yourself rather than use the cruise line.  

Booking on your own vs. cruise line

The cruise you're on will provide a lengthy list of excursions to buy at all of the ports you are stopping at.  There are some advantages to booking with the cruise line...

  • Convenience: By booking with the cruise line, you can book it quite easily without much hassle.
  • No-dock refund: If for some reason your ship doesn't dock at a port, you aren't on the hook to pay for the excursion still.
  • Safety: Generally, excursions booked through the cruise ship are done with reputable third parties.  These operators are screened ahead of time by the cruise line and should be safe to use.

Booking an excursion on your own has its own set of benefits...

  • Price: Often, you can save money by booking an excursion on your own since you are cutting out the cruise line as the middle man. 
  • Wider selection: By booking on your own, you can find many more options of things to do at port.

Ultimately, the decision may come down to individual excursions and comparing your options.  What works for one person in one port may not work for another.  

Researching excursions

At first glance, all the excursions look like great options but you're smart to do your homework on them.  It's not to say you won't have a good time on them, but there could be a pitfall you aren't seeing or perhaps there are better options out there for you.

The best places to find information on excursions is from other people.  Popular sites like CruiseCritic have forums on ports of call where you can search through reports of other people's past experiences on excursions or post your own question.  Also, a Google search for the excursion can reveal more helpful information.

How to book

On Royal Caribbean, you can start booking shore excursions online up to 4 days before your sail date. Alaska Cruisetour land excursions can be reserved online up to 10 days prior to the start date of your Alaska Cruisetour.  After those time periods, you will have to book the excursion on the ship.  

Once you know what excursion you want to take, you should book it as soon as possible to ensure it does not sell out.

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