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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.