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Autumn will be bargain season for European Cruises

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

It's no secret that Royal Caribbean has been moving many of its ships to Europe in search of higher revenue but Fox Business reports that when companies like Royal Caribbean made their plans for the 2010 cruising season, they did so back in 2008 when they expected a higher demand and stronger Euro than is current here.  While that news isn't great for Royal Caribbean, it is good news for consumers looking for a cruise deal in Europe.

Here are some tips for those looking for a good deal on a European cruise vacation this year

  • Avoid cruise itineraries designed for Europeans. They prefer sunny resort destinations like the Canary Islands  (the European version of our Caribbean cruises) over port calls at the culturally significant places that draw Americans.
  • If you are going to fly all the way to Europe, you'll want see more – so longer cruises are better.
  • Avoid the traditional European vacation season of mid-July through August. You will still find plenty of shopping and tourist services, but with lower prices and shorter lines.
  • Airfare from the U.S. usually drops in autumn. 
  • Two cruise lines most Americans probably want to avoid (except for bargain hunters) are Costa and MSC Cruises. Both offer beautiful, modern cruise ships, but they market to non-English speaking passengers. Everything on board is presented in five languages -- Italian, French, Spanish and German and then English last. These ships are often bargain-priced, but the novelty wears off quickly. Most Americans prefer ships designed for our own tastes, especially when it comes to food, entertainment and shore tours.

TV show about Oasis of the Seas spikes bookings by 20%

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

In the United Kingdom, National Geographic aired a show called "World Record Cruise Ship" that profiled the building of the Oasis of the Seas earlier this week and Travel Daily UK reports that cruise retailer, Cruise118, has witnessed a 20% increase in sales for bookings on Oasis of the Seas.

Why the sudden jump in sales? “Feedback from customers is that the recent media coverage of the Oasis of the Seas ship has really shown them the appeal of modern cruise holidays,” said Cruise 118 director, James Cole.  Old myths that cruises are for retired people are being debunked by television shows like this and it has resulted in more people wanting to cruise.

Oasis of the Seas scores perfect sanitation score from CDC

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Our friends at Cruise Critic alerted us to the newest cleanliness report on Oasis of the Seas.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency in the United States gave Oasis of the Seas a perfect 100 on its vessel sanitation inspection.  This inspection is a very stringent cruise ship cleanliness exam conducted twice a year and is done by surprise.

There were some minor infractions, but nothing large enough to cause the ship to lose points. An example is at the Buffet Solarium Center Island, "There was no serving utensils for the container of apples or containers of pears.".  Royal Caribbean responded to this by instructing the crew to ensure that there is a utensil for each food container on the buffet.

You can view the report in it's entirety on the CDC website.

Royal Caribbean to include visits of Arechi Castle in Italy

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has reached an agreement with local officials to allow cruisers to tour the Arechi Castle (Castello di Arechi) in Salerno, Italy. 

According to agreements reached with representatives of Royal Caribbean, the Castle will be visited by guided tours with stops, tastings of local products.  These tours will be included in the itineraries of 2011 that visit the city.

The Arechi Castle is a massive castle commanding the city from a 300 m  hill. It was enlarged by Arechi II over a pre-existing Roman-Byzantine construction. Today it houses rooms for exhibitions and congresses. The Castle offers a complete and spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno.

A look at the lighting inside Oasis of the Seas

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Oasis of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world currently and it's been celebrated from bow to stern.   An interesting article has been written by LiveDesign about the lighting onboard Oasis of the Seas.  Michael Riotto of Michael Riotto Design LLC designed the lighting for many of the entertainment venues found on Oasis.

He worked on the lighting found in the nightclubs Boleros, Blaze, and Dazzles, the Jazz Club, the Comedy Live club, and the Viking Crown Observation Deck.  Each area he worked on had its own unique theme, “There needed to be a common thread from a consistency standpoint in terms of control. We didn’t want to have different types of consoles in all the venues, for all the obvious reasons, but maintenance was a consideration.”

Design changes for the ship forced Riotto had to change his ideas for lighting.  In one example, he was working on the Latin dance club Boleros and had an idea for a backlit ceiling, but when designed changed the height of the ceiling, it forced him to cancel the idea.

The design for Blaze nightclub, a Live Design Excellence Award winner this year, was also adapted after the space was changed from a two-story venue to just one level. However, the size of the oval-shaped dance floor stayed the same and gave the lighting designer the opportunity to create an innovative ceiling. “The architect didn’t have anything planned for it,” he says. “It was just a matte black ceiling with a mirrored soffit running around it for lighting.”

If interior design and lighting is of interest to you, then be sure to check out this article for an in-depth look at Oasis' unique lighting and design.

Cruising 101: When to arrive

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

After you decide on a cruise vacation, one of the first decisions to make is when should you arrive.  Assuming you don't live within driving distance of the port where the ship embarks,  you're going to need to fly down for your cruise.  There are two options: arrive the day of the cruise or arrive at least one day before your cruise departs.  Choosing which option can depend largely on you and your circumstances.

Advantages of arriving early

If you choose to arrive to port a day or more earlier than your cruise, you're all but guaranteeing that you will be able to make your cruise.  Even if your flight is delayed or cancelled, more than likely you will have enough time for the next flight to get you down in time.  Circumstances like weather, plane problems or airline scheduling changes can all occur without warning and by arriving a day or more early for your cruise, you can have plenty of time to deal with it without missing the ship.

Arriving a day or more early for your cruise also starts your vacation earlier and gives you more time on vacation.  It's generally hard to argue with that!

Advantages of arriving on the day your cruise leaves

If you arrive on the day your cruise leaves, you won't have to spend more money on a hotel, rental car, food, etc that would be necessary if you flew down a day or more in advance.  If you're on a budget for your vacation, you may simply not be able to afford to spend a day or more in advance of your cruise.  

If you're worried about missing your cruise due to outside circumstances, cruise insurance can often alleviate those fears.  

Things to check for before deciding

  • Check airfares for arriving the day of your cruise versus arriving early.  You may find significant savings for one option over the other.
  • Research hotel rates for your stay and figure out if there's an option that works for you to arrive early. If you're going during a busy time of year or during a local event, hotel space at a reasonable price may not be available.

Oasis of the Seas named a boating vacation not to be missed

In:
16Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Bloomberg BusinessWeek listed four types of boating vacations that you shouldn't miss and for the category of "the family", Oasis of the Seas was named its winner.  BusinessWeek liked the many options that the ship offers as well as the piece of mind of being on board.  They specifically chose the Eastern Caribbean itinerary for Oasis as well.

One key to bringing the brood together is being able to spend time apart. For all their flaws, cruises balance family and free time: You'll find activities aplenty—and containment that eases (some of) your worries about the kids.

I guess BusinessWeek should have called the category "the rich family" because it recommends the Royal Family Suite to stay in ($1,750 per person).

Barcelona Spain set to be popular cruise port

In:
15Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

The summer of 2011 will have some very big cruise ships stopping in Barcelona, Spain and Liberty of the Seas, a Freedom Class ship, will be included. Aside from Oasis and Allure of the Seas, it's the next largest Royal Caribbean ship with a capacity of 3,600 passengers.

The Miami Herald had a quick write up about the things to see in Barcelona, a city known for its beauty, and one of the most popular European cities for Americans to visit in Europe.

Downtown, near the port and especially along the famed walking street Las Ramblas, Barcelona pulses with strolling crowds of all ages. You'll find engaging street entertainers, including mimes dressed like the Tin Man or a flowering plant, each hoping for a contribution. Nearby are outdoor markets, churches, parks, and dozens of fine restaurants.

Liberty of the Seas will sail on Saturdays to Toulon, France; Nice; Civitavecchia and Naples. 

Canadian Skating Medalist Vaughn Chipeur to join Royal Caribbean show

In:
15Jul2010
By: Matt Hochberg

Two-time Canadian silver medallist Vaughn Chipeur has announced he is retiring from competitive figure skating.  Instead of performing in front of judges, the 25 year old will skate in professional shows across Canada before joining the lineup on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

In addition to a pair of second-place finishes at the Canadian championships in 2009 and 2010, Chipeur was fourth in 2008 and seventh in 2007. He was 23rd at the Vancouver Winter Olympic this past February.

It isn't clear which ship he will be joining, but it will be likely limited to the fleet of Royal Caribbean ships that have an ice skating rink, the Oasis, Voyager and Freedom class vessels.

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