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Mexican tourist officials meet with major cruise lines to promote new routes

In:
04 Aug 2010

Mexican tourism officials met with representatives of Royal Caribbean and other major cruise lines to promote new routes and increasing tourists Pacific Mexican states and the Gulf of Mexico. The cruise line representatives were part of the Cruise Association of Florida and the Caribbean.

Secretaries of Tourism of Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Colima, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche, and the secretaries of Chiapas and Guerrero met with representatives from major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line.
 
Undersecretary of Tourism Operation of the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism, Alfredo Moreno commented, "For the first time we are in a dialogue to build public policy on cruise ships". 
 
Last year the Mexican ports were five million cruise passengers and this year expect to receive nearly six million, according to projections by the Ministry of Tourism.
The goal of this conference was to address basic issues such as development and differentiation of ports, standards and certification of providers of services, facilitation and costs, promotion, and effective communication.
 
Moreno noted that Mexico is investing nearly $40 million in all cruise ship destinations, with the idea to increase that amount by 2011 with a focus even more timely in these areas.
 
"We seek to improve the flow of cruising and spending of visitors and for our part theming conditions of our ports and differences between destinations," said Francisco de la Vega Aragón, secretary of Tourism of Sinaloa, noting that the port of Mazatlan receives 200 cruises a year and a half million cruise passengers.

Restaurant Review: Izumi

In:
04 Aug 2010

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas features a number of specialty restaurants that are available to book for an additional fee and Izumi is one of them.  Featuring a selection of Japanese food, today we take a closer look at this offering.


 

Atmosphere

Izumi is a Japanese restaurant that features a lot of brown and orange with an Asian flare.  You will find a lot of bamboo and cherry blossoms adoring the interior of the restaurant.   Located on Deck 16 of Oasis of the Seas, Izumi partially overlooks the ocean as well as the sun deck and to a lesser degree the pool deck.  Only tables near the windows will allow for much of a view.  There is also a rather large sushi bar that encircles the chefs that prepare the sushi.  Seating here can vary in terms of something to see, as it can be difficult to see the chefs at work while sitting at the bar.


 

Upon entering the Izumi, you will check in and be seated.  There isn't much of a waiting area should you need to as the restaurant as a whole is rather small.  Once seated, the waiter will bring you a warm towel to refresh your face and hands.  This is a staple of any good Japanese restaurant and nice to see.

Eats

On my recent 7 night Oasis of the Seas cruise, I ate at Izumi every evening except one, so I like to think I got a good idea of the food here.  Izumi is a Japanese restaurant and has a few options beyond just sushi.  Sushi was the driving force that brought me here, but for those who aren't fans of raw fish, there's also some other interesting options.

To start with, Izumi currently features complimentary edamame (a preparation of baby soybeans in the pod boiled in water together salt, and served whole)  and miso soup.  Both were good and tasty and you can have as much of either as you choose.  You will also be offered a choice of various sparkling waters (this does cost extra).  Not being a fan of Peligrino or its similar counterparts, I passed on it.

Let's start with the sushi.  If you're looking for sushi on Oasis of the Seas, Izumi is your only option. Unlike other Royal Caribbean ships, there is no sushi offered in the Windjammer Cafe.  In addition to the set sushi menu, there's usually a special roll created each night by the chef.  I found the chef's roll to be the best sushi option each night, as they were routinely large portions, fresh and interesting combinations.

The sushi on the menu offered some good options, however, I found the options fairly limited compared to the various types of sushi rolls one can get at your local sushi restaurant at home.  That being said, there were still many more sushi options in Izumi than I've found in the Windjammer on previous cruises.  The sushi itself was fresh and most sushi rolls featured 6 to 8 pieces per roll.  Given the price of most sushi to be about $5 per roll, I found this to be a good value.

Beyond sushi, the most interesting item on the menu is the hot rock plate.  Basically, you get a heated stone the size of a small book along with uncooked meat (beef, chicken or shrimp) along with some vegetables.  You take the meat and veggies, stick them on the plate and they cook in front of you.  The first time we did it, we had the question of "When do I know when it's done?".  The waiter was very helpful in not only telling us, but helping us cook the first batch.  

This is definitely a fun dish to share, and kids are sure to really enjoy it and a good option for those not keen on really ethnic food.

In terms of pricing, I found Izumi to be mostly fair.  Entree dishes were good and there is no cover charge, the fee at Izumi is a la carte.  There were some items that I found to be rather unfairly priced, however.  I ordered a bottle of hot sake and that was $24 (there was no other option) and that special sushi roll of the day cost $10 (most other sushi rolls cost about $5 or $6).  It's always a good rule of thumb to ask how much something is when it isn't listed on the menu.

Overall

Overall I found Izumi to be a good option for fans of Japanese food, specifically sushi.  While Izumi features a few different dishes that aren't sushi, I feel their strongest suit is their sushi offerings.  I only wish they had a few more rolls to choose from, but given the price of their sushi, it's hard to go wrong.  

Izumi is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 9:30pm and for lunch at noon to 1:30pm.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been here! What did you order? Any suggestions or favorite items? Let me know in the comments below!

Royal Caribbean study reveals 25% of Spanish plan a cruise in the future

In:
04 Aug 2010

Royal Caribbean sponsored a study of "Study on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Market in Spain" and announced the results, which were prepared by the market research institute IPSOS Marketing.  The goal of the study was to analyze the current situation of the cruise market in Spain.  

The study indicates that 75.4% of people who have taken a cruise are quite or very satisfied with their cruising experience.  In addition, the study listed profiles of most cruise passengers, with families and couples with children topping the list of potential cruisers, with an average age of 35-50 years old.  The study also revealed that 25% of the population plans on taking a cruise in the future.

Royal Caribbean CEO in Spain, Belén Wangüemert, commented, "The growing number of families on cruise ships is a phenomenon that, in the case of Royal Caribbean, is mainly due to the fun and excitement of the program for children and young people, Ocean Adventure, as well as the agreement we have recently signed with Dreamworks".

It appears cruising is becoming very popular in Spain as 33.5% of respondents of respondents that have taken a cruise before do not want to do something else on their vacation. This surprising data "supports the high levels of loyalty and satisfaction between cruisers' admits Wangüemert Bethlehem.  "Once a person chooses this type holiday, the chances are high that you return to make another cruise."

The study also revealed that the 70% of Spanish people prefer Mediterranean cruises, followed by Northern Europe (8.1%) and the Caribbean (6.4%) . While there was a large majority preferring where they cruise, respondents were less clear when they like to cruise with 56% of them choosing the summer, 23.9% prefer the autumn and only 17.8% and 2.3% prefer the spring and winter, respectively.

Interestingly, 42% say they have not completed a cruise yet because of price "Obviously this is a false belief and we have to explain everything that is obtained at a reasonable price. The price-quality ratio is excellent cruise, "says Wangüemert.

Jewel of the Seas suffering mechanical problems

In:
03 Aug 2010

A mechanical problem today caused Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas to miss a port on its scheduled itinerary.  Jewel of the Seas was scheduled to stop in Stockholm, Sweden but had to skip the port after a problem with the ship's propulsion.

Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, stated that it was a problem with “one of the four hydraulic motors on the starboard propulsion system”.  Martinez confirmed that the problem is expected to be fixed within a matter of days.

"We carried out preliminary repairs in Harwich (England) on Saturday," Martinez tells USA TODAY. "However, we are awaiting a replacement hydraulic motor and will conduct (further) repairs while the ship is in St. Petersburg, Russia."

Martinez added that the Jewel of the Seas today is skipping Stockhold and instead stopping at Visby, Sweden, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. On Wednesday, she will arrive at Helsinki, Finland and remain there from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. By Thursday the ship will arrive in St. Petersburg at 7:30 a.m. and depart on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Royal Caribbean's presence in Italy is growing

In:
03 Aug 2010

Royal Caribbean Vice President Michael Bayley visited the new Royal Caribbean headquarters in Italy, the second largest in the world, that had opened in 2010 to announce that Royal Caribbean will handle 60% more passengers in 2011.  Next year will see 2.5 million passengers, airports will grow by 35% to a total of 671 calls at 17 ports.

With Royal Caribbean's addition of 3 Voyager class ships to Italy, about 3,300 passengers will now sail in and out of Italy. Navigator of the Seas docks at Civitavecchia, Voyager of the Seas for the first time in Venice and Mariner of the Seas for the first time will dock in Genoa.

Royal Caribbean is planning on its ships visiting a number of Italian ports, including Civitavecchia, Venice, Livorno, Naples, Messina, Ravenna, Bari, Cagliari, Palermo, La Spezia, Sorrento Salerno, Portofino, Genoa, Portoferraio, Santa Margherita and Trieste.

Adventure of the Seas move to Europe required onboard changes

In:
03 Aug 2010

Royal Caribbean has moved a lot of its ships to Europe, primarily from the Caribbean, and in a recent Royal Caribbean blog post, there was an interesting tidbit about what changes Royal Caribbean made to it's Voyager class Adventure of the Seas ship to be more accommodating for the European clientèle.

Adventure of the Seas had spent nine years in Puerto Rico, serving the south Caribbean since 2001 but was moved to Europe and the Mediterranean to help with greater demand in the area.  Because the ship was going from the Caribbean, where its customers spoke primarily English, to the Mediterranean, where a greater variety of languages were spoken, changes were necessary.  The biggest changes included ensuring Adventure of the Seas had "the appropriate language skills".

Other changes were made as well, such as changing the entertainment so it was less about language and more about the visual story being presented.  This ensured a greater percentage of guests onboard the ship could enjoy the entertainment.  To accomodate guests even further, dining times were adjust to allow for the greater demand for later dinner seatings.

Vegan cruising experience on Royal Caribbean

In:
03 Aug 2010

Anyone with a special dietary restriction knows that traveling and sticking to your diet is never easy but Charu Suri posted about her experience on a three night Royal Caribbean cruise that she took to the Bahamas and shared her experience of eating vegan while on Royal Caribbean.

Going into the cruise, Suri was worried that the options for her on board would be very limited, to the point that she'd have to eat the same boring meals every day.  Moreover, she wondered if they'd even have vegan friendly alternatives, such as soy milk instead of regular milk.

As soon as Suri was onboard, her fears were dismissed after seeing how closely the Royal Caribbean chefs were not only monitoring her dietary needs but responding to them, "The chefs on board were more aware of my dietary needs than I had given them credit for. Before long, I was feasting on Indian dishes, delicately-flavored al dente pasta and crisp, almost "farm to table" quality salads."

Suri did run into a "problem" with dessert.  Before long she was getting sick of the usual offerings and decided to ask to see if there was anything else available. She asked the Head Waiter and the very next day, she had a special dessert prepared for her based on her vegan needs.

According to a 2008 Vegetarian Times survey, around 3.8% of the American population was vegetarian, and around 0.5% was vegan.  Based on her experience, it seems eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a very practical possibility.

Excursion Focus: Playa Palancar

In:
03 Aug 2010

Beautiful beaches in Cozumel Mexico are seemingly a dime a dozen, but every beach offers something a little different and Playa Palancar on the leeward side of the Cozumel island offers beach goers a secluded white sand beach for those who are looking for a simple beach retreat.

Description

Playa Palancar is located on the leeward (bay side) side of the island of Cozumel.  It features a white sand beach, adorned by beach chairs and palapas.  The beach features a full service bar and restaurant that will deliver food and beverages to beachgoers. There is also services offered on the beach such as massages.

The ocean offerings are clear blue water with a simple and small floating dock to sunbathe on and/or dive into the water from.  Unlike other beaches, Playa Palancar doesn't offer a lot of water toys.  Rather, they focus on customers looking for a relaxing day at the beach.

There are other options available for an additional fee, such as snorkeling and parasailing.

Comments

Playa Palancar is perfect for those looking for a quiet beach and don't care or want the water toys that other area beaches offer.  That isn't to say that Playa Palancar is perfect for those looking for an adults only beach, but it given its lack of water toys, there's sure to be less kids than other beaches with those sort of offerings.

While the beach is white sand, we did find the area of the water closest to the shore to be rather rocky.  It isn't rocky enough to need water shoes, but it is rocky nonetheless and isn't ideal.  Interestingly enough, you will not find many lounge chairs, but the ones you do find, are all in direct sunlight.  There aren't any beach chairs that have umbrellas or palapas to shade yourself from the sun.  The palapas and umbrellas are located to the rear of the beach and cover the tables and plastic chairs that are good for eating under, but those looking to sit out by the water with some shade will be out of luck.

Access to the beach is free, but the restaurant and bar servers will hound you for orders.  They aren't pushy, in fact, they speak good English and are courteous, but they will stop by often to see if you need anything. Speaking of the food, the prices here are a little expensive for Mexico but good for America.  So you'll find most entrees in the $10 range and drinks costing around $5.  We hear the fish tacos are very good, but haven't tried them ourselves.

 

Location: 15 miles south of San Miguel Parque National Palancar Cozumel 77600 Mexico

Websitehttp://playapalancar.com/

Cost: $0 + additional cost for activities and food