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Big cruise growth expected in China

In:
25 Jun 2010

The fad these days is to have ships go to Europe to appease the large demand for cruise ships there but the future may lay in China, according to a report by the Shanghai International Port Group.  In fact, double-digit growth is expected over the next few years.  

Right now, 232 passenger liners serve China, which is an 87 percent rise from last year and it looks like Royal Caribbean is paying attention.  Michael Bayley, senior vice president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, had this to say, 

"China has a potential of around 40 million cruise guests annually if the market penetration reached the level of US and Europe"

Royal Caribbean ships help drive demand in new ports

In:
25 Jun 2010

Royal Caribbean has recently moved some of its ships around to new ports, serving Baltimore, Maryland and Maine and the result has been those ports have seen a surge in demand from customers ("If you build it, they will come" anyone?).  Enchantment of the Seas moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland and officials say there were 81 cruises with 329,000 passengers in 2009. Ten more cruises are scheduled this year and the total number is expected to grow to 113 next year. This leads to a potential problem because the 113 cruises in 2011 will max out the capacity of Baltimore's cruise terminal.

To counter the problem, the Baltimore Board of Public Works approved a $2.9 million gangway for passenger ships to make embarking and debarking more pleasant for passengers in all types of weather.  Even so, others are calling on Baltimore to do more and expand the potential amount of cruises the city can handle.

Meanwhile, Maine is also reporting a surge in demand and local businesses are feeling it.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay says it's booked 200 additional rooms because of the new ships. Enterprise Rent-a-Car says their bookings are up too. A recent University of Maine study found cruise ship passengers spend between $80 and $110 when they're in port, pumping as much as $8 million into the local economy.

Could this news help sway the trend of Royal Caribbean ships going to Europe to seek more money and keep them serving ports in the United States?

Jewel of the Seas hit with norovirus again

In:
25 Jun 2010

There's a new report that Jewel of the Seas has been struck by the norovirus once more.

Approximately 86 passengers were suffering symptoms of the dreaded gastro bug aboard the Royal Caribbean ship which arrived in Harwich today.

Earlier this month there was a report of Jewel of the Seas being affected by the norovirus where 292 guests and 16 staff members were affected by the virus.  Royal Caribbean is once again giving the ship an “extensive and thorough sanitization”.

"Jewel of the Seas, which began its sailing in Harwich on June 12, is experiencing an elevated number of persons with a gastrointestinal illness. Over the course of that sailing, 86 guests have experienced the illness, thought to be a Norovirus. Those affected by the short-lived illness responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered onboard the ship. At Royal Caribbean International, we have high health standards for all our guests and crew. Therefore, in an abundance of caution, once Jewel of the Seas arrives in Harwich on Thursday, June 24, we will conduct an extensive and thorough sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal, to help prevent any illness from affecting the subsequent sailing.” 

Cruising 101: Arrival Day

In:
25 Jun 2010

The day you arrive for your cruise is a big day.  Odds are you've been looking forward to it for weeks, months, and in some cases, years so it makes sense for you to want to make this day as perfect as you can make it.

When to Arrive

When to arrive to the port depends on how cavalier you want to be.  Many experts suggest arriving to the port the day before because that way, you don't have to worry about your flight being delayed or traffic holding you back.  In addition, arriving a day early allows you to be more relaxed and ready to get your vacation started right.  On the other hand, arriving a day early can cost you more money for hotel accommodations, rental car, etc.  The bottom line is you want to be able to be at port and checked-in well in advance of the time the cruise line says the ship will leave.

Personally, I like to arrive the day before the cruise and on the day of the cruise's embarkation, arrive at the port in the late morning so I can be one of the first to board the ship.  By arriving early, it maximizes the time I have on the ship that first day and the first day is usually a busy day on the ship.  First, by boarding the ship around noon or so, you can have lunch on board the ship (instead of paying more money out of pocket to eat lunch somewhere else).  Second, you'll be in prime position to book amenities on the ship if you haven't done so in advance such as spa appointments, excursions or to change dining requests.

Getting on board

Once you are on board the ship, there's lots to see and do.  I already mentioned grabbing lunch and booking various things as possibilities.  If you're new to the ship, be sure to take some time to explore the ship, especially since your cabin may not be ready yet for you to get into.  Take a walk around the decks that circumnavigate the ship and get a feel for where things are and even scope out some things you'd like to do during your cruise.  This is also a good time to take a tour of the spa, although be forewarned that the sales pitch can be a little heavy handed but there's nothing wrong with simply looking around.

Eventually, your cabin will be ready for you so you can see where you'll be calling home for the next few days.  It's also a good opportunity to meet your steward, who will be keeping your room in the condition you'd like.  If there are any special requests needed, now is a good time to mention it to him or her.  

As the ship approaches the time to leave port, it's hard to beat the sail away party that occurs on the pool deck or if you have a cabin with a balcony, enjoy the view from there.  Either way, you'll want to enjoy the fun of leaving port and getting the cruise started.

Alaska approves tax cut for cruise ship visitors

In:
25 Jun 2010

The Governor of Alaska, Sean Parnell, signed into law a bill that reduces the state head tax on cruise passengers that will lower the head tax from $46 to as little as $19.50 per person.  The tax hike had caused cruise lines like Royal Caribbean to send their ships elsewhere to avoid paying the higher costs.  Loss of business as a result of the withdrawal is estimated at $25 million for Juneau alone this year.

Last month, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell proposed the agreement to persuade several major cruise lines -- which claimed the tax was unfair and possibly illegal -- to drop a lawsuit they had filed against the state to contest the tariff, which was passed in a 2006 vote by Alaska residents as part of a larger initiative.

The new tax law comes into effect in October 2010, but it will be 2012 at least before ships can be re-routed as 2011 itineraries are already planned.

Update to passenger arrested for fondling child

In:
24 Jun 2010

We reported earlier today of a Pennsylvania man that was arrested by the FBI for fondling a young boy on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  Royal Caribbean has issued a statement to USA TODAY newspaper regarding the incident.

 

"Royal Caribbean maintains a zero tolerance policy regarding any criminal activity onboard our ships. Any allegation of a crime is treated seriously and reported to law enforcement.

On December 18, a guest onboard Liberty of the Seas brought Mr. Stevenson's alleged inappropriate behavior to the attention of a crew member. Royal Caribbean's onboard security immediately responded and preserved information and potential evidence that could be helpful to law enforcement. The incident was immediately reported to the FBI and the Miami-Dade police department, and Mr. Stevenson was confined to his stateroom.

On December 20, the ship was met at the Port of Miami by the FBI and Miami-Dade Police Department officers who conducted an investigation onboard. We will continue to support law enforcement agencies during their prosecution of this allegation."

Royal Caribbean passenger took a cruise to fondle a boy

In:
24 Jun 2010

A 71 year old man from Clinton, Pennsylvania was charged with with traveling with intent to engage in illegal sexual conduct after he admitted he took a December 2009 cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas so he could have a sexual encounter a child.

Authorities say Stevenson went into the children's area during a December cruise and fondled a 6-year-old boy in a hot tub. The FBI says surveillance footage shows Stevenson putting his arm around the boy and pulling him onto his lap.

A trial date has not been set yet for the case.

Freedom of the Seas to host Poker Super Cruise

In:
24 Jun 2010

HeadsUp Entertainment International Inc., operators the Canadian Poker Tour, announced that they will hold a "Poker Super Cruise" on the Freedom of the Seas launching March 23, 2011 from Port Canaveral, Florida.  The event will span two weeks and two cruises, covering a Western and Eastern itinerary.  In addition to holding the event on the ship, HeadsUp announced that a major television deal is currently being finalized that will allow for broadcast of the event and allow for sponsorship revenues to increase dramatically from previous events. 

HeadsUp is also scheduling dates for additional cruises departing from other ports and anticipates ultimately hosting up to 6 cruise events annually.

"The expansion of the poker vacation market has become a major focus for the Company as revenues are maximized in this event structure," commented HeadsUp President and CEO Kelly B. Kellner. "The event earlier this year was testament to a growing demand in the Canadian and international marketplace and building this proprietary revenue model will be a substantial move to increasing shareholder value."

Read these seven cruise absurdities

In:
23 Jun 2010

Christopher Elliott has written up some really interesting aspects of the cruise industry that you might want to look into before going on your next cruise to avoid these pitfalls.  Some you may know and others are less well known but the article as a whole is a good read.  These are definitely good to know about to safeguard yourself against a potential problem on your next cruise.  There are seven of these, but here's just one.

It isn’t just the best restaurants that are extra, of course. That margarita you ordered with lunch is $8. Sodas are extra, too. So are excursions, and pretty much anything else that isn’t bolted down on the ship.
 
Even amenities that you think would be included, aren’t. For example, Diane Hansen found that her luxury cruise didn’t allow her to use the sauna and steam room without paying a surcharge. Most cruise ships allow you to use thespa at no extra charge. So she blogged about her experience and then decided to take her business elsewhere. “We were going to get a couples massage on board,” she says. “Instead, we opted for one on shore and didn't spend any money at all in the on board spa.”