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Carnival and NCL raised their daily gratuities

04 Apr 2022

Two major cruise lines have raised their daily gratuities this year, which could be an indicator of what Royal Caribbean may do as well.

Carnival funnel

CruiseRadio reported Carnival Cruise Line will raise its gratuity beginning on sailings that depart May 1, 2022.

The new gratuity rate for Carnival will be as follows:

  • Standard staterooms will pay $14.50 per person, per day
  • Suites will pay $16.50 per person, per day

Carnival will allow anyone with a cruise booked right now to lock in the old gratuity rate if they prepay gratuities before May 1, 2022. Cruises booked after May 1 will be subject to the new rate.

Carnival Vista restaurant

According to Carnival, 100% of gratuities are distributed to the crew members, such as stateroom attendants, dining and culinary services staff, as well as others who work behind the scenes.

Carnival's change comes just weeks after Norwegian Cruise Line announced they would increase the daily gratuities.

As of April 1st, NCL increased their gratuity amount as follows:

  • Balcony and lower cabins: $16.00 per person, per day
  • Haven and Suite guests: $20.00 per person, per day
  • Club Balcony Suite guests remains at $18.00 per person, per day

NCL says their gratuities compensate crew members in tandem with a salary for crew members such as complimentary restaurant staff, stateroom stewards and behind-the-scenes support staff.

Will Royal Caribbean do the same?

Wonder of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation | Royal Caribbean Blog

With two of Royal Caribbean's biggest competitors changing the daily gratuity amounts, Royal Caribbean cruisers may be wondering if a change is coming soon for them as well.

Royal Caribbean hasn't touched their gratuity rate since the end of 2017, when they announced a change to the gratuity to begin in 2018.

The current gratuity for Royal Caribbean is: $14.50 per guest per day in non-suites. For guests in a Grand Suite or above, the amount is $17.50.

Just like the other cruise lines, the daily gratuity is shared among dining, bar & culinary services staff, stateroom attendants and other hotel services teams who work behind the scenes.

Read moreShould you prepay gratuities for a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean has not announced or said anything about changing the gratuity rates, but it's not unusual from a historical perspective for cruise lines to match each other with changes like this.

When Royal Caribbean announced a change in gratuity in 2017, they mentioned keeping up with other cruise lines, "Royal Caribbean is constantly reviewing our competitive environment and this adjustment positions us in-line with our competitors. The additional gratuity collected will be disbursed to our onboard crew".

The good news is Royal Caribbean has in the past done exactly what Carnival is doing now, by offering passengers booked with an existing reservation to lock in the old rate if they pre-pay before the new rate goes into effect.

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test

02 Sep 2021

Following an update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, two cruise lines have changed the amount of time guests have to get a negative Covid test before their cruise.

Carnival announces new health protocols including masks, social distancing, testing and more | Royal Caribbean Blog

The CDC revised their screening testing and documentation requirements late last week for fully vaccinated passengers and those who are not fully vaccinated, for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing.

Specifically, the CDC updated their testing guidelines to recommend fully vaccinated passengers get their Covid test no more than 2 days before boarding or get a test on embarkation day.  It also lists unvaccinated passengers get their test no more than 3 days before the cruise.

As an apparent result of this change, both Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have changed their policies on Thursday.

Both lines are still accepting either an antigen or PCR test.


Carnival Cruise Line | Royal Caribbean Blog

Beginning with sailings that depart as of September 13, 2021, vaccinated guests must take a covid test within two days prior to the sailing date.

According to Carnival, if the sailing is on Saturday, the test may be taken on Thursday and Friday, and as late as Saturday, if you are guaranteed to receive your results in time for check-in.

Carnival is working to set up mobile pre-cruise rapid testing sites at all of its homeports as a back-up alternative for vaccinated guests who aren’t able to make arrangements. Additional details are forthcoming.


MSC Cruises releases new policies to keep guests safe from Coronavirus | Royal Caribbean Blog

MSC Cruises also updated their policy for all cruises departing from Miami and Port Canaveral beginning November 1, 2021 and onward.

For these sailings, All guests 2 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must provide documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 2 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation.

What is Royal Caribbean's policy?

As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy has not changed for sailings from U.S. Homeports and Nassau, Bahamas.

All guests age 2 and older — regardless of their vaccination status, departure port or the length of their cruise — will need to take a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab, no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal and show their negative test result upon arriving. 

In addition to the pre-cruise test, kids will take one or two more tests, depending on the length of the cruise. Royal Caribbean’s test provider will administer these, at no cost to children under the age of 12.

  • On boarding day, kids will take a complimentary rapid PCR test during check-in at the terminal. We’ll send registration details via email before departure.
  • For cruises that are 5 nights or longer, kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Vaccinated guests who require a COVID-19 test for re-entry into their country may receive one onboard as well. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under the age of 2 have no testing requirements.

Read moreI tried the at-home Covid-19 test that Royal Caribbean accepts

Carnival joins Royal Caribbean in requiring pre-cruise Covid tests and masks for vaccinated passengers

04 Aug 2021

Less than a week after Royal Caribbean said it would require vaccinated passengers to get a Covid test for certain sailings, Carnival Cruise Line announced a similar protocol.

Carnival informed guests of new testing and mask guidelines, where cruise ship passengers will be asked to wear masks in certain indoor areas of their ships and all guests, including those who are vaccinated, to have pre-cruise Covid tests.

Beginning on sailings the depart on August 14, 2021, all fully vaccinated cruise ship passengers will need to get a negative Covid-19 test (PCR or antigen) within 3 days of when their sailing will begin.

This means fully vaccinated guests will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test along with proof of full vaccination upon arrival in the terminal and can then proceed on board.

Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival will not provide testing opportunities at the cruise terminal, so guests must take the test at home before they arrive.

Guests who are not fully vaccinated are still required to show the negative results of a PCR test taken between 72 and 24 hours prior to the sailing date, and will be tested again in the terminal prior to boarding the ship and again within 24 hours of debarkation (for itineraries five days or longer).  Unvaccinated guests approved for an exemption will continue to be charged US$150, per person, for testing, reporting and health safety screenings, and also must provide proof of travel insurance if departing from the states of Florida or Texas. 

Children under two are exempt from testing requirements.

Royal Caribbean's policy is similar, with the requirement for all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to provide a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of vaccine status, prior to boarding on sailings 5-night or longer.

Royal Caribbean's testing policy went into effect beginning July 31, 2021.

Mask policy change

Carnival is also adding a mask rule for passengers on its ships while indoors.

The new mask rule begins on August 7, 2021 and "strongly encourages" all passengers to wear face masks when indoors, particularly guests who are unvaccinated including children under the age of 12 who should wear masks in public areas, except when eating or drinking.

All guests age 2 and older will be required to wear face masks in elevators and in designated indoor entertainment areas, all retail shops, and in the casino, except when eating or drinking.

Guests will be required to wear face masks prior to being seated in the main dining rooms and in the Lido Buffet area and occasionally in other designated areas where larger number of guests may congregate.  

Masks are required during embark and debark in the terminal, and masks should also be worn during the debarkation process on board.

Carnival says the new rule is being added, "to protect our guests and crew while on board."

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy spoke about the change, "These new requirements are being implemented to protect our guests and crew while on board, and to continue to provide confidence to our homeports and destinations that we are doing our part to support their efforts to protect public health and safety."

"We expect these requirements will be temporary and appreciate the cooperation of our guests. Our first month of guest operations has been met with tremendous enthusiasm and very positive guest feedback, and we are committed to continue our restart with both fun and safety in mind."

Carnival will bring back all of its cruise ships by the end of the year

21 Jul 2021

Carnival Cruise Line announced this week the next phase of its restart plans, which includes bringing back its entire fleet by the end of the year.

Parent company Carnival Corporation outlined plans for resuming cruises across eight of its nine brands, representing a total of 54 ships.

The Carnival Cruise Line brand has restarted sailings on some ships, will have the remaining nine ships in its fleet back to operations by the end of 2021.

The three ships for September are the Carnival Glory from New Orleans, starting Sept. 5, the Carnival Pride from Baltimore, starting Sept. 12, and the Carnival Dream from Galveston, starting Sept. 19.

In October, the four additional ships to restart will be the Carnival Conquest from Miami, effective Oct. 8, the Carnival Freedom from Miami, effective Oct. 9, the Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral, effective Oct. 11, and the Carnival Sensation from Mobile, effective Oct. 21.

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy talked about bringing back the entire fleet, "Our plan envisions successfully bringing back our entire fleet by the end of the year, returning to full service – most especially for the millions of families who sail with us – and building back our business for the benefit of our guests, employees and the tens of thousands of jobs and local businesses that depend on our company."

Carnival Cruise Line first resumed cruises from the U.S. during the first weekend in July.

Carnival ships sailing in the summer and fall will have mostly fully vaccinated passengers onboard, although exemptions can be made for unvaccinated passengers depending on space.

Essentially, Carnival will offer exemptions to unvaccinated guests on a limited, capacity-managed basis within 14 days of sailing as the cruise line finalizes the vaccinated guest count. The more bookings Carnival initially secures for cruises with fully vaccinated guests, the more exemptions they can ultimately offer for unvaccinated guests already booked and those wishing to sail.

Carnival will operate these sailings with at least 95 percent vaccinated guests, which means the ships will not have to do test cruises.

Unvaccinated passengers who are admitted to sail will need to undergo additional pre-cruise and mid-cruise testing and pay a $150 fee to cover screening costs. Unvaccinated travelers on specific Carnival itineraries from Florida and Texas will also need to show proof of travel insurance.

These requirements of unvaccinated passengers is similar to Royal Caribbean's policies, although Carnival is handling how they book unvaccinated passengers differently.

Anyone booked on Carnival that does not wish to sail due to the vaccination requirements and protocols is able to request a full refund with no penalties.

Royal Caribbean's restart plans in the U.S. are only outlined for 9 of its ships so far.  A few ships are sailing in Europe this summer, and Quantum of the Seas is operating out of Singapore.

Royal Caribbean has not yet spelled out exactly what its restart plans will look like in the fall and winter of this year.

Carnival and NCL announce summer cruise ship restart plans from United States

07 Jun 2021

Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line to announce it will restart cruises from the U.S. this summer.

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines announced on Monday plans to restart cruises as early as July.

Royal Caribbean lead the restart plan charge last week, when it announced cruises from the U.S. in July and August, signifying a major milestone in the cruise industry's return to service.

Here is a look at what each of the other major cruise lines announced today.

Carnival will restart in July

Carnival confirmed it will return to service with cruises out of Galveston on two ships.

Carnival Vista will sail on July 3rd from the Port of Galveston, followed by Carnival Breeze on July 15.

These cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Carnival also has plans to restart cruises on the Carnival Horizon from PortMiami in July.  No specific date was shared, as the line is working with the State of Florida and the CDC for Carnival Horizon sailings.

Carnival also said plans to provide an update by Friday concerning protocols specific to these sailings to all booked guests.

August sailings will be announced by Carnival "over the coming days."

Norwegian will restart in August

NCL admitted its restart plans in the U.S. are contingent on obtaining a conditional sailing certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said that all its initial voyages will operate with fully vaccinated guests and crew.

First, NCL said it would replace Norwegian Bliss on its Alaska cruises with the Norwegian Encore instead.

In terms of new U.S. sailings, here is what NCL announced:

  • Norwegian Gem will begin sailing 7-night cruises from PortMiami on August 15
  • Norwegian Breakaway will sail to Bermuda from New York on September 26
  • Norwegian Bliss will sail from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera on October 2
  • Norwegian Escape will sail from Port Canaveral on November 13

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said the additional planned U.S. voyages build on earlier plans for 23 of the company's 28 ships across its three brands beginning in July and phasing in through early 2022.

Carnival announces agreements with Port Canaveral, Miami & Galveston to restart cruises

28 May 2021

Carnival Cruise Line is moving forward with its restart plans from the United States.

Carnival announced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) has approved its plans in place with three major cruise ports.

Specifically, Carnival now has agreements with PortMiami, Port of Galveston and Port Canaveral that have been approved by the CDC under Phase 2A of the Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

These port agreements are part of the Phase 2A of the CSO and need to be signed by executives from the cruise line, as well as port and state health authorities, as will as be approved by the CDC.  The agreement explains what the cruise terminal would do in the case of Covid-19 cases on a cruise ship, as well as how it intends to keep the cruise terminal and gangways sanitized.

Royal Caribbean has a similar agreement with PortMiami, Port Everglades, and Port Canaveral.

With the port agreements in place, it supports Carnival's plans to restart Carnival Horizon from PortMiami, and Carnival Vista and Breeze from Galveston.

Port Canaveral has also been identified as a restart priority, and Carnival expects to announce plans for operations from there over the coming days.

"These agreements move us one step closer to sailing with our loyal guests,” said Lars Ljoen, executive vice president and chief maritime officer for Carnival Cruise Line.  

“We appreciate the support from not just these three homeport partners, but all of our homeports, that are eager to have us back as soon as possible.”

The agreement will also include information social distancing guidelines and plans for using commercial operators for any required evacuations at sea.

Each cruise line must have signed contracts with shore-side medical facilities to treat patients and shore-side housing facilities to isolate and quarantine sick passengers.

With the port agreements in place, likely Carnival will either need to apply for approval for test cruises, or skip test sailings if they can get at least 95% of its passengers vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean International has opted to conduct test cruises, but Celebrity Cruises will be able to skip them since they can get at least 95% of their passengers vaccinated.

Carnival plans to run test cruises from Galveston

25 May 2021

Carnival Cruise Line appears to be ready to start the first of its test cruises in a matter of weeks.

During a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Galveston Wharves, the Port of Galveston said Carnival plans to run its test cruises from the port, although no exact date was set.

The Galveston County Daily News reports Carnival has informed the port of its plans.

According to the report, the Port of Galveston and local health officials say they are close to signing a port agreement with the State of Texas.  Royal Caribbean recently signed similar agreements with Port Canaveral and Port Everglades.

It also appears that Carnival will follow Royal Caribbean's plan to not make the optional 95% vaccinated cruise ship passenger mandate in order to skip test cruises.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave cruise lines the choice of going through the test cruise option outlined in the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), or skip them if they can reach 98% of crew and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said yesterday in a video update that Royal Caribbean International cannot meet that goal of 95% vaccinated passengers because of all the families with young children who go on a cruise. 

The Port of Galveston was told by Carnival's President that standard would be difficult, since vaccinations aren't yet available for children under 12 . That's a significant portion of their normal customer base.

Royal Caribbean is also planning to start test cruises soon, although the location nor the ship to be used has been shared publicly. 

Royal Caribbean applied to be able to start at least one test cruise last week, and the cruise line expects that authorization to be granted "shortly".

The simulated voyages are the test sailings mandated by the CDC in order to receive permission for a cruise ship to sail from the United States.

Under the CDC's Framework for Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), cruise lines must first get an agreement with each port for the health and safety of crew, passengers and port personnel.

Test cruises are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

Carnival Corporation announces it will sail to Alaska in 2021

20 May 2021

Hours after new legislation has opened the door for cruises to Alaska, Carnival Corporation announced plans to offer cruises there this summer.

Carnival Corporation announced three of its brands, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, will offer cruises to Alaska this year.

The new sailings will begin in July, and depart from Seattle, Washington.

The announcement was made a few hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Bill to allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska without stopping in Canada.

Carnival said each of the lines has received guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as coordinated with Alaskan officials in order to sail again.

It is not clear what this guidance is exactly since the Conditional Sail Order is still in effect, but the line issued a statement that it seemingly has the go-ahead to make these cruises happen.

These Alaska cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination. Crew vaccinations will be in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Princess Cruises will resume operations in Alaska starting July 25 through September 26, with seven-day cruises onboard Majestic Princess, a MedallionClass ship.

Its cruises will visit signature ports, glaciers and attractions in Alaska including Glacier Bay National Park, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Holland America Line will resume its cruise operations to Alaska with seven-day itineraries aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, calling at Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka and Ketchikan, with scenic cruising in Alaska's iconic locales, including Glacier Bay and Stephens Passage.

The first cruise for the brand is scheduled to depart July 24, with 11 Saturday departures that will operate through October 2.

Carnival Cruise Line has already opened Alaska sailings departing from Seattle beginning July 27, with weekly departures through September 14 aboard Carnival Miracle. There are seven 7-day cruises featuring calls in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, as well as scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord.

The September 14 departure is an 8-day cruise with an additional stop in Icy Strait Point.

Carnival Corporation also said plans for these itineraries to fulfill obligations under the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) are expected to be approved. Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line are each continuing the return-to-cruising preparation already underway.

Each of the lines will announce more details in the coming weeks.

More U.S. sailings to come

Carnival Cruise Line is also working to finalize its plans to operate Carnival Horizon from Miami, and Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston in July.

Itineraries along with specific details about protocols are expected to be finalized and announced next week.

Carnival is in active discussions with CDC to restart cruises in July

17 May 2021

Carnival Cruise Line confirmed on Monday it is in active discussions to restart cruises from the United States as early as July.

All eyes are on which cruise lines will be able to restart cruises from the United States, which requires permission from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said in an interview with NBC Nightly News the cruise line is working with the CDC to gain permission to restart sailings in July, which will carry no vaccine mandate for passengers in order to sail.

Ms. Duffy said Carnival and the CDC are "working through the details" of sailing again in July.

Carnival wants to jump on the initiative by President Joe Biden to reopen the country by Independence Day on July 4, "I think the CDC and the interagency groups that are working with us now have that same goal in mind as President Biden said."

"He wants to reopen America by the Fourth of July and we want to make sure that the cruise industry can be part of that reopening of America."

Duffy was asked about getting every passenger and crew members vaccinated, and while she supports getting everyone vaccinated, it is something that no other industry is having to decide to do, "There's no mandate for any other business to have that requirement.

"We certainly are encouraging everyone to get a vaccine. I think, again, we don’t want to be treated differently than any other part of travel tourism, entertainment, or society."

The other issue with requiring the vaccine of all passengers would be children under the age of 12, which Ms. Duffy said is important to the cruise line, "children under 12 are a big part of the cruise experience in a summer, you know a family vacation, and as it stands right now, we wouldn’t be able to have kids under 12 on board."

Ms. Duffy also spoke about the significant economic impact no cruise ships are having on the U.S. economy in jobs and spending, "There’s a huge impact obviously to jobs in the cruise industry but also what people don’t think about is all of the indirect impacts that we have, if you take a place like Alaska, where the bulk of tourism comes from people who sail on cruise ships."

"We employ about 500,000 people in the U.S.and we’ve lost about 300,000 direct jobs at this point."

Carnival's restart plans are more than just talk. The line has a handful of ships held back for a potential restart in July from ports in Florida, Texas, and Washington.

There are three ships that are not cancelled for July, including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston, and Carnival Horizon from Miami. 

Carnival also said if there is an option to sail to Alaska, then the Carnival Miracle will takeover sailings for Carnival Freedom from Seattle.

Carnival is also the only cruise line among the major lines not to announce restart plans outside the United States.

Norwegian Cruise Line will sail from the Caribbean and Europe this summer, and Royal Caribbean will do the same.

Carnival cancels some July 2021 cruises, but hopes to restart some ships from U.S. in July

11 May 2021

Carnival Cruise Line announced it has cancelled some of its July 2021 cruises, but there is still hope for some ships to sail from the U.S. in July.

Carnival says there is a a possible July restart in the U.S. on select ships from Florida and Texas.

There are three ships that are not cancelled for July, including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston, and Carnival Horizon from Miami. 

Carnival also said if there is an option to sail to Alaska, then the Carnival Miracle will takeover sailings for Carnival Freedom from Seattle.

All other July 2021 cruises are cancelled through July 31, 2021.  Guests booked on those sailings who wish to make alternate summer vacation plans may cancel without penalty by May 31, 2021 and receive a full refund. 

The cruise line is also giving guests the choice of canceling now instead of waiting to see what happens.  Guests booked on those sailings who wish to cancel without penalty can do so by May 31, 2021 and receive a full refund. 

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said the line is still working with the CDC for a July restart, "We continue to have constructive discussions with the CDC but still have many questions that remain unanswered.  We are working diligently to resume sailing in the U.S. and meet the CDC guidelines."

"We sincerely appreciate the continued patience and understanding of our guests and travel advisor partners and will share additional information as quickly as we can."

Carnival joins Norwegian Cruise Line in canceling some, but not all, of its July cruises. Unlike NCL, Carnival is holding back ships for a possible U.S. restart.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told investors last week that a July restart for his company was "not possible."

"The July U.S. launch, at least for our company, is just not possible,” Del Rio confessed.

"It was possible back in early April when we proposed to the CDC 100 percent vaccination, so from April 5, 90 days would be early July so that was possible."

What will Royal Caribbean do?

Royal Caribbean has not announced what it will do about July sailings from the United States yet.

Royal Caribbean rarely gives any kind of warning when a new set of cancellations are going to occur, but with Carnival and NCL both announcing additional cancellations for July, it seems Royal Caribbean must be close to making a similar decision.

Of course, Royal Caribbean will sail a handful of ships in July from outside the United States from countries like Bermuda, Bahamas, Israel, Singapore, Cyprus and England.

The rest of the ships and sailings scheduled in July are all still to be determined.

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