Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's A Done Deal: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Will Acquire Prestige Cruises Intl, Inc.

Frank Del Rio & Kevin Sheehan
The rumors we’ve heard for a while have turned out to be true and the high end line Regent Seven Seas Cruises and upper-premium line Oceania Cruises that make up Prestige Cruise Holdings will be purchased by the mainstream cruise company, Norwegian Cruise Line. Here’s the announcement, which explains the rationale behind the deal and offers some “fine print” details. It’s interesting reading for anyone who follows the cruise industry.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (“Norwegian Cruise Line” or “Norwegian,” (NASDAQ: NCLH)), a leading global cruise operator, announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Prestige Cruises International, Inc. (“Prestige”), the market leader in the upscale cruise segment and parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, in cash and stock for a total transaction consideration of $3.025 billion, including the assumption of debt.
“The acquisition of Prestige represents an extraordinary opportunity for Norwegian Cruise Line to expand our market presence by adding two established, award-winning brands in the upscale cruise segment with loyal followings,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Not only does this acquisition immediately enhance our financial performance, but it also deepens the bench of talent that we have been developing over the years. Our complementary strengths and skillsets will pave the way for new cross-selling opportunities, cross-brand collaboration, cross-business support, as well as joint partnerships which, coupled with meaningful synergies that can be quickly implemented, will provide solid accretion to earnings per share and drive long-term shareholder value,” added Sheehan.

“We are excited to become part of the Norwegian family and start a new chapter for our company,” said Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Prestige. “With Oceania and Regent, we have built iconic brands with distinctive product offerings and strong customer loyalty. The combination is very compelling and will allow us to further enhance our renowned guest experience. We are looking forward to joining the Norwegian team and building upon the success that our three brands have already achieved.”

Prestige operates eight ships and approximately 6,500 berths under two segment-leading brands. Oceania Cruises is the market leader in the upper-premium cruise segment with five ships offering destination-oriented cruise vacations to more than 330 ports around the globe, gourmet culinary experiences, elegant accommodations and personalized service. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the market leader in the luxury cruise segment and operates three award-winning, all-suite ships, with an additional ship on order for delivery in summer 2016. Regent offers the industry’s most inclusive luxury vacation experience visiting over 250 destinations worldwide. Frank Del Rio will remain chief executive officer of Prestige.

“The combination of three distinct brands, each serving a different market segment, under one umbrella immediately creates an industry-leading cruise operator with an unmatched growth trajectory and a portfolio of products that allows us to appeal to guests at every stage of their life cycle,” added Sheehan. “We are fully committed to retaining the brand propositions, guest experiences and cultures of the Norwegian, Oceania and Regent brands that have allowed each to realize such success.” 
Transaction Rationale
The compelling rationale to acquire Prestige includes:
• The diversification of cruise market segments by adding upper premium and luxury brands;
• The further enhancement of industry-leading financial metrics;
• Opportunities for synergies and the sharing of best practices among brands;
• An increase in economies of scale providing greater operational leverage;
• The expansion of growth trajectory and global footprint; and
• The opportunity to complement Norwegian’s new build program with the existing Regent order that provides measured, orderly capacity growth through 2019.
Transaction Details
The total transaction consideration of $3.025 billion includes the assumption of debt. Additionally, a contingent cash consideration of up to $50 million to Prestige shareholders would be payable upon achievement of certain 2015 performance metrics. 
In early July, Norwegian's Board of Directors formed a Transaction Committee and delegated it full authority to negotiate and approve a transaction. The Committee consisted entirely of disinterested directors. Genting Hong Kong Limited and certain funds affiliated with TPG Capital, each of whose consent was required pursuant to Norwegian's existing shareholders’ agreement have consented to the transaction. The Transaction Committee, who retained its own financial and legal advisors, has unanimously approved the transaction. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Norwegian will finance the acquisition with existing cash, new and existing debt facilities and the issuance of approximately 20.3 million shares of its common stock. Pursuant to the requirements of NASDAQ Rule 5635, holders of a majority of Norwegian's common stock have consented to the issuance of such shares.
In a letter to travel agents, a part of which pertains to cruise consumers, Sheehan and Del Rio state:
“Norwegian Cruise Line has entered into an agreement to acquire Prestige Cruises International, Inc., the privately-held parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. With this acquisition, we are expanding our share in the marketplace by extending our presence into market segments which nicely complement the Norwegian brand: Prestige is the leading cruise operator in the upper premium and luxury cruise segments with 46% of the combined berth capacity. The combined offerings of the Norwegian, Oceania and Regent brands will allow us to offer guests a diverse portfolio of products and experiences for every stage of their lives. From family cruises on our amazing Freestyle Cruising ships, to a country–club casual experience on Oceania’s fleet, to the all-inclusive, more intimate experience afforded by Regent’s luxury offering, together our three brands indeed have something for everyone.

Norwegian, Oceania and Regent have built excellent reputations in the industry with loyal followings that are integral to maintain. This is why it is critically important to keep these brands distinct and intact in order to preserve those outstanding attributes that have made each one so successful.

Each business will continue operating as usual. We are committed to providing quality guest experiences and preserving each brand’s uniqueness. Over time, we will strive to build brand loyalty across the Norwegian family of brands to provide unique experiences for generations of guests and their families.”
While I don’t remember the exact date, I’m reminded of a previous deal involving Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Cruise Line, and Royal Viking Line. Never heard of the high end Royal and Royal Viking? The less said about that the better and, unlike that previous debacle, this seems to be a well thought out acquisition, particularly since their intention is to keep these brands distinct and intact.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Ships Are On The Move

Some of the world’s best “islands” are those that float and move—they’re called cruise ships. Avid cruise passengers have their favorite lines and ships, but sometimes those ships’ itineraries get stale when repeated too often. Carnival Cruise Lines fans now have some new routes to look forward to as the line shuffles things up a bit to offer more choices in homeport as well as destinations.

Carnival Liberty to San Juan; Carnival Valor to Port Canaveral
Beginning in March 2015, the Carnival Liberty and Carnival Valor will swap homeports with the Carnival Liberty shifting to San Juan to operate year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises, a program currently operated by Carnival Valor. At the same time, Carnival Valor will shift to Port Canaveral to take over Carnival Liberty’s program of 5- to 8-day year-round Caribbean cruises.

Carnival Liberty’s San Juan-based schedule kicks off March 29, 2015, with an itinerary featuring day-long visits to six tropical destinations: St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, each featuring gorgeous beaches, a distinctive island ambiance and a variety of water sports.

Carnival Valor will launch a 5- to 8-day schedule from Port Canaveral March 27, 2015. Five-day cruises call at Nassau, Freeport and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay or Key West, while 7-day Caribbean voyages visit Cozumel, Belize, Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan) and Costa Maya or St. Thomas, San Juan, Grand Turk and Nassau. Two different 8-day itineraries will be offered—one featuring Grand Turk, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and San Juan, and another calling at Aruba, Curacao or Bonaire, and Grand Turk.

Carnival Valor and Carnival Liberty will also operate two special voyages in March 2015 in preparation for their new homeport deployments. Carnival Liberty will offer a four-port, 7-day voyage from Port Canaveral to San Juan March 22-29, 2015, calling at St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and Tortola. Carnival Valor will offer a one-time 5-day voyage departing San Juan March 22 and arriving in Port Canaveral March 27, 2015, featuring visits to St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Pride & Carnival Splendor Sail to Bermuda in 2015-2016
Carnival Sunshine will offer an 8-day cruise to Bermuda round-trip from Port Canaveral, Florida, Oct. 2-10, 2015, featuring three full days at this island paradise. During their visit to Bermuda, guests can relax on the island’s legendary pink sand beaches, partake in a wide variety of watersports, including snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving, and visit landmarks such as the Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.

In addition to Carnival Sunshine’s 8-day voyage, Carnival will offer three other Bermuda cruises in 2015-16—a 7-day voyage on Carnival Splendor from Norfolk departing Oct. 23, 2015, and two 5-day cruises on Carnival Pride from Baltimore departing Oct. 26, 2015, and April 10, 2016.

Images Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, August 29, 2014

SeaDream Yacht Club Highlights Shore Side Casuals

“It’s yachting, not cruising”
With a tagline like “It’s yachting, not cruising” you would naturally expect more personalized tours ashore and SeaDream Yacht Club delivers them with crew-led excursions for the fall and winter 2014/2015 season in the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands. Known as “shore side casuals” among past guests, the veteran crews onboard the 112-guest twin mega-yachts lead complimentary shore tours to their favorite spots in the islands. The 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio of SeaDream and casual elegance onboard SeaDream I and SeaDream II affords flexibility to explore where large ships and formal tours seldom venture.

“The intimate size and casually elegant service onboard SeaDream gives guests a true yachting experience in the Caribbean,” shares Bob Lepisto, president of SeaDream Yacht Club. “That experience is equally delivered shore side as our the crew shares their favorite activities in the islands through one-of-a-kind shore excursions.”

With 10 mountain bikes on board each mega-yacht, guests can bike to secluded beaches including Flamenco Beach in Culebra, the intimate coves in Esperanza and Shoal Bay in Anguilla. Nature preserves like the Turtle Sanctuary in Bequia and watching the dolphins at Soper’s Hole are led by crew. For the most ambitious, a tour circumnavigating the island of Nevis or mountain biking to the bottom of Saba are popular ways to work off a delicious lunch. Guests on SeaDream this season can enjoy crew-led hikes on many of the smaller islands in the Caribbean.

One of the many highlights of shore side casuals includes a hike on the tiny island of Culebrita. Part of a wildlife refuge and located approximately one mile east of the island of Culebra, this tiny island is a nature lover’s paradise. Led by a knowledgeable crewmember, guests will hike to the only remaining Spanish-era structure in the Culebra archipelago, which is also the only permanent structure on the island. After taking in the views, guests will head to Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach), which is named for the many sea turtles that use the beach for breeding grounds and surrounding waters for grazing.

SeaDream Yacht Club offers a myriad of crew-led, complementary shore excursions in numerous destinations giving guests many opportunities to explore their surroundings. For instance, a walk through Old San Juan to the El Morro Fortress offers the chance to explore the region’s rich history, while a circumnavigation bike ride on the tiny island paradise of Nevis is one of many ways for guests to enjoy the unspoiled serenity of natural Caribbean settings.

SeaDream II docked alongside
a megaship. SIZE matters.
Both SeaDream I and SeaDream II are also equipped with wave runners, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and many other watersports activities, all of which can be launched directly from the yachts’ Marina. With an emphasis on relaxed luxury, guests can take advantage of the SeaDream Spa, with the highest therapist-to-guest ratio at sea.

While passengers sailing with other lines fight the crowds in larger ports, guests sailing with SeaDream Yacht Club enjoy an experience like none other, visiting ports that only they can access. After all, isn’t that what yachting is all about?

Images Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club &

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Princess Cruises Introduces Hip Night Sky Lounge Aboard Regal Princess

The allure of the club scene in Miami is a good enough reason for many passengers to spend a night or two in South Beach before a cruise. Sadly, getting past the velvet rope at the hottest clubs can be a challenge. There’s no need to dwell on your disappointment if you didn't get in at your favored So-Be club before embarking on a Regal Princess cruise—a new club on board is set to rival those ashore.

The Night Sky Lounge, a new, chic nighttime experience is set to debut on Princess Cruises’ newest ship in November, enabling guests to enjoy a contemporary outdoor nightclub under the stars. When the Night Sky Lounge debuts as the ship begins her inaugural Caribbean season, the top-deck Retreat Pool will transform into the new Night Sky Lounge one night during each cruise. Guests can enjoy an upbeat and modern, Miami South Beach-style nightclub vibe, including atmospheric pool and furniture lighting, glowing drinks, and a DJ spinning tunes on a state-of-the-art audio system. Guests can sip sophisticated cocktails, even in the two Jacuzzis, enjoy a flair bartending demonstration, dance the night away, and can even reserve a cabana with hosted bottle service. Guests will pay a nominal cover charge, which is yet to be determined, to enter the Night Sky Lounge.

“The Retreat Pool aboard Regal Princess is such an inviting space, and so transforming it into a cool lounge that offers an entirely new evening experience will be sure to delight our guests,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “We think the lounge’s great location, beautiful lighting, specialty cocktails, and music will be a winning entertainment experience.”

Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on Nov 6 with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day cruises to ports in the Eastern Caribbean including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

The new club sounds like a winner and we only hope that Princess decides to open it on additional nights if it’s so popular that they have to turn guests away.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Holland America Line Reaches a Pinnacle With Keel in Place

It’s always exciting to see a new ship begin to take shape—particularly when it’s the first in a brand new ship class. For Holland America Line, it was a time to celebrate the keel laying of its new 2,650-guest Pinnacle Class ship on Aug. 22 at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. A 680-ton block was lowered by crane into the yard’s building dock, marking the official beginning of construction.

“The keel laying of our new Pinnacle Class vessel heightens the anticipation for delivery because very soon we’ll see the ship begin to take shape,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line. “As the largest ship ever built for Holland America Line, the vessel features many innovations and new features, and we’re excited to see it all come together over the next year and a half.”

The ship will showcase decors by leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, based in New York City, and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten, based in Oslo, Norway. The 99,500-gross-ton ship is scheduled for delivery in February 2016.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

High Tech Meets the High Seas Aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has revealed that its newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, will incorporate unprecedented levels of technology to amp up the vacation experience for tech-savvy travelers. Boatloads of bandwidth will keep guests connected; easy-to-use systems will expand their choices and simplify schedules; and RFID technology speeds the boarding process and allows embarking passengers to keep track of their luggage every step of the way.

Altogether, passenger-centered technology makes Quantum of the Seas six kinds of SMART:

SMART Check-In: A Quantum vacation begins at home, where guests can generate boarding documents online, upload their own ID photo, and receive digital boarding confirmation. By the time they arrive at the cruise terminal for departure, Royal Caribbean guests can go from "sidewalk to ship" in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out, and no lines to stand in.

Guests will be able to track luggage in real time on their smartphones. Luggage will be tagged curbside with RFID technology at drop-off, and guests can monitor their bags' progress through key points en route to the stateroom. On departure, the process is reversed.

SMART Concierge: Quantum of the Seas will offer new RFID WOWband wristbands, which require only a simple tap to quickly navigate the ship, make onboard purchases, serve as the room key, and more.

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship. Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

SMART Connect: Quantum of the Seas will operate with unprecedented bandwidth using satellites launched by tech partner O3b Networks. With speeds that match fast broadband connections onshore, guests can be online 24/7, no matter what personal device they bring onboard. Guests can watch streaming video, check email, share images on social media, and enjoy face-to-face video conversations—even in the middle of the ocean. In addition, Quantum's connectivity makes it possible for one of the SeaPods in SeaPlex to become a live global video gaming suite where guests can enjoy Xbox Live and compete with other gamers worldwide.

SMART Experiences: Technology also powers surprise-and-delight elements on Quantum of the Seas. A brand new venue, Bionic Bar, is set to make waves with robots at center stage. Guests place orders via tablets and then have fun watching robotic bartenders hard at work mixing cocktails. Robots drive another entertaining feature on Quantum of the Seas. Two70 is home to a playful and agile troupe of six Roboscreens that stage surprise performances during every cruise, creating scenes while soaring and twisting solo, or uniting as one. Guests will also experience Vistarama, floor-to-ceiling glass walls that transform into an expansive ambient surface that projects any scene, real or imagined, including the multidimensional performance spectacle, Starwater.

Quantum of the Seas will take advantage of technology in functional forms as well. Guest staterooms are equipped with device-charging USB outlets, as well as energy efficient and environmentally friendly lighting systems. Interior accommodations are outfitted with Virtual Balconies that display real-time sights and sounds of the sea through 80-inch LED screens, ensuring every stateroom has a view.

SMART Service: Crew can connect better with guests—and with home The technology benefits of Quantum of the Seas extend to the ship's crew. Custom apps will allow crew members to keep better track of guests' tastes and preferences, allowing staff to tailor their already remarkably personalized service to an even higher degree. Whether a guest prefers gluten-free dining, early show seating, or shiatsu massage, the features of the smart ship allow crew members to anticipate every need.

And the ship's remarkable capabilities give the company an opportunity to make life better for crew members too, since Royal Caribbean will present every crew member on Quantum of the Seas with a free, personal Microsoft Windows tablet featuring a suite of services and apps that is theirs to keep. And as technology upgrades are made across the company's fleet, every shipboard employee in the entire Royal Caribbean International fleet will also receive their own tablet—a total of 40,000 tablets.

SMART Sustainability: Cleaner and greener Technology has even played a part in making the ship more environmentally friendly. Sophisticated computer modeling was used to reduce the vessel's energy consumption with efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices. The ship has eliminated the use of incandescent bulbs; all lighting will be provided by low-energy LED or fluorescents. Motion sensors even dim hallway lighting when no one is present.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tropical Storm Cristobal Shuffles Cruise Ship Itineraries

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says strengthening is expected and Tropical Storm Cristobal could become a hurricane on Wednesday.

So far, these ships' itineraries have been altered:

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Splendor: The ship bypassed Half Moon Cay and called at Nassau instead on August 24 and visited at Port Canaveral on August 25.

Carnival Liberty: All ports remain on the itinerary, but the order of the calls has been changed.

Carnival Pride: Instead of Grand Turk the ship will call at Port Canaveral on August 27 and substitute Nassau for a call at Half Moon Cay on August 28.

Carnival Sensation: Nassau will be replaced by Key West on August 26.

Royal Caribbean

Freedom of the Seas: A day at sea replaced a call in CocoCay on August 25.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Fantasy: on August 26 the ship will visit San Juan instead of St. Marteen.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Dawn: will depart Bermuda at 6 am on Tuesday, August 26.

Norwegian Gem: If conditions prevent from the ship anchoring at Great Stirrup Cay on Tuesday, August 26, the ship will proceed to Nassau and stay overnight through 6pm on Wednesday, August 27.

Norwegian Breakaway: Will modify her Bermuda itinerary and sail south to arrive in Port Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday, August 27 and will call in Nassau on Thursday, August 28.

Take a Caribbean Culinary Discovery Tour on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera

Oceania Cruises has expanded its popular Culinary Discovery Tours to include new experiences for St. Lucia and Antigua that are set to debut during the upcoming Caribbean season aboard Riviera. Already widely recognized as the cruise line for foodies, Culinary Discovery Tours provide Oceania Cruises guests with epicurean interests a unique opportunity to explore local food markets, vineyards, farms, and restaurants with a knowledgeable chef from the Bon Appétit Culinary Center.

The new Culinary Discovery Tours will be offered during the “Holidays In The Tropics” sailing that departs Miami on Dec. 23 and on two “Island Paradise” voyages embarking in early 2015. Highlights from the new Culinary Discovery Tours include:

St. Lucia – Spices Cooking Studio
Guests begin the tour with a scenic drive through Rodney Bay Village to a private estate situated on the grounds of a former sugar cane plantation on the Atlantic side of the island. They explore an expansive herb garden at the estate before heading inside the home for some hands-on cooking instruction. Using fresh, local ingredients, guests will prepare a menu of authentic Saint Lucian cuisine while learning about the subtleties of flavor and historical influences from the chef. Once the cooking process is complete, guests will enjoy their creations while taking in the natural vistas surrounding the property. On the return drive to the pier, guests will stop at the bustling open-air Castries Market, where farmers have brought locally grown fruits, vegetables, and spices to market for nearly 100 years.
Antigua – Market Visit & Cooking Demo
After a short ride to the center of downtown St. John’s, guest will walk the local market with their Bon Appétit Culinary Center chef, who will show them a wide variety of typical local fruits such as breadfruit, mangoes, sour sap, and dasheen. Afterwards, they will make the short, but scenic, journey through the city to the charming Villas at Sunset Lane boutique hotel and cooking school owned by renowned Chef Jacquie, who will invite the guests into her kitchen to help prepare lunch. Chef Jacquie shops daily from local organic farmers and will share her secrets for shopping and eating seasonally. Following a hands-on cooking demonstration, guests will enjoy local, seasonal favorites for lunch while overlooking the beachfront property. After lunch, guests can stroll on the private beach or relax at the property and perhaps peruse a book from Jacquie’s extensive library.
“Culinary traditions are often at the heart of many cultures and with our Culinary Discover Tours, we’re able to provide our guests with unique opportunities to share in those traditions firsthand,” explained Kathryn Kelly, Director of Culinary Enrichment for Oceania Cruises. “With our new tours in St. Lucia and Antigua, guests spend time in the kitchen with local culinary experts learning about the spices, fruits, vegetables and cooking customs that have influenced Caribbean cuisine for centuries. Our goal is for guests to leave the tour with new culinary skills, satisfied taste buds, and a deeper appreciation for the vibrant culinary traditions found in the Caribbean”

Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Friday, August 22, 2014

Carnival Pride To Offer Special Caribbean & Bermuda Cruises From Baltimore & San Juan In 2015-16

Baltimore is a homeport that most travelers planning a cruise don’t immediately think of as an embarkation city. However, it’s been popular with Northeasterners for many years. Over those years the passengers who’ve sailed from there numerous times are bound to be looking for different itinerary options and Carnival Cruise Lines is now offering something brand new to entice them to sail again. Beginning in October 2015, Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10- to 14-day Caribbean cruises round-trip from Baltimore and one-way between Baltimore and San Juan that feature some of the region’s most desirable destinations, as well as new 5-day Bermuda cruises and unique 6- and 8-day Caribbean/Bahamas voyages.

One-of-a-Kind 10- to 14-Day Caribbean Cruises
Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10-, 11- and 14-day cruises either round-trip from Baltimore or one-way between Baltimore and San Juan in 2015 and 2016. The voyages include an 11-day exotic southern Caribbean cruise from Baltimore to San Juan departing Jan. 17, 2016, with stops at Grand Turk, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Croix; a 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean cruise from San Juan to Baltimore departing Jan. 28, 2016, calling at St. Thomas, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia; St. Kitts and St. Maarten; and a 14-day eastern Caribbean cruise round-trip from Baltimore March 13, 2016, featuring eight different island destinations: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua and St. Maarten.

New Five-Day Bermuda Cruises, Six- and Eight-Day Sailings
Carnival Pride will also sail two 5-day Bermuda cruises in 2015-16: one departing Oct. 26, 2015, and another April 10, 2016. These cruises spend two full days at Heritage Wharf, where guests can enjoy the island’s legendary pink sand beaches, enjoy a variety of watersports and visit historic sites such as the Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.

Additionally, three 6-day Bahamas cruises operating round-trip from Baltimore and featuring visits to Freeport and Nassau will be offered. These cruises, which depart Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, 2015, and Feb. 14, 2016, provide consumers with a new short duration cruise option from Baltimore at an incredible value.

Carnival Pride will also offer a new series of 8-day exotic eastern Caribbean voyages departing from Baltimore and featuring Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, each featuring beautiful beaches and excellent watersports. Departure dates for these voyages include Oct. 18 & 31, Dec. 26, 2015, Feb. 20, and April 15 & 23, 2016.

A special 6-day East Coast U.S. and Bahamas cruise from Baltimore featuring the line’s first-ever scheduled in-transit call to Charleston, SC, as well as Port Canaveral, FL, Nassau, and Freeport, will be offered Nov. 22, 2015.

Fun Ship 2.0 Innovations Coming Soon to Carnival Pride
This fall, Carnival Pride will undergo a multi-million-dollar makeover that will add a variety of dining, bar, and entertainment innovations that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative. New features will include Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in tandem with Food Network’s Guy Fieri; the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar; BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic Mexican fare; EA SPORTS Bar with a 16-monitor video wall and 24/7 sports ticker; and two poolside watering holes–RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.

Sure to be a hit with guests of all ages will be WaterWorks featuring Green Thunder, the fastest and steepest slide at sea, as well as the line’s signature Twister slide and a water spray park. Also added will be Bonsai Sushi, serving authentic Asian specialties; RedFrog Pub, serving Carnival’s own private label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red; Library Bar with self-service wine dispensers; and Cherry On Top, offering bulk candy, apparel and other items. New entertainment options such as Hasbro, The Game Show, with larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic games, and Playlist Productions, where talented performers interact with spectacular staging and special effects, will be added, as well.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Regional Menus Showcase Destination Specialties on Princess Cruises

One of the things most travelers look forward to on a cruise is the food, not only on their ship, but also in the ports of call. However, it isn’t always possible to get a taste of a destination with so much to do and see in port and with a limited amount of time ashore. To make up for that, when the new Regal Princess arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this November to begin her maiden Caribbean cruise season, she will debut a new Princess Cruises dining program showcasing regional culinary specialties.

Designed to reflect the worldwide destinations visited by Princess ships, the new program will enable guests to enjoy regional menu items created with local produce, spices, and seafood. In keeping with Regal Princess’ fall itineraries, the first special menus are inspired by the Caribbean. The regional cruise ship menus will eventually roll out across the fleet, and will include culinary specialties from an array of vacation destinations including the Mediterranean, Alaska, and Hawaii.

“One of the joys of travel is experiencing the culinary specialties for which a destination is known,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “So now when our guests cruise with Princess around the world, they’ll be able to enjoy some of the most celebrated local dishes on board as well as ashore.”

Beginning with Regal Princess, regional cruise menus will introduce guests to the exotic fusion of flavors found in island cuisine, including such offerings as:
Arawak’s Caribbean-Style Pork Chop – Prepared with traditional Jamaican jerk spice and curry, and served with red beans, rice, and rum sauce, this extraordinary dish earned Princess Cruises Corporate Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi the top prize at the 8th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition.

Red Snapper Mojito – Featuring ceviche accented with fresh mint, mango, and avocado, and finished with a splash of rum, this was the winning dish created by Princess Cruises Executive Chef Antonio Cortese at the 6th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition

Island-Spiced Jerk Chicken – A marinade of rum, molasses, tangy lime juice and thyme, plus sweet-and-fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers, infuses this tender chicken dish with the spirit of the islands.

Caribbean Cocktails – The Caribbean Cooler is the perfect poolside cocktail, with coconut rum, melon liqueur, banana liqueur, citrus mix, and pineapple juice. The West Indies Yellow Bird offers a classic taste of the region, featuring a shaken melody of rum, galliano, and banana liqueur with orange and pineapple juice. The Cool Runnings cocktail, a favorite of the Caribbean Islands, features a delicious combination of rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, and grenadine, blended with coconut and pineapple.
Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on Nov 6 with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day cruises to ports in the Eastern Caribbean including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Norovirus, Not Just For Cruise Passengers

After seeing news reports of Norovirus sickening hundreds of passengers and even cutting cruises short so that ships could be deep cleaned to avoid spreading the virus to passengers on subsequent sailings, back in February we looked at the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

From personal experience I can relate that having Norovirus is no fun. I've come down with it twice, but wasn't near a cruise ship either time. In both instances, I had been shopping and probably touched a surface, such as a counter or the handle on a grocery cart, that had been touched by someone who was infected. For more information on Norovirus—what it is and how to avoid it—follow the link above.

Christine Duffy, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), explains it even further in the following statement that puts Nororvirus in perspective relative to it being called "the cruise ship disease":
"The recent release of a report on norovirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores what the cruise industry has known and communicated for a long time: The occurrence of norovirus on cruise ships is rare and it is dramatically lower than the number of incidents of this common illness on land.

Norovirus is often referred to as a "stomach bug" and the symptoms typically last between 24 and 48 hours. It is second only to the common cold in terms of its prevalence and is generally not considered a serious illness. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million cases of norovirus annually on land in the U.S. Americans have about a 1 in 15 chance of getting norovirus even if they never step foot on a cruise ship.

Now, let's look at the record of the cruise industry. In 2013, 10.1 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. There were four norovirus outbreaks involving about 834 total passengers. That amounts to approximately 1 in 12,000 passengers, compared to 1 in 15 people who get norovirus on land every year.

In my opinion, the CDC report confirms that the cruise industry's relentless focus on keeping ships clean and safe is working to keep passengers healthy. The process starts even before a ship leaves port with the screening of passengers for any illnesses they may have contracted on land. Passengers are also reminded to wash hands regularly, just as people should do on land, and hand sanitizers are located throughout a ship for convenience. If someone does become ill, cruise ships have physicians and nurses on hand to treat them.

Cruising is the only sector of the hospitality industry that works directly with the CDC to proactively monitor and report cases of norovirus, even though incidents are rare on cruise ships. The industry does this in order to collaborate with the CDC on how to continuously improve prevention and response.

Sensationalized news stories about norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships simply do not line up with the facts. The latest CDC report provides strong evidence that cruise lines are going to great lengths to protect the health of passengers—and succeeding."