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EDITORIAL

Cruisers Complain About Hurricane Itinerary Changes

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Most of the cruise-loving community has watched in horror as some of their most beloved destinations have been devastated by a rash of hurricanes and storms. We’ve prayed for the safety of those who live and work on the impacted islands, cheered as the various cruise lines have taken part in hurricane relief and even been a little envious of those who wound up having their trips extended due to the weather. But proving that every barrel of apples contains a few worms, some crass cruisers are proving themselves completely tone deaf by actually complaining about how entire islands being decimated and populations displaced is impacting their cruises! (FYI: The names have been changed to protect the guilty!)

 Hurricane Change: “This Is So Unfair!”

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Carnival Breeze, St. Thomas

One poster to a popular site — we’ll call her Jenny — whined that because of the hurricane-mandated change to her cruise’s itinerary, she missed out on the opportunity to recreate a romantic moment. “My husband proposed to me over dinner in a restaurant in St. Thomas,” wrote Jenny. “I wanted to turn the tables by proposing to him at the same restaurant. But because of [Hurricane Irma], our itinerary was changed. Instead, I had to try and create the same experience in a restaurant on board the ship, and it just wasn’t the same.”

Jenny apparently thought better of — and eventually deleted — her comment after more than a few people pointed out to her that there was a good chance that the restaurant — like many other buildings on St. Thomas — was damaged if not completely destroyed. “Poor you,” wrote one. “How cruel of Irma to ruin your plans by demolishing St. Thomas!”

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Read More: The Race to Rebuild the Caribbean

Another poster complained that his upcoming honeymoon would not be going as planned. “This is so unfair,” he said of a change to his November itinerary. “My wife-to-be and I have been planning this trip for a long time. Now, I don’t even know if we want to go on the cruise at all.”

Crass Cruisers Outnumbered By Good Samaritans

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On the bright side, cases like those listed above are few and far between when compared to the huge number of cruisers who are not only worried about those impacted by the storm, but looking for ways to help. Again and again, people have hoped that one or more cruise line will announce trips to the impacted areas which will allow them to help, even if only for a day or two, rebuild the damaged hot spots.

Cruising, unlike almost any other form of travel, seems to create a bond between those for whom it is their preferred method of travel. Over time, members of the cruise community become like family. And of course, as with any family, there’s always the aunt who complains about everything or the uncle who doesn’t tip the waiter after dinner. Fortunately, they have, in this time of crisis, proven to be the exception rather than the rule!

Has your cruise ever been impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane? 

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EDITORIAL

New Study Proves Cruising Is Good For You

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We all have that friend who says, “I don’t get it… why do you like cruising so much?” Now, rather than list the litany of reasons you love setting sail, you can simply say, “It’s good for me.” And when they give you side-eye, you can hand them a printout of this article and say, “See! It’s not just me saying so… science agrees!” Because a study from the University Of China found a definitive link between cruising and well-being in both the short and long term.

What The Study Found

As part of the study, the scientists questioned 317 people as they were returning from a cruise, and another 295 who’d been on a similar voyage six months earlier. According to a report in the Daily Mail, “the questions were specifically designed to test the participant’s own perceptions of well being, such as life satisfaction and emotional state of mind.”

While the very experience of cruising and socially interacting while doing so contributed to the short-term well being of the participants, the longer-term effects seemed to come from experiences such as shore excursions in general, and particularly those which offered an opportunity to learn  something new or see things in a way never before seen. “The results indicated that cruise holidays offer more value than simply short-term [pleasurable] experiences,” the report read, “but can contribute to broader aspects of life satisfaction and positive functioning in a long-term fashion.”

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It went on to suggest that “travel… affirms self-worth and pride, facilitates self-growth and self-motivation, and searches for inspiration and creation.” While the study was conducted on cruisers within the Chinese market, it’s conclusions have much further-reaching implications, including to how cruise lines market their product. “Cruise marketing should recognize the fact that cruise vacations are not only for fun,” it reads, “but also beneficial for individuals’ happiness and well being.” And certainly cruise campaigns in the American market have played up that angle. One of the taglines used by Princess Cruise line is “Come Back New,” while Royal Caribbean’s “Come Seek” campaign has made a point of focusing not only on the fun that can be had on their ships, but the worlds ready to be explored upon arriving at your destination.

READ MORE: 11 Ways to Stay Healthy on Your Cruise

What It All Means

While the study involved much talk of concepts such as “thinking experience” and “utilitarian views of the objects,” it all boils down to, as we said at the beginning, cruising being good for the well being or, as we like to think of it, your soul. And while we’re big believers that you should never have to explain why you love cruising — hey, if people don’t understand the joy of a floating hotel/casino/restaurant/entertainment complex which takes you to a new place every day, that’s their loss! — should you ever feel compelled to prove it has mental health benefits at well, you’ll have the proof to back you up.

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EDITORIAL

Carnival Makes Old Cruise Ships New Again

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Talk to people who’ve been cruising for 20 years or more, and they’ll tell you stories about how the industry has changed over the years. Some of those changes, they’ll no doubt say, are for the better, others not so much. As with most things, it’s a matter of perspective. But you can also get a glimpse into how cruising has changed by taking a look at the history of some of your favorite ships. For example, the Fantasy class of ships which were first introduced by Carnival Cruise Line in 1990… and are currently the oldest vessels in the fleet. And yet, thanks to a few facelifts over the years, they remain as popular as ever.

The Fantasy Era Begins

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Fantasy. Photo via Carnival.

When the first Fantasy-class ship was introduced to the Carnival fleet in 1990, she went by one name only: Fantasy. In fact, all of the Carnival ships originally went by one name (Fantasy, Ecstasy, Sensation, etc). It was only in 2007 that someone (who hopefully got paid a lot of money for their marketing genius) realized the value in branding the ships with the word “Carnival.” That branding has stuck with the company ever since, as evidenced by the newest ship — announced earlier this year and debuting in 2019 — the Carnival Panorama.

The eight ships which comprised the Fantasy class were 70,000 gross registered tons and designed to carry around 2,000-guests. (By comparison, the Carnival Vista carries around double that number of passengers.)  The Fantasy was originally based out of Miami and did 3- and 4-night sailings to the Bahamas. When the Fantasy was moved to Port Canaveral in 1993, she was considered to be the first “megaship” to make that her homeport.

The First Transformation

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Fascination docked in Nassau.

By 2006, the original Fantasy class ships were starting to show their age. They were also missing some of the features which had been introduced on ships that were introduced into the fleet over the years. To give the Fantasy ships a spit-shine, Carnival rolled out a $250 million program known as the “Evolution of Fun.” As part of the program, the older ships received such upgrades as water parks, miniature golf courses, the adults-only Serenity area and various cosmetic changes to the staterooms and dining venues. In some cases, they even went so far as to add additional balcony staterooms (which makes sense, given that over time, the demand for these rooms with a view definitely increased).

Interestingly, despite being the oldest ship in the fleet, the Fantasy was not the first ship to receive the upgrades. Instead, the Inspiration and Imagination were first in line for their makeovers.

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If Fun Is Good, More Fun Is Better

Carnival Cruise Line

The final Evolution of Fun makeovers had only just been completed when, two years later, Carnival rolled out the Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements which saw, even more, changes being made to the fleet, including its older ships. This time around, the changes weren’t just cosmetic, but also involved major additions (including, thanks to a partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, the wildly popular Guy’s Burger Joint). When the Carnival Fantasy came out of drydock in early 2016, she’d been outfitted with the burger joint, a Blue Iguana Cantina, RedFrog Rum Bar and more. Suddenly, as the old saying goes, everything old was new again.

Why Spend The Money?

Carnival Cruise Line

WaterWorks added to Carnival Elation in Fall 2017.

With new ships being introduced into the fleet every year, one might wonder why they bother continuing to upgrade the older ships. And the answer is simple: These ships are moneymakers. They’re also better suited to the short runs which are becoming extremely popular among cruisers who want to take a vacation but don’t necessarily have the ability to take an entire week off work.

Read More: Carnival’s Fantasy Class Ships Remain Popular

And then there’s the fact that the ships have fans. Lots and lots of fans. “I have nothing against the big ships,” admitted one longtime Carnival cruiser I met aboard a recent sailing on the Carnival Fascination. “But the smaller ships are more my speed. I’m not as interested in all the bells-and-whistles as I am relaxing.”

Of course, nothing lasts forever, and it seems inevitable that eventually, some of the older ships will be phased out. In fact, during the company’s most recent earnings report, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said that the company had “signed agreements to sell two ships expected to leave the fleet [in spring of 2018], keeping us on pace with our historical average of removing one-to-two ships per year.” (That’s not to say that they will necessarily be Fantasy-class ships or even Carnival branded, as the company’s corporate umbrella also includes Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, Cunard, Aida, Costa and P&O.)

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Elation docked in Nassau in 2017.

But in looking at the history of the Fantasy class ships, we can see not only the evolution of Carnival’s branding and marketing, but also the wants and needs of the cruising public. Because like any successful brand, Carnival has learned the importance of keeping up with the latest trends while never forgetting what’s made them successful in the past.

Have you sailed on one of the Fantasy class ships? Which is your favorite… and why? 

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Cruise Lines

Creating The Ultimate Cruise Ship

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Cruisers tend to fall into two different categories. There are those who are loyal to one line, whether because of its rewards program or the fact that it “fits” their particular style. Others jump from line to line, often deciding which ship to sail on based on the amenities — from restaurants to ropes courses — it happens to offer. And it is those in the latter category for whom we’ve decided to create the ultimate cruise ship.

Imagine if you could take the best features from each ship and meld them into something of a Frankenship. What would you take from the various ships you’ve sailed over the years? We compiled some of our favorite elements to create our dream ship. Read on to see what we’d steal from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess ships… then hit the comments to add your own elements!

The Ultimate Cruise Ship

Ship Design, Interior
We’re not naming names or pointing fingers, but too many ships have public spaces that are basically indistinguishable squares and rectangles. By thinking outside the literal box, Royal Caribbean’s public spaces offer unconventional shapes and eclectic designs that make exploring a delight. (It doesn’t hurt that many of those spaces are filled with unique, occasionally downright odd, artworks.)

You never know what you’ll find on the Royal Esplanade.

Ship Design, Exterior
Norwegian changed the game with their Waterfront area, putting passengers on their megaships closer to the ocean they love thanks to venues which offer indoor or outdoor seating. And it’s not just the restaurants. Want to sip a drink at an outdoor table while listening to the jazz band playing in fat cats? Thanks to the fact they pipe the music outside, you can. So popular is this format that it’s definitely become a trend, with ships like Carnival Vista and MSC Seaside among the latest to offer their spin on it.

Dining venues along The Waterfront offer beautiful sea views.

Cocktail Bar
Every ship offers specialty drinks at their watering holes, but Carnival elevated the game with the introduction of the Alchemy Bar. Don’t come here looking for a glass of wine or a beer. This hot spot is all about hand-crafted cocktails that are, as the menu says, “mood enhancers developed by our mixologists.” Don’t see something on the menu — which is almost as much fun to read as the drinks are to consume — that’s to your liking? The bartenders will make something specifically for you, with or without alcohol. (But if you don’t find the Cucumber Sunrise to be the most refreshing thing you’ve ever consumed on a cruise ship, there might be something wrong with you!)

The Alchemy Bar has the cure for what ails you.

Wine Bar
Over the past few years, many cruise lines have introduced wine bars. But Holland America put a unique spin on the concept by introducing Blend on the ms Koningsdam. Passengers are offered the opportunity to bring out their inner Angela Channing (and bonus points if you get the TV reference) by creating their own vintage. After learning a little bit about wine and creating their signature label, guests can then take their bottle of vino to dinner!

Entertainment Venue
Every ship has a theater, but Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas is the only ship currently sailing out of the United States in which you’ll find the jawdropping Two70 complex. During the day, the two-story aft-facing space offers to-die-for views and a great place to snag lunch (thanks to the attached Cafe Two70). But at night, the space transforms into a theater space combining live performers and technology for a one-of-a-kind experience that redefines the concept of cruise ship entertainment. (We suspect Eden, the dining and entertainment complex which will be unveiled when Celebrity Edge debuts in 2018, will give Two70 some competition in this category!)

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Entertainment offered in Two70 is as jawdropping as the venue itself.

Asian Restaurant
There are a fair number of so-so Asian restaurants on cruise ships. And then there is Carnival Cruise Line’s take on the standard, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen. From the simple-yet-elegant design to the limited-but-perfectly-curated menu, this place gets everything right. The pork belly melts in your mouth, the Kung Pao chicken has just the right kick and the house cocktail — a green tea martini — goes down almost too easily. It’s impossible to imagine our Ultimate Cruise Ship not finding room for this gem.

Carnival Sunshine

Nanjing Style Duck. photo credit: CCL

Unique Dining Experience
In some of the categories we’ve listed, there’s room for debate. But this one is, as far as we’re concerned, a slam dunk for Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland. From the magical menu to the unusual presentation of each course, this is a foodie’s paradise. But be warned: dishes like Tomato Water and Liquid Lobster won’t be for everyone. This is not a place for picky eaters or children, despite the Alice in Wonderland theme. But if you’re adventurous and ready for a meal you’ll never forget, this is definitely the spot for you.

Believe it or not, this is what passes for a “salad” in Wonderland!

Beverage Package
There’s no clear winner here, so instead, we want to pick-and-choose elements from the drink packages offered by a few lines. While we’re not big fans of Carnival’s 15-drinks-a-day rule, we love that it includes things like coffees, milkshakes and smoothies. (The fact that those cut into your 15 drinks a day are where the problem comes in.) And while Norwegian’s drink package is ridiculously priced at over $100 a day (and does not include nearly the selection that Carnival’s Cheers! package does), the vast majority of cruisers are able to get the package as a “free” perk when booking.

Bed
That’s right, we’ve thought of everything… including the place where you’re going to rest up for the next day’s activities. And honestly, there was no choice but to go with Princess Cruise Line’s Luxury Bed. They consulted a sleep-expert when developing it, for heaven’s sake! So loved is this bed that people actually come home from cruises and order one for their own home.

What features, venues or other attributes would you insist that your “ultimate cruise ship” come equipped with?

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