Thursday, April 30, 2015

Royal Caribbean adding water slides

In an interview with TTG Digital Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley announced his hopes to add water slides to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Royal Caribbean's Harmoney of the Seas -- which debuts next year -- already has water slides in its plans.

Royal Carribean's been one of the innovators in unique cruise ship experiences, so it is somewhat surprising that water slides are not common place on all their ships already. Other lines have already proven how popular the slides can be. For Royal Caribbean this offers a crowd pleasing experience and likely can handle many more passengers (of all ages) than a wave rider.

All these features certainly make for memorable cruises. This couple just got married in Royal Caribbean's North Star. Maybe they can renew their vows on a Royal Caribbean water slide in 2016.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

Sometimes you just need a reminder what day it is. #Tuesday #cruiselife #goingup Photo: a_slay88

A photo posted by Holland America Line (@halcruises) on

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What makes you want to take a cruise?

Travel site Tnooz recently asked if virtual tours of ships are a good marketing tool for cruise lines. The simple answer is: yes. But the real answer is a bit more complex.

All cruise lines should be embracing the latest technology and marketing tools to sell cruises. For years they printed tens of thousands of brochures to reach people who had never cruised. These new virtual tours are just the next generation of that same concept -- get people to understand what taking a cruise is like. Pictures and words have just been replaced by interactive images. When done well, this strategy will get some people to take a cruise for the first time. However, it is not enough.

The most effective marketing tool for a unique experience will always be word of mouth. Seeing a commercial, reading a brochure or taking a virtual tour is one thing, but hearing from a trusted friend about how much fun cruising is will always get more people to try a cruise.

But are there other avenues that made you take your first cruise? Is there something other than traditional marketing that the cruise companies are overlooking?

Monday, April 27, 2015

MSC Divina to sail from Miami year-round

As Travel Weekly and other news sources reported, MSC announced the the MSC Divina will return to Miami and begin year-round sailing from the Florida port.

The new schedule won't begin until summer 2016 and will include eastern and western Caribbean itineraries. MSC will also offer some promotional prices and upgrades to those who book early. Cruise fans can start booking the new trips May 1.

MSC's commitment to Miami and the U.S. market is very important. It brings more competition, more options for cruise passengers and a different product. That sort of diversity in offerings keeps the larger players in the market focused on improving and competitive pricing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Will Norwegian Cruise Lines "free drinks" idea spread?

Cruise News UK is covering the cruise3sixty conference and wrote about NCL's announcement that the Norwegian Sky will include alcohol in their cruise price. The idea expands their freestyle cruising philosophy. Of course there are some fine print details like:
-- wines by the glass
-- bottled or draft beer up to $11
-- passengers under 20 will be offered unlimited soft drinks

The company is saying the policy is in place for "2016 and beyond." Anything new is somewhat bold in the cruise industry, so we applaud NCL's experiment. They are giving up a big revenue source in the hope that it will bring more passengers on board. Like all cruise experiences, there is also some belief that whatever money they lose on beverages can be made up by the passengers spending it elsewhere on the ship or through upselling on premium drinks.

If it works, NCL will probably roll it out to other ships. However, don't expect the other lines to follow just yet. Aside from the potential revenue loss, some lines don't want to encourage excessive drinking in a party atmosphere...especially lines that cater to an older clientele. For other lines that want more of a young, fun crowd, this might be an option (Carnival?).

For anyone sailing on the Norwegian Sky in 2016, let us know what you think and how the experience works in practice.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cruise Tips TV Video Review: Liberty of the Seas' Food

This is a good way to do a video review. No surprise then that it comes from Cruise Tips TV. Cruise Tips TV is a YouTube Channel with a series of niche and expansive video reviews of various cruise ships and their amenities. For the food reviews, they create a slide show for each meal with quick commentary and a few tips. The straight-forward presentation is helpful and more practical than many of the longer, meandering reviews you can find in other places.

Cruise Tips TV also has full ship reviews and other videos on specific aspects of your cruise vacation. Watch more as you prepare for your next trip.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last minute cruise deals are not going away

Earlier this week Royal Caribbean made plenty of headlines announcing that they would no longer do "any last minute discounts on bookings in North America." The policy got attention and discourages potential cruise pasengers from shopping around or waiting to book their next cruise, but it is not realistic. All the cruise lines -- including Royal Caribbean -- will continue to discount. They cannot help it. They have cabins to fill and investors to please. But how they offer last minute deals will slightly change and adapt.

What is a "last minute deal"?

What you consider a last minute deal may be very different from what we consider a last minute deal. To some cruise fans, it might be two weeks out from departure. To others, it could be as the ship is pulling up its gangway. The reality is that on the major cruise lines, more than 90% of the cabins are booked before Royal Caribbean's new 10-day window. And most vacationers cannot wait until ten days out to buy their cruise. Unless they live close to their departure port and already have a bag packed, the typical cruise passenger needs to book flights to the ship and plan for the vacation. Very few can drop work or other commitments without some foresight and scheduling. So these true last minute deals are already few and far between. You may run into someone at bingo or the buffet who tells you she booked the cruise two days ago, but that is not typical. Real discounts meant to boost bookings on a particular ship that is not tracking well will come 60 to 30 days out from departure. Regular cruisers know this as do travel agents and cruise companies. That is where plenty of deals will still be found.

Honoring Prices

Royal Caribbean emphasized that they created the new policy so that people who booked early don't feel cheated when late bookers get the same experience at a discount. That is an honorable plan and we bet they enforce it by saying the rates are the same. However, there are ways around the prices of a cruise that can make two identical "deals" seem very different. Royal Caribbean could upgrade the early booker's cabin so that the last minute shopper's better deal is not really an apples to apples comparison. Or Royal Caribbean could throw in onboard credits to the last minute deal, so that their price is the same as the early booker, but the value of the cruise is different.

Another work around is avoiding a public sale. Royal Caribbean -- and all the cruise lines -- have deep databases filled with loyal customers who they can sell directly to at the last minute. Therefore no policy is violated, because the discounted cabin is never sold publicly. The discount will just be presented to loyal customers in a private sale.

Bigger Ships = More Cabins, More Cabins = More Sales

The cruise companies have probably seen the airlines move away from last minute deals while increasing their loads and revenue and think it can be done at sea too. But even with the best revenue management tools, the airlines really reduced last minute deals with better capacity controls. Consolidation and the ability to park planes, meant there were fewer planes and less competition. Of course deals went away. The cruise lines don't have that same luxury. Bigger ships are coming down the line and they need to be filled. An airline can park a plane in the desert when things are slow. Even the biggest cruise lines don't have that luxury. They already do renovations and dry docks during slow times. But you cannot park a cruise liner in the middle of wave season if one week's bookings are slow. And every empty cabin is a missed opportunity for the cruise line to make money. They want those rooms filled.

What is means for the passengers

If you are a deal junkie who is willing to drop everything to sail on a discounted cruise, things won't change. The deals might not be presented in the same way, but with ship credits or other non-cash values, you will still get discounts. Just make sure you are in the loyalty program and email lists of your favorite cruise line. If you are a first time cruiser looking for a deal, plan ahead. Don't wait until the last minute. Find a site or travel agent you trust. Shop around and then buy when you think the price is fair. And if one person onboard got a better deal than you, don't sweat it. Enjoy your vacation, because cruising remains a great deal at nearly any price.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

#CarnivalFunShips #Skycourse #FunFridays #LuxuryCruiseConnections

A photo posted by Luxury Cruise Connections (@luxurycruiseconnections) on

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More details on the Star Wars enhancements to the Disney Dream

Star Wars fans have another reason to take a Disney Cruise. As Cruise Industry News reports, the Disney Dream will have series new enhancements after its dry dock in October, including new areas dedicated to the popular film series. The 12 and under area will look like a Lucas-style space ship and have a cockpit like the Millennium Falcon. The renovations are perfectly timed with the release of the latest episode in the film saga.

Adults will benefit from the dry dock too. Enhancements include a new splash pool and rainfall curtain. 

Disney hasn't forgotten the princess touches. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique -- a huge attraction at Disney Parks around the world -- will also be midship.

Look for more pictures and details as the ship comes out of its dry dock this fall. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

USA Today gives extensive look at Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's newest ship continues to make headlines. USA Today's Gene Sloan posted a series of articles and reviews of the new ship that just after sailing on it this weekend. The Anthem of the Seas is one of RCL's Quantum ships -- with some of the newest features and entertainment options, yet still has details unique to the ship (like an interactive chandelier).

Sloan was also one of the first to try out the ship's new skydiving simulator.

This links includes Sloan's photo tour of RCL's 23rd ship.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Getting better broadband on cruise ships

In case you missed it, certainly read Faraz Qureshi's commentary on the need for better broadband on cruise ships. While the broadband options and pricing have improved on some of the newer ships, there is still a long way to go. But as Qureshi points out adding better and more accessible broadband service would be a huge marketing tool for the industry. Imagine all the Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and Tweets that are not being sent aboard cruise ships now due to limitations or fear of international roaming charges. All that lost social media could be free marketing to the cruise companies as friends and families back home see what a great vacation a cruise can be.

The limitations of broadband at sea also impact those in the market who don't want to unplug on their vacations. For every person who wants to be away from their mobile device and related work, there are plenty who cannot or don't want to be away. The opportunity to multitask on vacation is essential. On a cruise ship that can be a challenge, where competing land vacations might not create the same issues.

The technology will catch up eventually. However, the cruise companies that get their first will have a great tool to reach new customers.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cruise Fever's Video Reviews: Carnival Breeze

We like to point out some of the better video reviews online, so please enjoy this thorough tour of the Carnival Breeze. Cruise Fever highlights most of the public areas with clear shots and good descriptions. Check out Cruise Fever's YouTube Channel for other quality video cruise content.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Good News and Bad News of the Cruise Booking Boom

Bloomberg reports that the major cruise companies are outpacing their 2014 bookings. When comparing wave season (January through March) to wave season, bookings are up 4.4%. That is great news for most people tied the the cruise industry. Increased bookings means more money for the cruise companies, which in turn means more jobs and down the road newer and bigger ships. Advanced cruise bookings are also a traditional sign of strong consumer confidence, so this could be a good news for the overall U.S. economy.

The only people who suffer in the short term by the spike in demand are deal hunters. With more and more ships filling up, there will be fewer opportunities for last minute sales. Frequent cruisers who wait for the right time or the right price might find their options a little limited. However, a healthy cruise industry is a good thing for all cruise fans and will lead to more choices and options in the years to come.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What to do on Anthem of the Seas

With Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas ready for its debut, Bolsover Cruise Club provides some helpful reminders of all the ship has to offer.

Look for some initial reviews after its first few sailings this month. Anthem of the Seas repositions to New York this fall.

Disney moving into River Cruising

Monday, Disney announced a new partnership with AmaWaterways to create a Disney-branded river cruise experience. Sold through the company's Adventures by Disney's arm, the first steps will be small -- only five sailing in 2016. Given the millions of Disney devotees and their very loyal cruise customers, selling out those first five cruises will not be an issue. They could double their capacity in the first few years and still not scratch the surface of Disney-river cruising demand. The unknown is Disney's long-term plans in the space.

The partnership is a great way to test demand. But are there enough young families that want the River Cruise experience to support a full-time Disney River Cruise ship? Even those customers who enjoy the Adventures by Disney tours might find the smaller, river cruise ships limiting. Will it ever make sense for Disney to build its own ship?

Like Viking expanding from river cruises to ocean cruises, this is good news for the industry and cruise fans. It is also only a matter of time before ocean cruise company announces an expansion into river cruising.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Unknown sickness strikes passengers and crew of Celebrity Infinity

For the third time since launching in 2001, the Celebrity Infinity is facing an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness. On a recent trip from San Diego to Mexico, 95 passengers and five crew members were hit with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. The passengers are being helped and the CDC continues to investigate the cause of the outbreak. Celebrity increased cleaning and disinfection procedures on the ship and will continue sailing the Infinity without disruption.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cruise Needs' selects the best cruise packing tips

There are thousands of cruise packing lists and only so much time to prepare for your next cruise. Instead of searching through the endless opinions on what to pack, we selected some of the best cruise packing lists online. There is plenty of overlap, but each of these lists should cover every possible thing you might need or want to bring.

The Cruise Diva Linda Coffman started writing cruise packing list in the '90s. From her site, you can also print lists for men and women.

The venerable Cruise Critic provides a top ten and reminds passengers about the differing bathrobe policies. Cruise Critic also suggests using the ship's laundry services. Cruise Critic's more expansive packing list also includes suggestions about shoe storage devices that can hang on doors.

USA Today's list doesn't have the itemized details of other list, but does cover one crucial issue: your cruise line. Acceptable attire and guidelines on evening and formal wear vary by cruise line. Some are more relaxed than others. Once you've booked a specific cruise, you can research their formal guidelines.

Fodor's keeps their cruise packing list to a simple ten tips. Their list includes one questionable item...a power strip. Be sure to check with your cruise line before you pack a power strip, as some may not allow it. We would find it cumbersome to travel with one and don't find power outlets as much of an issue on the newer ships. Fodor's list does have a good reminder to bring extra chargers and backup batteries.

Royal Caribbean's packing list comes with the oft repeated reminder to bring some essentials in your carry-on bag. Depending on how you travel to your ship there are numerous points where luggage could get lost or routed to the wrong place. Having a smartly packed carry-on can cover any emergencies and give you flexibility during those first few hours on the ship.

Shipmate has a packing list as part of their app. They cover many of the suggestions that other sites include plus the very helpful tip of using your business card in your luggage tag. We find business cards in the tag easy to read and it provides enough information in case of a lost bag, but doesn't disclose too much personal information (like a home address might).

Cruise Direct Online includes a series of checklist related to leaving home, your flight, and individual lists for men and women. They also have a helpful reminder of what not to bring, including firearms and candles.

Some destinations require a slightly different mix of clothes and amenities.'s tips are applicable to most cruises, but also include clothing and weather gear that might be handy for an Alaskan trip.

The Carnival Funville Forums have a thread focused just on packing lists. Peruse through and you will be sure to see everything one could possibly think of for a cruise vacation packing list.

There are also some helpful cruise packing lists on Pinterest.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Laughingplace's report on Disney's meet up for Disney Cruise Line

Disney Parks' Blog regularly hosts "meet ups" for their active fan and media communities. What's nice about Disney Cruise Line-themed meet ups is that it brings Disney fan-focused media into the cruise world. That perspective is what we appreciated about Jeremiah Good's recap of the Disney Cruise Line meet up on

Good shared plenty of photos of the event and reported on the new entertainment coming to various Disney ships. Tangled fans, Star Wars fans and of course Frozen fans will all be able to see and interact with their favorite characters on upcoming cruises. Follow Disney Parks Blog, Laughingplace or Cruise Needs for more information on future Disney Cruise Line Meet Ups.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What does the Room Service Charge mean for Cruise Passengers?

Good Morning America's Genevieve Shaw Brown asked the question: "are the cruise lines going the way of the airlines?" with regards to their new fees for room service. The short answer to Brown's question is "yes." Carnival is only the first to follow NCL's move to charge fees related to room service. Assuming Carnival has some level of success with the new pricing, other lines will follow.

There are a few reasons why room service is a good testing ground for the a la carte cruise fees. Unlike the main dining options on a ship, room service does have slightly higher cost to the cruise companies. They don't get the mass efficiency that they would in large dining areas accommodating hundreds of passengers at once. Testing fees and special pricing is also easier to implement at the room service level. Cruise ships don't want to bog down service in big dining areas with special pricing or their related systems (hence why beverages service is a separate team in many dining areas). Room service -- with its one-on-one and room specific element -- enables easier pricing and price tracking without slowing service. Like the airlines, it also encourages behaviors the companies want. The cruise companies want you out of your room spending money somewhere. If you stay in your room, they are going to get money from you some way. Think of it as a penalty for staying in your room.

It is also interesting that Carnival's fee structure is different from NCL. Instead of a straight service charge, they are charging different prices for select menu items. Expect other lines to add their own twists too, especially in an effort to make the customers feel like they are not getting fees.

In the end this will creep into other formerly free areas of cruises. Perhaps certain entertainment or areas of the ship will now come with more premium or a la carte pricing. It is only natural as the cruise lines look for new revenue streams. But even with the new fees, cruises remain an incredible vacation value.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Porthole Cruise Magazine's Review of Quantum of the Seas

As much as we are proponents of crowd sourcing and consumer cruise review sites, there is still great value in a well-written and well-informed cruise review. If you're looking for quality cruise reviews, remember to check out Porthole Cruise Magazine. One of their latest reviews is for Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. Written by industry expert Doug Parker, the review highlights Quantum's The North Star -- the noteworthy attraction that places you high above the ship in a mobile observation deck.

Parker also takes the time to quickly breakdown Quantum's 18 intimate dining experiences. He captures what's onboard without getting into the minutia of each individual meal.

The cruise professional working for one of the industry's more popular magazines is not going to have the typical cruise experience. He knows what to do and the ship's PR team will ensure he receives great treatment. However, an expert eye can also offer great insight into a ship's amenities and service. When doing your cruise research remember to read the professionals and the masses to make the decision that is best for you.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Kids can sail free on Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises is always going to have a hard time getting noticed among the family cruise crowd. Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean will always have more kids-centric offerings. One way to get families to your ship is offering them a free cruise. As USA Today announced, Crystal Cruises is running a "kids sail free" promotion. The sale will be offered on select sailings for both the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony and requires the "child" to share a cabin with two adults. As with many promotions, there is always fine print, but this seems like a great value for families looking for a good cruise deal.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

River vs Ocean Cruises

One of the big stories of the past week was news that Viking Cruises' recent ship order includes an ocean-going vessel. With a huge following of river cruise passengers, Viking's expansion will surely be successful...even if they just get a fraction of their river cruisers onto the traditional cruise ship. But what about all those other river and ocean cruise fans who have wondered if they should try something different?

While there are many similarities, the river cruise and the ocean cruise remain very different. Cruise Maven Sherry Kennedy has a great breakdown of the two experiences here. Cruise Maven gives all of the important details and nuances, but the biggest takeaway is the difference in the ships. The river cruise boats are small and therefore don't offer the variety or number of onboard activities or dining options.

Viking's ocean ships will be smaller than the typical megaship, but the cruises will still be more familiar to ocean passengers than river devotees. Even with the differences, the company's success and track record should have river and ocean fans lining up to sail on the new ship.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Suspected Murder Suicide on Holland America Line’s ms Ryndam

Cruise deaths are not unusual, however, this story off of the Ryndam is certainly different. Two passengers were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide Thursday. Because the ship was in Puerto Rico, the FBI is involved as well as the local authorities. No other passengers were impacted.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sea Cruisers' Video Review: Royal Caribbean' Majesty of the Seas

There are plenty of video reviews of cruise ships online. Most are too long or the camera work is too wobbly. However, Sea Cruisers did a nice job with their style. They keep them shot, yet thorough. Here is the cabin review of the Majesty of the Seas. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

What you never want to see on your cruise

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on