Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Carnival improving internet options onboard

After successfully rolling out new internet pricing packages earlier this year, Carnival announced a new batch of ships will soon have the same options. Soon, passengers on the Carnival Glory, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Dream will be able to purchase internet access in bundles for as little as $5 a day.

Like many of the other cruise lines, the cheapest option focuses just on social media. And this is probably the best deal for most, as it allows you to check in on friends, news and share information on your cruise.

More expensive options with more bandwidth are also available. The whole fleet will be outfitted by October. This is a big deal because once Carnival has the access and the pricing on all their ships, other cruise lines will follow.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cruise Law News challenges Holland America

Last week's Alaskan plane crash that killed nine, including eight passengers from Holland America's Westerdam was a tragedy. Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened. During the initial hours after the crash, many in the industry felt that the accident could have happened to any cruise line. Cruise Law News' Jim Walker doesn't. He feels that some of Holland America's policies are reckless and putting lives at risk.

Flying in Alaska is tough under the best circumstances. There's fog. There's heavy winds. There a plenty of mountains and worst of all, the weather is ever-changing. Visual flying is the norm and it can lead to accidents. While cruise lines are not flying those planes, they are selecting the companies who work with their passengers. And the cruise companies also establish the policies on cancellation. It is Holland America's strict cancellation policy that has Walker concerned. He thinks that more customer-friendly policies, including letting people cancel much closer to the trip, would be better for everyone. The cruise lines though would probably fight the recommendation since the current policies keep the pilots happy and the revenues stable.

All bush pilots and planes in Alaska are under more scrutiny now. And that's a good thing. It should lead to better safety. But to make things that much better, we hope cruise lines think about Cruise Law News recommendations. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Porthole Magazine on Costa Diadema

Regardless of where the crew comes from, many cruise lines feel the same. Costa still feels Italian and that is the best takeaway from this review of the Costa Diadema in Porthole Magazine.

As we've noted before, Porthole doesn't pump out review after review, but they have a consistent quality and approach. Aside from the Italian-ness of the ship, reviewer Clark Norton also notes how the varied embarks and disembarks impact the ship experience.

Cruise reviews are everywhere and the approach and substance are constantly changing. We appreciate Porthole's using a consistent pool of experts, who tell you what you need to know and also mention a thing or two that others might miss.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The highpoints of Princess' new Alaska promotional video

Princess might be using YouTube better than any other cruise line right now. We've written about Princess' own unique reviews on YouTube before. The video above is a little more traditional, but that doesn't mean it is not well done.

The clip focuses on Alaska, so there are plenty of beautiful scenery shots. It also includes an emphasis on the Alaskan-inspired dining, excursions and activities. Princess is careful to hit all the highpoints, yet keep the video moving and engaging.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Cruise Maven's tips on staying active on a cruise

Staying active and fit on a cruise can be difficult. Not due to lack of physical or healthy activities, but because there are so many things to do (and eat) that making the right choice is not always easy. 

The Cruise Maven put out a good list of suggestions on staying active on your next cruise. Some are straightforward like signing up for active excursions and others are only something a cruise vet would suggest: going for long walks when the hallways are most likely to be empty. (Our simple suggestion is always take the stairs.) 

A cruise is still a vacation, so ultimately you should do what you want to do. And if you want to work up a sweat, there will always be plenty of outlets.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Virgin Cruises wants your input

Richard Branson took to the air (literally via helicopter!) to announce the latest developments in his new cruise company, Virgin Cruises. TravelPulse and Cruise Radio had all the press conference details. Much of what shared was already known -- sailing from Miami, a Virgin experience at sea, new ships, etc. What wasn't known was that Virgin wants to hear from their fans and potential cruisers. They have set up a website, a Facebook account and a Twitter address all in an effort to solicit requests and feedback as they shape their new cruise line.

How many customer suggestions will they use between now and their 2020 launch? No one knows, but engaging the customer like this can only lead to good things. This will create a sense of loyalty and connection before they've even named a ship. Hopefully it will also lead to some revolutionary ideas. So if you've had a great idea or feature for a cruise, Virgin wants to hear it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

AIDA embraces onboard social media

As other cruise lines expand their wi-fi and internet access, AIDA announced something different. Their passengers can soon buy packages with access to various social media platforms for a flat rate. This seems like a smart move which will make for a better cruise experience and better marketing for AIDA.

Customers say they want more access to the internet onboard but much of that want is just social media. They want to keep in touch with friends and family and also want to share their adventures at sea. By enabling the social media sites and presumably blocking other sites, AIDA can save on bandwidth and keep customers happy. The posts, likes, pics and tweets will also help AIDA. Each message sent makes cruising top of mind and also makes it more accessible. 

Due to AIDA's ties with Carnival, this is probably a test for other cruise lines. Let's hope it goes well so we can all start sharing everything we did on our next cruise.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Royal Caribbean Blog shares Harmony of the Seas photos

Photo from Royal Caribbean via RoyalCaribbeanblog.com

The Royal Caribbean Blog posted a series of photos of the Harmony of the Seas floating. The ship is the latest in the new and already popular Oasis class of ships. The first scheduled sailings are still planned for 2016.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Silversea joins free Wi-Fi movement

When Viking Cruises announced they would include free Wi-Fi on the Viking Star, we wondered if other lines would follow. According to USA Today, Silversea Cruises also plans on rolling out a free wireless program in 2016. The luxury line won't go as far as Viking did in their initial introduction. Passengers will be eligible for one free hour a day. (Certain top suites will get include unlimited wireless.)

Expanding wi-fi and wireless options is a must for all cruise lines. The move by Silversea will likely be followed by another line soon. Long-term, this will be good for all cruise lines as it will bring in new passengers and serve as a huge marketing tool.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Carnival got right and wrong on their Behind the Scenes video

Carnival released Episode 1 of their new series Behind the Scenes: Carnival Vista. Producing a video series with exclusive looks at their newest ship is a great idea. And it seems like Carnival is putting a lot of effort into the look and quality of the videos. But we do have a few nits to pick with the first episode and the direction of the series.

What we like
Peter Gonzalez is the perfect host. He's got the right look and right voice and has just the right energy. How many behind the scenes travel videos have you watched where the host is just too into it and too corny? Gonzalez doesn't come off that way.

The cinematography and editing is very good too. For a YouTube video this looks great. The graphics work well with the images and keep everything moving. The video also captures the scale of the project and the ship.

What we don't like
As cruise junkies, it pains us to write this, but what's the point of this first episode and potentially the series? Clearly Carnival put time and production money into the project. However, who is the target audience? Cruise nuts will get excited about a new ship regardless of how much they see in advance. The cruise media would (and will) gladly cover ship building and at a much lower cost to Carnival. But will this get many non-cruisers to finally take a Carnival Cruise? Are they even going to find the video online? Will the size and scope and unique building process motivate anyone new? As much as those of us in the industry might tire of the same images and selling points (fun and excitement on the seas), that message works. Images of people having a great time on a sunny cruise ship do motivate people to finally try cruising. A state of the art shipyard tour does not.

The series may take a predictable and more marketing-friendly turn. As a fan of ships and ship making, I am thankful to Carnival for making it available. If I were a Carnival stockholder or a cruise seller, I would wonder: "what's the point?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

Harmony of the Seas taking shape at the STX shipyard in France. Can't wait to try her out next year. @royalcaribbean

A photo posted by Cruise Follower (@cruisefollower) on

Mardi Gras in Grand Cayman #MardiGras #Carnival #GrandCayman

A photo posted by Mitchell (@carnivalcruisesships) on

Our kind of Monday pick-me-up! ⚓️☕️#CruiseCriticRegram from @emmatocchet

A photo posted by Cruise Critic (@cruisecritic) on

Know where this is⁉️ RG @elizahodgson: #carnivalspirit #toottoot #atsea #pacificocean

A photo posted by Carnival Cruise Line Australia (@carnivalcruiselinesau) on

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ship Mate has a good blog too

Every cruise fan knows about the Ship Mate app. But what many of you might not realize is that the company behind the indispensable cruise application also hosts a good cruise blog.

Look at the info-graphic above from their blog. It conveniently lists the age and last renovation of the entire, active Carnival fleet. Like all good info-graphics, it is simple, yet helpful. Age and renovations are a huge factor in enjoyment of a cruise. Seeing something like this puts each ship's age and newness in perspective. If a ship is older and hasn't be renovated recently, it is less likely to have the latest amenities.

The Ship Mate blog has many helpful suggestions, tips and graphics like this. So remember to add the blog to your list of stops when researching your next cruise.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Carnival orders megaships for AIDA

AIDA's getting bigger. As part of a larger order for Carnival Corp, AIDA will receive two 6,600 passenger ships between 2019 and 2020. The ships will dwarf the current passenger record of Royal Caribbean's recently launched 5,400 passenger Allure of the Seas. This order shows a major commitment to AIDA and a major commitment to the European market. (Carnival also announced that two other 6,600 passenger ships will also service Europe, although which brand is still to be determined.)

Congrats to AIDA on the new ships and to the cruise fans in Europe who have a lot of exciting ships coming soon. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Popular Cruising's Viking Star Review

Popular Cruising put up another video review of Viking's new ship the Viking Star. The video also coincides with their review of the same ship in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Both reviews highlight the ship's beauty and unique touches, but also point out the ship's challenges in entertainment and activity.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

No more cruise to nowhere

Cruise Critic and USA Today's Cruise Log have the latest on the end of "cruises to nowhere." Although the law has been on the books for years, the United States is cracking down on these short cruises that depart from a U.S. port, sail into international waters and then return to the United States without a stop in a foreign country. Ships registered in the U.S. can still do these short trips, but the vast majority of ships from the major cruise companies are registered elsewhere.

This is good news for the Bahamas. As cruise companies adjust their 2016 schedules to the new enforcement, a few of these itineraries will now probably add a short stay in the island nation near Florida.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Much ado about bottled water

There are plenty of cruise policies that are disingenuous money grabs, but we don't understand the uproar over Carnival's new bottled water policy. If they were really intent on just making a few extra dollars on water, they wouldn't be lowering the pricing so dramatically of their own bottled water. There new bottled water pricing is lower than most big box stores. Carnival will still allow passengers to board with non-alcoholic beverage cans, juices and milk.

Even if you were a believer in smuggling alcohol on to the ship in water containers, this policy makes sense. The BYOB abusers slowed down boarding and created problems for Carnival. When passengers are buying alcohol at the ship's bars and restaurants, the ship has a certain level of control over intake and those drinking to dangerous excess.

Currently the policy only impacts Carnival and not the company's other brands. Look for that to change if this step succeeds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

A photo posted by Celebrity Cruises (Official) (@celebritycruises) on

Oceania Nautica in #Newcastle today. #live #life #love #travel

A photo posted by Danielle (@cruisemiss) on

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Counterpoint: Some family policies on cruise make sense

Cruise Critic's Erica Silverstein wrote a thoughtful post on the "Worst Cruise Line Policies for Families." Many of her complaints are valid, but we think she misses the mark on more than one. We cruised with kids and without and think in general the lines do the best they can. They are trying to satisfy two unique groups -- families and those without kids -- on one ship. They have to strike a balance so that one group's needs and wants don't encroach on the other's good times. While we agreed with Silverstein that it is outrageous to charge a full fair for a baby or toddler, here are our counterarguments to the other issues.

  • Room service charges: We are already on record against room-service charges, but understand why cruise companies do it. They want you eating elsewhere and are pricing things accordingly. The policy may not be family friendly, but it applies to all on board.
  • Full-price specialty restaurant cover charges: We understand charging full-price here. These restaurants were designed to be exclusive. Why lower the price and take up multiple seats when full-paying customers could and would use those reservations? Plus most people expect an adult environment in the specialty restaurants. We are sure that your kids are great and well-behaved at dinner, but many (many, many, many) are not. They shouldn't be around to ruin other guests' experiences.
  • Buffets that close before dinner: Is food access ever really an issue on any cruise? Even if things are temporarily closed, food is always available somewhere on a cruise line and will be available again shortly in the buffet. This is a non-issue.
  • No diapers in the pool: We've seen several Splash Zones closed mid-day for cleaning after a little one had an accident. It happens and causes a bit of an inconvenience for your kids who don't understand the wait or why they can't go into the Splash Zone right now. Cruises can't risk shutting down and cleaning down a full pool daily because of the diaper issue. 
  • No teen activities for 18 year olds: Another non-issue? We haven't parented an 18-year-old yet, but remember being around that age on cruise ships. We wouldn't have been caught dead in the "teen club." In general, most 18-year-olds will figure it all out and have a good time without the organized activities of the teen club.
  • No baby changing facilities in public bathrooms: Even as ships get bigger, space is still an issue, especially in the public bathrooms. Having a few changing stations conveniently placed makes sense, but it doesn't make sense to have one in every bathroom. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

20 years of AIDA

Cruise Industry News noted an important anniversary for AIDA Cruises: 20 years! Due to their German focus, many North Americans might not be as familiar with AIDA, but their mid-size ships with a youthful focus, bring a unique mix to the Carnival family.

The anniversary celebration includes a 10 ship, 20,000 passenger toast and a new ship generation coming later this year. Congrats to AIDA and more continued success ahead.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Video Review: Facts About Disney

This video review is a little different, but we like different around here. Facts About Disney's video reviews are focused just on Disney Cruises and just specific aspects of the cruise. The clip above deals with traveling to the ship, embarking and the sail away party. Others in her series focus on food and attire.

The format is more confessional with fewer pictures of the ships, but it is still pretty thorough and helpful. And the informal, conversational style gives the review a unique feel for cruise novices.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Return of the Wrestling Cruise?

Body slammed at sea! Why not? Theme cruises are very popular, so it makes sense that WWE fans are clamoring for the return of a wrestling cruise. Multiple wrestling promotions ran cruises in the 1990s but there hasn't been a collection of wrestlers at sea since 1999's Wrestle Vessel.

Given the wrestling's devoted fanbase, there is no reason to think a new wrestling cruise wouldn't work. We guess the WWE stopped the practice because the cruises were less lucrative than a week of arena shows they would run on the mainland. But now that WWE is public and dedicated to promoting their WWE Network, a niche marketing opportunity like a cruise might be worth the investment. It could be a reward for their most loyal customers or a source of unique content for the WWE Network. Or the WWE could position it as a chance to grow their fanbase beyond their current demographics.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cruise Needs' Tweets of the Week

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Can Carnival's Fathom project work?

Niche, specialty and theme cruises work. Cruise companies have been selling them for decades. But can a niche market support a 710 passenger ship year-round? Carnival is about to find out as it plans to launch it Fathom brand. Fathom will target those who want to mix social work/volunteerism with travel.

Initially the ship will travel to the Dominican Republic and passengers will be to teach English, help clean water or work in local food cooperatives.

Volunteer tourism is big business. Tens of thousands Americans travel globally to help those in need. Many of those opportunities are done through church groups or global non-profits. Will there be enough people who want to do it through the world's largest cruise line? After a day helping some of the Caribbean's poorest people, will they feel guilty about returning to their floating resort?

Carnival has enough marketing power to fill one small ship for a few months, so there is very little initial risk in the venture. But long-term, Carnival will have to find and develop a new customer base to support Fathom. It is a noble venture, so we hope they succeed, but we doubt that the people who want to spend their vacation helping others also want to spend time on a "fun ship."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cruise Needs' Instagrams of the Week

“Our littlest sailor taking in the view, on our first day at sea”. -@bleubird #Carnivaltakeover

A photo posted by Carnival Cruise Lines (@carnival) on

When the sea attacks. #CarnivalParadise #Carnival #CarnivalCruise

A photo posted by Cruise Ships (@cruise.crazy) on

NYC to Southampton on the QE2 in 1974...editor David Jefferys' first transatlantic crossing by sea #travelertbt #tbt

A photo posted by Condé Nast Traveler (@cntraveler) on

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Despite more media talk, last-minute cruise deals not going away

Congratulations to the cruise industry on working so hard to change perception on cruise deals. The latest examples is this otherwise good article from TheStreet.com that uses the headline grabber: "Don't Bank on a Last-Minute Discount on Your Cruise Vacation This Year." We wrote this before and we have a feeling we will be writing it again, but last-minute deals are not going away.

Wall Street investor and financial news media -- like TheStreet.com -- love to hear about advances in revenue management from the cruise industry. And it is true the cruise companies are becoming more aggressive and more disciplined in their pricing, upselling and ancillary revenue. But the point remains, even if they don't call it "last-minute" deals, there will still be plenty of discounts and unique sales and offerings for last-minute cruise shoppers. There is still too much inventory and even more coming and the companies need to maximize revenue.

Just look at these deals that Paul Gauguin are promoting. Shoppers just need to be smart and make sure they involved in all cruise companies' email lists and loyalty programs.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Good and bad advice for new cruisers

What do you tell non-cruisers about cruising? Cruisemates.com's Paul Motter wrote a good article for Fox News on their common objections and how to overcome them.  Most of Motter's points are good. We think his best rebuttal is the argument over "fitting in." As Motter writes, very few worry about "fitting in" when they check into a hotel. Why is that a concern on cruises? First-time cruisers can do as much or as little interacting with passengers as they want. If you "fit" with some fellow cruisers, great! If not, it shouldn't impact your enjoyment. Plus, if you want to "fit in" you can always coordinate a cruise with friends and family.

The one point where Motter might have missed the mark is on experiencing destination. Even with longer hours or multiple days in a port, a cruiser will be hard pressed to experience a destination like you might on a land vacation. Even if you eschew the cruise company's excursions and get your own local guide, things won't be the same. But a first time cruisers shouldn't be looking for an in-depth experience in each city. The cruise is a chance to see small samples of multiple ports all within the comforts of a state-of-the-art resort.