How Cruise Cabins Are Made: Henry Ford would be Proud

Many parts of a cruise ship are built off-site and then installed in pieces to the frame of a ship, but some may be surprised to know that the cabins are all individually made, tested, and furnished before being loaded and installed on a ship. Royal Caribbean takes us on a tour of how cruise cabins are made for its new ship, Quantum of the Seas. The crew on this lines make a lot of cabins, but say that the Quantum’s rooms are all about quality.

Report: Cruise Passengers Spending Less on Board, Hurting Profits

Royal Caribbean International Logo SmallRoyal Caribbean, the second-largest cruise company in the world, released its quarterly profit results to Wall Street and they were down by two-thirds. The company indicated that the line was dealing with several mishaps during the quarter, and shortened or interrupted cruises (mass illness, weather) cause cruise passengers spend less on-board. Royal Caribbean International said lower on-board spending combined with increased operating costs are to blame for the large decline.

The cruise industry as a whole was taking a beating in the news with several high profile cases of illness on board, and that included the largest cruise operator in the world, Carnival. They too recently cut the forecast for this year due to a rough first quarter as company profits were down and spending on advertising was up.

The future is looking good for Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry though, with bookings up nearly 20%. The cruise line also indicated that demand for cruises remains high in China and Europe, and the company hopes to take advantage in those markets.

Source: Reuters/CNBC

New Cruise Ships in 2013, 2014 and Beyond

Norwegian Breakway New Cruise Ship 2013

During the last several years of economic recovery, a few cruise lines were betting on the future with the planning, designing, and construction of new Cruise. The entire process can last between 2 and 4 years, and thinking back 2 or 4 years ago, these ships were gambles – and they should payoff as we slowly climb out of the global recession.
We noted on last-year’s list that mega-ships were noticeably absent.

The outlook over the next few years also indicates ships that carry over 6,000 passengers may have been a phase – and one that wasn’t overly profitable – since neither Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line, two lines with mega-ship experience, have any plans of expanding their mega-fleet size.

Below is a list with some details the new cruise ships in 2013, 2014, and Beyond. Continue reading New Cruise Ships in 2013, 2014 and Beyond

Bringing Alcohol on Cruise Ships – A Rum Runner Flask Review

Update 2015: Genuine Rum Runner’sare still sailing through security. Several personal experiences and countless 3rd party success stories.

When you bring up the idea of bringing alcohol onto a cruise ship, that is, above the amount allowed by cruise line policy, you’re sure to run into two types of people.

There are those who say the practice is despicable – that cruise lines enact rules and guidelines for a reason and they should be followed. Any talk of circumventing these rules will often lead to questions pertaining to the offender’s moral character (an informal survey on CruiseCritic found 4% of travelers are hard-line rule followers, and another 15% say the rules are fair).

Then there are those who believe that the cruise line’s rules are well-intentioned, but choose to bring illicit alcohol on board for a number of reasons. These may include on-board alcohol prices, convenience, or even selection of alcohol offered on-board (the same survey found that 80% of travelers said the policies on alcohol were annoying or needed to change).

In fact – the only subject that brings more controversy when talking about cruise ship guest rights are the smoking policies, but that is a discussion for another day.

So for the moment, we’ll assume that if you’ve never even considered bootlegging booze onto a ship, you might be curious as to the techniques and their success rates.

By far the most popular and talked-about method of taking alcohol onto a cruise ship as of late is the use of small, strong, plastic bladders or bags. One brand in particular, Rum Runner Flasks, is the most widely-known brand for such products – and they even make a Rum Runner Cruise Kit and a Spring Break Cruise Kit. Both kits cost around $25 and shipping is reasonable.

For research purposes, we purchased the Cruise Kit, which comes with three large and three small flasks.

We filled the flasks with various types of liquor and distributed them throughout our checked bags that would be screened by security and then placed outside our staterooms.

One large flask was placed in with other large toiletry liquids, the other large flask was packed completely out in the open around some clothes. The smaller flasks were placed in several places around a garment bag.

The wait for our bags seemed endless – and every time we heard the rustle of the bags being delivered we’d open the door hoping ours would be there. Eventually our bags arrived (truthfully no later than anyone else’s, it just seemed that way) and the results were in.

All of the flasks had made it through without being confiscated. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say they weren’t detected.

Some fellow guests had also brought alcohol in their checked luggage – and made no attempt to hide it – other than putting the large (original) bottle of Knob Creek in some bubble-wrap and a kids-size life preserver, but that was mainly to protect the glass from breaking.

What we’ve found is that the season, time of year, and overall cruise clientele/age have more to predicting whether or not your alcohol makes it passed security rather than the vessel containing it.

You’ll notice that no cruise line’s alcohol policy mentions profitability of the cruise, even though alcohol sales can play a large role in profitability. Lines typically say their policies exist for purposes of controlling over-consumption which can lead to individuals being disruptive to other guests. Our research has shown that it looks like they’re telling the truth.

We’ve found the enforcement of the alcohol policies gets stricter during peak seasons for college spring breaks and even summer cruises. Enforcement will also be stepped up for theme cruises, such as a popular music act that may attract a rowdier-than-usual crowd.

So, if you’re going to try to bring alcohol onto a ship, using something like the Rum Runner Flasks hidden with similar-sized liquid toiletries is probably your best bet – but it’s not a guarantee – especially during ‘high enforcement’ cruises. Typically the worst thing that happens is it gets confiscated and you never see your booze or your flasks again, which depending on what you bring, could be a sizable gamble.

For more info, reviews, and price info – check out the Rum Runner Cruise Kit and the Spring Break Cruise Kit on Amazon.

Other Methods

These are some of the other methods we’ve heard of people using – some crazier than others.

Poor-man’s Rum Runner Can’t afford a rum-runner and want a couple liters of wine? Grab a box of wine and remove the box – Bingo! A bag-o-wine that’s designed to take a beating.

Fill a Listerine bottle with clear alcohol, add food coloring. This will get your booze on board, but no matter how much you wash it, the bottle will still impart the taste of mouthwash to your liquor. There are only so many drinks you can make with mint vodka.

Wine-bottle switcheroo Most cruise lines allow you to bring some wine in your carry-on bags. Not a wine drinker? Find an empty wine bottle, fill it with your favorite liquor, re-cork it (you can cut off the top if you can’t get it all the way), then buy some heat-shrink-foil tops to reseal the top and give it the appearance it hasn’t been opened. People brew their own wine, so these can be found online or in some liquor stores (Google shopping search: wine heat shrink capsules). This is probably the most guaranteed way as it gives the appearance of something the cruise lines condone, but may also require the most preparation and forethought.

Water-bottle switcheroo This used to be a decent method, but lately cruise lines have been known to shake the water bottles to see if they bubble or not. This approach is more often attempted (and failed) when getting back on the ship after a day in port.

Iced-Tea Sitcheroo This is one step up from the water-bottle switcherro – since ice tea bubbles when shaken, and dark liquors often give the appearance of tea, the line would have to conduct a smell-test, which we’ve never seen. Getting the plastic bottles to appear like they’ve never been opened is much trickier on these bottles.

Old-school flask/Traveler Bottle They’ve made plastic flasks for a long time, and traveler liquor bottles are made from plastic to be lighter weight. You can carry either on your person through security as metal detectors won’t uncover them. This method has long been perfected in the concert and sports arena world, and methods include sticking them in cargo shorts to actually taping them to your person. This method is actually where the term ‘bootlegging’ originated during prohibition.

If we missed one – let us know in the comments section!

We’ve included the newest alcohol policies (as of 2012) from some of the major cruise lines after the jump Continue reading Bringing Alcohol on Cruise Ships – A Rum Runner Flask Review

Buying Pictures on Cruise Ships – Do you do it?

No matter what cruise line or destination, you can count on there being a photographer on board – and many times your first experience with said photographer will be before you even board the ship, as they start snapping pictures as you finish checking in and are walking to the ship! What are the pros and cons of buying pictures on cruise ships?

Pros:

1) Gear: The camera equipment used by the cruise lines is prosumer to pro-level gear. Even if you’re into photography and are bringing your DSLR, you’re probably not going to be bringing multiple flash stands, soft boxes, and umbrellas. In other words, their pictures will be much more professional looking than yours.

2) Convenience: You’re may not always have a camera on you, but the photographers do. You may not know when the waiters will perform at dinner and your significant other gets pulled into the conga line, but the crew does – and they’ll probably nail the shot.

3) Daily Deals: There are sometimes deals to be had on photos – but they aren’t always advertised. Ask the person working the counter if there are any current specials.

Cons:

1) Expensive: A 8×10 print will run you a little over $20 on average. Individually speaking, this may sound expensive for a single print – and it is. But when you figure in what you’re getting for that price (read “Pros”) – it’s actually not that bad.

We suggest you smile when the photographer comes your way – you never know how much you’ll like the photo and want to bring it home with you. If you absolutely know you don’t want any photos, kindly say “no thank you” when the photographer asks to snap a picture. If they’re extra pushy – take the photo with a ridiculous face – the other guests will appreciate the humor when they’re searching through the sea of photos.

Watch the video below to see Royal Caribbean’s photo operations:

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom and Liberty Get Oasis-Class Upgrades

It’s one thing to say, “if things go well, we’ll put these features in other ships,” when the Oasis of the Seas debuted not too long ago. It’s another to pull two ships into the dry-dock to make the changes ASAP, which is exactly what Royal Caribbean did with its Freedom and Liberty ships.

In addition to adding some on-ship amenities, the dry-dock allows RCL to check out the belly of the beast. The size of the stabilizers located on the hull is amazing- with several men standing inside at once. To be expected, I suppose – but not something you see everyday.

Check out the video below to see all the details of the updates of Freedom and Liberty.

Royal Caribbean Recruits James Brolin, Jenny McCarthy to Star in Original Webisodes

Jenny McCarthyTalk to anyone in social media and they’ll say online video is where you need to be. They’ll then tell you it needs to be original, and it needs to be interesting – i.e. something that people actually want to watch (not just a commercial). Some companies are going so far as to produce original miniseries focused around their product – Royal Caribbean is now among them.

The series of webisodes Royal Caribbean is having produced will be called “Ocean Views,” and will be available starting March 14 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Some well known actors will be staring in the series, including James Brolin, who will act and direct a video called “Royal Reunion,” which also stars Dean Cain and Amy Yasbeck.

Jenny McCarthy will direct and act in another video, “The Allure of Love,” which will have more of a comedic tone and will take place on Allure of the Seas.

What do you think of this type of production? Will you watch them? Do you think it will spur excitement around Royal Caribbean and their new ships?

Jenny McCarthy is interviewed about her experience below.

Princess Cruises Returning to Galveston, TX in 2012

Princess Crown Princess Cruise Ship

Princess Cruises hasn’t sailed from Galveston, TX since 2007, and today they announced they will resume itineraries from the island just outside of Houston in 2012.

The 3,070-passenger Crown Princess will start a winter series of seven-night itineraries that sail to Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. Tossing in the Honduras and Belize destinations will be welcome to those looking to see something besides Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel – the most common destinations when sailing from Galveston.

“We’ve received a great deal of feedback from cruisers interested in sailing from Galveston again,” Says Princess executive VP Jan Swartz.

This move will make the Port of Galveston more crowded than ever, since Carnival is also set to debut it’s newest ship, the Carnival Magic later this year. The magic will be the largest ship to sail from the port. Carnival will also reposition the Triumph (currently in New Orleans), and move the Conquest and Ecstasy to the Big Easy.

Royal Caribbean is also changing things up in Galveston – next year the Voyager of the Seas will move out of Galveston to make room for the Mariner of the Seas – a ship with the same passenger capacity.

We’re excited to see new ships, bigger ships, and lines returning to our home port of Galveston, TX!

Royal Caribbean Already Updating Oasis, Allure of the Seas with 3D

AllureoftheSeas3D

Even though Royal Caribbean only debuted its Oasis Class Ships in the last couple years, it’s still keeping current with the latest technology by introducing 3D theaters on board several of its ships, including Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the seas.

There were several considerations that make adding a 3d theater on a ship more complicated – including the close quarters, proximity to other venues, and that maintenance would need to be performed by on-board staff.

“We called upon FUNA and their team to come up with creative technical design solutions in a number of areas including physical placement, additional cooling and power and integration with the existing audio system, and the result is a 3D movie experience as good as or better than any land-based theater” said Christopher Vlassopulos, Entertainment Technology and Technical Direction for Royal Caribbean International.

The first ship to get the 3D upgrade is RCL’s newest ship, Allure of the seas, followed by Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.

Kids Create their Own Cruise Souvenier: Pets at Sea

Instead of kids taking home a few shells, a key chain, sand from a beach (or, one of those mini bottles that fuses all three) – they can now take home a custom stuffed animal from Royal Caribbean.

Kids of all ages can choose which animal they want, stuff it up, dress it how they like, and can even “wish upon a star” by inserting a small gold star along with the stuffing that only they know about.

It basically sounds like build-a-bear workshop that you’d see in a mall near you – but last time I checked, kids love those places!