Why Formal Night Isn’t as Nice as it Used to Be

cruise formal night dress codeFormal night on a ship: It’s a night when passengers are supposed to conjure up thoughts of days long ago when travel by sea was once elegant, luxurious, and considerably more romantic. However, those days are getting even more difficult to imagine as cruise lines adapt an ‘anything goes’ attitude towards formal night and the general decline of respect for nicer things permeates the traveling public.

On a seven day cruise, you can expect two formal nights. You can also expect there to be a wide variety of what people refer to as formal/elegant, and little to no enforcement. Gone are the days when gentlemen adorned tuxedos and women made their men look as good as they do. Formal night is now only a ‘slightly dressier’ night, and leaves us wondering why cruise lines continue the tradition at all.

The answer is likely a combination between female passengers being happy and picture sales.
Most ladies like to dress up, and in general, most get their husbands or boyfriends to at least follow the dress code of slacks and a dress shirt. On a recent Carnival Cruise, there were over a dozen photography stations setup throughout the ship (maybe more) with anywhere from 20-50 people in line at any given time. They were packed for hours.

In the dining rooms (the only place where the dress code is officially ‘restricted’) you’ll still find guys wearing jeans, t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, etc. With Carnival’s anytime dining, there’s a good chance you’ll be seated uncomfortably close to another group – especially if it’s just two of you. It’s nice when you get to meet new people, hear about their excursions and where they’re from – but if I’m wearing a tuxedo and another guy sits next to me in a t-shirt, I feel like a real doofus (even though logically speaking, he’s the doofus who didn’t follow the dress code).

But why would he? Only rarely have we seen people waiting in line in the dining room be told that it’s formal night and that shorts/flip-flops aren’t allowed, and the majority violators walk right in and get a table without issue.

On our last cruise, out of a couple hundred people in the dining room, there were probably 3 men in tuxedos, 30 in suits, 70 in slacks/shirt, and a handful of rule-breakers (certainly more than there were tuxedos – which are even mentioned in the dress code). Ladies generally all look nice regardless.
Carnival and other cruise lines should step up enforcement or get rid of formal nights. As it is, it just causes those who dress up to be frustrated with sloppy cruisers and the staff who don’t enforce their own rules.

Maybe the more budget family cruise lines should stick to ‘fun’ and leave ‘formal’ to other cruise lines.

What do you think about formal nights and dress codes?

Expedia Acquiring Travelocity: Even Less Competition?

Expedia Acquires TravelocityExpedia is set to purchase ‘rival’ travel booking site Travelocity for $280 million.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Expedia has been running operations for Travelocity since 2013 – so substantially, consumers will likely see very little difference.

Expedia already owns Hotels.com, Hotwire, eLong Inc. and Trivago.

The WSJ goes on to say the travel industry is feeling pressure from travel comparison shopping sites, but if one company owns the majority of sites AND the marketing their own comparison site (Trivago) – is that really pressure? Consolidation is rarely good for the consumer, as it means less competition and typically higher prices. It isn’t the point of being a monopoly, especially with Priceline still being the dominant player. Orbitz isn’t as hot as it once was, and TripAdvisor is still a close competitor to Expedia.

Also cited as competition are start-ups advertising spare rooms. While there may be a smaller market that is captured by sites like airbnb.com, hotels will still remain the dominant choice for overnight travel accommodations.

Loud Carnival Cruise Ship Cabin

Carnival Magic 2014Let me preface this article by saying we enjoyed our cruise – a lot – but we felt this was worthy of some discussion since it’s something that has never happened to us before.

We generally try to pick out good cabins. We google the ship maps to make sure we’re not right under the dance club, under the pool deck when they rearrange the chairs in the early morning, extremely close to the elevators, etc. We thought we had done a good job on this last cruise aboard Carnival Magic: A cove balcony cabin #2298, in the center of the ship. For the most part, it was pretty quiet except for a screaming infant next door (it happens). However, one night, on our return through the Gulf of Mexico, there was loud knocking in our room and then an even more powerful booming noise every 20-30 seconds that would shake entire aft wall of our cabin.

The noise continued until about 2:30am, keeping everyone awake despite being tired from 3 straight port days. To give you an idea of how much the wall was shaking, our camera that was on the counter eventually worked its way over the edge and fell to the floor. The camera isn’t a lightweight either – it’s just over four pounds (Nikon D800 + 24-70 lens; if you’re a camera nerd like us).

The camera cracked and Nikon repair services called it a complete loss. Insurance will help, but there’s still significant out-of-pocket cost. I expected it to be damaged when we were horseback riding in Belize or swimming with the dolphins in Roatan, but I was surprised when it survived all that and was damaged due to our cabin shaking and vibrating so much that night.

We had never experienced this nor even heard of it happening, so we thought we’d at least pass it along as a cautionary tale. I figured the only way I could accurately describe it was by recording the sound – and since I wasn’t sleeping after sadly feeling around the dark floor for the fallen camera – I was able to grab this sound clip of the noise-

Take a listen for yourself

2014 Update: Carnival Punchliner Comedy Club

Punchliner Comedy Club - Carnival Cruise Lines

In 2011 we wrote about Carnival’s new Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, saying it was a great idea with faulty execution. Having recently sailed on the Carnival Magic over the 4th of July, we’re excited to report that Carnival has improved the experience of this popular evening choice.

Instead of having one show a night, Carnival now has 4-5 shows every night. That’s not to say that they don’t fill up, but hundreds weren’t being turned away from their entertainment of choice like they were a few years ago. They typically would have 2 ‘family friendly’ comedy shows and then 2 ‘adults only’ comedy shows split between two comedians. Halfway through the cruise, two new comedians come on board to keep the talent fresh.

To avoid seat-squatters and savers from staying back to back shows, the lounge is emptied, and those wishing to attend the next show get in a line that winds through the increasingly depressing piano bar. (Side note: This has less to do with uninterested cruisers than it does the grumpy pianist)

We were able to see three of the four comedians perform and overall they were quite good – you should definitely check out the comedy shows on your next Carnival Cruise.

Comedy Review:

John Caponera (Grade: N/A) – We didn’t catch John’s act, but he does have a link to a “printable 8×10” under his head shot on his homepage, so he must be hilarious.

James Johann (Grade: C+) We caught James’s ‘adults only’ act. If you think dropping the f-bomb is inherently funny, you’ll think James his hysterical. Many people did, in fact. We didn’t.

James Sibley (Grade: B+) We thought this James was following the path of first-half-of-the-cruise-James, but a couple minutes in his style grew on us. Stand-up comedy sittin’ down with some genuine country-boy story-telling. We liked second-half-of-the-cruise-James a lot better.

Tommy Drake (Grade: A) The only reason we didn’t give Tommy an A+ is because we wouldn’t want it to go to his head. We don’t want that, because we really liked him just the way he was. The Carnival Magic is a large ship, but while in Cozumel we were docked near the mega Royal Caribbean ship, Allure of the Seas. “I thought Magic was a big ship until we parked in the shadow of the Allure…when you see a ship like that you start to wonder about all the amazing things on board – their comedians are probably famous.”

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.

Spooky First Pictures from Inside Costa Condoria Wreckage

For the first time in over two years the Costa Cocordia is upright and ‘floating’ again – and below are some of the first images from inside the Costa Concordia wreckage.

Crews are in the process of moving the ship to a yard where it will be dismantled and used for scrap, but the search on-board continues today for the remains of the only person on-board yet to be located. Searchers will be looking for a 33-year-old waiter from India now that the interior of the ship is easier to navigate.

Here are some of the pictures from around the inside of the ship – including bars, dining areas, state rooms, and a piano lounge. Some of the areas had been submerged and others escaped major water damage as they remained above the water line.

Source: Daily Mail

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Resumes Service to Roatan Following Crew Murder

NCL Dawn Roatan Hondruas

Norwegian Cruise Line is resuming calls this week in Roatan, Honduras after canceling last week’s stops following the murder of one of its crew members in port earlier this month.

NCL noted on their facebook page last week that stops were canceled out of “an abundance of caution for our guests and crew, we have cancelled calls to Roatan this week for Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Jewel.”

The suggestion that Roatan is safer this week than it was last week when the cruises skipped the port, or the previous week when the crew member was murdered during a robbery, is foolish. When NCL pulled it’s ships it wasn’t out of an abundance of caution, it was to send Roatan a message. As an economy dependent on tourism, losing thousands of cruise passengers eager to spend money on excursions and souvenirs is a big blow to the small island of about 50,000 people.

While the tactic may be effective in eventually reducing crime-rates, nothing is fixed in a week’s time (though they have arrested a suspect), and we wish the cruise lines were more honest about their methods and educate guests on the potential dangers that still exist. Sure, murders happen in cities around the US, and one incident shouldn’t dissuade you from traveling the world. However, here are some of the homicide/murder rates of popular cruise destinations compared to home port countries and some ‘dangerous’ US cities:

Homicide Rates (per 100,000 people):

Honduras: 90.4
Detroit: 54.6
New Orleans: 53.2
Belize: 44.7
Jamaica: 39.3
St. Louis: 35.5
Mexico: 21.5
United States: 4.7
Canada: 1.6
United Kingdom: 1

Several other major cruise lines continue to sail to Roatan including Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Regent Seven Seas – despite travel warnings from the US State Department than warn of high levels of violent crime (murders, robberies, and kidnappings) and crooked authorities.

20 Years of Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks listed by Cruise Line

Norovirus is nasty. Symptoms include…well…it’s a stomach virus, you know what they include – and they’ll ruin your vacation. The CDC has compiled the information on Norovirus outbreaks over the years and there are some clear winners and losers when it comes to keeping ships clean and avoiding large outbreaks.

The CDC investigates ship illnesses when 3% or more of the passengers or crew have symptoms on voyages from 3-21 days.

Norovirus incidents peaked in 2006, with 34 significant outbreaks and that number fell to nine last year (2013) – four of which were on Celebrity Cruises (Royal Caribbean).

Over the last 20 years, Holland America (Carnival Corp) and Princess Cruise Line (Carnival Corp) topped the list of outbreaks followed by Celebrity (Royal Caribbean) and Norwegian. Interesting to note: while the subsidiary lines of Carnival and Royal Caribbean had a high number of outbreaks, the signature brands that sail under those names (with many more ships) actually had lower numbers of outbreaks. Carnival Cruise Line didn’t have a single outbreak last year.
Norovirus Incidents By Cruise Line

Other news outlets are reporting that you should avoid longer cruises due to the increased risk, but the very graphic they put together seems to dispute the validity of that. It’s clear that 7, 10, 14, and 15 day sailings have the highest concentration of incidents, but they are also the most common. Also, the trend line in percentage affected by the outbreak is clearly declining with increased cruise length.

Norovirus Incidents by Cruise Length

For more information on specific outbreaks, the CDC has compiled a database.

Video: Cruise Ship Battered by Rough Seas, High Waves

PO Cruises MV Oriana Rough Waves

New video from off the coast of Spain showing the P&O MV Oriana battling rough seas and high waves during a recent sailing. Hope the passengers brought their Dramamine! Waves (within reason) are still better than Norovirus. Ooof.

The MV Oriana is 6th largest in the 7-ship P&O Cruises Fleet. P&O is owned Carnival Corporation.

via YouTube user Eloy TP