Disney Magic Joining Carnival Magic in Galveston

It looks like Galveston will be the most magical place cruising has ever seen in 2012. Disney Cruise Line will be announcing tomorrow that it will reposition the Disney Magic to Galveston, which will join Carnival’s newest ship Magic which starts sailings later this year form the Texas island port.

The Disney Magic will offer 12 seven-night Cruises starting in September of 2012, and ports will include Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel. Disney Magic Cruise fares from Galveston will start at $840 per person – and cruise experts say there won’t be big discounts.

“Mickey does not go on sale. That cheese is way too expensive,” on travel agent told the Houston Chronicle.

In a time when many different municipalities and ports are vying for home port status for a major ship – Galveston is doing something very right.

By next year, Galveston will be home to the Disney Magic, Carnival Magic, Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of e Seas, and Princess’s Crown Princess.

Norwegian Cruise Line Returns to Hawaii After Tsunami

With all the news surrounding the 2011 Japanese Tsunami, it may be easy to forget that the same event triggered disruptions and damage on U.S. shores, namely in Hawaii. After canceling a stop in Kailua-Kona last week, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is once again sailing to the port on the island’s west coast.

“We can come back quick,” says Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie. “We’re back in business. I don’t want information getting out to the mainland that we’re not open for business or that Hawaii is shut off.”

Photo Credit: Joel Noa

$26 Million Still Owed on Mobile Alabama Cruise Terminal

Carnival in Mobile, ALLocal officials in Mobile, Alabama were “shocked” when Carnival Cruise Lines announced it would be pulling the Elation from that port and moving it to New Orleans. Carnival explained that the port hadn’t been as profitable as expected, while locals say the ship was constantly filled. Dealing with a blow to your city’s ego is one thing, but the city still owes $26 million on the terminal that will be empty come October.

Mobile County Commissioner, Connie Hudson, told a local news station that during negotations, Carnival said it would stay as long as business was good – and in her eyes, business was good. The contract gives Carnival the option to break the contract with the city with a 90 day notice, and Carnival is giving much more than that. However, city leaders say that still isn’t enough time to fill the vacancy as cruise itineraries are scheduled years in advance.

Carnival’s Side

One needs to remember that Carnival Cruise Lines is a publicly traded company — one that is responsible to its shareholders and thousands of employees that depend on it to feed their families. As such, it needs to act in the best interest of those parties — not necessarily those of a port city.

There were several reasons Carnival is moving the Elation to New Orleans according to president and CEO Gerry Cahill.

“Although we have consistently filled the ship, it has been at lower relative pricing to the rest of our fleet,” Cahill said. “We have made every effort to drive higher demand and pricing through our sales and marketing initiatives and the deployment of a newer class of ship in 2009. However, we have not been successful in achieving a sustainable level of acceptable pricing.”

Translated into plainer terms – the cruise line may have been at near 100% capacity every time it left port, but if it was only possible to book that level at $100 less per person than it could make in another port – it doesn’t financial sense to stay there.

Relative to other home ports, fuel costs in Mobile were much higher – and scheduled to become even more unfavorable when new, local environmental regulations begin in 2012.

Cruise Ship Forum’s Take

While we feel for the city of Mobile, the decision for Carnival to reposition its ship to a more profitable port is a sound business decision. It is normal for any community that loses a business to feel disappointment, though when money and jobs are at stake, one needs to take emotion out of the equation and look at the facts.

Since the Carnival Cruise Line started operating full time out of Mobile in 2004, the global economy has changed. If in 2004, you would have told someone that giant banks, insurance agencies, and two of the largest car manufacturers in the world would be on the brink of bankruptcy – they would have given you a strange look and continued to pour money into the stock market – because things were great – and no one knew what the future would hold.

The fact Carnival stayed in Mobile as long as they did is impressive. Perhaps the local regulations that are going to increase fuel prices next year were the straw that broke the camel’s back in this case – if that is the case – Alabamians needn’t point the finger at anyone but themselves.

Photo: Press-Register file/Bill Starling

Port Arrival and Boarding the Regent Mariner

Part 3 – Cape Town to Rio on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner


We were told (don’t know if it’s true or not) that this was the first time the Regent Seven Seas Mariner had docked in Cape Town and it was not docked where Regent usually docks. Supposedly the Mariner doesn’t fit at their usual docking area. Listening to other passengers it seems that many taxi drivers had trouble finding the ship after entering the port gates. We were in an area with oil tankers and cargo ships. Evidently a very secure area – our taxi driver had to take a breathalyser test to enter the dock area. The guard stuck a flashlight-sized tube in the car window, and the driver blew into it.

As we parked, the car was swarmed with guys wearing shirts that said simply “porter”. There was a large tented area in front of the Mariner but nothing that said Regent. The porter loaded the suitcases on his luggage carrier and away he went. We didn’t know if he was from Regent or not. Walking through the tent there were a few professional type people sitting at a table and talking among themselves. I asked if this was Regent and their only comment was yes. No offer of what we were to do or where we were to go. Following the porter, he set the bags among others in the corner. He rolled them about 200 feet. He accidently ripped one of the tags off of my suitcase (the tag with our cabin # on it). I tried to explain that this was a problem and he acted like he didn’t hear me! We ended up transfering a tag from my carry-on that I was taking with me. I gave him his tip and he stood there and looked at me and said, “100 Rand.” I looked him right in the eye, repeated what he said and said “No”. He left. I wondered if we’d ever see our bags again!

We arrived at the pier about 11:30 AM, well before cabins were supposed to be ready. There were a couple of dozen passengers gathered under a tent with tables and chairs set up and a nice table with beverages and pastries available. After sitting down with another couple and introducing ourselves not 5 minutes passed and someone came by the table to tell us we could board and go to the coffee shop to wait. Regent does not have the usual “ticket” but simple a piece of paper stating your information, (name, itinerary, cabin number etc.). This came with your “documents” (more pieces of paper) luggage tags, including nice permanent tags for your suitcase, all in a grey suede pouch, about 3-4 wks. before the cruise. The only thing we showed to get on board was this information sheet and passports. We were told to go to the coffee shop until noon and then to go to the Stars Lounge (right next to the coffee shop) at noon. A very nice touch, all specialty coffees are included on Regent. In fact everything is included in your price, wine, liquor (except for very high end items). The all inclusive also includes all tipping and most shore excursions. What a treat to not have to sign for (and keep track of) everything you buy!

Obviously Spa treatments and gift shop items are not included. The coffee shop was set up with a continental breakfast type bar, bagels, fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheeses, cookies. We barely sat down again and we were told we could go to registration in the lounge. The lines weren’t long, maybe one couple ahead of us. This is were our pictures were taken and we were given our room keys (cards). The rooms would not be available until 2:30 p.m. but you could wonder about the ship until then. Of course I did have my carry-on with me but could have left it with our other suitcases to be delivered to the room had I wanted to do that. You could also now venture to the buffet lunch on deck 11, La Veranda restaurant. The steak and shrimp were excellent. We ate lunch then wandered about a bit and took some pictures with South Africa’s Table Mountain in the background. It was a bit windy and cool to sit outside so we ventured back to the coffee shop for a Mocha Latte. Right next to the coffee shop is the ships library were you just help yourself to books, games, to enjoy while at sea. It’s all honor system.

Cape Town Airport Hotel


Part 2 – Cape Town to Rio on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner

Arriving at 1 AM, we weren’t looking for anything fancy in a hotel, just a place to sleep until we could board the ship the next day. I had reserved a room on line at Cape Town Airport Road Lodge. It was inexpensive by Cape Town standards. The hotel charged 30 Rand (about $5) each for their shuttle from the airport which only took about 3 minutes. however we were arriving about 2 hrs, late and it was wonderful to see a very nice gentleman waiting for us with a sign with our name on it after we had been travelling for so long. The room was small with 2 twin beds. I was a bit worried since the sheets looked yellow and worn out but must admit I was too tired to care. I couldn’t find my toothbrush and called the front desk to see if they had one. They said yes, the price was 10 R (about $1.50)”plus tip,” which I thought that was pretty funny. As it turned out they were out of them anyway. You couldn’t stand in the shower for more than a few seconds before it filled up with water and overflowed. Had to get creative – washing one arm, leg, at a time, etc. We slept too late for their continental breakfast (50R).

I went to the front desk to inquire about their shuttle or a taxi to the “waterfront”. The receptionist was on the phone and as I waited I saw a cab pull up. The man came in and also stood at the front desk. When I finally got to telling the receptist what I needed of course the taxi driver said “Oh was just stopping in to see if anyone here needed a cab”. Sounded too good to be true to me! He asked for 250 R so I asked what the hotel’s shuttle price was and she said not that much. We ended up paying 180 R which the receptionist said was a better price than their shuttle. The receptionist also called the cab company to verify that this driver was legitimate (he was). The driver was very nice and of course tried to get us to book a tour with him for later in the day, which we declined.

Overall, the Cape Town Airport Road Lodge offered minimal amenities in a very small room, but was fine for an inexpensive place to crash for a few hours before resuming our journey.

Top 4 Last Minute Cruise Deals to Alaska

Alaska has long been a destination we’d love to visit – and with all the news lately, we decided to compile a few last minute deals from the major lines. We are not a travel agency nor affiliated with one – and all links on this post go directly to the cruise line’s website.

Below are four of the best deals that we found (at least as of today). These fares are per-person, based on double occupancy, and do not include taxes or government fees – and it’s possible you may qualify for deeper discounts based on location, age, or other factors.

Princess Cruises: 7-Day Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

Ship: Golden Princess
Departs: Seattle, Washington
Departure Date: July 31, 2010
Ports of call: Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan while sailing in Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord, depending on your itinerary.
Length: 7 Days

Inside Cabin $799
Oceanview Cabin $949
Balcony $1,499*
Suite $1,679

*Note: Take a look at the August 14th sailing – it’s $200 less per person for a balcony, but the same or higher in every other class.

Visit Princess Cruises for more information. (limited time link!)

Holland America Line: 7-Day Alaskan Explorer Cruise

Ship: ms Zaandam
Departs: Seattle, Washington
Departure Date: September 3, 2010
Ports of call: Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria BC while sailing in Glacier Bay
Length: 7 Days

Inside Cabin $699
Oceanview Cabin $699
Balcony $1,099
Suite $2,649

Visit Holland American Line for more information.

Carnival Cruise Line: 7-Day Glacier Bay Cruise

Ship: Spirit
Departs: Seattle, Washington
Departure Date: September 13, 2010
Ports of call: Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Vancouver BC while sailing in Glacier Bay.
Length: 7 Days

Inside Cabin $569
Oceanview Cabin $779
Balcony $1,009
Suite $1,679

Visit Carnival for more information.

Royal Caribbean 7-Day Sawyer Glacier Cruise

Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas
Departs: Seattle, Washington
Departure Date: August 27, 2010
Ports of call: Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria BC while sailing in the Alaska Inside Passage and Tracy Arm Fjord.
Length: 7 Days

Inside Cabin $644
Oceanview Cabin $949
Balcony $1,999
Suite $2,149

Visit Royal Caribbean for more information.

Alaska Cruise Dollars Decline after Tax Hike

While politicians are debating tax hikes in Washington D.C., the state of Alaska is learning firsthand what increased taxes can do to your local economy and the businesses that operate there. Preliminary results from the Alaska Department of Revenue show a 20% decline in cruise tourism in May from a year ago following tax increases that caused several cruise lines to drop itineraries to “The Last Frontier.”

The cruise industry typically sets itineraries two years in advance, so it took a little time for Alaska to see the decline after the $46 tax for each visiting cruise passenger was put into place a few years ago. Last year, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess all announced plans to pull ships from Alaska once they saw their profit margin sinking under the new taxes.

Carnival’s CEO made a statement last year explaining that cruise lines operate primarily as a business, and if business is better somewhere else (e.g. a ship can make more money in Europe than Alaska) the line won’t hesitate to move a ship.

Earlier this year Alaska changed the law and lowered the tax rate (after much lobbying from local tourist associations and the cruise line industry) – but the effects won’t be seen until at least 2012 since ships have already been scheduled and booked for other itineraries around the world.

Unfortunately for businesses dependent on cruise tourism in Alaska, this could be too little too late. It will take years to recover the business cruise ships were bringing to the region and may force some local businesses to close.

Cruise lines have the luxury of taking their business elsewhere relatively easily by pointing their ships in another direction – land-based companies do not.

Poll after poll will tell you jobs and the economy are the number one concern in America – which is why it’s puzzling to me why a state would impose a policy that encourages business to leave the region – and in most cases the entire country. Lower tourism means fewer businesses and higher unemployment.

Alaska figured it out too late for it to benefit anyone in the next two years – I hope Washington D.C. doesn’t make the same mistakes.

VIA: USA Today – Cruise Log

How Cruise Lines Can Help St. Thomas Reduce Crime

StThomasToday we’re learning about the death of a 14-year old cruise ship passenger on St. Thomas, an Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was allegedly caught between two gangs in the midst of a shootout while on a tourist bus en route to Coki Point Beach – one of the island’s most popular destinations. Many cruisers are worried about upcoming trips to the island, but should they be? Should this incident cause concern?

The teenager was traveling with her family on board the Carnival Victory which has seven day cruises out of San Juan. The tour bus they were traveling on was not a Carnival-sponsored excursion, though Carnival said it was canceling trips to that beach area. Princess cruises has followed suit, but according to CruiseCritic.com, Norwegian Cruise Line (Epic is set to dock tomorrow), and Royal Caribbean have yet to determine any cancelations at this time

The cancelations of trips to certain beaches is a good start for the cruise lines, but in order to make real change, we suggest suspending travel to the island for a period of time until they can get their act together and reduce their crime rate.

For the last few years running, St. Thomas has recorded a violent crime rate between 5 and 7 times that similar-sized cities in the United States. Although St. Thomas is a territory of the United States, it is self-governing and has an independent police force – a group that many locals feel a sense of distrust for.

Tensions between local police and U.S. Federal officials have been strained in the last few years, after an ATF agent shot and killed a resident in 2008 while intervening in a domestic dispute. The local police cried foul, and the United States pulled out all ATF agents about 6 months later. The FBI and DEA still have offices on the island, though some believe they’re hands are tied for political reasons.

If local police are the problem, then it is up to the people to stand up for a change – and while the crime rates may seem like enough motivation to us, nothing has changed on the island for the better.

Cruise lines should suspend all travel to the island for one month – and only return pending an independent assessment of the changes made to help protect citizens and travelers.

St. Thomas is an economy based on tourism – it wouldn’t take long for every business owner (undoubtedly the ones with the most political power, too) on the island to be calling for a change. Until they need a reason to change, they will continue to sit on the sidelines as long as their business isn’t affected – and it hasn’t been.

The tragedy this week is terribly unfortunate, but maybe it will be the wakeup call to the cruise lines that supply the island with its cash crop – tourists – that it is time for more action if any real change is desired.

Carnival to offer Roundtrip Cruises from California to Hawaii

Taking a Hawaiian cruise just got a little easier thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines. In December of 2011, Carnival will offer a 15-day itinerary to the Hawaiian Islands departing and returning in California.

This is the first time Carnival has offered round-trips to Hawaii, which they hope will provide customers with “a more convenient and cost-effective means for visiting the breathtaking island chain.”

Flying into your cruises departure port can be a tricky balance. Arriving a day ahead of time is preferred, but not always the most convenient or cost-conscious. Arrive too late and you’ll spend even more money trying to catch up with the ship at another port. This airfare/hotel gamble gets even more expensive with an exotic location like Hawaii.

Carnival should expect to see plenty from California and neighboring states take advantage of the new offer – which will leave first from Los Angeles, and San Diego will follow a few months later.

The Hawaiian Islands expected to be on the itinerary are Hilo, Kahului, Honolulu, Lihue, and Kona.

Carnival Sending Newest, Largest of Ships to Texas Port

Hurricanes have wreaked havoc on cruise ship ports in the last few years. Hurricane Ike demolished Galveston, TX to the tune of 3 Billion dollars in 2008, and New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina in 2005. However, Carnival Cruise Lines is sending the message that these two ports are back on the map, most notably by announcing Galveston as the new home for the Carnival Magic.

The Carnival Magic is part of the cruise line’s Dream Class of ships and is set to debut in Barcelona next May for a few seven to 12-day Mediterranean cruises before making the 16-day trans-Atlantic voyage to its home port of Galveston, Texas in October.
Carnival Magic will have seven-day itineraries to the western Caribbean (Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel) and eastern Caribbean (Nassau, Freeport, and Key west).

For shorter voyages, CCL will move the Carnival Triumph to the port of Galveston as well, making it the largest ship to operate a year-round short cruise program from that port.

The two ships currently calling Galveston home, the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, will reposition to New Orleans – bringing Carnivals pre-Katrina cruise levels back to the embattled city.

This news is exciting for those of us outside of Florida, who are far more likely to take a cruise if the port is just a few hours away driving distance – and to have the ships include one of the newest and largest ships from Carnival – that’s not so bad either!