Traditional Navigation Skills Still Used on Newest Ships

The computerization of the most modern cruise ships has made navigating the seven seas that much easier over the years, but that doesn’t mean someone on the bridge isn’t still manually plotting a course on paper charts in the same way sailors have done for hundreds of years. Check out the video on how Royal Caribbean’s Oasis crew blends new technology and traditional navigation skills to keep one of the fleet’s newest ships on course:

Royal Caribbean Commits to Preserving Oceans

When you operate the largest vehicles in the world, the environmental impact is bound to be large as well – and Royal Caribbean is going the extra mile when it comes to “Saving the Waves.”

“We respect the fact that our business can only exist if the ships that are cruising the waters of the world take exemplary care of the environment around them,” says RCL’s CEO Adam Goldstein.

Check out the video below to see how Royal Caribbean is going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to operating an environmentally friendly cruise line.

Age Old Beverage Gets New Age Treatment on Allure

iPadWineMenuFor 8,000 years mankind has been drinking and enjoying wine. Over that time, the landscape and complexity of the wine world has grown immensely, making it nearly impossible for even the most experienced oenophile to be well-briefed on every vineyard and vintage. To make ordering a glass you’ll enjoy a little less challenging, Royal Caribbean has introduced a new iPad based application in the wine bar aboard it’s newest ship, Allure of the Seas.

Interactive iPad based menus in Vintages wine bar, located in the “Central Park” area of Allure, allow customers to research different wines, food pairings, and regions – then digitally order a glass or bottle from the menu. Bartenders, or “Winetenders” in this case, instantly receive the order on an iTouch. The digital application also allows guests from all over the world to do their research in the language of their choosing.

“This is a great innovation,” says Roger Dooley, Editor of Box Wines and a long-time cruiser, “particularly on a cruise ship with a large staff. Every bar waiter can’t be a wine expert, and this lets passengers peruse the wine selection on their own.”

I particularly like the ability to narrow a list quickly, say, to “full bodied reds” and to provide a more detailed description of the wine in case the passenger isn’t familiar with it. The language flexibility is welcome, too, as it avoids situations like a Japanese passenger trying to learn more about a wine from a Hungarian waiter in English.

Check out the video below for more info on the digital ordering process at Vintages on Allure of the Seas:

Specialty Dining on Allure of the Seas – 150 Central Park

Living in Texas – finding cuisine that uses smoke as a main ingredient isn’t difficult – but finding it on a cruise ship isn’t as common. In the boutique restaurant 150 Central Park on board Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, chef Molly Brandt uses smoke to prepare her signature dish: Smoked Sweet Potato Soup.

SmokingGunAllureJust before the table presentation is done, Brandt uses a “Smoking Gun” to fill the bowl’s cloche (a cover typically used to keep food warm) with smoke. When the cloche is removed at the table, smoke is released creating a sensory trio as guests see and smell the unique presentation which has also infused the dish with a distinct flavor.

Check out the video to see how it’s done!

Entertainment on Allure of the Seas Rivaling Norwegian Epic

RoyalCaribbeanChicagoMusicalBack in June we asked if the Norwegian Epic entertainment model would go industry wide, and among the newest mega-ships, that seems to be the case. The Tony award winning musical Chicago recently made its seven-seas debut aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

The question more and more cruise execs are asking themselves is if they’d be willing to pay to see their shows if it wasn’t the only option within a couple hundred miles (…by boat). They’re looking for shows that have a history of doing well on land, and adapting them to a cruise ship stage.

I’m glad that there is high-quality adult entertainment on board the Allure – since most of the attention seems to be going to the Dreamworks deal that made Shrek and Donkey residents on the ship. This is great for families, but not everyone’s cup of tea, so it’s good to see the high-quality entertainment options rounded out.

So now that the original question has been party answered, the new question is whether the quality will trickle down to the ‘average’ ships. Carnival has stuck with their mix of musical review shows with one or two featured vocalists – but hasn’t yet pulled off a big, well-known production aside from some musical-themed cruises with big name artists. Carnival would likely say that affordability is a big part of their line’s mission, and that such shows come with costly royalties and expenses. Maybe they’ll debut something big with their newest Dream Class ship Magic? We’ll see.

In the meantime, below is a video from the opening of Chicago on board Allure during a preview cruise. Enjoy!

One Lucky Family to Cover Royal Caribbean’s Allure for USA Today

OasisoftheseasCeremony

Would you like to be on board one of the very first ‘preview’ voyages of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Allure of the Seas? So would we! But it’ll be the reporting talent of one lucky family that will earn them the chance to cover the story – live from sea – for the USA Today.

The family (up to six people) will have airfare paid for to take part in, and report on two consecutive preview cruises on Allure – all leaving on November 18, 2010.

Check out Royal Caribbean’s site on how to win – and good luck from all of us at CruiseShipForum.com!

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.

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.

Will Norwegian Epic Entertainment Model Go Industry Wide?

BlueManGroupNCLEpicNorwegian Cruise Line describes their newest entertainment lineup as “revolutionary,” a surprisingly true statement. We’re surprised that it’s taken anyone in the industry this long to ask themselves “could our entertainment stack up against acts in New York City and Vegas?” NCL asked that question, and booked headlining act Blue Man Group not just for one or two theme cruises or the inaugural run, but for their headlining entertainment this season aboard their newest ship, Epic.

If anyone has come close to doing something similar, it would be Royal Caribbean. RCL’s Oasis of the Seas has a running production of Hairspray that casted in London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. While I can appreciate a good musical, if I was cruising with my entire family and the two venues were put to a vote, it would likely come to a 5-1 majority favoring Blue Man Group on Epic.

RCL’s Allure of the Seas debuting later this year, inked a deal with DreamWorks to bring characters like Shrek on board, and even though you can make the case that the movies and characters can have appeal to an older audience, there are lots of folks who may prefer to have breakfast without the possibility of being approached by an 8 foot tall green ogre.

Some cruise lines like Carnival are still running musical revue shows with OK dancers with one or two featured performers. Sure it beats sitting in your room, but acts like this would never stand on their own if they were on land and in a city with hundreds of other options.

Acts like Blue Man Group do come at a higher cost to the cruise lines, though. Carnival would probably contend that for an extra few hundred bucks per passenger, they could book expensive entertainment as well – but providing an affordable experience for families is a higher priority.

As more mega-ships roll out, expect to see more recognizable names and acts on board for more than just a few inaugural sailings. Booking based on the on-board entertainment as it relates to your party, rather than just how big/new/shiny the ship is, will help guarantee everyone a good time.