Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene Sends Cruise Ships Scattering in the Caribbean

(Updated 7:30 a.m. EDT) -- Irene, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season, strengthened to hurricane force overnight, prompting a number of Eastern Caribbean islands to issue storm watches and warnings and sparking itinerary changes by Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 7 a.m. EDT advisory, Irene is some 40 miles west-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Maximum sustained winds from the storm have reached 75 mph, and the storm is expected to intensify.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Royal Caribbean has reversed the itinerary for Oasis of the Seas, which left Fort Lauderdale on Saturday for a week-long Western Caribbean cruise. The ship will now spend Sunday at sea; visit Cozumel on Monday; spend Tuesday at sea; call on Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday; and visit Labadee, the line's private peninsula, on Thursday. Oasis will spend Friday at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as scheduled.

Freedom of the Seas, which left Sunday from Port Canaveral on a week-long Western Caribbean cruise, will also sail a reversed itinerary. The ship will now call on Cozumel (Tuesday), Grand Cayman (Wednesday), Falmouth, Jamaica (Thursday) and Labadee (Friday).

Oasis' sister ship, Allure of the Seas will visit all the ports originally scheduled on its week-long Caribbean cruise, but in a slightly different order. The ship will now call on Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday instead of Monday. Visits to St. Thomas (Wednesday) and St. Maarten (Thursday) will take place as planned.

Royal Caribbean has scrambled the order for Serenade of the Seas' seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise, which left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday. The ship will now visit Aruba (Tuesday), Curacao (Wednesday), St. Kitts (Friday) and St. Thomas (Saturday).

Carnival Miracle, which embarked from New York on an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Thursday, will be sailing an altered itinerary. Instead of visiting San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, the ship will call on Grand Turk (Monday) and Half Moon Cay (Tuesday).

Weather Outlook: Possible Affected Ships and Ports

The latest NHC projections show the storm passing through Puerto Rico early early Monday before reaching the east coast of the Dominican Republic midday Monday. A hurricane warning is in effect for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and tropical storm warnings are in place for the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Haiti.

Legislation aims to lure cruise industry to Brownsville and the coast

by Steve Clark of the The Brownsville Herald
BROWNSVILLE -- It’s possible to board a cruise ship at any one of 11 ports in the United States and sail anywhere — except to another U.S. port, unless you stop in a foreign country first. That is, unless the cruise ship was built in the United States, is registered in the United States, is U.S.-owned, and is captained and crewed by U.S. citizens. In that case, a cruise ship can sail back and forth between U.S. ports until its propellers fall off. Trouble is, there aren’t any — U.S.-built cruise ships, that is. The last American-built cruise ship, SS The Emerald, built in the late 1950s, was pulled out of service in the past couple of years and is "laid up" in Greece. Who cares? Congressman Blake Farenthold, for one. He says a law enacted 90 years ago to support the U.S. maritime industry now impedes tourism-related economic development in U.S. port cities — including Brownsville and Corpus Christi, both within Farenthold’s congressional district — by making it illegal for foreign-flagged, built and crewed cargo and passenger ships to travel between U.S. ports without making a foreign stop along the way. The culprit is Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Section 27 is known in nautical circles as the Jones Act. The Jones Act, whose passenger provision actually dates back to the Passenger Vessel Service Act of 1886, wasn’t specifically intended to keep cruise ships from calling at consecutive U.S. ports. But since the United States doesn’t build cruise ships anymore, that might as well have been the intention. So Farenthold introduced House Resolution 2460, the Creating and Restoring U.S. Investment and Stimulating Employment (CRUISE) Act, which would amend U.S. maritime law to allow foreign cruise ships to call at multiple U.S. ports consecutively. Farenthold noted that in 2009 alone, the cruise industry generated more than 15,000 jobs and $788 million in Texas, or rather Galveston. The Port of Galveston is a cruise line "home port" and the only Texas port currently servicing cruise ships. However, he believes Brownsville and Corpus Christi could benefit substantially, even as just ports-of-call. Farenthold said a 2,500-passenger cruise ship can potentially generate as much as $36,000 in onshore spending per U.S. port call. The Texas Legislature last session passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, or the Cruise Ship Industry Study Bill, which calls for the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the Texas House "to provide for a joint interim legislative study regarding the development of the cruise industry on the Texas coast between Calhoun and Cameron counties and its potential economic impact." The bill notes that Florida and California, in that order, benefit most from the North American cruise industry, with each state operating five ports for cruise ships. Besides Galveston, SCR 5 argues that three Texas major deepwater ports between Cameron and Calhoun counties are capable of serving as cruise line headquarters or ports of embarkation. One is Brownsville. The others are Port Lavaca, about 80 miles north of Corpus Christi, and Corpus Christi itself. Ralph Cowen, Port of Brownsville commissioner and vice chairman, said changing the law to allow foreign-flagged cruise ships to dock at consecutive U.S. ports would be a positive thing for the Gulf’s deepwater ports, including Brownsville, which has the added draw of South Padre Island. "There are a lot of interesting cruises that could happen if we could do that," he said. "It would be very helpful." However, any attempt to completely gut the Jones Act would likely be met with stiff opposition from U.S.-owned ferry companies and the union that represents crews, since the Jones Act shields them from foreign competition, Cowen said. He said that any changes would have to take ferries and the union into account "to have a chance of passage." The Port of Brownsville already has been studying the possibility of attracting cruise ships as a port-of-call. Officials from the port, Cameron County, Brownsville, Harlingen, Port Isabel and South Padre Island in 2009 formed the Cruise Line Committee, which commissioned a $25,000 feasibility study. The study, completed about a year ago, determined that attracting cruise ships to Brownsville is feasible. Since then, the committee has met with and corresponded with representatives from the cruise industry in order to "plant a seed" — also suggesting Brownsville as an alternate port in the event of hurricanes. It took the Port of Galveston 12 years to land its first cruise ship, beating out the Port of Houston, which built a $100 million cruise ship facility that sits unused. Now Galveston is hosting 12 cruise ships a week, which translates into enormous revenues. Disney Cruise Line announced last spring it would begin sailing its vessel the Disney Magic out of Galveston in 2012 for seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean. "If we could get one ship a week that’s all we need," Cowen said. "That’s 16,000 people a month. That’s like having a major convention or two every week. Every time one of those ships come in, the amount of money it brings to a community is just a huge shot in the arm." 

Oceania Replaces Med with Canada/New England for Fall 2012

Oceania Cruises will offer Canada and New England cruises for fall 2012 in place of previously scheduled Mediterranean voyages. In total, nine itineraries have been changed. Our 2011 Fall Foliage cruises have been so well received by our travel agent partners and their clients that we decided to redeploy Regatta from Europe to Canada and New England in fall 2012, stated Bruce J. Himelstein, Oceania Cruises president. These new voyages offer exceptional value with two-for-one fares and free roundtrip air."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Norwegian Updates Tobacco Policy, Bans Smoking in Staterooms

Norwegian Cruise Line adjusted its smoking fleetwide, banning smoking in staterooms starting in January. Guests will still be able to smoke on outside stateroom balconies, but cigar and pipe smoking is prohibited in staterooms and on balconies. Ashtrays will be available for use upon request through housekeeping staff. In an effort to diminish the presence of smoke indoors, cigarette smoking will only be permitted in the casino, where ashtrays and appropriate signage will be displayed. Smoking will be prohibited in all other public interior venues including all bars, restaurants, conference rooms, corridors, restrooms, staircases and landings. Guests can smoke cigarettes, cigars and pipes in the enclosed cigar bars onboard Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Spirit. In addition, the policy allows guests to smoke cigarettes, cigars and pipes in outdoor public guest spaces and open decks, where designated by the appropriate signage. Smoking is not permitted near outdoor venues which serve food, in open spaces such as the jogging track, sport complex, children’s pool and in The Haven outdoor areas. For more information contact The Cruise Outlet - 203-288-1884

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tropical Storm Emily Forces Ships to Change Caribbean Itineraries

Several cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean changed itineraries to avoid the path of Tropical Storm Emily, which gained strength on Aug. 2 when it was about 215 miles south-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, while a watch was issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The National Hurricane Center forecast that the center of Emily will be near the coast of Hispaniola on Aug. 3. A “slight strengthening” of the storm is expected in the next day or two. Maximum sustained winds have increased and are now near 45 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 70 miles.

Royal Caribbean International has altered the itineraries of the Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas. Oasis was unable to make its scheduled port calls to St. Thomas on Aug. 2 and St. Maarten on Aug. 3. Instead, the ship spent Aug. 1 and 2 at sea, and will call on Costa Maya on Aug. 3 and Cozumel on Aug. 4. The ship will spend Aug. 5 at sea as it returns to Port Everglades on Aug. 6, as scheduled. Freedom of the Seas is also unable to make its scheduled port calls to St. Thomas on Aug. 3 and St. Maarten on Aug. 4. Instead, the ship will call on Grand Cayman on Aug. 3 and Cozumel on Aug. 4. The ship will spend Aug. 5 to 6 at sea as it returns to Port Canaveral on Aug. 7, as scheduled.

Carnival Cruise Lines changed the itineraries of the Carnival Dream and Carnival Liberty. The Dream cancelled a call at St. Thomas on Aug. 2 and instead went to Grand Turk. The Aug. 4 sea day will be replaced with a call at Freeport. The Liberty also went to Grand Turk instead of St. Thomas on Aug. 2, and will replace its scheduled Aug. 4 call on Grand Turk with a visit to Key West. The Aug. 5 sea day will be replaced with a call to Freeport.