Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Costa Allegra Gets More Ship Escorts, Generator, Bread

Costa Cruises said the disabled Costa Allegra got three more ship escorts as it was being towed by the French shipping ship Trévignon at a speed of about 6 knots. At the current speed and with stable weather conditions, Costa Allegra is expected to arrive at Mahé, Seychelles, in the early morning of March 1. Two tug boats and a second ocean-going fishing vessel reached Costa Allegra to assist the ship if needed. Costa Allegra lost its propulsion system after a fire in the generator room on Feb. 27. It was drifting in the Indian Ocean until the Trévignon arrived to tow it to safety. On Feb. 29, Costa expects a helicopter to deliver about 400 flashlights and fresh bread. There is sufficient food and other "comfort items" on board. Also, a small generator was delivered by a local Navy ship that to help restore basic services. Costa’s Care Team arrived at Mahé on Feb. 28. The group of 14 people includes executives and managers as well as specialized technicians. The team is tasked with providing assistance to the ship, guests and crewmembers on their arrival at Mahé. Care Team members are meeting with local authorities to arrange operational details of guests’ arrival at the island. Top priority was given to securing necessary accommodations at hotels and organizing an efficient process for making guests’ travel arrangements. Costa said eight members of the Care Team will board Costa Allegra the morning of Feb. 29 via a local Navy ship to meet guests and discuss arrangements and to assist the ship’s staff in thorough technical inspections. Two officers from Seychelles Immigration will also arrive to facilitate customs procedures.

Norwegian to Add Brazilian Steakhouses to More Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line is adding Brazilian-style steakhouses to more ships. Moderno Churrascaria first debuted on Norwegian Epic but soon it will be available on eight ships. The company also expanded its reservations system so passengers can make dining reservations in advance online for specialty restaurants fleet-wide.
Moderno Churrascaria is currently available on Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Pearl. Norwegian Gem will be outfitted with the restaurant in late February, followed by Norwegian Jewel in March and Norwegian Star in April.
In Moderno Churrascaria, guests are greeted by passadors who serve grilled beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage tableside. The cover charge of $20 per person also includes an expansive salad bar.
With the introduction of a fleet-wide dining reservations system, guests cruising within 45 days on any Norwegian ship can plan and pre-pay for their specialty dining choices in advance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Carnival Corp. Besieged by Bad News

In more troublesome news for Carnival Corp., the Costa Allegra was adrift off the Seychelles Islands, following an engine room fire early on Monday. Costa issued a statement Monday afternoon saying that engine room inspections were in process, in an effort "to determine when the equipment can be restarted."
The ship was located more than 200 miles southwest of the Seychelles and approximately 20 miles from Alphonse Island. "Tugboats and other naval and aerial units have been dispatched to Costa Allegra," Costa said.
According to Seychelles officials, help was expected to reach the vessel by tonight. Although the fire was put out, and none of the 1,000 passengers was injured, there was a power blackout, and the crew was forced to make a mayday call for assistance. According to Costa, a general emergency alarm was sounded and passengers and crew reported to their muster stations.

Passengers robbed in Mexico
The latest Carnival troubles came on the heels of news that 22 passengers on the Carnival Splendor were robbed during a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta last week. There were no injuries, but the armed assailant made off with cash, cameras, jewelry and other valuables. The specific tour was the City Tour & Tropical Jungle Escape. All the guests returned safely to the ship and disembarked Sunday in Long Beach, Calif., following the weeklong Mexican Riviera sailing. In the Mexico incident, Carnival issued a statement saying that "numerous authorities were notified and responded to investigate, as well as assist the affected guests. The tour in question has been suspended until further notice. "Carnival sincerely apologizes to its guests for this very unfortunate and disturbing event and is providing its full support and assistance."

Prior to this incident, cruise lines had already cut port calls in Mexico in the wake of U.S. State Department travel warnings over drug-related violence. Major lines including Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian and Disney last year dropped the port city of Mazatlan from itineraries and have not returned.
Princess Cruises also avoided Puerto Vallarta on several cruises, but had planned to return later this year. Holland America dropped Acapulco from wintertime sailings.
Travel advisories
Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department advised visitors to defer non-essential travel to some parts of Jalisco, the state where Puerto Vallarta is located. Specifically, the State Department warned of troubles in areas bordering the neighboring states of Michoacan and Zacatecas, due to reported gun battles between criminals and authorities.
There is no warning against traveling to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, but travelers are advised to exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in Jalisco.

Friday, February 24, 2012

American Cruise Lines Plans Mark Twain Tribute Sailing

American Cruise Lines, getting into the spirit of its new Mississippi product, is offering a special Mark Twain tribute cruise aboard the new Queen of the Mississippi on Sept. 15 roundtrip from St. Louis. Planned stops include an extended visit to Twain’s childhood hometown in Hannibal, Mo.
The cruise will feature a Mark Twain impersonator, a tour of Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, an onboard display of a first edition copy of "Life on the Mississippi," and a guided trolley ride through Hannibal. Guests will receive special edition copies of "Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn."
The Queen of the Mississippi, which will makes its debut in August, carries 150 guests in staterooms with private balconies. American Cruise Lines intends to operate the paddlewheeler over the entire Mississippi River system, including the Ohio and Cumberland rivers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Expands Nickelodeon Activities to Gem

Norwegian Cruise Line expanded its Nickelodeon programming to the Norwegian Gem. Each cruise will feature Nickelodeon’s new Pajama Jam Character Breakfast, when guests, encouraged to wear pajamas, gather for the morning meal. Each child receives a complimentary photograph.
Additional elements include Dora’s Dance Party, where children ages 6 and younger have the chance to sing and dance with Dora the Explorer and Team Nick; Nickelodeon Character Meet-and-Greets; Nick Jr. Story Time; and Nickelodeon arts and crafts.
Norwegian Gem sails seven-day Bahamas and Florida voyages from New York City through Sept. 1. Ports of call include Orlando, Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau. From Sept. 8 through Oct. 10, Norwegian Gem will sail 10-day Eastern Canada and Quebec cruises, followed by a series of nine-day Eastern Caribbean voyages. Nickelodeon programming also is on board Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic.
For more information on family travel, visit TheCruiseOutlet.com at 203-288-1884

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crystal Cruises Bookends Sailings with More Stationary Overnights

Crystal Cruises has added shipboard overnights at its embarkation ports at the beginning of cruises. For the upcoming European season, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony have doubled the number of voyages that begin with nights in port. The move eases the worry of late flight arrivals, lost luggage and relocating to or from hotels. Crystal has also added overnights to the middle and/or end of the majority of cruises this year. Overnights at the disembarkation ports of Venice, Barcelona or Istanbul, for example, let guests see significantly more of the final destination without having to move to a hotel or rush to the airport to fly home. Crystal’s new strategy will extend into 2014, with more than 85 percent of next year’s 64 itineraries offering two or more days in port, and a more than 50 percent increase in overnights on embarkation day. For more information or to book a Crystal Cruise, call 203-288-1884

Friday, February 10, 2012

Who to contact to Cruise

Many of the Cruise Lines are beginning to announce 1st Quarter Winter Promotions. Many years ago, there was a week in January / February when business was overwhelming for the forthcoming year. Like everything, that changed. The Cruise Industry "Claims" that this "wave Week" has transferred to Wave Month and / or Wave Season. Similar to the marketing that has grown over the years for the original day after Thanksgiving, I noticed this year that we have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Yes, in the business world, anything that drives in business and makes a profit is a success and the Cruise Industry is no difference.
Many of the offers that will appear are good ones, but also carry some very strict enforcement and terms and conditions. I don’t have words of wisdom or advice to give, as our company policy is to look at any and all promotions, look at the terms and conditions and the restrictions, then see what is the best rate and promotion we can provide to OUR clients. Like any business, the Cruise Lines make these promotions and set up so it will be financially beneficial for them, not you.
One Cruise Lines offers a promotion which is "non refundable deposits and payments". The rate is lower then other promotions they have, but people who book online or directly with that line do not find out about what they are stuck with until it is too late. There is also the companies which have people book online directly and never talk to a human being. Often with many of these companies there is a "service fee" that is charged at the end or is hidden and most people do not even know they have just paid more then they needed to.

A couple of areas, we watch. When the cruise lines runs another promotion and that rate or deal is better, we change the original booking to the new reduced rate, otherwise the customer is stuck with it and spends more money. Many companies do not watch for new promotions and do not bother looking after the client. Over the years, we have saved hundreds of dollars for our clients because a better promotion came along.
For people who book directly with the cruise lines or completely online, remember, when booking directly with a cruise line, the person you are talking to is paid by the cruise line, so they do exactly what they are told. One of the funniest situations I hear about and see is that clients think the people working for the Cruise lines know more about the cruise. There are a number of Call Centers around the country (and even outside the US) that the cruise lines use. The majority of people working at them have never been on a cruise and have no clue what they are talking about. If it is not in the script, they can not handle it.
Part of the point I am trying to get across is The Smart Consumer will deal with a Cruise Specialist Company. Not a regular Travel Agency that deals with all kinds of things, not the person that works out of their home and makes money part time, not the Online agency that requires everything to be done online, but companies such as ours which:
1> Have a physical Office
2> Has gone through & Certified by the Cruise Lines to know their product
3> Has cruised on that cruise lines ships
4> Has cruised on the ship you are interested in
5> Does this full time and is updated with the industry
So as we here at The Cruise Outlet review and prepare for the January > Winter booking rush, we will maintain our style of booking for our clients and get them the best offer and rate available.
Visit our website at www.thecruiseoutlet.com which has all the ships and sailing dates as well as the current cruise line rates. Pick you ship and sailing, call or email us and let us give you the best price available. Almost every ship and sailing we are able to offer on board credits of as much as $500. Per cabin. This is money for you to spend on your cruise as you see fit.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Holland America Line to Host Food and Wine Experts

Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center Program will host more than 60 celebrated chefs, cookbook authors and television personalities this year. Among them are "The Next Food Network Star" personality Serena Palumba, "Top Chef: Just Desserts" participant Zac Young, and Chef Tony Maws, winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Northeast." The Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine, hosts demonstrations in a full show kitchen as well as tastings, question-and-answer sessions and hands-on classes. Palumba, scheduled to sail on Veendam’s seven-day Bermuda cruise April 29, is a teaching chef and finalist from season six of the "The Next Food Network Star." She also created a series of instructional videos on YouTube called "Cooking in Manhattan." Maws, scheduled to sail on Ryndam’s Norwegian fjords cruise May 6, is executive chef and owner of Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Mass. Young, executive pastry chef of Flex Mussels Restaurant in New York City, is scheduled to sail on Volendam’s 23-day South Pacific cruise April 10. Young finished in the final four of Bravo’s first season of "Top Chef: Just Desserts" and can be seen on The Cooking Channel’s new series "Unique Sweets

Silversea Cruises Announces Speakers for Perspectives Program

Silversea Cruises has announced the lineup of speakers for its Silver Perspectives enrichment program. Among the speakers are news correspondents Bernard Kalb and Morton Dean, famed hostage negotiator Terry Waite, broadcaster and monarchy expert Brian Hoey, television producer/director Terry Hughes, and Sky News and BBC commentator Alastair Bruce. Waite will sail on the Silver Shadow’s on the Feb. 23 cruise from Freemantle to Singapore. As envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Waite successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya during the 1980s. In 1987, while negotiating the release of hostages in Beirut, Waite was himself taken hostage and held in captivity for 1,763 days. Dean will sail on the Silver Spirit’s April 12 voyage from Barbados to Lisbon. As a correspondent for CBS News and ABC News, Dean covered the Vietnam War and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. Kalb, who covered world affairs for more than three decades for CBS News, NBC News and the New York Times, will sail on the Silver Shadow’s April 25 voyage from Tokyo to Shanghai and the May 6 departure from Shanghai to Tokyo

Holland America Evicts Passenger for Skipping Muster Drill

Here’s a very strong sign that cruise lines are cracking down on participation in emergency drills after the Costa Concordia tragedy: A Holland America Line ship kicked off a passenger for failing to show up for the lifeboat drill. In a statement, the line said one guest scheduled to sail on Westerdam’s Jan. 29 cruise was "disembarked prior to sailing for non-compliance with the mandatory passenger emergency drill." The drill included alarm blasts and announcements throughout the ship, including instructions that failure to participate would result in disembarkation. The drills take place in the port of embarkation before the ship leaves the dock so that guests know where to go and what to do if an alarm is sounded. These drills are mandatory for all passengers, and non-compliance may result in disembarkation, the company said.