Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Carnival Tries Out New System to Stop Deck Chair Hogs

Carnival Cruise Lines is trying out a new system to stop people from saving seats on pool decks and then not using them. This practice infuriates many cruise passengers, who often can’t find sun loungers for themselves because they are occupied by towels, books and other paraphernalia—but not people. John Heald, senior cruise director now on Carnival Breeze, posted on Facebook that the ship is testing a new system to prevent seat saving. "The Carnival Breeze is the test ship for a new commitment to stopping this and we started today," he wrote. The new rules were posted on cabin TVs and in announcements Heald will make three times a day and during the morning show on television. "It was also placed on the Seaside Theatre big screen. So the message is loud and clear," he said. "The big difference here is that we are now staffed and able to police this. Our crew will walk the decks and if they see a chair unused but saved with towels, books, shoes, baby Yaks or underpants they will place a sticker on the chair with the current time. Then, they will check 40 minutes later, and if the chair is still reserved and unoccupied, then they will remove the articles and take them to the towel station by the main pool making sure a note is left for the guests that they have done so." Heald said it was felt that 40 minutes was enough time for guests eat, get a drink, swim, use the bathroom and so on without losing their seat. "This is step number one in a new drive to make this work, and once we finish the test here this cruise and next, we will make adjustments and then add to the rest of the fleet,"The message posted on cabin TVs says: "In consideration of all guests onboard, please do not reserve sun loungers. Towels will be removed after 40 minutes and kept in the Towel Station close to the deck 10 main pool. Enjoy your FUN day at sea!"

Monday, July 30, 2012

Celebrity Unveils Details About New All-Glass Suite Shower

Celebrity Cruises ’ Celebrity Reflection, showing how much amenities have become crucial to delivering unique cruise experiences, said it will feature an all-glass shower extending out over the edge of the ship in the new 1,636-square-foot Reflection Suite. The suite, which will have a 194-square-foot veranda, will be Celebrity’s first two-bedroom suite. We made a big investment in ensuring our guests can enjoy the shower entirely free of any concerns of being seen," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity’s senior vice president of hotel operations. "They can enjoy breathtaking sea views while discreetly showering, courtesy of the shower’s special reflective glass. But, if they seek even further privacy, the shower also features ‘smart glass.’ At the flick of a switch, guests can activate an electrochromatic technology which instantly transforms the glass from transparent to translucent." Nestled in a corner location of the 14th deck, and designed by New York-based BG Studio International Inc., the Reflection Suite is adjacent to the brand’s five new Signature Suites, each offering a 441-square-foot stateroom area and 118-square foot veranda. The Signature Suites each can accommodate up to four guests, and also will offer the butler service that comes with Celebrity suites. The entire area housing the Reflection Suite and Signature Suites can be accessed only by card-key. A family or group of up to 26 guests can book the private, six-suite area.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Princess ends unlimited Internet for suite passengers

With limited bandwidth at sea in an era in which people are increasingly online with more devices --- handhelds, tablets and laptops -- Princess has ended its policy of offering unlimited Internet for its suite passengers. The policy ended last month, although passengers with suites booked before July 15 will still be entitled to the unlimited bandwidth. Princess will continue to provide its suite passengers with other amenities including a special breakfast for suite passengers at Sabatini's, the line's Italian restaurant; a dedicated priority line for suite passengers at the Passenger Services desk; and fee-free dining at a specialty restaurant on the day of embarkation, among others services. In addition, Platinum and Elite Captain's Circle members qualify for a complimentary Internet use package: 150 minutes for cruises seven days and under, 250 minutes for cruises of eight to 20 days and 500 minutes for cruises 21 days or longer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Silversea bans stateroom smoking

Silversea Cruises will ban smoking in its suites and staterooms starting in 2013. Other cruise lines that have recently banned smoking in cabins and staterooms include Carnival, Princess, Norwegian and Holland America Line. Silversea had already banned smoking on guest verandas and balconies. The new policy also bans smoking in the main bar and the pool bar, except at certain designated tables. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking is allowed in the Connoisseur’s Corner and in specifically designated outside areas. These areas include designated tables outside of the Panorama Lounge, La Terrazza and the Pool Bar, as well as on open Decks 9 and 10 aboard Silver Spirit, Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow, open Deck 9 aboard Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, and open Deck 6 aboard Silver Explorer.

Oasis of the Seas aims to provide full-speed WiFi

Starting next June, passengers aboard Royal Caribbean Internationals Oasis of the Seas will be offered WiFi service throughout the ship at the sort of wireless speeds they are accustomed to getting at home or in the office. Currently, ships at sea, when they offer WiFi, deliver it at painfully slow speeds, a growing source of frustration for a generation of cruisers accustomed to full-time, high-speed connectivity. The Oasis will be the first cruise ship to be linked to a new satellite network that is expected to deliver fiber-optic bandwidth to the ship, which in turn will be able to deliver maximum-speed WiFi to passengers. A major motivator for Royal Caribbean to install the new system is the pervasiveness of social media. Increasingly, cruise lines are attracting passengers of a generation that has never known life without smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices. They dont like being unconnected, according to Bill Martin, Royal Caribbeans vice president and chief information officer. Moreover, some of the things they want to do with their devices most notably using Facebook, Twitter and other social media services could prove to be a marketing windfall for the cruise line. For example, Martin said, many passengers want to post a photo on their Facebook page of a show theyre watching at that moment in the AquaTheater. Thus, Royal Caribbean sees high-speed WiFi as a way to encourage organic viral marketing. A major qualifier in Royal Caribbeans plan, however, is that the necessary technology in fact, the entire satellite network is not yet in place. The constellation of satellites O3b plans to launch employs a technology quite different from that used by current satellites. Today, when passengers go online at sea, they are sending packets of information from the ship to a stationary satellite 23,000 miles above the Earth. Those packets then travel from the satellite to a ground station and back to the satellite, a journey that totals about 100,000 miles. When youre sending even the tens of thousands of packets of data needed for an email, that journey takes time. It adds up pretty fast, and thats why the experience on ships is so slow, Martin said. O3bs technology is radically different. It will employ a constellation of eight satellites launched into much lower orbits under 5,000 miles. Ships using O3bs network have two antennae that hand off signals to each other. One antenna picks up a signal from one satellite, lets go of the signal and the second picks it up. Then the first antenna picks up the signal from the third satellite and so on. That reduces the transit time, or latency, from more than 500 milliseconds to 130 milliseconds, a time reduction that makes a huge difference in data transmission, eliminating delays that plague voice and data communications at sea today. That kind of bandwidth means Oasis passengers could stream video or use Skype, although Royal Caribbean has yet to decide what kinds of content it will and will not allow. Whats more important to Royal Caribbean, Martin said, is that the technology will enable passengers to participate in social networking, which continue to grow in popularity. Royal Caribbean also has yet to determine pricing for the enhanced WiFi service. Currently, passengers typically pay 65 cents per minute to use the Internet, which means they tend to go online in short bursts of time. With O3b, Royal Caribbeans passengers could be constantly connected, much as they would be at a resort. Martin said Royal Caribbean could offer passengers a selection of Internet usage plans, including an unlimited data plan.
The new high-speed WiFi aboard the Oasis will serve as a research platform. The cruise line figures that 8,000 passengers and crew (enabling crew to stay in touch with friends and family is also an important part of this service) comprises a sizable test market for Royal Caribbean to both measure usage and determine pricing.

A last frontier for connectivity
The first Internet service on ships showed up at a time when cruise lines and Internet service providers werent sure if passengers even wanted to be online. So, when it began showing up on ships as early as 2000, it was available only at certain spots onboard. By 2004, it began to be available shipwide. Today, cruise ships are one of the last frontiers for a persistently connected society. Royal Caribbean has been deploying its new ships with pervasive wireless networks, meaning that they can be accessed from anywhere, be it poolside or on the balcony of a cabin, and it is retrofitting its older ships in the same way. O3bs ambitions are global and, to a point, so is its service. Its satellites orbit directly over the equator, which means that they can provide service from latitudes of about 45 degrees north (Halifax, Nova Scotia) to 45 degrees south (Santa Cruz, Argentina). In Europe, its service will cover the Mediterranean Sea. It also covers most of South America and all of Africa and southern Asia. Existing data communications satellites use a geostationary orbit, meaning they are always above the same spot on Earth. This requires much higher altitudes, which means they can service a much larger portion of the globe, although at lower speeds, and the satellites themselves are much bigger.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blount Small Ship Adventures to Include Beer, Wine with Meals

 Blount Small Ship Adventures will start including select beers and house wines with lunch and dinner on cruises in 2013. This is in addition to the lines existing BYOB policy, which lets passengers carry on adult beverages. Im excited to announce the inclusion of wine and beer during lunch and dinner service for all 2013 sailings, said Nancy Blount, president of Blount Small Ship Adventures. Weve done this to enhance our customers experience and to ensure we are providing the best value in small-ship cruising."

As part of its BYOB policy, Blount provides mixers, ice, snacks, and cold and dry storage in the lounge, where passengers can serve themselves anytime.

Formerly known as American Canadian Caribbean Line, Blount Small Ship Adventures specializes in coastal and river itineraries to the Central America, U.S. and Canada. President Nancy Blount is a second-generation owner of the family business founded in 1966. The Warren, R.I.-based company operates two U.S.-registry and U.S.-crewed ships. Each ship holds 96 passengers and features patented designs such as retractable pilothouses and shallow-draft bow landing ramps. For more information, visit TheCruiseOutlet.com, email info@thecruiseoutlet.com