Friday, August 31, 2012

Princess Offers Evidence That Star Princess Did Not Ignore Adrift Boat

Princess Cruises has taken the unusual step of releasing video and photographic evidence that it says clears it of allegations that one of its ships, Star Princess, ignored an adrift fishing boat in distress. The story, which broke last April, received extensive press coverage, primarily with anti-cruise bloggers who criticized Princess and the ship’s captain for not coming to the rescue of the men onboard, two of whom subsequently died. On Aug. 30, Princess released recently discovered video footage of a rescue at sea of a small boat adrift for nearly a month in the Pacific Ocean. Princess says the video "conclusively confirms the adrift boat, the Fifty Cent, was not the small boat spotted and photographed by three Princess passengers several weeks earlier." Princess has been sued six times by the survivor and relatives of fishermen on the adrift boat. The lawsuits claim the cruise ship Star Princess passed within several miles of the Fifty Cent, but failed to rescue them despite three cruise ship passengers spotting them and reporting they saw a boat that might be in distress. The ship’s bridge staff did not see signs of distress and therefore did not stop or notify the ship’s captain, Princess said. The Princess passengers, a group of bird watchers with sophisticated telescopic camera equipment, photographed the small boat they had spotted. Their photos depict a small white boat similar to Panga boats used by local fishermen in Central America, Princess said, but the video footage of the Fifty Cent’s rescue shows "a markedly different boat." Princess had the newly discovered video and the original bird watchers’ photos analyzed by Michael Snyder, a retired photo analyst and photogrammetry expert from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Snyder concluded that "the small boat photographed by the passengers onboard Star Princess is clearly not the small boat called Fifty Cent that Adrian Vasquez was found adrift on."Princess said it began searching for photographs or video of the Fifty Cent after hearing recorded statements by Vasquez that were "inconsistent with his allegation that Star Princess had passed him by, and which were also inconsistent with the bird watchers’ reported sighting. The captain of the fishing boat that rescued Vasquez has provided a sworn statement confirming that Vasquez gave a detailed account of his ordeal at the time he was rescued, but never mentioned any cruise ship passing him by." Princess also said a drift analysis "further support[s] the fact that Star Princess did not cross paths with the Fifty Cent" based on ocean current, wind and wave data. Conducted by Weather Routing Inc., a private meteorological consulting firm, the analysis concluded "that it is not likely the boat sighted by the guest passengers was the same boat rescued on March 23rd and identified as the Fifty Cent." Princess demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed and has offered to waive its right to seek recovery of legal costs, citing sympathy for the victims of the Fifty Cent’s ordeal. "While this remains a tragic story, we are gratified to have scientific confirmation that Star Princess was never in the vicinity of the adrift boat and that the boat photographed by our passengers was not the adrift Fifty Cent," said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. "Nevertheless, we have used this as a valuable learning opportunity and have strengthened our bridge reporting procedures to ensure that all messages of concern from passengers or crew are carefully evaluated by our senior bridge officers." Princess reports that the ship’s captain, Edward Perrin, had been devastated by allegations his ship might have ignored a vessel in distress. Ironically, Perrin was praised last month by Canadian authorities after his ship diverted to act as a wind block assisting Canadian authorities in a helicopter rescue of two sailors from a boat that was floundering in stormy conditions off the coast of British Columbia. Princess ships have come to the aid of persons or ships in distress more than 30 times in the past decade. It is fairly common for Princess ships to divert to render aid when they receive distress calls.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Royal Caribbean Adds Cabanas, Water Slide at Labadee
Royal Caribbean is offering more cabanas for rent at Labadee, its private beach destination on Haiti, company President and CEO Adam Goldstein shared on his blog. In all, there are 40 private cabanas for rent on Labadee now. The company started with 20 at Barefoot Beach Club, the private area for guests in Grand Suites and higher categories, and for those renting the cabanas. Now, 16 cabanas have been added to Nellie’s Beach. "The Labadee cabanas have been a huge hit and so we have increased the number," Goldstein wrote. "Our initial offering at Barefoot Beach Club was 20 cabanas, and we are in the process of completing four more over-the-water cabanas there. In addition to regular and over-the-water cabanas, we now offer three cabanas that are wheelchair accessible, using our beach wheelchairs. In addition, there are 16 new cabanas at Nellie’s Beach. So there are now 40 cabanas available for rental at Labadee." Each cabana can accommodate four to five guests. While each cabana is the same in size, amenities and services offered, there are four types with prices depending on location. The daily rental fee includes a dedicated cabana attendant, complimentary bottled water, complimentary floating mats and snorkeling equipment, a beverage menu (prices charged accordingly), and an upgraded lunch menu at the private BBQ facility. The cabanas are available for reservation onboard through the concierge or guest services manager on a first-come, first-serve basis. The daily rental fee for cabanas on Nellie’s Beach is $175-200, depending on location. On Barefoot Beach, the daily fee is $150-200.

Labadee’s newest attraction is Dragon’s Splash Waterslide, a 300-foot, stainless-steel saltwater slide at Columbus beach close to the Arawak Aqua Park. The slide, which costs $20 to ride all day, officially opened on July 9 when Oasis of the Seas called at Labadee. For an update on Labadee enhancements, contact at 203-288-1884




Carnival Elation Heads to Mobile Since New Orleans Remains Closed

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Elation is heading for Mobile, Ala., since the
Port of New Orleans and the Mississippi River remain closed to ship traffic due to Tropical Storm Isaac. Weather permitting, the Elation’s passengers will debark Friday morning and be bused back to New Orleans. The ship was scheduled to arrive back at the Port of Orleans on Aug. 30. For those booked on the Aug. 30 departure, the scheduled four-day cruise will be shortened to three days departing on Aug. 31. Carnival advised guests to plan to arrive at the Port of New Orleans between 1 and 4 p.m. on Friday. The parking garage at the port will be open, and buses will take guests and their luggage to Mobile. Guests who choose to sail on the shortened cruise will receive a 50 percent refund of the cruise fare within the next two weeks, a 25 percent discount on a future three- to five-day cruise and refund of government fees and taxes. Refunds will not be provided for flight changes, hotel accommodations, meals, transfers, or other incidental costs. Those who want to cancel or reschedule, should call 800-CARNIVAL to request a future cruise credit. The Port of New Orleans, which shut down Aug. 27 as Hurricane Isaac headed for Louisiana, said it is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine when the Mississippi River could reopen. Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday but dumped heavy rains that caused flooding in Louisiana and parts of Mississippi. The port said the Coast Guard plans to assess the Lower Mississippi River at first light Thursday and continue to work with river pilot organizations and port officials to reopen the channel as soon as safely possible. Once an assessment of the river is made, soundings of the channel are conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine if there are any changes to the channel’s draft or storm debris that could hinder navigation. There is no official word on when the Mississippi River could reopen, but port officials hope to resume operations by the weekend. LaGrange added that port facilities seem to have fared well, except for some minor wind damage






Champagne Wishes and Bordeaux Dreams

All you wine enthusiasts - have you heard about Immersive Wine cruises? These cruises specialize in providing passengers with the opportunity to explore and experience the wine countries of Europe - both on-board and on-shore.

You don't have to be rich or famous to enjoy this special opportunity!

Let's sail off and sip champagne in the City of Light!

UA Network Outage Underscores Travel Agent Value

UA Network Outage Underscores Travel Agent Value

by Maria Lenhart and Andrew Sheivachman - August 30, 2012

United’s major network outage that shut down its reservations system and website on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012 pointed up the advantage for consumers to work with travel agents. Most agents contacted by Travel Market Report said they experienced little or no business disruptions during the outage, many were called on to assist clients caught up in the mess – and were able to help navigate them through it.
580 delays, paper boarding passes
United’s computer glitch grounded airplanes for more than two hours, caused 580 delays, nine cancellations and rendered the carrier’s website inaccessible. In addition, GDS companies said that they did not have access to real-time inventory during the outage. United said its operations were running normally on the following day. The carrier said the outage was caused when a piece of communications equipment in one of its data centers failed and disabled communications with its airport stations and website. "We have fully redundant systems, and we are working with the manufacturers to determine why the backup equipment did not work as it was supposed to," a United spokesman said in an e-mail. Although the outage affected reservations and departure control issues – the carrier had to issue manual boarding passes and baggage tags.
Need for the travel agent
Situations such as what occurred on Tuesday demonstrate the relevance of travel agents, according to Garria.
"Truthfully, we have clients who say if it wasn’t for you guys, we’d be lost," she said. "They tell their buddies who book online, ‘try to get someone on the phone to help you or back you.’ I had a client with three transfers yesterday, and I had her backed up- if you go online, this is not going to happen. Travel agencies are still needed."

Fort more information on using a Professional Agent contact at 203-288-1884

Monday, August 27, 2012

Clients praise RCCL for handling delay of Allure of the Seas due to Tropical Storm Isaac

Clients praise RCCL for handling delay of Allure of the Seas due to Tropical Storm Isaac

We have been getting some very accurate information from our passengers who were scheduled to sail this past week end and as more information comes in, we will continue to post it. Presently, Royal Caribbean continues to monitor Tropical Storm Isaac to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain their ships steer clear of the storm. clients have reported that due to the progress of Tropical Storm Isaac and the delay in sailing, Royal Caribbean has done a great job in communicating and providing for all passengers of the The Allure of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. Due to the delay in sailing of the Allure of the Seas, RCCL has provided a very good compensation for the missed days of crusiing and the costs being forced to stay in hotels in the Fort Lauderdale area until Tuesday.

From RCCL:
Tropical Weather Update August 26, 2012 - 5:00 pm EST
Given Tropical Storm Isaac's current location and projected path, and the forecasted weather for South Florida, Allure of the Seas' next sailing will now begin on Tuesday, August 28. We ask that guests who are scheduled to sail on Allure of the Seas on Sunday, August 26, not arrive at the port until 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 28. We kindly ask that guests come to the terminal between 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, for check-in and boarding. Regrettably, the delayed departure will have an impact on the scheduled itinerary. Allure of the Seas will now spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, call to Cozumel, Mexico, on Thursday, August 30, spend Friday, August 31, at sea, and Nassau, Bahamas, on Saturday, September 1.
Majesty of the Seas
The Port of Miami closed at 11:00 p.m. (Saturday, Aug 25) and plans to reopen on Monday, August 27. Because of this, Majesty of the Seas' boarding on Monday will be delayed. Boarding will now start on Monday at 5:00 p.m. Guests can begin arriving at 5:00 p.m. and should arrive no later than 8:00 p.m. Majesty of the Seas will call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Tuesday, August 27, as scheduled. However, the arrival time in Nassau may be impacted by the later departure. More information will be provided to guests once they board the ship.

Boarding for Monarch of the Seas will begin at 1:00 p.m., as scheduled. Monarch of the Seas will spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, and call to CocoCay, Bahamas, on Thursday, August 30. However, we suggest that guests sailing on Monarch of the Seas on Monday, August 27, continue to monitor this website for any additional updates."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Low river depth disrupts American Queen cruise

The 436-passenger American Queen was not able to make its scheduled 220-mile journey from Memphis to Vicksburg, Miss., due to low water levels on the Mississippi River in Memphis. "We can’t control the river," said Tim Rubacky, senior vice president of sales, marketing and product development for the American Queen Steamboat Co., which owns the American Queen. Record-high temperatures in July and a drought has affected the water level on the Mississippi. The American Queen was scheduled to finish one cruise and start another in Vicksburg on Friday. But with the Mississippi River in Memphis about 40 feet below where it was at this time last year (a few feet higher than the all-time low), the American Queen Steamboat Co. decided to keep the vessel moored rather than risk getting stuck. Guests were given the option to stay and spend additional time in Memphis, or be bused down to Vicksburg, where they were offered a complimentary hotel night. Passengers scheduled to depart from Vicksburg were bused to Memphis. Impacted passengers received a $1,000 credit per stateroom for a future cruise. The American Queen is currently scheduled to leave Memphis on Saturday evening and head north. Rubacky said the company does not anticipate any further changes given that water levels on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers are controlled by a series of locks and dams. Rubacky said the company would assess any further complications on a day-to-day basis and accommodate guests accordingly. For more information on cruising on the American Queen contact at 800-775-1884 or

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cruise and Booze: Carnival the Latest to Test All-You-Can-Drink Package

August 20, 2012

Will Carnival become the latest cruise line to jump on the all-you-can-drink, alcohol-included beverage package bandwagon -- joining lines like Celebrity, Oceania and MSC? Perhaps so. If the trial run of the My Awesome Bar Program," which is currently underway aboard Carnival Victory, is a success, the beverage package could be rolled out to the entire fleet. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed that the trial has been ongoing since Victory's August 5 departure. The per-cruise cost for the My Awesome Bar Program is $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity. Purchasers can partake of a wide variety of wine, beer and spirits, as well as sodas and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails throughout their cruise. However, all included beverages, including wines by the glass, beers and individual cocktails, must be individually priced at $10 or lower to qualify for inclusion. Program participants who want to purchase bottles of wine and Champagne, as well as more expensive wines by the glass and cocktails will receive a 25 percent discount. Passengers can sign up for My Awesome Bar Program at Carnival Victory's atrium and casino bars, as well as at the main pool bar. There is a catch: if one passenger wants to purchase the beverage package, then all passengers ages 21 years and up in the same cabin must also purchase the package. Though Carnival would not comment on the reasons behind this requirement, it does make the possible issue of two people in one cabin sharing a plan moot.
Gulliksen touted convenience and value as reasons the line is exploring all-inclusive beverage options. At press time, the length of the test period had not yet been determined. Other cruise lines that offer similar types of unlimited beverage packages are Celebrity, MSC and Oceania. Of thesethree, only MSC also requires all passengers in the same cabin to purchase the package, making the Carnival and MSC options the most expensive per cabin of all the programs (even if some individual packages are higher priced). Royal Caribbean also offers an unlimited beverage package, though only on three of its most international ships. Royal Caribbean and Holland America both offer discounts on pre-purchased wine bundles. For more information contact at 203-288-1884 or email:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Port Canaveral Opens New $65 Million Cruise Terminal

The grand opening is set for Sept. 13, but Port Canaveral has started using its new $65 million, 90,000-square-foot cruise terminal The 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy was the first to depart, on Aug. 13, from the state-of-the-art Cruise Terminal 6, nicknamed CT6. Spanning two levels, the facilitys electronic ticketing lobby can process 2,400 passengers at one time. The atrium has a 1,100-seat waiting area including 300 seats on the mezzanine level. Passengers are guided through the terminal via electronic signage. The terminal also has a 30,000-square-foot baggage handling area.
CT6 has a new three-level, 750-car parking garage adjacent. The garage has a ground-floor retail area, which will serve passengers, crew and port employees.
Carnival, Port Canaverals largest cruise operator, homeports three ships at the port and brings in two vessels for port calls on a regular basis. Carnival is expected to bring more than 600,000 passengers through Port Canaveral this year. In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line will utilize CT6 for port calls by Norwegian Breakaway, which will begin service in fall 2013, sailing from New York to Florida and the Bahamas. It was built with passengers in mind, said Port CEO Stan Payne, noting that the spacious terminal is nothing less than stunning when you see the use of audio visual aids. The terminals official grand opening celebration on Sept. 13 will benefit the local United Way.

Monday, August 13, 2012

American Queen Scrambles Due to Low Water in Mississippi River

American Queen Steamboat Company has been revising riverboat itineraries due to extremely low water levels on the Mississippi River. The American Queen paddlewheeler has remained in Memphis since Aug. 8 instead of heading for Vicksburg, Miss., where passengers were scheduled to embark on Aug. 10. The companys motorcoaches picked up passengers spending a pre-cruise hotel night in New Orleans or Jackson, Miss., and took them to the boat in Memphis after a battlefields tour or, in the case of New Orleans passengers, the tour and a hotel night and hosted dinner in Vicksburg. The changes are due to the record low water levels on the Mississippi, the lowest in more than two decades, the company wrote in a letter to passengers and travel agents. We have been in constant communication with the Army Corps of Engineers and the most prudent course of action, and safest one for our guests, is to not proceed south of Helena, Arkansas. This is due to the fact that there have been a growing number of river closures, on a daily basis, caused by barge traffic running aground. If we were to proceed to Vicksburg, there is a substantial risk that the voyage itinerary would be interrupted if the American Queen were unable to proceed north on the river due to one of these closures." In Memphis, the American Queen was forced to dock at Greenbelt Park on Mud Island instead of its usual place at Beale Street Landing because the water is too shallow.  The vessel is now scheduled to operate a dinner cruise of sorts on Saturday, departing about 4 p.m. and returning to Memphis about 11 p.m., said Senior Vice President Tim Rubacky. The company booked two acts to perform — B.B. King Blues Band and the Memphis Suns.
The boat was scheduled to be in Helena on Sunday, but will remain in Memphis while passengers take the motorcoaches to Helena for the Civil War tours. Sightseeing in Memphis is an alternate option. Then American Queen will sail the rest of the scheduled itinerary on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, where the water levels are fine for the cruise. Passengers on the Aug. 10 voyage and the previous one they got a tour in Memphis and a hotel overnight in Vicksburg are getting a $1,000 per stateroom credit for a future cruise. You cant control the river and cant fight the river, but what you can do is control the guest experience, Rubacky said. We are focused on keeping guests happy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Norwegian eliminates fare discount for babies

Norwegian Cruise Line has informed travel agents that from now on, it is going to charge children under the age of 2 the same cruise fare it charges for all kids. The cruise line previously charged kids under the age of 2 a portion of the cruise fare plus taxes and fees, a price that varied by the cruise. A Norwegian spokesperson said that all children, regardless of age, now pay the same rate. The move brings Norwegian in line with what Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines do, which is charge the same fare for all children. That price is typically the reduced fare charged to the third or fourth passengers in a cabin when they are traveling with two adults. For more information contact at 203-288-1884

Royal Caribbean Set to Install Self-Serve Fountain Soda Machines

Royal Caribbean International is installing some fancy self-serve soda machines on its ships, which allow guests who buy a fountain soda package to refill their own drinks rather than ordering from a bartender. The Coca-Cola Freestyle machine (no relation to Norwegian Cruise Lines tagline) allows guests to select from more than 100 drink choices, such as Coca-Cola Cherry Vanilla, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke Lime, The new Coke machine is already onboard Majesty of the Seas and will be installed on Explorer of the Seas in August, Freedom of the Seas in September, Oasis of the Seas in October, Allure of the Seas in November, and Enchantment of the Seas in December. Installation will continue into 2013. Midyette wrote that guests who buy the fountain soda package will get a souvenir cup with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded in it. The chip communicates to the machine that the holder can fill the cup, but glasses without the RFID will not be able to draw soda. Apparently, the chip also only allows one refill every five minutes or so, according to one poster, although Goldstein said the timing may be adjusted. The cost of the fountain soda package is $6.50 per adult age 18 and older per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity, and $4.50 per day for those age 3 to 17 years, plus the gratuity. The package allows unlimited refills throughout the cruise of fountain beverages, but does not include sodas from the mini bar. For more information contact at 203-288-1884

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Carnival Tests New For-Fee Early Embarkation Program

Carnival Cruise Lines is testing a new program on two ships that lets guests onto the ship and into their staterooms earlier. The program, called Faster to the Fun, includes other benefits, such as express luggage delivery and early or late disembarkation. The cost is $49.95 per stateroom, regardless of number of occupants.
The pilot program will roll out on Carnival Imagination Aug. 20 and Carnival Liberty Aug. 25. Faster to the Fun includes early embarkation, early stateroom availability, express luggage delivery to staterooms, priority dinner seating and tender availability, and choice of early or late debarkation. The program also includes express access to the ships guest services desk for any assistance.
The express boarding lets guests bypass lines and use exclusive security screening lanes. Once general boarding is underway, they can bypass the general boarding line and board through a Faster to the Fun lane. The Faster to the Fun designation shows up on boarding documents printed by the guest using online registration.
Carnival said the program was developed because guest surveys indicated "a strong interest" in a fee-based package providing priority access and benefits. For Diamond and Platinum level members of Carnival’s VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) Club guest recognition program, all Faster to the Fun benefits are available free of charge. For more information contact at