Friday, February 27, 2015

Disney Raises Park Prices

Visiting Mickey and Minnie just got more expensive. The Walt Disney Co. raised ticket prices to attend Disneyland, Walt Disney World and the rest of its U.S. theme parks. A one-day ticket for either Disneyland or California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., is now $99 for anyone 10 or older, the company said. That's up from $96.  Single-day tickets for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., are now $105, up from $99.  Disney has continued to see strong attendance growth at its theme parks and resorts.  For the quarter ended Dec. 27, revenue for the segment rose 9% to $3.9 billion, as attendance at the company's California and Florida parks climbed 7%, with Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort each setting all-time quarterly attendance records.  A measles outbreak linked to Disney's Southern California theme parks hasn't hurt attendance.  Earlier this month, CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC that the company was seeing no discernible impact on attendance or bookings from the outbreak, which was revealed last month.  Among other price changes that took effect Sunday: A one-day ticket to Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom now is $97, up from $94.  Disney also bumped up ticket prices for children ages 3 to 9. Kids in that age bracket will be charged $93 for a single-day ticket at Disneyland. That's up from $90. For the Magic Kingdom, that ticket is now $99, up from $93. For the other theme parks, it's now $91, up from $88.  Disney typically raises ticket prices at its U.S. theme parks annually, said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman.  "We continually add new experiences, and many of our guests select multiday tickets or annual passes, which provide a great value and additional savings," she said.

For more information on Visiting Disney or Cruising with Disney Cruise Lines, call for exclusive rates and promotions at 203-288-1884 or

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Viking River Cruises to launch Cruises on the Mississippi in 2017

Viking Cruises, a major European river player will launch Mississippi River cruises in 2017. It will become the first major European competitor to enter the U.S. river cruise market with dedicated vessels.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen announced on Tuesday that the line has chosen New Orleans as the home port for Viking’s first cruises in North America. “We’re proud to welcome Viking River Cruises to New Orleans,” said Jindal. “This investment will not only bring great new jobs to our state, but it will also showcase Louisiana and the Mississippi River to the rest of the world.” Hagen had alluded to the potential for his line to enter the American river cruise market over the past two years. "The Viking team is very proud to partner with the state of Louisiana, and we are grateful for the support of Governor Jindal,” Hagen said. “We are excited about the prospect of bringing modern river cruising to the Mississippi, a river that has been traveled by explorers for centuries.”

Viking will construct six new U.S. river cruise vessels over the next three years at an estimated cost of $90 million to $100 million per vessel. The river boats will be built in U.S. shipyards and crewed by U.S. citizens, the line said.  All vessels sailing under the Viking flag in the U.S. will be owned by Tennenbaum Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based alternative investment management firm. They’ll be dedicated vessels that are time-chartered to Viking.  

Already sailing on the Mississippi and throughout America's heartland are American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Queen and American Cruise Lines’ Queen of the Mississippi and American Eagle (launching this spring).  While Viking is a new player within the U.S. market, the line has expanded rapidly overseas. Viking is the world's largest river cruise operator with 60 vessels, many of them modern Long Ships launched in Europe the past three years. Viking plans to deploy two boats per year on the Mississippi River, with six boats in the first three years.  That launch will certainly come with promotional muscle -- which may actually benefit all competitors.

As for competitors, American Queen Steamboat Company operates a traditional paddlewheel vessel and its American Queen product plays heavily into the Mark Twain era and the fond connection Americans have with that chapter in American history. Onboard decor has a historical flair, although amenities for guests are modern. American Queen is also the biggest riverboat on the river, carrying 436 guests.  In contrast, American Cruise Lines' two vessels have paddlewheel design, but more modern propulsion and, thus, can cover a bit more territory. The interior of the ships is contemporary in design. These vessels also are smaller -- serving just 150 guests.

Viking's passenger count will fall in the middle. It announced that its American riverboats will host up to 300 passengers and feature luxury amenities. In Europe, Viking typically operates a modern, contemporary Long Ship product with clean lines and cookie-cutter design that's very similar from ship to ship.
Mississippi Itineraries

Viking’s Mississippi River cruises will operate from docking facilities near New Orleans' French Quarter. "We are thrilled by the choice of the Port of New Orleans as Viking’s initial entry into the North American market,” said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO, Port of New Orleans.  La Grange said the port’s board of commissioners had been working with the Viking team for nearly two years to determine the proper venue for the new ships within the port and along the Mississippi River.

The new cruises will have port calls in St. James, East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes in Louisiana. The cruises will then continue further into the U.S. interior to such ports as Memphis, TN; St. Louis, MO; or St. Paul, MN, depending on the season.  “Culturally rich itineraries will be great for the U.S. market – especially out of New Orleans, which already has a historic, European flair," 
"We know our passengers will enjoy the rich history, culture and cuisine of all the great cities and towns along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Paul," said Hagen. "Together with our U.S. partners, we take great pride in the economic benefit that river-cruising provides to the regions our guests visit, from the shipbuilders to the local businesses.”  Jindal and Hagen said the Viking initiative will result in more than 780 new direct and indirect jobs in Louisiana. Of those, 416 will be new direct jobs for Louisiana-based operations and vessel crews; the average salary will be $40,000 plus benefits.  

The line’s customers are expected to travel to New Orleans from across the U.S., Europe and beyond, bringing new business to New Orleans' hotels, restaurants, museums and other attractions. More than 90 percent of sales created within Louisiana by the new Viking project is expected to come from out-of-state customers.  “New Orleans is on a roll, and this investment is yet another example of the continued growth across industries in our city,” said Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans.

"Since its launch in 1997, Viking River Cruises has connected its passengers to Europe and Asia’s most scenic landscapes and cultural landmarks," said Jindal. "With today’s announcement, the picturesque Mississippi River and the beauty of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other great cities of the American South will join the list of the company’s journeys as Viking River Cruises launches its first North American cruise.”   Many officials say Louisiana was chosen as a home port choice because of the state’s positive business climate, workforce and port infrastructure. The state of Louisiana also offered Viking a competitive incentive package that includes a $4.5 million performance-based grant for site preparation at the company’s docking locations in Louisiana. 
Viking also will receive the customized solutions of the state’s workforce development program, LED FastStart, which will include partnerships with the Louisiana Workforce Commission and local educational institutions.

Founded in 1997, Viking first expanded into the U.S. market by establishing its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. In November 2013, the parties began discussing potential Viking interest in starting the voyages from New Orleans.  “Having the top river cruise company homeport in New Orleans will be an outstanding chance to tell the story of the Louisiana renaissance to the world,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO, Greater New Orleans Inc. He said the decision of Viking to come to New Orleans demonstrates great teamwork at the state, regional and local levels. Stephen Perry, president and CEO, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, also gave his support, noting that “Viking is synonymous with elegance and class, and they will bring a diverse domestic and international clientele” to the cruises and thus to New Orleans.

Viking is on an expansion kick. In addition to its growth in river cruising across the globe, it's launching its first oceangoing ship, the 930-guest Viking Star, this spring. Two additional ocean ships, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, are also on order.

For more information about this and other Viking cruises, contact for exclusive rates and promotions at 800-775-1884

Royal Caribbean International has cancelled Brilliance of the Seas Feb 23 sailing

Royal Caribbean International has cancelled Brilliance of the Seas’ Feb. 23 sailing after the previous sailing was unable to return to port in Tampa due to heavy fog. The foggy conditions are forecast to continue for the new few days, the cruise line said.  Passengers on the previous cruise are finding their vacation unexpectedly extended. It is unclear when the ship will be able to dock, disembark those guests and embark new passengers.  Royal Caribbean will give each guest a full refund of the cruise fare paid, processed back to the original form of payment within four to six weeks.
Royal Caribbean also is giving guests a future cruise certificate for 25 percent of the cruise fare paid for their Feb. 23 sailing. This certificate can be used for a future cruise on any Royal Caribbean ship within the next year. Future cruise certificates will be mailed to their home address or travel agent within six to eight weeks.  “We understand that this was not what our guests were expecting, and not what we said last night, and we share in their disappointment,” Royal Caribbean said. “Again, we thank our guests for their ongoing patience and understanding throughout this unfortunate situation.”

For more information and exclusive rates and amenities on all Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships,  contact at or call 203-288-1884

Harmony of the Seas Could Be World’s Biggest Cruise Ship

It looks like there will be a new world’s biggest cruise ship in April 2016 when Royal Caribbean International’s third Oasis-class ship enters service. The new Harmony of the Seas will be 227,000 gross registered tons — a measure of area, not weight —making it just slightly bigger than its 225,282-ton sister ships, Oasis and Allure of the Seas, which now share the world’s largest title. The final size measurement is usually taken when the ship is complete, so the numbers could shift.  The Harmony of the Seas will have the same seven neighborhoods introduced on Oasis of the Seas. It also will have three multi-story waterslides, all of which twist and turn over Central Park 10 decks below. One of the slides will have a champagne bowl that swirls guests around as they slide down to the end of the ride.      Harmony of the Seas also will have the Bionic Bar on the Royal Promenade — this is the bar with robotic arm bartenders that was introduced on Quantum of the Seas. The ship also will issue wristbands that can be used as a stateroom key and to make onboard purchases and reservations.
Some stateroom categories will be larger than those on Oasis and Allure of the Seas. The interior accommodations also have the Virtual Balconies that show videos of the view outside. The ship also will have studio staterooms. Suite guests will get access to an exclusive lounge, private restaurant called Coastal Kitchen, and a sun deck.
The Dynamic Dining on Harmony of the Seas will include the “Classic” option in which guests rotate through the four complimentary main restaurants at an early- or a late-seating time with their same dining group and waiter each evening.
Specialty restaurants will include Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, with a new teppanyaki menu, and the Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant.  Overall, the 16-deck Harmony of the Seas will carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy. The seven neighborhoods onboard includes Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

For more information and exclusive rates and amenities contact at or call 203-288-1884