Monday, August 24, 2015

Cruise lines leaving Houston high and dry as attention turns to Asia

The Port of Houston is losing both of its homeported ships next year, a victim of a growing focus by North American cruise lines on shifting deployments to Asia. Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have announced 2016 schedules that do not include a ship sailing from Houston, where western Caribbean itineraries are typically offered.  It is the most tangible fallout yet from the cruise industry’s high interest in China, Australia and other Asian markets.
Princess Cruises said the departure from Houston is the final domino in a chain that started when the line moved the Sapphire Princess from Australia to China. The China cruises were announced in 2013 and started in May 2014. The redeployment of several ships ultimately led Princess to move the Caribbean Princess from Houston to Fort Lauderdale in late 2016, where it will still offer some western Caribbean routes.
But for Texas cruisers, the news means a reduced choice of cruise lines and homeports. Following the moves, instead of five lines sailing from the state, there will be three, and they will depart only from Galveston.
Though Asia deployment is the first cause cited by Princess and others in accounting for the change, another factor could be the expiration next year of financial incentives offered by Houston to lure cruise lines to its Bayport Cruise Terminal.  And Carnival has made a strong push in the last several years in New Orleans and Galveston, raising the level of competition in the crowded western Caribbean.
Norwegian was the pioneer of what it dubbed “Texaribbean” cruising when in 1997 it launched weekly service with the old 848-passenger Norwegian Star. Since then, it has dropped the market and returned twice, first in 2007 and again in 2014.  Norwegian did not provide a direct rationale for the latest pullout. For the first time in recent memory, Norwegian is sending a ship, the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star, on Asian and Australian itineraries next year. That will be independent of any decision to position a ship there for Asian-sourced passengers.  Without identifying it, the new deployment “replaces our lowest-yielding seven-day product.”  At the same time, the Norwegian Jade will move from Houston to Tampa, where it will continue to offer seven-night western Caribbean cruises but also mix in a few 10- and 11-night itineraries. The Jade replaces the Asia-bound Norwegian Star, which has been sailing from Tampa.
A somewhat similar game of musical chairs sent the Sapphire Princess to China from Singapore and the Diamond Princess to Singapore from Australia. The Emerald Princess, which had been sailing from Houston, was moved to Australia this year to cover the hole left by the Diamond Princess. Princess plugged the gap by moving the Caribbean Princess to Houston but concluded that wasn’t a good long-term strategy. “It didn’t make commercial sense for us to market and operate one ship from Houston, so we moved the Caribbean Princess to Fort Lauderdale, where we get economies of scale,” O’Connor said.
That will leave Houston with no cruise ships and a deserted 96,000-square-foot terminal after next spring.  Stan Swigart, port director of marketing and communications, confirmed the view that the port’s misfortune arises from the ascendency of Asia.  “The reasons we’re getting is that they’re redeploying vessels to the Asian and Australian markets, and Houston was just not in the mix,” Swigart said.  Next year also marks the expiration of a reported $6.7 million in financial incentives extended to Princess and Norwegian in 2012 to induce them to sail from Houston’s then-vacant terminal.   A drawback for Houston is the building’s interior location off the Houston Ship Channel some 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.   “Galveston’s closer to open water than we are. That may play into it,” Swigart said. “Cruise lines are really finicky. They shuffle the deck a lot, just to keep it fresh.”
After Norwegian’s last departure, in 2007, the $81 million terminal saw no cruise passengers from 2008 to 2013. It was used as a lay-berth port and for ship repairs, Swigart said. At the moment, there are no cruise ships on the horizon that want to dock there, he said.
That’s not the case in Galveston, where Texas-based cruising will consolidate after next year. Carnival has bulked up its presence there, announcing that it will move its newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, to Galveston in 2016 to join the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Freedom. It also reached a marketing partnership with the Dallas Cowboys and took other steps to attract business.
Galveston is also home to a Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Wonder, and to a Royal Caribbean International ship, the Navigator of the Seas.  In November, Royal plans to replace the 3,276-passenger Navigator with the 4,000-passenger Liberty of the Seas. A 60,000-square-foot expansion of the terminal that Royal uses in Galveston was to have been completed by then, but a redesign has pushed back the opening until the spring, port spokeswoman Cristina Galego said.
The expanded terminal will seat an additional 2,000 passengers. Galego said Royal Caribbean has asked the port to provide an air-conditioned tent as a passenger waiting area until the terminal work can be completed.
For more information on all these cruise lines and ships  as well as making reservations with exclusive rates and amenities,  contact at 203-288-1884 or email:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Disney Cruise Line Reveals New Alcohol Policy

Disney Cruise Line has announced changes to its alcohol policy, the Orlando Sentinel reported. 

The stricter new policy, which will go into effect fleet-wide Sept. 30, limits the type and amount of alcohol passengers can bring aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.  Under the new policy, passengers will be allowed to bring a maximum of two unopened bottles — no larger than 750 milliliters — of wine or champagne. And guests boarding with beer will be able to bring six 12-ounce bottles at most. 
However any amount of liquor will be prohibited. Keep in mind that the aforementioned volume limitations apply to boarding at the start of the voyage as well as boarding at each port-of-call.
Passengers will have to consume any alcohol brought on board in the privacy of their cabin, or else pay a fee to drink in the ship's dining room. "We regularly evaluate our policies and made the change," a Disney Cruise Line spokesperson told the Sentinel Monday, adding that the new policy "is not unusual in the cruise industry."  Previously, Disney Cruise Line passengers were allowed to board with beer and liquor as long as it was carried onto the ship. Under the new policy, any beverages brought onto the ship must be stored in a carry-on bag or luggage. Alcohol packed in checked-in luggage will be prohibited.  Disney said it will seize and store any alcohol that violates the new policy onboard until the end of the cruise. 
For more information on all Disney Products and to make reservations with exclusive rates and amenities, contact at 203-288-1884 or email:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New water park to debut on Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International said that the Harmony of the Seas, an Oasis-class ship due in May 2016, will have a children’s water park called Splashaway Bay.
The water park on the two preceding Oasis-class ships is called H2O Zone.
Splashaway Bay will have sea-creature water cannons, winding slides, a giant drench bucket and a multi-platform jungle gym. A thrill slide called Ultimate Abyss will stretch ten stories, beginning in the pool and sports zone and plunging 100 feet to the Boardwalk neighborhood.  There will be three other slides known as the Perfect Storm trio: the Cyclone, Typhoon and Supercell, the last of which features a champagne-bowl slide.  Harmony will debut in the Mediterranean and move to Fort Lauderdale in November. For more information on all the unique features as well as making reservations with exclusive rates and amenities for this ship or other Royal Caribbean ships, contact at 203-288-1884 or email:

Friday, August 14, 2015

No cruise impact seen from Tianjin explosions

No cruise impact seen from Tianjin explosions

The fatal explosion in a hazardous-materials warehouse in Tianjin, China, has not impacted cruise facilities at the port near Beijing, said spokesmen for two lines with operations there. Roger Frizell, vice president of public relations for Carnival Corp., said he was unaware of any disruption. Rob Zeiger, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s vice president, said he was unaware of any impact. Royal's Mariner of the Seas based in Tianjin. It has plans to sail Ovation of the Seas there next year.
The explosions killed at least 50 people and flattened a warehouse district at the port, according to media reports. More than 500 people were injured. For more information on sailings from China and to make reservations, contact for exclusive rates and amendities at 203-288-1884 or email:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

RCCL Sticks with No Last-Minute Discount Policy

“We began in March and we’re sticking to it,” Fain said. “It’s still early days, but the impact we’ve seen from the load factor perspective is relatively small and aligned with our expectations. We’re trying to achieve happier guests and better branding. It does seem we’re on the right track.”
The policy eliminates last-minute price cutting at 10, 20 or 30 days out, and has in fact been expanded to 40 days out on some departures. It has stopped some discount-seekers from booking a cruise on an RCCL brand, but Fain said he believes pricing integrity will be a success in the long run.
“We recognize this policy is costing us some money in the short term, but we believe in the long term it will pay handsome benefits,” he said. “Our price integrity policy addressed deep last-minute discounts that are so frustrating to our guests and travel partners and ultimately so damaging to our brands,” Fain said. “Our policy is to hold our price. … It’s really very important to the branding. It’s hard to set yourself out as a brand that is high quality and highly respected in the industry but say you can have it for half-price. The ability to maintain your image as a higher quality product has to permeate everything you do.”
“We remain in the best booked position in our company’s history,” Fain said. Bookings since the April earnings call have been healthy and the company continues to be booked ahead of last year, the company press release said. “Momentum in the Caribbean continues at a solid pace, and our strong booked position in the third and fourth quarters gives us confidence as we move through the second half of 2015,” CFO Jason T. Liberty said. “The trajectory of our brands is firmly on course for another record year of earnings, with healthy trends extending into the first quarter of 2016.”
Fain also said he expects to see more bundling of extras, such as a beverage package or prepaid gratuities, into the up front cruise fare. RCCL’s premium brand Celebrity Cruises recently introduced the permanent value-added pricing structure called “Go Big, Go Better, Go Best!” The program lets guests choose extra amenities — prepaid gratuities, $150 onboard credit, a Classic Beverage Package, and unlimited Internet.
“Philosophically speaking that is a growing trend, and we’re doing more of that,” Fain said. “We really are seeing a desire for this on the part of our guests and very much on the part of travel agents who find it is a much better way to present something and sell it if it’s all included in the package.

For more information about this and other programs available or to make reservations, contact for EXCLUSIVE rates and amenities at 203-288-1884 or email at