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What’s New & Coming to Royal Caribbean in 2021, 2022 & 2023

In:
07May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

New cruise ships, new destinations and more are coming to a Royal Caribbean cruise near you between now and 2023.

Change is continuous at Royal Caribbean, and despite the challenges the cruise industry has faced since 2020, expansion plans are still underway.  After all, cruise lines have to think long term in order to ensure their return to service is successful.  

From time to time, Royal Caribbean reveals its long term plans to give customers a glimpse of what is coming next. There is not usually a lot of details shared until Royal Caribbean is ready to pull back the curtain more, as well as because the nature of cruise ship development is some decisions are changed or purposefully left undecided until closer to launch.

Prior to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean had orders placed for a number of new cruise ships, including a brand new class of ships, known as the Icon Class. They also had a host of port projects that were announced.  Unfortunately, the fact the cruise industry had to deal with billions in losses meant many plans had to be paused, delayed, or even cancelled.

The good news is many projects are still moving forward, including all of the new ship construction plans on order. This means there is a lot of exciting things coming to a cruise port near you.

Here is a project by project look at everything new and coming soon to Royal Caribbean.

Odyssey of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is complete and ready to begin cruises.

Odyssey of the Seas was delayed by a year (a common theme among anything Royal Caribbean had planned beyond 2019), but she is complete and now part of the fleet.

The 4,180-passenger vessel is a 16-deck-high, 1,138-foot-long ship, and is the second vessel in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Ultra Class of ships — stretched versions of three Quantum Class vessels that began debuting in 2014.

Odyssey packs a lot to do onboard, including multiple pools, aqua park for kids, surfing simulator, observation pod, and sky diving simulator.

There are even bumper cars you can ride, along with an array of complimentary and specialty restaurant options.

Odyssey of the Seas originally was scheduled to sail out out of Civitavecchia, Italy, but those plans were changed due to the global health crisis, the ship will be based out of Haifa, Israel and only open to Israeli residents.

Her summer 2021 cruise season will be available exclusively to Israeli residents who are fully vaccinated.

After Odyssey of the Seas completes her summer season in Israel, she is scheduled to move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in November 2021 to offer cruises to the Caribbean in the winter.

Wonder of the Seas

Delayed until 2022, Wonder of the Seas will be the fifth Oasis Class cruise ship in the fleet.

Her debut was pushed back from 2021 to 2022 due to the global health crisis. The impact of worldwide port and shipyard closures has created delays in the construction schedule and delivery of Wonder. 

Between March and November 2022, guests can sail roundtrip from Shanghai to Japan. Wonder will transition to warmer climates and homeport in Hong Kong, November 2022 through January 2023.

Wonder of the Seas will be the first Oasis Class cruise ship to sail from Asia.

With a gross tonnage of 236,857, the ship is 362 meters long and 64 meters wide, and it features a total of 18 decks and 2,867 staterooms to accommodate up to 6,988 guests. 

Wonder will be the first of its kind to be designed with eight neighborhoods, introducing the new Suite Neighborhood alongside returning favorites Central Park, the open-air AquaTheater, sporting a new look and where jaw-dropping, high-diving acrobatic and aquatic performances take place; Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea; and a 25-meter zip line 10 decks above the Boardwalk neighborhood.

Galveston cruise terminal

Construction began in April on a new cruise terminal in Galveston, Texas.

Cruise Terminal 3 is scheduled to open in October 2022, although there is an option for it to slip to early 2023 if the cruise industry remains shutdown longer than expected.

The new Terminal 3 in Galveston will be built on 10 acres of land at Pier 10, and will be used exclusively by Royal Caribbean. It will be large enough to handle an Oasis or Icon Class ship.

When the terminal does open, Allure of the Seas will begin offering cruises in November 2022.

The facility will feature state-of-the-art technology, including mobile check-in and facial recognition to expedite guest arrival. The terminal will be designed and developed sustainably to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) certification standards.

Freeport port project

Another major port project that is still moving forward based on local reports is the purchase of the Grand Lucayan resort in Freeport, Bahamas.

Negotiations have been ongoing for months, but the agreement seems to be in place for Royal Caribbean and ITM Group to purchase the hotel, along with the surrounding area near the port to build a new port project.

Prior to the cruise industry shutting down in March 2020, Royal Caribbean announced it would revitalize and expand the Grand Lucayan resort so that it could be transformed into Harbour Village.

It is unclear if or how those plans have changed under the new deal apparently struck to purchase the resort, but the original plans called for a a world-class beachfront destination.

Two phases of the project were announced that focused on the Grand Lucayan resort first, and then the surrounding area after.

Phase One of the Lucaya Property will consist of a beachfront destination – including a 526 room hotel, shopping village, spa and wellness center, water based family entertainment (including water and adventure theme park), a 40,000-square-foot convention center, adventure activities (such as zip lines and off-roading), restaurants and bars, entertainment and nightlife.

Phase Two – Harbour Village – will be at the cruise terminal in Freeport Harbor. The expected enhancements will allow visitors to enjoy numerous spaces with multiple shopping and dining venues, beach areas, shore excursions and more.

Additional plans for Freeport included a new transportation hub providing infrastructure for water ferries and ground transportation, including buses, vans, and jeeps. Holistica Destinations will partner with local business owners and entrepreneurs providing opportunities for guests to experience additional shore excursions in Grand Bahama.

First Icon class ship

Royal Caribbean has plans to introduce a brand new class of cruise ships with the Icon class.

There are not many details publicly available, but we do know some basic information, which has been hinted as a "game changer" by Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley.

Based on filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, we know the first Icon class ship is scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2023.

The ship will be built in Finland (Meyer Turku shipyard). Each ship will be powered by a combination of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fuel cell technology.

At 200,000 tons, the as-yet-unnamed vessels will be bigger than Royal Caribbean's Quantum class ships but not as big as the Oasis class ships.

Royal Caribbean has not announced a name or a design, but they did trademark the name Icon of the Seas.

Bahamas beach club

Another project announced before the cruise industry shutdown is a new Beach Club in Nassau, Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean first announced intentions to build a private shore excursion option in Nassau in March 2020, but has provided no official updates then.

What we do know is the beach club will be built at the western end of Paradise Island, and would be cruise line guests.

Since then, there has been paperwork filed with the Bahamas and statements to Bahamian officials that seem to indicate the project is still a go, with a final deal to secure the land the next step.

Permits filed with the Bahamas indicate the club could feature dining pavilions, a 26,000 square foot pool, 4,000 square foot “splash pad” for children, 14 beach bars, restrooms and cabanas.

Projects on hold or abandoned

The public is at the mercy of Royal Caribbean to give updates on projects, or for there to be statements made as a matter of public record, to get a sense of any progress.

Many projects were announced before 2020 that are at best on hold, or perhaps even cancelled. 

These are projects and ideas Royal Caribbean announced at one time, but there has not been an update in quite some time.

Since there has not been any statements or updates for quite some time, I have to assume these are on hold until we get an update.

  • Perfect Day at Lelepa: Private island in the South Pacific
  • Royal Beach Club in Antigua
  • Royal Amplified program: Ship upgrades to Oasis, Freedom, and Voyager class ships.  On hold until further notice
  • Perfect Day makeover for Labadee

Norwegian Cruise Line warns it could move cruise ships from Florida due to vaccine passport ban

In:
07May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Will Florida's new law that prevents a company from asking for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine create a problem for cruise lines trying to restart cruises?

While Florida's Governor does not think there is an issue with the new law, at least one cruise line has said it is indeed an issue.

During the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) earnings call with investors, CEO Frank Del Rio described the new law as "an issue".

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a new law that prohibits businesses from being able to ask for proof of a vaccine from their customers.

Senate Bill (SB) 2006 specifies the new law prohibits "a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."

Mr. Del Rio believes this may come down a legal issue between state and federal jurisdiction, but he also said there is a possibility their cruise ships would have to sail from another state.

"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellors and rudders, and God forbid we can operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from."

"We can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would've gone to Florida. We certainly hope that doesn't come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida, it's a very lucrative market, it's close drive market."

Mr. Del Rio indicated NCLH is having discussions with the Governor's office, but thinks this is "a classic state versus Federal Government issue".

Governor DeSantis doesn't think cruise ships need to ask passengers for proof of a vaccine, because of how well cruise operations are doing overseas.

On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis dismissed the notion cruise ships need the ability to require a vaccine, "These cruise ships are sailing in other parts of the world where they don't even have vaccines available and they're doing it safely and people are having a good time on it. So so they can do it."

It was not clear if he was talking in general terms, or in reference to the federal guidelines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented its instructions for cruise lines this week on how to apply for test sailings and restart cruises, which include a few possibilities of requiring a Covid-19 vaccine to sail.

The CDC will allow cruise lines to skip a test sailing if they can ensure 95% of the passengers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

Even if cruise ships engage in test sailings, volunteer cruisers onboard these simulated voyages need to be vaccinated as well.

Norwegian Cruise Line has already committed itself to requiring 100% of its passengers and crew members to be vaccinated, and submitted a plan to the CDC about a month ago.

Thus far, NCLH has not heard back from the CDC.

"We want clearance for 100%," said Del Rio after being asked about Florida's law. "And as of today, which is a little over a month since we submitted our proposal to the CDC, we've not yet heard back from them. And that is very disappointing."

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says July cruises from U.S. "not possible"

In:
06May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The chances of cruises from the U.S. this July seem unlikely, given recent comments from Norwegian Cruise Line.

Speaking at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. quarterly earnings call, CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts a July restart in the United States is "just not possible".

"The July U.S. launch, at least for our company, is just not possible,” Del Rio confessed.

"It was possible back in early April when we proposed to the CDC 100 percent vaccination, so from April 5, 90 days would be early July so that was possible."

"But today we're in early May, and we're looking past that."

While he did not say exactly which dates would be practical, he did indicate they need about 90 days to get a ship ready to restart.

"Our team is working through the new guidance, but at first glance, however, it appears the path forward is a bit rockier and a bit steeper than originally expected."

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the fate of July cruises from the United States.

Mr. Del Rio also said he was disappointed in the new CDC rules for test sailings in the United States “at first read” and found them onerous and in part “preposterous."

"I'm disappointed, at first read. I'm going to give the CDC the opportunity to explain and clarify, and we have a call with them this afternoon."

The new guidelines from the CDC were released on Wednesday and include requirements such as mask wearing, vaccines for volunteers, social distancing, and more.

According to Del Rio, Norwegian plans to start off with a 100% vaccination mandate for cruise ship passengers.

In response to a question about how the CDC has treated the cruise industry, Mr. Del Rio responded, "We're perplexed. We're flabbergasted. We're outraged."

"We're willing to vaccinate every single person onboard a cruise ship. There isn't another venue on earth -- not a school, a factory, your office -- that can make that claim."

Royal Caribbean releases new Enchantment of the Seas 2022-2023 sailings from Baltimore

In:
06May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has released new sailings to book on Enchantment of the Seas.

The new sailings are part of the 2022-2023 Northeast United States deployment, and begin on November 3, 2022.

Enchantment of the Seas will return to Baltimore, offering a variety of longer sailings that range in duration between 7 and 12 nights.

Enchantment of the Seas will remain in Baltimore, having replaced Grandeur of the Seas after it looked like Grandeur would be sold to Pullmantur Cruises.  That plan was cancelled following the global health crisis shutting down the cruise industry and subsequent financial difficulties for Pullmantur.

There are a great variety of ports you can visit during your Enchantment of the Seas cruise, including Charleston, South Carolina; Perfect Day at CocoCay; St Kitts; Antigua and more.

Read moreMust Do Royal Caribbean: Enchantment of the Seas

The new sailings are available to book immediately.

You can view the full list of sailings available to book here.

The release of the the Enchantment sailings follows the release other deployments, including 7-night CaribbeanLong Caribbean Winter 2022-2023Short CaribbeanNortheast and China & Hawaii sailings a few weeks ago.

Read more3 surprising facts about Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas

The remaining piece of the 2022-2023 deployment schedule is Fall 2022 - Winter 2023 Singapore sailings, which will be released the week of July 19, 2021.

Planning on booking a 2022 or 2023 cruise? These stories will help:

Texas joins lawsuit against CDC to get cruises restarted

In:
05May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Another state has joined the lawsuit to get cruise ships sailing again.

The State of Texas has joined the lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that was started by Florida.

Texas is the second state to join the lawsuit, following Alaska last week.

DisneyCruiseLineBlog discovered the filing, which was filed on May 5.

In the lawsuit, Texas says it is suing the CDC because the "CDC’s outdated and unlawful regulation harms the State of Texas, its economy, and its citizens."

Specifically, Texas believes the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) is unlawful and has a great effect on the local economy.

This litigation concerns the lawfulness of a CDC regulatory order with a profound effect on the Texas public fisc, including tax revenues to the state and the well-being of multiple industries vital to the State’s economy. The CDC order also raises constitutional concerns bearing on the lawfulness and reach of the CDC’s authority.

The first hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for May 12.

The lawsuit comes just days after a rally was held in Galveston when the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista arrived at the port to begin crew vaccinations.

Carnival Cruise Line joined members of the Federal Maritime Commission, Galveston city and port officials and local businesses at the Port of Galveston to highlight the economic impact of cruising in Galveston and throughout Texas.

In the lawsuit, Texas believes the Port of Galveston is uniquely situated to address local Covid-19 concerns. The port is located just one mile from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston UTMB is one of the largest academic medical hospitals in the country, and its facilities include a National Biosafety Level 4 Laboratory.

The Port of Galveston has also already held a table-top exercise preparing for possible COVID-19 outbreaks on-ship.

Texas also states the shutdown has cost the state $1.2 billion in direct spending. The cruise shutdown has also cost 23,000 jobs, and $1.6 billion in lost wages across the State of Texas.

What the lawsuit aims to do

The purpose of the lawsuit is to get the CSO dropped immediately, so that cruise lines can pursue restart plans.

While the CDC has recently updated its guidance and provided instructions for cruise lines to restart operations, the lawsuit wants the cruise lines to be unencumbered by the regulations.  

Texas wants the cruise lines to adhere to "reasonable restrictions within its statutory authority" instead of the CDC's order.

How does the new CDC update factor in?

One major change that the lawsuit does not cover is the recent announcement by the CDC to provide the test sailing steps for cruise lines to restart sailings.

Cruise lines received final technical guidelines on Wednesday from the CDC for the trial runs. When Florida filed its lawsuit last month, much of the impetus behind it was a lack of progress by the CDC.

Test cruises will be between two and seven nights and must have enough passengers to meet at least 10% of the ship's capacity. Volunteers must be 18 or older and either fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that would put them at high risk for severe Covid-19.

Restrictions on board will include face masks and social distancing.

Alternatively, cruise ships could skip the test sailings if they can ensure 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated.

CDC announces new instructions for cruise lines to be able to restart cruises from United States

In:
05May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruise lines now have what they need to resume cruises from the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the next two phases of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) that will allow for the "eventual resumption of U.S. cruise industry operations."

According to the CDC, cruise line now have all necessary requirements needed "to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages." 

The new instructions cover the test cruises that cruise ships would need to conduct in order to start sailing passenger sailings under a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate. 

CDC may adjust these requirements and recommendations based on public health considerations and other factors.

Phase 2B - Test cruises

Cruise lines can apply to the CDC at least 30 calendar days prior to when a test cruise is scheduled to sail.

The documentation included in the application will specify the dates and location of the test sailing, include verification that it adheres to the various agreements and requirements of the CSO, and other documentation.

Also included in the application will be the list of protocols or practices to be simulated, which must, at a minimum, incorporate the requirements for conducting simulated voyages under these technical instructions.

Test cruises can be skipped at a cruise line's discretion if 98 percent of crew are fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing.

After applying, the CDC will respond "in a timely manner".  The CDC can oversee and inspect the test cruise, including through in-person or remote means allowing for visual observation.

Volunteers for test cruises

Cruise lines will need volunteers to help test out the ships during these simulated voyages. and has outlined new requirements for volunteers:

  • The minimum number of required volunteer passengers for each simulated voyage must be at least 10% of the maximum number of passengers permitted onboard for restricted voyages.
  • All volunteers must show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
  • Volunteers must be made aware of the CDC's health notice regarding Covid-19 and cruise ship travel.
  • All volunteer passengers must be informed in writing that they are participating in a simulation of health and safety protocols that are unproven and untested in the United States for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity. 
  • All volunteer passengers must be at least eighteen years old or older on the day of the simulation and at the time that their consent to participate is obtained.
  • Volunteers cannot be paid, and cannot go on a sailing in exchange for consideration or future reward.
  • All volunteer passengers must agree in writing to post-disembarkation specimen collection for COVID-19 testing at 3 to 5 days after completion of the simulated voyage. 
  • To facilitate contact tracing, the cruise ship operator must advise all volunteer passengers to notify the cruise ship operator if they develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are diagnosed with COVID-19 with any SARS-CoV-2 viral test within 14 days after the voyage. Passengers who develop symptoms within 14 days should be advised to be tested. The cruise ship operator must in turn report aggregate results to CDC in the after-action report or through an amended after-action report.

Test cruise requirements

Here is a list of what cruise lines need to do during a test sailing.

  • At least one simulation must be conducted for each ship for which the cruise ship operator intends to commence restricted passenger voyages. 
  • Simulated voyages must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay to test the efficacy of the cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 onboard the cruise ship, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.
    • CDC recommends a minimum voyage length of 3 days with 2 overnight stays.
  • The cruise ship operator must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation, as required by CDC technical instructions or orders.
  • The cruise ship’s color-coding status must be Green or Orange at the time of the simulated voyage.
  • Activities conducted on voyages that occurred outside of U.S. waters during the period of the No Sail Order (NSO) and the CSO that were not conducted as part of a CDC-approved simulated voyage, do not count towards the activities that must be simulated on a simulated voyage. 
  • The cruise ship operator must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.
  • These activities must be conducted on one, or over the course of many, test sailings:
    • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, as approved by U.S. port and local health authorities as part the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, including procedures for terminal check-in.
    • Onboard activities, including seating and meal service at dining and entertainment venues.
    • Medical evacuation procedures.
    • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms.
    • Onboard and shoreside isolation and quarantine, as per the terms of the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, of at least 5% of all passengers and non-essential crew.
    • Recreational activities that the cruise ship operator intends to offer as part of any restricted passenger voyages, e.g., casinos, spa services, fitness classes, gymnasiums.
    • Private-island shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on the private island:
      • Only one ship can port at the island at any one time.
      • A routine screening testing protocol must be implemented for island staff who are expected to interact with volunteer passengers or crew.
      • Mask use and social distancing must be observed on the island.
    • Port of call shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on port of call shore excursions:
      • Self-guided or independent exploration by passengers during port stops must be prohibited.
      • Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship.
      • Cruise ship operator must ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour.
      • Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts at all foreign ports of call. At a minimum, the protocol must include the following:
        • Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
        • Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.

A test cruise can be ended if a threshold of COVID-19 cases is met or exceeded during the sailing.

The CDC lists the threshold at 1.5% of COVID-19 cases is detected in passengers or 1.0% of COVID-19 cases is detected in crew. This threshold can be changed later by the CDC for a variety of factors.

As an example,  if there were 1,000 passengers on a test sailing, 15 positive cases among the guests would end the cruise.

Major step forward

The new instructions provided by the CDC are the best sign yet that cruises may restart from the United States sooner, rather than later.

The test cruise instructions also put into writing the CDC's letter to the cruise lines sent last week, which provides an option to restart sailings sooner if cruise lines adhere to a 98% vaccinated rate for crew members and 95% rate for passengers.

The new instructions are a long time coming, having been promised back in October 2020 when the CSO replaced the No Sail Order.

Moreover, they follow up on the disappointing instructions the CDC provided in early April that made it seem like nothing had really changed.  With these new instructions, there appears to be a path forward.

Royal Caribbean says kids may be able to cruise under CDC's 95% vaccinated restart plan

In:
05May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry has arguably never been more optimistic about its chances to restart cruises from the United States, and kids may not be necessarily excluded.

There was speculation that the restart plans may require kids to be left out of the equation, but Royal Caribbean told travel agents today that kids are still part of the plan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told cruise lines last week that cruises could start as soon as mid-July if they committed to sailing with 98% of crew and 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19.

By requesting 95% of passengers be vaccinated instead of 100%, Royal Caribbean believes this is to allow children to sail.

 Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, told travel agents in a webinar that the CDC's plan was purposefully left short of requiring 100% vaccinated passengers so that kids could sail.

"The reason for that is because children do not have to be vaccinated if they are under 18," Ms. Freed explained after getting asked why not require everyone to be vaccinated. "And so at this point, that is where the difference between the ninety five and one hundred percent."

"All adults will need to be vaccinated, but children under 18 do not need to be vaccinated, but they still have to take a Covid test prior to boarding."

With Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine very likely getting approval for children as young as 12 years old, that essentially leaves the 11 and under age bracket as the demographic that would not be able to be included in the 95% guideline by the CDC.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said during last week's earnings call with investors that the amount of children under 12 years old is not a significant number, "Obviously, we carry a lot of kids 11 and under. But, relatively speaking, as a percentage of our total guest count, it’s quite a small number. So we’re not overly concerned with that."

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

Ms. Freed also told travel agents that additional updates from Royal Caribbean and the CDC should be coming soon, "we are working daily with the CDC, and things are moving in a very fast and positive direction."

"Stay tuned to your emails from us, because we will be communicating on a daily basis as things are changing. And we do suspect within a very short period of time we will have announcements ready to go."

"Travel partners, I really feel positive about this one."

Prior to the CDC's update, Norwegian Cruise Line announced a restart plan it submitted to the CDC that would require 100% vaccinated guests onboard, which did not leave an option for unvaccinated children to sail.

If approved, 100% vaccinated guests and crew and reduced capacity initially will be part of a phased-in launch.

Florida Governor doesn't think cruise lines need ability to require vaccine proof from passengers

In:
05May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Florida's Governor believes cruise lines can operate without requiring proof of a vaccine from passengers safely based on what is happening around the world.

Speaking at a press conference in Miami on Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) touched on the subject of requiring proof of a vaccine for cruise ships following his ban of Covid-19 vaccine passports in the state.

Earlier this week, Governor DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits businesses from being able to ask for proof of a vaccine from their customers.

In Senate Bill (SB) 2006, it specifically states, "prohibiting a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."

A business entity, as defined in s. 768.38 to include any business operating in this state, may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.

This subsection does not otherwise restrict businesses from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Governor DeSantis said he did not think cruise lines needed the ability to require proof of a vaccine, "Some people say, oh, well, the cruise ships need it.

"These cruise ships are sailing in other parts of the world where they don't even have vaccines available and they're doing it safely and people are having a good time on it. So so they can do it."

Governor DeSantis appears to be referring to cruise ships sailing currently from Asia and Europe, such as Quantum of the Seas from Singapore.

Quantum of the Seas has been operating from Singapore since December 2020, although Singapore is a country with less than 400 active cases of Covid-19 at the moment.

The new Florida law potentially puts it at odds with the new opportunity from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), which would allow cruise ships to restart sailings sooner if they have at least 95% vaccinated cruise passengers.

If cruise lines were to require 95% vaccinated passengers, they could skip test sailings and other regulartory hurdles and return to service much faster.

Royal Caribbean has not officially decided if it will require its cruise ship passengers to get a vaccine as a matter of fleet wide policy, although it is requiring the vaccine for select ships that will be restarting cruises outside the United States this summer.

DeSantis defended the vaccine passport ban by saying he is concerned it could be used by companies to restrict people from even basic functions, "you don't want a society in which just to do basic things, restaurant, movie, you know, go on an airplane that you have to be producing proof of this."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley indicated it would be possible for some ships to start cruising under the vaccinated approach, while others could pursue restart under the Conditional Sail Order rules without a vaccine requirement.

Last week, Mr. Bayley spoke about these options, "There'll be really two pathways, one pathway for vaccinated crew and largely vaccinated guests that meet the threshold that they've defined. And that would mean that there wouldn't be a requirement for a simulated voyage etc, and there would be a different expectation on protocols and planning. So it's a faster route."

"And then for ships that wouldn't wouldn't meet that threshold for whatever reason, there would be a different timeline and a different set of protocols and requirements."

"So fundamentally that there's two pathways. It's not that simple, but that's a way of simplifying."

Cruise lines have not talked publicly yet about how the new bill might affect their restart plans.  The new bill goes into effect July 1st.

If a cruise line were to not pursue the 95% vaccinated option by the CDC, it appears they could still restart cruises under the conditions set out in the CDC's Conditional Sail Order, which requires significantly more time and milestones to hit that involve test cruises before revenue sailings could begin.

What it was like to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the 1970s

In:
05May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruising has changed a lot over the years, but comparing a cruise today to what it was like fifty years ago is incredible.

Royal Caribbean began cruising in 1970 with Song of Norway, and added two more ships before halfway through the decade.  Those ships began the tradition of what a Royal Caribbean cruise is all about, and today we have a look back at what it was like on a sailing back then.

I recently ran across a pamphlet distributed to passengers sailing on Song of Norway in the early to mid 1970s.  There is no date listed, but it references the three ships in the fleet, so it was printed no earlier than 1972 when Sun Viking was added to the fleet.

The pamphlet is entitled, "Velkommen: A Guide to Cruising the Royal Caribbean", and includes a list of the facilities, activities, and services available on Song of Norway.

Browsing through the document, I found the most interesting and different things that do not exist on a cruise today.

The ship had a radio station

We all think of cruise ships as incorporating a great deal of technology, but in the 1970s, radio was still king.

Song of Norway had its own radio station where you could send radiograms or make ship-to-shore telephone calls.

A radiogram is a formal written message transmitted by radio. Kind of like an analog email, radiograms use a standardized message format, form and radiotelephone and/or radiotelegraph transmission procedures. 

The message format for communications transmitted to sea-going vessels is:

  1. radiotelegram begins: from . . . (name of ship or aircraft);
  2. number . . . (serial number of radiotelegram);
  3. number of words . . . ;
  4. date . . . ;
  5. time . . . (time radiotelegram was handed in aboard ship or aircraft);
  6. service indicators (if any);
  7. address . . . ;
  8. text . . . ;
  9. signature . . . (if any);
  10. radiotelegram ends, over

Souvenir Passenger List

Something hard to imagine now is Royal Caribbean would give you a list of all the passengers onboard.

Passenger lists were a vestige of the early days of cruising. They were provided in order to make introductions among fellow guests easier, as well as serve as a souvenir from the voyage. They were given to all passengers aboard liners and cruise ships until the 1970s and 1980s.

They included everyone's name and home town.

Read morePassenger lists from Sovereign of the Seas

Midnight buffet (and other specialty meals)

Perhaps the best known, but no longer served, meal on a cruise ship was the midnight buffet.

Before ships had an overwhelming amount of places to eat, the midnight buffet was available every night in the main dining room.

Song of Norway also offered:

  • Sun Worshipper's Lunch: Luncheon served outdoors on the aft of the Promenade Deck.  Hamburgers, sandwiches and hot dogs were served with no dress code.
  • Afternoon Tea: Tea and pastries at the Verandah Cafe every afternoon.
  • Mid-Morning Bouillon: Traditional late-morning pick-me-up at Verandah Cafe on sea days.

Banquets and parties

Evening entertainment on a cruise ship is still offered today, and it was a big deal on Song of Norway.

On passenger talent night, guests would sing, dance, make magic, or just about anything else they were brave enough to demonstrate for their fellow guests and crew.

Casino night was held on two-week cruises, and the crew would allow guests to run the games.  They lowered the bets to very low amounts (10 cents a bet) and gave passengers a chance to see what it was like to be a blackjack dealer or croupier.

Masquerade night is just what it sounds like: it is an old-fashioned costume gala.  Prizes are given for Most Humorous, Most Original and Most Artistic costume.  Guests were encouraged to bring a costume, but the staff could provide necessary materials to build their own onboard.

Things you can't do anymore

Perhaps most surprising is some of the things Royal Caribbean used to let passengers do onboard.

Bridge visits were regularly available on sea days.  There would be open times listed in the Cruise Compass when you could walk up to the ship's bridge and explore.

Another event that I cannot recall ever seeing is Ladies Night, which has four rules:

  1. Ladies must ask gentlemen to dance they must not refuse
  2. Ladies must escort the gentlemen to the dance floor and return them to their seats
  3. Ladies must buy the gentlemen drinks
  4. Ladies must light the gentlemen's cigarettes

Something you might do at an office party today is a white elephant auction. At the end of every cruise, Royal Caribbean would hold a White Elephant Auction Sale where you could bring an unwanted goodie to the main lounge.  

An auctioneer would then try to sell it to someone else onboard.  If they cannot sell it or beat the price you listed, it gets returned to you.

There were two events held onboard that used to be staples of a cruise that could never be done today. On sea days, you could engage in a golf driving contest at the Aft Restaurant deck.  

In addition, skeet shooting was available on sea days where you could shoot clay pigeons off the back of the ship.

Gratuities

Just like today, gratuities were part of the cruise experience.

The suggested gratuity rate for a cruise in the 1970s were as follows:

  • Dining room water: $1.50 per passenger, per day
  • Busboy: $0.75 per passenger, per day
  • Cabin steward: $1.50 per passenger, per day

Customarily, on a 7-night cruise, gratuities are given on the Friday evening before returning to Miami.  On two-week cruises, it is the custom to extend one half of your gratuity at the mid-point of the cruise and the remainder on your last Friday evening at sea.

What you can't bring back

Part of the customs process when returning to the United States included a few things you cannot bring back.

  • Cuban cigars
  • Merchandise originating from North Korea, North Vietnam, or Cuba.
  • Fruits, vegetables, plants, cutting, seeds or unprocessed plant products.
  • Haitian animal skins and products made from these skins (i.e. rugs, purses, bongo drums, etc)

Read the whole thing

If you prefer, you can read the whole pamphlet, including what you should wear onboard, what the ranks mean among the officers, and which brand of cigarettes sponsored the cruise!

What is the difference between Royal Caribbean's Voom Surf and Voom Surf and Stream?

In:
04May2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean offers two kinds of internet packages, so which should you buy?

Staying connected on a Royal Caribbean cruise is fairly inexpensive, and it allows you to enjoy unlimited internet access during your cruise.

Before you can pick the right package for you, here are the key differences between Surf and the Surf & Stream packages.

Voom Surf Voyage

The Surf Voyage package is the base package, and offers what you need to do basic web browsing, such as email, internet browsing, social media and more.

It includes:

  • 24 hour access
  • Ideal for:
    • Web browsing access
    • Email
    • Messenger apps such as Whatsapp

In my experience, Royal Caribbean throttles down the Surf Voyage package to keep the speeds lower in order to be fine for basic web browsing, but not work with more bandwidth demanding applications.

Surf will cost less per device than Surf & Stream.

Voom Surf & Stream

The higher tier package comes in the form of Surf & Stream, which advertises itself as offering the full internet experience.

Essentially, Surf & Stream has faster internet speeds because it is not throttled, and that means you can theoretically access video and audio streams onboard.

It includes:

  • 24 hour access
  • Ideal for:
    • Web browsing access
    • Email
    • Messenger apps such as Whatsapp
    • Video Chat Live
    • Stream music, videos, movies, TV shows and more
    • Live stream and post on social media

Surf & Stream will cost more than a comparable Surf package per device.

How fast is Voom?

Despite what Royal Caribbean may advertise, internet speeds on Royal Caribbean cruise ships are not the same across the fleet.

Some ships have significantly faster speeds available to them compared to other ships, and it has to do with the cruise line's agreement with the internet carrier they utilize.

The surf package will be fast enough for basic internet use, but fall short if you want to stream just about anything.

Surf and Stream will see significantly faster speeds because it is not as throttled down.

Speeds can vary from spot to spot on the ship, depending on usage. While you cannot expect the same results on your sailing, the dynamic of Surf and Stream being much faster usually holds true.

Another factor is the location of the ship around the world. When in Europe, different satellites are used for Voom on older ships. 

Unlike newer ships that have access to faster internet, older ships use geostationary satellites much like the ones used for most TV services such as Bell's expressVU or Shaw's satellite TV service.  

Generally speaking, the best internet performance will be available on Oasis, Allure, Harmony,  Anthem, Ovation, Quantum, Freedom, Independence and Symphony of the Seas.

The faster internet service (known as O3B) only works between 45° S and 45°N latitude, so parts of Northern Europe, Canada, Alaska and parts of New Zealand are technically outside of the intended O3b coverage area.  Even newer ships have to switch over to the older geostationary satellite (non-O3b) when the O3b signal weakens in these areas.

On other ships, latency can dramatically increase and normal non-voice stuff like text, email, web browsing works pretty well but voice calls and video chatting suffers due to the delay.  Consistent throughput also suffers on these ships.  Rain seems to affect them more.

With all of that being said, Royal Caribbean's Voom service works well for most guest's needs.  It is when you try to push the bandwidth and latency limits with applications that involve video that you typically run into issues.

Which Voom package should you buy?

Regardless of what you intend to do on the internet, I recommend everyone buy the Surf & Stream package.

The Surf & Stream package is a better overall experience, regardless of if you are going to stream video or not.  Faster internet speeds mean quicker load times all around, and you would be surprised how often having additional bandwidth helps.

Yes, it will cost more to buy Surf & Stream, but I think it is worthwhile.

How to get a discount on a Voom package

Royal Caribbean offers significant discounts on its internet packages if you buy it before your cruise.

In order to spur purchases, the cruise line will offer money off the cost of a Voom package compared to buying it onboard the ship.

To be clear, you will absolutely save money if you pre-purchase online compared to waiting to buy it on your ship.  So if you know you want to get an internet package, definitely pre-purchase.

Read moreWill a Royal Caribbean sale actually save me any money?

To get access to the lower prices, log into Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website and navigate to the Internet & More section.

Royal Caribbean provides internet access across a variety of packages that allow a certain number of devices to be connected at one time.

You can share internet access with anyone you want, and swap between devices as much as you want, but it will limit you to the amount of devices you purchased under the plan at any given time.

In addition, the cost per device, per day, comes down with the higher device count plans.

The price of a WiFi package will also fluctuate depending on what offer and sales Royal Caribbean is running, so check back periodically to see if there has been a price drop.

Diamond Discount

If you are at least a Diamond member or higher in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society, there is an onboard discount available for internet packages.

You cannot combine or use your Crown and Anchor Society discount on internet packages purchased before the cruise, so you would have to wait to buy a Voom package onboard.

Depending on your sailing length, waiting to buy an internet package onboard with your loyalty discount may make sense.

Read moreCruise hack: Maximize Voom internet discount for Diamond members or above

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