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New ship No. 3 — Ovation of the Seas

Third in a series of new ships for 2016


Royal Caribbean’s newest class of ship is the Quantum Class and when Ovation of the Seas joins it, two-thirds of the ships will be based in Asia. Unless you go off to search for it to take a cruise cruise, the only place you’ll find out about it is in places like this. A month after its Southampton launch, Ovation of the Seas is off to Dubai, en route to its Asian home: Tianjin, China. It will briefly visit Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year and no cruises are posted online after its return to Asia (Singapore) in February.

Launch date: April 17

Capacity: 4,180

Sister ships: Quantum of the Seas (2014), Anthem of the Seas (2015)

Maiden voyage: Southampton return (5 days)

Home port: Tianjin, China

Ships then in Royal Caribbean fleet: 25

Interesting: Other than the fact that it has robots serving drinks, a flying pod to give people a 360-degree view of the sea (or whatever else happens to be in sight) and simulators for surfing and skydiving, it’s just like any other cruise ship. Not really. This is a clone of Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, and the differences will likely be hard to find. Like them it also has the Two70-degree lounge/entertainment center and the SeaPlex, where bumper cars, roller skates and basketball are the featured activities. Unlike them, it has virtual balconies so everybody gets to see what’s happening outside whether they’re in the North Star or not. With 16 decks, 25 places to eat and a price tag close to a billion dollars, it’s still not even close to being the biggest ship in the world. That comes — here — on Friday.

In the news…

• Windstar’s damaged Star Pride now out of cruising until after April 9
• Royal Caribbean drops eat-healthy restaurant from Anthem of the Seas

Today at portsandbows.com: Emerald kicks off Wave Season with free are

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
6 nights
April 10, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Labadee
Inside: $389
Cost per day: $64

Carnival Ships Join China Surge

MiracleThere was a time, not that long ago, that the only places you could take Carnival ships was from a port city in North America. The one caveat was when the world’s biggest cruise line built a new ship in Europe, and it had to get to North America by crossing the Atlantic.

Then Carnival started dabbling in the Mediterranean. Then in Australia, going so far as to establish a base there. Now, Carnival’s going to China.

There is no choice. Everybody else is, too.

In 2017, the Carnival Miracle (above) will be in China year-round. A year later, the Carnival Splendour (below) will be in China year-round. Cruise ships from Carnival Corporation have been visiting Asian ports for a decade, but not year-round. And the Splendormother line wasn’t there at all. Other cruise lines have gradually been gaining a presence, but nobody really started taking the Chinese market this seriously until Royal Caribbean sent its newest ship — Quantum of the Seas — to establish a home port in Shanghai. 

If that didn’t get the cruise executives’ attention, it surely woke up the media.

Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to Royal Caribbean, which has since launched Anthem of the Seas and has another Quantum Class ship coming next year, Ovation of the Seas. But this was the flagship of the class and its first cruise season was from New York (Cape Liberty), not exactly a secondary market. As it turned out, that was its ONLY season of sailing from New York to the Caribbean. Almost exactly one year after it arrived, Quantum was gone.

For good.

Since then, the other mainstream cruise lines have been despatching ships to Asian waters. It will likely never rival the Caribbean as a cruise destination, but it’s definitely a player. And in 18 months, the team of ships stationed there will include Carnival.

In the news…

• The Salty Dog Gastropub makes its debut on Crown Princess
• Costa signs three-year partnership agreement with Italian airline Neo

Today at portsandbows.com: Cunard planning them cruises for 2016

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
January 14, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56

China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.


Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

Viking Offer for China a Bucket Lister?

Going to China isn't something that's ever made it onto our Bucket List but if it did, could there be a more appealing way to go than on a river cruise?

There are many choices, and one of them caught our eyes this week because it seems somewhat affordable, which river cruises often aren't for the average traveler, from Viking Cruises.

How does this sound?

A 13-day cruisetour called Imperial Jewels of China at the end of February, from Shanghai to Beijing for $3,000 per person. That's about $230 a day and it includes 11 guided tours to many places a first-time tourist would like to see — The Great Wall, Three Gorges Dam, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square — in addition to all the usual accoutrements like a balcony room, just about all meals, two nights in upscale hotels, two Intra-China flights.

The ship is the Viking Emerald and, yes, of course you also have to fly to China. Viking's got a deal on that, too — $797, a 2-for-1 offer that applies on flights from Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.

Add it all up and you can spend 13 days seeing China for under $3,800 per person. Viking's regular price for all this is $8,595.

Are we going?

Can't make it this time…we have a commitment in Washington DC the day the cruise ends.

But it just might go on the bucket list after all.

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $39

Shanghai Surprise This is Not

An article that crossed our desktop the other day revealed the following about cruising in China:

1. There are more people from China cruising than ever.
2. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Costa are showing signs of shifting their emphasis, not to mention their ships.
3. In Shanghai, traffic has grown from 80,000 passengers in 2006 to an estimated 260,000 this year.
4. Twice as many international passenger lines (66) use Shanghai as a home port this year compared to last year.

This news was published in the Shanghai Daily News and if it comes as a surprise to anybody on this side of the Pacific, well, why should it? After all, for years more and more of our goods are manufactured in China, which means the country has grown economically, which means there is more affluence in the Chinese middle class, which means more cruisers.

Plus, more Chinese mainlanders are finding out how the free world lives, and liking it.

The impact on our cruise world is that we won’t be hearing about mostly river cruises in China, we’ll be hearing about ocean cruises calling China home.

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