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Cruise Industry Bracing For Zika?

You may have heard of zika but if you haven’t, you should, especially if you’re going on a Caribbean cruise, or even thinking of it. Especially if you’re pregnant, or even thinking about it.

Zika can be deadly, so read on…

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly, and travellers should now take extra precautions against mosquito bites. At this time of year, that means the Latin American countries of the Caribbean. At this time of year, that means cruising.

The CDC alert was upgraded late Friday to a “Level 2 travel notice” which presumably requires more attention than a Level 1 and not as much as a Level 3, which is the highest. Without pressing the panic button, pregnant or pregnant-to-be women are being advised to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas.

The nervousness you hear is the cruise industry.

At a time when cruise lines are pulling out all stops to make their demographics younger, along comes zika. At a time when the “babymoon” business (bonding with unborn baby in a relaxed atmosphere) is flourishing, along comes zika.

At the very least, cruises are being cautioned to take precautions by avoiding mosquito-infested areas (can you say jungles?) and loading up on mosquito repellent. Cruise lines, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, are continuing to publishing not just zika, but any issues relating to health and safety, in each ships’ daily bulletin.

While all of that may be re-assuring, in an era when pregnant women have become accustomed to avoiding a wisp of cigarette smoke or a sip of alcoholic beverages in the interests of protecting their babies, it’s hard to believe anything but a significant impact on travel in general and cruising in particular.

In the news…

• ‘Star Wars Day At Sea’ on eight select sailings on Disney Fantasy
• Acapulco comeback — best tourist season in years: 83 per cent hotel occupancy
• Two Turkey ports skipped by Crystal Symphony amid security concerns

Today at portsandbows.com: Ocean ship for Scenic Cruises


Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
November 6, 2016
Miami (return): Roatan, Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $569
Cost per day: $81
www.ncl.com

New ship No. 10 — AIDAprima

Last in a series of new ships for 2016

If you think you’ve read about this “new” ship before, well, you have. Right here, one year ago, when the AIDAprima was to be among the class of 2015. Well, it wasn’t. Originally scheduled to be launched last spring, AIDA Cruises announced in October that the AIDAprima’s delivery date will be “announced at a later date” with a maiden voyage in the spring, subtly pointing the finger at the Mitsubishi shipyard where it’s being built, in Nagasaki. The first cruise for sale is the end of April. When it arrives, the AIMAprima is expected to introduce its mostly German clientele to a “new age of cruising.”

Launch date: March

Capacity: 3,300

Sister ships: Unnamed in 2016, or 2017, or…

Maiden voyage: Yokohama to Dubai

Home port: Hamburg

Ships then in AIDA fleet: 11

Interesting: The first ship to operate year-round from Hamburg, the AIDAprima will offer 7-day vacations  with “guaranteed sunshine” with 4 Elements and the AIDA Beach Club. In both, water, air, earth and fire will guarantee such a climate under an expandable membrane roof that allows UV rays in and that is “almost invisible” to the eye. Besides physically resembling Norwegian ships with colourful bow designs, AIDA is also introducing more of a “freestyle” concept on board, with dinner reservations not necessary and casual dress the norm. The AIDAprima, with 18 decks and 13 restaurants, will have novel balcony rooms — walk-in closets, two bathrooms and room for two loungers on the deck. Now, about that launch date…

In the news…

• Multimillion-dollar renovation for Carnival Inspiration starts Monday
• All new shows coming for Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas
• Cunard ships partnering with the Savoy Beaufort Bar and Jack Daniel’s

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise awards from readers of USA Today 


Celebrity Summit
7 nights
April 9, 2016
San Juan (return): Tortola, Fort-de-France, Roseau, St. Kitts, St. Thomas
Inside: $489
Cost per day: $69
www.celebritycruises.com

New ship No. 9 — Genting Dream

Ninth in a series of new ships for 2016

Don’t stop the presses for this new ship, because it may or may not arrive when announced. The ship — Genting Dream — is the first of two ships for a new cruise line, Dream Cruises, which is owned by Genting Hong Kong, which also owns Crystal Cruises, Star Cruises and 28 per cent of Norwegian, which owns Oceania and Regent Seven Seas. Translation: It’s big. It’s also big because a ship of this size — somewhere north of 3,400 passengers — is competition for all the mainstream lines that are hustling ships off to Asia.

Launch date: Late Autumn

Capacity: 3,400

Sister ships: Unnamed, to come in 2017

Maiden voyage: Unknown

Home port: Asia

Ships then in Dream Cruises fleet: 1

Interesting: The most recent information from Star Cruises (that’s the Star Pisces in picture) is that this first ship for Dream Cruises will have the highest crew-to-guest ratio (2,000-to-3,400) of any Asia Pacific ship. What’s more intriguing is that it will have two submersibles to take passengers 20,000 leagues under the sea…okay, on an underwater adventure “to discover the treasures of the ocean,” four passengers at a time. The ship will also serve as a bridge, between Genting’s luxury brand (Crystal) and its mass-market brand (Star), a category that the parent company calls “premium.” The Genting Dream and the sister ship that’s expected to follow late next year are being positioned as “mega ships” and there are reports the second one will carry 4,500 passengers. But don’t take that to the bank!

In the news…

• Holland America Koningsdam to feature micro greens grown onboard
• Fathom adds four new voluntourism activities in Dominican Republic
• Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection ramps up push for the family market

Today at portsandbows.comHarvest Caye opening delayed nine months


Carnival Fantasy
4 nights
May 9, 2016
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $62
www.carnival.com

New ship No. 7 — Seven Seas Explorer

Seventh in a series of new ships for 2016

A year and a half ago, Regent Seven Seas became the luxury wing of Norwegian Cruise Holdings, which owns two other cruise lines, Norwegian and Oceania. The Explorer will become Regent’s poster child for luxury, according to parent CEO Frank Del Rio, who said the Explorer will be “the most luxurious cruise ship ever built, boasting one of the highest space ratios and staff-to-guest ratios ever seen in the modern era of cruising.”

Launch date: July 20

Capacity: 738

Sister ships: None

Maiden voyage: Monte Carlo to Venice (14 nights)

Home port: None

Ships then in Regent Seven Seas fleet: 4

Interesting: The Explorer, physically, is about 15 per cent bigger than the fleet’s largest ship, the Seven Seas Mariner, which years ago became the first all-balcony, all-suite cruise ship in the world. However, Explorer will carry only 38 more passengers (738) and will display luxury at every turn: exotic stones and polished woods in its design, six gourmet restaurants, a Culinary Arts Kitchen that mirrors world-renowned French cooking schools, and wine-and-food Gourmet Explorer Tours in the south of France that can run as high as $799 per person. For most rank-and-file cruisers, it’s too affluent unless they win Powerball tomorrow night.

In the news…

• Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian 1-2-3 in passenger capacity for 2016
• MSC Opera to cruise from Havana, Cuba year-round beginning next year
• Two consecutive years of processing a million passengers for New Orleans

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise advertising slogans


Crown Princess
7 nights
February 27, 2016
San Francisco (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $509
Cost per day: $72
www.princess.com

New ship No. 6 — Mein Schiff 5

Sixth in a series of new ships for 2016

Most North Americans, it’s safe to assume, know little about TUI Cruises. It’s a smaller cruise line, or a cruise line of smaller ships, or both. It is, however, owned by Royal Caribbean and that gives it a cache of credibility for people interesting in cruising on any of its “Mein Schiffs” (or “my ships”), two of which were once the Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. This year, TUI will inherit Splendour of the Seas from the parent company.

Launch date: July 15

Capacity: 2,534

Sister ships: Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4

Maiden voyage: Kiel, Germany return (9 days)

Home port: Hamburg

Ships then in TUI fleet: 5

Interesting: The latest of three new-builds, Mein Schiff 5 is also significantly larger than the first two ex-Celebrity ships. She is a carbon copy of Mein Schiff 3 and 4, which means 1,276 staterooms, 80 per cent of them with balconies and an interior design that has been described as “modern yet cozy.” German is the principal language yet the ship sounds like one that would appeal to North Americans, too, with a reputable buffet, along with specialty restaurants for Japanese fare and surf and turf. Activities include acrobatics, musicals, magic and comedy shows; fitness and aerobics opportunities; and a full range of shore excursions. Best of all, beverages and gratuities are included.

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Wave Season


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
February 20, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

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