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Norwegian, The Frank Del Rio Way

Frank Del RioWhen Frank Del Rio became CEO of the company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, everybody who has seen him in action knew there would be more action to see. Outgoing, perhaps even flamboyant, gregarious and entertaining, he seems to stand still for nothing unless it’s for the next idea to pop into his head…within minutes, or seconds.

This week, engaging reporters on the new Norwegian Escape, here’s what Del Rio revealed to Cruise Critic’s Brittany Chrusciel…

• Every older ship will go into dry dock in 2016 and 2017, except the Jewel, which is already scheduled for 2018. By our count, that’s nine refurbishing in two years, 10 if Pride of America is part of the deal. Del Rio wants the older ships to become more popular, like the 16-year-old Regent Seven Seas Navigator is for one of his other cruise lines.

• Norwegian will start the migration towards smoke-free casinos, and the Escape will be first to become 50 per cent smoke-free. The last four Norwegian ships launched — the Epic (2010), Breakaway (2013), Getaway (2014) and Escape — have all fielded complaints about “drifting smoke” from the casinos.

Escape• Complimentary dining in the new Jimmy Buffett restaurant, Margaritaville At Sea, may be short-lived. There were long line-ups once the Escape arrived in “Jimmy Country” and when something is that popular it’s only a matter of time until it becomes an additional revenue stream. As an aside, as people who have waited in line to get into several  Margaritavilles, we get it.

What Del Rio is doing, since replacing Kevin Sheehan at the helm, is turning Norwegian into a cruise line that turns more heads.

There’s every indication that he knows exactly how to do it.

In the news…

• Viking orders two more ocean ships — fledgling fleet to be six strong by 2020
• Harmony of the Seas to combine attributes of Oasis and Quantum Class ships
• 'Tangled The Musical' world premiere on Disney Magic in Miami
• MSC Divina arrives in Florida to begin year-round cruises to Caribbean

Today at portsandbows.com: Guess where Liberty of the Seas is going?


Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
January 30, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel 
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $90
www.royalcaribbean.com

Times To Butt Out Of Ship Casinos

The world continues to close in on smokers. One of the last places where smokers can still light up are gaming establishments. For whatever reason, smoking and gambling seem to be partners.

On land and at sea.

Casinos on land usually have a non-smoking area. Presumably, these areas will grow in size as there are more non-smokers, which seems to be happening in society. Casinos at Casino smoke-freesea aren’t usually large enough to designate a portion of the space as non-smoking. Instead, they’ve done what we noticed — and not for the first time — on the Star Princess.

Smoke-free days.

A day or two per cruise is earmarked as non-smoking on a growing number of cruise ships. On the Star Princess, during a one-week Alaska cruise, there were two. In Asia, where it feels like a higher percentage of the population smokes, in many large outdoor areas — from Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam — smoking is not allowed.

If you’re one of the people who stays away from cruise-ship casinos because you can’t deal with the smoke, let the cruise line know. And if you’re one of the passengers who would stay away from the casino if you couldn’t smoke, let the cruise line know.

In the end, the impact on the cruise line’s bottom line is likely to determine how often the “no smoking” signs will be posted.

Today at portsandbows.com: Excursion options on Silversea World Cruise 

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
September 29, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39
www.ncl.com

More Breaks For Single Cruisers

 

Cruise times are changing. They always are. Here’s one of the latest…

Cunard announced a refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2, and with it comes news that 15 single staterooms will be added. The rationale from Cunard is that single rooms are necessary because not only are more people cruising solo, but there are more family groups traveling together that include singles. There are already single staterooms available on fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

There is no single supplement for these cabins. In other words, you pay the same per-person price as you would if two to a cabin.

Other cruise lines have been ahead of that curve for some time. The Epic, with 128 solo cabins (some connecting) was the first in the Norwegian fleet with the highly-popular option for single travelers. There’s also a Studio Lounge, for the exclusive use of passengers who book in the solo cabins. With no single supplement they sell out quickly. Surprisingly, there are fewer single cabins on Norwegian’s latest ships, the Getaway and the Breakaway (59 on each). 

The Escape, being launched in the fall, will have 82. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each have 28 single staterooms, and Ovation of the Seas, also arriving this fall, will apparently also have 28 solo cabins. No single supplements apply.

Costa Cruises has 17 solo cabins on at least two of its ships, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. There is a single supplement, although not exorbitant.

Carnival does offer some value-priced solo cruise fares, with some supplements as low as five per cent.

One thing is certain: In the cruise world, singles are being heard.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's 'Evenings Around The World'

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
May 1, 2016
Los Angeles, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

Norwegian On The Move Worldwide

We could be wrong about this but we detect the heavy hand of Frank Del Rio in Norwegian’s latest news bulletin.

And that’s good.

For the first time in 13 years, Norwegian is sending a ship to Asia and Australia. For the first time ever, Norwegian is sending a ship to the Persian Gulf and India. For the first time since any of us can remember, Norwegian is going to base a ship in South America for two consecutive winters (having taken the Norwegian Sun to South America a few years ago — on what will always be near the top of our favorite cruises — this item really got our attention).

And finally, for the first time since…April, the Norwegian Epic is returning to North America.

All of this is going to start happening next year, and it smacks of the ambitious and gregarious CEO of Norwegian Holdings, Frank Del Rio, who has been on the job just seven months, and his Norwegian lieutenant, Andy Stuart.

That Norwegian would find its way to Asia was inevitable, because there isn’t going to be a major cruise line without a presence there. That its new itineraries would spread to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India demonstrates the intent the cruise line has to be a player in those markets.

By ships, here is how it shakes down for the fall and winter of 2016-17…

Norwegian Star will launch its program from Istanbul on October 31, 2016 on a 20-day cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal and eventually Dubai. After that, its ports on a variety of cruises will include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bali, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.

Norwegian Epic will summer in Europe and winter in the Caribbean, from Miami, an about-face for a ship that was going to sail year-round from Barcelona. The first of its 3-4-and-7-day cruises will be in the fall of 2016.

Norwegian Spirit will replace the Epic in Europe for year-round Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul.

Norwegian Sun (ah, memories) will continue to be the workhorse in South America, where in the winter of 2015-16 it will be on cruises of two weeks or longer.

Norwegian Jewel will make two trips each way through the Panama Canal in October 2016 and April 2017.

Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Tampa, for Caribbean winter cruises, likely returning to Europe in the summer.

By the time all this falls into place, the Norwegian Escape will be here (it hits the water October 25 and crosses the ocean four days later. With the return of the Epic, that means Norwegian’s four biggest ships of its 14-member fleet — Epic, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway — will all be spending their winters in Caribbean waters.

So for as much talk as there is about cruise lines and their expansion to Asia and Australia, the core of this business is still Caribbean cruises.

In the news…

• Carnival, Dr. Seuss host two celebrity book-reading events
• America Cruise Lines doubles capacity on Snake, Columbia Rivers

Today at portsandbows.com: Chef Curtis Stone on Princess fleet

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $99
Cost per day: $33
www.princess.com

Captain McCue, First For U.S. Women

Next month, Kate McCue will become Captain Kate McCue, the first U.S. woman to be the “master” of a major cruise ship. She’ll have climbed to the top of that “mountain” when Kate McCueshe guides the SummitCelebrity’s 14-year-old ship of the same name.

The 37-year-old McCue will not be the first female cruise-ship captain (Sweden’s Karin Stahre-Janson attained that distinction with Royal Caribbean), just the first American.

The question becomes: How will she be ultimately be remembered among the list of first by American women?

Will she be a Lydia Taft, the first woman to vote for her husband as President, or Hillary Clinton, who could be the first President? Blanche Scott, the first to fly a plane solo, or Sally Ride, the first astronaut? Janet Guthrie, first to drive in the Indianapolis 500, or Danica Patrick, first to lead the 500?

"Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember,” she said.

Or at least 15 years, which is how long McCue has worked in the maritime industry, since Summitstarting as a cadet and deck officer. Even in the cruise industry, she is perhaps to become something of a footnote, a name on the list of firsts for the American woman.

There is no reason for a woman not to be at the helm of a ship, of course. What’s between the ears, plus years of experience, is how an individual qualifies for the prestigious position, and women can be as capable in both areas as any male captain.

Finally, for American women, another barrier falls.

In the news…

• Queen Mary 2 arrives in New York for 175th anniversary bash
• Norwegian introduces a la carte dining in ships' specialty restaurants
• Celebrity offers non-stop flights from Winnipeg to Miami in cruise packages

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America cruises — Mexico and Hawaii

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
September 29, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $55
www.ncl.com

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