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New ship No. 3 — Ovation of the Seas

Third in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-Ovation

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
www.royalcaribbean.com

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
www.carnival.com

Quantum of the Seas — SO Special

QuantumWhen Quantum of the Seas was introduced to the world, at a press conference in New York two and a half years ago, everybody in the room that day quickly realized that “revolutionary” would not be an exaggeration, nor a buzzword to be flaunted by public relations people trying to find a word that bordered on hyperbole.

It was the right word.

We happened to be in New York that day — pinch-hitting for our Ports and Bows colleague Phil Reimer — and we’d never seen a cruise ship that was anything like this ship-to-be. That was understandable, because neither had anybody else. For all the Northstars, RipCords, bumping cars and glitz that came with naming Kristin Chenoweth as the ship’s godmother, it turns we didn’t know the half of what a special ship Quantum of the Seas was.

Again…logical, because neither did anybody else.

Until last week.

That’s when Royal Caribbean was presented with the Maritime Safety Award, as chosen by Royal Institution of Naval Architects. It’s the first cruise ship to be so decorated by the prestigious award…in 155 years!

It goes to “an individual, company or organization which has made a significant technological contribution to improving maritime safety” and Quantum caught RIBA’s North Starattention for “the design and implementation of an integrated Safety Command Centre.” In  layman’s terms — as opposed to seaman’s terms — what it comes down to is this:

While those of us who like cruising were “wowed” by the pod (North Star) that takes passengers out over the sea, the safety people were “wowed” by different types of pods: the incident pod, the evacuation pod, the command pod and the communication pod. The efficiency of all make Quantum of the Seas a safer ship.

The ship has, of course, left North America to operate in Asia. That’s the bad news. The good news is that presumably it is a template for Royal Caribbean ships to follow, including Anthem of the Seas, which made its debut this spring, and the two ships to follow next year: Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

There’s a lot of minutia that explains why RINA was so impressed with Quantum’s safety and its ability to react to an incident. For we who don’t usually react to such things until there is an incident, the fact that it’s the first time a cruise ship has been given the award is, at least, comforting.

In the news…

• Princess promotion free upgrades, specialty dining, gratuities until October 29
• Costa, AIDA donate 200,000 euros for refugee relief In Germany
• More than half a million people celebrate "cruise days" in Hamburg

Today at portsandbows.com: Port of Miami looking at a boom


Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
October 25, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan  
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.royalcaribbean.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

Standing Up Ovation Of The Seas

This is only a big deal if you’re thinking of cruising near Australia, or if you live in New Zealand. But it’s an interesting story even if you’re just interested in cruising.

Not everybody wants Ovation of the Seas.

Now that Anthem of the Seas is on the water, Ovation is Royal Caribbean’s next new ship. It will arrive in about a year and it was scheduled to visit New Zealand the year after that, which means in the summer of 2017.

Not so fast.

The problem is the port at Auckland. Two wharf extensions were planned to accommodate “bigger ships.” One of the extensions has been canceled, presumably for financial reasons Auckland-Simon_sees

-Simon_sees photo

although that’s not clear. Without it, there will be no room in the harbor for the 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas.

Without Auckland, speculation is the ship will not visit New Zealand.

The economic impact of that is said to be as much as $40 million for the country, and this was from only four port calls. Having said that, nobody is suggesting Royal Caribbean might send a smaller ship to minimize the loss and keep New Zealand in the loop.

Says one side: “Cruises are not the lifeblood of Auckland. Cargo ships are the lifeblood of Auckland."

Says the other side: “What's good for Auckland in terms of cruise shipping is good for the economy of New Zealand.”

This week, Royal Caribbean will have a delegation in New Zealand. You think all sides might be looking for an alternative?

In the news…

Norwegian Epic officially a European ship, based in Barcelona
• First Princess cruise L.A.-Panama return since 2009 [USA Today]
• Cinco de Mayo deals from Carnival must be booked by today

Today at portsandbows.com: Emerald Sky trapped on the Rhine

Holland America Amsterdam
7 nights
May 31, 2015
Seattle (return): Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria
Oceanview: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

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