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Concerts, Cruise Ships Share Philosophy

Last week, we tried to see Neil Diamond in concert (yes, at 74, he’s still performing). A quick check of tickets delivered the news that they weren’t in our budget, unless we wanted to sit where you need binoculars to see the stage. Aha, we thought, there’s sure to Neil Diamond-Eva Rinaldibe a last-minute deal.

There wasn’t.

Standing at the box office five minutes before the show was supposed to start, the $191 tickets were still $191 and, we were politely told, that wasn’t going to change.

Maybe cruise lines are getting tips from ol’ Neil, who at 74 continues to play to nearly sold-out houses. If everybody thinks last-minute deals are the way to go, most people will wait until the last minute and the “gate” will suffer.

Translating that to the current cruise climate, it means last-minute deals are disappearing. Last month, it was Royal Caribbean that decided to rid itself of what CEO Richard Fain called the “used-car salesman kind of mentality.” This month, it’s Carnival. Both consider the strategy a profit-killer and, yes, cruise lines are in the business of turning profits.

- Eva Rinaldi photo

So both would rather have empty cabins on ships more or less full of passengers paying the “going rate” than fill up the ships to have heads in every bed, as they say. This is a major philosophical shift and it’s likely to spread so that there are almost no last-minute deals anywhere.

The same goes for the concert crowd. If a 74-year-old entertainer selling out on his past sets the standard for the non-discounting of tickets, it’s likely to be the case for all entertainers.

If, of course, it isn’t already.

In the news…

• Over a million people welcome Cunard Queens on the Mersey in Liverpool
• Windstar christens Star Legend after $8.5-million refurbishment and name change
• Royal Caribbean to make Aklan, Philippines its hub for Asia region

Today at portsandbows.com: Luxury cruising on the move

Carnival Liberty
7 nights
August 23, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Inside: $419
Cost per day: $59

Armageddon For Last-Minute Deals? 

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain indicated that the party may soon be over when it comes to last-minute cruise deals.

Richard FainFain told Bloomberg the reasons will be:

• More ships moving to Asia, reducing the capacity in the Caribbean, where most last-minute deals surface

• Attempts by cruise lines, notably his, to stabilize pricing that alienates cruisers who book early and wind up paying more

He agreed that cruise lines risk having fewer passengers on ships to, as he put it: “…raise the satisfaction level of our guests and strengthen the perception of our brand superiority.”

Hmm, interesting.

Three thoughts come to mind:

One, cruises are like most businesses, with pricing dictated by supply and demand. If fewer ships in the Caribbean create more of a demand, prices will surely go up and there won’t be as many last-minute deals. That’s just business.

Two, why do the “early bookers” complain? If they don’t like the fact that “late bookers” may get a better deal by waiting, all they have to do is change their tactics and take a chance on booking a cruise at the last minute. Certainty comes with a price.

Three, the whole empty-cabin issue is problematic. There aren’t fewer cabins when a ship departs, and having nobody in them at least looks like lost revenue, since the savings from fewer bed changes, or less cleaning and electricity, or even less food on the ship is minimal.

Will cruise lines be able to resist sailing with more empty cabins?

And if they do, will the segment of the population that “bargain shops” — be it for almost-expired yogurt or last-minute cruises — be alienated by a change in cruise policy?

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Amsterdam
14 nights
December 8, 2014
San Diego, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Puerto Quetzal, Corinto, Puerto Caldera, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Fort Lauderdale
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $85

A Quantum Leap From April 2014

It was just one year ago. In New York City, home to Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean unveiled its newest and greatest ship at a press conference. The head honchos from the cruise line, Richard Fain and Adam Goldstein, were there. So was Kristin Chenoweth, the new ship's Godmother-to-be.

There was one word on everyone's lips or, for the writers among us, in everyone's vocabulary.


Fast track 12 months. It's April again. Quantum of the Seas, still several months from leaving the shipyard, is making news again. And there's that word again.


The newest and greatest ship from this mainstream cruise line is going to leave North America almost as soon as she arrives. Okay, Quantum will be in New York from November to May, not even long enough to consummate the relationship. Then she'll be leaving New York a jilted lover, and running off to Shanghai.

Talk about a Shanghai surprise!

To be fair, she'll be sending her almost-twin sister as a stand-in. The Anthem of the Seas will become New York's Royal Caribbean new ship later in 2015, with all the same curves and attributes and flash.

When Quantum arrives in Shanghai, will Kristin Chenoweth be on deck? If she is…


Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Rotterdam
14 nights
May 24, 2014
Rotterdam (return): CopenhagenBerlinTallinnSt.PetersburgHelsinkiStockholmAarhus
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $71

Show Goes on for Quantum of the Seas

NEW YORK — It was sunny yesterday in Lower Manhattan, just like it was on that fateful Tuesday more than 11 years ago, when the landscape of not just Manhattan but the world changed.

Yesterday was another sunny Tuesday when nobody in America had much to cheer about, and Royal Caribbean had little choice but to try. It had a new ship to show off, or at least the concept of a new ship. In the midst of increased security in this city and gripping news reports from the bombing in Boston, Royal Caribbean brought Quantum of the Seas to life on a big screen in a modern-looking building called IAC.

Outside was a sky-diving simulator, where guests were invited to experience what cruisers on Quantum of the Seas will experience – what it feels like to skydive, only on a cruise ship.

Inside was the ship's Godmother, Kristin Chenoweth. The tiny entertainer played a huge role while introducing "my godchild." She narrated an eight-minute movie in which she participated as a skydiver, a basketball player, a bumping car driver, a table tennis player and a passenger in a pod that goes over the side of the ship when it isn't sitting high above the ship.

"I deserve an Oscar for this!" she laughed.

Royal Caribbean's new ship won't go live until a year from November. When it does, she'll be on board and passengers will be doing all the things she did, if they choose. The fact that they can choose to do them without paying a nickel more than they paid to be on Quantum of the Seas gives new meaning to all-inclusivity on a cruise ship.

Both company CEO Richard Fain and President Adam Goldstein, who accompanied the Godmother on stage and on screen, say the two attractions are do-able for just about anybody. No age restrictions for people who collect pensions. Fain and Goldstein have tested North Star and Rip Cord, as they're called, and yesterday they arrived by driving bumping cars onto the stage.

They addressed any issues the assembled media wanted them to, even the matter of increased cruise-ship security because of Boston. It was mostly party-line stuff because, really, nobody knows what the latest terrorist event is going to impact getting on and off cruise ships.

On any other day, on a better day, nobody would likely have asked.

Costa Favolosa
7 nights
May 27, 2013
Savona (return): Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Valletta, Catania, Naples
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Royal Caribbean Boss Goes With Flow

During our one-day visit to the Allure of the Seas last month, we saw both Richard Fain and the Flowrider. We just didn’t see them together.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Fain and Flowrider, here’s an explanation: He (left) is Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, and it (above) is an attraction on the company’s bigger ships that simulates surfing in a small, controlled space.

Evidently, Fain and Flowrider spend time together.

It happens whenever Royal Caribbean sends a ship on its maiden voyage. The most recent occurrence is just days old, because the Allure is on its first voyage with paying customers right now. What happens — or happened — is the Chairman climbs into his swimsuit and jumps (okay, eases his way) into the Flowrider, challenging inaugural-voyage passengers to compete against him.

Not only is the head guy a Flowrider of some distinction, he is also clever, self-deprecating and funny. He has written a blog about his experiences that is worth reading, and it includes video of the Chairman/CEO in action.

So rather than tell his story here, we think it’s better to send you there…and one click will show you what we saw.

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