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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

The Real Difference for a Luxury Cruise?

Last week, we did a blog about Regent Seven Seas, a luxury cruise line that has new entertainment, and it got us thinking about how "luxury" compares to "standard" in the cruise world…and by "standard" we mean the big cruise lines with the biggest ships and biggest passenger loads.

So we decided to do as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as we could. One cruise. Same general destination (Caribbean). Same type of cabin (balcony). Same month (November).

For your perusal, then, here is Regent Seven Seas' Navigator vs Royal Caribbean's mighty Oasis of the Seas, the biggest of the mainstream big ships…

Regent Seven Seas is essentially an all-inclusive cruise line. One price covers all, or pretty much all. The cruise we researched is on the Navigator, it's seven nights and it's going to the Western Caribbean, where it will make four port stops.

Price: $4,000.

The Oasis — biggest cruise ship in the world — cruise is also seven nights to the Caribbean, with three ports. Both cruises are to the Western Caribbean, although they have only one port in common. The items priced below for the Oasis are all included on the Navigator:

Balcony stateroom: $1,517
Return airfare: $400
Shore excursions (3): $300
Specialty restaurants: $90
Beverage package: $385
Taxes: $150
Airport transfers: $60
Gratuities: $84

We hasten to point out that this is not an exact science. For one thing, we based airfare on flights from the middle of the continent, Chicago. Obviously, that could vary by where you live, but Chicago is the most central departure point. For another, beverage packages vary, so we chose one that's middle-of-the-road. For another, Regent Seven Seas has smaller ships and higher ratios of staff-per-passenger.

So how much more is it worth for luxury.

The total of the Oasis of the Seas prices above is $2,996.

The difference is $1,004, or 25 per cent more.

What do you think?

Oasis of the SeasToday at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
August 31, 2014
New York (return): Saint John (N.B.)
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $137

Regent Entertainment: Cirque's The Word

In the course of refurbishing its three ships, luxury line Regent Seven Seas has addressed the growing need for cruises to include entertainment (that's with a capital 'E'), even when space is at a premium.

For those of us who have never sailed Regent Seven Seas, they are small ships by traditional ocean standards. The Mariner and the Voyager are the biggest, each carrying 700 passengers. Little sister Navigator carries 490. So, when you have small ships and large accommodations (the ships are all suites and balconies), by the time you have places for customers to eat and drink and lounge, theaters are at best modest.

But all three ships have been renovated — okay, refurbished — since May 2012, the Mariner having just emerged from its remake. Also renovated was the cruise line's Cirque Rock n Rollentertainment program. Building on what seems to be attractive on the ocean industries big ships, Regent Seven Seas has focused on the "cirque" of Cirque du Soleil, the world-famous aerial conglomerate that doesn't have a trademark on the first word of its business, cirque. As a result, you will see "cirque" style shows elsewhere, and one of those places is on the Regent ships.

On the Mariner, it's Cirque Rock 'n Roll, which the cruise line describes as "a musical tour through history" from Elvis to Beyonce featuring "jaw-dropping aerial performances." Those of us who were introduced to cirque shows and pop music can't help but think all this started with Love, and the music of The Beatles, in Las Vegas.Navigator

On the Voyager, it's Cirque L'Amour, a tribute to the city of love, Paris, and "its renowned nightlife featuring a stunning aerial ballet with romantic displays of human power and trust." Hmm…

Both ships have the Constellation Theater, built overt two decks and with a new LED wall to enhance the productions and assorted upgrades to make the audience more comfortable.

On the Navigator, it's Cirque Navigator in the Navigator Theater. Since this is the smallest ship (just 566 feet long) we have to assume it's the smallest show…taking "the audience to a fantasy forest with choreography showcasing modern dance, aerial feats, Celtic dance and classic ballroom routines."

Regent is introducing a dozen new productions in all and it's clear that "cirque" is the headliner. What will be interesting now is what the cruise line does two years from now on Explorer, the first new ship since it became known as Regent Seven Seas, because there will be no existing space limitations when it comes to entertainment.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Noordam
11 nights
July 1, 2014
BarcelonaMarseilleMonte CarloCalviFlorence, La Goulette, PalermoNaplesRome
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $90

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