Cruise News Catch-Up: Cookie Charge, Increases, New Sailings

Plenty of cruise news to catch-up on from the past week including Royal Caribbean increases, cookie charge on Celebrity cruise, new Carnival sailings, and more!

The cruise news keeps flowing in, and Cruise Hive has it all in this week’s update featuring coverage from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, and Celebrity Cruises.

Cruise News Update

It’s easy to get up to speed with the weekly cruise news update from Cruise Hive, where we’ve got all of the coverage you don’t want to miss, including Carnival Cruise Line adding Alaska sailings from Seattle, the new Carnival Jubilee revealing her cruise and entertainment directors, Royal Caribbean hiking prices at its barbecue venue, Carnival Cruise Line pushing back on false statements about crew gratuities, Holland America Line adding services and programs to its Grand Voyages, and a controversy over a new charge for cookies onboard Celebrity Equinox.

Carnival Cruise Line Boosts Alaska Sailings From Seattle

Carnival Cruise Line revealed more details about its ship deployments for 2025-26, including sailing choices to Alaska from Seattle and new Carnival Journeys itineraries featuring transpacific and transatlantic voyages.

The 92,720-gross ton Carnival Luminosa will homeport in Seattle from May 1, 2025, to September 11, 2025, offering a series of cruises to the Last Frontier State.

The ship, formerly the Costa Luminosa, which was handed over to sister brand Carnival Cruise Line in 2022, will operate seven-day Alaska sailings with departures every Thursday. The ship will call at Tracy Arm Fjord, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia.

Carnival Spirit Cruise Ship
Carnival Spirit Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Carnival Spirit also will be based in Seattle, sailing weeklong cruises from April 14, 2025, through September 9, 2025. Port calls will feature Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, and Victoria.

Both ships will sail a variety of Carnival Journeys cruises, as well. Among them is a 29-day Carnival Luminosa transpacific voyage from Brisbane, Australia, to Seattle on April 3, 2025. The transpacific voyage will call at ports such as Okinawa, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Hakodate, and Kushiro, Japan, and will visit Anchorage, Juneau, and Ketchikan, Alaska.

The 88,500-gross ton Carnival Spirit will sail several Carnival Journeys cruises in 2025, including a 14-day transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami, departing on March 16, 2025.

Top ‘Fun’ Directors Announced For Carnival Jubilee

As Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Jubilee, gears up for her debut in December, the line named two rising stars to the all-important positions of cruise director and entertainment director.

Kyndall “Fire” Magyar was selected as cruise director and Matthew Boyd as entertainment director. Both positions are key to ensuring that guests enjoy stellar shipboard experiences.

Magyar has been working on Carnival ships since 2016, most recently as cruise director aboard Mardi Gras. Magyar also served aboard Carnival Horizon, Carnival Vista, and other ships, and is a Texas native to boot — an added bonus since Carnival Jubilee will be home-ported in Galveston.

Kyndall Fire Magyar
Kyndall “Fire” Magyar (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Boyd joined the Carnival fleet in 2010 and was named an entertainment director in 2018. He most recently led the entertainment team aboard Carnival Celebration, a sister ship to Carnival Jubilee. He also served aboard Mardi Gras, Carnival Luminosa, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Glory, and other Carnival ships.

Carnival Jubilee’s inaugural sailing is set for December 23, 2023. The 7-night cruise will call at Roatan, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. The 6,500-guest ship is nearing completion at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.

The cruise line recently revealed the ship’s senior officer leadership team, which will be led by ship’s master, Captain Andrea Catalani.

Royal Caribbean Raises Prices at Portside BBQ

It might be finger-lickin’ good, but guests will have to reach further into their pockets to pay the bill. We’re talking barbecue, specifically at Portside BBQ, a casual eatery offered only onboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

Guests on the mega-ship are reporting steep price increases on menu choices. The restaurant’s “Signature Combo,” one of the most popular dishes, lets guests select from available meats plus two sides and one dessert for a single price. Previously, the price was $12.49 (USD) for two cuts of meat, and $15.99 for three cuts.

Royal Caribbean Portside BBQ
Royal Caribbean Portside BBQ

Now, the prices are $16.99 and $21.99, respectively, reflecting increases of 36% and 43%. Other price hikes were applied to single cuts of St. Louis-style spare ribs, Texas beef brisket, smoked turkey, sausage links, and other specialty meats, which increased from $3.89 to $5.99, while single side dishes, such as corn on the cob, coleslaw, and fries, went from $2.99 to $3.99.

Cocktails are included in the price hikes, and even water costs more. It went from $3.25 to $3.99, while soda is up from $3.50 to $3.99.

Royal Caribbean is not alone in raising some dining prices. Holland America Line is hiking prices at three specialty dining venues as of September 1, and MSC Cruises recently implemented a $5 fee for extra entrees in its ships’ main dining rooms.

Heald Dispels Online Gratuity ‘Nonsense’

A social media controversy hit Carnival Cruise Line, when false information circulated regarding how the line distributes gratuities to crew members.

The erroneous statements indicated that, rather than adding tips to a staffer’s base pay, gratuities are used as base pay first, with the line making up the difference between the tips and the contracted salary amount.

Not so, says Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald, who addressed the online misunderstanding. Heald called the notion “categorically nonsense,” and just to make it crystal clear, he said the chatter was inaccurate, utter fabrication, and untrue.

Carnival Cruise Line Deck
Carnival Panorama Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock)

Here’s how it works: All crew members earn a salary based on their position and years of experience. Any gratuities offered by guests – whether automatically added to onboard accounts or offered personally in cash – are added to their pay rate.

Carnival Cruise Line’s service gratuities are currently $16 per guest, per day for standard staterooms and $18 per person, per day for suites.

Like other cruise lines, Carnival allows guests to either pre-pay for gratuities at the time the cruise is booked or pay through their Sail & Sign account during their cruise. Tips are added to guests’ onboard accounts on the next-to-last day of each sailing.

Upgrades Will Make Grand Voyages Guests Happy

Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha had some important, inside information to impart to repeat guests of the line’s Grand Voyages itineraries. It came in the form of an email to those loyal cruisers and described a series of new services and programs that will roll out in the fall.

The Grand Voyages category includes lengthy, immersive cruises and Grand World Cruises, all varying from about 70 days to 130-plus days. The changes will debut with Zuiderdam’s 73-day Grand Africa Voyage, in October, and be implemented on all other Grand Voyages that follow.

Following guest feedback, some of the new services and activities that future Grand Voyages guests can look forward to are more sailaway parties, themed dining room dinners, and pop-up experiences in specialty restaurants.

Holland America Line Cruise Ship
Holland America line Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Atakan Divitlioglu / Shutterstock)

Also, Grand Voyages guests will be able to buy a beverage package, and will be offered expanded wine packages, allowing the purchase of 12- and 24-bottle packages for these lengthy itineraries.

More positive changes are coming to Grand Voyages in 2024, including presentations by guest chefs, stage performances by guest artists, and ballroom dance classes.

The 1,916-guest Zuiderdam and two other ships will sail Grand Voyages in the coming months, Volendam, and Zaandam, each with capacity for 1,432 guests. All three ships are in the process of having upgrades completed to plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems.

‘Cookiegate’ Erupts Onboard Celebrity Equinox

Guests with a sweet tooth sailing aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Equinox made the industry aware of “cookiegate,” when cruisers discovered the ship is now charging for chocolate chip cookies at some venues, including Cafe Al Bacio, the ship’s European-themed cafe.

Previously offered free to guests, the line is selling the cookies for $2 each, plus a 20% tip, for a grand total of $2.40 per treat. It isn’t clear whether all of the food venues onboard the Solstice-class ship are adding the cookie charge.

Cruise Ship Cookie
Cookie (Photo Credit: MOUTASEM PHOTOGRAPHY / Shutterstock)

Also unknown is whether other Celebrity Cruises’ ships added a price tag to cookies, or soon will. It is possible that the cookie fee is a pilot test, to gauge guest reaction before making the policy permanent.

Some guests complained that the new fee reflects more nickel-and-diming of cruise ship passengers. Indeed, just days before “cookiegate” erupted, sister line Royal Caribbean had to put down rumors that its ships planned to start charging for pizza at the line’s Sorrento’s restaurant.

Celebrity Equinox is homeported in Fort Lauderdale, sailing 6- and 8-night cruises to the Bahamas, Mexico, Grand Cayman, the Virgin Islands, and other destinations.

More Cruise Headlines

Believe it or not, Cruise Hive has even more news from the world of cruising, with in-depth coverage about Holland America Line changing the embarkation and debarkation port for a Caribbean sailing, the Life at Sea residency cruise offering a scuba certification program, the Port of Los Angeles raising cruise passenger tariffs, Royal Caribbean shortening a 2024 cruise in order to accommodate a ship charter, and Holland America Line unveiling a new cruise to the Arctic.

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