Cruise News Catch-Up: New NCL Ship, Dining Surcharge, Rescue

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It’s been a lively week for cruise news and now it’s time to catch up on the top stories from Cruise Hive. You’ll find all of the cruise news coverage you don’t want to miss from Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, and MSC Cruises.

Cruise News Update

The best place to learn about all of the breaking news from the world of cruising is Cruise Hive. In this week’s round-up, we’ve got coverage on Norwegian Viva’s maiden voyage, Royal Caribbean removing Panama Canal transits from a series of canal cruises, Royal Caribbean shutting down a popular private island attraction, Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras rescuing boaters in distress, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 breaking free from her moorings in Italy, and MSC Cruises adding an extra-entree surcharge in the ship’s main dining rooms.

Norwegian Viva Launches With Preview Cruises

She hasn’t been christened yet, but Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Viva has debuted in the Eastern Mediterranean and is sailing a series of preview cruises.

Lucky cruisers who are onboard, mostly travel agents, travel journalists, company officials, and other VIPs, are getting their chance to “Live It Up” — as the ship’s marketing tagline says. The 3,100-guest Norwegian Viva, a sister ship to last year’s Norwegian Prima, departed on her maiden cruise on August 10 from Venice.

Norwegian Viva Cruise Ship
Norwegian Viva Cruise Ship (Photo Copyright: Robert McGillivray / Cruise Hive)

The 4-night preview sailing will call at Split, Croatia, and Salerno, Italy, before arriving in Rome. The segment is part of a 9-night sailing that will continue from Rome to Lisbon, with port calls in France and Spain.

Ship highlights include the sprawling Indulge Food Hall, an outdoor sculpture garden called The Concourse, and plenty of thrilling adventures such as the three-deck Viva Speedway go-kart racetrack and the 10-story, free-fall slides, The Drop, and The Rush.

The 142,500-gross ton ship will sail Europe itineraries through mid-November, before departing on her first transatlantic cruise November 16 from Lisbon to Miami. The ship will be christened at PortMiami on November 28 and then deploy to her winter homeport of San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a winter series of Caribbean voyages.

Cruise Line Nixes Series of Panama Canal Transits

Cruisers who were looking forward to transiting the Panama Canal on 7-night sailings aboard Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas this winter learned that the ship will not sail through the technological marvel after all.

The cruise line has reached out to booked guests, informing them that the itineraries have been adjusted to exclude the canal. The ship originally was to depart Colon, Panama, and call at Cartagena, Colombia, before the full transit of the canal. Following the transit, there were to be two port calls in Costa Rica before the cruise concluded in Panama City.

Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Ship
Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: ATGImages / Shutterstock)

The adjusted itinerary, depending on the departure date, now includes the ABC Islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, and might still include Cartagena. The original Canal transit cruise was appealing to many cruisers because of its shorter length, since most Panama Canal cruises tend to be longer than seven nights.

Royal Caribbean offered no reason for the alternate itinerary, but some cruise watchers speculated that, since the costs and fees associated with transiting the canal have risen sharply, the shorter voyages are less financially viable.

In anticipation of guests’ disappointment, the cruise line said cruisers can rebook a different itinerary on any Royal Caribbean ship if they wish. It also offered to reimburse up to $200 USD per passenger ($400 for international guests) for non-refundable travel expenses or change fees, such flights, trains, rental cars, or hotels.

Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay might not be perfect for everyone, especially guests who were looking forward to the private island’s “Up, Up, & Away” balloon ride attraction.

The cruise line has notified guests who have pre-booked a ride in the helium balloon that the attraction will be closed for maintenance.

Royal Caribbean has not announced the exact dates of the closure, but guests who had signed up for the ride indicated it could be shut down from late August until late October, perhaps longer.

Royal Caribbean's Up, Up, & Away at CocoCay
Royal Caribbean’s Up, Up, & Away at CocoCay (Photo Copyright: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Refunds are being processed back to the original form of payment. The cost of the ride varies based on guest age, cruise ship capacity, visit date, and other factors.

The balloon ride is one of many attractions at the cruise line’s private Bahamian destination. The 10-minute ride brings guests up to 450 feet above the island. The balloon is tethered for optimal control and to regulate its motion and distance.

Professional balloon pilots operate the attraction, and its operation depends on weather conditions, local winds, and other atmospheric and meteorological factors.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is featured on the Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries of many Royal Caribbean ships, including Mariner of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas.

Mardi Gras Rescues Boaters in the Bahamas

Guests sailing aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras got to witness a rescue operation near Castle Island, in the Bahamas.

The ship was on her first day of an 8-day Southern Caribbean cruise that departed from Port Canaveral on August 7, when the US Coast Guard requested that the ship participate in the search and rescue of a small boat. Bound for her first port call in Aruba, Mardi Gras changed course and headed toward the rescue location.

Carnival Mardi Gras Rescue
Carnival Mardi Gras Rescue

Coast Guard officials had received a distress call seeking medical assistance from the small boat. Mardi Gras spent two hours looking for the boat and finally located it. The ship released its rescue boat and one of its lifeboats — actions that were captured on video and shared on social media.

Two US citizens in the boat were rescued and brought onboard Mardi Gras, where they received medical treatment. The cruise ship then resumed her Southern Caribbean course, which included port calls at Bonaire and Turks and Caicos, before returning to Port Canaveral on August 13.

The 180,800-gross ton Mardi Gras, with a capacity for 6,500 guests, has been involved in several rescue operations since she launched in 2021.

When in Rome, Tighten Your Moorings

Strong winds at Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, caused Cunard’s venerable Queen Mary 2 ocean liner to break free from her moorings while docked. The ship’s bow line snapped and her forward and aft gangways collapsed, but no injuries were reported.

Tugboats helped to quickly secure the 150,000-gross ton ship, which had briefly drifted from the dock but was not damaged in the incident. The breakaway happened at about 6 p.m. local time, when sustained winds were 24 miles per hour with gusts up to 36.

Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship
Queen Mary 2 (Photo Credit: Lykourgos06 / Shutterstock)

One gangway was retrieved after the ship was secured, and ship inspections were completed before Queen Mary 2 departed for her next port of call, Valencia, Spain. Once in Valencia, guests onboard reported that more inspections were carried out to make certain the ship was sound.

Queen Mary 2 was sailing a “Mediterranean Highlights” itinerary with ports of call in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, and England.

Cruise ships do not often break free of their moorings, but it does happen from time to time. On July 15, strong winds caused Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima to break free of her moorings while docked in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Her gangways tumbled into the harbor, too, but no one was injured in that case either.

MSC Seaside Adds Surcharge For Extra Entrees

Add another cruise ship to the list of vessels that are now charging for additional entrees in the main dining room. Guests sailing on MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside, based in Port Canaveral, reported there is a new $5 surcharge for second, or more, entrees ordered in the ship’s dining room. The charge is listed on the main dining room menus.

Within the last year, other cruise lines have taken similar steps. Carnival Cruise Line, in November 2022, began charging a $5 surcharge, but only for third, fourth, and more entrees.

MSC Cruises Dining
MSC Cruises Dining (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

Also, Royal Caribbean added an extra charge to guests who order broiled lobster tails last November. That fee is $16.99 per tail, and comes with an 18% gratuity fee as well.

At MSC Cruises, the extra entree fee is only confirmed on MSC Seaside, so it is possible the surcharge is in a test phase and might appear on additional ships in the future.

The 150,000-gross ton vessel, which accommodates 4,132 guests at double occupancy, has several other dining venues besides her two main dining rooms. These include a pizzeria, a steakhouse, a seafood specialty restaurant, a casual buffet, and others.

MSC Seaside is currently operating itineraries to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean ports of call, including Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico, Nassau, and the cruise line’s private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

More Cruise Headlines

There are plenty more cruise news stories to get caught up on from Cruise Hive this week, including new Antarctica and South America cruises from Princess Cruises, AIDA Cruises simplifying its internet packages, Princess Cruises altering an itinerary to avoid the island of Maui, two godmothers named for Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, and Holland America Line unveiling a series of holiday cruises.

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