Cruise News Recap: Carnival Hike, Overbooking, Stranded Passengers

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Count on Cruise Hive to keep you updated on the big cruise stories of the day. In this week’s update, we have coverage on Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Crystal, Resorts World Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises.

Cruise News Update

It’s time for this week’s cruise news update, so let’s recap the developments of the past week, including Celebrity Apex rescuing Cuban migrants, Carnival Cruise Line again raising the cost for bottled water, tensions in the Red Sea impacting a Crystal ship, an overbooked Genting Dream leaving 50 people stranded, Norwegian Cruise Line reimbursing guests for some expenses after leaving them behind in Africa, and MSC Cruises revealing the public spaces onboard its newest ship.

Celebrity Apex Rescues Seven Cuban Migrants

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex rescued seven migrants who signaled for help from a small boat sailing near Cuba on April 1, 2024. 

The migrants were taken aboard the 3,400-guest ship, which was en route to Belize after departing Fort Lauderdale on a 7-night Western Caribbean sailing on March 30, 2024.

The migrants told ship officials they had been at sea for five days and were trying to reach Mexico from Cuba. Their small rowboat was powered by a makeshift sail and appeared to be taking on water, according to a video taken from the cruise ship.

Once onboard Celebrity Apex, the refugees received medical attention, food and water, and were accommodated in available cabins, with security present. The migrants were not given full access to the ship.

Celebrity Apex Rescue in the Caribbean
Celebrity Apex Rescue in the Caribbean (Photo Credits: @BestCountry & Nancy Pauwels)

The cruise director aboard Celebrity Apex indicated that the migrants would be handed over to authorities at an upcoming port, if possible, or transported to Fort Lauderdale aboard the ship if necessary since foreign ports have varying restrictions on accepting migrants. The ship will return to the Florida port on April 6, 2024.

It was not the first migrant rescue for Celebrity Apex. She rescued three people in the waters off Cuba in February 2022.

Rescues are not unusual in the region. Incidents reported so far in 2024 include Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas rescuing 14 Cuban refugees near Honduras on March 3, and Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Celebration assisting 20 refugees in the Florida Straits on February 24.

Carnival Ups Cost of Bottled Water, Again

It’s important to stay hydrated on a cruise, especially in sun destinations, but bottled water purchased on Carnival Cruise Line just got more expensive.

Cruisers aboard the line’s ships are experiencing a bottled water price hike for the third time since 2022, after it upped the price of a 12-pack of 16.9 fluid ounce bottles to $14.95.

Depending on the brand, the same amount of water in the same size bottles can be bought at major retailers for as low as $3. Walmart, for instance, offers the pack for between $3 and $12, while Amazon sells it for about $7.

Carnival Cruise Line Bottled Water Price Increase
Carnival Cruise Bottled Water and Cruise Ships (Credit: Darryl Brooks)

In November 2022, Carnival Cruise Line increased the 12-pack price to $9.95, up substantially from the former price of $4.95. Then in December 2023, the cost went up again, to $11.95. The price spikes reflect a whopping 202% increase since the fall of 2022.

The cruise line offered no specific reason for the third increase, however, it is likely that supply chain issues, delivery expenses, and customer demand all have combined to prompt the price hike.

Cruise guests don’t necessarily have to buy bottled water; the line provides water dispensers on each ship’s Lido deck, but refilling bottles at those stations is frowned upon, mostly to minimize the line of people waiting for water. Also, water fountains are located near the pool and sports decks.

Red Sea Tensions Impact a Repositioning Cruise

While most cruise ships have altered itineraries to avoid the Red Sea, Crystal’s Crystal Symphony ventured into the region on April 1, 2024, as she operated a crew-only repositioning cruise to the Mediterranean from India.

A tense situation erupted when the ship was about 150 nautical miles northwest of Yemen, and an “entity claiming to be the Yemini Navy” made contact. A message from the entity directed Crystal Symphony to deactivate its Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking system. AIS is a key safety feature that transmits information about a ship, such as its identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status, and other data.

Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship
Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: yanchi1984)

At around the same time, a crew member reported hearing what he or she suspected was gunfire, however, that was a false alarm, the cruise line confirmed. The sound apparently was from a cracked window.

After the AIS incident, the US Navy escorted Crystal Symphony through the Red Sea as she headed toward Limassol, Cyprus, where she will embark guests on April 6, 2024. The ship will operate a 7-night cruise to Athens, calling at Rhodes, Katakolon, Olympia, and Chania (Crete), Greece.

The decision to transit the Suez Canal and sail through the Red Sea allows a ship to avoid the lengthy and most costly alternative of sailing around the southern tip of Africa.

Dozens Stranded Due to Overbooked Cruise Ship

A group of about 50 people, all booked to sail a 3-night Easter cruise departing Singapore on March 29, 2024, were denied boarding on embarkation day due to the ship being overbooked.

The booked guests had arrived at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore ready to board the 3,348-guest Genting Dream, a ship operated by Resorts World Cruises. They had checked in online and received email confirmations, but were then told the ship was fully booked and no cabins were available.

Genting Dream Cruise Ship in Singapore
Genting Dream Cruise Ship in Singapore (Photo Credit: Elvie Lins)

Cruise line officials originally told the group to wait at the terminal in case staterooms opened up, but ultimately were informed there were none. There was no explanation as to why the guests were not told of the lack of cabins before traveling to the terminal.

Resorts World Cruises apologized to the affected guests, and offered an upgrade to either a balcony room or a palace suite on their next cruise — should they decide to book again with the line.

It wasn’t the first time that Genting Dream came up short on cabins. In September 2022, the ship left 100-plus guests stranded, also due to overbooking. The ship operates 2- to 5-day getaway cruises from Singapore to destinations that include Port Klang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Phuket, Thailand; and Surabaya and Bali, Indonesia.

Cruise Line Partially Reimburses Stranded Guests

Norwegian Cruise Line provided financial assistance to a group of eight guests who were left in the African nation of Sao Tome and Principe after they missed Norwegian Dawn’s all-aboard deadline on March 27, 2024.

The line decided to reimburse the guests for expenses they incurred when they were unable to rejoin the ship in Banjul, Gambia — the ship’s next port of call, due to adverse weather conditions and had to instead continue via land to the following port, Dakar, Senegal, where they finally reboarded the ship on April 2.

Norwegian Dawn Vessel
Norwegian Dawn Vessel (Photo Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis)

The stranded group’s ordeal was widely covered by news outlets and on social media platforms, and while cruise lines typically do not reimburse guests who miss a ship’s scheduled departure, Norwegian Cruise Line decided in this case to do so.

Norwegian Dawn is operating a 21-night voyage from Cape Town to Barcelona. The ship departed from its Sao Tome and Principe port call without the guests, who had arranged for a private shore excursion and returned late to the tender station. 

Ship officials had left their passports with port authorities, but most of the stranded guests did not have credit cards with them to fund an overland journey, and some lacked necessary medications.

The unfortunate event points to the need to return on time to a ship in port. The voyage will conclude in Barcelona on April 10, 2024.

Public Spaces Detailed Aboard MSC Cruises’ New-Build

MSC Cruises revealed details about the design of its newest ship, MSC World America, announcing it will feature seven unique districts, each with exciting experiences for adults and youngsters.

The 215,863-gross ton vessel that can accommodate up to 6,762 guests is under construction and set to launch in April 2025. A sister ship, MSC World Europa, debuted in 2021. The seven districts include MSC Yacht Club; Family Aventura; Aqua Deck; Zen; Galleria; The Terraces; and World Promenade.

MSC World America Cruise Ship
MSC World America Cruise Ship

MSC Yacht Club is the line’s exclusive luxury area, where suites come with butler service, separate dining and lounge venues, and many special amenities and perks. 

Family Aventura will feature a playground inspired by the line’s private destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, and will provide fun venues such as bumper cars, wet and dry slides, a roller rink, and more.

Aqua Deck will feature multiple pools and water activities, while Zen will cater to adults with a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Galleria and The Terraces both will offer a mix of retail shopping areas and dining and lounge venues. The Terraces also will feature a comedy club — a first for MSC Cruises.

Finally, World Promenade will feature an 11-deck spiral dry slide, and offer a dining venue and entertainment spaces. The ship is slated to be christened on April 9, 2025, at a ceremony at PortMiami, where the vessel will be home-ported.

More Cruise Headlines

And that’s not all! Those were just some of the cruise headlines we covered at Cruise Hive. Other developments featured Seabourn rolling out a new set of itineraries in the Western Mediterranean, a remote Scottish port expecting its busiest cruise season ever, MSC Cruises breaking records in the Brazil market, and the port of Liverpool, England, getting a new management firm. And don’t miss our in-depth report on the rebounding Chinese cruise market.

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