Cruise News Update: April 29, 2023

Another busy cruise news update with a round-up of the big stories, including from Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, and two major homeports.

It was a busy week for cruise news, and Cruise Hive is here to bring you the top headliner stories across the major cruise lines. This week’s update has the news you want to read from Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, the Port of New Orleans, and Port Canaveral.

Cruise News Update

As always, Cruise Hive has you covered with all the major developments from the past week, including two new zones on the upcoming Carnival Jubilee, a second transatlantic cruise canceled by Cunard, record cruise traffic at the Port of New Orleans, a proposed new cruise terminal at Port Canaveral, and a test run for a new dining surcharge aboard Carnival’s Mardi Gras.

Carnival Jubilee to Feature Two New Fun Zones

It was another big reveal for Carnival Cruise Line’s newest Excel-class ship, Carnival Jubilee, as the line announced the themes for two zones onboard the ship, set to debut in December 2023. As their names imply, the new zones, “Currents” and “Shores,” put the focus on the nautical aspects of the ship.

Currents will invite guests to dip below the waves into an underwater world in a space on Decks 6 and 7, featuring large LED windows, an LED ceiling in the shape of a wave, and theatrical lighting and sound.

The zone theme carries over into its bars and restaurants, with a bar called Dr. Inks, Ph.D, an octopus-inspired venue that will serve cocktails that change color and other unique drinks.

Upper Deck of the Carnival Jubilee Currents Zone
Upper Deck of the Carnival Jubilee Currents Zone

In the zone’s Golden Mermaid lounge cruisers can order drinks with edible glitter while the dining venue Emeril’s Bistro 717 will specialize in seafood cuisine and a raw bar.

The Shores zone will evoke a seaside atmosphere with piers and boardwalks, a ceiling design reminiscent of a Ferris wheel, and a wide variety of foods one would find in such a destination.

Coastal Slice will serve pizza, for instance, while a deli-style venue called Beach Buns will offer hot dogs and sandwiches. The Marina Bar will sport a nautical theme and have indoor and outdoor seating. A glass staircase will connect the two ocean-inspired zones.

Four additional zones cruisers will find on Carnival Jubilee are repeats of areas already seen on the line’s first two Excel-class ships, Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration: Grand Central, Ultimate Playground, Summer Landing, and the Lido.

Under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, Carnival Jubilee will accommodate up to 6,631 guests and will homeport in Galveston, offering 7-night Western Caribbean cruises. Her inaugural sailing is slated to depart December 23, 2023.

Cunard Nixes Second Transatlantic Crossing

Cunard has canceled a second transatlantic cruise aboard the venerable Queen Mary 2 ocean liner due to an ongoing technical issue. Cunard informed guests scheduled to sail from New York to Southampton on April 30 that the ship cannot make the crossing, due to the same technical problem that caused her April 23 voyage, from Southampton to New York, to be canceled.

Guests on the earlier voyage were told of the last-minute cancelation via text and email on embarkation day. Cunard is refunding cruise fares for the 7-night crossing and providing a future cruise credit equal to 20% of the monies paid. Any pre-booked shore excursions will be refunded as well. The same compensation is offered for the second canceled voyage.

However, that cruise had multiple legs and was to continue sailing after arriving in Southampton, calling at Hamburg, Germany, and at four ports in the Norwegian Fjords.

Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2

The ship was to make a second call to Hamburg and then return to Southampton before continuing on to Le Havre, France, and then back to New York. In all, the full roundtrip voyage would be a 26-day trip for those booked on the entire itinerary.

Guests scheduled for the full roundtrip could find other transport to Europe, conceivably joining up with the ship at one of the European ports. But that could be a risky gamble since it is unknown how long the ship will be under repair.

Cunard has not indicated the nature of the technical problem, nor has it announced that the ship has been moved to dry dock. The line only disclosed that the problem is not a quick fix.

The 149,215 gross-ton Queen Mary 2 is the oldest ship in the Cunard fleet, having entered service in 2004. She carries 2,695 guests and 1,200 crew.

In addition to Queen Mary 2, Cunard, a Carnival Corporation luxury brand, operates the 2,691-guest Queen Victoria and the 2,081-guest Queen Elizabeth. A fourth ship, the 2,996-guest Queen Anne, is under construction and slated to debut in spring 2024.

New Orleans Port Tops a Pre-Pandemic Record

The Port of New Orleans must be the envy of ports around the world. It revealed this week that cruise traffic in March 2023 had surpassed its highest month to date, February 2020, a pre-pandemic record. Getting back to pre-pandemic levels is the goal of virtually every cruise line, port, tour company, and tourism destination the world over.

March was a great month for the Big Easy’s port, with 155,225 passenger movements as well as a total of 39 vessel calls, including both Mississippi River cruises and ocean voyages. The passenger numbers reflect homeport guests and transit guests visiting the city as a port of call. The previous monthly record, in February 2020, saw 154,409 passenger movements and 31 vessel calls, just before the cruise industry shut down.

Cruise Ships Docked in New Orleans
Cruise Ships Docked in New Orleans (Photo Credit: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock)

Multiple cruise lines currently homeport one or more ships from New Orleans, either year-round or seasonally, including Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line. Carnival Cruise Line was the first to resume sailings from New Orleans in 2021, when Carnival Glory embarked guests on September 19 of that year.

Mississippi River cruises are a substantial source of cruise guests arriving in and departing from New Orleans. American Cruise Lines, American Queen Voyages, and Viking Cruises offer regular river cruises from the city.

Several other lines, such as Holland America Line, TUI Cruises, and Celebrity Cruises, include the city as a port of call on sailings that originate in other destinations.

Cruising brings big economic benefits to New Orleans, since 90% of cruise guests travel from out-of-state to reach the port, and 73% of cruise guests spend one or two days in New Orleans either pre- or post-cruise. These visitors generate over 300,000 hotel room bookings and roughly $125 million in local spending annually.

Port Canaveral Eyes a New Cruise Terminal

Port Canaveral, on Florida’s Space Coast, already is the world’s busiest cruise port in terms of passenger numbers, with 5.8 million cruise guests expected to pass through its facilities during the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Now it wants to expand facilities to accommodate even more cruise guests.

The port announced a proposal to build a new cruise terminal that would buoy its cruise guest capacity to 6.4 million. The proposal to construct another cruise terminal, at an estimated cost of $175 million, is included in a five-year capital budget plan that was the topic of discussion this week by the Canaveral Port Authority. The plan is to have the facility operational by late 2026. Officials will consider four possible sites toward the south side of the port.

The port officials say the facility needs further investment in infrastructure to maintain its position and meet the growing demand placed on the port by cruise lines and passengers.

Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral
Cruise Ships at Port Canaveral (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

It wasn’t made clear yet which cruise ships or cruise lines would be based at the new terminal, but Port Director and CEO John Murray said the port is awaiting announcements by cruise lines before he can discuss details. He suggested interest is high from cruise companies.

All three of the major cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line, sail from Port Canaveral, along with Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

Murray said that the goal of accommodating 6.4 million cruise guests is attainable, since cruise lines are operating at higher occupancy than expected. Some ships are operating at 125%, and even 150%, occupancy. This is mainly due to family group bookings, where children share their parents’ cabins resulting in the higher occupancy levels.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line each operate from their own terminals at the port. The most recently built terminal, Terminal 3, hosts Carnival Cruise Line. It cost $163 million to construct.

Dining Surcharge Gets Test Run on Carnival’s Mardi Gras

It’s just a test run, but some cruisers might be disappointed in a new dining venue rule onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras.

The popular restaurant ChiBang, serving a combination of Chinese and Mexican dishes, started off as a complimentary dining option for lunch and dinner. But the line announced this week that, going forward, lunches will remain free and unlimited, but each guest can have just one free dinner at the venue per cruise. Dinners after that first free meal will cost $8 per person.

ChiBang on Mardi Gras
ChiBang on Mardi Gras (Photo Copyright: Melissa Mayntz / Cruise Hive)

The change, if enacted permanently, will be expanded to Carnival Celebration as well. Both are Excel-class ships, and a third in the class, Carnival Jubilee, due to enter service in December 2023, also will feature the eatery onboard. The line has not yet disclosed whether the venue surcharge will be added to that ship.

Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald said the nominal charge is intended to give all guests an opportunity to dine at the venue. It is also seen as a way to manage crowds on the mega-ships, which have capacity to accommodate nearly 6,500 guests.

The line said that guest feedback prompted the creation of ChiBang. The menu is not fusion; separate menus are offered with Chinese and Mexican cuisine.

On the Chinese menu, for instance, guests can indulge in egg drop soup and Kung Pan chicken, while Mexican food lovers can enjoy carnitas, steak ranchero and frijoles.

There’s no shortage of places to eat onboard Mardi Gras, which features more than 15 dedicated dining venues, and many included in the cruise fare. They include the main dining rooms, Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, the Lido Marketplace buffet, and other venues.

More Cruise Headlines

There were many other cruise stories from the past week that we covered on Cruise Hive, including the suspended search for a man overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, Costa Cruise Line offering new itineraries from Athens, MSC Seaside arriving at her new homeport of Port Canaveral, Carnival Pride entering dry dock for a series of upgrades, and luxe line Seabourn unveiling a new Africa itinerary.

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