Cruise News Update: Icon Arrives, MSC to Galveston, World Cruise

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It’s time to take a deep dive into the top cruise news headlines of the past week. Cruise Hive has them all covered, with developments from the Port of Nassau, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises.

Cruise News Update

Don’t miss a beat when it comes to cruise news you need to know. In this week’s update, Cruise Hive has full coverage of the Port of Nassau breaking its cruise arrivals record, Carnival Cruise Line urging respect among guests, Princess Cruises replacing a port call on the maiden voyage of Sun Princess, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas arriving at PortMiami to great fanfare, MSC Cruises deploying a ship to Galveston in 2025, and Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise altering its route on the way to Antarctica.

Port of Nassau Shatters Arrivals Record

The Port of Nassau, Bahamas, has officially set a new record for cruise arrivals. In 2023, the port welcomed 4,490,802 cruise guests, and that represents a 14% increase versus the previous record, set in 2019.

In all, 1,210 ship calls were made to Nassau in 2023 by virtually every major cruise line. They included Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and others.

Cruise Ships at Nassau Cruise Port
Cruise Ships at Nassau Cruise Port (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt)

With six berths and the ability to accommodate the industry’s largest ships, the Port of Nassau also broke daily visitor records in 2023. It set a one-day high for cruise arrivals in March 2023, when 28,554 guests were welcomed in a single day, then it broke that record on December 27, 2023, when 29,316 cruise visitors arrived.

Looking ahead to 2024, the port is hoping to welcome 5.6 million cruise guests. Royal Caribbean’s new-build, Utopia of the Seas, is set to homeport at Nassau after her launch in summer 2024. The ship will have capacity for 6,500 guests, and might help the port reach its goal.

Cruise Line Tackles Mobility Scooter Issues

Some unpleasant interactions onboard its ships have prompted Carnival Cruise Line to address the issue of mobility scooters, specifically when it comes to accommodating them on elevators.

The line wants all guests to show respect to others, when they are inside an elevator and while waiting for an elevator. Some guests who rely on scooters to get around their ships have asked the cruise line to designate an elevator, or multiple elevators, for use by those riding scooters, and even assign a crew member to direct non-scooter guests to other elevators.

Cruise Ship Mobility Scooter
Cruise Ship Mobility Scooter (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt)

However, Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald responded to that idea on social media, saying the line does not have the manpower to station a crew member at elevator banks. Heald suggested that most guests are respectful of those who ride scooters.

Reserving a single elevator for scooter-riding guests would likely do little to help the situation, depending on how many people are using them on a particular ship. Typically one elevator can accommodate just two scooters at a time.

A second area of concern cropped up, too — aggressive driving. Some guests have reported being bumped, and in some cases, injured by scooters. Those who drive mobility scooters can review the cruise line’s guidelines on behavior. The policy states that guests must drive at a safe speed to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on board.

Port Call Switch for the New Sun Princess

Princess Cruises has canceled a port of call on Sun Princess’ inaugural cruise, departing on February 8, 2024 from Barcelona and sailing to Rome. A scheduled call at the Greek island of Santorini on February 15 was nixed and replaced with Crete, Greece.

The reason for the port call switch is the temporary closure of the Santorini Cable Car, which will be out of service for maintenance. The cable car is the primary mode of access into the village of Fira, located on the island’s cliff tops some 700 feet above the harbor.

Sun Princess Cruise Ship
Sun Princess Cruise Ship

With the cable car out of service, guests would have to climb 500 steps to reach the town. Donkeys are often used to bring visitors up the steep stairs, but there is no guarantee that service would be available.

The new call at Crete will provide guests with a full day on the island, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Santorini call was to have extended to 6 p.m. All excursions in Santorini booked through the cruise line are being refunded, and new land tours in Crete are being created.

Other ports of call on Sun Princess‘ maiden voyage are Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Messina and Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; and Kusadasi, Turkey.

Sun Princess, under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, will be the line’s largest ship when she debuts. The ship will accommodate 4,300 guests in double occupancy.

PortMiami Celebrates Icon of the Seas’ Arrival

It was a grand welcome for Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas as the new ship, now the world’s largest, arrived at PortMiami on January 10, 2024. 

Pilot boats, tug boats, fire boats with water cannons, planes overhead with welcome banners, marching bands, cheerleaders — even drones all were on hand to give the ship a festive and memorable welcome

A party at the Perez Art Museum Miami, nearby the port on Biscayne Bay, drew big crowds eager to watch the Icon of the Seas arrive at her new homeport. Those not fortunate enough to attend the huge event could watch it on social media, since Royal Caribbean live-streamed the festivities on its Facebook page and other sites.

Icon of the Seas in Miami, Florida
Icon of the Seas in Miami, Florida

The ship, which will be christened at the port on January 23, 2024, with football star Lionel Messi serving as godfather, will sail her inaugural voyage on January 27, 2024. With a capacity for 7,600 guests, Icon of the Seas left the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland on November 27, 2023, and made her way across the Atlantic Ocean after undergoing final outfitting in Cadiz, Spain.

Prior to arriving in Miami, the ship visited Royal Caribbean’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, in the Bahamas, where a big party was held for the ship’s crew.

MSC Cruises to Deploy First Ship to Galveston

MSC Cruises will begin home-porting MSC Seascape in Galveston, Texas, starting in November 2025, moving the 5,200-guest ship from its current base in Miami. It will mark the first time that the cruise line has offered sailings from the Lone Star State.

The ship will sail 7-day Western Caribbean voyages, with port calls that include Roatan, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. The ship’s maiden voyage from the port is slated to depart on November 9, 2025.

The announcement that MSC Cruises will expand operations to Texas is not a surprise to cruise watchers. The cruise line and Port of Galveston have been in talks for months regarding the home-porting of a ship as well as a possible partnership to build another cruise terminal.

MSC Seascape Cruise Ship
MSC Seascape Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Dennis MacDonald)

Norwegian Cruise Line is also said to be a potential partner in the project, which is described as a redevelopment of Pier 16, the site of a former cargo warehouse. The deployment of one MSC Cruises’ ship to Galveston could be seen as a first step toward the line’s long-term commitment to the port. 

One of MSC Cruises’ largest ships, the 170,400-gross ton MSC Seascape offers guests 11 dining venues, multiple stage shows, six pools, and the popular thrill ride ROBOTRON.

Ultimate World Cruise Trying For a Smoother Ride to Antarctica

Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, just a month into her 274-night Ultimate World Cruise, is trying to get ahead of the weather as she navigates the infamous Drake Passage on her way to Antarctica.

Guests were told that this week’s itinerary was being revised — and a port call postponed — so that the ship could avoid rough weather. Rather than call at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, before crossing the Drake Passage, the ship made the crossing earlier so guests could enjoy scenic cruising in the Gerlache Strait, Paradise Bay, Schollart Channel, and Dalhan Bay this weekend.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas (Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia)

Under the revised itinerary, the ship will arrive in Port Stanley on January 15, 2024. Had she maintained her original routing, the ship would have crossed the Drake Passage as winds approached 40 miles per hour.

The Drake Passage separates Cape Horn, South America from Antarctica and is notorious for its strong currents and winds, and large ocean swells. The 2,500-guest Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to visit 150 ports of call in 65 countries during her world voyage, which left Miami on December 10, 2023.

More Cruise Headlines

But wait! There’s more! Cruise Hive has plenty more news articles you won’t want to miss. Check out our coverage on record-breaking cruise arrivals at the port for Athens, new European river cruises from Disney, Australia’s cruise industry poised for major growth, and a Scottish port gearing up to welcome the new Cunard liner. Also, an insider’s look into how Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, now the world’s largest ship, came to be a reality.

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