Cruise News Update: July 8, 2023

What a busy week of cruise news we had! In this week's weekly round-up, there's coverage on Carnival, Norwegian, Princess Cruises, and Celebrity.

Cruise Hive is here to ensure you’re well-informed if you missed the big cruise news stories from the past week. This week’s update includes Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Explora Journeys.

Cruise News Update

It’s time for another weekly cruise news update, bringing you the stories from across the major lines. We have coverage on the building of the BOLT rollercoaster on Carnival Jubilee, the Ruby Princess colliding with a dock in San Francisco, Norwegian Cruise Line changing the entire itinerary of a cruise, Celebrity Cruises again hiking gratuity rates, new grooming policies for crew onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and a delay in the launch of Explora Journeys’ first ship.

Work Under Way on Carnival Jubilee’s BOLT Coaster

As construction of Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Jubilee, makes headway at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, a milestone will soon be reached with the installation of the popular BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster.

Already offered on the line’s Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, the BOLT rollercoaster offers adventurous guests a thrill ride that travels up to 40 miles per hour, with plenty of hair-raising turns.

The all-electric ride allows guests to control the speed of their two-person vehicle. The ride has two such vehicles, and there is a per-person charge to ride the coaster.

Carnival Jubilee Construction at Meyer Werft
Carnival Jubilee Construction at Meyer Werft

Construction crews are working on the steel structure of the 800-foot-long thrill ride, but it will not be completed until the ship floats out later this month. Due to its height, the coaster will be finished after the ship leaves the construction hall.

Carnival Jubilee will be the third Excel-class ship in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. The 183,521-gross-ton ship will have a capacity for 6,631 guests. Following her float-out ceremony, Carnival Jubilee is slated to begin sea trials in August 2023.

Her inaugural sailing is scheduled for December 23, 2023, and her home port will be Galveston, Texas.

Ruby Princess Damaged After Hitting Dock

The sailing schedule of Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess was thrown into disarray after the ship was damaged while attempting to dock at the Port of San Francisco around 6 AM on July 6.

The 113,561-gross ton ship collided with Pier 27 at the James R. Herman cruise terminal, leaving significant damage to the aft, portside hull above the waterline.

The ship had operated a 10-night Alaska cruise and was headed back to port with 3,328 guests and 1,159 crew members on board when the accident happened.

Ruby Princess Cruise Ship
Ruby Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Guests were disembarked, and passengers on the next cruise were allowed to embark the ship, which was scheduled to depart later that day. However, the newly embarked guests spent the night of July 6 onboard and in port, waiting to see whether the ship would sail as planned.

On July 7, the cruise line was optimistic that the ship would be cleared to sail on Sunday. Princess Cruises said no guests or crew members were in danger during the collision, and no injuries were reported.

As a result of urgent repairs, Princess Cruises confirmed a revised itinerary for the following sailing: “The ship will now sail a 7-day Pacific Northwest/Alaska voyage, visiting Ketchikan on July 12 and Prince Rupert on July 13, returning to San Francisco on July 16 for disembarkation as originally scheduled.”

Norwegian Abandons Ireland Cruise Itinerary

Cruisers booked to sail aboard Norwegian Star on October 10, 2024, and visit seven ports in Ireland were notified by the cruise line that the itinerary has been completely changed. With the new routing, the ship avoids Ireland altogether and will now call at ports in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.

The email notice cited the cause of the massive change as restrictions on seasonal tendering policies in Ireland, specifically that tendering is not allowed from October to April.

The cruise was to have been an immersive experience in Irish culture and history, with visits to Waterford, Dingle, Galway, Killybegs, Belfast, Dublin, and Cork. Just two of the Irish ports, Dublin and Cork, are tender ports.

Norwegian Star Cruise Ship
Norwegian Star Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Lukassek / Shutterstock)

The embarkation port was Southampton, England, and that is the only aspect of the itinerary that has not been changed.

Perhaps the most puzzling part of the change is that guests who received the notice have indicated that the cruise line put forward no options for canceling or rescheduling bookings.

Instead, Norwegian Cruise Line told booked guests that the new routing will enable them to immerse themselves in the culture of Northern Europe rather than Ireland. Norwegian Star accommodates 2,348 guests.

Celebrity Cruises Again Hikes Gratuity Charges

For the second time in less than a year, Celebrity Cruises has raised its crew gratuity rates for all accommodation levels. The increased rates take effect July 11, 2023, on new bookings.

Guests in inside, ocean view, and veranda cabins will pay $18 per person, per day, Concierge Class and AquaClass guests will pay $18.50, and those staying in The Retreat will pay $23.

Celebrity Cruises last raised its gratuity rates in October 2022. Before that increase, daily per person rates were $15.50 for standard staterooms, $16 for Concierge Class and AquaClass, and $19 for The Retreat.

Celebrity Cruises Ship
Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock)

Compared to the rates before the October hike, cruisers now will pay about 16% more in gratuities for standard rooms, 15% more for Concierge and AquaClass, and 21% more for The Retreat.

Gratuities are automatically added to guests’ SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Guests can adjust the amount of gratuities, or pay cash rather than have them charged to an onboard account. In either case arrangements must be made at the ship’s Guest Relations desk.

Celebrity Cruises is a brand of Royal Caribbean Group, which operates Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises. Royal Caribbean International has not indicated it will join its sister line in raising gratuity rates, but they are subject to change without warning. Silversea Cruises is an all-inclusive luxury brand, where fares cover gratuities.

Norwegian Cruise Line Updates Crew Grooming Rules

Norwegian Cruise Line is easing up on some of its policies that affect the grooming habits of crew members. The line will permit team members to have some tattoos, for instance, have facial hair such as mustaches, and wear a limited amount of jewelry, depending on the crew member’s job.

The new shipboard grooming rules apply to crew members, officers, and staff in all onboard positions, and took effect on July 1, 2023.

Looking specifically at some of the new policies, crew members are now allowed to have a mustache, beard, goatee, or chin/lower lip “tuft,” provided it is neatly trimmed.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship
Norwegian Cruise Line Ship

They also can now wear up to three bracelets, but they must be in good condition. The exception is food and beverage staff, who remain prohibited from wearing bracelets or watches while preparing food and drinks – this includes bartenders.

Things get a little more complicated with tattoo policies. They are generally allowed, but not if the nature of the tattoo is sexist or depicts extremist philosophies.

They also can not advocate racial, gender, or ethic hatred or intolerance; promote or depict discrimination; or advocate violence or unlawful behavior and activities.

Crew member grooming policies vary by cruise line. Typically, higher end and luxury lines tend to have policies that are the most strict.

Explora Journeys Delays Launch of First Ship

Explora Journeys’ first ship, Explora I, was supposed to be christened in Rome this weekend following her handover from the shipyard on July 6. But neither event happened.

The cruise line, a new luxury brand of MSC Group, postponed the launch of the 922-guest, all-balcony ship, citing supply chain problems as well as the need for some enhancements to the vessel, which remains at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

EXPLORA I Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Explora Journeys

The delay is expected to push back the debut by a few weeks, and it is unknown whether the ship’s maiden voyage, slated for July 17, will go forward.

It was the second time that Explora Journeys altered the new-build’s schedule. She had been set to launch in May 2023, but the cruise line last fall postponed the debut to July. Supply chain issues also were cited at the time.

When the ship finally enters service, she will spend the summer sailing a series of Northern Europe cruises. Starting November 2023, she will reposition to the Caribbean and offer cruises between Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bridgetown, Barbados.

Explora I is the first of six planned ships for the line. Explora 2 is due to enter service in 2024.

More Cruise Headlines

Those were just a handful of the top cruise news headlines from the past week, and we’ve got all the coverage on Cruise Hive, including the first Pilates-themed cruise from Princess Cruises, AIDA Cruises pledging to equip all of its ships with the Starlink broadband service, a brewery at sea set to debut aboard an Adora Cruises’ ship in Asia, Marella Cruises returning to the Dominican Republic for the first time since 2017, and Resorts World Cruises launching its first LEGO-themed cruise on sailings for the Asian market.

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