Cruise News Update: June 24, 2023

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Here we are with another cruise news update and the big headlines from the past week. This week’s cruise news update includes developments from Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises.

Cruise News Update

Cruise Hive has you covered with all the major developments from the past week, including Icon of the Seas completing her first set of sea trials, confusion over Carnival Cruise Line’s priority boarding policy, a freak storm that hit Port Canaveral, new details about the upcoming Utopia of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line canceling several onboard shows, and Princess Cruises altering certain benefit policies.

Icon of the Seas Completes First Sea Trials

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, under construction in Finland and poised to soon become the industry’s largest cruise ship, successfully completed her first set of sea trials. Systems were tested for speed, safety, propulsion, navigation, seaworthiness and other abilities. A second set of sea trials will be held later this year before the ship debuts in January 2024.

At 250,800 gross tons and with the ability to carry 7,600 guests, Icon of the Seas departed the Meyer Turku shipyard for sea trials on June 19, a slight delay from the originally planned departure three days earlier, due to weather conditions.

Icon of the Seas at Meyer Turku
Icon of the Seas at Meyer Turku (Photo Credit: Meyer Turku)

Work will continue on the ship as all interior spaces in the vessel, including staterooms, restaurants and lounges, and crew areas, are outfitted with walls, flooring, plumbing, and electrical and HVAC systems. After that, the focus will shift to outdoor spaces such as pools and recreation areas on the ship, which will be powered by a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) propulsion system and fuel-cell technology.

The mega-ship will feature eight neighborhoods and scores of eateries, lounges and bars, and the biggest waterpark ever constructed on a cruise ship, among many other amenities and recreational areas.

Icon of the Seas will initially be based at PortMiami and offer Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

Priority Boarding Brouhaha Erupts at Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line staff working at the line’s Galveston terminal ruffled some feathers when they didn’t honor the priority boarding status of some guests trying to embark their ships.

Rather, staff told some guests who qualified for priority boarding that they must get in line and wait for the arrival time they originally selected during early check-in.

That did not sit well with the guests, who typically enjoy the benefit that is provided to those who qualify as a Very Important Fun Person (a VIFP in Carnival lingo). Others who qualify for priority boarding are those who purchase the line’s “Faster to the Fun” package, which is available on a limited basis.

Carnival Cruise Ship in Galveston
Carnival Cruise Ship in Galveston

Three Carnival Cruise Line ships operate from the Texas port: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Vista. Soon, rumors spread that the priority boarding benefit was affected at all embarkation ports.

The situation was clarified after Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald stepped in, discussed the problem with line executives, and issued a statement that said priority guests can join the priority boarding line whenever they arrive, and that the policy would be reiterated to the home port embarkation teams.

Priority embarkation and debarkation is one of the top benefits that VIFPs receive. To qualify, guests must have either Platinum or Diamond status within the line’s loyalty program, which is a point-based system that increases with each cruise completed.

Sudden Storm Catches Guests Unaware at Port Canaveral

A short-lived but fierce summer storm swept through Port Canaveral just as thousands of cruise guests had boarded Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas and were waiting to sail away. The storm caused a chaotic scene as outdoor furniture went flying around the deck, and passengers hurried to take cover.

High winds and rain suddenly hit the area, which, as residents of the Central Florida area know, happens from time to time in summer. Many guests onboard the 3,858-guest ship posted videos of the storm and its aftermath on social media platforms.

Independence of the Seas Cruise Ship Deck
Independence of the Seas Cruise Ship Deck (Footage Credit: Jenn Stancil)

The storm lasted only a few minutes, but it was long enough to make a mess of the outdoor decks. No injuries were reported, and the ship departed as planned for her 3-night cruise to the Bahamas, where guests enjoyed the line’s Perfect Day at CocoCay private-island experience.

When experiencing an unexpected storm, cruise guests should always follow instructions from the ship’s crew, who are trained to deal with such incidents. Generally, guests should move indoors quickly but calmly.

In addition to her 3-night cruise, Independence of the Seas also offers a 4-night itinerary from Port Canaveral. It includes a day at sea and a port call in Nassau, Bahamas, along with the Perfect Day at CocoCay experience.

Utopia of the Seas Will Sail Short Getaways

Royal Caribbean divulged new details about itineraries, and indoor and outdoor entertainment areas onboard Utopia of the Seas, an Oasis-class ship now under construction and slated to launch in July 2024. The ship’s design will be geared to short, getaway cruises, including 3-night weekend sailings and 4-night weekday itineraries.

Onboard experiences will match the excitement level found at the line’s popular Perfect Day at CocoCay private island. Thrill rides onboard Utopia of the Seas include the Perfect Storm water slide trio of Cyclone, Typhoon, and Supercell, plus the Ultimate Abyss slide, a 259-foot zip line, and the line’s FlowRider surf simulator.

Utopia of the Seas Cruise Ship
Utopia of the Seas Cruise Ship

The ship will offer 21 dining venues and 23 bars, including a new one called Pesky Parrot. New accommodation choices will debut on the ship, as well. Two Solarium Suites will be offered, with access to the Solarium adult-only area that will have a pool, bar, bistro, and other amenities. Utopia of the Seas will have 20 new room types onboard, including a Royal Loft Suite that can accommodate up to six guests.

The ship, which will be the sixth and final of the Oasis class, will be home-ported at Port Canaveral, Florida. Bookings officially opened on June 23.

Norwegian Cruise Line Removing Seven Productions

Big entertainment changes are in the offing at Norwegian Cruise Line, which disclosed its plans to discontinue seven production shows currently being staged on nine of its ships.

The shows will close on a planned schedule in the next few months, and the line has not indicated what, if anything, might replace them but did say that options are in development.

Norwegian Prima Funnel
Norwegian Prima Funnel (Photo Credit: Studio Porto Sabbia)

Cancelled shows are Swing, World Beat, Velvet, What the World Needs Now, Footloose, Showdown, and Six. Popular shows that are unaffected by the changes include The Choir of Man, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Legends in Concert, and Burn the Floor.

Norwegian Cruise Line has not revealed why it decided to shut down so many shows, but cruise watchers say there could be multiple reasons. The line might intend to reduce any licensing fees it pays to legally produce the shows, or production companies might have declined to renew some existing license agreements.

It also could be that the line is looking to reduce cast expenses, and could replace these shows with others that require fewer performers. Or, it might simply be the cruise line’s desire to pursue other kinds of entertainment such as acrobats or magicians versus singers and dancers.

The shows destined for cancelation will be shut down between July and early 2024, so cruisers still have chances to see their favorite performances for the next short while.

Princess Cruises Narrows Certain Benefit Policies

Princess Cruises altered its benefits policies that apply to shareholders of Carnival Corporation, the line’s parent company, and to military members. The changes, which take effect on June 29, are not likely to be well-received by either group.

The benefits to these two groups come in the form of onboard credits, and currently, the credits can be combined when a guest is both a shareholder and a military member. However, that will change under the updated policy, meaning that only one onboard credit can be claimed, not two.

Princess Cruises Ship
Princess Cruises Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

Another important change to both benefit programs involves any unspent portion of an onboard credit. Up to now, a shareholder’s unused credit could be reimbursed or carried over as a future cruise onboard credit. That will no longer be the case.

The same is true for military members, who under the old policy, could be reimbursed for any unspent credit. Princess Cruises’ military benefit was, and still is, available to active and retired military members, and disabled military veterans. 

The amounts offered as onboard credits to both groups are based on cruise length, and are not changing. For example, on cruises up to six days, shareholders receive a $50 per stateroom credit. For cruises of 14 days or longer, they receive $250 per stateroom.

More Cruise Headlines

Those were just a handful of the top cruise news headlines from the past week, and there is plenty more coverage from Cruise Hive, including Oceania Cruises introducing a new, rare wine collection, Costa Cruises deploying a ship to serve the India market, Carnival Cruise Line offering an internship-at-sea program, Resorts World Cruises unveiling winter season cruises from Hong Kong, and Ambassador Cruise Line lifting its pandemic-related restrictions.

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