Cruise News Update: March 25, 2023

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With many news stories across the cruise industry, we’re here to make sure you don’t miss a thing. In this week’s cruise news update, we’ve got coverage on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney.

Cruise News Update

Here we go with another cruise news update across the major lines, and in this week’s article, there’s coverage on Royal Caribbean removing a major feature on its ships, the first of six engines being switched on for the first time on Icon of the Seas, NCL returning to the e-muster drill for passengers, bookings open up for the Carnival Firenze, bookings also to open to Dicney’s new private destination in the Bahamas and one of the largest cruise ships in the world breaks a transatlantic record.

Royal Caribbean Ditches a Major Feature

The Sky Pad is a Virtual Reality bungee trampoline experience, where guests don VR masks and jump with the aid of bungee cords and harnesses. As they jump, they “see” their progress and remarkable leaps inside their choice of VR world.

Guests also have the option to enjoy the experience without wearing the VR masks, and instead see the great ocean views around them as they jump.

These experiences are now being retired, and travel advisors have been informed of the closure via an email about Sky Pad programming changes.

“Starting in April, the Sky Pad will retire the bungee Virtual Reality experience and become a versatile new venue for exciting onboard activities,” the email read.

Royal Caribbean Sky Pad
Photo Copyright: Melissa Mayntz / Cruise Hive

Travel advisors are being urged to review all their in-house marketing materials to ensure advertising and other promotional materials are updated to reflect the closure.

The email does not indicate that the yellow sphere with its cutout views will be removed, but only that new activities will be offered in the space. “All of the activities hosted in the Sky Pad venue will continue to be complimentary and included in your client’s cruise fare,” the email clarified.

This also confirms that new options will soon be made available, and will not be accompanied by a la carte charges or extra fees. No timeline or exact date has been announced for when new options will debut.

The first Sky Pad debuted aboard Independence of the Seas in spring 2018, during the ship’s “Royal Amplification” renovation.

Subsequently, the attraction was added to Mariner of the Seas in June 2018, and was incorporated into Spectrum of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas as well. Now, all four ships will close the venue and discontinue the activity.

Norwegian Cruise Line Returns to E-Muster

Frequent cruisers will be thrilled to learn the streamlined, at-your-leisure e-muster drill will be returning to Norwegian Cruise Line this spring, as early as April 1, 2023 for some ships.

The cruise line announced the change via communications to travel partners, with the note that reinstating the e-muster drill is also part of efforts to “enhance the onboard guest experience,” but the change may not occur immediately on all ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line Muster Drill
Photo Credit: zkolra / Shutterstock

“We will reinstate e-muster drills through our online check-in for sailings beginning April 1, 2023,” the communication reads. “We are committed to delivering an exceptional and safe experience on board and, as such, will continue to actively evaluate and modify our processes for best practices.”

While the e-muster option is planned to begin from April 1 throughout the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, it may not be immediately available on all vessels.

This indicates that there may be slight delays in reinstituting the new drill, which could be related to crew member training and updating onboard operational guidelines for the e-muster, instead of the traditional drill.

First Icon of the Seas Engine Switched On

Royal Caribbean’s new LNG-powered Icon of the Seas has already reached some major milestones while under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. Now, the ship has reached another milestone, with the first of six engines getting started for the very first time.

These engines will ensure the giant new class vessel is fully powered as over 7,000 passengers and crew are busy on board working or enjoying. The first engine was started on March 15 using diesel fuel. However, the main engines can be powered by fuel and gas.

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas at Shipyard
Photo Credit: Finmiki / Shutterstock

Chief engineer Tuomas Auvinen says: “Icon of the Seas has six Wärtsilä main engines. The first of them (number 2) was started today, Wednesday 15.3. at 11:00 a.m. Both diesel and natural gas can be used as fuel in the main engines, Wednesday’s start was made with diesel.”

With the complex technology involved, it’s a huge milestone for the workers at the shipyard. It shows that the installation has succeeded, which is especially important for a new design.

Royal Caribbean plans to use the six multi-fuel engines with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), each providing 67,500 KW of energy to run the ship. The cruise line will scrutinize kilowatts to ensure the Icon of the Seas is energy efficient and reduces emissions.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas has been under construction at Meyer Turku since the first piece of steel was cut on June 16, 2021. Icon of the Seas will be delivered at the end of 2023 following the necessary sea trials. The ship will debut out of Miami, Florida, on January 27.

Carnival Firenze Cruises Open Up

The soon-to-be Carnival Firenze is now open for its first reservations as part of the Fun Ship fleet, beginning in May 2024. The ship will sail year-round from Long Beach, California, and bookings can be made from its first departure on May 2, 2024 through sailings in April 2025.

The very first cruise is to be a 5-night voyage, leaving Long Beach on Thursday, May 2, and visiting both Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico, with two days at sea for guests to experience all the Italian vibes and Carnival fun of the renovated ship.

Carnival Firenze
Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

A total of 15 itinerary options with varying days of departure are now available for Carnival Firenze, and all will visit some of Mexico’s most vibrant and charming ports of call, including Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas.

Of special interest are the 6-night sailings, which will spend two days in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, one of the most beautiful destinations along the Mexican Riviera. There, guests can enjoy a number of excursions, from meeting dolphins to camel rides to snorkeling, pirate ships, beach resorts, luxury sailing, and more.

Along with Mexican ports of call, Carnival Firenze will also visit Catalina Island, a luxury destination off the southern California coast and home to amazing snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, as well as other exploration opportunities.

The Vista-class, 135,156-gross-ton Carnival Firenze will be the third ship transferred to the Carnival fleet from Costa Cruises, bringing with it distinctive Italian flair but with Fun Ship familiarity and amenities.

Symphony of the Seas Breaks Transatlantic Record

With 7,604 people on board, which includes 5,350 passengers and 2,224 crew members, Symphony of the Seas arrived in Malaga, Spain, on March 19, completing a voyage across the Atlantic that will enter the history books. 

The Oasis-class cruise ship is now the world record holder for the vessel carrying more people across the Atlantic Ocean than any other vessel in history in peacetime. After visiting Malaga on March 19 and Valencia today, March 20, Symphony of the Seas is scheduled to complete the 12-day cruise and arrive in Barcelona, Spain, on March 21.

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

The 228,081 gross tons Symphony of the Seas, built in 2018, was the world’s largest cruise ship between 2018 and 2022. She will go into dry dock in Cadiz and undergo routine maintenance and class work at the shipyard. 

Symphony of the Seas will resume operations on April 16 with a series of seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean, departing from Barcelona every Sunday. Ports of call include Palma De Mallorca, Marseille, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, and Naples. 

The season in Europe will be relatively long for Symphony of the Seas. The cruise ship will be sailing in the western Mediterranean through October 29 this year. 

Disney to Open Cruises for New Private Destination

Disney Cruise Line recently announced that Lighthouse Point would open for the summer of 2024, and the family-oriented beach retreat is one of the most highly anticipated destinations for future cruises. Now, guests can prepare to book those future cruises.

The new island will be featured on 3-, 4-, and 5-night sailings, with both Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy sailing to Lighthouse Point.

Disney Magic will be sailing from Fort Lauderdale and regularly visiting Lighthouse Point, beginning with a special 3-night preview cruise departing June 6, 2024 for a sneak peak at the island. Because of the nature of the preview event, not all features on the island may be accessible for that inaugural visit.

Disney Cruise Line's Lighthouse Point
Render Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line

Disney Fantasy will also offer a special sailing to visit Lighthouse Point, a 7-night cruise from Port Canaveral departing on June 8, 2024.

This “ultimate Disney Cruise Line island destination itinerary” will feature not one but two stops at Lighthouse Point, and will also visit Disney Cruise Line’s other private destination in The Bahamas, Castaway Cay. A visit to Nassau, the capital city of The Bahamas, is also on the itinerary.

A second Disney Fantasy cruise will also visit Lighthouse Point later in the summer. This longer voyage is a 10-night Southern Caribbean itinerary departing Port Canaveral on Thursday, July 25, and will include stops in Antigua, St. Lucia, Dominica, and Tortola as well as both Lighthouse Point and Castaway Cay.

All bookings that include Lighthouse Point will open to the public on March 30, 2023, and are sure to sell out quickly.

More Cruise Headlines

It was just another busy week of cruise news and we’ve got all the coverage over on Cruise Hive, including Grand Turk allowing unvaccinated cruise visitors to freely explore the island, a huge blob of seaweed heading for the Caribbean, Carnival Pride itinerary changes, Royal Caribbean removing the testing requirement for transatlantic sailings, new entertainment options announced for the new MSC Euribia, the construction challenges facing the new Icon of the Seas cruise ship, the Carnival Venezia official being handed over from Costa Cruises and plenty more.

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