Cruise News Update: March 4, 2023

The biggest cruise news from the week, with new itineraries from Carnival, policy changes by Royal Caribbean, and coverage on NCL, Princess and MSC.

Here we go with another busy cruise news update across the major cruise lines, including coverage on Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises.

Cruise News Update

There’s plenty of coverage to catch up from the past week, with Carnival Cruise Line adding a fourth ship to Galveston in Texas, and announcing expanded European offerings. There’s also cruise news on Royal Caribbean updating its loyalty program, new options on princess Cruises’ packages, a business update on Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and price increases by MSC Cruises.

Carnival Miracle to Sail from Galveston

The Carnival Miracle cruise ship, which is currently offering cruises out of Long Beach in California, will have a new home towards the end of next year. The cruise line announced that it would be adding a fourth ship to operate out of Galveston, Texas, to expand operations even further from the hugely popular port.

The Carnival cruise ship will reposition from San Francisco, with cruises starting in the fall of 2024 through Spring 2025 out of Galveston. Carnival Miracle will offer much longer 10-, 11, and 12-day itineraries, and those are now open for bookings.

Carnival Miracle Cruise Ship
Carnival Miracle Cruise Ship

Carnival Miracle will be the only Spirit-class ship to offer cruises out of Galveston after a one-time Carnival Journeys repositioning cruise that departs on October 1, 2024, and includes visits to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Colombia; and a Panama Canal transit.

Starting on October 16, 2024, the vessel will begin a series of 19 sailings, including the Caribbean and Panama Canal. The first voyage from Galveston will be a nine-day Western Caribbean itinerary with calls at Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.

There will also be a 10-day Panama Canal sailing departing November 15. There’s also a 12-day Carnival Journeys sailing that departs on January 26, 2025. When guests step onboard the 2,200-passenger Carnival Miracle, they’ll be glad to know she recently underwent a dry dock in November 2022.

Carnival Legend European Sailings

With the cruise industry well on the road to recovery after a difficult few years, Carnival Cruise Line is looking at expanding its options in Europe for the 2014 season. The Carnival Legend will be the lucky ship sailing the continent which covers a series of 17 departures.

The vessel will start its European season after departing Baltimore, Maryland, on April 15, 2024, on a 12-day transatlantic voyage. The cruise will include calls at Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal; Malaga and Valencia, Spain.

Carnival Legend Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

Reservations for the new Carnival Legend sailings are now open. They include the Mediterranean, western Europe, the British Isles, Iceland, and the Greek Islands, along with departures from Barcelona in Spain, Civitavecchia in Italy, and Dover in the UK.

Following the European deployment, the Carnival Legend will begin offering itineraries from Tampa, Florida. There will be Panama Canal sailings, along with Western Caribbean cruises.

It’s not just the Carnival Legend that will be enjoying the historic ports of Europe, as the Carnival Glory will also be visiting some ports as part of its transatlantic voyage. The Conquest-class ship will depart on a Carnival Journeys cruise from Barcelona, Spain, on April 18, 2024.

The Carnival Freedom will also spend some brief time in Europe with a transatlantic voyage departing Port Canaveral, Florida, on September 21, 2023.

Royal Caribbean Updates Loyalty Program

Royal Caribbean International has updated and added to the benefits of its Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program, with new options that many guests will enjoy.

Not all the changes will be welcome, however, and some guests may see the updates as a loss of favored benefits. The changes are largely set to take effect as of March 10, 2023.

The most eye-catching update is the famed “crystal blocks” – commemorative souvenirs given to Diamond level guests who reach 140 cruise points, and again for every extra 70 points earned. Because supplies of the crystal blocks will vary on different ships, the release for the new color blocks is only specified as “this spring” rather than a specific date.

In addition to the changes to the crystal blocks, other benefits across the upper levels of the loyalty tiers have also been tweaked.

For Emerald level members and above (at least 55 cruise points), the “welcome beverage” will no longer need to be pre-selected. Instead, these loyal guests will receive additional complimentary bottles of water, which will be placed in guests’ staterooms.

This can be a great choice for guests who prefer bottled water, but could also be considered a loss of a benefit for guests who preferred a different drink. Higher tier levels receive more bottles.

Welcome snacks have also been removed from the benefits, which could also be considered a negative change for many guests, especially families traveling with young cruisers who look forward to the treats.

Updates have also been made to the free amenities list for the most loyal of Royal Caribbean guests.

The free gifts – ranging from exclusive beverages to fruit plates, chocolate-covered strawberries, cheese trays, tote bags, toiletry bags, soda 6-packs, cupcakes, and more – are offered to Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club guests. The number of gifts a guest can choose depends not only on their loyalty level, but also on the length of the sailing.

New Princess Cruises Package Options

Princess Cruises has recently introduced upgrades to its all-inclusive packages, Princess Premier and Princess Plus, to provide guests with more value for their money. Both packages now come with significantly more perks.

The Princess Plus package costs $60 per person per day and includes several amenities with which guests can enhance their cruise experience. With this package, they can enjoy the Plus beverage package, WiFi for one device, and gratuities, with the addition now of two premium desserts daily, unlimited juice bar beverages, and two Xponential fitness classes per cruise.

Princess Cruises Ship
Photo Credit: EWY Media / Shutterstock

The Princess Premier package is the top-of-the-line option that costs $80 per person per day and includes everything offered in the Princess Plus package, plus several additional amenities.

Additionally, guests now get unlimited juice bar beverages, Xponential fitness classes, premium desserts, a Medallion accessory to create a memorable piece of jewelry, and reserved seating in the theater.

The Premier beverage package includes everything in the Plus beverage package and drinks up to $20 each, with a premium selection of spirits, cocktails, and wine by the glass.

In December of last year, Princess Cruises announced a hike to the prices of its beverage packages. The price per drink for the Plus Beverage Package went up to a maximum of $15 from $12, while the premium beverage package went up to $20 per glass, up from $15. 

The cruise line also hiked the price of specialty dining options by up to 25%, with Bistro Sur La Mer costing $39 per person from February 2023 onwards, up from $29. The increases follow another hike in crew gratuity and Wi-Fi charges.

Norwegian Cruise Line Business Update

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) reported its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ending December 31, 2022, on Monday, February 28.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ adjusted loss was $1.04 per share in the fourth quarter, which missed estimates of an 86 cents loss that many analysts expected. The company’s revenue for the quarter rose more than 225% to $1.57 billion, beating expectations of $1.5 billion, driven by solid ticket pricing and onboard sales. 

The fourth quarter also saw an occupancy improvement of approximately 87%, which was in accordance with expectations, but far removed from where competitors Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group are operating.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship
Photo Credit: BUI LE MANH HUNG / Shutterstock

The second quarter of 2023 is a critical period for NCLH as it aims to regain its pre-pandemic financial performance. By achieving historical occupancy levels, the company can ensure that its ships are operating at full capacity, which can help to boost revenue and improve the overall financial performance of the company.

Despite strong revenue numbers in the last quarter, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings missed analysts’ expectations for 2023. The company expects to post an adjusted loss of 45 cents per share in the year’s first quarter and a full-year profit of 70 cents per share.

The pandemic has hit the cruise industry hard, with cruise lines unable to operate for much of 2020 and the first half of 2021. While NCLH’s financial results for the fourth quarter of 2022 showed signs of recovery, and 2023 bookings look strong for the second half of the year, the cruise industry still faces challenges in the wake of the pandemic.

MSC Cruises Beverage Package Hike

MSC Cruises has made some modifications to the pricing structure of its beverage packages, which includes the Easy, Easy Plus, and Premium Extra packages. The new prices have been adjusted based mainly on the voyage length. 

Guests will notice that some package prices have been raised considerably, between 5-30% depending on the voyage length. 

For instance, the Easy package now costs €273, or $322, for a cruise lasting more than seven days. This is a price increase of more than 20%. Per person per day, the Easy package costs €39, or $46, if purchased in advance.

MSC Cruises Ship
Photo Credit: Nate Hovee / Shutterstock

It will cost guests €47, or $57 if purchased onboard on a cruise for more than seven days. The Easy package will now cost €43, or $49, if booked in advance, and €51, or $60, on board for trips lasting less than seven days.

The Easy Plus package, which includes drinks up to €9, or $10, now costs €378, or $427, for a seven-day or longer cruise. The Premium Extra package, which includes drinks up to €14, or $16, now costs €518 or $595.

In addition to the Easy, Easy Plus, and Premium Extra beverage packages, MSC Cruises offers two other drink packages, the Alcohol-Free Package and the Minors Package.

Interestingly, the prices for these packages have not changed, indicating that the price adjustments only affect the alcoholic beverage packages.

With the new pricing structure, the package price is all-inclusive, and guests do not have to worry about additional service charges. However, guests who choose to purchase individual drinks without a package will now have to pay a service charge of 15% if they pay in euros and 18% if they pay in US dollars.

More Cruise Headlines

We’ve had a busy end to February and that has continued through the beginning of March. We’ve got all the coverage on Cruise Hive, including photos of Carnival’s new cruise port in the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean making a beverage policy change, Carnival sending a reminder for guests to behave due to the upcoming Spring Break, Viking records its best booking month ever, Nassau cruise port records a record-breaking number of passengers in one day, the world’s first three-year cruise, dates revealed for Carnival Cruise Line’s Behind the Fun Tour, and loads more.

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