Cruise News Update: March 5, 2022

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Find out what’s been happening across the major cruise lines from the past week. In this cruise news update, we’ve got the big headlines from Royal Caribbean’s new Wonder of the Seas to the port of call cancellations in Russia.

Cruise News Update

It’s another busy week in the cruise industry and we’ve got tons to update you on including the literally big news that Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship has departed on her maiden voyage.

There is also news on Carnival Cruise Line resuming from Mobile, Alabama, Carnival ship itinerary changes, Disney Cruise line mask policy change, a gratuity increase by Norwegian Cruise Line, and the latest on the cruise line cancellations to Russia.

Wonder of the Seas Maiden Voyage

No doubt you already know that Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship has departed on her maiden voyage. The giant vessel departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida after a slight delay on Friday evening, March 4 for the first time with guests onboard. It’s a major highlight of the year as the cruise industry continues to push forward and grow despite the global pandemic.

The vessel first arrived in the US on February 20 with huge anticipation and received a warm welcome in Florida. Since then, the ship has been preparing for the maiden voyage by doing a short sailing to Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at Cococay in the Bahamas for the crew and family members.

Wonder of the Seas Maiden Voyage
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

Wonder of the Seas is currently sailing toward the first call at Labadee in Haiti, Royal Caribbean’s private destination, the ship will also be calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Bahamas and the final call at Perfect Day at CocoCay. The maiden voyage will end back in Florida on March 11.

Wonder of the Seas’ last voyage from Fort Lauderdale for this spring will sail on April 15. Between April 20 and May 8, the ship will be repositioning to her summer homeports in Spain, and Italy with Mediterranean cruises through October 30, 2022.

In November 2022 the Royal Caribbean cruise ship will arrive at her new homeport of Port Canaveral. From the world-famous cruise port, she will sail 7-night itineraries to the eastern and western Caribbean.

The fifth Oasis-class vessel is 236,857 gross tons and measures 1,188 feet. There is a guest capacity of 5,734 at double occupancy and 2,300 international crew members.

Carnival Cruise Line Resumes from Mobile

Today marks the first Carnival cruise ship to resume operations out of Mobile, Alabama. The Carnival Ecstasy arrived at the port on Thursday, March 3 to prepare to resume sailings today, March 5. It’s the first cruise sailing with guests for two years since the industry-wide suspension first started in March 2020.

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Nataliia Martseniuk / Shutterstock

Carnival Ecstasy will be heading out for a special “Sailabration” cruise in honor of Carnival Cruise Line’s 50th birthday celebration. This sailing will include a “Fun Ship Meetup” at sea for birthday greetings between vessels, where Carnival Ecstasy will meet up with other ships in the fleet.

Carnival BreezeCarnival EcstasyCarnival GloryMardi GrasCarnival PrideCarnival Sunrise and Carnival Vista are set to meet between Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, on Monday, March 7. This is the largest of the Fun Ship meetups among the fleet.

Carnival Ecstasy, meanwhile, will also retire from the Fun Ship fleet, but not before enjoying the spring and summer season offering 5-night Western Caribbean itineraries that will visit Cozumel and either Costa Maya or Progreso, depending on the sailing date.

Carnival Ship Itinerary Changes

In the latest update to booked guests, there are adjustments for the Carnival Spirit out of Jacksonville and the Carnival Magic based from Port Canaveral. In total, five sailings are impacted, but the majority are just minor changes, including arrival and departure times.

For the Carnival Magic, the cruise line has removed a port for the December 23 eight-day Eastern Caribbean voyage. The call to Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands on December 23 has been replaced with Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. The ship will arrive at the alternative port of call at 7:00 AM and depart at 3:00 PM.

Carnival Magic Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Mia2you / Shutterstock

All other ports during the voyage remain the same, including St. Maarten, St. Kitts and San Juan. Carnival has informed guests that any pre-purchased shore excursions through the cruise line will automatically be refunded and that tour options for Amber Cove will be available in the coming week.

There is also a change for the Carnival Spirit, but they are minor, and no ports have been removed. For the ship’s five-day departures on March 7 and 21, she’s now scheduled to arrive back home to Jacksonville, Florida, at 9:30 AM.

For the five-day March 26 sailing to the Bahamas, Carnival Spirit will now depart the Port of Jacksonville at 8:30 PM. The later departure does not impact the voyage. On April 9, Carnival Spirit will leave at 8:00 PM, the final voyage from Jacksonville, before redeploying to Seattle.

Carnival Magic and Spirit changes are relatively minor compared to other recent ones. The most impactful is likely the removal of Grand Turk as it’s such a popular port of call. The cruise line did not provide a reason for the change but could be due to scheduling conflicts or port agreements.

Disney Cruise Line Mask Policy

In updated protocols on its website, Disney Cruise Line has announced that it will be relaxing its onboard mask mandate for sailings departing from U.S. ports as of March 11, 2022.

The guidelines state, “For sailings originating from a U.S. port of departure beginning March 11, 2022, face coverings will be optional in most indoor locations throughout our ships.”

There are exceptions, however. All guests ages 2 and up, including guests who are fully vaccinated, must continue to wear masks in the Walt Disney Theater. This theater is often filled to capacity, so it makes sense that precautions would continue to be in place at the venue, as social distancing will be impossible.

Disney Magic Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: RaksyBH / Shutterstock

Prior to March 11, all guests ages 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks in all indoor areas, except in their staterooms or while actively eating and drinking.

Because children under 5 years old are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time, there are still mask requirements onboard for the youngest Disney Cruise Line travelers even after March 11. Guests under 5 years old are still required to wear face coverings in Youth Activity spaces.

Guests who have not been vaccinated, including young cruisers ineligible for vaccinations, are still encouraged, though not required, to wear masks in indoor areas after March 11.

Norwegian Cruise Line Gratuity Increase

Norwegian Cruise Line has sent out a letter informing guests and travel agents that gratuities will be increased from April 1, 2022. The amount will go up by at least 50 cents, depending on which category cabin guests are booked in.

For guests booked in a balcony stateroom or below, the daily service charge will be increased to $16.00 per person. Currently, the charge is $15.50 per person per day. For guests in a Club Balcony suite, the amount will remain the same at $18.00 per person per day.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship
Photo Credit: Enrico Powell / Shutterstock

Guests booked in The Haven & Suite will have their daily gratuities increased to $20.00. Currently, the rate for that category is $18.50 per person per day. This will be a $1.50 increase that will go into effect from April 1, 2022.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests to take advantage of the current lower rate. Guests who make a reservation on or before March 31, 2022, can pre-pay their gratuities at the current rate. This will need to be done before the sailing date. If guests have already paid the service charge before their cruise, nothing will be changed.

Cruise Lines Remove Russia Calls

Due to the worrying situation which is developing in Ukraine, the cruise industry is abandoning cruise ship visits to Russia, including the popular cruise destination of St Petersburg. So, let’s take a look at what each of the major cruise lines is doing.

Carnival Corporation stated that its cruise brands were working through changing itineraries and coming up with alternative ports of call.

Princess Cruises, which is one of the Carnival brands has stated that 24 sailings will remove calls to Russia impacting the Enchanted Princess, Sky Princess, and Island Princess. Alternative ports are in Sweeden and Poland.

Holland America Line confirmed on March 4 that six itineraries are modified that were originally scheduled to visit Russian ports this year. AIDA Cruises confirmed that it was removing ship visits to the country too and those baltic sailings during the summer would be adjusted.

Cruise Ships in St Petersburg, Russia
Photo Credit: Stanislav Samoylik / Shutterstock

Norwegian Cruise Line was among the first cruise lines to state that it was removing all calls to Russia. In fact, parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has canceled Russia for all of 2022 across its three cruise brands.

Royal Caribbean has also decided to remove St Petersburg from Voyager of the Seas sailings, the only ship in the fleet that was scheduled to visit the country this year. The cruise line was one of the slowest to confirm the cancellations and it came after some backlash due to originally not committing to complete removal.

More Headlines

We’ve got even more cruise news updates, including cancellations from Barcelona for the Norwegian Epic, Alaska season possibly under risk due to Canada protocols, Celebrity Cruises to sail year-round in the Meditteranean in 2023, and plenty more all over on Cruise Hive’s dedicated news category.

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