Cruise News Update: May 27, 2023

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

Cruise News Update

Cruise Hive has you covered with all the major developments from the past week, including Royal Caribbean unveiling dining options onboard its new Icon of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line canceling a full season of voyages on Norwegian Epic, Royal Caribbean altering the deposit policy for suite bookings, Carnival Cruise Line nixing some loyalty benefits on the maiden sailing of Carnival Venezia, and Princess Cruises offering compensation to guests whose voyage was impacted by bad weather.

Dining Venues Revealed for Icon of the Seas

When Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas debuts in January 2024, she will become the largest cruise vessel sailing, and in line with her size – a whopping 250,800 gross tons, the ship will offer 20-plus dining venues. The cruise line offered a glimpse into what those venues will offer guests.

Let’s start with the really elegant options. The ship’s Empire Supper Club will have a distinct New York vibe and be located near the Central Park neighborhood. Guests can indulge in an 8-course menu, paired with appropriate beverages, and featuring luxe cuisine like caviar and wagyu.

Icon of the Seas Dining
Icon of the Seas Dining

Guests looking for an intimate space can book the 12-guest Celebration Table VIP private dining venue in the AquaDome, a multi-purpose space that will offer ocean views.

For not-so-private dining, the AquaDome will also feature Royal Caribbean’s first food hall, AquaDome Market, offering five stations with grab-and-go meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Other new eateries onboard the highly-anticipated ship include Surfside Eatery, a buffet that will offer something for everyone, Pier 7, serving California-style dishes such as surf-and-turf tacos, and Surfside Bites, featuring burgers, chicken, ice cream, and other treats.

Norwegian Epic’s Winter 2023-24 Season Is Cancelled

Norwegian Cruise Line pulled the plug on an entire season of cruises aboard the 4,100-guest Norwegian Epic, apologizing to guests but offering no explanation as to the reason why, citing only a fleet redeployment. Affected cruises include all voyages from December 2023 through mid-April 2024, on Mediterranean sailings that would have departed from Rome and Trieste, Italy, Haifa, Israel, and Lisbon, Portugal.

On a ship the size of Norwegian Epic, and with so many cruises canceled, the line is looking at refunding a possible 45,000 bookings. Guests can expect that process to take up to a month. Besides a refund, some perks aimed at assuaging disappointed cruisers include a future cruise credit and a future cruise discount.

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship
Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: ODIN Daniel / Shutterstock)

It was the second time inside of a week that Norwegian Cruise Line canceled a substantial series of cruises, when it nixed Norwegian Spirit’s entire 2024 Alaska season. In that case, however, the line disclosed it opted to allow a full ship charter.

Following its canceled season, Norwegian Epic is scheduled to resume Mediterranean cruises starting on April 19, 2024, with a 10-night roundtrip Greek Isles sailing from Rome.

Royal Caribbean Changes Deposit Policy on Suites

Starting June 1, 2023, there will be no flat-rate, non-refundable deposits accepted for suite bookings on Royal Caribbean ships, fleet wide. Instead, the non-refundable deposits will be equal to 10% of the cruise fare. Flat-rate deposit fees typically ranged from $200 to $900, depending on cruise length.

In announcing the change, Royal Caribbean pointed out that the only exception to the new rule is if 10% of the fare turns out to be less than the former standard flat rate. In that case, the old standard rate would apply.

Royal Caribbean Suite
Royal Caribbean Suite (Photo Credit: mikeledray / Shutterstock)

Other stateroom categories are not affected by the new policy. However, the line also noted that guests who initially book a non-suite, flat-fee deposit stateroom but who later upgrade to a suite will be required to pay the difference between the fee and the 10% figure.

But all of this begs the question: Why? It could be that the fare percentage policy will translate into more cash on hand, or it could be a way for the cruise line to lower the number of canceled bookings, since guests will have paid out higher deposits.

Loyalty Perks Nixed on Ship’s Inaugural Voyage

The much-anticipated inaugural sailing of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Venezia will have so many Diamond and Platinum-level loyalty guests onboard that the line has suspended some loyalty benefits, due to operational challenges.

Carnival Venezia, formerly a Costa Cruises ship, will soon emerge from dry dock following a major transformation into Carnival Cruise Line’s first Italian-style Fun Ship.

The ship’s first sailing is a 15-night transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to New York, calling at Malaga, Spain; Gibraltar; Lisbon, Portugal; Ponta Delgada in the Azores; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The cruise departs Barcelona on Monday, May 29, and will arrive in New York on Tuesday, June 13.

Carnival Venezia Cruise Ship
Carnival Venezia Cruise Ship (Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Among the loyalty benefits that will not be available are access to priority embarkation or debarkation during any part of the sailing – a major perk for loyalty cruisers, and stateroom availability immediately upon boarding. These benefits are only suspended during the inaugural voyage.

While homeported in New York, Carnival Venezia will offer 4-night Bermuda cruises as well as 8-night Eastern Caribbean sailings and select departures for Canada and New England itineraries, longer Southern Caribbean explorations, and more extensive Eastern Caribbean cruises.

Princess Cruises Makes Amends For Missed Ports

Weather can make or break a cruise vacation, and on Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess this week, Mother Nature wreaked some havoc. The 3,660-guest ship experienced severe weather conditions on her cruise that departed from Southampton and was scheduled to call at Icelandic and Norwegian ports.

Several port calls were missed, including Akureyri, Isafjordur, Grundarfjordur, and Reykjavik, Iceland, major changes were made to the itinerary, and an unrelated medical emergency also cropped up, causing additional issues.

Sky Princess Cruise Ship
Sly Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Tenreiro / Shutterstock)

Ship Captain Marco Fortezze offered a letter of apology to guests during the cruise, and outlined the compensation offered, a future cruise credit equal to 20% of the cruise fare each guest paid.

The credit can be used for booking future cruises and may be applied to non-cruise fare items, including flexible flights, pre and post-cruise packages, or plan coverage.

The captain noted that his decisions regarding the itinerary were made with safety in mind, and that the changes were beyond his control. Sky Princess is scheduled to return to Southampton on May 27. From there, the cruise ship’s next itinerary will take her to Kristiansand, Norway; Copenhagen and Skagen, Denmark; and Oslo, Norway.

NOAA Predicts Near-Normal Hurricane Season

Hurricane season begins on June 1, so it is time for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to reveal its 2023 Atlantic hurricane season predictions. It did so this week, saying the region can expect near-normal activity this season.

Near-normal, per NOAA, translates into 12 to 17 named storms with winds of at least 39 miles per hour. Between 5 and 9 of those storms will become hurricanes, meaning winds of at least 74 mph. Of those hurricanes, between 1 and 4 are likely to become Category 3, 4, or 5 storms.

Atlantic Hurricane
Atlantic Hurricane (Photo Credit: Oleg Senkov / Shutterstock)

Experts note that warmer than typical surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are likely to increase the formation of larger, stronger, more long-lived storms this year, particularly as tropical waves form off western Africa.

However, the predicted development of an El Niño system could suppress storm activity and tear storms apart as they approach the Caribbean.

Cruise lines closely monitor all weather patterns that could affect their ships, itineraries, and port destinations, and will adjust routes as needed.

Cruise guests are advised to stay aware of forecasts and approaching storms before, during, and after their cruise, since weather can affect all aspects of travel.

More Cruise Headlines

There were many other cruise stories from the past week that we covered on Cruise Hive, including Holland America Line opening bookings on two of its 2025 Grand World Voyages, luxury line Silversea Cruises unveiling a 140-day 2026 World Cruise, MSC Cruises’ operating the first net-zero emissions cruise, Disney Cruise Line detailing the fireworks shows guests will see during its 25th anniversary summer season, and Viking introducing year-round river cruises in Europe.

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