Cruise News Update: New Ship, Gratuity Increase, Dining Changes

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Cruise Hive, the go-to source for cruise news, keeps you up to date on the major stories unfolding every day. This week, we have articles about Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean.

Cruise News Update

It’s time to dive into this week’s cruise headlines from Cruise Hive, where we have coverage on all of the developments you need to know about, including new details about Norwegian Cruise Line’s upcoming Norwegian Aqua, main dining room menu changes coming to Celebrity Cruises’ ships, Carnival Cruise Line revealing its holiday decoration plans, Royal Caribbean raising daily gratuity rates, the new Carnival Jubilee poised to begin sea trials, and Royal Caribbean clarifying guest access to loyalty lounges.

NCL Offers Early Peek Into Norwegian Aqua

The big reveal about Norwegian Cruise Line’s third Prima-class ship, Norwegian Aqua, has started. The line went public with a teaser that details some of the venues and activities the 156,300-gross ton ship will feature when she debuts in the spring of 2025.

Among them, for thrill-seekers, is the line’s first Aqua Slidecoaster, a combination rollercoaster and waterslide that spans three decks and wraps around the ship’s funnel. The two-person ride will operate by magnetic lift. Also, for adventurers, the ship will have the 10-story dry slide called The Drop, seen on the other Prima vessels.

Norwegian Aqua Render
Norwegian Aqua Render (Image Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Also new to the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, the ship will introduce a spacious accommodation in The Haven, the exclusive ship-within-a-ship luxury concept. The Three-Bedroom Duplex Haven Suites will span two stories and offer three bathrooms, dining and living areas, and luxury designs that include floor-to-ceiling windows.

Like her sister ships, Norwegian Aqua will feature the Ocean Boulevard area, offering outdoor dining venues, and the glass Oceanwalk bridge.

The ship, under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, will homeport at Port Canaveral following her launch, sailing 7-night cruises to the Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay.

Celebrity Cruises Set to Bring Back Classic Cuisine

Guests sailing aboard Celebrity Cruises’ ships will soon see changes on main dining room menus, following guest feedback and the line’s own research. 

The biggest change appears to be the return of several classic dishes, known in cruise circles as mainstay appetizers such as shrimp cocktail and French onion soup, and entrees like salmon, chicken breast, and sirloin steak, for example.

Mainly it’s about adding more diversity to the menu, according to the cruise line’s top executives, who recently sailed aboard one of the line’s ships to check out the food for themselves.

Celebrity Cruises Oceanview Cafe
Celebrity Cruises Oceanview Cafe

Another key piece of the feedback, which came mainly from Captain’s Club loyalty members, is that cruisers want a chocolate concoction as a dessert choice each night. This might come in the form of mousse, ice cream, truffles and the like, although the cruise line has not disclosed details.

Celebrity Cruises is moving quickly to add all of the new or returned items to the menus, and all should be available fleet-wide by the end of November, in plenty of time for holiday season guests to enjoy.

Carnival Cruise Line All Set For Holiday Decor

With the holiday season just around the corner, Carnival Cruise Line has finalized its plans for decorating each of its ships with festive wreaths, lights, garlands, trees, and more displays, all aimed at making guests feel their vacation at sea is an extra-special one.

Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald has revealed the decoration dates for each of the line’s ships, and has confirmed that all but the new-build Carnival Jubilee will sport holiday decor by December 4, 2023.

Here’s the schedule: 

Carnival Conquest and Carnival Radiance will be decorated on November 24; Carnival Breeze, Carnival Horizon, Mardi Gras, Carnival Miracle, and Carnival Spirit on November 25; Carnival Celebration, Carnival Dream, Carnival Glory, Carnival Panorama, and Carnival Vista on November 26; and Carnival Elation, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Sunrise, and Carnival Valor on November 27.

Carnival Cruise Line Christmas
Carnival Cruise Line Christmas (Photo Credit: Ihor Koptilin)

Also, Carnival Venezia on November 30; Carnival Magic and Carnival Paradise on December 2; Carnival Legend, Carnival Luminosa, and Carnival Pride on December 3; and Carnival Freedom, Carnival Splendor, and Carnival Sunshine on December 4.

Carnival Jubilee, still in the final outfitting phase in Germany and about to begin her sea trials, will be decorated on December 20, 2023, following her delivery from the Meyer Werft shipyard. The ship will sail an inaugural cruise for VIPs out of Galveston, Texas, on December 23, 2023.

Decorating cruise ships is a somewhat complicated project, as each ship must be in port to receive materials and supplies, and workers are brought onboard for the sole purpose of decorating, since ship crews are busy with regular duties.

Daily Gratuity Rates Rising on Royal Caribbean

Effective on November 11, 2023, guests sailing with Royal Caribbean will pay higher daily gratuity rates, after the line announced a $2 hike in the per-person charges.

Guests in non-suite staterooms and junior suites will pay $18 per day, while suite guests will pay $20.50. Since September 2022, the rates have been $16 and $18.50, respectively.

Cruisers with upcoming sailings who prepaid their gratuities will not be affected by the change, and those who prepay before November 11, 2023 will pay the existing, lower rates. The prepay must be completed before embarkation, however.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship
Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Felipe Sanchez)

Gratuities, which are shared among crew members such as waitstaff, cabin attendants, and other employees, are automatically posted to each guest’s onboard account, unless paid in advance.

Other tip charges, for services like beverage purchases, spa and salon bookings, and mini-bar products, remain at 18%.

Royal Caribbean’s new gratuity charges are similar to competitor lines. Carnival Cruise Line charges $16 to guests in non-suite cabins and $18 for those in suites, while Norwegian Cruise Line has a three-tiered gratuity plan, charging $16 for most cabins, $18 for mid-level suites, and $20 for highest-level suites.

A Tricky Voyage on the Ems for Carnival Jubilee

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Jubilee, a 182,800-gross ton mega-ship due to enter service in December 2023, completed a challenging navigation from her shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, to the North Sea via the Ems river. 

The ship is set to begin a series of sea trials, when various systems will be put to the test, such as speed, propulsion, and other functions, before being officially delivered to the cruise line. 

Two tugboats accompanied the ship as she maneuvered the river’s channels, bridges, and other challenges on her way to Eemshaven, Netherlands. At one point, the ship even sailed backward for safer navigation.

Carnival Jubilee Conveyance on the Ems
Carnival Jubilee Conveyance on the Ems (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Having arrived at the Wadden Sea, the ship’s officers are preparing for sea trials to begin on November 5, 2023. Engineers and other shipyard staff are onboard, putting the finishing touches on Carnival Jubilee’s interior systems and design in anticipation of her handover.

Once delivered to the line, Carnival Jubilee, with a capacity for 6,500 guests, will prepare for her maiden voyage, a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary from her homeport of Galveston, Texas, on December 23, 2023. The cruise will call at Roatan, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and spend three days at sea.

Cruise Line Attempts to Clarify Loyalty Lounge Access

Temporary and intermittent changes regarding access to Royal Caribbean’s loyalty lounges have proven confusing to some Crown & Anchor Society guests, prompting the cruise line to try to clarify its policies.

In recent weeks, high numbers of loyalty program members on various cruises have caused the line to limit access to the Crown Lounge and other exclusive areas reserved for frequent guests who have reached loyalty status, or those who have booked certain suite categories.

The use of exclusive lounges is a popular perk for loyalty program members, since they offer complimentary food and drinks, and are seen as a private retreat.

Royal Caribbean Lounge
Royal Caribbean Lounge (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt)

Royal Caribbean recently enacted a policy that sometimes prohibits the lowest loyalty program guests, at Diamond level, from entering the Crown Lounge between 5 and 8 p.m., which is prime time for pre-dinner cocktails. During those hours, only Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members have access. The cruise line has clarified that the venue is available to Diamond members at all other times. 

Additionally, access to other areas, including Concierge Lounge, Suite Sun Deck, and Coastal Kitchen, is limited to Pinnacle Club members, however, within Pinnacle Club, the number of points each guest has will determine whether they can enter. (Points are awarded based on a guest’s past sailings.)

Access limitations vary from cruise to cruise, and guests will be informed whether any restrictions will affect their voyage.

More Cruise Headlines

Dig deeper into Cruise Hive’s latest news coverage with even more articles, including MSC Cruises unveiling its summer 2024 schedule, Holland America Line adding a new Asian-themed restaurant onboard one ship, Cunard pulling out of the Australia market in 2026, a Royal Caribbean ship changing its only port call, and Italian ports celebrating a banner year for cruise arrivals.

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