Cruise News Update: New Ships, PajamaGate, Passengers Denied, Digital Debark

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It’s been another jam-packed week for cruise news, and Cruise Hive has all of the major developments covered, with stories from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Cruise News Update

Let’s dive into this week’s Cruise News Update from Cruise Hive, the go-to source for news from across the cruise industry. We have all of the headlines you need to know about, including new loyalty pins from Carnival Cruise Line, the testing of a digital debarkation process at Carnival Cruise Line, an overbooked Royal Caribbean ship that left behind guests in Australia, a ‘Pajamagate’ controversy at Carnival Cruise Line, the delivery of the highly-anticipated Icon of the Seas, and the christening of Norwegian Viva.

Carnival Cruise Line Reveals New Loyalty Pin Designs

Carnival Cruise Line revealed the designs of its 2024 loyalty pins, which are given to guests who have achieved the Gold, Platinum, and Diamond levels of the line’s VIFP, or Very Important Fun Person, loyalty program.

The pins are considered collectibles by many loyal Carnival Cruise Line guests, some of whom wear them every time they sail aboard a Fun Ship. The pins can be worn on clothing, and some cruisers even attach them to lanyards that are worn around the neck.

New Carnival Cruise Line Pins
New Carnival Cruise Line Pins

The designs for 2024 are more simple than in previous years. Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald announced that the Gold level pin will have a generic sun and wave image that says “Carnival,” while the image on the Diamond and Platinum pins will be specific to each ship. They will each sport a circle, like a porthole, with 2024 VIFP CLUB printed in the design, along with a blue wave. 

All of the pins will show the red, white, and blue Carnival whale-tail funnel. Gold level pins will be a gold color while Diamond and Platinum pins will be a silver shade.

The new designs for 2024 will be available starting in January, and guests can pick up their pins at the Pixels photo gallery onboard their ship. Repeat cruisers earn points for each Carnival Cruise Line sailing, and the number of accumulated points determines each guest’s loyalty status.

Carnival Tests a ‘Digital Debark’ System

A new way to debark a Carnival Cruise Line ship may be coming to a port near you. 

“Digital Debark,” a new process that offers a high-tech option for easier luggage tag collection for debarkation day is available via the Carnival Hub App, and is already being piloted on four ships.

Guests sailing aboard Carnival Spirit from Mobile, Alabama; Carnival Conquest from Miami, Florida; Carnival Dream from Galveston, Texas; and Carnival Elation from Jacksonville, Florida, can now use the app to smooth the debarkation process and avoid crowds.

Under the new program, guests use the app to choose their debarkation time, and indicate how many luggage tags they need. Tags will be delivered to their staterooms, and guests will receive an alert when their luggage is ready for pick up in the cruise terminal.

Carnival Cruise Ship Debarkation
Carnival Cruise Ship Debarkation (Photo Credit: ThePhotoFab)

Currently, most guests pick up luggage tags at each ship’s Guest Services counter, which can be a crowded and time consuming errand. Under the pilot program, tags will automatically be delivered to cabins.

The Digital Debark option is voluntary, and does not affect guests who plan to carry off their luggage themselves. It also does not affect loyalty club members, guests who have paid for Faster to the Fun perks, or suite guests, all of whom continue to receive priority debarkation. 

Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald noted in a social media post that, while the digital option is in a test phase and completely voluntary, the line eventually might move away from luggage tag pick-up altogether.

Cruisers Turned Away From Overbooked Sailing

An unknown number of guests booked to sail aboard Royal Caribbean’s 4,180-guest Quantum of the Seas on November 28, 2023, were denied boarding on departure day because staterooms were not available for them. The cruise, from Brisbane, was an 8-night South Pacific voyage.

Some guests received letters at the cruise terminal, as they were waiting to board the ship, telling them that no stateroom could be assigned to them. No reason was given by the cruise line, but it appears to have been an overbooking problem.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas (Photo Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky)

The affected guests apparently had booked “GTY” or “guarantee” cabins, meaning that reservations are accepted without the cruise line assigning a specific stateroom number. However, typically, staterooms are assigned before departure day.

A few options were offered to impacted guests. They could stay at the cruise terminal on stand-by status, in case a cabin became available. If it did — and social media posts indicate that at least a few guests were eventually assigned cabins — the line offered a $100 onboard credit.

Stand-by guests not lucky enough to be assigned a cabin received a full refund and a future cruise credit. The line also offered full refunds and a future cruise credit to any impacted guests who decided to cancel their bookings. Switching to another itinerary was also an option.

‘Pajamagate’ Erupts as Holiday Cruises Near

When Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald was asked whether pajamas would be an acceptable form of attire in the fleet’s main dining rooms on Christmas morning, he posted a poll on his Facebook page, trying to gauge sentiment.

What transpired has been dubbed “Pajamagate,” a controversy that led to some heated exchanges. Most poll-takers, nearly 70%, said they wouldn’t wear pajamas in the main dining room, but they didn’t mind if others did. Twenty-three percent said they would wear PJs, and 9% said no one should be allowed in the dining venue while wearing their bed clothes.

Carnival Cruise Line Pajamagate
Carnival Cruise Line Pajamagate (Photo Credit Melissa Mayntz / Cruise Hive)

However, holiday-themed pajamas have become popular in recent years, as families don identical PJ outfits for the season’s festivities. They are typically made of sweatshirt material, rather than silky, lingerie-style cloth.

Basically, the question, while entertaining, is moot. As it stands, Carnival Cruise Line is allowing pajamas in public spaces onboard its ships for some holiday events, including the Family Pajama Jam on Lido Deck, held before the holiday Dive-In movies, and during a pajama parade. 

No activities for the pajama-clad are sanctioned for the main dining room, or any other dining venue.

Royal Caribbean Takes Delivery of Icon of the Seas 

Royal Caribbean took delivery of Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, during a handover ceremony at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, on November 27, 2023. Exactly two months later, on January 27, 2024, the 250,000-gross ton ship will welcome her first guests.

More than 1,000 members of the crew and the construction teams were on hand for the delivery, along with Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, and Meyer Turku CEO Tim Meyer.

Icon of the Seas Delivery
Icon of the Seas Delivery (Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean)

The massive ship, which can accommodate 5,610 guests in double occupancy and 7,600 at full capacity, plus roughly 2,300 crew, will undergo final outfitting in advance of her transatlantic voyage to her first homeport, PortMiami.

Her maiden sailing is a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise to St. Kitts, St. Thomas, and Perfect Day at CocoCay. Icon of the Seas will sail alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

Icon of the Seas is notable not only for her size but also for a series of design innovations, such as the AquaDome, a huge glass and steel structure that will be the site of water shows and performances, seven pools and six waterslides, and other fabulous public spaces.

Norwegian Viva Is Christened in Miami

Norwegian Cruise Line held a glittering christening ceremony for its newest ship, Norwegian Viva, at PortMiami on November 28, 2023. Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and musician Luis Fonsi served as godfather.

The 142,500-gross-ton ship, with capacity for 3,100 guests and 1,500 crew, has been in service since early August 2023, when she launched a series of Mediterranean and Greek Isles itineraries.

Celebrity Ascent Naming Ceremony
Celebrity Ascent Naming Ceremony

Following a short series of cruises from Miami, Norwegian Viva will be based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from mid-December 2023 to early April 2024, when she will reposition to Europe for the summer season. The ship is due to return to San Juan in fall 2024.

Features onboard the new ship include the Indulge Food Hall, with 11 dining venues, an interactive artwork display called “Every Wing Has a Silver Lining,” a three-story Viva Speedway go-kart track; thrill slides; and a luxury Mandara Spa, among other highlights.

The christening event was held at the cruise line’s terminal at PortMiami, where an unveiling and dedication of the Knut Kloster Hall was part of the festivities. Kloster was the founder of Norwegian Cruise Line, and the new hall features a timeline display of the history of the cruise line and all of its ships.

More Cruise Headlines

Keep up to date on cruise news by checking out even more stories on Cruise Hive, including Royal Caribbean guests who helped to rescue a beached shark, Viking deploying two ships to the Antarctic Peninsula for the upcoming winter season, and Princess Cruises detailing the design of a massive casino onboard the soon-to-debut Sun Princess

Also, TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff Relax marks her float out from an Italian shipyard, and the new Celebrity Ascent debuts with exclusive luxury retail shops.

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