Cruise News Update: Policy Changes, Shut Down, Expansion

Catch-up on another busy week of cruise news, as a cruise line shuts down, policy changes, Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, and more!

Count on Cruise Hive to deliver all the cruise news you need to know about everyday. In this week’s cruise news update, we’ve got coverage from Carnival Cruise Line, American Queen Voyages, and Celebrity Cruises.

Cruise News Update

Let’s get going with this week’s cruise news update from Cruise Hive, the go-to site for breaking news, cruise features, and more.

In this week’s coverage, read about a pier expansion planned for Carnival Cruise Line’s new Celebration Key, changes in the perks that back-to-back cruise guests can expect at Carnival Cruise Line, American Queen Voyages ceasing operations, Celebrity Cruises loosening its adults-only policy in the Solarium, Carnival Cruise Line renewing efforts to curtail chair-saving on its pool decks, and a Carnival Cruise Line guest complaining that she was unfairly denied boarding.

Carnival to Add Ship Berths at New Destination

Celebration Key, the new private destination Carnival Cruise Line is developing on Grand Bahama, is not slated to open until the summer of 2025, but the line and its parent company are already revealing plans for a big dock expansion.

An extension of the retreat’s pier will enable four large ships to dock at the same time. The berths will accommodate the line’s biggest ships, including the Excel-class vessels Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Jubilee, which have a capacity for between 5,000 and 6,500 guests each.

Celebration Key Pier Expansion
Celebration Key Pier Expansion

Under the original design plan for Celebration Key, just two ships would berth at the pier simultaneously. The expanded pier will be completed about one year after the private destination opens, meaning that, for the first year of operation, just two ships will call at the same time.

Carnival Corporation, the cruise line’s parent company, is investing a total of $600 million to create Celebration Key, which will be its largest land-side development to date.

The new destination will feature five portals, or zones, each offering unique experiences for guests. The cruise line already has opened for sale many itineraries that include calls at Celebration Key in 2025 and 2026, on 3- to 14-night cruises sailing from eight US homeports.

Policy Change for Carnival Guests on Back-to-Back Voyages

Carnival Cruise Line is altering some of the perks and special services offered to guests booked on back-to-back sailings aboard the same ship. These are the lucky ones whose vacations at sea don’t end when the ship returns to its homeport; rather they get to enjoy another voyage.

Prior to the changes, which took effect fleet-wide this week, back-to-back (B2B) cruisers would depart the ship on the morning when the first sailing concludes, complete immigration procedures, and then reboard the ship, where new cruise line ID cards and stateroom keys would be waiting.

Carnival Panorama Cruise Ship in Long Beach
Carnival Panorama Cruise Ship in Long Beach (Photo Credit: mikeledray)

Once all of the B2B guests are back onboard, a group photo would be taken and provided as a gift to each cruiser, and the group is invited to enjoy a champagne or orange juice toast as part two of their adventure begins.

Under the new policy, the group photo and celebratory drink are nixed in favor of two coupons for each guest — one for a free photo on the first night of the sailing and one for a free drink at any bar on the ship.

It appears to be a welcome change for some veteran B2B cruisers and those booked on upcoming B2B voyages. For one thing, preparing to have a photo taken in the early morning can be a challenge, and secondly, not everyone wants champagne so early in the day.

America Queen Voyages Files For Bankruptcy

American Queen Voyages, best known for its riverboats that ply the Mississippi and other popular US waterways, ceased operations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and cancelled all future cruises.

In a statement issued on February 20, 2024, the cruise line attributed the shutdown to impacts from the pandemic, and insufficient demand. Operations, it said, had become financially unsustainable.

The company’s authentic riverboats included American Queen, American Countess, American Duchess, and American Empress. It also owns the expedition ship Ocean Victory, which was slated to sail Alaska voyages in summer 2024. Two additional expedition ships were in the process of decommissioning and were for sale.

America Queen Voyages Ship
America Queen Voyages Ship (Photo Credit: Ian Dewar Photography)

American Queen Voyages provided claim form details on its website for guests who paid deposits on future sailings, saying that all such monies would be refunded by the cruise line’s insurance firm, Argo Surety.

The company’s failure was not a surprise to cruise watchers, since several major travel agencies had suspended sales of its cruises in recent weeks, citing service issues and slow payments of commissions.

Formerly known as Great American Steamboat Co., the cruise brand was founded in 2011 by John Waggoner, who launched the company after buying the American Queen riverboat from the United States Maritime Administration.

Celebrity Cruises Loosens Adults-Only Rule in Solarium

Celebrity Cruises’ adults-only Solarium, a restricted, glass-enclosed retreat area with pools, hot tubs, and lounge chairs, has always been off-limits to guests under 16, but no more. 

In a new policy that impacts select cruises to the chilly destinations of Alaska, the Baltics, and Antarctica, the line is providing Solarium Kid hours, from 5-7 p.m., daily.

The change was detailed in a newsletter sent to travel agents on February 20, 2024, and is expected to be noted in the cruise line’s app and on shipboard signs. All Celebrity Cruises’ ships feature the Solarium space.

Celebrity Cruises Solarium
Celebrity Cruises Solarium

Little guest feedback is available yet, but the change is likely to receive mixed reviews. Families traveling with children might appreciate the chance to share the retreat experience when temperatures are too low for outdoor pools, while others might become frustrated if youngsters alter the quiet vibe many guests seek in the Solarium.

It also is unknown how crew members will enforce the time limitation if, for example, a younger guest remains in the retreat area beyond 7 p.m. Will they be asked to leave?

Celebrity Cruises welcomes children and offers specialized programming. With its fleet-wide Camp at Sea program, age-appropriate activities for youngsters 3 to 12 are featured on all ships. Events and activities include themed parties, treasure hunts, sports tournaments, and more.

Cruise Line Renews Effort to Curb Chair-Saving

Carnival Cruise Line is doubling down on guests who violate the line’s no-saving-chairs policy, a rule aimed at discouraging cruisers from leaving a towel or other personal item on a poolside lounge chair while they’re off doing something else.

John Heald, the line’s brand ambassador, made a point of addressing the issue during his current FFS (For Fun’s Sake) Cruise aboard Carnival Horizon. In a video he later posted on social media, Heald says the line is attempting to curtail the problem.

Carnival Cruise Line Lido Deck
Carnival Cruise Line Lido Deck (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

For instance, the line’s “ChairShare Team” monitors the pool decks and places stickers on any empty chairs that appear to be saved. Cruisers often will leave a book, towel, sandals, or other things on chairs, making them unavailable for guests who wish to sit poolside.

Under the policy, stickers note the time that the team member observed a saved chair and states that in 40 minutes, any personal items will be removed “to the towel hut for safekeeping,” thus making the chair available to others.

The timed sticker policy began in October 2022, and seems to have had only limited success. Cruisers still try to save chairs for lengthy time periods, even though there are signs explaining the no-saving policy at the pool decks, along with shipboard announcements about the rule.

Guest Cries Foul After Being Denied Boarding

A would-be cruiser from Brisbane, Australia, is probably wishing she had read her cruise contract’s fine print. 

The woman, Kaylee Farrington, was 26 weeks pregnant when she attempted to board her 3-night sailing, but she was turned away and denied a refund. The woman was looking forward to a getaway cruise with her family aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Luminosa, which is homeported in Brisbane.

Farrington and her mother, who had paid for her daughter’s cruise fare, believe the policy is discriminatory, and complained that the pregnancy rule should have been made clear at the time of booking. Moreover, Mom wants her money back.

Carnival Luminosa
Carnival Luminosa (Photo Credit: Ian Dewar Photography)

However, the line’s pregnancy policy states: “Any Guest who has entered, or who will at any time during the cruise enter, the 24th week of estimated gestational age in her pregnancy, agrees not to book a cruise or board the ship.” The cruise ticket contract repeats the policy.

The reason behind the regulation, which is similar to rules in effect at other cruise lines, is tied to the lack of specialized prenatal or infant care onboard cruise ships or in ports of call. As a result, the cruise line’s position is that it is unsafe for women in the second half of pregnancy to set sail.

More Cruise Headlines

Those were just a handful of the cruise news stories Cruise Hive covered this week. There are plenty more you won’t want to miss, including Cunard’s new ship, Queen Anne, completing her sea trials, P&O Cruises reporting its best-ever January in the line’s booking history, Saga Cruises revealing plans to build a new river ship, MSC Cruises rolling out a new series of voyages from the Canary Islands, and AIDA Cruises opening sales on its longest-ever world cruise.

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