Cruise News Update: Royal Caribbean Un-Cancels, Carnival Changes

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It’s time once again to get caught up with the top news from the cruise industry, and Cruise Hive has all of this week’s big headlines covered, with articles about Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and the Half Moon Cay private island.

Cruise News Update

Let’s get going with this week’s news update from Cruise Hive, where we’ve got all of the breaking cruise news covered, including Carnival Cruise Line nixing some loyalty benefits on one cruise, Royal Caribbean reinstating a cruise it had earlier cancelled, Carnival Cruise Line home-porting a fourth ship at Galveston, private villas and cabanas at Half Moon Cay no longer offering air conditioning, Royal Caribbean’s Utopia of the Seas being floated out at her shipyard, and Carnival Cruise Line rolling out vegan menus fleetwide.

Carnival Freedom Nixes Some Loyalty Perks

Sometimes a cruise ship can have too much of a good thing: Loyalty-status guests. In the case of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom, the high number of guests who are Diamond and Platinum VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) members aboard the ship’s current transatlantic sailing has prompted the line to pull certain benefits these guests typically receive.

Guests at the two loyalty levels were informed a week prior to embarkation, which was on September 21, that some popular benefits will not be extended because there simply are too many loyalty guests onboard.

Carnival Freedom Cruise Ship
Carnival Freedom at Port Canaveral (Photo Credit: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock)

Benefits that these guests had to forgo include gaining early access to their staterooms on embarkation day and enjoying guaranteed dinner seating requests in the main dining room.

Carnival Freedom can accommodate up to 3,700 guests at full capacity, and while it is not known how many loyalty guests are onboard, cruise watchers estimate the number to be in the hundreds.

The ship is operating a 13-night cruise from Port Canaveral to Barcelona, where she will enter dry dock for general maintenance and updates. Carnival Freedom is expected to be out of service for a month, then depart Barcelona in late October for her return to Port Canaveral.

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Cancelled Sailing

In a somewhat confusing turn of events, Royal Caribbean has reinstated a Caribbean cruise on Freedom of the Seas that it had cancelled three months ago due to the ship’s dry dock schedule.

Now the cruise line has reached out to guests who were booked on the original sailing, saying the voyage will go forward after all, and they can rebook the cruise if they wish. The line’s explanation was simply that it was able to adjust the scheduling.

The cruise that was cancelled was an 8-night Eastern Caribbean sailing from Fort Lauderdale on December 21, 2024. At the time of the cancellation, guests were offered options to rebook on another Royal Caribbean sailing or receive a full refund.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas (Photo Credit: A. Emson / Shutterstock)

The cruise line is offering various options to affected guests. They can keep their new booking on another ship, if they made one, or return to the original cruise in a comparable stateroom with protected pricing or a reduced fare if the new rate is lower. Those who received a full refund can reinstate their original booking if they wish.

In any case, all guests who wish to sail on the original cruise must notify the cruise line or their travel agent by October 3, 2023.

Freedom of the Seas, a Conquest-class ship, can accommodate 3,782 guests at double occupancy. Her Eastern Caribbean sailing will call at St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico, and Labadee.

Carnival Cruise Line Boosts Capacity in Galveston

Carnival Cruise Line decided to homeport yet another ship at Galveston, starting October 2025 through early 2026. The 2,124-guest Carnival Legend’s deployment adds the ship to a home-port roster that already includes the 3,646-guest Carnival Dream, 3,690-guest Carnival Breeze, and the new-build 6,500-guest Carnival Jubilee, when she enters service this fall.

All told, the four Carnival Cruise Line ships together will have capacity from Galveston totaling nearly 16,000 guests.

Carnival Legend Cruise Ship
Carnival Legend Cruise Ship

Carnival Legend’s sailing schedule from the Texas port alternates between short and longer cruises, including 4-day weekend getaways with one port of call, at Cozumel, Mexico; a 5-day itinerary calling at Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, and 10-day cruises visiting Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Mahogany Bay, Roatan; Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico.

Several Panama Canal cruises are also on Carnival Legend’s itinerary list. One is a repositioning cruise from the US West Coast, and the second operates roundtrip from Galveston, calling at Montego Bay, Jamaica; Aruba; Curacao; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon (Panama Canal), Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; and Cozumel, Mexico. Three additional Panama Canal partial transits are planned as well.

Galveston is the fourth-largest US cruise port based on arrivals, and is in the process of upgrading facilities to accommodate Carnival Jubilee starting in December 2023.

Amenity Altered at Carnival’s Half Moon Cay

Carnival Cruise Line guests who rent private villas and cabanas during port calls at the Half Moon Cay private island in the Bahamas will soon have to find a new way to stay cool.

The cruise line reached out to guests with the news that the luxe, beachfront spaces will no longer be air conditioned, as of October 1, 2023.

The line told guests who have already booked a beach villa or cabana for an upcoming cruise that they can cancel the booking and the charge for the exclusive retreats will be refunded.

Carnival's Half Moon Cay Villas
Carnival’s Half Moon Cay Villas (Photo Credit: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock)

All bookings of the villas and cabanas must be prepaid; villas cost $1,000 (USD) for a full day, while cabanas cost $700. There has been no announcement that the rates will decrease after the air conditioning systems are no longer available.

The beach villa cost allows for up to 8 guests per rental price, but as many as 18 guests can be accommodated at each villa, with additional surcharges for guests beyond the first 8. The cabanas are smaller, and can accommodate 4 people at the rental price, with a surcharge for an additional two guests.

Half Moon Cay is a 2,400-acre private island that is frequently visited by Holland America Line ships along with Carnival Cruise Line ships, depending on the itinerary and sailing date. Both lines are Carnival Corporation brands.

Utopia of The Seas Floats Out at Shipyard

Utopia of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship under construction at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in France, marked a major milestone this week when she was floated out, signaling the completion of the vessel’s outer hull.

The mega-ship, at 236,860-gross tons, is scheduled to debut in July 2024. While the float-out means the ship has touched water for the first time, it also shifts the focus to interior spaces and exterior features too large to install inside a construction hall, such as waterslides, outdoor movies screens, and surf simulators, for instance.

Utopia of the Seas Float Out
Utopia of the Seas Float Out

The 18-deck Utopia of the Seas is the last of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships and will accommodate close to 5,700 guests in double occupancy. She will be slightly larger than the cruise line’s Wonder of the Seas, which launched in 2022, but smaller than the line’s upcoming Icon of the Seas, a 250,800-gross ton ship due to debut in January 2024.

Utopia of the Seas will homeport at Port Canaveral, offering 3- and 4-night getaways to Nassau, Bahamas, and Royal Caribbean’s private destination Perfect Day at CocoCay. Guests will enjoy five pools, 21 dining venues, 23 bars and lounges, and two casinos.

Carnival Ships Begin Offering Vegan Menus

A new vegan menu developed by Carnival Cruise Line has debuted onboard Carnival Magic and will soon roll out in the main dining rooms of the entire fleet.

Vegan guests will be able to order dishes such as “Grilled Tofu Steak,”“Baked Vegetable Au Gratin,” “Hawaiian Salmon Poke,” “Spaghetti Carbonara,” and “Eggplant Cutlet a la Parmigiana.” Vegan appetizers and desserts, such as “Dutch Double Chocolate Pave,” also are offered.

Carnival's Grilled Tofu Steak
Carnival’s Grilled Tofu Steak

Carnival Cruise Line ships have traditionally featured various vegetarian selections on their menus, but not all vegetarian dishes are also vegan. Pilot tests of the menus aboard two ships resulted in “glowing” reviews.

Carnival Dream has started its rollout of the new menu, and by the end of September, the new vegan meals will be offered on Carnival Valor, Carnival Radiance, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Panorama, and Mardi Gras.

Eight more ships will add the vegan selections in October, two in November, and the remainder by the end of the year. Exact dates for each ship’s introduction of the new menus have not been confirmed.

More Cruise Headlines

Those were the top stories from this week, but Cruise Hive has plenty more news that you won’t want to miss, including Oceania Cruises unveiling a series of French Polynesia sailings in 2025, Holland America Line bringing fresh fish aboard its ships at dozens of global ports, Princess Cruises adding wine-themed cruises in October 2023, the port of Kiel, Germany, welcoming 1 million-plus cruise guests this year, and Oceania Cruises’ newest ship earning a perfect score on her vessel sanitation inspection.

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