Cruise News Update: Storm, Cruise Rescue, Ports

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Stay on top of major developments in the cruise industry at Cruise Hive, your go-to site for breaking cruise news, cruise features, and cruise ship data. In this week’s cruise news update, we’ve got coverage on Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Princess Cruises.

Cruise News Update

Let’s dive into this week’s top cruise news stories from Cruise Hive so you don’t miss a thing. In this week’s stories, read about a Royal Caribbean ship damaged by a severe squall in the Gulf of Mexico, Carnival Cruise Line revealing some of what Celebration Key will offer to guests, Carnival Jubilee rescuing two kayakers lost at sea, a travel advisory update warning travelers about the Bahamas, Celebrity Cruises altering its final payment policy on some voyages, and Princess Cruises withdrawing a plan to call at the historic port of Yorktown, Virginia.

Severe Squall Hits Ship, Topples Slot Machines

High winds, big waves, heavy rain, and even hail made for an uncomfortable few hours aboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, which ran headlong into a severe squall as she made her way toward her homeport of Galveston, Texas.

The ship was at the tail end of a 5-night Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston when the storm hit around 1:30 p.m., on January 26, 2024. The 138,194-gross ton ship was noticeably listing in the Gulf of Mexico — enough to topple some slot machines in the ship’s casino.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Gust of Wind
Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Gust of Wind (Photo Credit: Brandy Waring & DLeng)

Guests filmed the mayhem on their phones and posted videos to social media. The ship sustained flooding, damaged furniture, and broken glass, but no severe injuries were reported. Outdoor decks were closed, and crew members worked to clear flooded interior areas. 

Despite the nasty weather, Voyager of the Seas returned on schedule to Galveston and departed on her next cruise as planned. The ship is sailing a series of 4- and 5-night cruises to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

The squall appears to have been the same line of storms that impacted Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Dream, which encountered similar weather as she returned to Galveston after a 14-night sailing.

Five ‘Portals’ Revealed For Celebration Key

Carnival Cruise Line revealed details about the guest experience areas it will offer at Celebration Key, its new private destination on Grand Bahama Island set to open in July 2025.

The $200 million destination, which will sport a theme of authentic Bahamian culture, will feature five portals, each with a specific focus and set of amenities and services.

A Welcome Portal will provide an information area about the destination, and wow guests with a huge sand castle and live music. A Family-Friendly Portal will feature a freshwater lagoon, waterslides, sports courts, and dining venues. Private cabana and villa rentals will be available.

Carnival Cruise Line's Celebration Key
Carnival Cruise Line’s Celebration Key

An Adult-Friendly Portal will offer lagoon access, a swim-up bar, a full-service restaurant, and a DJ. Cabanas and villas will be featured here, too.

A Private Club Portal will be an adult-only retreat with an infinity pool and dining options. And finally, a Retail Portal will tempt guests with local artwork and duty free shops. 

Carnival Cruise Line has already opened many itineraries that will include port calls at Celebration Key. A dozen ships from eight homeports will spend a day at the destination on 3- to 14-night cruises. The destination’s dock will enable two ships to call at the same time.

Carnival Jubilee Rescues Kayakers Lost at Sea

Two men lost at sea in a double kayak were rescued off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, on January 29, 2024, by Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Jubilee.

What was first announced as a man overboard alert soon became a rescue operation, when crew members realized two men were paddling a kayak toward the massive ship.

The emergency unfolded about 9 miles east of Cancun. Carnival Jubilee had departed from her homeport of Galveston, Texas, on January 27, 2024, sailing a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise. The rescue happened on the ship’s second day at sea.

Carnival jubilee Rescue
Carnival jubilee Rescue (Photo Credit: Lance Roche)

After the kayak reached the ship, crew members lowered a rope and the two occupants climbed aboard the ship. It was unknown where the kayak was traveling from and how long the two men had been at sea in the small craft.

Carnival Jubilee alerted local officials, and Mexican authorities arrived in a patrol boat and picked up the two kayakers. The 5,400-guest ship then resumed her itinerary, which included calls at Roatan, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, before returning to Galveston on February 3, 2024.

Other ships recently handled rescue operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas on January 18, 2024 rescued six stranded fishermen and their dog just north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. On January 27, 2024, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima rescued a dozen refugees from a makeshift craft.

Crime Spike Prompts Warning About Bahamas

The Bahamas, a major destination for cruising, was in the news this week, and not in a good way. A recent increase in crime in the popular cruise ports of Nassau and Freeport prompted the US Department of State to update its Level 2 Travel Advisory.

The January 26, 2024 update cites not only crime levels, specifically in New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport), but also certain water activities. The Level 2 alert advises visitors to “Exercise Increased Caution” in the destination.

The state department has listed the Bahamas at Level 2 for more than a year, and the advisory is updated as needed. A high rate of homicides is noted in a separate security alert from the US Embassy in Nassau. Issued on January 24, 2024, it noted that 18 homicides have been committed in Nassau so far this year.

Cruise Ships in Nassau, Bahamas
Cruise Ships in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo Credit: Luciavonu)

The Level 2 travel advisory also cautions visitors about certain water activities, including tours, watercraft, swimming, and shark encounters. It warns that boats might be poorly maintained and that some tour operators might lack safety certifications, for example.

The water activity part of the advisory may be the result of the November 2023 sinking of the Blue Lagoon Island ferry. A cruise passenger on that ferry died in the accident, which happened in rough weather.

Also, sharks have emerged as a concern in the waters around the Bahamas in recent weeks.

Celebrity Cruises Move Up Some Final Payment Dates

Celebrity Cruises has altered the final payment schedule on two categories of sailings — voyages of 15 days or longer, and all Galapagos Islands cruises.

Starting with bookings made on and after January 30, 2024, guests must pony up their final payments sooner than previously required. Final payment for sailings 15 days or longer must be made 120 days prior to departure, while Galapagos cruises of any length must be fully paid 150 days before departure.

Under the former plan, guests on 15-day or longer cruises could wait until 90 days before departure to make their final payment, and those on Galapagos sailings could hold off final payment until 120 days from the sail date.

Celebrity Cruises Ship
Celebrity Cruises Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks)

The payment change affects all Galapagos cruises onboard Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition, and Celebrity Xploration, with departures in July 2024 and later. It also impacts 17 cruises of 15 days or longer, departing on various ships from April 2024 to April 2026.

The change has the potential to make prospective cruisers leery of the policy. Typically, if a guest cancels a cruise before the final payment is made, there is little or no financial penalty.

But after the final payment is made, cancellation fees come into play, and they increase as departure day nears. The cruise line offered no reason for the policy change.

Cruise Line Nixes Plan to Call at Historic US Port

Princess Cruises withdrew a proposal to have two ships make port calls at Yorktown, Virginia, a historic port that played a big role in the Revolutionary War. In early 2023, the cruise line had put forward a pilot program to include the port on a handful of summer 2024 itineraries operated by Island Princess and Emerald Princess.

However, York County and port officials found out on January 26, 2024 that Princess Cruises has instead opted to call at Norfolk, Virginia, rather than Yorktown. The shift means that Yorktown will not benefit from an estimated 14,000 cruise guests, who would have contributed to the local economy.

Island Princess Cruise Ship
Island Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Martin Augustus)

The 2,200-guest Island Princess was to make three calls and the 3,080-guest Emerald Princess would have made two.

Not everyone will be disappointed: More than 5,000 local residents had signed a petition in September 2023 seeking to prevent the ship calls due to concerns over cultural and environmental impacts to the historic town.

As it stands, Island Princess will operate 10-day “American Heritage” cruises on June 4 and 25, 2024, roundtrip from New York, and calling at Norfolk, Charleston, South Carolina, Boston, and Halifax, Canada. An 11-day option, departing on June 14, 2024, adds Newport, Rhode Island.

Emerald Princess will sail one 14-day “Canada & Colonial America” from Fort Lauderdale to Quebec City on July 19, 2024, with calls at Charleston, Norfolk, New York, Newport, Boston, and Sydney and Saguenay, Canada.

More Cruise Headlines

It was a busy week for cruise news, and Cruise Hive has even more stories you’ll want to stay on top of, such as California’s Catalina Island expecting record cruise arrivals in 2024, Holland America Line opening sales on its 2025-26 South Pacific cruises, the Scottish Port of Aberdeen predicting it will double cruise ship calls by 2027, a Cunard ship making an unplanned call to a small Australian port due to bad weather, and the Port of Galveston reporting its highest profits ever.

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