Biggest Winners and Losers in the Cruise World for 2015
Photo by Jason Leppert
For an industry that is constantly in motion, growing rapidly, it’s easy to see the winners in cruise travel and much more difficult to determine any losers. Nonetheless, I’ve selected several of each from 2015 for your consideration below.
Other cruise lines have partnerships with entertainment companies like Royal Caribbean International and its DreamWorks Experience (see the Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop on Quantum of the Seas in China), but only the Disney Cruise Line has in-house synergy and a treasure trove of material to draw from for its ships. Fans of “Frozen” (pictured above), “Star Wars” and “Wreck-It Ralph” won big this year, and Star Wars fans, in particular, are in for far more excitement next year.
The Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were “Frozen” over this summer with special theme cruises featuring Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Olaf and the gang onboard for a day of special ship-wide fun, and the newly enhanced Disney Dream saw the addition of “Star Wars” Millennium Falcon to the Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats inspired by “Wreck-It Ralph.” Plus, “Star Wars” Day at Sea is headed for the Disney Fantasy in 2016.
Internet connections at sea were once as slow as molasses and equally expensive. Well, the light at the end of the tunnel got even brighter this year as Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean International expanded their high-speed services, and luxury lines, Crystal Cruises and Silversea Cruises, made their connections complimentary to all guests, joining Viking Cruises.
At this time on other luxury lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will offer free internet to all guests only on 2016-17 winter voyages, and Seabourn Cruise Line still charges based on usage. Upper premium Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises also provide various amounts of complimentary internet time to suite guests.
High-speed (or at least relatively high-speed) internet is now rolling out across more and more Carnival Cruise Line ships, and its WiFi@Sea network is broadening corporately across its other brands and majority of ships into 2016 with reasonably priced packages. Similarly, Royal Caribbean International has launched its Voom service on its Oasis-class and Quantum-class ships when sailing in the Caribbean, Mediterranean or Asia, and the Majesty of the Seas will feature the system for free in 2016.
2015 was also the year of the waterslide as more were introduced at sea and announced to be on their way. The Norwegian Escape carried over its popular free-fall varieties from the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway sister ships but also introduced a single new tandem raft slide, replacing the former twister pair.
Most surprising, however, is the future embrace of slides by Royal Caribbean International, the only standard line until now not to regularly include such water attractions. And they are going all in, too. The Liberty of the Seas is going to emerge from dry-dock next February with the Perfect Storm – the first raft boomeranging water slide at sea matched with a pair of racing slides. In addition, the new Harmony of the Seas will feature two racers, a champagne bowl and a long 10-deck spiral from the pool deck to the Boardwalk area below, the tallest ever water slide at sea.
Not to be outdone, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista will feature a kaleidoscopic water slide in 2016, and MSC Cruises is set to introduce some radical slides to its forthcoming MSC Seaside including one that is equal parts video game come 2017.
This year saw a lot of partnerships come to a close, especially ones once featured on Norwegian Cruise Line like Blue Man Group, Nickelodeon and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, but many new ones have been formed as indicated by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Food Republic by the Pubbelly Boys and two dining venues from Jose Garces on the new Norwegian Escape, to name just a few.
As another example, Holland America Line will not renew its partnership with “Dancing with the Stars” but revealed several new strategic partnerships this year to redevelop the company’s brand image. And, Cunard has disclosed that its collaboration with celeb chef Todd English will also be ending as his signature restaurant on the Queen Mary 2 is set to be replaced with a new French one in 2016.
It’s always exciting to welcome new cruise ships to a burgeoning industry but only if existing fleets are maintained as well. Overall from my experience, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises are shining examples of this philosophy. Unfortunately, others are not.
It always pains me to pull into a port busy with other ships and look down at another white hull streaked with rust or dimpled from shoddy repainting, for instance. Particularly egregious are instances of ruddy anchors and blotchy deck coatings.
Of course, it’s not all bad, just as many new-builds are introduced so too are several existing ships refurbished with fresh features. It would just be wonderful if dollars were more frequently spent on maintaining ships well before they require a full dry-dock refresh.
No one should really gripe about increases in shipboard gratuities, as crew members are certainly deserving of those little extras that go a long way for them and their families. But, there were a lot of hikes in service charges this year from several lines that will affect the bottom line pricing of certain cruises.
The most frustration came from Norwegian Cruise Line which upped its service charges not once but twice this year. Also on this year’s list of increased gratuities are Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruises, which will raise theirs next year.
For more information on Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Viking Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises
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