Tag Archives: Royal Caribbean

Cruises Offer More Dining Options

main_dining_hero

Celebrity Cruises just announced the introduction of Celebrity Select Dining. This new option allows passengers to dine in the ship’s main restaurant, but not have a preassigned dining time, as is the traditional dinner schedule. Instead, guests can select to dine at any time between 6:00 and 9:30 pm., and even make reservations online up to 4 days before the cruise.

The program is being rolled out sequentially to all Celebrity ships (except for Celebrity Xpedition), starting with the Equinox on the September 26th sailing. It will be completed by February. Reservations will be on a first come, first served basis, and for passengers who elect to participate, gratuities will be automatically charged to the on board account.

It used to be that cruise lines offered 2 set times to dine in the main restaurants. You chose between early and late dining, and were stuck with that choice for the duration of the cruise. If you wanted to have dinner at a different time, you had to go to one of the alternate restaurants. In the last few years, however, starting with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the option to have dinner in the main restaurant (or one of them, at least), has been introduced by several lines. The following is a summary of the offerings:

  • Norwegian Cruise Lines: They were the pioneers of the flexible options with their Freestyle Dining. You’ve surely seen the commercials; do whatever you want, whenever you want. Norwegian has done away with the set dining times altogether, and bases dining service on offering different menus in different restaurants. Their newer ships, like the Jewel and the Gem, have even been designed with the Freestyle philosophy in mind. NCL ships offer smaller restaurants, with up to 13 different restaurants on board.
  • Carnival: The Fun Ships don’t currently offer a flexible option. It’s either early, late, or one of the other restaurants.
  • Royal Caribbean: Their “My Time” dining allows passengers to have dinner at any time in the main restaurants. It’s very similar to Celebrity’s Select Dining, which is likely based on My Time. In addition, Royal Caribbean offers “Family My Time” dining. This program is targeted to families with younger children. Appetizers are served immediately, and the children’s dinner is finished in 40 minutes.  They are then taken to evening activities with Adventure Ocean counselors, while the adults continue the meal at a more leisurely pace.
  • Princess Cruises: Their anytime dining allows passengers to dine at the main restaurant between 5:30 and 10:00 pm. Some ships have dedicated Anytime Dining restaurants, separate from the traditional dining restaurants, but providing the same menu and service.
  • Holland America: Provides an open schedule in its main dining room, as part of their As You Wish Dining program.
  • Cunard: Guests can dine any time between 7 and 9 pm, but some restaurants offer either early or late dining only.

Any way you look at it, dining is one of the prime attractions of a cruise, and a very important part of the cruising experience for most passengers. If you’ve been on a cruise, you understand why. If you have not, I invite you to experience it. Just contact us and we’ll plan the perfect cruise for you.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Repositioning Cruises

If you’re looking for very good deals for a cruise, you’ll often be told to look for a repositioning cruise. So, what is a repositioning cruise? As the cruising seasons change, cruise lines need to relocate (or reposition) their ships where demand is stronger and where they can command better prices. Other factors that play into moving ships around like this are weather patterns (like the Atlantic/Caribbean hurricane season) and the need to provide repeat cruisers with new itineraries in different regions or ports.

The two most common types of repositioning cruises are:

  1. Transatlantic cruises: Ships leave the Caribbean for Europe in the Spring and return from the Old World in the Fall. This also coincides with the hurricane season for the Caribbean routes, and this is when cruise lines keep the fewest ships in the area (most likely for financial reasons than climatic ones, though).
  2. Transcanal cruises: Cruise lines often advertise Panama Canal cruises of around 10 days leaving and coming back to Florida. In reality, these sailings enter the canal, reach Gatun Lake, turn around, and come back to Florida. However, as the Alaska sailing season begins in May, and again when it ends in September and October, ships make a full transit of the canal as they move from one coast to the other.

Other repositioning cruises are made when ships come back from South America to the Caribbean, from Alaska or the West Coast to Asia or Australia, etc.

So, how good are the deals for these cruises? Sometimes they’re really good. Back in April, I have clients who traveled on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale to the UK, and paid $700 per person for a 13-day cruise, and sailed on Balcony cabins! Granted, this was an extremely good deal, but not really unheard of. This one for Celebrity Century’s trip back in November comes close.

The main drawback of repositioning cruises is usually the airfare. By definition, you need to purchase one-way tickets, which especially for international flights, tend to be expensive. However, I just came across one offer from Royal Caribbean that solves this problem. They are moving the Enchantment of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale and Colon, Panama. They have also chartered flights to return passengers back to Miami. This allows them to offer much better prices and lock the air fares as well:

RCCL Enchantment Repositioning

As you can see in the flier above, prices for this 8 day sailing start at $749 per person, including the flight back! This is less than $100 per person per night, for a cruise that goes all the way South to Cartagena, and includes the flight back to Miami. It’s really pricing that you don’t see very often. Of course, the also offer cruise only pricing for those who want to stay in Panama longer, or who want to fly back directly.

If you would like to know more about repositioning cruises, or want to look into booking this sailing of the Enchantment, please let me know.
Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Time to Go Back to Mexico?

It seems that the swine flu scare is subsuding, just a few weeks after it made the front pages.  On May 15th, the CDC removed its recommendation to avoid traveling to Mexico.

On the cruise front, Royal Caribbean is resuming visits to Mexican ports of call on sailings starting on May 24th. Carnival has also announced that it will resume its stops in Mexico once their already modified itineraries run their course. In fact, I’ve already started to receive requests for short cruises to the Western Caribbean, which stop in Cozumel, such as this one. Mexican Riviera sailings will also be restored.

Even if cruise lines were affected economically by the epidemic, they were still able to operate and most guests elected to sail the modified itinerary. Hotels and resorts didn’t fare as well. Some chains, like Iberostar and Occidental, were forced to close some of their hotels, with the effect that has on the company and its employees.  Guests in the affected hotels were upgraded to the more upscale resorts that remained open.

Guests may not return as quickly as people would hope, so companies are enticing tourists to come back with discount and even assurances. Occidental Resorts is offering free nights, starting with every second night free at the Occidental Grand Xcaret and  the Grand Cozumel, all the way to every 4th night free at the luxurious Royal Hideaway.

Free Nights from Occidental Resorts

Free Nights from Occidental Resorts

AMResorts' Flu Free Vacations

AMResorts, owner of the Dreams, Secrets, and Zoetry brands, announced a Flu Free Guarantee. If a guest contracts Influenza A – H1N1 while staying at one of their resorts, their next three vacations will be free of charge. In order to qualify, the guest must have reserved their stay between May 8, 2009 and June 30, 2009 for travel taking place between May 8, 2009 and December 20, 2009 (see the website for more details).
More offers are available from other companies, so if you want to hear about them and plan your next trip, let us know.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Deployment News

This past couple of weeks, there have been several newsworthy press releases from several cruise lines, announcing very interesting developments on their 2010-1011 ship deployments:

  • Royal Caribbean will base it’s Freedom Class Independence of the Seas year-round in the U.K. in 2010. Cruise lines have typically limited their European season to the months between April and November. Independence joins Brilliance of the Seas as the only Royal Caribbean ships based in Europe all year. Independence’s Winter season will visit the Italian Rivera, the Sorrento and Naples areas,  and the Balearic islands. Sailings for the 2010 Winter season go on sale this June.
  • Also from Royal Caribbean, year-round Caribbean sailings on 5 ships from 4 ports. Serenade of the Seas expands season sailings from San Juan to the whole year. Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, Independence’s older sisters, will continue to alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Port Canaveral (close to Orlando) and Miami respectively. Finally, the new Oasis of the Seas, and its sister, Allure of the Seas, will sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. These two will be the biggest cruise lines in the world and will offer an incredible host of amenities.
  • Princess Cruises has revamped and simplified its Alaska itineraries. Princess is recognized as one of the best cruise lines for Alaska. They will now offer 4 different itineraries aboard 7 ships. They will include more sailings through Glacier Bay National Park, and will include sailings on the smaller Royal Princess, whose size allows to visit some smaller ports.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines is basing it’s newly refurnished Carnival Fantasy in Mobile for 7 night Western Caribbean sailings. The new cruises visit Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The seven-day voyages complement the line’s four- and five-day schedule from Mobile on the Holiday. Carnival Fantasy underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation last year that included the addition of the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, new Serenity adults-only retreat and redesigned tropical-themed main pool area.
  • Celebrity Cruises is basing its newly refurbished Century, one of their most popular ships, in the Caribbean year-round. Century will alternate 5 and 4 day sailings, which give new cruises an ideal way to experience what cruising, and especially Celebrity cruising, is all about.
  • Azamara Cruises is deploying the Azamara Journey next Winter season with cruises from Miami and San Diego, as well as 2 full Panama Canal transits between these 2 ports. From Miami, Journey will visit ports such as St. John, St. Croix, Saint Martin, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Barts, Virgin Gorda, St. Lucia andDominica. The San Diego cruises will focus on ports in the Sea of Cortez, such as Mazatlán, Topolobampo, Loreto, Guaymas and La Paz. Panama Canal sailings will add Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; and Huatulco, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to the itinerary

These new offerings give options to every type of traveler, from the relax of a Caribbean cruise to the exploring opportunities on a European voyage. And this year, prices can’t be better. If you’d like to explore the opportunities available, please contact me and we’ll work together on planning the perfect cruise.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

The Value of Using a Travel Agent

I often hear arguments for and against using a true professional travel agent, as opposed to relying on the Internet or booking directly with a cruise line, hotel, or tour operator. Last week I had an experience that underscored the importance a travel agent can have. It was such a textbook example, that John Frenaye, a noted columnist who is also a travel agent, wrote a column about the ordeal. You can read the complete column at TRO.

For those who want the (slightly) abridged version, here it goes:

Book your travel online! The Internet will put the travel agents out of business. I’m in a MLM, so just go to my website and book your travel. How many times have you heard these, or similar, phrases over the past decade?  Well, travel agents are still around, and believe it or not they are still kicking. People often will question what a travel agent can do for a consumer when the Internet claims to solve every travel woe. Well, one thing the Internet will never have is the personal connection to the client; and more importantly for the client—a personal connection with other agents and suppliers.

… the point of this column is to demonstrate how a good relationship between client, agent and vendor should work. And we offer a huge pat on the back to Royal Caribbean for allowing this particular voyage to stay afloat.

Last week, Enrique Brener of KC Travel in North Miami Beach, FL ran into a problem that would make anyone’s head spin.  Enrique had a client on the April 12, 2009 trans Atlantic crossing of the Independence of the Seas. His client had two Passports and had pre-registered for the cruise using a Polish Passport (since no Visa would be required to enter Europe), yet was traveling on a Peruvian Passport (used to enter the United States). Once at sea, the passenger was told he was in violation of immigration laws and would be disembarked in Ponta Delgada (first port of call) and potentially fined $10,000.  The ship confiscated his Passports. On April 13th, the passenger emailed Enrique from the ship with his urgent SOS.

At 8:48 am Enrique posted his dilemma and by 8:55 am he had the contact information he needed to get the ball rolling at Royal Caribbean, US Immigrations, and UK Immigrations.

At 9:20 am, he contacted Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales and left a voice mail followed by an email message. At 9:40 am, Vicki was in touch asking what she could do to help. She advised she was not the right person, but was going to make sure to bring it to the person who could resolve it.

At 10:00 am, she sent another message to Enrique that Sebastian Drakolovich, Director of Guest Services had been in touch with the ship and was working on it. Shortly after 10:00 am, Sebastian emailed and advised that the passenger would not be disembarked or fined; however, they would not be allowed to disembark in the UK for lack of the proper Visas on the Peruvian Passport. Enrique pressed the issue that the passenger also held a Polish Passport and should be allowed to disembark. Sebastian advised he would research further and get back in touch.

At 12:35 pm, Enrique received the following email from Sebastian:

Since our last e-mail, the ship has been working with the UK immigration teams and has come up with the following solution. “The issues with the dual citizenship guest onboard ID has been working out with UK immigration.  The ship will take him into the UK without penalty and without Independence having to change his nationality during the voyage. The guest will have no issues at this time.

…To put this in perspective, a professional agent, was able to utilize his network and expertise to resolve this issue in 3 hours and 40 minutes! In 3 hours and 40 minutes, the client went from being thrown off a ship mid-voyage and facing an exorbitant fine to relaxing on his balcony without a care in the world because of the professionalism of his agent and the relationship the agent had with a supplier.

The end result, the passenger had a few tense hours for sure, but is now enjoying his cruise on the Independence of the Seas.

So, what is the takeaway for the consumer? For all but the simplest transactions, utilizing a trained, professional travel agent is your best bet. Even if there is a small service fee or retainer involved. This particular passenger sees it as a $10,000 savings! And remember, although your travel professional may not have personally visited a specific destination or sailed on a particular itinerary, paying a small fee for his knowledge and more importantly his network can indeed be priceless. The Internet will not provide this capability, nor will any of the Card Mill or MLM agencies — you can bet on that!

From TRO, we offer huge kudos to Royal Caribbean, Vicki Freed, Sebastian Drakolovich, and the many other unnamed people that were involved. Don’t worry about the Hokey Pokey—THIS is what it is all about!

Credit goes to John for his help and for writing the column. There’s not much more I can add to that. If you’d like me to help you plan and set up your next trip, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Royal Caribbean Improves Family and Youth Programs

Royal Caribbean is widely regarded as a family-oriented cruise line. It’s advertising strategies, both the recent Get Out There, and the current Nation of Why Not, place a strong emphasis on the active lifestyle that drives teens and young families to their ships.

Now the cruise has set itself to improve on their programs for families and young passengers. One of the few turn offs or challenges for parents who take young children on a cruise is to get them to sit through a lengthy dinner. Until now, the options have been to try to have children behave through a meal that lasts longer than an hour, or resign oneself to eat at the buffet every night. My Family Time Dining changes hat by aiming to help kids complete dinner within 45 minutes, freeing parents to enjoy coffee and desert at their leisure. Once seated, kids will get expedited service and will be immediately served. My Family Time Dining will only be available during the first seating in the main dining room, for kids registered in the complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program. After dinner, children will be met by Adventure Ocean counselors and escorted back to the Adventure Ocean spaces for ongoing evening activities. In addition, Royal Caribbean has a new children’s menu with healthier options that will be presented on brain-teasing placemats designed by Fisher-Price for kids up to age 7 and a more mature interactive menu for kids age 8 to 13. My Family Time Dining and children’s menu options will be available fleetwide in July.

H2O Zone Children's Pool on Freedom of the Seas

H2O Zone Children's Pool on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean is also offering new programs for babies 6 to 18 months old, and 18 to 36 months, with more activities and services. They will also allow parents to pre-order organic baby food, diapers, creams,. etc. through their website for delivery to their stateroom.

For active families, Royal Caribbean is dedicating its jogging tracks to parents with strollers (in the mornings). For more artsy children, there will be 45-minute sessions at Adventure Ocean oriented towards creating works of art using Crayola products. Another option for young children is the Adventure Family Library section within the onboard library. The section offers classic and popular family titles in a variety of languages, based on the ship’s itinerary, and a comfortable reading area for kids. In the evenings, Royal Bedtime Stories invites the family for a bedtime story and lullabies. Children are encouraged to dress in their pajamas and enjoy a cookie or two with milk, while an Adventure Ocean counselor reads a storybook.

The line also is extending hours in the Adventure Ocean and teen-only spaces. Scheduled programming will now run everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. (extended from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) .

You will be able to enjoy these activities on any of Royal Caribbean’s ships. However, the most populars for families remain the Freedom class (Freedom, Liberty, and Independence of the Seas) and the new and even larger Oasis of the Seas.

If you would like to explore what Royal Caribbean can offer you and your family, please contact us.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Royal Caribbean Profits Down 98%

Royal Caribbean reported this week that 4th quarter earnings were down 98% compared to the previous year.  It’s not a surprise that earnings would be lower. With the economy as it is, many companies are seeing sales go down. People have declared that 2009 will be the Year of the Deal, where travel is concerned. Cruise cabins, just as hotel rooms and airline seats, are time sensitive products. Once the ship has sailed, well, the ship has sailed. Conventional wisdom is that some revenue is better than none, and so prices go down to at least put some people in those rooms and cabins.

In the case of cruises, sailing full is even more relevant because cruise passengers add to the line’s income by spending money onboard.  In fact, USA Today states that Royal Caribbean gets 25% of their revenue from on board spending. All the more reason to discount the price of the cabin to get people to spend on board!

Royal Caribbean has acknowledged the need to lower prices, as have most other cruise lines. However, CEO Richard Fain has said that he’d rather have empty cabins and not sacrifice prices to levels that would be artificially low. Through the last couple of years, Royal Caribbean has been able to keep prices up compared to competing lines like Carnival and Princess, mainly because of the high demand the Freedom class ships get.  Even so, I have clients sailing on the new Independence of the Seas in April for less than $700 per person, for 13 days, including all taxes (and there are even lower prices available!).

In addition, Royal Caribbean is offering reduced deposits until February 28th. Celebrity Cruises, also owned by Royal Caribbean, has a similar promotion, but they are offering up to $300 on-board credit with many sailings as well.  You can read my review of their newest ship, Solstice, and see the details below and contact us for more information or to book your cruise:

Amazing Ships, Amazing Perks

Feel free to contact us for details on these promotions, or to plan your next vacation.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171