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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Royal Caribbean Orders 3rd Oasis Class Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced today that it has executed a contract with STX France to construct a third Oasis-class vessel for delivery in mid-2016. In addition is an option for a second ship with a potential delivery in mid-2018. This order is consistent with the plan announced by the company in October to build a sister-ship to the very successful Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

“The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas have fundamentally transformed the cruise experience for our guests,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“These ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results. We are thrilled to be adding a sister to this extraordinary class of vessels at a compelling price. Being back building in France just adds to the pleasure.”

“STX France is proud to partner with Royal Caribbean again and continue our decades-long relationship by building the third Oasis-class ship,” said Laurent Castaing, chief executive officer of STX France. “Royal Caribbean has always been an important part of our shipyard’s success, and we are delighted to add this highly innovative and spectacular ship to the list of vessels we have built together.”

The newbuild contract includes the transfer of Pullmantur’s Atlantic Star as part of the consideration. Additionally, the contract is subject to satisfaction of financing and other conditions. STX France has also provided the company with a one-year option for the mid-year 2018 delivery of a fourth Oasis-class vessel at similar pricing. 

Including today’s contract and existing ship orders, projected capital expenditures for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are $1.3 billion, $700 million, $1.2 billion, $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively. The company’s annualized capacity growth rate from 2012 to 2016 remains at a historically low rate of 3.5%.

Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the largest and most revolutionary cruise ships in the world. Architectural marvels at sea, they span 16 decks, encompass 225,282 gross registered tons, carrying 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. The ships sail weekly from their home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas debuted in November 2009 and November 2010 respectively, introducing a range of unique industry “firsts” and engineering marvels including a neighborhood concept – seven themed areas providing guests with the opportunity to seek out relevant experiences based on their personal style, preference or mood.

Within these seven neighborhoods – Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone – are extraordinary elements such as the first park at sea, a thrilling zip line that races diagonally nine-decks above an open-air atrium, an original handcrafted carousel, 28 multilevel urban-style loft suites boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, an aquatic amphitheater – called the AquaTheater that serves as a pool by day and a dazzling ocean front theater by night; and an array of epicurean innovations that allow for new culinary experiences each day of a guest’s cruise vacation.

“As the cruise line that revolutionized the industry with the FlowRider surf simulator, ice-skating rinks, cantilevered whirlpools and rock climbing walls, we are eager to add this third award winning Oasis-class ship to our brand portfolio. This addition will allow us to showcase our legacy of innovation and imagination to even more guests around the world,” said Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International.

With the success of the Oasis-class ships, Royal Caribbean International is currently undergoing a fleetwide revitalization program to bring the latest innovations and the highest guest-rated programs from Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas to the cruise line’s ships across the fleet.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Top 10 Reasons Smart People Buy Travel Insurance

Top 10 Reasons Smart People Buy Travel Insurance

Allianz GlobalAssistance, a world leader in travel insurance and assistance services, can offer many reasons why smart people protect themselves and their families with travel insurance. They're the travelers we help every year through unanticipated travel delays, bad weather, lost luggage and medical emergencies in foreign countries.

In addition to the ringing endorsements of our valued customers, here are 10 reasons why smart travelers choose Allianz Travel Insurance for what's ahead. 

  1. Life is unpredictable. Some trips need to be cancelled.With travel insurance, travelers don't have to pay for a trip they are unable to take. 
  2. Most lost luggage takes five days to return to its owner.Allianz Global Assistance provides coverage to replace needed items right away.  
  3. Lost or forgotten medication? Travel insurance will assist you in locating a pharmacy to purchase a new prescription.  
  4. 30%-50% of travelers stateside and abroad will become ill or injuredduring their trip. That's almost one out of every two travelers. Travel insurance can provide peace of mind - especially for travel outside the United States, where many hospitals request cash payments in the thousands before treatment can even begin.  
  5. Health insurance may not go the distance. The majority of health insurance (including Medicare), worker's compensation insurance, third-party and personal liability policies don't cover international travel. In fact, a closer look at the inside of your passport will reveal that the government recommends travel insurance when traveling outside the United States.  
  6. In the event of a natural disaster, airline strike or act of terrorism, airlines will not refund the cost of your ticket. Allianz Travel Insurance products can cover the cost and help travelers get home quickly and safely. 
  7. Credit card coverage, homeowners and auto insurance - none of these provide sufficient coverage for travel. Even combined, they may not offset the cost of a medical emergency overseas.  
  8. Excursion tour operators often require that you purchase travel insurance. Purchasing through Allianz Global Assistance in advance helps travelers get the best coverage at the best cost. 
  9. Even the most stable of travel suppliers can default quickly. If a cruise line, airline or tour operator ceases operations due to financial hardship or bankruptcy, travel insurance saves travelers from paying for a trip they'll really never get to take.
  10.  We all experience tough economic times. The loss of a job or other income might mean a trip planned in advance may have to wait. Travel insurance puts cash back into the hands of travelers when they need it most. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Travel Money SMARTS


Bring a cushion of cash in small denominations, especially one dollar bills for tipping and incidentals. About $200 to $300 in cash is a good rule of thumb. Divide cash with a travel companion rather than stashing all cash in one place.

Take two different major credit cards in the event one is lost or the magnetic strip is damaged. Keep them in separate locations. Check available credit and expiration dates. Some credit card companies block account access if charges suddenly pop up outside the usual credit profile. Notify the credit card company when and where you are traveling to avoid problems.

ATM debit cards are a convenient and accessible way to obtain cash at home and abroad and offer the best international exchange rate.
Research networks that accept your ATM card. Common worldwide networks include: Cirrus®, Honor®, Alert® and Pulse®. Activate and test new ATM cards before leaving home. Memorize your pin number. Don't write it on the card or a piece of paper in your wallet. Most cards have a daily cash limit that can only be increased in writing. If you get carried away shopping you can't call for an instant increase.

Claim your refundable sales tax when traveling out of country. Many countries offer tax refunds to tourists, though policies can widely vary. For instance, in Europe, visitors can get a VAT (value-added tax) refund if the total purchase is above a certain amount. To receive a refund, research the paperwork you'll need to complete and present to customs officials before leaving the country you are visiting. If you're lucky, some stores can assist you with this and reimburse your credit card immediately.

Forget the fanny pack. It screams "I am a Tourist. Here's my money." A neck pouch worn underneath clothing is the best way to protect cash and credit cards from pickpockets.
Always pay for travel and major purchases with credit cards. Most major credit cards offer buyer protection if purchases or services are never received or merchandise arrives damaged. Check with credit card providers for details on benefits.

Make photocopies of the front and back of credit cards and your driver's license, as well as the photo page of your passport. Leave one copy at home with family or a friend. Give one to a travel companion for safekeeping. If your wallet or passport is lost or stolen, you are prepared to quickly cancel credit cards and expedite passport replacement.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Enrichment Sets Sail


ONBOARD ENRICHMENT programs can impact your overall level of cruise satisfaction and your decision when considering a cruise vacation. And that's particularly the case if you are planning to cruise on a premium, upmarket or luxury line with an itinerary that includes a good number of days at sea.

Do enrichment programs appeal to first-time cruisers? You bet they do, particularly to the intellectually minded traveler who might be considering a topically intense cruise where they can stroll through ancient ruins, unique cultures or hear expert commentary from historians. Enrichment can help first-time cruisers feel more comfortable with a decision to cruise.

Here's a sampling of some oceangoing enrichment experiences for 2012.

When Enrichment Turns Up the Heat:
The hottest trend that we are seeing right now are cooking enrichment programs.  This trend really got rolling with the Culinary Arts Center program offered by Holland America Line, and onboard Oceania Cruises two new ships, Marina and Riviera, taking it to another level with their hands-on cooking stations.

New for 2012, Oceania will organize 10 "Signature Sailings" focused on culinary, wine, music, and health and wellness themes. Depending on the voyage, Chef Jacques Pepin, up-and-coming jazz musicians, and noted editors will be special guests. For example, Pepin will sail on Marina's May 12 "Tuscan Artistry" cruise from Barcelona to Rome.

Guests sailing October 7 on Regent Seven Seas Cruises 10-night Monte Carlo-to-Venice Seven Seas Voyager cruise will enjoy "Spotlight on Italian Cooking" with Tommaso Barletta, executive chef and owner of several renowned Italian restaurants.

Silversea Cruises plans 20 "Relais & Chateaux L'Ecole des Chefs" interactive cooking school voyages on its luxury ships this year.

Celebrity Cruises "Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises" recently kicked off on March 24 on Celebrity Eclipse. The first of eight food-and-wine-themed cruises is a seven-night sailing hosted by Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity's master chef and vice president of culinary operations. Expect cooking classes in the galley, demonstrations and dinners.

When Enrichment is the Ship Itself:
During "The Ultimate Ship Tour" Princess Cruises will take guests where few cruisers have gone before. They can explore beyond the ship's public areas with guided visits to the ship's engine control room, medical center, incinerator room, print shop, laundry, photo lab, navigational bridge and other behind-the-scenes spaces. Cost is $150 per person.

When Enrichment Shows Guests How to Dance:
Royal Caribbean International allows guests to whirl, dip and glide across the dance floor during ballroom dance classes on, Jewel of the Seas from May 3 through August 31, and Independence of the Seas through November 11.

When Enrichment Tackles High-tech:
Crystal Cruises Computer University@Sea holds up to a dozen classes on average per sailing. Guests may take classes ranging from Photoshop picture retouching to Facebook tips, with both basic and advanced level courses. Full world cruisers can even earn college credit via Del Mar College (fees apply) for their computer coursework. Shipboard classrooms each have two dozen computer workstations. Computer skills and photography are perennial favorites, and the several cruise lines are keeping up with the current technology trends in their offerings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do You Remember When - Celebrity Spotlight Gavin McLeod



 When I was just a little girl, I instantly fell in love with “The Love Boat” and its many characters, especially, the always smiling Captain Merrill Stubing, whom on every voyage assured you of a safe but interesting vacation out on the open seas sailing to famous ports of calls. I remember the many episodes of the good ole days of “The Love Boat” and my first love for cruising.  Back then, I did not know that “The Love Boat” had its first love, and that would be Princess Cruise Lines.  “The Love Boat” named for the show was also known as the Pacific Princess.  The new Pacific Princess takes over the name of the famed “Love Boat” today.

When Kerry and I were attending the Winter Cruise-A-Thon Conference, I took a quick glimpse and discovered a familiar face that I couldn’t quite put a finger on, but yes, a famous Celebrity!  It did not take long before both Kerry and I realized just who this famous face was – his bright smile gave it away!  It was Gavin MacLeod, “Captain Stubing” of “The Love Boat”!

You may also remember Gavin MacLeod by his many other appearances in TV sitcoms such as McHales Navy, The Andy Griffith Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show – just to name a few of my favorites.

Kerry and I joined the many other fans waiting anxiously in line to catch a moment with the famous “Captain Merrill Stubing”.  Now for the first time face to face with Gavin MacLeod with his famous bright smile; he graciously signed and autographed a picture of himself and “The Love Boat” - I was so excited!  Then he stood up to take a picture with Kerry and me. I did not know what to do with myself, I was so nervous.  With his gentle and calm voice he assured us both that everything was just fine.

We later had an opportunity to visit with Gavin at a Princess Cruises Commodores Party honoring their Travel Agent graduates that evening – Congratulations Kerry!  Gavin did not take long before he was over greeting us and giving us a great big hug as if he had known us for years.

For every cruise ship that I embark upon, it will always be Captain Stubing’s great big smile that I remember.

Happy memories Captain Merrill Stubing and we look forward to seeing you again on the open seas Commodore Gavin MacLeod.

By Nancylee Stange, Xpertise Cruise Travel


MIAMI РMarch 13, 2012 РWhen considering a vacation, the first question typically is, "Where do you want to go?" In the summer of 2013, Celebrity Cruises Рnamed "Best Large-Ship Line" in the elite Cond̩ Nast Traveler's Annual Readers' Choice Awards Рwill present more answers to that question than ever before, offering its broadest lineup of modern luxury vacation options in Europe, and bringing Solstice Class style to Alaska for the first time.

Celebrity Solstice to bring Solstice Class 'sizzle' to Alaska, Canada and California in 2013
The sleek, 2,850-guest flagship of the Solstice Class fleet, Celebrity Solstice - named "Best Premium Ship" in Travel Weekly's annual Readers' Choice Awards (US) - will become the first of its class to offer vacations in Alaska in the summer of 2013, joining Celebrity Century and Celebrity Millennium in pairing Celebrity's chic style and design, signature cuisine, exciting activities and extraordinary service with the region's breathtaking, inspiring scenery.

Celebrity Solstice - will present 7-night Tracy Arm Fjord sailings roundtrip from Seattle, with visits to the charming Alaskan towns of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as Victoria, British Columbia, and transiting the scenic Inside Passage. Preceding the Alaska season will be a 9-night "West Coast Wine Cruise" from Ensenada, Mexico, to Seattle in May, and rounding out the season will be a 10-night "America's Cup Wine Cruise" in September, when guests on Celebrity Solstice will have a commanding view of the boats participating in the finals of the world-famous sailing race in San Francisco Bay, complete with an overnight stay.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Simple Tips for Cruise Safety

“YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY WHILE TRAVELING IS — AND ALWAYS WILL BE — YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.” But just what steps should you take to keep safe on a cruise ship? Follow these common sense tips and you will be on your way.

Keep Your Guard Up: It is natural to let your guard down on vacation, especially on a cruise ship. Life is good, the water is warm, the booze is flowing, the food is scrumptious — the ship seems like Paradise Island. You are living large, and that’s precisely when you’re most apt to get into trouble.

You need to be aware of your surroundings on a ship just as you would in a big city. Don’t walk down darkened hallways; keep your distance when tempers flare; don’t accept drinks from strangers. If your gut tells you something is wrong, it probably is. And don’t keep it a secret, either; notify the Purser’s Office the minute you suspect trouble.

Use the Ship’s Safe: Leave the Rolex watch and the Gucci handbag at home — you’re on vacation, so you don’t need to worry about the time. Keep most of your cash and valuables (especially your jewelry, return tickets and passports) in the ship’s safe.

Watch What You Eat: If you are lactose intolerant, you will be lactose intolerant on a ship. If stateside seafood makes you puff up and itch, so will the onboard seafood. With the myriad options for dining on a cruise ship, you can certainly be adventurous. Just don’t be reckless.

Shipboard water is usually pretty good, but you should always insist on bottled water on shore. And make sure it is a sealed bottle (yes, “bottled” water can be refilled from the local tap especially by those trying to make a quick buck on shore).

Know how your food is prepared, too. Is it heavy on the mayo in the hot Caribbean sun? Is the steak served tartar? And if you are served something you don’t like, for heaven’s sake, send it back. So be aware, and don’t be afraid to ask that your food be prepared the way you like it.

Watch the Booze: Booze will always compromise your judgment, perception, and behavior. While everyone likes to have a few umbrella drinks aboard ship, don’t let them get out of hand. Why not? Because booze on a boat is the same as booze on land — only you are moving forward at 20 knots on a luxurious ship at sea.

Watch the Gambling: Crooks cruise too, so cash-in your winnings periodically and take them to the ship’s safe; if you win big, ask for an escort. Don’t ever make a scene; it will only draw attention to you and make you a target for crime. For the same reason, be careful about flashing your money outside the casino, too. If you win, congratulations! Just keep the celebration low-key.

Watch Out For the Crew: No, they are not out to get you, but you need to understand that these are folks whose standard of living is most likely lower than yours by a considerable margin. You will likely be perceived as the wealthiest of the wealthy. Most crewmembers are honest and hard working, but don’t give them any opportunity to take advantage of you. Jewelry on the night table — even your loose change or iPod — is but a quick grab for a cabin steward, a maintenance worker, or the kitchen worker who refreshes your fruit plate.

Land Ho! Be careful on your shore excursions. The cruise lines organize the shore trips because they are moneymakers for them; in return, you get some assurance of quality and security. You can save a buck (or many) by going it alone, of course, but beware. Make sure you negotiate any fares and fees upfront. Most cabbies are honest when the cards are on the table, but if you do not agree in advance, the sky will be the limit and you may find yourself in a police station for failure to pay the fare.

Report Anything Suspicious: Keep your eyes and ears open. If something looks odd to you, it probably is. Is there a creepy guy hanging outside the teen club? A man who is asking dozens of single ladies to dance? A couple that is fighting in public left and right? Take a walk to the Purser’s Office and let the staff know. They will appreciate it, and you might just head off tomorrow’s top story.

Now that you are rethinking that cruise you just booked, sit back and take a deep breath. This information should not be a cruise vacation-breaker. It’s just common-sense advice taken from Main Street and put on the Lido Deck. In fact, cruising is a fabulous experience, and it’s probably a lot safer than crossing your own street.

Just think safe, and it will be smooth sailing all the way.