Ala Carte Charges on NCL.

This week I observed a good deal of buzz in the blog and online venues about Norwegian Cruise Line adding ala carte pricing to several speciality dining options on their ships.  This on top of surcharges in the traditional main dining room for premium items and late night room service.  The collective reaction has been to bemoan the perceived death of traditional cruising and the rise of nickel and diming passengers.  However I think on balance the reaction is greatly overstated.

NCL made a name for itself over a decade ago, when the line was struggling to find an identity for itself amidst fierce competition from Royal Caribbean and the Carnival brands.  Still owned by an asian cruise company that had failed miserably to manage NCL well, in 2000 “Freestyle Cruising” was introduced.  A bold marketing move, it featured giving passengers the ability to book their meal times and locations in various shipboard restaurants.  Naturally, the cruising establishment bemoaned the death of traditional main dining room meals-which did not and has yet to happen.  This came a couple of years following Royal Caribbean introducing the first premium dining options aboard the Voyager Class of ships-which also were lamented as some harbinger of doom for main dining.

Read more: Ala Carte Charges on NCL.

Cunard Joins Lines Adding Longer Port Visits

Carnival already has announced intentions to offer longer cruises with longer port stays on its flagship brand.  News comes now that the “Queen” of cruise lines Cunard will mirror this with their trio of ships.  Cunard’s fleet tends to travel far further afield than it’s sister lines however and that only adds more appeal to itineraries that span the globe.  Passengers will enjoy sunsets over citiscapes in the likes of Venice, Quebec, Monte Carlo, and Boston.  Some ports will feature overnight stays others will at a minimum allow passengers to dine in-port before 9 p.m. departures.  The limited run of cruises begins in May, 2016 and concludes in December.

Getting Hitched Freestyle: Norwegian Cruise Line to offer legal weddings at sea. (NCL)

One of the draws to cruise travel is the romance of being in love and at sea.  An almost cliché image is that of a ships captain performing a wedding for passengers.  However with few exceptions, captains have been prohibited from doing so.  The reasons range from simply keeping the busy ship masters from being bogged down by passenger requests to the basic legality of doing so.  Most lines offer the ability to get married onboard a cruise ship before it departs, but these tend to require the bride, groom and guests to rush aboard and finish within an hour or two. 

Enter Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) who will offer legal weddings at sea, performed by the ships captain beginning in the fall of 2015.  For an added price which includes the services of a wedding planner and cake among other ceremonial trappings, couples can be wed.  The line is also offering ceremonies before the cruise beginning and at select ports of call.  One can also enjoy a strictly symbolic ceremony which has no legal standing.  The marriage licenses for weddings at sea will be from the Bahamas and are recognized as legal in the United States. 

Tobago News

The 65,000 person island of Tobago, half of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, sent a delegation to Washington D.C. this spring to seeking information as they begin work toward a dedicated cruise facility.  Tobago is located deep in the southern Caribbean and is actually outside of the traditional hurricane belt.  Far smaller than Trinidad, Tobago looks to tap into the cruise trade more deeply but faces constraints due to aging and limited facilities. 

The 1.2 million combined residents enjoy one of the most modern nations in the Caribbean.  Independent since 1962 when the British ceded control to their acquisition from the Spanish in 1802, Trinidad and Tobago are stunning islands whose wealth is often surprising to visitors.  Beyond tourism the islands are profiting greatly from oil and agricultural exports such as sugar.  The republic residents rate as the third wealthiest individually behind the U.S. and Canada with a GDP over $21,000 per capita. 

Carnival News

The Germans and Italians will be whipping up far more than kraut and pasta as Carnival’s nine ship order starts into motion at the Meyer Werft and Fincantieri yards.  The lot of ships, including a rare, little detailed new design for Carnival are due to start coming online between 2019 and 2022.  The new tonnage will replace at least seven older ships leaving service during the next three years.  The newer ships will be larger than those they likely replace, leading to higher efficiency in operating costs and will likewise boast the latest features not possible on their predecessors.  The dip in overall capacity should also aid in stiffening prices in the traditional Caribbean market while the new ships will command a higher per diem when they come online.  What comes of the retire cruise ships is unknown.  While it is likely some will find service in other lines the age and size of the most likely candidates would suggest the scrap yard for at least a few. 

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