Cruise lines often use the Cruise Shipping Miami conference as a place to reveal details of new ships, and this year is no exception.
Tuesday, Princess Cruises held a press conference to highlight new features of its Royal Princess, which debuts in Europe this June. Its signature feature — a "seawalk'' extending 28 feet beyond the hull — has been driving chatter for the past year. The latest revelations are details designed to keep the conversation going. About half require a separate fee. Among the offerings:
° New (and complimentary) on-demand programming in stateroom TVs, including movies and television series.
° A tea tower and tea sommelier who will help passengers create their own blend to take home.
° Mobile QR-code tour of the ship's $2 million collection of art
° Outdoor art installation by the marine artist, Wyland
° Whiskey flights offered at the signature Wheelhouse Bar
° Onboard intranet
° $3,000 spa package for four including all-day massages in a private cabana
° Largest outdoor movie screen (this one is 30 percent bigger than those elsewhere)
° A daily menu of 8 flavors of hand-made gelato
° Four different "dancing fountain'' shows
Windstar execs also talked about new itineraries for the three ships it has purchased from Seabourn that join the fleet over the next two years. Expect sailings in Latin America, the British Isles, the Far East and a circumnavigation of Sicily. Tahiti sailings start in spring of 2014.
The cruise industry addressed safety issues head-on at its annual industry conference, giving the first question of the annual CEO panel to Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill, who described an in-depth review by Carnival and outside experts to determine how the company and other cruise lines can prevent future incidents. Still, the industry response to the recent Carnival Triumph breakdown and other ship failures at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference were carefully scripted, and specifics about both the cause and future changes were limited.
Cahill stressed the rareness of such incidents and the fact that no one was hurt. But Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein, who also appeared on the panel, said that in the future all lines will likely pay attention not only to strict safety but also to passenger comfort when an incident does occur. Goldstein also addressed a commonly expressed concern that the industry is poorly regularly. Not so, he said. Regardless of where a ship is, it is under the regulation of various agencies at all times.
South Florida is always a hot spot for cruising, but for a single week each March Miami truly becomes the center of the cruise universe. That's because every cruise executive, vendor and journalist is scurrying from conference room to exhibition hall for the industry's annual Cruise Shipping Miami confab. Though it's an industry-only event, cruise fans watch for conference reports to find out about the latest details on new ships, ports and trends.
This is the 29th year of the conference, and organizers say they're expecting "a significant'' increase -- up 8 percent in attendees over its usual crowd of 11,000. The increase, they say, is because cruising increasingly is going global. (The Miami Herald's Hannah Sampson has more details on the industry's global push.)
Monday is always the slow day; the confab kicks into high gear with Tuesday's State of the Industry address featuring the heads of many major lines. But even Monday, two trends were underscored, giving cruisers some idea of what they can look for in the future:
° Snappier port facilities. In June, Hong Kong will open its long-awaited new cruise terminal, designed by star architect Sir Norman Foster. In the next few years passengers will also find sleek new terminals in Busan, South Korea, due in late 2014; and in Dubai, due at the end of this year. China also has new terminals under construction.
° More international itineraries. Charles Robertson, CEO of luxury small-ship American Cruise Line, said his line expects to announce an international itinerary in the next few months, possibly in Latin America, the Caribbean or the British Isles. Its current six ships -- a seventh is coming this year -- win kudos for airy cabins, attentive service and atypical itineraries in the northeast, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi and the U.S. southeast. Its ships are built in the U.S. and run with all-American crew.
Other tidbits from Monday:
- Look for new itineraries along Chile's coast and north into Peru and Ecuador in the coming years, predicted Sebastian Montero, a Chilean port official.
- Despite recent saber-rattling by North Korea, Asian cruising will continue to grow, said Lim Ki-Tack of the Busan, Korea, Port Authority.
"Following two straight years of record revenues, it was the natural progression for company growth," Sven Lindblad, President and Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, said in a release.
Award-winning Lindblad is known for its small-ship expeditions run in partnership with The National Geographic Society. Orion's single ship, the 102-passenger Orion, will take on The National Geographic brand. Itinerary details haven't yet been released, but a Lindblad spokesperson said the Borneo and Kimberly sailings will continue into 2014.
Fans of Windstar Cruises will soon be able to expand their horizons in Asia, Europe, and Tahiti. Tuesday, the company announced it will buy three 200-passenger ships from the Yachts of Seabourn. The purchase doubles the number of Windstar ships and the number of berths, raising total capacity to six ships and about 1,200 berths, said Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz.
The first of the ships, Pride, will move to Windstar in spring of 2014; the Legend and Spirit, will join the fleet in spring 2015. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Xanterra, Windstar's parent company, bought the line in 2011 and has refurbished all three ships. The current ships all sport electronically raised sails. The Seabourn ships are traditional motor-driven yachts. But its the size and shipboard style—not the propulsion—that made the purchase attractive, according to Birkholz.
After a brief delay caused by a broken tow line, a trio of tugs is again hauling the disabled Carnival Triumph toward in Mobile, Alabama. It should arrive later this evening. Triumph departed Thursday with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was scheduled to return to port early Monday after a weekend stop in Cozumel, but fire broke out Sunday morning in the engine room. The cause of the blaze, which was put out by automatic systems, is still not known.
The ship lost propulsion and had to rely on emergency generator power, leaving passengers with a limited number of working bathrooms and no air conditioning. Guests have reported long lines for food and said they were forced to use bags as toilets.
Sailings aboard the ship have been cancelled through April 13, the cruise line said. Current passengers will receive a full refund, plus $500 and a discount on a future voyage.
For updates, see stories from The Miami Herald, where Travel + Leisure cruise editor Jane Wooldridge, the Miami Herald's Business editor, oversees cruise news coverage.
Jane Wooldridge is the cruise editor at Travel + Leisure.
Silversea's luxury expedition ship, Silver Explorer, was damaged by heavy weather during a recent Antarctic cruise, causing the ship to return early to port in Ushuaia, Argentina, and cancel its Jan. 21 sailing, the company said this week. No injuries were reported among the 133 passengers, according to Silversea; four of the 113 crew members were treated for onboard for injuries.
Which is the most over-the-top new cruise cabin? You be the judge.
Reflection Suite, Celebrity Reflection(left) Launch: October 2012 The Stats: Two bedrooms, two baths, 1,636 square feet (including veranda) Wow Moment: Rinsing off in the glass shower cantilevered over the ocean Geek Factor: Customizable mattress with a zero-gravity effect Details for the 1%: Two crystal chandeliers, a Wendell Castle coffee table, hot tub on the balcony Let the Butler... Transport your bags from ship to limo to hotel The Tab: From $11,999 per person, double, for seven nights.
Owner’s Suite, Oceania Riviera(right) Launch: May 2012 The Stats: One bedroom, two baths, 2,000 square feet (including veranda) Wow Moment: Basking in all that space—including his and hers walk-in closets Geek Factor: 3-D TV in the living room (glasses provided) Details for the 1%: Hasley cashmere-covered armchairs, a deep soaking tub, a baby grand piano Let the Butler... Bring up a tray of Manhattans and canapés at 2 a.m. The Tab: From $12,000 per person, double, for seven nights, including airfare.
A: While attending the University of Miami in 1973, I worked weekends on the pier at NCL. We delivered and picked up the ships’ mail, assisted guests going through customs, ran errands, and sold baggage insurance. I also worked part time in the mail room.
Channel your inner Rhett or Scarlett on Great American Steamboat Company’s newly refurbished American Queen. Life aboard is genteel, but don’t miss exploring the many charming towns along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Namely:
Red Wing, Minnesota: Known for the salt-glazed pottery made here since 1865, not to mention the Red Wing Shoe Museum(315 Main St.; 651/388-6233). Don’t miss the size-638 work boot.
Helena, Arkansas:Bubba’s Blues Corner(105 Cherry St.; 870/338-3501), near the Biscuit Row historic district, stocks hard-to-find vinyl.
Louisville, Kentucky: See works by such artists as Chuck Close and Ivan Navarro while sampling from a new library of more than 50 bourbons in the lobby of 21c Museum Hotel.