More glimpses of the future, from Cruise Shipping Miami:
° Scenic Cruises offers four new European river itineraries and new ship, The Jewel, with balconies that can be enclosed for weather protection. In April it will also launch the first new river cruising ship in Russia in memory from the company. The $10 million remake was set on an existing barge hull.
° The new Hong Kong cruise terminal designed by Sir Norman Foster and set on the site of the old Kai Tak airport features a public green space atop the terminal. The first ship berth becomes operational in June. When it's completed in about 15 months, it will be able to handle four megaliners at once.
° Along with the year-round ship it is taking to the Galapagos this year, Silversea is adding a Northwest Passage cruise aboard its existing expedition ship, Silver Explorer. Bookings are going fast, reported the line. Compagnie du Ponant, which is also launched a Northwest Passage cruise, said the sailing sold out in four days.
Following the Carnival Triumph disaster in which 4,000 passengers were powerless for days, Carnival Cruise lines announced it has engaged a panel of outside experts to conduct a full review of the Triumph and other ships fleetwide to identify redundancies that would prevent future incidents.
In an exclusive interview with the Miami Herald's Hannah Sampson, Carnival President Gerry Cahill said that the flexible piping that failed and caused the Triumph's disabling fire had been replaced five months before and was due to be checked on its regular schedule about 30 days after the incident. The average life of the part is 18 months, he said. Redundancies that should have kept the ship in working order were also disabled by the fire.
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Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
The Federal Aviation Authority approved yesterday Boeing’s plan to redesign the lithium-ion battery system aboard its troubled Dreamliner aircraft.
The announcement comes after a series of disturbing battery fires forced the FAA to ground the long-awaited new plane in January. Boeing has been under intense pressure to come up with a solution to the battery problem—preferably one that doesn’t scrap the entire lithium-ion system altogether. The proposed modifications involve better insulation for the batteries, along with changes that make them less prone to short circuiting. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said that the aircraft would still be subject to a series of tests to ensure the batteries work: “We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.”
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.
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"If the purpose is to increase security checkpoint flow, there are much more effective steps we can take together to streamline the security checkpoints with risk-based screening mechanisms," he wrote, according to a report from The Associated Press. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has already condemned the new regulations. Laura Glading, head of the union, was quoted as saying she was "a little puzzled" by the TSA's decision to allow the banned items. "Nobody knows what it takes to keep passengers safe better than we do."
Update, March 13: Representatives from American Airlines and its soon-to-be partner US Airways have also weighed in. Per Skift's Dennis Schaal, American Airlines wrote in a letter to the TSA, "The safety of our people and our customers is paramount..."