The past week in the cruise industry has been busy, so Cruise Hive is here to make sure don’t miss a thing. We’ve got cruise news updates on multiple new ships, including from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Virgin Voyages, along with a price hike from Norwegian.
Cruise News Update
It was another busy week of cruise news, but no fear as we have you covered. It was dominated by new cruise ship news with Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ship floating out onto the water at the shipyard for the first time, the world’s largest cruise ship celebrating its naming, Carnival’s third excel-class vessel being delayed, Virgin Voyages taking delivery of its third new ship, the naming ceremony for MSC’s new vessel and NCL hiking the price of gratuities.
Icon of the Seas Floats Out
Icon of the Seas has officially touched water for the first time, as the ship was floated out at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Turku, in southern Finland. This marks the completion of the ship’s exterior hull, and the vessel now moves to the next phase of construction.
To continue building the already highly anticipated vessel, the ship will be moved to the outfitting dock, where interior work will continue to bring the ship, with its eight distinctive neighborhoods, to life.
“The float out of a new ship is a defining moment, and in the case of Icon of the Seas, it marks the next step in the start of a new era of vacations,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “That is now a reality more than ever as Icon touches water for the first time.”
At 1,198 feet long and weighing in at approximately 250,800 gross tons, she will be the largest cruise ship ever built – but interest in her debut is also breaking records. When reservations for the ship opened in late October, the cruise line saw the highest single-day booking records ever in its 53-year history.
Icon of the Seas will set sail in January 2024, and is scheduled to be homeported from PortMiami.
Wonder of the Seas Naming Ceremony
Royal Caribbean International has finally named the line’s newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, in a “Caribbean Chic” ceremony at Port Canaveral, with cruise line executives, VIPs, and media in attendance for the momentous occasion that has officially christened the new ship.
Festivities onboard the vessel included previews of the new, high-energy, tech-infused production shows, spectacular high dives in the AquaTheater, aerialists, and live music for the assembled guests.
Traditional elements, meanwhile, included the bagpipe performance always seen at Royal Caribbean’s ceremonial christenings. For Wonder of the Seas, the Mount Dora Pipe Band did the honors for the godmother procession.
The ship’s godmother, Marie McCrea, was chosen via a TikTok challenge, #SearchForWonderMom, that was launched on Mother’s Day to find the ship’s “WonderMom.” More than 16,000 nominations were submitted.
Also on hand for the naming ceremony were a number of finalists for the #SearchForWonderMom contest. The event continued with a unique choral rendition of the United States national anthem, traditional religious blessings for the ship, crew, and everyone who will sail on her, and remarks from different cruise line executives.
Many of the remarks thanked the shipbuilding group, cruise line leadership, and most of all, the ship’s crew. “Wonder of the Seas brings together the very best that Royal Caribbean can give,” said Bayley. “This truly is the very best family vacation today.”
To conclude the ceremony, McCrea launched the largest champagne bottle in the world – equivalent to 12 regular champagne bottles – to break on the ship’s bow in a time-honored moment every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has enjoyed in its history.
Since Wonder of the Seas set sail on her maiden voyage in March 2022, more than 180,000 guests have already sailed on the vessel – all without an “official” christening. Now, the world’s largest cruise ship will offer Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings, the majority of which are 7-night sailings, and all of which will include calls on CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in The Bahamas.
Carnival Jubilee Delayed
The third in the largest ship class for Carnival Cruise Line and sister ship to Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, Carnival Jubilee will now not debut as planned in October 2023.
Delays at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and forced the cruise line to set back the ship’s maiden voyage, which was to have been a transatlantic sailing from Southampton to Galveston, as well as cancel six additional sailings from the ship’s Texas homeport.
“This is disappointing news, but with the notification from the shipyard, we are advising our guests as quickly as we can,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.
The impacted sailings are all voyages from October 30, 2023, through and including the December 16, 2023 sailing – all of these sailings are now canceled. The cruise line is reaching out to travel advisors and guests booked on the now-canceled sailings with additional details and options.
“Global supply chain logistics and other matters make it clear that additional time is required so that the ship can give our guests the vacation experience they expect,” the letter to Carnival Jubilee guests states.
Because of the delay, Carnival Jubilee‘s maiden voyage will now be sailing from Galveston on December 23, 2023. Further details of that sailing are not yet available.
From Galveston, the ship will be offering 7-night, Saturday departure, roundtrip sailings that visit Roatan, Honduras as well as Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.
Virgin Voyages Take Delivery of Resilient Lady
New cruise lines typically grow slowly, perhaps first using older ships bought from more established lines as they build their brand and eventually have their first newbuild ship constructed. Virgin Voyages, however, is showing that it can break that expectation, with the third newbuild ship for the new cruise line now delivered to Virgin ownership.
Built by the renowned shipbuilder Fincantieri at their Sestri Ponente shipyard in Genoa, in northwestern Italy, Resilient Lady has completed construction and now joins Virgin Voyages for supplies and finishing details before her planned debut in May 2023.
Like her sister ships Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, the “ladyship” weighs in at 110,000 gross tons and can welcome as many as 2,700 guests per sailing, with 93% of her cabins offering an outstanding ocean view and 86% of her cabins featuring spacious balconies.
Resilient Lady will set sail on her “mermaiden” voyage on May 14, 2023, a 7-night roundtrip sailing from Athens, Greece, exploring throughout the Greek Isles with calls in Santorini, Rhodes, and Mykonos, as well as a stop in Bodrum, Turkey.
The ship, which completed her sea trials in April, was originally planned to set sail in August 2022, but was delayed due to multiple challenges, including supply chain issues and staffing concerns.
Norwegian Cruise Line Hikes Gratuities
Gratuities, or tips, are standard practice in the cruise industry and are given to the crew members onboard. Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to raise gratuities to better align with industry standards and to provide their crew members with a more competitive compensation package.
The Haven and Suite guests, who book the highest level of accommodations on the ship, will now be charged $25 per day per person. This is a $5 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $20 per day.
Club Balcony suite guests and all other guests will now be charged $20 per day per person. A $2 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $18 per day for Club Balcony suite guests and a $4 increase for guests staying in all other cabin categories.
Norwegian Cruise Line emphasizes that gratuities are optional and can be adjusted or removed at any time by the guest. However, the company strongly encourages guests to leave gratuities for their hardworking crew members who provide exceptional service throughout the cruise.
The new pricing is only for bookings made on or after January 1, 2023. For any bookings made before that date but sailing after January 1, guests can pay the old pricing as long as they have pre-paid their gratuities.
The price increase is already the second time in eight months that Norwegian Cruise Line has increased gratuities. However, at that time, the increase was significantly less, at $0.50 to $1.50, depending on the cabin category.
MSC Seascape Naming Ceremony
MSC Cruises’ newest cruise ship, the 170,000 gross-ton MSC Seascape, arrived in New York City’s Manhattan Cruise Terminal, ahead of her naming ceremony on December 7. The cruise ship completed a 17-day transatlantic cruise from the shipyard and will soon start her inaugural season sailing to the Caribbean.
MSC Seascape is the cruise line’s new US Flagship and will be based in Miami year-round. The ship was named at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on December 7 by none other than Sophia Loren. The Hollywood star is no stranger to being a godmother to the MSC cruise ships, having performed the ceremony for most of the MSC fleet.
The choice of New York City as the location for the naming ceremony of MSC Seascape comes from the expansion that MSC is planning in the United States. Not only will MSC Seascape act as the new flagship sailing from Miami, but MSC Mereviglia will be based in New York City year-round.
Following her naming ceremony, MSC Seascape set sail toward Miami, her new home. She is scheduled to arrive in PortMiami, the biggest cruise port in the world, on December 11 and kick off her inaugural Caribbean cruise season with a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise.
More Cruise Headlines
Those were just a handful of the cruise headlines from the past week and we’ve got all the coverage on Cruise Hive, including new spaces revealed on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, Disney Cruise Line tightens a temporary refund policy, Jewel of the Seas begins cruises out of Port Canaveral, a busy two days at the Nassau cruise port in the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean testing a service change on one ship, Norwegian Cruise Line booking records and much more.