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(6 p.m. EST) -- Think cruise news in 2013, and, sadly, images of bathrobe-clad passengers holding bed sheets on which pleas for help are scrawled might flash through your mind. Cruise ship problems, most notably Carnival Triumph's fire and resulting power outage, certainly dominated our news coverage, but readers didn't come to Cruise Critic's news page just to read up on the industry's mishaps.
New ship launches and announcements, smoking rule changes, the advent of a Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights and major itinerary changes were also hot news items this year.
Here are the news articles Cruise Critic readers read and talked about the most:
Carnival Triumph Fire and Power Loss
On February 10, 2013, Carnival Triumph was left adrift at sea after an engine room fire took out several of the ship's systems. There were no injuries, but passengers were forced to go without air-conditioning, lights, some hot food and many working toilets for five days. The incident erupted into a national media frenzy, with coverage regularly appearing on all major TV networks. Since Cruise Critic first began reporting the story the day after the fire, news stories about the fire and onboard situation, the ship's slow crawl to Mobile and resulting cancellations and repairs have been the most read news items of 2013, with four individual Triumph-related articles in the top-10 most-read news stories of the year. Read more.
Grandeur of the Seas Fire
Carnival Triumph wasn't the only cruise ship to suffer fire damage in 2013. Royal Caribbean International's Grandeur of the Seas also experienced a fire, in the early morning hours of May 27. Grandeur passengers were forced to muster for several hours, but the ship never lost electricity. Fire damage in several areas of the ship, including passenger cabins, was severe enough to force the cancellation of the rest of the cruise, as well as six subsequent sailings. Passengers were flown back to the U.S. from Freeport in the Bahamas, where the ship went immediately into dry dock. Coverage of the Grandeur fire made up Cruise Critic's second-most popular news topic this year. Read more.
New ships were front of mind for our readers in 2013, with the launches of Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway and Princess Cruises' Royal Princess, and big announcements from Royal Caribbean about next year's highly anticipated Quantum of the Seas. Quantum-related news, in particular, immediately grabbed readers' attention, whether it was the announcement of the ship's name or the revelation that the ship will have wind-tunnel skydiving onboard. Readers were equally intrigued by Norwegian Breakaway, with its New York City-inspired eateries and design. Read more here, here and here.
New Ships Limp Through First Few Months
Anticipation wasn't the only reason our readers flocked to articles about new ships in 2013. Royal Princess, Norwegian Breakaway and Carnival Sunshine experienced problems within their first six months. Technical glitches were hiccups for both Royal Princess and Carnival's so-revamped-they-called-it-new Sunshine. Royal Princess lost power for several hours just three months after launching; the ship had to be pulled from service, and the sailing was canceled while the ship underwent repairs. Sunshine's inaugural sailing was beset with problems, including nonfunctioning elevators and unfinished cabins and top-deck public spaces; propulsion issues also slowed the ship a month after launch, though the problem was quickly fixed. Norwegian Breakaway, on the other hand, saw its balcony dividers break apart after the ship ran into bad weather. Read more here, here and here.
All-You-Can-Drink Packages Expand (& Contract)
After both Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International introduced all-inclusive beverage packages in 2012, the trend toward such programs gained traction in 2013 with Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and MSC Cruises adding new flat-fee beverage packages. Carnival and Royal expanded their programs this year, with Carnival rolling out the Cheers! Package to more ships and Royal adding two more package options and removing the rule requiring all passengers in a group to buy the package if one wants it. Though Carnival expanded the presence of its package on to 14 ships, the line also imposed a daily limit on the number of drinks purchasers can order. Read more here, here and here.
Passenger Bill of Rights Introduced
Rather than risk facing federal regulation, the cruise industry volunteered to submit itself to a self-regulated Passenger Bill of Rights after high-profile cruise ship incidents like those aboard Carnival Triumph, Carnival Dream and Grandeur of Seas attracted the attention of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. The 10-provision Bill of Rights offers passenger protections, such as the right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions like food, water and restroom facilities can't be provided onboard; the right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures; and the right to timely updates in the event of mechanical failures or emergencies. Read more.
Europe's Rivers Overflow
No river cruise line was spared this summer after unprecedented flooding tore through central Europe, affecting ports in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Poland. Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, Scenic Cruises, Tauck, CroisiEurope and Grand Circle Cruise Lines were forced to cancel, shorten, reroute or otherwise change virtually every early-June river sailing on the Danube, Rhine, Main and Elbe rivers. Read more here, here and here.
Celebrity Ship Engine Problems Strand Cruisers, Lead to Mega Compensation
Incidents on three sailings of Celebrity Millennium during which a faulty propulsion motor acted up forced the cruise line to keep the ship in a small Alaskan port for four days of repairs, then cut short the next cruise, before finally canceling four others in order to send the ship to dry dock. To accommodate the seriously impacted cruisers, Celebrity offered some of the highest compensation packages the industry has ever seen, including complete refunds for all (including those on the shortened sailing, as well as the sailing stranded in Seward for four days) and varying credits toward future cruises (up to 100 percent) and air reimbursements up to $200. Read more here, here and here.
Carnival's East Coast Pullout an Omen?
With new environmental regulations looming that could change the face of cruising, Carnival Cruise Lines took what could be the industry's first reactive step, pulling its ships out of three East Coast ports in 2014. No Carnival ship will homeport in Norfolk or Boston next year, and the line will cease sailing from Baltimore in December 2014. Carnival was not shy about blaming the new fuel emissions requirements that go into effect January 2015 and require lines to reduce their emissions within a 200 nautical miles of the U.S. and Canadian coastlines. Read more here and here.
Carnival Departs Europe
Carnival Cruise Lines surprised a lot of people in May when it announced no ships would be deployed to Europe in 2014. The line cited market conditions affecting European cruisers and high airfare holding North American cruisers back as the main reasons for the move. Carnival had sailed two ships out of Europe in 2013; one has since been redeployed to the United States, and the second will move to Australia next year. Read more.
Cruise Lines Tighten Smoking Restrictions
It was not a good year to be a cruise-going smoker as several cruise lines announced more restrictive smoking policies, most of which roll out in 2014. Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and Cunard banned smoking on balconies, while Seabourn axed smoking in all passenger cabins and on balconies in some cabin categories. Royal Caribbean said the only exception to its no-balcony-smoking rule would be on Asia-based ships. Read more here, here and here.
Engineers Raise Concordia
The cruise industry learned a new word in 2013: parbuckling, the intricate maneuver by which engineers righted overturned Costa Concordia. Cruise Critic readers were able to follow the feat, hour by hour with U.K. senior editor Adam Coulter, who was on location on the Italian island of Giglio. It took nearly 18 hours to get the ship upright and onto a specially constructed platform, where it will remain until it can be floated away this spring. Within days of righting the ship, divers began searching for the remains of two passengers, eventually discovering and identifying one set as Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi. Read more.
Venice Cuts Cruise Visits
Italy drew a line in the sand this fall, declaring that, as of November 2014, no supersized cruise ships (those more than 96,000 tons) will be permitted in the Venice lagoon. A limit on smaller ships in the lagoon goes into effect in January, reducing the number of ships greater than 40,000 tons to five on any given day. The new limits are designed to reduce the damage cruise ships cause in the Venetian lagoon's ecosystem and to some of the city's oldest landmarks. Read more.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor