(3 p.m. EDT) -- Every week we get so many news releases from the cruise lines, we sometimes don't know what to do with them all. But oftentimes some are unique enough to catch our attention. Here are a few cruise developments we think you might like to know about.
Royal Dumps Pre-Printed Baggage Tags
Warm up your printers -- 'cause unless you're a Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Pinnacle member or forked over the dough for at least a Grand Suite, you're going to have to start printing out your own bag tags. Effective Wednesday, August 8, Royal has eliminated the ability for passengers to order pre-printed baggage tags. Instead, the tags are now included as a page within the eDoc digital ticket booklet. Slightly more durable tags are still available at port (unless you print at home in thick stock). There was a strangely diverting 400-plus discussion on the Cruise Critic message boards. See what the fuss was about.
Norwegian Aims to Get Cruisers Into Cabins Earlier
Sometimes travel agents are privy to news before anyone else. Such was the case Wednesday when Norwegian told a group of agents during a webinar that the line is undergoing a major effort to get passengers into cabins earlier on embarkation day. The goal, NCL's senior vice president of sales told trade Web site TravelPulse, is to have cabins ready by 12:30 p.m. Currently, cabins aren't typically ready until 2 p.m. Agents also learned that the line is preparing a new stingray adventure shore excursion for Great Stirrup Cay, its private island in the Bahamas. Booking capability for the activity is expected to go live this month. Also revealed during the webinar: NCL is offering, on a trial basis, new complimentary flavored water (Strawberry-Kiwi and Tropical Mango) in the buffets on Norwegian Gem, Dawn, Star, Sky and Pride of America. After a trial run and evaluation, the flavored waters should be available fleetwide in the next six to 12 months.
MSC Woos Families
MSC Cruises has announced new enhancements to its youth programming for kids, ages 3 to 11. With the Happy Dinners program, kids and parents dine together in the main dining room. Kids get expedited service and are picked up early by Mini Club staff, while parents finish the rest of their meal at a more leisurely pace. Or, little cruisers can opt for Fun Time Dinners and dine in the buffet with their friends and the entertainment staff. Fun Time Dinners take place every night, but some of the evenings are theme parties. Both dining options are free of charge. For the littlest kids aboard, babies and toddlers ages 10 to 36 months, MSC now has parent-play times from 9 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. with games, toys and activities tailored to this age group.
Yes, They've Got Tons of Lobster
Holland America is doing its part to support the lobster fishing industry of Bar Harbor, Maine, by literally purchasing a ton of local lobster. According to Web site Fenceviewer.com, Holland America will purchase 2,000 pounds of lobster the next time Maasdam comes through the port. The purchase agreement was made after a representative for CruiseMaine, a marketing organization that works to bring cruises to Maine, contacted Holland America president and CEO Stein Kruse. After explaining the financial difficulties the local lobster fishing community was facing she asked if he would be interested in helping out. "He responded to my email within 20 minutes ... that they would be happy to consider doing that type of transaction," she told Fenceviewer.com.
Carnival Ecstasy will be the first cruise ship to dock at Port Canaveral's newest cruise terminal, Terminal 6, when it pulls in on August 13. The $65 million terminal features a new parking garage and twin boarding bridges, enabling passengers to embark and disembark at the same time, Seatrade Insider reports. Though Carnival Cruise Line will be the primary user of the terminal, Norwegian Cruise Line also will employ it for transit calls by Norwegian Breakaway as part of the ships' weeklong Florida/Bahamas itinerary from October 2013 to April 2014.
The saga continues in Charleston. The building of a $35 million cruise ship terminal in the historic South Carolina port will be delayed until late fall -- at the earliest. State officials are once again calling for public comment on the proposed terminal after the port authority revised a permit request. Until the public comment period ends on September 2, legislators will hold off on approving the permit. According to the Augusta Chronicle, more than 200 people attended a "contentious" hearing earlier this year. Opponents claim visiting cruise ships are a public nuisance and that a permanent terminal would violate the city's building ordinances. Also, last year the city was warned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that the cruise industry threatens the city's historic character. The proposed terminal has already spawned lawsuits in both state and federal court.
Hong Kong is building a new terminal at Kai Tak, Cruise Industry News reports. The terminal will feature two berths, both able to handle ships as large as those in Royal Caribbean's Oasis class (not that ships of that size are heading east any time soon). The first berth will be ready in 2013, and the second will follow a year later.
--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor