Stingrays, Tall Ships and a Smart Phone App, Oh My

August 17, 2012
(4:00 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 four cruise developments we think you might like to know about.

Norwegian Cruise Line Spices Up Private Island
Passengers on Norwegian Cruise Line voyages visiting Great Stirrup Cay can now get up-close and personal with a stingray or follow an underwater shipwreck story. The line has added the two shore excursions to its GSC offerings and in September will open a Patron-branded island bar. The Stingray Encounter will feature 18 specially-trained stingrays that cruisers can feed, hold and have their pictures taken with. The hourlong excursion includes 45 minutes of stingray interaction and costs $29 for adults and $19 for children. The "Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure" allows participants to follow an underwater path depicting the story of a shipwreck legend. To participate, cruisers must rent snorkel equipment at a rate of $29 per adult and $15 per child for the entire day. An excursion combining both the stingray and snorkel experiences also is available for $45 per adult and $29 per child.

Island Windjammers Gets Taller
Small-yacht operator Island Windjammers is adding a second tall ship to its lineup. Three-masted, 22-passenger Sagitta will join 12-passenger Diamant in December, homeporting from St. Maarten. Ports of call will include Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Barts and St. Eustatius. Island Windjammers is something of a reincarnation of ultra-casual Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, which shuttered in 2007. WBC was known for its laid-back atmosphere and emphasis on the joys of sailing and free-flowing rum swizzles.

Can You Hear Me Now?
Two maritime communication companies -- MTN Satellite Communications and Wireless Maritime Services -- have partnered to create a new smart phone app designed to make at-sea communications less painful. The companies claim the Connect at Sea app will enable "cost-effective" sea-to-land phone calls and text messages. Connect at Sea also can be used for intra-ship calling and texting so groups can stay in touch with each other while onboard ship. The app will be downloadable from iTunes and the Android store.

Celebrity Heeds CC Members, Promises Web Site Changes
Celebrity associate vice president Brian P. Powell signed on to Cruise Critic this week to acknowledge what Cruise Critic members have been saying for a long time -- the Celebrity Web site is not up to par. With his admission, he also reassured members that the line is listening to their complaints and plans to make several changes in the coming months.

"We know that the Celebrity website isn't where we'd like it to be, and we want you to know that we're addressing the issues you and our other audiences have told us about," he posted.

The ability to select a specific stateroom online should go live in September, and improved functionality of dropdown menus on all browsing platforms should be up and running by late September.

The line is also working to improve the online check-in experience, but Powell said there is no quick fix for this, and it may take some time. Faster page loading time also is a problem being investigated.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor