Top Cruise News Stories of 2012

December 25, 2012
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(11:30 p.m. EST) – Think cruise news in 2012, and the haunting image of the Costa Concordia laying on its side, half-submerged in the waters near Giglio, Italy, comes to mind. And Concordia did, indeed, dominate our news coverage this past year. More than one million people turned to Cruise Critic for Costa Concordia-related news, but readers didn't only come to Cruise Critic's news page to read up on the Concordia tragedy.

From the unprecedented disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy to onboard fires, overboard passengers and several unlucky excursion-related incidents, cruise lines battled what seemed to be a never-ending barrage of misfortune in 2012.

Here are the news articles Cruise Critic readers read and talked about the most:

The Costa Concordia Tragedy
On January 13, 2012, Costa Concordia hit a rock off the coast of Italian island of Giglio. Within hours the ship had capsized, 4,000 passengers and crew evacuated and 32 people had died. Since Cruise Critic first began reporting on the tragedy in the late hours of January 13, news stories about the Costa Concordia accident, subsequent stories of survival, the cruise line's response and plans for wreck recovery have been -- by far -- the most read news items of 2012, with nine individual Concordia-related articles in the top-20 most-read news stories of the year. We expect to see Concordia back in the news in the days leading up to the one-year anniversary and once the murder trial against the ship's captain begins sometime in the new year. Read more.

Superstorm Sandy Wrecks Havoc on Cruises
Hurricane/superstorm Sandy might easily have been one of the most disruptive weather forces the cruise industry has faced, with 10 days of itinerary changes and rough at-sea rides. In all, some 50 itineraries were upended with some passengers forced to remain at sea longer than scheduled, while others were short-changed or had their cruises canceled entirely. Coverage of Sandy, its impact on cruises and how the various lines compensated (or didn't compensate) passengers made up Cruise Critic's second most popular news topic this year, with four individual Sandy articles in the top-20 most-read news stories. Read more.

Carnival Introduces All-You-Can-Drink Package
In August 2010, Carnival announced it had begun testing a flat-fee, all-inclusive beverage program called the "My Awesome Bar Program" on Carnival Victory. Since then the line has slowly expanded the program, now called "Cheers!" to eight ships, and though the line has not officially stopped calling the program a "trial run" or announced a fleetwide rollout schedule, Cruise Critic expects to see it implemented across Carnival's fleet throughout 2013. Read more.

Carnival Passengers Robbed on Excursion
Just because an excursion is ship-sponsored doesn't mean things can't go wrong, something 22 Carnival Splendor passengers learned when they were robbed at gunpoint in February while in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. No one was injured, but most lost a variety of valuables, as well as passports and other forms of identification. Carnival apologized to passengers for the "unfortunate and disturbing event" and said it would work with passengers to reimburse them for lost items and get new IDs. The tour, a guided nature trail excursion, was subsequently eliminated from the line's excursion offerings. Read more.

Royal Caribbean Passengers Injured on Excursion
Carnival passengers were not the only ones to learn ship-sponsored doesn't always mean "safe." Eleven Royal Caribbean passengers were injured during a traffic accident while on a ship-sponsored shopping tour in St. Thomas in late January. The passengers were traveling in an open-air "safari cab" when it collided with a parked car. All were taken to a local hospital and treated for minor injuries, except one who had a broken hip. Royall Caribbean paid the hospital expenses of those with minor injuries and worked with the more seriously injured passenger to cover medical expenses not paid for by her insurance. Read more.

Shipboard Fire Doesn't Dampen Passengers Spirits
On March 30 a fire broke out aboard Azamara Quest while the ship sailed off the coast of Manila. Though the fire was contained within the engine room and quickly extinguished, all electrical and propulsion systems were knocked out and five crewmembers were injured. It took nearly 24 hours to get the ship up and running again, albeit at a very slow pace. To keep spirits up, Quest crew threw an outdoor barbecue with free drinks. Azamara was forced to cancel Quest's next cruise to repair the fire damage.
Read more.

Cruise Line Cabin Gaffe Infuriates Passengers
Nothing infuriates cruise passengers like believing a cruise line is sticking it to them, and that's exactly how a number of Royal Caribbean cruisers felt after the line took away their prime location cabins and "accidentally" sold them to other passengers. The passengers, all booked on a series of Rhapsody of the Seas cruises set to sail after the ship's refurbishment, had all booked the spacious corner aft junior suites far ahead of sailing. But after the cabins were renumbered during dry dock, their sweet corner aft cabins had been bumped down the corridor, and the new corner aft junior suites were opened for sale. While Royal Caribbean admitted mea culpa and offered $200 OBC, passengers who were not able to reclaim their original cabins were simply out of luck -- and unhappy. Read more.

Cruise Critic Predicts 2012 Trends
Fewer new-builds but growth in refurbishments, more fee-based offerings and the rebirth of Mississippi River cruising were trends Cruise Critic accurately predicted for 2012. This year the industry saw only a handful of new ships introduced, two of which were on the Mississippi River – the first new ships to set sail along the Big Muddy in 15 years. Of the remaining new-builds, almost all were additional ships in a class. Instead, lines poured money into refurbishing older vessels. Simultaneously, lines began formulating new ways for bringing in more money, primarily through more for-fee dining and beverage offerings. Read more.

Passenger Overboard
Every year the cruise industry sees several people go tragically overboard, and this year was no different. The story of a female passenger who went overboard from Allure of the Seas in September caught the attention of our readers. The sad event was complicated by the fact the ship didn't turn around immediately; instead crew performed a multihour search of the ship before alerting the Coast Guard and turning around. Perhaps the most bizarre overboard this year involved a 31-year-old army sergeant who jumped off Carnival Fascination after a physical confrontation with a crewmember. Read more here and here.

Crown Princess Dethroned by Noro
Few things make cruisers cringe more than the thought of contracting norovirus while at sea. So when Crown Princess was in the news because of norovirus twice in a two-month time span, Cruise Critic readers took notice. The outbreak was severe enough the second time around that the line shortened the sailing and brought the ship in for a two-day intensive cleansing. In a rather unprecedented move, the line also gave all affected passengers full refunds for the cruise, flights home, coverage of change fees for air not booked through Princess, hotel accommodations where needed and a 25 percent future cruise credit. Read more.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor