Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cruising Tradition Revived

Montreal Gazette

Passengers may bring guests on-board

Princess Cruises is bringing back an old tradition, but with a new twist.

Once you could bring your family and friends on-board to say goodbye in style before the cruise ship sailed. Princess's Bon Voyage Experience will allow passengers to invite friends and relatives on-board for a four-course lunch with wine, a ship tour and a souvenir photo.

Here is the part I like. The passengers and guests will have priority boarding and will be able to spend about four hours together before the ship sails.

But there will be a cost: each guest will be charged $39, which can be applied as a credit toward a future cruise.

For the guest, it's a good deal for the price. For Princess, it's a better deal. It may be the first time many guests step on a cruise ship, and they may become future customers for Princess Cruises.

The program will debut next month in Los Angeles and cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale before expanding to New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

The cruise ships will not have hundreds of guests roaming their decks just before departure. The number of guests is capped at 50. You can reserve spots well in advance or up to six days prior to departure.

In other Princess news, the cruise line's owners, Carnival Cruises Corp., have reached an agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for two new prototype ships - 20 per cent larger than other Princess ships and with a capacity of 3,600 passengers in double occupancy, similar in size to the Carnival Dream, the largest ship in the Carnival fleet.

The first Princess ship will be launched in spring 2013, the second a year later. These will be the first new ships for Princess Cruises since the launch of the Ruby Princess in fall 2008. Princess caters more to an adult audience.

Norwegian Cruise Lines is getting ahead of the game when it comes to announcing ship deployments for 2011 and the winter of 2012. NCL will base its first ship in Copenhagen, in 2011 for nine-day Baltic cruises. The Danish port city was one of my favourite cities on my last Baltic cruise. It also is close to Scandinavian and Baltic ports, so you spend less time sailing to them.

NCL Cruises also announced plans to sail year-round out of New Orleans for destinations such as Costa Maya, Cozumel, Roatan Bay and Belize City.

Celebrity Cruise Lines will be opening an Internet café - it sounds more like an Apple store - on the Eclipse when it launches in April. The iLounge, as the line is calling it, will be set up with 26 computers, will offer courses and will sell Apple products. If it proves successful, I expect iLounges will be rolled out through the rest of the Celebrity Cruises fleet.