Survey Said: Cruise industry enjoyed stellar 2010

Despite tough economic times and a sluggish economy the cruise industry performed admirably in 2010, according to a recent survey. ~Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

The cruise industry contributes significantly to the U.S. economy and Americans are not only increasingly aware of cruise vacations but strongly interested in either a repeat cruise or trying one for the first time, according to a recent survey.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a non-profit umbrella organization representing the interests of 26 of the world’s top cruise lines, commissioned the independent study.

They found that the industry generated 329,943 jobs that contributed a $15.2 billion wage impact on the U.S. economy in 2010, a 5.1 percent increase in employment and a 7.0 percent rise in wages over 2009. The total cruise industry economic impact in the U.S. in 2010 was $37.85 billion of gross output, a 7.8 percent increase over last year.

State by state, the cruise industry’s economic impact varied according to the scope of cruise line operations, with the major benefactors being those states with ports of embarkation.

In Florida, which accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. embarkations, the industry generated $6.3 billion in direct spending which helped create 123,255 jobs paying $5.4 billion in income. California, with 10 percent of the cruise industry’s direct expenditures, was the beneficiary of $1.8 billion in spending and 41,697 jobs. New York, with a 32 percent increase in passengers and crew visits in 2010, accounted for 6.7 percent of direct expenditures, with the industry generating $1.2 billion in spending and creating 14,833 jobs. Texas, with a 31 percent increase for last year, generated $1.1 billion in spending and 16,457 jobs.

Florida’s pre-eminent position is largely due to its five cruise ports: Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Tampa, and Jacksonville. Florida led a list of 15 ports of embarkation that account for 90.7 percent of total U.S. embarkations. In order, according to the survey, the top 10 ports are Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, New York, Seattle, Galveston, Long Beach, Tampa, Los Angeles, New Orleans. There were 9,694,000 U.S. embarkations during 2010.

Florida’s five cruise ports handled 5.8 million embarkations, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. The state also led the country in resident cruise passengers: 2.9 million Florida residents, 29 per cent of all U.S. resident passengers, took a cruise last year from one of its ports.

The study revealed that CLIA member lines carried a grand total of 14.8 million U.S. and non-U.S. passengers in 2010, an increase of 10.3 percent, the largest year-over-year jump since 2003.
CLIA also reported that 73 million Americans have cruised before and that 36 million Americans (25 years+, $40K+ income) have an intention to cruise in the next three years, up from 33 million in the 2008 study and 31 million in 2006.

Seventy-seven percent of past cruise vacationers expressed interest in a cruise vacation in the next three years and 50 percent of non-cruise vacationers expressed an interest in taking their first cruise within the next three years.

Consistent with previous years’ studies, CLIA found that a significant majority of consumers — 94 percent – rate cruising as a satisfying vacation experience with 45 percent rating a cruise as “extremely satisfying,” making a cruise vacation a satisfaction leader among vacation choices.

The survey also revealed where consumers plan to take their next cruise. The Caribbean, Alaska, Bahamas, Hawaii, Bermuda, Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Europe, Panama Canal, Canada/New England and Mexico are among the top 10 cruise destinations in the world.

Norwegian Jewel to play host to Blake Shelton and Friends cruise

The Norwegian Jewel will sail to the Caribbean from Miami next fall for the inaugural Blake Shelton and Friends cruise.
~ Photo courtesy of NCL

By Jackie Roseboom

Country music fans may want to make plans now for the inaugural Blake Shelton and Friends cruise. In just about a year, on Oct. 14, 2012, the Norwegian Jewel will sail from Miami to the Caribbean on a seven day country music cruise. Fans of Shelton’s will be able to enjoy a week at sea with intimate concerts, surprise unplugged performances and more.
Shelton will perform two live concerts in the Stardust Theater. In addition, there will be live music every night in at least three different venues around the ship by various country artists (to be announced soon).

Country music star and judge on "The Voice", Blake Shelton, will perform two concerts aboard the NCL Jewel next fall.
~Photo courtesy of NCL

In addition to the concert, there will be other opportunities for country music fans:
– Song writer workshops
– A custom version of “The Voice” with a karaoke contest judged by professionals
– Surprise unplugged performances and jam sessions
– Question and answer sessions
– Opportunities to get up close and personal with musical guests
– Late night dance parties with radio station DJs

Shelton is the current CMA (Country Music Award) Male Vocalist of the Year as well as one of the judges on the hit NBC show, “The Voice.” Shelton has had many singles hit number one on the Billboard charts across all genres. His single “Austin” debut in 2001 and began his rise to fame. His versatility ranges from his heart-felt ballads like “Home” and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” to toe-tapping, get up and dance songs such as “All About Tonight” and “Hillbilly Bone.” His latest single, “Honey Bee,” spent four weeks as the number one single, and holds the record for the fastest-selling digital platinum single for a male country solo artist.

The Blake Shelton and Friends Cruise starts in Miami and will call on San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. Guests will be able to enjoy three relaxing days at sea to experience Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising. Freestyle Cruising means guests can choose when and what they want to do, such as dining, and are not stuck to a fixed schedule.

The ship has 16 dining options, some with an extra charge, and 13 bars and nightclubs. Dining reservations are recommended. Broadway-style shows and kids programs are among many other fun activities onboard. Of course there is also a casino and an arcade too.

The Norwegian Jewel features various types of cabins and suites, the largest are the two-bedroom, 572-square-foot Family Villas and 440-square-foot Courtyard Penthouses, around a private courtyard with its own small swimming pool, hot tub, and plush sun beds. The ship also has an impressive resort pool deck: a row of palm tree-shaped street lamps frame two pools, several hot tubs and a fun water slide. On the same deck is the ship’s spa with multiple treatment rooms, saunas and steam rooms, a beauty salon and a calming relaxation room with its own aquatherapy pool. The fitness center is next door and there’s a jogging track and a basketball/volleyball court outside.

The cruise prices start at $1,099 based on double occupancy. Guests can take advantage of an early-booking discount with rates as low as $899 per person when they book before Aug. 26. To book the Blake Shelton and Friends Cruise, visit www.blakesheltoncruise.com or contact Flying Dutchmen Travel at 800-248-7471. To learn more about Norwegian Cruise Line, visit www.ncl.com or call a travel professional.

Jade’s varied culinary mix a hit with passengers

Norwegian Jade will be plying Mediterranean waters through December before embarking on a series of Canary Island voyages roundtrip from Barcelona. ~ Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

VENICE, ITALY, August 6, 2011 — World class dining venues abound on Norwegian Jade.

That might seem surprising to some — great dining is traditionally the domain of the luxury cruise sector and not necessarily what one expects to find on a 2,402-passenger mass market vessel.

Jade, however, delivers. There are some 14 dining options and passengers would be hard-pressed to find comparable décor, quality and service at even their favorite land-based locales.

From U.S. steak and seafood (Cagney’s), plus Tex-Mex (Paniolo Tapas & Salsa), to French (Le Bistro) and Italian (Papa’s Kitchen) offerings, the ship is alive at dinner hour. Most notably, Jasmine Garden is the culinary hub. The Asian restaurant complex, located on Deck 7 mid-ship, features made-to-order sushi and sashimi, a Sake Bar and a Teppanyaki grill and is clearly a runaway favorite with passengers.

Look for Cagney’s, a classical steakhouse from the 1930s and the ship’s signature restaurant, to serve a 32-ounce porterhouse for two; at Paniolo their zesty signature dish — lobster tacos — is a must; and both Le Bistro and Papa’s offer classical French and Italian fare respectively.

And, while all of the aforementioned specialty restaurants require nominal fees ranging from $10-25 per person, Jade still packs a punch with quality food and choice in its no additional charge main dining rooms – Grand Pacific and Alizar — plus Garden Café where enticing buffet spreads are offered including specialty dishes from ports which the ship has just visited. Following a port call this week to Izmir, Turkey for instance, the culinary team featured Turkish bread with chicken plus assorted kebabs.

A Norwegian Jade chef prepares Turkish bread with chicken in the Garden Café. The ship’s buffet, one of 14 dining venues onboard, often features local culinary options from the very ports the ship has visited. ~ Image courtesy Michael Coleman

Dining options are a big factor today within the cruise industry as more ships than ever before offer alternative onboard venues for their passengers to enjoy. At Norwegian Cruise Line, however, it’s the very premise of their “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept where one is offered a host of outstanding dining choices, relaxed dress codes, and the freedom to dine with whom they want, when they want at a locale that’s right for them on the evening of their choosing. As such, all restaurants aboard Jade feature open seating and flexible, extended dining hours.

Norwegian Jade began her seafaring career in 2006 as Pride of Hawaii. She’s now year-round in the Mediterranean but the Hawaiian motif and bright island colors remain front and center throughout the ship giving it added vibrancy, as is the case here in the Aloha Bar located in the Atrium on Deck 7. ~ Image courtesy Michael Coleman

Specialty restaurant reservations can be made in respective locales just minutes before dining although, to avoid disappointment, advance reservations are recommended.

Still hungry? Jade offers 24-hour room service. The new and expanded menu includes soup, salads, pizza, assorted sandwiches and desserts. There’s also a kid’s menu plus a special occasion menu that includes a jumbo shrimp platter, a collection of international cheeses and Caspian sea Sevruga caviar.

Norwegian Jade epitomizes “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept

The 2,402-passenger Norwegian Jade, at anchor this week in Dubrovnik, Croatia, boasts 14 dining options, a host of bars/lounges and shipboard amenities worthy of its international passenger make-up. ~Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

EN ROUTE TO SPLIT, CROATIA, August 4, 2011 – The “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept is playing out brilliantly aboard Norwegian Jade here in the Mediterranean this summer.

NCL pioneered the model over a decade ago — regimented onboard routines and set dining times would not be thrust on their passengers. It’s their vacation, after all.

Instead, passengers are enjoying a myriad of onboard entertainment and dining choices yet with no set schedules or even dress codes to adhere to. Add open seating dining and flexible restaurant hours to the mix and it’s a big hit with passengers.

Cagney’s Steakhouse is but one of 14 dining options aboard Norwegian Jade. Some specialty restaurants, like Cagney’s, offer a nominal surcharge. ~Image courtesy Michael Coleman

Feel like sushi tonight? Perhaps a thick steak? Maybe a lite snack from the salad bar? Jade offers no fewer than 14 dining options spread throughout the ship. Some are part of your cruise fare others, however, feature a nominal fee between $15-25 per person but well worth it among Japanese, French, Italian or U.S. steakhouse/seafood fare.

Whether paying additional surcharges, or not, the culinary options are among the most varied at sea. We’ll take a closer look at the choices later this week.

Meanwhile, as passengers settled into their 7-night, roundtrip Venice voyage (port calls have included Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece and Izmir, Turkey) what they found was a 2,402-passenger ship which never sleeps.
The multi-national passenger mix here onboard can wake to fitness center activities and aerobics, two golf driving nets, shuffleboard, oversized chess, volleyball/basketball court and paddle tennis.

Norwegian Jade’s spacious pool deck. ~Image courtesy Michael Coleman

The pool deck features two swimming pools (one, adults-only), a water slide and four hot tubs. Jade also features a full-service spa and salon, a 7,000-square foot boutique, art gallery, Internet center, library, casino and for evening entertainment, a three-deck theater plays host to a variety of performances.

Jade offers a supervised facility for children featuring a play gym, movie theatre with kid’s movies, computer center, and an arts and crafts area. There’s also a club for teens and a video arcade.
In keeping with the “Freestyle Cruising’’ concept, Jade stateroom accommodations run the gamut. There’s even a suite complex at the top of the ship complete with two luxurious 5,000 square-foot garden villas, a deluxe owner’s suite, three owner’s suites and 10 courtyard villas, eight of which have a separate children’s bedroom.

It’s all about choices aboard Norwegian Jade . . . lots of them.

Follow us this week in the Mediterranean aboard Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,402-passenger Norwegian Jade (formerly Pride of Hawaii) embarked on a 7-night roundtrip Mediterranean journey from Venice, Italy, this past weekend. One of 11 ships in the NCL fleet, this European-based vessel will be unveiling a series of 9-day cruises from Barcelona to the Canary Islands beginning in December. Cruise News Weekly Editor Michael Coleman is onboard and will be posting dispatches from the ship in this space over the next week. Image courtesy Michael Coleman