The Royal Princess is Ready for her Inaugural Celebration

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

A musical salute provided a spectacular welcome for Royal Princess to Southampton as the new cruise ship arrived to begin a week-long series of special inaugural events. British actor, director and writer Simon Callow orchestrated the Southampton University Brass Band to serenade the new Princess Cruises ship with a rendition of “God Save The Queen” as the vessel sailed into the harbor. Royal Princess will be officially named in Southampton on Thursday. June 13 by The Duchess of Cambridge.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

The unprecedented musical welcome, conducted by Callow, was answered back by Royal Princess with its own special horn that plays the first notes of the theme song from the TV show “The Love Boat.”

“What an extraordinary welcome Royal Princess received for her arrival in Southampton,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Starting the week off with this amazing musical orchestra offered the perfect way to tune up for a naming ceremony that will celebrate with many special musical performances.”

The June 13 naming event will feature not only the christening by The Duchess, but also star-studded musical entertainment including British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield singing her hit “Unwritten,” as well as a performance by British actress and “the first lady of London’s West End,” Kerry Ellis. The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards will open the event with the pomp and ceremony of British ship-naming traditions.

Viewers around the world can also watch the celebrations as Princess Cruises will be streaming the ceremony live online at www.princess.com, so everyone can share in the spectacular event, which will formally welcome the new ship into the company’s fleet.

The live streaming will begin at 11:15 am local time in Southampton, which will be 6:15 am EDT in the U.S. and 3:15 am PDT. Viewers can also choose to play back a recording of the ceremony soon after the event for viewing at their leisure. Social conversation on Twitter will also be featured with a direct feed on the naming page, and viewers can join in as they watch by using the #RoyalPrincess hashtag.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship. Among the special features found on board is a dramatic multi-story atrium serving as the social hub of the ship offering a host of dining and entertainment options; an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on water; the new Princess Live! television studio; the largest pastry shop at sea; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

The Royal Princess will be sailing her maiden voyage from the port of Southampton. The ship will be cruising in the Mediterranean for the rest of the Summer. She will make her way to Fort Lauderdale to start cruising the Caribbean in October 2013.

To book a cruise on the Royal Princess call you travel agent or go to www.princess.com/royalprincess.

Fleet wide improvements for the Carnival Corporation

Carnival Cruise Lines is conducting a fleet wide $300 million plan to significantly enhance emergency power capabilities, introducing a new fire safety technology system and improving the level of operating redundancies.

The improvement plan is the result of a comprehensive operational review, overseen by parent company Carnival Corporation & plc, initiated immediately after the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013.

“All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today. Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. “However, by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations. These initiatives reflect our commitment to safe and reliable operations and an enjoyable cruising experience for the nearly 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year.”

The work is already underway and will not affect scheduled itineraries. Upon completion of the initial phase, the line will install a second permanent back-up power system on each ship to provide an even greater level of hotel and guest services if main power is lost. These additional services will include expanded cooking facilities and cold food storage, as well as internet and telephone communications.

The company has also announced the formation of a Safety & Reliability Review Board that will include experts with significant expertise in marine and occupational safety, reliability and maintenance, marine regulatory compliance and quality control/assurance.

The parent company Carnival Corporation & plc previously announced a corporate-wide operational review of all 10 of its brands and 101 ships. The review process will include learnings from the recent incidents that can be applied across the corporation’s fleet. Carnival Corporation & plc has confirmed that, based on the results of the ongoing review, the latest versions of technologies and enhancements will also be implemented on the remainder of the fleet where they are not already present. The overall program of enhancements across the corporation’s 101-ship fleet, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn in North America; P&O Cruises and Cunard in the United Kingdom; AIDA Cruises in Germany; Costa Cruises in Southern Europe; Iberocruceros in Spain; and P&O Cruises in Australia , is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million.

“Our fleet already operates at a high standard of reliability. The investments announced today for Carnival Cruise Lines, and those we will continue to make, will reinforce our ability to consistently deliver the customer experience that 10 million people every year have come to expect from us across our fleet of 101 ships. Absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of our guests and crew, and we will use the full resources of our company to meet that commitment,” said Micky Arison, Chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc.

Initial implementation of the upgrades to the Carnival Corporation & plc fleet will take place during the next several months. Each class of ship is different and often systems differ on ships within a class, so the enhancements will be tailored to each vessel.

These fleet wide improvements will most likely help the cruise consumers regain their faith in Carnival Lines after the recent unfortunate events.

Carnival, Princess adopt new onboard smoking policies

Image courtesy Matt Roseboom — Two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Carnival and Princess, have modified their respective onboard smoking policies.

By Michael Coleman

Carnival and Princess, two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, have adopted new onboard smoking policies which will be rolled out in the coming months.

Citing its “ongoing commitment to keep pace with changing guest preferences’’ the 23-ship Carnival fleet, effective this week, will only permit cigarette smoking in dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and casino bar, certain sections on the open decks on all vessels and also in the jazz clubs on 13 Carnival ships.

The 13 ships include Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor. Cigar smoking will also be permitted in the jazz clubs. On other vessels in the fleet, cigar (and cigarette) smoking will also be permitted in designated areas on deck.

Effective December 1, 2011, smoking will be prohibited in all Carnival guest staterooms. Those guests in balcony accommodations will be permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars outside on the balcony. Spa staterooms, currently featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic, will continue to remain entirely smoke-free, including on the balconies.

The modified smoking policy is the result of recent guest surveys conducted by the company that covered a wide range of topics. The surveys indicated that nearly 90 percent of all Carnival Cruise Lines’ guests are non-smokers with less than five percent of guests opting to smoke in their staterooms.

Meanwhile, at Carnival Corporation-owned Princess Cruises, the line will prohibit smoking in cabins and on balconies across its 16-ship fleet effective January 15, 2012.

The new policy reflects changing customer preferences and the move around the globe — from North America to Europe — to further restrict areas where smoking is allowed, according to the line.

“Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Swartz added that balconies are included in the new policy because they are a hallmark feature of Princess ships, and the line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.

She added that Princess still welcomes passengers who smoke, and will continue to provide special venues around respective ships to accommodate smokers. Smoking will continue to be allowed in the Churchill’s cigar lounge, a section of the disco and casino, and a portion of the open decks.

On the web:
www.carnival.com
www.princess.com

Media darling, Grand Princess, transformed

Image courtesy Princess Cruises — Grand Princess, formerly the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuted in 1998, has just received a masterful facelift.

By Michael Coleman

A Princess cruise ship, formerly the largest cruise ship in the world, has a new distinction.

Following the most extensive drydock in Princess Cruises history, Grand Princess has emerged from a 24-day, transformational drydock.

The vessel even became a media star as the line posted daily video updates on the work in progress which attracted more than a half million views. The Grand Princess Drydock Journal captured the dramatic process with 26 video updates plus more than 300 photos of the daily progress during the effort in a Bahamian shipyard, including the removal of Skywalkers nightclub from the ship’s stern and the complete demolition and rebuilding of the atrium to create the new Piazza. Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, the video series delved behind the scenes with reports on all aspects of the drydock process.

The video journal also offered different perspectives on the project with interviews of key players in the revitalization, including the ship’s Captain Tony Herriott and Chief Technical Officer Gilberto Vinci, plus Senior Vice President of Technical Services John Gunner and Project Manager Steve Storey, who explained what it takes to coordinate 1,400 contractors working around the clock. The videos also shared such tidbits as the time it took to cut Skywalkers from the ship (10 hours) and the amount of new carpeting installed (about 50 square miles).

“This drydock has been a monumental effort, and we’re very proud of the teamwork by everyone involved to create this sparkling ‘new’ ship ready to start a season of Europe sailings,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We know our passengers will appreciate the updated décor, fresh new feel, and especially all the wonderful added features.”

Now that the ship has been transformed, passengers will find a completely new Piazza atrium, several new eateries — including Alfredo’s Pizzeria and the Crown Grill — and the line’s first specialty tea lounge called Leaves. Also included in the renovation were seven new window suites; remodeled casino, boutiques and art gallery; enhancements to the Horizon Court, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel; and the addition of Crooner’s Martini Lounge. A new nightclub, The One5, replaced Skywalkers.

The drydock video journal covered nearly every area involved in the refurbishment project, including work on the underside of the ship, upholstery work, engine control room, new shore power connection, lifeboat updates, new speakers for Movies Under the Stars, mural painting, theater renovations, and a report from the executive chef who was responsible for feeding all the contractors.

Grand Princess debuted in 1998 as the then-largest cruise ship in the world. She will homeport this summer in Southampton, England, offering a series of European voyages.

Princess, one of the best-known names in cruising, operates a fleet of 16 ships renowned for their innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities. The line carries some 1.3 million passengers each year to destinations around the globe ranging in length from seven to 107 days.

On the web: www.princess.com

Princess honors MacLeod, preps for Royal Wedding

Television’s favorite captain, Gavin MacLeod, celebrated his 80th birthday aboard Golden Princess this week. The line made famous by the hit television show “The Love Boat’’, Princess Cruises will now wow a new generation of viewers April 29 when each ship in its fleet will broadcast live the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Image courtesy Princess Cruises

By Michael Coleman

Princess Cruises honored television’s most beloved captain, Gavin MacLeod, with a special 80th birthday party aboard Golden Princess this week in Los Angeles.

Crew members, along with his friends and family, sang “Happy Birthday” and presented him with a massive cake — a 5-foot-long, 3D replica of the original “Love Boat,” Pacific Princess.

MacLeod is perhaps best known for his role as “Captain Merrill Stubing” in the popular television series, The Love Boat. One of the longest running television shows in history, The Love Boat cruised through 10 seasons from 1977 to 1986 and is still in syndication in 92 countries worldwide. This year also marks MacLeod’s 25th anniversary serving as Princess Cruises’ spokesperson.

MacLeod’s impressive career spans television, theater and film. He spent seven years on the award-winning television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show as “Murray Slaughter,” the acid-tongued news writer. His other well-known television roles include “Happy” on McHale’s Navy and “Big Chicken” on Hawaii Five-O, and he has also appeared in The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hogan’s Heroes, The Big Valley, Ironside, To Catch a Thief, Run For Your Life, Hotel and Murder She Wrote.

MacLeod’s film debut was in 1958 with Susan Hayward in the Oscar-winning film I Want to Live. His subsequent 35 film credits include Compulsion with Orson Welles, Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant, High Time with Bing Crosby, The Party with Peter Sellers, The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen and Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood.

A Royal Onboard Affair

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be televised live on all Princess ships on April 29. Passengers will be able to follow along with full coverage of the pomp and majesty of the historic wedding through BBC World’s broadcast of the event.

Not only can passengers follow along as the future princess walks down the aisle, but they’ll enjoy viewing parties on board as they watch this royal event. BBC is the official wedding broadcaster and has exclusive access inside Westminster Abbey during the ceremony.

The onboard viewing parties will add a celebratory flair to the event with British-style refreshments and special royal-themed cocktails. Passengers can also test their knowledge with royal wedding trivia competitions and participate in a William and Kate look-alike contest.

“As this is the first British royal wedding in years we know there will be wide interest among our passengers,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We at Princess also feel a connection with Prince William because his mother, Princess Diana, christened our original Royal Princess back in 1984.”

Royal Wedding broadcasts are planned for all ships in the Princess fleet, subject to satellite availability. In some time zones the broadcast may be delayed for viewing at a convenient hour.

The Royal Wedding is one of several special events shown on the line’s Movies Under the Stars giant outdoor screens, including the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. The LED screens are more than 300 square feet in size with a 69,000-watt sound system and have sufficient lighting power to be seen clearly at mid-day and heard even while the ship is moving at full speed.

On the web: www.princess.com

Princess blog features ultimate travel wish list

Will Greece and its famed Acropolis become one of the world’s 50 essential travel experiences on a new Princess Cruises’ blog? Photo by Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

The world’s top destinations will be unveiled weekly in an inspiring new blog launched by the travel savvy employees of Princess Cruises.

The line launched “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” (50essentialexperiences.com) this week. A series of posts, each authored by one of Princess’ longest-serving shipboard and shoreside employees, will be added weekly.
 
The 50 selected experts — each who have been with the company for more than 15 years and traveled thousands of sea and air miles visiting hundreds of countries, cities and sites — will share one of their inspiring personal experiences chronicling their unique perspective of must-see travel spots around the globe. 
 
“Few people have seen more of the world than Princess’ own destination experts,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “And because they’ve been to so many destinations, they’re often asked to recommend those ‘don’t miss’ experiences that people should be sure to put on their travel bucket list.” Swartz emphasized that the blog is not just a list of places, but instead a list of experiences Princess hopes inspires others. 
 
The experts featured in the blog will represent an array of departments and positions within Princess, including those in shoreside positions such as itinerary planning, ship operations and marketing, along with those who sail aboard its ships such as captains, hotel managers and cruise directors. Their posts will gradually be revealed through September 2011.
 
Crystal Morgan, director of market planning for Princess, authored the first blog post. She started her cruise career as an onboard shore excursion manager sailing to worldwide destinations and, after moving shoreside, now oversees itinerary planning for the line’s fleet of ships. Morgan shares one of her most memorable travel experiences, when she traced her grandmother’s footsteps to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, the most celebrated monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place that held a special meaning for her grandmother who had visited the site some 70 years earlier.
 
In her post she writes, “I didn’t hear about my grandmother’s visit to this famous statue until I told her that I was being deployed to South America aboard Pacific Princess. It dawned on me that I would have the opportunity to trace her footsteps to this world-renowned landmark so many decades after her visit. Our circumstances could hardly be more different.  She was barely a teenager on her journey up the mountain, traveling with her family, including several younger siblings for whom she cared. I would have charges of my own, but not children.”
 
Blog visitors will be encouraged to share their own personal travel experiences, some of which will be showcased on the site each week.
 
All of the destinations described in the blog will be ones that passengers can travel to aboard a Princess ship, and links will help readers discover how they, too, can embark on similar adventures.
 
Arguably one of cruise travel’s greatest brand names, Princess operates a fleet of 17 modern ships known for their innovative design and array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities. The line offers global voyages from seven to 107 days in length.

On the web: princesscruises.com

Princess eyes Hawaii, Tahiti and the South Pacific

The 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess is but one of several Princess Cruises’ ships headed to Hawaii, Tahiti and South Pacific voyages in 2011 and 2012. Image courtesy Princess Cruises

By Michael Coleman

Princess Cruises has just unveiled a series of 2011-2012 itineraries to Hawaii, Tahiti and the South Pacific.

Sun, sand, swaying palm trees, the scent of topical flowers in the air and breathtaking island scenery set the stage as the line offers 43 sailings of 10 itineraries to 33 ports. Voyages run from September 2011 through May 2012.

Cruise passengers will find that each of these island destinations has its own charms. In Hawaii they’ll enjoy the spirit of Aloha throughout the island chain, while Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia showcase a unique mix of South Seas appeal and French culture.

Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu each offer their own style and island allure, and all feature the stunning vistas found throughout the South Pacific.
 
Travelers interested in the convenience of a roundtrip voyage from Los Angeles can choose to sail aboard Golden Princess or Sapphire Princess to the Hawaiian Islands or on a new 28-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific cruise aboard Sapphire Princess.

Cruisers to Tahiti will enjoy the small ship ambiance of Ocean Princess on several itineraries, and Princess’ Aussie-style sailings from Down Under feature Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Sea Princess sailing roundtrip from Sydney or Brisbane.
 
The Hawaiian Islands each have their own personality. On Oahu, the state capital of Honolulu offers a wealth of historic, cultural and scenic attractions, including famous Waikiki Beach, America’s only royal residence the Iolani Palace, and Pearl Harbor. The Big Island, the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands, has the most varied in landscape — with striking black sand beaches, tropical rain forests, and the famed Volcanoes National Park, home to three volcanoes, including the actively erupting Kilauea.
 
Known as the “Garden Isle,” Kauai offers lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and geological wonders, such as the dramatic Nã Pali Coastline, and spectacular Waimea Canyon. The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui boasts some of the world’s most superb beaches and dramatic mountain landscapes. Visitors can also explore the port town of Lahaina which was once King Kamehameha’s capital. 
 
Made up of more than 130 islands, French Polynesia includes some of the most dreamed about South Seas islands, such as Tahiti and Bora Bora. This is the South Pacific of Melville, Gauguin and Michener. Particularly immortalized by Gauguin’s paintings, Tahiti evokes exotic island images and the South Seas state of mind. Nearby Moorea boast precipitous mountains that reach for the sky, creating picture postcard views. And, no name captures the imagination of paradise as well as Bora Bora.  Perhaps the most stunning island in the South Pacific, its majestic landscape was sculpted by ancient volcanoes, showcasing a shimmering lagoon and barrier reef. Passengers on Ocean Princess’ 10-day Tahiti & Polynesia itinerary will enjoy a two-day experience in Bora Bora with extra time to enjoy the island’s charms.
 
The two islands of Huahine are surrounded by a deep lagoon encircled by a coral necklace. Connected by a bridge, both islands boast white-sand beaches, vanilla and banana plantations, and some of Polynesia’s most significant cultural sites. The largest atoll in French Polynesia, divers from all over the world flock to Rangiroa, to explore the undersea world of its 42-mile aquamarine lagoon filled with unique marine life and magnificent underwater scenery.
 
Samoa and American Samoa lie at the heart of the South Pacific. Pago Pago is the capital of American Samoa, the southernmost territory of the United States. Here abundant rain creates a lush green landscape marked by ancient volcanoes and thriving coral atolls.  Apia, the main township of Samoa, personifies the fa’a Samoa (the Samoan Way), and conjures up images of the perfect South Seas island town.
 
On the web — www.princess.com

Princess to allow you to show off your ship to friends and family

Princess Cruises’ new Bon Voyage Experience brings back the tradition of allowing non-cruising guests onboard. The experience includes a four-course lunch. Photo by Matt Roseboom

By Matt Roseboom

In the late ‘70 and early ‘80s, when “The Love Boat” was a hit show on television, cruising was popular, but not nearly as popular as it is today. So many first-time cruisers’ expectations came from watching the TV show. Many were probably not too happy when they compared the size of their cabins with those on the show. But even before they got to their rooms, they may have been surprised to find out their non-sailing friends and family members weren’t allowed on the ship.

Being able to give your guests a tour of the ship you’re about to sail on is a tradition from the early days of cruising. Now, the same line that hosted “The Love Boat”, Princess Cruises, is bringing the tradition back, for a small fee.

They’re calling it the Bon Voyage Experience — a new twist on the departure celebration of bygone days, complete with lunch in the dining room and tour of the ship.
 
Now unique in the cruise industry, the Bon Voyage Experience will enable passengers to extend an invitation to their guests to join them onboard during sailing day for a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and a souvenir photo. Passengers and their guests will enjoy priority embarkation and will be able to spend approximately four hours together on the ship before it sets sail. The cost for the program is $39 per person, but it can be applied toward a future Princess cruise.
 
The program will debut in March in the ports of Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, and then roll out to New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
 
“Long-time cruisers will recall the fun of the bon voyage send-off with their family and friends, and we’re excited to re-introduce a new, modern version of this experience,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.
 
After you’ve booked, you will be notified about the program through pre-cruise e-mails as your cruise date approaches. In-port guests can be booked from 120 days, up to six days before the sailing date. Once registered, guests will be able to input their security information through the line’s Cruise Personalizer.
 
But there’s reason to hurry and register if you’re interested. The number of guests who will be able to participate in the Bon Voyage Experience on any given embarkation day is approximately 50.
 
The roll-out schedule for the launch of the Bon Voyage Experience is:

– Sapphire Princess — March 6 in Los Angeles
– Crown Princess — March 6 in Fort Lauderdale
– Coral Princess — March 7 in Los Angeles
– Emerald Princess — March 7 in Fort Lauderdale
– Island Princess — March 10 in Los Angeles
– Ruby Princess — March 10 in Fort Lauderdale
– Golden Princess — March 14 in Los Angeles
– Royal Princess — March 27 in Fort Lauderdale
– Star Princess — April 10 in Fort Lauderdale
– Caribbean Princess — May 18 in New York
– Sea Princess — June 1 in San Francisco

During the Alaska season, Sapphire Princess, Golden Princess and Royal Princess will offer the program in Seattle, beginning in May.

Princess to get two new ships – their largest ever

The Carnival Corporation & plc has signed a memorandum of agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for the construction of two 3,600-passenger cruise ships for its Princess Cruises brand.

The new ships — which will have an all-in cost of approximately €155,000 per lower berth — are scheduled to enter service in spring 2013 and spring 2014. At 139,000 tons each, the as-yet-unnamed ships will be the largest in the Princess Cruises fleet.

The agreement is subject to execution of a definitive contract, financing and other customary closing conditions. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

Carnival Corporation & plc is the largest cruise vacation group in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe and Australia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Ibero Cruises, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.

Together, these brands operate 95 ships totaling more than 184,000 lower berths with 11 new ships scheduled to be delivered between March 2010 and May 2012. Carnival Corporation & plc also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour company in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.

Cruise Guide: Caribbean voyages in vogue

The world’s top cruise ships will soon be ushering in the 2010 Caribbean season. The Caribbean is the top cruise ship destination in the world. Photo by Michael Coleman.
The world’s top cruise ships will soon be ushering in the 2010 Caribbean season. The Caribbean is the top cruise ship destination in the world. Photo by Michael Coleman.

By Michael Coleman

The cruise industry is just a few weeks away from ushering in the 2010 Caribbean season. If picture-perfect tropical islands, sun-drenched beaches and boundless shopping opportunities float your boat, a Caribbean cruise on one of the following mass-market lines may be for you.

Carnival – The largest Carnival ship ever constructed, the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream launches year-round Caribbean service from Port Canaveral in December. Carnival also is increasing its capacity from Mobile, Alabama by 42 percent with the deployment of the Carnival Fantasy in November (to be replaced by Carnival Elation in May 2010) and by 34 percent from New Orleans when Carnival Triumph begins new Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises in November. And, beginning in May 2010, Carnival Fantasy will launch the first year-round cruise schedule from Charleston.

Costa Cruises – With sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Costa Atlantica returns to the Caribbean with new, exclusive spa accommodations that feature personalized wellness consultations, complimentary spa treatments, fitness or meditation classes, complimentary access to the Wellness Restaurant and more. Guests on Costa Atlantica and Costa Fortuna can also take advantage of “Italy in the Tropics” with a “Free Upgrade” promotion and the popular “Kids Sail Free” program.

Norwegian Cruise Line – Next year marks the arrival of Norwegian Epic, Norwegian’s largest and most innovative ship, which will begin her inaugural Caribbean season in July with alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries available as seven-day individual sailings or 14-day combined sailings and offered through April 2011. Norwegian will also seasonally homeport the 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun in Port Canaveral beginning October 2010 for seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries.

Princess Cruises – Princess will sail six ships on 13 Caribbean itineraries ranging from seven to 14 days this winter, with 129 departures visiting more than 25 ports. Ruby Princess will take over the line’s 10-day eastern and southern Caribbean itineraries, offering some of the less-visited ports in the region. Crown Princess’s western Caribbean itinerary will feature Roatan, Honduras. Grand Princess returns with an extensive 14-day Caribbean Collection route and Sea Princess will again sail on 14-day voyages from Barbados.

Royal Caribbean — The line will welcome the largest ship in the world, the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas, to Fort Lauderdale in November when the ship begins year-round Caribbean cruises. Looking ahead, sister ship Allure of the Seas joins the company’s Caribbean fleet for the 2010-11 Caribbean season, which will feature year-round voyages from such ports as Port Everglades, Port of Miami, Port Canaveral, and San Juan, Puerto Rico; seasonal voyages from ports ranging from Cape Liberty to Galveston; and over 20 short itineraries to 15 ports in the Caribbean.

Next week, we’ll look at what the premium and luxury cruise lines have in store for their passengers as they also head into the tropics.