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Branson with a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant in the Bellagio fountain, Las Vegas
As the new year approaches, so does what the cruise industry calls "wave season." This means a slew of great promotions are offered at the beginning of the year, every year. It's perfect timing as most of the country is in a deep freeze. Before the deals, however, comes news of what to expect with cruise ships in 2015 and 2016. Here's the latest:
· Airplanes and spaceships and cruise ships, oh my?
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group confirmed today that Virgin Cruises is a GO, with two planned ships. While itineraries, sail dates, and ship specifics are hush-hush for now, Branson has dropped some hints:
We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love.
They’ll be sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service.
How will the Virgin Cruise experience really compare to or include(?) their other travel offerings, like the airlines and Virgin Hotels? Are we bracing ourselves for another megaship or something more intimate? Where will the itineraries travel to? Will it be the saturated Caribbean, hot spot China, easy Europe? Whatever the decision, we'll be booking that inaugural for sure.
Good news for those looking to take a cruise on as big a ship as possible, as there will soon be two new vessels from which to choose thanks to those over at Norwegian Cruise Line.
The company has plans to add a pair of new ships to their fleet, and each should have room for around 4,200 passengers. Meyer Werft shipyard over in Germany are in charge of putting all the pieces together and, when it’s all said and done and christened, these big bad boats will cost just over $2 billion.
Did you catch last night's episode of Undercover Boss? It's no matter if you didn't, because the show's basic formula went down again, that of teaching a CEO to take a second look at their company from the position of the menial jobs. This time, Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO Kevin Sheehan boarded a couple of his ships, including the newestthe Norwegian Epicto discover things, like exactly how difficult it is to lead a line dance. He may have learned enough to make some changes in the company, but we learned quite a bit too, like...
· Cruise ship ice skating rinks suck. Sheehan kept complaining that he was breaking his back while helping to set up a fake ice surface on the ship's basketball court. The puzzle piece-like rink, which gets sprayed with an gross oily solution once put together, then attracted not one passengers to come skating. First off, that's because it looked like crap and second off, who wants to go ice skating when you're outside in tropical weather? It just doesn't give you the warm fuzzies like a good ice skate should. The only cruise ship ice rinks that works are real, indoor ones, like you can find on a few Royal Caribbean ships. We've personally witnessed those packed to the occupancy limit.
It's hard to believe that it was only last winter that the first Cougar Cruise happened, setting sail onboard a Carnival ship to debaucherous ports of call. Nevermind that Air New Zealand then fell to a love of cougar in the skies, the cruises continued and we are now coming up on the Third International Cougar Cruise.
This time around, Norwegian is hosting the ladies and the men who love them, and they've got something special on board for the three-night Bahamas sailing; they're debuting the Cougarlicious slot machines at sea.
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Silversea wants all the single ladies to put their hands up on deck.
You've heard of flying solo, but now singles have the option to cruise solo. Not that they didn't have the opportunity to do so before, but single travelers typically have to pay 150 to 200 percent more than globetrotting duos. Luckily, cruise lines are stopping their discriminatory practice of singling out singles and making it much more affordable for someone to hit the seas all by him or herself.
Check out three cruise lines that are helping out all the single ladies and lads.
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Oh boy. Cruise ships these days! First it was everything from rock-climbing walls to complete putt-putt courses with real grass, and then ships introduced major attractions like full ice-skating rinks and even a planetarium, but the newest onboard amenity might be pushing it a bit too far.
Please welcome to the oceans: the Norwegian Epic's ice bar!
The Epic, the newest ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, is due to launch next month, and they're busy amping up the hype about the ship's new features. And that's exactly what the ice bar ishype. For an extra $20 per person, passengers of the Epic will get to enter the ice bar for max 45 minutes between 5-10pm, in a space that holds only 25 people and never gets warmer than 17 degrees Fahrenheit. What do you get for that $20? Two specialty vodka drinks, to borrow faux fur accessories, and probably a cheesy photo of you pretending your tongue is stuck to your icecube shot glass, for posting on Facebook, natch.
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Cruise ships are making it easier and cheaper for members of the lonely-hearts club to hit the seas.
The cruise industry is notorious for discriminating against single travelers, piling on surcharges for those cruising alone and giving better deals to duos. Margie Jordan of the American Society of Travel Agents told Reuters that solo globetrotters have to pay 150 to 200 percent more than those traveling in pairs.
But cruise ships are seeing an untapped market in solo cruisers and are jumping on it. In July, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch the Epic, a ship with studios designed for one occupant and there's no single supplement included. Stays in the specially designed staterooms are now for available for purchase.
One of the good things about going on a cruise is that pretty much everything is included. But Norwegian Cruise Line will shake that up when it starts collecting cover charges on its two new F3 ships in 2010.
NCL says the cover is less about making money and more about controlling capacity. After all, you don't want too many warm bodies in the Ice Bar, above, which will be kept at a frosty 17 degrees. At least a drink is included.
To spend even more, you'll wanna hit up Posh Beach Club, where it's yoga classes and spa treatments by day and bottle service and open-air dancing by night. You'll need a "Posh Pass" to ride the private elevator up to the club, and your drinks are extra on top of that.
While these aren't the only schmancy bars planned for the new ships, maybe two will be enough for you. After all, you don't wanna stumble overboard.
Norwegian Cruise Line recently started offering Nintendo Wii games aboard their luxury liners.
The Wiis are already on board the Norwegian Pearl and will be hitting the rest of the NCL fleet sometime this month.
Each set-up comes equipped with Wii Sports, Wii Play, WarioWare: Smooth Moves and Excite Truck. Guests can play the Wii on large screens in each ship's atrium, and kids will have special kiosks, so old gamers don't Wii hog.
That screen is ginormous.
One Kotaku commenter added:
Your controller is based on movement. You're on a boat. Rough seas my very well mess with your ability to play.
Aw, c'mon, that's part of the fun.
Now if you could just challenge your noisy cabin neighbors to a Wii boxing match to settle the score in front of the entire crew.