February 19, 2018

Montego Bay under State of Emergency

Beach at Montego Bay. State of emergency has been declared for parish around this bay.

(Monica Poling – Travel Pulse, Jan. 22, 2018) Jamaica’s bustling tourism destination St. James Parish—home to popular Montego Bay—has been placed under a State of Emergency, due to an uptick in violent crime in the area.

“I have been advised by the security forces, in writing, that the level of criminal activity experienced, continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety,” said Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a statement.

According to The Root, some 335 murders were recorded in St. James Parish last year, outpacing any other region in Jamaica by nearly 100 percent.

Military forces have been dispatched to the area, which has been placed under martial law. Checkpoints are being set up through the region, where people may be asked to verify their identity and declare any weapons. They may also be subject to search. In particular, reports Newsweek (h/t TIME), security forces are targeting their focus “on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns and extortion.”.

According to TIME, visitors are also being warned not to leave the confines of their resorts.

In a conversation with sister site TravelPulse Canada, Philip Rose, the Regional Director of Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board, said he’s confident that the government measures will help restore order quickly. He also reminds readers that the crime rate against tourists is very low.

“[Jamaica] has always enjoyed a very low crime rate against visitors; probably one of the lowest percentages in the Caribbean,” he said.

He also noted that the alert has had very little impact on visitors.

“Visitors and locals are enjoying St. James and Montego Bay and all the area has to offer,” he said. “There’s really very little impact on law-abiding citizens, and these measures are welcomed by 99 percent of Jamaicans.”

In response to the State of Emergency, the United Kingdom and Canada updated their travel warnings to Jamaica, advising visitors to, “Exercise a high degree of caution.”

As of press time, the United States had not updated its travel advisory for Jamaica. While the United States considers the country, as a whole, a “Level 2—Exercise increased caution” nation, it has also, previously, issued its sternest “Level 4—Do not travel” warning for “parts of Kingston,” “parts of Montego Bay” and “Spanish Town” due to crime. The warning places those regions on par with war-torn Syria and Yemen.

See Travel Pulse for more: Travel Pulse

Carnival Victory in drydock for new guest options

Carnival Victory, upgraded extensively in 2015, is undergoing more upgrades in drydock this winter.


MIAMI – Carnival Victory is in the midst of an extensive, multi-million-dollar dry dock that is adding a wide variety of food and beverage innovations, as well as two luxurious Captain’s Suites and new deluxe ocean view staterooms.
The new spaces, which are being added during a 17-day visit to dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas, include:

· Guy’s Burger Joint: a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries enjoyed amidst a décor that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture.

· New Accommodations: Several new cabin categories will be added to Carnival Victory, including 260-square-feet Scenic Ocean View staterooms and 320-square-foot Scenic Grand Ocean View accommodations as well as Captain’s Suites, spacious 820-square-foot cabins offer a large extended balcony, two full-size bathrooms, separate sleeping quarters and a large living room.

· RedFrog Rum Bar: a poolside watering hole offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red.

· BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy authentic freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar.

· BlueIguana Tequila Bar: a fun and festive outdoor bar offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool.

· Bonsai Sushi Express: the success of the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurants has spawned this casual, convenient yet equally tasty offshoot featuring a mouth-watering array of sushi, sashimi, rolls and more.

· Re-Branded Deli: the ship’s deli has been completely renovated with an updated design and new menu offerings, including seven sandwiches such as meatball, buffalo chicken, and The Cubano, along with Southwest chicken, falafel and turkey wraps.

· Cherry on Top: The “sweetest spot on board,” Cherry on Top is the gateway to the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun-and-fanciful gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.

These spaces complement Carnival Victory’s numerous other onboard amenities, including a 14,500-square-foot spa, a 214-foot-long water slide, a Punchliner Comedy Club offering adults-only and family-friendly performances, and Seuss at Sea, an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.
Carnival Victory operates year-round three- and four-day cruises from PortMiami. Three-day cruises depart on Fridays and call at Nassau, while four-day voyages depart Mondays and visit Key West and Cozumel or Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.

Princess puts guests in trees for 2018

A cruisetour with Princess Cruises offers a unique view of Alaska – from a treehouse.


Princess Cruises today announced the 2018 programming to be featured at the line’s custom designed wilderness treehouse located at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. The treehouse is a new addition to the guest experience which allows guests an opportunity to view Denali, North America’s highest peak, while enjoying themed activities and socializing with fellow travelers, all amongst the trees. The treehouse was built during an episode of Animal Planet’s hit show “Treehouse Masters,” in association with the line’s partnership with Discovery Communications, which premiered during the season finale in fall 2017.

“At destinations around the globe, we strive to create a bond between our guests and the places we visit, and now more than ever people are visiting Alaska to experience the beauty and adventure the state has to offer,” said Lisa Syme, Princess Cruises vice president. “As the #1 cruise line in Alaska, we are eager to bring these fresh and engaging experiences to our Alaska cruisetour guests, providing opportunities for more travelers to connect with the people, nature, storied traditions and history of the Great Land in 2018.”

The treehouse was the first-ever designed and constructed in Alaska by Pete Nelson, the star of the hit TV series. As one of the highest land-based north-facing viewing areas, the treehouse provides Princess guests a one-of-a-kind experience to see the south face of Denali from atop the trees, and is powered by solar panels. At approximately 500 square feet, guests can access the treehouse by hiking the short “hill trail loop” and be rewarded with the ultimate Denali view.

For more information visit: Princess Cruise tours

Avoiding paying too much for a cruise

Getting to those favorite cruise destinations doesn’t need to be expensive.


(By Brittany Chrusciel – Cruise Critic) Cruise pros and first timers alike can benefit from optimizing their cruise booking routines. Dollars can be saved at every juncture, from planning where and when to go, to accessing special offers three months before you sail. Can’t seem to get your cruise fare to go any cheaper? Take advantage of perks and extras, such as onboard credit, that will add value to your vacation in lieu of slashed pricing. Whether in a rush to get something on the books or too rigid to change plans, there are plenty of reasons you might not be getting the best possible cruise vacation for your money. Check out the following 10 ways you might be paying too much for your next cruise.

Your Schedule Isn’t Flexible
If only we could all abracadabra some free time into our lives, coordinating vacation wouldn’t be such a problem. The reality is many of us answer to a rigorous work schedule. Add to that a school calendar or any other kind of obligation, and the window becomes even narrower. If you can only cruise around holidays, summer vacation and other peak seasons for cruise travel, you’ll pay for the convenience. If you can maneuver even a few days off in the fall or early spring, you can shave hundreds off the price of your sailing. If you know where you want to go, try to plan your trip for the region’s shoulder season. Conversely, if you have a limited timeframe for travel, keep an open mind regarding destination.

You Don’t Book During a Cruise Sale
The best prices — or best value — often show up during promotions offered by the cruise lines or travel agencies. But don’t expect the best cruise deals to come to you. You need to be savvy about finding them. When you’re ready to book, look to see if you can take advantage of a current promotion. If a promotion is ending soon, either act quickly to take advantage of what’s on the table, or gamble with what a cruise line might offer next. If there are no sale fares on offer, consider waiting to book in case new deals are on the horizon. These days, many cruise lines don’t wait for wave season, the promotional period between January and March once known for plentiful cruise deals.

You Underestimate Travel Agents
In the Age of Information, sometimes we forgo humans with real expertise and let the Internet compute all of our cruise details. As valuable as the Web can be, especially for research, cruise professionals (travel agents) can not only provide you with experience and personalized attention but can lock in a deal that comes laced with comped dinners, free wine and/or copious onboard credit. Established cruise agencies have access to special rates and can help you monitor fares and promotions so you book at the right time for the best price.

You Don’t Book Early
If you can commit to booking a cruise far in advance, your line might offer a discount that’s worth overriding your usual vacation-planning procrastination. Unnerving as advance bookings can be, they give you something to look forward to and let you lock in early-booking deals or promotions only available when reserving your next cruise onboard your current one. (You only have to put down a deposit, and you can re-price your trip if fares go down before final payment.) Plus, you have the advantage of being able to request particular cabins or book onboard experiences the moment they become available. Travel insurance can help ease your fears about putting money down so far from your future cruise.

See more ways to save money at: Cruise Critic

Cruise Industry finds men more interested in cruising

Caribbean and Mediterranean destinations remain most popular, depending on income bracket.


The new Cruise Industry Consumer Outlook, conducted on behalf of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), found men and Millennials are more interested in taking a cruise among all travelers surveyed. This is the latest installment in the Cruise Industry Consumer Outlook of 2017, in partnership with J.D. Power, and new findings than six out of ten (63 percent) respondents have an increased interest in cruising – with overwhelming interest among men and Millennials. The report details consumer traveler behaviors, attitudes, and opinions toward both cruise and land-based travel.

“CLIA highly values keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer cruise attitudes and preferences in order to create an ever-improving industry based on traveler feedback,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA. “The Cruise Industry Consumer Outlook plays a key role in helping us continue to adapt and appeal to every type of traveler with evolving business practices, varied cruise durations, and available destinations.”

Who is interested in cruising?
When it comes to specific generations interested in cruising, about 85 percent of Millennials expressed that an interest in cruise travel has increased within the last year, while 64 percent of Gen Xers said the same, compared to 40 percent of Baby Boomers citing the same sentiment. Across all generations, the report found that the increased interest in cruising is higher for men (74 percent) than for women (54 percent). Further, more than seven out of ten (71 percent) men named ocean cruises as the type of vacation they are most interested in taking within the next three years. In regards to cruise atmosphere, more than half (62 percent) of both female and male respondents cite casual elegance as their preferred cruise style.

Other key findings from the latest Cruise Industry Consumer Outlook of 2017:
Repeat Cruising: The report found 80 percent of past cruisers have an increased interest in taking a cruise, while 50 percent of non-cruisers said the same. Repeat cruisers are drawn to cruise travel largely due to the value this vacation type offers.
Cruising Costs: When compared to both land-packaged tours and all-inclusive trips, more than half (57 percent) of respondents surveyed believe cruising offers a high value, compared to 48 percent saying the same for land-based vacations. When it comes to outside factors impacting leisure travel plans, nearly a quarter (24 percent) of respondents cite job responsibilities as the top factor.
Keeping it Close: The report also found travelers are drawn to cruising for a variety of reasons including destinations and convenience. Regarding cruise ports being within driving distance, respondents acknowledged the convenience of driving to the cruise ship (68 percent), the reduced hassle of not having to fly to a port (64 percent), and the cost savings when not needing to fly (57 percent) as the primary benefits of having a lot more cruise embarkation options available in North America.
Destinations & Durations: Cruise destinations and durations also positively impacted consumer attitudes toward cruising. When it comes to cruise destinations, more than one-third (36 percent) of travelers prefer the Caribbean region, while a quarter (27 percent) chose the Mediterranean. The Caribbean is more favored by people in the lower income brackets while interest in the Mediterranean is higher for higher-income brackets. Seven-day cruises are also the most popular among those surveyed (33 percent) when compared to other cruise durations.
Oceans of Interest: According to the new research, respondents are showing an increased interest in ocean cruising when compared to reports earlier in the year. Currently, 34 percent of respondents interested in cruising will definitely be taking an ocean cruise compared to 23 percent reported in January.
The inforgraphic is available here.

HAL’s Koningsdam’s art collection tops over $4 million

The stunning Atrium sculpture titled “Harps”. The $600,000 piece is an impressive 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture that spans three decks.


One of the most notable features of any Holland America Line ship is the remarkable collection of museum-quality art on board. The line’s newest vessel, ms Koningsdam is no exception. With a collection worth $4.1 million, the ship highlights the talents of leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, working with art curator ArtLink, and YSA Design to procure a thought-provoking collection of diverse works that complements the ship’s design while stimulating conversation.

The result is a floating art gallery with 1,920 pieces ranging in value from $500 to $600,000 that spans the decks, public rooms and staterooms. More than 21 nationalities are represented by Koningsdam’s artists, with the greatest number of contributors coming from the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Koningsdam features artworks in many media, including photography, painting, mixed media, illustration, prints and sculpture. Ranging from classic to whimsical, a variety of two-dimensional, mixed-media pieces using materials including paint-injected bubble wrap, computer disks on wood, toy cars cast in resin, aluminum wire, cast paper, bamboo and more are scattered throughout the ship. Many of the pieces change appearance depending on the viewer’s vantage point, inviting guests to take time to ponder and discuss the works of art.

The largest and most expensive work is the stunning Atrium sculpture titled “Harps” that is based on a concept by Adam D. Tihany, who was at the helm of the ship’s design and is regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent hospitality designers. The $600,000 piece is an impressive 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture that spans three decks.

“Extensive collections of unique and thought-provoking art have always been a hallmark of our elegant on board ambiance, and Koningsdam showcases one of our most exciting and contemporary displays,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Surrounding our guests with a vast array of meaningful artwork is a natural extension of the cruise experience as art awakens your senses, enriches your perspectives, inspires conversation and crosses cultural boundaries, all the same transformative values of travel.”

Additional pieces that carry an impressive price tag include Jason Krugman’s multideck “Quad Helix” light sculpture located in the Queen’s Lounge that cost $174,750; the custom-designed Swarovski crystal globe made by Dutch design group Studio Job valued at $100,000 located on Deck 3, mid-ship stair lobby; and the $54,000 “Rabbit” by Berg and Meyers nestled in The Retreat, which has turned into one of the most talked about pieces on board.

The large-scale tulip images behind the Guest Services desk on Deck 3 are by a Netherlands-based artist who was commissioned to photograph Holland America Line’s Signature Tulip. This unique flower only blooms for a couple of weeks every year, so ArtLink’s team traveled to the Netherlands to collect the blooms directly from the only grower in the world of the Signature Tulip, and they arrived at the photographer’s studio in time to capture the moment.

Dutch artist Peter Gentenaar recently exhibited his work at Paris’ famed Louvre, and now Holland America Line guests can enjoy his captivating, two-story sculpture in The Dining Room. Titled “Wings of the Pharao,” the piece is made from handmade cast paper, Belgian linen and bamboo, and Gentenaar came on board the ship during construction in the yard to complete the installation.

As he has done for the entire Holland America Line fleet, Stephen J. Card, a British artist regarded as one of the finest maritime painters working today, created two paintings that are on display in the Captain’s Corner of the Crow’s Nest, forward on Deck 11.

A highlight for many Holland America Line devotees are the historic art objects on display that came from ms Ryndam and ms Statendam, which were transferred to sister brand P&O Australia.

Whether it’s a collection of pieces featuring famous musicians or a wooden ship sculpture with a cello for its hull, the art aboard Koningsdam makes up one of the finest collections in the world. Guests can explore the decks inside and out and discover inspired works around every turn.

Westerdam shows off new enhancements on Med cruises

The 82,000 ton Westerdam has been upgraded to handle 1964 passengers on Med cruises.


When Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam emerged from a 12-day dry dock at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Palermo, Italy, in late April, the ship debuted major renovations that added many new public spaces and amenities, including two firsts for the fleet: Explorations Central, or EXC, in the Crow’s Nest and Rijksmuseum at Sea. Westerdam also received the popular Music Walk venues Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard, the intimate Gallery Bar, a reimagined Lido Market and The Retreat area with private cabanas.

Newly released photos show the renovations, along with additional upgrades and modifications including suite upgrades, enhancements to the Greenhouse Spa and Salon, renovations to youth areas Club HAL and The Loft, and the new Holland America Line logo on the funnels. Deck 10 saw the addition of 25 guest staterooms, including 18 verandah and seven interior staterooms, increasing the capacity of the ship to 1,964 guests.

“We have many innovative new programs and enhancements launching across the fleet, and it’s exciting to see them finally come to life on Westerdam, which is the first Holland America Line ship to get Rijksmuseum at Sea and EXC,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Holland America Line is in a transformative era, and that will be reflected in on board spaces over the coming years as ships are updated with new venues and programming that are moving our brand forward.”

Holland America Line’s partnership with Rijksmuseum — the Museum of the Netherlands in Amsterdam — celebrates the company’s Dutch heritage. With Rijksmuseum at Sea on Westerdam, reproductions of some of the museum’s most famous masterpieces are showcased at a dedicated space located on Deck One of the Atrium. Guests also can view videos about the museum and its collections on the in-stateroom television.

To further complete Westerdam’s transformation, 25 new staterooms were added near the top of the ship on Deck 10. The 18 verandah and seven interior staterooms increase the ship’s capacity to 1,964 guests.

Additionally, the suites on board received the fleetwide suite upgrades. The main living area was refreshed with a new headboard, new carpet, wall coverings, a privacy curtain, drapery, bed runner and bed skirt. New quartz-stone surfaces were added to the desk, dresser, nightstands and makeup vanity which, along with new vanity lighting, enhance the cosmetic transformation. Electronic upgrades include a new USB outlet added to the bed’s headboard, bedside LED lights, upgraded electrical outlets and a lighted closet rod. Suite bathrooms also were upgraded, including a wall of designer glass tile, new vanity area, stylish floor tiles and a nightlight.

A new interactive television system was installed throughout the ship, featuring large LED flat-screen TVs with complimentary movies and popular TV shows on demand as well as easy access to the daily program and shipboard information including restaurant overviews, spa services and guest billing.

Outside on Deck 11, The Retreat was relocated from Deck 10, providing a quiet lounging area and 15 private cabanas available for rental that offer a relaxing oasis on deck. Various other public spaces around the ship received new soft furnishings including carpets, drapery, chairs and sofas, while additional outside enhancements include new pool deck loungers and teak decking.

Westerdam currently is cruising the Mediterranean on 12-day itineraries between Barcelona, Spain, and Venice or Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy. To learn more visit: Holland America

Norwegian Joy completes first cruise from Shanghai

The 167,000 ton Norwegian Joy is planned to cruise exclusively in Asian ports for the Chinese market. It holds 3880 passengers.


After maiden calls to Singapore, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, Norwegian Cruise Line (Norwegian), a leading global cruise brand of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: NCLH), welcomed its newest cruise ship, Norwegian Joy, to her new home port of Shanghai, China. The arrival of Norwegian Joy to Shanghai marks a significant milestone for the storied cruise line as it enters the Chinese cruise market.

“Norwegian Cruise Line is extremely proud to welcome the newest addition to our fleet, Norwegian Joy, to her home port of Shanghai, China” said David Herrera, President of NCLH China. “Norwegian Joy’s arrival demonstrates our commitment to the Chinese cruise market. She was custom-built with Chinese cruise guests in mind.”

From the first race track at sea to the innovative virtual reality experiences available at the Galaxy Pavilion to the 28 local and international dining options, Norwegian Joy has an abundance of features that appeal to the modern Chinese family, including staterooms especially designed for multi-generational families traveling together. An international standard of entertainment is easily accessible, with Las Vegas-style performances, as well as a wide variety of luxury shopping options. With this incredible ship, Norwegian’s signature onboard experience has been expanded and customized, adding exciting features, services and amenities that combine both the East and the West to deliver a “First Class at Sea” experience.

Cruise Lines Escape US-Cuba Travel Ban for now

Plaza de la Catedral de San Cristobal Havana. (wikimedia.org)


(Cruise Examiner – Kevin Griffin) – Last Friday the Trump administration announced tightened restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, restrictions that had only recently been loosened by President Obama. But President Trump’s words on Friday, “we will enforce the ban on tourism,” will not have any immediate effect on the cruises already planned for Cuba.

Trump’s new presidential directive called for tighter enforcement of the exisitng ban on American tourists going to Cuba. The new policy will ban US transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), which is involved in all sectors of the Cuban economy.

However, the new rules will exempt air and sea travel, allowing US airlines and cruise lines to continue serving the island nation. The biggest change will be doing away with “people-to-people” exchanges. These trips were enabled under the Obama administration so Americans could travel to Cuba without seeking permission or having to schedule the trip through a licensed tour operator.

Trump’s new policy makes an exception for companies already doing business with GAESA, so flights, cruises, and existing hotel reservations will all be exempt. The new rules maintain the requirement that Americans traveling to Cuba must do so under the twelve approved forms, with which US-based cruise lines already comply.

However, purchases at any Cuban government-run facilities, such as bars and restaurants, and possibly even car rentals, will now be prohibited. In the worst case scenario it could be that passengers will only be allowed to go ashore on company-sponsored shore excursions.

As of now, the best-known regular visitors to Havana will soon be Royal Caribbean International’s 1,600-berth Empress of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,002-berth Norwegian Sky and Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,052-berth Carnival Paradise, modestly-sized ships in today’s market. This trio will operate primarily 4- and 5-day cruises with a night in Havana, rather than on the usual cruise duration of 7 nights from Florida.

CLIA releases first cruise outlook for 2017

Cruise Lines International Assn. says cruise agents see big uptick in bookings.


Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released today the first Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook Report of 2017, uncovering cruise travel trends and key insights from within the travel agent industry. The report is part of an ongoing research study from CLIA intended to forecast cruise industry trends among travel agents. This installment of the Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook found that travel agents continue to experience positive sales growth. Some key trends contributing to this growth include the rise of multigenerational cruise travel, a high demand for shorter duration cruises, and travelers looking for all-inclusive options.

“Travel agents have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the cruise industry. By tapping into insights through the Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook report, the industry is able to forecast upcoming travel and traveler behavior trends and tailor business strategies accordingly,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA.

Key findings from the first Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook Report of 2017:

Cruise Industry Continues to Rise

According to the report, cruise travel agent sales continue to increase. In fact, 77 percent of cruise travel agents indicate that their sales volume is better than last year. Additionally, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of agents say they expect to experience an increase in customer spending in 2017, especially when it comes to cost of excursions.

The cruise industry continues to grow across all sectors with nearly half (47 percent) of travel agents reporting the highest customer satisfaction with ocean cruises over all-inclusive resorts (21 percent) and house or condo rentals (7 percent). River cruises also continue to garner popularity, as agents report clients value smaller ships, less structure, and a variety of river cruise amenities.

Changes in Traveler Behavior & Cruise Duration

The report also found some developing changes in cruise traveler behavior. Travel agents taking part in the report stated that shorter cruise lengths are becoming more popular than ever with the greatest interest in cruises lasting less than two weeks. More than four out of ten agents (43 percent) reported that clients were most interested in cruises of three to five days and 44 percent of agents predict increased bookings in cruises lasting six to eight days. North America-based travel agents have also seen a shift towards domestic travel.

For more information, the full report, composed in April of this year, is available at: Cruise Industry Outlook