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Tag Archives: cruise travel

7 most popular cruise ships of 2011

The seven most popular cruise ships of 2011 include the newest, flashiest offerings from Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines and more.

1. Allure of the Seas  – Royal Caribbean

Roni Lehti / AFP – Getty Images

The Allure of the Seas launched in 2010 and has room for 5,400 passengers.

Tonnage: 225,282 

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 5,400/6,360

The 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas builds on the blueprint introduced by its revolutionary older sister, Oasis of the Seas. Both ships feature unique-to-cruising offerings like zip-lining, a plant-filled “Central Park” and a handmade wooden carousel, but Allure added twists of its own, including cruising’s first Starbucks, characters from the DreamWorks army and the Broadway show “Chicago.”

See where Allure of the Seas sails in 2012.

2. Norwegian Epic – Norwegian Cruise Line

Don Emmert / AFP – Getty Images

The Norwegian Epic sails past the Statue of Liberty on her maiden voyage July 1, 2010, in New York Harbor.

Tonnage: 155,873

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 4,100/5,226

Launched in summer 2010, Epic broke the mold in numerous ways, most notably its game-changing Studio staterooms (geared toward solo travelers), its multitude of entertainment options (including Blue Man Group) and controversial translucent bathrooms (alas, you can see right through the smoked glass). Add in more than 20 restaurants, a giant waterpark and one of cruising’s largest spas, and the ship lives up to its name.

See where Norwegian Epic sails in 2012.

3. Carnival Magic – Carnival Cruise Lines


Carnival Magic, which launched on May 1, 2011, features an onboard waterpark.

Tonnage: 130,000

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 3,690/4,724

From its exclusive Thirsty Frog Red beer to cruising’s first ropes course, the buzz started early on Carnival Magic — the newest addition to the line’s fleet — and has only grown. As a measure of its success, several of the concepts introduced on Magic are spreading to other Carnival ships, including the family-style Cucina del Capitano Italian eatery and the RedFrog Pub (and its iconic suds).

See where Carnival Magic sails in 2012.

4. Oasis of the Seas – Royal Caribbean


When it debuted in 2009, Oasis of the Seas was considered the world’s largest cruise ship.

Tonnage: 225,282

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 5,400/6,296

Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009 as the largest and most innovative cruise ship ever built. In addition to debuting numerous at-sea “firsts,” including an breathtaking outdoor AquaTheater, Oasis represents a revolution in ship design. An open-air corridor carved out along the length of the massive ship creates space for a tropical foliage- and restaurant-filled Central Park and Coney Island-style Boardwalk “neighborhood.”

See where Oasis of the Seas sails in 2012.

5. Celebrity Solstice – Celebrity Cruises

Quentin Bacon / Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Solstice Lawn Club is a popular atttraction.

Tonnage: 122,000

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 2,850/3,145

Arguably the most beautiful mega-ship at sea, Celebrity Solstice earns high marks for its whimsical restaurants, trendy lounges and glass-and-light-filled spaces. But Solstice’s most buzzworthy feature has to be its Lawn Club, a top-ship green space where passengers can play bocce, watch a glass-blowing demonstration and simply feel freshly cut grass between their toes. 

See where Celebrity Solstice sails in 2012.

6. Disney Dream – Disney Cruise Line


The Disney Dream launched on Jan. 26, 2011.

Tonnage: 128,690

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 2,500/4,000

Who’s to argue with a ship boasting something called the AquaDuck? Disney’s first new vessel in more than a decade, Disney Dream set sail in early 2011 and  continues the company’s signature “ocean liner” look, complete with cruising’s first “watercoaster” (i.e., the AquaDuck), an entire deck devoted to youths and the French eatery Remy — at $75 a head, the most expensive for-fee restaurant on a cruise ship.

See where Disney Dream sails in 2012.

7. Ruby Princess  – Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises

The Ruby Princess offers Movies Under the Stars, complete with a poolside big-screen theater.

Tonnage: 113,000

Berths (Double Occupancy/Max.): 3,080/3,763

Ruby Princess showcases all of Princess Cruises’ marquee features, including  Movies Under the Stars, a poolside big-screen theater; the three-deck Piazza, a combination bakery, Internet cafe, wine/sushi/tapas bar; and the adults-only Sanctuary, a mostly shaded top-ship retreat with thick, plush loungers, massage cabanas and a spa menu.

See where Ruby Princess sails in 2012.

More from Cruise Critic



Disney cruise line cancels four Mexican Riviera sailings

Without explanation, Disney Cruise Line has canceled four of Disney Wonder‘s Mexican Riviera cruises in December 2012.

According to the line, those booked on weeklong voyages leaving from Los Angeles on December 9, 16, 23 and 30 next year have a few options.

  • Change to another seven-night or longer Disney cruise by this Thursday, December 22, 2011, and qualify for onboard credit. Those who transfer from December 9 or 16 cruises will get $250 in onboard credit per cabin. Those who transfer from the December 23 and December 30 cruises — the more highly coveted Christmas and New Year’s sailings — will receive $500 in onboard credit per cabin. (Note: If transferring, passengers would pay or be refunded the difference according to prevailing rates.)
  • Call and cancel the cruise for a full refund.
  • If passengers do not call to make the switch or cancel, they will be automatically moved to the December 2 Mexican Riviera cruise, a seven-nighter. They will still have the option to move to another date; however, they may not qualify for the onboard credit offer.

The line is mum on the reasons behind the cancellations. “We look forward to making an announcement regarding these sail dates when the time is right for us to do so,” said Disney spokeswoman Rebecca Peddie.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Cruise Critic readers from speculating on the message boards. Readers began posting on Monday after receiving letters about the canceled cruises from the line. Member vivapataca thinks a Panama Canal crossing could fit into the new gap. “Perhaps the Wonder is replacing the [sister ship Disney Magic in the Caribbean] while [Magic] is updated for a more friendly ‘Hawaiian’ experience,” posted DianeDuffy. Disney has a new resort, Aulani, in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Stewart Chiron, an industry expert known as the Cruise Guy, also weighed in. “It’s obvious Disney is planning to begin its 2013 deployment of Disney Wonder earlier than expected,” said Chiron in an e-mail. He added that, given the recent low demand for Mexico cruises, he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Wonder ended up on a higher priced Caribbean itinerary when all is said and done.

Regardless of Disney’s reason for the cancellation, the move is another blow to a beleaguered region that’s seen numerous lines pull out over drug-related safety and security concerns. (Holland America is the latest.)

Wonder’s other 2012 Mexican Riviera sailings, from January 8 to April 22 and October 28 to December 2, remain on the schedule. Stay tuned for the ship’s future deployment.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship fails CDC inspection

Soiled plates in the clean buffet stack, missing safety signage and more than 30 fruit flies, dead and alive, were recently discovered on Monarch of the Seas by inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those and dozens of other infractions earned the Royal Caribbean ship a failing score of 85 out of 100 on its November 18 vessel sanitation inspection.

The CDC’s stringent (and surprise) cruise ship cleanliness exam is conducted twice a year, with an 86 considered passing.

In the detailed report, fruit flies were mentioned 11 times, having been found in bulkheads, by preparation counters, and in and around the buffet during live service. The ship also came under fire for not maintaining potentially hazardous foods at proper temperatures and/or not logging when said foods were refrigerated. Temperature checks at 8:45 a.m. in one of Monarch’s walk-ins found shredded cheese, kidney beans, raw eggs and shredded deli ham all above the required level of 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The staff stated the ambient temperature log for the walk-in was checked at 5:45 a.m. — but there were no food temperature checks recorded. All these foods were discarded.

According to the 2011 version of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program’s (VSP) Operations Manual, “Except during preparation, cooking, or cooling, potentially hazardous foods must be maintained at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above (roasts may be held at a temperature of 130 degrees), or 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less.”

The report further revealed that Monarch had not adopted new standards from the VSP’s updated manual, which include carrying a test kit for measuring alkalinity in the swimming pools and posting poolside safety signs warning passengers not to use the facilities if they are “experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, or fever” and encouraging them to shower before entering the facility.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said it was “extremely disappointed” to learn that Monarch only received an 85 during its last inspection. The line added that it is working closely with the proper authorities to “correct and remedy the deficiencies found aboard Monarch that caused the low score,” and that it has “already submitted [its] corrective action report.” The line added that it was “confident that Monarch of the Seas would receive a passing score when the ship was re-inspected.” Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez tells Cruise Critic that the re-test has not yet taken place.

The 2,390-passenger Monarch of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s oldest vessel, having debuted in 1991. According to the CDC Web site, the ship has been tested 43 times since its launch, earning one other failing score, an 82 in 1996. Monarch earned a 97 on its previous inspection in July.

The last cruise ship to fail an inspection was Queen Mary 2, which garnered an 84 in June. During QM2’s pop test, inspectors found a human hair in an ice machine, “extremely dirty” water in a pool, chemicals stored near napkins and paper cups, and even a few errant cockroaches. QM2 received a 92 when it was re-inspected the following month.

Since January 1, 37 ships have earned a perfect score of 100, including Oasis of the Seas, Azamara Journey, Disney Dream, Carnival Liberty, Norwegian Jewel, Silverseas’ Silver Spirit, HAL’s Amsterdam and Celebrity Constellation.

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Luxury cruise ship rescues Atlantic rowers

How’s this for an upgrade: Two men competing in a trans-Atlantic rowing challenge were rescued this morning by Crystal Serenity after a huge swell sunk their boat 480 miles southwest of the Canaries.

The Guardian identified the pair as Tom Sauer, 23, Dutch-Russian, and Tom Fancett, also 23, British. The U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which coordinated the rescue with the 1,072-passenger luxury ship, said the two were racing the 7.3-meter PS Vita from the Canary Islands to Barbados as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC).

In a message posted on the TWAC Web site, Sauer explained how he and TeamTom co-member Fancett were changing places in the boat when suddenly they were “rocked by an enormous wave, the size of which [they had] never seen before.”

“Our boat was thrown over and capsized. The cabin flooded.” The Toms managed to get into their life raft as they watched the PS Vita sink.

According to the MCA, Falmouth Coastguard received an alert from an emergency locator beacon some 480 miles southwest of the Canaries, after which the Coastguard sent an alert to all vessels in the area. Crystal Serenity, which was also on a trans-Atlantic voyage (from Europe to the Caribbean), was the closest, at about 120 miles out. The ship changed course and steamed through the night to reach the stranded rowers, who posted on the TWAC Web site that they floated for some 10 hours.

Several Cruise Critic readers were on the ship at the time and have posted eyewitness accounts of the rescue.

“Unreal evening!” posted Cruise Critic member either-oar on the message boards. “[Early] this morning, the ship was way off course with spotlights on the water. Eventually we located an inflatable raft with two souls aboard (screaming their heads off). We hung over the rail and watched the entire rescue. I can’t imagine what their fate could have been.”

“The Captain and crew did a remarkable job rescuing these two men, who are now in the shops getting clothes,” added marienbad, who also witnessed the event.

TeamTom and Crystal Serenity are now en route to St. Maarten, where the ship is expected to arrive Sunday as originally scheduled.

Crystal has not yet provided comment to Cruise Critic.

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End of tummy trouble? Norovirus vaccine in the works

The future of cruising may not include obsessive hand sanitizing and bouts in the bathroom while everyone else is onshore. That’s because a research team at the Baylor College of Medicine is hard at work on — drum roll, please — a norovirus vaccine.

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the team’s trial vaccine — a dry powder administered as a spray — “provides significant protection against the norovirus.”

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested 90 healthy adults, with half getting the test vaccine and half receiving a placebo. When 84 of the subjects were exposed to norovirus, 61 percent of vaccine recipients became infected and 37 percent developed symptoms, compared to 82 percent of the control group who became infected with 61 percent developing symptoms. (It is possible to be infected with Norovirus but not actually experience any stomach upset or other discomforts.) The vaccine recipients also reported less serious symptoms than those who only received the placebo.

Related: What you need to know about Norvirus

Gastrointestinal illnesses are particularly difficult to vaccinate against. Only one other currently exists — the rotavirus vaccine given to infants. If successful, this vaccine would be the second in the world.

We do have one serious quibble with the reporting of this story: A significant number of outlets have dubbed norvirus a “cruise ship” virus (both in attention-grabbing headlines and throughout the coverage). USA Today, for instance, called it a “nasty bug that regularly afflicts whole shiploads of people with nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.”

Although many people refer to it as such, it is not unique to cruise ships or limited to sea-going vessels. Norovirus is actually the second most prevalent illness in the U.S. after the common cold, and the CDC estimates that there are more than 20 million cases annually.

Cruise ship cases make the news because lines participating in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program are required to report the total number of GI cases (including zero cases) evaluated by the medical staff before the ship arrives at a U.S. port, when sailing from a foreign port. A separate notification is required when the GI count exceeds 2 percent of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. This is not the case for land-based facilities like hotels and hospitals.

According to reports, the norovirus vaccine will likely not be ready for distribution for another 5 to 10 years.

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