Carnival Breeze and Liberty will sail from Galveston

To make way for the new Carnival Vista when it is deployed in Miami in November 2016, Carnival Cruise Line will shift the Carnival Breeze to Galveston, Texas.

Also, Carnival will position the Carnival Liberty in Galveston in 2016. It has just repositioned Carnival Freedom to Galveston, where it is aggressively courting new business.

“Miami and Galveston are among our most popular points of embarkation, and deploying our newest, most innovative ships to these home ports speaks volumes about our confidence in growing these markets,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

The Carnival Triumph and Magic, currently sailing from Galveston, will be redeployed with details to be announced at a later date.

Prior to the start-up of year-round service from Miami, Carnival Vista will operate a pair of voyages round trip from New York, beginning with a three-day cruise Nov. 4-7, 2016, followed by an 11-day voyage departing Nov. 7 and visiting Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua and St. Maarten.

Carnival Vista will then offer an 11-day transit cruise from New York to Miami from Nov. 18-29, with calls at Grand Turk, Bonaire, Aruba and St. Maarten.

Its first cruise from Miami will be a four-day cruise to Grand Turk, departing Nov. 29. Thereafter it will do alternating six- and eight-day Caribbean itineraries, mixed with a few one-time, one-off voyages, Carnival said.

Seuss proving a coup for Carnival

With the addition of Dr. Seuss characters and the makeover of Camp Carnival into Camp Ocean on some of its ships, Carnival Cruise Line has more appeal than ever to the family cruise segment.

The changes, announced a year ago, bring an instantly recognizable name to Carnival’s kids offerings.

“For Dr. Seuss, as soon as you mention Cat in the Hat, they already know who it is,” said Ana Klacinski, youth director on the Carnival Freedom.

It’s a step up for Carnival, which competes at sea with characters from Nickelodeon (Norwegian Cruise Line), DreamWorks (Royal Caribbean International) and, of course, Disney on Disney Cruise Line.

Now Carnival offers a kids parade through the Freedom once each cruise, led by characters from “The Cat in the Hat,” as well as a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast featuring Sam I Am.

At the same time, Carnival has significantly improved the kids facilities on the Freedom and other ships. Seuss is now playing on 10 of Carnival’s 24 ships, and Camp Ocean has been installed on the Freedom, Breeze, Magic and Triumph.

The big change is to give each age group its own themed space to play in, from Penguins (ages 2 to 5) to Stingrays (6 to 8) to Sharks (9 to 11). Klacinski said kids are excited to see the play space has lost its day-care vibe.

“They have a name, but not only that, they have their own space that they don’t have to share with anybody,” she said. “And they love it.”

The Freedom also received a Dr. Seuss Bookville area adjacent to Camp Ocean. It provides space for unscheduled time that children and parents can play together and an introduction to Seuss books guests may not know.

Part of the magic of the Seuss parade is its mystery, Klacinski said. It begins with an announcement that Seuss characters are onboard and an invitation to gather in a lounge 15 minutes before the parade. No one knows quite what for. When the time is ripe, a chant begins: “Dr. Seuss is on the loose!”

One by one, the characters are introduced and then the parade begins, through the ship, with kids banging noisemakers and keeping the chant going until arrival at the ship’s main theater, where they’re invited on stage for a group reading of “The Cat in the Hat” while parents watch.

“It’s like a good, family-friendly event and comedy show at the same time,” Klacinski said.

The Green Eggs and Ham breakfast, held later in the cruise, attracted about 50 kids and parents on the cruise I was on. Food, including mint-green scrambled eggs, is served by wait staff attired as Thing One and Thing Two from “The Cat in the Hat,” and Sam I Am appears to greet and hug kids.

Chuck Soukop, a passenger from Punta Gorda, Fla., said he was delighted with the upgrades to Freedom’s kids programming. “It’s nice to have something for the kids to do that isn’t as expensive as Disney [Cruise Line],” he said.

Carnival introduces Internet plans based on type of usage

Carnival Cruise Line is testing a new method of delivering Internet service to guests, giving them a choice of three packages based on their online activities instead of charging guests for minutes used.

Carnival is piloting the new Internet packages on three ships: the Freedom, Sunshine and Breeze.

The least expensive option is the social media package, which enables guests to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest for a flat fee of $5 per day or $25 per voyage during the initial testing period.

Those who want to check email and surf the Web can upgrade to a value package for $16 per day or $60 per cruise.

A premium package provides “the fastest available connection speed,” said Carnival, and is for heavy Internet usage. Those who want to use the Skype video calling application must buy the premium package. It costs $25 per day or $99 per cruise.

Guests do not have to log on or off while their plan lasts.

On Carnival’s other ships, the cruise line charges $29 for 45 minutes, $59 for 120 minutes, $89 for 240 minutes and $159 for 480 minutes.

Also, the cruise line is piloting a free smartphone app on the Carnival Breeze. The app provides a searchable deck plan, information about restaurants, the guest’s Sail & Sign account balance, itinerary details and a schedule of shipboard events.

A chat feature that costs $5 for the entire cruise enables guests to exchange messages with traveling companions.

The mobile app and new Internet packages will roll out to additional ships following successful completion of pilot programs, Carnival said.