With some Caribbean ports knocked out, cruise lines make wholesale changes

The cruise port in Nassau, Bahamas, has escaped hurricane damage. Photo Credit: Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have announced itinerary changes for cruises scheduled to depart into October that steer ships clear of storm-ravaged destinations in the eastern Caribbean.

The changes affect nearly half of Carnival’s fleet of 25 ships. The cruises, with departure dates ranging from Sept. 20 to Oct. 1, will visit ports in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic and sail to ports in the western Caribbean, including those in Jamaica, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and the Cayman Islands.

One ship, the Carnival Vista, will visit the southern Caribbean on an 8-day roundtrip Miami itinerary that includes La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Aruba and Curacao.

The Carnival Paradise will offer a five-day roundtrip Tampa cruise departing Sept. 25 that overnights in Havana.

Other affected ships and their departure dates are: Carnival Ecstasy (Sept. 20), Carnival Sensation (Sept. 21 and 30), Carnival Splendor (Sept. 23 and Sept. 30), Carnival Conquest (Sept. 24), Carnival Magic (Sept. 24), Carnival Pride (Sept. 24 and Oct. 1), Carnival Victory (Sept. 25) and Carnival Glory (Sept. 30).

Carnival said the Sept. 24 cruise of the Carnival Fascination, which sails from San Juan is contingent on the damage caused by Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday. Carnival said it will continue to monitor the hurricane and will confirm the itinerary once a post-storm assessment has been completed.

Royal Caribbean said that it will skip Key West on departures of Empress of the Seas through Oct. 11, but that it plans to visit Havana as scheduled on Empress departures that have it as part of the itineraries.

Five Royal Caribbean ships have modified itineraries to substitute other ports for stops in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Key West.

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Carnival Horizon Construction Moving Along

Horizon Construction

Carnival Cruise Line has released three new photos of the construction scenes surrounding the Carnival Horizon, which will launch from Fincantieri in spring of 2018.

Horizon Construction

The Carnival Horizon is set to debut April 2, 2018, with a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona – the first of four roundtrip departures, the company said.

The Carnival Horizon will then reposition to the U.S. with a 14-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New York May 9-23, 2018, positioning the vessel for a summer schedule of four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from Manhattan.

Horizon Construction

Carnival Horizon will shift to Miami to launch a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning Sept. 22, 2018. Carnival Horizon will also offer a special two-day cruise to Nassau from Miami Sept. 20-22, 2018.

Ships’ productions put Cuban culture in the spotlight

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Dancers and musicians perform in “Amor Cubano” at the opening of Carnival Cruise Line’s new rehearsal studio in Davie, Fla. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
 

Cuba, the hottest cruise destination of the last year, has now become the hottest theme in cruise ship entertainment.

The island’s recent opening to U.S. tourism is inspiring show producers and casting directors at several of the Miami-based cruise lines, and production teams are using it as a springboard to explore Cuban culture and stress the authenticity of the music, costuming and overall approach.

Each of the three contemporary cruise brands in South Florida either has a Cuba-

themed show on its ships or has one in development.

Royal Caribbean International’s “Bailamos” is already being staged on the Empress of the Seas as that ship sails from Tampa on itineraries that include Havana. Carnival Cruise Line is shifting a production of its “Amor Cubano” show to the Carnival Paradise when it begins Cuba sailings in June.

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Carnival Paradise

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, is preparing an ambitious show developed by Tony Award-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle for the debut of its next ship, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss, in 2018.

It was perhaps telling that when Carnival held an open house for its new 45,000-square-foot entertainment rehearsal hall, Carnival Studios, in Davie, Fla., earlier this month, the show it chose to highlight was “Amor Cubano.”

The show is a blend of Spanish and English language songs, sung and danced by a cast of 12 and backed by a four-piece Cuban band. It is performed against a backdrop of scenes from Cuba projected on a 480-square-foot LED screen.

Kerry Stables, director of creative development in Carnival’s entertainment department, said the show was proposed in 2015 by Peter Flynn, a Broadway director who had done five shows previously with Carnival’s creative team.

Stables said Carnival chose the show because it only had one other Latin show in its repertoire, which was a “Latin pop crossover style.”

In contrast, “Amor Cubano” is authentic enough that audience members born on the island have cried during some of the numbers, said Sarah Beth Reno, Carnival’s entertainment vice president.

The show, which debuted on the Carnival Vista, was added to the Carnival Glory in the fall of 2016 and will open on the Carnival Paradise next month.

“Once the announcement was made about the Paradise going to Cuba, it was a given that we should add the show to that ship, as well, to truly expand the guests’ experience while enjoying Cuba first hand,” Stables said.

Royal Caribbean’s cruise to Cuba aboard the Empress of the Seas features two shows that have elements of Cuban entertainment. The first, “Bailamos,” which means “let’s dance” in Spanish, showcases Latin music in a broad range of styles, from nostalgic Hollywood to new musicals on Broadway.

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Empress of the Seas

The second, called “Three,” is a tribute to showgirls of yesterday, today and tomorrow. The costuming, with its towering feather headdresses, is reminiscent of those that tourists in Havana can see if they visit the legendary Tropicana Cabaret for its two-hour outdoor extravaganza.

At Norwegian Cruise Line, the entertainment team has been working for nine months on an original musical.

“It’s basically going to be a celebration of Cuban culture and Cuban music,” said Richard Ambrose, Norwegian’s vice president of entertainment. “It’s also going to be [cast with] Cuban or Cuban-American artists. So it’s really going to be an authentic feel, under the helm of Broadway’s best.”

Ambrose said the costuming will be done by New York-based Cuban-American fashion designer Isabel Toledo, while the art direction and scenic design will go to her husband, artist Ruben Toledo.

The show is targeted for the Norwegian Bliss, which debuts in June 2018 in Seattle with “Jersey Boys” as its lead show. Ambrose said the Cuban production will be equally exciting but in a different vein.

“We think this is going to blow the roof off entertainment, not only at sea but everywhere in the world,” he said.

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Norwegian Bliss