80s Cruise Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer.

80s Cruise Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer.

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Growing up as a teenager in the 80s was a lot of fun, so who wouldn’t jump at the chance to re-live it all over again on a cruise?

The clever people at Floating Festivals realised there was a big demand from all those who were missing the big hair, outrageous fashion and brilliant music of that iconic decade – and to help us celebrate it, they created a Throwback 80s cruise.

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
On a Throwback cruise, you can dress up in full 80s style with your mates

When you’re rocking your favourite look from that era, pretty much anything goes. I went back to my mod days with a two-tone outfit on night one, while my friend channelled her Club Tropicana past in a loud Hawaiian shirt and suitably 80s garish make-up.

Too much? No, not nearly enough. As we stepped out into the atrium of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, we were surprised and delighted to see whole gangs of people dressed in matching 80s outfits that looked absolutely fantastic.

Our favourites included burly men doing their finest Freddie Mercury, complete with high heels and Hoovers, a gang of Richard Geres from An Officer and a Gentlemen, half a dozen Pac Men and a posse of mums and daughters dressed to the nines as Robert Palmer’s backing band (how they managed not to smile, just pouting when anyone walked by, is still a mystery to me).

80s Cruise: Royal Caribbean, Explorer of the Seas
Party at sea on an 80s cruise

The whole scene felt like a friendly fancy dress party, with everyone stopping off to admire each others’ outfits. The atmosphere was electric with hairspray, cheap jewellery and enough make-up to put Boots out of business. And that was just the men.

But a retro fashion show at sea was only the beginning. We were all there to see the bands from our youth, and Friday night kicked off in style with UB40. Yes, we might be in our 50s and 60s, but we haven’t forgotten our 80s dance moves, we still remember

all the words, and soon the crowd was yelling along to Red, Red Wine. Happy days indeed.

The night was still young, and Club Tropicana beckoned. Decade revivalists Coyote’s 80s Mixtape were on stage blasting out some classic tunes from Toto, Tina Turner and Prince, swiftly followed by a great DJ set from mullet legend Pat Sharpe (sadly, without his signature haircut these days).

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
Your outfit can’t be too bright for neon night

Everyone went a bit bananas, singing at the top of their voices, necking Pina Coladas and bottles of Corona and remembering the sheer joy of their 80s youth.

The following morning there were more than a few sore heads on board, but having left the dance floor at a relatively sensible 1am, my friend and I decided to step off the ship and look around Le Havre.

There’s always one port call on the Throwback cruise – last year it was Bruges – and although the destination isn’t really the point, this was my first visit to Le Havre, and I was impressed.

I loved the amazing Brutalist concrete cathedral (not to mention some melt-in-the-mouth croissants and excellent coffee), though quite what the well-dressed locals thought of the sudden influx of Brits in pink legwarmers is anyone’s guess.

80s cruise: Royal Caribbean
These ladies had the 80s look down to a T

Back on board, there was real excitement in the air as everyone headed off to get ready for the neon night and a chance to see the legendary Sister Sledge live. The crowd glowed brightly in the dark and the band played a killer set with disco favourites including We Are Family and Lost In Music getting everyone to their feet.

Running these cruises over the weekend is a great idea, as everyone really goes back in time, remembering what it was like to live (and dress up for) the weekend.

80s cruise: Tony Hadley
Tony Hadley struts his stuff on stage

By Sunday night, everyone on board couldn’t wait to see Tony Hadley play live. During the day we’d been kept entertained by the brilliant Bootleg Blondie (complete with real Blondie drummer Clem Burke) and 80s comedian Bobby Davro hosting a crazy round of bingo. But make no mistake, Tony was a big attraction here.

And boy, did he play a great set. Opening with Spandau Ballet’s first single, To Cut A Long Story Short, he had the crowd in raptures with spine-tingling renditions of Through the BarricadesTrue and Gold. His voice is still amazing and he’s a great raconteur, too, even stopping to congratulate one couple who had got engaged on the ship.

Channelling our 80s New Romantic selves, my friend and I were up and dancing from the very first song – as were the Oompa Loompas behind us.

80s cruise: Bootleg Blondie
Bootleg Blondie wowed the crowds on board

As you’d expect from a Royal Caribbean ship, our cabin aboard Explorer of the Seas was great and the food was plentiful and tasty, but this cruise is more about the sheer joy of getting dressed up with your mates, having fun and celebrating one of history’s best decades for fashion and music.

Beg, borrow or steal a ticket for next year’s Throwback, and I’ll see you on the dancefloor…

Collective Planning Puzzle

Ovation of the Seas will split her deployment between Australia and Alaska

This year will be a big year for Royal Caribbean Cruises with Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises introducing new ships. The new ships in turn are the primary drivers generating itinerary changes throughout the fleets, according to Chris Allen, vice president, deployment and itinerary planning, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Celebrity will be introducing the new Celebrity Edge this fall, sailing seven-day cruises from Port Everglades for the winter season, and Royal Caribbean will introduce the Symphony of the Seas with a summer Mediterranean season.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have already announced a large percentage of their deployment over the next two years and by March or April are expecting to have most if not all of their itineraries open for sale through April 2020.

“One big story is the variety of Oasis-class homeports and ports of call,” Allen said. The Symphony enters service this spring and will sail seven-day cruises from Barcelona and Civitavecchia, before moving to Miami for year-round alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

In 2019, when the Oasis goes to the Mediterranean for the summer, the Harmony will move from Port Everglades to Port Canaveral. In addition, the Allure; which is in Miami for the 2018-2019 winter, goes back to Port Everglades; and the Oasis goes to Miami in the fall.

Another headliner for 2019 will be the Ovation going to Alaska from Australia via Hawaii to Vancouver before homeporting in Seattle, where she is replacing the Explorer of the Seas.

“Sailing alongside the Radiance, hardware-wise I think we will have the most interesting ships in Alaska,” Allen noted. “It will also be the first time we have two Quantum-class ships in North America with the Anthem of the Seas on the East Coast.”

While the cruise fleet is growing, many ports are expanding too and new ports have come online, according to Allen, who said it was important to partner with destinations to develop them for the long term, making sure the brands have great destinations to call at.

“We develop itineraries for each brand reflecting their strategic vision; the itineraries must fit what the brands represent and must appeal to the sourcing markets,” he explained.

“We look at guest feedback, the attractiveness of destinations, trends, what is popular, what is not, marketability, and then balance that vs. the cost side, fuel and port costs.

“The beauty of our industry is that compared to hotels, we can move ships and maximize the appeal of the ships and their profitability.

“This formula works and has not changed at the macro level although the input is constantly changing, such as fuel costs and regulations.”

He said that itinerary planning is a big puzzle that the company is always trying to optimize. “We have a small team here that works very hard. The deployments we have are some of the most important decisions we make as a company, it impacts everything we do – it is imperative that we get things right.  We have some very smart and dedicated people on our team, but we rely on the collective knowledge and partnering across the company, with the brands, but also all the other areas and with all the destinations, tour operators, ports and governments around the world.  It really takes a collective effort to put the puzzle together.”

Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Caribbean Princess

The new, wider locks on the Panama Canal will open June 26 with the first official transit of a cargo ship, but don’t expect much traffic through them from cruise ships.

Only one cruise ship has reserved space to move through the new locks, which are open to one cruise ship a day starting in June 2017, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess is scheduled to make a series of thirteen 10-day cruises through the canal beginning Oct. 21, 2017.

At 118 feet wide, the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess can’t fit into the 110-foot locks that were opened in 1914. The new locks had been scheduled to open in time for the centennial but were delayed by disputes between Panama and the consortia of contractors that built them.

The new locks rely on tugs rather than electric locomotives to move ships through them. Doubts have been raised about the ability to fit the tugs in the locks along with the longest ships, but at 951 feet, the Caribbean Princess will have room to spare in the 1,400 foot locks.

For cargo ships, questions have also been raised about the record-low depths of water in Gatun Lake, which connects locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal. Depths hit 81.75 feet earlier this year. But large cruise ships typically need only about 30 feet to operate.

Most cruise ships transiting the Panama Canal will continue to use the old locks. Cruise lines have several ships operating in Alaska that would need the new locks to move to the Atlantic, such as Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice. But for now they are stationed year-round in the Pacific, moving to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East during the winter.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line said Carnival doesn’t have any full transit Panama Canal cruises scheduled through April 2018.

Holland America Line recently launched the Koningsdam, the first HAL ship that will not fit through the old locks, but it is currently deployed in Europe during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter.