Carnival Fascination returns to San Juan

San Juan has regained its homeported Carnival Cruise Line ship, five months after Hurricane Maria knocked the Carnival Fascination out of the market.

The 2,056-passenger Fantasy-class ship was chartered to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for use by relief workers in St. Croix for several months after the storm while Carnival repaired damage to its terminal in San Juan.

The 24-year-old ship then went into a drydock to be upgraded before returning to cruising duty.  Several Funship 2.0 restaurants were installed during the drydock, including Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina and Bonsai Sushi Express. Bar concepts new to the ship will be the Alchemy Bar, the RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequilla Bar. The candy store Cherry on Top was also retrofitted to the ship.

The Fascination will depart San Juan on Sundays for seven-day round-trip voyages stopping in St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

Carnival Vista the product of healthy competition

Business competition isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It led to ruinous price wars in the late 19th century in many industries.

But it’s also a great goad to improvement. That seems to be what’s happening in the cruise industry, especially in the contemporary market, where a remarkable series of interesting ships have been coming out of Europe’s shipyards.

Judging by the renderings released last week, the latest to join the fray is the Carnival Vista, coming in 2016.

While still bearing the imprint of Funship 2.0, the Vista will have a number of novel elements not shared by other Carnival Cruise Line ships.

Guests on the SkyRide cycle 150 feet above the sea.

SkyRider, a recumbent cycle that runs a circuit around and above the sports deck, may be the most noticeable of the bunch. But there’s also an IMAX theater, part of a Multiplex area; a new kaleidoscopic water slide; a casual seafood restaurant; an area of suites with hammocks; and a new approach to family staterooms. With the Vista, Carnival will become the first cruise line to brew its own beer at sea.

The cluster of new features is reminiscent of two other ships introduced in 2014: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway and Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas. The new deck of indoor/outdoor restaurant space on the Vista’s Deck 5 looks remarkably like the Waterfront on Norwegian’s Breakaway/Getaway ships.

The Vista's resort-style pool deck.

Norwegian, Royal and Carnival have been rivals for more than 40 years, but their competition in ship design is as vital as it has ever been. Each is pushing the other to develop better and more exciting new features, and the benefits are accruing to cruise passengers who have a fantastic array of fun things to do on a ship.

And of course, there’s a lot for travel agents to talk about and sell on these new ships. So here’s a salute to healthy competition. Long may it reign.