Royal goes big with Mariner of the Seas’ makeover

The Skypad is a new bungee/trampoline/virtual reality attraction on the top deck of the renovated Mariner of the Seas.
The Skypad is a new bungee/trampoline/virtual reality attraction on the top deck of the renovated Mariner of the Seas. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean International is raising the bar on short cruises from South Florida, starting this summer with the Mariner of the Seas, fresh off of a $120 million Royal Amplified refurbishment.

The upgrades mean that not only will the 3,114-passenger Mariner be the largest ship in the three- and four-day market, it will be one of the most full-featured.

Previously, Royal Caribbean devoted ships such as the Majesty of the Seas to the short-cruise product. These ships were generally among the smallest and least modern in its fleet. Although guests rated the Majesty well, it wasn’t because of its hardware.

“Majesty was older, and it didn’t have the chills and the thrills this one does,” said Christina Pinto of Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Boca Raton, Fla., after a tour and ice show on the Mariner for travel agents last month.

The package of improvements had already been in the market for several weeks by the time the launch took place.

“I’ve had good feedback from people who have sailed already,” said Roberta Schwartz, a Cruise Planners franchisee in Plantation, Fla.

Among the new features, one of the most visible is the Skypad trampoline/bungee/virtual reality combination on the top deck that figures to be Royal’s rock climbing wall for the coming decade.

Housed in a 30-foot, perforated sphere made of marine-grade aluminium, the brightly painted Skypad is an intriguing structure to anyone seeing the ship from a distance, especially lit up at night.

Within the Skypad are four bungee harnesses fastened to the sphere and suspended over one-person trampolines. Riders can bound up and down on the trampolines safely guided by the harnesses, either with or without a set of virtual reality goggles that add a fourth dimension to the already rich experience.

The Skypad is part of a makeover of the rear of the sports deck that also includes the addition of waterslides and a FlowRider surfing simulator.

Another attraction at the top of the ship is the Observatorium, an escape room game in the former chapel that gives groups a limited amount of time to decipher clues and get out of a locked room.

Farther down, the Mariner has gained two new bars. One, Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade, is a version of a feature first added to the Symphony of the Seas, a newer, larger ship. The other, unique to the Mariner for the moment, is the Polynesian-themed Bamboo Room, a tiki bar on the Royal Promenade. It’s a retro hangout with umbrella drinks to spare and certainly an upgrade over the retail space previously there.

The Mariner of the Seas features a new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” in Studio B.
The Mariner of the Seas features a new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” in Studio B. Photo Credit: TW photo by Tom Stieghorst

And in the depths of the ship, in Studio B, Royal has developed Escape From Planet Z, a laser tag game. That’s in addition to a terrific new ice show, “Ice Under the Big Top,” excerpts of which were previewed for agents.

Before the show, Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, said the Mariner is positioned to draw more new-to-cruise guests. “We need to get people who have never thought about a cruise vacation to kind of take a test drive with us, and we thought to put this magnificent hardware in the short-cruise market would do exactly that,” she said.

After three weeks in service, Royal was sourcing a higher percentage of first-time cruisers on the Mariner than on any other ship, she said.

Part of that might have to do with pricing and perceived value. “It’s almost like having a brand new ship but at old prices,” said Kyle DeDomenico of Cruise Planners in Boca Raton.

Beyond attracting those new to cruise, another function of the Mariner is to serve as a delivery vehicle for Royal’s vastly improved CocoCay private island, which is being upgraded with a waterpark, a pier, a wave pool and several other attractions.

Freed warned that the prices won’t last.

“Right now the prices are very low for all of the ships that are calling at CocoCay, but once we start to ramp up, the prices will go higher because it’s such a great attraction,” Freed said. “So if you have clients that are thinking about 2019, book them now because they won’t find prices like you currently see.”

The Mariner will be the short cruise offering from Miami through May when the next ship to receive Royal Amplified upgrades, the Navigator of the Seas will take its place. The Mariner will then be redeployed on short cruises from Port Canaveral.

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Carnival Triumph getting a $200M redo and a new name

Carnival Triumph is to become the Carnival Sunrise.

Carnival Cruise Line will budget $200 million for an overhaul of the Carnival Triumph so sweeping that the ship will get a new name, the Carnival Sunrise.

It is only the second time that Carnival has renamed a ship of its own design. In 2013, it rechristened the former Carnival Destiny as the Carnival Sunshine. 

Carnival said the two ships will form the new Sunshine class. The $200 million sum is the largest ever spent by a cruise line in a ship renovation.

By the time the work begins next March, the Triumph will be 20 years old. It is perhaps best known for an engine-room fire in 2013 that left it disabled off the coast of Mexico without power for most hotel services. The ship had to be towed back to the United States, on a four-day odyssey that was memorialized as “the poop cruise” because toilets didn’t work for most of the trip.

In the two-month renovation, to be done at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz, Spain, a laundry list of Fun Ship 2.0 features will be added to the ship, including seven restaurants, two bars, two lounges, three new pool deck attractions, a newly designed spa, two new children’s play areas and new retail spaces, including a candy store. 

Gus Antocha, Carnival’s chief operating officer, said the additions complement certain upgrades that had already been made to the Triumph, such as Guy’s Burger Joint.

Unique to the Sunrise will be what Antocha called “bridge wing suites,” encompassing two junior suites and two larger Captain’s Suites adjacent to the bridge, which will be redesigned with floor-to-ceiling windows. That means the ship’s capacity, listed as 2,758 passengers at double occupancy, will remain relatively unchanged.

“We’re adding a handful of different spaces,” Antocha said. When the Carnival Sunshine was created, an extra 182 cabins were added to the Carnival Destiny.

The first sailing of the Carnival Sunrise, following a renaming ceremony, will be from Norfolk, Va., where the ship will begin a series of five- to seven-day cruises on April 29, 2019. It will then move to New York for the summer for a series of four- to 14-day cruises, starting May 23. It will move to Fort Lauderdale for four- and five-day cruises in October.

Multi-Million Pound Make-Over For P&O Cruises Aurora

P&O-Cruises-Aurora

P&O Cruises has unveiled its plans for a £26 million pound make-over for Aurora this winter, the first ship in the fleet to receive the bold new livery design.

The refurbishment will take place November 29 to December 18 in Hamburg, ahead of its Christmas and New Year cruise and before the South America & Pacific Adventure world cruise itinerary departing January 8, 2015.

Launched in 2000, Aurora’s last refit was in 2009.

The planned changes for 2014 include:

  • A new look livery design, which celebrates P&O Cruises heritage and its place as Britain’s favourite cruise company. It features a contemporary version of the Union Flag on its bow and new blue funnels with illuminated rising sun designs
  • The introduction of Sindhu restaurant for evening fine dining (replacing the library on deck 8) with an Indian fusion menu designed by Michelin-star celebrity chef Atul Kochhar
  • The Glass House restaurant and wine bar is replacing Café Bordeaux on deck 8. Available for brunch, lunch and dinner it will house wine displays and wines selected by expert and TV presenter Olly Smith. Enomatic wine systems allow passengers to buy premium wines by the glass. There will also be a private room for wine tastings and dinners
  • A complete refurbishment of the buffet restaurant (Lido deck, deck 12) with new décor
  • In the evening, The Beach House menu replaces the Pennant Grill menu to include family favourites such as Fillet of Beef on Lava Rock
  • A complete refurbishment of The Reef children’s clubs with room names changed to reflect Reef club names across the rest of the fleet
  • The introduction of Freedom Dining to Medina Restaurant with more tables for two and Marco Pierre White dishes on gala evenings
  • A refurbishment of the Sidewalk Café and the introduction of Costa Coffee and brand new “Grab and Go” counter, a great option for breakfast and lunch on the go
  • The library relocates to the current cyb@study space adjacent to the Crow’s Nest on deck 13
  • Casino and Champions refurbishment with new open-plan design, new furniture and improved stage area for entertainment, live music and quizzes
  • Photography gallery upgrade to include more touch screen technology
  • An extensive shop refurbishment
  • Refurbishment of Oasis Spa
  • Upgrade of all sound and light equipment in the theatre and show lounge
  • New soft furnishings for all cabins with flat-screen TVs

P&O Cruises marketing director Christopher Edgington said: “This is a massive investment. It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to ensure continuous improvement of our ships and consistency across the fleet.

“Both Ventura and Arcadia underwent huge multi-million pound refits last year and Aurora is the next in line with Azura planned for 2015.

“Not only will Aurora feature firm favourites from Azura and Ventura, such as Sindhu and The Glass House restaurant and wine bar, but we will also see brand new initiatives as well as the distinctive new livery.

“As the very first ship to display our new livery, we have big plans to welcome Aurora back in to Southampton. We can’t wait to see her.”

Info courtesy of P&O Cruises