Cruise Lines Make More Hurricane Adjustments

Navigator of the Seas

The three major cruise lines announced more itinerary changes due to Hurricane Dorian following Thursday’s itinerary change news, and more adjustments are expected to follow on Friday as the storm develops.

Carnival

The Carnival Paradise will now leave Tampa early on August 31, with Carnival asking guests to arrive at the cruise terminal between 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM.

For the Carnival Miracle, with the anticipation of a potential port closure on Sunday, this sailing will now operate as an eight-day sailing, departing on Saturday evening.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has modified more sailings as a result of the impact of Hurricane Dorian.

Guests aboard the Navigator’s August 30 sailing are now returning to Miami on Sept. 4 as opposed to Sept. 2, meaning the ship’s Sept. 2 sailing will leave two days later.

The Empress will see guests get multiple days added to the itinerary. Unable to return to Miami this Sunday, the cruise now will add a call to Roatan, spend two days at sea, call in Nassau and then return to Miami on Sept. 4.

The Mariner will also get two days added to its current itinerary, returning to Port Canaveral on Sept. 4 as opposed to Sept. 2.

Norwegian

The Norwegian Breakaway will extend its port time in Cozumel until Sept. 1, giving guests a chance to disembark and return home or remain onboard if they choose.  Guests who choose to end their cruise in Cozumel will receive a 25% future cruise credit.

The  Norwegian Sun departed from Port Canaveral, Florida Thursday, August 29, 2019, as scheduled. The calls to Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay and Freeport, Bahamas have been cancelled. Instead, the ship will spend a day at sea on Friday, August 30 and will call to Cozumel, Mexico on August 31. She will remain at sea on September 1 and is scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on September 2.

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Cruise lines taking private-island parties into the evening

Perfect Day at CocoCay in the evening, with offshore fireworks and open areas on the private island illuminated.
Perfect Day at CocoCay in the evening, with offshore fireworks and open areas on the private island, illuminated. Photo Credit: Nic Morley/RCCL

Imagine lingering on your own private tropical island as the sun sets, the moon rises and the blazing heat of the day disappears.

Until recently, travellers couldn’t do that as part of a cruise experience. But starting in October, that will change when the first of three cruise lines launch late-night stays at its private Bahamian islands.

Beginning Oct. 4, Royal Caribbean International will open CocoCay for a limited number of late-night calls. In November, MSC Cruises will follow, with late-night stays at its Ocean Cay Marine Reserve near Bimini. Then, in April 2020, Virgin Voyages will begin making calls at the Bimini Beach Club that include what it calls “Fire and Sunset Soirees.”

The new late-night, private-island trend is being driven by a few factors, not the least of which is competition among the three lines.

Bimini’s proximity to Miami makes it feasible to stay after dark and still reach Port Miami early the next morning. Piers at all three islands eliminate the need for chancy nighttime tender operations.

With the new infrastructure in place at all three locations, cruise lines have been able to equip their islands with the electrical power generation and illumination required for post-sunset activities.

And the idea resonates with passengers.

“Late stays and more time in port was something that our research told us was really important to our potential sailors,” Virgin spokeswoman Christina Baez said.

MSC was first out of the gate with the concept of late stays on a private island, although its concept has evolved. When it was initially announced in 2015, Ocean Cay was going to have an amphitheatre, envisioned as a 2,000-seat venue that could be used for evening entertainment.

Early this year, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said that plan had been scrapped in favour of a movies-under-the-stars concept. The latest iteration, revealed in a video rendering available on YouTube, is a light show that paints the sky with multicoloured searchlights. There will also be bars and other entertainment, such as a traditional Junkanoo parade, on the 95-acre island.

MSC plans to make year-round evening calls with its Miami-based ships, which this season will include the MSC Meraviglia, MSC Armonia, MSC Divina and MSC Seaside.

Virgin’s Beach Club at Bimini is the last stop on each of its three planned itineraries, allowing for late-night stays before departing for Miami. On its five-day cruises, the line’s Scarlet Lady will remain docked until 10 p.m., while on its four-day itineraries, it will stay as late as midnight, Baez said.

Entertainment will include “a late-night beach bonfire soiree,” she said.

Royal Caribbean’s plan for CocoCay is more limited, with just three late stays scheduled so far. Rather than returning to Miami, the Navigator of the Seas will head for nearby Nassau after departing CocoCay at 10 p.m.

While there in the evening, guests will be able to visit Captain Jack’s and Skipper’s Grill; Harbor Beach lagoon; Up, Up & Away; and Splashaway Bay.

“Each of these areas will have sufficient lighting and staffing for our guests to have an incredible evening,” Royal spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro said.

Royal will reopen the casino on the Navigator of the Seas at 7 p.m. on evening calls, Sierra-Caro said, preserving that key source of onboard revenue.

Some areas of the island will close at night, including the Thrill Waterpark and the beaches.

“We will have the staff to ensure that our guests are not entering closed areas,” Sierra-Caro said.

For entertainment, Royal promises a Junkanoo Jam Up Party, an island barbecue and performances by a calypso band and fire dancers, along with farewell fireworks before setting sail.

Other cruise lines with private islands in the Bahamas said they have no immediate plans to add night calls.

John Chernesky, senior vice president of North American sales and trade marketing at Princess Cruises, said his line recently started a late-night/overnight stay program called More Ashore that is mainly focused on big international cities.

“In the places, we’re doing it,” Chernesky said, “it makes sense, given the nightlife, dining, museums, unique opportunities that really get you into the culture and make you feel more connected to that culture, versus a beach-going private island.”

Eva Jenner, vice president of sales at Seabourn and Holland America Line, said, “Our private island, Half Moon Cay, is really a day destination. The private island is awesome — don’t get me wrong — but it’s a beach with daytime activities.”

MSC Cruises More Details on Private Island Ocean Cay

Beaches at Ocean Cay

MSC’s Ocean Cay is set to welcome guests later this year to its private island experience in the Bahamas, with the cruise line releasing new details today.

Among the features are eight beaches; Seakers Family Cove, a shallow lagoon to play in with a beach for games, monitored by lifeguards; Seakers food court, which will be complimentary for guests; the Spa at Ocean Cay; various evening entertainment including a light show around the 98 ft. lighthouse at the centre of the island, a traditional Junkanoo parade — Bahamian festival and consisting of a feast of colourful costumes, music and dancing.; and shore excursions including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and stargazing in the evenings.

“The vision for the island is to immerse guests in the natural beauty of their surroundings in the Bahamas. Ocean Cay is founded on a deep commitment to ecological principles – beliefs that shape everything from how venues are built and how the island is run, to the kinds of activities featured on the island. Work is underway to design opportunities for guests to learn about the protection of the oceans and the importance of preserving coral reefs through dedicated edutainment programs,” MSC said, in a prepared statement.

Ocean Cay (Conrad Schutt)

As part of the development of Ocean Cay, MSC said it is working to establish the roadmap for the restoration of marine resources, including habitats and species present in the area. This will include the restoration of endangered corals and the implementation of other conservation and educational programs.

The island is situated within protected waters spanning 64 square miles, but the ambition is to further extend this parameter to ensure an even greater impact, MSC said.

MSC also said it had commissioned a Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) that provided a short term overview of the waters around Ocean Cay.

“An integral part of the marine ecosystem, coral needs to be protected as they maintain biodiversity, provide a habitat for marine life and protect coastlines,” the company said. “Now that the waters around the island are protected and it is no longer an industrial site once used for sand excavation, the seabed is returning to normal. The hope is that the coral will again begin to thrive. Plans are underway to establish a coral nursery on the East side of the island with the goal of propagating even more coral, particularly the more endangered varieties.”

The recent survey established that there are three types of coral that can be found in abundance — primarily Agaricia agaricites known as lettuce coral; Porites astreoides commonly known as mustard hill coral or yellow porites; and Siderastrea also known as massive starlet coral. These species are more capable of withstanding harsh temperature conditions and siltation than other species. Also found around the island during the assessment is the critically endangered Acropora palmata known as Elkhorn Coral. Four distinct colonies of this species were observed along the rocky shoreline of these cays. Over time these corals will become candidates for restoration in the coral nursery.

The Ocean Cay team is already seeing an increase in marine life in the area, and the REA identified 88 different species of fish around the island as well as lobster, sea turtles and rays.