Carnival, Holland America will sail to Cuba as planned

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Carnival Fathom in Havana

Carnival Corp. said it understands the policy changes on Cuba that President Trump will announce in Miami today do not include any changes for cruises.

In a statement, Carnival said it is “pleased” that its ships will continue to sail to Cuba.

Carnival Cruise Line plans sailings from Tampa to Cuba starting later this month and Holland America Line recently announced plans to visit Cuba in the fall.

Trump is expected to end the ability of travelers to “self-certify” that they comply with rules for traveling to Cuba, which became the practice last year under President Obama.

“We will review the extent of the tightening of the travel rules, but our guests have already been traveling under the 12 approved forms of travel to Cuba since we undertook our historic first cruise to Cuba more than a year ago,” a Carnival Corp. statement said.

The first cruise to Cuba from a U.S. port in decades was by Carnival’s Fathom brand, which has since returned its single ship to P&O Cruises.

“Our experience in Cuba this past year has been extremely positive,” Carnival Corp. said. It also said other Carnival Corp. brands have applied to travel to Cuba.

Costa included Cuba on some itineraries from 1995 to 1998, before it was purchased by Carnival Corp. from its Italian owners.

Other cruise lines chimed in after Trump finished giving his speech in Miami.

“Based on the information shared today, we are very pleased to learn the news that cruises to Cuba will continue under the new guidelines laid out by the administration,” a statement from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said.

NCLH operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, all of which sail to Cuba.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. also praised the new Cuba policy.

“Royal Caribbean is pleased there is no impact to any of our cruises to Cuba as announced in the new U.S. policy toward Cuba today,” said a statement from RCCL, whose Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises brands make stops in Cuba.

Although cruise lines appear to have emerged unscathed from the Cuba policy review, the exact impact will depend on rule revisions forthcoming from the Treasury Department and other U.S. agencies.

“We will continue to review the full and exact scope of the policy changes and any updated regulations during the implementation period which may take several months,” RCCL said.

Both cruise companies emphasized that their shore excursion programs were already in compliance with Treasury regulations governing Cuba tourism.

Both also said that their cruises with Cuba in the itinerary are popular. NCLH said it has 70,000 bookings for future cruises that include Cuba. “We are delighted our guests will continue to have the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture and incredible history of Cuba.” the statement said.

Norwegian Joy Welcomed to New Shanghai Home Port

Norwegian Joy Welcomed to New Shanghai Home Port
PHOTO: Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Joy docked in Bremerhaven, Germany. (photo by Jason Leppert)
 

Following maiden calls in Singapore, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Norwegian Joy, was welcomed to its new home port of Shanghai, China.

The Norwegian Joy was engineered in Germany and designed specifically for the Chinese market.

During a preview voyage that departed from Shanghai June 10, the new ship welcomed more than 1,700 VIP members and guests of the Alibaba Group for a four-day preview cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s preview voyage aboard the Norwegian Joy called on the Japanese port of Kochi before returning to Shanghai, and the ship’s christening ceremony will take place on June 27 with its Godfather, ‘King of Chinese Pop,’ Wang Leehom.

Year-round voyages on Norwegian Joy from Shanghai begin June 28, with sailings from Tianjin from August 26 to September 15. The vessel was designed with several major attractions, including the first race track at sea, virtual reality experiences, plus 28 local and international dining options.

“Norwegian Cruise Line is extremely proud to welcome the newest addition to our fleet, Norwegian Joy, to her home port of Shanghai, China,” NCLH China president David Herrera said in a statement.

“Norwegian Joy’s arrival demonstrates our commitment to the Chinese cruise market.  She was custom-built with Chinese cruise guests in mind.”

The Norwegian Joy will cater to the modern Chinese family, with amenities that include staterooms designed for multi-generational families, Las Vegas-style performances and a variety of luxury shopping options.

The new features, services and amenities found on the Norwegian Joy will help Norwegian Cruise Line make a massive impact in the Chinese market.

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