Enhanced Pacific Princess Emerges from Refurbishment

Enhanced Pacific Princess Emerges from Refurbishment
PHOTO: Princess Cruises’ new livery applied to Pacific Princess. (photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises’ sole small ship—the 670-guest Pacific Princess—has emerged from a two-week dry-dock refurbishment with a number of enhancements befitting the larger fleet.

“We carefully considered how to incorporate modern design elements and comfort while keeping the traditional elements of small ship cruising that have always been the hallmark of Pacific Princess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president, in a press release.

“The results are incredible and Pacific Princess now offers approachable luxury for the world-class traveler to craft an authentic cruising experience.”

The line’s multi-year “Come Back New Promise” enhancement program kicked off the updates, and among the multi-million-dollar improvements made to Pacific are new interior colors, patterns and textures—plus 178,000 square feet of new carpet—as well as the line’s signature new exterior hull livery. The classic “Sea Witch” logo now dons the bow larger than ever before.

Overall, the ship maintains its existing Beaux-Arts aesthetic while also modernizing it, such as at the atrium. Lighter tones and style take inspiration from Central Park hotels in New York City.

The ship’s four dining venues have also been enhanced, beginning with the pair of specialty ones. Sterling Steakhouse takes its cues from Rush Street Steakhouses of Chicago and Hollywood Brown Derby with black-and-white portraits of classic and modern film stars lining the restaurant. For Italian, Sabatini’s Restaurant has been updated with a contemporary look and a new forward lounge.

The Club Restaurant steps across the pond to make the main dining room reminiscent of Central London.

Rich woods are accented by light jewel-tones, modern furniture and updated carpets, drapes and chairs. The Panorama Buffet was similarly updated with new carpets, paint, tile, furnishings, drapes and awnings.

Also, the pool deck outside the buffet was given a garden-style enhancement a la South Beach hotels thanks to new tile and refinished teak. Outdoor furniture here includes double bed loungers, sofas, lounge chairs and pool chaises.

Meanwhile, 336 private staterooms were refreshed. New amenities include 700 Princess Luxury Beds developed in partnership with sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV designer Candice Olson. Additionally, all accommodations received new carpet, upholstered headboards, modern drapes, along with lamps and sconces with incorporated USB ports.

Suites also were improved with new modern furniture such as sofa sleepers, dining room table and chairs, lounge chairs and desks.

Club Class Mini-Suites are also a new category available onboard complete with VIP perks. Special amenities encompass the reserved Club Class Dining area with preferred seating and an expanded menu, in addition to priority embarkation and disembarkation.

Through December 2017, the Pacific Princess is scheduled to sail several European itineraries before embarking on its 111-day World Cruise from Los Angeles on January 20, 2018.

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Carnival Ecstasy returns to service following refurbishment

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The Carnival Ecstasy received new restaurants, bars and shops during a two-week dry dock in the Bahamas.

They include installation of a Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina poolside, the Alchemy Bar and a Cherry On Top candy store.

The upgrades took place from Jan. 10 to 24.

The Ecstasy is now back in Charleston, S.C., where it sails year-round on four- to 10-day departures.

Royal Caribbean loosens restraints on Empress cabins

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Empress of the Seas

Inventory for Empress of the Seas will not be released a few months at a time in 2017 as it has been in 2016, Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said on Friday.

The Empress has been sailing short itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean since it returned to Royal Caribbean’s fleet in June. It had been renovated at a cost of $50 million with the intent to use it on itineraries to Cuba.

However, Royal Caribbean has yet to gain approval from Cuban authorities to begin those cruises.

“We really were holding it late and hoping for the itinerary change,” Bayley said during Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s third-quarter earnings call.

With cabins available only a few months ahead of time, travel agents have difficulty making group bookings that typically require longer to organize than individual ones.

Empress cruises are currently available through April 2017.

Royal Caribbean was also delayed in launching the Empress into Caribbean service by unexpected construction obstacles after the ship was returned from Royal’s Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur.

During the call, Royal Caribbean said projected earnings in the current fourth quarter have been pared by an estimated $13 to $15 million by the delay in getting Empress sailing again and the resulting lost sales momentum.

For the third quarter, RCCL reported net income of $693.3 million on revenue of $2.56 billion. Results are not directly comparable with last year’s third quarter because of a huge write-down on Pullmantur.

Executives said the company is in a better booked position for next year than it was last year at this time, with both loads and pricing ahead of pace. North American demand for Europe is returning in the absence of recent terrorism incidents, they said, although Europe will account for 15% of Royal’s overall capacity in 2017, down from 20% this year.

The Caribbean will rise to 50% of overall capacity with the addition of Harmony of the Seas, which will not sail in Europe next summer as it did this year, and the shift of Celebrity Equinox from Europe to the Caribbean year-round.

After a pause in bookings following Hurricane Matthew, Royal Caribbean began some promotions to restart consumer demand.