A vessel that’s set to be the world’s biggest cruise ship has completed construction at a shipyard in Finland and has made its first foray into open water for sea trials ahead of likely delivery in October this year.
Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas is a mammoth 365 meters long (nearly 1,200 feet) and will weigh a projected 250,800 tonnes. For comparison, that’s like trying to keep two CN Towers afloat.
When it sets sail on Caribbean waters in January 2024, it will comfortably hold some 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew. The boat’s piece de resistance will be the world’s largest waterpark at sea. Named Category 6, it’ll feature six record-breaking water slides, but guests who want a more leisurely experience can also relax in the boat’s seven pools and nine whirlpools.
Most modern cruise ships spend 40 years or more sailing the world’s seas. While it is not uncommon to see cruise ships built in the 1970s and 1980s go to the breakers due to breakdowns or changing SOLAS (Safety Of Live At Sea regulations), older vessels are usually transferred first to another, smaller cruise operator — a market that is often referred to as “secondhand tonnage.” That trend is changing, though.
Nothing about the last few years has been normal as the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And in that time, we’ve seen relatively young ships head to the breakers with no chance for a farewell cruise or proper send-off.
The youngest to be scrapped as of this writing is the 1996-built Costa Victoria, while the oldest vessel to head to the breakers was the beautiful 1965-built Marco Polo (the famed ex-ocean liner previously known as Aleksandr Pushkin).
The cruise lines are dealing with the impact of increased fuel charges, costs for COVID-19 tests (for crew and some passengers), shipping delays for supplies caused by both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and other issues that can interrupt cash flow.
None of these is cited as a reason for the increased gratuities by the cruise lines.
“At Norwegian Cruise Line, we are committed to delivering exceptional guest experiences at every step of the cruise journey, and with the dedication of our shipboard team, we are able to turn your vacation dreams into reality,” the cruise line said in a statement. “As such, we make it easy for guests to show their appreciation for these vacation heroes with discretionary daily services charges, which provide gratuities to key onboard team members, including room stewards, restaurant servers and behind-the-scenes support staff.”
“Carnival shipboard team members work hard to provide exceptional service and we believe our guests will agree this slight increase is well-deserved,” Carnival said in a statement.
Norwegian Cruise Line as of April 1, increased its per person daily onboard service charge for standard cabins by 50 cents to $16 for those in standard cabins and by $1.50 to $20 for those in The Haven and other suites (Club Balcony Suites remain at $18). Norwegian’s gratuities apply to age 3 and up.
The last time Norwegian had upped service charges was April 2020, one month after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Previously, the line had increased gratuities in 2019.
Carnival Cruise Line’s gratuity policy switches to $14.50 per person, per day for cabins and $16.50 per person per day for suites, as of May 1, 2022. If you prepay your gratuities earlier for an upcoming cruise you can avoid the increase, which is 51 cents per person for both levels of accommodation. The last time Carnival increased gratuities was back in 2018.
In both cases, as is now standard with cruise lines, the gratuities may be prepaid — which many cruisers prefer so that you take care of the vacation cost upfront. You don’t save money by paying early, however.
If you don’t prepay, the gratuities are automatically added to your daily shipboard account. They may be increased or lowered at your discretion.
If other cruise lines are going to follow Carnival and Norwegian in increasing gratuities, the most likely candidate is Royal Caribbean International, which has not updated its gratuities since 2018. There’s also the fact that, historically, when one line starts this sort of increase other lines tend to follow.
Royal’s gratuities are currently $14.50 per person, per day, for up to the Junior Suites category and $17.50 for suites starting at the Grand Suite category and above.
Another cruise line worth watching for any possible increases is MSC Cruises. In 2019, the line notified guests and travel agents of a policy that would make the automatic daily service fee mandatory; no changes allowed. There was outcry and the line changed its mind.
In the Caribbean, MSC’s service fee has remained at $14 per person, per day for age 12 and up and $7 for children 2 and up (with no charge for under age 2). In the Mediterranean, it’s 10 euros (about $10.88) for 12 and up and 5 euros (about $5.44) for kids.
“The Hotel Service charge serves to ensure we maintain the highest quality standards of service to our guests,” MSC says on its website.
Princess currently charges $14.50 per person for standard accommodations, $15.50 for mini-suites and Club Class and $16.50 for suites.
The line says on its website that the “Crew Appreciation” is “a daily amount for each guest that will be automatically added to your onboard account for your convenience, to recognize the efforts of a wide variety of crewmembers who contribute to the experiences of all our guests. The crew members eligible to receive these funds work in various departments, many of whom rotate among different ships, throughout our fleet of ships.
Holland America Line’s current gratuities are $15.50 per person, per day for non-suite accommodations and $17 for suites.
It’s the news we’ve been waiting for more than a year the CDC has given the green light for Celebrity Edge to return to service from Fort Lauderdale on June 26 — making it the first ship to sail out of an American homeport since this pandemic began.
UK Managing Editor Adam Coulter takes a look at this breaking story PLUS Royal Caribbean has been given the go ahead for the first test cruise out of the US on June 20!
Rest assured that our taxis are sanitized after every tour to the highest standard for a minimum of 15 minutes, using approved products. Fresh air ventilation will be in operation during your tour.
Drivers have been fully vaccinated; do rapid shelf test before the tour and wear protective masks. All these measures so to keep you safe. We also regularly disinfect high touch surfaces within your cab where possible.
We will send you information guidelines prior to your tour and your driver will introduce himself/herself to you and talk to you using all the health & safety protocols.
On arrival, your driver will sanitize your hands (at a distance of 1m+) before you enter the cab. Your guide will sanitize your hands each time you leave/enter your taxi cab.
Cruise ships set the stage for those who love to shop, with a wide variety of products, “duty-free” signage (indicating you don’t have to pay the local tax) and promotions touting prices that might seem too good to be true.
The truth is: While you can snag pretty good deals on a lot of onboard buys, not everything is a bargain.
Some goods are actually so ridiculously priced, you’re bound to spend almost double what you would back home. Here are four generally overpriced items you shouldn’t buy on a cruise ship.
By Gina Kramer, Editor, read more Cruise Critic
Is all about recreating the Olympic Games. Lithodomos a technologically advanced and innovative company uses Virtual Reality (VR) to recreate the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.
As stated on their site: “A new Virtual Reality experience of Olympia, for the first time ever. Now you can use your phone and a Virtual Reality headset to travel through time. Immerse yourself in history to experience what the Olympic Stadium looked like at the time of the very first Olympics.
Because the Olympic Games Virtual Reality experience uses Geo location data with complete accuracy and precision. Therefore, tourists who are in the sacred places around Olympia can use a headset and see before them exactly what they would have seen thousands of years ago, from the exact place they are standing.”
The Lithodomos application allows users to see historically accurate recreations of the Olympic Stadium, Temple of Zeus and many other monuments. Therefore, the visitor can explore these cultural icons in all of their restored glory and interact with historical artefacts.
It is a great experience, because, visitors can travel through time and experience what the Olympic Stadium looked like at the time of the very first Olympics.
For more info visit Lithodomos site:
Olympia is a ruined ancient sanctuary, home of the ancient Olympic Games. Home of the massive Statue of Zeus, ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Olympia is located near the western coast of the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece. Distance 10 miles (16 km) from the Ionian Sea, near a point where the Alpheus (Alfios) and Cladeus (Kladios) rivers meet. Set amid an idyllic countryside consisting of low, wooded hills alternating with farmland. Because, the Olympia archaeological site is of outstanding cultural significance. Therefore, it is an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989.
The sacred area, known as the Altis, or Sacred Grove of Zeus. It is an irregular quadrangle more than 600 feet (183 metres) on a side. Bounded on the north by the hill of Cronus and enclosed by a wall on the other three sides. In it were the temples of Zeus and Hera, the principal altars and votive offerings, the treasuries, and the administrative buildings. Outside were the athletic installations and the hostels, baths, and other accommodations for visitors.
The Temple of Zeus is the largest and most important building at Olympia. Therefore, is one of the largest Doric temples in Greece. Built about 460 bce by the architect Libon of Elis. The temple is made of a coarse local shell conglomerate, the exposed surfaces being covered with a coat of fine white stucco. The temple has 6 columns across the front and 13 on the sides. Its pronaos (porch) and opisthodomos (rear porch) provided access to the lofty central hall, or cella. It Temple has three aisles with two rows of slender columns.
The temple is richly decorated with sculpture. Much of which survives and in the local Archaeological Museum. In the front gable appears the chariot race between Pelops and Oenomaus. In the back gable contains the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs at the wedding of Pirithous.
When it comes to cruising, there’s often a long slog between the time you lock your front door and the time you’re lying on the sun deck, umbrella drink in hand. Most cruisers fly or drive several hours to reach their embarkation port. The travel hassles are real, and the potential for crisis or chaos is great.
While we can’t beam you Star Trek-style from your home to your cruise cabin, we can offer 10 hacks to make pre-cruise travel a bit less fraught. Follow these tips, and you’ll be dining at the buffet or splashing in the pool in no time.
By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor, read more Cruise Critic
Rick Steves: Olympia is most famous as the site of the original Olympic Games. It offers one of your best opportunities for a hands-on antiquity experience. Line up at the original starting line in the 2,500-year-old Olympic Stadium. Visit the Temple of Zeus. The former site of a gigantic statue of Zeus. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ponder the temple’s once-majestic columns — toppled like towers of checkers by an earthquake — which are as evocative as anything from ancient times. Take a close look at the Archaeological Museum’s gold-medal-quality statues and artifacts. And don’t forget to step back and enjoy the setting itself. Despite the crowds. Olympia remains a magical place, with ruins nestled among lush, shady groves of pine trees.