This Week in Cruise: Booming Sales, New Ships and Culinary Options

Fleetwise, it's been a celebratory week for both Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, as two big new ships have set sail. Norwegian Cruise Line’s 3,099-passenger Norwegian Viva was christened at PortMiami by godfather Luis Fonsi, Latin GRAMMY award winner. He also performed at the christening festivities as did Paulina Rubio, Marcello Hernandez and Pedro Capó. 

Second, at Port Everglades, FL, the new 3,260-passenger Celebrity Ascent, Celebrity Cruises’ fourth Edge-class ship, was christened in a poolside ceremony. Dual godmothers Captain Sandy Yawn, best known as a yacht captain on Bravo’s TV series “Below Deck,” and autism advocate Michelle Dunham, Yawn’s sister, were escorted to the ceremony by Celebrity Ascent’s two captains—brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis.

Boarding Celebrity Ascent for a two-night trade cruise on November 29, Travel Agent plus many travel advisors and travel industry leaders attended an onboard trade Q&A with Laura Hodges Bethge, Celebrity’s president; Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group; and other Celebrity executives. (Tip: Stay tuned for more takeaways from that executive discussion.)

Also notable last week, the world’s biggest cruise ship is now sailing the ocean blue. Royal Caribbean International's 5,610-passenger Icon of the Seas was delivered, and will begin operating Caribbean cruises from PortMiami in January 2024.

Cruise Growth

At its 2023 “CP World: Limitless” conference in South Florida, Cruise Planners’ executives announced that for the first time ever, the franchise agency network had soared above the $1 billion mark in annual sales. World and exotic cruise bookings have grown by a whopping 295 percent. 

Meanwhile, cruise lines continue to expand globally. Celestyal Cruises announced that it will sail to Croatia, Montenegro and Italy for the first time; guests will go ashore at six new ports including Kefalonia, Katakolo and Corfu in Greece; Dubrovnik in Croatia; Kotor in Montenegro; and Bari in Italy.

Holland America Line unveiled its 2025-26 voyages to South America and AntarcticaLindblad Expeditions and National Geographic have extended their partnership through 2040

Culinary Happenings

Oceania Cruises announced its first annual Culinary Masters’ Cruise aboard the 1,250-passenger Marina. Sailing from Valletta, Malta, to Civitavecchia (Rome) on October 16, 2024, the ship will call at ports in Croatia, Greece and Italy. The culinary-focused cruise will be hosted by the line’s two Master Chefs of France, Alexis Quaretti and Eric Barale.

On American rivers, American Queen Voyages has launched six new recipes created in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen. The new dishes were selected from the America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe archive by Regina Charboneau, AQV's culinary ambassador, and Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster, executive editorial directors and co-hosts of America's Test Kitchen.

More Cruise News

Princess Cruises announced details about the largest casino in its fleet on the new Sun Princess, debuting in February 2024. On the personnel front, UnCruise Adventures named Monica Sagisi as its new vice president of sales and marketing.

Cruise passengers now have the option of high-speed rail between two top Florida tourism regions. So, they might combine a cruise from Port Canaveral (with transportation to/from Orlando International Airport) or an Orlando theme park visit with time in South Florida for beach play, nightclub hopping, Everglades exploration or a cruise. In Part One of our two-part series earlier last week, we talked about Smart (economy) class and the train ride from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. In Part Two published on Friday, we looked at the Orlando station facilities, Premium (business/upper) class during the return ride from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale, ticket prices and our overall assessment of Brightline.

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