DIANA ROSS TO HEADLINE CARIBBEAN CRUISE IN APRIL

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Carnival Breeze at Grand Turk

The legendary Diana Ross will lead an astonishing line up of musical talent on an eight day Carnival cruise to the Caribbean from Miami next April.

Also on the bill will be Patti Labelle, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, and a host of other stars on what amounts to a soul music festival at sea.

Other headline acts include Charlie Wilson, New Edition, and the Bar-Kays.

The cruise is being run as part of the Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage, which raises funds to support students attending what are described as ‘historically Black colleges and universities.’

The eight night cruise sails from Miami on April 23rd, calling at St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Grand Turk, before returning to Miami on May 1st.

The 135,000 ton Carnival Breeze will also be hosting a series of empowerment seminars during the cruise, as well as daytime parties and various theme nights.

While all of this amounts to a massive party on the ocean-one with a  charitable slant as well- there is no doubting that the centre spotlight will belong to Diana Ross.

As a recording artist, she found fame with the Supremes in the mid 1960’s before going solo. Since then, she has also recorded duets with Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias, among many others.

In all, she has scored some nineteen number one hit singles to date; twelve as lead singer of the Supremes, and seven solo smashes.

Fares for the cruise are currently listed from $2,860 for an inside cabin, to around $4,000 for an outside.

 

CARNIVAL’S NEW SINGLE SAVER FARES

This now comes cheaper, courtesy of Carnival

This now comes cheaper, courtesy of Carnival

In a move that is sure to make the opposition sit up and take notice, Carnival Cruise Lines has dropped single passengers upplements for a host of Bahamas and Caribbean sailings over the course of 2014.

The sailings cover a range of ports, itineraries and durations. Galveston, Miami, New York and Port Canveral are just some of the principal departure points for the programme of discounted voyages, ranging from three to eight days in all.

Typical prices include an eight night, Caribbean cruise on Carnival Freedom, in a 225 square foot ocean view stateroom from just £419. Shorter breaks include a three night Bahamas jaunt aboard the Carnival Sensation, with an inside room available for just £139.

Fares do not simply cover the older ships, either; they are even available for some departures on the current Carnival flagship, the 130, ooo ton Carnival Breeze, as well as the seasonally New York based Carnival Splendor.

The axing of these single supplements makes the Carnival product a very attractive buy for single passengers; the drop in price goes a long way toward offsetting the negative effects of constantly increasing air passenger duty on transatlantic flights as well.

Carnival has never traditionally built single cabins into its ships, so these fares are an obvious, if belated response to the success of single cabins offered aboard the ships of rivals Norwegian and, to a lesser extent, Royal Caribbean. However, even the standard inside cabins on Carnival ships come in at around 185 square feet- roomier than on most of their rivals.

Carnival Breeze atrium lobby

Carnival Breeze atrium lobby

With more of its ships remaining year round in the Caribbean and Bahamas trade than any of its competitors, Carnival offers far more capacity and diversity than any other line. As well as the ports cited above, the line also offers sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Jacksonville, Charleston, Mobile and New Orleans. 

On the west coast, Carnival offers short sailings to Mexico from both Los Angeles and Long Beach; it is also slated to resume sailings to the Mexican Riviera in November, after an absence of several years.

There’s no doubt in my mind that these new, attractively priced fares will have other lines looking to their laurels. Within the Carnival family of companies, it might lead to something similar happening and both Holland America and Princess Cruises.

All of this is a very welcome development for the solo traveller, and not before time, either. For details of all the Carnival sailings, you can check out the UK website; http://www.carnival.co.uk

 

KEEPING FIT ON CRUISE SHIPS- DOING IT LIKE A PRO

Do I LOOK like I know where the gym is?

Do I LOOK like I know where the gym is?

The days when cruise ships had a handful of bar bells and a four times round the pool jogging track as exercise are long since past. Nowadays, the modern, contemporary resorts on the ocean are as full of ways to stay fit as get fat.

It’s quite exhausting sometimes, just watching that lycra clad, headband wearing phalanx of fitness fans as they get into their literal stride. Gyms these days look more like high tech hospital wards. And, of course, there are spa menus and light eating options that suck in their tummies and sneer at all the sumptuous gluttony taking place elsewhere, These days, there truly is something for everyone.

Just consider the items in those modern floating gyms of today; treadmills, bar bells, and all the rest of that infernal stuff, and you’ll realise that it constitutes a longer menu than lunch at the Ritz. For the modern fitness fanatic, there are so many forms of self inflicted torture on offer that it must sometimes seem hard to know where to begin.

These days, health and fitness has even moved outside. On my recent Carnival Breeze cruise, I was astonished to see a battalion of exercise bikes and treadmills outside, on the upper decks. Fortunately, all of the loungers and couches on board face away from these, so your joy ride need not descend into a guilt trip. Good job, too.

But long before that, the jogging and power walking fraternity were a fact of life on ships at sea. No one surpasses me in my admiration for these devoted souls.

The anti-gym

The anti-gym

So often, I have cheered you on from my perch in a hot tub as you clump manically around the decks, clad in lustrous shades of clotted purple lurex. Yours is a pure and noble pursuit; I’m sure the water in your sweat stained plastic bottles tastes as sweet and pure as fine wine. I sit there, mulling fretfully over my second (third?) margarita, and tell myself that I, too, would like to be fit like that one day, as well.

And that is the moment when life usually gifts me a metaphorical slap across the face with an impossibly large, wet haddock, and tells me to snap out of it. Such moments are seminal in our progress through life. In fact, I would recommend that both Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus undergo a similar, profound bout of haddock slapping at the earliest possible opportunity, and for however long it takes. Yet I digress.

I fear that fitness and I are ships that passed in the night a long time ago. When one has already hit the iceberg, no amount of rearranging the deck chairs will make a difference. And while my body is, indeed, a temple, sadly that temple is the Acropolis. And so it goes.

I will always eschew fitness for the comfortable cocoon of potential fatness. Your feeble cardio-vascular regimes cannot match the rich lustre of my chateaubriand, young Jedi. And, if you really wanted to get me in the gym on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be too difficult.

Simpy install a few decent hammocks, and a small martini bar. Nothing too obvious. But will you? Oh, no….

Oh chocolate, be my guiding star....

Oh chocolate, be my guiding star….

You want to keep your sweaty, steamy temples to the Spanish Inquisition to yourselves, don’t you? That’s cool. Message received. As you were……

Ho hum, back to the hot tub, then. Did someone say ‘Strawberry Daiquiri’?

Ooh. Don’t mind if I do…..

RAISING THE GAME; NEW CRUISE SHIPS IN EUROPE FOR 2015

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Allure Of The Seas is Europe bound next year

Princess Cruises has announced that their new Royal Princess- launched just last year- will return to Europe for a full season of cruises over the summer. Her arrival- the latest in a slew of announcements from the major lines- points up just how much all the big players see Europe as seminal in filling- and for displaying- their prime movers and shakers. Just look at what else will be here next year.

Royal Caribbean’s new, second of class ship, Anthem Of The Seas will also be based in Southampton and, to no one’s great surprise, so will P&O’s new Britannia, a vessel being built on the same hull platform as Royal Princess.

The deployments by Princess and Royal Caribbean, in particular, represent a quite extraordinary statement of intent. Two of the world’s newest mega ships, with a capacity of well over 4,000 passengers each, will be based in the Hampshire port. It should be great news for the local business in Southampton for sure and, for the canny cruising purchaser, there should also be some great bargains available as well.

Nor is it simply Northern Europe that will be the recipient of state of the art mega ships. After four consecutive summer seasons in the Med, the game changing, 2010 built Norwegian Epic will be permanently home ported in Barcelona for 2015 onward. The one off mega ship significantly ups the ante for year round cruising from the Catalan port, though her itineraries will not be announced until next month, at the Seatrade Conference in Miami.

Larger still, Royal Caribbean took some people by surprise when it announced a full, summer season of 2015 Barcelona sailings on the jaw dropping Allure Of The Seas, one of the two largest cruise ships ever built. The gargantuan vessel will offer a series of seven night round trips from May through October. She will be by far the biggest ship to offer an extended cruise season in these waters and, with a passenger capacity in excess of 6,000, she will also offer roughly half as many berths again as her nearest rival. Should be interesting.

Pompeii's remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Pompeii’s remains a staple of the Med cruise circuit. See them from Naples.

Plus, next year will also mark the inaugural Med season for the new Costa flagship, the Costa Diadema. Due to debut this autumn, the ship is the biggest ever built by Carnival for the Italian franchise.

And, it has to be added, a few other players will stay their hands as regards dramatic new announcements until Seatrade. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, is on record as saying that the line might possibly return to Europe in 2015. Given that the newest Carnival ship- Carnival Vista- will not emerge from her Italian builders yard until 2016, the smart money would be on one of the Dream class trio coming back to the Mediterranean, though probably not the Baltic.

Though the numbers of ships being deployed are not really up on the 2012 figures, it is pretty obvious that nearly all of the major lines still see Europe as the prime arena for showcasing their new ships. Beside the big ticket, first time deployments in Southampton, Princess Cruises are also bringing over the huge Caribbean Princess and, for the first time ever, the line is offering an all inclusive drinks package in the fare.

So the European catwalk (cruisewalk?) season of 2015 looks like being quite a floor show, with each of the entrants bearing all the traits and positive selling points- both real and imagined- of their respective sponsors. One thing there will be no shortage of is choice.

Stay tuned.

CARNIVAL IN THE CARIBBEAN: A NIGHT AT THE RED FROG PUB

Inside the Red Frog

Inside the Red Frog

One of the most enjoyable parts of my recent cruise on the vast Carnival Breeze were the late evenings and early mornings spent in the Red Frog pub on board. As these bars are relatively new to Carnival, I thought I’d go and check it out. Purely in the interests of research, you understand….

It’s not quite your typical English boozer, but more the pub concept, re-imagined for the Caribbean. With it’s own label, popular beer on tap and a cracking roster of engaging Jamaican bar staff, it was one of the best live venues on the ship.

Nights featured a few live, mainly acoustic sets from a trio of very talented guys. That- and the weapons grade Dark and Stormies- drew me back night after night. The place has a simply cracking atmosphere and, just like in any good pub anywhere, a regular clientele soon formed, and became fast friends.

The large, uncluttered room opened out onto the open decks on both sides, one side smoke free. Under the balmy Caribbean nights, we would lounge outside as the guys inside ran through their various, different routines. And, while they were all class acts, it was mainly JJ that we went to listen to.

To give him his full due, JJ Paolino is an engaging, affable son of Newport, Rhode Island, currently busking his way around the much warmer waters of the Caribbean, one gig at a time. With a voice that alternated between pure honey and raw gravel, JJ wielded his acoustic guitar like a light sabre.

JJ gives it some oomph....

JJ gives it some oomph….

With a repertoire ranging from Neil Diamond to Oasis, via the Eagles, the Moody Blues and even the Monkees, JJ ran the gamut of just about every musical taste, and his banter and sense of humour went a long way to winning over what was, initially, a very diverse crowd. Housewives from Colorado and a gang of friends from Mexico City; snowbirds from Detroit and film makers from LA; all of them came to hear and, ultimately, sing along with JJ. Requests? Never a problem. Just shout ’em out.

Under the subtle influences of rum, reggae and rock and roll, our nights on board the Carnival Breeze morphed into one long, smiley blur. Barriers and inhibitions fell backwards from bar stools as JJ and his compatriots rocked the Red Frog on a nightly basis, through until the early morning hours.

With a canopy of stars and a sound track of a softly strumming guitar, our nights were as long and sweet as those exquisite Dark and Stormies, served up with a smile. And, in the immortal words of the great Mister Diamond, as channelled by JJ, good times really never did seem so good.

Best of times, best of company. Encores all round, methinks.

CARNIVAL BREEZE HIGHLIGHTS

The Carnival Breeze at Grand Turk

The Carnival Breeze at Grand Turk

Eight nights cruising the Caribbean on the stunning new Carnival Breeze gave me ample time for an ‘up close and personal’ look at the evolution of a product that itself revolutionised the cruise industry. But, with a new look, a completely new palette, and a series of fun and culinary enhancements that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, the Carnival Breeze is anything but just another big ship, and here’s why:

It is not so much the size of the ship-though, at 130,000 tons she’s no baby- so much as the intelligent use of space, that marks this ship as a thing apart. The promenade that encircles Five Deck is especially impressive. With umbrella shaded, outdoor dining and lounging areas, the look is far more Crystal than Carnival old school. And a quartet of expansive hot tubs, cantilevered out over the sides, provide a series of stunning vantage points to take in the sunsets.

This area raises the game for the entire industry, and was a theme so wildly successful that Norwegian subsequently ran with the idea, and expanded the concept over three full decks on their stunning new twins, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. At any time of the day or night, this area is just a delight to kick back in. Note that as, on the rest of the ship, smoking is allowed on the port side, but not the starboard.

Carnival Breeze atrium

Carnival Breeze atrium

The Red Frog Pub forms a kid of indoor crossover point to this area, together with the raffish, opulent Ocean Plaza. The Red Frog features live nightly, mainly acoustic entertainment that plays to a packed house most nights, while Ocean Plaza rocks, rolls and sizzles to the sounds of sultry samba and platinum chip Motown. This entire area has become the social hub of the ship on so many levels.

Indoors, the ship is simply stunning. The old, Warhol-esque style of famed Carnival chief designer Joe Farcus, has been eschewed in favour of a ship that manages to be more refined, without ever falling over into being simply bland or coma inducing. The neon, brass and marble have given way to subtle, soothing earth tones, reflected in the beautiful furniture groupings in the lower lobby, and mirrored in a succession of dusky beige, brushed walls that frame the ship quite beautifully.

Deck space is dominated by an upper deck, forward facing Serenity Area, an adults only, 21 years plus enclave that spreads to both port and starboard. It comes with its own bar, twin hot tubs, and swathes of padded loungers, double beds and circular pods. With an ambient musical sound track, it gets busy quite early, but it is best in late afternoon, when the crowds thin out, and the ship is sailing head on into some blazing Caribbean sunset. A marvellous chill out spot from the noise and hugger mugger of the lower decks.

Four deck walkway

Four deck walkway

Behind and below this is a vast kiddie’s water  park, a multi layered, many shaded mega mix of numerous water slides, drenching buckets and other such fun. While it is hugely popular, it seems to do little from stopping swarms of kids from populating the aft pool and hot tubs. Maybe this should also be reconfigured as another adults-only area.

The vast real estate of the central pool area features the colourful, beach themed Thirsty Frog and Blue Iguana bars on opposite sides, as well as a Taco Bar, and Guy’s Burger Joint. This latter serves up the most amazing, free form burgers that I have ever sampled in my life. Walking past it without grabbing something to eat became a supreme test of my resolve; one that I frequently failed on a pathetic, regular basis. Addictive hardly covers it.

There are two levels immediately surrounding this area; the upper, open one is packed with sun loungers, while the lower, enclosed one has plush couch chairs in ochre, complete with foot rests. The entire area is suffused most of the day with the sounds of a DJ, as well as numerous deck games, and open air bingo. This is about as close to the ‘old’ Carnival as this vast new ship comes.

Indoors, the two main dining rooms extend through two levels. Sapphire is midships, while Blush looks out over the stern. Both have identical menus at night, and passengers can choose between early or late seating, or even a more flexible, ‘anytime’ approach.

Aft pool area

Aft pool area

Here too, echoes of the ‘old’ Carnival live on, with fondly remembered favourites such as the famous Chocolate Melting Cake, as well as Flat Iron Steak being available every night. Food and service were consistently good, though the food service is faster than British tastes might like. There is still the tradition of singing and dancing waiters; as always on a Carnival ship, the dining rooms are an extension of the entertainment programme. It’s boisterous, good natured fun, and most of the passengers seem to love it.

For those looking for alternative eateries, the vast Lido Marketplace features everything from traditional roast carvings, a deli counter, right though to a decent Mongolian Wok. There is a tandoori area, and 24 hour pizza and ice cream. This area is as vast as the amount of choices it encompasses for all main meals, including dinner. Despite the size, it is surprisingly easy to navigate, but it gets very crowded just before arrival on most port days.

For evenings, there is also an extra tariff Italian restaurant, and a high end steak house. The former carries a cover charge of $12 per person, the latter comes in at $35.

Cabins are still spacious but, again, the palette has been toned right down. Vibrant burnt pink hues have given way to ochre sofas, and the beds now come with beautiful throw wraps. As for the beds themselves, they remain comfortable enough to present a real hazard to activity of any kind. The showers are still among the best at sea.

Blush restaurant

Blush restaurant

Three wardrobes come with flip up shelves in one- a very clever idea indeed. There’s a plasma screen TV and, if you get the balcony grade, these come furnished with two mesh slung chairs, and a small drinks table. It’s an ideal place to enjoy a last nightcap, with just the sound of the ocean swishing alongside for company.

This is by no means a full, in depth review of the Carnival Breeze, but rather a ‘taster’ of some of the highlights that she showcases. If you want the vast casino and late night disco action of old, all that is still there. But in truth, this ship is the future direction of Carnival.

You can see it in the more restrained, formal interior staircases, and the random groups of casual, comfortable furniture that are scattered around the entire ship that are reminiscent of many an outdoor South Beach resort. Above all else, the Carnival Breeze is supremely comfortable, open and airy; a unique mixture of ‘hang loose’ beach party vibe and sleek, clubby comfort that verges on the louche in places.

Spending her entire year in the sunny Caribbean, the Carnival Breeze operates six to eight night, Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries, out of Miami. The ship is a particularly great choice for families (there are a good number of five berth cabins), as well as couples and groups of friends.

Ocean Plaza aboard the Carnival Breeze

Ocean Plaza aboard the Carnival Breeze

Outdoor bar on promenade deck

Outdoor bar on promenade deck

Outside the Red Frog Pub

Outside the Red Frog Pub

 

The Carnival Breeze is not a quiet ship but, truth be told, there are more than enough very nice places to get away from all the noise, as and when you want to. There is enough of the old, confident Carnival swagger around to make a cruise aboard her feel like soul food, but also so many new, classy touches to make you realise that the line is evolving, diversifying and expanding its offerings, right across the board.

If this is anything at all, it is the evolution and elevation of fun at sea. Recommended? Oh, my word, yes.

CRUISE NEWS ROUND UP; GHOST SHIPS, CONCERT TRIPS AND OTHER BITS…..

"Oh, look, Jack! There's a ghost ship!"

“Oh, look, Jack! There’s a ghost ship!”

Well, we’ve seen it all this week, one way and another. What with ghost ships running amok, and Leann Rhimes singing for her supper on Carnival ships, there’s a boatload of high jinks going on in cruise land right now. Here’s a few of the things that have made me sit up and take notice over the last few days….

GHOST SHIP ON THE LOOSE

The story of the Lyubov Orlova has surfaced again this week. What was originally the sad tale of a dilapidated, derelict former expedition ship that had broken loose from an under powered tug in the middle of some vile Atlantic weather, has now been elevated to a ghastly saga of a grisly, fog shrouded ghost ship, looming menacingly toward the coast of Ireland, and all under the evil hegemony of a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, no less. Wow.

I think what we have here is a simple typo. What they actually meant to print was ‘cannibal rates’. This is obviously some kind of rodent theme cruise, I think. And, if I am wrong and these are, indeed, a crew of ‘cannibal rats’, does said crew have any kind of pecking order?

Still, I suppose we should be grateful that the media has, as yet, not found a way to connect the word ‘cannibal’ to ‘Carnival’. And, speaking of Carnival….

CARNIVAL ON SONG

At a gala event in New York last week, Carnival announced a stratospheric upgrade of its live, on board entertainment. The line will be bringing a whole raft of top of the range entertainers on board their ships to perform for passengers on certain cruises. Names in the frame include Olivia Newton John,  Leanne Rimes, and soul siren Jennifer Hudson, among many others.

These headliner performances will incur an extra charge, and there is also a supplement for a ‘meet and greet’ option, complete with a commemorative photograph. In recent years, Carnival has hosted a couple of short cruises, featuring the reformed New Kids On The Block, which have been hugely successful. These have obviously been the sounding board for this new, very extensive programme.

On other fronts, Carnival has also ramped up its live on board shows, with a greater emphasis on visuals and high tech features, as well as shorter, more punchy presentations. There is now a considerable emphasis on the quality of live music on board all the ships, all part of the Funship 2.0 evolution.

I’ll be on the Carnival Breeze next week to check out the new on board vibe. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.

SEABOURN TO BE FOUR

In a move that surprised absolutely no one (if you discount the crew of cannibal rats supposedly still adrift in the Atlantic), Seabourn has announced that it will build a fourth ship in the very popular Odyssey class, but with certain as yet unannounced enhancements.

Due to be delivered from the Italian Fincantieri yard in 2016, the as yet nameless ship will have a capacity for around six hundred guests. That puts her mid way between such rivals as Silver Spirit and Seven Seas Voyager in terms of capacity. More to the point, it almost makes up for the total number of berths that will be lost as the original trio- Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend- make the gradual transition over to Windstar.

THE CHANGING FACE OF CARNIVAL CRUISES

Sailing to the sun, Carnival style

Sailing to the sun, Carnival style

Of all the major cruise lines, none in the last couple of years has experienced such a painful learning curve as Carnival. With a string of PR disasters ranging from the Carnival Splendor breakdown off Mexico, to this year’s Carnival Triumph debacle, you could be forgiven for thinking that the line had shot every albatross in existence out of the sky. The line’s image took a battering on the same scale as the Bismarck.

It was clear that far reaching changes were needed right across the line, and these would be addressed in due course. But the fact is that Carnival was already in a state of transition before the incidents cited above. While maintaining its core ‘fun’ product, some of the old eighties and nineties mainstays were being discreetly dumped overboard in favour of a more refined, all encompassing style of product delivery.

First, there was the Evolutions Of Fun programme, designed to breathe new life into the jaded, mid life, eight ship Fantasy class ships. The revamping of the pool deck areas was accompanied by the addition of around a hundred small balconies to each ship. Most significantly, each was upgraded with a new, adults only Serenity Deck, with padded loungers, ambient music, and a couple of whirlpools. It gave the whole class a new life. And, with it came a new look.

A lot of the original, whimsical neon, granite and glass fixtures- they were the creations of Carnival’s very own Andy Warhol, Joe Farcus- were stripped out and replaced with a more restrained, but still subtly vibrant palette. It was a theme already presaged by the most recent Carnival new builds- Carnival Dream, Magic and Breeze- and it has been universally well received. Twenty years of changing tastes is not something any cruise line or hotel chain can afford to ignore.

With these new ships came a whole new host of bars and eateries that have now spread across the entire Carnival fleet, such as Guy’s Burger Joint, the Red Frog Bar, and the Blue Iguana Cantina. There was also a shift away from the old fur, feather boas and fillet steak kind of evening options, with the introduction of a dedicated, late night comedy club. The entire project was known as Funship 2.0.

Carnival's distinctive funnels remain their trade mark

Carnival’s distinctive funnels remain their trade mark

So, in truth, Carnival was already well on the way towards morphing into something more upmarket, while at the same time attempting to preserve its mass appeal, long before the conga line of media cuts and kicks started to tear into its profit margins. Wounds were inflicted here that clearly required a lot more than simply cosmetic surgery.

The main step involved upgrading all the safety, engineering and back up systems right across the Carnival fleet, so that, in the event of a loss of propulsion, the ships would not be left without lighting, cooking facilities, functioning elevators, and working sanitation across the board. This was a huge but necessary task in and of itself. In fact, it was the single most important facet in restoring faith in the entire Carnival brand.

Next came the return of the savvy, highly regarded Bob Dickinson, Carnival’s marketing genius of the eighties and nineties, in a new consultation role. This was seen as a very positive move on the company’s part. There followed a massive, 155 million dollar transformation of the Carnival Destiny into the ‘new’ Carnival Sunshine. Though not without its own birth pangs and bad headlines, the relaunched ship has generally been very well received. However, Carnival chairman Gerry Cahill has said that there will be no more similar conversions across the fleet- a move that surprised some, including this writer.

Carnival is also coming back to a more responsive level of interaction with travel agents; brochures are now being printed again and made available for the first time in a few years, and both Arnold Donald and Micky Arison have recently been fulsome and complimentary in emphasising how important good agents are to the Carnival brand. And, signs are that the industry is responding positively to this.

After a period of painful and expensive retrenchment, it appears that the Carnival ship of affairs is making sluggish but steady progress forward once more. But no one should be hanging a ‘mission accomplished’ banner up anywhere yet.

Carnival Dream

Carnival Dream

2013 has been another bad year for lines in Europe in general, and Carnival is withdrawing completely from the continent for 2014. However, Arnold Donald remains bullish about the possibility of a return in 2015. We shall see.

Elsewhere, the line has upped its commitment to the Australian market with the deployment of a second ship down under, and there is also a renewed presence on the Mexican Riviera run out of Los Angeles; all indicators of a more ambitious strategy to come.

Right now, it is Royal Caribbean who are seen as the headway makers, with their giant Oasis class ships being genuine, world beating game changers in their own right. This is their time in the ‘nice’ spotlight and, naturally, they will ride that wave for all they are worth.

But it would be a foolish man indeed that would underestimate a quartet as formidable as Arison, Cahill, Dickinson and Donald, or a brand with the scale, style and pulling power of Carnival. The next few years will be interesting, indeed.

My advice? Stay tuned….