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Archive for July, 2008

Unhappy Royals

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 25 - 2008

Grrr...not another fuel surcharge! The recent announcement by Royal Caribbean Cruises to axe 400 jobs owing to a 55 per cent increase to its fuel costs and a sharp drop in second quarter net income seems to be the least of its worries. ExpertCruiser hears that current employees at Royal Caribbean are very unhappy with how the layoffs were conducted and that moral is at an all time low.

Employees are upset that the company has not been recruiting from within, but has chosen to go outside the royal confines and hire talent from other cruise lines. In fact, two departments in Royal Caribbean are now being run by people poached from Carnival. One of which started last week! Given the fact that some of the fired employees had over twenty years service with Royal Caribbean seems all is not well.

What message is Royal Caribbean sending to its own troops when it gives long-time employees the heave-ho citing costs then turns around only to throw big sums of money to hook other cruise lines executives?  Also, why are they so focused on Carnival?  Hmmm.

Also, ex-employees are speaking out. A family member of a fired employee wrote the following on ExpertCruiser’s blog: “They made my fiancée sign a piece of paper stating that he would forfeit his severance if he talked to a news media or if he filed a lawsuit. They are basically holding their severances hostage. Royal Caribbean has tried to put up the front that they are family oriented and care for their employees and like to promote company loyalty. This was so opposite of their public persona.”

Clearly, Royal Caribbean is not a happy workplace.

Filled Under Blog

Carnival Fantasy changes course

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 25 - 2008

The Carnival Fantasy, a 2,056-passenger cruise ship based in New Orleans, will end its voyage in Mobile on Saturday as a result of the fuel oil spill earlier this week that closed the Mississippi River, Carnival announced today. The ship will also depart from Mobile on Saturday Carnival said.

The line stated that passengers will return to the Port of New Orleans or Louis Armstrong International Airport via bus. Buses will also transport departing passengers from the Port of New Orleans to Mobile to board the Fantasy.

The Fantasy, which operates four- and five-day cruises to Mexico is expected to return to the Port of New Orleans when the spill is cleaned up.

Filled Under Blog, Info

Norwegian Pearl

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 25 - 2008

Norwegian Pearl Colorful strands of pearls and streamers adorning both sides of the hull add striking flair to the high-energy Norwegian Pearl. This ship revolutionizes cruising with the industry’s first onboard bowling alley. The four lane, ten-pin bowling alley is part of the sports bar/nightclub complex Bliss, which also features air hockey, foosball, arcade games and multiple flat screen televisions. By nightfall, Bliss converts to a sleek and modern lounge complete with a spacious dance floor, full bar, and mood-lit bowling.

Other features on the Pearl include Norwegian’s first rock-climbing wall and thalassotherapy pool, as well as two 535 square feet Deluxe Owner’s Suites. The Norwegian Pearl boasts 12 additional bars and lounges, such as the Stardust Theater, Magnum’s Champagne & Wine Bar, Corona Cigar Bar and the Java Cafe. Passengers can take advantage of Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining concept in one of 10 restaurants, including Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina Italian, Mambos Latin/Tapas Restaurant and Lotus Garden Asian Restaurant. The Pearl features a variety of other public areas and amenities, and each stateroom offers a television, telephone and 24-hour room service.

Click here to read more about the Norwegian Pearl.

Want to know more about the Norwegian Pearl? Click here.

Filled Under Ship of the Moment

Grizzly attack at Alaska’s Kenai Princess Lodge

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 24 - 2008

A grizzly bear attacked a young woman at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing on Wednesday, The young woman is a maid at the hotel.

According to reports the bear attacked her while she was on a hike around the resort. The bear had taken the woman by the head into the bushes but was scared away by a guest at the hotel.

The woman was identified as Abby Sisk, 21, of Utah — she is in critical condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The lodge is now advising guests to use shuttles to the main lodge or walk in groups around the property. Several trails have been closed, including the one where Sisk was attacked.

Lodge general manager Dan Michels said no one saw any bear cubs nearby and staff members have no idea why the bear attacked. Troopers have looked for the bear, but have been unsuccessful thus far.

The 86-room Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge is one of five Princess Lodges in Alaska and is a frequent pre-and post-cruise excurison for Princess Cruises passengers.

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The worst place on a cruise ship

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 21 - 2008

Cruising What’s the worst place on a cruise ship? If you ask regular cruisers, they might tell you to avoid the cigar bar or the Lido Pool area. But for me, it’s the art auction area.

Why? Quite frankly, I think art auctions are a misuse of space on cruise ships — not to mention a complete waste of time and money.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate fine art. It’s just that most of the so-called art displayed for cruise ship galleries and auctions isn’t so fine and borders on tacky.

I am not alone. I’ve heard the groans amongst my fellow passengers upon encountering art displays around the ship. These art roadblocks force cruisers into a weaving obstacle course just to get from one part of the ship to another.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there was something interesting to look at. I mean, how many paintings and prints of cottages should one be inundated with? Even worse, the neon-colored glossy fliers heaped upon guests in their staterooms touting the auctions and free champagne are offensive, not to mention far from being a green-friendly practice.

Offensive or not, art auctions and galleries on cruise ships generate revenue and that’s music to most cruise executives’ ears. Still, off the record, many cruise line managers admit they aren’t big fans of the practice. Nevertheless, in the age of shrinking corporate balance sheets, any revenue source is a bright spot.

What’s not so bright is deceptive practices heaped upon some cruise passengers.

Art job

While on a recent cruise I decided to do a pre-dinner stroll of the art gallery and came upon a Picasso “painting.” I use the term “painting” because that’s exactly how several art gallery personnel described it.

They were using this “painting” for a contest. Guests had to estimate its value. The passenger who guessed closest to the actual price would win hundreds of dollars in credit to use towards an art purchase.

The Picasso in question was a man holding a cat. I knew it wasn’t a painting, but a print. I decided to play dumb and asked a lot of silly questions just to see what would happen.

I asked one of the gallery workers if this was a real Picasso painting worth millions why wasn’t it guarded? The worker laughed and said in a heavy Eastern European accent that there were plenty of them watching the “painting.”

I asked why this expensive “painting” was on a ship? Then I got the Park West Gallery spiel that they were the largest art gallery in the world with an extensive original art collection and had the most expertise on selling art at sea.

Indeed, Park West Gallery is the largest player in the high-seas art stakes. The Southfield, Mich., company has galleries onboard Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Regent and Oceania vessels. When Park West makes a sale, the cruise line takes a percentage of that sale.

I walked out of the gallery shaking my head, wondering how many gullible passengers would fall into this art trap and wishing the cruise lines would give this whole concept the heave-ho.

So, it was no surprise when I read that some passengers shared my misgivings about these art auctions in general and Park West in particular.

In one example, a passenger paid $19,468 for three Dali prints, only to come home and have them appraised from $850 to $1,000. Another passenger went to a German art fraud detective with his purchases and was informed that they were photomechanical reproductions and not lithographs. The German detective referred to the pieces as “poster art.”

Beware of buyer’s remorse

Shipboard art auctions can be a lot of fun, and they do offer free champagne. And that’s the problem.

Lured by the secure environment onboard the ship, many passengers are more likely to believe the value claims made by the art auctioneers. If you’re not careful with the cheap bubbly, you could end up owning a painting of four dogs playing poker.

I’ve seen this happen a number of times, and I’ve seen the remorseful bidder go home hundreds and thousands of dollars poorer.

Case in point: John and Helen Finch of Pittsburgh took their first cruise several years ago, a seven-day Alaska Inside Passage cruise on Princess. Seeing attractive art every day on the ship, Helen decided to attend one of the onboard art auctions. Before she knew it, she’d paid $800 for two lithographs — not something she had planned for. Even worse, the sale was final – the Finch’s were stuck.

My advice, if you see something you really like, take a picture of it and see if a local art gallery can find it or something like it for you. You usually get better art deals on land, where you can play the competition among galleries.

Better yet, take a photo of a beautiful landscape on your cruise and frame it. That will be a far better value and a terrific memory that will always remain priceless.

Filled Under Advice, What's New?

Royal Caribbean layoffs have started

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 21 - 2008

Layoffs at Royal Caribbean’s largest call center in Wichita, Kansas have started. The 89,000 square foot call center employs approximately 600 people and has been in operation since 1997. According to blog posts on www.expertcruiser.com the layoffs have started.

One poster says people are walking into work only to be handed pink slips. Royal Caribbean has not released a statement announcing the layoffs or the departments involved. Stay tuned to www.expertcruiser.com for the latest.

Filled Under Blog