Keep on top of all the major cruise news at Cruise Hive, where we bring you the top news stories from the cruise industry every day. This week we have it all covered, with articles about Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

It’s time once again for another cruise news update from Cruise Hive, where you’ll stay well informed about the big cruise stories, including new floating platforms at a Carnival Cruise Line private island, the naming of Royal Caribbean’s second Icon-class ship, Carnival Cruise Line opening bookings on West Coast cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line canceling eight sailings, Norwegian Cruise Line adding many cabins for solo guests, and Carnival Cruise Line increasing the cost of a beverage package.

There’s a new way to party at Half Moon Cay, Carnival Cruise Line’s private island destination in the Bahamas. Guests sailing on ships that call at the island retreat can rent “Party Banas” and “Picnic Banas,” two large inflatable platforms that can be rented for the day by families or groups.

Party Banas are 11-feet square, while Picnic Banas are a bit bigger, at 11 by 18 feet. Both have overhead covers for shade, with the extra space on the Picnic Banas open for sunbathing. Ballast bags keep the inflatables steady as they float on the island’s turquoise waters, anchored to a mooring underneath.

Carnival’s Half Moon Cay Banas (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Getting on and off the banas is made easier with integrated steps, and both designs offer space for storing a cooler. Seating areas offer a table and inflatable backrests.

Cruisers pay $349.99 for a 5-hour rental of the Party Bana and $449.99 for the larger Picnic Bana. The rental rates are lower than other private rental spaces on Half Moon Cay. The destination for years, has offered villas and cabanas to cruise guests. They are land-based structures that rent for $999.99 and $699.99, respectively.

However, the cruise line recently removed an important amenity from the onshore spaces: air conditioning. It could make the inflatable platforms more attractive to cruisers, given that guests can slip into the water to cool off.

The wait is over. Star of the Seas is the name of Royal Caribbean’s second Icon-class ship, the line revealed, along with her inaugural season, which will be summer 2025.

The announcement came just a few months before the first in the class, Icon of the Seas, launches in January 2024. Both ships are under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, although Icon of the Seas is now very close to completion, having recently held her first set of sea trials.

Royal Caribbean’s Star of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has not yet divulged many details about Star of the Seas, but she is expected to be roughly the same size as Icon of the Seas, which will become the world’s largest cruise ship when she launches.

Icon of the Seas weighs in at 250,800 gross tons and has a capacity for 5,610 guests at double occupancy, or 7,600 guests with all berths occupied. The ship has 20 decks and several neighborhoods and entertainment areas, such as Central Park, AquaDome, Surfside, Thrill Island, and the Hideaway. Star of the Seas is expected to feature all or most of these public spaces, too.

Construction of the new-build started in early 2023, and while her name is now known, neither her launch date nor her inaugural season itineraries have been announced yet.

Carnival Cruise Line has opened for bookings a series of sailings on three ships from Southern California’s Port of Long Beach between May 2025 and April 2026. The ships will offer a variety of Mexican Riviera and Baja Mexico sailings. Some itineraries also will call at California’s Catalina Island.

The 2,984-guest Carnival Radiance, 4,008-guest Carnival Panorama, and 3,769-guest Costa Firenze (soon to join the fleet as Carnival Firenze after her transfer from Costa Cruises) will offer a range of 4- to 8-night itineraries, based on ship and departure date.

Carnival Radiance Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Felipe Sanchez)

The cruise line currently homeports Carnival Radiance, Carnival Panorama, and the 2,124-guest Carnival Miracle at Long Beach, all operating cruises to Mexico. When Costa Firenze shifts to the Carnival fleet in May 2024, she will replace Carnival Miracle, which will deploy to San Francisco for a series of Alaska cruises.

In 2025 and 2026, Carnival Radiance will sail 3- and 4-night sailings while Carnival Panorama will operate 6- and 8-night itineraries. The soon-to-be-renamed Carnival Firenze, which will be transformed into the line’s new “Carnival Fun Italian Style” theme, will sail 4- and 5-night cruises starting in May 2024 and continuing in 2025 and 2026.

Port calls on Mexican Riviera sailings will include Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta.

Eight cruises scheduled aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,300-guest Norwegian Escape between January and March 2025 are cancelled, due to a “fleet redeployment.”

The ship was slated to operate the cruises from Galveston, Texas, including five weeklong sailings and three 14-day itineraries to the Western Caribbean. The longer cruises also were scheduled to call at some Eastern Caribbean ports.

Departure dates of the longer sailings were January 3, 17, and 31, while affected 7-day cruises were set to begin on February 14, 21, and 28, and March 7 and 14.

Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz)

Booked guests will receive full refunds within 30 days, and guests who booked using a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) will have the credit restored. The cruise line sweetened the bad news with the offer of a 10% discount on another sailing, good through 2025.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been on a roll with canceled cruises and fleet redeployments in recent months. It previously nixed Norwegian Epic’s entire 2023-24 winter cruise series in Europe, canceling 11 cruises.

Early in 2023, it canceled a month of 2024 sailings on Norwegian Joy, saying the ship was instead bound for dry dock. And in May 2023, it decided to charter Norwegian Spirit in summer 2024, canceling nearly all of the ship’s Alaska season.

Norwegian Cruise Line is betting big on the growing solo cruiser market, announcing that it will add nearly 1,000 solo, also called studio, staterooms across its 19-ship fleet.

Starting in early 2024, three new solo cabin categories will be available, Solo Inside, Solo Oceanview, and Solo Balcony, and all were slated to open for bookings this week. Solo cabins currently exist on just nine of the line’s ships, and were introduced on Norwegian Epic in 2010.

Where available, the accommodations include key card access to a Studio Lounge, reserved for solo guests. The space features a bar, lounge area, and daily snacks.

Norwegian Cruise Line Solo Cabin

Cruise fares for solo cabin bookings will be less than a double occupancy cabin, but will vary based on the level of demand as well as departure date. On most cruise ships, solo guests who book a double cabin typically pay a hefty single supplement fee, which can cost as much as the full cruise fare for two people sharing a double cabin.

Norwegian Cruise Line decided to expand its solo cabin capacity after an increase in solo cruisers booking non-studio accommodations was revealed in its reservation data. It also was responding to other, outside data trends that point to spikes in solo bookings overall as well as online searches for solo travel.

Carnival Cruise Line is raising the cost of Cheers!, its all-inclusive drinks package, on all cruises of less than 6 nights. The $10 per person, per day hike takes effect on cruise departures starting December 1, 2023. Bookings made beginning October 8, 2023 will reflect the new pricing.

The rate increase brings the price of the package to $69.95 per day when booked in advance of sailing, and to $74.95 per day when booked onboard the ship. The daily cost does not include an 18% service charge added to each beverage order.

Carnival Cruise Line Drinks (Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani)

The Cheers! package has a 15 drinks-per-day limit for alcoholic beverages, but allows for an unlimited number of non-alcoholic drinks.

The cruise line has not provided any insight into why the price change affects only shorter cruises of less than 6 nights. Some cruise watchers suggest that the higher price is designed to encourage lower consumption of alcoholic beverages on short cruises, also sometimes called “booze cruises.”

The Cheers! package has to be booked for the full cruise length — not by the day, and if one guest in a stateroom buys the package, all other guests aged 21 and up sharing the stateroom also must purchase the plan.

Those weren’t all the cruise news articles we’ve got on Cruise Hive. We have even more news you need to know about, such as Princess Cruises adding vegan menus to all of its ships, Oceania Cruises deploying a larger ship to Alaska in 2025, the Port of San Diego celebrating the start of its annual cruise season, Princess Cruises expanding an exclusive dining experience to more guests, and Carnival Cruise Line marking the Bahamas’ 50th anniversary of independence.

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