Cruise Hive is your go-to source for major cruise developments and breaking cruise news. In this week’s cruise news update, we’ve got coverage from Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and the Bahamas.

It’s time to get rolling with this week’s top cruise news stories from Cruise Hive. We have full coverage about the superstar who will christen the new Carnival Jubilee, a new tax cruise lines must pay the Bahamas, Cunard increasing its gratuity charges, a restaurant owner who took her whole staff on a cruise, rough weather forcing Carnival Magic to depart from a port without all guests onboard, and Norwegian Cruise Line deploying a ship to Jacksonville, Florida.

Superstar singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani, a three-time Grammy Award winner, will serve as godmother to Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Jubilee, during a festive naming ceremony in Galveston, Texas, on February 24, 2024.

Known for her many philanthropic contributions to charities and foundations, the soloist and lead singer of the band No Doubt joins other notable women who have served as godmothers for Carnival Cruise Line, such as artist Queen Latifah, who named Carnival Horizon, and television host and singer Kathie Lee Gifford, who christened Carnival Celebration.

Carnival Jubilee Godmother

The naming ceremony for Carnival Jubilee, home-porting in Galveston, will be partly live streamed on the Carnival Cruise Line Facebook page starting at 3:30 p.m., CST. 

Ship christenings are time-honored, maritime traditions that typically involve the smashing of a champagne bottle into the vessel’s hull. The ceremony is said to bring good luck and safe passage to the ship and those who sail aboard her.

Carnival Jubilee, with capacity for 6,500 guests and 1,750 crew members, entered service on December 23, 2023 and is the line’s third Excel-class vessel. The ship sails 7-day Western Caribbean cruises with calls at Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, and Mahogany Bay (Roatan), Honduras.

Cruise lines will be required to pay a 10% value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services provided to guests visiting their private islands in the Bahamas, effective on March 1, 2024.

The new tax policy is designed to level the playing field between the popular cruise line retreats and local Bahamian businesses, Simon Wilson, an official of the Bahamas Ministry of Finance, told a local media outlet.

Under the revised tax plan, cruise lines will have to pay VAT on virtually any transactions taking place on their islands, such as those for food, drinks, spa treatments, cabana rentals, and recreational activities.

Royal Caribbean’s Private Island in the Bahamas (Photo Credit: Spinner231)

The Bahamian government is accepting feedback from the cruise lines until February 16, 2024, and there is bound to be some, since operational costs will spike once the policy is enacted.

The question is: Will the cruise lines pass on the VAT to guests?

Private island retreats are wildly popular with cruisers. Among the destinations in the Bahamas are Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay; Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay; Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay; MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Marine Reserve; and Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cay and Half Moon Cay.

A second Carnival Corporation cruise brand announced it will raise daily gratuity fees for hotel and dining services, starting in late April 2024.

Cunard is a luxury, UK-based line that operates three ships, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary 2, and will soon debut its fourth, Queen Anne, set to launch in May 2024.

The line currently charges $14.50 per person, per day for guests in Britannia staterooms, and $16.50 per person, per day for those in Queens and Princess Grill suites.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (Photo Credit: P.Cartwright)

Effective with departures after April 25, 2024 on Queen Elizabeth, and after April 27, 2024 on Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, the charges will rise to $16 per person, per day for guests in Britannia staterooms and to $18 per person, per day for those in Queens and Princess Grill suites.

The daily service charges are automatically applied to guests’ onboard accounts, and are divided among crew members who provide various services, such as cabin stewards and wait staff.

Another Carnival brand, Holland America Line, announced in mid-January that it will raise fees starting February 14, 2024, to $17 per person, per day for non-suite staterooms and to $19 per person, per day for suite guests.

The employees of Pier 16, a popular seafood restaurant in Tybee Island, Georgia, not only work together, they cruise together too, thanks to the generosity of their boss, eatery owner Natalia Navon.

Navon shows her appreciation to her staff by closing the venue for a week and rewarding workers with a group vacation each year. This year she treated them to a 5-night sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.

The group, which appears to be about 20 people, traveled from Georgia to Port Canaveral, Florida, where the 3,100-guest Mariner of the Seas is home-ported. The January 6, 2024 itinerary called at Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and featured two days at sea.

Photo Credit: Pier 16 & Wangkun Jia

Pier 16, a family-owned operation that opened in 2020, has loyal patrons who support the eatery and applaud Navon’s vacation tradition.

Among the adventures that Pier 16 employees had the opportunity to check out onboard Mariner of the Seas are the Perfect Storm waterslide, the FlowRider surfing simulator, and Sky Pad, a virtual reality bungee trampoline, among other activities and entertainment.

A drama played out onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic on the morning of February 6, 2024, when high winds and big swells caused the 130,000-gross ton ship to hit the pier where she was docked at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. 

A video of the incident shows part of the dock cracking and crumbling under the pressure from the ship’s impact. There was no immediate indication of any damage to the ship.

No injuries were reported, but sea conditions and the likelihood of hitting the pier again prompted the ship’s captain to take the vessel out to sea. Unfortunately, some guests had already departed the ship for shore excursions, and were temporarily left behind.

Carnival Magic Damage and Pier in Ocho Rios

However, the cruise line’s shoreside teams and local partners looked after those guests, who were able to return to the ship after she docked at another, nearby pier later that day.

Carnival Magic left Miami on February 4, 2024 to sail a 6-day itinerary that included calls at Bimini, Ocho Rios, and Grand Cayman. In fact, adverse weather brought the ship to Ocho Rios a day earlier than scheduled, and ongoing rough seas forced the ship to cancel her call at Grand Cayman on February 8, 2024.

The Dream-class ship, which launched in 2011, is on her way back to Miami, where the cruise will conclude on February 10, 2024.

Norwegian Cruise Line will deploy its Norwegian Gem to Jacksonville, Florida, in November 2025, operating a series of seasonal cruises to the Bahamas and Eastern Caribbean. The home-porting is the result of a three-year agreement between the line and the JAXPORT Board of Directors, and signals a major expansion of the port’s cruise operations.

Under the pact, Norwegian Gem will sail from Jacksonville between November and April through 2028. The 2,400-guest ship joins Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,000-guest Carnival Elation, which is based at JAXPORT year-round.

Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: ernestos vitouladitis)

The addition of Norwegian Gem is expected to be an economic boon to the northern Florida city, which is within driving distance of some 98 million residents in the southeastern US. In a study from pre-pandemic 2019, the cruise industry in Jacksonville supported some 800 jobs and contributed an annual economic impact of $187 million to the region.

The Jewel-class Norwegian Gem, which entered service in 2007, will offer short and long voyages, including two 11-day and three 12-day sailings to the Eastern Caribbean.

Scheduled port calls include Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas; Dominican Republic; St. Thomas and St. John, US Virgin Islands; Antigua; St. Kitts; and Puerto Rico, among others.

Shorter, 4- and 5-day options will feature Great Stirrup Cay, and Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas. Bookings will open on February 15, 2024.

Those were just some of the news stories Cruise Hive covered in the past week. For more developments, read about Cunard’s big booking spike in January, the ‘love boat’ cruise line welcoming a special Valentine’s Day guest, Margaritaville at Sea updating its Heroes Sail Free deal, Carnival Corporation making strides on its emissions-reduction goals, and an exciting new Carnival Cruise Line itinerary from Seattle to Sydney.

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