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Weekly Cruise News Update

The past week in the cruise industry has been busy, so Cruise Hive is here to make sure don’t miss a thing. We’ve got cruise news updates on multiple new ships, including from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Virgin Voyages, along with a price hike from Norwegian.

It was another busy week of cruise news, but no fear as we have you covered. It was dominated by new cruise ship news with Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ship floating out onto the water at the shipyard for the first time, the world’s largest cruise ship celebrating its naming, Carnival’s third excel-class vessel being delayed, Virgin Voyages taking delivery of its third new ship, the naming ceremony for MSC’s new vessel and NCL hiking the price of gratuities.
Icon of the Seas has officially touched water for the first time, as the ship was floated out at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Turku, in southern Finland. This marks the completion of the ship’s exterior hull, and the vessel now moves to the next phase of construction.

To continue building the already highly anticipated vessel, the ship will be moved to the outfitting dock, where interior work will continue to bring the ship, with its eight distinctive neighborhoods, to life.
“The float out of a new ship is a defining moment, and in the case of Icon of the Seas, it marks the next step in the start of a new era of vacations,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “That is now a reality more than ever as Icon touches water for the first time.”

At 1,198 feet long and weighing in at approximately 250,800 gross tons, she will be the largest cruise ship ever built – but interest in her debut is also breaking records. When reservations for the ship opened in late October, the cruise line saw the highest single-day booking records ever in its 53-year history.

Icon of the Seas will set sail in January 2024, and is scheduled to be homeported from PortMiami.
Royal Caribbean International has finally named the line’s newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, in a “Caribbean Chic” ceremony at Port Canaveral, with cruise line executives, VIPs, and media in attendance for the momentous occasion that has officially christened the new ship.

Festivities onboard the vessel included previews of the new, high-energy, tech-infused production shows, spectacular high dives in the AquaTheater, aerialists, and live music for the assembled guests.

Traditional elements, meanwhile, included the bagpipe performance always seen at Royal Caribbean’s ceremonial christenings. For Wonder of the Seas, the Mount Dora Pipe Band did the honors for the godmother procession.
The ship’s godmother, Marie McCrea, was chosen via a TikTok challenge, #SearchForWonderMom, that was launched on Mother’s Day to find the ship’s “WonderMom.” More than 16,000 nominations were submitted.
Also on hand for the naming ceremony were a number of finalists for the #SearchForWonderMom contest. The event continued with a unique choral rendition of the United States national anthem, traditional religious blessings for the ship, crew, and everyone who will sail on her, and remarks from different cruise line executives.

Many of the remarks thanked the shipbuilding group, cruise line leadership, and most of all, the ship’s crew. “Wonder of the Seas brings together the very best that Royal Caribbean can give,” said Bayley. “This truly is the very best family vacation today.”

To conclude the ceremony, McCrea launched the largest champagne bottle in the world – equivalent to 12 regular champagne bottles – to break on the ship’s bow in a time-honored moment every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has enjoyed in its history.

Since Wonder of the Seas set sail on her maiden voyage in March 2022, more than 180,000 guests have already sailed on the vessel – all without an “official” christening. Now, the world’s largest cruise ship will offer Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings, the majority of which are 7-night sailings, and all of which will include calls on CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in The Bahamas.

The third in the largest ship class for Carnival Cruise Line and sister ship to Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, Carnival Jubilee will now not debut as planned in October 2023.

Delays at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and forced the cruise line to set back the ship’s maiden voyage, which was to have been a transatlantic sailing from Southampton to Galveston, as well as cancel six additional sailings from the ship’s Texas homeport.

“This is disappointing news, but with the notification from the shipyard, we are advising our guests as quickly as we can,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.

The impacted sailings are all voyages from October 30, 2023, through and including the December 16, 2023 sailing – all of these sailings are now canceled. The cruise line is reaching out to travel advisors and guests booked on the now-canceled sailings with additional details and options.

“Global supply chain logistics and other matters make it clear that additional time is required so that the ship can give our guests the vacation experience they expect,” the letter to Carnival Jubilee guests states.
Because of the delay, Carnival Jubilee‘s maiden voyage will now be sailing from Galveston on December 23, 2023. Further details of that sailing are not yet available.

From Galveston, the ship will be offering 7-night, Saturday departure, roundtrip sailings that visit Roatan, Honduras as well as Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

New cruise lines typically grow slowly, perhaps first using older ships bought from more established lines as they build their brand and eventually have their first newbuild ship constructed. Virgin Voyages, however, is showing that it can break that expectation, with the third newbuild ship for the new cruise line now delivered to Virgin ownership.
Built by the renowned shipbuilder Fincantieri at their Sestri Ponente shipyard in Genoa, in northwestern Italy, Resilient Lady has completed construction and now joins Virgin Voyages for supplies and finishing details before her planned debut in May 2023.

Like her sister ships Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady, the “ladyship” weighs in at 110,000 gross tons and can welcome as many as 2,700 guests per sailing, with 93% of her cabins offering an outstanding ocean view and 86% of her cabins featuring spacious balconies.

Resilient Lady will set sail on her “mermaiden” voyage on May 14, 2023, a 7-night roundtrip sailing from Athens, Greece, exploring throughout the Greek Isles with calls in Santorini, Rhodes, and Mykonos, as well as a stop in Bodrum, Turkey.

The ship, which completed her sea trials in April, was originally planned to set sail in August 2022, but was delayed due to multiple challenges, including supply chain issues and staffing concerns.

Gratuities, or tips, are standard practice in the cruise industry and are given to the crew members onboard. Norwegian Cruise Line has decided to raise gratuities to better align with industry standards and to provide their crew members with a more competitive compensation package.

The Haven and Suite guests, who book the highest level of accommodations on the ship, will now be charged $25 per day per person. This is a $5 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $20 per day.

Club Balcony suite guests and all other guests will now be charged $20 per day per person. A $2 increase from the previous gratuity charge of $18 per day for Club Balcony suite guests and a $4 increase for guests staying in all other cabin categories.

Norwegian Cruise Line emphasizes that gratuities are optional and can be adjusted or removed at any time by the guest. However, the company strongly encourages guests to leave gratuities for their hardworking crew members who provide exceptional service throughout the cruise.

The new pricing is only for bookings made on or after January 1, 2023. For any bookings made before that date but sailing after January 1, guests can pay the old pricing as long as they have pre-paid their gratuities.
The price increase is already the second time in eight months that Norwegian Cruise Line has increased gratuities. However, at that time, the increase was significantly less, at $0.50 to $1.50, depending on the cabin category.
MSC Cruises’ newest cruise ship, the 170,000 gross-ton MSC Seascape, arrived in New York City’s Manhattan Cruise Terminal, ahead of her naming ceremony on December 7. The cruise ship completed a 17-day transatlantic cruise from the shipyard and will soon start her inaugural season sailing to the Caribbean.

MSC Seascape is the cruise line’s new US Flagship and will be based in Miami year-round. The ship was named at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on December 7 by none other than Sophia Loren. The Hollywood star is no stranger to being a godmother to the MSC cruise ships, having performed the ceremony for most of the MSC fleet.

The choice of New York City as the location for the naming ceremony of MSC Seascape comes from the expansion that MSC is planning in the United States. Not only will MSC Seascape act as the new flagship sailing from Miami, but MSC Mereviglia will be based in New York City year-round.

Following her naming ceremony, MSC Seascape set sail toward Miami, her new home. She is scheduled to arrive in PortMiami, the biggest cruise port in the world, on December 11 and kick off her inaugural Caribbean cruise season with a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise.

Those were just a handful of the cruise headlines from the past week and we’ve got all the coverage on Cruise Hive, including new spaces revealed on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, Disney Cruise Line tightens a temporary refund policy, Jewel of the Seas begins cruises out of Port Canaveral, a busy two days at the Nassau cruise port in the Bahamas, Royal Caribbean testing a service change on one ship, Norwegian Cruise Line booking records and much more.

 

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Pope in Hungary meets with Ukrainian refugees, Russian envoy

Pope Francis plunged into both sides of Russia’s war with Ukraine on Saturday, greeting some of the 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees who have fled across the border to Hungary during a public prayer service and then meeting privately with an envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church that has strongly supported the war.

Francis maintained the Vatican’s tradition of diplomatic neutrality during his second day in Budapest, where he’s on a weekend visit to minister to Hungary’s Catholic faithful.

Starting the day, he thanked Hungarians for welcoming Ukrainian refugees and urged them to help anyone in need. He called for a culture of charity in a country where the prime minister has justified firm anti-immigration policies with fears that migration threatens Europe’s Christian culture.

Speaking in the white-brick St. Elizabeth’s church, named for a princess who renounced her wealth to care for the poor, Francis recalled that the Gospel instructs Christians to show love and compassion to all, especially those experiencing poverty and “even those who are not believers.”

“The love that Jesus gives us and commands us to practice can help to uproot the evils of indifference and selfishness from society, from our cities and the places where we live — indifference is a plague —- and to rekindle hope for a new, more just and fraternal world, where all can feel at home,” he said.

Hungary’s nationalist government has implemented firm anti-immigration policies and refused to accept many asylum-seekers trying to enter the country through its southern border, leading to prolonged legal disputes with the European Union.

The conservative populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has said that migration threatens to replace Europe’s Christian culture. Orbán, who has held office since 2010, has hinged multiple election campaigns on the threats he alleges that migrants and refugees pose to Hungarians.

While Orbán’s government has consistently rejected asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Africa, around 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing war in their country found open doors. Around 35,000 of the refugees remain in Hungary and have registered for temporary protection there, according to the U.N.

One who has chosen to stay was Olesia Misiats, a nurse who worked in a Kyiv COVID-19 hospital when she fled with her mother and two daughters on Feb. 24, 2022 — the day Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

First she went to the Netherlands, but high costs compelled her to move to Hungary, where she said she has found an apartment and given birth to her third daughter, Mila, who was in the pews Saturday with her mother and sister.

“Here it’s safe,” Misiats said of her new life. She said that she hopes to return to Kyiv one day, but for now she and her children are adapting. “I want to go back home. There it’s my life — it was my life,” she said. “But the war changed my life.”

Immediately after greeting and encouraging the refugees, Francis visited the Greek Catholic church next door, which has been providing aid to refugees. And then he met with the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative in Hungary, Metropolitan Hilarion, who developed close relations with the Vatican during his years as the Russian church’s foreign minister. The Vatican said the 20-minute meeting at the Holy See’s embassy in Budapest was “cordial.”

The Russian church’s strong support for the Kremlin’s war has rankled the Vatican and prevented a second papal meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Francis and Kirill had a 2016 encounter in Cuba that marked the first between a pope and the head of the Russian church. They had planned a second one in June, but the meeting has been indefinitely postponed over Kirill’s support for the war.

In a statement, Hilarion’s office said that he briefed Francis on the social and educational activities of the Russian church in Hungary and its relations with the Catholic Church here. He said that he gave the pope an Italian translation of a six-volume opus on the life of Christ.

Francis’ visit to Hungary, his second in as many years, is bringing him as close as he’s come to the front lines of the war. Upon arriving in Budapest on Friday, he denounced the “adolescent belligerence” that had brought war back to European soil and demanded the EU recover its values of peaceful unity to end

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As battle for Sudan continues, civilian deaths top 400

– Gunfire and heavy artillery fire persisted Saturday in parts of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, residents said, despite the extension of a cease-fire between the country’s two top generals, whose battle for power has killed hundreds and sent thousands fleeing for their lives.

With ordinary Sudanese caught in the crossfire, the civilian death toll jumped Saturday to 411 people, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, which monitors casualties. In some areas in and around the capital, residents reported that shops were reopening and normalcy gradually returning as the scale of fighting dwindled after the shaky truce. But in other areas, terrified residents reported explosions thundering around them and fighters ransacking houses.

Now in its third week, the fighting has wounded 2,023 civilians, the syndicate added, although the true toll is expected to be much higher. The Sudanese Health Ministry put the overall death toll, including fighters, at 528, with 4,500 wounded. In the city of Genena, the provincial capital of war-ravaged West Darfur, intensified violence has killed 89 people, the Doctors’ Syndicate said.

Khartoum, a city of some 5 million people, has been transformed into a front line in the grinding conflict between Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, the commander of Sudan’s military, and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces. The outbreak of violence has dashed once-euphoric hopes for a democratic transition in Sudan after a popular uprising helped oust former dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Foreign countries continued to evacuate their citizens while hundreds of thousands of Sudanese fled across borders. The first convoy organized by the United States to evacuate hundreds of American citizens from the conflict reached the coastal city of Port Sudan Saturday after a dangerous overland journey escorted by armed drones.

Britain meanwhile was ending its evacuation flights Saturday, after demand for spots on the planes declined. The United Arab Emirates announced Saturday it had started evacuating its own citizens along with nationals of 16 other countries.

Over 50,000 Sudanese refugees — mostly women and children — have crossed over to Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, the United Nations said, raising fears of regional instability. Ethnic fighting and turmoil has scarred South Sudan and the Central African Republic for years while a 2021 coup has derailed Chad’s own democratic transition.

Those who escape the fighting in Khartoum face more dangers on their way to safety. The route to Port Sudan, where ships evacuate people via the Red Sea, has proven long, exhausting and risky. Hatim el-Madani, a former journalist, said that paramilitary fighters were stopping refugees at roadblocks outside Khartoum, demanding they hand over their phones and valuables.

“There’s an outlaw, bandit-like nature to the RSF,” he said, referring to Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces. “They don’t have a supply line in place. That could get worse in the coming days.”

Airlifts from the country amid the chaotic fighting also posed challenges, with a Turkish evacuation plane even hit by gunfire outside Khartoum on Friday.

On Saturday — despite a cease-fire extended under heavy international pressure early Friday — clashes continued around the presidential palace, headquarters of the state broadcaster and a military base in Khartoum, residents said. The battles sent thick columns of black smoke billowing over the city skyline.

But in other areas, residents reported signs that the cease-fire had taken hold.

“We are not hearing the bombs as we did before, so we’re hoping that this means they will go back to a political process,” said Osman Mirgany, a columnist and editor of the daily al-Tayar, who assessed it was safe enough on Friday to return home to Khartoum after seeking refuge in a far-flung village.

But Khartoum residents are forced to live side by side with armed fighters. Many RSF militants have moved into civilian homes and taken over stores and hospitals in the capital. The paramilitary group even transformed Mirgany’s newsroom into a makeshift base, he said. Residents also must cope without sufficient electricity and running water, among other basic supplies.

“For the past 14 days we’ve suffered from a lack of everything,” Mirgany said.

Residents in the city of Omdurman, west of Khartoum, have been waiting at least three days to get fuel — complicating their escape plans.

The U.N. relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said that U.N. offices in Khartoum, as well as the cities of Genena and Nyala in Darfur had been attacked and looted. Genena’s main hospital was also leveled in the fighting, Sudan’s health ministry said.

“This is unacceptable — and prohibited under international law,” Griffiths said.

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Will you marry me?’ Bulgarian woman contacts News 6 to expose international romance scheme

A 52-year-old Bulgarian woman currently working in Ireland is the latest target of international imposters who use stolen photos of a handsome Carnival Cruise Line officer in an online dating scheme that steals victims’ money.

Alessandro Cinquini, 29, who is known on dating sites as “Alex the Officer,” first contacted News 6 in March 2022 when he discovered his photographs were being used to fool women from Florida to India.

Vanya Dimova contacted News 6 after seeing our reports about Cinquini on the web.

She said an Alex imposter sent her photos and videos of lavish gifts that included a shimmering engagement ring.

Alessandro Cinquini has gone public to warn women across the globe that imposters have stolen his photographs from social media platforms to create “catfish” style profiles that offer love but target money.

News 6 sent 15 questions to her in advance so Dimova could translate and prepare responses during a Zoom interview.

She said she met the Alex imposter on Instagram back on March 26. According to Dimova, the conversation went from casual to romantic very quickly.

“After two days, he told me he was in love with me,” Danya told News 6. “Every day, he tell me he want to buy a house in Bulgaria and live together.”

Cinquini told News 6 the imposters have never stopped using his photos and he assured us he never contacted Dimova.

They have my old pictures from my old life,” Cinquini said. “Most of those pictures aren’t on my Instagram anymore. I canceled them years ago.”

He told News 6 he currently works as a fleet operation center watch officer for Carnival Cruise Line.

Danya sent News 6 a voice message from a man claiming to be Alex.

“I love you, I love you,” the man said.

The voice sounded nothing like Cinquini

Danya said that voice recording was the only evidence she has. She never met the imposter face-to-face or spoke to him on FaceTime or Zoom.

Danya said she became suspicious when the imposter asked her to pay the shipping charges for her gifts. He sent her a Bank of America receipt to prove his account had been frozen.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams in the U.S alone netted an estimated $1.3 billion last year, impacting 70,000 men and women.

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