All Aboard: This Week’s Cruise Updates

Richard Branson is ready to shake up the cruise industry, The Walking Dead comes to Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas goes to China. Here are this week’s cruise updates.

Richard Branson is a high-powered personality with big ideas who draws a lot of attention. Now he’s ready to, pardon the cruising pun, make waves in the cruise industry, or “shake things up,” as he put it at a recent press conference in Miami. Virgin Cruises will debut with three new ships in 2020, 2021, and 2022, according to a USA Today report, and the Virgin Cruises website promises they “will not be your average cruise ship.” In the USA Today story, Branson promises “a really fun product delivered in a fun and different way,” and adds it will be similar to how Virgin approached airlines, trains, and hotels.

Virgin Cruises President and CEO Tom McAplin says in the story Virgin’s ships will be unique for their “design, size, and program onboard” and be targeted to the “young at heart.” The ships are expected to carry 2,860 passengers, based on double occupancy, and 1,150 crew members. The first ship will do seven-day cruises from Miami.

Got ideas on what you’d like to see on a Virgin Cruises ship? They want to hear from you, and you can leave suggestions at www.virgincruises.com.

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“The Cruising Dead?” TravelPulse reports that Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl will be “transformed into playground for fans of the hit television series and comic books, ‘The Walking Dead’” in January 2016. The zombie-themed cruise will sail from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas from Jan. 15-18, and passengers will get to talk to actors from the hit show, as well as get photos and autographs. There will also be zombie gaming, costume contents, theme nights, and more.

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Viking Ocean Cruises® says its second ship—the 930-passenger Viking Sea®—touched water for the first time, in a construction milestone that signifies a ship moving into its final stage of construction. The ship, which is set to launch in early 2016, was “floated out” June 25 amid a traditional ceremony at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Ancona, Italy. Karine Hagen, Viking’s senior vice president of product, and daughter of founder and Chairman Torstein Hagen, was named the ship’s godmother. The float out comes  just over a month after the cruise line christened its first ship, Viking Star®. A third ship, Viking Sky®, is currently under construction and will debut in 2017.

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Cruisers can now make reservations for Caribbean itineraries on Holland America Line’s newest ship, ms Koningsdam. The ship will launch in April 2016 and homeport at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. It will sail 7-11-day Caribbean voyages from November 2016 to March 2017. “Since we began taking reservations for Koningsdam’s summer Europe season, guests have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to book a Caribbean voyage on our beautiful new ship,” says Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, in a statement.

Koningsdam will feature fine dining in several alternative restaurants including Sel de Mer, a new French seafood brasserie; a new immersive farm-to-table dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine; a re-designed casual Lido Market with themed serving stations; a main dining room; and favorites such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian restaurant and pan-Asian Tamarind. The ship also will feature Holland America Line’s first purpose-built staterooms for families as well as single staterooms among its 1,331 guest accommodations.

Onboard entertainment includes a Music Walk area featuring all genres of music showcased in venues including Lincoln Center Stage, offering chamber music nightly; Billboard Onboard where live musicians rock the crowd with chart-topping hits; and B.B. King’s Blues Club in the Queen’s Lounge bringing the best of Memphis music to sea.

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Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas has arrived in Shanghai, China to sail on three-to-eight-night itineraries from Shanghai to North Asia destinations. The ship sailed for 53 nights from New York to Shanghai following its inaugural season at Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J. Four-thousand guests sailed on the ship to Shanghai. Quantum of the Seas joins Voyager of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, and Legend of the Seas in China. Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, says, “Chinese consumers have grown to expect the best the world has to offer, and Quantum of the Seas meets that standard like no other ship — this is a cruise of the future.” He adds, “There is incredible potential in the Chinese market, and bringing our newest and most technologically advanced ship to China will cement our leadership position in the area.”