(LOS ANGELES, Oct. 6, 2009) – Cruise lines are banking on discounted prices, new customer guarantees and innovative amenities to attract new and returning customers for the 2010 cruise season, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Auto Club will help travelers explore all the cruising options available to them in 2010 with special deals both in its offices and at an online “virtual travel show” on Wednesday, Oct. 14 to celebrate “World Largest Cruise Night.”
Pamela Shepherd, the Auto Club’s vice president for district office operations, said that several new trends for 2010 combined with continued bargain pricing will provide unprecedented value for cruise travelers.
“Whether you want to spend $300 or $30,000, you will have several great choices of cruises next year to fit you,” Shepherd said. “And travelers can choose to book in-person or online to get the same special discounts at this event.”
Auto Club offices will be open and offering the one-day cruise deals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 14, while travelers who prefer to explore cruise options from the comfort of their homes can log on to the virtual travel show from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at www.aaa.com/virtualshows. To register for the online show, visit the website before the show starts.
AAA operates the largest leisure travel agency network in North America and has unique relationships with the world’s most trusted cruise and travel providers, allowing AAA to offer exclusive packages with deals and perks not available elsewhere. AAA travel agency services are available to both members and non-members, although members enjoy access to special incentives and rewards.
Top innovations in cruising
Some examples of what the cruising industry is unpacking for late 2009 and 2010 are:
- Six new ships will be launched this year and next: Launched in 2009 are the Carnival Dream (3,646 passengers); Celebrity Equinox (2,850 passengers); and the largest cruise ship yet commissioned, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas (5,400 passengers). Next year will see the launch of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (2,092 passengers), the Celebrity Eclipse (2,850 passengers), and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (5,400 passengers).
- Upgrading amenities on private islands: Disney’s Cruise Line’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay, will have a larger beach, private cabanas, and new water play areas, including a 2,400 square feet water slide platform featuring a 140-foot open slide and an enclosed cork-screw slide. New restaurants and a beach bar are being added. Holland America Line added a pirate-themed play area with two pirate ships on Half Moon Cay. Carnival Cruise line placed a Flowrider surfing simulator in Grand Turk (although not a private island), and private, air-conditioned cabanas are available on Princess Cruises’ Princess Cay.
- Flexible dining: By February, Celebrity Cruises’ fleet (except for Celebrity Xpedition) will offer a flexible dining option that lets passengers reserve when they want to eat dinner on every day of their cruise, before they set sail. Called the Celebrity Select Dining Program, the innovation is intended to avoid some of the long lines associated with flexible dining plans that typically allow passengers to show up without a reservation during specific hours.
- Around-the-world cruising: Holland America Line’s flagship ms Amsterdam will depart from Los Angeles on Dec. 23, 2009 for a 128 day Grand-Holiday-and-World Voyage making 45 port calls to some of world’s most remote and exotic destinations, including a transit of the Panama Canal, and visits to Mexico, South America, Africa, India, the Far East and scenic cruising in Antarctica.
- A look below deck: Carnival has created “Behind the Fun”, a tour to see the inner-workings of a Carnival “Fun Ship”. The guided tours give guests a unique behind-the-scenes look at shipboard operations.
- Floating fine art gallery: Celebrity Cruises is presenting a permanent, seagoing collection of museum-quality contemporary art aboard the Celebrity Equinox with the “Essence of Equinox”, a collection of nearly 500 original works. The newly-commissioned ship began sailing the Mediterranean this summer.
- Easier air connections: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced a new air purchase service called “ChoiceAir”. Customers of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises can now choose specific airlines and flight times while shopping for the best published fares. This will allow passengers to know their airline itinerary as soon as they book and have the cruise lines air support team available before, during and after the cruise. Users pay a $15 fee per person for domestic flights and $25 per person for international air.
- Pocketbook protection: Several cruise lines, including Carnival, have added job-loss coverage to their cruise protection plans. Besides the standard trip cancelation coverage, the plans typically provide for reimbursement up to the total cost of the cruise if you lose your job.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s Web site at www.AAA.com.