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Archive for August, 2012

Royal Caribbean’s Technology Data Center.

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All information technology (IT) at Royal Caribbean Cruises and its brands falls under Bill Martin, CIO, who has the daunting task of overseeing shipboard IT infrastructure along with shoreside systems, websites, agent systems and more.

The latest ships, including the Oasis and Solstice classes, and the two Project Sunshine newbuilds, run on a fiber optic network for TV, data and voice.

That has been upgraded, said Martin, from the days of multiple networks using copper wires, also saving a notable amount of weight.

“We have dual data centers,” he added, talking about the Oasis and Solstice vessels, “with a backup data center housing the mission-critical applications that need to survive in an emergency. They are located in separate fire zones.

“A very high percentage of our servers are virtualized,” Martin explained, meaning software that divides one physical server into different environments to become more efficient.

While he constantly has his eye on technology change, the ship systems are hotel and back office systems, and its consumer technology that changes quickly.

Passengers with mobile devices are eating bandwidth, which cruise lines have to manage carefully.

Managing bandwidth includes compressing packets and optimization, including caching and also eliminating certain websites, such as streaming video portals.

The company has gone as far as making sure emails going through the ship’s servers actually need to go back to headquarters in Miami. If those emails are between shipboard employees, they stay on the ship and don’t utilize precious bandwidth.

 “But you have to have bandwidth, that is the bottom line,” Martin noted.

And what most passengers don’t understand is that data travels close to 100,000 miles every time they request a website or want to check their email. It starts at the ship with a request that eventually travels to satellites thousands of miles up, and back, using ground stations in between, and being delivered in roughly 750 milliseconds.

Bandwidth is not the biggest challenge staring down Martin, but rather all the application systems onboard.

More systems are going on the ships and “you have to get creative with how you integrate them,” he explained, meaning an integration hub, so systems can talk to each other.

Photo recognition does not just happen with security, but now with the ticket system, e-mustering, point-of-sale, and more, totaling about a dozen places that the cruise line needs a guest’s photo to pop up.

Not usually covered in drydockings are changes happening in the IT infrastructure onboard.

Old copper networks can’t be replaced, but they can be beefed up, as Royal adds ship-wide wireless internet and interactive TVs.

New ships are not only larger from a tonnage standpoint, they also have more systems than before.

Martin said there were some 20 new application systems introduced on the Oasis, highlighted by the food outlet traffic flow system, which utilizes shape recognition cameras to keep count of passengers in the restaurants.

“That’s shared across the network to digital signs around the ship to let people know where the availability is,” he said.
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2012

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Carnival has just begun a new all inclusive beverage package, well sort of. The new program called “My Awesome Bar Program” debuted on the Carnival Victory on August 5th, and it offers beer, wine, spirits, and soda in the Atrium, Casino Bars, and Pool Bars. The cost is $43 per day plus a 15% gratuity or $49.39. So for just at $50 a day, you can partake in the all you can drink program. The program covers drinks that are under $10, so if you drink 5 $10 drinks per day, you will break even. If you drink beer, then you will break even after around 10 beers per day. The program seems to be very successful so far according to Carnival and may be implemented fleet wide.
Just to clarify the following;
More on the all inclusive bar program which I hope will help answer questions.
All Frozen drinks are included (including Alcohol Free Frozen Drinks), so if a guest wants a Pina Colada, Kiss on the Lips or an Alcohol Free frozen drink it is no problem!
Premium spirits such as Grey Goose, Belvedere, Makers Mark, Johnnie Walker Black, Bombay Sapphire and Patron Silver are all included.
Classic Cocktails such as Mojitos, Long Island Ice teas, Margaritas and Mai Tai are also included.
Sodas are included- no need for a Bottomless Bubbles card if you are partake in the My Awesome Bar Program.”

The All Inclusive Bar Program does not include:
Non-Alcoholic Beverages other than Soda
Drinks promoted and sold in souvenir glasses
Liquor, wine and Champagne sales by the bottle
Gangway Beverages while debarking
Cigars
Cookbooks/Bar books
Coffee and Food items from the “Coffee Shop” Cafe (where applicable)

I am sure Carnival will have to try it out for a while to work out the bugs. I understand that if one person buys the program, then everyone over 21 in their stateroom will have to purchase the program as well. That means that a cabin of 2 will cost an additional $700 for a seven night cruise. That is some serious drinking! Cheers!

Kevin Souder
The Cruise Experts International
visit us at www.TheCruiseXperts.com

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video link http://www.oasisoftheseas.com/video.php?ship=allure

Out of all the private islands offered by the various cruise lines, I have to say, this is the best of the best. You have everything from sitting on the palm tree lined beaches and just relaxing, to zipping over the beach and water on the longest zip line over water, anywhere. There is also a Water Park with inflatable ice bergs, trampolines, and slides. If you like water slides, they have that too and if you want to feel the same excitement as a water slide, but stay dry, they have a roller coaster that you can control yourself as to how fast you want to go. There is something here for everyone. Check out some of the details below that Royal Caribbean has provided from their web site.

Buccaneers’ BayYou’ll find the tour information and booking desk at Buccaneer’s Bay, where you can book any remaining available spots for excursions. This is also the meeting point for our watercraft and boat tours. There is plenty to choose from including the WaveJet tour, Parasailing, Arawaky Snorkel Adventure, Haitian Hydro Highlights Express, Discover Haiti, Sandbar Rendezvous, Haitian Cultural Tour and Snorkel Safaris.
Dragon’s PlazaLocated just outside Buccaneers’ Bay. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a barbecue style lunch buffet at the Dragon’s Café. Dragon’s Plaza is also the start of the longest beach on Labadee. Although not suitable for swimming (visit the beach at Columbus Cove instead), it is the perfect place to soak up the sun and listen to the sounds of the ocean. Be sure to take a walk out to Dragon’s Head (a breathtaking natural rock formation).
Labadee Town SquareLabadee Town Square boasts an expanded version of the popular artisan market and a festive atmosphere that comes alive with music, folkloric dancers and more. This location offers convenient meeting places where guests can enjoy the rich Haitian culture and take in shopping, shows, cultural activities and other memorable experiences.
Adrenaline BeachNot only is this beach brand new, but it is also home to Labadee’s newest attraction, the Dragon’s Tail Coaster. Located by Labadee Town Square, Adrenaline Beach features soccer, basketball and beach volleyball games. 
Columbus CoveThis family friendly spot is located in a protected cove that allows for swimming and floating on a beach mat. Trees along the sandy beach provide natural shade great for relaxation. Columbus Cove boasts one of the largest aqua parks in the Caribbean. The young and young at heart alike will enjoy family activities including: climbing “icebergs,” the log roll, the teeter-totter, trampolines and a new water slide. This is also the site of one of our barbecue lunch buffet areas.
Nellie’s BeachSimply a slice of paradise. Want to enjoy a nice leisurely kayak trip to take in the sights of the surrounding coast and nearest village? Nellie’s Beach is now home to the Kayak Adventure. You can also enjoy floating beach mats and complimentary beach lounge chairs on this picture perfect beach.
Barefoot Beach ClubExclusively for Royal Caribbean International’s suite* guests, the Barefoot Beach Club offers a total of 20 private cabanas along the water’s edge and within the hillside areas. Enhanced food and beverage services are also available.

*Grand suites and above

Pasted from <http://www.royalcaribbean.com/contentSiteletSub.do?pagename=sub_labadee_neighborhoods&pagenameMain=labadee&discriminators=1>

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Your next vacation should be one that you will remember for a long time, not one that you remember because everything was screwed up because you booked it online. Peggy was the only one that answered the customer service phone number and she (he) had an Indian accent. You thought you were paying a lower price, but with the service fee it was the same as the cruise line.

The Truth is, we all get the same prices from the cruise lines that you will be sailing on. The cruise lines pay us, so we don’t charge you. We actually look out for you and make sure you get what you expect, advise you of potential problems, fines, penalties, or lower prices on other dates, or other cruise lines. We look out for you because that is what we do and we do it better than anyone else. If you book direct, you are on your own, and the cruise lines will do everything they can to get as much of your money from you that they can. We see it all the time, clients calling to say they are so sorry for booking directly. Now they must talk to the cruise line and feel like they are being bullied, and are just a number, because they are. All because they thought it would just be easier and they happened to be online anyway.

If you can get your cruise for the same price as online as you can with us, why would you take a chance booking online with a stranger who is looking out for them instead of you. Or if you go with a big corporate travel conglomerate who outsources calls to order takers in another country, well you know where that is going. They may speak English, barely, but they don’t have a clue as to what you mean. Why not just make it easy on yourself and book with the Experts, a local company that is looking out for you!

Reasons to use a travel agent:

We book cruises daily and are aware of various traps that the cruise lines use to trap you, causing you to pay additional fees after booking those early saver rates that look really good at first. What they are designed for is to be able to charge you for any changes that you may have to make, or worse yet, to keep your money if you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason.

After you hit the enter key and wonder, did that go through? I hope it did! Did I get a guarantee, or am I in a specific stateroom? I wonder what deck I’m on? Do I need a passport? How much is the Parking at the cruise terminal? What time is my dining each night? Did I get 2 twin beds or a king? I wonder what that category is that I just think I bought? I hope it wasn’t a bunk bed cabin!  What can I take on board with me?….on and on and on the questions go.

Have you noticed how hard it is to find a phone number to call customer service online? They don’t want you to call! They hope you won’t. If you manage to get the phone number, what country are you calling? Do they understand what you are asking? Do they even care?

I can’t go on the cruise that I just booked because of an emergency, do I lose all of my money? I hope I booked the right fare code. How do I know if I did or not?

If you book a group with the cruise line, you as the group leader will have to use your credit card to pay for others in your group that don’t have a credit card, then you will have to be the personal banker of those other group passengers. By booking with us, we handle all the payments from all the passengers. We handle all the details, deliver the invoices, keep track of the payments, and send all the notices to all the group passengers. All you have to do is promote the group, hand out flyers, post your cruise on your Facebook page, or tell the others to just call us. We make it easy for you.

We can set you up in a group for extra benefits:
Reduced Deposit
Payment Plan
Price Guarantee
On board credit
Rebate paid to the group leader in some cases.
Set up group events, like cocktail parties.
Cross reference everyone so you are dining as a group.

The bottom line is that we do this for a living. We have handled thousands of bookings and know how to make sure you get the best of everything for what your hard earned money is buying. Do you think that anyone with a laptop can do your job just as good as you because they have the internet? Really? Think about it! Why would your risk your hard earned vacation for no extra benefit? Not only are you not saving a lot of money, but you could cost yourself time and money by doing it yourself on the internet. To use an analogy; You could cut your own hair to save money. So why don’t you? So what kind of joker would cut their own hair if they could get it done by a professional who does it every day, if they could get it done for free? There you have it. Why would you book your own vacation if you can get it done professionally, for free?

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