Not long ago, we gave you Five Reasons Why A Carnival Cruise Might Be Your Best Value. At the time, Carnival was coming off a round of bad publicity due to the Carnival Triumph “poop cruise”. While regular cruise travelers were not concerned that a similar event would happen to them, they commonly asked “do you think my price will come down?”, and in many cases, it did. A diverse fare structure gave and still gives travelers a lot of flexibility when it comes time to book a cruise too. Carnival solidly continues to be the value leader. But now, some in addition to a great deal, Carnival has bumped up the experience onboard, beyond the huge gains afforded by the massive Funship 2.O initiative.

FunShip 2.0 brought Guy Fieri Burgers (a personal favorite) along with other dining and entertainment venues. Now comes the encore and what an encore it is.

Banking On Tried And True Entertainment

Carnival LIVE brings top entertainers to it’s manifest of fun. Cruise travelers sailing on one of the most popular cruise ships in the world will now be able to enjoy artists such as Jennifer Hudson, who kicked off the latest initiative in a New York announcement.

Carnival LIVE Concert Series represents 49 performance dates for the 2014, offering Carnival guests the opportunity to enjoy an exclusive onboard performance by a diverse roster of popular music artists while ships are docked at select ports of call.

Artists include 38 Special, Chicago, Daughtry, Foreigner, Gavin DeGraw, Jennifer Hudson, Jewel, Kansas and others. See the full list and details at the Carnival Live Concert Series website. Good enough reason for many to sail the Funship line. But Carnival is taking a fine tooth comb through every aspect of what they do, touchin other areas as well.

Carnival Rules The West Coast

Not all that long ago, cruise lines were avoiding the U.S. West coast to the point where it seemed soon, no ships would be set to homeport year round. But Carnival Cruise Lines hung in there. Recently 2,052-passenger Carnival Imagination kicked off a new West Coast cruise schedule when it departed on a four-day cruise from Long Beach.

The one and only time we sailed from the west coast was on Carnival Ecstasy, then doing the Catalina Island and Ensenada run. We liked the ship, had a good time but shortly thereafter ships went on the move. Carnival’s unique experiment with Carnival Paradise, then a totally non-smoking ship faded away. Ships were repositioned on a number of lines but Carnival remained standing, growing into now a three-ship operator on the west coast, carrying 550,000 passengers annually.

A New Look On Being Married At Sea

Being married at sea has some distinct advantages. Cruise ship wedding programs can be a cost-effective alternative to being married on land. While a pierside wedding before the ship sails away is a popular and comparatively inexpensive option, tieing the knot on a beautiful island can make life-long dreams come true. Taking another look at weddings, Carnival Cruise Lines has totally revamped its program, allowing couples to make their “big day” even more special and memorable. No other cruise line has taken a new look at what they do in this area recently.

Upgrading everything from floral arrangements, decorations and photography to culinary selections and a greater variety of romantic on-island ceremonies, Carnival weddings are a viable option to be considered. Expanding on the inclusive nature of a cruise vacation, Carnival weddings are available both aboard ship on embarkation day or in tropical ports of call.

Paying Attention To Details In A Shareholder-Friendly Way

Carnival Cruise Lines
recently announced two new partnerships, one with a sunscreen manufacturer and another with a land-based casino operator. The result of these Carnival partnerships will bring sunscreen-related products and activities to passengers when sailing and Carnival Players Club members benefits at casinos scattered around North America. It’s an interesting move by the most popular cruise line in the world and one that could affect a number of Carnival fans, both at sea and at home.

Of note here is not so much that Carnival is passing out free samples of sunscreen but that they are looking at something as simple as the beachy, pool element of what they do, right down to the small details; a harbinger of good things to come. It’s the little details, the small things that make a product great that usually fall by the wayside when profit rules over experience and, in my humble opinion, this is very much something that has happened to Carnival if not the entire cruise industry.

Yet Another Look At Dining

As cruise lines continue to differentiate themselves from one another, the onboard experience is evolving. One line has Broadway shows, another has a Cirque dinner show, another gets into audience-participation games and cruise travelers like it. Once thought to be heavy on 70’s Vegas-like variety shows, entertainment options are now diverse. And so it goes with activities, accommodations, shore excursions, planning and booking: Cruise lines are listening and delivering a product that travelers are excited about.
And then there is dining.

Looking back a decade or so ago, it was the main dining room experience that we looked forward to, if for no other reason than it was the only game in town. Then Carnival Cruise Lines introduced the concept of ‘alternative dining’ which changed the entire culinary landscape of cruise vacations. One after one, cruise lines added new venues, tapped celebrity chefs, changed to address the concerns of a more health-conscious traveler and just kept going.

Now, Carnival is back with what we believe will be the next big thing in dining on cruise ships. “Dining has always been a hallmark of the Carnival cruise experience and we’re constantly looking for new ways to provide our guests with exceptional meals and service that become a highlight of their vacation, bringing people together while creating fond memories,” said Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines in a press release.

Indeed, Carnival’s bold past efforts have included adding a 24-hour pizzeria, a chain of unique steakhouses on every ship in the fleet, multiple relevant dining options came from their Funship 2.0 initiative including my first stop on any Carnival ship, Guy’s Burger Joint created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri.

Now, Carnival has not one but two new dining concepts seem to be yet another good call and exactly what cruise travelers are after. Called the American Table and American Feast concepts, Carnival’s culinary team spent time interacting with the leadership at Union Square Hospitality Group, a leading New York-based entertainment, food and hospitality organization, to observe best practices and the organization’s approach to culinary excellence.

To Carnival we say: Good for you.

To Cruise Travelers we say: Take notice, there is a new Carnival in the works, again defining big ship cruise travel, this time as never before.

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