So here’s a question for you. Do you think “a sunset is a sunset is a sunset?” If you don’t, you may find these sunset photos interesting, as we have from a variety of cruises in different parts of the world…

1-Hawaii MakahaYou never quite know what you’ll see when the sun’s setting in the South Pacific, and the contrast of the clouds off the coast of Hawaii can be typical.

2-SFAny cruise ship leaving San Francisco late in the day can deliver this view (if it’s not raining) as you prepare to slip under the Golden Gate Bridge.

3-SunsetThis was the result of repeated attempts (no motor drive here) to catch the sun as it dipped below the ocean’s horizon…did we make it?

4-SunsetThe reflection of the setting sun is always speelbinding, as it was for us, off the coast of South America from the appropriately named Norwegian Sun.

5-Puntarenas-MillThis could be any ocean scene at sundown, so you’ll just have to take our word that it was near Puntarenas, Costa Rica, from, the Celebrity Millennium.

6-Sunset-GuatThis photo from the port of Puerto Quetzal, Guatamela, made it into our archives even though we hadn’t even begun writing about cruising!

7-HawaiiMany cruises visit Hawaii long enough to disembark and enjoy the sun from the shore, enabling the ever-present palm trees to help frame the shot.

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Bob & Nancy on March 15th, 2016

One of the interesting things about visiting foreign countries — and there’s no better way to see many of them than from a cruise ship — is the number of photo ops. Signs quickly became a subject we kept an eye open for, and below are some we found “interesting” for a variety of reasons…

NassauNot sure that this one requires any explanation, other than to say it was on the side of a building in downtown Nassau, close to Norwegian Sky’s 2,000 passengers.

Hell-2That’s where you go in Grand Cayman…at least many first-time visitors do, and locals turn Hell into business opportunities — better than having a business go to Hell.

Alaska-3In Alaska, there are many things of which you cannot be certain — mosquitoes, wildlife, weather…and whether there will be enough water on the waterfall trail.

Guy Fieri'sOn the Carnival ships (this one the Freedom), Guy Fieri’s presence goes beyond his food — serving counters and tables are decorated with interesting signage.

Costa Rica-2Is it possible that Costa Ricans think visitors have to be told of danger lurking in its waters? Or maybe that just says something about the tourists!

Coquimbo-2The people of Coquimbo, Chile have seen enough walls of water to know that this sign means they’re on high enough ground to be safe from tsunamis.

GuatemalaOne Central American country that thrives on its coffee industry is Guatemala, even in remotae plantations where sign makers know their market.

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Bob & Nancy on March 6th, 2016

Midst the snow and the cold of late winter, the upper decks of cruise ships provide a welcome escape, even if only in pictures. Today’s selection is the pool decks of some ships we’ve been on, to see if you think a deck is a deck is a deck…so, do you?

NavigatorThere’s always color and sunshine on pool decks and this one, on Navigator of the Seas, even includes a grandstand for spectators to watch!

CrownOn the Crown Princess, the adults-only area called the Sanctuary features the hot tubs that are capped with thatched roofs, adding to the ambiance of heat.

RivieraDecks (and ships) tend to be an oasis on the ocean, or in this case on the Mediterranean Sea on the Oceania Riviera, a ship that caters largely to adults.

EpicThe Norwegian Epic has always been famous for being different and as one of our favorite ships it delivers a pool area that is — like the Epic itself — unusual.

BreezeWhen ships are in port, as the Carnival Breeze was here in Miami, the rallying cry of “Everybody in the pool!” is still waiting to be heard.

EclipseThe Celebrity Eclipse’s top deck was a welcome respite when we crossed the Atlantic on her and nobody was swimming laps in this clearly divided pool.

CoralPools are welcome even in the ice fields that are the glaciers of Alaska…but it was the “hot” pools on the Coral Princess that were popular with passengers.

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Bob & Nancy on February 18th, 2016

Mention the word “cruise” and the word “food” is usually not far behind. Today, we’re giving you a “taste” of some of the dishes we’ve enjoyed on a variety of cruises and a variety of ships…

Crown dessert balcony dinnerThe presentation is as immaculate and tasteful as this Crown Princess chocolate raspberry dessert.

Riviera-red ginger diningSeafood delicacies like this from the intimate, upscale Asian restaurant known as Red Ginger on the Oceania Riviera.

Allure-IzumiHot Rock (525 degrees) is the name of this specialty at a specialty restaurant, Izumi, on Allure of the Seas.

Freedom-cheesecake steakhouseCheesecake (and wine to match) — the perfect postscript to a meal when dining in the renowned steakhouse on the Carnival Freedom.

Eclipse-elegant expressA treat that comes when you have “Elegant Tea” on Solstice Class ships like the Celebrity Eclipse.

Epic-slime cakesThis baby’s called “slimecakes” — the Nickelodeon spin on “pancakes” on the Norwegian Epic and, yes, it does taste better than it sounds or looks.

Coral-chef's tableOn the Coral Princess, the Chef’s Table includes an old standby — surf ‘n turf — or steak and lobster, exquisitely cooked and displayed, of course.

Reflection-dessert buffetEvery ship has them, the fabled dessert buffet, and this caloric delight is from Celebrity’s newest ship, the Reflection.

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Bob & Nancy on February 12th, 2016

You don’t have to appreciate fine art to enjoy some of the works you encounter in traveling the world on cruise ships — and there is art of some sort virtually everywhere you go. This is a collection of artistic impressions that have caught our eyes, or at least the lens of our cameras…

LimaLove is grand, isn’t it?…even when it’s on display on the waterfront for South American-bound cruisers when they stop in the metropolis of Lima!

ChicagoThis was in Chicago, on the way to a cruise, and it’s not Mrs. O’Leary’s famous cow — it’s the one made famous by baseball broadcaster Harry Caray, whose pet expression was “Holy Cow!”

ValenciaNot quite sure what to make of this somewhat provocative work of art, in one of our favorite Spanish ports, so we simply gave her a name: Valentina of Valencia.

VigoYou’ll find this on the streets of Vigo, Spain — where we’d stopped while on the Celebrity Eclipse — and our impression was somewhere in there must be a cowboy.

MexicoThe beaches of Mexico, and throughout Central America and the Caribbean, are a great source of statues like this that mean more to the locals than the visitors.

KetchikanIt’s hard to imagine that there’s a larger carving of a bald eagle than this one where the Coral Princess — and all cruise ships — are docked in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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Bob & Nancy Dunn on January 29th, 2016

We’ve often been asked: “What’s your favorite cruise ship?” It’s a question often asked of anybody who cruises a lot by people who cruise a little, or less. Our answer, one we borrowed from the late John Maxtone-Graham, is always the same: “The one we’re on.” That’s pretty much how we feel. When you love cruising, you rarely go on a cruise that you don’t enjoy. At the risk of sounding like Pollyannas, to us cruises are just varying degrees of good. Having said that, over the last six years, these are the six cruise ships we enjoyed the most, for a variety of reasons…

Epic

Norwegian Epic: Critics always trash it, but in two cruises we’ve found the complaints mostly trivial.

Allure

Allure of the Seas: It’s hard to believe anybody who is objective could find fault with this ship-that-has-it-all.

Coral

Coral Princess: In our world, she’s the queen of Alaska, with a feel we call “comfortable in every way.”

Diadema

Costa Diadema: When you like all things Italian, as we do, you like the flagship of Italy’s main cruise line.

Eclipse

Celebrity Eclipse: When you spend six days at sea, you either love or hate a ship — we loved the Eclipse.

Sun

Norwegian Sun: This has everything to do with our longest cruise, 19 days, on a ship that became “home.”

In the news…

• Carrie Underwood joins Carnival Live!  in November to raise funds for vets
• Upcoming SS United States Conservancy announcement to save the ship
• Fog in Tampa once again causes chaos for Carnival Paradise, AidaVita

Today at portsandbows.com: What’s next for Princess Cruises


Carnival Fantasy
4 nights
April 25, 2016
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $239
Cost per day: $59
www.carnival.com

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Bob & Nancy Dunn on January 28th, 2016

Kim-3

His name is Kim. Just Kim. We are introduced on the banks of the Saigon River in Vietnam. We are on a Viator excursion and he is our guide. He is polite, informative and the antithesis of a rah-rah guide who tries to impress with his clever dialogue so that at the end of the day he’ll get a bigger tip.

For Kim — and his eight customers — the end of the day was nine hours later.

It began with an hour-long ride up (down?) the river, to the Cu Chi Tunnels for a fascinating look at the underground network and weaponry the Viet Cong used in winning the Vietnam War, 40 years ago. Throughout the two hours or so we spent at what is now a huge tourist attraction, Kim’s knowledge and opinions made the tour better than expected.

The day also included a first-ever (and possibly last) visit to a cricket farm, which included a snack that was optional from the farm’s owners, and a lunch (long after we’d digested the little creatures) at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Not that you’d expect to find anything but authentic Vietnamese restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, but this was so good we’ve been seeking the North American version ever since returning home.

Our day was nine hours and Kim’s has to be at least two more. When he told us he would become a father in a few months, our tip included a contribution for the daughter-to-be’s Kim Nguyenpiggy bank — he said it would be her first deposit. As we parted, we exchanged email addresses, something we often do when meeting somebody so likeable and personable. We discovered there was more to him than Kim — Kim Nguyen Dinh — and we resolved to stay in touch.

Fast forward…

Our first email went unanswered for almost two weeks. These things happen. Sometimes they’re never answered. When Kim responded, he was apologetic. His father had been suffering from liver cancer for almost a year (long before we met him) and the prognosis was not good. His next email brought the inevitable news. In December, another email announcing the arrival of Cecilia, or Gia Kha Han in Vietnamese.

For his family, it completed the cycle of life.

When you exchange emails with strangers from a land far away, it’s not always like this. But when it is like this, you learn that we’re really not that different, are we?

In the news…

• Launching in May, Harmony of the Seas to feature Dreamworks characters

Today at portsandbows.comFood spectacles for Princess crowd


Holland America Veendam
7 nights
March 13, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Banana Coast, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Costa Maya
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.hollandamerica.com

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Bob & Nancy Dunn on January 27th, 2016

Allure

This is a blog about Royal Caribbean, Haiti and reading between the lines. A lot of people are doing that these days following what appeared to be a fairly innocent incident this month: ships skipping Labadee because of a group of protesters on the water offshore.

Little more than that was said…at first. What has been said since may turn into a much bigger snowball by the time it gets to the bottom of the hill, as the analogy goes.

According to people on ships that turned around, Royal Caribbean officials said the protests Haiti-1had to do with upcoming (and postponed) elections in Haiti. After passengers dug deeper, they found the protesters were holding up signs because Royal Caribbean was not living up to its promise to build schools, hospitals and self-esteem in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

As a result, more people than ever are re-examining the cruise line’s “private resort” known as Labadee. As a result, critics like maritime lawyer Jim Walker are ripping Royal Caribbean in commentaries — logically presented — for making excessive profits at the expense of Haitian people who thought they were going to benefit from the development of Labadee.

As a result, now people are questioning why Royal Caribbean ships have returned to Labadee, as they did this week. More and more the answer appears to be money. Period. Going to another port deprives the cruise line of an enormous revenue stream. The “private resort” is waterfront property the cruise line bought for a song and it’s Labadee-ziplinesurrounded by barbed-wire fencing to protect passengers who spend millions zip-lining and lounging in cabanas or renting equipment to use on the water, and to keep out poor Haitians who want to sell their crafts and try to escape their poverty.

“Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind…but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax,” writes Walker, who is a well-known thorn in the side of cruise lines but who has probably touched a raw nerve this time.

If the head tax goes to the government as “rent” then fees for the “world’s longest zipline” and most of passengers spend in Labadee is likely pure profit for Royal Caribbean. A conservative estimate is that’s about 10,000 visitors every week.

We’ve only been to Labadee once. One of us was sick. We never ventured far enough from Allure of the Seas even to see the fence around Labadee. We never met any of the locals, as we usually do. All we really know about it is what we’ve learned from Royal Caribbean, including how it’s dedicated to helping poor Haiti.

That’s called PR…for public relations. The return of its ships to Labadee solved one problem, but now Royal Caribbean appears to have another.

A PR problem, and clearly it’s growing.

In the news…

• A $450 million multi-year product innovation and ship renovation for Princess
• Two new ships to push Royal Caribbean capacity to four million passengers a year
• Five Norwegian ships — the most ever — going to Europe for summer 2017

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Princess restaurant SHARE


Emerald Princess
14 nights
April 2, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Bilbao, Paris, Southampton
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57
www.princess.com

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Bob & Nancy Dunn on January 26th, 2016

Fantasy

For 20 years, Disney and Kimberly-Clark have been in a relationship. Disney gave Kimberly-Clark — primarily a company of paper products — the right to use Disney characters to sell Kleenex, and Huggies diapers, among other things. Well, maybe “gave” is not the right verb but if you’ve seen Mickey and Minnie on your box of tissue papers or diapers, you get the idea.

After two decades, the relationship is entering a new phase. K-C is going to provide products wherever Disney has customers (like theme parks, cruise ships and probably movie sets). Disney is going to give Kimberly-Clark the right to re-brand its baby care centers — they’ll now be called Huggies Centers — on cruise ships and in theme parks, and to sell its products in the centers…once again, “license” might be the right verb.

K-C is also sponsoring Disney’s Junior Live on Stage performances wherever they’re held.

“It really seemed to make sense, as the relationship has evolved, to take the next step,” said a spokesperson from Kimberly-Clark. “It expanded the licensing agreement into an alliance.”

Doesn’t it sound a bit like being engaged for 20 years (licensing agreement) before getting married (alliance)?

Photo: David Roark/Disney photographer

In the news…

• Norwegian Getaway to cruise summer 2017 from Warnemunde, Germany
• Royal Caribbean, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) partner on ocean conservation
• Holland America’s new Koningsdam successfully completes sea trials

Today at portsandbows.comAmaWaterways ramps up excursions


Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
April 11, 2016
Miami (return): Nassau, CocoCay
Inside: $289
Cost per day: $72
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy Dunn on January 25th, 2016

On the subject of “you have to spend money to make money” is there an industry where it’s more obvious than cruising.

Norwegian is the latest.

After an aggressive new-ship program that will have enlarged the fleet by six ships in seven years by 2019, it was logical to assume Norwegian might hold off on refurbishing Gemsome of its older ships. After all, the tab for the six new ones that began with the Breakaway in 2013 is likely to be near $5 billion.

If it was logical, forget logic. Norwegian is committing to spending $400 million on freshening up primarily the restaurants on nine ships with a standard of excellence the cruise line is calling The Norwegian Edge. The Epic and Gem have already been done and over the next year they’ll be followed by Pride of America, the Sun, Dawn, Spirit, Sky, Pearl and Jade. The only old ships missing — the Jewel and the Star — were refurbished within the last 18 months.

Here is what will be either added or upgraded to deliver The Norwegian Edge: The Cavern Club, La Cucina, Cagney’s, Le Bistro, Moderno Churrascaria, The Manhattan Room, Garden Café, as well as The Haven Courtyard, Lounge and Restaurant.

Of the seven new-ship years, 2016 was going to provide an investment respite. After the Breakaway’s introduction of a new class in 2013, the Getaway followed in 2014 and the Escape in 2015. Next is the Bliss in 2017 and two unnamed ships in 2018 and 2019.

When the dust settles, Norwegian will have a fleet of 17 ships and be positioned to take a break from making things new.

Maybe.

In the news…

• The ‘Big Storm’ delays port return of Grandeur of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas
• Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas cancel 61 port calls in Turkey
• Crystal’s offering short segments as part of World Cruises in 2016 and 2017

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Sun
14 nights
February 13, 2016
Santiago, Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacabuco, Chilean Fjords, Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Port Stanley, Puerto Madryn, Montevideo, Buenos Aires
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $28
www.ncl.com

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