When we first sailed on a Norwegian ship (the Star), it was a cruise line that was considered a little quirky (have you seen the hull paintings?), a little funky (you could eat at whatever time you wanted) and a little alternative (it was a misfit in the world of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess).
How things have changed.
According to the Cruise Industry News Annual Report, Norwegian ranks third in total capacity, behind Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The fact that Norwegian added the Breakaway and Getaway in the last 14 months would account for the latest jump, and for the bulk of its 19 per cent increase in capacity.
Princess is No. 4, also with a huge jump (18.5)…can you say Royal Princess, the line's first new ship in five years? Costa, of all cruise lines, ranks fifth, thanks to two months of 2013 with its new ship (neoRiviera). MSC, with no new ship, slipped from third to sixth place, which made room for Norwegian to leap-frog the others.
With two more new ships on the horizon — the Escape next year and the Bliss in 2017 — it's a status that Norwegian figures to maintain. Barring attrition of its older vessels, those will be the 14th and 15th ships for a line that had only 10 when we boarded the Star six years ago. Carnival currently has 23, Royal Caribbean 21 with two Quantum Class ships in the works and Princess 17 with the Regal Princess coming.
The CIN annual report estimates that with double occupancy Norwegian can carry 1,722,400 passengers. Princess has a capacity of 1.6 million, about 200,000 more than Costa.
Not bad for what was a quirky, funky, alternative cruise line.
Tags: Caribbean cruises, Carnival, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity cruises, Costa Cruises, Costa neoRiviera, Cruise bargains, Cruise deals, Cruise figures, Cruise Industry News, Cruise News, Cruises, MSC Cruises, New cruise ships, Norwegian, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Star, Princess Cruises, Regal Princess, Royal Caribbean
It is our duty, in case you happen to be on a cruise ship when Daylight Saving Time comes along, to alert you about "the time change."
It's this weekend, or next month.
In most of North America, the clocks "jump ahead" two hours into Sunday morning. Except in Arizona. And Saskatchewan. And in Cozumel, where there are cruise ships.
In Cozumel, where we once almost missed a ship because of this confusion, DST goes into effect in April. On the 6th, also a Sunday. Except on Norwegian cruise ships, which maintain ship's time. However, Royal Caribbean cruise ships stay on land's time, which in Cozumel is different than land time everywhere else in the area.
And when the Cozumel stays on Standard Time while the rest of the world goes Daylight, the one-hour difference between ship time and shore time becomes two hours.
As the pop band Chicago would say…or sing…
"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"
By now, The Beatles must have almost as many impersonators (okay, tribute acts) as Elvis. This, despite the fact half of The Beatles are still performing, proving that you don't have to die to have lesser talents play you.
At one time or another every city in the nation must have been host to a Beatles show that didn't feature the real thing. From New York — where they've been on Broadway (Beatlemania) — to small-town North America (pick one), the Fab Four have spawned a "Revolution" unlike the one they sang about all those years ago.
Anybody who passed through the sixties and didn't get left behind has eagerly chased the ghosts of The Beatles. Guilty, as charged. We've gone on a Beatles bus tour in Liverpool, their hometown, and seen a variety of acts that have dared to play John, Paul, George and Ringo in too many places to mention.
Now, it's Cunard.
In a few weeks, The Beatles Experience will board Cunard ships to perform "A Day In the Life"…or maybe that should be "A Life in The Day." It's unclear how they'll entertain as many Cunard passengers as promised, given that they're scheduled to be on the Queen Elizabeth somewhere between Hong Kong and Dubai on March 29, on the Queen Victoria between San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale on April 1 and on the Queen Mary 2 "Back in the USSR" (oops, Far East) on April 2.
Even The Beatles themselves couldn't have handled that schedule, so maybe the clones have been cloned and there's more than one copy of The Beatles Experience. Actually, there is but that's another story, one for the copyright cops.
One thing is certain:
There's no cruise line more British than Cunard and no Beatles more British than the originals, so these shows are likely to be as good as it gets.
Tags: Caribbean cruises, Carnival, Carnival Conquest, Cruise bargains, Cruise deals, Cruise News, Cruise ship entertainers, Cruise ship entertainment, Cruise ships, Cruises, Cunard, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Queen Victoria, The Beatles
If you've ever cruised into Venice, you might have thought about taking a dip in the canal — any canal, pick one. We're not sure why you would but, hey, everybody's different.
For future reference, don't do it.
It could cost more than your cruise!
There have been people swimming in Guidecca, the most famous of the Venice canals because it fronts St. Mark's Square. They've been swimming, supported by a variety of inflatable devices, because they oppose the volume of large cruise ships that use the canal.
With protest comes a price.
Italian officials fined the swimmers they could catch and/or identify. The ticket is 2,071 euros and you don't need a calculator to know that it's more in dollars.
The protestors think it's worth doing. They slowed arrivals and departures of large cruise ships and generally made nuisances of themselves in the name of anti-business/ecology. Large cruise ship traffic is down by 20 per cent this year and, besides, like-minded individuals and organizations are raising funds to help pay the fines.
On the shore, life is even more distasteful for protestors. They were fined for "unauthorized demonstrations" to the tune of 3,950 euros ($5,425). Given that large ships are supposed to be permanently banned come November, either the protestors think they were responsible for it — or they have deep pockets.
And…there isn't even a beach!
Photo by Wolfgang Moroder
A dear friend of ours used to say that when America wants to try something new, whether it's a new procedure or a new law, it often happens first in California. If it's successful, that's good enough…and it goes viral, or at least to other places.
Our late friend lived in California, he knew what he was talking about — or so we assumed.
Twice on our cruises customs agents have come onto the ship to clear passengers for going ashore. Now we're not saying it hadn't happened anywhere else, but those are the only times we been part of a process that shortens lines and speeds up disembarkation. It seemed like such a good idea we wondered why customs people didn't do the same thing whenever and wherever a ship is disembarked.
This summer, Japan is going one better.
According to a story in The Japan News, ministry immigration officers will go on board at the ships' home ports to collect fingerprints and facial recognition data. When the ship arrives at Yokohama's cruise port (above), it will still take an hour for passengers to go through passport verification, freeing them to spend at least an extra hour in the port.
For a ship with 3,000 passengers, that's up to another 3,000 hours of spending, so just do the math.
By 2030, Japan anticipates its number of foreign visitors will triple.
With the growth of cruising in Asia, the Japanese want to be ready.
- photo by Aimaimyi
There are two news items that continue to make the rounds this week which are not especially flattering to the cruise industry.
Comment: As we have long pointed out, this gastrointestinal sickness can happen wherever large groups of people assemble. It is not unique to the cruise business, which constantly has to re-assure worried passengers in advance. However, the perception is that you're more likely to contract norovirus on a cruise ship, out of context or not, and this is a problem for cruise lines.
The trial regarding the Carnival Triumph is underway in Miami. While the judge ruled Carnival is liable for the fire on the ship, one of his other rulings is that cruise line did not breach its contract because "the contract ticket makes no express guarantee for safe passage, a seaworthy vessel, adequate and wholesome food, and sanitary and safe living conditions."
Comment: Isn't it time for cruise lines to quit hiding such important facts in the fine print?
Holland America Ryndam
April 6, 2014
Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada, Malaga, Cartagena, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Motril, Gibralter, Cadiz, Lisbon, La Coruna, Bilbao, Portland, London
Cost per day: $55
Tags: Carnival, Carnival Triumph, Cruise bargains, Cruise deals, Cruises, Fires on ships, Holland America, Holland America Ryndam, Norovirus, Passenger rights, Passenger safety, Transatlantic cruises, Veendam
Yesterday's story about the little autistic girl and a man with a heart came along at just the right time. Today's news is that Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line to be certified by Autism on the Seas.
What does that mean?
It means that Royal Caribbean's ships, all 21 of them, are autism friendly.
And what does "autism friendly" mean?
That means when autistic or developmentally challenged people board a Royal Caribbean ship they will find that the ship and its people are ready for them. They'll have access to priority boarding, to their dietary needs, to autism-friendly movies and — if they're kids — to toys and stories and activities that are tailored for them.
Royal Caribbean's ships are certified "bronze." Silver certification is expected to happen later this year with gold and diamond on the horizon. All three have to do with increased levels of staff training.
Next week is the first "Cruise With Staff" on Serenade of the Seas, from New Orleans to Key West and the Bahamas. These cruises provide coordinating activities and an enhanced comfort level for individuals with not just autism but also with other cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities (like Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy).
Autism on the Seas participates in such cruises with other lines, too — Disney, Celebrity and Carnival — and has been assisting developmentally challenged cruisers with Royal Caribbean for seven years.
On Friday, its 21 ships all won "bronze medals."
Tags: Autism, Autism on the Seas, Carnival, Carnival Miracle, Celebrity cruises, Cruise bargains, Cruise deals, Cruise ships, Cruises, Disney, Mexican Riviera, Mexico, Royal Caribbean, Serenade of the Seas
Today's blog is about something that has nothing directly to do with cruising. It may never have anything directly to do with cruising…but hopefully it will. That could be up to you. Or up to us. You'll see after you read a story that, sometimes, is just too good to pass along.
This one is about a developmentally challenged child, a plane and the passenger in the next seat. It first appeared on the Huffington Post and for anybody who travels — or even for people who don't — it's worth reading…
I don't know your name, but Kate called you "daddy" for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn't even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own "daddy," but instead making a judgment regarding your level of "safety" for her. If she calls you "daddy" then you better believe she thinks you are alright.
I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: "Hi Daddy, that's my mom." Then she had you.
You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that "smile" that I despise because it means "manage your child please." You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored with you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.
Kate (upon noticing you had an iPad): Is dis Daddy's puduter?
Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)
Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.
Kate: Dat's nice!
You (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad): I like your computer, too. It has a nice purple case.
Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered Shredder [note: one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] to you and that, my friend, is high praise)
The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing Barbies, but I bet you wouldn't have minded a bit. I bet you have little girls, too.
Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, "Plane is cwosed (closed)" over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.
In case you are wondering, she was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed.
So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.
Tomorrow: How autistic people are being made more welcome on cruise ships.
Getting to the ship on time can sometimes be as challenging as getting to the church on time. In some places, it's becoming easier.
Like New Orleans.
With a mushrooming cruise ship industry that includes ships from Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, there's a shuttle service (Hotard Motorcoach) from neighboring states. Mushrooming industry? Now the fastest-growing cruise port in America, New Orleans accounts for five per cent of all embarkations in the U.S.
The shuttles bring passengers to the port from three places in Louisiana, two in Mississippi and one on Alabama (Mobile).
The three principal ships going in and out of The Big Easy are Norwegian's Jewel, Carnival's Dream (as of April) and Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. That's 8,500 passengers a week. Or between 300,000 and 400,00 a year.
And here's the best part: The cost is $50 per person ($30 for kids). Round-trip. From our recollection, the $100 a couple would spend on the shuttle is likely to be less than the cost of parking for a week.
That doesn't include the gas.
Nor the stress.
Tags: Caribbean cruises, Carnival, Carnival Dream, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity cruises, Cruise bargains, Cruise deals, Cruises, New Orleans, Norwegian, Norwegian Jewel, Royal Caribbean, Serenade of the Seas, Shuttles to ships