Bob & Nancy on December 19th, 2014

We’ve only met, over the years of cruising, only one ship’s captain we didn’t like — and that's likely because he never gave us the chance to like him (“I don’t do interviews”). This is a colony of mostly men who are all personable, often funny, always accommodating and forever fascinating.

These are our top ten, in no particular order — hey, what's wrong with having 10 favourites? — and we've included something about them that we hope you'll find interesting:

1-Capt. Gustavsen-Sky

Captain Roger Gustavsen (Norway), Norwegian Sky 
The first captain to invite us to watch departure from the bridge, he once had his mother there on the Norwegian Dream while negotiating the Kiel Canal: “You know how mothers always like to tell their sons what to do. She wanted to tell me how to drive the ship!”

2-Capt. Manetas-Eclipse

Captain Dimitrios Manetas (Greece), Celebrity Eclipse 
He watched ships come and go from his home in Piraeus, near Athens: “
I knew when I was a teenager, about 15, that I would be on the sea. it always inspired me. I was always curious for the unknown.”

3-Henrik Loy-Explorer

Captain Henrik Loy (Norway), Explorer of the Seas 
​One of the youngest (38) captains anywhere, he met his wife Karina, now a mother of three, when she was a dancer on Liberty of the Seas when they met and he calls it: “A true love boat story. We are really on the same page and we make it work.

4-Frank Juliussen-Epic

Captain Frank Juliussen (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
He had to overcome seasickness and bad days at sea: “
I don't have bad days and I have learned to enjoy this. You meet a lot of nice people. The world is full of nice people, and a lot of them do what they call ‘dirty work’ on cruise ships.”

5-Capt. Amitrano

Captain Fabio Amitrano (Italy), Coral Princess  A seaman for more than four decades since he left Ischia, a resort island with hot springs: “All the ladies come there to look younger. It must work, because they keep coming back!” 

6-Capt. Viacama-Ecstasy

Captain Andrea Viacava (Italy), Carnival Ecstasy 
A character with an easy laugh and a sense of humor: "
When I am stressed, I go down in the galley and cook a meal. I cook something every day. Gnocci, risotto with pumpkin…sometimes I cook for 40 persons.”

7-Capt. Dahlgren-Navigator

Captain Patrik Dahlgren (Sweden), Navigator of the Seas 
He’s still not 40, he’s now Royal Caribbean’s Vice-President of Marine Operations for Quantum of the Seas Technology, after serving for years as the youngest captain anywhere on the ocean: “I started when I was 12.”

8-Capt. Manzi-Coral

Captain Luca Manzi (Italy), Oceania Riviera 
When he visits his roots in Italy: “I still have to explain what I do for a living. My friends ask what I do — ‘Sailing?' In Italian, it's the word used to surf the Internet, so now I say I do nothing for a living."

9-Capt. Vorren-Epic

Captain Trygve Vorren (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
Not long before he died suddenly, he shared thoughts on the size of ships: “What will catch people’s attention will be the future. Look at the last 20 years…we developed technology we never imagined. What did we do, not in cruising but in life, before the Internet?”

10-Capt. Tore-Allure

Captain Tore Grimstad (Norway), Allure of the Seas 
Now sharing the captain’s chair on the Allure with close friend Johnny Faevelen, he was once on an American-Russian-Norwegian ship with the capability of launching rockets, near the equator: “I was captain, not a rocket scientist!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Reflecting on the cruise news of 2014

Carnival Glory
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): Half Moon CaySan JuanSt. Thomas
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

 

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Bob & Nancy on December 18th, 2014

A husband and wife in Dublin had an unusual request for a travel writer this month: How could they take a cat-free holiday? The wife had a “cat phobia” and it didn’t matter where they went in Europe, there were cats…in restaurants, under tables, in hotel lobbies, even on the street!

CatMillions of us who travel on almost any cruise ship had the obvious answer, but it took the travel writer a while to get around to it.

She did her homework, because that’s what travel writers do. At Euromonitor, she discovered a graph of “cat- and dog- owning nations” but we couldn’t find it so we’re not sure if she was looking for the pet population — or nations that are owned by cats and dogs. 

Neither came up.

The travel writer did point out that cruise ships are cat-free, then went on to reveal that Barcelona is a big cruise port (really?) and that there are usually “coach or boat excursions” operated in cruise ports. She even mentioned the names of a few cruise lines…Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC.

She did miss the boat on a couple of things. One, Cunard does allow cats on its three ships — they stay in an on-board kennel and their owners are allowed regular visits. And two, she should’ve told them to avoid Oasis of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship.

Because Oasis has CATS!

The musical.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise update — women rule!

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 18, 2015
Galveston (return): FalmouthGeorge TownCozumel 
Inside: $387
Cost per day: $55
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 17th, 2014

EscapeOnce there was a time when nary a baby’s cry nor a dirty diaper would be found on a cruise ship. Children that young were neither seen nor heard because, frankly, when parents went on cruises it was to be an escape.

Ironically, the Escape not only embraces little ones, it markets them.

That’s the Norwegian Escape, the first ship in the Breakaway Plus Class that’s due to arrive in less than a year. Yesterday, some of the things that will make the ship special were unveiled. Among them — and a first for Norwegian — are childcare facilities for children from six months to three years.

That’s diaper time.

The nursery will include “an active area for play time and age-appropriate activities and a separate space for napping.” What it all adds up to is the growing philosophy in cruising of leaving no stone unturned. If there’s a way of convincing parents of babies — especially first-time parents, who often won’t leave a room without their new-born, never mind their home — to go on a cruise while on maternity leave, that’s a new market.

At one end of the Escape, so to speak, you have 60-plus Baby Boomers behaving much younger at Jimmy Buffett’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar

At the other end, you have…babies.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian's new ship — fun for families

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Miami (return): Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.ncl.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 16th, 2014

In the interests of balanced reporting or commentary, here’s a good and bad (or bad and good) item about cruise ship safety.

Bad…

The captain of the late Costa Concordia is on trial right now, and that revives the memories of the tragedy off the island of Giglio on Friday the 13th almost three years ago. The captain’s Concordia routedefense is that he took the ship off course — and ultimately onto rocks that led to the deaths of 32 people — because (a) he wanted to salute a retired captain living on Giglio (b) it was a favor to the ship’s head waiter, who was from Giglio and (c) there was commercial value in doing a “fly-by” that would impress passengers, something he had “often” done.

Good…

Funded by the European Union, the Lynceus Project — winner of the 2014 Lloyd's List Global Award for “Innovation” — has developed a way to track people on ships in an emergency by embedding wireless tags in life jackets. This will allow the ship’s crew to pinpoint the exact location of every person on board, as well as the location of anybody who has fallen overboard. Results have been submitted to the International Maritime Organization with the hope the devices will soon be used on cruise ships and ferries.

The project was a direct result of two crashes: the Concordia and a ferry full of school children, last April in South Korea.

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara serves long notice

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
January 4, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.hollandamerica.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 15th, 2014

Miami…Fort Lauderdale…Port Rashid…

Notice the apparent disconnect?

Well, not so fast.

The acknowledged kinds of cruise ports are  Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Proven to send more than eight million people off on their favorite cruise ships every year. Gateways to the Caribbean, primarily, and that’s still where most people go on their first cruise. Also their second, third, fourth…

Port Rashid?

That’s the new, world-class cruise port in Dubai. It opened on Friday. It is the largest cruise terminal in the world, and there’s a lot of that kind of thing happening in the Port Rashidoil-rich United Arab Emirates, probably for decades now. It’s capable of handling 14,000 passengers every day. Joining two older terminals at the port, it’s capable of handling more than seven million passengers every year.

That’s almost Miami and Fort Lauderdale combined.

Granted, it’s still speculation…and this is the Middle East.

Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) was Porthole Cruise Magazine’s “Best Domestic Port” and “World’s Top Cruise Port” in 2013. It was home to nine cruise lines, 43 cruise ships and several times broke daily records for number of passengers processed.

Is there a challenger on the horizon?

Today at portsandbows.com: Amber Cove…coming in 2015

Crown Princess
3 nights
January 3, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49
www.princess.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 12th, 2014

Almost every cruise ship has entertainment. Here are some of our favorite entertainers over the years…

Allure-ChicagoThe signature production on Allure of the Seas reminded us what a terrific musical Chicago is — guess that's why it's been around for almost 40 years!

Riviera-FlamencoNot actually "on" the Oceania Riviera, this Flamenco dancer turned everyone's head at the then-new ship's christening ceremony on the Barcelona waterfront.

Navigator-Unexpecteds The Unexpected Boys, from an organization of tribute acts (The Four Seasons), on Navigator of the Seas

Unexpected Boys…and off-stage, where they have real names (left to right): Nick Celona, Aaron Young, Doug Carpenter and Scott Pearson.

Crown- Tony Tillman, named Princess Entertainer-of-the-Year on the Crown Princess, was inspired by the late Sammy Davis Jr. and has made a career playing him.

Blue Man Until seeing Blue Man Group on the Norwegian Epic, we might have considered this one scary act…but what a funny, entertaining show.

Glory Dayz-1A talented group from Rhode Island, Glory Dayz seemed headed for a bright future in cruising after spending a week auditioning on Explorer of the Seas.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

MSC Divina
7 nights
March 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSan JuanBahamas
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49
www.msccruisesusa.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 11th, 2014

News item: There’s a theme cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam next year called the Malt Shop Memories Cruise.

On our first date, which must be close to 100 years ago, we went to a malt shop…okay, it was called The Chocolate Shop…same thing. But how many of us remember malt shops? Jukeboxes and sodas and counter service and banana cream pie…

It’s probably appropriate the cruise is on a Holland America ship, for demographic reasons. Given the diminishing number of people who know what a malt shop is (or was), it’s definitely appropriate that the cruise is sooner as opposed to later.

Neil SedakaBen E. KingNot just because of the audience's age, either.

One of the scheduled performers on the Eurodam is Neil Sedaka (left). He’s 75. Plus Chubby Checker, who’s 73. Also Sonny Turner (75), one of the lead singers for one of the groups claiming to be The Platters. And Bobby Rydell (72), Little Anthony (73), Lou Christie (71), Frankie Avalon (74), Ben E. King (76, right), Darlene Love (“He’s A Rebel”), who’s old enough (76) to have Toni Braxton play her in a bio pic now in production for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

We’ve seen some of these “old-time” acts in a variety of venues (and, yes, on PBS). We enjoyed Little Anthony and The Imperials at a street show when he was a mere child of 67. Frankie Valli at 70 wowed us at a Las Vegas hotel. As recently as this week, Darlene Love was preparing for her 29th appearance on Letterman and cutting a new album to be released in time for her tour next year!

The cruise is set for November 1, 2015. It’s a 7-day trip from Fort Lauderdale (return) to Eurodamthe southern Caribbean with stops in the Bahamas, Aruba and Curacao. Details can be found at maltshopmemories.com.

For the most part, performing is like riding a bicycle for these “old folks.” They always know how. Maybe the wheels are a little slower, and the notes not quite as high, but who better to play “them” than the originals?

In another time, they would have been playing lawn bowling, not cruise ships. They’d be thrilled to shoot their age on the golf course but most of them are too busy still performing…for music lovers who remember malt shops.

Tomorrow: Some entertainers we've enjoyed on cruise ships

Today at portsandbows.com: What's happened to Caribbean cruises

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
January 17, 2015
Houston (return): CozumelBelizeRoatan
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $38
www.ncl.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 10th, 2014

In case you missed the memo, Frozen is hot. That’s Frozen the movie, plus all the Frozen-moviemerchandise that comes with it …can you say “What’s under the Christmas tree this year?” In fact, Frozen is so hot that it’s on the high seas, in a way.

The one-year-old movie that appeals to all-year-olds is not going to be on any of the big screens that ships now have, with the possible exception of Disney. Olaf will not be your maitre d’— although he could be a Scandinavian ship captain if that happens to be his name. Elsa is not likely to be the girl by the pool taking drink orders. There will not be a reindeer ride on Sven, at least not yet.

Frozen-OceaniaFrozen is on Oceania.

Clearly hoping to catch your eye by capitalizing on the movie’s fame, the promotional line reads like this: “With Oceania Cruises, Frozen describes only the refreshing tropical drink in your hand…as you leisurely sail from one sun-drenched Caribbean island to another.”

The come-on is called “Frozen…a la Oceania Cruises.”

So, there is Frozen…and there is Frozen. 

And that’s how you mix your drink with a movie.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas
7 nights
January 25, 2015
San Juan (return): BarbadosSt. LuciaAntiguaSt. MaartenSt. Croix
Inside: $382
Cost per day: $54
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy on December 9th, 2014
Carnival Elation

 

The accepted definition of the word “carnival” — at least in North America — is as follows: “a traveling amusement show or circus.”

Unless you cruise on a Carnival ship.

And then, maybe it does mean a traveling amusement show or circus” — and much more.

With that in mind, here are some “more” things that Carnival is…

• If you’re used to taking “quickie” cruises on Carnival, you will have some longer options. Next year, four ships are testing 11 cruises up to two weeks long, something that until now hasn’t been in Carnival’s playbook.

• The world’s largest cruise line is launching more than ships. Its marketers plan to float the concept of “an interactive marketing campaign” to create more of a demand for its product among people who don’t cruise…people who use social media…people who are younger. Can a cruise crowd get any younger than Carnival’s?

• Carnival portends to be the most popular cruise line on water (where else would a ship be?)…and also “on line.” Last month, three prizes (including vacations) were given away every three hours during a 24-hour Fun-A-Thon. Why three? Carnival now has three million friends on Facebook.

• If you have a player’s card at a Tropicana casino in Laughlin, Atlantic City, Aruba, Greenville, Baton Rouge or Lake Tahoe, you can use your comp dollars or points on a Carnival cruise. Hmm…there is a Tropicana in Las Vegas, isn’t there?

• When Porthole Cruise Magazine announced its Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014, Carnival won five, running its 16-year total to 135. There are two ways of looking at this. On the upside, no other cruise line has won 135 since 1999. On the downside, prior to 2014, Carnival was averaging more (eight) per year.

But hey, Carnival’s “a traveling amusement show or circus”…right?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Regal Princess
3 nights
April 12, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays
Balcony: $349
Cost per day: $116
www.princess.com

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Nancy on December 8th, 2014

Time for a confession. Maybe even an apology. I've known since Friday that Jimmy Buffett’s people had made a deal with Norwegian’s people. As someone who’s supposed to be relaying cruise news to you, I was a little slow on the uptake.

Jimmy BuffettIt took me a couple of days to recover.

You don’t even have to be one of Jimmy’s famous Parrotheads (yes, Parrothead is a proper noun to us and that’s why it’s capitalized) to understand this really is “earth-sharking” news. Okay, ocean-sharking news. Jimmy Buffett on a cruise ship…well, his “stuff” will be on the Norwegian Escape when it arrives but, really, isn’t it just a matter of time until The Man Himself shows up? 

Hey, I was even excited when “Jimmy” was one of the Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic!

Four people in our family, maybe five, would go out of the way to see Jimmy Buffett…and I’m at the front of the line. That’s more than a third of the family, and another third is too young to know what they’re missing. As for the other third, I’m working on them, hoping they’ll go out of their ways to see Jimmy in concert before he takes his margaritas and goes home to stay.

The fact that he’s made a “new” deal as he approaches his 68th birthday (of course I know it’s Christmas Day!!) and the fact that it’s with a cruise line is encouraging. For now, only his “Margaritaville” and his “5 O’clock Somewhere Bar” and his “Hurricane drinks” are going to be on the Escape — and eventually other Norwegian ships.

That’s a good start. 

For one thing, it means if I’m cruising in the Caribbean with Norwegian, I won’t have to get off the ship to find one of the many Magaritavilles the corporate Jimmy has built on the beaches. 

For another, it’s one more thing that makes it harder for that third of my family to “escape” Jimmy Buffett.

Today at portsandbows.com: Preview of Regent's new Explorer

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $109
Cost per day: $27
www.carnival.com

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