Bob & Nancy on March 2nd, 2015

Funnel-EcstasySo what are the chances of entering a contest and winning the grand prize, a cruise every year for the rest of your life?

Evidently, 1 in 115,000.

That’s how many people entered a Carnival contest called the “World’s Leading Cruise Lines Marketing Challenge.” Consumers (who were cruisers, obviously) gave Carnival input on new TV advertising concepts. If you saw Carnival’s ad on the Super Bowl, that was one of them.

What, exactly, is an annual cruise for life?

In Carnival’s world, it’s a cruise every year on a ship from one of three brands from the corporation’s cast of nine: PrincessHolland America or Carnival. Pick a brand, pick a North American cruise…and that’s what a woman from Red Bud, Illinois — Bette Shapiro — will be doing. Presumably, she gets to pick any cruise she wants, although Carnival hasn’t specified if it has to be 7 days…or if it can be to Hawaii (that is North America, after all)…or if it can be through the Panama Canal

It’s likely this matters little to Bette Shapiro, because she is going cruising once a year at no cost to her for the rest of her life.

Not that it really matters, but nobody’s giving Ms Shapiro’s age.

Today at portsandbows.com: The new Costa Diadema

Grand Princess
7 nights
May 23, 2015
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, College Fjord, Anchorage
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.princess.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 27th, 2015

One of us is obsessed with the tequila-based drinks called margaritas…not drinking them, finding where they are. Like, in Margaritaville, homeland of Jimmy Buffett. As a concession to her, and at the risk of alienating you, below are some of the fruits of her labor (and you can be sure there are more to come!)…

Cayman IslandsMost Margaritavilles are in the south, because their creator wears shorts and no socks. This palatial one in the Cayman Islands may be the biggest she has found…so far.

Falmouth JamaicaYou have to look long and hard to find the Margaritaville connection with this work of art at the cruise port of Falmouth, Jamaica…unless you have a built-in Margaritaville magnet.

Grand TurkAt Grand Turk, Parrotheads ‘get’ the obvious connection on the signage above the front door, and if you don’t know what Parrotheads are chances are you haven’t read this far.

LabadeeThe obsessed photographer will even seek out people wearing Margaritaville shirts, like on the beach at Labadee. Little did this musician know he was a photo-op subject. 

New OrleansNew Orleans may be as close as Jimmy Buffett gets to landlubbing (except for concerts) and his fans will tell you he’s a perfect match for the French Quarter.

CozumelFinding Margaritaville in Mexico is easy, at least in Cozumel…after seeing this, the photo subject looked over at the bench and asked: “Where’s Jimmy?”

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Constellation
13 nights
April 9, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Funchal, Gibralter, Alicante, Rome
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $46
www.celebritycruises.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 26th, 2015
Pearl

 

If you’re booked to take a Norwegian cruise on a ship that leaves after Saturday, prepare for a little inflation.

Starting Sunday on all sailings, Norwegian’s daily gratuity charges are going up to $12.95 per person ($14.95 if you’re cruising in a suite) and applies even if your cruise is already booked. The increase is less than a buck a day (95 cents) and it’s this cruise line’s first such increase since 2009.

Where does that leave Norwegian in an industry where gratuities are sometimes one of life’s little surprises, except for seasoned cruisers?

Celebrity charges $12 a day, and $15.50 in suites. Carnival also charges $12 and breaks it down for you: $3.90 for stateroom crew, $6.10 for dining room crew and $2 for crew members in the galley, guest services, entertainment. Princess, from the Carnival family, charges $11.50 as does Cunard, another Carnival sibling. Disney does it a little differently, suggesting amounts and breaking them down by length of cruise but in the end — whether it’s three days, four days or seven days — the suggested daily gratuity is $12.

So Norwegian appears to be the first of the mainstream lines to bump it up. There is one break for Norwegian passengers already booked: It stays at $12 if you pre-pay your tips.

Gratuities are always discretionary, but who wants to be the person arguing with the guest services people about why they shouldn’t pay what is already charged to your room?

Today at portsandbows.com: Princess plans for Europe 2016

Carnival Magic
7 nights
April 12, 2015
Galveston (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 25th, 2015

There’s an old joke about a man who’s sprawled across three loungers on the deck of a cruise ship. He is warned by the crew that he must move or risk being “arrested” by the cruise cops. The man lays there looking up in silence.

Finally. the removal squad is called. Again, the man is warned. Again, he is silent.

Deck chairs“Okay, buddy, what’s your name?”

“Charlie.”

“Where are you from, Charlie?”

“The top deck.”

At least Charlie had a reason for taking up three deck chairs. Often that’s not the case on cruise ships. Often, PWCs (Passengers Without Class) take ownership of several chairs at a time and leave others looking for a place to suntan.

Full disclosure: We’re not really from the deck-chair crowd so from a personal standpoint this doesn’t usually upset us. However, we’ve talked to many people who are understandably distressed when they can’t find a place to sit amidst empty chairs “belonging” to somebody else.

Friends told us of an incident on the Celebrity Reflection. This is not a problem on one ship nor one cruise line…it’s something crew members have to deal with and not alienate the people who pay their salaries.

On the Reflection, a man had four chairs that were unoccupied. Our friends were with another couple. When they first asked, he ignored them. Finally, they said:

“You’re not supposed to take chairs you aren’t using?”

“What’s it to you?” he replied.

Begrudgingly and eventually, he gave up only two of his unoccupied-but-reserved chairs. He admitted to nothing, not even bad manners. They didn’t know his name, but it wasn’t Charlie.

Charlie wasn’t rude.

Today at portsandbows.com: October start for Amber Cove

Norwegian Pearl
7 nights
May 17, 2015
Seattle (return): Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan, Victoria
Inside: $529
Cost per day: $75
www.ncl.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 24th, 2015

Call it an industry within an industry. Or call it an opportunity to see distant shores and get paid. Or just call it an unbelievable opportunity.

‘It’ is a cruise internship.

The industry has grown to the point that there are websites dedicated to helping students who are looking for an internship in the cruise business, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise since there are websites dedicated to…well, you name it. For those of us with some vintage, it’s like turning the clock back a few decades and wishing these things were available then.

Of the internships we’ve been reading about — most of them cater to young people attending maritime schools or wanting to work in the hospitality business — one jumped out.

The one from CroisiEurope.

Yes, right, who really has heard of CroisiEurope. More about that later. First, the opportunity…

CroisiEurope has a three-month internship (just one) for a student who is “passionate 7743_12_90_0_phpLZa2otabout travel and has a knack for photography and writing…”

Aha, a future cruise blogger!

“…to explore 14 countries across Europe and Asia aboard 10 ships as they develop their writing and photography skills.”

One student only, from the U.S. or Canada. Applications close in three weeks, on March 22. Here’s the link: Photo Tour Internship.

CroisiEurope?

It’s billed as the largest river cruise line in Europe, with 41 ships (hmm, Viking had 52 last year). CroisiEurope is going to be 40 years old next year. It has ferried more than 200,000 passengers along the rivers of Europe and Asia. It’s a family-owned business, launched in 1976 by Frenchman Gérard Schmitter. It claims to have the “best value in river cruises at great prices.”

While comparing rivers and ships is not an exact science, we found a CroisiEurope “Romantic Rhine” cruise in July starting at $250 per day and a Viking “Romantic Danube” cruise in the same month starting at just over $335 per day.

All of which makes “cruise internship” even better.

For students, that is. However, there’s no age restriction.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
15 nights
April 11, 2015
Tampa, Key West, Funchal, Gibraltar, Malaga, Barcelona
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $39
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 23rd, 2015

Remember when being the godmother of a cruise ship was an honor reserved for celebrities, royalty or others who were already enjoying some measure of fame?

Times have changed.

Today is a “reality world.”

Acknowledging that, and in partnership with Travel Weekly, Royal Caribbean is going to have what might be called the cruise world’s first “reality godmother” when Anthem of the Seas is launched in April. This ship’s godmother will be a singing travel agent.

Really?

Really. Also, reality.

Here’s how it will work:

Travel agents (women only) can apply by submitting a short video clip of their singing ability. They’ll choose from a list of 19 songs. The list of potential godmothers will be trimmed to five by a panel of three judges who will watch the videos. The five finalists will sing for the judges and the winner will — after a little voice coaching — appear at the ships’ christening where she will sing the anthem.

Anthem, get it?

The winner will also sing at Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards and win a cruise-for-two on Anthem of the Seas. The winner will also enjoy at least 15 minutes of fame, or royalty, or celebrity, or all of the above.

So far, nobody’s saying that this will turn into an award-winning, long-running TV show that they’ll call Cruising Idol.

Today at portsandbows.com: Foodie new for Oceania fans

Holland American Maasdam
25 nights
March 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Thomas, St. Barts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao, Half Moon Cay, Fort Lauderdale, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Barbados, Fort-de-France, St. Croix, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $1,349
Cost per day: $53
www.hollandamerica.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 20th, 2015

It's logical that people who go on cruises have an innate interest (or maybe that should be a supressed interest) in all kinds of boats. Whether you do or not, you're going to see many types of vessels on the water when going on cruises, as we have…

Boats-15Probably the only two-passenger boat in the world where the "driver" (aka…gondolier) sings while he works, and while you enjoy traversing the canals of Venice.

Boats-3Is there a better way to see — or a better way to get a view — of Alaska's glaciers as they "calf" (a less literary word would be "cave") than as part of a kayak expedition?

Boats-11-EcuadorWhile leaving Manta, we captured the working boats of Ecuador, where work often means going to the U.S. and sending earnings home to impoverished families.

Boats-9-CaymanWe liked this juxtaposition of the old and the new…even though the "old" is a tour boat, with a Carnival ship on the horizon, far south on the west coast of Mexico. 

Boats-6-BermudaThis yacht belongs to somebody rich and famous of St. George's, Bermuda (or so we were told), truly an example of a world with which most of us are not familiar.

Boats-2In harbors around the world, you'll likely find a wide variety of vessels, and that was the case when the Celebrity Eclipse arrived in Cherbourg, France.

Boats-23-ColThe Phantom was more about the people than being the Spanish galleon on the shores of Cartagena, Colombia because it was there, five years ago, that we met tour guide Sandy Cuadrado, who remains our friend today!

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Millennium
17 nights
April 26, 2015
Shanghai, Jeju City, Kobe, Tokyo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $41
www.celebritycruises.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 19th, 2015
Port Canaveral

 

Just some things that we’re curious about…

The other day, Port Canaveral had six ships in port at the same time…Although there was no mention that this was any kind of record, officials said Canaveral was hoping to overtake Miami as the world’s No. 1 cruise port…In 2017, there might even be some seven-ship days…Hmmm…Currently, 11 ships from four cruise lines depart from the port most closely associated with Orlando and Disney World, including three of the four in Disney’s fleet…At the moment, 25 ships call Miami home during the Caribbean season, from 10 cruise lines…Carnival and Norwegian alone have 12 ships in Miami…It seems Port Canaveral has a ways to go…And what makes Miami No. 1 in the world, since Fort Lauderdale currently has 42 ships with cruises initiating from Port Everglades?

On Saturday, Anthem of the Seas departs from the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Germany for sea trials and final touch-ups to the interior, some of which will be done during the trials…AnthemBy the time it emerges again for its official launch, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship will have been under construction for just 16 months, so the question is: Are builders working faster than in previous years or are they just getting better at assembling enormous cruise ships in that short a time?…Anthem, by the way, will have an original Royal Caribbean production on stage…It’s called “The Gift” and is described as “a musical journey of fantasy and illusion that begins one stormy night with the arrival of a magical gift”…It’ll be interesting to see what the reviews are like.

More cruise lines are making more staterooms available for solo cruisers at a more reasonable rate, making this the best time for people who want to travel alone to book a cruise…Carnival is the latest, with more single-occupant cruises than ever on sale this year…The next one available is on the Carnival Dream, leaving New Orleans on March 15 for a week in the Caribbean…Carnival has eight cruises scheduled this year that are good deals for solos, and the growth of single cabins and fairer pricing raises this question: How long will it be until one of those “meet your match” programs winds up on cruise ships?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
March 9, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 18th, 2015

In going through an old AARP magazine that was heading for recycling, an item caught our eyes because it included a cruise ship. It put a spin on fuel consumption that we’d never heard and, perhaps, neither have you.

The measurement was called “passenger miles per gallon” to determine the “fuel-friendliest” way to go: car, plane, train, ship. This calculation is determined by the number of miles per gallon multiplied by the number of passengers. So, if your car gets 30 miles to the gallon when you’re driving alone, adding a passenger makes it 60 ”passenger”  miles to the gallon. Three passengers, and it’s 90.

Highest score wins.

Off the top of our heads, we thought cruise ships would do well, just given the number of passengers.

Using the Environmental Protection Agency, Royal Caribbean, Boeing and Amtrak as information sources, here is what AARP determined the four passenger miles-per-gallon were:

Train (passenger) — 63
Plane (747-400) — 61
Car (Corvette) — 38
Cruise ship (Oasis of the Seas) — 36

You can debate the choices of vehicles but the bottom line is that trains are the “fuel-friendliest” mode of transportation. In this study, cruise ships are last.

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania's new website

Norwegian Pearl
10 nights
March 6, 2015
Miami (return): St. Kitts, Martinique, Roseau, Antigua, St. Thomas
Inside $459
Cost per day: $45
www.ncl.com

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Bob & Nancy on February 17th, 2015

In quasi-military vernacular, what happened in Galveston on the weekend might be called the “perfect storm.”

Operation Homefront, recognizing the troops. A country singer, because country singers are the most prominent pro-military entertainers. And a ship called “Freedom.”

This was Carnival’s Freedom, of course, and it was in Galveston to begin operations from its new home-port. It was also Carnival’s Martina McBride, the country superstar who has Freedom-Galvestonbeen performing in the cruise line’s wildly popular entertainment series called Carnival Live.

And both of them were there to pay tribute to troops.

A check for $100,000 was cut for Operation Homefront, the nonprofit that supports military families, some of whom were the audience for what was called an exclusive Carnival Live concert by the winner of 14 Grammy Awards. She sang from the upper deck of a ship that last year underwent a $70-million refurbishing that enhanced its family features, such as Seuss At Sea and Camp Ocean, where kids enjoy 200 marine-themed activities.

The consensus was that McBride gave a show-stopping performance. For those of us who have seen her (twice now), this is not a surprise. She was the consummate professional the first time we saw her, in 1996, and again in 2013. All the succeeding years did was make her even better.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor,” she said in Galveston. “I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival now has three ships based in Galveston — the Triumph, the Magic and the Freedom. While it may not be a stretch to make a military connection to the names of all three, nothing speaks to the troops like the Freedom does.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
May 4, 2015
Tampa, Norfolk, Cork, Cherbourg, Brussels, London
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57
www.royalcaribbean.com

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