Bob & Nancy on April 18th, 2014

If our memories are as good as we hope they are, it was Royal Caribbean that first started flying performers (Taylor Swift, Martina McBride) in for a concert on the ship while in a port. Norwegian picked up on it (Rascall Flatts).

Now, Carnival has take the concept to a new level.

The Carnival Live Series started last week. The band was Styx, the concert was a Styxsellout and it took place on two ships, the Fantasy and the Fascination, in Nassau. The concept will run through December, at which time Carnival will re-assess…it might not be necessary after such an impressive start.

Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw put it like this: "All I know is our boats were rockin’. We had a great time and it looked like our fans loved it, too. Can’t wait to do it again in the fall in Nassau and then in Catalina Island and Cozumel.”

Bands or artists on the agenda for either Nassau or Cozumel or Catalina Island include REO Speedwagon, Kansas, Olivia Newton-John, Martina, Lady Antebellum, Chicago and Jennifer Hudson.

The concept is win-win-win.

A win for the passengers who, for a reasonable ticket price ($20 or so) get to see favorite performers in a cozy setting.

A win for the cruise line, which uses the attraction to sell passage on the cruises.

A win for the artists, who can make a few bucks doing one-night stands like they're accustomed to doing on land and therefore don't have to devote a week to concerts, signing autographs and being recognizable in close quarters.

Carnival is making it work by often having two ships in the port of choice at the same time. That will happen — sometimes they are 3-day weekends — 14 times between now and December. Two ships, two concerts makes it all possible for two sets of passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Quantum of the Seas on the move and it's not even here yet!

Celebrity Constellation
12 nights
June 26, 2014 
Amsterdam (return): StavangerOldenMoldeAlesundGeirangerFlamBergenOslo 
Inside: $1,299
Cost per day: $108
www.celebritycruises.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 17th, 2014
Getaway-in Europe copy

When Norwegian announced that its newest ship, the Getaway, was going to feature Grammy Award-winning entertainment, it sounded like a promising venture.

Alas, at least perceptually, it still has a ways to go.

This week, Norwegian proudly announced "three exciting artists" whom will be performing on the Getaway, sailing 7-day Caribbean cruises from Miami.

Ready?

Sugar Blue. Carolyn Malachi. Roddie Romero.

Hmm. They are, indeed, either winners of or nominated for Grammy Awards. Sugar Blue is known as the "Jimi Hendrix or Charlie Parker of the harmonica." Carolyn Malachi, in addition to her Grammy-nominated single, is a "philanthropic social activist." Roddie Romero is a "renowned Grammy-nominated Louisiana artist" who has played "many of the world's most prestigious venues and festivals."

Let's me straight about one thing: Nobody questions that these performers are good. They're probably very good. However, to link them as Grammy headliners…

Are they that Grammy good?

The attraction, don't you think, still has a ways to go?

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney's venturing off traditional course

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
May 18, 2014
AnchorageGlacier Bay National ParkHainesJuneauKetchikanVancouver 
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58
www.hollandamerica.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 16th, 2014

This spring, cruise ships started going on probation.

If you break the law out here in the real world, and you're convicted, chances are you'll have a probation officer…at least.

Now, if you "break the law" out there in the cruise world, somebody will be Coast Guardwatching you.

The U.S. Coast Guard.

Unannounced ship inspections at American ports are not new. What's new is that ships with "a record" will be targeted. In surprise visits to 140 cruise ships in U.S. ports last year, the Coast Guard discovered 351 deficiencies…most of them relatively minor, but deficiencies nonetheless.

What the Coast Guard discovered is that a "population of cruise ships had most of the deficiencies." They become sub-standard ships in the eyes of the Coast Guard and, as such, subject to more frequent, surprise inspections.

Sounds like probation, doesn't it?

Today at portsandbows.com: After almost a week on the water, the Emerald Sky

Carnival Freedom
8 nights
July 5, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. MaartenSt. KittsSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $749
Cost per day: $93
www.carnival.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 15th, 2014

So, if somebody suggested you go on a cruise because a man named Ted Geisel was going to be on the ship, you'd rush off to the nearest cruise travel agent, right?

Oh, you wouldn't.

Okay, how about Dr. Seuss?

That's what Carnival has been telling everybody for a while, and now we know it's going to happen between now and the first week of May. The Carnival Freedom will Carnival Freedombe the first ship in the fleet of 23 to introduce the legendary kids book author to its passengers. Its multi-million-dollar remake starts next weekend in the Bahamas, and the Freedom is due to emerge on May 3.

Eventually, all 23 ships will have Bookville, which is where you'll find Seuss At Sea, the name Carnival has given to its reading venue. That means it's also where you'll find Cat In A Hat, along with Green Eggs And Ham, arguably the two most famous books in the series. And it's also where you'll find an interactive reading event called Seuss-a-palooza Story Time.

On the promenade, a Seusss-a-palooza character parade.

The fun starts in Fort Lauderdale, from where the Carnival Freedom will regularly sail Caribbean cruises of six and eight days.

Ted Geisel?

That would be Theodor Seuss Geisel, the gifted writer, cartoonist, animator, artist and book publisher whose final pen name was Dr. Seuss.

Sadly, he won't be there. Ted Geisel died in 1991. 

Dr. Seuss, however, will live forever.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
May 4, 2014
New York (return): Bermuda
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 14th, 2014

Norwegian StarThose of us who live in North America may find this hard to believe, but there are people who would pass up going on a cruise because of soccer.

Football…baseball…basketball… even hockey…we'd get that. 

But soccer?

It is known as the world's game, probably because it's played more than any other game world-wide, and every quadrennial along comes the World Cup. Other sports have World Cups but soccer fans will tell you there really is only one.

And it happens this year.

The people at Norwegian Cruise Line get it. That's why from June 12 to July 13 — the dates that mark the start and the finish of the World Cup in Brazil — "the World Cup logo copybiggest matches" will be televised on all 13 Norwegian ships. The telecasts will be in multiple venues on the ships and it's safe to assume that the entire playoff round games will be automatics.

Norwegian made a deal with SPORT 24, which obviously has the rights to farm out World Cup telecasts. The only thing nobody is saying about the venture is who will decide which World Cup games are "the biggest matches."

On the other hand, with soccer fans it doesn't really matter. At the World Cup, they all are.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest news from everything cruise

Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas
5 nights
April 26, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): BelizeCozumel
Inside: $319
Cost per day: $63
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 11th, 2014
Crown Princess

We know people on cruise ships can be sick of being sick. Can it be that cruise-blog readers are sick of reading stories about people being sick on ships?

Here we go again…

On almost the same day that passengers and crew on the Crown Princess were reported to be suffering from norovirus, a Harris Poll that was conducted after outbreaks on three ships showed how the public feels about major cruise brands because of the disease.

First, the latest news from the ship…

Carrying 3,141 passengers, Princess Cruises confirmed that more than 100 people were sick and that testing proved norovirus (gastrointestinal illness) was present.

Now, the poll…

Trust in cruise lines dropped 12 per cent and purchase intent 13 per cent across seven major brands, among them Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Worse yet, public perception levels were even lower than they were after the much-Explorer of the Seaspublicized fire and debacle aboard the Carnival Triumph last year. The poll was conducted shortly after 700 people on Explorer of the Seas were ill with norovirus.

Coincidentally, at least to us, the Crown Princess and Explorer of the Seas are two ships we've been on in the last year. 

It wasn't us…honest!

Today at portsandbows.com: Expansion of the rivers of America

Sun Princess
12 nights
May 31, 2014 
Kobe (return): NazeOkinawaIshigakiHualien 
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $91
www.princess.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 10th, 2014

Question: How many times can you see CATS, the Broadway show?

Answer: As many as possible.

Let's be clear. We're not really "cat people." Dog lovers rarely are. There's conflict that comes with the DNA. But "cats" are not CATS, unless the very sight of a feline creeps you out, in which case being in the audience of the Broadway show is not CATSadvisable.

The audience for CATS will be on Oasis of the Seas, co-holder of the "biggest cruise ship in the world" title. That means a new audience — or at least a recycled old one — will enjoy the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the story that goes with it. We've seen it three times in various settings (including Broadway) but never on a ship.

It's the latest Broadway show for Royal Caribbean, following Hairspray — which has been on Oasis of the Seas since it arrived in 2009 —and Mamma Mia and Saturday Night Fever and Chicago.

Show No. 5 in that line-up will make its debut after Oasis goes into dry-dock this fall for a refurbishment that somebody, somewhere, is guaranteed to describe as the "CATS meow."

Wait a minute…somebody already has.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
May 11, 2014
New York (return): Bermuda
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.ncl.com

 

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Bob & Nancy on April 9th, 2014

For the dinosaurs among us (who knew dinosaurs still existed?), "sustainable" is a 21st-century word whose meaning is, well, confusing. In fact, a study about the meaning this month showed that baby boomers are confused. We tend to think of it as a "healthy" word and, while it is that, it's much more.

So when the largest American cruise company talks about a "sustainable cuisine" it's worth examining further what that means.

For American Cruise Lines (yes, the largest AMERICAN cruise company because all the bigger ones are registered in other countries), a sustainable cuisine means Queen of the Westfeeding passengers on its river ships with produce from suppliers along the route. The idea is that it impacts less on the ecosystem (environment for the BBs) as the ships go up the lazy rivers.

Here's an example, part of American's Cruise Local. Eat Local campaign:

Passengers on Queen of the West, following in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark on the Columbia and Snake rivers, will find freshly caught salmon on the plate, accompanied by Astoria (Oregon) honey, Rainier (the mountain) cherries and local Queen of Mississippihuckleberries, mint and tomatoes.

Down the Mississippi, on board the "Queen" named after the river, passengers will be more likely to feast on pork from Des Moines, cheeses from Wisconsin and pralines from New Orleans.

In New England…lobster, of course.

You get the idea.

American's strategy is to "enhance" the experience for the end users while supporting the local economies it visits while at the same time monitoring impact on fish populations and offering smaller portions.

That's, well…healthy. So maybe we do know a little about the meaning of the "S" word.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas
12 nights
August 17, 2014
London (return): GibralterCartagenaBarcelonaPalma De MallorcaCadizLisbonVigo
Inside: $1,679
Cost per day: $139
www.royalcaribbean.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 8th, 2014
Caribbean-Karl Musser

– map by cartographer Karl Musser

When taking a Caribbean cruise — the most popular cruises anywhere — sometimes the trick can be to find ports less-visited. That's less-visited by you.

As interesting as places like Nassau and Cozumel and Barbados are, how many visits are too many?

Carnival has an interesting twist, set for late next year and early 2016.

You can take a cruise from the "heartland" of American cruising, Galveston, to the heart of the Caribbean, San Juan. It's an 11-day trip with six port stops. And then you can cruise back, with six more ports in 10 days.

That's three weeks on the ship, which will be the Triumph, and 12 ports. And here's the best part: Only one port is a repeat. In other words, you can see 11 places in the Caribbean on the same trip…okay, a two-in-one cruise.

The concept is not all that's new for Carnival. So are many of the ports. Carnival ships have never been to Bonaire and have rarely taken passengers to Antigua, Grenada and Martinique. Also on the port agenda are Aruba, Grand Cayman, St. Maarten (once each way), Grand Turk, St. Thomas, St. Kitts and Half Moon Cay.

Get out your map and take a look. Draw a line through the Caribbean from Miami and around the east end of the world's most famous islands and back via Grand Cayman and you'll see that you'll see a generous part of the entire Caribbean.

There are only two opportunities. The Triumph will leave Galveston in October (2015) and again in January (2016), with the return trips in October and late January, respectively.

You can do one of the two, of course, but that means flying to or from San Juan. Double up, and forget the air fare.

Oh yes, you do need a three-week vacation.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
12 nights
May 24, 2014
Venice (return): OlympiaAthensIstanbulLesbosEphesusSantoriniArgostoli
Inside: $929
Cost per day: $77
www.hollandamerica.com

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Bob & Nancy on April 7th, 2014

Of all the reasons we've heard for a change in cruise itineraries, one that we read about on the weekend was new. It was also kind of win-win.

The P&O ship Oceana was at its scheduled stop in Barcelona when the cruise line discovered a repair was necessary. Not a safety-concern repair but one that had to Oceana-1be addressed nonetheless. There was a leak in the seal around a propeller and it was going to take frogmen — okay, divers — almost three full days to fix it.

So the ship was stuck, in Barcelona. The passengers were stuck, in Barcelona.

Poor passengers.

Anybody who has been to the Spanish port knows it's easy to spend three days in Barcelona. Also fun.

The delay also means the passengers won't get to three other Spanish ports: Cartagena, Alghero and La Courna. In return, P&O gave passengers a 25 per cent cash refund and a comprehensive entertainment program and shore excursions in Barcelona.

Talk about making a silk purse from a sow's ear!

Today at portsandbows.com: Not exactly the CATS meow!

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
April 27, 2014
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.carnival.com

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