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Canned Applause For Carnival

The record will show that in Monday Night Football this week, the winners were the Detroit Lions. The disappointing Lions went into New Orleans and beat the equally disappointing Saints 35-27.

But the Lions weren’t the only winners, thanks to Carnival Cruise Line, which saw to it that a lot of New Orleans people did not go away as empty-handed as their Saints.

As the local football team’s “official cruise line” Carnival will provide more than 75,000 meals to hungry families and/or homeless people in the Louisiana mecca during the

Volunteers from the Second Harvest Food Bank work on the world's largest Carnival cruise ship made of cans. (Photo by Peter G. Forest)

Volunteers from the Second Harvest Food Bank work on world’s largest Carnival cruise ship made of cans. (Photo by Peter G. Forest)

holiday season, in a joint initiative. It didn’t happen overnight — neither did MNF’s win and loss for the NFL teams — and it involved students from New Orleans-area schools. Carnival and the Saints provided the incentives (from pizza parties to autographed footballs free cruises for the schools that collected the most cans of food).

Monday night was the celebration, at half-time.

To mark it, Carnival volunteers created “the world’s largest cruise ship built of canned food.” The 17,000 cans of food were part of the haul that will go to the Second Harvest Food Bank in time for Christmas.

There are currently two Carnival ships based in New Orleans — the Dream and the Elation  with the Triumph arriving in the spring to replace the smaller Elation. So the cruise line has a vested interest in being the good corporate citizen. At Christmas, many people in The Big Easy are grateful for that.

In the news…

• Disney drops Greece, Turkey from 2016 Mediterranean cruises
• Grounding damages Windstar’s Star Pride in Panama; cruise canceled
• Carnival Corporation to use 100 per cent cage-free eggs on ships

Today at portsandbows.comDiana Ross on the Carnival Breeze


Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
February 29, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44
www.carnival.com

Christmas Trifecta for Princess Cruises

Three reasons for Princess Cruises to feel like Christmas has already arrived this year, which happens to be the cruise line’s 50th anniversary…

One:

The Ruby Princess left Vancouver yesterday. No big deal…the Ruby Princess has been cruising in and out of the Canadian West Coast city all year. But December 15 is the latest Rubydate any Princess ship — maybe any cruise ship — has finished the season in Vancouver. If it were sports, you’d call this making the playoffs.

In a year that started earlier and ended later, Vancouver welcomed 32 ships and 800,000 cruise passengers. In addition to the annual Alaska cruises, there were some to Hawaii or the California coast by Princess ships. What happened yesterday was a winner for both Vancouver and Princess.

Two:

Cruise Fever fans picked Princess for “best Alaska cruise” for the second year in a row. Considering that Cruise Fever has only been polling its readers for three years, this is significant.

Having been on an Alaska cruise this year on the Star Princess, it’s easy to understand why the voters feel the way they do. With seven ships going to Alaska from three ports (Seattle and San Francisco are the others), Princess has developed a reputation for quality of not just cruises but also the cruisetours that feature lodges owned by Princess.

Three:

This one’s a sleeper. Literally.

{01bb855c-e9ba-430a-b5bb-4fc192d6dafb}_se5ms116_luxurybed_hdr_ta_v5Princess ships will have 44,000 new beds for heads to relax in, starting in February on the Coral Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess. The beds have been developed in conjunction with a certified sleep expert (did YOU know there were certified sleep experts?) and utilize the latest in mattress technology.

It will take about two years to outfit all 44,000, turning staterooms into sleep sanctuaries with a “sleep-friendly sensory experience” with “luxurious linens to soothing ocean sounds and relaxing aromas” — you get the idea.

Now if the Princess Luxury Beds are as comfortable as Westin’s Heavenly Beds

Hmm, a sleep-off?

In the news…

• Norwegian unveils ship deployments for summer of 2017
• Cruises on sale for MSC’s new Seaside, two years before sailing
• Extensive refurbishing for Emerald Princess early in 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: A taste of Ho Chi Minh City, port of the future


Carnival Triumph
7 nights
February 6, 2016
Galveston (return): Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67
www.carnival.com

Friday File: Faces Of Ports

Cruise ports always like to put on their best faces when welcoming ships that carry thousands of visitors, and “best faces” can be the welcome that awaits when you disembark. It could be a sign, or dancers, or a scenic harbor or something else created by Mother Nature. Today’s Friday File takes in all of that, from ports we visited for the first time…

Cayman Islands

Once there were pirates on Grand Cayman Island…now there are beaches and wonderful people and a place called Hell, worth the trip from Georgetown. No pirates.

Roatan

Imagine seeing water as clear as this from the balcony of a cruise ship! This was in Roatan, Honduras and one of the nicest “environmental” welcomes we’ve ever seen.

Grand Bahama

One of the many friendly cruise-ship stops in the Bahamas is Freeport in Grand Bahama Island, where the locals wanted to see if we could proof-read their sign.

Curacao

There’s a good reason why this port might make you think of the Netherlands…it’s colorful Curacao in what until 2010 was known as the Netherland Antilles.

Cabo

The unmistakable, natural entrance to Cabo San Lucas is possibly the most photographed rock formation in all of Mexico, which has thousands of them.

Grand Turk

You could say there’s nothing especially warm about this entrance to Grand Turk in the Caribbean, except that entrances to every Caribbean port are warm!

Labadee

Labadee is likely a place that would never be heard of if not for the fact Royal Caribbean made it a private port for “of the Seas” ships to put it on the map.

In the news…

• Norway-owned Hurtigruten cruise line going inland (the Amazon) for the first time
• Eight coins welded into keel in otherwise traditional ceremony for the Silver Muse

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara unveils itineraries three years early


Norwegian Sky
3 nights
January 22, 2016
Miami (return): Grand Bahama lsland, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $89
www.ncl.com

Southeast Asia Tourist Visas 

It’s likely that more North American cruisers will be visiting Southeast Asia, if not this winter then certainly in the foreseeable future, because more cruise lines from both genres are establishing a stronger presence.

As first-timers to that part of the world this year, we had to be educated about the coming and going to countries we’d never come to or gone from before 2015.

That would be tourist visas.

In our case, we were going on the new AmaWaterways river cruiser, the AmaDara, and it goes up and down the Mekong River in both Cambodia and Vietnam. In terms of customs, that meant coming to Cambodia and going from Vietnam. If you’re particularly nervous about this, the cruise lines will make it as easy as possible for you — through a third party, at a price we didn’t want to pay.

So we decided to go it alone, and here’s what we discovered…

Cambodia: This can be done online at the Embassy of the King of Cambodia. All you Cambodia visaneed is a passport, some time and a credit card. One cautionary note…your passport must be valid for six months from the date you enter Cambodia. The process took about a week. We printed the e-Visas at home. The cost: about $40 US.

Vietnam: Perhaps because it’s a Communist country, this was slightly more complicated, Visa-Bob copybut it’s still an online process and your passport only needs to be valid for one month from when the Vietnam visa expires. Again, the process from submission to receipt of the visas took about a week, and came by mail. The cost: $110.

For both, we paid $300 US. The process was not at all intimidating, contrary to what we’d anticipated.

Had we gone through the third party to get our tourist visas, the cost would have been $412 each…$824 for both.

In the news…

• Financing in place for Royal Caribbean’s fourth and fifth Quantum Class ships
• Fake doctor treated passengers on Aida ships for five years arrested in Berlin
• Contrary to reports, Star Cruises won’t be deploying ships to the Mediterranean

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views you can use


Enchantment of the Seas
3 nights
May 16, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $201
Cost per day: $67
www.royalcaribbean.com

Panama Canal Cruise In The Dark

Maybe we’re missing something here…

Windstar Cruises has a new program for sailing through the Panama Canal, at night. Yes, in the dark, or mostly in the dark. As the cruise line points out, it will give Windstar guests a chance “to experience the sights and sounds of the Panama Canal while enjoying amenities and activities that highlight the Panamanian culture.“

Hmm.

We always thought the idea was to SEE the Panama Canal, especially now with the long-awaited expansion closing in on completion (according to the Panama Canal website everything is between 92 and 100 per cent finished, although there is still no mention of when it will open).

Meanwhile, Windstar guests will “enjoy a cool and breezy nighttime passage through the Panama Canal, during which lights illuminate the inner workings of the waterway” while Panama Canalthey “stroll along the deck and sip on local beverages, beers, and cocktails from a mobile drink cart while listening to local festive music from various regions around the country.”

Except for what would be illuminated, this sounds like it could apply to just about any cruise, just about anywhere.

Our Panama Canal experience is one crossing. We were mesmerized. This weekend, we dined with friends who are not avid cruisers, who recently cruised through the Canal and who will probably never set foot on a cruise ship again — translation: They didn’t have a good time.

The one part of the 16-day journey that mesmerized them was the Panama Canal.

Like us, they went through during the day. Like us, they saw it. Who knows how much of it Windstar’s guests will be able to see? At least they won’t know what they’re missing, right?

In the news…

• Two Celebrity Summit passengers die, 18 are hurt, in Tortola bus crash
• Zuiderdam 7th Holland American ship this year with CDC score of 100
• Regal Princess to star in 6-part ITV documentary ‘The Cruise’ in March
• Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas to get $30-million upgrade in spring

Today at portsandbows.comPrincess plans for Europe in 2017


Holland America Oosterdam
11 night
December 28, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Fort-de-France, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $99
www.hollandamerica.com

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