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Cruises To Fathom For Next Spring

Since Carnival announced its “impact travel” line Fathom was going to be launched in 2016, the picture of what it all means has come more into focus, as well it should with the passage of time.

For one thing, “fathom” abandoned the idea of using its name with a lower-case “f” — lest it be construed as a nautical measurement and not a cruise line. For another, the volunteerism cruises are not only open for booking but are now being detailed. That, too, makes sense. Why would you book a cruise without the details?

In case you hadn’t heard or read, Fathom is going to take cruise passengers to places where they can help by volunteering to work with people in those countries, namely the fathom-Dominican Republic and (for the first time) Cuba. The first cruises on the 704-passenger Adonia depart next spring.

One thing that hasn’t changed with time is the price. The 7-day cruises from Miami are still being advertised for about $1,500 (including taxes), although that’s not exactly clear Fathom Adoniain the website, where pricing seems to be hidden by text boxes until you enter your name and personal details.

The Cuba trips, which begin in late spring — subject to Cuban approval — seem to be at least $300 more, per person, and that doesn’t include taxes and ports expenses. Naturally, they’re more attractive and will be at least until everybody gets accustomed to going to Cuba.

That’s where activities will include things like:

* Visiting the fishing village where Hemingway was inspired to write The Old Man And Fathom-CubaThe Sea, near Havana

* Going to a couple of World Heritage Sites in Cienfuegos

* Working with the people who make Cuban cigars, rum and music in Santiago de Cuba

All of them include being a volunteer. That’s the Cuban criteria for visiting the island. And volunteering means eight hours of programming when on shore.

All of which begs the question: How many people are interested in spending 150 to 200 per cent of what a typical Caribbean cruise would cost for the privilege of being a volunteer in a foreign land. People who do things for organizations like Habit For Humanity do it all the time but in the case of Fathom, that means counting on 704 people every week.

One meaning of the word “fathom” is to “understand after much thought.”

Comprehending this Fathom might take more thinking.

In the news…

• Hurricane Joaquin changing some port calls in the Bahamas
• Royal Caribbean changes name of its 'ChoiceAir' to 'Air2Sea'
• Carnival Corporation expands faster, innovative WiFi to more ships

Today at portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean — no last-minute deals


Carnival Imagination
4 nights
January 30, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44
www.carnival.com

Carnival’s Secret Out About fathom

Sitting with a group of cruise media intelligentsia (whenever there’s a group, we like to think it’s “intelligentsia”…or at least “collective intelligence”) last month on an Alaska cruise, we listened attentively to thoughts of fathom. Remembering that the word “fathom” was once used to measure depth of sea water, we quickly jumped into the 21st century, in which the word has a completely different nautical application.

It’s a cruise line.

fathom is the new cruise line attached to mighty Carnival, the corporation that owns 10 of them. It’s not really a cruise line yet, but it will be when the good ship Adonia is re-Adoniabranded next spring. It’s for people who want to go to another country on a cruise ship and to make a difference by generally helping locals…starting with the Dominican Republic.

Since the cost of doing that was going to be as much as twice the price of a usual one-week cruise, the question around the table was this:

“What was Carnival thinking?”

Now, we know.

Carnival was thinking, by inventing cruises to sail under the “social impact travel” banner, that it could navigate the regulations that currently restrict American visitors to Cuba. For example, the most common way the U.S. allows (that’s the U.S. Government, not the Cuban Government) Americans to visit the Caribbean island is “educational or academic programs that include preplanned people-to-people contact.” Another category is “humanitarian efforts.”

So while conventional cruise lines wait for the other shoe to drop, Carnival Corporation jumped first by creating a cruise line that qualifies. And despite what you may be seeing on CNN, these are not Carnival ships that will be going to Cuba next year…only the Adonia, operated by one of Carnival’s other lines, P&O.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by April 2016 the government will have cleared the path for many ships to cruise Cuba. There are already reports that six (un-named ships) have been approved by the U.S. Treasury. But right now, only the Adonia is cleared to sell its itineraries which, it appears, are going to start at $2,990 — about three times what you might pay for a weekly cruise elsewhere.

In the news…

• Renowned orator on cruise ships, John Maxtone-Graham, dead at 85
• MSC Opera to homeport in Havana in December for 16 Caribbean cruises
• Celebrity partners with Broadway production "An American In Paris"

Today at portsandbows.com: Free air offers from Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Epic
6 nights
September 20, 2015
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Lisbon, London
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $99
www.ncl.com

The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.costacruise.com

Long Cruise…Short List of Passengers

Not long ago we read about a passenger who went on a "Love Boat" cruise..to 18 countries…on a ship that carries just 710 passengers…for 87 days. This was on a P&O ship, the Adonia, and it prompted us to see what the ship is currently offering in theway of a cruise where so few people are together for so long.

The best (?) one we found is from Southampton to Southampton. In between are 48 ports in 26 countries and almost four months on the ship. Still with 710 passengers.

This is P&O's Asian Grand Adventure and if "Grand" to you means visiting places called Ceuta (that's in Spain), Aqaba (Jordan), Yangon (Burma) and Nha Trang (Vietnam)…well, you're both more erudite and wealthier than we are. For sure, this would be "an experience" and the price for this one starts at $10,229 pounds. Or $15,669.48. Per person.

Now if that sounds like a lot of money, break it down to a per diem. How does $139.91 per-person, per-day sound?

That's hardly outrageous when you think about going from England to Japan and back. Even three and a half months on a ship is okay. It's just the 710-passenger thing…

By the time you get back to Southampton, you'd be like family…and who wants a family that big?

Okay…the Adonia leaves January 7.


Carnival Fascination
5 nights
August 24, 2013
Jacksonville (return): Half  Moon CayNassau
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $44
www.carnival.com

Photo credit: Trondheim Havn

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