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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: AmaDara, A River Intro

While we’re far from experts on river cruising, our trip on AmaWaterways’ new ship (the AmaDara) quickly brought the similarities with — and differences from — ocean cruise ships into focus. Because everything is much smaller, even though river cruises are less modest in price they are more modest in the size of, well, everything — except service, of course, because the crew-to-passenger ratio is so much better. When you spend a week on a river ship, chances are if you don’t know everybody you will at least have a nodding recognition. From our week in Southeast Asia, today’s pictures will give you an idea of what it’s like on board…

AmaDara
AmaDara is one of the bigger (higher) ships on rivers and it comfortably carries 164 passengers.

Entertainment

Five entertainers who entertain only when the ship is in a port, in an all-purpose room on the ship.

The Pool

That is THE pool…the only one, so clearly river cruisers don’t expect to get bronzed by the pool.

Gym

Yes, there is a gym and what you see of it here is pretty much what you get — yet it’s rarely busy.

Internet

While ocean ships devote rooms for Wi-Fi, the AmaDara’s Internet connections come from here.

Lifesaver

Every ship has one lifesaver, at least, and fortunately for all it’s almost always just a decoration.

Stateroom-1

Our stateroom…a little larger and more plush than a comparable category on the ocean.

Suite-1

This comparative photo shows you what a suite — of which there are few — looks like.

Towels

Some things don’t change when you’re on any kind of cruise ship: room stewards’ creativity.

In the news…

• P&O's Pacific Eden to be christened, sail maiden voyage, this weekend
• Vancouver, Boston latest ports to report banner years with crusing

Today at portsandbows.com: Australia — very much a cruising hotspot


Celebrity Millennium
8 nights
May 12, 2016
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $619
Cost per day: $77
www.celebritycruises.com

Friday File: Cruising And Works Of Art

Wherever your cruise ship takes you, one thing you can be certain of is that you will encounter local artwork. It may be a statue, or a mural, or a sandcastle or something that you’re not quite sure what it is, but it will always be interesting. In years of cruising, we’ve admired (okay, at least looked at) a variety of such works of art…

Puerto RicoOn this street in San Juan, Puerto Rico…a powerful message open to interpretation.

Alaska museum

If you can't find the real thing in Alaska, and often you can't, there's always a museum version.

Arica

The pretty town of Arica in northern Chile always has to make its statues earthquake-proof.

Valencia

In Valencia, Spain, a colorful expression of nations sends travelers looking for their 'home' statue.

Murals-Pier 39

If you've ever departed from or arrived in San Francisco, you know all about this part of Fisherman's Wharf.

Bermuda

Bermuda has no shortage of works like this, which add to the charm of a charming island.

In the news…

• Tampa port recognized by NOAA as "storm ready" for extreme weather
• Huge Princess sale offers $300 savings on cruise plus $300 on airfare
• MSC Lirica last of four ships to be 'stretched' to add 800 cabins

Today at portsandbows.com: Suite news for Holland America fans


Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
3 nights
December 11, 2015
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56
www.royalcaribbean.com

Friday File: Beaches With A Difference

So many places visited by cruise ships have beaches, or beaches nearby, because — let’s face it — everybody’s thinking about finding somewhere warm with the coming months of winter. But beaches are more than just silk sand and warm water, as you will see from a few that we’ve discovered from cruising…

St. Maarten

Perhaps the only beach in the world where you get this close to an airplane in flight, and a regular tourist attraction when cruisers visit Philipsburg, St. Martin​.

Juno

This beach is often empty, like this, but 70 years ago on the northern coast of France Juno Beach was populated with thousands of soldiers in World War II.

Progreso

When Carnival sends its Fantasy to sail out of Mobile next year, one of its three ports of call will be a pretty place called Progeso on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Grand Turk

At Grand Turk, there’s an uncommon shady spot close to the water for cruisers who like going to the beach without being obsessed with getting a suntan..

Ambleside

Cruisers going to Alaska from Vancouver, like the ones this Holland America ship, always pass Ambleside Beach after crossing under the Lions Gate Bridge.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen heads the growing popularity of Riviera Maya's beach properties on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, a short ferry ride from Cozumel.

In the news…

• Cunard offering free balcony upgrade on Transatlantic crossings starting October 29
• P&O's first alcholic beverage package on Pacific Pearl may extend to fleet of five ships

Today at portsandbows.com: The return of Carnival to Mobile, Alabama


Caribbean Princess
7 nights
January 17, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Roatan, Belize
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.princess.com

Alaska’s Jewelry Wars Continue

If you’ve ever been to Juneau, then you have some idea how many jewelry stores there are within walking distance of Alaska cruise ships. If you’ve ever gone to a shore-excursion presentation on a ship, you also know how there is almost always one about the jewelry stores.

As passengers who generally avoid both, we’re hardly experts on the subject of “cruise jewelry.” However, we’ve been around long enough to know that the presenters on ships seem to be directing you to specific stores. Not all of them, maybe, but most seem to zero in on a few jewelry shops.

Now we know why.

There’s currently a battle going on between a few Juneau jewellers and the “port lecturers” on cruise ships. According to a story in the Juneau Empire, one jewelry store owner alleges he overheard a port lecturer telling one of his customers — in his store — there would be a “better price” at Diamonds International.

The reason?

Ports lecturers are paid by commissions. No jewelry sales, no income.

The Alaska story is complicated, but interesting, and it’s all available here at the Empire’s website. The store owner has filed a complaint with the state’s “fair trade” laws and an assistant attorney general has been in touch with the company responsible for port lecturers (they don’t work for the cruise lines, they work for independent contractors, just as art dealers do). Both sides have complaints against the other so to some extent it’s another “he said, he said” confrontation.

Similar situations may exist in any number of ports in the Caribbean, but it seems more intense in Alaska, with such a short cruise season. This issue will probably be resolved, one way or another, before the next ship sails to Alaska, in 2016.

Either way, it’s unlikely to have any impact on the number of Juneau jewellers…nor the number of jewelry “lecturers” on ships.

In the news…

• Silversea announces that Silver Cloud will move to expedition fleet next year
• Norwegian Escape leaves Germany shipyard and heads for sea trials in North Sea
• Celebrity Solstice to increase (by two) stops at Vancouver Island port of Nanaimo

Today at portsandbows.com: Hurtigruten leads explorers


Norwegian Sky
4 nights
November 9, 2015
Miami (return): Grand Bahama, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.ncl.com

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