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New Threats To Cruise Passengers

This is one of those stories we don’t want to tell, and shouldn’t have to tell, but there is really no choice.

It’s about terrorists.

You know how your life has changed when boarding planes, with security personnel checking everything but the dirt under your fingernails? You know how when you’re walking the streets of a big city, or even a small town, you’re supposed to be aware not just of your surroundings but also the people who inhabit them? You know how in the interests of public safety, you have to be suspicious of virtually everybody?

Well, shipmates, get ready.

According to the Associated Press, would-be jihadists are booking tickets on cruise ships. They’re using ships to get them to Turkey, specifically, so they can join the battles in Syria and Iraq. The news surfaced at an Interpol conference this week in Monaco and the conclusion was for accelerated screening at transportation hubs…”airports and, more and more, cruise lines.”

The intelligentsia say that the terrorists, because they know it’s getting tougher for them to board planes, are taking to the seas. A statement from Cruise Lines International Association, to which almost all cruise lines belong, maintained that cruise-ship security is taken as seriously as airline security, and that passengers manifests are shared with U.S. authorities.

What is left unsaid is the threat that these unwelcome jihadists will use cruise ships for more than transportation…instead, as a final destination.

Either way, that terrorists are known to be boarding ships is dreadful news for the passengers, and for the industry.

Today at portsandbows.com: Closer look at Royal Caribbean's new ship

Holland America Zaandam
14 nights
December 8, 2014
Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Port Stanley, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Sarmiento Canal, Chilean Fjords, Puerto Montt, Santiago
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $42
www.hollandamerica.com

Is That A 'Cruise' Ship Wa-y-y-y Down South?

The sage of the Russian ship ice-locked in Antarctica has been a news item since Christmas Day because, well, how would you like to be one of the 74 people on a ship surrounded by frozen water and freezing air? 

The likelihood that all passengers will soon be rescued — and remaining crew members will somewhere down the line — means that as a news story this one will quickly fade from the public psyche.

Unlike the Carnival Triumph.

But that was a cruise ship, you say?

And what do you think the Academician Shokalskiy is?

The fact that it's from Russia (the Costa Concordia was from Italy) shouldn't make any difference. It is a cruise ship. Aside from crew, there are 52 passengers…some scientists, some tourists, many from Australia. The cruise was an expedition to Antarctica ship in ice

-Photo: ABC News

mark the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey by a famous Australian explorer. That makes it a theme cruise.

What's different from this unfortunate incident and the others noted here is that (a) in the case of the Triumph, the "accident" was caused by man and not an act of God and (b) in the case of the Concordia, there was no loss of life.

But if the ship stuck in the ice was from one of the major cruise lines (some do go to Antarctica, by the way), is it possible that there would be an immediate flurry of questions? Did the ship venture into uncharted waters and risk passenger safety? Was there a meteorologist on board to track weather systems? Did the captain hit an iceberg? Who was at fault…somebody must be at fault?

Functioning in obscurity, like the Academician Shokalskiy, does have its merits.

And the fact that it happened where it did may teach people — specifically proof readers — that Antarctica is not spelled "Antartica."

Carnival Miracle
7 nights
February 22, 2014
Long Beach (return): Puerto VallartaCabo San Lucas 
Inside: $589
Cost per day: $84
www.carnival.com

Cruising to Chile — Past and Future

We stopped for lunch yesterday at a restaurant that specializes in soups. It’s owned by a man from Chile.

“We had a great bottle of wine from Chile last night,” we told him.

“You didn’t get sick?” he deadpanned.

He knows better, of course, but often when we see him his native country is discussed. He is one of our connections to Chile, a country we tasted — along with its wine — in a 10-day period during and after a South American cruise.

If you get the impression we like Chile, go to the front of the class…or go and buy the best Chilean wine you can find.

Our cruise to Chile (Valparaiso) was more than two years ago. Since then, it has almost fallen off the cruise-ship radar. The ship we sailed to Chile on, the Norwegian Sun, no longer goes there. Many cruise ships no longer go there and, Chile’s resulting financial wounds are mostly self-inflicted.

Or were.

Yesterday, about the same time we were eating Chilean soup (okay, soup made by a Chilean), we learned that things are looking up. The excessive port taxes imposed by Chile’s government, to capitalize on its cruise business, are being slashed. In some ports, the cut is as deep as 80 per cent.

We were in two ports on the way to Valparaiso, which is about a two-hour drive from Santiago. We loved them both. Arica, near the Atacama Desert, welcomed us to the country and Coquimbo introduced us to some excellent food.

Soup, as a matter of fact.

Another government imposition is being re-examined, and probably tossed. For some reason that makes no sense to us, ships sailing in Chilean waters were not allowed to operate casinos. Once they were within about 20 kilometers of the coast, the ships were deemed to be in Chilean waters.

There’s now a bill to rescind that ruling. Maybe it, and even the port taxes, are too late to bring cruise ships back to Chile. Some of us hope not. The more ships that sail down the west coast of South America, the more options there are for us.

The more options, the better the prices.

The Mysteries of Sailing Antarctica

If you’re like we are, you must think that sorting out the world of cruising in Antarctica is kind of like the waters of Antarctica. Turbulent. Unpredictable. Confusing. Challenging.

Consider this…

Today, a fully-booked 264-passenger vessel called Le Boréal (left) was supposed to leave Argentina to cruise the Antarctic, including the Falkland Islands. The cruise was canceled because of a broken part. In any other waterway, the repair could’ve been made in-transit. Not in Antarctica.

And this…

There are new regulations pertaining to the kind of fuel ships can carry in the Antarctica. They go into effect August 1. The big ships that most of us sail on use “heavy” fuel oil. The regulations prohibit not just burning the heavy fuel oil, but even carrying it. That means the big ships will stop going to this part of the nautical world. Not to worry, say the experts. There are plenty of smaller “expedition” ships to take you to Antarctica.

And this…

Last month, the Clelia II lost power in one engine in Antarctic waters and was tossed around like a toy boat in a bathtub with a 2-year-old. There were 88 scared passengers on board and millions of thrill-seekers watching, later, on YouTube. In 2007, an “expedition” ship called the M/S Explorer was torpedoed by Antarctic ice and sank!

Turbulent. Unpredictable. Confusing. Challenging. And scary!

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