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New in 2015 — Viking Star

Second in a series about new ships

This is what happens when river-ship people get into the ocean-ship business. Viking River Cruises is about to become just Viking Cruises (on the water) and what makes this first crossover venture a game-changer that will be watched world-wide is that all suites on the Star (270 square feet minimum) have balconies and cruises will depart late at night or stay over in ports.

Launch date: April 11

Capacity: 930

Sister ships: To come — Viking Sea and Viking Sky, both in 2016

Maiden voyage: Istanbul to Venice in nine days

Home port: Do river ships even have homes?

Ships then in Viking ocean fleet: 1

Interesting: Small by ocean standards, the Star comes out of the gate with a whopping 49-day cruise…yes, it can be broken into sections. The ship emphasizes simplicity, with gathering places named The Restaurant, The Kitchen Table and The Living Room. Several of the company's popular riverboat features are included — the Aquavit Terrace and an alfresco dining venue — and Viking is taking its commitment connecting customers and destinations to a new level by going ocean. With fewer than 1,000 passengers, the Star’s likely to feel spacious.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Carnival Conquest
6 nights
March 1, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $54
www.carnival.com

Cunard A Cruise Line For The Dogs

Many years ago, on a visit to the vet with our brother-in-law and his dog, we noticed a brochure on the counter advertising "pet insurance." We laughed at the prospect of needing such an unnecessary and frivolous expense. In the succeeding years of Princessmounting veterinary bills in both households, the laughing ceased.

So it is today that we refuse to mock dogs and cruises. Instead, we shall only report…

That Cunard has a kennel program (or "programme") for pets on the Queen Mary 2, which means that pets can cruise across the Atlantic from New York to Southampton or vice-versa.

That the dogs are not allowed in any guest area of the ship.

That there is a full-time kennel master who will feed, walk and…you know, clean up after the pets.

That the animals will receive a complimentary gift pack.

That visitation is allowed during the day, enabling the owners to feed, walk and, you know…

That there is only room for 12 "spacious" kennels.

That the dogs and cats must be in possession of a "pet passport."

The cost? Given our history, does it really matter?

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Cruise news, views and gossip

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
August 24, 2014
Miami (return): CozumelBelizeRoatanCosta Maya
Balcony: $559
Cost per day: $79
www.carnival.com

Ships to Margaritavilles Quite A Contrast

Comparing Margaritaville in Falmouth, Jamaica at four in the afternoon with Margaritaville in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos at high noon is not exactly like comparing — as Jimmy Buffett himself would say — papayas and mangos.

Nonetheless, it does beg a question…

What was Jimmy thinking?

In our family, which has two "parrotheads" and at least a couple who are on the verge, it's almost sacrilegious to question this Pirate Past Sixty. Do so at your own peril. However, having stricken two more of his 35 restaurants from our personal Buffett List, the one on the dock of the bay in Jamaica left us wondering.

Margaritaville-FalmouthIt's a great layout, maybe the best of the eight or so we've seen, and its accessible to Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, which drop by once a week with 6,000 or so potential parrotheads. It has an open-air restaurant accompanied by a bar, plus a pool with a swim-up bar, plus the inevitable gift shop, plus a pleasant pathway that link them all.

The day we were there the only thing missing was a crowd.

Granted, Allure was 90 minutes away from "all aboard," so many passengers were already back on the ship by 4 p.m. But we were told Margaritaville wasn't busy at all — "Everybody stayed on the ship to watch the World Cup" — and that it's only open when a cruise ship arrives, which is two or three times a week. There's even a three-story building that apparently was going to be a hotel (at a cruise port?) but now is destined to house, among other things, a British pub.

Now there's a match for you…mushy peas and margaritas.

Margaritavillew-Grand TurkEnter Grand Turk. This is Carnival country, and that Margaritaville is about the same distance from the Freedom as the one in Falmouth was from the Allure. The Freedom, we should add, carries half as many people as the Allure…and this place was jumping. There were people everywhere, in the restaurant, the bar, the pool…especially the pool. It was hard to see the water for the flesh.

It was so busy — this was at 12 noon — that it was hard to get a sense of the complex's layout. The music was loud and not much came from the Cheeseburger in Paradise and Fins playbook, but lots of reggae, mon, and some pop that had everybody from waiters to drinkers to bathers singing along. Karaoke, yes, but not the Jimmy song Too Drunk To Karaoke even if some of the patrons were.

Yes, at noon.

In both restaurants, the food was good, the prices were up there and the service was, well, laid back at best. Now we all know Jimmy Buffett doesn't go barefoot because he can't afford socks, but if Jolly Mon Sing is an appropriate lyric in Grand Turk, then in Falmouth the most fitting lyric just might be Wasting Away in…Jamaica.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Silversea set for spectacular 2016 Odyssey

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
July 27, 2014
Miami (return): CozumelBelizeRoatanCosta Maya
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com

Shipless In Barcelona And Everybody Wins

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

As Time Goes By, More Beatles Than Ever

By now, The Beatles must have almost as many impersonators (okay, tribute acts) as Elvis. This, despite the fact half of The Beatles are still performing, proving that you don't have to die to have lesser talents play you.

At one time or another every city in the nation must have been host to a Beatles show that didn't feature the real thing. From New York — where they've been on Broadway (Beatlemania) — to small-town North America (pick one), the Fab Four have spawned a "Revolution" unlike the one they sang about all those years ago.

Beatles ExperienceAnybody who passed through the sixties and didn't get left behind has eagerly chased the ghosts of The Beatles. Guilty, as charged. We've gone on a Beatles bus tour in Liverpool, their hometown, and seen a variety of acts that have dared to play John, Paul, George and Ringo in too many places to mention.

Now, it's Cunard.

In a few weeks, The Beatles Experience will board Cunard ships to perform "A Day In the Life"…or maybe that should be "A Life in The Day." It's unclear how they'll entertain as many Cunard passengers as promised, given that they're scheduled to be on the Queen Elizabeth somewhere between Hong Kong and Dubai on March 29, on the Queen Victoria between San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale on April 1 and on the Queen Mary 2 "Back in the USSR" (oops, Far East) on April 2.

Even The Beatles themselves couldn't have handled that schedule, so maybe the clones have been cloned and there's more than one copy of The Beatles Experience. Actually, there is but that's another story, one for the copyright cops.

One thing is certain: 

There's no cruise line more British than Cunard and no Beatles more British than the originals, so these shows are likely to be as good as it gets.

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
March 30, 2014
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $359
Cost per day: $51
www.carnival.com

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