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Cruise Gambling…Cruise WiFi

News item: Cayman Islands government attempting to legalize gambling on cruise ships.

There is no gambling in the Cayman Islands, which seems a little odd considering that the Caymans have long been known as a place extremely wealthy people can hide money so they don’t have to pay taxes. That’s irrelevant, of course, when it comes to gambling on cruise ships. What is relevant is that the government is proposing allowing gambling on (a) ships registered there (b) passenger ships carrying more than 12 people (c) ships in international waters and on an international voyage between Cayman and another port.

Here’s the catch…

Gambling’s not allowed on ships in port or in Cayman’s territorial waters.

What are we missing here? Can’t cruise ships with casinos open the slots once they’re in international waters?

“This bill is aimed solely at the cruise ship industry,” said a government official.

It must be for the ships with 12 passengers.

News item: Carnival announced it expanded its innovative hybrid connectivity system to create the cruise industry’s largest WiFi network.

Okay, isn’t it time that somebody invented a gizmo to measure WiFi size? Doesn’t anybody have a gigabyte meter? In all that cyberspace, how does anyone really know who’s on first? Or second? Or even in the same ballpark?

In the last months, there have been Internet/WiFi announcements by three cruise lines, all of them crowing about having the biggest, best, fastest service at sea. If it’s a game, then we need a Commissioner of WiFi to tell us who really is the best…or does it really matter?

If your Internet service on a cruise ship is fast enough to make you happy, that’s good enough.

Isn’t it?

In the news…

• Unlimited and free Internet now on all Regent Seven Seas ships
• Five-year deal for better Glacier Bay access for American Cruise Lines
• Santa Cruz II replaces Santa Cruz I after 36 years to the Galapagos

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney flying high wirh Star Wars


Carnival Elation
5 nights
November 28, 2015
New Orleans (return): Cozumel, Progreso
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

New Orleans: Big Growth Not Easy

New Orleans-4

Anniversaries are always reason for reflection, good or bad. It's now 10 years since Katrina.

One word. That's often the case with things that are unforgettable — Hiroshima, Elvis, LeBron — because one word is all it takes.

Katrina.

It was the last week of August 2005. The hurricane that destroyed a city. In the New Orleans-1aftermath, they said New Orleans would never be the same. They said the people wouldn't go back…not to live, not to visit, not to cruise.

But they have.

In 2006, Carnival resumed its New Orleans operations with one ship, the Fantasy. Sixteen thousand passengers. It was a start.

Fast forward.

This year, after gradually increasing the size and number of ships plus the frequency of the cruises, Carnival expects to carry 450,000 passengers from New Orleans. One of its biggest ships, the Dream, is based in New Orleans, taking up to 3,646 passengers on New Orleans-2week-long Caribbean cruises all year long. That's complemented by the Elation, running 4-and-5-day cruise to Mexico. Next spring, another increase…the 2,758-passenger Triumph replaces the Elation, shuttling 700 additional passengers off to sea every four or five days.

It's not all Carnival, of course. Norwegian, Azamara and Crystal also cruise from The Big Easy. But Carnival is biggest, a commitment that has led to port improvements.

Next year, Carnival's 3,000,000th passenger will pass through New Orleans since Katrina.

A decade ago, nobody would have predicted that.

In the news…

• Regent Seven Seas trumpets new Explorer as "most luxurious ship ever built"
• Viking River Cruises going back to the Ukraine after two-year absence

Today at portsandbows.com: Green light for Greenwich


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
December 5, 2015
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

Royal Caribbean’s Zumba Cruise

Until our daughter-in-law Frances announced she was going to become an accredited Zumba instructor, this was a word that may never have crossed our lips. Zumba, not Zumbainstructor. We may have thought it was the name of a Greek restaurant or the latest battle cry used by kids as they loaded the newest war game on their Xboxes.

Now we know better.

Zumba is everywhere, even on cruise ships. Next year, Royal Caribbean will have its Zumba Cruise on Independence of the Seas. It’s five days of zumba-ing at sea, disembarking in Falmouth, Jamaica, and on “Zumba Island” — formerly known as the cruise line’s private port in Labadee, Haiti.

There will be 300 Zumba-theme classes in five days. There will be 130 celebrity instructors to teach passengers how to squat, mambo, hip-hop, lunge and salsa with the best of them. Independence of the SeasOne of the instructors will be “Beto” Perez, the Colombian creator of Zumba and one of The Three Albertos who founded the craze about 20 years ago (the others are Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion).

If you think those numbers are high, then you should also know there are 15 million people who take Zumba classes in 185 countries at 140,000 gymnasiums, fitness centers or wherever else groups can gather to be guided through the exercise(s).

The ship leaves Fort Lauderdale on January 30, and this is likely just the beginning.

What does “Zumba” mean? Whatever you want it to mean…except a Greek restaurant or a war cry on Xbox.

In the news…

• Million people in Liverpool for Cunard's three Queens on Monday
• Celebrity Eclipse first Solstice Class ship with 'World Class Bar'
• Disney to return to New York for five cruises in October 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: Christening the Viking Star

Carnival Elation
5 nights
August 22, 2015
New Orleans (return): Cozumel, Merida
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com

Dynamic Dining’s Classic Change

You may recall that we wrote last summer (okay, we hope you recall that we wrote last summer) how something had to change with the dining rooms on Allure of the Seas, then Royal Caribbean’s newest ship.

Our reasoning (in the unlikely event that you have forgotten) was that when you have two traditional dining rooms with 1,100 and 1,400 guests and a lot of empty tables, and one pick-your-time-to-eat dining with 2,067 guests — many of them waiting to get in — then you had a problem.

Or at least a change waiting to be made.

The change will happen on Anthem of the Seas, the next new Royal Caribbean ship, scheduled to arrive in April. This is not exactly the Dynamic Dining concept the cruise line Grandeur dining roomannounced months ago, whereby instead of one main dining room, diners could choose from smaller rooms and eat when they wished.

The “traditional crowd” evidently objected.

So Royal Caribbean creatively designed an off-shoot of Dynamic Dining and is calling it Classic. It’s for people who want to eat at fixed times: early or late. It gives these traditionals a chance to experience all four complimentary restaurants, each of which has a distinctive menu. It means their “wait staff” will move with them. And it gives the cruise line a better opportunity to avoid line-ups at one dining room when there are empty tables at another, by controlling how much of a restaurant is dedicated to early/late seatings — remember, people have to sign up for it in advance.

What Royal Caribbean really did was listen to its customers and, if this more-flexible Classic concept works on Anthem of the Seas, expect it to be rolled out over the fleet in time and refurbishments.

Remember this time where you read it first.

Just like last time, right?

Today at portsandbows.com: Perks continuing for Norwegian

Carnival Elation
4 nights
September 10, 2015
New Orleans (return): Cozumel
Inside: $289
Cost per day: $72
www.carnival.com

That’s A Million For New Orleans

Photo by Win Henderson

In Texas, the battle cry has for 180 years been “Remember The Alamo.” In New Orleans, for the last decade (10 years in August), it has been “Remember Katrina.”

Remember, indeed.

Close to 2,000 people died. Waves 20 feet high crashed into the Louisiana seaport. The world watched in horror as the largest hurricane ever threatened to wipe the city from the map…some even thought it might not be a bad idea, given that it’s below sea level.

At the time, cruising was thriving in New Orleans. In three years before that, it had grown dramatically and was heading towards a million passengers a year when Katrina ravaged New_Orleanseverything, including the cruise industry. For a city known as The Big Easy, nothing was.

Last year, New Orleans hit the million.

The perception of the city after Katrina was one of apprehension, destruction and fear. Only people who wanted to help wanted to go there, even if helping meant pumping a few dollars into the sagging economy. There can be no doubt today that cruising has contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and is benefitting from it.

“Eighty per cent of all our cruise passengers are from out of state and they spend two-and-a-half nights," Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange told radio station WWL. "The average cruise passenger's direct spending at most other ports around the world is 95 dollars a day…in New Orleans they spend 332 dollars a day."

Today, New Orleans is the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S. The 10th-largest in the world. Cruise ships generate $323 million in total income for locals. Four ships — Carnival’s Dream and Elation, Norwegian’s Dawn and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas — call the Port of New Orleans home. Cruise Critic calls it the “Best North American Homeport.” Porthole Magazine readers ranked it the “Friendliest Homeport” for the last two years.

New Orleans has come back, hoping that Katrina (or her descendants) never will.

Today at portsandbows.com: Baking with Mary Berry

Grand Princess
15 nights
February 17, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Ensenada 
Inside $1,169
Cost per day: $77
www.princess.com

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