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Carnival Goes To Bat For Texas Kids

Until Tuesday night, we’d never heard of Frisco. It was always just an abbreviation for San Francisco when both words didn’t fit in a headline or sound as cool in a conversation. 

On Tuesday, we discovered Frisco is in Texas, and that a young ballplayer named Joey Gallo drove down Highway 121 and went from being a Frisco RoughRider to a Texas Ranger, then promptly destroyed the Chicago White Sox, who enjoy unparallelled popularity in our household.

Joey from Frisco was not popular here.

Up the road in the Dallas suburb, he is popular…maybe as popular as Carnival, the cruise line — you were wondering where this was all going, weren’t you? Carnival has a working Frisco-1agreement with the RoughRiders — the Rangers’ farm team — in what is likely the only example of a minor-league sports team having a major-league cruise line as an official sponsor.

This week, the cruise line threw a party for kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club and a handful of other organizations that give breaks to kids who need them. During a game between the RoughRiders and the Tulsa Drillers, the kids and the families took part in activities that included hitting softly tossed balls in an inflatable batter’s box, getting pictures taken with the players, making their own baseball cards, having Cracker Jack (and presumably peanuts, too) at the old ball game…even having a chance to win a free cruise.

All of it is part of being a good corporate citizen in Texas, where Carnival is king of the cruise lines. Besides winning the hearts of future cruisers, Carnival benefits by having one Frisco-2of its ship horns blasted every time a Frisco batter hits a home run, by having fireworks launched from a Carnival funnel and by having appropriate signage displayed at Dr. Pepper Ballpark.

It’s the second annual Carnival Kids Day in Frisco and the betting is there will be a third.

And why not?

No matter what the scoreboard says, everybody wins.

Now if Frisco would just take back Joey Gallo…

In the news…

• Complete makeover for both Azamara's ships (USA Today)
• Rudder damage forces Adventure Canada to cancel two cruises (Cruise Critic)
• Tornado caused Chinese cruise ship to capsize

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrating Cunard's 175th

Carnival Legend
7 nights
September 8, 2015
Seattle (return): Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $679
Cost per day: $97

Brangelina's Wedding Cruise

Breaking news…Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are hoping to get married on a cruise ship.

Not so fast, star chaser.

It's not a cruise ship you're going to be on, unless you're among the 50 people who are the invited guests. That's right…five-oh…50.

And if you think this most celebrated bride and bridegroom are leasing Oasis of the Seas — or more appropriately the "Celebrity" Solstice — for the event, think again.

How about the Hebridean Princess?

This is a ship that regularly sails in and out of Scottish ports and celebrity guests are not new to it. Queen Elizabeth paid a reported £125,000 to take her Royals on a family vacation three years ago, and four years before that when the whole gang was on board to help her blow out 80 candles.

There is no date for the wedding…there never is for celebrities of this caliber, in the hope that nobody will notice. Their plans were to make it official later this summer in France, where they live, until their 11-year-old son Maddox suggested a Scottish cruise. It's possible that "this summer" will require a date change, or appeasing Hebridean Princess guests not on the 'A' list because cruises for this one-time car ferry are currently being sold  on the website right into September.

Brangelina, as the world calls them, are said to be paying more than twice as much (£300,000) as the Queen did and, more than her, they hope to avoid the paparazzi, because they can't swim and take pictures at the same time. They can, however, ride on boats in the same waters and take pictures so you can be sure there will be a rush on small-craft rentals once the departure date leaks out, and it will.

Just as news of Maddox's plan did.

Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie photo by Eva Rinaldi

Carnival Legend
12 nights
September 13, 2013
London (return): Stavanger, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Glasgow, BelfastDublinParis
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $58

Cruising to Beaches of Normandy


Nowadays, most of us don't remember World War II. It's a horror story told to us in books, or movies or if we were fortunate (bold) enough to ask in conversations with fathers or uncles or older friends who saw it first hand.

One of the things they would all say is: "Never forget."

Next June is the 70th anniversary of the Allies' landings on the coast of Normandy, in northern France. To commemorate it and to honor those who fought, whether they came home or not, the D-Day Cruise will take passengers to spend a week on the coast. A couple of years ago, we had part of a day in a rental car in Normandy.

It wasn't nearly enough. 

The cruise is on the Silver Cloud. That means there is room for only 296 passengers. One of them will be Tom Brokaw, author of the book The Greatest Generation, which paid tribute to many of our predecessors. There are four other storytellers or historians going on this Silversea cruise, including Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson.

Five of the seven nights will be in Caen. More specifically, in Caen's harbor, making it the pick-up and drop-off point for daily tours to the beaches of Normandy. There are museums, battlefields, churches, memorials and — on the historic 6th of June — participation in 70th anniversary ceremonies at Omaha Beach.

On our brief visit, we spent hours at one of the museums.

It wasn't nearly enough.

Carnival Legend
12 nights
September 1, 2013
London (return): Alesund, Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Paris
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $58

Maritime Lawyer Raises Questions

Like most people who cruise, we tend to accept the occasional accident or fire or incident on a cruise ship. Yet we do so without knowing what "occasional" really is.

Jim Walker thinks he knows. Walker is a well-known "maritime" lawyer, which means he provides a legal voice to anybody in the cruise industry who needs it, specifically passengers. He is probably a thorn in the side of cruise line owners and surely he keeps them on their toes.

Because of his vested interest, you can take Mr. Walker's criticisms with a grain of sea salt. After his latest opinion on the industry's safety record, however, the word that sticks on the screen is transparency.

Are cruise lines really transparent?

Walker thinks not. Attending a state-of-the-industry presentation at the Cruise Shipping Miami convention last week, he listened to cruise line CEOs say that the industry is "highly regulated" and that fires on ships are "very rare" and that cruising is the "safest, safest, safest" way to vacation.

Then he pointed out on his website — click here to read all of his comments — that there have been 90 cruise-ship fires in 23 years and that the U.S. really has no way of regulating ships that fly foreign flags, as 99.9 per cent of all cruise ships do. One contextual note about the fires:  We don't know if this includes fires like a cigarette in a waste basket or if all are of a more serious nature.

His research, vested as it may be, does cause all of us to wonder…

Are cruise-line executives completely honest or are they merely spin doctors? What kind of transparency is reasonable to expect? Is cruising as safe as we like to think it is?

Or have we left our heads in the sand on the beach of some sunny port?

Carnival Legend
12 nights
July 3, 2013
London (return): Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Amsterdam
Inside: $749
Cost per day: $62

Vets' Cast for Caribbean Princess

In this day and age, is there a more heartfelt group to support in America than military veterans?

Several weeks ago, Princess Cruises announced its first cruise out of the new/old cruise ship terminal in Houston this year. It's to support U.S. veterans, hopefully to the tune of $1 million to be divided between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and Operation Homefront

Nice touch.

Now, for anyone who is moved by such events, come the names of those who will be on the Caribbean Princess for five days in November, as part of the celebration. Decorating the ship will be two admirals (including one who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), two generals, a famous war correspondent, a veterans' advocate who was shot in the head and nearly died in Iraq, and a Vietnam Vet who is now president and CEO of a cruise line.

Yes, Princess is the line and Alan Buckelew is the vet.

Even though the Joint Chiefs Chairman is Mike Mullen (left), who is know beyond military circles, the guest who caught our attention is Gregory Melikian.

Until now, we had never heard of him. Probably you haven't, either, unless you're a military history nerd. Sixty-eight years ago from May 7, Gregory Melikian was a young sergeant with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in France. His boss was Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the U.S. President.

At 3:30 that afternoon, Gregory Melikian — Eisenhower's telegraph operator — announced the end of World War II.

How cool is that?

Carnival Legend
12 nights
May 28, 2013
Venice, Dubrovnik, Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence, Monaco, Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside:  $929
Cost per day: $77

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