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Carnival Ships Join China Surge

MiracleThere was a time, not that long ago, that the only places you could take Carnival ships was from a port city in North America. The one caveat was when the world’s biggest cruise line built a new ship in Europe, and it had to get to North America by crossing the Atlantic.

Then Carnival started dabbling in the Mediterranean. Then in Australia, going so far as to establish a base there. Now, Carnival’s going to China.

There is no choice. Everybody else is, too.

In 2017, the Carnival Miracle (above) will be in China year-round. A year later, the Carnival Splendour (below) will be in China year-round. Cruise ships from Carnival Corporation have been visiting Asian ports for a decade, but not year-round. And the Splendormother line wasn’t there at all. Other cruise lines have gradually been gaining a presence, but nobody really started taking the Chinese market this seriously until Royal Caribbean sent its newest ship — Quantum of the Seas — to establish a home port in Shanghai. 

If that didn’t get the cruise executives’ attention, it surely woke up the media.

Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to Royal Caribbean, which has since launched Anthem of the Seas and has another Quantum Class ship coming next year, Ovation of the Seas. But this was the flagship of the class and its first cruise season was from New York (Cape Liberty), not exactly a secondary market. As it turned out, that was its ONLY season of sailing from New York to the Caribbean. Almost exactly one year after it arrived, Quantum was gone.

For good.

Since then, the other mainstream cruise lines have been despatching ships to Asian waters. It will likely never rival the Caribbean as a cruise destination, but it’s definitely a player. And in 18 months, the team of ships stationed there will include Carnival.

In the news…

• The Salty Dog Gastropub makes its debut on Crown Princess
• Costa signs three-year partnership agreement with Italian airline Neo

Today at portsandbows.com: Cunard planning them cruises for 2016

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
January 14, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56

Friday file: Cruise Port Entertainers

In many ports, especially in the Caribbean, locals provide entertainment for passengers as they disembark. There’s always a bucket nearby for anybody who wants to make a donation to these buskers by the sea but there is, of course, no obligation — and the reality is they provide a musical preview of their country’s customs. Here are some we’ve encountered and enjoyed…

Dom.RepLa Romana: Decked out in traditional Dominican Republic colors, this quartet was just as bright in talent.

AricaArica, Chile: In an outdoor mall close to the ship, this talented duo was singing…'The Piano Man' with no piano!

AcapulcoAcapulco: Mariachis are always an attraction in Mexico, even when their “fifth” member gets into the act. 

CartagenaCartagena: Colorful Colombian dancers on the deck of what was once a Spanish galleon and now tours the harbor.

FalmouthFalmouth: If ever an entertainer looked the part of the needy busker, it was this Jamaican at Dunn’s River Falls.

Labadee: The only thing wrong with this high-energy act beside Allure of the Seas was the intrusion of a passenger.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian back to South America

Carnival Miracle
6 nights
November 1, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $78

From The Eye Of A Hurricane…Help

Our resident expert on all things Mexico is Barbra Bishop of Mexpeditions, a travel agency that specializes in everywhere (and everything) south of the border. The other day she was telling us a story about Cabo San Lucas and last month’s Hurricane Odile (below).

The short version is that during the worst of the hurricane, visitors to a Los Cabos hotel were being comforted by workers who themselves had lost (almost) everything, yet Hurricane Odilewouldn’t desert their customers. Impressed beyond words, the tourists banded together — after returning to their homes — and began raising funds to help their Mexican “friends.”

Natural disasters do that. People always want to help.

On Saturday, the Star Princess stopped at Cabo San Lucas. The first cruise ship to respond was loaded with bottled water, paper products, milk and other supplies to help the area’s locals who lost so much.

Yesterday came the Carnival Miracle, whose name was not changed to suit the situation. More bottled water, canned food, diapers, personal items for the Mexican people.

In the aftermath of the Category 3 hurricane that killed 15 people, causing $224 million in damage and leaving an estimated 30,000 tourists stranded in the Baja Peninsula’s southern tip, one of the airlines that flew to the rescue was Alaska. People had to be airlifted. Planes that flew in were empty of passengers, and full of supplies.

Maybe the cruise lines felt obliged to help because the Mexican people in such dire straits are the same ones who make cruise passenger visits so enjoyable. Maybe they do it because it’s good PR. Maybe airlines do it for the same reason.

What matters, however, is that they help.

And now comes the sobering news that cruise ships and airplanes are not the area’s only visitors this week. Hurricane Simon, originally expected to be no more than a tropical Cabo San Lucasstorm, is bearing down on the Baja. It’s expected to make landfall tomorrow, probably somewhere north of Cabo San Lucas.

Will the cruise lines and airlines step up again? Or will it be the tourists who turn the tables and help those who help them?

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news you can use

Golden Princess
3 nights
October 27, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49

Celebrity Toasted By Wine Spectator

CellermastersIn case you were wondering…

* * *

Celebrity has, arguably, the premier wine reputation among cruise lines. We won’t argue the point. Our best and most complete wine experiences have been on Celebrity ships, starting with a knowledgeable sommelier from (of all places) Mumbai. Knowledgable sommelier…aren’t they all?

Anyway, the Wine Spectator has enhanced the reputation by awarding 10 Awards of Excellence — of a possible 12 — to Celebrity for its wine lists. It’s an instant replay.

Last year, Celebrity also won 10.

* * *

Cruise lines are being encouraged to equip their ships to use shore-based electricity in port and burn less diesel fuel. However, the left hand doesn’t always know what the right is doing with regards to the ports.

When the Carnival Miracle stopped in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, it was unable to hook up to shore power even though the ship is equipped for it.

The reason?

The ship’s hook-up is on the starboard side. The Port of Vancouver assigned the Miracle a port side connection. Consequently, the ship was forced to burn diesel during its stay in one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive cities.

* * *

When Quantum of the Seas leaves on its two-night, pre-inaugural cruise after arriving in North America in November, it will be making special wishes.

The Make-A-Wish chapters from New Jersey and New York are selling passage on the new ship to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, long an active charity on Royal Caribbean ships. Quantum leaves Bayonne, New Jersey at 4 p.m. on November 14 and returns at 7 a.m. on November 16, so you’re on the ship for about 39 hours.

Passage is for balcony cabins, at $1,495 for obstructed and $1,995 for unobstructed.

In other words, it’s pretty much a donation in return for being first to sail on Quantum of the Seas in North America.

Today at portsandbows.com: Opera on the rivers

Celebrity Century
8 nights
November 11, 2014
Sydney (return): Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Lincoln
Oceanview: $835
Cost per day: $104

Carnival Heats Up Ice Bucket Challenge

You’ve heard, no doubt, about the Ice Bucket Challenge. How celebrities and non-celebrities are dunking themselves with buckets of ice to raise awareness — and money — to fight ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It’s spreading much faster than the disease. That’s good.

The first cruise line to get involved is Carnival. It will surely not be the last. It started with a clever Carnival cruise director named Matt Mitcham. On the Breeze, he drenched himself with 150 gallons of icy water, then challenged other Carnival cruise Ice Bucket-Cahilldirectors to do the same thing. The “challenge” is to pour a bucket of ice water over your head, or make a donation to ALS within 24 hours.

Many do both.

Mitcham’s move went up and down the Carnival food chain. You had to know the most famous of cruise directors, John Heald, would be first in line. He was on the Miracle at the time, in Alaska. When it comes to Alaska, there’s ice…and there’s ice. Brave is the person who has an ice shower in the 49th state.

Heald did, of course. As did President and CEO Gerry Cahill, albeit in the temperate climate of  Miami, in front of company employees at Carnival headquarters. Celebrities connected to Carnival — comedian George Lopez, deejay DJ Irie, food guru Guy Fieri — are all complying.

This phenomenon is world-wide.

Ice Bucket-CrosbyCelebrity participants run from 27-year-old hockey superstar Sidney Crosby (somewhere under the blue box) to 86-year-old famous family matriarch Ethel Kennedy (86) — see video — and she challenged President Obama to get in line. Perhaps strangely, Obama opted only to make a donation. Perhaps the White House was short of towels.

And just last night former major league star Ken (Hawk) Harrelson, now a Chicago White Sox broadcaster and soon to be a member of the club, said this about the phenomenon:

“It’s unstoppable.”

The seed is believed to have been planted by Pete Frates. The Boston College star athlete was diagnosed with ALS more than two years ago. He first issued the challenge on social media. Today, he has been silenced and unable to swallow by the disease that made a famous major league ballplayer from 80 years ago even more famous in death.

Along the way, the idea picked up celebrities, and nothing makes an idea grow faster. In the last month, ice-bucketing has raised $2.3 million for the ALS Association. For this year, that figure has climbed to $15.6 million, compared to $1.8 million for the same period in 2013.  One of the 300,000 contributors this year is Carnival Cruise Lines, which added $100,000 to the pot. Besides the money, the campaign has delivered millions more in awareness.

Participants join the Ice Bucket List, giving a new twist to everybody’s Bucket List.

And beating ALS is on everyone’s.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news, views and gossip…from the ships at sea

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
September 21, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Coco Cay, San Juan, St. Maarten
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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