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Friday File: Picture These Cruise Ships

For anybody who likes cruising, and we assume you do, ships make great photo ops. Why else do we see passengers standing on the shore taking photos of the ships they’re traveling on, over and over. In fact, we do it ourselves. What follows this week are some of our favorite ship shots, mostly because of how much we liked the picture, or the situation…

Sky-GSKThis is the Norwegian Sky, from the beach at Great Stirrup Cay, the island the cruise line owns. This is our ship-on-the-rocks picture. The Sky is anchored offshore because, at least when we snapped this, the channel wasn’t deep enough and passengers were tendered ashore.

InfinityThe Celebrity Infinity was heading east in the Panama Canal, passing its sister ship, the Millennium. We knew it was coming so our camera was poised to catch this sail-by in one of the narrowest parts of the Canal, and we think it will still be this narrow when the Canal expansion is finished next year…or the year after…

Freedom-2We spotted the Carnival Freedom “almost on the rocks” during the day and liked the photo so much we came back and took it again at night. The reality is we were in Willemstad, Curacao long enough that we disembarked in the afternoon and, after having dinner 20 miles away, it was dark when we returned. 

Coral-KetchikanThe juxtaposition was irresistible. In the background, the Coral Princess. In the foreground, the statue of a carved eagle that welcomes visitors to Ketchikan, Alaska. This is eagle country and while you won’t find one this large, the real thing is often available to visiting photographers. Still, not a bad substitute.

AllureWhen we took this picture, we hadn’t yet been on Allure of the Seas, not surprising since this was the final waves of its initial Transatlantic crossing from Europe to Fort Lauderdale in 2010. The event was impressive…helicopters, streamers, tugboats spraying water and a plane overhead welcoming the ship to Florida.

If we needed a photo to sell friends on taking a cruise, not that we do, this shot of the Norwegian Sun in Guatemala might do the trick. Nobody thinks of this Central American country as a scenic place to visit, until you’ve been there. This was not quite halfway of a cruise to South America and was, frankly, a surprise.
Two shipsPhotographers would never pick this one as a great photo of cruise ships for sure. However, its significance to us disembarking in Port Everglades from Allure of the Seas on the left and boarding the Carnival Freedom on the right. While the ships are nose to nose, the walk was a little longer than it looks — about 15 minutes.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Carnival Liberty
7 nights
June 7, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten 
Inside: $569
Cost per day: $81

James Taylor: smooth singing, sailing

Today, the Queen Mary 2 leaves New York for its traditional Atlantic crossing to jolly ol’ England. This is one Cunard cruise that is guaranteed to be smooth.

Even if the big ship encounters choppy waters, the smooth and silky voice of James Taylor will soothe the expected 2,500-plus passengers roaming her decks. This is five years after Taylor first performed on the QM2 and he joined a list that includes giants of the genre: James TaylorRod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz and the late Dave Brubeck.

On his last Queen Mary 2 sailing,Taylor played to standing-room audience although, to be fair, on a cruise ship with fewer than 3,000 passengers that’s not as big a deal. If he played to a crowd of 3,000 on the shore, critics would say he’s done.

Which Taylor is not.

Besides being gifted, he’s clever. The Taylor troupe will play on the ship, probably twice, and then parlay their Transatlantic cruise into a 17-city tour that ends, coincidentally, in London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 8. (November 12 return). Too bad he couldn’t find a cruise ship on which to perform for the trip home to Massachusetts.

We searched for him.

The best we could find was the Celebrity Infinity, which leaves Harwich on October 13, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, which departs Southampton two days after that. Both cruise companies are owned by Royal Caribbean International.

Cunard might not understand.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Ryndam
15 nights
November 1, 2014
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Ponta Delgada, Tampa
Oceanview: $822
Cost per day: $54

Planning a Cruise After Booking One

Ways to plan a cruise. Every cruise line has them, in one form or another. One that seems to be catching some attention is Royal Caribbean's — called Cruise Planner — and, since we have a Royal Caribbean cruise on the horizon, it seemed a good idea to try it out.

Cruise Planner is to be used online because, frankly, just about everything is these days. It's designed to allow passengers to book reservations, activities and entertainment long before they walk up the ramp to board the ship. And as long as you have more spare time BEFORE the cruise than you will have on the ship, it keeps you from cutting into your vacation time.

We started with shore excursions, because they always seem to fill up first.

One of our ports is Falmouth, Jamaica. One of the sights to see there is Dunn's River Falls. This was a no-brainer. Click. Booked.


On Royal Caribbean's big ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the featured shows are Broadway musicals Hairspray and Chicago, respectively. Since we're going on Allure, Chicago it is. Click. Booked.


We've always been fans of My Time Dining, because of its flexibility. But for people who eat dinner as early as 4 p.m. (we have friends who are earlybirds) and as late as 10 p.m., making that decision days or weeks before the cruise doesn't work. But you can choose not only the time you want to eat on each day of your cruise, but how many people you want to dine with each night.

That would be one.

You can also book meals in the "for-fee" restaurants. On Allure of the Seas, Chops Grille is $35, Giovanni's Table is $25, the Samba Grill is $30, Rita's Fiesta is $10 (or $20 with cocktails) and there's a Lafite Wine Tasting Experience for $23, for four wines from the famous Chateau Lafite.

Still thinking, still thinking…

There's also the spa, other free entertainment (it's all free), and activities ranging from Barbie to FlowRider lessons to an all-access tour.

The bottom line: The Cruise Planner is simple, detailed and easy to negotiate. Other cruise lines may be this good, but Royal Caribbean got this one right.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Snapshots of the new Regal Princess

Celebrity Infinity
10 nights
July 14, 2014
London (return): Paris, St. Peter Port, CorkDublinLiverpoolGlasgow, Holyhead
Balcony: $3,179
Cost per day: $317

The Century That Lasted Two Decades

What do Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Celebrity Century have in common?

They all say good-bye with a one-year victory lap.

The classiest of New York Yankees are Rivera and Jeter, and some would say the same about the Century. 

Rivera walked away from an illustrious career after making the rounds to almost all Mariano RiveraDerek Jeterof his old stomping grounds last season, and he celebrated by spending time with the faceless opponents in cities he visited…the groundskeepers and unsung employees of the teams he beat over 19 years.

Jeter will do the same thing this season, his 20th. Presumably, his ex-teammate set the standard he is likely to follow.

The Century's career as a "Celebrity" will almost make it to two decades as well, and unlike the ballplayers she hasn't had much in the way of time off. She was Century-Riley HuntleyCelebrity's first "class" ship in 1995. In the Century Class, Galaxy and Mercury came after her and left before she did, giving the grand old dame a chance to say good-bye to her fans.

She'll do that between now and April of next year. Her victory lap will take her to 77 ports in 32 countries, more than any ship in the Celebrity fleet that will then be 10. Between now and the end of April, passengers booking passage on the Century will be eligible for up to $200 per stateroom in onboard credit.

The President himself, Michael Bayley (okay, not THE President), is going to join her guests on a Celebration of the Century cruise in Asia. Her final cruise will be a link between two of the world's great cities, Dubai and Rome. In other words, she's going out in style.

Just like Rivera and Jeter.

- ship photo by Riley Huntley

Celebrity Infinity
13 nights
April 29, 2014
MiamiNew YorkHalifaxCorkLondon
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $38

Ports a World Apart Shaping Up

We've been to San Juan, Puerto Rico twice. We've been to Liverpool, England once. At the risk of sounding like glass-half-full tourists, we enjoyed both places and, despite that, we haven't been in either as often as we'd like.

These days, a lot of our travel involves cruising. Duh! Anything that by whatever means returned us to San Juan or Liverpool would range between fantastico (San Juan) and splendid (Liverpool). Both cruise ports are taking steps to get us — or people like us — to visit them more often.

San Juan's strategy is impressive.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, signed off on an enthusiastic bill that Puerto Ricans hope will multiply tourism dollars over the next four years. Hugely discounted fees ($9) for each cruise passenger. A $1 per-passenger rebate to cruise lines that keep their ships in port longer than eight hours…$2 if they do it 21 times a year with that ship. And 10% discount on goods (supplies) and (maintenance) services that cruise lines purchase while in port.

Here's an example:

Suppose a cruise ship of 3,000 passengers meets the first two criteria. That's between $30,000 and $33,000 of savings per visit for cruise lines. If it's $33,000 per visit, that means the ship has been there 21 times. On our electronic calculator, that's $693,000 for the year. This will attract the cruise lines, who then must sell their customers on going to Puerto Rico. With savings to play with, cruise lines can make that financially attractive. Puerto Rico wins if the visitors come…and spend.

Liverpool's strategy is short-term.

In 2008, the city built a new cruise terminal. There were 13 ships that called in Liverpool that year. Last year, there were 42. Next year there will be 52. They're not all heavyweights, but Cunard's ships occasionally go to their ancestral home, Holland America's Prinsendam was there this week and the Ruby Princess will be next year, when during the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club the Celebrity Infinity will be staying overnight to accommodate its golf fans.

So it's growing. The problem is, or has been, that the terminal's temporary check-in facility needs a facelift. It will be replaced in another year and a half, but in the interim Liverpudlians feel it looks too much like…well, a warehouse. This steel-framed tent with gray walls is being re-decorated (make that "decorated") with large photographs and huge sails, hanging from the ceiling. It's all about the image and making the city feel warmer and more fun.

If it works, the terminal will be more like Liverpool's people…warm and fun.


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