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Friday File: Memories of 9/11

It was 14 years ago today that the world changed forever. The twin towers of New York crumbled into dust and debris, taking down with them close to 3,000 lives. Cruise passengers who've been to New York in succeeding years have been among the visitors who've had a change to watch the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, or the space it occupied. It wasn't a cruise that took us there, it was a cruise press conference about Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas, and we seized the opportunity to walk down to Wall Street and see, though still incomplete at the time, the re-construction and the memories of 9/11…

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The Freedom Tower, erected in defiance of freedom lost that sunny September day.

9/11 tree

From the rubble, The Survivor Tree, nurtured back to life and replanted in 2010.

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One of the two reflecting pools, for “reflecting absence” and built where each tower stood.

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Nearly 3,000 names, plus victims with names to come, carved into the walls around the pools.

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The new site is among the millions of places where security is now commonplace.

6-WTC-2-Michael Mahesh
-Photo by Michael Mahesh
Today’s New York skyline, the Freedom Tower reaching far above its neighbours.

In the news…

• Royal Caribbean plans $100-million Miami port for biggest ships by 2018
• Coming on Norwegian Escape: Lacoste and Carolina Herrera boutiques

Today at portsandbows.com: About time to check up on Down Under


Celebrity Silhouette
7 nights
December 6, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts
Inside: $596
Cost per day: $85
www.celebritycruises.com

The Nature Of…Nude Cruising

When the subject of nude cruises is raised, as it has been a couple of times before this at cruisingdoneright.com, there’s a natural tendency to get cute with phraseology and double-entendres.

You know…there’s nothing to sea…turn the other cheek to a rude nude…buff in a boat…nakationing…sunscreen mandatory, clothing optional…

As people who take them will readily say, their cruises are not going away. They’re Nude cruisegrowing. They used to be categorized as one-off theme cruises that occupied part of a cruise ship. Not any more.

In November, a “Bliss Cruise” will occupy the Celebrity Silhouette, a Solstice Class ship that carries 2,886 passengers. On this cruise, all but 2,886 of them will be wearing clothes. The whole ship has been booked and the cruise is 80 per cent sold, six months in advance, through Bliss Management in Florida.

Next February, “The Big Nude Boat” cruise will be on the Celebrity Constellation, which carries 2,170 passengers. It’s an annual event booked by Bare Necessities in Texas, a company currently offering six nude cruises on a variety of ships, including the Carnival Miracle.

Perhaps the most astounding statistic in this phenomenon is that 70 per cent of nude cruisers come back for another cruise, compared to 62 per cent of cruisers wearing more than sunscreen, and that in 23 years the seas have gone from hosting one nude cruise to 45.

The best one-liner came from Orlando Sun Sentinel writer Arlene Satchell:

“Well, this certainly makes packing easier.”

In the news…

• Next Princess ship (2017) to be based in China year-round
• Windstar christens Star Breeze, second of three all-suite power yachts
• 113,000 sign petition opposing dredging Venice lagoon
• Explorer of the Seas in Australia after multi-million-dollar makeover

Today at portsandbows.com: Up to 50% savings on Princess deals

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
June 14, 2015
Bayonne (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $569
Cost per day: $81
www.celebritycruises.com

San Francisco's New Cruise Terminal

As cruise ports go, San Francisco is…well, awkward. Too far north to be a launching point for cruises to the Mexican Riviera. Too far south to be the point of origin for ships heading for Alaska.

So it’s in between, a port in the heart of a major city, yet given the same type of attention as smaller ports along the West Coast — Astoria and Victoria, Santa Barbara and Catalina.

This month, San Francisco changed.

Not geographically, of course, but esthetically. The city by the bay has a new terminal, replacing the one that was 100 years old, Pier 35. It will be (modestly) busier over the next year, with a 10 per cent increase in port calls, from 73 to 81. That translates into 50,000 more visitors for this beautiful coastal city.

The terminal opened quietly, which is not normally the way things are done in San Francisco, one week and with some fanfare the next week. The Crown Princess was the first ship, the Grand Princess the official-opening ship. Neither is what you’d call a mega ship, by today’s standards.

Even before the change, this was a fascinating port to visit. No amount of time is too much to spend around The Embarcadero, where the cruise ships are…not to mention the barking Sea lionssea lions, the delightful eateries, the busy ferries and all the aromas that come with being on the seashore.

Our best visit was before boarding a ship for South America, a memorable start to a memorable cruise. While that’s not one of the options these days, there is a variety of itineraries.

Princess is by far the best customer, running round-trips to Mexico of either 7 (Ensenada) or 10 (Puerto Vallarta) days, with the occasional short (Vancouver) or long (Hawaii) cruise. Celebrity has the odd return trip to Alaska. Holland America and Norwegian have Panama Canal re-positioning cruises that start there. Cunard has a couple of marathon cruises from San Francisco every year.

Ships will now have access to shore power and amenities that will improve boarding and Embarcaderodisembarking. Passengers will have more interesting and comfortable surroundings in the terminal, which like its predecessor is in the heart of the city, below Telegraph Hill.

San Francisco will never be a Los Angeles for the south nor a Seattle for the north, when it comes to being a place for cruises to call home, but it’s expecting to have ships in port four days a week. The hope is that one day it will be more than a place to visit between arriving and departing.

If nothing else, it’s a fresh start.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America ships with new names

Celebrity Silhouette
15 nights
November 1, 2014
Rome, Florence, Toulon, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife, Fort Lauderdale
Inside: $843
Cost per day: $77
www.celebritycruises.com

Which Ships Are Best…And To Where?

Because they're so subjective, cruise ship awards and surveys can be construed as somewhat meaningless, not to mention redundant. Whose "best cruise ship carrying more than 3,000 passengers in the Caribbean on the third Saturdays of January" means the most. (Weak attempt at humor.)

So when Cruise Critic reveals its latest Cruisers' Choice Awards, as it did this week, you have to take it with a grain of salt…as our buddy Phil Reimer did at Ports and Bows by pointing out in today's blog there's a "caveat" at play here.

Having said all that, there's one category in the Cruise Critic awards that we hadn't seen before, which doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't there.

Destination ships.

That's not which ships are destinations, as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas — and no doubt their followers — are sometimes called. It's which ships are considered the best ones to take going to or from different parts of the cruising universe. Clever. Helpful even, for the first time cruisers who would like something — anything — to help them decide on which ship to sail to the Caribbean.

Rhapsody of the SeasGoing to Alaska?

Cruise Critic readers recommend Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas (right).

Bahamas?

The Disney Dream.

Caribbean?

Disney Fantasy.

Mediterranean?

Celebrity Silhouette.

Sailing from the Northeast?

Try Explorer of the Seas, from Bayonne, New Jersey.

Across the ocean out of England?

Celebrity Eclipse.

From Florida?

Disney's Fantasy, again.

From the West Coast?

Sapphire Princess.

Nobody says why these ships are the best ion category, of course, so if you buy into the thinking it's because so many people picked these ships.

Just remember one thing.

It is subjective.

Sapphire Princess
4 nights
March 19, 2014 
Los Angeles (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $82
www.princess.com

Red Sox and Celebrity Celebrating

You could say Celebrity Cruises knew something last spring when it became the "official cruise line" of the Boston Red Sox or, if you are cynical, you could say Celebrity was playing the sympathy card by attaching itself to a city in mourning from the murders at the Marathon…unlikely because such co-promotions don't usually happen within two weeks, the span between the Marathon and the announcement.

Whether Celebrity was clairvoyant or not, the arrangement could not have worked Celebrity Solsticeout better. In case you haven't heard, the Red Sox are the champions of baseball. They did have the best record in the game when the announcement was made but nobody anticipated they would go from the worst team of 2012 to the best of 2013.

But they did.

En route to their third championship season in a decade, the Red Sox (and Celebrity) made winners of fans. Four times every month, they entered a draw to win a trip for two on the Red Sox Fan Cruise. Every Fenway Park double play gave a fan $200 off a Celebrity cruise. And while the January 12th cruise — Big Papi won't be on the Silhouette but former Red Sox players are supposed to be — still has space available, if it's not sold out it will be a small miracle.

Kind of like the one that took place on the field this season.

Holland America Rotterdam
11 nights
November 30, 2013
AthensIstanbul, Dikili, Ephesus, Marmaris, Crete, Valletta, CataniaNaplesRome
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $45
www.hollandamerica.com

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