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The Denali Debate Known To Cruisers

Denali

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Alaska twice, in 2009 and earlier this year, both times while cruising on Princess ships, first the Coral Princess and then the Star Princess

On both occasions, we heard the tale of the Mount McKinley versus Denali name debate, which was new to us. On both occasions, we concluded that the vast majority of the people of Alaska thought the mountain should be called Denali, its native and original name. And on both occasions, we came away thinking the stalemate was such that it wouldn’t happen in our lifetime.

Last week, in case you hadn’t heard, it happened.

Denali it is.

As another Alaska cruise season concludes this month, passengers currently extending their time on land tours are the first to see Denali with its “new” name.

This has been a never-ending political debate. McKinley was a Republican U.S. President who never visited Alaska but who had the misfortune of being assassinated 114 years ago. Alaskans started trying to re-instate Denali — “The Big One” to the Athabaskan people — 40 years ago, when the name of the national park became Denali. Through various means, mostly technicalities, it was blocked by a congressman (Ralph Regula) from Ohio, President McKinley’s home state.

In layman’s terms, the statute of limitations ran out on the stalemate, and last week President Obama instructed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to change the name to Denali. Yet the political debate never dies. Yesterday on CNN, there was former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, dismissing (or dissing) the loss of the McKinley name.

Palin is, of course, Republican.

Cruise passengers who get to see “The Big One” in person and who listen to guides and Alaskans alike know that last week’s decision was not so much political as it was the will of the people.

They’ve known the mountain as Denali for a long, long time.

In the news…

• Norwegian Epic's winter home to be Fort Lauderdale, not Miami
• Puerto Rico Quality Service Program to enhance tourism service
• Royal Caribbean President's Cruise set back a week to Sept. 18, 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Holland America Zuiderdam
17 nights
December 11, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Bonaire, Panama Canal, Colon, Puerto Limon, Fort Lauderdale, Half Moon Cay, Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $1,360
Cost per day: $80
www.hollandamerica.com

Lessons From Star Princess ‘Master’

My father taught us this: “Be happy with what you achieve, wherever you are. Try to do your best and be honest.” The teaching of life when we grew up was integrity, honesty and be happy with what we have. If you keep chasing something you will never be happy. You have to have a goal in life. It’s good to aspire to something but you don’t have to be selfish.

With every life, there are at least two stories, one personal and one professional. With Captain Stefano Ravera, Master of the Star Princess, both are interesting.

Capt. RaveraThis is the personal, yet it touches on the professional.

He comes from a small town on the east coast of Italy, near La Spezia, which is considered a small town because it’s lightly known, an after-thought by Italy’s Cinque Terre. The father he talks about was also a ship’s master, an occupation that rubbed off on both his sons, Stefano the elder and Paolo the younger. Ironically, today they both command Princess ships (Paolo is on the Sea Princess).

While their father’s skills rubbed off, it was not a given.

“No,” recalls Stefano, “we just like it. My father told us to do what we want. My sister doesn’t sail. She is nine years younger and has a university degree in language.”

There are cruise ship captains…and there are cruise ship captains. In the Ravera family, there’s clearly a code of ethics. Also responsibility.

Here is his:

“If I have a crew member who went to the hospital and I went to see them, or a passenger, they say ‘How come you came to the hospital?’ I say ‘Because you are in the hospital’ and I come to see how you are, if I can. If my mother’s in the hospital, I go. Why not? I try to pass this message to younger officers because we have a responsibility to bring up the younger generation. We cannot say the world is not good because of them. The world may not be good because we don’t create a better place.

“People will spend years to complain but will never spend one second to say thank-you. So it’s very important to spend that second to look after someone. Something that for us may take 10 minutes, but for another person it might last an entire life. We should never avoid doing that. It is very important. I believe in that. It’s my two-penny opinion.

“Every day I learn something. Every day is a learning day. You never stop learning, not even when you retire. I can see my father. He’s 86 years old and every day he learns something and he’s happy to do that. That I think is the way you have to approach life, with a positive attitude. Try to be a mentor for the future generation and pass what little I know to the other people.”

So it’s as much about the type of person he is as the type of captain. This was not a self-serving speech from the bridge…this was from a casual conversation in his office, a post-Capt. Raverascript to an interview about living your life at sea, which he has pretty much done since joining the Italian Merchant Marine as a 16-year-old deck boy 39 years ago.

It is his life. He hopes that will continue for 11 more years.

Nine months of every year, he’s on a ship — “That is my choice’ — and in the other three he spends time with his parents in Italy, his children in Eastern Canada and his partner in South Africa, where she is a doctor.

If he sees his brother, it’s usually like ships passing in the night, although one time they were on the Coral Princess together during a “shift change that lasted for two days in Fort Lauderdale.

“That was very nice, but we keep it low key,” smiles Stefano.

They are, however, a trivia item among cruise ship captains, or masters. One of his ships was the late Pacific Sky and Paolo is a former captain of her sister ship before it became the old and now-retired Dawn Princess.

“We both had the chance, being not extremely old, to command steam-turbine ships and that will never happen to any captain now on a passenger ship,” he explains. “The Sky was the last one afloat.”

The brothers share another quirk.

We’d heard Captain Ravera often refer to the Star Princess as “the white lady” so we asked him why.

“It’s a little tradition between me and my brother that we had in our family, because ships are female and passengers ships, most of the time, are painted white. So we call her the white lady because they are elegant, like a lady.”

Today at portsandbows.com: How to be loyal before being a cruise customer

Crown Princess
10 nights
September 23, 2015
Los Angeles (return): San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $64
www.princess.com

Princess Lands ‘The Voice of the Ocean’

On September 21, The Voice returns to NBC for Season 9. On October 3, The Voice of the Ocean goes on Princess Cruises for Season 1.

The competition on Princess ships is the same concept as in the TV studio. Blind auditions followed by coaching. Performances behind the three rotating chairs occupied by the “coaches.” For any number of reasons, starting with logistics, the chairs won’t be occupied by Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams or Gwen Stefani.

Because Voice of the Ocean will be on 11 ships and 24 cruises between October and next  May, those coaches will be “charismatic” people who might also be guest performers on the ships, or hotel managers or even captains.

The contestants?

That’s you!

Passengers with talent will be invited to auditions. With mentors by their sides, they’ll be polished and accompanied by back-up singers and musicians. The coaches will pick their The Voice-2teams, just like they do on TV, and on the last night of the cruise members of the audience will vote with remotes to determine who wins The Voice of the Ocean Trophy.

The first show will be on the Regal Princess when it departs from New York. That will be followed by The Voice of the Ocean performances on the Royal, Caribbean, Emerald, Ruby, Golden, Island, Coral, Crown, Grand and Star Princesses with the final departure from Vancouver to Alaska on May 14.

The inaugural cruise, on the Regal, will sail up the coast and into Canada and back during the autumn colors. The cruise is from New York, return. 

Hey, if the winners are good enough, they can go straight to Broadway!

In the news…

AmaWaterways christens AmaSerena on banks of the Danube
• Viking Star: one cruise cancelled, one delayed by mechanical repair
• Low water on European rivers still haunting ships and cruisers

Today at portsandbows.com: More big money people in cruising

Carnival Ecstasy
3 nights
September 18, 2015
Miami (return): Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $63
www.carnival.com

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.

Sun-Guat
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
www.carnival.com

Friday File: Memorable Crew Members

The theory is that everyone has a story, or at least a smile, and we've found plenty of both on cruises. These are some of the memorable crew members we have encountered…

CoralThis kitchen worker on the Coral Princess had a whopper of a story — along with a fish big enough to be dinner for passengers on an entire deck of the ship.

Freedom-NaiduHis name is Naidu and did he love to dance, especially when they struck up the band (okay, CD) for the crew in the Carnival Freedom dining room on the final night.

RivieraOn the Oceania Riviera the queen of cooking, Kathryn Kelly, left the corporate world (she started three big companies) behind to conduct classes for chefs-to-be at sea.

Isagani-SaravanIsagani Natividad and Saravan Radhakrishnan, both sommeliers on Celebrity's Millennium, were kind enough to taste a wine we'd brought from home (it's okay, they spit!). 

ExplorerOn Explorer of the Seas, servers Tankica Gogova and Vivek Gonsalves were such a dynamic duo that we requested their section of the same dining room table every night.

Dollerage and friendAfter two weeks on the Norwegian Sun, we'd spent so much time with Dollerage Soares (left) that he suggested fellow waiter Lester Anthony join him for a "family photo"…and guess what: He was right!

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival Vista to Miami

Carnival Fascination
5 nights
November 30, 2015
Jacksonville (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $239
Cost per day: $47
www.carnival.com

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