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Cruising Robots And Fruit Flies

Signs of the cruise apocalypse…or just interesting anecdotes about cruising:

The r2d2 effect

In case you thought you would only see this on the big screens playing the record-breaking latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens, guess again. If next year you’re on a Costa ship, as we were fortunate to be this year, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking to a robot. And the robot will be talking to you.

Costa Cruises will begin placing “emotional robots” on its ships after New Year’s, starting with the Diadema and the AIDAprima, a Costa brand. The robot’s name is Pepper and he, Diademashe or it will greet passengers as they board and help them find their way to restaurants and entertainment.

Pepper is apparently the world’s first robot capable of recognizing major human emotions and responding accurately in real time. So we are officially in the “talk with a robot” age.

The people who will be most nervous about hearing this news?

Walmart greeters.

21st century X-rays

A few years ago, we met a scientist who was commissioned to dissect the brain of a fruit fly, so we know that with fruit flies anything is possible.

Even X-rays.

That’s what is happening at four New Zealand cruise ports. A mobile X-ray machine is X-raymachinebeing installed to keep destructive pests from infesting the country…not rats or bats or snakes, but the dreaded Queensland fruit fly.

Areas near Auckland have been under strict restrictions to prevent the Australian pest from disembarking. To that end, the “biosecurity” machines will X-ray the bags of 260,000 or so cruise passengers next year to make certain there is no fruit inside that could be carrying the fruit fly to shore. Presumably, passengers will be warned about putting apples and oranges in their pockets and purses before leaving the ship.

The object is to make New Zealand “fruit fly free.”

In the news…

• Empress of the Seas returning to Royal Caribbean after 8-year absence
• Costa back in Port Everglades for winter season with the Deliziosa
• New 62-passenger Crystal Esprit christened in the Seychelles

Today at portsandbows.comOceania kicks off Wave Season


Vision of the Seas
7 nights
April 9, 2016
Tampa (return): Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $80
www.royalcaribbean.com

More Breaks For Single Cruisers

 

Cruise times are changing. They always are. Here’s one of the latest…

Cunard announced a refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2, and with it comes news that 15 single staterooms will be added. The rationale from Cunard is that single rooms are necessary because not only are more people cruising solo, but there are more family groups traveling together that include singles. There are already single staterooms available on fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

There is no single supplement for these cabins. In other words, you pay the same per-person price as you would if two to a cabin.

Other cruise lines have been ahead of that curve for some time. The Epic, with 128 solo cabins (some connecting) was the first in the Norwegian fleet with the highly-popular option for single travelers. There’s also a Studio Lounge, for the exclusive use of passengers who book in the solo cabins. With no single supplement they sell out quickly. Surprisingly, there are fewer single cabins on Norwegian’s latest ships, the Getaway and the Breakaway (59 on each). 

The Escape, being launched in the fall, will have 82. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each have 28 single staterooms, and Ovation of the Seas, also arriving this fall, will apparently also have 28 solo cabins. No single supplements apply.

Costa Cruises has 17 solo cabins on at least two of its ships, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. There is a single supplement, although not exorbitant.

Carnival does offer some value-priced solo cruise fares, with some supplements as low as five per cent.

One thing is certain: In the cruise world, singles are being heard.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's 'Evenings Around The World'

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
May 1, 2016
Los Angeles, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

Friday File: Norwegian’s Hulls Of A Show

They weren’t always so, well, outlandish. But the more unusual they became, the more the hull art on Norwegian’s ships started to look like a competition where the next one had to be more jaw-dropping or eye-catching than the last. That brings us to the Norwegian Escape, the 14th and newest ship in the fleet, come October 25. Below is the hull art applied this month to the ship’s bow — on both sides — from artist Guy Harvey, followed by the more for your perusal and assessment (the eight ships here are arranged chronologically, from newest to oldest)…

S693_Escape_Guy Harvey_Artwork-Shooting_2015_07_28

Thumbs-up from the artist, accompanied by Norwegian President Andy Stuart at the shipyard where the Escape is being finished.

2014-Getaway

The Getaway is Miami’s ship, a connection that well-known Cuban-American artist David La Batard painted in his impressionistic style.

2013-Breakaway-Peter-Max

In 2013, famous New York artist Peter Max was commissioned to dress up the Breakaway, unmistakably New York’s ship.

2010-Epic

When the Epic arrived in 2010, its hull art was decidedly non-descript, which its critics (we are not among them) say is appropriate.

2007-Gem

While it might take some imagination to figure out the ship’s name by its art, the Gem in 2007 was the flagship, status that lasted three years.

2005-Pride

Cruising exclusively around Hawaii, Pride of America sports all the trappings of flag-waving as the world’s only U.S.-registered cruise ship.

2001-Sun

One of three ships in the fleet that didn’t have hull at birth, the Sun was decorated in its bright colors in 2004, three years after its maiden cruise.

2002-Dawn

This is where it all began, with the new Norwegian Dawn in 2004, when she was christened in Manhattan by actress Kim Cattrall.

In the news…

• Norwegian Cruise Holdings signs unprecedented 15-year lease with Port of Seattle
• No changes yet in Mariner of the Seas departure from Tianjin port after explosions
• Cruise Lines International Association President/CEO resigns after five weeks

Today at portsandbows.com: First Carnival readings of new Seuss book

Costa Mediterranea
7 nights
November 13, 2015
Venice (return): Trieste, Split, Kotor, Argostoli, Corfu, Dubrovnik
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $79
www.costacruise.com

Lion Eyes Part Of New Ship’s Custom

Lion danceEverybody who’s interested in cruises knows that the playing ocean, as opposed to the playing field, is shifting in the direction of Asia. More cruises, more ships, even more cruise lines are re-locating.

With the shift come new customs.

The traditions that come with new ships include a bottle of champagne, a hull and a godmother. She smashes the bubbly against the bow and, voila, the ship has good luck. Most times, there is no evidence that it doesn’t work.

Will that tradition be honored in Asia?

Maybe not.

The keel for the new Princess ship, due in 2017 and destined for China, was laid in Italy last week. The character on the left was part of the occasion and, just like the ship, he has no name yet. He does come with good luck, according to Chinese traditions, and he likes to dance. Admittedly, this was not the christening ceremony that will inevitably come when or before the ship hits the water.

But for a ship going to China, it was an important occasion.

“The lion dance has been part of the Chinese culture for thousands of years and is Keel Layingperformed on various auspicious occasions and celebrations,” said Cherry Wang, country director of Carnival China. “According to traditional Chinese belief, the lion signifies courage, wisdom and good fortune and brings happiness, longevity and good luck. We believe this special ceremony will bring prosperity and good fortune to Princess Cruises and our guests.”

Another part of this ceremony is to paint the lion’s eyes. She and Anthony Kaufman, Senior Vice-President of Asia Operations for Princess, were given the brushes. Painting the eyes awakens its spirit and blesses the lion.

Like we said…new locations, new ships, new customs.

In the news…

• Problems in Greece could impact on 11,000 jobs cruises bring
• Costa, Airitalia to collaborate on "fly and cruise" with 100,000 seats
• Princess latest cruise line to bring beverage packages to ships in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: 'Only On Carnival' Tours

Royal Princess
15 nights
September 6, 2015
London, Rotterdam, Paris, Vigo, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Fort Lauderdale
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $66
www.princess.com

Norwegian, Food And Andy Stuart

Some of us like hot toast. Hot enough to melt better. It happens at home. It rarely, if ever, happens on a cruise ship. The only time we’ve ever experienced it, or at least the closest it has come to being reality, is on the Norwegian Epic and the reason was simple. We were having breakfast at O’Sheehan’s, a mid-ship eatery with mostly down-home food, and the toaster was right there. We couldn’t touch it, but we could see it and the toast was hot enough.

Norwegian is having food issues right now. Good and bad.

Andy Stuart, a bright guy who is the company’s new president, has been dealing with Andy Stuartseveral. It started with a charge for room service delivery. That was followed by a ban on taking food back to your cabin. Then came removing the $15 cover charge on Asian eateries. And finally, establishing a new sushi menu with a la carte pricing.

You might say Stuart’s plate has been full.

When passengers complained, as they did about the room service charge, he modified it by not charging for continental breakfast and coffee. When they complained about being ordered not to take food to their rooms, he dropped the regulation. He found that passengers loved not paying $15 for Asian dining when the numbers jumped to 250 customers per night in the restaurants. He found that a la carte sushi was not only palatable, but popular.

Stuart is upgrading the room-service menu, to justify the cost and encourage more passengers to use it. He’s in the process of upgrading food in the buffet with better options, on the theory that every passenger visits the buffet at least once, so it’s critical to have them leave with a good taste, so to speak.

It’s reasonable to assume that O’Sheehan’s will have a name change, since the quickly departed Kevin O’Sheehan was Stuart’s predecessor.

But about the toast, Andy…

In the news…

• MERS outbreak triggers Royal Caribbean cancelations in South Korea ports
• Viking plans maiden North American call for New York in October 2016
• Cruises to nowhere no longer allowed from U.S. ports (Cruise Critic)

Today at portsandbows.com: MSC's Seaside Class ship going to Miami

Costa Deliziosa
7 nights
October 18, 2015
Venice (return): Bari, Corfu, Santorini, Athens, Dubrovnik
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.costacruise.com

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