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Sensitivities Of How Cruisers Dress

Today’s subject is Muscat and, while people who know us may find this hard to believe, it’s not the dessert wine. It’s the city that is capital of Oman, a country on the Arabian Peninsula that is often visited by cruise ships and their passengers, despite the volatility that comes with that part of the world.

As a cruise port, Oman has grown.

Ten years ago, there were about 25 cruise ships that ported in Oman. Today, there are 100 or so. With that kind of triple-digit growth comes economic gain…and cultural Sky-GSK-1-650 copychange.

At a recent conference in Moscow, it was reported that the local shop vendors and owners — who are naturally in direct contact with cruise passengers when they disembark — are disturbed by the way the visitors dress. Especially the female visitors.

Specifically, the locals are upset that the number of people who wear shorts and revealing clothes. European women dress that way in summer, although the same might be said of North American women, and the vendors and shop keepers of Oman feel that it disrespects local customs and that visitors should know there is a dress code.

Hmmm.

Clearly, this is a cultural clash, with valid arguments on both sides. The tourists are on vacation. They have a vacation “dress code” that they take abroad. They either don’t know it offends the Oman people or they don’t care. The locals, on the other hand, are concerned that the visiting dress code might spread and threaten their culture, their values and their beliefs.

Tourists can be insensitive. If you know what local customs are (and many cruisers asked said they did), why would you purposely alienate the country and people who are your hosts? There can be a fine line between respect and disrespect — especially in highly religious countries — and it’s worth finding out when you cross that line, in advance.

On the other hand, you can’t have it both ways, can you? If you want to enjoy the benefits of tourism, you risk having tourism impact your culture. If that’s unacceptable, there’s a simple solution.

Close the port on cruise ships.

In the news…

• Puerto Vallarata cruise port operating at 100% after Hurricane Patricia
• American Cruise Line's new coastal ship to be ready in January 2017

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival changes in beverage policy 


Crown Princess
7 nights
December 12, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $511
Cost per day: $73
www.princess.com

Pearl Time For The Legends

You know, those of us who have seen Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic should have known it would find a new home. We should have known it wouldn’t work as well in Europe, where the Epic has been since spring and where it will stay until November 2016, because Europeans don’t seem to take as readily to “tribute” acts as North Americans.

Legends in Concert-MJ copyWe should have known that Legends in Concert was sunk when a passenger pointed out last month on Cruise Critic that the show was cancelled during her cruise, with no explanation from Norwegian. In the fine print of the cruise line’s website, you can find (eventually) that the last show was September 20.

But we didn’t.

The good news is that Legends in Concert is moving to the Norwegian Pearl. Now the Pearl’s no Epic — a little more than half the size — but the theaters are probably much more comparable. Clearly, Norwegian had to find a home for this show once its five-year run on the Epic was over, or risk losing it to another cruise line.

Would that matter?

Norwegian is consistently cited for having the best entertainment at sea, often winning awards for it from the people who create awards. That goes for the Epic, too. It can’t be a coincidence that Norwegian has been at or near the top of the entertainment category for the last five years (the Epic is five years old) and that Legends in Concert has been a fixture on the ship.

PearlWe’ve seen Legends in Concert twice on the Epic. We weren’t expecting the shows to be winners, but they were. The “tribute acts” included some performers who were favourites (Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett) and some who weren’t (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears). All were good.

On the Pearl, starting…now, the tribute acts are Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…and you can guess which two.

In the news…

• Norwegian Star's propulsion problem takes ship straight to Tampa
• Doug Ward's 2016 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ship Guide released
• Smaller Maasdam to replace departing Volendam in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Second American river cruiser for Pacific Northwest


Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $504
Cost per day: $72
www.princess.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: Women Of The Sea

This week, Kate McCue was chosen to become the first American woman to captain a cruise ship for one of the mainstream lines. Next month, she’ll slide behind the wheel (or joystick) of the Celebrity Summit to break yet another gender barrier. That is the ultimate position for a woman on a cruise ship, of course, and women on ships everywhere are celebrating the occasion. Here are female crew members we’ve met, some of them even firsts…

Epic-Julia Koravcova-1st

On the bridge of the Norwegian Epic, Slovakia’s Julia Koravcova was the First Officer, and that was almost five years ago.

RC-Margaret Aitchison

Margaret Aitchison, from Canada, one of those indispensable executives who was key to everything on Allure of the Seas.

PR-Lisa Ball

Lisa Ball, an Englishwoman and the first female cruise director (toughest job on a ship) we’ve seen, on the Crown Princess.

CB-Ingrid Falavera

From the Celebrity Eclipse, the first woman we encountered to work as a sommelier, Ingrid Falavera from the Philippines.

CA-Ana Klacinski-

Carnival’s Ana Klacinski was in charge of Camp Ocean, the Seuss at Sea kids’ area first expanded on the Freedom.

RC-Barbara Florek-1st

Barbara Florek, who calls Poland home, was Allure's Second Officer when we were on the ship's bridge last summer.

In the news…

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas to have 10-story water slide called Abyss
• New all-inclusive packages on 11 itineraries in the Tropics for Windstar Cruises
• Upgrades to Disney Magic to include Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for 3-to-12-year-olds

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in airline seat design…ouch!

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
September 14, 2015
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $47
www.carnival.com

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