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Norwegian, The Frank Del Rio Way

Frank Del RioWhen Frank Del Rio became CEO of the company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, everybody who has seen him in action knew there would be more action to see. Outgoing, perhaps even flamboyant, gregarious and entertaining, he seems to stand still for nothing unless it’s for the next idea to pop into his head…within minutes, or seconds.

This week, engaging reporters on the new Norwegian Escape, here’s what Del Rio revealed to Cruise Critic’s Brittany Chrusciel…

• Every older ship will go into dry dock in 2016 and 2017, except the Jewel, which is already scheduled for 2018. By our count, that’s nine refurbishing in two years, 10 if Pride of America is part of the deal. Del Rio wants the older ships to become more popular, like the 16-year-old Regent Seven Seas Navigator is for one of his other cruise lines.

• Norwegian will start the migration towards smoke-free casinos, and the Escape will be first to become 50 per cent smoke-free. The last four Norwegian ships launched — the Epic (2010), Breakaway (2013), Getaway (2014) and Escape — have all fielded complaints about “drifting smoke” from the casinos.

Escape• Complimentary dining in the new Jimmy Buffett restaurant, Margaritaville At Sea, may be short-lived. There were long line-ups once the Escape arrived in “Jimmy Country” and when something is that popular it’s only a matter of time until it becomes an additional revenue stream. As an aside, as people who have waited in line to get into several  Margaritavilles, we get it.

What Del Rio is doing, since replacing Kevin Sheehan at the helm, is turning Norwegian into a cruise line that turns more heads.

There’s every indication that he knows exactly how to do it.

In the news…

• Viking orders two more ocean ships — fledgling fleet to be six strong by 2020
• Harmony of the Seas to combine attributes of Oasis and Quantum Class ships
• 'Tangled The Musical' world premiere on Disney Magic in Miami
• MSC Divina arrives in Florida to begin year-round cruises to Caribbean

Today at portsandbows.com: Guess where Liberty of the Seas is going?


Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
January 30, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel 
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $90
www.royalcaribbean.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

That’s A Million For New Orleans

Photo by Win Henderson

In Texas, the battle cry has for 180 years been “Remember The Alamo.” In New Orleans, for the last decade (10 years in August), it has been “Remember Katrina.”

Remember, indeed.

Close to 2,000 people died. Waves 20 feet high crashed into the Louisiana seaport. The world watched in horror as the largest hurricane ever threatened to wipe the city from the map…some even thought it might not be a bad idea, given that it’s below sea level.

At the time, cruising was thriving in New Orleans. In three years before that, it had grown dramatically and was heading towards a million passengers a year when Katrina ravaged New_Orleanseverything, including the cruise industry. For a city known as The Big Easy, nothing was.

Last year, New Orleans hit the million.

The perception of the city after Katrina was one of apprehension, destruction and fear. Only people who wanted to help wanted to go there, even if helping meant pumping a few dollars into the sagging economy. There can be no doubt today that cruising has contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and is benefitting from it.

“Eighty per cent of all our cruise passengers are from out of state and they spend two-and-a-half nights," Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange told radio station WWL. "The average cruise passenger's direct spending at most other ports around the world is 95 dollars a day…in New Orleans they spend 332 dollars a day."

Today, New Orleans is the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S. The 10th-largest in the world. Cruise ships generate $323 million in total income for locals. Four ships — Carnival’s Dream and Elation, Norwegian’s Dawn and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas — call the Port of New Orleans home. Cruise Critic calls it the “Best North American Homeport.” Porthole Magazine readers ranked it the “Friendliest Homeport” for the last two years.

New Orleans has come back, hoping that Katrina (or her descendants) never will.

Today at portsandbows.com: Baking with Mary Berry

Grand Princess
15 nights
February 17, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Ensenada 
Inside $1,169
Cost per day: $77
www.princess.com

Cruise Critic Editors' Best Of…Cruising

 

Anybody who has been on more than a few cruises is inevitably going to be asked: “What’s your favorite…ship…destination…cruise…port…activity…restaurant…?”

There are no correct answers, given that everybody’s cruising taste is different in every area. Sometimes, it’s incredible how much stock all of us put in recommendations of others, qualified or not.

Cruise passengers pay attention to “awards” and that’s why we write about them. Among the most credible awards are Cruise Critic’s — some of them determined by cruisers, some by editors. The latter is the latest, announced this week.

The editorial staff at Cruise Critic is nameless, identified only as an ”international team of editors.” The awards they just announced — 18 of them —  cover everything from new ships to itineraries to romance, and we thought a sampling of them would be appropriate today. 

So…

If you’re looking for the best new ship from 2014, head for Bayonne, N.J. and board Quantum of the Seas.

If you’re into luxury, you have to go a little further…to France, because that’s where Ponant is based (Marseille) and where you can cruise on one of three small ships and enjoy authentic French cuisine, among other things.

If you’re after the best bang for your buck, it’s Carnival.

Best dining? Oceania, which features Jacques Pepin and Kathryn Kelly.

Best entertainment? Norwegian…think Blue Man, Legends in Concert, Rock of Ages.

If a few more inches and a few more amenities in a standard stateroom is important, check out Holland America.

And if you wonder which cruise line has the best itineraries, Cruise Critic’s editors like Princess — for the second year running.

What it all adds up to is an educated guess at what you’re going to like best (or better), as long as your taste is similar to the critical eyes of Cruise Critic.

Today at portsandbows.com: Special news from Silversea

Crown Princess
3 nights
January 6, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $129
Cost per day: $43
www.princess.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

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