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China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.

Impossible?

Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

Good Times For Cruise Business

It seems like every time we turn around, we’re finding yet another person (or couple) who has discovered what great value cruising is, in general. The latest came during a weekend visit to friends who just completed their second cruise, and these “newbies” are grandparents of seven.

After two cruises, they’re committed.

Yesterday, this trend was confirmed. Again. The Cruise Lines International Association, which monitors trends of all kinds on behalf of the cruise lines, announced its “State of the NassauCruise Industry Report.” If you’re one of the people who believed cruising was in serious trouble after the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph, it is in the best interests of your education to read on…

According to CLIA’s research:

• There is likely to be a 60 per cent increase in cruise passengers this year.

• Cruise lines intend to launch 22 new ships in 2015, covering the oceans, rivers or specialty (adventure) destinations to explore.

• The roll call of ports, worldwide, has climbed to 1,000.

• It’s possible these increases will account for a million jobs for the first time.

• More than ever, passengers are demanding and receiving that cruise lines cater to their needs with innovations to accommodations like WiFi ship-wide, phone connectivity and multigenerational cruises.

And here’s a nugget that might surprise you. In this age of doing everything ourselves online, seven of every 10 cruise passengers uses a travel agent.

Cruising has never enjoyed such popularity. Some of us have just been lucky enough to enjoy it earlier.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Spirit
10 nights
March 16, 2015
Barcelona (return): Casablanca, Funchal, Santa Cruz, Arrecife, Malaga
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $44
www.ncl.com

DOT Webpage To Guide Cruisers 

You’re on a cruise and there’s a problem. It could be something relatively small, like a safety issue you spotted that needs reporting, or something big, like sexual assault. What do you do?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a webpage this week that, hopefully, will serve as a guide. It’s not just about when something goes awry on a cruise, but also a “one-stop resource on consumer assistance, vessel safety and cruise-line incident reporting statistics.”

In short, it gives you — the cruiser — a place to turn for assistance if you feel the cruise line is not satisfying your concerns. It includes what your rights are (or are not) if a cruise is canceled or if there’s an injury or death on a ship, what to do about safety concerns and how to find out about the frequency of incidents from scouring regular reports compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard.

For example, in the most recent three-month report, there were 10 incidents on five cruise lines: two suspicious deaths, three passenger injuries from assaults and five sexual assaults. These are cases “no longer under investigation” by the FBI.

If nothing else, it’s what one famous TV detective used to say regularly:

“Just the facts, ma’am.”

Today at portsandbows.com: Dancing With The Stars: At Sea

Emerald Princess
5 nights
November 29, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Nassau, Princess Cays
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39
www.princess.com

Cruising's Not All About Luring Youth

 

Question: How can seniors avoid that terrible curse of the elderly wrinkles?

Answer: Take off their glasses.

Ah, seniors. We are the butt of thousands of Internet jokes. We are disregarded by marketers obsessed with the 25 to 49 crowd. Even cruise ships, once the haven of the nearly elderly, have become playgrounds for the young and rich.

But hold the phone!

We are not forgotten.

Cruise Lines International Association research shows the average age of cruisers has dropped to an all-time low (48 years), because of the aforementioned catering to youth that has made them realize what their elders have known for years: “Cruising is irresistible.” Yet despite the CLIA figures, it’s clear that cruise lines still count on their primary market because all of them have strategies that are essentially only for Golden Agers:

• Longer itineraries are everywhere, and it’s retirees who have the time to book them.

• Exotic cruises are plentiful for a demographic that often focuses on the ol’ Bucket List…like seeing the Panama Canal, cruising the Mediterranean, or crossing an ocean in a ship.

Rock climbing• Upscale lines like Cunard, Crystal, Azamara and Oceania cater to seniors because that’s usually the crowd with the most disposable income and the fewest financial obligations.

• River cruising’s growth in popularity is unquestionably because of seniors, for the same reason, but also because older folks like us are more interested in history, lectures and less-strenuous (i.e. do-able) activities like climbing rock walls…is it because we’re weary of climbing the wall?

• The major cruise line best suited to retirees, they say, is Holland America. The ships are smaller, there are fewer “family-style” adventures and its reputation includes rules about lights out by nine (just kidding).

And there’s always a place on the mainstream, family-oriented cruise lines for seniors…and generally the prices are more reasonable. If you’re among the crowd that would prefer a big ship and a more sedate experience, here’s one small tip:

Go when the kids are in school.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Sensation
3 nights
October 30, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $163
www.carnival.com

Aloha, Hawaii: Fewer Cruise Passengers

Hawaii is always going to be something of a niche market for cruising.

For one thing, you have to really like looking at open water, for days, to sail there from the mainland. Figure on five, maybe six. For another thing, vacationers going that far often want to see as much of Hawaii as possible, and that means flying. For another, how many times are you likely to take a cruise to Hawaii…raise your hand if it's more than one.

So when you hear that the numbers are down in Hawaii from almost 100,000, it's at least explainable.

Reports are that there are 26 per cent fewer cruise passengers in "paradise" for the first half of this year, compared to the same period of 2013. As many as a dozen Pride of Americacruises were reportedly cancelled this year, with no reasons given. Only two ships will visit Honolulu's harbor this year and one of them is Pride of America, the small Norwegian ship that never leaves the islands.

Hawaii Tourism Authority officials have a plan to make things better: 

"The HTA recently issued an RFP for maritime vessel scheduling software and is working with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to create a system that will ease the vessel scheduling process and efficiently utilize docking space, in order to accommodate and welcome more cruise visitors."

Or, maybe just wait until the demographic changes to more people who have never seen Hawaii by ship.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: A new ship coming for Princess

Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
14 nights
September 9, 2014
OsloKristiansandLerwickTorshavnReykjavikSt. John’sBayonne
Balcony: $699
Cost per day: $49
www.royalcaribbean.com

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