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Cruises Open Up The World Of Art

You don’t have to appreciate fine art to enjoy some of the works you encounter in traveling the world on cruise ships — and there is art of some sort virtually everywhere you go. This is a collection of artistic impressions that have caught our eyes, or at least the lens of our cameras…

LimaLove is grand, isn’t it?…even when it’s on display on the waterfront for South American-bound cruisers when they stop in the metropolis of Lima!

ChicagoThis was in Chicago, on the way to a cruise, and it’s not Mrs. O’Leary’s famous cow — it’s the one made famous by baseball broadcaster Harry Caray, whose pet expression was “Holy Cow!”

ValenciaNot quite sure what to make of this somewhat provocative work of art, in one of our favorite Spanish ports, so we simply gave her a name: Valentina of Valencia.

VigoYou’ll find this on the streets of Vigo, Spain — where we’d stopped while on the Celebrity Eclipse — and our impression was somewhere in there must be a cowboy.

MexicoThe beaches of Mexico, and throughout Central America and the Caribbean, are a great source of statues like this that mean more to the locals than the visitors.

KetchikanIt’s hard to imagine that there’s a larger carving of a bald eagle than this one where the Coral Princess — and all cruise ships — are docked in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Viator Guide A Memorable Man


His name is Kim. Just Kim. We are introduced on the banks of the Saigon River in Vietnam. We are on a Viator excursion and he is our guide. He is polite, informative and the antithesis of a rah-rah guide who tries to impress with his clever dialogue so that at the end of the day he’ll get a bigger tip.

For Kim — and his eight customers — the end of the day was nine hours later.

It began with an hour-long ride up (down?) the river, to the Cu Chi Tunnels for a fascinating look at the underground network and weaponry the Viet Cong used in winning the Vietnam War, 40 years ago. Throughout the two hours or so we spent at what is now a huge tourist attraction, Kim’s knowledge and opinions made the tour better than expected.

The day also included a first-ever (and possibly last) visit to a cricket farm, which included a snack that was optional from the farm’s owners, and a lunch (long after we’d digested the little creatures) at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Not that you’d expect to find anything but authentic Vietnamese restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, but this was so good we’ve been seeking the North American version ever since returning home.

Our day was nine hours and Kim’s has to be at least two more. When he told us he would become a father in a few months, our tip included a contribution for the daughter-to-be’s Kim Nguyenpiggy bank — he said it would be her first deposit. As we parted, we exchanged email addresses, something we often do when meeting somebody so likeable and personable. We discovered there was more to him than Kim — Kim Nguyen Dinh — and we resolved to stay in touch.

Fast forward…

Our first email went unanswered for almost two weeks. These things happen. Sometimes they’re never answered. When Kim responded, he was apologetic. His father had been suffering from liver cancer for almost a year (long before we met him) and the prognosis was not good. His next email brought the inevitable news. In December, another email announcing the arrival of Cecilia, or Gia Kha Han in Vietnamese.

For his family, it completed the cycle of life.

When you exchange emails with strangers from a land far away, it’s not always like this. But when it is like this, you learn that we’re really not that different, are we?

In the news…

• Launching in May, Harmony of the Seas to feature Dreamworks characters

Today at portsandbows.comFood spectacles for Princess crowd

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
March 13, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Banana Coast, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Costa Maya
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Royal Caribbean And Haiti…A Problem?


This is a blog about Royal Caribbean, Haiti and reading between the lines. A lot of people are doing that these days following what appeared to be a fairly innocent incident this month: ships skipping Labadee because of a group of protesters on the water offshore.

Little more than that was said…at first. What has been said since may turn into a much bigger snowball by the time it gets to the bottom of the hill, as the analogy goes.

According to people on ships that turned around, Royal Caribbean officials said the protests Haiti-1had to do with upcoming (and postponed) elections in Haiti. After passengers dug deeper, they found the protesters were holding up signs because Royal Caribbean was not living up to its promise to build schools, hospitals and self-esteem in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

As a result, more people than ever are re-examining the cruise line’s “private resort” known as Labadee. As a result, critics like maritime lawyer Jim Walker are ripping Royal Caribbean in commentaries — logically presented — for making excessive profits at the expense of Haitian people who thought they were going to benefit from the development of Labadee.

As a result, now people are questioning why Royal Caribbean ships have returned to Labadee, as they did this week. More and more the answer appears to be money. Period. Going to another port deprives the cruise line of an enormous revenue stream. The “private resort” is waterfront property the cruise line bought for a song and it’s Labadee-ziplinesurrounded by barbed-wire fencing to protect passengers who spend millions zip-lining and lounging in cabanas or renting equipment to use on the water, and to keep out poor Haitians who want to sell their crafts and try to escape their poverty.

“Royal Caribbean pays no actual rent of any kind…but its passengers pay a $10 to $12 head tax,” writes Walker, who is a well-known thorn in the side of cruise lines but who has probably touched a raw nerve this time.

If the head tax goes to the government as “rent” then fees for the “world’s longest zipline” and most of passengers spend in Labadee is likely pure profit for Royal Caribbean. A conservative estimate is that’s about 10,000 visitors every week.

We’ve only been to Labadee once. One of us was sick. We never ventured far enough from Allure of the Seas even to see the fence around Labadee. We never met any of the locals, as we usually do. All we really know about it is what we’ve learned from Royal Caribbean, including how it’s dedicated to helping poor Haiti.

That’s called PR…for public relations. The return of its ships to Labadee solved one problem, but now Royal Caribbean appears to have another.

A PR problem, and clearly it’s growing.

In the news…

• A $450 million multi-year product innovation and ship renovation for Princess
• Two new ships to push Royal Caribbean capacity to four million passengers a year
• Five Norwegian ships — the most ever — going to Europe for summer 2017

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Princess restaurant SHARE

Emerald Princess
14 nights
April 2, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Bilbao, Paris, Southampton
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

Turkey Ports A Victim Of Fear

We’ve never been on a cruise ship that stopped in Turkey. Now, chances are we never will. Such is the cruise climate in this volatile part of the world, even though Istanbul and Kusadesi aren’t in the same area code as places bordering on Syria, where there are daily fears of terrorist attacks.

On the weekend, Crystal Cruises announced Turkey was persona non grata. The Crystal Symphony was scheduled to call at the two popular Turkish ports in late April and early May, but not now. The itineraries have been revised due to the “safety and peace of mind Espritof our guests” and the Symphony will make two more stops in Greece instead. The same goes for Crystal Esprit, a future ship (above) with itineraries that were going to include Turkey. The same goes for Disney cruises that once included Istanbul.

If there’s any irony in this, it’s that avoiding Turkey isn’t exactly the antidote for safety. It’s true that a suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul this month, an act that was obviously the trigger for Crystal’s decision. It’s also true that tourists have either been murdered or in danger of being murdered in Tunisia, and in Paris.

Tourists feel danger everywhere, because murderous attacks strike fear in the hearts and minds of the free world’s population. But it’s all about playing the odds, isn’t it? And in a country that’s geographically close to the troubled Middle East, the odds of being a victim seem higher.

Such is life in today’s world.

In the news…

• Sea trials completed for Holland America Koningsdam
• More Australians than ever booking cruises on P&O ships

Today at portsandbows.comTwo ships coming for Emerald Waterways

Star Princess
7 nights
May 14, 2016
Vancouver (return): Sitka, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Ketchikan
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

The Impact Of The Cost Of Fuel…?

The price of oil fell to $36.51 on Friday, far from when analysts were speculating it might go as high as $200. The national average for gasoline in the U.S. is now below $2 per gallon for the first time since the horse and buggy, it seems.

Cruise experts like our pal Phil Reimer say cruise prices are on the rise. Cruise lines are reporting enormous profits in their financials…how enormous is Carnival’s $2.1 billion net profit for 2015?

Are we missing something here?

A major cost for cruise lines is going down and the cost of cruising is going up?

Some airlines still include fuel surcharges in the price of tickets. While none we know of have that audacity, some cruise lines still have the option of doing the same thing. Some government postal services still add it to the price of shipping.

When will it end?

Probably when the people speak with actions…by not using the services of companies that adopt such ridiculous policies — or at least by using them less.

In the news…

• Carnival’s fees for room service to go fleet-wide after three-ship test

Today at portsandbows.comThe Harmony-ous fall from 10 stories

Ruby Princess
7 nights
June 19, 2016
Seattle (return): Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $128

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