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The Modern Problem Of Picking A Port

With each day, and each violent activity often linked to terrorism, reasonable people who like to travel get even more reasonable. Or concerned. Or paranoid. Or even scared.

Pick an adverb. The uncertainty of traveling abroad — be it in one direction to Europe or in the other to Asia — understandably may leave North Americans more likely to pick a cruise ship departing and returning to a North American port. Not that there are any guarantees that doing so will keep you from being an unsuspecting victim of terrorism.

But even seasoned travelers are at least having second thoughts. Why fly internationally to get on a cruise if you can fly domestically, or better yet drive or take ground transportation to a port of departure?

This is good (okay, more comforting) news for cruise lines with ships that primarily visit the Caribbean, or assorted other warm-weather spots in the Western Hemisphere. Since a Caribbean cruise still out-ranks all others, that would be most of them, yet many have shifted their investments — and some of their ships — to Asia the last couple of years, which in today’s world could mean counting on a local (Asian) clientele.

For North Americans, there is no shortage of options. A quick count shows that there are 21 cruise homeports in this continent: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Galveston, Houston, Charleston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Bayonne, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Anchorage, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Montreal.

So if you’re an avid cruiser who’s reluctant to fly afar to get to a ship, pick a port.

You may find many kindred spirits.

In the news…

• Two biggest ships (both Royal Caribbean) in southern hemisphere meeting in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.comChristmas markets with Viking in Europe


Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.ncl.com

Majestic Princess…majestic port stays

There was an announcement from Santa Clarita, California yesterday and when cruise announcements come from this pretty city north of Los Angeles, that almost certainly means Princess Cruises has something to say.

What Princess had to say yesterday was that people who want to cruise on its new ship, the Majestic Princess, can now start to make plans. That the cruise line’s first ship in three years, since the Regal Princess, will spend its first (2017) summer in Europe, which is always a nice place to spend your summer. That passengers will be able to choose from 64 itineraries, 153 departures, 27 countries and Mediterranean cruises from five to 28 days. And that bookings can be made next Thursday, December 3.

Good stuff.

But the most interesting part of the announcement, at least in our corner of the cruise Majestic Princessworld, was that Princess ships — or at least this one — will be staying longer in ports. Overnights, even.

This is one of the growing trends for ocean ships, picking up on what river ships have long been doing…and, yes, that is a different game for many reasons. Over the past couple of years, cruise lines have started to schedule more late-night departures and some overnight stays because…surprise, surprise…the passengers like them.

How many times have you been in an interesting city and felt that your visit was being cut short because last call for the ship was four o’clock in the afternoon, which meant you probably had to start heading there at three? How many times have you wished you could have dinner and not lunch at one of the local restaurants, perhaps recommended by a local? How many times have you thought it would be nice to stay for a theatrical performance or a sports event that started after you were back at sea?

Princess is getting more into the game.

The Majestic Princess (or its seaworthy siblings) will, in a program called More Ashore, offer passengers a chance to stay in 15 European countries until 9 p.m. or later…defeating the theory that the only people on cruise ships are old, tired and in bed by dark. It will also be staying overnight in places such as Dublin, Stockholm and St. Petersburg.

So this was not only news from Santa Clarita yesterday…it was good news.

In the news…

• Record year of cruising expected for New South Wales
• Cunard’s ‘The Ultimate Upgrade’ available until November 30
• Ponant’s evacuated Le Boreal being towed to shore after fire

Today at portsandbows.comCrystal Cruises more up in the air

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
Jan 9, 2016
San Juan (return): Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Thomas
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

Friday File: Cruising And Works Of Art

Wherever your cruise ship takes you, one thing you can be certain of is that you will encounter local artwork. It may be a statue, or a mural, or a sandcastle or something that you’re not quite sure what it is, but it will always be interesting. In years of cruising, we’ve admired (okay, at least looked at) a variety of such works of art…

Puerto RicoOn this street in San Juan, Puerto Rico…a powerful message open to interpretation.

Alaska museum

If you can't find the real thing in Alaska, and often you can't, there's always a museum version.

Arica

The pretty town of Arica in northern Chile always has to make its statues earthquake-proof.

Valencia

In Valencia, Spain, a colorful expression of nations sends travelers looking for their 'home' statue.

Murals-Pier 39

If you've ever departed from or arrived in San Francisco, you know all about this part of Fisherman's Wharf.

Bermuda

Bermuda has no shortage of works like this, which add to the charm of a charming island.

In the news…

• Tampa port recognized by NOAA as "storm ready" for extreme weather
• Huge Princess sale offers $300 savings on cruise plus $300 on airfare
• MSC Lirica last of four ships to be 'stretched' to add 800 cabins

Today at portsandbows.com: Suite news for Holland America fans


Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
3 nights
December 11, 2015
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56
www.royalcaribbean.com

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

Vietnam: Cruising’s Next Hotspot?

Maybe it’s because we were just in Vietnam, cruising down the Mekong River on the AmaDara. Maybe it’s because every time somebody asks us what Vietnam was like, we can’t say enough nice things. Maybe it’s because more cruise ships — new ones from Carnival and Norwegian and Princess, all announced in a 24-hour period — are going to be visiting Vietnam from their Asian homeports.

Maybe it’s the food, which is as tasty as you’ll find anywhere. Maybe it’s because when the DSCN2011preliminary Trans-Pacific Partnership was announced last week, the partners are Australia and the United States and Canada and Singapore and Chile…and Vietnam.

Maybe it’s all of that.

For tourism, Vietnam is the next Cuba.

Yes, it’s a Communist country. Yes, it was war-torn and hated all those years ago. Yes, it comes with uncertainty bred by a lack of knowledge. All of those things crossed our minds before we flew to Cambodia, which is not Communist but also comes with the other psychological baggage…and which is also warm and welcoming.

We loved them both. The people are warm and friendly. The people are happy and prospering, at least by the standards they have known for too long. They want a better life and with at least some access to the World Wide Web, they’re seeing things they’ve never seen. They see that tourism is an enormous asset.

The U.S. has recognized this Vietnam since 1996. With the emigration of many cruise ships to the Asian market, cruise analysts also have recognized the attraction of taking their customers to Vietnam. The river cruisers probably started it, and the AmaWaterways ship that took us to within an hour of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not a refurbished, aged relic of the past…it is new.

Cuba wants to welcome the world, and it’s hot. Vietnam is going to be.

In the news…

• 15 singles cabins, 30 Britannia Club balcony cabins for Queen Mary 2 
• Viking returning to cruise 'Kiev to the Black Sea' in Ukraine next year
• Official ceremony naming next two P&O ships to be done on Twitter

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

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