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Typhoon Haiyan Elicits Belated Response from Cruise Lines

 

All of us who've been on a major-market cruise ship have met and perhaps befriended somebody from the Philippines. Last Friday, Typhoon Haiyan wiped more than 1,800 Filipinos from the face of the earth and the death count is unquestionably going higher, ravaging extending families of many people who serve your meals, make your beds and do your laundry when you're on a cruise. 

How is the industry that employees thousands upon thousands of people from the Philippines reacting?

Slowly.

The typhoon hit on Friday. It was labelled as potentially the worst storm in the history of the world. It was evident that tragedy was imminent and that tragedy would be a modest word for what was about to unfold. The photo above was how it looked from the International Space Station.

It was three days — Monday — before most cruise lines took a public position on anything to do with Typhoon Haiyan. In some cases it was Tuesday. In other cases…still nothing. By then it was being referred to us "the end of the world" for some Filipinos.

Here is a sampling and how six dealt with it in press releases or on social media:

Norwegian — Almost immediately on Facebook, it issued a sympathetic statement about its Filipino employees and announced a fund would be set up, details to follow. That was later amended to an appeal for donations, from crew members and guests. There was no mention of a corporate financial contribution.

Cunard — Its latest press release announces that Cunard has been "recognized as top midsize ship cruise line."

Princess — The biggest news is that the cruise line has a new president and the Princess cruise to support veterans had just departed in time for Veterans Day.

Royal Caribbean — On Monday, noting that there are 12,800 Filipinos employed by Royal Caribbean and 60,000 on all 41 ships in affiliated cruise lines, pledged to match employee donations, dollar for dollar.

Disney — On Tuesday, having said nothing, it announced itineraries for 2014 and 2015.

Holland America — News of the week remains winning eight Readers Choice Awards at Conde Nast Traveler.

So, now you can be the judge of whether cruise lines have reacted appropriately.

This, of course, is something of a moving target. Late yesterday, for example, Carnival covered off its 11 brands — as well as the Miami Heat — by pledging a million dollars on behalf of all of them. Today, maybe another cruise line will do more, perhaps to one-up Carnival. In the end, that's good for the poor victims of the Philippines, even if it did get off to a slow start.

Ruby Princess
4 nights
January 9, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $57
www.princess.com

 

Let the Sun shine in Florida now

We’re feeling a little nostalgic today. One of our favorite ships, the Norwegian Sun, has a new home and one that’s not especially easy to get to, should the mood strike us.

When it’s not on a road trip, the Sun is bedding down in Port Canaveral and, while that’s just a car rental from Miami, it’s a long way from California. It’s going to be on Eastern and Western Caribbean runs for the next year and a half, until April 2012. We hope it doesn’t get bored.

More importantly, we hope the Sun’s crew doesn’t get bored, even though its cast has changed since we last met. This particular group of cruise employees was among the nicest we have encountered. They dressed her up right.

There was Dollerage, who seemed to be our waiter every night and who seemed to enjoy our unique brand of interaction as much as we did. He’s from Mumbai, India, and we think he’s at home now attending to his flowers and his young family, his cruise days behind him. When our time together was ending and we brought out the camera to have a photo taken with him, Dollerage quipped: “Family picture.”

There was a sweet server named Amee from Indonesdia. There was a room steward we affectionately called Bernabe “Squared” because his first name was the same as his list. There was Andrea, a highly educated and entertaining Italian who was the cruise director, in more languages than we could count. And there was Darren, then a rookie server from Trinidad in the main dining room who has gone on to bigger things, and deservedly so, with Norwegian.

The Sun was our introduction to freestyle cruising, and we took to it like butter to bread. She was our home for almost three weeks, the longest we’ve ever been on any cruise ship, and we were sorry to see her go on to another port without us.

Now, to see this Sun setting on Florida horizons is obviously a little bittersweet, but these things happen. You raise three kids and set them free. You have a favorite ship, and watch it sail to someplace that’s a little geographically undesirable.

Such is life.

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