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NCL Ship Crew the Pride of America


Anybody who has been on a cruise ship and who has taken the time to find out already knows that cruise lines strive to be environmentally responsible, in as many ways as possible.

Times have changed. Raw waste is no longer dumped into the ocean. Garbage from ships is no longer dumped into bins at the next port. Plastic and styrofoam containers are no longer the drink container of choice.

In Hawaii, Norwegian Cruise Line employees go even further — Hawaii and Norwegian are by no means the only place and people, respectively, doing things like this. But there is a regular clean-up program in Hawaii, all year long.

Last week, crew members from the Pride of America orchestrated a beach clean-up in Maui, at Kanaha Beach Park. In February, P of A crew members did the same thing in Kauai, at Nawiliwili Harbor. That one was particularly interesting because it involved students from a local school and enabled them to study what comes from the ocean — even from a tsunami — and to log items in a statewide database.

Is there a better way to breed a new generation of eco responsibility?

On several cruises, we've been fortunate enough to visit the bowels (pardon the pun) of the ship, where trash is incinerated or crushed for unloading at a port and where ocean water is de-salienated and recycled as potable water on the ship. Never have we seen a "garbage dump" so clean.

In Hawaii, the Pride of America is a natural responsible corporate citizen. It sails around the Hawaiian Islands 52 weeks a year, taking 2,500 passengers a week to Kahului (Maui), Hilo, Kona and Kauai.

The ship is an interesting study. It was ordered in 1999 by American Classic Voyages, which went bankrupt in 2001. Norwegian picked up the unfinished ship in 2003 and has been sailing it in Hawaii for seven years. Partially built in the U.S., it is the only new major cruise line ship in the 50 years to fly the American flag.

Truly, she reflects the "Pride" of America…and nowhere more than on the beaches of Hawaii.

Holland America Rotterdam
14 nights
July 7, 2012
Rotterdam (return): Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Tromso, Honningsvag, Alesund, Flam, Stavanger
Inside: $1,625
Cost per day: $116

Vancouver Olympian as port city

When it comes to arriving in a port on a cruise ship, it’s hard to imagine a prettier one than Vancouver, the most recent North American city to become known world-wide after hosting the Olympics.

We have spent a lot of time in Vancouver over the years. Even at that, when we sailed into the harbor in Burrard Inlet aboard the Coral Princess, early one misty Saturday morning with the sun breaking over the horizon in the east, it was a jaw-dropping moment.

The photos on this blog don’t do it justice, often the case with photos, as even the most amateur of photographers knows.

Cruise lines know what a wonderful sight Vancouver presents early in the morning, when their ships arrive, but as always cruise lines are at the mercy of their customers’ likes and dislikes. Over the past few years, the number of ships using Vancouver as a home port has slipped, at least in part because it means flying into a foreign port and going through what is sometimes an arduous customs experience.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back.

In 2011, the Port of Vancouver reported a 15% increase in business over 2010. From May to October, more than 650,000 passengers arrived on 27 different vessels during almost 200 cruise ship calls, almost all of them involving the Alaska market.

Two cruise lines sailing to Alaska for the first time made Vancouver home this year. Disney moved in its Wonder and, even though it was a one-hit Wonder (or one-year commitment), port estimates are the overall numbers will be even higher in 2012. Oceania also tied up its  Regatta, and the Crystal sent the Symphony to visit Canada’s prettiest city 10 times.

There are reasons to like Vancouver that go beyond its scenic impression. People who live in the city have long trumpeted being “green” and this was the first full cruise season when ships could all shut off their engines and plug in to reduce air emissions while in port.

Princess, Holland America, Regent and Silversea all earned “Blue Circle Awards” — why not Green Circle? — for having the highest emissions reduction.

As first-time arrivals at the port, we weren’t sure what to expect, compared to other arrival ports. Clearing customs was painless. Disembarking was orderly and no longer than in most terminals. Ground transportation was organized.

There was only one flaw.

If you’re trying to get to the street, everything narrows into one opening barely wide enough for two people, let alone manoeuvering through it with two or three pieces of luggage. But by the time you get that far, you’re in such a good mood from everything preceding it that…really, is it that big a deal?

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
January 28, 2012
New York to Bahamas return
Inside $429

Eco Scenes, The Good and The Bad

ON BOARD THE CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM, sailing from Puntarenas, Costa Rica — In these days of political correctness, especially of the eco kind, sometimes the skeptics among us wonder if people professing to being good custodians of the planet are just saying that because it’s the thing to say. Are they practising what they preach? Do the plastic containers in that blue box really wind up being recycled, or are they taken to some landfill?
This country is known for its environmental good citizenship. Lately. The forests of Costa Rica were ravaged over the decades, and preservation has become a priority in recent years. Good and bad.
On our stop here, we saw both.
The Tarcoles River, and the two hours we spent floating on it looking at crocodiles and birds co-habitating, is the bad. It empties into the Pacific, and carries a generous amount of debris that tour guides dismiss as the fault of Costa Rica’s Central Valley residents, who care more about money than trees.
The Rain Forest Aerial Tram, about an hour north of the ocean, is the good. Now we’ve all seen trams carved out of a mountainside — you can spot the clear-cut a mile away. This tram is not visible. When it was built, every post, cable and car was flown in by helicopter, obviously at great expense because the nearest ‘copter capable was in Colombia.
This is a commercial operation, so it is here to make money, but clearly not at environmental expense. It is part of the 6% of Costa Rica that is protected by professionals, as opposed to the government’s 25%, and the guides are passionate — “I want to show you so much about the forest but they only gave me 40 minutes.”
The only blatant moneymakers are the zip-line cables that cater to the thrill seekers (the answer is NO). The more genteel thrill seekers are obsessed with seeing the elusive scarlet toucan, a magnificent and famous colorful bird known to zip by.
We saw at least five of them, perched high and deep in rain-forest trees. At least we were told that’s what we saw. They could have been old cans of paint hanging among the branches, but while that might have mollified the genteel thrill seekers, it would disgust keepers of the planet, and not just in Costa Rica.
That’s it…we’re done.

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