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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

Christmas Trifecta for Princess Cruises

Three reasons for Princess Cruises to feel like Christmas has already arrived this year, which happens to be the cruise line’s 50th anniversary…


The Ruby Princess left Vancouver yesterday. No big deal…the Ruby Princess has been cruising in and out of the Canadian West Coast city all year. But December 15 is the latest Rubydate any Princess ship — maybe any cruise ship — has finished the season in Vancouver. If it were sports, you’d call this making the playoffs.

In a year that started earlier and ended later, Vancouver welcomed 32 ships and 800,000 cruise passengers. In addition to the annual Alaska cruises, there were some to Hawaii or the California coast by Princess ships. What happened yesterday was a winner for both Vancouver and Princess.


Cruise Fever fans picked Princess for “best Alaska cruise” for the second year in a row. Considering that Cruise Fever has only been polling its readers for three years, this is significant.

Having been on an Alaska cruise this year on the Star Princess, it’s easy to understand why the voters feel the way they do. With seven ships going to Alaska from three ports (Seattle and San Francisco are the others), Princess has developed a reputation for quality of not just cruises but also the cruisetours that feature lodges owned by Princess.


This one’s a sleeper. Literally.

{01bb855c-e9ba-430a-b5bb-4fc192d6dafb}_se5ms116_luxurybed_hdr_ta_v5Princess ships will have 44,000 new beds for heads to relax in, starting in February on the Coral Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess. The beds have been developed in conjunction with a certified sleep expert (did YOU know there were certified sleep experts?) and utilize the latest in mattress technology.

It will take about two years to outfit all 44,000, turning staterooms into sleep sanctuaries with a “sleep-friendly sensory experience” with “luxurious linens to soothing ocean sounds and relaxing aromas” — you get the idea.

Now if the Princess Luxury Beds are as comfortable as Westin’s Heavenly Beds

Hmm, a sleep-off?

In the news…

• Norwegian unveils ship deployments for summer of 2017
• Cruises on sale for MSC’s new Seaside, two years before sailing
• Extensive refurbishing for Emerald Princess early in 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: A taste of Ho Chi Minh City, port of the future

Carnival Triumph
7 nights
February 6, 2016
Galveston (return): Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

Cruising: It’s All About The Food

Chef Curtis StoneFor some of us, there’s an old (and probably outdated) saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…i.e., good cooks get good husbands. The subjects may have changed but the principle has not.

Good cooking gets many cruisers.

As the year winds down, there are two more examples to validate that thinking.

1) Princess Cruises has been hyping the fact that Chef Curtis Stone has opened his own restaurant (SHARE) on select ships, such as the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess, with more likely to follow. The “headlines” are “Chef Curtis Stone invites you…” and “Chef Curtis Stone shares his love with this special ingredient…”  and “A favorite family recipe from Chef Curtis Stone…”

2) The new Godmother of the Oceania Sirena — next year — will be Claudine Pepin, who has the right surname to be in the kitchen creating cuisines-des-spectacles. She is, of course, the daughter of the famous Jacques Pepin, who is Oceania’s master chef and The Pepinswhose restaurant is named after him and on two ships, the Riviera and the Marina.

See, it’s all about the food.

While we wouldn’t know Curtis Stone from Oliver Stone (we would know him from Sharon), it’s clear this Aussie “Celebrity Apprentice” grad has many followers and many exquisite recipes. He also has a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Maude, which means that a lot of the beautiful people enjoy his menus. And now a lot of cruisers will, too.

Claudine Pepin, also apparently, has some healthy credentials to go with her healthy food. Her Dad, who turns 80 before Christmas, made it big with Julia Child at his side on PBS and now Claudine’s stepping up in class with him at her side. She also had a PBS show — Cooking With Claudine — and this year has her first cookbook on the shelves for Christmas, Kids Cook French.

As generations of cooking go, both she and Curtis Stone represent a passing of the torch.

Or at least the spatula.

In the news…

• MSC Cruises offers 2-for-1 Caribbean fares for balcony guests starting April 23
• Flash from the past: Verandah Restaurant to open in June on Queen Mary 2
• Two sets of tourism students spend a day on Norwegian Epic in Cannes

Today at portsandbows.comSuite time with Celebrity

Carnival Fantasy
5 nights
January 27, 2016
Charleston (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $81

Ships To Climb Celebrity Ladder


Five years ago, we cruised on the Celebrity Millennium. It was a memorable cruise. The first time we’d seen the Panama Canal. First time we visited Huatulco, Mexico. First time on a Celebrity ship. When the cruise ended, almost two weeks after it started, it was difficult to disembark.

The other day, Celebrity announced extensive refurbishing is planned for two of its ships, the Infinity (above) and the Summit (below), both about the same vintage as the Millennium (2000). Here is one of the comments from the CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo:

“We want these suites to be so luxurious and comfortable that it’s difficult for guests to leave at the end of their vacation.”

That’s pretty much how we felt…and we weren’t even in a suite.

The working life of cruise ships is generally not much shorter than the working life of human: about 30 years. But cruise ships are flexible. They can be modified in ways than humans can’t. They can be rebuilt from the hulls up, if necessary. All it takes is money. Even money can’t make an old human young again, as much as many humans try.

Celebrity is spending millions, about 16 of them, on refurbishing the Infinity. For those of us who don’t stay in suites, the most notable update will be outside, at the top. On Deck 12, the ship will have a new “rooftop terrace”…comfy furniture, a big outdoor screen for movies with surround sound, unique food experiences. Wide open spaces by day, drive-in theater by night.

The Infinity will get a restaurant upgrade, too, when it enters dry-dock this month (the Summit’s d-date is March). New to the ship will be the Tuscan Grille, an Italian-style specialty restaurant that originated on the Solstice Class ships and now is spreading fleet-wide, currently 10 ships since the old Century left earlier this year.

When these ships become old enough to move on, or too old to modernize, it’ll be difficult for them to leave. Until then, it’ll be the passengers who have that problem.

SummitIn the news…

• Cruise industry's new richest man, Francois Pinault, 'dethrones' Philip Anschutz
• Two Princess ships to have two names on hull, one English and one Chinese
• Yet another unique water slide at sea — for Liberty of the Seas in February

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival proud of Cozumel changes

Emerald Princess
5 nights
November 2, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Majahual, Cozumel
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49

Friday File: Houses Of Worship 'Magnets'

One of the interesting things we find about churches in other countries is that how many of their visitors — we suspect — don’t attend church at home. There’s something alluring about old churches. Maybe it’s the architecture that reflects its time. Maybe it’s the colorful stained glass windows. Or its statues. Or its tranquility. Or maybe just because it’s there, and so are we. Something churches always have is a photo-op, and these are some of ours…

Temple in Cambodia

In Oudong (Cambodia), a Buddhist temple that defies description


In Barcelona, a magnificent church not called La Sagrada Familia

Cathedral of San Lorenzo

In Italy, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, dating back to Roman times

Guadaloupe Church

In Mexico, the colorful Guadaloupe Church in the heart of Huatulco


On the French island of Ajaccio, as tasteful a sanctuary as you’ll see

Angkor Wat templeAt Angkor Wat, this display was in a building adjacent to the main temple

In the news…

• More than 20,000 now have cruises affected by Hurricane Joaquin
• Christmas markets on the Mississippi for American Queen steamboat
• Norwegian the latest cruise line to open an Australian office, in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's Internet kicked up a notch 

Emerald Princess
5 nights
November 2, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49

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