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Pearl Time For The Legends

You know, those of us who have seen Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic should have known it would find a new home. We should have known it wouldn’t work as well in Europe, where the Epic has been since spring and where it will stay until November 2016, because Europeans don’t seem to take as readily to “tribute” acts as North Americans.

Legends in Concert-MJ copyWe should have known that Legends in Concert was sunk when a passenger pointed out last month on Cruise Critic that the show was cancelled during her cruise, with no explanation from Norwegian. In the fine print of the cruise line’s website, you can find (eventually) that the last show was September 20.

But we didn’t.

The good news is that Legends in Concert is moving to the Norwegian Pearl. Now the Pearl’s no Epic — a little more than half the size — but the theaters are probably much more comparable. Clearly, Norwegian had to find a home for this show once its five-year run on the Epic was over, or risk losing it to another cruise line.

Would that matter?

Norwegian is consistently cited for having the best entertainment at sea, often winning awards for it from the people who create awards. That goes for the Epic, too. It can’t be a coincidence that Norwegian has been at or near the top of the entertainment category for the last five years (the Epic is five years old) and that Legends in Concert has been a fixture on the ship.

PearlWe’ve seen Legends in Concert twice on the Epic. We weren’t expecting the shows to be winners, but they were. The “tribute acts” included some performers who were favourites (Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett) and some who weren’t (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears). All were good.

On the Pearl, starting…now, the tribute acts are Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…and you can guess which two.

In the news…

• Norwegian Star's propulsion problem takes ship straight to Tampa
• Doug Ward's 2016 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ship Guide released
• Smaller Maasdam to replace departing Volendam in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Second American river cruiser for Pacific Northwest


Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $504
Cost per day: $72
www.princess.com

Friday File: All Cruisers On Deck

In case you think a pool deck is a pool deck is a pool deck…well, it’s not true. Cruise aficionados who spend a lot of time soaking up the rays or jumping into pools large and small — or both — believe part of the appeal of a cruise ship is its pool deck. While we’re neither sun worshippers nor avid swimmers, we always take pictures of the pool deck because, well, we never know when we’ll need them for a day like today…

1-Allure

This was when Allure of the Seas was showing its pool deck to North Americans for the first time, in Fort Lauderdale.

2-Diadema

You’d probably never use “Italian” to describe this rather modest pool area, but it’s the Costa Diadema and very Italian.

Epic pool

“Unique” has always applied to the Norwegian Epic, and you won’t likely see this kind of artwork in another cruise deck pool.

AmaDara pool deck

On river ships, the pool area is usually secondary and frequently unpopulated, as it usually is on AmaWaterways’ new AmaDara.

5-Ecstasy

“Busy” is always a good descriptor for a Carnival ship’s pool deck, and that was certainly the case on the Carnival Ecstasy.

6-Reflection

A “peaceful” area on the Celebrity Reflection enhanced by huge artwork on the walls of a ship know for its artistic impressions.

7-Riviera
On the Oceania Riviera, the upper deck is tasteful and understated, with a pool meant for dipping more than swimming.

In the news…

• Mobile, Alabama negotiating to be Carnival homeport for first time since 2011
• Amber Cove port on schedule to open October 6 in Dominican Republic
• Danube, Elbe low water levels still a challenge for river cruisers in Europe

Today at portsandbows.com: Bermuda more popular with Carnival


Carnival Sensation
4 nights
November 1, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $57
www.carnival.com

More Breaks For Single Cruisers

 

Cruise times are changing. They always are. Here’s one of the latest…

Cunard announced a refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2, and with it comes news that 15 single staterooms will be added. The rationale from Cunard is that single rooms are necessary because not only are more people cruising solo, but there are more family groups traveling together that include singles. There are already single staterooms available on fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

There is no single supplement for these cabins. In other words, you pay the same per-person price as you would if two to a cabin.

Other cruise lines have been ahead of that curve for some time. The Epic, with 128 solo cabins (some connecting) was the first in the Norwegian fleet with the highly-popular option for single travelers. There’s also a Studio Lounge, for the exclusive use of passengers who book in the solo cabins. With no single supplement they sell out quickly. Surprisingly, there are fewer single cabins on Norwegian’s latest ships, the Getaway and the Breakaway (59 on each). 

The Escape, being launched in the fall, will have 82. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each have 28 single staterooms, and Ovation of the Seas, also arriving this fall, will apparently also have 28 solo cabins. No single supplements apply.

Costa Cruises has 17 solo cabins on at least two of its ships, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. There is a single supplement, although not exorbitant.

Carnival does offer some value-priced solo cruise fares, with some supplements as low as five per cent.

One thing is certain: In the cruise world, singles are being heard.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's 'Evenings Around The World'

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
May 1, 2016
Los Angeles, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

Cruising…What’s Not To Like?

To state the obvious: We LOVE cruising! Our longest cruise, 19 days, left us wishing we were staying on board a little longer. We’d found a home away from home. We would cruise almost anywhere. 

So when friends recently asked us what we didn’t like about cruising, we had to stop and think. As you’d expect our list is not long…

1. The continuous up-sell tactics in the spas, and that’s virtually all spas on all ships: Whether it’s another spa service, a brush, a cream or a potion, we MUST need it! The consequences of not buying something we think is over-priced at best or unnecessary at worst are terminal, or worse. To be clear, we’re not real “spa” people. We don’t “spa” much on land, so our experience is somewhat limited and perhaps a little jaded.

2. Arriving at the dining room in which we are told beforehand that we can dine anytime we choose, and with anyone we choose, and eat anything we want on the menu: We Deck chairsusually ask for a table for two, and the frequent response we get is this: “Would you mind joining others?” Our response is always the same…NO! If we had wanted a group table, that is what we would have requested.

3. Passengers who still insist on saving the el primo lounge chairs for several hours while they are otherwise occupied on the ship: The towel and water glass sitting on the lounger for a couple of hours, unoccupied, is usually the tip-off. Since cruise lines don’t want to designate “towel police” to enforce something that will alienate even a small percentage of their passengers, it’s un-solvable. Maybe they should hold classes on manners.

4. Cold toast…kind of picky, we know: We have been told by high-ranking kitchen staff that logistics makes this virtually impossible. In all our cruises, the only place we’ve found hot toast is on the Norwegian Epic, in O’Sheehan’s Pub of all places, because we actually watched them make the toast and bring it straight to our table. Thanks, Kevin O’Sheehan!

And that’s all.

Today at portsandbows.com: The battle of Galveston and Houston

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
October 19, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39
www.carnival.com

Norwegian On The Move Worldwide

We could be wrong about this but we detect the heavy hand of Frank Del Rio in Norwegian’s latest news bulletin.

And that’s good.

For the first time in 13 years, Norwegian is sending a ship to Asia and Australia. For the first time ever, Norwegian is sending a ship to the Persian Gulf and India. For the first time since any of us can remember, Norwegian is going to base a ship in South America for two consecutive winters (having taken the Norwegian Sun to South America a few years ago — on what will always be near the top of our favorite cruises — this item really got our attention).

And finally, for the first time since…April, the Norwegian Epic is returning to North America.

All of this is going to start happening next year, and it smacks of the ambitious and gregarious CEO of Norwegian Holdings, Frank Del Rio, who has been on the job just seven months, and his Norwegian lieutenant, Andy Stuart.

That Norwegian would find its way to Asia was inevitable, because there isn’t going to be a major cruise line without a presence there. That its new itineraries would spread to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India demonstrates the intent the cruise line has to be a player in those markets.

By ships, here is how it shakes down for the fall and winter of 2016-17…

Norwegian Star will launch its program from Istanbul on October 31, 2016 on a 20-day cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal and eventually Dubai. After that, its ports on a variety of cruises will include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bali, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.

Norwegian Epic will summer in Europe and winter in the Caribbean, from Miami, an about-face for a ship that was going to sail year-round from Barcelona. The first of its 3-4-and-7-day cruises will be in the fall of 2016.

Norwegian Spirit will replace the Epic in Europe for year-round Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul.

Norwegian Sun (ah, memories) will continue to be the workhorse in South America, where in the winter of 2015-16 it will be on cruises of two weeks or longer.

Norwegian Jewel will make two trips each way through the Panama Canal in October 2016 and April 2017.

Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Tampa, for Caribbean winter cruises, likely returning to Europe in the summer.

By the time all this falls into place, the Norwegian Escape will be here (it hits the water October 25 and crosses the ocean four days later. With the return of the Epic, that means Norwegian’s four biggest ships of its 14-member fleet — Epic, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway — will all be spending their winters in Caribbean waters.

So for as much talk as there is about cruise lines and their expansion to Asia and Australia, the core of this business is still Caribbean cruises.

In the news…

• Carnival, Dr. Seuss host two celebrity book-reading events
• America Cruise Lines doubles capacity on Snake, Columbia Rivers

Today at portsandbows.com: Chef Curtis Stone on Princess fleet

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $99
Cost per day: $33
www.princess.com

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