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The Business of Ship Godmothers

Anthem

Is the whole Godmother thing wearing a little thin in the cruise world, are people getting tired of celebrities, or is there a shortage of “acceptable” celebrities?

The Godmother of Anthem of the Seas, the new Royal Caribbean ship that’s being christened in Southampton in two weeks, is Emma Wilby.

Emma Wilby?

She’s from the Wilbys of Kinloss, Scotland, where she sings in the Military Wives Choir. She’s undoubtedly a lovely lass, as the Scots would say, and when she christens the Emma WilbyAnthem she’ll sing an anthem, a special song written specifically for the occasion.

When all is said and done, she will be a celebrity of sorts…for singing, for christening and for being a ship’s godmother. She’ll join a Royal Caribbean list of godmothers that include Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Steffi Graf and Jane Seymour. Sophia Loren is also a Godmother, and so are Queen Elizabeth (not the ship) and her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Celebrity company that is, and if Emma feels a little out of place it’s easy to understand why. In addition to being a military wife — her husband is a royal engineer in the British Army — Emma is a travel agent.

And that is one of the pools of people into which cruise lines are dipping to find their godmothers now. She is not the first travel agent to be so selected, and one cruise line went in-house and picked employees to do the honors.

The conclusion to be drawn is that either celebrities bring too much “baggage” with them, making it more difficult to use them to market such a wholesome product as cruising…or maybe it’s just that travel agents just sell more tickets.

Today at portsandbows.com: Princess ship a bilingual experience in Japan

Holland America Eurodam
12 nights
May 8, 2015
Copenhagen (return): Kiel, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin
Inside: $829
Cost per day: $69
www.hollandamerica.com

From Something Bad, Something Good

In the interests of balanced reporting or commentary, here’s a good and bad (or bad and good) item about cruise ship safety.

Bad…

The captain of the late Costa Concordia is on trial right now, and that revives the memories of the tragedy off the island of Giglio on Friday the 13th almost three years ago. The captain’s Concordia routedefense is that he took the ship off course — and ultimately onto rocks that led to the deaths of 32 people — because (a) he wanted to salute a retired captain living on Giglio (b) it was a favor to the ship’s head waiter, who was from Giglio and (c) there was commercial value in doing a “fly-by” that would impress passengers, something he had “often” done.

Good…

Funded by the European Union, the Lynceus Project — winner of the 2014 Lloyd's List Global Award for “Innovation” — has developed a way to track people on ships in an emergency by embedding wireless tags in life jackets. This will allow the ship’s crew to pinpoint the exact location of every person on board, as well as the location of anybody who has fallen overboard. Results have been submitted to the International Maritime Organization with the hope the devices will soon be used on cruise ships and ferries.

The project was a direct result of two crashes: the Concordia and a ferry full of school children, last April in South Korea.

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara serves long notice

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
January 4, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.hollandamerica.com

Jewel Shining Light in Houston

There was a celebration in Texas on the weekend when a 9-year-old ship entered a 100-year-old waterway to kick off a cruise experience that’s in its infancy.

Houston has a new cruise ship.

This one is called the Jewel, as in Norwegian Jewel, and after what it’s been through lately it is a jewel. It’s the beginning of a relationship between the cruise line and the port that Jewelwill go on for years…three of them, at least. And when it comes to the biggest city, this is not Norwegian’s first, as they say in Texas, rodeo.

This was the first cruise line to put a ship in Houston’s Ship Channel, 17 years ago. Norwegian came back for another look in 2003 and stayed four years. Now, with a new cruise terminal and lucrative contract, Norwegian began cruises to the Western Caribbean this week, following some of the pomp and pageantry that accompanies such launches.

The Jewel was the shining star. Fresh from refurbishing, it boasts many of the assets of its bigger and newer fleetmates. Passengers will have 16 dining options, Nickelodeon activities Houston Bay Terminaland the largest suites at sea, the 5,000-square-foot, three-bedroom Garden Villas. Among the restaurants is a favorite of ours (O’Sheehan’s), the steak-heavy Moderno Churrascaria and Carlo’s Bakery, all of which came along after the Jewel did in 2005.

With the upgrade, the Jewel jumps into the post-Epic era of Norwegian ships as it begins 27 Caribbean cruises from the Bayport Cruise Terminal, tomorrow becoming the first large cruise ship to visit the new port of Banana Coast, in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras.

Before leaving Houston, the Jewel hosted a party of sorts. The people from the Port Captain HarstromAuthority put a cowboy hat on the captain (Kenneth Harstrom) and then said all the right things about economic development and happy cruisers who were going to enjoy (and bring their tourist dollars) to Houston.

A hundred years ago last month at another celebration, politicians and local authorities also said all the right things at a party christening the Ship Channel. That ceremony had thousands of spectators, a 21-gun salute and, from Washington, the President himself (Woodrow Wilson) remotely fired a cannon to open the channel, officially, following a bond issue approved by the citizens, who voted 16-1 in favor.

Ironically, it opened the same year as the Panama Canal, as a civil engineering feat of lesser stature, yet critical to the economy. Until then, goods shipped to Houston had to be unloaded in Galveston and trucked more than an hour up the road to the big city. A hurricane that leveled Galveston in 1900 and the discovery of oil around the same time gave legs to the idea of a deep-water channel to Houston.

Needless to say, the investment has been repaid many times over. Now, Houston hopes the same will apply to its investment in cruising.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
November 9, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Key West
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.hollandamerica.com

Cunard heralding return of Sweet James Taylor

More than four years ago, James Taylor and his entourage crossed the Atlantic Ocean on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and everybody knows how much the passengers liked him because, seriously, who wouldn't?

Now we know that Taylor liked them.

He's going back for a reprise, as they say, next August. His appearance — it includes two Taylor concerts — will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the ship's arrival. So Happy Birthday from Sweet Baby James.

"In 2009, we realized a collective dream using that passage to transport and rehearse for our European summer tour: band, crew and family — kit and James Taylorcaboodle," he said in a press release. "It’s such a civilized way to go, and Queen Mary 2 is the last word in first-class travel."

Taylor may have been born at night, but not last night, as they also say. His band was transported to Europe for a summer tour at no cost, thanks to Cunard. His tour schedule for 2014 hasn't been posted yet, except that he's in Massachusetts in July for two concerts…and Massachusetts isn't far from where the Queen Mary 2 will depart, which is New York.

As icons go, Taylor is amazing.

It has been 43 years since Sweet Baby James, which was his second album but the one that skyrocketed him to fame. He has sold 100 million albums even though he hasn't made one in 11 years, and he is in both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. He has been decorated by countries on both sides of the ocean he'll cross next August and he joins a long list of prestigious musical performers Cunard has enlisted to entertain guests.

He's 65 and not ready for retirement, which has never been mandatory for performers, and he clearly has reached the age and sentiment with which many cruise passengers can identify. Asked about sailing across the ocean, he uttered four words that echo the love people have for Transatlantic crossings.

"Hallelejuah…no jet lag!"

Holland America Eurodam
14 nights
March 30, 2014
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCadizAlmeriaCartagenaRome
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49
www.hollandamerica.com

Dancing With Holland America

Are we the only people on the seven seas — or the face of the planet — who have never seen Dancing With The Stars?

Is it acronymious of us to admit that DWTS is not among our list of acronyms, which at various times has included MLB, AA, PVR, ATM, FAQ and hundreds of others?

Could that explain why we're bemused that Holland America is launching a series of six Dancing With…er, DWTS Cruises in 2013 and 2014 so that "dancers" can learn to mambo, jive and tango with the best of them, and then rub shoulders (or hips) with the "stars?"

Are we out of tune with the world when we've heard of Maria Callas but not Mark Ballas, Magic but not Kym Johnson, and David but not Lacey Schwimmer…that the Monaco we know more about is "Princess Grace of" and not "Kelly" (the star pictured on the right)?

Does history look like our short suit because we didn't know that DWTS is based on a British TV series called Strictly Come Dancing, that the two of them convinced the Guinness people to name them the world's most successful reality TV format, and that has been nominated for 50 Emmys and won 10?

Is it possible that anything thinks we've missed the boat because when the first DWTS Cruise happens on the Eurodam in February to the Eastern Caribbean, we'll be on the Crown Princess in the Western Caribbean?

Will Holland America, which is also branding the DWTS motif on its entire fleet, have the last laugh when it has all 15 ships jammed with dancing wannabes while we're still wondering how they managed to be sold right out?

That's SRO, by the way…


Golden Princess
14 nights
February 27, 2013
Los Angeles (return): Hilo, Honolulu, Nawiliwili, Lahaina, Ensenada
Inside: $995
Cost per day: $71
www.princesscruises.com

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