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Princess Lands ‘The Voice of the Ocean’

On September 21, The Voice returns to NBC for Season 9. On October 3, The Voice of the Ocean goes on Princess Cruises for Season 1.

The competition on Princess ships is the same concept as in the TV studio. Blind auditions followed by coaching. Performances behind the three rotating chairs occupied by the “coaches.” For any number of reasons, starting with logistics, the chairs won’t be occupied by Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams or Gwen Stefani.

Because Voice of the Ocean will be on 11 ships and 24 cruises between October and next  May, those coaches will be “charismatic” people who might also be guest performers on the ships, or hotel managers or even captains.

The contestants?

That’s you!

Passengers with talent will be invited to auditions. With mentors by their sides, they’ll be polished and accompanied by back-up singers and musicians. The coaches will pick their The Voice-2teams, just like they do on TV, and on the last night of the cruise members of the audience will vote with remotes to determine who wins The Voice of the Ocean Trophy.

The first show will be on the Regal Princess when it departs from New York. That will be followed by The Voice of the Ocean performances on the Royal, Caribbean, Emerald, Ruby, Golden, Island, Coral, Crown, Grand and Star Princesses with the final departure from Vancouver to Alaska on May 14.

The inaugural cruise, on the Regal, will sail up the coast and into Canada and back during the autumn colors. The cruise is from New York, return. 

Hey, if the winners are good enough, they can go straight to Broadway!

In the news…

AmaWaterways christens AmaSerena on banks of the Danube
• Viking Star: one cruise cancelled, one delayed by mechanical repair
• Low water on European rivers still haunting ships and cruisers

Today at portsandbows.com: More big money people in cruising

Carnival Ecstasy
3 nights
September 18, 2015
Miami (return): Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $63
www.carnival.com

Celebrities With Cruise Appeal, Too

Kathie Lee Gifford Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines/Ray Stubblebine

If you think society at large is tiring of celebrities who fail to live up to the lofty standards placed upon them by…well, society, think again.

Celebrity sells. Still. 

That’s why Carnival is partnering with Kathie Lee Gifford, known to her millions of TV fans simply as Kathie Lee. She has a winery, or at least some wines, as do a growing number of movie stars, TV stars and sports stars. Her partnership with Carnival isn’t news, but her latest wine is.

GIFFT Pinot Noir Rose.

Kathie Lee’s wines — the red blend and chardonnay are already being poured on all Carnival ships — are from Monterey County in California. If the idea wasn’t working, and if the wine wasn’t good, there’d have been no Pinot Noir Rose uncorked yesterday in Miami, an event she toasted (above) with Candeloro Donato, captain of the Splendor.

Celebrity sells. Still.

That’s why Princess is partnering with another TV personality, chef Curtis Stone. His presence will also be felt on the entire fleet, which for Princess means 18 ships. His Curtis Stonebusiness is food, naturally, so he has TV shows (All-Star Academy and Beach Eats), restaurants (Maude, in Beverly Hills), not to mention how-to books.

On the Princess ships, his “Crafted by Curtis” menus will be savored in the main dining rooms and perhaps more elaborately by passengers who sign up for the Chef’s Table or visit the new specialty restaurant, his first at sea. The fun with his food starts on the Golden Princess in a couple of months, and fleet-wide by the end of the year.

All of it to appeal to the public’s appetite for celebrities.

In the news…

• Carnival, Justice Department settle over disabilities investigation
• AIDA Cruises achieves environmental protection milestones
• Steel cut at shipyard for new Silversea ship the Silver Muse

Today at portsandbows.com: French billionaire buying into cruising?

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, George Town, Cozumel, Key West
Inside: $615
Cost per day: $87
www.hollandamerica.com

The Curse Of The Lounge Chairs

Here’s a problem to which there is no solution…

Loungers.

The problem isn’t so much the loungers as the towels. People drape towels on pool-side lounge chairs like “reserved” signs, and you dare not remove a towel, in case it’s owner is watching. The problem is that the towel can sit on the lounger for hours, all day even, and hotel loungersnever be touched. It’s there, of course, because the people who make the deposits want to reserve that chaisse lounge for when they want to sit there…if they want to sit there.

What you often have is a long ling of lounge chairs covered in towels, many with no people.

People on cruise ships have long complained about this. Other than posting a sign warning people that uninhabited chairs can only remain so for an hour, as some cruise lines do, there is no solution. To hire lounge police is too costly and a waste of crew time.

But it’s not just on cruise ships. In fact, there’s a warning for the cruise industry.

During our recent visit to an all-inclusive resort — you’ll read more about that next week — we discovered the sight you see in the photo. We saw people emerging from their rooms at the crack of dawn, draping a towel on a pool-side lounge chair, and disappearing. While we didn’t keep score, in many cases it seemed the chairs were inhabited only by towels for hours on end.

And if you look carefully at the photo, you’ll see large “towel pins” being used to hold the “reservations.” When you have something that’s designed specifically for holding towels on vacant loungers, you really do have a problem.

Is there a solution to these devices of bad manners?

If you know of one, many people would like to hear it.

Today at portsandbows.com: Anthem of the Seas officially Royal Caribbean's

Golden Princess
7 nights
May 2, 2015
Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.princess.com

At Sea…The Sound Of Princess

Clever. That’s what Princess Cruises is….and not just because Princess people can sing “the seas are alive, with The Sound of Music” when the iconic movie is being screened on all 18 ships, starting this month.

The first line of the press release announcing it is clever enough. What makes it even better is that the cruise line and the movie are both 50 years old in 2015. Naturally, Princess is turning this into a theme that will be carried, with contests on the ships, all year long.

Can you say brilliant?

Passengers on Princess ships will have the opportunity to watch the movie just once on each cruise, poolside at Movie Under The Stars. They’ll also have the opportunity to win a Sound of Musicfree cruise (for two), once every month, by playing The Sound of Music trivia, one of the theme-related activities. The cruise comes with a $500 gift card. A sing-along stage version of the movie will attract passengers with a good voice or a will to participate, or both.

In a business where finding ways to attract families is always vital, could there be a more appropriate movie? It could only be better if Princess found a way to have Julie Andrews (Maria von Trapp) and Christopher Plummer (her on-screen father) to spend time on their ships during this 50th anniversary year. After all, he was called “Captain” von Trapp!

Or maybe they’ll just do that as a Golden Anniversary climax.

On the Golden Princess, of course.

Today at portsandbows.com: Two ships making news

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
June 28, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Coco Cay, St. Thomas, St. Maarten
Inside: $869
Cost per day: $124
www.royalcaribbean.com

From The Eye Of A Hurricane…Help

Our resident expert on all things Mexico is Barbra Bishop of Mexpeditions, a travel agency that specializes in everywhere (and everything) south of the border. The other day she was telling us a story about Cabo San Lucas and last month’s Hurricane Odile (below).

The short version is that during the worst of the hurricane, visitors to a Los Cabos hotel were being comforted by workers who themselves had lost (almost) everything, yet Hurricane Odilewouldn’t desert their customers. Impressed beyond words, the tourists banded together — after returning to their homes — and began raising funds to help their Mexican “friends.”

Natural disasters do that. People always want to help.

On Saturday, the Star Princess stopped at Cabo San Lucas. The first cruise ship to respond was loaded with bottled water, paper products, milk and other supplies to help the area’s locals who lost so much.

Yesterday came the Carnival Miracle, whose name was not changed to suit the situation. More bottled water, canned food, diapers, personal items for the Mexican people.

In the aftermath of the Category 3 hurricane that killed 15 people, causing $224 million in damage and leaving an estimated 30,000 tourists stranded in the Baja Peninsula’s southern tip, one of the airlines that flew to the rescue was Alaska. People had to be airlifted. Planes that flew in were empty of passengers, and full of supplies.

Maybe the cruise lines felt obliged to help because the Mexican people in such dire straits are the same ones who make cruise passenger visits so enjoyable. Maybe they do it because it’s good PR. Maybe airlines do it for the same reason.

What matters, however, is that they help.

And now comes the sobering news that cruise ships and airplanes are not the area’s only visitors this week. Hurricane Simon, originally expected to be no more than a tropical Cabo San Lucasstorm, is bearing down on the Baja. It’s expected to make landfall tomorrow, probably somewhere north of Cabo San Lucas.

Will the cruise lines and airlines step up again? Or will it be the tourists who turn the tables and help those who help them?

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news you can use

Golden Princess
3 nights
October 27, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49
www.princess.com

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