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Norwegian Star Freestyle First

We have a soft spot for the Norwegian Star, the ship that as of Sunday is calling Tampa home. While we have trouble finding a cruise ship we don’t like, the Star was special.

It was several years ago. Okay, many. It was a cruise on the Mexican Riviera. For us, it was a first. Not our maiden cruise, not our first time to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

Our “first freestyle.”

We loved the concept, and just like that Norwegian enhanced our attitude about cruising. For people who sometimes eat dinner at 4 p.m. and sometimes at 10 p.m., the rigidity of the traditional you-must-eat-dinner-at-this-time just doesn’t work.

It’s not that we won’t…just that, most times, we prefer having the option that Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising offered. Judging from what other cruise lines have since done to copy it, in one form or another, we are not alone.

So NCL’s Star, now sailing out of Tampa for the first time until next April, will always be “our Star.”

DAILY DEAL:
Norwegian Pride of America
7 nights
December 17, 2011
Honolulu (return), Maui, Hilo, Kona, Kauai
Inside $999 plus on-board credit
www.ncl.com

Where Do Dollars End in the Gulf?

As we sat watching the environmental and fiscal tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico reach its eighth week yesterday — we’re CNN junkies — a couple of cruise-related thoughts passed through our minds. One is the obvious…how is all this oil going to affect cruise ships in and out of New Orleans, Mobile and, eventually, ports in Florida? And secondly, when it does, will the cruise companies be filing papers requesting that BP reimburse them for lost business?

The unbelievable mushroom of oil that’s continuing to spread daily through the waters of the gulf also continues to take changes in direction. Yesterday, Day 51 of the spill, was when the focus seemed to be on who is entitled to financial compensation from BP. As one reporter put it this week: “If a B&B is losing its customers, does that mean the people who supply food to that B&B are also entitled to be compensated?”

If you’ll excuse the poor play on words, you don’t have to drill down far on the compensation list to find cruise ships. The moment itineraries are canceled, or even postponed, it’s going to start costing cruise lines. And to go one step further, is the city of New Orleans entitled to payment from BP for the lost port taxes? What about the bus companies that supply vehicles for shore excursions? How about the service stations that sell gas to the bus companies? Where does it end?

At the moment, Carnival’s Triumph (left) is the only cruise ship in position to be affected. It sails in and out of New Orleans all summer to Western Caribbean ports…and Carnival’s Elation is in the same boat, so to speak, over in Mobile. However, is the unthinkable possible — that the oil could spread to Florida ports in Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and even Port Canaveral and Jacksonville?

That’s it, we’re done.

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