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An Unlikely Home for Dean Bailey

Dean Bailey is from Great Britain, of Jamaican parents, lives in Hungary and spends his work days on the high seas in whatever country his Royal Caribbean ship is visiting. 

Home is Budapest, a city he once rejected as a place to live because of "cold weather' and "language."

So what took him to Budapest?

"A woman," he laughs.

The woman is Csilla Ali, who was born in Hungary, whom he met on a cruise ship in 1994 and who is the mother of their 10-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl. If Papa plans it properly, he can schedule his contracts to take ships around the worst of Eastern Europe's weather and he has become comfortable with the language. 

At least that's what he thinks.

"At first I thought that no one else speaks this language…maybe on Mars but nowhere else," he recalls. "Now my children speak Hungarian and I speak a little, which is of great amusement to them. In school, they study in English and Hungarian. My daughter — she thinks she's funny but she's really not — has my sense of humor. Occasionally she will speak to me in Hungarian and pretend she doesn't understand English…just so I'll speak Hungarian."

The language this personable hotel director speaks mostly is sports.

"I am nuts for sports," he says. "Any sport. I've probably seen every sports film that's ever been made. I play many, many sports."

And is a fan of many. Like his home "football" team, Birmingham City, which he says is "terrible, but they were in the Premiership for a fleeting moment two years ago and gave me hope." And the New York Knicks, because of Patrick Ewing, who was born in Jamaica and played 17 years in the NBA: "It broke my heart when Reggie Miller buried them in '95." And boxing, because of Colin McMillan, a British featherweight who briefly held the World Boxing Organization title. And baseball, because his understanding of its history was enhanced by a Navigator of the Seas theme cruise 11 years ago that featured Hall of Famers like Joe Morgan — "I didn't want that cruise to come to an end." And hockey, because of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and whatever teams they played for at the time.

"I follow players more than I follow teams," adds Bailey, who boxed, ran cross-country, played tennis and looks fit enough — after 20 years at sea — that he could still do all of them today.

Today his ambitions are modest.

"My only ambition in life is to be happy," he says. "I would throw money over the side of the ship and whatever came back I would save so maybe there will be something left over for my children. That makes me happy — as long as I do things that make me happy. There are four reasons why what I do makes me happy…the people, the people, the people and the people. Crew and guests."

And, of course, those special people who are the reason he lives in Budapest.

(Wayne Gretzky photo by Troy Parla)


Holland America Ryndam
7 nights
August 31, 2013
VeniceDubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Olympia, Nauplion. SantoriniAthens
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

New Caribbean Port Coming in 2014

The first time we cruised to "Honduras" was about three years ago and the opportunity to do so was intriguing, since it was a country we had never visited…and it's always interesting to go somewhere new.

Then we looked at a map.

The ship — Norwegian's Epic — was visiting Roatan. Now technically, Roatan is part of Honduras. It's an island that sits in the Gulf of Honduras, the largest of three islands that make up one "department" or province of the 18 in this Central American country. Put it another way: the population of Honduras is about 8,000,000…the population of Roatan is just over 70,000.

Roatan has beaches and scuba diving and a tourist economy fueled by cruise ships. It is a long way from the country's capital, Tegucigalpa, ands not just geographically. The mainland has never really been a magnet for travelers, many of whom think it should stay that way. Honduras has been more of a hotspot for terrorism than tourism, with 300 wars or rebellions in its 200 years of independence. In a way, seeing Roatan as representative of its country is not unlike seeing Hawaii as representative of its country.

Anyway, things are changing.

There's a new cruise port on the Honduran mainland. It's called Banana Coast, it cost $30 million and it will be open for business next year. Holland America has committed to 11 port calls over the next two years, and Silversea's Silver Cloud will stop by in December 2014. And the pier is large enough to accommodate two "Oasis size" ships.

The port is called Trujillo, a Colonial city which once had Christopher Columbus as a visitor and which is, as the crow flies, is less than 50 miles across the Caribbean Sea from Roatan.

So it's still a long way from Tegucigalpa…and the "real" Honduras.

It's also a start.


Holland America Noordam
11 nights
August 15, 2013
Athens, Crete, Cairo, Rhodes, Ephesus, Mykonos, Istanbul
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $90
www.hollandamerica.com

Breakaway's Inaugural Not SRO

 

Tomorrow, the Norwegian Breakaway embarks on a pre-inaugural cruise. That's a cruise for travel agents and media, to give them a change to preview the new ship.

On Sunday, it's the inaugural cruise. The first time the general public has a chance to sail on the ship. The breaking of the Breakaway's maiden, as it were. An opportunity to say you were on the first cruise out of New York, its permanent home.

Sold out, right?

Wrong.

At the end of the business day yesterday in New York, you could still buy a place on Sunday's inaugural 7-day cruise to Bermuda and back, for $999. Or you can stay in an ocean-view room for $1,029…or a balcony stateroom for $1,449. In fact, there seems to be no shortage of opportunities to book passage on a cruise that leaves in three days. Only suites are sold out.

All of this comes from Norwegian's website, so it raises a few questions.

Did Norwegian price its inaugural sailing on the Breakaway too high? 

A 7-night Bermuda cruise on the Celebrity Summit from Cape Liberty, also on Sunday, starts at $549 and for $999 (the starting price on Breakaway) you can book a Concierge Class balcony with a handful of extras.

Is there less of a buzz about the new ship than anticipated?

The Breakaway christening ceremony was in New York yesterday morning. CruiseCritic was there, USA Today was there, Associated Press was there…not to mention The Rockettes, Geoffrey Zakarian, Mayor Bloomberg and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to bless the ship.

But in New York?

The only story on the Times' website about the Breakaway is more than three months old. A search of the New York Post website for "Norwegian Breakaway" returned 0 results. At the Daily News…a Breakaway announcement from 2011.

Today's papers/newspaper websites may have mentions of yesterday's christening ceremony. None of that, however, is likely to put heads in beds by Sunday.


Holland America Ryndam
15 nights
November 2, 2013
Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon, Half Moon Cay, Tampa
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $59
www.hollandamerica.com

Princess Special Cruise Line to Brits

Friends of ours were on a Princess cruise ship last year. Before we knew that, we asked which line they'd been on and which ship. They said:

"Coral Princess…P and O."

It happened that we'd just been on the Coral Princess so we knew, first-hand, that she belonged to Princess Cruises. We politely made the correction.

"Princess…P and O…same thing," replied our friend, who is English by birth.

Before Princess was bought by the Carnival Corporation, it was a subsidiary of P&O Cruises. In reality, it was "bought" by Royal Caribbean in a deal that was usurped at the 11th hour, but that's another story. The point is that to people of British origins, Princess is, was and will probably always linked to P&O, which in the beginning was a well-known British shipping and logistics company.

And because it's linked to P&O, cruisers from the UK will always have a soft spot for Princess.

And today, more than ever, Princess hopes that's true.

Its two biggest ships break water this summer and next, and both the Royal Princess and Regal Princess will spend their inaugural summers in Europe (where most Britons vacation) and Princess ships will do more tours of the British Isles than ever. The Royal Princess will begin her career in Southampton and both 3,600-passenger ships will take passengers through the Mediterranean or the North Sea during the pleasant — relatively speaking — summer months.

Meanwhile, three more Princess ships will be staying closer to the "homeland." The Ruby Princess (3,080 passengers) will regularly leave Southampton on 12-day British Isles trips, the Ocean Princess (680) will some 8-day British Isles cruises among her itineraries and the Emerald Princess will patrol the west coast of Europe, also from Southampton.

Next to Cunard, Princess is probably still the favorite — or at least best-known — cruise line for the British.

Either that, or it's just that whole Royal Family thing. After last week's news that the Duchess of Cambridge would be the new ship's Godmother, why would we think otherwise?


Diamond Princess
7 nights
May 25, 2013
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Anchorage
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.princess.com

A Royal Story Rich in Irony

Who writes this stuff? Really. Shakespeare or Monty Python? The Royal biographer, perhaps…

A cruise ship is called the Royal Princess. At an elaborate "naming ceremony" the ship will be christened by a young woman who used to be a Royal Princess but is now a Royal Duchess. Okay, technically, she never was "Princess" Kate…but once she became a Royal she was the "People's Princess" and since has grown into the most beloved young woman in Britain's Royal Family since the last People's Princess, whose name was Diana. Had she lived, Diana would today be Kate's mum-in-law. They remain linked by, among other things, the same engagement ring.

It gets better.

When Kate Middleton (aka, HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) officially becomes the new ship's Godmother, it will be at a ceremony on the docks of Southampton, which would be a short Tube ride from Buckingham Palace — if The Tube ran from Buckingham Palace to Southampton, which it doesn't. It's a fair hike in a carriage, the Royal Family's traditional mode of transportation, so we can assume that it will be a vehicle from the Royal Fleet that takes the Duchess to her appointed ship.

This isn't her first rodeo, although the Brits would have another name for that. Two years ago, she christened a lifeboat at the Trearrddur Bay Lifeboat Station in Anglesey, Wales. It was her first official engagement after becoming a Royal, and you could say that pouring bubbly on that bow was a dry run, except that this one will be, too…at least for her.

Because…

The Royal Duchess is about to be another kind of mother — the real kind. As Shakespeare would have put it, she is "with child" and is scheduled to become the Other Mother less than six weeks after christening the Royal Princess. And if the script writers have their way, that will be another "Royal Princess."


Holland America Ryndam
7 nights
September 21, 2013
Athens (return): Istanbul, Lesbos, Ephesus, Mykonos, Crete
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $114
www.hollandamerica.com

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