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Hawaii To Chase More Cruising

Such is the popularity of cruising that even Hawaii wants more of it. Called Paradise more than any other place on earth by first-time visitors (at least in our circles), Hawaii has always had one toe in the water when it comes to cruising, in part because it’s one of the United States…but that’s another story.

Hawaii is looking to hire a consultant to stimulate cruise business. With more ships heading to the Far East, Hawaii would surely appreciate having them stop off, say hello and leave behind some tourist dollars. The 50th state wants that person in place by October 1 before greener pastures like Cuba and China get an even bigger piece of the cruise pie.

Presently, Norwegian’s 2,100-passenger Pride of America cruises exclusively around the Hawaiian Islands, and it’s usually sold out. Un-Cruise Adventures does, too, with a 36-passenger yacht called Safari Explorer. Those ships are allowed — and this is the other story — because as U.S.-flagged ships they don’t have to touch the land of another country. They also have to employee all U.S. workers.

So the chances of another cruise line dispatching a ship to do the same thing would require legislative chance that’s unlikely to happen. The alternative then, for this consultant to be hired, is to lure big ships crossing the Pacific to make Hawaii a regular stop.

With Hawaii’s ecological bent, with the likelihood it would require larger port facilities and with the disruption heavy cruise traffic might have on its ocean life, this might be a tougher sell than a consultant imagines.

Even for Paradise.

In the news…

• Eleven injured after cargo vessel collides with river ship in Dusseldorf, Germany

Today at portsandbows.com: River cruising in the U.S.

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 14, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58
www.hollandamerica.com

Landmark Decision About Norovirus

We are told that life, in terms of the legal community, is all about precedent. Well, here’s a precedent for the cruise industry that is going to be celebrated in cruise headquarters from Miami (Royal Caribbean) to Santa Clarita (Princess) to Genoa (Costa).

And it happened in England.

The subject: norovirus.

In a lengthy, wordy document filled with legalese, a British judge last week ruled against passengers who were suing TUI Cruises for becoming ill with gastroenteritis (norovirus) while on the Thomson Spirit, a ship chartered from Louis Cruises. The 43 claimants alleged either that they contracted norovirus because the cruise line was negligent or they were at risk because the cruise line breached its contract with them.

The judge ruled no, in both instances.

In what will be hailed as a landmark decision for cruise lines, here is the most compelling part of the explanation from the law firm that defended TUI:

“The judgment…is of great importance to the cruise industry in recognizing that norovirus is not caused by the ship and that even with high levels of implementation of industry procedures, outbreaks of norovirus do occur.”

Where have you heard that before, in so many words? Right here, because we have long felt the cruise industry has become a poster child for norovirus, a gastrointestinal disease that can strike wherever large groups of people are in close contact.

Like on a cruise ship, but not only on a cruise ship.

The defendant satisfied the judge that the cruise line’s carrier fully implemented systems for cleaning the ship after 16 passengers had suffered from norovirus on its previous cruise, and for reacting to the outbreak on the subsequent cruise.

And guess what evidence was taken into consideration?

Complaints from the stricken passengers about TUI’s procedures. They were no longer allowed to have self-serve food at the ship’s buffet. They were given paper napkins. They were confined to cabins.

That, said the judge, proved the cruise line responded properly to the presence of norovirus.

Will this “landmark decision” change the linkage between cruise ships and norovirus? Probably not. Ships — not daycares or seniors homes or shopping malls — will likely remain the poster child for norovirus.

In the news…

• Viking Star aborts cruise and returns to Bergen for mechanical repair
• Quebec to be latest Canadian port with shore power for cruise ships 
• Kung-Fu Panda restaurant on Quantum of the Seas, now in Singapore

Today at portsandbows.com: The story of the Viking Star's cruise

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 14, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay 
Inside: $415
Cost per day: $59
www.hollandamerica.com

The Impact Of Oil On Cruising

 

If there’s a more confusing three-letter word than “oil” we don’t know what it is.

Oil production goes up, the barrel price goes down. The barrel price goes down, unemployment goes up. At the same time, the price at the pumps goes down. All this instability sends investors scurrying, so the stock market goes down.

What happens to cruise prices?

Probably nothing. Cruise lines make more money because the cost of powering their ships drops. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian both hit year highs on the stock market this week. Should such gains be passed on to the cruise customer? 

Let’s put it this way: In the volatile world of oil prices, cruise lines inserted a line in the contracts with passengers that they could add a surcharge to cover oil.

How many did?

In the past five years, not once did we get hit with an oil surcharge. At least, not on cruises. Getting to them is another story, because airlines — at least some — didn’t just put the surcharge option on the table. They charged it, and when the price of oil dropped, the surcharges didn’t disappear. What they did do was bury it the cost of flying, saying it includes “surcharges” that were “to partially offset certain volatile…operating costs.”

Fuel.

While most of us are incapable of making sense of oil prices, it seems the cruise industry is prepared to roll with the punches. At the same time, the fuel surcharge rider is there…in case fuel costs become ridiculous, as they did in June 2008, peaking at $134 a barrel (yesterday it was $55). In other words, the surcharge possibility gives cruise lines an out, one they appear determined not to use.

Today at portsandbows.com: Getting the jump on Wave Season

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
January 17, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand TurkSan JuanSt. MaartenHalf Moon Cay
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.hollandamerica.com

DWTS and HA: Shall We Dance?

News item: Dancing With The Stars will continue to be featured on Holland America ships through the 2015-16 cruise season.

Well, there’s a surprise.

ABC’s immensely popular TV series first sailed with Holland America after the cruise line cleverly made a deal to launch “Dancing With The Stars: At Sea” in 2013. For two years now, the show at sea has been just like the show on land.

A hit.

The professional dancers from DTWS — Tristan MacManus, Kym Johnson, Sharna Burgess (right), Emma SlaterEmma SlaterLacey Schwimmer, Chelsie HightowerDerek Hough and Mark Ballas (left) — have Mark Ballasperformed on a number of select theme cruises, culminating with a Champions Cruise each year. The same, of course, will apply next year, with the grand finale set for January 10, 2016 on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

There are six cruises on next year’s schedule: two in January, two in June and one prior to the Champions Cruise the following January. Obviously, they have to be worked around TV tapings. Two are on the Westerdam (Caribbean), two on the Veendam (New England) and the final two on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Passengers have a chance to qualify for that  all year on all 15 Holland America ships.

Holland America is extending the deal with DWTS because, simply, it works.

“On every cruise throughout the year our Dancing with the Stars: At Sea lessons are a huge draw and the competition to dance for the Champions Cruise is intense, which tells us we have a very successful and engaging program,” said Executive Vice-President Richard Meadows.

Cruise lines have found in recent years that entertainment on land — from concerts to Broadway shows to TV reality specials — are at least as popular on ships.

Kind of makes you wonder why it took so long, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: Quantum leaps to Royal Caribbean

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
November 30, 2014
New York (return): Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.ncl.com

Ocean Parks That Cruise The World

How do you “park a park” in the middle of the ocean? You do what Royal Caribbean did and build one into the hull of the biggest cruise ship in the world. That would be Oasis of the Seas…or Allure of the Seas…or Oasis III, the unofficial name for the third of what may be four ships in this class when the dust settles.

And you call the innovation Central Park.

So far, there are at least three Central Parks: the one in New York City and the two on Royal Caribbean ships. Actually, many cities have parks by that name, so let’s say there are three that qualify as being unique.

What’s Central Park on the ocean really like?

The photos that follow will give you a taste. They’ve been around for almost five years, since Oasis arrived, so thousands of passengers have had their taste. Before we boarded Allure of the Seas, we wondered — frankly — how appealing we would find a miniature version of the real thing on a cruise ship.

It was one of our favorite places on the ship, and here’s why…

From our balcony, we always knew if there was a quiet place to sit (and there always seemed to be an available bench):

Central Park-10They weren’t the blue birds of paradise, but they were close:

Central Park-3This became a daily routine for breakfast, a classy buffet-style eatery with wonderful food:

Central Park-14An upscale restaurant that’s just a walk-in-the-park away:

Central Park-4Amazing artwork that provides a sharp contrast to all the greenery — and there’s a lot of that:

Central Park-1Even some kids, and characters from DreamWorks, who arrive for photo-ops every day and never keep the kids waiting in line:

Central Park-2These, folks, are real trees and assorted greenery that are cared for by a staff of three:

Central Park-6Where else on the Caribbean Sea would you find a Willow Leaf Ficus Tree?:

Central Park-8A park that’s big enough to have intersections:

Central Park-11Along with a path to a world-class steakhouse:

Central Park-5The glass doors give it more the feel of a “greenhouse” than a cruise ship:

Central Park-12Like all good parks, it’s quiet most of the time and a magnet for photographers. You just don’t expect to be able to enjoy that when you’re on a cruise ship.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland American adds Caribbean ships

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 15, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.hollandamerica.com

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