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Norwegian, The Frank Del Rio Way

Frank Del RioWhen Frank Del Rio became CEO of the company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, everybody who has seen him in action knew there would be more action to see. Outgoing, perhaps even flamboyant, gregarious and entertaining, he seems to stand still for nothing unless it’s for the next idea to pop into his head…within minutes, or seconds.

This week, engaging reporters on the new Norwegian Escape, here’s what Del Rio revealed to Cruise Critic’s Brittany Chrusciel…

• Every older ship will go into dry dock in 2016 and 2017, except the Jewel, which is already scheduled for 2018. By our count, that’s nine refurbishing in two years, 10 if Pride of America is part of the deal. Del Rio wants the older ships to become more popular, like the 16-year-old Regent Seven Seas Navigator is for one of his other cruise lines.

• Norwegian will start the migration towards smoke-free casinos, and the Escape will be first to become 50 per cent smoke-free. The last four Norwegian ships launched — the Epic (2010), Breakaway (2013), Getaway (2014) and Escape — have all fielded complaints about “drifting smoke” from the casinos.

Escape• Complimentary dining in the new Jimmy Buffett restaurant, Margaritaville At Sea, may be short-lived. There were long line-ups once the Escape arrived in “Jimmy Country” and when something is that popular it’s only a matter of time until it becomes an additional revenue stream. As an aside, as people who have waited in line to get into several  Margaritavilles, we get it.

What Del Rio is doing, since replacing Kevin Sheehan at the helm, is turning Norwegian into a cruise line that turns more heads.

There’s every indication that he knows exactly how to do it.

In the news…

• Viking orders two more ocean ships — fledgling fleet to be six strong by 2020
• Harmony of the Seas to combine attributes of Oasis and Quantum Class ships
• 'Tangled The Musical' world premiere on Disney Magic in Miami
• MSC Divina arrives in Florida to begin year-round cruises to Caribbean

Today at portsandbows.com: Guess where Liberty of the Seas is going?


Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
January 30, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel 
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $90
www.royalcaribbean.com

Pearl Time For The Legends

You know, those of us who have seen Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic should have known it would find a new home. We should have known it wouldn’t work as well in Europe, where the Epic has been since spring and where it will stay until November 2016, because Europeans don’t seem to take as readily to “tribute” acts as North Americans.

Legends in Concert-MJ copyWe should have known that Legends in Concert was sunk when a passenger pointed out last month on Cruise Critic that the show was cancelled during her cruise, with no explanation from Norwegian. In the fine print of the cruise line’s website, you can find (eventually) that the last show was September 20.

But we didn’t.

The good news is that Legends in Concert is moving to the Norwegian Pearl. Now the Pearl’s no Epic — a little more than half the size — but the theaters are probably much more comparable. Clearly, Norwegian had to find a home for this show once its five-year run on the Epic was over, or risk losing it to another cruise line.

Would that matter?

Norwegian is consistently cited for having the best entertainment at sea, often winning awards for it from the people who create awards. That goes for the Epic, too. It can’t be a coincidence that Norwegian has been at or near the top of the entertainment category for the last five years (the Epic is five years old) and that Legends in Concert has been a fixture on the ship.

PearlWe’ve seen Legends in Concert twice on the Epic. We weren’t expecting the shows to be winners, but they were. The “tribute acts” included some performers who were favourites (Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett) and some who weren’t (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears). All were good.

On the Pearl, starting…now, the tribute acts are Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…and you can guess which two.

In the news…

• Norwegian Star's propulsion problem takes ship straight to Tampa
• Doug Ward's 2016 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ship Guide released
• Smaller Maasdam to replace departing Volendam in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Second American river cruiser for Pacific Northwest


Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $504
Cost per day: $72
www.princess.com

Friday File: Searching For Margaritaville

One of us is obsessed with the tequila-based drinks called margaritas…not drinking them, finding where they are. Like, in Margaritaville, homeland of Jimmy Buffett. As a concession to her, and at the risk of alienating you, below are some of the fruits of her labor (and you can be sure there are more to come!)…

Cayman IslandsMost Margaritavilles are in the south, because their creator wears shorts and no socks. This palatial one in the Cayman Islands may be the biggest she has found…so far.

Falmouth JamaicaYou have to look long and hard to find the Margaritaville connection with this work of art at the cruise port of Falmouth, Jamaica…unless you have a built-in Margaritaville magnet.

Grand TurkAt Grand Turk, Parrotheads ‘get’ the obvious connection on the signage above the front door, and if you don’t know what Parrotheads are chances are you haven’t read this far.

LabadeeThe obsessed photographer will even seek out people wearing Margaritaville shirts, like on the beach at Labadee. Little did this musician know he was a photo-op subject. 

New OrleansNew Orleans may be as close as Jimmy Buffett gets to landlubbing (except for concerts) and his fans will tell you he’s a perfect match for the French Quarter.

CozumelFinding Margaritaville in Mexico is easy, at least in Cozumel…after seeing this, the photo subject looked over at the bench and asked: “Where’s Jimmy?”

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Constellation
13 nights
April 9, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Funchal, Gibralter, Alicante, Rome
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $46
www.celebritycruises.com

Escape For Smallest Of Passengers

EscapeOnce there was a time when nary a baby’s cry nor a dirty diaper would be found on a cruise ship. Children that young were neither seen nor heard because, frankly, when parents went on cruises it was to be an escape.

Ironically, the Escape not only embraces little ones, it markets them.

That’s the Norwegian Escape, the first ship in the Breakaway Plus Class that’s due to arrive in less than a year. Yesterday, some of the things that will make the ship special were unveiled. Among them — and a first for Norwegian — are childcare facilities for children from six months to three years.

That’s diaper time.

The nursery will include “an active area for play time and age-appropriate activities and a separate space for napping.” What it all adds up to is the growing philosophy in cruising of leaving no stone unturned. If there’s a way of convincing parents of babies — especially first-time parents, who often won’t leave a room without their new-born, never mind their home — to go on a cruise while on maternity leave, that’s a new market.

At one end of the Escape, so to speak, you have 60-plus Baby Boomers behaving much younger at Jimmy Buffett’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar

At the other end, you have…babies.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian's new ship — fun for families

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Miami (return): Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.ncl.com

Escape For Cruising Parrotheads

Time for a confession. Maybe even an apology. I've known since Friday that Jimmy Buffett’s people had made a deal with Norwegian’s people. As someone who’s supposed to be relaying cruise news to you, I was a little slow on the uptake.

Jimmy BuffettIt took me a couple of days to recover.

You don’t even have to be one of Jimmy’s famous Parrotheads (yes, Parrothead is a proper noun to us and that’s why it’s capitalized) to understand this really is “earth-sharking” news. Okay, ocean-sharking news. Jimmy Buffett on a cruise ship…well, his “stuff” will be on the Norwegian Escape when it arrives but, really, isn’t it just a matter of time until The Man Himself shows up? 

Hey, I was even excited when “Jimmy” was one of the Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic!

Four people in our family, maybe five, would go out of the way to see Jimmy Buffett…and I’m at the front of the line. That’s more than a third of the family, and another third is too young to know what they’re missing. As for the other third, I’m working on them, hoping they’ll go out of their ways to see Jimmy in concert before he takes his margaritas and goes home to stay.

The fact that he’s made a “new” deal as he approaches his 68th birthday (of course I know it’s Christmas Day!!) and the fact that it’s with a cruise line is encouraging. For now, only his “Margaritaville” and his “5 O’clock Somewhere Bar” and his “Hurricane drinks” are going to be on the Escape — and eventually other Norwegian ships.

That’s a good start. 

For one thing, it means if I’m cruising in the Caribbean with Norwegian, I won’t have to get off the ship to find one of the many Magaritavilles the corporate Jimmy has built on the beaches. 

For another, it’s one more thing that makes it harder for that third of my family to “escape” Jimmy Buffett.

Today at portsandbows.com: Preview of Regent's new Explorer

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $109
Cost per day: $27
www.carnival.com

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