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A Toast To Cruising 2016!

Best wishes for safe and happy cruising in 2016
from Bob and Nancy

Crown Princess
4 nights
February 9, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $59

Friday File: Día de Los Muertos

If you’ve ever disembarked from a cruise ship in Mexico at this time of year, then you know what that means. Maybe you know even if you’ve never been in Mexico on “Day of the Dead” weekend, which oddly enough coincides with Halloween. To the Mexican people, this is a far more serious time — a time to remember and pray for friends and family members who have died. It’s a five-day celebration with Maya roots, as we discovered on a visit to Merida, near Progreso on the Yucatan Peninsula…

Day of the Dead-2

Sometimes the people remembered are famous friends who belonged to the human family.

Day of the Dead-3

This is a typical ‘Day of the Dead’ display found in any Mexican town or city at the end of October.

Day of the Dead-7

More than a century old (does she look her age?), Catrina is a popular symbol and is known as “elegant skull.”

In the news…

• Montreal's cruise visitors increase by 30% over 2014 and 93% since 2011
• Windstar to have James Beard chefs on three themed cruises in 2016
• Holland America partners with BBC Earth with extensive 2016 program
• Giant spider decorates Carnival's Splendor for Halloween arrival in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
December 6, 2015
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Mexico: Why Tourists Matter

If you’ve been reading our meanderings these last almost-six years (and of course you have, right?), then you know that we have a soft spot for Mexico. You know that when things goes sour south of the border, we feel badly and sometimes even defensive. You know when things go well, we raise a glass of…tequila!

So where is Jose Cuervo, anyway?

Tourism has made a comeback in Mexico — again. By the end of this year, there will have Puerto Vallartabeen 5.7 million tourists in Mexico, and 6.1 million next year. While that’s only about a third the population of the capital city, what’s staggering is the impact those six million visitors have. At a trade show in Cozumel, the country’s new secretary of tourism — Enrique de la Madrid Cordero — told Travel Weekly (among others) that tourism represents nine per cent of Mexico’s GDP.

It employs eight million people.

With more comfort about Mexico’s security improvements, four cruise lines will make port calls along the Mexican Riviera during the next two winters — Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America and Princess. If our memory is accurate, there was a time when only Carnival was there.

American Airlines is adding flights to Mazatlan. New hotels are being built. Shore excursions for cruise passengers are better than ever.

Everybody knows what the attractions are in Mexico, starting with the weather. Besides that, there’s something else that (to us) never changes;

The people.

Said de la Madrid Cordero: ““We are aware that we are in a world of constant competition. Our secret weapon [is] the Mexican people, a population that likes to treat people well.”

And why not? Treating people well is clearly Mexico’s bread and butter.

In the news…

• Carnival, Chinese shipbuilder to develop domestic cruise line in China
• Silversea flagship Silver Muse to raise bar on luxury suites in 2017
• Anthem of the Seas two weeks away from permanent New York home

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 2, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $459
Cost per day: $65

Ships To Climb Celebrity Ladder


Five years ago, we cruised on the Celebrity Millennium. It was a memorable cruise. The first time we’d seen the Panama Canal. First time we visited Huatulco, Mexico. First time on a Celebrity ship. When the cruise ended, almost two weeks after it started, it was difficult to disembark.

The other day, Celebrity announced extensive refurbishing is planned for two of its ships, the Infinity (above) and the Summit (below), both about the same vintage as the Millennium (2000). Here is one of the comments from the CEO, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo:

“We want these suites to be so luxurious and comfortable that it’s difficult for guests to leave at the end of their vacation.”

That’s pretty much how we felt…and we weren’t even in a suite.

The working life of cruise ships is generally not much shorter than the working life of human: about 30 years. But cruise ships are flexible. They can be modified in ways than humans can’t. They can be rebuilt from the hulls up, if necessary. All it takes is money. Even money can’t make an old human young again, as much as many humans try.

Celebrity is spending millions, about 16 of them, on refurbishing the Infinity. For those of us who don’t stay in suites, the most notable update will be outside, at the top. On Deck 12, the ship will have a new “rooftop terrace”…comfy furniture, a big outdoor screen for movies with surround sound, unique food experiences. Wide open spaces by day, drive-in theater by night.

The Infinity will get a restaurant upgrade, too, when it enters dry-dock this month (the Summit’s d-date is March). New to the ship will be the Tuscan Grille, an Italian-style specialty restaurant that originated on the Solstice Class ships and now is spreading fleet-wide, currently 10 ships since the old Century left earlier this year.

When these ships become old enough to move on, or too old to modernize, it’ll be difficult for them to leave. Until then, it’ll be the passengers who have that problem.

SummitIn the news…

• Cruise industry's new richest man, Francois Pinault, 'dethrones' Philip Anschutz
• Two Princess ships to have two names on hull, one English and one Chinese
• Yet another unique water slide at sea — for Liberty of the Seas in February

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival proud of Cozumel changes

Emerald Princess
5 nights
November 2, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Majahual, Cozumel
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $49

Cruising…What’s Not To Like?

To state the obvious: We LOVE cruising! Our longest cruise, 19 days, left us wishing we were staying on board a little longer. We’d found a home away from home. We would cruise almost anywhere. 

So when friends recently asked us what we didn’t like about cruising, we had to stop and think. As you’d expect our list is not long…

1. The continuous up-sell tactics in the spas, and that’s virtually all spas on all ships: Whether it’s another spa service, a brush, a cream or a potion, we MUST need it! The consequences of not buying something we think is over-priced at best or unnecessary at worst are terminal, or worse. To be clear, we’re not real “spa” people. We don’t “spa” much on land, so our experience is somewhat limited and perhaps a little jaded.

2. Arriving at the dining room in which we are told beforehand that we can dine anytime we choose, and with anyone we choose, and eat anything we want on the menu: We Deck chairsusually ask for a table for two, and the frequent response we get is this: “Would you mind joining others?” Our response is always the same…NO! If we had wanted a group table, that is what we would have requested.

3. Passengers who still insist on saving the el primo lounge chairs for several hours while they are otherwise occupied on the ship: The towel and water glass sitting on the lounger for a couple of hours, unoccupied, is usually the tip-off. Since cruise lines don’t want to designate “towel police” to enforce something that will alienate even a small percentage of their passengers, it’s un-solvable. Maybe they should hold classes on manners.

4. Cold toast…kind of picky, we know: We have been told by high-ranking kitchen staff that logistics makes this virtually impossible. In all our cruises, the only place we’ve found hot toast is on the Norwegian Epic, in O’Sheehan’s Pub of all places, because we actually watched them make the toast and bring it straight to our table. Thanks, Kevin O’Sheehan!

And that’s all.

Today at portsandbows.com: The battle of Galveston and Houston

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
October 19, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39

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