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Thanksgiving: Time To Make A Deal

AllureIf you’re wondering what became of Turkey Thursday, well, it was long ago gobbled up by Black Friday. Four or five centuries ago, it was the holiday with a singular purpose: to give thanks, be grateful.

Today is about parades and football games and, most of all, shopping. It is the busiest day of the year in malls and online, so great are the deals. Black Friday even exists in Canada, where Thanksgiving was celebrated six weeks ago, as it always is on the first Monday of October.

Did somebody say deals? Nothing attracts a crowd of cruisers faster than a bargain. Most of them are on ships from the mainstream cruise lines, which have the capacity to make a big deal about big deals, such as…

Carnival will take you on a 6-night Caribbean cruise for less than $50 per day if you book it tomorrow. Wait until Saturday and it jumps to $65 per day.

Princess is calling it the biggest sale of the year, up to $300 off the cruise and $300 off airfare, per person. In fact, it’s such a “big deal” that Princess is just starting it on Black Friday and keeping it alive until December 8.

DivinaMSC, trying to get established in the Caribbean with its newest ship (the Divina), kicks off a Black Friday sale today with 7-night cruises for just over $50 per day.

You won’t get on a Royal Caribbean ship for that price but you will get on Allure of the Seas, for just over $100 a day…and that is a deal.

Norwegian’s offer is complex. Book a cruise 30 days or more in advance and pick one of four offers: 250 minutes of Wi-Fi, a specialty dining package, a beverage package or $50 off shore excursions in every port. A week-long promotion, it ends Monday.

Even in jolly ol’ England, which celebrates this type of thing with a September harvest, Black Friday is taking root — its most famous cruise line, Cunard, has a weekend offer called “The Ultimate Upgrade.”

It used to be that the ultimate upgrade was cranberries on the turkey, and whipped cream the pumpkin pie!

In the news…

• No more overnights in Istanbul for Celebrity Reflection, Equinox
• Five P&O Australia ships in Sydney Harbor to celebrate the latest two
• Celebrity expands culinary enrichment program to include Cuban dishes

Today at portsandbows.comFavourite river port getting crowded


Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
January 3, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Key West
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.hollandamerica.com

Malta’s Day Sign Of Cruise Future

Valletta Grand HarbourPhoto by John Haslem (Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere we read that 1 in 4 people don’t know where Malta is. That means three-quarters of us do and, while we couldn’t have come up with the co-ordinates on a map, we knew it was in the Mediterranean Sea — well, sort of — and that there must be falcons there because there once was a movie called The Maltese Falcon.

Whether that qualifies us to be 1 of the 3 in 4 or not, one thing we do know is that more people on cruise ships are finding Malta.

Take yesterday.

In Valletta, the capital of Malta, there was a record number of cruise ships — five — and 14,000 tourists were on them. This is a city of 6,444 residents, according to a 2014 census. The equivalent of that is having a million people arrive in Miami on the same day. Can you just imagine what the waterfront was like when the MSC Fantasia, Norwegian Jade, Celebrity Equinox, Costa neoRiviera and the CDF Zenith (?)  were all sending passengers ashore?

This tidbit comes from Cruise Industry News, one of the websites we regularly monitor for information on cruising. To say that CIN is the bible of cruising is probably not inaccurate, and purchasing that “bible” — its annual report — costs $895. 

The bottom line is when Cruise Industry News reports, everybody in the industry reads.

That brings us to another tidbit. In that annual report, and this part is free, it says “the average big-ship new-build” will carry between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers. That means the average ship of the future is going to carry a minimum of 4,000…think Quantum of the Seas, Norwegian Epic…maybe even Oasis of the Seas.

And they’ll probably all be going to Malta, right?

By the way, it’s south of Italy, about where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Adriatic. But you knew that, didn’t you?

In the news…

• Princess partners with TV celebrity chef and best-selling author Curtis Stone
• Bookings open for Holland America's ship Koningsdam, coming in April
• Royal Caribbean loyalty program taking new members before they cruise

Today at portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean's special-interest shore excursions

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
October 18, 2015
Southampton, Vigo, Lisbon, Grenada, Cartagena, Barcelona
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

Making Ships Bigger: Hull Of A Job

Let’s say you own a cruise line and the smallest ships in your fleet have become, in this age of giant cruise ships, just too small. So you’re faced with a competitive choice. You sell them and hope when the euros or dollars settle, there are enough of them to help finance four bigger ships.

Or…

You cut them in half and make them bigger!

That’s what MSC Cruises is doing with four Lirica Class ships, the oldest and smallest on its fleet of 12. MSC already has four new ships on order but obviously felt the Lirica sisters Sinfonia— all built between 2001 and 2004 and all equipped to carry about 2,000 passengers — needed to be replaced…or enlarged.

So, at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy (the Armonia, Sinfonia, Lirica and Opera) will be cut in half and have a new section inserted in the middle — balance is, after all, important — and then put back together. The new section increases capacity by 193 cabins and costs about $55 million per ship, all of which apparently makes economic sense.

The process has already begun, with the Sinfonia. These are two of the MSC photos and there are more, plus the video, at www.dailymail.co.uk., the London newspaper’s website, Sinfonia-1along with a brief video about the process. This isn’t entirely new — you can find a YouTube video of the same thing happening to the Norwegian Crown, and there hash’t been a ship of that name for almost eight years.

Even so, it’s a fascinating procedure. It takes 10 weeks, plus another couple for sea trials, so the “new” Sinfonia isn’t expected back in service until the end of March.

It gives a whole new meaning to refurbishing a ship, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: Change of mind about theme cruises

Carnival Glory
7 nights
June 6, 2015
Miami (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.carnival.com

Cruise Ships A Respite From Cats?

A husband and wife in Dublin had an unusual request for a travel writer this month: How could they take a cat-free holiday? The wife had a “cat phobia” and it didn’t matter where they went in Europe, there were cats…in restaurants, under tables, in hotel lobbies, even on the street!

CatMillions of us who travel on almost any cruise ship had the obvious answer, but it took the travel writer a while to get around to it.

She did her homework, because that’s what travel writers do. At Euromonitor, she discovered a graph of “cat- and dog- owning nations” but we couldn’t find it so we’re not sure if she was looking for the pet population — or nations that are owned by cats and dogs. 

Neither came up.

The travel writer did point out that cruise ships are cat-free, then went on to reveal that Barcelona is a big cruise port (really?) and that there are usually “coach or boat excursions” operated in cruise ports. She even mentioned the names of a few cruise lines…Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC.

She did miss the boat on a couple of things. One, Cunard does allow cats on its three ships — they stay in an on-board kennel and their owners are allowed regular visits. And two, she should’ve told them to avoid Oasis of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship.

Because Oasis has CATS!

The musical.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise update — women rule!

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 18, 2015
Galveston (return): FalmouthGeorge TownCozumel 
Inside: $387
Cost per day: $55
www.royalcaribbean.com

Cruise Ships And Entertainment

Almost every cruise ship has entertainment. Here are some of our favorite entertainers over the years…

Allure-ChicagoThe signature production on Allure of the Seas reminded us what a terrific musical Chicago is — guess that's why it's been around for almost 40 years!

Riviera-FlamencoNot actually "on" the Oceania Riviera, this Flamenco dancer turned everyone's head at the then-new ship's christening ceremony on the Barcelona waterfront.

Navigator-Unexpecteds The Unexpected Boys, from an organization of tribute acts (The Four Seasons), on Navigator of the Seas

Unexpected Boys…and off-stage, where they have real names (left to right): Nick Celona, Aaron Young, Doug Carpenter and Scott Pearson.

Crown- Tony Tillman, named Princess Entertainer-of-the-Year on the Crown Princess, was inspired by the late Sammy Davis Jr. and has made a career playing him.

Blue Man Until seeing Blue Man Group on the Norwegian Epic, we might have considered this one scary act…but what a funny, entertaining show.

Glory Dayz-1A talented group from Rhode Island, Glory Dayz seemed headed for a bright future in cruising after spending a week auditioning on Explorer of the Seas.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

MSC Divina
7 nights
March 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSan JuanBahamas
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49
www.msccruisesusa.com

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