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Cruising…And What IS To Like

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog — Cruising, What’s Not To Like? — we thought it made sense to point out why we do like cruising. Again, at the risk of stating the obvious, these come from a long list of “likes” that have emerged from years of being on cruise ships… 

The value: When you add up the costs of flying, renting a car and eating, you’re probably getting close to what you’d spend on taking an average cruise with an average cabin on one of the big ocean ships. If you want to spend more — as you would for business class or a bigger car — you can upgrade from inside stateroom to oceanview to balcony to suite, but none of that compares to sitting in a coach-class airplane seat for hours.

Seeing the world: There are usually borders to be observed (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, etc.) but cruise ships make it easy to go to an area and see many places Venicethat would be more problematic to reach by air or on land. Beyond that, with re-positioning cruises you can really “do” a lot of places if that’s your motivation and while we haven’t been on one we imagine that around-the-world cruises are easier for the same reason.

Food: Another subjective one, but we could count the bad meals (or mediocre meals) we’ve had on cruise ships. Considering the mass number of people that have to be satisfied, with different tastes and allergies, cruise-ship chefs do a remarkable job of keeping everybody happy,.

Unpacking:  Whether it’s an ocean cruise ship or a river cruise ship, being able to unpack your suitcases and leave everything in the same place for a week or more is like staying in Room-Verandaa hotel for that length of time. The difference is that these hotels are on the move and consequently, so are you. Maybe that’s why people call cruise ships floating hotels!

Options: When you’re on a ship, you can do as much or as little as you like. We tend to do much. We’re more likely to be found in a theater for a show or on a shore excursion than sitting in a stateroom or a bar or library. But having all the options is appealing.

People: Everybody’s different, of course, but we’ve made many friends among crew members who work on ships. While we’re not anti-social, we do find people working on ships and living in ports more interesting than fellow passengers. We’ve made a few friends there, too, but the social aspect has never been a motivation for taking a cruise.

Getting there: In this age, flying has become much less fun. We usually still have to fly to get to a port, but imagine how many flights you’d take if you wanted to visit Peru, Chile and Argentina — or France, Italy and Spain — on one trip.

And those are just the high points!

Today at portsandbows.com: Check our our report from Vietnam on the Amadara

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
September 26, 2015
Quebec City, Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston
Inside: $729
Cost per day: $104

Friday File: Signs, signs, everywhere…

When you travel on cruise ships, you often encounter signs that have strange, double or hidden meanings. Or maybe they’re just clever, prompting the shutterbugs to snap a few photos. And that’s what we’ve done, for your enjoyment (and ours) this week…


This was in Lima, Peru and we didn’t need a Spanish-English dictionary to get the picture, but maybe we should’ve because it probably doesn’t mean what you’re thinking.


Everybody on a shore excursion takes a bus, often trying to find the right one — this Alaska bus driver for Star Princess passengers had a with a sense of humor.


Truly the only time any of us want to visit Hell, which is in the Grand Cayman Islands, and — yes — it’s re-assuring we’ll be able to send postcards back home.


At a snack bar in Aruba, near the “Natural Bridge” the primary tourist attraction until it collapsed 10 years ago — and now home to a sign that speaks for itself.

Costa Rica

A sign from the wilds of Costa Rica and our first thought was of a feeding frenzy so we didn’t know if it was wise to proceed — except for the women, of course.


In case you’re wondering what the dietary desires are for the locals in Valencia, Spain, these eels are always on the menu and in the butcher’s (?) shops.

In the news…

• Fourth of July sales for many cruise lines a reason to pause the celebrations
• Incentives for booking early on Oceania include new ship Sirena in 2016
• Work stoppage at Fincantieri's Shipyard where Carnival Vista is being built

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruising through glaciers to Vancouver

Grandeur of the Seas
8 nights
September 17, 2015
Baltimore (return): Portland, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $804
Cost per day: $100

Carnival Stops Carry-on Drinks


It was in the port of Manta, Ecuador that we saw a fellow passenger buy a family-sized bottle of coke, then empty most of it so he could re-fill it with rum or some other spirit before getting back on the cruise ship.

How tacky, we thought.

Today, Carnival is being accused of being tacky, for preventing passengers from doing just that. No more bottles of liquid of any kind can be brought onto ships from ports and, with few exceptions, from embarkation points. The exceptions are that passengers are each allowed to bring a bottle of wine, up to 12 cans (unopened) of water or soda and — to ease the pain of the people who are pains — the price of pre-ordering a 12-pack of water is being cut from $4.99 to $2.99.

The cruise line’s philosophy is that the step is being taken to (a) make its passengers safer and (b) to speed up the embarkation process that is being slowed by checking every bottle with fluid that shows up in luggage.


We are left to presume that “safety” has to do with the smuggling of explosives, the same reason airlines don’t allow liquids from outside security areas. And the embarkation process is only going to be faster if people stop bringing as many bottles as they hope will slip past security people and cameras.

Naturally, the people are upset and are accusing Carnival of driving up profits by forcing people to buy more (liquids) on the ship. They’re also saying the cruise line will back down on this, because eight years ago non-alcoholic drinks were banned and it was later retracted.

A more logical explanation is that Carnival is instituting the policy because too many people are breaking the rules…just like the guy with the bottle of “coke” in Manta.

In the news…

• New Zealand latest market to report cruise boom (Yahoo)
• Disney Magic sails into Norwegian fjord that inspired 'Frozen'
• Newest Princess sale 'Great Getaways' good through July 7

Today at portsandbows.com: Un-Cruises expanding south

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
September 6, 2015
New York (return):  Boston, Portland, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $389
Cost per day: $55

Friday File: Epic Tale Of An Epic Ship

The Norwegian Epic is in Barcelona now, the first month of the rest of its life, so it isn’t ever returning to North America. It seems people either love the Epic or hate it and, judging by the awards it has won, there are more lovers than haters. When it goes in for refurbishing in late September, the Epic will be re-designed for its permanent European clientele. Below are photos of some of what remains, and what doesn’t (or won’t)…


O’Sheehan’s, a favorite stop of ours, is expanding in dry dock, surprising only because it was named after CEO Kevin O’Sheehan, and he’s gone.


No more Blue Men on the Epic, replaced by Broadway shows Ballroom Blitz and (come October) Priscilla Queen of the Desert.


A cruise line promising to cater to families had to have a water slide and the Epic’s was the first tube-and-bowl type of any cruise ship.


Norwegian’s entree into specialty restaurants has a funereal look to its entrance, but inside are some of the best steaks you’ll find anywhere.


In two Epic cruises, we've never seen that bowling at sea is espcially busy, but it's busy enough to keep it on the ship beyond September…we think.


If she looks like Britney Spears, she’s supposed to, as one of the tribute acts in Legends In Concert, another European entertainment casualty.


The Epic’s most controversial design was having almost-see-through glass doors on the bathrooms, and it’s expected refurbishing will change that.


One solution to the coziness of balcony rooms is to upgrade to what Norwegian calls The Haven, where the smallest rooms look like this one.


And part of being a resident of The Haven is having access to the Courtyard, where privacy is at a premium and butlers are always nearby.

In the news…

• Celebrity adding overnights on longer Caribbean cruises in 2016 (Travel Weekly)
• Cunard to live-stream Monday's 175th anniversary celebrations from Liverpool

Today at portsandbows.com: Silversea's Silver Select promotion

Norwegian Gem
7 nights
September 26, 2015
New York (return): Saint John, Halifax, Portland, Bar Harbor
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Picking A Cruise By Shore Savings


Two years ago, the U.S. and Canadian dollars were at par. According to yesterday’s exchange rates, $1.00 U.S. was worth $1.22 Canadian. That kind of gap usually means an exodus of tourists in the direction of better deals, and apparently that’s what is happening in conjunction with Alaska cruises originating in Vancouver.

According to a report by Canada’s national broadcaster, CBC, the falling Canadian dollar is encouraging more Americans to cruise out of Vancouver this summer…perhaps combining a cruise with a Canadian vacation. The report estimates that 70 per cent of passengers boarding ships bound for Alaska in the Port of Vancouver are Americans.

It’s not so much that cruises are better deals — Americans booking cruises from Vancouver pay in U.S. dollars — as it is that everything else around the departure and return is a deal. Hotels, restaurants, tours, taxis…the whole enchilada.

The number of cruise visitors this year is expected to be about 800,000, on par with last year. That’s from 227 visits on 32 cruise ships. However, tourism analysts say Americans are likely to stay longer before or after the cruise, and spend more because of the currency bargains.

This foreign currency concept is foreign to us. Everybody likes a deal but our choices in picking a cruise would be more inclined to focus on whether the cruise is a deal, not whether the hotel before leaving was.

What about you?

In the news…

• Costa Deliziosa to sail from Fort Lauderdale starting in December
• Norwegian Dawn passengers anticipating compensation for delay
• Luxury cruise market expecting 53 per cent jump by 2018
• Azamara launches ‘Cruise Global, Eat Local’ dining program

Today at portsandbows.comA $90-million terminal upgrade for Quebec

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas
7 nights
September 20, 2015
San Juan (return): St. Croix, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia
Inside: $489
Cost per day: $69

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