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Cruising Robots And Fruit Flies

Signs of the cruise apocalypse…or just interesting anecdotes about cruising:

The r2d2 effect

In case you thought you would only see this on the big screens playing the record-breaking latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens, guess again. If next year you’re on a Costa ship, as we were fortunate to be this year, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking to a robot. And the robot will be talking to you.

Costa Cruises will begin placing “emotional robots” on its ships after New Year’s, starting with the Diadema and the AIDAprima, a Costa brand. The robot’s name is Pepper and he, Diademashe or it will greet passengers as they board and help them find their way to restaurants and entertainment.

Pepper is apparently the world’s first robot capable of recognizing major human emotions and responding accurately in real time. So we are officially in the “talk with a robot” age.

The people who will be most nervous about hearing this news?

Walmart greeters.

21st century X-rays

A few years ago, we met a scientist who was commissioned to dissect the brain of a fruit fly, so we know that with fruit flies anything is possible.

Even X-rays.

That’s what is happening at four New Zealand cruise ports. A mobile X-ray machine is X-raymachinebeing installed to keep destructive pests from infesting the country…not rats or bats or snakes, but the dreaded Queensland fruit fly.

Areas near Auckland have been under strict restrictions to prevent the Australian pest from disembarking. To that end, the “biosecurity” machines will X-ray the bags of 260,000 or so cruise passengers next year to make certain there is no fruit inside that could be carrying the fruit fly to shore. Presumably, passengers will be warned about putting apples and oranges in their pockets and purses before leaving the ship.

The object is to make New Zealand “fruit fly free.”

In the news…

• Empress of the Seas returning to Royal Caribbean after 8-year absence
• Costa back in Port Everglades for winter season with the Deliziosa
• New 62-passenger Crystal Esprit christened in the Seychelles

Today at portsandbows.comOceania kicks off Wave Season


Vision of the Seas
7 nights
April 9, 2016
Tampa (return): Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $80
www.royalcaribbean.com

Standing Up Ovation Of The Seas

This is only a big deal if you’re thinking of cruising near Australia, or if you live in New Zealand. But it’s an interesting story even if you’re just interested in cruising.

Not everybody wants Ovation of the Seas.

Now that Anthem of the Seas is on the water, Ovation is Royal Caribbean’s next new ship. It will arrive in about a year and it was scheduled to visit New Zealand the year after that, which means in the summer of 2017.

Not so fast.

The problem is the port at Auckland. Two wharf extensions were planned to accommodate “bigger ships.” One of the extensions has been canceled, presumably for financial reasons Auckland-Simon_sees

-Simon_sees photo

although that’s not clear. Without it, there will be no room in the harbor for the 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas.

Without Auckland, speculation is the ship will not visit New Zealand.

The economic impact of that is said to be as much as $40 million for the country, and this was from only four port calls. Having said that, nobody is suggesting Royal Caribbean might send a smaller ship to minimize the loss and keep New Zealand in the loop.

Says one side: “Cruises are not the lifeblood of Auckland. Cargo ships are the lifeblood of Auckland."

Says the other side: “What's good for Auckland in terms of cruise shipping is good for the economy of New Zealand.”

This week, Royal Caribbean will have a delegation in New Zealand. You think all sides might be looking for an alternative?

In the news…

Norwegian Epic officially a European ship, based in Barcelona
• First Princess cruise L.A.-Panama return since 2009 [USA Today]
• Cinco de Mayo deals from Carnival must be booked by today

Today at portsandbows.com: Emerald Sky trapped on the Rhine

Holland America Amsterdam
7 nights
May 31, 2015
Seattle (return): Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria
Oceanview: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

Cruising In The Sun A Time To Be Cautious

 

A visit to the family dermatologist (doesn't everybody have a family dermatologist?) raised the sometimes-uneasy spectra of using sunscreen. Few places is that more important than it is on a cruise ship…out in perpetual sunshine for long periods of time, frequently closer to the equator than normal.

As an aside, a Florida-based skin care company — in Cocoa, of all places — cleverly made a deal with Carnival to provide passengers on four ships this month (BreezeLibertyTriumph and Sunshine) with complimentary sunscreen. There are gallon-size pumps and sampling stations plus individual packets. If the marketing campaign attracts enough customers to its Ocean Potion (also clever), the partnership with Carnival could go well beyond the four-ship test.

But back to the family dermatologist.

During the inevitable waiting period, patients can self-educate. Like by reading at least parts of a sun-protection brochure — by another skin care company — and discovering some valuable information. Seriously.

Given that another doctor told us everybody needs 15 minutes of Vitamin D (sunshine) a day, let's talk about the UV Index. Does anybody not working in dermatology or for skin care companies really know what it means? 

For example, if it's between 0 and 2 (low), you're safe in the sun for an hour, providing you wear sunglasses. Between 3 and 5, you need to wear hats, sunscreen and sunglasses if outside for more than half an hour. At 6 or 7, it's sunburn time and that means skin damage. Between 8 and 10, you can burn quickly so it's time to bring on the protection army to keep from burning quickly. A UV Index of 11 or higher can mean damaged skin and burns in minutes.

What's relative?

Check the Environmental Protection Agency website to see what the index is where you are. And if where you are is on a Caribbean cruise, or when you are, the UV Index is likely to be 9.

That's considered "very high." That means a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a shady place to sit.

Ask the family dermatologist.

Sea Princess


14 nights


February 27, 2014 


Brisbane (return): AucklandTaurangaNapierWellingtonAkaroaDunedin


Inside: $1,999


Cost per day: $142


www.princess.co

From a Glassblower to a Godmother

The last time we were on a Celebrity ship — the Eclipse — on a cold and windy day somewhere in the Atlantic, we witnessed the amazing artists from the Corning Museum of Glass at work.

The next time we'll be on a Celebrity ship — the Reflection — we will again see the Hot Glass Show, but this time it will be quite a different story…and not just because it's unlikely to be cold and windy.

One of the glassblowers is one of the Reflection's Godmothers.

Her name is Megan Mathie. She is one of four Godmothers of the Reflection, as Celebrity made an unprecedented break with tradition. Yes, the Norwegian Breakaway will have a whole cast of Rockettes as Godmothers come next spring, but Celebrity's decision is much more touching.

When the ship is christened in Miami at the beginning of December, the Godmothers who preside over the ceremony will all have a connection to breast cancer. In Megan's case, she was selected as one of them because of the part she has played in breast cancer awareness. In Megan's case, it's almost as close to home as you can get.

Both her sister and her mother were both diagnosed with the dreaded disease earlier this year. After a short leave, she was persuaded by them to return to cruising and her work, which changed direction. She became a promoter of breast cancer awareness, and now she auctions a one-of-a-kind "pink glass" at the end of each of her cruises. The proceeds go to the fight to eradicate the disease.

The other three Celebrity employees chosen as Godmothers — spa manager Jovanka Goronjic, community relations manager Helen O'Connell and special events team manager Rosey Rodriguez — all have been touched in some way by the disease. Their identities were announced earlier this month, annually designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Said Celebrity President and CEO Michael Bayley: “These impressive women personify the qualities we admire among our Solstice Class Godmothers: remarkable strength and courage, along with optimism, warmth and genuine care for others.”

As one of the four glassblowers who entertained us on the Eclipse, Megan has since worked on the Solstice, so she'll have been on three of the five ships in what is arguably cruising's most beloved groups of ships. Having Godmothers who crusade for a cause like this will just make the Reflection the perfect way to complete the class.

With class.


Holland America Oosterdam
11 nights
January 26, 2013
Sydney (return): Ile des Pins, Port-Vila, Vanuatu, Lifou, Noumea
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $90
www.hollandamerica.com

The Bizarre World of Captain Schettino

While it's possible that Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino will be convicted of manslaughter over the death of 32 cruise ship passengers, it's also important to remember something about a rush to judgment.

The respected news agency Reuters carried a story headlined "Italy cruise ship's captain tells survivors: I'm sorry". In the story, there is one line about the apology: "Two German survivors who attended the hearing said Schettino had shaken their hands and said he was sorry."

The headline makes it sound that Schettino apologized for what he did. Are we to believe that he would say that during a preliminary court appearance regarding his guilt or innocence? Is it possible that what Schettino simply said was he was sorry about what happened, no matter who was to blame?

Sometimes it seems the world is so anxious to convict the guy that it can't wait for a fair trial.

You don't think so?

In another report, carried by CNN, a lawyer said when Schettino appeared in court this week he looked "like he walked straight out of a GQ Magazine." And this has what to do with his guilt or innocence?

As if the entire proceedings aren't bizarre enough, here's another one:

Schettino, alleged to be the principal perpetrator of a crime by everyone from his own cruise line to the Italian Coast Guard to surviving passengers, has sued Costa Cruises for wrongful dismissal?

Like his guilt or innocence, that will also be determined.

In time.


Sun Princess
14 nights
December 30, 2012
Brisbane (return): Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Fiordland National Park                           
Inside: $1,597
Cost per day: $114
www.princess.com
 

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