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Everyone on the pool deck!

Midst the snow and the cold of late winter, the upper decks of cruise ships provide a welcome escape, even if only in pictures. Today’s selection is the pool decks of some ships we’ve been on, to see if you think a deck is a deck is a deck…so, do you?

NavigatorThere’s always color and sunshine on pool decks and this one, on Navigator of the Seas, even includes a grandstand for spectators to watch!

CrownOn the Crown Princess, the adults-only area called the Sanctuary features the hot tubs that are capped with thatched roofs, adding to the ambiance of heat.

RivieraDecks (and ships) tend to be an oasis on the ocean, or in this case on the Mediterranean Sea on the Oceania Riviera, a ship that caters largely to adults.

EpicThe Norwegian Epic has always been famous for being different and as one of our favorite ships it delivers a pool area that is — like the Epic itself — unusual.

BreezeWhen ships are in port, as the Carnival Breeze was here in Miami, the rallying cry of “Everybody in the pool!” is still waiting to be heard.

EclipseThe Celebrity Eclipse’s top deck was a welcome respite when we crossed the Atlantic on her and nobody was swimming laps in this clearly divided pool.

CoralPools are welcome even in the ice fields that are the glaciers of Alaska…but it was the “hot” pools on the Coral Princess that were popular with passengers.

When Is The Biggest Ship Biggest?

There is always debates when the subject of “biggest cruise ships in the world” is raised. Some people (like us) tend to think the biggest ship is the one that carries the most people, not the one that weighs the most or is the longest from tip to stern or has the most bow thrusters.

However, passenger counts are fluid, because they are fundamentally based on two people times the number of cabins. There are not always two people in a cabin — sometimes as many as four — and there are suites that accommodate more than two. Or can.

So that’s probably not the right measurement.

OasisIndustry experts use gross tonnage, we are told. That being the case, here are the 10 biggest cruise ships right now:

1. Allure of the Seas* (225,282 gross tonnes)

2. Oasis of the Seas (225,282)

3. Anthem of the Seas (168,666)

3. Quantum of the Seas (168,666)

5. Norwegian Escape (164,600)

6. Norwegian Epic (155,873)

7. Freedom of the Seas (160,000)

7. Liberty of the Seas (160,000)

7. Independence of the Seas (160,000)

10. Queen Mary 2 (148,528)

The list is soon going to change. In the spring and early summer, both Ovation of the Seas (168,666) and Harmony of the Seas (226,000) will move into the top 10. That will give Royal Caribbean nine of the 10 biggest ships.

Allure and Oasis are likely to remain firmly entrenched at the top for the foreseeable future. Part of making ships more energy efficient, just like making cars more energy efficient, is to make them lighter.

You may have noticed the asterisk next to Allure of the Seas. That’s because while it weighs the same as Oasis of the Seas, Allure is two inches longer.

So much for making gross tonnage the criteria!

In the news…

• Crystal Serenity heading to North America following world cruise in 2017
• First robot to read human emotions, Pepper, going on Costa ships next year
• First details about Harmony of the Seas thrill water slide, Ultimate Abyss

Today at portsandbows.com: AmaWaterways announces 2017 schedule

Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
January 18, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $74


Holland America’s Refined Dress Code

The word from Holland America that passengers can begin to dress down from formal wear is one more break from tradition that is, frankly, necessary for what has long been a traditional cruise line.

Translation: There’s a whole group of people coming who won’t come.

Think not?

We have two sons and a son-in-law. Never mind that they don’t wear suits, we’re not sure if more than one of them even owns a suit, and he does because it used to be a requisite for his job. That’s used to be.

Whether it’s Generation X or Y or Z that’s coming, formal cruising as it once was is shrinking. Cruise lines that don’t get on board — yes, perhaps even Cunard — risk having problems filling their ships. 


Holland America is just trying to get ahead of the curve, at least the curve that applies to traditional cruising.

Dress code for dinner went from tuxedos to dark suits, for the men, and now it’s gone to “gala attire” which in Holland America’s world means a jacket and tie on “gala nights.” That’s the “preferred” dress code which the cruise line admits is not enforced. For passengers who are calling this a change in policy, Holland America says no…it’s just a “refinement.”

It’s also just the beginning. Eventually, it’s our guess that “smart casual” will be the universal code for dressing up. That’s casual enough to keep people like our “three sons” from staying away.

And for women?

That’s another suitcase, one that we’re not opening.

In the news…

• Splashaway Bay aquatic park to be on new Harmony of the Seas next spring
• Curtis Stone's first restaurant at sea, SHARE, on two Princess ships this year

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania — exciting times around the world

Norwegian Epic
11 nights
February 3, 2016
Barcelona (return): Cagliari, Palermo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Palma de Mallorca
Inside: $509
Cost per day: $46

Friday File: Norwegian’s Hulls Of A Show

They weren’t always so, well, outlandish. But the more unusual they became, the more the hull art on Norwegian’s ships started to look like a competition where the next one had to be more jaw-dropping or eye-catching than the last. That brings us to the Norwegian Escape, the 14th and newest ship in the fleet, come October 25. Below is the hull art applied this month to the ship’s bow — on both sides — from artist Guy Harvey, followed by the more for your perusal and assessment (the eight ships here are arranged chronologically, from newest to oldest)…

S693_Escape_Guy Harvey_Artwork-Shooting_2015_07_28

Thumbs-up from the artist, accompanied by Norwegian President Andy Stuart at the shipyard where the Escape is being finished.


The Getaway is Miami’s ship, a connection that well-known Cuban-American artist David La Batard painted in his impressionistic style.


In 2013, famous New York artist Peter Max was commissioned to dress up the Breakaway, unmistakably New York’s ship.


When the Epic arrived in 2010, its hull art was decidedly non-descript, which its critics (we are not among them) say is appropriate.


While it might take some imagination to figure out the ship’s name by its art, the Gem in 2007 was the flagship, status that lasted three years.


Cruising exclusively around Hawaii, Pride of America sports all the trappings of flag-waving as the world’s only U.S.-registered cruise ship.


One of three ships in the fleet that didn’t have hull at birth, the Sun was decorated in its bright colors in 2004, three years after its maiden cruise.


This is where it all began, with the new Norwegian Dawn in 2004, when she was christened in Manhattan by actress Kim Cattrall.

In the news…

• Norwegian Cruise Holdings signs unprecedented 15-year lease with Port of Seattle
• No changes yet in Mariner of the Seas departure from Tianjin port after explosions
• Cruise Lines International Association President/CEO resigns after five weeks

Today at portsandbows.com: First Carnival readings of new Seuss book

Costa Mediterranea
7 nights
November 13, 2015
Venice (return): Trieste, Split, Kotor, Argostoli, Corfu, Dubrovnik
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $79

Friday File: Always Five O’clock On Ships

We have no problems with spending time at bars on cruise ships — it’s just something we’ve never done a lot. So today’s glimpse of some of the facades and ways that cruise lines try to encourage passengers to visit their “neighborhood” bar, or one of them, is hardly the work of experts. It’s just some of the bars that we thought looked interesting, for any of a number of reasons…

Allure-moving bar

The Rising Tide on Allure of the Seas is an elevator of sorts, moving three floors up and down at one end of the ship’s promenade.

Epic - OSheehans

On the Norwegian Epic, there’s an Ice Bar that’s very cool but we found O’Sheehan’s more comfortable in more ways than one.

Carnival Ecstasy

This could be any bar but it happens to be an eagle’s nest view of a bar on the Carnival Ecstasy — it shall be nameless here.


Then there's just a bar that looks nice, and classy…which is what Oceania tries to do on all its ships, in this case the tasteful Riviera.

Cruise ship Celebrity Reflection

On the Celebrity Reflection, the innovative Molecular Bar is where you “participate in Mixology 101” and learn new concoctions.


If you’re into bar conversation, it’s minimal from Quantum of the Seas robots, who needn’t worry about translation with their ship now in Asia.

Carnival Freedom

Carnival’s signature places to imbibe, here on the Freedom, and on some ships there’s a pub, a bar and beer with the RedFrog brand.

In the news…

• Holland America, Dancing With Stars to split after January 10 cruise
• No more fireworks shows on Norwegian ships Breakaway, Getaway
• Crystal Cruises owner considering buying into Lloyd Werft Shipyard

Today at portsandbows.com: New port on the River Thames in London

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
November 15, 2015
Houston (return): Cozumel, Roatan, Belize
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

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