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Cruise Industry Bracing For Zika?

You may have heard of zika but if you haven’t, you should, especially if you’re going on a Caribbean cruise, or even thinking of it. Especially if you’re pregnant, or even thinking about it.

Zika can be deadly, so read on…

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly, and travellers should now take extra precautions against mosquito bites. At this time of year, that means the Latin American countries of the Caribbean. At this time of year, that means cruising.

The CDC alert was upgraded late Friday to a “Level 2 travel notice” which presumably requires more attention than a Level 1 and not as much as a Level 3, which is the highest. Without pressing the panic button, pregnant or pregnant-to-be women are being advised to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas.

The nervousness you hear is the cruise industry.

At a time when cruise lines are pulling out all stops to make their demographics younger, along comes zika. At a time when the “babymoon” business (bonding with unborn baby in a relaxed atmosphere) is flourishing, along comes zika.

At the very least, cruises are being cautioned to take precautions by avoiding mosquito-infested areas (can you say jungles?) and loading up on mosquito repellent. Cruise lines, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, are continuing to publishing not just zika, but any issues relating to health and safety, in each ships’ daily bulletin.

While all of that may be re-assuring, in an era when pregnant women have become accustomed to avoiding a wisp of cigarette smoke or a sip of alcoholic beverages in the interests of protecting their babies, it’s hard to believe anything but a significant impact on travel in general and cruising in particular.

In the news…

• ‘Star Wars Day At Sea’ on eight select sailings on Disney Fantasy
• Acapulco comeback — best tourist season in years: 83 per cent hotel occupancy
• Two Turkey ports skipped by Crystal Symphony amid security concerns

Today at portsandbows.com: Ocean ship for Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
November 6, 2016
Miami (return): Roatan, Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $569
Cost per day: $81

The Modern Problem Of Picking A Port

With each day, and each violent activity often linked to terrorism, reasonable people who like to travel get even more reasonable. Or concerned. Or paranoid. Or even scared.

Pick an adverb. The uncertainty of traveling abroad — be it in one direction to Europe or in the other to Asia — understandably may leave North Americans more likely to pick a cruise ship departing and returning to a North American port. Not that there are any guarantees that doing so will keep you from being an unsuspecting victim of terrorism.

But even seasoned travelers are at least having second thoughts. Why fly internationally to get on a cruise if you can fly domestically, or better yet drive or take ground transportation to a port of departure?

This is good (okay, more comforting) news for cruise lines with ships that primarily visit the Caribbean, or assorted other warm-weather spots in the Western Hemisphere. Since a Caribbean cruise still out-ranks all others, that would be most of them, yet many have shifted their investments — and some of their ships — to Asia the last couple of years, which in today’s world could mean counting on a local (Asian) clientele.

For North Americans, there is no shortage of options. A quick count shows that there are 21 cruise homeports in this continent: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Galveston, Houston, Charleston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Bayonne, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Anchorage, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Montreal.

So if you’re an avid cruiser who’s reluctant to fly afar to get to a ship, pick a port.

You may find many kindred spirits.

In the news…

• Two biggest ships (both Royal Caribbean) in southern hemisphere meeting in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.comChristmas markets with Viking in Europe

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Norwegian, The Frank Del Rio Way

Frank Del RioWhen Frank Del Rio became CEO of the company that owns Norwegian Cruise Line, everybody who has seen him in action knew there would be more action to see. Outgoing, perhaps even flamboyant, gregarious and entertaining, he seems to stand still for nothing unless it’s for the next idea to pop into his head…within minutes, or seconds.

This week, engaging reporters on the new Norwegian Escape, here’s what Del Rio revealed to Cruise Critic’s Brittany Chrusciel…

• Every older ship will go into dry dock in 2016 and 2017, except the Jewel, which is already scheduled for 2018. By our count, that’s nine refurbishing in two years, 10 if Pride of America is part of the deal. Del Rio wants the older ships to become more popular, like the 16-year-old Regent Seven Seas Navigator is for one of his other cruise lines.

• Norwegian will start the migration towards smoke-free casinos, and the Escape will be first to become 50 per cent smoke-free. The last four Norwegian ships launched — the Epic (2010), Breakaway (2013), Getaway (2014) and Escape — have all fielded complaints about “drifting smoke” from the casinos.

Escape• Complimentary dining in the new Jimmy Buffett restaurant, Margaritaville At Sea, may be short-lived. There were long line-ups once the Escape arrived in “Jimmy Country” and when something is that popular it’s only a matter of time until it becomes an additional revenue stream. As an aside, as people who have waited in line to get into several  Margaritavilles, we get it.

What Del Rio is doing, since replacing Kevin Sheehan at the helm, is turning Norwegian into a cruise line that turns more heads.

There’s every indication that he knows exactly how to do it.

In the news…

• Viking orders two more ocean ships — fledgling fleet to be six strong by 2020
• Harmony of the Seas to combine attributes of Oasis and Quantum Class ships
• 'Tangled The Musical' world premiere on Disney Magic in Miami
• MSC Divina arrives in Florida to begin year-round cruises to Caribbean

Today at portsandbows.com: Guess where Liberty of the Seas is going?

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
7 nights
January 30, 2016
Tampa (return): Key West, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel 
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $90

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

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

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