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Norwegian On The Move Worldwide

We could be wrong about this but we detect the heavy hand of Frank Del Rio in Norwegian’s latest news bulletin.

And that’s good.

For the first time in 13 years, Norwegian is sending a ship to Asia and Australia. For the first time ever, Norwegian is sending a ship to the Persian Gulf and India. For the first time since any of us can remember, Norwegian is going to base a ship in South America for two consecutive winters (having taken the Norwegian Sun to South America a few years ago — on what will always be near the top of our favorite cruises — this item really got our attention).

And finally, for the first time since…April, the Norwegian Epic is returning to North America.

All of this is going to start happening next year, and it smacks of the ambitious and gregarious CEO of Norwegian Holdings, Frank Del Rio, who has been on the job just seven months, and his Norwegian lieutenant, Andy Stuart.

That Norwegian would find its way to Asia was inevitable, because there isn’t going to be a major cruise line without a presence there. That its new itineraries would spread to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India demonstrates the intent the cruise line has to be a player in those markets.

By ships, here is how it shakes down for the fall and winter of 2016-17…

Norwegian Star will launch its program from Istanbul on October 31, 2016 on a 20-day cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal and eventually Dubai. After that, its ports on a variety of cruises will include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bali, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.

Norwegian Epic will summer in Europe and winter in the Caribbean, from Miami, an about-face for a ship that was going to sail year-round from Barcelona. The first of its 3-4-and-7-day cruises will be in the fall of 2016.

Norwegian Spirit will replace the Epic in Europe for year-round Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul.

Norwegian Sun (ah, memories) will continue to be the workhorse in South America, where in the winter of 2015-16 it will be on cruises of two weeks or longer.

Norwegian Jewel will make two trips each way through the Panama Canal in October 2016 and April 2017.

Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Tampa, for Caribbean winter cruises, likely returning to Europe in the summer.

By the time all this falls into place, the Norwegian Escape will be here (it hits the water October 25 and crosses the ocean four days later. With the return of the Epic, that means Norwegian’s four biggest ships of its 14-member fleet — Epic, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway — will all be spending their winters in Caribbean waters.

So for as much talk as there is about cruise lines and their expansion to Asia and Australia, the core of this business is still Caribbean cruises.

In the news…

• Carnival, Dr. Seuss host two celebrity book-reading events
• America Cruise Lines doubles capacity on Snake, Columbia Rivers

Today at portsandbows.com: Chef Curtis Stone on Princess fleet

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $99
Cost per day: $33
www.princess.com

The New Ways Of Norwegian

 Two couples who are good friends of ours were both on Norwegian ships in the last couple of months. The experiences met with mixed reviews, for both, although we have to say that’s never been the case for any of our Norwegian cruises…and the most memorable of them lasted 19 days!

Well, times are changing at Norwegian.

Tom Stieghorst, who’s on top of everything that happens in cruise central (aka, South Florida) for Travel Weekly, authored an interesting article about the cruise line Norwegian is becoming under new CEO Frank Del Rio and President Andy Stuart. If you’ve been on a GetawayNorwegian ship, you’ll be interested in knowing that the freestyle is being scaled back from Freestyle Cruising and that you’ll no longer be encouraged to Cruise Like A Norwegian.

The slogan seemed appropriate until Del Rio rationalized it this way:

“When you tell a German that he has to cruise like a Norwegian, he says, ‘What are you talking about?’”

So Norwegian’s likely to become more global, as it continues to explore venturing where cruise lines are all going, China. It’s also likely to change its marketing approach (one recent hiring was a door-to-door, high-end vacuum salesperson) by introducing more valued-added components and fewer discount prices…for example, combining air fares as Del Rio did with Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, cruise lines where he formerly presided as the head honcho.

As much as we were thrilled about Freestyle Cruising, perhaps it has run its course. At the time Norwegian introduced it to the industry, it was a welcome change from the staid, fixed-seating, four-or-more-to-a-table style of dining that many of us found unappealing. Today, in no small part because of Norwegian’s innovation, almost every cruise line has an abundance of dining options and life on every ship is less structured.

Or more “freestyle.”

Del Rio also wants to make the “guest experience” on board more complete. Among other things, that could mean enhancements to include enrichment programs on the ships, with the kind of experiences and guest speakers Del Rio is familiar with from his Oceania and Regent  past.

For at least half our friends who just cruised on Norwegian, that would be most welcome…and might even bring them back.

In the news…

• P&O Adonia to become first voluntourism ship for 'fathom' cruise line
• Royal Caribbean returns cover charge to Jamie Oliver's (CruiseCritic)
• Death toll over 400 from capsized Chinese ship on Yangtze River

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara's major re-furbishments

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
September 19, 2015
Miami (return): St. Thomas, Tortola, Nassau
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

Panama Canal A Place To Grow!

Once again this week, we became advocates for taking a Panama Canal cruise, as we have been since our inaugural cruise across the Isthmus of Panama in 2010. This time, it was reassuring friends who leave on a Panama Canal cruise today that they would never regret it.

On our trip, construction was underway for the Canal expansion that was going to be completed…on the waterway’s 100th anniversary in 2014…and then in late 2015…and now sometime early in 2016. The delays have been caused by cost over-runs (now there’s a surprise), strikes (another surprise) and a mix-up in the concrete mix for the locks (that is a surprise).

When it does open, the Canal will accommodate ships that are close to 1.5 times larger than today’s limit. These are called “post-Panamax” ships, and several cruise ships fit the Panama Canalcategory, but that doesn’t include — according to post-Panamax measurements — Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the two biggest cruise ships in the world. Nor does it include Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class ships (Freedom, Liberty and Independence).

Sticking with Royal Caribbean as the example, its two newest ships — Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which is being launched this week — both will fit in the new Panama Canal.

At the moment, half Royal Caribbean’s fleet doesn’t.

But help is on the way. There is now talk of a fourth set of locks across the Isthmus, which will take $17 billion (for now) and 15 years. So by 2030, Oasis and Allure could probably make maiden voyages through the Panama Canal.

If they’re still around, that is.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's creative shore excursions

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
May 30, 2015
Miami (return): St. Thomas, Tortola, Nassau 
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

Deal Too Good, Too Late To Be True

Normally, we let our “Daily Deal” deliver some value cruises for you to consider but once in a while there’s something extraordinary that deserves an even better treatment…A couple Allureof days ago we had one — you do notice that’s past tense, right?…It was a Transatlantic trip on Allure of the Seas, the (starting) price was $659 with 50 per cent off for the second guest, plus up to $200 for an on-board credit…For 12 days, it worked out to less than $50 a day on one of the two biggest cruise ships in the world, as long as bookings were made by January 31…Well, guess what?…Today is January 20, and it’s no longer available…Obviously, eagle-eyed consumers snapped up the rooms but it does leave you wondering how many Royal Caribbean made available in the promotion.

Now here’s a clever idea: When the AIDAsol arrived in Vietnam this week, immigration AIDAsolofficials boarded the ship at Buoy 1, three hours before docking at Tan Cang-Cai Mep, to process the 2,176 passengers, most of them German…By the time the AIDA ship reached the port, the process was finished and passengers were able to disembark right away…On their most recent health inspections, in Fort Lauderdale, two Holland America ships — the Noordam and the Zuiderdam — were perfect (100) in scores by the Centers for Disease Control.

The line-up for the Olympics has begun…The Norwegian Getaway is first in the line-up of cruise ships for Rio de Janeiro, where the Summer Games will be staged in 2016…The Getaway will be impersonating a hotel from August 5-21 next year, just like its smaller Getawaysibling, the Jade, did at the 2012 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia…With a capacity close to 4,000, the Getaway will help take some of the stress off Rio’s hotels, at the same time providing its “passengers” with luxurious accommodation and presumably earning a few “reals” — you didn’t know that’s what Brazilian currency was called, did you? — for the cruise line…The Getaway has experience at this, having served as a floating hotel at last year’s Super Bowl in New York…It doesn’t hurt that Getaway’s ambiance and treatment are decidedly Spanish.

Super BowlFile this one in the “When Will It End?” drawer…In a major Canadian newspaper (Toronto Star) there was a story about Carnival’s advertising on TV during the Super Bowl next week, and the second paragraph read: “Carnival, of course, is the line whose ship, Triumph, became a PR disaster in early 2013, when it got stuck at sea for almost a week due to an engine fire”…Seriously?…That was two years ago and, after all the things Carnival has done to restore its public stature, the cruise line hardly needed a Super Bowl ad to make image amends.

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's latest technology

Carnival Triumph
10 nights
February 20, 2015
San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix, Falmouth, Galveston
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $54
www.carnival.com

Baby’s Cries Save Man Overboard

Any parent will likely agree nothing good can happen when a baby cries and cries and cries in the middle of the night.

Until now.

Heather and Daniel Felton of Louisville took their 13-month-old daughter on a Disney cruise. In the middle of a January night, little Katherine delivered one of those early wake-up calls that exhaust parents, and in this case a trip out onto the deck seemed wise, if only to keep from waking the neighbors.

And that’s when the unimaginable happened…

It was early enough that only the three of them were on the deck of the Disney Magic. The ship was off the coast of Mexico, near Cozumel. The Feltons heard a noise from the water. Disney MagicThen they heard it again. They ran to the rail and looked down, where a man in the water was going by and calling for help.

She alerted the crew. Within 30 minutes, the ship had turned around and launched a (hopefully) rescue operation.

"The odds of him being rescued, being seen…it was a little too much…I know Heather got emotional," Daniel told Lexington TV station Lex18.com.

Crew members jumped into a small rescue craft, found the victim, identified as Frank Jade, and brought him on board. He’d fallen off Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. He’d been in the water for five hours. When he left the Magic at Punta Lagosta, one of Cozumel’s piers, Jade was reported to be stable with no serious injuries.

While in the water, Jade said he was shocked nobody noticed that he’d gone overboard. Cruise law attorney Jim Walker said Royal Caribbean should be embarrassed that “it lost a passenger at sea” and that the cruise line “has made no efforts to comply” with [safety rules] which require “the installation of overboard systems” on Oasis of the Seas.

Meanwhile, Baby Katherine is being celebrated as the world’s first 13-month-old lifesaver.

Today at portsandbows.com: Silversea stepping up

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
February 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

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