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New ship No. 6 — Mein Schiff 5

Sixth in a series of new ships for 2016

Most North Americans, it’s safe to assume, know little about TUI Cruises. It’s a smaller cruise line, or a cruise line of smaller ships, or both. It is, however, owned by Royal Caribbean and that gives it a cache of credibility for people interesting in cruising on any of its “Mein Schiffs” (or “my ships”), two of which were once the Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. This year, TUI will inherit Splendour of the Seas from the parent company.

Launch date: July 15

Capacity: 2,534

Sister ships: Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4

Maiden voyage: Kiel, Germany return (9 days)

Home port: Hamburg

Ships then in TUI fleet: 5

Interesting: The latest of three new-builds, Mein Schiff 5 is also significantly larger than the first two ex-Celebrity ships. She is a carbon copy of Mein Schiff 3 and 4, which means 1,276 staterooms, 80 per cent of them with balconies and an interior design that has been described as “modern yet cozy.” German is the principal language yet the ship sounds like one that would appeal to North Americans, too, with a reputable buffet, along with specialty restaurants for Japanese fare and surf and turf. Activities include acrobatics, musicals, magic and comedy shows; fitness and aerobics opportunities; and a full range of shore excursions. Best of all, beverages and gratuities are included.

Today at portsandbows.comThe new Wave Season


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
February 20, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

Musical Match for Queen Mary 2

Of all the cruise lines that have matched entertainers with their demographic, it’s unlikely any of them has done it better than Cunard.

Herbie HancockHerbie Hancock plays the Queen Mary 2.

The child prodigy is 75. It stands to reason that many of the cruise passengers who will be enamoured by his music are of the same vintage. Maybe 65. Maybe even 55. But 75 for sure.

Hancock is of another era, of course, one in which the lyrics were audible and the notes melodic. Presumably his band members are of another era, too, because it was them who convinced him to take a ride on the Queen Mary 2 last month. Maybe they were scouting Cunard’s Blue Note voyages for a man who plays not only blues but also jazz, classical, R&B, funk, bebop, pop and just about any genre of music imaginable.

By ear.

At age 11, he played Mozart. At 20, he begged another self-taught jazz pianist from Chicago (Chris Anderson) to take Hancock under his wing. Within three years, he was playing with Miles Davis. Today, he is renowned for his work on anything with a keyboard…a Grammy Award winner 14 times, an Academy Award winner once and owner of a long list of jazz awards.

Despite his age, he will regale Queen Mary 2’s passengers with three 45-minute shows QM2-NYduring the Transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York the first week of August, because the great ones always regale their audiences.

Especially when it’s such a good match.

Today at portsandbows.comCrystal river cruises a big hit


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

The Venice Cruise Controversy

Venice-Wolfgang MoroderOne of the cruise stories that just refuses to go away is Venice. Here’s a recent headline from The Daily Telegraph, in London:

“Giant cruise ships ‘crushing the life out of Venice.’”

This is a story that’s been going on for years, and there’s no end in sight. What it boils down to is this: Cruise ships that dwarf some of the waterways of Venice, notably the Guidecca Canal, are being blamed for erosion that environmentalists claim will destroy this jewel of Italy. Business interests, including the most recently elected mayor of Venice, argue that tourism is vital to the city’s economy and cruise ships (probably) deliver more tourists (and jobs) than any other mode of transportation.

One side says “the city will die” if it continues. The other side says it must continue and Venice will never die.

What triggered the most recent headline is a photo exhibition — 30 images of cruise ships that make St. Mark’s Square look like a local playground…and they do. The images are on display until January 6th in, of course, St. Mark’s Square.

A little history…

In 2013, the port of Venice banned large cruise ships — 2,200 passengers or more. The ban was overturned by a regional tribunal. In 2014, the Italian government stepped in and restored the ban, to take effect in 2015. Twelve days into the year, Venice’s regional court of appeal overturned the ban.

Clearly, Italians can’t make up their minds, so here’s a novel idea for them.

Have a referendum. Limit votes to the people of Venice, the ones affected by the death/life of their city. Yes or no. Let the people speak. Let the decision be in their hands, not the politicians in northern Italy or down south in Rome. 

Give them the facts, give them the propaganda, give them the pros and the cons…and let them decide. 

Once and for all.

- Photo by Wolfgang Moroder

In the news…

• Royal Caribbean orders Quantum Class ship No. 5 to arrive in 2020
• Rough seas, high winds delay Nieuw Amsterdam by a day in Barcelona

Today at portsandbows.com: Crystal cruising into river market


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 2, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67
www.ncl.com

Mexico: Why Tourists Matter

If you’ve been reading our meanderings these last almost-six years (and of course you have, right?), then you know that we have a soft spot for Mexico. You know that when things goes sour south of the border, we feel badly and sometimes even defensive. You know when things go well, we raise a glass of…tequila!

So where is Jose Cuervo, anyway?

Tourism has made a comeback in Mexico — again. By the end of this year, there will have Puerto Vallartabeen 5.7 million tourists in Mexico, and 6.1 million next year. While that’s only about a third the population of the capital city, what’s staggering is the impact those six million visitors have. At a trade show in Cozumel, the country’s new secretary of tourism — Enrique de la Madrid Cordero — told Travel Weekly (among others) that tourism represents nine per cent of Mexico’s GDP.

It employs eight million people.

With more comfort about Mexico’s security improvements, four cruise lines will make port calls along the Mexican Riviera during the next two winters — Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America and Princess. If our memory is accurate, there was a time when only Carnival was there.

American Airlines is adding flights to Mazatlan. New hotels are being built. Shore excursions for cruise passengers are better than ever.

Everybody knows what the attractions are in Mexico, starting with the weather. Besides that, there’s something else that (to us) never changes;

The people.

Said de la Madrid Cordero: ““We are aware that we are in a world of constant competition. Our secret weapon [is] the Mexican people, a population that likes to treat people well.”

And why not? Treating people well is clearly Mexico’s bread and butter.

In the news…

• Carnival, Chinese shipbuilder to develop domestic cruise line in China
• Silversea flagship Silver Muse to raise bar on luxury suites in 2017
• Anthem of the Seas two weeks away from permanent New York home

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 2, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $459
Cost per day: $65
www.ncl.com

Vietnam: Cruising’s Next Hotspot?

Maybe it’s because we were just in Vietnam, cruising down the Mekong River on the AmaDara. Maybe it’s because every time somebody asks us what Vietnam was like, we can’t say enough nice things. Maybe it’s because more cruise ships — new ones from Carnival and Norwegian and Princess, all announced in a 24-hour period — are going to be visiting Vietnam from their Asian homeports.

Maybe it’s the food, which is as tasty as you’ll find anywhere. Maybe it’s because when the DSCN2011preliminary Trans-Pacific Partnership was announced last week, the partners are Australia and the United States and Canada and Singapore and Chile…and Vietnam.

Maybe it’s all of that.

For tourism, Vietnam is the next Cuba.

Yes, it’s a Communist country. Yes, it was war-torn and hated all those years ago. Yes, it comes with uncertainty bred by a lack of knowledge. All of those things crossed our minds before we flew to Cambodia, which is not Communist but also comes with the other psychological baggage…and which is also warm and welcoming.

We loved them both. The people are warm and friendly. The people are happy and prospering, at least by the standards they have known for too long. They want a better life and with at least some access to the World Wide Web, they’re seeing things they’ve never seen. They see that tourism is an enormous asset.

The U.S. has recognized this Vietnam since 1996. With the emigration of many cruise ships to the Asian market, cruise analysts also have recognized the attraction of taking their customers to Vietnam. The river cruisers probably started it, and the AmaWaterways ship that took us to within an hour of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not a refurbished, aged relic of the past…it is new.

Cuba wants to welcome the world, and it’s hot. Vietnam is going to be.

In the news…

• 15 singles cabins, 30 Britannia Club balcony cabins for Queen Mary 2 
• Viking returning to cruise 'Kiev to the Black Sea' in Ukraine next year
• Official ceremony naming next two P&O ships to be done on Twitter

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

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