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Re-Trace Adkins A Hit With Carnival

The last time Trace Adkins was on a cruise ship, it was not a happy time. The country music star and a man who impersonated him went nose-to-nose on the Norwegian Pearl, Trace AdkinsAdkins got off at the next stop (Tampa) and checked himself into rehab.

That was early in 2014.

After going through recovery, as alcoholics often do, he went back to work and last weekend in Dallas he performed a free concert that was sponsored by Carnival. No ship. No impersonator. No problem. This was the Ultimate Cowboys Fan Fest and both kinds of cowboys participated…Adkins and Darren Woodson, who used to play for the local football team when it was a Super Bowl champion (three times).

When people as famous and presumably as wealthy as Trace Adkins make headlines for the wrong reasons, the public generally is reluctant to be sympathetic, no matter who’s at fault. People who have had to deal with alcoholism, directly or through family or friends, are more inclined to be more understanding…and are happy when it appears the fallen stars have recovered, so to speak.

And if those people also like country music then they, like us, are glad to see Trace Adkins back in the saddle, as they say. The fact that last weekend’s event was cruise-connected is an indication that he’s not reluctant to go back to cruising and that cruising’s not reluctant to embrace him again.

Maybe everybody wins.

In the news…

• The Cavern Club among upogrades to Norwegian Epic after three-week dry-dock
• Baltimore man cruises for 1,000th day on 139th time in 12 years on a Carnival ship
• Oceania upgrading top tier suites before launch of Sirena (formerly Ocean Princess)

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Carnival Victory
5 nights
January 4, 2016
Miami (return): Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios
Inside: $289
Cost per day: $57

Pearl Time For The Legends

You know, those of us who have seen Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic should have known it would find a new home. We should have known it wouldn’t work as well in Europe, where the Epic has been since spring and where it will stay until November 2016, because Europeans don’t seem to take as readily to “tribute” acts as North Americans.

Legends in Concert-MJ copyWe should have known that Legends in Concert was sunk when a passenger pointed out last month on Cruise Critic that the show was cancelled during her cruise, with no explanation from Norwegian. In the fine print of the cruise line’s website, you can find (eventually) that the last show was September 20.

But we didn’t.

The good news is that Legends in Concert is moving to the Norwegian Pearl. Now the Pearl’s no Epic — a little more than half the size — but the theaters are probably much more comparable. Clearly, Norwegian had to find a home for this show once its five-year run on the Epic was over, or risk losing it to another cruise line.

Would that matter?

Norwegian is consistently cited for having the best entertainment at sea, often winning awards for it from the people who create awards. That goes for the Epic, too. It can’t be a coincidence that Norwegian has been at or near the top of the entertainment category for the last five years (the Epic is five years old) and that Legends in Concert has been a fixture on the ship.

PearlWe’ve seen Legends in Concert twice on the Epic. We weren’t expecting the shows to be winners, but they were. The “tribute acts” included some performers who were favourites (Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett) and some who weren’t (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears). All were good.

On the Pearl, starting…now, the tribute acts are Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner. Well, two out of three isn’t bad…and you can guess which two.

In the news…

• Norwegian Star's propulsion problem takes ship straight to Tampa
• Doug Ward's 2016 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ship Guide released
• Smaller Maasdam to replace departing Volendam in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Second American river cruiser for Pacific Northwest

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Inside: $504
Cost per day: $72

Theme Cruises You May Not Believe 

Let’s call if the extreme of theme. That’s not the name of a new musical group or TV reality show, it’s just a way of identifying what’s coming up in the way of, ah, unusual cruises this winter.

Here’s a quick look at three upcoming theme cruises:

The Meow Meow Cruise

This one’s for cat lovers, but not cats. On the Carnival Paradise next April 21, passengers who are cat lovers (or cat lovers who are passengers) will gather to participate in feline-meow-meow-cruise2themed activities while cruising from Tampa to Cozumel, and back. Suggestions for activities are “You scratch mine and I’ll scratch yours” and “Isn’t a perfect place for a flea market?”

The Walking Dead Cruise

This three-night cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl in January is for zombies. Every family has theme. Yes, ours does, too. It appeals to fans of the hit TV series because they’ll have a chance to hang with Daryl and Carl and Beth and Sasha and Tyreese…and if those names aren’t familiar to you, welcome to the club. Their fans have lots of money — an inside cabin is $750, or $250 a night — and it’s sold out.

2016 Red Sox Fan Cruise

Also in January, this one on the Celebrity Reflection, although it’s a Caribbean cruise — also from Miami — that Boston baseball fans could be on this week, since they have nothing better to do during the baseball playoffs. Among the ex-players on the Reflection will be Luis Tiant and Jim Rice, although Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi would have been better, since they actually won with the Red Sox.

In the news…

• Carnival latest to name its new "air program" — Fly2Fun
• Royal Caribbean: 90 departures, 20 per cent increase in Australia
• Norwegian guests on new TV series 'Dream Quest With Evette Rios'

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
16 nights
November 19, 2015
Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, Funchal, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo
Inside: $697
Cost per day: $43

Walker Stalker Cruise For Zombies

Even though we’ve never once seen a minute of The Walking Dead on TV, we do have two immediate family members who drove 10 hours so they could run and climb and slip and slide and generally be zombies…or be attacked by them. So we do know a little bit about the world of zombies, which is what (or whom) a TWD theme cruise is designed to attract.

The cruise will be on the Norwegian Pearl for four days (and worse yet, nights) in January 2016. The trip from Miami to Nassau will be called the Walker Stalker Cruise and eight Walking Dead-The Walking Dead-AMCPhoto credit: The Walking Dead-AMC

members of The Walking Dead cast will be on board, including Norman Reedus (Daryl), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Emily Kinney (Beth) and Soniqua Martin-Green (Sasha).

For all we knew they could be from The Walking Dead or The Grateful Dead, another zombie-themed phenomenon we managed to miss (escape). Coincidentally, The Grateful Dead put an end to a 50-year career last night at Soldier Field in Chicago, where the four living members played for the last time at the last place they played when there were five of them (Jerry Garcia died in 1995).

The other “Dead” is just getting started.

The TV show (and yes, the zombies in our family watch it religiously) is just getting started. Its next season will be number six, so by “Dead” standards some of them will still be doing this –  or something like it — in the year 2060. That might be cruising, a pastime in which cast members are getting an early start.

The Pearl is probably as good a name as possible for The Walking Dead cruise, given that cruise ships rarely have anything but upbeat names, for obvious reasons. Participants will Pearlhave a chance to be zombies in themed games, costume contests, concerts, doing make-up and as wannabes when meeting the show’s stars at panel discussions and photo-ops.

At what cost?

From January 15 to 18, inside rooms run $750 to $875 per person. Oceanviews are going for $875 to $1,000. Balconies $1,150 to $1,350. The same four-day cruise on the same ship in November has prices of $249 (inside), $379 (oceanview) and $469 (balcony).

We must ask our resident zombies to help us understand that…

In the news…

• Cruise lines evaluating risk day-to-day on cruises to Tunisia for 2015 and 2016
• Number of Antarctic (Soputh Georgia) cruisers up 15% to all-time high of 8,142
• First Princess whisky bar, Magnums, selling 63 varieties on Dawn Princess

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity spins of 123Go promotion

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas
7 nights
August 16, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Kitts
Inside: $489
Cost per day: $69

Getting To Know Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh statueARLES, France — For most of our lives, the name Vincent Van Gogh was little more than that, a name. We knew he was a painter, perhaps because of jokes connected to his famous last name, perhaps because it had been buried in textbooks we tried hard to ignore. We knew he was a favorite of the art community, of which we have always been non-members.

Well, that was then.

Thanks to a shore excursion from the Costa Diadema, moored an hour down the road in Marseille, things have changed. Here in the French town where he painted some of his finest works and where 125 years after his death he remains something of an industry unto himself, we learned more about Vincent Van Gogh than we ever did in school.

That’s what travel does for you. That’s what cruise-ship excursions do for you. And that’s what Arles and the nearby town of Saint-Remy did for us. It is, indeed, true that you’re never too old to learn.

A troubled man all his life, Van Gogh moved to Arles in 1888, just two years before he died. His works — and we’re by no means experts at this — changed dramatically with the bright sunlight of Provence and his paintings reflected that with more brilliant colors, specifically yellow. He even lived in the “Yellow House,” now merely a roundabout long after it was destroyed at the end of World War II. One of his Van Gogh-Starry nightmost famous works — called The Starry Night — is of the night sky illuminated by his yellow paint.

Our guide, Pascale Maisonneuve, happily showed us the Saint-Remy “insane asylum” in which Van Gogh spent 10 months. From the courtyard of what is now a museum adjacent Van Gogh windowto a still-functioning mental hospital, we could see the window of his room. This is where, in 10 months, he painted more than 300 landscapes and subjects, including himself in what is believed to be his last of a series of self-portraits.

His painted selfies, as it were.

Many of his prints are displayed on the walls and on pedestals, and there’s a statue.  His is not a big industry in 2015 (a small fee to get into the museum that on this day has open doors with nobody home), but it’s a regular stop for the tour buses. Guides like Pascale actually get excited at the prospect of meeting the patients of today.

“Welcome,” she said, laughing, “to this crazy place. Yes, yes…the patients are very interested here. They want to participate and it can be very funny.”

On this day, there were no open doors to the hospital and, perhaps alas, no patients. Its most famous patient, who shall live forever on these grounds, was more than enough to satisfy us.

And to teach us, too.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Pearl
5 nights
May 2, 201
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $59

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