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Why Upscale Cruise Deals Are Rare

You may have noticed in our Daily Deals — five days a week, 52 weeks a year — that bargains on "upper premium" cruise lines appear only rarely. There’s a reason for that: The “deals” are often…well, confusing.

An example is one we just received from Oceania.

What caught our eyes was Free 3-night Winelands & Wildlife Safari Land Tour on 6 Voyages promotion. That led us to randomly choose one of the six voyages, a 30-day trip on the Oceania Nautica from Dubai to Cape Town, South Africa, and dig deeper into some of the details:

• 2 for 1 cruise fares — Oceania does a lot of this and the problem is that it’s based on a “brochure fare.” On this one, the promotional fare is $9,999 for an inside stateroom, compared to a brochure fare of $26,398. That’s per person. Really? Somebody would consider paying almost $1,000 a day, per person, on the Nautica?

• Free Airfare* — The asterisk (*) is for the gateway cities where your coach air fare applies, and that transportation to say, Atlanta, is extra. Fair enough. By the way, ground transportation is not included.

• $500 shipboard credit — Okay.

• Free pre-paid gratuities & Internet — That’s pretty straightforward, until you read the fine print, where it says “Free Internet is one per stateroom and applies to Concierge Level Staterooms.”

• Free safari land tour — Also straightforward, except that it is “capacity controlled, limited availability.”

So, here’s the bottom line: Your cruise fare is half the “rack rate” and your air fare is paid from major airports; on the ship you get $500 credit per stateroom, the Internet is free if you book a concierge room ($13,299) or higher, and you get a free African safari for three days as long as it’s not overbooked by people looking for the same freebie.

Confusing?

We thought so, too.

Today at portsandbows.com: Beautiful Budapest at night

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
June 12, 2015
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.costacruise.com

Oceania Ships Have The Same Look Now

Two years ago in the Mediterranean, we were fortunate to be on the Oceania Riviera for one of its first cruises, with a stop in Barcelona for the christening and official naming ceremony. This is a smallish ship by ocean-going standards — just 1,250 Rivierapassengers — and, by any objective cruiser's estimation, the Riviera is one beautiful ship.

It is a sister to Marina, Oceania's first new-build. Before that, three ships that performed for other lines made up the Oceania fleet.

And this year, it's their turn.

Earlier in the week, the last of the three — the Regatta — came out of dry-dock looking more like her prettier, younger sisters. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and while there's only so much you can do with an old body (we speak from experience), when somebody spends $50 million on ships that are already "nice" you can assume they're going to look more like they belong to the same family.

The Regatta was the first ship for fledgling Oceania Cruises, 11 years ago, along with the Insignia. Both were known as "R ships" from bankrupt Renaissance Cruises. Two years later, along came the Nautica, another former R ship, and that was the fleet until RivieraMarina arrived, squeaky clean and new, in 2011.

This is the second time the Regatta has been refurbished in three years and most of its new look has to do with cosmetics…isn't that always the case? It also features a couple of popular and proven Marina and Riviera additions: Baristas coffee bar and the Terrace Cafe. That's the same treatment the Nautica and Insignia both received before they emerged from dry-dock last month.

When the Riviera arrived in 2012, it was from the same Fincantieri Shipyard that delivered Marina. About the same time, Insignia was being leased to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises for two years, probably for financial reasons. She returned last month and Oceania again became a five-ship fleet, but won't likely stay that way for long.

Plans are in place with Fincantieri for two more new ships.

If the Marina and the Riveria hadn't been so popular, that wouldn't happen.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Quantum of the Seas and entertainment

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
September 15, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44
www.ncl.com

Insignia and Oceania — the second time around

Over the years, we've known a couple of couples who have been married twice. To each other. That's the same bride and the same groom…twice. One second wedding lasted, and one didn't.

In cruise vernacular, that analogy could compare to the Oceania Insignia.

At birth, she was called R One, an unimaginative name for one of the Renaissance ships that all went on to bigger and better things with new names and new owners (spouses, if you will). When R One was five, she became the Insignia, a member of InsigniaOceania's Regatta Class. By the time she was in her teens, Insignia changed her name to Columbus 2.

And now, still only 15 (much older in ship years), she's soon to be Insignia again. 

After Renaissance Cruises ceased to exist, she was a workhorse for more than eight years for Oceania, with R siblings Regatta and Nautica, helping to establish the brand, which the owners like to call "upper premium."  

When the cruise line brought in newer, more modern ships called Marina and Riviera, the economics were such that it made sense to farm out the old girl, Insignia. So off she went to Hapag-Lloyd — that's the name of a small cruise line — and she's been toiling there for almost two years as Columbus 2.

Next spring, they'll strip off that painted name and — while giving her a second facelift, which in the ship world is called a refurbishment — they'll decorate her with "Insignia" again (Insignia 2 maybe?). She'll split her first year back between Europe and the Caribbean, as many ships do, and then she'll be sent around the world in 180 days. 

Twice.

The first such cruise leaves Miami in January 2015, the second in July 2015. The first sold out in eight days, the second goes on sale next week. So Insignia's more popular than ever.

This time, it looks like she and Oceania are in it for the long haul, maybe until their Golden Years.

Carnival Glory
7 nights
December 8, 2013
Miami (return): CozumelCosta MayaRoatanGrand Caymen
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

Carnival Cruisers Get a Taste of Appies

 

Before there were apps, there were appies. We love appies. Probably more than we love apps.

So now along comes Carnival Cruise Lines with the latest attempt to appeal to our palettes. Free appies and, yes, we know that there are lots of free apps, too. But when was the last time you ate one?

Starting with the Miracle, currently sailing round trips from New York to warmer climes (Caribbean), there will be free appies on Carnival ships when you buy a drink in the accompanying dining venue.

For example, a blue margarita in the Blue Iguana Cantina comes with "roast pork tacos with green chili salsa and aged cotija cheese, and chicken, avocado, and lime tortilla soup." Buy a $5 Manhattan cocktail at the American Steakhouse and your appie will be "short rib croquettes with chipotle aioli and guava and tomato relish, served with pumpkin bisque with sour cream."

And so on.

While the 8-year-old Miracle is the first ship, Carnival plans to have free appies — officially, it's called The Taste Bar — on all 24 by next year. That includes the Breeze, which will be break water in June in Venice.

Now, if you don't think it's worth five bucks alone for elaborate appies like these…maybe stick to the apps.
 

Oceania Nautica
10 nights
May 14, 2012
Athens, Santorini, Ephesus, Taormina, Amalfi, Rome, Florence, Marseille, Barcelona
Inside: $2,049
Cost per day: $205
www.oceania.com
 

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