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Vroom! Grand Prix On The Diadema

 

ON THE COSTA DIADEMA — Several years ago, we spent almost three weeks driving around Italy. From Tuscany to Turin and back. From Tuscany to Naples to Venice and back to Rome. About 3,000 kilometers in 19 days. By the time it ended, Bob had turned into Roberto. If you’ve ever driven a car in Italy, you know why.

So when we boarded the Costa Diadema in Naples a few days ago, somebody’s eyes lit up at the thought of climbing into the Grand Prix simulator. Maybe another name change — Grand Prix-1Mario, perhaps — was imminent. 

The simulator is one of the fun aspects of cruising on the Diadema, or on any of six other Costa ships. It was one of the cruise line’s innovations that was added to the list of excellent entertainment amenities on this, the 4,850-passenger newest ship for Italy’s (and Europe’s) best-known cruise line.

Rides start at four euros. That’s for three minutes on a choice of international tracks, as they're displayed on three screens just above the cockpit. Step one on the road to Monaco for a real Grand Prix, just like on that poster above, right? In the simulator, thrills and crashes are included. You can go as fast (or slow) as you like and while helmets aren’t required, seat belts are. Nobody wants to be ejected from a Grand Prix car, even a simulator.

North Americans would surely find this a heart-stopping experience. Okay, at least palpitations. For Europeans, just a shrug. Just another day on the Autostrade, where seat-belt laws are observed and speed laws are not (just ask Roberto).

Grand Prix-2Such was our frenetic schedule on the Diadema that we decided to save the best for last. The Grand Prix experience would be on our final night, at the 11th hour. Closing time was 10 p.m. We arrived eight minutes before the hour. Alas, with no line-ups, the operator who locks drivers in the enclosure where a bright-yellow Grand Prix car awaits had also locked the door and shut off the “ignition.” A seat in the cockpit, yes, but no keys. There would be no ride on this night…on this cruise.

Mario would have to wait.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Pearl
5 nights
May 2, 2015
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $53
www.ncl.com

Escaping The Noise Pricier At Princess

The price of peace is always great. Just ask anybody who has known anybody who went to war over the last generation or two.

At Princess Cruises, the price of peace has to do with "peace and quiet" and the price has gone up. Dramatically. Let's put it this way: If your landlord doubled your rent, you'd be heading for the nearest rental board to file a complaint.

Peace and quiet on Princess ships is an area called The Sanctuary. You used to be able to escape the noise and partying elsewhere on a ship — on cruise ships there The Sanctuaryis always high-traffic areas of noise and partying — for 10 bucks for half a day, 20 for the full day.

In January, that doubled…to $20 and $40, respectively.

Karen Candy, the personable media person at Princess, says the price was to control (or lower) the demand. The cost of everything is based on supply and demand, and clearly The Sanctuary has been in such high demand that the cruise line felt it had to (or wanted to) have a significant impact on the number of people using the area.

It's also worth noting that when any cruise line — like any business — sees an opportunity to add a revenue stream, it's "oceans away." And it's worth noting, too, that the price Princess charges could fluctuate by demand. If it's lower, the price will be, too.

Supply and demand…and the price of peace.

Today at portsandbows.com: The big day is here for Viking

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
April 13, 2014
Miami (return): Ocho RiosCosta MayaCozumel
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.ncl.com

Man of Many Interests, Man of Many Talents…Man of Quantum's Sports Plex

For somebody just 35 years old, Dhani Jones has lived an intriguing, diversified life. Linebacker in the NFL for 11 years with three teams, one of which played in the Super Bowl. Founding partner of a New York creative agency. Star in a TV show (Dhani Tackles The Globe) on the Travel Channel, where viewers watch him — in 20 episodes over two seasons — learn to play Dhani Jonesunfamiliar sports around the world. Author of a book about his world odyssey. And now…

Advisor for Quantum of the Seas.

When Royal Caribbean's new ship arrives next year, a part of it will wear the footprint of Jones, the way football fields and running backs did ever since he began making a name for himself as a Michigan Wolverine. In his newest position, bruises will be minimal.

What Jones is trying to do for Royal Caribbean customers is make Quantum of the Seas unforgettable. That's unforgettable in an active sense…because Quantum will have the largest sports and entertainment complex at sea. It includes bumper cars, roller skating and a circus school, to complement sports and fitness programming in the Sports Deck, where Quantum customers will ride the surf, climb the wall and make simulated sky dives.

All of these things Jones will do himself, of course, in order to tweak what has already been developed to make it more…interesting, challenging, invigorating.

"I have a natural affinity for sports," he says. "I have a natural affinity for travel, for fitness, for the adventure of life, and when you put all those together you have a match for Royal Caribbean."

Jones has been working with the cruise line since June. His footprint will be seen when Quantum of the Seas is launched about one year from now.

Photo by Phil Konstantin

Celebrity Eclipse
13 nights
April 19, 2014
Fort LauderdaleNassauKing's WharfPonta DelgadaLondon
Inside: $764
Cost per day: $58
www.celebritycruises.com

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