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Majestic Princess…majestic port stays

There was an announcement from Santa Clarita, California yesterday and when cruise announcements come from this pretty city north of Los Angeles, that almost certainly means Princess Cruises has something to say.

What Princess had to say yesterday was that people who want to cruise on its new ship, the Majestic Princess, can now start to make plans. That the cruise line’s first ship in three years, since the Regal Princess, will spend its first (2017) summer in Europe, which is always a nice place to spend your summer. That passengers will be able to choose from 64 itineraries, 153 departures, 27 countries and Mediterranean cruises from five to 28 days. And that bookings can be made next Thursday, December 3.

Good stuff.

But the most interesting part of the announcement, at least in our corner of the cruise Majestic Princessworld, was that Princess ships — or at least this one — will be staying longer in ports. Overnights, even.

This is one of the growing trends for ocean ships, picking up on what river ships have long been doing…and, yes, that is a different game for many reasons. Over the past couple of years, cruise lines have started to schedule more late-night departures and some overnight stays because…surprise, surprise…the passengers like them.

How many times have you been in an interesting city and felt that your visit was being cut short because last call for the ship was four o’clock in the afternoon, which meant you probably had to start heading there at three? How many times have you wished you could have dinner and not lunch at one of the local restaurants, perhaps recommended by a local? How many times have you thought it would be nice to stay for a theatrical performance or a sports event that started after you were back at sea?

Princess is getting more into the game.

The Majestic Princess (or its seaworthy siblings) will, in a program called More Ashore, offer passengers a chance to stay in 15 European countries until 9 p.m. or later…defeating the theory that the only people on cruise ships are old, tired and in bed by dark. It will also be staying overnight in places such as Dublin, Stockholm and St. Petersburg.

So this was not only news from Santa Clarita yesterday…it was good news.

In the news…

• Record year of cruising expected for New South Wales
• Cunard’s ‘The Ultimate Upgrade’ available until November 30
• Ponant’s evacuated Le Boreal being towed to shore after fire

Today at portsandbows.comCrystal Cruises more up in the air

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
Jan 9, 2016
San Juan (return): Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Thomas
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

Celebrate-ing Overnight Departures

Freedom-Curacao

It was in Willemstad, which is in Curacao, which is close enough to the northern part of South America that you can see it from there. 

There we experienced what it was like to be on a cruise ship that was leaving after dark. Among other things, this enabled us to have a late dinner on shore 20 minutes from the port, to walk the streets of Willemstad in the evening and to take that picture of the ship…you may have noticed we like taking pictures of ships, almost always in broad daylight.

The ship was the Carnival Freedom and we had to be on board by 10 p.m. for an eleven o’clock departure. 

Frankly, we loved it…but it could have been better.

This is pertinent — okay, appropriate — today because Celebrity Cruises is going to do some serious experimenting with overnights in Caribbean ports. It will happen on 43 itineraries in 2016. The experiment will be in six places where, presumably, Celebrity has negotiated a good deal on port fees: Cartagena, St. Maarten, Barbados, Cozumel, Aruba and…yes, Curacao.

All six are places we’ve visited and would love to see after sunset but, so far, that’s only happened at Curacao.

Why would you want to be in a cruise port at night? Any number of reasons…experience local entertainment from music and dancing to theatrical performances…enjoy the port’s cuisine when it really is dinner time…even take in a sporting event. Think about the last day of your cruise from the Bahamas to Florida, for example: Would you rather be on a ship traveling slow enough it could be going in circles to kill time (and sometimes is) or on the streets of Freeport?

This philosophy has been common in Europe for a long time — the cost must be less — but it’s relatively new to the Caribbean. So while our late-night departure was good, overnights are better.

There’s no curfew.

In the news…

• Cozumel cruise visitors: 7 per cent increase in first four months of 2015
• Oceania Marina launches cruise season in Corner Brook, Newfoundland
• Sales today: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Celebrity, Holland America

Today at portsandbows.com: Another view of Celebrity's port strategy

Norwegian Sky
3 nights
July 10, 2015
Miami (return): Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $99
www.ncl.com

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