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Carnival Ships Join China Surge

MiracleThere was a time, not that long ago, that the only places you could take Carnival ships was from a port city in North America. The one caveat was when the world’s biggest cruise line built a new ship in Europe, and it had to get to North America by crossing the Atlantic.

Then Carnival started dabbling in the Mediterranean. Then in Australia, going so far as to establish a base there. Now, Carnival’s going to China.

There is no choice. Everybody else is, too.

In 2017, the Carnival Miracle (above) will be in China year-round. A year later, the Carnival Splendour (below) will be in China year-round. Cruise ships from Carnival Corporation have been visiting Asian ports for a decade, but not year-round. And the Splendormother line wasn’t there at all. Other cruise lines have gradually been gaining a presence, but nobody really started taking the Chinese market this seriously until Royal Caribbean sent its newest ship — Quantum of the Seas — to establish a home port in Shanghai. 

If that didn’t get the cruise executives’ attention, it surely woke up the media.

Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to Royal Caribbean, which has since launched Anthem of the Seas and has another Quantum Class ship coming next year, Ovation of the Seas. But this was the flagship of the class and its first cruise season was from New York (Cape Liberty), not exactly a secondary market. As it turned out, that was its ONLY season of sailing from New York to the Caribbean. Almost exactly one year after it arrived, Quantum was gone.

For good.

Since then, the other mainstream cruise lines have been despatching ships to Asian waters. It will likely never rival the Caribbean as a cruise destination, but it’s definitely a player. And in 18 months, the team of ships stationed there will include Carnival.

In the news…

• The Salty Dog Gastropub makes its debut on Crown Princess
• Costa signs three-year partnership agreement with Italian airline Neo

Today at portsandbows.com: Cunard planning them cruises for 2016


Carnival Imagination
3 nights
January 14, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56
www.carnival.com

Drinking On Disney No Downer

Okay, so maybe it’s not as dramatic as Snow White dating Dracula, or Mickey Mouse getting a DUI…but who ever thought Disney would be the first cruise line to relax the rules on alcohol?

There’s a new wine and beer policy for passengers who want to bring bottles onto Disney ships, and it’s the most realistic (i.e. forgiving) one we’ve seen.

Each adult cruising with Disney can bring two bottles of wine or champagne, or six bottles of beer, in carryon luggage — not in checked bags.

Here’s the kicker…

Each adult can do the same thing at each port!

That makes Disney the first cruise line we know of to allow beer or wine to be purchased in ports and consumed on ships. Most lines confiscate any on-shore purchases and keep them until your cruise ends.

The new policy has regulations, of course. Exceed your limit and you won’t see the bottles until your cruise ends. Take a bottle to a restaurant and you’ll pay corkage. Bring liquors or spirits…boom, gone until end of your cruise. Forget to pick up your confiscated bottles…bye-bye.

And finally, your wine or beer can only be consumed in restaurants or state rooms — not in public areas.

After all, who wants to be Goofy?

In the news…

• Carnival Conquest passengers spot debris that may be from sunken ship
• Gratuities going up by at least 13 per cent on Princess ships in January
• Disney bookings for 2017 Caribbean cruises open to the public tomorrow

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival Victory christens Amber Cove


Star Princess
4 nights
November 8, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $139
Cost per day: $34
www.princess.com

Times To Butt Out Of Ship Casinos

The world continues to close in on smokers. One of the last places where smokers can still light up are gaming establishments. For whatever reason, smoking and gambling seem to be partners.

On land and at sea.

Casinos on land usually have a non-smoking area. Presumably, these areas will grow in size as there are more non-smokers, which seems to be happening in society. Casinos at Casino smoke-freesea aren’t usually large enough to designate a portion of the space as non-smoking. Instead, they’ve done what we noticed — and not for the first time — on the Star Princess.

Smoke-free days.

A day or two per cruise is earmarked as non-smoking on a growing number of cruise ships. On the Star Princess, during a one-week Alaska cruise, there were two. In Asia, where it feels like a higher percentage of the population smokes, in many large outdoor areas — from Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam — smoking is not allowed.

If you’re one of the people who stays away from cruise-ship casinos because you can’t deal with the smoke, let the cruise line know. And if you’re one of the passengers who would stay away from the casino if you couldn’t smoke, let the cruise line know.

In the end, the impact on the cruise line’s bottom line is likely to determine how often the “no smoking” signs will be posted.

Today at portsandbows.com: Excursion options on Silversea World Cruise 

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
September 29, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39
www.ncl.com

Holland America And ‘Flight Ease’

Even the name is enticing…Flight Ease. Whatever happened to “flight ease?” Those were the days, weren’t they? Was it simply a victim of terrorism, or was it an economy that became consumed with bean counters, who creatively came up with ways to separate us from our money?

Now, Holland America is introducing Flight Ease.

Boeing-CaptainmHere’s why:

“Planning a cruise vacation from start to finish should be a seamless process, and Flight Ease ensures that our travel partners have the most advanced tools to coordinate their clients’ air and cruise itineraries.”

Well, Holland America is right about one thing…a cruise vacation should be seamless from start to finish.

And seldom is.

In attempting to make it so, Holland America is providing access to a website that is more intuitive for cruise connecting, by allowing travel professionals to:

• choose the best flights for clients based on a number of factors that include price, travel time, duration
• use a logic-driven calendar based on ship embarkation and debarkation times
• review more detailed schedule displays
• use an easy booking flow process

Now, there are lots of search engines to find flights, and this one is designed to drive business to travel agents. But if it really does make getting to your ship “seamless” — or even close — it will drive business somewhere else.

To Holland America.

- photo by Captainm

Today at portsandbows.com: Why we find a Mekong river cruise so-o-o different

Star Princess
10 nights
October 4, 2015
Vancouver (return): Los Angeles, Catalina Island, Santa Barbara, San Francisco
Inside: $639
Cost per day: $63
www.princess.com

More Breaks For Single Cruisers

 

Cruise times are changing. They always are. Here’s one of the latest…

Cunard announced a refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2, and with it comes news that 15 single staterooms will be added. The rationale from Cunard is that single rooms are necessary because not only are more people cruising solo, but there are more family groups traveling together that include singles. There are already single staterooms available on fleetmates Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria

There is no single supplement for these cabins. In other words, you pay the same per-person price as you would if two to a cabin.

Other cruise lines have been ahead of that curve for some time. The Epic, with 128 solo cabins (some connecting) was the first in the Norwegian fleet with the highly-popular option for single travelers. There’s also a Studio Lounge, for the exclusive use of passengers who book in the solo cabins. With no single supplement they sell out quickly. Surprisingly, there are fewer single cabins on Norwegian’s latest ships, the Getaway and the Breakaway (59 on each). 

The Escape, being launched in the fall, will have 82. 

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each have 28 single staterooms, and Ovation of the Seas, also arriving this fall, will apparently also have 28 solo cabins. No single supplements apply.

Costa Cruises has 17 solo cabins on at least two of its ships, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa. There is a single supplement, although not exorbitant.

Carnival does offer some value-priced solo cruise fares, with some supplements as low as five per cent.

One thing is certain: In the cruise world, singles are being heard.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's 'Evenings Around The World'

Norwegian Jewel
5 nights
May 1, 2016
Los Angeles, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

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