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Drinks For Free On Norwegian Sky

 

Oh, for the days when going on a cruise meant once you paid for your ticket, that was it…everything was included but shopping for souvenirs, and taxes and tips.

Are those happy days starting to make a comeback?

They are in Norwegian’s world. Well, in one corner of Norwegian’s world. Okay, one neighborhood…bar.

Starting in 2016, cruises on the Norwegian Sky, an 11-year-old ship that goes from Miami to the Bahamas and back will be so inclusive that you won’t pay for drinks. From margaritas to wine (even premium) to beer to soft drinks…nada. 

“We’re taking freestyle cruising to the next level,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s President and COO.

“Freestyle cruising” is the umbrella under which Norwegian introduced the non-traditional seating in dining rooms, allowing passengers to pick their times and tables. Following an era in which passengers felt they were being nickled and dimed at every turn, Norwegian announced that the Sky’s passengers will  “enjoy an even more all-inclusive cruise experience with dining, entertainment and now free unlimited beer, wine and premium spirits included.”

However, if you think “dining” includes the Sky’s three specialty restaurants (Il Adagio, Cagney’s Steak House and The Bistro)…guess again. What it includes in dining is what is already included: the dining room.

For anybody too young to drink…free soda. Now that’s a first for an ocean cruise ship.

It’s likely another test. If “free drinks for everybody” fills up its ships, expect that it will be extended beyond the Sky’s horizon.

After that, who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Entertained on Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
14 nights
June 11, 2015
Sydney, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin, Benoa, Singapore
Inside: $974
Cost per day: $69
www.royalcaribbean.com

What Can Happen With Death At Sea

Not that there’s ever anything funny about death at sea, but here are three situations that are…well, unusual…that we have picked up in our travels (names of individuals and cruise lines not included):

* * *

A family of four is on a cruise from New York to Bermuda. The father has a heart attack and dies on the ship and in as sensitive a way as they can cruise line officials consult with the wife and her teenage children about what to do. One option is to fly the three of them with the body back to New York but they can also remain on board because the cruise is New York return.

Tearfully, the family decides to stay.

For the remainder of the cruise, ship officials keep in touch with the family — when the family can be found. The bereaved wife and children get off the ship in Bermuda, presumably to see the sights and when they get back on, there is much partying.

A day before the ship returns to New York, they visit the morgue…and there are more tears.

* * *

Newlyweds are on a Caribbean cruise, probably their honeymoon. The groom has a heart attack somewhere in the Caribbean Sea and the cruise line’s medical people can only do so much in caring for him. He has to be flown to the nearest major center, Miami.

The bride is told she can accompany her ailing husband but she declines and decides to stay on the ship. So here he is, in hospital in Miami with a serious health issue and his new bride is continuing the week-long Caribbean cruise.

It gets worse.

The wife is seen by mystified cruise people on the dance floor, night after night, and in the bars with a variety of male passengers.

* * *

This one is from a Baltic cruise, Again, it’s the Dad who collapses and dies, leaving this distraught widow and adult daughter alone early in a cruise that was almost two weeks long. Caring ship officials offer to make arrangements, as they always do, for transporting the body back to wherever his wife would like.

The wife opts to leave it in the morgue until the cruise is over.

Again, it gets worse. One of the first ports is in Finland. Off the ship go Mom and Daughter. When the ship leaves, they have not returned. They fly to the next port to get back on and take great delight in telling fellow passengers that they missed the boat because they were drunk. They went ashore at every port but didn’t miss any more departures.

Before the cruise ended in Amsterdam, the woman asked cruise officials if they could make arrangements for her husband’s body to be stored in the Dutch port because she and her daughter wanted to extend their stay in Amsterdam for a few days.

After all, isn’t that what Dad would have wanted?

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Westerdam
18 nights
October 9, 2014
San DiegoCabo San LucasPuerto ChiapasCorintoPuerto CalderaMantaSalaverryLimaLa SerenaSantiago
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $66
www.hollandamerica.com

Cruise Lines Taking to Mexican Riviera Again

Maybe like almost everything else, these things are cyclical…but cruising the Mexican Riviera is becoming popular again. At least with cruise lines, it is. The test will be if the passengers buy into it.

After cruise ships abandoned Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and points south in huge numbers, they are now trickling back.

Last year, Celebrity sent its Century (next year it will be a Croisieres de France ship) on eight round-trip cruises from San Pedro, near Los Angeles. Holland America despatched a ship to the Mexican Riviera, and so did Norwegian. This year, it was Azamara. Next year, Princess returns.

All of that pales by comparison to what's happening now.

Carnival is going back full-time. The Carnival Miracle, starting in October, will be a Mexican Riviera regular. Cruises from Long Beach (Los Angeles) of six or seven days in duration…every week. It is being reported the Miracle will go up and down the coast of MiracleMexico "year-round" but there are no Miracle cruises on the Carnival website from May to October 2015. In fact, there are no Carnival cruises to the Mexican Riviera during that period, so either it's seasonal or it's a test.

What's happened to bring back cruise ships?

The economy is better, and Mexico has gone to work on its image. At Cruise Shipping Miami, the industry's biggest annual conference, Frank Cordova — the secretary of tourism for the Mexican state (Sinaloa) that includes Mazatlan — told reporters: 

"It's like when you take your wife for granted. We didn't take care of [cruise tourists]. We didn't take action until it was too late."

The three Mexican Riviera ports banded together, instead of remaining independent. They poured money into cutting the crime with a stronger police presence, and into marketing. They lobbied cruise lines, telling them why the Mexican Riviera was changing for the better. They  made the ports friendlier for tourists — in Mazatlan that includes the Blue Shirts, volunteers who speak English and who are there to help tourists.

Will it work?

Nobody knows, but it's a good start to complementing what Mexico has long had: great food, a rich history and warm people.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Hurricane season around the corner

Celebrity Millennium
15 nights
September 12, 2014
Vancouver, Petropavlovsk, OtaruHakodateTokyp
Inside: $1,009
Cost per day: $67
www.celebritycruises.com

Is Europe Ready To Be A Short-Cruise Market?

Now here's a real test for whether the cruise public is interested in short cruises. You know, the 3-night and 4-night kind that cruise lines are test-marketing these days. Call in sick Friday, take Monday off and…boom, a 4-night cruise is yours.

The "real test" comes next spring in England, with Royal Caribbean's new (2015) Anthem of the Seas. The cruise line is billing it as a get-to-know-us strategy for Quantum Classpeople who are new to cruising or people who hate (yes, they do exist) the prospect of cruising, in the hope they'll change their minds.

It has been floated out by Princess and Carnival, to name two cruise lines, in North America. However, North America is a different animal than Europe, if you haven't noticed. In North America, people in the workforce get long weekends.

In Europe, they get long holidays. Have you ever seen a European country in August, when it appears to be asleep, or at least taking a nap?

So if 3-and-4-night cruises on Anthem of the Seas work in a climate where 3-and-4-night holidays aren't the norm, Royal Caribbean will adjust its European itineraries accordingly. For now, they're being called "taster cruises" and there are only five of them on Anthem. In six months. When there are also three 1-week cruises, three 2-week cruises, one of 10 nights, one of 12, three of 13 and one 16 nights long.

Maybe it's not a market test after all. Maybe it's just filling out the schedule before Anthem of the Seas sails west to America.

Pacific Princess
10 nights
April 1, 2014 
Papeete (return): HuahineRangiroaRaiateaBora BoraMoorea
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $99
www.princess.com

Party As Tough To Crash As The Super Bowl?

Having just completed another weekend of watching wall-to-wall football (doesn't everybody?), it's an appropriate time to tell you, again, what they're doing with Super Bowl Sunday.

The game, if you haven't heard, will be in New York next month. Okay, in East Rutherford, N.J., a short ride from the Big Apple. Since it will be February, that Big screen-Norwegianmeans there's a reasonable chance it will be cold, snowy, icy, rainy or windy…or four of the five. 

That's one thing "they" are doing to the Super Bowl, which normally is played in air-conditioned comfort.

They're also making it more of a cruise-ship party than ever. Any ship with sports fans and a big screen is going to throw a party on deck. Norwegian is taking it to a different level by parking a ship — its new Getaway — not far from the game and turning it into a floating hotel. Actually, it's a Bud Light promotion that will enable football fans to spend a night on the Getaway after the game and its inevitable day-long party.

They'll be as cold as the fans in New Jersey, of course, but they'll be able to duck into warmer areas of the ship for relief.

However, it's not quite what it originally seemed.

There is room for 4,000 people to bunk down on the Getaway. Most of them will be "corporate partners"…but corporate partners of whom? Budweiser, for sure, but also the NFL? Norwegian?

Reports are there will be room for Bud Light contest winners…up top 400 of them. That means 90 per cent of the ship will be for "VIPs" and — since there are no tickets for sale — this Super Bowl party will be more difficult to get into than the game itself.

xx-Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $39
www.ncl.com

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