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That’s A Million For New Orleans

Photo by Win Henderson

In Texas, the battle cry has for 180 years been “Remember The Alamo.” In New Orleans, for the last decade (10 years in August), it has been “Remember Katrina.”

Remember, indeed.

Close to 2,000 people died. Waves 20 feet high crashed into the Louisiana seaport. The world watched in horror as the largest hurricane ever threatened to wipe the city from the map…some even thought it might not be a bad idea, given that it’s below sea level.

At the time, cruising was thriving in New Orleans. In three years before that, it had grown dramatically and was heading towards a million passengers a year when Katrina ravaged New_Orleanseverything, including the cruise industry. For a city known as The Big Easy, nothing was.

Last year, New Orleans hit the million.

The perception of the city after Katrina was one of apprehension, destruction and fear. Only people who wanted to help wanted to go there, even if helping meant pumping a few dollars into the sagging economy. There can be no doubt today that cruising has contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and is benefitting from it.

“Eighty per cent of all our cruise passengers are from out of state and they spend two-and-a-half nights," Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange told radio station WWL. "The average cruise passenger's direct spending at most other ports around the world is 95 dollars a day…in New Orleans they spend 332 dollars a day."

Today, New Orleans is the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S. The 10th-largest in the world. Cruise ships generate $323 million in total income for locals. Four ships — Carnival’s Dream and Elation, Norwegian’s Dawn and Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas — call the Port of New Orleans home. Cruise Critic calls it the “Best North American Homeport.” Porthole Magazine readers ranked it the “Friendliest Homeport” for the last two years.

New Orleans has come back, hoping that Katrina (or her descendants) never will.

Today at portsandbows.com: Baking with Mary Berry

Grand Princess
15 nights
February 17, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Ensenada 
Inside $1,169
Cost per day: $77
www.princess.com

The World Of Carnival — And More

 

The accepted definition of the word “carnival” — at least in North America — is as follows: “a traveling amusement show or circus.”

Unless you cruise on a Carnival ship.

And then, maybe it does mean a traveling amusement show or circus” — and much more.

With that in mind, here are some “more” things that Carnival is…

• If you’re used to taking “quickie” cruises on Carnival, you will have some longer options. Next year, four ships are testing 11 cruises up to two weeks long, something that until now hasn’t been in Carnival’s playbook.

• The world’s largest cruise line is launching more than ships. Its marketers plan to float the concept of “an interactive marketing campaign” to create more of a demand for its product among people who don’t cruise…people who use social media…people who are younger. Can a cruise crowd get any younger than Carnival’s?

• Carnival portends to be the most popular cruise line on water (where else would a ship be?)…and also “on line.” Last month, three prizes (including vacations) were given away every three hours during a 24-hour Fun-A-Thon. Why three? Carnival now has three million friends on Facebook.

• If you have a player’s card at a Tropicana casino in Laughlin, Atlantic City, Aruba, Greenville, Baton Rouge or Lake Tahoe, you can use your comp dollars or points on a Carnival cruise. Hmm…there is a Tropicana in Las Vegas, isn’t there?

• When Porthole Cruise Magazine announced its Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014, Carnival won five, running its 16-year total to 135. There are two ways of looking at this. On the upside, no other cruise line has won 135 since 1999. On the downside, prior to 2014, Carnival was averaging more (eight) per year.

But hey, Carnival’s “a traveling amusement show or circus”…right?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Regal Princess
3 nights
April 12, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays
Balcony: $349
Cost per day: $116
www.princess.com

An Epic Journey Ending In Caribbean

Barnacled and bruised, and beleaguered since birth, the Norwegian Epic is riding off into the sunset next spring. Perhaps the sun will be kinder to the big ship in Barcelona because, on this side of the ocean, the sun appears to have done melanoma-like damage.

EpicAmong the critics, that is.

The Epic arrived in New York in the summer of 2010. Despite her size (4,100 passengers minimum and close to 6,000 maximum), she was never the biggest. She was never the prettiest, sometimes derisively described as the ship with a box-top hat. She was never duplicated and when the idea of a potential sibling was aborted before Norwegian spent any more on the plan it only added to her unpopularity.

Yet we loved the Epic.

We were fortunate enough to cruise on her twice. She was the biggest “freestyle” ship anywhere, and that helped. She introduced Blue Man Group to the seas, and that was better than we anticipated. With a somewhat unorthodox traffic flow, there were pre-launch predictions of line-ups everywhere, but they never materialized. Only on the Epic was serious attention paid to accommodation for singles, and that made her a trend-setter.

Maybe it was because her first master, Trygve Vorren, was as nice a captain as we’ve ever met after being told he wouldn’t be, and because we had a chance to know him a little, not many months before he boarded the big cruise ship in the sky. And that his successor, Slam AllenFrank Juliussen, was just as warm, as honest and as entertaining…two years later. Maybe it was because Slam Allen blew us away with his performances at Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club on the Epic, even though we’re not huge fans of fat cats, jazz or blues.

The disaster in the cabins — sort-of see-through bathroom doors — was so much a non-starter with passengers that two years ago (when she was a two-year-old) readers of Travel Weekly picked the Epic as the “best overall individual cruise ship” for the third year in a row, and that same year Porthole Magazine named her the “Best Mega Ship.”  She has also been decorated for her entertainment, new restaurants, gambling venue and family appeal.

In what has to be an unusual marketing ploy, Norwegian is promoting her final Caribbean cruises as the Epic’s “Farewell Tour in the Caribbean” when her cruising days there end next April. Judging by the ship’s passenger popularity, it’s probably a certainty to sell out.

Why is the Epic leaving?

Norwegian has launched two ships (Breakaway and Getaway) since the Epic and two more (Escape and Bliss) are coming. The place to start new ships is always in the Caribbean, the world’s cruising hotspot, and there is a limit to a cruise line’s capacity. So it is time for the Epic to move on, perhaps to calmer waters.

It’ll be interesting to see how Europeans take to her. Undoubtedly, the Epic will undergo some changes to cater to Europe’s tastes and culture. They’ll have her for three years, minimum, and probably longer. However, if she’s not welcome, there’s a lot of us who would take her back.

Anytime.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
November 16, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $119
Cost per day: $29
www.carnival.com

Holland America Ups the Veggie Fare

Hands up, if you know somebody who has or has had cancer. Hands down, if you've thought about eating better because of it.

We've never been vegetarians. One of us (hands up) is more of a carnivore than she is. Yet we have both felt the urge, or need, to become "more vegetarian" because, frankly, it's healthier.

Holland America's like that, too.

This week, the venerable cruise line that's sometimes linked with the most senior of cruisers blew the lid off the veggie pot and introduced a vegetarian-only menu and 30 new vegetarian dishes to the main dining room menu. For the most senior of cruisers this might be like an event most will remember…when non-smoking rows in planes suddenly became non-smoking  planes.

Translation: Vegetarians are growing, and not in the same way junk-food addicts are. On all 15 Holland America ships, you'll find a difference: here a veggie, there a veggie, everywhere a veggie.

Rudi Sodamin, who last month was named the Best Cruise Line Chef by Porthole Magazine for the second year in a row, is the designer of Holland America's new menus. Decorations and plaudits aside, there is a good reason for this. Rudi is Holland America's Master Chef.

He has come up with a 22-dish vegetarian and vegan menu that highlights…wait for it…vegetables! Appetizers, main courses, soups…the while nine yards. They're all available (upon request) for either lunch or dinner. And guess what?

No extra charge.

Holland America calls Chef Rudi's creations "vibrant, flavorful culinary selections." The key word there is flavorful.

Just ask the resident carnivore. If Rudi can succeed there, he might have a convert.


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
May 26, 2012
Venice (return): Naples, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Olympia
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

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