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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

Windstar A Winner With Conde Nast

While we’ve talked about it, we’ve never cruised on a Windstar ship…aka, yacht. It’s always been an intriguing prospect, made more intriguing by yesterday’s announcement Windstarthat Conde Nast Traveler readers have rated it as the No. 1 “small ship cruise line” in the world.

The annual Readers’ Choice Awards claim to be the longest-running and most prestigious in the travel industry, the “best of the best of travel.” More than 76,000 readers voted on, among other things, 453 cruise ships.

For small ships, their choice was Windstar.

This is a cruise line that obviously focuses on small ports, for the very good reason that it has small ships. It has six of them, having doubled the fleet last year, and they go all over the world — Asia, the Caribbean, all over Europe, Arabia, across both oceans, Tahiti and through the Panama Canal.

Windstar has been around for three decades and has, like many cruise lines, had multiple owners. Holland America owned it the longest, from 1987 to 2007, and Holland America’s corporate company (Carnival) sold it to Ambassadors International for a reported $100 million. One bankruptcy later, the powerful (and privately owned) Anschutz Corporation picked it up for a reported $39 million and today it thrives under that corporate banner as a high-end cruise line.

And “high-end” is something else that separates it from the traditional cruise lines. Put it another way: for many of us, a Windstar cruise is only a windfall away.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America and Christmas

Carnival Liberty
5 nights
November 23, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, Half Moon Cay, Freeport
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $37
www.carnival.com

Windstar Moves from Nowhere to No. 2 for Small Ships in Conde Nast Awards

When Conde Nast Traveler announced its 2013 Readers' Choice Awards this month, much of it was the "usual suspects" in the "usual places" because people who go on cruise ships and vote on these things generally don't change their preferences from year to year. But in perusing the list of winners, one cruise line jumped out for its ascension in the standings, if you will. The name is Windstar.

For years, Windstar was better known as a kind of car made by Ford, even though the cruise-ship brand has Windstar's Wind Spiritbeen around for almost 30 years and has been passed around, at times, like a commodity nobody really wanted. That was then.

Now, it is owned (and has been for two years) by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a company not in Xanadu but in Denver. This is a cruise line purchased by its previous owner, the mighty Anschutz Corporation, in a bankruptcy court for the bargain-basement price of $39 million. It still has the same three ships, but all have undergone extensive re-furnishings, and over the next two years it will double the fleet after purchasing three more from Seabourn.

Oh yes, Conde Nast.

Windstar fits into what the magazine calls the Small-Ship category, one of four in which Conde Nast determines the world's Top 25 cruise lines. In 2012, Windstar wasn't on the list. In 2013, it was second in the Small-Ship category to Seabourn, ironically, by six-tenths of a point…and no, we don't know how the points system works but anything over 90 — be it in rating wines or grading students — is outstanding.

In fact, only five cruise lines of the Top 25 had a better score, Seabourn, Crystal (Mid-Size) and three river cruisers.

As the Windstar people are only too happy to point out, they finished first in three sub-categories: Small-Ship service, itineraries and design.

Windstar cruise ships are more like yachts, and that enables them to go where bigger ships cannot. Says CEO Hans Birkholz: "“The past two years we have been…revising every single itinerary to find the perfect combination of hidden harbors and legendary ports as well as improving our onboard experience with stem-to-stern renovations. We are thrilled to see our guests responding so favorably.”

Because it's an upscale line, Windstar is never going to create as many headlines as the heavyweights that cater to the mass market. The fact that it's creating headlines in its own niche is what's impressive.

Windstar Wind Spirit
7 nights
December 29, 2013
Puerto CalderaDrake BayGolfitoCoiba IslandPanama CanalPuerto QueposColon
Oceanview: $2,899
Cost per day: $414
www.windstarcruises.com

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