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Holland America Cancer Connection

There probably isn't a family anywhere that hasn't been touched by cancer, and there probably isn't anybody who hasn't been touched by a cancer fund-raiser. It happens because it's important and, clearly, it will never end.

This month, it happened — again — on a cruise ship.

While Holland America's Oosterdam was moored in Seattle, 400 cancer survivors went on the ship to celebrate. They celebrated being cancer survivors and they celebrated the fact that corporate giants like Holland America care enough to be their hosts. It wasn't a fundraiser, per se, but every time cancer survivors gather it creates awareness, which creates support.

In this case, the support is in the name of Komen Puget Sound, part of a national organization founded in memory of Susan Koman, who lost a three-year battle with breast cancer at age 36. The foundation, known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is the largest fundraiser for breast cancer in the U.S. and its financial support is down by 25 per cent ($1 million), in part at least because of a Planned Parenthood controversy earlier this year.

To its credit, Holland America stands by beside its long-time partner, which has been the beneficiary of $3 million raised by the cruise line and its passengers.

For that, everybody connect to cancer — in other words everybody — should be grateful.

Norwegian Dawn
7 nights
February 3, 2013
Tampa (return): Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68

Queen Elizabeth 2: At Last A Plan

In Sierra Leone, there is a quay known as QE2. In Ontario, there is a park called QE2. In Great Britain, there is a thoroughbred stakes race that goes by the QE2. And just down the roadway from there in Buckingham Palace is the real QE2…Queen Elizabeth herself.

But for cruisers, there can only be one QE2, and this month she was a newsmaker once again.

The former Cunard ocean liner is in Port Rashid, Dubai. She's been there for almost four years, moored in the harbor awaiting her fate. She was purchased from Cunard to become a floating hotel, museum and entertainment center in Dubai, and then along came a recession that even eroded the wealth of people like Sheikh Mohammed.

On New Year's Eve 2011, the Queen Elizabeth 2 was the site of a party. It was her first event since arriving in the United Arab Emirates in 2008, and a preview of what was to come. Events on the ship were being booked for 2012 and 2013. Then this month, the owners announced the QE2 will indeed become the floating hotel she was scheduled to be, following a modest refurbishment over the next 18 months.

She's not getting the facelift-lapband-botox treatment, just a little cosmetic caring. The characteristics that made her special — in other words, most of her original features — will be retained. Renovations will be minor in the creation of the 3-room hotel.

QE2's time in Dubai has been almost as interesting as her history. In 2009, she was advertised for sale on a cruise ship version of ebay. That same year there were rumors QE2 would return to Cunard's ancestral home, Liverpool. Then she was to sail to South Africa to be a floating hotel at the World Cup, another plan that was aborted. Then she was going to be re-located to London, or Singapore, or Japan, or Australia. Once she was adrift, breaking her moorings like an aging senior trying to escape the old folks home where she'd been sent by her family. There were fears that in the end she would just become scrap iron.

It's true that her sisters came to visit — Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and even the one who took her place, the Queen Elizabeth — but it was never going to be like the old days. She was the eldest Queen, launched by Cunard in 1967, and had been in service for 40 years so her odometer was worn the most. The QE2 sailed an estimated six million miles, carrying 2.5 million passengers and crossing the Atlantic more than 800 times, went around the world more than 25 times.

Her Godmother — or at least the woman who christened her — was Queen Elizabeth 2.

That's right, the other one.

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
September 15, 2012
Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85


Recognizing Cruise Ship Impact

The last time we cruised out of Galveston, we were impressed that the hotel we booked for the night before the cruise allowed us to leave our rental car in the hotel lot for five days, until our return.

Just a little extra.

There’s a hotel in Seattle that is also catering to people who cruise. It’s called the “Seattle Cruise Transportation Package” and it includes an oversized studio suite, hot breakfast buffet, Internet and transportation for two from the downtown hotel to the cruise terminal.

It’s a Marriott hotel — called the SpringHill Suites Seattle Downtown/South Lake Union — and it’s a sign that hotels in particular are directing marketing more and more at cruise passengers. That tells you how much cruising means to an economy when a ship is home-ported in a city. How many of us want to go early or stay late in a city that’s home to the cruise ship you’re taking?

It’s not just a few more heads in a few more beds…it’s meals in the restaurants, gifts from the gift shop, parking where applicable (and where isn’t it applicable these days?).

The only flaw with the Seattle hotel’s pitch was there was no indication that there was any kind of bargain on the rack rate…in fact, there wasn’t even price. Lots of hotels these days have breakfast and Internet included, so discriminating cruisers are just going to do the math — room plus a cab versus room that includes a shuttle.

Hey, we’re not stupid!

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
May 27, 2012
Barcelona (return): Naples, Rome, Florence, Cannes, Marseille
Inside  $699

Holland America Standard's Green

We have dear friends from The Netherlands, so we know how meaningful  ”orange” is to the Dutch, starting with the “House of…” more than four centuries ago. Today there’s a little green added to the orange that is synonymous with all things Dutch.

The news wire, or Internet portals, have been buzzing the past few days with kudos to Holland America for being the 2010 Marine Environmental Business of the Year, as chosen by the Port of Seattle and the Seattle Propeller Club. It should be mentioned that what was originally the Dutch-American Steamship Company is now owned by Carnival, the largest cruise company in the universe, and that its headquarters are in Seattle.

Like so many attempts to have us “go greener” in all aspects of our life, this news item seems significant for the cruise industry.

What it does is throw down the gauntlet.

If indeed Holland America is perceived to be setting the environmental standard for cruise lines, and all of them preach some version of ecological responsibility, the others will be expected to match the Seattle standard. For we who struggle to understand all the ways we impact the environment, what is clear about Holland America’s accomplishment is it has: (a) after challenging its 14 ships to operate at 98% of their fuel budget for three years, reported the actual figure was 96%; (b) reduced diesel engine emissions in Seattle’s Alaska runs by conserving fuel and using power from shore.

Eight of HAL’s 14 ships will sail Alaska this year, the Amsterdam, Ooosterdam, Rotterdam and Zaandam from Seattle and the Ryndam, Statendam, Volendam and Zuiderdam from Vancouver. They represent more than 130 cruises from now until September. That’s about 25% of Holland America’s itineraries, which touch 320 ports…one of which believes green is as just important as orange.

That’s it…we’re done!

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