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Protecting The Privacy Of Passengers

The much-publicized (can you say 24/7 on TV?) hacking at Sony this month once again raised the issue of cyber security in every business, which of course includes cruise lines.

While all of them have to pay close attention to the issue, it appears that Carnival was a little ahead of the curve, hiring a specialist with a long history in a similar position with Supervalu, a $37 billion grocery retail and supply chain.

With good reason.

Carnival the Cruise Line is the tip of the “Internet Iceberg.” Carnival the Corporation is the whole iceberg and it includes the following cruise lines (in case you never knew or have Gary Eppingerforgotten): Holland America, Cunard, Princess, P&O, Seabourn, Costa, AIDA, P&O Australia and Iberocruceros (Spain).

Pretty much a world-wide iceberg, right?

Several months ago, Carnival (the Corporation) hired a security expert, Gary Eppinger. After you strip away his lengthy vice-president’s title and list of responsibilities, his primary duty is to make sure the privacy of passengers on ships from all 10 brands is protected…as much as personal information can be protected.

“Millions of customers go onto our ships every year,” he told Travel Pulse. “We look at our ships as floating cities with gambling, hospitals, multiple retail stores, and everything’s connected to your room key. Security is critical for us, because of this huge installed base of customer information. There are things we can do and have done and are doing to put us in a better position to reduce our exposure and risk.”

Reduce? That’s right…there are no absolute guarantees in cyberspace.

“Our navigation systems are in a segregated offline network, so we built controls in place to prohibit things like that happening,” Eppinger explained in the Travel Pulse story. “But with every wall you put up, somebody’s always trying to break in, through or around that wall. We do look at it continuously, and whatever the odds are, they’re still too high.”

Carnival, and every business, knows they are at risk of…becoming another Sony.

Today at portsandbows.com: The most popular 'long' cruises

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
February 2, 2015
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

Black Sea Off Limits For Cruisers

There’s fighting going on a world away and you never think it will affect you…and then it does. Maybe you’re scheduled to cruise into the Black Sea, for instance. As a long-ago U.S. President would say: “Not gonna happen.”

Cruising into the Black Sea is becoming more rare all the time. The latest cruise lines to cancel are Cunard and P&O. Both have canceled all 13 ports calls for 2015, because of rising security concerns…i.e., fighting. They have been preceded by Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, MSC and Holland America.

The safety rule of thumb these days is to cruise as far as Istanbul, Turkey and take a pass on the Black Sea, which is between Turkey and Ukraine, two countries currently involved in conflicts. 

Where will it end?

The two most popular cruise ports in Turkey are Istanbul and Kusadasi. Both are far from the Syrian border, where security concerns are magnified. Both are on the fringe of the Mediterranean cruise map. Both are relatively safe…for now.

As terrorism re-shapes the world, especially in the Europe-Asia corridor, so too does it re-shape the cruising world.

Fifty years from now…who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Cruises to Bordeaux

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
December 7, 2014
Port Canaveral (return):  LabadeeFalmouthGeorge TownCozumel
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $47
www.royalcaribbean.com

The Security Tax News That Has Tentacles

There was much gnashing of teeth the other day about how airline passengers were going to have to pay an additional $2.50 for Transportation Security Administration fees, per leg…and just like the human body there's a maximum of two.

The increase jumps the per-leg tax to $5.60 or $11.20 for a round trip.

The airlines don't like it because as collectors they're the bad guys, and that's not good for a business that is already highly taxed. The passengers don't like it because, hey, who likes another tax?

The government does like it because, according to one estimate, it will put more than $730 million in the coffers, presumably instead of $365 million, which is half as much, the better to pay the always-escalating cost of making sure we don't have too many ounces of shampoo in our carry-ons. 

Yes, the TSA bill.

The cruise industry, meanwhile, has been silent.

Its passengers will have to pay more to get to the departure point if they're flying but the bigger issue is probably this: Given that the TSA can also be found between the ship and the shore for cruises, how long will it be until the security tax applies to cruise passengers?

Per leg.

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
January 11, 2014
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau
Balcony: $699
Cost per day: $99
www.ncl.com

 

Puerto Vallarta No Fit for Princess

During the weekend, a close friend who regularly keeps track of Cruising Done Right alerted us to more never-ending tourism fears about Mexico. In digging a little further, we found what we always seem to find — the fear factor is being blown out of proportion.

It started with Mazatlan, a year or so ago, and now the fears — real or imagined — have spread to Puerto Vallarta. It was inevitable. What was not as inevitable is that Princess would drop Puerto Vallarta through the end of the year because of safety concerns.

Here’s why it’s blown out of proportion:

1. Canceling means three 7-night sailings over six months, by one ship, the Sapphire Princess.
2. The move is in reaction to the robbery and murder of a Canadian man who was living in Puerto Vallarta, nowhere near where cruise ships dock.
3. Resort areas and tourist destinations don’t experience the same level of crime as the “Mexico crime reports” that emanate from border towns and drug-trafficking routes.
4. These fears are never put in context by comparing them to similar statistics in other cities of the same size.
Princess has to respond to what the customers say, and clearly the customers are worried about visiting the once-popular Mexican ports. This time, the local government is responding, by hiring an independent international security company to do a safety assessment.

Even if the results are positive, it’ll never get the same play the fear did, because  that’s just the way it is. But maybe it will at least help to, if nothing else, give the situation a more legitimate perspective.

And you think they’re not worrying that the third amigo down the coast, Cabo San Lucas, might be next?

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