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Ships, Internet Connected For Cruisers

There are people who go on cruises because they want to escape from their daily routines, and these days daily routines almost always involve being online. When they’re cruising, they don’t want to touch a computer, read from an iPad or see a smartphone.

Well, as one of our friends once said: “Include us out.”

Even if we didn’t need to be online for writing about cruises, we would. The electronic era has captured us. We’re not in denial. We want to be on line when cruising.

If you’re like us, the good news is that being online when at sea is becoming easier, better and cheaper. The cost will still cause you to pause before making a decision, but here’s a few of the things that are happening…

• On half of Carnival’s ships, there’s a flat fee of $5 per day to access Facebook and Twitter.

Disney charges for data used instead of minutes used with its Connect@Sea plan.

• OnRoyal Caribbean’s oldest ship, Majesty of the Seas, the Internet’s free for all.

• More options are being offered at Internet cafes on ships at (we think) more affordable prices.

Silversea gives at least an hour of Internet per day, free, for all guests.

• In general, cruise lines are finding creative ways to satisfy (and yes, entice) customers with social media packages, discounts for loyalty members and options for just texting and tweeting.

Perhaps the biggest things the industry has to overcome is that Internet service on a ship is usually nowhere near as good as it is on land.

That, after all, may be in the hands of the satellite gods.

In the news…

• American Queen changes Mississippi schedule due to high water
• Princess all-inclusive beverage package Sip & Sail free on 350 cruises

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian raising gratuities…again

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015

VancouverLos Angeles
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49
www.princess.com

Puerto Rico Plans to Market Cruisers

News item: Puerto Rico is doubling the number of hotels, and doubling the number of hotel rooms, over the next decade because of an annual increase in tourist traffic of three per cent (2013) that is topping out at 1.6 million.

For the cruise community, Puerto Rico is San Juan. In a one-year period, San Juan visitors will include eight ships from both Carnival and Holland America ships, seven from Royal Caribbean, four from Norwegian, Celebrity and Silversea, three from Old_San_JuanOceania, two from Regent Seven Seas and one from Disney, Princess, MSC Cruises and Crystal.

You get the idea.

Almost half of that 1.6 million tourists arrive (and leave) on a cruise ship. To fill those hotel rooms, Puerto Rico's tourist people say they need to convince cruise passengers to stay for two or three days. This, of course, is only possible if you either board or get off your ship in San Juan.

Not many cruises start in San Juan. We flew there four years ago to get on the Celebrity Millennium for a cruise through the Panama Canal. That's the kind of thing that will convince cruisers to go a few days early or stay a few days late. Looking ahead for the next year-plus schedule, we couldn't find one major cruise line starting or ending a cruise in San Juan.

So Puerto Ricans might want to change their marketing strategy as the hotels increase, and convince cruise passengers to come back to this island jewel…or convince cruise lines to start and end more cruises in their charming port.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Valor
7 nights
July 6, 2014
San Juan (return): St. ThomasBarbadosSt. LuciaSt. KittsSt. Maarten
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com

City By The Bay, Concerts By The Bay

Golden Gate BridgeIn San Francisco, there's a lot of optimism about cruising. In September, the new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal will welcome its first ship and, the optimists hope, open the door to a new era of cruising for the city by the bay.

The first ship will be the Crown Princess. It will be followed by the Star Princess, Norwegian Jewel and Silver Shadow. They will be docking at Pier 27, not far from the old pier (35), which was deemed to be not just old but also small and hard to access. Pier 27 will be much more than a cruise-ship terminal.

In fact, San Francisco is banking on it…in more ways than one.

Pier 27 is designed to be an events center. Unfinished, it was the concert venue for the America's Cup last summer and the Port of San Francisco is planning on booking 67 concerts and corporate events in the fiscal year that starts July 1, and hopefully more. Complemented by 74 ship calls, that will be considered only a start towards paying the debt incurred by building the terminal.

Break even is about 90 ships and "dozens" of events.

Curiously, there are no Carnival ships scheduled to appear at Pier 27. This is not a surprise, since  Carnival ships don't visit San Francisco. But it's curious, because the port is trying to attract concerts…and Carnival has introduced a highly successful series of port concerts called Carnival Live.

Next year maybe?

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The Oceania fleet now more 'complete'

Celebrity Constellation
12 nights
August 13, 2014
Amsterdam (return): BerlinStockholmHelsinkiSt. PetersburgTallinnCopenhagen
Inside $1,599
Cost per day: $133
www.celebritycruises.com

Good as Gold for The Little Cruise Line That Can

It's still more than a month to the Olympics but there's already an underdog with a gold medal…in cruising.

Windstar.

Windstar? It's a small-ship cruise line, right? This big player in a small market is now a big fish in a big pond, as in the ocean. According to Conde Nast Traveler, Windstarwhich every year produces its Gold List of travel for hotels, resorts and cruise lines…sort of like being a five-star ranking in the eyes of an acknowledged expert.

The category for cruising is called Ocean Cruises and seven lines made it for 2014. One of them is Windstar, a sailing fleet that the average cruiser would not think of as being "ocean" vessels. In fact, the only heavyweight in this year's class is Disney…the other five are Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream and Silversea.

Clearly, the trending is to smaller ships — at least in awards — with first-class service. In service, Windstar scored 97.3, slightly better than its itineraries (96.7) and food (94.7). Its overall rating for seven categories was 92.0.

Crystal (94.4) was at the head of the class with an overall score of 94.4. Second was Seabourn at 92.6 and Windstar was third.

In Sochi, Russia next month they'll call third place a "bronze" medal. At Windstar, it's gold.

Ruby Princess
9 nights
March 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand CaymanCozumel, Fort Lauderdale, Grand Turk
Inside: $605
Cost per day: $67
www.princess.com

Nine in '14: Nine worldly events you can get to with a variety of cruises in 2014

One of the more interesting articles to cross our desktops this weekend was from FoxNews.com, which is not exactly known as an acknowledged source of cruise information. This article, by Andrea Rotondo, who appears to be a cruise expert for a network that most of us didn't know had one. It's entitled "9 major events you can attend via cruise ship in 2014" and it's an interesting read.

The events are from all over the world, and they're neatly arranged chronologically, from the Australian Open (tennis) in January to New Year'sAustralian OpenEve in Hong Kong. There is more variety in cruise lines — they're all different — than in events, eight of which are either sports events or parties.

Then again, aren't most "events" that you'd go to great lengths to see either sports events or parties?

The range of cruise lines goes from luxury brands like Silversea and Crystal MardiGrasand Windstar to some of the mainstream lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian…all of which are noted in the same breath as "Mardis Gras" because they all have ships that regularly sail from New Orleans. One "miss" is linking the Monaco Grand Prix only to Star Clippers when Windstar has been taking ships to the GP for a couple of years, at least.

Taking a cruise to a country because a big event was being held there is not something we've ever done, but after reading Ms Rotondo's suggestions (www.foxnews.com), it's worth thinking of taking a flyer.

Or a cruise.

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 30, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysCuracaoAruba
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.princess.com

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