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Cruise Lines Catching Up (or On)

On Friday night, a 39-year-old mother of three officiated in an NFL pre-season game. A week earlier, there was a woman at the helm of a Silversea cruise ship for the first time. These things are one day going to be old news, especially the latter.

While Sarah Thomas was the first female to be a pro football official, Margrith Ettlin (left) is — by our unofficial count — the fourth woman to be captain of a cruise ship, in her case the Silver Explorer.

The first was Karin Stahre-Jansen (below, right), who became the "master" of Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, then sailing Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles. That was in 2007. Three years later, Sarah Breton became captain of P&O's Pacific Pearl, in Australia. And last month, what might be called the most traditional of cruise lines — Cunard — welcomed Captain Inger Olsen as she guided the Queen Victoria into her first port, in the Faroe Islands.

In an age when women go to war, presumably doing whatever their male counterparts are called upon to do, there is of course no reason why a woman shouldn't be qualified to be in charge of a mega-ton cruise ship. Even to the most chauvinistic of observers, it's not like she has to jump off the deck and tie up these monstrosities.

One day, it will cease to be news that a woman is a cruise ship captain, just like it has that a woman is flying a commercial airliner or driving a semi or wrestling a steer to the ground.

And that day can't come soon enough, can it?

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 15, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $46

Cruising to Beaches of Normandy


Nowadays, most of us don't remember World War II. It's a horror story told to us in books, or movies or if we were fortunate (bold) enough to ask in conversations with fathers or uncles or older friends who saw it first hand.

One of the things they would all say is: "Never forget."

Next June is the 70th anniversary of the Allies' landings on the coast of Normandy, in northern France. To commemorate it and to honor those who fought, whether they came home or not, the D-Day Cruise will take passengers to spend a week on the coast. A couple of years ago, we had part of a day in a rental car in Normandy.

It wasn't nearly enough. 

The cruise is on the Silver Cloud. That means there is room for only 296 passengers. One of them will be Tom Brokaw, author of the book The Greatest Generation, which paid tribute to many of our predecessors. There are four other storytellers or historians going on this Silversea cruise, including Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson.

Five of the seven nights will be in Caen. More specifically, in Caen's harbor, making it the pick-up and drop-off point for daily tours to the beaches of Normandy. There are museums, battlefields, churches, memorials and — on the historic 6th of June — participation in 70th anniversary ceremonies at Omaha Beach.

On our brief visit, we spent hours at one of the museums.

It wasn't nearly enough.

Carnival Legend
12 nights
September 1, 2013
London (return): Alesund, Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Paris
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $58

Cruise Writer to Travel by Express


Our colleague Phil Reimer, he of Ports and Bows fame, left a few days ago for a rather exotic cruise…so exotic that it took him 24 hours just to get from home to the embarkation point. That would be Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which seem to be in the middle of nowhere, or off the coast of North Africa.

That's where Phil boarded the Silver Spirit, a ship (above) that he'll share with 540 of his BFF — or if they aren't his best friends they will be after nine days on a small ship. Sooner, if we know Phil.

His accounts of the nine-day adventure will be posted on his Ports and Bows blog, starting Tuesday, and in his column in next weekend's editions of Postmedia newspapers across Canada. Somewhere along the way, you can expect to read about his 11-hour train ride and tour from Casablanca to Marrakesh.

Exactly…the Marrakesh Express. Given that it's an 11-hour trip to the Moroccan city known for its leather, "express" seems like an oxymoron.

To most of us, Marrakesh Express is the name of a song recorded just a few years ago by Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was written by Graham Nash when he was still with The Hollies in the mid-'60s after he took the train from Casablanca to Marrakesh, a trip that initially he found so boring in first-class that he went to sit with the "ducks and pigs and chickens."

Hmm, might Phil have a similar experience next week?

Carnival Destiny
18 nights
February 4, 2013
Miami, Malaga, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Venice
Inside:  $649
Cost per day: $36

Tiring Refrain About Ship Accidents

Is it just us, or do media people seem to get some vicarious satisfaction out of reporting the misfortunes of businesses often associated with the rich and famous…businesses like Disney…and Starbucks…and the cruise industry?

"Another cruise ship accident…"

This came a couple of days ago, on CNN. The accident was a minor collision between the Silver Shadow and a Vietnamese container ship, near Halong Bay in Vietnam. The Silver Shadow suffered a few dents, the container ship started to roll before righting itself, and nobody was hurt.

Yes, it could have been much, much worse. But it wasn't.

The collision was essentially caused by heavy fog, according to reports. While the elements can never be used as an excuse, these things do happen, to ships of all shapes and sizes, in wherever there is fog.

But the bottom line is it wasn't serious, yet CNN devoted three minutes of valuable air time telling its world that there had been "another cruise ship accident."

Maybe that it involved a cruise ship was enough to attract this type of overkill, or maybe it's because we're in that three-month gap between two real tragedies: the Costa Concordia and the 100th anniversary of the Titanic.

For the next Daily Deal, click back at 2:59 p.m. EDT

Gentlemen Who Prefer Cruises

On the weekend, we came across a story about “gentlemen hosts” on cruise ships. These are “jobs” for single men who pay $30 a day to go and have a good time on a cruise, with no romantic liaisons allowed.

In other words, they have to be, well, gentlemen.

The Gentleman Host Program and others like it aren’t new. They’ve been around for two decades but are not widely advertised, which might explain why most cruisers have never heard of it. It operates on several cruise lines — Cunard and Silversea are the best-known — and candidates are carefully screened before they’re accepted.

Among the requirements:
• Sociable with excellent manners
• Ability to dance, especially ballroom dancing
• From 40 to 68 years old and, yes, single
• Drink no more than moderately and maintain sobriety
• Good listener and able to “refrain from showing favoritism towards one lady”
• Fit enough to dance until the “music stops playing”

Their jobs — they are compensated for air fare and sometimes share in tips — are to socialize with, engage and interact like a crew member with the growing number of single women on cruise ships.

We have several friends who are single men who…never mind, none of them qualifies. No, we won’t tell you why.

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
March 3, 2012
San Juan (return): Barbados; St. Lucia; Antigua; St. Maarten; St. Thomas
Inside $589

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