Tag-Archive for » Sochi Olympics «

Wait-And-See Time If Your Cruise Includes Russia

Was it just a few weeks ago that the world was watching Russia because that's where the Winter Olympics were? Is that short a time all it takes for the world to be watching Russia for wintry reasons far more serious…wintry, as in Cold War?

The world includes people who go on cruises because, since safety trumps everything when you're a tourist, there are trips to Russia on the line this year. Compared to what's happening in the Ukraine, this is incidental. Collateral damage, as it were. Yet it's a disruption for people with upcoming cruises booked in and around the Black Sea.

At least seven cruise lines have ships scheduled to visit Sevastopol this year. That's in Crimea. That's where the Russian Navy has blocked the harbor.

Odessa is a Black Sea port on many cruise-ship itineraries, and some river-cruise itineraries. It's in the Ukraine, but not in a potentially volatile part of it…for now.

It's not just safety that could sour plans. If travel visas are banned, it affects every St. P-Philipp Hienstorfer copycruise that touches the Russian shoreline, no matter how far it is from the troubled Crimea region…such as St. Petersburg (above), which both ocean and river ships frequent.

So far, nothing has been canceled or re-scheduled, but the start of the cruise season is just weeks away.

Cruise lines are watching. So is the rest of the world.

This time, it goes far beyond Sochi. This time, there are no gold medals.

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
April 20, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): FreeportNassau
Inside: $289
Cost per day: $72
www.carnival.com

Olympians Beware: It's Like A Cruise Ship There!

We've been watching a lot of television, some delayed and some live, from the Olympic Winter Games in Russia this week. 

Last night (well, it was "last night" somewhere), Mexico's lone athlete was on the tube, even though he isn't really from Mexico, but that's another story. He was talking about being in the Olympic Village in Sochi and just in the course of conversation mentioned that many of the athletes had "something happening" in their throats and noses…aka, the 'flu.

A week before the Olympics, we were watching national curling (we do lead an exciting existence!) finals and more than half the competitors had been stricken with illness that was clearly contagious.

Nowhere was the mention of norovirus.

That's in part because norovirus is only linked to cruising when it should be linked to any mass gastro-intestinal sickness that occurs where there are small to large groups of people.

There's yet another misconception about norovirus — and we are not unsympathetic to cruise passengers who have suffered from this, at all. What the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “very hearty virus” that causes stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea can be contracted from contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships are among the places ripe for such viruses to spread.

However, there is a report in "The Week" (?) that passengers wanting to avoid getting it should stick to shorter cruises because there are fewer reports of norovirus outbreaks on shorter cruises…and by "shorter" the publication means fewer than seven days. The vast majority of the outbreaks occurred on cruises of seven days or longer.

Hmmm…is it possible that's because the vast majority of cruises are seven days or longer?

Apply that theory to the Olympics and athletes should attend competitions where they will come in contact with fewer people, not where almost 3,000 athletes are "residing" in the same general area.

Yes, 3,000 is about what many cruise ships carry, isn't it?

Celebrity Millennium
14 nights
May 10, 2014
Tokyo, Aomori, Sapporo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49
www.celebritycruises.com

Are these Olympics a little Jade-d?

 

The fun starts tomorrow, which on this side of the ocean may be today. The 17-day sports/political quadrennial known as the Olympic Games. People who go on cruise ships are surely among the assembled masses and there is at least one mass-market ship among the four "cruise ships" on the scene in Sochi, Russia: the Norwegian Jade.

It is one of the ships of Sochi. Some are there, like the Jade, to provide accommodation that is in such short supply. Some — private yachts — are there because that's what the richest and most famous people can do. Some are there as part of the massive security force that nobody hopes is required. And further out  in the Black Sea are warships, perhaps aircraft carriers, flying American flags and ready to evacuate American athletes, if called upon.

Yes, this is what the Olympics has become.

Jade-SochiThe Jade was known to be part of the flotilla, although it had never been widely known which Sochi visitors would be using it as their hotel. When you're as far from the scene as most of us are, it doesn't really matter why it's there, but cruisers who love the ship hope it will leave unscathed and in one piece.

Also docked near the Winter Olympics site is a superyacht owned by Seattle magnate Paul Allen. It's known as the Tatoosh and the first inclination is to think the man who also owns the Seattle Seahawks went straight from the Super Bowl to Sochi, and maybe he did. And while the Tatoosh is there for accommodation purposes (you can only imagine who's sleeping on this baby), this is a yacht that's been for sale since 2010, year of the last Winter Games.

If the Tatoosh is being showcased, it seems an unusual time and place to try and sell a yacht…for 125 million pounds yet, or $204,000, about twice what Allen paid for it.

But hey, this is the Olympics of the 21st century. As some might say, a "sign of the Apocolypse."

Carnival Glory
7 nights
March 2, 2014
Miami (return): Grand CaymanCozumelBelizeRoatan
Inside: $379
Cost per day: $84
www.carnival.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

Norwegian Charters Mean Changes

There was a story on Cruise Critic yesterday that puts all those feel-good testimonials and events that cruise lines shower on their passengers into proper perspective.

"Passengers, you're the best…unless we get a better deal."

The story is about canceling cruises to accommodate private charters on two Norwegian ships and if you choose to think that's all about money, well, go right ahead. 

Norwegian is moving the Jade from the Mediterranean to Russia next February and if you're wondering why anybody would want to go to Russia in February, then you don't follow the drumbeat of the Olympic Winter Games, which will be in Sochi. The Jade will be a floating hotel in the Russian seaport during the two weeks of Olympics.

Passengers booked on the Jade in the Mediterranean will be compensated, of course, and the cruise line's right to disrupt travel plans like that is somewhere down in the fine print, isn't it?

The other ship is the Getaway, which isn't even a ship yet. Scheduled to make its inaugural Transatlantic crossing from Rotterdam to Fort Lauderdale in January. Then, and there, the Getaway was to become Miami's ship…but now it's going to be New York's ship for a week, even though its sister ship, the Breakaway, has already been proclaimed "New York's ship."

The reason?

Private event. Translation: a better deal.

This change in plans is a disruption to passengers who booked the Transatlantic voyage expecting to step on the ship in Rotterdam (it's now leaving from Southampton) and to step off the ship in Florida. And the charter in New York also means the Getaway's inaugural cruise to the Caribbean won't leave on February 1 as scheduled, but a week later on February 8.

So the next time you hear cruise-line officials falling all over their passengers, reach for the salt shaker and take a few grains.

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

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