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Carnival Ships Join China Surge

MiracleThere was a time, not that long ago, that the only places you could take Carnival ships was from a port city in North America. The one caveat was when the world’s biggest cruise line built a new ship in Europe, and it had to get to North America by crossing the Atlantic.

Then Carnival started dabbling in the Mediterranean. Then in Australia, going so far as to establish a base there. Now, Carnival’s going to China.

There is no choice. Everybody else is, too.

In 2017, the Carnival Miracle (above) will be in China year-round. A year later, the Carnival Splendour (below) will be in China year-round. Cruise ships from Carnival Corporation have been visiting Asian ports for a decade, but not year-round. And the Splendormother line wasn’t there at all. Other cruise lines have gradually been gaining a presence, but nobody really started taking the Chinese market this seriously until Royal Caribbean sent its newest ship — Quantum of the Seas — to establish a home port in Shanghai. 

If that didn’t get the cruise executives’ attention, it surely woke up the media.

Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to Royal Caribbean, which has since launched Anthem of the Seas and has another Quantum Class ship coming next year, Ovation of the Seas. But this was the flagship of the class and its first cruise season was from New York (Cape Liberty), not exactly a secondary market. As it turned out, that was its ONLY season of sailing from New York to the Caribbean. Almost exactly one year after it arrived, Quantum was gone.

For good.

Since then, the other mainstream cruise lines have been despatching ships to Asian waters. It will likely never rival the Caribbean as a cruise destination, but it’s definitely a player. And in 18 months, the team of ships stationed there will include Carnival.

In the news…

• The Salty Dog Gastropub makes its debut on Crown Princess
• Costa signs three-year partnership agreement with Italian airline Neo

Today at portsandbows.com: Cunard planning them cruises for 2016


Carnival Imagination
3 nights
January 14, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56
www.carnival.com

Chilling Out On Norwegian’s Escape

The new Norwegian Escape has now left its birthplace in Germany and is en route to its home in Miami, following a short stop in Southhampton. At 5,000 or so passengers, it is now Norwegian’s largest ship and among the top half-dozen biggest ships in the world, and it comes with some innovations.Ice Bar-1

Like a cold room.

This is a curious addition to a cruise ship. The room’s actually being called the “Snow Room” and it’s part of the ship’s spa facility. Its temperature is 14 degrees Fahrenheit and snowflakes fall from the ceiling while passengers watch and…shiver. Spa reps say this is healthy — “good for aches and pains” — but if you were trying to sell your neighbour on going on a cruise this winter and touted the Snow Room there’s a good chance your neighbour would stay home.

The whole concept of a Caribbean cruise is to, pardon the pun, “escape” from wherever you live to a temperate, sunny climate.

Norwegian tried a variation of this concept five years ago on the Epic, which until last week was the cruise line’s biggest ship. It was called The Ice Bar, kind of a play on words since bars usually include ice to cool the drinks. Well, in The Ice Bar there were icicles everywhere but in the drinks. It was so cold that you had to bundle Ice Bar-2up before entering. It wasn’t exactly the North Pole, but 10 minutes was long enough, in the interests of survival…or at least comfort. The bar has survived, too…with a little Ice Bar-3sponsorship input from Svedka (vodka) and Inniskillin (ice wine), but it seemed a strange juxtaposition for the conventional concept of what a cruise delivers.

Once the novelty wears off, maybe the Snow Room will be a bigger hit. The old hot-cold treatment thing, you know. There are people, dozens perhaps, who think that’s good for the body even if it doesn’t feel good. To some of us, these people are known as masochists. Who knows if they’re right? Who will ever know?

Or maybe spa people are just like golfers. They’ll buy anything that they think is going to make them better.

In the news…

• New Orleans, usually a homeport, becoming popular with port calls
• Dawn Princess to be renamed Pacific Explor for P&O Australia in 2017
• MSC Lirica to be customized for Chinese market when it arrives next year

Today at portsandbows.com: Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2016


Celebrity Infinity
4 nights
October 23, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key West, Nassau
Inside: $272
Cost per day: $68
www.celebritycruises.com

Making spa time for teeth?

In our Caribbean cruise budget was a line item for a pair of sunglasses. For our dentist. We knew he'd need them because we booked a time at the Lotus Spa on the Crown Princess for a "teeth whitening."

You've seen pictures of those famous people after their teeth turn to sparkling white (which they, of course, have never been), capable of reflecting sunshine at the speed of light, and just as bright.

That was going to happen to the not-so-famous us.

We were in for a surprise. Our dental hygenist in charge of ivory headlights, Hestie, explained in the run-up to the treatment that our teeth would be au natural, although since she is from South Africa and not France, those weren't her exact words. But we knew what she meant.

In other words, our teeth would be close to what they were a century or so ago, before we started consuming coffee and tea and red wine, the three stars of teeth staining, in no particular order. Alas, once again we would not be mistaken for movie stars.

Hestie also explained in great detail what was going to occur, that we wouldn't feel a semblance of pain, that this particular brand of whitening process has been around for 15 or 20 years and that it is available only on cruise ships. The cynic side of us wondered how something successful could be around that long and not make it to shore, but by that point of the conversation we were in the chairs, wearing bibs and about to insert mouth guards.

Conversation became minimal.

She also mentioned something about using only "six per cent hydrogen peroxide" so as not to penetrate further into our teeth than it should (think: pain), and you can be sure the "hydrogen peroxide" perked our ears more than the "six per cent." But vanity, thy name is 2(HO) — as opposed to H2O.

The operation (bad choice of word) was supposed to take half an hour, and it turned out to be more like 30 or 35. Hestie was kind enough not to mention it was probably directly proportional to the number of staining years. During just over 20 minutes of wearing a mouthguard, we were cleansed by "my creams" (it's more like liquid) applied to the teeth, followed by 4-to-8-minute sessions of what seemed like an infrared light, all the better to penetrate our enamels.

And yes, both sets of teeth were whiter…au natural.

The cost for this is $149 per person, or $129 each if you're a couple. Quick, find a partner. The up-sell comes when you're finished: self-applied liquid treatments, without Hestie the teeth whitener. A week of it, twice a day, is highly recommended and the tab is $49 per person. Repeating that for a week every two months is another $258…

Considering that the week before we boarded the Crown Princess, one of us had a tooth filled (that's one tooth) and the bill was $311, it's not too much to pay for having your teeth look nicer.

And you do save the price of sunglasses.


Carnival Valor
7 nights
March 10, 2013
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Inside: $489
Cost per day: $69
www.carnival.com

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