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How To Enjoy Getting To Europe

DiademaNAPLES, Italy — Anybody who has flown to Europe or back knows there’s no such thing as the perfect day (or two), even if you fly business class.

Our trip to this southern Italian city was as good as it gets.

If you leave from the West Coast, as we did, figure on being in your hotel about 21 hours later. That’s 21 hours, period, not something adjusted for time changes. 

Our flight was on Delta. It was outstanding. Check-in, from airport arrival to gate arrival, took minutes, not an hour or two. We changed planes seamlessly in Seattle and Paris. There was plenty of activity to keep you busy on the flight over the Atlantic, if Romeo Hotelsleep wasn’t on the itinerary. A bunch of movies, music selections, even games to play in the seat-back screen. Meals with the regularity not seen, never mind rarely seen.

The best part: no nickel and diming. All included.

The transfer to the Romeo Hotel in the heart of Naples was easy and this beautiful W-style hotel is ideally located. From our window we could see the cruise ship, the Costa Diadema, we were about to board. We could walk to it in five minutes. Alas, there is (much) luggage to consider. A ride to the ship takes 20 minutes.

Then it was nap time. We think we have the sleep solution figured, because you leave mid-morning one day and arrive mid-day the next…more or less. So, sleep as little as possible until you check in, then catch a few hours (for your second wind), go for dinner around 7, hang in there until 10, then go to bed.

Assume you went to bed in North Naples-AntonioAmerica at 11 p.m. on Tuesday. That’s 8 a.m. in Italy. You get up at 8 a.m. (4 p.m. in Italy). Fast forward to bed time in Naples…10 p.m. Sleep eight hours. If you’re lucky enough to sleep until 8 a.m. (11 p.m. in North America), in that 48-hour period you’ve had about 16 hours’ sleep.

It’s not the ideal end to jet lag, but it’s close. And friendly people everywhere…at the airport, on the plane, from the airport, at the hotel.

Ah, dinner.

Osteria da Antonio was the place. He’s owned it for 26 years. When he goes on vacation in the summer, the people are lined up at his door waiting for him to re-open. Only 10 per cent of his customers are like us, strangers to Naples. The fare is classic Italian, in a seaside port. So you have fish: spaghetti with clams, and pasta shells stuffed with fish. A little tiramisu for dessert and half a bottle of white wine.

It was a two-day period that, as the Italians might say, was perfecto!

Today at portsandbows.com: Choices to embark Costa's Diadema

Celebrity Millennium
17 nights
April 26, 2015
Shanghai, Jeju City, Kobe, Shimizu, Tokyo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Balcony: $1,199
Cost per day: $70
www.celebritycruises.com

Friday File: Boats But Not Cruise Ships

It's logical that people who go on cruises have an innate interest (or maybe that should be a supressed interest) in all kinds of boats. Whether you do or not, you're going to see many types of vessels on the water when going on cruises, as we have…

Boats-15Probably the only two-passenger boat in the world where the "driver" (aka…gondolier) sings while he works, and while you enjoy traversing the canals of Venice.

Boats-3Is there a better way to see — or a better way to get a view — of Alaska's glaciers as they "calf" (a less literary word would be "cave") than as part of a kayak expedition?

Boats-11-EcuadorWhile leaving Manta, we captured the working boats of Ecuador, where work often means going to the U.S. and sending earnings home to impoverished families.

Boats-9-CaymanWe liked this juxtaposition of the old and the new…even though the "old" is a tour boat, with a Carnival ship on the horizon, far south on the west coast of Mexico. 

Boats-6-BermudaThis yacht belongs to somebody rich and famous of St. George's, Bermuda (or so we were told), truly an example of a world with which most of us are not familiar.

Boats-2In harbors around the world, you'll likely find a wide variety of vessels, and that was the case when the Celebrity Eclipse arrived in Cherbourg, France.

Boats-23-ColThe Phantom was more about the people than being the Spanish galleon on the shores of Cartagena, Colombia because it was there, five years ago, that we met tour guide Sandy Cuadrado, who remains our friend today!

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Millennium
17 nights
April 26, 2015
Shanghai, Jeju City, Kobe, Tokyo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $41
www.celebritycruises.com

Princess, Texans Cater To Kids

Before every football game, there’s a coin toss. Before every charitable activity in business, there may also be a “coin toss.” Heads, it’s good for the charity. Tails, it’s good for business.

For Princess Cruises, if there was such a coin toss it was…heads wins, and tails wins.

The football analogy is because last week Princess invited 20 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Houston onto a ship, the Emerald Princess, in conjunction with the Houston Texans of the National Football League. While the news release didn’t say so, it was probably just Chris Myers and friendsfor the day, long enough to give the kids a look at a cruise ship, fun enough for them to meet the Texans’ All-Pro center, Chris Myers…along with Toro the team mascot.

They watched football on the ship’s big-big screen, they toured the vessel and they made cupcakes for lunch with Myers. Who knew All-Pro centers made cupcakes?

That’s how the kids win. Chances are they never imagined being on a cruise ship. Chances are they never imagined meeting Chris Myers.

Princess by planting the cruise seed in impressionable young minds at what was called Jr. TrainingCamp@Sea, and by having people like us spread the word about their good corporate citizenship.

This time, there was an added bonus for the cruise line.

“It was my first time on a cruise ship as well,” said Myers, “so it was cool to get to experience it together. I always emphasize to kids that they can do anything they want to do in life as long as they work hard and make education a priority.”

Sounds like Princess found another winner, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Millennium
17 nights
April 26, 2015
Shanghai, Cheju City, Kobe, Tokyo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $52
www.celebritycruises.com

Lego Latest Lure To Go Cruising

It was just a few years ago that we bought Lego for our eldest child for Christmas. So it’s “just a few years” later that we’re buying Lego for our granddaughter for her birthday this month (but don’t tell her).

Is there anything in life that’s more permanent and more durable than Lego?

That’s what makes it such a safe bet for MSC Cruises. And that’s why all 12 MSC ships (plus two more by 2017) are being out-fitted with Lego play areas in this cruise line’s Sailor Walkaboutrather clever attempt to attract families. The play areas are ostensibly for kids, but how many adults do you know who still enjoy building things with Lego?

The refurbished MSC Armonia will be the first ship to acquire what MSC calls its Renaissance Program when it emerges with the first Lego stations after a couple of weeks in dry dock this month. Children of ALL ages will compete in Lego-themed competitions on a designated day during each cruise. They’ll earn “junior master builder diplomas”…even if they’re seniors. They’ll meet the resident mascot, whose name — Sailor Walkabout — is sure to become better known, especially since it’s barely known right now.

There’s no charge to play Lego on MSC ships, and areas will be designated for kids under three, and for kids six to 11. No mention of where kids far into the double digits will be allowed to ply their Lego skills.

Now, MSC is an Italian cruise line that dabbles in waters all over the world, including North America. Invented 65 years ago in Denmark by Ole Kirk Christiansen, Lego is played all over the world, as testified by the 600 billion pieces of it currently in circulation. It’s been known to be passed down the generations like heirlooms and jewelry.

And yes, cruise passengers will be able to buy it at the Lego Corner at the ships’ shops.

It’s only a matter of time until there’s a Lego cruise ship toy — bearing the MSC logo, of Armoniacourse — created by a privately-owned company that has morphed its plastic blocks into movies, games and theme parks. MSC hopes the participants in this new venture will build more than toys and skyscrapers and animals.

The cruise line would like its customers, young and old, to build memories, because anybody who doesn’t already have a Lego memory should.

Today at portsandbows.com: Something new at Silversea?

Celebrity Millennium
15 nights
September 11, 2015
Vancouver, Dutch Harbor, Tokyo, Kobe, Shanghai
Inside: $849
Cost per day: $56
www.celebritycruises.com

Time To Check Re-positioning Cruises

 

September is typically a good time of year to explore re-positioning cruises…either last-minute cruises this fall or the reverse trips that depart next spring.

Doesn’t everybody like the price-point that comes with ships that have to get from one part of the world to another? We do. Better bang for your buck…always.

However, there’s a few things you need to know — if you don’t already — about re-positioning cruises;

One, remember to factor into your budget the cost of traveling to or from the ship. These are not return cruises.

Two, you need time for a re-positioning cruise. They are longer than most cruises and there’s additional travel time required to get there, or back.

Three, most have an abundance of sea days. While we’ve never been bored, it’s always a possibility. If you’re worried about running out of things to do, or books to read, consider going on a larger ship that has more amenities.

From three cruise lines, here are three re-positioning cruises on which you might get the double benefit of being “last-minute” because they all leave this fall, and they’re in different parts of the globe:

Norwegian

Copenhagen to Miami, 14 days on the Norwegian Star, on October 6 and starting at $419 — that’s an incredible $29 per night.

Holland America

Vancouver to Sydney, 24 nights on the Veendam, on September 24 and starting at $1,499 — that’s $62 a night.

Royal Caribbean

Boston to Tampa (extended trip through the Caribbean), 13 nights on Brilliance of the Seas, on October 26 and starting at $1,237 — $95 a night.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America’s new ship

Holland America Prinsendam
16 nights
October 5, 2014
Athens (return): Volos, Thessaloniki, Kavala, The Dardanelles, Istanbul, Batuma, Trabzon, Sinop, Constanta, Bourgas, The Dardanelles, Cesme, Ephesus
Oceanview: $1,599
Cost per day: $99
www.hollandamerica.com

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