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The New Ways Of Norwegian

 Two couples who are good friends of ours were both on Norwegian ships in the last couple of months. The experiences met with mixed reviews, for both, although we have to say that’s never been the case for any of our Norwegian cruises…and the most memorable of them lasted 19 days!

Well, times are changing at Norwegian.

Tom Stieghorst, who’s on top of everything that happens in cruise central (aka, South Florida) for Travel Weekly, authored an interesting article about the cruise line Norwegian is becoming under new CEO Frank Del Rio and President Andy Stuart. If you’ve been on a GetawayNorwegian ship, you’ll be interested in knowing that the freestyle is being scaled back from Freestyle Cruising and that you’ll no longer be encouraged to Cruise Like A Norwegian.

The slogan seemed appropriate until Del Rio rationalized it this way:

“When you tell a German that he has to cruise like a Norwegian, he says, ‘What are you talking about?’”

So Norwegian’s likely to become more global, as it continues to explore venturing where cruise lines are all going, China. It’s also likely to change its marketing approach (one recent hiring was a door-to-door, high-end vacuum salesperson) by introducing more valued-added components and fewer discount prices…for example, combining air fares as Del Rio did with Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, cruise lines where he formerly presided as the head honcho.

As much as we were thrilled about Freestyle Cruising, perhaps it has run its course. At the time Norwegian introduced it to the industry, it was a welcome change from the staid, fixed-seating, four-or-more-to-a-table style of dining that many of us found unappealing. Today, in no small part because of Norwegian’s innovation, almost every cruise line has an abundance of dining options and life on every ship is less structured.

Or more “freestyle.”

Del Rio also wants to make the “guest experience” on board more complete. Among other things, that could mean enhancements to include enrichment programs on the ships, with the kind of experiences and guest speakers Del Rio is familiar with from his Oceania and Regent  past.

For at least half our friends who just cruised on Norwegian, that would be most welcome…and might even bring them back.

In the news…

• P&O Adonia to become first voluntourism ship for 'fathom' cruise line
• Royal Caribbean returns cover charge to Jamie Oliver's (CruiseCritic)
• Death toll over 400 from capsized Chinese ship on Yangtze River

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara's major re-furbishments

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
September 19, 2015
Miami (return): St. Thomas, Tortola, Nassau
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.ncl.com

The Changing World Of Godmothers

Remember when being the godmother of a cruise ship was an honor reserved for celebrities, royalty or others who were already enjoying some measure of fame?

Times have changed.

Today is a “reality world.”

Acknowledging that, and in partnership with Travel Weekly, Royal Caribbean is going to have what might be called the cruise world’s first “reality godmother” when Anthem of the Seas is launched in April. This ship’s godmother will be a singing travel agent.

Really?

Really. Also, reality.

Here’s how it will work:

Travel agents (women only) can apply by submitting a short video clip of their singing ability. They’ll choose from a list of 19 songs. The list of potential godmothers will be trimmed to five by a panel of three judges who will watch the videos. The five finalists will sing for the judges and the winner will — after a little voice coaching — appear at the ships’ christening where she will sing the anthem.

Anthem, get it?

The winner will also sing at Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards and win a cruise-for-two on Anthem of the Seas. The winner will also enjoy at least 15 minutes of fame, or royalty, or celebrity, or all of the above.

So far, nobody’s saying that this will turn into an award-winning, long-running TV show that they’ll call Cruising Idol.

Today at portsandbows.com: Foodie new for Oceania fans

Holland American Maasdam
25 nights
March 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Thomas, St. Barts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Bonaire, Curacao, Half Moon Cay, Fort Lauderdale, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, Barbados, Fort-de-France, St. Croix, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $1,349
Cost per day: $53
www.hollandamerica.com

An Epic Journey Ending In Caribbean

Barnacled and bruised, and beleaguered since birth, the Norwegian Epic is riding off into the sunset next spring. Perhaps the sun will be kinder to the big ship in Barcelona because, on this side of the ocean, the sun appears to have done melanoma-like damage.

EpicAmong the critics, that is.

The Epic arrived in New York in the summer of 2010. Despite her size (4,100 passengers minimum and close to 6,000 maximum), she was never the biggest. She was never the prettiest, sometimes derisively described as the ship with a box-top hat. She was never duplicated and when the idea of a potential sibling was aborted before Norwegian spent any more on the plan it only added to her unpopularity.

Yet we loved the Epic.

We were fortunate enough to cruise on her twice. She was the biggest “freestyle” ship anywhere, and that helped. She introduced Blue Man Group to the seas, and that was better than we anticipated. With a somewhat unorthodox traffic flow, there were pre-launch predictions of line-ups everywhere, but they never materialized. Only on the Epic was serious attention paid to accommodation for singles, and that made her a trend-setter.

Maybe it was because her first master, Trygve Vorren, was as nice a captain as we’ve ever met after being told he wouldn’t be, and because we had a chance to know him a little, not many months before he boarded the big cruise ship in the sky. And that his successor, Slam AllenFrank Juliussen, was just as warm, as honest and as entertaining…two years later. Maybe it was because Slam Allen blew us away with his performances at Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club on the Epic, even though we’re not huge fans of fat cats, jazz or blues.

The disaster in the cabins — sort-of see-through bathroom doors — was so much a non-starter with passengers that two years ago (when she was a two-year-old) readers of Travel Weekly picked the Epic as the “best overall individual cruise ship” for the third year in a row, and that same year Porthole Magazine named her the “Best Mega Ship.”  She has also been decorated for her entertainment, new restaurants, gambling venue and family appeal.

In what has to be an unusual marketing ploy, Norwegian is promoting her final Caribbean cruises as the Epic’s “Farewell Tour in the Caribbean” when her cruising days there end next April. Judging by the ship’s passenger popularity, it’s probably a certainty to sell out.

Why is the Epic leaving?

Norwegian has launched two ships (Breakaway and Getaway) since the Epic and two more (Escape and Bliss) are coming. The place to start new ships is always in the Caribbean, the world’s cruising hotspot, and there is a limit to a cruise line’s capacity. So it is time for the Epic to move on, perhaps to calmer waters.

It’ll be interesting to see how Europeans take to her. Undoubtedly, the Epic will undergo some changes to cater to Europe’s tastes and culture. They’ll have her for three years, minimum, and probably longer. However, if she’s not welcome, there’s a lot of us who would take her back.

Anytime.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
November 16, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $119
Cost per day: $29
www.carnival.com

The Skinny On Cruise Fuel Surcharges

Travelers who subscribe to Travel Weekly — billed as “The Travel Industry’s Trusted Voice” — may have noticed that cruise lines are experiencing an unexpected drop in fuel prices despite that turmoil in many oil-producing countries. As a result, cruise lines are enjoying better bottom lines.

For example, Norwegian is paying less for fuel this year than last even though it has added the Getaway to its fleet. Carnival’s comparative fuel expense is down $28 million from last year. Royal Caribbean has experienced a more modest saving, according to Travel Weekly.

So…

The tendency is to think that cruise lines should drop the price of cruising that reflects the drop in cost of fuel, because when the price of oil rises sharply they implement a surcharge.

Not true.

Cruise lines have a fuel surcharge that they can add to the cost of your cruise ticket. That doesn’t mean it’s a given that it will happen.

We’ve been cruising regularly for the last five years. During that time, here is what the per-gallon cost cruise lines pay has done:

May 2010 — $1.67
May 2011 — $2.39
May 2012 — $2.52
May 2013 — $2.24
May 2014 — $2.26

In other words, with the exception of 2013, it has gone up every year. Not once during that time have we experienced the dreaded “fuel surcharge.”

Today at portsandbows.com: Internet deals from Oceania

Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas
7 nights
November 8, 2014
Venice (return): Dubrovnik, Ephesus, Santorini, Olympia
Inside: $628
Cost per day: $89
www.royalcaribbean.com

Reading The Writings Of Cruising 

Like you, we’re always on the prowl to read something interesting…especially if it’s about cruising. To that end, when we find the writings of others who we think might appeal to you, we pass it along.

Today is one of those days.

During our most recent cruise, we spent a few evenings enjoying the company of Tom Stieghorst, who writes regularly for Travel Weekly and — more importantly — is the father of two teenage daughters. They’re the subject of a clever column he wrote about taking his family on a cruise, and you can find it at www.travelweekly.com.

On our previous cruise, we visited Falmouth, Jamaica for the first time and a column in the Jamaica Observer by Michael Burke caught our eye this week. It’s worth reading even if you’re not interested in cruising, at www.jamaicaobserver.com.

Hopefully you’ll find them as interesting and/or entertaining as we did.

Today at portsandbows.com: The Norwegian purchase

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
5 nights
October 27, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Nassau, Cozumel
Balcony: $554
Cost per day: $110
www.royalcaribbean.com

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