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DWTS and HA: Shall We Dance?

News item: Dancing With The Stars will continue to be featured on Holland America ships through the 2015-16 cruise season.

Well, there’s a surprise.

ABC’s immensely popular TV series first sailed with Holland America after the cruise line cleverly made a deal to launch “Dancing With The Stars: At Sea” in 2013. For two years now, the show at sea has been just like the show on land.

A hit.

The professional dancers from DTWS — Tristan MacManus, Kym Johnson, Sharna Burgess (right), Emma SlaterEmma SlaterLacey Schwimmer, Chelsie HightowerDerek Hough and Mark Ballas (left) — have Mark Ballasperformed on a number of select theme cruises, culminating with a Champions Cruise each year. The same, of course, will apply next year, with the grand finale set for January 10, 2016 on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

There are six cruises on next year’s schedule: two in January, two in June and one prior to the Champions Cruise the following January. Obviously, they have to be worked around TV tapings. Two are on the Westerdam (Caribbean), two on the Veendam (New England) and the final two on the Nieuw Amsterdam. Passengers have a chance to qualify for that  all year on all 15 Holland America ships.

Holland America is extending the deal with DWTS because, simply, it works.

“On every cruise throughout the year our Dancing with the Stars: At Sea lessons are a huge draw and the competition to dance for the Champions Cruise is intense, which tells us we have a very successful and engaging program,” said Executive Vice-President Richard Meadows.

Cruise lines have found in recent years that entertainment on land — from concerts to Broadway shows to TV reality specials — are at least as popular on ships.

Kind of makes you wonder why it took so long, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: Quantum leaps to Royal Caribbean

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
November 30, 2014
New York (return): Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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:


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

Cruise Port — Cozumel Launch Pad To Yucatan, Too

This week, we're featuring ports you may find on your cruise itinerary, to give you a snapshot of what it's like, what ships usually go there and what some of the options are once you get off the ship. Today it's Cozumel, Mexico.

If there's a cruise ship that goes to the Western Caribbean and DOESN'T stop at Cozumel, the identity if the ship must be a closely guarded secret.

Like rice and beans and tequila, Cozumel is a Mexican staple.

It's also a jumping-off point for same-day sites to see, which is probably why it's on the itineraries of all major cruise ships. Think for a minute about it's cousin around the gulf, Costa Maya. If every ship stopped there, and many do, you'd either run out of things to do or tire of long bus rides, or both.

Not so in Cozumel.

The island itself is at least interesting and worthy of stopping there once or twice (we once made three Cozumel stops in a little over two weeks). For the photography crowd, there are photo-ops everywhere and, being an island, plenty of Cozumel-east beachbeaches. However, getting some local advice on the best beaches is a good idea because the east side of the island didn't look that inviting when we rented a car (call Margarita or Santiago at 987-872-33-67 for a smokin' deal) and circled Isla Cozumel.

Then there's off-Cozumel.

Take the 45-minute ferry to Playa del Carmen, where the beaches do look inviting, even to people to whom beaches are rarely that inviting, like us. On the Mexican mainland, you can also make quick trips to the ruins of Tulum (now that IS Shopping in Cozumelinviting) or longer trips to other attractions on the Yucatan Peninsula, like Cancun or Merida. There is no shortage of things to do in this part of Mexico, and the weather usually cooperates. 

One warning when you're on a cruise ship: Check your watch, and not because you're afraid it will be stolen…because you're afraid you might get confused by Cozumel time and wind up missing your ship.

Otherwise, Cozumel is (as they say) "a trip!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Watch for the acronym MSC — it will be on more ships

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
June 7, 2014
Quebec CityCharlottetownSydneyHalifaxBar HarborBoston
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

About That Daylight Saving Time…

It is our duty, in case you happen to be on a cruise ship when Daylight Saving Time comes along, to alert you about "the time change."

It's this weekend, or next month.

In most of North America, the clocks "jump ahead" two hours into Sunday morning. Except in Arizona. And Saskatchewan. And in Cozumel, where there are cruise ships.

In Cozumel, where we once almost missed a ship because of this confusion, DST goes into effect in April. On the 6th, also a Sunday. Except on Norwegian cruise ships, which maintain ship's time. However, Royal Caribbean cruise ships stay on land's time, which in Cozumel is different than land time everywhere else in the area.

And when the Cozumel stays on Standard Time while the rest of the world goes Daylight, the one-hour difference between ship time and shore time becomes two hours.

As the pop band Chicago would say…or sing…

"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

Holland America Veendam
9 nights
May 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Gloucester, Bar HarborHalifaxSydneyCharlottetownQuebec City
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $55

Things That Aren't Going Well In Cruise Industry

There are two news items that continue to make the rounds this week which are not especially flattering to the cruise industry.


A Holland America ship, the Veendam, arrived back in Fort Lauderdale from a cruise with more than 100 passengers ill with norovirus. 

Comment: As we have long pointed out, this gastrointestinal sickness can happen wherever large groups of people assemble. It is not unique to the cruise business, which constantly has to re-assure worried passengers in advance. However, the perception is that you're more likely to contract norovirus on a cruise ship, out of context or not, and this is a problem for cruise lines. 


The trial regarding the Carnival Triumph is underway in Miami. While the judge ruled Carnival is liable for the fire on the ship, one of his other rulings is that cruise line did not breach its contract because "the contract ticket makes no express guarantee for safe passage, a seaworthy vessel, adequate and wholesome food, and sanitary and safe living conditions."

Comment: Isn't it time for cruise lines to quit hiding such important facts in the fine print?

Holland America Ryndam
27 nights
April 6, 2014
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaMalagaCartagena, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca,  BarcelonaValencia, Alicante, Motril, GibralterCadizLisbon, La Coruna, Bilbao, Portland, London
Inside: $1,499
Cost per day: $55

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