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Musical Match for Queen Mary 2

Of all the cruise lines that have matched entertainers with their demographic, it’s unlikely any of them has done it better than Cunard.

Herbie HancockHerbie Hancock plays the Queen Mary 2.

The child prodigy is 75. It stands to reason that many of the cruise passengers who will be enamoured by his music are of the same vintage. Maybe 65. Maybe even 55. But 75 for sure.

Hancock is of another era, of course, one in which the lyrics were audible and the notes melodic. Presumably his band members are of another era, too, because it was them who convinced him to take a ride on the Queen Mary 2 last month. Maybe they were scouting Cunard’s Blue Note voyages for a man who plays not only blues but also jazz, classical, R&B, funk, bebop, pop and just about any genre of music imaginable.

By ear.

At age 11, he played Mozart. At 20, he begged another self-taught jazz pianist from Chicago (Chris Anderson) to take Hancock under his wing. Within three years, he was playing with Miles Davis. Today, he is renowned for his work on anything with a keyboard…a Grammy Award winner 14 times, an Academy Award winner once and owner of a long list of jazz awards.

Despite his age, he will regale Queen Mary 2’s passengers with three 45-minute shows QM2-NYduring the Transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York the first week of August, because the great ones always regale their audiences.

Especially when it’s such a good match.

Today at portsandbows.comCrystal river cruises a big hit


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

Princess Royalty For Entertainers

It won’t rank with American Idol or any of TV’s music reality shows, but competing for AJ-JamalEntertainer-of-the-Year on a Princess cruise ship can be a step in the right direction. And in March, four finalists will compete for votes to win the accolade on the Caribbean Princess after it leaves Houston on a 7-day cruise.

The four are comedian A.J. Jamal (right); magician Alex Ramon (left) singer, dancer and musician Nathan Foley (below right); and piano player and keyboardist John Dressler (below left). The winner will be the fifth Entertainer-of-the-Year for Alex RamonPrincess, as chosen by cruise-ship passengers.

Three years ago, we were on the Crown Princess to see number 2, singer Tony Tillman, above with Cruise Director Lisa Ball. This week’s announcement had us wondering what became of him and his three finalists from 2013: a comedian and overall entertainer named Sarge, a comedy duo named Alfred and Seymour; and mentalist Wayne Hoffman.

Today, Tony Tillman (now 69) is still listed with a talent agency and available for performances as a recent vintage of Sammy Davis Jr. Sarge seems to be booked as much as he wants to be, Nathan-Foleymostly in comedy concerts, mostly in Florida. Alfred and Seymour, who calls themselves the The Black StreetBoyz, entertain passengers regularly on Princess ships. Wayne Hoffman has a website.

All were talented, just as all four of the 2016 finalists surely are.

Jamal, calls himself the “King of Clean” which infers family comedy, has been on The Tonight Show. Ramon is among only 20 illusionists to win one of The Christopher Awards (for work that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit”) and John-Bresslercreated a magical accompaniment for Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards. Foley has 23 years of stage and TV experience in Australia, where he won a slew of awards. Bressler is multi-talented and Princess describes his show as a “must-see.”

Anybody who has been to shows on cruise ships knows these people don’t get there without being good. What nobody really knows is how good.

Winning Entertainer-of-the-Year is worth $5,000 but for them, it’s not about the money. It’s more about what it could mean to their careers.

In the news…

• Double the ships, double the sailings for Windstar over the last 18 months
• Lindblad Expeditions adding two new 100-passenger ships for 2017 and 2018

Today at portsandbows.comThe ultimate ‘going green’ — Ecoship


Celebrity Eclipse
14 nights
March 20, 2016
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Aruba, Curacao
Inside: $1,399
Cost per day: $99
www.celebritycruises.com

Cruising: It’s All About The Food

Chef Curtis StoneFor some of us, there’s an old (and probably outdated) saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…i.e., good cooks get good husbands. The subjects may have changed but the principle has not.

Good cooking gets many cruisers.

As the year winds down, there are two more examples to validate that thinking.

1) Princess Cruises has been hyping the fact that Chef Curtis Stone has opened his own restaurant (SHARE) on select ships, such as the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess, with more likely to follow. The “headlines” are “Chef Curtis Stone invites you…” and “Chef Curtis Stone shares his love with this special ingredient…”  and “A favorite family recipe from Chef Curtis Stone…”

2) The new Godmother of the Oceania Sirena — next year — will be Claudine Pepin, who has the right surname to be in the kitchen creating cuisines-des-spectacles. She is, of course, the daughter of the famous Jacques Pepin, who is Oceania’s master chef and The Pepinswhose restaurant is named after him and on two ships, the Riviera and the Marina.

See, it’s all about the food.

While we wouldn’t know Curtis Stone from Oliver Stone (we would know him from Sharon), it’s clear this Aussie “Celebrity Apprentice” grad has many followers and many exquisite recipes. He also has a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Maude, which means that a lot of the beautiful people enjoy his menus. And now a lot of cruisers will, too.

Claudine Pepin, also apparently, has some healthy credentials to go with her healthy food. Her Dad, who turns 80 before Christmas, made it big with Julia Child at his side on PBS and now Claudine’s stepping up in class with him at her side. She also had a PBS show — Cooking With Claudine — and this year has her first cookbook on the shelves for Christmas, Kids Cook French.

As generations of cooking go, both she and Curtis Stone represent a passing of the torch.

Or at least the spatula.

In the news…

• MSC Cruises offers 2-for-1 Caribbean fares for balcony guests starting April 23
• Flash from the past: Verandah Restaurant to open in June on Queen Mary 2
• Two sets of tourism students spend a day on Norwegian Epic in Cannes

Today at portsandbows.comSuite time with Celebrity


Carnival Fantasy
5 nights
January 27, 2016
Charleston (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $81
www.carnival.com

Southeast Asia Tourist Visas 

It’s likely that more North American cruisers will be visiting Southeast Asia, if not this winter then certainly in the foreseeable future, because more cruise lines from both genres are establishing a stronger presence.

As first-timers to that part of the world this year, we had to be educated about the coming and going to countries we’d never come to or gone from before 2015.

That would be tourist visas.

In our case, we were going on the new AmaWaterways river cruiser, the AmaDara, and it goes up and down the Mekong River in both Cambodia and Vietnam. In terms of customs, that meant coming to Cambodia and going from Vietnam. If you’re particularly nervous about this, the cruise lines will make it as easy as possible for you — through a third party, at a price we didn’t want to pay.

So we decided to go it alone, and here’s what we discovered…

Cambodia: This can be done online at the Embassy of the King of Cambodia. All you Cambodia visaneed is a passport, some time and a credit card. One cautionary note…your passport must be valid for six months from the date you enter Cambodia. The process took about a week. We printed the e-Visas at home. The cost: about $40 US.

Vietnam: Perhaps because it’s a Communist country, this was slightly more complicated, Visa-Bob copybut it’s still an online process and your passport only needs to be valid for one month from when the Vietnam visa expires. Again, the process from submission to receipt of the visas took about a week, and came by mail. The cost: $110.

For both, we paid $300 US. The process was not at all intimidating, contrary to what we’d anticipated.

Had we gone through the third party to get our tourist visas, the cost would have been $412 each…$824 for both.

In the news…

• Financing in place for Royal Caribbean’s fourth and fifth Quantum Class ships
• Fake doctor treated passengers on Aida ships for five years arrested in Berlin
• Contrary to reports, Star Cruises won’t be deploying ships to the Mediterranean

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views you can use


Enchantment of the Seas
3 nights
May 16, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $201
Cost per day: $67
www.royalcaribbean.com

Panama Canal Cruise In The Dark

Maybe we’re missing something here…

Windstar Cruises has a new program for sailing through the Panama Canal, at night. Yes, in the dark, or mostly in the dark. As the cruise line points out, it will give Windstar guests a chance “to experience the sights and sounds of the Panama Canal while enjoying amenities and activities that highlight the Panamanian culture.“

Hmm.

We always thought the idea was to SEE the Panama Canal, especially now with the long-awaited expansion closing in on completion (according to the Panama Canal website everything is between 92 and 100 per cent finished, although there is still no mention of when it will open).

Meanwhile, Windstar guests will “enjoy a cool and breezy nighttime passage through the Panama Canal, during which lights illuminate the inner workings of the waterway” while Panama Canalthey “stroll along the deck and sip on local beverages, beers, and cocktails from a mobile drink cart while listening to local festive music from various regions around the country.”

Except for what would be illuminated, this sounds like it could apply to just about any cruise, just about anywhere.

Our Panama Canal experience is one crossing. We were mesmerized. This weekend, we dined with friends who are not avid cruisers, who recently cruised through the Canal and who will probably never set foot on a cruise ship again — translation: They didn’t have a good time.

The one part of the 16-day journey that mesmerized them was the Panama Canal.

Like us, they went through during the day. Like us, they saw it. Who knows how much of it Windstar’s guests will be able to see? At least they won’t know what they’re missing, right?

In the news…

• Two Celebrity Summit passengers die, 18 are hurt, in Tortola bus crash
• Zuiderdam 7th Holland American ship this year with CDC score of 100
• Regal Princess to star in 6-part ITV documentary ‘The Cruise’ in March
• Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas to get $30-million upgrade in spring

Today at portsandbows.comPrincess plans for Europe in 2017


Holland America Oosterdam
11 night
December 28, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Fort-de-France, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $99
www.hollandamerica.com

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