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The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

A Taste of Carnival's Food Concept Branding

This one's for carnies. Not the people who coax you into trying to toss a ring around the neck of a Coke bottle or deflate a balloon with a dart to win a four-inch stuffed pig for the little one in your family…but the people who make Carnival their cruise line of choice.

The dictionary defines carnies as employees of a Carnival, but what do dictionaries know anyway? Every cruise line has its loyalists, so Carnival's are going to be Carnies, for better or for worse.

This news is for them…

Because Carnies have been asked for their feedback on food, the cruise line is floating a change in concept for dinner. Actually, two concepts. One is calledCarnival Dream dining roomAmerican Table, the other American Feast. More than anything, it appears to be an attempt at branding Carnival's food offerings, the way many cruise lines do with styles of eateries.

Carnival's doing it with menus in the dining rooms of four ships: Glory now, Liberty in January, Imagination and Inspiration in February. If it's a success — and that's where you Carnies can continue to have a say — the concepts will blanket the entire 23-ship line by the end of 2015.

American Table is being offered on Cruise Casual nights, which is most of them, and will feature an "exceptional American cuisine" like a modern restaurant with menus that the patrons designed. The entrees are being inspired by the ports of call…most of which are in the Caribbean.

American Feast is simply kicking it up a notch. It's scheduled for Cruise Elegant nights, once or twice a voyage. No mention of black ties and long gowns, because such things are rarely in the luggage of Carnival cruisers, but Carnival is promising a "more elegant, more elaborate" style of serving. That will be reflected in the menus (mojito cured ham, broiled Maine lobster, etc.) and it's safe to assume if you did wear a black tie, you would be more than welcome.

In the final analysis, Carnival is saying the decision to take American Table and American Feast fleet-wide will be made by its people.

Yes, the Carnies.

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $39

Oceania President Defies Age Label

He is the President of Oceania Cruises. He is the President of Prestige Holdings, which owns Oceania Cruises. His name is Kunal Kamlani and he is 38 years old.

And if that doesn't go some distance in convincing you that cruising is no longer just an "old people's pastime" then something else you should also know about Kamlani is that he has been going on cruise ships for a long time.

How long is a long time when you're 38 years old?

"I went on my first cruise in a crib," says the personable and articulate Kamlani, who grew up to preside over the christening of Oceania's new ship, the Riviera. "I'd probably been on 25 cruises prior to having anything to do with the cruise ship business."

He's an interesting guy. He was born to immigrants from Bombay (now Mumbai) six years after his parents moved, with a one-year stopover in Hong Kong, to Florida. He was the middle of three brothers and, he will say, he had the classic middle-child syndrome. Flying under the radar. Inconspicuous. Talents wasted by a lack a drive, a lack of pursuing one's dreams.

His mother changed that.

"In the 9th grade," he recalls, "I was a solid 'C' student on a great day and I remember one day she said to me: 'We have only one obligation: to get you a four-year education. After that you're on your own. If you stay a straight 'C' student you'll work at the Nassau Country Club and live at home.' From that day on, through high school, Colgate University, Columbia School of Business, I was a straight 'A' student. I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.8 GPA and I think I was 14th in my class with high honors in economics. It paid off."

His corporate ladder climbing made for an impressive resume in the financial world. Bank of America. Smith Barney. Starwood Hotels, Citi Group. Merrill Lynch. None of them had anything to do with cruising, nor with Miami. They were New York, and Miami was home.

It was off the coast of Florida that Kamlani began his relationship with the waters in which cruise ships sail.

"We always had a boat," he says. "When we were growing up, Miami wasn't the best place to raise a family and, years later, my parents told us we had a boat because they didn't want us hanging out in Miami on the weekends. So there we were, four guys and my Mom, in a 20-foot boat. I've graduated to a 22-foot boat."

Now Kamlani and his wife, Daniela — "We met at business school," he adds. "I got an MBA and a wife." — have two children of their own to raise in Miami. Again, the boat is a centerpiece.

"My wife and daughter tolerate fishing," Kamlani chuckles. "My son absolutely loves it. In this age of instant gratification, how do you convince someone to spend hours sitting in 90-degree heat trawling for a fish that may or may not show up?"

Unlike him, his given name is old. Like, centuries old…23 of them. In the 3rd century BC, Kunal was the heir to the Maurya Empire that ruled India. That was, until one of the Emperor's wives (not Kunal's mother) blinded him at a young age in a fit of jealousy and he never ascended the throne.

Kunal Kamlani's mother, on other hand, got it right didn't she? Today her son has ascended a "throne" in the cruise world.

Azamara Quest
7 nights
July 8, 2012
Athens, Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, Lesbos, Istanbul
Inside: $1,999
Cost per day: $285

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