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Nassau: An Incredible Experience


One of the Caribbean ports that attracts a lot of cruise ships is Nassau, partly because of its geographical location as either the first stop or last stop for ships based in Miami and Fort Lauderdale…and perhaps partly because of those constant TV commercials about Paradise Island and Atlantis.

In any event, Nassau is popular.

During our visits to the capital of the Bahamas, of all the places we’ve visited — and for whatever reasons, Nassau is a place where we’ve always had a tendency to go off on our own — the most memorable was a hotel. The Graycliff Hotel.

We stumbled on it, while walking the streets not far from the cruise terminal, where we’d disembarked from the Norwegian Sky, on a four-day cruise. It turned out to be an amazing stumble, and here’s one of the reasons why…

Somehow we wound up in the cellar — a genuine cellar — that allegedly houses the third-largest private wine collection in the world. It’s owned by Enrico Garzaroli, who also owns the hotel — or did — that he bought in 1973. It’s a hotel that’s only had four owners, the German whitefirst of them a pirate named Captain John Graysmith, whose presence clearly had something to do with its name.

That was more than three and a half CENTURIES ago.

It’s important to remember that we just walked in off the street. There was no arranged tour, no greasing the palm of a concierge, no introductions by somebody in high places because we didn’t know anybody in high places in the Bahamas, or anywhere else for that matter.

It was simply our good fortune to wind up in the presence of the cellar master, Sudhir Varot Kangath, and that he was kind enough to show us the corks, as they say. One of them was sealing the wine in a bottle of 1727 Bremen Ratskeller Rudesheimer Apostelwein, a German white that hasn’t been tasted in 46 years. When it was last tasted, the wine passed the test and today that bottle is worth an estimated $200,000.

The entire cellar has been valued at $20 million.

In it, you can arrange for private dining, for $1,000, at a long rectangular table at which the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Jay Z, Aristotle Onassis and Lebron James have dined. We didn’t ask if that was $1,000 per person…we just assumed that it was. And when we combed through the dusty racks that supported these dusty treasures, it wasn’t like we had to keep our distance. The wines were RIGHT THERE.

On one wall there are maybe 100 bottles that Sudhir calls the "Million Dollar Rack" because that's the total value of bottles worth $5,000 to $25,000 each. According to him, his boss sells "four or five" of them a year. We did spot a 1900 Chateau Lafite, a case of 1982 Bordeaux that is in "high demand", and a couple of Barolos from the '50s. They are all carefully catalogued, of course, and there are cameras everywhere in case any visitors dared.

On the other hand, most visitors would just feel lucky to SEE something that unique.

Like we did.

Today at portsandbows.com: Scrubbers and emission controls


Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau 
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

Why Cruise Samplers Are Good

Short cruises can be two, three, maybe four days long? Why bother, you ask?

It’s a question we’re often asked…probably in part because we generally go on cruises of a week or longer. Having said that, we did once take a three-day cruise to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Sky, just because we wanted a break from “working” cruises. And guess what we did on those three days?

We worked.

There are other, and several reasons, for the appeal of a short cruise.

For anyone who’s “anti-cruise”, it’s a good way to test the waters…no pun intended. Among the things that non-cruisers fear are seasickness, boredom, crowds, confinement. Three or four days is enough time to dispel the myths, or not.

Time off work. Taking a few days can work for people unable to take time off that’s measured in weeks. The cruise world recognizes that. Most lines now have short cruises, Carnival Breezewhile still offering all the amenities on board and even in port, not to mention plenty of relaxation time. The most popular destinations are Mexico, the Caribbean and, yes, the Bahamas. A short cruise can also be combined with a couple of days on land before or after cruising…if you can squeeze a couple more days out of the boss.

If cost is a factor (and isn’t it always?), three-or-four-day cruises are sometimes available for less than $200 per person. In addition to accommodation, that covers food and entertainment. A port or two may be in the mix, giving cruisers the opportunity to explore on their own or take a shore excursion. For $200, how can you lose?

There’s another reason, too.

Maybe you’ll become like the rest of us. The length doesn’t matter.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news in Canada

Emerald Princess
7 nights
November 30, 2014
Houston (return): Roatan, Belize, Cozumel
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Man The Cannons For Two-Ship Standoff

The die is cast. The combatants have been chosen. The dates have been more or less chosen. Mano-a-mano…or shipo-a-shipo.

The Norwegian Breakaway vs the Anthem of the Seas.

The Battle of The Apple.

That would be the big one, as in New York. Now that Royal Caribbean has made it official that Anthem of the Seas — a sister to Quantum of the Seas (below) — will be based year-round in New York (okay, across the Hudson in New Jersey), both are proclaiming to be "New York's [fill in the adjective] ship."

Breakaway was first and Norwegian bills it as "the newest and largest ship embarking from NYC."

Anthem will arrive next April and is currently being touted as "the newest, largest and Quantum of the Seasmost innovative ship ever to homeport in the New York region."

Technically, both are correct enough to maintain the sell lines. Anthem isn't going to sail from NYC, like Breakaway, but from Bayonne, New Jersey. So Breakaway will continue to be the "newest and largest" in NYC while Anthem will be the "newest, largest…" from the New York "region."

A little research followed to compare cruises on the two New York ships. This is often an apples-oranges comparison because ships go to different places, on cruises of different lengths and with different features.

Plunging on, here are some apples and oranges to chew on for price comparison:

• A 7-day Bermuda cruise runs from $64 a night ($449) next month to $165 a night ($1,159) in August.
• A 7-day Bahamas cruise runs  from $86 a night ($599) in November to $164 a night  ($1,149) over the Christmas holidays.

Anthem of the Seas
• Cruises that are generally longer than a week average between $131 to $140 a night.

The difference between the two is that Anthem will be the "newest…most innovative."

In New York, and everywhere else.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Carnival's singing "Galveston, oh Galveston…"

Holland America Prinsendam
16 nights
June 7, 2014
Amsterdam (return): AalborgCopenhagenBerlinTallinnSt. PetersburgHelsinkiStockholmVisbyYstadHamburg
Inside: $1,449
Cost per day: $90

Crime On the Rise? Find Out Yourself!

They say crime is on the rise in Nassau, the popular Bahamian cruise port — "they" being (among others) a website authored by maritime lawyer Jim Walker, an industrious watchdog of sorts for all things cruising.

According to Walker's writings, armed robbery is up in Nassau and recently even a daycare was a victim of the thieves. His business is all about cruise passengers' rights so it's safe to say he's not on the Christmas card list of any of the cruise lines.

His warning in the Bahamas, and perhaps other places, is that travel agents and cruise lines neglect to caution tourists of imminent danger…or increased imminent danger. To that end, Walker recommends that cruise passengers become their own advocates and do lots of homework before disembarking in ports.

He suggests that "homework" means reading the local papers and other media sources in the city and/or country you're visiting. We've never been influenced much by such research, our theory being that there are good people and bad people everywhere, and being a victim is most times being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But if you have safety concerns about visiting somewhere, Walker's advice is good…whether travel agents and cruise lines like it or not.

Celebrity Century
3 nights
February 12, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): NassauCoco Cay
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $53

Concerts and Cruises a Match

Last weekend, our soon-to-be nine-year-old granddaughter celebrated her birthday 10 days early when her parents treated her to a One Direction concert. This is not to be confused with Fifth Dimension, a band from her grandparents' era.

In this age of inflated everything, tickets to One Direction — or 1D — are right up there with weekly mortgage payments — even when the seats are up there where nosesbleed. So when you put famous bands on big cruise ships, the price understandably goes up.

For the "concert" and the cruise.

The latest such example is the Matchbox Twenty cruise on the Carnival Imagination. This is a rock band that, oddly enough, is the same age as the ship (1995). Unlike the Imagination, Matchbox Twenty has not been performing non-stop for the last 18 years but when you've been nominated for Grammy Awards and known around the world, the occasional hiatus is allowed.

But we digress.

Concert-goers on the Imagination the weekend of December 6-9 will pay $600 each to rub elbows with Matchbox Twenty and, as announced yesterday, the group's special guests. That would be the Goo Goo Dolls, who aren't dolls at all but another well-known boy band (or man band). So that's $200 a night — plus taxes and gratuities — but it includes more than musical performances, autograph sessions, photo-ops and deck parties.

It also includes three nights in a "floating hotel" and three days of meals and a trip to the Bahamas. They can squeeze 2,634 people onto the Imagination, and this to see bands that once filled arenas many times that size. Will Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls fill it?

It's hard to "imagine" otherwise.

Holland America Statendam
7 nights
September 15, 2013
AnchorageGlacier Bay, Haines, JuneauKetchikanVancouver
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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