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The Carnival Grinch’s Kind of Christmas

On the 12th day before Christmas, it became official: The Grinch didn’t steal Christmas after all. He brought it early.

If this doesn’t touch you, well, maybe nothing will…

The Grinch is a Dr. Seuss character who, according to legend and a book of the same name, stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss, now a corporation and not an author, has authorized the use of Seuss characters on Carnival cruise ships for more than a year.  During the weekend, The Grinch showed up at facilities where sick kids live in Baltimore and Charleston to bring smiles to little faces that need all the smiles they can get.

Why Baltimore and Charleston? Because the Carnival Pride homeports in Baltimore, and the Fantasy in Charleston.

At both Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital in Charleston and Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore, The Grinch and his entourage – which included crew members from both ships — put on shows with happy endings to celebrate the coming of Christmas. Among the memories for the kids was a Seuss-theme gift bag, accompanied by list of “good deed suggestions to allow them to, just like The Grinch, grow their heart ‘three times its size.’”

It’s one of the perks of having a Carnival ship live in your city…a perk that can never be measured by how much it means to the economy.

CA-GrinchIn the news…

• Windstar first cruise line to visit Montserrat since volcano buried capital oil 1995
• Arsenal of ‘water toys’ for passengers for Crystal Esprit’s maiden voyage next week
• MSC Musica makes maiden call at its new homeport of Abu Dhabi in the UAE

Today at portsandbows.com: So what about those river-ship balconies?

Celebrity Constellation
5 nights
January 18, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Cozumel, Key West
Inside: $351
Cost per day: $70

The Modern Problem Of Picking A Port

With each day, and each violent activity often linked to terrorism, reasonable people who like to travel get even more reasonable. Or concerned. Or paranoid. Or even scared.

Pick an adverb. The uncertainty of traveling abroad — be it in one direction to Europe or in the other to Asia — understandably may leave North Americans more likely to pick a cruise ship departing and returning to a North American port. Not that there are any guarantees that doing so will keep you from being an unsuspecting victim of terrorism.

But even seasoned travelers are at least having second thoughts. Why fly internationally to get on a cruise if you can fly domestically, or better yet drive or take ground transportation to a port of departure?

This is good (okay, more comforting) news for cruise lines with ships that primarily visit the Caribbean, or assorted other warm-weather spots in the Western Hemisphere. Since a Caribbean cruise still out-ranks all others, that would be most of them, yet many have shifted their investments — and some of their ships — to Asia the last couple of years, which in today’s world could mean counting on a local (Asian) clientele.

For North Americans, there is no shortage of options. A quick count shows that there are 21 cruise homeports in this continent: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Galveston, Houston, Charleston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Bayonne, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Anchorage, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Montreal.

So if you’re an avid cruiser who’s reluctant to fly afar to get to a ship, pick a port.

You may find many kindred spirits.

In the news…

• Two biggest ships (both Royal Caribbean) in southern hemisphere meeting in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.comChristmas markets with Viking in Europe

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Concerns over Grandeur of the Seas?

The fire-damaged Grandeur of the Seas returned to Baltimore this week and one of the first questions that passengers' boarding the ship were being asked was:

"Do you feel safe getting on this ship?"

Think about that.

To begin with, fires on cruise ships are rare. Grandeur of the Seas has been out of service for six weeks following a fire near the mooring area at the stern. If there's any ship that would be ultra-safe, wouldn't you assume it to be one coming back from a much-publicized "accident?" It's not like you're fixing a car with used parts.

This is a ship that — incredibly — missed six cruises and there are 67 cabins and some public areas that are still not ready, because if repairs aren't done up to Royal Caribbean standards, affected areas won't be utilized. Cruise lines can't risk having fires to begin with, because nothing scares captains and passengers alike more than a fire.

To risk having a fire on a ship that just had one is almost incomprehensible.

So why would anybody feel unsafe on the repaired Grandeur?

On the other hand, one passenger reassured the Baltimore Sun by saying:

"We have confidence in the Lord that He will get us to the Caribbean for a family vacation and back safely."

Maybe strange answers are why people get asked strange questions.

Norwegian Jade
21 nights
November 27, 2013
Rome (return): OlympiaAthens, Izmir, IstanbulNaplesRomeFlorenceMonte Carlo, Toulon, BarcelonaValencia, Cagliari, Palermo, Naples
Inside: $1,129
Cost per day: $53

Carnival Making the Best of Sandy


If you like last-minute deals, if you're close enough that you can get to Baltimore by tomorrow and if you've always wanted to go on a cruise to nowhere…well, you can.

The Carnival Pride spent the last three days in nowhere waters, which is to say sitting by the Baltimore cruise port and waiting for Hurricane Sandy to leave. That wiped out the weekly cruise to Florida and the Bahamas, so rather than sit for the rest of the week until Sunday's departure, Carnival is sending the Pride "to nowhere" for two nights: Friday and Saturday.

The deal?

Inside cabins are $129, balconies $179, and there are probably many people in that part of the country who'd just like to get away from it all.

And go anywhere…or nowhere.

Carnival Glory
7 nights
January 6, 2013
Miami (return): Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan, Grand Cayman
Inside:  $429
Cost per day: $61

Cruising Notes on the Boats

The Right Price………..$979
Ship: Celebrity Equinox,
11 nights, Fort Lauderdale (return)
Departures: April 11
Cozumel (Mexico), Roatan (Honduras), Puerto Limon (Costa Rica), Colon (Panama), Cartagena (Colombia), George Town (Grand Cayman)
Bonus: Veranda $1,209
Contact: Celebrity Cruises

* * *
File this one under “What took so long?”…Princess Cruise Lines announced it will be televising the Royal Wedding on all 22 of its ships…On April 29, Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married, and that will make her a Princess…So why wouldn’t it be televised on the cruise line?…Princess Cruise Line, that is…The delay — Cunard announced it would be on their ship TVs weeks ago — must have had something to do with making a deal with the BBC, the official wedding broadcaster, which has exclusive access to Westminster Abbey…Satellite co-operation willing, that is… Princess will also have a Kate and William look-a-like contest on board…William’s mother, Princess Diana, christened the original Royal Princess in 1984 …In this age of peaceful protests (aka Egypt), one in Southampton caught the attention of the cruise world…City council from the British port wanted to charge £10 ($16) per passenger to pay for road improvements in the area, until Carnival’s head honcho in Britain, David Dingle, headed a committee of interventionists…They might have mentioned the problems a “head tax” created in Alaska, and they had one local politician who voiced concern pertaining to “killing the goose” but whatever they did worked…In the words of blogger Captain Greybeard John Honeywell, “the idea has been quietly shelved.”

* * *
If there’s a more appropriate destination to have a photo workshop — and in the cruise world there are countless photo-ops — than Alaska, where would it be?…Aperture Academy from California has a class for photo students also interested in spending a week sailing from Seattle to Juneau and back, in August…Three professional award-winning photographers will be conducting classes on Holland America’s ms Oosterdam, which will call at Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, the obligatory non-USA port necessary to conform with the Jones Act…The photo itinerary’s on AA’s website (not that AA)…And what departure port do you think sends the most big-time spenders out to sea?…Carnival told a ports administration that the most money it reaps from cruisers is on ships leaving — are you ready for this? — Baltimore!…Needless to say, the city’s cruise business has been booming.

* * *
River cruising is big news in Europe these days, but has anybody noticed it’s happening in America, too…American Cruise Lines, with five ships, will soon have six…Traditionally known for itineraries in the eastern half of the U.S., American last year expanded with cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the West and, with that success, has ordered a new riverboat for arrival in 2012…The Queen of the West, built in 1995 and acquired last year, is being refurbished and will take its 120-passenger loads on the two western rivers from April to November this year and next, at least…The Norwegian Sun is out of dry-dock, where it spent a dozen days being upgraded…Most significant change is the addition of the Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouse that was introduced on NCL’s flagship, the Epic…The Sun is currently running Caribbean itineraries and will again spend the summer in the Baltics, returning to Florida in late September…Finally, Valentine’s Day became a chance to renew wedding vows for passengers who were so inclined and who were on the Crown Princess on Monday…The captain performed the ceremony and some of the participants wore veils and bow ties…Yes, clothes, too.

* * *
That’s it, we’re done.

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