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Carnival’s Voices Of Freedom

In quasi-military vernacular, what happened in Galveston on the weekend might be called the “perfect storm.”

Operation Homefront, recognizing the troops. A country singer, because country singers are the most prominent pro-military entertainers. And a ship called “Freedom.”

This was Carnival’s Freedom, of course, and it was in Galveston to begin operations from its new home-port. It was also Carnival’s Martina McBride, the country superstar who has Freedom-Galvestonbeen performing in the cruise line’s wildly popular entertainment series called Carnival Live.

And both of them were there to pay tribute to troops.

A check for $100,000 was cut for Operation Homefront, the nonprofit that supports military families, some of whom were the audience for what was called an exclusive Carnival Live concert by the winner of 14 Grammy Awards. She sang from the upper deck of a ship that last year underwent a $70-million refurbishing that enhanced its family features, such as Seuss At Sea and Camp Ocean, where kids enjoy 200 marine-themed activities.

The consensus was that McBride gave a show-stopping performance. For those of us who have seen her (twice now), this is not a surprise. She was the consummate professional the first time we saw her, in 1996, and again in 2013. All the succeeding years did was make her even better.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor,” she said in Galveston. “I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival now has three ships based in Galveston — the Triumph, the Magic and the Freedom. While it may not be a stretch to make a military connection to the names of all three, nothing speaks to the troops like the Freedom does.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
May 4, 2015
Tampa, Norfolk, Cork, Cherbourg, Brussels, London
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

Cruise Comedy Not For Curmudgeons!

On the weekend, we had friends visiting us right after they spent a few nights in Las Vegas — a few nights in Vegas is usually enough for anybody — and they told us about a comedian they’d gone to see. Las Vegas is, of course, filled with comedians. Some of them are even funny.

Apparently, Gordie Brown was. Or is.

We told our friends that we’re not really into comedy, so don’t expect us to be jumping up and down (or even laughing) because another comedian, George Lopez, is expanding his George Lopezrole with Carnival. it seems that George has gone incognito on three Carnival cruises, posing as a sushi chef, a line worker at Guy’s Burger Joint, a burrito maker at BlueIguana, helping people on a “suspended ropes” course, leading the Seuss-a-Palooza Parade and pouring drinks at one of the bars.

All the while, Lopez was interacting with passengers. Some of it will show up on AOL in a series of (at least) six episodes of Laughs on Deck. This new “branded” series is available on AOL or at www.on.aol.com/laughsondeck.

“Getting to do it in such an inventive way was a blast,” he said.

This is all about providing AOL with digital content while promoting Carnival ships and enhancing the popularity of George Lopez, while using unsuspecting passengers as foils. It’s a great — perhaps even brilliant — idea for AOL and Carnival and most of the passengers are probably thrilled at getting to enjoy their 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame by being part of a video production.

Curmudgeons like us are not.

And that’s why we’re not into comedy!

Today at portsandbows.com: Photo preview of a new Princess

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
5 nights
November 17, 2014
Tampa (return): George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $35

The 'Allure' Of DreamWorks' Shrek

When reflecting on 2014, come December, it just may be our “Year of Shrek.”

For people who used to think the word was simply a misspelled synonym for “scream” — as in “shriek” —having two Shrek experiences in the same year was at least unusual, and at most unthinkable.

But we did.

The first was on Allure of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has a promotional deal with Shrek-TUTSDreamWorks, which has among its stable of characters Shrek and Fiona. On the Allure, both were part of the ship’s parade (as opposed to the parade of ships), and we were among the spectators, camera in hand.

The movie of the same name was available for passengers to watch. We’d already seen it.

A few weeks after disembarking, there we were again. Or there Shrek was again. This time, it was in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, at Theatre Under The Stars, where a cast of thousands (okay, dozens) did a stage adaptation of the movie. Yes, Shrek, The Musical.

For this occasion, we had company. It was family time and family included three grandchildren. That was the reason for going, wasn’t it? Shrek is for kids. Yet a funny thing happened that night in the park.

The kids loved it, but the adults loved it more!

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
4 nights
November 13, 2014
Tampa (return): Cozumel
Inside: $290
Cost per day: $72

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

The Haitis of Mitch Albom & Royal Caribbean

LABADEE, Haiti — One of our heroes is a man named Mitch Albom, a Detroit sportswriter-columnist-novelist-screenwriter of immense talent who for the last four years has taken a personal interest in this Caribbean island devastated by an earthquake that killed 150,000 people and left three million homeless.

Albom has made it his cause to help rebuild parts of Port-au-Prince, specifically orphanages, and he has done it not just with his heart and his fund-raising, but with his hands.

This Royal Caribbean enclave called Labadee is probably as far from "the real Haiti" as Labadee-welcomeyou can get, in every way imaginable. It is the playground of the cruise line's passengers, some of whom spend $100 for less than a minute of zip-lining on Haitian Labadee-ziplineshores on what is reportedly the longest zip-line over water in the world — a 14-second training run on land prepares you for 44 seconds over beach waters — and all of whom can disembark from Allure of the Seas (among other company ships that stop here) and sit in comfortable beach chairs watching the zip-liners go by.Labadee-beach

Passengers in Labadee can be Royal-ly entertained on spotless shores without being harassed by local vendors at every step, and most of the amenities from the ship (bars, restaurants, spas and shops) go with them.

Yet Labadee, like Albom, helps deprived Haitians. Many from this poor country — like Labadee-musiciansthese musicians on the beaches and the dancers on the dock — work at Labadee. The cruise line made an enormous financial donation to the nation after the quake. Cruise Labadee-dancerspassengers regularly spend money on the shores that helps raise the standard of poverty.

It's not digging holes to install plumbing like Mitch Albom does, his fingers lifting a shovel instead of punching out prose, but not everybody can do what this talented, thoughtful man can do…in more ways than one. In most cases, this is the only Haiti these cruisers will ever see.

And because they do, Labadee still makes a contribution Haitians wouldn't have if it didn't exist.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean and Asia

Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas
14 nights
August 31, 2014
LondonParisPortlandCork, ReykjavikBoston
Inside: $937
Cost per day: $66

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