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Planning a Cruise After Booking One

Ways to plan a cruise. Every cruise line has them, in one form or another. One that seems to be catching some attention is Royal Caribbean's — called Cruise Planner — and, since we have a Royal Caribbean cruise on the horizon, it seemed a good idea to try it out.

Cruise Planner is to be used online because, frankly, just about everything is these days. It's designed to allow passengers to book reservations, activities and entertainment long before they walk up the ramp to board the ship. And as long as you have more spare time BEFORE the cruise than you will have on the ship, it keeps you from cutting into your vacation time.

We started with shore excursions, because they always seem to fill up first.

One of our ports is Falmouth, Jamaica. One of the sights to see there is Dunn's River Falls. This was a no-brainer. Click. Booked.

Entertainment…

On Royal Caribbean's big ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the featured shows are Broadway musicals Hairspray and Chicago, respectively. Since we're going on Allure, Chicago it is. Click. Booked.

Restaurants…

We've always been fans of My Time Dining, because of its flexibility. But for people who eat dinner as early as 4 p.m. (we have friends who are earlybirds) and as late as 10 p.m., making that decision days or weeks before the cruise doesn't work. But you can choose not only the time you want to eat on each day of your cruise, but how many people you want to dine with each night.

That would be one.

You can also book meals in the "for-fee" restaurants. On Allure of the Seas, Chops Grille is $35, Giovanni's Table is $25, the Samba Grill is $30, Rita's Fiesta is $10 (or $20 with cocktails) and there's a Lafite Wine Tasting Experience for $23, for four wines from the famous Chateau Lafite.

Still thinking, still thinking…

There's also the spa, other free entertainment (it's all free), and activities ranging from Barbie to FlowRider lessons to an all-access tour.

The bottom line: The Cruise Planner is simple, detailed and easy to negotiate. Other cruise lines may be this good, but Royal Caribbean got this one right.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Snapshots of the new Regal Princess

Celebrity Infinity
10 nights
July 14, 2014
London (return): Paris, St. Peter Port, CorkDublinLiverpoolGlasgow, Holyhead
Balcony: $3,179
Cost per day: $317
www.celebritycruises.com

Battles Line Being Drawn in Great Britain

Most of us are too young — ah, isn't it nice to be called too young? — to remember the Battle of Britain. We read about it in history books, we may have even heard stories from family members who fought in World War II, maybe even seen a movie or something on the History Channel, but it's somewhat removed from our mindsets.

To cruise aficionados like us, the Battle of Britain is what's happening this year.

Royal-6 copyPrincess versus Royal Caribbean.

They're not exactly launching armadas but they are drawing lines in the water, so to speak, in the fight for United Kingdom cruise passengers and dollars.

A year ago, the Duchess of Cambridge (aka, Princess Kate) christened the Royal Princess just a few weeks before her own royal offspring arrived — Baby Cambridge is a Royal Prince. The ship she can call her own left later last year to spend the summer in the Caribbean, and now she's going back to her christening roots,

Southampton.

Next summer, the Royal Princess will be loaded — Princess Cruises hopes — with British passengers. She was to be the biggest ship (3,600 passengers) sailing the English Channel and assorted waters connected to it.

And then Anthem of the Seas (pop. 4,100) came along.

Royal Caribbean's newest ship-to-be, No. 2 in the Quantum Class, will be launched in April 2015. That's just before the Royal Princess returns and Anthem, too, will be hoping to stock up on British travelers.

Add to the mix P&O's new ship, Britannia, which will appear a month before Anthem of the Seas.

As a good friend and ex-Brit of ours would say "Advantage Princess." To him, Princess and P&O are "same thing."

Ruby Princess
4 nights
March 20, 2014 
Fort Lauderdale (return): Cozumel
Inside $249
Cost per day: $62
www.princess.com

Brangelina's Wedding Cruise

Breaking news…Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are hoping to get married on a cruise ship.

Not so fast, star chaser.

It's not a cruise ship you're going to be on, unless you're among the 50 people who are the invited guests. That's right…five-oh…50.

And if you think this most celebrated bride and bridegroom are leasing Oasis of the Seas — or more appropriately the "Celebrity" Solstice — for the event, think again.

How about the Hebridean Princess?

This is a ship that regularly sails in and out of Scottish ports and celebrity guests are not new to it. Queen Elizabeth paid a reported £125,000 to take her Royals on a family vacation three years ago, and four years before that when the whole gang was on board to help her blow out 80 candles.

There is no date for the wedding…there never is for celebrities of this caliber, in the hope that nobody will notice. Their plans were to make it official later this summer in France, where they live, until their 11-year-old son Maddox suggested a Scottish cruise. It's possible that "this summer" will require a date change, or appeasing Hebridean Princess guests not on the 'A' list because cruises for this one-time car ferry are currently being sold  on the website right into September.

Brangelina, as the world calls them, are said to be paying more than twice as much (£300,000) as the Queen did and, more than her, they hope to avoid the paparazzi, because they can't swim and take pictures at the same time. They can, however, ride on boats in the same waters and take pictures so you can be sure there will be a rush on small-craft rentals once the departure date leaks out, and it will.

Just as news of Maddox's plan did.

Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie photo by Eva Rinaldi

Carnival Legend
12 nights
September 13, 2013
London (return): Stavanger, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Glasgow, BelfastDublinParis
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $58
www.carnival.com

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