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Friday file: Cruise Port Entertainers

In many ports, especially in the Caribbean, locals provide entertainment for passengers as they disembark. There’s always a bucket nearby for anybody who wants to make a donation to these buskers by the sea but there is, of course, no obligation — and the reality is they provide a musical preview of their country’s customs. Here are some we’ve encountered and enjoyed…

Dom.RepLa Romana: Decked out in traditional Dominican Republic colors, this quartet was just as bright in talent.

AricaArica, Chile: In an outdoor mall close to the ship, this talented duo was singing…'The Piano Man' with no piano!

AcapulcoAcapulco: Mariachis are always an attraction in Mexico, even when their “fifth” member gets into the act. 

CartagenaCartagena: Colorful Colombian dancers on the deck of what was once a Spanish galleon and now tours the harbor.

FalmouthFalmouth: If ever an entertainer looked the part of the needy busker, it was this Jamaican at Dunn’s River Falls.

Labadee: The only thing wrong with this high-energy act beside Allure of the Seas was the intrusion of a passenger.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian back to South America

Carnival Miracle
6 nights
November 1, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $78

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

St. Kitts Report Sign of Times?

Sometimes, an idea begins to grow and take root in the unlikeliest of places. Like the isle of St. Kitts, a tiny tourist stop in the Caribbean Sea, just east of the Virgin Islands and due north of Venezuela.

It was there that the St. Kitts government this week released travel statistics concerning both the cruise and the airline industries.

Cruising to St. Kitts is up 10 per cent. Flying to St. Kitts is down 4 per cent.

Could this be the first real indicator — or even another one — that travelers would rather take a cruise ship than a plane? Is the worm starting to turn…that flying has become such an unpleasant experience that it is to be utilized only when necessary?

What do you think?

Hurricanes and Caribbean Cruisers

We had an email a couple of weeks ago from a friend planning a family cruise in the fall, off the eastern seaboard. He’d heard that seas could be rough at that time of year and was hoping we could supply some intelligence.

We could, as long as it meant relaying somebody else’s intelligence. So people who know more about these things than us tell us the first thing you remember is that cruise ships, for the most part, can outrun hurricanes.

With this being National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and the hurricane season scheduled to begin Tuesday in areas surrounding Caribbean waters, it’s worth visiting a few of the facts…besides the one that cruise ships are faster than storms.

Unlike last year, 2010 is shaping up as an active hurricane season, as if the Gulf of Mexico hasn’t had enough to deal with from Mother Nature and Mankind. It all starts off the coast of Africa, where warmer-than-normal ocean water spawns storms that cross the Atlantic. Early forecasts for this year’s storm count is for somewhere between eight and 14, up dramatically from last year if they all become major. In 2009, only Bill and Ida did.

They are, remember, just forecasts. All the experts who make them, from the National Hurricane Center this week to the Colorado State University last month, and the sense is it could be worse than 2005, the year of Katrina.

Chances of being affected by a hurricane are minute, but it does happen. At least two cruise lines, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, have situation rooms where their crews monitor storms and adapt accordingly. Cruise lines have the right (there in the fine print) to change plans because of weather or even the threat of bad weather without compensating passengers, so insurance — as long as it covers such eventualities — might be worth considering in high hurricane season: August, September and October.

There can be deals that seem too good to be true in the peak of hurricane season, but there’s always a “but.” If a hurricane comes calling, it may not be in a glass from Margaritaville.

That’s it, we’re done.

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