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Carnival Live Surprising Performers

This was Day 2 of an 8-day Carnival Freedom cruise and Jim Berra, the line's Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer, was talking about Jennifer Hudson. It's entirely possible that Jim Berra never thought his name would be linked to Jennifer Hudson's, but this was that day.

The reason was Carnival Live, the concert series on ships in port, now just under halfway through its initial season. If there was a moment when Carnival realized its Jennifer Hudson-Carnivalproject was more than a one-off — as in one year — that moment was Jennifer Hudson.

Berra explained it this way:

"At first, the artists were asking: 'Are your guests really going to be into my performance, or is it just a cruise with a concert?' Once she — and we — found it was quite the contrary, that people were coming specifically to see the artist, we gained the confidence of the artists. Now they're calling us."

Jennifer Hudson was the biggest name appearing in the early weeks of Carnival Live. She did concerts on consecutive nights in Cozumel for passengers on the Breeze and the Ecstasy. Concert goers were paying $20 to $40 to see her perform in a facility seating 1,100.

On the shore, they might pay twice that and be in a much bigger venue.

So far, the genres have been mostly rock 'n roll and country.

"Rock 'n roll works everywhere," Berra said. "With country, we know it won't work as well in Miami as it will in Galveston. Pop is the toughest one — it's not as easy to slot."

Maybe it doesn't matter.

One passenger told the Miami Herald that she and a friend flew from New Mexico to the Bahamas to see Olivia Newton-John in concert. One Florida travel agent met people at a Chicago concert who were there because it was Chicago, not Carnival.

In both cases, none of them had ever been on a cruise.

Year One of Carnival Live winds up in December. Any day now, Carnival will be making announcements for Year Two. That's how successful it has been.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The new AmaSonata

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
August 16, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Cruising In The Sun A Time To Be Cautious


A visit to the family dermatologist (doesn't everybody have a family dermatologist?) raised the sometimes-uneasy spectra of using sunscreen. Few places is that more important than it is on a cruise ship…out in perpetual sunshine for long periods of time, frequently closer to the equator than normal.

As an aside, a Florida-based skin care company — in Cocoa, of all places — cleverly made a deal with Carnival to provide passengers on four ships this month (BreezeLibertyTriumph and Sunshine) with complimentary sunscreen. There are gallon-size pumps and sampling stations plus individual packets. If the marketing campaign attracts enough customers to its Ocean Potion (also clever), the partnership with Carnival could go well beyond the four-ship test.

But back to the family dermatologist.

During the inevitable waiting period, patients can self-educate. Like by reading at least parts of a sun-protection brochure — by another skin care company — and discovering some valuable information. Seriously.

Given that another doctor told us everybody needs 15 minutes of Vitamin D (sunshine) a day, let's talk about the UV Index. Does anybody not working in dermatology or for skin care companies really know what it means? 

For example, if it's between 0 and 2 (low), you're safe in the sun for an hour, providing you wear sunglasses. Between 3 and 5, you need to wear hats, sunscreen and sunglasses if outside for more than half an hour. At 6 or 7, it's sunburn time and that means skin damage. Between 8 and 10, you can burn quickly so it's time to bring on the protection army to keep from burning quickly. A UV Index of 11 or higher can mean damaged skin and burns in minutes.

What's relative?

Check the Environmental Protection Agency website to see what the index is where you are. And if where you are is on a Caribbean cruise, or when you are, the UV Index is likely to be 9.

That's considered "very high." That means a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a shady place to sit.

Ask the family dermatologist.

Sea Princess

14 nights

February 27, 2014 

Brisbane (return): AucklandTaurangaNapierWellingtonAkaroaDunedin

Inside: $1,999

Cost per day: $142


Drowning of a six-year-old in ship's pool raising questions of need for lifeguards

Carnival pool.jpg

A little boy died in the swimming pool on a cruise ship this week. With nobody watching closely enough, he drowned. A woman who was poolside jumped in and pulled him from the water. Attempts were made to resuscitate him, but they failed. Once the first question (what happened?) was answered, the second question was posed: "Why did it happen?"

This family tragedy has undoubtedly left his parents wracked with guilt. Others are pointing fingers, because with tragedies comes blame. They're fingering the cruise line for not having a lifeguard on duty at the pool.

This is a tough one. The first responsibility lies with the parents, of course. We have all been there, usually with different results. You are in charge of safety for your six-year-old, but a six-year-old can quickly disappear, and life can change in seconds. We've all seen it happen to our own children, or grandchildren, and sometimes the consequences are devastating.

Take a step back.

On cruise ships, all of them and not just Carnival's, there are no lifeguards. Signs are posted saying that. Passengers know, or should know, that. Cruise ships are often called floating hotels. How many hotels do you know of that have lifeguards on duty at their pools?

The difference is that there is unquestionably more activity at poolside on a cruise ship. Deejays playing loud music. Bands playing live music. Waiters hustling drinks. Animated conversations everywhere. There's a lot of noise and, if the weather is nice, a lot of people.

One life lost in a pool is too many. On average, 10 people drown in the U.S. every day. Maybe this statistic can be lowered by minimizing the risk it on cruise ships. Can it be minimized? Sure. Pools on ships are almost always daytime operations. By late afternoon, they're closed, except for special evening or late-night events.

So you're not looking at the cost of hiring a lifeguard 24/7. More like 10/7. Is that too steep a price to pay to keep deaths like this from happening?

It won't take parents off the hook of responsibility. But it will be a back-up if their child slips away.

Carnival Breeze
6 nights
January 12, 2014
Miami (return): Ocho RioGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $339
Cost per day: $56

Carnival Latest: What's In A Name?

Give Carnival at least a "B" for imagination in announcing that its newest ship, due in 2016, will be called Vista. That makes Carnival first to the Vista well of names.

This is an age when cruise lines sometimes appear to be running out of names. Witness Norwegian, using contests to ask passengers for proposing names of its lasttwo (and probably next three) ships. Witness the Carnival Dream, Disney Dream, Pacific Dream and SeaDream, not to mention Carnival Liberty and Liberty of the Seas…and Norwegian Sun and Sun Princess.

Copycatting is acceptable.

Vista is new…more or less. Avalon has a river cruiser called Vista. Holland America has a Vista Class of ships but "dam" the word in this fleet because all the names end in "…dam" (Rotterdam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam, etc.).

Vistadam just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

So Carnival comes up with the Vista, and that might be the extent of imagination with this 4,000-passenger newbie. Since it's the only ship Carnival has on order for the next three years, a Vista Class of ships is unlikely, at least for now, because apparently Carnival officials sounded confused when asked about which class of ship this would be. Other than the name, the best the cruise line could do in the Imagination Department was explain the name this way:

"We're starting to use the ship names as a touchstone for how we think about the design. A lot of what we are thinking about for the design and the inspiration is the views out to the ocean."

Views…as in vista.

The new ship will be like the Carnival Breeze, but different from the Breeze (above), and nobody at Carnival is saying what those similarities and differences might be. That's for another day.

And another press conference.

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 29, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $294
Cost per day: $49

Fun Ships Want Family of Brits

Our research department came across a humorous item involving Carnival and Brits. The cruise line was looking for Britain's "funniest" family to sample its ships and on-board experiences, and report back.

It seems that British families have a misconception about the industry's "Fun Ships" as Carnival likes to call its fleet. The cruise line wants to make sure it delivers what that segment of its market is expecting.

The successful family "will love active, fun-filled holidays and be as comfortable relaxing by the pool as they are racing down waterslides” and it will help if the father tells good jokes. Funniest, right?

Our encounters with British friends is that they are meticulously clever, articulate and entertaining. But funny? Do you know anybody this side of Monty Python to inspire a belly laugh?

If you do, they can enter to win a 9-day Mediterranean cruise on the Carnival Sunshine, now that it has been refurbished by 3,500 workers and $155 million…and re-named. After delivering their "funny" file they can do the same thing on the Carnival Breeze when it sails from Miami to the Bahamas. Relax, teachers, the cruise is during school holidays.

It was about this time of writing that the research department checked in with an update. That should be Carnival is looking for Britain's "funnest" family. The "i" was in the research department's "eye."

However, Carnival's going to have a problem. Brits won't understand. In the Oxford Dictionary, to which all educated British people subscribe, there is no such word as "funnest."

Guess what word comes closest?


Carnival Valor
7 nights
August 25, 2013
San Juan (return): St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten
Inside: $419
Cost per day: $59

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