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Carnival Ships Join China Surge

MiracleThere was a time, not that long ago, that the only places you could take Carnival ships was from a port city in North America. The one caveat was when the world’s biggest cruise line built a new ship in Europe, and it had to get to North America by crossing the Atlantic.

Then Carnival started dabbling in the Mediterranean. Then in Australia, going so far as to establish a base there. Now, Carnival’s going to China.

There is no choice. Everybody else is, too.

In 2017, the Carnival Miracle (above) will be in China year-round. A year later, the Carnival Splendour (below) will be in China year-round. Cruise ships from Carnival Corporation have been visiting Asian ports for a decade, but not year-round. And the Splendormother line wasn’t there at all. Other cruise lines have gradually been gaining a presence, but nobody really started taking the Chinese market this seriously until Royal Caribbean sent its newest ship — Quantum of the Seas — to establish a home port in Shanghai. 

If that didn’t get the cruise executives’ attention, it surely woke up the media.

Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to Royal Caribbean, which has since launched Anthem of the Seas and has another Quantum Class ship coming next year, Ovation of the Seas. But this was the flagship of the class and its first cruise season was from New York (Cape Liberty), not exactly a secondary market. As it turned out, that was its ONLY season of sailing from New York to the Caribbean. Almost exactly one year after it arrived, Quantum was gone.

For good.

Since then, the other mainstream cruise lines have been despatching ships to Asian waters. It will likely never rival the Caribbean as a cruise destination, but it’s definitely a player. And in 18 months, the team of ships stationed there will include Carnival.

In the news…

• The Salty Dog Gastropub makes its debut on Crown Princess
• Costa signs three-year partnership agreement with Italian airline Neo

Today at portsandbows.com: Cunard planning them cruises for 2016

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
January 14, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $56

Cruises To Fathom For Next Spring

Since Carnival announced its “impact travel” line Fathom was going to be launched in 2016, the picture of what it all means has come more into focus, as well it should with the passage of time.

For one thing, “fathom” abandoned the idea of using its name with a lower-case “f” — lest it be construed as a nautical measurement and not a cruise line. For another, the volunteerism cruises are not only open for booking but are now being detailed. That, too, makes sense. Why would you book a cruise without the details?

In case you hadn’t heard or read, Fathom is going to take cruise passengers to places where they can help by volunteering to work with people in those countries, namely the fathom-Dominican Republic and (for the first time) Cuba. The first cruises on the 704-passenger Adonia depart next spring.

One thing that hasn’t changed with time is the price. The 7-day cruises from Miami are still being advertised for about $1,500 (including taxes), although that’s not exactly clear Fathom Adoniain the website, where pricing seems to be hidden by text boxes until you enter your name and personal details.

The Cuba trips, which begin in late spring — subject to Cuban approval — seem to be at least $300 more, per person, and that doesn’t include taxes and ports expenses. Naturally, they’re more attractive and will be at least until everybody gets accustomed to going to Cuba.

That’s where activities will include things like:

* Visiting the fishing village where Hemingway was inspired to write The Old Man And Fathom-CubaThe Sea, near Havana

* Going to a couple of World Heritage Sites in Cienfuegos

* Working with the people who make Cuban cigars, rum and music in Santiago de Cuba

All of them include being a volunteer. That’s the Cuban criteria for visiting the island. And volunteering means eight hours of programming when on shore.

All of which begs the question: How many people are interested in spending 150 to 200 per cent of what a typical Caribbean cruise would cost for the privilege of being a volunteer in a foreign land. People who do things for organizations like Habit For Humanity do it all the time but in the case of Fathom, that means counting on 704 people every week.

One meaning of the word “fathom” is to “understand after much thought.”

Comprehending this Fathom might take more thinking.

In the news…

• Hurricane Joaquin changing some port calls in the Bahamas
• Royal Caribbean changes name of its 'ChoiceAir' to 'Air2Sea'
• Carnival Corporation expands faster, innovative WiFi to more ships

Today at portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean — no last-minute deals

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
January 30, 2016
Los Angeles (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44

Cruise Cuba From America This Year?

Most adventures in life require only one thing.


That’s true of adventurous Americans who want to cruise Cuba so they can visit before commercialization takes over, which is inevitable. Last week, licenses were issued to four ferry companies to allow travel across the 90 miles of the Caribbean Sea that has been a wall of water for half a century.

It is subject to approval by the Cuban government, so nobody knows when this complicated relationship will allow it.

There is a more certain way to go…and that brings up the money. International Expeditions is starting to run Cuba cruises in December, on a ship called the Panorama. The cruise Cuba Voyage-Panoramastarts  at Cienfuegos, which is in Cuba, and 10 days later ends in Havana. Flights to Cienfuegos and from Havana are not included.

The cruise price starts at $4,599.

But is it certain that Americans can go?

At this moment, Americans can’t go to Cuba for a vacation. That could change by the time the cruise starts (December 17), of course, with everybody from President Obama to the Castros to the Pope trying to bridge 56 years of differences and dissidents. If it doesn’t, there’s a series of ways around the restriction, none of which have anything to do with vacations.

However, if you’re involved in “humanitarian projects” or “religious activities” or “professional activities” you’re okay. And here’s one that seems looser than all the others: “any type of support for the Cuban people.”

Considering that the Panorama carries only 48 passengers, it’s probably not insurmountable, if you want to guarantee you’ll see Cuba by year’s end. If being first doesn’t matter and the budget does, it’s probably better to wait until the ferry service is activated. The cost is expected to be about $250, round-trip.

And once the ferries are good to go, major cruise lines won’t be far behind.

In the news…

• Princess announces "exotics cruises" schedule for 2016-17
• Seattle claims it's biggest West Coast homeport with 895,000 passengers
• Jill (Love Boat) Whelan spends (God)Mothers Day as Princess ambassador

Today at portsandbows.com: The Princess to Asia expansion

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
May 31, 2015
Long Beach (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Oceanview: $279
Cost per day: $69

China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.


Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

World Cup No Economic Fit for Carnival

ON BOARD THE CARNIVAL FREEDOM — The largest cruise line in the world isn't carrying the biggest sporting event in the world this year on stateroom television…and there's a good reason why.

Passengers on Carnival ships sailing in waters surrounding North America are not glued to the The World Cup, as most of the world is, because the cruise line didn't purchase the rights to broadcast the month-long event to determine soccer bragging rights until 2018.

If you can believes this…soccer's powerful governing world body (FIFA) charges more than $1 million for the privilege!

Okay, a million bucks isn't as hard to swallow for a cruise line that carries 4.5 million passengers per year as it is for working stiffs needing a mortgage. However, 97 per cent of Carnival's clientele is from the U.S., and there are those who believe many World CupAmericans don't know a soccer ball from a watermelon…or at least a water polo ball. On the Freedom, this "scorecard" in Curacao was one way for them to get World Cup updates.

In theory, Carnival would have spent more than $1 million for three per cent of its passengers over a one-month period. In theory, that's fewer than 12,000 people.

The theory, of course, falls apart because there are Americans who do follow football — as the world-wide game is known — and there are Americans who jump on the patriotic soccer bandwagon every four years just like they do the Olympic bandwagon.

There's almost more interest this time because the U.S. advanced beyond the preliminary round. And here's the real kicker…the demographic of the typical American is ever changing with the influx of immigrants, especially soccer-mad Spanish-speaking immigrants.

When the Freedom prepared to leave Fort Lauderdale last weekend, there was a delay because some of the thrusters had to be cleaned. The ship was two hours late leaving. As it happened, the U.S. was playing at exactly that time, the game was being carried on ESPN and ESPN was on the stateroom TVs. 

The cruise director announced the good fortune to the ship's soccer fans, who voiced their approvals. And at least once during the cruise, Carnival's satellite signal picked up a Miami station that was carrying the games, giving passengers another brief look at what they ordinarily wouldn't have seen.

This may be the last time Carnival can afford not to carry on World Cup.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Weather worries different for rivers, oceans

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
August 7, 2014
Long Beach (return): Ensenada
Inside: $259
Cost per day: $86

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