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Escape For Cruising Parrotheads

Time for a confession. Maybe even an apology. I've known since Friday that Jimmy Buffett’s people had made a deal with Norwegian’s people. As someone who’s supposed to be relaying cruise news to you, I was a little slow on the uptake.

Jimmy BuffettIt took me a couple of days to recover.

You don’t even have to be one of Jimmy’s famous Parrotheads (yes, Parrothead is a proper noun to us and that’s why it’s capitalized) to understand this really is “earth-sharking” news. Okay, ocean-sharking news. Jimmy Buffett on a cruise ship…well, his “stuff” will be on the Norwegian Escape when it arrives but, really, isn’t it just a matter of time until The Man Himself shows up? 

Hey, I was even excited when “Jimmy” was one of the Legends In Concert on the Norwegian Epic!

Four people in our family, maybe five, would go out of the way to see Jimmy Buffett…and I’m at the front of the line. That’s more than a third of the family, and another third is too young to know what they’re missing. As for the other third, I’m working on them, hoping they’ll go out of their ways to see Jimmy in concert before he takes his margaritas and goes home to stay.

The fact that he’s made a “new” deal as he approaches his 68th birthday (of course I know it’s Christmas Day!!) and the fact that it’s with a cruise line is encouraging. For now, only his “Margaritaville” and his “5 O’clock Somewhere Bar” and his “Hurricane drinks” are going to be on the Escape — and eventually other Norwegian ships.

That’s a good start. 

For one thing, it means if I’m cruising in the Caribbean with Norwegian, I won’t have to get off the ship to find one of the many Magaritavilles the corporate Jimmy has built on the beaches. 

For another, it’s one more thing that makes it harder for that third of my family to “escape” Jimmy Buffett.

Today at portsandbows.com: Preview of Regent's new Explorer

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $109
Cost per day: $27

Norovirus — The Navy’s Solution

The latest norovirus episode on a cruise ship — 172 people ill on the Crown Princess in Los Angeles this weekend — has raised an old story about the U.S. Navy. It’s about how the Navy more or less prevents such outbreaks on its ships.

With more than 3,000 sailors and marines on ships, the Navy adopts the preventive strategy.

Here’s how:

* Sailors are required to report to sick bay if they feel ill

* Supervisors force sick sailors who are reluctant

* If they’re sick, they’re isolated

* The Navy does a “cleaning station” of the ship every morning

* Preventive medicine technicians inspect galleys many times a day

* Sailors swab, inspect, scrub and scour every day

For the most part, it works. Thinking it would work on a cruise ship is a much different theory.

Nobody on the ship can monitor 3,000 passengers to see if anybody’s not feeling well. It’s unlikely cruise lines would designate “preventive medicine technicians” whose sole purpose is to inspect galleys, although regular inspections are common. And having cleaners underfoot all day long throughout the ship would be a negative for people on their vacations, especially when more than 90 per cent of the time there’s no threat.

But here’s the biggest reason comparing naval ships and cruise ships is apples and oranges:

Sailors must follow orders, and there are consequences when they don’t.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America's new look

Carnival Inspiration
2 nights
December 18, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada 
Inside: $101
Cost per day: $50

Carnival Sale On Internet Overload

If ever a cruise line needs to fill up a ship quickly, or a bunch of them, Carnival just did it. The premise is simple: Everybody loves a deal.

So on Tuesday, Carnival announced a “35-hour sale.” It was actually a 35-35 sale…35 hours to buy a cruise for $35 a day (starting prices).

How much did the people like it?

In the first six hours, so anxious were consumers to break the bank that they broke the website.

The demand crashed carnival.com. Within a couple of hours, it was fixed and the sale of select cruises from December through March resumed. It runs through midnight tonight Carnival Freedomand this is not a big deal for one ship, or one port. For example, here’s a few of the per-day, per-passenger prices (some even better) that we found once the website was re-started:

$25Los Angeles (return) to Catalina and Ensenada, four nights (December 1-5) on the Inspiration

$28Fort Lauderdale (return) to Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel (December 7-13) on the Freedom

$34Miami (return) to Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, San Juan and St. Thomas, seven nights (January 10-17) on the Glory

$35Galveston (return) to Progreso and Cozumel, five nights (December 15-20) on the Triumph

$43Miami (return) to Ocho Rios, Grand Turk and Nassau, six nights (February 22-28, on the Breeze

Clearly, Carnival wants to fill empty beds. Chances are the cruise line can still make a profit at these prices, because passengers do spend money once they’re on the ship.

But with this sale, getting there is a bargain.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America's new look

Caribbean Princess
4 nights
January 22, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays 
Inside: $289
Cost per day: $72

New Ship, New Look For New Jersey

From our one visit to Bayonne, New Jersey, the best thing you can say about this cruise port is the view.

Of New York, on the other side of the harbor.

Of the Verrazano Bridge.

Of whatever ship it is you’re boarding.

But not of Bayonne.

Now, that’s changing. When Quantum of the Seas arrives in a couple of weeks, its passengers will disembark into a new, state-of-the-art terminal, the start of a $55-million port expansion that’s going to, well, dress up this part of New Jersey.

This is industrial property, more or less, and it has all the attractions that come with industrial property. Faceless warehouses. Cranes to move freight. If you see people, Cape Liberty-2they’re either ship workers or taxi drivers or cruise employees, and nobody seems to stay there long. If you see a store or shop, it likely has limited hours because at the port, that’s really all there is.

If ever a cruise port was in need of an upgrade, that port is Cape Liberty, its sexier name. At this point, it’s a good start for “your closest point to sea” to become more attractive, or even just a little attractive. The fact that Royal Caribbean contributed to the Port Authority’s cause tells you how important this was for the Quantum Class ships that are going to call it home.

It starts with the flagship on November 10. Quantum of the Seas, replacing Explorer of the Seas, will only stay until spring before heading off to its Asian home, Singapore. Next up Quantumwill be its class sibling, Anthem of the Seas. Both ships are capable of carrying almost 5,000 passengers, so it’s important for new, state-of-the-art, classy ships to live in upscale neighborhoods.

And not just look at them across the harbor.

Today at portsandbows.com: Bermuda cruises on the rise

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
November 10, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Inside: $129
Cost per day: $32

A Taste of Carnival's Food Concept Branding

This one's for carnies. Not the people who coax you into trying to toss a ring around the neck of a Coke bottle or deflate a balloon with a dart to win a four-inch stuffed pig for the little one in your family…but the people who make Carnival their cruise line of choice.

The dictionary defines carnies as employees of a Carnival, but what do dictionaries know anyway? Every cruise line has its loyalists, so Carnival's are going to be Carnies, for better or for worse.

This news is for them…

Because Carnies have been asked for their feedback on food, the cruise line is floating a change in concept for dinner. Actually, two concepts. One is calledCarnival Dream dining roomAmerican Table, the other American Feast. More than anything, it appears to be an attempt at branding Carnival's food offerings, the way many cruise lines do with styles of eateries.

Carnival's doing it with menus in the dining rooms of four ships: Glory now, Liberty in January, Imagination and Inspiration in February. If it's a success — and that's where you Carnies can continue to have a say — the concepts will blanket the entire 23-ship line by the end of 2015.

American Table is being offered on Cruise Casual nights, which is most of them, and will feature an "exceptional American cuisine" like a modern restaurant with menus that the patrons designed. The entrees are being inspired by the ports of call…most of which are in the Caribbean.

American Feast is simply kicking it up a notch. It's scheduled for Cruise Elegant nights, once or twice a voyage. No mention of black ties and long gowns, because such things are rarely in the luggage of Carnival cruisers, but Carnival is promising a "more elegant, more elaborate" style of serving. That will be reflected in the menus (mojito cured ham, broiled Maine lobster, etc.) and it's safe to assume if you did wear a black tie, you would be more than welcome.

In the final analysis, Carnival is saying the decision to take American Table and American Feast fleet-wide will be made by its people.

Yes, the Carnies.

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $39

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