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New in 2015 — Anthem of the Seas

Third in a series about new ships

This second ship of the Quantum Class will be replacing the first — and the flagship — in New Jersey after Quantum of the Seas leaves for its new home, Singapore. Other than the name on the bow and assorted other places, there isn’t expected to be much difference between Anthem of the Seas and its sister, which tells you what a winner Quantum has been for Royal Caribbean.

Launch date: April 22

Capacity: 4,905

Sister ships: Quantum of the Seas

Maiden voyage: An 8-day trip along Northern Spain with one stop in France

Home port: Cape Liberty

Ships then in Royal Caribbean fleet: 23

Interesting: The cruise line touts Anthem’s virtual balconies, with huge LCD TV screens, as being the first at sea but neither that…nor the bumper cars in SeaPlex…nor the RipCord sky diving simulator…nor the 27-degree views from Two70…is going to touch this ship’s most identifying asset. That would be North Star, the arm that takes passengers out over the waves and back, all included with the price of the cruise. It is the ship’s most recognizable feature, its signature, what makes it stand out from everything else “at sea.” The same, of course, can be said for its older sister.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Celebrity Century
14 nights
March 22, 2015
Singapore, Cochin, Mangalore, Goa, Mumbai, Muscat, Dubai
Inside: $949
Cost per day: $67

Celebrity Toasted By Wine Spectator

CellermastersIn case you were wondering…

* * *

Celebrity has, arguably, the premier wine reputation among cruise lines. We won’t argue the point. Our best and most complete wine experiences have been on Celebrity ships, starting with a knowledgeable sommelier from (of all places) Mumbai. Knowledgable sommelier…aren’t they all?

Anyway, the Wine Spectator has enhanced the reputation by awarding 10 Awards of Excellence — of a possible 12 — to Celebrity for its wine lists. It’s an instant replay.

Last year, Celebrity also won 10.

* * *

Cruise lines are being encouraged to equip their ships to use shore-based electricity in port and burn less diesel fuel. However, the left hand doesn’t always know what the right is doing with regards to the ports.

When the Carnival Miracle stopped in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, it was unable to hook up to shore power even though the ship is equipped for it.

The reason?

The ship’s hook-up is on the starboard side. The Port of Vancouver assigned the Miracle a port side connection. Consequently, the ship was forced to burn diesel during its stay in one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive cities.

* * *

When Quantum of the Seas leaves on its two-night, pre-inaugural cruise after arriving in North America in November, it will be making special wishes.

The Make-A-Wish chapters from New Jersey and New York are selling passage on the new ship to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, long an active charity on Royal Caribbean ships. Quantum leaves Bayonne, New Jersey at 4 p.m. on November 14 and returns at 7 a.m. on November 16, so you’re on the ship for about 39 hours.

Passage is for balcony cabins, at $1,495 for obstructed and $1,995 for unobstructed.

In other words, it’s pretty much a donation in return for being first to sail on Quantum of the Seas in North America.

Today at portsandbows.com: Opera on the rivers

Celebrity Century
8 nights
November 11, 2014
Sydney (return): Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Lincoln
Oceanview: $835
Cost per day: $104

Norwegian's All-Inclusive Cost Confusing

Norwegian’s often first with innovations and this month brings another one: A new twist on an all-inclusive cruise package.

It’s available on all Norwegian ships but Pride of America in 2015, but bookings must be made by August 29. Also excluded are European and United Kingdom cruises.

The cruise line is quick to point out that its all-inclusive package delivers more than $2,400 in value, per stateroom. Everything from signature dining every night, alcoholic NCL inclusivebeverages, unlimited soda, Internet access (250 minutes), shore excursion credits, gratuities…

It applies on cruises of three to 14 days.

The cost is $899.

What the cruise line didn’t make clear in the announcement was whether that’s $899 per stateroom or $899 per person. There was no mention of “per person” and the benefits of $2,400 were “per stateroom.” Logical that the cost would also be “per stateroom.”

Not so fast.

A little digging on Norwegian’s website produced the only line that gives it all away: “save up to $600.” So do the math — $2,400 in benefits per stateroom minus $1,800 per stateroom in charges…

Once again, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity’s Signature Sailings

Celebrity Century
8 nights
October 22, 2014
Sydney (return): MelbourneAdelaidePort Lincoln
Inside $399
Cost per day: $49

Panama Canal Delay Not Bad For Everybody

In the midst of a long drive this week, the subject of cruises came up, as it does every…oh, few hours. Specifically, we were thinking about the Panama Canal, because we've only done it once and that was four years ago, which means it's time to see it again.

What we discovered is that prices seem to be generally high and availability generally low for Panama Canal cruises, two things that generally go hand-in-hand.

For example, if you want to go east-west from Florida, the Island Princess is leaving Fort Lauderdale for Los Angeles at the start of the month with the price of an inside stateroom $1,599 (15 days) and an ocean view stateroom for $1,899. Balconies and and suites? Sold out.

If you want to go west-east from San Diego, Royal Caribbean can take you to Fort Lauderdale on the Legend of the Seas on a 15-day journey but you can't get an Canalinside, ocean view or suite because none is available. Only balconies are, at $3,819.

And if you want to make a month of it and cross the ocean at the same time, Cunard has a cruise from San Francisco to Southampton…or had a cruise. At $4,690 for an inside stateroom, the Queen Victoria is completely sold out.

Guess why Panama Canal cruises are more popular than ever?

Because this is the year the Canal was supposed to celebrate its 100th anniversary — next month — by opening the new locks. For one reason or another, or perhaps for many reasons, the renovation to accompany the celebration is delayed. Expansion of the Canal, to accommodate larger ships, is behind schedule.

People who wanted to see the "new" Panama Canal would have booked cruises many months ago. They committed, thinking they would be traversing the bigger, better link between the Atlantic and Pacific.

They're out of luck.

So people will be booking to do the same thing next year, assuming the construction will be completed by then. The prices, presumably, will stay high.

All of which means cruise lines with ships going through the Canal will be getting a chance for two years in a row to charge premium fares if you want to be among the first to see this engineering marvel's new look.

Today at portsandbows.com: Breaking cruise records in Avignon, France

Celebrity Century
7 nights
April 26, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Santa BarbaraSan FranciscoMontereyCatalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Speeding Up The Embarkation Process

A dear friend of ours used to say that when America wants to try something new, whether it's a new procedure or a new law, it often happens first in California. If it's successful, that's good enough…and it goes viral, or at least to other places.

Our late friend lived in California, he knew what he was talking about — or so we assumed.

Twice on our cruises customs agents have come onto the ship to clear passengers for going ashore. Now we're not saying it hadn't happened anywhere else, but those are the only times we been part of a process that shortens lines and speeds Yokohamaup disembarkation. It seemed like such a good idea we wondered why customs people didn't do the same thing whenever and wherever a ship is disembarked.

This summer, Japan is going one better.

According to a story in The Japan News, ministry immigration officers will go on board at the ships' home ports to collect fingerprints and facial recognition data. When the ship arrives at Yokohama's cruise port (above), it will still take an hour for passengers to go through passport verification, freeing them to spend at least an extra hour in the port.

For a ship with 3,000 passengers, that's up to another 3,000 hours of spending, so just do the math.

By 2030, Japan anticipates its number of foreign visitors will triple.

With the growth of cruising in Asia, the Japanese want to be ready.

– photo by Aimaimyi

Celebrity Century
7 nights
June 8, 2014
Vancouver (return): Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, JuneauKetchikan
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

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