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Friday File: Favorite Cruise Ships

We’ve often been asked: “What’s your favorite cruise ship?” It’s a question often asked of anybody who cruises a lot by people who cruise a little, or less. Our answer, one we borrowed from the late John Maxtone-Graham, is always the same: “The one we’re on.” That’s pretty much how we feel. When you love cruising, you rarely go on a cruise that you don’t enjoy. At the risk of sounding like Pollyannas, to us cruises are just varying degrees of good. Having said that, over the last six years, these are the six cruise ships we enjoyed the most, for a variety of reasons…


Norwegian Epic: Critics always trash it, but in two cruises we’ve found the complaints mostly trivial.


Allure of the Seas: It’s hard to believe anybody who is objective could find fault with this ship-that-has-it-all.


Coral Princess: In our world, she’s the queen of Alaska, with a feel we call “comfortable in every way.”


Costa Diadema: When you like all things Italian, as we do, you like the flagship of Italy’s main cruise line.


Celebrity Eclipse: When you spend six days at sea, you either love or hate a ship — we loved the Eclipse.


Norwegian Sun: This has everything to do with our longest cruise, 19 days, on a ship that became “home.”

In the news…

• Carrie Underwood joins Carnival Live!  in November to raise funds for vets
• Upcoming SS United States Conservancy announcement to save the ship
• Fog in Tampa once again causes chaos for Carnival Paradise, AidaVita

Today at portsandbows.com: What’s next for Princess Cruises

Carnival Fantasy
4 nights
April 25, 2016
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $239
Cost per day: $59

A Taste Of Italy For Japan’s Cruisers

Sushi, meet pizza. Saki, meet cappuccino. Geisha, meet Sophia.

That’s the short way of saying Japan is going to get a taste of Italy, courtesy of Costa Cruises. This 67-year-old cruise line is dedicated to being Italian, even when its ships are as far away as northern Asia, and to that end Costa will operate 10 six-night cruises in Japan next year.

The Costa Victoria, by then 20 years old, has been dressed up to look like an energetic kid. An $18-million refurbishing can do that. In fact, when she’s cruising from Maizuru, Kanazawa and Fukuoka next summer, the kids (13 and under) on board will be there free of charge.

The Victoria is known to Japanese cruisers, but only as a visitor, making port stops from China. Now she will have itineraries that focus on short family retreats, because her time in CostaJapan is during summer breaks and holidays — peak travel time. And while the itineraries will be around Japan, but for a quick trip to South Korea (Pusan), the ship will be all Italian.

That’s the Costa way.

The ship, like its 13 Costa siblings, is designed for Italians, or people who wish they were, or want to see what it would be like to be Italian. That means the elegant (some might say) loud colors, the cuisine (oops, a French word), the wine, the gregarious nature and always-smiling faces of the crew, and the…well, the Italian way.

You don’t have to drink Chianti and have spumoni for dessert, but it might help.

More than 60 per cent of the Italian people who cruise do so on Costa ships, so you know everything has to be “the Italian way.” Other Europeans must like it because they make up another 30 per cent of the Costa clientele. North Americans like a little of Italy on the waters, because three Costa ships are now in the Caribbean.

About the only thing that’s not Italian on Costa ships is the language. It’s English. Well, with a little Italian on the side.

In the news…

• It’s official: ‘Margaritaville At Sea’ will have a-la-carte menus
• Def Leppard to headline 4-night cruise from Miami on MSC Divina
• Grand Princess loses power after small engine-room fire near Hawaii

Today at portsandbows.comUn-Cruise Adventures time

Costa Deliziosa
10 nights
January 16, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Freeport, Amber Cove, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $82

Friday File: Carnival Live 2016

It would be nice to tell you that after we wondered aloud two weeks ago when Carnival was going to announce its Carnival Live performers for next year that the cruise line promptly reacted and made the announcement this week. It would also be presumptuous, to say the least. Nonetheless, four entertainers have signed up for what’s believed to be a popular addition to Carnival entertainment — concerts on ships in ports. However, this is the third year for Carnival Live and the number of acts has gone from nine to seven to four. So, are these to be the final four of Carnival Live?…

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight (no Pips): February 1-2-3 on the Carnival Liberty, Valor and Splendor, in St. Thomas.

KC Sunshine Band

KC & The Sunshine Band: March 22-23-24 on the Carnival Paradise, Fantasy and Breeze, in Cozumel


Journey: Encore performances on May 5-6 on the Carnival Pride and Victory, in Nassau

Trace Adkins

Trace Adkins: July 6-7-8 on the Freedom, Dream and Conquest, in Nassau

In the news…

• Costa signs healthy food, less garbage, food sustainability protocol
• Fire on Ponant’s Le Boreal evacuates all passengers in Antarctica

Today at portsandbows.comMore from Viking river cruise in France

Costa Diadema
7 nights
January 16, 2016
Savona (return): Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Rome, La Spezia
Inside: $495
Cost per day: $70

‘Lest We Forget’ …Forever

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., Remembrance Day in Canada. Cruise lines often recognize it with bargains, promotions or just reverence.

Not long ago…

There was a generation of people who thought that remembering the soldiers who died or were injured or fought in the battles of World War I and World War II would die a death of its own.

Not long ago…

There was a generation of people who would certainly never know of Lt.-Col. John McCrae Flanders Fieldsand his moving poem, In Flanders Fields, unless they were history majors.

Not long ago…

There was a generation of people who thought poppies would only be found growing on the sides of roads in Europe, notably Italy, and not pinned to the lapels of people whose descendants were victims.

Not long ago…

There was a generation of people who never imagined we would still be hearing powerful remembrance essays, like this one from the former hockey great Ken Dryden.

Not long ago…

There was a generation of people who never imagined this day would be perpetuated by Vietnam…and then Iraq…and then Afghanistan…and now ISIS.

Not long ago…

There was reason to think that November 11 would just be November 11.

Sadly, it seems that will never be the case. Sadly, it is destined to be called “11-11”…a sister to 9-11.

In the news…

• Norwegian to refurbush every ship but the Jewel over next two years
• Genting's premium Dream Cruises to launch first ship November 2016
• Princess produces web video with Cat Greenleaf for first-time cruisers

Today at portsandbows.com: Porthole Magazine Awards

Costa Favolosa
7 nights
March 7, 2016
La Romana (return): Catalina Island, St. Kitts, Antigua, Fort-de-France, Guadeloupe, St. Maarten
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Landmark Decision About Norovirus

We are told that life, in terms of the legal community, is all about precedent. Well, here’s a precedent for the cruise industry that is going to be celebrated in cruise headquarters from Miami (Royal Caribbean) to Santa Clarita (Princess) to Genoa (Costa).

And it happened in England.

The subject: norovirus.

In a lengthy, wordy document filled with legalese, a British judge last week ruled against passengers who were suing TUI Cruises for becoming ill with gastroenteritis (norovirus) while on the Thomson Spirit, a ship chartered from Louis Cruises. The 43 claimants alleged either that they contracted norovirus because the cruise line was negligent or they were at risk because the cruise line breached its contract with them.

The judge ruled no, in both instances.

In what will be hailed as a landmark decision for cruise lines, here is the most compelling part of the explanation from the law firm that defended TUI:

“The judgment…is of great importance to the cruise industry in recognizing that norovirus is not caused by the ship and that even with high levels of implementation of industry procedures, outbreaks of norovirus do occur.”

Where have you heard that before, in so many words? Right here, because we have long felt the cruise industry has become a poster child for norovirus, a gastrointestinal disease that can strike wherever large groups of people are in close contact.

Like on a cruise ship, but not only on a cruise ship.

The defendant satisfied the judge that the cruise line’s carrier fully implemented systems for cleaning the ship after 16 passengers had suffered from norovirus on its previous cruise, and for reacting to the outbreak on the subsequent cruise.

And guess what evidence was taken into consideration?

Complaints from the stricken passengers about TUI’s procedures. They were no longer allowed to have self-serve food at the ship’s buffet. They were given paper napkins. They were confined to cabins.

That, said the judge, proved the cruise line responded properly to the presence of norovirus.

Will this “landmark decision” change the linkage between cruise ships and norovirus? Probably not. Ships — not daycares or seniors homes or shopping malls — will likely remain the poster child for norovirus.

In the news…

• Viking Star aborts cruise and returns to Bergen for mechanical repair
• Quebec to be latest Canadian port with shore power for cruise ships 
• Kung-Fu Panda restaurant on Quantum of the Seas, now in Singapore

Today at portsandbows.com: The story of the Viking Star's cruise

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 14, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay 
Inside: $415
Cost per day: $59

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