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Christmas Trifecta for Princess Cruises

Three reasons for Princess Cruises to feel like Christmas has already arrived this year, which happens to be the cruise line’s 50th anniversary…


The Ruby Princess left Vancouver yesterday. No big deal…the Ruby Princess has been cruising in and out of the Canadian West Coast city all year. But December 15 is the latest Rubydate any Princess ship — maybe any cruise ship — has finished the season in Vancouver. If it were sports, you’d call this making the playoffs.

In a year that started earlier and ended later, Vancouver welcomed 32 ships and 800,000 cruise passengers. In addition to the annual Alaska cruises, there were some to Hawaii or the California coast by Princess ships. What happened yesterday was a winner for both Vancouver and Princess.


Cruise Fever fans picked Princess for “best Alaska cruise” for the second year in a row. Considering that Cruise Fever has only been polling its readers for three years, this is significant.

Having been on an Alaska cruise this year on the Star Princess, it’s easy to understand why the voters feel the way they do. With seven ships going to Alaska from three ports (Seattle and San Francisco are the others), Princess has developed a reputation for quality of not just cruises but also the cruisetours that feature lodges owned by Princess.


This one’s a sleeper. Literally.

{01bb855c-e9ba-430a-b5bb-4fc192d6dafb}_se5ms116_luxurybed_hdr_ta_v5Princess ships will have 44,000 new beds for heads to relax in, starting in February on the Coral Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess. The beds have been developed in conjunction with a certified sleep expert (did YOU know there were certified sleep experts?) and utilize the latest in mattress technology.

It will take about two years to outfit all 44,000, turning staterooms into sleep sanctuaries with a “sleep-friendly sensory experience” with “luxurious linens to soothing ocean sounds and relaxing aromas” — you get the idea.

Now if the Princess Luxury Beds are as comfortable as Westin’s Heavenly Beds

Hmm, a sleep-off?

In the news…

• Norwegian unveils ship deployments for summer of 2017
• Cruises on sale for MSC’s new Seaside, two years before sailing
• Extensive refurbishing for Emerald Princess early in 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: A taste of Ho Chi Minh City, port of the future

Carnival Triumph
7 nights
February 6, 2016
Galveston (return): Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

Cruise Critic Editors' Best Of…Cruising


Anybody who has been on more than a few cruises is inevitably going to be asked: “What’s your favorite…ship…destination…cruise…port…activity…restaurant…?”

There are no correct answers, given that everybody’s cruising taste is different in every area. Sometimes, it’s incredible how much stock all of us put in recommendations of others, qualified or not.

Cruise passengers pay attention to “awards” and that’s why we write about them. Among the most credible awards are Cruise Critic’s — some of them determined by cruisers, some by editors. The latter is the latest, announced this week.

The editorial staff at Cruise Critic is nameless, identified only as an ”international team of editors.” The awards they just announced — 18 of them —  cover everything from new ships to itineraries to romance, and we thought a sampling of them would be appropriate today. 


If you’re looking for the best new ship from 2014, head for Bayonne, N.J. and board Quantum of the Seas.

If you’re into luxury, you have to go a little further…to France, because that’s where Ponant is based (Marseille) and where you can cruise on one of three small ships and enjoy authentic French cuisine, among other things.

If you’re after the best bang for your buck, it’s Carnival.

Best dining? Oceania, which features Jacques Pepin and Kathryn Kelly.

Best entertainment? Norwegian…think Blue Man, Legends in Concert, Rock of Ages.

If a few more inches and a few more amenities in a standard stateroom is important, check out Holland America.

And if you wonder which cruise line has the best itineraries, Cruise Critic’s editors like Princess — for the second year running.

What it all adds up to is an educated guess at what you’re going to like best (or better), as long as your taste is similar to the critical eyes of Cruise Critic.

Today at portsandbows.com: Special news from Silversea

Crown Princess
3 nights
January 6, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $129
Cost per day: $43

Good as Gold for The Little Cruise Line That Can

It's still more than a month to the Olympics but there's already an underdog with a gold medal…in cruising.


Windstar? It's a small-ship cruise line, right? This big player in a small market is now a big fish in a big pond, as in the ocean. According to Conde Nast Traveler, Windstarwhich every year produces its Gold List of travel for hotels, resorts and cruise lines…sort of like being a five-star ranking in the eyes of an acknowledged expert.

The category for cruising is called Ocean Cruises and seven lines made it for 2014. One of them is Windstar, a sailing fleet that the average cruiser would not think of as being "ocean" vessels. In fact, the only heavyweight in this year's class is Disney…the other five are Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream and Silversea.

Clearly, the trending is to smaller ships — at least in awards — with first-class service. In service, Windstar scored 97.3, slightly better than its itineraries (96.7) and food (94.7). Its overall rating for seven categories was 92.0.

Crystal (94.4) was at the head of the class with an overall score of 94.4. Second was Seabourn at 92.6 and Windstar was third.

In Sochi, Russia next month they'll call third place a "bronze" medal. At Windstar, it's gold.

Ruby Princess
9 nights
March 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand CaymanCozumel, Fort Lauderdale, Grand Turk
Inside: $605
Cost per day: $67

Norwegian a World Travel winner

It's true that we've always had a soft spot for Norwegian, the cruise line that brought us back on board many years ago, following an unhappy cruise which chased us away. Having said that, if you twisted our arms and asked us to pick the "leading cruise line" we can't tell you it would be Norwegian.

Nor could we say it wouldn't be Norwegian.

On Saturday, at the World Travel Awards, Norwegian was decorated as Epicthe "World's Leading Large Ship Cruise Line" for the second year in a row.

Is it?

Obviously many travel agents and travelers say so. As you well know, such choices are subjective and the fact Norwegian has been voted "Europe's Leading Cruise Line" for six years running (also by World Travel) and the "Caribbean's Leading Cruise Line" is both consistent and impressive.

The reality is that we've been on most of the major cruise lines, and separating one from the other is tough. So much depends on which ship you're on, when you go, what the weather's like…

Having said that, Norwegian is unique. What appealed to us, and what continues to be one of the basic attractions, is the Freestyle Dining concept. We have been known to have dinner at four o'clock, and also at 10 o'clock. Clearly, our bodies – or at least our stomachs – are not on a tight schedule. Many passengers like the rigidity of dinner at precisely the same time every night. We don't and, judging from Norwegian's widespread appeal, we're not alone.

There's more to like about this cruise line than Freestyle Dining, of course. Ask 100 of the people with World Travel ballots and you might get 100 different answers.

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

City of Five Sails Tops at Cruise Critic

Best North American homeport for cruise ships? Miami? New York? New Orleans? Fort Lauderdale? Galveston? Los Angeles? All wrong, so guess again.


That's the gospel according to the editors of Cruise Critic, lost there in the midst of a bunch of annual cruise awards, version 2013. For those of us who know the city (we used to live there), this is not shocking…in fact, anybody Vancouverwho has will surely have a soft spot upon hearing this news. For those of us who have cruised into Vancouver (and we've done that, too), it's an unforgettable experience.

In a different way, it ranks up there in the "awe" department with Venice, a very different city.

In the cruise industry, Vancouver is regarded as the gateway to Alaska, but it's much more than a stopping off point to give cruise ships that "other country visit" as decreed by the Jones Act. From the deck of a ship, the five sails that mark the Vancouver waterfront and cruise terminal is more unique and recognizable than any port in North America…and as much so as any port in the world.

Off the ship, Vancouver offers cruise passengers — whether embarking or on a five-hour stopover — a variety of experiences. There's funky Gastown just footsteps away, two major sports arenas not much further, majestic Stanley Park within walking distance, Whistler two hours north and waterfronts everywhere.

Business was up in Vancouver last year for cruise passengers, by 22 per cent, and the city is closing in on a million per year. One minor cautionary note: Getting from your ship with luggage can be challenging, especially if you're headed for a nearby hotel. It can be crowded and the exits can be tight for getting on the street…at least they were when we cruised into the "five sails."

Even winners of Cruise Critic's Editors Picks' Awards are allowed to have the odd blemish.

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
May 5, 2014
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $77

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