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Norwegian Charters Mean Changes

There was a story on Cruise Critic yesterday that puts all those feel-good testimonials and events that cruise lines shower on their passengers into proper perspective.

"Passengers, you're the best…unless we get a better deal."

The story is about canceling cruises to accommodate private charters on two Norwegian ships and if you choose to think that's all about money, well, go right ahead. 

Norwegian is moving the Jade from the Mediterranean to Russia next February and if you're wondering why anybody would want to go to Russia in February, then you don't follow the drumbeat of the Olympic Winter Games, which will be in Sochi. The Jade will be a floating hotel in the Russian seaport during the two weeks of Olympics.

Passengers booked on the Jade in the Mediterranean will be compensated, of course, and the cruise line's right to disrupt travel plans like that is somewhere down in the fine print, isn't it?

The other ship is the Getaway, which isn't even a ship yet. Scheduled to make its inaugural Transatlantic crossing from Rotterdam to Fort Lauderdale in January. Then, and there, the Getaway was to become Miami's ship…but now it's going to be New York's ship for a week, even though its sister ship, the Breakaway, has already been proclaimed "New York's ship."

The reason?

Private event. Translation: a better deal.

This change in plans is a disruption to passengers who booked the Transatlantic voyage expecting to step on the ship in Rotterdam (it's now leaving from Southampton) and to step off the ship in Florida. And the charter in New York also means the Getaway's inaugural cruise to the Caribbean won't leave on February 1 as scheduled, but a week later on February 8.

So the next time you hear cruise-line officials falling all over their passengers, reach for the salt shaker and take a few grains.

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 15, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $46

Cruise Awards: Oceania Big in UK


When "awards" are given in the cruise business, just like in any other business, they have to be taken with a grain of salt water.

Voting being voting, it's always subjective because the results are based on opinions from people who are unlikely to have been on more than one or perhaps two of the "competing" ships. So it's kind of like getting an Academy Award vote on Picture-of-the-Year after watching one nominated movie.

Having said that, it makes for interesting discussions, and it makes for "good press" for the winners.

Like Oceania.

Last week, Cruise Critic posted the results of its annual Cruisers' Choice awards. Oceania's twin flagships, Riviera and Marina, won 12 categories — eight in the United Kingdom, four in the U.S. In categories specifically for "mid-size ships" Oceania won 11 of 22. Clearly, people who cruise on mid-size ships and who want their voices heard on Cruise Critic love Oceania ships.

Having been on the Riviera last year, we can only say: "What's not to like?"

It was the newer Riviera that won eight categories, seven in Europe and the other for "Best Mediterranean Cruises" — a combined UK/US category. The Marina, which has spent more time on this side the Atlantic, had a 3-0 edge on its younger sister among U.S. voters.

In the United Kingdom poll, Oceania ships won eight of the 11 mid-size categories. In three of them, Riviera and Marina went 1-2. One of those was for "Best Dining" and Marina won the category among American voters. Since this is a cruise line dedicated to promoting the "best cuisine at sea" that should come as no surprise. In some cases, it's a bit like asking people if they prefer eating at, say…McDonald's or Morton's.

There are all kinds of such conclusions to be drawn at CruiseCritic.com.

Just don't forget the grain of salt water.

Norwegian Sun
7 nights
May 27, 2013
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61


Look Out below: Gadgets Falling

Remember when environmentalists carped when people were hitting golf balls off the deck of cruise ships because of their impact on urchins and plant life of the sea?

That problem has been eradicated by netting, but another one has arisen.

It seems that cruise-ship passengers have dropsy, butter fingers or too much alcohol. According to a survey conducted by an online cruise agent in Great Britain (www.bonvoyage.co.uk), they are making significant deposits in "Davy Jones' Locker."

This is what a poll of more than 1,100 passengers discovered:

• 41 per cent dropped a cel phone into the waters below

• 38 per cent mistakenly thought their cameras were for underwater photography

• 32 per cent had MP3 players that are now into music of the deep

• 29 per cent are Kindle-less

• 26 per cent deposited game consoles

Jamey Bergman, who writes a blog for the UK version of Cruise Critic, estimates the value of all those gizmos is more than $26 million.

Any way you look at it, that's a lot of golf balls.

Carnival Destiny
18 nights
February 4, 2013
Miami, Malaga, Barcelona, Livorno, Rome, Venice
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $28

Cruise Critic: Reflecting on '11

With a history that goes back almost 17 years, and a mushrooming staff of reporters and editors, it kind of goes without saying that Cruise Critic provides the most detailed, up-to-date information for you (and us), the people who love to cruise.

What is not generally known about Cruise Critic is that it does not sell or promote cruises…it just provides what it claims to be objective information and reviews.

But we digress.

The reason for bringing up Cruise Critic today is that on its website yesterday was a year-ender identifying the “11 Biggest Cruise Stories of 2011” that, if nothing else, make for interesting reading.

Readers who regularly follow cruise news will have heard about most of these stories, but there’s a few surprises, and it’s always fun to look back at the year coming to a close.

Click here to read them…and let us know what you think.

Norwegian Gem
7 nights
February 26
New York (return): Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside $349

Cruise Critic's People Pick 'Em

Preferences in cruising, or rating the ships, is at best a straw poll and at worst an utter waste of time. Too many factors can influence the “people’s choices.” Your room steward is lazy. The seas are rough. You’re feeling under the weather. Your stateroom is in the wrong part of the ship. The other passengers you’ve met are boors. Your toast was cold. Etcetra.

Having said that, people who cruise a lot are always being asked for their favorite this and that. And websites like Cruise Critics poll readers and compile their Cruisers’ Choice Awards.

And we all read them.

So when Cruise Critic posted its first-ever Cruisers’ Choice Awards the other day, like everybody else who enjoys cruising, we scoured the results to see if we agree…even if we don’t attach a lot of importance to them.

You can do that, too, at Cruise Critic. If you’d like a snapshot, here it is:

Oasis of the Seas (right) was picked overall Best Large Cruise Ship and also won for Best Embarkation, Best Entertainment and Best for Families among the big ships.

Island Princess was picked best in the Mid-Size category and Celebrity’s Xpedition for small ships.

Celebrity ships won three of the other big-ship categories, Royal Caribbean and Carnival two each.

• The best line among mid-size ships was Holland America with four.

• The best small-ship line was Celebrity (Xpedition) with three.

The best review we’ve heard for “What’s Your Favourite Ship?” is this:

“The one I’m on.”

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