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Carnival’s Secret Out About fathom

Sitting with a group of cruise media intelligentsia (whenever there’s a group, we like to think it’s “intelligentsia”…or at least “collective intelligence”) last month on an Alaska cruise, we listened attentively to thoughts of fathom. Remembering that the word “fathom” was once used to measure depth of sea water, we quickly jumped into the 21st century, in which the word has a completely different nautical application.

It’s a cruise line.

fathom is the new cruise line attached to mighty Carnival, the corporation that owns 10 of them. It’s not really a cruise line yet, but it will be when the good ship Adonia is re-Adoniabranded next spring. It’s for people who want to go to another country on a cruise ship and to make a difference by generally helping locals…starting with the Dominican Republic.

Since the cost of doing that was going to be as much as twice the price of a usual one-week cruise, the question around the table was this:

“What was Carnival thinking?”

Now, we know.

Carnival was thinking, by inventing cruises to sail under the “social impact travel” banner, that it could navigate the regulations that currently restrict American visitors to Cuba. For example, the most common way the U.S. allows (that’s the U.S. Government, not the Cuban Government) Americans to visit the Caribbean island is “educational or academic programs that include preplanned people-to-people contact.” Another category is “humanitarian efforts.”

So while conventional cruise lines wait for the other shoe to drop, Carnival Corporation jumped first by creating a cruise line that qualifies. And despite what you may be seeing on CNN, these are not Carnival ships that will be going to Cuba next year…only the Adonia, operated by one of Carnival’s other lines, P&O.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by April 2016 the government will have cleared the path for many ships to cruise Cuba. There are already reports that six (un-named ships) have been approved by the U.S. Treasury. But right now, only the Adonia is cleared to sell its itineraries which, it appears, are going to start at $2,990 — about three times what you might pay for a weekly cruise elsewhere.

In the news…

• Renowned orator on cruise ships, John Maxtone-Graham, dead at 85
• MSC Opera to homeport in Havana in December for 16 Caribbean cruises
• Celebrity partners with Broadway production "An American In Paris"

Today at portsandbows.com: Free air offers from Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Epic
6 nights
September 20, 2015
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Lisbon, London
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $99

Cruise Lines Catering to 'Youth'

California may have as many "old folks" per capita as any other state, but the perception is that surf, sand, sun and movie stars makes it a destination for the young as well as the young at heart.

Celebrity seems to think so, too.

In a clever attempt to attract young cruisers, Celebrity is taking its act ashore. Not the ships, of course, just a taste of what happens when you go on one of their ships. That's "taste" as in Qsine, Tuscan Grille, Bistro on Five, The Porch and Grand Epernay — the cruise line's for-fee, upscale restaurants at sea. It also includes a taste of AquaSpa in the shape of a complimentary neck and shoulder massage.

The road show that Celebrity hopes will result in a sea show (or at least a booking or two) is in Long Beach through the weekend…at the World Series of Beach Volleyball tournament. After that, corporate and public events in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Orange County all next month.

Celebrity doesn't say so, but it's clearly designed to attract young cruisers, most of whom have been to a cruise ship only long enough to drop off their parents.

And if it attracts a few "old folks" along the way — as in Palm Springs — so much the better…

* * *

The same might be said of Norwegian, the cruise line that has long attracted young-ish cruisers with its "freestyle" philosophy, but the strategy is a little different.

Again, the cruise line doesn't mention the demographic (why alienate anybody?) except to say that "Freestyle Cruising is a natural fit" for people who ride the Rocky Mountaineer. That's the train service that operates primarily in the Pacific Northwest, from Calgary to Seattle and a myriad of places people on Alaska cruises have been known to visit.

There are five different Rail and Cruise vacation packages for next year, connected to Alaska sailings on the Jewel, the Pearl and the Sun. The cruise line has determined that nearly half its Alaska cruisers also ride the rails before or after being on the ship.

The perception is that Rocky Mountaineer appeals to young adventurers and whether that's true or not, if it attracts a few "old folks" along the way…

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
December 1, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand TurkSan JuanSt. ThomasHalf Moon Cay
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
Cost per day: $71


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