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Carnival Dealing With Long Line-ups

Hands up, now…which of you cruise passengers has never waited in line to board a ship? Specifically, in a long line that snakes around a cruise terminal, for the legitimate reason that cruise lines have to board upwards of 2,500 passengers in four hours or less.

So do the math.

Speaking of math, Carnival’s changing the process. Yes, we’ve all heard these theories before, but this one really has a chance of changing how we get on ships…or how long.

Staggered embarkation.

No, you don’t have to be three sheets to the wind BEFORE you get on board, but you do have to make an appointment. Sometime after New Year’s, Carnival will give passengers a boarding time, according to Cruise Fever, which first reported the successful pilot project held on three ships in Galveston weeks ago.

Here’s how it works:

After completing much of the documentation online, passengers will be given an embarkation window of time. They check in at one of six allotted times from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They must be there 30 minutes before their time. If they come before that, they’re not allowed inside the terminal and are told to come back. If they miss their time (although nobody’s saying this), they go to the back of the bus…last on board.

In the terminal, all that’s left is one document to fill out and security to clear.

The process mirrors boarding a plane by row, a far smaller model. And just like airlines, Carnival will give priority to priority passengers…frequent cruisers and passengers who pay for priority (it’s called FTTF, or Faster To The Fun).

In any case, it beats the long line-ups.

Without a doubt!

In the news…

• Daughter of Jacques Pepin, Claudine, to be Godmother of Oceania’s new Sirena
• Royal Caribbean adds Independence of the Seas as a home for the musical Grease
• Cunard “re-designing” buffet dining experience during Queen Mary 2 refurbishment

Today at portsandbows.comNorth America to get a look at Viking Star

Celebrity Reflection
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Miami (return): San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Tiny Baby Conquers First Cruise…Plus!

You may have read or heard about a baby born on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas this month. In case you hadn’t, this is a really nice story with a happy ending, at least so far.

And incidentally, it’s a story about everybody doing the right thing.

The baby’s mother, Emily Morgan, was given permission by her doctor to go on the cruise. She was about five months’ pregnant. On the second day of the cruise, her Haiden Morgan-3maternal instincts — along with her labor pains — told her the little one was soon to arrive. In the middle of the night, as the pains became more intense she and her husband Chase called the ship’s doctor, who said they were 14 hours from the nearest port, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The baby, who would be called Haiden, was born half an hour later.

The Morgans were told it was a miscarriage, and the baby was dead. Two doctors arrived 45 minutes after that to say the baby was alive but wasn’t expected to live long. Mother and doctors fought to keep him alive and when the ship’s captain called with condolences, he heard the baby crying.

“He said we are going as fast as we can and we'll port two hours early in San Juan and we'll get you guys to the hospital,” his mother told TV station KSL in Salt Lake City (the Morgans live nearby, in Ogden), “but he said that's as fast as I can get you there.”

The Independence of the Seas did arrive two hours early. The baby did get to the hospital quickly, and a few days later was transferred to a neonatal unit in Miami. At birth, the Independence of the Seasbaby weighed one and a half pounds…just 24 ounces. His feet were less than three inches long. His lungs fully developed, Haiden Morgan made it through the night, and the next night, and…today, he is 27 days old. He’ll stay in Miami until his due date, December 19.

The expenses that evolved from what was supposed to be a 7-day cruise have been understandably staggering, and a website — Haiden’s Medical Journey — was quickly set up to help with the cost. The target was $37,000. As of last night, contributions totalled $35,711.

Another happy ending-to-be.

– Baby photo courtesy of the Morgan family via KSL

In the news…

• First international ship launches huge summer season in Australia
• One less ship in South America, more in Asia, for MSC in 2016-17

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
3 nights
November 27, 2015
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $173
Cost per day: $57

Norwegian Gratuities Claim Change

In all our cruises, the attention of crew members has been such that we’ve never felt inclined to protest paying the accepted daily gratuities charged to our account. We’ve seen passengers who have, because they felt attention from room stewards or waiters was below the accepted standard.

As you know, daily gratuities are about $12 per person, per day.

The process for removing gratuities from your account is done at the Guest Relations Desk before disembarking.

Now, Norwegian is making it less likely you’ll do that.

Passengers on Norwegian ships will only be able to recover the “daily service charge” by contacting Guest Relations Services after they’ve returned home. The cruise line isn’t saying so, but passengers who have debated this charge as they disembark are usually in for a long, er…conversation, which doesn’t help preventing line-ups in the ship’s lobby.

Less likely to make a claim?

Really, are you going to feel more inclined to start making phone calls to track down Guest Relations once you’re back home?

In the news…

• Anthem of the Seas latest Royalk Caribbean ship to get Dreamworks
• Celebrity adding interactive events to its '18 shows in 18 months'
• Steel cutting begins for the Bliss, Norwegian's new ship in 2017

Today at portsandbows.com: Travel furor over airline fuel surcharges

Emerald Princess
14 nights
April 2, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Bilbao, Paris, London
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $85

Cruising…And What IS To Like

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog — Cruising, What’s Not To Like? — we thought it made sense to point out why we do like cruising. Again, at the risk of stating the obvious, these come from a long list of “likes” that have emerged from years of being on cruise ships… 

The value: When you add up the costs of flying, renting a car and eating, you’re probably getting close to what you’d spend on taking an average cruise with an average cabin on one of the big ocean ships. If you want to spend more — as you would for business class or a bigger car — you can upgrade from inside stateroom to oceanview to balcony to suite, but none of that compares to sitting in a coach-class airplane seat for hours.

Seeing the world: There are usually borders to be observed (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, etc.) but cruise ships make it easy to go to an area and see many places Venicethat would be more problematic to reach by air or on land. Beyond that, with re-positioning cruises you can really “do” a lot of places if that’s your motivation and while we haven’t been on one we imagine that around-the-world cruises are easier for the same reason.

Food: Another subjective one, but we could count the bad meals (or mediocre meals) we’ve had on cruise ships. Considering the mass number of people that have to be satisfied, with different tastes and allergies, cruise-ship chefs do a remarkable job of keeping everybody happy,.

Unpacking:  Whether it’s an ocean cruise ship or a river cruise ship, being able to unpack your suitcases and leave everything in the same place for a week or more is like staying in Room-Verandaa hotel for that length of time. The difference is that these hotels are on the move and consequently, so are you. Maybe that’s why people call cruise ships floating hotels!

Options: When you’re on a ship, you can do as much or as little as you like. We tend to do much. We’re more likely to be found in a theater for a show or on a shore excursion than sitting in a stateroom or a bar or library. But having all the options is appealing.

People: Everybody’s different, of course, but we’ve made many friends among crew members who work on ships. While we’re not anti-social, we do find people working on ships and living in ports more interesting than fellow passengers. We’ve made a few friends there, too, but the social aspect has never been a motivation for taking a cruise.

Getting there: In this age, flying has become much less fun. We usually still have to fly to get to a port, but imagine how many flights you’d take if you wanted to visit Peru, Chile and Argentina — or France, Italy and Spain — on one trip.

And those are just the high points!

Today at portsandbows.com: Check our our report from Vietnam on the Amadara

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
September 26, 2015
Quebec City, Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston
Inside: $729
Cost per day: $104

Cops, Airline Aid Missing Passenger

Victoria Harbour

Sometimes, it’s just nice to be able to tell a nice story. Like the one that appeared this week in The Province, one of Vancouver’s two daily newspapers, about a passenger who went missing from Jewel of the Seas.

The 65-year-old woman disembarked in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, in mid-morning earlier this month. When the ship was ready to leave for Seattle late that afternoon, the final leg of a week-long Alaska cruise, there was no sign of her. Eventually, after waiting a reasonable time as ship captains are wont to do, Jewel of the Seas had to leave.

Police in Victoria contacted the woman’s family in Buffalo and discovered she had been having symptoms of dementia. Disoriented, she showed up in a downtown hotel and police took her to a nearby hospital to be assessed.

All’s well that ends well, right?

The story gets better. 

One of the cops, Constable Andre Almeida, arranged for her to fly to Seattle in time for her scheduled flight home to New York. He paid for the flight on his own credit card with the idea that he’d be able to cover it with his “points.” And when he was asked about doing that, the constable issued this statement:

“There was no other way to ensure she would make it back home. She needed help. It could be my mom stranded somewhere and I would hope someone would help.”

There’s more.

After a night in hospital, the woman was taken to the airport by the police for her Alaska Airlines flight. The airline reimbursed Constable Almeida, and saw to it that she made her connecting flight to her family.

These days, two segments of society that seem to take a regular beating are police and airlines, so it’s also nice that they’re being recognized for doing something…nice.

Today at portsandbows.com: No more Dancing With The Stars: At Sea

Carnival Magic
7 nights
September 27, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61

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