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Turkey Ports A Victim Of Fear

We’ve never been on a cruise ship that stopped in Turkey. Now, chances are we never will. Such is the cruise climate in this volatile part of the world, even though Istanbul and Kusadesi aren’t in the same area code as places bordering on Syria, where there are daily fears of terrorist attacks.

On the weekend, Crystal Cruises announced Turkey was persona non grata. The Crystal Symphony was scheduled to call at the two popular Turkish ports in late April and early May, but not now. The itineraries have been revised due to the “safety and peace of mind Espritof our guests” and the Symphony will make two more stops in Greece instead. The same goes for Crystal Esprit, a future ship (above) with itineraries that were going to include Turkey. The same goes for Disney cruises that once included Istanbul.

If there’s any irony in this, it’s that avoiding Turkey isn’t exactly the antidote for safety. It’s true that a suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul this month, an act that was obviously the trigger for Crystal’s decision. It’s also true that tourists have either been murdered or in danger of being murdered in Tunisia, and in Paris.

Tourists feel danger everywhere, because murderous attacks strike fear in the hearts and minds of the free world’s population. But it’s all about playing the odds, isn’t it? And in a country that’s geographically close to the troubled Middle East, the odds of being a victim seem higher.

Such is life in today’s world.

In the news…

• Sea trials completed for Holland America Koningsdam
• More Australians than ever booking cruises on P&O ships

Today at portsandbows.comTwo ships coming for Emerald Waterways

Star Princess
7 nights
May 14, 2016
Vancouver (return): Sitka, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Ketchikan
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Crystal Casinos Using On-Board Credits

Crystal casinoTwo things in life that cannot be refuted:

1. We live in a points world.

2. Everybody likes free stuff

And so it is that Crystal Cruises is raising that bar for the rest of the industry, by allowing passengers to convert “on-board credits” into “gambling dollars.”

Starting next month, when the Crystal Symphony sails out of Singapore for Hong Kong, passengers with shipboard credits will be able to convert them into vouchers or chips that they can use in the ship’s casino. In an era when casinos on land regularly offer customers “free play” cruise lines are getting with the times, and why not?

“On-board” credits means spending your money “on board” the ship, doesn’t it?

Neither the credits at the sea nor the free play on land can be redeemed as cash. They have to be “played” but once they are, any winnings can be turned into cash. And on Crystal’s ships, any on-board credits not spent in the casino can be returned to the room account.

Crystal is not the first cruise line to allow this, but usually it comes with a catch. Also a charge. By allowing it to happen without nickel-and-diming the customers — and then talking about it — Crystal is setting this bar higher than it’s ever been.

Today at portsandbows.com: Projection of 23 million cruisers in 2015

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 28, 2015
Los Angeles (return):Puerto VallartaMazatlanCabo San Lucas
Inside: $439
Cost per day: $62

Cruise Voluntourism Crystal Clear


Cruise ships attract poverty. Because passengers are considered affluent, rightly or wrongly, poor people in ports flock to wherever cruise people go, sometimes to sell wares, often to beg. For passengers, this can be a help-or-not-help dilemma, just as it is on the streets of major cities in North America.

Many cruise lines have come to the aid of both.

An organization called Hope Floats went to five Caribbean Islands on the Caribbean Princess to do volunteer work and now arranges such opportunities for individual cruise passengers. Royal Caribbean has taken Oasis of the Seas passengers on voluntourism shore excursions in Cozumel.

Then there's Crystal.

Last year, every trip on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) included a complimentary shore excursion that gave guests and crew a chance to help a "community-in-need." There were 45 such socially-responsible excursions in 2011 and this year there are more.

In January, Crystal added ports in Colombia, Curacao, Spain, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Germany, Croatia, Hawaii and Boston. Now there are more communities in Europe — a social services center in Odessa, a 400-year-old charity brotherhood in southern Italy, supporting disabled persons in Valencia, and protecting endangered marine life in Barcelona.

"The feedback from this program has been incredible, with stories of tears, hugs, pen pals, and generosity above and beyond anything we could have hoped for," says Thomas Mazloum, Crystal's senior vice-president operations. "We are thrilled to continue to 'pay it forward.'"

Everybody wins. Cruise lines, employees and passengers all feel better about themselves, and people who need help get it.

Coral Princess
3 nights
September 17, 2012
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $66

Mexico's Inside Waters Rocky, Too

Over a group lunch on Sunday, we eavesdropped on a conversation in which one person’s daughter was going to Mexico for spring break.

“Isn’t your daughter worried about going to Mexico?” someone asked.

This week, the Mexican Tourism Board is at the Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 trade show, trying and hoping to sell their towns and cities as port stops. Is there a tougher job in tourism right now?

The mere mention of “Mexico” draws skepticism, most often from people who have never been there. We have been many times, going back 40 years, and it’s always been memorable. A trip to Loreto with “three amigos” in tow was for a long time our favourite family vacation, and still ranks in the top five.


It is, or was, a small town about halfway down the peninsula that is Baja California, on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, the inside waters of the Mexican Riviera. Our memories are of great “liquados” (milkshakes), terrifying car rides, gratifying deep-sea fishing (we don’t fish but did there and caught three large yellowtail tuna) and beautiful weather and beaches. And nice people, especially Rosario and Antonio. There are whales but the only ones we saw were by the pool, covered in suntan lotion.

In recent years, Loreto has been a cruise-ship port, on the route that also takes you to little-known (or obscure) ports such as Pichilingue, Guaymas and Topolobampo (and a train ride to the magnificent Copper Canyon as our cruise colleague Phil Reimer discovered just over a year ago). In 2011, Loreto saw an increase of 25% in cruise passengers, to 10,400, primarily from the Crystal Symphony and Holland America’s Zaandam, which has one stop scheduled next spring as it makes its way north to Alaska.

In 2012, nada. No ships. No passengers.

Disney’s Wonder sails by it. Azamara used to sail by but doesn’t any more. Oceania, like Crystal and Holland America, used to stop there, but doesn’t any more.

The tourism people from Mexico have a tough sell this week in Miami, and little Loreto — with no reported murders nor thefts — is the toughest of all.

Carnival Fascination
4 nights
May 3, 2012
Jacksonville (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside $349
Cost per day: $87

Anybody Ready for More Football?

Maybe it’s because a week after the Super Bowl, I’m already in football withdrawal…but after a little arm-twisting I convinced my better half (and I do mean better) that we should write about a cruise with a football theme today.

It leaves New York for England on May 8, and it’s a re-positioning cruise for Crystal. The Symphony (above) stops in Newfoundland and Iceland and Denmark and Norway before disembarkation in Dover.

Along the way — and the way lasts 16 days — three football legends and a referee (sorry, referees never attain legendary status) will be taking part in an “Ocean Views” panel discussion and “sharing inspiring personal stories.”

Two of the four are coaches:

• Don Shula (left), who spent almost all his Hall of Fame career in Miami and coached in three Super Bowls and won twice, with the Dolphins;

• Dick Vermeil (right), who also coached in three Super Bowls and won twice, with Philadelphia and Kansas City.

The other legend is Larry Csonka, half of the backfield that powered the Dolphins to a still-unprecedented 17-0 record in 1973 and, like the coaches, a Hall of Famer.

The referee is Jim Tunney, an icon among the men who wear striped shirts, and the only NFL referee ever to work in consecutive Super Bowls.

The four of them will have a captive audience as they cross the Atlantic, or maybe the audience will have the four of them captive. Says Bret Bullock, Crystal’s vice president of entertainment: “All travelers on board can glean powerful coaching and playing tips for whatever game they’re trying to win in life.”

Maybe, but for the football fan, it’s all about the stories.

Holland America Oosterdam
7 nights
March 10, 2012
San Diego (return): Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas
Inside $549

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