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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

The Modern Problem Of Picking A Port

With each day, and each violent activity often linked to terrorism, reasonable people who like to travel get even more reasonable. Or concerned. Or paranoid. Or even scared.

Pick an adverb. The uncertainty of traveling abroad — be it in one direction to Europe or in the other to Asia — understandably may leave North Americans more likely to pick a cruise ship departing and returning to a North American port. Not that there are any guarantees that doing so will keep you from being an unsuspecting victim of terrorism.

But even seasoned travelers are at least having second thoughts. Why fly internationally to get on a cruise if you can fly domestically, or better yet drive or take ground transportation to a port of departure?

This is good (okay, more comforting) news for cruise lines with ships that primarily visit the Caribbean, or assorted other warm-weather spots in the Western Hemisphere. Since a Caribbean cruise still out-ranks all others, that would be most of them, yet many have shifted their investments — and some of their ships — to Asia the last couple of years, which in today’s world could mean counting on a local (Asian) clientele.

For North Americans, there is no shortage of options. A quick count shows that there are 21 cruise homeports in this continent: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Galveston, Houston, Charleston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Bayonne, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Anchorage, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, Montreal.

So if you’re an avid cruiser who’s reluctant to fly afar to get to a ship, pick a port.

You may find many kindred spirits.

In the news…

• Two biggest ships (both Royal Caribbean) in southern hemisphere meeting in Sydney

Today at portsandbows.comChristmas markets with Viking in Europe

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
December 13, 2015
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92

Vancouver Reducing Boarding Time


Since 9-11, “clearing customs” has run the gamut of being everything from a nightmare to a piece of cake for international travelers…more often a bad dream than a sweet treat.

Among other things, and in the interests of making it easier for the masses to navigate their way in and out of the U.S., the complications have spawned trusted traveler programs and, more recently, automated terminals for airline passengers in many airports.

Port of VancouverVancouver’s cruise terminal has 10 machines. It’s the first time U.S.-bound cruise passengers have been able to utilize automated passport technology.

Translation: quicker embarkation.

It’s called BorderXpress, and if you’re taking an Alaska cruise from Vancouver this year, you should make note of it so that you’re prepared. If you’re new to Automated Passport Control (as it’s called), you simply scan your passport, answer questions on the screen, pick up your receipt and then meet a customs officer.

It’s supposed to allow customs officer to process four times as many passengersm — or the same number of passengers four times faster. In theory, if it has taken you an hour to board a ship in Vancouver, you should now be able to embark in 15 minutes…or so.

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Director Kurry Pastilong said this:

“The recent evolution of APC for cruise ship passengers is just one more way that the agency is striving to ease the flow of passengers without sacrificing core mission requirements.”

From our experience, it works well in airports. There is every reason to think it will at the Port of Vancouver…and hopefully many other cruise terminals.

In the news…

• Celebrity's Bistro On Five to cost $10, increase of 42%
• Carnival's 'big' news conference set for June 4 in New York 

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival Corp. may add 10th cruise line

Holland America Maasdam
7 nights
June 20, 2015
Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, Quebec City, Montreal
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Timeline For Boarding 6,200 Passengers

ON BOARD ALLURE OF THE SEAS — Here you have the biggest cruise ship in existence. Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. It carries 6,000-plus. On this cruise, 6,200 and change. That means in the space of about four hours, that many passengers must be processed in the cruise terminal and boarded onto the ship.

If you're reading this, you've probably cruised and you probably have an idea how long this normally takes. The window is usually from about noon to 4 p.m., give or take an hour.

But on the biggest ship in the world?

We had no idea, so we kept track, and this was our timeline…

1:16 p.m. — Hotel shuttle arrives at Fort Lauderdale terminal

1:19 p.m. — Four bags checked and gone

1:23 p.m. — Arrive at check-in line

1:31 p.m. — Check-in complete

1:33 p.m. — Obligatory photos in front of poster of ship

1:35 p.m. — Reach line to board the ship

1:37 p.m. — Seated to wait for call to board (done in groups)

1:59 p.m. — Called to board

2:03 p.m. — Waiting in line to enter gangway

2:04 p.m. — On gangway

2:07 p.m. — Step onto Allure of the Seas

2:12 p.m. — In stateroom after climbing five flights of stairs

Considering that 22 minutes was sitting in a waiting room, 56 minutes from start to finish is pretty good.

Getting off, of course, is a different story. The great unknown, always, is "clearing customs."

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: New ship on river for Tauck

Crown Princess
7 nights
August 9, 2014
AnchorageHubbard GlacierGlacier BaySkagwayJuneauKetchikan
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Cruise Lament: The Queen Has Left New York

Sadly, we had an email from a good friend who was going across the Atlantic on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 this week. Sadly, because he "was" going.

Our friend had a flight into New York on Friday morning. Because of weather and heavy traffic in the New York area, his flight was cancelled. No problem. There was another flight that would get him there in time…just in time, but in time nonetheless.

Fifteen minutes before the flight left, another announcement. Another delay. This one was two hours. End of travel day, end of cruise.

The ship left at 5 p.m., without him on board.

"I checked later and found out that flight got to New York at 7:45," he wrote. "By then the Queen Mary 2 was well on its way past the Statue of Liberty and heading out to the Queen Mary 2Atlantic. I know these things happen but it's always to the other guy, not me. Very disappointing and still can't believe it. I have had nothing but good luck and good times on the 10 cruises I have taken in the past six years…until now."


As we lamented his misfortune this weekend, we reminded ourselves to make sure — especially on long but also on short flights — to make sure we arrive in the city of departure the day before our cruise.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Negotiating the "Middle" Rhine River

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
10 nights
August 18, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return):  CharlestonKing’s WharfNassauCoco Cay
Inside: $819
Cost per day: $81

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