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Southeast Asia Tourist Visas 

It’s likely that more North American cruisers will be visiting Southeast Asia, if not this winter then certainly in the foreseeable future, because more cruise lines from both genres are establishing a stronger presence.

As first-timers to that part of the world this year, we had to be educated about the coming and going to countries we’d never come to or gone from before 2015.

That would be tourist visas.

In our case, we were going on the new AmaWaterways river cruiser, the AmaDara, and it goes up and down the Mekong River in both Cambodia and Vietnam. In terms of customs, that meant coming to Cambodia and going from Vietnam. If you’re particularly nervous about this, the cruise lines will make it as easy as possible for you — through a third party, at a price we didn’t want to pay.

So we decided to go it alone, and here’s what we discovered…

Cambodia: This can be done online at the Embassy of the King of Cambodia. All you Cambodia visaneed is a passport, some time and a credit card. One cautionary note…your passport must be valid for six months from the date you enter Cambodia. The process took about a week. We printed the e-Visas at home. The cost: about $40 US.

Vietnam: Perhaps because it’s a Communist country, this was slightly more complicated, Visa-Bob copybut it’s still an online process and your passport only needs to be valid for one month from when the Vietnam visa expires. Again, the process from submission to receipt of the visas took about a week, and came by mail. The cost: $110.

For both, we paid $300 US. The process was not at all intimidating, contrary to what we’d anticipated.

Had we gone through the third party to get our tourist visas, the cost would have been $412 each…$824 for both.

In the news…

• Financing in place for Royal Caribbean’s fourth and fifth Quantum Class ships
• Fake doctor treated passengers on Aida ships for five years arrested in Berlin
• Contrary to reports, Star Cruises won’t be deploying ships to the Mediterranean

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views you can use

Enchantment of the Seas
3 nights
May 16, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $201
Cost per day: $67

If Sick, May It Be On A Cruise Ship

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been at least three reports of airlifting cruise passengers from ships for medical reasons…obviously emergencies.

A week ago, on the Carnival Triumph, an eight-month-old baby was having seizures and had to be airlifted to Houston.

Earlier in the month, a 51-year-old woman on the Carnival Magic was taken from the ship by helicopter 180 miles from Galveston after suffering from respiratory problems.

Also last month, near New Zealand, a 23-year-old passenger had a suspected heart attack and was flown from the Seabourn Odyssey to a hospital.

The bottom line is what one ship’s doctor told us last year.

“The best place to have a heart attack, or many other medical problems, is on a cruise ship,” he said. “You pick up the phone in your stateroom, call the medical center, and we’re in your room within minutes. And we have all the equipment needed to deal with such emergencies.”

And when necessary, to bring in a helicopter.

That doesn’t mean medical emergencies always have happy endings. It just means there’s a good chance that they will.

And of course this applies to the thousands of people who work on ships, too.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas
3 nights
April 24, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, Coco Cay
Inside: $284
Cost per day: $94

Princess Pioneer Gone Not Forgotten

With the passages of time comes the re-telling of old stories, some of them fascinating. A case in point is the story of Stanley McDonald, who died a few days ago at 94. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship (and it’s safe to assume you have), this is a man who has touched your life.

He was the founder of Princess Cruises. Enter the interesting story. 

In 1960, living in a city soon to host the World’s Fair (Seattle), he chartered a ship in Canada and sailed south with the idea of providing much-needed hotel space for the World’s Fair. He included a cruise from California to British Columbia. That led to the Stanley McDonaldcreation of Princess and the neat story of a cruise line which this year is celebrating its 50th birthday.

But you never sailed on Princess?

Doesn’t matter. By kick-starting the cruise business as he did, it’s not a stretch to say McDonald is responsible for what cruising has become, to mention being at least partly responsible for The Love Boat on TV. But it goes beyond that. After selling Princess Cruises to P&O, he and a partner founded another cruise company called “Sundance Cruises.”

Today, that cruise company is Royal Caribbean.

Along the way, he wrote an autobiography entitled — somewhat immodestly perhaps — The King of Cruise and for the last 34 years of his life, McDonald wasn’t connected to Princess Cruises. Yet he was never forgotten.

Last month, at the launch of 50th anniversary celebrations, his daughter told the Seattle Times that she went to Florida on his behalf and her dad was on the phone from his bed to listen to the naming ceremony of the newest ship, the Regal Princess. She returned home with an anniversary tee-shirt, courtesy of of Gavin MacLeod, who was Captain Stubing in The Love Boat.

When Stanley McDonald died in his sleep, he was wearing the tee-shirt.

– Seattle Times photo

Today at portsandbows.com: A 24-hour pub?

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas
4 nights
December 8, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): CocoCayNassau
Inside: $119
Cost per day: $29


Princess Floats With Fun Idea

Ahoy, ye landlubbers! You’ve seen cruise ships sitting on the top of cliffs impersonating hotels. You’ve seen the innards of cruise ships outside a football stadium, attending tailgate parties.

How about “sailing” down Colorado Boulevard in Los Angeles?

That’s where the Regal Princess — or a reasonable facsimile of it — will be on New Year’s Day. The ship (it doesn’t arrive in North America until November 10) has been turned into a float in a parade. Now there’s a double entendre of sorts…the ship’s a-float, and the ship’s a float.

Rose Bowl floatThis will be the first time Princess has been in America’s best-known parade, which serves as a prelude to its best-known college football game. It will be just a little smaller than its matron — 60 feet long, 24 feet high — and it will be made of flowers, because that’s what floats are in the Rose Bowl Parade, when the six original cast members of The Love Boat will be riding on the “deck.”

This “Regal Princess” has already been christened, two weeks ahead of the one that doesn’t cruise down Colorado Boulevard. That means she already has a Godmother, Princess Vice-President of PR Julie Benson, who as she smashed a bottle of bubbly (or confetti) on the float’s bow declared: “I name this float Regal Princess. May God bless her and all who cruise down Colorado Boulevard on her.”

In addition to seizing a photo op that will be viewed by 80 million TV watchers on January 1, Princess is clearly having some fun with the concept.

Maybe the next step will be to have her on display on a Princess ship.

They can call it The Love Float.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas
4 nights
November 17, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $37

Monday Night Football — not the REAL Attraction

Princess Cruises is promoting the fact that passengers can now watch Monday Night Football on 11 of its ships, all of them with U.S.-based departures. Watching NFL games on a big screen on a cruise ship is nothing new. 

The first time for us was a game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. It was four years ago, a time when there wasn't as much interest in the Seahawks as there is these days, and the game didn't attract a sell-out crowd at the back of the BigScreen-footballship. Maybe it was the teams, which finished that season with a combined record of 12-20.

What is new, and clever, about the Princess promotion is that they're calling it a different version of a tailgate party. Specifically, it's called a Tailgate at Sea.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

The big screens are always around outdoor food areas at the back, and where's there's food there's drink. Drinking is what tailgate parties are all about and the bad thing about when they're outside a stadium is that the participants then have to drive home. On the ships, home is only a deck or two away.

There's also a pool, and probably a hot tub, so you can eat and drink by the pool, swim or lounge in bubbling hot water, and see a game that's hand-picked to be competitive, at least when the season begins that's the way it's perceived.

All that and Jon Gruden, too.

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas
4 nights
December 9, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): CocoCayNassau 
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $39


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