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NCL Ship Crew the Pride of America


Anybody who has been on a cruise ship and who has taken the time to find out already knows that cruise lines strive to be environmentally responsible, in as many ways as possible.

Times have changed. Raw waste is no longer dumped into the ocean. Garbage from ships is no longer dumped into bins at the next port. Plastic and styrofoam containers are no longer the drink container of choice.

In Hawaii, Norwegian Cruise Line employees go even further — Hawaii and Norwegian are by no means the only place and people, respectively, doing things like this. But there is a regular clean-up program in Hawaii, all year long.

Last week, crew members from the Pride of America orchestrated a beach clean-up in Maui, at Kanaha Beach Park. In February, P of A crew members did the same thing in Kauai, at Nawiliwili Harbor. That one was particularly interesting because it involved students from a local school and enabled them to study what comes from the ocean — even from a tsunami — and to log items in a statewide database.

Is there a better way to breed a new generation of eco responsibility?

On several cruises, we've been fortunate enough to visit the bowels (pardon the pun) of the ship, where trash is incinerated or crushed for unloading at a port and where ocean water is de-salienated and recycled as potable water on the ship. Never have we seen a "garbage dump" so clean.

In Hawaii, the Pride of America is a natural responsible corporate citizen. It sails around the Hawaiian Islands 52 weeks a year, taking 2,500 passengers a week to Kahului (Maui), Hilo, Kona and Kauai.

The ship is an interesting study. It was ordered in 1999 by American Classic Voyages, which went bankrupt in 2001. Norwegian picked up the unfinished ship in 2003 and has been sailing it in Hawaii for seven years. Partially built in the U.S., it is the only new major cruise line ship in the 50 years to fly the American flag.

Truly, she reflects the "Pride" of America…and nowhere more than on the beaches of Hawaii.

Holland America Rotterdam
14 nights
July 7, 2012
Rotterdam (return): Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Tromso, Honningsvag, Alesund, Flam, Stavanger
Inside: $1,625
Cost per day: $116

Viking River Cruise at least Ambitious


Our colleague Phil Reimer, who writes Ports and Bows blogs and column for readers across Canada, recently made a long trip to see Longships, the moniker the rapidly-expanding Viking River Cruises gave its newest line of vessels.

What Phil found, among other things, was the most ambitious river cruisers in the world. He witnessed the christening of the first four of six Longships being launched this year, and discovered Viking has not just six more coming next year but possibly six more in 2014.

Granted, river cruise ships don't cost nearly as much as ocean liners to build, but clearly Viking is hoping to dominate what has always been a niche market. Maybe it's not so niche now. How ambitious is spending $600 million or so?

Generally, river cruisers carry fewer than 200 passengers. More have more balconies, and they don't have the big-production entertainment that their ocean cousins have. What they have is quality, in food and accommodation and pricing. It's a generally more sedate surrounding, watching the land go by instead of oceans of water.

Having been on a self-styled canal cruise in France — and that's a story for another day — we are intrigued by the astounding growth of river cruising. Why, it's grown to the point where Phil is now dedicating a blog every Friday (20% of his weekly content) just to river cruising, and he's the best there is at taking the pulses of people who cruise.

Holland America Eurodam
12 nights
June 2, 2012
Amsterdam, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Alesund, Geiranger, Flam, Bergen, Kristiansand, Oslo, Copenhagen
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $74

Titanic an Old Story Now…For Now

Mark Lester de Asis laying one of the three commemorative wreaths on Balmoral's Titanic Memorial Cruise on Sunday.

The easy thing to do right now is ignore the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, pretending it didn't exist or that it was at least overblown. The bottom line, however, is that people who like going on cruise ships can never get enough of the Titanic.

Like us.

The Titanic, on the day it slipped away to its demise, was the biggest and most luxurious cruise ship in the world. Today, there are many "Titanics" on the seas, just as big…just as luxurious…and better equipped in almost every way. They are all "children" of the mother ship.

So if you are not like us, which is to say interested in the end of this historic weekend, at least bear with us…

* * * * *

Of all the comments from passengers who were at THAT spot on the Atlantic Ocean at 2:20 a.m. Sunday, the most poignant one was from a British passenger named Jane Allen whose great-uncle, Thomas Pears, died on the ship:

“When you look down over the side of the ship and you realize that every man and woman who was not fortunate enough to get into a lifeboat had to make that decision of when to jump or to stay with the ship, until the lights went out. And when the lights went out it must have been horrendous. We witnessed that tonight,” she told the BBC.

* * * * *

One of the Titanic "historians" who wanted to be on Fred.Olsen's MS Balmoral and trace the Titanic's waves was Rod Stewart. Yes, that Rod Stewart, the one who had a hit song called "Sailing."

Stewart was planning to go it alone, because his wife Penny suffers from seasickness. For weeks, the web was full of stories asking: "Would Rod go."

And now the question is: Did he go?

He did not. In fact, a case of the ’flu kept Stewart from where he wanted to go more, on the same day…the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland.

* * * * *

The Balmoral carried 1,350 passengers and 510 crew members. The Azamara Journey, the other ship on an anniversary memorial cruise, carried 694 passengers and407 crew. In total, that means middle-of-the-night memorials were attended by 2,961 people, about 700 more than were on the Titanic.

* * * * *

Wreaths were dropped from and prayers were spoken on the decks of both ships. Meanwhile, ceremonies were also held on land at — among other places — Belfast where the ship was built, Southampton where it embarked on its fateful journey, and Halifax where the first-responders were 100 years ago and where there are many historical reminders, not the least of which is the cemetery where many unknown remains are buried.

* * * * *

The last known photographs taken on board the Titanic have now been digitized, and the New York Daily News is offering a look at them which, if nothing else, is kind of cool. This is the website.

These pictures were taken by a member of the Jesuit order, Major Frank Brown, who was on the ship from Southampton to Ireland. American millionaires offered to pay his passage to New York and when Brown asked for permission, it was refused and he got off the ship in Cobh, Ireland.

* * * * *

And just in case you think this is all over, it's not. At least two companies are still taking passengers in submersibles to see the Titanic at rest, two and a half miles below the surface (one company had to be coaxed out of "retirement" by the demand).

The journeys last 12 days, and the dives are two hours down and two hours up, with another six or eight hours of exploration.

The tab? Between $59,000 and $59,900 per person…and, yes, there is a demand.


Coral Princess
7 nights
June 4, 2012
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $505
Cost per day: $72

Cruise Passengers and Tuxedos

It's not easy buying a tux. It's not easy wearing a tux, or so I'm told. The tuxedo-wearing man I live, cruise and do everything with is no easy study, either. I could count the times in four decades that he's worn one. On my fingers. One hand. No, not even on our wedding day.

It used to be that cruise ships demanded men wear tuxedos to the dining room, if not all the time at least part of the time. In these days or permissiveness in virtually every walk of life, even the queens of stuffiness at Cunard had to relax their "formal wear" mantra, now limited to three formal evenings, two semi-formal and one elegant casual. Cunard passengers aren't forced to wear tuxedos ("formal dark suit and black tie" will do), but many choose to dress to the nines.

You may see men in tuxes in other ships, not in response to a dress code, but just because they want to be. Not my man.

However, everything in life is cyclical. Maybe even mandatory tuxedos on cruise ships. I haven't sprung this on him yet, but I probably won't have to, now that he knows there is a company that rents tuxedos exclusively for wearing on cruise ships. It's called, strangely enough, Cruiseline Formalwear.

As with all clothing, there is a wide range of quality and prices. For $85, you (he) can get the basics, with either a black or white jacket. For $130, he can wear a Calvin Klein and for $160, both black AND white jackets.

If a guy's worried about having his wardrobe reviewed, he might want to BUY a tuxedo. Again, a huge range. The basics can be bought online for $130 but you have to get the pants hemmed (I can do that). On the other hand, if you buy into the recommendation from GQ Magazine, you'll buy plenty — $2,890 for a tux (Burberry), $495 for the shirt (Dior), $170 for the bow tie (Burberry) and $590 for the shoes (Ferragamo).

Who says only a woman can spend a fortune shopping?

Celebrity Silhouette
12 nights
June 12, 2012
Rome, Naples, Catania, Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus, Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Venice
Inside: $1,329
Cost per day: $110

Cruise Ship Port: To Drive or To Fly

One of the problems when trying to get to a cruise port is — often — deciding whether it's better to fly or drive.

We found a helper.

It's called Travel Math (or travelmath if you insist on precision) and it calculates, in rough terms, what you need to know to make that decision. Or at least to make it easier.

Let's take an example. Say you live in Memphis and want to catch a cruise from the Port of Miami.

Driving takes 16 hours. Flying, including estimate driving time to and from the airport and check-in time, takes 3 hours and 27 minutes.

Driving costs $303.61, using gas prices of $3.85 a gallon. Flying costs $296. However, the driving cost includes only for gas, not meals and motel and parking in Miami.

Driving covers 986 miles. Flying 872 miles.

In this example, flying is the way to go. In fact, adjusting for the current price at the pump probably makes it even better. On the other hand, you do have to endure the baggage, security and general annoyances of flying.

Travel Math — that's travelmath.com — isn't conclusive, but it helps.

And it's free.

Diamond Princess
7 nights
June 2, 2012
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $555
Cost per day: $79

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