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Cruise Lines, Passengers In A Fog In Texas

 

The current four-letter word for cruise-ship passengers in Texas is F-O-G. Ordinarily, it's a three-letter word that nobody on a cruise ship cares much about…

Until your ship can't leave and consequently that Caribbean port you badly wanted to visit is now off the itinerary.

Until your ship can't return when it's scheduled to return, and by then your plane has left, you have to spend a night in a hotel and you're in danger of missing Sunday dinner at Aunt Clara's.

Until it impacts on safety, and in this era that rarely happens but it could happen in Houston's ship channel (above) where cruise and cargo vessels don't have a lot of elbow room — or margins of error.

At various times this January, ships in Houston-Galveston waters have been on fog lockdown, either stuck in port or out in the bay waiting to get back. Visibility at both Houston airports has ranged between 1/16th and 1/8th of a mile. This is not a new problem. Talented travel writers Harry and Joan Shattuck has lived in Houston for 43 years (and we've been friends almost all of that time) and have become so accustomed to foggy Januarys that Harry can't remember one without fog. 

Also some Februarys, Marchs…

The good news this week is, now that the Pacific Northwest cold front that caused all this has left, Texans expect to have clear skies by the weekend.

Almost three years ago, Carnival President Gerry Cahill told Harry that Galveston was an attractive place to cruise from but its port officials "had to get a handle on fog to make things work long-term."

At that time, there were no ships in Houston. Princess started sailing from Houston this winter and, at last count, the Caribbean Princess had cruises delayed four times. Norwegian will be there next year. When you think of the logistical nightmare that fog can cause for the cruise lines, not to mention its passengers, it begs the question:

How long can they afford to continue running mid-winter cruises from Texas?

Photo by Louis Vest

Carnival Valor
7 nights
May 11, 2014
San Juan (return): St. ThomasBarbadosSt. LuciaSt. KittsSt. Maarten
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $65
www.carnival.com

So Who's Really in the Fog in Texas?

News item: A blanket of fog kept 60 vessels from moving in or out of the Houston Ship Channel…

If you haven’t heard, the vessels included cruise ships. If you haven’t heard, some passengers were livid. And if you haven’t heard, the only time fog is generated by anything or anyone but Mother Nature it’s when they use for effect at entertainment events. Dry ice, it’s called.

Lividity, thy name is folly.

Okay, vacations were spoiled — or least diminished — by the fog off the coast of Texas last weekend. Three ships were in the area — the Ecstasy (right) and the Conquest from Carnival, and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas — and all were affected.

Carnival got the worst of it. The Ecstasy was forced to sit six miles from the channel for a day. That not only delayed its return to Galveston, but also its next departure, so two ships of passengers were affected.

Incoming Ecstasy passengers were assisted, presumably financially when necessary, in changing flights if they missed theirs. Outgoing Ecstasy passengers were offered full refunds if they passed on the cruise that had to be shortened by a day, or 50% refunds if they went on the 3-day cruise with port change — Progreso, Mexico instead of Montego Bay, Jamaica.

For some passengers, it wasn’t enough. At the risk of being apologists for Carnival, did they really think the cruise line should be liable for fog that made the channel unsafe?

Should somebody have reimbursed us for the vacation we spent in Honolulu, lying on the beach for a week, wrapped in towels, in the rain? In hindsight, we’d rather have been on a cruise ship in the fog.

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