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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

Friday File: Beaches of Beauty

If you think a beach is a beach is a beach, which people who don’t lie in the sun might feel inclined to do, then you haven’t met our son-in-law. He will structure his family’s vacations around the quality of the beaches. Prompted by his discriminating eye, we’re re-visiting some that we’ve at least seen in our cruise travels…

TulumTULUM: This picture is taken from the ancient ruins of Tulum, and its accompanying beach provides an alternative for cranky teenagers (or adults) more interested in sunshine than sun gods.

GREAT STIRRUP CayGREAT STIRRUP CAY: This is Norwegian’s private island, which means this is Norwegian’s private beach, available only to its cruise-ship passengers. It has everything you might want, especially people.

BarcelonaBARCELONA: You don’t expect to find palm trees, or beaches like this, in Barcelona…at least we didn’t. The lack of beach-goers had more to do with the time of year (May) than the quality of sand. 

Huatulco-2HUATULCO: A nice spot frequented mostly by the locals who live near this pretty place in southern Mexico, and just a short cab ride from the Celebrity Millennium…well worth whatever it cost us.

St. MaartenST. MAARTEN: The bar from which this shot is taken does a booming business all day, thanks mostly to cruise tourists from Philipsburg, 20 minutes away from being this close to landing jets.

MIAMI: There are places that lay claim to being the most famous of beaches, but is there one better known than Miami Beach (okay, Fort Lauderdale) and its view for passing cruise ships?
ArubaARUBA: White sandy beaches that stretch seven miles along this tiny island, flanked by some of the most expensive hotels you’ll find. The good news is the beaches are all public — it’s the law.
Costa MayaCOSTA MAYA: A popular Mexican port still recovering from Hurricane Dean (2007) doesn’t have a lot to do within walking distance of the ship, but this beach near the pier is a hotspot for passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Koningsdam coming to America

Royal Princess
14 nights
April 25, 2015
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCorkRotterdamBrusselsSouthampton
Inside: $696
Cost per day: $49


Company For World's Top Cruise Ports

Miami…Fort Lauderdale…Port Rashid…

Notice the apparent disconnect?

Well, not so fast.

The acknowledged kinds of cruise ports are  Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Proven to send more than eight million people off on their favorite cruise ships every year. Gateways to the Caribbean, primarily, and that’s still where most people go on their first cruise. Also their second, third, fourth…

Port Rashid?

That’s the new, world-class cruise port in Dubai. It opened on Friday. It is the largest cruise terminal in the world, and there’s a lot of that kind of thing happening in the Port Rashidoil-rich United Arab Emirates, probably for decades now. It’s capable of handling 14,000 passengers every day. Joining two older terminals at the port, it’s capable of handling more than seven million passengers every year.

That’s almost Miami and Fort Lauderdale combined.

Granted, it’s still speculation…and this is the Middle East.

Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) was Porthole Cruise Magazine’s “Best Domestic Port” and “World’s Top Cruise Port” in 2013. It was home to nine cruise lines, 43 cruise ships and several times broke daily records for number of passengers processed.

Is there a challenger on the horizon?

Today at portsandbows.com: Amber Cove…coming in 2015

Crown Princess
3 nights
January 3, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49

Relief for Customs Lines in Florida?

Twice last month we disembarked from a cruise ship at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The first time, there was a short delay in clearing customs. The second time, it felt like we were at Disneyland or Disney World, in one of those never-ending lines that keep moving to think you're making progress.

Yesterday…good news.

Port Everglades is one of 16 partners in a program which allows for additional customs officers when required. As in…when a cruise ship arrives.

It's no surprise to port officials that Customs is often short-staffed when cruise passengers are leaving ships but, until now, there was no solution. Especially in Port Port EvergladesEverglades, where two 6,000-passenger ships — Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas — come and go every week.

Now there is a solution, providing the port's customers (the cruise lines) request and pay for additional service.

Yes, it could have the hint of a "new tax" for cruise passengers…doesn't it? Or maybe it'll just be buried in the cost of your cruise.

Phil Reimer today: Seabourn expanding 2015-16 itineraries

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
November 1, 2014
San Juan (return): BarbadosSt. LuciaAntiguaSt. MaartenSt. Thomas
Inside $399
Cost per day: $57

Florida Hotel That Doesn't Live Up To Its Name

Okay, maybe it is better to arrive in your port of departure the DAY before your ship leaves. That's our mantra, but sometimes we deviate from it — all for good reason — as we did this month en route to boarding the Allure of the Seas.

We paid for our deviation, big-time.

Flying from the west, and facing excessive air fares, we took the old red-eye and landed in Fort Lauderdale just after 5 a.m. With the time change, that's 2 a.m. body time, and we had decided to give our bods the endurance test of surviving until we boarded the ship about 12 hours later.

However, after landing and feeling the way we were, a better option seemed to find a bed reasonably close to both the airport and the cruise terminal. In Fort Lauderdale, that's relatively easy to do because they're almost in the same neighborhood.

We found a hotel called Sleep Inn that had shuttles to both. The room price was good: $70 plus tax — hey, we only needed the room for six hours. The shuttle was late, the hotel wasn't exactly close to either the airport or the cruise terminal, and by the time we peeled back the covers  it was 7 a.m.

Okay, five hours' sleep.

At 8:30, the maid was banging on the door, wanting in to clean the room. We told her, approximately, to go away. At 9:15, we were awakened by the key rapping sharply against the door. We decided to call the front desk to complain, or at least interrupt her routine, which would be infinitely better than having her interrupt ours. Oh, did we mention that the room phone was dead?

Back to sleep. Again.

Until 10:25, when the return of the maid was greeted with an even angrier response from within. Then again, at 11:55…since it was almost time to get up and dressed, this time we did.

You may have noticed the name of the hotel: Sleep Inn.

Bad name, because "sleeping in" isn't allowed.

Next time, we'll book a room in advance, without "maid service." 

Or arrive a day early.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Space-Ships picture more Scenic than ever

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
September 7, 2014
Long Beach (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $67

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