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Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings!

Cruise pictures that require no description at this time of year, other than to accompany them with wishes for peace, happiness and safe cruising…


Canuck Place

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Christmas decorations in Progreso

celebrity reflection


Holland America Noordam
14 nights
February 13, 2016
Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Akaroa, Dunedin, Melbourne, Burnie, Eden, Sydney
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $71

Friday File: A Market In Vietnam

In a country such as Vietnam, markets are far more than tourist attractions; they are the lifeblood of its people, who depend on catches of the day and main courses that North Americans regard as delicacies for their survival. For locals, every day is market day, sometimes without closures. Fellow cruisers on AmaWaterways’ new river ship AmaDara had an opportunity to visit this Cai De market, not far from Ho Chi Minh City, and to photograph its contents and its people…

1-dozens of rice varieties

Southeast Asia seems to have as many types of rice as it has dialects.

2-a family affair

Markets are family affairs for vendors, and the youngest learn that early.

3-yep...those are rats

To the question “Are those what I think they are?” the answer is “Yes — rats.”

4-winning smile

A friendly wave and winning smile, trademarks of the Vietnamese people.

5-the dollar store of the market

The dollar store of Cai De’s market, on the shores of the Mekong River.

6-Live chickens

Yes, those are chickens and they’re alive only until winding up on a plate.

7-Vietnamese hats

Beneath the conical hat’s perfect cone is a woman happy at work in the market.

8-even games of chance...

This was a surprise but maybe shouldn’t have been — games of chance sold here.

9-If there was an award for best sox..

If Cai De had an award for coolest socks, chances are this would be a winner.

In the news…

• Explorer of the Seas rocked with tornado-like winds off Australian coast
• MSC confirms private island in Bahamas to be Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
• Three norovirus outbreaks in three months on cruise ships in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara unveils itineraries three years early

Holland America Noordam
7 nights
May 1, 2016
Vancouver (return): Inside Passage, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Deal Too Good, Too Late To Be True

Normally, we let our “Daily Deal” deliver some value cruises for you to consider but once in a while there’s something extraordinary that deserves an even better treatment…A couple Allureof days ago we had one — you do notice that’s past tense, right?…It was a Transatlantic trip on Allure of the Seas, the (starting) price was $659 with 50 per cent off for the second guest, plus up to $200 for an on-board credit…For 12 days, it worked out to less than $50 a day on one of the two biggest cruise ships in the world, as long as bookings were made by January 31…Well, guess what?…Today is January 20, and it’s no longer available…Obviously, eagle-eyed consumers snapped up the rooms but it does leave you wondering how many Royal Caribbean made available in the promotion.

Now here’s a clever idea: When the AIDAsol arrived in Vietnam this week, immigration AIDAsolofficials boarded the ship at Buoy 1, three hours before docking at Tan Cang-Cai Mep, to process the 2,176 passengers, most of them German…By the time the AIDA ship reached the port, the process was finished and passengers were able to disembark right away…On their most recent health inspections, in Fort Lauderdale, two Holland America ships — the Noordam and the Zuiderdam — were perfect (100) in scores by the Centers for Disease Control.

The line-up for the Olympics has begun…The Norwegian Getaway is first in the line-up of cruise ships for Rio de Janeiro, where the Summer Games will be staged in 2016…The Getaway will be impersonating a hotel from August 5-21 next year, just like its smaller Getawaysibling, the Jade, did at the 2012 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia…With a capacity close to 4,000, the Getaway will help take some of the stress off Rio’s hotels, at the same time providing its “passengers” with luxurious accommodation and presumably earning a few “reals” — you didn’t know that’s what Brazilian currency was called, did you? — for the cruise line…The Getaway has experience at this, having served as a floating hotel at last year’s Super Bowl in New York…It doesn’t hurt that Getaway’s ambiance and treatment are decidedly Spanish.

Super BowlFile this one in the “When Will It End?” drawer…In a major Canadian newspaper (Toronto Star) there was a story about Carnival’s advertising on TV during the Super Bowl next week, and the second paragraph read: “Carnival, of course, is the line whose ship, Triumph, became a PR disaster in early 2013, when it got stuck at sea for almost a week due to an engine fire”…Seriously?…That was two years ago and, after all the things Carnival has done to restore its public stature, the cruise line hardly needed a Super Bowl ad to make image amends.

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's latest technology

Carnival Triumph
10 nights
February 20, 2015
San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix, Falmouth, Galveston
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $54

Regent Entertainment: Cirque's The Word

In the course of refurbishing its three ships, luxury line Regent Seven Seas has addressed the growing need for cruises to include entertainment (that's with a capital 'E'), even when space is at a premium.

For those of us who have never sailed Regent Seven Seas, they are small ships by traditional ocean standards. The Mariner and the Voyager are the biggest, each carrying 700 passengers. Little sister Navigator carries 490. So, when you have small ships and large accommodations (the ships are all suites and balconies), by the time you have places for customers to eat and drink and lounge, theaters are at best modest.

But all three ships have been renovated — okay, refurbished — since May 2012, the Mariner having just emerged from its remake. Also renovated was the cruise line's Cirque Rock n Rollentertainment program. Building on what seems to be attractive on the ocean industries big ships, Regent Seven Seas has focused on the "cirque" of Cirque du Soleil, the world-famous aerial conglomerate that doesn't have a trademark on the first word of its business, cirque. As a result, you will see "cirque" style shows elsewhere, and one of those places is on the Regent ships.

On the Mariner, it's Cirque Rock 'n Roll, which the cruise line describes as "a musical tour through history" from Elvis to Beyonce featuring "jaw-dropping aerial performances." Those of us who were introduced to cirque shows and pop music can't help but think all this started with Love, and the music of The Beatles, in Las Vegas.Navigator

On the Voyager, it's Cirque L'Amour, a tribute to the city of love, Paris, and "its renowned nightlife featuring a stunning aerial ballet with romantic displays of human power and trust." Hmm…

Both ships have the Constellation Theater, built overt two decks and with a new LED wall to enhance the productions and assorted upgrades to make the audience more comfortable.

On the Navigator, it's Cirque Navigator in the Navigator Theater. Since this is the smallest ship (just 566 feet long) we have to assume it's the smallest show…taking "the audience to a fantasy forest with choreography showcasing modern dance, aerial feats, Celtic dance and classic ballroom routines."

Regent is introducing a dozen new productions in all and it's clear that "cirque" is the headliner. What will be interesting now is what the cruise line does two years from now on Explorer, the first new ship since it became known as Regent Seven Seas, because there will be no existing space limitations when it comes to entertainment.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Noordam
11 nights
July 1, 2014
BarcelonaMarseilleMonte CarloCalviFlorence, La Goulette, PalermoNaplesRome
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $90

Disastrous Fallout From Cruise Ship Death

And then there's the story about the cruise line that appears to know nothing about public relations, not to mention human decency…

In a story that is all over TV and newspapers in Great Britain, a rogue wave smashed into a British "cruise ship" during a storm in the English Channel last week, breaking windows as high as the sixth deck. It was there that an elderly couple was having dinner when water crashed through four windows of the ship's restaurant, instantly killing 85-year-old James Swinstead from Essex.

The ship was the Marco Polo, operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, and it was returning from 42 days on the other side of the world — the Amazon and the West Marco PoloIndies. While 15 others were injured, Mr. Swinstead was the only fatality and his wife Helen told The Guardian she believed the ship was "badly maintained."

The Swinsteads didn't have enough insurance coverage to take her husband to his final resting place. Said Mrs. Swinstead: "I think the shipping company should give some sort of compensation. The ship was badly maintained. Four windows blew. I told my husband it was going to leak because there was a rusty puddle on the windowsill.

Legally, the cruise line is not obliged to compensate her. In the name of public relations, you would think the cruise line would do something for her…and it did.

She was offered 25 per cent off her next holiday with the cruise line.

Can anybody say "insult?"

— photo credit: Tvabutzku

Holland America Noordam
22 nights
April 15, 2014
Rome (return): MessinaVallettaArgostoliCorfuKotorDubrovnikKorculaSplitVeniceOlympiaNauplionAthensEphesusMykonosRhodesSantoriniNaples
Inside: $1,949
Cost per day: $88

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