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One for The Ridiculist

We don't know how many of you watch Anderson Cooper on CNN, but we often do so we're familiar with the punctuation mark for each of his shows.

It's called The Ridiculist.

Given that it's self-explanatory, we have a submission…

An Italian husband and wife booked a cruise from Rome to Barcelona, on a cruise line called Grimaldi. When they arrived for embarkation, they were surrounded by TV crews there to cover "Revuelta Gay Cruise" — Italy's first all-homosexual cruise. 

They were shocked.

Then they spotted people they knew but didn't really "know." Their neighbors are gay.

They were embarrassed.

And here is the end result:

The shocked and embarrassed couple from Italy has sued the cruise line owners for $4,357 because nobody told them it was Italy's first gay cruise and they were expecting "a relaxing holiday."

There's no mention of whether they went on the cruise anyway.

Holland America Zuiderdam
4 nights
May 6, 2014
San DiegoVictoriaVancouver
Inside: $249
Cost per day: $62
www.hollandamerica.com

Carnival Latest: What's In A Name?

Give Carnival at least a "B" for imagination in announcing that its newest ship, due in 2016, will be called Vista. That makes Carnival first to the Vista well of names.

This is an age when cruise lines sometimes appear to be running out of names. Witness Norwegian, using contests to ask passengers for proposing names of its lasttwo (and probably next three) ships. Witness the Carnival Dream, Disney Dream, Pacific Dream and SeaDream, not to mention Carnival Liberty and Liberty of the Seas…and Norwegian Sun and Sun Princess.

Copycatting is acceptable.

Vista is new…more or less. Avalon has a river cruiser called Vista. Holland America has a Vista Class of ships but "dam" the word in this fleet because all the names end in "…dam" (Rotterdam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam, etc.).

Vistadam just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

So Carnival comes up with the Vista, and that might be the extent of imagination with this 4,000-passenger newbie. Since it's the only ship Carnival has on order for the next three years, a Vista Class of ships is unlikely, at least for now, because apparently Carnival officials sounded confused when asked about which class of ship this would be. Other than the name, the best the cruise line could do in the Imagination Department was explain the name this way:

"We're starting to use the ship names as a touchstone for how we think about the design. A lot of what we are thinking about for the design and the inspiration is the views out to the ocean."

Views…as in vista.

The new ship will be like the Carnival Breeze, but different from the Breeze (above), and nobody at Carnival is saying what those similarities and differences might be. That's for another day.

And another press conference.

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 29, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $294
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

Creepy Eaties in Southeast Asia

When it comes to food — and we come to food often — one of us is a little fussy and one of us will eat just about anything. We'll let you guess.

As we cruise to places we've never been, and meet locals we've never seen, we often try to enjoy some of the local delicacies on the shore. Even if it's something that has never been our radar, never mind our table.

But spiders?

We were reading a diary-of-sorts from some people who booked a cruise through cruise.co.uk and were reporting back on their experiences, for the benefit of readers, even ones so far from the UK that we'd never book a cruise with that agency. These people had been on a Southeast Asian cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia.

One day's entry was entitled: A Tasty Tarantula.

There was a photo of a local woman with a plate of them, clearly for sale to passersby. There was a picture of the author, about to sink her incisors into a long, black spider. This was either a day after the travelers had been to Angkor Wat, which is a Hindu temple complex that apparently is a must-see the next time you're in Cambodia.

Either that, or it's what you say — "Angkor Wat!!!" — after you eat a tarantula.


Holland America Zaandam
7 nights
May 26, 2013
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Anchorage
Oceanview: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.hollandamerica.com

Bemusement in Bermuda

Now, we don't profess to be experts at reading between lines. Sometimes, all we see is space. However, we're willing to venture into that space to try and give some context to what's happening on the wharf in Bermuda.

Princess has cancelled an April port stop at Heritage Wharf, which is being renovated, and is sending the Emerald Princess to the Azores instead (while this is about 2,000 miles away, the ship is re-positioning to Europe for the summer so it's just being re-routed). That alone will cost Bermuda $400,000, minimum.

The Carnival Splendor is spending two nights at sea instead of going to Bermuda, also in April. Oceania Riviera and MSC Poesia will drop anchor and tender to a different part of the island, and passengers on the Norwegian Dawn will now have to be tendered.

The thread that ties this all together is tendering.

Nobody likes tendering which, for the uninformed, means riding in a small craft when the cruise ship has to anchor off shore. It's a two-way (you hope) trip that generally cuts your shore time by at least an hour.

The cruise lines have reasons for making these changes, of course. Princess says it takes too long to tender the Emerald's 3,200 passengers, if all go ashore. Oceania and MSC indicated passenger safety in the construction area could be an issue. Norwegian seems to feel the same way and Carnival, well…is just staying at sea.

And then there's this statement from the local Chamber of Commerce President, Ronnie Viera:

"Our concern needs to be for the visitor’s experience and not about squabbling over who conducts the tenders or whether the ships use their own tenders."

Squabbling?

In that space between the lines, does that mean at least some of this is not about passenger inconvenience or safety after all, but about the cost of tendering?


Holland America Zuiderdam
22 nights
April 19, 2013
Fort Lauderdale: Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal, Puerto Caldera, Corinto, Puerto Chiapis, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, San Diego, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $1,229
Cost per day: $55
www.hollandamerica.com

Jewels of cruising on a Crown Princess

Ten things we liked about the Crown Princess, the ship that in seven days carried us to three Western Caribbean ports from Galveston, in no particular order:

The Ultimate Ship Tour

Usually, tours of the innards of a ship are a one-time experience because a galley is a galley, a print shop is a print shop and a laundry is a laundry. This one was almost three hours and the time flew, even during the longest stop, the Princess Theater. If there was something we didn't see in the theater (okay, we missed seeing performers changing costumes), we'd be hard-pressed to find it, and we left with a genuine sense of what it's like on the other side of the stage lights. And, of course, it never gets tiring to visit the bridge of a cruise ship.

The Cruise Director

Lisa Ball has been honing her skills for almost six years on Princess ships. Unlike some cruise directors, her style is not "over the top" and she is the epitome of professionalism. And if you'd like to know more about her, check on our blog regularly.

Muster Drill

Are you kidding? How can anybody like a muster drill, the "fasten your seat belts" instruction, to use a flight analogy? This one lasted nine minutes, was taped by the captain, played regularly on state-room televisions and covered everything ("If you do go in the water…"). And guess what? At our muster station, everybody was listening for a change.

Man from Vines

Vines is the wine tasting bar that's part of the piazza, the Princess moniker for an atrium. The wines were fine, as they say, but the real star was the ship's lone sommelier. Eduardo Angulo Solis seems a little un-traditional as sommeliers go, encouraging customers to pair food and wine and decide for themselves what works, with a little coaching from an expert. This young man from Chile takes a leave from Princess to spend a year studying to become only the second master sommelier in his homeland, Chile.

The Elevators

At first it was a game: Which side of the door will the illuminated buttons for each deck be on, because they always seemed to be on the side where you didn't look. Then we realized we weren't the only ones playing the game…most passengers were asking the same question, and most were getting it wrong. Talking about it beat elevator music.

Gatsby's

This is the trade name for Princess casinos, and we didn't like it for the reasons you might think, but for the one night on the cruise when smoking was banned. Not everybody agreed…we did see one woman, playing a slot machine and chewing on an unlit cigarette.

Space in Balcony Rooms

On most cruise ships, it's hard to find room for all your clothes, some of which get tucked into drawers and cabinets made for other things. On the Crown Princess, the closet was about eight feet long and, with shelves on top and an adjacent cabinet, why….we clearly didn't bring enough clothes!

The Piazza

This is going to be a staple on Princess ships, and we can see why. It's a gathering spot, as atriums always are, but the Princess Piazzas are busy and entertaining, and adorned with many things Italian (the pizzas are coming!)

Captain Andrew Proctor

A Scotsman of the sea (how many of those are there), he didn't agree to an interview, but he did tell us the secret to making haggis edible: "Mashed tatties [potatoes], mashed turnip…and 12-year-old gravy!"

The Crown Grill

As spectacular as the filet mignon was at this specialty restaurant ($25), the side plates of potatoes and spinach and cream corn and French fries (and more) were perhaps more impressive. It prompted this comment: "I could make a meal of the sides." Yes, even without the 12-year-old gravy.


Holland America Zuiderdam
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Vancouver (return): Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

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