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A Taste Of Italy For Japan’s Cruisers

Sushi, meet pizza. Saki, meet cappuccino. Geisha, meet Sophia.

That’s the short way of saying Japan is going to get a taste of Italy, courtesy of Costa Cruises. This 67-year-old cruise line is dedicated to being Italian, even when its ships are as far away as northern Asia, and to that end Costa will operate 10 six-night cruises in Japan next year.

The Costa Victoria, by then 20 years old, has been dressed up to look like an energetic kid. An $18-million refurbishing can do that. In fact, when she’s cruising from Maizuru, Kanazawa and Fukuoka next summer, the kids (13 and under) on board will be there free of charge.

The Victoria is known to Japanese cruisers, but only as a visitor, making port stops from China. Now she will have itineraries that focus on short family retreats, because her time in CostaJapan is during summer breaks and holidays — peak travel time. And while the itineraries will be around Japan, but for a quick trip to South Korea (Pusan), the ship will be all Italian.

That’s the Costa way.

The ship, like its 13 Costa siblings, is designed for Italians, or people who wish they were, or want to see what it would be like to be Italian. That means the elegant (some might say) loud colors, the cuisine (oops, a French word), the wine, the gregarious nature and always-smiling faces of the crew, and the…well, the Italian way.

You don’t have to drink Chianti and have spumoni for dessert, but it might help.

More than 60 per cent of the Italian people who cruise do so on Costa ships, so you know everything has to be “the Italian way.” Other Europeans must like it because they make up another 30 per cent of the Costa clientele. North Americans like a little of Italy on the waters, because three Costa ships are now in the Caribbean.

About the only thing that’s not Italian on Costa ships is the language. It’s English. Well, with a little Italian on the side.

In the news…

• It’s official: ‘Margaritaville At Sea’ will have a-la-carte menus
• Def Leppard to headline 4-night cruise from Miami on MSC Divina
• Grand Princess loses power after small engine-room fire near Hawaii

Today at portsandbows.comUn-Cruise Adventures time

Costa Deliziosa
10 nights
January 16, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Freeport, Amber Cove, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $82

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

Grand Princess Starting a Trend?


To put cruise ships in an athletic context, they're like floating free agents. Every city wants one of its own. The economic impact of having a star of the sea around year after year makes the bean counters salivate. It's one thing to have cruise ships stop by with a few thousand tourists from time to time…it's quite another to know that the big ship (whatever it is) will be down by the bay, forever taking on and disembarking passengers who have money to spend down by the bay.

The security of having this happen for 12 months a year is overwhelming. Lebron James has nothing on ships like the Grand Princess.

This is a ship that underwent the largest and most expensive renovation in the history of Princess Cruise Lines. And it's going to San Francisco, the latest free-agent signing in the cruise world. The ship-port marriage makes sense. Princess has had ships cruising out of San Francisco for 40 years, and the company's head office is just down the freeway, in Santa Clarita.

Said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises Executive Vice-President: "Our Bay Area passengers and travel agents have long been asking for more cruise options from San Francisco and our new year-round schedule with Grand Princess will now give them a great selection of itinerary choices."

The Grand Princess doesn't "move into its new digs" until next May. When it does, it will take passengers to Alaska in the summer, Hawaii in the winter and up and down the Pacific Coast (mostly down) the rest of the time. At a time when cruise lines are moving ships to Europe — incidentally, that's where the Grand Princess is now — and then from Europe to Asia, the world's next cruising hotspot, it's comforting to see a big "new" ship coming home.

And for the long haul, too.

The Grand Princess is the first ship to port year-round in San Francisco. Maybe more "free agents" will follow suit.

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas
7 nights
January 7, 2013
Sydney (return): Noumea, Ile des Pins (New Caledonia)
Inside: $929
Cost per day: $132

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