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Day One Of Hurricane Season

You can set your calendar by this blog. It’s Hurricane Season. Every June 1, or thereabouts, we provide you with the obligatory outlook for the season that starts today…obligatory because, while hurricanes seldom affect cruise ships that can outrun them, the fact remains ships are on waters that can generate such storms.

So…

NOAA — officially known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is the most credible organization for predicting, tracking and keeping records of North American hurricanes. This year, NOAA says “below normal.” Normal is 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Before anybody on North American shores dares to get complacent, these are weather predictions and everybody knows how often the weatherman are wrong — just ask one how many times he (or she) was blamed for mis-predicting weather. In any case, here is what “below normal” means over Atlantic waters:

Named storms — 6 to 11
Hurricanes — 3 to 6
Major hurricanes — 0 to 2

Between today and November 30, NOAA estimates there’s a 70 per cent chance it will be correct in projecting “below normal” with a 20 per cent chance of “near normal” and a 10 per cent chance of “above normal.”

It’s called hedging your bets.

Predictions are all about the temperature of ocean water. The warmer the water, the more chance of a hurricane. Apparently, El Nino is expected to suppress the hurricane season and if you can figure out how, you should head for meteorological university, yet hurricanes in the Pacific are expected to be more plentiful:

OdileNamed storms — 15 to 22
Hurricanes — 7 to 12
Major hurricanes — 5 to 8

Peak season on both coasts is early August.

The first storm (Ana) has already arrived in the Atlantic and the next one will be called Bill. Since they’re all done alphabetically, if Wanda arrives it’s not going to be a “below normal” season. The first storm in the Pacific will be Andres…and Zelda would be No. 24, at the other end of the list.

Last year, NOAA predicted 8 to 13 named storms (there were 8), 3 to 6 hurricanes (there were 6) and 1 or 2 major hurricanes (there were 2). That was in the east. Out west in the Pacific, which always seems to be something of a hurricane afterthought, there were 22 storms, 16 hurricanes, 9 of them major.

Anybody who cruised into Cabo San Lucas last September will never forget Hurricane Odile (above), which reached category 4 with winds of 140 miles per hour.

In the news…

• Quantum of the Seas makes a splash in Dubai on 53-day global trip
• Hong Kong pulls plug on supplying on-shore power for ships…too costly

Today at portsandbows.com: Another look at Carnival Vista, arriving next spring

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
June 21, 2015
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Oceanview: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

From The Eye Of A Hurricane…Help

Our resident expert on all things Mexico is Barbra Bishop of Mexpeditions, a travel agency that specializes in everywhere (and everything) south of the border. The other day she was telling us a story about Cabo San Lucas and last month’s Hurricane Odile (below).

The short version is that during the worst of the hurricane, visitors to a Los Cabos hotel were being comforted by workers who themselves had lost (almost) everything, yet Hurricane Odilewouldn’t desert their customers. Impressed beyond words, the tourists banded together — after returning to their homes — and began raising funds to help their Mexican “friends.”

Natural disasters do that. People always want to help.

On Saturday, the Star Princess stopped at Cabo San Lucas. The first cruise ship to respond was loaded with bottled water, paper products, milk and other supplies to help the area’s locals who lost so much.

Yesterday came the Carnival Miracle, whose name was not changed to suit the situation. More bottled water, canned food, diapers, personal items for the Mexican people.

In the aftermath of the Category 3 hurricane that killed 15 people, causing $224 million in damage and leaving an estimated 30,000 tourists stranded in the Baja Peninsula’s southern tip, one of the airlines that flew to the rescue was Alaska. People had to be airlifted. Planes that flew in were empty of passengers, and full of supplies.

Maybe the cruise lines felt obliged to help because the Mexican people in such dire straits are the same ones who make cruise passenger visits so enjoyable. Maybe they do it because it’s good PR. Maybe airlines do it for the same reason.

What matters, however, is that they help.

And now comes the sobering news that cruise ships and airplanes are not the area’s only visitors this week. Hurricane Simon, originally expected to be no more than a tropical Cabo San Lucasstorm, is bearing down on the Baja. It’s expected to make landfall tomorrow, probably somewhere north of Cabo San Lucas.

Will the cruise lines and airlines step up again? Or will it be the tourists who turn the tables and help those who help them?

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news you can use

Golden Princess
3 nights
October 27, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $49
www.princess.com

The storm clouds that turned into a sunny season

Every year, the experts (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more commonly known as NOAA) make projections for the "hurricane season" — how many are anticipated, how many will graduate (?) from being just tropical storms, and how many of those will have names (that's bad).

And every year, as your guardians of all things that have anything to do with cruising, Hurricaneswe relay that information to you at cruisingdoneright.com.

Until this year.

The projections for 2013 were bad. It was going to be the worst year in history, or at least a long time, whichever was shorter. Between 7 and 11 hurricanes, 13 to 20 tropical storms with names. Three or four hurricanes could be Cat 4, which is not a name but a strength. The lower the better.

Guess what happened?

Two storms with a name. Thirteen tropical depressions. Only one made it to land. Great year, the best since '82, or a generation-plus. The U.S. Air Force Reserve flew 435 hurricane re-con missions, the fewest since 1966. 

Now we'd like to tell you that in our spare time we spend a lot of time looking into crystal balls and reading palms, and that the reason we didn't write anything about hurricanes in 2013 is that because we knew there wouldn't be any. But that's not true.

If it were, we would be crystal ball gazing and palm reading, not writing about cruise ships and cruise people.

Maybe next year…

Carnival Splendor
8 nights
January 28, 2014
New York (return): Port CanaveralNassauFreeport 
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $41
www.carnival.com

Sandy's Reach: Victoria, Ensenada

Photo: Cesar Bojorquez

Who would imagine that the impact of Hurricane Sandy could be felt as far away as Victoria, B.C., and Ensenada, Mexico, two cruise ports on the other side of the continent?

It could.

The U.S. Government temporarily waived the Jones Act on Friday. That's the law that prohibits the transfer of goods between American ports in ships that are not registered in the U.S. As everyone knows, or should know, major cruise ships are registered in other countries…the Norwegian's Pride of America is the exception.

So when a cruise ship goes from Seattle to Alaska, it must stop at a foreign port, like Victoria, to legitimize the transfer of any goods (does that mean passengers?). The Jones Act — it was created for cargo ships but cruise ships have to fall in line — is also responsible for using Ensenada as a port for cruises along the southern Pacific Coast, and to Hawaii and back. The only cruises to Hawaii that don't stop in Ensenada — Mexico's northernmost port — are ships going beyond the Hawaiian Islands, or cruises from Canada.

Waiving the Jones Act on Friday was designed to ease the delivery of fuel and supplies to the northeastern U.S. that was so devastated by last week's hurricane. It is temporary, yet there has long been a movement to repeal the Act fully, most recently two years ago by Sen. John McCain, who estimated the economic impact of doing so would be $1 billion.

The legislation is still pending.

Are Victoria and Ensenada (and others) ready?


Caribbean Princess
7 nights
December 8, 2012
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba 
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.princesscruises.com

Carnival Making the Best of Sandy

 

If you like last-minute deals, if you're close enough that you can get to Baltimore by tomorrow and if you've always wanted to go on a cruise to nowhere…well, you can.

The Carnival Pride spent the last three days in nowhere waters, which is to say sitting by the Baltimore cruise port and waiting for Hurricane Sandy to leave. That wiped out the weekly cruise to Florida and the Bahamas, so rather than sit for the rest of the week until Sunday's departure, Carnival is sending the Pride "to nowhere" for two nights: Friday and Saturday.

The deal?

Inside cabins are $129, balconies $179, and there are probably many people in that part of the country who'd just like to get away from it all.

And go anywhere…or nowhere.


Carnival Glory
7 nights
January 6, 2013
Miami (return): Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan, Grand Cayman
Inside:  $429
Cost per day: $61
www.carnival.com
 

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