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Princess a Diamond Experience in Japan

The Diamond Princess is going back to Japan. Again. Maybe it's just time to make this a permanent posting, or as permanent as anything can be in the world of cruise ships.

Consider the history.

A decade ago last month, the Diamond Princess emerged from a shipyard for her maiden voyage. A fire would have delayed hear arrival but a sister ship, the Sapphire Princess, was under construction so, out-fitted with her sister's hull, the Diamond floated out on time.

The shipyard was in Nagaski and it was the first ship built in Japan by Princess Cruises.

The cruise line just announced that the Diamond Princess is returning in 2015 to sail Japanese bathsfrom two home ports, Tokyo and Kobe, the third season Princess has had ships cruising to Korea, Taiwan, Russia and other Japanese ports.

Last week, the ship began its 2014 season following an extensive refurbishment ($30 million) to make it more…well, Japanese. More sushi, more sake, culturally appointed furnishings and classic Japanese bathing experiences similar to "the popular on-sen experience for which Japan is well-known."

In other words, the ship has been tailored to attract its demographic and, at the same time, is making a commitment to Japanese cruisers.

All it needs now is a name change:

"Daiyamondo Purinsesu"

Go ahead, take a guess at the translation.

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

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
May 12, 2014
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $37

Cruising Suffering From Norovirus, Too

We know people on cruise ships can be sick of being sick. Can it be that cruise-blog readers are sick of reading stories about people being sick on ships?

Here we go again…

On almost the same day that passengers and crew on the Crown Princess were reported to be suffering from norovirus, a Harris Poll that was conducted after outbreaks on three ships showed how the public feels about major cruise brands because of the disease.

First, the latest news from the ship…

Carrying 3,141 passengers, Princess Cruises confirmed that more than 100 people were sick and that testing proved norovirus (gastrointestinal illness) was present.

Now, the poll…

Trust in cruise lines dropped 12 per cent and purchase intent 13 per cent across seven major brands, among them Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Worse yet, public perception levels were even lower than they were after the much-Explorer of the Seaspublicized fire and debacle aboard the Carnival Triumph last year. The poll was conducted shortly after 700 people on Explorer of the Seas were ill with norovirus.

Coincidentally, at least to us, the Crown Princess and Explorer of the Seas are two ships we've been on in the last year. 

It wasn't us…honest!

Today at portsandbows.com: Expansion of the rivers of America

Sun Princess
12 nights
May 31, 2014 
Kobe (return): NazeOkinawaIshigakiHualien 
Inside: $1,099
Cost per day: $91

Speeding Up The Embarkation Process

A dear friend of ours used to say that when America wants to try something new, whether it's a new procedure or a new law, it often happens first in California. If it's successful, that's good enough…and it goes viral, or at least to other places.

Our late friend lived in California, he knew what he was talking about — or so we assumed.

Twice on our cruises customs agents have come onto the ship to clear passengers for going ashore. Now we're not saying it hadn't happened anywhere else, but those are the only times we been part of a process that shortens lines and speeds Yokohamaup disembarkation. It seemed like such a good idea we wondered why customs people didn't do the same thing whenever and wherever a ship is disembarked.

This summer, Japan is going one better.

According to a story in The Japan News, ministry immigration officers will go on board at the ships' home ports to collect fingerprints and facial recognition data. When the ship arrives at Yokohama's cruise port (above), it will still take an hour for passengers to go through passport verification, freeing them to spend at least an extra hour in the port.

For a ship with 3,000 passengers, that's up to another 3,000 hours of spending, so just do the math.

By 2030, Japan anticipates its number of foreign visitors will triple.

With the growth of cruising in Asia, the Japanese want to be ready.

– photo by Aimaimyi

Celebrity Century
7 nights
June 8, 2014
Vancouver (return): Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, JuneauKetchikan
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Olympians Beware: It's Like A Cruise Ship There!

We've been watching a lot of television, some delayed and some live, from the Olympic Winter Games in Russia this week. 

Last night (well, it was "last night" somewhere), Mexico's lone athlete was on the tube, even though he isn't really from Mexico, but that's another story. He was talking about being in the Olympic Village in Sochi and just in the course of conversation mentioned that many of the athletes had "something happening" in their throats and noses…aka, the 'flu.

A week before the Olympics, we were watching national curling (we do lead an exciting existence!) finals and more than half the competitors had been stricken with illness that was clearly contagious.

Nowhere was the mention of norovirus.

That's in part because norovirus is only linked to cruising when it should be linked to any mass gastro-intestinal sickness that occurs where there are small to large groups of people.

There's yet another misconception about norovirus — and we are not unsympathetic to cruise passengers who have suffered from this, at all. What the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “very hearty virus” that causes stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea can be contracted from contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships are among the places ripe for such viruses to spread.

However, there is a report in "The Week" (?) that passengers wanting to avoid getting it should stick to shorter cruises because there are fewer reports of norovirus outbreaks on shorter cruises…and by "shorter" the publication means fewer than seven days. The vast majority of the outbreaks occurred on cruises of seven days or longer.

Hmmm…is it possible that's because the vast majority of cruises are seven days or longer?

Apply that theory to the Olympics and athletes should attend competitions where they will come in contact with fewer people, not where almost 3,000 athletes are "residing" in the same general area.

Yes, 3,000 is about what many cruise ships carry, isn't it?

Celebrity Millennium
14 nights
May 10, 2014
Tokyo, Aomori, Sapporo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Princess Expanding Japan Market

Frankly, there was a time when Japan was never on our radar. There was also a time when it wasn't on the radar for most cruise lines, and now Princess is doubling the number of ships it has based there, from one to two, as the industry continues to grow in Asia.

Next year, the Sun Princess will be joined in Japan by its younger sister, the Diamond Princess. Together, the cruise line says in 2014 the ships will carry over 100,000 passengers from Yokohoma, Kobe and Otaru to destinations elsewhere in Japan, and South Korea, Russia and Taiwan.

Cruising has discovered — or is expanding its interest in — Japan. Hopefully, the experience will mirror ours.

Japan is special to us.

The relationship began several years ago when we won, of all things, a radio contest that took us to Tokyo for a week. We made the most of our seven days, taking the bullet train to Nara (Japan's first capital), visiting ancient temples and enjoying wonderful food and Japanese hospitality. One of our memories was being stopped on the street in Tokyo in the middle of the day by a passerby. We were lost, he knew it and he didn't give us directions…he took us to where we wanted to go, then returned to work.

"It is expected of us," he explained.

A few years after that, we met a young Japanese tourist at a cafe in Italy. That meeting led to a friendship of 11 years (and counting) with this talented artist, Yoshihiro Tanamachi, who has since visited not just with us but also members of our family. So now we have a stronger connection to Japan.

Like Princess does.

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
April 7, 2013
New Orleans (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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