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The Carnival Grinch’s Kind of Christmas

On the 12th day before Christmas, it became official: The Grinch didn’t steal Christmas after all. He brought it early.

If this doesn’t touch you, well, maybe nothing will…

The Grinch is a Dr. Seuss character who, according to legend and a book of the same name, stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss, now a corporation and not an author, has authorized the use of Seuss characters on Carnival cruise ships for more than a year.  During the weekend, The Grinch showed up at facilities where sick kids live in Baltimore and Charleston to bring smiles to little faces that need all the smiles they can get.

Why Baltimore and Charleston? Because the Carnival Pride homeports in Baltimore, and the Fantasy in Charleston.

At both Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital in Charleston and Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore, The Grinch and his entourage – which included crew members from both ships — put on shows with happy endings to celebrate the coming of Christmas. Among the memories for the kids was a Seuss-theme gift bag, accompanied by list of “good deed suggestions to allow them to, just like The Grinch, grow their heart ‘three times its size.’”

It’s one of the perks of having a Carnival ship live in your city…a perk that can never be measured by how much it means to the economy.

CA-GrinchIn the news…

• Windstar first cruise line to visit Montserrat since volcano buried capital oil 1995
• Arsenal of ‘water toys’ for passengers for Crystal Esprit’s maiden voyage next week
• MSC Musica makes maiden call at its new homeport of Abu Dhabi in the UAE

Today at portsandbows.com: So what about those river-ship balconies?

Celebrity Constellation
5 nights
January 18, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Cozumel, Key West
Inside: $351
Cost per day: $70

Escape For Smallest Of Passengers

EscapeOnce there was a time when nary a baby’s cry nor a dirty diaper would be found on a cruise ship. Children that young were neither seen nor heard because, frankly, when parents went on cruises it was to be an escape.

Ironically, the Escape not only embraces little ones, it markets them.

That’s the Norwegian Escape, the first ship in the Breakaway Plus Class that’s due to arrive in less than a year. Yesterday, some of the things that will make the ship special were unveiled. Among them — and a first for Norwegian — are childcare facilities for children from six months to three years.

That’s diaper time.

The nursery will include “an active area for play time and age-appropriate activities and a separate space for napping.” What it all adds up to is the growing philosophy in cruising of leaving no stone unturned. If there’s a way of convincing parents of babies — especially first-time parents, who often won’t leave a room without their new-born, never mind their home — to go on a cruise while on maternity leave, that’s a new market.

At one end of the Escape, so to speak, you have 60-plus Baby Boomers behaving much younger at Jimmy Buffett’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar

At the other end, you have…babies.

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian's new ship — fun for families

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 12, 2015
Miami (return): Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

Common 'perceptions' or 'misconceptions' on cruising

We have members of our family (they shall remain nameless, in the interests of harmony) who would not go on a cruise unless it was free, and even then it would likely be kicking and screaming. They have probably been influenced as much by the "common perceptions" of cruising that can be heard anywhere, but most often on TV.

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek identified seven such remarks from conversations involving non-cruisers. In some cases, these are "common misconceptions" — but we'll let you (and them) be the judges…

1. The ships are too crowded, with long lines everywhere.

This is not true, although judging something as being too anything is always going to be subjective. We've never been on a ship "too crowded" and while we have been in Liberty of the Seas at Sealines — primarily embarking or disembarking — these are the exceptions not the rules, and cruise lines go out of their way to try making it seamless.

2. Cruises are full of morbidly obese people.

While we are not "morbidly" or even mildly obese, we disagree. There are overweight people everywhere, and probably a higher percentage on cruise ships. But to say ships are full of such passengers is a morbidly gross over-reaction.

3. Do we really need more buffets in the world?

We agree 100 per cent…okay, at least 90. But supply and demand dictates this, and obviously there is a demand.

4. Cruise ships are floating cesspools and pollute the environment.

This is a belief borne of ignorance. But that belief, along with growing environmental responsibility, has resulted in cruise ships that are increasingly sensitive to being custodians of the oceans that are their homes. Go on a ship's tour and see for yourself all of the ways (too many to list here) that this industry has gotten into line. If ships were "floating cesspools" cruising would be dying, and it's not.

5. Cruises are for old people.

There is some validity in this, yet cruise lines are constantly being built to attract families. How many "old people" zip-line or shoot down water coasters or climb rock walls? Having said that, with an estimated 22 million people on cruise ships, it's a fair assumption that the majority of passengers with both the resources and the time are retirees.

6. Cruises are full of obnoxious teenagers.

Well, if cruises for for old people, who let the teenagers on the ship? It's true that teenagers can be obnoxious but that doesn't mean all of them are. Frankly, we've seen more obnoxious grandparents than teenagers on cruise ships.

7. Who wants to be stuck on a boat for a week?

This is highly subjective. We all have different tastes, different pleasures. Our answer would be: Who doesn't?

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Mid-ships returning to Bermuda

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
July 6, 2014
Cape Liberty (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

A Break for Taking Kids to Europe


Every parent knows kids aren't "free." Every cruise passenger has heard of a variety of "kids sail free" promotions.

Royal Caribbean has a novel one.

It's called "Kids Tour Free" and it's just what is implied. Shore excursions for kids 12 years and under — try and tell teenagers that they're "kids" — go on shore excursions with their parents (who pay) at no charge.

This is for 2014 cruises in Europe. Cruises have to be booked by the end of September and shore excursions by the middle of December.

Obviously, North American parents who can afford to fly their kids to Europe to go on a cruise have some disposable income set aside for travel. But it's a nice touch to get some relief from what is already going to be an expensive vacation.

And it gets a little better.

Book your airfare through Royal Caribbean's ChoiceAir program and you get $1,000 off the cost of your stateroom, if it's at least at the balcony level.

So while it won't make your kids "free" it will make them less expensive.

Carnival Liberty
7 nights
November 16, 2013
Miami (return): CozumelBelizeRoatanGrand Cayman
Inside: $309
Cost per day: $44

Norwegian's Pool for Guppies, Too

News item: Norwegian is implementing a "Guppies" program for kids ages six months to three years…

We have just returned from spending 10 days with our youngest grandchild. She is 16 months old, and now that she can walk she seems to be everywhere. That's wonderful but it also means somebody — anybody — has to be everywhere with her. 

There were two of us. Throw in her parents, and the ratio was 4 to 1. Add a couple of her visiting cousins…6 to 1. And that darling little "Guppy" had everybody on the run.

Norwegian should have been watching.

On all 11 of its ships — 12 when the Breakaway arrives in May — the children's program is cleverly called Splash Academy. At the low (okay, small) end are the Guppies, the youngest "Norwegians" at sea. Like kindergarten and pre-kindergarten and before pre-kindergarten, this program recognizes the need for taking care of little ones.

To do that, Norwegian has created programs for the program. They're called Baby Art, Baby Rhyme Time and Motion in the Ocean, which now that you ask is a parent and baby mini-workout. Talk about redundancy!

And just in case any parents with little sailors don't find all of this inviting enough, Norwegian is offering to give the kids a free trip, as long as they're traveling with two adults…and it does take two, at least. The condition is the cruises have to be booked by the end of this week, and the noise you hear is the parents, scrambling to get to the phone or their computer.

The "sail free" and the kids' programs aren't just for little ones, they're for all "kids" 17 and under. Norwegian's people have a long history of doing their homework, so to speak, and that means they know what they're doing, even for the six-months-to-three-years crowd.

We just hope they did the math on ratios.

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 22, 2013
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

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