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Drinks For Free On Norwegian Sky


Oh, for the days when going on a cruise meant once you paid for your ticket, that was it…everything was included but shopping for souvenirs, and taxes and tips.

Are those happy days starting to make a comeback?

They are in Norwegian’s world. Well, in one corner of Norwegian’s world. Okay, one neighborhood…bar.

Starting in 2016, cruises on the Norwegian Sky, an 11-year-old ship that goes from Miami to the Bahamas and back will be so inclusive that you won’t pay for drinks. From margaritas to wine (even premium) to beer to soft drinks…nada. 

“We’re taking freestyle cruising to the next level,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s President and COO.

“Freestyle cruising” is the umbrella under which Norwegian introduced the non-traditional seating in dining rooms, allowing passengers to pick their times and tables. Following an era in which passengers felt they were being nickled and dimed at every turn, Norwegian announced that the Sky’s passengers will  “enjoy an even more all-inclusive cruise experience with dining, entertainment and now free unlimited beer, wine and premium spirits included.”

However, if you think “dining” includes the Sky’s three specialty restaurants (Il Adagio, Cagney’s Steak House and The Bistro)…guess again. What it includes in dining is what is already included: the dining room.

For anybody too young to drink…free soda. Now that’s a first for an ocean cruise ship.

It’s likely another test. If “free drinks for everybody” fills up its ships, expect that it will be extended beyond the Sky’s horizon.

After that, who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Entertained on Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
14 nights
June 11, 2015
Sydney, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin, Benoa, Singapore
Inside: $974
Cost per day: $69

China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.


Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

Aloha, Hawaii: Fewer Cruise Passengers

Hawaii is always going to be something of a niche market for cruising.

For one thing, you have to really like looking at open water, for days, to sail there from the mainland. Figure on five, maybe six. For another thing, vacationers going that far often want to see as much of Hawaii as possible, and that means flying. For another, how many times are you likely to take a cruise to Hawaii…raise your hand if it's more than one.

So when you hear that the numbers are down in Hawaii from almost 100,000, it's at least explainable.

Reports are that there are 26 per cent fewer cruise passengers in "paradise" for the first half of this year, compared to the same period of 2013. As many as a dozen Pride of Americacruises were reportedly cancelled this year, with no reasons given. Only two ships will visit Honolulu's harbor this year and one of them is Pride of America, the small Norwegian ship that never leaves the islands.

Hawaii Tourism Authority officials have a plan to make things better: 

"The HTA recently issued an RFP for maritime vessel scheduling software and is working with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to create a system that will ease the vessel scheduling process and efficiently utilize docking space, in order to accommodate and welcome more cruise visitors."

Or, maybe just wait until the demographic changes to more people who have never seen Hawaii by ship.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: A new ship coming for Princess

Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
14 nights
September 9, 2014
OsloKristiansandLerwickTorshavnReykjavikSt. John’sBayonne
Balcony: $699
Cost per day: $49

Panama Canal Delay Not Bad For Everybody

In the midst of a long drive this week, the subject of cruises came up, as it does every…oh, few hours. Specifically, we were thinking about the Panama Canal, because we've only done it once and that was four years ago, which means it's time to see it again.

What we discovered is that prices seem to be generally high and availability generally low for Panama Canal cruises, two things that generally go hand-in-hand.

For example, if you want to go east-west from Florida, the Island Princess is leaving Fort Lauderdale for Los Angeles at the start of the month with the price of an inside stateroom $1,599 (15 days) and an ocean view stateroom for $1,899. Balconies and and suites? Sold out.

If you want to go west-east from San Diego, Royal Caribbean can take you to Fort Lauderdale on the Legend of the Seas on a 15-day journey but you can't get an Canalinside, ocean view or suite because none is available. Only balconies are, at $3,819.

And if you want to make a month of it and cross the ocean at the same time, Cunard has a cruise from San Francisco to Southampton…or had a cruise. At $4,690 for an inside stateroom, the Queen Victoria is completely sold out.

Guess why Panama Canal cruises are more popular than ever?

Because this is the year the Canal was supposed to celebrate its 100th anniversary — next month — by opening the new locks. For one reason or another, or perhaps for many reasons, the renovation to accompany the celebration is delayed. Expansion of the Canal, to accommodate larger ships, is behind schedule.

People who wanted to see the "new" Panama Canal would have booked cruises many months ago. They committed, thinking they would be traversing the bigger, better link between the Atlantic and Pacific.

They're out of luck.

So people will be booking to do the same thing next year, assuming the construction will be completed by then. The prices, presumably, will stay high.

All of which means cruise lines with ships going through the Canal will be getting a chance for two years in a row to charge premium fares if you want to be among the first to see this engineering marvel's new look.

Today at portsandbows.com: Breaking cruise records in Avignon, France

Celebrity Century
7 nights
April 26, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Santa BarbaraSan FranciscoMontereyCatalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Cruise Suits, Sickness and Singapore

Headline: Costa settles for $1.31 million

The first reaction to this was something like "Who bought off the Italian judge?"

However, on digging deeper (it's called reading further),  the settlement over the Costa Concordia accident last year is really a fine that means no criminal charges against the cruise line, ending potential liability with the state of Italy. Under Italian law, it's close to the maximum fine allowed.

It does not, however, mean that Costa can't be sued privately by passengers or crew members, nor does it let Captain Schettino off the legal hook.

* * *

Headline: More bad news for Carnival

This is not a headline from last week, or the week before, or the week before that. It seems every time Carnival turns a rudder, it's losing another soldier in the PR battle.

This one is yet another Carnival ship that didn't wash behind the ears properly. The Fascination failed a cleanliness test administered by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, with a score of 84. The ears are only clean if the score is 86.

Carnival reacted with typical damage control: ""In the past five years, no Carnival ship has failed a U.S.P.H. inspection and the fleet's average score during that time period is 97. The average over 20 inspections already conducted in 2013 is 97.2."

Danmage control is a weekly headline, too.

* * *

Headline: Singapore new cruising hotspot

As the world's fourth leading financial center with one of the five busiest ports anywhere, Singapore has always been something of a hotspot for ships.

But not necessarily cruise ships.

With the growth of CIA (Cruising In Asia), both Princess and Royal Caribbean are expanding their stakes in the area. Princess is dispatching the Sapphire Princess (below)for four months and 15 round-trip cruises, with more destinations than any competitor. Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas left Singapore last week…and was replaced by Mariner of the Seas, which carries 3,114 passengers, or 50 per cent more than the Legend.

"Princess Cruises will be the first premium cruise line to have ships based in Singapore for an extended period," said President and CEO Alan Buckelew.

You can be sure this isn't the end of CIA stories.

Golden Princess
17 nights
December 4, 2013
Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas, San Juan del Sur, Puntarenas, Lima, La Serena, Santiago
Inside: $1,399
Cost per day: $82

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