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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

Cruise Passengers Ignore 'N' Word

It's a toss-up, as to which are the two most toxic words on television this week.

Edward Snowden…or Paula Deen.

Countries are trying to decide what to do with him…sponsors are trying to decide what to do with her. Meanwhile, only Paula Deen is connected to the cruise world, and the early feedback from cruisers is forgiveness for her use of the "N" word in a deposition. 

If anybody thought people interested in the Paula Deen Cruise on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas were going to use the other "N" word (as in "No"), guess again. While it's not clear when this happened, the company booking space on the cruise (Alice Travel) is adding an extra cruise…on a different line.

The Mariner of the Seas cruise is in late January and arrives back in Galveston on Super Bowl Sunday. The second cruise — now the first one because it's earlier in January — is on Celebrity's Reflection, from Miami on January 18. On Mariner, the "Deen Family" will have at least three events for passengers. Details for the Celebrity cruise are still being finalized. On pauladeencruise.com it simply says "We're Almost Ready."

So far, neither Royal Caribbean nor Celebrity is saying anything about Paula Deen and her cruises on their ship.

Of course they aren't. Saying anything nice is toxic.

Norwegian Spirit
12 nights
July 10, 2013
VeniceAthens, Izmir, IstanbulMykonosNaplesRomeFlorence, Toulon, Barcelona
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $49

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

Quick disembarkation billion-dollar answer?


In June, two Royal Caribbean ships will be the first to dock at a $1 billion terminal (that's right, one BILLION) in Hong Kong.

The new structure is called the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, and the ships will be Mariner of the Seas (June 12) and Voyager of the Seas (October 15). One hour after the Voyager leaves, the Diamond Princess will arrive and by the end of the year Celebrity's Millennium will also have visited Kai Tak.

But here's what is most interesting about the state-of-the-art terminal:

It can process 3,000 passengers an hour!

That means every passenger could leave most of today's cruise ships an hour after the gangplank goes down. Having recently move 25 feet in 60 minutes at the terminal in Galveston after leaving the Crown Princess, we think this is exciting news that hopefully will spread throughout the cruise terminal world.

There is one problem.

How many people an hour will be processed at customs?

Norwegian Pride of America
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Honolulu (return): Kahului, Hilo, Kona, Nawilili
Inside: $1,549
Cost per day: $221

Reflecting on the Solstice Class


Cruising's nostalgia buffs will be tracking the path of the Celebrity Reflection over the next few weeks. It's ship No. 5 in the Solstice Class, which many consider the finest class of ships in the business.

Joining the Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse and Silhouette — in that order — the Reflection was delivered to Celebrity in the Dutch port of Eemshaven this week. After a two-day invitation-only trip to Amsterdam, it leaves tomorrow on its inaugural cruise, a 9-night journey that ends in Barcelona. That will be followed by a couple of two-week Mediterranean cruises before heading for North America.

The official "naming" ceremony will be in Miami on December 1, and presiding over it will be four Godmothers — four women who work for the corporate (Royal Caribbean) giant that owns Celebrity and who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by breast cancer.

The Reflection will spend the winter in the Caribbean, then return to Europe next season. While the Solstice ships all set the bar high, this is apparently the pick of the litter, tweaked with what few minor flaws were discovered in its predecessors and enhanced with a handful of energy efficiencies. It is called an "extremely eco-friendly ship" and while it was still under construction Frommer's knighted the Solstice Class the "best cruise ships."

For now the Western World watches, and waits, for the end of a great class.

Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas
7 nights
December 9, 2012
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

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