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Carnival Live Surprising Performers

This was Day 2 of an 8-day Carnival Freedom cruise and Jim Berra, the line's Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer, was talking about Jennifer Hudson. It's entirely possible that Jim Berra never thought his name would be linked to Jennifer Hudson's, but this was that day.

The reason was Carnival Live, the concert series on ships in port, now just under halfway through its initial season. If there was a moment when Carnival realized its Jennifer Hudson-Carnivalproject was more than a one-off — as in one year — that moment was Jennifer Hudson.

Berra explained it this way:

"At first, the artists were asking: 'Are your guests really going to be into my performance, or is it just a cruise with a concert?' Once she — and we — found it was quite the contrary, that people were coming specifically to see the artist, we gained the confidence of the artists. Now they're calling us."

Jennifer Hudson was the biggest name appearing in the early weeks of Carnival Live. She did concerts on consecutive nights in Cozumel for passengers on the Breeze and the Ecstasy. Concert goers were paying $20 to $40 to see her perform in a facility seating 1,100.

On the shore, they might pay twice that and be in a much bigger venue.

So far, the genres have been mostly rock 'n roll and country.

"Rock 'n roll works everywhere," Berra said. "With country, we know it won't work as well in Miami as it will in Galveston. Pop is the toughest one — it's not as easy to slot."

Maybe it doesn't matter.

One passenger told the Miami Herald that she and a friend flew from New Mexico to the Bahamas to see Olivia Newton-John in concert. One Florida travel agent met people at a Chicago concert who were there because it was Chicago, not Carnival.

In both cases, none of them had ever been on a cruise.

Year One of Carnival Live winds up in December. Any day now, Carnival will be making announcements for Year Two. That's how successful it has been.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The new AmaSonata

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
August 16, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

'Splendor' Wrong Word for Report

As the investigation begins into the horrific plane crash in San Francisco this month, one of the possibilities is that the accident was due to pilot error, but it will of course take time.

The investigation into the fire that left the Carnival Splendor drifting off the coast of California is now complete — it took close to three years — and "pilot" error was duly noted.

Specifically, the guilty party was an unnamed "bridge watch stander" who reset the fire detection systems after they were triggered by smoke detectors. This meant, according to the report, that the fire could have been put out right away if the water mist fire protection system had been activated.

Instead, the fire spread and burned off and on for seven hours, leaving more than 3,000 passengers on a ship without power for three days.

The 51-page report made public yesterday came from the U.S. Coast Guard, and news of it was in The Herald in Miami, home of Carnival Cruise Lines. According to the newspaper it "faulted crew members for immediately failing to manually activate the water mist system; firefighting teams’ lack of familiarity with the engine room, which made the initial fire more difficult to find and extinguish; the use of portable dry chemicals and carbon dioxide extinguishers rather than fire hoses; the captain’s decision to ventilate the engine room before the fire was fully out and carbon dioxide fire suppression systems that did not work."

It could only have been more scathing if lives had been lost, and none were.

The Coast Guard made five recommendations, and by then Carnival had already spent $300 million in safety improvements on its 24 ships and formulated its own Safety & Reliability Review Board, with more than half its members from outside the company.

Unfortunately, all the safety systems possible can be undermined by one human error.

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
6 nights
October 25, 2013
Baltimore (return): King's Wharf
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $66


'Aye, Matey, that's the Aussie Spirit'


If you're a North American on the Carnival Spirit during the next year or two, be prepared to drink amber fluid (beer) from your schooner (large beer glass) after slipping out of your cozzie (swimming costume) and into your strides (trousers) until the snags are ready on the barbie.

If you're an Australian, however, you'll know that means be prepared to drink beer from your large glass after slipping out of your swimsuit and into your trousers until the sausages are ready on the barbecue.

This is all about "Aussifying" a cruise ship, which is to say make it — first and foremost — comfortable for "Aussies", which is what people from Australia call themselves.

By the time Carnival is finished, nobody will recognize the Spirit…verbally or physically.

In a story first posted on the Miami Herald's website by David Molyneaux, Carnival either announced or confessed to taking a good ol' American ship and branding it with everything Australian as it prepares for at least two years Down Under, which is not always the best turn of phrase to use about a cruise ship.

On Sunday, the Spirit will pull out of Honolulu Harbor, bound for Sydney, the cruise center of Australia. It may be filled with Americans right now, but Carnival is banking it will be filled with Aussies, over and over and over, and the best way to win an Aussie's heart is to appreciate his country's unique outlook, customs and cuisine.

Having said that, the Spirit will feature Australian cruise directors and entertainers and comedians, and if you don't know how funny Aussies can be, you mustn't have been listening. It will have a new water slide called Green Thunder, allowing thrill seekers to plummet faster and steeper out of the chute than on any other cruise-ship water slide. The "amber fluid" will not be Foster's — as North Americans might expect — because Aussies like their brew from the tap. They also like bacon that closely resembles Canadian, coffee that closely resembles Italian and barbecue meats that resemble hot dogs only in shape.

Carnival figures almost all of its customers will come from Down Under, a logical assumption considering that you have to fly a long way just to a cruise on the Spirit, which has 41 of them booked in 2014, its second year in Australia. For the few North Americans who might want to book such a cruise — mostly to the beaches of Fiji and New Caledonia, and the ports of New Zealand — there's another catch.

You have to book it on Carnival's Australian website, or by phone, and remember that the dollars are Australian, too.

Isn't everything?

Island Princess
14 nights
March 22, 2013
Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas, San Juan del Sur, Puntarenas, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Aruba, Fort Lauderdale
Inside:  $1,399
Cost per day: $99

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