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Friday file: Children Of The World

Kids. Maybe because seeing them brings back memories of when your own were that age, or maybe it's because there is almost always an innocence about them. Whatever the reason, they always seem to be compelling subjects for people who like to take pictures in foreign countries. People like us, and kids like these…

Kids-Acapulco-2This young fellow was out w-a-y-y-y past his bedtime (maybe that’s why he’s wearing such a big smile), because we found him nearby when going to watch the cliff divers at night in Acapulco.

AricaHow could you not fall in love with a place you’re seeing for the first time when you're greeted by this young Chilean girl at the market by the cruise port in Arica?

Dominican-1In the Dominican Republic, there is no shortage of scenes like this one — youngsters raised in poverty always finding something to bring friendly smiles to their faces and waves from their arms.

RoatanThis was just outside a tiny seafood stop in Coxen Hole, Roatan (Honduras) where our meal was monitored by this smiling girl’s pet cat, sitting by our table waiting for scraps. 

Ecuador2He was selling trinkets, as so many kids in Ecuador are when tourists arrive, and when we told him we’d buy one on our way back from a shore excursion, he was patiently waiting. And yes, we did.

C.MayaYou get accustomed to being approached by little ones looking for handouts in many countries, but this was a first — they came in small boats near Costa Maya, Mexico.

Kids-Guatemala-1And sometimes, kids like this little girl in Guatemala are just too cute and too irresistible for amateur photographers!
Today at portsandbows.com: Musical ships with Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
15 nights
May 17, 2015
Dubai, Muscat, Salalah, Suez Canal, Ashdod, Haifa, Santorini, Athens, Istanbul
Inside: $869
Cost per day: $57

Noordam Passes on Israel


When it comes to cruising in the Middle East, clearly some things will never change. On Monday, Holland America directed the Noordam past a scheduled stop in Haifa, Israel. On Tuesday, the same thing in Jerusalem.

Cruising to Middle Eastern countries is as predictable as talks between the Palestinians and Israelis…as what Syria might do next…as which country is the newest hotspot for Al Qaeda.

This week, it was Syria.

"As a result of the uncertainties of possible military action against Syria and the potential of resulting Syrian attacks on Israel, we have cancelled the scheduled calls of ms Noordam to Israel."

That was not a statement from a high-ranking diplomat. That was a statement from a Holland America spokesperson.

The cruise line added two stops in Turkey and one in Greece to make up for missing Israel. It also refunded shore excursions and gave passengers a 15 per cent credit for a future cruise. None of that makes up for missing a chance to see the Holy Land.

The Noordam's next visit to Haifa is scheduled for October 25.

But as always, who knows?

Carnival Conquest
8 nights
November 16, 2013
San JuanSt. KittsDominicaSt. MaartenAntiguaGrand TurkMiami
Inside: $359
Cost per day: $44


Endorsing Jewelry Stores on Shores?

If you've ever been to Alaska then you have discovered, like us, that there can be a jewelry store on every corner…and sometimes in between. Of all the cruise stops we have made, Alaska's lead the league for concentrated jewelry shopping.

So it's BIG business for those Alaska retailers and over the years there have been stories about kickbacks, serious enough that the state implemented regulations to stem the criticism.

According to Alaska Public Media, based on information from one local jewelry store owner, he paid $25,000 plus 10 per cent of sales to be included in the shopping programs that are promoted on cruise ships. The programs are run by media companies that pay the cruiselines for the "privilege" of having their "port lecturers" on the ships. The lecturers allegedly try to convince shoppers to visit the store owners who pay.

If that's true, the cruise lines can say their hands are clean — they just hire the lecturers.

In Alaska, the rules have changed. After investigating complaints, the state made a $200,000 settlement with the three Florida-based companies that send port lecturers to 

Alaska. The companies didn't have to plead guilty but they do have to comply with rules that lecturers now must:

• Disclose they don't work for a cruise line

• Disclose that their sales pitch is a form of advertising

• Refuse from bad-mouthing retailers, presumably the ones who don't pay

• Refuse to make misleading statements about sale prices and return policies

Taping the presentations enables the state to monitor this. The result of viewing 70 recordings has been an improvement, according to non-participating retailers and consumers who will talk.

We've always wondered about the come-ons from port lecturers but never bothered frequenting their recommended jewelry stores…but then you have to be buying jewelry to do that, don't you? Perhaps being naive, it never occurred to us that store owners might be badgered into paying — what is this, the cruise mafia?

Now we're wondering if jewelry-infested ports in the Caribbean might follow suit with "port-lecturer regulations."

Don't hold your breath.

Azamara Journey
14 nights
October 26, 2013
AthensRhodes, Limassol, Suez Canal, Muscat, Dubai
Oceanview: $980
Cost per day: $70


Alaska Backs Off On Environment

Environmental issues can often be complicated. The latest one — this week in Alaska — is definitely complicated.

If you're interested in protecting the environment (duh!) and the part that cruise ships play in it, read on…and if you want to read this in more detail, Richard Mauer of The Anchorage Daily News has it all here at the paper's website: www.adn.com.

There was a vote in the Alaska legislature in Juneau this week lowering specific environmental standards for cruise ships. Our initial reaction was shock. In this day and age, can such a thing be possible?

Well, there's more to it.

One, since the election the 49th state is ruled by one party (Republican) for the first time in years, and we all know that Democrats are more strongly associated with environmental issues. The bill to allow cruise ships to dump ammonia, copper and other contaminants into Alaska waters passed, easily.

Two, the standards of the still-existing bill are technologically impossible to meet.

Three, one of the reasons the bill passed is that cruise ships were being held to higher standards than local ferries, municipal systems and fishing vessels.

Four, the treatment facilities on cruise ships have been improved to the point where by the time it's dumped it is allegedly harmless to the environment.

Environmentalists see it as sacrificing the fishing industry for the cruise industry. Proponents who were democratically elected by the people of Alaska see it as heaping unfair standards on an industry that has long paid serious attention to being that good corporate citizen.

Costa Atlantica
7 nights
April 5, 2013
Dubai (return): Khasab, Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Fears Stone Jade's Port Schedule

A short news item the other day revealed that Norwegian has cancelled all port stops in Egypt from November to April. While the final decision was made by the cruise line, in situations like this it's really the passengers who decide.

The sometimes-turbulent situation in Egypt makes it appear unsafe to cruise customers. Consequently, cruise customers don't buy tickets. Ships operate with passenger loads decidedly below capacity. Cruise lines make changes to accommodate their customers.

It's called common sense.

In Norwegian's case, it means when the Jade ports in Alexandria and Port Said on November 10 it will be for the last time. Instead, future Jade cruises will go to Istanbul and Naples.

Until the customer speaks again.

Celebrity Solstice
11 nights
April 25, 2013
Honolulu, Lahaina, Hilo, Kilauea, Kona, Lahaina, Ensenada
Inside: $1,299
Cost per day: $118

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