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Everyone on the pool deck!

Midst the snow and the cold of late winter, the upper decks of cruise ships provide a welcome escape, even if only in pictures. Today’s selection is the pool decks of some ships we’ve been on, to see if you think a deck is a deck is a deck…so, do you?

NavigatorThere’s always color and sunshine on pool decks and this one, on Navigator of the Seas, even includes a grandstand for spectators to watch!

CrownOn the Crown Princess, the adults-only area called the Sanctuary features the hot tubs that are capped with thatched roofs, adding to the ambiance of heat.

RivieraDecks (and ships) tend to be an oasis on the ocean, or in this case on the Mediterranean Sea on the Oceania Riviera, a ship that caters largely to adults.

EpicThe Norwegian Epic has always been famous for being different and as one of our favorite ships it delivers a pool area that is — like the Epic itself — unusual.

BreezeWhen ships are in port, as the Carnival Breeze was here in Miami, the rallying cry of “Everybody in the pool!” is still waiting to be heard.

EclipseThe Celebrity Eclipse’s top deck was a welcome respite when we crossed the Atlantic on her and nobody was swimming laps in this clearly divided pool.

CoralPools are welcome even in the ice fields that are the glaciers of Alaska…but it was the “hot” pools on the Coral Princess that were popular with passengers.

New ship No. 3 — Ovation of the Seas

Third in a series of new ships for 2016


Royal Caribbean’s newest class of ship is the Quantum Class and when Ovation of the Seas joins it, two-thirds of the ships will be based in Asia. Unless you go off to search for it to take a cruise cruise, the only place you’ll find out about it is in places like this. A month after its Southampton launch, Ovation of the Seas is off to Dubai, en route to its Asian home: Tianjin, China. It will briefly visit Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year and no cruises are posted online after its return to Asia (Singapore) in February.

Launch date: April 17

Capacity: 4,180

Sister ships: Quantum of the Seas (2014), Anthem of the Seas (2015)

Maiden voyage: Southampton return (5 days)

Home port: Tianjin, China

Ships then in Royal Caribbean fleet: 25

Interesting: Other than the fact that it has robots serving drinks, a flying pod to give people a 360-degree view of the sea (or whatever else happens to be in sight) and simulators for surfing and skydiving, it’s just like any other cruise ship. Not really. This is a clone of Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, and the differences will likely be hard to find. Like them it also has the Two70-degree lounge/entertainment center and the SeaPlex, where bumper cars, roller skates and basketball are the featured activities. Unlike them, it has virtual balconies so everybody gets to see what’s happening outside whether they’re in the North Star or not. With 16 decks, 25 places to eat and a price tag close to a billion dollars, it’s still not even close to being the biggest ship in the world. That comes — here — on Friday.

In the news…

• Windstar’s damaged Star Pride now out of cruising until after April 9
• Royal Caribbean drops eat-healthy restaurant from Anthem of the Seas

Today at portsandbows.com: Emerald kicks off Wave Season with free are

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
6 nights
April 10, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Labadee
Inside: $389
Cost per day: $64

Quantum of the Seas — SO Special

QuantumWhen Quantum of the Seas was introduced to the world, at a press conference in New York two and a half years ago, everybody in the room that day quickly realized that “revolutionary” would not be an exaggeration, nor a buzzword to be flaunted by public relations people trying to find a word that bordered on hyperbole.

It was the right word.

We happened to be in New York that day — pinch-hitting for our Ports and Bows colleague Phil Reimer — and we’d never seen a cruise ship that was anything like this ship-to-be. That was understandable, because neither had anybody else. For all the Northstars, RipCords, bumping cars and glitz that came with naming Kristin Chenoweth as the ship’s godmother, it turns we didn’t know the half of what a special ship Quantum of the Seas was.

Again…logical, because neither did anybody else.

Until last week.

That’s when Royal Caribbean was presented with the Maritime Safety Award, as chosen by Royal Institution of Naval Architects. It’s the first cruise ship to be so decorated by the prestigious award…in 155 years!

It goes to “an individual, company or organization which has made a significant technological contribution to improving maritime safety” and Quantum caught RIBA’s North Starattention for “the design and implementation of an integrated Safety Command Centre.” In  layman’s terms — as opposed to seaman’s terms — what it comes down to is this:

While those of us who like cruising were “wowed” by the pod (North Star) that takes passengers out over the sea, the safety people were “wowed” by different types of pods: the incident pod, the evacuation pod, the command pod and the communication pod. The efficiency of all make Quantum of the Seas a safer ship.

The ship has, of course, left North America to operate in Asia. That’s the bad news. The good news is that presumably it is a template for Royal Caribbean ships to follow, including Anthem of the Seas, which made its debut this spring, and the two ships to follow next year: Harmony of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

There’s a lot of minutia that explains why RINA was so impressed with Quantum’s safety and its ability to react to an incident. For we who don’t usually react to such things until there is an incident, the fact that it’s the first time a cruise ship has been given the award is, at least, comforting.

In the news…

• Princess promotion free upgrades, specialty dining, gratuities until October 29
• Costa, AIDA donate 200,000 euros for refugee relief In Germany
• More than half a million people celebrate "cruise days" in Hamburg

Today at portsandbows.com: Port of Miami looking at a boom

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
October 25, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan  
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68

Carnival Tunes In Top Vocal Group


Come Sunday night, a lot of us will be watching the Academy of Country Music Awards because, well, we like them. Also because it always seems to be more about the music than the awards.

Enter Carnival.

The world’s biggest cruise line is writing a huge success story with its Carnival Live series, in which well-known performs board ships in port, then perform one or two concerts for which passengers are happy to pay, given the sizes of the venues.

There are the old standbys — Journey, Styx, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie — from yesteryear. There is a sprinkling of current performers: Rascall Flatts, Little Big Town, Martina McBride.

And now, the series’ summer/fall line-up includes The Band Perry, for three concerts in Nassau on Carnival ships Sensation, Fascination and Magic.

On Sunday night at the ACMs, these two brothers (Neil, Reid) and older sister (Kimberly) are nominated for “Top Vocal Group” which they won in 2014. That was a year that began by performing at the Super Bowl pre-game show, then touring with Blake Shelton. This year, they won a Grammy and now they’re headliners on tour.

Get the message?

The Band Perry is hot in country music and that makes Carnival a winner. Make that, more of a winner. Older passengers enjoyed seeing the stars of the past. Now they’ll be joined by younger, hipper spectators…because of The Band Perry.

Today at portsandbows.com: Deals from AmaWaterways, Avalon

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Regent’s Smithsonian At Sea

The last time we were at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, about a year ago, we re-discovered what an intimidating place it can be. You think you can “do” the Smithsonian in a day when, in fact, you need a week…even when you have a high-energy teenage grandson at your side.

Starting in July, Regent Seven Seas is taking the Smithsonian to sea, in a manner of speaking.

Called The Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys, here’s basically what it is:

Sunburst• On the ship, lectures by “charismatic” experts — there are 14 historians, authors and diplomats listed on Regent’s website — followed by “spirited” discussions

• On the shore, select shore excursions with a lecturer to become fully immersed in the history of the destination

This kind of thing isn’t for everyone, of course. It promises, however, to be similar to the kind of enrichment you get from visiting the Institution itself. It will be on the majority of sailings, more than 80, this year and next, on itineraries throughout the world.

The cruises seem to range from 8 to 24 nights, on a premium ship. That’s the good news. The bad is that it costs a lot more than visiting the Smithsonian Institution — even for a whole week.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
September 6, 2015
Galveston (return): Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth
Inside: $356
Cost per day: $50

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