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A Picture's Worth A Thousand Animals

Animals make for great photo subjects everywhere — how many "cute" pictures do you get in your in-box? They're especially photogenic, it seems, when you're in a foreign country, having disembarked from a cruise ship. Below is a sample of the creatures big and small, lovable and not, that we have encountered…

Alaska-bearAs close to a grizzly as we've ever been — or ever want to be — in Alaska.

Cabo-birdsOn cruises, sea gulls are everywhere…after all, we're the ones invading their environments. These ones happened to be off the starboard side of the ship, in Cabo San Lucas.

Puntarenas-crocNobody goes to Costa Rica without seeing a menacing crocodile (is that an oxymoron) — this fellow was entertainment (?) on a shore excursion in Puntarenas.

Belize-butterfliesButterflies aren't always free, are they? This one was accessible at a farm outside Belize City, and you don't know what you've missed if you've never seen a Belizean butterfly.

Roatan-dolphinRoatan, Honduras, is one of the places where you can swim with the dolphins and we did, for the first time. We have dozens of (purchased) pictures to show for it.

EagleEagles are irresitible for photographers, no matter how many times they've been shot (photographically) and you almost always find them at the top of a tree…even naked ones like this.

Today at portsandbows.com: American Queen more popular than ever

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 25, 2015
Galveston (return): RoatanBelizeCozumel
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49

Photo Essay: Captains of the Seas

We’ve only met, over the years of cruising, one ship’s captain we didn’t like — and that's likely because he never gave us the chance to like him (“I don’t do interviews”). This is a colony of mostly men who are all personable, often funny, always accommodating and forever fascinating.

These are our top ten, in no particular order — hey, what's wrong with having 10 favourites? — and we've included something about them that we hope you'll find interesting:

1-Capt. Gustavsen-Sky

Captain Roger Gustavsen (Norway), Norwegian Sky 
The first captain to invite us to watch departure from the bridge, he once had his mother there on the Norwegian Dream while negotiating the Kiel Canal: “You know how mothers always like to tell their sons what to do. She wanted to tell me how to drive the ship!”

2-Capt. Manetas-Eclipse

Captain Dimitrios Manetas (Greece), Celebrity Eclipse 
He watched ships come and go from his home in Piraeus, near Athens: “
I knew when I was a teenager, about 15, that I would be on the sea. it always inspired me. I was always curious for the unknown.”

3-Henrik Loy-Explorer

Captain Henrik Loy (Norway), Explorer of the Seas 
​One of the youngest (38) captains anywhere, he met his wife Karina, now a mother of three, when she was a dancer on Liberty of the Seas when they met and he calls it: “A true love boat story. We are really on the same page and we make it work.

4-Frank Juliussen-Epic

Captain Frank Juliussen (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
He had to overcome seasickness and bad days at sea: “
I don't have bad days and I have learned to enjoy this. You meet a lot of nice people. The world is full of nice people, and a lot of them do what they call ‘dirty work’ on cruise ships.”

5-Capt. Amitrano

Captain Fabio Amitrano (Italy), Coral Princess  A seaman for more than four decades since he left Ischia, a resort island with hot springs: “All the ladies come there to look younger. It must work, because they keep coming back!” 

6-Capt. Viacama-Ecstasy

Captain Andrea Viacava (Italy), Carnival Ecstasy 
A character with an easy laugh and a sense of humor: "
When I am stressed, I go down in the galley and cook a meal. I cook something every day. Gnocci, risotto with pumpkin…sometimes I cook for 40 persons.”

7-Capt. Dahlgren-Navigator

Captain Patrik Dahlgren (Sweden), Navigator of the Seas 
He’s still not 40, he’s now Royal Caribbean’s Vice-President of Marine Operations for Quantum of the Seas Technology, after serving for years as the youngest captain anywhere on the ocean: “I started when I was 12.”

8-Capt. Manzi-Coral

Captain Luca Manzi (Italy), Oceania Riviera 
When he visits his roots in Italy: “I still have to explain what I do for a living. My friends ask what I do — ‘Sailing?' In Italian, it's the word used to surf the Internet, so now I say I do nothing for a living."

9-Capt. Vorren-Epic

Captain Trygve Vorren (Norway), Norwegian Epic 
Not long before he died suddenly, he shared thoughts on the size of ships: “What will catch people’s attention will be the future. Look at the last 20 years…we developed technology we never imagined. What did we do, not in cruising but in life, before the Internet?”

10-Capt. Tore-Allure

Captain Tore Grimstad (Norway), Allure of the Seas 
Now sharing the captain’s chair on the Allure with close friend Johnny Faevelen, he was once on an American-Russian-Norwegian ship with the capability of launching rockets, near the equator: “I was captain, not a rocket scientist!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Reflecting on the cruise news of 2014

Carnival Glory
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): Half Moon CaySan JuanSt. Thomas
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42


Cruise Ships A Respite From Cats?

A husband and wife in Dublin had an unusual request for a travel writer this month: How could they take a cat-free holiday? The wife had a “cat phobia” and it didn’t matter where they went in Europe, there were cats…in restaurants, under tables, in hotel lobbies, even on the street!

CatMillions of us who travel on almost any cruise ship had the obvious answer, but it took the travel writer a while to get around to it.

She did her homework, because that’s what travel writers do. At Euromonitor, she discovered a graph of “cat- and dog- owning nations” but we couldn’t find it so we’re not sure if she was looking for the pet population — or nations that are owned by cats and dogs. 

Neither came up.

The travel writer did point out that cruise ships are cat-free, then went on to reveal that Barcelona is a big cruise port (really?) and that there are usually “coach or boat excursions” operated in cruise ports. She even mentioned the names of a few cruise lines…Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC.

She did miss the boat on a couple of things. One, Cunard does allow cats on its three ships — they stay in an on-board kennel and their owners are allowed regular visits. And two, she should’ve told them to avoid Oasis of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship.

Because Oasis has CATS!

The musical.

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise update — women rule!

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 18, 2015
Galveston (return): FalmouthGeorge TownCozumel 
Inside: $387
Cost per day: $55

Cruise Ships And Entertainment

Almost every cruise ship has entertainment. Here are some of our favorite entertainers over the years…

Allure-ChicagoThe signature production on Allure of the Seas reminded us what a terrific musical Chicago is — guess that's why it's been around for almost 40 years!

Riviera-FlamencoNot actually "on" the Oceania Riviera, this Flamenco dancer turned everyone's head at the then-new ship's christening ceremony on the Barcelona waterfront.

Navigator-Unexpecteds The Unexpected Boys, from an organization of tribute acts (The Four Seasons), on Navigator of the Seas

Unexpected Boys…and off-stage, where they have real names (left to right): Nick Celona, Aaron Young, Doug Carpenter and Scott Pearson.

Crown- Tony Tillman, named Princess Entertainer-of-the-Year on the Crown Princess, was inspired by the late Sammy Davis Jr. and has made a career playing him.

Blue Man Until seeing Blue Man Group on the Norwegian Epic, we might have considered this one scary act…but what a funny, entertaining show.

Glory Dayz-1A talented group from Rhode Island, Glory Dayz seemed headed for a bright future in cruising after spending a week auditioning on Explorer of the Seas.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

MSC Divina
7 nights
March 7, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSan JuanBahamas
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49

Surveyed Cruisers Miss Etiquette

We’re not quite sure when dress etiquette started undergoing what has become a dramatic change, but it seemed to us that it started with Casual Fridays. That would place it in the ‘90s, when the dot-com boom began to consume the way business was done, even at the highest levels.

Dot.com meant California (Silicon Valley) and the “C’ in California has always had a double meaning, “Casual” being the other one. It quickly spread and Casual Fridays were the one day of the week that workers — even managers — could dress down, as opposed to dressing up. It penetrated every business including, eventually, the cruise business.

When you go on a cruise ship today, you’ll likely see passengers wearing pretty much whatever they want. This is light years from when “proper” attire was compulsory in the dining rooms of the cruise world, etiquette that has gradually regressed to “no shorts and Cunard diningtank tops” although we’ve been on cruise ships where that’s not enforced.

This is topical this week because of a survey from Great Britain. It was conducted by Cruise.co.uk and among the discoveries was one that 70 per cent of the passengers/respondents want a return to “formal evenings” on cruise ships.

Now, this is the British, who discovered Casual Fridays some time after North Americans did and who generally consider themselves more “proper” than the rest of us when it comes to things like manners and etiquette. Cunard, the cruise company that the British upper-crust most identifies with (even though it’s owned by Carnival), is the last bastion of formal dress…although  (for men) suits and ties have replaced tuxedos in the compulsory department.

There is a generation, maybe two, of people accustomed to dressing casually for work — not just on Fridays. Returning to “formal evenings” on cruise ships to appease the formally-friendly elderly demographic will risk chasing away the young families that cruise lines crave.

In short, get used to golf shirts for men and capri pants for women, and blue jeans (ripped perhaps) for both when you sit down to enjoy your evening meal on a cruise ship.

That genie is out of the bottle.

Today at portsandbows.com: Getting up to date on cruise news

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
January 4, 2015
Galveston (return): FalmouthGeorge TownGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $335
Cost per day: $47

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