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Work On The Buffet Waistlines

It’s that day again, isn’t it? Monday. The go-on-a-diet day. It comes around every week, of course, and is overshadowed only by January 2…the ultimate GO-ON-A-DIET day.

This Monday, Labor Day is a good name for going on a diet, because it is laborious. It’s also a good time to bring up what’s happening at Celebrity Cruises.

Smaller plates.

We’re talking cruise buffets. You know what it’s like, cut from the all-you-can-eat part of the menu. In trying to help passengers be more calorie responsible, Celebrity is Eclipse-buffettrying to serve everything as individual portions, on individual plates, instead of leaving it to us to serve ourselves (as much or as little) as we choose. It’s only being tried on one ship…so far.

Will it help?

““Guests are eating less, it’s all psychological,” Chef John Suley told the Cruise Industry News. “It was human nature with a large plate to take the things you wanted to try. Now they are portioned and our guests are also thinking about the health conscious aspect.”

Celebrity has discovered its overall food consumption has dropped, the chefs are enjoying make their dishes more visually appealing and fewer passengers have been freed from doorways in which they were stuck…just kidding.

There is one flaw.

What if you take a second helping?

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
September 20, 2014
New York (return):  Boston, Portland, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $369
Cost per day: $52

The Impact of Frozen and Friends

Frozen cruises. Now there’s an oxymoron. With the exception of adventurous expeditions to the Poles, cruises are generally for warm-weather people. Lie on the Disney ship-Frozendeck, swim in the pool, sit in the moonlight on the balcony. None of these things works on a “frozen cruise.”

Unless it’s Disney.

Everybody knows Frozen, the movie…while we did hear a movie critic claim she had never heard “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” Perhaps she doesn’t get out much. So okay, almost everybody has heard of Frozen…the movie, the music, the characters. To the surprise of no one, Frozen characters are going on Disney ships.

Anna and ElsaNo  dates yet, but one Florida travel agency is reporting that Princess Anna and Queen Elsa will be making appearances on three of Disney’s four ships: the Magic, the Wonder and the Fantasy. It will be on cruises to the Caribbean and — here’s another shocker — Alaska.

Disney, meanwhile, is reporting that for the first time it will be cruising to Scotland, Iceland and Norway, the animated “country” that was the movie’s set…and the impact Frozen Norwayon the real Norway has been nothing short of astounding. Disney is implementing guided tours called “A Full Frozen Package” that include fjord visits, trout fishing and a visit to Bergen. Since the movie’s release, traffic to the VisitNorway website has tripled, traffic is up 52 per cent on Norwegian Air Shuttle, searches for Norwegian flights are up 153 per cent and hotel bookings are up 37 per cent.

Frozenmania is widespread. We know people who like everything Frozen.

In a manner of speaking, that is.

Today at portsandbows.com: Copenhagen’s copious attractions

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
September 13, 2014
New York (return): Boston, Portland, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

The Real Difference for a Luxury Cruise?

Last week, we did a blog about Regent Seven Seas, a luxury cruise line that has new entertainment, and it got us thinking about how "luxury" compares to "standard" in the cruise world…and by "standard" we mean the big cruise lines with the biggest ships and biggest passenger loads.

So we decided to do as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as we could. One cruise. Same general destination (Caribbean). Same type of cabin (balcony). Same month (November).

For your perusal, then, here is Regent Seven Seas' Navigator vs Royal Caribbean's mighty Oasis of the Seas, the biggest of the mainstream big ships…

Regent Seven Seas is essentially an all-inclusive cruise line. One price covers all, or pretty much all. The cruise we researched is on the Navigator, it's seven nights and it's going to the Western Caribbean, where it will make four port stops.

Price: $4,000.

The Oasis — biggest cruise ship in the world — cruise is also seven nights to the Caribbean, with three ports. Both cruises are to the Western Caribbean, although they have only one port in common. The items priced below for the Oasis are all included on the Navigator:

Balcony stateroom: $1,517
Return airfare: $400
Shore excursions (3): $300
Specialty restaurants: $90
Beverage package: $385
Taxes: $150
Airport transfers: $60
Gratuities: $84

We hasten to point out that this is not an exact science. For one thing, we based airfare on flights from the middle of the continent, Chicago. Obviously, that could vary by where you live, but Chicago is the most central departure point. For another, beverage packages vary, so we chose one that's middle-of-the-road. For another, Regent Seven Seas has smaller ships and higher ratios of staff-per-passenger.

So how much more is it worth for luxury.

The total of the Oasis of the Seas prices above is $2,996.

The difference is $1,004, or 25 per cent more.

What do you think?

Oasis of the SeasToday at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
August 31, 2014
New York (return): Saint John (N.B.)
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $137

Cruise Port — Cozumel Launch Pad To Yucatan, Too

This week, we're featuring ports you may find on your cruise itinerary, to give you a snapshot of what it's like, what ships usually go there and what some of the options are once you get off the ship. Today it's Cozumel, Mexico.

If there's a cruise ship that goes to the Western Caribbean and DOESN'T stop at Cozumel, the identity if the ship must be a closely guarded secret.

Like rice and beans and tequila, Cozumel is a Mexican staple.

It's also a jumping-off point for same-day sites to see, which is probably why it's on the itineraries of all major cruise ships. Think for a minute about it's cousin around the gulf, Costa Maya. If every ship stopped there, and many do, you'd either run out of things to do or tire of long bus rides, or both.

Not so in Cozumel.

The island itself is at least interesting and worthy of stopping there once or twice (we once made three Cozumel stops in a little over two weeks). For the photography crowd, there are photo-ops everywhere and, being an island, plenty of Cozumel-east beachbeaches. However, getting some local advice on the best beaches is a good idea because the east side of the island didn't look that inviting when we rented a car (call Margarita or Santiago at 987-872-33-67 for a smokin' deal) and circled Isla Cozumel.

Then there's off-Cozumel.

Take the 45-minute ferry to Playa del Carmen, where the beaches do look inviting, even to people to whom beaches are rarely that inviting, like us. On the Mexican mainland, you can also make quick trips to the ruins of Tulum (now that IS Shopping in Cozumelinviting) or longer trips to other attractions on the Yucatan Peninsula, like Cancun or Merida. There is no shortage of things to do in this part of Mexico, and the weather usually cooperates. 

One warning when you're on a cruise ship: Check your watch, and not because you're afraid it will be stolen…because you're afraid you might get confused by Cozumel time and wind up missing your ship.

Otherwise, Cozumel is (as they say) "a trip!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Watch for the acronym MSC — it will be on more ships

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
June 7, 2014
Quebec CityCharlottetownSydneyHalifaxBar HarborBoston
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

About That Daylight Saving Time…

It is our duty, in case you happen to be on a cruise ship when Daylight Saving Time comes along, to alert you about "the time change."

It's this weekend, or next month.

In most of North America, the clocks "jump ahead" two hours into Sunday morning. Except in Arizona. And Saskatchewan. And in Cozumel, where there are cruise ships.

In Cozumel, where we once almost missed a ship because of this confusion, DST goes into effect in April. On the 6th, also a Sunday. Except on Norwegian cruise ships, which maintain ship's time. However, Royal Caribbean cruise ships stay on land's time, which in Cozumel is different than land time everywhere else in the area.

And when the Cozumel stays on Standard Time while the rest of the world goes Daylight, the one-hour difference between ship time and shore time becomes two hours.

As the pop band Chicago would say…or sing…

"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

Holland America Veendam
9 nights
May 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Gloucester, Bar HarborHalifaxSydneyCharlottetownQuebec City
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $55

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