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When A Ship Goes To The Super Bowl


Just when we thought it was time to give "cruising" and "Super Bowl" a rest…along comes this picture.

How could we not show you what a cruise ship looks like when it's turned into a hotel for a football game?

Every advertiser tries to get a piece of the football championship of the universe, and nobody does it better than the Bud people. They spend a ba-jillion dollars peddling beer and now they've connected with Norwegian, the cruise line that tries to be first in all things creative. 

At this point, none of us knows if the relationship is passionate enough to get Norwegian's Getaway onto a Bud Light commercial, but not likely since the ship just arrived in New York about the same time the teams playing in the Super Bowl arrived.

This work of art — people who already thought Norwegian ships were ugly will have a field day with this aberration — is called the Bud Light Hotel. It will be inhabited this weekend by football fans who want to be part of Super Bowl hoopla without freezing their tootsies.

It might be a one-shot deal, like two teams meeting in the big game for the first time, or it might be the start of an annual party on the Getaway. On the other hand, Norwegian will have a tough time getting the ship to next year's game.

It's in Phoenix.

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas
7 nights
March 2, 2014
Galveston (return): FalmouthGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $560
Cost per day: $80

9/11: For Cruise Passengers in N.Y., a Special Chance to see a Special Place

Freedom Tower and poolsToday, people around the world will pause to remember what life was like before those planes hit the World Trade Center and changed life as we knew it, forever. Today, people in New York will not only remember but many will visit the site that became known as Ground Zero. Today, passengers on cruise ships will remember days when getting on and off the ship was easier and some of them cruising into or out of New York this week will also visit the memorial and see the Freedom Tower that is replacing what used to be.

Yes, today will always be 9/11.

Prior to our cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas this year, we made our way into Lower Manhattan and spent a sombre couple of hours walking around the perpetualfountains called Reflecting Absence and the miraculous Survivor Tree, taken from the rubble where almost 3,000 human beings perished.

Survivor TreeIf you're unfamiliar with the tree's story, it was found in the debris that September, eight feet long and with blackened roots and lifeless limbs. It was taken to a nursery in The Bronx and given a second lease on life. Today, it's over 30 feet tall.

The museum was due to be completed by now, and then along came Hurricane Sandy, dumping eight feet of water into the structure and delaying its opening. On our visit, it was still closed, now scheduled to be open by next year.

Admission to the site is free. However, the best way to guarantee access is to register online, which costs $2. Tickets available at the site are first-come, first-served and if it's a busy day — which today is certain to be — a wait is likely.

Had we not been able to attend a press briefing about Quantum of the Seas and then board Explorer of the Seas, we might still be waiting to visit Ground Zero, 12 years after it became that. With the growth of cruise ships based in and around New York, it creates an ideal opportunity for people on cruise ships to take an extra day at one end or the other, to remember 9/11 for more than how it impacted security regulations at airports, train stations and cruise ship terminals.

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas
7 nights
October 20, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Labadee, FalmouthCozumel
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92


Cruise Lines Like Big Apple's Taste

Last year, Norwegian announced it was going to make New York home for its newest ship, the Breakaway.

Last month, Royal Caribbean announced its new ship, Quantum of the Seas (2014), will be "permanently" sailing from Bayonne, NJ, just across the river from Manhattan, which was the site of the press conference.

Last week, Celebrity announced it would have a two-day sale while setting up shop with The Lawn Club in Grand Central Station, in the heart of Midtown in New York City.

Is New York so hard to miss that it's just been "discovered" by the cruise industry as a major market? When did 8.3 million people in a concentrated geographical area become so easy to regard as just another Baltimore?

There have always been cruise ships regularly sailing in and out of New York, of course. What seems to have changed is the focus. These days, New York is big-time in cruising just like it is in just about every other way.

For Celebrity, taking over 12,000 square feet of Grand Central Station is nothing less than a mini trade show. The Lawn Club is the feature item on the top deck of all Solstice Class ships, something of a country club at sea, with a half acre of real grass and a handful of activities. In Grand Central, those activities will include a croquet challenge, local jazz musicians to entertain you and an opportunity for wannabe chefs to create their own spice rubs at The Lawn Club Grill.

For the two days — next Monday and Tuesday — the other carrot for visitors will be a chance to win a cruise to Bermuda, and to save $1,000 on a European cruise or $500 when booking one to Alaska, Bermuda or the Caribbean.

Did we mention that it all happens in a place that's hard to find…New York?

Coral Princess
14 nights
July 31, 2013
Vancouver (return): Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Ford, Anchorage, Hubbard, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan
Inside: $1,514
Cost per day: $108

In New York, bet on Broadway


NEW YORK — When you come to New York, fast becoming a popular port for cruise ships to hang their shingles or drop their anchors, you go to Broadway and see a show. It's just one of those things you do, so it was one of those things we did. We went to the corner of Broadway and 51st Street…and did we see a show!

This was the night after Royal Caribbean's introduction of its new ship, Quantum of the Seas. It wasn't a Broadway show in the traditional or conventional sense, because what you'll find at the corner of 51st is a diner. Specifically, the Ellen's Stardust Diner. We stumbled across it quite by accident, while searching for a late-evening meal that wasn't at a restaurant reviewed by Bon Appetit.

The menu looked appealing — that means lots of variety and unlikely to consume next month's mortgage payment — so in we went. The first thing we noticed was that it was loud and a young woman whose voice could break a wine glass was hitting the high notes as we were being seated.

Then another server sang. And another. And on into the night. We asked ours (he goes by Slick) if all the servers sang.

"Everyone," he said.

The diner is staffed with young people who come from all over the country and who don't want to work there, because where they want to work is on Broadway. Not the street, the district. They probably work for minimum wage, hoping that one of their customers is a talent scout, or a theatre manager, or a performer who isn't afraid of competition.

They sing everything from Let's Dance (Donna Summer) to Runaway (Del Shannon) to Dancing Queen (Abba) to Phantom of the Opera. It may be self-effacing, but they call it the "best free show on Broadway."

Once per meal, it seems, the waiters pass the bucket for tips, which they explain are pooled so that at the end of each week there's enough to pay for one singing or acting lesson, per person. It's either a wonderful idea or a good shtick to top up the tip jar, but either way the show they put on is worth an extra five bucks in the kitty.

Standing outside the diner, post-dinner, we were approached by a passerby who asked if we were going into a place where he'd taken his children and grandchildren. We asked if anybody ever made it to the big stage from serving tables and he said it was tough, but a few had probably made the step and that, in the end, it was good for them anyway.

It is, after all, on Broadway.

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
May 19, 2013
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $189
Cost per day: $47

Free Wireless in The Big Apple

It would be great to be in New York right now. Well, it would be great to be in New York anytime, wouldn't it?

Right now would be appropriate because then we could try out the free WiFi that's sponsored by Norwegian's soon-to-be new ship, the Breakaway, which arrives in its permanent North American home in early May. If we could try it out, we'd be able to tell you more accurately why Norwegian is giving a chunk of New York free WiFi…for the month of February.

Is it just a "brand awareness" thing, to make sure New Yorkers who haven't heard that Norwegian wants to be "New York's" ship?

Is every person accessing the free WiFi going to see a page of Breakaway advertising before they get to that "I accept" button?

Is Norwegian going to offer deals to its free WiFi users this month, in the hope that they'll take their laptops and iPads and iPhones on the big ship sometime?

Norwegian is partnering with Boingo Wireless on this venture, and the free WiFi is at all three of the area's airports (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark) and at select subway stations in the Big Apple. Presumably, when you look up from your device, you won't be able to miss a picture of the Breakaway on a nearby wallboard or billboard, but we can't say that for sure because we're not there.


Norwegian Star
7 nights
February 17, 2013
New Orleans (return): Costa Maya, Belize, Roatan, Cozumel
Inside: $349
Cost per day: $49

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