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Friday File: Memorable Crew Members

The theory is that everyone has a story, or at least a smile, and we've found plenty of both on cruises. These are some of the memorable crew members we have encountered…

CoralThis kitchen worker on the Coral Princess had a whopper of a story — along with a fish big enough to be dinner for passengers on an entire deck of the ship.

Freedom-NaiduHis name is Naidu and did he love to dance, especially when they struck up the band (okay, CD) for the crew in the Carnival Freedom dining room on the final night.

RivieraOn the Oceania Riviera the queen of cooking, Kathryn Kelly, left the corporate world (she started three big companies) behind to conduct classes for chefs-to-be at sea.

Isagani-SaravanIsagani Natividad and Saravan Radhakrishnan, both sommeliers on Celebrity's Millennium, were kind enough to taste a wine we'd brought from home (it's okay, they spit!). 

ExplorerOn Explorer of the Seas, servers Tankica Gogova and Vivek Gonsalves were such a dynamic duo that we requested their section of the same dining room table every night.

Dollerage and friendAfter two weeks on the Norwegian Sun, we'd spent so much time with Dollerage Soares (left) that he suggested fellow waiter Lester Anthony join him for a "family photo"…and guess what: He was right!

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival Vista to Miami

Carnival Fascination
5 nights
November 30, 2015
Jacksonville (return): Nassau, Freeport
Inside: $239
Cost per day: $47

Deal Too Good, Too Late To Be True

Normally, we let our “Daily Deal” deliver some value cruises for you to consider but once in a while there’s something extraordinary that deserves an even better treatment…A couple Allureof days ago we had one — you do notice that’s past tense, right?…It was a Transatlantic trip on Allure of the Seas, the (starting) price was $659 with 50 per cent off for the second guest, plus up to $200 for an on-board credit…For 12 days, it worked out to less than $50 a day on one of the two biggest cruise ships in the world, as long as bookings were made by January 31…Well, guess what?…Today is January 20, and it’s no longer available…Obviously, eagle-eyed consumers snapped up the rooms but it does leave you wondering how many Royal Caribbean made available in the promotion.

Now here’s a clever idea: When the AIDAsol arrived in Vietnam this week, immigration AIDAsolofficials boarded the ship at Buoy 1, three hours before docking at Tan Cang-Cai Mep, to process the 2,176 passengers, most of them German…By the time the AIDA ship reached the port, the process was finished and passengers were able to disembark right away…On their most recent health inspections, in Fort Lauderdale, two Holland America ships — the Noordam and the Zuiderdam — were perfect (100) in scores by the Centers for Disease Control.

The line-up for the Olympics has begun…The Norwegian Getaway is first in the line-up of cruise ships for Rio de Janeiro, where the Summer Games will be staged in 2016…The Getaway will be impersonating a hotel from August 5-21 next year, just like its smaller Getawaysibling, the Jade, did at the 2012 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia…With a capacity close to 4,000, the Getaway will help take some of the stress off Rio’s hotels, at the same time providing its “passengers” with luxurious accommodation and presumably earning a few “reals” — you didn’t know that’s what Brazilian currency was called, did you? — for the cruise line…The Getaway has experience at this, having served as a floating hotel at last year’s Super Bowl in New York…It doesn’t hurt that Getaway’s ambiance and treatment are decidedly Spanish.

Super BowlFile this one in the “When Will It End?” drawer…In a major Canadian newspaper (Toronto Star) there was a story about Carnival’s advertising on TV during the Super Bowl next week, and the second paragraph read: “Carnival, of course, is the line whose ship, Triumph, became a PR disaster in early 2013, when it got stuck at sea for almost a week due to an engine fire”…Seriously?…That was two years ago and, after all the things Carnival has done to restore its public stature, the cruise line hardly needed a Super Bowl ad to make image amends.

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's latest technology

Carnival Triumph
10 nights
February 20, 2015
San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix, Falmouth, Galveston
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $54

Cruisers misbehaving…refusing to act their age

Cancun parasailingThis is not your mother's…hairspray…morals…nor her idea of cruising:

• In Mexico, an 84-year-old male cruise passenger disembarks from a Norwegian ship in Cozumel to go on a shore excursion, gets strapped under parasail and goes airborne from the back of a speedboat before landing on the beach while his 50-something children watch in horror.

• A 62-year-old woman who can't swim and who is afraid of heights gets off the Coral Princess cruise ship and climbs onto a float plane — in the co-pilot's seat yet — and flies to the top of Alaska's Mount McKinley, landing on a glacier where she spends 15 minutes frolicking in the snow.

• In Costa Rica, during a Caribbean cruise a 90-year-old great-grandmother leaves the ship on a shore excursion that takes her into the jungle and onto one of the zip lines for which that country is famous, despite the fact she has led a life which also brought her heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia.

Gone are the days of nodding off in the library while deep into a hardcover, or having high tea on the deck, or playing cards or one of the board games that 

George Bush 41almost nobody seems to play anymore. Cruise passengers may be old but many don't act old. 

This old-acting-young phenomenon should probably be blamed on the Bushes, who get blamed for everything it seems. The former President Bush (41, not 43) celebrated his 85th birthday four years ago by jumping out of a plane and letting gravity take him to 100 miles an hour before landing safely on the ground in Maine.

"Just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner," Bush said. "Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life."

More cruise passengers than ever feel the same way.

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
January 6, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $39

Interactive Touch Screens Latest 'Freestyle' Innovation for Norwegian

Ever the innovator, Norwegian is staying state-of-the-art in cruising, this time with interactive signs to make the cruising experience even more modern and potentially more satisfying.

It's called staying with the times.

We have a 16-month-old granddaughter who knows, even before her second birthday, that the way to make things happen on Grandma's iPhone is to swipe the screen…and she knows Norwegian Breakawaywhat to expect when you swipe. The point is that in the modern age, interactivity is everything, whether it's reading a book on a phone or phoning a book-ie…okay, a relative…from the car.

Interactivity is giving a whole new meaning to touchy-feely. Nowhere is that more prevalent on cruise ships than the ones with those loud decorative works of art on their hulls.

Norwegian has a history of innovations, and if touch-screens in the public areas isn't one of them, being able to do everything from order dinner to book entertainment or shore excursions is.

The head honcho, Kevin Sheehan, puts it this way:

"All of our guests can take advantage of this exciting technology. With the introduction of these screens, Freestyle Cruising is taken to a whole new level, allowing guests to further Kevin Sheehancustomize their vacation on their time. It’s all about freedom and flexibility.”

Freestyle is a Norwegian signature and, co-incidentally, Freestyle Cruising brought us back to cruising after a 16-year absence (Norwegian Star)…but that's another story. We can't imagine this freestyle option would be that dramatic but having 30 to 50 static screens on a ship so that you can do things that would otherwise have to be done on the phone is just another way to help bring our demographic into the 21st century.

And, dare we mention, to attract younger customers.

That's what Norwegian's new ships, first the Breakaway and next February the Getaway, are designed to do. The touch screens that are part of it were introduced on Breakaway and now will be floated out to the other 11 ships in the Norwegian fleet.

So far, they've resisted saying it enables customers to keep in touch.

Celebrity Solstice
12 nights
November 4, 2013
SydneyMelbourne, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Tauranga, Auckland
Inside: $1,499
Cost per day: $124

Seasick: Epic Captain Cured Early


He's been at sea for more than 30 years. The woman he married almost that long ago has been at his side ever since he carried her…not across the threshold, but off the deck. Today, he is the captain of one of the world's biggest cruise ships.

And it all began with being seasick.

His name is Frank Juliussen. He's one of the two captains of the Norwegian Epic. He comes from the fishing islands called Lofoten, in the north of Norway, and as a teenager he decided that he didn't want to fish. The option was to go to sea.

"My Dad had a fishing boat," he recalls, sitting one day on the bridge of the Epic. "He didn't allow me to go with him. He sent me out with a friend and told me to make my own money. The first season you have to do the cooking. I was 15 years old. I was used to the sea but not in bad weather so the first 14 days I was throwing up every day…and I had to do the cooking at the same time. So after 14 days the skipper came and he told me: 'Frank, I think you should consider going ashore.'"

But young Juliussen was either too determined or too afraid to return to his father as a failure.

"Please," he remembers saying to the skipper, "give me another chance."

The story of curing his seasickness is "too nasty" to print, but he tells it anyway. We'll reduce the graphic elements.

"What can I do to get rid of this?" he asked.

The skipper had one cure.

"Because he had seen me, he knew it was psychological for me. In the morning when he started the engine I had to go on deck and throw up. All it took was hearing the engine started. He gave me a cup and told me to go up in the shelter, where we bait the long lines."

Said his skipper: "You go there and take your time."

Juliussen's instructions were, well, a little tough to stomach. So he didn't. He couldn't. He returned to the deck and told the skipper.

"He told me to finish out the day at least. He knew. The seasickness was gone. I don't know if it was a psychological connection but it was gone, and I haven't had it since. But nobody wants to hear that story."

Life on a fishing boat was rough, and often in rough waters. He did it for eight years. He'd heard all about the sailor-man stories and their romances, and he found none of it. Until one day a telegraph trainee — "what we called a telegraphist baby" — followed him up the ramp behind a roll-on, roll-off vessel where he was doing some maintenance.

"She didn't dare go down, because it was too steep," he laughs, "so I had to carry her down on my shoulders."

Her name is Tove and soon after that she became his wife.

Before their children came along, Juliussen left fishing and went to carpenter's school because he wanted to be on land.

"We lived very close to the sea and every morning I heard boats coming in and I went down to the pier to look at them," he says. "She asked me if I wanted to sail again and I said yes. That was it."

With two small daughters at home, he went to captain's school. On his application, nobody asked about seasickness.

Tomorrow: Captain Juliussen's climb to the top of the Epic.

Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
7 nights
July 12, 2013
Baltimore (return): King's Wharf
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $128


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