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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

Olympians Beware: It's Like A Cruise Ship There!

We've been watching a lot of television, some delayed and some live, from the Olympic Winter Games in Russia this week. 

Last night (well, it was "last night" somewhere), Mexico's lone athlete was on the tube, even though he isn't really from Mexico, but that's another story. He was talking about being in the Olympic Village in Sochi and just in the course of conversation mentioned that many of the athletes had "something happening" in their throats and noses…aka, the 'flu.

A week before the Olympics, we were watching national curling (we do lead an exciting existence!) finals and more than half the competitors had been stricken with illness that was clearly contagious.

Nowhere was the mention of norovirus.

That's in part because norovirus is only linked to cruising when it should be linked to any mass gastro-intestinal sickness that occurs where there are small to large groups of people.

There's yet another misconception about norovirus — and we are not unsympathetic to cruise passengers who have suffered from this, at all. What the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “very hearty virus” that causes stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea can be contracted from contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships are among the places ripe for such viruses to spread.

However, there is a report in "The Week" (?) that passengers wanting to avoid getting it should stick to shorter cruises because there are fewer reports of norovirus outbreaks on shorter cruises…and by "shorter" the publication means fewer than seven days. The vast majority of the outbreaks occurred on cruises of seven days or longer.

Hmmm…is it possible that's because the vast majority of cruises are seven days or longer?

Apply that theory to the Olympics and athletes should attend competitions where they will come in contact with fewer people, not where almost 3,000 athletes are "residing" in the same general area.

Yes, 3,000 is about what many cruise ships carry, isn't it?

Celebrity Millennium
14 nights
May 10, 2014
Tokyo, Aomori, Sapporo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Good as Gold for The Little Cruise Line That Can

It's still more than a month to the Olympics but there's already an underdog with a gold medal…in cruising.


Windstar? It's a small-ship cruise line, right? This big player in a small market is now a big fish in a big pond, as in the ocean. According to Conde Nast Traveler, Windstarwhich every year produces its Gold List of travel for hotels, resorts and cruise lines…sort of like being a five-star ranking in the eyes of an acknowledged expert.

The category for cruising is called Ocean Cruises and seven lines made it for 2014. One of them is Windstar, a sailing fleet that the average cruiser would not think of as being "ocean" vessels. In fact, the only heavyweight in this year's class is Disney…the other five are Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream and Silversea.

Clearly, the trending is to smaller ships — at least in awards — with first-class service. In service, Windstar scored 97.3, slightly better than its itineraries (96.7) and food (94.7). Its overall rating for seven categories was 92.0.

Crystal (94.4) was at the head of the class with an overall score of 94.4. Second was Seabourn at 92.6 and Windstar was third.

In Sochi, Russia next month they'll call third place a "bronze" medal. At Windstar, it's gold.

Ruby Princess
9 nights
March 1, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand CaymanCozumel, Fort Lauderdale, Grand Turk
Inside: $605
Cost per day: $67

Norwegian Charters Mean Changes

There was a story on Cruise Critic yesterday that puts all those feel-good testimonials and events that cruise lines shower on their passengers into proper perspective.

"Passengers, you're the best…unless we get a better deal."

The story is about canceling cruises to accommodate private charters on two Norwegian ships and if you choose to think that's all about money, well, go right ahead. 

Norwegian is moving the Jade from the Mediterranean to Russia next February and if you're wondering why anybody would want to go to Russia in February, then you don't follow the drumbeat of the Olympic Winter Games, which will be in Sochi. The Jade will be a floating hotel in the Russian seaport during the two weeks of Olympics.

Passengers booked on the Jade in the Mediterranean will be compensated, of course, and the cruise line's right to disrupt travel plans like that is somewhere down in the fine print, isn't it?

The other ship is the Getaway, which isn't even a ship yet. Scheduled to make its inaugural Transatlantic crossing from Rotterdam to Fort Lauderdale in January. Then, and there, the Getaway was to become Miami's ship…but now it's going to be New York's ship for a week, even though its sister ship, the Breakaway, has already been proclaimed "New York's ship."

The reason?

Private event. Translation: a better deal.

This change in plans is a disruption to passengers who booked the Transatlantic voyage expecting to step on the ship in Rotterdam (it's now leaving from Southampton) and to step off the ship in Florida. And the charter in New York also means the Getaway's inaugural cruise to the Caribbean won't leave on February 1 as scheduled, but a week later on February 8.

So the next time you hear cruise-line officials falling all over their passengers, reach for the salt shaker and take a few grains.

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 15, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $46

Get Ready for Olympics Cruise Ships

In the months between now and February 7, the world is going to read and hear a lot about Sochi. The Russian city is host of the next Olympic Winter Games, now that you ask, and it's showing up here today because seven cruise ships will be on the scene masquerading as hotels.

Construction on Sochi hotels is behind schedule, as construction of something almost always is for Olympic Games. The solution — one which was voted down at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver — is to bring in the accommodation armada.

The first thing that occurred to us was…they do know this is the WINTER Olympics, don't they? Vancouver, with its West Coast marine climate, was a different story because ships come and go all year long. A small check on Sochi enlightened us…the same thing happens there. It's a port on the Black Sea, where many Russian tourists go for summer vacation and, now winter athletic events, where sea-level daytime temperatures in February run about four to eight degrees above freezing.

Sochi can accommodate cruise ships as large as 3,000 passengers. The estimate is that 50,000 to 60,000 visitors will use them during the Olympics and, no, there's nothing wrong with the math. Not everybody goes to the Olympics for the entire two and a half weeks, so it makes sense that many people could be accommodated by changing the sheets every few days.

The second thing that occurred to us was…which ships. So far, it seems to be a closely guarded secret but secrets about ships that big don't stay that way for long. Most cruisers would want to know what the ships were before booking rooms. However, 80 per cent of the visitors staying on them are expected to be Russians, who are not as into cruising as we are in the west, so maybe it doesn't matter.

But as people who love cruise ships, we're just kind of curious.

Aren't you?

Golden Princess
3 nights
October 21, 2013
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $76

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