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Norwegian On The Move Worldwide

We could be wrong about this but we detect the heavy hand of Frank Del Rio in Norwegian’s latest news bulletin.

And that’s good.

For the first time in 13 years, Norwegian is sending a ship to Asia and Australia. For the first time ever, Norwegian is sending a ship to the Persian Gulf and India. For the first time since any of us can remember, Norwegian is going to base a ship in South America for two consecutive winters (having taken the Norwegian Sun to South America a few years ago — on what will always be near the top of our favorite cruises — this item really got our attention).

And finally, for the first time since…April, the Norwegian Epic is returning to North America.

All of this is going to start happening next year, and it smacks of the ambitious and gregarious CEO of Norwegian Holdings, Frank Del Rio, who has been on the job just seven months, and his Norwegian lieutenant, Andy Stuart.

That Norwegian would find its way to Asia was inevitable, because there isn’t going to be a major cruise line without a presence there. That its new itineraries would spread to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and India demonstrates the intent the cruise line has to be a player in those markets.

By ships, here is how it shakes down for the fall and winter of 2016-17…

Norwegian Star will launch its program from Istanbul on October 31, 2016 on a 20-day cruise through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal and eventually Dubai. After that, its ports on a variety of cruises will include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bali, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.

Norwegian Epic will summer in Europe and winter in the Caribbean, from Miami, an about-face for a ship that was going to sail year-round from Barcelona. The first of its 3-4-and-7-day cruises will be in the fall of 2016.

Norwegian Spirit will replace the Epic in Europe for year-round Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul.

Norwegian Sun (ah, memories) will continue to be the workhorse in South America, where in the winter of 2015-16 it will be on cruises of two weeks or longer.

Norwegian Jewel will make two trips each way through the Panama Canal in October 2016 and April 2017.

Norwegian Jade will be home-ported in Tampa, for Caribbean winter cruises, likely returning to Europe in the summer.

By the time all this falls into place, the Norwegian Escape will be here (it hits the water October 25 and crosses the ocean four days later. With the return of the Epic, that means Norwegian’s four biggest ships of its 14-member fleet — Epic, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway — will all be spending their winters in Caribbean waters.

So for as much talk as there is about cruise lines and their expansion to Asia and Australia, the core of this business is still Caribbean cruises.

In the news…

• Carnival, Dr. Seuss host two celebrity book-reading events
• America Cruise Lines doubles capacity on Snake, Columbia Rivers

Today at portsandbows.com: Chef Curtis Stone on Princess fleet

Ruby Princess
3 nights
September 14, 2015
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $99
Cost per day: $33
www.princess.com

Windstar: Best Small Line…Big Growth

When you increase something, anything, by 50 per cent it’s a big deal. For Windstar Cruises, the month that starts tomorrow is a big deal.

Next Friday, Windstar officially adds a ship to its fleet of four when the Star Breeze is christened in Nice, France. This will come two days after Windstar takes possession of its sixth ship, the Star Legend, and its official addition to the fleet will come May 25 in Rome.

What today is a four-ship fleet will become a six-ship fleet. Hence, 50 per cent.

Windstar’s an interesting cruise line. It has been around, in one form or another, for 30 years. It has been bought by Holland America, Carnival Corporation, Ambassadors International and — most recently — by Xanterra, a subsidiary of the powerful Anschutz Corporation.

None of its ships carries more than 300 or so passengers. In the eyes of Conde Nast Traveler readers, this is the “World’s Best Small Ship Cruise Line” and, clearly, it is growing. The last three ships were purchased from another luxury line after they sailed as Bar DaySeabourn’s Pride, Legend and Spirit. The Star Pride arrived a year ago and the two making their Windstar debuts this month have undergone $8.5 million in upgrades.

Each.

Based on feedback from Star Pride passengers over the last year, Windstar doubled its investment in refurbishing the Pride’s two sisters.

The Breeze also underwent a name change. It was the Spirit at Seabourn, but there’s already a Wind Spirit in this fleet.

Six ships is a 100 per cent expansion in the last year. With the ability to accommodate 636 more passengers on the three ship additions (212 each), the overall capacity grows dramatically, to 1,242. Windstar can now take twice as many people on exotic, small-port excursions on ships that are in reality known as yachts.

The demand must be there, and this oft-orphaned cruise line is doing its best to meet it.

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Jasper on the Danube

Norwegian Sun
4 nights
September 28, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, San Diego
Inside: $219
Cost per day: $54
www.ncl.com

The Curse Of The Lounge Chairs

Here’s a problem to which there is no solution…

Loungers.

The problem isn’t so much the loungers as the towels. People drape towels on pool-side lounge chairs like “reserved” signs, and you dare not remove a towel, in case it’s owner is watching. The problem is that the towel can sit on the lounger for hours, all day even, and hotel loungersnever be touched. It’s there, of course, because the people who make the deposits want to reserve that chaisse lounge for when they want to sit there…if they want to sit there.

What you often have is a long ling of lounge chairs covered in towels, many with no people.

People on cruise ships have long complained about this. Other than posting a sign warning people that uninhabited chairs can only remain so for an hour, as some cruise lines do, there is no solution. To hire lounge police is too costly and a waste of crew time.

But it’s not just on cruise ships. In fact, there’s a warning for the cruise industry.

During our recent visit to an all-inclusive resort — you’ll read more about that next week — we discovered the sight you see in the photo. We saw people emerging from their rooms at the crack of dawn, draping a towel on a pool-side lounge chair, and disappearing. While we didn’t keep score, in many cases it seemed the chairs were inhabited only by towels for hours on end.

And if you look carefully at the photo, you’ll see large “towel pins” being used to hold the “reservations.” When you have something that’s designed specifically for holding towels on vacant loungers, you really do have a problem.

Is there a solution to these devices of bad manners?

If you know of one, many people would like to hear it.

Today at portsandbows.com: Anthem of the Seas officially Royal Caribbean's

Golden Princess
7 nights
May 2, 2015
Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Astoria, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.princess.com

China Cruising Wave of Future

Good friends of ours are going to China in a little over a month. This is not something on our bucket list but if that ever happens, we’d probably do what our friends are doing.

They’re going on a cruise.

It could be our friends are ahead of their time. The way things are going in the cruise industry, when you gaze over the horizon it’s possible there will one day be more cruise ships in Asia than in North America.

Impossible?

Think again.

Unless it’s just a trend that will runs it’s course (unlikely), the mini-exodus of cruise ships to the other side of the world is likely to continue. Consider these few facts…

• Presently five Royal Caribbean ships (yes, five!) are scheduled to have home ports in QuantumChina next year — Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Legend of the Seas and two of the newest ships, Quantum of the Seas (leaving in May) and Ovation of the Seas (2016). The new ships will be permanently based in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

• A new cruise terminal is in the planning stage for Krabi, a little-known city and the fourth most visited place in Thailand.

• South Korea this month passed two laws related to cruising, one of them to allow foreign casinos to operate on ships.

• Japan is now allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa, providing they are traveling on specific cruise ships (including three from Costa Cruises and Mariner of the Seas) approved by the Japanese minister of justice.

• According to a recent study, there is the potential for 83 million cruise passengers from China alone. To give this some perspective, last year the number of cruise passengers on ships world-wide — according to another study — was just over 20 million.

It seems people in China are discovering what many of us discovered long ago, that cruising is a great way to vacation, and the growth of the Chinese economy is allowing them to experience it. Since there are millions more Chinese than North Americans, get ready for the shift of ships.

And maybe a new bucket list.

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney jolly over England

Carnival Imagination
4 nights
April 26, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina Island, Ensenada 
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

Cruise Curiosity: Some Questions

 

Just some things that we’re curious about…

The other day, Port Canaveral had six ships in port at the same time…Although there was no mention that this was any kind of record, officials said Canaveral was hoping to overtake Miami as the world’s No. 1 cruise port…In 2017, there might even be some seven-ship days…Hmmm…Currently, 11 ships from four cruise lines depart from the port most closely associated with Orlando and Disney World, including three of the four in Disney’s fleet…At the moment, 25 ships call Miami home during the Caribbean season, from 10 cruise lines…Carnival and Norwegian alone have 12 ships in Miami…It seems Port Canaveral has a ways to go…And what makes Miami No. 1 in the world, since Fort Lauderdale currently has 42 ships with cruises initiating from Port Everglades?

On Saturday, Anthem of the Seas departs from the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Germany for sea trials and final touch-ups to the interior, some of which will be done during the trials…AnthemBy the time it emerges again for its official launch, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship will have been under construction for just 16 months, so the question is: Are builders working faster than in previous years or are they just getting better at assembling enormous cruise ships in that short a time?…Anthem, by the way, will have an original Royal Caribbean production on stage…It’s called “The Gift” and is described as “a musical journey of fantasy and illusion that begins one stormy night with the arrival of a magical gift”…It’ll be interesting to see what the reviews are like.

More cruise lines are making more staterooms available for solo cruisers at a more reasonable rate, making this the best time for people who want to travel alone to book a cruise…Carnival is the latest, with more single-occupant cruises than ever on sale this year…The next one available is on the Carnival Dream, leaving New Orleans on March 15 for a week in the Caribbean…Carnival has eight cruises scheduled this year that are good deals for solos, and the growth of single cabins and fairer pricing raises this question: How long will it be until one of those “meet your match” programs winds up on cruise ships?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
March 9, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Catalina, Ensenada
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49
www.carnival.com

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