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Protecting The Privacy Of Passengers

The much-publicized (can you say 24/7 on TV?) hacking at Sony this month once again raised the issue of cyber security in every business, which of course includes cruise lines.

While all of them have to pay close attention to the issue, it appears that Carnival was a little ahead of the curve, hiring a specialist with a long history in a similar position with Supervalu, a $37 billion grocery retail and supply chain.

With good reason.

Carnival the Cruise Line is the tip of the “Internet Iceberg.” Carnival the Corporation is the whole iceberg and it includes the following cruise lines (in case you never knew or have Gary Eppingerforgotten): Holland America, Cunard, Princess, P&O, Seabourn, Costa, AIDA, P&O Australia and Iberocruceros (Spain).

Pretty much a world-wide iceberg, right?

Several months ago, Carnival (the Corporation) hired a security expert, Gary Eppinger. After you strip away his lengthy vice-president’s title and list of responsibilities, his primary duty is to make sure the privacy of passengers on ships from all 10 brands is protected…as much as personal information can be protected.

“Millions of customers go onto our ships every year,” he told Travel Pulse. “We look at our ships as floating cities with gambling, hospitals, multiple retail stores, and everything’s connected to your room key. Security is critical for us, because of this huge installed base of customer information. There are things we can do and have done and are doing to put us in a better position to reduce our exposure and risk.”

Reduce? That’s right…there are no absolute guarantees in cyberspace.

“Our navigation systems are in a segregated offline network, so we built controls in place to prohibit things like that happening,” Eppinger explained in the Travel Pulse story. “But with every wall you put up, somebody’s always trying to break in, through or around that wall. We do look at it continuously, and whatever the odds are, they’re still too high.”

Carnival, and every business, knows they are at risk of…becoming another Sony.

Today at portsandbows.com: The most popular 'long' cruises

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
February 2, 2015
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $42

Black Sea Off Limits For Cruisers

There’s fighting going on a world away and you never think it will affect you…and then it does. Maybe you’re scheduled to cruise into the Black Sea, for instance. As a long-ago U.S. President would say: “Not gonna happen.”

Cruising into the Black Sea is becoming more rare all the time. The latest cruise lines to cancel are Cunard and P&O. Both have canceled all 13 ports calls for 2015, because of rising security concerns…i.e., fighting. They have been preceded by Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, MSC and Holland America.

The safety rule of thumb these days is to cruise as far as Istanbul, Turkey and take a pass on the Black Sea, which is between Turkey and Ukraine, two countries currently involved in conflicts. 

Where will it end?

The two most popular cruise ports in Turkey are Istanbul and Kusadasi. Both are far from the Syrian border, where security concerns are magnified. Both are on the fringe of the Mediterranean cruise map. Both are relatively safe…for now.

As terrorism re-shapes the world, especially in the Europe-Asia corridor, so too does it re-shape the cruising world.

Fifty years from now…who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Cruises to Bordeaux

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
December 7, 2014
Port Canaveral (return):  LabadeeFalmouthGeorge TownCozumel
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $47

Shipless In Barcelona And Everybody Wins

Of all the reasons we've heard for a change in cruise itineraries, one that we read about on the weekend was new. It was also kind of win-win.

The P&O ship Oceana was at its scheduled stop in Barcelona when the cruise line discovered a repair was necessary. Not a safety-concern repair but one that had to Oceana-1be addressed nonetheless. There was a leak in the seal around a propeller and it was going to take frogmen — okay, divers — almost three full days to fix it.

So the ship was stuck, in Barcelona. The passengers were stuck, in Barcelona.

Poor passengers.

Anybody who has been to the Spanish port knows it's easy to spend three days in Barcelona. Also fun.

The delay also means the passengers won't get to three other Spanish ports: Cartagena, Alghero and La Courna. In return, P&O gave passengers a 25 per cent cash refund and a comprehensive entertainment program and shore excursions in Barcelona.

Talk about making a silk purse from a sow's ear!

Today at portsandbows.com: Not exactly the CATS meow!

Carnival Conquest
7 nights
April 27, 2014
Miami (return): NassauSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Sales Booming for a New Princess

We visited friends who are going on a Panama Canal cruise next month. We asked which cruise line they had booked.

"P&O," was the answer.

Knowing that P&O rarely goes through the Panama Canal, and not at all in April, we questioned the answer.

"P&O…Princess…same thing."

P&O and Princess are both owned by Carnival. P&O once owned Princess, which is why our friends thought that was still the case. In the world of corporate gobblydegook, maybe that is still the case in the fine print, because nine years ago P&O Princess Cruises and Carnival Corporation merged to form the world's largest cruise corporation.

But for people who cruise, there are P&O ships and cruises, and there are Princess ships and cruises. And sometimes, it seems like there have always been Princess ships.

So it comes as a mild surprise to hear that last week Princess set its all-time, one-day sales record for a ship's inaugural season, after all the years (47) it has been taking people on inaugural cruises. Actually, it was the biggest booking day in history — if you insist on splitting hairs — and what's even stranger is that Princess is providing no details.

Such as, how many bookings make a record?

The ship is the Royal Princess, which will make its inaugural cruise in June 2013. She will sail from Southampton to Barcelona, then spend next summer on 12-day Mediterranean cruises before embarking on its inaugural Atlantic crossing in September.

There's a number of reasons why passengers are making the Royal Princess such a hot item. Some will like the over-water SeaWalk, which hangs 28 feet off the starboard side. Some endorse having 80 per cent of the staterooms with balconies and more room in the adults-only area, The Sanctuary.

And some are just loyal Princess patrons who have waited too long — five years — to see a new Princess ship.

Three Cruise Ports Celebrating

Today, it’s time to make three port stops, all of which are enjoying their changing associations with cruise ships…

New Orleans: It’s almost like people who cruise just re-discovered what a great place New Orleans is to visit. In 2011, the port showed an increase of 39 per cent to 738,908, the most cruise passengers New Orleans has ever had. Four ships (two Carnival, one Norwegian, one Royal Caribbean) home-port in NoLa and this week two more ships stopped for a visit — Fred.Olsen’s Balmoral and P&O’s Oceana, bringing in another 4,000 visitors.

Vancouver: Disney made news this week by announcing it will return the Wonder to its previous home, Vancouver, in 2013, following a one-year diversion to Seattle as the shared embarkation point for its Alaska cruises (this year’s cruises are Seattle to Vancouver via Alaska, and vice-versa). Apparently, Disney cruisers expressed a preference for Canada’s Olympic city for its on-shore experience. Hmm, maybe cruise lines really do listen to customers.

Miami: The Disney Wonder is this week’s newsmaker among cruise ships, because when it’s not in Vancouver it will be in Miami, the line’s first ship to be based in what is being called PortMiami with the arrivals of “home” ships from MSC, Costa and Regent Seven Seas. Until this, Disney ships in Florida were all based in Port Canaveral, just east of Orlando. Ironically, on the Disney website the Wonder’s repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal (above) only goes as far as Los Angeles, its present home.

Conventional wisdom is that a cruise ship in a port means $1 million a day for the local economy.

These are three winners of the cruise lottery.

Holland America Rotterdam VI
15 nights
April 17, 2012
Fort Lauderdale, Funchal and Lisbon (Portugal), Brest and Cherbourg (France), Rotterdam
Inside $799

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