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Carnival’s Secret Out About fathom

Sitting with a group of cruise media intelligentsia (whenever there’s a group, we like to think it’s “intelligentsia”…or at least “collective intelligence”) last month on an Alaska cruise, we listened attentively to thoughts of fathom. Remembering that the word “fathom” was once used to measure depth of sea water, we quickly jumped into the 21st century, in which the word has a completely different nautical application.

It’s a cruise line.

fathom is the new cruise line attached to mighty Carnival, the corporation that owns 10 of them. It’s not really a cruise line yet, but it will be when the good ship Adonia is re-Adoniabranded next spring. It’s for people who want to go to another country on a cruise ship and to make a difference by generally helping locals…starting with the Dominican Republic.

Since the cost of doing that was going to be as much as twice the price of a usual one-week cruise, the question around the table was this:

“What was Carnival thinking?”

Now, we know.

Carnival was thinking, by inventing cruises to sail under the “social impact travel” banner, that it could navigate the regulations that currently restrict American visitors to Cuba. For example, the most common way the U.S. allows (that’s the U.S. Government, not the Cuban Government) Americans to visit the Caribbean island is “educational or academic programs that include preplanned people-to-people contact.” Another category is “humanitarian efforts.”

So while conventional cruise lines wait for the other shoe to drop, Carnival Corporation jumped first by creating a cruise line that qualifies. And despite what you may be seeing on CNN, these are not Carnival ships that will be going to Cuba next year…only the Adonia, operated by one of Carnival’s other lines, P&O.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that by April 2016 the government will have cleared the path for many ships to cruise Cuba. There are already reports that six (un-named ships) have been approved by the U.S. Treasury. But right now, only the Adonia is cleared to sell its itineraries which, it appears, are going to start at $2,990 — about three times what you might pay for a weekly cruise elsewhere.

In the news…

• Renowned orator on cruise ships, John Maxtone-Graham, dead at 85
• MSC Opera to homeport in Havana in December for 16 Caribbean cruises
• Celebrity partners with Broadway production "An American In Paris"

Today at portsandbows.com: Free air offers from Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Epic
6 nights
September 20, 2015
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Lisbon, London
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $99

How To Treat Travel Passengers

Here’s an interesting travel comparison for you to digest:

Last week, the P&O ship Oriana had to stay at sea and delay its arrival in Southampton for more than 12 hours, because of high winds. While the passengers waited, the bars stayed open, an entertainment program was resurrected, complimentary wine was served with dinner and — because the new arrival time was to be 9 p.m. — they were given the option of staying on the ship overnight.

By extension, this inconvenienced passengers who were waiting to board the Oriana, about 1,000 of them. They were given dinner and a hotel room for the night, courtesy of P&O, Oriana-SFand offered a 50 per cent discount on a future cruise. When the ship had to be moved to another terminal, passengers received a further 50 per cent discount, this on the cruise they were about to take.

Is (name your airline) listening?

The week before, we were at George Bush International Airport in Houston, waiting to catch a United Airlines flight. Because of a hydraulics problem, with the aircraft, the flight was delayed a couple of hours while United found another plane (Who would want to board a plane with hydraulics issues?).

When the flight left, our son ordered a drink. The flight attendant said it was complimentary. He then asked if his wife, seated two rows ahead of him, could have a United planeglass of complimentary wine. No, he was told, free drinks were only for people who ordered them.

Before the replacement plane was located, there was a good chance the 200 or so passengers would have required a place to sleep. By then, it was past dinnertime, so the airline would feel obliged only to provide a hotel room and a new flight reservation. And then, only because it was a mechanical problem…not an "act of God.” 

Such as high winds.

Do you think airlines could learn something from cruise lines?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas
7 nights
May 29, 2015
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Seward
Inside: $539
Cost per day: $77

The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Britannia To Rule The Waves


It’s safe to assume that when Queen Elizabeth christened the P&O Oriana in 1995, when she was a mere child of 69, that nobody imagined two decades later she’d be christening Royal visit to Hertfordshireanother P&O ship, the Britannia.

It happens tomorrow.

This is the biggest ship ever built for Brits. It weighs 141,000 tons, carries 3,647 passengers and has the largest Union Jack ever seen painted on her bow. Under the circumstances, it’s a wonder they didn’t called her the Royal Ship Britannia…an upgrade on the Queen’s long-time Royal Yacht of the same name.

Tomorrow’s ceremony will take place in Southampton, the new ship’s permanent home. It will be live-streamed at live.pocruises.com, an Internet event that the cruise line has been counting down by the second for days now. On board are 13 bars and 13 restaurants — good thing nobody’s superstitious — and a million Britannia-artpounds Sterling ($1.5 million US) worth of art.

Passage on the Britannia has been available for a year and the chance to be first on her disappeared quickly. After hanging around Southampton to celebrate her arrival, the Britannia leaves Saturday on the historic maiden voyage. The first cruise with space still available leaves two weeks later, on March 28, and the prices aren’t outrageous.

For a two-week cruise to Spain and back, prices start at the equivalent of about $3,000, or $212 a day. 

There has been no word whether Queen Elizabeth II plans to go on a Britannia cruise, but she probably will.

In another 20 years. After all, she’ll only be 109.

Today at portsandbows.com: Oceania expanding fleet and itineraries

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 3, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, La Valletta, Palma De Mailorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

New in 2015 — P&O Britannia

First in a series about ships

The first new ship of 2015 will set sail in March and be based in Southampton before leaving for its winter home, Barbados. P&O is billing this as a five-star ship with all the amenities of a like-rated hotel, but on water. The locals won’t have trouble recognizing her because she’ll be the biggest ship ever built for that market.

Launch date: March 28

Capacity: 3,647

Sister ships: None

Maiden voyage: 14-day Mediterranean cruise

Home port: Southampton

Ships then in P&O fleet: 8

Interesting: Britannia is 25,000 tons bigger than Azura, currently P&O’s biggest ship. Its features include 75 per cent of its cabins with balconies (or verandas) and 27 single cabins, many also with balconies. It also has the biggest spa in the fleet…maybe that’s why its name is the “Oasis” Spa. There are 13 places to dine, including one where you can make it yourself, The Cookery Club, a kitchen classroom where the teachers are renowned enough that P&O sells it as discovering “Foodie Heaven.” A sign of the changing demographic is an Indian restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef.

Today at portsandbows.com: Dynamic Dining delay

Grand Princess
7 nights
January 17, 2015
Los Angeles (return): Puerto VallartaMazatlanCabo San Lucas
Oceanview: $619
Cost per day: $88

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