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Battles Line Being Drawn in Great Britain

Most of us are too young — ah, isn't it nice to be called too young? — to remember the Battle of Britain. We read about it in history books, we may have even heard stories from family members who fought in World War II, maybe even seen a movie or something on the History Channel, but it's somewhat removed from our mindsets.

To cruise aficionados like us, the Battle of Britain is what's happening this year.

Royal-6 copyPrincess versus Royal Caribbean.

They're not exactly launching armadas but they are drawing lines in the water, so to speak, in the fight for United Kingdom cruise passengers and dollars.

A year ago, the Duchess of Cambridge (aka, Princess Kate) christened the Royal Princess just a few weeks before her own royal offspring arrived — Baby Cambridge is a Royal Prince. The ship she can call her own left later last year to spend the summer in the Caribbean, and now she's going back to her christening roots,


Next summer, the Royal Princess will be loaded — Princess Cruises hopes — with British passengers. She was to be the biggest ship (3,600 passengers) sailing the English Channel and assorted waters connected to it.

And then Anthem of the Seas (pop. 4,100) came along.

Royal Caribbean's newest ship-to-be, No. 2 in the Quantum Class, will be launched in April 2015. That's just before the Royal Princess returns and Anthem, too, will be hoping to stock up on British travelers.

Add to the mix P&O's new ship, Britannia, which will appear a month before Anthem of the Seas.

As a good friend and ex-Brit of ours would say "Advantage Princess." To him, Princess and P&O are "same thing."

Ruby Princess
4 nights
March 20, 2014 
Fort Lauderdale (return): Cozumel
Inside $249
Cost per day: $62

Cruise Lines Catching Up (or On)

On Friday night, a 39-year-old mother of three officiated in an NFL pre-season game. A week earlier, there was a woman at the helm of a Silversea cruise ship for the first time. These things are one day going to be old news, especially the latter.

While Sarah Thomas was the first female to be a pro football official, Margrith Ettlin (left) is — by our unofficial count — the fourth woman to be captain of a cruise ship, in her case the Silver Explorer.

The first was Karin Stahre-Jansen (below, right), who became the "master" of Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, then sailing Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles. That was in 2007. Three years later, Sarah Breton became captain of P&O's Pacific Pearl, in Australia. And last month, what might be called the most traditional of cruise lines — Cunard — welcomed Captain Inger Olsen as she guided the Queen Victoria into her first port, in the Faroe Islands.

In an age when women go to war, presumably doing whatever their male counterparts are called upon to do, there is of course no reason why a woman shouldn't be qualified to be in charge of a mega-ton cruise ship. Even to the most chauvinistic of observers, it's not like she has to jump off the deck and tie up these monstrosities.

One day, it will cease to be news that a woman is a cruise ship captain, just like it has that a woman is flying a commercial airliner or driving a semi or wrestling a steer to the ground.

And that day can't come soon enough, can it?

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

Long Cruise…Short List of Passengers

Not long ago we read about a passenger who went on a "Love Boat" cruise..to 18 countries…on a ship that carries just 710 passengers…for 87 days. This was on a P&O ship, the Adonia, and it prompted us to see what the ship is currently offering in theway of a cruise where so few people are together for so long.

The best (?) one we found is from Southampton to Southampton. In between are 48 ports in 26 countries and almost four months on the ship. Still with 710 passengers.

This is P&O's Asian Grand Adventure and if "Grand" to you means visiting places called Ceuta (that's in Spain), Aqaba (Jordan), Yangon (Burma) and Nha Trang (Vietnam)…well, you're both more erudite and wealthier than we are. For sure, this would be "an experience" and the price for this one starts at $10,229 pounds. Or $15,669.48. Per person.

Now if that sounds like a lot of money, break it down to a per diem. How does $139.91 per-person, per-day sound?

That's hardly outrageous when you think about going from England to Japan and back. Even three and a half months on a ship is okay. It's just the 710-passenger thing…

By the time you get back to Southampton, you'd be like family…and who wants a family that big?

Okay…the Adonia leaves January 7.

Carnival Fascination
5 nights
August 24, 2013
Jacksonville (return): Half  Moon CayNassau
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $44

Photo credit: Trondheim Havn

Sampler Cruises in Faraway Places


Last week, we wrote about "sampler" cruises on the West Coast of North America. It also applies on other coasts.

If you happen to be going to London after the Olympics are done and you're not sure how you feel about cruising, or you want to take somebody who is a reluctant cruiser, here's one way to find out…

You can take the Grand Princess (above) on a three-day, round-trip cruise from Southampton. The ship makes stops in Guernsey (England) and Paris. Departure is September 1 and fares start at $499 per person.

Think of it as a weekend in Paris (even if you don't get to Paris until Monday).

If you happen to be going to Australia next year, P&O has all kinds of sampler cruises to introduce you (or your companion) to cruising.

The most attractive one we found — at a reseller called cruisesalefinder.com.au — was Sydney return, three nights sailing off the east coast of Australia for $398 on the Pacific Jewel. Besides the attractive pricing, it's a food and wine cruise, leaving March 28 — like late August in North America.

Think of it as a weekend picking grapes in an Australian vineyard.

Norwegian Sun
9 nights
August 2, 2012
Copenhagen (return): Berlin, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $77

'Tips Included' Losing a Cruise Line

It should be said up front that when it comes to tipping, we belong to the sect that likes it included, doesn’t want to know, doesn’t care if it’s justified or not, and generally would rather not deal with it.

In an industry — cruising — where the mantra is all-inclusiveness, why are tips the exception, and why are they sometimes problematic?

Make them 15%…bury them in the fare…end of story.

Having gotten that off our chests, we know it happens only in pockets of the cruise ship industry, and that’s not likely to change, except here and there.

Like P&O.

This is a cruise line that has made no secret of the fact that it did not automatically add per-person, per-day gratuities. P&O attributes it to confusion on the part of passengers as to “whether or when to leave a cash tip for their waiters and cabin stewards.”

So starting in April, P&O is adding £3.10 per day to passengers accounts. That’s just under $5, still less than every other major cruise line. There’s a punch line to an old joke that we can’t remember which goes something like this: “Now we know what you are, we’re just haggling over the price.”

If tips were included in the price of all cruises, it would enable crew members to count on a regular guaranteed income…and it would enable passengers to compare cruise prices with more accuracy.

Costa Concordia
7 nights
January 21, 2012
Savona, Italy return
Inside $399

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