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Drinks For Free On Norwegian Sky


Oh, for the days when going on a cruise meant once you paid for your ticket, that was it…everything was included but shopping for souvenirs, and taxes and tips.

Are those happy days starting to make a comeback?

They are in Norwegian’s world. Well, in one corner of Norwegian’s world. Okay, one neighborhood…bar.

Starting in 2016, cruises on the Norwegian Sky, an 11-year-old ship that goes from Miami to the Bahamas and back will be so inclusive that you won’t pay for drinks. From margaritas to wine (even premium) to beer to soft drinks…nada. 

“We’re taking freestyle cruising to the next level,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s President and COO.

“Freestyle cruising” is the umbrella under which Norwegian introduced the non-traditional seating in dining rooms, allowing passengers to pick their times and tables. Following an era in which passengers felt they were being nickled and dimed at every turn, Norwegian announced that the Sky’s passengers will  “enjoy an even more all-inclusive cruise experience with dining, entertainment and now free unlimited beer, wine and premium spirits included.”

However, if you think “dining” includes the Sky’s three specialty restaurants (Il Adagio, Cagney’s Steak House and The Bistro)…guess again. What it includes in dining is what is already included: the dining room.

For anybody too young to drink…free soda. Now that’s a first for an ocean cruise ship.

It’s likely another test. If “free drinks for everybody” fills up its ships, expect that it will be extended beyond the Sky’s horizon.

After that, who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Entertained on Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
14 nights
June 11, 2015
Sydney, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin, Benoa, Singapore
Inside: $974
Cost per day: $69

Time To Check Re-positioning Cruises


September is typically a good time of year to explore re-positioning cruises…either last-minute cruises this fall or the reverse trips that depart next spring.

Doesn’t everybody like the price-point that comes with ships that have to get from one part of the world to another? We do. Better bang for your buck…always.

However, there’s a few things you need to know — if you don’t already — about re-positioning cruises;

One, remember to factor into your budget the cost of traveling to or from the ship. These are not return cruises.

Two, you need time for a re-positioning cruise. They are longer than most cruises and there’s additional travel time required to get there, or back.

Three, most have an abundance of sea days. While we’ve never been bored, it’s always a possibility. If you’re worried about running out of things to do, or books to read, consider going on a larger ship that has more amenities.

From three cruise lines, here are three re-positioning cruises on which you might get the double benefit of being “last-minute” because they all leave this fall, and they’re in different parts of the globe:


Copenhagen to Miami, 14 days on the Norwegian Star, on October 6 and starting at $419 — that’s an incredible $29 per night.

Holland America

Vancouver to Sydney, 24 nights on the Veendam, on September 24 and starting at $1,499 — that’s $62 a night.

Royal Caribbean

Boston to Tampa (extended trip through the Caribbean), 13 nights on Brilliance of the Seas, on October 26 and starting at $1,237 — $95 a night.

Today at portsandbows.com: Holland America’s new ship

Holland America Prinsendam
16 nights
October 5, 2014
Athens (return): Volos, Thessaloniki, Kavala, The Dardanelles, Istanbul, Batuma, Trabzon, Sinop, Constanta, Bourgas, The Dardanelles, Cesme, Ephesus
Oceanview: $1,599
Cost per day: $99

Cruise Voluntourism Crystal Clear


Cruise ships attract poverty. Because passengers are considered affluent, rightly or wrongly, poor people in ports flock to wherever cruise people go, sometimes to sell wares, often to beg. For passengers, this can be a help-or-not-help dilemma, just as it is on the streets of major cities in North America.

Many cruise lines have come to the aid of both.

An organization called Hope Floats went to five Caribbean Islands on the Caribbean Princess to do volunteer work and now arranges such opportunities for individual cruise passengers. Royal Caribbean has taken Oasis of the Seas passengers on voluntourism shore excursions in Cozumel.

Then there's Crystal.

Last year, every trip on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) included a complimentary shore excursion that gave guests and crew a chance to help a "community-in-need." There were 45 such socially-responsible excursions in 2011 and this year there are more.

In January, Crystal added ports in Colombia, Curacao, Spain, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Germany, Croatia, Hawaii and Boston. Now there are more communities in Europe — a social services center in Odessa, a 400-year-old charity brotherhood in southern Italy, supporting disabled persons in Valencia, and protecting endangered marine life in Barcelona.

"The feedback from this program has been incredible, with stories of tears, hugs, pen pals, and generosity above and beyond anything we could have hoped for," says Thomas Mazloum, Crystal's senior vice-president operations. "We are thrilled to continue to 'pay it forward.'"

Everybody wins. Cruise lines, employees and passengers all feel better about themselves, and people who need help get it.

Coral Princess
3 nights
September 17, 2012
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $66

Sampler Cruises on West Coast


Inside cabin or oceanview? Oceanview or balcony? These are always part of the decision-making process when going on a cruise.

And almost always, we opt for balcony.

On the other hand…the other hand is a one-night cruise. For people on or near the Pacific Northwest, this kind of "cruise sampler" or "two-day break" is part of re-positioning cruises and two cruise lines — Princess or Holland America — offer them.

You spend 22 hours or so on a cruise ship. You sail from Seattle to Vancouver. You can eat, be entertained and enjoy watching the water go by like all passengers on all cruise ships.

For $79, max.

If it's the Star Princess, the price is $69. The other two ships on this route — the Golden Princess (above) and Holland America's Oosterdam — are both $79. All three ships need to port in Canada (for different reasons) as they re-position south for the winter.

In all three cases, of course, you have to factor in the cost of getting to (or back to) Seattle. By train, that's about $65.

The prices are all for inside cabins. No balcony. No window. But really, in 22 hours all you're really going to do in your room is sleep. And if it was a hotel room and not a cabin on a cruise ship, what are the chances the hotel room would have a view?

Sapphire Princess
7 nights
July 21, 2012
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Why Cruisers Love What They Do


On our most recent cruise, we encountered a young media person who admitted she "didn't quite get cruising."

We filled her in, of course, since she asked.

Then we found an email from friends who recently spent 20 days on the Coral Princess. They left Florida on this Panama Canal cruise that will re-position the ship for its annual series of Alaska cruises.

Here is what our friends — Andy and Barbara Gibbins — had to say:

"We thought we might find 20 days at sea a little long…but no, we have had a great holiday and actually loved those sea days which are very relaxing as you can be as busy or as lazy as you wish!

"Actually, what's not to enjoy? Our bed is made each morning. The room and bathroom are cleaned twice a day. All our meals are prepared for us and the variety is fabulous: The spa is at your beck and call, the track and gym are open and the classes are great (well, you do have to walk off some of those meals).

"We loved laying by the pool and having the waiters bring drinks. The shops are open. The entertainment is terrific and, of course, there's a casino for your dollars!"

In a nutshell, that is why people like cruising.

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
July 13, 2012
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Icy Point Strait, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $93


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