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Theme Cruises You May Not Believe 

Let’s call if the extreme of theme. That’s not the name of a new musical group or TV reality show, it’s just a way of identifying what’s coming up in the way of, ah, unusual cruises this winter.

Here’s a quick look at three upcoming theme cruises:

The Meow Meow Cruise

This one’s for cat lovers, but not cats. On the Carnival Paradise next April 21, passengers who are cat lovers (or cat lovers who are passengers) will gather to participate in feline-meow-meow-cruise2themed activities while cruising from Tampa to Cozumel, and back. Suggestions for activities are “You scratch mine and I’ll scratch yours” and “Isn’t a perfect place for a flea market?”

The Walking Dead Cruise

This three-night cruise from Miami to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Pearl in January is for zombies. Every family has theme. Yes, ours does, too. It appeals to fans of the hit TV series because they’ll have a chance to hang with Daryl and Carl and Beth and Sasha and Tyreese…and if those names aren’t familiar to you, welcome to the club. Their fans have lots of money — an inside cabin is $750, or $250 a night — and it’s sold out.

2016 Red Sox Fan Cruise

Also in January, this one on the Celebrity Reflection, although it’s a Caribbean cruise — also from Miami — that Boston baseball fans could be on this week, since they have nothing better to do during the baseball playoffs. Among the ex-players on the Reflection will be Luis Tiant and Jim Rice, although Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi would have been better, since they actually won with the Red Sox.

In the news…

• Carnival latest to name its new "air program" — Fly2Fun
• Royal Caribbean: 90 departures, 20 per cent increase in Australia
• Norwegian guests on new TV series 'Dream Quest With Evette Rios'

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
16 nights
November 19, 2015
Barcelona, Cadiz, Lisbon, Funchal, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo
Inside: $697
Cost per day: $43

What 'Gets' Cruise Generations

The question cruise lines must often ask is this:

How do we get people from Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z on a cruise if they’ve never been on one?

There is, of course, no easy answer. But one word, more than ever, is vital. The word is Internet (okay, WiFi will do).


Look around. The singular thing about their lives that Generations X-Y-Z (and maybe some Baby Boomers) would worry about when going on that first cruise is losing contact with the outside world. The outside world, of course, is what they do with their devices when they’re just being.

From texting to tweeting, from searching to posting to talking…these are the tools of their Internetexistence. It used to be that you had to be in Starbucks or McDonald's to see more than 50 per cent of the occupants on a phone, tablet or computer.

Now it happens when walking down the sidewalk, sitting by a pool, even attending a sports event or concert where the attraction is supposed to be what’s happening on the field or stage.

First-time cruisers from generations X-Y-Z would be fine with the food. They’d be fine with the activities. They’d be fine with the entertainment…as long as their devices weren’t confiscated at the door.

They wouldn’t be fine with slow connections.

Cruise Line International Association, which does all kinds of research for the industry, maintains only 3% of North Americans went on a cruise last year, and only 20 per cent have ever been on a cruise. So there’s a lot of customers waiting to be lured aboard.

All of them with electronic devices.

Today at portsandbows.com: Last-minute cruises disappearing

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
7 nights
July 12, 2015
Rome (return): Santorini, Ephesus, Bodrum, Crete
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Friday file: Children Of The World

Kids. Maybe because seeing them brings back memories of when your own were that age, or maybe it's because there is almost always an innocence about them. Whatever the reason, they always seem to be compelling subjects for people who like to take pictures in foreign countries. People like us, and kids like these…

Kids-Acapulco-2This young fellow was out w-a-y-y-y past his bedtime (maybe that’s why he’s wearing such a big smile), because we found him nearby when going to watch the cliff divers at night in Acapulco.

AricaHow could you not fall in love with a place you’re seeing for the first time when you're greeted by this young Chilean girl at the market by the cruise port in Arica?

Dominican-1In the Dominican Republic, there is no shortage of scenes like this one — youngsters raised in poverty always finding something to bring friendly smiles to their faces and waves from their arms.

RoatanThis was just outside a tiny seafood stop in Coxen Hole, Roatan (Honduras) where our meal was monitored by this smiling girl’s pet cat, sitting by our table waiting for scraps. 

Ecuador2He was selling trinkets, as so many kids in Ecuador are when tourists arrive, and when we told him we’d buy one on our way back from a shore excursion, he was patiently waiting. And yes, we did.

C.MayaYou get accustomed to being approached by little ones looking for handouts in many countries, but this was a first — they came in small boats near Costa Maya, Mexico.

Kids-Guatemala-1And sometimes, kids like this little girl in Guatemala are just too cute and too irresistible for amateur photographers!
Today at portsandbows.com: Musical ships with Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas
15 nights
May 17, 2015
Dubai, Muscat, Salalah, Suez Canal, Ashdod, Haifa, Santorini, Athens, Istanbul
Inside: $869
Cost per day: $57

Which Ships Are Best…And To Where?

Because they're so subjective, cruise ship awards and surveys can be construed as somewhat meaningless, not to mention redundant. Whose "best cruise ship carrying more than 3,000 passengers in the Caribbean on the third Saturdays of January" means the most. (Weak attempt at humor.)

So when Cruise Critic reveals its latest Cruisers' Choice Awards, as it did this week, you have to take it with a grain of salt…as our buddy Phil Reimer did at Ports and Bows by pointing out in today's blog there's a "caveat" at play here.

Having said all that, there's one category in the Cruise Critic awards that we hadn't seen before, which doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't there.

Destination ships.

That's not which ships are destinations, as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas — and no doubt their followers — are sometimes called. It's which ships are considered the best ones to take going to or from different parts of the cruising universe. Clever. Helpful even, for the first time cruisers who would like something — anything — to help them decide on which ship to sail to the Caribbean.

Rhapsody of the SeasGoing to Alaska?

Cruise Critic readers recommend Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas (right).


The Disney Dream.


Disney Fantasy.


Celebrity Silhouette.

Sailing from the Northeast?

Try Explorer of the Seas, from Bayonne, New Jersey.

Across the ocean out of England?

Celebrity Eclipse.

From Florida?

Disney's Fantasy, again.

From the West Coast?

Sapphire Princess.

Nobody says why these ships are the best ion category, of course, so if you buy into the thinking it's because so many people picked these ships.

Just remember one thing.

It is subjective.

Sapphire Princess
4 nights
March 19, 2014 
Los Angeles (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $82

Rhapsody of the Seas…is this music to its ears?

You have to wonder what Rhapsody of the Seas thinks about this: In 2015, Royal Caribbean is sending it to Turkey instead of Alaska. Did anybody ask the ship how it feels about sacrificing a summer in The Inside Passage for a summer in Istanbul?

Rhapsody of the Seas in AlaskaFurthermore….

Two lengthy cruises that were scheduled before it even reached Alaska have been changed. In April 2015, Rhapsody was scheduled to sail for 16 days from Australia to Hawaii. Not any more. Following that, it was slated to leave Honolulu on a 13-night trip to Vancouver. That's past tense…was.

How would you if somebody told you that you'd be spending a month in the (South) Pacific, and then you wouldn't?

Admittedly, leaving Sydney for Singapore on a 16-nighter isn't a bad alternative, and following it up by coupling a two-week cruise to Dubai and a 15-night sailing to Istanbul is, well, interesting or even fascinating. But skipping Hawaii is like skipping Christmas.

Rhapsody has been around for 16 years, so she's probably seen it all. There are no surprises. She's even been tucked and tweaked a couple of times (in Hollywood they're called facelifts), most recently the year before last at a cost of $16 million. 

The change in plans also affects passengers booked on Rhapsody, but Royal Caribbean is giving them a full refund or a South Pacific cruise on another ship, Radiance of the Seas.

That's probably small consolation to Rhapsody. Taking Hawaii and Alaska away from her is kind of…un-Rhapsody-like.

And without even asking.

Holland America Zuiderdam
11 nights
December 9, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon CayArubaCuracaoCartagenaPanama CanalColonPuerto Limon
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $49

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