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The Fame Of Man Named Francesco

There we were late Saturday night, settling in to watch the late news, and along comes Francesco…again. If you don't know who "Francesco" is just Google the name and chances are you'll discover he's one of the four most famous Francescos in the world, according to Google.

The last name is Schettino and if that doesn't ring a bell then you haven't been paying attention. He was the last captain of the Concordia (a name likely never to be used Francesco Schettinoagain for a cruise-ship christening) and he has been charged with manslaughter over the deaths of 32 passengers. Yesterday, hours before the start of the Concordia's final journey — from the Italian island of Giglio to Genoa, where it will be dismantled — the ex-captain spoke publicly about the disaster when he was interviewed by Italy's consumer protection agency.

He laid responsibility at the feet of the helmsman, although this was hardly newsworthy since it was the same thing he said, in court, some months ago. He admitted that he took the Concordia off course, but the helmsman made a right turn instead of a left, and that's why the ship crashed on the rocks. There was no mention of why the captain abandoned ship.

There are lots of people who'd like Francesco Schettino to go away, which he could do for decades, and not all of them are victims families looked for closure or cruise-line officials looking for a merciful end to an accident that haunts the industry.

Some of them are just people lying in bed on a Saturday night, watching the news.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Carnival, New Orleans make a deal

Sapphire Princess
17 nights
September 3, 2014
ShanghaiNagasakiBusanTaipeiHong KongDe NangHo Chi Minh CityBangkokSingapore
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $70

Fugitive Search Included Sapphire Princess

As of yesterday, the world is still looking for Yoo Byung-eun. If you've never heard of Yoo, don't be embarrassed, but everybody in South Korea has. He is the country's most  wanted man and South Koreans are looking for him everywhere — even on cruise ships.

The 73-year-old (or his family) owns the ferry (Sewol) on which 292 people died, in April. A warrant for his arrest was issued in May and yesterday in court, it was south-korea-ferry-disaster-sewol-ferryrevealed the ferry's license was based on falsified documents, which only ramped up the tensions and anger amount family members of the victims.

The reward for information leading to his arrest is now almost $500,000 US.

One of the virtual haystacks in which government authorities were looking was the Sapphire Princess, at the port of Incheon, near Seoul. There was a party on board when the ship arrived and 200 Korean guests were invited. That is, there was supposed to be a party.

Customs officials revoked the party license. They were afraid Yoo would slip unnoticed onto the ship amid the partygoers and be a stowaway until he could escape.

Understandably, Princess was choked. Also offended. Why not just step up security?

Anybody who has boarded a cruise ship these days, even if only for a visit, knows it's next to impossible to beat security…and especially, in this case, given the fugitive's notoriety. Any cruise line that we know of would catch him in the act.

And a half-million-dollar reward would have nothing to do with it.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
September 6, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand CaymanRoatanCozumelPrincess Cays
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85

Princess a Diamond Experience in Japan

The Diamond Princess is going back to Japan. Again. Maybe it's just time to make this a permanent posting, or as permanent as anything can be in the world of cruise ships.

Consider the history.

A decade ago last month, the Diamond Princess emerged from a shipyard for her maiden voyage. A fire would have delayed hear arrival but a sister ship, the Sapphire Princess, was under construction so, out-fitted with her sister's hull, the Diamond floated out on time.

The shipyard was in Nagaski and it was the first ship built in Japan by Princess Cruises.

The cruise line just announced that the Diamond Princess is returning in 2015 to sail Japanese bathsfrom two home ports, Tokyo and Kobe, the third season Princess has had ships cruising to Korea, Taiwan, Russia and other Japanese ports.

Last week, the ship began its 2014 season following an extensive refurbishment ($30 million) to make it more…well, Japanese. More sushi, more sake, culturally appointed furnishings and classic Japanese bathing experiences similar to "the popular on-sen experience for which Japan is well-known."

In other words, the ship has been tailored to attract its demographic and, at the same time, is making a commitment to Japanese cruisers.

All it needs now is a name change:

"Daiyamondo Purinsesu"

Go ahead, take a guess at the translation.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
May 12, 2014
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel
Inside: $149
Cost per day: $37

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

More 'Free' Cruises from Princess?

Just when you think you've heard of all the possible perks for buying passage on a cruise, along comes a new one.

Sapphire PrincessThis is from Princess Cruises and, while the booking date is past, it will be interesting to see if it comes up again. If it does, that means passengers liked it.

For five Caribbean cruises in January, on the Sapphire Princess and Ruby Princess, the cruise line offered typical extras like on-board credits ($25), cabin upgrades and bottles of vino (one per cabin). But here's the eye-catching part:

100 per cent of the fare can be applied to a future cruise.

Talk about a free (except taxes) cruise!

Could it happen again?

Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas
7 nights
February 1, 2014
New Orleans (return): FalmouthGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $559
Cost per day: $79

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