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The Sanctuary's Glacier Experience

Sitting in rain threatening to be snow, wrapped in warm blankets, sipping hot chocolate and wearing toques to prevent brain matter from freezing is not what Princess had in mind when naming this part of a cruise ship “The Sanctuary.” What could it be a sanctuary from…the North Pole?

And based solely on that, what would ever possess Princess to put The Sanctuary on all but two of its 16 ships, now that the Sapphire Princess (right) has joined the fold?

The truth of the matter is, this was perhaps The Sanctuary’s finest moment on the Coral Princess.

It was in Alaska, near Glacier Bay, still a considerable distance from the North Pole. The bravest in our group (ahem) ventured onto the stern of the ship to get a taste of The Sanctuary while watching glaciers calve, or do whatever it is glaciers do on cold, blowy, rainy, almost snowy days in Alaska.

Admittedly, as outdoor experiences go, this one was miserable. On the other hand, with the first-class treatment in The Sanctuary and the glaciers calving away, it was enjoyable in spite of the weather.

See, everything is relative. The Sanctuary gets an A.

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
December 11, 2011
Fort Lauderdale (return): Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Roatan, Cozumel
Inside $599

Freedom Stifled by a Storm

Friends of ours were on a cruise ship in rough weather in August and the environment was an education. They learned about the Beaufort Scale, a 200-year-old measurement used for storms at sea. It goes from 1 to 12 and, somewhere between Antwerp and Bergen in the North Sea, their Princess ship was in an “8” in gale-force winds and seas of 18 to 25 feet.

Sunday night, far from there off the coast of Florida, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas was caught in a surprise storm. There was minor damage to the ship and major sea sickness on it.

One passenger told CruiseRadio.net: “”It was crazy…the ship was on its side” and there were “medical emergencies all over.”

In the end, neither the damage nor passengers injured by the storm — a nor’easter — was severe enough to cause a change to the Freedom of the Seas itinerary. It continues on its 7-day cruise to the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean said only that wind speeds were “three times more than what was forecast” and there were reports that seas exceeded 18 feet.

Maybe they should know about the Beaufort Scale.

Seabourn Quest
13 nights Transatlantic
November 8, 2011
Malaga (Spain), Cadiz (Seville, Spain), Funchal (Madeira, Portugal), Fort Lauderdale
Verandah (balcony) $3,849

Cruise Ships and Muster Stations

We’ve almost come to the conclusion that the mandatory muster station drills are in the same boat as the seat-belt drills on airplanes. Nobody’s listening, in part because most of the people have heard it all before, and know — or at least think they know — what to do in an emergency.

The cruise lines say they’re compelled to to this by international law, but nobody’s quite sure what “this” is any more. On our first cruise, some years ago, we all had to take the life jackets from the cabin to the appropriate muster station. Our arrival was noted on a clipboard. How we fastened the jacket was inspected. We took it all seriously.

On Celebrity’s Millennium, no life jackets were necessary. There was just a demonstration, not unlike what flight attendants do.

On Carnival’s Ecstasy, the “muster station” was the theater, the demonstration was held there, then everybody was moved (row by row) outside onto the deck, where we stood for a period of time before being dispersed, without another word being spoken. Meanwhile, we missed the sail-away.

On Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, crew members started rounding up passengers 15 minutes before the drill, herding everyone to the appropriate muster station. The drill was late, crew members briefly demonstrated how to put on and secure the life jacket, while instructions were read over the intercom that few passengers were paying attention to, and those who were couldn’t hear because of the decibel level of the others. Then, class dismissed.

On Norwegian’s Epic, it was your basic demonstration by a couple of crew members. Ours was held in the casino, just about the last place you should take us to see something that’s supposed to be serious!

On NCL’s Sky, passengers were admonished (yes, us) for clicking cameras while standing near the lifeboats for our muster station drill, which wasn’t really any different from the others. When it was over, we asked why photos weren’t allow. “If photos were allowed, 90 per cent of the people would be taking pictures instead of listening,” he said.

So there would only be 10 per cent of the passengers listening…instead of 20.

While not wanting to take emergency procedures lightly, the conclusion to be drawn here is that the muster-station drills are simply done to make sure the cruise lines are covered. Yes, it’s the law, just like it’s the law for flight attendants.

But if there’s an emergency at sea and somebody doesn’t know what to do, the cruise line is not going to be liable because…

“We did the compulsory muster-station drill.”

Does anybody think we’re wrong?

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