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Cruising Notes on the Boats

The Right Price………..$979
Ship: Celebrity Equinox,
11 nights, Fort Lauderdale (return)
Departures: April 11
Cozumel (Mexico), Roatan (Honduras), Puerto Limon (Costa Rica), Colon (Panama), Cartagena (Colombia), George Town (Grand Cayman)
Bonus: Veranda $1,209
Contact: Celebrity Cruises

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File this one under “What took so long?”…Princess Cruise Lines announced it will be televising the Royal Wedding on all 22 of its ships…On April 29, Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married, and that will make her a Princess…So why wouldn’t it be televised on the cruise line?…Princess Cruise Line, that is…The delay — Cunard announced it would be on their ship TVs weeks ago — must have had something to do with making a deal with the BBC, the official wedding broadcaster, which has exclusive access to Westminster Abbey…Satellite co-operation willing, that is… Princess will also have a Kate and William look-a-like contest on board…William’s mother, Princess Diana, christened the original Royal Princess in 1984 …In this age of peaceful protests (aka Egypt), one in Southampton caught the attention of the cruise world…City council from the British port wanted to charge £10 ($16) per passenger to pay for road improvements in the area, until Carnival’s head honcho in Britain, David Dingle, headed a committee of interventionists…They might have mentioned the problems a “head tax” created in Alaska, and they had one local politician who voiced concern pertaining to “killing the goose” but whatever they did worked…In the words of blogger Captain Greybeard John Honeywell, “the idea has been quietly shelved.”

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If there’s a more appropriate destination to have a photo workshop — and in the cruise world there are countless photo-ops — than Alaska, where would it be?…Aperture Academy from California has a class for photo students also interested in spending a week sailing from Seattle to Juneau and back, in August…Three professional award-winning photographers will be conducting classes on Holland America’s ms Oosterdam, which will call at Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, the obligatory non-USA port necessary to conform with the Jones Act…The photo itinerary’s on AA’s website (not that AA)…And what departure port do you think sends the most big-time spenders out to sea?…Carnival told a ports administration that the most money it reaps from cruisers is on ships leaving — are you ready for this? — Baltimore!…Needless to say, the city’s cruise business has been booming.

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River cruising is big news in Europe these days, but has anybody noticed it’s happening in America, too…American Cruise Lines, with five ships, will soon have six…Traditionally known for itineraries in the eastern half of the U.S., American last year expanded with cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the West and, with that success, has ordered a new riverboat for arrival in 2012…The Queen of the West, built in 1995 and acquired last year, is being refurbished and will take its 120-passenger loads on the two western rivers from April to November this year and next, at least…The Norwegian Sun is out of dry-dock, where it spent a dozen days being upgraded…Most significant change is the addition of the Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouse that was introduced on NCL’s flagship, the Epic…The Sun is currently running Caribbean itineraries and will again spend the summer in the Baltics, returning to Florida in late September…Finally, Valentine’s Day became a chance to renew wedding vows for passengers who were so inclined and who were on the Crown Princess on Monday…The captain performed the ceremony and some of the participants wore veils and bow ties…Yes, clothes, too.

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That’s it, we’re done.

Cruising Notes from the Boats

The right price………………………………………$1,409
January 17, 2012: 12 nights    Ship: Celebrity Silhouette
Departure: Bayonne, New Jersey return
Bonus: Balconies just $1,658
Contact: Celebrity Cruises

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All of us who love cruising often wonder about how the “regular” ships from the big cruise lines compare to the luxury ships, when all the costs are added up. Well, this week they were added up by Cruise Critic, in a head-to-head match-up between ships on the same itinerary.

The results are interesting, if not fascinating.

The ships are the Regent Seven Seas luxury ship Navigator, and Celebrity’s Millennium. In July, both will sail 7-night cruises from Alaska (Seward) to British Columbia (Vancouver). You can read all the details here but the rooms, while different, are arguably comparable, using suite pricing on the Millennium.

On Navigator (left), everything is paid…like it used to be when you went on a cruise. On the Millennium (right), it’s your basic a-la-carte deal. The bottom line is a difference of $232 per person. Guess which ship is a better deal?

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If you like parties and carnivals, put a Fred.Olsen cruise from Southampton on your wish list. The cruise lasts two weeks, the party much longer, at Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The Carnaval has been around almost 400 years, in the island capital of Santa Cruz, and from start to finish is 32 days. No wonder it’s billed as the second-largest (longest?) celebration in the world, second only to Rio de Janeiro.

Designed to cover most of Lent, the Carnaval starts February 10, but the climax is the last week, which includes Ash Wednesday (March 9). According to the listed itinerary, the ship (the Boudicca) will be in Santa Cruz on Saturday, March 12, for the day. Passengers will be among the one million revelers expected in Tenerife for the event.

The highlight seems to be “Burial of the Sardine” — that works for us!

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Falmouth falls apart. That’s the story from the Jamaican port that was supposed to receive the Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas yesterday. The long-planned opening of the new pier has been delayed until February now, because in the words of one observer “it looks like a construction zone” and the workers have been on strike. The issues have now been settled and the pier will open on schedule (?) on February 17.

But the problems run deeper. The areas around the pier, businesses that cater to the expected 600,000 annual visitors, aren’t ready either.

The first 3,400 of them, on the Navigator, went to Montego Bay instead.

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If Southampton isn’t King of the Ports when it comes to cruise ships, then what is? This week, there were six cruise ships in the British seaport, an influx of 18,000 people and an injection of an estimated $14 million (US) into the local economy.

It’s the first time this has happened in more than 50 years, and one of the reasons was how many passengers were returning to the British Isles from holiday cruising. The new flagship of the Cunard fleet, the Queen Elizabeth, was joined by her sister Queen Victoria, P&O’s Arcadia, Fred.Olsen’s Black Watch and Balmoral, and the Saga Ruby, a 38-year-old cruise ship that flew the Cunard flag for 21 years — it carries 661 passengers.

Southampton opened one new cruise terminal two years ago and unveiled plans for another last month.

No wonder.

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Having encountered Russian people a long time ago, when the Cold War seemed to apply to personality as well as politics, we used to think they never had any fun. In the space of 24 hours, we had this obviously archaic belief destroyed.

On Wednesday night, we saw jubilant Russian teenagers partying for the cameras after winning the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo…not just one or two exhibitionists, but the whole team. The same day, a cruise-related release crossed our desktop pointing out that cruise ships are this week taking thousands of Russians to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and a port on the Gulf of Finland.

Clearly, Russians are enjoying their freedom to have fun. Last year, four ships took 6,000 of them to celebrate New Year’s and Russian Christmas in Tallinn. This year, seven ships and 10,000 Russians.

Make that “Happy” New Year.

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That’s it, we’re done.

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