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How Fast Can You Pack For A Deal?

Everybody loves a deal. That used to mean taking advantage of last-minute sales that were sometimes the product of too much product. Too many televisions…too many optical mice…too many empty rooms. Take your pick.

On cruise ships, empty rooms generate no income. Then, along came Royal Caribbean, earlier this year deciding not to bow to the lure of slashing prices to fill some beds.

End of last-minute deals?

Maybe. Maybe not. This week, Windstar Cruises has last-minute bargains in the name of Veterans Day, which is Wednesday. The sale continues until Thursday and it applies on cruises in Europe, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean.

How good a deal is 81 per cent off?

Whatever Windstar’s motivation, there are some real bargains, with an additional $100 off Windstarfor vets and active-duty military personnel. Sail (and it is sailing as these are yachts) around Tahiti, or Costa Rica, or the Caribbean for seven days for $1,299. That’s less than $200 per day with a premium cruise line.

The European cruises are less attractive but, by Windstar prices, good deals. A week in the Greek Isles and Turkey goes for $2,599, a cruise with a sticker price of $7,399.

Granted, the deals are on select cruises. Granted, you do have to fly to the embarkation and disembarkation ports. Granted, you may have to book tomorrow, pack Wednesday and leave Thursday. But for a chance to sail on a ship most of us can only admire from the shore…

Isn’t that what last-minute deals are?

In the news…

Emiel de Vries named Captain of Holland America's new Konigsdam
• No decision yet about sending SS United States to ship scrapyard
• Privately owned islands in Papua New Guinea to open for cruising in 2016

Today at portsandbows.com: First look at Anthem of the Seas

Norwegian Epic
10 nights
December 9, 2015
Barcelona (return): Cagliari, Palermo, Naples, Rome, Florence
Inside: $559
Cost per day: $55

Pacific Paradise A Windstar Specialty

If there is one lasting introduction to the paradise that exits in the warmth of the Pacific Ocean, at least for those of us who were around in the ‘50s, that image is the movie-musical-TV film called South Pacific.

The story was based on a 1947 book by James Michener, and it spawned a Broadway musical two years later and a big-screen movie nine years after that. Almost seven decades later, the musical still comes and goes on stages around the world.

South PacificWhat never goes away is the image from a poster or an album cover of a world with which we were not familiar at that time.

The South Pacific.

Fast forward to today. Windstar Cruises announced this week it will be making continuous, year-round voyages to the South Pacific. Not content to whet customers’ appetites with its Dreams of Tahiti trips, Windstar will be extending itineraries to include the Tuamotu Islands. Who knows what or where the Tuamotu Islands are, but it doesn’t really matter because they’re in the South Pacific?

Lots of cruises ships criss-cross through that part of the ocean, going to and coming from Australia. Only the Wind Spirit will be there, week after week, starting next May 26. The cruises are from Papeete, return, and the cost starts at $3,000 so it’s not for the faint of wallet. All the cruises stop at Moorea, DCIM101GOPROTahaa, Raiatea, Huahine and Bora Bora — again, it doesn’t matter — and four times a year that’s extended to include the Tuamotus.

Apparently the Wind Spirit, which will have its 73 staterooms renovated before setting sail in May, is the perfect ship for touring around French Polynesia and not just because it was built in France. With six sails, it’s ideal for the warm breezes that power its billowing sails.

In reality, for some of us, the perfect ship is one that sails in the South Pacific. Period. That’s the magnet that draws us to paradise…just like the picture on the album cover.

Today at portsandbows.com: Think summer with Holland America

Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas
7 nights
January 3, 2015
New Orleans (return): FalmouthGrand CaymanCozumel
Oceanview: $464
Cost per day: $66

Growth of Galveston Magical


We happened to have coffee with a nice young woman from Princess Cruises on Thursday and, in the course of conversation, the subject of the cruise line's return to Galveston came up because next winter the Crown Princess will make the Texas port its winter home.

A couple of days later, it occurred  to us that Princess is missing the boat…so to speak.

The ship that should be despatched to Galveston is the Princess Magic. If you're familiar with cruise ship names, you will know there is no Princess Magic.

Maybe they can build one quickly…or change a name.

On the weekend, the Disney Magic sailed from Galveston for the first time. That's the first time for Disney, but not the first time for the Magic. Since last November, the Carnival Magic has been cruising from Galveston. Shouldn't it be a logical extension that Double Magic become Triple Magic?

What's happening in Galveston can only be described as Magic-al.

The tourism people on the Texas coast don't care what the cruise ships are called…only that there are cruise ships coming. And clearly they are, in increasing numbers. Three months to the day from the (Disney) Magic's arrival, the Crown Princess will begin its string of 19 Western Caribbean cruises. That will make five ships based in the re-built and greatly upgraded port — Carnival Triumph and Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas were already there.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike (2008), cruise traffic in Galveston dropped. In recovering, port and city officials realized its tourism life was on the line of the terminal wasn't upgraded and, about $12 million later, the port now boasts of having "the largest single berth cruise facility in the world." Since 2000, Galveston has spent $65 million on its cruise facilities and it's easy to understand why.

Last year, estimates were that passengers and crew spent $45 million while visiting Galveston and, since the (Carnival) Magic didn't arrive until November, it's logical to assume that number will more than double by the time the Crown Princess completes the fleet of five in December.

The only major cruise port in Texas, the largest state in the lower 48, opens cruising up for passengers who find it too costly to fly east or west to the coasts. Mid-westerners can drive there and the population growth in the central part of the sun belt amplifies demand now that the supply of cruise ships are on the southern coast.

Even if only two of the five are called Magic.

Ocean Princess
11 nights
December 28, 2012
Papeet, Moorea, Bora Bora, Hilo, Lahaina, Nawiliwili, Honolulu
Oceanview: $1,299
Cost per day: $118

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