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River Cruising: Time Has Come

Here’s one of the New Year’s resolutions made in our house: By the end of 2012, we hope we will no longer be able to say we’ve never been on a river cruise.

Clearly, river cruising is becoming a significant part of the “cruise community” and it’s time for us — so that we can properly serve you — to get on board, so to speak.

Besides, there are more choices than ever.

On the Danube, Avalon River Cruises has two new ships arriving in May, the Vista and the Visionary, and calling them the latest “Suite Ships.” Avalon will then have 18 ships in its fleet.

On the Rhine, as well as the Danube, Viking plans to have six new ships on the water before the end of 2012. They call them “the longships.” By then, there will be 31 Viking river cruisers.

On the Mississippi, there are three river cruise companies and two new ships — one of them the Queen of the Mississippi — mark the return of paddle wheelers to the river for the first time in two decades. The message is that cruising the Mississippi is making a comeback.

Geographically, that would make the most sense for us. However, there is one caveat. It’s those tales of Mississippi gamblers…

Royal Caribbean Voyageur of the Seas
7 nights
February 11, 2012
New Orleans (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside $469

Bermuda Betting on Casinos?

There’s a fascinating story developing in Bermuda that will interest you if you’re cruising that way, or maybe even if you aren’t.

Here’s the Coles Notes version:

• Gaming is not allowed anywhere in Bermuda

• Cruise ships must shut down casinos when in Bermuda’s ports

• Loss of gaming revenue has driven cruise lines away from Bermuda

• Bermuda is reconsidering whether it should allow cruise-line casinos to remain open

• Opposition to reconsidering includes the belief that it’s discrimination if visitors to Bermuda can gamble and locals can’t

• A referendum on gaming is possible, even likely

Are you with us so far?

If so, then you also realize that a country where gambling is not legal may become a country (okay, British territory) where it is legal mainly because cruise lines that allow gambling are boycotting a country where their customers can’t gamble on days when their ships are in port.

It does beg one question: Why are cruise lines unable to profit without the casino income in Bermuda when they always have to turn off the gambling taps while in any port, anywhere?

Amazing…cruise ships could change a whole country’s policy on gambling!

Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas
7 nights
February 11
New Orleans (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside $419

Dream Partnership of Royalty

What’s in a name? If the name is DreamWorks, just split it. The “Dream”…”Works.” As far as Royal Caribbean cruise ships are, it sure does.

Last week, Shrek and Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda expanded their families. Or maybe Royal Caribbean expanded its family.

The first time the famous DreamWorks characters appeared on a cruise ship, it was Oasis of the Seas. That was in 2009. Last year, along came the identical twin to the Oasis, Allure of the Seas. Since the sea-faring siblings were identical, that meant DreamWorks was on board.

Then Royal Caribbean extended the agreement with DreamWorks to include Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, it’s next-biggest ships. And as of last week, Voyager of the Seas was added to the list, as the fifth Royal ship on which you can rub shoulders with Shrek.

Five ships down, 17 to go.

Does DreamWorks work? You think?

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
January 15, 2012
Port Canaveral (return) to Bahamas
Inside $189

Interested in a “free” cruise? Check out our colleague Phil Reimer’s blog at portsandbows.com.

Big Week at hand for Falmouth

This won’t make headlines anywhere outside of Jamaica, but maybe it should. The cruise port of Falmouth, beset by a myriad of delays, will open this week and Voyageur of the Seas and its 3,000-plus passengers will descend on the beleaguered Jamaican town.

Is Falmouth ready?

It wasn’t last May, when the first cruise-ship arrival had to be canceled. It wasn’t later in the year, when a strike got in the way. It wasn’t on New Year’s Day, the last target date before this one — which is Thursday.

Ships were re-routed to Montego Bay and Costa Maya, Mexico, The financial windfall that comes with each cruise ship never happened, for all those months, and this for a place that has always been ahead of the curve.

It was meticulously planned when founded in the 18th century. The streets are wide. It had piped water before New York City did. It was labeled the “boom town of the 19th century” at a time when it was known for producing sugar, rum and slaves. Its fortunes declined with the freedom of slaves and today, like many Caribbean places, it suffers from poverty.

Yet it produced a Rhodes scholar, a Jamaican prime minister and two famous Olympic gold-medal sprinters, Ben Johnson and Usain Bolt, although Johnson’s medal melted in a pool of disgrace when he was found to have used steroids.

This week, the town on the north coast of the country prepares to welcome the cruise world, and it sounds like the people are serious about it, finally.

And it made headlines in Jamaica.

“We are prepared spiritually, mentally, and physically,” Joy Laesch, president of the newly formed Trelawny Art and Craft and Entertainment Association, told The Gleaner. “Persons from all walks of life are now seeing the benefits of the trade,” “There is going to be big demand for local craft items.”

There are 300 vendors who belong to the association. They have undergone formal training, with lessons in business and entrepreneurship covering how to manage a business, balance the books, marketing, and customer care.  In addition, the vendors are prepared to operate their businesses in an orderly manner and rotate vendors so that the first 100 craft vendors will sell their goods to guests on Voyager of the Seas on Thursday and another 100 or so will do business when Oasis of the Seas arrives in March.

Sounds like the old Falmouth, minus the slaves. For Caribbean cruisers who would never have been there, that’s good.

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