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Cruise Fuel Supplement Old News

As you know, it's always important to read the fine print in your cruise contract. There's a line that has been running in most cruise contracts for many months now, one that nobody seems to pay any attention to…including the cruise lines.

It's the fuel supplement.

The line goes something like this: "…[cruise line] reserves the right to impose a fuel supplement of up to $10 per guest per day if the price of fuel exceeds $65 per barrel."

The last time oil prices were that low was mid-2009. Since then, we've been on 11 cruise ships and not once has the fuel supplement been mentioned, never mind activated.

It's been more than two years since crude prices were below $80 a barrel, and this week's price has been between $90 and $100 a barrel. So what's the point of the fine print? Is it an idle "threat" or a financial safety net for cruise lines?

At the very least, shouldn't it be updated?

Windstar Wind Spirit
7 nights
May 4, 2013
Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Bodrum, Ephesus, Istanbul
Oceanview: $3,199
Cost per day: $457

Big Rescue for a Smallish Ship

This is just a nice story, in a world that sometimes doesn't have enough of them…

A sailboat off the coast of Croatia was in trouble. Its sails were ripped, its engines weren't working and high winds had created swells large enough that the boat was in danger of capsizing.

On board were seven passengers. They fired two red distress flares. Vessels in the area tried to respond, most of them vessels small enough that their attempts to help were in desperation. The first vessel to respond was the Wind Surf, the world's and Windstar Cruises' largest sailing ship but still about one-sixth the size of most ocean-going cruise ships that carry 10 times as many people.

The Wind Surf carries 312. It has six decks and gross tonnage of 14,745 (the average-sized Celebrity Millennium's gross tonnage, as an example, is 91,000). The Wind Surf is 535 feet long at the waterline and is powered by seven sails and six electric engines. So while it's the biggest sailing ship in the world, it's still small in rough seas.

In response to the disabled boat, Wind Surf captain Alan MacAry changed direction and launched a rescue boat carrying two officers and two sailors. But the rescue boat couldn't get alongside the small craft in nine-foot seas. The Wind Surf was able to provide enough protection by blocking the wind that the crew on the sailboat were able to repair the sails enough to gain some measure of control.

By the time the Croatian Coast Guard arrived, the sailboat was headed for land and the Wind Surf was headed back to its next port.

Nobody drowned, so the rescue story didn't get much attention. If Captain MacAry hadn't reacted the way he did, it probably would have become a bigger story…and seven sailboat passengers wouldn't have been as grateful as they are.

Celebrity Equinox
14 nights
November 26, 2012
Rome, Florence, Toulon, Barcelona, Cartagena, Funchal, Fort Lauderdale
Inside:  $599
Cost per day: $42

Wine, Wind Surf a Good Pairing

We were just stopping at the wine store, for a bottle to take to our son’s for dinner, and then it happened. Honest. We saw there was a tasting in the back of the store. Does a bee love honey? What happens to a mouse faced with cheese?

The wines were $90 and up. These are beyond special-occasion wines in our world. The tasting was free. How could we say no…even though nobody asked the question?

These were wines from Washington state, under a brand that’s called Long Shadows, and if you’re wondering by now why this is part of a blog about cruising, we hasten to add that next summer these wines will be casting long shadows on the Wind Surf, one of the three “yachts” that sail (and they do sail) under the Windstar banner.

More about that shortly…after a little wine sampling.

Wines by Long Shadows are crafted by famous — or at least worldly — winemakers. You may have heard of Michel Rolland, the master of the blend. Or the Folonaris of Tuscany, perhaps? How about Randy Dunn (left), who makes the best cabernet sauvignon in Napa and who — alas — is no relation…and that review is based on taste, not genetic fantasy.

There are nine winemakers who pour their considerable talent, not to mention their hearts and souls, into wine bottles after using only Washington state grapes. This was the mandate from Alan Shoup, who ran a string of wineries for two decades before recruiting nine gifted winemakers from Australia, Germany, Italy, France, California and South America.

All of them are committed to being on the Wind Surf next June, from Venice to Athens. They’ll be talking and pouring wine for up to 312 guests, for seven days. Exclusive cruise line, exclusive group, exclusive wine. Does that make it worth $3,400?

While we contemplated the venture, Gilles Nicault (right) talked and poured ninety-dollar wines for us. Originally from Avignon, France, he’s engaging and entertaining. He’s also one of the winemakers and he was kind enough to invite us to call him the next time we’re in Walla Walla, home of Long Shadows.

“We’ll drink some wine,” he promised.

In Walla Walla…or on the Wind Surf?

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
February 12, 2012
Long Beach (return): Mexican Riviera
Inside $419

Cruise Charter for 300 Cougars

You’ve heard of people going on a Cougar Cruise, right? Well, here’s a Cougar Cruise that will probably be news to you.

Six days. Next May 28, starting in Nice and ending in Rome, with stops in Portofino, Cinque Terre, Livorno and Portoferraio.

It gets better.

Private charter of food and wine lovers. Gourmet wine-tasting dinners. Seminars on food, wine and ports (not the drink, the places). Featured wines throughout the day and evening.

Yes, it’s a wine cruise.

The price starts at $2,450, steep until you consider it’s Windstar, an exclusive cruise line that has three “yachts” with a capacity of about 300. For this cruise, which you won’t find on Windstar’s website because it’s chartered only for Cougars, the yacht is the Wind Surf — billed as the largest sailing ship in the world.

Proceeds from this special cruise go to benefit the Viticulture and Enology Program at Washington State University, where sports teams and alumni (and friends) are all known as Cougars.

Yes, those Cougars.

Norwegian Dawn
10 nights
April 8, 2012
Miami (return): Caribbean
Inside  $719

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