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Tuesday, February 5
From the clean as a fischio department: The US CDC sprang their semi-annual surprise inspection on Costa Atlantica last Sunday, and it shouldn't be any surprise, but the ship rated a perfect score.  

Friday, February 4
From the where's the beef department: Texans love their beef. Princess Cruises tells us on Grand Princess, which departs from Galveston, they find about 15% more beef and steaks are consumed during a cruise than on other Grand-class ships sailing from other ports.

Thursday, February 3
From the ka-ching department: Everyone sees the casino on the ship, but few realize what a business unto itself it is. There are professionals running the casinos at each line who are just as business-savvy as their counterparts at land-based casinos. One part of running a profitable casino it to keep it fresh for players, so most casinos are constantly changing newer slot machines for older ones, to provide the newest games for players. Last year on the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity brands RCCL changed more than 500 machines for newer ones, and this year they plan to swap out 1,000. 

Wednesday, February 2
From the rumor control department: According officials we talked with at Carnival, there is no truth to a rumor circulating on the bulletin boards that their series of summer European cruises aboard Carnival Liberty are grossly oversold. The rumor, which attributes the story to a Carnival sales manager, says that Carnival got into the situation in the same way as they did in Baltimore last summer, because they just aren't receiving anywhere near the normal number of cancellations. The rumor then goes on to say people can expect to get bumped from the sailings, as Carnival had to do last year in Baltimore, which created so many adverse stories in the media. Carnival told CND that there just is no truth to the story. Space is selling well, with space getting tightest late in the season (September and October). The only sailing which is sold out, is the 16-day transatlantic crossing, but they said it's in a position that some space could well open on that if there are cancellations. Indeed, a check of availability showed many categories available on most all of the 12-night sailings until you get to September and then space is limited. Like Carnival told us, only the transatlantic crossing was closed. One executive theorized that perhaps the rumor was born out of some restrictions they placed on reservations for the European program to be sure the cabins were actually being sold and not just held on speculation to be canceled when final payments are due. To limit that they are tightening up on group space and deposits and restricting name changes. Carnival has no intention of letting another widespread oversale situation occur. 

Friday, January 28
From the big donation department: Carnival Corporation wrote out checks today totaling $3.2 million for tsunami relief. $800,000 of that came from fundraising efforts within their twelve brands, and the balance, $2.4 million, was a donation from the company. The corporate donation was broken down as $1 million to the American Red Cross International Relief fund, $1 million to the US fund for UNICEF and $400,000 for the Save The Children Asia Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund. The remaining $800,000 from the individual brands' fundraising efforts both from appeals on the ships and shoreside events was earmarked for specific charities by the individual brands. Those included the American Red Cross International Relief Fund, the International Red Cross, the Indonesian Red Cross, the Save The Children Asia Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund and Doctors Without Borders. Several of the Carnival brands' websites also have links on them so visitors can donate directly to relief organizations. Even though Carnival Corp is the largest cruise company in the world, $3.2 million is still a lot of money no matter how you look at it.

Thursday, January 27
From it is it real or is it Memorex department: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has started a new program to certify that priests hired by cruise lines are indeed priests in good standing with the Roman Catholic church. The organization has been receiving complaints from passengers who discovered that the priests ministering to them on some cruise ships are not really qualified. The confusion is that some former priests (such as those who have resigned their duties to marry) present themselves to the cruise lines as Catholic priests, and it both hasn't occurred to the cruise line to check them out nor has there been any mechanism for the line to really check. Since the church doesn't sanction the "bogus" priests to perform acts, the passengers haven't really been to mass, and that's really upsetting some passengers after they take time out of their cruise activities. The USCCB has now set up a database of approved priests in good standing, and Celebrity and Holland America are the first two cruise lines to sign on to use it in hiring priests.

Wednesday, January 26
From the you're not alone department: The norovirus that you hear about sickening people on cruise ships, is actually the second most common illness in the country (surpassed only by the common cold), estimated to strike about 23 million people each year. There are two reasons you hear so much about it in connection with cruises. One is that on land it's more commonly referred to as stomach flu rather than norovirus. The other is that on cruise ships, "they are required to report every incidence of gastrointestinal illness," said Dave Forney, the chief of the Vessel Sanitation Program at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Nowhere else in the public health system of the United States is norovirus a reportable illness," Forney continued. It happens just as often (actually more often) on shore in schools, hospitals, day care facilities, nursing homes, and any other place where there are people.

Wednesday, January 19
From the getting back to normal department: Sri Lanka had its first cruise ship call since the  December 26 tsunami disaster, when the German cruise ship Delphin Renaissance made its scheduled call at Colombo yesterday. The return of cruise ships is, of course, important to the local economy. During the day-long and overnight stop, several shore excursions were offered including visits to several Sri Lankan cities, but one of the most popular was a visit to an elephant orphanage. The 700-passenger Delphin Renaissance is the former Renaissance R7. 

Tuesday, January 18
From the bad timing department: Whitsunday Cruises' (the Australian islands just off the Great Barrier Reef) just received a new excursion boat. Prior to taking delivery, they had all their new promotional material printed up and ready to go. Just before delivery, they realized they had to scrap all the material and rename the ship. The name they had chosen several months ago was Tsunami. A spokesman for the company said that even though it is causing a financial loss, there's no question in their minds that the name change is absolutely the right thing to do.

Monday, January 17
From the old shell game department: In the summer, Holland America operates a fleet of deluxe rail cars that carry cruisetour passengers between Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. In the winter, those cars usually sit unused on a siding in Anchorage. The city recently changed the personal property tax formula to be more complex and will now bill Holland America more for the time those when those rail cars are sitting unused than when they are actually in use. It was going to be another one of those ways the Alaskan governments could maximize the revenue they receive from the cruise lines. But not so fast. One thing they forgot, is that cruise lines are mobile businesses, and Holland America's solution was to hitch up the rail cars to a locomotive and tow them to a siding 50 miles away in another friendlier town that was happy to have a lower tax rate, leaving Anchorage with less money now than they had before under the old formula. Perhaps the folks in Alaska should take heed with when contemplating new taxes for cruise lines. Cruise ships, with all their passengers, like rail cars, can move out of town just as easily when prices get too high. 

Thursday, January 13
From the clean as a whistle department: Carnival Glory achieved a perfect score on its most recent US Public Health inspection. The inspections are conducted semi-annually on a surprise basis. Those are becoming more common since ships are being built specifically to make them easier to maintain USPH standards, but there's another part to Carnival Glory's perfect score. This is the second time in the last three inspections that Carnival Glory has achieved that coveted 100%. Even the time it didn't quite make perfect, it still scored a 97. Fleetwide, over the past year, the Carnival fleet has averaged a score of 93.

Monday, January 10
From the face is familiar but the uniform is different department: Popular NCL hotel director James Deering has changed his venue and yesterday signed onto Holland America's Oosterdam as the hotel director. Deering has had a long career in the cruise industry, becoming practically became an institution as the hotel manager on Norwegian Star, bringing that ship out for NCL and remaining with it on a regular basis until he left it to help in the recruiting and training process for the sister line, NCL America. He also served as hotel director on Pride of Aloha for this ship's initial voyages. Deering said he doesn't know if Oosterdam will be his permanent assignment, or if he'll shortly transfer to another ship, but he is anxious to resume his now-famous wine-tasting seminars again (in which he could never "fully participate" due to company regulations on NCL). 

Friday, January 7
From the putting down roots department: In a sign they plan to be operating in North America for the long haul, MSC Cruises has moved into their permanent headquarters building in Ft. Lauderdale. The 13,000-square-foot facility is next door to the temporary office they rented last summer as they were making plans for this winter's push into the Caribbean. The new offices house the 50-person staff of the executive offices, the sales and marketing departments, back office operations and reservations. The space also will accommodate their expected growth. The line also maintains their original reservation office in New Jersey. In another sign they plan to be in Florida long-term, the freight division transferred their Florida operation from the Port of Miami to Port Everglades (at Ft. Lauderdale), making MSC the largest tenant at Port Everglades. This gives the cruise line more priority in the port's eyes than if they operated a stand-alone seasonal cruise operation at the port, giving them much more clout than cruise cruise lines which have sailed from the port for many years.

Thursday, January 6
From the bad timing department: Word has it that easyCruise, the new unbundled no-frills entry into the cruise industry, will not start their cruise operation with a series of cruises in southeast Asia as previously announced. Since they were planning a startup in March, in view of the tsunami catastrophe, it's probably a wise decision. Instead, the word is that they are now planning to move the ship right to the Mediterranean for a March or April launch, although the itinerary and homeport is still being finalized. 

Wednesday, January 5
From the this will be the final answer department: The US Supreme Court has set the date of February 28 to hear the case against NCL involving the Americans with Disabilities Act. At issue is whether US laws can be imposed upon cruise lines operating foreign-flagged ships from US ports. In this case, two lower courts have issued conflicting rulings. This case should then serve as a precedent for other ADA cases against other lines. In a larger sense, this ruling could also serve as a precedent for all other litigation against cruise lines with ships registered in other countries. Everyone in the industry is watching this one.  

Tuesday, January 4
From the creeping delay department: Star Cruises is continuing their amended itineraries with SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Gemini. Both ship's normal itineraries include stops at the Phuket (Thailand) which was so affected by the Asian tsunami catastrophe. On the bright side, the line says passenger comments have been very positive about the alternate ports of Langkawi and Penang, and they are not feeling pressure on the part of customers to rush their return to the popular port of Phuket. They have also been very interested in so many unsolicited comments from passengers (apparently on their comment cards) about the feeling of safety on the ship and the thoroughness of the safety drills.

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