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Cruise News Daily's thoughts on things seen and heard around the internet and the cruise industry.

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Friday, August 6
* From the cruise without going anywhere department: Some of the eight cruise ships that will be used for housing at the summer Olympic games at Athens have already started to arrive at the port of Piraeus. Most of them will arrive next week, however with Rotterdam, Westerdam, Silver Whisper and Queen Mary 2 arriving on August 12 and departing on the 30th. Security is particularly tight around the ships, since most will house heads of state in addition to other official delegations. The big question among the staffs onboard is: Will they tip well?

Thursday, August 5
* Even though Royal Caribbean's Cape Liberty Cruise Port at Bayonne is part of the metro New York area and is on New York Harbor, security there isn't provided by the NYPD because it's in New Jersey. Instead, the port is secured by the New Jersey State Police, and they are the first state police force in the nation to be trained for this job by the US Navy. And because it's the NJSP's first job like this, don't think they are ill-equipped. They have divers that regularly sweep the piers with sonar and boats patrolling the area watching for boats getting too close to the Royal Caribbean ships. Port Director Anthony Caputo told Cruise News Daily that during the line's last operation there over the weekend, they actually pulled over a pleasure craft that got too close and detained it for some time while they investigated who it was and what he was doing there. That's one boater that will think twice about keeping his distance in the future.

Wednesday, August 4
* From the somebody's watching over you department: We're often amused to see the topic coming up on bulletin boards that starts outs something like, "How private are the private balconies?" (which always causes us to wonder what people want to do on those balconies that they can't do only a few feet away beyond the sliding glass door into their cabins) Especially on Princess ships, many people seem very concerned about getting a balcony that is completely covered so "no one from higher decks can look down and see us."  Former Princess EVP of Fleet Operations Brian Langston-Carter told us that the Princess ships originally got their somewhat uniquely tiered design after lots of passenger input. It seems they wanted as many people as possible to be able to get some sun out on their balconies while also having a shady part. 
   Anyway, back to our story. We are always amused when we see people announce they have the perfect cabin position so no one from above can see what they do on their balcony. They have studied earlier notes on bulletin boards and know that the dividers between their balcony and next cabin go all the way to the wall and jut out so no one next door can peek at them. Yes, they can sit out on their private balcony in complete privacy to do whatever it is they have in mind. There's just one thing they haven't thought of.
   Most ships today have truly spacious and expansive bridges with wings that extend far beyond the sides of the ship with glass all around (and even in the floor) so they can stand on the wing and guide the ship precisely, right up to the dock. As a frequent visitor to ships' bridges, I'm amazed at the view from these wings. You can see all the way down the side of the ship - and right into most of the balconies. So the next time you are sitting on your "private" balcony, be sure to turn forward and wave to the officer on the bridge who occasionally will be checking to see what people actually do on their private balconies.

Tuesday, August 3
* From our irony department (which is one of our larger and busier departments): Do you buy your cruise from an agency that gives you a discount beyond the cruise line's rate shown on the line's website? You may not be getting that discount much longer. Why? Because they have been giving you that discount.
   We're not talking about a special upgrade promotion or group rate the agency may have, but rather the $50-$100 that typically is rebated from the agency's commission.
   Many of the industry's financial analysts are agreeing things are lining up in the cruise industry for a general commission cut by the cruise lines. It's explained best by outspoken Carnival president Bob Dickinson who recently said that if travel agencies are giving away part of their commission, they are telling the cruise lines they don't need it, so the lines may as well keep it.

Monday, August 2
* From the my what big knives you have department: Those massive knives and forks in the Sterling Dining Rooms aboard Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess aren't there by accident. Princess executives said they are the product of extensive meetings and discussions to select just the right custom-produced design prior to Diamond setting sail. (Even then they weren't all delivered in time for Diamond's inaugural.) There's little doubt they'll lose many of them to passengers who just happen to put them in their pockets; there's no way one of those would ever make it into an airplane cabin.

Friday, July 30
* From the big red cross department: Pride of Aloha seems to be carrying on Norwegian Star's tradition for finding accident victims wherever they go. It wasn't too unusual for Norwegian Star to answer mayday calls on its long leg to Fanning Island and then have to turn around and get those passengers back to a shoreside hospital in Hawaii ASAP. Pride of Aloha has only been in Hawaii for about four weeks, and already it's answered its first mayday call and saved a couple lives. The only difference is that Pride of Aloha never gets too far out to sea, so it didn't really need to take the injured people anywhere. In this case, Pride of Aloha just picked up the accident victims, with the ship's medical team providing life-saving first aid while a Navy helicopter came to transport them to a shoreside trauma center. The two men, a dive instructor and a tourist, were in the water off the west coast of Kauai when a catamaran tour boat from another company ran over them and hit them with its propeller. One man lost a leg in the accident, and the other has what may turn out to be a permanently-damaged arm, but both feel fortunate to be alive and credit the crew of Pride of Aloha with helping to save their lives. "It was just God's kindness that the cruise ship was there," one of them was quoted as saying.

Thursday, July 29
* From the don't hold your breath department: During Wednesday's conference call discussing their second quarter earnings, Royal Caribbean chairman Richard Fain was saying how pleased they are that more people are booking farther and farther out before departure. A while back, Royal Caribbean instituted a new policy of offering low rates as soon as the sailings opened for booking as an incentive to book very early. The rates would then rise, and if they had done it right, they wouldn't have to do any discounting later to fill empty cabins as departure date draws near. He was excited to report yesterday that it's really working and not only are lots of bookings rolling in early, "but," he said, "there is now still plenty of demand to hold prices up at the end." In other words, if you like to look around for deep discounts a few weeks before sailing, you should plan on seeing them, at least at Royal Caribbean.

Wednesday, July 28
* From the not missing but mislaid department: Monday CND ran an article about a Fascination passenger who reported that her cabinmate wasn't in her cabin when she woke up. After searching the ship it turned out he was missing, and the Coast Guard was called in to search the path the ship had sailed since he was last seen. One cruise executive dropped us a line to let us know that these days more often than not when a cabinmate is reported "missing" and not in the cabin in the morning, it turns out that the person somehow managed to be sleeping in the wrong cabin, and is amazed that the person in bed with them isn't their original cabinmate. I guess one bed was too hard, and they checked another one that was too soft and they kept going until they found one that was j-u-s-t right.

Tuesday, July 27
* From the traveling light department: In many US ports, Carnival allows passengers in a hurry to get off the ship at the end of their cruise to carry their own luggage and be the first cruise to disembark after the ship is cleared by US authorities. What astounds us, however, is the number of people using the option. Carnival tells us that on shorter cruises (less than 7 days), it averages about 50% of the passengers, and on longer cruises, it averages about 40%.

Monday, July 26
* From the not so fast department: I saw a note on a bulletin board from a guy who thinks he figured out how to beat the system. It seems he found out that supervisory personnel on the ship also get a portion of the tip pool, and he doesn't want part of his tip money going to people who haven't really provided him any service. So he's figured out how to get around that, so he thinks. He goes to the purser's desk and has the automatic gratuity removed from his account; then he tips the people individually in cash - and supposedly above the recommended amount. The only problem with this is that it doesn't work. On most lines (ok, all lines we've talked with), if a passenger opts out of the automatic tipping, any crew members receiving a cash tip are required to put it into the pool. (Yes, they know who opts out and are checking up on those people.) On the other hand, if you leave the tip on your account, then give additional cash to a crew member, they get to keep it all. Don't think about telling the crew member to keep the tip to himself; it's a rules violation - and you'd have to be giving him one heck of a tip to make him want to risk losing his job, no matter kind of winking and nodding goes on. Everybody into the pool.

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