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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
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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