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Friday, September 3
* The changes in departures of cruises from Florida are causing planners at the major cruise lines to have to consider a lot more than just when the ports will reopen, the condition of the ports and the ocean conditions as they usually do. This time an executive and one major line told CND that also going into the mix is the availability of air lift into the airports surrounding the ports of embarkation considering it's a holiday weekend and the flights at the end of the weekend were already heavily booked with people returning home from the holiday. Even more surprising he said is that they are also considering the availability of gasoline in Florida for those driving to the port. There's a shortage of gas in Florida for two reasons. One is that the state had removed 8 of the gas tax for the month of August, and most drivers filled up their tanks on August 31 on the last day to get the savings. Many service stations therefore ran out of gas on Tuesday, and some have yet to get their supplies fully replenished. Then one of the things authorities tell residents to do to prepare for a hurricane is to make sure their gas tanks are full, so that has sent residents back to the gas stations at the end of the week drying up supplies again. Cruise lines are thus aware that passengers driving to the port from across the state or from surrounding states may have a difficult time getting enough gas to make it to the port. All these factors have been what's caused some sailings to be delayed until Monday or Tuesday rather than just pushing them back a day until Sunday. 

Thursday, September 2
* With the closure of the major Florida cruise ports until Hurricane Frances passes, every cruise line operating from Florida has delayed their arrivals back into their turnaround ports until Sunday. It is affecting some thirteen ships. Since most this week have opted for itineraries in the western Caribbean to avoid Frances in the eastern, most ships are going to be waiting in the Florida Straits for the ports to open, prompting one cruise line executive to refer to the "cruise ship armada" that will be parked just south of the Keys. Of course if Frances takes a southwesterly turn, it will be interesting to see them all turn in unison and head west at full speed. 

Tuesday, August 31
* From the make way for the queen department: The town council of Bar Harbor (Maine) has voted to make much of the historic downtown business district a pedestrian mall on September 27 when Queen Mary 2 calls at the port. In addition, they are prohibiting parking on other downtown streets to give better access for the 30 tour buses that will be used in conjunction with the ship's shore excursions. The city is planning not only for the 2,600 passengers who will be coming ashore for the day, but also for an expected large number of visitors coming to town just to gawk at the giant ship, noting that at other ports the ship has drawn numbers in the thousands. The chamber of commerce is looking at this as an opportunity to showcase the town to both passengers and visitors who just want to see the ship. They said that there hasn't been this much anticipation of a ship's visit since Queen Elizabeth 2's maiden call there in 1981. 

Monday, August 30
* From the white glove department: The FDA (the Federal Food and Drug Administration) reports that NCL America's Pride of Aloha received a perfect score on its August sanitation inspection last Friday. The FDA performs a similar function for US-registered vessels as the CDC does for internationally-registered vessels calling at US ports. The FDA inspectors come aboard unannounced to examine the ship's galleys, restaurants, storerooms, provisioning areas, staterooms, public rooms and overall cleanliness. On the previous inspection in July, they scored 97.5%.

Friday, August 27
* From the e-w-w-w-w-w department: We sometimes see complaints from passengers on cruise ships saying they had a bad cruise because the service was slow or the food wasn't as good as they thought it should be. They have no complaint compared to the passengers on Olvia, a 15,791 gt ship recently detained for 21 health and safety violations by British authorities during a routine inspection. They included things that were bad enough like escape doors not marked properly or kept in working order, the radar being inoperative, and their nautical publications not being up-to-date. But what caught our attention were the ones about the food stores, and passenger and crew galleys being infested with cockroaches and "evidence of parasites onboard." (We don't even want to think about what that one means.) The funny thing is, however, that there were 384 passengers and 233 crew members onboard at the time, and none of them was complaining. Maybe the service was really prompt though.

Thursday, August 26
* From the jumping ship department: Holland America has a new cook in the galley. Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has been hired as a consultant to "beef up" the dining even more than it already is as part of the line's Signature of Excellence program. If the name is familiar, it's because Sodamin recently ended a similar relationship with Royal Caribbean at the end of his contract there after a long association. During that time he developed a signature line of products and a cookbook which were sold onboard the RCI ships.

Wednesday, August 25
* From the your order has arrived where shall we put it department: Meyer Werft got a major delivery the other day when barges arrived at their Papenburg (Germany) yard carrying the five huge diesel engines and the two Azipods for NCL's 93,000-grt Norwegian Jewel. Each of the five engines measures about 16 feet high, 16 feet wide, 36 feet long and weighs 165 tons. The electrical output of each is 14,400 kilowatts, meaning the five together develop 72,000 kW which translates to about 100,000 horsepower, enabling Norwegian Jewel to cruise at about 25 knots. The ship is scheduled for delivery next August. 

Tuesday, August 24
* From the more than a million bucks department: Last week we saw an example of individual generosity and concern when employees at NCL's Miami headquarters opened their hearts and sent a truckload of needed items to hurricane victims in Southwest Florida. This week we see the corporate equivalent with the world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corp, opened their heart - er uh - checkbook and writing out a million-dollar check for disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Charley. The funds were split between the disaster relief fund set up by Florida governor Jeb Bush and the American Red Cross' disaster relief fund. Carnival Corp is chaired by Micky Arison who also is the managing partner of the Miami Heat basketball team, and last week he also dispatched Heat players, Burnie the Heat mascot, the Heat Dancers, and the Xtreme Team, to visit several locations on Florida's West Coast to lift the spirits of hurricane victims. The players obviously assisted homeless victims by reaching belongings blown onto high places.

Monday, August 23
* From the does your waiter have a part-time job department: We've been telling Cruise News Daily subscribers for several years that drug smugglers have been using cruise ships to transport illegal drugs since passengers and crew members coming through ports are searched relatively less comprehensively than those arriving by air. In the wake of tightening security after 9-11, more are being caught transporting drugs on cruise ships. Obviously not every ounce of drugs are seized as they come in; sometimes it takes a while for Customs to zero in on an operation, and the longer it takes, the more sophisticated the operation becomes. As evidence of how complex the operations have become, at the end of last week, Tampa police arrested the largest number of people they ever have in connection with a single drug operation: 52. Prior to the arrests, law enforcement agents investigated the operation for six months, and were amazed at the vast network involved - and guess how the drugs were coming into the US. The drugs originated in Honduras and were transported to Jamaica. From there, they were carried by three crew members on Carnival Conquest to New Orleans, and from there the drugs were transported to Tampa and Miami. Officials estimate the group was responsible for bringing about a half-million dollars worth of drugs into the US each month. While these arrests involved crew members, its also increasingly common for the Department of Homeland Security to make arrests of passengers who are carrying drugs as part of an organized operation.

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