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Friday, September 17
* From the global village department: In this age, where cruisers are used to finding an internet cafe aboard ship - and using it - it's interesting to see that so many hang on to that romantic notion that the captain of their ship is making all the decisions about their ship and where it goes and when. With so many weather-related changes to itinerary, this has been coming to light in postings we see on bulletin boards which contain phrases like, "The captain decided to take us to..." or, "The captain had a hard time finding a port..." In reality, the captain of the ship is just one member of a team that makes these decisions, the rest of the team being both on the ship and at the line's headquarters on shore. In a case of foul weather, the team onboard may be making the decision that they are routing the ship more to the north or west, but the marine operations department on shore probably has more to say about at what alternate ports the ship will actually end up calling. They're the ones actually checking with the port for available berths at the time the ship would possibly be there. (Once the decision is made, they will go one step further and advise the line's port agent that the ship will be coming, so he can alert the tour operators and taxi companies and so forth.) There are finite numbers of berths at any port; ships don't just show up and expect to be able to dock. There will be times when space at the port is limited, and it makes more sense to send a different one of the line's ships to that port, keeping your ship at sea or sending it to a less-logical alternate port. At times, it becomes like a giant chess game that the line is playing with their ships. So the next time you hear that voice from the bridge telling you that your ship is going somewhere else, don't assume the captain has made that decision by himself. It may not even have been his decision.

Thursday, September 16
* From the he's not excited is he department: The Mobile area has been lobbying for years to get a cruise ship based there, and a few months ago when Carnival announced they would base Holiday there beginning this fall, the atmosphere in the city was almost like they had been chosen to host the Olympics. If only ABC reporter Robin Roberts had known. Yesterday morning she was doing a serious interview with Mobile Mayor Michael Dow for Good Morning America about the area's preparations for Hurricane Ivan. He was talking about how they had changed the lanes on the highways to all go north out of town, how he had sent his family to safety in another city, how people were heeding the evacuation orders, how he needs to be there to direct the cleanup immediately after the storm, etc. Roberts interjected about how some people are planning to ride out the storm at home, but most people have left. "This is serious business," she said. Then the mayor agreed saying, "Yes, this is the real deal here." Pausing only momentarily he continued, "I wish you guys were going to be her on October 16. We're cutting the ribbon on Carnival's new cruise terminal here. I've got that built here, and I've got carpeting ordered, and we're cutting the ribbon on that on October 16." Always the professional, despite the look in her eyes that said, "Huh?" Roberts responded with, "As we said, it's pretty windy here, and just to the east of us, Bob Woodruff is standing by in Pensacola, and as you can see the waves are starting to come in..." It's nice to know the mayor is looking ahead to life after Ivan. Yes, they are excited about Carnival in Mobile. Do you know what a plug like that is worth on GMA? Can you guess who will be getting a free upgrade on his next cruise? 

Wednesday, September 15
* From the two different things department: It surprising to me how many people equate the date their final payment is due for their cruise and the date that penalties begin for cancellation, as being the same thing. True, for most cruise lines, they fall on the same date (although for a few the penalties start before the final payment is due), but advancing or delaying making your final payment does not change when the penalties begin if you should cancel. Likewise, if the cruise line grants you an extension on your final payment date, it doesn't delay when the penalties begin should you decide to cancel before making the payment.

Tuesday, September 14
* From the how did this get here department: Did you hear about the British couple who were sailing on Zenith from New York to Bermuda a couple weeks ago? They planned to attend their daughter's wedding in Bermuda, and they spent a couple of pre-cruise days in New York. Like many people, they had their video camera along and were taping the sights in New York during their stopover. They left their video camera behind in the back seat of a cab. The next customers into the cab found it and decided to show the couple the good side of New York. The two guys watched a little of the tape to find some information about the owners, and learned the couple was staying at a Hilton, and decided to take it upon themselves to return the camera. Armed with that information and a receipt they also found in the cab, they called the Hilton trying to track down the couple. After a couple of calls, they found the right Hilton, explained the situation, and were told the couple had checked out and it appeared they were taking a cruise, but the hotel didn't have any other information. They did a little research on the internet and figured out they must be sailing on Zenith that afternoon. So our two friendly New York guys took the camera, got in another cab and raced down to the cruise terminal. With today's increased security, they needed to do a lot of explaining to get inside, and the staff was dubious at first, but checked things out, and eventually accepted the camera and took it aboard. It eventually got delivered to the couple's stateroom. The British couple came in, found the camera, which they thought they had lost forever in New York, and were absolutely amazed. No one aboard had any explanation how it had come to be aboard the ship. They went on and enjoyed their daughter's wedding in Bermuda and flew home to Britain. Once unpacked, a few days later they settled down to watch their vacation video and relive their daughter's wedding on the tape. Imagine their surprise when sandwiched between the shots of their New York hotel and the video of their cruise ship, they saw a video diary that our two New York friends had left for them of how they had found the camera and the story of how it had made its way back to them. The two New Yorkers wanted no credit for their good deed, and didn't even leave their names on the tape. It was a British TV show that tracked them down and ran the story. It was picked up by Good Morning America this morning, which also arranged a meeting via satellite for the couple and the two good Samaritans in New York. The moral of the story is obviously, if you are going to leave your camera behind, it's best to do it in New York City.

Friday, September 10
* From the if it's good enough for Staples and American Airlines and Nextel etc, it's good enough for us department: Celebrity Cruises has a deal pending with the Golden Gate Bridge District (yes, THAT Golden Gate) where the line gets a year's advertising on the district's property in exchange for at least a half million dollars from the line. No, that doesn't mean that you're going to see a big "X" hanging from the landmark bridge, but does mean that Celebrity ads could be showing up on at least 20 buses, in the ferry terminals, and in the transit guides published by the district. But the deal could mean even more bucks for the district. That half million would actually be a minimum guaranteed by Celebrity. Celebrity would solicit their past passengers for donations which they would in a sense match by giving the donor an equal amount off on a cruise, up to $100. Estimates say that the $500,000 guarantee could more likely turn into a million a year. The cost to the district, apparently for producing the advertising material, would be about $50,000, which seems like a pretty good deal. The Golden Gate Bridge District thinks so too and has approved the deal in principal but wants to consider all the aspects before giving its final approval, probably in 30 days. This wouldn't just be extra cash for the district; they have a seismic retrofit project (to keep the bridge from falling during an earthquake) budgeted for $392 million. So for the time being there will be no big "X" emblazoned on the familiar orange bridge, but who knows? They may eventually decide to follow the lead of dozens of ball parks and arenas, and eventually your ship could be sailing under the Celebrity Cruises Bridge.

Thursday, September 9
* From the bigger than meets the eye department: Most everyone knows that Hurricane Frances, which closed all four of Florida's major cruise ports last weekend, was a monster and the most disruptive that has been seen in modern cruise history, but most people don't realize its effects were felt all the way in Australia. Carnival's former Jubilee, which left the Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet last month, was at the Grand Bahama Shipyard (near Freeport) being refit for service with another Carnival brand, P&O Australia. A ship in port during a hurricane risks serious damage, and it's best to be at sea where it can sail away from the hurricane. With Frances heading toward Freeport at the middle of last week, the yard had to stop work on the ship, refloat it, and it went to sea, only to return safely last Monday after the storm had passed. That, of course, is delaying the completion of the work and the ship's departure for Australia. That in turn has caused P&O Australia to have to cancel the ship's first scheduled cruise as Pacific Sun, adding to Carnival Corp's overall cost of storm-related expenses of up to $33.78 million (US), which includes costs from Pacific Sun's canceled cruise. The ship is now scheduled to arrive in Australia on October 27.

Wednesday, September 8
* From the US Open isn't the only place to find aces in New York department: Norwegian Dawn aced it health inspection conducted by the CDC last week with a perfect score of 100. The ship also scored an ace on its February inspection, and it comes on the heels of the Pride of Aloha's perfect score by the FDA (which does the inspections on US-registered ships). If you think you've seen a lot of these recently, it's because you have. While it's still not exactly easy to get that magic 100, it's not as difficult as it used to be thanks to the CDC and FDA consulting with the cruise lines and equipment manufacturers during their design phases. It's not a matter of the authorities schooling the lines how pass the tests, but rather helping them design systems and facilities that will be easier to clean and stay clean and thereby be cleaner when they inspect. Of course the goal isn't just to get the perfect score but rather to have cleaner and healthier ships, and these 100%'s say the ships are cleaner than ever.

Tuesday, September 7
* From the read the fine print department: This is a reminder for those who traveled to or from Florida in connection with one of the delayed cruises (delayed either arriving or departing). If you purchased insurance in conjunction with your cruise, many polices (if not most) include some coverage for "trip interruption," which will cover you for that extra hotel room when you couldn't get a flight back, or you arrived there a day early, or the extra meals, or a taxi for that mad dash to the ship instead of the transfers you bought, even extra days parking at the airport at home because you were delayed getting back. Often people buy the insurance thinking only of coverage in case of cancellation, but many policies include coverage for quite a few other things. If you had to put extra money out of your pocket because of the delays involved with the storm, be sure to check you policy to see if it includes this type of coverage. A claim of this type is usually as easy as filling out a short form (often available on the company's website) and returning it to the insurance company along with receipts. It's coverage you paid for, so you may as well benefit from it.

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