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Thursday, October 7
* From the perfect for cruises and other things department: When John Edwards wants to have a rally and talk about port security where does he go? Royal Caribbean's newest port, Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne, NJ. It seems the same thing appealed to Edwards' planners that excites many passengers about it. The commanding view of New York Harbor, the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty made a perfect backdrop for a rally today where the Vice Presidential candidate talked about port security.

Monday, October 4
* From the recipe for disappointment department: Always around holidays, airlines and hotels and even cruise lines have sales to fill space on the off days. Many of the news programs on TV have consumer reporters or "travel experts" come in with a feature about all the wonderful sales on travel that are available. Take for example the upcoming three-day weekend. They will tell you how XYZ Airlines has a sale where you can fly for as little at $29 over the holiday weekend. OK, the rules may say the fares apply from Saturday thru Monday, and the fares really do start at $29 one way, but what the "experts" don't bother to say (and knowing the airheads many of them are, they probably have never thought of) is that these are really clearance sales to move unsold inventory. Just like when you go to a clothing store having a clearance sale to get rid unsold merchandise at the end of the season, you have to remember that these will be the "leftovers" that no one else wanted at full price, or that they were overstocked on. So when you see the jolly "expert" on the Today show telling you how you can fly to the beach this weekend at a bargain rate, all over the country there are people getting  excited and mentally planning out their trips, then calling their travel agents and finding out there's nothing available. What the "expert" has never thought about is that the seats for the prime times, Saturday morning going and Monday evening returning, were sold out months ago. What's leftover is going Saturday afternoon and coming home Sunday morning. Who wants to do that? That's why they are left over. And that $29 price isn't just anywhere the airline flies, that's the shortest distance they fly. Take it from someone who was a travel agent for a lot of years, and fielded thousands of those calls. People get excited and mentally have their whole trip planned while watching one of these people on TV, then it's their travel agent who has to break the bad news to them that they aren't going at the times they want for any price they want to pay. The same happens for hotels who have sales for the whole month of October, but just don't plan on rooms to be available over the holiday weekend. Those dates were sold out a long time ago. These people on TV need to sit in a travel agency for a day after one of their on-air appearances and learn something about the real world and opening their mouths before they check availability.

Thursday, September 30
* From the do you believe surveys department: Keystone, a group that studies online sites and visitors' reactions, surveyed cruise line and online travel agency sites for customer satisfaction. The study surveyed visitors not only on the site itself (impression of the look and feel, ease of use, finding what you were looking for, and so forth), but also on their impression of the company/brand. The survey included Carnival, Celebrity, Cheap Ticket, Expedia, Holland America, NCL, Orbitz, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Travelocity. The results put Expedia (1) and Royal Caribbean (2) at the top and Princess (9) and NCL (10) at the bottom. There were two of the findings we found interesting. With the exception of Royal Caribbean, users were generally much more satisfied with the experiences at the travel agencies' sites and found them easier to use. But the bigger surprise was that there was a direct correlation between the users' reported experience on the website with their overall impression of the brand itself. So therefore, in the consumer's mind a crappy website means a crappy cruise.

Wednesday, September 29
* From the don't buy it if you don't need it department: A couple of months ago when Royal Caribbean announced plans to lengthen Enchantment of the Seas, there was another part to the plan which has now been shelved - at least for the time being. The new 73-foot midsection will make the ship too long to transit the Panama Canal, limiting the ship's flexibility. At that time, they had plans in place and the engineering done to hinge the bow of the ship so that it would swing back and shorten the ship enough when necessary so that it could fit in the Canal. When some of the details of the new onboard features were released earlier this week, we noticed there was no mention of the hinged bow. Peter Fetten, RCCL's VP of Fleet Design and New Building told CND that they decided to shelve that part of the plan, because Royal Caribbean has no plans in the foreseeable future (Royal Caribbean plans their deployments at least three years in advance) to use Enchantment in the Pacific. He said that if the ship is ever needed there, the schedules would finalized months in advance, giving them time to install it then. Fetten said it was a fairly simple undertaking and could be done relatively quickly (about two weeks) since he already has the parts are on hand and no drydock is needed. It can be done while the ship is in service and at sea. He said that by not hinging the bow now when it's not planned to be used, they are saving several years of ongoing maintenance.

Tuesday, September 28
* From the what was he thinking department: We frequently tell our readers that a few years ago drug smugglers discovered cruise ships, and there are often smugglers among you - both crew members and passengers. But arrests are becoming more frequent, but some of the people, you just wonder what's was going through their heads when they planned it out. In the latest incident a 58-year-old-man was arrested aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas on Saturday when customs agents came aboard, searched his cabin and found 13 pounds of heroin. He must have thought his cabin would be the last place anyone would look. Sheesh!

Monday, September 27
* From the whale of an accident department: Accidents happen. Sometimes a deer just jumps out in front of moving car in what we assume is carelessness. (They never leave a suicide note behind, so we have to assume it's accidental.) Likewise, sometimes a whale who must have something else on his mind, surfaces right in front of a moving cruise ship, with similar results.  That was the case with Jewel of the Seas. When it docked at St. John (NB) yesterday, the crew and some of the passengers discovered a 60-foot finback whale lodge between the ship's bow and its bulbous bow that protrudes slightly under the surface of the water. RCCL VP Lynn Martenstein told CND that the crew neither saw it, felt it impact, nor noticed anything different in the way the ship steered. Martenstein said, "When we see a whale, our ships take evasive action to avoid it." The pilot who came aboard just outside St. John also said he didn't notice it when his boat approached the ship. Canadian officials declined to do an autopsy, so it's not known if the animal was even alive when it was struck by the ship. After the carcass was dislodged, the Coast Guard towed it out to sea. As you read this, Makes us wonder if there is a whale equivalent of deer whistles available. 

Friday, September 24
* From the R.I.P. department: Earlier this week the was a quiet passage of an idea that just never caught on like everyone thought it would. When Carnival's Paradise arrived at Long Beach at the end of it's positioning cruise via the Panama Canal, it ceased to be the world's only nonsmoking ship. The nonsmoking concept will probably never be duplicated exactly as it was on Paradise. Not only were passengers and crew members prohibited from smoking on the ship (or for that matter, even possessing smoking material), but even the construction workers in the yard where it was built were required to adhere to the same rules. The demand for space on the ship never materialized the way everyone thought it would. When it entered service in 1998, a fleet of nonsmoking ships was envisioned. Carnival had no problems keeping Paradise filled; demand for it didn't seem to be any more or less than any other ship. Actually it can't be said that Carnival really made the decision to abandon the nonsmoking concept, as much as it was that the ship was just needed more for something else.
   It's size is what did in the nonsmoking aspect as well as what will probably keep the concept from ever being duplicated exactly as it was on Paradise. The short cruise market had just grown to the place where Carnival needed another 70,000-ton ship for it. The economics of that market don't make it feasible to operate a nonsmoking ship, where they don't also have a ship on which smoking is allowed. Carnival just didn't have any other ship of that size to put into the short cruise market; all of the others had already left the long cruise market to operate short itineraries of their own. The unique feature of how the nonsmoking concept was implemented on Paradise was that smoke had never been allowed to permeate the ship or the soft goods aboard, even during construction. To duplicate it again, a new ship would have to be built. The economics of today's cruise industry, at least in the mass market, don't allow ships of that size to be built and operated profitably. Ships now need to be built larger, and it has been demonstrated that the market just doesn't exist which is demanding a nonsmoking ship in sufficient numbers to support a 100,000-ton ship.
   An era quietly ended last Monday afternoon, when the first passenger came aboard Paradise for a 4-night cruise to Mexico and lit up his or her cigarette. That passenger probably didn't even realize his or her place in history.

Thursday, September 23
* From the glad we're going home department: It was kind of a close call for Holland America's Zaandam yesterday. The ship was on it's last Alaskan cruise of the season and docked in Skagway. Docked behind it was Alaska Marine Highway's new fast ferry, Fairweather, which was attempting to leave and got out of control in the wind becoming entangled in Zaandam's mooring lines. Before it was stopped, the ferry partially-severed three of the five of Zaandam's two-inch-think mooring lines (they have already been replaced), and put a crack the metal on its own bow, apparently when it struck a mooring dolphin. The ferry never actually struck Zaandam, but it appears it was a close call. State officials seemed so concerned about their ferry they weren't even sure at first which cruise ship was involved. There's probably a little disappoint around the statehouse that a collision didn't occur, because if it had, and Zaandam had leaked even only a little oil, no doubt they would have fined poor old HAL for polluting, helping to ease the state's budgetary problems.  

Wednesday, September 22
* From the making lemonade from someone else's lemons department: Several cruise ships have expressed an interest in including Jamaica as an alternate port in place of Grand Cayman, and that is pleasing Jamaican officials, since it could well be a number of weeks before ships return to Grand Cayman. Officials estimate that Jamaica lost US$100 million and about 9,000 passengers coming ashore in the days that the ships were bypassing Jamaica due to Hurricane Ivan and the damage it left behind. The storm then moved on to Grand Cayman and caused much more extensive damage than on Jamaica. If several ships ultimately choose Jamaican ports as alternates to Grand Cayman, it could recoup those losses and then some (or a lot) because Grand Cayman may be closed for a considerably longer period, meaning Jamaica could ultimately benefit from Hurricane Ivan. 

Monday, September 20
* From the bigger they are... department: Some people don't book smaller ships because they're afraid they might get seasick. They book larger ships (the larger the better) because they feel so little motion that sometimes it's easy to forget you're actually floating. As a reminder that no matter how big, they do float and they do move, the largest passenger ship in the world, Queen Mary 2, had to cancel its maiden call today at Sydney, NS due to high winds. There is so much surface space on the exterior of QM2 (like other large ships) that it all acts like a giant sail and is fairly easy for winds to move the ship making it dangerous to dock in high winds. (Sydney is today experiencing tropical storm force winds.) The call was to have been QM2's maiden call at the Canadian port. The town will get another opportunity to welcome the giant liner; its next call is scheduled for October 2.

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