Focus On Cruising

Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

Your Questions About Cruises – A Bit Of This And That

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Chris asks…

How long does it take for a cruise ship to pick up speed once it leaves port?

I will be sailing on the Ruby Princess but it doesn’t have to be specific for this ship.  Overall reviews would be lovely.  Also, how many kids generally sail on the Ruby Princess or Princess Cruises and will a staff member tell a parent to control their child if they are misbehaving/being obnoxious/rude/enjoying.  I have nothing against kids, I am 15, I just want to relax.

John answers:

It doesn’t take long for a cruise ship to get up to speed.   Normal cruising speed isn’t fast compared to cars, about 25 miles per hour, more or less.

No, a staff member will not tell a parent to control their child if they are misbehaving, rude, or obnoxious. The kind of people who won’t discipline their children are the kind who will either bite the staff member’s head off verbally on the spot, or go file a report about them.

As for the number of kids on board, the average number is not really meaningful.  The number can vary significantly depending on a number of factors.  The most important, perhaps, is the school calendar.  You can expect more kids during holidays and the summer, and fewer when schools are in session.

Ruth asks…

Norwegian Jewel cruise ship review, please?

-please give me a list of things to do for free
-please let me know if the Nickelodeon is a big part of the ship, and if its bad
-please tell me a short review if you want
-is it age appropriate for,, 13 16 19 21 and parents
-rate a couple things you have in mind

John answers:

Hi Ruth.  For reviews, I’d suggest you go to Cruise Critic.  They have hundreds of reviews of NCL cruises., and Norwegian Jewel in particular.

Unless you go on one of the infrequent “all access” sailings, where the emphasis on Nickelodeon is quite pronounced, you can avoid most encounters of the third kind with the characters.

The Jewel is certainly appropriate for you and your family.  Finally, most of the on board activities are included in the cruise fare and, therefore, free to the extent that you pay nothing additional to enjoy them – dining in many of the restaurants, nightly entertainment in the theater, additional entertainment in the lounges, the disco, the pool, movies, trivia games and activities around the pool, and on and on.

Joseph asks…

Advice/information about working on a cruise ship?

I’m 20 years old and looking for a job where I can travel and save money at the same time. I’ve heard mixed reviews about working on a cruise ships. What are the hours, pay and accommodations like?  Do you have time off the boat while docked?  What are the requirements for an entry level position in the kitchen or housekeeping department?  Which cruise lines offer the best pay for entry level positions?  Any help or advice on the subject would be great.

John answers:

The questions you have are best answered by the cruise lines.  But I have been on many cruises and also talked with the staff about their jobs.  I know that you must sign a contract that lasts about 6 to 9 months.  During that time you work every day and in many cases a split shift where you go on duty in the early morning and then have some time off during the day before returning  to work in the afternoon or evening.  After you complete your initial 6 to 9 month contract you get 2 or 3 months or so off.  If your work has been satisfactory, you’ll be invited to sign a new contract.

The ship’s crew does have the opportunity to get off ship in some ports some of the time.  But you can’t automatically get off at any port you choose.  It depends in part on your work schedule.  You may have to wait for a couple visits to a port before you have the free time to go ashore.

The pay on ships is very low, well below US minimum wage, but you get free room and board and share a cabin with two or three others, depending upon the ship.

You need to contact the cruise lines directly.  On their web sites you will find a link to jobs, employment, human resources or some such link that will give you information about their positions.  Some sites even have current vacancies they are recruiting for.  Please be aware that the majority of the staff does not have deck privileges, meaning that you cannot relax in the passenger areas during your down time.  To compensate, most of the cruise lines have dedicated crew areas, including dining room, bar, and in some cases a disco and a pool.

Don’t go to the web sites that advertise “cruise line jobs” because they charge a fee.  The cruise lines give you all you need without charging a fee.

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Technorati Tags: children on cruise ships, Cruise lines, cruise ship crew, cruise ship employment, cruise ships, NCL, Nickelodeon, Norwegian Jewel, Ship speed

Your Questions About River Cruises

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Sandra asks…

Circle Line Cruise – Rockin River Cruise NYC Question?

I bought tickets to ride the Circle Line Cruise (Rockin River Cruise) and watch a band preform on the boat.  Due to a family medical emergency I could not go the night of the cruise.  Is there any way I can exchange the tickets for another night?  The same band is playing next month and tickets are still available.  Can I go next month even though I paid for the cruise for tonight?

John answers:

Doubtful.  You could try to contact whoever it was that issued the ticket but if it says somewhere on it “non refundable” it pretty much means you are out of luck.

Joseph asks…

I’m visiting the Jordan River (ISRAEL) on a cruise-line shore excursion.  Will I be able to get baptized there?

The cruise excursion doesn’t offer baptism
but I am wondering if people will be waiting
at the Jordan River to baptize those who wish
to be baptized and I am willing to pay too.

Thank you!

John answers:

Most organized groups go to one of two sites for baptisms, Oser Al-Yahud,  traditionally believed to be the site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and Yardenit.  Yardenit became the alternative site when Oser Al-Yahud was cut off during the Six Day War in 1967.

You’ll have to check the details of your shore excursion to determine if you will be at either location.  Groups customarily travel with their own cleric who baptizes the group’s members.  You will have to hope that luck is on your side and a cleric is there when you are.

You should also be aware that an environmental group has been arguing for some time that the waters of the Jordan are so polluted with raw sewage and agricultural runoff at Oser Al-Yahud that it is unsafe to enter the river.

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Technorati Tags: baptisms, Circle Line Cruises, Hudson River, Jordan River, Oser Al-Yahud, refunds, River Jordan, Yardenit

Crystal Cruises Goes “All Inclusive”

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Crystal Symphony

I received the following email from Crystal Cruises today:

“Beginning Spring 2012, Crystal Cruises will be All Inclusive, enhancing our already expansive host of complimentary luxury services and amenities with the addition of free fine wines and premium spirits, open bar service in all lounges, and complimentary gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff.

Effective with the spring Trans-Atlantic crossings of Crystal Symphony (March 19, 2012), and Crystal Serenity (May 8, 2012), your clients can enjoy the added convenience of all-included luxury with the cruise line voted World’s Best more than any other in history.

As many lines throughout our industry have itemized their services for additional charges, we are choosing to maximize the guest experience by eliminating additional transactions – further enhancing the ease and luxury of a Crystal cruise.

In addition to our valued-priced 2-for-1 Fares in all categories, FREE Air, complimentary transfers and a host of generous savings promotions, we hope your clients’ decisions to sail with us will be decidedly simple.”

While this is not all-inclusive in the sense the term is usually employed, it does broaden the items which are included in the base cruise fare.  This brings Crystal in line with the pricing structure offered by other lines in the luxury category for these items – Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, and Seabourn.

Crystal has resisted the trend towards inclusiveness, arguing up to recently that their guests didn’t want to be charged beforehand for services they may not use.  The line did, however, offer an “As You Wish” on board credit of up to $1000 per guest to be used as the passenger decided.

With the roll out of the new pricing structure, this on board credit will disappear, although credits will still be offered to past guests and through occasional travel agent promotions.

In making the announcement, Greg Michel, Crystal’s president, offered this assessment:

“As many lines throughout our industry have itemized their services for additional charges, Crystal is maximizing the guest experience by eliminating additional transactions — further enhancing the ease and luxury of a Crystal cruise.  We believe this service will offer greater convenience, simplicity and comfort.”

The new pricing structure is not expected to lead to an increase in cruise fares.  Crystal, in fact, anticipates that prices, in many cases, will be lower in 2012 than the prices currently in effect in 2011.

Technorati Tags: 2012, all inclusive, Cruise line, cruise ship, Crystal Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises

Say What!?!

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According to a report coming out of Indiana by way of USA Today, a woman is suing Carnival Cruise Lines because the ship she was on went so fast it made her sick.

Originally filed in the Lake County, Indiana Small Claims Court in 2009, the complaint states that the woman’s body “swayed terrible” and that she “had bleeding”.  I’ll resist the oh-so-strong temptation to make a snide observation here, but it does bring to mind some interesting images.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that the case cannot be pursued in Indiana, citing Carnival’s cruise contract, which states that such cases must be filed in Florida courts.

I’d like to be even-handed here and not be too critical but, seriously, does this make any sense to anyone other than the complainant?  And is she really sincere, or did she just decide that she might get a few bucks out of this maneuver?

And what of the courts in Indiana?  This frivolous case went up to the Court of Appeals?  How is this possible?

Hmmm, just a sec.  I think a pig just flew past my window.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise line, Cruise lines, cruise ship, Indiana, lawsuit

Your Questions About Cruise Deals On Line

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Daniel asks…

Cruise Deals?

Where can I find the best Cruise Deals online?

John answers:

I have found that the best way to find the cruise that you want at the best price is to simply go to the cruise line web sites and click on the links for “deals” and/or “specials”.  Most of the cruise lines have such a link but they are most easily found on the web sites for Carnival and Royal Caribbean.  On some other sites they are there but you have to look through a lot of stuff on the web/home page to find the link for specials.

Carnival has very low prices on occasion, but other lines like Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Princess are close.  You will also find that you get a much better price if you book well in advance and by that I mean 9 months to a year or more in advance.  And also, be flexible with your travel date and go when the cruise is offered at the lowest price.  The other thing that you can do is to sign up to receive their specials by email.  I get those all of the time too.

You should also consider enlisting the aid of a good travel agent.  Most don’t charge to book cruises, and they can help narrow down the options very quickly.

William asks…

From experience, what cruise website has the best deals and is the most reliable?

Hey, my wife and I want to plan a cruise for next summer.  We want something fun with good ratings but want a good deal (of course!)  Do you have experience getting stellar cruise deals?  We’ve both cruised before and I am a AAA member.

John answers:

Hi William, see my answer to Daniel above.  That will give you some direction in researching cruise bargains on line.

My bottom line advice to you, however, is to do some research, narrow down your choices, get an idea of what you get for your money – and then go to a travel agent.  A good agent’s help can be invaluable, and if something should go wrong while traveling, you will be very grateful tomhave someone you can all upon.

Sharon asks…

Do you know where to find good cruise deals?

I am looking for some good cruise deals.   I don’t care what cruise line.  I just want some good links.  Thanks a lot!

John answers:

All the major cruise lines have websites –,, etc.  You might also go to the large on line travel sites, like Expedia or Travelocity.  Browse around, use them to discover what’s available and what the costs will be for various itineraries.

If you find something you really like, book it if you want.  My advice – see a travel agent and have them book it for you.

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Technorati Tags: cruise bargains, cruise deals, cruise line websites, Cruise lines, cruise ships, on line cruise bookings

Your Questions About Cruise Insurance

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Maria asks…

cruise travel insurance info?

I am a NY res. traveling to Bermuda in July on RC cruise line out of NJ for my daughters sweet 16, taking a few friends of hers as well. My travel agent suggested travel insurance. does anyone have any ideas on where to get Insurance. without getting hit over the head. It seems to be a bit high through the agent.

John answers:

The insurance you get through the TA may be more costly than what you can get on your own.  Do an internet search for price comparisons for travel insurance.  There are sites that give you bids from multiple companies.  Make sure you get a policy that includes emergency evacuation back to the states in case of a medical emergency.  In some cases, that may be a better option than being treated in a local hospital.  Please be certain to read the whole policy, so you know the extent of the coverage it provides.  Most companies have toll free numbers staffed by knowledgeable representatives.  Don’t be shy about asking questions.  And an early “Happy Birthday!” to your daughter.

Steven asks…

Cruise Travel Insurance Refund?

I booked a cruise a few months ago and purchased travel insurance.  I have a pre-existing back and neck problem.  I have decided that due to my medical situation and possibility of surgery later it may be best that I cancel. I have notified Carnival and they refer me to contact claims to file a claim. Has anyone ever filed a claim?  Will I be able to get a refund or will they give me some excuse to keep my money?   I am well within the 60 days of a full refund minus the money I paid for the protection plan.  Does it matter if I had a pre-existing condition?

John answers:

“Will I be able to get a refund or will they give me some excuse to keep my money?”

They will abide by the contract they made with you.  That doesn’t mean your particular situation is covered.  You’ll have to check the terms of the contract.  You need to inform yourself as to what that contract covers before you call them up and try to file a claim.

From your statement, it sounds like your decision not to travel is based on your changing your mind, not your medical situation changing.  If that’s the case, I think you will have problems getting a refund.   Carnival’s travel insurance site refers to becoming “unexpectedly ill or injured”.  If the medical condition existed at the time of booking it’s not unexpected.  Of course, if your medical condition suddenly deteriorated or you had to schedule  surgery on your back, you would have a better argument for the “unexpected”.  The devil is in the details.

I’m unclear on whether you are more than 60 days out from sailing, or less.  If you have not yet reached your final payment date, you can probably cancel regardless.  That would be the safest option, if it is available to you.

The Carnival insurance also covers other events, such as unexpected illness of a family member, loss of a job, or a severe weather watch/warning on your route to the port.  I don’t know about your area, but we have some sort of severe weather watch nearly every day.  So you might be able to qualify on a different basis.  Find out what policy you have, what the conditions are, then go in with your strongest claim the first time.

Good luck.

Ruth asks…

Annual multi-trip travel insurance with cruise cover?

I need to get travel insurance that will cover me across Europe for the year but will also specifically cover a 2 week cruise holiday – in Europe, most policies that I have looked at don’t include this.

Any sugestions ?

John answers:

Every travel policy is slightly different.  They all cover cancellation, medical costs and emergencies, accidental death or injury, personal liability, theft and loss of personal possessions, luggage and passport.  I don’t know what additional coverage you’re looking for to cover a cruise holiday.

You can certainly shop around for insurance to cover your cruise.  Start with the insurance offered by the cruise line, and then widen your research (see the answer to Maria’s question above).  The balance of your trip is a bit ambiguous.  Call some of the insurance providers and ask questions.  If your plans are “up in the air” for the balance of the year, you may find it difficult to get insurance without being more specific.

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Technorati Tags: cruise insurance questions and answers, Cruise lines, cruise ships, pre-existing conditions

Your Questions About Cruise Weddings And Shore Excursions

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Charles asks…

Bolongo Beach Hotel in St. Thomas USVI?

Are you familiar with this hotel (not sure if I would call it a resort)??  I’m doing my wedding through Royal Caribbean cruise lines and chose St. Thomas for the wedding location, and this is where they do it.  I have read some horrible reviews about this place, but Royal Romance assures me that this is “a beautiful property”.  PLEASE give me an honest review.

John answers:

Bolongo does a lot of weddings so they have it down pat; the beach is great, there’s surf rolling in……

Be prepared, however, because there is almost always a brisk breeze blowing. 10-15 mph is not uncommon, so you should expect veils blowing and hair flying.  The ceremony is generally held on the soft sand, so you’ll probably be barefoot.

Bolongo is not at all glitzy.  It’s an older property, a bit worn around the edges, more authentic in its way than the high profile resorts.  If that meets you expectations, then you’ll be fine.  If, however, you’re looking for something more elegant and upscale, you should look into the Ritz Carlton or Frenchman’s Reef.

Chris asks…

What are the best shore excursions on a South Caribbean Cruise?

I’m going on a South Caribbean Cruise in 2 weeks, and have noticed that numerous places where we are stopping do the activities that we would like to do. We are stopping at:

St Thomas
St Kitts
St Lucia
St Maarten

We would like to go zip lining and snorkeling. We are already signed up to go canyoning in Dominica, and are going to the Malibu factory and on a cave tour in Barbados. Where are the best places for zip lining and snorkeling? I’ve seen mixed reviews on the snorkeling conditions and stuff you see zip lining on the other stops.

John answers:

I did the canopy tour/zip lines in Dominica and had a great time.  I booked it independently through WackyRollers.

St. Lucia is the place to do an island tour.  There are several very reputable companies you can book with.  The tour is long and is over winding, narrow roads, however, but it is quite beautiful.

In Barbados, I did the cave tour as well, and enjoyed it very much.  We hired a taxi and negotiated an island tour with a stop at the caves included.  Another popular excursion is snorkeling with the turtles.   If your cruise doesn’t offer this as an excursion, there are private companies that will.  This can be crowded.

If you’re in St. Thomas long enough, you can go over to St. John on your own, although this is a bit involved to do.  It’s time consuming, since you have to take a ferry to and fro.  Quite beautiful, however.  The Linde Point Trail leads to two beautiful beaches, Salamon Bay Beach and Honeymoon Bay Beach, both of which are relatively uncrowded. There aren’t any facilities, however.  If you go to St. John’s, watch the time carefully, and pay attention to the ferry schedule.

In St. Maarten, we decided to break away from the pack headed to Orient Bay, and took a taxi to a small beach near tye butterfly farm.  We did try snorkeling there, but it wasn’t exceptional.

Hope that helps.

Sandy asks…

The special upcharge restaurants- please answer if you’ve eaten in one?

My sister’s wedding cruise is coming up soon.

We’re going on the Eurodam.  It has several specialty restaurants that people mentioned on cruise critic.  Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto (which had crappy reviews).  She was interested in eating at one of those first 2 on the night of her wedding.

I have never eaten at a specialty restaurant b/c I’ve liked the food in the dining room and my interesting tablemates–plus having already paid for the meals, I don’t see the reason to pay extra for a meal.

So my questions are:
1- have you eaten at a specialty restaurant?
2- which ship were you on?
3- would you recommend it?
4- why?

John answers:

Yes, I’ve eaten at the specialty restaurants on Princess, Celebrity, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Azamara.

As you can probably guess, I’m a fan.  There is a an additional fee involved, of course, but I find the overall experience worth it.  The dining room is much smaller than the main dining room and the staff is chosen from the most seasoned and skilled of the crew.  Both of these factors contribute to a much better service level than one finds in the rather frenzied atmosphere of the 1000 seat main room.  The food is also better, with the kitchen offering selections that are not available in the main room.

Now, I don’t go to a specialty restaurant every evening.  I usually limit it to once per restaurant during a cruise.  I like treating myself and I think of it as experiencing as much of the ship as I can.

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Technorati Tags: Azamara, Barbados, Bolongo Bay, Celebrity, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Cruise weddings, Dominica, Frenchman's Reef, NCL, Princess, Royal Caribbean, shore excursions, specialty restaurants, St. Thomas

Your Questions About Cruise Websites

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Sandra asks…

What are some reputable and good travel sites that might be able to provide me with info/tickets for a cruise?

I’m planning on taking a cruise with my father in May, and I was just wondering where I would look to find tickets and information pertaining to a cruise.  As of now, I have no idea which cruise line I would like to go.  We would like to travel to the Bahamas.

John answers:

For an overview of the market, try Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia.  These have a search feature which will give you all the options for your dates and destination.  Once you choose one or more candidates, you can go directly to the cruise companies’ websites and further research your options.

I know I sound like a broken record here, but my advice is always to go to a travel agent.  By all means, do some research first so you are more focused on what you are looking for, but make use of an agent’s experience.

Steven asks…

why do travel sites when you book cruise if they offer flight in package charge more than if you book separate?

John answers:

It’s possible, I guess, that they’re charging a bit more for the convenience of packaging all the components together.  That’s not typical of the way packaging usually works, however.  Have you checked if anything else is automatically added?

For example, do they include airport transfers in the package when you include air and exclude them when flights are not included?

How about insurance?  It’s typically calculated as a percent of the total cost.  When you add flights, the cost goes up.  So, too, should the cost of insurance.

A word of caution.  Booking the cruise and flights separately on your own is a good way to make a bad situation worse in the event something goes wrong.  And we all know flights are never delayed, cancelled or diverted.

Lizzie asks…

travel sites?

do you know of any good cruise travel sites like orbitz and expedia

John answers:

Travelocity functions along the same lines as the two you mentioned.

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Technorati Tags: Cruise websites, Expedia, Orbitz, travel agents, Travelocity

Single Supplement Begone!

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River Queen

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has waived the single supplement on dozens of European river boat cruise departures in 2011.  And lest you think these departures are relegated to the less desirable early Spring and later Fall, many of them sail in June, July and August, the height of the river cruise season in Europe.

With river boat cruises becoming increasingly popular, this is an excellent opportunity for the single traveller to experience one without the onerous supplement with which they are usually saddled.

River boat cruises are a particularly pleasant way for a single traveller to experience the very heart of Europe.  There are, of course, the general benefits of river cruises – unpack once, let the destination come to you, avoid fickle train schedules, no need to manhandle your luggage every other day.

Beyond those, however, are benefits of particular interest to the single traveller.  Instead of retuning each evening to another unfamiliar, lonely hotel, one returns to a ship full of faces which become more and more familiar and welcoming.  Each day brings the opportunity to strike out on one’s own, or to join a group in exploring a new destination.

Opportunities abound to share the day’s experiences with like-minded fellow passengers.  Conversations flow naturally, without the awkwardness usually associated with such encounters when travelling alone.

One can dine alone, if that’s the preference.  But if the thought of sitting at an empty table is daunting, dinner companions are in abundance.

The following are a sample of  the departures being offered with single supplement waived:

Paris & Normandy                7 nights             July 3, 17, 31 August 7

Enchanting Danube             7 nights             June 26, July 10, 31 August 7

Imperial Capitals                14 nights            July 17, 25

Space is limited and subject to availability.  Sales have been very brisk.  If this is of interest to you, I’d suggest you look into it as soon as you can.

The savings are wonderful, the experience is memorable, and the opportunity won’t last.

Technorati Tags: European river cruises, river boat cruises, single supplement, single traveler, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Your Questions About Assorted Riveboat Cruises

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Donald asks…

I am going on a riverboat cruise with my wife for her birthday and I have no idea what to wear?

We are going August 15, on the Ohio River, but I have no idea how to dress on these things, is it super dressy? or just dress slacks and a shirt? or just normal? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

John answers:

People will generally dress as they would when going out for dinner at a good restaurant or dinner theater.  In cruise terms, it would be similar to a non-formal night on a cruise ship.  You’ll be fine with a nice blazer, collared shirt (no tie), dress slacks and dress shoes.  You’ll probably find many of your fellow guests dressed more casually and a few others in ties, but you’ll strike a nice balance dressed as I mentioned.  Your wife can then choose an appropriate outfit based on your clothes.

Sandy asks…

on a riverboat cruise, a plastic bottle is accidentally dropped overboard. A passenger on the boat estimates the speed as follows:

on a riverboat cruise, a plastic bottle is accidentally dropped overboard. A passenger on the boat estimate that the boat pulls ahead of the bottle by 5 meters each seconds. Is it possible to conclude that the boat is moving at 5 m/s with respect to shore? Account your answer


John answers:

Well, Sandy, this is a bit out of our normal sphere.

This answer is no.  This is an example of relative motion.  The riverboat is moving relative to the bottle.  Both are in the same medium (water).  To determine the boat’s speed with respect to shore you need to estimate the bottle’s speed with respect to the shore as it has no propulsion.

In other words, the only data you have is the estimated speed of the riverboat relative to that of the  bottle. To establish the speed of the boat with respect to the shore, you would need to know the speed of the river (or bottle , in this case) first.  Then you can add the boat’s relative speed (5 meters per second in your example) to that of the river to get the riverboat’s estimated speed with respect to the shore.

Now, here’s one for you Sandy.  If two trains are traveling in opposite directions….

George asks…

Portugal and Spain riverboat cruise?

Portugal and Spain riverboat cruise – Have you ever experienced this cruise, or do you know of any small groups forming that will be traveling in Portugal and Spain… I am searching to join a group and traveling next summer!

John answers:

I took a Uniworld riverboat cruise on the Douro River, through the port wine region of Portugal.  The tour started in Lisbon and included a tour of Lisbon, then bus to Oporto.  I spent 7 nights on a river boat and then returned to Oporto for my flight home.

As part of the cruise we visited Salamanca, Spain.  I enjoyed the trip very much.

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Technorati Tags: algebra, Douro River, Ohio River, river boat cruises, river cruises, riverboat cruises, riverboat speed