Focus On Cruising

Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

Your Questions About Cruise Deals And Cruise Vacations

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Sandra asks…

Do you get good deals for booking a vacation/ cruise last minute?

Is it possible to get a last minute deal?  I am looking to go in the end of June, but I want a good deal and I don’t mind taking a chance for the last minute.

John answers:

There’s always the possibility.  Is it likely?  No.  The more likely outcome is you’ll wind up paying more and settling for whatever is still available.  You’ll have a better chance of getting just the right cabin on the cruise you want by booking in advance.

Thomas asks…

What are the best deals or places for a cruise and stay vacation?

My girlfriend and I are looking to take a week vacation in the Bahamas or Caribbean and we want the experence of both a cruise and an island stay. We plan on going in a year from now but that may change based on when the best time to go is.  We will both be 23 at the time of our trip.  Any information or help is appreciated.

John answers:

Because of your age, don’t bother looking at Carnival as their rules state that one person must be 25 or older in your cabin.  The best weather, but the highest prices,  occur during the winter months.  Summer is less costly but very hot and humid.  Avoid mid-August through the end of October, if you can.

Now, combining a hotel stay with a cruise is certainly possible, but the options are limited.  Cruises to the Bahamas are roundtrip, beginning in the US.  You can’t just get off the ship and stay.  So if you have your heart set on the Bahamas, you should just do a land package and save the cruise for another time.

If you opt for the Caribbean instead, look for cruises that either begin or end in San Juan, or offer San Juan roundtrip.  Princess Cruises offers regular sailings from San Juan, as do other lines.  You could then combine a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay with the cruise itself.  You could stay in Puerto Rico or the nearby Virgin Islands, or even go a bit further afield.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a cruise, you should also look into Windstar Cruises which offers roundtrip sailings out of Barbados and St Martin.

Donald asks…

When you’re thinking of going on a land vacation (not a cruise) how do you go about finding deals?

I want an all inclusive vacation.. do I have to go to a travel agent or can you actually get it online… help

John answers:

Well, Donald, although this column is focused on cruises, I’ll take a shot at the answer.  You can find packages on line, many people do it.  Try Travelocity or Orbitz.  You can also go to tour operators’ websites, such as GoGo or Travel Impressions.

You might find, however, that the abundance of information and choices is a bit overwhelming.  It’s always best, I think, to use a good travel agent.

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Technorati Tags: Bahamas, Barbados, caribbean, cruise deals, Cruise lines, cruise ships, cruise vacations, last minute cruise deals, Princess Cruises, Puerto Rico, San Juan, St. Martin, Windstar Cruises

Plague Ship

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Norovirus

A number of news stories are circulating about the outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness inflicting a small number of passengers on board the Caribbean Princess.  I think it is safe to conjecture that the culprit is the Norovirus, a not so rare guest on cruise ships in recent years.

What struck me as amusing was the reaction, as reported in some of these articles, of the residents of Saint John, New Brunswick, where the ship docked this morning.  Store owners and tour operators were advised to be particularly mindful, with hand sanitizers and disinfected door knobs being the salient safeguards.  One local shopkeeeper professed to hoping for the best.  “I’m going to be a lot more careful with the way I handle their money and stuff”, he is quoted as saying.  One guesses that he soldiered on and took their money when it was offered.

One would almost think that an upset tummy was the early warning sign of something far more dire.  It seemed as if the hapless citizens of Saint John were beset by the imminent arrival of a plague ship, with infected passengers hellbent on forcing their filthy lucre on the populace.  Perhaps making them wear bells would have been an appropriate precaution.

I’m having a bit of fun, of course, primarily at the media which needs to take even minor news items and imbue them with far more importance than they actually have.  I also am not minimizing the discomfort that norovirus inflicts on its victims.  It is important to remember, however, that this virus was first identified over 40 years ago, and has probably been around for a good deal longer.  It is responsible for the overwhelming majority of large-scale outbreaks of what is commonly called stomach flu worldwide, and is by no means restricted to cruise ships.

One measure, I guess, of a virus’s success is its ability to jump from one victim to the next, and norovirus thrives in densely populated environments.  Cruise ships are certainly excellent breeding grounds, but they are far from the only venues that encourage transmission.  The good citizens of Saint John are probably more at risk from little Tommy and Sally bringing home their new norovirus friends that they acquired at school, than they are from passengers off a cruise ship.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, gastrointestinal illness, New Brunswick, norovirus, Princess Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Saint John, stomach flu

Mexican Riviera Cruises In Decline

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Royal Caribbean recently announced that the 3835 passenger Mariner of the Seas will leave the Port of Los Angeles in January for its new home port of Galveston, thus ending its weekly cruises to the Mexican Riviera.  Norwegian Cruise Line had already announced last year that it will no longer offer Mexican Riviera cruises after May 2011, when the Norwegian Star is relocated to Tampa. A bit further south, Carnival moved the Elation, the only major cruise ship based in San Diego, to Mobile.

Bookings on Mexican Riviera cruises have declined 21% in the past two years.  Industry observers believe this is the result of the ongoing war between the Mexican government and the drug cartels.  Widespread coverage of the terrible violence throughout the country has made the potential passengers cautious.  Not only having bookings declined, but those who do sail have become less inclined to go on shore excursions, further reducing the ships’ revenues.

It becomes a question of economics.  Moving the ships from a port with declining revenue to one with greater potential is an obvious decision.  The cruise companies can hardly be faulted for taking these steps.

It is, however, very sad.  There are perhaps thousands of Mexican citizens in the major ports of call who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihood.  They live and work in cities which have barely been touched by the violence so prevalent in other areas.  They will, nevertheless, become indirect victims of the rampant crime.

The cruise industry won’t vanish completely from Mexican waters.  Princess Cruises has not announced a reduction in their schedule, and Disney Cruise Line is bringing a ship to California early next year.  The industry’s presence, however, will be significantly reduced.  With a reduction in ships and passengers comes a reduction in tourist dollars, and a blow to a precarious standard of living.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise lines, NCL, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Princess Cruises Announces Their Art Connoisseur Cruises

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Interested in art?  Do you think you might be interested in purchasing a new work or, perhaps, meeting some artists?  Princess Cruises has a number of art-themed cruises coming up that might intrigue you.  According to their press release issued today:

“Some of today’s top contemporary artists will be making appearances aboard nine upcoming Princess Cruises sailings as part of the line’s Art Connoisseur Cruises.  Featuring as many as 10 contemporary artists in a single voyage, these special sailings offer activities for both avid collectors and art newcomers.

A wide range of internationally acclaimed artists will join the ship for Art Connoisseur cruises, including names such as painter Howard Behrens, bas relief sculptor Bill Mack, pop artist Allison Lefcort, and marine life artist Wyland.  The voyages offer a variety of events with the artists, such as meet-and-greet sessions or demonstrations.  Some artists, including pop fusion painter Eric Waugh even entertain crowds with live painting sessions set to music.  Other famous names onboard will include young phenomenon Alexandra Nechita and “rock star of the art world” Michael Godard.

Art Connoisseur cruises are part of Princess’ Fine Arts program, an onboard program that offers passengers the opportunity to see and learn about some of the notable artwork produced in the last century.  Each ship features artwork from collectable artists for sale on board with art auctions during each cruise.

“These special sailings offer our passengers the opportunity to go behind the art by meeting the artists and learning more about what inspires their work,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.  “Passengers often find a new artist whose work they enjoy, or learn more about one they’ve admired.  Others simply like exploring the world of art and the work of an artist.”

Princess’ upcoming Art Connoisseur cruises include:

July 4 – 16                              Ruby Princess – 12 days Grand Mediterranean

Howard Behrens, Michael Godard, Dorit Levi, Aldo Luongo, Sharie Hatchett Bohlmann, Allison Lefcort,      Alexandra Nechita, Bill Mack, Manoukian Martiros

July 16 – 28                            Ruby Princess – 12 days Grand Mediterranean

Bill Mack, Howard Behrens, Michael Godard, Eric Waugh, Sharie Hatchett Bohlmann, Dorit Levi, Alexandra     Nechita, Aldo Luongo, Manoukian Martiros, Alexandre Renior

Sept 17 – 27                           Crown Princess – 10 days Classic Canada New England

Wyland, Walfrido Garcia, James Warren

Oct 4 – 20                              Diamond Princess – 16 days Southeast Asia & China

Alina Eydel, Sharie Hatchett Bohlmann, Bill Mack

Oct 17 – 29                            Star Princess – 12 days Egypt & Aegean

Allison Lefcort, Nobuaki Haihara, Michael Godard, Nicola Berardino, Des Brophy

Nov 3 – 19                             Diamond Princess –16 days Southeast Asia & China

Eric Waugh, Nobu Haihara, Sharie Hatchett Bohlmann, David Schluss, Bill Mack

Nov 11 – 13                           Pacific Princess – 12 days Holy Land

Allison Lefcort, Dorit Levi

Nov 19 – Dec 5                      Diamond Princess – 16 days Southeast Asia & China

Dorit Levi, Sharie Hatchett Bohlmann, Aldo Luongo

Dec 28 – Jan 7, 2011             Emerald Princess – 10 days Caribbean

Bill Mack, Allison Lefcort, Martiros

In addition to presenting works from collectable contemporary artists, Princess also offers a special ScholarShip@Sea presentation for those who would like to learn more about the world of art.  The free course, Art History@Sea: Botticelli to Warhol, The Evolution of Art, was developed in conjunction with Dr. Thomai Serdari, Professor of Art History and Director of Research Collections for New York University. Presented by the onboard art director, this course makes 500 years of art come to life in a one-hour session.  This course is available on Art Connoisseur Cruises and most other Princess sailings.”

In light of the news yesterday that 2 dozen litigants sued Park West, the biggest player in on board art auctions, it is, I think, worth noting that Princess does not use their services and is not in any way involved in the litigation.

Technorati Tags: art auctions at sea, art on cruise ships, Cruise line, Princess Cruises