Storm Hits Cruise Ship In New Zealand

Breaking news on this first day of August, as noted on Fox News:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand —  More than 40 passengers on a cruise ship were injured when it was hit by a storm off New Zealand that packed 23-foot waves and powerful winds, officials said Friday.

Unfortunately cruise ships can’t always compete with mother nature!

Oasis of the Seas: The New Shape of Cruising

So, cruise ship patrons are tired of the same old stuff like flat screen TVs in the staterooms, specialty restaurants (that charge extra), rock climbing walls, outdoor theaters. 

What’s a cruise line to do??  Come up with something bigger and better of course!  Which is exactly what Royal Caribbean is planning to launch in December of 2009.  Their new ship, Oasis of the Seas, is described in an article written by Spud Hilton, for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Oasis of the Seas will be larger than any other passenger vessel on the planet: 220,000 gross registered tons and room for 5,400 passengers. (By comparison, 220,000 tons is about the same as the tonnage for the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 combined.)

This ship, however, will be on the other end of the spectrum, for good or bad: filled to the walls with distractions, diversions and a whole new set of seemingly land-based “wow” features from the same folks who equipped previous ships with boxing rings, skating rinks and surfing machines.

What’s new and, well, water-churning, is a ship shape that allows more passengers to connect with the outside. Designers took the interior Royal Promenade from earlier ships — a narrow, four-story corridor down the middle of the ship that is longer than a football field and creates the atmosphere of a city street — and took off the roof.

Oasis will have what can only be described as a 62-foot-wide slot canyon running 328 feet up the middle of the ship, with a main street and gardens at the bottom and high walls made of the inward-facing windows and balconies of more than 300 cabins. Unlike the inward-facing cabins on the old Royal Promenade, these will have sunlight and sea breeze and — because the slot canyon will continue out the stern of the ship — some small slice of an ocean view.

So, there you have it, the up and coming news of ship shapes to come! The Oasis will sail Caribbean itineraries out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so start planning next years vacation now!

First Transatlantic Cruise – Part One – Food and Water

Having just completed my first Transatlantic Cruise, I thought it may be time to tell all about it.  Let me start by saying this was cruise number 10 and I don’t even know how to swim!  I’m actually afraid to be (standing or snorkeling) in water over my head.  The first day (of 5 continuous) at sea while sitting out on the balcony I thought it was kind of cool.  Of course at this point I could still occasionally see land or another ship.  The second day I saw one other ship.  After that, nothing!  And I do mean absolutely nothing but water all the way around the ship as far as one could see.  On deck seven of the Crown Princess you can walk all the way around outside, which takes you from the very front to the very back of the ship.  The distance is something like 2.7 times around equals 1 mile.  Of course the first few times around you can’t help but stop to peer over the edge at both the front and back, a very strange feeling indeed.  There are of course the usual thoughts like “if something happens to the ship out here in the middle of nowhere how long would it take anyone to find us”? This thought is immediately followed by another “if something happens out here in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the ocean, does it really matter”? Of course this type of thinking is irrational because everyone on the ship knows they are in good hands with the captain and the crew and all the modern conveniences like maps, radar, maybe even a compass and satellites. But looking out at the water, especially the black at night it’s very easy to forget these rational thoughts. 

Okay, so you’ve tried to forget that you’re in the middle of nowhere and what better way to do this than to find a place to eat.  No problem.  There is food anywhere, anytime.  Gone are the days of the “Midnight Buffet”.  Food is available 24 hours a day.  We signed up for regular dining (same time, same place every day), but were waitlisted since we booked the cruise so late.  We opted to just stay with “anytime” dining which worked out well.  You go to eat in either of the 2 formal dining rooms at anytime between 6 and 10, with the option of either sitting alone or joining others.  We always joined others, a great way to make new friends!  Anytime dining gave us the freedom to dine on our schedule although one drawback (unless you’re very disciplined-which you shouldn’t be on a cruise) may be that because your dining schedule varies, you aren’t “programmed” into the regular ships schedule.  For instance, when you have early assigned dining it’s usually so that you can attend the late show, and vice versa, when you have late assigned seating you’ll probably attend the early performance of the show.  With “anytime” dining we tended to miss the shows completely because we weren’t on a specific schedule and didn’t plan accordingly.  Another drawback to “anytime” dining is the fact that you don’t have the rapport with the wait staff that regular dining offers.  It’s so nice to have someone actually remember that you like lemon in your tea or that you prefer decaf coffee.  Regular wait staff also seems friendlier.  (Could it be because their tip may be in jeopardy)?  With “anytime” we did have the inconvenience of waiting to order until more people were seated at our table.  One night in particular our waitress made four of us wait over 20 minutes before taking our order saying that she was waiting for the last two seats at our table to be filled.  As it turned out no one else was seated at our table.  No apology was offered by the waitress.  From that night on we went to a different dining room and requested service as soon as we had at least four at the table. 

The food in the dining rooms aboard the Crown Princess was good and plentiful.  I wouldn’t call it exceptional.  There were options to pay extra at two upscale restaurants (Crown Grill and Sabatini’s) but we didn’t try them.  Most people we spoke with that had been to them said the food was good, but just too much to eat and not worth the extra money.  We were surprised to go past one of these restaurants and find maybe only 2 people dining there.  I can’t imagine that this is a worth while operation paying all the extra staff for this restaurant with so few patrons.  Perhaps we didn’t happen to see it when they were busy, or it was just the nature of the people on this particular cruise to not frequent these restaurants.

Texas Hold’em Cruise Ship Style!

Okay all you Texas Hold’em fans, can’t go on a cruise ship because you’ll go into poker withdrawal?  Now is your chance to play poker, possibly win up to $45,000, and still have a great time enjoying your cruise!  Carnival Cruise Line is currently hosting its 2008 Carnival PokerPro Challenge on dozens of “Fun Ship” voyages going on through June 30, 2008.  So, what are you waiting for??  Put on your best “Poker Face” and book that cruise.

Check out the details at

Cruise Ships are Going Green!

Okay, almost everyone is talking about it, some people are actually doing it!  Going Green!  But, how does a cruise ship carrying thousands of people and tons of food cut down on pollution? 

Take a look at these statistics from the environmental group Oceana:

Each day, cruise ships generate an astonishing amount of pollution:

  • 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets
  • 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers
  • Seven tons of garbage and solid waste
  • 15 gallons of toxic chemicals
  • 7,000 gallons of oily bilge water 

Wow!  And all we have to think about at home is our garbage disposals and septic tanks. 

Well, according to an article in Gliving in print, there is some good news for “green” cruise travellers. Some of the larger cruise lines like Carnival, Holland American, Royal Caribbean, and Princess, are making some positive changes for the environment. For instance:

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise lines have added General Electric’s alternative engine technology — gas turbine — to their newest ships. This system reduces nitrous oxide emissions by 80% and sulfur oxide by 98%. As an added relaxation bonus, the engine is less noisy than traditional ones.

Cruise lines are also spending millions of dollars to help solve some of our poution problems:

Princess Cruise Lines has reduced air pollution created by idling vessels in port by modifying their engines so they can be turned off while docked and plugged into a nearby land-based hydro-electric power plant. The electricity from the plant is transferred to the ships via specially designed cables. While this currently exists in only one port — Juneau, Alaska, at the cost $4.5 million dollars — the cruise line feels it’s worth the environmental investment and hopes to expand this inventive solution.

So, to all of you that haven’t taken a cruise because you’re worried about the environment, do some research and book that cruise! 

Eating Healthy on a Cruise Ship??

Do you love your cruise ship vacation until you get home and step on the scale?  Cruise lines are now keeping up-to-date on the latest needs and wants of their customers. Many lines are taking this healthier approach to their meal preparation, including, Royal Caribbean, introducing its Vitality program, Carnival Corporation, providing nutrition stats on their menus, and even Crystal Cruises, offering healthier solutions to the normal meals they serve. Disney Cruises have also jumped on board the healthier lifestyle offering more whole grains and low fat yogurts for breakfast.

No longer do you have to fear the weight gain normally associated with cruise vacations. More cruise lines now offer new and better ways to stay fit and healthy while having a great time on your cruise vacation. For more details on how cruise lines can help you make the right decisions, check out this story on MSNMoney.


Where in the Cruising World Are These Cities??

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that i’ve never even heard of these cities, Klaipeda, Geiranger, Ceuta.  But, never underestimate the power of the cruising industry.  If you build a port, they will come!  According to a recent article written by Arline and Sam Bleecker of the Chicago Tribune, Regent Seven Seas, NCL, Costa and Holland America are just some of the cruise lines heading to uncharted waters.  Looking for something out of the ordinary for your next cruise?  Tired of the same old places?  Check these out:

On shore in the Baltic city of Klaipeda, Lithuania’s third largest metropolis and cruise ship port, on a Regent Seven Seas cruise, for instance, and you could opt to descend into 88.5-foot-deep corridors, mine shafts and underground tunnels of a former Soviet nuclear missile site.

For the less fainthearted, a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage to the Nordic lands lets you see what the Lonely Planet guidebook calls some of the most spectacular scenery in the world in Geiranger, a small tourist town nestled in the mountains in the western part of Norway.

 This just proves that there is a cruise for everyone no matter what your interests are!  So where are you cruising next and why?? 




Cruise Ship Travellers: Well-educated and Well-read, or Mindless Oafs?

A recent article written by the well known travel expert, Arthur Frommer, questions who and why people now look to cruise ships for their vacation.  Seems that travelers are now looking for more “gimmicks”.

The Queen Victoria and the Celebrity Solstice, in particular, will have “circus-training programs,” “bungee jumping” and “clown acts.” These will be added, presumably, to the rock-climbing walls, boxing rings, bowling alleys and vertiginous Jacuzzis jutting out from the top deck and hanging perilously over the sea (the latter have become standard on some ships, but not necessarily on the Queen Victoria or Solstice). in particular, will have “circus-training programs,” “bungee jumping” and “clown acts.” These will be added, presumably, to the rock-climbing walls, boxing rings, bowling alleys and vertiginous Jacuzzis jutting out from the top deck and hanging perilously over the sea (the latter have become standard on some ships, but not necessarily on the Queen Victoria or Solstice).

What is the cruising world coming to?  I wholeheartedly agree with Frommer when he says:

A cruise should be sufficient in itself. It is an opportunity to venture out onto a new and unfamiliar area of the world — the vast oceans. It is sufficiently different and sufficiently provocative of eternal questions, that it need not be “aided” by bungee jumping, amateur boxing, glass-blowing exhibitions, rock-climbing and wave-surfing.
A cruise should be an occasion for conversation and reading, for long afternoons in a chaise lounge gazing at the sea and enjoying it. Those were the classic pleasures of cruising that once satisfied a large number of people, who emerged from the cruise with their equilibrium restored and with memories and new friendships.
I enjoy exploring the interesting ports and have been on both port intensive cruises and relaxing cruises.  I love them both!  I don’t need all of the extras, a lounge chair, a good book and the ocean-what more could anyone need to relax?  I take a cruise to get away from and shut down the Type A culture I encounter in my everyday living and working.  I don’t need every waking moment of my day to be filled with “gimmicks ” to make me happy. I hope this doens’t mean that I’m getting old?  I’d prefer to think that I’m getting wiser and more mature.
Of course I do enjoy meeting other interesting people on cruises, which is why my husband and I always opt for dinning room seating with a large table.  What better way is there to make life long friends with people that share the same interests as we do? 
One of the best times we had was in Pisa when four couples (2 knew each other, and we were the oldest), decided to “stick together” as we were on the transportation from the ship to the city of Livorno and none of us had done this before.  All together we figured out how to take a bus (we were all crunched together with the locals) which took us to the train staion, and the train to Pisa, where we found our way walking through the city for about 45 minutes to get to the leaning tower. All of this while laughing and giggling as we stomped in puddles walking in the pouring down rain!  After our obligatory pictures “holding up the tower”, we enjoyed a nice lunch together before repeating the process in reverse to get back to the ship.  It had been a wonderful afternoon – no bungee jumping required! (It was kind of like one of the puzzles from The Amazing Race, only we were all on the same team!
I only hope that modern cruise travelers won’t get so caught up with the “gimmicks” that they lose sight of the smaller more important things in life!

Cruise Ship Safety to Improve!

Beginning next year the Port of Los Angeles will be scanning goods loaded onto passenger cruise ships hoping to detect dangerous devices, as noted in

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents already use the high-tech scanners to peek inside cargo containers entering the port, which served about 1.2 million cruise line passengers last year.

“We will clearly know when something is in there that shouldn’t be,” Holmes said. “It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s definitely a great tool.”

“Cruise ships are like a floating city, and when you have a large cruise operation like we do, you have to make passengers, vendors, employees, everyone feel safe,” Holmes said. “This machine is going to make the inspection process much easier because it takes a very detailed picture of what’s inside a truck or container.” 

I think cruise ports as well as cruise lines are heading in the right direction, but I’d like to see more ports take these kinds of initiatives to make cruising even safer!   

Cruise Ship Godmothers

Since recently becoming a godmother to my new grandson, a recent article published by Cruise Critic, caught my eye and gives new meaning to godmothers everywhere.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term as it relates to cruising Cruise Critic explains:

In ancient times, sacrificial human blood was used instead of Champagne to bless a ship, and the rites were performed by pagan priests. In more modern times, female royalty was selected to do the honors; in today’s age of 24-hour news, instant celebrity and paparazzi, actresses, models, businesswomen, philanthropists, astronauts, politicians, athletes and newswomen have been chosen for the role (along with Senator Inouye). More than ever, it is in the best interest of the cruise lines to try to draw as much press coverage as possible. Thus the necessity for the famous face.

Some previous godmothers include the Queen of England, Whoopi Goldberg, Martha Stewart and Tinkerbell. No, you don’t have to be a celebrity to be chosen and Royal Caribbean did pick a very worthy, real godmother.  Congratulations to Louise Calder!  Let’s hope the cruise lines continue to pick winners like this to be godmothers. 

Interestingly, the favorite pick of Sarah Schlicter, Assistant Editor of Independent Traveler (Cruise Critic’s sister Web site), is Louise Calder, who was selected as godmother of Royal Caribbean‘s new Freedom of the Seas. While worthy in so many ways — she has provided foster care for over 400 children with special needs — Ms. Calder would never have been chosen were it not for the media opportunities her involvement elicited, including the contest on NBC’s “Today” that helped seal her selection. Ditto Donnalea Madaley, the aforementioned Canadian travel agent, Royal Caribbean’s contest winner and godmother of Liberty of the Seas.

So, does anyone out there have someone in mind that would make a perfect godmother?