Cruise line adds new cabins, upgrades to older ship

cruise line adds new cabinsWhenever a cruise line adds new stuff to old ships, it’s a big deal. This time, it will happen during a dry dock maintenance period this coming May. Norwegian Cruise Line will add a total of 58 new cabins to the 2,224-passenger Norwegian Dawn including 28 new suites.

The suites include four 667-square-foot to 732-square-foot owner’s suites and 24 family suites, ranging from 408 square feet to 495 square feet, most of which can sleep six passengers.

Norwegian did a similar addition project adding new cabins on sister-ship Norwegian Star not long ago which worked out well.

“The flow of the ship has improved on the Star with these changes and we think it’s more in line with the way we build ships today,” said Crane Gladding, NCL’s senior vice president of revenue management and passenger services. “We are putting more public spaces together for guest flow to be more smooth around the ship.”

The work will be done at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas, from May 1 to 27.

More changes are on the way for the ship also, but the cruise line is keeping those a secret to be revealed later.

Flickr photo by Ken from NY


Ten cruise comments you would rather not hear, ever

ten cruise comments Cruise ship operations often get a lot of criticism for having too many announcements over the ship’s loudspeaker system. Some are essential for safety and just general organization of the many passengers on board. Others are not so essential and often aimed at just selling something. Some lines have more than others, some leave phone messages, others attempt to make announcements in crowded deck areas which are hard to hear.

It’s all part of the experience but some comments you would just rather not hear at all. Here are ten of them:

  1. “Hello, this is ship security. I have your son here and…” No matter what comes next, it can’t be good.
  2. “If your luggage has not yet been delivered to your stateroom, please report to…” (They found your smuggled booze)
  3. “HANG ON!” You are on Brilliance of the Seas and another “unexpected storm” will be encountered shortly.
  4. “Fire!” This means you will be having Spam for the next few days, delivered by aircraft carrier.
  5. “Is that your luggage floating in the ocean?” You should have tipped the porters.
  6. “Motion discomfort bags have been places about the ship for your convenience” (rough seas ahead. Get ready to say hello to that lobster you had for dinner again)
  7. “Oh look honey! There is a big sale at in the ship’s jewelry store! Let’s Go! Your husband won way more money in the casino than he said he did.
  8. “Oh look honey, the Golf Pro is giving lessons today!” She’s trying to get rid of you.
  9. “This is not a drill” Unless you are in a dentist chair and your dentist is Homer Simpson, you’re probably going for a swim. In the ocean. Without Rose or the diamond.
  10. “Customs is on board!” Actually this is one that strikes terror into the hearts of Royal Caribbean crew members/drug dealers. You may be short a waiter at dinner tonight.

Flickr photo by RAYANDBEE



10 breeds of pirate – Somalis to Vikings to Japanese Pirate Ninjas

pirate

A yacht carrying a quartet of Americans was recently seized by Somali pirates, the latest in a string of hijackings that reaches back millenia. According to MSNBC, the seized yacht, the “S/V Quest,” is owned by Jean and Scott Adam – a couple on a worldwide quest distributing bibles. While they no doubt expected to spread the word far and wide, they were certainly not expecting to be boarded by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arab sea. The waters along the horn of Africa are a hotbed of piracy, and travelling by boat in this region is about as reckless as booking a 2 week holiday in Mogadishu.

The Somali pirates are the modern day face of an enterprise that has existed for centuries. Piracy has been part of seafaring culture since man first took to the open water. As early as 1400 BC, Lukka sea raiders from Asia Minor began committing acts of piracy throughout the Mediterranean. These early pirates were known simply as the “Sea Peoples.” Aside from these early innovators of seaward sabotage, many groups and clans have sailed under the banner of terror on the high seas. The Vikings innovated the craft, the Barbary corsairs elevated it to an art, and the pirates of the Caribbean made it famous. Many other groups, operating in the shadows of history, took to piracy on the high seas. From dark age plundering to modern day terrorism, some of these groups of pirates include:The Vikings
Hailing from Scandinavia, the Vikings pillaged much of western Europe and northern Africa. The Norsemen covered a range from Russia to Newfoundland in their graceful longships, and pioneered piracy in the middle ages. They were the original world explorers – helmeted plunderers with a thrist for adventure.

The Wokou
Around the same time Vikings were wreaking havoc in Europe, these Japanese pirates, known as Wokou, began terrorizing the Chinese and Korean coast. Most of these pirates were Ronin, merchants, and smugglers. Allegedly, some were even ninjas, throwing a paradoxical spin on the classic “pirate versus ninja” debate. Why choose when you can just be both?

Barbary Corsairs
In response to the moors being ran out of Europe, many took up residence in northern Africa. Some of these displaced seamen became pirates and raided towns and vessels in Spain, Italy, France, and beyond. The infamous Redbeard, Oruc Reis, was a notable Barbary Corsair, and sacked many coastal Italian towns.

Madagascar Pirates
Off the eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar was a lawless place during the golden age of pirate pirateering. Since no European countries colonized Madagascar, the island was an ideal spot for pirates to lay low and plot the next heist. Allegedly, the pirate utopia of “Libertalia” was located on Madagascar. According to pirate lore, “Libertalia” was a communist colony governed by pirates for pirates, where all shared in the booty.

Orang Laut
Originally from the Spice Islands and settling in modern day Malaysia, these sea gypsies began raiding the strait of Malacca over 500 years ago. Eventually, they fell into a protective role, policing the waters for the Sultanates of Johor and Malacca. Unlike many pirates that called solid ground home, the Orang Laut lived exclusively on the water.

Classical Carribean Pirates
The pirate cliche is the Caribbean pirate, and the spokesperson is Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. The Caribbean pirate era began when Aztec gold bound for Spain was seized by pirates in the early 16th century. This escalated into the golden age of pirateering in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Caribbean pirates came from European origins.

Bugi Pirates of Sulawesi
The term boogeyman originated from the orchid shaped island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The Bugi pirates of southern Sulawesi were so feared that Dutch and English sailors brought home tales of horror to scare misbehaving children. The Bugianese were among the first to explore Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

Sea Dayak of Borneo
Notorious headhunters, the sea dayaks terrorized the waters of the South China Sea, targeting vessels passing from Hong Kong to Singapore. In the mid nineteenth century, James Brooke and an army of Malays wiped out many of these pirates. Today, these people are known as the Iban and live in the old rainforests of Borneo.

Chinese Pirates
The most powerful pirate ever was a Chinese woman. In the early 19th century, an ex-prostitute namedpirate Cheng I Sao commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships – larger than many navies. According to CNN, she was an adept business person and controlled her fleet via a proxy named Chang Pao. She developed spy networks, created economic agreements with mainland farmers for supplies, and generally revolutionized the piracy business model. Her crews stalked the waters of the South China Sea.

Somali Pirates
The modern pirate hails from Somalia – a crossroads of the derelict. With more warlords than laws, Somalia is a disaster state. The government has been more a fleeting idea than a real thing for the last 20 years, and it shows. Warlords control fleets that operate out of coastal towns, amassing ships, arms, and wealth. The pirates use small boats and assault rifles to board both passenger and cargo ships, taking hostages, booty, or both.

Piracy causes roughly $15 billion in losses worldwide per year. The most trafficked areas for modern day piracy include the South China Sea, the Gulf of Aden (off the horn of Africa), the Niger Delta, and the infamous Strait of Malacca.

flickr image via cesargp

Cruise line private islands, a very safe port

Cruise Line Private IslandsOften a highlight of a cruise to the Bahamas or the Caribbean is a stop at one of the cruise line’s private islands. Probably one of the safest, most controlled ports of call you might visit, cruise line private islands are consistently ranked high by passengers. Most are located in the Bahamas and each one is unique.

On every private island you will find crystal clear water, sandy beaches, water sports and activities along with beach-side service for drinks and lunch will be served. Some require tendering in from the ship, others dock at the island.

The first passengers off the ship will find a pristine beach raked and clean, along with resident workers ready to make your stay comfortable. There is plenty to do (or not do) for adults and kids and even serene adult-only areas.Cruise line private islandsGreat Stirrup Cay, Bahamas is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, under their care since 1977 when the line became the first to have one. The island features Snorkeling

Recent enhancements to the island that started in January of 2010 will continue through the end of this year. Several new island activities have been added since the project began including more than 16 wave runners, kayak rentals and an eco-adventure boat tour around the island. These are in addition to the existing snorkeling; floats; inflatable hippo slide; and parasailing.

The second phase of enhancements includes an arrival/departure pavilion, additional bar facilities; several comfort stations; a band stand; cruise program activity area; private beachfront cabanas; a kid’s play area; straw market; and beach volleyball courts. The beachfront will continue to be expanded on the island’s west end.

cruise line private islandsHalf Moon Cay, Bahamas This Holland America Line island (now also a Carnival island) was originally called Little San Salvador Island and has been rated as “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine. An international bird sanctuary in the Bahamas, the beauty and serenity of Half Moon Cay is unique.

There are a variety of exciting and new activities to choose from while exploring this privately owned paradise. You can go horseback riding on the sand and through the surf, take a stingray adventure, visit the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park, hike a nature trail or simply relax in an air-conditioned, private beachfront cabana.

cruise line private islandsPrincess Cays, Bahamas is Princess Cruises private island on the south side of Eleuthera Island about 30 miles from Nassau. Princess Cays guests will find equipment for many beach activities. Water sports fans can choose from water craft such as sailboats, catamarans, paddle wheelers, kayaks, and banana boats, while those who wish to explore the island’s coral reef can rent gear for snorkeling.

Floating mattresses are available for lazily drifting in the sun, and several protected swimming areas are available on both the north and south beach areas. Beachside, reggae and calypso music set the mood, and guests can enjoy a game of volleyball or basketball, or choose to relax with a hammock, beach chair or under an umbrella.

cruise line private islandsCocoCay, Bahamas is one of two private islands for Royal Caribbean. This one is more along the lines of other cruise lines private islands with sandy beaches (duh) and a nice hammock here and here to enjoy your island-style seaside barbecue.

Tip: When you get off the tenders, there are three beaches to go to. The first one is the biggest and the most crowded. Keep walking and you’ll find the second beach, which is a little smaller and less crowded. Keep going even further and you’ll find the third beach, which is the smallest and least crowded.

cruise line private islandsLabadee, Haiti in is the home to what Royal Caribbean calls their “private destination” and with good reason. On the north coast of Hispaniola, the secure, secluded area is surrounded by exotic foliage and mountain slopes. Guests can enjoy beautiful coral reefs, a pristine public beach as well as a very nice private beach area reserved for suite guests.

A year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

cruise line private islandsCastaway Cay, Bahamas is Disney Cruise Line’s private island. Unique to Castaway Cay is that the ship docks at the island, no tendering involved, which makes for a great experience. Recently updated, this one has it all.

This is Disney Cruise Line turning an island into a theme park, complete with rides, trams to get around on, gift shops plus really good food. All other private islands pale by comparison. Really.

They should build hotels here and let people stay a while. No wonder some sailings include two stops at the popular island.

If all those are not good enough for you, maybe you should just buy your own



Flickr photo by fotodawg

Caribbean tourism surges

When the global economic crisis grew into the monster it became and began impacting the lives of people everywhere, the amount of vacations to the Caribbean, not surprisingly, sharply declined. Of all expenses budgeted into any one family’s financial plan, these expensive vacations, once sources of annual pride for members of the bourgeoisie, were among the first to go.

Luxurious beachfront vacations commonly cost thousands to put together for a family–and then there’s the money lost from not working for any traveler without vacation pay (…and here I am daydreaming about what it’d be like to be a travel writer with vacation pay…). Clearly, most other types of spending in everyday life come before this kind of spending during times of economic hardship.

But for the first time since this devasting blow to the Caribbean tourism industry in 2008, travelers are visiting the area again in steadily increasing numbers. Yahoo! News reports that more than 23 million tourists visited the region in 2010, myself included thanks to my September trip to Grenada. This is close to a 5 percent increase from 2009.

The jump in tourism is largely due to cruise ship passengers. Travelers like these spend less money to visit destinations, like the Bahamas, than those actually staying on the islands. Although hotels in the Caribbean only saw a 1 percent rise in occupancy last year, it’s looking like those numbers too will be up in 2011.

Now that Caribbean travel is again popular, I’m curious: which Caribbean destination would you most like to visit this year if given the opportunity?

[photo by Elizabeth Seward]