Stricken Cruise Ship Passengers Make Most Of Bad Situation

cruise shipLife on board stricken cruise ship Carnival Triumph is far from the travel brochure promise of sandy beaches and warm Caribbean nights. As the ship is being towed to shore after an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, passengers have had quite a different experience than what they bargained for. Still, experienced travelers know that not everything goes as planned and making the best of a bad situation often depends on how we choose to react when bad things happen along the way.

“I do want to commend our guests on board the Carnival Triumph … for doing a great job dealing with a difficult situation. I happen to believe that is the nature of the Carnival guests who happen to be very optimistic people (who) enjoy life,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill at a press conference held Tuesday night at Carnival’s Miami headquarters.

Operating with limited services (although the bars are open and drinks are free), 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday. Once there, the ship’s passengers will be disembarked quickly, given hot food and a night in one of 1,500 hotel rooms being held by the cruise line. That will no doubt be a welcome change to cold sandwiches and showers along with hot, unventilated cabins.

While reports from passengers on board via Twitter and Facebook vary from describing the situation as a “cruise from hell” to a more positive “we’ll sure remember this one,” odds are everyone will be happy when the sailing is over.”Generally speaking, the mood on board is good under the circumstances and most guests are making the most of it,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Travel Pulse.

On Friday, 20 charter flights will take passengers back to Houston where arrangements have been made to get them back home. Those on the ship right now will receive a full refund of what they paid for the cruise along with any non-refundable travel services and a complimentary cruise in the future.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident.

Here is that press conference from Carnival’s Miami headquarters last night.



[Photo Credit- U.S. Coast Guard]

Holiday Cruise Vacation For 2013? Wait To Buy, About A Week

holiday

The holiday gifts have all been opened and some of Santa’s “nice” kids received exactly what they wanted. Others, leaning a bit towards the “naughty” side, not so much. If a cruise vacation was on that gift list for you, all hope is not lost. It is indeed possible to actually buy a cruise and get it for a price that adds up to a great travel value.

We are right around the corner from what travel agents call “wave season.” That’s the January through March flurry of sales that travel agencies see as many cruise travelers plan a cruise for 2013 or beyond.

Getting the best value depends on which cruise line, ship, sailing date, or itinerary you choose. Still, universal among most major cruise lines, some common-sense tips can bring home the best offer.

  • Holidays are popular- Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve/Day are the four most popular days to sail and command a premium price, year-round, with few exceptions.
  • Cruise lines commonly discount the third/fourth or more passengers in a cabin, making cramming kids a popular sport, subject to cruise line rules.
  • Cram as many kids as possible into a cabin- Most will hold up to four and while four large adults would be challenged, four average-size kids ages 10 to 21 will fit just fine. But in the same breath we say…
  • Be realistic about cabin size- A decade ago, I booked four large adults in a cabin for four people, and those four people called/screamed at me from the ship after boarding. Apparently, the discounted upper berths that looked so attractive when buying were only about half the width needed for our fluffy cruise traveler friends.
  • Be aware of the cruise line rules for traveling with kids- There is a minimum age. There are a limited number of cabins that will accommodate three, four or more people.
  • Book as far in advance as possible, especially if traveling with kids and/or your needs require cabins in a specific location (like next to each other), cabins that connect (like a door between them), or any cabins that have three or more guests in them, as these are in limited supply.
  • Book at the last minute- I had to force my fingers to type that. After decades of suggesting “buying far in advance is a good idea,” cruise lines may be changing their tune, awarding those who book at the last minute (30 days or so prior to sailing) some of the best values.

Frankly, the way cruise fare pricing is going right now, one of the best suggestions might very well be to book a flexible fare now and then lock in to a lower, restricted fare later. That action now would get travelers the cabin location they want with an opportunity for a better price down the road. Your travel agent can help with that. Not ready for a travel agent yet? Leave your questions here.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship


[Photo Credit- Flickr user peter.clark]

Cruise Ships Steer Clear Of Troubled Waters

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Travel via cruise ship has a number of advantages. For one example, you can unpack once but visit multiple destinations on a floating hotel. Doing so safely is another, causing cruise lines to constantly consider life as it is at ports of call around the world. What was once a safe place to visit may not be six months from now. That’s when cruise lines alter itineraries and steer cruise ships clear of troubled waters.

Argentina’s Ushuaia has been referred to as the southernmost city in the world with attractions that include the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Lapataia Bay and a host of wildlife viewing, fishing, skiing, hiking, biking, dining and shopping opportunities. Ushuala is also a South American cruise port. When the decades-old tension between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands heated up recently, cruise lines chose to go a different direction.

“Information had come to our attention that demonstrations may have occurred in Ushuaia that could have impacted the ability of Veendam to enter and leave the port in accordance with accepted maritime practices,” said Sally Andrews, Holland America spokesperson in a TravelPulse report.

But what happens when ports are not accessible?

Cruise lines commonly compensate passengers for missing a port deemed unsafe, substituting another port in its place or adding an extra day at sea.

“As a result of this change, guests onboard were refunded for any shore excursions booked in Ushuaia and the government taxes and fees for the canceled port,” added Andrews.

We saw the same moves made by cruise lines after political unrest in Egypt caused ships to skip a destination many passengers had on their bucket list. Yes, those booked got “a cruise” but it was not “the cruise” they had planned on.

So what to do if my port of call is canceled?

  • If port cancellation happens before sailing, check with the cruise line, they may be offering booked passengers the ability to transfer their booking to a future sailing.
  • Check the details of your travel insurance. While “political unrest” rates run about as high as “weather disruptions” on the easy refund list, some travel insurance policies take into account such matters and while the cruise line may not offer a complete refund for cancellation, insurance can help.
  • Carefully consider cruise line offers to cancel and rebook without penalty. While potentially missing one port of call does not a bad cruise make, if that missed port is the one you were looking the most forward to, the hassle of rebooking and planning different time away from home might be worth it.
  • Negotiate with the cruise line. There is no rule that says booked passengers cannot try to make a case in favor of consideration by the cruise line when a port is canceled. Legally, the cruise line has that covered in the Passenger Contract all travelers agree to before booking. Still, cruise lines know that a little good will goes a long way to smooth over what could be a deal breaker itinerary change to a passenger.

What did those planning on visiting Ushuaia miss? Check this video to see:


[Photo Credit- Flickr user Benjamin Dumas]

Video Of The Day: Amazing Ice Sculptures Wow Crowds In Japan


Today’s Video of the Day comes from last year’s Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan. Press “play” and you’ll see why the week-long festival is one of the largest winter events in the country, attracting nearly two million people. Hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures take over Sapporo‘s expansive Odori Park, as well as Susukino, a shopping and entertainment district, and the Sapporo Community Dome, widely known as Tsudome. If you’re planning to travel to Japan in February, pencil Tuesday, February 5 through Monday, February 11 into your calendar so you don’t miss out on the 2013 festivities.

Costa Concordia Wreck Removal Detailed On New Website

costa concordiaCosta Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy last January and work has been ongoing since then to clear the area of all things cruise ship related. Taking a cruise ship that has fallen over on its side and getting it back upright is apparently a gigantic job that has never before attempted. This week, Costa Cruises, along with its salvage company, launched a website with detailed information, plans and images relating to the Costa Concordia wreck-removal project.

Parbuckling is the technical term for the process of rotating the wreck into an upright position and is said to be one of the most complex and crucial phases of the removal plan. The Parbuckling Project website gives step by step illustrations that show just exactly how the salvage team hopes to make that happen.

The site’s main features include background information about the project and the companies involved, up-to-date news, multimedia assets including videos, 3-D animations and pictures, thematic insights and technical details.costa concordiaJust completing the initial phase, anchoring and stabilization of the wreck has been done to prevent any slipping or sinking.

The next phase of the removal plan prepares the false bottom on which the wreck will rest after rotation in two separate phases.

First grout bags will be positioned and filled with cement to create a stable base for the hull.

Next, platforms will be fixed in place and a crane will be used to install water-tight structures called caissons on one side of the wreck.

Then the parbuckling happens, lifting the ship up on one side. To balance the wreck, more caissons will be installed on the other side, refloating the ship which has been resting on the platform shown above.

Its a never-been-done feat of engineering that takes technology from a number of unrelated fields to make it happen. Costa promises that the Parbuckling Project website will be constantly updated to reflect the different phases of the plan as the work progresses.

Getting the ship out of the way can’t come soon enough for environmentalists who recently found and rescued giant mussels from under the wreck, as we see in this video.




[Photo/Image Credit: the Parbuckling Project]