New Study Has Travel By Air Preferred, Thanks To Travel By Sea

cruise ships
Port of San Diego/Flickr

A new study out this week says the idea of a cruise vacation is not as popular as it once was, targeting multiple factors for the hit. Regardless of the reason, the numbers show a cruise industry that has its job cut out for it.

Over half of all Americans are less likely to take a cruise now than over a year ago, says the new Harris Poll out this week. But those numbers are heavily skewed to those who have never been on a cruise before and were probably apprehensive about it anyway. Everyone is to a certain degree before their first sailing. Those who have sailed before were not having as many second thoughts.

The March Harris Poll asked 2,052 adults aged 18 and over in an online poll, how they felt about cruising. Those surveyed clearly thought less of cruising since events that included the grounding of Costa Concordia and a fire aboard Carnival Triumph. That trend continued in the May Harris poll, indicating that public perception of cruises continues to fall while airlines soar higher.”More than six in 10 Americans (62 percent) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking a cruise (up from 57 percent in February), and the majority (56 percent) agree that air travel is much safer (up from 50 percent in February),” says a TravelMole report.

But cruise lines have not stood by idly. Nearly all cruise lines have adopted a new, higher, more efficient focus on safety. The new Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights spells out what will happen in many otherwise cloudy areas.

Will they come back? Better than ever?

Apparently cruise lines think so, investing billions in ships, ports and jobs. Just this week, Costa Cruises announced the building of a new ship, their largest ever.

The 132,500-ton Costa Diadema promises a different experience, breaking up areas of the ship into several ocean-facing venues, each with a different theme. Also, Princess Cruises new generation ship Royal Princess arrived in Southampton for a smattering of inaugural events.

“I wouldn’t give much credibility to the latest Harris or TravelMole polls,” says cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO CruiseGuy. “Their findings are highly subjective and run contrary to real life actions of cruise passengers, as ships continue to sail full. “

Maybe it’s a little of the “if you build it, they will come” thing or maybe it’s the faith cruise lines have in their unique travel experience that is becoming more diverse all the time.

“Considering less than 15% of the US population has cruised, I’d say 92% of their respondents have probably never cruised, 75% probably still live with their parents and 48% have never travelled more than 1000 miles from home. Based on current trends, their findings aren’t supported,” concluded Chiron.

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Christmas Travel: Happy, Budget-Minded Places To Go

Christmas

Many travelers have places to spend Christmas nailed down far in advance. Tradition may have us going back home to join with family and friends in an annual celebration. Airline tickets may have been purchased months ago, cashing in on the best rates. A place to stay is not an issue, we’ll take a sofa at one place or another, surrounded by those we care for.

Others don’t have such happy plans in place. Maybe economic concerns made advance planning impossible. Maybe the whole idea of gifting, taking time off work, getting there and other concerns have them stuck at home with no apparent way out. For those people, we have a list of happy places we can go, scattered around the United States, that offer an alternative to a “Bah Humbug” attitude at budget prices.

New York City
New Yorkers have celebrating Christmas down to a science and the city goes all out this time of year. Christmas trees, lights, Broadway shows or simply window-shopping make for a good time. Ride a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park (about $100), ice-skate at Rockefeller center ($20), or just stand in the middle of Times Square for a hefty dose of Christmas magic.

Christmas, Florida
Odds are pretty good that we won’t see a white Christmas at this central Florida location but a stop by Christmas, Florida, can sure get us in the mood. About 20 miles east of Orlando, it’s Christmastime year-round here with Christmas trees and reindeer on display all the time. Not far is the Fort Christmas Historical Park, a replica of the original fort, built in 1837 during the Seminole Indian War and all the central Florida attractions, all dressed for the holidays.

Woodbury, Connecticut
How about zooming over snow covered hills for a new Christmas tradition? Connecticut’s Woodbury Ski Area lets us do just that on a zip line ($89 for four hours) or we can fly down a mountain in our own tube. The mountain has three zip line tracks, close to a mile of tubing trails, and over 20 different snow tubing courses. You can also enjoy the areas 12 courses or skiing, snowboarding and snow bikes that are lighted for night use.

Harbor Christmas Parades, California
Scattered around California, are a number of harbor, boat and yacht parades that may be just what your Christmas Grinch needs to get in the mood. San Diego Harbor’s Parade of Lights, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Oakland’s Lighted Yacht Parade are free and host hundreds of lighted pleasure craft. The Huntington Harbor Cruise of Lights is a seasonal trip through the harbor’s waterways with views of decorated houses.

Christmas boat parades are not limited to California. Check this video for a look at Portland, Oregon’s Christmas Ship Parade:


Want to find some holiday events close to you? A national listing of all local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s might be a good place to start.

[Photo credit- Flickr user Tom Hilton]

Port of Los Angeles plugs in cruise ships to help environment

Port of Los Angeles plugs in cruise ships

Ports and cruise lines are making an ongoing effort to grow the industry in an environmentally responsible matter. The Port of Los Angeles today became the first with the ability to provide shoreside power to three different cruise lines. Using the Alternative Maritime Power system, ships from Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line can now turn off their polluting engines while in port.

“The use of AMP™ at our World Cruise Center reduces emissions not just at the Port but improves the quality of air throughout the Los Angeles region,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “The ability to adapt this technology to multiple cruise lines eliminates significant ship exhaust when cruise ships are at berth, and the AMP Mobile is another innovation that demonstrates our commitment to developing cutting-edge technology that can benefit port communities everywhere.”

Having the ability to provide clean power and being able to use it are two different matters. In addition to the port having it available, ships must be fitted to accept the clean power source.The Port’s AMP™ system installed at the World Cruise Center in Los Angeles plugs in two cruise ships at a time and is capable of delivering up to 40 megawatts of power, with 20 megawatts of power delivery capacity to each of the two different ships.

Cruise lines and ports have been working on the ability to provide clean, electric energy from the local power grid for years. Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International won awards from the Port of Seattle for making an environmental difference recently.

In January’s first annual Green Gateway Partners Awards the lines were recognized for participating in the At-Berth Clean Fuels program, or use of shore power to plug in and turn off engines while docked at shore.

“Each of the companies recognized have demonstrated that you don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy,” said Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani at the time.

In Los Angeles, the World Cruise Center is the only port where two cruise ships can be connected simultaneously. Cruise ships utilize either 6.6 kilovolts (kV) or 11 kV electrical power distribution systems to plug into shore side power; the Port of Los Angeles can now accommodate either. Currently the power demand of the cruise ships calling the Port of Los Angeles is anywhere between 8 to 13 megawatts of power. A seven megawatt load is equivalent to producing enough electricity for approximately 1,000 homes.

Also in California, the Port of San Diego gained the “plug-in” ability late last year, fitted for Holland America ships. Holland America Line’s Oosterdam was the first to plug in to “Shore Power”, a system designed to help cruise ships go green. Initially the system can handle one ship but plans are for this system to take on more in the future too.

Port of San Diego Completes Shore Power System from Port of San Diego on Vimeo.

Also last year Princess Cruises Island Princess plugged in at the Port of San Francisco to a system that was built as a cooperative effort by the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Environmental Protection Agency, Holland America Line and Princess.

Princess’ shore power program made history debuting in environmentally extra-sensitive Juneau, Alaska in 2001, expanded to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shoreside power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.


“Weapons of mass effect” found on American soil says San Diego port director

Weapons of mass effect foundIn a startling video of a recent interview released yesterday, the assistant director of San Diego’s cruise port revealed that “weapons of mass effect” had been found in the past. As the interview continued, on-camera comments suggested a cover-up of important information regarding port safety.

In an interview reported on Fox News, San Diego assistant port director Al Hallor, also an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that authorities had uncovered weapons of mass effect in the past and that San Diego was a target for terrorism.

“Given the open waterways and the access to the Navy fleet here, I’d say, absolutely, San Diego is a target,” Hallor said. When asked if they ever found a chemical agent or weaponized device Hallor replied “At the airport, seaport, at our port of entry we have not this past fiscal year, but our partner agencies have found those things”

Immediately, a public affairs officer stepped in to intervene, attempting to steer the interview in a different direction, limiting questions to just the Port of San Diego.

Homeland Security officials tried to say the assistant director was confused and nervous. Later in the day, the Customs and Border Protection issued this statement:

“CBP has not specifically had any incidents with nuclear devices or nuclear materials at our ports of entry. CBP is an all-threats agency. The purpose of many security measures is to prevent threats from ever materializing by being prepared for them. And, we must be prepared to stop threats in whatever form they do materialize at the border, whether it’s an individual or cargo arriving by land, air, or sea. Regardless of what the contraband or threat is, we’re being smart, evaluating, and focusing in on anything or anyone that is potentially high-risk.

We were able to show you first-hand one example of how we evaluate segment risk, inspect, etc. in the cargo environment by air and sea here in San Diego. This is one portion of the CBP mission, and hopefully gives you some examples of how much has evolved in the past decade, with the new technologies we have at our disposal. This, coupled with document requirements at the border, advanced passenger and cargo information, better information sharing, and many other measures help us to secure the border – and each measure doesn’t work individually or in a vacuum, but rather in the layered security that we were able to demonstrate one facet of.”



The Port of San Diego recently made news on another front when they introduced the technology that allows cruise ships to “plug in” when at port, turning off their highly-polluting engines while in port.

Flickr photo by Port of San Diego

Cruise lines score environmental awards

cruise lines environmental awardsCruise lines get a lot of criticism for fouling up the air with tons of bad stuff emitted from their diesel burning engines. Environmental groups say “rightfully so” as dirty engines can emit a ton of gunk into the atmosphere each time they dock. But there was good news for Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who all three won awards from the Port of Seattle for making an environmental difference recently.

In the first annual Green Gateway Partners Awards the lines were recognized for participating in the At-Berth Clean Fuels program, or use of shore power to plug in and turn off engines while docked at shore.

“Each of the companies recognized have demonstrated that you don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy,” said Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani.

Earlier this year, Princess Cruises Island Princess plugged in at the Port of San Francisco to a system that was built as a cooperative effort by the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Environmental Protection Agency, Holland America Line and Princess.

Princess’ shore power program made history debuting in environmentally extra-sensitive Juneau, Alaska in 2001, expanded to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shore-side power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.

It’s a topic that comes up often these days as cruise ports green up and look to the future.

Last month, he Port of Los Angeles completed it’s World Cruise Center solar rooftop project. Estimated to produce 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, the $10.8 million project will also result in an estimated $200,000 in energy cost savings.

It looks like they’re sailing in the right direction environmentally.

Flickr photo by Leandoe