Cruise Ships Steer Clear Of Troubled Waters

cruise ship
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]

Cruise Line Destination Focus Brings Off-Ship Adventures

Cruise Line

Cruise lines continue to bust into new territory, shaking off their booze cruise, buffet bonanza reputation with a keen focus on the destinations they visit. Off the ship, cruise travelers want more than a packaged shore excursion. They want more time in port with active experiences rather than passive viewing. Cruise lines are beginning to deliver too. Spending some of the clout they earn by bringing millions in tourism revenue to ports around the world, cruise lines are tapping local sources and setting up unique off-ship adventures.

Crystal Cruises has Overland Adventures that take Crystal guests to unique, immersive events ashore. Typical of the intensity level of their Overland Adventures is a three-night Laos Overland Discovery during a March 7, 2013, Southeast Asia cruise, offering an intimate look into the rich history, culture and scenery of the former French colony and UNESCO World Heritage site, Luang Prabang, considered the best-preserved city in Southeast lineThose participating will get off their cruise ship, Crystal Symphony, in the port of Laem Chabang, Thailand where they will spend the first night. From there, they fly to Laos for two nights, to see a Laotian Buddhist alms-giving ceremony, visit sacred temples and other attractions then sail across the Mekong River to the Buddha-filled Pak Ou Caves. Travelers then rejoin Crystal Symphony in Ho Chi Minh City.

While in the area, Crystal offers other off-ship adventures with titles like “The Wonders of Angkor Wat,” “Phong Nha Caves & Vietnam Heritage” and “A Portrait of Vietnam: Hue, Hoi An & Hanoi.”

The whole destination immersion focus has become so popular that Azamara Club Cruises is adding a complimentary immersive destination event ashore featured on every voyage.

Azamara guests sailing a Baltic cruise voyage, for example, might enjoy a private ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia, while walking the red carpet and sipping champagne. Travelers on a Mediterranean cruise may find themselves sampling Jerez, Spain’s famous sherry wine at Gonzalez Byass and later enjoying a private equestrian ballet at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.

These are not your typical cruise line “load everybody up in a tour bus and drive around” excursions.

Mainstream cruise lines, still mostly limited to day trips, are testing the waters for immersive off-ship adventures. In Alaska, Princess Cruises continues to explore the land of the midnight sun with experiences like a Back Country Zodiac Expedition, a Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour or a Heli-Hike & Rail Adventure.

For now, we’re finding these experiential off-ship adventures on high-end luxury lines. But look for mainstream cruise lines to offer intense lifetime event experiences in the near future.

Top Adventure Travel Destinations

[Flickr photos by *christopher*]

Grounded Cruise Ship Trial Begins With Black Box Evidence

Grounded Cruise Ship

The grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia may not be on trial itself but court proceedings began this week, looking for answers to what happened. More than 100 lawyers representing survivors and the families of passengers and crew members who died in the January event are on hand to plead their case.

The proceedings will be based on evidence from the ship’s black box recordings, navigational details and conversations recorded on the bridge of the ship. Making up part of the 270 pages of documents before the court is Captain Francesco Schettino’s testimony that his ship was not too close to the island of Gigio. Schettino maintains that he was simply following company policy to “salute” the island.

Thirty-two people died after Schettino allegedly took the ship off course and dangerously close to the Tuscan island of Giglio on the night of January 13. The ship then ran aground and capsized. Hearings this week will help decide whether to put Schettino on trial for manslaughter among other charges.

“We want to look him in the eye to see how he will react to the accusations,” German survivor Michael Liessen, 50, who was attending with his wife said in a ClarionLedger report.

Costa Concordia Captain in Court