Alaska Rail And Cruise Packages Add Value, Adventure

Alaska rail and cruise packages, commonly called Cruise Tours, are heating up as more travelers opt to see more of what the land of the midnight sun has to offer. Choosing a multi-day land exploration, either before or after a seven-day cruise line sailing, gets passengers deeper into the Alaska heartland than possible by ship only. Now, a third-party travel source is offering to combine their package with a standard cruise line experience for something different.

Rocky Mountaineer is a rail line that offers over 45 Canadian vacation packages on four unique routes through British Columbia and Alberta, each rich in history and natural wonders. The luxurious train travels by daylight through the wild beauty of Canada’s West and is a great way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies either before or after an Alaska cruise.

Traveling eastbound or westbound on the Rocky Mountaineer, the all-daylight rail journey departs three times per week on both the First Passage to the West and the Journey Through the Clouds routes from the end of April until the beginning of October. The Rainforest to Gold Rush route runs from the middle of May until the end of September, as does the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb route.On board, Rocky Mountaineer offers different levels/choices of service for rail journeys too. All passengers get onboard attendants that provide friendly service and informative commentary of the regions through which the train travels. Gold, Silver and Red levels of service offer more onboard amenities.

Now, combining Rocky Mountaineer extensive experience on land with Holland America Line’s experience at sea, comes a package that bundles it all.

Called Canadian Rockies Highlights & Coastal Passage with Pre-Tour Cruise – 2013, the package includes three days onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, a seven-night Holland America Alaskan cruise, eight dinners, eight lunches, nine breakfasts and five nights of hotel accommodation. Also included are Banff & Seattle tours, a Yoho Park tour and Helicopter Flightseeing.

The offer is simple: book a Coastal Passage rail/cruise trip by March 28 directly through Rocky Mountaineer and earn up to $1300 in credits toward the cruise portion, or extra hotel nights/restaurant meals along the train portion in cities like Seattle, Vancouver and Banff.

Want to know more about what travel via rail in the Rockies is like? Check this video:

[Photo Credit- Rocky Mountaineer]

When Cruise Ships Plug In, Ports Prosper

Having the ability to “plug in” to cleaner shore-based electric power, rather than burning diesel fuel when in port, allows cruise ships to eliminate a jumbo-sized carbon footprint. At a number of ports in the United States, ships are doing just that. Now, the Canadian government has announced that it is continuing its commitment to limit air emissions from the Canadian transportation sector by inviting applications for funding under the Shore Power Technology for Ports Program.

The program will provide cost-shared funding for the installation of marine shore power at Canadian ports that allows ships to plug into the local electrical grid to power the vessel and turn off their diesel engines when docked.

In January, the Government announced it would be making a further $27.2 million investment into the program to help reduce air emissions from ships, encouraging more ports to participate in the program.

“Our investment in shore power will reduce emissions from ports, support a cleaner environment and protect the health of Canadians by improving the quality of air we breathe,” said Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport in Portworld. “This program will boost the competitiveness of Canadian ports, provide new opportunities for growth in the tourism sector, and create jobs across the country.”

Ports and cruise lines are making an ongoing effort to grow the industry in an environmentally responsible matter. The Port of Los Angeles has the ability to provide shore-side power to three different cruise lines. Using shore-side power, ships from Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line can now turn off their polluting engines while in port.

Also in California, the Port of San Diego gained the plug-in ability in 2010, fitted for Holland America ships. Holland America Line’s Oosterdam was the first to plug in to a similar system, also designed to help cruise ships go green. Initially, the Port of San Diego system can handle one ship but plans are for this system to take on more ships in the future too.

For those ports, it has been smooth sailing on the ability to have ships plug in. But for one other port it has been a stormy sea of setbacks.

More than a year ago, Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise ship terminal was on schedule to be the first East Coast cruise operation to let ships plug in. Now, ships have still not plugged in and continue to spew pollution into the air, which area residents are fuming about.

“It seems fairly pathetic that all of these things are in place but the Port Authority are twiddling their thumbs,” Adam Armstrong, 48, a blogger and father of two who lives on Pioneer Street near the terminal, told the Daily News. “I thought it was quibbling over a small amount of money considering the impact of the emissions on people’s health.”

It has been almost three years since Carnival Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Port Authority first agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power.

Cruise ships annually bring 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter to the Brooklyn area when they park and burn their diesel engines.

In April of 2011, Gadling reported that the $15 million project would be funded with $12 million from the Port Authority, nearly $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant and Carnival Corporation would spend $4 million to retrofit their Princess Cruises and Cunard Line ships that dock in Brooklyn.

[Flickr photo by Tiago Daniel]

Port of Los Angeles plugs in cruise ships to help environment

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.

Free cruise contest roundup

When it comes to travel values, cruise vacations rate high. Even with recent and predicted price increases as the economy improves, the semi all-inclusive nature of a cruise is pretty hard to beat. That’s good but free is better. Let’s take a look at what’s out there in the way of contests you can enter to win a fabulous cruise vacation.

Budget Travel is looking for the Worlds Best Cruiser and wants to send them on a free cruise. Have you taken more cruises than you can count? Do you live and breathe cruise vacations as a way of life? This one might be for you. Send your photos, videos and tips (the sort of thing a Worlds Best Cruiser would have) to The winner will be determined by an on line reader poll starting May 3, will win a free cruise and be featured on and in the magazine’s December/January 2012 issue.

Carnival Cruise Lines is giving away a free cruise every month during their Didja Ever? promotion/way of life campaign that kicked off on New Years Eve when they dropped a ton of dream confetti on New York’s Times Square. As if a free cruise was not enough, they are also offering Facebook friends some other options like voting “I wanna do it” on Pick A Place On The Map And Go, Climb One Of The World’s Seven Summits or Go On Tour With A Band. The big question is “What have you always wanted to do?”Princess Cruises has The Travel Bucket List Contest that is looking for your most memorable travel experience. You can enter with a video or an essay with photos. Submit your story by February 7th for a chance to win a Princess Cruises dream vacation for you and one very lucky travel companion, including roundtrip airfare. Find out more when you visit and Like their Facebook page between now and February 7th (hurry up).

Holland America Line has a writing contest too. Sounds kind of stuffy but the end result is a free cruise so it makes the list. On their Transatlantic Writing Contest, they invite you to tell us about your own Holland America transatlantic crossing or that of a friend or relative who sailed an unforgettable Holland America transatlantic voyage. We are seeking compelling stories that are humorous, adventurous or heart-warming. The entrant whose story earns the most accolades from a panel of judges for its emotional impact, originality and creativity will win passage for two on a 9-day crossing from New York, NY to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, departing July 12, 2011, aboard the ms Rotterdam.

Flickr photo by pmarkham

Super Bowl XLV at sea? You bet

Just about every cruise ship has a sports bar. Many ships have huge LED outdoor screens. It just seems to be a natural pairing to add this year’s Superbowl in for on-board programming. Cruise lines are doing just that and more.

Just to be sure the big game would be around for those sailing on Superbowl Sunday, Doug Parker of CruiseRadio got with each line to see what they had planned. “I’ve called every cruise line and most got right back to me with their plans” said Parker, working on a story for next week’s Cruise Radio broadcast.

They will be showing the game from “at least one lounge area on each ship” replied Holland America Line. “We will be airing the game fleet-wide!” chimed in Royal Caribbean.

Cruise lines have played a part in Super Bowls of the past too. In 2005, cruise ships parked close to Jacksonville Florida to serve as floating hotels for Super Bowl fans. On board, cruise lines often offer special game day packages complete with junk food and traditional beverages.

Travel Agencies are joining in the fun too, sponsoring “Super Bowl Cruise Party” groups on several major cruise lines. Boasting “Large screen TV’s everywhere”, Super Bowl groups formed long ago requiring just a small deposit to sign up and allowing monthly payments over time.

There is one drawback to watching the Super Bowl at sea though:

Cruise ship television reception works off a satellite system that must constantly be re-aimed because the ship is in motion. That can cause momentary signal loss from time to time. A few seconds lost at a critical moment on the football field could be a problem.

Would mutiny result?

Photo: Chris Owen