Beatles cruise promoter asks: “What if Paul or Ringo came along?”

Lately, the focus of themed cruises has been on popular musicians like rock star musician and reality TV star Bret Michaels, Taylor Swift and Kid Rock among others. Themed cruises appeal to groups of people varying from broad interests like “motorcycles” and “rock music” in general to smaller, more specific interests like Harley-Davidson motorcycles or a specific band like KISS. Gaining in popularity, promoters book huge blocks of cabins on existing sailings or charter entire ships to meet the demand and cruise lines are paying attention.

Beatles Tribute Cruise (BTC) 2012
is on sale now and filling up fast. That’s prompting offers from other cruise lines looking to woo the annual event away from Royal Caribbean and a call to invite one of the remaining Beatles along for the ride.

“It’s a bold move….what’s happened is that the cruise’s popularity has initiated some amazing–and I mean AMAZING—offers from other cruise lines to “jump ship” and sign on with them, and they are asking if we could get Ringo or Paul to join us!” BTC promoter Woody Lifton told

What would cruise lines offer to get the Beatles cruise and Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr on board?”Basically anything they wanted, I suspect” said Lifton adding “With a private ship and (the) high quality cruisers we get on BTC, they would have a really nice time with the ability to interact with fans to the extent they wanted, in a safe atmosphere with whatever security they would need.”

An annual event, the 2011 Beatles cruise was a fundraiser for Thrive/Survive Los Angeles to support young adult cancer survivors. On-board, a raffle was held with close to 100 Beatles-related item given away during the sailing. Beatles Cruise 2012 sails from Ft Lauderdale on 2/4/12 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and set to coincide with the 48th Anniversary of The Beatles first U.S. Television appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

Will Beatles Tribute Cruise 2013 or 2014 be able to land the biggest fish of all, Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr?

“Yes we feel we could make this happen” concluded Lifton “and as with all of our past cruises I’m sure we’ll exceed everyone’s expectations”

Flickr photo by bluecherry74

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Death by cruise ship? It can come in several ways

OK, so “death by cruise ship” is not exactly the kind of story that makes us want to break out the suntan lotion or brush up on our Bingo skills but it happens. People can and do die on a cruise ship for a variety of reasons. Earlier this week the decrepit Russian ship that sank in the Volga river was a Titanic-like example we might not think possible today. But it happened and over 100 people died. Still, there are other ways to die on a cruise ship. Some you really have to try to make happen, others just sort of happen all on their own.

Fall off the ship
Its not as hard to do as we might imagine. But people who do this really have to be determined to be successful. Nobody simply falls off. Nobody really gets blown off by high winds either. If the ship is in a high-wind situation, open decks get closed for obvious safety reasons. Suicide By Cruise Ship is a common reason though as well as alcohol/drug-induced shenanigans close to the edge of the ship. Most common reason for falling off a cruise ship: sitting/standing on the guard rail of a balcony stateroom.

Get murdered
A 57-year-old Los Angeles County teacher pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday in the beating death of his wife on the Carnival Elation in July 2009. reports that Robert McGill admitted that he “deliberately and intentionally” killed his wife, Shirley McGill, after an argument. The couple were celebrating Robert’s 55th birthday and Shirley’s retirement by going into the port city of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico according to court papers. Witnesses aboard the ship saw McGill just before he beat his wife of five years to death in the bathroom of their cabin saying he was stumbling around and barely able to walk.The Ship Sinks
Again, that does not happen all that much. Like never. Finding out what went wrong is the focus of investigations into the sinking of that Russian river boat. These things are not supposed to happen in today’s world and that incident could have been prevented had the ship been maintained properly and commonly-accepted safety protocols followed.

This week marked six years since George Smith mysteriously disappeared from Royal Caribbean‘s Brilliance of the Seas. He was on an eight day honeymoon sailing when something went terribly wrong and he somehow went overboard to be lost at sea.

It’s a tragic yet fascinating story that captivated media world-wide at the time and maritime personal injury attorney Jim Walker was all over it.

“Our firm represented Mr. Smith’s wife, Jennifer Hagel. She hired us to obtain answers to what happened to her husband and to seek compensation for his death” Walker says on his CruiseLawNews blog wrapping up a week-long series of posts about the event today.

The incident started a firestorm of attention on the cruise industry how it does business and what they could do to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.

“Mr. Smith’s disappearance, and the manner in which Royal Caribbean chose to handle the incident, brought much needed attention to the cruise industry” said Walker adding “The events which followed Mr. Smith’s death led to five Congressional hearings into disappearances and crimes on cruise ships, culminating in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act in 2010.”

Bad medicine
Cruise ships have what amount to fully-functioning hospitals aboard that can handle anything from a case of motion sickness to surgery.

Don and Marlene Bryce were celebrating Don’s retirement and their 53 years as a married couple on Holland America Line’s Rotterdam. Eight days into the cruise, Don became ill so Marlene called the ship’s doctor who gave Don medicine for vomiting reports Apparently treating Don for motion discomfort, his condition worsened. Marlene communicated to the ship’s infirmary several times over the next few days that Don was not getting better only to be told to give him more medicine.

12 days into the cruise, in the middle of the night, Don’s skin was turning dark. Marlene called for a nurse, who never came. Give him water and food, she advised over the phone.

Finally at 4:50 a.m., after Marlene called again, a nurse arrived. By this time Don’s skin was dark, and he was cold. Then he collapsed and died. The doctor arrived two minutes later.

“I was probably five feet away from him on a chair and saw him die,” said Marlene tells KOMO and ABC News.

Under maritime law, cruise lines aren’t responsible for the actions of the doctors they hire, since the doctors are independent contractors.

Not everybody dies
In defense of the cruise industry, the number of people who die while on a cruise is quite small, probably about the same as the number of people who die licking stamps. tracks this sort of thing and list Cruise and Ferry Passengers and Crew Overboard. Since 2000 the number they report is 164 people. That’s out of an estimated 83 gazillion people who have taken a cruise and lived to tell about it. The cruise line with the most people overboard? No, not the Funships of Carnival Cruise Line but Royal Caribbean according to CruiseJunkie.

Is there hope for me?

If all this has you a bit worried about your upcoming cruise-of-a-lifetime and you don’t want it to be the last, following some simple safety tips will probably reduce the odds of dying on your cruise.

  • Watch the drinking– As noted here, alcohol and/or drugs are a common ingredient in the recipe for death by cruise ship. Its really easy to get loaded on a cruise with crew members walking around with trays of drinks that you don’t even have to carry cash to buy. Going ashore in Mexico is not like going to your favorite local Mexican restaurant. They play by different rules and not one bar will be held accountable for selling you too much liquor like they might stateside.
  • Be medically responsible- Tell your travel agent or the cruise line in advance of any existing medical conditions you may have no matter how small. Once on the ship, pay a visit to the ships infirmary to be sure they got that information and to put a face with it. Later, if you have to call about a problem, odds are someone you met will answer. Medical professionals naturally “size up” people when they meet them then note differences if they meet again.
  • Don’t go if you don’t want to– Going along on a cruise vacation because that is what the rest of the family or group wants to do is not a good idea if you too are not into it. This is not like a theme park ride. This is a floating city and a closed environment you can not walk away from. That can lead to all sorts of bad, negative things. What might have been a simple misunderstanding on land can become a major problem at sea resulting in really destructive behavior.

Death by cruise ship? It can be avoided pretty easily.

Flickr photo by Jemingway

Cruise with the stars, if you dare

Cruises come in all shapes and sizes. There are big ships, little ships, long cruises and short ones too. On board we find everything from fine dining to luxury bedding and a pampering staff. Some travelers are not interested in any of that though. They want the immersive experience that only a themed cruise can provide. Themed sailings featuring bands are popular with Captain Kid Rock leading the pack for at-sea metal entertainment. Let’s take a look at a couple of other themed cruises, perhaps a bit more subdued, coming up soon.

Sixthman, the people who bring us Kid Rock’s Chillin’ The Most Cruise, and the KISS Kruise have lined up award-winning actors Ernest Borgnine, Tippi Hedren, and Eva Marie Saint, along with distinguished filmmaker Norman Jewison who will set sail on the first-ever TCM Classic Cruise, a new, one-of-a-kind event taking place Dec. 8-12, 2011.

The four film legends will join Turner Classic Movies primetime host Robert Osborne, TCM weekend-daytime host Ben Mankiewicz and a bunch of classic-movie fans for the four-day voyage aboard Celebrity Millennium. While sailing from Miami to Key West and Cozumel, guests will enjoy a variety of movie-themed events including screenings, panel discussions, trivia contests and parties.

Also on the TCM Classic Cruise will be the Alloy Orchestra, a three-man musical ensemble that has written and performed live accompaniment to classic silent films for more than two decades.

Whatever your passion, odds are there is a themed cruise planned with you in mind. can help narrow down the list with a comprehensive searchable theme cruise web portal available on the internet.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is host to a cruise where guests can Dance With The Stars. Stacked on top of the regular cruise experience, those on board also get to see a private dance finale performance by star dancers Tony & Chelsie, dance parties with your fellow guests, Q&A sessions with Tony & Chelsie, photo and autograph sessions, welcome and farewell receptions and a bunch of Cruise with the Dance Stars’ goodies.

“Included in this amazing week of dance are exclusive master dance classes for all ability levels, dance parties, photo and autograph sessions, private theme parties, Q&A sessions, dining and socializing with fellow Dancing fans, not to mention a very exciting cruise vacation!” says

Expect to pay a premium price over and above what that sailing might normally sell for to cover onboard events, activities plus up-close-and-personal time with the stars. The Dance With The Stars cruise has prices starting at $1535 per person while today’s starting price for someone not included in the fun is $821. For some, that’s a steep premium to pay. For others, its worth every penny.

Hard rock, movie stars of yesteryear or dance stars of today, there is a theme cruise for everyone. If I had to guess who will be delivering the most bang for the buck, I’ll have to go with the Captain though.

No telling what he might think we should get included for that price.

Flickr photo by jimg944

Cruise lines loosen up, let guests in secret areas

Ever since the terrorist attack of 9/11 security has been tight on cruise ships, and rightfully so. As a great big floating hotel, ships are also great big floating targets. When it comes to security, cruise lines have an unwavering focus on protecting ships and passengers. Having made a higher level of security commonplace, cruise lines are once again opening doors that up to now have been locked tightly.

Below deck, backstage and behind “crew only” doors, the sophisticated operations of cruise ships have always been of interest to guests. Now, Royal Caribbean is granting access to those secret areas through an All Access Tour.

“The All Access Tour offers guests the opportunity to learn about what it takes on-board to deliver the world’s most contemporary vacation, also known as the Royal Advantage,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International.

Guests now have the option to visit behind-the-scenes operations spaces and meet key shipboard staff members on an escorted tour during their Royal Caribbean vacation. The All Access Tour will offer guests insight into the inner workings of some of the world’s largest cruise ships and be available fleet-wide.
“Our guests have always inquired into what happens behind the scenes and below deck” said Bauer, adding “We are glad to offer these really special guest tours into areas that are normally not accessible, escorted by staff members who explain the complex workings of running of the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ships.”

The $150 per person All Access Tour escorts guests into a variety of formerly “off limits” secret areas, including a visit to the bridge, galley, backstage of the main theater, engine control room and other behind-the-scenes operations areas that collectively create the best vacation experience and value for guests. At least one 3.5 hour All Access Tour will be offered on itineraries shorter than seven nights, and two tours offered aboard a seven-night or longer itinerary with additional tours added, based on demand.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean that is opening up areas not seen in a long time, Princess Cruises jumped in a while ago with their Bon Voyage Experience.

The program is a new twist on the departure celebration of bygone days, when friends and family would routinely come aboard to see off passengers. Because of increasingly tighter security procedures, this practice disappeared more than two decades ago, but Princess added it back last year, complete with lunch in the dining room and tour of the ship.

The Bon Voyage Experience enables passengers to extend an invitation to their guests to join them on-eboard during sailing day for a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and a souvenir photo. Passengers and their guests get VIP priority embarkation and will be able to spend about four hours together on the ship before it sets sail. The cost for the program is $39 per person, which can be applied toward a future Princess cruise.

Princess Cruises also offers an immersive cooking experience where guests go behind the scenes for a Chef’s Table program.

Galley tours
available during the quiet off-hours are one thing, the Chef’s Table experience is quite another. This program takes interested diners behind the scenes during the height of dinner preparation in a fully-functioning production kitchen where they’ll also enjoy Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a special multi-course tasting dinner paired with selected wines in the dining room.

Sister-line Carnival Cruise Lines does a Chef’s Table too. This one-of-a-kind culinary experience includes an exquisite multi-course dinner hosted by one of the line’s master chefs along with a private champagne reception and a personalized tour of the galley for $75 per person.

As cruise lines loosen up, if programming like this is cause for worry that someone would join the tour with a bomb and blow up the ship, forget it. There was an armed security guard along on the tour every step of the way.

Flickr photo by sketchyparrot

Cruise line art program builds on past, looks to future

In May of 2010, Royal Caribbean dropped Park West, the company that handles art auctions on most cruise ships ending their cruise line art program. In a post on his blog, the company’s president and CEO, Adam Goldstein, wrote at the time that the contract it had with Park West Art Services to run its auctions expired and that it was not going to renew. Now, continuing to focus on the arts, Royal Caribbean is relaunching its cruise line art program, capitalizing on their extensive fleetwide art collection Art on Royal, offering

“Royal Caribbean International has compiled one of the world’s largest private art collections, valued at $120 million, on display aboard our fleet of ships for our guests’ enjoyment,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International.

The new exclusive program is much more comprehensive and expands the breadth of onboard art-inspired events, with tours, seminars and auctions. Art on Royal integrates the entire onboard collection aboard Royal Caribbean’s fleet featuring Royal Art Icons, select artists among the entire Royal Caribbean Art Collection, and works by Royal Caribbean Signature Artists Romero Britto and Thomas Kinkade. This exclusive program, developed in partnership with Art Actually, was first piloted aboard Oasis of the Seas; is also currently aboard Adventure of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas; and will be available on most ships by the end of the year.

“Guests have always marveled at our art and many have inquired into how to purchase them” said Bauer. “Art on Royal will offer guests the opportunity to take home a lasting work of art as a memory of their cruise vacation, as well as provide a broad menu of enriching, art-inspired programs, featuring Royal Caribbean Signature Artists and Royal Art Icons pieces. This new art program is part of the Royal Advantage, Royal Caribbean’s commitment to deliver a compelling and most contemporary vacation experience.”

Already in place, The BRITTO Gallery aboard Allure of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas will soon to be added to Splendour of the Seas. The Thomas Kinkade Gallery aboard Mariner of the Seas features expressions of love, home, family, peace, community and the beauty of nature by one of the most collected living artists in history.

Through the unique Art on Royal program, guests have the opportunity to view and purchase a one-of-a-kind piece, as well as enjoy events on select sailings throughout the year. In addition, Art on Royal offers a range of gifts, souvenirs and high-valued originals, including limited-edition signed photography, prints and objects, one-off unique pieces, wall pieces and reliefs, miniatures, and artist commissions.

Art on Royal is managed by Art Actually and is inspired by the art that is on permanent display across the Royal Caribbean fleet. This extensive art collection has been compiled over a period of 20 years and contains thousands of unique art works by hundreds of established and emerging artists. The Royal Caribbean Art Collection is one of the largest private collections to be on display in its entirety on a constant basis.

Here is a sample of the artwork currently on display: