Polo Anyone? A Quick Guide To The World-Class Sport

poloThe Miami Beach Polo World Cup is an annual event that draws players and spectators from around the world. Each year, more than 10,000 fans and competitors come from South America, Russia, Switzerland, Malaysia and other countries to be in and be seen at the world-class event. Done Miami-style, complete with fund-raising events, exclusive parties and fashion shows, tickets run up to $450 for a VIP pass. But unlike many other south Florida events, this one also has free general admission, enabling just about anybody to experience the Miami social scene.

Still, like experiencing other events while traveling, knowing a little of what polo is all about is not a bad idea.

Beach Polo is a team sport, played on horseback where winning means scoring more points (goals) than the other team. Goals are scored by driving the brightly colored, inflatable ball between goalposts. Each game has four, seven-minute periods called chukkers. Each team has three players and they change horses (polo ponies actually) after each chukker. Two umpires watch for fouls granting free hits. Fouls occur mainly when one player crosses another player who is following the ball on its exact line of trajectory.
While polo dates back 2,500 years, Beach Polo is a Dubai-created event that started in 2004, with the Miami Beach event beginning in 2005.

Actually two events, the Women’s Polo Cup takes place on Thursday, April 25, featuring eight women’s teams in a one-day series of round-robin championship matches.

The three-day men’s tournament runs Friday April 27 through Sunday April 29 with six teams that include some of the world’s top-ranked players. Sponsored by Argentinean sports and leisure clothing manufacturer La Martina, this year’s tournament will feature Miami’s DJ Irie, whose Irie Foundation will be an official beneficiary non-profit organization alongside Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.

Beach polo is a lot like arena polo, but other forms include cowboy polo, elephant polo, camel polo, cycle polo, canoe polo and kayak polo as we see in this video:




[Photo credit – The Polo Life]

Impact Of Sequester Cuts On Travel: Festivals Not So Festive

sequester cuts

Recent sequester cuts have had a big impact on travel in a number of ways. Cutbacks have resulted in everything from grounding the Navy’s Blue Angels at dozens of air shows around the country to turning Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental into a third world-like airport. Cuts to the budgets of national parks have popular attractions opening on a delayed schedule, closing visitor centers and operating without campgrounds.

But those who (still) work and operate facilities, festivals and events that would normally draw travelers from around the world are pressing on, promising to make the best of a bad situation.

A highlight, if not the main attraction, to Fleet Week at a number of major U.S. cities is a showcase of active duty military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations and brought to town for the event.sequester cutsA tradition of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard since 1935, Fleet Week began in San Diego with 114 warships and 400 military planes. Since then, annual Fleet Week events began in San Francisco, New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Seattle, Washington, includes fleet week during the annual Seafair. In Portland, Oregon, fleet week is part of the annual Portland Rose Festival.

The shows brought ships full of military personnel to town, as well as travelers who looked forward to tours of ships, military demonstrations and air shows, adding to local tourism revenue. But on the heels of the secretary of defense announcing that ships will not be visiting, show organizers are turning to a different focus.

“We’re all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units,” said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc., the non-profit organization that spearheads Florida’s Fleet Week Port Everglades, in this NBC Miami report.

The Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week event, still scheduled for April 29 through May 6, normally has hotels booked full and Florida highways clogged for a week. Organizers hope to keep the lion’s share of that activity by hosting a variety of other events.

Golf tournaments, a 5K race, major league baseball games, culinary competitions and deep-sea fishing will attempt to replace active-duty warships and the Blue Angels. Canceled ship tours will give way to honoring the active duty military of the United States Southern Command and Coast Guard District 7, both based in South Florida.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and event organizers are to be commended for pressing on. Still, this travel-affecting result of sequester budget cuts can’t help but make one wonder if there was not some other way to address this problem with the nation’s economy.

“No one can deny that we have passed through troubled years. No one can fail to feel the inspiration of your high purpose. I wish you great success,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 at the beginning of the first fleet week.

[Photo credit – Flickr user St0rmz]

A Tale Of Two Cruise Ships Under Construction

cruise ships

Coming up this spring, Princess Cruises and Norwegian cruise lines – two of the most popular cruise lines with mainstream cruise travelers – have new cruise ships coming out. Considering that both are under construction right now and both offer sister ships being built for later delivery, choosing one might be difficult for cruise travelers. Before we get too far down the road, let’s take a look at the two new ships, what they have to offer and how construction is coming along.

cruise shipsNorwegian Cruise Line has a whole lot of New Yorkers talking about new Norwegian Breakaway, and for good reason. To be based in New York City year-round, the 4,000-passenger ship has been customized for the New York market with everything from shops, restaurants and bars to Sabrett New York hot dog carts positioned around the ship.

Partnering with the New York City Rockettes (Godmothers of the ship), pop artist Peter Max (custom city skyline hull design) and others, Norwegian is making every attempt to pierce the New York market; it even set up “warming stations” around the city this winter.

That’s all in addition to some over-the-top features on the ship set to blow away other new builds that has everyone talking about this new Norwegian ship that will be sailing to Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

%Gallery-179356%An oceanfront boardwalk called the Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway will combine dining and drinking venues with entertainment and gaming. 678 Ocean Place will be a hub of activity spanning three decks that features seven more dining venues, 12 bars and lounges coupled with shops and other entertainment options.

Continuing what looks to be a pre-sold success story with Norwegian Breakaway, sister ship Norwegian Getaway will debut in 2014, claiming Miami, Florida, as its hometown. Embedding a South Florida theme in the new ship, Norwegian tapped David Le Batard (AKA the artist known as “LEBO”) to create art for the new ship’s hull. Set to debut in February 2014, we’ll have more on that one later.

First, here’s a gallery of photos featuring first-up Norwegian Breakaway, under construction:

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Royal Princess marks the first new build for the cruise line since 2008’s Ruby Princess, the last of Princess Cruises popular grand class ships. They built nine of those and already have a sister ship to Royal Princess in the works too.

Royal Princess
will be a careful evolution of the Princess product with a ship laid out in typical Princess patterns. Focusing on their mantra to let passengers “escape completely” Princess Cruises has designed a ship totally around that concept. It’s a success formula that has made Princess popular over the years and keeps travelers coming back for more.

But Princess goes a bit over the top themselves too, adding an over-the-water “SeaWalk” that will extend 28 feet over the side of the ship, offering views of the ocean 128 feet below off the ship’s starboard side. On the port side, a SeaView bar will be positioned to offer cocktails and some great views. Here is what that venue and others should look like when complete:

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Top-deck features are a focus of cruise ships industry-wide lately and Royal Princess is no exception. This Princess ship starts with a new adults-only pool surrounded by plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two more pools will flank a “tropical island” that will have pool seating by day then become a dance club with a dancing water and light show by night.

Next year’s Regal Princess will be a twin sister to 141,000 ton Royal Princess, complete with a central atrium Piazza area that is 50% larger area than previous versions and casual dining options that include an Italian gelateria, a seafood bar and expanded seating in the passenger-favorite International Cafe.

Under construction right now in Venice, Princess Cruises sent along these photos from the shipyard:

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We will be heading to Venice, Italy, at the end of March for a first-hand look at construction of Royal Princess in-progress. Stay tuned for updates.

So which ship to choose? Here are some points to consider:

  • The value is there for either ship. Both will stack up nicely compared to land vacations to the same places these ships sail, allowing passengers to unpack once but visit multiple destinations.
  • Norwegian Breakaway adds an additional choice, year-round for cruise travelers departing from the upper East coast, eliminating the need for airfare and sailing to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Florida.
  • Royal Princess will sail seven-night itineraries from Florida’s Port Everglades to the Eastern Caribbean from November 2013 through April 2014 after a Mediterranean season that begins June 9, 2013.
  • Traditional cruisers will find their dreams fulfilled on Royal Princess with standard features the line has become famous for – amped up for today’s traveler. Think: turbo Love Boat.
  • Norwegian Breakaway promises an entertainment experience as good if not better than the bar-raising elements added on their last new build, Norwegian Epic. Think: epic flavor, easy to swallow.

[Photo Credits- Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises]

Stunning Cruise Line Art, Both In And On Ships

cruise

Cruise lines traditionally devote a great amount of resources collecting art that will adorn the walls of individual staterooms and public spaces. Thoughtful collections help ship designers tie in a central theme that often runs throughout the interior of ships and sometimes on the exterior as well. It’s a high-stakes game of procurement and placement that can transform a ship into a floating display.

Not Your Mother’s Art
Travelers who have done a cruise vacation on any number of mainstream cruise lines know about art auctions on board. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Art auctions are a profitable revenue stream for cruise lines that entice participants away from the pool deck or casino with free champagne during the event. Called into question on numerous occasions, the value of art bought at sea is difficult to nail down and commonly appraised much lower on land.

Put that thought out of your mind. The cruise line art we’re talking about today is the real deal, featuring creations by top tier artists like Romero Britto, Thomas Kincade and Peter Max.

Bringing Big Names Along For The Ride
Partnering with obscure and well-known artists, works take the form of paintings, lithographs and sculptures ranging from the traditional to over-the-top custom pieces designed specifically for a certain ship.

Royal Caribbean brought Peter Max along for the ride on inaugural sailings of giant Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, and an on-board Britto store where works from Romero Britto are featured.

Thank cruise line art programs for sparking the idea of branding that has brought partnerships with celebrity chefs, big-name entertainment and normally land-based service providers to sea.

Not Just Inside The Ship Either
Norwegian Cruise Line announced recently that David Le Batard (AKA “LEBO” ) was chosen to create the hull art (pictured above) for the new 4000-passenger Norwegian Getaway to be based in Miami.

“Norwegian Getaway will be Miami’s ship and, therefore, we wanted to ensure that her hull was designed by an artist with strong ties to Miami and the Latin community,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer in a press release. “Having begun his career in South Florida, Dave is an artist that is entrenched here. His work adorns the city and I’ve learned that he is also a genuinely nice guy. He is a shining star in Miami, as well as the global art community.”

Similar to the close pairing of sister-ship Norwegian Breakaway to New York City, the cruise line is going down the same road with Norwegian Getaway hosting a South Florida theme. On Norwegian Breakaway, it was Peter Max designing hull art that features images of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

On Norwegian Getway, set to debut in February 2014, Batard will add images of a mermaid, sun, swirling waves, palm trees and pelicans to support the ship’s South Florida theme.

Art, The Experience
Also on the exterior of a ship, the imagineers at Disney Cruise Line took the ship’s satellite transmitters, normally an eyesore, and made them into something unique. On the top forward deck of the Disney Fantasy, Satellite Falls is a new Disney Cruise Line feature that adds “a gentle water curtain to one of the ship’s satellite transmitters,” says Inside The Magic of this video. “The surrounding area features a relaxing open deck with views of the front of the ship”




Celebrity Cruises takes art to unique places as well. When last year’s Celebrity Silhouette, sister-ship to Celebrity Reflection debuted, Gadling reported that Celebrity had commissioned Kurt Werner, the inventor of 3-D street art, to create an innovative art installation at the New York Stock Exchange. Stock Exchange employees had fun “relaxing” on the hammock and “grilling” on what was then the industry’s first outdoor, interactive grill restaurant, called The Lawn Club Grill.

Spare No Expense On Art
Setting sail this week for the first time, new Celebrity Reflection features a $4.1 million collection of art that in one way or another supports the “reflection” theme on the ship. Over 6,000 works make up the ship’s collection, part of the Royal Caribbean International company inventory that spans over 40 ships.

What goes into creating an at-sea art collection? Purchasing art works or commissioning specific works by international emerging, mid-career and established artists is key as we see in this video:




Engaging Passengers
Art runs through ships as an element of the cruise experience we don’t hear a lot about. Its there and those who take the time to look are often surprised by the captivating quality of works at sea. Also at sea, some lines engage passengers, teaching and challenging them to try something new, creating art of their own.

Celebrity Cruises has a hands-on program on their Solstice-class ships and others that have been “solsticized” adding popular features to older ships. The Art Studio, a new venue on The Lawn Club has along for the ride two artists-in-residence who offer hands-on classes in many creative arts. Master Artists from The ArtCenter South Florida also host art classes, lectures and demonstrations on topics ranging from jewelry making to sketching and painting.

Passengers on Princess Cruises can choose from about 20 courses per voyage from four core subject areas – Culinary Arts, Visual/Creative Arts, Photography and Computer Technology. Ceramics or pottery are popular with passengers who fire their creations on board to take home later. Digital travel photography and watercolor techniques are also offered.

Just about every major cruise line has an onboard art collection they are proud of and they want passengers to know all about it. Hosting tours, both with an art expert along and self-guided, cruise lines take passengers on a voyage within a voyage. Enabling those who appreciate fine art an additional at-sea experience, the art we find at sea adds an extra dimension worthy of our consideration.

[Photo Credit- Norwegian Cruise Line]