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Saturday, September 30, 2006
From the passport department: The US Congress has approved an extension to the deadline for US citizens to have a passport when reentering the US from certain western hemisphere countries. The deadline has now been extended June 1, 2009. 

Friday, September 29, 2006
From the following the rule department: Finally, there is a passenger who is willing to follow the rules when the doctor suspected Norovirus, even if it means the world is deprived of its next star. The more amazing thing in this humorous Minneapolis Star Tribune article is that he doesn't even mention asking the cruise line for a refund.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
From the interesting observation department: With the number of large ships now under construction, or about to be, every few days comes another announcement that a contract has been awarded to provide this or that for a ship. Last week Kone Elevators announced they would be providing elevators for Royal Caribbean's Genesis ships. This week the Wartsilla Corporation announced they had been chosen to provide the engines for Celebrity's Solstice-class vessels. On each vessel there are dozens of subcontractors building specific parts of the ship.
   A couple of weeks ago while at a shipyard we were handed a press kit that showed MSC Fantasia-class ships will be supplied by some 65 subcontractors having 105 different contracts. As we were leaving the shipyard, and driving past rows of huge steel parts awaiting assembly into ships, a journalist friend of mine, Doug Ward, turned to me and said, "I just realized that shipyards no long seem to be shipbuilders. Instead they are specialists in putting together steel pieces and managing subcontractors." 

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
From the required reading department: New tax measures on cruise lines enacted by Alaskan voters will be passed through to passengers in the form of higher fares and taxes on their upcoming cruises. If passengers are willing to pay more to cruise to Alaska, it won't have any impact on the number of ships going to the Forty-Ninth State. If cruise lines have to roll back prices in 2007 to fill their ships, they will reduce capacity in 2008 and beyond, sending fewer ships to Alaska to match the demand at the higher prices. 
   Proponents of the measure told voters that won't happen; there will be just as many ships coming to Alaska in the future as there are currently. It's a shame Alaska's voters couldn't have read an article in the Portland Press Herald before casting their votes; it would have given them something to think about, in case the ships don't come back. The article is describing their city when fewer ships are coming to call. A couple of years ago, their local government decided to save money by no longer marketing the city to cruise lines as a port of call. As a result, the city has fallen off the lines' radar somewhat, and fewer ships have scheduled calls there. Local merchants and tour companies are now feeling the impact and now understand how much of their economic fate is in the hands of the cruise lines. 

Sunday, September 24, 2006
From the history department: There is an interesting story in the New York Times this weekend. It's in the local section, so it may get overlooked by many across the country. Fifty years ago in July, SS Stockholm ran into Andrea Doria, sinking the Italian liner, killing 51 and slicing off its own bow. After the collision, Stockholm rescued hundreds and sailed with them into New York. (There is a great news photo in the Time article showing the ship arriving with its missing bow.) Stockholm was repaired and converted to a cruise ship, and now sails under the name Athena. Since it sails mainly in Europe, it made a rare visit to New York last week as chronicled in the Time article.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
From the putting the customer first department: Earlier this week in CND we reported that due to Hurricane Florence's path toward Bermuda, when the ships left port last weekend, Royal Caribbean had decided to send their Bermuda-bound ship to the Bahamas instead, but NCL decided to keep their two ships at sea until the storm passed, and then try to take them to Bermuda. In today's Royal Gazette, Bermuda's Tourism Minister, Ewart Brown, is heaping praise on NCL for "sticking to its normal schedule" and "showing confidence in Bermuda's tourism product." (Brown apparently doesn't realize the ships were a day late arriving, and the passengers did lose a day of their vacation in Bermuda.) It was a gamble for NCL, and they won, but Brown shouldn't be criticizing Royal Caribbean/Celebrity for doing what they thought was in the best interest of their customers. The company has been a long-time tourism partner of the island. In the CND article, Royal Caribbean said they had chosen to send their ships to the Bahamas based on the path of the storm and their experience with ports just after a hurricane had passed through. Not only are many of the tourism facilities not ready to provide their normal quality experience the day after a hurricane has hit, but it often takes a day or more to get the ports themselves open. (Surveys need to be done to see if channel markers have been moved, shoaling has occurred, debris is floating in the harbor or dock facilities have been damaged. Then the situations need to be corrected before ships can come in, and that often takes time.) As luck would have it, Bermuda didn't take as much of a direct hit as was forecast, and there was minimal damage, so it paid off for NCL, and their passengers exchanged only one day of port time for a sea day. If things had gone the other way, NCL's passengers may have ended up with only one day of port time, and possibly not even in Bermuda. Royal Caribbean decided to take the route that would give their passengers a week of sun and two port calls, just not the Bermudan ports they had planned on. 
   It was a judgment call on the part of both lines doing what they thought best. The cruise industry has grown, and most modern ships will no longer fit at Bermuda's prime ports, because Bermuda has not modernized their most-preferred ports to accommodate them. Consequently, there is no longer the demand for Bermuda's ports that there once was. Dr. Brown would be well-advised to stay on the good side of the few cruise lines the island has left that make multi-day calls, instead of "scheduling talks" when they decide to drop a call for the best interest of their customers. 

Monday, September 11, 2006
From the bigger and bigger department: A couple of years ago NCL CEO Colin Veitch stated that the post-Panamax vessel had clearly become the vessel of customer choice for cruising the Caribbean. With NCL's order late last week of two post-Panamax ships (their first) and option for another, the world's shipyards now have eighteen of the huge vessels on order. There are two more on option, which in today's market are almost always converted to orders. Construction began on MSC's first post-Panamax vessel on Saturday. Technically, they probably won't be "post-Panamax" for long, because Panama is on the road to expanding the Panama Canal to accommodate them, probably by 2014, only three years after the third NCL ship would be delivered. You can follow the industry's order book on the CND website. 

Thursday, September 7, 2006
From the dead on departure department: If nothing changes by an act of Congress, beginning on January 1, US citizens will need a passport to go on a cruise, so there's starting to be a steady stream of people applying. Of course, for many, that means getting a certified copy of their birth certificate. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get an early start, especially if you find you're dead. California's Daily Breeze reports that a local resident in anticipation of going on his cruise, went to the local courthouse and paid for a certified copy of his birth certificate. When it arrived in the mail a couple weeks later, it was marked "deceased." He eventually got it straightened out, but if he had waited until the last minute and was running short on time, he may not have made his cruise. (In other words, the moral of the story is get the birth certificate and passport right away; don't wait.) If he hadn't gotten it straightened out in time, we wonder if the cruise line would have refunded his deposit to his "widow." 

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
From the you just can't please some people department: ABC's "The View" was in the headlines today because outspoken Rosie O'Donnell joined the cast, but the ladies had a bigger surprise in store for the audience when they announced that everyone in the audience would be getting a free cruise, which will be a 2-night pre-inaugural cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas next May. The audience was going wild with excitement while the minute-long promotional spot about Liberty (that was run in exchange for the free cruises) was running, and it's questionable that most people jumping up and down realized it wasn't a week-long cruise to some exotic ports. As the audience settled down, Rosie had a surprise for Royal Caribbean executives when chided the line for making the give-away only a 2-night cruise and said for the length of the promotional spot, she thought everyone should get a longer cruise. The View has officially stepped out of its gracious age of innocence. 

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