Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review

2013 - Cruise Line Woes

As the year draws to a close, we'll take a look at some of the headlines from the past year. The largest stories in the cruise industry involved disasters in the majority of the cases.

Silversea's Explorer No Match for Mother Nature

Silver Explorer departed Ushuaia, Argentina, in early January, for an 18-night cruise to Antarctica.On January 12th, somewhere between Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctica,  a wave came crashing into the ship's bridge injuring four crew members.   They were treated in the medical center onboard the vessel and according to Silversea Cruises all 133 guests and 113 crew are safe. The incident caused the current and next voyage to be cancelled.  Read more ...

Carnival Triumph Engine Fire
By Mike Brantley | mbrantley@al.com

A small engine fire broke out Sunday morning February 10, 2013, onboard Carnival Triumph while it was about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. Fortunately, there were no casualties or injuries however the ship was adrift for several days without power and hotel facilities functioning.

Carnival Triumph Arrives in Mobile 

More Engine Woes for Carnival

Just one month since the Carnival Triumph fire, which left the ship without power and stranded passengers for days, Carnival Corporation had yet another problem with power onboard one of their ships, Carnival Dream.  It was followed by propulsion problems on Carnival Legend.

Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill had launched a comprehensive review of its entire fleet, which may have been the reason these problems were discovered.   Eventually all these ships would return to service, but not without impacting passengers and Carnival's reputation.

Following the investigation of the Carnival Triumph's fire, several improvements were implemented causing a delay in the Triumph's return to service as well as the re-entry of Carnival Sunshine which was a complete makeover of Carnival Destiny. 

Read more about these stories:
To be fair, Carnival wasn't the only cruise line experiencing propulsion problems: Celebrity Millennium Itinerary Change

Grandeur of the Seas Fire
Fire Onboard Grandeur 
of the Seas

Early Memorial Day morning, a fire broke out onboard Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas while it was sailing in the Bahamas.  The fire caused extensive damage to the aft mooring deck of the ship as you can see in this image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the incident and the ship was diverted to Freeport in the Bahamas.   Passengers were awakened and instructed to go to their muster stations.  Read more ...

Severe flooding hits Europe Europe Flooding Impacting River Cruises
Worse flooding in 70 years hit parts of Central Europe contributing to at least 10 deaths and impacting River Cruising causing cancellations and itinerary changes.

Europe Flooding Impacting River Cruises

Lobsters Keep Cruise Ship from Entering National Park

Celebrity Xpedition Cruises Temporarily Suspended 

Probably the most bizarre causes of cruise itinerary cancellations in 2013 was due to the Galapagos National Park authorities suspending the ship's license when it was discovered that the ship was transporting frozen lobster out of season.  Read more ...

Unexpected Dry Dock Ends Alaska Sailing Season Early

Celebrity Millennium experienced mechanical problems since early August, resulting in the early termination of its latest cruise and cancellation of 4 sailings ending the Alaska sailing season early for the vessel. More details ...

Costa Concordia Parbuckling (Salvage Operations)

Costa Concordia Parbuckling
Costa Concordia Parbuckling (read more)
This image extracted from a live video of Costa Concordia's Parbuckling Procedure, which began mid-September in Giglio, shows the slow process of righting the vessel.

As of mid-December, the Concordia is stable and being winterized in preparation for the next phase, installation of the 15 sponsons that will be positioned on the starboard side (land side) and the remaining 4 on the right side (sea side) in order to proceed with the refloating phase and have the wreck ready for towing by the end of June 2014.  We will continue to provide updates in our Costa Concordia Salvage Begins article.

As 2013 ends, Captain Schettino is still on trial,  salvage operations are on hold for the winter, and costs are mounting with predictions for insurance payments to exceed $2B.

Cruise Lines Respond to Typhoon Haiyan Disaster

Super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale, struck central Philippines early  Friday November 8th with sustained winds estimated at 195 mph (315 kph) by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Many governments and organizations came to the aide of the people of Philippines in the wake of the storm.   Among them were several cruise lines who employee many Filipinos on their staffs, many of whom have been away from their families and friends for many months.  This is a hard time for those separated from their loved ones. More Details ...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

CDC Travel Watch for St Martin

CDC Fact Sheet (click for info)
 Chikungunya in Saint Martin (Caribbean)

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 10 cases of the virus in St. Martin.

The virus is spread by bites from infected Aedes mosquitoes.  There is no vaccine to protect against the virus, so travelers should take protective action to avoid getting mosquito bites.

According to the WHO publication, here is how travelers can protect themselves.

Prevent mosquito bites:
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
  • Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
    • DEETExternal Web Site Icon (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon)
    • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
    • IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.

Protection is needed all day long since these mosquitoes can bite during the day and night, inside or outside, and can usually be found around buildings in urban areas.   St. Martin isn't the only area that is at risk currently.   Infected mosquitoes can also be found in Africa, Asia, and islands in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. 

CDC Travelers' Health

Before you travel, check the CDC site for more about this story and other information.  (click image on left)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dining at Sea Part 2

Norwegian Jewel Garden Cafe Norwegian Jewel Garden Cafe
Welcome Aboard

You've just gotten onboard your ship and you discover that it will still be some time before your cabins are ready.   But not to worry, the crew has gotten a buffet lunch ready for you to enjoy while you wait.

There isn't a set menu on cruise lines, but you'll usually find a wide variety of menu items to chose from.  Usually you'll be able to have soup and salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and other fast food items.   There will be several entrees to select from usually including some kind of carved meat such as beef, turkey, or ham.

You might find some ethnic dishes such as Mexican or Asian.   If you are looking for something lighter, you may find sandwiches ready made or made to order.

Finish your meal with some dessert treats such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, cakes, cookies and other baked treats. 

If you have food allergies, the Maitre d' will be able to assist you.

Garden Cafe

We've just returned from a Seminar at Sea onboard Norwegian Jewel, so we've included images we took during our cruise. You've already discovered that you can have your welcome aboard lunch in the Garden Cafe, but did you know that you can start your day with breakfast there and even have a more casual dinner there as well.

One night during our cruise they had a pig roast for the main carving item.   That brought back memories of our very first cruise on Yankee Trader, a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise where that was our Captain's Dinner Party.

Next we'll look at some of the more formal dinner settings, such as the traditional dining room.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham at Sea with Dr. Seuss

One ship – two ship – red ship – blue ship

It’s Dr. Seuss on a cruise ship. Yes you heard right, Dr. Seuss of Green eggs and Ham fame is coming to a Carnival ship near you.

Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled an exclusive partnership with Dr Seuss Enterprises to bring the beloved children’s brand to the lines fleet of 24 ships. In an industry first, the Carnival Seuss at Sea program will offer a variety of exciting and immersive on board youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences featuring the beloved characters and words of Dr. Seuss.
Coming to Carnival Ships 
Starting 2014

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast in the main dining room with – you guessed it – Green Eggs and Ham; moose juice and goose juice along with fruit and pancake stacks, funky French toast and more. The wait staff will be dressed in Dr. Seuss inspired uniforms along with the Cat-in-the-hat; Thing 1; Thing 2 and of course Sam.This fantastic offer occurs on the first sea day of each cruise and will be available for $ 5.00 per guest.

Every ship in the Carnival fleet starting with Carnival Splendor in February of 2014; continuing into 2016 with the newest ship - Carnival Vista when it enters service will have classic books, toys and themed activities for children to enjoy. There will special showings of our favorite movies –“The Cat in the Hat”; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on the giant screen as part of the cruise line’s Dive-In Movies.

On Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista, there will be a Dr. Seuss Bookville facility – a unique and dedicated Seuss-themed play space featuring iconic d├ęcor, colors, shapes and funky furniture.

Stay tuned for further updates regarding this great addition to the Carnival family.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dining at Sea - Part 1

What's Your 
Favorite Food 
on a Cruise

Whether you have cruised before or not, I'm sure you are aware that there's plenty of great food to be had on a cruise ship.  The first thing you'll find when you get onboard is that your cabin is not ready, but don't worry, the buffet is open and ready to serve you.  But that is just the beginning of what lies ahead.   We'll take you on a culinary journey onboard several cruise ships over several posts.  If you can't wait, we've posted some similar stories previously as well.

Myth #4 – All There is to do is Eat – I’ll Gain Weight

While it is true that there are several dining options on every cruise, we've examined this myth about nothing to do but eat previously.  Now, let's focus on the second part of that myth - that you'll gain weight.

It is possible that you could gain weight on a cruise, but if so, that will not be the cruise line's fault. There are healthy menu options on the main dining menus and while not every venue serves food for the health conscious, there are plenty of options for you to chose from.  In addition, there are full service health and fitness facilities on each ship so that you can continue your exercise routine.

One of the things the cruise line pays close attention to are any dietary requirements of their passengers. 

We took this picture during a galley tour on Azamara Journey.  The special requests consist of some religious requests, because it was during Jewish holidays, and also some specific ingredients that needed to be avoided for another passenger.

Be sure to let you cruise specialist know if you do have any special requirements so that it can be noted on your reservation and advance preparations can be made if necessary.

What's for Dinner 

You might want to start with our previous article


In addition, we've started a new Pinterest Board where we'll be sampling some of the food and venues that we've had the pleasure of dining at in the past.


Friday, November 22, 2013

What Does The Fish Say

You Won't Hear These Fish But They Have 
Something to Say

If you've ever been confused about which way forward and aft are on your Norwegian Cruise Line ship, these fish can tell you which way to go. The fish are swimming towards the forward (bow) of the ship. So when you step outside your cabin or turn down the corridor, just check the direction of the fish relative to the location on the ship that you want to go.

Finding Your Way Onboard

As ships get larger and more complex, it can be confusing to get from one location to another.   The cruise lines have employed various technologies to make finding your way a breeze.   The best improvement is the "way finder" which was introduced on Royal Caribbean Oasis and Allure of the Seas.  This touch screen allows you to map your route, find your current location, find out what's currently happening and much more.  They are located throughout the ship nearby elevators.

Digital signage is a big advancement which is being adopted on other ships and cruise lines.   Read this article to find out about the largest ship afloat: Navigating the Allure of the Seas

This is one of the features included in the Royal Advantage upgrades fleetwide.
What to Do 

While navigation is an important capability with the digital signs, equally important is helping you plan your day. On Disney Dream for example, you can find hours of operation and movie selection for Buena Vista Theatre, you can learn about It's a Small World Nursery and their hours of operation, and find out when and where your favorite Disney characters will be making an appearance.

When & Where to Eat

The first to pioneer relaxed dining times was Norwegian Cruise line with their Freestyle Dining program.   At first you'd have to call to find out if there was availability, but they were among the first to implement digital touch screens to assist you in planning your meals.

These are just a few of the ways you can use to navigate the cruise ships of today.  We'll complete the story in another article.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Find Your Beach - The Baths

The Baths 
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Are you looking for a unique beach to enjoy during your vacation?  If so, The Baths, on the island of Virgin Gorda among the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean my be just the spot for you.

One of the most famous and popular beach areas in the Caribbean can be found here in the BVI.  Large volcanic boulders populate the sandy beaches, forming natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea.    There's no other place quite like it on earth.  You'll want to spend hours there swimming, snorkeling, and exploring these amazing rock formations.   

Top of The Baths

If you are spending the day there, you'll want to head to the hill overlooking the beach area where you'll find the Top of the Baths Restaurant.  There is also a gift shop and lounge for you to explore while taking in the beauty of this area dotted with unique geometric shapes.

You'll enjoy a panoramic view of the British Virgin Islands from this vantage point.

Be sure to wear proper footwear for the hike to the beach.  Once arriving at the beach you will find some lockers that can be rented.  As you can see from the photo above, there are even some tight spaces that you can attempt to navigate along the way.

With the holidays approaching you might not be able to grab your swimsuit and head to the British Virgin Islands, so until you can go there in person ...  Enjoy your virtual tour of The Baths - Virgin Gorda (31 photos)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Orleans Welcome for Carnival Sunshine

Naming Ceremony

Back in May, the Carnival Sunshine emerged from dry-dock after the $155m refurbishment of the Carnival Destiny which brought new features, such as the new dining options and waterpark to what is now known as Carnival Sunshine.

The ship was sailing in Europe until this past weekend when it arrived in New Orleans which will be its new home through May 2014.

Farewell Destiny Hello Sunshine

On Sunday, Lin Arison, wife of the late Ted Arison, Founder of Carnival Cruise Line, named the ship following an event that paid homage to the arts.   About 600 people were in attendance for the
performance by YoungArts, which included jazz classics, tap-dancing and modern dance.  

On stage in the Liquid Lounge theater, Arison, along with Sunshine Captain Giuseppe Giusa, pulled a ribbon attached to an oversized replica of a Champagne bottle -- the crowd then watched on video monitors as the real thing smashed on the hull of the ship as is the nautical tradition.
Carnival's Senior Cruise Director John Heald recaps the Carnival Sunshine's naming ceremony in this video:
Senior Cruise Director 
John Heald Tours 
Carnival Sunshine

How do you breath new life into a 17 year old cruise ship?  
Watch these videos as Senior Cruise Directory John Heald takes you on a guided tour of the changes made to what was previously known as Carnival Destiny.  You will be amazed at the transformation.  It's just as good as having a brand new ship introduced to the fleet and it becomes more cost effective.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tropical Storm Melissa in Atlantic

Tropical Storm Melissa

Tropical Storm Melissa

Tropical Storm Melissa formed in the Central Atlantic.  The storm is brought strong gale-force winds to parts of the Azores.

Storm Melissa
1100 PM AST THU NOV 21 2013
NEAR 50 MPH...85 KM/H...

LOCATION...41.5N 29.0W

1100 AM EDT MON NOV 18 2013

1100 AM AST WED NOV 20 2013
1145 AM AST THU NOV 21 2013
1100 PM AST THU NOV 21 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Norwegian Getaway Conveyance

Norwegian Getaway Conveyance   Courtesy Meyer Werft
Ems Conveyance of Norwegian GETAWAY
Papenburg - Eemshaven | November 14/15, 2013 

A schedule can be found here

On 2 November 2013 the 146,600-gt cruise ship Norwegian GETAWAY, whose construction has taken merely 12 months, floated out of MEYER WERFT's covered building dock II. Weeks prior to that the shipyard was busy conducting extensive tests and machinery trials.  Following the float-out more tests were carried out in the harbour and the ship was berthed alongside the yard's outfitting pier.   

Norwegian Getaway will sail a 10-night Transatlantic in January 2014 from Southampton, England to New York.  Starting in February, the ship will be home-ported in Miami and will be sailing 7-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries.   For more information about ship and schedules (click here). 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cruise LInes Respond to Typhoon Haiyan Disaster

Karen L. Nyberg, an astronaut aboard the International 
Space Station captured this photo of Super-Typhoon Haiyan 
from space on Nov. 9, 2013. Credit: NASA/ISS/Karen Nyberg
Super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the U.S. Saffir-Simpson scale, struck central Philippines early last Friday morning with sustained winds estimated at 195 mph (315 kph) by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Initial reports estimated that as many as 10,000 people were killed and thousands injured by the powerful storm.  Philippines President Benigno Aquino III is now quoted as saying the initial estimate was "too much".

Many governments and organizations are coming to the aide of the people of Philippines in the wake of the storm.   Among them are several cruise lines who employee many Filipinos on their staffs, many of whom have been away from their families and friends for many months.  This is a hard time for those separated from their loved ones.

Footage of Super Typhoon Haiyan from the International Space Station 
At the time of this writing, we are aware of the following cruise lines that have made statements and offered support.  The lines have all pledged financial support and are setting up means for passengers to contribute onboard the ships as well. 
MIAMI – November 11, 2013 – Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) will join humanitarian relief efforts in response to the catastrophic damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the company announced.

Our thoughts go out to those affected by the typhoon in the Philippines. We are working with World Vision to provide humanitarian relief. Learn more and find out how you can help: http://bit.ly/16Z6xiZ

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara passengers can contribute online at worldvision.org/royalcaribbean and www.worldvision.org/azamaraclubcruises. The company said its efforts to help the people of the Philippines would total $1 million.
Everyone at Norwegian Cruise Line is truly saddened to hear of the significant devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our crew members from the Philippines who have been impacted.

We have been in constant contact with our partners in Manila, who are actively reaching out to contact crew members and their families ..
See More

All of us at Norwegian Cruise Line are truly saddened to hear of the significant devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our crew...Continue Reading ...
MIAMI, Nov. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Carnival Corporation & plc, its 10 cruise brands and the Carnival Foundation will team up with the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami HEAT in making a pledge to donate at least $1 million to support relief efforts in communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.  Miami HEAT owner Micky Arison is also the chairman of Carnival Corporation & plc. 

"All of us at Carnival and the Miami HEAT extend our deepest sympathy to the Philippines and its people," Arison said. "The typhoon in the Philippines has caused massive destruction, and is having a tragic impact on people and families, including those members of our extended Carnival family who reside in the region. We are in the process of evaluating a variety of worthy organizations that are doing fantastic work in the Philippines. In addition to providing financial support for relief efforts, our collective thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have been impacted."
Continue Reading...

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Many members of the Costa family are from the Philippines, and to support them during this difficult time we will be donating $100,000 to help our Filipino crew members, their families and friends.
All of our crew continue to appreciate your heartfelt messages regarding Typhoon Haiyan concerns. To date, we don’t have any verified info re damages, injuries or fatalities related to our crew, but admittedly communication is still difficult in some areas. NYK-FIL, our Philippines manning & recruiting agency, is helping crew with communications and locating family members, as well as reaching ...See More
More Links:

Philippines Government Gazette

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Filipino community currently in the country, on cruise ships, or elsewhere across the globe. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Large Ships Banned from Venice Lagoon

Cruise Ship
2014 & Beyond

Shortly after the Concordia disaster, the government of Italy and various organizations rekindled their efforts to restrict cruise traffic in the Venice Lagoon.   A law was passed that banned large cruise ships from passing close to Italian shores.  It was to be a countrywide restriction, but due to the large tourism industry in Venice, the law was suspended temporarily.

Effective November 2014

According to the press reports out of Italy, officials have now banned large cruise ships (over 96,000
tons) from the Venice Lagoon starting in November, 2014.  This doesn't mean that cruise ships won't be visiting Venice, but rather cruise ship traffic will be rerouted perhaps through the Contorta Sant'Angelo Canal, which is farther away from the best-known parts of the city.

This scene, taken during our Mediterranean cruise which included Venice, will be a thing of the past.  Until that time, we highly suggest you take advantage of cruises that include a stop in Venice and be sure to get up early as the ship sails into the lagoon.

Starting January 2014

Even before the ban goes into effect late next year, there are other restrictions that will begin starting at the beginning of the year.  The number of cruise ships 40,000 tons or more sailing in Venetian waters must be reduced to 20 percent of the current volume.  That limit means no more than 5 cruise ships over 40,000 tons would be in port on any given day during the cruise season.

Cruise lines will continue to include Venice in their itineraries, but they will have to make alternative plans, perhaps including tendering, in order to make that possible.   What will be gone however is the sail by of attractions such as Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Square.   When that is in effect, we suggest that you be sure to take a water taxi so that you are still able to see the city from the water.  That is a perspective that is one you will cherish forever.

We have been following this developing story for some time now.  We've included links to some of our previous articles.  Also, be sure to visit our post, Diary of Cruise with Chris to Greek Isles, for more information about Venice and ports that we visited.

Related Blog Posts:

Future of Cruise Ships in Venice
Concordia Disaster Rekindles Venice Restrictions
Sailing Into Venice by Cruise Ship

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tropical Storm Sonia Keeps 2013 Season Going

   Tropical Storm Sonia

  Tropical Storm Sonia

Tropical Storm Sonia
200 PM PDT TUE OCT 15 2013


Storm Archive    Graphics Archive
A new tropical depression formed on Friday southwest of Mexico and strengthened into Tropical Storm Sonia early Sunday morning.
Not the storm you are looking for?  Click Image or Here
LOCATION...17.7N 117.5W

 Historical Data:
200 AM PDT FRI NOV 01 2013
100 AM PST SUN NOV 03 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

AquaDunk on Disney Magic

Courtesy Disney Cruise Line (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
Make a Splash on Re-imagineered
Disney Magic

AquaDunk on the Disney Magic is a thrilling new three-story body slide that begins with a surprise launch when the floor beneath guests’ feet opens like a trap door. The drop sends them on an exhilarating, swift and splashy ride in a translucent tube that extends 20 feet over the side of the ship.

Courtesy Disney Cruise Line (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
 The Disney Magic has just emerged from dry dock and is sailing, for the first time ever, from Miami, Florida to tropical locales like Grand Cayman, the Bahamas and beyond!

Know Before You Go

Guests must be at least 48" or taller to ride AquaDunk. Please note that the slide's entry capsule may prohibit Guests of certain body sizes or those weighing more than 300 lbs. from riding. Operating hours are likely to vary, so once you're onboard, check the Personal Navigator—the Disney Cruise Line daily newsletter detailing all there is to see and do—for the most accurate operating times.

Read more about the enhancements planned:

The AquaDunk is just one of the many changes onboard the re-imagined Disney Magic, which has emerged following the completion of its dry-dock in Spain this month.

To learn more about the changes and see an album with the Disney Imagineers renderings as well as some additional images, become a fan on our Facebook Page and click the Disney Link on our Welcome Page.

Click on this image to go there now.

The newly re-imagined Disney Magic is now sailing from Miami. Enjoy 3-, 4- and 5-night Disney Cruise Line sailings to the Bahamas, or 5-night Western Caribbean cruises, all departing from this vibrant South Florida city. Explore the Everglades by airboat, stop by Little Havana, soak up the sun on South Beach and more!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day Part 2

Evening Before Debarkation

Most cruise lines now offer an "Easy Walk-off" option for those that don't have a lot of luggage, or for those that have early flight arrangements.  It is important to note that if you plan to use this method, you must be able to handle your entire luggage on your own. The crew will not be allowed to assist you.

For those that want to avail themselves of the normal process, bags must be packed and placed outside your cabin by the stated deadline.   This is usually shortly after late dining is completed.

Plan for What You Need in Morning

If you attended the cruise director's talk, he may have told you stories of passengers forgetting that they would need clothes in the morning and having to walk off the ship in a towel.  This may sound silly, but you do need to think about what items (clothing, toiletries, medicines, etc.) that you'll need in the morning.

We always have at least one carry-on bag with us so that we'll have a place to put our sleepwear, shavers, 3-1-1 bags with all our toiletries, and souvenirs that we don't want to pack in our larger suitcase.  Of course, you'll need your passports and other important travel documents with you as well.  Pack your large suitcase(s) and also have your carry-on packed, or at least know what will go in them, before placing the bags to be picked up outside your cabin.

Cruise Isn't Over Until 
the Paperwork is Done

Before retiring to bed, we suggest that you fill our your U.S. Customs Declaration Form and place it together with your passports.  Only one form is needed per family that are traveling and living together back home.   You'll need to know how much you spent in port and on the ship for things like souvenirs, jewelry, liquor, and clothing.   Anything that you purchased and are bringing off the ship must be counted.  You will have an allowance per family and the good news is that for things like liquor, your children count in determining the allowance.

Since the morning is an early one (usually all guests must be out of their cabins before 8 AM) you'll want to complete this the night before.  Doing so will allow you time for breakfast and a smooth, hassle free departure.
Once Docked, Crew  No Longer in Charge

Disembarkation is controlled by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection.  You'll find that there are several areas of the ship that will be blocked off and traffic patterns are strictly enforced.  You don't want to attempt to enter a controlled area.   It is for this reason that waiting areas are suggested by the crew in the instructions.   Don't proceed to the disembarkation point until your luggage color is called.  This will help keep the process moving for all passengers.

Go have breakfast and try to keep your entire traveling party together.   This way when an announcement is made for your luggage tag group, you will be able to disembark the ship.
There is a definite order of disembarkation and that will be listed in the instructions.  You might want to keep a copy of that handy so that you can tell when it is close to your time to disembark.  That allows you time for that one last bathroom break for example.

Note that the times listed for debark time are only approximate.   It is possible that the process may be halted several times to allow for crowd control.  There are a maximum number of passengers that can be in the terminal at a given time and as we mentioned, this is strictly under the control of the CBP.   Therefore, if there any doubt that you'll need more time, take the earlier tag when picking your luggage tags.

Getting to the Airport

Cruise lines sell "transfers" which can be prepaid or purchased on board the ship up to the stated time.  This is the easiest method for transferring to the ship because the ship's personnel will direct you to waiting buses for the trip to the airport.  You'll be amongst the earlier groups to depart the ship as well (ordered by flight times).  Caution: this could be a higher cost that arranging your own transportation, but it typically be the easiest.

Your travel professional can go over the various options applicable for your pier and airport location and can assist in booking the arrangements with the cruise line or other provider.   Remember, to be sure to allow sufficient time for the debarkation process.

Post-Cruise Tours

In many ports it is possible to book a post-cruise tour through the cruise line.  This is very similar to booking transfers but in addition to the transportation to the airport, you will also see one or more local sites.   This is a great option for those that booked later flights.  Consult the shore excursion sight before your cruise or during to determine your options here.  

  • Pack your luggage early so that you can enjoy your final evening onboard
  • Leave clothing and other essentials for the morning
  • Complete your Customs paperwork before retiring for the evening
  • Pre-book transfers, tours, or know options for transfers to airport in advance
  • Have a nice breakfast and listen for announcements
  • When your luggage group is called, gather your belongings and head for the debark point
  • Planning will help keep the stress levels down
  • Also see Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day (Part 1)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Surviving Cruise Debarkation Day

Ending Cruise on a High 

The final full day of the cruise has arrived and fortunately it is a sea day.  That means you don't need to rush breakfast and get ready to go into port.   You plan to take full advantage of the ship and let any remaining stress melt away.

Last night you didn't have time to read the daily paper, so you pick it up and start to see what activities are planned by the staff.   Scanning through the list of morning activities, you see one that catches your eye ... "Debarkation Information - hosted by Cruise Director".  There is a note that says, one person from each family should attend.   Wait, what - I'm on vacation - what do you mean?


Especially if you are a cruise rookie (first time cruiser) it is highly advisable that you attend any briefing offered by the Cruise Director or staff.   This will make your life much easier, since they will provide all the information you need and answer any questions.   On most ships, this information is disseminated in multiple ways, so if you have some conflict, you can skip the session.

For example, there should also be more information either in the daily paper or as a supplement covering everything you need to disembark the ship.  Often the debarkation talk is recorded and available for viewing on the ship's TV station during the rest of the day.

Flight Times Dictate Departure
Just Say When

When you listen to or read the information about debarkation, you'll soon discover that by mid-morning everyone is expected to be off the ship so that the crew can welcome aboard the new set of passengers.  There is a lot of activity that happens to make this possible.


You may not realize it, but your departure time was determined by you when you booked your trip and made travel arrangements.

How's that you ask?   When you picked your return flights, or made other arrangements for your return home, you determined the time that you needed to be off the ship in order to make your flight on time.   Upon leaving the ship you'll need to collect your bags, process through Customs, and board a taxi, shuttle bus, or other means of transportation to your departure destination (airport, bus, train station, rental car etc.).

How much time do you need?

There are a lot of variances in terms of when the cruise line calls your luggage group and when you are outside with bags in hands.   It may take some time to catch an elevator and actually get to the disembarkation point on the ship.  Once through there, it's usually a walk along a ramp, down the escalator or elevator to the lower level, where you'll find your baggage sorted by color tag.  There are porters to assist you in finding your bags and getting you through Customs.

In most cases, the pier isn't far from the airport, so you may have about 30 minutes to an hour for transfer time from pier to airport.  There are several ways to get to the airport, but for now, let's just assume you need to factor in some travel time.    Since you will be checking bags, and there will be several hundred or more of you arriving at the airport at the same time, you'll need at least 1.5 to 2 hours for checking in and clearing airport security.

The rule of thumb is that for flights before noon, you'll want to be in one of the first groups off the ship but for later flights you can take your time.

Key Take-A-Ways

  • When booking your return flights, be sure to factor in the time it will take to disembark and travel to the airport
  • Ask your travel professional for guidance before making arrangements
  •  It is best to book flights later in the day to avoid having to rush - why add stress to your vacation after you have finally started to relax
  • Be sure to attend any information talks and/or read and follow printed instructions
In Part 2, we'll talk more about preparation the night before debarkation as well as what to expect in the morning.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Memories From Our First Cruise

 Not Exactly the Ritz

We arrived at the pier for our stow away night aboard the Yankee Trader and were shown to our cabin.  As you can see from this picture, our beds were actually twin bunk beds.  

Not shown is the washroom which consisted of a shower, toilet, and sink  "all-in-one".   The one thing that stands out from our memories is that we had a problem one day, when the shower would not turn off, and had to summon someone to resolve the situation.   

Classic Wooden Ship

Notice the beautiful wood above, which is something that we vividly remember about our cabin and public areas of the ship. Here is another example (left) of the beautiful wood on the ship.   
This may be the only time in our 30+ years cruising where we had a cat as a member of the crew. The cat was quite content sleeping on one of the benches on the main deck.

Working With Crew

The Barefoot Windjammer cruises were structured for two different types of passengers - those that wanted to actively participate in the sailing adventure and those that were content to be more passive.

One night, the dinner menu was quite simple - it was the catch of the day.   That meant that the crew, and any passengers that were interested, could fish for our dinner.   Here are some of the fish that were caught.

As mentioned in our previous column about our first cruise, the Captain's dinner consisted of a pig roast with all the trimmings.   Certainly, food was an integral part of the experience even on our first cruise.

The Long Good-bye

One of the benefits and downfalls of cruising on a small ship is that you meet your fellow cruisers and build relationships during the cruise.   It is therefore hard to say good-bye at the end of the voyage.  

As the sun sets on the Fantome, which was sailing the same itinerary with us,  we conclude our story about our first cruise. 

Our Very First Cruise
Entertainment on Our First Cruise

 Making Memories

The memories from this trip have not faded over the years.  Our love for cruising and the sea began that week.   We love sharing our experiences and knowledge with others. 

If you have not taken a cruise before, consider that sometime in your future.  Perhaps you too can have lasting memories like these.

Thank you to the crew of Yankee Trader - if any of you read this story, we'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Entertainment on Our First Cruise

Windjammer Barefoot Cruise
Yankee Trader

Our first cruise was a 3-day trip to the Bahamas on a small sailing vessel which could travel under mast or by motor.  See our previous article, Our Very First Cruise, for the beginning of the story.


Unlike the modern cruise lines that have all sorts of entertainment from small lounge shows to Broadway-style musicals, nightly entertainment would be provided by the Captain, crew, and passengers.  The "stage" was the upper deck which also served as the main dining room, bar, and meeting area.

In the center image at  the top left is our captain with his magical elephant.   You can't see it in the picture, but there is one of the passengers laying on the ground and about to get a surprise shower from the elephant.   Props for the entertainment was whatever you could find onboard the ship including towels and other supplies.   We had some creative crew and passengers.

Another event was the rowing contest where all the passengers grouped on the wooden platform beneath the main mast (their row boat).   I'm not certain they made much progress "sailing" but the beer that was flowing certainly kept the spirits high as they fought the high waves.

Thanks for Starting Our Amazing Journey

Captain Jon S. Helmick was the skipper on our first cruise.   We owe a great debt of gratitude to him and the rest of the crew for making our first cruise so special.   It is now more than 30 years since that first voyage and we can remember the events as if they happened yesterday.  That certainly says something about the dedication of that crew to providing a great experience for their guests.

We hope that your first cruise is as memorable as ours.   And for those that have been sailing for years, we hope that you have many fond memories like the ones we've shared here.

You haven't lived until you've Cruised ....