Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cruise Ships and Earth Day 2016

 Happy Earth Day 2016 
April 22nd

How Green are Cruise Ships?

Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide taking thousands of passengers to all parts of the globe.   There is growing concern that these floating resorts are polluting the waterways and air with all the waste that is generated by normal operations.

Polluted discharges (of sewage, grey water and oily bilge water) and air emissions are the chief sources of problems, but they also mark the biggest potential areas for improvement.

Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card

Friends of the Earth’s  annual  Cruise Report Card compares the environmental footprint of 16 major cruise lines and 167 cruise ships. The next report is due out shortly. View a PDF of the latest report card here.

The failures stem from not implementing equipment and procedures which would minimize pollution.  According to their website, the following determined the scores:
  • To determine a cruise line’s Sewage Treatment grade, we compared the number of cruise ships in the cruise line that have installed advanced sewage treatment systems against the total number of ships in the cruise line.
  • To determine the Air Pollution Reduction grade for each ship in a cruise line, only ships that dock at a port and plug in to available shoreside power hookups were graded. In addition, ships were given credit if they only utilize low sulfur fuels continuously at levels lower than required by international and U.S. law. 
  • To determine the Water Quality Compliance grade for ships operating in Alaska, we used 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 notices of violation issued for individual cruise ships to each cruise line by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Ships were given an "N/A" if they traveled to Alaska but avoided Alaska’s strong water quality standards by discharging outside of those protected waters.
  • To determine the Transparency grade for each cruise line we graded each line based on whether it responded to our 2014 requests for information regarding their environmental practices.
  • The grades for each of the four criteria were averaged to calculate the Final Grade for each cruise line.
 Protect the Environment for Future Generations

Most people that love to cruise also have an interest in protecting the environment for the future.   We want to continue our quest to see more of the world, but at the same time, want to make sure Mother Earth is around for generations to come.  So, what can we as individuals do?

The FOE suggests letting Congress know that we want them to support the Clean Cruise Ship Act.  For those that are interested (click the following links):  Tell Congress to Cleanup the Cruise Industry.    Learn more about the FOE.

Is There Any Good News in the Report Card?

I have to admit that my initial reaction to the report card was one of shock.   The majority of the cruise lines have announced initiatives to protect the environment.   You'll see signs posted in your cabin encouraging you to reuse towels, just like you see in hotel rooms on land.   I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they do intend to turn things around.   

When on a cruise ship, do your part by doing the little things:   reuse your towel,  don't throw anything overboard, or pollute in any other way.

We share this information, not to make any cruise line look bad, but rather to call awareness to a growing problem which can seriously impact all living things if left unchecked.  Thank you for reading this article and for doing your part to protect the environment.

Special thanks to the EPA and FOE for their efforts and for publishing the information which was the basis of this article.   See #EarthDayEveryDay on EPA website.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spend Your Tax Refund On Yourself

Have you had visions of Caribbean beaches and cruise ships in your dreams?  I'm sure that I'm not the only one that does...  

Are you are getting a tax refund?  Help the economy grow - spend some of your tax refund on yourself - on a cruise vacation.  If you've not been on a cruise before, now is the best time.

If you are like most Americans, when the economy took a turn for the worse a couple years ago, your vacation plans went out the window.   Consequently cruise prices have remained at pretty constant low prices, but are about to start increasing.   There are still several cruise line offers available for those that want to take advantage of the lower pricing.

How about Europe Instead?

Of course, you don't need to go to the Caribbean, and in fact, the best deals this summer are actually going to be on European cruise vacations.   Why is that you ask?    The cruise lines have record deployments in Europe this summer but the demand hasn't kept pace with the increased capacity.

That's not to imply that people aren't booking European cruises - they are.  However, there are larger ships and more of them, in Europe this summer than any other time before. Obviously, the cruise ships need to sail full for the companies to make a profit, so the consumer wins.

Comparing Cruise to Land-Based

I just did a quick search on my website for a short European cruise vacation the middle of May.  I found a 12-Night Mediterranean on Celebrity Cruise Equinox with prices starting from $849pp for an inside cabin.   For those that aren't quick at math, that's $71pp per day (excluding taxes and fees).

For comparison purposes, I did a hotel search for Rome, the embarkation port, during the same period and prices for a popular hotel started from $400 Per Night.   The hotel didn't include meals or entertainment and was rated as a 4 star accommodation.    Contrasting the hotel stay and the cruise...  On the cruise it's like getting your room at less than 50%, all your meals, and entertainment onboard the ship.

Besides Rome you'll visit Salerno (Naples), Italy >> Piraeus (Athens), Greece >> Mykonos, Greece >> Souda (Chania), Crete >> Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey >> Santorini (Thira), Greece >> Messina, Sicily, Italy >> Barcelona, Spain. The Mediterranean is one of our favorite cruise destinations.

I've not discussed airfare, which is a large expense for a European vacation, especially in prime season.   Since the cost of air would be the same for the cruise and land-based vacation stay, I've excluded that from the equation.    Since this cruise is before the Summer Season this makes the selected cruise even more attractive.

There are many deals to Europe this Summer.   We'll feature some of the sales on our website and Facebook page.   If you are seriously considering a Europe get-away this Summer, my suggestion would be to book now while the supply is larger than the demand so that you can maximize your investment.  

The prices I've seen during my search in preparation for this article are on par with what you'd pay for a Caribbean vacation on the same or similar ships.   For the most part, the ships are the larger, newer vessels in the respective fleets.   Ships like Celebrity Equinox, Royal Princess, and Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas are just a few of the choices you'll have.

Of course, if you want to stay closer to home in the Caribbean, Bermuda, or Disney World, we can help you sort through all the possible choices and find the best value for you and your family.  

Put Your Tax Dollars to Work for You on a Cruise / Land Vacation to Remember for Years to Come.   Cruise Europe in 2016 !!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Vesteralen Embarkation

click images to enlarge
Bergen Embarkation 

The embarkation process in Bergen was rather quick. Our shuttle bus dropped us off just outside the terminal building. We brought our luggage inside and waited in a short line to be checked in.

We presented our paperwork, passports, and credit card as usual and were given our cabin card keys. Our checked luggage was tagged and put on a conveyor belt and off we went to get onboard.

We were directed up the escalator to a waiting room where we were greeted and told about what would happen next.

Safety Briefing

If you've been on cruises before, the first difference you'll notice about sailing on Hurtigruten MS VesterĂ¥len is that you are required to sit through a safety briefing before you embark the ship.

The waiting room was filled with a number of passengers when we got there.  We were told the briefing would start in a few minutes.

One of the crew members introduced the safety briefing which was shown on video monitors located throughout the room.   You'll notice in the image above that this isn't your typical life preserver.  In fact, it's a thermal protection suit which makes sense since we'd be sailing in some pretty cold waters during the next 12 days.

A sticker was placed on our card to indicate that we had completed the safety briefing.  We were then directed to the ramp leading to the ship.

Exploring the Ship

Once onboard the ship, we explored the public areas until we were able to get into our cabin.  Pictured here is the cafe and gift shop which is where we waited.

Hungry between meals?  Want a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or perhaps a treat of some sort...  the Cafe was the place to go to purchase something to eat or drink.   It was also a meeting place before meals or excursions.
Additional photos can be found on our Norway Shutterfly page

MS Vesteralen (Facebook album)

Click on the image to the right for more Blog posts about this trip.

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