Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earth Day 2018 Protect Our Oceans

 Happy Earth Day 2018 
April 22nd

End Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is poisoning our oceans and land, injuring marine life, and affecting our health!

We love cruising the world's oceans and waterways.  It is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the earth.  In order to continue doing so, we need to protect the oceans and our land for generations to come.  Each of you can help make a difference in the future of Mother Earth.

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics.

Help End Plastic Pollution by finding out how many plastic items you consume every year 
and make a PLEDGE to reduce the amount.

There are many resources on Earth Day Network's site.  Start by downloading their Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit.  We've embedded one of the videos here to get you started.

According to this video, we use plastic because it is durable and cheap to make. Only 10% of the plastic that is made gets recycled, and more than 70% of the plastic goes into natural ecosystems.

Environmentally Conscious Vacation Experiences

Did you know that Cruise Lines offer an environmentally conscious vacation experience? 
CLIA Cruise Line Members lead, invest, and collaborate to minimize their ships’ impact on the environment.

In last year's Earth Day post we shared Friends of the Earth’s annual Cruise Report Card which compared the environmental footprint of 17 major cruise lines and 171 cruise ships. View a PDF of the latest annual report card here.  Disney Cruise Line was the only cruise line to score an "A" grade in the latest report card posted on their website.

At Disney Cruise Line, we’re dedicated to minimizing our impact on the environment year around and are always looking for innovative ways to increase fuel efficiency, reduce waste and promote conservation worldwide. You can learn more about Disney Cruise Line environmental efforts and check out the entire Behind the Waves video series starring Jenna Ortega here.
(Source: Disney Park Blog)

Additional Resources:
 (click on the image to enlarge)

A Global Concern

When we were in Southeast Asia earlier this year we toured Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.  These signs underscore the need to take action to protect our environment.  We encourage you to start your education on this Earth Day 2018, and take steps to conserve and recycle during your vacations and daily lives.  

Thank you to CLIA, Participating Cruise Lines, EPA, Earth Day Network and their sponsors for efforts to educate and make changes necessary for sustainability.  And thank YOU for doing your part.  


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Monday, April 16, 2018

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, European cruise vacations are on the rebound.   Why is that you ask?    The cruise lines have record deployments in Europe in recent years but the demand hadn'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 in May.  A 9 night Scandinavia & Russia cruise was available for less than $800 pp for an inside cabin.   For those that aren't quick at math, that's about $88 pp per day or less (excluding taxes and fees).

For comparison purposes, I did a hotel search for Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the embarkation ports, during the same period and prices for a popular hotel started from $478 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 Copenhagen, you'd visit Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany • Tallinn, Estonia • St. Petersburg, Russian Federation • Helsinki, Finland • Nynashamn (Stockholm), Sweden.  Scandinavia 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 2018 !!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

2017 Hurricane Season in Review

Four 2017 Hurricane Names Retired
Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate

3 Simultaneous Hurricanes - Katia, Irma, Jose (NOAA)
Due to the extensive damage caused in the United States and Caribbean last year, the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee has officially retired these names. Storm names are retired if they were so deadly or destructive that the future use of the name would be insensitive - otherwise names are reused by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on a six-year cycle. Replacement names, to be used in 2023, have also been announced.  Read more

Here's the reasoning behind the decision and what the new names will be.

The extremely active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive on record. Damage costs exceeded 250 billion dollars in the United States alone, while recovery for the worst hit Caribbean islands such as Dominica may take years. Several hundred people died, and the lives of millions were impacted.

Looking Back at 2017

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive and catastrophic hurricane season, featuring 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes – ranking it alongside 1936 as the fifth-most active season since records began in 1851. The season also featured both the highest total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) and the highest number of major hurricanes since 2005.

In the chart below, the numbers in parenthesis are the averages, so you can easily see that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season was well above average.  Read more (comprehensive coverage)

Atlantic Basin
Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000
Climatology (in parentheses)
NOAA 2017
Named Storms (NS) (12.0)11 - 1717
Hurricanes (H) (6.5)5 - 910
Major Hurricanes (MH) (2.0)2 - 46
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (92.0)63 - 103224

Atlantic Hurricane Outlook & Seasonal Climate Summary Archive

The 2017 Pacific hurricane season was a moderately active Pacific hurricane season, featuring eighteen named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes, though the season was significantly less active than the previous three seasons. The season saw near-average activity in terms of ACE, in stark contrast to the extremely active seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2016; and for the first time since 2012, no tropical cyclones formed in the Central Pacific basin. However, for the third year in a row, the season featured above-average activity in July, with the ACE value being the fifth highest for the month.

East Pacific

Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000
Climatology (in parentheses)
NOAA 2017
Named Storms (NS) (9.6)14 - 2018
Hurricanes (H) (5.9)6 - 119
Major Hurricanes (MH) (2.3)3 - 74
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 75 - 145100

Measuring total seasonal activity: The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index

An important measure of the total overall seasonal activity is the NOAA Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which accounts for the intensity and duration of named storms and hurricanes during the season.  According to NOAA’s hurricane season classifications, an ACE value above 117% of the 1950-2000 median reflects an above-normal season. An ACE value above 175% of the median reflects an exceptionally active (or hyperactive) season.

Hurricane Season Dates 

Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15th and also ends November 30th.
Download the Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide (PDF)
Watch for our 2018 Hurricane Preparedness Series.


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Books at Sea

Drop Everything and Read Day
click images to enlarge

Harper Collins Publishers promotes April 12th as Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R.).

They cite reading a book as more enjoyable than any other task (like chores) and encourage people of all ages to 'drop' what they are doing and grab a book to read.

One of the great things about reading is that you can do so anywhere, even on a cruise ship (which is the focus of the rest of this post).

My sea day routine typically starts with me eating breakfast in the buffet and then camping out on deck reading a book.  I prefer to find a comfy lounge chair, somewhere in the shade, on one of the pool decks. On rainy days, I'll camp out in one of the lounges on upper decks of the ship, overlooking the water.

Tip:  take turns (with traveling companion) having lunch, so that you don't have to pack up your things or find another chair after you are finished with lunch.

Forgot Your Books - Don't Worry

When you were packing your bags for your cruise vacation, books may have been the last thing on your mind.  Did you forget your books?  There is no need to worry as most ships have a library on board.   Shown here is the library on Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess.   We sailed on her earlier this year and I took full advantage of the library.

We had several sea days during our 15 night voyage in Southeast Asia.  I packed three paperback books.  Yes, I still enjoy the feel of paper as I'm reading.   Paperbacks are my preference as they are smaller and lighter to pack.   I usually pack one or two in my carryon for reading on the plane as well.

On this particular cruise, we had a sea day right away.   I started reading one of my books and it didn't take long before I completed it.   On to my next book...

We had an unexpected change in itinerary due to high seas in the China Sea, so we were in port an extra day which we converted into another sea day.   Within the first few days on the ship, I'd read all the books that I'd brought with me.  Again, not to worry - the library on the ship is just like any other back home.  You can check out books for the duration of your cruise.  Most ships have a selection of hardcover and paperback books as well as games and other resources which can be checked out.

Book Exchange

The majority of ships that I've sailed also have a section for passenger book exchanging.   Just as it sounds,  you swap your read books for others that your fellow passengers left on the shelves.   On this cruise, I swapped books out several times.  This gives me the opportunity to pack light, but still have plenty to read during the cruise.  I've gotten exposed to new authors this way as well.

Electronic Age

Nowadays, "reading" may not entail holding onto a "paper" book at all.  You can bring an entire collection of books with you on your cruise, or download them as you go via the ship's Wi-Fi.  Of course, it would be cheaper to download them ahead of time.

Regardless of your preferred source of reading materials (paperback, hard-cover, or electronic) be sure to consider that among your packing essentials for your next cruise vacation, and enjoy reading at sea.  It can be very relaxing and enjoyable.

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

Related Album:

Additional photos can be found on our Southeast Asia Shutterfly page

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Where have you explored? 

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Monday, April 9, 2018

2018 CSU Atlantic Hurricane Prediction

2018 Atlantic Hurricane Forecast

Forecasters at the Colorado State University are predicting that the 2018 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly above-average activity. The season begins June 1st and continues through November 30th.

Their current (April 5th) forecast predicts above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.

It is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April.

NOAA won't even make their first prediction until the end of May. So, why does Colorado State University's team of scientists create this forecast? Mainly because the public is curious about predictions based on the current global oceanic and atmospheric conditions. The forecasting team created their predictions using a statistical model based on 29 years worth of data.  This is the 35th year in which the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project has made forecasts of the upcoming season’s Atlantic basin hurricane activity.

Not the storm you are looking for?  Click Image or Here
According to CSU scientists, "The current weak La Niña event appears likely to transition to neutral ENSO over the next several months, but at this point, we do not anticipate a significant El Niño event this summer/fall. The western tropical Atlantic is anomalously warm right now, while portions of the eastern tropical Atlantic and far North Atlantic are anomalously cool. Consequently, our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is near its long-term average."

Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much or how little activity is predicted.

The April forecast calls for 14 named tropical storms with 7  strengthening to hurricane status. Of those hurricanes, 3 are predicted to be a major hurricane (Category 3,4, or 5).

The team forecasts a 63% chance of one major hurricane making landfall on the U.S. coastline (compared to 52% for last century), 39% for U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida (average for last century is 31%), 38% for Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for last century is 30%) and a 52% chance for the Caribbean (compared to 42% average for last century).

More reading: Current and Past Forecasts


Forecast Parameter and 1981-2010
Median (in parentheses)
Issue Date
  5 April 2018
Named Storms (NS) (12.0) 14
Named Storm Days (NSD) (60.1) 70
Hurricanes (H) (6.5)
Hurricane Days (HD) (21.3) 30
Major Hurricanes (MH) (2.0)
Major Hurricane Days (MHD) (3.9) 7
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (92.0) 130
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (103%) 135

Another reason why Colorado State University publishes forecasts is for hurricane preparedness.   We too are publishing this information, along with updates throughout hurricane season, to help protect life and property when danger approaches.

As I've said many times,  the cruise line industry has safety of passengers, crew, and vessels as their number one priority.   The cruise lines work closely with the NHC and other agencies to monitor all sorts of weather conditions, including tropical storms.   The ships may alter courses and cancel ports of call in order to maintain the level of safety for all onboard.  We will keep you posted about any known itinerary changes during hurricane season.   Should your cruise itinerary change due to a tropical storm, don't be upset, but rather thank the Captain and crew for taking you out of harm's way.  Read our blog post 4 Things To Help Plan Vacation in Hurricane Season...

More links and information about tropical storms and other weather conditions can be found in the Weather & Hurricane Zone tabs above.  We will feature several articles during Hurricane Preparedness week once again.   Until then, you can click the link below for last year's series.

Read Entire 2017 Series (click here)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Health and Fitness at Sea

World Health Day 2018

On 7 April, World Health Day, the World Health Organization marks its 70th anniversary. This year, World Health Day is dedicated to one of WHO’s founding principles: “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

Spa & Fitness Center

Why do we bring up health and fitness in a cruise blog?

Going on a cruise vacation doesn't imply that you'll have to break your health and fitness regiment..    While it is true that you can eat 24 hours a day if you like, that doesn't mean you have to do so or eat foods that go against your healthy lifestyle.   Quite the contrary is actually the case.  Cruise lines offer a wide variety of food for all lifestyles.   Many ships have recently expanded dining options to include spa menus served in either a spa restaurant setting or in the main dining room.

click images to enlarge
Perhaps one of the best Spa and Fitness Centers at sea is the Vitality at Sea  Spa and Fitness Center on the largest ship afloat, the Allure of the Seas.

Vitality at Sea Spa
The spa features 29 treatment rooms with a full menu of indulgent treatments: signature treatments, facial treatments, massage therapies, body therapies, acupuncture services, Medi-Spa cosmetic treatments, tooth whitening and men's services.

Vitality at Sea Fitness Center 

Become a master of movement and stretch your body beyond its normal boundaries.  Enjoy state-of-the-art cardio and strength fitness equipment and new programs, including Gravity, heart-rate-based spinning and Kinesis.

Following a good workout in the fitness center, continue with a well balanced three course meal from the Vitality menu.   If you have special dietary needs, Allure of the Seas, as well as other cruise ships, are able to provide meals that satisfy those requirements.   Advance notice is suggested to assure that the cruise ship has necessary ingredients in stock.

So I hate to break the news to you that going on a cruise isn't an excuse for breaking those New Years' resolutions.   In some cases, it might even make it easier to keep your resolutions, since you have the healthy foods available as well as more fitness equipment and options than many stateside fitness centers.   

Vitality Spa and Fitness (click for more images on our FB fan page - make sure to Like us)

Video: Royal Rejuvenation: Vitality and Wellness at Sea
 Rev-up, relax, or refuel at the Vitality Spa & Fitness center onboard Royal Caribbean's ships. Guests can enjoy state-of-the-art cardio equipment, enjoyable fitness classes or choose from an array of services from the spa as well fuel up with healthy fare.

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Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat