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The Mexican Riviera port of Mazatlan is again welcoming cruise ships. It’s a turnaround for the destination, which three years ago fell victim to a public relations disaster following a spate of robberies and one highly publicized shooting. Even though the shooting did not involve any tourists, the incident scared off every single cruise line that had previously included the port in its West Coast itineraries. Since then, passenger safety concerns have been substantially alleviated.
Tourism officials have invested some $2.8 million in security cameras throughout the city, new lighting at the port, and better coordination of police forces. Another $3 million was also invested in a “tourism corridor” – a cobblestone promenade – between the port and city center. Holland America Line was the first cruise operator to return to the port earlier this month, when the 1,350-passenger Veendam left San Diego on a seven-day Mexican Riviera Holiday cruise that also calls at Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Read more
The Italian government’s recent decision to limit the number of large ships entering Venice through scenic Giudecca Canal early next year – and eventually, prohibit them altogether – may come as a blow to some cruise passengers who have their hearts set on seeing this famous city.
A new weight limit has been proposed for all ships entering through the city center to reach the cruise passenger terminal, a route that has traditionally yielded classic views of the duomo, the waterfront palazzi, and gondolas drifting by. By next November, all ships heavier than 96,000 tons will be banned from entering the city completely, meaning by summer of 2015, there will be no large ships cruising into Venice at all. Read more
All eyes were on Croatia this year after it was featured on the HBO series Game of Thrones. Now, there’s more tourism focus than ever on this small country on the Adriatic, with its forested hills, quaint villages, and turquoise waters. Especially rife for exploration are the country’s 1,244 known islands – of which only 50 are inhabited. Below, we offer a quick guide to exploring the best-known of these islands, depending on the type of trip you’re looking for. From each island, an excursion to an even more stunning, remote beach is possible. All it takes is a little planning:
A quick 75-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, Sipan is considered one of the most accessible of south Croatia’s array of coast-hugging islands, making it suitable for an overnight stay. Along with Lopud and Kolocep, Sipan is one of the three main Elaphite Islands (named after the Greek word for ‘deer,’ who were the islands’ original inhabitants), though because it sits farthest from Dubrovnik, Sipan generally offers the least crowded beaches. To step things up a notch, the popular Hotel Bozica (from $37), whose 26 rooms all face the ocean, offers complimentary transportation from the mainland by speedboat.
In times of crisis, the cruise industry bands together as if its members were blood relatives rather than fierce competitors. There’s a good reason for that: if they pointed a finger when things went awry, cruise lines know they’d likely sink together.
That’s why straight answers are hard to come by this week, after the drowning death of a 6-year-old boy in a pool aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Victory.
On the industry’s larger ships there can be 2,000-plus ship employees onboard, but not one will be assigned to keep an eagle eye out for problems at a pool. The industry does not employ lifeguards, and it is quick to point out that neither do the vast majority of land-based resorts.
There is generally one main factor at play when it comes to cruise prices during the holiday season: the strength of the cruise industry. If it’s been a gangbuster year, don’t expect the cruise lines to wave you aboard for a pittance. Conversely, if sales have been lagging over the past ten months, they’re more likely to roll out holiday deals in a bid to shore up fourth quarter revenues. Value offers will vary by line, so consumers will benefit from some comparison shopping.
Though 2013 brought some challenges to the cruise market – remember the Carnival Triumph power loss in February? – deals seem to be on the scarce side this season. Nevertheless, we found a few decent ones floating around: Read more
Each summer, the majority of U.S.-based cruise lines deploy several ships to Europe. In order to move the vessels from their stateside winter homeports, the cruise lines organize springtime trans-Atlantic voyages; in autumn, it’s the reverse. These are known as repositioning cruises.
Typically, consumers can find decent deals on these so-called repositioning cruises. The cruise lines’ logic is this – they have to shell out for fuel and staff costs no matter what, so it’s better to have a half-full ship crossing the Atlantic rather than a completely empty one.
This week, Royal Caribbean International decided to rename their repositioning cruises in an effort to make them sound more appealing to consumers. The new Ocean Voyages program will launch in spring 2014, with eleven ships sailing between Europe and the USA. To spur interest, Royal Caribbean even announced a limited-time offer that includes a free premium beverage package for the first two passengers in each balcony or suite stateroom on bookings made by Oct. 15. The premium package includes name-brand liquor, wine, beer and all non-alcoholic beverages.
Let’s take a closer look at the value…
Carnival Cruise Lines endured a negative media frenzy earlier this year when its Carnival Triumph lost power due to an engine room fire and became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after, propulsion and power problems affected two other Carnival ships, causing the suspension of a cruise and missed port calls.
In order to convince potentially weary consumers to book a cruise, the line has launched the “Great Vacation Guarantee,” a policy that enables dissatisfied passengers to disembark the ship and end their voyage early. They’ll also receive a 110 percent refund, free transportation home, and a $100 credit for a future sailing – that is, if they weren’t sufficiently spooked to never book again.
Taking a closer look at the new “guarantee” policy, a few things jump out: Read more
Down in Southern Florida amidst the spendiest, most budget-busting hotels in the state, a new, affordable boutique hotel brand is emerging in the form of the letter B. B Ocean Fort Lauderdale, and b2 Miami Downtown, to be exact. This budding hotel brand recently invited us down to “The Sunshine State” to experience their own brand of stylish, affordable hospitality firsthand.
At either property, beyond the sleek decor, you’ll immediately notice another unique feature – affordable nightly rates. According to Expedia, a king room at the 3.5-star b2 Miami Downtown starts at $113, while a king or double room at the 4-star B Ocean Fort Lauderdale costs $122 (we searched over select dates in September). Similar properties in Downtown Miami tend to run around $169, while beachfront accommodation in Fort Lauderdale starts at about $179. Read more
Last week, Celebrity Cruises announced new routes leaving from Los Angeles (a first for the company), including two new beer-themed voyages: the 2014 Alaskan Brewing Company cruise, which starts at $1,684, and the California Beer Festival At Sea cruise, which starts at $639. And while themed cruises are something we’ve come across before, the growing popularity of Celebrity’s “craft beer cruises” are making us sit up and take notice.
And we’re not the only ones interested – after posting their 2013 and 2014 Alaskan Amber Craft Beer Cruise, tickets sold out in less than a month.
To make these trips happen, Celebrity links up with various breweries and beer festivals, such as Alaska Brewing Co., Sam Adams, or California Beer Festival who, in turn, supply the booze. A winning partnership that Celebrity says “has significantly increased our business.” And we believe it. We were wondering, though, how the cost and value of these cruises stacks up. After all, you’ll pay extra for alcohol on almost any big ocean cruise, and that’s not the case with these theme cruises. Here’s what we learned. Read more
What’s it like to work on the biggest cruise ship in the world? Ken Rush, Cruise Director for Royal Caribbean, knows all about it, and spoke to us about his favorite destinations and travel tips, and what it’s like to work on his current ship, the Allure of the Seas. Read more
The odd duck of volcanoes, Mount Erebus’s permanent lava lake reaches temperatures of 1,826 degrees Fahrenheit, but is situated in one of the coldest places on Earth. The southern-most active volcano and second-highest summit on Antarctica’s Ross Island (at 12,448 feet), this volcano has been active since 1972. Though its ironic location alone makes us scratch our heads, its ice towers (pictured above) are even more unbelievable. As gas escapes fissures on the sides of the mountain, the ice pack and snow on the surface begins to melt and hollow out. As the warm, wet air inside escapes into the cold air, it freezes and creates frozen crystals along the edges, building the towers to up to 60 feet tall. They occasionally topple over. Read more
Fall is a great time to take a trip: In many destinations, you’ll find lower rates and smaller crowds than in summer, making for a relaxing and easy-on-the-wallet travel experience. Our deals expert, Lisa Hubner, rounded up some of the best deals for fall travel to Europe, the U.S., and the Caribbean: Read more
Every cruise vacationer has a favorite port of call. For some it’s posh St. Bart’s in the Eastern Caribbean or St. Tropez in the Western Mediterranean. Others value the culture of Barcelona or the Nordic history of Copenhagen. These destinations are common port calls for most major cruise ships, but there a handful of emerging ports around the globe that are getting the attention of both cruise lines and travelers looking for something a little different. Check out these five lesser-known, but up-and-coming ports… Read more
Three cruise ship operators that together control more than 90 percent of industry market share, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line, agreed to pull back the curtain that for years has kept onboard crime statistics in the shadows. Read more
Sometimes when you travel, Mother Nature throws a curveball. Usually you’ll only need a raincoat, but more serious and dangerous weather can put a more permanent damper on your trip. With heavy rainfall and floodwaters rising across central Europe, river cruise companies continue to cancel and modify routes throughout Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. So what should you do if your dream vacation is cancelled? Though river cruise companies have not adopted the Passenger Bill of Rights like many North American ocean cruise lines, you still have some options. Read more
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