Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween, Fellow Cruisers

Halloween is Everywhere, Including the High Seas

photo © CruiseReady, 2013
All Hallows Eve is one of the times during the year that bring out the special decorations on cruise ships.

Here's a look at some Halloween decorations on a ship.  It's the giant grim reaper and his ghost friend that have been haunting the centrum of the Enchantment of the Seas this month.

For a perspective of just how big he is, notice the chair at the lower right of the photo.  That's not a toy or prop, it's some of the regular person sized seating.

Last month, I wrote a little bit about what it's like to spend Halloween at sea, in a post called Spookiness on the Seas.  If you choose to go cruising during October, and especially on the 31st, you just may be treated to quite a few sights that you wouldn't see in April or June, and not all are courtesy of the cruise line.  Some of the passengers tend to get into the spirit of the holiday, as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ships With Lips Coming to Miami, Not Tampa

AIDAvita, AIDAmar to Home Port in MIAMI for a Season Each

NOTE:  This is a corrected report.  The original report, based on an announcement from the Port of Tampa, was in error.

Close on the heels of our sighting of AIDAluna on one of her visits to Port Canaveral**, we learned some surprising news about the 'ships with lips,' as we call them at our house.

AIDA Cruises has announced plans to move two of their own across the sea, to be based in Miami.

(It was originally reported in a Port of Tampa press release that the two ships would home port on Florida's west coast, at the Port of Tampa.  This release was, apparently, pre-approved by AIDA, who also overlooked the error.)

By Ostermade  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1266 passenger AIDAvita will spend a cruise season sailing Western Caribben itineraries for several months at the end of next year. (Dec, 2014)

The following season, AIDAmar, with a normal capacity of 2680 pax, will be there.

Looks like they're expecting the first ship to prime the pump for the arrival of the larger ship in 2015.

** See post of 10/27

Monday, October 28, 2013

Veterans Day is November 11

Thank Someone for Their Service

Veterans Day Poster
Thank a Veteran Today Print by Incatneato 
A Gentle Reminder

Veterans Day in America is two weeks away.  Send someone a card, or mark your calendar to make a phone call.

Better yet, just do it today, because any day is a good day to express a little  gratitude.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Unusual Ship Sightings at Port Canaveral

 AIDAluna Calls on the Space Coast

It's not often we get to see a German based cruise ship here at Port Canaveral.  But, we were fortunate enough to  be at Jetty Park for one such sighting just a few days ago.
Aidaluna leaving Port Canaveral (photo © CruiseReady, 2013)
The colorful livery of AIDA Cruises was hard to miss as AIDAluna set sail from B Terminal 4, for points north.  Those trademark red lips, with the yellow and blue eyes close behind certainly make a colorful statement.   Built in 2009, she carries about 2100 passengers.

AIDA Cruises, based in Rostock, Germany is one of a number of brands operated by the Carnival Corporation.

There had been at least one previous visit, but we were unable to make it over to see her at that time.  So, we were happy to be able to arrange our schedule to allow us to see her on this visit, and snap a picture of her for you.

If you'd like to see her in person, she's scheduled to visit one more time, on Saturday, November 2, from 7 am until 6 pm.

Friday, October 25, 2013

RCCL Voyager Class Refurbs Coming Soon

One More "Detail" Disclosed

Navigator of the Seas (image credit)
With refurbishments slated for Voyager class ships over the next year and a half or so, we had heard already of some of the features that would be added.  Those include a Chef's Table, the expected flat screen tvs, a concierge lounge for top tier passenters, a Diamond lounge, and a Giovanni's restaurant, among other things.

But, Adam Goldstein dropped another 'little' detail that may raise some eyebrows in a quartely earnings call.  That little detail?  The cruise line will ADD some 75 additional cabins to each of the ships.

No details yet on how, when, or where this additional capacity will be added, or what types of cabins they will be.

Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ships are the Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Navigator, and Mariner of the Seas.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Watching Raymond and Lorenzo

Tropical Storm Lorenzo and Hurricane Raymond

We have two named storms in our hemisphere this week - one each in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Tropical Storm Lorenzo

T.S. Lorenzo, courtesy NASA
Lorenzo, like most of the other named storms that have developed in the Atlantic this year, doesn't pose much of a threat.  Swirling in the central Atlantic and just barely a tropical storm, with winds of 40 miles per hour, he's far from land, and on a track to stay that way.

Forecasts call for the system to move generally northeast, and to degenerate into a tropical depression within a couple of days.

Hurricane Raymond

Hurricane Raymond, Courtesy NASA
In the eastern Pacific, it's a different story.  With sustained winds of 120 mph, Raymond is the first major hurricane of the season for either basin.  He's currently delivering category three winds, heavy rains, and high seas just off the Mexican coast.

The well known resort of Acapulco is currently under a Hurricane Watch and a Tropical Storm Warning.  Though the storm is predicted to begin a westward movement today or tomorrow, it could come a bit closer to shore before doing so.

Mariners will be avoiding the tempestuous seas, and wise souls will be staying well clear of the dangerous surf.

In any event, residents from Acapulco northward to Lazaro Cardenas are in for a rough couple of days, with possible flooding and mudslides brought on by tropical storm conditions.   We wish them well and pray for their safety.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cruise Line Luggage Tag Holders

 Easy, Reusable Tag Holders That Won't Tear Off

Here's something handy for cruisers, now that the major cruise lines have all gone to having you print off your own cruise documents and baggage tags on your home printer.

The trouble is with the baggage tags.  Printer paper just isn't that substantial.  Yes, you can reinforce the tag by folding and encasing it in clear packing tape, but that's a pain in the neck.  Some folks take theirs to Office Depot, and have each one laminated. That's an extra little expense for each bag every time you cruise.. . and just one more pre-cruise errand to run.

The solution is available on Amazon, where you can purchase clear plastic tag holders that are sized just right for your printed tags.  Just slip your folded paper tags into the plastic holder, and attach them to your bags.  No more worries about bags getting lost due to tags that might tear off.  Best of all, they're re-usable, cruise after cruise.

The two available sizes are shown above.
The first ones, longer, and narrower, are the ones you'll want for cruising on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.
The second ones are a fit for the wider tags from Carnival, Princess, Costa,  Holland America - all the Carnival owned brands.  I believe they may also work well for Norwegian. 

With some of the cruise lines, you can still request the old style  tags that used to be included with the cruise documents you received in the mail.  But, there's a cut off date.  I usually remember to request them a day or two after that date has passed.  So, it's a good thing I keep the clear plastic ones on hand.  You might want to consider it, too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Welcoming You to Port Canaveral

New Port Canaveral Welcome Center to Open Soon

Nearly Complete Welcome Center, seen from the North
(photo ©CruiseReady, 2013)

Port Canaveral's new Welcome Center is set to open soon - during the first week of November, to be more precise.

The seven story facility is envisioned as the centerpiece of a completely redeveloped area to welcome cruise ship passengers, and other visitors to the Space Coast.  There's already a small new lake to the east of the center. Additional plans are for an outdoor amphitheater, as well as new places to shop and eat.

It's seven stories high, and reports are that, from the indoor and outdoor observation decks, there's a great view of the port area, including the entire length of the channel, from the cruise ship berths all the way to the ocean.  That's something I'm anxious to see.  I'll bet you can see the vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center, too.  Should make for some great picture taking.

It will house historic information, interactive exhibits, a cafe, gift ship, and auditorium.

One of those interactive exhibits is one I'm sure cruisers will be anxious to try.  It lets you pilot a cruise ship through the Canaveral Channel.  How cool is that?

More news after the actual opening.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Princess Salute to Veterans

Support Our Vets:  Sail on Caribbean Princess

Credit: View of Caribbean Princess
Kudos to Princess Cruises for implementing a great idea.  They're saluting our veterans in great style next month on Caribbean Princess.

You can join them for an extra special four day cruise, but you'll need to book now, as the ship sails on November 5.

The cruise line has paid a LOT of attention to detail on this one, and the plans are quite extensive.  Here are just a few highlights:

  • A 'Stars and Stripes Sailaway'
  • Donations to the Operation Homefront and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for every cabin booked
  • A $50 on board credit for active and retired military 
  • Guest speakers including a decorated war correspondent, and the man who announced the end of World War II in Europe
  • A "red white and blue" formal night (!)
  • Veterans History Project assisting with the recording of personal experiences for the Library of Congress
  • Special guest list that reads like a military "Who's Who."

There's more.  Lots more.  I teared up just reading about it, and thinking about the men and women who'll be there.

Visit  and see for yourself.

If you are able to cruise on short notice, and would like to join in honoring those who've served, do it. You're sure to meet a few real  honest to goodness heroes.  Just DO IT. I wish I could. It's sure to be a very special few days.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Limited Engagement for Explorer of the Seas

Cruise to Curacao from Port Canaveral

 Sail to New Ports for a Limited Time on Explorer of the Seas

Curacao: Willemstad harbor, by  Mtmelendez   CC-BY-SA-3.0
Late next year, cruisers leaving from Port Canaveral will have some options rarely seen on itineraries embarking from the Space Coast.  They'll have the choice - for a short time - of cruising on the popular Explorer of the Seas.  Not only that, she'll call at some places in her travels that are usually only found on cruises leaving from other ports..

Explorer will be here from mid November of 2014 through early January of 2015.
During that time, the voyager class ship will sail two nine night Southern Caribbean Adventure cruises, calling at the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, as well as at Labadee, Haiti.

Passengers on Explorer's eight night cruise will welcome in 2015 at sea, after spending the day in St. Croix.   Other destinations on that voyage include Labadee, San Juan, and St. Maarten.

There will also be a number of five night sailings and a special four night Christmas cruise.

So, Space Coasters, if you've been eager to learn the ABC's of the Caribbean, to Celebrate in St. Croix, or just to spend some time on the Explorer of the Seas, your time is coming.  I've already reserved my cabin.  What about you?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Princess Cruises Sweepstakes

Win a Free Getaway on Princess 

 Golden Princess in Hawaii, By Gabriel Millos,
via Wikimedia Commons

Here's another opportunity to win a free cruise.  This one is offered by Princess Cruises.  The contest has one grand prize of a four day cruise for two on a Princess Cruise Ship.  There are a bunch of daily prices, too.

The winner of the grand prize will have their choice of a four day cruise for two from either the east coast (from Ft. Lauderdale) or the west coast (from Los Angeles' San Pedro harbor.)  The best part that the on board accommodation is actually in a balcony cabin!

Daily prizes include Oakley sunglasses, popular books, and a piece of wheeled luggage.

So, here are the basics:

You can enter  up to three times a day.  Although the contest started in September, it continues through October 20, so there's still time for you to get in a good 30 entries or so.  Bonus entries are also available, giving you even more chances to win.

You'll find more details on the contest website - the Need to Escape Sweepstakes page.  That's where you enter, too.   The grand prize winner will be notified in early December, and must take their free cruise by mid November of next year.

As for the ship that the winner might be sailing on, it appears there will be two possibilities on each coast during that time frame.  Four night cruises out of Ft. Lauderdale are offered on both Ruby and Caribbean Princess, while the Golden and Sapphire Princess are home porting on the west coast at that time.

Good luck, and happy cruising!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cool Nautical Piece for Your Yard

This Pelican Statue is a Little More Attractive TODAY

nautical yard decor

Ocean's Perch Pelican Statue

I've been eyeing this cool pelican statue on Amazon, thinking it would look just dandy on my deck.  As much as I like it, and I really DO, there are other more pressing things in the budget right now.

HOWEVER, I noticed a special note on that page this morning.

It says:
This item normally requires a shipping charge, but is eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping today.


I'm passing this little bit of information on, just in case any one else might be interested.  It really is a cool piece that would make a nice nautical touch by a pool or koi pond, or on a dock, if you're fortunate enough to have one.  

So, if you like it, today might be a great day to go for it, since you'll be saving the shipping charges.

Some web pages about nautical touches for your yard

Friday, October 4, 2013

Carnival Conquest, Elation Weathering T.S. Karen at Sea

Southwest Pass into Port of New Orleans Closed

Elation Leaving New Orleans, By Eric Gunderson
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The Southwest Pass at the mouth of the Mississippi River was closed as of this morning, in anticipation of the arrival of Tropical Storm Karen.  That's the main shipping lane into the river, and the one used by cruise ships.

As long as the channel remains closed, the Carnival Elation, due into the port on Saturday, and the Conquest, due on Sunday, will be unable to begin the eight or  nine hour  upriver journey to the cruise terminals in the Big Easy.

Carnival announced earlier today plans for both ships to arrive back in New Orleans on Monday.  An exact arrival time is yet to be announced. Both ships are being kept out of harm's way.

This, of course, means that guests on the current voyages will have their cruises extended by a day or two.  Unfortunately, the days are necessarily taken away from the subsequent voyages.  For more details, visit, and click on the small yellow highlighted link at the very top of the screen, titled Travel Alert: Tropical Storm Karen - Update .  Additional information, including boarding times for following cruises, will be provided there in the near future.

Cruising During Hurricane Season

While, thankfully, it appears that Karen won't carry as much of a punch as she might have, she does provide a perfect example of the risks of cruising during hurricane season.  In addition to the risk of heavy seas, ports of call could be missed, and the times, even the days, of embarkation or return may need to be adjusted due to port closures.  These risks being what they are, cruise lines sometimes offer lower fares during the peak parts of the season.

Is it a fair trade off?  I think so.  We regularly cruise during peak hurricane season, and will probably continue to do so.  Have any of our cruises ever been affected?  Yes, but most of them have gone smoothly.  A a few didn't, and that's OK.   We knew they might not when we signed on for each and every one of those voyages.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tropical Storm Karen Advisories Initiated

Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches Issued

The National Hurricane Center has announced that Tropical Storm Karen has formed just off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Projections call for some strengthening, and an initial forecast for landfall somewhere along the Northern Gulf Coast.

Three Day Cone as of Advisory #1

THE CONE as of Now

Please note that if your area is outside the cone, you should still be vigilant, as
1 - The cone may shift as the storm progresses
2 - The cone represents possible path of the center point of the storm only.

For more about how to interpret the cone, see "Know the Hurricane Cone - What It Really Means."


A Hurricane Watch and a Tropical Storm Watch has already been issued. From Tropical Storm Karen Special Advisory Number 1, we know that there is a hurricane watch stretching from Indian Pass, FL, westward to Grand Isle, LA.  A tropical storm watch is in effect for other portions of southern Louisiana.


Note that these watch areas can expand or change if warranted as conditions change.   All or part of the watches will be upgraded to warnings as the storm gets closer.


Are you in or near any of the watch areas? Now is the time to prepare, if you haven't already done so.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jerry No Threat, but Is Karen on the Way?

Tropical Storm Jerry and Threat of Karen
Way out in the Atlantic, somewhere between Bermuda and the Azores, a tropical system has been meandering about for several days.  Named Jerry, he has apparently decided to head towards the northeast over the next several days.  There is no current threat to land, and by the time he reaches the neighborhood of the Azores, he's predicted to have weakened into a Tropical Depression.

Invest 97L on 10/02/13
Meanwhile, in the Northwest Caribbean, another story is unfolding.  It's the story of a developing system that has already brought heavy rains to Jamaica and the Caymans.  Right now, the NHC gives it a 70% chance of becoming a cyclone (at least a Tropical Depression) and may (or may not) eventually become the twelfth named storm of the season, Karen.

Regardless, the system seems heading for the Gulf of Mexico, where the environment may guide it towards the NNE.  Everyone from coastal Louisiana to the Florida panhandle should be keeping themselves apprised of the system's progress, whereabouts, and direction.

For cruisers, this means ships out of Galveston and New Orleans this weekend could encounter some weather.  Keep a careful eye on this one.  It may mean some altered schedules or itineraries.

Sadly, it would seem the government shutdown has grounded NOAA's hurricane hunter aircraft, which flies out of Tampa.

However, the Air Force Reserves Hurricane Hunters, based in Biloxi, are still flying, and they actually have a plane in the system now.  So, we'll soon know what they find.  There will be additional investigation tomorrow, if deemed necessary.

Read more about the Hurricane Hunters.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Five Hundred and Twenty One Years Ago This Month

Discovery Day!

Five hundred and twenty one years ago, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World.  On October 12, 1492, the Italian explorer first set foot on North American land.  It was somewhere east of Florida.

Where Did the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria actually make landfall?

Grahams Harbour, San Salvador Island, Bahamas, public domain

While there's disagreement as to which of the many islands in what is now the Commonwealth of The Bahamas was the actual point of landfall, San Salvador Island seems likely.  Other possibilities are Samana Cay or Plana Cays.   The folks who lived there at the time called their island Guanahani, but exactly which present day island that is has been lost to history.  Columbus called the place San Salvador, and present day San Salvador island residents like that just fine.

On San Salvador island, they hold a five day celebration, called the Discovery Day Festival Homecoming & Regatta, which begins this year on October 8, and culminates on the 12th.  According to the website, highlights of the festival are "cultural performances, gospel concerts, live performances by local and visiting artists, and culminates in a sailboat regatta with Bahamian sailing sloops."
If you're cruising to Nassau in The Bahamas this October, be aware that banks, government offices, schools, and many shops are closed on Discovery Day.  If October 12 happens to be on a weekend as it is this year, those closings will be on the following Monday, which means Oct. 14 in 2013.  

But, don't despair . . . You may find yourself in downtown Nassau at Rawson Square when the ceremony takes place that names the Bahamian Heroes of the year.

Somehow, I don't think many eateries and drinking establishments would consider closing for the holiday, so you shouldn't go hungry or thirsty, either!  So, should you find yourself in The Bahamas this Columbus Day - or Discovery Day, as it's known there - enjoy!

Related page:  Discover the Beauty of The Bahamas