Tag Archives: cruises

There’s a strong wind blowing…

What to do?  It’s hurricane season and they are coming fast and furious this year.  For the poor people whose homes are hit by hurricanes of course this is a calamity beyond compare – however being in the travel industry hurricanes bring their own chaos to airlines, hotels and ships.

So what to do if you are booked to go on vacation during the hurricane season?  Depends what kind of vacation and who you are booked with.  Most tour operators have a pretty flexible policy with regard to their packages down in Mexico or the Caribbean.  They offer options such as postponing, changing destination or some even offer a credit which would be valid for one year.  Clearly they don’t want to send their passengers down there – or their aircraft – to be damaged or hurt.  But it is hurricane season after all ….This is why you will often see packages being offered at a much cheaper rate during the hurricane season which typically runs from August through to beginning of November.

I took a peek at a couple of the webcams at Puerto Vallarta resort hotels and it looked very overcast and rainy 😦 not the greatest for a vacation.  The pool area was deserted – I guess people are preparing for the hurricane which is good that they are taking precautions.

Now what happens if you are down there during a hurricane?  Rest assured, resort staff have generally been through this before and there are protocols in place to ensure the safety of staff and guests.  This is a good article that explains exactly how hotels operate Hurricanes and hotel guidelines.

One thing that is important in all of this is your co-operation.  If you are told to evacuate do it!  Local authorities will make shelters available if necessary.  Hotels may ask you to congregate on the lower level of the hotel or in the basement.  The last thing you need to do is to go out onto your balcony or down to the beach to take photos to post on Instagram ….
stupid hurricane photo

I was in Tahiti once when a Tsunami alert was raised.  I thought the telephone operator was joking …. but no … we had to leave our rooms and assemble in the lobby of the hotel while we waited and waited.   Nothing happened – I am happy to report – although we did feel the need to order a bottle of Champagne while we waited!

What about if you are going on a cruise? Now with a cruise you are in the more fortunate position of being able to be moved.  Cruise lines will often change their itineraries at the last-minute which has already happened with Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines – passengers on their Mexican Riviera itineraries will now be visiting San Francisco and San Diego.  And when on a cruise ship you are in the lucky situation of being able to outrun the hurricane –

“Ships sailing the Caribbean during hurricane season have an out — they can move. … Cruise ships can typically “outrun” a hurricane — storms tend to move about 8 to 10 knots, while ships can attain speeds of up to 22 knots and beyond. Passengers might experience rough seas as their ship skirts the edges of a storm.”  (courtesy Cruise Critic).

So if you are outrunning a hurricane on a ship you are probably OK (unless you get seasick)

seasickness

But it is likely to be a bit windy up on deck.  However there are those who just love the challenge of being in the centre of weather’s worst moments.  One of my fellow passengers on a recent cruise on Star Clipper told me with relish about his trans-Atlantic crossing.  Ropes had been strung across the public areas for passengers to hang on to and the tables in the dining room remained unset for obvious reasons.  Hmmm –  I think I am a fair weather traveller …. so thanks but no thanks!

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME

I read an interesting article about Blackbeard the pirate.  I am sure you have heard of him but did you know that he was quite ahead of his time with regard to marketing? Even today his name is recognized as being a fearsome pirate.  Maybe Johnny Depp used his character as inspiration for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Johnny-Depp-on-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-poster

He was apparently British – either Edward Thatch or Edward Teach – and was a mariner with the Royal Navy.  Maybe he went rogue?  He got in tow with a privateer and then managed to capture a French merchant vessel which he equipped with 40 guns.  This out-powered anything else and he was able to blockade ports and extract huge ransoms.

The funny thing is that he apparently never used violence as such – just relied on his fearsome brand.  He grew a massive beard which he made even more terrifying by decorating it with lit fuses when he went into battle.

Who would stand up against that?

Blackbeard_3-58d3fa435f9b5846835445c7

It made me think about other great brands on the seas of today with a little more of a friendly feel.  Each cruise line has its own way of reinforcing its brand and differentiating itself from the rest of the pack.

Royal Caribbean – This is not a cruise.  comeseek-ss

Reinforcing the fact that there is so much to do on their cruise ships.  Many of them are mega-ships now but having cruised on them it never felt crowded or too huge for comfort.  Amazing entertainment and great little venues like the jazz club and the comedy club.  They are right – this is not a cruise.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises – The most inclusive luxury experience.

Regent-Tagline-Gold-V2-788x255Yes this is correct – they do include everything (just about) from flights, drinks, excursions.  Your upfront price can give a little sticker shock but at the end of the day it probably works out the same.  Compare this to –

Crystal Cruises – All Exclusive.
crystal Mmmm – starts getting confusing, right?  We are used to the description all inclusive but all exclusive?  Now it is true that Crystal includes everything except the excursions. Some may prefer that and then do their own thing when they get to the port or choose from the list of excursions to book on board so maybe it is a little more “exclusive” that way.

And now for something completely different – Windstar – 180 degrees from ordinary.

windstar

Well to a large extent this is correct as they operate tall ships with sails – although they are now changing this brand somewhat with the addition of the small Seabourn yachts which are motorised yachts.

Talking about sailing ships – Star Clippers – Unique Sailing Adventures.
star clippers

And this is true – if you relish the idea of pretending to be Blackbeard for a few days on a proper sailing ship where you can hoist in the sails and climb up to the crow’s nest then this is your ship.  Just don’t try decorating your beard with lit fuses – I don’t think that would go down well with the safety crew on board.

 

 

Are they getting bigger or smaller?

Ships that is!  A listing of the new ships coming on stream for 2016 is an interesting read.  In the past few years the trend was the bigger the better.  Back in 2010 the Oasis class of ship by Royal Caribbean boasted a capacity of up to 6296 passengers.   That’s just slightly less than the population of Banff or Innisfail.  Imagine!

Well I don’t have to imagine actually. I was on one of the inaugural sailings of the Oasis and you know – it wasn’t that bad!  For someone who doesn’t like crowds (me) I found that the ship was very well planned with smaller spaces throughout.  The problem is to me it doesn’t feel like being on the sea.

So what’s the smallest cruise ship you can go on?  No – I am not talking about this?

There’s no place to put the champagne!
THIS is what I mean by a small cruise ship.  And oh did I tell you it is all inclusive.  Yes Darling!

The Tere Moana is owned by Paul Gauguin Cruises and hosts just 98 people.  Imagine that – like having your own private yacht or being a guest of Jackie O.  Those were the days!

Other smaller cruise ships are those included in the expedition class such as the Stella Australis based in Patagonia.  This is a small ship equipped for exploration but still offers all the little luxuries on board.

And remember – it’s not all about what happens on the ship (although hopefully it stays there) – it’s about what happens when you are off the ship…. as in ….
Swimming with the rays

Being prepared

And having fun on those shore excursions

It’s all out there waiting for you folks – BIG and small…

Have you reached the tipping point?

When it comes to paying for service how do you feel about that?  Do you feel that you have paid enough already for the hotel / cruise / dinner that you don’t really need to start shelling out cash left right and centre?  There are some countries where tipping is not expected – such as Australia and the Cook Islands to name just a couple.  There are also cruise lines (such as Silversea) and hotel chains (such as Sandals) where tipping is expressly discouraged.  The reason for this is clear – they want their guests to be  totally relaxed the entire vacation and not feel that they have to walk around with a bunch of small denomination notes for tipping.

Service people very often depend on tips to make up their income.  I do believe that tipping is an expression of satisfaction with a service well provided and I hate the feeling I have on some cruise lines (who will remain nameless) that I actually have to tip this poor Filipino or Russian because the cruise line is paying them such a miserable salary.

Having said all of that I sometimes cannot believe how mean people can be when it comes to tipping.  Go on a tour and watch the people climbing out of the rear exit of the bus to avoid the driver and tour guide.  Shame on you people!

I have no cash

I have no cash

Of course then you do get the other end of the stick.    The over-eager, super-friendly server who wants to be your best friend for a whole week.  We had one such person on our Seine river cruise a couple of weeks ago.  Don’t get me wrong.  He was brilliant.  He knew everyone’s name and remembered it.  He knew what drinks people liked.  He was proactive, prompt and pretty damn creepy.  He had a smile like the dog who wants some treats….

smiling_dog

No…. he was worse than that.  Sad thing is I felt sorry for him and we probably tipped him more than anyone else.