Labadee, Haiti VLOG - Oasis of the Seas

With headlines about Haitian boat people protesting local elections by blocking Royal Caribbean ships from docking at Labadee, I thought I would bump our VLOG about the port to the front of the line.  Check it out and join our community to share your reviews and experiences at Labadee!

The Sitmar Fairsea and the 16 Year Itch.

The year was 1983 in Los Angeles and friends of my parents wanted to show us the ship which they had taken a cruise on.  We drove to the Port of Los Angeles where the Sitmar cruise line ship Fairsea was disembarking passengers from a cruise to Mexico.  These were the days when people could still visit ships in-port simply by boarding.  Something unthinkable twenty years later.

Read more: The Sitmar Fairsea and the 16 Year Itch.

Ala Carte Charges on NCL.

This week I observed a good deal of buzz in the blog and online venues about Norwegian Cruise Line adding ala carte pricing to several speciality dining options on their ships.  This on top of surcharges in the traditional main dining room for premium items and late night room service.  The collective reaction has been to bemoan the perceived death of traditional cruising and the rise of nickel and diming passengers.  However I think on balance the reaction is greatly overstated.

NCL made a name for itself over a decade ago, when the line was struggling to find an identity for itself amidst fierce competition from Royal Caribbean and the Carnival brands.  Still owned by an asian cruise company that had failed miserably to manage NCL well, in 2000 “Freestyle Cruising” was introduced.  A bold marketing move, it featured giving passengers the ability to book their meal times and locations in various shipboard restaurants.  Naturally, the cruising establishment bemoaned the death of traditional main dining room meals-which did not and has yet to happen.  This came a couple of years following Royal Caribbean introducing the first premium dining options aboard the Voyager Class of ships-which also were lamented as some harbinger of doom for main dining.

Read more: Ala Carte Charges on NCL.

Cunard Joins Lines Adding Longer Port Visits

Carnival already has announced intentions to offer longer cruises with longer port stays on its flagship brand.  News comes now that the “Queen” of cruise lines Cunard will mirror this with their trio of ships.  Cunard’s fleet tends to travel far further afield than it’s sister lines however and that only adds more appeal to itineraries that span the globe.  Passengers will enjoy sunsets over citiscapes in the likes of Venice, Quebec, Monte Carlo, and Boston.  Some ports will feature overnight stays others will at a minimum allow passengers to dine in-port before 9 p.m. departures.  The limited run of cruises begins in May, 2016 and concludes in December.

Getting Hitched Freestyle: Norwegian Cruise Line to offer legal weddings at sea. (NCL)

One of the draws to cruise travel is the romance of being in love and at sea.  An almost cliché image is that of a ships captain performing a wedding for passengers.  However with few exceptions, captains have been prohibited from doing so.  The reasons range from simply keeping the busy ship masters from being bogged down by passenger requests to the basic legality of doing so.  Most lines offer the ability to get married onboard a cruise ship before it departs, but these tend to require the bride, groom and guests to rush aboard and finish within an hour or two. 

Enter Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) who will offer legal weddings at sea, performed by the ships captain beginning in the fall of 2015.  For an added price which includes the services of a wedding planner and cake among other ceremonial trappings, couples can be wed.  The line is also offering ceremonies before the cruise beginning and at select ports of call.  One can also enjoy a strictly symbolic ceremony which has no legal standing.  The marriage licenses for weddings at sea will be from the Bahamas and are recognized as legal in the United States. 

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