Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bits and Pieces

You’ve probably wondered where I’ve been for the past three weeks (I hope you have, anyway!), but things have been pretty crazy since our return from Portugal. First, I came down with bronchitis; then both Ben and I experienced weird outgoing email issues with Outlook and our Time Warner Roadrunner account that kept us on the phone WAY too much time. Various trouble-shooting efforts determined that there was nothing wrong with Outlook or McAfee security, and no viruses were detected. Technical support began with call centers in the Philippines, migrated to Guatemala tech centers, and finally back to our local San Antonio support desks (yes!).

We learned, however, that there are five levels of support at TW. Before we finished, our case had reached Level 4! It was finally determined that my blog link in our email signatures was the culprit, supposedly having been blocked by a third-party SPAM database. I’m still trying to verify which one and how/if to restore the link, but for the time being at least, email is working without the blog hyperlink.

That aside, I’m way behind with cruise news updates, so I think I’ll just highlight some recent news in case you didn’t catch it elsewhere.

Mexican Riviera Losing Ships

Our West Coast colleagues and cruisers alike are bemoaning the lost of ships sailing to popular ports like Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, and further south. Royal Caribbean had already pulled the Radiance of the Seas from San Diego (our ship for the group we escorted last year); more recently, RCI announced redeployment of the Mariner of the Seas in 2011after only a couple of years sailing from Los Angeles.

The Mariner will offer a short South America season beginning January 2011 before debuting in the Mediterranean that summer, sailing from Rome (Civitavecchia) through October. She will then reposition to Galveston, TX for the winter season, replacing Voyager of the Seas. The Voyager will move to New Orleans, marking Royal Caribbean’s welcomed return to the Big Easy in several years. Good news for Galveston and New Orleans, of course, but not so good for the West Coast.

Alaska Additions

I’ve written previously about the number of ships pulled from Alaska this year and next, much to the dismay of local vendors in our 49th state. However, better news is on the horizon. First, Alaska's state legislature approved a bill in April that would reduce the $50 entry fee or "head tax" currently levied on passengers of large cruise ships. As you recall, the tax drew fire from the cruise industry leading to the pullout. Other economic factors contributed to the drop in visitor count, too, but perhaps the tax relief will help increase cruise bookings there—a very good thing since Alaska is a marvelous destination not to be missed!

In addition, however, two lines will sail Alaska’s waters for the very first time: Disney Cruise Line (announced earlier), and the more upscale line Oceania. The latter will offer ten cruises to Alaska from 2011, not only calling on popular ports like Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan, but also at less-visited place such as Kodiak, Homer and Hoonah. Neither will be cheap, but nobody “does Disney” but Disney, so expect innovative excursions and learning opportunities for kids and teens; and Oceania brings a classy option for those who enjoy cruising in style.  Bookings are open on all cruise lines for the 2011 Alaska season!

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