Vernon Buxton's Cruise News & Views

Jun 5, 2007
Author: Vernon Buxton

Welcome aboard,

My added comments are, as usual, in red.

Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erinet al

As June 1 (the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season) arrived, there were all manner of predictions emanating from the media in North America about storm activity in the Caribbean.

The predictions remain just that…predictions! Try as it may, mankind has never been able to pinpoint what weather Mother Nature – >B>Gaia - holds in store for the Caribbean area in any year. Gaia has her own plans. Weather is the one remaining imperfect science…and I rather like it that way, don’t you?

Weather dominates mankind, not the reverse…and people simply have to live around its tempestuous offerings. If human beings could, they’d turn night into day, winter into summer and autumn into summer too.

No wonder I have little love for the human race as an entity. I far prefer animals and birds, which can live without people. But people can’t survive without animals or birds…yet we are the planet’s most ruthless, unrelenting and cruel predators.

Only last week…
…I saw TV footage of Japanese fishermen hauling sharks out of the water, cutting off their fins, and then throwing them back into the sea to bleed to death. How I hope one of Gaia’s typhoons takes those cold-blooded bastards out…just as they are sipping from a bowl of shark fin soup!

So, yes, when Gaia takes her revenge from time to time, I feel stones!

Last year the pundits predicted a "very active" hurricane season in the Atlantic, and instead, it wasn't very active at all, especially compared to 2005.

According to an American report, “Not only don't long range predictions seem to have any degree of accuracy, but based on past experience, even the short range predictions - once a storm has actually formed - lack pinpoint accuracy. The forecasters only seem to be able to tell within a range of about a thousand-mile swathe where a storm will go within three days. Basically, they know where the storm will go when it gets there.

The important thing for anyone - going to sea or on land - is to plan and be prepared to take appropriate action should a storm head their way,”
read the report.

As for predicting, for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season we can all predict a 100 percent chance that there will be some storms in the Caribbean and that they will cause some cruise ships to deviate from their planned schedule. Yours could be one of them.

NOAA is so
…certain of this that it has even picked out 21 names to assign to storms over the next six months. Those names are Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Noel, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.

These are not guys n’ dolls we’ll want to be dating. I once rather fancied experiencing a hurricane, but after all the TV footage I’ve seen it’s an adventure I can gladly give a miss.

Think of the day when Miami or Fort Lauderdale take a belly blow from Gaia?…the consequences would be too awful for contemplation. There will be cruise liners stacked up against each other like bricks.

I was in Florida not long after Hurricane Andrew struck. A once-overcrowded area was quite devoid of life, human or otherwise. Even the trees were dead.

The folk of
…New Orleans had been warned for years that their day would come…and my oh my, did it ever!

The bottom line is that there are people living where they ought not to be living, and year after year there are those in Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas, Mexico, Mississippi, wherever, who discover that there is a price to pay for doing just that!

Gaia has my full permission to do her ‘thaing’…other than in Fort Myers, Florida, where I have relatives. Fort Myers took a direct hit about 20 years ago…could its number be due to come up again?

Fort Myers, by the way, is where Henry Ford had his Florida winter home, overlooking the Caloosahatchee River. His car tyre compatriot, Mr Firestone, lived next door. Both homes - more modest than you might expect - are interesting museums, and should certainly be visited if you happen to pass that way.

Moving less…seeing more…the new travel trend!

An interesting Newsweek feature recently reveals that world travellers are becoming increasingly in need of “moving less…seeing more” when it comes to their annual holiday.

The article claims the hectic 10-city 10-day package tour is a thing of the past.

I say good riddance.

More and more, people are living for their vacation, says Newsweek. “They are using up every single allotted day off and bargaining with their employers for more time to savour their travels.

Gone are the days when holiday were a discreet, predictable part of the year…today they are more typically considered an essential, non-negotiable part of life. We transition seamlessly from the drudgery of work and responsibilities of family to the pleasures of time off – and back again.

“The whole idea of ‘If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belize’ is completely now over,” said a Connecticut-based tour operator. “Today’s tourists view travel as a form of self-expression. They don’t want to come back with an object, or even a picture. They want to come back with a story.”

The idea of getting there being half the fun is behind the recent boom in chartered-boat trips, which allow travellers to pull in and out of ports as the mood strikes.

Geoffrey Kent
…head of the luxe travel company Abercrombie & Kent, recently planned a six-week private Arctic diving trip aboard a small cruise ship for a well known CEO client. “This is someone who’s done everything,” says Kent. “He’s got his own Gulfstream V. What he wanted was to really get away for a slow, extend vacation with his family and friends.”

Conventional cruise operators are also enjoying resurgence, says the article, revealing that global bookings rose seven percent last year. But demand is also climbing steadily for the no-frills ocean-going cargo ship.

Ranko Zunic
…of the Montreal-based agents Maris Freighter Cruises says he has little trouble these days filling space on round-the-world trips, with retirees happy to pay $ 14,000 to escape the everyday world. “You get some people who have tried ordinary cruises and are tired of all the entertainment,” says Zunic. “On a freighter they feel more comfortable because they are in charge of their own time. All that’s scheduled are the meals.”

Well, don’t know about you, but I am so very attracted to freighter cruising. A comfortable cabin and a pile of scintillating literature would be all I need to see me through a global cruise…making the best of whatever ports of call come your way…befriending the crew…just ensuring you get enough exercise…going with the flow!

A partner to do it all with? Perhaps?…but the solitary experience could be good too?

If you’re retired and have plenty of time on your hands, freighter travel could certainly be a marvellous way of whiling away a few months of your golden years. And, what do you care if you pop your clogs somewhere en route?…it would be someone else’s problem, wouldn’t it?

I’ll do a freighter cruise yet. It’s just that right now the tide is not right in Honolulu…! Or in Hawaii, as the following story reveals…

All is not well Hawaii

NCL reported a $ 60 million loss in the first quarter of this year, blaming most of it on its Hawaii operation, so it's not surprising that there would be some changes in Hawaii.


The executive VP and MD of Hawaii is leaving and will be replaced…which could be revealing?


Though the NCL America operation is running well, the company faces large hurdles, according to a report. The biggest operational problem the American line now has is that the turnover level is continuing to be higher than they would like. That contributes to the high operational costs.


The other big problem the company cited when reporting their losses was the unexpectedly large amount of capacity their foreign competitors have moved into the market.

NCL made the 

…rather drastic decision to remove one of the ships from the US registry and redeploy it to Europe next year, a decision that will be quite troublesome to reverse should the market grow enough that NCL would ever want to return the ship to Hawaii, the report stated.


The future of the entire Hawaiian venture seems to rest on making it profitable as soon as possible.


If you’re planning on starting your own cruise operation…don’t!!!

Definitely not for the faint of heart!

Seabourn unveils design plans for flagship - Steel cut for first of two new ultra-luxury yachts

After months of detailed planning, on 9 May the first steel plates were cut for The Yachts of Seabourn's newest, largest vessel, the first addition to the ultra luxury segment of the cruise industry in six years.


The line's $ 250 million flagship is scheduled to enter service in mid- 2009.


The ship's designers have mirrored the distinctive silhouette of the existing SEABOURN PRIDE, SPIRIT and LEGEND, while adding additional facilities and amenities. Indeed, past guests will appreciate a familiar scheme to the general layout of public rooms and accommodations, according to a press release.


Seabourn's grand

…new yacht will offer more dining options, more types of suites, more verandas, more entertainment venues and enhanced spa and recreational facilities. Although three times the size of her smaller 10,000- ton sister ships, the new vessel will carry just over twice as many guests (450 passengers), boasting among the highest space-per-guest ratio (71.1) in the cruise industry.


With a dramatic square bar as its focal point, the ship's forward-facing observation lounge is located atop the navigational bridge and boasts panoramic views. (That’s where you’ll be able to find this correspondent.)


The Yachts of Seabourn, owned by the giant Carnival Corporation, provides ultra-luxury cruise holidays to desirable destinations, and is a proud member of the World's Leading Cruise Lines.

Disney begins European cruising with Surprises

Disney Cruise Line's first European programme has begun.

completed its transatlantic repositioning cruise last week in Barcelona and was welcomed with a fireworks spectacular, choreographed to music, that exploded almost 2,200 shells.


During the crossing, several surprises were in store for the passengers.


One of those surprises is a new musical show called ‘When Mickey Dreams.’ (No, it's not about cheese.) The line says it's "a musical spectacle guided by a cast of Cirque-like 'dream seekers' at the Walt Disney Theatre.


The show's unique artistic nature will thrill guests, while a nightmare visit by the notorious villain Maleficent serves up a few chills."


On one night

…passengers will also be treated to a Mediterranean-carnival-themed deck party called "Party Paradiso." Disney says there will be special effects, Disney characters and performers to liven things up, and knowing Disney, this won't be your average deck party.


The other surprise for transatlantic passengers was a screening of the new Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The film opened last week internationally.

Disney says bookings have been strong for the European sailings, but don't expect a return engagement next year.

DISNEY MAGIC is slated to return to the West Coast for the summer of 2008.


I like those Disney ships…trans-Atlantic could be really cool? Without children aboard, of course!

Guess who wears the trousers?

Senora Rafaela Aponte, wife of MSC owner Gianluigi Aponte, oversees the interior designs of the line's newbuilds, in case you didn't know.

When the senora saw the final designs for MSC SERENATA, the second in the Fantasia series, she decided, if you please, that the ship’s name had to be changed!


She felt that that the effect was so splendid that, yes, the ship's name had to be changed to…no prizes for guessing!


Consequently, MSC announced last week that the ship's name will

be changed to MSC SPLENDIDA.


The first stages

…of construction of the 133,000-ton MSC SPLENDIDA have already begun. The first steel was cut at the Aker France yard on 12 April, and delivery is set for the spring of 2009.


The first of the post-Panamax line, MSC FANTASIA, is now scheduled to enter service late 2008. The date has been pushed back several months so that it won't be right on top of the MSC POESIA. (Those of us in living in South Africa know only too well why THIS is a name that should be changed!!!)

Till next Wednesday then,




In Johannesburg




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