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   Cruise Travel - Cruise News

Cruise Club is a free service, and when you join, you will begin receiving weekly updates including the latest cruise news and cruise specialsWelcome to this week's edition of Cruise News, the best place on the Web to find up-to-date information about cruises. To automatically receive Cruise News via email each week, join our Cruise Club.

For up to the minute news, stop by Cruise Talk anytime to post a message or find out what your fellow passengers and industry insiders are saying about a particular ship, cruise line or destination.

Cruise Views - April 24, 2006

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver explores some recent happenings in the the cruise industry.

Odds and Ends

"Holland America Line recently announced that it will be "enhancing" the dining experience on board their fleet with the addition of: Dancing waiters! A napkin ballet! Flying pepper grinders and a plate-spinning kick-line!"

When I first read this I simply though it was a late April fools joke, but no, they are deadly serious. Performing waiters are not a new concept; mass market lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been doing this for some years.

Now, while I will admit that I have enjoyed onboard entertainment in the past, I prefer it done by professional actors, dancers and singers in a ship's theatre or show lounge - certainly not in the restaurant when I'm trying to eat.

I experienced such dining 'cabaret' on an Royal Caribbean cruise in 2005. Personally I just wanted the waiters to concentrate on getting the order right, serving my food efficiently and then disappearing between courses. But no, the meals were regularly interrupted by speeches full of false sentiment, mediocre magic tricks and out of tune singing. It certainly did not enhance my dining experience at all.

I had thought HAL were wise enough not to go down this road and alienate their regular passengers, who I doubt are looking for an all singing and dancing experience. What worries me the most is the fact that the mass-market lines have been doing it for some years now. The majority of passengers onboard these ships must actually like it and give it a good score on their feedback forms.

Still, as HL Mencken once wrote "no one in this world ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses". Interestingly when Royal Caribbean ships sail from UK ports the waiters are all instructed to drop most of the cabaret and get on with their job. I wonder just how many people will read the HAL publicity and think "wow dancing waiters" and rush to book a cruise?

Another announcement that got my attention was Royal Caribbean International's announcement of the name of the cruise line's second Freedom-class ship: "Liberty of the Seas".

What an unimaginative name, especially from the cruise line whose ships are the market leaders in imaginative design. There was a time when ships were called evocative names like Mauritania, Imperator, Majestic and Auquatania, etc.

Today, the big three cruise lines appear to all be using the same names, for example; Carnival Freedom, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Spirit, Freedom of the Seas (RCI), Liberty of the Seas (RCI) and Norwegian Spirit (NCL). Then we have Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Majesty (NCL) and Majesty of the Seas (RCI) and Jewel of the Seas (RCI). We also have the Star, Sun and Dawn Princess, matched with Norwegian Dawn, Star and Sun. These all can't be coincidences, can they?

The big danger is that as cruise ships become more homogeneous in style and name, the passengers will not even remember which line or ship they sailed on. If the ports of call are all islands with sandy beaches and palm trees, they will probably not remember where they have been either. In fact the only thing that might just remind them that they have been on a cruise is cringing at the sight of the singing and dancing waiters!

However, I must give a little credit to RCI, who own Celebrity Cruises. The Celebrity ship names are very innovative compared to most, even if they are not to everyone's taste. Their fleet includes Zenith, Centaury, Galaxy, Mercury, Summit, Infinity, Constellation and the two future newbuilds will be named Solstice and Equinox.

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Description: Experience the beautiful ports of Nassau and Royal Caribbean's private island - CocoCay on a 3-night Weekend Getaway to the Bahamas. Absorb everything island life has to offer as you snorkel with the stingrays, parasail above the serene blue waters and walk the endless white sand beaches. From Miami.
Carnival - 4-Day Bahamas  from $229 per person
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NCL - Bermuda - 7 Day from $499 per person
Description: What a charming little chain of islands. Walk on pink sand beaches. Swim and snorkel in turquoise seas. Take in the historical sights. They're stoically British and very quaint. Or explore the coral reefs. You can get to them by boat or propelled by fins. You pick. Freestyle Cruising doesn't tell you where to go or what to do. Sure, you can plan ahead, or decide once onboard. After all, it's your vacation. There are no deadlines or must do's.
Holland America - Eastern Caribbean from From $599 per person
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Celebrity - 7-Night Western Mediterranean  from $549 per person
Description: For centuries people have traveled to Europe to see magnificent ruins, art treasures and natural wonders. And the best way to do so is by cruise ship. Think of it - you pack and unpack only once. No wasted time searching for hotels and negotiating train stations. Instead, you arrive at romantic ports of call relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Holland America - Alaska from From $499 per person
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