Archive for the 'News' Category

The Jones Act has been in the news because of the hurricanes and the need to get supplies into hurricane ravaged US territories.  It was enacted in 1920 and was designed to protect the American Merchant Marine which would be needed in time of war.  Its basic tenant is that in order to carry goods or passengers between US ports, a ship must have the hull of the ship built in the US and at least 75% of its crew must be US citizens.  During the ongoing emergency at St Thomas, St Johns and Puerto Rico, there are too few US flagged ships available to move supplies to these territories.  Therefore the Jones Act was temporarily suspended.

How does the Jones Act affect the cruise industry and its customers?

There are a number of cruise lines whose ships ply US rivers who meet the Jones Act requirements.  The most well known is the American Queen.

However, most of the large cruise ships were built in Europe and are flagged in small countries that have low tax rates.  They cannot carry passengers between US ports without stopping at a foreign port.  There is one large cruise ship that meets the Jones act provisions.  It is NCL’s Pride of America. Its hull was built in the U.S. It’s flagged in the US and carries an American crew.   It’s based in Hawaii has weekly cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

It is the only large cruise ship that can do this itinerary and therefore it is no competition.  NCL has the only 7 day cruise in the Hawaiian Islands.

How does the lack of competition affect price?

We compared a Balcony stateroom on a 7 day cruise around Hawaii with an NCL 7 day cruise to the Western Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway.  Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess and others provide stiff competition on this itinerary.

The lowest priced balcony on the March 3rd 2018 sailing of the Pride of America from Honolulu is $2599 per person while the lowest priced balcony on the March 4th Norwegian Getaway is $1179, less than half the price of the Pride of America.

Itineraries are also affected by the Jones Act.  For example, for a round trip Alaska cruise from Seattle, one of the ports must be in Canada.

You can go to Hawaii on a cruise line other than Norwegian Cruise Line.  However, the ship will stop in Ensenada or Vancouver on its way to or from the West Coast of the United States and it will be an 11 or 12 night cruise with a lot of days at sea..

Are there benefits to the Jones Act?

Yes, crews receive higher wages and working conditions are better and safer.  Also, there are stricter environmental requirements for US flagged ships.

When NCL initiated Hawaii cruises on the Pride of America, they hired young Americans as waiters and room stewards and guess what happened?  Passengers complained bitterly about the quality of service.  It seems that the young Americans pictured themselves as laying out on deck during the day and partying at night with a smidgen of work here and there.

NCL had to build a facility in Maryland to train American staff in the art of service.  They are now able to weed out the party people before they board the Pride and service is now very good.

Viking River Cruises announced that New Orleans will be the home to 6 new Viking ships.  The first one is to arrive in 2017 and will sail to destinations like Memphis, St. Paul and St. Louis.  Viking’s move is expected to be a boon to the New Orleans’s tourism industry, with increased traffic to hotels and restaurants.

Because of Viking’s popularity in the European river cruising market, its move to the United States is likely to spark new interest in Mississippi itineraries in general.  The cruise line plans announcements on its Mississippi itineraries and ship design later this year. The boats which will be built in the U.S. are expected to be similar to the contemporary ships Viking uses on European rivers.

Interested in a Mississippi River cruise sooner than 2017?

The American Queen Steamboat Company operates the only true overnight steamboat on the Mississippi. The food is truly gourmet and the vessel, although a steamboat, has every modern amenity.

Although not a true steamboat, American Cruise Line’s new paddle wheeler, the America Eagle, will debut on the Mississippi April 11th.

Why a river cruise?

River cruising in general has exploded in popularity in recent years, offering a more intimate way to experience cruising than the mega-ships that carry thousands of people and are loaded with attractions such as rides and Broadway shows.  Some travelers say riverboats are a welcome throwback to an earlier era of cruising.

River cruising is also more destination-oriented, with boats navigating narrow waterways to port cities that massive ships could never reach.

Next Royal Caribbean Ship to Leave Fleet

posted by Wayne
January 16, 2015
Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas

The Majesty of the Seas is the last of its class in the Royal Caribbean fleet.  She will be heading to Europe in April of 2016 to sail for Pullmantour Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean International.  When she was built, she and her sisters, at 75,000 tons, were the biggest cruise ships in the world.  Twenty-two years later, she is dwarfed by the likes of the Oasis and Allure of the Seas at 220,000 tons.

She has been relegated to the short cruise market with 3 and 4 night cruises from Miami.  We sailed on her about 10 years ago and recall her wonderful crew and small (cozy) staterooms.  In Florida for the winter?  Why not take advantage of super low last minute rates?

Thinking of a Visit to South America?

posted by Wayne
December 12, 2014

Good news!  Now that Chilean citizens no longer need a visa to enter the US, Chile no longer requires Americans to pay a $160 reciprocity fee to get into the country.  When entering Chile (by cruise, vehicle or plane), at customs, you’ll need to fill out a Tourist Card that allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days and will allow multiple entries. You’ll need to show this Tourist Card to Customs when leaving the country as well, so be sure you don’t lose it!

As of now, a $160 reciprocity fee (paid in advance) is still required to enter Argentina and a Visa is still required for entry to Brazil.

Click here for country-specific entry requirements for US Citizens.

Quantum Shock

posted by Wayne
April 18, 2014
Quantum of the SeaS

Quantum of the Seas

We were shocked and disappointed when we heard that the Quantum of the Seas would be moving to China after its first inaugural season sailing from Bayonne.  The ship will move to Shanghai in May of 2015.  If you want to sail on the Quantum out of Bayonne, N.J., you must book a cruise that departs between November 18th 2014 and April 24th 2015.

The Quantum will be replaced in Bayonne with the Liberty of the Seas for the 2015 summer season.  As much as we love the Freedom class of ships, it’s hard to go back to an older class after experiencing the newest and most innovative ship from a local port.  We question whether the Liberty will succeed in Bayonne unless it is priced aggressively which, so far, it is not.

Royal Caribbean’s turn to the East is certainly based on research which evidently showed that China’s odd combination of communism and capitalism is creating a booming middle class ready to fill their newest ship.  With a population 4 times the size of the U.S., Royal Caribbean may be onto something by heading to Shanghai.

Royal Caribbean is Throwing Us a Bone

They will move the follow-on ship to the Quantum class, the Anthem of the Seas, to Bayonne for the winter 2015 season.  Beyond that, there is uncertainty.

A significant proportion of our clientele hate the hassle and expense of flying and would prefer to leave from a “local” port.  Philadelphia is out as an embarkation port.  It was tried in the past and discontinued.  We heard rumblings that the unions in Philadelphia were harder to work with than those in Bayonne and NYC and/or that the casinos could not be opened while the ships sailed in the Delaware Bay.  Since Philly is out, our local ports are Baltimore, Bayonne (Cape Liberty) or NYC (Manhattan and Brooklyn).

Distance is an Issue

Bermuda is the ideal port for local departures since it is located directly east from North Carolina and therefore is much closer than islands like St Thomas and St Martin which are far south and east of Florida.  Five, six and seven day Bermuda cruises are easily done from local ports.  The Bahamas can also be reached on 7 day cruises since these islands are quite close to Florida.  If you’re looking for an island like St Thomas, you’ll need more days from a local port.  Islands further south, like Barbados and Aruba, require even more time.

If you’re highly flexible with your dates and you have a generous budget, you can do pretty much what you want.  However, if you are limited to a week cruise, compromises are required.  You may need to fly in order to get the islands you want or you will need to accept Bermuda or the Bahamas as your destination.  By the way, we love Bermuda.

Turkey Changes Visa Policy

posted by Wayne
February 22, 2014

For as long as we can remember, Turkey has required a visa. Currently, you purchase the visa upon arrival at the airport for $20.  Effective April 10, 2014, travelers will need to obtain a visa prior to arriving in Turkey by accessing Turkey’s new e-Visa Application System.

For those folks who do not use computers or who need assistance with the process, call Just Cruises Plus and we will help you to obtain your Turkish visa.

Is a separate e-Visa needed for each traveler?

Yes, each traveler must obtain a separate e-Visa, including infants and kids. (Even though kids/infants are included in their parent’s passports)

What information will you need to complete the e-Visa application?

A minimum 6-month-valid passport, flight (or any other possible means of transportation) reservation and a credit card (Mastercard or Visa).

Do I need an e-Visa if I am on a cruise ship?

If you are flying into or out of Turkey as part of your cruise, then you need e-Visa.

If Turkey is on your itinerary (but not at the start/end point), you do not need an e-Visa because the cruise ship will be given permission by local authorities for you to enter Turkey.

Click here for more e-Visa information and to apply for your e-Visa.

Did you miss the article on our visit to the spectacular Turkish city of Istanbul?  Click here to read.

The Super bowl may be compromised due to the virus that sickened upwards of 600 passengers on the January 21st cruise of the Explorer of the Seas.  That was the opinion of a female passenger expressed in an interview aired by CBS.  The evidence was the fact that the ship docks within a few miles of the stadium.  Obviously the woman’s logic was bizarre at best.   Of course, the news media was on hand like vultures when the ship docked in Bayonne 2 days earlier than scheduled and they eagerly interviewed passengers who sought their moment of fame on the nightly news.  “Cruise from Hell” and “Nightmare cruise” are some of the terms used by news people who have no interest in the truth.

Here’s the real scoop from a passenger who was there.  The illness hit the ship early and hard.  The medical staff was clearly overwhelmed.  Dozens were lined up at the ship’s infirmary and were not seen for hours.  Others elected not to report their illness and to self medicate (Imodium).  People confined to their rooms needed room service but the room service staff was besieged with orders and, despite adding staff, could not keep up with the demand.  These are the people who were understandably very unhappy.

However, the majority of passengers did not become ill and life aboard was relatively normal although ports were missed and a few shows cancelled.  We were one of the lucky ones who did not experience illness.  We can say absolutely that the public rooms including bathrooms were kept spotless by a hard working crew.

For those who became ill, their misery lasted from 1 to 3 days.  Nausea and diarrhea were the main symptoms and those who reported their illness were quarantined for a day after their symptoms subsided.  Most of those who experienced illness had a good time once they became well, thanks to a dedicated crew and officers.  By the end of the cruise, the situation was well in hand. Very few new cases were being reported.

The captain held a meeting with the passengers and was quite up front about the problems encountered by the velocity of the spread of the illness.  He indicated that medical staff as well as Center for Disease Control (CDC) personnel had boarded the ship in San Juan and St Thomas.

The home office of Royal Caribbean did not cover themselves in glory.  They initially offered a less than WOW compensation to passengers which did not even cover the lost days.  A huge number of passengers expressed their strong displeasure at the offer.  Evidently, the captain conveyed the passenger’s unhappiness to the home office because they came back with an offer that was fair and generally accepted.

What did I learn from the experience?  Bring Imodium on a winter cruise and touch as few things as possible.

How should the cruise lines respond to these outbreaks?

Although the Norwalk Virus* is by no means limited to cruise ships (anyone who has lived at a university can attest to this), the cruise lines, in a coordinated and expedited effort, need to collaborate with the CDC to help determine how the illness is spread.

Next, the cruise lines should have a clear advertised policy on what happens when a passenger shows up at the pier for their cruise with an illness.  Currently they ask passengers to fill out a questionnaire about their current health.  I would suggest that most folks would lie rather than be denied boarding.

A plan needs to be developed in those extremely rare instances where illness strikes hundreds of people.  This should include having workers with other jobs be trained to recognize the Norwalk virus and deliver Imodium to the rooms of sick people.

Finally, the cruises lines should offer appropriate compensation when an outbreak occurs that has a significant effect on both sick and well passengers.  Cheapskate offers only alienate people.

What should you know?

The Norwalk virus is a winter malady.  If you are worried, cruise during the other three seasons.

Serious long term illness or death from the Norwalk is exceedingly rare.

Purell is useless against the virus.

Washing hands often will help stop the spread of the virus.

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*Norwalk virus was originally named after Norwalk, Ohio, where an outbreak of acute viral gastroenteritis occurred among children at Bronson Elementary School in November 1968.

Is Your Ship a Good Fit for Venice?

posted by Wayne
November 8, 2013
Ship Size Matters

Ship Size Matters

In January, there will be a limit on the number of ships over 40,000 tons that will be allowed in Venice Lagoon. 

After November 2014, no cruise ships over 90,000 tons will be allowed in the lagoon.  Officials expect that large ships will be rerouted through the Contorta Saint’ Angelo Canal which is further away from the most visited parts of the city.

If Venice is high on your list of places to see while on a cruise, this may be the last year that you will have a wide choice of ships and cruise lines that offer convenient access to the city.

US Shutdown Closes D-Day Cemetery

posted by Wayne
October 4, 2013

American tourists visiting the Normandy Cemetery and Memorial in France were greeted with a chained gate and a sign that read, “Due to the U.S. Government shut-down, this site is closed to the public”.  Many had planned their visits to relative’s graves for months and were outraged that they were prevented from paying their respects.

Each year, thousands of Americans visit the site of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France, which took place on June 6th 1944.  Several thousand American servicemen died in a single day of intense fighting on the beaches and cliffs at Normandy.  There are row upon row of Crosses and Stars of David over the graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Bermuda Allows Cruise Ship Casinos

posted by Wayne
October 4, 2013

Cruise ships visiting Bermuda can now keep their casinos open at night while in port, Bermudian members of parliament decided earlier this week.

The Cruise Ship (Casino) Act 2013 permits onboard casinos to operate between 9 pm and 5 am, the Royal Gazette reported.  According to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell, the move ensures that Bermuda remains a competitive cruise destination.

Cruise ships will need to remain in port for one full night or longer in order to qualify for permission to operate their casinos. Additionally, cruise lines will need to pay a casino licensing fee.