That's me, on the right, wearing my Ministry of Supply 'Core' shirt.

That’s me, on the right, wearing my Ministry of Supply ‘Core’ shirt.

The debate goes on.  Cruisers who long for the cruising of yesterday (dressing up, all-assigned dining tables and time, etc.) versus the growing number of cruisers who seem to enjoy the options cruise lines offer today, allowing for more choice with regards to dining and dress.  Well, I found a line of clothes that allows you to both look good and feel comfortable doing so, all day long.

The company is Ministry of Supply, based out of Boston, MA.  As of this writing, MOS offers clothing only for men, and they certainly do not market themselves in the world of cruising, but towards the business professional (think “the active professional”).  I can’t speak for all male cruisers, but I for one prefer to dress more business casually for dinner on board, than I would more formally.  Heck, you’re on holiday!

MOS takes the technology principles that exist in performance apparel (think Under Armour, Patagonia) and bring it into professional clothing like dress shirts and pants.  Who wouldn’t want this on their cruise vacation, particularly if you want to look great, and feel comfortable as you cruise into warm weather climates!  I purchased one of their shirts and wore it all day long in Bermuda.  It did what it was supposed to do, and I felt comfortable both in the outdoor heat and in the air-conditioned restaurants we visited.  Now, MOS is looking to produce a performance dress sock!  You can read about it HERE.  Their entire line can be found HERE.

Here’s to a comfortable cruise!!

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

In today`s world of professionalism, most of us know what we want, what we like, and we let our demands be heard. When we go on a cruise, and into a bar, it tends to be the same way. We know, we want, and we demand!

A bartender is like any other profession: service; knowledge of the trade; small talk by the counter; seeing the guests; and knowledge of the bottles.

Berger’s law:

A bartender is a person which the guests seek. In the opposite of a waiter, the bartender is standby at the bar counter.  That can be demanding, but also giving. People seek You, the professional, the bartender.

  1. A bartender knows all his/her bottles and what they are.
  2. A bartender knows about the production of all his bottles.
  3. A bartender welcomes all his guests, and sees them.
  4. Knowledge of alcohol law is always at it’s place.
  5. The bartender knows about alcohol limits, potential dangers, and effects.
  6. A bartender uses small talk effectively, both for pleasure and for checking the guests status.
  7. The bartender knows his bar menu, and a lot of international cocktails.
  8. A bartender always has a design cocktail for You!
  9. If the guest is having a bad day, the bartender has a solution!
  10. A bar professional can cheer me up.
  11. The bartender is always a listener.
  12. A bartender is never the same…

Like Isaac from “Love Boat”, or like Sam in “Cheers,” the bartender is your friend and guest host during a cruise. Ask him for your favorite cocktail. Ask him for something special. Ask him for his favorite. The bar menu is just the ABC’s, it is the rest that separates the pro from the others. “Cheers,” cruise lovers, and have a “cocktail dreams” next cruise!

“It’s not the mixing which is the difficult part, but to be a bartender…”

Greetings from the sea: Tore Berger

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

The debate goes on with regards to cruise passengers’ feelings about the ever-increasing amounts of “specialty charges” on board most major cruise ships.  One thing is for sure…numbers don’t lie!  A recent study (conducted by the Business Research & Economic Advisors (B.R.E.A.) for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association) shows decreases in Average Percentage of Passengers Making Purchases at 21 (survey) participating ports of call in the Caribbean.  In my opinion, it is pretty clear that as passengers partake of an increased number of on-board activities (costing money), it is less likely that they will spend more on land.  Here are the stats as compiled by the B.R.E.A. (2008/09 Cruise Year, 2011/12 Cruise Year):

  • Watches & Jewelry: 18.1%, 17.0%
  • Taxis/Ground Transportation: 23.3%, 18.5%
  • Clothing: 40.0%, 40.1%
  • Local Crafts & Souvenirs: 48.5%, 46.7%
  • F&B at Restaurants & Bars: 41.5%, 45.8%
  • Shore Excursions: 56.6%, 56.1%
  • Other Purchases: 22.2%, 20.0%

The net result was a slight decline of 0.8 percent in the average weighted expenditure of cruise passengers during the 2011/2012 year to $97.12 per passenger visit, from $97.93 per passenger visit in the 2008/2009 cruise year.  Interesting of note is that while the average amount of passengers who made purchases decreased, the dollar amount per purchase, per passenger, increased!  Seems those who are shopping are spending greater amounts while in port!

Happy Cruising and Happy Fathers Day everybody!

Nassau's Atlantis, as seen from the deck of Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.

Nassau’s Atlantis, as seen from the deck of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.

The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, in its most recent report on Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism, lists The Bahamas as Number One in “Total Cruise Tourism Expenditures” (2011-2012 Cruise Year) with a total of $393.8 (U.S.) million.  While many of the ships calling in The Bahamas dock in Nassau, this total encompasses all ports of call in The Bahamas.

St. Maarten ($356.2 million), The U.S. Virgin Islands ($339.8 million), Puerto Rico ($186.6 million) and The Cayman Islands ($157.7 million) round out the top five.  Together, the top five accounted for 72 percent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 21 destinations.  The bottom two were St. Vincent and The Grenadines ($3.0 million) and Nicaragua ($2.0 million).

All destinations combined totaled $1,990.0 million.

35 CLSHSerenity01RendjpgAs a lover of the “mega-cruise-ship”concept, I remember the year 1996, when Carnival’s Destiny debuted.  It was the first cruise ship to crack the 100,000-ton barrier, and I couldn’t wait to see it.  In 1992, my first cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas, and at that time, she was second largest (to NCL’s SS Norway), and I thought the Sovereign was huge.  But now, 100,000-tons…wow!  The Destiny was impressive; large open spaces, a massive pool deck with a unique lounger layout, more dining and drinking venues, and, not as flashy-looking, compared to her earlier sister ships (Fantasy-class).  I had the chance to sail her again about three years ago, when a good friend announced his wedding would be in Key West, during the Destiny’s call at the port.  So, my wife and I joined the party.

In a day when companies are selling off older ships and building new ones, the Destiny-Sunshine concept is intriguing, because it is being billed as the most extensive renovation of an existing liner.  Most are saying that she is not recognizable!  There have been many exciting upgrades and additions, and we can’t wait to experience them.  Not only will Sunshine be a destination herself, but her (soon to be) home port is as well.  What better place for the excitement and buzz of Carnival’s “newest” ship than the energetic city of New Orleans?  Talk about a pre or post-cruise experience; New Orleans can certainly be one if you so desire.

OBXRF4jpg OBXRF2jpgOne of my favorite additions to Sunshine is the RedFrog Pub.  Not only has Carnival’s beer selection improved over the years, but now they also feature their own brew: “Thirsty Frog Red.”  And, those who know me have many nicknames for me, among them, “beer snob.”  Needless to say, I am excited to sample Carnival’s craft brew.  Below is an excerpt from Carnival’s website, focusing on the RedFrog Pub:

Get into an island state of mind before you even set foot on one. RedFrog Pub is our laid-back, no-worries, oh-so-lively Key West-inspired pub. Sample Caribbean fare, dominate at the foosball table, enjoy some sweet tunes from live musicians and sip our tasty signature private-label brew, ThirstyFrog Red. So kick back and feel the island vibe come to life. You’ll be a local here before you know it.

Want to learn more about the Carnival Sunshine?  Click right HERE and enjoy!

buffetbevIf you like to get all or most of your meal items at the buffet, in one shot, some cruise ships are making it difficult to do so.  On some ships, there is one thing that is lacking, and that can help with this problem:

TRAYS!

We recently returned from a cruise ship which did not offer trays for passengers’ use at the buffet.  One passenger joked that it was because there was a “Server Convention” on board.  Very clever…I thought!  Well, there are some very valid reasons for eliminating trays:

  1. More room at your tables
  2. Less weight on the ship
  3. Less to clean
  4. More room for those in line at the buffet, and
  5. Less cost for the cruise line.

Yes, these make sense, and I’m sure there are others.  But, not all of us are servers, and can balance a plate on one arm, while carrying a bowl of something in one hand, and a beverage in the other.  In addition, going back and forth (and perhaps waiting for others in your party to do the same) means your food may get cold.  Also, what if you want take a bunch of stuff back to your stateroom?  We missed our trays!

I’m not suggesting you pack a couple of trays to take with you (maybe we will start a trend, LOL!), but there is something much simpler you can do.  Order room service.  Then, when you are finished, put all of the items outside for pick-up, but KEEP THE TRAY!  Take the tray with you to the buffet area.  We did this on our last cruise and we got more of the “Mr. Spock Raised Eyebrow” looks from the staff than we did from fellow passengers.  Remember to take the tray back to the room when you are done!  Tacky…a little…but we wanted to consume our food while at its warmest!

Enjoy your next cruise everybody…we will be back soon; Cheers!

Enjoy this video of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, as she departs New York City. The footage was shot from on board the ship, and the audio is unaltered. Share in the excitement as the Breakaway clears the Verrazano Bridge, on her way to Bermuda.  -May, 2013

IMG_5022This was our final day at sea heading back to New York City.  Again, the beautiful weather continued, and it was warm enough to ride the slides, and for the rest of our group to challenge the rope course and to walk the plank!

The water slides on Breakaway are by far the fastest water slides at sea that I’ve experienced.  In addition, the water is heated, so even on cooler, windier days, passengers can enjoy the pools and the water park.  Just keep your towels close by!  The two free fall slides provide quite the rush, but the others aren’t anything to stick your noses up at either!  They ride fast, and, at some point, you are in total darkness.  The first time is the greatest, since you do not really know when you are going to reach daylight and splash at the bottom.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing at Spice h2O and enjoying cold beverages.

On the Breakaway, passengers may choose their colored luggage tags for disembarking.  A chart is provided with the approximate times that the colors will be called, so that you may plan your morning accordingly.  In addition, you may disembark as soon as the ship is cleared if you can carry all of your luggage off of the ship.  Otherwise, it was requested that your bags be placed outside of your staterooms as close to 11:00pm as possible, on the final night.

The process on the final morning was very civilized; not as chaotic as I had envisioned.  The bags were easy find, but if you do not recall from Embarkation Day, the pier is perpendicular to the street, so it is a long walk out once you have your belongings.  Catching a cab was easy…just across the street on 12th Avenue is a taxi stand, and they are all lined up and waiting.  The ride to La Guardia Airport was a brief 25 minutes, and cost, with toll and tip, $42.  Many people were sharing rides to the airport as well.  Another positive note…we were in the taxi line 21 minutes after our luggage tag color was called…and we left from the 12th Deck!!

Got a later start on Friday, but breakfast foods were still available in the Garden Cafe at 11am. The staff keeps ¼ of the buffet open for breakfast while lunch is being prepped; great for the late risers!

We did not want to wander too far from the ship today, our final day in port. We walked towards the Maritime Museum, and as we got closer, noticed a sign for “Fun Golf” and “Beach Water Sports.” We actually saw these signs upon arrival two days ago, but assumed it had something to do with boarding a bus and traveling elsewhere, since neither of these amenities were mentioned anywhere on the ship; not even in any of the literature. We were (pleasantly) surprised to learn that we were already there!

That’s right…just on the other side of the wall of the Maritime Museum! A beach with chairs for rent and all types of water sports and activities, AND, next to it, a separate entrance for FUN GOLF. Fun Golf has an 18-hole putt putt course, and each hole is a miniature version of a famous hole from 18 different PGA tour stops! The facility is brand new (about 45 days since its opening), and obviously well maintained. The co-owner, Jill, explained to us that there will be more, with plans to add a restaurant to the already popular Caddyshack Bar, where we hung out for about 90-minutes, after our 18-holes! The cost to play golf is $15 per person, and is well worth it. This was not one of those putt putt courses that you can complete in 20-minutes! We wish we knew about these two facilities earlier. Be sure to check them out, and look for pictures on our Facebook Page soon!

We boarded the Breakaway about 3:30pm, had a late lunch, and then headed for the obstacle course. Not much of a wait time at all, so I was in gear in no time. I am not fond of heights, but saw all of these kids doing the course, so I had to do it! I’m happy to say that I completed the course, but did so in probably half the speed of everyone else. I got to the plank, and actually walked it…and even thought it was easier because it was a solid piece to walk on, while most of the course was suspended and gave a bit when you walked on them. It was cool, because the ship was leaving the port as I walked the plank. By the way Oasis-Class Ship Fans, there is a zip line on the NCL Breakaway too…it’s part of the course, and is about the same distance across!

After dinner we made our way to deck 16 to grab some chairs for the fireworks display, set to begin about 11:15pm. The music of the 80’s Party was fantastic, and it led straight into the fireworks display, which was choreographed to the music! The fireworks lasted for about 5-minutes, and while others expected it to last longer, I did not think it would last five minutes. What can you expect at sea? Another successful innovation for Norwegian Cruise Lines!

On Saturday, weather permitting, it is off to the water park. Enjoy the weekend…cheers!