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Archive for November, 2008

Oceania Cruises’ Nautica fights off pirate attack

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 30 - 2008

Seatrade Insider is reporting that Oceania Cruises’ vessel Nautica averted a pirate attack while in transit of the Gulf of Aden Sunday morning.

According to the publication, two skiffs approached the ship whereby the crew proceeded with evasive measures. According to Oceania president, Bob Binder, eight shots were fired on Nautica by the pirates. No one was injured and the vessel sustained no damage.

Binder stated that Nautica was sailing within the prescribed Maritime Safety Protection Area which is patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces. “The closest the pirates ever got to the vessel was 300 meters,” said Binder. Binder also stated that Nautica is continuing to its next port of call, Salalah, Oman, and is due to arrive on schedule Monday.

This latest pirate attack is not the first on a cruise ship. Last April, pirates off the coast of Somalia seized control of French sail-cruiser Le Ponant, which was repositioning without passengers from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean. The 22 crew members were eventually released unharmed. In 2005, Seabourn Spirit sustained shots from pirates wielding rocket launchers in two small vessels off the Somalia coast. The ship undertook evasive action, and there were no injuries.

Stay tuned for more details…

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Disney Magic scrapbook

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 29 - 2008

Faith, trust and some pixie dust! Enjoy some terrific images from the Disney Magic’s Thanksgiving holiday sailing.

Disney Magic & Disney Wonder meet at Castaway Cay

This has only happened twice before in the HISTORY of Disney Cruise Line — the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder meet in Castaway Cay. Watch this magical moment where the Wonder and Magic have a “When You Wish Upon A Star” horn battle.

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Disney Magic & Disney Wonder meet at Castaway Cay

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 28 - 2008

Disney Magic & Disney Wonder meet at Castaway Cay

This has only happened twice before in the HISTORY of Disney Cruise Line — the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder meet in Castaway Cay. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Wonder bumped up its departure date to Wednesday instead of its usual Thursday sailing. Due to this unusual scheduling and the fact that the Magic was double dipping at Castaway Cay on Friday the captains of both ships thought it would be neat to meet. So, they worked together to create a magical moment where the Wonder would pass by Castaway Cay and have a “When You Wish Upon A Star” horn battle. It was a great moment for passengers on the Wonder and better for those of us on Castaway Cay to see both ships saluting each other.


Filled Under Cruise Videos

An expensive surprise: life at sea takes a visa

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 28 - 2008

Aaron and Shelly Belams of Wisconsin looked forward to their Princess Cruises vacation from Rome to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The couple found a deal through an online travel agency that priced the 21-day cruise at $2,200 per person – a good value. Or so the Belams thought.

Expensive surprise

About six weeks before sailing, Princess notified the Belams’ travel agent stating the couple would need a Brazilian visa. The cruise line noted that it was the passenger’s responsibility to get them and any passenger who did not have a visa would be denied boarding.

The visas would cost $210 per person (actual visa cost, plus expedited service) – an unwelcome $420 surprise. It gets worse — the cruise ship was only stopping at one Brazilian port, Fortaleza, for only nine hours! “If we’ve known that it will cost us that much for a few hours in Brazil, we would have looked for cruises that do not go to Brazil at all,” says Aaron Belams.

Visa stamp — you can’t cruise without it

Many people dream of exotic cruises with stops in places like Brazil, but beware as foreign country visas can add a big expense to that cruise deal. Although many countries require only a passport, some call for U.S. citizens to get visas, too.

Newer ports of call in Brazil, Turkey, and Russia require them. There’s a difference with Turkey and Russia: Turkey allows cruise ships to acquire “blanket visas” that cover all passengers and Russia allows guests of cruise ships to bypass a visa if they tour with approved tour operators. However, if you want to see the sites of Russia sans tour guide you will need a Russian visa.

Another thing to keep in mind when applying for a visa is that some Middle Eastern and African countries will not issue visas or allow entry if your passport indicates travel to Israel. Also, some countries like South Africa require blank pages for entry/exit stamps.

In the case of Brazil, it appears to be completely political and a case of reciprocity. If a Brazilian citizen is required to obtain a visa to enter a country then citizens of that country wishing to visit Brazil will be required to obtain a Brazilian visa. Sadly, U.S. and Brazilian citizens must pony up a $130 visa fee along with any added expenses to visa service companies for the processing convenience.

Read the brochure

Princess is correct – visa information is listed in the “General Information” section of their brochures and on its Web site. The information clearly states that it is the “sole responsibility of the passenger to carry and have available all required travel documents.” It also says, “Passengers who do not possess the proper documentation may be prevented from boarding their flight or the vessel without refund of the cruise or cruise-tour fare.”

Bottom line: the visa requirement is your responsibility not the cruise line’s in most cases so do the homework necessary well before you leave home or employ the services of a good travel agent whose job it is to know the requirements. Unfortunately, the Belams didn’t have a knowledgeable travel agent.

Some important things all travelers should do to avoid hassles:

Check the expiration date on your passport. Many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry. To be safe, renew your passport if it’s expiring within nine months.

Look at visa requirements. Although many countries require only a passport, some call for U.S. citizens to get visas, too. Check the State Department Web page listing to see where visas are necessary.

As for the Belams they’ve learned a lesson: Check out the country’s visa fee first before we book our cruise.

Filled Under Advice, Ombudsman

Disney Magic tour — Chac Tun Caverns

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 26 - 2008

Did you know there are over 10,000 underground rivers in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula? And, did you know that some rivers have caverns and caves with pools of water called cenotes that allow snorkeling among the stalagmites and stalactites? Yesterday, my family and I had the opportunity to experience Chac Tun Caverns near Playa del Carmen.

Upon reaching Chac Tun we were given hard hats, life vests, snorkel equipment, and flashlights. We hiked through several caves and our guide, Ruben, told us about this secret underground world that was used by the ancient Mayans for sacred ceremonies of purification and rejuvenation.

We learned about the cave’s rock formations of stalagmites and stalactites. As water containing minerals seeps into a cave, it drips from the ceiling to the floor. Depending on the amount of evaporation and the amount of minerals in the water, some minerals are left on the ceiling and floor. Over a period of time, they form stalagmites and stalactites – a stalactite hangs from the ceiling, and a stalagmite forms on the floor underneath, where the water lands. In due course, they will meet, forming a column.

When it was time for our snorkel we took a deep breath and plunged into the 75 degree water. It was a shock at first, but it ended up feeling great after a minute or two. We followed Ruben through narrow cave openings to deeper water areas of the cave. Snorkeling in a cave is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced — the water is crystal clear. Snorkeling along the flashlight revealed beautiful rock formations, a set of ancient jaguar bones, and a few startled catfish. Some areas reached 25 feet in depth and other areas we had to float on our backs to go through and others areas we had to climb over rocks to visit more shallow areas.

Afterwards it was time to hike back above ground. All and all and amazing tour.

Stay tuned for more blogs from the Disney Magic.

Also, check out our earlier post on BLACK FRIDAY CRUISE DEALS!  Deals from $25 per day!!

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Black Friday cruise deals from $25 per day!

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On November - 26 - 2008

We’re hearing the cruise lines will unleash a ‘buffet’ of sales on Friday. Our friends at Costa Cruises have given us a sneak peak at their Friday sale. Get this — a 7-day cruise for $199! That’s less than $25 per day!

The “Moonlight Amore Sale” features special low rates for select 7-night Caribbean cruises when booking this Friday, November 28, 2008, between the hours of 4:00 a.m. and 10 a.m. EST. Guests can book rates as low as $199 – less than $25 a day for accommodations, meals and entertainment! This offer is only available on costacruises.com due to booking limitations (and the majority of the time period!) However, all bookings are transferable to travel agents! This deal will only be published on Friday — you will not see it on Costa’s site until then.

Keep coming back to ExpertCruiser for more sneak peaks for great “Black Friday” cruise deals.

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