For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting news about Captain Delavault, he has just announced his employment with Costa. So for those of you who would like to sail with him again, check with Costa to find our his schedule. Best of luck and smooth seas, Philippe!
Archive for January, 2010
Well the Cruiser Friendly Guide to Exploring the Antarctic Peninsula is a reality. The book is available online at shophollandamerica.com, amazon.com and cruiserfriendly.com. I am also very happy to report that it is now available on Kindle.
Starting in 2011, cruise ships carrying “heavy fuel” will not be permitted within the zone protected by the Antarctic Treaty which is everything south of 60 ̊ S latitude. That means that ships like the Seven Seas Mariner will be prohibited from even cruising through Antarctic waters. This action is the result of an increased number of “heavy fuel” cruise ships in the area and the mounting potential for adverse environmental and ecological impact. Heavy fuel is known to produce combustion related residue. The biggest culprit is sulfur. To conform to local regulations in many countries cruise lines are fitting their ships with state of the art “scrubbers.” Though these scrubbers minimize these emissions they are still more than can be absorbed by the Antarctic environment.
Antarctica is one of the last places on earth that is still relatively untouched by man. Due to the harsh nature of the environment man has had a limited presence on the Great White Continent. In Antarctica nature is balanced very delicately, one small alteration can have a deleterious down line effect. Ships carrying more than 500 passengers are automatically restricted to where they can go and are denied any small boat landings. Most of the larger ships are the same ones that carry “heavy fuel.”
It will be interesting to see what happens. Advocates of large ships in Antarctica say they can safely transport more people to the region with less environmental impact than the number of smaller ships it takes to transport a comparable amount. Those that are in favor of having only small ships in Antarctica say that the smaller size appeals to a more serious, expeditionary clientele that can better adhere to and control environmental and ecological concerns.
At the beginning of this Circle South America cruise our first two ports were Cozumel, Mexico and Belize City, Belize. Cozumel used to be a charming island where you could pass a lazy afternoon watching families stroll along the malecon (sea walk) or listen to a band play in the main square. Those days are long gone. Today Cozumel is popular with tourists who arrive by air but mostly by sea. The day we were in Cozumel there six other ships in this tiny port. Six ships of at least 2,000 passengers each, if not more. The sidewalks were so full of people, those less able to muscle their way through stumbled out into the streets - sometimes in front of rented dune-buggies and Volkswagen beetles driven carelessly by beer-swigging visitors in for the day. Loud music blares from new shopping malls and out of every store front someone was trying to lure me in with promises of “best price for you amiga.” Whatever semblance of Mexico and Mexican culture I could find was sadly distorted. Mexico is a beautiful country with an incredible history and rich cultural heritage, none of which I could see in Cozumel. It broke my heart to hear the slick hustlers selling tours and taxis, they were so cynical it did nothing but reinforce any negative stereotype one may have of the country. I was so overwhelmed by the crowds and - for lack of a better word - the “crap” - I went back to the ship.
The next day we were in Belize. Again, I know nothing stays the same, but I remember when we negotiated one of the first cruise ship landings in Belize City back in 1992. The government was so concerned about the reef and the ecology, they made us jump through all kinds of hoops to bring a 700 passengers in once a week. Our interest in coming to Belize was not to see Belize City but rather to take visitors out to nearby Maya archaeological sites. Since that time not much has changed in Belize City, it still lacks infrastructure and would not be considered an international destination. So it was quite surprising to see that at anchor during our call there were four mega-ships in for a total of 12,000 passengers! The new tender terminal was teeming with so many people it was obscene. I could not force my way through the crowds gathered in the few stores that were selling the same stuff I saw the previous day in Cozumel. It was crazy. I went back to the ship.
Riding back on the tender I looked at the ships at anchor and thought to myself, “if this were my first impression of cruising - would I think this was fun?” Hmm… I don’t think so. Most ports accessible from the United States on seven day cruises, including Mexico, the Caribbean and even Alaska, are becoming overrun with passengers from ships. There are days in some towns when there are more passengers than local residents. In many destinations what unique culture and history that once existed has steadily been reduced to a parody. Local cafes and shops have been replaced by recognizable multi-national companies that reassure visitors that this foreign place is really, “just like home.”
As someone who loves to travel to see places that are new and different, these experiences are less than disappointing. I wouldn’t go. However, I also would not be willing to give up cruising. Pondering this dilemma I had an aah-haa moment, aside from the luxury of still being able to get away from it all on longer, more exotic itineraries, maybe the future of short, seven day cruising will be mega-ships like The Oasis of the Sea, which are “the destination” unto itself. They offer something for everyone whether you wish to stay onboard and enjoy the world of opportunities or venture ashore, it’s up to you. Though they are monstrously big, from what I’ve heard, the layout and design flows so well one never feels crowded; there are plenty of intimate areas in which to escape. I don’t know. Maybe? What do you think? Certainly, something has to be done about these ports because they are getting to be a turn-off! Does the industry need to start looking at opening up new ports? Or do they need to set limits on existing ports? Or is it just me — is everyone fine with how these ports are growing and am I just getting older and crankier? I would love to hear your comments!. Please post them here.
Sherbet colored buildings, upscale shops, aerial tram to a private beach and a zip line, these are some of the attractions of Mahogany Bay. This new complex is the brainchild of Carnival Cruises which invested the money needed to develop this area as a destination. I have been coming to Roatan for thirty years bringing in some of the very first cruise ships. Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s there was no pier, tenders needed to use a rickety floating dock. As more and more ships started to call on Roatan which is world renown for its diving and snorkeling, a proper cruise pier was built but still options for the day were limited if you weren’t a water sport enthusiast. The small town of Coxen Hole offered little for international tourists so Roatan went pretty much unappreciated.
On the morning of our arrival I awoke to this charming new “village.” Constructed in a secluded portion of the island in a deep water bay, the surrounding hillsides are still untouched tropical forest filled with colorful birds and even monkeys. There is a brand new pier big enough for two large ships. Visitors off the ships were walking up the broad, winding walkway to sounds of a marimba band playing in the nearby palapa-hut restaurant and bar. Both guests and crew enjoyed the choice of activities and services located just a few steps from the ship. I was told all the construction was done by local residents and the new venture has created many jobs on the island.