Sapphire Princess Ice Cream Bar
Free Ice Cream on Princess
Yes, you can get free ice cream on Princess ships now. In fact, on my Sapphire Princess cruise we don't even have the old stand-by Haagen Dazs counter that once dominated every Princess ship. Instead there is a counter called Sundaes which is open 11:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. Sundaes offers free soft-serve ice cream daily with free toppings as well.
Fuel Surcharges Coming Soon?
When all of the cruise lines instated fuel surcharges two years ago, they did so when oil reached $105/barrel. They all kept their promise to remove the surcharge should the price oil fall below $70/barrel for 30 days in a row. That happened just about a year later - in fact the price of oil dropped to as low as $40/barrel. The surcharges are now currently not applicable.
But the cruise lines all warned us at the time they removed the surcharges that they reserve the right to reinstate them if oil goes back above $70 barrel. Oil has indeed been trifling with the $80/barrel range the last 30 days or so, and fuel surcharges could be reinstated again at any time. But they have not been reinstated yet.
Many cruisers will remember how the fuel surcharges of last year were charged to some cruisers without warning, even to people who had already paid for their cruises in full. Many of those charges were later refunded after class action lawsuits determined the surcharges were not applied with proper warning to the passengers.
Next time cruisers will not be so lucky. All the cruise lines have already given notice for the future that they reserve the right to reinstate the fuel surcharge at any time; even for cruisers who are paid in full.
But so far this year economic conditions have kept cruise fares low and fuel surcharges away. But as the economy recovers the price of fuel could go even higher, so do not be surprised if fuel surcharges come back in some form in the future. We will give you as much warning as possible as we monitor the price of fuel daily.
Princess Goes to Electronic Documents
When we were first launched CruiseMates in 1999 we heard the prediction that within ten years time every single cruise sale would have an Internet component. This week Princess Cruises just announced they will no longer mail boarding passes to future cruisers - they will rely upon every guest to go online to the Princess.com web site, fill in their reservation information electronically, and finally print out the boarding passes for their cruises.
This assumes that everyone who books a cruise has a computer with web access, or at the very least knows someone who with Internet access. But as anyone who has flown recently knows, that is a pretty safe bet. These days it is obvious that almost everyone in line for a flight completed their check in online and printed out their boarding passes.
Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines still mail the cruise documents, luggage tags, emergency contact forms and transfer vouchers to the future passenger. Receiving this package is a rite of passage for many cruisers - it leads to the now famous impromptu "document dance" which many cruisers perform upon opening the mail and seeing the cruise tickets in their possession for the first time. It's a little harder to get spontaneously excited about a document form you fill out online and print out on your inkjet.
Still, the process does save lots of time and money for the cruise lines, keeping your cruise costs lower. It also save plenty of time at the port since everything they need to know is already in their computer. Indeed, when I arrived to board the cruise I am currently sailing they already had my passport information, home address, credit card information, emergency contact information and other data in their computer. All I had to do was show my passport and credit card for verification before we received our keycards and headed on board the ship.
Future Princess guests will soon receive a new, downloadable "Princess Countdown Connection" widget, which sits on the cruiser's desktop and actually counts down the number of days before the cruise sails. From the widget will come customizable shore excursion eBooks, and links to personalized online luggage tags. The cruiser will also be reminded when it is time to make some of the more important decisions for the cruise or fill in more of the required paperwork.
Each widget message is fully customized to the specific cruiser, showing details about the cabin they have booked, the shore excursions available, the spa facilities on their particular ship, and more.
The change from printed information to fully digital documents has already started and applies to all North American passengers on voyages departing on or after January 21, 2010.
New West Coast Itineraries for Sapphire Princess
We are cruising upon Sapphire Princess to the Mexican Riviera this week. As noted before, there are three megaships doing this itinerary of L.A. to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. The other two post 100,000-ton ships are Mariner of the Seas and Carnival Splendor.
Sapphire Princess is going to continue this route only through the summer season. Starting next fall it has added seven new itineraries including two leisurely Pacific crossings between California and Sydney, Australia, plus additional Hawaii cruises. Here are the added routes:
* 2-day Pacific Coastal (Vancouver to San Francisco) -- September 20, 2010
* 30-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (San Francisco to Sydney) -- September 22, 2010
* 29-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (Sydney to Los Angeles) -- October 23, 2010
* 10-day Mexican Riviera (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) -- January 5, 2011
* 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) -- January 29, 2011
* 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) -- February 26, 2011
* 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) -- March 26, 2011
Fares start at just $199 per person for the new two-day coastal cruise. The 14-day Hawaii sailings begin at $1,995 per person, and 30-day crossings of the Pacific Ocean with stops in Sydney begin at $4,195 per person.
The cruises replace 15 previously scheduled Mexican Riviera sailings, although 17 cruises taking the current Mexican Riviera itinerary are still on tap for next Fall Season.
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Read about CruiseMates
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NEW CRUISEMATES CRUISES!
Snoozeman's Galveston Conquest Cruise
Join your CruiseMates Host Snoozeman on the Conquest of Galveston!
Travel from the Lone Star harbor to the Western Caribbean: Galveston to Montego Bay Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
Chef Matt Sigel's Cruise with CruiseMates
Join Chef Matt Sigel's on Norwegian Epic, Halloween Cruise, Oct 30, 2010
Travel from Miami to Costa Maya, Roatan Honduras and Cozumel - 7-days
Let's Get Lei'd 5.0
We're doing yet again - for the fifth time (because these cruises do so well) - We are going to Hawaii on a Princess ship, this time the mega-Sapphire Princess. We sail from Los Angeles and return to the same. Eight days at sea and five beautiful ports of call - four of them in Hawaii, plus Ensenada. February 26, 2011.