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CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.

Lisa Bauer of Royal Caribbean

Cruise News You Didn't Expect
We admit we get tired of reporting on norovirus and other over-blown maladies that happen on cruise ships all the times but somehow become big news each time as if were the first. So this week we are reporting on cruise news that has manifested in ways different from what we usually expect.

Royal Caribbean Lauds a Program from Rival NCL

Royal Caribbean's Lisa Bauer, Senior Vice President for Hotel Operations for Royal Caribbean, gave us details on the new ships planned for Royal Caribbean, and even reveals that she admires the job NCL has done with its singles program on Norwegian Epic.

Norwegian Epic has a subsection of 128 inside cabins, known as "Studio Staterooms," which are custom designed for single cruisers and do not carry a single's supplement charge. Royal Caribbean just announced that they will add just three singles cabins to Radiance of the Seas when it goes into dry dock soon. It isn't many, but it is a start.

Norwegian Epic Sailing from Barcelona this Summer!
Free meet and greet and ship transfers in Barcelona, 2-day Hotel Packages on sale now!
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When we asked Lisa if Royal Caribbean is thinking about creating a dedicated singles area on any of its ships, including the new builds Royal Caribbean has confirmed it will be ordering soon, Lisa replied, "Yes, NCL has done a great job with their singles program on that ship (Norwegian Epic) and we are looking into the possibilities for something similar in our new builds."

No, it isn't a guarantee, but at CruiseMates we agree that NCL did a great job with those single cabins and we would not be surprised if other cruise lines followed suit. In fact, we expect it to happen.

For the rest of the interview Lisa gives us many details on what Royal Caribbean has planned for its new class of ships and with the "Royal Advantage" upgrades going into Oasis of the Seas, Freedom, Liberty, Radiance and Splendor of the Seas. You can read the entire interview here: Lisa Bauer on Royal Caribbean Future Strategy.

See all of the great special values from Holland America here!
Bermuda from $699, Caribbean from $549, Alaska from $749, Europe from $849, Panama Canal from $799!
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Cruise Ships Return to Mazatlan

This morning we have word that just two weeks after cancelling Mazatlan as a port of call based on what were described as dire concerns for the safety of passengers, two cruise lines have returned Mazatlan to as regularly scheduled, as if nothing ever happened.

Carnival Spirit and NCL's Norwegian Star both made their regular stops in Mazatlan as normally scheduled on Tuesday, February 1st. Holland America has not resumed its calls to Mazatlan, nor has Disney Cruise Line.

Just last week a great deal of fanfare was made of the decision by all four of these cruise lines to discontinue stops in the Mexican coastal city in the state of Sinaloa - known for internal violence by suspected drug gangs. But in fact the number of incidents concerning cruise passengers has been limited to two minor incidents of petty theft. Another Canadian tourist was allegedly the victim of a shooting there, but he was not a cruise passenger.

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The mayor of Mazatlan correctly pointed out that several Caribbean ports, notably Jamaica and Nassau in the Bahamas, have experienced much worse crimes against cruise passengers including holdups of busloads of cruisers on shore tours by masked robbers. In St. Thomas last year a teenage girl was fatally shot as the unfortunate victim of gang-related crossfire while on a local bus to a popular beach.

Disney has had particular challenges with port stops. Disney Magic has scheduled stops in exotic Tunisia for its upcoming Mediterranean season beginning this May 28. The line is watching events in the area closely and still waiting to determine whether those stops will go forward as planned.

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SS United States Wins Preservation

With very few exceptions old ships die untimely and sad deaths, ending up in the scrap yards of Alang, India, where they are torn apart and sold for their base materials. One of the iconic ships of NCL, the SS Norway, originally built by the French Government as the SS France, ended up this way just a few years ago.

But another classic liner owned by NCL, the SS United States, has been favored with a far better fate. The classic and world-famous liner received a last minute reprieve from a group of preservationists who bought the ship and now need to find a workable way to preserve it.

The ship is now at dock in Philadelphia, where it has been sitting and rusting for decades. This historic ship was built in Newport News, Virginia, by the U.S. Government in 1952 as a combination transatlantic ocean liner and possible troop carrier in case of emergency. The ship was constructed mostly of metal to avoid fire at sea but was no clunky heavyweight. It won the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing ever by a populated ocean liner and has held that title to this day.

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On its maiden voyage from New York to Le Havre, France, in 1952, the liner's 268,000 horsepower engines set a new trans-Atlantic speed record: 3 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes, which beat the previous record by almost four hours.

The nonprofit group called the SS United States Conservancy announced its purchase of the vessel from Norwegian Cruise Line on Tuesday, Feb.2, for the price of $3,000,000. Now the group has just 20 months to find a partner willing to create a commercial use for the vessel. This will first require a massive cleanup effort to rid it of any toxic substances, now illegal, used in its original construction. Estimates are that it could cost as much as $200,000,000 to revamp and revitalize the ship for public access. Possible uses include a casino, hotel, museum or all three wrapped into one.

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new feature articles

Minimizing Dress Codes - Is There A "New Formal"?
The past decade each year has brought more changes, and less restrictions, on how the cruise lines are asking their passengers to dress. blue arrows

Royal Advantage Enhancements
"Royal Enhancements" puts Royal Caribbean on a hot streak, and Senior VP Lisa Bauer spills the latest strategies for singles, new ships, deployments, technology and staffing. blue arrows

Egyptian Turmoil Affects Cruises
NCL's Norwegian Jade and two ships from MSC Cruises, the Magnifica and the Splendida, each canceled stops in Alexandria and rerouted to various places. blue arrows

Culinary Sizzle on Seabourn Legend
Good Meals in Small Packages. Our culinary editor gives this small luxury ship the palate test. blue arrows

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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.

Allure of the Seas
Join your CruiseMates on the newest world's biggest cruise ship on October 2nd, 2011, on the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas slated to debut in early December of 2010. We have great prices and plenty of onboard fun in store for you!