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Europeans Take to Cruising
As I write, I am sitting in the beautiful Terrazzo atrium of the brand new Emerald Princess. Princess ships are all gorgeous, so this one is no exception. I can't think of any place I would rather be.

I am surrounded by subdued wrought iron rails, gilded walls, soft music embellished by flowing fountains, and stained glass windows with the harbor of Naples showing in the distance.

This is my first Princess cruise in many years, though surprisingly, the ship is not much different. I was on the inaugural voyage of the Grand Princess in 1998 on a very similar itinerary, Istanbul to Barcelona.

Just like in 1998, this is more than a ship - it is a vacation machine. Princess has always excelled in tour management. Yesterday I was astounded at the precision with which the dozens of tour busses were unloaded after visiting Florence, Pisa and Lucca and thousands (!) of Princess passengers were repatriated to the comfort of their floating hotel.

I saw the officers on the bridge wing some 15 decks above ground level, looking down at the lines of us returning through the security doors. I realized how much effort is repeated daily by this crew in servicing nearly 3000 passengers. Tour coordination is started before the ship is even fully docked, yet their scheduling is so precise, the moment the ship is tied up we disembarked to board our minivan to Florence.

Yesterday alone there were twenty different tours offered, priced from $30 to $300 per person. Examples include Florence with the Uffizi Gallery, lunch and a stop in Pisa (my choice). There were simpler choices; such as a quick stop in Pisa to take a picture of the leaning tower.

Almost miraculously, every bus returned on time and passengers came onboard, got dressed for dinner, and were fed and happily entertained until bedtime. Today, we are in Naples, with tours like visits to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri available. Once again, about 20 tours offered in all price categories.

So, while the ship and Princess' excellent tour management is very similar to what we experienced nine years ago, what has changed? Well, the Euro is now 1 to $1.36, so shopping is expensive. Fortunately, this vacation is pre-paid in U.S. dollars, so we don't feel the pain.

The most evident change is the number of Europeans on board who have discovered the wonders of cruising, especially at Dollar vs. Euro prices. I hear British, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese accents all over the ship. And no wonder, think about taking advantage of the exchange rate, and not having to pay for the airfare. It's a wonder the whole passenger contingent isn't European.

Another change is the number of families with minors onboard. This ship (at 110,000 tons) qualifies as a "mega-ship" and so it includes the expected activities for the younger set. The tour options reflect younger, more active clientele.

The old cruise cliché of "sit on a bus and watch the world go by" tours is a thing of the past. 18 out of the 20 tours offered today warn of "extensive uphill walking" or "not for people prone to motion sickness."

And for the record, that motion sickness would be from the hydrofoils to the Isle of Capri offered on the tours, not from the cruise ship. So far, this sailing has been "smooth as silk."

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Take a break from the cold weather this fall and winter. Sail through the Southern Caribbean with your friends and family. Great prices still available. Call and reserve your tickets before prices go up. Mention for discounts.
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new feature articles

Condo Ships on the Horizon (Part 2)
The World, managed by ResidenSea, will soon have company with three new condo ships slated for roll-out. blue arrows

Condos at Sea: A World Apart (Part 1)
The World, managed by ResidenSea, will soon have company with three new condo ships slated for roll-out. blue arrows

Ship's Excursions vs. Private Tours
Which is best for you? Cruise Director, Kuki, analyzes the benefits and pitfalls of each so that you can decide. blue arrows

The Hotel Director's Many Hats
An interview with Carnival Triumph's Hotel Manager, Henry D' Roza, reveals the wide-ranging aspects of the job. blue arrows

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Reader Contributed Cruise Reviews!
We have thousands of cruise reviews written by people like you. This week's review:
RCI's Majesty of the Seas: While everything was more or less familiar-looking, it was new ... which is a plus.
- - We also wants articles by aspiring travel writers. Get More information.
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