Photo by Ashley Sindaco
Following last week's killing of a cruise passenger, the United States Virgin Islands say they are making strides to make the island safer for tourists. The police on the island are increasing their foot patrols across the island to stem violence from occuring.
Police commissioner Novelle Francis issued a statement regarding the measures the police are taking, "In response to the tragic incident at Coki Point on July 12, the (Virgin Islands police department) has quickly augmented its efforts to increase police officer presence on the streets and patrol specific areas visited most often by tourists, including but not limited to cruise ports, beaches, historical attractions, hotels and popular sightseeing areas".
The increased measures to combat violence include
- Increased mobile patrols of other areas with high visitor traffic
- The upgrading of security surveillance apparatus across the territory, including the addition of surveillance cameras in towns with 24 hour monitoring
- New intelligence gathering prior to and during visits of the areas frequented by visitors
- Monitoring of the movement of visitors
- Increased high intensity patrols of popular attractions throughout the territory
In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands' tourist office announced plans this past Friday for a $1.2 million advertising and marketing campaign that will hopefully help portray the territory in a better light than it has been recently due to the news of the killing and violence on the island. The money will also be spent on new public relations efforts and to bring travel writers to the territory to write about it.
Charles J. Adams III took a cruise recently on Oasis of the Seas to see what was so great about the ship and he came back with a simple conclusion: everything! From the amenities to the layout of the ship, Charlie (as he's often called), liked all of it.
I found it surprisingly easy to find my way through the Oasis, despite its enormity. It is divided into distinct "neighborhoods" and "zones" and each passenger is provided with a pocket-sized map and guide. Interactive and static signs throughout the common areas also were very helpful.
Even after a week, Charlie admits he was hard pressed to find anything to complain about on Oasis, but did mention that some of the issues raised about Oasis are being addressed with its sister ship Allure of the Seas.
The Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line's bar-raising behemoth is incomprehensibly immense and, at first, intimidating. But after a bit of exhaustive virtual and exhausting physical exploration, I quickly became comfortable within the confines of the ship that is taller than the Berks County Court House and almost as long as the Maple Grove Drag Strip. Stood on end, it would easily be the tallest building in Philadelphia.
Robin Robinson of the Toronto Sun recently took a cruise aboard Voyager of the Seas and liked it as a great way to see Italy. She took notes on her cruise and shared her tips from her cruise as well as why she enjoyed the entire vacation as well.
Distances between Italian ports are short, so on a seven-night itinerary -- like one I sailed recently aboard Royal Caribbean International's Voyageur of the Seas -- a ship can visit a different place each day. Add the numerous architectural masterpieces and ruins, must-see museums and art galleries, and more World Heritage sites than any other country on Earth and it's easy to see why exploring Italy from a cruise ship is attracting not only North American travellers but also an international crowd.
It's been well documented that Royal Caribbean has been adding more ships to Europe and Royal Caribbean public relations representative Celia de la Llama mentions that this year Royal Caribbean has seven ships sailing in Mediterranean waters but next year the total will jump to 11 ships sailing a broad range of different itineraries from European ports.
Some highlights of her cruise included
- A drive along the steep and winding Amalfi Coast road -- dubbed the "Mamma Mia Road" because Italians are known to exclaim "mamma mia" while taking in the breathtaking views along its hairpin turns
- A visit to Tuscany's Varramista wine estate
- Ogling multimillion-dollar yachts along the St. Tropez waterfront
A South African woman, only known as "Taryn" claims she was raped by a coworker aboard a Royal Caribbean ship. She worked as a beauty therapist and says that she was raped by a fellow South African, a fitness instructor, and sent home after reporting the incident. This week she hired Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkelman, who specialize in maritime law and cases involving passengers and crew injured on ships worldwide.
Taryn reports that after she reported the case, the cruise captain told her: "There are two stories, his and yours, but his sounds more believable, because you had been drinking."
She said she was advised to drop the matter or face an FBI investigation into the incident since the alleged rape had taken place on a US-registered vessel. After she decided to drop the matter, "I was given two hours to pack my bags and say goodbye."
Photo by Kristina Remon
In terms of cruise lines going to Europe, there is no bigger player right now than Royal Caribbean. Royal is increasing its European presence from eight to 11 ships next year and will cover 27 countries and 78 ports. Ann Tatko-Pterson of the Times-Colonist tried out a seven day, 12 city cruise aboard Voyager of the Seas to get a sense of what a Mediterranean cruise is like and shared highlights from her cruise in a recent article.
From ports like Barcelona, Rome, Pisa, and Genoa, Ann took time to do a lot of different excursions that were available to her. She seemed especially intrigued by the customizable half or full day plans made available by Royal Caribbean, "For our first port of call, we joined a small private tour, one of three excursion options offered on Royal Caribbean's European cruises. These tours allow guests to design customized half- or full-day excursions for up to 10 people."
For our third day in Italy, we opted for an On Your Own excursion -- transportation is provided but visitors determine their own itinerary.
First up: Pisa, or more specifically, Piazza del Duomo. I was charmed by a scene straight out of a storybook. The walled square had lush green grass and a cathedral, baptistery and the Leaning Tower constructed of mostly grey marble, white stone and coloured marble accents. All three looked surreal. No wonder Italian writer Gabriele d'Annunzio dubbed the square the Field of Miracles.
It's no secret that Royal Caribbean has been moving many of its ships to Europe in search of higher revenue but Fox Business reports that when companies like Royal Caribbean made their plans for the 2010 cruising season, they did so back in 2008 when they expected a higher demand and stronger Euro than is current here. While that news isn't great for Royal Caribbean, it is good news for consumers looking for a cruise deal in Europe.
Here are some tips for those looking for a good deal on a European cruise vacation this year
Avoid cruise itineraries designed for Europeans. They prefer sunny resort destinations like the Canary Islands (the European version of our Caribbean cruises) over port calls at the culturally significant places that draw Americans.
If you are going to fly all the way to Europe, you'll want see more – so longer cruises are better.
Avoid the traditional European vacation season of mid-July through August. You will still find plenty of shopping and tourist services, but with lower prices and shorter lines.
Airfare from the U.S. usually drops in autumn.
Two cruise lines most Americans probably want to avoid (except for bargain hunters) are Costa and MSC Cruises. Both offer beautiful, modern cruise ships, but they market to non-English speaking passengers. Everything on board is presented in five languages -- Italian, French, Spanish and German and then English last. These ships are often bargain-priced, but the novelty wears off quickly. Most Americans prefer ships designed for our own tastes, especially when it comes to food, entertainment and shore tours.
In the United Kingdom, National Geographic aired a show called "World Record Cruise Ship" that profiled the building of the Oasis of the Seas earlier this week and Travel Daily UK reports that cruise retailer, Cruise118, has witnessed a 20% increase in sales for bookings on Oasis of the Seas.
Why the sudden jump in sales? “Feedback from customers is that the recent media coverage of the Oasis of the Seas ship has really shown them the appeal of modern cruise holidays,” said Cruise 118 director, James Cole. Old myths that cruises are for retired people are being debunked by television shows like this and it has resulted in more people wanting to cruise.
Our friends at Cruise Critic alerted us to the newest cleanliness report on Oasis of the Seas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency in the United States gave Oasis of the Seas a perfect 100 on its vessel sanitation inspection. This inspection is a very stringent cruise ship cleanliness exam conducted twice a year and is done by surprise.
There were some minor infractions, but nothing large enough to cause the ship to lose points. An example is at the Buffet Solarium Center Island, "There was no serving utensils for the container of apples or containers of pears.". Royal Caribbean responded to this by instructing the crew to ensure that there is a utensil for each food container on the buffet.
You can view the report in it's entirety on the CDC website.