Holland America still stops in Istanbul…and you should too

With terrorism concerns everywhere, it is often easy to over-react. Many cruise lines have now cancelled their port calls in Istanbul…..one of the world’s most exotic cities.  We feel this is un-necessary, as incidents can happen anywhere.  In fact, the Paris bombing claimed more victims than Istanbul, yet we don’t see large flight cancellations to Paris.

We applaud Holland America for not following suit and continuing to offer this great port of call.  Holland America’s Eurodam is due to spend the night of July 22; and that port of call is still on the books, according to the line. In a statement, the line said: “Holland America Line is closely monitoring the situation in Turkey. The company analyzes information regarding safety and security from many sources, which includes liaising with government intelligence agencies and on-the-ground port security assessments. We are assessing our upcoming scheduled visits to Istanbul. Should any decisions be made regarding itinerary changes, it will be closer to the scheduled call date and communicated with booked guests and their travel agents. The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority.”

And remember, Holland America has a Catholic priest on every cruise.


Costa Cruises drops Priests from cruises

Costa Cruises has suddenly (actually last year, without warning or notice) dis-continued their long-standing policy of having a Catholic priest on all its cruises.  The cruise line is based in Italy, but is also going to be sailing from Fort Lauderdale, beginning December 20, 2015.  

We have inquired as to whether they might have a Catholic priest on the December 20th sailing, since they will be sailing over Christmas.  Their itinerary calls for them to be in Honduras from 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. on the 24th and Cayman Islands from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Day.  We have had no reply, so you will probably not have a priest on board.


Norwegian Cruise Line changes to a la carte pricing in specialty restaurants

The days of those limitless buffets and gourmet meals on cruises have gradually eroded.  Sure, the restaurants are still included in your fare….but if you want a “specialty restaurant”, then that will be extra.

Our guess is that many cruise lines have gone so far down the discount road that they have to make up the difference somewhere, and that is where “specialty restaurants” come in.  

At an upcharge of $15-$35 per person, they have become an extra cost option on most cruise lines.  Whether it is worth it over the standard fare is a subject of some debate.

But now comes a change….according to Travel Pulse, NCL is now changing to a la carte pricing on many of its ships.  And boy, is it complicated!  

For the full article click here.


Check out this Guide to Cruise Ports

We recently came across an excellent guide for cruisers:  Toms Cruise Port Guides.  It is a tremendous resource for those stopping at the various ports that are covered.  

The publisher of the website….named Tom, of course….has done an incredibly thorough job of guiding you through various ports.  He plans to add one port each month to the site.  

We highly recommend you visit TomsCruisePortGuides.com



Sailing from Galveston…Dickens on the Strand Dec 5-7

Galveston, Texas is a popular cruise ship port for many.  If you will be sailing from the port of Galveston the weekend of December 5, 6, 7 then you will have the opportunity to participate in the Dickens on the Strand celebration that takes place that weekend.  


Handbell concert at Saint Joseph's Church
Handbell concert at Saint Joseph’s Church

One of the most interesting activities is the handbell concert held in Saint Joseph’s Church.  No longer a Catholic church, it was was de-consecrated in 1968 and many of the interior items auctioned off; however, the Galveston Historical Foundation bought the building and many of the statues and other features so that it now closely resembles the Church that it was before.  

For more information about Dickens on the Strand click here.


Re-positioning Cruises with a Catholic priest on board

Many of our readers like to go on cruises….they pack a lot of bang for the buck and are certainly popular.  One way to get an even better bargain is to take a re-positioning cruise.  When a cruise line wants to move a ship from one area to another (for example, from Alaska to the Caribbean) it does not want to sail an empty ship.  So it offers bargain rates to help fill up the ship for these one-way journeys.  

There are a couple of drawbacks and some benefits. One of the drawbacks is that they are usually more than 7 days, so you need to have more time.  The other is that you generally have more sea days and fewer port calls.  

On the other hand, you get all the usual entertainment and dining options as on any other cruise at what is often a bargain price.  And those sea days can mean more time to relax and unwind.

The opportunity to attend Mass while on your cruise is an added bonus.
The opportunity to attend Mass while on your cruise is an added bonus.

And, there are two cruise lines that promise a Catholic priest on board all re-positioning cruises.  You can attend Mass daily if you choose, and have the opportunity for Confession as well.

One is Holland America….and they have a priest on all of their cruises not just the re-positioning cruises.  The other is Royal Caribbean, which offers a Catholic priest on all of their re-positioning cruises.  

The benefits of a Catholic priest on board mean that the crew can attend Mass, go to Confession, etc. Something they are often unable to do for months at a time.
The benefits of a Catholic priest on board mean that the crew can attend Mass, go to Confession, etc. Something they are often unable to do for months at a time.

And, it is a great service to the crew members, who often spends months at sea with no opportunity for Mass or Confession.    Many of these crew members come from predominantly Catholic countries such as the Philippines and by your encouraging the cruise line to have a priest on board you are truly helping in the New Evangelization.

Here are just two examples that we found for 2015.  There are bound to be many more.  

Not sure why my spell-checker doesn’t like re-positioning…darn computers.  But then where would we be without them?  Happy sailing!

Photos courtesy Apostleship of the Sea


Mass at the Airport?

Oops…what about Mass?

I’ve found that when I try to arrange my travel plans, the actual day of departure can depend on factors outside my control!  And I don’t like being out of control.   For instance, If a tour I really want to join starts and ends on a specific day, I  have little choice about when I leave.   Or  a business trip, is another instance where I have little wiggle room.  Leisurely traveling on my own?  Depends on the airline, my schedule and a lot of things I just can’t control.

Then, as my travel date gets closer and I realize that I’ll be traveling over a Saturday night, and my flight leaves too early for a Vigil Mass,  it hits me that I may not be able to attend Sunday Mass at all.   Have you ever had the pleasure of trying to find a Catholic Church after getting off the plane in a foreign country with serious jet lag?   I have and I wouldn’t recommend it. 

So maybe I can help you out.  It took me a while, but I discovered that there are actually chapels at many airports where you can attend Sunday Mass (or even daily Mass at some airports).  You might be able to catch one before departure or possibly upon arrival in your next city….or even between flights.  

I once landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle at 9:00 a.m., attended an 11:00 am. Mass in the airport chapel, and then caught my next flight at 1:00 p.m.  

We have just added a page to our website detailing various airport chapels around the world.  Although most of these chapels are non-denominational, they do offer a Catholic Mass on many occasions.

If you are  in a pilgrimage group traveling with a priest, you can usually make arrangements to say your own private Mass in the airport chapel regardless of your day of arrival. 

Can’t make Sunday Mass due to travel?  

This is what I’ve been told by a priest friend of mine:  “If you absolutely cannot find a Mass due to traveling, then you are relieved of your Sunday obligation.  But I suggest you attend Mass as soon as possible and offer that Mass up as your Sunday Mass”


A great cruise opportunity from Canada

We like to point out bargains as we find them.  Today’s suggestion would be most appropriate for those living either in Florida in the U.S. or Quebec City, Canada.  If you have read our page on re-positioning cruises you will know what a bargain they can be.  When a ship has to be moved from one place to another as cruising seasons change, the cruise lines naturally don’t want to sail with the ship empty.  And hence there are some bargains to be found.

One that we think is an exceptionally good deal is a 14-day cruise on Holland America departing Quebec City and sailing to Prince Edward Island, Halifax, Sydney in Canada; then on to the U.S. cities of Portland, Maine, Boston, Mass., and then down the coast all the way to Port Canaveral, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  

Your first night is spent in Quebec City on the 14th, with the ship being your hotel.  Then the 15th is a great opportunity to visit one of our favorite shrines:  the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre in Quebec.  It is the oldest shrine in Canada and one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the country.  Then you can board your ship and have a few more opportunities to visit other Catholic sites along the way.  The cost for this 14 day cruise, according to their website is $1199 for an inside, $1599 for a balcony and $2999 for a luxury suite.  Taxes and fees are extra.

And don’t forget, Holland America has a Catholic priest on all its sailings to celebrate daily Mass.   To see which other cruise lines have a Catholic priest on board click our page here.


Norovirus..how safe is your cruise?

We have to admit that we don’t have a lot of love for the secular media. “If it smells, it sells” seems to be the byword more than ever nowadays and their rush to get the news out often leads to shoddy, sensationalized and inaccurate reporting. Perhaps that’s all our fault since we can easily get drawn in to the 24-hour news cycle that pushes reporters to put out copy before it can be verified.  

So when you hear reports of Norovirus and people getting sick on a cruise, how seriously should you take it?  

First, it should be pointed out that Norovirus occurs not just in the confined space of cruise ships but also in hotels, dormitories and other places where large groups of people gather in close company.  It tends to be seasonal, running roughly from November through May in the Northern Hemisphere.

Second, the number of outbreaks on cruise ships has actually been declining.  According the U.S. Center for Disease Control, in 2013 there were 7 incidents of Norovirus on cruise ships, involving 1,238 passengers. This from a country where an estimated 10 to 12 million passengers cruise from U.S. ports in a year, that makes the odds incredibly low that you will come down with it.  Admittedly, 2014 is off to a roaring start with about 5 reported incidents already, but statistically if is highly unlikely that you will be struck with it.  

Third, since these illnesses on cruise ships are tracked by authorities, they are far more likely to make headlines than outbreaks in hotels, resorts,etc. leading to the impression that they only occur on cruise ships.

Finally, you can check the inspection reports of the various cruise lines by going to the CDC website here.  You will not only find inspection reports but also helpful suggestions to help you stay healthy on your cruise.

Bottom line?  Well that old line about “you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than (whatever)” certainly applies here.  The odds are very remote, so like anything in life you could have problems on your cruise, but Norovirus is probably not going to be one of them


Update on priest on your cruise

We have mentioned previously that Apostleship of the Sea is an Apostleship of the Catholic Church that screens priests for cruise lines in order to be certain that they are truly Roman Catholic priests and that they are in good standing.  There are also staffing agencies that provide this service, and our concern in the past has been that they may not be as thorough in checking out the priest as to his background and his standing with his Bishop or Provincial.  

We recently had an email from a staffing company, Compass Speakers and Entertainment Inc.  They stated that they provide priests to the following cruise lines on the following itineraries:  

Azamara (Easter, Christmas)  

Celebrity (Easter, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Holy Land, Christmas)  

Crystal (all cruises..space available….so check with them in advance)

Cunard (QM2 all sailings; QE and QV Easter and Christmas only

Silversea (Easter, Christmas)

They went on to point out that their screening process is at least as thorough as that of Apostleship of the Sea, if not more so.  

Bottom line:  we feel that you can trust that the priests on these specific cruises are legitimate Roman Catholic priests in good standing.  

We encourage priests to consider these cruises as well.