In This Issue:
The Jones Act And Cruising
Dealing With Seasickness
Exploring Pacific Cruise Itineraries
While Alaska is one of cruising’s favorite destinations, the Pacific is the largest body of water on the planet, and Alaska is just the beginning of the Pacific adventures.
Want to explore more? Look south from Canada and consider shorter Pacific itineraries by looking into a number of cruises based out of California and Vancouver, Canada. These come labeled in a number of categories suggesting a number of itineraries, but most are focused on the U.S. west coast. Many start in Vancouver because of the Jones Act* and often end in San Diego usually with Seattle, Monterey, San Fransisco, Catalina Island being popular ports of call. After those options California also features a number of shorter cruises to Mexico that begin in a number of California ports and usually visit Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco or Porta Vallarta. These cruises range from only a couple of days to a week.
One of the more popular series of itineraries involves cruising to and around the Hawaiian Islands. The cruise companies, again because of the Jones Act*, have to do some interesting planning to cruise Hawaii. Often cruises that sail from the West Coast and end in Hawaii sail from Vancouver and often spend six to eight days at sea crossing the Pacific and will visit one or two ports in Hawaii before ending in Honolulu. There are also a number of cruises that sail around the islands with a majority sailing and ending in Honolulu and can include two to four Hawaiian ports. One cruise line, NCL operates an American flagged cruise ship, The Pride Of America which allows it to cruise freely around the islands without always returning to its departure port.
Twice each year most major cruise companies reposition cruise ships between the North and South hemispheres offering a number of opportunities to cruise the Pacific Ocean. Many ships in the Fall are moving from Alaska to Australia and than back again in the Spring. The Hawaiian Islands are a usual destination in these repositioning moves with popular cruise itineraries being Sydney to Honolulu or Vancouver to Honolulu. Ports of call in these cruises can include Tahiti and the other Society Islands, Fiji, New Zealand and various ports in Australia. The southern half of these itineraries also cross the Equator making you an official Shellback including a very tame sailors initiation.
There are also northern Pacific repositioning cruises to consider, especially if you love days at sea. A majority usually sail between Japan and North America and at times include a stop in Russia’s Vladivostok. These cruises usually follow the same schedule moving in the Fall to reposition ships from Alaska to Japan and than back again in the Spring.
The west coast of South America is another Pacific cruising opportunity but with the most common itineraries being sailing from the east coast to the west coast and back again around the tip of South America. The primary West coast ports include Lima, Peru (consider a land tour to Machu Picchu as part of your itinerary) and Valparaíso, Chile.
Another opportunity to consider are South American repositioning cruises that can include a Panama Canal transit as the ships head to sail the Caribbean from ports in Florida, New Orleans and Texas.
A cruise that is on many people’s wish list is the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Because of restrictions to protect the Galapagos, large cruise ships cannot visit these islands but many cruise lines operate specially built smaller ships dedicated to seeing the Galapagos. In order to take a Galapagos cruise you will need to first fly from Quito, Ecuador over to the Galapagos Islands to join your cruise. In addition to the major cruise companies there are a number of additional Galapagos tour options.
Don’t be surprised if more cruise ports are added in the future as the cruise lines are always looking to entice passengers to cruise again.
*The Jones Act and its twin the Maritime Passenger Act are hundred year old laws that prohibits moving cargo and passengers between U.S. ports unless the ship meets a number of requirements. Read on…
Cruising And The Jones Act
Ever tried to book back-to-back cruises and the cruise company says you can’t book it because it invokes the Jones Act? The Jones Act and its twin the Passenger Services Act are a 100-year-old regulatory relic instituted during the Wilson administration to protect our maritime industry. The short description says that you cannot transport cargo or passengers between two American ports unless you use ships built in American shipyards, flagged as an American ship and crewed by U.S. citizens. The problem for the cruise industry is America doesn’t build cruise ships any more, it is expensive to flag ships in the U.S. and even more difficult to staff ships with U.S. citizens.
While it is a nuisance for the cruise industry it is a disaster for American business and our economy. As of 2016 there are less than one hundred tankers in the world that meet the Jones Act requirements. Because of this it is cheaper to ship U.S. oil to Europe from Texas than to refineries in New Jersey. What that means is our oil companies import more expensive oil while at the same time we export our oil. While complicated the Jones Act is one of the things standing in the way of our energy distribution. One example is that several times more oil moves throughout the United States by train than more energy efficient tankers.
One of the more insane things that happened as a result of the Jones Act occurred during the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Norway dispatched three specialized oil clean-up ships to help with the disaster but the U.S. government wouldn’t allow them to help because of the Jones Act so they returned to Norway. The Trump administration actually temporarily suspended the Jones Act twice. Once to help move oil out of Texas after major hurricanes and to speed up aid to Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane there.
There have been a number of locations where the cruise industry has wanted to serve the American traveler by embarking in one port and disembarking in another. Hawaii is one of those locations, with inter-island cruises as well as cruises originating on the West Coast. New England cruises and Alaska are two other cruise destinations that would benefit by not having complications of the Jones Act. In the case of Alaska there are a number of popular week-long itineraries that go one way, but because of the Jones Act they depart out of Vancouver instead of the U.S. port of Seattle. Recently we wanted to take the last Alaska cruise of the year from Seattle and stay on for a cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii, but because we would embark in Seattle and disembark in Honolulu the Jones Act prevented it.
If you are a cruiser maybe it’s time you suggest to your congressman that the Jones Act has outlived its usefulness. Even if cruising isn’t your thing you should still consider contacting your congressman. The Jones Act costs you money at the gas pump by adding one or two billion dollars to fuel transportation costs each year and also prevents economical use of LNG in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Puerto Rico is the most negatively impacted by a number of elements in the act. There are still a number lobbies that fight to keep the Jones Act from being repealed and that includes labor unions, like the long shoremen and law firms that work injuries at sea cases. It has been suggested a number of times that the act could be eliminated for our island territories at least and new laws could be passed designed to cover American labor impacted by the health issues involved. Unfortunately even though there are very few union jobs being protected by the act it seems that special interests still take priority in Congress over the interests of an uninformed public.
Dealing With Seasickness
Getting seasick is just a fact of life but it is not the intention here to scare people away from cruising. In truth the purpose is just the opposite as we offer some information to help deal with the condition. Some people seem to get it worse than others but you should not allow your fear of getting seasick keep you from experiencing one of travels best options.
Afraid of Getting Seasick
Maybe you would love to try cruising but have a big concern? If you are worried about taking a cruise because you are prone to seasickness, or motion sickness, you are not alone but you need not worry too much. There are thousands of people that have faced that fear and have gone on to become enthusiastic frequent cruisers.
Seasickness is caused by a conflict between the inner ear, where the human balance mechanism resides, and the brains visual perception regarding its surroundings. The inner ear where balance is controlled, has small hairs bathed in fluid that detect changes in both up-and-down and side-to-side movement. With movement at sea the body moves along with the ship causing the balance mechanism to register motion while often your eyes see your surroundings as a relatively stable scene. Confused by this perceptual incongruity, the brain responds with a cascade of stress-related hormones that can cause nausea, vomiting, and vertigo.
My wife gets really bad bouts of seasickness. Hers is so bad that it completely overwhelms her. I’m a sailor and a diver and I soon gave up trying to get her on a boat, even for a short ride out to a reef.
For most people the good news is seasickness normally occurs in the first 12 to 24 hours at sea if there is detectable movement and subsides once the body acclimates to the ship’s motion. It’s rare for anyone to get or stay ill after the first day or two at sea, but there are some individuals that do have more trouble adjusting.
I was in the Navy and there are dozens of sailor remedies and many do help. One is to avoid places where things are moving because of the ships motion and if you are feeling seasick get out on deck and fix your stare on the horizon. Also avoid greasy food and eat saltine crackers to settle your stomach.
Try Ginger Root
There are a number of commercial motion sickness remedies available that include Dramamine and the patch and even acupuncture can help, but there is one that we now swear by. When back before our first cruise my wife asked her doctor about a prescription for the patch and he said he had something better. While he wrote the prescription for “the patch” he recommended that she take ginger root capsules. He said a couple of years before, while on vacation in Australia, he visited the Great Barrier Reef and the Aussies told him to take ginger root. To his surprise, even though he was prone to terrible bouts of motion sickness, he handled the trip to the reef with flying colors. It is also why ginger ale is good to settle your stomach.
My wife had really serious issues with seasickness and had been reluctant to take a cruise. One summer she decided that the cruise she most wanted to take was an Alaska cruise and if her seasickness got the better of her, at least she got to see Alaska. On that cruise she started taking ginger root capsules and she hasn’t had any real problems since and we have weathered a number of storms at sea.
We have a friend who cruises a lot and she was getting acupuncture treatments on the ship to help with her seasickness. After she started taking ginger she no longer needed those treatments. The recommended dose is 550mg taken with meals. Don’t take it alone or you’ll probably taste the ginger for hours afterwords.
Select The Right Stateroom
If you’re prone to bad episodes there are also some other things you can to reduce the risk of getting seasick. The problem is actually a severe form of motion sickness. It is particularly severe on ships because during higher seas the motion can be unusual and persistent but the good news is it rarely lasts for long. If your concerned about how well you’ll do consider booking a cabin that can reduce motion. The staterooms less prone to feeling the ships motion are located in the center of the ship half way between the stern and the bow and as near to the waterline as possible. Think about a seesaw where the riders go up and down but the center stays relatively still. If you do suffer a bad episode a nap is just what the doctor ordered.
Bon Voyage and smooth sailing!