Cruise Guide: Cozumel’s woes; the best from Berlitz

By Mike Coleman

Hurricane Wilma may not be a thing of the past after all.

Mexican tourism officials and major cruise line executives say that it could take up to three months before ships could return to Cozumel. Ouch. Close to three million cruise passengers visited the popular port last year alone.

The lack of cruise ship visitors will hurt the local economy and passengers who pined for such a visit will no doubt be disappointed that Cozumel will no longer be featured on itineraries, at least for the time being.

And while our hearts go out to those in the resort areas of Cozumel and neighboring Cancun, it will become a short-term boom for other ports in the Western Caribbean who escaped Wilma’s wrath. Ships will now be diverted to other, sun-soaked locales or lines will simply allow passengers the opportunity to soak up the rays during extra days at sea.

Such is the nature, and stark reality, of modern cruise ship travel.
 
Berlitz-worthy

It’s that time of year again when “best-of-the-best'” and “Top 10′” lists seem to be compiled for everyone and everything. The cruise industry is not immune to it, either.

Respected Berlitz Publishing and revered cruise ship author Douglas Ward have just released their annual, definitive guide to cruise ship travel: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2006.

Ward’s been doing this for 21 years and while a number of cruise-related books hit store shelves each year, Ward’s effort can only be described as the industry bible.

He leaves no stone unturned in his meticulous quest to rate today’s ships and for the sixth consecutive year, Europa, a luxury Hapag-Lloyd vessel catering to the German market, tops the list with 1,858 out of a possible 2,000 points. Ward gives it five-stars plus, his book’s highest rating.

While there are 269 cruise ships plying today’s high seas, world wide, Ward gives his next highest rating – five stars – to only 18 vessels.

“Any ship on the top 18 five-star list can be considered to deliver the utmost in luxury,” said Ward. “Luxury cruises are very special. Staff will know passengers by name, and provide them with the finest in amenities. Guests don’t have to endure announcements and mindless background music in public rooms, and the menus are highly creative, with items like caviar, foie gras and fresh, not frozen, vegetables in abundance.”

Berlitz Five-Star Cruise Ship Guide 2006
1. SeaDream I (1,790 points)
2. SeaDream II (1,790)
3. Seabourn Legend (1,786)
4. Seabourn Pride (1,785)
5. Seabourn Spirit (1,785)
6. Silver Shadow (1,757)
7. Silver Whisper (1,757)
8. Hanseatic (1,740)
9. Silver Cloud (1,722)
10. Silver Wind (1,722)
11. Queen Mary 2 (Grill Class) (1,712)
12. Sea Cloud II (1,706)
13. Sea Cloud (1,704)
14. Crystal Serenity (1,702)
15. Crystal Symphony (1,701)
16. Radisson Seven Seas Mariner (1,701)
17. Radisson Seven Seas Voyager (1,701)