Saturday, April 24, 2010

Funniest Email Ever - Celebrity Cruises

I couldn't resist not posting this... title of the email???

See rugged Alaska. In sophisticated style.

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Traverse an Alaska glacier. Then trek to the AquaSpa® on Deck 11 for a Fire and Ice Mani–Pedi™. Go whale watching—while sipping cappuccino on your private veranda. In Juneau, have lunch at an authentic salmon bake. Then dine at Manhattan Restaurant on Celebrity Mercury®. Rugged Alaska has never been more cosmopolitan than aboard Celebrity Cruises.
Sail our world-class ships to historic ports like Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, or Icy Strait Point. And to see even more of Alaska, book a veranda stateroom on our Millennium Class ships—it'll give new meaning to expanding your horizons.
For the ultimate experience, see Alaska by land, sea and air on a fully-escorted Celebrity Cruisetour, which offers an upscale mainland experience led by one of our knowledgeable Tour Directors. Spend this summer in Alaska. Spend a lifetime remembering.
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7-Nt. Tracy Arm Fjord
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from Seatle – Round Trip
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7-Nt. Hubbard Glacier
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May 30 – Sept 12, 2010
7-Nt. Northbound/Southbound
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open jaw from Vancouver/Seward
or Seward/Vancouver
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2009 A New Benchmark in Cruise Ship Design- International Interior Design Association

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Zaha Hadid concept drawings

Concept plan

Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, we were invited to speculate about the city’s future. As part of an overall scheme between of the axes of Mehringplatz to Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse and Brandenburger Tor to Alexanderplatz, the falling of the Wall offered new possibilities for regeneration. We considered both the expansion and the repair of the city, ranging from corridors of development to ‘Wall-zone’ building programmes.

The focus of our vision was the Alexanderplatz. Because it represents one of the few attempts to go beyond typical 19th Century urbanism, we decided to leave it free of homogeneous commercial development, to stand in poignant contrast to the vulnerable line that used to demarcate Berlin’s division. A series of diagrams shows possible development of these newly released territories. Corridor cities project into the landscape, and new geometries inhabit the former ‘dead zone’, sometimes rectilinear yet slightly out of sync with the existing order.

In our eyes, the Wall zone could become a linear park. Where were once a concrete ribbon wall and no-go zone, we would lay down a strip of park, decorated with buildings.

Vogue Magazine (UK)

This large-scale painting for British Vogue continues our exploration of views into London’s urban character.

The work presents our most radical shake-up of the metropolis in both diagrammatic and pictorial terms within a single painting – and it should be judged by this radicalness. We studied the open spaces, rail, road, water and air routes and borough layout, and restructured the entire plan. As the brush moves over London from the west, strands converge, stretch and continue towards the east. These strokes cut new section-lines of air and area for what we believe could be new sites for buildings, for it is the very intersection of vertical structures to the ground where public activities would be intensified in this new plan.

Cruise Lines Score Win in Alaska

Looks like the tax the the government approved the tax to be lowered. And at the bottom of the article, it's rumored that Royal Caribbean is leaving the Port of Miami.

Cruise Lines Score Win in Alaska

Alaska's Senate has agreed to roll back a tax on cruise ship passengers that has angered the industry and led some lines to cut back on ships visiting the state.

The tax would be lowered o $34.50 from, according to news reports. The bill still must be approved by the Alaskan House.

The cruise industry has challenged the tax in federal court as an illegal entry tax and the Senate bill would reportedly settle the issue if enacted.

The Alaska Cruise Association said the state will see a 14.2 percent drop in cruise capacity this year, which is 140,000 passengers.

Association officials could not be reached immediately for comment, but the group's Web site noted: Miami-based Carnival Corp. & PLC (NYSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK) previously stated that the move of Holland America's 1,270-passenger Ryndam to Europe in 2011 and Princess Cruises' 710-passenger Royal Princess to P&O Cruises were in line with the continued drop in Alaskan deployments.

Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) spokespersons did not have immediate comment on the bill's passage.

Richard Sasso, who leads the marketing committee for the Cruise Lines International Association in Fort Lauderdale, said: "We need to be careful that destinations don't underestimate the value of cruise ships going to destinations and the economic contribution that makes."

Overly aggressive taxation can put a burden on guests, adding to the cost of a cruise and generate concern among cruise operators that the taxes aren't justified, especially if the proceeds aren't being used to enhance infrastructure related to cruise ships, he said. "What happened in Alaska over the years is they escalated the tax to a point where it seemed to be not only unconstitutional but also not a favorable cost structure for cruise lines to wanting to operate there."

Maritime lawyer Jim Walker of Miami, who is critical of pollution caused by cruise ships in Alaska, wrote on his blog that the vote is a big win for Carnival and its subsidiaries.

In other news

USA Today's Gene Sloan has written an article about what he describes as "Royal Caribbean's slow-motion pullout" from its longtime hub at the Port of Miami.

His posting followed Royal Caribbean's announcement that the 3,634-passenger Liberty of the Seas will move to Port Everglades in November 2011.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, which is the world's largest cruise ship, is already based at Port Everglades and the sister ship, Allure of the Seas, will be based there later this year.

The tent-like roof of Royal Caribbean's terminal is a landmark at the Port of Miami, but Sloan noted the company will have only one ship left in Miami in the winter of 2011-2012.

Royal Caribbean can utilize the state-of-the art Terminal 18 at Port Everglades, which is the world's largest cruise terminal. Port Everglades officials have touted the port's next-door proximity to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as a key marketing advantage because it's the discount airline hub for South Florida.

Royal Caribbean's move may put pressure on the Port of Miami, which is contemplating building a new cruise terminal, as previously reported on Cruise Industry report.

The move could also enhance Port Everglades' efforts to challenge the Port of Miami as the world's busiest cruise port in upcoming years.

Friday, April 16, 2010

72 eagles!!
and more

The Cook Inlet watershed is a spectacular ecosystem covering 47,000 square miles of Southcentral Alaska. Melting snow and ice from mount McKinley, the Chugach Mountains and the Aleutian Range drains into rivers such as the mighty Susitna, Matanuska and Kenai, which feed the productive waters of Cook Inlet.

click for larger image

  • The watershed stretches 430 miles from its northernmost tip to its southernmost tip, and 220 miles from its easternmost reaches to its westernmost reaches.
  • Cook Inlet is 192 miles long.
  • 8,000 square miles is saltwater.
  • The watershed drains 39,000 square miles (about the size of the US State of Virginia).

The watershed encompasses Alaska's most diverse and unique ecosystems including the alpine tundra of the Denali wilderness, coastal rainforests of the southern Kenai Peninsula, and abundant wetlands of the Susitna, Kenai and Matanuska river deltas. Cook Inlet's marine environment has been noted by scientists as among the most productive ecosystems in the world.

  • All of Alaska's 9 terrestrial ecosystems are found within the watershed.
  • Cook Inlet contains over 346 islands and islets.
  • Cook Inlet's tidal exchanges are as large as 39 feet, resulting in currents up to 11 knots.
  • Cook inlet is one of the most seismically active regions in the world, including 4 active volcanoes.

mouse over photo for credit

One of the highest concentrations of public lands in the nation is located within the watershed, including Denali, Katmai, Kenai Fjords and Lake Clark National Parks, Chugach National Forest, Kenai and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuges, four state parks and sanctuaries, including the world famous McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, and seven Critical Habitat Areas. These productive habitats support a rich fabric of life, including brown and black bears, moose, caribou, migratory birds, wolves, humpback, beluga and killer whales, sea otters, sea lions and all five species of wild pacific salmon.

  • 36,000 square miles (92%) of the watershed is public land.

  • 7 national parks and wildlife refuges are found within the watershed.

  • 4 state parks including Alaska's only state park wilderness are in the watershed.

  • 7 state critical habitat areas are in Cook Inlet watershed.

click for a larger land ownership map
Approximately 400,000 people, nearly 2/3 of Alaska’s population, live in the watershed. Cook Inlet communities depend on the watershed’s healthy waters and habitats for their livelihoods. Alaska Native villages pursue a subsistence lifestyle that is centuries old, supplying up to 90% of the villagers’ diet. Cook Inlet represents one of the most productive fisheries in Alaska, in which five species of salmon, herring, scallops, halibut, and several other species of bottom fish are harvested. And each year, nearly one million visitors from around the world venture to Cook Inlet to relish its magnificent beauty.

Beluga Whales could make their way into our representations

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

January 15, 2010: Critical Habitat for the Cook Inlet Beluga!

Once numbering over 1300 strong, the Cook Inlet beluga whale population has dwindled down to a mere 300 or less of these very friendly creatures. This decline has been happening for many years now; even after all the latest attempts to turn this decline around, the beluga whale population in Cook Inlet continues to decline.

Our family history with the beluga whales of Cook Inlet:

We moved to Kenai from Anchorage when my wife was transferred to the Tesoro Refinery in the summer of 1991. At that time our oldest son was just 2 years old and we had just recently found that she was pregnant with our youngest.

One of our families favorite past times quickly became watching the beluga whales from the mouth of the Kenai River as well as from the access area at the Warren Ames Bridge. This became a Sunday ritual with our family long after our first summer in Kenai. After Sunday service, we would pick up some sandwiches and head off to the Kenai River to watch the whales and commercial fishing operations that was simultaneously going on in the inlet. The two seemed so at peace with one another at that time.

As the years passed by, the number of beluga whales returning to the river was steadily decreasing until recently when the beluga all but disappeared in the river. We haven’t personally seen the beluga whales in the river for a few years now. This past summer we were excited to spot a couple of them along Cook Inlet near the Tesoro refinery.

We are saddened by the depleted numbers of beluga whales and have only recently come to realize that we no longer see the orca whales at the mouth of the Kenai either. We have fond memories of watching both the beluga whales and the orcas following the salmon into the river from a lookout up on the bluff above the river in Kenai.

What's Happening Today In Cook Inlet

Do the declining numbers of beluga whales indicate the Cook Inlet ecosystem is in trouble? The federal government listed the Cook Inlet belugas as endangered in October 2008. Local lawmakers in Kenai have been meeting for the past two months to discuss the affects of the proposed critical habitat might have on the local oil and gas exploration, drilling and commercial fishing. The National Marine Fisheries Service is planning public hearing which will enable individuals to submit comments to NOAA Fisheries.

The critical habit areas were chosen where the whales are found to concentrate bringing them close to the mouths of creeks and rivers or near mud flats or close to the shoreline along the Cook Inlet. These areas include the area surrounding the Port of Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, Hope, the mouth of the Kenai River as a portion of Kachemak Bay near Homer.

The public hearing is tentatively planned to be held February 3rd at the Kenai Borough Assembly Chambers in Soldotna Alaska. Public comments on the proposed Cook Inlet Beluga Whale critical habitat will be accepted until early March. For the most up to date information on public hearing schedule, be sure to visit the NOAA fisheries web site.

The critical habitat should not affect either commercial or sport fishing as they are being managed on the state level. A representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Kenai also reports that the issue of discharges at the platforms in the inlet would not be included as potential impact. He reports that the effect to the oil and natural gas platforms would include only areas that involve the federal government.

It is our belief that the evidence shows that the beluga whales in the Cook Inlet need protection and we support paying attention to this critical situation.

February 3, 2010

What will be the effect if the Cook Inlet beluga whales become extinct and how will it affect the environment?

The marine ecosystem, as in all types of ecosystems, is a collection of interdependent parts. Therefore, all elements, including the beluga whales, of an ecosystem are important in order to maintain its stability.

The extinction of one species can have unforeseen effects thus causing further extinction’s. This is often referred to as “the chains of extinction".

If we want to act in the best interests of the long-term sustainability of Cook Inlet, we would all be working hard to safeguard all the marine life. This will not only protect the beluga whale, but the whole ecosystem, including the halibut and salmon that depend upon it.

If pollution is the cause: Then the Beluga just may be the first in a chain of collapses. Other species may also be in peril and it's just the beluga that has been recognized at this time.

If disease is found to be at fault: This would need to be isolated as soon as possible to protect the remaining marine environment of Cook Inlet.

If shipping traffic is to blame: Measures would need to be adopted to protect the whales from any further declines associated with shipping traffic.

If noise to include seismic testing is a reason: Already known to be a source of concern in other areas, whales and other marine mammals do not seem to adapt to the noises from industrial noise pollution as well as seismic testing. Workarounds would need to be found to allow the two to coexist in the inlet.

What if human-induced habitat changes are found to be the source: Commercial fishing nets and native whaling both have had an impact on the health of the Cook Inlet beluga whale populations in the past. The goal today must be to find the work around that will minimize the impact in an acceptable manor to all. Natives from Tyonek Native Corporation have already taken action to protect the beluga whales of Cook Inlet, let's follow their lead and do our part too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

cruise tax controversy

Alaska Lawmakers reward Cruise line Lobbyist
April 15, 2010
Written by David Rosenfeld
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Gov. Sean Parnell

Gov. Sean Parnell

There are few times when lobbying efforts pay off so handsomely. The cruise line industry increased its spending on lobbyists at the Alaska State Legislature last year 35 percent. And what did they get from Gov. Sean Parnell who took office after Gov. Sarah Palin resigned in July?

Parnell became chief proponent in March of slashing a voter-approved $46 cruise ship passenger head tax that cruise lines have blamed for declining sales and the loss of ships this season resulting in about 140,000 less passengers. The legislature in the waning days of the session this week looks to pass Parnell’s bill just as the cruise line industry wanted, reducing the head tax from $46 to about $19.

Environmentalists and most of the Alaska public favor the tax – based on a ballot initiative in 2006 – as a way to improve local economies and protect the oceans from dangerous cruise ship wastewater pollution, as reported in January.

Gershon Cohen, who co-authored the initiative that first instated the head tax with Responsible Cruising for Alaska, said Parnell is simply pandering to the industry.

“The most important thing is that people voted for this (cruise ship head tax) statewide,” Cohen said. “People voted for this in almost every area of the state, even in Southeast Alaska where the cruise lines are such powerful economic players. So now here’s this one guy who’s not even in an office he was elected to saying let’s undo what the voters did just a few years ago. To say it’s inappropriate is an understatement.”

Chalk it up to influence. Lobbying records examined by the Juneau Empire show cruise line companies took a focused approach to Alaska beginning in 2006 when the head tax first passed. In 2009, they spent $433,000, up from $315,000 in 2008, according to the paper. Now it appears the industry’s efforts are paying dividends.

Attacking the Tax

In its latest move to combat the head tax, the Alaska Cruise Association agreed to drop a lawsuit against the state over the tax as long as the legislature passed Parnell’s bill “without material amendment,” according to the New York Times.

The bill calls for reducing the head tax from $46 to $34.50 and crediting ships for taxes paid to individual ports such as Juneau and Ketchikan, which charge $7 and $8 per cruise ship passenger. Most ships would therefore pay around $19 per passenger, more than a 50 percent reduction from what voters approved four years ago.

In recent years the cruise ship head tax has generated about $46 million annually, and cruise lines largely passed the tax onto customers. To put it in perspective, Carnival Corporation alone netted $1.8 billion in net income last year.

Part of the Alaska cruise ship head tax that will not be affected is an additional $4 that pays for the state’s Ocean Ranger program, which puts independent inspectors on board cruise ships to monitor sewage and other wastewater releases. The program represents the most rigorous cruise ship regulation in the western hemisphere. State regulators cited Princess Cruises – a Carnival subsidiary – for most of the two-dozen violations last year for exceeding state pollution standards.

Industry Deems Advocate Too Controversial

The power of the cruise line industry hit home for Cohen earlier this year when Alaska Department of Environmental Quality Commissioner Larry Hartig was forced to remove Cohen from a cruise ship science advisory panel because of pressure he faced from the industry. The event sparked a media firestorm mostly within the state as a handful of legislators came to Cohen’s defense.

Meanwhile, the legislature mandated a cruise industry seat on the advisory panel, currently held by Lincoln Loer an attorney for Stoel Rives, which represents cruise lines on water regulatory issues. But Cohen was viewed as too controversial.

“Here’s the cruise industry dictating to the state who will be on an independent panel to evaluate technologies that might be used in their industry,” said Cohen, who’s no stranger to government committees. He advised senators and served on past water quality advisory groups for two governors. “The really big issue here is the whole notion that corporations should have this much influence over government. That’s the real disease here.”

Head Tax Blamed for Cruise Ship Woes

The cruise industry largely blames the Alaska head tax on slumping sales figures within the state in 2009, not to mention the country was going through the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression.

Carnival Corporation Chairman and CEO Micky Arison has been one of the most vocal critics of the tax. He told a group of investors in a conference call in March that the full impact of the tax had not been fully realized until last year, basically implying the economic collapse was secondary in its effects on the cruise industry to the Alaska head tax.

“When this initiative passed, the backers have no skin in the game and have little understanding of our industry,” Arison said. “After one year for something to happen and nothing did, they claimed victory. Now years later they are feeling the impact of the initiative. It will take a similar if not longer time to recover.”

Arison felt confident the industry had gotten through to the governor. “Based on what has happened and the understanding the governor now has on the way the industry operates and the huge negative impact it (the tax) has had on the state of Alaska, there’s a likelihood the bill will pass,” Arison said. “But I don’t know. I obviously don’t know the sentiment of the legislature, but that the governor is fully supportive of the bill that he has introduced.”

Surging in Europe

In response to a 13 percent slump in North American business, Carnival and other cruise lines began this year to shift more of its business to Europe where regulations are vastly less stringent. Coupled with an upcoming requirement by the International Maritime Organization for all ocean vessels to switch to cleaner burning fuels 200 miles off the Canadian and U.S. coastlines, it may just be the regulations that have cruise lines fleeing U.S. waters.

Holland America relocated just one of its Alaska lines to Europe this year, said Sarah Scoltock, spokeswoman. “In general, Alaska’s been just a tough place to operate these past few years with the laws they passed up there,” she said. “You’ll find the same response when you speak to other lines, but we are seeing a lot of demand for cruising in Europe. The one thing ships have over hotels is that we can move them when we see more demand in different locations.”

Carnival's cruise ship The Carnival Pride. Photo: Stan Shebs

Carnival's cruise ship The Carnival Pride. Photo: Stan Shebs

This year, six cruise lines announced reductions in its Alaska travel itineraries and more were reported for 2011. If the cruise industry gets the reductions it wants in the Alaska head tax it will keep an estimated $20 million this year split among a handful of companies, mere pocket change to corporations such as Carnival, which earn as much in net income every four days. Recent press reports show Carnival “poised to ride a wave of success” off an economic rebound.

Cohen said the whole question of corporate profitability has lost sense of reality. “One of the things that’s really missed in our rhetoric is that the issue of how much these corporations are making are really not ever part of the equation,” Cohen said from his office in Haines, Alaska in the southeast part of the state. “They make billions of dollars a year, but if they are off by a half percent from the quarter before, then that’s a problem. Whoever guaranteed you were going to make more profit than the previous quarter for the rest of your lives? I thought this was a free market.”