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May 272010
 

After a slow year last year (and lots of great value bargains) it seems that river cruising in Europe is booming once more.  Most of the river cruise companies are reporting strong bookings and many cruises are already sold out for 2010, and the companies have started offering their 2011 cruises earlier than normal.

In addition, most of the cruise lines are adding new river cruise ships, and are continuing a trend of making their ships more up market (and therefore their cruises more expensive too).  Only five years ago, the best quality cabins were about 150 sq ft and had a couple of reasonable sized windows.

Currently, the best quality cabins are about 170 sq ft and have ‘French balconies’ – floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows.  Now, in a move pioneered by Australian cruise operator Scenic Tours, we are seeing cabins of more than 200 sq ft, and rather than ‘French balconies’ (which aren’t really balconies at all – just doors that open to nothing except safety bars to stop you falling out and into the river) we are seeing ships with real outside balconies for every cabin.

Amawaterways have just launched a new ship, the Amabella, with 214 sq ft cabins, and will be launching another similar ship next year.  Scenic Tours is launching another ship next year.  Viking River Cruises says it will spend about $250 million on eight new ships, and will be refurbishing two of its current fleet, all over the next three years.  In total, Viking will then have 26 ships on the rivers, an increase in their capacity of more than 40%.

Avalon Waterways is introducing a new ship in May 2011 with 200 sq ft cabins.  Uniworld is also introducing a new upmarket ship with 196 sq ft cabins.

That is a huge amount of extra capacity to be placed onto Europe’s rivers, and marks a return to the extraordinary growth the industry had been enjoying up until last year.  Whether it will result in overcapacity and some good discounts remains to be seen, but at this stage all the operators seem to be very confident about filling most of their ships most of the time.

Cell phone (numbers) are bad for your health.  Nevermind the potential dangers of cell phone radiation.  How about the danger from cell phone karma?  Here is an interesting story of the string of misfortunes suffered by the successive owners of one particular cell phone number.

If you continue to think about possibly buying an iPad, here is a list of 10 reasons to love the iPad and 10 reasons to hate the iPad.  And here the three reasons why iPad sales should be much lower than they really are.

Indeed, demand for iPads is so strong at present that people are selling them, secondhand, on Craigslist and elsewhere for $100 and sometimes $200 over the list price for a new unit.

So there you are, in your hotel room, and you feel hungry.  No longer need you hunt around for a room service menu, then pick up the phone and wait on hold before placing your order.  Coming soon to selected hotels in Vegas is the ability to order room service from your iPhone.

Soon you might be able to use your phone not just to order food from your room, but to enter your room as well.  Testing is going on at two Holiday Inns with a system that will allow guests to unlock their hotel room with their phone.  One of the main benefits of this process is that it could eliminate the need to check in at the hotel front desk upon arrival.

Doesn’t it frustrate you to have to fill out your name, address, phone number, credit card details, and everything else on a registration form when you have already given that information as part of your online hotel booking (and probably have it stored in your affinity/loyalty card record too)?

Apparently, at least some hotels are wising up to this ( or, more probably, realizing they can cut back on front desk staff) and are now looking for ways to eliminate the check-in process.  The big benefit to them is that if they can eliminate the need to interact with you at all – ie to give you a key – they can massively save on front desk staffing.

Here is information about an interesting website that shows you the world’s most photographed places, and secondly the world’s most photographed remote places.

Global warming?  Or global cooling?  700 scientists at the Chicago International Conference on Climate Change are suggesting that

the earth is now in a cooling cycle
, through until about 2030.  But other scientists, quoted here, claim that the last year was the hottest for 130 years, and suggest this year could be the hottest in recorded history.

Meanwhile those wonderful people at the UN say they no longer care so much if the planet is heating or cooling.  They’ve come up with a new thing to worry about – saving endangered species.

But at least one person still cares a great deal about climate change.  Former UK PM Tony Blair is in line to earn millions of dollars from advising US businessmen on how to make money from tackling climate change.

Just think how much more money he could make in this field – a field he has no appreciable background in at all – if he had a Nobel Prize and an Oscar winning movie to his credit.  A cynic (not me!) might opine that the financial success of former politicians in this field might imply that the entire topic is all about politics and money, rather than about science and saving the planet.

Lastly for this part of the week’s roundups, 15% of people have apparently done it while driving.  Done what, you might ask?  Click to find out.

To continue reading the weekly roundups, click here to visit the week’s Security Horror Stories

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