The Royal Princess is Ready for her Inaugural Celebration

Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

A musical salute provided a spectacular welcome for Royal Princess to Southampton as the new cruise ship arrived to begin a week-long series of special inaugural events. British actor, director and writer Simon Callow orchestrated the Southampton University Brass Band to serenade the new Princess Cruises ship with a rendition of “God Save The Queen” as the vessel sailed into the harbor. Royal Princess will be officially named in Southampton on Thursday. June 13 by The Duchess of Cambridge.

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

The unprecedented musical welcome, conducted by Callow, was answered back by Royal Princess with its own special horn that plays the first notes of the theme song from the TV show “The Love Boat.”

“What an extraordinary welcome Royal Princess received for her arrival in Southampton,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Starting the week off with this amazing musical orchestra offered the perfect way to tune up for a naming ceremony that will celebrate with many special musical performances.”

The June 13 naming event will feature not only the christening by The Duchess, but also star-studded musical entertainment including British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield singing her hit “Unwritten,” as well as a performance by British actress and “the first lady of London’s West End,” Kerry Ellis. The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards will open the event with the pomp and ceremony of British ship-naming traditions.

Viewers around the world can also watch the celebrations as Princess Cruises will be streaming the ceremony live online at www.princess.com, so everyone can share in the spectacular event, which will formally welcome the new ship into the company’s fleet.

The live streaming will begin at 11:15 am local time in Southampton, which will be 6:15 am EDT in the U.S. and 3:15 am PDT. Viewers can also choose to play back a recording of the ceremony soon after the event for viewing at their leisure. Social conversation on Twitter will also be featured with a direct feed on the naming page, and viewers can join in as they watch by using the #RoyalPrincess hashtag.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship. Among the special features found on board is a dramatic multi-story atrium serving as the social hub of the ship offering a host of dining and entertainment options; an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on water; the new Princess Live! television studio; the largest pastry shop at sea; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

The Royal Princess will be sailing her maiden voyage from the port of Southampton. The ship will be cruising in the Mediterranean for the rest of the Summer. She will make her way to Fort Lauderdale to start cruising the Caribbean in October 2013.

To book a cruise on the Royal Princess call you travel agent or go to www.princess.com/royalprincess.

Fleet wide improvements for the Carnival Corporation

Carnival Cruise Lines is conducting a fleet wide $300 million plan to significantly enhance emergency power capabilities, introducing a new fire safety technology system and improving the level of operating redundancies.

The improvement plan is the result of a comprehensive operational review, overseen by parent company Carnival Corporation & plc, initiated immediately after the Carnival Triumph fire in February 2013.

“All of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships operate safely today. Each vessel already has effective systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations, and we meet or exceed all regulatory requirements,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. “However, by applying lessons learned through our fleet-wide operational review after the Carnival Triumph fire and by taking advantage of new technologies, we have identified areas for enhancement across our operations. These initiatives reflect our commitment to safe and reliable operations and an enjoyable cruising experience for the nearly 4.5 million guests who sail with Carnival Cruise Lines each year.”

The work is already underway and will not affect scheduled itineraries. Upon completion of the initial phase, the line will install a second permanent back-up power system on each ship to provide an even greater level of hotel and guest services if main power is lost. These additional services will include expanded cooking facilities and cold food storage, as well as internet and telephone communications.

The company has also announced the formation of a Safety & Reliability Review Board that will include experts with significant expertise in marine and occupational safety, reliability and maintenance, marine regulatory compliance and quality control/assurance.

The parent company Carnival Corporation & plc previously announced a corporate-wide operational review of all 10 of its brands and 101 ships. The review process will include learnings from the recent incidents that can be applied across the corporation’s fleet. Carnival Corporation & plc has confirmed that, based on the results of the ongoing review, the latest versions of technologies and enhancements will also be implemented on the remainder of the fleet where they are not already present. The overall program of enhancements across the corporation’s 101-ship fleet, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn in North America; P&O Cruises and Cunard in the United Kingdom; AIDA Cruises in Germany; Costa Cruises in Southern Europe; Iberocruceros in Spain; and P&O Cruises in Australia , is expected to cost between $600 and $700 million.

“Our fleet already operates at a high standard of reliability. The investments announced today for Carnival Cruise Lines, and those we will continue to make, will reinforce our ability to consistently deliver the customer experience that 10 million people every year have come to expect from us across our fleet of 101 ships. Absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of our guests and crew, and we will use the full resources of our company to meet that commitment,” said Micky Arison, Chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc.

Initial implementation of the upgrades to the Carnival Corporation & plc fleet will take place during the next several months. Each class of ship is different and often systems differ on ships within a class, so the enhancements will be tailored to each vessel.

These fleet wide improvements will most likely help the cruise consumers regain their faith in Carnival Lines after the recent unfortunate events.

‘The Love Boat’ star meets Princess Cruises’ own Gavin MacLeod

What’s in a name? Well, at Princess Cruises the name Gavin MacLeod naturally is associated with the famous TV captain of The Love Boat. But it turns out that the line coincidentally also has a real-life bridge officer with the same name. And the long-time Princess ambassador couldn’t wait to meet him.

When Island Princess Third Officer Gavin MacLeod, who hails from Inverness, Scotland, joined Princess in 2010, he never gave much thought to the fact that he shared a name with the actor who made the role of “Captain Stubing” an iconic part of television history.

But last week when Island Princess called at the port of Los Angeles, the two men met on the ship’s bridge and enjoyed lunch together at Sabatini’s restaurant. The pair also signed several navigational charts to be auctioned for charity.

Frequently filmed aboard Princess ships throughout its 1977-86 run, The Love Boat created a lasting legacy in the cruise industry. Actor Gavin MacLeod has continued his association with the cruise line ever since, serving as an ambassador who travels regularly aboard Princess ships and represents the company at a variety of events throughout the year.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting princess.com.

Royal Princess to feature TV studio with live shows and events

Princess Cruises has raised the curtain on Princess Live!, a new type of cruise ship entertainment venue that passengers will enjoy aboard the new Royal Princess. Taking the audience behind the scenes to share the excitement of a working television studio, the high-tech Princess Live! will showcase live television broadcasts, intimate performances from musicians, and special events such as cooking shows, plus will feature an adjacent café.

Located on Royal Princess’ deck 7 just aft of the Piazza, Princess Live! will be a flexible, 280-seat venue based on a television broadcast studio. When the ship debuts in June 2013, Princess Live! will serve as a venue for daily broadcasts of “The Wake Show” with a new twist – a daily live audience. This popular daily show staring the cruise director and special guests from around the ship is a staple across the Princess fleet, but is rarely staged live.

The colorful Princess Live! studio will also host a variety of events, including game shows, interactive cooking shows, art house films, enrichment classes, murder mysteries, trivia, and “Meet the Experts” presentations from the crew. Additionally, Princess Live! will serve as a more intimate performance venue for onboard musicians who will offer “unplugged” and “in-the-round” shows, providing an opportunity for entertainers to connect with the audience in a unique environment.

“Princess Live! will be an exciting new experience for passengers,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Not only will they enjoy the high energy of being part of a live television production, but they also will have a new opportunity to see more intimate performances from many of our onboard entertainers.”

The adjacent Princess Live! Café will surround passengers with interactive, wall-mounted screens showing the ship’s position, ports of call, points of interest and even international newspapers. The café will serve up specialty coffees, teas and freshly squeezed citrus juice, plus will offer a selection of fresh-baked croissants and pastries in the morning.

Royal Princess will also feature the line’s largest Princess Theater ever, with unobstructed sight lines from every seat, plus will see the return of an updated Vista Lounge at the aft of the ship to serve as an alternate evening performance venue.

Additional information about other ship features will be released in the coming months.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship currently under construction. Among the new features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; the dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship’s starboard side extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; a dazzling water and light show; more dining options including a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, wine cellar dining area and an expanded Horizon Court with pastry shop. Eighty percent of the ship’s staterooms will feature a balcony. More information about the ship is available at www.princess.com/royalprincess.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website.

Carnival, Princess adopt new onboard smoking policies

Image courtesy Matt Roseboom — Two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Carnival and Princess, have modified their respective onboard smoking policies.

By Michael Coleman

Carnival and Princess, two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, have adopted new onboard smoking policies which will be rolled out in the coming months.

Citing its “ongoing commitment to keep pace with changing guest preferences’’ the 23-ship Carnival fleet, effective this week, will only permit cigarette smoking in dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and casino bar, certain sections on the open decks on all vessels and also in the jazz clubs on 13 Carnival ships.

The 13 ships include Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor. Cigar smoking will also be permitted in the jazz clubs. On other vessels in the fleet, cigar (and cigarette) smoking will also be permitted in designated areas on deck.

Effective December 1, 2011, smoking will be prohibited in all Carnival guest staterooms. Those guests in balcony accommodations will be permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars outside on the balcony. Spa staterooms, currently featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic, will continue to remain entirely smoke-free, including on the balconies.

The modified smoking policy is the result of recent guest surveys conducted by the company that covered a wide range of topics. The surveys indicated that nearly 90 percent of all Carnival Cruise Lines’ guests are non-smokers with less than five percent of guests opting to smoke in their staterooms.

Meanwhile, at Carnival Corporation-owned Princess Cruises, the line will prohibit smoking in cabins and on balconies across its 16-ship fleet effective January 15, 2012.

The new policy reflects changing customer preferences and the move around the globe — from North America to Europe — to further restrict areas where smoking is allowed, according to the line.

“Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Swartz added that balconies are included in the new policy because they are a hallmark feature of Princess ships, and the line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.

She added that Princess still welcomes passengers who smoke, and will continue to provide special venues around respective ships to accommodate smokers. Smoking will continue to be allowed in the Churchill’s cigar lounge, a section of the disco and casino, and a portion of the open decks.

On the web:
www.carnival.com
www.princess.com

Media darling, Grand Princess, transformed

Image courtesy Princess Cruises — Grand Princess, formerly the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuted in 1998, has just received a masterful facelift.

By Michael Coleman

A Princess cruise ship, formerly the largest cruise ship in the world, has a new distinction.

Following the most extensive drydock in Princess Cruises history, Grand Princess has emerged from a 24-day, transformational drydock.

The vessel even became a media star as the line posted daily video updates on the work in progress which attracted more than a half million views. The Grand Princess Drydock Journal captured the dramatic process with 26 video updates plus more than 300 photos of the daily progress during the effort in a Bahamian shipyard, including the removal of Skywalkers nightclub from the ship’s stern and the complete demolition and rebuilding of the atrium to create the new Piazza. Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, the video series delved behind the scenes with reports on all aspects of the drydock process.

The video journal also offered different perspectives on the project with interviews of key players in the revitalization, including the ship’s Captain Tony Herriott and Chief Technical Officer Gilberto Vinci, plus Senior Vice President of Technical Services John Gunner and Project Manager Steve Storey, who explained what it takes to coordinate 1,400 contractors working around the clock. The videos also shared such tidbits as the time it took to cut Skywalkers from the ship (10 hours) and the amount of new carpeting installed (about 50 square miles).

“This drydock has been a monumental effort, and we’re very proud of the teamwork by everyone involved to create this sparkling ‘new’ ship ready to start a season of Europe sailings,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We know our passengers will appreciate the updated décor, fresh new feel, and especially all the wonderful added features.”

Now that the ship has been transformed, passengers will find a completely new Piazza atrium, several new eateries — including Alfredo’s Pizzeria and the Crown Grill — and the line’s first specialty tea lounge called Leaves. Also included in the renovation were seven new window suites; remodeled casino, boutiques and art gallery; enhancements to the Horizon Court, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel; and the addition of Crooner’s Martini Lounge. A new nightclub, The One5, replaced Skywalkers.

The drydock video journal covered nearly every area involved in the refurbishment project, including work on the underside of the ship, upholstery work, engine control room, new shore power connection, lifeboat updates, new speakers for Movies Under the Stars, mural painting, theater renovations, and a report from the executive chef who was responsible for feeding all the contractors.

Grand Princess debuted in 1998 as the then-largest cruise ship in the world. She will homeport this summer in Southampton, England, offering a series of European voyages.

Princess, one of the best-known names in cruising, operates a fleet of 16 ships renowned for their innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities. The line carries some 1.3 million passengers each year to destinations around the globe ranging in length from seven to 107 days.

On the web: www.princess.com

Cruise lines celebrating the royal wedding at sea

Royal Caribbean is offering royal wedding packages so you can feel like a prince or princess. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

By Jackie Roseboom

Many businesses are celebrating the Royal Wedding by offering their guests a viewing party and special offerings, and the cruise industry is no exception. From small viewing areas to lavish parties, it will all be available at sea.

Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean is celebrating the upcoming British royal wedding by offering an exclusive Royal Caribbean wedding package for couples looking to tie the knot at sea.

“Royal Caribbean’s full fleet of ships around the world will broadcast the royal wedding live so that guests may join in the ceremony’s excitement,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of marketing. “Inspired by the pending royal nuptials, the Royal Wedding package and honeymoon registry offers guests the royal treatment on their special day and honeymoon cruise.”

The Royal wedding packages include an onboard symbolic wedding ceremony (due to the varying international legal restrictions). Royal Romance Wedding Coordinators will handle every detail so the couples’ special day is a truly regal experience including any legal requirements pre-departure.

Cunard

Cunard’s Royal Court Theatre is very fitting for watching Prince William marry Kate. Photo courtesy of Cunard
Guests onboard Cunard’s three ships — Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth need have no fear of missing one second of the historic union of the future King and Kate Middleton.

Queen Mary 2’s Royal Court Theatre seats over 1,000 guests, who will be able to watch events unfold in plush cinema comfort as the ship sails between New York and Southampton, on a seven-night Transatlantic Crossing (April 26 to May 2).
The Royal Court Theatres on the smaller Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria seat more than 800 passengers, and they too will be used to screen the Royal nuptials live. At the time Queen Elizabeth will be at sea heading for Southampton, and Queen Victoria will be at sea in the Mediterranean.

The day will also be one of celebration on all three Cunard ships, with that evening’s dinner featuring a commemorative menu and a champagne toast.

MSC
With the exception of MSC Sinfonia and Opera, which will not be sailing in European waters, the Royal Wedding will be broadcast in English across the MSC fleet. Bars on board will be serving a great selection of champagnes and prosecco together with a special commemorative Royal Cocktail (sparkling wine, cognac and grand marnier). Guests will be able to raise a glass – or two – to the happy couple.

NCL
The highly-anticipated event will be broadcast across Norwegian’s fleet of ships, with the exception of Norwegian Sky in the Bahamas. Guests will be able to watch the magic of the royal wedding on two-story big screens on Norwegian Pearl, Jewel, Jade, Gem and Epic, as well as in any of the line’s bars and lounges.
After the royal couple say their “I do’s,” guests can raise a toast to the newlyweds with champagne, gin and tonic or a pitcher of Pimm’s and attend street parties held in true British style, complete with music playing tribute to the Beatles. Special dining events will be held throughout the sailing including the Prince and Princess Brunch and an afternoon Royal High Tea.

Princess Cruise Line
Princess ships will be airing the Royal Wedding on the Movies Under the Stars giant screens. Passengers will be able to follow along with full coverage of the pomp and majesty of the historic wedding through BBC World’s broadcast of the event. The onboard viewing parties will add a celebratory flair to the event with British-style refreshments and special royal-themed cocktails. Passengers can also test their knowledge with royal wedding trivia competitions and participate in a William and Kate look-alike contest.

Princess Cruise Line’s first Royal Princess cruise ship debuted in 1984 and was christened by HRH Princess Diana. The ship left the fleet in 2005, the name was passed to one of Princess’ small ships in 2007. This vessel is being transferred to a sister company at the end of April. The new Royal Princess cruise ship will be debuting in spring of 2013. We’ll be waiting in anticipation to see if Princess Kate will also christen the Royal Princess, as the beloved Princess Diana did.

Note: Be sure to follow your Cruise News Weekly columnists as we report live from Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Magic, from May 1 to 10 in Europe. We’ll be reporting from our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Princess honors MacLeod, preps for Royal Wedding

Television’s favorite captain, Gavin MacLeod, celebrated his 80th birthday aboard Golden Princess this week. The line made famous by the hit television show “The Love Boat’’, Princess Cruises will now wow a new generation of viewers April 29 when each ship in its fleet will broadcast live the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Image courtesy Princess Cruises

By Michael Coleman

Princess Cruises honored television’s most beloved captain, Gavin MacLeod, with a special 80th birthday party aboard Golden Princess this week in Los Angeles.

Crew members, along with his friends and family, sang “Happy Birthday” and presented him with a massive cake — a 5-foot-long, 3D replica of the original “Love Boat,” Pacific Princess.

MacLeod is perhaps best known for his role as “Captain Merrill Stubing” in the popular television series, The Love Boat. One of the longest running television shows in history, The Love Boat cruised through 10 seasons from 1977 to 1986 and is still in syndication in 92 countries worldwide. This year also marks MacLeod’s 25th anniversary serving as Princess Cruises’ spokesperson.

MacLeod’s impressive career spans television, theater and film. He spent seven years on the award-winning television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show as “Murray Slaughter,” the acid-tongued news writer. His other well-known television roles include “Happy” on McHale’s Navy and “Big Chicken” on Hawaii Five-O, and he has also appeared in The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hogan’s Heroes, The Big Valley, Ironside, To Catch a Thief, Run For Your Life, Hotel and Murder She Wrote.

MacLeod’s film debut was in 1958 with Susan Hayward in the Oscar-winning film I Want to Live. His subsequent 35 film credits include Compulsion with Orson Welles, Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant, High Time with Bing Crosby, The Party with Peter Sellers, The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen and Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood.

A Royal Onboard Affair

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be televised live on all Princess ships on April 29. Passengers will be able to follow along with full coverage of the pomp and majesty of the historic wedding through BBC World’s broadcast of the event.

Not only can passengers follow along as the future princess walks down the aisle, but they’ll enjoy viewing parties on board as they watch this royal event. BBC is the official wedding broadcaster and has exclusive access inside Westminster Abbey during the ceremony.

The onboard viewing parties will add a celebratory flair to the event with British-style refreshments and special royal-themed cocktails. Passengers can also test their knowledge with royal wedding trivia competitions and participate in a William and Kate look-alike contest.

“As this is the first British royal wedding in years we know there will be wide interest among our passengers,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We at Princess also feel a connection with Prince William because his mother, Princess Diana, christened our original Royal Princess back in 1984.”

Royal Wedding broadcasts are planned for all ships in the Princess fleet, subject to satellite availability. In some time zones the broadcast may be delayed for viewing at a convenient hour.

The Royal Wedding is one of several special events shown on the line’s Movies Under the Stars giant outdoor screens, including the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. The LED screens are more than 300 square feet in size with a 69,000-watt sound system and have sufficient lighting power to be seen clearly at mid-day and heard even while the ship is moving at full speed.

On the web: www.princess.com

Princess blog features ultimate travel wish list

Will Greece and its famed Acropolis become one of the world’s 50 essential travel experiences on a new Princess Cruises’ blog? Photo by Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

The world’s top destinations will be unveiled weekly in an inspiring new blog launched by the travel savvy employees of Princess Cruises.

The line launched “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” (50essentialexperiences.com) this week. A series of posts, each authored by one of Princess’ longest-serving shipboard and shoreside employees, will be added weekly.
 
The 50 selected experts — each who have been with the company for more than 15 years and traveled thousands of sea and air miles visiting hundreds of countries, cities and sites — will share one of their inspiring personal experiences chronicling their unique perspective of must-see travel spots around the globe. 
 
“Few people have seen more of the world than Princess’ own destination experts,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “And because they’ve been to so many destinations, they’re often asked to recommend those ‘don’t miss’ experiences that people should be sure to put on their travel bucket list.” Swartz emphasized that the blog is not just a list of places, but instead a list of experiences Princess hopes inspires others. 
 
The experts featured in the blog will represent an array of departments and positions within Princess, including those in shoreside positions such as itinerary planning, ship operations and marketing, along with those who sail aboard its ships such as captains, hotel managers and cruise directors. Their posts will gradually be revealed through September 2011.
 
Crystal Morgan, director of market planning for Princess, authored the first blog post. She started her cruise career as an onboard shore excursion manager sailing to worldwide destinations and, after moving shoreside, now oversees itinerary planning for the line’s fleet of ships. Morgan shares one of her most memorable travel experiences, when she traced her grandmother’s footsteps to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, the most celebrated monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place that held a special meaning for her grandmother who had visited the site some 70 years earlier.
 
In her post she writes, “I didn’t hear about my grandmother’s visit to this famous statue until I told her that I was being deployed to South America aboard Pacific Princess. It dawned on me that I would have the opportunity to trace her footsteps to this world-renowned landmark so many decades after her visit. Our circumstances could hardly be more different.  She was barely a teenager on her journey up the mountain, traveling with her family, including several younger siblings for whom she cared. I would have charges of my own, but not children.”
 
Blog visitors will be encouraged to share their own personal travel experiences, some of which will be showcased on the site each week.
 
All of the destinations described in the blog will be ones that passengers can travel to aboard a Princess ship, and links will help readers discover how they, too, can embark on similar adventures.
 
Arguably one of cruise travel’s greatest brand names, Princess operates a fleet of 17 modern ships known for their innovative design and array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities. The line offers global voyages from seven to 107 days in length.

On the web: princesscruises.com

Princess to offer an expanded Panama Canal experience

Built specifically to sail the Panama Canal, Coral Princess offers regular round-trip sailings through this engineering marvel. She and the Island Princess will offer expanded Panama Canal sailings in the next two years. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

By Jackie Roseboom

The Panama Canal has been delighting cruisers for nearly a century. This man-made masterpiece is composed of 51 passageways between the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, saving travelers more than 7,000 transit miles around the South American continent. Princess Cruises has been going there for years on short trips in and out in a day. Now there’s an offer that will give cruisers more.

Princess has 38 cruises scheduled to this famous destination for 2011 and 2012. The Coral Princess and the Island Princess, built specifically for traveling through the Canal, have the honor of taking these journeys. Theses large ships will make their way through the massive locks, barely clearing the sides. The locks lower and raise the ships about 170 feet with an average of 52 million gallons of water per chamber. The complete trip from one side to the other takes about nine hours.

“Our ships have been transiting the Panama Canal for more than 40 years and, in fact, we even christened Coral Princess as it moved through the Canal,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “There really is no better way to watch the fascinating process as the ship transits each lock than from the decks of our ships — it’s an exceptional way to experience this wonder of engineering.”

Princess has unique offers that combine the transit of the Panama Canal one day, including the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks, with a second day at the Fuerte Amador in Panama. This extra time will give cruisers the chance to experience some fun and unique tours in Panama. Visitors will be able to take a trip on the Panama Canal Railway, journey through the rainforest, visit the local Embera Indian village and of course go on a shopping tour.

The single most expensive construction project in United States history at the time, the “big ditch” took more than 30 years to build at a cost of about $375 million. The Canal’s lengthy history included construction efforts by two different nations and the creation of an independent Panama. In total, Canal construction involved as many as 80,000 workers and the excavation of around 268,000,000 cubic yards of earth. Today the Canal offers passage to approximately 14,000 ships a year.

One-way Panama Canal Transit Sailings include a 14- and 15-day itineraries between Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale. Besides the two-day Panama Canal transit, the cruises may also offer visits to Cabo San Lucas, San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala) and Aruba. There’s also a 15-day option from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale.

Roundtrip Panama Canal cruises aboard the Island Princess will offer a 10-day itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale, which offers a partial Panama Canal transit to Gatun Lake, followed by a call in Colon, plus calls in the Caribbean ports of Aruba, Cartagena, Limon (Costa Rica) and Grand Cayman or Ocho Rios. This itinerary is available 20 times between Oct. 10, 2011 and April 17, 2012.

On the Web: princess.com.