A More Extensive List of Ships with Special Needs Accessibility is Coming Soon

Special Needs Group (SNG) is adding all accessible ships in the fleets of three Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. family members (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises) to its Web portal/accessibility content resource. This includes accessibility information for Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, scheduled to begin sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. in November 2014.

The one-stop portal is available to both travel professionals and consumers. It consist of an extensive list of ships’ accessibility features available in the cruise industry. It provides helpful information including:

Number of accessible staterooms
Accessible stateroom features
Food & Beverage venues accessibility
Recreational facilities accessibility
Much more

SNG will launch Royal Caribbean International on the portal on Monday, July 15; Celebrity Cruises on Monday, July 22 and Azamara Club Cruises on Monday, July 29. On Monday, Aug. 5, SNG will launch Holland America Line® on the portal. It will continue to add one cruise line per month through the end of 2013, and until all ships with accessible features utilized by the North American market have been included.

All ships in the Norwegian Cruise Line® fleet were launched on the portal in April 2013.

SNG President and CEO Andrew Garnett said, “By continuing to add ships/cruise lines to our accessibility content resource, we’re reinforcing our corporate responsibility to help educate travel professionals, as well as the traveling public, that individuals with special needs have the ability to travel now more than ever before. The content that we create and provide is mainly informational as opposed to commercially-driven, allowing individuals with special needs to choose the most appropriate ship/cruise for them.”

Earlier in 2013, SNG also introduced three collateral assets – Ship Accessibility Checklist™, Mobility Scooter/Power Chair Etiquette™, and Scooter/Power Chair Do’s and Don’ts™ – to better assist professional travel agents to serve Americans with disabilities and special needs. Special Needs Group is the only mobility and oxygen equipment supplier that is approved to deliver to all major cruise lines.

For more information about the SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate program, SNG Travel Agent Affiliate Program and the SNG Resource Center, please call 1-800-513-4515 or visit www.specialneedsgroup.com/agents.

Azamara Journey to sail to the Titanic wreck site on the anniversary of her sinking

The Azamara Journey will be sailing to the site of the Titanic wreck on the anniversary of her sinking. Guests will be able to see live images of the ship beneath them. Photo courtesy of Azamara Cruise Line.

By Jackie Roseboom

Guests aboard the Azamara Journey on the April 9, 2012 sailing from Boston are in for a unique cruise. Journey will sail to the wreck site for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. In addition to the guests aboard the ship, children in elementary and middle schools will also be given an opportunity to view the Titanic up close from their classrooms, while learning about a pivotal event in history.

An expedition ship, stationed at the Titanic wreck site prior to the arrival of the cruise ship, will be outfitted with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The ROV will carry a 3D high definition camera designed to penetrate the bow and record images from the interior of the ship. These images will be sent via an interactive link to Azamara Journey, allowing guests to see Titanic as she rests today on the ocean floor.

Two-hour shows will be produced with project partner Bob Sitrick Productions for streaming into schools throughout interested nations. Each show will consist of an hour of pre-recorded expedition footage, including scenes from the Titanic wreck. The rest of each broadcast will be a live link, so students may ask questions of the expedition team via Skype. These broadcasts will be aired on school days prior to and immediately following the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking (April 14-15, 2012).

Lesson plans are being developed by National Board Certified Teachers who are currently professional educators. “It is exciting to create a venue where future generations can learn the story of Titanic. All people we study on the Titanic were once as alive as we are this very minute and their stories need to be kept in the hearts and minds of future generations” said Dr. Melinda Ratchford, associate professor at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, NC, and life-long advocate of sharing the Titanic story. “These lesson plans are geared for students in grades 3 to 7 but teachers can modify these to augment the learning experience for all students. I have yet to find anyone between the ages of 4 and 104 who have not been entranced at some level by this magnificent ship.”

Lessons will cover the core curriculum subjects of science, mathematics, history/geography and language arts. Schools wishing to participate may subscribe for a nominal fee, which includes downloadable lesson plans and suggestions for how to get involved.

“It is our goal to have one million scholastic members join us on our expedition,” said Bill Willard, president of willTiger Corp. and coordinator of the anniversary cruise. “We look forward to working with educators and students, and allowing them to be a part of history.”

Guests wanting to book this cruise into history, must book quickly – it’s filling up fast. Passengers aboard the Azamara Journey will enjoy the cruise line’s signature service and more inclusive onboard amenities, such as included gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary bottled water, sodas, specialty coffee, teas, and more.

For more information, visit the cruise website, voyages-to-remember.com.

Cruise Guide Column: Azamara Club Cruises unveiled

The two-ship Azamara Cruises fleet — the 684-passenger Azamara Quest seen here anchored off Sorrento, Italy this past summer, has now become Azamara Club Cruises. Photo by Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Executives at a fledgling cruise line with huge potential have gone back to the drawing board in an effort to re-brand their two year-old company.

The two-ship Azamara Cruises fleet is now Azamara Club Cruises. Owned by parent Royal Caribbean (which also operates Celebrity Cruises), the new focus and a series of attributes are designed for upmarket, experienced travelers.

“This isn’t a strategy of going ‘from good to great’,” said Azamara Club Cruises President & CEO Larry Pimentel. “This is about taking an already great product and making it exceptional.”

Pimentel oversees the operation of identical sister ships: the 684-passenger Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.

Azamara is scheduled to visit 140 ports in 50 countries in 2010, with itineraries featuring more overnight stays to allow guests to immerse themselves in communities and cultures — the line’s new focus.

Among the overnight locations are Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento, Italy, which offers a host of tour options along the Amalfi Coast and Capri; a full three days and two nights in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Azamara’s Scandinavia and Russia Itineraries; and multiple overnight stays in Azamara’s Southeast Asia region, including Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“We’re going to slow down the tempo, and allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” said Pimentel.

Look for distinctive two-day shore excursion packages tailored to the various overnight destinations, allowing additional immersion in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Odessa, Ukraine; Livorno (Florence), Italy, Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany, or London, in addition to Sorrento and St. Petersburg. 


Look also for similar packages from Bangkok to Laos; an overnight tour from Hiroshima to Osaka via bullet train; a three-night experience from Mumbai including a visit to the Taj Mahal; overnight tours in Israel between Ashdod and Cairo, and a Grand Egypt tour featuring the best of both Luxor and Cairo. 


Among Azamara’s specialty tours include a Ferrari driving tour in Civitavecchia, Italy; a walk down memory lane in Liverpool with the “In the steps of The Beatles” tour; a private demonstration of chocolate flavors in Dubrovnik; a “Theatre A La Carte” evening in London; Croatian liqueur tasting in Zadar; an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg; an evening gondola serenade in Venice; and high tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

As part of it re-branding efforts, the line will also place a heavy emphasis on fine cuisine and will expand its focus on wine to include vintages from boutique wineries around the world. Improved onboard wellness programs and service standards will also be implemented.

Beginning in April, look for inclusive amenities included in the cruise fare: bottled water offered at no charge throughout the voyage; specialty coffees and teas; housekeeping and dining gratuities; shuttle bus service to/from port communities; destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs; most meals and room service; house wine at lunches and dinners; and self-service laundry. Specialty dining in Azamara’s intimate Prime C steakhouse and the Mediterranean-influenced Aqualina will be complimentary for suite guests for the duration of their cruise. 
       

On the Web: azamaraclubcruises.com

Cruise Guide: Luxury passengers eye Caribbean

caribbean cruises

By Michael Coleman

The premium and luxury cruise lines, like their mass-market counterparts, are preparing for another busy Caribbean season. Here’s what’s ahead for those who seek to be pampered under a hot Caribbean sun in 2010.

Azamara Cruises – Azamara Journey will sail a variety of Caribbean, Panama Canal and first-ever Sea of Cortez voyages beginning in November 2010. The season features 23 ports in 13 different countries. The 12-night Caribbean itineraries are roundtrip from Miami, visiting ports in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Barts, St. Lucia and Dominica. Sixteen-night Panama Canal voyages sail between Miami and San Diego.

Celebrity Cruises – The 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox, the company’s newest arrival, makes her debut in the Caribbean this winter with 10- and 11-night cruises from Port Everglades. Celebrity guests also have more East Coast ports to choose from, including Baltimore, Charleston and Bayonne (for Bermuda cruises) and can take advantage of lower airfares to San Juan where Celebrity Summit visits no fewer than five ports in a week. Celebrity Solstice will sail year-round in the Caribbean starting this winter.

Holland America Line – Offering diversity and a breadth of itinerary lengths from seven to 14 days, Holland America has nine ships sailing the Caribbean on 126 cruises from January to May and October to December. The line’s newest ship, Nieuw Amsterdam, will offer seven-day western and eastern itineraries. Homeports are Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa. Some cruises include the Panama Canal and nearly all include the line’s award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

Oceania Cruises – Three of Oceania’s seven Caribbean itineraries for 2010/2011 will be new, including a 10-day “Mayan Mystique” voyage of the western Caribbean; a 14-day “Southern Treasures” cruise featuring overnights in Bermuda and Charleston; and a new springtime Panama Canal sailing. In addition, there will be two departures —November 27 and March 19 — for the 24-day “Amazon Adventure” and a 12-day holiday voyage. An introductory offer expiring March 31 includes free air and two-for-one pricing.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises — Ultra-luxury Regent will be offering a full season of Caribbean cruises from December to April this winter aboard the newly-refurbished Seven Seas Navigator. The ship is presently in dry dock receiving two brand new restaurants (Prime 7 and La Veranda) as well as a Canyon Ranch SpaClub. All roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, the cruises feature 2-for-1 fares, free air from 22 North American gateways and free unlimited shore excursions.

Windstar Cruises — The line will be introducing a new 7-day St. Martin roundtrip itinerary this winter on the 148-guest Wind Spirit. Each week from December through March, look for port calls to include St. Kitts, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and St. Barts. The 312-guest Wind Surf will be offering 7-day roundtrip sailings from Barbados.

Cruise Guide: Azamara unveils 2010 European itineraries

The two-ship, Azamara Cruises fleet will be offering a host of European port calls in 2010. <em/>Azamara Quest is seen here at anchor in Sinop, Turkey. Image courtesy Michael Coleman” title=”azamara-quest-docked-in-turkey” width=”500″ height=”310″ class=”size-full wp-image-1787″ /><figcaption id=The two-ship, Azamara Cruises fleet will be offering a host of European port calls in 2010. Azamara Quest is seen here at anchor in Sinop, Turkey. Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

cruiseguideheadersmallAzamara Cruises, the deluxe smaller-ship, exotic-destination cruise line, will send its fleet to Europe for the third consecutive summer when the 694-guest Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest sail in the region in 2010. Continue reading “Cruise Guide: Azamara unveils 2010 European itineraries”