Cruise Guide: Seabourn taps palate with food and wine festival

By Mike Coleman

Hungry, and in need of a cruise to the Bahamas this fall? The Yachts of Seabourn will have you covered. ¨¨The ultra-luxurious, all-suite Seabourn Pride will tempt palates like never before when it hosts its third annual Great American Food & Wine Festival, during a 14-day voyage from New York to Nassau, Oct. 16.

Guests will enjoy cooking demonstrations and menus featuring signature dishes by some of America’s most acclaimed chefs, as well as wine tastings and pairings featuring award-winning American vintages. Optional shore excursions will also highlight regional cuisine during port calls along the Eastern seaboard.

Charlie Palmer, one of only three chefs elected to this year’s Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list of movers and shakers, heads an all-star lineup of guest chefs and experts. Also appearing will be chef Sue Torres, whose Mexican-inspired Sueños in New York has garnered praises from the New York Times, New Yorker and Vogue and Jean Marie LaCroix, whose eponymous restaurant on Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square was named the Best New Restaurant throughout the United States by Esquire Magazine in 2003 and Philadelphia’s best new restaurant in a decade by Philadelphia Magazine. Wine consultant Rita Faires of Intervine will join the cruise to host tastings and present pairings of American wines to accompany dinner onboard.

The cruise also promises to be a memorable one as the intimate, 208-guest ship makes its way down the Eastern seaboard with calls at many of America’ s most important colonial cities including Newport, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Mt. Vernon, Yorktown, Charleston, Savannah, Amelia Island and Port Canaveral.

If the palate-pleasing onboard fare hasn’t filled you, then culinary excursions to a number of tempting restaurants along the coast will.

In Philadelphia, enjoy a comparative tasting of Philly cheese steaks on site at the rival Geno’s and Pat’s and a morning “Shopping with the Chef” tour in the Italian Market section.

In Baltimore, a classic lunch of steamed blue crabs at Bo Brooks’ Crab Shack awaits passengers. Later, explore the historic 220-year old Lexington Marketplace.

In Charleston, Amanda Dew Manning leads a tour of lowcountry culinary heritage including a demonstration and luncheon. Seabourn’s free experience includes a ride by horse-drawn carriage to a traditional Southern tea in a 19th century home.
In Savannah, a walking tour of the town’s stately squares and a family-style lunch of Southern specialties is scheduled at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse.

Meanwhile, on Amelia Island, guests can enjoy a luncheon at The Florida House Inn, Florida’s oldest surviving hotel, in the Victorian-era Fernandina Beach Historic District. And, in Port Canaveral, dubbed “Follow the Wild Ocean Shrimp,” guests can enjoy a boat tour of the Indian River Lagoon and observe a shrimp processor before feasting on local shrimp at Dixie Crossroads.

With savings of up to 39 percent, fares start at $6,948 per person, based on double occupancy, for a 277-square foot ocean-view suite. Past guests of Seabourn or Carnival Corporation-owned cruise lines Carnival, Princess, Cunard, Costa, Holland America or Windstar Cruises will qualify for 50 percent savings and fares from $5,695 per person, double occupancy.

The 10,000 ton Seabourn Pride was refurbished in 2003. The ship entered service in 1988.
¨The line’s 104 ocean view suites include living area and bedroom, five-foot picture window or balcony, walk-in closet, television with VCR, stocked bar, Bose wave radio, CD, writing desk, spacious bathroom with tub, shower and large vanity, hair dryer, direct dial telephone and private safe.

Suite amenities include complimentary champagne upon arrival, 24-hour room service, personalized stationery, fruit basket replenished daily, terry-cloth robes, Frette linen, fine soaps by Hermes, Chanel, Bijan and Bronnley, Pure Pampering Aromatherapy by Molton Brown, nightly turndown service, daily newspaper, World Atlas, clock/barometer/thermometer and umbrella.

And, yes, to work off those calories the ship’s gymnasium is equipped with treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights.

Cruise Guide: Breathtaking fall foliage cruises beckon passengers

By Mike Coleman

It’s hard to tell when the seasons actually change here in Southwest Florida but if you’re among the lucky ones cruising from the United States to Eastern Canada, you know that fall is in the air.

Over the next two months some of the world’s leading cruise lines will be showcasing the brilliant gold, yellow, red and orange autumn hues viewed from high atop a lido deck near you. Many cruises not only feature New York, Boston, Quebec City and Montreal on their fall itineraries, they also include calls on quaint coastal villages featuring regional fare to warm your bones, from steamy New England clam chowder to Nova Scotia’s famed lobster.

Worried that such cruises are too sedentary? Think again. Optional sightseeing excursions run the gamut – from pub crawls in historic Halifax (with your very own band of roving musicians) to clambakes on private islands. Let’s not forget Broadway shows, haunted walks, touring New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy by jet boat, or visiting lighthouses in Maine.

Carnival Triumph will sail a series of cruises round-trip from New York. Ports include Boston, Portland, Sydney and Halifax. Sightseeing highlights include scenic Peggy’s Cove, the Fortress of Louisburg and the Moosehead Brewery.

Celebrity’s Constellation will offer guests roundtrip voyages from Cape Liberty, NJ. Highlights include Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax; an overnight stay in Quebec City, the Saguenay River and Portland. Among the sightseeing options are trips from Quebec City to the St. Anne de Beaupre shrine, combined with a visit to Montmorency Falls – one-and-a-half times as high as Niagara Falls.

Holland America’s Maasdam will operate a series of itineraries to Canada/New England, from Montreal to Boston and Boston to Montreal. Highlights include cruising the St. Lawrence River with stops in Quebec City, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Halifax and Bar Harbor. Guests might want to become a 19th Century Redcoat soldier for a day, as offered on a special shore excursion.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, which debuted in Europe this month, will sail on a series of 11-day Canada/New England itineraries roundtrip from New York. Itinerary highlights include Boston; Bar Harbor; cruising the Cabot Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence; Halifax; Quebec City; cruising the Saguenay River; Sydney; cruising the Bay of Fundy and Saint John. Sightseeing excursions include sea kayaking, a haunted Halifax walking tour and whale-watching sojourns.

Golden Princess will sail a series of seven week-long sailings roundtrip from New York while Sea Princess will debut in the region with three, 10-day departures from New York to Quebec City. The ship will also sail one Canada/Colonial America voyage along the full length of the Atlantic coast -visiting five of America’s 13 original colonies.

Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas will sail out of Boston on seven-night itineraries to Martha’s Vineyard, Bar Harbor, Portland, Halifax and Saint John. On Sept. 25, the ship sails from Boston to Quebec; and on Oct. 2, the ship sails a seven-night itinerary from Quebec to Fort Lauderdale. Sightseeing highlights include a visit to Maine’s Acadia National Park, a canoe trip and lobster bake.

Not to be outdone, the luxury cruise lines are keeping pace this fall with their own unique twists.

Crystal Cruises will offer five fall itineraries ranging from seven to 11 days aboard Crystal Symphony. Highlights include New York, Bar Harbor and Halifax – among a host of other destinations. Optional sightseeing tours include a Broadway performance and private lunch with the cast of Wicked in New York, an evening theater outing in Boston to see Blue Man Group or Shear Madness, and coastal kayaking along Bar Harbor’s Frenchman’s Bay.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will sail on a 12-day round-trip cruise from New York, departing Sept. 26. Highlights include Sydney; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; Quebec City; Halifax; Portland; Boston and Newport. Optional sightseeing excursions include a pub tour in Halifax complete with that band of roving musicians by your side.

The Radisson Seven Seas Navigator will sail Canada/New England waters on seven, eight and nine-night itineraries between New York and Montreal. The line is offering a host of optional shore excursions, including a ghost tour of Quebec and an excursion via a World War II amphibious vehicle.

Cruises, featuring Silver Whisper, will offer nine, 10, and 11-day cruises. Three itineraries sail between Montreal and New York and a fourth sails from Boston to Montreal. Highlights include Bar Harbor, Boston, Corner Brook, Halifax and Sydney. The line is also offering a unique sightseeing option – a flightseeing tour of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in all of its autumnal splendor.

Seabourn Pride, meanwhile, will sail seven-day cruises between New York and Quebec City that can be booked as 14-day combination itineraries. Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 sailings from New York to Quebec call at Bar Harbor, Lunenburg and Sydney. A complimentary excursion takes passengers to the Highland Games at Sydney’s Gaelic College. On Sept. 25 and Oct. 9 the ship will call at Halifax, Boston and Newport, sailing between Quebec and New York.

Cruise Guide: Cunard queens to circumnavigate the world in 2007

By Mike Coleman

When executives at Cunard Line promise you the world, they mean it. ¨¨The company is sending its two liners – Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and her sistership Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) – on simultaneous world voyages in 2007, each with a different itinerary.

QM2, the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive passenger liner ever built, will be embarking on her first world cruise in 2007 while the QE2, arguably the most famous and fastest passenger liner in the world, will be circumnavigating the world for her 25th time.

The Queen Mary 2 World Cruise will visit the world’s major cities and capitals. The QE2 Silver Jubilee World Cruise will visit many of the world’s most famous cities, plus smaller destinations.

Both ships will actually meet during their respective journeys. A Meeting of the Queens will take place in Fort Lauderdale, Jan. 10, 2007, and in Sydney Harbor, Feb. 20, 2007. It will be the first time two Cunard Queens have been in Sydney simultaneously since Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth regularly met there in 1941 and 1942 as part of their wartime duties.

QM2 is scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale Jan. 10, 2007 and is expected to call on 17 countries. From Fort Lauderdale she will circle South America before making maiden calls in San Francisco, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Cochin, Dubai and Alexandria. QM2 will arrive in her homeport of Southampton, March 26, before sailing back to Fort Lauderdale.

The most experienced world voyager afloat, QE2 meanwhile is expected to depart Southampton Jan. 2 and return on April 21. The voyage will include 40 ports in 25 countries – a mix of famous cities and interesting islands including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, Tahiti, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Papua New Guinea, Yokohama, Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, India, the Seychelles, Durban and Cape Town. Overnight calls will be made at Sydney, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Cape Town.

Complete itineraries and fares will be announced by Cunard soon.

The year 2007 will mark the 85th anniversary of the first world cruise, in 1922-1923, by Cunard’s Laconia.

Cruise Guide: It’s a kid’s world, after all, even on the high seas

By Mike Coleman

Cruise lines are not just bending over backwards to make life onboard enjoyable for their young guests, they’re now designing ships with family friendly amenities clearly in mind. ¨¨More than one million children under the age of 18 took a cruise with their families in 2004, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and it’s easy to see why. From mock game shows, story hours and treasure hunts to family fun events at poolside.

Even the cabins are getting a makeover. Some of today’s accommodations feature large staterooms with cordoned off sleeping quarters for parents and inter-connecting cabins for families with older kids.

While babysitting services are offered by virtually all major lines, who needs it when an amazing array of amenities and supervised activities are available for kids and parents of all ages.

Renowned for their land-based resorts, Disney’s two ships at sea pack a wallop. Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have nearly an entire deck dedicated to children ages 3 months to 17 years. Oceaneer’s Club, for kids 3 to 7, includes dances with Snow White, a Sebastian’s Musical Sea Search for instruments, and games on the line’s private island. Kids 8 to12 can venture to infinity and beyond at the space and science themed Oceaneer Lab. The Stack (Disney Magic) and Aloft (Disney Wonder) are reserved for kids 13 to 17 and include couches, a soda bar, Internet access, plasma TVs, MP3 players and board games.

Camp Carnival, offered aboard Carnival Cruise Lines, features activities for children in age groups ranging from 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17. For the younger set, Carnival ships feature kid-friendly amenities and programs supervised by youth counselors in state-of-the-art facilities some of which measure 4,200 square feet. On several vessels children can also enjoy arts and crafts centers, with spin- and sand-art machines; cascading poolside slides; activity walls; indoor climbing mazes and computer labs. The line also offers expanded children’s menus in the dining rooms and poolside restaurants.

Celebrity’s Family Cruising Program, meanwhile, features activities tailored to the interests of five age groups. Each ship has a staff of eight to 12 youth counselors. Age groups range from 3 to 6; 7 to 9; 10 to 12; 13 to 15 and 16 to 17. Celebrity Science Journeys, offered on every ship, encourage children to learn about science and nature. Other program highlights include youth summer stock theater, junior Olympics, magic lessons, treasure hunts and clown parties.

Each of MSC Cruises’ ships feature a designated children’s area, and MSC Sinfonia also offers a Teen Club. Children are under the supervision of trained youth counselors who coordinate organized games, sports, arts and crafts, and special age-appropriate parties. The line’s ships offer suites (double, queen- or king-sized bed plus sofa bed) and are able to accommodate up to four guests. MSC Lirica, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia also offer family-sized suites consisting of two rooms.

Norwegian Cruise Line ships offers supervised programs (ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 12, and 13 to 17) with a host of Kid’s Krew venues, including dining areas exclusively for kids, video arcade rooms and teen clubs. NCL America’s latest vessel, Pride of America, features extensive recreational opportunities for kids, including 250 interconnecting cabins. The ship also has eight 360-square-foot suites with private balcony, living room with double sofa bed and entertainment center, separate den with a single sofa bed, and private bedroom with two twin beds. Four additional family suites feature two interconnecting cabins that sleep up to eight and include two separate bathrooms.

The Love Boat line, Princess, offers a wide range of activities for children in three age-specific programs, with age-appropriate activities and often separate facilities for kids 3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17. Most ships feature youth and teen centers featuring art, game tables, juke boxes and the latest video games. Newer ships feature such diversions as a toddler’s play area and theater, doll’s house, crawl-through castle and splash pool. Larger vessels also offer expansive children’s and teen centers with indoor and outdoor areas or separate areas for each age group.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth Program offers five age-appropriate groups for kids. Adventure Science blends science experiments with entertainment. Adventure Art by Crayola offers kids the chance to create cultural masks and pottery. Sail Into Story Time combines a story hour with activities and projects. Adventure Family offers kids and their parents the chance to spend quality time together with a host of activities. The line’s new Freedom of the Seas, scheduled to debut in May 2006, will offer six different family-focused cabin categories specially designed to accommodate larger families.

Not to be outdone, the luxury and premium cruise lines – Crystal, Cunard, Radisson and Holland America – have not forgotten about the importance of their young sailors, either.

Fantasia, aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, features supervised activities, tables and chairs for board games, arts and crafts, giant padded cubes, Sony PlayStation kiosks, and large-screen televisions. Waves is a venue where teenagers can enjoy a video arcade. The line also offers Etiquette Training for Juniors, developed in conjunction with Gollatz Cotillion, where young cruisers learn how to handle themselves in a variety of social situations. During holidays and selected sailings, Crystal offers additional children’s activities under the supervision of experienced Junior Activities Directors in age-appropriate groups.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 have nurseries staffed by accredited British nannies. Aboard these British icons kids can participate in a dedicated Children’s Tea, served each afternoon. Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest liner, features age-appropriate programs for children in three groups: The Nursery provides cribs and cots for children ages 1 to 2 years; The Play Zone offers activities for kids 3 to 6 years old, including pizza parties, movie nights, and face painting; and for older children ages 7 to 10 years The Zone offers scavenger hunts, ship tours, quizzes, DJ booth and Xbox games.

Radisson Seven Seas’ Club Mariner program caters to children aged 6 to 17 and is offered on select voyages. Master Suites aboard Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager are able to accommodate families, and Paul Gauguin now boasts more cabin space for families. This month, kids 9 to 15 sailing aboard Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia can participate in Ambassadors of the Environment, a partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society which provides an interactive experience that encourages ocean responsibility.

Aboard Holland America ships, the Club HAL youth program features age-specific activities designed to provide kids and teens with entertaining choices. Activities planned for children ages 5 through 8 include arts and crafts, face-painting, camp-out night and candy bar Bingo. ‘Tweens, ages 9 through 12, can learn to putt, have dance parties, compete in on-deck sports events, play arcade games and tie-dye T-shirts. Teens can enjoy the teen disco, dance lessons, arcade games, sports tournaments, Sony PlayStation and movies.