Cruise Guide: The world is yours – Cruise lines unveil global itineraries

By Mike Coleman

The world of luxury cruise ship travel has never looked better. We have yet to say goodbye to 2005 and three major players in the luxury field have already announced ambitious plans for world cruises in 2007.

Silversea, Radisson Seven Seas and Holland America are wowing potential guests with impressive globe-trotting itineraries and perks one would expect from top-shelf lines.
Crystal Cruises will not be far behind. Their plans are expected to be announced soon.

Silversea will debut its world cruise – the line’s first full circumnavigation – aboard Silver Shadow in 2007. Departing Jan. 15 from Ft. Lauderdale, the 126-day voyage will cross three oceans, seven seas and six continents, visiting 61 different ports before concluding in New York City on May 22.

“World voyages are all about cultural exploration, new adventures, and having time to get to know your fellow travelers,” said David Morris, Silversea’s senior vice president of North America sales. “Silver Shadow’s smaller, more intimate design, offers the perfect ambiance where guests can mingle and form lasting friendships, as they journey in award-winning luxury to discover those fascinating and secluded places that are too far off the beaten path for larger ships to visit.”

During the four-month, nine-segment odyssey, guests will enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations, most with private verandas, award-winning gourmet cuisine, personalized service, Italian hospitality and Silversea’s selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities. Complimentary butler service is provided in the grand, royal, Rossellini and owner’s suites.

Meanwhile, the 700-passenger Radisson Seven Seas Voyager will embark on a 111-night global itinerary the most extensive circumnavigation the company has ever offered exploring 45 destinations in 26 countries on five continents in six-star luxury. The ship will sail roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, Jan. 9 to April 30, 2007. The cruise will also mark the line’s return to southern and eastern Africa for the first time since 2003.
¨”The 2007 itinerary is a result of feedback from our past guests who are seeking a less traditional world cruise, yet a unique blend of wonderful destinations and cultures on five continents,” said Mark Conroy, president of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. “We’ve ambitiously responded with an exceptional, convenient voyage roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale.”

During the six segment journey, guests will enjoy 14 overnight stays in popular ports. Acclaimed for her all-suite, all-balcony design, the ship features accommodations ranging from 356 to 1,403 square feet of living space including walk-in closets, large marble-appointed bathrooms featuring separate glass shower stalls and full bathtubs.

Holland America, meanwhile, will expand its grand voyage program in 2007 to include two ships and three voyages. The 1,380-guest Amsterdam will circle the globe in 105 days and the 793-guest Prinsendam will explore icescapes and cities on a circumnavigation of South America and Antarctica for 66 days followed by a 56-day sojourn traversing the Atlantic to ports in Europe and North Africa. The two ships will chart different courses to their respective destinations but will be docked, side-by-side, April 11 in Croatia.

“We are consistently listening to past guests and building innovative itineraries,” said Richard D. Meadows, Holland America’s senior vice president, marketing and sales.

“With two different ships and more extended port stays than ever, these epic cruises feature diversity, luxury and a sophisticated experience.”

The Amsterdam will depart Ft. Lauderdale Jan. 15 on its 33,400-nautical-mile journey to 38 ports in 26 countries and six continents. On her first of two region-specific voyages, the Prinsendam will cruise 17,400 nautical miles to 33 ports in 14 countries, departing Jan. 5 from Ft. Lauderdale. Her second roundtrip journey departs Ft. Lauderdale March 12 and returns May 7.

Guests who prefer a longer voyage can combine both of Prinsendam’s cruises for a 122-day journey.

Cruise Guide: Crown Princess readies for debut

By Mike Coleman

With recent media attention focusing on Royal Caribbean’s pending launch of the largest passenger liner in the world next year, somewhat lost in the shuffle is a new Princess ship being readied for the high seas.

Reprising the name of a former Princess ship, the line will name the next new vessel to join its fleet Crown Princess. She will feature a number of innovations designed for cruising in the Caribbean waters, but the ship will also offer new design evolutions to create additional options for passengers, including a piazza-style atrium, even more dining venues and redesigned public spaces.

The 113,000-ton Crown Princess is scheduled to debut next May and will sail round-trip from New York on a series of nine-day Caribbean and Bermuda voyages. In the fall, the ship begins a series of Southern Caribbean voyages from San Juan.

And while the Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas seems to be garnering most of the latest headlines – it too debuts in May – look for Crown Princess to steal some of the spotlight if not for her sheer size than for the mouth-watering culinary delights she will soon offer.

The ship will feature a piazza-style atrium, designed to be the bustling hub of the ship with a street cafe atmosphere.

The atrium, on Deck 5, will feature the International Cafe, where passengers will enjoy rotating themes throughout the day and Vines, a wine and seafood bar. Passengers in the cafe might find freshly baked croissants or beignets in the morning, crêpes or bonbons in the afternoon, and chocolate fondue or desserts in the evening. It will also be the locale for pre-dinner tapas or after-dinner petits fours.

Vines, on the other hand, will tempt passengers in the evening with an assortment of fine wines by the glass as well as chilled “seafood cocktails” appetizers including salmon, caviar, sushi, gravlax or other treats from the sea. The venue will also host an extensive menu of wines and food tastings paired for a completely different experience.

Table service from both the International Cafe and Vines will also be available in the Internet Cafe, for those passengers who like to snack and surf the Net at the same time.

Meanwhile, the line’s popular Sterling Steakhouse has evolved into the Crown Grill, a steak and seafood house with a theater-style performance kitchen. Located on Deck 7, the ship’s showplace eatery will entertain passengers with an open, theater-style kitchen where chefs custom-prepare steamed shellfish lobster, scallops, clams and mussels and cooked-to-order steaks and chops. The 160-seat restaurant will feature rich decor, leather appointments, wine display cabinets and the privacy of booths as well as tables and counter seating.

The lines’ Sabatini’s Italian trattoria will be situated on Deck 16, higher here than on other ships, to offer fine dining with a view. The venue offers views on three sides with dramatic vistas overlooking the wake of the ship. The adjacent Adagio Lounge offers a cozy venue for Sabatini diners to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail and relaxing piano music, complete with ocean views.

The ship will offer numerous dining options that passengers have come to enjoy on other Princess vessels. The 24-hour Horizon Court will serve round-the-clock buffet fare, while the adjacent Cafe Caribe will offer unique Caribbean specialties in a deluxe buffet setting, with a focus on a different island or region each night plus seafood extravaganzas on formal evenings.

Passengers can enjoy poolside treats with a hamburger and hot dog grill, pizzeria and ice cream shop. Crown Princess will also serve Princess’ trademark traditional afternoon tea.
Crown Princess will also offer multiple show lounges and a variety of intimately designed public spaces.

Other ship features include a wedding chapel with Internet wedding cam, and an extensive children and teen’s center with splash pool and outdoor play area, sports and fitness facilities, a wide array of educational classes and nearly 900 staterooms with private balconies.

The ship takes on the name of a vessel that left the fleet in 2002. The original Crown Princess, which debuted in 1990, was the first ship built for Princess by the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. The same yard is working on the new vessel, scheduled to debut in eight months.

Cruise Guide: Repositioning cruises becoming popular

By Mike Coleman

The cruise industry has a secret. Seasoned travelers on the high seas have known about it for years, but today, the secret’s out.

The “repositioning” cruise, a favorite of educated passengers for years, is slowly but surely becoming a popular voyage option for the masses.

Cruise lines will soon be repositioning their ships from one seasonal destination to another. From European waters to the warmer climates of the Caribbean, from Alaska to Hawaii, the West Coast or Caribbean, and from the Canada/New England region to the Caribbean, these special one-way voyages are offered but once or twice a year.

“The majority of vacationers know very little about repositioning cruises, or for that matter, what they really are,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the marketing arm for 19 of the world’s leading cruise lines.

“The itineraries offer guests a tremendous opportunity to experience unusual journeys that normally feature more leisurely days at sea and out-of-the way ports of call. Even better, in most cases, repositioning voyages offer travelers significant value compared with standard itineraries.”

Long days at sea won’t be boring, unless it’s solitude that you’re after. Quiet spaces abound on many ships but one can also enjoy enhanced onboard activities, including distinguished guest lecturers from the arts, sciences, politics and journalism. Itineraries may also feature culinary and wine appreciation seminars, computer classes or other enrichment programming.

While the CLIA umbrella features more than 150 ships for all ages and budgets, it’s the repositioning plans of the luxury and premium cruise lines which caught my attention.

Crystal’s Crystal Serenity celebrates the centennial of the Tommy Dorsey band, led by Buddy Morrow, on a November transatlantic cruise from Lisbon to Fort Lauderdale. Crystal Symphony’s September transatlantic sailing from London to New York is dubbed a Film Festival/Distinguished Speakers Series cruise while its October sailing from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale will include lecturers from the Smithsonian and U.S. News & World Report.

In October, Holland America’s Westerdam sails from Civitavecchia to Fort Lauderdale on a 15-day crossing. In November, Prinsendam sails a 15-day itinerary from Lisbon to Fort Lauderdale and Rotterdam operates a 17-day Lisbon to Rio cruise. Three fall Panama Canal sailings aboard Veendam, Volendam and Zaandam reposition the ships from Vancouver to Caribbean waters. Three Pacific Coast itineraries operate between Vancouver and San Diego.

Oceania Cruises’ Regatta sails on a 10-day Lisbon to Miami sailing Nov. 17 and Insignia on a 12-day Barcelona to Rio de Janeiro voyage Nov. 27. A highlight of Regatta’s repositioning cruise is a visit to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Sister ship Insignia will make a call at Las Palmas, Canary Islands. The voyages will include an emphasis on wine. Tastings and wine appreciation classes will be offered.

Radisson’s Seven Seas Voyager sails on an eight-night crossing Nov. 13 from Madeira to Fort Lauderdale. En route to Fort Lauderdale, guests will be able to dance to the music of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra with Christopher Riddle conducting from the bandstand. A series of cooking classes, operated by famed Le Cordon Blue chefs, is available at an additional fee.

Guests on Seabourn’s Seabourn Pride can enjoy the line’s repositioning from New York to Nassau, Oct. 16, featuring Seabourn’s third annual Great American Food & Wine Festival. Seabourn Legend sails from Tenerife to Fort Lauderdale Nov. 9. Seabourn Spirit positions from Egypt to Asia on Oct. 23.

Silversea’s Silver Cloud sails in October on a 14-day itinerary from Lisbon to Barbados. Silver Wind departs in November on a 17-day “Passage to the Seychelles” adventure from Port Said, Egypt, to the Seychelles via the Red Sea and Suez Canal, calling at ports in Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea and Djibouti. Silver Whisper, meanwhile, has just returned to North America, having completed a 12-day voyage from London to Boston.

Cruise Guide: Mingle with the stars aboard Crystal, Cunard and Radisson lines

By Mike Coleman

One-upmanship is serious business, especially among luxury brands in the highly-competitive cruise industry.

Take, for instance, executives at Crystal Cruises, the Cunard Line and Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. They create purpose-built ships, top-shelf amenities and onboard programs with the most discerning of travelers at sea in mind.

Who said, however, that it couldn’t be fun? Officials at the three lines are beaming that respective guests will be mingling with celebrities and renowned lecturers this fall.

Seven-time Emmy Award-winning actress Mary Tyler Moore, who served as godmother for Crystal Harmony when it was launched in 1990, will help bid the ship farewell. Harmony will transfer to her Japanese owners in November but not before Moore and guests give this special ship a royal send-off.

Moore is scheduled to sail aboard the 940-guest vessel, round-trip from Los Angeles, on a 10-day Mexican Riviera cruise beginning Oct. 22. Port calls include San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

Meanwhile, pop music legend Carly Simon is scheduled to conclude a trans-Atlantic crossing this week aboard the Queen Mary 2 (QM2), where she performed two concerts. The sessions were recorded for a one-hour PBS network television special, scheduled to air in December. The concerts will be released on DVD by Columbia Records in November.

Simon’s six-day transatlantic voyage, including her concert performances in the ship’s Queens Room, the largest ballroom at sea, and behind-the-scenes moments onboard QM2 were documented for the DVD by veteran concert filmographer Jim Gable.

Passengers enjoying Radisson Seven Seas’ Grand Circle Pacific segments will be entertained and enlightened as they explore Southeast Asia, Australia and the South Pacific this fall aboard the 700-guest, all balcony-suite Seven Seas Mariner.

During a 14-night, Hong Kong to Singapore sailing beginning Oct. 10, noted Irish actor Milo O’Shea, renowned for his Tony award-nominated roles in Staircase (1968) and Mass Appeal (1981) as well as his character Durand-Durand in Barbarella (1968), will screen some of his films and appear in Q&A sessions.

Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning Hall of Fame songwriter Paul Williams will be onboard during the Auckland to Los Angeles segment, Nov. 21. Between calls at Bay of Islands, Rarotonga, Bora Bora, Moorea, Papeete, and Nuku Hiva, the 19-night cruise will feature the composer and his most memorable hits Rainy Days and Mondays, Evergreen, We’ve Only Just Begun, and The Rainbow Connection during one concert and two lectures.

Renowned ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau will also share the spotlight on the Nov. 21 sailing. He will discuss the ocean’s importance to survival of life on the planet.

Have you ever thought what it would be like to return from such cruises with a customized movie of your time with celebrities on board, or for that matter your trek through Machu Picchu or your exploration of the pyramids at Giza? Now you can, thanks to a new digital video editing course, available on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, where guests learn how to edit their own video with footage from acquired sources, including existing Crystal videos and special effects, to create mini-documentaries of their global travels.

Who knows? Perhaps Moore, Simon, O’Shea, Williams or Cousteau will ask for your autograph.