Cruise Guide: Loren, Matlin, Egyptian expert to wow passengers

By Michael Coleman

If you’ve taken a cruise lately you’ve likely noticed a new onboard trend.

Your fellow passengers are younger, affluent and they’ve been looking for a hassle-free vacation experience, according to the folks who analyze such trends. 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has released figures showing that cruise passengers are, on average, 50 years old with incomes of $99,000 per household. They are typically married (83 percent), employed (69 percent) and have college educations (65 percent). 

The 19 CLIA-member lines, from which the numbers were crunched, represent 97 percent of the cruise capacity marketed in North America. 

The study also revealed that 64 percent of cruisers believe cruise vacations are easy to plan and arrange as compared to 36 percent of non-cruisers. Seventy percent of cruisers say sailing vacations are hassle-free compared with 40 percent of non-cruisers and that 57 percent of cruisers believe cruising provides an excellent value for the money compared to 24 percent of non-cruisers. 

  

Legendary Loren teams with MSC 

Italian film legend Sophia Loren will be the centerpiece of MSC Cruises’ new 2006 marketing campaign. 

Loren is expanding her long-standing relationship with the company and will now serve as the line’s spokesperson this year. She has served as godmother to the Italian-owned line’s two newest ships, MSC Lirica and MSC Opera. 

The multi-faceted national campaign will include billboards in high-traffic areas, as well as cable television and newspaper ads primarily in the New York metropolitan and South Florida (including Tampa) markets. 

The campaign will also include advertising in consumer lifestyle, travel and trade publications as well as Internet and public relations components. 

  

HAL picks Matlin to be godmother 

Still with the celebrity theme this week, look for Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin to be godmother to Holland America Line’s new ship, the Noordam, during a ceremony in New York City, Feb. 22. 

After the christening ceremony, Noordam will sail on a series of 11 voyages from New York to Southern and Eastern Caribbean ports. 

Matlin catapulted onto the big screen in her debut film, Children of a Lesser God (1986), winning the Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama. The Oscar-winner has since starred in 19 films and several television programs. 

She is also a national celebrity spokesperson for the American Red Cross. 

  

Silversea lands acclaimed lecturer 

Renowned Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass is scheduled to join Silversea’s world cruise as an enrichment lecturer in 2007. 

Over the past 30 years he has dedicated himself to the excavation and conservation of many of Egypt’s most important monuments and antiquities. As Egypt’s secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Hawass was responsible for bringing the King Tut exhibition to the United States this year. 

He will host a series of presentations aboard Silver Shadow as the ship journeys from Dubai to Alexandria, April 12 to 27, 2007. 

Departing Jan. 15, 2007 from Fort Lauderdale, the ship will cross three oceans, seven seas and six continents, visiting 61 different ports, before concluding her world cruise in New York City on May 22.

Cruise Guide: Cruise ship celebrity sightings becoming common

By Michael Coleman

Your chance of rubbing elbows with the stars may be greater onboard a major cruise ship than it is if you made the trek to Hollywood.

According to Elena Vakhrenova, author and publisher of Cruising Cuisine for Home Entertaining, Hors d’Oeuvres and Appetizers, celebrity sightings on the high seas have now become a sign of the times. 

“Cruising reflects a style of life and entertaining that borders on celebrity for most people,” she said. “There is a sense of rich and famous onboard today’s cruise ships and when art imitates life, with celebrity sightings on cruise ships, it’s a sure sign that something has gone mainstream.” 

So, just how popular is cruise ship travel among celebrities? 

Big, she says. So big in fact that Vakhrenova recently compiled her own top 10 list from a host of stars who sailed in 2005. From television personalities Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa to pop icon Carly Simon, celebrities turned heads last year and expect more of the same  if you’re one of the lucky passengers to share a trip with them in 2006. 

Philbin and Ripa ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on Vakhrenova’s list. In June, 2005, they gave away 1,000 free cruises to fans on a week-long vacation at sea aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Pride of America during “Live’s Cruisin’ Reunion.” During the cruise they did five shows from the ship. Philbin was also a guest lecturer with Celebrity Cruise Line. 

At No. 3, Mary Tyler Moore. Crystal Harmony Godmother and seven-time Emmy Award-winner, Moore joined the ship on Oct. 22, 2005 for one of its last voyages. The star of television, stage and film christened Crystal Harmony in 1990. 

At No. 4, is Isabella Rossellini. In March 2005 Silversea Cruises published a new, full-color Voyage Atlas with a lifestyle section featuring images of Rossellini, Silversea’s Ambassador. Rossellini Suites, with the star’s very own personal touches, have been added to the fleet. 

At No. 5, Rita Moreno: The only female performer to have won all four of the most prestigious show business awards  Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy  Moreno was the onboard guest lecturer during a Celebrity Constellation voyage from July 30 to Aug 16, 2005. 

At No. 6, Carly Simon. Her PBS concert was recorded onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and aired last month on more than 100 television stations across the country. It marked the first time that a television special was taped during a transatlantic crossing. 

At No. 7, Melania Trump: She christened the world’s largest gem, NCL’s Norwegian Jewel, during ceremonies at the Port of Miami this past November. 

At No. 8, Elaine Chao. In July, 2005 the U.S. Secretary of Labor christened the NCL Pride of America in New York. The ship is the largest U.S.-flagged cruise ship ever built and the first newly-built cruise ship to join the U.S. register in half a century. 

At No. 9, Mira Sorvino. The actress became a godmother to the Carnival Liberty in July, 2005. 

At No. 10, Princess Anne. Her Royal Highness christened the 1,874-passenger Aurora, a P&O cruise ship, on April 27, 2005 with the words “May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.” 

Vakhrenova publishes cookbooks and provides lessons and catering services. Her Web site, www.cruising-cuisine.com, features links and a free online newsletter complete with recipes, images and upcoming events. 

Whether a star comes to visit you at home or you see one onboard in 2006, Vakhrenova will at least make you feel comfortable about your own entertaining and hosting prowess.

Cruise Guide: Carnival takes swing at Caribbean

By Michael Coleman

How does the world’s most popular cruise line, and its latest mega-ship, improve the Caribbean vacation experience? It offers golf. Golf. And, more golf. 

Those who love to tee it up can book either six- or eight-day voyages from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean and the Bahamas aboard Carnival Liberty, the same ship which ushered in an impressive European golf program last year. 

The ship departs Sundays from Port Everglades, on six-day cruises to Freeport, Bahamas; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico, and Saturdays on eight-day voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean and the Bahamas. 

The eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages feature San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas/St. John, U.S.V.I.; Antigua, Lesser Antilles; Tortola/Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.; and Nassau, the Bahamas, while the western route includes Limon, Costa Rica; Colon, Panama and Cozumel, Mexico. 

While the destinations would put a smile on most faces, the golf enthusiast among us could be excused for beaming. Some of the most challenging courses in the Caribbean and the Bahamas are being offered as part of the line’s Golf Academy Program. Among them are: 

Lucayan Golf Club (Bahamas, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Perched on the shores of Grand Bahama Island, this par-72, 6,824-yard course is known for its tight fairways, elevated greens and sharp doglegs. Designed by Dick Wilson, whose course offerings include Doral’s legendary “Blue Monster” in Miami and Orlando’s Bay Hill, the course will not disappoint, offering a test of precision and strength. 

Hyatt Britannia Golf Club,(Grand Cayman, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  the Caribbean’s first signature golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, features a nine-hole championship course and an 18-hole par-57 executive course. Combining features of classic layouts such as Royal Troon and Turnberry with magnificent sea vistas, these links-style courses reward players who keep the ball in play. 

Wyndham el Conquistador (San Juan, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Designed by renowned course architect Arthur Hills, this 6,662-yard layout is known for its rugged contours, with 12 of 18 holes offering Atlantic and Caribbean vistas. The final few holes feature 200 feet of dramatic elevation changes, adding to the day’s challenge. 

Mahogany Run (St. Thomas, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Highlighting this Tom and George Fazio-designed course is the aptly named “Devil’s Triangle” featuring three of the most challenging holes in the Caribbean. Recent renovations, including expanded fairways and refurbished greens, make this 6,022-yard, par-70 course one of the most popular in the Caribbean. 

Cable Beach Golf Course (Nassau, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Recently redesigned, this 6,500-yard course offers spacious fairways surrounded by lakes. This challenging yet “resort-friendly” course appeals to golfers of all skill levels. Greens are surrounded by a series of mounds, protecting those who hit the occasional stray shot. 

Cozumel Country Club (Cozumel, eight-day western Caribbean, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Cozumel’s first and only world-class golf course, this Jack Nicklaus-designed gem incorporates the island’s habitat, with native trees, red mangroves, and natural wetlands. Famous for its peaceful and tranquil setting, this 6,724-yard, par 72-course appeals to novice and experienced golfers alike. 

Summit Golf & Resort (Panama, eight-day western Caribbean)  This course offers 18 holes of world-championship golf. Designed by talented course architect Jeffrey Myers and built by Gregori International, it features a challenging layout, wide-open fairways and well-placed hazards and sand traps. 

Can’t wait to take up Carnival on its golf offer but can’t stand lugging your clubs with you? Feel free to leave your gear at home and take advantage of the line’s Nike Golf products and apparel available for rent, demonstration or purchase. 

Carnival Liberty will operate a series of 12-day Mediterranean voyages beginning May 7, through Oct. 22, 2006. And, yes, European golf packages will be offered.

Cruise Guide: Mass-market cruise lines ready for a busy 2006

By Michael Coleman

The world’s most popular mass market cruise lines are turning up the heat for your hard-earned vacation dollars in 2006. 

Look for competitive pricing, the debut of new itineraries and a slew of cruise industry firsts. 

Carnival is set to debut three- six- and eight-day Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale aboard Carnival Liberty  the only program of its kind from Port Everglades. Six-day cruises will sail on a western route while eight-day voyages alternate between the Eastern and Western Caribbean. 

Costa Cruises will sail to Bermuda from Fort Lauderdale in 2006. The voyages, which are available at the end of Costa Magica’s inaugural Caribbean season, depart April 21 and 28 and include overnight calls in Hamilton, Bermuda and Nassau. 

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder will embark on two special 10- and 11-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Southern Caribbean on Sept. 7 and 17, marking the first time the line has offered cruises longer than three or four nights aboard the ship. 

MSC Cruises, meanwhile, has added a new dimension to its Panama Canal itineraries by adding Roatan Island, Honduras to MSC Lirica’s 11-night sailings out of Fort Lauderdale. Departures are available from Jan. 13 through April 11. 

Norwegian Coastal Voyage (NCV) will be introducing a four-night Northern Lights Festival cruise this month aboard MS Trollfjord from Bergen to Tromso, Norway. Musical performances will be featured throughout Tromso. 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Norwegian Jewel will sail in Europe for six months, featuring seven itineraries, six of which are offered on a one-time only basis. Sixteen seven-day itineraries will sail round-trip from Barcelona to Messina, Sicily; Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Florence; and Villefranche (Nice), France. 

When Crown Princess debuts this summer, the vessel will introduce Princess Cruises’ first-ever round-trip Caribbean sailings from New York. The inaugural season, beginning June 14, will feature nine-day round-trip voyages to both the Eastern and Western Caribbean and will include Princess’ return to Bermuda. 

A new summer itinerary aboard the 3,100-passenger Voyager of the Seas marks the first time Royal Caribbean will position a ship of this size in European waters. The seven-night itineraries, round-trip from Barcelona, will call at ports in France, Italy, Malta and Spain. 

Swan Hellenic will offer a 15-day Myths and Legends cruise in April that focuses on the mythology, culture and history of the Mediterranean, including legendary Troy and the Byzantine city of Istanbul. Minerva II will sail to lesser-known destinations in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. 

Carnival, Costa, Disney, MSC, NCV, NCL, Orient Lines, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Swan Hellenic, and the nine luxury and premium cruise lines spotlighted in this space last week, are members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The 19-member lines represent 97 percent of the cruise capacity marketed in North America.