Cruise Guide: ‘Wave Season’ features oceans of cruise values

By Mike Coleman

The best cruise vacation deals in 2006 are being offered now through March.

Industry insiders call it “Wave Season,” the time of year when the major cruise lines offer attractive advance-purchase incentives that are sure to please the pocketbook.

From hefty fare reductions, stateroom upgrades and two-for-one savings to onboard credits and discounted airfares, the top cruise lines in the world are sparing no expense to woo you and other potential guests.

Is it too good to be true?

Not so, said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). But, he cautions, there is a slight hitch.

“Consumers should book early to ensure they can spend their vacation enjoying the ship, stateroom and itinerary that best suits their vacation needs,” he said.

Sound advice, especially when the lines are offering some of the best industry-wide deals in years. For instance, ultra-luxury operators Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC), The Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea Cruises are slashing prices on select sailings.

RSSC is featuring two-for-one savings on three Seven Seas Mariner sailings, including a seven-night Caribbean itinerary from Fort Lauderdale on March 13; a nine-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean on March 20; and a 15-day Panama Canal voyage from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco on April 3.

Seabourn, meanwhile, is offering 60 percent savings on a 12-day Spain and Morocco cruise departing March 28, from Lisbon to Madeira on the all-suite Seabourn Pride. The line is also offering 50 percent savings on the ship’s 18-day Mediterranean Odyssey cruise departing Istanbul on May 2.

Silversea will again roll out its “Silver Sailing” program featuring savings of up to 50 percent off the cruise-only fares on select luxury voyages throughout the year. Savings are available for some of the most sought-after itineraries in Alaska, the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South America and the Far East.

For all 2006 European cruises booked by March 31, luxury line Crystal Cruises is introducing reduced business class upgrade airfares. Crystal’s program offers rates that are about 50 percent lower than unrestricted business class to Europe.

Holland America’s “View & Verandah” promotion allows guests the opportunity to book an ocean-view stateroom for the price of an inside stateroom or a Deluxe Verandah stateroom for the price of an ocean-view stateroom.

MSC Cruises is offering travelers special promotional rates for interior staterooms on its seven- and 11-night voyages that sail from Fort Lauderdale. Such rates reflect a savings of up to 50 percent or more off the line’s published brochure tariff.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering discounted rates, stateroom upgrades and onboard credits on every 2006 ship and itinerary for all bookings made between now and Feb. 28, as part of the line’s annual “Sale of All Sails” promotion. Savings include up to four-category upgrades and a $50 shipboard credit on select sailings.

Swan Hellenic, however, is looking just beyond 2006. The line is offering savings of up to 49 percent on its 65-day Faces of South America cruise aboard Minerva II, scheduled for January, 2007. The round-trip Barbados cruise includes stops at 34 ports in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

Cruise Guide: Silversea, Seabourn unveil golf, insider tip programs

By Michael Coleman

Two of the world’s leading ultra-luxury cruise lines – Silversea and Seabourn – are rolling out exclusive programs that will make the golf lover smile and the adventurer in all of us beam with contentment. 

Golf enthusiasts sailing on the 382-guest Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper can live and breathe the game every day of every voyage in 2006, thanks to the line’s onboard PGA-class golf professionals. In addition to organized shipboard activities, the line’s Silver Links 365 program offers optional golfing excursions, arranged and escorted by the ships’ golf pros, to some of the world’s most challenging and revered courses in all four corners of the globe. 

Seabourn, meanwhile, has teamed up with Conde Nast Traveler to provide the line’s guests with up-to-date information about what’s new, what’s hot and what’s hip in various ports of call, gathered exclusively from the pages of the magazine. 

  

Teeing it up 

Silversea’s escorted, optional golfing excursions vary in price from course to course but include transfers to and from the select golf courses, pull or power-drive carts, green and any applicable caddy fees. Should guests choose to leave their clubs at home, Nike clubs, shoes and golf essentials are available for rental, demo or purchase onboard each vessel. 

The onboard pros will offer a variety of activities both on and off each vessel. During days at sea, look for private instruction in 22′ x 10′ custom-built golf cages, complimentary clinics, demonstrations and putting contests suitable for all ranges, levels and abilities. 

Golfers also have the option to further improve their game by experiencing the latest V1 video-teaching technology. The digital component allows guests the opportunity to compare their swings to some of golf’s greatest legends and the hottest names on tour. 

The lessons also include a VHS video of the session with custom voice-over by the ship’s golf pro. 

  

Hot tips anyone? 

Seabourn’s innovative, complimentary service will be introduced in April, 2006, when the line’s three all-suite ships  Legend, Pride and Spirit  begin their European cruising season. 

Dubbed “Conde Nast Traveler’s Seabourn Insider Tips,” the service will provide what officials are calling “reliable intelligence” about attractions, suggested lunch spots, popular bars, unique experiences, shopping tips and more for those who wish to customize their own port activities through the ships’ onboard concierge. 

The initial editions will include information about 28 European ports of call including Barcelona, Spain; Istanbul, Turkey; The French Riviera; Capri, Rome and Venice, Italy; the Greek Isles of Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu; Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; St. Petersburg, Russia and Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The program augments an impressive line-up of services already in place for guests, including Vintage Seabourn, a premium wines pre-purchase package; Seabourn to a Tea, an upgraded menu of rare estate teas; Seabourn’s Personal Shopper, a program which provides luxury cars and specialized shopping guides in various ports; global cell and satellite telephone rental services and the line’s personal valet luggage shipping service.

Cruise Guide: A novel cruise concept – Authors gone wild

By Mike Coleman

Book lovers are in for a special treat this April. 

Top-selling writers are scheduled to bring their prose to life on a week-long “Authors at Sea” Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Carnival Pride, round-trip from Los Angeles (Long Beach), April 2 to 9, 2006. Port calls include Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

From top-selling romance authors  Victoria Alexander, Beverly Barton and Kat Martin  and travel guru Arthur Frommer, to Marci Shimoff, leading motivational expert and author of several Chicken Soup for the Soul series books, passengers will enjoy intimate book chats while feasting on a series of parties, giveaways, activities and shore excursions designed exclusively for the literary lover in mind.

 The kick-off party April 1 isn’t bad, either. Literary powerhouses Jackie Collins and Dean Koontz are scheduled to host the Bon Voyage event at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, along with best-selling author, Fox Sports commentator and former NFL star, Tim Green. 

The onboard lineup is expected to feature: Cherry Adair, best-selling adventure romance author; Jennifer Bushman, syndicated television “Kitchen Coach;” Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, archeological fiction writers; Cindy Gerard, romantic suspense author; Eileen Goudge, New York Times (NYT) women’s fiction and culinary author; Heather Graham, NYT best-seller of suspense and romance; Sherrilyn Kenyon, NYT vampire, science fiction and romance author; Paul Levine, legal mystery author; Marjorie M. Liu, paranormal romance author. 

Also scheduled for the sailing: Debbie Macomber, NYT women’s fiction best-seller; Connie Mason, historical romance author; Teresa Medeiros, NYT romance best-seller; Carla Neggers, romantic suspense author; JoAnn Ross, NYT romantic thriller author; Sharon Sala, NYT best-selling romance author; Christina Skye, NYT romantic action-adventure author; Jyl Steinback, America’s Healthiest Mom; F. Paul Wilson, best-selling thriller and science fiction author. 

Aspiring writers should also take note. Passengers will have the opportunity to work on their manuscripts with a top New York-based editor. 

For more information, log on to www.AuthorsAtSea.com or call toll-free, 1-877-238-6843. 

  

Dive in 

From the literary world to 10,000 leagues under the sea, Royal Caribbean has reached an impressive milestone. 

The line known for active onboard amenities such as surfing simulators, rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks and bungee trampolines, has announced that more than 7,000 guests over the past six years have received Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Scuba Diver certification while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. 

PADI certification is available through SeaTrek dive shops on all Voyager-class ships (Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas) and will be offered on Freedom of the Seas, which will debut in May 2006. 

In a seven-day period, guests over the age of 12 can complete the program by attending a combination of classroom instruction and pool sessions along with two open water dives at select ports of call. For guests who are already certified scuba divers, the line offers a variety of scuba diving excursions year-round in more than 14 destinations. 

In addition, would-be divers can purchase a variety of accessories onboard, from snorkels, masks and fins, to regulators, gauges and dive computers.