Cruise Guide: O’Donnell to christen Norwegian Pearl

By Michael Coleman

Emmy Award winner Rosie O’Donnell will serve as godmother to Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) newest vessel – Norwegian Pearl – during christening ceremonies in Miami next month. 

The 93,500-ton ship will be the ninth new vessel in six years for NCL. Among the onboard innovations is a cruise industry first – a four-lane, ten-pin bowling alley – and two NCL firsts, a rock-climbing wall and two top-of-the-ship deluxe owner’s suites.

Like her sisters – Norwegian Star, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jewel and Pride of Hawaii – Norwegian Pearl will accommodate 2,400 guests, and will feature multiple restaurants, lively public rooms, family-friendly cabins and a new style of shipboard accommodations – Courtyard Villas – which, along with each ship’s two Garden Villas, make up “the biggest, most luxurious and innovative suite complexes at sea,” according to NCL.

After a series of inaugural events in Europe and Miami, the ship will sail two seven-day itineraries to the Caribbean (eastern and western) beginning December 22. On January 5, 2007, Norwegian Pearl features its five and nine-day western and southern Caribbean schedule. Ports of call on the five-day Western Caribbean itinerary include stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Belize. The nine-day Southern Caribbean route includes calls in Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. John’s, Antigua and Tortola.

NCL will donate the use of Norwegian Pearl to O’Donnell’s charity, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, for a one-night fund-raising event December 15. Guests onboard the one-night cruise will enjoy an evening of culinary delights, a Broadway-style show in the Stardust Theater with O’Donnell, and guest entertainers direct from Broadway, a comedy show by the popular comedy troupe, Second City, and a sail-away cocktail party on the pool deck.

Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation is a public, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping America’s kids, by supporting non-profit programs that serve disadvantaged children. Since 1997, her foundation has awarded more than $15 million in early childhood care and education program grants to over 1,100 nonprofit organizations, and has helped to build 27 daycare centers in low-income areas throughout the United States. 

NCL and O’Donnell have been working together since 2004, when R Family Vacations chartered Norwegian Dawn for the industry’s first-ever gay family cruise. 

NCL has a fleet of 15 ships in service and under construction. It oversees the operations of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America, and Orient Lines. In October 2007, look for another christening ceremony, this time as Norwegian Gem enters service.

Cruise Guide: Holiday merriment . . . at sea

By Michael Coleman

Holiday cheer and merriment may best be enjoyed this season aboard a cruise ship of your choice. 

“Cruises provide travelers with a chance to thoroughly revel in the holidays, leaving the hassles of everyday life behind,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the chief marketing organization for 20 leading cruise lines and nearly 17,000 North American travel agencies.

“Best of all, there’s a joyful energy on board that will captivate everyone – from grandparents to toddlers.” 

Whether it’s a luxury line (Crystal, Cunard, Regent, Seabourn or Silversea), premium brand (Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania or Windstar), mass-market (Carnival, Costa, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, Princess or Royal Caribbean) or smaller fleet (American, Norwegian Coastal Voyages), there’s a holiday voyage to fit any budget.

Look for ships of all sizes to be decked out in style, from twinkling lights, menorahs and mistletoe to wreaths, holly and other decorations.

Santa Claus himself often makes a guest appearance, and regardless of whether passengers celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza, look for the major cruise lines to offer a wide range of holiday shows, films and gala dinners.

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, for instance, will offer two unique shows by London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: A Christmas Carol and Happy Hanukkah, Mr. Scrooge, a piece specially commissioned for the line.

Disney Cruise Line’s 1,000-acre Bahamian island, Castaway Cay, will be transformed into a “snowy” holiday hideaway, with carolers, sleighs full of presents and visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The atrium lobbies onboard Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will host tree-lighting ceremonies, complete with “snow” flurries and a three-deck-tall Christmas tree festooned with decorations as their centerpieces.

Holland America Line, meanwhile, invites travelers to celebrate the season on one of 19 holiday escapes, which include Christmas itineraries to popular Caribbean and Mexican ports, an expedition to Antarctica and Patagonia, and a New Year’s cruise in Australia.

Princess Cruises’ fleet offers a wide range of Christmas and New Year’s cruises that also span the globe, while Royal Caribbean’s fleet of 20 ships transforms into winter wonderlands, with caroling, eggnog parties, gingerbread displays and Christmas trees on holiday sailings to the Caribbean, Mexico and Panama Canal.

The CLIA-member lines feature innovative onboard facilities, amenities and services and an array of elegant public rooms, balcony cabins, gourmet and casual dining options, live nightly entertainment, state-of-the-art spas and fitness centers, casinos, video arcades and more.

In most cases, passengers this holiday season will also be afforded the opportunity to enjoy exercise classes, golf instruction, art auctions, cooking demonstrations, enrichment lectures and computer learning workshops.

Best of all, however, guests will be able to leave the time-intensive tasks of party planning, meal preparation and the dreaded holiday clean-up behind.

Cruise Guide: Celebrity to offer wedding vow renewal packages

By Michael Coleman

With a host of romantic destinations serving as a backdrop, guests aboard Celebrity Cruises might want to consider renewing their wedding vows on an upcoming sailing. 

The line, in partnership with The Wedding Experience, offers two packages.

“Vow renewals are the perfect romantic gift for spouses to give each other, or the ultimate celebration for family and friends traveling with them to commemorate their anniversary,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity’s vice president of fleet operations.

The “True Love Knot Renewal” includes a ceremony officiated by the ship’s captain in an intimate location onboard the ship, commemorative vow renewal certificate signed by the captain, recorded ceremony music, floral bouquet for the bride, matching boutonniere for the groom, photography services, a bottle of champagne, two engraved champagne flutes, cake for two, and breakfast designed by Celebrity’s Master Chef Michel Roux, delivered to the couple’s stateroom.

Celebrity’s “Aisle to Isle Renewal Ceremony” includes a ceremony led by a shipboard official, recorded ceremony music, bottle of champagne, cake for two, commemorative vow renewal certificate, long-stemmed rose for the bride, matching boutonniere for the groom and photography service.

Each ceremony can be customized further, according to officials, with such a la carte options as receptions, live music, salon appointments and more.

The packages are offered through the line’s “Celebrity Weddings” program, and can either be arranged prior to sailing, or, for the incurable romantic, renewal vows can be arranged onboard by visiting the ship’s event coordinator.

Celebrity Cruises offers five-star dining and a sophisticated, upscale cruise experience aboard its nine-ship fleet.

Look to say “I do” when it comes to Celebrity voyages in Alaska, Bermuda, California, Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal or South America.

The line will begin sailing in Australia and New Zealand in 2007.