Cruise Guide: Cruise trends 2007

By Mike Coleman

There’s no shortage of cruise ideas for the upcoming year. From epic world journeys to brief, lazy days in the sun, there’s a voyage and price range for just about everyone.

Not sure which cruise line, or ship, to take? It’s never been easier to decide. Your nearest bookseller has a host of offerings. Look for the industry “bible”: the Berlitz 2007 Complete Guide To Cruising & Cruise Ships, by Douglas Ward.

Cruise travelers on your wish list might also enjoy Queen Mary 2: The Birth Of A Legend by Philip Plisson; Building The Titanic: An Epic Tale Of The Creation Of History’s Most Famous Ocean Liner by Rod Green, or enthrall a loved one with how the modern industry began – warts and all – in Devils On The Deep Blue Sea, The Dreams, Schemes And Showdowns That Built America’s Cruise-ship Empires, by Kristoffer A. Garin.

If it’s the world you’re after, luxury operator Regent Seven Seas Cruises will hit the mark. The line will embark on the longest and most extensive voyage in its history when it departs San Francisco, Jan. 6, 2008 on a 115-night world cruise. Guests will sail aboard the 700-guest all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Voyager as she circumnavigates the globe, visiting 51 ports in 26 countries throughout the South Pacific, Orient and Arabia, as well as the Mediterranean and Bermuda.

Crystal Cruises will be hosting its 11th Annual Wine & Food Festival in 2007. Given the growing fascination with the nuances of fine wine and food, the 2007 series aboard the elegant Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony features 11 diverse voyages of 10 to 17 days through the Panama Canal, Caribbean, South America, Africa and the Red Sea, Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and New England/Canada.

During each cruise, A-list chefs are paired with the finest names in wine to host cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, share recipes and cooking tips, and prepare a four-course gala dinner spotlighting the signature cuisine of each guest chef. Complementing most itineraries is a mouth-watering collection of culinary-themed Crystal adventures – from an outdoor evening dining experience in the Dubai desert to lunch at the Michelin-starred Relais Château Saint-James in Bordeaux.

Oceania Cruises, meanwhile, will introduce Greco-Roman revelations during an epicurean odyssey to commence its 2007 European season aboard Regatta. Sailing from Barcelona to Athens on April 17, the 10-day voyage combines the fabled history of Rome, Crete and Olympia, the beauty of Amalfi, and the medieval majesty of Taormina with maiden calls in Mahon; Porto Cervo; colorful La Spezia, gateway to Cinque Terre; and Monemvasia, for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Epidaurus.

Master Chef Jacques Pepin and famed pastry chef Jean-Claude Szurdak will be onboard. Pepin will treat guests to evenings of specially designed signature menus in the four onboard gourmet dining rooms, and by day, guests may participate in culinary demonstrations, question-and-answer sessions, and special epicurean-related shore excursions.

The adventuresome soul may enjoy a Princess Cruise. Look for shore excursions to Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat and northern Australia’s stunning Kakadu National Park – both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The new multi-day tour options are available to passengers on Asia and Australia cruises aboard Sapphire Princess. The shore excursion options, designed to flow seamlessly with the ship’s itinerary, allow passengers to easily explore some of the world’s most dramatic wonders by leaving the ship in one port and rejoining in another. Packages include hotel stays, meals and transportation.

Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, will launch San Diego’s first year-round cruise schedule with four-and five-day Baja Mexico voyages aboard Elation, beginning in June, 2007.

The ship will depart Thursdays on four-day cruises to Cabo San Lucas and on Mondays and Saturdays on five-day cruises to Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, on a rotating schedule.

Cruise Guide: From Radisson to Regent: Line changes course

By Mike Coleman

It seemed only a matter of time before a luxurious cruise line aligned itself with an equally prominent, global hotel partner. And that’s exactly what happened earlier this year when Radisson Seven Seas Cruises became Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

The merger was orchestrated by the Carlson Companies, a world-wide leader in hospitality services, encompassing more than 1,780 hotel, resort, restaurant and cruise ship operations in 82 countries.

“When the cruise line was formed in 1992, it was an extension of the existing Radisson brand,” said Sophie Vlessing, vice president of guest strategy and marketing for Regent cruises and hotels. “As the cruise line distinguished itself in the luxury segment, the branding no longer aligned. It was time to move the brand to a different level and we decided to align with another luxury brand in the Carlson portfolio, Regent International hotels.”

Regent has inherited a fleet of four medium-sized luxury cruise vessels – the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner, the world’s first all-suite, all-balcony ship; her sister ship, the Seven Seas Voyager; the all-suite, 490-guest Seven Seas Navigator; and the intimate, 19,200-ton Paul Gauguin, based year-round in Tahiti and French Polynesia.

The new look, however, is more than just a name and a few cosmetic twists. The possibilities are endless for Regent to now combine seamless luxurious travel opportunities on land – and at sea – for its well-traveled, sophisticated clientele.

Onboard, look for a host of new enhancements, including furniture upgrades in all suites and public areas; new luxury Anichini bedding, including linens, comforters, throws and pillows; new luxury towels, bathrobes and Regent bathroom amenities; iPod players with Bose speakers in butler suites; clocks and flat-screen televisions, plus Wi-Fi and cell phone service fleet-wide.
The line also features top-shelf enrichment programming. The Regent “Circles of Interest” program links both ship and shore-side guest activities via 10 common themes on select sailings: from food and wine; performing arts; photography; history, archaeology and literature; the environment and marine life; antiques, jewelry and shopping to active exploration and wellness; art design and museums; families and friends and romance.

The pampering does not stop there. Regent has even partnered with Travel + Leisure magazine to provide guests with “Insider Lists,” featuring the magazine’s picks for the must-see attractions in select locations, including lesser-known spots and local favorites. The concierge team, in keeping with the brand’s philosophy, can also personalize guests’ experiences by creating customized itineraries.

Once onboard, however, guests simply soak up the line’s elegant splendor. Mariner, launched in March 2001, at 50,000 tons, accommodates her guests in oceanview suites from 301 to 2,002 sq. ft., with private balconies. She boasts the first Le Cordon Bleu restaurant at sea and four single, open-seating dining venues. Voyager, which debuted in 2003, features the largest lead-in suites at sea: 356-square feet including balcony plus four palate-pleasing dining venues.

The 33,000-ton Navigator features all ocean-view suites (90 percent with private balconies), and fine dining options. The Paul Gauguin features all ocean-view staterooms – 50 with private balconies – a casual dress code and cuisine inspired by a two-star Michelin French chef.

Regent’s all-inclusive fares include shipboard gratuities, all non-alcoholic beverages, wine with dinner and an in-suite bar set-up. Look for seven to 11-night sailings in 2007 to some 300 ports on seven continents.

Cruise Guide: New ship launches pending

By Mike Coleman

Could it get any better for cruise ship travel aficionados?

Over the next 12 months, a series of new ships will be launched by various cruise lines, and a host of other vessels are now being constructed in shipyards around the globe for debuts in the coming years.

Kicking off the parade will be the December 15 launch of the 2,384-passenger Norwegian Pearl, in Miami, complete with bowling alley. Up next, in March, both the 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom and 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra will be unveiled in Europe. The 3,000-plus-passenger Costa Serena comes on line in May, with year-round European itineraries.

In a historic first for Princess Cruises, the 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess and 710-passenger Royal Princess will formally join the fleet in a dual christening ceremony with the Greek Island of Santorini as a backdrop in May, 2007. Both ships begin sailing in Europe this April on a series of Mediterranean itineraries, including the Greek Isles, Crimean Coast, Egypt and the Holy Land, and a number of new ports for Princess on the Adriatic Sea.

Royal Caribbean, fresh from the successful summer 2006 launch of Freedom of the Seas, the world’s largest passenger vessel, will add another mega-liner to its fleet when the 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger Liberty of the Seas begins sailing from Miami in May, 2007.

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, will be at it again, launching yet another vessel – the 2,430-passenger Norwegian Gem in October 2007. The ship will be home-ported year-round in New York, and will feature itineraries to the Bahamas, Florida and the southern Caribbean.

The biggest splash is just a year away, however, when Cunard’s 2,000-plus-passenger Queen Victoria enters service in December 2007. The 90,000-ton vessel will include the top-drawer amenities cruise passengers have come to expect from Cunard.

She will house an 800-seat Royal Court Theater, complete with private viewing boxes, a cruise industry first. Her two-story, wood-paneled library with spiral staircase will feature a collection of 6,000 books, and if you seek to hone your nautical mind, check out her floating “Cunardia” onboard museum, complete with historic memorabilia. 

Holland America Line will launch its 80th passenger ship since the company’s first vessel, Rotterdam, sailed to New York City in October 1872. The new 2,044-passenger, 86,000-ton Eurodam will enter service in the summer of 2008.