Cruise Guide: Quick cruise getaways, Alaska entice passengers

By Mike Coleman

Carnival has unveiled a series of short cruise getaways to attract vacation-challenged passengers in 2007 and Royal Caribbean will feature 130 shore excursions in Alaska, highlighting news this week from the cruise industry.

The line will offer 32 different short cruise itineraries from a host of  U.S. departure points, most of which leave from Florida ports. In fact, to cater to a growing trend of passengers who seek a getaway, but do so without much time, Carnival will deploy roughly half its fleet on short cruises, offering more voyages of five days or less in length than any other cruise operator. 

“Time is a precious commodity these days, and short cruises are perfectly suited to today’s lifestyles,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO. “In addition to meeting the needs of busy consumers, short cruises are very popular with families, as well as with first-time cruisers who want to experience our product, but with less investment in time and money.”

From Miami, look for year-round three-day Bahamas and four-day western Caribbean cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Fascination and year-round four and five-day western Caribbean voyages aboard the 2,052-passenger Imagination. Additionally, the soon-to-be-launched 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom will be offering a special one-time, four-day western Caribbean voyage from Miami departing Nov. 12.

From Port Canaveral, Carnival will feature year-round three and four-day Bahamas cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Sensation and four and five-day Bahamas/eastern Caribbean cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Elation (through April 28). The ship will then offer year-round four and five-day Mexico cruises from San Diego beginning June 2.

In Tampa, look for the 2,052-passenger Inspiration to host year-round four and five-day western Caribbean cruises while out of Jacksonville, the 1,486-passenger Celebration hosts year-round four-day Bahamas and five-day Key West/Bahamas cruises.

The line will also be offering short cruise getaways to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada from Mobile, New Orleans, Charleston, Galveston, Long Beach and New York. Carnival’s short cruise options complement the line’s variety of six to 16-day departures to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe and the Greek Isles.

Meanwhile, if sledding with huskies in Juneau, exploring the wild Yukon in Skagway, and searching for bears in Ketchikan is how best you would like to spend your vacation time at sea – and on land – such thrill-seeking Alaskan journeys await guests aboard Royal Caribbean ships in 2007. “Our new Alaska shore excursions offer rich and scenic regional experiences on land, at sea and even in the sky,” said Craig Milan, senior vice president, land operations for Royal Caribbean.

The line will be offering some 135 tours in Southeast Alaska alone. Among them: dog sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau); a photo safari by land and sea (Juneau); a Glacier Point wilderness safari (Skagway) and an Anan Creek bear watch (Ketchikan).

Cruise Guide: Cruise lines offer culinary journeys

By Mike Coleman

Culinary journeys at sea will be as intriguing as the itineraries themselves aboard some of the worlds leading cruise ships in 2007.

At Crystal Cruises, guests will be able to savor signature dishes from award-winning chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa, Piero Selvaggio and Wolfgang Puck. It’s all included in the cruise fare. Penthouse guests can also dine in the comfort and privacy of their suites while being served the world-class cuisine, course-by-course, compliments of their very own, onboard butler.

Cunard Line guests opting for Grill accommodations aboard Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 will enjoy the line’s famed ‘White Star Service’. Spacious suites and butler services are paired with private single-seating restaurants and exclusive lounges. All guests are treated to Cunard’s renowned, white-gloved afternoon tea service.

Oceania Cruises will also be offering some of the finest cuisine at sea in 2007, carefully crafted by world-renowned Master Chef Jacques Pepin. Look for each ship – Regatta, Insignia and Nautica – to offer the flexibility of open-seating dining in four onboard restaurants as guests enjoy a relaxed, country-club atmosphere.

Travelers sailing aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 700-guest, all-balcony suite Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner need only to sit back and enjoy complimentary fine dining at Le Cordon Bleu-run Signatures specialty restaurants. Care to take some of the recipes back home? Regent goes a step further. Cooking classes offered by Le Cordon Bleu chefs are available on select voyages.

Look for the three, all-suite Yachts of Seabourn to unveil casual dining – steaks, seafood and other grilled specialties – in the open air Sky Bar atop each ship in 2007. The option is in addition to its elegant, open-seating Restaurant which serves award-winning Progressive American cuisine designed by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer.

Silversea Cruises’ guests can enjoy complimentary en suite dining on their private verandas with meals served course-by-course by attentive waiters. Many dishes hail from the line’s La Collection du Monde, created by Michelin two-star chef Jacques Thorel. Each of Silversea’s four vessels feature oceanview suites, most with private balcony, and open-seating dining options so guests dine when, where and with whom they desire.

The premium lines (Celebrity, Holland America and Windstar) will also be offering a host of onboard amenities in 2007 designed to make life on the high seas as stress-free as possible.

Welcome champagne, nightly hors d’oeuvres, 24-hour butler service and dining room seating preferences are just some of the suite amenities guests will enjoy with Celebrity Cruises.

Holland America, meanwhile, will be bringing the luxuries of its Greenhouse Spa and Salon services to staterooms, where Mariner’s Dream Beds, with plush mattresses and Egyptian cotton towels, await guests.

And, menus have been revamped at Windstar. Look for 100 new items from acclaimed celebrity chef Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group. New onboard amenities include iPod Nanos loaded with 500 songs from 50 different playlists, Bose SoundDock speakers in staterooms and wireless Internet access in public rooms.

Cruise Guide: Politicians, plush bedding, tea service brewing at sea

By Mike Coleman

Luxury cruise lines will be rolling out a series of nice touches in 2007 to pamper their guests like never before. New bedding is in at Silversea; tea service will be taken to new heights at Cunard and onboard enrichment programs at Seabourn will feature power, politics and punditry from Washington’s leading insiders. 

Guests traveling on select cruises aboard The Yachts of Seabourn in 2007 will share their voyages with luminaries from the closely entwined worlds of international politics and investigative journalism. Seabourn has invited a trio of prominent personalities to provide insights into the inner workings of public policy and the news media.

David S. Broder is a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post; a syndicated columnist; author of half a dozen books on U.S. politics and a regular commentator on NBC’s Meet the Press; PBS’s Washington Week in Review and CNN’s Inside Politics. He will sail aboard Seabourn Pride’s 13-day cruise of Rio & the Amazon departing Rio de Janeiro Feb. 18, 2007.

Robert C. McFarlane is intimately familiar with the corridors of power, having served as national security advisor to President Reagan and in key White House posts in the Ford and Nixon administrations. As founder of Global Energy Systems and a director of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, he will join Seabourn Spirit’s 16-day voyage to Arabia, India & Orchid Isles departing Dubai Nov. 20, 2007.

Bob Schieffer, anchor of the CBS Evening News in 2005 and 2006, rounds out the series when he embarks on Seabourn Spirit’s 14-day cruise of Asian Capitals & Vietnam departing Singapore Dec. 6, 2007. His career as a broadcast journalist includes 20 years as anchor of the Saturday CBS Evening News and 15 years as moderator of the network’s Sunday staple, Face the Nation. As CBS chief Washington correspondent, he has covered presidential campaigns since 1972.

Silversea, meanwhile, is set to enhance the sleep experience for its guests, with the installation of new Sealy Posturepedic plush EuroTop mattresses aboard its fleet of four all-suite ships. The line’s top suites – Owner’s, Grand, Royal and Rossellini – will feature Stearns & Foster plush ultra-luxury beds which provide 10 percent more sleep surface than a conventional mattress. The new beds, custom-designed by Sealy exclusively for Silversea, will debut aboard Silver Shadow just in time for its 126-day world cruise, departing Fort Lauderdale Jan. 15, 2007, and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet during the following months.

The new mattresses are set to complement a luxurious selection of bedding amenities that already includes fluffy goose down duvets, sheets made of 100 percent fine Egyptian cotton, and a choice of pillows. The line’s standard pillow is a soft goose down and feather blend, but guests may opt for a firmer goose down and feather pillow, a synthetic one that’s hypoallergenic, or even a contour pillow of therapeutic foam.

Cunard, meanwhile, has introduced Wedgwood tea service aboard its flagship Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2, featuring a selection of 23 premium teas, including traditional varieties such as Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe, as well as new flavors specially developed by Wedgwood.

“The introduction of this wide range of Wedgwood teas is a perfect complement to our extensive Wedgwood china collection, and underscores the very British experience that passengers expect aboard a Cunard ocean liner,” said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

The full line of Wedgwood teas is available aboard Queen Mary 2 in the daily tea service offered in the Queens Grill Lounge, featuring finger sandwiches, sweet pastries and warm scones, served with jam and fresh cream. The teas are also available in the Queens Grill and Princess Grill accommodations and restaurants, the Grills Concierge Lounge and in cocktail lounges upon request. Guests will also be able to enjoy the new teas in the ship’s new Britannia Club restaurant, debuting in spring 2007.

Aboard QE2, the teas are available in Queens, Princess and Britannia Grill accommodations and restaurants. Additionally, guests can enjoy the teas in the Queens Grill Lounge and in cocktail lounges upon request.