Cruise Guide: Downs to speak aboard Seabourn Spirit

By Mike Coleman

Legendary broadcaster Hugh Downs, one of television’s most familiar and highly-regarded personalities, will be a special guest speaker onboard the luxurious 208-guest Seabourn Spirit during a 14-day Southeast Asia voyage later this year. 

Downs will join guests Dec. 6 on a Singapore-to-Hong Kong journey. Highlights include calls at Bangkok and Ko Kood, Thailand; and Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Halong Bay and Cai Lan (for Hanoi), Vietnam.

In 1985, the Guinness Book of World Records certified Downs as the person with the most exposure on network television, with a total of over 15,000 hours. Downs has received six Emmy Awards and has broadcast from every continent and both poles. He was anchor of ABC’s prime time newsmagazine 20/20 for 21 years and host of PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center for a decade.

Downs, who anchored Today and hosted NBC specials and documentaries from 1962 to 1971, earlier served as host of the game show, Concentration, and helped launch the Tonight Show, where he remained for five years. When he left regular broadcasting in 1999, he began to pursue other activities, including travel, flying, riding, sailing, composing, lecturing and writing.

Among Downs’ dozen books are Letter to a Great Grandson and My America: What America Means to Me, an anthology of essays from prominent Americans following the 2001 terrorist attacks. He and his wife co-authored Pure Gold, on marital longevity and he has written several books on aging, including Fifty to Forever. A Shoal of Stars is his account of sailing a 65-foot ketch across the Pacific and Rings Around Tomorrow is a collection of his science articles.

While cruising Asia, guests will be pampered as only Seabourn can. Look for thoughtful enhancements, both onboard and ashore, as part of the line’s Signature Delights program, including complimentary spirits, wines and French champagne throughout the cruise; gourmet cuisine created by celebrity chef, Charlie Palmer; complimentary massage moments on deck; therapeutic bathing selections from Molton Brown and a complimentary shoreside experience.

Guests will also enjoy special Seabourn services. Among them are Vintage Seabourn, a premium wines pre-purchase package; Seabourn to a Tea, an upgraded menu of rare estate teas; and Seabourn’s Personal Shopper, a program which provides luxury cars and specialized shopping guides in various ports.

Additionally, an insider tip program created exclusively for Seabourn from the pages of Conde Nast Traveler magazine features the latest information about attractions, suggested lunch spots, popular bars, unique experiences, shopping tips and more, for guests who wish to customize their own port activities through the ship’s onboard concierge.

Cruise Guide: Redford, Hanks, Ford narrate Cunard space shows

By Mike Coleman

Cruise lines are renowned for providing over-the-top amenities for their guests, but now – believe it or not – one company will give you the stars and heavens above. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, in partnership with the Hayden Planetarium, has introduced two new space shows in its very own, 150-seat planetarium – the only one of its kind at sea.

Combining science and cutting-edge technology, Queen Mary 2 will present a total of four space shows per day in the Illuminations theater, including Hayden’s ground-breaking new productions, Cosmic Collisions and Passport to the Universe. “Our theater was specifically designed to feature dynamic multi-media programs of the unparalleled caliber produced by the American Museum of Natural History,” said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

“These shows are an ideal complement to the range of educational opportunities within our onboard guest enrichment programs as they are both educational and entertaining.”

Narrated by Robert Redford, Cosmic Collisions launches guests on a spine-tingling trip through space and time to explore the cosmic collisions and hypersonic impacts that drive the continuing evolution of the universe. Passport to the Universe, narrated by Tom Hanks, reveals the wonders of the universe in a way never before seen as guests take a flight though the universe and into the Orion Nebula, deep into intergalactic space. The Search for Life: Are We Alone?, narrated by Harrison Ford, is a space show developed in collaboration with NASA which delves into the role of water as one of the necessities of life.

Cunard will even tap the sense of wonderment before guests set foot in the theater. Just outside the entrance to Illuminations, look for newly-installed plasma television screens to showcase the latest developments in the ever-changing field of astrophysics. The high-resolution, large-screen presentations feature the latest images from NASA satellites and other observatories. Look also for breaking news and in-depth feature stories about space weather, the possibility of life on Mars and the cosmic microwave background.

The partnership with the Hayden Planetarium is just one of many onboard entertainment and enrichment programs offered by Cunard. Other programs introduce guests to stimulating experts and accomplished visionaries who reflect the line’s heritage of adventure and prestige. 

Through a series of lectures, Q & A, debates, social gatherings and workshops, guests will connect with personalities who have achieved distinction in the areas of history, world affairs, science, politics, arts and literature. Cunard also has a partnership with London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art aboard Queen Mary 2.

Cruise Guide: Gourmet cuisine expanding on the high seas

By Mike Coleman

Just when you thought gastronomic opportunities could not possibly get any better on the high seas, cruise lines go back to the drawing board and roll out more intriguing options.

 Take, for instance, what’s happening at Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises.

Some of the hottest names in food – Michelin stars, iron chefs and master sommeliers – are gearing up for Crystal’s annual wine and food festival. Meanwhile, at Princess, an intimate Chef’s Table will soon debut fleetwide, and if you’re looking to brush up on the fine points of cocktail connoisseurship, Grey Goose vodka has teamed with Celebrity to offer an onboard spirits ambassador.

Now in its 11th year, Crystal continues to attract some of the most celebrated names in cuisine and wine to its festival as they take to sea hosting cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and gala dinners spotlighting the signature cuisine of each chef.

Exceptional wine educators like Master Sommelier Fred Dame, acclaimed Napa Valley winemakers Beau and Heidi Barrett and Piedmont, Italy winemaker Gaia Gaja, partner with wizards of cuisine, including Andre Rochat of Andre’s and Alize both in Las Vegas, and Heinz Winkler, whose Relais & Châteaux – Residenz Heinz Winkler in Bavaria, Germany has been awarded three Michelin stars.

The festival will be featured on voyages of 10 to 14 days aboard the ultra-luxurious Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, exploring Western Europe May 1 and Aug. 9, the Mediterranean May 25 and Oct. 6, Africa and the Red Sea May 17, New England Oct. 24, and the Panama Canal Nov. 4.

Aboard Emerald Princess, culinary fans can also rejoice. They will be welcomed into the inner sanctum of the ship’s galley by the executive chef for pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a specially prepared multi-course tasting in the dining room.

The group will enjoy French champagne with appetizers and the multi-course menu will be specially created at the chef’s choice and will not be offered anywhere else on the ship. The Chef’s Table experience can be reserved by up to 10 passengers on select nights at a cost of $75 per person.

Spearheading the Grey Goose/Celebrity partnership, meanwhile, is brand ambassador Trevor Burnett. He will board eight different Celebrity ships through July and call on dozens of ports in Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe and Russia.

Burnett will conduct seminars on “mixing the perfect martini” and he’ll assist guests of legal drinking age to create their own innovative martini cocktails. Burnett will also provide drink recipes, train ship bartenders and food and beverage staff in the art of cocktail making. In addition to encouraging a convivial atmosphere at the bars and lounges, look for Burnett to pour Midnight Martinis under the stars.