Cruise Guide: NCL to feature series of Bermuda cruises

By Mike Coleman

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has unveiled a series of Bermuda-bound itineraries from five East Coast cities in 2008. It’s the largest such deployment in company history. 

Look for Norwegian Dawn to sail from New York and Norwegian Dream to depart from Boston. Norwegian Majesty, meanwhile, will sail to the island from three cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charleston.

Beginning in mid-April 2008, Norwegian Dawn will embark on a series of seven-day sailings through Aug. 24 and then again from Sept. 28 through Oct. 26. Departing on Sundays, the cruises feature three days in Bermuda at King’s Wharf.

Norwegian Dream begins an inaugural season out of Boston, offering a series of seven-day sailings to Bermuda departing on Sundays from May 11 through Aug. 24, 2008 and again from Sept. 28 to Oct. 26. Norwegian Dream replaces the Norwegian Majesty, which has been sailing out of Boston to Bermuda since 1998.

Norwegian Majesty, meanwhile, will begin sailing seven-day Bermuda cruises from Charleston on April 19, 2008, followed by a five-day Bermuda cruise on June 14, 2008. On June 21, 2008, the ship returns to Baltimore for the first time since 2004 and embarks on a series of nine seven-day cruises from Baltimore to Bermuda, departing on Saturdays. A six-day sailing from Baltimore to Bermuda on Aug. 23, 2008 is scheduled before the ship repositions to Philadelphia. On Aug. 30, 2008, the vessel begins a series of five seven-day sailings to Bermuda from Philadelphia, with Saturday departures.

PGA Tour Partner

Meanwhile, in an effort to drive awareness of NCL golf programs in Bermuda and Hawaii, the line has inked a partnership deal with the PGA Tour.

The three-year agreement also provides NCL the right to use the PGA name in advertising, as well as to share in promotional and tournament hospitality opportunities built around both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

“In our continuing effort to embrace new and innovative marketing programs, we expect that this partnership with the PGA Tour will let golfers around the world know that you can combine a great cruise vacation with top golf experiences at the best courses in the world on NCL,” said Scott Rogers, NCL’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Headquartered in Miami, with a fleet of 14 ships in service and under construction, NCL also operates NCL America and Orient Lines. The company recently took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Pearl, and is currently building Norwegian Gem for delivery in October 2007.

Cruise Guide: Cruise lines eye Asian, Caribbean markets

By Mike Coleman

Three of cruising’s biggest players are gearing up for what promises to be interesting times ahead for passengers. Royal Caribbean will soon be anchoring in Asia, Carnival will position itself in the Caribbean like never before and guests sailing with Holland America will enjoy flexible dining times on future sailings.

In December, Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas will debut in Singapore. The line will offer travelers a selection of six short cruises, ranging from two to five nights, calling at the tropical ports of Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) and Penang, Malaysia, as well as the exotic sun-soaked islands of Langkawi, Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand.

The ship will also embark on three 12-night voyages between Singapore and Hong Kong, each featuring two-day calls in Bangkok (Laemchabang), Thailand, and Hanoi (Haiphong), Vietnam. Look also for calls at Sihanoukville, Cambodia; and Saigon Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Hue Danang, Vietnam. So strong is Royal Caribbean’s belief in the region, they’ve opened an Asia-Pacific office in Singapore.

Future sailings, departing from Hong Kong, feature a series of itineraries calling at the ports of Okinawa, Japan; Taipei Keelung and Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and Sanya, China. The ship will then sail from Shanghai, China, with port calls in Japan and Korea.

Caribbean Cruising

Carnival, meanwhile, projects that it will carry a record 2.9 million passengers to the Caribbean before year’s end – the most in its 35-year history. When all is said and done, the line will have deployed 18 ships to the region, departing from each of Florida’s five major ports and seven other U.S. home ports.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the line is continually updating its Caribbean cruise itineraries and destination choices. In the coming months, Carnival will introduce several new programs, including a five-day itinerary aboard Carnival Imagination featuring Grand Turk, the new port in the Turks and Caicos, and the award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay.

Look also for a seven-day, five-port schedule on the Carnival Destiny from San Juan offering extended day-long visits to St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados and St. Thomas and seven-day cruises aboard the Carnival Triumph from Miami that feature Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands, St. Thomas and San Juan.

Carnival has also been working with destination partners to enhance and expand shore excursion programming to cater to today’s active lifestyles, featuring some 900 land programs – the most the line has ever offered. In the months ahead, guests aboard Holland America’s 13 ships will be able to select either traditional pre-set seating and dining times or a flexible dining schedule dubbed “As You Wish Dining.” The program will be rolled out aboard Noordam in October, Volendam in November and Statendam in December. It will be phased in throughout the rest of the fleet in 2008.

Cruise Guide: ‘Repo’ cruises gaining in popularity

By Mike Coleman

Ocean crossings or leisurely one-way voyages between continents, with few if any port of calls, are becoming increasingly popular cruise vacation experiences. Such trips, known as repositioning cruises, harken back to a bygone era when plenty of onboard time added to the mystique and romance of a high-seas adventure.

No fewer than 15 major players, each a member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), will soon move their fleets from summer seasons in Europe, Alaska and Canada to winter itineraries in the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere. In fact, 50 ships, ranging in size from intimately small to mega-liners, will be offering fall transatlantic or Pacific ocean voyages this year.

One of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Princess, might be the busiest. Look for Emerald Princess to sail on a 17-day, 8-port cruise, departing Venice on October 8 to Fort Lauderdale. Sea Princess leaves London on October 13, for a 14-day crossing to Barbados. Royal Princess sets off from Rome November 28 for Fort Lauderdale, on a 24-day cruise, and Star Princess offers a 17-day, 9-port sailing between Rome and Fort Lauderdale, embarking December 3.

On the West Coast, the line offers a series of two- to six-day voyages on the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess and Coral Princess, from Vancouver to San Francisco or Los Angeles, between September 15 and September 24. Pacific Princess will make a nine-day cruise from Vancouver to Honolulu, departing September 12, and Sapphire Princess sails from Anchorage on September 15, arriving in Beijing 15 days later.

Not to be outdone, Royal Caribbean will also be moving its fleet on one-of-a-kind sailings. Jewel of the Seas leaves Southampton October 30, on a 12-night trip to Fort Lauderdale. Brilliance of the Seas sails December 2, for Miami from Barcelona. Splendour of the Seas heads southwest from Lisbon on December 4, arriving in Santos, Brazil 14-nights later.

Voyager of the Seas heads west from Barcelona on December 8, on a 15-night voyage to Galveston. Heading south from Alaska in September are the Radiance of The Seas, on a 14-night cruise departing from Vancouver September 14 to Los Angeles; Vision of The Seas – nine nights from Vancouver to Los Angeles, departing September 21; and Serenade of The Seas, sailing from Vancouver on September 22, on a 13-night voyage to San Diego.

The luxury lines, too, will be repositioning respective fleets. After a summer season in Alaska, look for Regent Seven Seas Mariner to head west across the North Pacific. Departing from Seward on September 12, the ship’s 13-night itinerary includes Kodiak, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Hakodate, Sendai and Yokohama, before ending the cruise in Osaka, Japan. The voyage features six days at sea.

On Oct. 2, Silversea’s Silver Shadow slips out of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for a 15-day transatlantic repositioning to Bridgetown, Barbados. Travelers wishing a little longer voyage are able to join the ship in Lisbon on Sept. 23 for the nine-day crossing to the Canary Islands, with stops in Spain, Morocco and Madeira.