Cruise Guide: Arison book a special tribute to art, life

By Mike Coleman

The late Ted Arison may have been the pioneering founder of Carnival Cruise Lines but it’s his wife, Lin, mourning the loss of her beloved husband who is now carving the family surname on a remarkable new venture.

Shortly after Ted’s passing in 1999, when sorrow-filled days seemed to only worsen, Arison and her 15-year-old granddaughter Sarah set out on a month-long journey unaware of the transformation it would soon have on both of their lives. 

They found themselves immersed in the picture-perfect villages located just outside of Paris, places which once inspired the likes of Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot and Van Gogh. And, it was here, in the beautiful countryside of Auvers, Arles, Giverny and Mont Sainte-Victoire that grandmother and granddaughter would each have a spiritual awakening resulting in Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections.

Part memoir, art book, biography and travelogue, Arison deftly gives new and spirited relevance to the art, personal and communal lives of the Impressionist painters. Reproductions of classic paintings are imaginatively paired with collaborator Neil Folbergs contemporary photographs. Together, author and photographer shed new light on a fascinating period.

The 245-page book, published recently by Abbeville Press, also attempts to de-mystify the life – albeit a brief one – of Van Gogh. He’s laid to rest in a cemetery in Auvers-sur-Oise, the charming village which served as such an inspirational backdrop to many of his peers. It was here that Van Gogh became the most prolific at his easel, painting some 70 scenes in the final 70 days of his life. And it was here where his depths of despair became unbearable. He died in a lifeless, attic room above a bar in 1890, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was just 37.

Observing such a tiny room, and the hallowed artistic ground which surrounded it, Arison began dealing with her own personal loss. In her quest to rediscover the lives, dwellings and paintings of her subject matter, she debunks long-held myths about Berthe Morisot, befriends twenty-first-century descendants of some of the masters, and finds inspiration in their mutually-supportive relationships. 

Twinning the lives and struggles of the artists with the personal discoveries they inspired in her, what emerged was not just a special book but the re-birth of a soul destined to proclaim her own singular talents.

The exposure to Van Gogh’s work and that of the Impressionists, she said in an interview, only served to deepen her empathy towards their dogged independence. It also helped to foster her own determination and artistic vision. 

As such, she has since renewed her commitment to using the creative resources at her disposal to make a significant difference in the lives of up and coming artists, especially through youngARTS, a pioneering project she and her husband founded 26 years ago. Sarah, now 23, whose interest in the arts was stimulated by her encounter with the French countryside and the Impressionists who called it home, now heads the Arison Arts Foundation.

The book testifies to the universality and continued relevance of the work of the Impressionist painters. It’s also a special tribute to the triumphant power of art and to a woman’s indomitable spirit to overcome the pain of her own profound loss.

Cruise Guide: Festive holiday voyages in vogue

By Mike Coleman

A dazzling variety of festive holiday voyages are only a few weeks away for cruise ship travelers. Discovering the great Christmas markets of Europe, waltzing to Strauss in Vienna or enjoying a champagne toast on an elegant beach in St. Barts, awaits the few lucky souls who will celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or New Year’s Eve on the high seas.

The mass market lines – Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Holland America, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean – each features elaborate Christmas trees, wreaths and other traditional touches, along with special entertainment and programming created specifically for the season.

Ultra-luxury lines – Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, Seadream and Silversea – will offer extravagant holiday meals and festive onboard camaraderie from some of the world’s most alluring destinations.

The biggest holiday splash will in all likelihood occur aboard the shiny, new Queen Victoria, Cunard Line’s latest vessel. The ship’s 10-day maiden “Christmas Markets” voyage begins Dec. 11, followed by her 16-day maiden “Canary Islands Festive Celebration.” Both itineraries sail roundtrip from Southampton. Other Cunard liners, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2, will each be spending holiday time in the Caribbean.

The holidays on Disney Cruise Line, meanwhile, come with an extra dose of pixie dust, snow flurries on a tropical island and more. Offering the option of a seven-day Caribbean cruise or a four-night Bahamian itinerary, the voyages are highlighted by Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which will be transformed into a Magical Wonderland, complete with snow, Christmas trees, Mr. and Mrs. Snowman in tropical attire, and a sleigh full of presents. Other festive touches onboard include a three-deck-tall tree, snow flurries, caroling, family gingerbread making, traditional feasts and ship-wide parties to ring in 2008.

God Jul is Norwegian for “Merry Christmas,” and it will be heard frequently aboard Hurtigruten (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage) during the line’s “Discover Winter Norway” cruise tours. Look for six- to eight-day holiday voyages, departing from Bergen and Tromso, between Dec. 19 and 26, featuring Norwegian yuletide festivities with local holiday delicacies, a Christmas Eve feast with an extravagant Scandinavian smorgasbord, caroling, Christmas trees, and a visit from Santa Claus himself. For New Year’s Eve, there will be a gala dinner, dancing and midnight champagne toasts. The seven-day Bergen-Tromso sailing can be extended to include the traditional Christmas market in Oslo.

Uniworld Grand River Cruises is also enticing travelers to Europe this upcoming season. The line is offering “two-for-one” special fares on seven- and nine-day voyages departing Dec. 19. Featuring the Rhine, Danube and Main rivers, itineraries include Nuremberg to Vienna and Cologne to Nuremberg. Many of Europe’s most famous Christmas markets in cities like Rudesheim, Mainz, Wertheim, and Bamberg, will no doubt prove to be a shopper’s delight.

Cruise Guide: No-frills easyCruise gaining in popularity

By Mike Coleman

It was only a matter of time before a no-frills cruise line arrived on the global scene, but the staying power of upstart easyCruise has surprised even the most ardent skeptics.

Launched in 2005, easyCruise itineraries were designed to open the world’s chic, off-the-beaten-path destinations to the budget-conscious traveler. Discounted fares and unrivaled early morning departures have since become hallmarks of the easyCruise experience.

“Since easyCruise launched two years ago, we have offered an affordable way to see intriguing places that are difficult to reach, except by sea,” said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, chairman of the Greek-based company. “It is clear that staying in port until the early morning hours has broad appeal, because many travelers also want to experience the local nightlife.”

A typical fare includes a cabin and port charges. Onboard meals, drinks, spa treatments, shore excursions and even housekeeping services are extra, as is the cost of getting to and from the ship.

The concept has worked so well, in fact, that the line will triple its capacity in 2008, with the addition of a 540-passenger vessel, easyCruise Life, in April.

The ship will offer a seven-night itinerary that visits Turkey, calling at Bodrum, one of the country’s most popular resorts. The line will also showcase six different Greek Islands: Syros, Samos, Kalymnos, Kos, Paros and Mykonos, a jet-set mecca. Passengers can choose to join the cruise in Piraeus (Athens) on Saturdays or in Bodrum on Mondays.

Seven-night cruise fares start from $143 per person, based on double occupancy. Cabins are equipped with a private bathroom and shower, fresh linens and towels upon arrival.

Look also for an onboard spa, innovative fusionOn6 (a combination restaurant/discotheque), broad teak sundecks, a large outdoor swimming pool and hot tub.

Guests can also choose from a range of accommodations, among them: 23 panoramic suites, 14 superior doubles, all of which feature picture windows; 76 oceanview standard twin cabins, 45 oceanview standard quad cabins and 112 interior standard twins.

The 12,711-ton easyCruise Life is three times the size of her yacht-like sister-ship, the 232-passenger easyCruise One (4,011 tons).

This fall and next spring look for easyCruise One to be deployed on a seven-night, classical Greek itinerary, showcasing Mycenae, Nemea, Olympia and Delphi. Passengers will be able to experience the Acropolis by night and witness a Sounion sunset.

Next summer, the ship will again offer long-weekend cruises to Poros, Mykonos, Paros and Sifnos. A new 10-night itinerary will transit the Corinth Canal to the islands of the Ionian Sea, including Ithaki, Paxos, Corfu, Kefallonia, Zakynothos, Itea (for Delphi), Corinth, Preveza and Agioi Saranta, Albania, which serves as a gateway to Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.