Cruise Guide: Glamour of Cannes, Monaco tops voyage

By Michael Coleman

The glamour of Cannes, France and the thrill of a Formula One Race in Monaco are but a few of the perks afforded guests on an upcoming Mediterranean sailing aboard Wind Surf.

The eight-day roundtrip voyage from Nice, France aboard the 312-guest ship, beginning May 18, starts with an overnight stay during the star-studded Cannes Film Festival followed by three nights in Monaco during the prestigious Formula One Grand Prix race. 

Other port calls include St. Tropez, France and St. Florent, Corsica.

This cruise offers guests the exciting allure of Cannes, exclusive Grand Prix events and luxurious Mediterranean cruising, said Diane Moore, Executive Vice President, Windstar Cruises.  

Guests eager to attend the Grand Prix, May 23 to May 25, can purchase a special tour package through Windstar. It includes a private Welcome to Monaco cocktail reception and gala dinner on board the ship; an exclusive gift package of Bushnell binoculars, an official Grand Prix  program, official Monaco Auto Club Ticket holder, souvenir hat and souvenir jacket. Guests will also receive Tribune K reserved seating at the Formula One Grand Prix time trials on Saturday. 

On May 24, Windstar will be hosting an exclusive reception at the H.S.H. Prince Rainier III Auto Collection Museum. Guests will be able to view the 100-car exhibit plus observe six state coaches belonging to the late Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The automobile used to drive Rainier and Grace Kelly away from the church after their storied wedding will also be on display. The private reception will be catered by Frances famous Lenotre of Paris.

On Sunday, a private breakfast on board the ship is followed by the final day of Grand Prix racing, complete with reserved seating, trackside. 

Windstar operates three sailing yachts known for their pampering without pretense and their ability to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the worlds most treasured destinations.  

The line will visit some 50 nations in 2008, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.

The Cannes/Monaco coupling, complete with its star power, proves to be among the lines most popular itineraries.

Cruise Guide: Celebrities sightings . . . at sea

By Michael Coleman

Celebrated broadcasters, award-winning journalists, filmmakers and one of the nations most-respected business entrepreneurs will be sharing their insights with guests aboard select cruise ships in 2008.

In April, Gwen Ifill, host of Washington Week, PBS’ acclaimed political program, will lead a panel of respected journalists in a careful examination of the 2008 presidential campaign during an 11-night, Bermuda-bound journey aboard the ultra-luxurious, 490-guest, all-suite Regent Seven Seas Navigator

Ifill will discuss strategies and issues that will directly impact the presidential race with a panel of distinguished journalists including Dan Balz, National Political Correspondent, The Washington Post and Martha Raddatz, Chief White House Correspondent, ABC News. In addition, leading political analyst Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report will provide front-line insight and information on the 2008 primaries, the campaign frontrunners and the possible outcome of the nation’s November presidential election.

The roundtrip Fort Lauderdale sailing visits Port Canaveral, FL; Savannah, GA; Charleston, SC; Hamilton and St. George’s, Bermuda and Nassau, Bahamas. 

In November, award-winning historian Ric Burns will discuss his films, including the critically acclaimed documentary The History of New York, and distinguished producer Jac Venza will discuss the history of one of PBS’s longest running shows, Great Performances, during a fall Mediterranean cruise aboard the 700-guest, all-suite, all-balcony Regent Seven Seas Voyager.

The 16-night voyage departs from Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome) with calls in Palermo, Sicily; Tunis, Tunisia; Cartagena and Malaga, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco and Funchal, Madeira before crossing the Atlantic to disembark in Fort Lauderdale. 

Regent’s Public Television at Sea (PTV at Sea) cruises are offered in partnership with locally based PBS stations nationwide and Artful Travelers, which pairs the best of art, culture and entertainment to create extraordinary travel experiences. PTV at Sea guests will enjoy opportunities to meet and mingle with their favorite public broadcasting personalities at dinners, cocktail parties, shore excursions and other organized events during both voyages.

Meanwhile, distinguished sports leader and business entrepreneur Peter Ueberroth will be hosting an Alaska cruise from Juneau, May 24, aboard the 223-guest Empress of the North. Operated by Majestic America Line, one of the world’s leading river cruise lines and the largest river and coastal cruising company in America, the 7-night roundtrip cruise visits Alaska’s most colorful ports of call.

Stops include Juneau, the Gold Rush capital with its colorful boomtown frontier history and nearby Mendenhall Glacier; Sitka, once known as the capital of Russian America, accessible only by sea or air; Skagway, and its storied boardwalk; and Petersburg, a Scandinavian-influenced fishing village also called Little Norway.

Ueberroth served as the sixth commissioner of Major League Baseball, was president of the organization responsible for staging and operating the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, named 1984 Man of the Year by Time Magazine and authored the bestseller “Made in America.”

Cruise Guide: Alaska, Caribbean cruises tops in 2008

By Michael Coleman

Alaska is hot according to a new survey.

The 49th state has not only become a staple among cruise lines in recent years it is now expected to become the most popular 2008 cruise ship destination in the world.

Alaska is a bright spot in the travel landscape – particularly for cruising, said Roger Block, executive vice president of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate Division. 

Black was referring to results gleaned from the companys Travel Trends survey, an annual poll of some 500 travel agents from across the nation.

Whats hot? Whats not? Some of the results might be surprising to the savviest of cruise travelers, including the fact that Alaska is projected to be the years top cruise destination.

For the first time ever, said Block. Alaska ranks as the top cruise destination being booked so far for the new year, beating out its Caribbean competitors.” 

Almost 30 per cent of agents polled pegged Alaska for the top spot. Western Caribbean voyages came in second (20.5 per cent), Eastern Caribbean third (15.5 per cent) and Mediterranean sailings fourth (8.7 per cent). Rounding out the top five were trips to the Southern Caribbean (6.3 per cent).

In terms of the most popular international destinations, cruising or otherwise, agents listed Caribbean cruising at number one (70.8 per cent). Trips to Cancun, Mexico (68.6); Riviera Maya, Mexico (32.4 per cent); Rome, Italy (31.4); and Mediterranean cruising (24.3 per cent) rounded out the top five projections.

Anyone who has cruised the Mediterranean in recent years should not be surprised by the revelation that such trips are so appealing. Mediterranean cruising previously ranked #15 in Carlsons international destinations category in 2004 and #10 in 2007, beating out traditional, land-based favorites such as London; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and several Mexican destinations.

Carlson said in a statement that “not only is there greater [Mediterranean cruise] inventory than ever before, many U.S. travelers are finding this is the way to travel to Europe in order to get the most for their money as possible.” 

Added one Carlsons travel agent: “With the dollar performing so poorly, we have been encouraging clients who might have steered away from an expensive European vacation to book a Mediterranean cruise – where your accommodations and meals are fixed pricing and you can still visit major tourist attractions throughout most of Europe while traveling with ease on the ship.”  

The Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate network is part of the Carlson family of businesses, a global leader in the travel and hospitality industry that includes, among a host of companies, Regent International Hotels, Regent Seven Seas Cruise, Radisson Hotels & Resorts and T.G.I. Friday’s.

Cruise Guide: Princess salutes San Fran departures

By Michael Coleman

Princess Cruises will be marking almost 40-years of sailing from San Francisco with 20 scheduled departures from the bay area in 2008.

In addition to yearly favorites such as Alaska to the north and the Mexican Riviera to the south, the line has a host of voyages on tap including several luxurious month-long Pacific crossings to or from Sydney and a special voyage to Central and South America.

Look also for a 15-day Panama Canal transit between Ft. Lauderdale and San Francisco aboard Coral Princess with calls at Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Panama Canal, Cartagena and Aruba. The trip begins April 25.

“San Francisco has long been an important port for us, said Jan Swartz, Princess’ senior vice president of customer service and sales. We’re offering more departures from ‘The City by the Bay’ than any other cruise line this year.”

Dawn Princess will be offering a Pacific crossing to Australia during a 31-day sailing that takes passengers from San Francisco to Sydney on September 24. Honolulu, Kona, Christmas Island, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea, Rarotonga, Pago Pago, Fiji, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, plus cruising through Fiordland National Park, are among the scheduled port calls. 

Not to be outdone, Sun Princess offers a 28-day itinerary from Sydney to San Francisco departing on July 14, visiting Auckland, Dravuni Island, Apia (Western Samoa), Pago Pago, Rarotonga, Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Christmas Island, Honolulu, Maui and Hilo.

In another eye-opening transit, look for Sun Princess to travel north to Alaska and to the Far East in one 23-day sailing from San Francisco to Beijing. After what will no doubt be a dramatic departure under the Golden Gate Bridge, the ship calls at the Canadian ports of Victoria and Vancouver, then showcases Alaska with calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay, and Kodiak. Russia is next, with a call at Petropavlovsk, followed by Yokohama (for Tokyo), Osaka (for Kyoto), Nagasaki, Pusan, and China. The voyage departs on August 10.

Cruise passengers seeking the Andes and South America as part of their travel plans wont be disappointed. 

An 18-day Pacific Ocean voyage between San Francisco and Santiago features a variety of Latin America destinations including the opportunity to visit the famed Machu Picchu. The itinerary includes Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Nicaragua (Puerto Corinto), Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Panama Canal (Puerto Amador), Quito (Manta), Lima (Callao – overnight for visits to Machu Picchu), and La Serena (Coquimbo). Star Princess will offer two departures, on November 20 and the reverse itinerary on March 30, 2009.

Silver Shadow enthralls, seduces luxury cast

Ship Review by Michael Coleman, January 2008

Click Here to read the newest review of the Silversea Silver Shadow.

Saying goodbye is never easy.

My recent departure from the ultra-luxurious Silver Shadow was a parting filled with sorrow.

Over the course of a nine-day Caribbean voyage I had been hypnotized by the ships elegant surroundings and seduced by an ambience unmatched by any cruise line afloat.

The service was enthralling and conviviality between guests enjoyable but now the dreaded witching hour had arrived. It was time to leave the vessel to return to mere mortal, land-based pursuits.

Extending ones vacation experience aboard the 382-guest ship, however, or planning the next Silversea voyage while still onboard is a pastime in itself for guests.

Some, like the affable gentleman and his wife from Wales, would not depart until long after their original itinerary had concluded. The thought of returning to land was not yet in the cards. Another couple, Silversea staples, took leave from their Swiss residence and would not return home until three months later.

A highly-engaging New York widower had already lined up a series of voyages for 2008 to all corners of the Silversea globe. And, a New Mexico businessman with ties to the White House, enjoying his first Silversea experience, may never cruise on another line again.

Such is Silversea. Loyal, well-traveled guests with a penchant for luxury come calling time and time again. And, its easy to see why.

Silver Shadow patrons enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations (most with private veranda), gourmet cuisine, personalized service, gracious hospitality and a generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities including complimentary drinks, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and gratuities.

Complimentary butler service is provided in the Grand, Royal, Rossellini and Owner’s suites.

Most voyages also include a complimentary shore-side event. On this trip, the line had rented an uninhabited, sun-drenched island for the day exclusively for guests. Prickly Pear, an oasis in the British Virgin Islands, served as a backdrop to an outdoor beach barbecue featuring silverware, linens, fine wine and other tasteful Silversea accoutrements. Bartenders even waded into the turquoise surf, complete with floating trays.

As one might expect from a luxury cruise, the all-encompassing culinary component is as important as the most intriguing of port calls. Silver Shadow features a host of onboard dining venues and a variety of culinary options and wine pairings to tickle anyones fancy.

Theres a main dining room, – The Restaurant – Terrace Cafe (breakfast and lunch), pool-side grille and reservations-only La Terrazza (dinner). An upscale dining room Le Champagne is the ships most intimate venue. Reservations are required.

Even room service aboard the ship is not to be missed. In-suite dining, presented course-by-course, may be the ultimate way to unwind from a busy day in port.

Add production shows, spa facilities by Steiner, a casino and a well-stocked humidor and one can empathize with guests who seek to prolong their stay.

The dilemma – to depart or not to depart – plays out daily.