Cruise Guide: Solstice to unveil greener side

By Michael Coleman 

A new luxury cruise ship poised to enter service in November will feature lots of green . . . grass that is.

In yet another cruise industry first, where lines outdo one another in the wow factor department with each new vessel launched, Celebrity Cruises will introduce a half-acre-sized lawn on the top deck of Celebrity Solstice.

The Lawn Club in fact will allow passengers the opportunity to enjoy bocce ball and croquet, practice their putting, picnic with a basket of wine and cheese, or simply feel the grass between their toes while sailing the oceans of the world.

For those counting, at 2,130 square meters (22,927 square feet), The Lawn Club is more than three times larger than New Yorks Rockefeller Center ice skating rink (668 sq. meters) and 1.7 times larger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool (1,250 sq. meters).

Creating such an environment was no easy task. Celebrity worked with design firm Wilson Butler Architects to design the entire club area, then engaged a team of landscape architects and irrigation specialists along with turf and soil scientists at the University of Florida. 

Together, they conducted extensive research and tested a variety of grasses to determine which can withstand the winds, sun, shade and temperature variations that will affect the grass and soil as the ship sails in the Caribbean this winter. Other considerations included the ability of the grass to tolerate foot traffic, irrigation and day-to-day care and maintenance. Even the weight of the grass and soil had to be considered, as well as the water each absorbs from both the atmosphere and irrigation.

The ship will feature a host of dining venues, offering trendsetting cuisine and design, and varied entertainment options including new theater productions in partnership with Poet Theatricals. 

The Lawn Club, however, will no doubt be the ships top drawing card and aside from the spectacle of growing grass at sea it will also feature a patio, hot glass show and aft bar.

The Patio on the Lawn will offer elegant yet relaxed sitting areas where luxury meets casual country club charm. Guests can read the morning paper, lose themselves in a good novel, or enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee with friends, courtesy of the patios coffee cart service. 

The Hot Glass Show, presented in collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass, is the patios main feature. In its own, dedicated glassblowing studio, the show will present the history and craft of glassblowing, from its ancient origins to its current countless uses. Three resident gaffers highly skilled glassblowing artists will educate and entertain passengers with live glassmaking shows, lectures and workshops.

Previously set to launch out of Fort Lauderdale on December 14, the ship will now enter its season of roundtrip Caribbean sailings more than three weeks ahead of schedule. Look for a seven-day Thanksgiving cruise, November 23, followed by voyages on November 30 and December 7. Stops include San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and Basseterre, St. Kitts.

Cruise Guide: Prince Albert II ushers in new cruise era

By Michael Coleman

Cruise passengers with a taste for adventure and a penchant for luxury take note: Your ship has come in.

Silversea Cruises, renowned for exceptional onboard service aboard its fleet of four ships has just unveiled its newest vessel, Prince Albert II, the worlds first ultra-luxurious expedition ship.

The 132-guest 6,072-ton vessel, launched this month from Monte Carlo, ushers in a bold new era of adventure and exploration for the lines discerning, well-traveled clientele.

It is our aim that this ship will not only offer guests the highest level of comfort and service, but also enlighten them to the rarity and beauty of the most remote places on earth,” said Silversea Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre.

Fresh from a multi-million dollar renovation, Prince Albert II features 66 ocean-view accommodations, luxurious living space and private marble bathrooms with bathtubs. Select suites offer double private French balconies or large private verandas and additional elite amenities aboun,  including butler service and a Silversea hallmark: gourmet cuisine.

Recognizing an expedition cruise to the world’s most remote and fascinating realms is as much a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience as it is an adventure, Silversea will tap some of the worlds leading experts in a host of disciplines to guide guests through respective voyages..

“All of our expedition cruises feature a distinguished team of four or five experts ranging from biologists and ornithologists to historians and naturalists, carefully chosen to present a multi-faceted view of the natural wildlife, scenery and cultures that we will visit,” said Conrad Combrink, Silversea’s director of expeditions.

Two special guest lecturers, geologist Jon Vidar Sigurdsson and adventurer Jon Bowermaster, have already been tapped to host some inaugural season voyages.

Sigurdsson has led some 20 summer and winter expeditions and field tours to Greenland and has also organized an open-university course about the island for the University of Iceland.  Hell host a “Svalbard and Iceland” expedition, departing July 12 for 18 days from Tromso to Reykjavik and he will be on hand for “Greenland Exploration,” departing Reykjavik July 30 on a 16-day journey to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Bowermaster, meanwhile, has made a career out of descending upon some of the worlds most remote, exotic locales. The author and filmmaker has explored much of the planet by kayak, counting the Aleutian Islands, Vietnam, French Polynesia, South America’s Altiplano, the Antarctic Peninsula and the wild coasts of Gabon, Croatia and Tasmania among his conquests. Hell host “Journey to South America,” departing October 12 on a 22-day expedition from Acapulco to Santiago. 

As a testament to Silverseas bold new stride, the lines Chilean Fjords Highlights voyage hosted by Bowermaster departing Nov. 3 from Santiago to Ushuaia the worlds most southernmost city has already sold out.

It is our hope that by educating and connecting people with distant cultures and wildlife, the Prince Albert II can open eyes and foster respect and greater care for our planet and its inhabitants, said Silversea President and CEO, Amerigo Perasso.

Cruise Guide: Royal Caribbean unveils fun-in-sun itineraries

By Michael Coleman 

Three of the worlds largest cruise ships will be among a host of Royal Caribbean vessels set to explore Caribbean waters in 2009 and 2010.

Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas are technological marvels each outfitted with amenities that have revolutionized the industry and each is coming to a Florida cruise terminal near you.  

Freedom debuts at Port Canaveral in May 2009, sailing alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. From Miami, Liberty will sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries in the summer 2009 season, but changes to two alternating Western Caribbean itineraries in the winter. Independence, meanwhile, will sail six-night Western Caribbean and eight-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale).

Each ship features FlowRider surf simulators, onboard water parks, boxing rings and cantilevered whirlpools plus eight restaurants and some 15 bars/lounges.

Overall, look for Royal Caribbean to tap the regions beautiful beaches and rich cultures with some 31 distinct itineraries on 264 sailings, ranging from six-to 14-nights aboard nine vessels. Other ships will depart from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey; Galveston, Texas; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Colon, Panama.

San Juan-based Adventure of the Seas will be offering two new alternating seven-night Southern Caribbean itineraries with Sunday departures, while Serenade of the Seas will join Adventure in the winter and offer a Saturday departure. New ports of call at Grenada, Dominica and St. Croix for both ships, and additionally Tortola and St. Kitts for Serenade, create two back-to-back voyages with no repeat port calls. The distinct alternating itineraries of either ship will give passengers the opportunity to combine two sailings into an extended 14-night Southern Caribbean odyssey.

Explorer of the Seas will continue its third consecutive year-round deployment at Cape Liberty sailing Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries, ranging from eight to 12 nights. A special 14-night holiday cruise departs December 20, 2009.

Voyager of the Seas will return to Galveston in December 2009 to offer two alternating Western Caribbean itineraries – one new – featuring calls at Roatán, Honduras, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

Jewel of the Seas will sail 10-and 11-night Caribbean and Panama Canal cruises from Miami. On a special holiday sailing, Jewel will make a maiden call on Christmas Eve at the new Jamaican cruise port of Falmouth.

Enchantment of the Seas will return to Colon, Panama to offer seven-night Southern Caribbean cruises to Colombia and the ABC Islands. 

Regardless of ship choice, or itinerary, Royal Caribbean passengers enjoy complimentary 24-hour room service, award-winning Broadway-style musical revues, top-rated Adventure Ocean kids programming with teen-only spaces fleet wide. 

On many Western Caribbean itineraries, passengers enjoy a call at Labadee, Royal Caribbeans private beach destination along the northwestern coast of Haiti. Look for a wide variety of watersports and excursions, a craft market, Labadee Lucs Splash Bash pirate water park and Dragons Breath Flight Line, the worlds longest zip line over water at 2,600 feet.