Cruise Guide: Short cruise getaways in vogue

By Michael Coleman 

As cruise ship travel continues to grow, so too is the opportunity for vacation-challenged local residents to enjoy short cruise getaways.

Carnival, for instance, the worlds largest operator, offers the industry’s broadest two- to five-day short cruise program. Look for cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean from Miami, Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans and Galveston; voyages to Mexico from San Diego; and Baja cruises from Long Beach. Carnival also has seasonal cruises to Canada from New York, to the Bahamas from Charleston and Fort Lauderdale, and special two-day trips from Fort Lauderdale and New York. 

Costa offers a variety of short cruises in Europe, ranging from three to five nights. Each provides the opportunity for travelers to not only sample the Costa brand but combine a cruise with a European land vacation. In 2009, itineraries will include a three-night Italy, Spain, Corsica cruise from Savona on the Costa Serena with stops in Barcelona and Ajaccio. Another option is a five-night Costa Atlantic sailing through Italy, France and Spain, from Savona, with stops in Porto Torres, Ibiza (two days), Alicante and Villefranche. 

Norwegian Sky has just entered the Miami market and offers three- and four-day trips to the Bahamas. The ship departs on Mondays on four-day sailings to Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, the company’s private island. On Fridays, the ship sails three-day weekend getaways with full-day stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, returning Monday morning. NCL also offers a number of weekend cruises on Norwegian Spirit from New York, Norwegian Jade in Europe and Norwegian Pearl in Miami this fall. 

Princess Cruises, meanwhile, offers a series of West Coast-based cruises on several ships. These include three-night getaways between Los Angeles and Vancouver on Coral Princess, Golden Princess and Island Princess in September; a four-night itinerary on Island Princess May 7, 2009 featuring Los Angeles, Victoria and Vancouver; a two-day journey between San Francisco and Vancouver on the Star Princess, May 7, 2009; and overnight sailings between Seattle and Vancouver. Golden Princess also offers a four-day Alaskan cruise between Vancouver and Seattle featuring Ketchikan departing May 5, 2009. 

Closer to home, Royal Caribbean has tapped seven ships to offer short cruises. Enchantment of the Seas features Western Caribbean itineraries of three- to six-nights roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. Grandeur of the Seas sails on five-night Western Caribbean trips from Tampa as well as five-night Bermuda itineraries from Baltimore and Norfolk. Jewel of the Seas offers a five-night journey to Canada/New England from Boston. Majesty of the Seas sails on three- and four-night voyages to the Bahamas from Miami. Monarch of the Seas features Baja Mexico, from Los Angeles, or the Bahamas, from Port Canaveral, and Navigator of the Seas travels to the Caribbean and the Bahamas on two- to five-night trips from Fort Lauderdale. Sovereign of the Seas also sails to the Bahamas on short cruises from Port Canaveral.

Cruise Guide: QE2 set to bid farewell

By Michael Coleman 

Its a farewell fit for a Queen.

Renowned maritime historians and experts will be among the onboard lecturers during QE2s final transatlantic crossings in October. 

The iconic vessel will be shadowed from Southampton to New York (Oct. 10, Final New York Arrival Crossing) and from New York to Southampton (Oct. 16, Farewell to America Crossing) by Cunard fleet mate: Queen Mary 2.

After 40 years and some 2.5 million passengers, not to mention over 800 Atlantic crossings, the ship is scheduled to start a new life in Dubai as a first-class, permanently berthed hotel and entertainment destination.

But thats not to say she wont go out without a bang. Passengers lucky enough to be onboard for either crossing will be regaled by a host of memorable guest speakers.

Famed author and maritime historian Bill Miller, considered an international authority on the subject of ocean liners and cruise ships, having written 70 such books, headlines the Oct. 10 voyage. Among his many titles, he is the adjunct curator of the Ocean Liner Council at New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, the assistant editor of Ocean & Cruise News and created the ship database for the Ellis Island Museum.

He received the National Maritime History Award in 1994 and the Silver Riband Award in 2005. During the trip he will provide a series of lectures on the great liners of the 20th Century.

Ted Scull, a New York-based author, travel writer and lecturer specializing in maritime subjects, railway history and New York City, and Sir Michael Parker, longtime organizer for Royal and National events including Her Majesty The Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilees, and the anniversaries of VE and VJ Day, will also be making presentations.

Scull, who has been sailing on Cunard passenger ships since 1964, will pay special tribute to QE2 during one of his four presentations.

On the return trip to Southampton, meanwhile, Jennie Bond, a BBC broadcaster, journalist and former Royal Correspondent and Stephen Payne, the project manager and lead architect for Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, will speak to guests.

As part of Paynes lectures on ocean liners of the past, he will present an illustrated history of famous Cunard vessels.

Other, prominent speakers will also be aboard Queen Mary 2 during the historic crossings.

QE2, dubbed the most famous ship in the world by Cunard, entered service on September 20, 1967.

Since then she has traveled over 5.6 million nautical miles – the equivalent of traveling to the moon and back 13 times. No ship has sailed further. She has also completed 25 world cruises.

Much loved, an estimated one million people turned out to see her when she called at Liverpool, England, for the first time in 1990.