Follow us onboard Oasis of the Seas

The world’s largest cruise ship may have entered service late last year but this coming week will mark the first time Oasis of the Seas sails into Western Caribbean waters.

Royal Caribbean’s engineering marvel begins a 7-night itinerary to Labadee, Haiti; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico, Saturday, May 1, 2010. Cruise News Weekly Editor Michael Coleman, pictured with Oasis of the Seas in the background, is onboard and will be posting dispatches from the ship in this space in the day’s ahead.

Seabourn Sojourn poised for debut

The 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn, the second of three 450-guest vessels being added to The Yachts of Seabourn’s fleet of intimate, yacht-like cruisers, debuts this summer. Image courtesy Seabourn

By Michael Coleman

A series of spectacular shore adventures in Northern Europe, from kayaking in the Baltic Sea to cycling among former imperial residences in Russia, will mark the maiden sailing season aboard Seabourn Sojourn.

The ship will operate a 14-day inaugural voyage from London to Dover on June 6, visiting Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, the Norwegian Fjords and Amsterdam. The maiden season will also include a series of 12- to 14-day voyages in Northern Europe, including Norway, Scotland, the Baltic Sea and Russia.

Like her sister ship, Seabourn Odyssey which debuted last summer, Sojourn will offer 225 suites, 90 percent of which have private verandas. All suites include separate living areas and bedrooms, writing desks with personalized stationery, iPod and MP3 connections and spacious granite bathrooms with separate bath and shower and twin sinks.

The new vessel will, among a host of amenities, offer a spa and four dining venues, including a spacious open-seating restaurant capable of seating all guests. Six bars and lounges will serve a full range of complimentary beverages including fine wines and spirits.

The ship’s shore adventures are equally impressive during her inaugural voyages. Look for over 100 optional excursions during Sojourn’s Northern Europe itineraries. Among the highlights:

Helsinki, FinlandHelsinki Nordic Walking — A local guide will lead walkers on a scenic path around the center of Helsinki, passing city parks, museums, and waterfront districts.
Kiel, GermanyKiel Highlights & Germany Brewing Culture — Guided by a Kieler Brauerei microbrewery team, guests will learn about the different local beer brands, the history of beer-brewing, ingredients, brewing methods, and brewing process; Cutter Sailing Experience — For a taste of living Baltic history, guests can enjoy a sail on the Gefion, a traditional two-masted Shark Cutter. They’ll learn how to hoist the sails and steer the ship plus discover the secrets of navigation and traditional seamen’s knots.
St. Petersburg, RussiaBiking Alexandria Park — Guest can traverse through the 285-square-acre park of Alexandria, a magnificent ensemble of palace and park on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, where they will cycle past former imperial residences, hills and tranquil ponds, the ruins of old structures and small bridges.
Lübeck, GermanyA Local Fisherman’s Life — Guests can stroll on small paths among the beautifully preserved thatched fishermen’s houses and gardens of Northern Germany’s fishing villages. Visit a smokehouse and learn the traditional method of smoking fresh pike-perch, pike or eel over beech and alder wood.

Stockholm, SwedenMillennium Walking Tour — Follow in the footsteps of the characters from “The Millennium Trilogy” series of best-selling detective novels by Swedish author Stieg Larsson; Kayaking in National City Park — Paddle out into Brunnsviken Bay, located in Haga Park, and explore this gulf that is part of the Baltic Sea. Enjoy the stunning natural beauty and surrounding cultural history of Brunnsviken, part of the world’s first national urban park.
Seabourn has also pegged Sojourn for its world cruise in 2011. Departing Jan. 5, Sojourn will embark on a 111-day voyage from Los Angeles to London via the South Pacific, New Zealand, around Western Australia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, India, Arabia and the Mediterranean. 

Sojourn’s other sister, Seabourn Quest, will debut in 2011.

On the web:

Celebrity iLounge will allow guests to use and purchase Apple products onboard

The Celebrity iLounge is debuting soon on a number of Celebrity ships. It follows the clean, sparse look of the Apple stores.

By Matt Roseboom

Celebrity Cruises will begin offering a variety of Apple products in their new Celebrity iLounge for guests to learn about, use and purchase. As the only authorized Apple reseller at sea, Celebrity will begin offering iPods, MacBooks and other Apple accessories. It’s essentially an Apple store at sea.

Celebrity recently announced plans to introduce the first Celebrity iLounge on their new Celebrity Eclipse — their third ship in the Solstice Class, which is launching this month. Celebrity said the announcement met with such positive response from guests, travel agents and press that they’ve decided to introduce the hip, modern lounge on Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Summit next month. It will also be a feature on their future ships.
The Celebrity iLounge will offer what the line said their guests requested most in an Internet café — easy access to the Internet, inspiring computer classes and new products.
The Celebrity iLounge will consist of three main areas: a series of contemporary MacBook workstations where guests can check their e-mail, surf the Web, check their social networking sites or print boarding passes; a retail area offering cruisers the opportunity to check out and purchase the latest MacBooks, iPods and accessories; and an enrichment center where certified staff will offer tips on Apple product usage.

Whether guests are savvy or novice Apple users, Celebrity’s certified staff has been training so they’ll be ready to assist. The crew members working in the iLounge have gone through more than 125 hours of training in operating systems, applications and products. They have also been taught to show guests the differences between Macs and PCs.
Celebrity’s President and CEO Dan Hanrahan said their surveys showed that their guests rely heavily on the Internet for research, learning and staying in touch, “so we think this new offering will be a big hit, as will the contemporary online classes offered through the ‘Discover’ series of our inspiring and enriching ‘Celebrity Life’ experiences.”
The computer classes onboard will help with the typical things a person documenting their vacation would use. Some of the classes offered will include movie editing, web design and photo manipulation through Apple’s iLife applications: iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb.

Located on deck six of the Solstice and Eclipse, the Celebrity iLounge will house 26 MacBook Pros, a classroom, retail area, display pods, and an accessible workstation. A 56-inch flat-screen TV will be set up for use during classes.
On Summit, the iLounge will replace the current computer classroom on deck six, with the same new products and technologies as on Eclipse and Solstice. Even the “[email protected]” cybercafé on deck four of Celebrity Summit will be retrofitted with entirely new MacBook workstations.
The new iLounge will open on the Celebrity Summit by May 16, on the Solstice by May 30, and on the Eclipse when the new ship enters service. The iLounge also will be presented on Celebrity Silhouette, which launches in 2011, and the fifth ship in the Solstice Class fleet, which sails in 2012.

Ship Review: Beauty and entertainment highlight MSC Poesia

MSC Poesia sails the Caribbean in winter and spring, then heads to Europe for the summer. Before heading back to Florida next winter, she’ll sail to Canada and the New England states out of New York this fall. Photo by Matt Roseboom

The MSC Poesia is a very modern ship with all the creature comforts. Its Italian feel may be a little different than what most Americans are used to, but it doesn’t take away from a great cruising experience.

Click Through to continue reading about the MSC Poesia – including a photo gallery and video.

Silver Spirit world cruise to host distinguished speakers

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit, a 540-guest luxury ship launched late last year, is hosting the line’s 119-day world cruise next January 2011. Image courtesy Silversea Cruises

By Michael Coleman

Silver Spirit, the world’s newest ultra-luxury, all-suite ship, will embark on a 119-day world cruise next January with a roster of highly-acclaimed onboard speakers.

“The enrichment program is an integral part of our World Cruise experience and is designed to appeal to luxury travel’s most discerning clientele,” said Steve Tucker, Silversea’s vice president of field sales for North America. Among them:

Dan Rather:  The Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist who anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 years, and contributed to CBS’ 60 Minutes and other prime-time news programs, will host Voyage 5107, March 22 – April 3, Hong Kong – Singapore. 

Robert Lacey:  The British historian and biographer, whose numerous international bestsellers include Majesty, considered the definitive study of British monarchy, is slated to host Voyage 5110, May 3 – 19, Athens – Southampton. 

Zahi Hawass:  The world-famous Egyptologist and secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo will host Voyage 5109, April 18 – May 3, Dubai – Athens.

Bruce Riedel:  A senior fellow in foreign policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., former C.I.A. analyst, counter-terrorism expert and author is slated to host Voyage 5110, May 3 – 10, Athens – Southampton.

Geoffrey Blainey:  The eminent Australian historian, commentator and author of numerous books, including his highly acclaimed A Short History of the World, will host Voyage 5105, February 12 – March 1, Auckland – Sydney. 

Lawrence Blair:  The writer, host and co-producer of the Emmy Award-nominated BBC/PBS adventure series Ring of Fire, tracing a ten-year epic journey across the Indonesian archipelago, will host Voyage 5106, March 1 – 22, Sydney – Hong Kong. 

Caroline Boyle-Turner:  The world-renowned art historian, author of several books and founder of the Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art will host Voyage 5103, January 20 – February 1, Los Angeles – Papeete.

George Losey:  A professor of zoology and marine biology at the University of Hawaii, who has studied the behavior and ecology of marine animals throughout the world, will host Voyage 5103, January 20 – February 1, Los Angeles – Papeete. 

Mark Eddowes:  The New Zealand archaeologist who has lived in the Society Islands for over 20 years, doing field work throughout Polynesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island and the Cook Islands, will host Voyages 5103 – 5104, January 20 – February 12, Los Angeles to Auckland.  

John Hartley:  The retired Australian major general, a graduate of Duntroon’s Royal Military College, the University of Queensland and the U.S. Army War College, will host Voyage 5106, March 1 – 22, Sydney – Hong Kong. 

Denise Heywood:  The author, journalist, photographer, fellow with the Royal Geographical Society, and lecturer for the British Museum on their Asian Art course, will host Voyages 5106 – 5107, March 1 – April 3, Sydney – Singapore. 

Scott Pearson:  The recipient of a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, who taught economic development and international trade at Stanford University, winning several awards for his research and teaching, will host Voyages 5108 – 5109, April 3 – May 3, Singapore – Athens.

Lyn Farmer:  The widely published wine and food writer and senior editor of The Wine News magazine, who has been honored with the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Writing on Wine and Spirits, will host Voyage 5105, February 12 – March 1, Auckland – Sydney.

Rosanne Martorella:  The professor of sociology at William Paterson University and author of several books on art and society will host Voyage 5110, May 3 – 10, Athens – Southampton. 

The voyage begins in Los Angeles on Jan. 19 and features some 60 destinations in 25 countries – with 11 overnight port visits – before concluding in Southampton on May 19.

On the Web:

Princess to offer new Alaska tours

By Michael Coleman

Princess has added nine new choices to its lineup of optional land excursions in Alaska this summer giving passengers opportunities for fresh adventures, including discovering how local hunters and trappers live, exploring by ATV, riding a dog cart, visiting a true Eskimo village or learning to cook Alaska cuisine. Image courtesy Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises will debut nine new land excursions for passengers in Alaska this year.

Overall, look for the line to offer 96 choices from easygoing to exhilarating — including cultural tours, nature hikes, kayak adventures and flightseeing tours.

Land excursions operate from each of Princess’ own wilderness lodges — Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge and Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge — plus additional locales.

While the line will also feature immersive land/sea vacations featuring the state’s “must see” attractions, including Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park, the new land tour package includes:
Wilderness Living Adventure & Dog Cart Ride (Denali) — How did the hunters, trappers and woodsmen of old travel and live in the wilderness of Alaska?  This tour provides a look at many Alaskans who make their living in the wilderness near Denali.

Anaktuvuk Pass Adventure (Coldfoot) — Guests can visit a true Eskimo village with this tour to the Nunamiut village of Anaktuvuk Pass.

A Taste of Fairbanks — An evening at Chez World Cooking School will show travelers how to prepare food the Alaskan way.  Whether they fully experience the class with hands-on participation or simply watch the overhead monitors, students will learn the secrets behind Alaskan delicacies such as salmon, reindeer sausage, halibut, crab, moose, and caribou, as well sourdough bread and pancakes.

Susitna River Airboat Adventure (Mt. McKinley) — Travelers can experience parts of the lovely Susitna River that others can’t with this airboat excursion.  

Sea Kayaking at Columbia Glacier (Copper River) — This opportunity to paddle into the massive Columbia Glacier icefield offers an experience that travelers will never forget.  From Valdez participants take a scenic ride to Columbia Glacier for a kayaking expedition up close to the glacier, plus lunch on the beach.

Chatanika Gold Camp & ATV Ride with Dinner (Fairbanks) — Following a hearty dinner at Chatanika Gold Camp, travelers take a 2.5 hour ATV ride along a mining trail used by early miners to access the surrounding gold fields.

Explore Historic Seward (Kenai) — From Kenai, passengers can enjoy a drive down one of the nation’s most scenic highways and past parts of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. At the end of the road at Resurrection Bay is the historic city of Seward, gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. 

South Denali 65-Mile ATV Adventure (Mt. McKinley) — An ATV adventure along dirt roads carved out of the wilderness by the area’s first prospectors, this tour takes travelers far into the back-country of south Denali with its cascading waterfalls and scenic wonders.  Participants can also try their hand at panning for gold in Peters Creek.

Scenic Koyukuk River Float (Coldfoot) — It’s not too often that travelers can enjoy a scenic float trip 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle!  This tour takes passengers down the Middle Fork Koyukuk River through the Brooks Mountain Range, where they can relax as their raft floats through the vast wilderness of Alaska and a guide shares the rich history of the region.

On the Web: Princess Alaska Land Excursions