Follow us onboard the new world’s largest cruise ship – Allure of the Seas

The Allure of the Seas is shown here with her sister, Oasis of the Seas. Allure is mere centimeters longer than Oasis.

Cruise News Weekly staff will be boarding Royal Caribbean’s brand new Allure of the Seas on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010 for a special two-day voyage and you can follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ll be posting live photos, videos and information right from the ship (Internet access willing) as we check it out. Look for a full review of Allure in the coming weeks.

Here’s where you can find our updates.
Twitter: Twitter.com/CruiseGuide
Facebook: Facebook.com/CruiseNews

Poll: Crystal, Regent, Seabourn deemed world’s best

Three ultra-luxury cruise lines — Crystal, Regent and Seabourn — have been voted as the world’s best. Regent Seven Seas Mariner is pictured here in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
Images courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Luxury cruise ship operators Crystal, Regent and Seabourn have been voted as the world’s best cruise lines.

Crystal and Regent tied for number one in the “large-ship” category in the 2010 Condé Nast Traveler readers’ poll while Seabourn was named best in the “small ship’’ category.

Considered among the travel industry’s most coveted honors, the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards celebrate the best-of-the-best cruise lines, hotels, airlines, cities, rental car companies and islands.

Travelers evaluated cruise lines on their Itineraries and Shore Excursions, Accommodations, Food/Dining, Crew/Service, Design/Layout and Activities/Facilities to determine the overall score. Complete results appear in the magazine’s November edition.

Crystal, soon to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, shares the number one billing with a competitor for the first time in over a decade-and-a-half yet still holds the distinction of having won the award more than any other cruise line, hotel or resort in the magazine’s poll history. 

Renowned for their service, space, quality and choices Crystal’s two stylish ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, are recognized for innovative partnerships with Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio, stimulating Creative Learning Institute and Computer [email protected], Feng Shui-designed spa, and a myriad of culinary, cultural and fitness-oriented enrichment. In 2011, Crystal will introduce Perfect Choice dining featuring flexible open dining times, by reservation, and two seating choices. Itineraries of seven to 100+ days are available throughout the world.

Regent, meanwhile, the world’s only cruise line to include airfare, all-suite accommodations, acclaimed cuisine, open bars, sightseeing excursions, gratuities and taxes as part of the overall cruise fare, features a three-ship, all-suite luxury fleet carrying 490 to 700 guests to ports in Australia, Europe, Asia, Alaska and the Caribbean. Facilities include several bars, a show lounge, intimate casino, library, Internet center, card room, outdoor pool, hot tubs and Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Depending on the ship, guests can choose from up to four, open-seating gourmet restaurants, including Prime 7, the line’s new steakhouse.

Seabourn Odyssey docked on Grand Turk Island, Turks & Caicos.
The 2010 Readers’ Choice award comes as Seabourn is in the midst of a three-year, three-yacht expansion of its small ship fleet, which has included the launch of Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009 and Seabourn Sojourn in June 2010. The new Seabourn Quest is scheduled to depart on its maiden voyage from Barcelona, Spain, on June 20, 2011. The expanded fleet has enabled Seabourn to increase its capacity in the most popular destinations, such as the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, while adding new, exotic ports of call around the world, including Indonesia and the South Pacific. 

More than 26,000 subscribers voted in the 2010 survey. 

On the web: www.crystalcruises.com, www.rssc.com, www.seabourn.com

Crystal Serenity pictured off the coast of Taormina, Sicily.

Show Time aboard Disney Dream

Entertainment options aboard the new, 14-deck, 4,000-passenger Disney Dream will feature everything from a mermaid soaring over the stage in a stunning aerial ballet to pirates rappelling from atop the ship’s funnel during a swashbuckling adventure. The ship’s maiden voyage, from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, is scheduled for January 26, 2011. Image courtesy Disney

By Michael Coleman

Who else would you expect to raise the entertainment bar for a family at sea?

When the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream debuts in January, 2011 the iconic company will also roll out what officials dub “the most elaborate original musicals presented at sea’’ plus over-the-top deck parties and, bursting above it all, the largest fireworks spectacular aboard a cruise ship.

Every night will be show time in the Walt Disney Theatre, an elegant, 1,340-seat entertainment palace that is at once classic and ultra-modern. Spanning three decks with orchestra and balcony seating, the theater is resplendent with art deco styling recalling luxurious show places of a bygone time. At the same time, it is equipped with theatrical technology that makes it one of the most advanced venues on land or sea, allowing producers to bring original productions and Disney stories to life.

Three onboard production shows are planned.

Headlining the musical repertoire is “Disney’s Believe,” an original stage spectacular premiering aboard the ship. Combining a heartfelt story with a captivating musical score, the lavish production tells the story of a workaholic father who, through the power of Disney magic, reconnects with his daughter and learns a valuable lesson about what is important in life. More than 20 of Disney’s most beloved characters take the stage including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Belle from “Beauty and The Beast.”

“The Golden Mickeys,” an award-style show celebrating the musical heritage of Disney animated films, is a Disney Cruise Line guest favorite. On the Disney Dream, the show gets an extra sprinkle of glitz and glamour with new production numbers including an aerial ballet featuring Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” and a romantic duet performed by Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, lead characters of Disney’s newest animated feature, “Tangled.”

The malevolent world of the Disney villains takes a comical spin in “Villains Tonight!,” the first full-scale musical production dedicated to the Disney villains. The show is a fun-filled musical comedy starring Hades (“Hercules”), who embarks on a quest filled with wacky antics and amusing musical numbers to bring evil back into the Underworld. “Villains Tonight!” features a “Who’s Who” of Disney “baddies,” including Ursula (“The Little Mermaid”), the Evil Queen (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), Captain Hook (“Peter Pan”) and Scar (“The Lion King”).

Meanwhile, the vessel transforms into a pirate ship with two new events brimming with buccaneer fun and a new fireworks spectacular.

Look for “Mickey’s Pirate in the Caribbean’’ a family-friendly interactive show featuring famous Disney characters. Then, a special appearance by Captain Jack Sparrow, from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, kicks off “Club Pirate’’, a high-tech, open-air dance party on the upper decks of the ship

The only cruise line in the world offering fireworks at sea, look also for “Buccaneer Blast’’, a pyrotechnic spectacular choreographed to a dramatic score featuring songs from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Peter Pan and the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disney theme parks.

On the web: http://disneycruise.disney.go.com

Demand for luxury cruises on the rise

Consumer demand for luxury cruise travel and river boat cruising is on the rise according to a nation-wide survey of travel agents.
Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Despite lingering economic woes and belt-tightening across the nation, demand for luxury and river cruises is actually growing according to a recent survey of travel agents.

Conducted by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – North America’s largest cruise industry organization representing 25 member lines and 16,000 travel agencies — the survey reveals that agents are observing an upswing in luxury and river cruise travel.

Some 36.5 percent report increasing demand for river cruises (34 percent say the demand is unchanged) while 64 percent indicate increased awareness for river cruising among their clients. Almost a quarter of agents, 22.2 percent, report a move toward luxury.

Travel agents agree that destination is a top motivator: 86.9 percent rank destination and itinerary at the top of the list for river cruisers, followed by authentic experiences in small towns and destinations; incorporated land programs and sightseeing; shipboard service and lifestyle, the all-inclusivity of the product and perceived value. For luxury cruisers, shipboard service and lifestyle and destination (78.3 percent and 58.3 percent respectively) are the prime motivators.

Among popular destinations, agents agree that Europe currently stands alone. Of those responding, 97.8 percent of river cruise sellers rank Europe at the top, followed by China, Russia. Europe and the Mediterranean. World cruises, Europe, the South Pacific and Asia rank highest in interest among a long list of choices for luxury cruisers.

Agents identify couples and affinity or social groups as growing markets for both river and luxury cruising (with the “retired/senior” maintaining the Number One position).

Why do clients choose to cruise over other types of vacations? In order of importance, according to agents surveyed, river cruise customers choose: authentic experiences in smaller towns and villages, smaller ships and intimate ambience, travel to multiple destinations, convenience, product inclusivity, shore excursions and value. Luxury cruisers cite quality of service, cuisine, smaller ships, value, destinations, and inclusivity.

In the survey, luxury cruises stacked up positively against the best restaurants in the world (75 percent similar to much better); the best hospitality service standards (94 percent); the most luxurious accommodations (75 percent); the most upscale spas (86 percent); and the most exciting cultural/enrichment/entertainment activities available (86 percent).

The survey also revealed that pre-and post-cruise programs are especially popular with the majority of river cruisers, with over 70 percent most likely to add a land stay on to their river voyage; the most popular length of luxury and river cruises is eight to 14 days, followed by seven day cruises; luxury cruisers also are demanding greater value and are more price sensitive, with higher expectations for quality of service; consumer incentives and promotions have made luxury cruising more affordable

Whatever their affluence status, both luxury cruisers and river cruise enthusiasts respond to “deals”: 85.7 percent of agents say river cruise clients are somewhat or much more apt to make a purchase with a special offer; 79.6 percent say luxury clients are similarly motivated.

On the web: cruising.org