Cruise lines played Santa to underprivileged Caribbean and Latin American children

By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong

Fourteen cruise lines teamed up with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to bring a merrier Christmas to underprivileged children in the Caribbean and Latin America. For the 15th year, The Holiday Gift Project treated underprivileged children with gifts delivered by crew members from the FCCA member cruise lines.

The participating FCCA member cruise lines were Aida Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruise Lines, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises (USA) Inc., Norwegian Cruise Line, P & O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Seabourn Cruise Line.

Underprivileged children in the following communities received holiday gifts through The Holiday Gift Project program:
Acapulco, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cartagena, Colombia
Colon, Panama
Costa Maya, Mexico
Cozumel, Mexico
Eluthera, Bahamas
Ensenada, Mexico
Freeport, Bahamas
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands
Mazatlan, Mexico
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Nassau, Bahamas
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Progreso, Mexico
Rotan, Honduras
Samana, Dominican Republic
San Juan, Puerto Rico
St. Kitts
St. Lucia
St. Maarten
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
St. Vincent
Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Underprivileged children from Caribbean and Latin American foster homes and other care institutions were invited onboard the participating cruise ships for a holiday party in their honor.

More than 7,000 children were expected to receive gifts through The Holiday Gift Project, but gifts are not all that was offered to help underpriviliged kids – in 2008, Captain Hempstead of Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas presented checks valued at $2,000 each to the Rainbow Children’s Home, Youth Empowerment Foundation Project, and the Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre in Tortla, B.V.I.

Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong can be reached at of

Stars to shine aboard Regent Voyager

Regent Seven Seas Voyager embarks on a 162-night world cruise later this month and will feature a star-studded line-up of enrichment lecturers. Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced its line-up of star-studded luminaries to be featured on the line’s 2011 world cruise aboard the 700-guest Seven Seas Voyager — an award-winning, all-suite, all-balcony, ultra-luxury vessel.

The 162-night odyssey departs Fort Lauderdale this month and will complete its global adventure on June 7, 2011, in London. The featured luminaries will present lectures, classes and workshops to offer guests fresh perspective and insights.

Experts and award-winning luminaries include:

– Jim Nantz — Feb. 23 – 29: Emmy award-winning sports personality and five-time National Sportscaster of the Year. He will be available to discuss some of his favorite play-by-play moments throughout his 25-year sportscasting career.

– Rita Moreno — Feb. 23-March 12: One of only 10 performers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award; she will entertain with a special musical performance and speak about her life and career.

– Morton Dean — March 29-April 13: Emmy Award-winning correspondent; one of the best known, most highly regarded and widely traveled newsmen in his profession. During his 14 years with ABC News and 20 years with CBS News, he covered many historic, headline-making stories around the world including presidential campaigns, Papal visits and the civil rights struggle.

– Alan Thicke — April 28-May 4: Known best as psychiatrist and father, Jason Seaver, from ABC’s “Growing Pains.” Thicke has earned a “Best Actor” Golden Globe nomination and seven Emmy Award nominations (five for writing and two for acting).

– Charles Cook — May 4-24: Widely regarded as one of the United States’ leading authorities on U.S. elections and political trends, Charlie has appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news programs, as well as on “Good Morning America,” the “Today Show,” “Nightline,” “Meet the Press with Tim Russert,” and “This Week….” He has also appeared many times on CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, C-SPAN and National Public Radio.

– Jeff Greenberg — May 4-24: Emmy-Award winning casting director for the hit comedy Modern Family after having guided the casting chores for such other iconic shows such as Frasier and Cheers. Other television credits include Ugly Betty, Wings, My So-Called Life, NewsRadio and dozens of others. His feature credits include A Night at the Roxbury, Father of the Bride 2, Look Who’s Talking and Die Mommie Die!

– Dr. Michael Leeden — May 4-24: the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Leeden is also a contributing editor at National Review Online. Previously, he served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Defense Department and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rome.

– Jacki Lyden — May 4-24: Acclaimed journalist, author and radio host, Jacki Lyden can currently be heard on the weekend broadcasts of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Formerly NPR’s London correspondent, Lyden has covered the Gulf War from Baghdad, Iraq and has reported from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, and other countries.

– Ari Shapiro — May 4-24: NPR’s award-winning White House correspondent, Shapiro reports for all of NPR’ s newsmagazines, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Based in Washington, D.C. He has received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize and a “laurel” for excellent reporting from the Columbia Journalism Review.

– Jack Hanna — May 14-24: Recognized around the country as America’s favorite zookeeper and author of 10 books. He will be available to share his “hands on” approach to wildlife conservation and his lifetime of travel experiences.

When the ship visits San Francisco on Jan. 13, 2011 full world cruise guests will be entertained by legendary performers Norm Crosby – he’s been making audiences laugh and a crowd favorite since his days from “The Ed Sullivan Show” — and Joel Grey, best known for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in the Broadway musical “Cabaret,” in which he earned an Academy Award for the film version.

In addition to the headliners, the world cruise will feature a variety of enrichment lecturers, arts & crafts workshops, ACBL-certified bridge masters, gentlemen social hosts and dance instructors.

Regent is the world’s only cruise line that includes award-winning service, acclaimed cuisine, premium spirits and fine wine, gratuities, hotel packages and sightseeing excursions in every port.

On the web:

Oceania Cruises taps Mary Hart as godmother for Marina

The 1,250-passenger Oceania Marina will debut in February, 2011. Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart will serve as godmother.
Image courtesy Oceania Cruises

By Michael Coleman

Entertainment Tonight (ET) host Mary Hart has been named godmother for the unveiling of Oceania Cruises’ new 1,200-passenger vessel, the Marina.

Hart will name the ship in Miami at a lavish christening ceremony February 5, 2011 culminating with a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar of champagne, custom-made by Armand de Brignac, commemoratively crashing against the hull.
A beloved television personality, this year marks Hart’s final season as host of ET – the number one syndicated entertainment newsmagazine show in the world. Hart joined the popular show as a correspondent in June 1982, and within weeks was named co-anchor.
In her personal life, Hart has been involved with philanthropic causes devoted to children. A member of the board of trustees for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, she currently serves as Leadership Chair of the New Hospital Campaign. Hart is also an ambassador for Childhelp USA, which combats child abuse. For many years she served on the board of directors for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation and continues her affiliation with the Children’s Miracle Network, for which she was telethon co-host for 15 years.

Hart is the recipient of the Samaritan Award from the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation for her work on behalf of several children’s charities. In 2001, she was honored with the first-ever Children’s Miracle Achievement Award for her “long-standing commitment to children and contributing in many ways to bettering the lives of children everywhere.”
“Mary Hart personifies elegance and style, just like our magnificent Marina,” said Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, the line’s parent company. “We especially salute her philanthropic work devoted to children’s causes and we are proud to welcome her to the Oceania Cruises family.”

“It’s very exciting, and a bit humbling,” said Hart in a statement. “I’m truly honored to serve as the Godmother for Marina — she will be a very special ship. And, I look forward to smashing a great bottle of champagne as we let the celebration begin!”
After christening festivities in Miami, Marina sets sail Feb. 8 on the first of two 18-day Panama Canal transits that visit San Francisco or San Diego, both new ports for Oceania Cruises. Marina then operates a 12-day Caribbean cruise, round-trip from Miami, departing March 16, before sailing along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and on to Europe to begin her inaugural Mediterranean season.
At 66,000 tons and carrying 1,250 guests, Marina features an array of stylish bars and lounges and 10 dining venues — six of which are open-seating, gourmet restaurants — including Jacques, the first restaurant at sea for Chef Jacques Pépin.

Other highlights include a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Bon Appétit Culinary Center, Owner’s Suites furnished exclusively in Ralph Lauren Home, and a grand stairway custom-crafted by renowned French glass master, Lalique.

Oceania presently operates a three-ship fleet. Each carrying 700-passengers, Regatta, Nautica and Insignia offer global itineraries.

On the web:

Azamara Journey to sail to the Titanic wreck site on the anniversary of her sinking

The Azamara Journey will be sailing to the site of the Titanic wreck on the anniversary of her sinking. Guests will be able to see live images of the ship beneath them. Photo courtesy of Azamara Cruise Line.

By Jackie Roseboom

Guests aboard the Azamara Journey on the April 9, 2012 sailing from Boston are in for a unique cruise. Journey will sail to the wreck site for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. In addition to the guests aboard the ship, children in elementary and middle schools will also be given an opportunity to view the Titanic up close from their classrooms, while learning about a pivotal event in history.

An expedition ship, stationed at the Titanic wreck site prior to the arrival of the cruise ship, will be outfitted with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The ROV will carry a 3D high definition camera designed to penetrate the bow and record images from the interior of the ship. These images will be sent via an interactive link to Azamara Journey, allowing guests to see Titanic as she rests today on the ocean floor.

Two-hour shows will be produced with project partner Bob Sitrick Productions for streaming into schools throughout interested nations. Each show will consist of an hour of pre-recorded expedition footage, including scenes from the Titanic wreck. The rest of each broadcast will be a live link, so students may ask questions of the expedition team via Skype. These broadcasts will be aired on school days prior to and immediately following the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking (April 14-15, 2012).

Lesson plans are being developed by National Board Certified Teachers who are currently professional educators. “It is exciting to create a venue where future generations can learn the story of Titanic. All people we study on the Titanic were once as alive as we are this very minute and their stories need to be kept in the hearts and minds of future generations” said Dr. Melinda Ratchford, associate professor at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, NC, and life-long advocate of sharing the Titanic story. “These lesson plans are geared for students in grades 3 to 7 but teachers can modify these to augment the learning experience for all students. I have yet to find anyone between the ages of 4 and 104 who have not been entranced at some level by this magnificent ship.”

Lessons will cover the core curriculum subjects of science, mathematics, history/geography and language arts. Schools wishing to participate may subscribe for a nominal fee, which includes downloadable lesson plans and suggestions for how to get involved.

“It is our goal to have one million scholastic members join us on our expedition,” said Bill Willard, president of willTiger Corp. and coordinator of the anniversary cruise. “We look forward to working with educators and students, and allowing them to be a part of history.”

Guests wanting to book this cruise into history, must book quickly – it’s filling up fast. Passengers aboard the Azamara Journey will enjoy the cruise line’s signature service and more inclusive onboard amenities, such as included gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary bottled water, sodas, specialty coffee, teas, and more.

For more information, visit the cruise website,

Port of Los Angeles upgrades for cruisers

By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong

The Port of Los Angeles in historic San Pedro, Calif. is completing several major upgrades and adding two new ships to entice more cruise passengers to its waterfront terminal.

The cruise terminal has recently been upgraded with state-of-the-art gangways, video screens, audio upgrades, passenger comfort areas, scenic photography and artwork. There are plans for costumed characters to entertain the children waiting to board their ships and “the port of Los Angeles is completely ADA accessible,” said Director of Media Relations Phillip Sanfield.

San Pedro’s new pedestrian-friendly, waterfront parkway includes The Fanfare Fountain of Gateway Plaza. This Bellagio-inspired fountain is the largest water feature in California and features spectacular water shows synchronized to music and lights. The fountains pump 400,000 gallons of recycled water through 58 jets.

Visitors can can stroll along a two-tiered, palm tree-lined path, enjoy local artwork, or just sit and watch sea lions swimming by the massive cruise and cargo ships. An incredible 42 percent of all goods imported to the USA pass through this port.

A restored trolley car runs along the waterfront allowing easy access to attractions such as the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and Ports O’Call Village with its’ eclectic collection of shops and restaurants.

“This is really an amazing two block experience with open-air bus tours, museums galore, everything,” said Jayme Wilson, owner of Ports of Call Restaurant and Spirit Cruises.

Already the busiest cruise port on the West Coast, the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro is currently the embarkation point for Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises, Silversea, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Seabourn.

In January 2011, the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro will become home port for the Disney Cruise Line ship, Disney Wonder, which could generate more than 250,000 guests passing through the Port of Los Angeles over a five-year period and in Fall 2011, the port will become home port for the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit. The Spirit’s new schedule will include five-day and nine-day Mexican Riviera cruises as well as a 15-day voyage from Los Angeles to Hawaii in December 2011.

Article by Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong of

Ship Review: World’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas makes her debut

You can really tell the size of Allure of the Seas when you're on the pool deck. Central Park area runs down the middle of the ship. Photos by Matt Roseboom

Royal Caribbean’s newest ship has launched. The Allure of the Seas is being dubbed an “Entertainment Ship”. There are so many things to do onboard, it’s hard to know where to start.

Click Here to read the full review.

Review: Celebrity Eclipse makes her North American debut

One unique feature on the Celebrity Eclipse and other Solstice class ships, is the real grass lawn. This is a great place to relax or play some lawn games. Photos by Matt Roseboom

The Celebrity Eclipse had a bumpy start when its inaugural was interrupted by the ashes from a volcano last April. She even rescued some stranded British travelers during the time she was supposed to be making her grand debut. The ship has been sailing in Europe since then, but its now arrived on Florida’s shore.

Click Here to read the full review.