Carnival, Princess adopt new onboard smoking policies

Image courtesy Matt Roseboom — Two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Carnival and Princess, have modified their respective onboard smoking policies.

By Michael Coleman

Carnival and Princess, two of the world’s most popular cruise lines, have adopted new onboard smoking policies which will be rolled out in the coming months.

Citing its “ongoing commitment to keep pace with changing guest preferences’’ the 23-ship Carnival fleet, effective this week, will only permit cigarette smoking in dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and casino bar, certain sections on the open decks on all vessels and also in the jazz clubs on 13 Carnival ships.

The 13 ships include Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor. Cigar smoking will also be permitted in the jazz clubs. On other vessels in the fleet, cigar (and cigarette) smoking will also be permitted in designated areas on deck.

Effective December 1, 2011, smoking will be prohibited in all Carnival guest staterooms. Those guests in balcony accommodations will be permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars outside on the balcony. Spa staterooms, currently featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic, will continue to remain entirely smoke-free, including on the balconies.

The modified smoking policy is the result of recent guest surveys conducted by the company that covered a wide range of topics. The surveys indicated that nearly 90 percent of all Carnival Cruise Lines’ guests are non-smokers with less than five percent of guests opting to smoke in their staterooms.

Meanwhile, at Carnival Corporation-owned Princess Cruises, the line will prohibit smoking in cabins and on balconies across its 16-ship fleet effective January 15, 2012.

The new policy reflects changing customer preferences and the move around the globe — from North America to Europe — to further restrict areas where smoking is allowed, according to the line.

“Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Swartz added that balconies are included in the new policy because they are a hallmark feature of Princess ships, and the line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.

She added that Princess still welcomes passengers who smoke, and will continue to provide special venues around respective ships to accommodate smokers. Smoking will continue to be allowed in the Churchill’s cigar lounge, a section of the disco and casino, and a portion of the open decks.

On the web:
www.carnival.com
www.princess.com

All-inclusive Regent sets sights on longer itineraries

Image courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises - The 700-guest Regent Seven Seas Voyager will be featuring an all-encompassing, 29-night itinerary from London to Stockholm in June, 2012. The line’s other 700-guest vessel, Mariner, will be offering an equally immersive 27-night itinerary from Monte Carlo to Buenos Aires in November, 2012.

By Michael Coleman

Intrepid luxury cruise travelers seeking more of Europe and South America in 2012 have been eyeing new, longer itineraries recently unveiled by Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The line’s “Grand Voyages’’ — London to Stockholm, 29 nights in June, 2012; or Monte Carlo to Buenos Aires, 27 nights in November, 2012 — were announced according to company officials in response to past guest requests and heightened demand for extended sailings in Europe and South America.

“A great number of our loyal guests are perennial travelers and seek out voyages which offer a wide range of unique experiences,’’ said Regent president Mark Conroy. “Our new 2012 Grand Voyages offer an abundance of opportunities for exploration and are certain to create life-long memories.’’

Among the highlights:

– Northern Odyssey, 29 nights, London to Stockholm, departs June 3, 2012. Travelers visit the most alluring ports aboard the 700-guest Voyager in the British Isles, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Baltic. Along the way, guests will be treated to the region’s must-see star ports such as Dublin, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, along with lesser-explored locales in Scotland, Norway and Iceland and overnight calls in Reykjavik, Oslo and St. Petersburg.

– Latin Sojourn, 27 nights, Monte Carlo to Buenos Aires, departs Nov. 9, 2012. A nearly four-week journey aboard the 700-guest Mariner visiting some of the Costa del Sol’s treasures — Barcelona, Cartagena and Granada — before calling on the golden shores of North Africa and the Canary Islands. Relaxing days crossing the Atlantic are the perfect prelude to one of the most comprehensive explorations of South America’s east coast, where bustling metropolises are perfectly blended with Old World colonial charm and breathtaking nature preserves.

Recently rated “world’s best cruise line” by Condé Nast Traveler readers, Regent operates the all-suite Voyager, Mariner and Navigator on seven- to 119-night voyages to more than 300 destinations world-wide, including Alaska, the Mediterranean, Greek Islands and Holy Lands before venturing to Egypt, India, Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, South America and the Caribbean for the winter.

The line has just completed a $100 million enhancement of all three vessels. Almost every area of the ships was refurbished, with public rooms being substantially redesigned. The updates resulted in a new look that is fresh, elegant and luxurious yet retains the familial warmth and charm for which Regent is lauded.

Beginning with the 2012 summer season, guests in concierge-level suites and higher will enjoy a range of benefits from priority online shore excursion and restaurant reservations to upgrades and complimentary amenities. Enhancing the culinary experience, menus in the Compass Rose and La Veranda restaurants will be expanded with a greater emphasis placed on showcasing specialties from the regions visited.

The company is widely recognized as the world’s most inclusive cruise line because airfare, all-suite accommodations, award-winning cuisine, open bars, nightly entertainment, sightseeing tours and excursions, gratuities and taxes, and a free, pre-cruise luxury hotel package are included in the cruise fare.

On the web: www.rssc.com

Three’s A Charm: Seabourn Quest Debuts

Image courtesy Seabourn - Seabourn Quest, the third 450-guest ship to debut in three years for ultra-luxury small-ship operator Seabourn, completes the line’s ambitious expansion in the small-ship luxury segment.

By Michael Coleman

Ultra-luxury small-ship operator Seabourn unveiled its third new ship in three years when the 450-guest Seabourn Quest debuted this week.

“She is a beautiful vessel, and I have no doubt she will earn as much praise from the experts, and as much affection from our guests as her two sister-ships,’’ said Richard Meadows, Seabourn’s President. “Her officers, staff and crew are ready to welcome travelers on board to experience Seabourn-style cruising on our newest ship.”

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Blythe Danner will serve as godmother and name the ship during a sunset ceremony at the port of Barcelona on June 20. The ship will then depart on a 14-day maiden voyage to Athens, stopping at the charming seaside towns in France, Italy, Greece and Turkey that are a hallmark of the Seabourn cruise experience.

Seabourn Quest’s maiden season includes seven-day Eastern Mediterranean cruises, operating alternately between Athens and Istanbul, and Venice and Athens, as well as a seven-day Black Sea voyage. In the fall, the ship will cruise across the Atlantic Ocean from Malaga, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale from where it will sail on a series of round trip voyages in the Caribbean.

On January 5, 2012, the ship will begin a 109-day maiden world cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Venice on a unique eastbound course via South America, South Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

Among a host of onboard amenities, dining takes center stage. Under the guidance of celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, Quest offers a variety of dining options from the main dining venue, The Restaurant, serving multi-course breakfasts, luncheons and dinners in an open-seating style amid a refined setting of gleaming white linens, polished alabaster walls, flowing sheer draperies and crystal chandeliers, to the Colonnade, a more casual, indoor/outdoor option serving lavish station-style buffet breakfasts and lunches. Dinners in the Colonnade are regionally-themed menus prepared in the open kitchen and served at table.

Restaurant 2 is an intimate setting where guests can enjoy innovative small-plates tasting menus nightly by reservation. The Patio Grill is a casual alternative offering poolside dining for luncheons and dinners, as well as freshly baked pizzas from its on-site oven all afternoon.
Quest is the third iteration of the sleek and widely-admired design that first appeared as Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009. The second sister-ship, Seabourn Sojourn, entered service this time last year.

On the web: www.seabourn.com

American Safari Cruises eyes Hawaii

Submitted photo

By Michael Coleman

Hawaii bound vacationers have an extra incentive to book an inter-island yacht cruise aboard American Safari Cruises’ 36-guest Safari Explorer. To celebrate its inaugural season in Hawaii, the line is offering guests a $150 per person travel credit for reservations made through July 29, 2011.

Sailing weeklong or 10-night active, adventure itineraries between Maui and the Big Island from November 2011 through April 2012, the all-inclusive, upscale 36-guest Safari Explorer visits Moloka’i, Lana’i and Molokini.

Guests who book before July 29, 2011 will receive a travel credit of $150 per person or $300 per couple. The credit is intended to help guests defray air costs to the Hawaiian Islands where they will embark on their adventure cruise.

“We are confident guests will be thrilled with the experience of seeing and experiencing Hawaii up close on an upscale yacht,” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “This is a brand new vacation option in the Hawaiian Islands, and we hope the travel credit aids in the decision-making process to try an adventure un-cruise in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

Jacox said the un-cruise defines the active, up close and personal style of adventure travel that makes American Safari Cruises different from other cruise vacations. The Safari Explorer is the only small-group expedition yacht offering overnight cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

Flexible yacht itineraries focus on the leeward side of the eastern-most Hawaiian Islands. The unstructured itinerary allows time for seeking wildlife such as Manta rays, dolphins and humpback whales. Outfitted for active adventures, the yacht’s well stocked water sports equipment includes kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, wet suits, sailboats and inflatable skiffs for up-close excursions. Guided snorkeling tours are a highlight throughout the trip.

Two knowledgeable expedition leaders guide hiking and kayaking tours. Bicycles are also available for guest use on Moloka’i and Lana’i.

Exclusive cultural tours have been arranged for guests in Moloka’i including guided hikes, visiting and restoring a family’s ancient taro terraces, “talking story” with native Hawaiians and a private, authentic Hawaiian pa’ina (feast).

The Safari Explorer has an on-deck hot tub, sauna, exercise equipment, a wine library and two large-screen TVs in the main salon. Cuisine is prepared with fresh, local ingredients and the complimentary bar offers premium spirits, fine wines and microbrews. The active spa environment includes a complimentary massage and yoga classes. All staterooms offer Tempur-pedic mattresses, flat screen TV/DVD players and iPod docks. Upper category staterooms feature Jacuzzi tubs and suites have private step-out balconies.

Fares start at $4,995 for the seven-night cruise and $6,495 for the 10-night cruise, both per person, double occupancy. Itineraries feature exclusive excursions and include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews; plus all port charges, taxes and fees.

An all-American crew has a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1 and includes Hawaii residents who have personal knowledge of the islands.

Seattle-based American Safari Cruises pioneered yacht cruising in Alaska in 1997 and since has expanded into Mexico’s Baja, Columbia & Snake Rivers and Hawaii.

On the web: www.americansafaricruises.com