Holland America returns to Australia and South Pacific

The ms Oosterdam, along with the ms Volendam, will sail a series of Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises, visiting more than 50 ports. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line.
Starting in winter 2012 and spring 2013 two Holland America Line ships ——ms Oosterdam and ms Volendam —— will sail a series of Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises, visiting more than 50 ports where guests can indulge in the cosmopolitan cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland, and explore the exotic landscapes of Vanuatu and Fiji in the South Pacific. The series of sailings ranges from 10 to 58 days and features one of the line’s larger Vista-class ships, ms Oosterdam.

“Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are among the top travel destinations in the world and we’ve developed our itineraries to showcase the best of what they offer from secluded ports to popular favorites,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs, for Holland America Line. “Holland America Line’s cruises highlight the region’s incredible wildlife on land and sea, including the legendary Outback, world-famous Great Barrier Reef and the opportunity of a lifetime to witness a solar eclipse while at sea.”

Guests can choose from a variety of departures ranging from 10 to 14 days sailing roundtrip from Sydney or Auckland, between October 2012 and March 2013. New Zealand itineraries give guests a chance to experience some of the most breathtaking scenery, including the beautiful and dramatic Fiordland National Park and Bay of Plenty, known for its beaches. These itineraries also visit the North and South Islands of New Zealand with calls at popular ports of Wellington, Napier and Tauranga.

Volendam and Oosterdam sail a total of five 14-day Australia and New Zealand cruises. Four 14-day New Zealand Discovery voyages sail roundtrip from Sydney on Oosterdam Oct. 24, Nov. 21 and Dec. 19, 2012 (holiday cruise) and Jan. 12, 2013. One 14-day Solar Eclipse voyage departs Nov. 7, and includes port calls at Brisbane, Hamilton Island and Townsville, Australia; Ile des Pins and Noumea, New Caledonia, and a total of six days in the Tasman and Coral Sea.

Four additional sailings to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific include the 10-, 11- and 13-day Pacific Treasures cruises roundtrip from Sydney and feature more exotic and lesser-known tropical ports in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji. Cruise fares begin at $1,299 per person.

The Holland America Line offers several unique longer itineraries throughout the season, including Volendam’s 34-day Australia Circumnavigation. That voyage sails roundtrip from Sydney Oct. 21, 2012 and boasts 18 ports of call and scenic cruising in the remote Ribbon Reef and Far North Regions, which include: Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Perth, Melbourne and Cairns, Australia; Hobart, Tasmania; Komodo Island, Indonesia; sunrise at Lizard Island and sunset at Booby Island, to name a few. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, is also included. Cruise fares begin at $5,499 per person.

The 1,380-passenger ms Amsterdam sails a 75-day Grand Asia and Australia Voyage, departing Seattle, Wash., Sept. 21, 2012. Ports of call during this extended voyage include Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney, Australia; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Waitangi (Bay of Islands) and Auckland, New Zealand; Lautoka, Fiji, and Apia, Samoa Islands. Disembarking takes place in San Diego, Calif. Cruise fares begin at $10,999 per person.

South Pacific repositioning cruises provide an opportunity to visit regions with desired ports of call and more relaxing days at sea. Oosterdam’s 22- or 23-day trans-Pacific Crossing departs Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, B.C., for Sydney Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2012. Oosterdam returns on a 22- or 23-day South Pacific Crossing from Sydney to Seattle or Vancouver departing April 13, 2013. Cruise fares for the South Pacific and trans-Pacific sailings begin at $2,399 per person.

Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Collectors’ Voyages on Oosterdam and Volendam range from 25- to 58-days. Combining two back-to-back itineraries. During the Australia cruise season, Holland America Line sails a total of 11 Collectors’ Voyages. Cruise fares begin at $3,049 per person.
For more information on Holland America Line’s cruises and cruisetours, consult a professional travel seller or visit hollandamerica.com.

– Jackie Roseboom is a regular contributor to Cruise Guide, “Orlando Attractions Magazine” and CruiseNewsWeekly.com.

Carnival launching Fun Ship 2.0, a $500 million dollar fleet-wide transformation

Carnival Cruise Lines has started an initiative they're calling Fun Ship 2.0, which includes new dining and entertainment options, many of which enhance guests' poolside experience.

By Jackie Roseboom

Carnival Cruise Lines has unveiled what they are calling Fun Ship 2.0. Guests will be able to enjoy new dining choices, bars and lounges, and entertainment options through partnerships and new branded spaces. In the first phase alone, which extends through the end of 2015, Carnival will invest more than $500 million across its fleet of cruise ships.

– Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez will be coming to Carnival Liberty this month and fleet-wide next year.  Lopez will act as a consultant on the hiring of comedians and will advise on décor, lighting, music and more to enhance the comedy club experience. Lopez will pre-recorded his voice and video messages to welcome guests, and a new Punchliner Comedy Brunch will keep diners laughing with live comedy in the main dining rooms.

– Playlist Performances will have guests singing along and dancing in their seats during 30 minute hit-packed shows such as “Motor City” which celebrates the R&B Motown sound of the 1960s and ‘70s, and “Divas” which combines music, dance and fashion to feature tunes from iconic female entertainers. “Latin Nights” offers a fusion of Latin culture, rhythmic music and choreography while “The Brits!”” features tunes from the UK’s most famous artists of all time. The new shows will premiere on Carnival Breeze when it enters service next summer, followed by other vessels.

– Award-winning DJ Irie was named the official DJ of Carnival Cruise Lines.  In this new role, he will create and lead “DJ Irie’s Spin’iversity” to train and develop the musical skills and personalities of on-board DJs to boost the overall music experience for guests of all ages.

An artist's rendering of celebrity chef Guy Fieri's new onboard restaurant, Guy’s Burger Joint.

– Carnival has partnered with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to offer a free shipboard dining venue called “Guy’s Burger Joint”, featuring the Food Network star’s hand-crafted burgers, fresh-cut fries and special recipes created exclusively for Carnival. This laid-back, poolside dining venue will be modeled after a road-side burger.

– “Hasbro, The Game Show” is a new series of larger-than-life productions and entertainment activities based on the popular Family Game Night television show on The Hub. The games include: “Sorry Sliders” which involves a giant shuffleboard court; “Simon Flash” where two teams of four guests wear giant light-up color boxes and must shuffle themselves quickly to repeat a color sequence; “Yahtzee Bowling” with a giant ball and larger-than-life-sized bowling pins; “Operation” which is set up like a skee-ball board where contestants try to get the balls into different slots on the patient’s body; and “Connect-4 Basketball” which uses a basketball setup rather than the traditional checkers.

– EA Sports and Carnival have configured an exciting new sports bar concept. Designed to be the ultimate hangout for sports fanatics, guests can play their favorite EA Sports video games, watch live sports on a massive video wall, and keep up with real-time sports scores 24/7 live on a ticker. Guest can enter the daily trivia contests, compete in EA Sports video game tournaments. Other new bar concepts include: RedFrog Rum Bar offers guests the Caribbean vacation vibe with a pool-side version of the popular Caribbean themed RedFrog Pub, which debuted on the Carnival Magic; The Library Bar is a new intimate cocktail lounge featuring bar service and automatic wine dispensers,ideal for guests seeking a quiet venue; The BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a Mexican-themed atmosphere with tequila-based frozen drinks and Mexican beers and complimentary poolside dining.

For more information go to Carnival.com/funship2.

– Jackie Roseboom is a regular contributor to Cruise Guide, “Orlando Attractions Magazine” and CruiseNewsWeekly.com.

NCL looking to Breakaway with two new ships

A rendering of The Haven courtyard on the Norwegian Breakaway, with private pool, sun deck, hot tub and fitness area.

By Jackie Roseboom

On Sept. 21, the first piece of steel was cut at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany for the construction of Norwegian Breakaway, the first of two new ships for Norwegian Cruise Line. The Breakaway is set for delivery in April 2013.

“Today’s steel cutting marks the start of construction for Norwegian Breakaway, our next generation Freestyle Cruising ship, that will captivate and amaze our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “We are extremely pleased with the progress we have made so far in planning this incredible vessel. We now look to the capable and talented team at Meyer Werft to bring this ship to life.”

The Breakaway class ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will each be 144,017 gross tons and will carry approximately 4,000 passengers. These mega ships represent an opportunity for the Norwegian guest to “break away” from the routine of work, school, and daily stress, and find a true bliss at sea. While massive, they have many intimate spots to make your own. The new ships will take the best of the best from Norwegian’s existing ships. The ships’ names were chosen from 230,000 entries received in “Norwegian’s Cruising for Names” contest held in conjunction with USA Today.

To date, the company has revealed details on all of the ships’ staterooms which combine the form and function of the line’s Jewel class ships’ staterooms with the modern and contemporary design touches of Norwegian Epic. A wonderful selection of staterooms will be available starting with the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers, the re-introduction of Oceanview staterooms, Balcony and Mini-Suites, along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa. The ship also features The Haven by Norwegian, which consist of 42 suites at the top of the ship and 18 additional suites located throughout the ship. The Haven includes plush amenities that include: 24-hour butler service, poolside valet, special platinum-colored keycards, white tablecloth in-suite dining, exclusive access to The Haven courtyard with private pool, sun deck, hot tub and fitness area, and priority reservations.

Norwegian Cruise Line has a 44-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising. Most notable was the introduction of Freestyle Cruising, which has revolutionized cruising by allowing guests more freedom and flexibility to make their vacation their own.

Norwegian made a splash with its Norwegian Epic in 2010 as it collaborated with Blue Man Group, Howl at the Moon, Gibson Guitar, Nickelodeon and Cirque Dreams. The announcement of the two new ships have cruise fans excited to hear what innovations they will add this time.

In addition to the new Breakaway class ships, Norwegian Cruise Line is committed to keeping their existing fleet up to date. Both Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Sun received major enhancements earlier this year. Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Jade are finishing up their dry dock enhancements soon.  

For more information go to ncl.com.