Crystal Serenity to receive face-lift

By Michael Coleman

One of cruise travel’s most luxurious vessels is scheduled for a face-lift.
Crystal Cruises will be spending more than $25 million this spring to keep its largest ship, Crystal Serenity, on the cutting edge of luxury style.

Some 400 expert technicians flown from around the world, working round the clock for just 14 days, are scheduled for the massive redesign of her 531 deluxe staterooms, penthouses and penthouses suites; retail centers; expansive outdoor pool deck and other design projects during a May 8-22 dry dock at Hamburg’s Blohm + Voss shipyard.

“In the past two years, we have invested well over $50 million in our ships,” says Gregg Michel, president, Crystal Cruises.  The line also operates the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony.

“Our guests can look forward to dazzling new spaces, which will serve as a stunning  backdrop to the incomparable service and choices that always characterizes a Crystal vacation.”     

Interior designer, Keith Rushbrook, principal at the Toronto-based II BY IV Design Associates, summarized the vision: “We wanted modern classic elegance.  We wanted Fifth Avenue — crème de la crème New York-inspired living and retail spaces that people love and look forward to spending time in.”

All of the ship’s deluxe outside staterooms, penthouses, and penthouse suites will sport new, floor-to-ceiling tufted headboards, bedside cabinets, wallpaper, sofas, curtains, pillows, and custom carpets in contemporary lines and classic stone, silk, velvet, leather, and crisp linen textures.  New modern lighting features and electronic “do not disturb” and doorbell system will allow guests greater personalization of their home-away-from-home. 

Serenity’s retail shops will receive a similar, sophisticated metamorphosis.  The Facets fine jewelry store will mirror a jewelry box, with mother-of-pearl feature wall, beveled chrome vitrines, and new, private sales area.  The Apropos boutique will become three-shops-in-one, with a flagship Christian Dior cosmetic/skincare area showcased amongst rich Zebrano wood and herringbone rosewood, arresting black-plum-magenta carpeting, and tufted leather seating.

Inspired by Symphony’s recent transformation, the Seahorse Pool teak deck will be refashioned with circular pod beds, plush sofa groups, and lounge chairs in a kaleidoscope of lime green, azure, and mango.

The corridors throughout the ship will be transformed with new, custom carpeting, inspiring artwork, and mood lighting.  Dramatic new lighting will also be installed in the Crystal Dining Room, as will new furniture on all stateroom verandahs.

Following the dry dock, Serenity will embark on a series of Baltic, North Cape and British Isles cruises before heading to the Mediterranean for late summer and fall.

Summit pegged for stylish makeover

By Michael Coleman

Celebrity Cruises’ 2,034-passenger Summit will begin 2012 with a bold new look having incorporated some of the most popular attributes found on the line’s newer ships.

Since 2008 the Celebrity fleet has expanded to 10 vessels with the addition of the much-heralded Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox. Now, fleet-mates like the 2001-built Summit will receive Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox-inspired makeovers.

Among the highlights: the coveted AquaClass, Celebrity’s soothing, spa-inspired veranda-category accommodations paired with the chic, Mediterranean-themed specialty restaurant “Blu’’; plus the addition of Qsine specialty restaurant and the hip Celebrity iLounge.

Celebrity has just completed a similar makeover on Constellation and will do so on Infinity later this year.

 “Based on the phenomenal response we’ve had from guests who have sailed on the Constellation, we’re eager to introduce the same new features — ranging from the Cellarmasters wine bar to our signature icy Martini Bar to our cool Café al Bacio and Gelateria,’’ said Celebrity’s President & CEO Dan Hanrahan.

“We recognize that consumers’ vacation time is precious, which inspires us to do everything we can to make their vacation with Celebrity Cruises something that is truly different and better than anything they’ve experienced before.”
            


A Celebrity exclusive, Qsine, the novel restaurant introduced on Eclipse last year, and set to debut on Infinity, will be added to Summit. It’s the first restaurant at sea to present a menu and wine list on an iPad. Qsine features a selection of savory tapas and mezze served individually in custom-made frames, a trio of chilled soups delivered shot-style, and spring rolls served in springs. All are described in detail on the iPad-housed menu and wine list, which offers a full scan of wine labels, an interactive cocktail menu, and the ability for guests to enter tasting notes and e-mail their favorite wine selections.

Look for Summit to feature the Celebrity iLounge, the cruise industry’s first authorized Apple reseller, where guests can participate in Celebrity’s “iLearn” enrichment series; a new creperie, Bistro on Five; new verandas added to the ship’s spacious, luxurious Celebrity Suites.

The ship will receive new furniture, flat-screen TVs, upholstery, bedding and carpeting; look also for new oceanview and inside staterooms and an expanded collection of original, contemporary art.

Celebrity sails to Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal, South America, and year-round in the Galapagos Islands. The line also offers immersive cruisetour experiences in Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Europe and South America.

Two new innovative ships, Silhouette in July 2011, and Reflection in fall 2012, will round out the fleet.

Project Sunshine – Royal Caribbean’s next generation ship to launch in 2014

Royal Caribbean Cruises has signed a letter of intent with shipyard Meyer Werft to build the first of a new generation of cruise ships. Developed under the code-name “Project Sunshine,” the new vessel design incorporates new and exciting features that take advantage of the best of Royal Caribbean’s experience and imagination. The project is a result of over a year of dedicated research and development.

The order calls for one ship to be delivered in the Fall of 2014 with an option for a second ship for Spring 2015. The 158,000 Gross Registered Tons (GRT) new build will carry just over 4,100 guests based on double occupancy. The estimated all-in cost per berth is about $229,822. This all-in cost includes the yard’s base contract price plus everything needed to design, operate and build the vessel, from architect fees to supervision costs and all loose inventories from computers to art and bed linens.

“Royal Caribbean has worked hard to earn a reputation of offering the most innovative ships in the cruise industry and this next generation will not disappoint,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. “While we continue our policy of keeping our newest ideas and features under wraps during the early stages of construction, I can say that I am very excited about the passion and imagination that our teams have devoted to the project. Project Sunshine builds on the best ideas of our existing ships and adds exciting new activities and entertainment concepts.

“It will offer features for everyone: from grand, spectacular spaces to small intimate settings; from active, invigorating activities to the serenity of more personal space; and from a plethora of dining alternatives to a cornucopia of opportunities for families. I am also excited about the energy efficiency and environmental technologies which have been incorporated. Our existing ships are some of the most energy efficient in the world and Project Sunshine takes this one further step. Based on our over 20 years of experience with Meyer Werft, along with their compelling proposal, we know they will deliver on all of the innovations Royal Caribbean’s guests have come to expect.”

“Meyer Werft is pleased to be working with Royal Caribbean especially in light of their reputation for building such innovative ships. I am very happy we are continuing our long time partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises, and its brand Royal Caribbean International. Their projects always present incredible opportunities for Meyer Werft to create the latest cutting edge hardware in the cruise industry,” said Bernard Meyer, managing partner of Meyer Werft shipyard.

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, voyages-to-remember.com.

Special deals offered for ‘World’s Largest Cruise Night’

Most cruise lines are offering some sort of special deal for the World's Largest Cruise Night on Oct. 13. Some offers are only good for deals booked that day and some last a bit longer. Pick your ship, see what sort of deal you can get and plan your next getaway. Photo by Matt Roseboom

By Jackie Roseboom

The Cruise Lines International Association is holding a special World’s Largest Cruise Night this Oct. 13. Travel agents across North America will be hosting a special events in partnership with several cruise lines. Some amazing deals are being offered. As the event gets closer, more deals will be offered. Here are the ones already showing up:

Carnival is enticing vacationers with cruise upgrades on virtually all “Fun Ship” departures through December 2011. To sweeten the deal, Carnival will offer up to a $200 onboard credit per stateroom for all Carnival Magic Europe voyages booked on Oct. 13. The Carnival Magic Europe offer includes best available upgrades and a $100 onboard credit per stateroom for seven-day Europe sailings and a $200 onboard credit per stateroom for nine- and 12-day sailings.

Celebrity is hosting a three-day sale beginning Oct. 13 for sailings departing April through December 2011 for select seven- to 14-night sailings. Look for onboard credits of $50 per stateroom for oceanview accommodations; $100 per stateroom for veranda accommodations; and $150 per stateroom for AquaClass (only on Solstice-class ships), suites, and Concierge Class.

Costa is offering a $50 onboard credit per stateroom on any sailing. The offer is valid only on Oct. 13.

Crystal Cruises is offering a $100 per person additional savings incentive on most 2010-2011 departures for new bookings made from Oct. 1 to 31.

Cunard is offering an onboard credit (per stateroom) of up to $300 for Queens & Princess Grill accommodation; up to $200 for Balcony staterooms; and up to $100 for Oceanview/Inside staterooms, depending on length of voyage. Bookings made during the Cruise Sale will receive a waiver of the deposit on the second guest.

Holland America Line is offering shipboard credits that can be combined with group amenities or cruise night offers. Plus deposits are only $100 per person for cruises of seven to 36 days.

For booking between Oct. 13 to 27, MSC will offer exclusive shipboard credits, such as $25 per passenger for inside cabin/oceanview bookings; $50 per passenger for standard balcony/superior balcony accommodations; and $100 per passenger for suites bookings.

Oceania Cruises is celebrating its maiden season in Alaska with two-for-one cruise fares, plus free round-trip air and bonus savings up to $1,000 per stateroom.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering a $100 per person ($200 per suite) shipboard credit booking incentive. This offer is valid for any new reservation on a 2010 or 2011 departure of seven nights or longer booked between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15.

Silversea Cruises is offering a $100 per guest ($200 per suite) savings on any 2010, 2011 or 2012 cruise booked during the month of October.

Windstar is offering a $100 per person shipboard credit on any Wind Spirit, Wind Star or Wind Surf sailing in the Caribbean or Costa Rica between Jan. 2 and April 2, 2011. The offer is valid for new bookings made between Oct. 13 and Nov. 15, and the credits may be combined with all nationwide offers including two-for-one offers.

On the Web: visit cruising.org for more information or check with a CLIA-member travel agent.

Carnival Legend lives up to her Fun Ship name

The Carnival Legend looks spectacular all lit-up at night, as most ships do. Photo by Matt Roseboom

The museum quality artwork on the Carnival Legend depicts legendary stories through the years, hence the ship’s name. The ship’s activities and ports will definitely keep you as busy as you want to be. Continue reading “Carnival Legend lives up to her Fun Ship name”

Live updates from the Carnival Legend

We’re sailing out of Tampa, Fla. for a seven night cruise starting Sunday, June 20 and you can follow along via our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Each day during the cruise, (when Internet access is available) we’ll be posting live photos, videos and information right from the ship and ports.

We’ll be visiting Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize.

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

Small ships packing big wallop

The majestic Royal Clipper at sunset. Small-ship sailing experiences are gaining favor with young and old alike. Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Romance or just sheer family adventure awaits passengers on three distinctive, small-ship cruise lines.

Star Clippers’ Caribbean

The Star Clippers’ fleet — Royal Clipper (227 passengers), Star Clipper (170 passengers) and Star Flyer (170 passengers) — is offering 45 per cent off select seven-and 14-night sailings roundtrip from Barbados, St. Maarten and Costa Rica this winter.

Each an authentic tall ship, guests can immerse themselves in respective journeys where the wind charts one’s course. Climb the mast for a better view of the horizon or simply relax in the net suspended over the bow with nothing but crystalline waters below.

Look for the vessels to seek out hidden harbors and destinations untouched by larger ships. No long lines on board, no crowds plus a casually elegant atmosphere.

On the web: starclippers.com

SeaDream’s Caribbean

The twin mega-yacht cruisers are offering overnight and late night Caribbean island visits plus an array of new water toys for the young and the young at heart this fall in the Caribbean.

Look for overnight calls at St. Bart’s and tiny, exclusive Norman Island as well as active stops at the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra, Culebrita and Vieques with its bioluminescent bays. 

SeaDream I and II — each with just 112 guests – are now offering a new array of water toys for guests to enjoy from the vessels’ stern marinas. In addition to its zodiacs, water skis, banana boats, wave runners, floating island and snorkeling equipment, it has added twin-hulled Hobie cats, laser sailboats and glass bottom molokini kayaks and glass bottom hanauma II inflatable kayaks to the mix.

On the web: seadream.com

Galapagos Adventures

The Galapagos Explorer II, operating in the Galapagos Islands, is offering a family adventure package featuring a discount of 75 percent off the cruise rate for two children under 15 years, and an additional 50 percent discount for a third child. 

Look for snorkeling equipment, Internet access, special activities for children, and a family picture to be included in the cruise fare.

The all-suite, 100-passenger vessel features excursions led by bilingual naturalist guides. The end result? Guests enjoy a personal experience on the islands and a greater understanding of wildlife and evolution.

The adventure package is available for departures through September 2010.

On the web: galapagosexplorer.com

Luxurious Seabourn Sojourn debuts

The new, 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn arrived at London’s Cable Wharf this week to begin her inaugural voyage. Image courtesy Seabourn

By Michael Coleman

British supermodel Twiggy was among the 700 attendees during christening ceremonies for the new 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn, which debuted in London last week.

Sojourn is the second of three new luxury cruising vessels to join Seabourn’s fleet. Sister Seabourn Odyssey was unveiled last summer in Venice. Seabourn Quest will debut in 2011.
Sojourn is presently operating 12- to 14-day voyages during the summer to the Baltics, Scandinavia, Russia, Norwegian Fjords and Scotland, as well as several Mediterranean voyages in the fall.

The line is celebrating her launch — Twiggy was named Godmother — with a number of special value fares during the remainder of 2010.

For a limited time look for special fares on a 14-day Norwegian Fjords and Scotland, departing August 8; a 12-day Grand Norwegian Fjords, departing September 15; a 12-day Maiden Transatlantic, departing November 3; an 11-day Maiden Caribbean, departing November 19; and a 10-day The Yachtsman’s Caribbean, departing November 30. Nine-to-12-day voyages in Northern Europe start from $4,999 per person, cruise-only or $6,400 with inclusive air.

The launch of Sojourn brings the number of ultra-luxury yachts in the Seabourn fleet to five. Sojourn offers travelers highly personalized service in a relaxed, sociable and luxurious atmosphere. Like its sister Sojourn features 225 spacious suites, 90 percent of which have private verandas.

All suites feature 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 two-deck, state-of-the-art Spa at Seabourn features a Spa Villa for hours of indulgence and relaxation, as well as a Kneipp Walk, an herbal bath facility and an aroma steam bath with salt inhalation.

The new vessel has four dining venues featuring menus by celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer, as well as six bars and lounges serving a full range of beverages including fine wines and spirits with Seabourn’s compliments.

On Jan. 5, 2011, Sojourn will embark on a world cruise from Los Angeles to London via the South Pacific, New Zealand, around Western Australia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, India, Arabia and the Mediterranean. Rates for the full 111-day world cruise begin at $49,995 per person, based on double occupancy, and include a number of additional benefits and amenities such as a pre-cruise Bon Voyage event with dinner and luxury overnight in Los Angeles, special shoreside events and exclusive complimentary shore excursions, Personal Valet luggage shipping service, and shipboard credits.

For a limited time, Seabourn is also offering two-for-one cruise fares with include round-trip air, or cruise-only fares featuring savings up to 65 percent. The promotion is valid for Seabourn voyages in Europe departing between June and November 2010.

On the web — www.seabourn.com