Cruise Guide: Arison book a special tribute to art, life

By Mike Coleman

The late Ted Arison may have been the pioneering founder of Carnival Cruise Lines but it’s his wife, Lin, mourning the loss of her beloved husband who is now carving the family surname on a remarkable new venture.

Shortly after Ted’s passing in 1999, when sorrow-filled days seemed to only worsen, Arison and her 15-year-old granddaughter Sarah set out on a month-long journey unaware of the transformation it would soon have on both of their lives. 

They found themselves immersed in the picture-perfect villages located just outside of Paris, places which once inspired the likes of Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot and Van Gogh. And, it was here, in the beautiful countryside of Auvers, Arles, Giverny and Mont Sainte-Victoire that grandmother and granddaughter would each have a spiritual awakening resulting in Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections.

Part memoir, art book, biography and travelogue, Arison deftly gives new and spirited relevance to the art, personal and communal lives of the Impressionist painters. Reproductions of classic paintings are imaginatively paired with collaborator Neil Folbergs contemporary photographs. Together, author and photographer shed new light on a fascinating period.

The 245-page book, published recently by Abbeville Press, also attempts to de-mystify the life – albeit a brief one – of Van Gogh. He’s laid to rest in a cemetery in Auvers-sur-Oise, the charming village which served as such an inspirational backdrop to many of his peers. It was here that Van Gogh became the most prolific at his easel, painting some 70 scenes in the final 70 days of his life. And it was here where his depths of despair became unbearable. He died in a lifeless, attic room above a bar in 1890, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was just 37.

Observing such a tiny room, and the hallowed artistic ground which surrounded it, Arison began dealing with her own personal loss. In her quest to rediscover the lives, dwellings and paintings of her subject matter, she debunks long-held myths about Berthe Morisot, befriends twenty-first-century descendants of some of the masters, and finds inspiration in their mutually-supportive relationships. 

Twinning the lives and struggles of the artists with the personal discoveries they inspired in her, what emerged was not just a special book but the re-birth of a soul destined to proclaim her own singular talents.

The exposure to Van Gogh’s work and that of the Impressionists, she said in an interview, only served to deepen her empathy towards their dogged independence. It also helped to foster her own determination and artistic vision. 

As such, she has since renewed her commitment to using the creative resources at her disposal to make a significant difference in the lives of up and coming artists, especially through youngARTS, a pioneering project she and her husband founded 26 years ago. Sarah, now 23, whose interest in the arts was stimulated by her encounter with the French countryside and the Impressionists who called it home, now heads the Arison Arts Foundation.

The book testifies to the universality and continued relevance of the work of the Impressionist painters. It’s also a special tribute to the triumphant power of art and to a woman’s indomitable spirit to overcome the pain of her own profound loss.

Cruise Guide: Quick cruise getaways, Alaska entice passengers

By Mike Coleman

Carnival has unveiled a series of short cruise getaways to attract vacation-challenged passengers in 2007 and Royal Caribbean will feature 130 shore excursions in Alaska, highlighting news this week from the cruise industry.

The line will offer 32 different short cruise itineraries from a host of  U.S. departure points, most of which leave from Florida ports. In fact, to cater to a growing trend of passengers who seek a getaway, but do so without much time, Carnival will deploy roughly half its fleet on short cruises, offering more voyages of five days or less in length than any other cruise operator. 

“Time is a precious commodity these days, and short cruises are perfectly suited to today’s lifestyles,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO. “In addition to meeting the needs of busy consumers, short cruises are very popular with families, as well as with first-time cruisers who want to experience our product, but with less investment in time and money.”

From Miami, look for year-round three-day Bahamas and four-day western Caribbean cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Fascination and year-round four and five-day western Caribbean voyages aboard the 2,052-passenger Imagination. Additionally, the soon-to-be-launched 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom will be offering a special one-time, four-day western Caribbean voyage from Miami departing Nov. 12.

From Port Canaveral, Carnival will feature year-round three and four-day Bahamas cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Sensation and four and five-day Bahamas/eastern Caribbean cruises aboard the 2,052-passenger Elation (through April 28). The ship will then offer year-round four and five-day Mexico cruises from San Diego beginning June 2.

In Tampa, look for the 2,052-passenger Inspiration to host year-round four and five-day western Caribbean cruises while out of Jacksonville, the 1,486-passenger Celebration hosts year-round four-day Bahamas and five-day Key West/Bahamas cruises.

The line will also be offering short cruise getaways to the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada from Mobile, New Orleans, Charleston, Galveston, Long Beach and New York. Carnival’s short cruise options complement the line’s variety of six to 16-day departures to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe and the Greek Isles.

Meanwhile, if sledding with huskies in Juneau, exploring the wild Yukon in Skagway, and searching for bears in Ketchikan is how best you would like to spend your vacation time at sea – and on land – such thrill-seeking Alaskan journeys await guests aboard Royal Caribbean ships in 2007. “Our new Alaska shore excursions offer rich and scenic regional experiences on land, at sea and even in the sky,” said Craig Milan, senior vice president, land operations for Royal Caribbean.

The line will be offering some 135 tours in Southeast Alaska alone. Among them: dog sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau); a photo safari by land and sea (Juneau); a Glacier Point wilderness safari (Skagway) and an Anan Creek bear watch (Ketchikan).

Cruise Guide: Carnival takes swing at Caribbean

By Michael Coleman

How does the world’s most popular cruise line, and its latest mega-ship, improve the Caribbean vacation experience? It offers golf. Golf. And, more golf. 

Those who love to tee it up can book either six- or eight-day voyages from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean and the Bahamas aboard Carnival Liberty, the same ship which ushered in an impressive European golf program last year. 

The ship departs Sundays from Port Everglades, on six-day cruises to Freeport, Bahamas; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico, and Saturdays on eight-day voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean and the Bahamas. 

The eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages feature San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas/St. John, U.S.V.I.; Antigua, Lesser Antilles; Tortola/Virgin Gorda, B.V.I.; and Nassau, the Bahamas, while the western route includes Limon, Costa Rica; Colon, Panama and Cozumel, Mexico. 

While the destinations would put a smile on most faces, the golf enthusiast among us could be excused for beaming. Some of the most challenging courses in the Caribbean and the Bahamas are being offered as part of the line’s Golf Academy Program. Among them are: 

Lucayan Golf Club (Bahamas, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Perched on the shores of Grand Bahama Island, this par-72, 6,824-yard course is known for its tight fairways, elevated greens and sharp doglegs. Designed by Dick Wilson, whose course offerings include Doral’s legendary “Blue Monster” in Miami and Orlando’s Bay Hill, the course will not disappoint, offering a test of precision and strength. 

Hyatt Britannia Golf Club,(Grand Cayman, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  the Caribbean’s first signature golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, features a nine-hole championship course and an 18-hole par-57 executive course. Combining features of classic layouts such as Royal Troon and Turnberry with magnificent sea vistas, these links-style courses reward players who keep the ball in play. 

Wyndham el Conquistador (San Juan, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Designed by renowned course architect Arthur Hills, this 6,662-yard layout is known for its rugged contours, with 12 of 18 holes offering Atlantic and Caribbean vistas. The final few holes feature 200 feet of dramatic elevation changes, adding to the day’s challenge. 

Mahogany Run (St. Thomas, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Highlighting this Tom and George Fazio-designed course is the aptly named “Devil’s Triangle” featuring three of the most challenging holes in the Caribbean. Recent renovations, including expanded fairways and refurbished greens, make this 6,022-yard, par-70 course one of the most popular in the Caribbean. 

Cable Beach Golf Course (Nassau, eight-day eastern Caribbean/Bahamas)  Recently redesigned, this 6,500-yard course offers spacious fairways surrounded by lakes. This challenging yet “resort-friendly” course appeals to golfers of all skill levels. Greens are surrounded by a series of mounds, protecting those who hit the occasional stray shot. 

Cozumel Country Club (Cozumel, eight-day western Caribbean, six-day Caribbean/Bahamas)  Cozumel’s first and only world-class golf course, this Jack Nicklaus-designed gem incorporates the island’s habitat, with native trees, red mangroves, and natural wetlands. Famous for its peaceful and tranquil setting, this 6,724-yard, par 72-course appeals to novice and experienced golfers alike. 

Summit Golf & Resort (Panama, eight-day western Caribbean)  This course offers 18 holes of world-championship golf. Designed by talented course architect Jeffrey Myers and built by Gregori International, it features a challenging layout, wide-open fairways and well-placed hazards and sand traps. 

Can’t wait to take up Carnival on its golf offer but can’t stand lugging your clubs with you? Feel free to leave your gear at home and take advantage of the line’s Nike Golf products and apparel available for rent, demonstration or purchase. 

Carnival Liberty will operate a series of 12-day Mediterranean voyages beginning May 7, through Oct. 22, 2006. And, yes, European golf packages will be offered.