Gauguin offers 20-night South Pacific hotel/cruise package

Image courtesy Paul Gauguin — The intimate, 332-guest Paul Gauguin, a leader in luxury cruise travel in the South Pacific since 1998, is offering a 20-night hotel/cruise package in January, 2012.

By Michael Coleman

The intimate 332-guest Paul Gauguin, fresh from a $25 million makeover, is offering a 20-night hotel/cruise package January 23, 2012 featuring nine distinctive islands in five South Pacific archipelagos.

The line’s “South Pacific Discovery’’ cruise will call on Australia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, Cook and Society Islands.

Guests will enjoy three days at leisure in Sydney, Australia’s oldest and largest city, at the Four Seasons Hotel. Guests will then fly to Brisbane to board the Gauguin en route to New Caledonia, Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga, ending in French Polynesia. The line is offering complimentary air from Los Angeles.

Among the voyage highlights:
Noumea, New Caledonia: This capital city has been named the “Paris of the Pacific” due to its French ambience, heritage and culture; Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji: The largest of the island chain is comprised of high mountains, lush vegetation, plus pristine white-sand beaches; Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji:

Once a bustling trading port, this Fijian village is now known for its geothermal hot springs; Vava’u Tonga: Never colonized by Europeans, this South Pacific nation maintains a strong Polynesian culture. Crystal clear waters and high mountain tops offer unparalleled views of the Tonga islands; Aitutaki, Cook Islands: Consisting of three volcanoes and 12 coral islets, this island offers beautiful coral reefs and a pristine lagoon. Aitutaki is nearly flat, affording ocean views from virtually any point on the island.

The ship will also sail to Taha’a where guests will visit Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ private island featuring white-sand beaches with swaying palms, crystal-clear waters and gentle breezes. A Polynesian barbeque lunch and local entertainment will be offered; Bora Bora: Guests will have the opportunity to view the famous marine life or relax on a beautiful, private beach off the coast; Moorea: The lush scenery features green vegetation, an abundance of fresh fruit and flowers, spectacular mountain peaks and palm-fringed beaches.

Aboard Gauguin, guests enjoy a relaxed and elegant setting in which to enjoy the amenities of the award-winning, newly refurbished ship. Look for onboard lectures, SCUBA diving lessons, local entertainment and excellent cuisine.

The Gauguin has completed more than 570 South Pacific cruises and has served more than 155,000 guests, including more than 14,000 honeymooners, since its inaugural sailing in 1998.

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Regent expands free air and shore excursions offers

rengent-logoEarlier today, Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced they are expanding their free air, two-for-one savings and free unlimited shore excursions packages for the remainder of the year. Cruise fares on 38 voyages in 2009 have been lowered, while the number of cruises now featuring Free Unlimited Shore Excursions has increased from 35 to 58. There are now 36 departures that feature a combination of all three special offers. Continue reading “Regent expands free air and shore excursions offers”

Cruise Guide: NCL to feature series of Bermuda cruises

By Mike Coleman

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has unveiled a series of Bermuda-bound itineraries from five East Coast cities in 2008. It’s the largest such deployment in company history. 

Look for Norwegian Dawn to sail from New York and Norwegian Dream to depart from Boston. Norwegian Majesty, meanwhile, will sail to the island from three cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charleston.

Beginning in mid-April 2008, Norwegian Dawn will embark on a series of seven-day sailings through Aug. 24 and then again from Sept. 28 through Oct. 26. Departing on Sundays, the cruises feature three days in Bermuda at King’s Wharf.

Norwegian Dream begins an inaugural season out of Boston, offering a series of seven-day sailings to Bermuda departing on Sundays from May 11 through Aug. 24, 2008 and again from Sept. 28 to Oct. 26. Norwegian Dream replaces the Norwegian Majesty, which has been sailing out of Boston to Bermuda since 1998.

Norwegian Majesty, meanwhile, will begin sailing seven-day Bermuda cruises from Charleston on April 19, 2008, followed by a five-day Bermuda cruise on June 14, 2008. On June 21, 2008, the ship returns to Baltimore for the first time since 2004 and embarks on a series of nine seven-day cruises from Baltimore to Bermuda, departing on Saturdays. A six-day sailing from Baltimore to Bermuda on Aug. 23, 2008 is scheduled before the ship repositions to Philadelphia. On Aug. 30, 2008, the vessel begins a series of five seven-day sailings to Bermuda from Philadelphia, with Saturday departures.

PGA Tour Partner

Meanwhile, in an effort to drive awareness of NCL golf programs in Bermuda and Hawaii, the line has inked a partnership deal with the PGA Tour.

The three-year agreement also provides NCL the right to use the PGA name in advertising, as well as to share in promotional and tournament hospitality opportunities built around both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

“In our continuing effort to embrace new and innovative marketing programs, we expect that this partnership with the PGA Tour will let golfers around the world know that you can combine a great cruise vacation with top golf experiences at the best courses in the world on NCL,” said Scott Rogers, NCL’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Headquartered in Miami, with a fleet of 14 ships in service and under construction, NCL also operates NCL America and Orient Lines. The company recently took delivery of its newest ship, Norwegian Pearl, and is currently building Norwegian Gem for delivery in October 2007.

Cruise Guide: Red-Hot Swedish Icebar Sizzles


By Michael Coleman 

icebarserverSTOCKHOLM Sweden – In a city renowned for its legends, a new “hometown hero” is emerging. 

This Baltic playground has long been the domain of iconic figures through the ages from inventor Alfred Nobel and actress Greta Garbo to modern sports legends Bjorn Borg and Annika Sorenstam.

But there’s a new kid on the block – young like the Baby Boom around it – that’s causing quite a stir.

The Absolut Icebar Stockholm, nestled in the lobby of the Nordic Sea Hotel, is this city’s latest attraction. A speakeasy like no other, it’s the world’s first permanent icebar. Its also red hot with locals and cruise passengers alike.

Whether this new icon has the staying power of Nobel, Garbo and the like remains to be seen. In fact, at this stage, it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but since opening in June of 2002 it has proven to be more than just a fashionable trend.

They come the world over to visit the city’s museums, royal palaces and to toast each other’s good fortune in a tiny, climate-controlled space reserved for just 30 patrons at a time. More warm-blooded revelers and the bar, with its all-ice interior, would melt.

Reservations are a must, but once inside there is no time to linger. It’s just 23 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes for a quick drink, a quick photo and a quick exit. 

More than 150,000 people have dropped in since it opened, proving it may be more than just a novelty in this highly-cultured city.

On the surface, an icebar in Stockholm sounds more like an oxymoron. The Swedes have long cold winters but it hasn’t prevented this bar from enjoying a brisk business through all seasons.

It’s so popular, in fact, that three other Absolut Icebars have since opened around the world – London, Milan, Tokyo – and more are on tap.

The concept is based on a simple, cold-hard premise: Servers will not put ice in your drink as much as they will pour a drink in your ice.

Glasses, like the bar, tables, chairs, benches and other interior sculptures, are made completely of ice from the country’s Torne River. The Swedes claim it’s the purest ice in the world and professional sculptors actually carve a new Absolut Icebar Stockholm every six months.

The visit will set you back $150 kroner (about $22). It includes the use of a hooded silver cape, ski gloves and one complimentary drink from a selection of 18 vodka cocktails. The entrance fee for a non-alcoholic beverage is $105 kroner.

The Absolut Stockholm, a concoction of Absolut peach, pineapple liqueur, orange juice and blue curacao – like the bar for which it is named – is a runaway favorite here.

Cruise Guide: Vibrant cities, nature, await South American cruise guests

By Mike Coleman

The world’s best cruise lines have not only unveiled a host of new ships in recent months, they’ve also introduced a series of global itineraries and that’s good news for savvy travelers.

Over the past two weeks, Cruise Guide has bypassed the obvious – Caribbean and European sailings- to take a closer look at what’s in store for passengers who seek exotic voyages. We conclude our three-part series this week with a look at South America. 

Whether sailing to vibrant, culturally-rich ports or viewing Antarctica as it sails past your porthole, cruise vacations to South America run the gamut. The continent and its 15 countries offer superb cosmopolitan charm and a dizzying array of natural attractions from the world’s highest waterfall (Angel Falls) to the largest river (Amazon), longest mountain range (Andes) and driest desert (Atacama).

Getting there has never been easier as the world’s best cruise lines continue to offer more itineraries than ever before.

Several members of the Cruise Lines International Association, the chief marketing arm for 19 premier cruise lines and some 17,000 North American travel agencies, offer sailings departing from Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, Chile’s Valparaiso and Argentina’s Buenos Aires. Voyages, some of which depart from U.S. ports, range from three to 72 days and typically sail from October through April.

The luxury lines -Crystal, Cunard, Oceania, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea- are sure to take you in style. Crystal visits South America during Crystal Serenity’s world cruise in January, including a 15-day Miami to Valparaiso itinerary, and an 18-day Valparaiso-Buenos Aires itinerary. Highlights include cruising past Chilean Fjords, Cape Horn, and Antarctica’s Palmer Station and Elephant Island.

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 calls in the ports of Rio de Janeiro; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Valparaiso (Santiago), Chile, during a 26-day segment of her maiden world cruise, which travels from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, departing January 10.

From December through March, Oceania Cruises’ Insignia sails South American waters with three 10-day cruises from Rio to Buenos Aires calling at ports in Brazil and Uruguay, and four 16-day Buenos Aires-Valparaiso itineraries that cruise the Chilean Fjords and Cape Horn.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner offers a 59-night voyage in January, offered in 11- to 19-night segments. Seven Seas Voyager calls at South American ports on a 25-night world cruise segment from Fort Lauderdale to Cape Town.

Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Pride, meanwhile, circumnavigates South America on a 72-day voyage starting in January. Seven- to 18-day segments include Fort Lauderdale to Valparaiso, Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Rio, Rio to Manaus, and Manaus to Fort Lauderdale.

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Wind sails a 16-day Valparaiso to Buenos Aires itinerary in January to the Chilean Fjords and Falkland Islands. Ports include Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacabuco, Laguna San Rafael and Punta Arenas, Chile; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; and Punta del Este and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Perhaps a premium brand line – Celebrity or Holland America – is more to your liking? Look for Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity to feature five South American itineraries in 2007. The 14-night cruises include three that sail between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, one from Valparaiso to Fort Lauderdale, and another roundtrip from Buenos Aires with two nights in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. Holland America Line ships -Prinsendam, Rotterdam, Ryndam and Veendam- offer itineraries from 16 to 66 days, visiting 60 ports on 26 sailings.

If an Antarctica sailing tops your wish list, look for Norwegian Coastal Voyages to offer 19-day “Antarctica and Chilean Fjord” itineraries between Santiago and Buenos Aires from November through February and 21-day “Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica” voyages in October and February.

Additionally, look for the cruise lines to offer a series of optional shore excursions ranging from flight-seeing trips to Antarctica to view penguins, sea lions and marine birds, to Amazon River exploration via native canoe.

Cruise guests may also explore Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, where they can journey through Tierra del Fuego on horseback. Other excursions are being offered in cities including Rio de Janeiro, home to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Bay, all located within Rio’s downtown district.

Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Orient Lines, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean are also offering itineraries to what is quickly becoming a cruise destination favored among travelers young and old alike.

Cruise Guide: Expedition-style voyages bring nature to life

By Michael Coleman

While Europe and the Caribbean beckon cruise travelers like never before, expedition-style voyages to some of the world’s most captivating natural locales are drawing Baby Boomers in droves. 

Those seeking a respite from the packed, mass-market cruise experience need to look no further than two intimate, soft-adventure sailings to the Great Barrier Reef and the west coast of South America.

Coral Princess Cruises offers tours through October to the outer Great Barrier Reef including visits to Thetford Reef, Sudbury Cay, Coates and Nathan Reefs, Dunk Island, Hinchinbrook Channel and Pelorus Island. Guests will sail aboard the 54-passenger Coral Princess, an expedition-style cruise ship.

It won’t be a totally rugged outdoor experience, however. Onboard facilities include a dining room, a modern air-conditioned lounge, sundeck and pool; reference library; phone and fax facilities; cocktail bar and shop. There’s even a marine biologist and a glass bottom excursion vessel to bring the experience to life.

Meanwhile, a 20-day expedition cruise which follows the path of the Humboldt Current along the coastline of Peru and the Chilean fjords to Cape Horn, aboard Polar Star offers wildlife fans an opportunity of a lifetime to observe and photograph up to 50 species of seabird, 20 species of cetacean, endemic land birds and ancient creations. 

The 100-passenger vessel, a former icebreaker converted to expedition cruising, features outside cabins and private facilities. The ship also has a fleet of Zodiacs for shore excursions and cruises. 


Great Escape 

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest complex of coral reefs and islands in the world, covering an area half the size of Texas. It has more than 2,900 individual reefs and about 900 islands, fringed by white-sand beaches and turquoise water.

Coral Princess, based in Cairns, Australia, has partnered with the Orpheus Island Resort to create the six-day land and sea package. The privately-owned resort, nestled in the coral-fringed Orpheus Island Marine National Park, will serve as a three-day hideaway. With a limit of just 42 guests, privacy is assured and the company policy of no telephones, televisions, nightclubs and children is a plus for those seeking a true getaway Down Under. Seven-course meals are featured, nightly.

The resort also offers ecologically sensitive, educational programs from picnics on secluded beaches to snorkeling, kayaking, guided walks and sunset cruises.

The trip includes two nights in an air-conditioned stateroom aboard Coral Princess and three nights at the resort; a seaplane transfer; all meals; complimentary scuba experience; onboard presentations by marine biologists and unlimited use of motorized dinghies, paddle skis, catamarans, canoes, snorkeling equipment, local snorkel trips, fishing gear, tennis, bushwalking and selected interpretive activities on Orpheus Island.

 The trip departs Cairns on alternate Saturdays until October 7 or Townsville on alternate Sundays through Oct. 8, 2006.


South America Bound

Adventure-seeking nature lovers may instead look to Polar Star’s South American voyage. Guests can book passage on either the November 3, 2006 trip from Lima, Peru to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, or the scheduled November 2, 2007 expedition. The package includes accommodation aboard the Polar Star, onboard meals, transfers, services of expedition leaders and shore excursions.

 The sailing includes a visit to Valparaiso, Chile, a day trip to the national park in Puerto Montt, Chile and a visit to Puerto Eden, a small community only accessible by sea and home to Kaweskar Indians, once a nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers.

The voyage is presented by UK-based wildlife tour operator, WildWings. 

Since opening its doors 14 years ago as a travel agency for bird watchers, the company has since designed exclusive travel products ranging from space and deep sea expeditions to bird, whale and dolphin watching tours.

Cruise Guide: Silversea, Seabourn unveil golf, insider tip programs

By Michael Coleman

Two of the world’s leading ultra-luxury cruise lines – Silversea and Seabourn – are rolling out exclusive programs that will make the golf lover smile and the adventurer in all of us beam with contentment. 

Golf enthusiasts sailing on the 382-guest Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper can live and breathe the game every day of every voyage in 2006, thanks to the line’s onboard PGA-class golf professionals. In addition to organized shipboard activities, the line’s Silver Links 365 program offers optional golfing excursions, arranged and escorted by the ships’ golf pros, to some of the world’s most challenging and revered courses in all four corners of the globe. 

Seabourn, meanwhile, has teamed up with Conde Nast Traveler to provide the line’s guests with up-to-date information about what’s new, what’s hot and what’s hip in various ports of call, gathered exclusively from the pages of the magazine. 


Teeing it up 

Silversea’s escorted, optional golfing excursions vary in price from course to course but include transfers to and from the select golf courses, pull or power-drive carts, green and any applicable caddy fees. Should guests choose to leave their clubs at home, Nike clubs, shoes and golf essentials are available for rental, demo or purchase onboard each vessel. 

The onboard pros will offer a variety of activities both on and off each vessel. During days at sea, look for private instruction in 22′ x 10′ custom-built golf cages, complimentary clinics, demonstrations and putting contests suitable for all ranges, levels and abilities. 

Golfers also have the option to further improve their game by experiencing the latest V1 video-teaching technology. The digital component allows guests the opportunity to compare their swings to some of golf’s greatest legends and the hottest names on tour. 

The lessons also include a VHS video of the session with custom voice-over by the ship’s golf pro. 


Hot tips anyone? 

Seabourn’s innovative, complimentary service will be introduced in April, 2006, when the line’s three all-suite ships  Legend, Pride and Spirit  begin their European cruising season. 

Dubbed “Conde Nast Traveler’s Seabourn Insider Tips,” the service will provide what officials are calling “reliable intelligence” about attractions, suggested lunch spots, popular bars, unique experiences, shopping tips and more for those who wish to customize their own port activities through the ships’ onboard concierge. 

The initial editions will include information about 28 European ports of call including Barcelona, Spain; Istanbul, Turkey; The French Riviera; Capri, Rome and Venice, Italy; the Greek Isles of Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu; Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; St. Petersburg, Russia and Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The program augments an impressive line-up of services already in place for guests, including Vintage Seabourn, a premium wines pre-purchase package; Seabourn to a Tea, an upgraded menu of rare estate teas; Seabourn’s Personal Shopper, a program which provides luxury cars and specialized shopping guides in various ports; global cell and satellite telephone rental services and the line’s personal valet luggage shipping service.