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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grand Princess becomes even grander after extensive transformation

Out to Sea newspaper/web column for June 25/11

   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
   The Grand Princess, sporting a new streamlined silhouette after an extensive transformation, is shown leaving Port Everglades, Florida.
   Something old is new again as the Grand Princess has undergone the "most-significant transformation ever" of a Princess Cruises' ship.
   The makeover of the grand ship required 1,400 contractors working around the clock for 24 days in the line’s most-extensive dry-dock ever.
   Now back making waves again, the Grand Princess left Ft. Lauderdale last month for a transatlantic crossing to her summer and fall homeport of Southampton, from which she is sailing on a variety of European itineraries.

Princess Cruises Offers Sought-After Zumba® Classes Fleetwide

Exhilarating Fitness-Party Workouts Have Passengers Shaking Their Hips While Getting Fit

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (May 31, 2011) – Zumba® Fitness, the exhilarating dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music and contagious choreography, is rolling out to the entire Princess Cruises fleet.  Since December, passengers on many Princess ships have been joining in the hip-shaking fun with complimentary classes taught by licensed Zumba instructors.  The classes quickly became among the most popular activities on board, and now additional staff members will complete the official training to become licensed Zumba instructors as the program expands fleetwide.


Cunard Line Marks Queen Mary’s 75th Anniversary

John Thomas (right), Queen Mary’s historical consultant, receives a commemorative
75th anniversary print from Cunard Line spokeswoman Jackie Chase (center),
and is joined by Everette Hoard (left), retail manager of Stacks on Queen Mary.

2 June 2011 – On Friday 27 May, Cunard Line joined enthusiastic well-wishers aboard Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, to pay tribute to the legendary ocean liner on the 75th anniversary of her maiden Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton to New York in 1936.  A General Manager’s reception kicked off the celebrations and included maritime devotees and historians, former crew members and past guests of the iconic ship.  


MIAMI – June 6, 2011 – Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that a second embarkation option has been added to Norwegian Epic’s seven-day Western Mediterranean itinerary sailings from April 29, 2012 through October 17, 2012.  Guests will have the flexibility to begin their cruise vacation in either Barcelona, Spain or in Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, where, starting today, a limited amount of staterooms will now be available for booking. A full range of staterooms will be offered including the two-bedroom family villa, courtyard penthouse, spa suite and studios. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All ashore who's going ashore: shore excursions set cruises apart

    Out to Sea column
   Holland America Line offers one-day shore excursions to Mexico's remote Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) by the Chihuahua Pacifico Railway. (Jim Fox photo)
    (c) By Jim and Barb Fox

   Shore excursions -- or how cruisers spend their days in port -- are what set many cruises apart.
   Cruising isn't just about sailing and the sea air but also about unpacking just once and travelling with your floating hotel/resort to numerous exotic ports of call waiting to be explored.
   "Around the world, cruisers are pursuing favourite activities, enriching mind and spirit and living out ultimate fantasies while on a cruise," said Lanie Fagan of Cruise Lines International Association.
   Cruise lines are always looking to provide new experiences for the large number of cruisers who keep coming back for more and to capture the attention of those who have never cruised before.
   It used to be a typical shore excursion was a half-day city tour that was just enough to whet the appetite for more.
   While an excellent way to get a feel for the city or destination, today's most enticing excursions involve creative and unusual land programs.

Silversea voyages feature prestigious cooking school for a tasy treats at sea

News Release


(Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- June 15, 2011) Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises is pleased to announce to Canadians that four additional voyages this year will feature the exclusive "Relais & Châteaux L'École des Chefs" interactive cooking school.

"Our L'École des Chefs cooking school is proving extremely popular with guests and we're pleased to roll it out to more voyages this year," said Rudi Scholdis, Silversea's director of culinary development.

Cunard Line’s 2013 World Voyages aboard Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 announced

N E W S 
Queen Victoria offers World Voyage Options from New York, Ft. Lauderdale and
San Francisco

Queen Mary 2 to Circumnavigate New Zealand
21 June 2011 – Cunard Line is proud to announce the 2013 World Voyage programme once again offering a pinnacle luxury cruise vacation.  On 10 January 2013 Queen Victoria and flagship Queen Mary 2 will set sail from Southampton, England on epic voyages around the globe with the ships together visiting 55 unique ports of call in 28 countries.

The company offers itineraries calling on legendary ports, featuring overnights in Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dubai on Queen Victoria; and overnights in Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and a two-night overnight in Cape Town on Queen Mary 2.

Project Breakaway to incorporate best of the best of Norwegian’s fleet


MIAMI – June 21, 2011 – Norwegian Cruise Line (“Norwegian”) today unveiled the first look at its new balcony and mini-suite stateroom designs for Project Breakaway, the project name for the company’s two new next generation Freestyle Cruising ships scheduled for delivery in April 2013 and April 2014.  Each of the 144,017 gross ton vessels will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths.  Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer, presented the designs to more than 1,000 travel partners attending Vacation.com’s annual conference in Las Vegas.

This is your captain, Gavin MacLeod

Gavin MacLeod Pays Surprise Visit to LEGO “Love Boat” 
Princess Cruises Ambassador and Former “Love Boat” Captain Makes a Special Appearance
at Brickworld Convention

Gavin MacLeod and LEGO “Love Boat” builder Ryan McNaught at Brickworld in Chicago.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (June 22, 2011) – A remarkable 9.5-foot-long replica of the original “Love Boat” – Pacific Princess – constructed entirely of LEGOs not only attracted the attention of fans at the Brickworld convention in Chicago, it even attracted the famous television show’s captain, actor Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod, a Princess Cruises ambassador, paid a visit to the convention to surprise the LEGO "Love Boat" creator, Ryan McNaught.  One of the few master LEGO builders in the world, McNaught had no idea he would come face to face with the real "Love Boat" captain.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Holland America butts out smoking in rooms but OK still on balconies

(Holland America Cruises) Smoking policy change

Is Smoking Allowed On Board?

For the comfort of all of our guests, based on an increased desire expressed by the majority of our guests, we are changing our smoking policy as of January 15, 2012.

Presently, all indoor areas are designated non-smoking with the exception of:

Northern Lights Disco (ms Eurodam, ms Oosterdam, ms Noordam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Westerdam & ms Zuiderdam only)
Seaview Bar (except ms Maasdam, ms Ryndam & ms Statendam)
Sports Bar
Crow's Nest (except ms Eurodam, ms Oosterdam, ms Noordam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Westerdam & ms Zuiderdam)

All showrooms are nonsmoking during performances.
There are selected areas of the outside decks where smoking is allowable. Cigar and pipe smoking is only permitted on the outside decks.
Our ships do not currently have "nonsmoking" staterooms; however, all rooms are thoroughly cleaned after each cruise to assure the comfort of our guests

For all cruises departing on or after January 15, 2012

All staterooms will be non-smoking areas, in addition to the other areas that were already defined as non-smoking. Smoking will continue to be permitted outside on stateroom verandahs. There are designated areas available for smoking both inside the ships and on outside decks as detailed above.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Princess Cruises new smoking policy will prohibit smoking in cabins and on balconies

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (June 15, 2011) – Princess Cruises has announced that smoking will no longer be allowed in passenger staterooms or on balconies, effective on all sailings departing after 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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Carnival Pride offers fun, fun, fun in the sun cruising year-round, round-trips from Baltimore to Florida and the Bahamas

   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
   Fun, Fun, Fun.
   That sums up a cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore to Port Canaveral and the Bahamas.
   After all, Carnival's 22 vessels are known as the "Fun Ships" and a recent sailing proved this to be true.
   There was the fun of three days at sea on the fun-packed ship and more fun during a visit to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando while in port in Florida.
   Added to the fun factor was a day at Atlantis, the playground of the rich and famous during the stop in Nassau.
   That's not forgetting all the fun of the sun and sand, Bahamian shopping, swimming and close encounters with tropical flora and fauna, and eating, eating, eating.
   Our son Brent and wife Vilaylack sailed out of the convenient-to-reach Maryland port on the seven-night voyage and found that hot fun in the tropics' summertime isn't just a cold-weather pursuit.
   In fact, sailing to the Bahamas/Caribbean in the summertime is the "peak cruise" time, said Aly Bello-Cabreriza, Carnival's public relations manager.
   The 2,680-passenger Carnival Pride sails at capacity on its two itineraries offered year-round out of Baltimore.
   This trip was the Sunday departure at 5:30 p.m. followed by two "fun days" at sea and arriving Wednesday at 7 a.m. in Port Canaveral, Fla. It sails that night at 7 for Nassau, Bahamas, arriving Thursday at 11a.m. and departs at 10 p.m.
   The Pride then visits Freeport, Bahamas from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, followed by another sea day and arrival back in Baltimore on Sunday at 10 a.m.
   The other itinerary is seven nights to the Eastern Caribbean with calls at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport.
The Carnival Pride is shown at the pier in Freeport in the Bahamas where there is shopping nearby. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
   It was a quick embarkation after which they made the mandatory first trip to the "lido" buffet, known here as the Mermaid's Grille that becomes the casual Seaview Bistro at night.
   The ship has the full complement of wining and dining spots, including the extra-fee ($30 US) David's steakhouse where they took in a culinary demonstration, 24-hour pizzeria and the Normandie Restaurant, the main dining room.
   Opting for "anytime" dining, they were seated promptly and found the food and service to be excellent. As well as a multitude of options, there were different vegetarian choices each day and the crowd favourite, warm chocolate melting cake.
   After the ship squeezed under Baltimore's Key Bridge and they checked out their Empress (Deck 6) stateroom with private balcony and separate seating area, it was time to explore, starting with the immense eight-deck lobby atrium outside their room.
   The artistic, eclectic Renaissance/Art Deco decor includes copies of some of the great masters with many nudes on the ship that's a tropical destination in itself. It has pools and whirlpools, a twister waterslide and a sliding sky dome over the aft pool.
   They found the entertainment to be well performed and varied while the nightly crowd pleaser was "Jay" hosting the Starry Night karaoke party.


   Port Canaveral
   This port call allows passengers to visit the nearby Kennedy Space Center while many opt to take the shuttle to fun city - Orlando.
   That's where Brent and Vilaylack visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal (www.universalorlando.com).
Hogwarts Castle is the focal point of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
   The place was packed as this "highly anticipated entertainment experience" that was five years in the making recently opened and is based on the Harry Potter books and films.
   Visitors are swept into author J.K. Rowling's adventures and tour Hogwarts castle, shop in Hogsmeade and dine in the Three Broomsticks. They can fly with Harry, ride on a dragon, sample Butterbeer, eat exploding sweets and experience the magic and adventure.

The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas rises from the turquoise lagoons and the blue Atlantic. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
   Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas
   At Nassau, they took the water ferry to Atlantis on Paradise Island that rises from the turquoise lagoons and the blue Atlantic (www.atlantis.com).
   This was fun as the ocean-themed resort has water as its focal point and made for a great "beach day" on the massive sand playground.
   It's built around 20-million gallons (91-million litres) of fresh and salt-water pools, lagoons and cascading waterfalls that are teeming with marine habitat, said publicist Megan Marchesini.
   Aquaventure is a lushly landscaped water experience of rides and thrills while Dolphin Cay is where to learn about the marine creatures.
Commanding a nightly rental of $25,000 US, the Bridge Suite at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas is perched 17 stories high and connects the East and West wings of Royal Towers. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
   Atlantis has a variety of guest accommodations, 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, and the largest casino in the Bahamas.
The Carnival Pride is shown at the pier in Nassau in the Bahamas. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
   The seven-hour stop in Freeport allowed for some island shopping at the International Bazaar and the Port Lucaya Marketplace along with a last trip to the beach for sunning and swimming.


   This Maryland city turned out to be a pleasant place to visit before the cruise and with pier parking ($15 a night) and hotels is about half the price of New York or Boston.
   They stayed at historic and "haunted" Admiral Fell Inn (www.harbormagic.com) that offers a park-and-cruise package with transportation to and from the pier.
   For information on Baltimore, hotels, cruise packages and pier parking: www.cruisemaryland.com


   If you cruise:
   For information/reservations/prices: www.carnival.com; 1-800-CARNIVAL.

   Note: This feature article was first published in August, 2010

Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com

Azamara's Extended Voyages offer more captivating destinations, overnights, late stays and more value

(News Release)

Guests Enjoy Savings up to $400 per Voyage when Combining Multiple Voyages To Create Grand Adventures
MIAMI, May 24, 2011 – Azamara Club Cruises is known for offering up-market travelers more time in port to explore destinations and delivering extraordinary service and culturally enriching experiences. For travelers with even more time, Azamara Club Cruises’ Extended Voyages helps fulfill their wanderlust.

            Up-market travelers may seamlessly join two, three, four or more consecutive voyages into one incredible regionally immersive experience. With Azamara Quest or Azamara Journey sailing in the Far East, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, or South America, travelers simply need to pick a season before embarking on a voyage of a lifetime, ranging from 11 - to 78-nights without repeated ports of call.

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas begins her drydock in Victoria, B.C.‏

(News Release)

Victoria, British Colombia, Canada, May 23, 2011 – Royal Caribbean International’s Radiance of the Seas enters the Victoria Shipyards in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada, to start her 22-day dry dock.

The ship will receive a variety of enhancements including a Samba Grill, Giovanni’s Table, Park Café, Boardwalk Dog House, Izumi, as well as 15 new staterooms.

Celebrity Cruises' new Celebrity Silhouette makes first public appearance

MIAMI – June 1, 2011 – The sleek silhouette of Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Silhouette has emerged from Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where numerous area residents lined up to be among the first to see the fourth in Celebrity’s stylish, five-ship Solstice Class fleet.

Hurtigruten Immerses Guests in Norwegian History on 7-Day Voyage Exploring Route Forged by Celebrated Pioneer

(News Release)
Excursions and Lectures Illuminate Pioneer Culture as Guests Sail in the Wake of Famous Explorers
New York, NY, June 2011 – Hurtigruten invites guests to be immersed in Norwegian culture of old and present during the “Year of Nansen-Amundsen” with the seven-day Ice Breakers Voyage, carving the same path forged by the celebrated maritime pioneers.
As the 691-passenger MS Nordkapp wends her way along Norway’s fjord-filled west coast, travelers are privy to the expertise of Scandinavian historian Arne Kertelhein, whose lectures illuminate the history of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen, their incredible journeys and the diverse regions visited.  An array of optional excursions provide the opportunity to delve deeper into the rich history of each port, from an authentic Viking feast in the largest Viking building ever found to sightseeing among the wooden houses and colorful wharfs of charming Tromso, home to the Gothic-style Nidaros Cathedral.  Prices for the Oct. 14 voyage range from $1,550 to $2,949 per person, double.  Members of the 1893 Ambassador Club, a loyalty club for those who have sailed on Hurtigruten in the past three years, receive 10% savings as well as a range of complimentary onboard benefits.

Royal Caribbean kicks off summer of Pandamonium

(News Release)
“Kung Fu Panda 2” in 3-D Plays All Summer Aboard Royal Caribbean Ships
MIAMI, June 9, 2011 – In conjunction with the arrival of DreamWorks Animation’s 3-D feature film “Kung Fu Panda 2” in theaters, Royal Caribbean International is celebrating Pandamonium aboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas with a series of onboard red-carpet premieres.