Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Alaska Has Welcomed Its One Millionth Cruise Ship Visitor This Year

For the first time in seven years, Alaska welcomed its one millionth cruise ship visitor. Last Thursday, Wendy Yoisten from St Albert, Alberta, Canada with her husband John, arrived on Holland America Line’s ms Zaandam, which docked in Juneau. Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch, CLIA Alaska President John Binkley and a number of local officials and residents of Juneau surprised Mrs. Yoisten as she disembarked for the day. Native dancers greeted the couple and Mrs. Yoisten received a medallion, plaque and basket of gifts from Alaska businesses.

“We are so excited to welcome you to Alaska and our capital city of Juneau,” said Binkley. “Your arrival is a significant milestone. Reaching one million cruise visitors this year demonstrates the health and bright future in our industry.”

Governor Walker issued a proclamation for the occasion, declaring Sept 22, 2016, Alaska Cruise Ship Visitor Day. In his remarks, Lt. Gov. Mallott recognized the proclamation, which states that visitor spending generates more than $4 billion in economic activity, helping all regions of our state. He added that cruise ships bring approximately half of all visitors to Alaska. Mayor Koelsch read a proclamation highlighting Juneau’s position as Alaska’s most popular cruise ship port. Koelsch noted that visitor spending supports Juneau businesses, creates local jobs and accounts for 20 percent of sales taxes collected year-round.

The industry is expected to bring even more visitors next year as Alaska continues to increase capacity. Holland America Line recently announced that it would be adding a seventh ship to the Alaska market next year. Seabourn has also announced that it will be returning to Alaska in 2017 for the first time in 15 years. The last time Alaska saw more than 1,000,000 cruise visitors was 2009.

“Following years of amazing growth, Alaska took a big hit,” Binkley said. “We lost about 15 percent of our market. Many businesses suffered and statewide, Alaska lost more than 5,000 jobs.” Binkley added, “Alaska is now seeing the benefits of the improved tax and regulatory environment enacted in 2010.” Demand has also improved, following several years of significantly increased destination marketing. We have been able to build back our industry and all indications are that we will continue to grow. With our economic situation, the challenge now is to keep Alaska competitive with the rest of the world and to keep marketing programs robust”

Glacier Bay Image © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, September 26, 2016

Carnival Corp Creates Three Original TV Series

Saturday morning television isn't just for kiddie shows and cartoons any more. In a cruise industry first designed to expose non-cruisers to the experience of sea travel, Carnival Corporation has created three original TV programs that will air on major networks on Saturday mornings beginning October 1. This innovative communications approach builds on the company’s strategy to highlight why traveling by ocean to experience global destinations has become one of the best ways to see and learn about the world and other cultures.

Carnival Corporation’s three initial TV series will air on ABC, NBC, and The CW on Saturday mornings, reaching viewers during the large family-oriented programming blocks, established to educate and entertain families and people of all ages. With almost 80 original episodes that will rotate over a span of the next 12 months, the new experiential series will use compelling and authentic storytelling to share the powerful way travel by sea connects people, places and cultures around the world. The company also has produced a fourth series that is expected to air on a mid-week evening on cable in early 2017.

The company’s new experiential content is designed to engage viewers by showcasing exciting adventures, exotic cultures and popular global destinations. Ships from all 10 of the company’s cruise line brands—Carnival Cruise Line, Fathom, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises (Australia) and P&O Cruises (UK)—serve as the platform for engaging and emotional experiences, and each of the company’s brands will be featured in at least one of the episodes during the inaugural season.

New TV Shows Demonstrate Cruising’s Popularity in Unique Ways, including:
“Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” ABC—Airing Saturday mornings
“Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” will broadcast nationally as part of the sixth season of the Daytime Emmy-winning block Weekend Adventure, a three-hour programming block airing Saturday mornings on 98 percent of the country’s ABC affiliate channels. The show follows Emmy-winning host Jeff Corwin as he embarks on adventures in some of the world’s most exciting destinations, such as repelling down cliffs, flight-seeing to glacier landings, mountain climbing in a national park and zip lining through a rainforest.



“The Voyager with Josh Garcia” NBC—Airing Saturday mornings
“The Voyager with Josh Garcia” follows video journalist and world-traveler Josh Garcia as he goes off the beaten path in fascinating seaside ports to meet locals who share their rich history, life stories and exotic foods, and introduces viewers to the hidden beauty, cultural diversity and amazing flavors native to each destination. The program will air as part of NBC’s all-new, three-hour programming block that extends the network’s “The More You Know” brand with inspiring stories on NBC stations throughout the country.



“Vacation Creation” The CW—Airing Saturday mornings
“Vacation Creation,” featuring “In Living Color” star and comedian Tommy Davidson and YouTube celebrity Andrea Feczko as hosts (pictured above), goes beyond the typical travel show by personalizing vacations of a lifetime for couples, individuals, and families facing hardship, in need of hope or seeking much-needed time together. From bringing three generations of women together to visit Russia for the first time since their grandmother escaped a war to giving a father whose life was threatened by illness a trip to remember, the show follows Davidson and Feczko as they tell inspiring stories and surprise guests with a dream vacation. The series will air as part of The CW’s “One Magnificent Morning” Saturday morning block.
All three programs run for 30 minutes. “Ocean Treks” and “The Voyager” are scheduled to air at 9 a.m. local time and “Vacation Creation” at 10:30 a.m. local time. Exact air times are subject to change. Carnival Corporation’s original TV programming will be initially distributed across major broadcast and cable networks and extended to major digital Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms to maximize audience exposure. The three initial series are being distributed by Litton Entertainment.

Image Courtesy Vacation Creation

Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrity Solstice to Receive 8.5 Million-Dollar Makeover

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice will soon offer guests numerous new features as the ship undergoes a bold refresh scheduled for next month. The makeover includes Celebrity Cruises’ “A Taste of Film” experience under the stars, authentic Japanese cuisine at Sushi on Five, a reimagined Photo Gallery, among other exciting new additions. The enhancements will further enhance Celebrity Solstice and exemplify the Celebrity Distinction.

Celebrity Solstice already turns heads with her beautiful design, so these lavish enhancements will ensure our guests never want to leave,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “When discussions began about what we could do to further enhance the already stunning Solsticized ship, we couldn’t think of a better way to further delight guests than to offer the multi-sensory A Taste of Film experience, Sushi on Five, the savvy new Art Gallery, and all of the other glimmering finishes. We are offering a truly distinct experience.”

The revitalization, which is scheduled for late October 2016, will see various enhancements and additions implemented across the ship, including:
• A Taste of Film: Celebrity Solstice will be the first of the Solstice Class ships to offer the iconic gastronomic adventure, which pairs films that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination experience, with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests’ taste buds
o A large movie screen will be added to The Lawn Club where the unique culinary experience will be hosted
o Transformative alcove-style cabanas will line the real grass lawn for additional seating and relaxation space. Guests will be able to adjust the cabanas to their preferred view as the spaces evolve throughout the day
• Sushi on Five: Celebrity’s newest dining endeavor will be reimaged from what was once Bistro on Five and feature an expertly crafted à la carte menu. The new menu, curated by sushi chef Yoshikazu "Yoshi" Okada, offers hand-rolled sushi, fresh tableside grated wasabi, house-made soy sauce, Asian-inspired cocktails, Japanese beers and premium sakes, plus an array of starters and entrees
The revitalization of Celebrity Solstice will also see the following new distinct additions:
• Suites onboard will have various enhancements, including lavish new patio furniture being added to suite balconies
Celebrity Solstice’s Photo Gallery will receive a full makeover, removing the traditional panel display of printed photos:
o The new Photo Gallery will include 25 state-of-the-art touch screen kiosks where guests will be able to view their professional photos taken throughout their cruise vacation and purchase a variety of photo formats. This new service allows guests to download their purchased photos direct to their mobile device at any time during their cruise, and instantly share their cruise memories with friends and family back home via social networking, email or messaging.
o In addition, an expansive Art Gallery will emerge from the current Photo Gallery, featuring a dedicated auction location with contemporary art lining the freshly renovated space
Celebrity Solstice is scheduled to enter dry dock in Singapore on Oct 22 and will emerge on Oct 31, 2016. The revitalized ship will arrive just in time for the hotly anticipated transition into Australia’s summer season, featuring a series of impressive itineraries, including stops to the gorgeous green expanses of New Zealand, the exotic escape of Indonesia, and to sought-after ports of call across the continent of Australia.
Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Holland America Line Launches Partnership with America’s Test Kitchen

Already noted for their Culinary Arts Centers fleetwide, Holland America Line is turning its foodie programming up a notch with the introduction of dynamic shipboard cooking shows produced in partnership with the long-running public television show America’s Test Kitchen, the most popular how-to-cook show on TV. Holland America Line is a sponsor of America’s Test Kitchen on public television, and is proud to make this experience possible at sea.

Holland America Line’s shipboard Culinary Arts Center will be transformed to replicate the television set where the prominent America’s Test Kitchen TV shows are recorded for broadcast by more than 350 public television stations nationwide. Designed specifically for Holland America Line, the shipboard shows will be hosted by Holland America Line chefs trained by America’s Test Kitchen culinary experts. Shipboard cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops—with topics ranging from shaping Asian dumplings to making the perfect pie crust—will combine foolproof, accessible recipes and cooking techniques that are rooted in the rigorous testing and science-based approach of America’s Test Kitchen. In addition, Holland America Line guests will experience 24-hour access to episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country television programs in their staterooms.

“America's Test Kitchen will bring a new take on cooking classes at sea that spans not only recipes but also the science of the cooking process. Its mission is to determine the best methods, ingredients and cooking tools—and now these discoveries will be shared with our guests,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We provide our guests with tremendously immersive and authentic experiences to enrich their travel, and America’s Test Kitchen’s commitment to delivering a quality culinary experience with a focus on learning is a perfect match.”

The planned 45-minute demo courses will feature a mix of video content, live instruction, taste tests and recipe samples. Some of the courses in development include Asian Dumplings, Salad for Two, We Love Chocolate, Everything Salmon, Getting to Know Chiles, Flavors of the Mediterranean, Meatless Monday Meals and New Italian Favorites. Also planned are 90-minute workshops that focus on teaching a specific skill set. Proposed workshops include Perfect Pies and Handmade Pasta.

America’s Test Kitchen demo courses and workshops will begin aboard ms Westerdam October 18 for the ship’s Mexico season and on ms Nieuw Amsterdam November 13 for the Caribbean season. The program is expected to roll out fleetwide by June 2017.

Culinary Excellence Shines in Partnerships
America's Test Kitchen joins Holland America Line’s elite list of food and beverage collaborators who are the leading authorities in their fields. The esteemed Culinary Council is led by Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is joined by renowned international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner and Jacques Torres. The line also has exclusive partnerships with Sushi Chef Andy Matsuda and Master Mixologist Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cruise Travel: "Timing is Everything"

You've planned, prepared, and packed. All that's left to do is get to the pier—either from the airport or your pre-cruise hotel—and you're anxious to get your cruise vacation underway.

Timing
No one wants to "miss the boat" and, due to U.S. federal security regulations, cruise lines are required to submit certain passenger information to authorities at least one hour prior to every ship's departure. That means you must be at the pier and complete the check-in process well in advance of the scheduled sailing time. Holland America Line advises, "To meet this requirement, we must have the necessary information in our records at least 90 minutes before departure. If we do not have your information by this deadline, you will be unable to sail."

Happily, you can provide the required information by completing pre-boarding "paperwork" online for most cruise lines. However, that doesn't mean you should arrive at the pier hours in advance of the earliest published check-in time listed on your cruise documents. If you do, you may simply have to wait.

Many veteran cruisers will advise you to get to the port as early as you can. That might work, or maybe not. You could find yourself standing outside until the terminal is ready. Carnival Cruise Lines' documents state, "For your comfort and convenience, we strongly encourage you NOT to arrive at the cruise terminal more than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled check-in start time for your cruise. Due to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, early arriving guests may not be permitted to enter the cruise terminal upon arrival. Early arrivals may have a prolonged wait time in potentially warm or inclement weather conditions."

Arrival
When you fly to your embarkation port city on sailing day, your options are fairly limited by your flight arrival time—and I do suggest you book the earliest flight possible. Bear in mind, though, that when your flight touches down mid-morning and your cruise check-in time is noon or later, there may be no alternative other than to head for the pier. In reality, with a cruise line transfer you might have to wait at the airport for the bus to fill and, when arriving at the terminal, you may be held on the bus until porters are ready to unload the luggage compartment. Whether you take a bus transfer or taxi, you may get there before the cruise line is ready to begin processing arrivals. In some cases, porters may still be busy with departing passengers' luggage. It's no fun to mill around outside with other early arrivals, or get in a long line to enter the building, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

A better option is to arrive a day early and spend the night in a nearby hotel. Awaken refreshed and ready to go. But hold on a second! Don't get overly anxious or you'll end up in line with those early arrivals from the airport. Most hotels don't require you to check out before 11:00am and some don't pressure you to leave before noon. Better yet, ask for a late check-out and relax at the pool until later. Leave yourself enough time, but take a taxi or shuttle at your leisure and arrive at the port when things are less hectic. Depending on your ship's departure time, you'll find few lines in mid-afternoon and check-in will be a breeze. Plus, you'll be able to go straight to your stateroom once you're on board.

On Board
Does that mean you might not be able to go straight to your stateroom? And why not? Many cruise lines have adopted the policy that embarking passengers are not allowed into accommodations until a specific time, which allows stewards adequate time to complete their duties and insures your privacy as well as the security of your belongings. That means you may not be able to drop off carry-on bags in your cabin before proceeding to lunch. In the case of Holland America Line, cabins were accessible at 1:00pm on a recent sailing. By arriving early, you may be among the first to board the ship, but that might mean you have to tote your stuff around until the passageway doors are open to the accommodations decks. No matter how far you've schlepped them, by the time you embark, the items you carry on will begin feeling heavy and cumbersome. Thankfully, Holland America has a "bag check" area where you can leave your carry-ons until accommodations are ready for you, but many cruise lines do not offer this convenience.

By arriving at the published check-in time, or a bit later, staterooms are more likely to be available for immediate occupancy. Plus, stewards often line up to assist with carry-on luggage and show you the way to your cabin on certain premium and luxury cruise lines. It's a lot simpler to navigate the welcome aboard buffet unencumbered by a massive tote bag or rollaboard ... and the food won't run out, so there's no rush. Inquire beforehand and you may be pleased to discover that your ship offers a relaxed luncheon in the dining room.

Avoid any unpleasant surprises both at the cruise terminal and aboard the ship by reading your cruise documents carefully and completing your paperwork before leaving home. To smooth the way even further, use a passport.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Carnival Imagination Undergoes Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation

Carnival Cruise Line is known for adding popular features found on their newer vessels to other ships in the fleet and Carnival Imagination is the next one slated to undergo an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation that will add a variety of new food and beverage concepts popularized by fleetmates.

The new spaces will be added during a three-week dry dock taking place Sept. 4-25, 2016. Following the makeover, Carnival Imagination will resume its year-round schedule of 3- and 4-day Baja cruises from Long Beach, California. The new additions will include:
• Guy’s Burger Joint, a free-of-charge poolside venue serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries served amidst a décor that celebrates the California roots and love of car culture of Carnival’s partner-chef Guy Fieri
• BlueIguana Cantina, a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar
• RedFrog Rum Bar, a poolside watering hole offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red
• Alchemy Bar, a “cocktail pharmacy”-themed lounge where mixologists “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients with creative monikers like Forty is the New Twenty and The Restorative Basil Drop
• BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a fun and festive outdoor bar offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool
• Cherry On Top, the “sweetest spot on board” which celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel, and more.
These new venues complement the ship’s popular array of on-board features that live up to the line’s motto of “Fun for All, All for Fun,” including a WaterWorks aqua park with a 300-foot-long Twister slide (pictured above), the Serenity adults-only retreat with oversized umbrellas and comfortable chaise lounges, and the exclusive Seuss at Sea program in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Carnival Imagination provides a convenient, value-packed West Coast cruise option and with these new enhancements we’re making this fantastic ship even better,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “With three year-round cruise ships sailing from Long Beach, Carnival is the number one cruise line in Southern California and the investment we’re making to enhance the Carnival Imagination further bolsters our leadership position in this important market,” she added.

Carnival Imagination operates year-round 3- and 4-day Baja cruises from Long Beach. On this route, 3-day cruises depart Thursdays and visit Ensenada while 4-day voyages depart Sundays and call at Ensenada and Catalina Island. Carnival is the only cruise line to operate three ships year-round from the West Coast. In addition to Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration operates 3- and 4-day Baja cruises and Carnival Miracle offers week-long Mexican Riviera voyages. Together these three ships carry more than 550,000 guests from Long Beach, the most of any cruise operator.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, September 19, 2016

For 2017, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships

We've had a first look at author and cruise expert Douglas Ward's latest annual cruise travel guide, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 and we're happy to say we aren't disappointed.

Ward has spent over 6,070 days at sea, beginning when he worked for Cunard Line in 1965 aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, and has taken over 1,070 cruises and completed 158 transatlantic crossings. However, his sailings aren't the usual cruiser's experience. Cruise Diva has traveled on several voyages where Ward was busy at work and he seldom relaxes. His sharp eye catches nearly every detail, like accessibility for the disabled, the softness of towels and linens, the temperature of the buffet food, and even the proper height of toilets for comfort.

The Berlitz guidebook is divided into two main sections. The first combines Ward's authoritative text with some never before seen color photographs to illustrate the cruise experience and help readers make their decisions about what style of cruise, cruise line, and ship size is most appealing for them. Included is practical information from subjects such as booking and what things cost to safety and environmental concerns. The second section contains reviews of every major cruise ship, from the smallest yacht-like vessels to the world's largest, from ships for budget minded travelers to the most luxurious and expensive. Details include specifications on size, number of cabins, passengers, and crewmembers, as well as an overview of what features to expect on board. Finally, a Ship Ratings Index puts Ward's ratings at your fingertips for quick comparison. New in this edition are full-color images for each of the 295 ships reviewed.

In addition to revealing his favorite cruise experiences of the past 32 years, Ward shares impartial information that you just don't get anywhere else and compares the strengths and weaknesses of the minor cruise lines. There is also an expanded frequently-asked-questions section, information about themed sailings, a look at the industry's star performers and Ward's selection of the top five ships in eleven "Best in Class" categories, as well as a preview at new ships set to debut in 2017. Also included is an updated chart of World Cruises departing in 2017.

Widely known as "the cruise industry Bible" for its candid description of every ocean-going cruise vessel at sea, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2016 is available to order on Amazon.com (at that link) and there is even a Kindle edition.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Holland America Line Adds Seventh Ship to 2017 Alaska Season

Cruise demand in Europe is shrinking along with an increasing demand for Alaska summer cruises, so Holland America Line is redeploying ms Oosterdam from Europe to The Last Frontier for the 2017 summer season. The addition brings the number of Holland America Line ships to seven in the region, with Oosterdam joining ms Amsterdam, ms Eurodam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Noordam, ms Volendam, and ms Zaandam for a total of 135 Alaska departures, more than any other cruise line.

Seven is the lucky number in 2017, as the company will celebrate its 70th year exploring Alaska. New in 2017, Eurodam will replace ms Westerdam sailing from Seattle. The addition of another Signature Class ship means more new restaurants and venues will be available for guests to enjoy on Alaska sailings.

“Our award-winning Alaska cruises are at the heart of our global itineraries, and adding Oosterdam to the region in 2017 will allow even more guests to join in celebrating the exciting milestone of our 70th year in Alaska,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “As Seattle’s hometown cruise line, we’re thrilled to be sailing three ships from our local home port for the next Alaska season.”

Holland America Line will now offer 126 seven-day cruises and nine 14-day “Great Alaskan Explorer” sailings that begin in late April and run through late September. Highlights include 46 seven-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Nieuw Amsterdam, Volendam, Noordam and Zaandam. In addition, Noordam and Zaandam each will sail 18 one-way alternating north-south 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.

Oosterdam is slated to sail 21 seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle, Washington, from April through September. Eurodam will depart Seattle on 22 roundtrip 7-day cruises, while Amsterdam is scheduled to sail one 7-day itinerary from Seattle followed by nine 14-day Great Alaskan Explorer voyages. Oosterdam’s 7-day roundtrip Seattle itineraries will call at Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Guests on board will enjoy scenic cruising in Puget Sound upon departing Seattle, as well as in Stephens Passage and Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Every itinerary is highlighted by scenic cruising of Alaska’s Inside Passage and one or more of Alaska’s famous glaciers and fjords. Whether it’s from a private verandah or out on deck, guests are in for a memorable view of Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm and/or the twin Sawyer Glaciers.

Great Alaskan Explorer Cruises Offer Unique Alaska Ports of Call
Departing on nine Great Alaskan Explorer-branded sailings, Amsterdam sails this route that includes highlights such as calls at Anchorage, Icy Strait Point, Homer, Kodiak, and Hubbard Glacier.

Guests Departing from Seattle Have a Choice of Glaciers
All Seattle departures include calls at Sitka; Ketchikan; Juneau; and Victoria, B.C., and guests choose between either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier for their epic glacier experience. All Glacier Bay itineraries include park ranger and Huna native speaker presentations. This classic cruise maximizes the best of what Alaska has to offer and enables guests to enjoy some of the finest scenic cruising in the world. Voyages that include Glacier Bay are a Cruise Diva favorite.

Holland America Line Celebrates 70 Years as First in Alaska in 2017
In 2017 Holland America Line will celebrate 70 years of exploring Alaska. It all began in 1947 with a simple, spontaneous tour in Fairbanks and has grown into Holland America Line’s Alaska Land+Sea Journeys that the company features today. The anniversary will be marked with special celebrations throughout the year that will be announced at a later date.

Eurodam & Oosterdam Enhancements
Both Eurodam and Oosterdam recently have added Gallery Bar, a chic new venue that replaces Northern Lights; Lincoln Center Stage, in partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Billboard Onboard, in partnership with Billboard; and extensive new suite enhancements featuring new furniture, soft goods and entertainment systems as well as a full makeover in the bathrooms.

Glacier Bay Image © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MSC Cruises Announces Grand Opening of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Set For October 2018

One of the best-loved ports of call on many Caribbean cruises is a day spent at a cruise line’s private island. To satisfy their guests’ desire for that experience, MSC Cruises has previously unveiled ambitious plans to create an unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island in the Bahamas and has now announced that Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open in October 2018.

“As we sat out to finalize construction plans for this one-of-a-kind destination, we realized that to ensure the level of quality and attention to details in both infrastructure and services that our guests have rightfully come to expect from MSC Cruises, it was only appropriate to allot a longer time frame,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises. “In fact, while working on the final project, it was hard not to further enrich this unique beach destination with new and additional unique services for our guests. This naturally called for more time than originally planned. At the same time, I am also pleased to announce that works on the island have already started in earnest, as originally planned.”

The official ground breaking ceremony for Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will take place on October 6, 2016 in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, The Right Honourable Perry G. Christie, and other high dignitaries from the country’s government.

Working in collaboration with the Bahamian Government and ecologists, MSC Cruises is developing the cay from an industrial site into a flourishing marine reserve that will harmoniously co-exist with the local ecosystem. This is a complex project that will transform the local economy base from resource exploitation to resource conservation and provide a unique, authentic Bahamian experience exclusively for MSC Cruises guests. In connection with the expanded set of services that the island will now make available to its guests upon opening, additional works will include, amongst others, much-expanded quarters for the greater number of personnel that will work on the island to receive and serve MSC Cruises guests six days a week.

MSC Seaside and MSC Divina calls to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve—formerly scheduled between December 2017 and the new date of its grand opening to guests—will be substituted by calls to Nassau. Further details on these and other related itineraries will be communicated separately and in due course.

Image Courtesy MSC Cruises

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

American Queen Steamboat Company to Expand Fleet

With sailings on America’s waterways gaining in popularity, the American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the American Queen and American Empress, has announced the new American Duchess will join the U.S.-flagged fleet in June 2017. Construction begins soon on a recently purchased American-made hull that will become the third vessel of the Memphis-based company. The all-suite American Duchess will be the first purpose-built boutique paddlewheeler offering the river cruiser an intimate experience through America’s heartland. She will feature the largest suites on the river in every category, which will be fitted to the American Queen Steamboat Company’s highest standards.

The 166-guest American Duchess follows in the pedigree of the line’s namesake American Queen, sailing the mighty Mississippi and her tributaries. New for the line, the American Duchess will offer overnight stays in port including the heart of Nashville as well as shorter roundtrip itineraries from the “Music City” and New Orleans. For added convenience, guests can also enjoy departures from Chicago (Ottawa, Illinois) for the first time.

“The American Queen Steamboat Company has led the way in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising as thousands discover our heartland and the Pacific Northwest, served by an award-winning, All-American crew,” shares Ted Sykes, company president and COO. “Demand for more capacity on the Mississippi River has been overwhelming the past two seasons and we look forward to delivering a new boutique, all-suite experience and the flexibility of two riverboats sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul.”

The American Duchess will feature a generous space ratio showcased by three 550 sq. ft. Owner’s Suites, four 550 sq. ft. Loft Suites, a U.S. riverboat first; and spacious Veranda Suites and Interior Suites. The new vessel will be incorporating the highest standards of service, entertainment and shore excursions customers have come to expect from the American Queen Steamboat Company. Featuring open seating with two dining venues, The Grand Dining Room and The Grill Room will offer regionally inspired cuisine similar to that of the American Queen.

“In five short years, the American Queen Steamboat Company has grown to over 500 employees and we look forward to hiring about 100 more, right here in the U.S., in anticipation of the American Duchess inaugural season,” shared John Waggoner, the line’s chairman as well as president and CEO of HMS Global Maritime, operator of over 85 U.S.-flagged vessels. “I am proud of the economic impact we continue to have in leading U.S. river cruising, which can be seen in our homeport of Memphis and the many cities we visit including New Orleans and St. Louis.”