Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Holland America Line Breaks Ground on New Base Camp Complex in Alaska

Holland America Line’s McKinley Chalet Resort, which spans nearly 60 acres and currently features 478 rooms, fine and casual dining, an on-site dinner theater, on-site raft departures, and walking trails along the Nenana River, is about to get even better. Ground has been broken on a new “Base Camp” complex at the company’s resort near the entrance to Alaska’s Denali National Park. Expected to be complete for the 2016 Alaska cruise season, Base Camp is part of Holland America Line’s ongoing enhancement program at the property that also includes room updates, upgrades to soft goods and hotel decor, and additional modifications. The McKinley Chalet Resort provides accommodations for guests on Holland America Line’s Land+Sea Journeys that combine an Alaska cruise with an overland tour to Denali National Park and beyond. Base Camp will be centrally located between the main part of the property, containing the reception hall, dining facilities, and guest rooms, and the riverfront guest rooms that provide stunning views of the Nenana River.

Base Camp will serve as a new gathering area to relax, shop, dine, and enjoy music and entertainment. The largest building in the complex will be the grand 7,800-square-foot restaurant reaching two stories high to showcase views of the neighboring mountains for dining guests. Those wanting to quench their thirst or listen to live music can visit the Gold Nugget Saloon, home to the “Music of Denali Dinner Theater” that becomes a bar and music venue after the show. At the center of Base Camp is an amphitheater with a covered performance stage and a semicircle of bench seating for guests to enjoy a variety of local shows, ranger talks, and demonstrations. The new location also will feature cozy fire pits to gather around on cool Alaska evenings; outdoor seating for guests who wish to enjoy the scenery; three retail shops offering local goods; and an artist-in-residence cabin where Alaska native and local artists will display and discuss their works. Walking paths in and around Base Camp show off the property’s mountainous landscapes and beautiful setting nestled just across the Nenana River from Denali National Park.

“Our McKinley Chalet Resort is the premier destination hotel in Alaska, and the addition of Base Camp to this already-spectacular property will make the guest experience all the more memorable and enriching,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president.

Holland America Line’s Land+Sea Journeys combine the “must-see” of Denali National Park with the “seldom-seen” wonders of the Yukon, including one- or two-night stays in the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush country and up to three-night stays at Denali National Park. This year, the Land+Sea Journeys run May through September and offer 13 options, ranging in total length from 10 to 20 days in two distinct series: Yukon+Denali Land+Sea Journeys and Denali Land+Sea Journeys. Alaska Land+Sea Journeys combine a seven-night Holland America Line cruise with an overland adventure that includes a one-, two- or three-night stay at Denali National Park as a centerpiece of the Alaska experience. Each Land+Sea Journey also showcases places such as the gold rush town of Dawson City, charming Seward, historic Fairbanks, colorful Skagway and the historic narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Monday, June 29, 2015

Second Viking Ocean Cruises Ship Floats Out

Viking Ocean Cruises' second ship,the 930-passenger Viking Sea, has "floated out," marking a major construction milestone and the first time that the new ship touches water. A traditional ceremony to mark the occasion took place on June 25th, at Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard, little more than a month after the new ocean line christened its first ship, Viking Star, in Bergen, Norway. Viking Sea is set to launch in early 2016; the company's third ship on order, Viking Sky, is also currently under construction in Ancona and will debut in 2017.

"The day that a new ship first touches water is always a special day, and today is indeed a proud one for our Viking family," said Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises. "Having just celebrated the launch of our first ocean cruise ship, we are pleased at the positive reviews she is receiving from our guests and travel industry partners. We have no doubt that her sister ship, Viking Sea, will be met with the same reception upon her debut next spring."

In addition to the float out of Viking Sea, the company also announced that Karine Hagen, Viking's senior vice president of product and daughter of Torstein Hagen, will be godmother to Viking Sea and will officially "name" the ship during the christening ceremony in early 2016. Widely recognized as the face of the brand in Viking's television ads and online cultural enrichment videos, Karine is responsible for infusing the company's itineraries with extraordinary experiences. She is also the author of the children's books, "The World of Finse", an educational series that showcases the adventures of Karine's yellow Labrador, Finse, set largely along the global destinations and routes of Viking's cruise itineraries.

"Viking Sea is a magnificent ship, and I am very honored to be her godmother," Karine said at the ceremony. "It has been a great pleasure to meet so many of the Fincantieri Ancona shipyard staff today, and share the pride in their work."

A float out ceremony is significant because it denotes a ship moving into its final stage of construction. Viking Sea's float out began at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time, with the maritime tradition of welding coins under the ship mast. Karine welded Norwegian commemorative coins representing four generations of birth years in her family: 1911 (grandmother Ragnhild, after whom the onboard restaurant Mamsen's is named); 1943 (father Torstein, Viking's chairman); 1970 (Karine's own birth year) and 2012 (Karine's Labrador, Finse, who was also present at the ceremony). Karine then cut a cord to allow water to begin flowing into the ship's building dock. Following a two-day process that will set Viking Sea afloat, she will then be moved to a nearby outfitting dock for final construction and interior build-out.

Viking developed its ocean cruises by leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers, and with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, Viking Inclusive Cruising provides unparalleled value, with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry; access to the Thermal Suite in the LivNordic Spa; and 24-hour room service.

Viking Star, Viking Sea & Viking Sky
Viking's ocean ships are engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and disembarkation. Viking's ocean fleet features understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design. Highlights include:
-- All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. Veranda Stateroom, all with private verandas, king-size beds, large showers and LCD TVs.
-- Explorer Suites: The ships feature 14 Explorer Suites, which are two-room suites ranging from 757 to 1,163 sq. ft. that offer sweeping views from wraparound private verandas as well as the most amenities and privileges of any category onboard.
-- Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, the ships feature a glass-backed Infinity Pool off the stern, allowing guests to swim surrounded by their destination.
-- LivNordic Spa: In keeping with Viking's Nordic heritage, The Spa onboard is designed with the holistic qwewellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind, from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a Snow Grotto where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air.
-- Explorers' Lounge and Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers' Lounge at the bow is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service complete with a hand-selected teas.
-- Dining Choices: Viking's ships offer multiple restaurant locations and food choices, from The Restaurant and the World Café, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties and Mamsen's, which serves Norwegian deli-style fare, to intimate dining experiences at The Chef's Table, Manfredi's Italian Restaurant and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Furthermore, with multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking's ocean ships offer more al fresco dining than any other ships.
-- Enriching Entertainment: Connecting passengers to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where passengers can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Theater, home of enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn how to prepare local specialties; and Torshavn, a piano lounge where guests can relax, mingle, and exchange stories after a day of exploring.
-- Sustainable Features: Designed with the environment in mind, Viking's ocean ships feature energy-efficient hybrid engines, hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hulls and bows for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations.
As a response to strong demand for Viking's immersive itineraries, all three ships will sail popular routes in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

Image Courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises

Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrity Cruises Update from the Galapagos Islands

In close collaboration with the Galapagos National Park, Celebrity Xpedition guests guided by Celebrity’s naturalists have joined a reforestation project with the goal to plant thousands of Scalesia trees, an endemic tree that has lost much of its habitat in the Galapagos, adversely impacting wildlife that call the forest home. Guests onboard Celebrity Xpedition were recently part of the major Ecuadorian national effort.

Some fun facts about the effort:
• Led by the Ministry of Environment, in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park, the nation set out to break the world's reforestation record by encouraging thousands to plant more than 647,000 trees in one day.
• Celebrity guests and dedicated crew, already involved in Celebrity Xpedition's newly introduced, immersive Scalesia tree reforestation shore excursion project, were able to contribute to the country's major feat.
• The Celebrity Cruises Scalesia-saving project is the first-of-its-kind experience conducted by a cruise line in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park.
In addition, another group of Celebrity Xpedition vacationers also had "front-row seats" to the eruption of Volcán Wolf, off the northern end of Isabela Island.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Virgin Cruises Enters Miami

His ships are yet to be built, but Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, doesn't do anything in a small way and his entry into the cruise market was done in a typically splashy manner. Emerging through a cloud of iconic Virgin red smoke, Richard flew across Miami's Biscayne Bay via helicopter landing at Museum Park. Pictured here in Virgin red shorts and cap, he was joined by Virgin Cruises' President and CEO Tom McAlpin, to raise a Virgin Cruises flag to mark the cruise line's official arrival in Miami. The occasion was to announce that Virgin Cruises has selected PortMiami as the home port for its first cruise ship that will set sail in 2020. He also revealed Virgin Cruises has signed a binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri for three new mid-size ships.

"This is a very exciting day for Virgin and travelers around the globe," said Richard. "We now have the right partners in place to build a world-class cruise line that will redefine the cruising experience for good. The Virgin Cruises approach will appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike, and we look forward to being in Miami and delivering an experience for people who want a new way to cruise."

Virgin Cruises' three new mid-size ships, of about 110,000 gross tons each, are slated for delivery in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Each ship will feature 1,430 guest cabins to host more than 2,800 guests. There also will be 1,150 crew on board to deliver the famed Virgin customer service. Embarking from PortMiami, Virgin Cruises plans to offer a range of 7-day Caribbean itineraries, with a Sunday sail date.

Virgin Cruises' binding LOI with Fincantieri is the first part of a two-step process with both companies committed to signing a contract in Q4 of 2015. The PortMiami agreement will be presented to the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners for their consideration and approval on June 30, 2015.

"Virgin is a customer built brand that listens carefully to what customers want and then works hard to deliver for them. We are committed to making waves in the cruise industry, and partnering with Fincantieri and PortMiami sets Virgin Cruises up to do just that," said Tom. "Today's announcement brings together important ingredients in our future success—Miami's vibrant culture paired with the excellent Port infrastructure and Port team; and Fincantieri's expertise in prototyping, their creativity and understanding of our vision." Customers are invited to join the journey by visiting www.virgincruises.com to share their ideas on what the new cruise line can do to deliver an incredible experience at sea.

As we reported last year in Cruising "Like A Virgin" Takes On A New Meaning, Virgin Group announced the formation of Virgin Cruises in a venture with Bain Capital, one of the world's leading private investment firms, in December 2014. Virgin Cruises plans to offer its guests an outstanding experience matched with the famed Virgin service.

Image Courtesy of Virgin Group

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sharks Ahoy!

As part of the recently announced Discovery at Sea program, Princess Cruises is bringing guests closer than ever to the entertainment phenomenon of Shark Week with premiere television content, onboard parties, trivia games, giveaways, and even shark-themed culinary bites and beverages. Shark Week at Sea will challenge adults and kids alike with activities designed to surprise, amuse, educate and create an appreciation for these tremendously misunderstood denizens of the deep.

“We know how wildly popular Shark Week is worldwide and we’re excited to bring even more fun, education and entertainment to our guests,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “Through our Discovery at Sea partnership, we offer our guests exclusive themed activities and TV content we know they will enjoy.”

Princess guests fleetwide can enjoy Shark Week year round with the following onboard activities:
Fish Stories About Sharks: Guests will learn amazing and interesting facts about sharks through a quiz-style participative activity, hosted by the Cruise Staff. The theme will be fun and humor separating truth from “fish tales.”
Swim with the Sharks: An interactive competition will have guests taking part in various fun, active and hilarious challenges. At the end of five rounds the contestant or team who has won the most challenges ultimately wins the game.
Guess the Number of Shark Teeth in the Jar: A strategically located jar filled with “faux” shark teeth along with entry slips allow guests to participate anytime during the cruise for a chance to guesstimate the correct number.
Premiere TV Content: Before Shark Week airs, July 5-12 on Discovery Channel, Princess guests will get a sneak peek at select trailers and promotional spots, as well as a first look at “Ninja Sharks,” a new special exploring six sharks with unique adaptations that have evolved over millions of years making them the most lethal of their kind.
Additionally, each year Princess Cruises will offer select cruises with enhanced Shark Week experiences, giveaway items and culinary bites and beverages. To kick off Shark Week at Sea in 2015, guests aboard four voyages—Golden Princess departing San Francisco on June 21 and July 1 and Ruby Princess departing Seattle on June 28 and July 5—will not only enjoy the sights of their Alaska cruise and the Discovery at Sea activities, they will also be treated to the following limited-time only Shark Week offerings:
Décor & Giveaways: One elevator on each ship will be wrapped to appear as though guests are inside a shark cage and public restrooms will feature themed mirror decals. Families traveling with kids 3-12 years old will receive a rubber shark toy at turndown and special prizes for Shark Week activities including shark fin hats. Kids will also be treated to special shark-themed activities including crafts, t-shirt decorating, temporary tattoos and face painting.
Shark Week Premiere Party: Each cruise ship will host premiere parties to live stream Shark Week content and roll out the blue carpet, complete with a Shark Week themed backdrop for photos. Guests will also enjoy themed table top decals, trivia games and giveaways.
Bites & Beverages: Shark cakes created by Princess pastry chefs, as well as ice and fruit carvings will be on display in the atrium for guests to enjoy. Shark cookies will also be offered in the International Café and during daily Atrium milk and cookie hour, as well as specialty shark-themed cocktails and custom drink koozies.
Entertainment: Even onboard comedians will keep guests in stitches with shark-themed humor, while casino lovers can test their luck at blackjack and craps tables wrapped with shark-themed images. Costumed sharks will make appearances around the ship and special photo borders and green screens will be available for the ultimate photo opportunities and selfies.
The Discovery at Sea partnership, which debuted in 2015, creates new memorable vacation experiences for the whole family. From Stargazing to activities featuring Discovery hit shows such as MythBusters, Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush to immersive Discovery and Animal Planet shore excursions, Princess guests will come back with a story to tell.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Silversea Introduces Free Wi-Fi For All Guests

Starting the new year with a bang, on voyages that depart in 2016, Silversea guests will enjoy the most comprehensive Wi-Fi package ever offered by a luxury cruise line: free Wi-Fi to all guests, throughout the ship, including all suites and public spaces, on all cruises, including expedition cruises.

"For well over 20 years, Silversea has set the course in defining the all-inclusive, ultra-luxury cruise experience. By offering truly free Wi-Fi to all guests regardless of the suite reserved, Silversea is once again setting the standard for all-inclusive luxury," said Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president of sales and general manager for the Americas. "Because we know how important it is for travelers to stay informed and connected, we're delighted to enhance the all-inclusive Silversea experience with this new benefit."

Silversea's offer is unprecedented in the luxury segment of the cruise industry. Every guest will enjoy at least one hour of free Wi-Fi per day. Unlimited free Wi-Fi will be available to guests sailing in the Owner's, Grand, Royal, Silver, and Medallion suites on the line's ocean ships, and as follows for expedition ships:
Silver Explorer: Owner's, Grand, Silver, Medallion, and Expedition suites
Silver Galapagos: Silver, Deluxe Veranda, and Veranda suites
Silver Discoverer: Medallion, Veranda, and Vista suites
Silversea's all-suite ships feature stem-to-stern Wi-Fi, in port and at sea, enabling guests to conveniently access the Internet on their personal devices in public spaces and suites, or on the computers in the Internet cafés available on all ocean ships and the Silver Explorer.

The 2016 free Wi-Fi service will join an array of included amenities that already features: open-seating gourmet dining; butler service for all suites; Champagne, select wines, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining and 24-hour dining service (from a formal dinner ordered from The Restaurant menu and served in-suite, to lighter fare served in attended lounges); lecture and enrichment programs; roundtrip transportation into town (in most ports); and onboard gratuities (exclusive of spa treatments).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Princess Sets Sail on Seahawk Fan Cruise with Ultimate Sailgate Party

Princess Cruises, the Official Cruise Line of the Seattle Seahawks, kicked off the “Sail with the 12s” Seahawks Fan Cruise on Saturday, June 20th with a spirited onboard rally featuring Seahawks Wide Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, the high energy Blue Thunder drumline, Sea Gals, and mascots Blitz and Boom. Attended by hundreds of fans, the rally featured a special “Spirit of the 12s” flag-raising ceremony by local military veteran John Kaiser.

The 7-night Alaska cruise, sailing over Father’s Day, departed Seattle aboard Crown Princess and offered fans the exclusive opportunity to meet with current players and alumni, including:
• Former Safety Jordan Babineaux (2004-2010)
• Former Guard Edwin Bailey (1981-1991)
• Tackle Justin Britt (2014-present)
• Tight End Cooper Helfet, (2012-present)
• Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon (1997-1998) and current commentator for Seahawks Radio
• Defensive End Gregg Scruggs (2012-present)
• Ring of Honor Quarterback Jim Zorn (1976-1984)
Fans will hear them talk about off-season moves, the 2015 game schedule and their favorite memories as Seahawks during Q&A sessions, meet-and-greet autograph signings and photo opportunities.

The cruise to Alaska will feature spectacular glaciers, abundant wildlife and the area’s incredible natural beauty with stops in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C., with scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord. On board, guests will also enjoy the line’s new North to Alaska! program, created in partnership with local experts and featuring a variety of authentic Alaska culinary, educational and entertainment experiences designed to delve deeper into the fascinating frontier guests are exploring around them.

The fan cruise builds on the partnership Princess Cruises and the Seattle Seahawks established last fall, offering fans special cruise deals on Princess cruise vacations and opportunities to win a cruise. Princess Cruises also shows NFL games on its giant “Movies Under the Stars” poolside LED screen and throws tailgate parties at sea on Caribbean cruises and West Coast cruises, allowing football fans to catch the action-packed season during their cruise vacations.

About U.S. Army Veteran John Kaiser (Spirit of the 12s Flag Raiser):
John Kaiser joined the U.S. Army in 1997 and served 10 ½ years on active duty as an infantryman. He was deployed on two tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2006. On October 16, 2006, an enemy mortar round landed in front of Kaiser’s Stryker inflicting severe damage including the loss of his right eye, a shattered cheek bone, temple, multiple skull fractures, broken jaw and gunshot wound to the right shoulder. After multiple reconstructive surgeries, Staff Sergeant Kaiser was medically retired. Kaiser was honored for his brave service with a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Infantry Badge, and Jump wings.

He now volunteers with Northwest Battle Buddies, an organization that provides service dogs to veterans struggling with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury. The organization trained his chocolate lab, Ruger. Kaiser was born and raised in Washington state and is a Seahawks fanatic, flying a 12s flag year round under the American flag in his front yard. Princess Cruises is hosting John, his family, and service dog Ruger on the Seahawks Fan Cruise to thank him for his service.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Friday, June 19, 2015

Building the Carnival Vista

Carnival Cruise Line is taking a fun and engaging approach to showcase the construction of its newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Vista, creating a series of monthly behind-the-scenes videos shot at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, where the 3,954-passenger vessel is being built. Host Peter Gonzalez, who has traveled to 30 countries to create videos showcasing the “Fun Ship” fleet, takes viewers on his 5,132-mile journey from Miami to Monfalcone, Italy, to document Carnival Vista’s 26-month construction.

In the first video (below), “Birds’ Eye View,” Gonzalez dons a hard hat and ventures high above the Fincantieri shipyard to demonstrate the incredible size of Carnival Vista while highlighting the painstaking process for cutting and assembling the 150,000 tons of steel needed to build the massive 1,055-foot-long vessel, the largest in the Carnival fleet. Gonzalez visits Fincantieri’s fabrication bunker where he follows workers as they cut, with expert precision, six-ton steel panels that are conjoined into 1,000-ton sections positioned via crane to form Carnival Vista’s superstructure.

Once the exterior build-out is completed, workers will begin installing innovations such as SkyRide, a one-of-a-kind suspended cycling experience, a new 455-foot-long tube slide called Kaleid-o-Slide, and more. Future segments in the series include preparations, both on board and ashore, to create the line’s first on-board brewery, a below-deck look at the ship’s technical spaces, and the logistics of installing the three-deck-high IMAX Theater, the first on a cruise ship.

Carnival Vista is scheduled to enter service from Europe May 1, 2016, then reposition to New York for a series of voyages in November 2016 followed by the launch of year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Holland America Line to the Rescue

Last Wednesday, June 10th, Holland America Line’s ms Noordam assisted 41 persons on a disabled sightseeing boat in the vicinity of Jaw Point at Glacier Bay, Alaska. Responding to a call for aid at approximately 12:35 p.m. local time Noordam assisted the 79-foot sightseeing vessel Baranof Wind, which was experiencing mechanical troubles near Johns Hopkins Glacier.

The ship lowered a tender, which collected 40 tourists and one Glacier Bay National Park ranger and returned to Noordam.

“We are proud of the proficient response Captain van Donselaar and his team executed in assisting the passengers of Baranof Wind,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Our crewmembers are highly trained to respond when needed and we were fortunate to have been nearby to provide support.”

Following lunch onboard Noordam, the sightseers were brought to Bartlett Cove, where the Baranof Wind excursion originated, at approximately 5:30 p.m. local time. Noordam, in the middle of a 7-day Alaska cruise that sailed roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, June 6th, then sailed for its next port of call, Ketchikan, Alaska, where it arrived on Thursday, June 11.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Meyer Werft to Build Four Next-Generation Cruise Ships for Carnival Corporation

Carnival Corporation has announced it has signed a multi-billion dollar contract to build four next-generation cruise ships with the world's largest guest capacity. The contract is part of larger previously announced strategic memo of understanding with shipbuilders Meyer Werft and Fincantieri for nine new ship orders between 2019 and 2022. The four ships constructed by Meyer Werft will feature a "green cruising" design and will be the first in the cruise industry to be powered at sea by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the world's cleanest burning fossil fuel, which represents a major environmental breakthrough.

The company said two of the ships will be manufactured for AIDA Cruises at Meyer Werft's shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Additional information about the ships, including which new ships will be added to each brand, will be made available at a later date.

Based on Carnival Corporation's innovative new ship design, each of the four next-generation ships will have a total capacity of 6,600 guests, feature more than 5,000 lower berths, exceed 180,000 gross tons and incorporate an extensive number of guest-friendly features. A major part of the innovative design involves making much more efficient use of the ship's spaces, creating an enhanced onboard experience for guests.

Pioneering a new era in the use of sustainable fuels, the four new ships will be the first in the cruise industry to use LNG in dual-powered hybrid engines to power the ship both in port and on the open sea. LNG will be stored onboard and used to generate 100 percent power at sea, producing another industry-first innovation for Carnival Corporation and its brands. Using LNG to power the ships in port and at sea will eliminate emissions of soot particles and sulfur oxides.

In addition to the two ships being built in Germany, Meyer Werft will build the two additional ships detailed in today's announcement at its shipyard in Turku, Finland. Each new ship will be specifically designed and developed for the brand and the guests it will serve, underscoring the company's goal to consistently exceed guest expectations and provide first-time and repeat guests with the vacation experience of a lifetime on each and every cruise.

Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said the contract is consistent with the company's measured capacity growth strategy to replace ships with less efficient capacity with newer, larger and more fuel efficient vessels over time. "These are exceptionally efficient ships with incredible cabins and public spaces featuring a design inspired by Micky Arison and Michael Thamm and developed by our new build teams." Arison is chairman of the board of directors for Carnival Corporation and Thamm is CEO of the Costa Group, which includes AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises.

"These ships will expand our leadership position for the Costa Group, the market leader in all the major European markets," said Thamm. "These will be spectacular ships designed specifically for our guests who sail on our Costa Group brands."

The new ship order will allow the Costa Group to continue to build on its leadership position in the European cruise market; a market in which five out of 10 cruise guests in 2014 sailed aboard a Costa Group ship. The Costa Group, along with Princess Cruise Lines, also part of the Carnival Corporation family, also occupies the leading position in the rapidly growing cruise market in China.

Of note is that, while still really, really big, the new vessels for Carnival Corporation brands will simply carry more passengers than any other cruise ships and will not be the world's largest—Royal Caribbean will retain those bragging rights.

Image: AIDA Cruises

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cunard Celebrates World Gin Day

Last Saturday gin lovers around the world celebrated World Gin Day and Cunard Line marked the occasion by unveiling a brand new gin-based cocktail inspired by the company’s iconic Transatlantic Crossing. The new cocktail will feature Liverpool Gin, as the acclaimed, premium organic spirit makes its debut on board Cunard’s fleet of three Queens, flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth.

Devised by award winning Liverpudlian bartender, Joe Wild (pictured here), the new cocktail “A Transatlantic Love Affair” takes inspiration from Cunard's spiritual home, Liverpool and the role the company has always played in connecting both sides of the Atlantic, a role that Cunard proudly continues today, offering the only scheduled Transatlantic Crossing on Queen Mary 2. Wild, the 27-year-old who works at one of Liverpool’s most exclusive bars, 81 LTD, explained his inspiration behind his choice of ingredients and his delight at being chosen to create this special cocktail during Cunard’s 175th anniversary year.

“As soon as I was asked I knew immediately that Cunard, and Liverpool’s rich history would dictate the ingredients for this very special cocktail. From the lime, inspired by Lime Street Station in Liverpool, to the Bourbon mist, which perfumes the drink so guests can literally smell America on the horizon. Being able to use locally sourced ingredient like Liverpool Gin, simply consolidates the flavors and creates a truly unmistakable drink that guests will be able to enjoy during this very special year and beyond. In short, it’s absolutely delicious!”

Liverpool Gin is a premium organic product made from scratch using only pure certified organic botanicals, producing a highly distinctive, aromatic drink. As well as a key ingredient in the anniversary cocktail, the spirit will also be available to enjoy in its own right on board the Cunard fleet. On Saturday, July 4th, Liverpool will once again provide the perfect backdrop for Cunard celebrations as Queen Mary 2 will set sail for New York from the banks of the Mersey, re-enacting the very first ever Transatlantic Crossing as guests enjoy the new premium cocktail.

“As we continue to celebrate this milestone anniversary, we seek new ways to enhance our guest experience," said Richard Meadows, president, Cunard North America. “We are very excited about this truly special cocktail, and the special meaning it holds.”

Guests travelling with Cunard will be able to enjoy their very own Transatlantic Love Affair cocktail and Liverpool Gin in the impressive observational cocktail bar, the Commodore Club. This unique venue on board each Cunard Queen offers spectacular panoramic forward views and a sophisticated ambiance as guests gather to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails, canapés, and live piano music every evening. The Transatlantic Love Affair will be available on board Queen Mary 2 from Saturday July 4, on board Queen Elizabeth on July 14, and Queen Victoria from July 19.

Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, June 15, 2015

No More Cruises To Nowhere

The U.S. government is at it again and they don't seem to want us to have any fun or relaxation. First there is the Passenger Services Act (often mistakenly referred to as the Jones Act), which requires that itineraries that begin in one U.S. port and end in another must call at at international port, and now the folks in Washington DC have dug up a regulation that restricts cruise lines from sailing their popular cruises to nowhere.

Say goodbye to those short voyages that sail out to international waters and return without calling on any international ports. Due to the type of visas carried by foreign crew members, foreign-flagged ships sailing from U.S. ports will be required to call on at least one foreign port before returning to the U.S. starting in 2016. Apparently, in government-speak, bureaucrats don't consider cruises to nowhere to actually "depart" the U.S. because they don't call at an International port.

So far, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line have cancelled cruises to nowhere that were on their schedules for 2016 and beyond. If you want to sail on a short getaway from a port near home, you only have six more months to do so.

It's silly, but no sillier than defining what "is" is. That's our government at work. To us, it's a departure from reality.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, June 12, 2015

Carnival Says, "No More Bottles"

We've all probably been invited to a BYOB gathering as some point in our lives. It's Bring Your Own Bottle to a get together with friends where your hosts may provide mixers and guests bring liquor. Years ago it was possible to bring your own liquor on cruise ships. The only caveat was that you not make mixed drinks to consume in public areas. All that has changed over time, but some passengers have made a game of "smuggling" liquor on board. Most cruise lines allow each passenger to bring a bottle of wine or champagne in their carry on upon embarkation and reasonable amounts of soft drinks and bottled water are often allowed, but there is still the art of "smuggling" liquor by some who aren't satisfied by the low fares we currently enjoy.

Carnival Cruise Line has revised their policy of what can be carried on and, while you can still bring on a bottle of wine or champagne per guest upon embarkation, if you want to bring soft drinks they must be in cans. The line no longer allows bottles, even bottles of water. It's a "gotcha" because many passengers were using water bottles to bring on clear alcohol (gin and vodka) and other spirits in colored soft drink bottles. Carnival says that practice has slowed down lines at security as bottles were checked for contraband alcohol. We won't even get into the other sneaky ways personal spirits are spirited on board, but we're somewhat insulted that Carnival considers bottles to be a safety issue. Sure, some passengers might get drunk and rowdy by consuming illicit alcohol, but they could also do that by purchasing buckets of beer at the pool.

According to our friends at Cruise News Daily, passengers "may hand-carry (not in checked luggage) 12 cans or cartons (12 ounces or less) of sparkling water, soda, juice, or milk per person. (Certain exceptions are made for medical needs.) As always no alcoholic beverages may be brought aboard, except for a 750-ml unopened bottle of wine or champagne (per adult). To ease the pain, Carnival has reduced the price on a 12-pack (500 ml) of bottled water to $2.99 plus tax if ordered in advance, which is near grocery store prices, and probably is worth any extra for not having to carry it. Once onboard, the price is $4.99 plus gratuity. Carnival says the rule change is not expected to produce a significant amount of revenue since the water is being sold at a discounted price. It's all about control of alcohol, and most of the "illegal" alcohol comes aboard disguised as bottled water."

Folks, if you can't afford a few dollars for the convenience of buying your bottled water from the cruise line you should probably stay home.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Picnicing, Celebrity-Style

How do you kick off summer in the park? By playing off the fact that it has half-acre lawns of real, growing grass on the top decks of its Solstice Class cruise ships, Celebrity Cruises surprised several unsuspecting people in New York City, Chicago, and the Bay Area, with a luxury trip of a lifetime when hundreds of butlers surprised park-goers across the nation. Each butler presented a packed, complimentary, luxe picnic basket to lucky recipients, and several excited park-goers also received tickets for a Celebrity cruise. The premium cruise line launched the stunt to kick off the summer season as part of its "Grass is Greener" campaign, which began on Monday and highlights the ways in which Celebrity's premium cruises are unmatched.

Anyone who missed the action in these cities can enter for a chance to win one of five, 7-night Celebrity cruises for two to the Caribbean by visiting celebritycruises.com/sweeps through June 13, 2015.

Celebrity Cruises is the cruise brand that made vacationers and the travel industry rethink the impossible, when it introduced a half-acre of real grass to the top deck of its Solstice Class ships. Guests can sink their toes in and experience the great outdoors with jazz concerts at sea, gourmet picnics on the lawn or on their private veranda, and much more, when sailing on Celebrity's ships. Summer is the perfect time to explore Europe or Alaska, or set sail for Bermuda.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

fathom™ this new cruise concept

Carnival Corporation has launched a new brand called fathom™ (that’s not a typo, it’s spelled with a small f), defining a new travel category. Called “social impact travel,” it will offer consumers authentic, meaningful impact travel experiences to work alongside locals as they tackle community needs. What sets fathom apart is the long-term, systematic partnership approach with its partner countries paired with the unique business model that allows for sustained impact and lasting development. fathom’s scale and global vision reach beyond what the world has ever seen. The company’s first destination will be the Dominican Republic, a country known for its spectacular beauty but also a country where the average household income is approximately $6,000 USD a year and more than two million Dominicans do not have access to piped water.

fathom will operate as a stand alone brand, the 10th global brand in the Carnival Corporation family. Beginning in April 2016, fathom will embark on 7-day voyages from PortMiami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel. Originally built by the defunct Renaissance Cruise, the ship is being redeployed from Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises (UK) for the start-up of the new operation. Depending on their passions, interests and skills, travelers will have the opportunity to choose from a range of social impact activities and experiences both onboard and onshore.

Travel That Creates Social Impact
“fathom will cater to a growing market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and aren’t always sure where to begin,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We believe travel is a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world. We are so pleased that fathom will give travelers a unique opportunity to work alongside local people as part of a larger scale effort that will demonstrably improve lives. Both our travelers and the local citizens will learn and benefit from the opportunity to serve together.”

Based on extensive market research, fathom has identified a sizable and growing market of potential social impact travel consumers, approximately one million North Americans who are strongly predisposed, in addition to global travelers already pursuing service-oriented travel experiences worldwide, who will be interested in this type of travel offering. In addition, the company believes fathom will attract a significant number of travelers who have never before cruised. According to research, nearly 40 percent of the individuals who will book a social impact trip on fathom might otherwise never have chosen to cruise.

The company expects to be particularly popular among:
Millennials: people in their 20s and 30s looking to make a difference in the world;
Parents: seeking a way to open their children’s eyes to other parts of the world in a meaningful way (approximately half of travelers are expected to be families); and
Adults 50+ years of age: eager to find rewarding ways to help other people apart from writing a check.
Dominican Republic is fathom’s First Partner Destination
The new brand selected the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic as its first impact destination based on a number of factors: genuine needs, infrastructure to support social initiatives, enthusiasm for the fathom concept by locals at all layers of society including country officials, its location (proximity to Miami and Amber Cove, the new Dominican destination being launched by Carnival Corporation in October 2015), its innate beauty. The fathom team worked closely with local Dominicans, resident Dominican business and educational leaders, Dominican government officials and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country to fully understand the societal needs and determine the best way for fathom to participate in addressing those needs.

A portion of every ticket purchase price* will go directly to fathom partner organizations to cover on-the-ground activities in the Dominican Republic, including supplies, travel, personnel to assist with the activities, and funding to support the partner organizations’ overall missions. This sustained partnership between fathom and its impact partners allows these organizations to have predictable revenue streams to even further amplify their missions.

The fathom journey is a carefully designed, holistic impact journey and will begin with one to two days at sea preparing hearts and minds for the on-the-ground experience, including a wide variety of fun and engaging impact-readiness experiences, ranging from an orientation to the Dominican Republic, conversational Spanish lessons, impact activity training, creative workshops, personal enrichment and much more. fathom travelers may build their own schedules and will have the flexibility each day to choose from a variety of social impact and recreational activities. At launch, the company will offer a selection of fun, immersive, and meaningful activities focused on education, the environment, and economic development along with all the incredible experiences the Puerto Plata region innately has to offer.

Impact activities will vary in length from a few hours to multiple days. Depending on their passions and skills, travelers may spend up to three days on causes they care about, working alongside locals and fathom partner organizations on one or more projects suitable for a wide range of ages, levels of skill and amounts of physical activity. Sample activities may include:
Economic Development: Help cultivate cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery and assist a local women’s cooperative in producing artisan chocolates. This activity is designed to produce high-quality plants to increase farmers’ yields through sustainable practices and, importantly, create income opportunities for rural women.
Educational: Work side by side with Dominican school teachers to teach English skills and help boost students’ academic performance; and participate in adult-learning programs to teach small groups of local community members conversational English to help improve their ability to qualify for jobs that provide a higher level of income.
Environmental: Provide hands-on support to craft and build water filters using clay, a natural resource found locally, and deliver those filters to families throughout the community to provide healthy drinking water. With limited piped water supply, this will make a meaningful difference in the quality of people’s lives throughout the region.
When not participating in social impact activities, travelers will enjoy exploring the beauty of the region, experiencing the many Dominican beaches and sites of interest, or participating in any one of an array of different recreational activities available to the entire family of Carnival Corporation brands visiting Amber Cove and the Puerto Plata region. The onboard experience will be customized to this unique travel market, including specialized, purposeful retail options and amenities, as well as geographically inspired menus, music, and additional onboard cultural immersion. While docked in the Dominican Republic, the fathom ship will serve as a comfortable, convenient home-base for travelers. Additional information can be found at fathom.org.

We applaud Carnival Corporation for their philanthropy, but wonder if this is the first step to position one of their ships for people-to-people style journeys when the US government opens travel to Cuba from American ports in the future. Time will tell.
* This “voluntourism” or short missionary trip at sea isn’t inexpensive. The base price for two in an outside stateroom is a whopping $3,640.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pan-Asian Restaurant to Debut On Seven Seas Explorer

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has revealed that a new Pan-Asian specialty restaurant, Pacific Rim, will join an array of dining options aboard the Seven Seas Explorer. As the third specialty restaurant revealed for the new ship, Pacific Rim will feature a diverse array of Pan-Asian dishes to be savored in an elegantly appointed dining room for an enjoyable culinary experience.

“We are setting new luxury standards across the board with Seven Seas Explorer, and with our sights set on building the most luxurious ship ever, we had to create an unrivaled collection of specialty restaurants for our guests,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “The elegant Asian architectural elements found in Pacific Rim perfectly complement an exquisite menu, for a gourmet dining experience that brings to life the rich culinary traditions of Asia unlike any other at sea.”

Explore the Flavors of Asia while at Sea
The architectural and interior design for Pacific Rim is a perfect example of Asian fusion. The design takes inspirational cues from a variety of Asian cultures and melds them harmoniously together into a singular concept ideal for the restaurant’s Pan-Asian fare.

A modern interpretation of a Tibetan prayer wheel in the restaurant lobby sets the mood for the visual and culinary feast to come. The large cylindrical sculpture spans from floor to ceiling with decorative panels embossed with wishes for good fortune. The prayer wheel gives way to a dramatic entry flanked by doors reminiscent of an Asian temple. Upon entering the dining room, a rich dark color palette dominates the scene with black midcentury metal and wood tables surrounded by banquette seating upholstered in leather. A fashionable sideboard topped with a richly veined marble surface backs each banquette and adds to the overall ambiance of the room. Each seating alcove features an ornate brass lamp with a decorative brown and white chinoiserie toile fabric shade to provide soft lighting throughout the restaurant.

Wall coverings, such as slightly iridescent crystalline matrix stones and Thai wood carvings, add texture and tactile warmth throughout the space. Interior floors are dark wood surrounded by muted carpet. Along the ceiling, brushed brass cubes with an antiqued patina form a latticework design that simultaneously reflects and diffuses light cast by interspersed recessed ceiling lamps. Diners are treated to ocean views through windows designed in an abstract lotus shape, a universal Asian motif. Smoky mirrors between the windows add volume to the room by reflecting muted light throughout the space and illuminating intricate architectural details. Airy floor-to-ceiling partitions formed from a combination of traditional Japanese rain chains suspended from frames and customary Chinese screens help convey a sense of intimacy. The design and décor artfully complements the inventive menu inspired by the diverse cuisine available throughout Asia.

The menu offers artfully plated Pan-Asian creations with first courses highlighted by a tempura encrusted crispy soft shell crab with a touch of heat from a green chili aioli, and a succulently caramelized cassia-braised pork belly topped with perfectly grilled diver scallops; a seaweed and wakame salad drizzled with a black pepper soy and onion dressing. On the menu, guests will find entrées such as tempura battered Canadian lobster with shiso leaf finished with an orange ponzu sauce and spicy mayo, a miso-spiced black cod wrapped in hoba leaf accompanied by pickled daikon and spicy den miso, and grilled Korean barbecue lamb chops, wok-fried beans, eryngii mushroom and gochujang dressing. For dessert there are delicacies such as a banana and green tea cake served with coconut ice cream and matcha ganache.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Azamara Club Cruises Reimagines The Fleet

While the fleet consists only of two ships—Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest—Azamara Club Cruises, the boutique line that promises an up-market experience at sea with destination immersion on land, has announced that both vessels will undergo “major upgrades” while in dry dock in early 2016.

To reinvigorate the onboard guest experience, the mid-size ships that accommodate up to 686 guests will be outfitted with new venues, public spaces and technologies to bring fresh services and amenities to guests. Pictured here is the new Pan-Asian Restaurant that will debut following the transformation. From bow to stern, there is no area on the line’s ships that will be untouched. The upgrades include all staterooms and suites, dining, spa and entertainment. The Azamara Journey will enter dry dock in January 2016 in the Bahamas, and the Azamara Quest in April 2016 in Singapore.

“We are best known for our Land Discoveries programs which have enabled us to boast an unprecedented number of repeat guest bookings as well as strong back to back voyage reservations. As we continue to evolve our destination immersive offerings, we also want to ensure our onboard experience is modernized to meet guests’ every need,” says Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. “We can’t wait for our ships to come out of dry dock as these major upgrades are going to have an instant impact on our guests’ experience. Each corner of the ships will have a new look and feel, setting a brighter, more contemporary ambiance, while the new venues will bring guests fresh experiences. We’re also investing in new onboard innovations and have paid close attention to the smallest of details. We really are redefining our onboard experience in every way.”

Image Courtesy Azamara Club Cruises

Thursday, June 4, 2015

With Holland America Line, Ships Go All-the-Way or Part-of- the-Way on Panama Canal Cruises

There’s nothing quite like your first view of the Panama Canal. Up early in order to not miss anything, you’ll want to head to the front of the ship as we did in this photo taken aboard Holland America Line’s ms Zaandam several years ago.

Starting this fall and through spring 2016, you can join one of six Holland America Line ships that will sail 11 full transits of the Panama Canal or embark on one of their ships that offers 14 itineraries featuring both the southern Caribbean and partial transits. With cruises ranging from 10 to 22 days, Holland America Line provides guests more in-depth ways to experience the Panama Canal than any other cruise line. In the 2015-16 season, the combined full and partial transits will carry more than 44,500 guests through the lakes and locks of the man-made marvel.

“To witness the fascinating operation of the Panama Canal from the deck of a Holland America Line ship is the ultimate way to experience one of the great engineering wonders of the world,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president. "Our diverse itineraries bring travelers to all seven continents and to many of the world's most compelling marvels; and with 25 departures we offer more ways to experience the Panama Canal than any other line."

Go Between Oceans on a Full Panama Canal Transit
From September 2015 through May 2016, ms Amsterdam, ms Maasdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Veendam, and ms Westerdam will make 11 transits between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from six departure cities. Guests can set sail from Boston, Mass.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Diego and San Francisco, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition to the Panama Canal transit, the 14- to 22-day cruises include a variety of port calls along the way, making each voyage all the more enriching. On the full transits the ships visit destinations in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Caribbean, along with Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s award-winning private Bahamian island.

Partial transits include the ‘ABC’ Islands
Besides the full transits, ms Zuiderdam will make 14 partial transits between November 2015 and April 2016. The 10- and 11-day “Panama Canal Sunfarer” itineraries include an exploration of the canal’s Gatún Lake and a combination of southern Caribbean calls in Aruba, Bonaire, Columbia, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Grand Cayman, Panama, and Half Moon Cay.

Go ‘On Location’ in the Panama Canal
On each Panama Canal cruise, guests can enjoy the On Location enrichment program that brings local experiences onto the ships through lectures, presentations, cuisine and entertainment. Guests can learn to weave with palm fronds during Caribbean sea days; and while the ship is in the Panama Canal an expert historian recounts the history and drama of constructing the famous waterway. A Panamanian market and buffet on the Lido Deck is a highlight of the voyage, where guests can indulge in regional delicacies such as empanadas, arroz con pollo, ropa vieja and pastel de tres leches.

Photos © Linda Coffman

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Seabourn Reveals Details of Signature Lounge On Board Seabourn Encore

One of the year's most highly anticipated new ship launches will take place in December with the debut of Seabourn's newest ultra-luxury vessel, Seabourn Encore. The award-winning small ship cruise line is heightening anticipation by revealing the renderings of the lounge space on the ship: The Club.

As envisioned by design icon Adam D. Tihany, who is fashioning interiors throughout Seabourn Encore, The Club (pictured here) will unfold as an elegant and inviting lounge with striking elements to catch the eye and a world class program of music, dancing and entertainment. The Club will feature custom-crafted cocktails and fine wines, canapés served at cocktail hour, and live music before and after dinner. In addition, The Club will house an intimate, full-gaming casino, where guests wishing to indulge in games of luck and skill can test their odds on a variety of slot machines, and blackjack and roulette tables. Adding to the elegant atmosphere, guests will have direct access to the Club Terrace, an intimate exclusive aft pool lounge area set immediately behind The Club. This al fresco space will beckon guests to relax in the plunge pool or either of two whirlpool spas. At the heart of the Club Terrace will be an elegant fountain illuminated through the night for viewing from inside or out. Meanwhile, deck service will be available throughout the day providing refreshments, bites, or whatever else guests desire.

Expanding on his vision throughout Seabourn Encore, Tihany has employed modern design elements to cast The Club as a bespoke and engaging space. The multifaceted lounge, located on Deck 5 of the 12-deck vessel, will be arrayed with contemporary seating with yachting references visible in the furnishings, design elements and balustrade. Modern illumination will highlight the line's extensive array of complimentary spirits and liquors and will provide a central focal point for the bar.

"One of the hallmarks Seabourn is known for is the private country-club-like ambiance that adds to the very social and friendly atmosphere aboard our ships," said John Delaney senior vice president, marketing and sales of Seabourn. "From pre-dinner drinks to late-night dancing, The Club is the perfect spot for guests to gather and mingle and enjoy their journey as they travel the globe aboard the world's finest ultra-luxury vessel."

Seabourn Encore will feature modern design elements and innovations consistent with the line's reputation for understated elegance. The 40,350-GRT ship will be configured with one additional deck and new expanded public areas, and is expected to carry just 600 guests, based on double occupancy. In addition, every suite will feature a private veranda.

Image Courtesy of Seabourn

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 Hurricane Season is Here

It’s officially summer and the weather has been so pleasant here at our home that it almost seems impossible that Hurricane Season started yesterday on the first of June. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hasn't forgotten and, thankfully, their prediction for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season isn’t as dire as last year’s. You may recall that 2013’s grim outlook didn't materialize. That’s why they are called predictions. However, we hope the prediction for this year turns out to be accurate.

In its 2015 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a below-normal season, but says “that’s no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.” Key information from their report includes:
For the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1-November 30, NOAA is predicting a 70 percent likelihood of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a below-normal season is likely (70 percent), there is also a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.

“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”
Should you avoid a cruise from the first of June until the hurricane season ends on the 30th of November? Judging by my experience, I would say not necessarily. After more than two decades of covering the cruise industry and more than a hundred personal sailings, we have only encountered a cruise altering hurricane situation once. Our voyage on what we began to call the Hurricane Sandy Cruise began with a bus trip up I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville, Florida to board Holland America Line’s Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in late-October 2012. We hadn't given hurricane season a thought because it had been a light storm year hurricane-wise and the official season was nearly over. We were well taken care of by Holland America Line and our Entertainment Cruise Productions hosts for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in terms of getting us on board and enjoying our cruise; however, the weather is certainly something to think about. Hurricane Sandy could have sunk our trip.

Travel insurance is an important consideration to cover cruisers in such situations. For more information on what to expect, Cruise Diva takes an in-depth look at what’s in store if your vacation plans find you Cruising Into Hurricane Season.

Image Courtesy NOAA/NASA

Monday, June 1, 2015

Star Clippers Is Building New Sailing Ship

It's been a long time since they introduced a new vessel, but Star Clippers has started building a fourth ship to add to its fleet—its first new-build since the launch of Royal Clipper in July 2000. The new vessel will be the small ship line's biggest and most ambitious project to date and will be launched in the second half of 2017, carrying 300 passengers, measuring 8,770 tons and powered by more than 6,350 square meters of sails.

As yet to be named. the new ship has been designed as a five-masted, square-rigged barque. The new sailing ship will be a close replica of the France II, which was the largest square rigger ever built.

For a look at sailing on Star Clippers, see Cruise Diva's sailing diary of a voyage aboard Royal Clipper.

Image Courtesy Star Clippers