Focus On Cruising

Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

Orion II Is Late

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Clelia II

Orion Expedition Cruises has announced that delivery of their new ship, the former Clelia II, has been delayed by about a month.  The need for “additional technical work” has been given for the delay.

You may recall the ship’s rather harrowing voyage through the Drake Passage this past December.  Buffeted by 30 foot seas which broke windows on the bridge and took out the communications equipment, the ship made its way to Ushuaia under diminished power against heavy winds.

The year before that, in December 2009, Clelia II ran aground in the Antarctic Peninsula, resulting in the shutdown of the starboard engine and loss of electrical power on board.  Another cruise ship, the Corinthian II, helped pull it off the rocks.

Clelia II just didn’t have an easy time of it in Antarctica.  Perhaps, after all the work is finished and Orion II emerges with her new livery, she will find her new life more to her liking.

Technorati Tags: Antarctic Peninsula, Clelia II, Corinthian II, Orion Expedition Cruises, Orion II

Celebrity Reflection

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Celebrity Silhouette

A steel cutting ceremony for the Celebrity Reflection was held at the Meyer-Werft Shipyard last week, when the first steel plate was cut for the new vessel.  The ship will be the fifth and last of Celebrity’s very popular Solstice class, scheduled for delivery in November 2012.

Celebrity Reflection represents the culmination of the Solstice class, incorporating and expanding on the features that have been so well received by passengers.  The ship, at 126,000 gross tons, will be the largest of the class.  She’ll have an additional deck and 72 additional cabins, accommodating 3030 passengers at double occupancy.  More than 90% of the cabins are outside, and approximately 90% of those will have balconies.

Among the highlights, the ship will feature 34 AquaClass Suites, measuring 251 square feet with a 57 square foot balcony.  Michael’s Pub will be enhanced with the addition of up to 50 international craft beers, and outdoor grilling will be offered in the new Lawn Club Grill.

Technorati Tags: AquaClass suites, Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Reflection, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Meyer Werft, Michael's Pub, Solstice class

A Great Opportunity To Sample Azamara

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Azamara Journey

I answered a question the other day from a reader asking about a land/cruise combination vacation in the Caribbean.  I advised him that he should consider San Juan, the port that I think would give him the most options.

I’ve just received an email from Azamara Club Cruises that I think would be ideal for this sort of vacation.  The Azamara Journey will sail round trip out of San Juan on Novemnber 22, 2011 for a 5 day cruise, with stops in St. Martin, Virgin Gorda, St. Johns and, on Thanksgiving Day, St. Barts.

This strikes me as the ideal length for such a combination trip.  It also offers an opportunity to experience Azamara without having to commit to the more typical – and far more costly – 10 to 14 day cruises usually offered by Azamara.

As a bonus, the ship is at anchor in St. Barts until 1159PM on Thanksgiving Day.  For those who want a more intimate holiday dinner than that offered on board, any one of the absolutely wonderful restaurants on St. Barts would fit the bill.

I sailed on the Azamara Journey through the Baltic two summers ago and had a memorable time.  Many of my fellow passengers were repeat cruisers from much larger vessels.  Praise for the experience on board Journey was universal.

For those who can’t get away over the holiday, Journey will be sailing a 7 day itinerary from San Juan to Barbados the following week.

Technorati Tags: Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Journey, Cruise line, cruise ship, land/cruise vacation, San Juan, St. Barts, Thanksgiving

Flower Power

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Orchid

I spent a very enjoyable Saturday in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago visiting the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.  This year’s theme was “Springtime in Paris”.  How could I resist?

Actually, I try to get there every year.  If you’ve never been and you’re even remotely interested in flowers and gardens, you should try to attend.  Each year I’m amazed by the displays and the sheer size of the exhibition space.  A significant portion of the space is set aside for vendors selling all manner of plant and garden related items.  I would guess there were about 100 vendors this year.  The picture accompanying this post is of an orchid I purchased from one of the vendors.

I wasn’t supposed to be there this year.  We had planned a cruise through the Panama Canal, which would have had us away during the week-long event.  One of our little group, however, developed a medical issue which forced us to cancel.

So the flower show became a bit of compensation for the lost cruise.  The gods of transportation almost made it impossible to get there, but I lucked out.  Coming home, the bus driver had to rendezvous with police to escort a drunken pot smoker off the bus.  Interesting times.

In between, however, the experience was wonderful.  Now, what does this have to do with cruises?  Well tangentially, of course, attending the flower show was possible only because I couldn’t go on our planned cruise.

There’s something else, however, something that grew out of a conversation with a trusted mentor.  I’m wondering if it might be possible to combine two loves and share it with a group of clients.  I’m considering coupling a cruise with specially designed shore excursions to public or private gardens.  This could be a cruise which either focuses on flowers, such as the Netherlands in Spring river boat cruise, or which provides ample opportunity for this type of themed shore excursion, such as a cruise in the British Isles perhaps.

I need to give this some thought.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Meanwhile,next year’s theme in Philadelphia is “Islands of Aloha”.  Love Hawaii!

Technorati Tags: cruise groups, gardens, Panama Canal, Philadelphia Flower Show, river boat cruise, shore excursions, the Netherlands, tulips

Crystal Cruises Goes “All Inclusive”

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Crystal Symphony

I received the following email from Crystal Cruises today:

“Beginning Spring 2012, Crystal Cruises will be All Inclusive, enhancing our already expansive host of complimentary luxury services and amenities with the addition of free fine wines and premium spirits, open bar service in all lounges, and complimentary gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff.

Effective with the spring Trans-Atlantic crossings of Crystal Symphony (March 19, 2012), and Crystal Serenity (May 8, 2012), your clients can enjoy the added convenience of all-included luxury with the cruise line voted World’s Best more than any other in history.

As many lines throughout our industry have itemized their services for additional charges, we are choosing to maximize the guest experience by eliminating additional transactions – further enhancing the ease and luxury of a Crystal cruise.

In addition to our valued-priced 2-for-1 Fares in all categories, FREE Air, complimentary transfers and a host of generous savings promotions, we hope your clients’ decisions to sail with us will be decidedly simple.”

While this is not all-inclusive in the sense the term is usually employed, it does broaden the items which are included in the base cruise fare.  This brings Crystal in line with the pricing structure offered by other lines in the luxury category for these items – Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, and Seabourn.

Crystal has resisted the trend towards inclusiveness, arguing up to recently that their guests didn’t want to be charged beforehand for services they may not use.  The line did, however, offer an “As You Wish” on board credit of up to $1000 per guest to be used as the passenger decided.

With the roll out of the new pricing structure, this on board credit will disappear, although credits will still be offered to past guests and through occasional travel agent promotions.

In making the announcement, Greg Michel, Crystal’s president, offered this assessment:

“As many lines throughout our industry have itemized their services for additional charges, Crystal is maximizing the guest experience by eliminating additional transactions — further enhancing the ease and luxury of a Crystal cruise.  We believe this service will offer greater convenience, simplicity and comfort.”

The new pricing structure is not expected to lead to an increase in cruise fares.  Crystal, in fact, anticipates that prices, in many cases, will be lower in 2012 than the prices currently in effect in 2011.

Technorati Tags: 2012, all inclusive, Cruise line, cruise ship, Crystal Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises

Say What!?!

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Justice

According to a report coming out of Indiana by way of USA Today, a woman is suing Carnival Cruise Lines because the ship she was on went so fast it made her sick.

Originally filed in the Lake County, Indiana Small Claims Court in 2009, the complaint states that the woman’s body “swayed terrible” and that she “had bleeding”.  I’ll resist the oh-so-strong temptation to make a snide observation here, but it does bring to mind some interesting images.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that the case cannot be pursued in Indiana, citing Carnival’s cruise contract, which states that such cases must be filed in Florida courts.

I’d like to be even-handed here and not be too critical but, seriously, does this make any sense to anyone other than the complainant?  And is she really sincere, or did she just decide that she might get a few bucks out of this maneuver?

And what of the courts in Indiana?  This frivolous case went up to the Court of Appeals?  How is this possible?

Hmmm, just a sec.  I think a pig just flew past my window.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise line, Cruise lines, cruise ship, Indiana, lawsuit

Single Supplement Begone!

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River Queen

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has waived the single supplement on dozens of European river boat cruise departures in 2011.  And lest you think these departures are relegated to the less desirable early Spring and later Fall, many of them sail in June, July and August, the height of the river cruise season in Europe.

With river boat cruises becoming increasingly popular, this is an excellent opportunity for the single traveller to experience one without the onerous supplement with which they are usually saddled.

River boat cruises are a particularly pleasant way for a single traveller to experience the very heart of Europe.  There are, of course, the general benefits of river cruises – unpack once, let the destination come to you, avoid fickle train schedules, no need to manhandle your luggage every other day.

Beyond those, however, are benefits of particular interest to the single traveller.  Instead of retuning each evening to another unfamiliar, lonely hotel, one returns to a ship full of faces which become more and more familiar and welcoming.  Each day brings the opportunity to strike out on one’s own, or to join a group in exploring a new destination.

Opportunities abound to share the day’s experiences with like-minded fellow passengers.  Conversations flow naturally, without the awkwardness usually associated with such encounters when travelling alone.

One can dine alone, if that’s the preference.  But if the thought of sitting at an empty table is daunting, dinner companions are in abundance.

The following are a sample of  the departures being offered with single supplement waived:

Paris & Normandy                7 nights             July 3, 17, 31 August 7

Enchanting Danube             7 nights             June 26, July 10, 31 August 7

Imperial Capitals                14 nights            July 17, 25

Space is limited and subject to availability.  Sales have been very brisk.  If this is of interest to you, I’d suggest you look into it as soon as you can.

The savings are wonderful, the experience is memorable, and the opportunity won’t last.

Technorati Tags: European river cruises, river boat cruises, single supplement, single traveler, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Introducing Royal Princess

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Artist's Rendering of the Royal Princess

Royal Princess is a name which resonates with the many fans of Princess Cruise Lines.   Two vessels have already borne the name and, now, in a highly anticipated announcement, Princess reveals that the first of two new builds, set to debut in Spring 2013, will also bring the name back to the fleet.

The press release follows:

“As the first steel plate was cut today marking the official start of construction of Princess Cruises’ next ship, the line unveiled the vessel’s profile, released preliminary details about some of its features, and revealed its name — Royal Princess.

This will be the third time the name Royal Princess has been given to a Princess ship.

Debuting in spring of 2013, the new 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Royal Princessis the first of two new-generation ships for Princess which are being built by Fincantieri at their Monfalcone, Italy shipyard. The prototype design is an evolution of the line’s classic style of ships, while including some new features and expanded signature spaces.

A new design element revealed today is an over-water SeaWalkSM, a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship’s starboard side extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel. From here passengers can enjoy dramatic views, including to the sea 128 feet below. On the ship’s port side, passengers will find a similarly-unique cantilevered SeaView bar, featuring cocktails with unbeatable vistas.

Also on her top decks, Royal Princess will feature a new adults-only pool surrounded by seven plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two additional pools will flank a tropical island that will offer pool seating by day, and by night will become an outdoor dance club, complete with a dazzling water and light show. Princess’ signature adults-only haven, The Sanctuary, will be expanded both in size and amenities. The popular poolside theater, Movies Under the Stars, will play a starring role mid-ship with an expanded size and high-definition viewing.

“Princess passengers will easily recognize our next ship as a natural progression in our fleet,” said Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew. “We’re taking the best features of our newest vessels that have been such customer pleasers, and taking them to the next level. Just as the original Royal Princess ushered in a new era for our company with its innovative design, we expect our new Royal Princess to do the same.”

Inside the ship, one of the line’s hallmark venues, the Piazza atrium, will be significantly expanded. This area will be the multi-faceted social hub of the vessel, combining always-changing quick bites and light meals, beverages, entertainment, shopping and guest services.

All outside staterooms on Royal Princess will have balconies, which means that 80 percent of the ship’s staterooms will include this desirable feature.

Royal Princess will include 260,000 square feet of inside public space with multiple dining and entertainment venues, as well as other special features and amenities which will be revealed over the coming months.

A video preview of Royal Princess is available at Princess Cruise Lines’ website.  Artist renderings of the ship are available on Princess’ Flickr page.

A sister ship to Royal Princess will be launched in spring 2014.”

For those who are fans of Princess, as am I, this announcement seems quite fitting and welcome.  Hard to explain, I think, but I like the sense of tradition, a tip of the hat – if you will – to a much loved ship that hosted her guests well.  I look forward to strolling on SeaWalk, fighting my fear of heights every step of the way.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, newbuild, Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Princess, SeaWalk, Spring 2013

A Step Beyond

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Antarctica

Just about a year ago, I had the immense good fortune to cruise on the Star Princess to Antarctica.  Sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula was an experience that touched me deeply, and forever changed the way I view the world.

I wrote extensively about my trip at the time.  If interested, you can read my blog entries here:

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Post 4

Cruising as we did through Antarctic waters on a large ship precluded the opportunity to set foot on the continent.  Vessels of more than 500 passengers are not permitted to arrange landings.  I regretted not being able to walk on the continent and mingle with the penguins, but the significant additional cost argued forcefully against it.

I made a mental addition to my bucket list, however, vowing that the next time (oh yes, there will definitely be a next time!) I would be prepared for the higher cost.  Now comes word that Quark Expeditions has upped the ante.  On select 12 day voyages out of Ushuaia, Quark is offering an overnight camping trip in Antarctica.  Participants, accompanied by a tour leader, are brought ashore by Zodiac to a suitable site, where they pitch two person tents and spend the night.  If the weather cooperates, they will be dazzled by a night sky that can only be experienced in the pristine air of the poles.

Incredibly, this adventure costs just $195 per person.  For this remarkably reasonable price, one gets to do what so few have ever done before – sleep on the White Continnet under the vast austral sky.

Technorati Tags: Antarctic camping, Antarctica, austral sky, Cruise line, cruise ship, Quark Expeditions, Ushuaia

Grand Old Lady of the Seas Rescued

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SS United States (background) and SS America (foreground)

The SS United States Conservancy took formal possession of the SS United States yesterday.  You can read about the original announcement here.  After years of rusting away in Philadelphia, changing hands several times, and coming close to her end on more than one occasion, the ship is finally in the hands of an organization dedicated to her survival.

Perhaps the greatest passenger vessel ever built in the United States, the SS United States still holds the record set on her maiden voyage on July 4, 1952.  Faster than any passenger vessel before or since, she crossed the Atlantic in 3 days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes.  That record held until 1990, but only non-passenger ships have accomplished the feat of besting her time.  The SS United States still holds the Blue Riband.

Built with a considerable infusion of funds from the United States Government, about $50 million of the $78 million total construction cost, she was designed to allow a quick conversion to a troop carrier in times of need.  Never called upon to serve in that capacity, she played host to thousands of passengers, among them a young Rhodes Scholar named Bill Clinton, until 1969.

The Conservancy plans to establish a public/private partnership to restore and convert the ship into a floating attraction with museum, retail, and restaurant space.

Not too long ago, I heard a famed ship historian and lecturer suggest that the time had come to let the SS United States go.  He felt that her day was over.  I come down on the other side.  I wish the Conservancy well and hope they are successful in their mission.

Technorati Tags: Bill Clinton, Blue Riband, cruise ship, floating museum, SS United States, SS United States Conservancy, transatlantic speed record