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Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

All I Want For Christmas….

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50 Years Of Victory

Quark Expeditions is marketing, one suspects with tongue in cheek, its 20th Anniversary expedition to the North Pole as the perfect Christmas gift.  The 15 day trip begins in Helsinki, Finland on June 23, 2011 and includes the charter flight roundtrip to Murmansk, Russia the cruise’s embarkation and disembarkation port.

Expedition members will sail on 50 Years of Victory, the pride of the Russian polar fleet.   Able to cruise in open water at 21 knots per hour, the nuclear-powered icebreaker is capable of ripping through ice 10 feet thick.   Only 128 lucky passengers will have the opportunity to experience the North Pole and landings in Franz Josef Land, a group of islands just 10 degrees south of the pole.

Helicopter sightseeing as the ship navigates through the polar ice will undoubtedly be a peak life experience for those who take the opportunity.  Another highlight will be a polar champagne toast and barbecue on the ice.  Amateur and professional photographers alike will be in their glory.   Close encounters with walruses and polar bears in Franz Josef Land will just add to the magic.

The ship, 50 Years of Victory (sounds better, perhaps, in Russian), appears to be more upscale than one would suspect, considering that it spends its winters escorting merchant ships through the dangerous Northeast Passage in total darkness.   Public spaces include two bars, a library, gym, saunas and a swimming pool.   Prices for two begin at $48,760.

Now that I think about it, this really isn’t such a bad idea for a Christmas present.   I have, after all, been very good this year.

Technorati Tags: 50 Years Of Victory, Arctic Sea, Cruise line, cruise ship, Franz Josef Land, North Pole, nuclear powered icebreaker, Quark Expeditions

There’s Got To Be A Morning After

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Carnival Splendor

You undoubtedly have heard the news reports.  Carnival Splendor, with 3299 passengers on board, is adrift at sea after a fire early Monday morning in one of the engine rooms. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it left the ship dead in the water.  The crew was able to restore power to some critical systems, but basic hotel functions remain inoperative.  Passengers are without air conditioning, hot water, hot food, or working toilets.

The US Navy has delivered 70,000 pound of food to the ship and it is being reported that the first tug boat has reached the ship’s position.  Current plans call for Carnival Splendor to proceed under tow to San Diego, with an anticpated arrival by late Thursday.  If sufficient speed cannot be maintained, Carival may revert to the original plan and have the ship towed to Ensenada.  The November 14th cruise from Long Beach has been cancelled.

Early reports indicated that Carnival Cruise Lines was going to refund the cost of the cruise plus transportation costs to its unlucky passengers.  When first reading these reports, an old Peggy Lee song played in my mind – “Is that all there is?”  Subsequent reports have amended Carnival’s response to include credit for a future cruise of equal value.  That’s more like it.

Late last year, I expressed my views on the importance of a company’s response to the unexpected.  Mr. Murphy knew whereof he spoke.  It will be interesting to hear what the passengers have to say, not only about the situation on board Carnival Splendor, but also about the process of getting them home.  Carnival has some choppy days ahead.

As an aside, I was amused by a headline I read in The Independent:

“British passengers survive cruise ship fire”

Well, true enough, I guess.  There was a fire and they did survive.  But, seriously, doesn’t it strike you as just a teensy bit overwrought?

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Splendor, Cruise line, cruise ship, engine room fire

Ocean Cruise? River Boat Cruise? Why Choose?

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Emerald Princess

Princess Cruise Line has come up with something quite interesting for next summer.  Cruise tours are nothing new.  They give passengers an opportunity to extend their trip beyond the scope of a cruise and explore areas not easily accessible from the ship.  Think Alaskan lodges or three nights in Beijing, for example.

On July 31, 2011. however, Princess will offer a cruise tour which is actually another cruise.  Princess Cruise Line has partnered with Avalon Waterways to offer a river boat cruise along the Rhine River on board Avalon Felicity prior to a Baltic Sea cruise on Emerald Princess.

The 9 night cruise tour includes a 7 night river cruise along the beautiful Rhine River from  Basel to Amsterdam, stopping in Strasbourg, Heidelberg,

Avalon Felicity

Mainz, Rüdesheim, Koblenz and Cologne.  Guided tours will be included at each of these stops.  Along the way, passengers will enjoy a sail through the Rhine Gorge, probably the most beautiful stretch of the river and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  After the river boat cruise, passengers will overnight in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen, prior to joining Emerald Princess.

Emerald Princess will depart Copenhagen for an 11 night Scandinavia and Russia cruise, with stops that include Stockholm, Berlin, Helsinki and the incomparable St. Petersburg.  Passengers will enjoy two days in Peter the Great’s “Window on the West”.

Space is limited, with group space blocked in a few cabin categories on Avalon Felicity.  Prices begin at $6549.00 per person in an inside cabin for the 20 night cruise tour. With only 2 sea days while on board Emerald Princess, this will appeal to the most energetic and enthusiastic sightseers among us.  If successful, Princess will consider similar tours in 2012.

Technorati Tags: Avalon Waterways, Baltic Sea cruise, Cruise line, cruise ship, Princess Cruise Line, Rhine River, river boat cruise, Russia and Scandinavia cruise, St. Petersburg

NCL Still Likes Singles

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Studio Cabin on Norwegian Epic


If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will have undoubtedly noticed that I have a particular interest in options for single cruisers.  This is, however, not a wholly altruistic penchant.  I have, on occasion, failed to take advantage of an opportunity to cruise because no one I know is in a position to travel with me.  Single supplements and the lack of camaraderie have deterred me.

I have been particularly excited by the effort Norwegian Cruise Line has made to appeal to single cruisers.  The whole “ship within a ship” environment they have created on the Epic with the studio cabins and the lounge dedicated to occupants of those cabins is very impressive.  There are few passenger ships in service with any single cabins at all, and none that come anywhere near the number that Epic has.

I’ve wondered how this would unfold.  When NCL stopped being coy last week and confirmed their order for two new ships, only slightly smaller than Epic, I anxiously watched for news about single cabins.  Information is still relatively scarce, but CEO Kevin Sheehan, in an interview in Travel Weekly, did re-affirm NCL’s commitment to single cruisers.  He is quoted as saying: “That’s a strategy that makes sense. [Singles are] an under-served group of people, and our brand meets that need. We care about that group of travellers.”

That’s good to hear.  Far too early to know how that sentiment will translate into the new ships’ designs, but encouraging nevertheless.

As an aside, one much-discussed Epic feature unlikely to be replicated on the new vessels is the peculiar scattered bathroom layout.  Excellent decision.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Epic, single cabins, single cruisers, single travelers

A Steinbeck Anniversary


National Geographic Sea Bird

Lindblad Expeditions will mark the 70th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s “The Log From The Sea of Cortez” with a special Baja California expedition.  The expedition will both recall Steinbeck’s famous journey with his friend, biologist Ed Ricketts, and explore the marvelous and extensive natural beauty and ecosystem of the sea that so captivated them.

In 1940, both men set out to study invertebrate species in the Gulf of California.  The book that grew from this journey is a fascinating mixture of science, nature and philosophy, which continues to resonate with readers 70 later.

“Among the Great Whales”, an 8 day voyage on National Geographic Sea Bird, will depart La Paz, Mexico on January 22, 2011.  The ship will follow in the path of Steinbeck’s voyage, travelling around the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula from the Sea of Cortez to the Bahian Magdalena, the nursing lagoon for grey whales during their annual migration from the Arctic.  Zodiacs will provide passengers with a rare water-level whale watching opportunity.
Joining the expedition team on the cruise will be two noted scholars.  Susan Shillinglaw is professor of English at San Jose State University, a Scholar-in-Residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, and the former director of the San Jose State University Steinbeck Center.

Dr. William Gilly has, for the past several years, been measuring important mid-water oxygen levels in the Sea of Cortez as part of Linblad’s ongoing expedition operations.  In 2004, he led a group, which included Susan Shillinglaw, that retraced the 1940 Sea of Cortez expedition in an effort to document long-term changes.  Dr. Gilly is a National Geographic grantee.

Those of you who have read Steinbeck’s “A Log from the Sea of Cortez” will understand the pull that this cruise elicits in many who were so influenced by the book.  To experience for oneself the astonishing natural beauty of that rugged coast, and witness the abundance of wildlife, all so wonderfully described by Steinbeck, is a goal for many of his readers.

Technorati Tags: Bahian Magdalena, Baja California, Cruise line, cruise ship, grey whales, John Steinbeck, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic, Sea Bird, Sea of Cortez

A Veteran’s Day Promotion From Carnival

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Carnival Dream

Carnival Cruise Line has announced a promotion in honor of Veteran’s Day.  This is similar to a promotion the cruise line offered active and retired military personnel last Memorial Day.  You’ll find my post about the last promotion here.   The press release follows:

“In honor of Veteran’s Day, Carnival Cruise Line is offering a promotion throughout November that allows active and retired military personnel to book up to three “Fun Ship” staterooms at discounted rates for themselves and their friends and family members.

Reservations must be made between November 1-30, 2010, to qualify for this special offer, which is available in conjunction with a variety of three- to eight-day “Fun Ship” departures through April 30, 2012, including voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and Europe.

Rates start at $219 per person for three- and four-day cruises; $279 per person for five-day voyages; $399 per person for six-day departures; $449 per person for seven-day voyages; and $649 per person for eight-day sailings.  Also included are seven-day Europe voyages starting at $789 per person.

Voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico operate from 12 convenient North American homeports along the east and west coasts and Gulf of Mexico.  Europe cruises depart from Barcelona, Spain.

“Carnival has a long history of supporting our U.S. military personnel through special pricing and promotions and we are pleased to offer this program throughout November to demonstrate our appreciation to these most deserving individuals,” said Joni Rein, Carnival’s vice president of worldwide sales.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only. Military personnel must provide proof of service. Eligible military personnel must sail to take advantage of this offer.  Certain other restrictions apply.”

I liked this idea in May and I like it now.  The men and women who have served or who are currently serving deserve our gratitude.  Well done, Carnival.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Dream, Cruise line, cruise ship, Fun Ships, military personnel, sale, Veteran's Day

Drugs At Sea

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Serenade of the Seas

Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers had a busy day October 24th in San Juan.  In two separate, apparently unrelated incidents, a total of four passengers from the Serenade of the Seas, fresh from a seven-night Caribbean cruise, were taken into custody for drug possession.

In the first incident, Diana Hortencia Latigua-Lorenzo, 32, a citizen of the United States, and her brother, Breidy Latigua-Lorenzo, 20, from the Dominican Republic, were arrested at the port after disembarking the 2,110-passenger vessel.  The Customs Agency reported that its officers found 6.48 kilograms of heroin wrapped in duct tape and placed in a large number of shoes inside their luggage.  The Latigua-Lorenzos had been sent for secondary screening after having given officers inconsistent information.

In the other incident, the agency says it found 3.5 kilograms of cocaine in three brick-size packages between the beds of the cabin occupied by Melinda Ivette Quiñones-Cruz, 28, and Cristian Gabriel Oquendo-Lopez, 21.  The drugs were discovered during a random inspection of Serenade of the Seas by a K-9 dog team.

I’m bothered by this on so many levels.    It saddens me that something I love so much – cruising – can be used by a few others to sow so much harm, just to satisfy their own greed.   You understand the motivations intellectually and yet, viscerally,  you just can’t fully grasp how they can do what they do.

You just shake your head.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, crusie ship, drug arrests, San Juan, Serenade of the Seas

River Boat Cruising In Russia Has A New Star

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Suite On Board MS Amakatarina

MS Amakatarina, the offspring of the partnership between AMA Waterways and APT, remains on schedule for its debut in May.  APT released artists’ impressions today which highlight the luxurious suites awaiting its first passengers, one of the benefits of the 14 million dollar reconstruction of the highly anticipated ship.

According to Debra Fox, APT’s General Manager, Marketing, “comfort has been given high priority. River ships of this quality and innovation haven’t been seen before in Russia”.

The ship is designed to carry 212 guests in 106 cabins, 76 with balconies.  An incredible 24,025 square feet has been dedicated to passenger staterooms.  By comparison, other recently renovated ships in Russia, with the same number of staterooms, devote only 16,793 square feet to passenger accommodations.

MS Amakatarina is scheduled to make 14 sailings between Moscow and St. Petersburg in 2011.  Each of the 11 night/12 day cruises will spend several nights in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, using the ship as the guests’ hotel.  Cruise fares begin at $3299 per person, based on double occupancy, and include shore excursions, wine with dinner, and gratuities.

Technorati Tags: AMA Waterways, Moscow, MS Amakatarina, river boat cruises in Russia, St. Petersburg

MSC Cruises Has A Birthday Present For (Some Of) You!

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MSC Poesia

If you just happen to celebrate your birthday between November 14th and December 19th, and you’re in the market for a cruise, MSC Cruises has a present for you.

Only a lucky few can take advantage of this special offer.  If you’re one of them, your present is valid, space permitting, on the following sailings departing from Ft. Lauderdale:

  • Eastern Caribbean cruise, calls in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau Bahamas; departs Nov. 14, 28, and Dec. 12, 2010; rates start at $264.50 for traveling companion plus government fees and taxes, for all guests, of $69.62 each;
  • Western Caribbean cruise, calls in Key West, Florida; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico; departs Nov. 21 and Dec. 5, 2010; rates start at $264.50 for traveling companion plus government fees and taxes, for all guests, of $81.35.

Restrictions, of course, apply.  This offer is valid for new bookings made up to December 12, 2010.  At least one person per stateroom must be celebrating his/her birthday during the chosen cruise as it will be requested at the time of booking. Rates are based on double occupancy for U.S. and Canadian residents. Government fees and taxes for all guests are additional; restrictions apply. Suites are excluded from this offer. MSC Cruises reserves the right to pass on any fuel surcharge without notice to all guests.

What a nice little idea.  For just the cost of government fees and taxes, you get to celebrate your birthday on a cruise.  It would be nice to see this idea expand.

Technorati Tags: birthday offer, Caribbean cruise, Cruise line, cruise ship, MSC Cruises, MSC Poesia, sail for free

Small Ship Cruising In Alaska

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Spirit of Alaska/Baranof Dream

The gap in Alaskan small ship cruising created by the demise of Cruise West last month has been filled.  Allen Marine Tours, based in Sitka, Alaska, has announced the launch of Alaskan Dream Cruises, operating two of Cruise West’s 78 passenger vessels, the Spirit of Columbia and tne Spirit of Alaska. renamed the Admiralty Dream and the Baranof Dream.  The new line will also operate a third vessel, the Alaska Dream, a 49 passenger catamaran.

Allen Marine Tours has operated day cruises since the 1970s, as well as a shipbuilding business.  All three vessels of tne new line will be refurbished in the parent company’s own shipyard.

Alaska Dream Cruises will be based in Sitka as well, offering 7 night trips to the most popular destinations in Southeast Alaska, such as Tracy Arm and Glacier National Park.  The first cruise is scheduled to depart Sitka on May 14th.

American Safari Cruises also has plans to enter the Alaskan small ship market,

Wilderness Adventurer

via their newly formed division InnerSea Discoveries.  The company plans to begin Cruises in May as well, on board the 49 passenger Wilderness Discoverer and the Wilderness Adventurer.

I think this is very welcome news.  While I absolutely recommend that you take whatever opportunity presents itself  to visit Alaska, sailing on a small vessel is an ideal way to see more and experience more of what Alaska has to offer, far away from the towns and hordes of other tourists.  I wish both operators well.

Technorati Tags: Alaskan Dream Cruises, American Safari Cruises, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Cruise West, Glacier Bay, InnerSea Discoveries, Sitka, small cruise ships, Southeast Alaska, Tracy Arm