Port Roundup: Outlook for 2007

One of the current sentiments in the cruise industry is that all ships are the same. Well, frankly, anyone who says that is either delusional or just plain dumb. All one need do is experience NCL's new Norwegian Jewel and RCI's Freedom of the Seas to see how much innovative thinking is going into the design of today's new ships.

Another sentiment is that there's nothing new happening on the itinerary front. Again, those folks are delusional or just not paying attention. Carnival, for example, is not only in Europe this summer, but has announced a new five-port, seven-night itinerary round trip from San Juan starting in January. It looks great.

And for real innovation, here's a snapshot look at what's happening with the premium and luxury lines for 2007:

Carnival also announced two itinerary updates: Carnival Liberty's year-round schedule of alternating seven-day "exotic" eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Miami debuts in May 2008 and features less visited ports of call. The "exotic" eastern Caribbean itinerary features Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, (Holland America's private Bahamian island) along with St. Thomas and San Juan. The western route features Cozumel, Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Carnival Freedom will reposition to Fort Lauderdale to operate six- and eight-day cruises beginning November 22, 2008. Six-day cruises depart Sundays and visit Freeport, Grand Cayman and Costa Maya, while eight-day voyages depart Saturdays and alternate to the eastern and exotic western Caribbean. Eight-day eastern Caribbean voyages feature five ports: San Juan, St. Thomas/St. John, Antigua, Tortola/Virgin Gorda, and Nassau. Western Caribbean cruises include Limon (Costa Rica), Colon (Panama) and Costa Maya.

Celebrity plans an expanded season in Europe, with two Century-class and two Millennium-class ships deployed there. New ports of call include Agadir and Casablanca in Morocco; Alexandria, Egypt; Cornwall, England; Honningsvag, Norway; and Holyhead in Wales. Celebrity is also offering shorter cruises (three, four and five nights) on the revitalized Century to the Caribbean and on the Mercury out of Seattle.

Crystal has 63 voyages scheduled for next year, 52 of them longer than eight days. It also marks the line's return to Asia as well as its first scheduled call in Israel since 1999. New ports of call are Chan Mai, Vietnam; Eidfjord, Norway; Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico; Coquimbo, Chile; Maputo, Mozambique; and Sochi, Russia. Crystal also returns to Istanbul for the first time in several years.

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 will do her first World Cruise starting in January 2007. New ports of call include: Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Cairo, San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro. At the other end of the spectrum, QM2 will also offer four four-day Getaway sailings: two from New York to the Bahamas, one from New York to Halifax and Nova Scotia, and one from Fort Lauderdale. Cunard is launching two separate world cruises, one on Queen Mary 2 and the other Queen Elizabeth 2, from the same port on the same day. January 10, 2007, both ships will set sail from Port Everglades in Ft Lauderdale on simultaneous, but different, World Cruises. A Royal Rendezvous of the world's most famous ocean liners; Queen Mary 2 on her first-ever World Cruise - an 81-day circumnavigation of the globe - and Queen Elizabeth 2 on her Silver Jubilee World Cruise - an exotic 108-day voyage marking her 25th around the world.

Holland America has 15 new ports lined up, including: Djupivogur, Iceland; Isle of Skye, Scotland; Koper, Slovenia; Nha Trang, Vietnam; Antofagasta, Chile; Lubeck, Germany; Ny Alesund, Norway; Sarande, Albania; and, Sochi, Russia. The line will also be returning to places not visited in some time, including Haifa and Ashdod. New in Alaska will be Friday departures for the Volendam; a Friday Seattle roundtrip sailing for the Amsterdam; the Zaandam sailing roundtrip from Vancouver on Wednesdays; and the Noordam (replacing Westerdam) sailing Sundays roundtrip from Seattle.

MSC will have a maiden call in St. George, Bermuda, for an overnight as part of Opera's eastbound Atlantic crossing. The line also has new embarkation points in Trieste, Livorno and Hamburg.

Norwegian Cruise Lines
NCL has announced significant changes for Pride of Aloha, which starting in September, 2007, will do a repeating Hawaiian islands schedule of 10-day (three in a row) cruises with one 11-day cruise. The idea is to make each cruise longer by adding overnight port visits (beginning with the first night in Honolulu so you don't need to get a hotel), plus a day at sea on the 10-day cruise, and the same on the 11-day cruise adding a visit to Fanning Island. The Norwegian Pearl will be deployed to Miami to sail alternating five and nine-day Caribbean cruises. The nine-day cruise is the exciting part here, as it allows the ship to leave on a Friday night (after work) and return Sunday morning, so people can take one week off, yet it gives the ship enough time to see the deepest parts of the Caribbean including Barbados. This is the first cruise line doing such an unusual and extensive itinerary in a "one-week-off-work" situation.

Oceania will tweak its itinerary philosophy in Europe with fewer sea days than before. Out of 53 departures with 20 itineraries, the line will offer 80 overnight stays in port. New ports include Cinque Terre and La Spezia in Italy and Serande in Albania. On this side of the Atlantic, new ports of call will include Laguna San Rafael and Puerto Chacabuco in Chile and Grand Turk; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Samana, Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean.

Princess will have its biggest European season ever in 2007: 81 departures with 31 itineraries and 110 ports of call for five ships. The season goes from April 11 � December 3. New ports of call include Ravenna, Italy; Split, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; and Canakkle/Troy, Turkey -- all UNESCO World Heritage sites � and St. Barts as well. Next year also marks Princess' return to the Holy Land.

Regent Seven Seas will offer up 15 new ports of call next year, including Koper, Slovenia; Korcula, Croatia; Valencia, Spain; Cayo Leventado, Dominican Republic; Chiapas, Mexico; Maura, Brunei; and Pusan, South Korea. Its world cruise expands to 111 nights, the line's longest yet. And it will debut Osaka, Japan, as an embarkation port.

Seabourn will introduce 21 new ports including Split, Zadar and Kotor in the Dalmatian region; Monopoli and Lipari in Italy; and Fethiye, Marmaris and Alanya in Turkey. There will be a new nine-day China cruise and new 10-day sailings for the Mexican Riviera and New England/Canada. Seabourn will have its �Sail and Stay� program in effect with pre- and post-cruise nights in Hong Kong/Singapore and Istanbul/Athens for cruises beginning and ending there.

SEADREAM YACHT CLUBSeaDream will continue its pattern of seven- to 10-night cruises in the Caribbean, South America and Europe. New ports of call will be Anegada, Barbuda, Vieques and Culebrita in the Caribbean and Paxoi, Paros, Molyvos, Syros, Kos and Ithaki in the Greek Isles.

Silversea will introduce 29 new ports of call, including six in the South Pacific and 14 in Europe. Among the standouts are Vaasa, Finland; Sibenik, Croatia; Batumi, Georgia; Latakia, Syria; Curieuse in the Seychelles; and Al Manamah, Bahrain. Silversea will also debut its first World Cruise, 126 nights from Fort Lauderdale to New York on January 15; the cruise breaks down into nine segments and goes to 61 ports. The line also has a featured sailing -- eight nights roundtrip from Barcelona, centered on an anchoring spot off Valencia, Spain -- for the America's Cup.

Windstar will introduce five new ports of call, all in Spain: Palamos, Tarragona, Valencia, Cartagena and Almeria. There will be an eight-night cruise, roundtrip from Nice, giving guests the opportunity to see the Gran Prix of Monaco and the Cannes Film Festival. The line also introduces Monte Carlo as a turnaround port. Windstar is also offering guests more back-to-back itineraries with a 5 to 10 percent discount available. I defy anyone to tell me they've been to all the new ports listed above. It's a big world out there and it's great to see the cruise lines doing their best to bring it to their guests.

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