Celebrity Expands Exotic Options

| February 9, 2005

In an age when many cruise ships are nearly identical in size, and in their on-board features and services, Celebrity Cruises is attempting to distinguish itself from the pack by offering one-of-a-kind optional experiences for its passengers. Except for the shore trips offered by a few tiny expedition vessels, or sometimes on very long cruises of the top luxury lines, the more exotic adventures are inaccessible to those traveling on a conventional cruise.

But Celebrity is trying to change that. A few of the unique experiences offered by Celebrity include a hike at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn, studying mysterious giant statues on Easter Island, touring NASA's Houston Space Center with an astronaut, going on an Alaskan wilderness bear trek, fishing for marlin off Mexico and taking an expedition to Machu Picchu.

In January 2005, Celebrity president Jack Williams announced new exotic experiences for the year-old "Celebrity Xpeditions" program -- which last year featured Arctic, Antarctic and Galapagos Island cruises on smaller vessels, plus the chance to drive on a professional race track. (Not to neglect on-board innovation, in December 2004 Celebrity launched modified performances of Cirque du Soleil, complete with circus performers, on several Millennium-class ships.)

As Apollo VII Astronaut Walter Cunningham told me, his private tour of Houston Space Center is normally only available to the President of the U.S. But now Celebrity passengers will be able to visit the working NASA space center with Cunningham, listening as he offers anecdotes from his career. The tour, offered in conjunction with Celebrity Galaxy sailings from Galveston, Texas, is priced at $700 per person, double occupancy, including overnight accommodations and a dinner cruise on a private boat.

Except for the continuing small-ship cruises to exotic locales, Celebrity's Xpedition trips are generally offered as pre- or post-cruise add-ons, or sometimes as mid-cruise shore options.

Alaska passengers on select Infinity and Summit cruises can explore Vancouver's volcanoes, coastline and land via helicopter, 4x4 and zodiacs, with luxury accommodations. The two-night package starts at $2,200. In Ketchikan, a float plane takes passengers to Prince of Wales Island on a wilderness bear trek, lead by a renowned game tracker; the tour is offered with all Summit, Mercury and Infinity sailings calling in Ketchikan, priced at $650 per person.

In Bermuda, participants will explore undersea archaeology and wildlife from a catamaran, and go snorkeling over a shipwreck, on a side trip priced at $650; Celebrity's Horizon and Zenith sail to Hamilton.

The Caribbean's beautiful reefs and fish are the focus of an eight-hour Xpedition that leads to a National Geographic Diver certification, offered in St. Thomas to passengers aboard Century, Constellation, Horizon, Millennium and Zenith. Per person price is $700.

Central America offers myriad ruins, and one of the most impressive is Copan, Honduras. Western Caribbean sailings on Zenith and Horizon calling in Roatan offer a six-hour Xpedition to this ruin via charter flight. Participants will tour with guides and meet archaeologists who have discovered recent artifacts. It's priced at $700 per person.

Easter Island is one of the most isolated spots on earth. The two- to four-night Xpedition is offered with Infinity South America itineraries, starting at $2,400 including airfare, hotel and guides. Another exotic Xpedition offered on Infinity South America voyages is a visit to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, starting at $1,820 with hotel, meals and transfers.

In Hawaii, the Hana area is explored by jet helicopter, with tours through lava-tube caves and lunch on a black-sand beach. Hawaii cruises of Infinity and Summit offer this program, starting at $1,100 per person.

Mediterranean voyages offer two diverse Xpeditions: one to the great Pyramids, and one to the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. In Egypt, a four-day tour includes private showings at museums, camel rides, luxury accommodations and tours led by Egyptologists, for passengers Millennium voyages concluding in Venice; the price is $2,500. A three-night stay in Zermatt, Switzerland includes hiking, cultural events and accommodations, priced at $2,500, offered in conjunction with Galaxy's sailings that call in Genoa, Italy.

Many consider Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the top marlin fishing destination on earth. The Celebrity Xpeditions experience includes fishing with a tournament-seasoned crew in a 70-foot luxury yacht. Offered on all Mercury, Infinity and Summit cruises calling at Cabo San Lucas, the event is priced at $1,200 for fishing guests, $200 for non-fishing companions.

For additional information, contact your travel agent or go to www.celebrity.com.

Copyright © 2009, Anne Campbell. All rights reserved.

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