News Archive - April 2008

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4-30-08 Minn. Representative Oberstar Sinks Delta Queen Ohis congressional representative James Oberstar has been fighting to sink the Delta Queen's plans to continue operating as a passenger vessel, and it appears he has won round one. He brought the vote to renew the boat's exemption, which allows it to continue sailing and has been virtually rubber-stamped since 1970, to the floor of the house three days ago. His sole purpose in doing so, however, was to make sure the measure went down in flames.

Just last year, Oberstar himself voted in favor of this exemption. So, how did his "religion" suddenly change and he now sees the boat as the incarnation of evil? Obviously, it was outside influences that have nothing to do with the boat, specifically the Seafarers Union backing his candidacy.

Oberstar gave an impassioned speech to his Congressional cohorts about the "danger of steamboats" citing an incident in wich a riverboat sank and 1700 people died just 100 yards from shore. It is a true story, from 1865!. The Sultana was built to carry 376 persons, but it was filled with 1700 Civil War soldiers going home. The boiler exploded, an incident that was as common in 1865 as cranks on car engines, but also as antiquated with modern technology.

Did Oberstar mention his example was from the the Civil War? No, he said it came from the "19th century". Oberstar also claimed the Coast Guard will not certify the Delta Queen. That is simply not true. The Coast Guard has certified the Delta Queen numerous times in the past and just weeks ago. Citing a DQ crew member: "We passed our annual Coast Guard Inspection on April 15, 2008 and received our new COI. The inspector was very impressed with the crew during the Fire and Abandon Ship drills."

To read all the details about Oberstar's manipulation of this issue for his own best interests and not those of we people who love cruise vessels and river boats in particular, go to web site.

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4-30-08 Save the Delta Queen Rally - May 5: Cincinnatti On Monday, May 5, 2008, the Save the Delta Queen Campaign will hold a rally in Cincinnati in support of legislation that will keep the historic boat in operation. The rally will take place from noon to 1:00 p.m. at the National Steamboat Monument, just above the Public Landing, where the Delta Queen will be docked.

The scheduled lineup is as follows: Master of Ceremonies: Gordon C. Greene, former vice president of Greene Line Steamers Speakers: Congressman Steve Chabot Dan Hurley, Assistant Vice President for History, Cincinnati Museum Center Alan Bernstein, owner BB Riverboats and former Delta Queen crew member Mike Berry, President, Kentucky Derby Festival Entertainers: The Musicians of Braeburn The Ohio River Minstrels

The Delta Queen is the last traditional steamboat carrying overnight passengers on America's inland waterways and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1966, she was inadvertently caught in the technical provisions of the Safety at Sea Act, which was intended to cover ocean-going ships, not riverboats. Recognizing the difference between boats that operate on rivers, within yards of the shore, and ships that sail the high seas, Congress established an exemption for the Delta Queen in 1968. Since then, the exemption has been renewed nine times, in virtually every case by near-unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate.

Without congressional action, the current exemption will expire on November 1, 2008. Bipartisan legislation to extend the exemption, H.R. 3852, was introduced by Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) on October 16, 2007. The bill remains in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure because Committee Chairman James Oberstar of Minnesota refuses to release it to the floor.

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4-30-08 Ambassadors International to sell Majestic America Line Joe Ueberroth, Chairman and CEO of Ambassadors International, has just announced the company's plans to sell Majestic America Line, which includes Delta Queen, the nation's oldest steamboat currently surrounded in controvery because it has been denied the right to sail as a passenger vessel.

Ueberroth stated, "We are committed to operating the 2008 season of Majestic America Line while conducting our exit of the business in an orderly and effective manner. Several credible parties have expressed a sincere interest in acquiring some and/or all the assets of Majestic America Line and building upon the efforts and investments we have made in delivering unique cruise experiences that celebrate American history, culture and our magnificent waterways. Our dedicated American crew remain committed to providing our customers with extraordinary cruises and key vendors and business partners are working with us to ensure a smooth transition."

Ueberroth says the decision to exit Majestic America Line will allow the company to focus its efforts and investments on the successes of Windstar Cruises.

The Company has a conference call scheduled on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 to discuss the financial results for the first quarter of 2008 and at that time management will elaborate further on the decision to sell Majestic America Line.

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4-29-08 Galaxy to Leave Celebrity Fleet Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Galaxy will leave the fleet of Celebrity Cruises in March, 2009. It will complete its scheduled sailings through the March 2, 2009, itinerary and then become the first ship of TUI Cruises, a new cruise brand established through a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and TUI AG. It will enter service for TUI Cruises in May 2009 under a new name. The ship will sail in the Baltic in the summer season, and in the Caribbean in the winter.

TUI Cruises is designed for German-speaking guests seeking a contemporary/premium cruise experience. The onboard product will be custom-tailored to German tastes in food, entertainment and amenities.

Celebrity Galaxy joined the Celebrity Cruises fleet in December 1996 and was built in Papenburg, Germany. Celebrity invested $4-million in a series of upgrades on the ship this month, including new carpeting, upholstery and lighting in a variety of public spaces and staterooms. The 77,713 gross-registered-ton ship carries 1,870 guests (double occupancy) and 909 crew.

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4-29-08 John Lithgow: Guest Speaker Silver Whisper July 5 Silversea Cruises' Silver Whisper will welcome award-winning actor John Lithgow as a celebrity guest speaker aboard its July 5 voyage from Athens to Venice. Guests will be treated to a portion of Lithgow's new one-man show, Stories by Heart, now playing a limited engagement at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York.

The July 5 cruise aboard the all-suite, 382-guest Silver Whisper departs from Athens for Kalamata, Argostoli, Kotor, Dubrovnik, and Split, with an overnight stay in Venice. Early Booking Incentive fares for this 7-day voyage start at $5,520 per person, based on double occupancy.

Lithgow's show is a comic meditation on the art and essence of storytelling. Invoking memories of his grandmother and father before him, Lithgow traces his own history as an actor and storyteller, a history spanning three generations.

Lithgow won the first of two Tony Awards three weeks after his Broadway debut, in David Storey's The Changing Room. He went on to films with Oscar nominations for The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment. Lithgow has been nominated for ten Emmy Awards for his work in television. He has won three Emmy Awards, one Golden Globe, two SAG Awards and an American Comedy Award.

The multi-talented performer is also a New York Times best-selling author of children's books and has sung in concerts for children with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore and San Diego symphony orchestras and at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Lithgow has released three albums for kids, including the Grammy-nominated The Sunny Side of the Street.

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4-28-08 Celebrity Summit Upgraded Over 17-day Dry-dock Celebrity Summit just completed a 17-day dry-dock refurbishment period in Hamburg, Germany. The effort included replacing 2,707 square feet of tile, 9,843 square feet of carpeting, and 2,500 yards of fabric.

Celebrity completed all that and more on Celebrity Summit during the ship's scheduled drydock period from April 11-27 at Blohm + Voss in Hamburg, Germany. The ship resumes its European season tomorrow, complete with a new 11,000-kilowatt diesel genset (dedicated electrical generation system), which reduces fuel consumption by generating electricity for the ship while in port.

Dance enthusiasts will find an entirely new floor in the ship's Rendezvous Lounge, shoppers can enjoy a completely renovated boutique gift shop area, and guests with attention to detail will notice freshly-varnished wood railings and newly-polished surfaces throughout the ship.

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4-28-08 Carnival Offers Military Personnel Special Discounted Rates In honor of Memorial Day, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering active and retired military personnel an opportunity to book up to three "Fun Ship" staterooms for themselves and their friends and family members at special discounted rates.

The new "Carnival Salutes Our Troops" promotion is available in conjunction with a wide variety of three- to 12-day "Fun Ship" voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and Europe, departing between now and Dec. 31, 2009, from 20 different departure points. Reservations must be made between May 1-31, 2008, to qualify.

Military personnel and their friends and families can take advantage of the following special rates: $219 per person for three-day cruises to the Bahamas and Baja Mexico; $229 per person for four-day cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico; $279 per person for five-day cruises to the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico; $479 per person for seven-day cruises to the Caribbean and Alaska; and $829 per person for 12-day cruises to Hawaii and Europe.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only, capacity controlled and not applicable with any other discount offer. Military personnel must provide proof of service during the reservations process to be eligible for the special rates. Certain other restrictions apply.

Carnival is the largest and most popular cruise line in the world, with 22 "Fun Ships" operating three- to 18-day voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Canada, New England, Bermuda, Europe, and South America.

The line currently has three new ships scheduled for delivery between now and 2011. The first of those, the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, is scheduled to enter service in Europe July 2, 2008.

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4-28-08 Oceania Expands Free Airfare Program Oceania Cruises' Free Airfare program for the 2009 European Collection now includes more than 120 cities in the Untied States and Canada.

2 for 1 cruise fares start at just $2,299 per guest and guests are urged to make their reservations as early as possible to receive the accommodations of choice on their preferred voyage. The free airfare promotion is valid through August 31, 2008 and is capacity controlled.

Oceania Cruises will offer 56 European voyages from 10 to 30 days and calling at more than 80 ports with more overnight stays in Europe's star cities and a mixture of well-known and lesser-known ports.

Highlights of the 2009 European Collection:

Maiden Ports for Oceania: Hellesylt, Norway; Fowey, United Kingdom; Biarritz, France; Koper, Slovenia; and Split, Croatia.

Renowned chef Jacques Pépin sails aboard Insignia from Barcelona to Istanbul on August 9. With a mix of intriguing ports including Egypt and the Holy Land, this voyage will include special culinary demonstrations, wine lectures and exclusive shore side events.

5th Annual Oceania Club Reunion Cruise - departing from Rome on October 5, 2009, this extraordinary 12-day voyage call on a dozen ports in five fascinating countries. With a stellar line-up of ports that includes Venice, Cinque Terre, Dubrovnik, Kotor, and Monte Carlo to name just a few, Oceania Club members will be feted with exclusive cocktail parties, members-only lunches and dinners, private shore excursions and additional surprises.

A New 16-day Venice-Rome voyage highlights the scenic splendor and intriguing history of the Dalmatian Coast. Insignia sails from Venice to Rome on May 15 and calls on Koper, Split, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Sarande, Valletta, Taormina, Sorrento, Amalfi, Florence, St Tropez, and Cinque Terre.

Regatta returns to Scandinavia and Russia and sails to Norway and the British Isles for the very first time. A 12-day Norwegian Fjords and British Isles cruise sails roundtrip from Dover on July 13 and calls on Edinburgh, Invergordon, Alesund, Hellesylt, Belfast, Dublin, Waterford, and Fowey.

A new 14-day Egypt and Israel itinerary sails from Barcelona to Istanbul and includes Tunisia, Malta, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus and Turkey. This voyage departs aboard Nautica on June 27, Insignia on August 9 and Regatta on October 31.

4 new Grand Voyages that span all of Europe and South America. Guests may sail from Venice to Stockholm; Barcelona to Venice, showcasing virtually the entire Mediterranean; Istanbul to Miami; and Rome to Rio de Janeiro.

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4-24-08 NCL Lays Keel for First F3 Ship During a ceremony today at Aker Yards in St. Nazaire, France, the keel was laid for the first of Norwegian Cruise Line's F3 ships, the third generation and the next evolution of the company's innovative Freestyle Cruising ships. The first block of the keel, number 5006, a double bottom block weighing 322 tons, was put into place marking the start of the overall construction of the ship.

The milestone ceremony was attended by executives from Star Cruises, Apollo Management, NCL and Aker Yards. Upholding maritime tradition, each attendee was invited to put a specially designed coin in a tube that was welded shut and placed in the keel for good luck.

"The F3 ships are our most innovative project in the company's 41-year history and will provide a totally unique vacation experience," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "Today as we lay the keel for this groundbreaking new ship, we are one step closer to revolutionizing cruising as we know it."

From left to right: David Chua, president of Star Cruises; Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, NCL; Bill Hamlin, Executive Vice President, Newbuilding and Global Strategic Sourcing, NCL; Steve Martinez, Partner, Apollo Management; Colin Veitch, President & CEO, NCL; Tan Sri KT Lim, Chairman, Star Cruises and his wife, Puan Sri Lim following the Keel Laying ceremony of the first F3 ship at Aker Yards on Thursday, April 24, 2008.

The two 150,000-ton F3 ships will each total 4,200 passenger berths, representing the largest ships in NCL's fleet. NCL is building two new third generation Freestyle Cruising ships for delivery in 2010.

The new ship design will offer 60 percent more guest space than NCL's largest ships to date, which will be used to provide guests an even wider range of on-board activities, amenities and stateroom options. The ships' cabin mix will be the richest of any NCL ship with 100 percent of outside staterooms featuring private balconies. In total, each ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms.

For the latest updates on F3 with downloadable high-resolution images of the New Wave staterooms, visit

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4-24-08 Carnival Dream Rendering Unveiled Carnival Cruise Lines just released this first look at the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream - currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. The 3,652-passenger Carnival Dream is the first in a new class of ship for the line with a unique interior design, sleek hull and distinctive profile, along with a host of innovative facilities and features which will be released in the coming months.

The deployment of the Carnival Dream to Port Canaveral continues the line's 18-year relationship with the Canaveral Port Authority, the longest tenure of any cruise line there.

In addition to the Carnival Dream, the line has two other Fun Ships scheduled to enter service - the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, set to debut in Europe July 2, 2008, and the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, slated for delivery in June 2011.

Carnival Dream Rendering - click to open in new page at full size.

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4-23-08 Oceania Cruises Increasing Fuel Surcharge Oceania Cruises is increasing its fuel surcharge to $10 per guest per day for all new reservations effective May 1, 2008. The surcharge applies to all currently published sailings.

"The price of fuel continues to rise in price to levels that were previously unimaginable. We appreciate the continued understanding of our guests and travel agent partners as we make this necessary adjustment," stated Bob Binder, President of Oceania Cruises.

The fuel surcharge of $10 per guest per day, regardless of voyage length, is effective for all new reservations as of May 1, 2008. The fuel surcharge applies only to the first two guests in the stateroom or suite and does not apply to third or fourth guests.

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4-23-08 Carnival Dream to be Based at Port Canaveral Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream - the largest Fun Ship ever constructed - will be based at Port Canaveral beginning in fall 2009.

Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, the 3,652-passenger Carnival Dream is the first in a new class of ship for the line with a unique interior design, sleek hull and distinctive profile, along with a host of innovative facilities and features which will be released in the coming months.

The deployment of the Carnival Dream to Port Canaveral continues the line's 18-year relationship with the Canaveral Port Authority, the longest tenure of any cruise line there. Details on the ship's itinerary will be provided at a later date.

In addition to the Carnival Dream, the line has two other Fun Ships scheduled to enter service - the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, set to debut in Europe July 2, 2008, and the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, slated for delivery in June 2011.

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4-22-08 Royal Caribbean Revises Fuel Supplement Policy Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., parent company of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises today announced an increase in the fuel supplement it charges guests for all of the cruise lines above.

For first and second guests in a stateroom, the revised fuel supplement will be $8 (U.S.D.) per-person, per-day, and no more than $112 (U.S.D.) per-person, per-cruise. Additional guests in a stateroom will be charged $3 (U.S.D.) per-person, per day, and no more than $42 (U.S.D.) per-person, per-cruise.

The revised fuel supplement will apply to bookings made throughout the world on or after May 1, 2008 for all three brands.

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4-21-08 Costa Maya Set to Re-open Ahead of Schedule, July 08 Costa Maya, which was devastated by Hurricane Dean when the category 5 storm passed right over it last August, announced that it will re-open its shores and port facilities to cruise passengers starting July 2008.

The Port's former cruise industry partners, including Cunard, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America, Carnival Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, P&O Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Ocean Village, have all committed to return.

The "new" Costa Maya will offer an enhanced experience. Previously known for a wide range of unique excursions ranging from encounters with a true Mayan community to diving the world's second largest barrier reef, Costa Maya has added more innovative tour packages to its offerings.

BioMaya Bacalar, a zip-lining adventure like no other, transports guests through the jungle, soaring through tree while eye level with exotic wildlife like parrots, monkeys and more. Following the tour, guests are invited to cool off and relax in the turquoise waters of Laguna de Siete Colores (Seven Color Lagoon), also known by locals as the "Birthplace of the Rainbow."

Costa Maya's quaint fishing village, Mahahual, will offer its powdery-sand, palm-lined beaches. A brand new boardwalk, the result of 15 million dollar government investment following Hurricane Dean, will be ready for unveiling in time for the port's reopening. Lined by charming beach houses and a selection of small hotels and restaurants, the boardwalk offers a stroll along the area's coastline.

2008, the Port's first and second berthing positions will be fully operational and ready to receive cruise passengers. A third berth is expected to be completed by November 2008. Upon re-opening, Costa Maya also will offer fully-enhanced facilities, such as F3 and Genesis class capabilities to allow for newer, larger vessels.

According to Hamui, as one of the Western Caribbean's top ten ports of call, Costa Maya vows to remain an advocate of sustainable port development, observing the national port system it helped develop in 2005 that encourages responsible economic and social growth.

Strategically located just hours from Cancun on Mexico's southern Yucatan Peninsula, Costa Maya was the Western Caribbean's first port designed exclusively for the cruise industry. Resembling an ancient Mayan city, Costa Maya is able to accommodate three ships at once offering a destination that showcases the ancient and colonial heritage of the Mexican Caribbean with all of today's conveniences. Set against the deep turquoise sea, Costa Maya is comprised of three grand pavilions, artisan and luxury shopping areas, a beach club, saltwater pools, fine restaurants and bars, and all the resources necessary to explore the area's surrounding jungle and coral reefs. In 2007, Costa Maya was named Seatrade Insider's Port of the Year.

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4-21-08 Save the Delta Queen Committee Needs Your Help!

For those of you who do not know, the Delta Queen Steamboat is the most famous riverboat in the United States. She is the only authentic paddle steamer still in service in our country. She was built in 1927 and was in almost continual service - until just the last year. She is now out of service pending a decision by the US Congress to allow her to continue sailing under a special Congressional exemption to the Safety at Sea law which outlawed boats with wooden superstructures.

This exemption was given to Delta Queen back in the 1970s, along with giving the boat official status as a National Historic Treasure - on the list of national historic places, and one of the few moving ones in the nation.

The exemption has been virtually hand-stamped by Congress every few years since the 1970s, until 2007 when a congressman who is known to have special interests decided to hold the bill on his committee (transportation), and not even let it hit the floor so it could be voted upon. That Congressman is Rep. James Oberstar.

Another congressman, Steve Chalbot, is attempting to bypass the powerful position of Oberstar and get the Delta Queen approval straight to the floor of Congress in another bill, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill.

This bill has been scheduled in the House of Representatives for Thursday, April 24. If the Committee on Rules will accept the Delta Queen amendment to this bill, the House will vote on the Delta Queen's future on that day. The Rules Committee most likely meets Tuesday evening to consider the amendment. Congressman Steve Chabot, who has introduced this amendment, will testify before the Committee.

The "Save the Delta Queen Committee" is asking for YOUR help to save this historic vessel. Please support Rep. Steve Chabot by reminding the members of the Rules Committee of the importance of this cause by fax or personally on the phone. You can locate details and a member list of the Rules Committee here:

The "Save the Delta Queen" campaign has asked for help from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn. Last week, Wesley Paulson a key member of the grassroots movement, delivered petitions signed by more than 5,000 supporters. The petitions are being accompanied by a stream of phone calls, faxes, and email messages urging the Leadership to let the whole House of Representatives vote on pending legislation that will allow the boat to remain in operation.

The Delta Queen is the last traditional steamboat carrying overnight passengers on America's inland waterways. For that reason she has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1966, she was inadvertently caught in the technical provisions of the Safety at Sea Act-a piece of legislation that was intended to cover ocean-going ships, not riverboats. Recognizing the difference between boats that operate on riv! ers, wit hin yards of the shore, and ships that sail the high seas, Congress established an exemption for the Delta Queen in 1968. Since then, the exemption has been renewed nine times, in virtually every case by near-unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate.

Without congressional action, the current exemption will expire on November 1, 2008. Bipartisan legislation to extend the exemption, H.R. 3852, was introduced by Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) on October 16, 2007. Currently it has 29 cosponsors. The bill remains in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure because Committee Chairman James Oberstar of Minnesota refuses to release it to the floor.

In speaking of the effort to save the boat, Congressman Chabot said, "The Delta Queen is an experience you can't get in a museum or from the history books; you have to live it and it's worth preserving. I know that the American people do not want this national treasure to be forced ashore and Congress needs to act before an important chapter in our nation's history is closed."

Congressmen William Lacy Clay (D-MO), one of the bill's original cosponsors, had this to say: "The Delta Queen is more than an irreplaceable historic vessel, it is also a symbol of the bold American spirit that had the courage to tame the continent and make us one nation, from sea to shining sea. This is the right thing to do for the Delta Queen. And it's the right thing to do for future generations! of Americans and international visitors who deserve the chance to travel on this magnificent vessel."

Contact: Vicki Webster (513) 381-3571, e-mail: Wesley Paulson (240) 593-4090

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4-21-08 Disney Announces Details of Mexican Riviera Cruises The two Disney Cruise Ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, spend most of their time in Florida sailing from Port Canaveral, the dock closest to Disney World. This summer, however, Magic is relocating to the West Coast for a summer season of 7-day cruises.

Disney ships have strayed from their Florida home before, for sojourns to Europe and here to the West Coast. What is probably most unusual about these West Coast cruises is that they are seven days instead of the usual three or four-day cruise Disney is famous for. So, Disney has announced the schedule for Magic in Mexico this summer of 2008.

Among the promised offerings are brand new shore excursions exclusive to Disney Cruise Line, enhanced entertainment offerings and themed youth activities. Here is a glimpse at what's in store:

Shore excursions which the company claims are exclusively available to guests sailing on Disney include the West Coast Signature Adventure Collection which they refer to as "a luxurious repertoire of fun-filled shore excursions" which offer an intimate way to explore the sights of the Mexican Riviera. Some of the highlights include:

The Villa at Caletas in Puerto Vallarta Las Caletas is, says Disney, Mexico's answer to paradise: guests board a private speedboat that whisks them to a secluded oasis only accessible by sea. They have exclusive use of a small villa with commanding views over the bay and beaches. Hosts are available to assist in creating a relaxing and enjoyable stay as guests enjoy the snorkeling and kayak activities, take a relaxing snooze in a hammock or laze in a private Jacuzzi.

Waterfall and Hot Springs Tour Guests embark on a private vehicle to the East Cape Region in Cabo San Lucas. Once there, they take a short hike to a waterfall where they can take a dip in the cool waters and marvel at the sandy shores gleaming with gold pyrite. Guests continue to hot mineral springs for a spa treatment created by Mother Nature, then cool off in an adjacent mountain stream.

Ultimate Luxury Sail and Snorkel Guests sail aboard an exclusive, hand-made 74-foot Turkish schooner in Cabo San Lucas. A dedicated crew of six serves guests with cocktails, wines and other delights. This excursion features snorkeling, kayaking and swimming opportunities as well as breathtaking vistas of rocky bluffs, pristine golden beaches and tranquil seaside coves. For an additional cost, guests may also choose to have a massage by the onboard massage therapist.

The company says the Disney Characters (actors in costume who interact with the children) are also getting in the spirit of the Mexican Riviera with lively entertainment enhancements, including:

Minnie's Fiesta Grande Disney says "Minnie is getting ready to say 'todos a bailar' with a brand new sail-away celebration as the Disney Magic departs the port of Mazatlan." The Disney mouse costumed character will "join her pals" for Minnie's Fiesta Grande, a fun filled party celebrating the magic, music and culture of Mexico.

Don't Forget to Wear Your Sombrero Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and the gang are joining in the fun of the Mexican Riviera cruises by donning special garments inspired by the charm and traditions of Mexico. Mickey and his pals make appearances and pose for photos throughout the sailings.

Children get a taste of Mexican traditions through these fun-filled activities aboard the Disney Magic:

Churro For Sure-Oh Children learn about one of the most famous Mexican desserts - the Churro! They can experiment with different toppings and enjoy their own creations!

Piñata Party Children discover the history of this traditional Mexican pastime creating brightly-colored paper piñatas and stuffing them with an assortment of goodies. A special surprise awaits as children get to break their piñatas at the end of the program.

Mexican Fiesta Children get a chance to learn the most celebrated dance in Mexico - El Jarabe Tapatío (known in English as the "Mexican Hat Dance"). The program also incorporates traditional Mexican toys such as El Balero, El Trompo and El Pirinola.

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4-18-08 Passenger Beaten and Robbed in St. Thomas The Caribbean Net News is reporting in an article that a passenger from a cruise ship docked in St. Thomas at Havensight was beaten and robbed of $800 when he wandered into a local housing neighborhood not far from the shopping area.

The report says a 39-year-old New Jersey resident told police he went into the Oswald Harris Court housing community area "to look around." He was pistol whipped and robbed at gun point by four males he was unable to identify.

Fortunately, he did not require medical treatment.

A similar incident happened in Martinique just about two weeks ago, when two young women were assaulted and robbed in daylight when they wandered out of the regular tourist area and into a housing community. The assault was broken up by local residents who heard the ladies screaming for help. The attacker ran away, uncaught.

CruiseMates cautions people traveling in the Caribbean to remember that these islands are sometimes more impoverished than we know, and it is important to always excercise caution when in port. Haiti, just about 100 miles from Florida, is the poorest country in North America, one reason why cruise ships do not stop there for tours.

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4-17-08 NCL to Increase its Current Fuel Supplement In response to the continued rise in oil prices, NCL Corporation announced today an increase to its current fuel supplement. The new fuel supplement will be $9 per person per day for the first and second guests in a stateroom and $4 per person per day for any additional guests in the same stateroom, based on the guidelines below.

Individual reservations: The increased fuel supplement applies only to new individual reservations made on or after May 1, 2008.

Group reservations The increased fuel supplement applies to any group reservation booked on or after May 1, 2008. The increased fuel supplement will also apply to group space held prior to May 1, 2008 without specific names and full confirming deposit by April 30, 2008.

"With crude oil and refined product prices at record highs, our fuel bill stands at a level that was unimaginable two years ago," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "It is unfortunate, but necessary, that we now have to pass some of the increase in our fuel bill on to our customers, just as many other businesses are being forced to do. We appreciate the understanding of our travel partners and our guests as we make this necessary adjustment."

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4-17-08 Dame Helen Mirren named P&O Cruises' Ventura, in Southampton London Telegraph submitted this report for the naming of P&O Ventura: Dame Helen Mirren swapped her crown for a captain's hat last night as she named P&O Cruises' newest ship, Ventura, in Southampton in the second of eight new big ship launches lined up for this year.

The theme for the ceremony was a "007 spoof," including Royal Marines who scaled down the side of the ship to smash the traditional bottle of champagne. After Queen Victoria, where the bottle failed to break the during the ceremony with the Duchess of Cornwall, P&O wasn't taking any chances.

Onboard were journalists, travel agents, Southampton's mayor, the great and the good from companies that have been involved in building and fitting out Ventura, Carnival UK staff, and celebrities galore, invited by P&O Cruises to add some extra glamour to the evening.

At 8pm all eyes turned to the stage. Then the action started. Actors from the television series Spooks raced about on the stage, and the giant screen lit up. There followed a short 007 spoof film, starting with M - aka Patricia Hodges - who appeared with a "smashing mission" which only one man could carry out.

Samantha Bond then appeared as Moneypenny, with cameo roles for Roger Moore, and Dame Helen, dressed in an beautiful black evening gown subtly decorated with colourful flowers, who was being escorted through the ship before being led live onto the stage by the Royal Marines.

"I am honoured to name this ship. I hope you will all sail in her - I know I will," she said, before the signal was sent to the marines that it was time to go over the side and smash the bottle. Fireworks lit the night sky and we were showered in streamers.

The ceremony was followed by a gala dinner and charity auction - Dame Helen's evening gown was among the prizes - to raise money for Barnardo's, Naomi House children's hospice, and Kids Company, set up to help deprived inner-city children.

Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White, who has a restaurant on Ventura, donated a table for four on ITV1's Hell's Kitchen in 2009; designer Nick Munro, who has given everything from the cabin kettles to the cutlery on Ventura a contemporary look, donated a silver-plated coffee pot with an ebony handle.

Before the ceremony, Dame Helen declared that she has always had a romantic vision of sipping cocktails on the deck of a cruise ship, but had never actually set foot on one before Ventura. "I think I would love this - its opulence and comfort," she added. "It's surreal." That says it all.

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4-17-08 Feds Find Cocaine Stashed On RCCL Cruise Local Miami TV station CBS4 is reporting that Brilliance of the Seas, which docked at the Port of Miami over the weekend, was carrying an illegal load of cocaine. Agents from US Customs and Border Protection and Immigration Customs Enforcement seized 16 kilos of cocaine. Security personnel on the ship found the drugs in a passenger cabin on April 11th.

The cabin was sealed off until the vessel docked at the Port of Miami. The drugs, 26 bricks of cocaine, was found hidden behind some ceiling panels. 16 kilos is about 35 pounds. Officials say they think the cocaine was brought on the ship by passengers and left behind in order to be smuggled off the ship at a later date.

The ship had just returned from a voyage that included Aruba, Panama, Costa Rica and Grand Cayman.

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4-16-08 French Navy Foils Somali Pirates Reports are out that the pirate situation in Somalia is now over - that the French yacht "Le Ponant" has been recovered, the crew is back onboard, and at least six of the pirates are in custody.

The exact detail of how the pirates were foiled are yet to come, but it appears that a deal was made by the give the pirates the $2 million ransom they were demanding. Meanwhile, the French navy had contacted the yacht's captain despite being instructed not to do so.

Just after the ransom was paid, and all of the crewmembers were returned to the yacht, the French navy swept in. By then the pirates with the ransom money were speeding through the desert in a jeep. A helicopter from the French Navy's helicopter cruiser, Jeanne d' Arc, which was waiting offshore, pursued the pirates and disabled the engine with machine gun fire. They then captured six of the pirates.

Some of the money was recovered, but the exact amount has not yet been disclosed. There were also reportedly as many as 20 to 30 pirates involved in the original abduction of the yacht, but most of them have not been found.

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4-15-08 Silversea Renews Culinary and Marketing Partnership with Relais & Châteaux Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises announced today it has renewed its culinary and marketing partnership with Relais & Châteaux, the prestigious international association of boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants, through 2009.

Highlighting the partnership, now in its eighth year, will be the creation of new signature dishes for La Collection du Monde, a sampling of specialty dishes featured regularly on all Silversea cruises created through the collaboration of Jacques Thorel, Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux of L'Auberge Bretonne (La Roche-Bernard, Brittany) and Silversea's own master chefs.

Other enhancements will include new wine-inspired menus for Silversea's Wine Restaurant by Relais & Châteaux, new cross-marketing initiatives, and the development of programs to ensure the highest quality gourmet dining experience for Silversea guests. Both organizations will work closely together to design a collection of unique shore experiences with a culinary and wine focus.

A cornerstone of the alliance is Silversea's popular Culinary Arts program, showcasing the culinary artistry of Relais & Châteaux Grand Chefs. Under the agreement, Silversea guests can expect to see additional new rising stars from Relais & Châteaux join an already impressive roster of acclaimed guest chefs that includes such luminaries as Anne Desjardins of L'Eau à La Bouche (Ste-Adèle, Québec) and Eyvind Hellstr´┐Żm of Bagatelle (Oslo).

In addition to informative and entertaining cooking demonstrations hosted by the Relais & Châteaux guest chefs, the Culinary Arts enrichment voyages also feature escorted provisioning trips to international markets (when the itinerary permits), food and wine pairings, creative regional dishes, and a five-course grand gourmet dinner. Throughout these special voyages, the featured guest chef and Silversea's executive chef are on hand to share their culinary expertise and answer any questions.

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 475 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in 55 countries. Established in France in 1954, the Association's mission is to spread its unique art de vivre across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character.

Furthermore, Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share a passion for, and a personal commitment to, ensuring their guests are privy to moments of exceptional harmony. To choose Relais & Châteaux is to experience an unforgettable celebration of the senses. From the vineyards in Napa valley to the beaches in Bali, from the olive trees in Provence to the lodges in South Africa, Relais & Châteaux offers a chance to explore the Route du Bonheur and discover a special place in a variety of destinations.

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4-15-08 Princess Crowns "The Greatest Romantic" After a nationwide search by Princess Cruises asking "Are You the Greatest Romantic?," father of four and minister Phil Roberts of Lexington, Ky. was crowned with the title after nearly 100 romantic hopefuls across the country submitted videos nominating themselves or someone in their lives for the title. The line's Department of Romance experts narrowed the field to five finalists, and then thousands of people voted for their favorite entry.

Roberts personally received the news this morning from "Love Boat" star Gavin MacLeod ("Captain Stubing"), also part of Princess' Department of Romance. "First, I was so excited to win the contest and I'm truly touched that America felt my video and story was romantic enough to receive this honor. Then, to hear Gavin MacLeod on the other end giving me the good news - I was stunned!" said Roberts. The entry deadline was the 10-year anniversary of my proposal to my wife Lisa, and what better way to honor this special memory than to win a contest that helped me pay tribute to my wife and family."

Roberts' winning entry, titled "The Greatest Romantic???," received a large majority of the votes. In the video, Roberts nominated himself with touching poem narrated by his 3-year-old daughter, Ashley. The 37-year-old shared the ups-and-downs and joys of his nine-year marriage to his wife, Lisa, and said that romance has always been the core of their relationship. After learning that Lisa had always dreamt of becoming engaged at the ocean, Roberts created a beach scene in his apartment in Ohio, complete with a thousand pounds of sand, stars in the sky and a fluorescent beach scene painted on the walls.

Roberts' video can be seen at

With four children, the Roberts don't get a lot of opportunities for date nights. But one way that they spend quality and rewarding time together is through monthly meetings with families of premature babies at the Lexington Ronald McDonald House. Their work also supports their charity, Project Seashore (, created in memory of their daughter, Emily, who passed away at birth. Winning this Princess cruise will be their first real vacation without their children.

"I just loved Phil's video and his story, and I'm so glad the public felt the same way," said MacLeod. "His entry had it all - it was touching, emotional, creative and truly romantic."

MacLeod, together with the other experts in Princess' Department of Romance, selected the five finalist videos they felt best embodied romance, along with creativity and originality. The other department members include Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the always-provocative couples therapist; Alex Michel, the first "Bachelor" on ABC's hit show; Trish McDermott, vice president of love at; and Lisa Light, destination wedding expert and author.

In addition to becoming one of the line's romance ambassadors, Roberts will also receive a seven-day cruise for two to the Caribbean or the Mexican Riviera, so he can truly celebrate with the love of his life.

The other finalists included Brian Krall of Manchester, N.H., who nominated his wife in "Everyday the Greatest Romantic;" Lydia Kimball Gibbons of Orem, Utah, who nominated her husband Ted in "40 Years of Romance;" Kacey Evans of Ramsey, N.M., who nominated himself in "Our Story - Ashley and Kacey Evans" and Justin D'Ambosio of Jersey City, N.J., who also nominated himself in his "Practice Makes Romance."

All five finalists will receive prize packages including decadent chocolates from Godiva Chocolatier, pampering products from Princess' exclusive Lotus Spa and flowers from Teleflora.

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4-15-08 Royal Caribbean Reveals New Genesis Class Details Royal Caribbean International has plans to "bring the best of the land to sea" with a new area in their new class of ships, Project Genesis. The concept is dubbed "Central Park," an open-air spanse in which the center of the ship opens to the sky and features lush, tropical grounds spanning the length of a football field. Central Park is located on Deck 8 of the ship, with dimensions of 62 feet (19 meters) wide and 328 feet (100 meters) long. The sophisticated neighborhood will include 334 staterooms overlooking the Park, 254 with balconies.

This unique outdoor public gathering place will feature pathways, seasonal flower gardens and canopy trees. The neighborhood is lined with balcony staterooms rising six decks high with views of the Park below and the sky above. To date, these appear to be the first inward facing balcony cabins ever planned for a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean says this new concept is the first of seven "neighborhoods" to be unveiled on Project Genesis. Each neighborhood will have a unique and relevant "experience" to suit passenger's personal style, preference or mood.

Central Park's central piazza will be the ship's "town square" with a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere during and a gathering space for alfresco dining and entertainment in the evening. Guests will enjoy concerts and street performances. Central Park also will have stylish boutique shops, showcasing a selection of upscale merchandise. Central Park will feature upscale retail boutiques for discerning travelers, including specialty outlets such as The Parkside Gallery, showcasing original artwork for purchase, and Picture This, a portrait studio.

Surrounding this social space will be an array of restaurants, with choices ranging from fine dining to casual chic. Guests will have the option of an elegant dinner at the new 150 Central Park or a picnic lunch from the more casual Central Park Café, where they can sit outdoors and people-watch. Other dining choices will include: Giovanni's Table, an Italian restaurant; Vintages wine bar; and Royal Caribbean's signature Chops Grille steakhouse. Several bars will be scattered throughout the Park, including the Canopy Bar, located at one of two impressive glass-domed canopies, and the unique Rising Tide bar - the first moving bar at sea. Rising Tide will span three decks and allow cruisers to enjoy a cocktail as they slowly ascend into Central Park and then descend back into the public spaces below.

Central Park will be landscaped with tropical foliage, including seasonal flowers, shrubs and trees. Drawing on the concept of unexpected surprises and intrigue, garden spaces throughout the Park will sprout from charming pathways. Drifts of Calla Lilies among Giant Elephant Ears, Red Ginger, Rabbit Foot Ferns and Zebra Calathea are some of the plant life guests will discover. Trees, some eventually reaching more than two-and-a-half decks tall, include Black Olive, Cuban Laurel, Cherry of the Rio Grande, and Painted and Golden Bamboo. Irrigation and drainage systems will be incorporated, along with micro-climate control techniques. An on-site horticulturist will provide educational classes for guests seeking to learn more about flora.

Surprises in the Park include quiet reading corners; a Chess Garden with large-scale pieces; the Pergola Garden, an interpretive garden featuring vegetation from a host of Caribbean locales; and a Sculpture garden, highlighting work by international artists.

The Crystal Canopies, two impressive arched-glass domes, one with a bar, will be a focal point of Central Park and provide sunlight into the ship's inner public spaces.

Restaurants and dining options in the Central Park neighborhood include:

  • 150 Central Park - The most exclusive dining venue on the ship, 150 Central Park combines leading-edge cuisine with leading-edge design. An observation window into the kitchen of this stylish restaurant will give Central Park passersby the opportunity to observe the executive chef in action. Open for dinner.
  • Chops Grille - Continuing the tradition, Royal Caribbean's popular signature steakhouse will offer premium cut, quality meats in an upscale, contemporary setting. Open for dinner.
  • Giovanni's Table - Influenced by the Tuscan countryside, Giovanni's will be a casual new Italian restaurant concept offering toasted herbal breads, pizzas, salads, pastas, Italian sandwiches, braised meat dishes and stews. Rustic with a contemporary flair, dishes are served family style in an indoor and outdoor setting to provide an alfresco experience in Central Park. Open for lunch and dinner.
  • Central Park Café - A casual dining choice providing a high level of variety and flexibility, Central Park Café is an indoor/outdoor gourmet market with walk-up counters. From freshly prepared salads and made-to-order sandwiches to paninis, crepes and hearty soups, guests order directly from the chefs behind the food stations. European pastries, sublime chocolates and decadent fudge round out the offerings. Open for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and late night treats.
  • Vintages - Always a popular hot spot for Royal Caribbean guests on Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, the Vintages wine bar evolves into a larger space on Project Genesis, offering a variety of options for those seeking a tropical white Riesling or a mocha-inflected Merlot. Great for a pre-dinner rendezvous, Vintages also provides a selection of cheeses and a full tapas menu to accompany a robust selection of fine wines. Open for lunch and dinner.

    When she launches in late 2009, Project Genesis will be the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world. An architectural marvel at sea, she will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 GRT, carry 5,400 guests, and feature 2,700 staterooms. The ship will sail from her home port in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In 2010, she will be joined by a sister ship, and there is an open option for a third vessel. Additional information is available at

    The web site mentioned above includes the excellent video below with views of Central Park and other portions of the ship.

    Video of Royal Caribbean's Genesis-class ship.

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    4-10-08 Carnival Splendor Completes Final Sea Trials Carnival Cruise Lines' new 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor is shown here in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Sicily undergoing final sea trials.

    Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri, Italy, the 3,006-passenger vessel - the largest "Fun Ship" ever constructed - is slated to debut July 2, 2008, with an eight-day voyage from Genoa to London (Dover) after which it will begin a series of 12-day Northern Europe cruises July 13.

    Representing a new class of vessel, Carnival Splendor will offer a host of innovations, including a luxurious 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa. Adjacent to the facility will be 68 spa staterooms and suites - a first for Carnival. Its numerous family-friendly features will include an expansive two-level, 5,500-square-foot children's play area and a water spray park.

    Following its Northern Europe cruises, Carnival Splendor will operate a schedule of 12-day cruises to the Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey before repositioning to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for seven-day Caribbean departures. Carnival Splendor will sail a series of 14- to 18-day South America voyages, then be deployed to Long Beach, Calif., for year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera voyages beginning in March 2009.

    click on pictures below for larger images:

        Splendour Sea Trial    

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    4-9-08 NCL Launches Online Guest Experience & Loyalty Scorecard Furthering its fleet-wide Freestyle 2.0 initiative, NCL is implementing a new online guest feedback process. The NCL Guest Experience & Loyalty Scorecard will collect, analyze and report guest feedback about the entire cruise experience.

    Upon return home from their NCL cruise, guests receive an email invitation to provide feedback on their entire cruise experience via a post-cruise online survey. The web-based format takes the place of the on-board guest comment card. The surveys allow NCL to continuously listen to their guests and improve the NCL product.

    The scorecard will be in place fleet-wide by mid-April. Topics include the total dining experience; the stateroom; on-board activities for guests of all ages; and additional recognition, service and amenities for balcony, suite and villa guests. Norwegian Jade is the first ship to feature Freestyle 2.0. Additional ships will launch Freestyle 2.0 within the following weeks, with fleet-wide roll out implemented by June 1, 2008.

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    4-9-08 Princess Cruises to Add "Sanctuary" to All Ships Princess Cruises'"pocket of tranquility" - The Sanctuary - will be added to the entire fleet of Princess ships. Beginning this summer, the line's trademark retreat will be added to Island Princess, followed by Grand Princess and Star Princess by the end of the year. Additional ships will have The Sanctuary added through 2010.

    The Sanctuary debuted in 2006 aboard Crown Princess as a semi-private adults-only getaway with a plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting, complete with massage cabanas, signature beverages, light meals, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment. The area was also included on the newer sister ship Emerald Princess, and will also be available on Ruby Princess, debuting in November.

    The Sanctuaries will be created in different areas onboard depending on the ship, such as the sports courts atop the "Grand-class" vessels, which will be relocated.

    Sanctuary guests enjoy softly piped-in spa music to further insulate the area with relaxation sounds. Guests relax on plush outdoor furniture including deluxe chaise lounges and chairs and double loungers for couples. Serenity Stewards are on hand to provide everything from a chilled face towel, Evian water atomizers and a menu of healthy beverages and fare. Personal MP3 players with noise canceling headphones available loaded with themed playlists offer relaxation for those who want to escape with music.

    The Sanctuary features two outdoor private cabanas where guests can take advantage of Lotus Spa Services including Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a relaxing Swedish Massage or a Full Body Lotus Massage especially for couples.

    Guests can also refresh with a variety of special drinks and snacks created exclusively for The Sanctuary. Signature Sanctuary beverages include healthy smoothies, energy drinks, iced flavored waters and freshly made lemonade. A menu featuring a selection of light bites such as refreshing fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna pâté with baked pita wedges.

    Half-day passes for The Sanctuary are available for $10 per person, for 8 am to 12:30 pm or 1 pm to 5 pm. Passengers choosing to indulge with an outdoor massage may also enjoy an hour's use of The Sanctuary area after their treatment.

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    4-9-08 California Cruise Safety Bill Sails Through Committee A California state bill that would require peace officers aboard cruise ships sailing from California ports cleared its first hurdle Tuesday as the state Senate's public safety committee voted to move it forward in the legislative process, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

    Senate Bill 1582, sponsored by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), calls for placing state=employed "ocean rangers" on all Califorina-based cruise ships and funding them with a $1-a-day passenger fee. The rangers stated duties include monitoring public safety and ensure that ships comply with environmental regulations that prohibit dumping waste within three miles of the state's coastline.

    If passed, the bill would give California the most stringent cruise-ship regulations in the nation. A CLIA spokesperson, maritime attorney Larry Kaye, said "Every cruise line supports your effort to punish crime on cruise ships. This industry can't survive if our passengers don't feel safe. Frankly, we'd welcome a bill that gives California the right to investigate, prosecute and convict." But he also expressed reservations about placing a state officer on cruise ships, "perhaps a port officer would be one solution -- but placing an embedded ranger on board who doesn't have jurisdiction would hinder any prosecution even by the FBI, and we should not let that happen."

    During the hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday, Simitian and victims of crimes aboard cruise ships described a "lawless environment" in which the industry's primary interest is protecting itself from liability.

    "Private security is in a fundamentally compromised situation," Simitian said. "Private security has to worry about the public relations issue... They have to be concerned about the liability of their employer and they are in many cases investigating crimes committed by their fellow employees."

    Simitian says there needs to be some oversight, and that "trust us" should not be the standard for law enforcement on cruise ships.

    Sacramento resident Laurie Dishman tearfully told lawmakers that she was raped on a Royal Caribbean ship sailing from Southern California in 2006. She said when she reported the incident to ship employees, they handed her plastic trash bags and told her to collect her own evidence.

    Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims, described the disappearance of his adult daughter, who was not reported missing to the FBI by Royal Caribbean until five weeks after her Alaskan cruise ended in 2004. She has not been found.

    The industry says it has "zero tolerance for crime," Carver testified, but "the last thing they want to do is get somebody independent on that ship to make sure that nothing happens."

    State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the safety committee, encouraged the industry and victim advocates to work together.

    "You have your work cut out for you," Romero told Simitian. "I think there is some more middle ground that is available to us. . . . The cruise line industry is very significant for California. We want to make sure that it's safe and secure and at the same time too that it does not go overboard."

    The Senate's environmental quality committee will consider the bill Monday. A trade group for the cruise industry said Tuesday that it opposed the bill.

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    4-9-08 MSC Poesia Christened by Sophia Loren MSC Poesia was christened yesterday by godmother Sophia Loren, who has also served as godmother MSC's last four ships. The latest in the line's "Musica" class of ships was also welcomed by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, representing the British Royal Family.

    Providing the onboard entertainment prior to the midnight christening were Italian opera legend Andrea Bocelli and award-winning singer/songwriter KT Tunstall.

    This was the first time the Italian-owned MSC Cruises christened a new ship outside of Italy. At 94,600 tons and 1,275 staterooms (double occupancy for 2,550 guests), MSC Poesia boasts cutting-edge technology, elegant surroundings, exciting entertainment venues and tantalizing dining opportunities (at four restaurants - including the Kaito Sushi Bar - and 12 lounges.

    After the event, MSC Poesia set sail on her 13-night pre-inaugural voyage from Dover to Venice, visiting Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, and finally Italy, arriving in Venice where she will be positioned for the summer of 2008.

    MSC Poesia is a sister ship to the popular MSC Orchestra and MSC Musica (launched in 2007 and 2006, respectively). She is the ninth ship in the MSC Cruises fleet, which has experienced the industry's largest fleet expansion over the last three years.

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    4-7-08 French Troops to Rescue Pirate-seized Yacht in Somalia The New York Times is reporting that Elite French troops are headed to East Africa to aid the effort to free captives aboard a yacht held by pirates off Somalia, according to a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. The French commandos are a team of the GIGN, a force that conducts anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. They are traveling to Djibouti to "reinforce" negotiation teams in place, according to the French government spokeswoman.

    French officials made contact with the pirates overnight, and confirmed that the crew was safe and sound and well-treated. The Somali pirates seized the yacht, called Le Ponant, in the Gulf of Aden on Friday. It was carrying 30 crew members, including 22 French citizens, but no passengers.

    French military spokesman Cmdr. Christophe Prazuck said the situation aboard the yacht remained "calm" as of today, Monday. Over the weekend, military officials said that a French frigate had been diverted from its NATO duties and was tracking the yacht. An airplane dispatched from a French base in Djibouti also has flown over the yacht.

    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned it could take "an enormous amount of time" to settle the pirate standoff, while an official in Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland region, where the yacht is being held, warned the French government against paying a ransom.

    "The money could only encourage the pirates to continue their criminal acts," said Puntland's information minister Abdirahman Mohamed Bangah. He urged the "U.S. Navy and other Western marine forces" to take over the yacht by force.

    President Nicolas Sarkozy planned to meet with the families of the French crew members Tuesday.

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    4-7-08 German cruise ship to dock at Iranian port The Teheran Times is reporting that a cruise ship with 200 foreign tourists on board is to dock at Iranian southern port of Bandar Abbas, Hormuzgan province, on April 12.

    The ship, named Columbus, is headed for the Iranian waters from port of Hamburg, Germany, according to an Iranian travel agency. It will anchor off the coast of Bandar Abbas next Saturday for a two-day stay. Columbus' passengers are expected to visit a number of Iranian cities in southern provinces including the cities of Shiraz, Isfahan and Bushehr.

    According to Sadeqi, Iran's immigration and foreign nationals police department as well as Organization of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism made necessary arrangements for the tourists' visit from the Iranian cities, historical sites and tourists hubs.

    Two other foreign cruise ships had docked off the coasts of Kish Island in the Persian Gulf and Bandar Abbas respectively on March 15 and 23, Sadeqi added.

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    4-7-08 Two Ship inaugurals In England Two new ships are entering service, largerly catering to the European market. The P&O Ventura made its debut in Southampton yesterday and is set to have an extensive inaugural activity on April 16th featuring th Oscar-winning actress Dane Helen Mirren.

    Between today and her departure on her maiden voyage P&O Cruises' are expecting a total of 22,000 people, former passengers, representatives of the shipping and travel industries, will have toured the ship.

    Ventura, the biggest cruise ship ever built specifically for British passengers, can accommodate up to 3,600 passengers and nearly 900 of her cabins have private balconies.

    The other Ship, MSC Poesia, was christened in a midnight ceremony at the port of Dover featuring Italian actress Shophia Loren. She cut a ribbon the colors of the Italian flag (red, white and green), which released the champagne bottle toward the bow of the ship, at the stroke of midnight, April 5th.

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    4-3-08 Somali Pirates Seize a French Yacht Reports are out that pirates off the coast of Somaalia seized French yacht with 30 crewmembers aboard yesterday. Not much is out there except that the owner has confirmed it has been seized.

    What is surprising, however, is thenumber of incidences involving these Somali pirates lately. Some of you may remember a Seabourne ship was attacked near the coast of Somailia two years ago. The invaders were repleeled before they could stop the ship or board by using evasive tactics. The onboard security used a "sound cannon" directed at the pirates to disuade them from remaining in the area. The captain used the ship itself as a weapon, turning it into the pirate vessel to knock it off course and then quickly turning the other way to speed away.

    The ship did sustain some damage, however, as rocket propelled grenades were shot through the hull - above the waterline - although no one on board was hurt. The captain admitted later that he had been lax in watching his route and inadvertently had sailed closer than the 200 mile margin off the Somali coast that the U.N. is currently warning all vessels to use.

    Other recent attacks by the pirates include a Russian tugboat taken February 1st. The pirates held this boat for a full month before they released it after a ransom of $700,000 was paid. Obviously, this is an extraordinary amount of money. The pirates are said to have gone into hiding and have not been captured for this crime.

    The BBC reports that world piracy peaked in 2003 with 445 attacks globally. The number of attacks per year has dimished since then. There were 239 attacks in 2006 and 249 in 2007.

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    4-1-08 Windjammer Cruises Officially Out of Business

    Many CruiseMates readers read my series of five articles on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises Limited. The Burke family patriarch, Michael Burke Sr. built a cruise business from nothing, only to have his children to tear it asunder with infighting and neglect. For those of you who did not read the story, it is better than most novels, and it's all true.

    Today, April 1st, 2008, is the day that the most recent CEO of the company, Joey Burke, had promised Windjammer's faithful followers that the fleet would once again be in full service. This was back in December of 2007 when the company was scheduling cruises on its last remaining ship, the Legacy, only to end up canceling them one day before sailing due to "financial difficulties" and other various excuses.

    And today, I have finally have in my hands what many people have been seeking for months. Thanks to "Jerry," a regular poster at the Windjammer message board known as the "Flotilla," (, I have a copy of a letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stating that Windjammer Barefoot Cruises LTD is "no longer in business."

    As the entity legally responsible for oversight of registered Florida Sellers of Travel, issued a response to Jerry's complaint against the company that says...

    "According to our records, this seller of travel is no longer in business and efforts to contact them on behalf of consumers have proven unsuccessful. This company was not required to post financial security with this Department. The State, therefore, holds no security from which to draw or make refunds to those individuals who had purchased travel related services from this business"

    "You may wish to seek private legal counsel or you may file a claim in small claims court. There is, however, no guarantee you will be able to recover the money you paid to this company."

    "We regret that we were unable to be of assistance at this time. Please let us know if this office may be of service in the future with another consumer related matter."

    " Don Dietrich Regulatory Specialist III 850-410-3801 Email:"

    The good news about this letter is that it should be proof enough for the hundreds of people, many of whom paid well over $10,000 per family, to go to their credit card companies and request a refund. For others, who bought into the odd sailing time-share scheme the company put forth, it may be enough to legally claim a capital gains write-off on their taxes (ask your CPA if this is possible).

    How big is the Windjammer debacle? For a small cruise line it is surprisingly far-reaching. The company bought a research vessel in August 2003 and announced they were converting it into a cruise ship and sailing time-share. They produced a beautiful color brochure to represent the final product, the LaMer, and proceeded with a heavy pitch by timeshare salespeople earning as much as 50% commission using the list of past passengers for their contact sheet.

    The sales effort was so intense that likely prospects tell stories of being taken out to dinner and lubricated with spirits until they agreed to sign, in many cases after they had said they were not interested at all repeatedly. Timeshares were offered for every week of the year and for every cabin on the ship as shown in the brochure. Unfortunately, the brochure was the only thing ever turned into a timeshare. The actual vessel remained unchanged and to this day is rotting away in a Trinidad shipyard. The contract did specify that the company could replace cabins on the LaMer with cruises on their existing vessels, which they did in many cases.

    Sometime in 2005 one of the family members raided company funds for as much as $450,000. Lawsuits from his siblings followed. Still, sales of these time-share contracts continued through late 2006. By then the line's other vessels were already falling apart due to neglect and lack of working capital. By 2007 crewmembers and bills for provisions were not getting paid. In November, 2007, the last remaining working Windjammer vessel sailed its last cruise.

    After the last cruise, people looking to collect on their pre-paid cruises were told the company was in the process of rebuilding, and that April 2008 was the target date to have the company fully operating again. Customers requesting their cruises were told that getting the fleet up and running again was just a matter of time and urged to "wait until April". Those who insisted on refunds were asked to fax or mail in requests, but in almost every case these requests were ignored.

    Throughout early 2008 the Burke family went quietly underground. They stopped commenting in public and put out no press releases. In March, the Miami headquarters went silently dark. The company still owed millions of dollars in unfulfilled cruises alone, plus other financial liabilities. Yet, they never declared bankruptcy or any other formal financial moves at all.

    This lack of formal legal status - being a cruise line with no working ships -- left anyone who is owed money by the company at a loss. Many credit card companies would not issue refunds. The exception would be if the customer could prove the company was out of business, but strangely, the Windjammer Web site remained online, looking as if the line was still robust. There was no proof of the debacle that was really happening.

    The truth is, greedy family members had picked the company carcass dry, according to one eyewitness I interviewed. Whenever the time came for financial responsibility they resorted to a tactic of blame shifting. In fact, the Web of legal entities who still own various pieces of the company is so convoluted that it is said even the Burkes have lost track of what is what.

    In any case, the last company CEO, Joey Burke, had promised April would be the dawning of the new Windjammer, and now that April is here the Burkes are as invisible as ever. The latest rumors say that the ships have been seized by creditors and will be auctioned off. Another rumor says that one of the Burke sisters, Polly, is blaming the British overseer of the company Trust, Pallister, for their inactivity. Apparently, he is content to let the family's future wave in the wind as long as he can continue to collect legal fees. Possibly, when he is done collecting maintenance fees for the trust he will be representing them in criminal court as they face charges of bilking investors out of millions of dollars.

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