News Archive - July 2009

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8-31-09 Rare West Coast Hurricane Sitting Off Mexico Hurricane Jimena is sitting just off the west coast, centered about 285 miles south of Cabo Corrientes near Puerto Vallarta. It has now strengthened to a category 4 hurricane. It was initially a small storm that quickly gained steam and is expected to strengthen further over the next day.

Jimena is expected to threaten the resorts of Baja California on Tuesday with possible sustained winds of 135 mph. Originally, residents were told not to be worried about the storm. Jimena is the second hurricane in the eastern Pacific this season. Hurricane Carlos passed last June, but was too far out at sea to cause any danger.

Only Carnival cruises have been affected. here is what their web site says:

"We are closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Jimena which is currently located about 250 miles southwest of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Due to the location of the storm, we will make the following itinerary changes: The Carnival Elation August 29 departure from San Diego will visit Catalina on Tuesday and Ensenada on Wednesday. The Carnival Splendor August 30 departure from Long Beach will visit Catalina on Monday and Ensenada on Tuesday.

We will navigate our ships at a safe distance from the storm at all times. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew." Please see "Hurricanes' effect on cruise ships - should you worry?" for more information on the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes.

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8-28-09 Disney Dream Begins to Take Shape

Disney Cruise Line celebrated the keel laying of the Disney Dream today, the first of two newly-designed ships for Disney Cruise Line.

The keel laying ceremony is the first step of construction after many years of design work. In the maritime industry, the ceremony marks a momentous occasion when the first block – or section – of the ship is lowered into the building dock and a coin is placed under the keel for good fortune.

Doing the honors of placing the coin was Captain Tom Forberg. With a distinguished maritime career aboard Disney Cruise Line, Forberg was the first crew member hired and the captain who launched the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Recently, Forberg was named as the future Master of the Disney Dream.

The ship will continue to take its form through a block construction process in which pre-fabricated complete hull sections are joined together in block units and are then brought together to form the ship. The Disney Dream will be made up of 80 blocks, with the first block weighing in at approximately 380 tons.

Designing the Disney Dream

The Disney Dream is scheduled to join the current fleet in 2011, followed by Disney's second new ship, the Disney Fantasy in 2012. Together the two new cruise ships will more than double the capacity of Disney Cruise Line, each having 1,250 staterooms and a tonnage of 128,000.

Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering, along with the Meyer Werft shipyard claims to have created a truly distinctive design - details to be revealed later this fall.

Homeports

Both new ships will call Port Canaveral, Fla., their home, where expansion efforts are underway to accommodate the larger ships and additional guests. In addition to an extension of the dock and enlargements to the one-of-a-kind Disney terminal building, a new multi-level parking structure will be built, complementing the design elements of the ships. The new enhancements will provide guests a seamless transition from land to sea during their vacation experience.

Disney Cruise Line also recently announced that the Disney Wonder will operate from the Port of Los Angeles starting in 2011.

Future Itineraries

In addition to the new ships, Disney Cruise Line continues to expand itineraries, with plans to once again sail the Mediterranean region aboard the Disney Magic during the summer of 2010. In addition to the popular ports in Spain, Italy and France, the ship will visit Tunis, in Northern Africa, and the island nations of Malta and Corsica. Disney Magic will also visit the historic cities of Northern Europe for the first time calling on Warnemunde, Germany, the gateway to Berlin and St. Petersburg, Russia. Enchanting Scandinavian ports like Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm, will also be a first for Disney.

Holz noted that the company will begin to announce some itineraries for 2011 in September during the D23 EXPO, the ultimate fan experience where the entire world of Disney will come together under one roof at the Anaheim Convention Center in California.

Based in Celebration, Fla., Disney Cruise Line established the family cruise market when it launched its business in 1998. Recently the line was named the best large cruise ship for families by Travel + Leisure magazine in its annual readers' poll.

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8-26-09 Holland America Offers "Cancel for Any Reason" Insurance Holland America Line guests who purchase Cancellation Protection Plan (CPP) can cancel their cruise for any reason whatsoever to receive a refund of up to 90 percent of the cruise fare paid. Two variations of the plan allow cancellation of a cruise up to 24 hours prior to the cruise or cruisetour departure for Standard CPP and right up to departure for CPP Platinum.

With Holland America Line guests do not need specific reasons to be protected, according to Richard D. Meadows executive vice president. "It provides added peace of mind in today's environment to know that whatever might be affecting a guest's travel plans, they can receive a refund if needed."

For most sailings, Holland America Line's standard cancellation policy allows guests to cancel in writing without penalty up to 76 days prior to the departure date.

Two Levels of CPP

Standard CPP reimburses 80% of eligible amounts paid for cancellations for any reason up to 24 hours prior to the cruise or cruisetour departure. Plus, the plan provides an additional $500 liability (for a total of $600) for lost, damaged or delayed baggage.

CPP Platinum features a 90% refund upon cancellation for any reason prior to departure. Other benefits for the expanded plan are increased baggage protection for lost or damaged luggage up to $1,600 total, delayed baggage coverage up to $1,100, trip interruption protection if a guest must return home unexpectedly and trip delay coverage.

Medical coverage under the plan provides for emergency medical expenses for illness or injury first occurring during the voyage, emergency medical evacuation and 24-hour emergency hotline assistance for legal, passport, cash transfer, medical and documentation assistance.

Standard CPP and CPP Platinum are available to U.S. and Canadian residents and must be purchased at the time of deposit. The cost varies by cruise fare and is non-refundable. For example, CPP pricing for a guest paying up to $1,000 per person for a seven-day Caribbean cruise would be $79 for Standard CPP and $99 for CPP Platinum. For more information and specific plan details, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit www.hollandamerica.com.

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8-25-09 Celebrity Century Re-routed to Europe for 2010 Celebrity Cruises has decided to redeploy Century to the Mediterranean next summer, 2010 and cancel the previously announced series of 4- and 5-night cruises from Miami between May and October 2010.

Celebrity Solstice scheduled to sail in the Caribbean year-round next year on 7-night Caribbean cruises while Celebrity Century will continue to present 4- and 5-night Caribbean cruises from November 2009 through early May 2010.

Century will depart Miami May 20, 2010, on a 14-night transatlantic voyage visiting Ponta Delgada, Azores; Lisbon, Portugal; and Seville and Malaga, Spain, ending in Barcelona. There, on June 3, Celebrity Century will begin a series of 12-night, roundtrip Mediterranean cruises, with a variety of ports of call that vary depending on departure date.

Among the destinations are the French Riviera's luxurious Cannes and Monte Carlo, Nice, and Provence, known for its aromatic fields of lavender; the seaside communities of Sicily and Salerno on Italy's Amalfi Coast; historic Florence/Pisa and Rome; Venice with overnight stays in port; Ephesus, Turkey, with its ancient ruins; Athens, and Mykonos, Greece; and the Adriatic seaside communities of Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia.

Celebrity Century's 2010 Europe season will be capped with a 14-night transatlantic voyage departing Barcelona October 25, with calls on Malaga, Spain; Madeira, Portugal; and Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands, ending November 8, 2010, in Miami, Fla., where the ship will resume its popular 4- and 5-night Celebrity Caribbean getaways.

Bookings for Celebrity Century's new Europe sailings in 2010 open Thursday, August 27.

All guests with confirmed bookings on Celebrity Century's 4- and 5-night Caribbean sailings between May 20 through November 4, 2010, are being contacted with an exceptional option: To be reaccommodated from their 4- or 5-night cruise on Celebrity Century to a 7-night sailing on the new Celebrity Solstice, subject to availability, in a like category at the same fare paid.

Travel agents or guests with questions about pertinent bookings on Celebrity Century are advised to call 1-888-281-9343.

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8-24-09 Norwegian Epic's First Transatlantic Cruise Open for Waitlist Norwegian Cruise Line announces it is now offering guests the opportunity to book a waitlist reservation on Norwegian Epic's first transatlantic cruise. Guests on the waitlist will have first priority to secure their booking once the sailing date, itinerary and pricing are announced. Guests can call their travel agent or Norwegian at 866-234-7350 to be put on the waitlist.

Norwegian Epic's 2010 inaugural sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Miami are open for sale, with cruise fares starting at $699 per person. The first Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami is scheduled for July 17, 2010 and the ship's alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are available through April 2011.

Norwegian Epic's Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. The ship's Western Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Guests can make a reservation by contacting their travel professional or Norwegian Cruise Line at 866-234-7350. More information about the ship, her itineraries and offerings can be found at epic.ncl.com.

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8-24-09 Hurricane Bill Drenches Newfoundland

Hurricane Bill, now a category one storm, knocked out power for about 40,000 customers in Nova Scotia yesterday and is now forecast to bring dangerous waves and as much as 6 inches of rain to parts of Newfoundland on Monday as it travels up the Atlantic Coast and may even continue on as far as Great Britain.

The storm touched on southeastern Newfoundland at 2 a.m. eastern time with maximum winds of 75 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.

Bill was moving east-northeast at 40 miles per hour and is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm later today, the center said.

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8-20-09 Hurricane Bill Forces Route Changes for Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean gave a tropical storm update today that shows a simple revising of one itinerary and no changes for any other ship. They do advise Baltimore passengers to stay alert for future possible changes.

Here is Royal Caribbean's update:

August 21, 2009

Royal Caribbean International continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Bill to ensure our guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew members is always our foremost concern.

Given the current location and projected path of Hurricane Bill, we are altering the itinerary of one ship, and providing the following guidance regarding one sailing:

Ships sailing from the Cape Liberty

  • Explorer of the Seas, which departed Cape Liberty on Thursday, August 20, is sailing a revised itinerary, with its ports of call simply reordered. The ship will visit San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday; Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Monday; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Tuesday; and Kings Wharf, Bermuda, Thursday.

    Ships sailing Baltimore, Maryland

  • Grandeur of the Seas is scheduled to depart on Saturday, August 22, for its five-night sailing to Bermuda. However, guests on this sailing are encouraged to monitor these updates for any possible modifications to the itinerary.

    At this time, no other Royal Caribbean International ship is being affected by tropical weather. Royal Caribbean will continue to closely monitor weather conditions and will update this information if there are any changes.

    NCL reported last night, Aug 21, 2009:

    At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. We are closely monitoring the forecasted path of Hurricane Bill.

    Norwegian Spirit will depart Boston as scheduled today. Depending on the path of the storm, the ship may arrive later than scheduled into Bermuda. The ship's Captain will update the guests on board as to the specific arrival time in Bermuda once it has been determined.

    At this time, we are anticipating that the August 23 sailings of Norwegian Dawn from New York and Norwegian Majesty from Baltimore will depart as scheduled.

    We will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary

    Carnival Cruises

    August 21, 2009 – 6:00 PM We are closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Bill. All of our ships are operating at a safe distance from the storm. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew.

    The Carnival Triumph cruise that departed from New York on August 20 will cancel the scheduled call in Saint John. The ship will now navigate a safe course away from the storm and return to New York on Monday as scheduled.

    We are not anticipating changes to any other itineraries at this time including the Carnival Triumph cruise departing from New York on August 24. We will update this information if any new information is available.

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    8-18-09 NCL Alters Norwegian Sky Itinerary for Ana Because of the current expected path of Tropical Depression Ana, forecasted to pass near the islands of the Bahamas this week, NCL has changed the port of call order for Norwegian Sky's four-day Bahamas sailing, departing Miami on August 17, 2009. Norwegian Sky will first call on Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian's private island), followed by Nassau and Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas.

    NCL will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary.

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    8-18-09 Polynesian Hotelier Pacific Beachcomber Acquires Paul Gauguin Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the former Radisson luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin, has been acquired by Pacific Beachcomber, a leader in French Polynesia luxury destination resorts. The Paul Gauguin specializes in itineraries among the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific.

    "2010 will be business as usual, with no changes to our product, our dedicated officers and crew members, or our support of travel sellers worldwide, and we see many opportunities to enhance an already world-class experience for our guests."" said David A. Giersdorf, President and CEO of Paul Gauguin Cruises. "The m/s Paul Gauguin is a very successful ship, sailing at full occupancy the past three years, and with only 5 percent of capacity remaining in 2009."

    The largest luxury hotel operator in the destinations the m/s Paul Gauguin calls home, Pacific Beachcomber will provide opportunities to connect cruise itineraries with some of their premier resorts. The 2010 Paul Gauguin season features 38 itineraries ranging from 7 to 15 nights, highlighting Tahiti, the Society Islands, Tuamotus, the Cook Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. The ship recently received a multi-million dollar enhancement including private balconies in nearly 70 percent of suites and staterooms and an expanded al fresco dining experience.

    Early Booking Promotions are offered for guests who reserve and deposit by September 30, 2009 to receive up to 50 percent off Standard Cruise Fares for January-March departures and up to 45 percent off Standard Cruise Fares for April-December departures, as well as Free Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Papeete for 2010 departures of 10 or more nights, or for 2010 departures of 7 to 9 nights Two-for-One Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Papeete, an additional savings of up to $2,500 or $1,250, respectively, based upon two persons sharing a stateroom. Early Booking Savings are capacity controlled and subject to availability.

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    8-17-09 Princess Expands West Coast Destinations in 2010 Princess Cruises has added seven new sailings to next year's fall to spring (2010/2011) schedule aboard Sapphire Princess, including two leisurely Pacific crossings between California and Sydney, Australia, plus additional Hawaii cruises. Saphire Princess is currently sailing 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises out of Los Angeles through May 1st, 2010.

    The new Sapphire Princess cruise schedule includes the following:

    • 2-day Pacific Coastal (Vancouver to San Francisco) – September 20, 2010
    • 30-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (San Francisco to Sydney) – September 22, 2010
    • 29-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (Sydney to Los Angeles) – October 23, 2010
    • 10-day Mexican Riviera (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – January 5, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – January 29, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – February 26, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – March 26, 2011

    The new sailings are currently open for sale, with fares starting at $199 per person for the new two-day coastal cruise. Pacific crossings begin at $4,195 per person and the Hawaiian Islands sailings, beginning at $1,995 per person, sail from Los Angeles to Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai and Lahaina. Four days at sea before a stop at Endenada to satisfy the foreign port and the ship then returns to Los Angeles.

    To accommodate the new cruises, which were added as a result of shifting demand in the west coast cruise market, Princess has cancelled 15 previously scheduled Mexican Riviera sailings starting in September, 2010. An additional 17 Mexican Riviera sailings are still available during this time period.

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    8-17-09 Tropical Storm Bill Threatens Bermuda as Hurricane Tropical Storm Bill was 1,160 miles east of the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Monday morning, Aug 17, and moving west-northwest at 22 mph. The system is forecast to become a major hurricane, with winds of at least 111 mph, by Aug. 19, as it turns northwest on a course that may take it near Bermuda on Friday, Aug. 22.

    The first possible trajectory has Bill going directly over Bermuda and continuing on to the New York Area. Or the storm could turn to the west sooner and hit the U.S. south of the New York area, or turn to the east and lose strength before landfall.

    This has been the slowest start to a hurricane season in some 20 years. The first named storms just appeared although the season typically lasts from June 1st through November 30.

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    8-17-09 Carnival and NCL - No Changes Due to Tropical Storms Carnival Cruise Lines released this update on August 16, 2009 – 8:00 PM

    We are closely monitoring the progress of Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Storm Bill. All of our ships are operating at a safe distance from these storms. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew.

    Due to a favorable change in the forecast for these storms, we will now operate the scheduled itineraries for the Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Victory. The Carnival Freedom will now visit Nassau (Sun.), San Juan (Tues.), St. Thomas (Wed.) and Tortola (Thur.).

    We are not anticipating any other itinerary changes at this time. We will update this information if any other changes become necessary.

    NCL released this statement on August 15th:

    Tropical Storm Ana Update - Norwegian Cruise Line is closely monitoring the path of Tropical Storm Ana as the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance.

    At this time, we are not altering any of our ships' itineraries. However, we will continue to closely monitor the weather situation and depending on the projected path of the storm, itinerary modifications may be required.

    Norwegian will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary.

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    8-4-09 Crystal Symphony to Get Major Makeover Crystal Symphony, the baby of the two-ship luxury fleet, is about to get a $25 million-plus makeover featuring dramatic new interiors and deck space. The 922-guest, 50,000-ton ultra-luxury ship will boast redesigned pool areas, alternative Italian restaurant Prego, an updated Lido Café and new Penthouse suites.

    Penthouses

    Crystal Symphony's two 982-square-foot Crystal Penthouses will be completely transformed into the feel of elegant residential apartments with luxurious fabrics, details and finishes. Already boasting extra large verandahs, the interior will be extended to enlarge the living spaces and bedroom. Both the master and guest bathrooms will feature rare marble and designer fittings, but the master bathroom will boast a sunken Philippe Stark Duravit Jacuzzi bathtub with 90-degree ocean views, glass mosaics and recessed televisions, among other features. The suites also offer an entrance lobby, "his and her" walk-in closets, private study area, living room, state-of-the-art audio-visual system and a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows.

    Crystal Symphony's 61 butler-serviced Penthouses and Penthouse Suites will be redesigned in soothing taupe and sand tones, accented by citrus or icy blue, one of two color schemes. New custom cabinetry will sport stone countertops and flat screen televisions, while new bedding, stone-topped end tables and bedside reading lights will be framed by new headboards, carpeting and window treatments. All bathrooms will feature new tile with mosaic accents, glass showers, contemporary hardware and lighting, and a fresh white and neutral color palette.

    Lido Café

    The popular breakfast and lunch café will be transformed into an upscale dining spot with a completely new Crystal dining experience, designed to showcase Crystal's freshly cooked fare as well as to add intimate seating. Inspired by the endless skies, surf and sand dunes of the Hamptons seashore, the room will be infused with light through a new glazed indoor/outdoor extension and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. Natural tones of seashell, sand and weathered timber provide a soothing backdrop for sparkling polished metal accents and sea grass screens. New food and drink service islands, each with different choices, will enable guests to enjoy what they want in their order of preference. New bread oven, grill, woks and other culinary equipment will provide an even greater array of freshly cooked to order choices.

    Seahorse and Neptune Pool Areas

    Befitting an upscale chic resort, Crystal Symphony's pool areas will be redefined with new spaces, water features and furniture providing more indoor and al fresco dining, plush conversational seating and varied sunbathing options. Sophisticated limestone tile will offset the azure pool and the new, larger whirlpool, while deck furniture offers a harmonious combination of antique white and neutral taupe accented with colors of sunshine and tropical fruit. In the retractable roof-covered, mid-ship area of the Lido Deck, the Neptune Pool will be removed and replaced with teak decking and al fresco dining and lounging options around the Trident Bar. While the calming neutrals of the Lido Café open to brighter outdoor colors, the unifying theme is natural and relaxed.

    Prego

    Since its debut, this critically-acclaimed, intimate Italian specialty restaurant has been inspired by Venice. Open only for dinner, the new design will be moody and dramatic, retaining elements of traditional Venetian architecture and portraiture presented in a fresh and modern way. Luxuriously padded, dark chocolate fabric walls frame delicate chandeliers, art by famed Venetian artists and richly upholstered seating.

    All Staterooms

    All Crystal staterooms, all of which were redecorated in late 2007 and feature sitting areas, will receive new sofas to provide more seating and add third berths for families. This year, all accommodations on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity received new plush Simmons' mattresses with healthful sanitary protectors.

    Other Enhancements

    During the September drydock, Crystal is also investing in upgraded elevators, a new crew restaurant, new lighting systems and other behind-the-scenes projects. Medical center improvements include digital x-ray equipment, enabling doctors to efficiently share x-rays with guests' personal physicians and other specialists. A major upgrade of the ship's onboard broadcast production studio will enhance Crystal's extensive television programming with added clarity and brilliance.

    Crystal's drydock is scheduled for September 17-October 1 in Boston at the Atlantic Marine Boston shipyard. Adfecto will design the Crystal Penthouses, Lido Café, Seahorse Pool and Neptune Deck areas, guest elevators and crew mess. Kurt Nix will design Prego and II X IV will design the Penthouses and Penthouse Suites.

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    8-3-09 Crystal Cruises Warns Public on Lookalike Check Scam Crystal Cruises is warning the public (not just travel agents) to be on the lookout for fraudulent checks bearing the name "Crystal Cruises." The upscale cruise line says a yet-to-be-determined fraudulent check writer is sending out checks by mail to individuals who respond to job postings for Mystery Shoppers, or possibly just random mail addresses. This is according to CruiseWeek, an industry newsletter.

    The scheme-scam seems to work like this; the mailer has forged a check that looks almost identical to Crystal's corporate checks, with the trademarked logo. They advise the recipient to deposit the check and then send the same amount of money to a third party via Western Union. This is a typical check scam as seen from Nigeria, or from Ebay or Craig's List purported buyers.

    Crystal Cruises has notified and is working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this matter. In order to provide the authorities with the additional information necessary to apprehend and prosecute the criminals behind this fraud, they ask that if you receive such a check, or have any information regarding this scam, please email them at "fraudalert" at crystalcruises dotcom or fax to 1-310-277-8150 or call 1-310-785-9300 and ask to speak to the Fraud Alert Department.

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    8-3-09 "Cruise Widow" Jennifer Hagel Smith to Remarry The widow of George Allen Smith, a newlywed who disappeared on a cruise in the Mediterranean in one of the most famous cruise mysteries ever, has plans to remarry. She is engaged to a financial analyst Jeff Agne, 29. The date for the wedding has not been publicly announced. The couple is registered at Amazon and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Hagel is reportedly not using the name "Smith" anymore although she did throughout the tribulations following the cruise tragedy.

    George Allen Smith disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 2005. Court records indicate the couple admits to partying heavily throughout the cruise, even disregarding cruise line rules by sneaking alcohol onboard and consuming it in their cabin and on deck. George disappeared after a night a heavy drinking by both newlyweds, she was reportedly found passed out in a ship corridor at the opposite end of the ship from her cabin, George was left in his cabin by three men they had been associating with during the cruise.

    About 4:30 a.m. a neighbor reported hearing "partying" in the Smith cabin and the ship sent security officers to investigate. Before they could arrive three men were seen leaving the cabin. Security arrived and knocked on the door, but all was quiet and they received no reply so they left. Soon after the same neighbors says he heard loud banging noises inside the cabin and eventually a loud thud. No one else was seen leaving the cabin.

    Jennifer was discovered passed out, loaded into a wheelchair and taken back to her cabin by two security men and a woman escort. They put her on top of her bed and left the room. They did not see anything indicating foul play while they were there, but pictures of the stateroom taken the next day show papers everywhere and clothes and towels on the floor. Jennifer characterized the room appearance as "lived in."

    The next morning Jennifer awoke at 8:00 and rushed to the spa, stating later she mistakenly believed she was late for an appointment there. About 9:00 blood was spotted outside the balcony of the Smith cabin and a search was started for the couple with announcements over the PA system which did not go to the spa. Jennifer was eventually located but George Smith was not. The rest of the day was a blur for Jennifer as she was taken off the ship to Turkish police headquarters, always with a female Royal Caribbean assistant with her. Jennifer and her family decided she should leave the ship and come home, so they wired money to pay for a hotel and an air ticket.

    Jennifer Hagel Smith came to a settlement with Royal Caribbean, after extensive media coverage portraying the cruise line as uncaring for different reasons, including the fact that they gave her clothes after her cabin had been sealed at the request of Turkish authorities, and the clothes had the cruise line's name on them. Under the Death on the High Seas Act, an international treaty which limits liability by ship owners only to the widow of the deceased, the settlement to Hagel Smith essentially limited the ability of George Smith's parents to seek a separate settlement with Royal Caribbean. Hence, the Smith family believe a crime occured which the cruise line has covered up and they have been attempting to have the settlement agreement between Hagel and the cruise line overturned. George's parents are now said to be co-founders of the International Cruise Victims association, a group that has been putting pressure on Congress to change the laws governing cruise ship reporting of crimes on the high seas.

    Was it a crime? After investigation by the Turkish authorities, the FBI and even famous "O.J. Simpson CSI investigator" Dr. Henry Lee who was hired by Jennifer Hagel Smith to review the evidence, no expert or authority has said they firmly believe a crime was committed. Jennifer has expressed great respect for the way the FBI handled the mystery and says she agrees with their assessment that there is a 50/50 probability that there was or was not foul play. No charges were ever brought forth against any individual by any law enforcement entity.

    After the settlement agreement was reached Jennifer Hagel Smith made a statement that her husband's family has refused to acknowledge the possibility that George Smith's intoxication from alcohol and prescription drugs may have been a factor in an accidental death. Instead, she said they have insisted Smith was a victim of foul play despite a lack of evidence.

    Jennifer's lawyer, Richard Sheeley, stated, "There's no evidence we can see of murder."

    As the editor of Cruisemates I just want to say that even though Jennifer may not come across as the most prudent and cautious person in the world, I do think she has been honest with the facts throughout this entire ordeal - including her own behavior. I believe that if she were convinced there was foul play she would pursue that route. There is little doubt that there is a tremendous amount of animousity towards her from the Smith family and from the group of self-described cruise victims who obviously want to make the cruise line responsible for everything that ever happens on a cruise ship, despite a lack of evidence to support such claims in any case.

    One thing this case taught everyone is that the loser in every misfortune on a cruise ship is the cruise line who will be criticized no matter what they do. When they gave Jennifer clothes they were criticized because they said "Royal Caribbean." When she had an escort with her every minute until she flew home they were criticized for not having more than one escort. When Jennifer flew home it was said they threw her off the ship, even though they were informed that was her decision. They were criticized for not preserving evidence but also criticized when they packed all of her belongings in plastic bags so she could take them home. They were criticized because the bags said "Royal Caribbean."

    Jennifer Hagel Smith criticized the cruise line a great deal in the beginning until she finally came around to saying she believed they had done the best they could in assisting the investigation under the circumstances. Meanwhile, the Smith family has questioned Jennifer's actions and probably would have preferred that she be treated more like a criminal. This was not their initial reaction, however, when they were going to be a party to her lawsuit.

    In fact, the split between Jennifer and the Smith family was precipitated when she started believing the FBI was doing a good job handling the case but the FBI couldn't say conclusively that a crime had occured. Jennifer has said the FBI were like family in the months after George's disappearance, calling her and dropping by, and following up every lead possible. The Smith family found Jennifer's actions suspicious and reportedly contacted the FBI with their own ideas about Jennifer's behavior.

    As is the case with most "cruise victim" stories, the lack of evidence is never a concern. It is almost always ascribed to "a coverup" by the cruise line as to what really happened. Still, we have to say we are happy the media is finally reporting these stories with far more accuracy. Most articles about people who go missing on ships do not automatically suggest they fell from the ship or were murdered and thrown overboard, they now include the possibility that the overboards were self-induced either intentionally or by mistake.

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