News Archive - December 2007

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12-30-07: Queen Victoria Cursed? - Puleeeze. FoxNews is doing yet another cutesy "news" piece, this time it concerns the new Cunard liner Queen Victoria. They are saying that because 78 people, less than 4% of the entire passenger capacity, have come down with a stomach virus that the ship has "the curse of Camilla". This is in reference to the fact that the champagne bottle did not break when Camilla threw the switch in Southampton for the naming ceremony.

Dear Fox news - first of all, it wasn't Camilla's fault the champagne bottle didn't break. The magnum of Vueuve Clicquot champagne was rigged to a mechanical lever that was built by the shipyard to swing it into the helm of the ship with enough force to break the bottle. All Camilla did was hit a button, repeatedly. Yes, I should know, I was there.

The first time she hit the lever's button the mechanical arm did not even move, and so she punched it a few more times. Finally, someone alongside the ship did something to force the arm to swing, but not with enough force to break the bottle. Yes, the bottle hung there, and someone then broke another bottle from up above, as the original bottle remained in place.

But puleeze... it is really necessary to make fun of the woman for something that had absolutely nothing to do with her? Is this how a classy "fair & balanced, we report, you decide" news department should play this story? I think I smell desperation in reporting here. When all else fails, make fun of the British Royals.

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12-29-07: MS Fram Hits Ice Near Antarctica The brand new purpose-built ice-hulled vessel, MS Fram, owned by the Hurtigruten Cruises line of Norway, lost power near Antarctica and began to drift. As a result, the ship drifted into a piece of sharp ice which gouged a small hole in the hull.

The ship was able to regain power after approximately one half hour and made it to the port of King George Island under its own power. No one was injured and the ship requires a minimum of maintenance to repair the hole.

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12-27-07: Three Cunard Queens to Meet in New York On Sunday, January 13, 2008, Cunard Line operator of The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World will, for the first and only time, sail their three luxury liner Queens - flagship Queen Mary 2, famed Queen Elizabeth 2 and the new Queen Victoria - together out of New York harbor. The regal fleet is scheduled to depart at 6:30 p.m. Queen Mary 2 will depart from her home port, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal while QE2 will depart from Pier 92 and Queen Victoria will depart from Pier 88 both at the Westside Cruise Terminal. Then, the three Queens will rendezvous and sail past the Statue of Liberty during a spectacular fireworks celebration at approximately 7:00 p.m.

This is the first-time in Cunard's 168-year history that three "Queens" have been in service at the same time and with QE2 retiring in November 2008 will be the only time they will be together, offering a maritime history-making moment.

Thousands of well-wishers are expected to gather at ideal viewing locations to wish the majestic fleet of Queens "Bon Voyage" and see the fireworks celebration. They include:

  • Battery Park: On the southern shoreline of Manhattan, www.thebattery.org
  • Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park: Overlooking the Hudson River with great views of the Statue of Liberty Getting there: Just south of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. By subway: 4 or 5 to Bowling Green, or N or R to Whitehall. The Esplanade: Running the entire length of Battery Park City, along the Hudson River from Stuyvesant High School on the north end all the way south to Battery Park
  • Hudson River Park: 550 acre park extends for five miles along the Manhattan shoreline from Battery Place to West 59th Street. For the most current information on the day's events, visit www.cunard.com/rendezvous.

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12-19-07: New Norwegian Gem "It" Girl - Cindy Cardella Congratulations to Cindy Cardella, Norwegian Gem's Godmother. Cindy and her entourage will sail away on a 7-day cruise in Norwegian Gem's totally luxe VIP Garden Villa. You can see how she reacted as her name was announced at the Christening Ceremony in the video here: Cindy Cardella Wins.

The ceremony in New York last night featured several look-alike celebrities, such as P DDiddy and Mariah Carey. The rest of the group was dressed in the requested white, black or leopard skin outfits the invitations requested. To start the show, a team os security agent found executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services, Andy Stuart off and away from the stage because he was "not on the guest list" -- the "security team" turned out to be Dem Boyz Step Team, then featured in "Stomp the Yard," a film released this year about underground street dancing.

NCL President & CEO Colin Veitch then introduced the videos of each of the five finalists, all of them sitting in the front row wearing black and leopard print; the entourages sitting in various places in the auditorium. He explained the criteris for the new "It" who had already been pre-selected in an online voting contest.

Before announcing the winner, A Reverend August Gold of the Sacred Center of New York invited everyone to stand up and join her blessing the ship. NCL also screened it's A mini-film NCL referred to as a "movie-sode" released this year entitled "License to Thrill," in which Veitch, dressed in a white sport jacket, searches Venice, Paris and more of Europe to find the line's new "It" Girl. The video can ve seen online at Gemitgirl.com

The most interesting event to happen today in the 2-day celebration, Colin Veitch will be giving us a preview of Free-style 2.0, the freestyle method for the next generation of Free-style ships -- F3.

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12-18-07: Waiting for New "It" Girl - Norwegian Gem OK, I admit at first I thought it was a bit over the top to ask people to make video auditons to be NCL's newest "It" Girl and to handle the actual naming ceremony for the Norwegian Gem.

NCL opened up a web site, gemitgirl.com, so ladies of all ages could send in video interviews telling the public why they should be made godmother of NCL's newest ship, being christened in NYC today. They eventually narrowed the field down to five contestants. Well, it is now nearly 7:00 pm New York Time and I still don't know who the "It" Girl is. Is it Cindy Cardella, who had some of her "firsts" on NCL - her first kiss, her first dance, her first....? She claims she has stayed on board the Dawn in the Villa suite.

Is it Shonnon, who kisses her dog, tongue to lips, in the video (yechh, ugh) but otherwise makes a very compelling case with costume changes galore. Is it Louise Strong, who is more my demographic, but is a little too loud and obvious for my tastes. Mary O'dea is 75, and well, I've seen enough godmothers that age, sorry!

My guess is Lauren Kampf whose over-the-top video is funny and full of costume changing antics and puns. Good luck Lauren, my guess is you are on stage pulling that lever right now. I hope the bottle breaks!

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12-18-07: Costa Spends $22.5 Million to Upgrade Four Ships Between November and December 2007, Costa carried out restyling and technical maintenance on four ships while in dry dock. From November 13-23, the Costa Victoria was at the Mariotti shipyards in Genoa; from November 13-25, the Costa Marina was placed in dry-dock number five at the port of Genoa; from December 4-14, the Costa Concordia was at the Fincantieri dry-dock in Palermo, where the Costa Classica was also dry-docked from November 20 to December 1.

The main objective of these operations, which for Costa's ships are carried out an average of every two and a half years. Hull maintenance is one of the most important operations carried out during this kind of ship "check-up." During these operations, the hull is completely cleaned and painted to prevent it from eroding due to the effect the sea and to improve performance at sailing speeds.

For the hotel areas, the layout of the public spaces and the cabins was completely restyled, replacing furnishings, carpeting, curtains, fabrics, wall linings and, this time, also replacing the cathode ray television sets in the suites with new and modern LCD screens. On the outer decks, the flooring was replaced with teak.

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12-18-07: 14-year-old Rescued by US Navy for Operation 14-year-old Laura Montero owes her life to the men and women of the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the largest 3,000 sailor, aircraft carriers in the Navy.

Montero was aboard the Dawn Princess cruise ship off the coast of Baja, Mexico, Saturday when her appendix burst.

"It was a matter of life and death so it wasn't very good at all," said Montero's mother, Trudy LaField.

The crew of the Dawn Princess put out an SOS, and the The USS Ronald Reagan immediately dispatched two helicopters. The shup was on a training mission in the Pacific Ocean 550 miles away. Montero needed emergency surgery that couldn't be performed on the cruise ship. It was required to evacuate the whole back end of the ship so that the helicopter could put her in the basket," LaField said. "She had a little stuffed animal dog and she held on to for dear life."

Hours later, Laura was aboard the carrier where crews rushed her into surgery.

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12-13-07: Keel Laid for Project Genesis - Biggest Cruise Ship Ever Project Begins Royal Caribbean International's Project Genesis had its first block laid in dry dock at Aker Yards in Turku, Finland yesterday. The ship, due to be completed in autumn 2009, will be the world's largest cruise ship carrying 5,400 guests double occupancy and measuring 220,000 gross registered tons.

Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International takes part in Project Genesis' keel laying ceremony at Aker Yards in Turku, Finland yesterday. The ceremony, which signifies the first block being placed in dry dock, marks the first major milestone in the ship's construction. The ship, due to be completed in autumn 2009, will be the world's largest cruise ship carrying 5,400 guests double occupancy and measuring 220,000 gross registered tons.

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12-13-07: Norwegian Dream Strikes Barge - Needs Repair Norwegian Dream has struck a commercial container barge on Monday near the port of Montevideo in Uruguay (South America). The ship sustained damage to its forward ballast tank when it struck the barge. The barge lost five containers and three automobiles that fell into the water.

The port of Montevideo was closed, which caused problems for other ships including sister line Orient Line's Marco Polo (also owned by NCL) which had to skip its visit to Montevideo and just proceded directly to Buenos Aires.

NCL Dream has a hole 7 feet wide above the water line, and has a crack along its top deck. The ship is said to have limped back to port and is scheduled to undergo 2 days of repairs. Two ports: the Falklands' Stanley and Argentina's Puerto Madryn, have been taken off of the 14-night itinerary which has the ship scheduled to go through the infamously challenging Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America. The cruise is scheduled to end on December 23 in Valparaiso, Chile.

UPDATE: The 1,754-passenger vessel still is in the port. At first the damage appeared to be a quick fix but now NCL says the Dream requires more extensive repairs than originally expected and won't depart Montevideo until late today (Thursday afternoon).

The line has moved fast to compensate passengers, offering them a 50% refund of their cruise fare plus a $150 per person onboard credit. The line also is refunding $61 per person in government taxes and fees associated with the missed ports.

This is not the first such incident for this ship, it is known for being somewhat accident prone. In 1999 it hit a barge in the English Channel leaving its bow dented in with what looked like a clay impression of the barge it struck. That repair required almost a week.

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12-12-07: Regent Seven Seas Cruises Acquired by Apollo Apollo Management, the same firm that has recently invested heavily in NCL and Oceania Cruises has just acquired 100% of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the luxury cruise line that has been sailing for years, previously known as Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. Apollo revealed that it entered into an agreement with Minneapolis-based Carlson, owners of the cruise line, and expects the acquisition to close in the first quarter of 2008. Following the transaction, Prestige Cruise Holdings, controlled by Apollo, will assume ownership of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises.

On completion of the merger, Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises will continue to lead the firm, but will report to Chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Frank Del Rio who was a a primamry founder and co-CEO of Oceania Cruises. Seven Seas Cruises will continue to carry out operations from its current headquarters at Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Meanwhile, Oceania President Bob Binder will continue to lead Oceania Cruises, retaining its headquarters at Miami.

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12-10-07: Queen Victoria Ready for Christening The beautiful new Cunard liner, Queen Victoria, stands ready in the docks of Southampton. The weather is brisk but not rainy. Teams of security with dogs and special sensors are walking though the ship in order to guarantee the safty of royalty who will be aboard the ship later today.

Slated to preside over the "naming" of the ship is Camilla, Princes of Cornwall and wife of the Prince of Wales, Charles. This is Camilla's first act as a royal and it has understandably created a bit of a furor in the the U.K. which still has an affection for Diana, the former Princess of Wales. (Camilla has not taken on that title though technically she could).

Stay tuned for more news from CruiseMates as it occurs. There is no picture taking allowed during the ceremony, but we have plenty of pictures of the new ship in our photo gallery: Victoria Gallery

Click on Pictures for Larger Images
 
Sweeping the Piano   Securing the Halls

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12-8-07: Weather Interrupts Queen Victoria Victorian Faire Southampton's Victorian Christmas Festival at Mayflower Park, which was scheduled to coincide with the arrival of the new ship Queen Victoria, was cancelled today due to the weather. The decision was taken just less than an hour after the gates opened to the public at midday for the free event celebrating the arrival of Queen Victoria to her homeport. People are still able to view the new Queen Victoria cruise ship from Mayflower Park until Tuesday.

Dozens of stall holders, Victorian costumed characters, Morris Dancers and other performers left the area when the rain clouds failed to clear. Still, a handful of members of the public braved the weather and attended the festival. Organisers will decide tomorrow morning whether Sunday's event will go ahead as scheduled from midday until 7pm.

Weather forecasts for the important naming ceremony on Monday, featuring Camilla wife of Prince Charles, so far do not mention rain, though the wind should be crisp and the temperature cool at under 45 degrees.

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12-1-07: Genesis Project to home port in Fort Lauderdale The new class of Royal Caribbean vessels set to debut in 2009, the Genesis-class, that when completed will be the new "World's Largest Cruise Ship" will sail from Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades year-round under an agreement announced on Dec. 4th.

The Genesis class cruise ships, which will carry up to 6,400 passengers and 2,000 crew, will first debut in mid-2009 with the second scheduled to join it a year later. The ships, at 220,000-tons are about 1/2 again larger than the current World's Largest Cruise Ship, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, which at 160,000-tons carry 4,300 passengers.

The competition between Miami and Fort Lauderdale to be home of the new Genesis class cruise ships has the subject of much debate. Royal Caribbean, with its main headquarters practically on the Miami dock, has always been partial to the Miami dock for its biggest ships. But Ft. Lauderdale promised a $37.4 million renovation to manage the new goliath vessels.

Royal Caribbean's board of directors is expected for formally ratify the pact at a meeting on Dec. 18.

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