News Archive - December 2008

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12-31-08 "Yes We Can" Obama Inauguration Cruise Needs Sales We were looking at the web site for Regal Empress today when we noticed that they still have the January 18-26 cruises to Nassau listed. This is the ship that is supposed to be chartered to sail to Baltimore for the Obama inauguration ceremonies and celebrations on January 20.

CruiseMates noticed before that the cruise seemed a bit expensive for a ship with prices that normally start st $39/day. The cost for the 8-day Obama "Yes We Can" cruise was a minimum of $1100 for Obama volunteers and over $1800 for average people who wanted to go.

Sure enough, the Miami Herald is reporting today that sales are slow for the "Yes We Can Cruise" and that it could be canceled at any time. In order to fulfill the charter, the company offering the package deal, HotelBlox, was required to sell at least 300 tickets by last Friday. They didn't make it. So far, 200 people have signed up for the cruise, including some of the Obama volunteers. The price for non-volunteers has been reduced to $1500.

The package deal includes cruising from Ft Lauderdale to Baltimore, just 45 minutes by bus to Washington DC. After two days at sea the ship arrives in Baltimore and offers its guests an optional Inaugural Ball for $100 per person in Baltimore the evening before the ceremony. The next day buses are provided to the mall for guests to see the officiating, and buses will return them to the ship which sails from Baltimore back to Ft. Lauderdale that night at 11:00 pm.

The group said that its price was competitive with Washington based hotel rates which were already selling out at over $400 per room. However, at $1500 per person for the cruise, the cost is $3000 plus transportation to Ft. Lauderdale. Eight nights of cruising versus a few nights in a $400 hotel (total cost $1200/couple). We guess in the long run the math just didn't work out.

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12-30-08 Jennifer Seitz: High Seas Mystery or Media Hype?

Mystery on the High Seas?

What do you do when a suicide happens on a cruise ship? If you are the national media don't just theorize, sensationalize! Word of a missing-person tragedy on a cruise ship came in over the weekend, and despite the lack of any evidence to the contrary, over 1000 news reports are ready to make a "federal case" out it - literally.

Jennifer Seitz was cruising with her husband, Ray, and her mother who lives with them. Described as "loud and wild" by passengers who also participated in a "not-so-newlywed" game onboard - broadcast on the ship's closed circuit television - Jennifer was also described as "excitable."

A news report says a witness in an adjacent cabin heard an argument at 8:00 on Thursday night from stateroom 11112, a mini-suite far astern on one of the top decks of Norwegian Pearl. The words "stop hitting me," were reported, but not who said them. The events for the rest of the night are unclear, but no one saw Jennifer after 8:00. Ray and her mother apparently enjoyed the ship and then went to bed, expecting Jennifer to show up when she had cooled down.

At 3:30 Ray awoke and realized Jennifer was not in the room and notified the ship's officers. A surveillance tape pointed at the side of the ship was accessed and revealed a grainy image suggesting a person dressed all in white went overboard at 8:00 pm from the stateroom balcony. The stateroom was sealed but Ray was not arrested. Ray and Jennifer's mother were relocated until the cruise ended Sunday morning.

When the ship arrived in Miami the FBI boarded immediately and interviewed Ray, other witnesses and inspected the stateroom. A picture of the FBI measuring a chair placed right against the ship's railing was shown in an video during a 7-minute Monday morning NBC Today Show segment.

The fact that Ray was never arrested by the ship's staff or the FBI, that the chair was placed in a step-up position on the deck next to the railing and that the person on the videotape was described as "falling" from deck 11 all point to a suicide. There were no reported signs of a struggle. Only one news report said the FBI has eliminated Ray as a suspect.

Several web sites and major news organizations led this story down the oh-so typical path of "danger on the high seas" trying to turn an apparent suicide into a crime as they always do when a cruise ship is involved. Most of these news reports note that at least six people have "disappeared" from cruise ships this year, but not one of them mentions suicide as the reason, that some 12,000,000 people took a cruise in 2008 or that no charges were ever brought forth in any of the cases.

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12-24-08 Cruisers Missing Ships Due to Bad Weather We have been reading articles where cruise passengers are missing their ships due to nationwide weather delays. Please keep in mind that flights with stopovers in cities like Chicago, where bad weather often causes delays, can mean you arrive at your destination hours later than anticipated.

Even though a Holland America ship stayed docked in San Diego two extra hours yesterday, it is estimated between 50 to 100 people still missed the ship because their flights did not arrive on time. Those people will have to fly to Honolulu and wait three days for the ship to catch up to them. They will have to pay for the air and hotels out of their own pockets unless they have travel insurance that covers such delays.

Even rain and especially fog is enough to cause significant delays, so CruiseMates recommends arriving a day early for your cruises if possible, especially if you are being routed through the Midwest (Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cincinnati).

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12-23-08 Carnival Gives Us a Preview of Its Biggest Ship Ever Carnival has just added renderings and photos of Carnival Dream, the 130,000-ton behemoth that will be the biggest Carnival ship ever built to date when it debuts September 2009. The new information is available on the Carnival web site with a new section for Carnival Dream.

Included among the site's new digital renderings are images of the ship's WaterWorks aqua park boasting the longest water slides at sea, as well as renderings of the ship's décor, including the dance club, casino, piano bar and dining venues.

A new blog by John Heald, popular Carnival spokesperson and former top cruise director, takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of Carnival Dream's unique characteristics from Carnival WaterWorks aqua park and Ocean Plaza and a look at the ship's 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa - the largest in the fleet. There is also a peek at the brand new area called The Lanai, a wrap-around promenade that encircles the ship.

Heald pays particular attention to Carnival Dream's wide-ranging accommodation categories, including new "cove balcony" staterooms located closer to the water line and deluxe ocean view staterooms that will feature five berths and two bathrooms made to appeal to families.

The blog also includes several videos of Heald touring the ship and interacting with shipyard workers.

"As my chauffer-driven Fiat 500 brought me closer to this spectacular new vessel, I experienced the feeling that I know you will feel when you see her for the first time. The Carnival Dream is going to be biblically, stratospherically, crushingly brilliant. It is a ship that will set the tone for others to try and follow and is without doubt a ship that will be talked about for a long time to come. Stop by my blog and find out why," said Heald.

Carnival Dream is slated to debut in Europe Sept. 21 with the first of three 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruises from Rome (Civitavecchia) through Oct. 27, 2009.

The ship will then sail on a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to New York Oct. 27 - Nov. 12, 2009. From New York, Carnival Dream will operate two eight-day Bahamas/Florida cruises departing Nov. 15 and 23, 2009. Then following a nine-day cruise from Port Canaveral, Fla. the ship will launch year-round seven-day Caribbean service from that port Dec. 12.

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12-19-08 Oasis of the Seas Arriving early - December 1st Royal Caribbean International just announced Oasis of the Seas will arrive in the United States earlier than previously expected and additional sailings have been scheduled beginning with a special four-night voyage sailing December 1, 2009 to the launch of an all-new Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private beach paradise in Haiti.

There will also be a new date for the seven-night inaugural Eastern Caribbean cruise, departing December 5, 2009. On this inaugural voyage guests will receive a special commemorative certificate to mark the occasion.

Guests booked on the original inaugural sail date of December 12, 2009 will be contacted by their agent and given the opportunity to move their cruise vacation to December 5 before the sailing opens to the public for booking on January 12, 2009. Until January 11, 2009, the following special benefits will apply for these guests. Those choosing to sail consecutively on both the December 1 and 5, 2009 voyages for an 11-night cruise also will receive a $200 onboard credit per stateroom ($300 onboard credit per suite).

Booked guests who wish to take either the December 1 or 5 sailing will be re-accommodated in the same stateroom and category. The cruise fare for the December 5 sailing will remain unchanged. Guests wishing to sail on the four-night voyage will receive a prorated fare.

Oasis of the Seas to be the largest cruise ship launched to date, features venues and amenities including the breathtaking AquaTheater light and water shows, and new productions in the Opal Theater and Studio B ice-skating rink.

The seven-night itinerary will call at St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau in the Bahamas.

On the four-night itinerary, guests will make a call at Labadee and enjoy two days at sea. Oasis of the Seas maiden port of call at Labadee on December 3, 2009 also will herald the opening of new facilities and debut of a spectacular array of activities and excursion options at the private beach destination. Oasis of the Seas will dock at Labadee's new pier which leads guests through a grand entry to the welcome plaza. Water taxis and five different walking paths, trails and avenues will take guests from the welcome plaza to many areas throughout the peninsula, including the new Dragon's Plaza, Labadee Town Square, and Columbus Family Beach, all currently under development. Sea-based excursions, including a new fast boat tour, also will depart from the welcome plaza.

At the north end of the peninsula, Dragon's Plaza will be the heart of Labadee and feature the Dragon's Breath Café and Pub, a welcome center, and central tram station, which will ferry guests to other areas of the peninsula. Guests booked on the extremely popular Dragon's Breath Flight Line, the world's longest zip-line over water, also will begin their excursion here.

At the base of the peninsula, Labadee Town Square will offer guests cultural experiences, shopping, dining and entertainment, featuring the Haitian Cultural Museum, Café Labadee and Bar, and the Straw and Artisan Market. From the Town Square, guests will board the new Alpine Coaster, a thrilling new roller coaster experience on Labadee.

With convenient transportation from the pier via water taxis, the new Columbus Family Beach will appeal to adults and children of all ages, where guests can enjoy lunch and refreshments at the Columbus Café and Bar. Guests also can rent one of many private family cabanas, which dot Columbus Family Beach.

Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas (debuting in 2010)will claim the title of the world's largest and most revolutionary cruise ship. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons (GRT), carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. They will feature the cruise line's new neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas.

New categories of onboard accommodations include bi-level, urban-style Loft Suites; two bedroom/two bathroom AquaTheater Suites; and Central Park- and Boardwalk-facing exterior staterooms with balconies. Both ships will be homeported at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. More information about both ships' exciting, first-at-sea onboard amenities can be found at www.OasisoftheSeas.com.

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12-19-08 NCL Freestyle Sale Offers Onboard Credits up to $500 Norwegian Cruise Line just launched its biggest ever "Freestyle Resolution Sales Event," three weeks ahead of the traditional start to Wave Season, the period from January through March when the majority of cruises are booked.

Cruisers who make a reservation from now through February 1, 2009 on any NCL sailing can may be offered up to a $500 on-board credit by their travel agents - amount depending on the length of cruise and category of stateroom booked. On sailings of six days or longer, the on-board credit ranges from $50 for an inside stateroom; up to $150 for a balcony and $500 for a suite or villa. For three to five day sailings, the on-board credit ranges from $35 for an inside stateroom up to $150 for a suite/villa. One and two-day sailings are excluded from this promotion.

Travel agent can find more information and numerous marketing tools to help promote the Freestyle Resolution Sales Event at www.bookncl.com. They can download flyers and banner ads, customizable emails and play the Freestyle Resolution photo game for their chance to win one of five seven-day cruises for two.

On December 30, NCL will take to the Internet and the streets of South Florida asking consumers to declare their New Year's resolutions in an effort to promote its Freestyle Resolution offer. Consumers who log onto www.nclresolutions2009.com or visit the resolution wall from noon to 9 p.m. at Bayside Marketplace (Miami) on December 30 and 31; Lincoln Road (Miami Beach) on January 1 and 2; or Sawgrass Mills Mall (Sunrise) on January 3 and 4 will be entered to win a four-day Bahamas cruise, round-trip from Miami, on Norwegian Sky.

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12-18-08 NCL and STX Europe Agree to Revise and Restart Original F3 Order F3, the radical new ship design for a 150,000-ton free-style ship from NCL, is back on track! Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and STX France Cruise SA, the French shipyard charged with the building contract for the F3 project for NCL, announced today that they have reached an agreement and are moving forward.

NCL and STX Europe have agreed to revise the original F3 order. STX France Cruise is now building one F3 ship at 150,000-tons with a total of 4,200 passenger berths, representing the largest ship in NCL's fleet. This will mean a continuation of the original hull which is currently in the early phases of construction, with delivery set for late May 2010, as originally scheduled. The planned second vessel, currently only in the preparatory stages, will not be built. Further terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"With this agreement, we can all focus on completing the new vessel successfully," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO. "We are looking forward to the arrival of our much-anticipated F3 ship as it represents a major step forward for NCL in terms of ship size, design and innovation."

"We are pleased that the ongoing construction of the ship for NCL will continue. We, along with our subcontractors, will now make the necessary adjustments to our plans for this project," said Jacques Hardelay, president of STX France Cruise SA.

To date, information has only been revealed regarding F3's staterooms and nightlife. NCL plans to unveil the full F3 story in the near future. Further information can be found online at www.f3.ncl.com.

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12-16-08 Holland America offers "Vacation Stimulus Plan" In what sounds more like a spoof on the "new media" and the current fiscal crisis "Gov-speak," Holland America has a new series of incentives for cruisers to book a cruise now. The name of the new campaign is the "Holland American Vacation Stimulus Plan," and according to company executive vice president, Rick Meadows, "the return on investment is guaranteed."

Although that statement is tongue in cheek, the upshot of the message is that HAL understands the current pocketbook concerns of its customers and is offering them cruise sales in a cost-savings format that should ease their concerns about the purchase decision.

The "Vacation Stimulus Plan" is comprised of four points:

  1. "Unprecedented" low fares
  2. Deposits reduced by 50% on cruises and cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009
  3. A 25% savings on the standard Cancellation Protection Plan for cruises and cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009,
  4. Suspended fuel supplements for cruises departing on or after Dec. 17, 2008.

"Our message is to buy low and live high. With great fares, reduced deposits and a lower fee to protect the cost of a vacation. There really has never been a better time to cruise with Holland America Line," continues Meadows. "There's never been a better time to get more, pay less and sail away from it all."

Vacation Stimulus Plan Details: Unprecedented Low Fares: Holland America claims to have "Tremendous values ... available on most itineraries worldwide, including the current View and Verandah Cruise sale Promotion that offers outside and verandah staterooms at terrific values. Guests can enjoy an upgrade from an inside stateroom to an outside stateroom for as little as $50 or upgrade from an outside stateroom to verandah accommodations from just $100."

The best fares for the View and Verandah promotion start at $499 for 7-day Alaska cruises, $549 for 7-day Caribbean sailings and $999 for 12-day Europe and Panama Canal voyages.

For more exotic destinations they offer $999 for 16-day South America cruises, $899 for 14-day Australia/New Zealand cruises, and $1,299 for 16-day Southeast Asia sailings. On select sailings, third and fourths in staterooms are as little as $99 per person.

Reduced Deposit: For a limited time, Holland America Line has reduced the deposit requirements on all cruises and Alaska cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009 by 50%. For example a $350 per-person deposit required on most seven-day cruises is reduced to $175. Reduced deposits apply to group bookings as well.

Cancellation Protection Savings: The Vacation Stimulus Plan also offers a 25% savings on the popular standard Cancellation Protection Plan when purchased with a new booking for departures on or after May 1, 2009. This trip cancellation protection plan covers a portion of the cost of a cruise fare in the event of cancellation by the guest for any reason.

Fuel Supplement Suspended: In addition, Holland America Line has suspended the $9 per guest per day fuel supplement for departures on or after Dec. 17, 2008.

Taxes are additional on all per person cruise fares. For more information, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit http://www.hollandamerica.com/.

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12-13-08 Lawmakers Ask President Bush to Save the Delta Queen House Minority Leader John Boehner and Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH), Geoff Davis (R-KY), and Jean Schmidt (R-OH) have sent the below letter to President Bush, asking him to issue an Executive Order continuing the Delta Queen's 40-year exemption from the 1966 Safety of Life at Sea Act.

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 of Life 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 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. The current exemption expired at midnight on October 31, 2008.

During the 110th Congress, both Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to continue the exemption, but the bills remain in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (James Oberstar, Chairman) and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (Daniel Inouye, Chairman).

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing today to respectfully request that you issue an executive order to extend the exemption of the Delta Queen, an American historic steamboat, from certain vessel laws included in the 1966 Safety at Sea Act.

The Delta Queen began her service in 1926, transporting cargo on a Northern California waterways. The Delta Queen served in the United States Navy during World War II, patrolling San Francisco Bay, before being purchased in 1946 by in Cincinnati, Ohio, company. She was then brought to the Midwest, via the Panama Canal. The Mississippi River and the Ohio River. Since then, she has varied passengers along the Mississippi River and its many tributaries and re-created history to steam boat races at Tall Stacks, a Cincinnati steam boat festival, and the Kentucky Derby Festival. She is the only remaining all wood paddle-wheeled craft that carries passengers and offers overnight cruises. In 1970, the Delta Queen was listed on the national register of historic places. In 1989, the boat was named a national this story landmark.

Because of the Delta Queen's wooden superstructure, certain provisions in the 1966 Safety at Sea Act, intended to enforce safety regulations for oceangoing vessels carrying overnight passengers on American in land waterways, prevent the Delta Queen from operating. However, since 1966, Congress has passed numerous short-term exemptions for the Delta Queen from vessel laws requiring the fire retardant material to be used in the construction of large ships. On November 1, 2008, the last short-term exemption expired.

Despite operating under a bipartisan exemption for 42 years, critics of the boat have forced it into dry dock under the guise of being an unacceptable safety risk due to its advanced age and wooden construction. The Delta Queen has a 24-hour watchman and an extensive sprinkler system as part of its overall safety program. The real reason for allowing the exemption to expire is nothing more than partisan politics that should not be allowed to and the Delta Queen's historic and educational river trips.

The Delta clean is owned by the privately held Majestic America line, which utilizes a private workforce rather than union labor. On October 24, 2008, a Pittsburgh Tribune review columnist wrote, "Big labor is that much closer, in a few days, to effectively sinking the Delta Queen. When powerful unions decide to chart a course, their congressional cabin boys usually are ready to sail and, in this case, aim their guns at genuine Americana."

It would be a tragedy to let a labor dispute end the historic Delta Queen's journey. We strongly urge you to issue an executive order exempting the Delta Queen from the 1966 Safety at Sea Act. We thank you for your attention to this request.

John Boener Steve Chabot Jean Schmidt Geoff Davis

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12-13-08 Crystal Hosts Conservatives on Theme Cruise to Reshape GOP Newsmax Magazine is hosting a cruise featuring Politics, Profits and Pundits with speakers Dick Morris, author of "Fleeced," a NY Times bestseller and many other conservative authors and reporters. The goal of the cruise is to have "open" and "off-the-record" discussions on how to reshape the Republican party.

Other guests include health guru Dr. Russell Blaylock; New York Times best-selling author Ronald Kessler; health author Dr. David Brownstein and former Good Morning American money guru Steve Crowley. The cruise is June 7, 2009 on Crystal Symphony for 12 days beginning in Rome and ending in London.

The "off the record" meetings will allow guests to consult with experts and insiders who can tell you what is really going on in the media, Washington, healthcare, Wall Street, and more. Forums for the group will discuss political issues of the post-election period, the most profitable opportunities in financial markets today, and life-enhancing strategies for greater health and longevity.

Newsmax editor Christopher Ruddy promises one-on-one face time with himself and the expert and celebrity panel. For more information go to the 10th Anniversary Newsmax Cruise.

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12-12-08 Princess Captain's Circle Introduces Faster Benefits Options The Princess Captain's Circle has introduced a new way to determine membership levels that will allow some passengers to more quickly reach the program's higher Platinum and Elite membership levels. The loyalty program will now count "cruise credits" instead of number of sailings, and passengers who travel in full suites and those who pay a single supplement will receive double cruise credits for their sailings -- making them eligible for greater benefits with fewer cruises.

The new cruise credits program is effective for all sailings on or after December 7, 2008. All passengers who complete a cruise will receive one cruise credit, and in the following cases, passengers will receive double credit or more:

  • Passengers who pay for and occupy a full suite (mini-suites excluded), will receive two cruise credits.
  • Passengers who pay the single occupancy fare and travel alone in their cabin will receive two cruise credits.
  • Passengers who pay the single supplement to occupy a full suite on their own will receive three cruise credits.

"Many of our Circle members have suggested that it would be nice to find a way to recognize passengers who travel in suites and those who pay a single supplement," said Jan Swartz, Princess senior vice president. "We regularly look to our members for new ideas, and we think this new cruise credits program is a great way to give some extra benefits to those who do invest more in their cruises."

Widely recognized as the leading loyalty program in the cruise industry, the Princess Captain's Circle is unique in that it recognizes both cruise credits for number of sailings as well as total cruise days -- whichever is most beneficial to the passenger. Only cruise credits are multiplied for suite and solo passengers, not cruise days.

The Princess' Captain's Circle is a unique three-tiered program with an ever-increasing roster of benefits especially for Princess' returning passengers. All members enjoy various ongoing rewards, plus special onboard benefits based on their level. Passengers automatically become Gold members after their first Princess cruise, and subsequently rise to Platinum level after just five cruise credits or 50 cruise days. Platinum members enjoy a host of additional benefits, including complimentary onboard Internet packages, a special lounge at disembarkation, and an upgrade to Princess Platinum Vacation Protection when purchasing Princess' standard travel protection plan. The highest level, Elite, for cruisers who have completed 15 cruise credits or 150 cruise days, features even more benefits, including a 10 percent discount in the onboard boutiques, complimentary dry cleaning and laundry, and special privileges such as priority tender embarkation.

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12-12-08 Second Ship Drops Off Passengers to Sail Through Gulf of Aden Passengers have left an Italian-flagged cruise ship, the Vistamar, while it sails through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden with a reduced crew. Vistamar's owner, Plantours & Partner of Bremen, said about 200 passengers would spend three days making a land visit to Yemen.

The Vistamar is the second ship after the Bahamas-registered Columbus, owned by the Hapag-Lloyd company of Germany, to offload tour passengers in Yemen while it runs the pirate gauntlet.

Oliver Steuber, chief executive of Plantours, requested protection because the line flies a European (Italian) flag and regularly carries German passengers, but the German government has rejected calls from the cruise industry for convoy protection through the Gulf, arguing that the boats do not fly the German flag.

Steuber said the German government had written back to his company with a travel warning and told Plantours it would be taking an "unjustifiable risk" if it ignored the warning and took passengers through the waters near Somalia. Unfortunately, "They did not offer us any proposals to solve the problem," Steuber added.

The Hapag Lloyd Columbus put passengers ashore to fly to Dubai last Wednesday. They were expected to re-embark on the Columbus in an Omani port, Salalah, to continue their holiday. Somali pirates have attacked and even captured a number of ships this year.

One cruise ship, the Oceania Nautica, reported beging fired upon by rifle shots from a disrance of some 300 yards. The cruise ship was easily able to outrun the intruders. Among the ships currently being held to ransom is a Saudi oil tanker carrying a reported 100 million dollars' worth of crude oil.

The European Union has formally begun Operation Atalanta, a naval patrol operation in the Gulf, but says it is mainly to protect cargo boats carrying relief to Somali ports.

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12-11-08 MSC Takes Delivery of 133,500-ton Fantasia in Naples MSC Cruises received its flagship MSC Fantasia today at a hand-over ceremony at the STX France shipyard in St Nazaire, France. The official handover of the flagship from the shipyard to MSC Cruises saw the lowering of the French flag and the flag of STX France, and the raising of the MSC Cruises flag, along with the flags of Italy and Panama.

The godmother at the flag ceremony was four-year-old Asia Aponte, granddaughter of MSC Crociere owner Gianluigi Aponte. MSC Crociere's CEO Pierfrancesco Vago, and Jacques Hardelay, General Manager of the shipyard, were also present.

The largest ship in the MSC fleet with a total passenger capacity of 3,959, MSC Fantasia is the sixth new build for MSC Cruises from STX France. Her sister ship MSC Splendida will join the fleet in July 2009, to be followed by three more ships - MSC Magnifica, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Favolosa - by 2012, making MSC Cruises the fastest-growing and most modern fleet in the world.

Following the flag ceremony, MSC Fantasia sails to Italy via Lisbon, Gibraltar, Alicante, Barcelona and Marseilles, to reach Naples, where she will be christened on December 18 in a ceremony scheduled to feature Sophia Loren as the ship's christener. After her inaugural cruise, she will be based in Genoa. sailing the Mediterranean year-round.

MSC Fantasia at 133,500 gross registered tons, measures 1,092 feet long, 196 feet high and 124 feet wide. It can cruise at a maximum speed of 23 knots, carrying 3,274 guests (double occupancy) in its 1,637 cabins.

The 290,000 square feet of common areas include:

  • 5 swimming pools - including "I Tropici," with a retractable roof
  • 12 whirlpool baths and 1 Acqua Park with 150 fountains
  • 5 restaurants -including "La Cantina Toscana" - with the finest Italian wines; "El Sombrero Tex Mex" to enjoy the taste of tacos and margaritas; and even a very elegant "Belle époque" style a la carte French restaurant.

Guests will have the opportunity to choose among 19 bars, such as the Manhattan Jazz Bar, with a perfect New York style, and the Sports Bar, where guests can support their team together with friends.

MSC AUREA SPA is 17,384 square feet, the "L'Avanguardia" theater offers 1,650 seats, there is a casino, the disco and the virtual area with a Formula 1 simulator and a 4D cinema. There is a children's playroom dedicated to a North Pole theme.

For the first time onboard, guests will find the new MSC Yacht Club: 99 suites, between 247 and 570 square feet, furnished as a luxurious yacht; a large lounge with a breathtaking view of the sea; a Conciergerie with Swarovski crystal stairs; and other reserved spaces. Personal butlers will provide the most exclusive services such as taking care of the luggage, booking excursions, in-suite dining, choice of cigars, liquors and champagne.

Elegance and class are the elements which distinguish all the new spaces on the flagship, which, as always, have been designed by the studio De Jorio Design International. The most important contemporary design styles dominate all the ship's spaces and reveal the great attention given to detail, and the quality of the materials.

MSC Fantasia is also an entirely ecological ship with environmentally friendly paint, modern technology for the treatment of black and grey waters and a system of energy saving in cabins and common areas.

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12-11-08 Cunard's Queen Victoria Celebrates First Birthday! Today marks the completion of Queen Victoria's first year in service since her Maiden Voyage in December last year - a day after being named by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall with HRH The Prince of Wales in attendance. Since then Queen Victoria has sailed 111,828 miles, made 222 port calls and carried 54,827 guests, many of whom enjoyed the experience so much that they have traveled several times with the ship already. She will spend her first birthday in her home port of Southampton before heading to the Caribbean for Christmas.

Queen Victoria has also become one of the most celebrated ships to be introduced in recent years and has quickly established herself in the Cunard fleet continuing in style the line's traditions established nearly 170 years ago.

In 2008 Queen Victoria completed her maiden World Cruise as well as several voyages to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Caribbean. In 2009 Queen Victoria will sail her second World Cruise and then be based in her home port of Southampton with voyages to the Mediterranean, the Baltic and an inaugural 24-night voyage to Canada and New England.

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12-11-08 Silversea Completes Multimillion-Dollar Silver Wind Upgrade Silversea Cruises has just put the finishing touches on a multimillion-dollar renovation of Silver Wind, involving virtually every aspect of the ultra-luxury ship.

Undertaken over the past month during a dry dock at the San Giorgio shipyard in Genoa, Italy, the comprehensive refurbishment of Silver Wind features a new décor the line describes as a "sophisticated contemporary style that is warm and inviting with touches of natural cherry wood, russet and golden tones."

A centerpiece of the project is a brand new Observation Lounge seating 60 guests, as well as a refurbished Spa, Beauty Salon and Fitness Center on the forward section of Deck 9, altering the ship's exterior appearance with floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the new space. A new two-floor, glass-enclosed elevator was also installed connecting Decks 8 and 9.

Silversea's president and CEO, Amerigo Perasso says "Silver Wind has a refreshed look and feel, yet the ship retains her elegance and charm throughout. The company has made an important investment to bring this vessel in line with the style and design themes that are planned for our new ship, Silver Spirit, currently under construction. With these enhancements, our guests are sure to enjoy a renewed sense of luxury and comfort aboard Silver Wind."

SUITE ENHANCEMENTS Accommodating 298 guests, Silver Wind's 149 ocean-view suites range in size from 240 to 1,314 square feet (22 - 122 square meters), with eighty percent now featuring a private veranda. Suite modifications include the following:

  • Four of the always-in-demand Silver Suites added on Deck 8.
  • One Owner's Suite with a connecting second-bedroom suite added on Deck 7.
  • One Medallion Suite added on Deck 7.
  • One Vista Suite added on Deck 7.
  • Fixed queen beds in larger suites have been replaced with convertible twin-to-queen beds.
  • Custom-built TV cabinets added to all Vista and Veranda Suites.
  • New flat screen TVs.
  • New sofa, armchair, desk, vanity, night tables and headboard.
  • New carpets, drapes and bed coverings.
  • Updated bathroom fixtures and bathtubs, including new marble countertops, walls and flooring.

THE SPA The new Spa, which encompasses the Beauty Salon and Fitness Center, occupies over 650 additional square feet (60 square meters) following the renovation. The expanded Spa features an inviting reception area, four massage rooms, one body treatment room, one dry sauna and one steam sauna. The new Fitness Center includes a body-building room and separate aerobics room, both offering spectacular panoramic ocean views.

Other ship enhancements include new upholstery, curtains, wall treatments, carpets and/or flooring in the restaurants, public lounges, lobbies, stairs and corridors.

The first guests to experience the Silver Wind enhancements are sailing on a December 2, Las Palmas-to-Cape Town cruise, an exotic 18-day voyage calling in the Cape Verde Islands, Dakar, Banjul, Bom Bom Island and Walvis Bay.

Company president Perasso also added, "Despite the challenging economic environment, our company is showing a strong commitment with this important investment. This is clearly a difficult and unpredictable time and while our business is not immune, we have the strength of our assets, brand and management team that position us well in the long term."

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12-10-08 Disney Cruises' Kids Sail Free Offer in Early 2009 Disney Cruise Line, a leader in the family cruise segment, is making it easier than ever for families who have dreamt of taking a Disney cruise vacation to sail the most magical ship afloat with a "Kids Free" special offer on three-night cruises this winter and spring.

Guests 12 and under can sail free on three-night voyages aboard the Disney Wonder when accompanied by two full-fare paying guests within the same stateroom. This offer is valid for most sailings from Jan. 22 to May 28, 2009, and covers a variety yet limited number of stateroom categories, ranging from deluxe family staterooms with verandahs to standard inside staterooms.

While the cruise fare with this special offer is free for guests 12 and under, guests who book will be responsible for Government Taxes and Fees for all stateroom occupants, including those 12 and under.

A whole host of new offerings on the Disney Wonder include the recently launched 3-D cinematic experience in both the Walt Disney and Buena Vista Theatres where guests can enjoy first-run, full-length 3-D films such as Walt Disney Pictures' "Bolt" and the upcoming "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience." This past spring the Disney Wonder premiered a lavish theatrical production, "Toy Story-The Musical." Additionally, young cruisers will find new activities at the Oceaneer Club and Lab featuring characters and storylines from popular Disney Channel movies, such as "High School Musical," and Disney-Pixar films.

Disney Wonder departs from Port Canaveral, Fla. To book a vacation or to get complete details on the "Kids Free" special offer, guests can contact their travel agent, visit disneycruise.com/kidsfree or call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500. Guests should mention or input booking code "FREE" when making the reservation.

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12-9-08 Pink Floyd Theme Cruise to Sail to Bahamas May, 2009 Think Floyd USA, the number one touring production of Pink Floyd in the country, will perform upon the first Pink Floyd themed cruise aboard a Carnival Cruise Ship to the Bahamas. Dubbed "Great Gig in the Sea", the cruise will allow Pink Floyd music fans to combine sun and sea with an amazing concert experience.

The one-of a kind voyage, hosted by Kiqstart Music of New York, will feature Think Floyd USA: The American Pink Floyd Show, offering material from Pink Floyd's earliest days through the present. Think Floyd USA will perform all of Pink Floyd's classic hits from legendary albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and the all time classic, The Wall.

Think Floyd USA: The American Pink Floyd Show features an unparalleled performance and light show, having received personal acclaim from David Gilmour himself. The band has been performing to packed houses at numerous arenas, theaters and festivals around the country, and will be the first tribute band to headline a stage at Milwaukee's famed Summerfest this summer.

There will be special shows each night, including Dark Side of the Moon performed in its entirety. Dark Side has held the record for the longest duration of any album on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 40 Million copies worldwide. Other unique events will feature "special guests", Pink Floyd trivia, parties and games.

Tickets for Great Gig in the Sea are onsale now at GreatGigintheSea.com or contact Kiqstart Music at 718-302-9800.. Space is very limited and pricing depends upon availability.

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12-9-08 Cruise Ship to Evacuate and Fly Passengers Around Somali Pirate Zone Respected German cruise line, Hapag-Lloyd, is planning to disembark its passengers currently sailing a world cruise on its MS Columbus cruise ship and put them all on a charter flight from a port stop in Yemen (Hodeidah) to Dubai.

The ship will then sail - without passengers - through the "danger zone" where several pirate attacks have already taken place. The company reports that it the German government denied the company's request for a security escort through the zone. This is despite the fact the same government's German Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning to all shipping companies not to travel through the area.

The passengers will take a charter flight to Dubai and spend three days at a five-star hotel waiting to rejoin the 150-meter (490-foot) vessel in the southern Oman port of Salalah for the remainder of a round-the-world tour that began in Italy.

The Gulf of Aden is an extremely strategic zone for shipping due to its proximity to the Suez Canal, the main canal connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea for access to the East Coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean. Without sailing through the canal a ship must sail around the continent of Africa to get to the same destinations.

While the German Foreign Ministry issued the travel warning and other nations agree the danger is significant, The U.S. Navy has not fully advised ships to completely avoid the area. They are advising them to stay within the "international traffic corridor" along the Gulf of Aden which is being supervised and protected by an international coalition of armed ships.

The coalition consists of the "Nato Anti-piracy mission" which mostly helps world food aid vessels and about a dozen ships from the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet based in India. Russia and Malaysia are already patrolling the area and Russia is planning to replace its current ship with a bigger one from a different fleet. Britain, France, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands will contribute at least 10 warships and three aircraft, with contingents rotated every three months.

Still, with some 50 ships transiting the area per day, it is impossible to protect each and every one of them. The pirates tend to hit quickly, darting in from their own waters and then dashing out once they are thwarted or accomplish their mission. Pirates have attacked 32 vessels and hijacked 12 of them since NATO deployed a four-vessel flotilla on Oct. 24 to escort cargo ships and conduct anti-piracy patrols.

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12-8-08 Oceania and Regent End Fuel Supplement Charges From All 2009 Voyages Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, says fuel supplement charges will be eliminated from all voyages departing in 2009. PCH had previously announced that fuel supplement charges for 2010 voyages would be eliminated effective November 10, 2008.

Frank Del Rio, chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, stated that the company was eliminating these charges due to the dramatic decrease in the price of crude oil. "As the price of oil has tumbled into the low $40 range, we can now eliminate the fuel surcharge on all 2009 voyages and as long as the price remains below $65 per barrel, we are confident that we will not require a surcharge in the future," he added.

The fuel supplement charge will be removed from reservations for all 2009 voyages at the time of final payment. Guests who have already paid in full for their 2009 voyage will be issued a shipboard credit equal to the fuel supplement charge they were assessed.

Prestige Cruise Holdings will continue to monitor the price of fuel and retains the right to reinstate the fuel supplement charge at any time should market conditions warrant.

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12-5-08 Seabourn Announces 60% off Summer 2009 Cruises Sales Event The Yachts of Seabourn has announced a one-week sale of selected voyages in Europe. The promotion offers savings of 60 percent off the brochure fares for seven voyages of seven to 14 days aboard the intimate Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend between April and August of 2009.

To qualify, bookings must be made from Monday, December 8 until close of business on Monday December 15, 2008. The offer, which is in lieu of any other promotional offer or savings, is valid for new bookings on voyages in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, and features lead-in fares from $2,840 per person, based on double occupancy of a 277-square foot ocean-view suite. The special sale savings are valid for all categories of suites.

The list of included voyages is:

Seabourn Legend June 20, 2009 Cote D'Azur & Spanish Isles Monte Carlo to Barcelona - 7 days July 11, 2009 Sardinia, Corsica & Cote D'Azur Rome to Monte Carlo - 7 days

Seabourn Spirit June 20, July 11, or August 1, 2009 Italian Idyll Venice to Rome - 7 days

Seabourn Pride April 14, 2009 Mediterranean Panorama Athens to Lisbon - 14 days August 20, 2009 Norwegian Fjords Round Trip Copenhagen - 9 days

For details, or to take advantage of this special one-week sale, contact your travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit www.seabourn.com .

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12-5-08 Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises End Fuel Supplement Charges Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. today announced the suspension of its fuel supplement for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2009, anywhere in the world.

The decision reflects the recently sustained lower price of fuel. Effective Monday, December 8, guests making new bookings for sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2009, will not be charged the fuel supplement.

Guests already booked on sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2009, will receive a refund of any fuel supplement paid, as follows:

  • Guests with existing bookings for sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2009, and who are now paid in full, will have the supplement automatically refunded to them in the form of an onboard credit during their sailing.
  • Guests with existing bookings for sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2009, and who are not yet paid in full, will have the supplement automatically removed from their outstanding balance.

The company reserves the right to reinstate fuel supplement charges if the price of West Texas Intermediate fuel exceeded $65 per barrel, on the quarterly milestone dates mentioned in the company's October 24, 2008, press release.

The company announced on October 24, 2008, that no fuel supplement would be charged for new bookings made on or after November 10, 2008, for sailings that depart on or after January 1, 2010, unless there is an upturn in fuel prices. Today's announcement does not affect those previous terms.

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12-5-08 Another Cruise Ship Nearly Attacked by Somali Pirates A german tourist company who had chartered a small cruise ship, MS Astor, was also close to being attacked by Somali pirates when the German Navy chased off two suspicious speed boats with warning shots last week. The suspected piracy attack on a German cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden was confirmed by a spokesman for the mission. Germany has already placed troops in the area to combat piracy.

Transocean Tours in Bremen, which was operating the cruise ship, also confirmed on Thursday, Dec. 5. that the German Navy's Mecklenburg-Vorpommern frigate saved the 492 guests and crew on board the MS Astor - even though the crew and passengers onboard had not noticed the incident and the boat also had not asked for help.

The suspicious boats disappeared quickly into Yemen's territorial waters, the report said.

Transocean said the speed boats had approached about 3 sea miles distant, and the frigate intercepted them before they got to the cruise ship. The cruise ship was bound for Dubai, where it arrived on Tuesday.

The UN mandate for anti-piracy operations in the region expires on December 2. They patrol the waters near Yemen (opposite the Gulf of Aden from Somalia).

Germany is considering contributing up to 1,400 military personnel to a European Union security mission to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, according to a report in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine this week. Some 63 incidents of piracy have been recorded in waters off the Somali Coast and the Gulf of Aden in the first nine months of this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The newspaper also said 500 naval personnel would crew a frigate patrolling the Horn of Africa and the remainder would be commandos providing security on German-owned merchant vessels in the region, the report said.

The UN Security Council is close to passing a new resolution that authorizes a European Union fleet to fight piracy, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week.

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12-5-08 NCL Suspending Fuel Supplement Effective Immediately In response to the current continued decline of fuel prices, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today that it is suspending the company's fuel supplement effective immediately for all voyages departing in 2009.

NCL will refund the fuel supplement in the form of an on-board credit for all 2009 bookings within the final payment period. All existing 2009 bookings outside of the final payment period will be adjusted to remove the fuel supplement and NCL will revise the final payment amount.

"Global fuel prices have dropped to a level where we can now suspend the fuel supplement, making an NCL Freestyle Cruising vacation an even greater value," said Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president, global sales and passenger services.

NCL will continue to closely monitor global fuel prices to assess whether a reinstatement of the fuel supplement will be necessary in the future. The company reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests should the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange Index) increase above $65 per barrel.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is the innovator in cruise travel with a 42-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising, most notably with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising which has revolutionized the industry by allowing guests more freedom and flexibility.

Today, NCL has the youngest fleet in the industry with 11 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed cruise vacation on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea.

NCL is presently building a new third generation Freestyle Cruising project known as F3, for delivery in 2010.

High resolution, downloadable images are available at www.ncl.com/pressroom. For further information on NCL, visit www.ncl.com or contact NCL in the U.S. and Canada at (866) 234-0292.

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12-04-08 Carnival Corp. Suspending Fuel Supplement as of December 17 As fuel prices continue to decline, Carnival Corporation has announced that it will suspend fuel supplements for its six North American brands effective for all voyages departing on or after December 17, 2008.

The fuel supplement suspension applies to the following brands: Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn.

A refund of the fuel supplement will be made in the form of a shipboard credit for all bookings within the final payment period for departures on or after December 17, 2008. All bookings outside of the final payment period for departures on or after December 17, 2008 will be adjusted to remove the fuel supplement and guests will be provided with a revised final payment amount.

"As the price of oil has dropped to $46 per barrel, it has now reached a level where we are able to suspend the fuel supplement," said Bill Harber, director of marketing for Carnival Corporation & plc. Harber cautioned that the fuel supplement could be re-instated if oil prices increase significantly.

The company reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests at up to $9 per person per day (except Seabourn, which would be up to $15 per person per day) should the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange Index) increase above $70 per barrel.

"It is our hope that fuel prices have stabilized and will remain at a more rational level. The complete suspension of the fuel supplement makes the inherent value of a cruise even greater and that is increasingly important in the selection of a vacation in the current economic climate," Harber added.

The fuel supplement for five of the six Carnival Corporation & plc brands is currently $9 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $126 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third, fourth and fifth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage). Seabourn's fuel supplement is $15 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $210 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third and fourth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage).

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12-2-08 Royal Caribbean Lays Keel of Allure of the Seas Royal Caribbean International today laid the keel of Allure of the Seas, the second of the highly-anticipated Oasis-class cruise ships slated to redefine the industry. Today's keel laying ceremony at STX Europe's shipyard in Turku, Finland, marks the placement of the very first block of Allure of the Seas in the dry dock where the ship will begin to take shape.

When she launches in 2010, Allure of the Seas will share the title of the world's largest and most revolutionary cruise ship with sister-ship Oasis of the Seas. An architectural marvel at sea, Allure of the Seas will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons (GRT), carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas, will be homeported at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Allure of the Seas will tout the cruise line's new neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, which will offer guests of every age the widest array of onboard vacation experiences that cater to their personal styles, preferences or moods. Guests will enjoy lush and tropical grounds open to the sky in Central Park, located in the center of the ship and spanning more than the length of a football field. Central Park will be lined with boutiques and specialty restaurants, ranging from casual to fine dining, and introduce balcony staterooms rising five decks above the storefronts and overlooking the park - one of a few new categories of onboard accommodations made possible by the ship's revolutionary design.

Guests will delight in the amusements, eateries, and shops on Allure of the Seas' Boardwalk featuring the AquaTheater. Also open to the sky, Boardwalk is reminiscent of classic seaside entertainment esplanades, featuring a handcrafted carousel and two rock-climbing walls. At the stern-end of Boardwalk is the AquaTheater, an amphitheater featuring the deepest freshwater pool at sea, which will showcase amazing high-dive acrobatics and water fountain ballets synchronized to music and lights.

Royal Promenade will present guests with a spectacular new design of Royal Caribbean's signature interior boulevard of boutiques, restaurants, and bars and lounges. Natural light will cascade through two Crystal Canopy sculptured glass domes in Central Park and illuminate the widened Royal Promenade with a new overlooking mezzanine level. From the Royal Promenade, guests can enjoy a cocktail in the Rising Tide bar - the first moving bar at sea - while they gently ascend three decks into Central Park above.

The Pool and Sports Zone will feature a sloped-entry beach pool (exclusive to the Oasis-class); two larger FlowRider surf simulators; and a zip-line that soars nine decks above the Boardwalk. Building on the Royal Caribbean's popular Vitality wellness program, guests will be able to soothe mind, body and soul in the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, which also includes a dedicated spa area just for teens. Entertainment Place will include the cruise line's signature after-dark spaces in more intimate venues that offer a variety of entertainment experiences. And the Youth Zone will offer a wealth of kid- and teen-friendly adventures, featuring the cruise line's first nursery for infants and toddlers (six months or older).

New categories in onboard accommodations for guests on Allure of the Seas include bi-level, urban-style Loft Suites and two bedroom/two bathroom AquaTheater Suites, in addition to Central Park- and Boardwalk-facing balcony staterooms. Additional information about the exciting features found on Allure of the Seas is available at www.allureoftheseas.com.

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