News Archive - February 2008

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2-28-08 Norwegian Jade to Remain in Europe Through Spring of 2010 NCL Corporation announced that for the first time in the company's 41-year history, it will deploy a ship year-round in Europe. The 2,400 passenger Norwegian Jade will sail a variety of itineraries in Europe year-round, extending its inaugural season in Europe that begins on March 30, 2008. The ship will remain in Europe until spring of 2010 instead of the returning to North America in November 2008.

Norwegian Jade's new European sailings from November 2008 through April 2009 go on sale March 3, 2008. The balance of the new deployment through to spring 2010 will be opened for sale shortly thereafter.

As part of this year-round deployment, NCL is introducing three new European itineraries - a series of 12-day Eastern Mediterranean sailings and nine-day Canary Islands and Morocco sailings, along with a 14-day Eastern Mediterranean holiday cruise, all roundtrip from Barcelona.

Norwegian Jade's new 12-day Eastern Mediterranean cruise includes stops in Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; Ephesus (Izmir), Turkey; an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt; and Valletta, Malta. Highlights of the nine-day Canary Islands and Morocco itinerary include five ports of call: Casablanca and Agadir, Morocco; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands; Funchal, Madeira; and Granada (Málaga), Spain. In addition, Norwegian Jade will sail a special 14-night Eastern Mediterranean holiday sailing on December 21, 2008, that includes Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples, Italy; an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt; Rhodes, Greece; Ephesus (Izmir), Turkey, Athens (Piraeus), Greece; and Valletta, Malta.

Guests booked on Norwegian Jade's Transatlantic and New York sailings

For guests booked on Norwegian Jade's 12-day transatlantic sailing or seven-, 10- or 11-day sailings from New York from mid-December through April 2008, NCL is offering the opportunity to move their reservations to comparable sailings on Norwegian Gem. Guests who make the change will receive full price protection and a $100 on-board credit per person (maximum $200 per stateroom). Additionally, NCL will pay for air changes fees (up to $100 per person) or hotel cancellations fees (up to $50 per room) for guests who booked air or hotels on their own. Air and hotel booked through NCL will be protected at the original rate. Guests who choose to sail on a different NCL sailing (other than the one offered) will receive a $50 on-board credit per person (maximum $100 per stateroom) on another voyage. Guests who instead wish to cancel will receive a full refund.

Guests booked on the December 12, 2008 two-day weekend getaway will receive a full refund and a $25 per person future cruise credit certificate.

NCL representatives are available at 877-474-2960 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm ET to assist guests and travel partners with existing reservations on Norwegian Jade's transatlantic and New York sailings. Travel partners with group reservations should call NCL at 877-474-2968. All changes must be made by March 14, 2008. After that time, all existing reservations will be cancelled.

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2-26-08 Silversea to Name New Ship HSH Prince Albert II Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises announced today that its new expedition ship (originally acquired as World Discoverer II) will be renamed HSH Prince Albert II, in tribute to Prince Albert of Monaco.

The ship will be dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the planet's oceans, wildlife and indigenous cultures. The Principality of Monaco is home to Silversea's global headquarters and has long been recognized as a leader in marine environment research. Prince Albert I, a pioneer in oceanographic science and exploration, first explored the Arctic's Svalbard archipelago in the early part of the last century, and founded the world renowned Oceanographic Institute.

In 2006, Prince Albert II plotted a similar course on part of his journey to the North Pole, in an effort to add to the scientific body of work started by his ancestor -- and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on the Arctic regions. As a result, the Prince is the first incumbent head of state to have reached the northern most point on Earth.

"We are deeply honored to have our new expedition ship named after His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco," said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea's chairman. "His passion for environmental conservation is well known and we are committed to supporting his mission by offering travelers the chance to discover and appreciate some of the world's most remote and unspoiled regions."

When Silversea's adventure ship sets sail on June 12, following a naming ceremony in Monte Carlo, it will herald the beginning of a new mode in exploration cruising -- where a luxurious ambiance is just as important as the eye-opening educational experiences it will deliver.

The Lloyd's Register A1A ice-rated vessel is purpose-built for expedition cruising and is currently undergoing an extensive multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy. To ensure the ship will deliver an expedition cruise experience consistent with Silversea's award-winning luxury standards, the refurbishment will include exterior design modifications, state-of-the-art technological enhancements and a comprehensive upgrade of all guest accommodations and public spaces.

The ship is also being outfitted with a new fleet of eight, latest-model Zodiac boats with Yamaha four-stroke engines (for lowest possible emissions) that will allow guests to enjoy up-close exploration and access to some of the world's most remote landscapes.

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2-26-08 Costa Serena Godmother, Marion Cotillard, wins "Best Actress" Marion Cotillard, who served as godmother of the Costa Serena at the ship's May 2007 inaugural, won the Academy Award for "Best Actress in a Leading Role" at the 80th annual Academy Awards ceremony for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. Cotillard was chosen as godmother of the Costa Serena, the flagship of the Costa fleet, during the same time period that La Vie en Rose was released. Costa inaugurated the ship in France, Cotillard's home country.

Cotillard inaugurated the Costa Serena on May 19, 2007 in front of an audience of 1,500 guests in Marseille, France. Known as one of the most elaborate inaugurals in Costa's history, the French fête featured a christening ceremony where Cotillard cut the ribbon that sent the ceremonial bottle of Champagne against the ship's hull and concluded with a performance by the Choir of the Opéra de Marseille. Festivities concluded with a gourmet gala dinner created by Michelin-starred Italian chef Ettore Bocchia and an awe-inspiring show of more than 2,500 fireworks that lit up the city of Marseille.

The 114,500-ton Costa Serena, along with her sister ship the Costa Concordia, is the largest vessel flying the Italian flag. She measures in at 290 meters in length with 1,500 cabins and a total guest capacity of 3,780. The ship features the main innovations offered on her sister ship, including the Samsara Spa—one of the largest spas at sea, two swimming pools with a retractable magrodome, an authentic Grand Prix race car driving simulator, and menus created by the Italian culinary innovator Ettore Bocchia at "Club Bacco," the ship's à la carte restaurant. The interiors of the Costa Serena are designed by the ingenious American architect Joe Farcus, with a central theme of Greek and Roman mythology.

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2-25-08 Sophia Loren to Christen MSC Peosia MSC Poesia, third sister ship to the MSC Musica, will be christened in Dover, England on April 5 by Hollywood actress and Italian film icon, Sophia Loren. As godmother to the new ship, she will perform the christening ceremony at midnight to mark the first launch of an MSC Cruises ship outside of Italy.

MSC Poesia (poetry) will see her first night in Dover celebrated by live performances from headline acts including Italian opera legend Andrea Bocelli. In addition, multi-award-winning, Grammy-nominated and three-time BRIT award-winning singer/songwriter KT Tunstall will be on stage in the grand new music hall, as will the 20-year-old Peter Grant, accompanied by the renowned Ronnie Scott Band.

Throughout the evening, US artist Brian Olsen will provide entertainment with his unique style of dramatic performance art, which encompasses all of the senses. His paintings of famous musicians, actors and politicians are choreographed in an extraordinary auditory and visual performance.

Festivities will continue late into the night, with BBC Radio One DJ Fearne Cotton leading activities on the ship's other decks to ensure celebrity revelers and guests can enjoy the splendor of MSC Poesia and its warm Mediterranean hospitality.

At 89,600 tons and with 1,275 staterooms (with double occupancy for 2,550 guests), MSC Poesia has a wonderful blend of cutting-edge technology, elegant surroundings, exciting entertainment venues and tantalizing dining opportunities.

MSC Poesia is a third sister ship to MSC Orchestra and MSC Musica (launched in 2007 and 2006, respectively), and the ninth ship in the MSC Cruises fleet.

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

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2-18-08 Save the Delta Queen Needs YOUR HELP Now The "Save the Delta Queen Organization" may be on the brink of saving the Delta Queen, but they need the help of every concerned citizen immediately.

During the week of February 25-29, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 2830, is scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives. Congressman Steve Chabot will introduce an amendment to the bill that, if allowed by the Rules Committee, will re-establish the Delta Queen's long-standing exemption that will allow her to continue operating as a passenger vessel on this nation's rivers.

Please contact your Representative and ask him or her to vote in favor of Rep. Chabot's amendment as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 2830. The best time to act is this week (February 18-22), when members of Congress will be back in their home districts. You can find complete contact information, including District office phone and fax numbers, at www.house.gov.

As you probably know, the only reason that Rep. Chabot's current bill, H.R. 3852, has not reached the House floor is that Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota has repeatedly refused to let it pass out of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. To learn more about this matter, go to this web site: http://www.steamboats.org/index/delta-queen-exemption-background.html. It will take you to a letter written by Mary Charlton, a Discovery Guide on the Delta Queen, in response to concerns expressed by Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas. Mary's insightful comments may prove helpful in your discussions with your own Representative - and with your two Senators, who ultimately will also need to vote on the exemption issue.

Please spread the word to everyone you know who can help the cause. And many thanks in advance for helping us save this irreplaceable American treasure!

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2-14-08 New Details of MSC Fantasia Revealed The new MSC Fantasia is currently under construction in the Akers shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and set for a Dec. 18, 2008 christening in Naples, Italy. The ship, at 133,000-tons, with enough capacity for 3959 guests, will be the largest cruise ship yet built especially for the European cruise market.

Some of the new details about the ship MSC Cruises is revealing today is that it will have an exclusive VIP area to be named the MSC Yacht Club. This area will consist of 99 suites (up to 700 square feet), plus a bar, solarium, 2 Jacuzzis, a pool with sky dome, and concierge service exclusively for these VIP guests.

The front of the Observation Lounge will boast large glass windows for spectacular ocean views, relaxation areas, a Wi-Fi zone and a library with books in several languages. A honey-colored onyx marble exhibition table will provide guests the perfect place to enjoy their daily breakfast. Numerous screens will keep guests informed of the ship's route, weather conditions and the visible constellations while at sea.

The MSC Yacht Club Concierge area and the stairs connecting it to Deck 16 will be made from Swarovski crystal, which will be illuminated by LED lights. The flooring of the stairs will be a mosaic of black Saint Laurent and yellow Siena marble and the transparent ceiling will allow guests to enjoy the star-studded sky.

Butler service will operate throughout the VIP area offering assistance at check-in, overseeing the transport of luggage and unpacking and serving traditional English high tea at 5 p.m. In addition, the butler can arrange for cigars and wine, liquors and champagne and pre-book tables in the restaurants, spa treatments in the Aurea Spa, shore excursions or arrange a private party in the suite. Butler Service on board MSC Fantasia and sister ship MSC Splendida will be overseen by Giovanni Mautone, Dining Services Manager for MSC Cruises, who will use his training at "The International Butler Academy" in Warnsveld, Netherlands.

MSC Yacht Club will enjoy all the characteristics of yachting, including oak wood walls and flooring of wood parquet with interlaced yellow Siena marble.

MSC Fantasia will be 133,500 gross tons, 1,092 feet long, 124 feet wide, and almost 196 feet tall. It will have a maximum speed of 23 knots, and propulsion of 40 Mega watts. There will be more than 1,100 miles of electrical cable and 65,000 light fittings.

There will be 1,637 staterooms for 3,959 guests. 80% of the staterooms will be oceanview staterooms, with 107 suites. The staterooms will range from 193 to 700 square feet. There will be 290,000 square feet of public space with a theater able to seat 1,700.

The Aurea Spa center will be 16,000 square feet with a thermal cave. There are five restaurants including a Tex Mex restaurant with an open kitchen and a panoramic restaurant, 4 pools (3 external and 1 with a retractable roof) with 12 hydro-massage tubs, wine bar, coffee bar and another 20 bars (including a sports bar and Jazz bar). There will be specialty shops, a casino, disco, Formula 1 simulators and an interactive 4D cinema.

The children's area will be 4,300 square feet total, including a "Water Slide" which straddles two decks to the side of the disco with amazing scenic views. The Aquapark will have 150 fountains that will light up at night to the rhythm of music. There will also be three fun areas: Mini-Club, Junior Club and Teenager Club. The ship requires 1,325 crew members.

MSC Fantasia will be followed by her sister ship MSC Splendida to be delivered in June 2009.

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2-14-08 Celebrity and Azamara to Offer Weddings at Sea Both Azamara Cruises and Celebrity Cruises ships will soon be offering legal, captain-led wedding ceremonies at sea, beginning later this year. This will complement their existing vow renewal and in-port wedding offerings. The ceremonies will be conducted by the captain's of the vessels.

The ability of the two sister cruise lines to offer weddings is a result of the recent re-registration of seven of Celebrity's eight ships in Malta, where Azamara's two ships also are registered. Maltese government regulations have changed to allow for captains to perform legal marriages while the ships sail the seas of the world. Both cruise lines belong to the Royal Caribbean International family of cruise lines.

Guests to be married at sea by Azamara and Celebrity captains will be offered a variety of packages that include anything from private receptions in their ship's specialty restaurant to cake, champagne, and more. Basic captain-performed wedding packages begin at $2,500.

Guests should book their wedding in advance of their sailing in order to allow time for the processing of licenses and other legal documents.

Additional wedding options include Celebrity's cruisetours to Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and The Hotel Alyeska. There, guests can be married or renew their vows near the hanging glaciers of the Girdwood Valley or with Mt. McKinley as a backdrop. These ceremonies are available from June to September, as part of a Celebrity Cruises pre- or post-voyage cruisetour.

For more information visit www.azamaracruises.com/weddings and www.celebritycruises.com/weddings.

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2-13-08 MCTF Upset about NCL Hawaii Withdrawal According to an article at the web site Maritime Global Net, The MCTF is very upset that NCL-America is now planning to move two ships out of the Hawaii region.

The Maritime Cabotage Task Force is, according to their web site, "dedicated to educating America on the economic, national security, environmental and safety benefits of the Jones Act and other U.S. cabotage laws so that domestic waterborne commerce remains a pillar of our national existence."

Who are they really? A lobby group based in Washington DC who collect fees from members in order to maintain a presence with congressional leaders who might think about making changes to this venerable act enacted in the late 1800s. Who are members of this group? Mostly dockyard, construction, freight and barge companies. And unions, such as the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department, the AFL-CIO Association, the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants, Seafarers International Union - Hawaii Chapter and North America, United Steelworkers of America, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The number of companies involved who actually transport passengers on the open sea is actually relatively minor. Clipper Cruise Line and Delta Queen Steamboat Company are the only ones I recognize, and the latter operates only on our rivers, not internationally. Other passenger vessel companies include Body Glove Cruises, Blue Water Excursions and Lake Mead Cruises.

In any case, the MCTF is very upset about the news that NCL is withdrawing an additonal ship from Hawaii. My question is "why?" The vast majority of the people this lobby group represents makes more money from foreign flagged passenger vessels making calls in the U.S. than they do by supporting U.S. maritime union crewmembers on passenger vessels. This group has been vocal about any changes to the PVSA, as if it is truly a good piece of legislation that benefits our country more than it hinders us, but in doing so they have been throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Just doing their jobs? For months now they were backing wholesale changes to the PVSA Cabotage laws that would have ruined passenger commerce for several U.S. cities, such as San Diego, Seattle, Bangor Maine, San Francisco and arguably any cruise port in the U.S. The reason is the changes they were supporting asked for all foreign flag vessels to spend at least 48 hours in a foreign port on every visit. That is a requirement so sever that most passenger vessels with the option would load passengers outside of the US instead of in our demestic ports. Seattle commerce would move to Vancouver, San Diego departures would move to Ensenada.

The good news is, while the MCTF is still extremely upset, they have now toned down their rhetoric to "demand" that the cabotage laws only be changed enough to protect Hawaii as a unique cruising region. This is a specification they never made before. In their latest missive, the group writes... "The MCTF says that it strongly supports Customs and Border Protection's efforts to enforce the cabotage laws, and urges the agency to promptly adopt an interpretive rule that prevents further incursion into the domestic Hawaii trades by foreign cruise ships circumventing the law with sham foreign port calls."

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2-12-08 NCL Hawaii Cruises Making Big Changes NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) will withdraw Pride of Aloha from the Hawaii market effective May 11, 2008. The ship is being transferred to Star Cruises and will be re-flagged and deployed in Asia in the summer of 2008. This was the first ship to begin cruising under the the US-flagged fleet of subsidialry NCL-America.

The only remaining year-round ship in Hawaii by NCL-America will be the larger and newer Pride of America, introduced in 2005 as a vessel specifically designed and built for Hawaii cruising. Pride of America will sail through 2010 on inter-island cruises departing every Saturday from Honolulu.

Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services, said, "Withdrawing Pride of Aloha was an extremely difficult but necessary commercial decision; however we see a strong future for the long-term flagship in Hawaii, Pride of America. In Pride of America, we have created a commercially successful modern U.S. Flag cruise ship home ported in Hawaii - the first time that has ever been achieved. With Pride of America, we are offering a high quality product, on a world class ship sailing one of the most exciting itineraries available in the industry."

Guests booked on Pride of Aloha

For guests booked on Pride of Aloha from May 11, 2008 and beyond, NCL is holding space and will offer the same cruise fare as they currently have paid on their Pride of Aloha cruise if they would like to transfer to the same week on Pride of America, departing one day earlier. In addition:

  • Guests will receive a $100 per person on-board credit (up to $200 per stateroom).
  • For guests who made their air and/or hotel arrangements through NCL, NCL will protect the rates they currently have paid and cover any air or hotel change fees.
  • For guests who purchased their own air, NCL will protect up to the first $100 per person of any increase in air costs and cover up to $75 per person in air change fees.
  • For guests who made independent hotel arrangements, NCL will cover any hotel change fees up to $25 per person.

Guests may book any other NCL cruise and receive a $100 per person on-board credit (up to $200 per stateroom) if they rebook by March 7, 2008. In addition, NCL will cover up to $75 per person in air change fees and up to $25 per person in hotel change fees. Guests may cancel their cruise and receive a full refund if NCL is notified by March 7, 2008. In addition, NCL will cover up to $75 per person in air change fees and up to $25 per person in hotel change fees. After March 7, 2008 cancellation fees will apply in accordance with NCL's cancellation policy.

Pride of America's deployment announced through 2010. "Pride of Aloha pioneered the new inter-island market but, as we move forward with Freestyle 2.0 to take our product to the next level across what is already the youngest fleet in the industry, we cannot justify further investment in this ship," said Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services.

Following a 14-day scheduled dry dock in Hawaii from April 26, 2008 to May 10, 2008, Pride of America will sail its four main island itinerary with a change in order of ports including an overnight in Nawiliwili, Kaua`i; an afternoon cruise of the breathtaking Napali Coast; Hilo, Hawaii; an evening sail by Mount Kilauea; Kona, Hawaii; and an overnight in Kahului, Maui.

The announcement of itineraries for Pride of America through 2010 means the ship is guranteed to be in Hawaii at least that long, if not longer. Stuart says that in the longer term, as demand continues to grow for Hawaii cruising, NCL hopes to bring back the purpose-built U.S.-flag ship, Pride of Hawaii - currently sailing in Europe as Norwegian Jade.

Since the announcement a year ago of Pride of Hawaii's temporary transfer to Europe, renamed as Norwegian Jade, NCL has embarked on a major fleet-wide initiative called Freestyle 2.0 featuring significant product and hardware upgrades to its modern fleet, including Pride of America. The Freestyle 2.0 program will further enhance the on-board experience taking Freestyle Cruising to the next level. Enhancements include a major investment in the total dining experience; upgrading the stateroom experience; new wide ranging on-board activities for all guests; additional recognition, service and amenities for balcony, suite and villa guests; and the establishment of casual action-station restaurants taking the place of the "traditional" buffet experience. Freestyle 2.0 will be in place on Pride of America and across NCL's fleet, now the youngest fleet in the cruise industry, by the middle of May 2008.

All of the Freestyle 2.0 enhancements will be rolled out on Pride of America during the ship's dry-dock.

Launched in 2005, Pride of America has over 660 balcony staterooms, the broadest range of family-friendly interconnecting cabins available at sea, a choice of nine different restaurants and 12 dining options, multiple entertainment venues, three pools, extensive children's facilities, an abundance of spacious public rooms, and the largest dedicated meeting facilities at sea. All inspired by the diverse regions of America.

Cabotage Issues

Commenting on the Pride of Aloha withdrawal, NCL's President and CEO Colin Veitch said: "Our Hawaii business has been extraordinarily difficult, and although we have progressively established a stable operation, delivering a good product in a great destination, the overall price level in the market has been driven down, to a significant degree, by an unprecedented expansion of capacity from low-cost foreign flag ships based on the west coast operating domestic Hawaii itineraries that the Customs Service has indicated are legally the preserve of U.S. flag ships.

"We have invested heavily in U.S. flag cruising in reliance on our nation's cabotage laws providing a level playing field in Hawaii. Our remaining ship, Pride of America, is generating an encouraging profit now, and we project a continued improvement in this one-ship operation as the unique nature of Hawaii, from a cabotage standpoint, is clarified and restored. In due course, we would then expect, and hope, to be able to grow our U.S. flag business back to two profitable ships by reintroducing Pride of Hawaii."

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2-7-08 Princess Cruises' "Are You the Greatest Romantic?" Contest Princess Cruises is launching a nationwide search asking "Are You the Greatest Romantic?" The contest debuts Valentine's Day at www.princess.com/romance. All "romantics at heart" can nominate themselves or someone they believe deserves this highest honor of amorous aptitude.

"The Greatest Romantic" will be chosen from a field of entries narrowed down to five finalists determined by the line's Department of Romance experts. After a public vote, he or she will become an "ambassador of love" for the department for one full year, in addition to receiving a romantic cruise for two.

Gavin MacLeod, the actor who played Captain Stubing on the series "The Love Boat," is one of the members of Princess' Department of Romance, which also includes experts Trish McDermott, "Vice President of Love" for Engage.com and former "Vice President of Romance" for Match.com; feisty and provocative couples therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer; and Lisa Light, destination wedding expert and author. Together they will select the five most inspiring finalists before the vote is put out to the general public.

Princess invites all romantics to submit a video telling why they deserve this honor. Videos can be entered from Feb/ 14 until March 20, and then from April 1-14 the five finalists will be posted and the general public will have the chance to vote for their favorite "Greatest Romantic." The winner will be announced on April 15 and receive a romantic, seven-day cruise for two to Mexico or the Caribbean, including airfare. While onboard they will receive a special romantic couple's package from Lotus Spa. "The Greatest Romantic" will also enjoy a year-long title of Princess' "ambassador of love" as a member of its Department of Romance. They will be featured on the company's website telling their story, offering advice and discussing romance on a special podcast.

Videos should be no longer than three minutes and compellingly convey why the person is the ultimate romantic. Contestants can nominate themselves, a spouse, friend or relative but can enter only once and must be at least 21 years of age. All videos become property of Princess Cruises. For a complete list of rules and video requirements, as well as sample video entries for romantic inspiration, visit www.greatestromantic.princess.com.

Simultaneously Princess is also conducting a sweepstakes giving one of the contest voters a chance to win their own romantic cruise for two. Visitors to the contest website during the voting period can sign up for a chance to win a seven-day cruise for two to the Caribbean or the Mexican Riviera. Other contest prizes include decadent chocolates from Godivia Chocolatier, pampering products from Princess' exclusive Lotus Spa, and flowers from Teleflora.

In addition to the contest information, Princess' new online home for its Department of Romance features tips and articles from its romance experts ranging from the best ways to reinvigorate your romance, to tips on planning a destination wedding. It also features a series of podcasts, inspiring quotations and romantic desktop downloads.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at www.princess.com.

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2-7-08 Hurtigruten Announces 2008 Greenland Specials Hurtigruten, expedition cruise specialists, have a "Book A Suite - Fly For Free" special on four eight-day Disko Bay sailings (June 26, July 3, 10 and 17) and the August 28th 15-day Disko Bay/Thule itinerary. Bookings must be made by March 15 and cannot be combined with other discounts. Prices for suites are $7,699 to $11, 399 on the eight-day, and $11, 499 to $20,899 on the 15-day sailings. Flights are direct between Baltimore and Kangerlussuaq.

The world's newest expedition ship, the 318-berth MS Fram, will offer a first-hand look at the changing landscape of Greenland and learn about its history, geography, culture, wildlife and environment from onboard experts during lectures and land excursions. Highlights include Eqip Sermia Glacier, a huge wall of ice that calves directly into the sea; towering icebergs in Disko Bay and at the mouth of Jakobshavn Ice Fjord, a World Heritage Site; and Jakobshavn Glacier, the world's most active glacier.

The eight-day itinerary sails from Kangerlussuaq Fjord, one of the world's longest fjords, along Greenland's west coast to huge Disko Bay. Guided walking tours take in Inuit villages and towns with tongue-twisting names -- Qeqertarsuaq, Ukkusissat and Ilulissat - seeing how the friendly local populations flourish in one of the harshest climates on Earth. Passengers also visit Uummannaq, a halibut center at the foot of a heart-shaped mountain; and Sisimuit, the second largest town with about 4,900 people.

The 15-day adventure explores much of the west coast of the island, going as far as Siorapaluk, the world's most northern naturally inhabited settlement with stops in Kullorsuaq ("the devil's thumb"); Dundas, abandoned in 1985 and not far from Thule US Air Base; Qaanaaq, the first part of Greenland colonized by Intuits from the west; and Upernavik, site of the world's northernmost open-air museum.

The 12,700-ton, eight-deck ship, makes significant use of Greenland's culture as inspiration for design while incorporating a striking Scandinavian feel with the extensive use of wool, leather and oak. Suites include seating areas, some with two rooms, TV, mini-bar and queen-size beds. The ship also boasts an Internet café, a large glass-enclosed observation salon offering panoramic views of the outside scenery, restaurant with ocean views, wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools.

Programs include cabin category selected and three meals daily aboard ship, services of naturalist guides, specified land excursions and PolarCirkel excursions, ship transfers, air taxes and port charges. Add-on airfares are available from dozens of North American cities. A fuel surcharge of $6 per day is additional as are air taxes.

Brochures, information and reservations can be obtained from Hurtigruten (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage), (800) 323-7436 or (212) 319-1300; for brochures, (800) 666-2374, 24 hours a day; www.hurtigruten.us.

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2-7-08 Celebrity Unveils Solstice Restaurants Celebrity Cruises has released a list of names for the dining venues and their descriptions on the new Celebrity Solstice scheduled to debut in December 2008.

Having ended their 15 year affiliation with respected European chef Michel Roux a year ago, the Celebrity eateries are now under the aegus of Las Vegas-based Elizabeth Blau and Associates. Not a chef, Blau specializes in marrying other popular chefs with new locations, in this case Celebrity cruise ships.

For Solstice, Blau enabled a Celebrity partnership with preeminent restaurant and hotel designer Adam Tihany, who created such lauded restaurants as Per Se, Jean Georges, Le Cirque, The Sea Grill and Osteria del Circo in New York; Aureole, Bouchon and Seablue in Las Vegas; and Monte's and the chic Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London.

Tihany's first cruise ship restaurant design includes Celebrity Solstice's two-level Grand Epernay dining room; the steakhouse, "Tuscan Grille," and the casual "Oceanview Café and Grill" on the ship's lido deck. The Grand Epernay features a two-story wine tower.

Helping the creation of the menus with Blau & Associates for each venue is Celebrity's Vice President of Food & Beverage Jacques Van Staden, previously a top chef and restaurateurs in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas.

A "Taste" of Celebrity Solstice's Dining Venues:

  • The Grand Epernay Old Hollywood glamour meets stunning contemporary design in this refined, sweeping main dining room created by Adam Tihany, highlighted by a distinctive, dramatic, two-story glass wine tower. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, evening entrée options include peppered bison filet with red onion preserve; smoked filet with lentil stew, sultana caper and beef jus; and taro-crusted salmon filet with glazed Brussels sprouts, turnip hash and apple cider sauce. A champagne collection from the region inspiring the venue's name includes Perrier Jouet Grand Brut, Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon, Heidsieck and Monopole, Champagne Pol Roger, and Louis Roederer Cristal.
  • Tuscan Grille The Old World charm of Italy is the inspiration behind this Tihany-designed specialty venue, where guests enter through an archway reminiscent of a fine Napa Valley wine cellar. There, diners can enjoy Caesar salads prepared tableside, antipasti bar, Kobe beef, and a variety of steaks, all paired with a robust list of fine Italian wines.
  • Silk Harvest Exotic Asia is the theme of this contemporary, casual specialty restaurant designed by RTKL. The menu serves up a fusion of hot and cold, spicy and mild Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Indian selections, while the specially-selected libations include a variety of sakes, Asian-influenced martinis and beers, and cocktails created with ginger root and acai berries.
  • Blu "Clean cuisine" is served in this soothing specialty venue designed by Celebrity's own Newbuilding and Design team. A venue exclusively for guests booked in Celebrity Solstice's new AquaClass category of accommodations, Blu is open for other guests on a space-available basis. The menu features savory appetizers such as roasted beet salad with goat cheese; Mediterranean chopped salad with pita chips and pomegranate vinaigrette; and entrees including blackened ahi tuna, pan-seared filet mignon, and herb-crusted rack of lamb.
  • Murano A twist on the restaurant of the same name on Celebrity Century, and reflective of the specialty restaurants on the cruise line's Millennium-class fleet, Murano presents a blend of classic and modern Continental cuisine. The warm, elegant restaurant designed by BG Studios of New York features dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows, with romantic ocean views that pair beautifully with the fine Riedel stemware, exquisite bone china and gleaming silverware. The wine cellar offers options from around the world, with a focus on boutique-style and limited-production vintages. Appetizers include warm goat cheese pancakes with sweet bell pepper nage; salads include a combination of Maine lobster, white asparagus and black truffle lobster aioli; and entrees run the gamut from spice-roasted duck with raisin-apple compote to pan-seared turbot with Alaskan King crab ragout.
  • Bistro on Five A variety of specialty crepes highlight the menu in this casually-chic location, where guests are welcome to take out selections, but the ocean views are likely to entice them to stay. Designed by Wilson Butler Associates, the venue's creperie is complemented with sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts and entrees including quiche, fish and chips, baked ziti and chicken pot pie nearly around-the-clock.
  • Café al Bacio & Gelateria This upscale coffeehouse radiates all the energy of a popular European café, highlighted by a sophisticated gelateria serving authentic gelatos and Italian ices, as well as signature and specialty coffees, teas, fresh-baked pastries, chocolate truffles and petit fours.
  • AquaSpa Café The AquaSpa Café is the perfect option for guests seeking quick, lighter fare. A signature venue introduced on Celebrity's Millennium-class fleet, and designed by RTKL, the soothing, airy setting invites guests to dine at comfortable tables while soaking up the tranquility of the Solarium, or enjoy their cuisine while nestled in the comfort of the lounge chairs.
  • Mast Grill & Bar Comfort food is the focus of this ultra-casual, poolside venue, where the simple, fast and tasty options include burgers grilled to order, tacos, nachos, hot dogs, bratwurst, chicken wings, lamb gyros, Reuben sandwiches, and onion rings.
  • Oceanview Café and Grill Embodying the casually chic atmosphere of a European marketplace, this Tihany-designed restaurant offers extensive menus with international flavors that change to reflect the regions in which the ship is sailing. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the venue offers plenty of outdoor seating for dining al fresco and soaking up the sun and sea air. Inside, during evening hours, a special section of the venue features tables draped with linen tablecloths for yet another casual dining option.
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2-6-08 CRUISEMATES offers lowest John Heald Bloggers Cruise 2009 Prices Due to an initial mixup in pricing for the John Heald Blogger's Cruise for 2009, CruiseMates published some prices that were lower than the intended rate for the cruise. This caused a series of unintentional pricing here and at competing web sites that took Herculean efforts in communicating with the Carnival sales force to resolve.

However, due to an imbalance between what was originally promised to CruiseMates and what we subsequently were asked to do, CruiseMates has been given a VERY SHORT pricing reprieve and we can now offer you the LOWEST prices on the upcoming 2009 John Heald Blogger's Cruise. This offer will end Friday at Noon Eastern Time, so book it now.

Prices start as low as $299 with an amazing shipboard credit and a cocktail party. This will be the cruise event of the year and we have already booked 40 cabins. Get Prices Here

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2-4-08: MSC Lirica Trans-Atlantic Bridge Theme Cruise When MSC Lirica completes her Caribbean season at the end of March, she will sail an 18-day voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Dover, England beginning March 29. In addition to exciting ports of call on both sides of the Atlantic, this transatlantic journey is also a Bridge Theme Cruise, ideal for both beginners and those wishing to hone their bridge skills. Tournaments and lessons in international bridge are coordinated by certified teachers from the Italian Federation of Bridge.

When the ship leaves Fort Lauderdale on March 29, she will first visit the Caribbean, with a sea day and calls at San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. John Antigua; and Fort de France, Martinique. After six days at sea, MSC Lirica will arrive in Europe, calling at Funchal, Portugal; spending a day at sea; Vigo, Spain; another day at sea; and then Le Havre, France, before arriving in Dover.

Cruise-only rates for the 18-night journey begin at $1,349 for an interior stateroom and $1,649 for an oceanview stateroom. Rates are per person, double occupancy. Government fees and taxes are additional, as is a fuel surcharge (for the first two stateroom occupants).

In addition, children under the age of 17 sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare-paying adults.

For more information about MSC Cruises visit www.msccruisesusa.com or a local travel professional.

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2-4-08: Seabourn's First-Ever World Cruise Goes on Sale Reservations for the 2010 inaugural World Cruise of the new, ultra luxury cruise vessel Seabourn Odyssey opened today. The 108-day voyage departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on January 5, 2010. A 92-day, west coast alternative version departs Los Angeles, California on January 21. The voyage ends in Piraeus (Athens) Greece on April 24, 2010, by which time guests on board will have visited 42 ports in 26 countries on five continents. It also represents the first time that any of The Yachts of Seabourn has undertaken a world cruise.

The full world cruise qualifies for Seabourn's Grand Voyage Savings of 50%, creating a range of per-person, double occupancy fares from $53,745 for a 295-square foot Category A suite to $254,745 for a Grand Suite measuring 1,135 square feet, with three private verandas adding another 301 square feet of private outdoor space.

Seabourn has packed the voyage with value-added benefits and features that are sure to make full-world cruise guests the envy of those not on board. For those embarking at Ft. Lauderdale, the voyage begins with a complimentary private-car transfer from their homes to any gateway airport within 100 miles and, on arrival at Ft. Lauderdale, to a five-star hotel for a gala pre-cruise celebration and luxury accommodation the night before embarkation. Private car transfers at both ends of the voyage are included for all full-world cruise guests, whether embarking in Florida or California. Other complimentary perquisites include first class round trip airfare, luggage shipping by Seabourn's Personal Valet and a $1,000 per person shipboard credit.

During the voyage, world cruisers will enjoy five shoreside events created especially for them, in addition to the six Exclusively Seabourn experiences to which all guests on board are invited. Commemorative gifts, gala balls and a full program of added enrichment programs and celebrity entertainment are also planned.

For those who wish to be a part of the inaugural world cruise, but are unable to stay aboard for that long, a selection of three shorter "World Voyages" are also available to a limited number of guests. These include a 69-day voyage from Ft. Lauderdale to Hong Kong, a 53-day version from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and a 39-day voyage from Hong Kong to Piraeus. Each of these options offers guests a proportionate menu of World Cruise benefits, as well.

The first new ultra luxury ship to debut in over six years, Seabourn Odyssey will carry a maximum of only 450 guests - with one of the highest space ratios in the industry and highly personalized service with nearly one staff member per guest. Ninety percent of the 225 luxurious ocean-view suites have private verandas, and all feature full granite baths with separate tub and shower and Molton Brown well-being products, a complimentary in-suite bar stocked to the guests' requests and a flat screen entertainment system with movies, television and music. Seabourn Square will be an innovative "concierge lounge" inviting guests to access every service they might require in a relaxed, club-like ambience. The Spa at Seabourn will be the largest on any luxury ship, with a two-deck-high waterfall entry, fully-equipped gym with a Kinesis Wall, indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, a thalassotherapy pool and complete salon facilities to pamper guests. In addition, the ship will boast two outdoor swimming pools and six outdoor whirlpool spas.

A variety of culinary experiences will be available in four dining venues, including many with celebrity chef Charlie Palmer's award-winning touches. With a reputation of excellence, the Yachts of Seabourn earned the highest scores among small-ship cruise lines in the categories of "Food" and "Service" from readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine for the third consecutive year in the January 2008 issue.

For a free 24-page, full color Seabourn Odyssey Inaugural World Cruise brochure, contact your travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit www.seabourn.com.

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