News Archive - February 2009

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2-27-09 Paul Gauguin Cruises Early Booking Savings Thru March 31

Luxury small ship m/s Paul Gauguin has a new savings options for the 2010 sailing season. When reservations and deposit are made by March 31, 2009, guests save up to 45 percent on standard cruise fares for all 2010 departures. This represents savings of $2,500 to $18,650 per person.

For select 10-nights or longer cruises guests can save up to 45 percent AND receive Free Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Papeete, an additional savings of up to $2,500 for two people. Departure dates include:

January 6, 30; March 27: 10-night voyages of Society Islands and Tuamotus January 16; March 13: 14-night journeys of Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands February 9; April 6: 11-night sailings of the Cook and Society Islands

For 7-night cruise itineraries, guests also can save up to 45 percent on Standard Cruise Fares, plus receive Two-for-One Roundtrip Air between Los Angeles and Papeete, an additional savings of up to $1,250. Departure dates these savings apply to include:

February 20, 27; March 6: 7-night sailings of Tahiti and Society Islands

Also, families planning any 2010 voyage on m/s Paul Gauguin may take advantage of the Third Person in the Stateroom Sails Free promotion when booked by March 31, 2009.

Qualified groups in 2010 will receive additional savings of 10 percent on applicable cruise fare and 1-for-9 Tour Conductor Credit when registered by March 31, 2009. Also, qualified groups receive $100 per passenger shipboard credit plus 1-for-9 Tour Conductor Credit when booking the select promotional dates offering Free or Two-for-One Roundtrip Air between Los Angeles and Papeete.

Guests should contact their Professional Travel Agent or call 1-800-848-6172 to reserve a cruise or request a brochure. For additional information, please visit www.pgcruises.com.

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2-27-09 Royal Caribbean Discusses Financing for Oasis There has been speculation lately about the ability of Royal Caribbean International to finance the $5.4 billion in new ship builds it has on schedule. Foremost is concern about the new $1.4 billion Oasis of the Seas which is scheduled to debut in November 2009.

Construction on Oasis and its sister ship Allure of the Seas is already underway, with Oasis already past most of the critical stages. To date, Finnvera, the Finnish government lending entity, has guaranteed loans equal to 80% of the price of the ship, due to be paid to the shipyard upon completion. Most of the speculation has centered around getting the final 20% of financing in time for delivery of the ship.

According to Finnvera, under normal circumstances an 80% guarantee is enough to entice private investors to join in, however it has not been unusual in today's market to have trouble getting the additional financing. Finnvera said it believes the funding will come through.

Royal Caribbean says it usually does not even begin finalizing the balance of loans until six months ahead of delivery, so it is ahead of schedule with Oasis. Finnvera added that it has programs to work with banks to acquire 100% funding and that Royal Caribbean technically qualifies for such a program. But Finnvera says requests for that program are currently up 400% and that Finnish law prevents them from commenting on future possibilities in the case of Royal Caribbean or any company.

The head of STX Europe's Finnish shipyards where Oasis and Allure are under construction said, "We are aware that Royal Caribbean is having these talks, we are not involved. We are not concerned or worried about the situation in any way."

Royal Caribbean International is also building four Solstice-class ships for Celebrity Cruises at Germany's Meyer Werft GmbH shipyard. 95% of the financing is already in place for those ships according to a regulatory filing.

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2-27-09 American Airlines International Fare Sale thru May 15 Thinking about a cruise in a distant region while cruises are still cheap? American Airlines is putting nearly all its international destinations on sale for travel now through mid-May.

These low fares are for travel from the United States (excluding Alaska) to spots throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Tickets for American's international sale fares must be purchased by March 10, 2009, at American's Web site, AA.com. Following are the highlights of American's sale:

Available from the United States (excluding Alaska) to nearly all of American and American Eagle's international destinations. For destinations except Europe, begin travel by May 17, 2009. For Europe, begin travel by May 16, 2009. For all destinations, complete travel no later than May 20, 2009. Purchase tickets no later than March 10, 2009.

Other restrictions apply. For rules and restrictions visit American's Web site, AA.com. In these samples of American's low fares amounts shown are each way based on off-peak, round-trip Economy Class travel purchased on AA.com.

Los Angeles – Los Cabos, Mexico: $75 Miami – Aruba: $135 Dallas/Fort Worth – Monterrey, Mexico: $142 Miami – St. Croix, U.S.V.I.: $156 New York Kennedy – London Heathrow, England: $196 Los Angeles – London Heathrow, England: $203 New York Kennedy – Brussels, Belgium: $210 Dallas/Fort Worth – Paris Charles de Gaulle, France: $277 Miami – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: $337 Miami – Sao Paulo, Brazil: $337 New York City – Buenos Aires, Argentina: $350 Chicago O'Hare – Shanghai, China: $351 New York Kennedy – Tokyo Narita, Japan: $425 Dallas/Fort Worth – Buenos Aires, Argentina: $497

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2-27-09 Costa Romantica Engine Room Fire Causes Power Blackout A fire broke out late Wednesday on Costa Romantica sailing from Rio de Janiero to Buenos Aires with 1479 passengers onboard causing a complete power failure across the vessel - including the engines. Some reports say the ship was adrift but the cruise lines says it anchored the ship near Punta del Este, Uruguay.

A Costa Cruises statement says the fire occured in one of four deisel power generators in the engine room but "was promptly fought and rapidly put out." The line says no person onoard was ever in danger.

Romantica had been scheduled to arrive in Buenos Aires early Thursday, but it remained anchored as of last night. A Costa spokeswoman said the line would disembark passengers later Thursday in Punta del Este and transfer them to Buenos Aires where many passengers had been scheduled to leave the ship early Thursday.

"Costa Cruise apologizes for the situation (and) wishes to express its deep sorrow for the inconvenience," the line said in the statement. The line says it will give passengers on the ship a refund equivalent to two days of the price they paid for the cruise and a voucher for 20% of the price they paid for a future cruise.

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2-24-09 Celebrity Offers Culinary Cruise with Bon Apétit Magazine Celebrity Cruises, known for culinary expertise, is teaming up with the magazine also well known for celebrating and sharing great food. Celebrity Cruises and Bon Appétit will present "Celebrity's Mediterranean Experience with Bon Appétit," a cruise focusing on the joys of cooking and dining.

This cruise will take place on the 2,038-guest Celebrity Summit, departing San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 18, 2009, and sailing to Barcelona, Spain. The ship will call at several ports representing an array of Mediterranean flavors, including Tenerife, Canary Islands; Agadir, Morocco; Malaga, Spain; and Valencia, Spain.

The featured guest chef on the sailing will be Joey Campanaro, chef/owner of New York restaurants "The Little Owl" and "Market Table." Known for a creative style which combines the freshest seasonal ingredients of the Mediterranean with the bold, rich flavors of the region, Campanaro will bring his lifelong affinity for Mediterranean cuisine to Celebrity's guests.

During the sailing, Campanaro will lead several culinary demonstrations. He also will present an enrichment lecture during which he will share various aspects of his culinary background. Campanaro also will add his flair to the ship's main dining room menu, offering a specially-themed four-course set of selections showcasing the flavors of the Mediterranean. Selections from this custom menu will be available during some dinners in the main dining room, in addition to the regular menu items.

Activities onboard will reflect the focus on the region's epicurean and cultural highlights. The ship's casual restaurant will offer numerous Mediterranean-themed buffets throughout the voyage. Guests will have the opportunity to participate in Mediterranean-themed food/wine trivia competitions, a Mediterranean cooking class hosted by the cruise director and the ship's executive chef, Spanish-language classes, regional dance classes, and a recipe contest.

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2-23-09 Department of Homeland Security Seeking Windjammer Victims CruiseMates has learned that the federal government investigation of Windjammer Cruises has not ended, it has merely moved from the Secret Service to the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the Department of Customs. The Bureau of Immigration and Customs in Mirimar, FL, is looking for people who were defrauded by Windjammer, especially in the LaMer Timeshare fiasco, but if you were defrauded in the Sail5 or Sail10 programs that is also useful information.

The customs agent I spoke to did not want me to post his phone number online, but I can forward your information to him. Please do not email me, I will not forward it. We ask that you post what you bought from Windjammer (timeshare, sail5, etc) and the amount that you lost in the transaction in our Windjammer Message Boards. Do not post your name or contact information, once you register with CruiseMates we will be able to contact you by email and we will when we are ready to forward all the information.

For those who do not know the story, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ran as many as six small sailships in their cruise line, but as their profitability waned they started selling products that did not exist. Cruisemates has done several articles on what we consider to be fraud by Windjammer.

The company sold shares in a timeshare ship they said they were building, called the LaMer project. They had purchased a research vessel to convert into a cruise ship, and sold the timeshares with a glossy brochure with floorplans and renderings (but no pictures). They collected possibly millions of dollars from people who bought various staterooms and future "weeks" for future years on this ship, but the conversion was never even started although the timeshares were sold in abundance.

Consumers were also duped in programs called Sail5 and Sail10 where cruises were pre-sold in packages of five and ten at a discount price - despite the internal knowledge that the vessels were falling apart and with no financial reserves in place to protect investors in the case of company failure. Whether or not such pre-paid package are even legal is gray area. No other cruise line has such a program.

Windjammer is now no longer in business, but they never filed bankruptcy (which would have given financial relief to many people who lost money). The Burke family, who owned and ran Windjammer, simply went underground and ignored the mountain of summons and lawsuits that followed. Because almost all of the company assets were registered in the names of foreign citizens and deeply hidden in foreign corporations it has beeen very hard to find any tanglible assets to make the customers whole again. For this reason, even lawyers have not filed class action lawsuits. The federal government is the last hope of many people who lost money to the Burkes of Windjammer.

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2-23-09 More Controversy Over Dali Prints at Park West Art Auctions Last summer CruiseMates wrote about Park West, the gallery who conducts the art auctions on most cruise ships, and the controversy surrounding its auction procedures. We also cited a conflict Park West is having with a Phoenix-based company, Fine Arts Registry (FAR), who reported Park West was selling non-authentic Dali prints according to the most respected guide to Dali artwork - which Dali himself certified. For details read our Park West Art Auctions article.

Last weekend, it was reported that Park West had stopped selling Dali prints on all cruise ships after a lawsuit filed in Detroit's Oakland County by 10 art collectors alleged Park West sold them nearly $600,000 in artworks containing fake signatures, including those of Dali. Park West countersued.

As our articles states and an original video we have online shows, these prints were identified as authentic prints personally signed by Dali himself. The asking price for the print in our video was over $12,000. If the prints are not authentic, the value is obviously much less, in the hundreds of dollars.

But the latest statement from Park West says the reason the Dali prints have been discontinued is merely a market decision. According to the Detroit News, Park West's Robin Danek, director of marketing communications, said, "Park West has temporarily suspended restocking of some Salvador Dali works at our cruise auctions. The decision was based on current market conditions. Like any company that sells products, Park West regularly makes inventory decisions based on sales data, market conditions and other business factors."

In other words, Park West is not saying there is anything wrong with the Dali prints it is selling, at least not in this statement. But independent art expert say the prints, from the "Divine Comedy" series, are forgeries and worthless, according to an another article in the Detroit News.

Park West has also sued many people, including members of the press such as Fine Arts Registry and a Florida television news anchor who reported that Park West was selling fake Dali Prints. Park West has accused FAR of conducting cyber-terrorism on its web site, supposedly because Park West refused to list their extensive art collection with the registry that FAR runs as a service to the art investment community.

The question, as posed by FAR owner Teri Franks, is whether the cruise lines take a stand on the practices of Park West. Franks contends that the cruise lines are a little too cozy with Park West and she believes they could also be culpable for any losses cruise passengers may have incurred when buying Park West Prints. It is a matter of record that Royal Caribbean was named as a defendant alongside Park West in one class action lawsuit against the art dealer, but the gallery also runs the auctions on Carnival, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas and just about every cruise ship sailing except; Silversea Lines, Princess Cruises and the one Celebrity cruise ship, Celebrity Solstice.

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2-19-09 Celebrity Equinox Coming Early - 8-day Norway Cruise Added Celebrity Cruises today announced that the pace of construction of sister ship to Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox is ahead of schedule so the line will will offer a soft launch prior to the ship's maiden voyage of August 8.

Celebrity Equinox will present a cruise departing July 31 through the Norwegian Fjords, roundtrip from Southampton, England.

A special offer is being made to guests who booked on the original Celebrity Equinox's inaugural sailing of August 8, inviting them to combine their 10-night "Best of Europe" cruise with the 8-night soft launch for an 18-night voyage on the new ship. Guests capitalizing on the opportunity will receive an onboard credit of $200 per stateroom or $300 per suite.

The 8-night cruise through the Norwegian Fjords features visits to Stavanger, Flam, Geiranger, and Oslo, Norway. The following 10-night voyage, which will include an inaugural gift and commemorative activities, will visit Le Havre and Cherbourg, France; Vigo, Cartagena and Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal, and Gibraltar, UK, ending in Rome, Italy.

Bookings are now open for the new 8-night cruise on Celebrity Equinox.

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2-19-09 1st Megaship to Sail Regular West Coast Cruises Arrives in Los Angeles While Florida and the East Coast have enjoyed Mega-ship cruises on ships greater than 100,000 gross tons since 1996, the West Coast of the U.S. has only seen ships of this size on very rare occasions, such as a visit from Queen Mary 2 during a world cruise. Today, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, the biggest cruise to ever to schedule regular sailings from Los Angeles, will begin what should prove to be a very successful career sailing 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises.

At 1,020 feet long and 142,000 gross registered tons, Mariner will sail year-round from the Port of Los Angeles on seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises with ports of call at Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, Mexico.

Mariner of the Seas is one of the Royal Caribbean's Voyager class of ships, which revolutionized the cruise industry by introducing innovative amenities such rock-wall climbing, an ice-skating rink, a full size basketball and sports court, an inline skating track and Royal Caribbean's signature Royal Promenade, a boulevard of shops, restaurants, bars and lounges that runs the length of the ship.

The reason why ships of this size have not sailed regularly from Los Angeles before is because they are too big for the current Panama Canal. In fact, to reach California Mariner took about 60 days to circumnavigate South America going all the way around Cape Horn. Another mega-ship, the 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor is also currently on the same course and is scheduled to arrive in Long Beach in early March. Splendor will also offer regular 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises.

Mariner of the Seas offers guests the chance to relax in the adults-only Solarium, swim in the two swimming pools or six whirlpools, a nine-hole miniature golf course, interactive golf simulator, the full-service Mariner Day Spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

In the evening guests can enjoy one of the 16 bars and themed lounges and seven restaurants, including a 1950s-style Johnny Rockets Diner and Royal Caribbean's signature specialty restaurants; Chops Grille steakhouse and Portofino Italian restaurant. Guests also can enjoy a myriad of entertainment options from top-rated Broadway-style productions in the Savoy Theatre to world class gaming in the Casino Royale.

For younger guests, Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean youth program offers scheduled activities throughout the day. Teens have their own dedicated onboard areas such as Fuel, the teen disco; The Living Room, a place where they can relax and hang out with their friends; and The Back Deck, an outdoor lounge.

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2-19-09 Antarctic Ship Free and Afloat - Passengers Safe and No Damage Quark Expeditions announced at 18:00 EST last night that M/V Ocean Nova is no longer aground. The ship came away with the assistance of the late evening high tide. A video of the hull taken during the divers' inspection prior to the refloating has been reviewed by maritime experts. The company reports that M/V Ocean Nova has not sustained any damage as a result of the grounding and there has been no leaking of any kind.

Should the inspection that will be conducted in Ushuaia on the ship's return to port confirm the video findings, Quark Expeditions will operate the February 22, 2009 departure of Ocean Nova. This will be a 20-day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).

Two hours earlier all guests aboard M/V Ocean Nova has been safely transferred to M/V Clipper Adventurer, where they had lunch. Activities in the area went as scheduled for the afternoon, after which the vessel began its northward journey to Ushuaia, Argentina for disembarkation.

Ocean Nova had remained aground, waiting for high tide at 11 PM local time (02:00 UTC) when it was able to dislodge. A preliminary inspection by divers from the Spanish naval vessel Hespérides found no visible damage or leaks. Quark Expeditions anticipates there will be no negative impact on the environment due to this incident.

Another inspection by divers of M/V Ocean Nova's hull will be conducted once the ship is afloat. After that inspection, the vessel will return to Ushuaia.

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2-19-09 Norwegian Cruise Line Named "Cruise Line of the Year" by Bahamas Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) was recognized as "Cruise Line of the Year" by The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism during the 13th Annual Cacique Awards held in Nassau, Bahamas. The Cacique Awards recognize the roles played by those individuals and organizations whose performance or products have consistently made a positive impact on the quality and the growth of tourism in The Bahamas.

"Norwegian Cruise Line and The Bahamas have enjoyed a long-standing partnership," said Mr. Ellison "Tommy" Thompson, Deputy Director General of Tourism for the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation. "We are pleased that they are committed to helping grow tourism in The Bahamas by bringing their Freestyle Cruising ships to our islands."

Norwegian Cruise Line was the first cruise line to sail to The Bahamas beginning in 1966. Currently, the company has five ships visiting The Bahamas: Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Majesty.

The Cacique Awards recognize the roles played by individuals and organizations whose performance or products have consistently made a positive impact on the quality and growth of tourism in the Bahamas. Since 1995 they have been presented in eight public categories: Transportation; Human Resources Development; Sports, Leisure & Events; Creative Arts; Handicraft; Sustainable Tourism; the Minister's Award presented to an individual who has exemplified Bahamian hospitality through genuine friendliness and concern toward visitors; the Lifetime Achievement Award for an individual who has made consistently outstanding contributions to the growth of tourism for 20 or more years and a special award for an individual or organization that has developed an innovative tourist attraction.

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2-18-09 Win a Free European Cruise - Costa Essay Contest Costa is offering a free cruise contest limited to the North American audience with the grand prize being a European cruise on the brand new Costa Pacifica. The cruise is a 7-night Mediterranean cruise from the port for Rome, Italy to Palermo, Malta, Tunis, Mallorca, Barcelona and Savona, Italy. The sail date is somewhat flexible according to the winner's needs.

The contest involves writing an essay that describes your best Costa culinary experience in 300 words or less. The entry form can be accessed here: Costa Pacifica Culinary Contest.

The contest is limited to the North American audience, which greatly enhances your odds of winning. Anyone who has sailed on Costa is eligible. Submissions may be made between today and April 17. The winner will be selected by a panel based upon creativity and style.

The new Costa Pacifica - set to debut in June 2009 - has a very unique musical theme where different areas of the ship have decoration inspired by either famous musical pieces or one of eight original musical works contracted by the cruise line for the vessel. For those who have never been on a Costa ship let me tell you the decor is eclectic and unique on each of their ships.

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2-18-09 Antarctic Stranded Ship Fails to Dislodge The MV Ocean Nova with 106 passengers aboard was not able to free itself from the rocks it has run upon during the current high tide. The reason given was gusting high winds. The captain made the attempt at about 11:00 EST. The captain says he will try to free the vessel once again during the next high tide which will come in six hours at about 5:00 EST.

As soon as the ship is free divers from the Spanish vessel Hespérides will inspect the hull to see how badly damaged it is. Guests aboard the Nova are waiting the arrival of another Quark vessel, the M/V Clipper Adventurer. If Ocean Nova is not dislodged at the noon high tide, then all passengers will be transferred to Clipper Adventurer for the return to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, point of origin for the 15-day voyage of Ocean Nova.

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2-18-09 Cruise Ship Runs Aground in Antarctica - Currently Trying to Free Itself A small expeditionary cruise vessel called the Ocean Nova has run aground and is stranded with 106 passengers in the vicinity of Antarctica. The vessel was built in 1992 with an ice-strengthened hull, and is said to not be in any danger. The ship is in the fleet of Quark Expeditions, and American company.

The small ship ran into trouble in high winds near an Argentinian research station west of Debenham Island at about 3am yesterday. The Danish captain, Per Gravesen, issued a distress signal after failing to dislodge the ship. Currently, all 106 people onboard are remaining calm while the captain is awaiting high tide in hopes he can force the vessel off of the ground.

There are plans to have divers examine the hull and in the case of any breaches they plan to disembark the passengers.

Some readers may recall the MS Explorer hit ice near Antarctica in November 2007 and was able to free itself. The problem however, was that the ice had knocked a hole in the hull and as soon as the vessel was dislodged the hole was open to the sea. The passengers and crew were all in lifeboats by the time the vessel went down, and they were retrieved by a Norwegian rescue ship.

As of now, the Quark is still aground and the passengers are onboard. The company will make further announcements as they occur. High tide began 30 minutes ago at 1600 UTC or 11:30 EST.

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2-17-09 Carnival Sensation Completes Scheduled Fantasy-class Upgrades The 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation has a host of new facilities and features as scheduled for all carnival Fantasy-class vessels under the "Evolutions of Fun" program. New features include an extensive water park, the exclusive adults-only retreat called "Serenity," and a redecorated tropical theme for the main pool area. Ninety-eight balconies were also incorporated onto existing ocean view staterooms and a new Circle C facility for 12- to 14-year olds was added, as well.

The extensive renovation took place during a 35-day dry dock. Carnival Sensation is the fourth "Fun Ship" to receive the upgrades, joining the Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, and Carnival Fantasy which have already been renovated. The four remaining Fantasy-class ships will be refurbished over the next few years.

Carnival Sensation resumed its year-round three- and four-day Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral last week. Three-day cruises depart Thursdays and visit Nassau while four-day voyages depart Sundays and call at Freeport and Nassau.

Open Deck Upgrades A highlight of the "Evolutions of Fun" upgrades is Carnival WaterWorks, a sprawling aqua park that is designed to appeal to guests of all ages. Towering over Verandah Deck, the expansive open-air facility includes a 300-foot-long water slide - the longest at sea - along with twin 82-foot-long racing slides and various water spray apparatus.

The redesigned main pool area has a distinctive resort-style ambiance, with colorful, oversized umbrellas, thatched roofing, vibrant tile work and other tropical-themed design elements.

Serenity Adults-Only Retreat Also new on the Carnival Sensation is Serenity, an exclusive adults-only retreat located aft on Promenade Deck. Designed as an ocean-going oasis for comfort and relaxation, Serenity offers plush chaise lounges and chairs, and two large whirlpools. Shade is provided by oversized umbrellas, along with an area covered by thatched roofing. Within Serenity, guests can enjoy a wide range of icy cocktails and frozen drinks or partake in various dining options at the nearby, casual Seaview restaurant.

Ninety-Eight New Balcony Staterooms Ninety-eight existing ocean view staterooms on the Carnival Sensation have been retrofitted with balconies, creating expansive new cabins measuring approximately 230 square feet. Twenty-four of the new balcony cabins are located mid-ship, 12 are located near the stern, and the other 62 are located aft, with several of these accommodations featuring extended balconies. Additionally, a number of the Carnival Sensation's suites have been modified to feature larger, extended balconies to create a more spacious environment for guests.

New Circle C Facility, Other Enhancements Carnival Sensation's refurbishment also included the creation of a new Circle C facility on Atlantic Deck 8. Catering to the 12- to 14-old age group, Circle C includes a high-tech sound and lighting system, plasma screen televisions displaying movies and music videos, a touch-screen jukebox and gaming pods with the latest games and consoles.

All of the Carnival Sensation's 1,026 staterooms have been completely remodeled with new wall coverings, tile work, carpeting and light fixtures. Additionally, virtually all dining, dancing and entertainment venues, as well as all guest corridors, have been renovated with a host of cosmetic enhancements.

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2-17-09 Silversea Announces 50% Discounts and Free Shore Excursions Silversea is announcing brand new savings of up to 50% on brochure fares on selected Mediterranean, Northern European and Alaskan voyages departing between May and September 2009.

In addition, complimentary shore excursions worth in excess of $1,000 per suite are also available. Sample excursions include St Petersburg's palaces with a private guide, an air adventure over the Misty Fjords or a helicopter tour of the Amalfi Coast. Plus, flight-packages offering great value start at £29.00, ($40) which includes airport-pier transfers on the day of embark/debark.

Silver Wind departs on 14 May 2009 on a seven day voyage (#2915) from Barcelona to Nice, with calls in Barcelona, Valencia, Calvi, Livorno (overnight) and Antibes. All-inclusive cruise-only fares start at £1,748 ($2482) for a 50% savings.

Silver Cloud departs on 10 June 2009 on a ten day voyage (#1912) from London to Stockholm, with calls in London (overnight), transit Kiel Canal, Warnemunde, Tallinn, St Petersburg (two nights), Helsinki and Stockholm. All-inclusive cruise-only fares start at £2,948 ($4186) for a 50% savings.

Silver Shadow departs 16 June 2009 on a ten day voyage (#3914) from Vancouver to San Francisco, with calls in Cruise Inside Passage, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Cruise Tracy Arm & Sawyer Glacier, Wrangell and Prince Rupert. All-inclusive cruise-only fares start at £2,402 ($3410) foe a 40% savings.

The special offers are valid on new bookings made before March 31. All offers and savings are subject to availability and may change at anytime without our notice. Fares quoted are cruise-only and include port charges government fees and taxes. Terms and conditions apply.

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2-13-09 Crystal Announces $2000 Per Couple Onboard Credit in Europe In conjunction with special European pricing, called "Celebration Fares," this summer, Crystal Cruises is announcing the "All Inclusive – As You Wish" promotion, a $2,000 per couple – or $1,000 per person – shipboard spending credit travelers may spend as follows:

  • Any Crystal Adventure shore excursion,
  • Any spa treatment,
  • Any wine,
  • Any cocktail,
  • Any boutique purchase,
  • Any gratuities,
  • Any Vintage Room experience,
  • And anything else on board except Casino gaming.

The $2,000 per couple spending credit is available with:

  • Every Mediterranean cruise aboard Crystal Serenity in July through November,
  • All 11-day Baltic and British Isles cruises aboard Crystal Symphony between June 19 and August 23, and
  • Crystal Symphony's Northern Europe Transatlantic cruise from London to Boston.

Guests on Crystal's seven-day Baltic cruise departing August 5 will enjoy a $1,000 per couple, or $500 per person, spending credit. In all, there are 17 Mediterranean and Northern Europe cruises eligible for the "All Inclusive – As You Wish" promotion.

Europe Celebration Fares

In addition to onboard credit, Crystal is offering up to $1,500 per person off most European cruises until March 31, 2009.

Travelers sailing on any 2009 Europe, Transatlantic or Crystal Symphony Asia cruise can enjoy 20 percent savings on almost every cruise in every category in 2010. The 2009 cruise must be booked by March 31, 2009, and the 2010 cruise must be booked by November 30, 2009.

Crystal Assurance Plan features Price Protection

If someone books a 2009 Crystal cruise and the fare for that stateroom category is later reduced, the guest will be protected at the reduced fare. Additionally, in 2009 Crystal reduced cruise fare deposits – as low as 5% - deadlines and cancellation periods.

Among the additional savings programs for 2009 are Low Business Class Air Upgrades with summer European cruises and the Crystal Family Memories Program, offering complimentary accommodations and other perks for family and friends group vacations.

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2-13-09 Book Oceanview Carnival Alaska Today and Get Balcony Upgrade Buy an Ocean View, Get a FREE Upgrade to a Balcony. This offer ends today. Carnival Spirit has always had the best balcony offers in Alaska every year, but this year is unprecedented and I see no reason for any Carnival devotee to pass this offer up.

Book any ocean view stateroom for your 7 day, Alaskan "Fun Ship" vacation and receive a FREE upgrade to a balcony stateroom Get a great outside view by taking advantage of some of the lowest rates available on balcony staterooms ever. Must book February 11 - 13, 2009.

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2-5-09 Regent and Oceania to Repay $3.1 Million in Fuel Supplements Several newspapers in Florida are reporting that the state's attorney general had received "several hundred" complaints about the entire cruise line industry concerning fuel surcharges being charged to people after they had already paid their cruise fare in full.

Two cruise lines have already agreed to refund about $3 million to consumers nationwide. Oceania Cruises agreed to pay more than $2.1 million in restitution and Classic Cruise Holdings, which does business as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, will pay more than $1 million.

Under the agreements, all consumers who were retroactively charged a fuel supplement by the companies will be refunded the full cost of the surcharge. It should be noted that several other cruise lines also imposed fuel surcharges after cruises had already been paid in full and entrusted travel agents to contact the guests and ask them to pay the additional fee. In many cases, if people refused to pay they were told their cruises would be cancelled and their money refunded.

Some of it will come in the form of onboard credits for consumers who have not yet sailed, the state said.

"Our guests and our residents deserve the most accurate information about the costs of their vacations," Attorney General Bill McCollum wrote in a statement. He added that the agreements will "uphold Florida's reputation as an attractive vacation destination."

Consumers may file complaints with the Attorney General's Office by calling the fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or by visiting http://myfloridalegal.com.

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2-5-09 One Week Sale Feb 9-16 for Yachts of Seabourn The Yachts of Seabourn will offer a one-week sale of selected voyages in Europe with savings of 60% off the brochure fares for 14 voyages of seven to 14 days aboard the Seabourn Pride, Spirit, Legend and Seabourn Odyssey between March and August of 2009.

To qualify, bookings must be made from Monday, February 9 until close of business on Monday February 16, 2009.

The offer, which is in lieu of any other promotional offer or savings, is valid for new bookings on 14 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 on Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend and on suite categories up to and including PH on Seabourn Odyssey. The list of included voyages is:

Seabourn Pride March 18 Portugal Passage I - Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon 13 days March 31 Grand Mediterranean - Lisbon to Athens (Piraeus) 14 days April 14 Mediterranean Panorama - Athens (Piraeus) to Lisbon 14 days May 12 Grand Harbors of Europe - Dover to Copenhagen 11 days June 13 Norwegian Fjords - Round Trip Copenhagen 9 days June 22 Scandinavia & Russia - Round Trip Copenhagen 12 days

Seabourn Spirit June 20 or July 11 Italian Idyll - Venice to Rome (Civitavecchia) 7 days

Seabourn Legend Apr 16 Iberian Spring - Lisbon to Barcelona 10 days June 20 Cote d' Azur & Spanish Isles - Monte Carlo to Barcelona 7 days June 27 The Yachtsman's Riviera - Barcelona to Monte Carlo 7 days July 11 Sardinia, Corsica & Cote d'Azur - Rome (Civitavecchia) to Monte Carlo 7 days

Seabourn Odyssey July 18 Aegean Odyssey- Istanbul to Athens (Piraeus) 7 days July 25 Greece & Dalmatian Delights - Athens (Piraeus) to Venice 7 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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2-5-09 Royal Caribbean CEO Invests in Own Company Royal Caribbean's chairman of the board and CEO, Richard Fain, put almost 1/2 million dollars of his personal money into the cruise line "for investment purchases" today. He purchased some $471,635 of the company's corporate bonds according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The bonds, rated as "junk bonds" (not an atypical rating for a corporate bond) are trading at a deep discount to face value. "I already own a lot of stock in our company, and I bought these bonds because I thought they were ridiculously undervalued," Fain said in a statement. Moody's downgraded the bond rating from Ba1 to Ba2 on Friday, Jan 30.

Fain bought $200,000 of 8 percent bonds due May 15, 2010; $200,000 of 8.75 percent bonds due Feb. 2, 2011; $150,000 of 7 percent bonds due June 15, 2013, and $100,000 of the company's 6.875 percent bonds due Dec. 1, 2013. This adds up to over $550,000 face value for the bonds upon maturity for which he paid $471,635. For those not familiar with bonds, this is not a "CEO discount." It means the trading value of the bonds is currently below their face value, but that they will pay the per annum interest in quarterly payouts as well as the face value when they mature. Not a bad investment assuming Royal Caribbean is still "afloat." CEO Fain does not appear to be worried about that.

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2-4-09 James Taylor to Play on Queen Mary 2 Crossing The Irish Herald newspaper is reporting that folk music legend James Taylor has found a novel way of getting his entourage across the Atlantic to play Ireland and Britain this summer -- singing for his supper on a Queen Mary 2 Atlantic crossing.

Multi-Grammy winning James Taylor, whose hits include You Got A Friend, performed alongside Beyonce and Stevie Wonder at President Obama's inauguration celebrations last month.

Taylor will record a DVD of his performances aboard the liner. This was also done by Taylor's ex-wife, Carly Simon, who recorded one in 2005.

"To bring all those people over to Europe and to bring all the equipment is a big hump to get over. So we have made a deal with Cunard Line to bring everybody over on the Queen Mary," Taylor said.

Cunard said it continues a grand tradition aboard the transatlantic liner dating back to the times of Noel Coward, when stars would make impromptu performances for their fellow seafarers.

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2-3-09 Carnival Holiday to Miss Two Cruises; 2-28 and 3-4-09 Carnival Holiday is set to enter dry dock at Atlantic Marine on Feb. 28 and remain there until March 8, missing two cruises, according to Carnival. Holiday will simply undergo regular maintenance, according to a local marine business.

Guests who had booked cruises on the affected dates were given the option to move their vacations to another date, book a trip on another ship or receive a full refund, according to Carnival.

Holiday, Carnival's oldest and smallest ship, has been Mobile Alabama's permanent cruise ship since 2004. Its rated capacity of two people per cabin is 1,452. Carnival plans to replace Holiday in Mobile with its 2,052-passenger Fantasy next November. At that time, the Holiday is scheduled to start service at a Carnival subsidiary in Spain.

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2-3-09 NCL Offers New Discounts - Kids $99, $250 Onboard Credit Norwegian Cruise Line is extending its Freestyle Resolution promotion. Families who book a cruise from now through March 15, 2009 on many of NCL's sailings can take their kids for as low as $99 each, and also receive up to $250 in on-board credit to be used on anything from shore excursions and specialty dinners to spa treatments, the casino or otherwise.

Says Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO, "Family cruises on NCL have great activities for kids of all ages, from our expanded Kid's Crew program allowing parents to take the night off for a romantic dinner, to the two-story Nintendo Wii, four-lane bowling, rock climbing wall, teen disco, and arcade."

NCL notes its most popular summer sailings include a seven-day Sawyer Glacier cruise round-trip from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, Alaska, from $599 per person. Norwegian Spirit sails a seven-day Bermuda cruise round-trip from Boston, from $599 per person; and Norwegian Gem features a seven-day Western Mediterranean sailing round-trip from Barcelona, Spain to Valletta, Malta; Naples, Rome and Florence, Italy; and Cannes, France; from $599 per person. Pride of America offers a seven-day inter-island Hawaii cruise departing from Honolulu and visiting Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; along with overnights in Kahului, Maui and Nawiliwili, Kaui from $999 per person.

Families sailing with NCL can also save with half price dinners for children three to 12 years old in its numerous specialty restaurants. Unlimited soda package for kids 12 and under are $39.50 which includes a Kid's Crew backpack, t-shirt and baseball cap. For teens, the Teen Passport Program is just $34.50 and includes a booklet with 20 tickets for non-alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic smoothies; and admission to an afternoon dance party with DJ, pizza and unlimited soft drinks.

With NCL's new Groups 2.0 program, families looking to host reunions onboard can save. When booking eight or more staterooms via a travel agent, amenities offered range from the ability to make advance Freestyle Dining reservations in any restaurant prior to sailing, to a group cocktail party, on-board credits which can be used throughout the ship, and Freestyle Bowling in the Bliss Ultra Lounge, amongst others.

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2-2-09 Caribbean Princess Receives Signature Upgrades in Drydock Caribbean Princess has just emerged from an extensive three-week drydock to add many of Princess Cruises' signature features that have proven so popular on its newest ships. The vessel now offers passengers the engaging street-café atmosphere of the piazza-style atrium with its International Café and Vines, the wine, seafood and cheese bar; the adults-only Sanctuary, seven new suites, and a more centrally located casino. Work is also nearly complete on a new Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant.

These amenities became passenger favorites when they debuted aboard Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess over the last three years, and are being added to a number of ships, including Golden Princess in May. The company has already introduced many of these features on Star Princess and Grand Princess.

"We want to give passengers who sail aboard any of our large ships the opportunity to enjoy the innovative amenities that have become hallmarks of the Princess cruise experience," said Jan Swartz, executive vice president of Princess Cruises.

Caribbean Princess' new atrium now features the specialty coffees, fresh baked cookies and pastries, paninis and tapas of the International Café. Also new is the Vines wine bar offering a selection of more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a selection of seafood, artisan meats and cheeses, and a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle.

Adult passengers looking to get away from it all will be able to relax in the tranquility of The Sanctuary, Princess' signature retreat featuring plush padded lounge chairs and the services of dedicated Serenity Stewards. Visitors to this exclusive space can enjoy refreshing beverages and light snacks, or receive a massage in one of two private cabanas.

Caribbean Princess will soon debut a brand new Crown Grill restaurant featuring an open kitchen where passengers can enjoy watching as chefs prepare chops, steaks and seafood, including live lobsters.

As part of the renovation, the 3,080-passenger ship – which debuted in 2004 – also received seven new suites with ocean-view picture windows, and a relocated casino on deck 7, bringing it into the ship's central entertainment area. Other changes include a new location for the sports court, a new Limelight boutique, new shore excursions and Captain's Circle desks, new Internet café and library, and the addition of flat-screen televisions in all staterooms.

The dramatic makeover took place at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas, where more than 1,500 workers and contractors worked around the clock to complete the impressive project.

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2-2-09 Alaska Cruising Beginning to Suffer The Alaska cruise economy is taking a beating right with plenty of controversy about the reasons why. Royal Caribbean has already announced that it will reduce the number of sailings there in 2009 and that they are taking one ship out of the market completely in 2010.

Cruise West, a small-ship cruise line that specializes in Alaska cruising, has already taken three ships out the Alaska area for 2009, including the namesake Spirit of Alaska. While Cruise West ships only carry about 200 passengers apiece, it is an important referendum on certain government policies that Alaska tourism officials say are contributing to the downturn.

In 2006 the state imposed a $50 per head tax on all cruise passengers. This was opposed by Governor Sarah Palin but was passed by the legislature. The economic impact on the state just for the loss of the one Royal Caribbean ship, Seranade of the Seas, is estimated anywhere from 40 to $57 million dollars for the season in total revenue.

According to certain estimates, the cost of an Alaska cruise is roughly half the price what it was last year, especially on the larger cruise lines. The smaller Cruise West is relocating its small ships to the Columbia River where the decison to halt operations by Majestic America Line has left a void. Majestic America is the owner of several steamboats such as Delta Queen, Columbia Queen and Empress of the North. All of the ships have been taken out of service and the cruise line is for sale.

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