News Archive - January 2009

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1-30-09 Grand Turk Cruise Center Projects 500,000 Visits in 2009 With 229 cruise ship calls scheduled for 2009, the Caribbean island-based Grand Turk Cruise Center built and basically owned by Carnival Corp. is on track to host a record 500,000 passengers in the coming year. The unprecedented half-million passenger mark is a 25% increase over 2008, during which the center was closed for 30 days following Hurricane Ike.

Most of the visits to the cruise center are made by Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Princess and Costa ships (all owned by Carnival Corp.) although Silversea, Oceania Cruises, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas also have stops scheduled there in 2009.

Grand Turk has successfully developed a wide array of organized excursion opportunities for visitors, from horseback riding and kayaking to world-class diving, snorkeling and fishing. A recent addition is the new Grand Turk Grace Bay Car Rentals recently opened at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Guests can now self-drive to the island's historical sites, gorgeous white-sand beaches, quaint Bermudian-influenced architecture and friendly locals at their own pace.

The Grand Turk Cruise Center, which can accommodate up to 6,000 passengers per day, consists of a 13-acre complex including an 800-foot-long private beach, swimming pool, expansive recreation area with a diversity of retail shops, FlowRider® surfing adventure and the Caribbean's largest "Margaritaville"-themed bar and restaurant.

For more information about the island, the Grand Turk Cruise Center, as well as the 2009 cruise ship schedule, shore excursion offerings visit grandturkcc.com. For information on Grand Turk Grace Bay Car Rentals visit their web site at gracebaycarrentals.com.

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1-29-09 Royal Caribbean Reports Quarterly Results

Royal Caribbean International, the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, as well as smaller European brands, announced the results of their most recent quarter this morning.

This report is significant because it is the first report by a major cruise line encompassing a full quarter of sales after the sudden economic downturn.

The company had predicted earnings would come in somewhere between five to 10-cents per share. Actual earnings were $.01 per share - one penny per share.

Fourth quarter 2008 net income was $1.5 million, or $0.01 per share, compared to $70.8 million or $0.33 per share in 2007. For the full year 2008, net income was $573.7 million, or $2.68 per share.

Bookings began to suffer a substantial downturn in September resulting in a Net Yield decline of 5.9% for the quarter. This is lower than the company's previous guidance of down 4% - 5% due to foreign currency changes during the quarter.

During the quarter, substantial cost containment and other actions largely offset higher than anticipated fuel and insurance expenses.

Fuel expense was higher than the company's last calculations mainly due to higher at-the-pump pricing than anticipated.

Looking forward, the revenue outlook for 2009 remains weak. Both ticket sales and onboard revenue have been impacted by the general economic conditions. It has required substantial discounts to generate the requisite volume and consumers are making their vacation decisions later than previously.

Increased cost containment programs are expected to result in a 5% - 7% decline in Net Cruise Costs per APCD excluding fuel in 2009.

The company expects Net Yields for 2009 will be down 9% - 13% from 2008 and that EPS will be in a range around $1.40 per share.

Early indications from the "WAVE Period" are encouraging and suggest that the booking situation may have begun to stabilize although pricing remains extremely challenging.

"The fourth quarter was an extremely difficult operating environment and we expect even more challenges in 2009," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer. "Nevertheless, I am pleased by our success in reducing costs without compromising the guest experience. Although the WAVE Period has only just started, we are encouraged by what we have seen so far; pricing is still very difficult, but booking patterns have begun to stabilize."

It is important to note that much of this quarter, Oct. through Dec. 2008, showed erratic pricing patterns and indecision about how to react to the economic changes. It was not until December that most of the cruise lines had readjusted to the new mood of their customers and created buying incentives to appeal to the new financial mindset.

What's Changed in the Booking Environment?

The report says that as soon as the January WAVE season arrived bookings were as robust as last year, albeit at lower prices. Royal Caribbean sees people delaying their vacation purchase decisions but choosing to cruise as their vacation date gets closer.

The company also disclosed that its core Caribbean products are seeing stronger demand than its premium seasonal products such as Europe and Alaska. Onboard revenue, which until the fourth quarter of 2008 had remained resilient, has also been reduced in the company's guidance.

The company continues to successfully expand the proportion of its business that comes from outside the United States, which also makes currency issues more relevant to the company's results.

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1-27-09 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Names New F3 ship: Norwegian Epic Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) today announced that it has selected the name for its new F3 ship: Norwegian Epic. Just as the name implies, the ship will be the largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date.

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic is scheduled to sail year-round to the Caribbean from Miami, beginning in summer 2010. Following a series of inaugural events in Europe and the U.S., the ship will homeport in Miami and will sail year-round to the Caribbean offering alternating seven-day Western and Eastern Caribbean voyages through April 2011. These cruises are scheduled to go on sale to the public later this spring. NCL will open Norwegian Epic's sailings for group block bookings exclusively for travel partners in mid-March 2009.

The ship's Western Caribbean itinerary includes stops in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Norwegian Epic's Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes stops in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Norwegian Epic represents the next generation of Freestyle Cruising – a ship that incorporates a wide range of new features and amenities, including curved New Wave staterooms and unique nightlife options. To date, the company has revealed five unique nightlife venues that rival the experiences of Las Vegas, Ibiza, the Riviera and South Beach. The five venues include the industry's first true Ice Bar; POSH Beach Club, a first of its kind beach club at sea that offers an exclusive, adults-only setting at the top of the ship; Halo, the Über Bar, a private bar and lounge in the ship-within-a-ship villa complex; Bliss Ultra Lounge, NCL's all-day entertainment and nightclub complex with four-lane bowling alley; and Spice H20, an adults-only aft pool deck experience.

In addition, the ship will feature the New Wave standard, New Wave balcony and New Wave deluxe staterooms that represent a giant leap forward in cruise ship accommodations with a completely fresh take on bathroom design, contemporary curved architecture and open living space. The New Wave stateroom's most distinctive design element is its curved walls and lines creating a modern and chic experience. NCL has maximized the living space with a bathroom that is completely unique with a separate shower stall, separate water closet and a modern vanity top sink. The staterooms feature a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich, dark wood. Concealed contour LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings set a relaxing vibe.

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1-22-09 NCL to Sail Two Ships from New York Year 'Round Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced the addition of Norwegian Jewel, joining Norwegian Gem, sailing from New York year 'round, giving guests a choice between two of NCL's newest ships, purpose-built for Freestyle Cruising. They also announced continued year-round commitment to Europe with Norwegian Jade sailing from Barcelona.

NCL will continue sailings to the Caribbean from New Orleans on the newly refurbished Norwegian Spirit and to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles on Norwegian Star. In addition, NCL has also released its 2010-2011 repositioning voyages which include the Panama Canal, Pacific Coastal and Transatlantic. These cruises go on sale January 22, 2009.

"Having Norwegian Jade homeported in Barcelona for the winter gives guests another option for exploring the many different ports in Europe, during a time of the year when it is less crowded and the weather is mild," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's president and CEO. "By bringing Norwegian Jewel to New York, along with our newest ship, Norwegian Gem, we are giving guests more choice and more ways to escape the cold Northeast winters without the hassle of air travel."

In Europe year-round, the 2,402-passenger Norwegian Jade will sail alternating 12- and nine-day cruises from its homeport of Barcelona, Spain. The 12-day Eastern Mediterranean sailings include the following ports of call: Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; Ephesus (Izmir), Turkey; an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt; and Valletta, Malta. The nine-day Canary Islands & Morocco sailings include stops in Casablanca and Agadir, Morocco; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands: Funchal, Madeira; and Granada (Málaga), Spain. Since there is no port repetition between the two itineraries, they can be easily combined to create a port-rich 21-day European tour.

The 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel homeports for the first time in New York, along with the 2,380-passenger Norwegian Gem; both ships will sail a series of 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruises with stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. John's, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten and Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and seven-day Bahamas & Florida cruises with stops in Orlando (Port Canaveral), Florida; Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's private island) and Nassau, Bahamas.

Norwegian Spirit, which underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2008, returns to New Orleans sailing a series of 24 seven-day Exotic Western Caribbean cruises. Ports of call include: Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize. Norwegian Star sails back to Los Angeles for a series of 24 seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Repositioning cruises in the 2010-2011 deployment include:

  • On April 10 (New York to Venice) and October 30 (Venice to New York), 2010, Norwegian Gem sails a 14-day Transatlantic with stops in Ponta Delgada, Azores; Lisbon, Portugal; Seville (Cádiz) and Granada (Málaga), Spain.
  • On April 10, 2010, Norwegian Pearl will sail a 14-day Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles. Ports of call include: Cartagena, Columbia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and a daylight transit through the Panama Canal.
  • On April 11, 2010, Norwegian Jewel sails a 15-day Transatlantic from Miami to London (Dover), England. Ports of call include: Ponta Delgada, Azores; Lisbon Portugal; Vigo and La Coruna, Spain; Waterford, Ireland; and Guernsey, Channel Islands.
  • On April 11, 2010, Norwegian Spirit embarks on a 12-day Caribbean Escape from New Orleans to Boston. Ports of call include: Costa Maya, Mexico; Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstand, Curacao; and Hamilton, Bermuda.
  • On April 24, 2010, Norwegian Pearl sails from Los Angeles to Vancouver with stops in San Francisco, California; Astoria, Oregon; Victoria and Campbell River, British Columbia.
  • On May 1, 2010, Norwegian Star repositions on a seven-day cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver, British Columbia with stops in Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska through the Inside Passage.
  • On September 8, 2010, Norwegian Jewel sails from London (Dover), England, to New York. Ports of call include: Lerwick, Shetland Islands; Thorshavn, Faroe Islands; Reykjavik, Iceland; St. John, Newfoundland; and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • On October 2, 2010, Norwegian Star sails on a seven-day British Colombia and U.S. West Coast cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Ports of call include: Campbell River and Victoria, British Columbia; Astoria, Oregon; and San Francisco, California.
  • On October 10, 2010, Norwegian Dawn departs from New York to Miami on a 12-day Caribbean Escape with stops in Samana, Dominican Republic; Willemstad, Curacao; Oranjestad, Aruba; Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize.
  • On October 23, 2010, Norwegian Spirit sails a 15-day Caribbean Escape from Boston to New Orleans. Ports of call include: Samaná, Dominican Republic; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Bridgetown, Barbados; Willemstad, Curacao; Oranjestad, Aruba; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico.
  • On September 19, 2010, Norwegian Pearl sails a five-day Pacific Coastal from Vancouver to Los Angeles with stops in Astoria, Oregon and San Francisco, California.

Norwegian Star will sail four 14-day Panama Canal sailings from Miami to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Miami on November 20 and December 4, 2010 and January 1 and January 15, 2011. Ports of call include: Cartagena, Columbia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and a daylight transit through the Panama Canal.

To book one of these new itineraries, guests should contact a travel professional or NCL at 866-234-0292. Further information can be found online at www.ncl.com.

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1-20-09 NCL Launches Online Booking and Cruise Planning Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has launched online check-in via its new "My NCL" portal. The online gateway enables guests to update and track pre-cruise activity through a quick three step process.

"By checking in online with ‘My NCL,'" guests will speed up the boarding process allowing them to start enjoying their Freestyle Cruising vacation sooner," said Vivian Ewart, vice president of passenger services.

Booked guests can log onto www.ncl.com, from reservation inception up until 24-hours prior to departure, and click on the online check-in icon to begin the process. Guests will be asked to enter their name, ship, sailing date and reservation number in order to create a username and password.

Once a profile is created, all guest preferences including reservation details, important required pre-cruise information including the guest check-in form, shore excursion reservations, and printable cruise ticket are stored on their "My NCL" account. The guest check-in form on "My NCL" is intuitive based on the guest's nationality and itinerary and will automatically alert the guest of the appropriate documentation needed to sail.

Travel agents can access the "My NCL" portal through NCL's travel partner web site, www.bookncl.com, to check the status of their client's pre-cruise activity and to assist in the process.

Guests can also log into their "My NCL" account at any time to update their profile and cruise vacation preferences, as well as check on their Latitudes (past guest program) status.

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1-16-09 Princess has Biggest Booking Day in its History Princess had the biggest booking day in its history on Monday, January 12, with volume up 17% over the best previous day. "Travel agents have been working hard to deliver the value message in these challenging times, and there's no more exciting outcome of their efforts than to have a record-breaking reservations day," said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service for the line.

"The volume of bookings we received on Monday is a testament to the strength of our brand, and also to the success of our many promotional efforts during wave period, most notably our "Balcony Bonanza" programme."

The Balcony Bonanza enables agents to provide a free upgrade to a balcony stateroom for the price of a standard oceanview stateroom, representing a savings of up to US$1,200 per cabin. It applies to most 2009 summer sailings to Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean.

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1-15-09 "Yes We Can Cruise" to Obama Inauguration Cancelled The Miami Herald is reporting that the cruise scheduled upon Regal Empress from Ft Lauderdale to Baltimore to take people to the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies in Washington DC has been cancelled due to a lack of response.

Chicago-based HotelBlox, the company that organized the cruise and chartered the ship, Imperial Majesty's Regal Empress, says that they believe timing worked against them. The cruise was announced just about two months ago when it became obvious that hotel space in the nation's Capital would be limited during the ceremonies. They cited hotel rooms selling for $400/night even on a limited basis.

However, the cruise was priced at a minimum of $1100 per person, double occupancy required, and it only spent one day in Washington DC. The rest of the cruise was comprised of two days sailing from Ft lauderdale to Baltimore, an inaugural ball in Baltimore the night preceding the inauguration for $100 per person, bus transportation to and from the Mall on the day of the event (no mention of guaranteed seating) and then the return cruise to Ft lauderdale two and a half days later.

In the end, it appears that the promoters could have planned better. Other news reports noted that there are so many buses scheduled to move between Baltimore and Washington DC on the big day that the turnpike might become a standstill parking lot.

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1-15-09 Paul Gauguin Cruises: 45% Off, Free Air to Tahiti Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest longest continually-sailing ship in the South Pacific, announced voyages for the m/s Paul Gauguin's 2010 season, along with Early Booking Savings of up to 45 percent plus Free Roundtrip Air between Los Angeles and Tahiti when booked by March 31, 2009.

Reservations are now open for 38 itineraries ranging from 7 to 15 nights, highlighting Tahiti, the Society Islands, Tuamotus, the Cook Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand.

m/s Paul Gauguin's 2010 Sailing Season

The intimate 332-guest ship will add two new itineraries in 2010, including five 11-night adventures amidst the Cook Islands, and two exclusive 14-night cruises featuring New Zealand, Tonga and the Cook and Society Islands.

Highlights of the 2010 sailing season include:

  • Sixteen classic 7-night departures featuring Tahiti and Society Islands;
  • Six 10-night and two 9-night voyages of Tuamotus and Society Islands;
  • Five 11-night Cook Islands adventures;
  • Four 14-night sailings featuring the Marquesas Islands;
  • In-depth 13- and 15-night discoveries of Fiji, Tonga and the Cook and Society Islands;
  • Two exclusive 14-night cruises featuring New Zealand, Tonga and the Cook and Society Islands

Special Departures accenting the 2010 schedule include:

  • The President's Cruise on January 6, 2010, where guests can sail with Paul Gauguin Cruises President David A. Giersdorf;
  • The Jean-Michel Cousteau Cruise, featuring environmental advocate and son of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, on May 22, 2010;
  • Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program is available on all departures June through August, as well as December 18 and 27, 2010, introducing young travelers to the breathtaking natural wonders of French Polynesia – perfect for families traveling during these months;
  • December 18 and 27, 2010, where guests will savor a different kind of "White Christmas" on the white sand beaches of the Society Islands and Tuamotu Atolls.

Aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin

Having a recent multi-million dollar enhancement, the Polynesian-themed m/s Paul Gauguin features world-class cruise ship appointments, including private balconies in nearly 70 percent of suites and staterooms and an expanded al fresco dining experience. The spacious and elegantly adorned staterooms feature deluxe European linens, feather-down duvets, robes and cotton slippers as well as other amenities found only in the most luxurious of travel destinations

.

Early Booking Ensures the Best Deals

Guests planning a vacation with Paul Gauguin Cruises can currently take advantage of several opportunities to save, including Early Booking Savings of up to 45 percent, representing savings from $2,500 to $18,650 per person, when booked by specified Early Booking Date. Further savings of $1,250 to $2,500 per couple are available on select sailings when booked by March 31, 2009 as a result of Free or Two-for-One Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Tahiti. Also, families planning a voyage on m/s Paul Gauguin may take advantage of the third person in stateroom sails free promotion when booked by March 31, 2009. All Early Booking Promotional Savings are capacity-controlled, and subject to availability at time of booking.

Additionally, recognizing the value of experienced and loyal travelers, Paul Gauguin Cruises welcomes all past guests of an elite collection of luxury small ship cruise lines into the m/s Paul Gauguin Society. Any past guest of Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, The Yachts of Seabourn, Crystal Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club or Windstar Cruises will receive an additional 5 percent off any m/s Paul Gauguin cruise fare.

Reservations are being accepted now and guests are encouraged to book early for the best values, choices of departures and accommodations. Reservations must be made by March 31, 2009 to receive special air promotions from Los Angeles or the third person in stateroom sails free promotion. A new 68-page catalog detailing the m/s Paul Gauguin's superb collection of experiences is also now available. 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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1-13-09 Silversea Reveals Silver Spirit's Inaugural Details Silversea revealed the detials of the inaugural voyages for the brand new luxury vessel the line will reveal in December 2009. the 36,000-ton vessel will have 270 stateroom, including 26 of the popular silver suites and 222 verandah suites.

Silver Spirit will start with an 11-day "Holiday Spirit" maiden voyage sailing from Barcelona on Dec. 23, 2009, to Lisbon, and a 16-day "Maiden Crossing" departing Lisbon on Jan. 3 to Fort Lauderdale. The third voyage will be a 91-day "Grand Inaugural Voyage" departing on Jan. 21, 2010.

The "Grand Inaugural Voyage" will sail from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles and end in New York. The ship will stay in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval, transit Cape Horn up the west coast of South America to the Mexican Riviera. Next it will transit the Panama Canal and conclude with a Statue of Liberty event in New York Harbor. The voyage will visit more than 45 ports in over 20 countries and island destinations across two continents, with overnight stays in Fort Lauderdale, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Punta Arenas, Lima, Acapulco and Los Angeles.

Guests on the full voyage will be invited to attend the naming ceremony, a gala dinner event on the eve of departure with accommodations aboard ship, exclusive shoreside events, and a VIP evening at the Rio Carnaval. Also included are commemorative gifts and a $2,000-per-suite onboard spending credit. A complimentary business-class air upgrade is also available for guests who purchase Silversea's optional air program.

Silversea began accepting reservations on Jan. 12. An area of the company's website is now dedicated to Silver Spirit. Fares for the full Grand Inaugural Voyage start at $39,187 per person, double occupancy, and include "Extended Voyage Savings" of 5 percent, plus enhanced "Early Booking Incentive" and new "Extended Advance Payment Bonus" discounts applicable to voyages in 2010.

The 36,000-ton Silver Spirit will accommodate 540 guests. Ninety-five percent of the suites will feature a private veranda. The ship will boast one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea today, 67. The onboard décor will lend a sophisticated 1930s Art Deco ambience to the public spaces, highlights of which include an indoor/outdoor spa measuring 8,300 square feet, three whirlpools, and six dining venues including Seishin, a Japanese restaurant, and the Stars Supper Club, featuring live music, dancing and nightclub-style entertainment. A new full-color, 36-page brochure showcasing Silver Spirit's inaugural season will be available in the coming weeks. For more information, call 877-215-9986 or visit www.silversea.com.

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1-13-09 Princess: Convenient Alaska Cruisetours from Seattle Princess Cruise Lines is offering an innovative Alaska Wilderness Sale promotion. The line is introducing an innovative lineup of cruisetours that offer passengers the extra convenience of roundtrip travel from Seattle at unprecedented low fares. These new options make planning an Alaska land/sea vacation easier than ever by including all travel once the passenger gets to Seattle, including airfare between Seattle and Anchorage, as well as a free stateroom upgrade.

The Alaska Wilderness Sale runs through February 28, 2009, and features four new Seattle-based cruisetour options. Offering both northbound and southbound travel, the 11- or 12-night cruisetours feature a seven-night Voyage of the Glaciers cruise plus Direct to the Wilderness rail transportation and stays at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Air travel between Seattle and Anchorage, as well as motorcoach transfers between Seattle and Vancouver are included in the package. Free stateroom category upgrades are included as well. Fares start at $1,099 for an 11-night land/sea vacation.

The new Alaska Wilderness Sale cruisetours include the line's famed Voyage of the Glaciers sailings between Vancouver and Whittier -- featuring calls at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway with daylight cruising of Glacier Bay National Park and the 16 glaciers of College Fjord. Passengers can choose departures on either the 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess or the 1,970-passenger Coral Princess and Island Princess.

In the rail tour portion, passengers will enjoy Direct to the Wilderness rail transportation right from their ship to the Denali area, giving them extra time in the heart of Alaska's wilderness. Cruisetour options include two nights at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge and one or two nights at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. The packages also include an overnight stay in Seattle.

Princess' 2009 Alaska season runs from May 9 to September 14, and features a total of 130 Alaska sailings – including the signature Voyage of the Glaciers sailings, Inside Passage routes from Seattle and San Francisco, and a small ship experience on 14-day Connoisseur voyages to some of the state's less-visited ports. In addition, Princess will again take more passengers to the ice-filled wonder of Glacier Bay National Park than any other line, with 81 visits (all Gulf and Connoisseur voyages).

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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1-9-09 Carnival Implements New Price Protection Policy Carnival Cruise Lines is launching a new cruise pricing option called "Early Saver" which offers fares as much as 25 percent lower than the best generally available rates and provides rate protection if rates later drop below what the consumer originally paid.

Early Saver rates will be available beginning January 12, 2009 and offered up to three months prior to sailing date for cruises of five days or less and up to five months prior to sailing date for longer length voyages, subject to availability. Early Saver fares include all stateroom types, including suites.

The Early Saver rate protection feature provides that if a lower Carnival advertised rate becomes available after the booking is made, a rate adjustment can be requested and the cruise line will issue the difference in the form of a non-refundable shipboard credit. The lower fare must be for the same ship, sailing date, stateroom category and number of guests.

"Early Saver is a fantastic savings opportunity for those who are able to plan ahead and book early," said Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival's EVP of marketing. "It is designed to provide consumers with complete confidence that [if] they find a lower fare later ... we will provide a shipboard credit equal to the difference."

When booking an Early Saver fare, consumers are able to choose a specific stateroom. The standard required deposit is immediately non-refundable at time of booking. Any changes in ship or sailing date outside of Carnival's standard penalty period require a $50 change fee. For changes inside the penalty period, normal penalties apply.

To request a price adjustment, a rate protection form must be completed and emailed to Carnival. Consumers can access the form via the cruise line's web site at carnival.com or their travel agent may complete the form via the cruise line's travel agent web portal. The lower rate must be available at the time the form is submitted and rate adjustments will be processed within two business days. Rate adjustment requests can be submitted up to two business days prior to the cruise departure date. Early Saver fares are available for both individual and group reservations.

The Early Saver fare program will be available on virtually all Carnival ships and itineraries, which include voyages ranging from three to 18 days in length to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Canada, New England, Europe, Bermuda and South America. The fares are subject to availability and certain restrictions apply. To book an Early Saver rate, consumers may contact a travel agent, call 800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

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1-5-09 Larry Pimentel Resigns as CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club

A letter is circulating the cruise industry that says Larry Pimentel has resigned as CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club effective immediately.

In a note addressed to his friends and family, Pimentel said he no longer could be reached at his SeaDream email address or telephone number.

Pimentel did not give any indication why he left the small-ship cruise line or what he plans to do now.

Norwegian entrepreneur Atle Brynestad, SeaDream's owner and chairman, has assumed the position of CEO.

Brynestad founded Seabourn Cruise Line in 1987 and served as it chairman for 10 years. He also was chairman of Cunard Line and a board member at Carnival Cruise Lines.

Pimentel co-launched SeaDream in 2002 with Brynestad, not long after Pimentel stepped down as president and CEO of Cunard Line, citing personal reasons.

Pimentel had been at Cunard since 1998, when it was bought by Carnival Corp. At the time, Carnival merged the operations of Cunard and Seabourn, where Pimentel had spent six years as president and CEO.

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1-5-09 Oceania Cruises Offers Special Savings Oceania Cruises says it will launch its largest promotion ever on January 7th with "unprecedented price reductions on more than 40 voyages." To celebration five years in business, the line is offering exceptional savings on its "most alluring voyages in Europe, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, South America, and the Caribbean." With savings of up to 72%, travelers can enjoy the Oceania Cruises Experience for as little as $1,249 per guest.

Adding savings for singles and additional guests in staterooms, solo travelers may enjoy the Oceania Cruises Experience for a single supplement of only 25%!

3rd and 4th guests in a stateroom will receive an additional 50% reduction off of their cruise fare.

2009 European Collection On select 2009 European Collection voyages, guests will receive Free Airfare, 2 For 1 Cruise Fares and an additional Price Reduction of $2,000 per stateroom on accommodation in categories G through A.

Applicable Sailings:

  • April 4, 2009 - Barcelona to Istanbul, 14 Days
  • May 31, 2009 - Rome to Istanbul, 12 Days
  • June 5, 2009 - Athens to Rome, 12 Days
  • July 23, 2009 - Athens to Istanbul, 12 Days
  • July 26, 2009 - Venice to Barcelona, 14 Days
  • August 4, 2009 - Istanbul to Rome, 12 Days
  • August 16, 2009 - Rome to Athens, 12 Days
  • August 23, 2009 - Istanbul to Athens, 12 Days
  • September 4, 2009 - Athens to Rome, 12 Days
  • September 9, 2009 - Istanbul to Athens, 12 Days
  • September 28, 2009 - Venice to Barcelona, 14 Days
  • October 12, 2009 - Barcelona to Athens, 10 Days
  • October 17, 2009 - Athens to Venice, 12 Days
  • October 17, 2009 - Venice to Istanbul, 14 Days
  • October 22, 2009 - Athens to Venice, 12 Days
  • October 29, 2009 - Athens to Istanbul 12 Days
  • November 3, 2009 - Venice to Rome, 12 Days
  • November 15, 2009 - Rome to Barcelona, 10 Days

2009-2010 Winter Collection For the 2009-2010 Winter Collection, guests will receive the following Price Reductions in addition to Free Airfare and 2 For 1 Cruise Fares along with amenities valued at up to $1,500 per stateroom.

  • 10 Day Voyages: $500 per Stateroom Price Reduction, $500 Per Stateroom Shipboard Credit and FREE Prepaid Gratuities.
  • 12-24 Day Voyages: $1,000 per Stateroom Price Reduction, $500 Per Stateroom Shipboard Credit and FREE Prepaid Gratuities.
  • 25-40 Day Voyages: $1,500 per Stateroom Price Reduction, $500 Per Stateroom Shipboard Credit and FREE Prepaid Gratuities.

Applicable Sailings: All Winter 2009-2010 Collection voyages to Australia and New Zealand, Asia, South America and the Caribbean and Panama Canal.

With Free Airfare from 20 North American Gateways and Bonus Savings on top of 2 For 1 Cruise Fares, the Oceania Cruises Experience represents the greatest vacation value ever. The Celebration of Savings officially kicks off on Wednesday, January 7th and these historic savings are certain to generate extraordinary demand. Be certain to call your travel agent or Oceania Cruises to reserve your preferred voyage and accommodations.

For additional information on the Oceania Cruises Experience or to order a brochure on the 2009 European Collection or 2009-2010 Winter Collection, call your Travel Agent or Oceania Cruises at 800-531-5658 or visit us online at OceaniaCruises.com. Fares quoted are per guest based on double occupancy, are subject to availability and are capacity controlled. Fifth Anniversary Fares are available only on select sailings and in select grades of accommodations. Certain sailings may be excluded or withdrawn at any time without prior notice. For full terms and conditions, please visit the Oceania web site.

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1-5-09 RiverBarge Excursions Ceases Operations In yet another blow to Mississippi River cruising, the last company offering regular overnight voyages on the Mississippi has ceased operations.

RiverBarge Excursion Lines has ceased operations, according to a statement on the company's website. The New Orleans-based company operated the 196-passenger River Explorer, a set of connected barges that sailed on American rivers and inland waterways.

"RiverBarge Excursion Lines Inc. has been forced to curtail all operations for 2009 due to economic conditions. Rising costs and very soft bookings have forced this decision," the company said in a notice on its website. "We want to assure our guests that RiverBarge Excursion Lines Inc. deposits all payments for excursions in a special escrow account at the Whitney National Bank. This escrow account is overseen and regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. As soon as these funds are made available to us, guest refunds will be processed. RiverBarge Excursions would like to express our gratitude to all guests who have traveled with us in the last 10 years and thank you for your support and for being a part of the RiverBarge family."

The company's phones were being answered on Dec 31, but an official spokesperson was not available to answer additional questions. The company was founded 10 years ago by Eddie Conrad Jr., who chose to call his vacation product an "excursion" instead of a cruise. For more information, call 888-GO-BARGE or visit www.riverbarge.com.

The first blow was the problems surrounding Majestic American Cruises and their operation of Delta Queen and American Queen.

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1-5-09 Carnival Sales Event: Best Available Upgrades in 2009 Carnival Cruise Lines has a new sales event offering free best available upgrades on a wide variety of "Fun Ship" departures throughout 2009.

The new "Fun4All" promotion is available in conjunction with virtually all three- to 12-day cruises departing through Dec. 18, 2009, including voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England and Europe. To be eligible for this special offer, bookings must be made between Jan. 5-23, 2009.

The new "Fun4All" sales event is capacity controlled and applies to new individual bookings for categories 4A and higher. Upgrades are available within specific stateroom accommodation types (i.e., interior to interior, ocean view to ocean view, balcony to balcony, etc.). Guests must request fare code PFF when making the reservation.

For additional information and reservations on the "Fun Ship" vacation experience, call 1-800-327-9501 or your local travel agent.

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1-2-09 Carnival Sensation Crewmember Falls - Update We know a little more from new reports about the Sensation crewmember who "fell" overboard from the ship. Various TV and radio web sites in Florida say he was either standing on or near the railing and taking pictures.

We now know they mean he was shooting pictures, not posing for them. He was off duty, and being very early after midnight on New Years Day (Eve) there is a good chance he had been drinking although this has not been made clear.

Some passengers said he was either standing on a tall place close to the railing and that when the wind came up he lost his balance control. Another report says he was standing "on the railing" but that could mean on a lower crossbar, not the top of the railing. Exactly where he was standing is really not clear, yet.

The man was singer is the stage show on board, and he did have friends and relative aboard, many of whom saw him tumble over. They through life jackets to him and started yelling at other crewmember to sound the alarm. The alarm did go out "Bravo, Bravo, Portside." over the PA system.

He was identified by the Coast Guard late Friday as 26-year-old Antonio Matabang from California. He never surfaced after falling 82 feet into rough, 72-degree waters about 12:30 a.m., officials said.

Despite the precarious position he was in - it was clearly an accident in the sense that he didn't jump, but it also has to be said that it was improper procedure to be standing anyplace where a loss of balance could mean going over the edge. So, the young man is not without some responsibility for what happened.

We are sorry for the young man and never mean to take these stories lightly. This is actually one of the first cases of a person "accidentally" going overboard who was not necessarily doing something flagrantly wrong he should not have been doing. It is possible the seas were fairly rough and he normally would have felt fairly secure wherever he was standing under normal conditions. But conditions were not normal, neither the seas, where he was standing or likely what he was doing and under what phsical condition.

In any case, we will know more soon and we are sad it happened, but we are also relieved it did not happen to a passenger. Even with the shared responsibility that would have led to assumptions about cruise ship safety that really are not warranted. The safety is there, it is just up to people to use common sense.

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1-1-09 Crewmember Falls from Carnival Sensation - Search On Reports are out that a crewmember aboard Carnival Sensation fell into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Vero Beach, Florida, early this morning. Reports say we was seen falling a distance of 82 feet by friends, and that the friends threw him a life ring. The ship stopped immediately and notified the coast guard of the spot. He has not yet been found.

The search is still on, battling 25 mph winds and 7-foot seas. What the crewmember was doing at the time he fell has not been reported yet.

This is the time when we at CruiseMates wish the English language had different words for people descending through the atmosphere. Without intent to diminish the importance of these events, we just find it very frustrating that no one distinguishes the difference between someone jumping from a cruise ship, being pushed or dropped overboard maliciously (which has never been proven in any case, and even only suggested in two cases in the entire history of cruising) and someone who intentionally bypasses the more than suitable safety measures in place and subsequently loses hold and falls down. The latter being one of the possible causes of people "falling" but proven to be not the most common reason by far.

Equally frustrating to us, is that in a case like this where people saw the young man falling, why are they not reporting how he happened to fall? Was he on or off duty? Our concern here is that there are so many uninformed non-cruisers out there who have come to the widely mistaken conclusion that it is actually possible to just fall from a cruise if you "let go".

The absolute truth is that it is impossible to fall from a cruise ship without putting yourself outside of the safety apparatus in place first. We at CruiseMates think this should be mentioned in every story about people "falling" from ships, because without this knowledge, a huge misconception about the very nature of cruise ships has been allowed to fester to the detriment of the industry.

We predict it will be revealed that this young man was either on duty on a job where safety equipment to keep him tethered to the ship was being used, and it was somehow bypassed, or that he was off-duty, likely drinking and put himself in a position of danger that was outside the rules of the ship. It was 1:20 am on the morning of New Years Day. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that alcohol was involved.

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