Cruise News - July 2009

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7-30-09 Celebrity Equinox Christened - First Pictures In formal ceremonies today in the historic port of Southampton, England, before an audience of press, travel agents, and other special guests, Celebrity Cruises' newest ship - Celebrity Equinox - was officially named.

New: Pictures of Equinox

Buglers and a bagpipe and drum corps opened the ceremony, followed by a piano rendition of the Beatles' classic "Here Comes the Sun." Richard D. Fain of parent company Royal Caribbean delivered the ceremony address. Fain praised the ship's Godmother Nina Barough, CBE (Commander of the British Empire), and founder of the breast cancer charity "Walk the Walk."

"Her story, her outspoken devotion to breast cancer causes, and her day-to-day life is a compelling example of the need to take our health and well-being seriously," said Fain. "And all this paints a lovely picture of why we are so honored to have her as our Godmother."

When Equinox Godmother Nina Barough gave her speech she made a surprise deviation from the script when she asked the audience to stand and hold hands. She then asked us to think of something good or funny because it would embue the ship with good vibes for all time. The crowd enthsiastically obliged.

What is NEW about Equinox? It is already common knowledge that Celebrity tends to make their sister ships pretty much identical. Not onlyt in superstructure but also in decor. This means one will have a pretty hard time looking at pictyures and identifying which ship they came from. There are a few slight differences, and we hope to find them.

So far, there is just one: Cruise line officials said that since the original design of Solstice met such a high standard they really couldn't find much that needed to be changed on Equinox. However there is one thing which may prove popular with the sun worshipers. There have been comments about Solstice not having enough deck chairs, this being exacerbated by the lack of deck space - primarily because of "The Lawn" taking up so much room - a trade-off for the uniqueness of having the lawn. Celebrity President and CEO Dan Hanrahan stated the Solstice Deck on Equinox and subsequent ships in the series will hold up to 100 more deck chairs. It was also noted that having picnics on blankets laid out on the lawn has helped address the issue on Solstice.

Here are some of the first pictures of the ceremony:

click on pictures below for larger images:

 
Richard Fain speech   Royal Air Force Pipe and Drum Corps
   
Nina Barough - Godmother   Ribbon cut as ship is named   The place goes wild!

click on pictures below for larger images:

New: Pictures of Equinox

Celebrity selected Barough in recognition of her fervent devotion to raising awareness of breast cancer and her tremendous success in raising funds for the cause - $85-million to-date - through her organization's "SunWalks" and "MoonWalks." The four annual marathon walks in London, Edinburgh, Bristol and Newcastle attract thousands of people typically clad in decorated bras - the signature apparel for most participants.

"As with our Godmother of Celebrity Solstice, we knew that for Celebrity Equinox, too, nothing less than someone genuinely devoted to the cause would do. And Nina exemplifies that exceptionally," said Celebrity Cruises President Dan Hanrahan. "Her tireless efforts have benefited countless women battling breast cancer, and her personal triumph over it has inspired thousands of women, men and families in the UK and beyond."

New: Pictures of Equinox

In addition to defeating breast cancer herself, Barough's numerous other life achievements include receiving a CBE for her contributions to health care through the British "New Year Honours" in December 2006. More recently, she was recognized at the "Pride of Britain Awards" (September 2008), where she was named "Fundraiser of the Year." And in October 2008, Barough was honored once again; this time, with the "Woman of the Year - Outstanding Achievement Award" in recognition of her willpower, spirit and courage.

At today's naming ceremony on Celebrity Equinox, in what is believed to be an industry first, Celebrity invited sister ship Celebrity Solstice's Godmother Sharon Smith to participate. Smith took the stage by surprise to Barough, and both joined Fain to cut the ribbon - symbolically, pink, in recognition of breast cancer causes. The ribbon threaded through the ship, ultimately releasing a large bottle of champagne that crashed against the stack atop the ship, signifying the official naming of the vessel. The bottle, too, was symbolic, as it was created by The Corning Museum of Glass, with whom Celebrity struck an alliance in 2008 to create the industry's first glassblowing show and demonstration at sea. Celebrity Equinox now joins Celebrity Solstice in presenting the typically standing-room-only Hot Glass Show onboard.

Celebrity Equinox enters service July 31 from Southampton on an eight-night Norwegian Fjords cruise, then returns to Southampton to embark on the ship's official maiden voyage departing August 8 for the Mediterranean. The ship will present a series of Mediterranean sailings from Rome (Civitavecchia) through the fall and will offer Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., beginning this winter.

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7-30-09 Royal Caribbean Releases Oasis Sea Trials Video This latest video of the world's largest cruise ship actually sailing is breathtaking. Not only is Oasis the biggest cruise ship ever, she is almost 40% larger than any cruise ship in existence.

Keep in mind, this company has undertaken a huge gamble in building a prototype ship of this size. It could have been the floating equivalent of the Spruce Goose. But if first comments are any indication, we have seen the future and it is here. The Oasis of the Seas sea trials reportedly went off spectacularly, and we admit the sight of her streaming past the Finnish countryside is impressive.

The view between the towering inward facing balcony cabins overlooking the Boardwalk is an industry first, a view for people with "inside" cabins with balconies. The sight of her from a distance shows how impressively huge she really is. The sightlines for the previous classes, Freedom and Voyager made those ships appear deceptively smaller than they are - somehow Carnival Destiny appeared more massive even though the Royal Caribbean ships were bigger.

But not with Oasis. This is a grand ship, a "wow" ship. And best of all she works as planned, always a relief even though modeling is so much more sophisticated these days in the planning stage. The just-released video shows her streaming across the water at full speed.

"That was the biggest moment of my life, when we came back from the Sea Trial," says Harri Kulovaara, EVP of Maritime operations for Royal Caribbean. "She is like a Ferrari. We tried to make her list by forcing her into steep turns and we just couldn't do it. She is rock solid."

"The peformance of the ship is hard to describe because it's so good," said Tor Olsen, head of Marine Operations for Royal Caribbean. "What surprised me was how flawlessly everything worked - the total lack of any vibration and no noise" said another, "We were moving at maximum speed, 24 knots, and we thought we were standing still."

"This is the pinnacle of shipbuilding in the world today." We agree.

See more at oasisoftheseas.com/

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7-27-09 MSC Euro-Cruise Blowout Sale - 5 Days Left Just five days remain for travelers to take advantage of MSC Cruises' special one-week only "Europe Blowout" savings promotion. The lines advixes you to book early for the best available staterooms within a category at the time of booking, while space is available, as this offer expires July 31, 2009.

"Europe Blowout" rates begin at $499 per person on select 7-night cruises and $799 for 10-night positioning cruises visiting some of Europe's most exotic ports. Experience the line's elegant ships including two of the newest in the cruise industry - sister ships MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia.

Some of the itineraries featuring special "Europe Blowout" rates on new bookings on select 7-night sailings of:

  • MSC Splendida: Western Mediterranean, starting at $549;
  • MSC Fantasia: Western, starting at $599;
  • MSC Armonia: Eastern Mediterranean, starting at $529;
  • MSC Orchestra: Baltic or Norwegian Fjords, starting at $1,099; Western Mediterranean, starting at $549;
  • MSC Musica: Eastern Mediterranean, starting at $649;
  • MSC Lirica: Western Mediterranean, starting at $499.

"Europe Blowout" rates on select 10- or 11-night positioning cruises include:

  • MSC Lirica: Dover or Amsterdam to Genoa starting at $799;
  • MSC Orchestra: Copenhagen or Kiel to Genoa from $899.

Children ages 17 and younger sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare-paying adults. Cruise-only rates are per person, based on double occupancy (government fees and taxes for all guests are additional) and cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion.

Should you book a European cruise line in Europe, when most of the passengers do not speak English? Read our article on "Understanding European Cruise Lines."

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7-26-09 More Windjammer Family Tragedy - Joey Burke Dies Not even a week after the castle that Windjammer Barefoot Cruises built was burned to a crisp, yet another tragedy has hit the Burke family of Miami. Another one of the offspring of cruise line founder Michael Burke (senior) has passed away. This time the decedant is Joey Burke, the baby of the five siblings.

Joey Burke passed away Sunday morning (July 26) around 2:00 a.m. in Miami. Word is that he was visiting his parents, Windjammer founder Michael Burke and his wife June when he was taken by a heart attack. Joey was only 46 years old.

Joey had acted as CEO of WBCL during most of 2007 and early 2008 when the cruise line quietly ceased operations. In fact, the line's four ships stopped sailing in November, 2007, but the line continued trying to sell cruises which never sailed. During that time the company was the subject of continued investigations and the recipient of numerous lawsuits.

Joey had taken the reins as CEO when his brother, Danny Burke, also passed earlier under mysterious circumstances.

Danny Burke had died in 2006 when he had been CEO of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (ltd) for just a few months - just after the family patriarch, Michael Burke (senior) retired. Burke senior then sold the castle which just burned last week for about $7 million, most of which went to pay taxes rumor says. Danny had gone missing and his whereabouts were unknown for a week when he was found in the Miami morgue, apparently left off by a lady of questionable repute who had been spending a little motel time with him and illegal substances.

The father is still alive, and so are three of his children; Susan (who is said to have been the brains behind WBCL but never acted as CEO reportedly because she was too unpopular with the clientele), Jeanette (who ran the merchandising side of the business) and Michael (junior) aka MDB, who is living in Trinidad and still operates a cargo and shipyard business in the Caribbean. All of the siblings have sued MDB for reportedly embezzling almost $500,000 during his brief stint as CEO of Windjammer. MDB personally claims he is innocent and that none of the tragedy that has befallen the business would have happened if he had been able to operate it the way he wanted.

Nobody knows how or why the former Burke family castle burned to the ground last week. The home had real turrets, an indoor pool and even a moat with an iron gate and live sharks swimming in the sea water. The castle had been sold to a real estate speculator and the property taxes of over $100,000 were paid last quarter.

Any way you look at this story, what was once a cruise line Camelot has turned into a tragedy with seemingly no happy endings.

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7-23-09 MSC Cruises Theme Cruises in Caribbean Thru 2010 MSC Cruises has added five new theme cruise sailings to the Baseball Greats, Polka and Big Band themes already planned for MSC Poesia's 2009-10 Caribbean season. The cruises are listed here, with the already scheduled theme cruises at the bottom.

President's Cruise: Nov. 10, 2009-- 5-night "Caribbean Escape" itinerary. Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA), Inc., will be the featured guest onboard MSC Poesia's first sailing in the Caribbean.

Latin Music: Jan. 23, 2010-- 7-night "Eastern Caribbean Enchantment" itinerary. Rumba, samba and mambo aboard MSC Poesia to Carlos Oliva and Los Sobrinos del Juez as they perform traditional salsa dance hits and unique arrangements of pop and disco favorites with a Latin beat. Salsa dance lessons and live performances by a hot lineup of Latin music stars are sure to add plenty of flavor and rhythm to this Latin music cruise festival at sea.

Comedy: Jan. 30, 2010 7-night-- "Eastern Caribbean Enchantment" cruise itinerary. "Laughter is the Best Medicine" featuring the songs and remarkable impressions of Scott Record. The laughter continues well into the evening nightly in the ship's comedy club with onboard performances by our featured comedians. Participate in the game show "Bonk!" (an interactive game show that is part general knowledge, part physical mayhem and all comedy).

Country Music: Feb. 20, 2010-- 7-night "Eastern Caribbean Enchantment" cruise itinerary. Boot, scoot and boogie to music by various country artists. Line dancing lessons also will be offered onboard.

Oldies Music: March 20, 2010-- 7-night "Eastern Caribbean Dream" itinerary, featuring a performance by The Lettermen - Tony Butala, Donovan Tea and Mark Preston - one of the most popular vocal groups in history. Their 45-year career of unique sound spans the big band vocal and the early rhythm and blues rock groups. The Lettermen will perfom one grand show onboard during this old time rock-and-roll festival at sea.

Plus, The Fabulous Stingrays, a party band performing songs spanning the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, will keep onboard guests rocking and rolling to the sounds of the oldies all night long. Other activities will include an Elvis look-alike contest, dance competitions, trivia games and a lecture on the rock-and-roll era.

Festa Italiana: April 10, 2010-- 7-night "Island Treasures & Ancient Temples" itinerary. This celebration of all things Italian features entertainment by opera singers and contemporary.

Italian vocal artists. Dance the night away or simply sit back and enjoy performances by bands that play Italian and Italian-American favorites. Activities include Venetian mask making, a pizza throwing contest, tarantella dancing and more.

Guests have the opportunity to learn the secrets of making delicious European dishes during cooking demonstrations by top Italian chefs. They can also take a lecture on Italian Art and Architecture, Italian Automobiles or Italian Fashion and Design.

The new themes are in addition to several previously announced theme cruises:

  • Baseball Greats: Nov. 20, 2009-- 10-night "Dazzling Dutch Caribbean & The Panama Canal"
  • Big Band: Dec. 10, 2009-- 10-night "Remarkable Rainforests & The Panama Canal"
  • Polka: Jan. 9-- 7-night "Eastern Caribbean Enchantment"
  • Baseball Greats: 7-night sailings: Jan. 16, 2010 and Feb. 6, 2010 "Island Treasures & Ancient Temples"; March 6, 2010 "Eastern Caribbean
  • Enchantment"; April 3, 2010 "Eastern Caribbean Dream"
  • Big Band: Feb. 27, 2010-- 7-night "Island Treasures & Ancient Temples"

For more information about MSC Cruises and its selection of theme cruises, visit www.MSCCruisesUSA.com or a local travel professional.

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7-22-09 Carnival Ramps Up for Launch of Dream New items about the new mega-ship about to be launched by Carnival, carnival Dream, are now coming in. Some of the details we are now getting:

The 130,000-ton, 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream will have its inaugural ceremony in New York City on Thursday, Nov. 12 followed by a gala pierside overnight that evening. The ship will then embark on a two-day cruise departing the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 13 and returning the morning of Sunday, Nov. 15.

A cool thing about carnival Dream will be the "Fun Hubs." These are computer stations around the ship that are NOT wifi web cafes but they ARE onboard networks to keep you connected with other cruisers. You can leave messages for people in your group or you can post messages for the whole ship to see. For example, if you brought your digeridoo and you want to have an Aussie jam session, you can suggest that all fellow aboriginals meet you on the pool deck at 2:00.

Not to poke fun, we actually think this is one of the better ideas any cruise ship has had for a long time. We at CruiseMates have always said that what ships need is a way for like-minded individuals to meet in ships. You could have people who graduated with you just down the hall and not even realize it. It is a small world, and as far as we are Comcerned, Carnival is just helping io make it a friendlier place - not to mention the practical aspects of such a system.

Carnival Dream will offer stunning indoor/outdoor café and entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza, a two-level Serenity adults-only retreat, a wrap-around promenade encircling the ship, the cruise industry's largest water park, along with a 23,750-square-foot health spa - Carnival's largest to date. Several new accommodation categories, including five-berth, two-bathroom staterooms especially for families, will also be offered.

There will be a two-level casual eatery called The Gathering, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. Culinary choices include Italian and Tex-Mex to tandoori and Asian specialties. A pasta bar will offer guests their choice of pasta, sauce and ingredients to create a custom-made dish of traditional Italian favorites such as Portobello ravioli or pasta carbonara. The Gathering will also house Carnival's popular 24-hour pizzeria with seven kinds of pies and calzone, Caesar salad and garlic bread.

Carnival Dream's burrito bar is also sure to be a popular spot where guests can create an overstuffed wrap featuring their choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, salsa and other accompaniments.

Also available within The Gathering will be a Mongolian wok offering custom-made stir-fries with guests' choice of meat and vegetables and finished with one of Carnival's signature sauces; Taste of the Nations, featuring a different international cuisine each day; a New York-style deli; a tandoori oven offering Indian-style chicken, fish and meatballs, along with traditional bread, chutneys and relishes; and a grille serving hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken sandwiches.

The Gathering will also offer an extensive 35-item salad bar, 24-hour frozen yogurt, low-calorie dressings and sugar-free desserts for guests seeking healthier alternatives.

An expanded 24-hour room service menu will include new choices such as Medium Rare Roast Beef and Brie on French Baguette and Grilled Fresh Mozzarella and Portobello Mushroom on Focaccia. Room service orders are delivered to guests' staterooms any time of the day or night at no charge.

Located along Promenade Deck will be Wasabi, a sushi bar serving complimentary sushi, as well as sake.

Exclusive to Carnival Dream is the new Ocean Plaza, a spectacular indoor/outdoor café and entertainment venue designed for guests to relax and people watch. In addition to a dance floor and a stage featuring live entertainment, Ocean Plaza will offer full Wi-Fi access, along with 12 stand-alone kiosks where guests can access the FunHub, Carnival Dream's comprehensive portal and exclusive on-board social network.

The centerpiece of Ocean Plaza will be Plaza Café, a patisserie serving lattes, cappuccinos, espresso and other specialty coffees, along with sweets such as baked-on-board cakes, pies, cookies - even freshly made milkshakes. Full bar service, specializing in martinis, mojitos and other popular cocktails, will be offered, as well.

For those seeking a more intimate dining experience, The Chef's Art, Carnival Dream's steakhouse-style restaurant, will offer delectable cuisine in memorable surroundings. Located on Spa Deck 12, this 139-seat venue offers a sumptuous menu of prime dry-aged U.S.D.A. beef - selections include a nine-ounce filet, 14-ounce strip loin, 18-ounce grilled prime rib chop and 24-ounce porterhouse - along with lobster tail, lamb chops, Chilean sea bass, Maine Lobster ravioli and more. Creamed spinach, Wasabi mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and traditional sauces complete the steakhouse experience.

The delicious choices, combined with attentive service and an extensive wine list, make a meal at The Chef's Art truly unforgettable. Reservations are recommended and there is a charge of $30 per person.

Guests dining in Carnival Dream's two-level Scarlet and Crimson main dining rooms will have their choice of six different appetizers and soups, two salads and six entrees each night.

Also, Carnival Classics selections, including char-broiled steak made with the line's signature rub, grilled chicken and pasta dishes, along with a decadent dessert menu offering six different selections, including the cruise industry's most popular dessert - the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake - will be offered nightly.

For those seeking more health-conscious cuisine, dining room menus feature Spa Carnival Fare selections, delicious, guilt-free items that are lower in calories, cholesterol, sodium and fat content. Vegetarian choices and children's menus are available, as well.

Before the inaugural ceremonies in New York, Carnival Dream is slated to debut Sept. 21, 2009, with the first of three 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruises operating round-trip from Rome, followed by a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to New York Oct. 27 - Nov. 12, 2009.

From New York, Carnival Dream will operate two eight-day Bahamas/Florida cruises departing Nov. 15 and 23, then reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., for a special nine-day Caribbean cruise Dec. 3. Carnival Dream will then launch year-round seven-day service from Port Canaveral, Dec. 12, offering weeklong voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean.

Carnival Dream's exciting diversity of formal and casual dining choices are showcased in a revamped Web portal at carnival.com/dream which also contains information, videos, blogs, and images highlighting the ship's many other innovations and features.

Additional information and reservations are also available by calling 1-800-327-9501 (individual) or 1-800-327-5782 (groups) or visiting the line's travel agent Internet portal, BookCCL.com.

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7-19-09 Warren Titus, Luxury Cruise Innovator, Passes Away The man whose name is synonymous with luxury cruising, Warren Titus, died today at the age of 94 in Marin County, not far from San Francisco.

As the editor of CruiseWeek, Michael Driscoll says, Titus invented the concept of luxury cruising back in 1972, when it appeared passenger ships might disappear forever due to the advent of the 747. At the time, cruise lines like Norwegian Caribbean Line and Carnival were just beginnig to invent the modern cruise industry with fun0-based ships sailing regular voyages out of Miami.

Titus had a different vision, based more upon the first class concept of Cunard. Instead of sailing the same itinerary over and over, Titus envisioned a cruise line where the ships sailed all over the world. We saw first class cuisine and a major attraction as well as comfortable accomodations and first class service.

For dining, he built the first ships that featured single seating instead of early and late seatings. His ships featured roomy suites and small single cabins. His ships naturally attracted many single women and they were one of the first cruise lines to put gentlement hosts onboard to dance with the ladies.

One of the most famous Royal Viking passengers ever was Rosemary Roberts who was one of the first permanent passengers. Roberts alternated between the RV Sea and the RV Sky for several years before she finally passed away.

Many people still in the cruise industry got their start working for Royal Viking Line, especially people still in at the luxury cruise lines like Crystal and Regent. These ships still hold dear many of the concepts Titus first implemented; around the world cruises, gourmet cuisine, single seating dining and luxury suites.

I was privilieged to have had my first job (Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates) onboard the RV Sea and the RV Sky starting in 1982. The all Norwegian crew and staff were a joy to work with and I learned much of what I know today about cruising from my early days onboard Royal Viking Line cruise ships.

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7-3-09 Captain Burke's WindJammer Castle Burns Down The fire boats of Miami Beach were hard at work extinguishing a sudden maelstrom of flames that engukfed what was once the medieval castle own by Captain Michal Burke, founder of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.

The castle was a symbol of the success and eccentricity of the Burke family, well known by residents. It was built of rock and looked thoroughly like medieval castle complete with a moat with drawbridge and iron gate, towers and turrets. It was 11000 square feet, with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, and was said to have statues of dragons on the inside and held throroughly gothic decor when the Burke family inhabited it.

Captain Burke sold the house in 2007 when the company fell on hard times. His five childen had taken over the company but family squabbling had caused internal friction. One of the brothers and CEO at the time, Daniel Burke, died mysterious from a cocaine and xanax overdose in 2007. Lawsuits ensued between the remaining family and eventually all of the cruise line assets were sold at auction for pennies on the dollar.

According to the Miami-Dade Property Appraisers Office, Captain Burke sold the castle in March of 2007 for $7.6 million. The current property owner is listed as Antonio Rodriguez. He had made his last property tax payment and had the properrty up fpr sale, but no one was living in the property.

So far, there's no word on what started the fire. Built in 1925, it ten bedrooms, 7 bathrooms and more than 11-thousand square feet of living area. It also has a billiard room, home theater, gym, and a lagoon-style swimming pool which extends into the house.

You can see raw video of the house burning from AP here:

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7-16-09 Federal Lawsuit Challenges Ban on Cuba Travel A federal lawsuit was filed today to challenge a U.S. policy that compels Americans who travel to Cuba to disclose how much money they spend there. The suit says the policy forces travelers to incriminate themselves. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit legal advocacy group.

The suit claims a US requirement to disclose how much money a US citizen spends in Cuba is a violation of a citizen's right against self-incrimination. Volunteering such information would make an individual vulnerable to criminal prosecution, the lawsuit said. The suit comes on top of efforts by the Obama administration to ease travel restrictions to Cuba.

Royal Caribbean's stock closed up by 2.25%.

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7-16-09 Man Arrested for Murder of Wife on Carnival Elation Reports from AP and other sources say a man was arrested for the murder of his wife by FBI agents in San Diego today when the ship docked after a cruise to Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. Authorities say the man allegedly murdered his wife three days into a five-day cruise, according to Mexican authorities.

Robert McGill was taken into custody from the Carnival Elation cruise ship early afternoon on Thursday. He will be charged with the murder of his wife, Shirley, who was found dead in the couple's cabin on Tuesday evening, according to special agent in charge of the FBI's San Diego bureau Keith Slotter.

The story begins with a passenger contacting ship's security Tuesday with concern that the woman might be dead. Crew members went to the cabin and found her body, but not her husband. McGill was put in custody aboard the ship and the cabin was guarded around the clock by a ship security guard. He was taken out and questioned by FBI authorities early this morning. The San Diego County medical examiner removed the woman's body about three hours later, said John Gilmore, a spokesman for the Port of San Diego.

Carnival notified the FBI of the death on Tuesday night, according to AP. Reports say the FBI sent 20 agents to the ship by Coast guard cutter and boarded the ship before it returned to San Diego. They spent the night and part of Thursday morning interviewing McGill and more than 50 witnesses.

The cause of death was not known, and an autopsy is pending. More details should come forth when more is known.Evidence was removed from the ship in plastic bags marked "refrigeration needed."

McGill will likely make a first appearance in U.S. District Court in San Diego on Friday, said Debra Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office. Cases that happen in open seas involving US citizens come under the jurisdiction of the Federal courts and are investigated by the FBI.

The ship sailed as scheduled at 4:00 pm this afternoon.

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7-16-09 Celebrity Receives Equinox - Second Solstice-class Ship The number of ships in Celebrity Cruises' fleet just grew by one as line officially took delivery of Celebrity Equinox at a ceremony in Emshaven, Netherlands. This marks the official transfer from shipbuilder Meyer Werft to Celebrity Cruises.

Following inspections, Celebrity Equinox will host a series of promotional activities from Southampton, England, for press, travel agents and other audiences. The ship will be formally named in ceremonies July 29, and will enter service service July 31 on an 8-night Norwegian Fjords cruise.

Equinox is the first sister ship to Celebrity Solstice - a widely acclaimed new class of ship for Celebrity that was introduced last November 2008. The ship is a close copy of the original with all of the best attributes in place, the industry's first Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass; 10 dining venues featuring menus by noted chef Jacques Van Staden; AquaClass, the line's spa-inspired staterooms offering exclusive access to the Mediterranean-influenced specialty restaurant, "Blu"; the industry's first Hot Glass Show at sea, presented in collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass; larger, more intuitive staterooms influenced by a panel of five "boomer" women with unique travel and hospitality insights, and widely varied entertainment, including spectacular new shows in partnership with Poet Theatricals.

Following the Norwegian Fjords cruise, Celebrity Equinox will depart Southampton August 8 on a 10-night "Best of Europe" itinerary to Rome, calling on ports in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well Gibraltar, UK. The ship then will sail a series of 13- and 14-night "Ancient Empires" cruises through October, featuring two new ports of call: Haifa and Ashdod, Israel. These voyages also include an overnight stay in Alexandria, Egypt.

On November 5, the ship will sail a transatlantic voyage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she will begin a series of alternating 10- and 11-night "Ultimate Caribbean" voyages through April 2010. The 11-night voyages will stop in George Town, Grand Cayman; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. The 10-night sailings include calls on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Bridgetown, Barbados; Roseau, Dominica; Philipsburg, St. Maarten.

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7-16-09 Carnival Insurance Adds Job Loss and Severe Weather Protection Carnival Cruise Lines has enhanced its Cruise Vacation Protection Plan (VPP) to include severe weather watch/warning protection, as well as job loss protection. The enhanced features apply to plan purchases made upon July 15 and after.

The severe weather watch/warning protection provides reimbursement in the event the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and/or National Weather Service issues or maintains a severe weather watch or warning within 48 hours of a cruise departure. Should the watch or warning affect either the cruise departure city or the guest's route to that city, the plan will allow for cancellation and reimbursement up to the full amount of the cruise cost.

Another new weather protection feature provides that if a guest is traveling to the cruise departure port via a common carrier (airplane, bus, train, etc.) and inclement weather ultimately causes the guest to miss 50% or more of the cruise vacation, the guest may receive reimbursement up to the total cost of the cruise.

The new job loss protection will provide reimbursement up to the total cruise cost if individuals who have booked a cruise and purchased the plan are subsequently terminated by their employer and have worked for that employer for at least one continuous year.

The above enhancements will further strengthen the current plan which offers a variety of other benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, medical, baggage loss and baggage delay. The program also provides a 24-hour emergency assistance hotline.

"These enhancements to the Cruise Vacation Protection Plan are designed to provide consumers with an assurance that their vacation investment will be protected in the unlikely event severe weather or job loss occurs - important factors given both the unpredictability of Mother Nature and the current economy," said Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival's executive vice president of marketing and guest experience.

Carnival's Cruise Vacation Protection Plan is administered by BerkelyCare, a recognized leader in travel insurance. The plan must be purchased at least 14 days prior to the cruise departure date. Prices begin at $49 per person and vary by cruise length. Travel agents receive 10 percent commission on the sale of VPP coverage.

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7-14-09 MSC Splendida Inaugural Extravaganza Barcelona-style MSC Splendida, the 11th MSC Cruises ship, was christened in Barcelona on Sunday. CruiseMates has been bringing you updates from the ship all week. It was an unusual introduction for a cruise ship. The MSC Splendida was originally scheduled to be the spot for the G8 summit in Europe, but the location for the summit was changed at the last minute to the Italian village, L'Aquila by Italian president Berlusconi who wanted to publicize the earthquake there.

The week started with the official flag handover ceremony from the STX shipyard in St Nazaire France. Normally that would have been immediately followed by the christening, but instaed MSC found itself with an unscheduled week for a brand new ship, and so a revenue cruise was sold mostly to the French and Spanish market sailing from St. Nazaire to Barcelona.

The christening ceremony finally arrived on Sunday, July 12 and was conducted in true Spanish style by this Italian cruise line. The entire day was taken up with press conferences with Sophia Loren and cruise line owner Gianluigi Aponte. The actual christening, with Ms. Loren breaking the bottle of champagne over the ship's bow, did not start until 9:00 PM.

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popparazi hone in on Sophia Loren   Sophia Speaks   to the Press on Splendida

The event included a Flamenco performance by Joaquin Cortes, the Catalan tradition of human towers, and a performance by tenor Jose Carreras- who was accompanied by 60 musicians of the Orquestra Simfonica del Valles.

Finally, at 12:25 AM, Godmother of the MSC Cruises fleet, Sophia Loren completed the christening with a traditional ribbon cutting, which held the magnum of champagne over the bow, sending it crashing into the ship. Immediately the entire audience of 3000 people was enveloped in confetti accompanied by a fireworks display.

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Jose Carrera sings   After Christening Fireworks   Confetti explosion

CruiseMates has been tracking the introduction of MSC Splendida all week, and our daily reports with pictures can be seen here: MSC Splendida Virtual Cruise.We highly recommend that you click on the pictures above to see the magnificence of this event.

For more pictures of the event go to Gallery: MSC Splendida Inaugural Ceremony

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7-13-09 Norwegian Epic Makes First Ocean Journey In the early morning hours of Saturday, July 11, Norwegian Epic made her first journey on water, cruising out of her construction quay at STX Europe in Saint-Nazaire, France where the 153,000-ton ship has been under construction since October 2007. Beginning at approximately 7 am, the massive 4,200 passenger ship was accompanied by a fleet of six tugboats and taken a short distance down the Loire Estuary. Within about one and a half hours, the ship was moored at the outfitting dock. Norwegian Epic's float out represented a major milestone in the vessel's construction as it indicates that the ship has now moved into the final phase of construction and work will begin immediately on the vessel's interiors.

"Watching Norwegian Epic make her first journey on the water was a very moving experience," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. "Norwegian Epic epitomizes our continued commitment to innovation and represents the next generation of Freestyle Cruising, so we are thrilled to be celebrating her float out and looking forward to her delivery in less than a year."

On hand for the occasion were Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Norwegian Cruise Line's chairman of the board and also chairman, president and chief executive of the Genting Group; Norwegian Cruise Line executives: Kevin Sheehan, chief executive officer; Roberto Martinoli, president and chief operating officer; and Andy Stuart, executive vice president, global sales and passenger services, as well as Sang-Ho Shin, president and chief executive officer, STX Europe; and Jacques Hardelay, general manager, STX Europe, France.

Norwegian Epic is scheduled to be delivered in late May 2010, and will take part in inaugural events before beginning her Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from her year-round homeport in Miami. The first Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami is scheduled for July 17, 2010 and the ship's alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are scheduled through April 2011.

Norwegian Epic's Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. The ship's Western Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Guests can make a reservation by contacting their travel professional or Norwegian Cruise Line at 866-234-7350. More information about the ship, her itineraries and offerings can be found at epic.ncl.com.

Norwegian Epic's Innovations & Features

Norwegian Epic is changing the face of cruise line entertainment. In another industry first, Blue Man Group will perform in the ship's 685-seat Epic Theater. Blue Man Group is best known for their wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts which combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The blissful party atmosphere created at their live events has become the trademark of a Blue Man Group experience and will be seen for the first time ever at sea only on Norwegian Epic.

Norwegian Epic will have multiple, specially-designed entertainment venues throughout the ship so that guests can choose from a wide variety of entertainment each evening of their cruise. No longer will entertainment be focused on two nightly shows in one large main theater. Norwegian Epic will offer a number of entertainment options in specially-designed venues, some offered for the first time ever at sea, with choices to appeal to a broad audience.

On this ship, guests will find the only "big top" at sea. In this 265-seat theater-in-the-round, famed producer/director Neil Goldberg will present Cirque Dreams® and Dinner. This one of a kind interactive theatrical dining experience will be performed in the air, while juggling dinner courses, with music, mayhem and acrobatic imagination. During this two-hour show, guests will marvel in amazement and become part of a celebration of spectacle and fantasy. The entire experience will be unlike anything else at sea.

Norwegian Epic will offer the next generation of Freestyle Dining with 17restaurant choices and 18 bars and lounges. The ship also boasts unique nightlife options with the first Ice Bar at sea and Spice H20 with non-stop entertainment day and night; an expansive Aqua Park with the only tube slide and largest bowl slide at sea -- The Epic Plunge; seven decks of Freestyle Family Fun with highlights including a 33-foot high, 64-foot wide extreme rock climbing wall and the first ever rappelling wall at sea; the most bowling lanes at sea with six in two venues; a mixed-use sports deck with the ability for guests to engage in eight different athletic activities; as well as three separate kids' and teen activity areas and the first squash court at sea.

Norwegian Epic incorporates several new types of accommodations - the curved New Wave staterooms; the largest ship-within-a-ship suite complex at sea, comprising 60 suites and villas on two private decks at the top of the ship; a new category of inside staterooms for the value-conscious traveler - The Studios and Living Room; and spa and family-friendly accommodations.

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7-10-09 MSC Splendida Heads to Inaugural with Sophia Loren and Jose Carreras It is a new era in European cruising as the two newest and largest ever ships built for the European cruise market, the MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, both landed in Mallorca just ahead of the planned christening ceremony for MSC Splendida in Barcelona on Sunday (7-12-09).

The MSC Splendida christening ceremony will feature legendary film star Sophia Loren, who is godmother to both ships. Spanish operatic lyric tenor Jose Carreras will also join in the celebration, entertaining guests from throughout the world with his internationally renowned voice.

The ships met up in Mallorca on Friday. This was the first meeting between the two 137,936-gross registered ton sister ships, each the largest ever commissioned by a European owner. MSC Fantasia sailed from the STX Europe shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France, last January.

The MSC Splendida, like her sister MSC Fantasia boasts elegant style, traditional European service and innovative features. Each ship gives guests their choice of four distinctive restaurants serving outstanding cuisine and a remarkable array of recreational, shopping and entertainment venues featuring the best entertainment at sea to enhance the cruise experience. Both ships also feature the exclusive MSC Yacht Club where guests enjoy the ultimate in luxurious suite accommodations, amenities and service in a private enclave.

CruiseMates is tracking the voyage of MSC Splendida in a daily diary heading up to the christening ceremony.

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7-10-09 Holland America Line to Add 22 New Staterooms to Prinsendam As part of the continuing Signature of Excellence enhancement program, Holland America Line has announced the addition of 22 new staterooms to ms Prinsendam, the Elegant Explorer, in early 2010. The drydock will occur in Freeport, Bahamas, from January 4 through 13, 2010.

Sixteen of the new staterooms will be deluxe verandahs and two will be slightly smaller verandahs. Four will be standard inside staterooms. Amenities include Mariner Dream Beds, 250-count linens, Elemis spa bathroom amenities, large vanity mirror, stainless steel fruit basket, flat panel television and DVD player, quality showerhead, and more. Guest capacity of the Prinsendam will increase from 793 to 837.

With the addition of these staterooms aft, the pool deck will expand with more space and many more deck chairs for guests to enjoy. A new sea-view bar will be created to enhance the ambiance further.

The new staterooms will be fully finished while under way and ready to book for the 54-day Quest of the Argonauts voyage, sailing March 24 roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to the Mediterranean, Black Sea and back. The ship sails a leisurely eastbound course across the Atlantic for an extensive Mediterranean exploration with calls at ports in more than 10 countries, including Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Russia, Georgia, Greece and Turkey. The cruise includes overnight stays in Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal and Istanbul, Turkey, as well as late-night departures in Athens and Santorini, Greece, and Lisbon, Portugal. Prinsendam will visit Bermuda and New York City before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

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7-7-09 Celebrity Enhances Loyalty Programs: Free Drinks, Laundry Internet!

Celebrity Cruises' Captain's Club has been redesigned and relaunched with several new features to roll out across the fleet on sailings beginning this month, and other features to be introduced over the course of the year.

New features launching this month include the Captain's Club Celebration, an entertainment event available to all Captain's Club members; significantly improved Internet and laundry benefits for Select and Elite tier members; and a new onboard lounge exclusively for Elite members with a new theme for the club, "The center of our attention."

During the second half of this year, Celebrity will expand the Captain's Club with a variety of other new features, all of which will be announced prior to taking effect.

Soon on all Celebrity ships, except Xpedition, all members will be invited to an exclusive Captain's Club Celebration event once per sailing. Redesigned to provide the perfect opportunity to meet fellow members, chat with the Captain and senior shipboard officers, experience interactive cooking demonstrations, and enjoy the new "CC Jams" performance by a variety of shipboard musicians.

For members interested in a quiet haven of their own, Celebrity introduces the Captain's Club Lounge at Michael's Club, exclusively for Elite members and their stateroom/suite companions each morning and early evening. The new Lounge will offer a casual coffeehouse-style experience from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., with complimentary espressos, teas and other menu items, a variety of reading materials, and, on Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Equinox, wi-fi access.

Every evening from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Captain's Club Elite members and their stateroom/suite companions can return to the Lounge to socialize with fellow members, participate in a wine tasting event, or simply relax and enjoy a quiet, complimentary drink before dinner.

Internet Access. Elite members will now receive complimentary, 90-minute Internet packages, while Select members will receive a 25 percent discount.

Laundry. Also within the new program, Captain's Club Select- and Elite-level members can now enjoy new laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing benefits, based on the length of their cruise (laundry and Internet benefits upgrade from tier to tier, and are not cumulative).

New Total Captain's Club benefits available at launch include:

For Classic members (1-4 tier credits): Access to the loyalty desk and loyalty host; a premium onboard discount booklet; access to the new Captain's Club Celebration event; a complimentary custom air request; pre-cruise specialty restaurant reservations; member reunion cruises; one-category upgrades (when available); and an online newsletter.

For Select members (5-9 tier credits): All of the benefits of Classic membership, plus priority embarkation, a complimentary wine seminar, priority status to shore excursion waitlist, an invitation to the senior officers' cocktail party, 25% off any Internet package, complimentary pressing of two clothing items, and discounted laundry on cruises of 12 nights or more.

For Elite members (10 or more tier credits): All of the benefits of Select membership, plus a private shipboard departure lounge with continental breakfast, priority tender service, priority waitlist for dining room seating, elegant tea service, complimentary use of Thalassotherapy pool use on Celebrity Mercury, complimentary access to the Persian Garden (port days only), access to the new Captain's Club Lounge at Michael's Club, 90 free Internet minutes, one free item of dry cleaning, a complimentary bag of laundry (wash, dry, fold) and additional discounted laundry on cruises of 12 nights or more.

For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit www.celebritycruises.com.

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7-7-09 Silversea Offer Simple Luxury Pricing: 60% off + Free Air for 2010

Unprecedented 60% saving plus free air on virtually all 2010 sailings are incentives for booking early!

Silversea Cruises is offering a new Silver Savings pricing program, a simpler pricing structure that provides the biggest savings incentive in its history -- 60% off -- plus free airfare on virtually all voyages in 2010. These best-available, capacity-controlled prices are offered to guests who book early.

The lowest prices apply to booking made furthest in advance, and the discount will be lowered significantly as the sailing date approaches.

Effective for new 2010 bookings made on or after July 6, (to coincide with eminent publication of Silversea's new Voyage Atlas), Silversea is offering a 60% discount off the published fare for all sailings next year aboard Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and Silver Spirit. The line's expedition ship, Prince Albert II, is also offering Silver Savings of up to 50% in 2010.

The new Silver Savings incentive will replace early-booking and advance-payment programs. While other savings options, such as Venetian Society Savings (for past guests), Onboard Savings (available during the cruise), Extended Voyage Savings (when combining two or more consecutive voyages) and the Solo Travelers fare, will continue to be offered next year.

"There has never been a better time to sail with Silversea," said Steve Tucker. "Without a doubt, this is our best offer ever and booking early is key. When you combine 60% savings -- offered months ahead of sailing -- with free airfare and our signature all-inclusive amenities, the result is an incomparable value proposition that travelers cannot afford to pass up."

FREE AIR OFFER

The introduction of Silver Savings is complemented by the offer of a free roundtrip air package that includes transfers between airport and pier on the day of embarkation and disembarkation. This capacity-controlled program is valid only for new bookings made before January 1, 2010.

Following below is a small sampling of voyages in 2010 that feature the 60% Silver Savings incentive plus free airfare:

  • AFRICA: Silver Wind's January 23, 10-day cruise (#2003) sailing roundtrip from Cape Town with calls in East London, Maputo, Richard's Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Mossel Bay. Silver Savings fares start at $4,238 per person, including roundtrip air.
  • CARIBBEAN: Silver Shadow's March 30, 7-day cruise (#3007) sailing roundtrip from Barbados with calls in St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Bart's, Tortola and Bequia. Silver Savings fares start at $2,758 per person, including roundtrip air.
  • FAR EAST: Silver Whisper's February 5, 9-day cruise (#4003) from Singapore to Hong Kong with calls in Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hue/Danang (port of Chan May), Ha Long Bay and Haiphong. Silver Savings fares start at $4,918 per person, including roundtrip air.
  • MEDITERRANEAN: Silver Spirit's May 29, 7-day cruise (#5015) from Rome to Venice with calls in Sorrento, Sicily, Kotor and Dubrovnik. Silver Savings fares start at $4,358 per person, including roundtrip air.
  • SOUTH AMERICA: Silver Cloud's February 4, 8-day cruise (#1003) from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro with calls in Punta del Este, Itajai, Sao Paulo (port of Santos) and Parati. Silver Savings fares start at $4,238 per person, including roundtrip air.

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7-6-09 MSC Splendida Begins Maiden Voyage Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates, is aboard the beautiful MSC Splendida, which has just begun its first full passenger cruise after emerging from the berth where it was built at the STX Shipyard in St Nazaire France.

The beautiful, new 133,000-ton ship allowed Paul Motter to board and stay aboard the ship in the shipyard the night before the handover ceremony where the ship's flags where transferred from registry in France and ownership by STX to the flag of Italian cruise line MSC Cruises (ship registration Panama). After the ceremony followed a champagne toast, breaking a magnum of French Champagne against the bow of the ship. Later that day about 1000 French passengers joined the ship for the first time. An escort out of the bay of St. Nazaire by hundreds of locals, many of whom had worked on the vessel's construction, was capped by fireboats shooting plumes of seawater into the air.

In Vigo, Spain, 2000 Spanish passengers are joining the ship today to sail onwards to Barcelona for the official naming ceremony. Sophia Loren will preside as godmother over the ceremony. On the way Splendida will stop in Lisbon (Portugal), and Mallorca and Malaga (Spain).

Follow this link for pictures and video of the MSC Splendida naming ceremony and the inaugural sailing procession.

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7-2-09 Crystal Three-day Sale Savings: 25% MORE off Discounts For three days only - July 8, 9 and 10 - Crystal Cruises will offer 25% additional savings off of its already low special savings fares on five itineraries this fall and winter.

These new savings - from $885 to $2,000 per person - apply to all deluxe outside and verandah category staterooms on its September 26 Mediterranean cruise, a November itinerary from New York to Bermuda and the Caribbean, a November 12 Transatlantic voyage, a December 5 South American and the Amazon journey and a December 10 Panama Canal transit.

Crystal's popular "All Inclusive - As You Wish" program provides an additional $500-1,000 per person of shipboard spending credits. A Crystal Family Memories program offers a host of perks for a family or friends group of six, and a free berth for a group of 10.

The 25% savings is available:

* September 26 - Venice to Athens, 12 days aboard Crystal Serenity Save $1,362-$1,890 Plus $1,000 "All Inclusive - As You Wish" spending credit Plus Crystal Family Memories program - free berth for only 10 full-fare guests

* November 10 - New York to Miami, 12 days aboard Crystal Symphony Save $1,046-$1,516 Plus $500 "All Inclusive - As You Wish" spending credit Plus Crystal Family Memories program - free berth for only 10 full-fare guests

* November 12 - Lisbon to Miami, 12 days aboard Crystal Serenity Save $885-$1,239 Plus $500 "All Inclusive - As You Wish" spending credit Plus Crystal Family Memories program - free berth for only 10 full-fare guests

* December 5 - Manaus to Buenos Aires, 15 days aboard Crystal Symphony Save $1,350-$2,085 Plus $1000 "All Inclusive - As You Wish" spending credit Plus Crystal Family Memories program - free berth for only 10 full-fare guests

* December 10 - Caldera to Miami, 11 days aboard Crystal Serenity Save $944-$1,277 Plus $500 "All Inclusive - As You Wish" spending credit Plus Crystal Family Memories program - free berth for only 10 full-fare guests

"Discerning luxury travelers appreciate great value," says Bill Smith, Crystal's senior vice president, sales & marketing. "These savings offer compelling reasons to sail with the World's Best."

New cruise fares for the voyages start at just $2,655. Fares, credits and savings are per person, based on double occupancy.

For reservations, contact a travel agent or call 888-799-4625. Visit the newly redesigned crystalcruises.com.

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7-3-09 New Holland America Cabins Open to Promenade Deck The newly refurbished Veendam has an entirely new concept for cabins not seen on any major cruise ship. The cabins on the Promendae deck have sliding glass doors that open to the wrap-around promendae deck outside. It seems like a simple concept, and it is, but it is rare for cabins to open up to a common area on the outside.

Holland America calls the new style for the se cabins "Lanai Staterooms." Lanai is Hawaiian for "porch." The cabins were created out of what were formerly plain "oceanview" cabins with picture windows that looked out onto the Promendae deck. Ironically, in the past these cabins were considered ones to avoid solely because people walking on the deck could see into your room, especially at night when it is dark outside.

However, the glass on these new doors have a one-way mirrored coating to ensure privacy. So we are guessing these new cabins will become very popular since they offer the advantage of allowing fresh air into the room without the expense of a verandah cabin. They will also be very useful for joggers and other people who want instant access to outdoor public areas.

They will be particularly useful in Alaska where one often needs or wants to run outside and get a better view of wildlife.

These Lanai staterooms will be added to ms Rotterdam this year and three other ships by 2013. Each lanai stateroom also features reserved deck chairs outside the sliding glass doors. The lanai staterooms on Veendam are the latest round of Signature of Excellence enhancements at Holland America Line.

Thirty-two new verandah staterooms were also built on the aft portion of the ship, along with eight new inside staterooms. All staterooms aboard Veendam received new décor, modern wall sconces, carpet, drapes, pillows, bed runners and resurfaced desks and vanities. Bathrooms receined an "extreme" makeover with new vanities and cabinetry.

A final stateroom enhancement was the creation of 15 spa staterooms - 12 outside converted to verandah in drydock and three other inside - featuring a variety of exclusive spa amenities. The rooms offer their own ambiance with a décor reflecting natural elements and soft earth-tones. A counter-top water feature in each stateroom provides a natural, ambient background sound and artwork reflects serene images in nature. Exclusive spa treatments and a spa room service menu are offered only in these staterooms.

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