News Archive - March 2009

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See the Newest Updated TSA Security Requirements and Passport Required for All Cruisers, Starting June 1st, 2009.

3-31-09 Royal Caribbean Raises Loyalty Program Requirement Starting July 1st there will be changes to the Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society benefits. The changes include:

  • A new Ultimate Value Booklet with coupons for various onboard amenities.
  • An upgraded wine tasting event at a special price
  • A new special event, hosted by our ship officers for Diamond and above members to meet and mingle with other fellow members. This will feature complimentary wine, champagne and hors d'oeuvres.

Due to limited capacity, Royal Caribbean states that the Concierge Lounge has not been able to accommodate its growing loyalty program membership, challenging its ability to provide the optimum experience for their guests. Therefore the Concierge Lounge will now be accessible to only suite passengers and "Diamond Plus" Crown and Anchor guests.

Diamond Members cruising on Freedom Class ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas will continue to be able to experience exclusive access to a dedicated Diamond Lounge on these ships, which feature a complimentary 'happy hour' from 5-8:30pm daily.

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3-31-09 Royal Caribbean CEO, Richard Fain, Starts Oasis Blog Chairman of Royal Caribbean International has started a new blog at oasisoftheseas.com, the official web site of the new "biggest cruise ship in the world" about to be introduced by Royal Caribbean in November. So far, there are only two posts, but there are also shipyard pictures from Finland. Visit Royal Caribbean's Chairman's Blog at Oasisoftheseas.com.

The second post, just put online, describes Fain's shipyard visit to inspect the Oasis, now 80% complete. He notes the consideration Finland has for shipyard workers, agreeing to shut down production when the temperature for the work environment hits -20 degrees fahrenheit.

Fain notes that one change he already wishes for oasis is to have built more loft suites. These two-story suites will have two full stories of glass walls to the outside. The living space is on the ground floor with the bedrooms upstairs.

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3-31-09 Disney Wonder to Relocate to Los Angeles The Walt Disney Co. says it plans to move one of its cruise ships, Disney Wonder, to Los Angeles as its new home port starting in 2011.

The move will be made when the first of two under-construction ships, the Dream and Fantasy, arrive at Port Canaveral, Fla. The current home port for both Disney ships and scheduled to be the new port for the new Disney ships cirrently under construction.

The switch announced Monday could create some 2,600 direct and indirect jobs in the Los Angeles area. The two-year deal between the port and Disney has a three-year renewal option. The Wonder could draw an estimated 250,000 customers to the Port of Los Angeles over five years.

The port hosted the Magic in the summers of 2005 and 2008 for tours of the Mexican Riviera. The upcoming itinerary has not yet been announced but it is liley to be similar to the one the Wonder ran before.

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3-31-09 Cruise Ship Worker Pleads Not Guilty CBS News, Los Angeles, is reporting that Monday, in court, the Princess Cruises waiter who has been charged with aggravated sexual assault denies that he sexually assaulted a female passenger on a recent trip at sea. A trial date was set and if convicted, Jorge Manuel Teixeira, 38 Teixeira - a Portuguese national, faces a potential life prison sentence. At a bail hearing earlier this month, Teixeira was deemed a flight risk and ordered held until trial. The alleged assault took place before midnight March 5 during a 14-day cruise between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles while the ship was off the coast of Mexico, according to court documents. Federal law allows for the prosecution of those accused of attacking U.S. citizens on the high seas. U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said that while the alleged attack took place in waters far from U.S. shores, federal authorities have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes on the high seas involving American citizens. The woman, a 42-year-old U.S. citizen whose name and hometown were not released, told officials she agreed to meet Teixeira in a dimly lit corner of a deserted dining room for late-night drinks, documents show. At some point, she said the headwaiter forced her to perform a sex act and attacked her, according to an FBI agent's 17-page affidavit. Teixeira, who has worked on cruise ships for 18 years, denied attacking the woman, but admitted that after meeting with her, he touched her leg and "another part" of her body as they left the table, the agent reported. This case is important for several reasons. It is one of the first high profile "rape" (actually aggravated sexual assault) cases ever to come to trial in the U.S. although the mechanisms to do so have been in place for years. In the past, the FBI has chosen not to prosecute cases where there were conflicting statements and insufficient evidence to prove otherwise. It is not yet known if there is evedence to support the claims of either side. Another reason it is important is because U.S. Congressional hearings on cruise ship crime and safety, redux 2009, are now being held in Washington DC, starting yesterday (the same day Texiera was indicted).

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3-27-09 NCL One Day Sale Today - Extended Through Friday! Save from $450 to $2,000 when you book an NCL cruise vacation today. Europe, Hawaii, Alaska or Bermuda are waiting for you. Book today at a price you can afford. For one day only, NCL is giving you this special offer. Savings based on select sailings.

  • 5- to 14-Day Europe: Insides were $799 NOW $349 per person
  • 7-Day Alaska: Insides were $1,329 NOW $379 per person
  • 7-Day Bermuda: Insides were $1,399 NOW $499 per person
  • 7-Day Hawai‘i: Insides were $2,879 NOW $599 per person

Time is running out on this amazing offer - Offer valid today only.

Call you Travel Agent or go to www.NCL.com

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3-25-09 Carnival Elation - New Itineraries to Cabo, New Look Just having completed several recent upgrades, Carnival Elation is now the ship to take for short cruises to Mexico from California. The ship is the only one operating year-round from San Diego, and now has all the Fantasy-class enhancements that had already been given to most of the Carnival ships leaving from the East Coast.

Built in the 1990s, the eight Fantasy-class ships are the smallest in the Carnival fleet, but a program to give them all modern upgrades has made these ships much more exciting. Now, Carnival Elation has added new four and five-day itineraries that also include stops in Cabo San Lucas. The onboard enhancements already make it a better choice for short Mexico cruises, and if you have the time, a stop in Cabo San Lucas also makes it much more interesting cruise.

The onboard enhancements include a new water-park area for the kids to enjoy, with a long, winding water slide and two side-by-side competitive water slides. An adults area called "Serenity" has been added to the back deck of Elation; a quiet teak deck with padded lounge chairs and a hot tub with no kids allowed.

Expanded food options include a New York-style Deli, a sushi bar, a Mongolian BarBQ and a new dessert station with free ice cream.

The ship now has shipwide wireless Internet access as well as an Internet café. There are also new resort-style amenities, including 12 lounges and bars, three restaurants and four swimming pools and a 12,000-square-foot health and fitness center.

On its new schedule, Carnival Elation will operate a year-round series of four- and five-day cruises for a two-week period followed by another two weeks of three- and four-day Baja departures.

Four- and Five-Day Cruises to Cabo San Lucas: Beginning July 2, 2009, Carnival Elation's four-day "long weekend" cruises will depart Thursdays and visit Cabo San Lucas. Two different five-day itineraries will also be offered. Five-day cruises departing Saturdays will feature the industry's only itinerary that includes two full days in Cabo San Lucas, providing guests with a unique opportunity to enjoy one of Mexico's most spectacular destinations. Five-day cruises departing Mondays will feature both Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada.

New Departure Days for Three- and Four-Day Cruises: The Carnival Elation's three- and four-day cruises which currently depart on Thursdays and Sundays, respectively, will be changed to Fridays (three-day cruises) and Mondays (four-day cruises) starting with the July 20, 2009, four-day departure. These new departure dates offer guests an even more convenient option on these popular short cruise itineraries from San Diego.

Carnival Pride, leaving from Long Beach, has not received the Fantasy-class upgrades yet.

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3-24-09 Carnival Corp. Earnings Beat Expectations Cruise ship operator Carnival beat analysts' quarterly profit expectations, reporting earnings of 33 cents a share Tuesday. Estimates were between 19 and 21 cents per share. The line warned that advance bookings for rest of 2009 were still behind last year's levels.

The world's largest cruise operator expects full-year earnings of between $2.10 and $2.30 per share, which matches analysts' expectations of $2.20 per share for the full year. But it expects full-year net revenue yields – revenue per available berths on a ship, a key measure for cruise ship performance – to fall between 10 and 12 percent.

Fiscal first-quarter earnings for the three months ended Feb. 28 came in at $2.9 billion, in line with expectations.

Carnival surpassed its own forecasts of first-quarter earnings of between 20 cents and 22 cents per share, and beat expectations from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters of 19 cents per share.

Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said in a press release the results were better than earlier guidance because of "lower-than-expected net cruise costs and stronger-than-expected net revenue yields on close-in bookings."

The Miami, Florida-based company said it has sixteen ships under construction, which are to be delivered through 2012 at a cost of $9 billion.

Carnival cancelled its dividend last October in an effort to conserve cash and is not expected to pay a dividend for the rest of 2009.

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3-23-09 American Safari Offers Discount on Two-Week Seattle-Juneau Cruise An onboard bonus day, an overnight and a live-jazz dinner cruise on Seattle's Lake Washington are among the exceptional offerings on American Safari Cruises' new 15-day, 14-night cruise from Seattle to Juneau through Alaska's Inside Passage. The May 14-29 sailing is aboard the company's flagship, the 145-foot, 36-guest luxury yacht Safari Explorer and at less than $500 a day per person, offers exceptional savings over regular-season rates.

The added day, May 14, enables guests from the East Coast to avoid the expense of a hotel in Seattle prior to departure and gives all guests the chance to settle in overnight before sailing north to Juneau. Those who want a shorter trip may join the cruise for a 10-day, nine-night segment from Ketchikan to Juneau May 20-29. Prices for the 15-day, 14 night cruise begin at $7,395 per person double occupancy; the 10-day, nine-night cruise cost begins at $5,395. A reverse itinerary is available Sept. 11-25, with the short segment Juneau to Ketchikan Sept. 11-20.

Travelers can save even more if they book a cruise before April 15 – that's the deadline for the $500 per-person saving as part of American Safari Cruises' "Even More Beautiful at 50" celebration of Alaska's half-century of statehood. Agents who book by the deadline will receive a $50 thank you and will be entered in a late-April drawing for a free Alaska cruise.

The two-week itinerary offers guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the legend, lore and wildlife of the famed Inside Passage. With a leisurely itinerary, the cruise touches on some of the most renowned Alaska sites, including two full days in Glacier Bay National Park, as well as out-of-the-way areas that few Alaska travelers see. Departing from Seattle, the cruise also includes visits to Washington state's San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands as it travels north along rugged Vancouver Island. Throughout the cruise, wildlife will be a focus – orca whales, humpbacks, seals and sea lions, dolphins, porpoise, and birds on their northward migration.

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3-17-09 Holland America - Entirely New Entertainment Concept for Small Ships Holland America will be presenting an entirely new entertainment concept to replace the standard productions shows on its five smallest Statendam-class ships. Gone will be the two "Vegas-style" production shows each 7-night cruise and "featured performers" the other nights of the week. In their place will be a cast of four "star" performers presenting four different shows, twice each night for each dinner seating.

Known as the "Showroom at Sea," the concept will be first introduced on the Veendam in May, 2009. The four voice repertory company will consist of seasoned Broadway performers comprised of cast members with credits such as Les Miserables and Rent on Broadway, National Tours of Mamma Mia and performances with the Tokyo Philharmonic.

The themed shows this cast will be presenting include "Street Singin'," "Encore," "Live from the Stardust Lounge," and "Bob Mackie's Broadway." The show material is created in partnership with Stiletto Entertainment, producers of Emmy award winning TV shows and concert tours.

The atmosphere of the main showroom will be changed from a proscenium style theater into a nigtclub, but the decor will actually change each night to reflect the club-style entertainment. The decor will extend beyond the stage to immerse the audience in a different theme each night. The room will take on a completely different look and feel each night, enhanced by new sound and lighting systems and state-of-the-art video projection systems. To fill out the mood, each night will also feature a different drink menu and table settings.

The four shows this cast of four will be presenting include a different combination of the repertory company and musicians performing each night. From four vocalists singing pop/rock on the street corner, to two classical vocalists backed by a lavish 14-piece orchestra, to an evening at a fictitious Vegas nightclub hosted by the resident comedian, each night reveals an exciting new production.

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3-17-09 Cunard Line Unveils Queen Elizabeth Details Cunard is releasing details on the next ship to get the distinguished name Queen Elizabeth. In fact, there has already been a Queen Elizabeth and a Queen Elizabeth 3 in the last century, but rather than call the new ship scheduled to debut in October 12, 2010, they chose to simply call it Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth is named after Cunard's first Queen Elizabeth, the famed Cunard ship which was launched in 1938 as the world's largest liner. Bookings Open for Sale on April 2.

The new ship will reference her predecessor in interior grandeur, décor and style, but with a modern twist. Queen Elizabeth will be the third new ocean liner to be introduced by Cunard in six years and the second largest Cunard ship ever built, after Queen Mary 2.

Queen Elizabeth will feature the same unique to Cunard traditions as Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria and also debut exciting new features to give the vessel her own style and personality.

Her exterior will boast the distinctive black and red livery that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. The ship's interior liner decor will feature elegant double and triple height public rooms on a grand scale, intricately detailed interiors replete with rich wood panelling, mosaics, gleaming chandeliers, and cool marbles. Art Deco features will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth, and will allow the new ship to reflect a more civilized era of travel. Through photography, memorabilia and exhibits, the ship will recognize the historic links Cunard has enjoyed with Royalty over the years.

In addition to the extensive Cunard entertainment programmes onboard, Queen Elizabeth will offer some unique strands inspired by the era of the first Queen Elizabeth, including country house parties, lively piano evenings and a variety of dancing from that time - including the jitterbug and jive - all within the setting of this 21st century ship.

As a successor to Queen Elizabeth 2, the ship will also reflect this great liner via artwork and memorabilia and will have its very own 'Yacht Club,' named after the lively aft lounge on QE2. Offering guests 270 degree views and the perfect setting for activities and gatherings during the day, it will also double as a dramatic evening venue for cocktails and dancing.

The ship's distinctive public spaces include:

  • Queens Room - a new take on the traditional Cunard ballroom, with artwork depicting views from royal palaces, and photography of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family, along with its 1000 square foot dance floor for Grand Balls and Tea Dances at sea.
  • Garden Lounge - with its magnificent vaulted glass ceiling creating a conservatory feel inspired by the glass houses of Kew Gardens, beneath where guests will enjoy Supper Clubs, and mix dining with dancing under the stars.
  • Games Deck - Named after the same deck on the original Queen Elizabeth, the Games Deck will offer paddle tennis, croquet and traditional British bowls. (Interestingly, the ship's home port of Southampton is home to the oldest surviving bowls green in the world, first used in 1299.)
  • Midships Bar - will pay homage to her namesake liner, the first Queen Elizabeth, with memorabilia displayed from that era.


The ship's dining venues include:

  • Queens Grill and Princess Grill - The ship will also feature the line's celebrated five-star Grills accommodation and dining, with its al fresco dining option on a private deck terrace - first introduced on Queen Victoria - beautiful restaurants, Grills Lounge and sunbathing deck.
  • The popular Britannia Club, having first debuted aboard Queen Mary 2, features a private dining room with single seating dining for those guests in the top Balcony staterooms.
  • Britannia Restaurant - Art Deco decorative flourishes create a dramatic backdrop for this two-tiered dining room featuring a sweeping staircase ideal for making a grand entrance.

Queen Elizabeth's Maiden Voyage Season

Queen Elizabeth's maiden 2010 season will consist of six voyages, calling on 32 distinct ports in 18 countries. Her Maiden Voyage will depart from Cunard's homeport of Southampton on 12 October 2010, en route to the Atlantic Isles. The 13-night voyage will call at Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Seville (Cadiz), Gran Canaria (Las Palmas), Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), La Palma (Santa Cruz de La Palma) and Madeira (Funchal). Fares start from $2,995 per person.

The ship will then embark on five celebratory inaugural voyages:

  • Mediterranean Premiere - A 14-day voyage departing Southampton on 25 October 2010 with maiden calls to Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples (for Capri and Pompeii), Cartagena and Gibraltar. Fares start from $2,795 per person.
  • Aegean Introduction - An 18-day voyage departing Southampton on 8 November 2010 calling on Malaga (for Granada), Malta (Valletta), Venice, Dubrovnik, Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Athens (Piraeus) and Alicante. Fares from $3,295 per person.
  • Gallic Debut - A five-day voyage departing Southampton on 26 November 2010 with maiden calls to Rotterdam (for Amsterdam), Brussels/Bruges (for Zeebrugge) and Cherbourg. Fares start from $1,195 per person.
  • Iberian Discovery - A 13-day voyage departing Southampton on 1 December 2010 with calls to Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Seville (Cadiz), Gran Canaria (Las Palmas), Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), La Palma (Santa Cruz de La Palma) and Madeira. Fares start from $2,395 per person.
  • Festive Debut - A 22-day holiday voyage departing Southampton on 14 December 2010 with calls in the Caribbean, including Madeira (Funchal), Tortola, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Azores Islands (Ponta Delgada). Fares start from $4,795 per person.

Reservations for Queen Elizabeth's maiden voyages and inaugural season will be open for booking on April 2. For more information and to book a voyage, consult your Travel Professional, call toll-free 1-800-7-CUNARD or go to www.cunard.com.

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3-17-09 NCL Boasts Booking Volume Up 15% Year to Year Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) saw its bookings rise 15 percent year over year through March 15, 2009. In addition, its new, launched in December, saw a 288% increase in group staterooms blocked compared to the same time last year.

The company credits its successful Freestyle Resolution Sales Event that ended on March 15. Norwegian recently launched its job loss protection plan, helping guests to book a stress-free future cruise despite uncertain economic times. They also credit strong travel agent programs including Partnership 2.0 and Groups 2.0 as factors that have contributed to these increases.

"Our cruises represent a tremendous value during these challenging economic times," said Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president of global sales and passenger services. "We are encouraged by this double-digit growth and we want to thank our travel partners for their assistance in showing today's wary consumers that they can still take an enjoyable and relaxing vacation on one of our 11 Freestyle Cruising ships and feel that they are getting great value for their money."

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3-17-09 Several Cruise Lines Agree - No Pay for Post. Gene Sloan on his CruiseLog web site for USA-Today quotes spokespeople for several cruise lines who say they will never participate in any viral marketing program were message board posters who are being compensated to post about a specific cruise line are not disclosing their relationship.

In today's column, Gene quotes spokespersons from Carnival, Holland America, Norweguan Cruise Lines, Princess and even Celebrity (sister company to Royal Caribbean) who all say they have nothing similar to the Royal Champions program now still working at Cruise Critic and other cruise web sites.

Gene's column quotes Celebrity spokesperson Elizabeth Jakeway as saying, "We don't have a viral marketing campaign like that of Royal, and we also do not have a viral marketing campaign on online message boards," says Celebrity spokesperson Elizabeth Jakeway. "We proactively solicit feedback from our guests via questionnaires both during and after their cruises -- and other surveys among our Captain's Club loyalty program members, of course, but purely for feedback/measurement/shaping our product and experience, not for viral marketing purposes."

Meanwhile, other cruise lines gave these statements:

Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord: "We do monitor the boards to see what's being talked about," says But there's "no rewards, no pretending."

Princess spokeswoman Julie Benson: "Any of our future efforts to engage in conversations with the cruise enthusiast community will only be done transparently," she says.

Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Courtney Recht: "We aren't doing anything like that. Everything we do is very transparent."

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3-17-09 Carnival Speaks Out Against Pay for Post Marketing Terri Thornton - senior vice president for marketing spoke this morning at the Seatrade Shipping Convention in Miami. He addressed many topics, including the new age of marketing, but in an obvious reference to the Royal Champions program, recently implemented at various cruise web sites other than CruiseMates, Terri Said;

"The new wave of social media - Facebook, Twitter, etc. - is here to stay and a very powerful medium, but if stories of cruise lines paying people to post positive stories about their brands on such media were true, it is unethical behavior which we would not want to copy."

Thornton also spoke to the recent pricing struggles by all cruise lines since the September 17th 2008 economic breakdown. He said that Carnival had to make internal changes to better manage bookings and save money. One implementation was to require all travel agents to book electronically instead of using the phone. Another change required guests to give up refundability in exchange for lower prices.

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3-17-09 Royal Caribbean and Universal Orlando Offer Package Deals Royal Caribbean International and Universal Orlando Resort are introducing the "Way More Than a Cruise" vacation package. Bookings for Way More Than a Cruise are open for travel starting March 31, 2009.

These land and sea vacation packages combine a three- or four-night stay at Universal Orlando Resort with a three- or four-night Bahamas cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, or a seven-night Caribbean cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas. This includes hotel and shipboard accommodations, multi-day passes to both Universal theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, complimentary admission to select live entertainment venues at Universal's CityWalk and ground transfers between airport, hotel, theme parks and the ship at Port Canaveral.

For the cruise portion of the vacation, guests will sail roundtrip to the Bahamas aboard Monarch of the Seas and call at Nassau, Bahamas, and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island paradise in the Bahamas.

The Hotel portion includes staying at one of three themed, AAA Four Diamond Award-winning on-site hotels: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Hard Rock Hotel. Guests enjoy a variety of special theme park privileges, including free Universal Express ride access - just by showing their valid hotel room key card, on-site hotel guests can bypass the regular ride and attraction lines. The on-site hotels are connected to the resort by a scenic waterway. Complimentary water taxis provide quick and convenient access to Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure and CityWalk. Additional Orlando area hotels located within minutes of Universal Orlando are also available.

Beginning in May, vacationers can choose a 10- or 11-night extended Universal Orlando Resort and Royal Caribbean vacation by combining a three- or four-night stay at Universal with a seven-night Eastern or Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas. The Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes three days at sea and call at St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and CocoCay. The Western Caribbean itinerary includes two days at sea and call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private beach paradise located on the north coast of Haiti.

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3-12-09 Update on Sexual Assault Arrest in Los Angeles We have received more details on the sexual assault arrest in Los Angeles on Monday as the result of a report made by a passenger. The cruise line immediately reported the allegations to the FBI as requested by the U.S. Congress. The FBI made the arrest of the cruise ship crewmember when the ship docked in Los Angeles.

According to MSN, Jorge Manuel Teixeira, 38, is accused of aggravated sexual assault, a federal offense that carries a potential life prison sentence. The 42-year-old victim, name and hometown not released, reported to ship officials and later to the FBI, that she had agreed to meet Teixeira in the ship's Bordeaux Dining Room where he worked as the head waiter.

The woman shared some wine with Teixeira at a back corner table, according to statements they both made to authorities. Once the wine was finished, Teixeira then assaulted the victim, according to the affidavit. In the FBI interview, Teixeira admitted touching the woman's leg and "another part of the female guest's body as they left the table," the affidavit said.

Following the incident, the woman described to a ship security officer being assaulted by "George from Portugal." On-board officers then collected evidence from the woman and Teixeira, secured the site where the alleged attack took place, and restricted the head waiter to his cabin until the ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles on Monday when special agents with the FBI boarded the vessel, interviewed the victim and Teixeira and arrested him.

U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien explained that while the alleged attack took place far from United States borders, federal authorities have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes on the high seas.

"The attack alleged in this case warrants a thorough and swift prosecution to vindicate the rights of the victim and to inform the world that crimes like this will not be tolerated," he said.

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3-12-09 MSC Poesia Offering a Eight Theme Cruises in Caribbean MSC Cruises is offering a lineup of eight theme cruises on MSC Poesia during the 2009-10 Caribbean season. Cruise-only rates begin at $549 per person, double occupancy (government fees and taxes additional) to make these theme cruises a special value.

MSC Poesia's 2009-10 Caribbean season review of theme cruise features:

Baseball Greats During the sailing, guests gain insight into the world of Major League Baseball as seen through the eyes of some of the greats of the game.

The Baseball Greats theme cruise includes free interactive guest/player activities, including a player-hosted trivia game in which guests can test their baseball knowledge, question-and-answer sessions with the players, a guest pitching contest and a lively story-telling session in which the players share some candid revelations about some of the "characters" of the game. Players will also host pitching, hitting, fielding and base running clinics.

Perhaps the most popular activity is the free autograph session at the end of the cruise.

The following itineraries will be Baseball Greats theme cruises:

  • Nov. 20, 2009: 10-night Southern Caribbean featuring Panama, calling at Willemstad, Curacao; Oranjestad, Aruba;; Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; and Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • Jan. 16, 2010: 7-night Western Caribbean, calling at Key West, Florida; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Nassau, Bahamas.
  • Feb. 6, 2010: 7-night Western Caribbean
  • March 6, 2010: 7-night Eastern Caribbean, calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philippsburg, St. Maarten; Road Town, Tortola; and Nassau, Bahamas
  • April 3, 2010: 7-night Eastern Caribbean

Special guests on these itineraries will be announced at a later date.

Big Band The 15-piece Les DeMerle Big Band, with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, will be featured on two MSC Poesia sailings. Dynamic drummer Les DeMerle has toured and recorded with the Harry James Big Band and Wayne Newton; the band has also accompanied many top singers, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., The Manhattan Transfer, Mel Torme and Al Jarreau.

The Les DeMerle Big Band is sure to have toes tapping, bodies swaying and guests singing along to the sounds of Ellington, Basie, James and Miller, plus the biggest Broadway hits, rock 'n' roll classics, hot Latin grooves and show-stoppers from the '40s through today. In addition to their performances, the band will present a Big Band Jazz Concert and conduct a lecture on the Big Band Era.

The following itineraries will feature the Big Band theme:

  • Dec. 10, 2009: 10-night Caribbean featuring Panama, calling at Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; and Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • Feb. 27, 2010 - 7-night Western Caribbean

Polka Time MSC Poesia will host a Polka Cruise on its Jan. 9, 2010 7-night Eastern Caribbean sailing.

Two well-known polka bands will keep guests dancing and swaying:

  • John Stevens Double Shot is a popular Pennsylvania-based group that plays its contemporary polka rhythms at numerous festivals throughout the country. The group's most popular songs are "Everyone's Having Fun," "Gonna Have a Party," and "Back to the Sea."
  • Joe Stanky and the Cadets have been performing classic polka sounds for more than 25 years. The group also features a range of styles, including honky, country, Slovenian and both English and Polish vocals. The group's newest CD is "Sing Me Back Home."

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3-12-09 Carnival to Sail from Seattle to Alaska in 2010 Season For the first time ever, Carnival Cruise Lines will operate a schedule of seven-day Alaska cruises round-trip from Seattle beginning in May 2010. In total, 17 week-long Alaska cruises will operate from the Port of Seattle from May 11 to Aug. 31, 2010 departing Tuesdays aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit.

Port calls on these voyages include kagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, as well as Victoria Island, British Columbia, and cruising Tracy Arm Fjord.

The Carnival Spirit also features an on-board naturalist who educates guests on the region's colorful history and points out animal and marine life from the ship's bridge. A wide range of shore excursions - from helicopter flightseeing and rainforest canopy tours to hiking, canoeing and kayaking expeditions - are also available.

"Seattle is a terrific addition to Carnival's industry-leading number of North American departure points. It will provide our guests with a convenient and affordable air transportation option, as well as the opportunity for those in the Western region of the U.S. to drive to Seattle," said Lynn Torrent, Carnival's senior vice president of sales and guest services.

Prior to the start-up of the new program, Carnival Spirit will operate two special voyages - a six-day Inside Passage voyage from Vancouver to Seattle departing May 5, 2010 and a seven-day Glacier Bay cruise from Seattle to Vancouver Sept. 7, 2010. Both voyages include a cruise through the Inside Passage along with port calls at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan; and the seven-day cruise also includes a day of cruising in spectacular Glacier Bay.

Carnival Spirit offers 80 percent of staterooms featuring an ocean view or balcony - perfect for viewing the passing scenery, a 14,500-square-foot health and wellness center and 16 themed lounges, bars and nightspots.

Dining venues include the two-level Empire Restaurant with specially prepared "Just For Alaska" menu items featuring local fish, game and other ingredients, as well as the La Playa Grille, a casual eatery featuring a 24-hour pizzeria, and the Nouveau Supper Club, an intimate reservations-only restaurant offering prime steaks and other gourmet cuisine.

Kids sailing on Carnival Spirit can enjoy three different children's programs - Camp Carnival for ages 2-11, Circle "C" for ages 12 to 14, and Club O2 for 15- to 17-year-olds - with facilities and counselors dedicated to each group. Many activities in these programs feature fun, educational activities with an Alaska theme.

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3-11-09 Disney Names The Company's Two New Cruise Ships The Walt Disney Company announced the names of the company's two new cruise ships today at the 2009 Annual Meeting of Shareholders "Last week, steel cutting began on our next two Disney cruise ships. Today I'm pleased to announce their names," said Robert A. Iger, Disney president and CEO. "The Disney Dream will set sail in 2011, while the Disney Fantasy will hit the high seas in 2012."

Similar to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the names were chosen to celebrate Disney's unique heritage of creating enchanting places and stories where dreams really do come true, says the company press release.

Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations said, "Disney is known for making dreams come true, and for creating worlds of fantasy that go beyond the imagination. The names are a natural choice for our ships."

Disney Cruise Line began construction on the new ships with a steel cutting ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany last week. The first piece of steel cut was part of the art deco inspired scrollwork that will grace the bow of the ships. Similar to the scrollwork on the existing Disney Cruise Line ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the intricate pattern is reminiscent of the classic ocean liners of the 1930s, with added touches of Disney whimsy.

Since finalizing a contract with the Meyer Werft shipyard to build the two new ships, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering have finalaized a distinctive design.

The Disney Dream is scheduled for delivery in 2011 and the Disney Fantasy in 2012. The new ships will be purpose built with families in mind, and specially designed areas and activities to allow for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to provide a setting where families can reconnect, adults can recharge and kids can immerse themselves in the Disney world.

The expansion will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms and will each be 128,000 tons.

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3-10-09 Peter Greenberg to Explore Cruise Business in Depth for CNBC (Video) Peter Greenberg, the resident travel expert for the NBC family of television, radio and online media, is scheduled to present an in-depth report on the state of the cruise industry for financial news network CNBC. The show, "Cruise Inc: Big Money on the High Seas," will be one of the first in-depth looks into the way cruise lines make money.

Peter did a similar exposé on the airline industry called "Inside American Airlines: A Week in the Life," that was very revealing from a financial perspective. We expect no less from the cruise report scheduled to air March 24 at 9:00 EDT.

A clip from the show is below. It shows the NCL Spirit going through a $16,000,000, 21-day dry-dock upgrade in Mobile, Alabama. The ship's officers make comments on the sophistication and high expectations of today's cruisers. They note that the experienced cruisers of today have very high expectations for the state of a ship; from fresh carpet and paint to service, food and entertainment options.

For a CNBC bio of Peter Greenberg go here: Peter Greenberg, Cruises Inc. Big Money on the High Seas.

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3-10-09 Free Airfare to Europe for MSC Cruises Yachtclub Guests MSC Cruises is offering US and Canadian guests free roundtrip flights from designated gateway cities when they book MSC Yacht Club accommodations by April 30, 2009. This offer is for select 7-night Mediterranean sailings of MSC Fantasia or MSC Splendida.

MSC Yacht Club is an exclusive set of private suites and luxury facilities introduced on the line's new flagship, MSC Fantasia, and sister-ship MSC Splendida, which debuts this summer. The 88 MSC Yacht Club suites are located on the upper foredecks, offering guests expanded views from their private balconies or full-height panoramic windows.

MSC describes these suites as "designed and furnished to the highest standards." The MSC Yacht Club suites boast marble bathrooms, double or single beds with ergonomic mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets and a choice of pillows. All suites also include sophisticated climate control, Samsung interactive TV, Wi-Fi Internet access and Nintendo Wii consoles. Two of the Deluxe Suites are fully equipped for people with disabilities.

Each suite is served by a highly trained butler, offering the morning paper, room and valet services, priority bookings for shore excursions, spa packages, front-row seats for evening performances at the ship's spectacular theater, restaurant reservations and private shopping visits. MSC Yacht Club guests also enjoy their own Concierge service, private swimming pool, bar and lounge and library as well as special access to the superb Aurea Spa center.

MSC Yacht Club also offers private dining within MSC Fantasia's immensely varied restaurants, either through 24-hour room service or in the Yacht Club's own Top Sail Lounge, where a traditional English afternoon tea is also served daily, as well as complimentary beverages in the MSC Yacht Club area.

The MSC Yacht Club Free Air promoton is available on flights from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Miami, JFK, Newark, Tampa and Orlando. Rates (including cruise, air, air taxes and airport transfers) on select sailings begin at $3,870 per person, double occupancy for select 7-night Europe 2009 sailings; government fees and taxes are additional.

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3-10-09 Man Arrested for Sexual Assault on Panama Canal Cruise Los Angeles-based news media are reporting that the FBI is investigating reports of a sexual assault onboard the Coral Princess, just returned from a 14-day cruise through the Panama Canal. a cruise ship. A passenger accused a crewmember of sexual assault while the ship was at sea. On Monday, federal agents boarded the ocean liner docked in San Pedro, and arrested the man.

The man who was arrested was later identified as 38-year-old Jorge Manuel Teixeira of Portugal. He is due in federal court in Los Angeles Tuesday. The FBI has jurisdiction for all crimes involving US citizens on all cruise ships that dock in U.S. ports.

Princess Cruises said the scene of the alleged assault was sealed off and Teixeira was restricted to his quarters. A criminal complaint has been filed and an FBI spokeswoman told The Associated Press that Teixeira is expected to be formally charged in federal court on Tuesday.

CruiseMates is very pleased to see the the process for cruise lines reporting a crime at sea working as it was designed to work; with an arrest by the FBI once the ship docks at a US port. There is a misconception that cruise ships do not have a legal jurisdiction, but in fact the U.S. Federal government does have jurisdiction through federal maritime courts. The FBI is the legal entity given investigation and arrest powers for crimes on reported on cruise ships for US citizens.

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3-7-09 MSC Fantasia Breaks Ropes, Gangway Falls, Passenger Rescued A passenger on MSC cruise ship Fantasia was rescued from the water after a gangway collapsed due to strong winds at Palma de Majorca. Strong winds had caused three pier side mooring bits to come loose and the ship moved away from the quay, leaving the gangway to collapse.

Am 80-year old Egyptian man had been on the gangway at the time it fell into the water. he was injured when he hit his head on the side of the ship. He man was rescued from the water immediately by four crew and taken to hospital, where he is now recovering.

As soon as the ship broke loose the captain took control of the ship to make sure it did not crush the man or hamper the efforts of people rescuing him. He moved it to a different port. An MSC Cruises spokeswoman says the cruise line has lodged an official complaint with the port authority.

It was originally reported that four people had fallen into the water, but that was not accurate.

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3-4-09 CruiseMates Says: Book Your Summer Cruise Now for Best Prices CruiseMates is making its own news today by saying right now is the best possible time to book your summer cruise due to a conluence of factors. How long these prime conditions will last we cannot predict, but we do not see conditions getting any better.

We have been telling you about the great cruise values out there already, especially in Alaska and Europe - but right now the additional components to buying a cruise are also reaching the sweet spots of pricing. One of these is the airfare to get yourself to the cruise.

The people who make a living watching airfare closely are now telling us this summer will bring cheaper flights than 2008 by a significant amount. Cruises have already been at discount rates for awhile now because the demand only started to pick up last week. But now that airfare is already selling at 20% to 30% discount rates over 2008 those cruise sales have already started to pick up.

In fact, Carnival Cruise Lines announced its most active week of booking cruises ever for the week ending February and starting March, 2009. It is helpful to understand that cruiselines tend to discount farther out and sell their best cabins at the best prices several months before the cruise sails. Ideally, you want to buy your cruise early for the best cabin selection and usually the best prices. But with the airlines, a seat is a seat (for the most part) and the only factor when it comes to buying an air ticket is price. Since air fares just dropped, this is the sweet spot for buying your air and your summer cruise.

The airline summer fare sales started on Southwest and AirTran, but most of the majors soon followed suit. This first week of March all of the major airlines announced airfare sales good for travel now through November 2009 - including the peak summer season. There are some restrictions, as always, such as no travel on Friday or Sundays. But sample fares include U.S. to Dublin from $599 RT, and LAX to Sydney Australia for $799 RT.

So, the best cruise cabin selections and lowest cruise prices are currently available. As those sell out the best cabins will be gone and if demand stays high prices will go higher. Airfare is currently on sale, but those cheap fares are limited, once they are sold you have missed the opportunity. Europe is also a special bargain this year because of the strength of the dollar. The current exchange rate is about $1.25 to one Euro, far better than it has been the previous four summers - and this may not last into 2010. Even hotels are at a discount, and most people plan to spend some extra time in the departure city when they cruise in Europe.

Associated articles: Book that European Cruise Now and Airfare at Record Lows.

The only caveat to this is that sometimes last minute deals pop up that are even cheaper than what we are seeing now. However, last minute deals usually are for the least desirable staterooms on a cruise ship, and the number of airline seats available will be far more limited. The chances of you getting the cruise, sail date and airfare for the dates you need will likely be far lower at the last minute than they are right now.

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3-1-09 Celebrity Opens Celebrity Eclipse Bookings for Loyalty Members Celebrity Cruises today opened an early booking window for its loyalty program members to be the first to book cruises on sister ship Celebrity Eclipse, which will set sail for the first time in April 2010.

Celebrity wishes to reward frequent cruisers with the opportunity to have the best selection of staterooms. Members of its loyalty program, "Captain's Club," can take advantage of an exclusive booking window through March 9. Sailings on the currently-under-construction vessel will open to the general public on March 10.

Interested members of Celebrity's Captain's Club can contact their travel agent or call the dedicated Captain's Club desk at 1-800-670-0654.

When Celebrity Eclipse sets sail next year, she will sail in Europe, then transition to the Caribbean for winter 2010-11. Guests on every Celebrity Eclipse sailing will experience the series of brand-defining, industry-first attributes that guests, travel agents and press have praised about Celebrity Solstice, including a half-acre Lawn Club with real grass, a glassblowing show and studio developed with The Corning Museum of Glass, unrivaled dining venues offering trendsetting cuisine and design, and widely varied entertainment, including spectacular new shows in partnership with Poet Theatricals. The 2,850-guest vessel also will have spacious staterooms and bathrooms, and several categories of accommodations, including Celebrity's new, spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms.

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3-1-09 New NCL Megaship, NCL Epic, Profile Revealed Norwegian Cruise Line today unveiled the first images of its new 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, the company's largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date. Currently under construction at STX Europe in St. Nazaire, France, the contemporary, balcony-rich, 19-deck ship will be 1,068 feet long, 133 feet wide, with a draft of 28.5 feet when completed in May 2010.

NCL will open Norwegian Epic's sailings for group block bookings exclusively for travel partners later this month. Cruises are scheduled to go on sale to the public this spring.

NCL plans to unveil additional details about Norwegian Epic, including the line's signature hull artwork, in the coming months.

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3-3-09 Carnival Logs Highest Number of Bookings in History Despite the challenging economy, Carnival Cruise Lines is reporting strong booking volumes. For the one-week period ended March 1, 2009, Carnival recorded the highest number of net weekly bookings in its history. Additionally, on a cumulative basis since mid-January, net bookings are up 10 percent compared to the same period in 2008, although pricing is at lower levels.

Wave season typically runs from about mid-January through early spring and is traditionally the busiest, most important booking period in the cruise industry. Last week's record reservations activity encompassed all of the line's 22-vessel fleet, which depart from a variety of convenient, drive-to homeports throughout the U.S.

Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO, attributed the increase in bookings to the line's travel agent partners as well as aggressive marketing efforts. Among the marketing channels being utilized are broadcast, e-mail and on-line, along with targeted sales promotions, including a one-day sale.

"This record booking activity, while at lower pricing, is certainly encouraging. It tells us that despite the uncertain economic climate, consumers clearly need more fun in their lives and view their vacations as a valuable and necessary part of that," Cahill said. "And Carnival's unmatched combination of quality, affordability and fun along with multiple close-to-home departure points and the greatest choice of short cruise options in the industry, make a 'Fun Ship' cruise the ideal getaway for today's consumers," he added.

Carnival is the largest and most popular cruise line in the world, with 22 "Fun Ships" operating voyages ranging from three to 18 days in length to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Canada, New England, Europe, and Bermuda. The line currently has two new ships scheduled for delivery between now and 2011. The first of those, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, is set to debut Sept. 21, 2009.

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3-3-09 Disney Starts Building Two New Cruise Ships Disney Cruise Line announced on Monday, March 2, that construction has started in Germany on two new ships currently scheduled to sail out of Port Canaveral, FL. Disney already has a fleet of two cruise ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, both of which also sail out of Port Canaveral, although the line does relocated the ships occasionally.

The 128,000 gross ton ships, just started at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, are scheduled to arrive in Florida in 2011 and 2012. Each will have 1,250 staterooms and carry up to 4,000 passengers, about 1,300 more than the existing ships. The new ships were part of a deal announced last year between Disney and Port Canaveral that will have the cruise line sailing from Brevard County for the next 15 years.

Port Canaveral officials are spending up to $10 million to build Disney a 1,000-space parking garage. The port will borrow an additional $22 million to finance upgrades to Disney's custom terminal. The construction work must be complete by Oct. 1, 2010. Port Canaveral was chosen due to its proximity to Disney World in Orlando, about 60 miles away.

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3-2-09 Carnival UK Reports "Whopping" Rise in Sales British Cruise Site, Virgin Holiday Cruises, the tragency arm of Richard Branson's Virgin Airways, is blogging in it "fresh view on cruising blog" that the European section of the Carnival Cruises Corp. is reporting a "whopping" rise in cruise sales in the U.K. for this coming summer based on a consumer poll.

A YouGov poll of more than 2,100 people for Carnival UK found that even during the economic downturn, 78% of 45-54 year olds aim to spend as much if not more on their holiday this year. Nearly a third plan to spend more, while less than one in four (22%) expect to spend less, the research found.

The cruise lines involved in the poll include P&O Cruises, Cunard Line, Ocean Village and Princess Cruises. In summary, it says that as a result of cruise prices being cut by 5% to 10%. and the early release of special offers, booking levels were up by as much as 30 per cent year-on-year depending on the brand. This is for traditional wave season of January through March.

"While there will be an additional seven per cent growth in 2010 with the introduction of P&O Cruises' new vessel Azura for the summer, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth at the end of year and a new Solstice-class vessel from Celebrity Cruises, this comes against average annual UK industry growth of 12%," the blog notes.

Sales of Cunard Line are currently up by 50%, for example, and overall capacity across the group for 2009 is already 85% sold, for example. Reasons cited for the success of cruising in Europe include the inclusive nature of cruises coupled with keen pricing such an almost unheard of before sale by Cunard comes at a time when tour operators have cut 2009 capacity by 16 per cent and raised prices by ten per cent.

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