Cruise News - May 2009

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5-28-09 Will Cruise Lines Reinstate Fuel Surcharges? There seems to be buzz with the other cruise media that cruise lines are considering reinstating fuel surcharges.

The cruise lines originally started charging fuel surcharges back in November of 2007 and said the fuel surcharges would remain until the price of oil dropped to $70 per barrel. The rules for taking the surcharges away said the price of oil had to trade below $70/barrel for 30 continuous days. Within the next 50 days the price of oil went over $70 for one day, but that set the date back for revoking the fuel surcharges by about 21 days.

Now that oil is creeping back up to $65/barrel my cruise press colleagues are asking if fuel surcharges will suddenly reappear. The answer is NO. Not just because oil hits $70 anyway.

In fact, the day most cruise lines invoked the fuel surcharges back in 2007 the price of oil was well over $100/barrel and had been rising daily for months. That is not what is happening now. Now we are seeing oil prices fluctuate in the low $60s/barrel.

When Carnival and other cruise lines invoked these surcharges they said the charges would be applicable to any cruise sailing on February 8th or later. They asked the travel agents to collect the fuel surcharges, even from cruisers who had already made their fnal payments. The result was several official complaints to the Florida Attorney General who said the cruise lines had to give several millions of dollars in surcharges BACK to people who had paid them after already agreeing to and paying a final price. In other words, it was a public relations disaster.

The travel agents didn't like it one bit either - since they were put in the uncomfortable position of having to ask the customers to cough up the extra dough. All in all, putting on fuel surcharges was a strategic blunder by the cruise lines as far as customer and sales channel (travel agent) relations were concerned. It would not be a welcome development by anyone right now.

Another thing was very different back then - which we had no inkling about at the time, we were about to enter a severe recession with extremely low consumer confidence that still shows no real signs of recovery other than some Wall Street speculation which could evaporate in a heartbeat.

So, the answer, in the humble opinion of this editor, Paul Motter, is that the pricing and economic environment of selling cruises right now is far too delicate for the cruise lines to even think about invoking fuel surcharges. That could change, but only if oil coninues to rise far above $70/barrel, which is not likely at all, and it remains there for a long period of time.

In other words, don't get your pants in a knot about fuel surcharges yet. It isn't even close to happening.

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5-28-09 Swine Flu Affecting Cruises Down Under The Southern Hemisphere is just about to transition from autumn to winter - the traditional start of flu season. Here in North America the H1N1 virus appears to be almost a lost concern as warmer weather is damping the spread of all flu viruses. But Australia has just instigated new rules that say all cruise ships must be inspected for H1N1 virus and cleared before passengers can even leave the ship.

It isn't so much that the virus appears to be hopelessly out of control or deadly down under. But they have now had some 20 cases where cruise ships coming into Sydney had sufferers of H1N1 onboard. Health officials do not want to take any chances that this will help the virus to spread, so effective immediately, all cruise ships docking in Sydney are considered potential swine flu sites and passengers are to be held on board until the ship is cleared.

One cruise ship, the Pacific Dawn of P&O Cruises, docked in Sidney on Tuesday and passengers were held onboard until about 6:00 pm. This was due to a report that two crewmembers had suffered flu symptoms during the cruise, although they were well by the time the ship arrived. The problem, however, is that health officials were not sure how many passengers may have also been infected but either were not documented as being sick or were not yet displaying any symptoms.

The Australian health department asked these disembarking passengers to self-quarantine themselves for at least 24 hours. Meanwhile tests came back that the two crewmembers had indeed had H1N1 virus. Subsequent tests of the passengers who had been onboard showed that 20 of the 2000 tested positive for H1N1.

It doesn't hurt to take note that the flu symptoms appear to be very small, hardly dangerous at all. One man remarked that his only lasted for one day and that he had suffered paper cuts that were worse. Most of the people tested were not sick enough to have been noticed as carrying the virus without the follow-up testing.

In any case, the ship was allowed to leave with a new set of passengers and is currently off the coast of Queensland. Unfortunately, it is now known that three crewmembers currently on the ship have the H1N1 virus. As a result, Australian officials have ordered that the ship must remain at sea until further notice. Two passengers exhibiting symptoms were tested but found not to have the same flu virus.

It is important to note that while these signs that the virus is still alive are of concern, the actual symptoms and mortality of this flu virus are not nearly as bad as it was originally feared. Worldwide there have now been just 100 deaths in total from this virus since it was first identified. It has been noted that statistically there are 100 deaths from all flu viruses in the United States every day.

The important concern is whether or not the virus could become more virulent in the future as it mutates. Another concern is that it tends to afflict young adults more severely then the usual flu victims, the elderly and young infants.

It will be important to watch the Southern Hemisphere as the flu season is now just starting to reach its full impact. Still, it is widely hoped and believed that a vaccine for the virus can be found and manufactured is sufficient quantities before the flu season returns to North America.

Under the new protocol for arriving cruise ships to New South Wales, the government will treat flu-like symptoms on such vessels as swine flu, pending tests to clear any infected people.

Carnival Corp. said it is introducing measures to reduce risks, including screening passengers for flu before boarding and asking people with flu-like symptoms to report immediately to the ship's medical center, where passengers will receive free treatment.

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5-28-09 Princess Creates Movie Clubs by Leonard Maltin Fleetwide Princess Cruises is creating an all new activity for cruisers onboard its ships, a "movie club" well-designed by famous film critic Leonard Maltin. The club will feature a different recent movie each month and a get-together for film buffs to discuss the film. The meeting will be guided by questions and trivia materials supplied by Leonard Maltin.

The Leonard Maltin Movie Club is being created to celebrate the five-year anniversary of Princess Cruises Movies Under the Stars, the large outdoor viewing screens Princess uses to run movies outside at night. With this program, Princess will showcase a new film chosen by Mr. Maltin each month which passengers can on Movies Under the Stars, in the Princess Theater or on the new Leonard Maltin Movie Channel available in staterooms.

Soon, films will be announced on Princess.com prior to the sailing, so passengers will know what Movie Club selection will be presented on their cruise. Upcoming films include titles such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Wrestler."

"For many people in this country, there's no more recognizable movie expert than Leonard Maltin," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "Given the popularity of Movies Under the Stars, we know our passengers love watching films, so it's a great opportunity to enhance the experience by featuring Mr. Maltin's expertise with this new movie club and dedicated movie channel."

As part of this new relationship with Princess, Leonard Maltin himself will be traveling aboard a Princess ship to share his movie insights with passengers in a series of onboard presentations, and to host the Movie Club. Mr. Maltin's sailing will be announced at a later date.

Leonard Maltin is one of the country's most recognized and respected film critics and historians best known as the resident film buff on the popular syndicated program "Entertainment Tonight," where he has appeared since 1982. His annual paperback "Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide" established his reputation first published when he was only 18. He has also published numerous other books and articles, and teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Movies Under the Stars poolside screens have been a signature feature on Princess ships since first debuting on Caribbean Princess in 2004. They are now featured on Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess, Golden Princess and Sea Princess. The giant LED screens are more than 300 square feet in size with 69,000-watt sound systems and sufficient lighting power to be seen clearly at mid-day and heard even while the ship is moving at full speed – offering cruise passengers a movie experience comparable to the best shoreside movie theater. Other special programs presented on the giant screens include sporting events such as the Super Bowl, the college football Bowl Championship Series, video game contests with Nintendo's Wii, a variety of concert events with artists such as Christina Aguilera and Matchbox Twenty, and even midnight showings of cult films such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

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5-27-09 Update, Missing Teen Jumped From Cruise Ship On Monday we got news of an 18 year old recent high school graduate who had "fallen" from Carnival Fantasy about 150 miles south of Tampa. The Coast Guard searched the Gulf of Mexico by boat and from the air for two days, ending Tuesday night.

Now, according to a local news report from WAFB in New Orleans, we know that Bruce O'Klepki actually jumped from the ship, according to several eyewitnesses. At CruiseMates we reported that we suspected this was the case earlier, but we did not see it in the mainstream media until just about an hour ago.

Eyewitnesses said that Bruce had a girlfriend who had just broken up with him. He was reportedly overheard saying that he planned on jumping several times during the day. His family only asked for "privacy" in the matter, which the media gladly obliged because it allowed them to go with the far more exciting "boy falls from cruise ship" angle than the sadder "young man jumps from ship."

Whether Bruce was trying to commit suicide or just showing off will never be known as the search has now been called off. He intended on attending college next year, and he was a track and field star at his high school. Sadly, we believe some people think jumping from a ship is a doable stunt, but unfortunately it is not as easy or as risk-free as it looks.

The Coast Guard said Bruce O'Krepki went over the rails of the Carnival Fantasy on Sunday night about 150 miles southwest of Tampa, but literally hundreds of news reports said the teen "fell" from the cruise ship.

People do not fall over the rails of cruise ships, it has never happened. Not long ago another story came out that was similar to this one in tone, but it turned out the victim was a photographer who had placed himself on a structure higher than the railing and close to the edge. A large wave rocked the ship and he lost his balance and fell over. That is the closest this induatry has ever come to an accidental "falling" from a cruise ship. No one, ever, who remained within the easily identifiable safety railings has ever accidentally fallen from a cruise ship. It simply does not happen.

The problem with the words "fell" and "went over the rails" is that it sounds like there is an inherent design flaw in cruise ships, and that is not true. You have to work really hard to get over the rails of a cruise ship, and that is what we believe happened in this case.

In searching the multitude of articles online we saw one where a person who had been on the ship left a comment that the boy had intentionally climbed over the rails and "jumped." His girlfriend had just broken up with him and he had told many people he was going to jump, according to the message. This is NOT a confirmed and it could be wrong, but I have the feeling it is right because it is the only explanation that makes sense.

Why? Because the parents, who were onboard as chaperones, did not want to talk about it. No crime scene was sealed and there was no notice that the FBI was going to come aboard and investigate. If the boy had "fallen" from the ship all of those things would be pending, but the only thing the parents asked for was that the media respect their privacy.

That would be fine, if the news reports had been accurate, but when it appears they are letting the cruise line take the blame in the media for something that was not the cruise ship's fault, then it isn't right. The cruise industry deserves more accuracy from the media.

Bruce O'Krepki was one of 65 seniors who graduated, with honors, from St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond, La., on May 9, where he ran track and played soccer. He was with about 30 classmates and members of their families on the ship. His uncle Rick O'Krepki said the teen's parents were among the chaperones. He planned to attend Louisiana State University on an academic scholarship, his uncle said.

"We hope people are keeping Bruce in their thoughts and prayers," Rick O'Krepki said.

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5-27-09 Suzanne Somers to Welcome MSC Poesia to North America MSC Cruises announced today that television star, best-selling author and entrepreneur Suzanne Somers will welcome the MSC Poesia to North America when the ship arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on November 10, 2009 for its inaugural Caribbean season.

During a unique Welcoming Ceremony, Somers will present a special plaque to MSC Cruises (USA) President and CEO, Richard Sasso, and the Master of the MSC Poesia commemorating the special day. The plaque, inscribed "On behalf of the diverse inhabitants of the New World, I wish the MSC Poesia and all who sail with her safe passage and fair seas on the occasion of her inaugural visit to our shores... Suzanne Somers" will be displayed in the lobby of the MSC Poesia during her Caribbean sailings.

Somers will also offer a champagne toast to the MSC Poesia, her crew and MSC Cruises before she sails on the ship's inaugural five-night Caribbean cruise.

"The introduction of the MSC Poesia to our Caribbean cruise programs is an important milestone in MSC's continued commitment to the U.S. market," said Sasso. "Suzanne Somers is an iconic figure who captures the 'American Spirit', and we are delighted to have her act as an official ambassador welcoming MSC Poesia."

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5-27-09 Carnival Dream Entertainment Concept Revealed When Carnival Dream debuts on September 21, 2009 it will be Carnival's newest and largest "Fun Ship" ever. The 130,000-ton beauty will combine recent technological advancements and the incredible imagination of the line's entertainment team, to create what Carnival says are the most spectacular shows at sea - raising the bar on shipboard entertainment.

Three new production revues will feature elaborate sets and costumes, state-of-the-art video technology and sophisticated special effects. But there is more. Carnival Dream will also offer alternative entertainment choices from solo singers, comedians and live bands to "Fun Force," the line's new high-energy acrobatic team, which will perform in different areas throughout the ship.

"The increased size of the Carnival Dream provides us with an expansive canvas to create some truly unique and innovative entertainment options that are sure to leave audiences amazed," said Roger Blum, Carnival's vice president of cruise programming who serves as producer for the line's shows. "'Fun Ship' cruising is all about creating a lifetime of wonderful memories for our guests and we can't wait to show off the wide range of captivating shows and other forms of entertainment aboard this spectacular ship," he added.

Carnival describes the first production show, titled "Dancin' in the Street," as a dramatic departure for the line, combining a gritty, urban feel with the latest in special effects, including neon lighting and video projection technology, to create "a truly spectacular and memorable show."

"Dancin' in the Street" makes maximum use of the Carnival Dream's entertainment cast - particularly the "Fun Force" team which takes center stage in the show with break-dancing numbers, acrobatic Chinese pole routines and even a high-flying trampoline segment "to leave audiences breathless."

The show features realistic sets with city scenes - exposed brick walls, street lights, and more - along with recognizable songs that run the gamut from pop and R&B to hip-hop and hard rock.

The second show, "Get Ready," takes a musical look at various professions through a variety of styles and genres. Classic tunes of the Motown era to recognizable R&B hits and songs from some of the greatest vocal artists of all time inspire elaborate production numbers themed to different occupations.

Like the name implies, the third show, "Xtreme Country," is a salute to country and western music with a Carnival twist. The show opens, appropriately enough, with a visit to a rodeo with singers and dancers donning 10-gallon hats for a clap-along line-dancing number, followed by a stop at a ranch and a raucous saloon, with authentic western-themed sets and costumes. The show culminates in a memorable finale showcasing the U.S.'s familiar red, white and blue, ending with a magnificent fireworks flash.

In addition to these three lavish revues, Carnival Dream will offer a diversity of entertainment venues to suit every mood or taste. These include the new Ocean Plaza which will not only offer a unique venue place for guests to relax and unwind but will also feature a wide variety of different entertainment options that will vary throughout the day and night.

Also offered on the Carnival Dream will be the line's legendary comedy revues with hilarious comedians who have appeared on network talk shows and comedy clubs across the country. Carnival Dream will also feature Carnival's Seaside Theatre, a massive LED screen on Lido Deck that will display movies, concerts, sporting events and other programming.

Other options include solo singers along the Dream Street promenade, a dedicated karaoke lounge, rollicking sing-a-longs in Sam's piano bar, steel drum and Calypso bands on Lido Deck and live bands playing everything from rock to country to disco.

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, 2009, then reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., for a special one-time nine-day Caribbean cruise departing Dec. 3, 2009. Carnival Dream will then launch year-round seven-day service from Port Canaveral, Dec. 12, 2009, offering weeklong voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Dream's various European and Caribbean departures.

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5-24-09 Sydney Australia Holds Ship Over H1N1 Concerns The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the local Australian health officials with concerns over "swine flu" held up clearing Dawn Princess for about four hours yesterday in Sydney harbor, keeping about 4000 crew and passengers onboard and preventing the next set of passengers from joining the ship for their cruise about to start. Furthermore, the health officials decided to sequester disembarking guests in their homes or hotels for about 24 hours while tests were conducted on the people presenting the flu symptoms.

Several people missed plane flights and incurred unnecessary expenses while the tests were sent to the public health offices. Finally, after 24 hours word came back that the flu was not even of the H1N1 (swine flu) variety and all passengers were cleared to go on with their lives.

The debacle started when health cards for the previous cruise, which had been to Hawaii, showed that four people onboard had displayed flu symptoms during the course of the previous cruise, even though they had already fully recovered as many as 10 days before the ship arrived in Sydney.

Adding to the drama but having absolutely nothing to do with the flu was the fact that the body of one passenger was removed from the ship in Sydney, but Sandy Olsen, a spokeswoman for Carnival Corporation, which owns the ship, said the death was heart-related and could not confirm at what point during the journey the person died. A second passenger was taken by ambulance to a Sydney hospital, but the Health Department said the person was not suffering from a respiratory illness (flu). Sandy Olsen, speaking for Princess Cruises said: "We have a standard operating procedure with the NSW Department of Health that we report any flu, irrespective of what it is."

The first passengers were finally allowed off the ship just after 6:00 pm. A disembarking cruise ship normally lets passengers off to meet their air reservartions as early as 7:30 am and usually has all passengers off the ship by 11:00 am. These passengers were mandated by Australian health officials to stay in Sydney and avoid unnecessary contact with others until further notice.

Passengers on the following cruise who would normally starting boarding the ship by 1:00 pm still were not aboard by 6:00, and estimates said they would probably be allowed onboard about 10:00 pm, although it was not known what time the ship would sail.

One hopeful passenger from Canberra who had been waiting to board the Dawn Princess since 2pm said, "They have been very good with information but the health authorities have been procrastinating. There has been no mention of swine flu but the rumour is that someone [on the ship] is very ill."

Kevin Wilkie, Beverley Ford and Judy Arnold were held behind yellow tape in quarantine at the departure terminal. Each had ticked a box on health forms that day indicating they had displayed symptoms of flu, including a runny nose, a slight cough and vomiting, the latter of which Mrs Arnold attributed to altitude sickness she suffered from her flight from Queensland. Many of the hundreds of passengers waiting to embark complained they had paid for a meal that night and would not be receiving it.

224 hours all people were allowed to resume their normal lives, but the ship still had not sailed due to weather conditions.

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5-21-09 European Cruising Boasts 10% Yearly Growth The fourth edition of the "European Cruise Contribution" report of the ECC, presented in Rome this week, shows direct expenditure by cruise companies, shipyards and passengers of 14.2 billion Euros in 2008, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. 4.3 billion euros came from Italy at a 9 percent gain over 2007. Italy derives the greatest economic benefits from the cruise industry in Europe at 30 percent of total spending in 2008.

A key factor behind this growth is the increasing number of passengers embarking on cruises from European ports, up 10 percent to 4.7 million in 2008. Italian ports are the busiest in Europe with 1.7 million departing passengers. There is a similar pattern for the continent's transit passengers, who numbered 21.7 million in 2008, up 14 percent. Italy remains Europe's favorite cruise destination with 23 percent of transit passenger movements, followed by Greece, 20 percent, Spain 17 percent and France at 8 percent.

Another rise for 2008 was seen in the number of Europeans taking holiday cruises, up 10 percent to 4.4 million. In addition, there was an increase in the number of people employed in the cruise industry in Europe, with approximately 311,000 jobs in 2008, 15 percent more than the previous year.

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5-21-09 "Gotta Dance" All Ages Hip Hop Competition on Royal Caribbean Fleet Gotta Dance (www.GottaDanceTheMovie.com) chronicles the first-ever senior-citizen hip-hop dance troupe for the New Jersey Nets Basketball Team. Just like the film, Royal Caribbean's Gotta Dance program will offer all guests, all ages, a chance to grab their moment in the spotlight. Royal Caribbean's Gotta Dance is inspired by the award-winning documentary film of the same name.

Based on the documentary film "Gotta Dance" by award-winning director and producer Dori Berinstein, which will hit the big screen across the United States beginning in July 2009. The guest-participatory Gotta Dance experience will be offered offered fleetwide by Royal Caribbean in summer 2009.

"Gotta Dance offers guests an opportunity to try something different on their vacation regardless of age and experience," said Peter Compton, vice president, Entertainment, Royal Caribbean International. "Every age is welcome and no experience is necessary. Gotta Dance helps bring families closer together and build lasting relationships for an unforgettable cruise vacation."

Kicking off each cruise will be a special screening of the film. Guests will then be divided into teams and will learn choreographed routines with a member of the Royal Caribbean dance team. The program will culminate with the main event – a farewell show on the last evening of the cruise where each of the teams will perform their routines in the ship's main theater.

Each groups will perform a different routine, all choreographed by New Jersey Nets Dance Coach Kimberlee Garris, who also appears in the Gotta Dance film. For each song an easy and more complex choreography has been designed, and Royal Caribbean's Gotta Dance instructors will have the option of tweaking these versions further based on group skill level.

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5-21-09 Norwegian Epic Open for Sale The brand new class of ocean cruise vessel from Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Norwegian Epic, is now on sale. The inaugural season begins July 17, 2010 and promises every ground-breaking activity you could imagine. The ship is the next generation of Free-style cruising which NCL says will redefine cruising as we know it.

Norwegian Epic, one of the bigger and most innovative new ships on the horizon, features more dining options than any ship in history and a number of new stateroom sizes and styles. Among the innovative public features; there are six bowling lanes onboard, two available to youngsters. For more mature cruisers there are several nightclubs options including an innovative pool bar and the first complete Ice-bar at sea. The Ice-bar will be a completely frozen room where everything inside is made of ice from the chairs to the drinking glasses. You are issued a parka and fur hat before you enter.

Another groundbreaking features is the entirely new stateroom design known as "the F3 stateroom." These are not the square boxes were are all so used to on cruise ships. They feature curved walls with soothing colors and variable mood lighting. They have modular bathroom facilities including a separate shower and separate toilet and a wash basin in the room. Essentially, three people can all be getting ready at the same time.

The ship has the first "studio staterooms" where the rooms contain just a bed and bath facilities, but the sitting and entertainment areas are common to a large room all of the cabins share. These will be ideal for people traveling alone or for people traveling with people they may not want to spend all of thweir time with.

All of the staterooms feature large 32-inch flat-streen televisions. They also have coffee makers (rarely seen on cruise ships).

Norwegian Epic has eleven restaurants onboard, several of them included in the price of the cruise. There are two main dining rooms, plus an "action station" buffet-style dining area plus an indoor and outdoor cafes. For small extra charge you can dine in a steakhouse restaurant, Italian cuisine, Teppanaki Japanese dining, Dim Sum, Southwestern-style cuisine and more.

Here are the first itineraries on sale: Get 50%* off your cruise deposit when you book by May 24th.

7-Day Eastern Caribbean from Miami Visit Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. Insides from $649* | Balconies from $949*

7-Day Western Caribbean from Miami Visit Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico. Insides from $649* | Balconies from $949*

14-Day Caribbean from Miami Visit Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Nassau, Bahamas. Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico. Insides from $1,239* | Balconies from $1,809*

Go to www.ncl.com or call your travel agent to book these cruises now.

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5-18-09 Carnival Describes H1N1 Financial Impact When the "Mexican Swine Flu" broke out in late April (apologies to Mexico for that description) within a day at least one financial analyst came out with what they predicted would amount to a yearly loss for the cruise line as the result of canceling Mexico cruises for the balance of 2009.

Now that the fat lady is singing (with apologies to, well never mind) Carnival Corp. is saying that the virus will affect only six weeks of cruises, since they fully intend to reinstate the original Mexican Riviera cruises in mid-June, latest, for all of their cruise brands. We at CruiseMates were astounded by the over-reaction of the mainstream media to turn this virus into an "eminent pandemic," but when we saw Wall Street analysts predicting a yearlong financial impact to the cruise lines just one day after the lines announced a limited suspension of Mexico cruises we wrote, "what's the rush?"

Today, Carnival Corp. announced a financial impact estimated at approximately $0.05 per share, the majority of which will be incurred in the second fiscal quarter of 2009, as a result of modifications to cruise itineraries for the six-week period ended June 15. The company left room for the unknown saying it is possible the loss could get as high as $.10/share.

"Our vessels are resuming their original itineraries as soon as practical but will all be back by the middle of June. The Mexican coastal resort areas where our ships call are some of the most popular destinations for North Americans vacationers. We know that our guests are looking forward to visiting Mexico and that they will have a safe and enjoyable experience there," said Micky Arison, chairman and CEO for Carnival Corporation & plc.

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5-18-09 Carnival April 26 Splendor Passengers Upset The April 26 sailing Carnival Splendor out of Long Beach was the first Mexican Riviera cruise to have ports cancelled due to the swine flu bug in Mexico. Now we are learning that Carnival gave those passengers no compensation at all, and the company also decided not to honor its usual vacation guarantee that says any unsatisfied passenger can leave the ship at the first non-U.S. port and receive a full refund.

The ship sailed to Cabo San Lucas, but it only anchored off the beach, never allowing any passengers to go ashore. At the end of the day it pulled anchor and announced the next stop would be San Francisco, with a courtesy stop back in Long Beach for anyone who wanted to get off. However, there would be no refunds for people who disembarked. Furthermore, even though following cruises on Splendor which also did not go to Mexico (most have gone to Canada) provided a $100 shipboard credit to all guests, that credit was not offered to the April 26 guests.

We all know how quickly events unfolded. That morning (4-26) the entire cruise industry announced it polanned to continue sailing to Mexico. Within a few hours Head of the Dept of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced the CDC was recommending a ban on all non-essential travel to Mexico. By the end of the day all the cruise lines had announced they will suspending all Mexico stops indefinitely.

Most cruise lines starting offering guests a $100 shipboard credit and the option of cancelling and rebooking the cruise for a later date in the next 18 months with the first cruises in May, but not for that original April cruise. Some cruise ships actually made stops in Mexico throughout March and April, and only one confirmed case of swine flu was found on any cruise ship.

As for the April 26 sailing of Splendor, there are reports that people were very upset. It was raining in San Francisco. One wedding party onboard had to scrub an entire week of plans. People were phoning their lawyers from the ships. The biggest question is why Carnival chose not to offer the guarantee for this specific sailing even if eople disembarked. Yes, the guarantee says people must leave in a non-U.S. port, but the ship did not go to any non-U.S. ports, it only stopped in Long Beach and San Francisco.

It seems to us that the least Carnival could do is offer these people a credit towards a future cruise with a shipboard credit - essentailly the same offer they made to passengers on subsequent cruises. We see no reason why these passengers sgould be treated any differently.

I will say, also, that I am on a Crystal cruise, Panama Canal. and all of our Mexico stops were cancelled giving us 6 days at sea, and nothing about any credit was ever mentioned.

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5-15-09 CDC Lifts Travel Ban for Mexico Thanks Micky! And I don't mean "Magic Kingdom Mickey." I mean Micky Arison, president and CEO of Carnival Corp. and one of the richest people in the U.S. and the world. Micky A. wrote to President Obama and Congress yesterday to formally ask that the travel ban on non-essential travel to Mexico be lifted. Today, the CDC did lift the travel ban they imposed due to "swine flu" concerns about three weeks ago.

Now, we at CruiseMates thought the travel ban was something of a rush job and over-reaction all along. After all, they didn't even close the border because they said it was "too late" to stop the flu. IN fact, what we learned in the meantime is that the virus is not any more virulent than any flu.

So, as of May 15, 2009, CDC officials downgraded the travel warning to a "precaution" that recommends people at high-risk for influenza complications consider whether they should travel to Mexico.

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5-15-09 NCL Reports Profit for Last Quarter According to the South Florida Business Journal, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) said its first quarter net income rose to $5.2 million from a net loss of $145 million for the same quarter last year. This is good news considering the soft pricing in the current economic environment. NCL is owned and operated by two companies, Apollo Management and Star Cruises of Malaysia.

The increase in earnings came despite a 15.5 percent decrease in net revenue due primarily to a decrease in net yields and capacity days, the company said. Net revenue for the quarter ended March 31 was $424 million, down from $511 million in the same quarter last year.

The Miami-based cruise line said the decrease in capacity days was the result of two ships leaving its fleet last year.

A third, Norwegian Majesty, Norwegian's oldest ship, will be retired in October as the cruise line prepares for next year's delivery of Norwegian Epic, a 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ship, for which itineraries go on sale to the general public on May 21.

Lower fuel costs helped offset losses to the company's earnings, which fell to $32.5 million in the first quarter from $67 million in the same quarter of 2008.

Looking ahead, the company said that, while booking levels are strong, pricing will continue to remain soft.

"Although we continue to be disappointed with the current pricing environment, we are optimistic that we are introducing new people to our brand and bringing in new cruisers to the market," CEO Kevin Sheehan said in a news release.

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5-14-09 Celebrity Millennium To Receive $10-Million Upgrade Celebrity Cruises is about to give the original Millennium-class vessel a series of new design upgrades costing $10-million in the regularly scheduled drydock period beginning this week.

Launch in 2000 and affectionately known as "Millie" in Celebrity Cruises circles, Celebrity Millennium will emerge May 22 from a 12-day drydock in Victoria, B.C., with new carpeting and upholstery throughout the almost the entire ship, including every stateroom, the Lido deck, the Celebrity Theatre and the main dining room.

All marble and stone floors and counter areas will receive a gleaming finish and all wood hand rails on the ship's verandas and pool deck areas will be newly varnished. The outdoor areas will receive new decking made of bolidt - an alternative to traditional teak decking. This is being installed across the pool deck, outdoor stage, dance floor and jogging track.

Every suite will be equipped with a 32-inch LED flat-panel television, while every Concierge Class stateroom will boast 26-inch versions. Every suite and stateroom will receive new drapes, bed skirts and bed throws in warm, natural hues. By October of this year, new upholstery also will adorn furnishings in the ship's retail areas, the Grand Foyer, and every lounge, including the signature Martini Bar. Also by October, every staterooms will boast a 26-inch LED flat-panel TV.

The newly-refreshed Celebrity Millennium embarks on this year's Alaska season May 22, on a seven-night cruise roundtrip from Vancouver, B.C., prior to a series of seven-night Southbound Alaska sailings to and from Vancouver and Seward, Alaska, through September.

Staterooms on the refreshed Celebrity Millennium are available now, with select staterooms on several Alaska sailings starting at $57 per person per day, when booked by May 31. Celebrity Cruisetour vacations packages offering a Celebrity cruise with a fully escorted pre- or post-cruise land-based experience are also on tap for this spring and summer.

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5-13-09 Holland America Expand Free Computer Classes to 12 Ships Holland America Line's popular Digital Workshop powered by Windows is expanding from four to 12 ships, and adding classes to each program. New workshop sessions will help guests learn social media skills. Twelve ships now will offer 11 complimentary, hour-long classes ranging from photo and video editing to displaying pictures in digital frames.

"We have worked closely with Microsoft to expand the scope of the program to include more ships and more workshops since our guests enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills," said Richard D. Meadows, EVP marketing, sales and guest programs.

Sessions are offered multiple times on each cruise so that guests may take the ones that interest them most, or the complete series, at their convenience. Session offerings include the following:

Put Your Best Face Forward 1: Edit Your Cruise Photos Your Away-From-Home Movie: Turn Your Cruise Photos and Videos into a Movie Insert Photo Here: Getting Your Photos Out of the Camera and Into the Computer Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Learn to Blog About Your Cruise

Put Your Best Face Forward 2: Advanced Editing of the Cruise Photos A Space to Call My Own: Signing Up for Your Own Personal Webpage Show and Tell: Sharing Your Cruise Photos via Email and the Internet

Safe and Sound: PC Safety and Maintenance Say Cheese: Understanding the Basics of Your Digital Camera That's a Print: Printing Your Cruise Photos at Home I've Been Framed: How to Set-up and Use a Digital Photo Frame

Digital Workshop powered by Windows will help even novice camera or computer users take better vacation photos, make movies and edit pictures using a variety of Microsoft services. Guests will learn how to share all their digital memories through email, blogging and social networking – so friends and family can see where they've been cruising even before they return home.

Taught by Microsoft-trained "techsperts," the workshops are limited to 15 participants per session so that instructors can provide personalized assistance. In addition, instructors maintain "techspert time," where guests can get their individual questions answered and work on personal program-related projects. Each ship has a dedicated space for the classes, complete with computers, printers and other necessary equipment.

New classes will be added to the existing program by the end of May. Plans are under development to extend the program to ms Rotterdam and ms Prinsendam. For more information, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit www.hollandamerica.com.

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5-12-09 Crystal Serenity receives a "perfect" 100 from Health Canada Following an intensive inspection by a team of environmental health officers, Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity received a "perfect" score of 100 from Health Canada. The unannounced audit occurred during Crystal Serenity's May 3 call in Victoria, British Columbia on the final segment of the line's World Cruise.

Scoring is based on 41 inspection items of the potable water system, food preparation and storage areas, and waste management systems, including filters, ventilation devices and sanitizing temperatures. Swimming pools and spas are also inspected.

Canada's Federal health department, Health Canada, developed its Cruise Ship Inspection Program (CSIP) to inspect cruise ships that visit Canadian ports. The guidelines were coordinated with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vessel Sanitation Program in 1998. A ship's level of sanitation is satisfactory if its inspection score is 86% or higher.

Crystal Symphony also received a score of 100 during her most recent calls in Canada in October 2008.

"Crystal Cruises' record of perfect scores is indicative of our efforts to meet the highest standards of excellence in all areas of our cruise operation," says Joe Valenti, Crystal Cruises' senior vice president, marine operations.

5-12-09 Golden Princess Completes Three-Week Drydock A transformed Golden Princess has emerged from the most extensive drydock ever undertaken by Princess Cruises, one that was closely followed by thousands of cruise aficionados around the world though an online daily photo journal to chronicle the dramatic transformation.

Throughout the three-week makeover the daily online photo journal offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into adding such signature Princess features to the ship as a new piazza-style atrium, an adults-only Sanctuary, a Movies Under the Stars poolside movie screen, and a new Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant.

The online journal featured more than 180 photos giving viewers a front-row seat as the immense project was undertaken at Victoria Shipyards in British Columbia.

The full transformation is available for viewing at www.princess.com/goldendrydock, and features such rare scenes as the hull of the ship and propellers out of the water with the new silicone underwater paint being applied. It shows hundreds of pieces of furniture being re-upholstered and key public areas being demolished and re-configured into new spaces.

"Based on the many comments we received, I think it's safe to say that our passengers were amazed at being able to watch Golden Princess' makeover as it happened," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "We heard that they have a new appreciation for the dramatic amount of work that goes into a project like this, as well as how much care and effort we put into our ships every day." Swartz added that a complex project like this drydock was a prime example of the teamwork and dedication for which Princess is known.

During a short sampler sailing to Ketchikan and then back to Seattle, the new features were unveiled to passengers, and the ship is now cruising on its first Alaska voyage of the season. Golden Princess will continue to offer weekly departures from Seattle on roundtrip Inside Passage voyages through September 12.

Now that the transformation is nearly complete, Golden Princess' atrium features a new Piazza with an inviting street café atmosphere and two new dining options. The International Café serves up specialty coffees, fresh baked cookies, pastries, panini sandwiches and tapas, while wine bar Vines offers a selection of more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a selection of seafood, artisan meats and cheeses, and a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle.

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

And a new 300-square-foot Movies Under the Stars poolside LED screen now features evening movies and a variety of daytime programming, comparable to the best shoreside movie theater. In addition to family cinema and first run hits, it showcases major sporting events, concerts and other can't-miss programming - up to 50 different offerings per week.

The ship also now features a brand-new relocated casino on deck 7, a new sports court, a new Internet café and library, and a refurbished fitness center. And all passenger cabins were also fitted with new flat screen televisions.

With such an ambitious project list to accomplish in just three weeks time, some spaces are still in the final phases of completion. This includes the new Crown Grill restaurant, newly constructed suites, and the relocated shore excursions desk and wedding chapel.

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5-10-09 Crewmember with H1N1 Recovers Uneventfully: CDC A crewmember aboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, currently traveling through Alaska waters, is recovering from a probable infection of H1N1 (swine) flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Sunday.

Testing was performed at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory because the patient became ill while the ship was in the Washington area. The CDC has validated the laboratory's results. The paient is now close to fully recovered and there is little chance the virus will spread.

Ship medical staff members routinely evaluate every passenger and crewmember identified with influenza-like illnesses for influenza. The Serenade of the Seas crewmember, whose illness began on May 2, 2009, was isolated onboard while completing a course of antiviral medication. One additional crewmember was diagnosed with influenza that began on April 30, when the ship was in California. He was placed in isolation, treated with antiviral medications, and recovered uneventfully. An H1N1 (swine) flu confirmatory test was not performed on this patient. No other cases of influenza have been diagnosed onboard the ship this month.

"The Serenade of the Seas medical staff members have done an excellent job in caring for the patient, following strict isolation procedures in order to prevent spread to others onboard the ship, and notifying state and federal health officials of the patient's illness," said Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer.

"Appropriate precautions were taken in accordance with current recommendations for controlling the spread of influenza. This is very reassuring news for Alaskans who might have come in contact with passengers and crew members who disembarked from the ship while it was in port," Dr. Butler said.

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5-8-09 Royal Caribbean's CEO starts "Why Not?" Blog Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, has started a blog called "Why Not" where he promises to talk about the latest news, happenings and ship innovations from Royal Caribbean. Promised topics include the different types of experiences Royal Caribbean cruisers can expect from their journeys at sea, and Adam's personal insights on the travel and cruise industry as a whole.

The one thing he didn't promise, but I am sure he thought about before he made this commitment, was to answer all the people bound to come in with complaints about something Royal Caribbean related.

Sure enough, after just one "hello" post where Adam says how excited he is to be doing a blog there are now 65 comments, almost all of them from people with one issue or another, but Adam has not been back. Adam has only the original one post, from April 29th online.

The most popular topic? Changing the benefits given to Crown and Anchor Society Diamond Members. These members have 10 to 24 Royal Caribbean cruises under their belts. The line recently discontinued their nightly access to the "Concierge Lounge" where each ship serves a free happy hour nightly. Diamond members are now relegated to another lounge where only wine and champagne are free, all other drinks are only 25% off.

A lot of people who worked to get to this level are now somewhat upset this benefit was taken away. Diamond-plus members with 25 or more cruises have advised them to just keep cruising and they will get there eventually.

I even got an email from a public relations company yesterday (May 7th) to "remind" me that the blog is up and that I should "free to share this news with our readers." I tend not to share news with our readers until there is actually something to share. But since he asked me here you are.

Note to Adam, the word "blog" is derived from "log" such as in "logbook," which is something someone does faithfully and regularly to keep a record of daily events.

I realize you have good intentions but it is now May 8, 2009. I think it is time to get back to the blog you started and at least show all the people who commented that it truly was meant to be an interactive format. It isn't as easy to write something for the Internet every day as you might think.

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5-6-09 Celebrity Solstice to Sail the Caribbean Year 'Round 2010 Celebrity Cruises' new Celebrity Solstice will remain in the Caribbean throughout 2010 instead of returning to Europe as previously scheduled.

Solstice will still sail in Europe this summer 2009 with the first cruise from Rome scheduled for May 15. The newer Celebrity Equinox, nearly identical sister ship to Solstice, will debut in England in August 2009. Both ships will return to the Caribbean to sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in summer months, and seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries from the same port in the winter, marking the first time since 2004 that Celebrity has offered a year-round seven-night sailing in the Caribbean. Celebrity Solstice will be one of two Celebrity vessels sailing continuously in the region; Celebrity Century, as previously announced, will present short getaways, with four- and five-night sailings from the Port of Miami.

The shift of Celebrity Solstice to the Caribbean year-round led to a corresponding transition in Celebrity's European itinerary lineup for 2010-11: The new Celebrity Equinox will present the 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings from Rome, previously planned for Celebrity Solstice. The 12-night voyages previously announced for Celebrity Equinox between Barcelona and Venice in 2010 have been discontinued. The European sailings previously announced for Celebrity Eclipse – which debuts in 2010 – and Celebrity Constellation remain unchanged.

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5-6-09 Carnival Postpones Return to Mexico Until June 16 Carnival Cruise Lines will be staying away from Mexican ports of call through mid-June because of the H1N1 flu. Previously, the line said they would return to Mexico on May 11.

Altogether this includes some 16 ships in the Carnival fleet. The ships most affected include Carnival Splendor which is sailing a modified course on the West Coast from Los Angeles to Astoria, Victoria and Vancouver British Columbia. Ships that previously went cabo San Lucas and/or Ensenada are mostly just visiting the island of Catalina off the coast of California.

Caribbean cruises have substituted Montego Bay, Jamaica, for Cozumel on Conquest out of Galveston. New Orleans' Fantasy is going to Key Wst, Nassau and Freeport Bahamas. Carnival Legend out of Tampa is going to Grand Cayman, Belize and Roatan while Inspiration is going to Grand Cayman only.

Carnival Freedom is substituting Belize for Cozumel. The ships sailing out of Miami to the Western Caribbean are using Key West in place of Cozumel.

Guests who want to sail on a different trip can receive a refund in the form of a future cruise credit equal to the full amount paid for the voyage.

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5-5-09 NCL One-Day Sale - Cruises from $42 Day - TODAY Today, Norwegian Cruise Line launches its biggest One Day Sale with great deals and savings of up to 81 percent on select sailings to the Bahamas, Alaska, Bermuda, Hawai'i and Europe.

Norwegian's One Day Sale offers guests a chance to cruise to the Bahamas on Norwegian Sky from $42 per person, per day; to Alaska on Norwegian Sun from $57 per person, per day; to Bermuda on Norwegian Spirit from $71 per person, per day; to Europe on Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade or Norwegian Jewel from $78 per person, per day; and to Hawai'i on Pride of America from $100 per person, per day. To book a sailing, guests should contact a travel professional or NCL at 866-234-7350 or online at www.ncl.com.

The wide range of cruises where these One Day Sale rates are available include:

Bahamas Norwegian Sky - Three-day Bahamas, round-trip from Miami

  • From $159 per person on November 6, 2009;
  • Ports of call include: Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island.

Norwegian Sky - Four-day Bahamas, round-trip from Miami

  • From $169 per person on November 16, 2009 cruise;
  • Ports of call include: Grand Bahama, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island.

    Alaska Norwegian Sun - Seven-day Sawyer Glacier, round-trip from Vancouver

  • From $399 per person on June 7, 2009 cruise;
  • Ports of call include: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska.

    Bermuda Norwegian Spirit - Seven-day Bermuda, round-trip from Boston

  • From $499 per person on May 22, 2009 cruise;
  • Spends three full days in Bermuda.

    Hawai'i Pride of America - Seven-day Hawai'i Inter-Island, round-trip from Honolulu

  • From $699 per person on select 2009 August and September cruises;
  • Ports of call include: Kahului, Maui; Hilo and Kona Hawai'i; and Nãwiliwili, Kaua'i.

    Europe Norwegian Gem - Seven-day Western Mediterranean, round-trip from Barcelona

    • From $549 per person on select 2009 November cruises;
    • Ports of call include: Valletta, Malta; Naples, Rome (Civitavecchia), and Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy; and Cannes, France.

    Norwegian Jewel - 12-day Baltic Capitals, round-trip from London (Dover)

    • From $999 per person on select 2009 May and June cruises;
    • Ports of call include: Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemünde), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.

    Norwegian Jade - 14-day Mediterranean Journey, round-trip from London (Southampton)

    • From $1,199 per person on select 2009 June through August;
    • Ports of call include: Granada (Málaga), Vigo and Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, France; Rome (Civitavecchia) and Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy; Gibraltar, United Kingdom; and Lisbon, Portugal.

    Norwegian Jade - 10-day Black Sea, round-trip from Athens (Piraeaus)

    • From $1,199 on September 29, 2009;
    • Ports of call include: Iraklion, Crete, and Rhodes, Greece; Ephesus (Izmir) and Istanbul, Turkey; Yalta and Odessa, Ukraine; Constanta, Romania; and Varna, Bulgaria.

    Norwegian Jade - 13-day Around the British Isles & Northern Europe, round-trip from London (Southampton)

    • From $999 per person on May 31, 2009;
    • Ports of call include: Paris (Le Havre), France; Falmouth, England; Cork (Cobh) and Dublin Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Glasgow (Greenock), and Iverness (Invergordon) and Edinburgh (S. Queensferry), Scotland; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Brussels/Brugge (Zeebrugge), Belgium.

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    5-2-09 Royal Caribbean 2-Day WOW Sale - Tues. & Weds. Royal Caribbean is having a special 2-day sale Tuesday and Wednesday, May 5th and 6th. The offer includes shipboard credit of $50/stateroom and reduced deposits of $50 per person for cruises up to 5 days, shipboard credit of $100/stateroom and reduced deposits of $125 per person for cruises up 6 to 9 nights and shipboard credit of $200/stateroom and reduced deposits of $225 per person for cruises 10 days or more.

    You can book these cruises dircetly at RoyalCaribbean.com or contact any Royal Caribbean qualified seller of travel. RCL certified vacation planners are available from 7:00 am to Midnight at 866-526-7245. Or locate a travel agent here.

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    5-4-09 Royal Caribbean Offers "My Time Dining" Feetwide Royal Caribbean International today announced enhancements to the cruise line's dining program, offering guests greater flexibility, personalization and convenience. With the introduction of new flexible dining programs called My Time Dining and My Family Time Dining for kids, guests will now have a diverse variety of choices to dine whenever and in the style they wish. This is in addition to the traditional dining, casual or specialty dining and room service offerings. The new dining program is available immediately fleetwide.

    My Time Dining, first piloted on select ships since early 2008, offers dinner in the main dining room whenever guests wish during dining hours. My Time Dining guests can make daily reservations for specific seating times or choose to walk-in. Guests choosing My Time Dining will not have a pre-assigned table, but will be seated in the main dining room and order from the same traditional dinner menu. Guests can be seated with the party they arrive with, request to be seated with other guests or dine alone. To ensure a smooth and undisrupted experience, no additional guests will be seated at a table once dinner service has begun. Guests choosing My Time Dining must prepay gratuities and enroll onboard or in advance.

    As part of the recently announced new family program, My Family Time Dining offers an expedited 40-minute dinner experience during the first seating in the main dining room for kids, ages 3-11, enrolled in the Adventure Ocean youth program. Once seated, kids will enjoy expedited service and be immediately served. Forty-five minutes into the seating, a youth counselor will escort kids from the main dining room entrance back to the Adventure Ocean spaces for continued evening activities, allowing parents to enjoy the rest of their dinner at their leisure. For more convenience to parents and more fun for kids, Lunch and Play provides kids in Adventure Ocean with lunch, movies, cartoons and free-play time between noon and 2 p.m. under the supervision of Adventure Ocean counselors. There is a charge of $7.95 per child for the Lunch and Play program.

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    5-4-09 Windjammer Adventures Caters to Windjammer Barefoot Cruisers Ever since the notorious demise of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, the former "Jammers" who were devotees of the iconoclastic cruise line have been looking for a suitable alternative.

    Now the Windjammer experience has been revived with "Windjammer Adventures" by a former Windjammer Barefoot Cruises Captain, Neil Carmichael. Neil bought a small sail ship, a 101' Brigantine Schooner that only sleeps 12, the S/V. Diamante and has just finished refurbishing it in Ecuador. The proud schooner is set to sail through the Panama Canal May 7th and will begin its regular cruise season sailing in the Grenadines through the summer and reposition to St Martin after hurricane season.

    Carmichael admits his business model will be targeting former Windjammer Barefoot Cruises devotees, of which there were thousands. That small cruise line, which had as many as five vessels in its fleet at its peak, was well know for its highly devoted following. Carmichael says "Prices will be in the $1250-$1500 inclusive of port fees, meals, gratuities and some booze. We will have the pirate flags, canon, music and appeal to the Jimmy Buffet crowd."

    Carmichael points out that there are other highly reputable sailing companies, notably Star Clippers, who are also successful but appeal to a more upscale clientele. These sailbuffs love the salt air and wonder of wind power, but they don't care to party as much as the "anything goes as long as its fun" ex-Windjammer Barefoot Cruises crowd.

    Neil Carmichael's Windjammer Adventures can be contacted at WindjammerAdventures.com or 1-800-494-6352

    Another company, Maine Windjammer Cruises has been picking up some of the ex-Windjammer Barefoot Cruises clientele the last two years as well. This company has been in business since 1936 and claims to have the first and oldest fleet of historic vessels in America. Their three ship fleet includes two authentic turn-of-the-century coastal cargo schooners, Grace Bailey & Mercantile, which have been lovingly restored and recognized as National Landmarks. The cruises run from a weekend up to six days and sail out of Camden, Maine. Special events include a lobster bake, Boothbay Windjammer Days, the Great Schooner Race and the Camden Windjammer Weekend.

    Maine Windjammer Cruises can be contacted at www.mainewindjammercruises.com or calling 1 (800) 736-7981.

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    5-1-09 Obama: H1N1 May Run Course Like Other Flus U.S. President Barack Obama said it is not clear that swine influenza A-H1N1 will be more severe than other kinds of flu. But the president said the U.S. government is making preparations for the worst-case scenario.

    President Barack Obama meets with his Cabinet at the White House, 01 May 2009 After the second Cabinet meeting of his presidency, Mr. Obama told reporters his administration is preparing for the worst the swine flu could do.

    "It may turn out that H1N1 runs its course like ordinary flus, in which case, we will have prepared and we will not need all these preparations," he said.

    The president said experts are not sure whether swine flu will be more severe than more common seasonal flus. But he said it is cause for concern because it is a new strain, and people have not built up an immunity to it.

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    5-1-09 Mariner of the Seas: U.S. West from $399 A rare itinerary visiting U.S. West Coast cities is being offered by Royal Caribbean on mega-ship Mariner of the Seas. Not only is this kind of itinerary usually NOT offered due to restraints of federal law, this is a bargain for a Voyager-class Royal Caribbean ship sailing anywhere.

    Starting at $399 per person, this ship was just located on the West Coast in January. It has all the features of other Voyager-class mega-ships like an ice skaiting rink, rock climbing, a Royal Promenade, inside cabins with a view, etc. This is great fanmily ship and is a bargain for a 7-day cruise.

    The itinerary includes from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Seattle, and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Six new sailings, departing May 3, 10, 24, and 31, and June 7 and 14, 2009 are on sail right now. We really recommend this cruise. Seattle and San Francisco are two of he great American cities. if you have never seen them you owe it to yourself to see them now because you will not get many other opportunities.

    The cruise offers a wide array of shore excursions. In San Francisco, for example, guests can choose Sausalito & Muir Woods, which will take them across the Golden Gate Bridge to giant redwood trees rising more than 250 feet; or explore the surround waters in Victoria for whales, seals, porpoises and other wildlife on Whale Watching; or opt for an insiders' tour of the famed Pike Place Market in Seattle on Taste Pike Place.

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