News Archive - August 2006

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10-28-06 Weekend News 10-28-06 *** Five months later, we finally have an official answer as to the "probable" cause of the fire aboard Star Princess in which one American passenger died and 13 other passengers were treated for smoke inhalation.

Britain's Marine Accident Investigation Branch said in a report that the March 23 fire aboard the Star Princess was probably sparked by a cigarette that ignited combustible materials on a cabin balcony, as we postulated here in CruiseMates soon after the fire occured. The blaze spread to almost 300 cabins. The ship was in the Western Caribbean sailing from Grand Cayman to Montego Bay, Jamaica. One American passenger died and 13 other passengers were treated for smoke inhalation.

At the time of the fire the convention did not have rules on combustible materials used on balcony areas since they were not included in the cruise ships' fire zones, but the investigators' report found that the balconies' polycarbonate partitions, polyurethane deck tiles and plastic furniture were highly combustible and produced large quantities of thick black smoke when burned.

The investigation branch said the ship's owner, Carnival Corp., was taking steps to improve safety and that the International Maritime Organization would consider proposed amendments to an agreement governing ships at sea in December. The report said international sea safety regulations would be tightened in the wake of the fire.

*** Costa Cruise Lines is included as one of the top 10 cruise lines of the "large cruise ship" category of the "Condé Nast Traveler 2006 Readers' Choice Awards," and is the only European cruise line to earn the accolade. According to the publication, the results are derived from the largest independent poll of consumers' preferences, the Readers' Choice Survey, which is second only in size to the U.S. Census. Over 21,000 readers voted in this year's survey.

*** Rosie O'Donnell, the Emmy Award winning talk show host and actress, has been named the godmother of its newest ship from NCL, Norwegian Pearl. Rosie will christen NCL's newest Freestyle Cruising vessel in a ceremony at the Port of Miami on Saturday, December 16 at 5 p.m.

NCL has also donated the use of Norwegian Pearl to O'Donnell's charity, Rosie's For All Kids Foundation, for a one-night charity event on Friday, December 15. Guests onboard the one-night cruise will enjoy an evening of culinary delights, a Broadway-style show in the Stardust Theater with O'Donnell and guest entertainers direct from Broadway performing, a comedy show by popular comedy troupe Second City and a sail-away cocktail party on the pool deck.

*** Silversea Cruises is going informal, for at least one test cruise. A new program called Privileged Passage will do away with formal nights and receptions. Guests will not have to worry about packing a tuxedo or evening dress; instead, they'll enjoy the freedom to dress in comfortable casual resort attire throughout the voyage.

The program, to be tested on Silver Whisper's April 9, 2007 voyage, will also offer extended open hours for the fitness center and spa, guests will be able to request Early Embarkation and Late Disembarkation at no additional cost, and Silversea will also offer a selection of complimentary tours specially designed to intimately connect travelers to the places and cultures they visit. Other enhancements will include more casual-style entertainment featuring contemporary bands, jazz ensembles and lively mix shows by disc jockeys from around the world.

The goal, according to CEO Albert Peter, is to attract more first-time cruisers to everything that Silversea already offers, along with the addition of more complimentary amenities and benefits tailored to an active lifestyle, "We're opening the door to many travelers who never thought about booking a cruise before. If this pilot cruise is as well-received as we expect, we plan to offer more voyages of this type," says Peter. Back to Top

10-26-06 Seabourn President Passes Away Suddenly Deborah L. Natansohn, the president and chief operating officer of Seabourn Cruise Line, passed away on October 24 at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her family at her side. Natansohn, 53, had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack on Sunday, October 22. Cruisemates is personally saddened and surprised by her untimely passing and offers its deepest sympathy to all of those close to her.

Deborah was appointed president of Seabourn Cruise Line in July of 2004, and guided Seabourn to the most successful period in its history. That success recently led to the signing of a letter of intent for the company to build two new ships. She came to Seabourn from Cunard Line, which she had joined in November 2000, as senior vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for marketing and sales programs throughout the Americas and for the unprecedented success of the launch of the Queen Mary 2.

A well-known travel industry veteran, Natansohn became the first female cruise line president in the United States when she was named president of Orient Lines in 1998. She also served as vice president of marketing for Ocean Cruise Lines and Pearl Cruises, and as executive vice president at Orient Lines from 1992 until she became the line's president.

She began her career as a journalist and was an editor with Travel Trade magazine. She spent five years in London as director of marketing for Travellers International, and for the tour company Arthur Frommer International. In addition, Natansohn had chaired the marketing committee and served on the executive committee for the industry organization Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). In 2004, a nationwide poll of professional travel agents voted her Travel Trade's Travel Executive of the Year.

In 2006, Natansohn was honored with a Glass Ceiling Award by the Jewish Museum of Florida, and was named one of Florida's top 50 women business leaders by The Center for Leadership at Florida International University.

Sadly, Deborah had just written an article especially for CruiseMates which we will publish tomorrow (October 27, 2006) in which she wrote in the first person and explains to our readers what she wants them to know about Seabourn Cruise line. It begins, "My name is Deborah Natansohn and I am the president and chief operating officer of Seabourn Cruise Line.."

Deborah's Article: The Yachts of Seabourn: The Best Things in Small Packages.

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10-21-06 Weekend New Oct 21, 2006 *** Seabourn Cruise Line announced today that it has signed a letter of intent to build two new, ultra luxury ships, for delivery in spring 2009 and 2010 with shipbuilder T. Mariotti S.p.A. of Genoa, Italy. The sister ships will have an all-in U.S. dollar cost of $250 million each.

Each of the 32,000-GRT ships will accommodate all guests in 225 luxury suites, ninety percent of which will offer private verandas. Combined, the two vessels will more than double Seabourn's current fleet capacity of 634 berths. The design specifications call for hulls 650 feet long, with a beam of 84 feet and a draft of 21 feet. The ships will be powered by diesel-generated electricity and operate with twin screw propellers, with a service speed of 19 knots. They will be equipped with two bow thrusters to enhance maneuverability and two stabilizers. The ships will also be "green ships" employing advanced wastewater treatment technology.

Seabourn, is a division of Miami-based Carnival Corporation, and ccording to Micky Arison, Chairman and CEO "This order represents our confidence in the luxury segment of the cruising market, which has shown significant and consistent revenue growth in recent years, with robust future potential. Through our own and independent research, we know that the luxury consumer views the Seabourn brand as the absolute ultimate in leisure travel. This new generation of yacht-like ships will secure its position at the top of the cruise industry pyramid for many years to come."

The letter of intent to build the ships is subject to a number of conditions including definitive contracts, financing and other terms.

*** Royal Caribbean International is turning its fleet into floating "Winter Wonderlands," for the upcoming holiday season sailings. The ships will be outfitted with an abundance of colorful decorations, holiday music, and caroling by the staff and guests, minus the stressful planning and cold climates that often accompany the season.

Children in Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean Youth Program will have activities including: Cookie Decorating, Eggnog Parties, Gingerbread Displays, Holiday Talent Shows, Kids Caroling, Special Hanukkah Gifts, Christmas Arts & Crafts, Holiday Ice Skating (Freedom- & Voyager-class ships) and Pictures with Santa.

After a long day of shore excursions or fun arts and crafts activities, guests can retreat to their rooms for a number of holiday movie classics featured on in-room televisions or pay a visit to the spectacular Menorah on display on the main deck. Well-behaved children may even receive a special visit from the holiday gift fairy while onboard.

Those in search of spiritual gatherings can participate in a number of religious ceremonies, such as the lighting of the Menorah, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and Hanukkah service (all under the direction of onboard clergy). On Royal Caribbean ships, guests will ring in 2007 with a memorable New Year's Eve celebration jam-packed with spirited onboard revelries such as themed and extended late-night parties for kids, teens and adults; complimentary party favors; a champagne toast; live entertainment in all lounges; and a captain's countdown. Back to Top

10-16-06 Oceania Nixes Libya Visits Oceania Cruises has rescheduled the itinerary it had in place for its April 17, 2007 voyage. The Regatta was scheduled to stop in Libya, but due to that nation's unpredictable visa requirements for US passport holders, the line has elected not to to take any chances on disappointing its passengers and has instead re-themed the cruise as "Greco-Roman Revelations."

The 10-day cruise will sail from Barcelona on April 17 to visit ports in Italy, Spain and Greece, ending in Piraeus. Ports include Mahon in Spain's Balearic Islands, Sardinia's Porto Cervo, La Spezia (for Cinque Terre), Civitavecchia (Rome), Amalfi/Positano, Sicily's Taormina, Katakolon (for Olympia), Monemvasia (for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Epidaurus) and Crete's Aghios Nikolaos.

Jacques Pépin, executive culinary director for Oceania, will design signature dinner menus in Regatta's four dining rooms. By day, he will be joined by noted pastry chef Jean-Claude Szurdak for culinary demonstrations, question and answer sessions and epicurean excursions.

The sailing is offered with free air and two-for-one cruise fares, bringing the starting price to $2,299 per passenger. Back to Top

10-14-06 Weekend News 10-14-06 *** Ex-Cop and Reporter Retired "Rod" Bersen appeared in an LA courtroom today on allegations that he committed a crime aboard a cruise ship. The allegations were related to the molestation of two minors who said Bersen exposed himself and touched one of them. But there's no word yet on what charges he might face. He is being held without bail at Long Beach City Jail.

*** Celebrity Mercury sailing away from the port of Vancouver tomorrow for the last time in 2006 will mark the end of the Alaska season for the Canadian city. While the passenger total for 2006 represents a six per cent decrease over the previous year, the Port of Vancouver is projecting an increase of 100,000 passengers in 2007 due to the return of the Mercury to Vancouver from Seattle, for the entire Alaska cruise season, and the addition of the Pacific Princess to the Alaska fleet. The Norwegian Sun will also replace the Norwegian Wind, adding more capacity in the Vancouver-Alaska market.

*** The FBI said Friday it was investigating a report of a passenger missing from the Norwegian Star as it docked at the Port of Los Angeles early Friday. The Norwegian Cruise Line vessel had been on a trip to Mexico, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. It has not yet been determined whether the woman passenger fell or jumped off the ship in Mexican waters as it headed toward Los Angeles. Norwegian Star's website indicated that the ship's previous stop would have been Wednesday at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

***NCL's Norwegian Sun became the first cruise ship to sail a regularly scheduled cruise from New Orleans this year as the city still struggles to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Next in line at the Port of New Orleans is Carnival Cruise Lines' Fantasy, which sails on Oct. 26, followed by Royal Caribbean International's Grandeur of the Seas on Dec. 7. Carnival is expected to begin sailing it Carnival Triumph next September. All the voyages will be bound to the western Caribbean. Back to Top

10-01-06 L.A. Reporter Arrested on Ship Roderick "Rod" Bernsen, a former Los Angeles police sergeant, former reporter on KTTV's Fox 11 television news in Los Angeles for more than a decade, and most recently a substitute host on top Los Angeles talk radio station KFI, was arrested Saturday onboard a cruise ship and was taken off in Long Beach and is being held in custody without bail in the Long Beach city jail.

Bernsen is suspected of having molested two 12-year old boys in a jacuzzi-style hot tub, according to the Los Angeles Times. The ship has now been identified as the Diamond Princess. One or more of the boys' parents confronted Bernsen and notified a ship investigator, according to law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

According to the sources: the two alleged victims were intervied by the FBI when the ship pulled into port early Saturday and Bernsen brought a lawyer on board and he was arrested several hours later. His wife and his sister were with him on the trip.

On Sunday, federal prosecutors brought a complaint against Bernsen to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum, who found that there was probable cause to continue holding the former reporter until courts open today. The U.S. attorney's office has 10 court days to decide whether to indict Bernsen or drop the case. He is expected to appear at a detention hearing this morning. Back to Top

10-07-06 New Passport Requirements Clarified Last week, the U.S. Government passed the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5441) which included a provision extending the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative implementation deadlines. That means the new Passport rules for all U.S. citizens, and other travelers coming to and leaving from the United States, will be put in place. The new rules are as follows:

AIR: January 8, 2007 - Passport required for all air travel within the Western Hemisphere and abroad. U.S. Citizens departing and returning to the United States by air after January 8, 2007 will be required to have a valid U.S. Passport. The Passport office is already busy and this will likely contribute to a backlog that could result in lengthy issuance delays as these rules take effect.

SEA and LAND The new deadline is June 1, 2009 upon which Passport or the to-be-implmented PASScards required for land border crossings and sea travel within the Western Hemisphere. The Departments of State and Homeland Security can accelerate this June 1, 2009 date upon certifying a plan that meets certain standards for the new identification cards to make them easy to use, affordable and ensure privacy. The PASScard, for sea and land travelers, will be a less expensive alternative document.

With cruise vacation booking windows lengthening, it is more important than ever that you act now! Although the requirement to possess a valid Passport or PASScard for sea travel and land border crossings has been extended until June 1, 2009, the government can accelerate this date based on meeting certain standards.

Don't delay, after the deadline dates you will not be able to travel without a Passport or PASScard. In addition, after the implementation date, U.S. travelers who arrive at their Port of Embarkation without a valid U.S. Passport will not be permitted to board the ship. Information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. Passport can be found on the State Department's Web site at Back to Top

10-07-06 Weekend News 10-7-06 *** Fireworks explode over the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006, during opening ceremonies for the new cultural arts complex in Miami. The center includes a 2,400-seat opera house, a 2,200-seat concert hall and a 200-seat studio theater as well as an education center. The Carnival cruise liner Imagination, in the background, sounded its ship's horn to augment an orchestra heralding the center's debut. As a result of a multi-million-dollar contribution, Carnival Corp. secured naming rights for the new center. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Corp. Click for full-size picture

*** Cunard's Queen Mary 2 will be featured throughout the month of October in a new special produced by NBC owned and operated stations. "Onboard Queen Mary 2 - A Transatlantic Adventure" is a 30-minute program that takes viewers on an in-depth tour of the world's most famous ocean liner. Emmy Award-winning news anchor Jane Hanson hosts the special, which is scheduled to air in major U.S. cities this month. The show showcases life onboard a six-day transatlantic crossing. Viewers will also have a special tour of the Bridge with Queen Mary 2's Captain Christopher Rynd.

"Onboard Queen Mary 2 - A Transatlantic Adventure" is scheduled as follows:
New York Sat 10/7 7-7:30 pm
Los Angeles Sat 10/21 3:30-4 pm
Chicago Sat 10/21 6-6:30 pm
Philadelphia Sat 10/21 2-2:30 pm
San Francisco Sat 10/21 7:30-8 pm
Dallas Sat 10/21 1-1:30 pm
Washington DC Sat 10/21 2-2:30 pm
Miami Sat 10/21 7-7:30 pm
San Diego Sun 10/22 5-5:30 pm
Hartford Sat 10/21 7-7:30 pm
Check your local NBC listings to confirm day and show time.

*** Celebrity Cruises was embarrassed into stopping an advertising campaign it had started in Hawaii that offended many Hawaiians. Acknowledging its poor judgment in running it, Celebrity Cruises today accepted an offer from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to provide cultural training for its marketing staff. Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity Cruises president, reiterated the company's regret over the insensitivity of the company's ads, which depicted the King Kamehameha statue holding a champagne glass.

"We are deeply sorry that our ads offended so many people," Hanrahan said. "It was certainly never our intention to be disrespectful to the people of Hawaii, and we sincerely regret any concerns that were raised by our indiscretion." Celebrity announced it will publish ads in two of Hawaii's major newspapers this week to make its apology to the Hawaiian people more public.

The original ads, which Celebrity immediately pulled after learning of their unintended effect, had appeared recently in several travel-agent publications.

*** Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has expanded its culinary team with the appointment of three new corporate chefs: Warren Pearson, James Wierzelewski and Christophe Le Cras to the company's food and beverage department. Reporting to Karl Muhlberger, director of culinary operations, the trio brings a combined 67 years of culinary experience to NCL.

The trio will work as a team to develop dynamic new menu concepts for the NCL fleet and implement them onboard by the end of November. The chefs will spend five to six hours each day in NCL's test kitchen creating new recipes and making modifications to existing menu items as well as visiting various ships in the fleet talking with passengers to gather feedback. After the introduction of the new menus, the team will be responsible for maintaining the innovative Freestyle Dining product and ensuring that NCL keeps at the forefront of culinary trends looking beyond conventional industry practices. Back to Top

10-05-06 Carnival Redeploys Ships Carnival Cruise Lines will switch the homeport deployments of its 2,124-passenger SuperLiners Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle beginning in spring 2007. Carnival Legend, which currently sails from New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will be deployed to Tampa to operate year-round seven-day western Caribbean voyages departing Sundays from that port beginning April 15, 2007. Currently based in Tampa, Carnival Miracle will be relocated to New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to operate eight-day Caribbean cruises from those ports beginning April 25, 2007.

Since Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend are sister ships, guests' reservations will be automatically shifted to the new vessel with booking and stateroom numbers remaining the same. However, switching the homeports for Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend provides repeat guests sailing from Tampa, New York and Fort Lauderdale an opportunity to experience the unique interior designs and entertainment options available on these vessels. Back to Top

10-05-06 NCL Unveils New Web Site Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) unveiled a new Website this week that features an abundance of new user-interactive features in addition to a new look and feel. The new site features an interactive Freestyle Cruising section depicting the difference and benefits of Freestyle Cruising. User will find enhanced, detailed information on each ship, along with in-depth descriptions of NCL's shore excursions, including activity levels, and a list of the most popular excursions by port.

The site also features a new "booked guest experience" area, designed specifically for guests who are booked and ready to cruise. This section provides guest registration forms, answers to frequently asked questions, a "Welcome Aboard" booklet, and information for guests with special needs, and more.

There are also several areas designed for access solely by your travel agent that will make it easier for your agent to manage your cruise. Back to Top

10-05-06 Cruisers Get Passport Reprieve The International Council of Cruise Lines is reporting that Congress has passed a provision that will delay the passport requirement for cruisers going to the Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean until a new form of identification (called the PASScard) can be initiated, or June 1, 2009, whichever comes first.

According to Christine Fischer of the ICCL, this delay will apply to cruise passengers traveling by sea, but for people traveling to these destinations by air the deadline for passport requirement, Jan. 8, 2007, is still in force.

The delay was added at the last minute to the FY2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (H.R. 5441), approved by Congress this week. Back to Top

10-02-06 Woman Dies from Fall on Ship A 48-year-old woman, who was seen jumping from one of the upper outside decks of the Carnival Conquest, died from the fall, according to details provided by Carnival Corp. The woman landed on a cabin balcony, and was spotted by another cruise passenger who said he could see the woman lying three levels below where he was on the ninth level. He said he did not personally see the woman's fall, but he estimated it occurred about 3 p.m. as the ship was entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Carnival said the woman was traveling with her spouse, but did not release her name to the public. Carnival has notified authorities. Back to Top

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