News Archive - September 2009

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9-28-09 Norwegian Epic Maiden Voyage on Sale Today Norwegian Epic's first Eastern Caribbean cruise on July 10, 2010 goes on sale to the public today. Prices are from $1,149/person, based on double occupancy. Ports of call include Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. Guests can make a reservation by contacting Norwegian at 866-234-7350, visiting epic.ncl.com or calling their travel agent.

The ship's 2010 inaugural sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, available as seven-day individual sailings or 14-day combined sailings, from Miami are available through April 2011. The ship's Western Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico.

Norwegian Epic will make her inaugural transatlantic seven-day cruise on June 24, 2010, departing from London (Southampton). The 4,200 passenger Freestyle Cruising ship will arrive in New York, her first port of call in the United States, on July 1, 2010.

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic will offer world-class entertainment with Blue Man Group and Cirque DreamsTM & Dinner; new accommodations with the largest luxury complex at sea; a unique collection of 20 dining options; incredible nightlife with the first ever true Ice Bar at sea; and a multi-slide Aqua Park with the biggest bowl slide on water.

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9-28-09 Malt Shop Memories Cruise Brings the Best of the '50s and '60s to the High Seas Carnival Cruise Lines and Sixthman are proud to announce the launch of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise- a five-day, four-night cruise offering guests a unique travel experience as they journey back to the birth of rock n' roll via live performances and themed events. The cruise will set sail May 13-17, 2010 aboard the Carnival Inspiration, traveling from Tampa, Florida, and calling at Cozumel, Mexico. On board, guests will enjoy live performances from the era's top artists in an intimate and personal setting. Those appearing include Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Lesley Gore, The Original Drifters, The Platters, and Lou Christie. Renowned DJ Jerry Blavat, also known as the "Geator with the Heater," serves as host of the cruise and emcee of special events.

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise was inspired by Time Life's Malt Shop Memories collection- a box set containing 150 songs epitomizing the birth of rock n' roll. "We have sold millions of the Malt Shop Memories CDs, so this cruise is a natural extension of this beloved brand," says Patricia K. Boos, Senior Vice President for Time Life. Boos attributes the enthusiasm surrounding the cruise to the dedication of those involved in bringing this era back to life. "People love this era, love this music and love these artists. Seeing them perform live on this cruise is a unique and exciting vacation experience."

In addition to non-stop music and artist interactions, guests will enjoy other activities reminiscent of the era, including sock-hops, beach parties, dance contests, bingo and more. "We are so excited for Malt Shop Memories to come to life," says Andy Levine, owner of Sixthman. "This music is the soundtrack for generations of peoples' lives, and we're excited for the opportunity to bring them together."

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise sets sail aboard the Carnival Inspiration, a 2,000 passenger floating resort boasting 2 pools, jacuzzis, a miniature golf course, state-of-the-art fitness center, spa, casino and multiple bars and restaurants. Guests will combine fine dining with themed leisure activities, while enjoying first-class service that is synonymous with the Carnival name.

"The Carnival vacation experience evokes the very same fun and carefree spirit instilled in the tunes of the ‘50s and ‘60s," says Cherie Weinstein, vice-president of group business development for Carnival Cruise Lines. "The music of these highly talented artists combined with the huge array of facilities, dining and activities aboard the Carnival Inspiration will make for one extraordinary experience." Cabins for the Malt Shop Memories cruise are on sale now. For more information, or to book online please visit www.MaltShopCruise.com.

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9-28-09 Sapphire Princess Missing Passenger Seen Jumping In the previous story, the missing passenger was seen going overboard in a videotape by the cruise line, Holland America, and they came out with a statement saying the incident appeared to be a suicide. They were immediately told they had no right to make such a statement by the Alaska State Troopers.

In the case from this week, Princess also just said the missing women can be seen jumping from the curise ship. This is sad news, for the family especially, but also for the conspiracy theorists who want everyone to believe that everything that happens on a cruise ship is actually an unsolved crime - despite a complete lack of evidence.

We, at CruiseMates would prefer it if people stopped commiting suiide from ships. Even more important, we would like the public to understand the nature of suicide from cruise ships. These people practically never leave notes, which just goes to show what an impulsive act they execute. The availabili of a means to commit suicide makes it much more likely to happen, as we explain in our editorial about this topic Suicide, Even at Sea, Isn't Painless.

People do not just "fall" from cruise ships by accident. Furthermore, people who may be suicidal; those with life-threatening diseases or those prone to bouts of sever depression, should not cruise alone. IN my opinion, the only people who should cruise alone are people who are very comfortable with their own company. Cruising is very much a "couples" or "family experience." Being alone in the midst of groups of very happy people who are probably mostly ignoring you is not a good place for depressed people to be.

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9-24-09 Zaandam Missing Passenger Ruled a Drowning Amber Malkuch of Arlington, Snohomish County, went overboard from the Holland America cruise ship Zaandam in August and her body was found the next morning off the coast of Douglas Island near Juneau. Her death has finally been ruled as a "drowning" by the Alaska State Troopers. The troppers said there was not enough evidence to rule on whether her death was a suicide or accidental.

The troopers did not say anything about any evidence of foul play, or report anything about the body that suggested she has been subjected to any trauma other than drowning.

The morning after Amber disappeared the cruise line said the ship personnel saw no evidence of foul play and that their impression was that the woman comitted suicide. The state troopers expressed a certain level of frustration with that statement saying it was not the cruise line's job to determine the cause of death. But in the end there was nothing found by the troopers to suggest the cruise line's interpretation was not possible.

Another woman is now said to be missing from the Sapphire Princess in Alaska. She was last seen when the ship was in Ketchikan but she was not determined to be missing until the ship arrived in Vancouver, BC, on Wednesday. However, what is described as "new information" suggests the woman likely went overboard shortly after the ship left Ketchikan, and the Coast Guard is concentrating its search about 15 miles south.

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9-22-09 Crystal Reduces All Prices Past & Future Crystal Cruises announced a complete revamping of its 2010 pricing and promotions with extended value-added features. Effective today, the luxury specialist is introducing:

  • Two-for-one fares for all destinations
  • All Inclusive - As You Wish spending credits for all destinations - up to $2,000 per couple
  • Free round-trip air with most cruises
  • Business class air for Penthouse categories in Europe
  • Price Guarantee

With these new promotions, offered in conjunction with Crystal's 20th Anniversary of luxury cruising, 2010 cruises will be as much as 15-20% lower than comparable cruises in 2009 - whether one takes advantage of the free air/sea package, including transfers, or opts for the cruise-only credit.

More than 2,000 consumers and travel agents were researched by the Harrison Group and Dialogue. The research confirmed that Crystal Cruises was the most respected brand of all the luxury cruise lines measured. It also revealed that even the most high-end cruise travelers respond to some savings messages over others. Based on the findings, virtually all of Crystal's 2010 cruises have been re-priced to offer guests bigger savings, convenience, and greater value for its worldwide sailings.

2-for-1 Cruise Fares

Crystal's recent consumer travel research confirmed that travelers are most attracted to the "two-for-one" pricing message. More than twice as many responded to two-for one pricing than 50% off or even greater savings messages. With this in mind, all Crystal cruises - in every category - boast two-for-one pricing, and, for most destinations, fares are lower than previously published.

All Inclusive - As You Wish spending credits of up to $2,000 per couple

Consumer research also indicated that luxury travelers appreciate the luxury of choice and Crystal's spending credits, which offer a truly customized all-inclusive experience. All 2010 cruises will offer ‘All Inclusive - As You Wish' shipboard spending credits of either $500 or $1,000 per person, including every segment of the World Cruise. Guests can use these credits toward just about any conceivable shipboard purchase, including any custom Private Adventures, any spa treatment, personal training, one-on-one golf instruction, boutique purchases, rare wines, and/or Vintage Room experiences.

Brand New Free Air Program With few exceptions, Crystal is offering free economy air transportation from more than 20 North American gateways for cruises through Australia/New Zealand, Mediterranean, Baltic, and New England/Canada. New fares also include round-trip Business Class air transportation to Europe for guests in Penthouse accommodations. Research reflected consumers' strong response to the free air value equation. Even Crystal's World Cruise, which is endowed with hundreds of enrichment opportunities and special events, will enjoy a new air bonus for any two back-to-back segments. As always, Crystal includes round-trip airport/ship transfers with all of its air/sea programs. Guests can opt to deduct a credit for cruise-only fares.

Price Guarantee Research confirmed that Crystal Cruises' Price Guarantee resonates more than ever with travelers who feel they might be penalized for booking early. For 2010, Crystal Cruises will retain its Crystal Assurance Plan (CAP), which means that guests are assured they will get Crystal's lowest published fares, even if the line reduces fares. With the new 2010 fares, Crystal guests will enjoy lower air/sea and cruise-only fares for just about all of Crystal's 2010 cruises.

Birthday Bonus In celebration of Crystal's 20th anniversary in 2010, the line is retaining its Birthday Bonus promotion. If travelers book by December 31, 2009 and sail on their birthday in 2010, they can save 50% off a second cruise-only fare taken before their 2011 birthday. In addition, birthday guests can celebrate their 2010 birthday with a special champagne breakfast and a Captain's Quarters birthday party, as well as enjoy the pampering Crystal experience.

Crystal Family Memories Another program in place for all 2010 cruises is Crystal Family Memories, which supports the huge trend for reunions and multi-generational travel. For as few as six full-fare guests traveling together (three staterooms!), guests will enjoy pre-paid gratuities, $100 per person, shipboard credit, in addition to the All Inclusive-As You Wish spending credit, a group family photo, kids under 17 sail free in a third berth and a $500 credit toward a Crystal Private Adventure. For 10 full-fare guests, the group will get all of the above plus free cruise berth (no air).

For terms and conditions and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit crystalcruises.com.

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9-21-09 John Heald Romps on Carnival Dream Waterslides - Pictures! Carnival's Senior Cruise Director and Ambassador of Fun, John Heald, couldn't wait to challenge CEO and President Gerry Cahill to a race down Carnival Dream's spectacular new WaterWorks aqua park on her inaugural cruise.

During a special three-day repositioning cruise from Trieste to Rome (Civitavecchia) this weekend, Cahill and Heald spent an afternoon "test riding" every slide in the expansive facility - from the DrainPipe featuring a unique funnel-style design to the 303-foot-long Twister water slide, the longest in cruising. The highlight of the day was a race down the 82-foot-long dual-lane racing slide, which Heald was declared the winner.

click on pictures below for larger images:

 
John pouts because the water is cold   After Gerry calls him a big baby he gets in
 
John's natural abilities soon have him solidly in the lead   Until he gets stuck on a small bump where the slide evens out!

Carnival Dream will operate a series of 12-day European voyages from Rome (Civitavecchia) through October then reposition to New York for a pair of eight-day Caribbean voyages. The ship will then reposition to Port Canaveral for a special nine-day before launching year-round seven-day Caribbean service Dec. 12.

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9-18-09 Carnival Dream Handed-over from Shipyard to Carnival In a traditional maritime handover ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, earlier today, Carnival Cruise Lines officially took delivery of its newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream.

Following the ceremony, Carnival Dream departed for Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, for its inaugural cruise, a 12-day Grand Mediterranean voyage departing Sept. 21 - the first of three voyages within the region.

The ship will then sail a trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome to New York followed by a special two-day cruise and two eight-day Caribbean voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Dream will then reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., for a special one-time nine-day voyage Dec. 3 before launching year-round seven-day Caribbean service Dec. 12.

"With some truly unique spaces and amazing entertainment options, Carnival Dream is dramatically different from any other ship we've introduced and ushers in an exciting new era in "Fun Ship" cruising," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO. "Value is more important than ever and the Carnival Dream - with its unique public spaces and exciting on-board innovations - provides the type of quality, affordable vacation experiences that today's consumers are seeking," he added.

Representing a new class of vessel for the line, the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream offers a host of innovations, including Ocean Plaza, a stunning indoor/outdoor café and live music venue; The Lanai, an outdoor area featuring a wrap-around promenade and cantilevered whirlpools that are suspended over the ship's side; a host of new accommodation categories, including two-bath, five-berth staterooms that appeal to families and cove balcony cabins located closer to the water line; a sprawling Carnival WaterWorks aqua park featuring the longest water slide at sea; and a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, the largest in the fleet.

Exciting new entertainment choices, including a comedy club offering 24 performances per voyage and outdoor laser shows on Lido Deck, are also featured. Also new is the "Fun Hub," a comprehensive intranet portal and the first shipboard social network that provides a variety of helpful information on the vessel and allows guests to interact and connect with their fellow passengers on board.

Dining options include two formal restaurants with extensive menus and wine lists nightly, an expansive Lido-area eatery featuring a 24-hour pizzeria, Indian tandoori and new Italian pasta bar, an elegant steakhouse serving USDA prime dry-aged beef, a sushi bar, a patisserie and complimentary 24-hour stateroom service.

A host of bars, lounges, nightspots and live music venues - all bearing the unmistakable design stamp of Carnival's renowned interior architect Joe Farcus - are also featured.

Carnival Dream is the 23rd vessel in Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet, which operates three- to 16-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, Bermuda and Europe.

A sister ship to the Carnival Dream, the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, is scheduled for delivery in June 2011. It is also being built in Italy by Fincantieri.

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9-17-09 Carnival to Move Fantasy and Elation Next May; Cruise Year-round from South Carolina Carnival will introduce the first year-round cruise schedule from Charleston, S.C., with the deployment of the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy in May 2010. Fantasy will sail on five-, six- and seven-day voyages to The Bahamas and Key West, Fla., from the Passenger Terminal in historic downtown Charleston beginning May 18, 2010.

Carnival Elation to Mobile, AB Carnival Fantasy is currently based in New Orleans and is scheduled to transfer to Mobile for a program of four- and five-day cruises that will operate from that port from Nov. 10, 2009 through May 10, 2010.

Replacing the Carnival Fantasy in Mobile will be another sister ship, the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation, which will reposition from San Diego to launch year-round service from Mobile from May 15, 2010. In addition to four- and five-day cruises from Mobile, Carnival Elation will operate a series of seven-day Western Caribbean voyages in spring, summer and fall 2010.

Prior to the start-up of its new Mobile-based program, Carnival Elation will sail on a 15-day Panama Canal cruise departing from San Diego April 30. Guests will have the option of debarking the vessel in Tampa on May 14 or in Mobile on May 15. Featured ports will include Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco, Mexico; and Puntarenas, Costa Rica; followed by a Panama Canal transit; and visits to Cartagena, Colombia; and George Town, Grand Cayman.

New Year-Round Departures from Charleston On its new Charleston-based program, Carnival Fantasy will operate five-, six- and seven-day voyages on a variety of departure days beginning May 18, 2010.

Five-day voyages departing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will call at Nassau and Freeport, The Bahamas. Six-day voyages departing Saturdays will visit Freeport, Nassau and Key West, Fla. Seven-day voyages depart Saturdays and will feature Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau.

Carnival is expected to carry more than 140,000 passengers annually from Charleston. Previously, Carnival offered only seasonal voyages from Charleston, including two five-day departures on the Carnival Triumph this year and two on the Carnival Glory next year.

Charleston's centralized location within the southeastern U.S., as well as the city's strong appeal as a tourist destination, were key factors in the decision to launch year-round service aboard the Carnival Fantasy.

Including Charleston, Carnival Cruise Lines will operate from 20 North American homeports in 2010, with 12 year-round departure points - the most in cruising.

Truly a 'Fun Ship' The namesake vessel in Carnival's 70,000-ton Fantasy-class, the Carnival Fantasy offers a host of on-board amenities and facilities: a 12,000-square-foot health spa, extensive children's facilities for kids in three age groups - Camp Carnival (2-11), Circle "C" (12-14) and Club O2 (15-17), a variety of formal and casual dining options and 12 lounges and bars.

Also featured is Carnival WaterWorks, an expansive, all-ages aqua park featuring a 300-foot-long water slide, 82-foot-long dual racing slides and a splash zone. Carnival Fantasy also offers Serenity, an exclusive adults-only retreat, and a resort-style main pool area.

An Internet café with ship-wide Wi-Fi access and cell phone service are also available.

The ship also offers a variety of spacious accommodations, all of which feature the Carnival Comfort Bed sleep system with plush mattresses, luxurious duvets and high quality linens and pillows.

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9-16-09 Fall Mexico Cruise Bargains It seems there is always one reagion that can't quit get up to snuff. This year the Mexico region is very competitive due to the influx of over several thousand new berths to fill weekly this year over last, corresponding with the untimely arrival of H1N1 flu worries.

Last year we saw the arrivel of two new Mega-ships: Carnival Splendor and Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas, added to the regular weekly sailings of Sapphire Princess already in service from Los Angeles. That makes three mega-ships for a total of over 8100 berths to fill every week.

Just this week we noticed Mariner is offering some of the lowest prices we have ever seen for a ship in the Voyager-class on a 7-day cruise: $299 inside for the November 15 sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Even balcony cabins are as low as $479. Not all sail dates are as cheap as this one, but overall prices are low, so this is a great time to book a Mexico cruise.

Carnival Splendor, the other mega-ship to arrive on the West Coast last year and begin offering the same 7-day itinerary is selling for $299 on the October 4 sailing, but balconies are still in the $600-$700 range.

Sapphire Princess, at 115,000-tons is also a mega-ship although she only carries passengers. Her rates drop as low as $343 for inside on the Oct. 17 and Nov. 7 cruises, with balconies in the low $600 range all fall season.

Bottom line - these are three very active ships - so even if you are worried about visiting Mexico, which you shouldn't be, you don't have to get off the ship. There are also other great bargains including the NCL Norwegian Star with balconies as low as $549 on certain Fall dates and Holland America's Oosterdam at $585 for a balcony on November 28.

Our top choice for a Mexico cruise is the 8-day Carnival Spirit cruise to Acapulco. It takes eight days to get to Acapulco and back, so this is this only regularly scheduled ship doing so. It also hits unusual ports NOT Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan, it goes to Zihuatanejo and Manazanillio instead. Prices start as low as $469 with balconies as low as $639 on Nov. 11 and Dec. 5.

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9-16-09 NCL Three-Day Sale on NOW Norwegian Cruise Line launched its three-day NOW Sale on today, September 16. The unbelievable cruise deals and special booking offers on select sailings run through Friday, September 18 for more than 300 popular cruises including those to Bahamas & Florida; Bermuda; the Caribbean; Europe; Hawai'i; the Mexican Riviera; South America; Canada & New England; as well as repositionings. In addition to great cruise fares, Norwegian is offering up to $250 in on-board spending credit, and 50 percent off standard cruise deposits.

Norwegian's NOW sale is offered on all new bookings for sailings taking place between September 18, 2009 and April 30, 2010 ranging in length from three to 29-day sailings with departures from Miami, New York, Vancouver, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Quebec, Barcelona, Istanbul, Santiago and Buenos Aires. The deposit required at time of booking is now half off and, depending on the length of the cruise, ranges from just $25 to $200 per person (excluding suites and villas).

The on-board credit can be used to purchase anything from shore excursions and spa treatments; to specialty fitness classes like yoga and spinning; gifts in the duty free shop and can even be used in the casino. The amount is based on the length of the cruise and the category of stateroom booked. Guests who book sailings of up to five days in a Garden Villa receive $100 per stateroom in spending credit; $75 for suites; $50 for mini-suites; $40 for balcony staterooms; $20 for oceanview and $15 for inside staterooms. For sailings of six days and longer, guests sailing in a Garden Villa receive $250 per stateroom in on-board spending credit; $150 for suites; $100 for mini-suites and deluxe balcony staterooms; $75 for balcony staterooms; $50 for oceanview and $25 for inside staterooms.

To book a sailing NOW, guests should contact a travel professional or Norwegian at 866-234-7350. Further information, including specific sailing dates, can be found online at www.ncl.com.

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9-14-09 Holland America Updates its Loyalty Award Program Holland America's Mariner Society Rewards Program has just been updated to provide past guests with new benefits including onboard discounts while sailing and special rates on select cruises and reduced or free third and fourth rates when booking future cruises.

These future Mariner's Society benefits are tiered and vary based on a guest's cruise history.

The new Mariner Society Rewards Program offers a four-level progressive membership. All guests who sail with Holland America Line are automatically enetered into the Mariner Society. Level of membership is based on past cruises recorded as cruise days. Guests automatically collect additional "cruise days" or cruise day credits based on their onboard spending or through the purchase of one of the premium line's suite options.

Star Mariner - level 1 Guests who complete their initial cruise with Holland America Line are automatically enrolled in the Mariner Society's first level, and will earn cruise days towards higher levels as they continue to cruise with Holland America. Star Mariner status: special offers on select sailings, 50 percent discount for third and fourth guests on select sailings, hosted sailings with Holland America Line Ambassadors, a Welcome Back Embarkation Brunch on future cruises, a subscription to the Mariner Magazine and a Mariner Champagne Brunch on future cruises.

Two-Star Mariner After 30 cruise day credits earned, Two-Star guests receive all the amenities of a Star Mariner plus 15 percent off merchandise purchased from ShopHollandAmerica.com and 10 percent off logo apparel items onboard in the gift shops. Two-Star Mariners also will receive a complimentary ship photo and be sent an exclusive annual cruise planner and special recognition pin.

Three -Star Mariner With 75 cruise days earned, Three-Star guests are automatically given all Two-Star amenities plus discounts including 10 percent off on select spa treatments; a 25 percent discount on all wine packages, mini-bar purchases, Explorations Café drinks and alternative restaurant surcharges; special advanced notice of new itineraries; and a waiver of air deviation fees.

Four-Star Mariner At the top of the tiers, with 200 cruise days earned, Four-Star guests enjoy the benefits of all previous levels and free fare for third and fourth guests on select sailings; complimentary wine tasting and laundry/pressing; a 50 percent discount on all wine packages, mini-bar purchases, Explorations Café drinks and alternative restaurant surcharges; a 15 percent discount on logo apparel items onboard in the gift shops; priority tender service and check-in; priority shore excursion pre-booking; and a free subscription to Food and Wine magazine or Travel and Leisure magazine.

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9-11-09 Disney Cruise Line is Going to Alaska Ironically, just when stories started circulating about Alaska being a dying destination suddenly cruise lines are dying to go there. Holland America just picked up a bunch of extra entry rights to Glacier Bay two weeks ago, and now we have word the Disney Cruise Line will be going to Alaska for the very first time in 2011.

Disney Wonder will sail out of Vancouver, B.C., and call on popular Alaska ports: Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. This will come in the middle of the already announced Mexico Riviera itineraries of Disney Wonder out of Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta scheduled to start in 2010.

The Disney Magic will return to the Mediterranean once again in 2011 with 10- and 11-night cruises sailing out of Barcelona. This time, in addition to ports in Italy, France and Spain, the Disney Magic will visit Tunis in northern Africa and Malta.

Two brand new and larger Disney ships will replace the Magic and the Wonder, sailing regular cruises out of Port Canaveral, starting in 2010.

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9-10-09 Crystal Offers Windows 7 Classes for College Credit Crystal Cruises onboard computer learning center called Computer University@Sea will focus on the brand new Microsoft operating system, Windows 7, with classes starting a full month before it is released to the general public this fall. The line will even offer guests the chance to earn college credit for these courses during the World Cruise.

This fall, classes based on Microsoft's Windows 7 will be available on both Crystal ships, Serenity and Symphony. Guests aboard Crystal Serenity's 2010 World Cruise will be able to earn three transferable college credits for various computer courses, and can learn using two different operating systems, Microsoft and Apple.

The Windows 7 classes will be taught by Crystal's Computer University@Sea instructors, and cover basic computing and valuable tips for mastering the operating system and maximizing ease and efficiency. The collegiate courses aboard the World Cruise, taught by an instructor from Del Mar College, include:

  • Components of the System Unit
  • Computer Storage Devices
  • Database Management
  • Privacy and Ethics

Every Crystal Cruise offers complimentary instruction on the Windows 7 operating system, e-mail, website design, digital video editing, digital camera orientation, Photoshop, and even surfing the Web. Other topics include Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, greeting and business card design, and various financial research tools and spreadsheet preparation. Private instruction is also available. There is a nominal fee for those wishing to earn collegiate credit.

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9-10-09 Cruise Agency Gives Fuel Surcharge Protection Guarantee At least one cruise agency is now offering cruisers a guarantee against the possibility of future fuel supplements. CruiseDeals (www.cruisedeals.com) is now promising any cruise purchaser that they will pay the fuel supplement on that cruise if the cruise lines decide to reimpose such fees in the future.

What difference does it make? - a possible $140 savings per couple. Think of it as a "fuel surcharge" insurance policy.

The cruise lines invoked a fuel surcharge when the price of oil reached $105 / barrel last year and then removed it when oil traded below $70 / barrel for 30 consecutive days. The surcharges are off right now, but the lines reserve the right to reinstate them at any time oil is $70 again. They "reserve the right" but it doesn't mean they will.

Oil is $71/barrel today, and has been as high as $74 and as low as $65 recently. As long as it stays close to $70 the lines probably will not reinstate the surcharge, but if the price starts to settle in the $80-range then the fees are more likely to come back.

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9-7-09 Six Cruisers Arrested in Antigua over Cab Dispute, Miss Ship Six American tourists were left in custody on Antigua (Caribbean) after they got into a scuffle with a taxi friver over the cost of being taken to a beach, and returned to the ship.

The six men and women agreed to pay the cabbie $50 for the ride to the beach, but they got upset when he said he would have to charge them the same to return later and take them back to the ship. They thought they were being overcharged and demanded to be driven to a police station. At the police station a fight broke out, and two officers were allegedly injured.

The Six American tourists were charged with assault and malicious damage including scuffling with police officers. The defendants — Shoshannah and Rachel Henry, Nancy and Dolores Lalane, Mike Tierre and Joshua Jackson — were released on $5,000 bail each Monday and are expected to enter pleas during a court appearance Wednesday. Their home towns were not reported.

Their defense lawyer, Steadroy Benjamin, said the Americans will challenge the charges of malicious damage, assault and wounding the police officers.

The Carnival Cruise Lines ship left without them.

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9-3-09 Cunard Line Appoints Master for New Queen Elizabeth Captain Chris Wells has been appointed Master of Cunard Line's new 90,000-ton liner, Queen Elizabeth, which will enter service in October 2010. Captain Wells joined Cunard as second officer on Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1992.

Captain Wells was born and brought up in Bournemouth, England. His love of the sea developed when he learned to sail in Poole Harbour and resulted in his commencing a four-year cadetship with Shell Tankers at Warsash College in 1974. He qualified as a second officer in 1978 and obtained his Master's certificate in 1985. He served with Shell for 16 years.

He also found time in 1986 to join the Royal Naval Reserve. He still undertakes two weeks' training with the RNR each year, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 1994.

After joining Cunard and QE2, Captain Wells worked his way through the ranks to become staff captain. He later joined Queen Mary 2's New Build Team and spent 18 months at the St. Nazaire shipyard. Having seen the ship develop from the beginning and bringing her into service as staff captain, Wells was extremely proud when appointed to the command of Queen Mary 2 last year.

Queen Elizabeth, currently under construction at the Monfalcone yard in Trieste, Italy, will be a classic Cunarder, offering the very best of Cunard heritage and tradition along with all of the modern luxuries Cunard guests have come to expect. She will join her sister ships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria next year, ensuring one of the oldest shipping lines in business has the youngest fleet in the world.

Commenting on his new appointment, Captain Wells said, "Bringing Queen Elizabeth into her British homeport of Southampton will be one of the proudest moments of my life, and I very much hope that the people of Southampton and beyond will take the ship to their hearts as they have done with all the Cunard Queens since Queen Mary was launched in 1934. Queen Elizabeth certainly will follow in that great tradition."

Captain Wells lives in Barnham, West Sussex, with his wife Hedda, whom he met on QE2, and three children.

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9-3-09 Silversea's New Silver Spirit Dining Options Abound The new ultra-luxury all-suite ship, Silver Spirit, will take to the seas on her maiden "Holiday Spirit" voyage from Barcelona to Lisbon on December 23, 2009. The 540-guest ship successfully completed a preliminary set of sea trials on Sunday and has repositioned to Trieste for a week in dry dock before undertaking a more rigorous set of sea trials starting on September 5. The details of an expansive array of dining options are also emerging.

"Our beautiful Silver Spirit will feature two new dining options for a total of six venues in addition to in-suite service, which includes dinner served course by course. It's revolutionary for a ship this size to offer so many distinctive dining choices," said Rudi Scholdis, Silversea's culinary director. An overview of the new ship's dining options includes:

THE RESTAURANT Situated midship on Deck 4, The Restaurant is elegant but not at all stuffy. Open most of the day, The Restaurant serves open-seating breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features contemporary international cuisine, complemented by La Collection du Monde, signature dishes created by Relais & Châteaux in partnership with Silversea's own master chefs.

LA TERRAZZA The far aft location of La Terrazza on Deck 7 allows for 180-degree views of the horizon. It is open for casual, buffet-style breakfast and lunch with indoor/outdoor seating available. For dinner, La Terrazza offers an authentic a la carte experience with only the finest elements of Italian cooking, melding together fresh and flavorful ingredients -- in the finest Slow Food tradition. Reservations are required for dinner.

LE CHAMPAGNE Savor the delights of outstanding champagnes and wines paired to perfection with regional fares in the intimate atmosphere of Le Champagne, situated aft of The Restaurant on Deck 4. This innovative Wine Restaurant by Relais & Châteaux features some of the world's rarest vintages, carefully chosen to highlight a most memorable and exclusive culinary experience. There is a fee to dine and reservations may be made on board.

SEISHIN ** NEW DINING VENUE: Taking its name from the Japanese word for "spirit," this intimate restaurant specializing in Asian fusion cuisine is situated aft of The Restaurant on Deck 4. Seishin features a large, round chef's table as its centerpiece. Guests at surrounding tables can watch the chef at work sculpting fresh sushi and sashimi. The varied menu ranges from exquisite bento (boxed meal) lunches and a la carte specialties of seafood salad, lobster and Kobe beef to a nine-course degustation dinner. There is a fee to dine and reservations may be made on board.

STARS SUPPER CLUB ** NEW DINING VENUE: The warm and inviting Art Deco-inspired decor of this dining venue elegantly recalls the supper clubs of the 1930s. Located just forward of La Terrazza on Deck 7, Stars Supper Club offers a modern twist with trendsetting menus showcasing regional and seasonal delicacies to be enjoyed in a succession of small courses. Guests can arrive early for cocktails and stay late as the mood is transformed by live music, dancing and nightclub-style entertainment. Reservations are required for dinner.

POOL GRILL On Deck 9 adjacent to the pool area is the Pool Grill. In addition to a medley of salads, sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs offered for lunch in a casual outdoor setting, the Pool Grill on Silver Spirit will introduce a wellness breakfast designed to complement morning poolside fitness classes. Here guests can start the day energized with a menu of light and delicious fares -- from nutrition-packed fresh fruit smoothies and organic cereals to egg-white omelettes and spinach and artichoke frittatas. Also set to debut at the Pool Grill is a unique cooking concept for dinner that lets guests cook healthy fare on their own heated volcanic rock plate.

24-HOUR IN-SUITE DINING Complimentary 24-hour room service is available on all Silversea voyages. Selections from The Restaurant menu are served course by course during regular dining hours, utilizing the same fine china, linens and accessories as enjoyed in The Restaurant.

Silversea Cruises is launching Silver Spirit in December - designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents.

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9-2-09 Regent to Feature Canyon Ranch Spas Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced world famous Canyon Ranch will soon operate the spa, beauty salon, wellness and fitness facilities on board the line's fleet of all-suite ultra-luxury ships.

Aboard Seven Seas Voyager, Mariner and Navigator the Canyon Ranch SpaClub will offer a state-of-the-art spa, wellness and fitness facility, plus a luxurious, full-service beauty salon.

SpaClub will offer massage, body and skin-care treatment rooms, a gym and weight room with cardio and weight training equipment, a juice bar, men's and women's locker rooms, thalassotherapy, sauna and steam rooms.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub will be installed on each ship in December 2009, with the first cruises featuring this luxurious facility being Dec. 18 for Seven Seas Voyager, Dec. 20 for Seven Seas Mariner, and Dec. 28 for Seven Seas Navigator.

Regent will also feature a full range of culinary offerings from Canyon Ranch's "Spa Cuisine," - nutritious and created with the highest gourmet standards - starting in the spring of 2010 at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the ships' main dining room; for breakfast and lunch in the more casual dining venue La Veranda; at the Pool Grill, and on the 24-hour Room Service menu for in-suite dining.

The Beauty Salon will offer complete beauty services for women and men including hair design and nail care, makeup consultations and makeovers.

The facility will offer an array of rejuvenating spa treatments, some created specially for Regent guests, include massages and therapeutic bodywork, mud, aromatherapy, ayuvedic and seaweed treatments, facials and masks featuring Canyon Ranch's award winning Your Transformation skincare products, conditioning body scrubs and therapeutic body cocoons.

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9-1-09 Seven Seas Navigator - Five Cruises Canceled Because Regent Seven Seas Cruises was forced to move a previously scheduled dry dock for Seven Seas Navigator from mid-January to mid-November, five sailings have been canceled -- Nov. 8, 23 and 30 and Dec. 8 and 18 -- with the ship due to resume its schedule on Dec. 28. Two new voyages have been added, on Feb. 2 and 9. The dry dock will be take place at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven instead of at Detyens Shipyards in Charleston, S.C.

Customers on the canceled cruises are being notified, with incentives to rebook on other sailings. Those who do not rebook will get a full refund.

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8-31-09 Rare West Coast Hurricane Sitting Off Mexico Hurricane Jimena is sitting just off the west coast, centered about 285 miles south of Cabo Corrientes near Puerto Vallarta. It has now strengthened to a category 4 hurricane. It was initially a small storm that quickly gained steam and is expected to strengthen further over the next day.

Jimena is expected to threaten the resorts of Baja California on Tuesday with possible sustained winds of 135 mph. Originally, residents were told not to be worried about the storm. Jimena is the second hurricane in the eastern Pacific this season. Hurricane Carlos passed last June, but was too far out at sea to cause any danger.

Only Carnival cruises have been affected. here is what their web site says:

"We are closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Jimena which is currently located about 250 miles southwest of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Due to the location of the storm, we will make the following itinerary changes: The Carnival Elation August 29 departure from San Diego will visit Catalina on Tuesday and Ensenada on Wednesday. The Carnival Splendor August 30 departure from Long Beach will visit Catalina on Monday and Ensenada on Tuesday.

We will navigate our ships at a safe distance from the storm at all times. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew." Please see "Hurricanes' effect on cruise ships - should you worry?" for more information on the effects of tropical storms and hurricanes.

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8-28-09 Disney Dream Begins to Take Shape

Disney Cruise Line celebrated the keel laying of the Disney Dream today, the first of two newly-designed ships for Disney Cruise Line.

The keel laying ceremony is the first step of construction after many years of design work. In the maritime industry, the ceremony marks a momentous occasion when the first block - or section - of the ship is lowered into the building dock and a coin is placed under the keel for good fortune.

Doing the honors of placing the coin was Captain Tom Forberg. With a distinguished maritime career aboard Disney Cruise Line, Forberg was the first crew member hired and the captain who launched the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Recently, Forberg was named as the future Master of the Disney Dream.

The ship will continue to take its form through a block construction process in which pre-fabricated complete hull sections are joined together in block units and are then brought together to form the ship. The Disney Dream will be made up of 80 blocks, with the first block weighing in at approximately 380 tons.

Designing the Disney Dream

The Disney Dream is scheduled to join the current fleet in 2011, followed by Disney's second new ship, the Disney Fantasy in 2012. Together the two new cruise ships will more than double the capacity of Disney Cruise Line, each having 1,250 staterooms and a tonnage of 128,000.

Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering, along with the Meyer Werft shipyard claims to have created a truly distinctive design - details to be revealed later this fall.

Homeports

Both new ships will call Port Canaveral, Fla., their home, where expansion efforts are underway to accommodate the larger ships and additional guests. In addition to an extension of the dock and enlargements to the one-of-a-kind Disney terminal building, a new multi-level parking structure will be built, complementing the design elements of the ships. The new enhancements will provide guests a seamless transition from land to sea during their vacation experience.

Disney Cruise Line also recently announced that the Disney Wonder will operate from the Port of Los Angeles starting in 2011.

Future Itineraries

In addition to the new ships, Disney Cruise Line continues to expand itineraries, with plans to once again sail the Mediterranean region aboard the Disney Magic during the summer of 2010. In addition to the popular ports in Spain, Italy and France, the ship will visit Tunis, in Northern Africa, and the island nations of Malta and Corsica. Disney Magic will also visit the historic cities of Northern Europe for the first time calling on Warnemunde, Germany, the gateway to Berlin and St. Petersburg, Russia. Enchanting Scandinavian ports like Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm, will also be a first for Disney.

Holz noted that the company will begin to announce some itineraries for 2011 in September during the D23 EXPO, the ultimate fan experience where the entire world of Disney will come together under one roof at the Anaheim Convention Center in California.

Based in Celebration, Fla., Disney Cruise Line established the family cruise market when it launched its business in 1998. Recently the line was named the best large cruise ship for families by Travel + Leisure magazine in its annual readers' poll.

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8-26-09 Holland America Offers "Cancel for Any Reason" Insurance Holland America Line guests who purchase Cancellation Protection Plan (CPP) can cancel their cruise for any reason whatsoever to receive a refund of up to 90 percent of the cruise fare paid. Two variations of the plan allow cancellation of a cruise up to 24 hours prior to the cruise or cruisetour departure for Standard CPP and right up to departure for CPP Platinum.

With Holland America Line guests do not need specific reasons to be protected, according to Richard D. Meadows executive vice president. "It provides added peace of mind in today's environment to know that whatever might be affecting a guest's travel plans, they can receive a refund if needed."

For most sailings, Holland America Line's standard cancellation policy allows guests to cancel in writing without penalty up to 76 days prior to the departure date.

Two Levels of CPP

Standard CPP reimburses 80% of eligible amounts paid for cancellations for any reason up to 24 hours prior to the cruise or cruisetour departure. Plus, the plan provides an additional $500 liability (for a total of $600) for lost, damaged or delayed baggage.

CPP Platinum features a 90% refund upon cancellation for any reason prior to departure. Other benefits for the expanded plan are increased baggage protection for lost or damaged luggage up to $1,600 total, delayed baggage coverage up to $1,100, trip interruption protection if a guest must return home unexpectedly and trip delay coverage.

Medical coverage under the plan provides for emergency medical expenses for illness or injury first occurring during the voyage, emergency medical evacuation and 24-hour emergency hotline assistance for legal, passport, cash transfer, medical and documentation assistance.

Standard CPP and CPP Platinum are available to U.S. and Canadian residents and must be purchased at the time of deposit. The cost varies by cruise fare and is non-refundable. For example, CPP pricing for a guest paying up to $1,000 per person for a seven-day Caribbean cruise would be $79 for Standard CPP and $99 for CPP Platinum. For more information and specific plan details, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit www.hollandamerica.com.

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8-25-09 Celebrity Century Re-routed to Europe for 2010 Celebrity Cruises has decided to redeploy Century to the Mediterranean next summer, 2010 and cancel the previously announced series of 4- and 5-night cruises from Miami between May and October 2010.

Celebrity Solstice scheduled to sail in the Caribbean year-round next year on 7-night Caribbean cruises while Celebrity Century will continue to present 4- and 5-night Caribbean cruises from November 2009 through early May 2010.

Century will depart Miami May 20, 2010, on a 14-night transatlantic voyage visiting Ponta Delgada, Azores; Lisbon, Portugal; and Seville and Malaga, Spain, ending in Barcelona. There, on June 3, Celebrity Century will begin a series of 12-night, roundtrip Mediterranean cruises, with a variety of ports of call that vary depending on departure date.

Among the destinations are the French Riviera's luxurious Cannes and Monte Carlo, Nice, and Provence, known for its aromatic fields of lavender; the seaside communities of Sicily and Salerno on Italy's Amalfi Coast; historic Florence/Pisa and Rome; Venice with overnight stays in port; Ephesus, Turkey, with its ancient ruins; Athens, and Mykonos, Greece; and the Adriatic seaside communities of Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia.

Celebrity Century's 2010 Europe season will be capped with a 14-night transatlantic voyage departing Barcelona October 25, with calls on Malaga, Spain; Madeira, Portugal; and Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands, ending November 8, 2010, in Miami, Fla., where the ship will resume its popular 4- and 5-night Celebrity Caribbean getaways.

Bookings for Celebrity Century's new Europe sailings in 2010 open Thursday, August 27.

All guests with confirmed bookings on Celebrity Century's 4- and 5-night Caribbean sailings between May 20 through November 4, 2010, are being contacted with an exceptional option: To be reaccommodated from their 4- or 5-night cruise on Celebrity Century to a 7-night sailing on the new Celebrity Solstice, subject to availability, in a like category at the same fare paid.

Travel agents or guests with questions about pertinent bookings on Celebrity Century are advised to call 1-888-281-9343.

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8-24-09 Norwegian Epic's First Transatlantic Cruise Open for Waitlist Norwegian Cruise Line announces it is now offering guests the opportunity to book a waitlist reservation on Norwegian Epic's first transatlantic cruise. Guests on the waitlist will have first priority to secure their booking once the sailing date, itinerary and pricing are announced. Guests can call their travel agent or Norwegian at 866-234-7350 to be put on the waitlist.

Norwegian Epic's 2010 inaugural sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Miami are open for sale, with cruise fares starting at $699 per person. The first Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami is scheduled for July 17, 2010 and the ship's alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are available through April 2011.

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

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8-24-09 Hurricane Bill Drenches Newfoundland

Hurricane Bill, now a category one storm, knocked out power for about 40,000 customers in Nova Scotia yesterday and is now forecast to bring dangerous waves and as much as 6 inches of rain to parts of Newfoundland on Monday as it travels up the Atlantic Coast and may even continue on as far as Great Britain.

The storm touched on southeastern Newfoundland at 2 a.m. eastern time with maximum winds of 75 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.

Bill was moving east-northeast at 40 miles per hour and is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm later today, the center said.

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8-20-09 Hurricane Bill Forces Route Changes for Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean gave a tropical storm update today that shows a simple revising of one itinerary and no changes for any other ship. They do advise Baltimore passengers to stay alert for future possible changes.

Here is Royal Caribbean's update:

August 21, 2009

Royal Caribbean International continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Bill to ensure our guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew members is always our foremost concern.

Given the current location and projected path of Hurricane Bill, we are altering the itinerary of one ship, and providing the following guidance regarding one sailing:

Ships sailing from the Cape Liberty

  • Explorer of the Seas, which departed Cape Liberty on Thursday, August 20, is sailing a revised itinerary, with its ports of call simply reordered. The ship will visit San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday; Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Monday; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Tuesday; and Kings Wharf, Bermuda, Thursday.

    Ships sailing Baltimore, Maryland

  • Grandeur of the Seas is scheduled to depart on Saturday, August 22, for its five-night sailing to Bermuda. However, guests on this sailing are encouraged to monitor these updates for any possible modifications to the itinerary.

    At this time, no other Royal Caribbean International ship is being affected by tropical weather. Royal Caribbean will continue to closely monitor weather conditions and will update this information if there are any changes.

    NCL reported last night, Aug 21, 2009:

    At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. We are closely monitoring the forecasted path of Hurricane Bill.

    Norwegian Spirit will depart Boston as scheduled today. Depending on the path of the storm, the ship may arrive later than scheduled into Bermuda. The ship's Captain will update the guests on board as to the specific arrival time in Bermuda once it has been determined.

    At this time, we are anticipating that the August 23 sailings of Norwegian Dawn from New York and Norwegian Majesty from Baltimore will depart as scheduled.

    We will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary

    Carnival Cruises

    August 21, 2009 - 6:00 PM We are closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Bill. All of our ships are operating at a safe distance from the storm. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew.

    The Carnival Triumph cruise that departed from New York on August 20 will cancel the scheduled call in Saint John. The ship will now navigate a safe course away from the storm and return to New York on Monday as scheduled.

    We are not anticipating changes to any other itineraries at this time including the Carnival Triumph cruise departing from New York on August 24. We will update this information if any new information is available.

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    8-18-09 NCL Alters Norwegian Sky Itinerary for Ana Because of the current expected path of Tropical Depression Ana, forecasted to pass near the islands of the Bahamas this week, NCL has changed the port of call order for Norwegian Sky's four-day Bahamas sailing, departing Miami on August 17, 2009. Norwegian Sky will first call on Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian's private island), followed by Nassau and Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas.

    NCL will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary.

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    8-18-09 Polynesian Hotelier Pacific Beachcomber Acquires Paul Gauguin Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the former Radisson luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin, has been acquired by Pacific Beachcomber, a leader in French Polynesia luxury destination resorts. The Paul Gauguin specializes in itineraries among the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific.

    "2010 will be business as usual, with no changes to our product, our dedicated officers and crew members, or our support of travel sellers worldwide, and we see many opportunities to enhance an already world-class experience for our guests."" said David A. Giersdorf, President and CEO of Paul Gauguin Cruises. "The m/s Paul Gauguin is a very successful ship, sailing at full occupancy the past three years, and with only 5 percent of capacity remaining in 2009."

    The largest luxury hotel operator in the destinations the m/s Paul Gauguin calls home, Pacific Beachcomber will provide opportunities to connect cruise itineraries with some of their premier resorts. The 2010 Paul Gauguin season features 38 itineraries ranging from 7 to 15 nights, highlighting Tahiti, the Society Islands, Tuamotus, the Cook Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. The ship recently received a multi-million dollar enhancement including private balconies in nearly 70 percent of suites and staterooms and an expanded al fresco dining experience.

    Early Booking Promotions are offered for guests who reserve and deposit by September 30, 2009 to receive up to 50 percent off Standard Cruise Fares for January-March departures and up to 45 percent off Standard Cruise Fares for April-December departures, as well as Free Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Papeete for 2010 departures of 10 or more nights, or for 2010 departures of 7 to 9 nights Two-for-One Roundtrip Airfare between Los Angeles and Papeete, an additional savings of up to $2,500 or $1,250, respectively, based upon two persons sharing a stateroom. Early Booking Savings are capacity controlled and subject to availability.

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    8-17-09 Princess Expands West Coast Destinations in 2010 Princess Cruises has added seven new sailings to next year's fall to spring (2010/2011) schedule aboard Sapphire Princess, including two leisurely Pacific crossings between California and Sydney, Australia, plus additional Hawaii cruises. Saphire Princess is currently sailing 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises out of Los Angeles through May 1st, 2010.

    The new Sapphire Princess cruise schedule includes the following:

    • 2-day Pacific Coastal (Vancouver to San Francisco) - September 20, 2010
    • 30-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (San Francisco to Sydney) - September 22, 2010
    • 29-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (Sydney to Los Angeles) - October 23, 2010
    • 10-day Mexican Riviera (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) - January 5, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) - January 29, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) - February 26, 2011
    • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) - March 26, 2011

    The new sailings are currently open for sale, with fares starting at $199 per person for the new two-day coastal cruise. Pacific crossings begin at $4,195 per person and the Hawaiian Islands sailings, beginning at $1,995 per person, sail from Los Angeles to Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai and Lahaina. Four days at sea before a stop at Endenada to satisfy the foreign port and the ship then returns to Los Angeles.

    To accommodate the new cruises, which were added as a result of shifting demand in the west coast cruise market, Princess has cancelled 15 previously scheduled Mexican Riviera sailings starting in September, 2010. An additional 17 Mexican Riviera sailings are still available during this time period.

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    8-17-09 Tropical Storm Bill Threatens Bermuda as Hurricane Tropical Storm Bill was 1,160 miles east of the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Monday morning, Aug 17, and moving west-northwest at 22 mph. The system is forecast to become a major hurricane, with winds of at least 111 mph, by Aug. 19, as it turns northwest on a course that may take it near Bermuda on Friday, Aug. 22.

    The first possible trajectory has Bill going directly over Bermuda and continuing on to the New York Area. Or the storm could turn to the west sooner and hit the U.S. south of the New York area, or turn to the east and lose strength before landfall.

    This has been the slowest start to a hurricane season in some 20 years. The first named storms just appeared although the season typically lasts from June 1st through November 30.

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    8-17-09 Carnival and NCL - No Changes Due to Tropical Storms Carnival Cruise Lines released this update on August 16, 2009 - 8:00 PM

    We are closely monitoring the progress of Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Storm Bill. All of our ships are operating at a safe distance from these storms. Our number one priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and crew.

    Due to a favorable change in the forecast for these storms, we will now operate the scheduled itineraries for the Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Victory. The Carnival Freedom will now visit Nassau (Sun.), San Juan (Tues.), St. Thomas (Wed.) and Tortola (Thur.).

    We are not anticipating any other itinerary changes at this time. We will update this information if any other changes become necessary.

    NCL released this statement on August 15th:

    Tropical Storm Ana Update - Norwegian Cruise Line is closely monitoring the path of Tropical Storm Ana as the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance.

    At this time, we are not altering any of our ships' itineraries. However, we will continue to closely monitor the weather situation and depending on the projected path of the storm, itinerary modifications may be required.

    Norwegian will continue to closely monitor the weather conditions and update this information as necessary.

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    8-4-09 Crystal Symphony to Get Major Makeover Crystal Symphony, the baby of the two-ship luxury fleet, is about to get a $25 million-plus makeover featuring dramatic new interiors and deck space. The 922-guest, 50,000-ton ultra-luxury ship will boast redesigned pool areas, alternative Italian restaurant Prego, an updated Lido Café and new Penthouse suites.

    Penthouses

    Crystal Symphony's two 982-square-foot Crystal Penthouses will be completely transformed into the feel of elegant residential apartments with luxurious fabrics, details and finishes. Already boasting extra large verandahs, the interior will be extended to enlarge the living spaces and bedroom. Both the master and guest bathrooms will feature rare marble and designer fittings, but the master bathroom will boast a sunken Philippe Stark Duravit Jacuzzi bathtub with 90-degree ocean views, glass mosaics and recessed televisions, among other features. The suites also offer an entrance lobby, "his and her" walk-in closets, private study area, living room, state-of-the-art audio-visual system and a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows.

    Crystal Symphony's 61 butler-serviced Penthouses and Penthouse Suites will be redesigned in soothing taupe and sand tones, accented by citrus or icy blue, one of two color schemes. New custom cabinetry will sport stone countertops and flat screen televisions, while new bedding, stone-topped end tables and bedside reading lights will be framed by new headboards, carpeting and window treatments. All bathrooms will feature new tile with mosaic accents, glass showers, contemporary hardware and lighting, and a fresh white and neutral color palette.

    Lido Café

    The popular breakfast and lunch café will be transformed into an upscale dining spot with a completely new Crystal dining experience, designed to showcase Crystal's freshly cooked fare as well as to add intimate seating. Inspired by the endless skies, surf and sand dunes of the Hamptons seashore, the room will be infused with light through a new glazed indoor/outdoor extension and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. Natural tones of seashell, sand and weathered timber provide a soothing backdrop for sparkling polished metal accents and sea grass screens. New food and drink service islands, each with different choices, will enable guests to enjoy what they want in their order of preference. New bread oven, grill, woks and other culinary equipment will provide an even greater array of freshly cooked to order choices.

    Seahorse and Neptune Pool Areas

    Befitting an upscale chic resort, Crystal Symphony's pool areas will be redefined with new spaces, water features and furniture providing more indoor and al fresco dining, plush conversational seating and varied sunbathing options. Sophisticated limestone tile will offset the azure pool and the new, larger whirlpool, while deck furniture offers a harmonious combination of antique white and neutral taupe accented with colors of sunshine and tropical fruit. In the retractable roof-covered, mid-ship area of the Lido Deck, the Neptune Pool will be removed and replaced with teak decking and al fresco dining and lounging options around the Trident Bar. While the calming neutrals of the Lido Café open to brighter outdoor colors, the unifying theme is natural and relaxed.

    Prego

    Since its debut, this critically-acclaimed, intimate Italian specialty restaurant has been inspired by Venice. Open only for dinner, the new design will be moody and dramatic, retaining elements of traditional Venetian architecture and portraiture presented in a fresh and modern way. Luxuriously padded, dark chocolate fabric walls frame delicate chandeliers, art by famed Venetian artists and richly upholstered seating.

    All Staterooms

    All Crystal staterooms, all of which were redecorated in late 2007 and feature sitting areas, will receive new sofas to provide more seating and add third berths for families. This year, all accommodations on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity received new plush Simmons' mattresses with healthful sanitary protectors.

    Other Enhancements

    During the September drydock, Crystal is also investing in upgraded elevators, a new crew restaurant, new lighting systems and other behind-the-scenes projects. Medical center improvements include digital x-ray equipment, enabling doctors to efficiently share x-rays with guests' personal physicians and other specialists. A major upgrade of the ship's onboard broadcast production studio will enhance Crystal's extensive television programming with added clarity and brilliance.

    Crystal's drydock is scheduled for September 17-October 1 in Boston at the Atlantic Marine Boston shipyard. Adfecto will design the Crystal Penthouses, Lido Café, Seahorse Pool and Neptune Deck areas, guest elevators and crew mess. Kurt Nix will design Prego and II X IV will design the Penthouses and Penthouse Suites.

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    8-3-09 Crystal Cruises Warns Public on Lookalike Check Scam Crystal Cruises is warning the public (not just travel agents) to be on the lookout for fraudulent checks bearing the name "Crystal Cruises." The upscale cruise line says a yet-to-be-determined fraudulent check writer is sending out checks by mail to individuals who respond to job postings for Mystery Shoppers, or possibly just random mail addresses. This is according to CruiseWeek, an industry newsletter.

    The scheme-scam seems to work like this; the mailer has forged a check that looks almost identical to Crystal's corporate checks, with the trademarked logo. They advise the recipient to deposit the check and then send the same amount of money to a third party via Western Union. This is a typical check scam as seen from Nigeria, or from Ebay or Craig's List purported buyers.

    Crystal Cruises has notified and is working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this matter. In order to provide the authorities with the additional information necessary to apprehend and prosecute the criminals behind this fraud, they ask that if you receive such a check, or have any information regarding this scam, please email them at "fraudalert" at crystalcruises dotcom or fax to 1-310-277-8150 or call 1-310-785-9300 and ask to speak to the Fraud Alert Department.

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    8-3-09 "Cruise Widow" Jennifer Hagel Smith to Remarry The widow of George Allen Smith, a newlywed who disappeared on a cruise in the Mediterranean in one of the most famous cruise mysteries ever, has plans to remarry. She is engaged to a financial analyst Jeff Agne, 29. The date for the wedding has not been publicly announced. The couple is registered at Amazon and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Hagel is reportedly not using the name "Smith" anymore although she did throughout the tribulations following the cruise tragedy.

    George Allen Smith disappeared from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 2005. Court records indicate the couple admits to partying heavily throughout the cruise, even disregarding cruise line rules by sneaking alcohol onboard and consuming it in their cabin and on deck. George disappeared after a night a heavy drinking by both newlyweds, she was reportedly found passed out in a ship corridor at the opposite end of the ship from her cabin, George was left in his cabin by three men they had been associating with during the cruise.

    About 4:30 a.m. a neighbor reported hearing "partying" in the Smith cabin and the ship sent security officers to investigate. Before they could arrive three men were seen leaving the cabin. Security arrived and knocked on the door, but all was quiet and they received no reply so they left. Soon after the same neighbors says he heard loud banging noises inside the cabin and eventually a loud thud. No one else was seen leaving the cabin.

    Jennifer was discovered passed out, loaded into a wheelchair and taken back to her cabin by two security men and a woman escort. They put her on top of her bed and left the room. They did not see anything indicating foul play while they were there, but pictures of the stateroom taken the next day show papers everywhere and clothes and towels on the floor. Jennifer characterized the room appearance as "lived in."

    The next morning Jennifer awoke at 8:00 and rushed to the spa, stating later she mistakenly believed she was late for an appointment there. About 9:00 blood was spotted outside the balcony of the Smith cabin and a search was started for the couple with announcements over the PA system which did not go to the spa. Jennifer was eventually located but George Smith was not. The rest of the day was a blur for Jennifer as she was taken off the ship to Turkish police headquarters, always with a female Royal Caribbean assistant with her. Jennifer and her family decided she should leave the ship and come home, so they wired money to pay for a hotel and an air ticket.

    Jennifer Hagel Smith came to a settlement with Royal Caribbean, after extensive media coverage portraying the cruise line as uncaring for different reasons, including the fact that they gave her clothes after her cabin had been sealed at the request of Turkish authorities, and the clothes had the cruise line's name on them. Under the Death on the High Seas Act, an international treaty which limits liability by ship owners only to the widow of the deceased, the settlement to Hagel Smith essentially limited the ability of George Smith's parents to seek a separate settlement with Royal Caribbean. Hence, the Smith family believe a crime occured which the cruise line has covered up and they have been attempting to have the settlement agreement between Hagel and the cruise line overturned. George's parents are now said to be co-founders of the International Cruise Victims association, a group that has been putting pressure on Congress to change the laws governing cruise ship reporting of crimes on the high seas.

    Was it a crime? After investigation by the Turkish authorities, the FBI and even famous "O.J. Simpson CSI investigator" Dr. Henry Lee who was hired by Jennifer Hagel Smith to review the evidence, no expert or authority has said they firmly believe a crime was committed. Jennifer has expressed great respect for the way the FBI handled the mystery and says she agrees with their assessment that there is a 50/50 probability that there was or was not foul play. No charges were ever brought forth against any individual by any law enforcement entity.

    After the settlement agreement was reached Jennifer Hagel Smith made a statement that her husband's family has refused to acknowledge the possibility that George Smith's intoxication from alcohol and prescription drugs may have been a factor in an accidental death. Instead, she said they have insisted Smith was a victim of foul play despite a lack of evidence.

    Jennifer's lawyer, Richard Sheeley, stated, "There's no evidence we can see of murder."

    As the editor of Cruisemates I just want to say that even though Jennifer may not come across as the most prudent and cautious person in the world, I do think she has been honest with the facts throughout this entire ordeal - including her own behavior. I believe that if she were convinced there was foul play she would pursue that route. There is little doubt that there is a tremendous amount of animousity towards her from the Smith family and from the group of self-described cruise victims who obviously want to make the cruise line responsible for everything that ever happens on a cruise ship, despite a lack of evidence to support such claims in any case.

    One thing this case taught everyone is that the loser in every misfortune on a cruise ship is the cruise line who will be criticized no matter what they do. When they gave Jennifer clothes they were criticized because they said "Royal Caribbean." When she had an escort with her every minute until she flew home they were criticized for not having more than one escort. When Jennifer flew home it was said they threw her off the ship, even though they were informed that was her decision. They were criticized for not preserving evidence but also criticized when they packed all of her belongings in plastic bags so she could take them home. They were criticized because the bags said "Royal Caribbean."

    Jennifer Hagel Smith criticized the cruise line a great deal in the beginning until she finally came around to saying she believed they had done the best they could in assisting the investigation under the circumstances. Meanwhile, the Smith family has questioned Jennifer's actions and probably would have preferred that she be treated more like a criminal. This was not their initial reaction, however, when they were going to be a party to her lawsuit.

    In fact, the split between Jennifer and the Smith family was precipitated when she started believing the FBI was doing a good job handling the case but the FBI couldn't say conclusively that a crime had occured. Jennifer has said the FBI were like family in the months after George's disappearance, calling her and dropping by, and following up every lead possible. The Smith family found Jennifer's actions suspicious and reportedly contacted the FBI with their own ideas about Jennifer's behavior.

    As is the case with most "cruise victim" stories, the lack of evidence is never a concern. It is almost always ascribed to "a coverup" by the cruise line as to what really happened. Still, we have to say we are happy the media is finally reporting these stories with far more accuracy. Most articles about people who go missing on ships do not automatically suggest they fell from the ship or were murdered and thrown overboard, they now include the possibility that the overboards were self-induced either intentionally or by mistake.

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