Monday, December 28, 2009

The Ocean Village Cruise Ship Ends Operations In Caribbean

Caribbean Press Releases

The Ocean Village Cruise Ship has had a successful 6 year run.  Tobagonians have become accustomed to seeing the colourful and inviting vessel pull into the Scarborough port every other week during the summer. However, September 2010 will be the last opportunity to view this vessel.

Carnival Cruises UK has announced that by the end of 2010 Ocean Village will cease operations as a brand and the ships will be transferred to the P&O Australia Cruises. The ship Ocean Village which continues to operate Caribbean cruises until next fall will be renamed to Pacific Pearl.

In 2003 Ocean Village commences operations with the tag line “The cruise for people who don’t do cruises” and  offered the British public a relaxed cruise experience, similar to Norwegian Cruise Line Freestyle cruising.

Ocean Village successfully appealed to first-time-type cruisers by "tearing up the cruising rule book" and targeting the "Dress Down Friday" generation. The cruise line strongly supported casual dress, sporty activities, eating-when-you-please, stand-up comics and rock concert-style entertainment.  Freedom and casual experience has been the mantra everyday on Ocean Village. Specifically, none of the restaurants have dress codes and there are no formal evenings, so the cruise was great for those who like to pack light and for those who avoid formal attire.

The Caribbean and Tobago in particular will continue to see cruise ships from the Carnival family member P&O Cruises, as the Oceana, Artemis and Ventura continue to ply their routes with formal cruises providing great cruise vacations.

Ocean Village Two has already ceased its Caribbean duty and is now part of the P&O Australia Cruises fleet, sailing under the name Pacific Jewel.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Travel Increases Nationwide

My West Texas

Although the percentage of Americans traveling this holiday season is expected to increase by nearly 4 percent from last year, local experts say that may not be the case in the Permian Basin.

According to AAA, about 87.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or farther during the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, up from 84.5 million in 2008.

In Midland, though, travel agents say many people still are holding tighter to their wallets and choosing to stay close to the Tall City this holiday season.

“It’s been that way all year,” said C.W. Porter at Amera Travel Network.

Those who are traveling, Porter said, mostly are looking for a warm getaway and are booking trips to Mexico or Caribbean cruises.

Vicki Johnson with Adventure Travel agreed, saying adults without kids are flocking to Cancun and various warm destinations. Families, she said, are choosing places like Disney World.

Instead of taking major trips that require high-priced airfares, managers at resorts in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico said many Texans are deciding to drive to their venues for part of the holiday season.

Lajitas Resort and Spa’s reservation manager Terri Thate said they have several families already in town and are expecting their largest crowd over the New Year’s holiday when occupancy rates will reach more than 90 percent. That’s still not where they want them, she said, but is much higher than on an average weekend this year.

At The Lodge at Sierra Blanca in Ruidoso, N.M., Ryan Reynolds said they’re nearly sold out for the remainder of the month and have several families coming in to ski. In previous years, he said, the resort has required guests to stay for a minimum number of nights if they’re making a reservation. This year, though, they took the rule away and have seen business increase since families have cheaper options if they want to visit for just a night or two.

About 77.7 million Americans are expected to travel by automobile, according to AAA, which is an about 4.4 percent increase from 2008.

AAA anticipates air travel will increase by about 2.9 percent with 4.2 million traveling by plane compared to 4.1 million in 2008.

Those traveling by either method, travel agents said, are likely paying more than  previously because the airline industry has shrunk its offerings by 3 to 4 percent. Gas prices are up about 90 cents from where they were at this time last year, according to

Johnson said those planning travel at the last minute are paying the highest prices as most deals were grabbed by those who made reservations six months ago.

Because airlines have decreased their offerings, Porter said, those who are traveling via Midland International Airport still will see crowds on board. At this point, he said, anyone who hasn’t booked a flight will have trouble finding an outbound seat.

“There are definitely no deals in the airline industry,” he said.

And while locals said it hasn’t quite become the case in Midland yet, AAA officials say the increase in travel despite these pricing conditions is a sign citizens are more at ease about the economy.

“More Americans traveling and taking advantage of Mexico cruise specials during the winter holidays is another sign consumers are continuing to grow more confident in their personal financial situations,” said AAA’s director of Travel Services Glen MacDonell in a statement.

The Transportation Security Administration is advising travelers to arrive at the airport with patience since the holidays typically mean larger volumes of inexperienced travelers.

Packed flights also will mean any cancellations made due to weather around the country could cause more chaos than in previous years since there won’t be many openings on alternative flights.

“Really there’s not a lot you can do,” Johnson said, adding the possibility of bad weather is enough to keep many families at home.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

January Snows Mean Travel Sales

NY Times

FOR years, Linda Graef Jones planned the family ski vacation over Christmas or during Presidents’ Day week, to coincide with her children’s school vacation. That meant paying the usual holiday premiums for airfare and lodging, and dealing with throngs of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. This year, with both her children in colleges that have longer winter breaks, she is going in January instead.

“January is currently the softest-looking month for cruise pricing of the year,”

“It was a no-brainer,” said Ms. Graef Jones, a sales executive for an insurance brokerage firm in New York. She had a variety of less expensive flights to choose from, she said, and estimates she is saving more than $500 a night on the cost of the condominium. “Lodging was relatively inexpensive,” she said, and without the crowds, “you can ski and get a lot out of your expensive pass.”

Also, she added, “it’s nice to get out of the holiday craziness.”

January may be the best time of year to take a vacation, as passenger traffic drops and resorts, airlines and cruise companies all roll out deals. Yet the start of the year is often overlooked when it comes to vacation planning: families return to school schedules and New Year’s reveling is traded for resolutions of eating in, working out and spending less. And it’s no wonder. People are tired, or broke, or dreading the thought of getting on another plane.

“You could call it vacation fatigue,” said Evan Eggers, president of the cruise vacation site But a lot of travelers are missing out. It’s a great time to travel, Mr. Eggers said, “since you’re escaping the cold and getting a killer deal.”

Just how killer? Discounts range from 30 to 50 percent compared with the holidays and other busy travel periods. Hilton Hotels just introduced a January Sale with weekend rates 33 percent off hotels in North and South America. The average domestic airfare for a weeklong trip departing Saturdays in January is $274 round trip, according to Bing Travel, the Microsoft search engine that predicts airfare prices. That’s down from about $447 on average for Christmas week.

January and February also have the fewest airline passengers, according to the Department of Transportation, easing the airport experience. And with fewer crowds, you could have that beach or fresh powder trail all to yourself.

So it’s time to shake off that holiday hangover and plan a trip. But don’t just jump at the first cheap fare that comes your way. Think about what you want to do once you get there in order to find the best destination for your budget. Though Florida beckons with bargains, the water can be chilly in the winter, and temperatures, while warm, tend to hover in the 70s or even lower. So you may want to look farther south to Caribbean cruises. But if pub crawls and hot springs are your thing, Reykjavik may be just the place, with two-night packages, including flights from New York or Boston, from $499 a person at

To help you plan your post-holiday escape, here are some of the best bargains for popular winter getaways, whether you’re seeking, sun, snow or a cruise vacation.

Sun lovers: It’s high-season for cold-weather getaways like Hawaii cruises and the Caribbean, where warm sands beckon sun worshipers, and discounts tend to be scarce. But it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than it was over Christmas. And some resorts are offering extra incentives to fill rooms in January. The Reef Resort on Grand Cayman has Summer in January rates from $230 a night, down from $325. On Nevis, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is offering seven nights for the price of six with its January Thaw package. The deal starts at $3,750 based on double occupancy — $630 less than a similar package over the holidays — and includes daily breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.

Hawaii’s deals may soon dry up as Alaska, Continental, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines add flights next year, bringing more visitors. So strike now to nab a bargain like $135 a night with breakfast at the Hotel Renew, half a block from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. On the Kohala Coast, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, normally $600 a night, has rooms from $450 with a fourth night free.

Deal seekers may get the most bang for their buck from Mexico cruises, which are still offering discounts to win back visitors scared off by reports of Mexican gang and drug violence and the H1N1 outbreak earlier this year. Fares are about 40 percent less to Cancún in January on average compared with the December holidays, 34 percent less to Puerto Vallarta and 30 percent less to San Jose del Cabo, according to

Occidental Hotels & Resorts, which has six all-inclusive properties in Mexico, is running a winter sale with rates starting at $81 a person a night at the Allegro Nuevo Vallarta, north of Puerto Vallarta, for travel beginning Jan. 4.

Snowhounds: The snow is falling and so are prices at ski resorts this January. Four nights and three-day lift tickets at the Village at Squaw Valley near Truckee, Calif., start at $828 a person, according to, down from $1,115 a person last January and $1,383 a person in December. Bachelor Gulch Village in Beaver Creek, Colo., is offering 25 percent off lodging, a $50 resort credit and three-day lift tickets for the price of two, bringing four nights in a two-bedroom with three days on the mountain to $642 a person when four people share a room. Last January a similar package was $868 and didn’t include resort credits or the lift-ticket special.

Vancouver may seem out of reach as it readies itself for the 2010 Winter Olympics in February. But it’s cheap if you go now. “Visitors assume the host city is busy in the months leading up to the Olympics,” said Emily Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Tourism Vancouver. “We’re not.”

For less than $400 a person, skiers can fly round trip to Vancouver from San Francisco or Denver and stay two nights at the Fairmont Hotel with United Vacations, Jan. 11 to 28, according to, and hit the local ski slopes at Grouse Mountain, Cypress and Mount Seymour.

Cruisers: “January is currently the softest-looking month for cruise pricing of the year,” said Evan Eggers of The average price of a seven-night cruise on major lines such as Princess Cruises is about $600 a person, he said, compared with $900 in December.

Some cruise lines have adopted airline-style yield-management strategies and are now changing prices multiple times a day, according to Mr. Eggers. Travelers can check for such rate cuts by clicking on Price Cut Tattletale at and sorting by date, line or region. There was a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise from Galveston, Tex., starting at $420 a person (down from $2,033) on Royal Caribbean Cruises, for example, in a recent search for January; a $650 a person (down from $2,464) 14-night Amazon River cruise from Manaus Brazil to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Princess; and a $300 (down from $2,599) seven-night Hawaii cruise on Norwegian.

Another site for spotting deals is And if all you want is a diversion, consider Norwegian’s one-night sail to nowhere on the Norwegian Gem, from just $159 a person. It departs New York on Jan. 2 and 23, cruising about seven miles out to sea so it can open the casino and duty-free shops, and then returns to its starting point.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Larger Cruise Ships Tempt Seniors

NY Daily News

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney and others  have or are about to launch massive new state-of-the-art ships that offer activities, services and amenities never before available on the high seas.

That’s sure to interest a group that’s always helped fill the ships: older vacationers.

“The 65 and over crowd are always excited to hear about the new ships,” said Jill Rosenberg, manager of group travel sales at AAA New York Travel in Garden City, L.I. Nonetheless, she added, “For repeat cruisers, I have found that they often appreciate staying with what’s familiar and will often return to the same cruise line, and even the same ship, year after year.”

Last summer, to celebrate turning 80, Virginia Byrnes invited her extended family − 15 people aged 9 to 80 − on a five-day cruise to Mexico on Royal Caribbean.

“I wanted my whole family together to celebrate my birthday,” said Byrnes, whose family comes from around Manhattan and Long Island. “If we stayed at a resort instead of taking a cruise, we would have been too spread out, and we would have needed at least three or four cars to get around to restaurants and activities. Cruise ships are ideal for traveling conveniently with groups.”

Everyone enjoyed meals together but, in between, people went off to various activities.

“I enjoyed swimming everyday, the dining and the shows at night. The adults in the group enjoyed gambling at night after I went to bed, while the kids participated in the camplike activities offered aboard the ship during the day,” Byrnes said.

“We had the best time, and this was my best birthday ever.”

The newest cruise ships offer a lot more than sundecks, swimming pools and shuffleboard to entertain seniors. While not everyone will try a rock climbing wall or indoor ice skating rink, the golf driving ranges, world-class day spas and land excursions are a big hit.

“Everyone has different budgets, physical limitations and expectations. There are cruises available to fit everyone’s needs, including people with physical or dietary limitations,” Rosenberg said.

When reviewing cruise info that describes land excursions, the cruise lines now rate them based on how strenuous they are.

“Make sure you choose activities that are within your physical abilities,” Rosenberg said.

To find the best prices on cruise packages including Mexico cruises, contact the cruise lines directly, work with a travel agent and visit online services, especially for last-minute deals.

Some of the newest ships have created unusual cruising environments.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Oasis of the Seas, for example, pays homage to Central Park on one full deck, even adding cafés and shopping.

When Norwegian Cruise Lines launches a ship named Epic next summer, it will offer a bar made entirely of ice.

“The cruise lines are trying hard to make the cruise ship itself into the vacation destination. Where the ship actually travels to is now almost secondary for many passengers,” Rosenberg said.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top Cruise, Travel Destinations For 2010

 USA Today

Poised to claim their time in the spotlight, destinations around the world are taking center stage with big festivals or anniversaries, massive new developments, or just particularly good deals. If you're looking to be where the action is in 2010, consider a trip to:


Been waiting for the right time to visit Germany? Then dust off your passport and practice your "Guten Tag!" 2010 stands out as a year chock-full of memorable, unique, and rare events. And increased air service from the U.S. puts it all closer.

For something a little different, how about coal mining complexes turned art and cultural centers? That's what you'll find in the Ruhr, a region once known primarily for coal and steel, which has transformed itself and earned the European Capital of Culture designation for 2010. The 53 cities comprising the region will host more than 300 projects and 2,500 events during the year. The extravaganzas include "!Sing," a day of song with 65,000 performers; the "Still Life A40," during which a 60-kilometer long banqueting table will be set up along a closed highway and the public invited; and "ExtraShift," an art and performance festival in 40 venues on June 19.

Watch for discount Germany cruise deals to Hamburg. Hamburg is a busy harbor city situated along the Elbe River cruises in North Germany, and owes much of its architecture to the rebuilding done in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after a massive fire. World War II also inflicted severe damage, but the city's medieval character is still evident thanks to post-war restorations. The skyline features an extraordinary backdrop of church spires, architectural landmarks and towers, and the whole of the city serves as a gateway to the neighboring capital of Berlin.

Once a decade for the last 375 years, villagers in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau put on a play re-enacting the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The five-hour Passion Play has a cast of more than 2,000 villagers, and attracts an audience from around the world. Tickets to the play, which will be staged 102 times between May and October, are already sold out, but a number of tour operators are still offering accommodations-and-tickets packages.

More anniversaries and festivals round out Germany's 2010 offerings. September marks the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest in Munich. Leipzig and other cities will celebrate the 200th birthday of composer Robert Schumann (this website is in German only) with concerts. And Nuremburg's Railway Year (in German only), complete with train-themed art, a locomotive parade, and special exhibitions, will honor the 175th anniversary of the country's first train.

Germany will be easier to get to in 2010. Starting on March 27, Continental will begin daily nonstop service between Newark and Munich. And in May, Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, will begin nonstop service between San Francisco and Dusseldorf.

Worried about the cost of a Germany vacation or Germany cruises? The German National Tourist Board offers tips for keeping costs down on accommodations, transportation, and more.


Is Singapore the next Las Vegas or Dubai? New mega-resorts, iconic buildings, and over-the-top entertainment are shaking up the destination's staid reputation. And in 2010, Singapore will host the first Youth Olympic Games.

Three massive projects are set to open in 2010. A major Las Vegas developer has reached a golden finger across the Pacific to create the Marina Bay Sands, the first casino and resort in Singapore. The resort, set to open this winter, includes three hotel towers topped by a "sky park" with gardens, 360-degree views, restaurants, and a swimming pool. The resort will also house a museum, whose architecture was inspired by the shape of a lotus blossom, as well as a mall with shops, restaurants, cafes, and an indoor canal.

Across from the Marina Bay Sands, big things are afoot at the Fullerton Heritage Complex, a massive waterfront dining, entertainment, and hotel development. In early 2010, the new boutique Fullerton Bay Hotel will join the refurbished luxury Fullerton Hotel in offering waterfront accommodations close to downtown.

Also opening early in 2010 is Resorts World at Sentosa, a family-centric destination island with a Universal Studios theme park and the world's largest oceanarium. Hotels on the island will include a Hard Rock Hotel and the Michael-Graves' designed Hotel Michael.

Set sail on Royal Caribbean Cruises, Legend of the Seas in Asia. Sail from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and Penang on a 3 Nights cruise of Asia. Savour your Asian Cruise and take in the delights offered on board Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Legend of the Seas on the 3 Nights Asian Cruise.

An entire island of entertainment won't be the only thing to draw families to Singapore this year. In August, the destination will host the first Youth Olympic Games, drawing young athletes from around the world to compete in 26 events, including track, gymnastics, and swimming. Nearly 400,000 tickets, priced to be affordable, will go on sale in March. Each ticket includes a free day of travel on Singapore's public transportation system.

Visitors looking to stopover in Singapore this winter can check out Singapore Air's Stopover special, which includes accommodations and dining discounts, plus attraction and transportation passes.


2010 is set to be a banner year in Tampa. The city will see the opening of a new theme park (no, not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that's Orlando), art museum, and children's museum, providing visitors with plenty of new reasons beyond the beach to pay a visit.

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? Sure. This spring, Busch Gardens will open the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, a playland packed with rides, shows, and other amusements, including the "Air Grover" junior roller coaster and the watery "Oscar's Swamp Stomp."

Tucked inside Tampa Bay on Florida's west coast, it's really no surprise that Tampa has evolved as a year-round bustling home port for Tampa cruises with mostly Western Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries. Its red-hot waterfront is jam-packed with sights, sounds and surf, and is just a hop, skip and a jump away from century-old St. Petersburg and from Clearwater, one of Florida's best beaches.

The fall 2010 opening of the Glazer Children's Museum provides another reason to bring the kids to Tampa. The 53,000-square-foot museum will be a place for children to learn, create, and play. Kids can follow the journey of a water drop from a climbing structure, pilot a plane, or dress up like firefighters and put out imaginary fires.

On February 6, the Tampa Museum of Art will open a new facility in downtown Tampa. In its new digs, the museum will continue to host traveling exhibitions in addition to adding to its permanent collections of classical and contemporary art.

Tampa is well-connected to the rest of the U.S., and with air service from low-cost carriers including AirTran, JetBlue, and Southwest, airfares tend to stay competitively priced.


It's no secret that Iceland is a great deal right now. Iceland's currency still hasn't recovered from the economic crisis, and that means a very favorable exchange rate for visitors looking to soak in the Blue Lagoon, hike glaciers, and dance all night. With 10,000 waterfalls, geo-thermal pools galore, and a nightlife and music scene that draws crowds from around the world, there are plenty of ways to stretch each dollar.

While most destinations saw fewer visitors last year, Iceland actually welcomed more than in years past. Lonely Planet just named Iceland a top-value pick for 2010, and Travel + Leisure called it one of the world's sexiest affordable destinations.

It used to be that if you wanted to go to Iceland, your choices were to fly Icelandair or swim. But that will change in 2010, when Icelandic low-cost carrier Iceland Express debuts seasonal service between New York, Reykjavik, and about two dozen European cities in June. When we compared fares, we found Iceland Express prices that undercut established carrier Icelandair's. With two carriers to choose from, we're hoping to see a summer travel fare war fit for the Viking ancestors of Iceland.


With the H1N1 virus and drug-related violence in its Northern cities, Mexico tourism had a rough 2009. But a big anniversary, a strong dollar, and some of the most affordable hotel rates in years promise a brighter 2010 for travelers to Acapulco, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and other popular spots in Mexico.

This coming year, Mexico will celebrate 200 years of independence. To mark the occasion, Mexico will debut six history routes that follow three military campaigns of the Independence movement and three of the Mexican Revolution. Even if you're not tracing a route, you can still keep an eye out for the "Mexico is My Museum" signs that will identify important points along the routes. A toll-free number will even offer a short informational message about the location.

If you're considering Mexico cruises in the New Year and want to save, let the deals guide your planning. Hotels and resorts around the country are promoting discounts, specially priced packages, and extra amenities thrown in to sweeten the offerings. And package providers like Pleasant Holidays have low rates on air-and-hotel packages plus additional perks such as free car rentals and activity discounts. In recent months, Mexico has been a favorite among airlines promoting frequent flyer award destinations, a trend likely continue well into 2010.

The exchange rate still provides more chances to stretch vacation dollars, and should allow vacationers to do more with their money at least through the first half of the year, and possibly longer.

More destinations to watch in 2010

• Hawaii: A bevy of new routes from Alaska (Sacramento and San Jose to Hawaii in March), Continental (Orange County to Honolulu starting March 7), and US Airways (Charlotte to Honolulu starting December 17, 2009) put Hawaii within reach of more travelers. Plus, Norwegian Cruise Line will add two more Hawaii cruises this spring.

• Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul celebrates its heritage and vitality as a 2010 European Capital of Culture. Throughout 2010, the city will feature music, literature, theater, traditional arts, and more.

Vancouver: Vancouver is mere months away from welcoming the world to the XXI Olympic Winter Games. For the rest of the year, take advantage of tourism infrastructure improvements without battling Olympic crowds.

Ft. Lauderdale: Both JetBlue and Virgin America have just started service between San Francisco and Ft. Lauderdale, making it easier to get to from the West Coast. Nearby Miami will host the Pro Bowl in January, and the Super Bowl in February, making Ft. Lauderdale a hot spot for sports fans around the country. Ft. Lauderdale is also the new home of the world's largest (for now) cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

• Capetown, South Africa: Another hot destination for sports enthusiasts in 2010, Cape Town will host the FIFA World Cup beginning in June.

• Colombia: With Spirit increasing service to Colombia, and more low-cost carrier service from JetBlue, this up-and-coming destination is easier to get to than ever before.

• Cuba: Will 2010 be the year the U.S. eases its travel ban on Cuba? It's certainly a destination to watch this coming year. Watch for 2010 cruise specials.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Sanctuary For Human Wild Life

Sydney Morning Herald

Lounging back, eyes closed, sweet peace and quiet. There's just the gentle rocking of the waves to remind you that about 1900 other passengers also inhabit this cruising superliner, Dawn Princess.

I'm in a special zone where the usual din of the sun-drenched upper decks and the bustle and buzz of holidaymakers at play are absent. There are no kids screaming and splashing in the pool.

No live band belting out classic rock tunes. No cacophony generated by dozens of different conversations carried on simultaneously. No thirsty throng milling three-deep around the bar.

Instead, a cool drink is just a request away. Nearby passengers are as interested in preserving the peace as I am. An extra touch of ostentatious luxury is provided by a "serenity steward" who will come around to spray you with a mist of chilled Evian water if the sun gets too hot.

Aptly named the Sanctuary, this lounging area is Princess Cruises' bid to deliver one of the few luxuries of busy shipboard life found in preciously short supply - solitude.

Unveiled aboard the Crown Princess in the Caribbean in 2006, the Sanctuary concept is being unrolled throughout the cruise line's worldwide fleet, which is part of the Carnival group.

Dawn Princess, which went into dry-dock for a multimillion-dollar refurbishment in June, is the first of its two Australian ships to get the Sanctuary-branded upgrade.

The Sanctuary is on the forward-most section of the top deck, where a combination of distance and headwinds isolates it from much of the noise and activity of the pool deck.

The oasis-inspired space, child-free and partially sheltered by a sunshade, is kitted out with about two dozen plush lounge chairs around a private splash pool. A small army of staff is always on hand to serve complimentary snacks or fill bar orders. At sunset, there are yoga classes.

Access to the Sanctuary isn't part of the standard inclusive cruising package - patrons are charged $20 a half-day - but there's been no shortage of passengers eager for splendid isolation.

"It's been about creating a niche area, a big ship with a small ship feel," says the director of corporate affairs for Carnival Australia, Sandy Olsen. It's only a short stroll back to the party - and Dawn Princess' other new attraction, a massive LED TV above the pool deck, measuring eight metres by 4.5 metres and with a picture powerful enough to be seen in blazing sunlight.

During the day there's a changing schedule of family-friendly films and concert videos. At night, passengers rug up for movies under the stars, with fresh popcorn and bar service.

Last week, Dawn Princess embarked on a two night repositioning cruise from Sydney to Melbourne, where it will be based from November to March. The ship has since departed on a 28-day circumnavigation of Australia, one of the eight itineraries it will sail in Australia and New Zealand in the 2009-10 summer season.

It's expected to be a bumper year. Cruising has had a surge in popularity in recent years, making it one of the few consistently strong and growing sectors of the domestic tourism industry, particularly during the global financial crisis.

The number of passengers for Australia cruises grew by 26 per cent last year, according to the International Cruise Council Australasia. By comparison, the US cruising market - the largest in the world - grew by just 5 per cent and the British market by 12 per cent.

A recent survey by marketing group Cruise Down Under found there are more ships visiting more Australian ports and spending more money than ever before.

A professor of tourism at Edith Cowan University, Ross Dowling, says the Asia-Pacific region has become the fastest growing for cruising. "[Cruising gives] Australians a holiday that's close to home and it's now a lot more affordable in terms of value for money compared to a lot of domestic and international holidays," he says. "There's a real attraction to a holiday that's pretty much all-inclusive.

"They've [ships] become like massive floating resorts, with everything you can think of onboard to cater to all age groups and interests." Carnival Cruises Australia, which represents P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises locally, had just two ships plying Australian waters a few years ago. It will have six by the end of next year.

The Dawn Princess, launched in 1997 and built for $400 million, has a passenger-to-crew ratio of about three to one, with an emphasis on service. Its sister ship, Sun Princess, is due to be fitted with a Sanctuary and LED screen during its scheduled dry dock in April next year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are Cruisers Ready For Sexual Chocolate?

USA Today

Remember Sexual Chocolate, the fictional band in Eddie Murphy's 1988 comedy Coming to America?

It's making a comeback next month on, off all places, a cruise ship.

AOL music blog reports the faux band, fronted by Randy Watson (aka Eddie Murphy), will make an appearance on MSC Cruises' Poesia in early January as the ship hosts the eighth annual Jam Cruise in the Caribbean - another in a popular series of themed cruises.

The annual music festival at sea also will see performances by more than a dozen real bands including Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), Galactic, Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band), Toubab Krewe, the Mother Hips, Maceo Parker, Zappa Plays Zappa and Lotus.

The five-night voyage to the Western Caribbean sets sail Jan. 3 out of Ft. Lauderdale and includes stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island.

Results Are In For Princess Cruises' 'Sea The World' Photo Competition

eTravel Blackboard

Princess Cruises passengers have revealed a talent for amateur photography in a recent competition held onboard Dawn Princess’ first world cruise from Sydney.

The cruise line’s “Sea the World” competition was designed to encourage passengers to capture the heart of each of the 42 ports Dawn Princess visited during her three-month long voyage.

Lake Macquarie resident Ron Bender, who sailed the full 104-night world cruise with his wife Cheryle Bender, won first prize of a new digital camera valued at with a touching photograph of a tiny monkey, a Barbary Macaque, inspecting a fellow passenger’s fingernail in Gibraltar. [Right]

Jenny Lourey, Senior Vice President of Carnival Australia, which represents Princess Cruises in Australia, said the competition was a hit with passengers keen to share some of their fantastic experiences on the cruise.

“We were amazed by the creativity of our passengers and their enthusiasm to share their unique experiences around the world with their newfound friends on the cruise,” Ms Lourey said.

“There were so many stunning entries in the competition, the crew said picking a winner was one of the hardest decisions they had to make,” she said.

The 77,000-tonne Dawn Princess is based in Australian waters year-round offering premium cruise holidays.

Dawn Princess’ 2010 world cruise has been selling strongly, with the voyage departing Sydney on May 21 and taking passengers through Asia and the Middle East to Europe, then to the Americas before returning to Sydney. Fares for the full 104-night world cruise start from $30,259 per person twin share for an outside cabin.

The superliner carries 1998 passengers and features close to 1000 staterooms, almost half with private balconies. Ship features include a massive new poolside movie screen to enable passengers to watch movies under the stars and a new child-free Sanctuary retreat, as well as a four-storey atrium, eight restaurants and cafes, seven lounges and bars, four pools and a 550-seat theatre.

Azamara Cruises To Be Reborn As Azamara Club Cruises

USA Today

The recently appointed CEO of Azamara Cruises today announced some big changes for the line, including a new name: Azamara Club Cruises.

In a teleconference with cruise writers, Azamara President and CEO Larry Pimentel said the already upscale brand would become more all-inclusive with everything from wine with dinner to gratuities included in the price of voyages.

Pimentel also said the line will focus much more on the destinations its two ships visit by adding longer port calls and more overnight stays to itineraries.

"We are slowing down the ships rather significantly," says Pimentel, a well-known cruise industry veteran who took over Azamara in July after running SeaDream Yacht Club -- a boutique line known for leisurely paced, port-intensive itineraries. 

Pimentel says the changes will coincide with a notable increase in prices for Azamara's voyages, which he argues have been far too low given the quality of the product.

"Rates already have come up about 20% (in recent weeks), and they will be coming up a lot more," Pimentel told cruise writers, noting the line planned a big price increase to take effect on Dec. 14.

“We’re going to ... allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” says Pimentel. “Consider destinations like St. Tropez or St. Petersburg, Russia. If you’ve experienced them only by day, you haven’t really experienced them. With Azamara, through more overnight stays and late-night stays, you can.” 

Owned by industry giant Royal Caribbean Cruises, Azamara has struggled to gain traction since it was launched in 2007 as a "deluxe" line designed as a step up from sister brand Celebrity Cruises. The line operates just two 694-passenger ships that formerly belonged to the now defunct Renaissance Cruises, and it's still a relatively unknown quantity to many vacationers. 

Pimentel, who also has served as CEO of Cunard Line and The Yachts of Seabourn Cruises says he spent weeks talking with travel agents, past passengers and cruise writers about how to take the line to a new level and has come up with a new focus for the brand based on four pillars: Destination immersion; extraordinary service; cuisine and wine; and wellness and vigor.

Pimental, notably, also has been allowed to hire his own dedicated management team for the brand, which until now was run on the side by executives at the much larger Celebrity. 

"We have been looking at everything you could possibly imagine (to change), and we are in a very fast-paced mode," Pimentel says of the new team. 

Many of the changes Pimentel announced, including some itinerary changes, will be in effect by April, he says. April also will mark the beginning of included-in-the-price wine being served at lunch and dinner.

Among other items the line will begin including in the price are specialty coffees, sodas and bottled water; self-service laundry machines; and shuttles in port towns -- a nod, says Pimentel, to feedback from customers who have said they don't want to be nickel-and-dimed on a high-end ship.

Pimentel says that by slowing down the ships and spending more time in each port the line will be able to carve out niche cruises offering a more in-depth experience than others. As part of the new focus on ports, the line will be launching more elaborate shore excursions, including two-day packages tailored to overnight calls in places such as Dubrovnik, Croatia and Sorrento, Italy.

“We’re going to ... allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” says Pimentel. “Consider destinations like St. Tropez or St. Petersburg, Russia. If you’ve experienced them only by day, you haven’t really experienced them. With Azamara Cruise Lines, through more overnight stays and late-night stays, you can.”

Among multi-day packages Pimentel says the line is adding are an overnight tour from Hiroshima to Osaka via bullet train; a three-night experience from Mumbai that includes a visit to the Taj Mahal; and a Grand Egypt tour featuring both the ruins of Luxor and Cairo.

Other unusual themed cruises the line announced today include a Ferrari driving tour in Civitavecchia, Italy; an “In the steps of The Beatles” tour in Liverpool; and an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg.

As for service, Pimentel says Azamara will be retraining its on-board suite butlers to be true English-style butlers who will "offer that fine balance of anticipatory, pampering, yet non-intrusive service to guests."

Azamara executives also announced the line will launch a loyalty program, “Le Club Voyage,” with specific features and benefits yet to be announced.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mahogany Bay Cruise Center Officially Opens To Caribbean Cruises

Breaking Travel News

The $62 million Mahogany Bay Cruise Center at Roatan in the Bay Islands officially opened this week and began welcoming cruise ships. The Yachts of Seabourn’s’ 208-passenger Seabourn Legend arrived on Saturday, Nov. 28, followed by discount Princess Cruises’ 3,070-passenger Crown Princess yesterday. Carnival Cruises’ 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor is in port today. Reaction from cruise guests to the new facility has been outstanding.

More than five years in development, and two years under construction, Mahogany Bay Cruise Center encompasses 20 acres of waterfront property and includes a two-berth cruise terminal which can accommodate up to 8,000 passengers daily.  It is a joint project of Carnival Corporation and Roatan businessman Jerry Hynds.

This week’s ship visits are the first of 200 annual ship calls at the new facility, which is expected to host more than 500,000 passengers each year.  In addition to the Yachts of Seabourn, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Princess Cruises, vessels from Holland America Cruises, Costa Cruises, and P&O Cruises, as well as non-Carnival Corporation brands, are expected to call at the new facility, as well.

In addition to a two-ship cruise pier, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center offers a welcome center along with a variety of retail outlets, including two themed bars, a restaurant and several shops. A transportation hub with the ability to accommodate taxis, rental cars and tour buses, along with a wide range of shore excursion opportunities, which can be purchased on board the cruise vessels, are also available.

Unique to Mahogany Bay is a new chair lift system that takes cruise ship guests from the welcome center to beautiful Mahogany Beach, a 10-acre private island featuring an 825-foot-long white-sand beach with a beach volleyball court and myriad watersports opportunities.  Eight exclusive cabanas are also available for rent.

The “Magical Flying Beach Chair” takes guests on a six-minute ride across nearly 1,200 feet of suspended cables, providing not only convenient beach access but views of the lush countryside as well.  All-day passes for the beach chair lift are $5 per person.  An elevated path is also available for those who prefer to walk.

“The Mahogany Bay Cruise Center not only serves as a gateway to one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands but is also a destination unto itself, with a magnificent white-sand beach and a wide range of shops, restaurants and shore excursion opportunities,” said Giora Israel, senior vice president of port and destination development for discount Carnival Cruises.

Untested Waters For Gigantic Cruise Ships

Wall Street Journal

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. — Oasis of the Seas will make quite a splash Saturday when it embarks on its inaugural seven-day cruise in the Caribbean with some 5,400 passengers aboard.

Towering 20 stories above the sea and nearly as long as four football fields, discount Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s newest vessel cost $1.4 billion to build and is about a third larger than any other cruise ship now plying the seas.

And, with its 13 retail shops, 21 pools and 24 restaurants, the ship offers the most outsized example of the cruise industry's bet that huge ships with amenities like multistory cabins and 300-foot water slides will help buck slack demand for cheap Europe cruises.

But Oasis, and several other super-sized ships that will launch soon, face stiff head winds. Cruise lines have been able to fill their ships during the recession, but only by offering steep discount mexico cruises. Yields—the amount they make on each passenger—are down about 15% this year amid a broad drop in consumer spending. Travel agents say they see signs of a turnaround in 2010 cruise bookings, but fourth-quarter demand has remained very soft. And while big cruise-ship companies are still booking profits this year, helped in part by lower fuel costs, their margins have shrunk.

Even some competitors say Royal Caribbean may have gone too far in the size race. Micky Arison, chief executive of Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise company, says his company looked at building a similarly sized ship earlier this decade but decided the profit margins weren't sufficient. There's a market for bigger ships, he says, but one as large as the 225,000-gross-ton Oasis risks having the feel of "a huge mall."

Still, discount Carnival cruises is also bulking up. It launched the 3,650-passenger, 130,000-gross-ton Carnival Dream in September, and it announced this week that it has ordered another similarly sized ship costing $750 million. And the No. 3 player, NCL Corp.'s Norwegian Cruise Line, is spending $1.2 billion for the 4,200-guest, 150,000-gross-ton Norwegian Epic, which is slated to start service in the summer.

But Norwegian is hedging its bets. While it's going ahead with the 4,200-passenger Epic, it canceled an order last year for a similarly sized sister ship. "You have to be on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge, of innovation," says Kevin Sheehan, NCL's chief executive. He believes cruise prices won't climb back to 2008 levels for another three years.

As more big ships are launched, the Cruise Lines International Association estimates North American capacity will grow 8% in 2010 and an additional 5% in 2011. Even Italian-owned Silversea Cruises, which specializes in small, ultra-luxury ships, is launching one later this month that can handle 540 passengers on discount Europe cruises, or nearly a third more than its next-largest vessel.

Consumers' wallets were thicker in late 2005, when Royal Carribean, the world's second-largest cruise company by market share, decided to take the plunge with Oasis, and, a year later, to add Allure of the Seas, an identically sized sister ship, which will join the company's rapidly expanding fleet late next year.

But industry executives say they have to take the long view: Ships take about three years to build and have life spans of 30 years or more. "At some stage in [Oasis's] life we're going to have big ups and big downs. This is probably a bigger down than we ever imagined," says Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean's chief executive, but, he adds, he has no regrets. "I think Oasis of the Seas will be one of the highest returns on investment our industry has ever seen," he says.

Indeed, Oasis has had strong early bookings for cheap Royal Caribbean cruises and initial double-digit percentage-price premiums over smaller rivals, according to industry trackers. Room rates for Oasis's inaugural voyage ranged from $1,649 a person based on double occupancy for a 149-square-foot interior stateroom to $16,659 for the 1,524- square-foot Royal Loft Suite with an 843-square-foot balcony.

The ship offers a casino with gaming tables and nearly 500 slot machines, a 1,380-seat theater for Broadway-style productions, an exercise center with nearly 200 machines and twin 40-foot-high rock-climbing walls, a skating rink, and seven "neighborhoods," including one called Central Park that has more than 12,000 plants and trees. "This is as close as the industry has gotten to a Las Vegas resort," says cruise-industry consultant Rod McLeod of McLeod.Applebaum & Partners.

But the sheer size of Oasis also poses logistical challenges. Few ports are equipped to handle it, restricting its itinerary. If Oasis were to ferry passengers to land by smaller boats, "it would look like Normandy at D-Day," Mr. McLeod says.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CNBC Special -- Cruise Inc. - Big Money on the High Seas

A Behind The Scenes Look at the Cruise Industry

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dispatches From The Oasis Of The Seas

USA TODAY's Gene Sloan is blogging live this weekend from Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Oasis of the Seas.

Hi there, Cruise Loggers. It's me, Gene, and I'm on my way down to Fort Lauderdale this morning to board Royal Caribbean's much-awaited Oasis of the Seas -- the world's largest cruise ship.

The 225,282-ton vessel, which can carry up to 6,296 passengers, is being unveiled this week to travel agents and the media in advance of its first regularly scheduled cruise on Dec. 1.

Nearly 50% larger by volume than the next biggest cruise ship, the 16-deck-high giant has been the talk of the cruise world for more than a year -- and not just because of its enormous size. Stretching nearly 1,200 feet long, the massive vessel will offer features never before seen at sea, including an open-air "central park" with live trees and a family-friendly amusement area called Boardwalk.

What's it like sailing on the Oasis of the Seas? I'll be on board for the next four days as it sails out of Fort Lauderdale on a series of preview cruises, posting my impressions and answering your questions.

So close and yet . . .

Just a note to say I've arrived at the port and am just steps away from Oasis of the Seas. Alas, the boarding process isn't exactly going smoothly. While they've checked me in, they're saying it'll be at least another hour until we're allowed on board. Probably closer to 2:30 PM. I'll be back as soon as I hear more.

Good news, Cruise Loggers: I've made it on board. First impressions? As much as I hate to gush, it really is an amazing experience to take that first step from the gangway into the soaring Royal Promenade that runs down the middle of the ship. It's a stunning space -- so much more spacious and impressive than the half-as-wide promenades on Royal Caribbean's Freedom and Voyager class ships.

I'll be back in a bit with more first impressions, but first I need to drop off my bags and then I'll be away a bit touring some of the 37 categories of cabins (samples of which are open until 4 p.m.).


I'm back from touring cabins, and I've got lots of photos for you, Cruise Loggers. But first, I thought you'd enjoy this photo to the left, a first glimpse of Oasis of the Seas' zip line in action.

I captured this and many more shots of some of the zip line's first customers from the balcony of cabin 9703, which overlooks the Boardwalk (in the Oasis brochures you'll find it listed under the category "Boardwalk View Stateroom with Balcony"). Click HERE to see more of my zip line shots.

Also, don't miss the first video dispatch from our Reporter at Sea contest winner Joyce Allison, who is accompanying the Cruise Log this weekend on Oasis as a citizen journalist. Joyce will be filing more video dispatches from the ship over the next few days.

Several of you have asked below about the boarding process today. It was a little disorganized, no doubt, but I wouldn't read too much into that as today definitely was not a normal day for Oasis at the port. The presence of ABC's Good Morning America (which broadcast live from the ship this morning) definitely had an impact on passenger flow, as did the presence of hundreds of day visitors (travel agents, media and the like) arriving for tours at the same time as overnight passengers. The true test will come in the coming weeks as the ship starts up its regular schedule of seven-night cruises.

From a structural standpoint, the new port facility built for Oasis is beautiful and spacious, and it offers an unusually high number of security and check-in lanes, which all bodes well for the future.

Several thousand travel agents and members of the media are now on board the ship, and quite a few of them have headed to the Promenade for pre-dinner mix-and-mingling. The space is absolutely hopping. The pictures don't do the area justice as my camera is unable to compensate for the changing lighting, but at least you get the idea. 

The picture directly to the right meanwhile, shows Cupcake Cupboard -- one of the many food outlets, bars and stores that line the Royal Promenade.

Travel agents on board are just raving about the Royal Promenade, which has the feel of the more sophisticated avenues of shops and eateries found in the interiors of top Las Vegas casino resorts.

Cruise Loggers, I'm heading off to a series of events on board as well as dinner, so I may not post again tonight. Check back tomorrow morning as I resume live blogging from the ship. 

Am I really at sea? Not long after my final post last night, the Oasis of the Seas pulled out of Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades, but it wasn't until just moments ago that I got my first glimpse of the ocean. That's how big this ship is. You can easily spend an entire evening popping from one bustling nightspot to another from the Royal Promenade to Central Park and never even get to the outer fringes of the vessel.

How smooth and stable is Oasis? Let's put it this way: I couldn't even tell you the exact time we left port last night, that's how little movement there is -- at least on a day like today with calm seas. Back in a bit with some overall impressions of the vessel.

So I've been on board now for nearly a full day, and I'm ready to make this declaration: Oasis of the Seas really is -- as many had predicted -- a game-changer for the cruise business. Whether you love the idea of a floating resort that holds more than 6,000 people or are horrified by it, once you see Oasis you'll have a hard time arguing that it isn't revolutionary for the industry.

For years big ship lines such as Royal Caribbean have been saying they're competing not with each other but with the world's great resort destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando. And on that accord they've offered an increasingly sophisticated product that is competitive with much of what is found in those destinations. But this is the first cruise ship that truly is on par with the very top destination resort hotels of the world -- places such as Bellagio in Las Vegas or Atlantis in the Bahamas.

From Central Park's tree-line boulevard of elegant restaurants with outdoor cafe seating to the Royal Promenade's glitzy shops to the multiple resort-like pools at the top of the ship, this is Bellagio at sea. If you've been to the giant resorts of Las Vegas or Orlando -- and liked them -- you'll be comfortable here. Sure, it's bustling with people, but no more bustling than the new Wynn resort in Las Vegas.

Want a first-hand look at some of the culinary options on Oasis of the Seas? That's the topic of the second video dispatch from Reporter at Sea contest winner Joyce Allison, just posted at the Cruise Log.

A number of readers have asked about how crowded Oasis of the Seas feels. Alas, it's difficult to get a good read this weekend as Oasis is only sailing about half full. Royal Caribbean's head of operations Lisa Bauer said at a press conference this morning that there are just 3,200 passengers on board. That's more than 3,000 fewer than the ship can hold at maximum capacity.

Also affecting the flow of crowds on the ship this weekend is the fact that many of the travel agents, media and Royal Caribbean employees on board this preview cruise are taking tours and attending informational meetings, which is artificially reducing the numbers of people on the ship's outdoor decks. Today is a sea day and a lovely one at that, but the main pool areas of the ship are relatively wide open. The photo above to the left, taken moments ago, shows the Beach Pool area, which had a lot of empty chairs.

Royal Caribbean executives say they are purposefully sailing the ship below capacity through the month of December as the staff gets up to speed, and it may be a few months until we get a true sense of just how crowded the ship will feel during normal operations.

Good morning, Cruise Loggers, from a slowly waking up Oasis of the Seas. The ship is back in Fort Lauderdale today for the day but will head out to sea again tonight as inaugural events continue.

Since we're in port, I once again have access to high-speed Internet, and I plan to upload dozens of photos today of every major area of the ship -- starting with the cabins. I also will try to answer as many of your questions about the ship as I can.

As for the cabins, the photo to the right gives you a taste of the decor in basic ocean-view and balcony cabins. from Royal Caribbean Cruises. The rooms are stylish and contemporary with crisp white-on-white linens, large wall-mounted TVs, well-designed counter space, and blue and green accents. The picture is of cabin 11100, one of eight ocean-view family cabins (in Oasis' brochures you'll find them listed as "family ocean view staterooms"), but it is representative, decor-wise, of what you'll find across the board in non-suite cabins.

I mentioned Oasis' family cabins already above, but I'd like to talk a little bit more about them as they're among the most notable new lodging options on the ship. In all, there are 19 family cabins on the ship that sleep up to six people (plus four Royal Family Suites that sleep up to eight).

Roughly 50% larger than standard cabins on the ship, the non-suite family cabins have a queen bed (convertible into two twin beds), a pull-out sofa that sleeps two and a bunk bed in a niche.

The photo to the left, taken in cabin 11149, offers a glimpse of the bunk beds as they look in a "family interior stateroom." I've also just posted more photos of this cabin and two other categories of family cabins in a gallery HERE. 

Also, don't miss Reporter at Sea contest winner Joyce Allison's latest video dispatch from the ship, in which she shows off everything from the Rising Tide bar in the Royal Promenade to the zip line above the Boardwalk. 


Cruise fans have been waiting for more than a year for a glimpse of Oasis of the Seas' Central Park. What's it like? I've just posted nearly a dozen large photos in a photo gallery located HERE (the photo to the right gives you a little taste of what to expect).

Even the most jaded journalists and travel agents touring Oasis in recent days have been saying that Central Park is nothing short of a marvel at sea, and we agree. It has an elegant, upscale feel, particularly at night as the high-end restaurants that line it's sides open their big glass doors for alfresco dining. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Need For Full-Price Cruises

Miami Herald

Three years ago, with much fanfare, most of the major cruise lines announced that they would no longer permit travel agents or others to discount the price of their cruises.

This time, they said, they really meant it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. If anybody got caught discounting a cruise price, they'd lose their right to sell cruises in the future.

This fall, the discounting of cruise prices is more frequent and substantial than ever. I've never seen such bargains.

• Cruises for $67 a day, on an upscale ship: It isn't only the popularly priced cruise lines -- like Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruises, or Royal Caribbean -- that are offering rates like $339 for a five-night cruise out of Miami ($67 a day). The same figure is now being quoted for upscale ships of upscale cruiselines, like Celebrity Cruises. On its five-night sailings from Miami -- scheduled for Dec. 15, 2008, and Jan. 3, 2009 -- the Celebrity Century, a premium ship if there ever was one, is permitting cruise brokers to sell its inside cabins for $339 per person (the Dec. 15 sailing) and $359 (the Jan. 3 sailing). You can get those rates by calling America's Vacation Center at 888-420-1035.

• Cruises for $57 a day, on more basic ships: The new bargain Web site called Travel Themes and Dreams is offering those rates on no fewer than six Caribbean sailings in the autumn, on all the lowest-priced cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian): $399 per person in double-occupancy cabins. That's a price of approximately $57 a day, per person (lower than which you just can't go), and it's available for departures taking place (mainly from Florida) in September, November and December of this year.

• Free trans-Atlantic airfare: For two Mediterranean cruise departures from Barcelona, Spain on Nov. 30, 2008, and Jan. 25, 2009, on a fascinating itinerary to Rome; Athens; Ephesus, Turkey; Alexandria, Egypt; and Valletta, Malta, 12 nights in all, Norwegian cruise line will throw in free, round-trip trans-Atlantic airfare for bargain-hunting passengers. An outside, balcony cabin will go for $1,999 per person, including round-trip air to and from Barcelona from either Newark, N.J. Philadelphia, New York, Boston or Washington (for $200 more, they'll fly you from Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco or Los Angeles). As with all deals of this sort, it can be booked not with the cruise line but with a broker of discount cruises.

• Balcony cabins for $69 a day: The date is Dec. 8 of this year (long after the hurricane season has ended), the city of embarkation is Tampa, Fla., and the ship returns to Tampa 10 days later. The elegant vessel is Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas (a modern, 2,500-passenger vessel), going to San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Maarten; Basseterre; Antigua; and Tortola -- a pretty good itinerary. And the price per person, from Cruise Marketplace, is astounding. In a current market of extraordinary cruise bargains, this one takes the cake.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Does The World's Largest Cruise Ship Stay Afloat?

from Live Science

The world's largest cruise ship is making its first transatlantic crossing from Finland to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where it will make its U.S. debut. Though colossal, the ship relies on the same physical principles as its smaller brethren to stay afloat.

The massive ship, called the Oasis of the Seas and built by STX Finland for Royal Caribbean Cruises International, stands 20 stories high, is as long as four football fields, and can accommodate 5,400 guests at double occupancy.

The two typical measures of size are length and weight, which is measured as displacement, or the weight of water the ship must displace to stay afloat. "She is 1,180 feet long and displaces 100,000 tons," said Paul Miller of the Department of Naval Architecture & Ocean Engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, referring to the Oasis of the Seas.

For comparison, the RMS Titanic, which sank in 1912, was 883 feet long (269 meters) and weighed about 58,000 tons.

In terms of space available, the Oasis is nearly five times larger than the Titanic. Specifically, the Oasis can hold 225,282 gross registered tons, while the Titanic could hold 46,329 grt.

This measurement was derived long ago to describe a ship's space for a common cargo — wine. Since wine was shipped in "tuns" that each held 8 barrels or about 242 gallons, a ship that could carry 8,000 wine barrels was considered a 1,000-tun ship. "Tun" evolved into "ton" and then into "gross registered ton."

The Oasis is 50 percent larger than the runner-up, which is a group of Freedom-class ships (such as Freedom of the Seas), according to Royal Caribbean International.

Staying above water

How does such a huge ship float?

"It's just like any other ship. It has to displace an equal amount of water to how much it weighs," said Matthew Collette, assistant professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of Michigan. If it didn't, the ship would sink.

To displace this amount of water, and keep the ship stable without having a massive draft beneath the water, the designers created a wide hull.

"To keep it stable they had to make the ship very wide. It's 66 meters (217 feet) wide," Collette said. That means the Oasis can't fit through the Panama Canal, which is just 105 feet (32 meters).

About 30 feet (9 meters) of the ship sits beneath the water, which is a small percentage of the ship's overall height.

Dealing with the elements

The idea of a cruise generally means sunny skies, and such ships will change their ports of call to avoid large storms or hurricanes, Collette said. That's not to say rough seas are out of the question.

"It's hard to know for sure how this ship would ride without knowing the details of its design, but wide, shallow ships such as this tend to be 'snappy' in that they have so much stability they tend to snap back upright after a wave has passed, which can be uncomfortable to be on," Collette said. "The sheer size of this ship will also help it, as larger ships tend to be better rides in rough weather."

Another issue is the superstructure, or the part of the ship that extends above the main deck.

"We have learned how to design and build large ships successfully," said Miller, the engineer with the U.S. Naval Academy. "What is a bit challenging about this ship is the amount of superstructure. That can cause windage problems in hurricanes, but the basic idea of cruise ships is to run away from them."

While this ship will likely stay in warm tropical waters, what if it did stray and come upon a titanic iceberg? "The ship is bigger and generally able to take more damage than a smaller ship," Collette said. "However, as the ship is bigger, it has more kinetic energy to dissipate if it was involved in a collision, which may mean it would also suffer more damage."

And no matter the size of a water craft, rogue waves are always a concern. Rogue waves are rare but towering problems that can soar 100 feet and are known to sink large cargo ships. Scientists have only recently begun to figure out what's behind the once-mythical waves. A study in 2008 suggested that in rare circumstances, waves that would normally cancel each other out can combine to form tall monsters in quick fashion.

The Oasis is no low-riding cargo ship, however.

"If it was struck by one I would expect there to be some local damage at the point of impact — maybe some broken portholes or bent railings, but little else," Collette said. "All ships are designed to make the chance of large-scale structural collapse very remote."

Cozy quarters

And while the ship's behemoth size is garnering plenty of attention, the goal of such a cruise ship is to make it feel small. To do this, the Oasis is divided up into various themed neighborhoods, including parks, such as one themed after Central Park, boardwalks and a sports zone.

"It's an attempt to try to make it feel smaller, because you don't want the passengers to feel like they're just a commodity," Collette told LiveScience.

When you look under the hood, however, the giant cruise ship is pretty basic. "Most of the innovation of the ship is the size and the passenger amenities," Collette said. "In terms of the propelling machinery, the design of the ship, it's all very similar to the cruise ships that have come before. There's not a lot of new ground here."

Such a leviathan presents other issues, including figuring out an evacuation plan for so many passengers and being able to fit into ports.

Should we expect an even larger ship any time soon?

"Whether this ship is the limit I don't know," Collette said. "Because the economy has kind of turned south since they signed the contract for this ship, I don't think anyone is going to challenge it for the record in the next three to four years."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coral Princess Revamped

USA Today

Add the Coral Princess to the list of Princess cruise ships that have gotten a big overhaul over the past year.

The 1,970-passenger vessel, which is only seven years old, emerged last week from a two-week drydock that saw the addition of two major features that have become signatures at the line: a giant "Movies Under the Stars" poolside movie screen and an adults-only Sanctuary area.

The for-a-charge Sanctuary ($10 per person/half day) is similar to ones added recently to other Princess ships and features plush padded lounge chairs and the services of dedicated "Serenity Stewards" who are on call to deliver drinks and snacks. The new Movies Under the Stars screen, at 300 square feet, also is similar to what is found on other Princess ships.

Other changes to the Coral Princess include new carpet and upholstery.

The Coral Princess will spend the coming winter sailing 15-night Panama Canal cruises between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles. It'll spend next summer on Alaska cruises.

The overhaul of the Coral Princess comes in the wake of similar revamps for four other Princess  Cruises ships over the past year: The Dawn Princess, Golden Princess, Sea Princess and Caribbean Princess. In addition to a new Movies Under the Stars screen and adults-only Sanctuary, the eight-year-old Golden Princess received a new piazza-style atrium like the ones found on the line's newest ships. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

CLIA's Top Ten Reasons To Sell New Cruises

From Travel Agent Central

The Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) member cruise lines offer stress-free, no-work family celebrations in every part of the world during the winter holidays, CLIA reminds agents. And, as a bonus to spark sales, CLIA is offering a list of the top ten reasons to celebrate the winter holidays plus a sampling of what CLIA member cruise lines are offering this year. Great list. Great sampling. Great tools for cruise selling travel agents.

1. CLIA member cruise lines offer holiday cruises of all lengths on all types of ships, including the world’s newest and largest, in all parts of the world, from Africa to the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to Antarctica.

2. When quality family time counts the most, a holiday cruise offers flexibility and choice in recreational activities, entertainment, relaxed dining and fun for travelers of all ages.

3. With special pricing, an abundance of diverse activities and plenty of entertainment, cruising for the holidays is the ideal choice for multigenerational groups or groups of families and friends.

4. Holiday cruisers do not need to worry about planning and preparing menus, doing the dishes or cleaning the house. On a cruise, you can leave holiday chores behind and concentrate on enjoying time spent with loved ones.

5. In times of stress, the chance to totally escape is just what the doctor ordered. Vacationing has been proven to be healthy and good for one’s well-being.

6. With a caring ship’s staff doing all the work, including the entertaining, a holiday cruise means more time to celebrate and enjoy the festivities.

7. With so many different cruises and cruise ships to choose from, there is a holiday cruise for every budget.

8. Featuring inclusive pricing, incomparable comfort and convenience, and travel to some of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, no holiday celebration offers more value for money spent than a cruise.

9. What better or more-appreciated gift could there be than the lifetime memories of a holiday cruise with family or friends?

10. It’s not too late; many CLIA member lines are waiting to welcome last-minute cruise shoppers for the holidays.

Amadeus Cruises

The festive, traditional Christmas Markets of Vienna, Regensburg, Cologne, Prague and Paris are among the highlights of Amadeus Cruises’ winter holiday voyages on the great rivers of Europe. Strolling through bustling village squares decorated with lights and Christmas trees, passengers can shop for everything from home-made gingerbread to hand-carved wooden toys, returning at the end of the day to a ship festooned with a holiday décor. In addition to such special touches as a formal Christmas Dinner and New Year's Eve Gala Dinner, the company is offering “wonderful winter savings” with “Companion Cruises Free!” pricing. Passengers traveling in single accommodations may elect to waive the single supplement charge.

Avalon Waterways

Travelers can experience the holiday season the Central European way with Avalon Waterways on deluxe "Christmastime" river cruise vacations on the legendary Danube and Main Rivers. They will enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of 1,000-year-old-Prague and delight in the sights, smells and tastes of local Christmas markets in Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Würzberg, Bamberg, Miltenberg and Vienna. And, when they're ready to return to the ship after festive sightseeing, they’ll enjoy moving scenery from their spacious staterooms complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and French balconies as well as regionally inspired cuisine aboard award-winning ships. Cruisers booking before November 3, 2009 can receive 50 percent off airfare on already reduced winter savings.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Throughout the Carnival fleet, the winter holidays are celebrated with Christmas trees, wreaths and mistletoe, seasonal music, holiday entertainment, Christmas-themed movies and more. Santa Claus always makes an appearance toting a bag of gifts and an elaborate production show enables children to participate onstage, showcasing decorations they have made in Camp Carnival. Holiday menus feature such traditional favorites as oven-roasted turkey and pecan pie. On New Year's Eve, guests of Carnival Cruises are provided with party favors, noise makers and Champagne.

Costa Cruises

With Costa Fortuna and Costa Atlantica sailing the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Costa offers a warm and festive Italian style winter holiday experience. The ships are completely decorated with Christmas trees, twinkling lights and beautiful ornaments and, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Santa Claus makes special visits with keepsake gifts. Special holiday dinner and lunch menus offer a mix of the Italian cuisine and traditional favorites. A special New Year’s Eve “gala” night provides the opportunity to dress up for the holidays. Both ships feature holiday sailings from $599, complete with an up-to four category upgrade while kids sail for just $199 on all Costa Cruises Caribbean holiday voyages. Deposits have been reduced to $150 on all Caribbean sailings as well.

Crystal Cruises

This Christmas and New Year, Crystal Symphony will be cruising Antarctica and South America, allowing guests to experience both the South American spring and a white Christmas in Antarctica and Cape Horn. For a warm-weather Christmas, Crystal Serenity will be in the Caribbean for the holidays, sailing roundtrip from Miami on December 21. Ports include Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Barts, Turks and Caicos, Bonaire and departing from Miami. All Crystal Cruises Holiday voyages feature more than $100,000 in seasonal décor, handcrafted decorations, lavish feasts and parties and a black tie New Year’s Eve gala. They also offer the Crystal Family Memories program, with special savings, shipboard credits, free fares for children and more for groups.

Cunard Line

Imagine the winter holidays in picture-perfect Copenhagen and other Scandinavian capitals filled with antiquity and charm. Cunard Line is offering a special "complimentary double upgrade" promotion on Queen Victoria’s December 9, 2009 “Winter Wonderland” voyage. Roundtrip from Southampton, this Scandinavian itinerary includes overnight stays in Hamburg, Germany and Copenhagen. Both Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 will hold Hanukkah services December 21 - 29 and will have kosher culinary offerings available to guests. The Cunard Cruises ships will also be festooned with greenery, including trees and wreaths, ornaments, nutcrackers, gingerbread cottages and twinkling lights for Christmas, and kids will be delighted to find Father Christmas handing out gifts.

Disney Cruise Line

The spirit of the season surrounds guests of Disney Cruise Line during the winter holidays. Starting with Disney characters in their finest holiday attire welcoming guests at the decorated cruise terminal in Port Canaveral, the festivities include: “King Triton’s Tree Lighting” ceremony; family crafts such as stocking decorating and building gingerbread houses; holiday storytellers sharing tales of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwaanza; traditional holiday feasts in three themed dining rooms and “Til We Meet Again,” a special holiday edition of the line’s cheerful farewell on the final night of the voyage. Disney Magic sails on seven-night eastern and western Caribbean holiday cruises; Disney Wonder offers three- and four-night Bahamian holiday cruises.

Holland America Line

Holland America offers 20 holiday cruises between December 16 and December 28. The Caribbean beckons with 11 holiday sailings from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa that range from seven to 14 days over one or two holidays. In a new offering for 2009, ms Maasdam will sail a 10-day Western Caribbean itinerary and an 11-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Most sailings feature a visit to Half Moon Cay, the line’s award-winning private Bahamian island. Holland America also offers roundtrip seven-day holiday cruises from San Diego to Mexico, three Panama Canal cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale and California, a 15-day Circle Hawaii itinerary and longer cruises in Australia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica.


Hurtigruten is offering an all-inclusive package with all of the trimmings for the Christmas season. The penguins won't be the only creature wearing a tux as Hurtigruten’s festive 21-Day Christmas and New Years - Antarctica cruise-tour, departing December 19, 2009 celebrates the holiday season with traditional Norwegian Christmas breakfasts and dinners, onboard musicians, Christmas carols, a Santa Claus laden with gifts and a New Year's Eve dinner and midnight party -- all against a backdrop of stunning Antarctic landscapes. This offer can be booked using Hurtigruten's interest-free "Layaway Getaway" monthly payment plan.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises celebrates the winter holidays with an international flair, with festivities and traditions practiced around the world. In the Caribbean, MSC Poesia will offer a seven-night “Happy Holidays, Caribbean-Style” Eastern Caribbean voyage from Fort Lauderdale departing on December 20, and a seven-night “Caribbean  Confetti NewYear’s” Western Caribbean cruises departing December 27. In the Mediterranean, from Genoa to Egypt, guests can celebrate on MSC’s two newest ships, the MSC Splendida and the MSC Fantasia, on Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean holiday cruises. Children 17 and under sail free with MSC when sharing a stateroom with two adults paying full fare.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian cruises make Christmas at sea an unforgettable experience. All ships are festively decorated, crew members stage an interactive holiday show in the ship's theater, cruise directors and staff sing carols and Santa takes time out of his busy schedule to hand out gifts on Christmas Day. Holiday-themed menus feature dishes such as honey-glazed black forest ham with sweet potato mash, roasted turkey with apple and apricot stuffing, pumpkin soufflé and a pear and chestnut torte. Hanukkah is celebrated with kosher menus and the lighting of a menorah each day to commemorate the eight-day celebration. While kids enjoy Norwegian's youth program, parents enjoy the high-energy, festive White Hot New Year's Eve party.

Princess Cruises

Princess’ 17-ship fleet offer a wide range of sailings in the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and South Pacific for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s. Whatever the destination, guests will find Yuletide carolers, waiters wearing Santa hats, festive décor, live seasonal music and films, and special holiday feasts featuring all the traditional favorites. Popular with families, Princess Cruises holiday voyages offer young travelers parties, sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, and the chance to help decorate the ship’s Christmas tree. They also may participate in a holiday theatrical production and, on Christmas Day, Santa Claus makes a surprise appearance, bringing gifts and joy for all.

Regent Seven Seas Cruise

The ships of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, beautifully decorated over the holidays with trees, garlands, bunting and ginger bread houses, will be in the Caribbean, French Polynesia and transiting the Panama Canal over the winter holidays this year. A 10-night voyage roundtrip departing from Fort Lauderdale features many of the Caribbean “Saints”: St. Thomas, St. Barts, St. Kitts, and Saint Maarten as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Panama Canal is the featured attraction of sailings between Fort Lauderdale and California and Papeete is the departure point for sailings in Polynesia. The voyages also offer an ecumenical religious service over the holidays for those guests wishing to attend, and a special Christmas dinner menu in the main dining room.

Royal Caribbean International

Families will have the opportunity to sail the newest, biggest ship in the world this holiday season when the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas departs December 19 from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean. In addition to seasonal decorations, the entire RCI fleet will offer such holiday favorites as classic movie screenings, caroling, cookie decorating, festive music and readings of classic Christmas stories. The December 12 sailing of Independence of the Seas, also from Fort Lauderdale, will combine the Jewish Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah, with an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise. RCI offers holiday sailings from 10 domestic ports, including Bayonne, Baltimore, Port Canaveral, Miami, Port Everglades, departing from Tampa, Galveston, departing from San Diego, Los Angeles and departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn cruises welcome guests to a warm, sparkling Caribbean Holiday voyage this winter. Holiday revelers can choose from a seven-day "Legendary Christmas" voyage departing Fort Lauderdale on December 21 and ending at Barbados on December 28, or a "Legendary New Year's" cruise from Barbados on December 28 ending at Fort Lauderdale on January 4, 2010. Or, they may combine the two voyages and sail on a 14-day round trip voyage to enjoy both the holidays’ festivities and fun. Seven-day fares on Seabourn Legend start from $3,499 per person, double occupancy and the full 14-day cruise starts from $6,999 per person, based on double occupancy. Accommodations are a 277-square foot ocean-view suite.

SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream I and SeaDream II, the company’s twin luxury mega-yacht cruisers, will make four Caribbean holiday sailings this year. Offered as a roundtrip voyage from San Juan or one-way between St. Thomas and San Juan, the five-, seven- and nine-day voyages all feature an overnight stay at St. Barts in the French West Indies. Late evening stays in several other Caribbean ports of call allow for holiday shoreside festivities. Ports of call include islands in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the French West Indies, the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, depending on the cruise chosen. SeaDream Yacht Club fares include all meals, wine with lunch and dinner, open bar with selected premium brands, plus use of “water toys” from the vessel’s Marina, and gratuities.

Silversea Cruises

The six globe-trotting Silversea cruise ships, including the brand new Silver Spirit, celebrate the holidays from Antarctica to Zanzibar on itineraries ranging from eight to 17 days. Silver Spirit will holiday in the Mediterranean and North Africa, offering an 11-day maiden voyage from Barcelona to Lisbon. Silver Wind will spend 14 days in Africa and the Seychelle Islands, departing December 20 from Mahe. Prince Albert II departs Ushauaia on December 21 on a 17-day expedition to Antarctica. Silver Shadow departs December 11 from Barbados on a nine-day Caribbean itinerary, and on December 20 on a 15-day roundtrip voyage from Fort Lauderdale through the Caribbean. Other voyages over the holidays feature South America and the South Pacific.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Come one, come all with Uniworld Cruises 2 for 1 Savings and Single Supplement Waived Offers on 2009 Europe Holiday River Cruises. Cherish all the glory and magic of the season in grand European style as you cruise along the magical rivers during this festive time of the year. Uniworld’s 2 for 1 Savings and Single Supplement Waived offer applies to the following cruises: European Holiday Markets, Vienna to Nuremberg, December 14; Rhine Holiday Markets, Basel to Cologne, December 20; and Rhine & Main Holiday Markets, Nuremberg to Cologne, December 17. Cruises include: elegantly appointed riverview staterooms, meals with complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks, celebratory events and entertainment, fully escorted shore excursions, and all transfers on arrival and departure days.

Windstar Cruises

Windstar Cruises offers special rates on holiday and New Year's cruises in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. Wind Spirit's holiday sailings feature a new seven-day St. Martin itinerary that includes the British Virgin Islands, St. Barts and Jost Van Dyke. Wind Star offers an in-depth discovery of Costa Rica, and Wind Surf sails roundtrip from Barbados, calling on such islands as St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Iles Des Saintes, St. Kitts, Bequia and St. Barts. The ships are decorated with beautiful holiday decorations and feature a special holiday menu prepared by the executive chef. New Year's cruises include a festive New Year's Eve party including party favors, live music, an official countdown by the captain and a Champagne toast.