Cruise lines are like my friend Cindy's dad who like clockwork bought a car every year; new year, new car. That's why hardly an edition of the Frommer's Cruise Newsletter goes by without word that at least one cruise line has debuted, ordered, or otherwise speculated about a brand-new ship. Sometimes the hubbub is even greater -- like this week, for instance, when one new ship arrived and details came out about five more. To remind you that cruising is as much about the destinations as it is about the ships, there's also news about two new ports just opening up to cruise tourism.
Seabourn Talks Up Features of New Flagship
Ultra-luxe Seabourn Cruise Line (tel. 800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com) hasn't had a new ship since 1992 (when the 208-passenger Seabourn Legend debuted), and no one thought they ever would have one again. For the better part of a decade, executives of Carnival Corporation, Seabourn's parent company, publicly stated that they intended to build no new vessels for the small-ship luxury brand, believing that revenues would not justify the construction costs associated with such relatively small ships.
Then, in October 2006, all that changed when the line announced its plans to build two new 450-passenger vessels for delivery in 2009 and 2010. This week, they finally released details on those vessels.
Outside, the new Seabourn vessels will resemble their much smaller cousins, with a long, sleek, yacht-like bow and a bellyband of steel rising from the hull upward and wrapping around the superstructure at the ship's funnels. Inside, the layout will also be similar to that of sister-ships Seabourn Pride, Spirit, and Legend, while adding additional facilities and amenities. The ships' passenger space ratio will be one of the highest in the industry, and thirteen categories of suites will be available to suit any budget (from just "rich" to "very, very rich," that is), ranging from 277-square-foot oceanview suites to 450-square-foot penthouses and 1,300-square-foot Grand Suites. Like the current Seabourn ships, the new vessels will offer four dining options: an open-seating main restaurant; an intimate specialty restaurant called Restaurant 2; the casual indoor/outdoor Veranda Cafe, serving regional specialties; and a simple pizzeria and grill. Six bars will serve following Seabourn's standard open-bar policy, while other features -- some carry-overs from the current fleet, some new -- include a fold-out watersports marina; a terraced top-deck enclave furnished with large sun-beds; and a large spa with thallassotherapy pool, his-and-hers Finnish saunas, a selection of aromatic steam rooms, and outdoor relaxation decks.
The vessels are being built by T. Mariotti S.p.A. of Genoa, Italy. The first vessel, which will become the flagship of the Seabourn fleet, will debut in mid-June 2009.
Celebrity Plans for Fourth New Megaship
Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com) is another line whose newbuild program was moribund for longer than normal, producing zero new ships (or new ship news) between 2002's Constellation and the July 2005 announcement of its new 2,850-passenger Solstice-class vessels. The first of those vessels, Celebrity Solstice, is set to debut in fall 2008, followed by Celebrity Equinox in summer 2009, and Celebrity Eclipse in 2010.
Now comes word that the line has confirmed its order for a fourth Solstice-class ship, which is slated to enter service in fall 2011. Like its sister ships, the as-yet-unnamed vessel will be built at the Meyer Werft shipyard of Papenburg, Germany, which produced Celebrity's first five newbuilt vessels, Horizon, Zenith, Century, Galaxy, and Mercury.
Royal Caribbean Debuts Liberty of the Seas
On May 18, Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com) officially christened Liberty of the Seas, its 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger clone of last year's Freedom of the Seas. The two vessels now share the distinction of being the world's largest passenger ship, at least until Royal Caribbean unveils its bigger-than-life, 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Project Genesis ship in 2009.
In terms of amenities, Liberty is nearly identical to Freedom of the Seas, offering the cruise world's most outrageous outdoor decks (featuring a surfing simulator, kids' water park, hot tubs suspended in mid-air off the sides of the ship, a giant rock-climbing wall, a full-size basketball court, and a miniature golf course), plus the cruise world's first boxing gym, a main-street-like indoor promenade longer than a football field, an ice-skating rink, and dozens of entertainment options. The ship is also the debut setting for Royal Caribbean's new Vitality program, an integrated "wellness" regime that includes healthy fitness and spa options, shore excursions, and culinary choices, and for new family programming for children and teens.
Liberty and sister-ship Freedom of the Seas alternate between 7-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries, with Liberty departing on Saturdays and Freedom on Sundays from Miami. Liberty's western Caribbean itinerary calls in Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay (Jamaica) and Labadee. Her eastern Caribbean itinerary calls in San Juan, St. Maarten and Labadee.
Princess's Ruby Princess to Debut in (Guess Where?) the Caribbean
OK, granted, cruise lines have gotten better lately at varying the regions in which they debut new vessels, sending some for inaugural seasons in Europe, but still, the Caribbean is and remains destination alpha for new cruise tonnage. So it's no surprise that Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has decided to set its newest ship, the 113,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess, on Western Caribbean sailings following its November 2008 debut.
A sister-ship to Crown Princess and the recently debuted Emerald Princess, Ruby is currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. Ports on her western Caribbean itinerary will include Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and the line's private beach at Princess Cays, Bahamas. The ship's inaugural Caribbean season will run through April 2009.
Holland America to Launch New Ship in Fall 2010
While Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) get ready for summer 2008, when its 86,000-ton, 2,100-passenger Eurodam is scheduled to be delivered by Italy's Fincantieri shipyard, parent company Carnival Corporation has decided one isn't enough. Earlier this month, the company exercised a previously agreed option with Fincantieri and ordered an additional ship on the same design, to be delivered in fall 2010.
The new vessel will include a topside 144-seat specialty restaurant, outside-view glass elevators at mid-ship, and an expanded Greenhouse Spa and Salon with thermal suites and a hydro-pool. Of the new ship's 1,050 staterooms, 85 percent will offer an ocean view and 67 percent will feature private verandas.
Ever Wanted to Name a Spa? Here's Your ChanceCarnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/327-9501; www.carnival.com) has its own new ship on the way. The 112,000-ton, 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor is slated to debut in July 2008, representing an all new design for Carnival, but the feature the line is talking up most is the ship's enormous 17,800-square-foot spa, which will spread across two forward decks and offer an elaborate thermal suite, Carnival's first thalassotherapy pool, a variety of health and beauty treatment rooms, a winter garden that encircles the spa's upper level and is highlighted by a ceremonial tea house, and 68 spa staterooms and suites -- the latter offering their tenants unlimited use of the thalassotherapy pool and thermal suite, priority spa appointments, complimentary fitness classes, and a variety of unusual in-cabin amenities, including yoga mats and fitness bands.
To further celebrate the facility, Carnival is holding a "Name Our Most Spectacular Spa Ever" contest, whose grand prize will be a cruise for two in a Carnival Splendor spa suite and complimentary spa services for the entire voyage. Just go to www.carnival.com/splendor, follow the contest links, and submit the clever name you think up. All entries must be received before June 15, 2007.
Regent Helps Inaugurate New Cruise Port in Campbell River, British Columbia
On June 5, the Seven Seas Mariner of Regent Seven Seas Cruises (tel. 800/285-1835; www.theregentexperience.com) became the first cruise ship to visit the new Campbell River cruise ship terminal, a purpose-built complex overlooking Discovery Passage on Vancouver Island. Created by the Campbell River Indian Band (aka, the Wei Wai Kum), the facility offers a non-urban setting with both cultural and outdoor tourism opportunities for passengers, including hiking the lower reaches of the Campbell River, where five species of Pacific salmon come to spawn; taking a float plane to scenic Read Island; and kayaking in the Campbell River Estuary, home to seals and sea lions.
Regent's 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner will be the first and only ship in 2007 to call in Campbell River, which was developed through a $4.23 million contribution by the Government of Canada. It's estimated that the port will create more than 150 full-time jobs and annual revenues of $8.5 million for the region.
Campbell Island is the second cruise port in the region built by Native tribes. In 2004, Tlingit Indians from the village of Hoonah on Alaska's Chichagof Island opened Icy Strait Point, whose restored 1930s salmon cannery now houses a museum, a cannery display, a restaurant, and shops, and provides access to a dozen outdoor, cultural, and adventure shore excursions, including the world's longest zipline, which takes thrill seekers 5,330 feet down from a mountaintop to the beach below.
Oceania Makes First Call to Sarande, Albania
Hawaii, Tahiti, the Bahamas, the French Riviera -- all beauty spots on the world cruise circuit. To this list we must now add ... Albania?
True true: In late May Oceania Cruises (tel. 800/531-5658; www.oceaniacruises.com) became the first major North American cruise ship to visit the port of Sarande, Albania, a small city nestled on Sarande Bay in the southern Adriatic Sea, just across the water from the heel of Italy's boot and a ferry ride away from Corfu, Greece. Palm trees and cafes line is seaside streets, and excursions are available to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint (a repository of ruins dating to ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine times), the medieval village of Gjirokastra, and other sites.
Oceania plans two more calls in Sarande during 2007, as part of Insignia's September 3 and October 17 departures. Eight calls in Sarande are planned for 2008: Nautica's voyages departing on May 20, July 19, September 5 and, 17, and October 13 and 25, and Insignia's August 20 voyage.
Several other lines also have Sarande on their future cruise schedules, including Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Holland America.
Carnival Kicks Off First Year-Round Cruise Program from San Diego
Attention Southern Californians: If you get a sudden jones for a quick, inexpensive getaway, look to Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800-CARNIVAL; www.carnival.com), which just began offering year-round 4- and 5-night cruises from San Diego aboard the 2,052-passenger Elation. Each Thursday, the vessel will sail for 4-night trips to Cabo San Lucas (with two days at sea), while 5-night cruises will depart on Mondays or Saturday in alternating weeks, visiting Cabo and Ensenada and spending two days at sea.
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