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NCL Take Delivery of New Pride of Hawai'i

On April 19, Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) completed its US-flagged trifecta, taking possession of the new 2,400-passenger, 93,500-ton Pride of Hawai'i. At a ceremony in Emeshaven, Holland, managing partner Bernard Meyer of Germany's Meyer Werft shipyard officially handed over the vessel to NCL president and CEO Colin Veitch and Tan Sri LIM Kok Thay, chairman of NCL's parent company, Star Cruises.

"We are proud to take delivery of this beautiful new ship not only because she is our newest and largest U.S.-flagged vessel but because she features the innovative design and the tremendous consumer appeal of Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Star, and Norwegian Spirit," Tan Sri said.

Pride of Hawai`i is the ninth in a series of eleven vessels delivered as part of a $5 billion shipbuilding program undertaken by Star Cruises and NCL since 1998, and is the third NCL vessel dedicated full-time to the Hawaii market. She'll make a victory lap of U.S. ports (Baltimore, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where she'll be christened by Hawaiian senator Daniel K. Inouye) in May before heading for Hawaii, where her first cruise will depart June 5, visiting Hilo, Kahului (two days), Kona, and N?wiliwili (two days).

Brooklyn Inaugurates New Cruise Terminal

Yo, welcome to Brooklyn.

On Saturday, April 15, the new $56 million Brooklyn Cruise Terminal was officially opened by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as Cunard's QM2 loaded up her first boatload of passengers from the Borough of Kings.

The new terminal is right across the harbor from lower Manhattan, in the old dockyards neighborhood of Red Hook. It offers gorgeous views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and lesser-known Governor's Island (though only from the deck of your ship, since the ships themselves block out views from the pier) and is just minutes from picturesque colonial-era Brooklyn Heights (whose riverfront promenade provides one of the best Manhattan views) and the great expanse of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Red Hook facility will be used by Cunard Line for QM2's transatlantic and and New England/Canada itineraries, and by Princess Cruises, whose new Crown Princess will begin sailing from the port in mid-June.

American Canadian Caribbean Lines Donates Ship to New England Colleges

Rhode Island's hometown cruise line, American Canadian Caribbean (tel. 800/556-7450; www.accl-smallships.com), was already small enough with just three ships carrying 100 passengers or fewer, but now it's gotten even smaller. On April 20, the line announced it was donating the oldest of its ships, the 84-passenger Niagara Prince, to Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology, the latter the alma mater of the line's founder, Capt. Luther H. Blount.

"Education gave me the foundation to be where I am today and I am thankful to give something back. I chose these three institutions for many personal reasons coupled with my awareness that area schools are in need of funds for programming and campus improvements. The gift is divided into equal parts," said Blount in announcing the donation.

Handover of the ship will take place in October, after the vessel has completed her scheduled fall foliage cruises. According to Blount, the schools have complete discretion as to how they'll use the gift.

"I wanted to give the recipients advance notice so they can create a plan of action and do their homework. Perhaps this will give them time to calculate the steps they need to take in obtaining a purchaser and maximizing the benefits of the gift -- a professional ship brokerage may be the best approach. Perhaps one of the colleges would be interested in operating her as a platform for a semester at sea. It is their choice of how they go about it."

Niagara Prince is a US-flagged and SOLAS-certified coastal vessel built in 1994 and operated on routes as diverse as Labrador, Canada; South America's Orinoco River; and a river route between New Orleans and Chicago. Like all of the cruise vessels Blount designed and built at his Blount Boats Inc. shipyard, Niagara Prince has the ability to navigate shallow waters and under low bridges.

"This ship has served me well," said Blount. "I have built over 300 hulls and nearly all are still operating -- for example the 1950s Miss Liberty that Circle Line operates in New York harbor. Since the U. S. flagged Niagara Prince was built only a dozen years ago, and I will turn 90 soon, she is very young in my eyes. I am sure the new owners will get many good years of service from her."

Several ACCL vessels have gone on to service with other lines: two with Cruise West (where they now sail as Spirit of Columbia and Spirit of Alaska) and three with Glacier Bay Cruiseline, which is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to ACCL, the retirement of the Niagara Prince signals a "back to our roots" focus for 2007, with the remaining two vessels (the 100-passenger Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner) concentrating on North American itineraries.

Ambassadors International Completes Acquisition of Delta Queen Steamboat Company

Fresh on the heels of their January purchase of American West Steamboat Company, meetings, incentive travel, and event-management company Ambassadors International, Inc. announced this week that its Ambassadors Cruise Group, LLC has completed its acquisition of Delta Queen Steamboat Company (tel. 800/543-1949; www.deltaqueen.com). In January, Ambassadors also acquired American West Steamboat Company (tel. 800/434-1232; www.americanweststeamboat.com).

At this writing, it was unclear what changes might be in store at Delta Queen or American West, though history and strong name recognition make it likely that Delta Queen will retain its identity.

"Delta Queen is an iconic, American brand that is entering an exciting period in its long history," said David Giersdorf, Ambassadors Cruise Group's president and COO. "Americans and visitors to the United States are keenly interested in experiencing the vast river and coastal waterways of our country where so many of our natural, scenic wonders, historic treasures, and unique communities can be found."

The line's published schedules for 2006 and 2007 will remain unchanged.

Cruise West Sets Asia Itineraries for 2007

Family-owned Cruise West (tel. 800/426-7702; www.cruisewest.com) is one of America's premier largest small-ship lines, offering cruises on a fleet of primarily small coastal cruisers. Most of its itineraries are in Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest's Columbia and Snake rivers, but it also ventures into the California Wine Country, the Baja Peninsula/Sea of Cortez, Central America, and (since the 2001 acquisition of the deep-water Spirit of Oceanus) the Russian Far East and Asia.

This month, the line finally announced Oceanus's 2007 Asia itineraries, which will take it across the Pacific to northern Japan, South Korea, China, and Vietnam.

On the Vietnam itinerary, guests will visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, sail through Ha Long Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), discover Vietnam's rich past at the Cham Museum in Danang and temples at Nha Trang, and experience a cooking school at China Beach. Before and after the cruise are overnight stays in Hanoi (including sightseeing at the Ethnographic Museum and a private dinner at the Temple of Literature) and Ho Chi Minh City (where guests take a full-day tour of the Mekong Delta). Guests can also arrange a pre- or post-trip land tour of Cambodia with visits to Phnom Penh and the temples at Angkor, Artisans d'Angkor, and Banteay Srei. The 11-night journey sails on November 18 and November 26, 2007, starting at $4,199 per person.

The 13-night Treasures of the Orient cruise begins in Osaka, Japan, visiting the Shinto shrine in Miyajima, the Peace Park in Nagasaki, Cheonjiyeon Waterfall in Jeju Island (Korea), and Ha Long Bay (Vietnam). Guests may interact with the monks of the Nanputao Temple in Xiamen, experience an acrobatic performance in Shanghai, and have a cooking and art tour through Hong Kong with expert guides. Guests overnight pre-cruise in Kobe and spend two post-cruise nights in Hanoi. Those wishing to extend their trip can tack on a 5-night pre-cruise land tour of Kyoto and Nara or a 5-night post-cruise land tour in Cambodia. The Treasures of the Orient tour departs on November 6, 2007, with rates from $6,499 per person.

A Frommer's rated five-star vessel, Spirit of Oceanus was built in 1991 as Renaissance V, one of the original ships of now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. She sailed briefly for Star Cruises before Cruise West bought and refurbished her in 2001. Today, she's the line's largest and most luxurious ship, with more public rooms, a small gym, an elevator, and even a hot tub on the top deck. Her d¿cor is more private yacht than cruise ship, with corridors and cabins paneled in glossy wood-look paneling studded with gleaming brasswork, and her cabins are absolutely massive for a small ship, with most measuring in at 215 to 250 square feet.

Regent Expands Concierge Program, Le Cordon Bleu Partnership

With its new name in place, Regent Seven Seas Cruises (tel. 800/285-1835; www.theregentexperience.com -- or just www.rssc.com), formerly Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, has begun a series of enhancements. First up, an expansion of the line's concierge program, now in concert with luxury travel magazine Travel + Leisure.

"Our guests have told us they want to be provided with the inside track on what's hot and new based on their interests in Regent's destinations," said Sophie Vlessing, Regent's vice president customer strategy and marketing. "We launched our Regent Travel Concierge and Circles of Interest programs to satisfy this need. Now we're thrilled to be working with Travel + Leisure to provide our guests with an even more personalized and authentic luxury travel experience".

The Regent Concierge/Travel + Leisure Partnership has several components, including:

  • Insider Lists: Specially created "Insider Lists" will feature Travel + Leisure's picks for the must-see attractions in select locations, covering interests from history and archeology to photography, shopping, and food and wine. Guests will also have online access to T + L's Insider Lists to allow them to conduct their own searches before and during their cruise.
  • Onboard Concierge: The onboard concierge team has access to Travel + Leisure's insider knowledge on select ports and will advise guests about hot spots for dining, shopping, arts, culture, and sightseeing, and plan customized itineraries by request.

Meanwhile, on the food side, Regent's longstanding partnership with French cooking academy Le Cordon Bleu gets an upgrade with the announcement of new pre- and post-cruise "Master Class" shore trips, offered in Paris, Monte Carlo, Tokyo, and Sydney.

  • Paris/Monte Carlo: Birthplace of Le Cordon Bleu - Guests are invited to join chefs and executives from Le Cordon Bleu for an evening and a day in Paris, featuring a visit to the school for a cooking demonstration; gourmet treats and a champagne cooking demonstration at Chateau de Briottieris Angers, a family-owned home in the heart of Anjou; and a shopping trip with a Le Cordon Bleu Chef at one of Paris's eighty markets, purchasing ingredients for the day's lunch and dinner. The 3-night program includes one night in a junior suite at the Grand Hotel Intercontinental Paris, two nights at the Ch¿teau de Briottieris Angers, round-trip transfers by air minivan from Paris, all airport transfers, one-way economy flight between Nice and Paris, full breakfast daily, two lunches, two dinners (including wine), and a Champagne toast and cooking demonstrations at the Le Cordon Bleu school. The June 6 pre-cruise program is $3,975 per person, double occupancy. The June 19 post-cruise program is $3,895 per person, double occupancy. Both follow cruises aboard Seven Seas Voyager.
  • Tokyo: French Meets Asian - The Le Cordon Bleu school in Tokyo combines classic French and Japanese cooking styles. Participants enjoy a cooking demonstration and Sake tasting at the school, a sit-down to dinner with their Le Cordon Bleu chef at an exclusive local restaurant, a visit to Tokyo's famed fish market, and dinner at the Asian/French fusion restaurant La Foret. Rates are $1,995, double occupancy, and include two nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Chinzan-so (in a setting of historic Japanese gardens), airport transfers, full breakfast daily, one lunch, two dinners (including wine), and Sake tasting and cooking demonstrations at the Le Cordon Bleu school. The program is available October 2, before or after a cruise aboard Seven Seas Mariner.
  • Sydney: Le Cordon Bleu Down Under - Down Under, the Le Cordon Bleu program includes dinner at The Wharf Restaurant in Walsh Bay, a visit to the bustling fish market, a cooking demonstration and wine tasting at the Sydney Fish School, and a Sydney harbor cruise stopping at Watson's Bay for an Australian barbecue dinner and wine pairing. The 2-night pre-cruise tour (beginning October 15, before a cruise aboard Seven Seas Mariner) is $1,495 per person, double occupancy, including two nights in a harbor-view room the Shangrila, airport transfers, full breakfast daily, two dinners (including wine), and a food tasting and cooking demonstrations at the Le Cordon Bleu school.

Le Cordon Bleu cooking workshops are also available aboard Seven Seas Voyager's June 9 and November 12 sailings and Seven Seas Mariner's September 20, November 1, and November 30 voyages. All include six hours of hands-on Le Cordon Bleu "Classe Culinaire des Cro¿si¿res," taught by master chefs for just 16 students. The cost is $395 per person.

Carnival Legend to Visit St. Kitts and St. Lucia in 2007

Expanding beyond the standard Caribbean routes, Carnival (tel. 800-CARNIVAL; www.carnival.com) announced this week that beginning in January 2007its 2,124-passenger, 88,500-ton Carnival Legend will offer a new 8-night schedule from Fort Lauderdale featuring calls in St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten. This marks the first time the line will have visited St. Kitts and St. Lucia in more than 10 years.

Located in the eastern Caribbean, St. Kitts offers a rugged, mountainous interior and dense rainforest, plus the old British fortress of Brimstone Hill (built in 1690), plantation tours, a Scenic National Railroad tour, and beaches that range in color from black to gold.

St. Lucia, in the southern Caribbean, is distinguished by the Pitons, twin volcanic mountains that overlook a lush landscape of flowers, fruit trees, cane fields, rain forests, and white and black sand beaches.

The cruise also includes a stop in St. Maarten, plus four days at sea. Cruises alternate weekly with a western Caribbean routing that visits Colon (Panama), Limon (Costa Rica), and Belize City (Belize), with four days at sea.

SeaDream Plans Golf Outings in South America

If you're taking one of the new South American trips being offered next winter by SeaDream Yacht Club (tel. 800/707-4911; www.seadreamyachtclub.com), pack your clubs, since the line is providing opportunities to play at some of the continent's best courses.

Golfing opportunities are available on SeaDream's two 9-night round-trip sailings from Buenos Aires, Argentina, departing Dec. 20, 2006, and Feb. 3, 2007. Both include a visit to famed Iguacu Falls by chartered aircraft that is included in the voyage price. Courses at or near the ports of call include:

  • Buenos Aires Golf Club, Jockey Club, Olivos Golf Club, Martindale Country Club (from Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Four Seasons Hotel, Carmelo (from Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay)
  • Uruguay Golf Club (from Montevideo, Uruguay)
  • Club del Lago Golf, La Barra Golf Club, Cantegril Country Club (from Piriapolis and Punta del Este, Uruguay)

Weather conditions in the region for December through February range from a high of 84F to a low of 61F. Prior reservations must be made independently in advance by the golfing SeaDream guest or by a travel agent.

easyCruise to Tone Down the Orange and Operate Eruopean River Vessel

European river cruising has always been a slow-lane kind of vacation, but that might be about to change. Starting this July 14, "turn everything on its head" cruise line easyCruise (www.easycruise.com) will begin offering itineraries along the rivers and canals of Holland and Belgium, sailing from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, and back. As with easyCruise's Riviera and Caribbean sailings, the new river vessel -- dubbed easyCruiseTwo -- will arrive in port by lunchtime each day and stay until the early hours of the morning, giving passengers time to enjoy the nightlife. In addition, passengers can join and leave the cruise where and when they wish, subject to a minimum two-night stay.

easyCruiseTwo will sail its route weekly until October 2006. The vessel will carry 100 passengers in cabins that all face the outside deck -- with windows, unlike the windowless cabins aboard the line's original ship, easyCruiseOne, which drew complaints from guests. Onboard amenities include a canopied sun deck with outdoor hot tub, a bar, and an a la carte restaurant.

The vessel, formerly known as the M.S. Frontera, is owned and operated by Boonstra River Line and will be operated as a franchise of easyCruise. Its redesign will feature a graphite-gray hull with orange trim rather than the bright, bright orange of easyCruiseOne, which will also be repainted with the new livery during its October dry-dock. For those keeping score, it'll also lose the giant "www.easycruise.com" painted on its hull, and windows will be carved into the hull for a number of cabins.

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