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Big Wave Whacks Dawn, Dastardly Dock Knocks Grandeur

Bad news comes in, what, twos? That was the story as succeeding accidents struck NCL's Norwegian Dawn and Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas over the past two weeks.

On April 16, en route from Miami to New York, Norwegian Dawn was struck head-on by a freak wave that measured a reported 70 feet. The force of the blow broke windows in two forward-facing cabins on decks 9 and 10. The affected cabins have large view windows letting onto deep balconies, but safety requirements mandate that instead of the usual sliding glass door, the balconies are accessed via steel bulkheads marked, "For your own safety, open only when the vessel is in port."

The impact forced a large quantity of water through the broken windows, eventually penetrated to some 62 other cabins. In all, four passengers were treated on board for cuts and bruises. Dawn sustained no damage to her hull and only minor damage to her superstructure.

Following the incident, the ship made her way to Charleston, South Carolina, where repairs were made to the affected cabin windows. A little more than a third of passengers from the flooded cabins flew home from Charleston at NCL's expense, while 90 per cent of all passengers sailed with the ship back to New York, where it arrived on Monday, April 18, one day later than scheduled. All passengers were refunded 50% of their cruise fare and given a 50% voucher toward another NCL cruise. The ship has already sailed on her follow-up voyage.

Grandeur's incident, though somewhat less dramatic, actually resulted in more damage.

On April 20, while docking in 15-knot winds at Costa Maya, Mexico, Grandeur was forced into its pier, punching a Volkswagen-size hole at the point of impact (about five feet above the waterline) and ripping a further 42 feet down the starboard side. No passengers or crewmembers were injured, and repairs were begun immediately. The vessel sailed back to New Orleans on April 23, two days behind schedule. Guests who needed to return to New Orleans on time were flown back from Mexico on charter flights, while all guests received a $250 per-stateroom onboard credit. The ship is already sailing its follow-up cruise.

Princess Sticks to Theme (Sort of), Naming New Ship Emerald Princess

In naming ships, most cruise lines stick to a theme. Carnival has its world-domination theme (Carnival Conquest, Glory, Triumph, Victory, etc.), Royal Caribbean has its "of the Seas" riff, Holland America tacks "daam" to the end of every ship name, and NCL whacks "Norwegian" on at the beginning. For its part, Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has stuck with a kinda-sorta theme in announcing that its new ship, currently under construction at Italy's Fincantieri yards, will be dubbed Emerald Princess.

Two previous Princess ships, the lovely Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, were both launched in 2004. Emerald's most direct relative, however, is identical sister-ship Caribbean Princess, also launched in '04. Is "Caribbean" a gem of which I'm unaware? So okay, let's call the naming convention here a themelet.

The 116,000-ton Emerald is due to launch in spring 2007, and, like its sister and several other Princess vessels, will offer Princess's new signature entertainment, Movies Under the Stars, in which movies and other videos are shown poolside on an enormous movie screen, with popcorn.

In unrelated news, Princess has also announced an expansion of its European program for 2006, with Grand Princess, Golden Princess, and Sea Princess set to sail 33 Mediterranean cruises between April 15 to November 29 -- about 25 percent more than in previous years. All told, Princess's ships will offer eleven different itineraries, including 12-night cruises of the Greek Isles, sailing between Rome and Venice; 12-night Egypt/Aegean sailings, round-trip from Rome; and 12- and 14-night itineraries that hit numerous Mediterranean ports from various ports of embarkation. Discounted early-booking fares begin at $1,990 per person, double occupancy.

Silversea Introduces Suite Butlers and New "Written Word" Lecture Series

Only at a luxeury line like Silversea (tel. 877/215-9986; www.silversea.com) could an executive explain the decision to add butlers in the best suites by saying, "We want our guests to feel completely at home when they sail with us."

Guests who sail in the Grand, Royal, Rossellini, and Owner's Suites on all four Silversea vessels will now have the services of butlers certified by the Guild of Professional English Butlers, which also trains and certifies butlers for careers in Britain's royal palaces. They'll do what you don't wanna, from unpacking your bags to drawing your bath, putting together an in-suite cocktail party for you and the maharaja, or arranging a private car at the next port.

"It's not unusual for guests who reserve our top suites to travel with members of their personal staff in tow," says Silversea COO Erling Frydenberg. "So the addition of complimentary butler service is a logical enhancement of the in-suite experience for those guests."

Zowie.

In other news, Silversea has also announced a slate of authors and editors who will speak as part of the line's "Written Word" lecture series. Part of select cruises, the initial lineup is:

  • Brian Hoey (Silver Shadow voyage 3524, Barcelona to Monte Carlo, Aug. 12-19, 2005): One of the world's leading experts on royalty, Hoey has been a writer and broadcaster for more than 30 years, authoring a biography of Princess Anne; At Home with the Queen, an authorized behind-the-scenes look at Buckingham Palace; and several other volumes. He was the last person to interview Princess Diana before her death. Early-booking fares start at $4,586 per person.
  • Linda Wells (Silver Wind voyage 2521, Istanbul to Venice, Aug. 15-27, 2005): Starting as a reporter for The New York Times and later serving at the New York Times Magazine's beauty editor and food editor, Linda Wells went on to found Allure magazine, of which she remains editor in chief. An expert on beauty, she's also a regular TV commentator. Fares start at $6,017 per person.
  • Deborah Lee (Silver Shadow voyage 3525, Monte Carlo to Rome, Aug. 19-26, 2005): The merchandising editor for Vogue magazine, Lee will offer viewings of the season's newest fashions, as well as tips on cruise couture. Fares start at $4,586 per person.
  • Georgette Mosbacher (Silver Wind voyage 2522, round-trip from Venice, Aug. 27-Sept. 8, 2005): President and chief executive of the cosmetics company Borghese and author of Feminine Force (a motivational guide for women), and It Takes Money Honey (a women's get-smart guide to total financial freedom), Mosbacher is well known both for her expertise in the beauty area and her innovative marketing and business skills. Fares start at $5,587.
  • Bruce McCall and Anita Kunz (Silver Whisper voyage 4535, Montreal to New York, Sept. 19-30, 2005): Bruce McCall made his name in the pages of National Lampoon and Esquire before becoming a favorite illustrator for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Anita Kunz's art has been featured on the covers of Time, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, and other publications. Fares start at $4,547 per person.
  • Marie Brenner (Silver Shadow voyage 3534, Athens to Port Said/Cairo, Oct. 30-Nov. 7, 2005): A former staff writer for The New Yorker, Brenner is a best-selling author and writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, where her article on Jeffrey Wigand and the tobacco wars became the basis for the Michael Mann feature film The Insider, starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. Fares start at $2,817 per person.

Live with Regis and Kelly to Sail with NCL's Pride of America

In June, morning TV hits the high seas as Live with Regis and Kelly hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa sail aboard NCL's new Pride of America, the second ship in the line's U.S.-flagged NCL America brand (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com).

Philbin and Ripa will spend the entire week aboard ship during its inaugural -- the first time a national program is broadcasting a full week of shows (airing June 20-24) from aboard a cruise ship. Along for the ride will be 1,000 guests who have won free trips through the show's "Live's Pride of America Cruisin' Reunion" contest. Every day from May 16th to June 10th, the show will give away twenty cruises to one lucky winner, who can invite nineteen family members and/or friends to sail along. Entry details can be found at www.liveregisandkelly.com.

The "Regis and Kelly" cruise will set sail from New York on June 18th, with a special one-time-only itinerary up the U.S. East Coast, hitting New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and Miami. Following the week's sailing, Pride of America will head Hawaii-ways to assume her regular schedule.

Something's Fishy at Holland America, but WIndstar's Feeling Splichal

As anyone who's cruised the 49th state knows, Alaska equals salmon -- via salmon bake shore excursions, dinner entrees, and smoked salmon shipped back to your home. For 2005, Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) is going whole-hog into fish with a new "Going Wild for Salmon" program, which will feature a rotation of different salmon dishes, on-board culinary events, cooking demonstrations, and seminars.

HAL master chef Rudi Sodamin and his team developed fifty new salmon recipes for the program's dinner menus, going beyond the usual poached, sautéed, and baked options with dishes like grilled salmon with ginger-cilantro pesto on sautéed watercress, cedar-planked salmon in an Asian-style marinade with pickled ginger and watercress salad, and salmon baked in phyllo with shiitake mushrooms and champagne sauce.

The "Going Wild For Salmon" menu will be available five nights a week in the main dining rooms, lido restaurants, and Pinnacle Grill alternative restaurants on all HAL Alaska cruises.

Meanwhile, Holland America's sister-line, Windstar Cruises (tel. 800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com), has firmed up its 11-year relationship with celebrity chef Joachim Splichal by commissioning 100 new Splichal recipes, seventy for its ships' main restaurants and thirty for the casual bistro on the 308-passenger Wind Surf.

Splichal and his culinary team are scheduled to spend time aboard each of the line's three ships this summer, perfecting the new menus and recipes alongside Windstar's executive chefs. Windstar's culinary team will also refresh their Splichal training at the chef's signature restaurant Patina, in Los Angeles.

R Family Vacations Heads North for Second Gay/Lesbian Family Cruise

Last July, R Family Vacations, (tel. 866/732-6822; www.rfamilyvacations.com), founded by Rosie O'Donnell's spouse Kelli and gay travel veteran Gregg Kaminsky, offered its first cruise aboard NCL's Norwegian Dawn, tailored for gay men and lesbians who want a family-oriented cruise experience, with some 80% of passengers bringing their kids.

Almost a year to the day from that cruise, the company is set to offer its second, again aboard Norwegian Dawn, following a customized itinerary that sails from New York north to Halifax, Provincetown, Boston, and Martha's Vineyard. Rosie O'Donnell will host the opening night ceremonies as well as the World premiere of "All Aboard: Rosie's Family Cruise," an HBO documentary that was filmed on last summer's cruise.

Scheduled performers include Cyndi Lauper, comedienne Judy Gold, Cagney and Lacey/Queer as Folk star Sharon Gless, and a number of Broadway and pop performers. Fitness guru Susan Powter will conduct yoga and fitness classes throughout the week; NFL player Esera Tuaolo will give a motivational speech; and Oprah Winfrey's personal chef, Art Smith, will be offering an onboard cooking class.

More than half of last summer's guests are rebooked for the follow-up cruise, but space is still available, starting at $999.

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