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NTSB Reports on NCL "Rogue Wave" Incident

Every once in a while the cruise biz breaks through to the mainstream media -- usually because of sickness, injury, or death. In April, Norwegian Cruise Line hit the news when a huge 70-foot wave struck Norwegian Dawn head-on as the ship sailed from the Bahamas to New York. Allegations at the time suggested that the company and the ship's captain could have avoided the situation, which caused damage to the vessel's exterior, water damage to 63 cabins, and minor injuries to four passengers. A May report by the Bahamas Maritime Authority found that NCL was not at fault in the matter, and now a Marine Accident Brief issued by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concurs. The report finds no fault with the conduct of the ship's officers, crew, and management, stating that, "The weather forecast for the mid-Atlantic coast was within seasonal expectations. A brief encounter with gale-force winds or sea conditions aboard a 965-foot passenger ship, while uncomfortable for the passengers, is not unexpected while transiting seas off the southeast coast of the United States at that time of year. . . . After attempting to minimize the ship's exposure to the forecast conditions, the master changed his itinerary and slowed the vessel. Rather than attempting to maintain the scheduled arrival time in New York, the master decided to lower the ship's speed and change its heading for the passengers' comfort. . . . The crew responded to the passenger injuries in a timely and appropriate manner."

Four passengers in damaged forward cabins on decks 9 and 10 received lacerations and bruises. All four elected to remain on the vessel for its return to New York rather than debark in at Charleston, South Carolina, where the vessel docked for a brief damage survey.

The full report can be read at www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2005/MAB0503.htm.

Clipper Cruise Line Plans WWII & Vietnam History Cruises

When history buffs travel, they don't normally travel by cruise ship. But maybe that's changing. This year, small-ship operator Clipper Cruise Line (tel. 800/325-0010; www.clippercruise.com) has planned a series of five European and Asian cruises that explore the history and geography of WWII and the Vietnam War, and several more are planned for 2007. European cruises will be offered aboard the 122-passenger Clipper Adventurer, one of the finest small ships in service today. Asian cruises will be offered aboard the sleek 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey.

"Our staff has worked closely with a number of military history experts in designing these Clipper Cruise Line voyages so that they may provide further insight into the people and events that turned the tides of these campaigns," said CEO David Drier in announcing the series. "We introduced this theme in 2004 with our cruise along the Normandy coast to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and furthered our efforts by adding an exploration of the Solomon Islands in March 2005."

Trips include:

  • 16-day World War II South Pacific Campaign, sailing March 30, 2006, from Sydney, Australia, and continuing through the Solomon Islands to Guam. The route follows the Allied forces in their effort to shake the Japanese hold on the region, and features speaker Dave McComb, a specialist in the role of American destroyers in World War II. Rates start at $7,750.
  • 10-day World War II Italian Campaign, sailing May 17 from Valletta, Malta, and ending in Rome, follows the route of Allied forces along the Sicilian and Italian coasts. Led by historian Kevin McCranie and renowned Civil War and World War II expert Edward Bearss, the cruise visits Gela, Siracusa, and Messina (Sicily), and Salerno, Gaeta, Cassino, and Anzio (mainland Italy). Rates start at $3,930.
  • 15-day Tides of War - From the Spanish Civil War to the Shores of Normandy & England voyage, sailing from Lisbon, Portugal, to London, begins with an exploration of the events leading to the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism along the Iberian Peninsula, then seques into the history of the D-Day invasion, with a visit to the landing beaches on the 62nd anniversary of the battle. The cruise will be led by Dr. Kevin McCranie and will include stops in Portsmouth (for its D-Day Museum) and London (including a visit to Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms). Rates start at $6,450.
  • 13-day Return of the Gunfighters - Cruise to Vietnam, sails the coast from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Led by Major General James Livingston, Operations Officer for the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, the cruise will explore the history of America's involvement in the Vietnam struggle. Rates start at $5,590.

All rates per person, double occupancy.

Sailings aboard the Clipper Odyssey in 2007 will include the World War II Philippine Campaign and the World War II Rise and Fall of Japan voyages in April. Aboard the Clipper Adventurer, Clipper has added a World War II North Africa Campaign - Chasing the Desert Fox cruise to Morocco, Gibraltar, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya that will depart in September.

Royal Caribbean & Celebrity Introduce Remote Luggage Check-In

Debarking and retrieving your luggage at the end of a trip is probably the low point of most people's cruises. Good news, then from sister-lines Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/398-9819; www.royalcaribbean.com) and Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebrity.com). Beginning immediately, passengers debarking in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, San Juan, and Seattle can arrange to have their luggage picked up aboard ship and delivered straight to their airline, which checks it through to your homebound flight. No muss, no fuss.

The service is being rolled out based on approval by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Patrol, as well as seaport, airport, and airline security. To qualify, guests must fly to a U.S. city on an expanding list of airlines on the same day their cruise ends.

It works like this: Before leaving the ship, guests transmit their flight information and number of checked bags to cruise staff, who then forward the information electronically to the airlines and print out your boarding passes, luggage tags, and claim checks. Your luggage is then transported securely to the airport, processed, and loaded aboard your plane. Fees for the service range from $10 to $20 per guest, depending on the port.

Holland America Update: New Ships, More Seattle Sailings & King Tut Too

A New John Hancock: Following up on its long-running "Signature of Excellence" initiative, which aims to upgrade its passenger experience fleetwide, Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) has just named its new class of vessels the Signature Class. Due to launch in summer 2008 and spring 2010, the 86,000-ton, 2,044-passenger vessels take their cue from the line's slightly smaller Vista-class vessels (Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam, and Noordam), but with new features including an intimate 144-seat topside restaurant and a premium wine-tasting lounge. Both ships are being built by Italy's Fincantieri shipyards.

North to Alaska! From Seattle: This summer, Seattle-based Holland America will nearly double its Alaska-bound sailings from that city, offering 61 departures between May 5 and September 22. Guests who book an oceanview cabin or suite before February 28 will receive free parking in Seattle on select cruises in May, June, and July. Guests booking suites also receive a free pre-cruise night at Seattle's Fairmont Olympic hotel. Cruises are available aboard the 1,848-passenger Oosterdam and Westerdam and the 1,432-passenger Zaandam.

And Now, King Tut: HAL has gotten itself named "The Official Cruise Line" of the King Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art, on display through April 23. What's that mean? It means the line offers special $75 "VIP" tickets to its passengers that gain them skip-the-line access to the exhibit at any time during the museum's open hours, plus an audio tour narrated by actor Omar Sharif. The exhibit takes approximately 1 1/2 hours to view, making it accessible to passengers ending their trip and flying home from Fort Lauderdale. Tickets may be purchased through the line's website or aboard ship. Transportation to the museum is not included in the ticket price. Baggage can be stored in the museum's bag check area.

Princess Offers an Immodest Proposal

Anyone who's attended a live sporting event has probably seen someone propose to his (or her) beloved via the stadium's big Jumbotron screens. Starting in June with the launch of Princess Cruises' new 113,000-ton Crown Princess, you can do the same aboard ship, via the vessel's big, outdoor "Movies Under the Stars" movie screen. Priced at $695, "Engagement Under the Stars" proposals will take the place of previews before the evening's feature film, and include the creation of a personalized proposal video with the ship's videographer as well as champagne and chocolates, an engagement portrait session and engagement photo, candid photos of the proposal, an in-room breakfast, dinner for two at one of the ship's specialty restaurants, a couple's massage in the Lotus Spa, a free session at the ship's pottery studio to create their own "engagement plate," 10% off on jewelry in the ship's boutiques, and, last but not least, a $100 credit towards a wedding-at-sea package, if you choose to go that route. More information is available by calling The Wedding Experience at 866/444-8820.

NCL Names Two Vessels for 2007

Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) just keeps cranking out the new ships. After launching Pride of America and Norwegian Jewel in 2005 and with Pride of Hawai'i scheduled for an April debut, the line will get busy with two new Jewel sister-ships in 2007. Currently under construction at Germany's Meyer Werft shipyards, the vessels -- previously known as hulls S.669 and S.670 -- have now been named Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem. They'll enter service in February 2007 and October 2007 respectively. Neither itineraries nor details of the ships' design and attractions have yet been released.

Chosen Voyage at INTRAV Debuts Kosher Cruise Catalog

In 2003, ordained rabbi and travel-industry veteran Matthew Shollar founded Chosen Voyage, a Pittsburgh-based company dedicated to offering the cruise industry's only all-kosher experience. Then, in late 2005, the company teamed up with specialty travel operator INTRAV, parent company of Clipper Cruise Line, to create a new division, Chosen Voyage at INTRAV (tel. 800/990-0890; chosenvoyage@intrav.com), intended to combine Chosen Voyage's track record in the kosher travel market with INTRAV's infrastructure and wide range of travel offerings. This month, the company debuted its 2006 catalog, featuring kosher cruises in Europe, North America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Trips include:

  • Passover Splendor in Holland & Belgium: A Passover holiday voyage aboard the brand new river vessel Sound of Music, combining scenic beauty and Jewish history on an 11-day trip. Cruise departs April 11, 2006. Rates begin at $4,200.
  • Jewish History Along the Blue Danube: A 9-day journey on the Danube River aboard Sound of Music, uncovering the sights and Jewish history of Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Cruise departs June 13, 2006. Rates begin at $3,095.
  • Exploring the Russian Waterways: A 13-day Russian voyage combining the historic cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow with a cruise aboard the Kazan to outlying rural towns and islands. Cruise departs August 24, 2006. Rates begin at $5,395.
  • Fall Foliage on the Hudson River: An 8-day round-trip cruise from New York aboard the Nantucket Clipper, visiting sites like the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, plus the landscapes and fall foliage of the Hudson River Valley. Cruise departs October 26, 2006. Rates begin at $2,995.
  • The Essence of Northern California: An 8-day trip aboard the Yorktown Clipper visits Sacramento, the Napa Valley, Sausalito, and San Francisco, with award-winning kosher chef Susie Fishbein (Kosher by Design) aboard to serve a Shabbat meal. Cruises depart October 30, 2006 and April 26, 2007. Rates begin at $2,995.
  • Navigating New Zealand's Islands: A 14-day exploration that travels along New Zealand's North and South islands aboard the Clipper Odyssey. Cruise departs December 25, 2006. Rates begin at $6,495.
  • Western Caribbean Idyll: Departing from Ft. Lauderdale, this 8-day round-trip journey aboard the Explorer visits Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Belize City, and Costa Maya. Cruise departs January 17, 2007. Rates begin at $1,395.

All rates per person, double occupancy. All Chosen Voyage by INTRAV cruises are offered on a full-ship kosher basis. Meals are served with Glatt Kosher meats, Chalav Yisrael dairy products, and Pas Yisrael baking offered exclusively. Under the internationally recognized supervision of OK Kosher Certification of New York, menus are planned to correspond with the requirements of Kashrut, and itineraries are customized to offer Shabbat in Port, with no competing programming on board and tours planned to maintain the highest halachic standards. Added attractions include special Jewish historical tours, scholars-in-residence, and regional experts.

American West Steamboat Company Sold to Ambassadors International

American West Steamboat Company (tel. 800/434-1232; www.americanweststeamboat.com), which operates old-timey paddlewheelers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, seems headed for new ownership under Ambassadors International, a company that offers travel and event-management services for corporations, associations, and tradeshows. As part of the arrangement, Ambassadors has hired cruise industry veteran David Giersdorf (formerly of Holland America and Windstar) to serve as president and COO of the new Ambassadors Cruise Group, LLC, created specifically to own and operate American West Cruises. The sale (which is still subject to the approval of certain debt covenant amendments by the U.S. Department of Transportation) is expected to close within the first quarter of 2006.

Crystal Expands Golf-Theme Cruises

For 2006, luxe line Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; www.crystalcruises.com) is offering golfers a chance to play at up to six world-class courses in a single voyage, with onboard parties and private clinics hosted by a visiting PGA instructor. On May 25, 2006, the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity departs London for a 10-day round-trip cruise showcasing play at:

  • Gleneagles King's Course (Edinburgh, Scotland)
  • Dornoch (Invergordon, Scotland)
  • Royal County Down (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
  • Royal Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)
  • Mount Juliet (Waterford, Ireland)
  • St. Mellion (Plymouth, England).

On August 19, the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony sails a 12-day cruise from Rome to London, with golf offered at:

  • Golf Club Dell'Ugolino (Florence, Italy)
  • Monte Carlo Golf Club (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
  • Ste. Maxime Golf Club (St. Tropez, France)
  • Rèal Club de Golf el Prat (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Penha Longa Golf Course (Lisbon, Portugal)

At each course, golfers will enjoy 18-holes in organized foursomes, plus a 45-minute warm-up session on a driving range or putting green, caddy or motorized cart, 9th hole refreshments, use of locker room facilities, and transfers to and from the ship. Back on board there's complimentary club and golf shoe cleaning after each course, as well as complimentary club storage.

Cruise fares for the 10- and 12-day cruises start at $4,250 and $3,990, respectively, per person, double occupancy. Golf excursions at extra cost.

Radisson Seven Seas Upgrades Telecommunications Fleetwide

For better or worse, Radisson Seven Seas (tel. 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com) is joining the growing legion of cruise lines offering cell phone service aboard ship. In addition, upgraded bandwidth in the ships' Internet centers should make connections quicker, and wi-fi hot spots on board will allow laptop users to surf from several public areas. All these upgrades are currently being rolled out across the line's four luxury ships. Whatever happened to "getting away from it all," anyway?

No cell phone service will be available on the Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia.

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