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Holland America Adds Antarctica for '05/'06

Antarctica cruises aren't as rare as you'd think they would be, though they're usually offered only by adventure-travel companies like Lindblad, Abercrombie & Kent, Quark Expeditions, Clipper, and Norwegian Coastal Voyage, plus German line Hapag-Lloyd.

Every once in a while, though, one of the mainstream or luxury lines plots a voyage south. Princess has one coming up on the Regal Princess on January 8, 2006, as does Radisson Seven Seas aboard the chartered Explorer II on January 16 and 27. Now Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) has entered the picture too, planning three 20-night journeys aboard flagship MS Rotterdam for December 22, 2005; January 11, 2006; and December 22, 2006.

The cruises will sail between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Valparaiso, Chile, sailing around Cape Horn; through the Strait of Magellan, the Chilean fjords, and Falkland Sound; and visiting ports in Uruguay, Argentina, and Tierra del Fuego as well as taking in islands, bays, and sites on and around the Antarctic Peninsula: Elephant Island, where Ernest Shackleton's crew touched land for the first time after their ship was trapped by ice; Paulet and Petermann Islands, to view their penguin colonies; the volcanic crater of Deception Island; and the ice-choked Errera, Neumayer, and LeMaire Channels.

Prices for HAL Antarctic Explorer cruises currently start at $3,469 per person.

Costa Magica to Sail Florida-Bermuda Itineraries

Last week, Costa Cruises (tel. 800/33-COSTA; www.costacruises.com) announced a real rarity: cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Bermuda. The new 7-night itinerary, which will be offered just twice (April 21 and 28, 2006) during the inaugural U.S. season of the new, 105,000-ton, 3,470-passenger Costa Magica, which was christened last November 6 in Barcelona. The vessel is currently sailing 7-night Mediterranean itineraries from Rome, through November 20.

In addition to the Bermuda routings -- which will include two days in Hamilton, Bermuda; two days in Nassau, Bahamas; and two days at sea -- Magica's U.S.-based winter season will include two 7-night eastern Caribbean routes (visiting St. Maarten, Tortola, and Nassau or San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island, Casa de Campo, and Nassau) and a western Caribbean route that visits Key West, Cozumel, Ocho Rios, and Grand Cayman, with some sailings calling at Progreso/Merida and Roatan, Honduras (ports vary by itinerary).

Bermuda sailings currently start at $799 per person. Caribbean sailings start from $599 for inside staterooms, $799 for oceanview staterooms, and $949 for veranda staterooms.

Mickey Goes West

Since their launch in 1998 and 1999, Disney Cruise Line's (tel. 888/DCL-2500; www.disneycruise.com) twin ships, the 1,754-passenger Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, have sailed the same itineraries: alternating weeklong eastern and western Caribbean itineraries for Magic, alternating 3- and 4-night Bahamas routes for Wonder.

This week, though, Disney Magic is making its first trip away from home since being delivered from its Italian shipyard. On May 14, the ship set off on a 4,997-mile journey that will take it to Disney's private island (Castaway Cay) then on to Curacao, through the Panama Canal, and to the Mexican ports of Acapulco, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas before arriving at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, fourteen days later.

Beginning May 28, the vessel will sail a series of twelve 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises hitting those same three Mexican ports. The ship is scheduled to return to Florida on September 3. Disney Wonder will continue its 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises in Magic's absence, out from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Magic's west coast cruises are part of the big fiftieth birthday celebration for Disneyland, which opened its gates in Anaheim on July 17. Wish Walt were here to see it.

Lindblad and National Geographic Team for Photography Cruises

"National Geographic photographer" is right up there on a lot of people's dream-jobs lists, but the likelihood of most of us landing that kind of gig is, well, zippo.

But we can pretend.

That's the promise of a new series of photography-workshop cruises being offered starting in July by small-ship adventure line Lindblad Expeditions (tel. 800/397-3348; www.expeditions.com) as part of its new partnership with the National Geographic Society.

The cruises, offered year-round in destinations like Arctic Norway (July), Alaska (September), the Galapagos Islands (November/December), Antarctica (December), and Baja (March/April 2006), pair passengers with a team of professional photographers. On board, photo experts provide instruction on both technical and creative aspects of their trade, while off-ship activities are designed to capture the best photo opportunities, with special sunrise and sunset Zodiac landings, onshore walks for coaching in the field, and close-up wildlife photo-ops.

Some of the photographers scheduled to join Lindblad's photo staff in 2005 include Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer and wildlife biologist; nature photographers Art Wolfe and Tom Mangelsen; and freelance photographer Bob Krist, whose works appears regularly in National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, Islands, and Endless Vacation.

Rates for LIndblad's photo expeditions vary by itinerary, with prices for a 12-night Alaska sailing this September currently starting at $3,980 per person. A 14-night Baja photo cruise scheduled for March 25, 2006, currently starts at $4,390.

Maine Windjammers Detail Tsunami Relief Effort

The schooners that sail off the mid-Maine coast have a fairly short season, beginning right around, well, now (hint-hint if you want to make reservations) and running to mid-October. During the rest of the year the ships' owner-operators typically rest up, make repairs to their boats, and hunker down through the Maine winter, but this year was a little different for Capt. Ray Williamson, co-owner of Maine Windjammer Cruises (tel. 800/736-7981; www.mainewindjammercruises.com), which operates three classic schooners, the 1882 Grace Bailey, the 1916 Mercantile, and the tiny 1960-vintage Mistress, which carries only six passengers.

Instead of resting, Capt. Ray and his wife, Ann, chartered the 900-ton Indonesian sailing cargo vessel Maruta Jaya and sailed a 30-day expedition to 30 villages on the Indonesian islands of Nias and Simeulue, delivering aid supplies that CARE International had stored in its CARE Indonesia warehouse in Jakarta. The islands were hit hard by the December 26 great earthquake and tsunami, an 8.7 quake on March 28, and other significant aftershocks.

During its monthlong voyage, the Maruta Jaya delivered 350 tarps, 3,350 jerry cans, 77,500 water purification kits, 450 kitchen sets, 4,700 stoves, 3,350 water taps, and 5,000 "family kits," each containing kitchen supplies, soap, five pairs of sandals, five sarongs, five sleeping mats, and miscellaneous necessities.

The effort, dubbed the Windjammer Relief Effort of Camden and officially recognized by the UN, is ongoing, with the Maruta Jaya set to sail a second relief expedition to the north coast of Sumatra immediately.

More information about the genesis of the Windjammer Relief Effort can be found at the following links:

Crystal Harmony to Sail Mexican Riviera During Final Season

As reported here in April, it's end of an era at Crystal Cruises (tel. 866/446-6625; www.crystalcruises.com) with the impending retirement of Crystal Harmony, the luxury line's original vessel, launched in 1990. At the end of this year, following her scheduled dry-dock, Harmony will transfer to Japan for service as the Asuka II with the cruise division of Crystal's parent company, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK).

Before that, though, Harmony has a few more nautical miles to sail, so Crystal is sending her off with a series of cruises from its own California backyard, sailing 7- and 10-night cruises round-trip from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. Offered from September through November, the itineraries feature the line's first calls at Loreto, Santa Rosal¿a, and La Paz (all in Baja), as well as visits to the more common regional ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatl¿n, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Manzanillo -- though not all in the same week, of course.

Prices are surprisingly low, with sailings on September 28, October 15, November 1, and November 18 starting at only $1,295 per person.

Carnival to Liberate Europe in '06 . . .

Carnival, for all it's dominance of the U.S. cruise market, ain't what ya call strong in Europe. This summer, though, its brand-new Carnival Liberty will ring its bell on the Fun Ship line's first-ever season of Mediterranean voyages, operating round-trip from Rome/Civitavecchia July 20 through October 12. The news, though, is that Carnival has already committed the ship to another Mediterranean season, running May through October 2006.

The 110,000-ton ship, which is currently under construction in Monfalcone, Italy, will operate a series of fifteen 12-night Mediterranean cruises, again round-trip from Rome/Civitavecchia and visiting the Italian ports of Naples, Livorno, Messina, and Venice (for a two-night stay), the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, Barcelona (Spain), and Cannes (France).

In between its Mediterranean seasons, Liberty will also operate a schedule of 6- and 8-night Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale November 12, 2005 through April 15, 2006.

Carnival begins accepting reservations for Liberty's 2006 Mediterranean cruises on May 25. Prices begin at $1,299 per person. A 14-night transatlantic voyage scheduled for April 23, 2006, starts at only$799 per person, while the 16-night return trip on November 3 is pegged at $1,199.

. . . And to Feature a Really Big TV, Too

In related news, the latest detail to emerge about Carnival Liberty's onboard features is that she'll be a couch-potato's dream, with a 270-square-foot outdoor TV screen mounted by her Lido Deck pool. Dubbed "Carnival's Seaside Theatre" (with a British spelling in honor of Liberty's European routes?), the 12-by-22-feet LED screen is similar to those in New York's Times Square and in many sports stadiums, and will broadcast movies, concerts, and other programming in the evenings while guests recline in oversized lounge chairs, eating free popcorn.

In the morning the screen will broadcast the ship's own "Morning Show," hosted by the cruise director, and if the timing's right it'll broadcast national sporting events too, coupled with various food and drink specials. For kids, the system will sometimes be hooked up to Play Station 2 units for a stupefyingly large video experience.

The screen is similar to the 300-square-foot "Movies Under the Stars" screen that debuted on Princess's Caribbean Princess in early 2004 and has since been introduced on Grand Princess and Star Princess as well.

SeaDream Offers Total Spa OD on Transatlantic and Caribbean Sailings

Talk about sybaritic. SeaDream Yacht Club (tel. 800/707-4911; www.seadreamyachtclub.com) is already that, with its upscale yet casual vibe, its impeccable service and dining, its flexible itineraries, and its truly all-inclusive pricing. But let me pull your coat about this one: This year, all SeaDream voyages embarking between October 15 and December 18 will offer a spa package that could have you packed in mud, bathed in oils, and rubbed all up and down practically all day every damn day, with a $199 prepaid fee covering four treatments that otherwise could cost at least twice as much.

The SeaDream spas offer eleven different treatments, including shiatsu massage, Javanese lulur body scrub, Thai massage, aroma body massage, Asian blend massage, Thai herbal compress therapy, Swedish body massage, minty foot mssage, Thai foot reflexology, body glow, and honey milk body mask, plus facial therapies such as a "Valmont Discovery Facial," "Peaks of Purity" facial, and a treatment for men called "Purity for Men."

The spa savings apply to eight sailings on the 110-passenger SeaDream I and nine on the identical SeaDream II.

Cruise prices vary by sailing date, but for comparison's sake, a 7-night Caribbean cruise aboard SeaDream I, sailing between San Juan and St. Thomas on October 30, is currently starting at $2,299 per person.

Cruise Ships Paint Their Nails Too

Here's one for the "bizzaro" file: Last week Essie Cosmetics and the cruise industry marketing group CLIA (www.cruising.org) announced a new line of nail polish shades "created with luxury cruising in mind."

Intended to be sold in salons, spas, and specialty stores on ship and shore, the collection is made up of six shades: the glittery orange "Life Saver," the warm tulip-pink "Cruise Control," the pink-red "Fun Ships," the cotton candy "Princess Pink," and the what-do-these-names-have-to-do-with-cruise-ships-anyway "Magnifico" (iridescent light fuchsia) and "Jewel" (a shimmery raspberry).

As part of the launch, Essie and CLIA are hosting a cruise giveaway, with prizes including cruise vacations for two on Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, or Costa Cruise Lines. Entry details are supposed to be posted on www.essie.com, but weren't yet up at press time.

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