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Royal Caribbean Caves on Fuel Supplement

As reported here in December, nearly the entire cruise industry has reacted to the spike it oil prices by adding a "fuel supplement" to its rates, tacking an extra $5 to $10 per day onto the price of your cruise. Each line implemented its surcharge differently. At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (www.rclinvestor.com), parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises, the plan was to exempt passengers who'd already paid the full cost of their cruise before the $5-a-day surcharge was announced on November 16, 2007.

Well, that didn't exactly work out.

Earlier this year, the Florida Attorney General's Office began looking into the question of whether cruise lines can retroactively impose a surcharge on passengers who have already booked their cruise, regardless of whether they'd yet paid in full. Now, Royal Caribbean has announced that it will be voluntarily eliminating its supplement on any bookings made prior to the announcement of the fuel supplement on November 16.

Guests who booked before November 16 and have taken their cruise and paid the fuel supplement will receive a refund. Guests booked before November 16 who paid the fuel supplement and have not taken their cruise will receive their refund as an onboard credit during their sailing.

The supplemental charge remains in effect for anyone who booked their trip after November 16, and applies only to the first and second guests in each stateroom, with a cap of $70 per person per sailing.

Celebrity's Equinox to Sail Europe, Caribbean in Inaugural Year

With Celebrity's (www.celebrity.com) new 2,850- passenger Celebrity Solstice due to begin sailing in December 2008, word has just come down that her younger sister, Celebrity Equinox, will split her time between the Caribbean and Europe after she launches in summer 2009.

Bookings for the ship's summer Europe sailings will open exclusively for members of Celebrity's loyalty program, the "Captain's Club," for one week beginning on March 13. Beginning March 20, other cruisers may book them as well. Bookings for the ship's inaugural Caribbean season will open at a later date.

"We have seen a great deal of enthusiasm for Celebrity Solstice, and we anticipate that we will see equal excitement about Celebrity Equinox," said Celebrity President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "As a special gesture of appreciation for the loyalty of our Captain's Club members, we're offering them the first opportunity to experience Celebrity Equinox when she sails in Europe next year."

Celebrity Equinox will make her maiden voyage on August 8, 2009, with a 10-night "Best of Europe" itinerary from Southampton to Rome, calling on ports in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Gibraltar. She'll then sail a series of 13- and 14-night "Ancient Empires" cruises between August 18 and October 23 featuring Haifa and Ashdod (Israel), an overnight stay in Alexandria (Egypt), and calls to ports in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. The ship will sail transatlantic to Fort Lauderdale on November 5 to begin a series of alternating 11- and 10-night "Ultimate Caribbean" voyages.

Silversea Names New Ship, Announces Refurbishment Plans for Old

One year ago, ultra-luxe line Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) announced that it would build its first new vessel since the launch of Silver Whisper in 2001. Fast-forward twelve months and that vessel is already under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Ancona, Italy, with interiors by Italian architect Giacomo Mortola. She also, finally, has a name: Silver Spirit.

Measuring in at 36,000 gross tons and carrying 540 passengers, Spirit will be considerably larger than Silversea's existing vessels, the 296-passenger Silver Cloud and Silver Wind (dating to 1994 and 1995) and the 382-passenger Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper (2000 and 2001). The extra space will allow introduction of several features not available on the older vessels, including a supper club, an Asian-themed restaurant, and an expanded spa facility.

Spirit is scheduled to join the Silversea fleet in late 2009. In the meantime, the line also has plans for major renovations aboard its two oldest ships. In November 2008, Silver Wind will go in for an extensive dry-dock during which workers will create a new, larger spa and gym on Deck 9 and a new observation lounge, as well as renovating all suite bathrooms and sprucing up cabins, public rooms, and corridors to bring their decor in line with what's being created for Silver Spirit.

Wind's sister-ship, Silver Cloud, will go in for the same renovations in May 2009.

"These will be the most comprehensive construction and refurbishment initiatives ever undertaken for Silver Cloud and Silver Wind ," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea's president and CEO. "The projects underscore our firm commitment to keep Silversea at the forefront of ultra-luxury cruising."

Holland's Queen Beatrix to Christen HAL's Eurodam

So who said Cunard had a lock on royals christening ships? On July 1, 2008, Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) will also get the blueblood nod when Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands names the line's new ship, the 2,104-passenger Eurodam, at a ceremony in Rotterdam.

Eurodam will in fact be the ninth HAL vessel launched by members of the Dutch royal family, following Statendam III in 1929 (by Prince Hendrik), Nieuw Amsterdam in 1937 (by Queen Wilhelmina), Statendam IV in 1957 and Prinses Margriet in 1964 (by then Princess Beatrix), Rotterdam V in 1958 (by Queen Juliana), and Prinsendam in 1973, Nieuw Amsterdam in 1983, Rotterdam VI in 1997, and Oosterdam in 2003 (all by Princess Margriet).

The July 1 naming ceremony will include festivities along Wilhelminakade, Rotterdam's cruise ship terminal area, in front of Holland America Line's former headquarters, which is now Hotel New York. The company was founded in 1873 in Rotterdam.

Eurodam is currently being built at the Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani shipyard in Marghera, Italy. To get a sneak peak, go to www.eurodam.hollandamerica.com, which offers computer simulations, photos, and virtual tours.

NCL Brings a Big Hunk of Hawaii to Europe, Year-Round

When Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) debuted its 92,100-ton Pride of Hawaii in 2006, the plan -- obvious from the name -- was for her to be the signature vessel of the line's Hawaii fleet, sailing full-time in the islands for years to come.

Well, not so much.

In January, the ship was pulled from Hawaii due to weaker-than-expected demand, renamed Norwegian Jade, stripped of her Hawaii-centric decor, and sent off to Europe for a series of 12-, 13-, and 14-night Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises. Now comes word that NCL has decided to keep the vessel in Europe through spring 2010.

So why not rename her Pride of the Mediterranean? Too much of a jinx?

As part of the deployment, NCL is introducing two new European itineraries:

  • 12-night Eastern Mediterranean sailings that includes stops in Rome/Civitavecchia (Italy), Athens/Piraeus (Greece), Ephesus/Izmir (Turkey), Valletta (Malta), and an overnight in Alexandria (Egypt).
  • 9-night Canary Islands and Morocco sailings that include calls to Casablanca and Agadir (Morocco), Las Palmas and Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), Funchal (Madeira), and Malaga (Spain).
  • In addition, Norwegian Jade will sail one special 14-night Eastern Mediterranean holiday sailing on December 21, 2008, that includes Rome/Civitavecchia and Naples (Italy), Rhodes and Athens/Piraeus (Greece), Ephesus/Izmir (Turkey), Valletta (Malta), and an overnight in Alexandria (Egypt).

Guests already booked on the sailings that were cancelled to make way for these new itineraries (a 12-night transatlantic and sailings from New York from mid-December through April 2008) will have the opportunity to switch their reservations to comparable sailings on Jade's newer sister-ship, Norwegian Gem. Guests who make the switch will receive full price protection and a $100 onboard credit per person (maximum $200 per stateroom). NCL will also pay for air-change fees (up to $100 per person) or hotel cancellations fees (up to $50 per room) for guests who booked air or hotels on their own. Air and hotel booked through NCL will be protected at the original rate. Guests who wish to cancel will receive a full refund.

On the other side of the pond, NCL has also announced that the oldest ship remaining in its fleet, 1992's Norwegian Majesty, will reposition to Charleston, South Carolina, in November to begin a season of Bahamas and Florida cruises, through April 2009.

Beginning November 15, 2008, the 1,462-passenger Norwegian Majesty will depart Charleston on Saturdays and make stops in Port Canaveral (Florida), and Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, and the private island of Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas).

Cunard-Sponsored Liner Notes to Debut on Public Radio

On March 17, public radio stations around the country will debut a new literary travel series called Liner Notes, in which noted personalities will gather at the Captain's Table aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and discuss travel destinations "as they have been imagined and as they exist in literature, painting, film, music, and myth."

Scheduled to run for six episodes and made possible through sponsorship by Cunard, the show will debut March 17 with a St. Patrick's Day celebration of Ireland, featuring Irish and Irish-American authors Frank McCourt, Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Nuala O'Faolain, and Colum McCann, plus NPR film critic Bob Mondello and host Paul Holdengräber.

More information on Liner Notes is available at www.cunard.com/linernotes. Consult your local public radio station for programming times.

Cruise West Debuts New California Wine Country Spa Package

Family-owned small-ship line Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com) is currently the only small-ship line offering river sailings in California's wine country, a route that a few years ago boasted several competitors. Its 3- and 4-night trips, offered in September and October sailing round-trip from San Francisco, already offer stops at noted vineyards, tastings, vineyard meals, and a designated driver, but to make things even more appealing, the line just announced new spa packages that can be added on for a truly sybaritic experience.

The "California Wine Country Spa Package" will feature two nights at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood (www.huntingtonhotel.com), where you'll get:

  • One 80-minute spa treatment at the Nob Hill Spa
  • 15% off additional 80-minute treatments
  • Daily Continental Breakfast in the Big 4 Restaurant
  • Transfer to San Francisco International Airport via Towncar Service
  • A bottle of wine and macaroon cookies in your room when you arrive
  • Complimentary chauffeured sedan service to/from Union Square and
  • the Financial District between 8 a.m. and 4pm.

Both cruises sail aboard the 138-passenger Spirit of Yorktown, which formerly sailed the same route for now-defunct Clipper Cruise Line. The 7-day "Vintner's Choice" cruise and spa package departs September 22 and 29 and October 6 and 13, with prices starting at $2,849 per person, double occupancy. The 6-day "Culture of the Vine" cruise and spa package departs September 26 and October 3 and 10, with prices starting at $2,149 per person.

Azamara Cruises Announced "Exotic Europe" Sailings for 2009

Azamara Cruises (www.azamaracruises.com), the new line created by Celebrity Cruises last summer to serve the "midsize, almost-luxury, wanna go someplace special" market, recently released details of its planned 2009 Europe sailings aboard the 710-passenger Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, which will include 20 new ports plus overnight stays in some of the continent's most interesting cities.

Azamara's series of 7- to 15-night cruises will depart from five different homeports: Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Civitavecchia/Rome, and Venice. Highlights will include:

  • Overnight stays in Barcelona, Edinburgh, Florence and Ravenna, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, and Stockholm. Late-night (10pm or after) departures will be offered in an additional 10 ports of call, allowing guests to experience each locale's nightlife.
  • A rare transit up the Thames River and a rare overnight anchored in the heart of London (during the 14-night Western Europe itinerary)
  • New, harder-to-access ports, including docking in Zadar, Croatia (where larger ships have to anchor); a call to Rouen, France (just one hour from Paris, as opposed to the large-ship port of Le Havre, which is two-and-a-half hours from the city); Volos, Greece, where Azamara will offer excursions to the Meteora Monasteries); and Amalfi, Italy, near Sorrento, Positano, and the Isle of Capri.
  • A new Iceland and Norwegian Fjords voyage round-trip from Copenhagen and featuring three Icelandic ports plus calls to Scotland's Shetland Islands and Denmark's Faroe Islands.
  • An extended, three-day stay in St. Petersburg, Russia, during Baltic itineraries from Copenhagen.
  • A 15-night Holy Land itinerary from Athens to Rome, featuring 11 cities, including an overnight stay in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • A Best of Italy itinerary with overnight stays in Venice, Sorrento, and Ravenna, the latter giving guests the opportunity to visit Florence by train.
  • A 10-night Eastern Mediterranean and Adriatic Coast voyage with calls in Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy, and only one sea day.

These cruises will go on sale April 2, 2008.

Costa Opens Staff Training Academy in Jakarta, Indonesia

Putting a twist on the slogan "Cruising Italian Style," Italian line Costa Cruises (www.costacruises.com) has just opened a new training facility for shipboard restaurant, housekeeping, galley, and bar personnel -- in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Is that southern Italy?

Opened at the end of February, the academy will be run in collaboration with Meranti Magsaysay Institute (MMI), a major player in global hospitality training. The new Jakarta Costa Cruises academy plans to educate 1,300 new hires a year, mainly students from local hotel training schools.

At present, Indonesians account for nearly 14% of Costa's employees fleetwide, with 49% coming from the rest of Asia, 18% from Central and South America, and 13% from Italy. As a result of the training school's efforts, the number of Indonesian personnel working on Costa's ships is expected to increase from 1,200 to 2,000 in 2008. Between 2008 to 2012, Costa expects to recruit a total of 12,000 new hires.

Costa currently has six training schools located around the world: two in the Philippines; one each in Indonesia, India, and Brazil; and one at the company's headquarters in Genoa, Italy.

Crystal Gives Guests Onboard Access to 370 Worldwide Newspapers

Can't live without your morning paper? Chances are you'll be able to get it aboard Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com). Available immediately aboard the luxe line's Crystal Serenity (and launching later this year on Crystal Symphony), the Newspaper Direct service uses satellite communications to create full-format, same-day editions of 370 newspapers from 65 countries, including 74 US editions (The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, and others) and more than 40 from the UK, plus scores of international papers and special-interest publications such as Barron's and Investor's Business Daily.

Papers are ordered on board and delivered directly to your cabin, at a cost of $6.50 per paper. A full list of selections and order forms is available in every stateroom. Many papers are offered daily, while some are offered only on selected days.

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