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Condé Nast "World Savers" Awards Honor Five Cruise Lines

Awards given by travel magazines often mean little, based as they so often are on reader votes -- an indicator that usually reflects the winners' market penetration rather than its comparative quality. The current issue of Condé Nast Traveler, though, features the winners of its 2008 "World Savers Awards," honoring travel companies that -- in the opinion of 17 academics, activists, executives, and philanthropists in the sustainability field -- demonstrated leadership in poverty alleviation, cultural and/or environmental preservation, education, wildlife conservation, and health.

No cruise lines were among the six top winners, but two lines made it onto the "Honorable Mentions" list and three others were listed among the additional finalists.

Disney Cruise Line (www.disneycruise.com) was recognized most often by the judges, winning plaudits in three categories. According to the magazine's reckoning, Disney Cruise line contributed to poverty alleviation by donating "6,000 hours of volunteer work in Caribbean ports last year" and sending Disney characters to "visit schools and children's hospitals in the ports of call, bringing small gifts." The line also contributed to environmental preservation by being the first to utilize a new hull coating that "minimizes surface resistance and increases fuel efficiency." It won in the education category for running "a three-year environmental-education program for elementary classes in the Cayman Islands; the winning class receives a field trip on board the Disney Magic."

Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) was given honorable mention in the health category by donating "dental suites -- each worth about $90,000 -- from 13 ships to various dental programs around the world."

Additional finalists on the overall list included Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and MSC Cruises.

Carnival Plays Musical Chairs: Expands Capacity in New Orleans & Mobile, Shifts Emphasis in San Diego

When you have as many ships as Carnival Cruise Lines (www.carnival.com), you can make news just by moving them around. For instance, to...

New Orleans: Carnival is currently the only line operating year-round cruises from the big comeback kid of easy, but in November 2009 its capacity will increase a full 34% when the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph takes over for the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy.

Fantasy now operates 4- and 5-night western Caribbean cruises from the port, but when Triumph takes over she'll add a 7-night option as well. Beginning November 14, 2009, Triumph will sail 7-night voyages every third Saturday, visiting Belize City, Roatan (Honduras) and Cozumel on her western Caribbean itineraries and Key West, Freeport, and Nassau on her eastern itineraries. Four-night cruises will depart Thursdays to Cozumel, while five-night cruises will depart Mondays and Saturdays to Cozumel and Progreso (Mexico). 

"The Port and the entire New Orleans tourism community is thrilled by Carnival's decision to homeport the Carnival Triumph here," said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange.  "This community has demonstrated its resilience and proven once again it is an international tourist destination.  This business decision by a valued partner such as Carnival only reiterates the bright future of cruising in New Orleans."

Mobile: So where's the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy's going once it leaves New Orleans? Eastward to Mobile, Alabama, where it will take over the routes currently sailed by the 1,452-passenger Holiday, the oldest ship in Carnival's active fleet. Beginning on November 16, 2009, Fantasy will offer a mix of 4- and 5-night cruises year-round from the port, with 4-night cruises departing Thursdays and visiting Cozumel. Five-night cruises depart Mondays (visiting Cozumel and Calica, Mexico) and Saturdays (visiting Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico).

The vessel is currently scheduled to undergo an extensive makeover in fall 2008, which will transform her upper deck to include the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, Serenity adults-only retreat, and a new resort-style pool area.

San Diego: Meanwhile, on the left coast, Carnival will shift the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation from her current 4- and 5-night cruises out of San Diego to a new series of 3- and 4-night cruises, beginning February 12, 2009. On her new route, Elation will depart Thursdays on 3-night cruises to Ensenada and Sundays on 4-night cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island.

The shift expands to four the number of days each week that southern Californians can sail a Carnival getaway cruise, as Carnival Paradise offers 3- and 4-night cruises departing from Long Beach on Fridays and Mondays.

Carnival also offers year-round 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises aboard Carnival Pride from Long Beach and seasonal 8-night Mexican Riviera cruises aboard Carnival Spirit from San Diego.

Discover Gives Free Cruises to Active-Duty Military & Recent Vets

Florida-based Discovery Cruise Line, which offers year-round one-day sailings between Ft. Lauderdale and Grand Bahama Island, has a deal for American soldiers who have served recently in Iraq or Afghanistan: a free cruise.

The offer, which is valid until December 31, 2010, covers one free round-trip cruise, including the cost of all meals served, all service charges, taxes, and Bahamian departure fees. There are no additional costs involved. Friends, family members, spouses, or others can register a soldier for the cruise by filling in his or her name online at www.discoverycruiseline.com and Discovery will mail a receipt and a holiday card for them to pass on to the service man or woman. The receipt should be presented at the pier at the time of sailing, together with a Military ID and a letter from their unit confirming the places of service during the year preceding the cruise. Advance reservations are required. Cruises depart Ft. Lauderdale at 7:45am and arriving back at 10pm.

Said Hanns J. Hahn, General Manager of Discovery, "We want to recognize our military personnel and remind their families that the program is on-going. They can give them a gift during the Holiday Season or anytime during the year."

Cruise West to Visit 29 Countries in 2009, Offer Pentax Photography Cruises

For a cruise line that was once called "Alaska Sightseeing," Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com) has certainly expanded its horizons. For 2009, the Seattle-based small-ship line is planning to reach far beyond its base to offer cruises as far afield as the Galapagos Islands, Vietnam, the Danube River, the East Indies, and Siberia.

The 26 itineraries Cruise West will offer throughout the year include four that are completely new for the line:

  • The Galapagos Islands: Offered aboard the chartered, 40-passenger Isabela II, Cruise West's 10-night Galapagos cruises will start with two days in Quito, Ecuador, followed by a flight to Baltra Island where you'll board the ship for an 8-night cruise. An optional post-cruise tour to Machu Picchu is also available. Three departures will be offered in the inaugural 2009 season: August 23, August 30, and September 6.
  • Danube River Cruises: Cruise West's first-ever European cruises will sail the Danube between Vienna and Bucharest aboard the chartered, 148-passenger river vessel Amadeus Diamond. Eleven- and 12-night cruises will be available departing on July 16 and 24 and October 13 and 21, 2009, visiting cities, towns, and sites in Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia. Optional pre- and post-cruise land tours of Prague and Transylvania are also available.
  • The East Indies: Sailing between Singapore and Sydney, Australia, this single 17-night cruise will explore ports in Indonesia and other, as yet unannounced destinations. The cruise departs December 16, 2009, aboard Cruise West's flagship, the 120-passenger Spirit of Oceanus.
  • Melanesia: Sailing between Sydney and Fiji, this 17-night cruise, departing December 28, 2009, will visit ports in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and elsewhere.

In addition, Cruise West will be reintroducing a 12-night Vietnam itinerary first offered in 2007. Sailing from Haiphong to Ho Chi Minh City aboard Spirit of Oceanus, the cruise will visit Ha Long Bay, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, and the Mekong River. One sailing will be offered, departing November 21, 2009. Pre- and post-cruise land tours of Cambodia and Angkor Wat will also be available.

Back in familiar territory, Cruise West has also announced a series of eight photography cruises for 2009, offered in partnership with the Pentax camera company -- two as part of the line's Panama/Costa Rica sailings (Dec & Mar 2009), one in Mexico's Sea of Cortez (Jan 2009), one in the Pacific Northwest (April 2009), one on the line's new Danube route (Oct 2009), and four in Alaska (May, June, and Aug 2009). Each cruise will feature field events and onboard workshops co-hosted by professional photographer Kerrick James, whose work has appeared on more than 165 book and magazine covers.

Royal Caribbean to Offer Two Nickelodeon Family Cruises in 2009

The first ever Nickelodeon Family Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean is barely a memory (it sailed Aug 10-17 aboard Freedom of the Seas), but the ink is already dry on a deal for two more, both due to sail in summer 2009 from opposite sides of the country. The first will sail on the west coast, when RCI's Mariner of the Seas heads out on a 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise (July 26 to Aug 2, 2009). A week later, Freedom of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral to the eastern Caribbean (Aug 9-16, 2009).

On-board activities include interactive game shows; meet-and-greets and performances by Nickelodeon stars; premieres of new, original Nick TV shows and movies; and visits with favorite Nick characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Diego, and Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Vacation packages for each Nickelodeon Family Cruise will be available to the public beginning in mid-September. Visit www.nickfamilycruise.com for information and reservations.

Crystal Expands Onboard Piano Instruction

Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) has long offered onboard keyboard instruction as part of its "Creative Learning Institute." This month, the line announced an expansion of the program in partnership with Yamaha.

Geared toward more advanced piano and keyboard players, the "Passport to Music PLUS" program will be offered aboard more than a dozen Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity cruises this year in the Mediterranean, Baltic, Transatlantic, Panama Canal, and South America. Classes include:

  • Playing by Ear: Sharpen listening skills to enhance playing or singing.
  • Exploring Chords 101: Learn the basics of harmony, music theory, and orchestration and how to create and play chords.
  • Exploring Chords 202: Progress to higher levels of harmony study.

Study materials for each class will include "homework" exercises that participants can complete during lab sessions held during days at sea. The lab sessions will provide guests with additional practice and one-on-one time with instructors. An independent study option will also debut later this year, enabling participants to work on pieces with the aid of step-by-step guidelines and instructor assistance.

Princess Debuts New Fitness Programs

It was only a decade ago that ships' gyms and spas succeeded in migrating from windowless bottom-deck rooms to palatial top-deck digs, and the evolution of onboard fitness programs has continued ever since. This week Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) announced four new fitness and wellness programs designed for adults and kids:

Core. Strength. Balance: Offered in Princess' Lotus Spa, this program focuses on three fitness components, each with a series of corresponding classes. The "Core" component is designed to create a strong foundation on which to build, and is based primarily on the principles of Pilates and correct postural alignment. "Balance" focuses on centering both mind and body, and features fusion yoga classes. "Strength" includes a high-energy mixture of both strength and cardio classes designed to get the heart racing. The program is being rolled out fleet-wide and is expected to be in place aboard all Princess ships by the end of the year. Classes entail an extra fee, and include the following:

Core

  • AbSession: A 20-minute abdominal blaster
  • Core Strength and Stretch: Pilates based, concentrating on creating a strong foundation
  • Pilates Basics: An introduction to classic Pilates moves
  • Fitball Pilates: Innovative core class utilizing the Pilates ring to develop a strong center

Strength

  • Body Challenge Conditioning: An all-over body workout, set to music
  • Tour de Spin: Three different 45-minute classes offered in association with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, with each class featuring a ride named after a stage of the Tour de France
  • Step to My Groove: Beginners step aerobics

Balance

  • Meditation Series
  • Yoga Basics: Suitable for all fitness levels, introducing the central concepts of yoga
  • Strong Centered and Stretched: Fusion class incorporating yoga and Pilates, focusing on posture, strength, and life energy

Yoga for Kids & Teens: Designed for kids between ages 3 and 17, this program helps build coordination, proper breathing, balance, and emotional strength, incorporating music and singing to keep things interesting. Classes are complimentary, last between 30 and 60 minutes, and are currently rolling out fleetwide in the onboard youth and teen centers. Parents are welcome to participate.

Fitness@Sea: Which could also be known as "Fitness@Bed." Designed for passengers who just don't want to leave their cabins, this program uses video instruction broadcast over the ship's TV system. Led by fitness trainer Gillian Clarke, the classes range from stretching and "mind-body" classes to cardio training and overall body workout sessions. Ships that offer Princess's on-deck Movies Under the Stars feature will also offer morning sessions in which the classes are broadcast on the big screen.

Wii Fit: Utilizing Nintendo's popular Wii video game systems, this program offers pseudo-virtual games in which the backgrounds are fake but are controlled by the participants' movements. Tournaments are held on the big Movies Under the Stars screens, while kids and teens can participate in the activities at the youth and teen centers.

Windstar Plans Art Cruise with Painter Jody Hewgill

If you've gotten a brochure from Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com) in the past few years, you've probably seen the work of painter Jody Hewgill, whose languid, romantic imagery graced their covers. Next February, Hewgill will be the featured guest aboard Windstar's 312-passenger Wind Surf during a 7-night eastern Caribbean cruise, round-trip from Barbados.

The sailing is the first in WIndstar's Signature Collection Host Series, which will feature distinguished guests and lecturers throughout the 2009 season.

During the cruise, Hewgill -- whose work has also graced the pages of Rolling Stone and Time magazines -- will host an art exhibit, create sketches, and talk to guests about her artistic process and techniques.

Wind Surf's 7-night Barbados round-trip visits St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Martin, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, and St. Lucia. Rates start at $2,499 per person, double occupancy.