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New York Artist Stages "Incursion" against QM2 in Homemade Submarine

This is what Cunard (tel. 800/7-CUNARD; www.cunard.com) gets for homeporting Queen Mary 2 in Brooklyn, the unofficial capital of insurgent creativity in today's New York.

In the early morning hours of August 3, as QM2 sat at dock preparing for a 6-night transatlantic crossing, security guards spotted a small boat towing a large, pineapple-shaped object toward the massive liner. Police boats, Coast Guard craft, and a helicopter sped to intercept the intruder, but instead of sinister terrorists, they found . . . art.

The pineapple was in fact a turtle -- or, more properly, a rough replica of The Turtle, America's first submarine, which made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a British warship in New York harbor during the Revolutionary War. Inside was one Duke Riley, a Brooklyn-based "artist-patriot" whose work, according to his website (www.dukeriley.info), deals with "the struggle of marginal peoples to sustain independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, the tension between individual and collective behavior, the conflict with institutional power . . . [and] the space where water meets the land."

Riley, who constructed his unpowered eight-foot craft out of plywood, fiberglass, and marine surplus, and launched it with beer in hand, was taken into custody along with two collaborators. He was later slapped with a Coast Guard citation for violating QM2's security zone, as well as two police tickets for unsafe boating. His craft will reportedly be on display soon at his dealers' Chelsea gallery.

Carnival: Over 2.9 Million Served . . . on a Pool Deck . . . in New Orleans

Take a quick look at a deployment schedule for Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/327-9501; www.carnival.com) someday and you'll quickly notice that the line's two dozen ships overwhelmingly sail in the Caribbean -- fourteen of them year-round. This sets up the old chicken-and-the-egg scenario: Is the Caribbean the world's number-one cruise destination because of Carnival, or does Carnival have so many ships in the Caribbean because it's the world's number-one cruise destination? My hunch is that it's the former, but in any case, that's not the news.

The news is that this year, Carnival is on track to set a new record, carrying 2.9 million passengers in the region on cruises departing from 12 different U.S. homeports. According to Vicki Freed, Carnival's senior vice president of sales and marketing, Carnival receives "very favorable guest feedback on Caribbean destinations," but it still works to keep its product fresh, in some cases by developing whole new port destinations, such as the Grand Turk Cruise Center in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which opened in 2006.

But never let it be said that Carnival forgets its friends. On July 26, the line announced a new contract with New Orleans that could keep its ships sailing regularly from the port city until 2010.

Carnival's 2,056-passenger Fantasy currently sails 4- and 5-day cruises to the Western Caribbean from New Orleans year-round, with port calls in Cozumel and Costa Maya.

"This shows Carnival's commitment to the rebuilding of New Orleans and their confidence in the return of the City's tourism industry," said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. "Carnival is a trusted partner with the Port in our combined efforts to continue to revive New Orleans' tourism industry."

And speaking of the line's Fantasy-class ships (currently some of the oldest in its fleet, having been launched between 1990 and 1998), Carnival has just released details of a complete redesign of the vessels' pool decks, to be implemented ship by ship over the next two years. The redesign will:

  • Add a new Carnival WaterWorks aqua-park on Verandah Deck aft, featuring a four-deck, 300-foot spiraling tube water slide, as well as a separate 82-foot triple-lane waterslide. Must of the surrounding deck area will be occupied by a "spray park" with different kinds of high-concept water-guns -- similar to the H2O Zone water parks on Royal Caribbean's Freedom and Liberty of the Seas.
  • Designate serenity areas out on deck, for adults only.
  • Redecorate the main pool areas in "resort style," with umbrellas providing shaded seating at pool's edge along a "beach" of blue tile with yellow accents.
  • Cover one of the two pool-area hot tubs with a thatched, palapa-style roof, giving guests the option of shade. Faux palm trees, along with more thatched roofing over new, centrally positioned staircases, will further enhance the tropical resort ambiance.
  • Add new tile-work and thatched roofing to the pool bars and the outdoor food service area just behind the stage.

Imagination and Inspiration will be the first of the Fantasy-class ships to get the pool upgrades, later this year. The balance of the Fantasy-class fleet will get its upgrades by the end of 2009.

The Ghost of Clipper Cruise Line Lives at Abercrombie & Kent

Clipper Cruise Line effectively bought the farm in May when parent company INTRAV sold its two remaining vessels to passenger-ship management company International Shipping Partners (www.isp-usa.com). That was sad news for small ship lovers, who liked Clipper for its comfortable small ships, its casual but high-toned onboard atmosphere, and its onboard historians and naturalists. But all isn't lost, because now high-end adventure travel operator Abercrombie & Kent (tel. 800/554-7094; www.abercrombiekent.com) has announced a charter of the 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey for 2008 that will follow the same routes the ship sailed under Clipper from 1999 through 2006, visiting Japan, the Russian Far East, Alaska, the South Pacific, and New Zealand:

  • Treasures of Japan (May 26-June 10, 2008): Sailing from Osaka to Otaru, this 12-night itinerary visits ports and cities in Japan and South Korea, plus the islands of Japan's inland sea. Port calls include Kyoto, Himeji, Honshu, Hiroshima, Miya-Jima, Pusan, Kanazawa, Sado Island, Hokkaido, and Sapporo. Fares start from $8,995, per person, double occupancy.
  • Russian Far East & the Kamchatka Peninsula (July 2-17, 2008): Sailing a wide loop between Nome and Anchorage, Alaska, this itinerary concentrates on isolated Alaskan Native villages, Siberian cities marooned by the fall of the Soviet Union, the stark landscapes of the Arctic, and the wooded Kamchatka Peninsula. Port calls include St. Lawrence Island, Provideniya, Gabrilla Bay, Cape Navarin, Northern Kamchatka and the Koryakskiy region, and the Anadyr Bay region. Fares not yet available.
  • Bridging the Bering Sea (July 15-29, 2008): Also sailing between Anchorage and Nome, this itinerary takes in Alaska's rarely visited western coast and northern Siberia, a region of wildlife-rich islands, Native subsistence villages, and stunningly rugged scenery. Visits Shismaref Island, Provideniya, Lorino Village, St. Lawrence Island, the Pribolof Islands. the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak Island, the Katmai Peninsula, and the Kenai Fjords. Fares not yet available.
  • Alaska's Hidden Inside Passage (July 28-August 9, 2008): Sailing between Anchorate and Vancouver, BC, this itinerary concentrates on areas of Southeast Alaska that the big ships ignore. Ports and wild areas visited include Prince William Sound, Hubbard Glacier, Haines, Chatham Strait, South Baranof Island, the Stikine Icefield, LeConte Glacier, Misty Fjords, Alert Bay, and Johnstone Strait. Fares not yet available.
  • Polynesian Paradise (October 24-November 7, 2008): Sailing round-trip from Papeete, this itinerary concentrates on the islands between Tahiti and the Marquesas, visiting uninhabited atolls ruled by tropical birds, ancient archaeological sites, and traditional villages. Stops include Bora Bora, the Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands, and Fakarava. Fares not yet available.
  • South Seas Voyage (November 5-22, 2008): Sailing from Papeete to Fiji, this South Seas voyage visits Bora Bora, Atiu Island, Palmerston Island, Niue Island, the Vava'u Islet group, the Kingdom of Tonga, the Southern Lau Group, and Koro Island. Fares not yet available.
  • New Zealand Family Adventure (December 17, 2008-January 4, 2009): Encompassing the Christmas and New Year's holidays, this cruise explores both modern and ancient New Zealand, from the mountains and fjords of the South Island to the rich Maori culture and stunning vistas of the North. Sailing from Auckland to Queenstown, the cruise visits Tauranga, White Island, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Akaroa, Dunedin, Stewart Island, Fjord land National Park, and Milford Sound. Fares not yet available, but children under 18 travel at 50% discount when traveling with a full-fare adult.

Royal Caribbean to Homeport Ship in Colon, Panama

Last week, Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/562-7625; www.royalcaribbean.com) announced that it would position the 2.252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas in Colon, Panama, in late 2008. The vessel will offer seventeen 7-night southern Caribbean sailings between December 2008 and April 2009, visiting Cartagena and Santa Marta (Colombia), Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. It will be the first time the line has homeported a ship at the mouth of the Panama Canal.

"Colon is a spectacular Central American city and sailing from Panama not only offers our guests an exciting itinerary, but also allows more travelers more convenient opportunities to enjoy a Royal Caribbean cruise," said Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein at a press conference in Panama on July 30. "We are pleased to bring our signature style of cruising to Panama as we extend our brand globally, and we thank the government for their enthusiastic support."

Celebrity & Holland America Tout Wines, Wine Workshops, and Sommelier Packages

Cruising and drinking were made for each other. The atmosphere is convivial, responsibility was packed up and left back on shore, and there's a nice man with braid on his shoulder acting as your designated driver. While some settle for a bucket of Bud at the hot tub, some cruisers are a little more refined, and its for them that Celebrity Cruises and Holland America have designed their new wine-related offerings.

At Celebrity (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com), guests will soon be able to participate in wine-appreciation seminars hosted by sommeliers trained by the folks at Austria's Riedel Crystal. Lasting one hour, each workshop will give guests a chance to sample and compare multiple fine wines served in Riedel's Vinum glass collection, then depart with a set of four glasses. The hour-long workshops will be offered once per sailing for a fee, and will debut this month.

At Holland America (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com), sommeliers have begun uncorking two specially crafted wines adorned with images from classic Holland America Line poster art. The 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 California Chardonnay were hand crafted by the wine making team at Wente Vineyards, California's oldest family-owned and continuously operated winery. The commemorative wine is available aboard the line's thirteen ships, and also as part of the "Sommelier Package," a new onboard offering that includes a standard wine tasting, a premium wine tasting, dinner at the Pinnacle Grill alternative restaurant, a choice of five bottles, and a wine-related gift set.

Costa to Introduce "Spa Cabins" in the Caribbean

When Costa Cruises (tel. 800/462-6782; www.costacruises.com) launched its new, 3,000-passenger Costa Concordia last year, one of its most notable features were its new "spa cabins," a class of stateroom that comes with a raft of perks designed for hardcore fitness and health freaks. The success of the concept has prompted Costa to create a new "Ischia" wellness program that will be implemented aboard Costa Mediterranea next year, and will be up and running in the Caribbean for 2008-2009.

Guests who book one of the 44 spa cabins aboard Mediterranea will enjoy privileges such as a personalized wellness consultation, three complimentary spa treatments, two fitness or meditation classes, and complimentary access to the Wellness Restaurant, offering a menu of health-conscious cuisine. The cabins themselves -- available in ocean-view, veranda, and suite categories -- will feature aromatherapy diffusers, special shower and air filters, and a minibar stocked with healthy food and beverage selections. In addition, guests with these accommodations will be offered priority spa reservation times.

Costa Mediterranea will sail eastern, western, and southeastern Caribbean routes from Ft. Lauderdale between December 2008 and April 2009.

NCL Donates Used Cooking Oil for Conversion to Bio-Fuel

Who said cruise ships can't be green -- or at least contribute to something that is? Recently, Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) donated 1,300 gallons of used cooking oil from the vessels Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Jewel to an organic farmer in Vero Beach, Florida, who then converted it into 870 gallons of usable bio-diesel for his farming equipment.

"We are extremely pleased that despite many logistical hurdles, we could make this donation and put our used cooking oil to good use," said Bill Hamlin, NCL's executive vice president of fleet operations. "This was a concerted effort amongst our environmental staff, various departments at the Port of Miami, and our ground operations team. Our plan is to continue this effort when our ships return to Miami this fall."

The donation was a first for NCL in Miami, but continues an initiative already in place in Hawaii, where 40,000 gallons of cooking oil were offloaded for conversion to bio-diesel in 2006. NCL also participates in oily residue recycling programs in Alaska, British Columbia, New York, and Charleston.

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