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Silversea Names New Expedition Ship, Details Features & Itineraries

Last September, ultra-luxe Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) surprised everyone by purchasing the expedition ship World Discoverer from Singapore's Sembawang Shipyard. This week, the line released details of her refurbishment and planned itineraries, in anticipation of her June 12 relaunch.

Launched in 2001 for now-defunct Society Expeditions, the A1A ice-rated World Discoverer will be renamed HSH Prince Albert II in tribute to Prince Albert of Monaco, who in 2006 journeyed to the North Pole to draw attention to the effects of global warming on the Arctic regions.

"We are deeply honored to have our new expedition ship named after His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco," said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea's chairman. "His passion for environmental conservation is well known and we are committed to supporting his mission by offering travelers the chance to discover and appreciate some of the world's most remote and unspoiled regions."

When HSH Prince Albert II sets sail on June 12, following a naming ceremony in Monte Carlo, she'll open up a brand-new market in the cruise business, offering exploratory, adventurous small-ship cruises that are also infused with Silversea's ultra-high standards of service and ambiance. A multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, is currently in progress, upgrading all guest accommodations and public spaces, tweaking her exterior design, enhancing her technology, and outfitting her with a new fleet of eight inflatable Zodiac landing boats to allow guests up-close exploration. After her refit, the vessel will carry 132 guests in 66 oceanview accommodations, many featuring private verandas. Staterooms and suites will range from 180 to over 600 square feet.

HSH Prince Albert II will spend her inaugural season focusing on polar expeditions of 10 to 21 days. Sailing first to the Arctic Circle, the Svalbard Archipelago, Iceland, and Greenland for the summer, the ship will then reposition to South America and Antarctica, sailing from the east coast of North America through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles before heading south to Ushuaia, Argentina. Along this repositioning route are opportunities to explore the Sea of Cortez and the Copper Canyon, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia Island. Pricing starts at $3,867, per person, double occupancy, and includes shore excursions.

Celebrity and Azamara Captains to Perform Weddings at Sea

In the public imagination, ship captains are always legally entitled to perform marriages, just by virtue of their title -- but the fact is, that's not true. In order to perform legal weddings aboard a ship (or anywhere else), a captain must usually also be a minister, a justice of the peace, or, in some states and countries, a notary public. For the better part of a decade, Princess Cruises has been the only cruise line offering weddings at sea in which the captain really does officiate (they're licensed to do so by Bermuda, where the Princess ships are registered), but now Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com) and its sister-company Azamara Cruises (www.azamaracruises.com) have joined the club.

Starting later this year, Celebrity's and Azamara's captains will be able to perform marriages in international waters, a consequence of the recent re-registration of nine of Celebrity/Azamara's ten ships in Malta, which apparently does allow captains to perform legal marriages at sea.

Once the program begins, couples will be able to book a variety of packages, from a basic wedding to wedding plus elaborate reception. Basic captain-performed wedding packages will begin at $2,500.

"While many of our guests come onboard seeking a once-in-a-lifetime wedding or vow renewal location, and we've been happy to provide them with in- port weddings led by a local official, their number-one request is for captains to perform the ceremony," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity and Azamara's VP of Hotel Operations. "Now, we're able to fulfill that wish, while sailing the open waters of the world."

If this is something that interests you, be sure to think ahead: It takes time to get through all the legal rigamarole.

MSC Assembles Talent to Help Launch Poesia

With the debut of the 89,600-ton, 2,550-passenger Poesia now only five weeks away, MSC Cruises (www.msccruises.com) is busy preparing her welcoming committee, led by MSC's house godmother, Sophia Loren, who's done the honors for the line's last four ships as well.

The christening, to be held April 5 in Dover, England, will mark the first time an MSC ship has been named outside of Italy. Other big names on tap are Italian light-opera star Andrea Bocelli, Grammy-nominated Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall, and 20-year-old crooner Peter Grant and the Ronnie Scott Band.

Poesia is a sister ship to MSC's Orchestra and Musica, which launched in 2007 and 2006, respectively. Following her christening, Poesia will sail on a 13-night voyage from Dover to Venice, where she will be positioned throughout the summer, sailing 7-night cruises to Bari (Italy), Katakolon (Greece), Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey), and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

Regent to Introduce Audio Headphones for Shore Tours

Go to any cruise port and you'll see them: groups of cruise passengers gathered in circles, straining to hear what their tour guide is saying. The bigger the group, the bigger the circle and the less you hear. That's why Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com) is about to introduce a new system whereby guides and tour participants will be connected via wireless audio headphones. The system will be carried aboard Regent ships and used at sites where the company's lecturers and guides find it particularly useful, including historic and religious landmarks where loud conversation is forbidden.

The system will debut on June cruises to the Baltic and Europe aboard the 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager and the 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator, and will also be in place on the September 10 Grand Asia Pacific cruise of the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner.

Crystal Golf Cruise to Offer VIP Access to British Open and Top Courses

Luxury lines = wealth, and wealth = golf. At Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com), Crystal Symphony's 12-night sailing from London on July 13 will be offering passengers two opportunities to attend the British Open, as well as the option of playing at Edinburgh's Gleneagles King's Course; the K-Club in County Kildare, Ireland; Dublin's O'Meara Course at Carton House; and The Royal Belfast Golf Club. The flexible program allows travelers to spend two full days at Gleneagles. In Dublin, guests can split their time between K-Club and O'Meara, and devote another full day to play at the Royal Belfast.

Passengers who wish to attend the British Open at the Royal Birkhead Golf Club in Liverpool can choose regular admittance or full VIP access to the final round, plus a hosted event.

"The ports of Scotland and Ireland are a natural for a luxury golf experience, and we've made these exclusive courses very accessible for avid golfers" said John Stoll, Crystal Cruises' director of land programs. "Even if couples or families have only one golfing member, Crystal is providing a perfect European vacation. One can golf for five of the 11 days, while the others can enjoy Crystal's luxury resort and a wealth of sightseeing opportunities in the British Isles."

The itinerary calls in Edinburgh, Dublin, Liverpool, and Belfast, with fares starting at $4,980 per person. Golf tours range from $446 to $995 per person. The general admittance and VIP British Open tours are $292 and $991, per person, respectively.

Carnival Ships to Host PokerPro Texas Hold'em Tournament

Know when to hold 'em? Then Carnival (www.carnival.com) wants you at the table for its 2008 Carnival PokerPro Challenge, a series of no-limit Texas Hold'em poker satellite tournaments taking place on dozens of the line's trips between now and June 30. Winners of the preliminary tournaments will face off for a $45,000 cash prize aboard Carnival Fantasy during its October 4 voyage.

The tournaments will inaugurate the new, high-tech PokerPro poker tables that have been installed on Carnival ships.

Players must pony up a $150 entry fee, plus rake fees of $15 per entry. First-place winners of the preliminary tournaments will win $750, plus entry to the Grand Final Playoff aboard Fantasy -- though they'll have to pay for the cruise.

Tournaments will be held on all voyages aboard Carnival Pride (excluding June 15, 2008 sailing), Spirit, Conquest, Legend, Glory (excluding May 10, 2008 sailing), Valor, Liberty, Fascination, Victory, and Miracle (excluding the April 23, 2008 sailing). Guests can register for the tournaments on the first night of their cruise at the casino cashier cage, subject to availability.

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