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Democracy in (Expensive) Action: Seabourn Names All Inaugural Guests Godparents of new Odyssey

We've had royalty as ship godmothers (Queen Elizabeth for Cunard's QM2), we've had movie stars (Sophia Loren for MSC), we've had athletes (tennis star Chris Evert for HAL's Volendam), inspirational figures (foster mother Katherine Louise Calder for Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas), and we've had loyal guests (30-time cruiser Cindy Cardella for NCL's Norwegian Gem).

Now we have ... everybody. To launch their first new ship in 17 years, luxe line Seabourn (www.seabourn.com) has announced that every single passenger booking Seabourn Odyssey's maiden voyage in June 2009 will be named one of the vessel's godparents.

"Everything we do at Seabourn is focused on our guests who, in a very real sense, are the reason this superb vessel is being built," said Pamela C. Conover, president and CEO of The Yachts of Seabourn. "Those joining Odyssey's maiden voyage will not only be treated like a celebrity, but will become a part of the vessel's history, representing the many guests who have sailed with us in the past and those who will sail on her in the years to come."

Each of the 450 passengers aboard Odyssey's maiden voyage, scheduled to depart Venice, Italy, on June 24, 2009, will have his or her name engraved on a plaque that will be displayed on board. An early-evening ceremony to christen the new vessel is planned to coincide with the summer sunset over the domes and steeples of Venice's skyline. Seabourn Odyssey will then set sail on a 14-night voyage exploring the Dalmatian coast, the Greek Isles, and Turkey.

Measuring out at 32,000 gross registers tons, with a length of 650 feet and a beam of 84 feet (more than double the size of Seabourn's three current sister-ships, Seabourn Pride, Legend, and Spirit), Seabourn Odyssey will offer all-suite accommodations, five dining alternatives, five lounges and bars, a large pool and sunbathing area, and a two-deck, 11,400-square-foot, indoor/outdoor spa. Her inaugural season will include Seabourn's first-ever World Cruise, a 108-day voyage departing January 5 from Ft. Lauderdale and finishing 42 ports later in Athens. In addition to regular shore excursions and seven complimentary "Exclusively Seabourn" shoreside experiences, five special complimentary events have been reserved solely for guests who book the full world cruise: a catamaran whale-watching cruise from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; a cocktail party and performance of traditional Polynesian song and dance at Papeete, Tahiti; a private sunset dinner cruise in Sydney, Australia, followed by a performance at the Sydney Opera House; a private Chinese bazaar and performance with craftsmen's booths, traditional fortune-tellers and calligraphers, a Chinese musical ensemble, a Lion Dance, and a martial arts demonstration at Hong Kong's Aberdeen Marina Club; and a private experience at the Phuket Thai cultural village in Phuket, Thailand, with a Thai long drum troupe, decorated elephants, and exhibitions of classical Thai dance, traditional boxing, floral decorations, Thai cooking, puppet carving, rubber tapping, and a chance to ride in an ox-cart. Tres democratic!

Delta Offers Dockside Check-in for Cruise Passengers in Barcelona

Cruise travelers flying Delta Air Lines back from Barcelona may now be able to shave a few minutes off their processing time by checking in right at the cruise terminal.

Customers arriving at the Port of Barcelona's cruise Terminal B from a Royal Caribbean, NCL, or Holland America ship will be able to check in for their Delta flights, check baggage, and obtain their boarding passes at six dockside check-in areas. The service will be available to customers traveling on Delta's two daily nonstop flights from Barcelona: DL95 to New York (JFK) and DL115 to Atlanta.

Delta eventually plans to roll out the service to all cruise ships homeporting in Barcelona.

National Trust to Offer Small-Ship History Cruise

History bugs take note: This fall the National Trust for Historic Preservation is hosting a 6-night cruise, round-trip from New York, aboard the 49-passenger American Glory of American Cruise Lines (www.americancruiselines.com).

Departing October 25, the cruise concentrates on the history, art, architecture, and natural scenery of the Hudson River Valley, and includes visits to:

  • Springwood, home of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill retreat
  • The U.S. Military Academy at West Point
  • Ever Rest, the home of Hudson River School painter Jasper F. Cropsey
  • Revolutionary War sites in Newburgh
  • Frank Gehry's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College
  • Kykuit, a Rockefeller estate designed by architects Delano and Aldrich
  • The home of Richard Jenrette, trustee emeritus of the National Trust and author of Adventures with Old Houses

The tour will be accompanied by historic preservation advocate, author, and Preservation magazine columnist Dwight Young. For more information, contact National Trust Tours (tel. 800/944-6847; www.preservationnation.org/tours) and ask about the " Hudson River Valley Fall Foliage Cruise."

Celebrity Adds Nifty Dining Touches Fleetwide

When it launched its first ship in 1990, Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com) built its brand on three pillars: fine cuisine, fine service, and contemporary style. This month, the line announced enhancements intended to take its dining program to the next level.

"Our objective is to set the trend, not follow it," said Jacques Van Staden, a successful chef and restaurateur who joined Celebrity as Vice President of Food & Beverage Operations just one year ago. "That's what makes a great dining experience. You have to shake things up now and then, and regularly introduce new and different offerings, along with the items our guests tell us they can't live without."

Enhancements include:

  • More than 200 new menu offerings in all categories, from appetizers to desserts.
  • Upgraded and expanded buffets from the bottom up, literally: Instead of ice under the cold items, Celebrity will now use chilled river rocks, upon which will rest hundreds of new menu items. The buffet will also offer new service ware and presentation styles; new "action stations" and made-to-order areas rather than long, meandering buffet lines; and more destination-influenced and ethnic cuisine, including Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and English.
  • Bye-bye midnight buffet, hello brunch: The midnight buffet is almost a memory in the cruise biz, but rather than ditching it entirely, Celebrity has moved it to midmorning, offering an elaborate brunch once per cruise, complete with all the ice, fruit, and vegetable carvings that you were always too blurry to stay up for after midnight. Menu items will include fresh fruits; made-to-order smoothies; gourmet cheeses and cold cuts; a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, meats, and seafood; pizzas, paninis, and wraps; sushi and stir-fry selections; eggs of nearly every style; and desserts ranging from individual, bite-sized selections to sorbet and ice cream.
  • Late-night noshing: Rather than the old "Gourmet Bites" concept, in which waiters carried trays of canapes around the ship's public areas, Celebrity will now offer an "after-theater" menu in each ship's Cova Cafe, featuring sandwiches, savories, tartlets, hot brochettes, canapes, artisan cheeses, fresh fruit, crackers, petit fours, and napoleons from 11pm to closing.

Carnival to Expand "Seaside Theatre" to Five Additional Ships

When Carnival Liberty debuted in 2005, she was the first Carnival (www.carnival.com) ship to feature a "Seaside Theatre," a 12-by-22-foot LED screen similar to those in New York's Times Square, in many sports stadiums, and aboard Princess's ships, where "Movies Under the Stars" debuted in early 2004. Broadcasting movies, concerts, news, sporting events, and other programming, the Seaside Theatres were installed on each of the new ships that Carnival debuted since Liberty, and now the line is set to retrofit them onto five additional vessels over the next year: the new 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor (which debuted earlier this month), the 101,000-ton Carnival Destiny, the 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph, and the 110,000-ton Carnival Conquest and Carnival Glory.

"The 'Seaside Theatre' concept has resonated very positively with guests, providing a fun and interesting outdoor diversion that is enjoyed both during daytime and nighttime hours," said Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival's executive vice president of marketing and guest experience. "In addition to popular movies and major sporting events, our shipboard staff has made maximum use of the 'Seaside Theatres,' broadcasting custom-designed programming such as the engaging Morning Shows which have been a tremendous hit with guests."

Calm Seas a Must? Crystal Adds Acupuncture to Onboard "Wellness" Program

Cruise line spa offerings continued to expand this month as luxe line Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) added onboard acupuncture and a menu of Chinese herbal treatments to the offerings on its 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity.

Designed to emphasize weight loss, pain management, stress reduction, detoxification, smoking cessation, facial rejuvenation, and combating sea sickness, Serenity's program will be overseen by a licensed onboard acupuncturist, Nancy Kerastas, and feature traditional acupuncture treatments; herbal remedies that reactivate the body's fat-burning process; stabilize blood sugar metabolism; and relieve swollen or immobile joints; and three to five shipboard seminars per cruise, discussing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Feng Shui practices and benefits.

Sixty-minute treatments cost $150 and can be booked through Crystal's Feng Shui-designed spa.

Cunard to Present the National Symphony Orchestra on QM2

Last week, Cunard Line (www.cunard.com) announced a new partnership with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), an artistic affiliate of Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. As part of the deal, Cunard will be the presenting sponsor of the NSO's 2008-2009 "Red Series" performances, while six Kennedy Center musicians and the NSO's director of artistic planning, Nigel Boon, will sail aboard Queen Mary 2 on her September 8, 2009 Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing, giving three performances and presenting three related lectures.

"This new partnership further illustrates Cunard's commitment to supporting the performing arts," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line. "Whether it is our sponsorship of cultural institutions such as the National Symphony Orchestra or our own Cunard Insights onboard enrichment programme, our dedication to culture and the arts is reflected in virtually everything we do."

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