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Prince Albert II Names Prince Albert II

Last September, ultra-luxe Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) surprised everyone by purchasing the former Society Expeditions ship World Discoverer with the intention of offering simultaneously exploratory and luxurious small-ship cruises to the Arctic, Antarctic, and other adventure destinations. Following a multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, the new vessel was officially named last week by its namesake, Prince Albert II, at a ceremony in Monte Carlo.

Silversea named the vessel after Monaco's monarch in recognition of his work to publicize global warming's effects on the Arctic -- work that included journeying to the North Pole in 2006.

"It is indeed a great privilege that His Serene Highness is here with us today and is the namesake of our new ship," said Silversea's president and CEO, Amerigo Perasso. "In keeping with his legacy of exploration and environmental conservation, it is our hope that by educating and connecting people with distant cultures and wildlife, the Prince Albert II can open eyes and foster respect and greater care for our planet and its inhabitants."

Redesigned for the luxury traveler, the 132-passenger Prince Albert II has a total of 66 staterooms and suites, including 20 premium suites that measure between 350 and 675 square feet and offer butler service and large private verandas or French balconies. All public spaces have been upgraded, onboard technology has been enhanced, and she's been outfitted with a new fleet of eight inflatable Zodiac landing boats to allow guests up-close exploration.

HSH Prince Albert II will spend her inaugural season focusing on polar expeditions of 10 to 21 days. Sailing first to the Arctic Circle, Norway's 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.

Queen Elizabeth II Bids Farewell to Queen Elizabeth 2

Does the QE2 makes Britain's Queen Elizabeth II feel old? When she was launched, the queen had already been on the throne for 17 years. Since then, QE2 has sailed for almost forty years (longer than any Cunarder before her), covering some 5.6 million nautical miles, and will soon retire due to old age.

That kind of thing has to get you down.

Nevertheless, the queen was all dignity last week as she toured her vessel for the last time in Southampton, greeting crewmembers who have served aboard for decades and attending a reception with 300 other guests, including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. After debarking, the queen was presented with 55 red roses by QE2's executive housekeeper, Roz Price Evans, the longest-serving female member of crew. The gesture marked 55 years to the day since the queen's coronation.

QE2 will retire in November 2008 and be sent to Dubai, where she'll become a floating hotel, retail, and entertainment destination.

Royal Caribbean Names Upcoming Giganto-Ships

Trivia question of the day: Is someone at Royal Caribbean International (www.royalcaribbean.com) a Star Trek fan? The plot of the first Trek movie centered around the Voyager space probe, and a recent batch of RCI vessels was called the Voyager Class. The plot of the second Trek movie centered around something called "Project Genesis," which for the past two and a half years has been the working name for the company's latest round of newbuilds. Coincidence? Maybe, but it's now become a moot point as RCI has finally revealed the final names of the first two Genesis vessels, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

The names, selected from more than 91,000 entries in Royal Caribbean's "Name that Ship" contest, were proposed by George Weiser of Livonia, Michigan, who has also named the entire class of 220,000-gross-ton, 5,400-passenger vessels the Oasis Class.

Oasis of the Seas is due to begin sailing in late 2009, at which point she'll be the largest passenger vessel in the world by far, easily outstripping Royal Caribbean's own 160,000-ton Freedom, Liberty, and Independence of the Seas. The ship will homeport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Allure of the Seas will launch in 2010. Additional information is available at www.oasisoftheseas.com.

Alaska Native Guides to Speak Aboard Holland America Ships

In travel, local perspective is everything, giving us the history and insight that puts flesh on the bones of otherwise unknowable places. This summer, passengers on Holland America's (www.hollandamerica.com) Alaska ships visiting Glacier Bay will get a dose of perspective via Alaska Native guides, who will give six or seven presentations over the course of the weeklong cruise, covering topics such as Alaska's Native peoples and early explorers, wildlife, gold rush history, volcanoes, and glaciers.

Arranged through a partnership with Anchorage's Alaska Native Heritage Center (www.alaskanative.net), one of the premier sites for Alaska Native culture in the 49th state, the program will put Native guides aboard 114 HAL sailings in 2008. In addition to lecturing, the guides will sell artwork by Alaska Natives and be on hand to answer questions and interact with guests one-on-one.

In addition to the "Alaska Travel Guides," a Tlingit cultural interpreter from the village of Hoonah will board ships at Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier and explain the origins of the Huna people. As in the past, National Park Rangers will also continue to board all ships in Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier for narration and presentations.

NCL News: Rescues at Sea, Green Awards in Port, and Botox in Yo' Face

Heroic: On the afternoon of Saturday, May 24, the old Norwegian Majesty of Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) was on its way from Charleston, SC, to Bermuda when it picked up a distress signal from the 24-foot fishing boat Not On Call, which had been caught in a storm 30 miles off the coast and was in danger of running out of fuel. About three hours later, Norwegian Majesty arrived alongside and brought the boat's four-man crew aboard, fed them, pumped them with coffee, and invited them to stay aboard as the ship continued on to Bermuda. Mission accomplished.

Environmental: Kudos to NCL's Norwegian Pearl, which recently received the Port of San Francisco's Cruise Ship Environmental Award, which recognizes ships whose onboard environmental systems help decrease air and water pollution.

"It's an honor for Norwegian Pearl to be recognized by the Port of San Francisco for the environmental standards and practices we have in place," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "We have shown our commitment to maintaining the highest level of environmental protection standards by using low-sulfur fuels, reducing air emissions, efficiently and effectively treating our wastewater, and recycling and disposing properly of solid waste while in port."

Next up: Solar panels, biofuels, wind turbines, and maybe even propulsion-enhancing bow kites -- or so we hope.

Weird:

First teeth-whitening and now this: Last week, NCL announced it would become the first cruise line to offer Botox facial treatments in its onboard spas. The treatments, which are part of Mandara's medi-spa program and are offered in conjunction with onboard spa operator Steiner Transocean, LLC, are currently available on Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem, and Norwegian Spirit, and will roll out to the rest of the fleet this fall.

Wanna Buy a Cruise Line? Majestic America on the Block

It's been just a little more than two years since travel and event-management company Ambassadors International bought the fabled Delta Queen Steamboat Company and merged it with another acquisition, America West Steamboat Company, to form Majestic America Line (www.majesticamericaline.com), offering old-time paddle-wheel cruises on the Mississippi and other great American rivers. But that, apparently, was long enough. On May 28, Ambassadors formally announced its intention to sell off its riverboat holdings.

"The formal process has commenced and Confidential Information Memorandums on Majestic America Line have already been sent to qualified interested buyers," said Joseph G. McCarthy, Ambassadors' VP of Corporate Development, who also noted that Ambassadors wants to complete the sale "in the immediate future."

Here's your big chance.

According to Joe Ueberroth, Ambassadors' chairman and CEO, the company intends to refocus its cruise business on Windstar Cruises, which it acquired from Holland America Line in March 2007.

Turning 50 This Year? Alaska Railroad Lets You Ride Free

Aging has its perks: In celebration of its own 50th birthday in 2009, the Alaska Railroad is offering a free day of travel to anyone who's also turning 50 next year.

The offer is valid for travel in Adventure Class Service on the company's Denali Star (Anchorage-Talkeetna-Denali), Coastal Classic (Seward-Anchorage-Girdwood), Glacier Discovery (Anchorage-Girdwood-Portage-Whittier), Hurricane (Talkeetna-Hurricane Gulch), and Aurora Winter (Anchorage-Fairbanks) routes, round-trip or one-way, as long as the travel occurs over the course of one day.

To qualify, you must have been born between January 1 and December 31, 1959. Travel need not occur on the passenger's birthday, just during the birthday year. Bookings will be available beginning in fall 2008. For more info, call tel. 907/265-2494 or visit www.alaskarailroad.com/50BD.

Celebrity Solstice to Launch Earlier than Expected

How rare is it that you place a big order and the supplier actually beats its deadline? When we're talking cruise ships, pretty rare. But that's what seems to have happened at Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com), which recently announced that its 118,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice -- the company's first new ship in six years -- will now begin service on November 23 rather than on its original December 14 inaugural date.

Passengers who booked the original inaugural sailing were given a two-week rebooking window if they wished to switch to the November 23 sailing, a weeklong eastern Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting San Juan, St. Maarten, and St. Kitts. Two additional cruises on the same itinerary will be sandwiched between the inaugural and the ship's December 14 cruise. All three new cruises are currently open for booking.

Seabourn Odyssey Hull Arrives at Genoa Shipyard

Another company that hasn't launched a new ship for a while, ultra-luxe Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com), just reached a landmark when the hull of its new Seabourn Odyssey arrived at the T.Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, Italy, on May 27. Built in San Giorgio di Nogaro on the Gulf of Venice, the hull was towed southward through the Adriatic, around the heel and up Italy western coast to T.Mariotti, where the ship's superstructure was already under construction. Final construction and fitting out of the vessel will be performed over the next year in preparation for launch in June 2009.

Built to measurements of 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 carry 450 passengers in all-suite accommodations and offer 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, departing in January 2010.

Odyssey's as yet unnamed sister ship will launch in 2010.

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