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Victoria Cruises Donates Goods to Assist China Quake Victims

File under "Every little bit helps": In the wake of last week's devastating earthquake in western China, river-cruise line Victoria Cruises (www.victoriacruises.com), the top line operating Yangtze River cruises, has begun donating excess inventory and supplies, including clothing, towels, and drinking water, to quake victims.

The line's ships were "at a safe distance" from the quake's epicenter when it struck mountainous Sichuan Province on May 12, and were unaffected.

"While the earthquake was felt on land, and there was some sway felt along the river, our passengers are safe and the river is now calm," said Victoria spokesman Larry Greenman.

The line is encouraging disaster-relief donations to the American Red Cross International Response Fund: http://american.redcross.org.

easyCruise Launches New easyCruise Life

Launched in 2005 by U.K.-based entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou (the brains behind easyJet, easyHotel, easyCar, and a dozen other "easy" companies), easyCruise (www.easycruise.com) occupies a niche all its own in the cruise world -- neither mainstream nor luxury nor your usual small-ship cruise either. The idea is actually pretty simple: Throw out everything people expect a cruise to be and start over.

Late last week, easyCruise officially inaugurated a new phase of its life by launching the 12,600-ton, 600-passenger easyCruise Life. Built as the Lev Tolstoy in 1981 by the Black Sea Shipping Company for cruise and ferry use in the Soviet Union, the ship also sailed as Natasha, Palmira, and Farah before being bought by easyCruise in late 2007 and renovated to match its "easy" brand experience. The vessel is more than twice the size of easyCruise's first and until now only ship, the 4,077-ton, 232-passenger easyCruiseOne.

Through mid-October, easyCruise Life will be operating an itinerary that visits five different Greek Islands (Siros, Kalymnos, Kos, Paros, and Mykonos) plus the Turkish resort of Bodrum. As is normal with easyCruise, passengers can choose where to join the cruise -- either in Athens on Saturday or in Bodrum on Monday.

Lindblad Expeditions & NativeEnergy Form Renewable Energy Partnership

Small-ship expedition line Lindblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com) announced this week a new partnership with NativeEnergy (www.nativeenergy.com), an international marketer of high quality carbon offsets and renewable energy credits. At its core, the agreement will offset the carbon emissions of Lindblad New York City headquarters and its flagship vessel National Geographic Endeavour by giving financial support to the Penn England Family Farm methane digester project in Pennsylvania and farmer-owned wind turbine projects in the U.S. Midwest.

"I view climate change as perhaps the single most important issue of our time," said Sven Lindblad, founder and president of Lindblad Expeditions. "As we explore the remote corners of the planet, we aim to encourage our guests to be part of the climate change discussion. Our partnership with NativeEnergy allows us to better explain to our guests the complicated landscape of offsets and showcase innovative carbon offset solutions that we can implement in the places we travel."

HAL's Eurodam to Offer Private On-Deck Cabanas

Over the past few years, cruise lines have begun to experiment with the on-deck leisure format, realizing there may be more to the pool deck experience than baking in a deck chair or baking in a hot tub, bucket 'o beer at your elbow. In 2006, Princess's Crown Princess introduced the line's "Sanctuary" concept, a canopied on-deck chill-out space dotted with comfy deck chairs, trees, and private cabanas; staffed with "serenity stewards" tasked with making sure things stay quiet; and staff serving light meals and beverages and giving massages. The concept is now in the process of being rolled out fleetwide.

Also in 2006, Oceania's midsize ships introduced "The Patio" -- a shaded outdoor lounge located in a corner of the pool deck and furnished with thickly cushioned sofas, chairs, and day beds -- as well as eight private cabanas located on Deck 11, each with sea views, a retractable shade roof, a plush day bed built for two, and the services of an attendant who provides food and beverage service, chilled towels, and water spritzes. The innovation there was that the private cabanas, which can be rented by the day or for the entirety of your cruise.

Then, in 2007, Carnival Cruise Lines debuted its own canopied, adults-only sanctuary called "Serenity." Located on a secluded aft deck, it offers plush chaise lounges and chairs, colorful oversized umbrellas, a shaded relaxation area, two whirlpools, and attendants to bring drinks to your chair. The area debuted aboard Inspiration and Imagination and is in the process of being rolled out to the line's other Fantasy-class ships.

Which brings us to the topic of this story: Holland America, which has just announced its own little seraglio will debut aboard the 86,000-ton, 2,104-passenger Eurodam, scheduled to debut next month.

Located on the Observation and Lido decks and around the mid-ship pool on Lido Deck, a total of 22 airy, tented cabanas will be furnished with modern woven chaises, ottomans, and upholstered settees and stocked with bathrobes, plush towels, handheld fans, an Evian spray mister, and preloaded iPods. Light breakfast options will be available in the morning, iced fruit skewers will be available at mid-morning, and frozen grapes, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne will be on tap in the afternoon.

Like Oceania's, HAL's cabanas can be rented for the day or for an entire cruise. The "Retreat" cabanas on the Observation Deck cost $45 on port days and $75 on sea days; the cabanas on the busier Lido deck cost $30 on port days and $50 on sea days.

Eurodam will sail Norway and Baltic itineraries until mid-August, when she heads across the Atlantic to begin a series of Canada/New England sailings in the fall and Caribbean itineraries for winter 2007/2008. To get a sneak peak, go to www.eurodamnews.com.

Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Is New Home for Historic Waterfront Mural

If you happen to be sailing into or out of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York's Red Hook neighborhood anytime soon, look for a huge mural called The Brooklyn Working Waterfront.

Painted in 1963 by artist Bernard Seaman (1913-1989), the eight-panel, 24-by-9-foot mural depicts scenes of longshoremen hauling cargo-laden nets, sacks of coffee, and crates during the Brooklyn waterfront's peak period, with the Statue of Liberty centrally framed by the Brooklyn Bridge. Originally displayed in the lobby of the Brooklyn Longshoremen's Medical Center, the work was moved when that building was scheduled for demolition. On May 13, city dignitaries and members of New York's maritime community gathered at the cruise terminal for its official unveiling and rededication.

Efforts to preserve the mural were spearheaded by Louis Pernice, president of International Longshoreman's Association (ILA) Local 1814, and his union members, while the transfer and reinstallation of the work was funded by New York Container Terminal President James Devine.

"The Brooklyn success story is in no small part due to the contributions of our waterfront and the men and women who have labored on its docks and along its shores," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "By restoring this vivid mural, we celebrate our waterfront's colorful history and its continuing story as an international gateway to Brooklyn and the world."

Silversea Raises Prices, Announces Guest Lecturers for Expedition Ship

Even ultra-luxury lines like Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) are getting hit by high fuel prices. Unlike a mainstream line, though, Silversea -- one of the few truly all-inclusive cruise lines -- can't really just charge its passengers a tacked-on fuel supplement. So what do they do? Raise their base prices.

As of May 12, the line is implementing what it calls a "modest" across-the-board price increase on its published fares for all cruises departing in 2009.

According to a note from Silversea Executive VP of Sales and Marketing David Morris, "With so many special luxuries included in the price of a Silversea cruise, you can well appreciate the exceptional challenge for us to keep our pricing unchanged when commodity prices continue to rise, and our business partners, who supply the components of our all-inclusive amenities, are raising their prices in response to increased operational and transportation costs."

But enough of the un-fun stuff. Back in vacation-land, Silversea is also touting the guest speakers who'll be lecturing aboard its new expedition ship, Prince Albert II, when she begins her inaugural season next month. The A1A ice-rated vessel, launched as World Discoverer in 2001 for now-defunct Society Expeditions, was purchased by Silversea from Singapore's Sembawang Shipyard last September, after which it received a multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy.

Prince Albert II's inaugural season will begin on June 12, 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.

Highlighting the vessel's July 12 "Svalbard and Iceland" cruise and July 30 "Greenland Exploration" cruise will be Jon Vidar Sigurdsson, who has led twenty summer and winter expeditions and field tours in Greenland since 1982. Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Sigurdsson holds a degree in geology and has organized an open-university course about the island for the University of Iceland. In 2000, Sigurdsson's Greenland photo collection was featured in a solo exhibition at the Nordic House Gallery in Reykjavik.

Fares for the 18-day Svalbard cruise (Tromso to Reykjavik) start at $8,336 per person. Fares for the 16-night "Greenland Exploration," journey (Reykjavik to St. John's, Newfoundland) start at $7,020.

In October, adventurer, author, and filmmaker, Jon Bowermaster will speak aboard Prince Albert's 22-night "Journey to South America" cruise, sailing from Acapulco to Santiago, Chile, on October 12. Bowermaster has spent more than twenty years exploring, researching, and documenting regions all over the world, and his "Oceans 8" project, designed to explore the world by kayak, has taken him to the Aleutian Islands, Vietnam, French Polynesia, South America's Altiplano, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the coasts of Gabon, Croatia, and Tasmania. He has written for a variety of publications, including National Geographic and The New York Times.

Fares for the "Journey to South America" cruise start at $7,436. Bowermaster will also be hosting the line's "Chilean Fjords Highlights" voyage, sailing November 3, but that cruise is already sold out. Better luck next time.

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