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Celebrity's Galaxy to Leave Fleet, Sail for New German Line TUI Cruises

In late April, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and German company TUI AG announced a joint venture that would create a new cruise line, TUI Cruises, specifically designed for the German cruise market. This week comes news that the 1,896-passenger Galaxy, the second megaship ever launched by Royal Caribbean sister-company Celebrity Cruises (way back in 1996), will leave Celebrity to become the new line's first ship. The handover is scheduled to take place in March 2009. Sailing under a new name, the vessel will offer cruises in the Baltic in summer and the Caribbean in winter.

"Celebrity Galaxy has been a treasured member of our family of ships since her maiden voyage in December 1996, and the outstanding crew onboard will continue to offer the service with style Celebrity is known for right up until the shift to TUI Cruises," said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "We look forward to transitioning those fine shipboard colleagues to the balance of the Celebrity fleet as we grow the brand with our new Solstice class."

The line's new, 118,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice launches in December as the first in a new class of vessels.

Wanna Buy a Cruise Line? Majestic America Line Up for Sale

It was only 25 months ago that 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 turnover is apparently the name of the game. Last week, Ambassadors announced their intention to sell Majestic America, and at press time it was unclear whether the line's fleet would be sold intact or be broken up among different buyers.

Joe Ueberroth, Chairman and CEO of the Company, stated that, "We are committed to operating the 2008 season of Majestic America Line while conducting our exit of the business in an orderly and effective manner. Several credible parties have expressed a sincere interest in acquiring some and/or all the assets of Majestic America Line and building upon the efforts and investments we have made in delivering unique cruise experiences that celebrate American history, culture, and our magnificent waterways."

Ueberroth states Ambassadors' intention to focus its cruise business on Windstar Cruises, which it acquired from Holland America Line in March 2007.

NCL News: Hello F3 (Dig Them Curves!), Goodbye Majesty and Dream, Hello Sky, Hello New Entertainment

Keel Laid for First F3 Ship: Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) completed a long spate of newbuilding in December 2007 with the launch of the 93,000-ton Norwegian Gem, the final of seven sister-ship. Time to start a new generation: Last week in St. Nazaire, France, a 322-ton keel block was slid into the construction dock at the Aker shipyard, marking the ceremonial start of construction on the as-yet-unnamed 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ship that will be the first of NCL's next-generation "F3" ("Freestyle 3.0") vessels.

The ceremony was attended by executives from NCL, Aker Yards, and parent companies Star Cruises and Apollo Management. Per maritime tradition (more or less), each attendee placed a specially designed commemorative coin into a tube, which was then welded shut and placed in the keel for good luck.

The first F3 ship is due to launch in 2010. Most details of her onboard experience have not yet been divulged, though we do know the vessel's "New Wave Deluxe" and "NEw Wave Balcony" cabins will be a big departure from cruise tradition, featuring free-form, curving walls rather than the oblong boxes typical of every ship today. Other cabin features include concealed contour LED lighting, back-lit domed ceilings, dark wood trim, and an earth-tone color palate. See images at www.F3.ncl.com.

According to Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO, F3's staterooms are "totally outside the box, designed for the needs of tomorrow's guests."

Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Majesty to Leave NCL Fleet:

In a long-anticipated move, NCL parent company Star Cruises has sold the 1992-vintage Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Majesty to Cyprus's Louis Group, parent company of Louis Cruise Lines, Norwegian Dream for $218 million and Majesty for $162 million. However, they won't be going anywhere too soon: Star has chartered the ships back from Louis so they can complete their scheduled itineraries, which run through November 2008 for Dream and December 2009 for Majesty.

Norwegian Jade Gets New Entertainment to Go with Her New Name: Norwegian Jade -- until recently the Hawaii-based Pride of Hawaii -- has now begun her new life as a year-round Europe-based ship, and to celebrate NCL has spruced up her entertainment offerings to include the audience-participation show "Tony n' Tina's Wedding;" an evening long improv and sketch-comedy show performed by a seven-member ensemble from the famed Chicago improvisational group Second City; a modern dance production by award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp, based on Frank Sinatra music; and four new musicals: Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller ("Dance with Me," "Hound Dog," "Stand by Me," etc.). SHOUT. The Mod Musical (a Swingin' 1960s revue), And the World Goes 'Round: The Songs of Kander & Ebb ("New York, New York," "Cabaret," "Money, Money"), and Showdown! (a fake reality singing show -- go figure).

Nighttime production shows will be offered twice per cruise, but only one performance per evening, in contrast to the traditional offering of one production show being offered twice per night. This provides guests the option of catching a show later in the cruise if they miss the first performance. In addition, most evenings there is a second show performed that includes acrobatics, action comedy, and magic.

Pride of Aloha to Reclaim Her Original Name on New Miami Itineraries: This week it was also announced that Pride of Aloha, another refugee from NCL's dwindling Hawaii fleet, would not leave the fleet for Asia service with NCL parent company Star Cruises, but would instead retake her original name, Norwegian Sky, and reposition to Miami to offer 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises.

Prior to taking up her new routes, Norwegian Sky will enter a wet dock in Miami during which a casino will be added and other product and hardware upgrades will be made. She'll commence her Bahamas itineraries beginning July 14, 2008. On Mondays, the ship will sail 4-night itineraries with stops in Grand Bahama Island, Nassau, and NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. On Fridays, she'll sail 3-night itineraries departing Miami at 5pm, with stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, returning to Miami at 7am Monday morning. These sailings are scheduled through April 17, 2009.

Happy Birthday Azamara: One Year Young This Week

No real news here, just a shout-out: This week, Azamara Cruises (www.azamaracruises.com), the more cozy and upscale sister-line of Celebrity Cruises, turns one year old. Launched in May 2007 with two former vessels of defunct Renaissance Cruises, the line was designed to offer a more luxurious alternative to the mainstream, with longer itineraries visiting less-touristed ports, ships that carry just 710 passengers, and an adult vibe with most of the cheesiness and obviousness of the typical mainstream cruise stripped away.

"Azamara Cruises was expressly designed for travel enthusiasts who appreciate what a cruise vacation has to offer, but are looking for something a little different, and a little more special," said Azamara Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "We're thrilled with how far we've come in just one year, and honored by the recognition our deluxe brand has received from our guests, our travel agent partners, and the press."

The line's near-twin ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, are currently sailing the Mediterranean. Azamara Journey also sails in the Baltic this summer. This fall, she'll present two new 16-night Panama Canal sailings, followed by a series of 12-night exotic Caribbean cruises through March 2009, when she'll relocate to Europe. Quest, meanwhile, will sail in Asia beginning this November, then return to Europe in April for her second Europe season.

Big & Small Lines Bump Up Fuel Supplements

Gas pump giving you heartburn? Imagine how the cruise lines must feel filling up their 25,000-gallon tanks.

This week, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises, and Oceania Cruises all increased the additional fees they're passing on to customers to offset the cost of fuel. Since most passengers pay for their cruises months before they sail, their rates were based on projections of fuel costs that have been rendered moot by recent price spikes.

At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity, and Azamara, the additional cost for all first and second guests in a stateroom will be $8 per-person, per-day, to a maximum of $112 per cruise. Additional guests in a stateroom will be charged $3 per-person, per day, to no more than $42 per cruise. The fee will be applied to all bookings made on or after May 1, 2008, and represents an increase of $3 per day on the $5 surcharge announced in December 2007.

Oceania Cruises (www.oceaniacruises.com), which announced its own $7-per-day surcharge in December, has decided to up that charge to $10 per person, per day, for all new reservations effective May 1, 2008.

"The price of fuel continues to rise in price to levels that were previously unimaginable. We appreciate the continued understanding of our guests and travel agent partners as we make this necessary adjustment," stated Bob Binder, President of Oceania Cruises.

Holland America to Donate Weekly to Seattle Charities

Who says cruise lines don't contribute to the public good? This week, Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) announced a new initiative in which it will collect "valuable and reusable goods" from its ships -- leftover individual-sized toiletries, plus such items as towels, linens, dishes, cookware, silverware, televisions, and mattresses -- and donate them to shelters and homeless programs in Washington state, where HAL's headquarters are located.

"Giving back is part of the corporate culture at Holland America Line and it is part of our corporate social responsibility," said Stein Kruse, HAL's president and chief executive officer. "Over the years Holland America has worked with non-profits around the world to donate reusable goods in a socially conscious, environmentally friendly method. These items are periodically replaced on our ships and can be put to use for a good cause."

The program kicks off April 29, when hundreds of items will be transferred from ms Oosterdam to Northwest Harvest, Washington's only statewide hunger relief agency, where they will be stored and then distributed to needy families and individuals. On May 16, ms Amsterdam will provide toiletries as well as dishes, 150 cooking knives, and 300 sheet pans.

Mike Regis, Procurement and Outreach Director of Northwest Harvest, said, "The missions and shelters will be incredibly grateful to receive these items as they are very difficult to come by and not something we see in the donation stream very often."

Holland America Line will continue to donate other items from various Seattle-based ships sailing to Alaska from May through September.

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