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NCL Pulls Hawai'i from Hawaii

In an unexpected move that reflects recent fiscal losses in its Hawaii operation, Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) has announced that it will be temporarily withdrawing the 2,466-passenger Pride of Hawai'i from the Hawaii market and sending her instead to Europe for 2008.

NCL's substantial 2006 losses, reported in February of this year, have been caused by downward pricing pressure in the Hawaii market following

The addition of Pride of Hawai'i to the NCL America fleet in 2006, coupled with an increase in the number of foreign-flag competitors sailing Hawaii from the U.S. west coast, has caused revenues on the line's Hawaii cruises to drop substantially.

"We take this action with regret, but sure in the knowledge that a temporary retrenchment is the right thing to do for the good of the business and the good of Hawaii in the long run," said Colin Veitch, NCL Corporation's president and CEO. "We remain committed to building a strong U.S.-flag cruise business home ported in Hawaii, and we need to make sure that our other two ships, Pride of Aloha and Pride of America, are able to achieve acceptable profitability before we can confidently re-introduce Pride of Hawai'i."

The ship will leave the Hawaii market after her January 28, 2008 cruise. A short wet dock will add a casino (currently prohibited by Hawaii law) and change her distinctively Hawaiian hull art, following which she'll join sister-ships Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Jewel in Europe for NCL's largest European deployment ever. Jade's first 12-night European cruise will sail from Barcelona on March 30, 2008. She'll offer 12-, 13-, and 14-night Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises departing from Barcelona, Istanbul, and Athens/Piraeus March through May; reposition to the UK for a series of North Cape, Western Europe, and British Isles cruises from Southampton (June through August); then return to her Mediterranean routes from September through October.

NCL is offering guests booked on Pride of Hawai'i in February 2008 and beyond a $50 on-board credit per stateroom for those who rebook by May 1 on Pride of America, Pride of Aloha, or any other ship in the NCL fleet. Guests choosing to cancel will receive a full refund.

Disney Signs with German Shipyard for New Vessels

On February 22, Disney Cruise Line (tel. 888/DCL-2500; www.disneycruise.com) announced that it had signed a letter of intent with Germany's Meyer Werft shipyard to begin negotiations over building two new 124,000-ton vessels. Those negotiations apparently bore fruit because this week Disney announced that it had finalized a contract with the shipbuilder.

The two new, as-yet-unnamed vessels will be delivered in 2011 and 2012 and will be similar in look to Disney's current vessels, the 83,000-ton Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, whose design blends modern shipbuilding technology with details reminiscent of earlier ocean liners. Nearly 50 per cent larger in tonnage, the new ships will carry approximately 40 percent more passengers.

"This is an exciting time for Disney Cruise Line, and we are looking forward to working with Meyer Werft to blend our innovation and creativity with their fine craftsmanship," said Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin. "Meyer Werft has a long tradition of building magnificent ships. We are confident that the result will be ships that take the immersive Disney family-focused cruise experience to an entirely new level."

Royal Caribbean Takes Delivery of Liberty of the Seas

So now Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com) has the world's two largest cruise ships.

On April 18, the line took delivery of its newest Freedom-class ship, Liberty of the Seas, during a ceremony at from Aker Yards shipbuilders in Turku, Finland. A sister ship to 2006's Freedom of the Seas, which took the "world's biggest" title away from Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Liberty is essentially an exact duplicate, boasting the same 3,634-passenger size, the same FlowRider surfing simulator, the on-deck H2O Zone water park for kids, a full-size boxing ring, a 14-person family suite, and the Main Street-like interior promenade that first appeared on Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships.

Though the hardware is the same, Liberty will boast a number of new onboard programs, including:

  • An integrated "wellness" regime that includes fitness classes; spa treatments to enhance relaxation; Tai Chi, meditation classes, therapeutic Chinese herbal medicine, and acupuncture; an "Eat More to Weigh Less" weight-control program; health and fitness lectures; virtual personal training and shoreside fitness options at the ports of call; healthy shore excursions; and healthier menu options, including trans-fat-free meals, all-natural ingredients, energy bars, and protein and green tea drinks.
  • Adventure Theater by Camp Broadway, a New York-based children's theater group, will introduce kids and teens to the theatrical arts through a blend of folktales, music, dance, and cultural elements. The program will include Scratch DJ 101 classes, where teens can learn turntable skills in sessions hosted by professionals from New York's Scratch DJ Academy (www.scratch.com).
  • An Explorer Weddings program, through which guests can get married on an Alaskan glacier, mid-air in a hot-air balloon, at the rim of a volcano, in a rainforest, in a vineyard or a medieval castle, or next to the ship's surfing simulator.

The ship will debut to the public on May 3, after which she'll sail on alternating 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami. A third Freedom-class ship, Independence of the Seas, is set to debut in 2008.

Sea Diamond Sinking Scotches Princess's Santorini Party

As reported here earlier this month, the 1,537-passenger Sea Diamond, a 21-year-old vessel operated by Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines (www.louiscruises.com), sank off the Greek island of Santorini in the early morning hours of April 6, taking two passengers to their deaths. The sinking has prompted Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) to cancel its long-planned double christening of the new 116,000-ton, 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess and the 30,200-ton, 710-passenger Royal Princess, a former Renaissance Cruises vessel that Princess acquired from Swan Hellenic

Cruises in March. Instead, Emerald Princess will be christened on Mother's Day (May 13) in Athens, while Royal Princess's official debut has yet to be announced.

Both ships have already taken on passengers for their inaugural cruises, Emerald Princess welcoming its first guests on April 11, sailing from Rome/Civitavecchia, and Royal Princess sailing from Barcelona on April 19 under the command of the line's senior master, Commodore Michael Fatchen. Emerald Princess will offer a series of Greek Isles and Grand Mediterranean cruises before repositioning to Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean sailings in the fall. Royal Princess will offer a series of 12-night Mediterranean cruises through November, sailing from Rome, Athens, Venice, and Barcelona.

Holland America Installs Emissions-Reducing Technology on Zaandam

On Earth Day, April 22, the 1,440-passenger Zaandam of Holland America Line (tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com) set sail from Vancouver, British Columbia, sporting some new hardware designed to reduce emissions.

Installed in cooperation with several United States and Canadian government and regulatory agencies, the new "Seawater Scrubber" technology runs engine emissions though a "bath" of seawater, and is expected to partially reduce nitrogen oxides, almost entirely eliminate sulfur dioxide, and significantly reduce particulate matter in the ship's emissions. Through the process, the absorbed sulfur dioxide is oxidized into sulphate ion (already a natural element of seawater), which is then run through further treatment systems before being discharged back into the sea.

"This is a ship like no other in the cruise industry," said Stein Kruse, Holland America's president and chief executive officer, "and after studies and modifications of the ship's new test emissions technology, it could dramatically change not only the cruise industry but the entire maritime industry."

The price tag for the new scrubber tops $1.5 million, of which $300,000 was secured through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/West Coast Collaborative grant and $100,000 from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Additional support for the project came from the Port of Seattle, the Port of Vancouver, Environment Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, and the B.C. Clean Air Research Fund, as well as Krystallon, a BP subsidiary that developed the technology.

The technology's performance aboard Zaandam will be analyzed to determine whether it could be rolled out to new cruise ships and retrofited to existing vessels.

Princess and San Francisco to Develop Shore-Power System

In more green news, Princess Cruises (tel. 800-PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has just announced a partnership with the Port of San Francisco to develop a shore power system that will enable the line's ships to turn off their engines when they dock at Pier 35 and plug in to the city's electrical grid, reducing airborne emissions. The program is similar to one Princess debuted in Juneau, Alaska, in 2001. It expanded to Seattle in summer 2005 and is due to be expanded to Los Angeles in 2008.

"We've been committed to shore power for many years, and we're pleased to bring our expertise to the Bay Area to help introduce this important capability to the San Francisco cruise terminal," said Dean Brown, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. "We know that local communities care about air emissions, and this is an innovative way to benefit the local air quality."

The connections necessary to use shore power are now installed on eight Princess ships, including all those scheduled to sail from the Port of San Francisco.

Celebrity Gets More European in Europe

With the start of its European season in June, Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com) will be bringing a little bit more Europe aboard its ships, introducing an expanded, Europe-themed onboard activities program called "Passaporto di Europa." Offered aboard Century, Galaxy, Constellation, and Millennium, the program will feature numerous entertainment, shopping, and dining activities with a European feel. Highlights on Mediterranean sailings will include:

  • In France: Onboard culinary staff representing Italy and France engage in a friendly cook-off where guests take sides and cheer on their hosts. Meanwhile, a wine and cheese fair gives guests a taste of two of France's most popular exports.
  • In Italy: The ship's pool deck is transformed into a Venitian piazza for "Carnevale di Venezia," complete with music, food, a mask-making festival for guests, and a gondola race.
  • In Spain: A culinary demonstration features paella and Sangria-making lessons, samples, and take-home recipes.
  • In Greece: "Dining under the Santorini Stars" offers a candlelight, taverna-style dining experience with Greek food and entertainment, followed by "Opa!," an on-deck festival featuring music, food, dancing, bedsheet tunics, photographs with Celebrity's own Zeus and Athena, and a "Venus and Apollo of the Voyage" competition.
  • A Mediterranean street fair (aka "shopping") offers Mediterranean crafts and gifts, Lladró figurines, and Italian glass.

Highlights on Baltic sailings will include:

  • In Germany: "Oktoberfest German Biergarten" offers local German beers and foods, a sausage-eating contest, and a performance by a German oompah band.
  • In Scandinavia: During "Cosmetics in the Cold," the AquaSpa staff offer guests tips for keeping their nails and hair healthy and their make-up fresh in cold-weather climates.
  • In Russia: Onboard shops are stocked with Russian wares such as Russian diamonds, amber, lacquer boxes, and Fabergé-style eggs.
  • In the British Isles: "Irish Pub Night and Sing-Along" gives guests a chance to experience pub games and discover Irish whiskey. Alternatively, you can take part in a British royalty trivia competition. Which seems more fun?
  • "Europe through the Silver Screen" is an onboard festival of European cinema, featuring classic and modern films that depict the region and its history and offer glimpses of its landscape.

Carnival to Host Fouth Annual Mind/Body Cruise

On December 2, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest of Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/327-9501; www.carnival.com) will depart from Galveston, Texas, on Carnival's fourth annual "Mind/Body Cruise," co-sponsored by Shape and Men's Fitness magazines. The 7-night cruise will call at Montego Bay (Jamaica), Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and offer guests a variety of expert-led fitness, nutritional, and wellness classes and seminars. Participating experts include:

  • Jacqui Stafford: Recognized as a leading authority on beauty, style, and fashion, Stafford is an executive director at Shape magazine, where she writes a monthly fashion column. She's also appeared on NBC's Today show, ABC's The View, and The Tyra Banks Show.
  • Teri Hanson: A personal trainer and group fitness instructor for more than twenty years, Hanson is assistant fitness editor for Weider Publications, contributing to such magazines as Shape, Natural Health, and Fit Pregnancy.
  • Jon Giswold: Best known for teaching teaches group exercise classes in the country's most prominent fitness clubs, including New York's Reebok/Sports Club.
  • Jeffrey Scott: A Reebok University global master trainer and an international fitness presenter, Scott has starred in more than twenty fitness videos and has appeared on NBC's Today show and other TV programs.
  • Kent and Maria Burden: Authors of Yin Yang Fitness: The Whole Package of Health and creators of a series of mind/body DVDs, the Burdens have made numerous appearances on television programs both in the U.S. and UK.
  • Misty Tripoli: Tripoli is a Nike Elite Instructor and one of the world's most innovative and engaging fitness instructors and personal trainers. She has been featured in several fitness magazines and television programs.
  • Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.: Stoppani received his doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Connecticut. He currently serves as senior science editor for Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers, and Flex magazine.

Onboard fitness and relaxation classes will include an energetic aerobic workout accompanied by live drums, a daily sunset meditation session on the ship's Lido Deck, cooking demonstrations, and nutritional workshops, and onboard experts will be available for one-on-one consultations and Q&A sessions.

Prices for the Mind/Body Cruise begin at $659 per person, double occupancy, and include all Mind/Body Cruise activities. Use fare code CSSH when making a reservation.

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