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Silversea Taps Adventurers for "Spirit of Exploration" Series

Personally, cruise ship lectures have always conjured up images of Victorians at the Explorer's Club, listening to the exploits of some pith-helmeted Sir Reginald Whatzisbutt, just back from the darkest Africa. This week Silversea Cruises (tel. 877-215-9986; www.silversea.com) announced an updated version of that theme, called "The Spirit of Exploration" series. On select voyages, Silversea's ships will sail with a Resident Explorer on board, an internationally acclaimed adventurer who will present talks on his or her field of expertise and accompany guests on shore excursions. Already signed up for the series are:

  • Dr. Don Walsh (U.S. Navy Captain, retired): A renowned oceanographer and world explorer, Dr. Walsh has completed over 55 expeditions to the polar regions and worked at both the North and South Poles. An Antarctic mountain ridge, the Walsh Spur, is named for him. As an undersea explorer, he holds the world's depth record, having made a near seven-mile dive into the deepest known point in the oceans, the Pacific Ocean's Challenger Deep (near Guam), in a pressured bathyscape. In recent years he has made dives to the Titanic, the German WWII battleship Bismarck, and undersea volcanoes near the Azores. Dr. Walsh will sails aboard Silver Cloud's 8-day cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, Nov 27-Dec 5, 2005 (with fares from $3,906 per person); and the 16-day cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Dec 5-21, 2005 (fares from $7,516).
  • Brian Jones: Together with his Swiss colleague Bertrand Piccard, Brian Jones pulled off the first circumnavigation of the earth in a hot air balloon, starting just outside the Swiss village of Chaˆteau-d'Oex and ending 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes later in Egypt near the Great Pyramids of Giza. Mr. Jones will sail aboard Silver Wind's 11-day cruise from Mahe to Port Louis, Nov 29-Dec 10, 2005 (fares from $4,636).
  • Dr. Joe MacInnis: A medical doctor, undersea explorer, and marine conservationist, Dr. MacInnes led the first team of scientists to dive under the North Pole and was among the first to dive to the Titanic. He has written six books on the ocean as well as numerous articles for National Geographic and Scientific American. Dr. MacInnes will sail aboard Silver Cloud's 7-day cruise from Barcelona to Rome, May 19-26, 2005 (fares from $2,937).
  • Belinda Sawyer: A qualified ship's master, engineer, and dive master, Ms. Sawyer is also the senior expedition leader and operations manager for Deep Ocean Expeditions, which operates submersible expeditions to the Titanic, the battleship Bismarck, and other ocean sites in depths approaching 20,000 feet. She'll sail aboard Silver Shadow's 14-day cruise from Sydney to Auckland, Dec 22-Jan 5, 2006 (fares from $7,986).

Silversea plans to announce additional "Spirit of Exploration" cruises in the coming weeks.

Star Clippers Offers Cruise as Part of Antigua Yacht Regatta

For some folks, sailing really means sailing -- with sails, on a tall ship, and engines be damned. If you're one of those, here's a cruise for you: During its weeklong April 10-18 eastern Caribbean cruise, Star Clippers' 170-passenger Star Clipper (tel. 800/442-0551; www.starclippers.com) will spend three days participating in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Star Clipper will participate in races with other ships in the regatta's tall-ship class, and passengers will also be able to view races among other types of vessels.

The cruise, hosted by Star Clipper's owner, Michael Krafft, sails round-trip from St. Maarten and also visits Anguilla, St. Barts, Iles des Saintes, and Dominica. Prices start at $1,795 per person.

Culture War? What Culture War? Carnival Announces New Wine Club & NASCAR Sailing

Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/CARNIVAL; www.carnival.com) has been riding the "Fun Ship" theme for decades, but of course the concept of "fun" is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe that's the reasoning behind two announcements the line made this week, one introducing its new Presidential Wine Club and another detailing a December sailing featuring NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace.

The Presidential Wine Club is being touted as the cruise industry's first affinity group for people interested in wine. Members pay $49.98 per month (including shipping, excluding taxes) and in return get two bottles selected by Carnival president, CEO, and wine-connoisseur-in-chief Bob Dickinson, as well as access to an on-line wine information and communication resource; discounts on wine and wine-related products sold through the website; and opportunities to participate in annual Presidential Wine Club cruises featuring wine tastings, food pairings, and sessions with wine makers and other wine experts.

"Our goal is to make wine the beer of tomorrow," says Dickinson. "Beer is like a birthright to Americans, while people who drink fine wines account for less than 10 percent of the population. Carnival is set to carry 3.3 million guests in 2005, and I think we can reach a lot of those folks with our message."

To become a member of the Presidential Wine Club, click on www.presidentialwineclub.com or call 888/292-2582.

For those who'd like to remain on the beer side of the aisle, Carnival has also announced the seventh departure in its ongoing series of "Rusty Wallace Cruises," this one a 7-night eastern Caribbean sailing aboard the 110,000-ton Carnival Valor, Dec. 4-11, 2005.

During the cruise, participants will have opportunities to interact with Wallace through a number of invitation-only events, including autograph, Q&A, and photo sessions, as well as a private cocktail reception and farewell ceremony in honor of Wallace's recently announced retirement.

Prices for the Rusty Wallace cruise currently begin at $629 per person, double occupancy. Participants must reference fare code CPRW when making a reservation to be eligible for the invitation-only events taking place on these voyages.

Royal Caribbean Chefs Go to School with the American Culinary Federation, while Celebrity Honors Cuisine Guru Michel Roux

Lawyers and accountants have to keep up their certification, so why not chefs too? That's the idea behind Royal Caribbean's (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com) announcement of a new partnership with the American Culinary Federation to develop a new training and certification program that will offer continuing culinary education to nearly 100 of the line's senior executive chefs, executive chefs, and executive sous chefs. Through a combination of ACF-certified theoretical and practical classroom experiences, Royal Caribbean chefs will perfect their preparation and service skills, with emphasis on taste, nutritional value, attention to detail, food safety and overall guest satisfaction. Senior chefs who participate in the training will share key information from each course with their culinary staffs fleetwide.

The organizations first came together last summer when ACF honored the line with an "ACF Achievement of Excellence Award" in recognition of superior service and cuisine. Both organizations quickly realized the benefits of entering into a partnership and soon began crafting the culinary training program, applying ACF's knowledge, creativity, and service to an industry outside the confines of traditional culinary corporations.

The American Culinary Federation (www.acfchefs.org) was founded in 1929 in New York City with the goal of providing education to all levels of cooking professionals, from apprentices to the most accomplished certified master chefs. It's the nation's largest organization of professional chefs.

In related news, Royal Caribbean's sister brand, Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebrity.com), is celebrating the twentieth consecutive year in which its culinary and wine consultant, Michel Roux, has received three stars (the highest rating) from the Michelin Guide.

This year's European restaurant guide features 5,500 entries. Only two in the UK -- including Roux's Waterside Inn in Bray-on-Thames, just outside of London -- received the top honors.

As Celebrity's culinary and wine consultant, Roux creates the line's award-winning menus and wine lists, and assists with training the executive restaurant staff. In addition to revising menus twice annually, he cruises approximately six times a year, evaluating the quality, performance, and consistency of Celebrity's culinary operations.

Costa Aces Health Inspection, Announces New Park N' Fly Program

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control's Vessel Sanitation Program (www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/default.htm) conducts two surprise inspections of all passenger ships that sail foreign itineraries and call at U.S. ports.

The inspections focus on a checklist of 48 areas of sanitation including the handling, preparation, and storage of food; cleanliness of plumbing, spa, and pool facilities; purity of the onboard water supply; maintenance of relevant equipment; and staff practices. Each ship is given a score based on a scale of 1 to 100, with an 86 or above being a passing score. The report card for Costa's 2,112-passenger Costa Altantica this time? A perfect 100. Give that ship a gold star!

Up-to-date inspection reports for all ships are available at www2a.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/vspmain.asp.

Costa (tel. 800/33-COSTA; www.costacruises.com) is also busy this week touting its new partnership with the Park 'N Fly Network, which will offer up to 40% savings on off-site airport parking at more than 30 airports nationwide for guests who book their air through Costa. The partnership also includes discounted port parking ($45 per week) for Costa's cruise-only guests at the Park 'N Fly facility in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Guests can reserve and prepay for their parking by clicking on the Park 'N Fly Network link in the personalize your cruise sections of Costa's website.

Olivia Offers Lesbian Tahiti Cruise Aboard Paul Gauguin

Olivia Cruises (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com), which offers full-ship charters targeted specifically to the lesbian community, has just announced a weeklong Tahiti cruise aboard Radisson's 320-passenger Paul Gauguin, sailing September 3-10, 2005. Designed specifically for the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin has offered Tahiti cruises since her launch in 1997.

The cruise is the most luxurious yet offered yet by Olivia, which usually charters mainstream megaships. Other non-mainstream choices coming up include a weeklong Greek Isles cruise aboard Silversea's 388-passenger Silver Shadow, June 24-July 1; three 10-night Galapagos cruises aboard Lindblad Expeditions' 47-passenger Islander, Nov 19-28, Nov. 26-Dec 5, and Dec 3-12; and an 8-night China/Vietnam/Thailand cruise, April 9-17, 2006, aboard Silver Shadow.

Discovery Cruise Line: Over Four Million Served

Forget the golden arches. On January 28, Discovery Cruise Line (tel. 800/866-8687; www.discoverycruiseline.com) popped the rhetorical champagne at the four millionth passenger it's carried between Fort Lauderdale and Grand Bahama Island.

The lucky person was, depending on who actually stepped aboard first, either Mr. or Mrs. Roger Forget from Sunrise, Florida, who were rewarded with a free cruise and hotel stay as well as a certificate entitling them to cruise free on Discovery every year for the rest of their lives.

Discovery sails daily from South Florida at 7:45am and returns at 10pm that night, with rates starting at $99 per person, plus a $10 security surcharge and a $20 Bahamian departure fee and fuel surcharge. The company also offers Cruise 'N Stay packages at several Bahamian resorts.

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