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In this edition, we report on top destinations for cruising, a port to be in Brooklyn, onboard comedy acts, sports cruises, adventure expeditions and more.

Cruising Named Top International Travel Choice

In December, the venerable Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates conducted its annual Travel Trends Survey, polling 398 associates and agents throughout the United States to determine where Americans were traveling, and how. The results? Caribbean cruising was named as the most popular international destination by 83% of respondents, with Mexico cruising ranking ninth. For the first time, respondents were also asked to name the top cruise destinations they were already booking for 2005, with the following results:

    1. Western Caribbean, 39.2% 2. Alaska, 16.3% 3. Eastern Caribbean, 14.1% 4. Southern Caribbean, 9.5% 5. Tie: Hawaii 4%, Mexican Riviera 4% 6. Europe (Mediterranean), 3.8% 7. Panama Canal, 2.3% 8. Bermuda, 1.5% 9. Europe (Barge), 1% 10. Tie: South America 1%, U.S. Riverboat 1%

Results also showed that 55.9% of agents believed cruising was becoming more popular overall, while 60.2% said their clients were feeling more confident about traveling farther from home.

Carlson Wagonlit (www.carlsontravel.com) is the oldest travel agency network in North America, tracing its roots to St. Augustine, Florida's "Ask Mr. Foster" travel agency, which opened in 1888.

Where Ya Wanna Sail From, Brooklyn or Bayonne?

New York is one of the most classic ports in the world, made iconic in the decades when ocean liners began and ended their transatlantic sailings at Manhattan's West Side piers. But that was way back when. Over the past 30 years those same piers have become overcrowded and difficult to get to, frequently snarled by traffic and decidedly unglamorous. Last year New York announced a multi-million-dollar initiative to revitalize the facility, but alternatives are on the rise as well: first Royal Caribbean's new Cape Liberty Cruise Port, which opened last May across the Hudson in Bayonne, New Jersey, and now a new cruise terminal planned for gritty Red Hook, Brooklyn.

It's all part of a plan to spread the wealth of cruise passengers around the New York metropolitan area -- just like the cruise biz as a whole is homeporting its ships in more and more cities, to make getting to them easier.

"Soon Brooklynites will be able to board cruise ships in Red Hook and head straight for the Caribbean or England," said Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz. "And visitors from all over the world will experience the best of Brooklyn -- our fabulous food, historic homes, diverse neighborhoods, top notch museums, and more."

The new terminal will be right across the harbor from lower Manhattan, easily accessible to residents of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, and Lower Manhattan, as well as to visitors flying into Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports. While Red Hook itself is heavily industrial, it's just minutes from picturesque colonial-era Brooklyn Heights (whose riverfront promenade provides one of the best Manhattan views) and the great expanse of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Design work is progressing rapidly, and officials expect the facility to open in late 2005. Stay tuned for word on which ships will adopt the port as their own. The big question, though: Will the officers and crew adopt Brooklyn accents? We can only hope.

NCL Announces Partnerships with Second City Comedy Troupe

Wanna laugh? Sail with Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com). Last week the line announced details of a new partnerships with the famed Second City sketch and improvisation troupe, whose alumni have included Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Eugene Levy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and most of the classic Saturday Night Live players, including John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and John Candy.

Beginning this month, six Second City comedians will perform a special evening of skits, songs, and improv comedy aboard each of Norwegian Dawn's round-trip sailings from New York. They'll also host onboard workshops on the art and philosophy of improvisation and offer children's workshops through NCL's Kids Crew program.

"In addition to being fun and interactive," says Keith Cox, NCL's vice president of entertainment and onboard programming, "these workshops will introduce youngsters to many of the important principles of improvisation, such as the value of listening, working as a team, and the amazing results of saying 'yes, and' rather than 'no, but.'"

The touring troupe onboard Norwegian Dawn will be comprised of Brian Morris (Musical Director), Joe Canale, Molly Erdman, Paul Grondy, Kevin McGeehan, and Sue Salvi. Their show, titled The Best of Second City, will replace Norwegian Dawn's current Andrew Lloyd Webber songfest, Music of the Night.

Celebrity Goes Global with New Adventure Offerings, Asia Sailings

Last year, Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebrity.com) launched Celebrity Xpeditions, a sub-brand intended to bring Celebrity style to the adventure-travel market. First stop, the Galapagos, where the boutique 100-passenger Xpedition now offers year-round nature cruises. Icebreaker expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic followed, and now the brand has announced a new slate of adventures designed to be paired with regular sailings aboard its vessels, available pre-cruise, postcruise, and sometimes during the cruise. Region-by-region, the new Xpeditions offerings include:

  • Alaska: A "fire and ice" experience in Vancouver, with helicopter and Zodiac tours of the Mt. Garibaldi volcano site and Howe Sound (two nights, available beginning May 2005 on select Infinity and Summit Alaska sailings; $2,200 per person); and bear-viewing treks through the Alaskan wilderness (in-cruise, available beginning May 2005 on all Infinity, Summit, and Mercury Alaska sailings that call in Ketchikan; $650 per person).
  • Bermuda: An aquatic archaeology course from the platform of a 43-foot catamaran (in-cruise, available beginning April 2005 on Horizon and Zenith sailings to Bermuda; $650 per person).
  • California Coastal/Mexican Riviera: Marlin fishing in Cabo San Lucas with a tournament-seasoned crew (in-cruise, available on all Infinity, Summit, and Mercury Mexico sailings that call in Cabo; $1,200 per fisherman, $200 for non-fishing guests).
  • Caribbean: Underwater exploration and diving adventures culminating in National Geographic diver certification in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. (in-cruise, available beginning April 2005 on all Century, Constellation, Horizon, Millennium, and Zenith cruises that call in St. Thomas; $700 per person).
  • Hawaii: Heli-tours and lava tube cave explorations in Hana (in-cruise, available beginning March 2005 on all Infinity and Summit sailings that call in Lahaina; $1,100 per person).
  • Mediterranean: An exploration of the Great Pyramids of Egypt with leading Egyptologists (four days, available beginning May 2005 on Millennium Mediterranean cruises that call in Venice; $2,500 per person); storybook stays in Switzerland, including hikes beside the majestic Matterhorn (three nights, available beginning May 2005 on all Galaxy Mediterranean cruises that call in Genoa; $2,500 per person).
  • Panama Canal: Behind-the-scenes visits to the Johnson Space Center and Houston Space Center in Texas, led by Apollo VII astronaut Walter Cunningham (post-cruise on all Galaxy sailings from Galveston; $700 per person).
  • South America: The Lost City of the Incas at Machu Picchu (in-cruise, available on all Infinity South America sailings that call at Arica, Chile, and Callao, Peru; $1,820 per person); archaeological explorations of the Copan Ruins in Honduras (in-cruise, available on all Zenith and Horizon western Caribbean sailings that call in Roatan, Honduras; $700 per person); and tours of the isolated Easter Island and its mysterious Moai statues, carved from volcanic rock (two to four nights, available beginning December 2005 on all Infinity South America cruises that begin or end in Valparaiso, Chile; $2,400 per person).

In related news, Celebrity also announced plans to deploy the 1,950-passenger Summit on sailings in the Far East and South Pacific in 2006. Specific itineraries are still being developed, but the vessel will likely offer cruises that touch on Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and other destinations.

Vessels Big and Small Offer February Florida Sports Cruises

Sports are in the Florida air. February 18-21,Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 800/CARNIVAL; www.carnival.com) is offering a special "Miami Heat Cruise" aboard the 2,052-passenger Fascination, featuring current and/or former players and executives from the Miami Heat. The highlight of the trip is a special "watch party" to view the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 20. There's also a private welcome-aboard cocktail party and autograph session with Heat players and execs; appearances by Burnie (the team's mascot), the Heat Dancers, and the Xtreme Team; a basketball/sports clinic; and a dance clinic conducted by the Heat Dancers. Cruise prices start at $399 per person, double occupancy.

At the other end of the spectrum, little Clipper Cruise Line (tel. 800/325-0010; www.clippercruise.com) is promoting its 102-passenger Nantucket Clipper as a last-minute accommodation choice for football fans attending Super Bowl 2005 in Jacksonville. Nantucket Clipper will dock just one-half mile from Alltel Stadium during game week, beginning Thursday, Feb. 3, then sail a three-night Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island/St. Augustine mini-cruise beginning Feb. 7, the day after the game. Stateroom rates begin at $3,530 per person, double occupancy, and include seven nights aboard ship, three meals daily, and a complimentary cocktail hour each evening. Prices do not include game tickets. That's your job.

Crystal Cruises Promotes Golf, Fitness Cruises

Crystal Cruises (tel. 866/446-6625; www.crystalcruises.com) is based in Los Angeles, so it should come as no surprise that the luxe line is heavily promoting cruises tailored to golf and fitness enthusiasts. Last week, it announced a deal with TaylorMade, makers of the #1 driver on the PGA tour, to provide clubs for its onboard golf program, which also features golf clinics, instruction by PGA pros, a putting green, practice cage, and golf driving ranges. The line also has two special golf-themed cruises coming up:

  • 11-night Crystal Symphony British Isles cruise, August 23, 2005: Sailing from Copenhagen to London, the cruise offers optional play at some of the most popular courses in the region including the legendary Gleneagles King's Course (Edinburgh, Scotland), Mount Juliet (Belfast, Ireland), Portmarnock Links (Dublin, Ireland), and Royal County Down (Waterford, Ireland).
  • 12-night Crystal Serenity Canary Islands cruise , October 25, 2005: Sailing from Barcelona to Lisbon, with optional play at the Réal Club de Campo Malaga (Granada, Spain), Montecastillo Golf Resort (Seville, Spain), Royal Golf Dar Es-Salam (Casablanca, Morocco), Réal Club de Golf de Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), and Penha Longa Golf Course (Lisbon, Portugal).

On the fitness side, Crystal's offering eight "Health & Fitness" cruises dedicated to overall wellness and enrichment, featuring nutrition and fitness experts from the Cleveland Clinic, professionals from the Tai Chi Cultural Center, Debbie Rocker's exclusive "Walk on Water" program, and other speakers and authors. Each cruise will offer specialized instruction in either yoga, pilates, or tai chi, and special healthful menus include low-carb and low-fat selections prepared in accordance with American Heart Association guidelines. Sailings include:

  • 7-night tai chi cruise aboard Crystal Symphony, March 17: Round-trip western Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale visiting Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Key West. Priced from $1,695 per person.
  • 10-night yoga cruise aboard Crystal Symphony, March 24: Round-trip eastern Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Barts. Priced from $1,995 per person.
  • 7-night pilates & yoga cruises aboard Crystal Harmony, September 28 & November 1: Round-trip Mexican Riviera cruise from Los Angeles visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatl¿n, and Puerto Vallarta. Priced from $1,295 per person.
  • 10-night tai chi cruise aboard Crystal Harmony, October 22: Round-trip Mexican Riviera cruise from Los Angeles, visiting San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatl¿n, Puerto Vallarta, and Manzanillo. Priced from $1,750 per person.
  • 10-night yoga cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, November 26: Round-trip eastern Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting Key West, the Turks & Caicos, St. Maarten, St. Barts, St. Thomas, and Nassau. Priced from $2,995 per person.
  • 8-night pilates cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, December 6: Round-trip western Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting Belize City, Roatan Island (Honduras), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Priced from $1,995 per person.
  • 8-night yoga cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, December 14: Round-trip eastern Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting St. Maarten, St. Barts, and St. Thomas, USVI. Priced from $1,995 per person.

Peter Deilmann to Offer Seine River Cruises in 2005

When it comes to romance, not many cruise options beat a European river cruise. Peter Deilmann Cruises (tel. 800/348-8287; www.deilmann-cruises.com), with its nine-ship fleet, already offers more than 200 river trips on the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Rhône, Saône, Seine, Elbe, and Oder, but for 2005 they've also added cruises on the Seine, sailing from Paris aboard the 100-passenger Cezanne and calling in Le Havre, Rouen, and Vernon. Also new this year are the multi-country sailings aboard the Casanova to historic cities and towns along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, and the Danube; and cruises aboard Frederic Chopin on the Vltava and Elbe rivers between Prague and Potsdam (Berlin) and on the Oder River between Germany and Poland, with cruisetours available to Gdansk and Warsaw, Poland. Several specialty cruises are also programmed for the year, including itineraries featuring music, escorted garden tours, pre- and postcruise golf packages, and cycling in France, Germany, and Austria.

Sundance Celebs Sail Free on SeaDream Yacht Club

The rich get all the breaks. This week, when top movie celebrities assemble for Robert Redford's annual Sundance Film Festival, their goodie bags will include invitations for a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Mexico cruise on one of SeaDream Yacht Club's (tel. 800/707-4911; www.seadreamyachtclub.com) luxurious 110-passenger vessels.

This is the second such promotion offered by SeaDream, which last year gave free trips to celebrity presenters and performers at the 76th annual Academy Awards.

"The rich," said F. Scott Fitzgerald, "are different."

"Yes," replied Hemingway. "They have more money."

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