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Carnival to Build Cruise Port in Roatan, Honduras

Last year, Carnival Corporation (www.carnivalcorp.com) opened the Grand Turk Cruise Center, a purpose-built, 13-acre complex that now serves as a gateway to Grand Turk's beaches and dive sites, and has the capacity to accommodate two super-megasized cruise ships from a variety of cruise lines, some owned by Carnival Corp., some not. The facility has been a rousing success, so it's no surprise that Carnival has decided on a sequel.

Last week, the company announced that it had signed an agreement to build and operate a cruise facility on the island of Roatan, Honduras, a 165-square-mile island located in the southwestern Caribbean, 40 miles north of Honduras. Named "Mahogany Bay -- Roatan," the $50 million port will take up 20 acres of the Roatan waterfront, with two docks able to accommodate the largest of the new megaships. A 35,000-square-foot Welcome Center next door will offer restaurants, bars, and retail shops, along with a 60-foot lighthouse, a waterfall lagoon, and a nature trail. A variety of shore excursions will depart from the facility.

Construction is expected to begin in fall 2007, with a completion date of summer 2009. Carnival Corp. projects that within five years the facility will host 225 cruise ship calls and 500,000 passengers annually.

Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Armada to Sail on Europe in '08

Europe is looking hot for 2008, as cruise lines continue to bulk up their presence in continental waters. The latest escalation comes from sister-lines Royal Caribbean (tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com) and Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/437-3111; www.celebritycruises.com), which last week announced that together they will deploy eleven vessels accommodating more than 25,000 passengers in Europe during 2008 -- the two lines' largest European commitment ever.

Royal Caribbean will deploy seven ships in the region:

  • Following her May 2008 debut, the new 160,000-ton, 3,634-passenger Independence of the Seas, sister-ship to the largest-on-earth Freedom of the Seas, will offer a series of 14-night Mediterranean, 4-night British Isles, and 11-night Canary Islands cruises from Southampton, England, before repositioning to the Caribbean in late fall.
  • The 142,000-ton, 3,114-passenger Navigator of the Seas will offer 4- and 5-night western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona from April through June; 7-night eastern Mediterranean voyages from Rome in July and August; and 10- to 12-night sailings eastern Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona in September and October, some of which will include an overnight call at Istanbul.
  • From April-November 2008, the 90,090-ton, 2,100-passenger Brilliance of the Seas will sail from Barcelona, Spain, offering itineraries of 4 to 12 nights throughout the Mediterranean, combining popular Italian port cities with the Greek Isles, or with the Dalmatian Coast. On the voyages through the Adriatic, guests also will enjoy a two-day call at Venice.
  • The 90,090-ton, 2,100-passenger Jewel of the Seas will offer a series of 3- and 4-night North Sea cruises in April and May 2008, departing from such ports as Amsterdam (Holland), Oslo (Norway), and Hamburg (Germany). From May to September, she'll shift to offering 11- to 13-night voyages from Harwich, England, visiting the Norwegian coast and a series of Baltic cities.
  • The 142,000-ton, 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas follows the French Riviera to Sicily on weekly 7-night sailings from Barcelona, May-November.
  • The 69,130-ton, 1,804-passenger Splendour of the Seas will alternate round-trip 6- to 8-night Turkey/Greece and Greek Isles voyages from Venice, May-November. Eight-night voyages include a port of call in Crete.
  • The 69,130-ton, 1,804-passenger Legend of the Seas will alternate between 12-night Greece/Eastern Mediterranean and 13-night Italy/Croatia itineraries April-November, both round-trip from Rome. Thirteen-night voyages include two full days each in Florence/Pisa (from Livorno) and Venice.

On the Celebrity side, 2008 will see a four-ship European deployment:

  • The recently refurbished, 70,606-ton, 1,750-passenger Century will be based in Amsterdam from May through August 2008, offering round-trip 12-night Scotland and Ireland sailings, 12-night Scandinavia and Russia cruises, a 12-night Arctic Circle and North Cape voyage, and a 10-night Ireland and Norwegian Fjords cruise. In early September she'll reposition to Barcelona, from which she'll sail western Mediterranean and Morocco sailings through November.
  • Century's sister-ship, the 70,606-ton, 1,750-passenger Galaxy, will offer a series of 10- and 11-night round-trip sailings May-December from Rome, each featuring an overnight stay in Istanbul.
  • The 91,000-ton, 1,950-passenger Constellation will be based in Harwich, England, from April through August 2008, sailing one round-trip, 9-night Scotland and Ireland cruise followed by a series of 14-night, round-trip Scandinavia and Russia cruises.
  • Constellation's sister-ship, the 91,000-ton, 1,950-passenger Summit, opens the European season on April 29, 2008, with a 12-night "Best of Europe" cruise from Southampton to Barcelona, highlighted by Celebrity's first call in Gijon, Spain. Summit will then offer a series of 12- and 14-night Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona and Venice, May-November.

Princess Luggage Valet Takes Bags from Home to Ship

Real luxury is never having to do your own heavy lifting. That's why luxe lines like Seabourn have long offered a valet shipping service that picks your bags up from your home and ships them right to your shipboard stateroom, leaving you to only deal with your carry-on while in transit. This month, Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) made that taste of luxe its own by introducing the "Princess Luggage Valet" service, which will whisk your Bermuda shorts to your destination via DHL Worldwide Express, beginning with this May's European voyages. The program will be expanded to other international and domestic destinations later in the year.

Reservations for the new service will be available up to 30 days prior to the cruise sailing date, with pick-up available from residential addresses in the continental United States and Canada. And how pricey is it? Shipping starts at $90 per bag each way for domestic shipments, and goes up depending on baggage weight and destination. All bags are automatically insured up to $2,000, with additional insurance available for an additional cost

Regent Partners with Museums for Art Travel/Endowment Program

Earlier this year, luxe line Regent Seven Seas (tel. 866/805-0737; www.rssc.com) rolled out a new experiential "art travel" program called the Regent Art Experience. Offered aboard ship and in port as part of Regent's "Circles of Interest" program (a suite of expert-led lectures, excursions, and events themed around a common interest), the program will partner with noted museums to offer art-related shore excursions and onboard enrichment programs.

Last week, Regent deepened its commitment to art cruising by committing to donate money to partner art museums when travelers book select cruises directly through those museums. For example, in Regent's first museum partnership (with Miami's Bass Museum of Art), art enthusiasts can sail on one of ten European cruises and Regent will donate $400 per booking to the museum in their name, and also give the travelers $200 per suite shipboard credit.

Bass Museum Executive Director and Chief Curator Diane Camber will lead three Seven Seas Navigator voyages through the Mediterranean, departing July 19 (9 nights, Barcelona to Monte Carlo), August 11 (7 nights, Monte Carlo to Civitavecchia/Rome), and August 18 (7 nights, Civitavecchia/Rome to Venice). Camber's art excursions will be held in the ports of Sorrento, Venice, Monte Carlo and Florence/Livorno. Guests will have the opportunity to explore Roman ruins, survey Michelangelo's masterpieces throughout Florence, and view the private collection of billionaire collector Francois Pinault at Venice's Palazzo Grassi. Onboard, Camber's lectures will provide insights into the life and work of various artists, including Gaudí, Miró, Picasso and Caravaggio.

Seven additional voyages are also part of the Regent/Bass initiative and can be booked directly through the Bass Museum of Art, including four Baltic sailings (Copenhagen to Stockholm or reverse) whose art program will be led by Russian art and literature expert Vadim Palchun, on the topic, "From Restoration Rooms to Gallery Walls: The Hermitage from a Personal Perspective."

  • Barcelona to Rome/Civitavecchia on Seven Seas Navigator, May 14, 2007
  • Monte Carlo to Athens/Piraeus on Seven Seas Voyager, May 19, 2007
  • Rome/Civitavecchia to Nice on Seven Seas Voyager, May 26, 2007
  • Stockholm to Copenhagen on Seven Seas Voyager, July 28, 2007
  • Copenhagen to Stockholm on Seven Seas Voyager, August 4, 2007
  • Stockholm to Copenhagen on Seven Seas Voyager, August 11, 2007
  • Copenhagen to Stockholm on Seven Seas Voyager, August 18, 2007

Prices start from $4,476 per person, based on double occupancy. Per person prices for the "Art, Design and Cultures" Circles of Interest package begin at $175 aboard Navigator and $255 aboard Voyager. For more information and reservations, contact Julia Gerstman at the Bass Museum (tel. 305/673-7530, ext. 1015; jgerstman@bassmuseum.org).

QM2 Debuts American Museum of Natural History Planetarium Programs

When Cunard (tel. 800/7-CUNARD; www.cunard.com) debuted Queen Mary 2 in 2004, one of her marquee "Wow!" attractions was her 150-seat planetarium, a first aboard a cruise ship, showing 3D astral projections created in partnership with several noted scientific institutions, including the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. A little over two years on, Cunard has decided to spice up the programming with two new presentations created by the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, in partnership with NASA.

Narrated by Robert Redford, Cosmic Collisions explores the cosmic collisions and hypersonic impacts that drive continuing evolution of the universe. "Passport to the Universe," narrated by Tom Hanks, takes viewers deep into intergalactic space, heading into the Orion Nebula. The two shows complement an existing AMNH presentation, The Search for Life: Are We Alone?, which examines the role of water as one of the necessities for life.

QM2's planetarium presents a total of four space shows per day. As a preview to the shows, large plasma screens installed outside the venue present the American Museum of Natural History's "AstroBulletins," examining topics like space weather, the possibility of life on Mars, and the cosmic microwave background, all using the latest images from NASA satellites and observatories.

QM2 Adds French Turnaround Ports on 2008 Transatlantic Crossings

Since her debut, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has spent a large portion of her year transiting between Southampton, UK, and New York, offering the only regular transatlantic service left in the passenger shipping world. Last year the line added several transatlantic turnarounds in Hamburg, Germany, and now comes word that in 2008 QM2 will also offer turnarounds in Cherbourg, France, one of which departs July 15, the day after Bastille Day.

"Transatlantic crossings continue to distinguish Cunard Line," said Cunard President Carol Marlow. "We've added even more voyages this year and their timeless elegance resonates with an audience seeking our singular combination of history, elegance, and glamour. The demand for Transatlantics continues unabated."

QM2's 2008 transatlantic season will include:

  • Six-day eastbound (New York to Southampton): April 16, 28; May 10, 27; June 8; July 8, 22; Aug. 7,19; Sept. 4; and Oct. 4 and 16.
  • Six-day westbound (Southampton to New York): April 22; May 4, 16; June 2, 26; July 16; Aug. 1, 13, 29; Sept. 21; and Oct. 10 and 22.
  • Seven-day eastbound (New York to Cherbourg): July 8.
  • Seven-day westbound (Cherbourg to New York): July 15.
  • Eight-day eastbound (New York to Hamburg): July 22; Aug. 19.
  • Eight-day westbound (Hamburg to New York): July 30; Aug. 27.

Transatlantic voyage fares start from $1,195 per person, double occupancy.

Majestic America Upgrades Culinary Program, Adding Regional Flavors

Majestic America Line (tel. 800/434-1232; www.majesticamericaline.com) was formed last spring when travel and event-planning company Ambassadors International acquired both Delta Queen Steamboat Company and American West Steamboat Company and folded them into one entity. Since then, the new line has been busy refurbishing its ships, buying additional ones, and moving to upgrade its onboard offerings. This month, the line has unveiled its new culinary program, created by new corporate executive chef Howie Velie in collaboration with several noted American culinary experts.

For its new dinner menus, Majestic America worked with noted chef, author, and culinary consultant Kathy Casey to create a line-up that showcases local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients of the three distinct regions the line sails: the Mississippi, Ohio, and tributary rivers; the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers of the Pacific Northwest; and Alaska's Inside Passage. In Alaska, for example, guests may choose to dine one night on baked Alaskan black cod with lobster and chive smashed potatoes and sweet red bell pepper cream. Another night they may choose a specialty from the deep South, such as jumbo Creole shrimp with green onion and cheddar grits. Each night will feature a different menu.

In addition to day-to-day cuisine, the line has also introduced "Sara Moulton's American Cocktail Party," created by Gourmet magazine's executive chef and best-selling cookbook author Sara Moulton. Held prior to dinner, the party will feature a selection of hors d'oeuvres paired with signature drinks that showcase the diversity in American cuisine: savory lobster rolls and a Cape Coder cocktail from New England; mini crab cakes, Maryland beaten biscuit rounds, and a nice Manhattan from the Mid-Atlantic; etc.

Caribbean Princess to Hit New York in 2008

Since her debut in 2004, the 3,100-passenger Caribbean Princess of Princess Cruises (tel. 800-PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has been based out of Florida, hop-scotching around the sea from which she takes her name. In 2008, though, the vessel will transfer up to New York, taking over the 9-night long-distance Caribbean sailings previously offered by sister-ship Crown Princess.

Caribbean Princess's summer season from New York will include eleven round-trip departures between May 17 and August 15, 2008, with most calling at Bermuda (West End), San Juan, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. Three will substitute St. Maarten for Bermuda.

"Passengers have loved this opportunity to sail to the Caribbean from our convenient New York terminal in Brooklyn," said Jan Swartz, Princess's senior VP of customer service and sales, "and we're delighted to return for a third season. As you might guess from her name, Caribbean Princess was designed especially for Caribbean cruising and will help our New York-area passengers get in the island mood with a wealth of amenities perfect for the region, such as the poolside Movies Under the Stars and the local flavors of Café Caribe."

Early booking fares for Caribbean Princess's 9-night summer Caribbean cruises begin at $1,199 per person, based on double occupancy.

Silversea Plans Summer/Fall Food & Wine Cruises

Cruising equals food and booze. Luxe cruising equals gourmet food and wine. Cruise lines don't get any more luxe than Silversea (tel. 877/215-9986; www.silversea.com), so shall we assume their newly announced slate of 2007 culinary and wine cruises shall be the pinnacle of foodie excellence at sea? We shall.

Announced on March 6, the line's "Culinary Arts" and "Wine Series" voyages for 2007 will showcase the artistry of award-winning chefs of top dining establishments from around the world, plus wine experts from an array of prestigious estates and wineries.

The six culinary sailings detailed below will feature guest chefs offering cooking demonstrations, escorted trips to international markets, food and wine pairings, creative regional dishes, and a five-course grand gourmet dinner.

  • 9-night Mediterranean, May 28-June 6, 2007 (Voyage 4718), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing from Nice to Athens, with guest chef Anne Desjardins of l'Eau à La Bouche restaurant in Ste-Adèle, Québec. Silver Sailing fares start at $4,557 per person.
  • 6-night Mediterranean, June 30-July 6, 2007 (Voyage 4722), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing from Barcelona to Rome, with guest chef Cal Stamenov of Marinus at Bernardus Lodge, Carmel Valley, California. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $4,330 per person.
  • 7-night eastern Mediterranean, July 13-20, 2007 (Voyage 1718), aboard Silver Cloud: Sailing from Athens to Istanbul, with guest chef Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat of Chiva-Som luxury health resort, Thailand. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $5,350 per person.
  • 7-night Mediterranean, August 3-10, 2007 (Voyage 4727), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing Athens to Venice, with guest chef Gale Gand of Chicago's Tru. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $5,036 per person.
  • 7-night Mediterranean, August 10-17, 2007 (Voyage 4728), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing Venice to Rome, with guest chef Renato Piccolotto of the Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $5,036 per person.
  • 7-night Baltic Sea, August 11-18, 2007 (Voyage 3720), aboard Silver Shadow: Sails Copenhagen to Stockholm, with guest chefJean-Paul Bondoux of La Bourgogne (Punta del Este, Uruguay) and Restaurant Jean-Paul Bondoux (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Early Booking Incentive fares start at $5,485 per person.

The five scheduled wine sailings detailed below will feature some of the world's finest vintages, plus visits to world-famous wineries, cellars, and vineyards, all hosted by top wine experts.

  • 9-night Mediterranean, May 2-11, 2007 (Voyage 4713), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing Athens to Monte Carlo, hosted by David Elswood, International Head for Christie's Wine Department. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $6,115 per person.
  • 10-night Mediterranean, July 30-August 9, 2007 (Voyage 1720), aboard Silver Cloud: Sailing Venice to Nice, hosted by Bellavista Winery of Franciacorta (Lombardy), Italy. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $7,036 per person.
  • 7-night Mediterranean, September 14-21, 2007 (Voyage 4733), aboard Silver Whisper: Sailing Barcelona to Monte Carlo, hosted by Virginie Coutou, general manager of Diva Wines, Madrid, Spain. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $4,925 per person.
  • 8-night South America, November 27-December 5, 2007 (Voyage 2732), aboard Silver Wind: Sails Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, hosted by Eduardo Pulenta, Jr., export manager of Pulenta Estate, Mendoza, Argentina. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $4,670 per person.
  • 11-night Africa, December 11-22, 2007 (Voyage 1734), aboard Silver Cloud: Sails Port Louis to Cape Town, hosted by South African wine expert Duimpie Bayley. Silver Sailing fares start at $4,286 per person.

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