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Norwegian Coastal Voyage Reports No Damage from Antarctica Grounding

Norwegian Coastal Voyage (tel. 800/323-7436; www.coastalvoyage.com) is reporting that no environmental damage or traces of pollution have been found at or around Deception Island in Antarctica, where the line's MS Nordkapp struck underwater rocks on January 30, discharging what was reported as being between 130 and 200 gallons of light marine diesel fuel into the water.

Investigation and analysis of the area was undertaken by several authorities at the request of the company:

  • The Spanish Gabriel de Castilla research station, located in Port Foster, Deception Island, reported on February 4 that water and sand samples were clean and that no traces of discharge had been found in the area.
  • IAATO (the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) sent instructions to all ships in the area to report any observed leakages. None were reported.
  • The passenger/cruise ship Hanseatic inspected the coastline from Collins Point to Headland (a distance of 2.5 miles) on February 4, going ashore in eight different locations to take beach sand and water samples. The samples revealed no traces of discharge.
  • Crew from the passenger ship Polar Star inspected the area between Pendulum Cove and Whalers Bay on February 3 and found no traces of discharge.

NCV intends to perform a survey of the immediate area around the MS Nordkapp's current location in Maxwell Bay in order to ensure there have been no discharges in the area. In related environmental news, NCV has entered into an agreement with the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to assist in raising awareness of human effects on climate change, principally through onboard lectures and shore talks by onboard experts. "With Norwegian Coastal Voyage's introduction of our new explorer ship MS Fram, built especially for use in Greenland, beginning spring of 2007, and our expedition cruises in the Arctic and Antarctica, it is a natural step for us to support the work of the WMO," says Hans Rood, NCV's president. The effort is part of International Polar Year 2007/2008, an internationally coordinated campaign of research in both polar regions designed to help educate the public in the importance of these fragile environments.

It Was 30 Years Ago Today, Captain Stubing Told the Band to Play . . .

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the TV series The Love Boat, Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) -- whose twins Island Princess and Pacific Princess acted as the eponymous boats -- has debuted its own "Department of Romance." Led by dating and romance guru Trish McDermott, couples therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, wedding planner Alba Carreras, and Captain Stubing himself, Gavin MacLeod, the department's mission is to "guide and inspire the line's passengers to rediscover romance and incorporate it into their everyday lives."

"We consider the art of romance so integral to our passenger experience that it makes sense for us to dedicate an entire department to the cause," says Jan Swartz, Princess senior vice president.

Romance options planned to debut during 2007 include:

  • Romance by Room Service: A special presentation of champagne and chocolate, scattered fresh rose petals, flameless scented candles, and a background of romantic music, all delivered to your cabin. You can even get a waiter to serve you dinner on your balcony.
  • "Become a Certified Romantic" Course: Part of Princess's ScholarShip@Sea learning program, this new course offer tools to help couples rediscover romance, as well as tips for sustaining romance after you return home from your cruise.
  • Romance TV: In-stateroom Romance TV programming will feature romance classics like An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle.
  • Daily Romance Advice: The daily Princess Patter activities program will include a romantic tip or quotation every day.
  • Virtual Romance: A new section of the Princess website will be devoted exclusively to the subject of romance, with tips, Q&As, resource information for romantic travelers, articles from the department experts, etc.
  • Romance Report: A semi-annual "Princess Romance Report" will include facts, stats and forecasted trends written by the department's romance experts.

These programs will be launched aboard the new Emerald Princess, which debuts this coming April.

The Scholar Ship Gets a Ship

Late last year we reported on The Scholar Ship (tel. 410/962-7344; www.thescholarship.com), an oceangoing campus that will offer 16-week voyage/semesters to international students beginning in September 2007, backed by Royal Caribbean and six international universities. At the time, the concept was in place but not the hardware. Now, though, we've learned that the venture has chartered a classic 1966-built liner for the job. Originally sailing as Kungsholm for the Swedish America Line, she later served as Sea Princess for P&O/Princess (1975Â?1998), Victoria for P&O Cruises (1998Â?2002), and Mona Lisa for now-defunct German cruise line Holiday Kreuzfahrten (2002Â?2006). Built by the great John Brown and Company shipyard at Clydebank, Scotland, she's a total classic, one of the few great old ocean liners still sailing today.

"Finding a vessel we could transform into an oceangoing campus was a unique challenge," said Michael Bonner, The Scholar Ship's COO. "We wanted a ship with ample public space, expansive outdoor deck areas, comfortable staterooms, and appropriately sized rooms to conduct classes. After nearly a year of reviewing dozens of alternatives, we found a vessel that is ideally suited for our program. It is a classic ocean liner with a deep-draft hull, spacious rooms, and decks designed specifically for longer global voyages."

The 660-foot vessel will be renamed The Scholar Ship and be configured to accommodate 600 undergraduate and graduate students plus faculty in a multicultural academic and living environment. She'll make her maiden voyage in September 2007, sailing from Piraeus, Greece, to Lisbon (Portugal), Panama City (Panama), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Papeete, (Tahiti), Suva (Fiji), Sydney (Australia), Shanghai (China), and Okinawa and Kobe (Japan). The ship will remain in port for up to six days, allowing time for extensive educational opportunities through academic field study, excursion, and independent travel. The January 2008 voyage will depart Kobe and call on Shanghai, Singapore, Cochin (India), Port Victoria (Seychelle Islands), Cape Town (South Africa), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Casablanca (Morocco), Barcelona (Spain), and Piraeus (Greece).

The program's academic curriculum has been developed by the University of California, Berkeley (USA), Macquarie University (Australia), Fudan University (China), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), Al Akhawayn University (Morocco), the University of Ghana, and Cardiff University (UK). Students receive academic credit through Macquarie University.

Program fees are approximately $20,000 per semester, and a $2-million scholarship fund has been established for the 2007/2008 academic year to broaden the availability of this program to students from diverse backgrounds.

Regent Plans Radisson Diamond Reunion Cruise

In June 2005, the 350-passenger Radisson Diamond, the very first ship operated by Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (now Regent Seven Seas; tel. 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com), was finally retired from the line's fleet. The decision was a blow to the little ship's many fans, who appreciated her quirkiness. Basically a gigantic catamaran, she rides 28 feet above the water, balanced on a pair of slim, pontoon-like hulls. Inside, her decor was understated and her mood homey. As one ten-time Diamond cruiser told us a few years back, "She's as comfortable as an old shoe."

Diamond is now sailing as a gambling ship in Hong Kong, so you could always go drop a few yuan if you want to relive the magic . . . or you could sign on to Regent Seven Seas Mariner's 10-night eastern Caribbean cruise departing on March 30 and designated as an official Radisson Diamond reunion cruise. Special reunion events will be held on board, with familiar faces from Diamond's crew in attendance, including cruise director Tony Sher, hotel director Fabrizio Caviglione, and the host and singers from the ship's much-missed Italian alternative restaurant, Don Vito's.

The Diamond reunion cruise sails round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting San Juan, St. Barts, St. Maarten, Virgin Gorda, Cayo Levantado (Dominican Republic), and Grand Turk. Fares start at $3,948, and kids 17 or younger sail free when sharing a cabin with two regular passengers.

Royal Caribbean's Majesty Gets Full-Body Facelift

Following the lead of sister-ships Monarch, Sovereign, and Empress, Royal Caribbean's 2,390-passenger Majesty of the Seas has just returned from a month-long makeover designed to bring the 1992-built vessel into the 21st century. Changes include:

  • A complete overhaul of the guest suites and staterooms: Majesty's suites were all fully rebuilt, with new wall linings, cabinetry, fixtures, and fittings. Standard staterooms were outfitted with new mirrors, wood cappings, and decorative rails. All cabins got new flat-screen TVs, new bathroom hardware, WiFi access for laptop users, and all-new bedding, which includes new non-sag mattress frames, nine-inch-thick spring mattresses with separate two-inch-thick micro-fiber pillow tops, 220-thread-count cotton-blend sheets, micro-fiber pillows, and duvet with cotton-blend covers.
  • New casual dining options: The new Windjammer Marketplace is an extension of the line's usual Windjammer Cafe buffet restaurants, with added options to produce a kind of food-court effect. New on Majesty are the Compass Deli for sandwiches, soups, made-to-order salads, paninis, crepes, and energy drinks; Sorrento's Italian pizzeria; and Johnny Rockets, offering burgers and shakes in a diner atmosphere. Also new to Majesty are Cafe Latte-tudes, featuring extra-cost Seattle's Best Coffee, and the Freeze ice cream parlor.
  • More spa and fitness options: The expanded Majesty Day Spa and ShipShape Fitness Center has been relocated one deck lower, taking the space previously occupied by the "On Your Toes" nightclub and Adventure Ocean children's center. The new spa features ten treatment rooms, a relaxation area, and a beauty salon with a barber station, two experienced hair stylists, manicure and pedicure stations, and a teeth-whitening room. Meanwhile, the ShipShape Fitness Center got a new aerobics floor and new stationary bikes to accommodate spinning and fitness classes.
  • New kids' center: The new, more colorful Adventure Ocean youth center offers learn/play experiences crafted in partnership with Crayola, Fisher Price, and Lowe's. Teens gained two rooms in the Majesty makeover: the Fuel Nightclub and a hangout lounge called the Living Room.
  • New Latin-themed bar: Royal Caribbean has installed the Latin bar Boleros aboard all of its recent and recently refurbished ships. Located at Majesty's forward end, it serves up mojitos and caipirhinas along with live Latin music.

Other changes included a spiffing-up of the main dining rooms, theater, pool deck, conference rooms, casino, Schooner Bar, Viking Crown Lounge, Centrum shop facades, and other primary public areas.

The newly transformed ship resumes her usual year-round 3- and 4-night Bahamas itineraries, sailing from Miami.

Cunard ♥ New York

New York was always intended to be the main western port for Queen Mary 2, so much so that her designers specced her height based on that of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which spans the entrance to New York Harbor. (The bridge provides 216 feet of clearance from the waterline, giving QM2 a razor-thin but safe 13 feet of breathing room even in the worst possible conditions--the highest tide, the hottest bridge-sagging weather, and the lightest the ship could possibly sail.) Since April 2006 QM2 has made her home at the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, embracing the Borough of Kings just as New York's arts community has over the past decade.

For QM2's winter 2007Â?2008 season, Cunard has planned twelve 10-night voyages to the Caribbean from the Big Apple, as well as two 13-night sailings to Panama and the Caribbean and one 14-night Caribbean Celebration voyage featuring Christmas Day at sea and New Year's Eve in the port of St. Thomas. The ship's fast, ocean-liner speed allows her to reach even distant southern Caribbean ports like Barbados on 10-night itineraries. Fares start from $1,499 per person, double occupancy.

In related news, Cunard has announced at QM2 will be the venue this spring for a gala "Britannia Ball" benefiting the New York City Opera and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She'll be docked overnight for the event, which will feature cocktails, dinner, dancing to Peter Duchin and his orchestra, and a special performance by Tony Award winner Patti LuPone.

Cunard Line's President Carol Marlow commented, "The Britannia Ball reflects our company's enormous regard for artists and the performing arts institutions that create vibrant destinations throughout the world. We are honored to partner with City Opera and BAM, two organizations that embody the excitement and innovation of the arts in New York."

Tickets for the Britannia Ball are $1,000, while $2,500 will buy you a VIP ticket that includes access to the cocktail reception and preferred seating for the performance and dinner. Those interested may call BAM Patron Services at tel. 718/636-4182.

Finally, the New York Economic Development Corporation has begun compiling a directory of local suppliers that will be available to cruise lines operating at either the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal or the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, encouraging them to provision their ships using New YorkÂ?based food and beverage distributors.

"Take it from me, good food and drink is the heart and soul of a quality cruise," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "The expansion of the cruise ship industry in New York, including Brooklyn's new terminal, creates important new opportunities for food and beverage companies, whose growth is critical to our city's future. Full steam ahead!"

Residential Cruise Line Plans World's Largest Condo Ship

Sailing for a week or two each year not enough for you? Maybe it's time to go condo. Over the past decade, several condo-ship ventures have been floated in the market, most visibly the ResidenSea and its all-condo ship The World. Now another venture, Residential Cruise Line Ltd. (tel. 480/497-8833; www.residentialcruiseline.com), has taken the first steps toward joining the competition, signing a memorandum of understanding with international shipbuilder Aker Yards to construct Magellan, the world's largest residential cruise ship.

Designed by the acclaimed Norwegian firm of Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten Architects A.S., Magellan offers fractional and full ownership of residences and penthouses, plus such public amenities as a retractable marina, on-call private Bell 429 helicopters, a 450-seat satellite-broadcast-capable theater, and 24-hour on-call concierge service. Full-ownership residences range in price from $1,875,000 to $8,940,000, while fractional-ownership residences -- a sort of luxe timeshare, with each owner entitled to one month of residence per year -- start at $156,250.

"We selected Aker Yards as our shipyard of choice for their proven track record of building world-class, sophisticated and innovative ships," said Residential Cruise Line CEO Randall B. Jackson. "The memorandum of understanding is our first step in building the most luxurious residential cruise ship ever built."

The finalization of the project is subject to the completion of financing.

Carnival Names New Ship, Honors Longtime President

Want to judge the mood of the country? Look at Carnival's ship names. Between 2001 and 2005, when the country was in a gung-ho spirit, the line churned out Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, and Carnival Liberty. Now that the national mood has, uh, changed, we see that the two vessels scheduled to debut in 2009 and 2011 have been dubbed Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic. Escapism, anyone?

The two new vessels, each accommodating 3,652 passengers and having an overall size of 130,000 gross register tons, will be the largest in Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet.

Meanwhile, the man who's been at or near the helm of Carnival since it offered its first cruise, president and CEO Bob Dickinson, has just passed his 35-year anniversary with the company, which was celebrated with a surprise party at the company's Miami headquarters. Dickinson joined Carnival on February 14, 1972, as executive vice president. He was named president in 1993 and CEO in 2003.

easyCruise Moves One Step Closer to Being a Normal Cruise Line

When easyCruise (tel. 650/385-0563; www.easycruise.com) started up in 2005, it seemed intent on throwing out everything about the normal cruise experience and starting over: You could board at any port you like, stay aboard as many or few days as you like, and pay only for your cabin upfront (with onboard meals available a la carte). There were no inane activities either, since pretty much the whole thing was designed as a vehicle for getting passengers to various ports. Super-late departures gave you extra time in those ports too.

Much of that is still the case, but an announcement this week just sound so "cruisy" that it makes us worry that easyCruise is getting sucked into the traditional zeitgeist.

So what is this fresh horror? Spa treatments. Beginning February 16, easyCruiseOne will introduce onboard spa services offered in collaboration with Apivita, Greece's leading producer of natural skin-care products.

easyCruise founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou remarked, "The easyCruise concept is designed for independent travelers who seek both and exciting nightlife as well as an adventurous daytime. The introduction of a spa will allow our passengers the opportunity to relax and pamper themselves during their downtime."

But Stelios, I ask you, why not something really different, like, say, onboard zourkhaneh training? Or at least tai chi fan dancing?

The easyCruise spa menu will include facial priced at $20 and $40, massages priced from $10 to $70, manicures at $12 to $20, and pedicures from $17 to $25.

Majestic America Lifts Lid on New Enrichment Program

Majestic America Line (tel. 800/434-1232; www.majesticamericaline.com), the new river and coastal company formed last year by the combination of Delta Queen Steamboat Company and American West Steamboat Company, has released the first details of its new onboard enrichment program, which in 2007 will bring more than 28 regional experts aboard the line's seven ships, including noted photographers, historians, storytellers, and wildlife experts.

Majestic America Line sails exclusively on the Mississippi, Ohio, and tributary rivers; on the Pacific Northwest's Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers; and in Alaska's Inside Passage. On sailings through the heartland, representatives of the National Eagle Center in Red Wing and Winona, Minnesota, may come aboard to conduct presentations featuring a rehabilitated bald eagle. On the Lower Mississippi, guests may be treated to a display of historical photos depicting the history of Natchez, Mississippi, and Southern history dating back to the 1840s. In Alaska's Tracy Arm Fjord, National Park Rangers will rendezvous with Empress of the North and Contessa via kayak and sail aboard the ship offering commentary on the area's natural wonders. In addition to regional guests, a group of full-time "enrichment ambassadors" will sail throughout each voyage, pointing out sites of interest along the river, commenting on wildlife, and making themselves available to answer passenger questions.

"We believe that every Majestic America Line journey is an opportunity to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our guests," said line president David A. Giersdorf. "To help make that happen, we've put together an enrichment program that will engage our guests in some of the most fascinating aspects of our country and inspire them to create a personal connection with each destination."

Crystal Golf Cruise to Feature Legendary Scottish and Irish Courses

Attention golfers: on August 20, the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony of luxe line Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; www.crystalcruises.com) will depart on a special 11-night golf cruise of the British Isles. Sailing from London, the trip will offer optional 18-hole play at St. Andrews' Jubilee Course (Edinburgh), The K Club (Dublin), The Harbour Point Golf Club (Cork), and Royal Belfast Golf Club (Belfast). The trip will also include onboard lectures, golf clinics, and parties featuring Emmy-winning CNN/Sports Illustrated journalist Jim Huber, two-time U.S. Open champion Billy Casper, and veteran PGA golf pro John Clark. Golfers taking part in the optional golf excursions will enjoy 45-minute warm-up sessions where available, a Hole-in-One competition, exclusive golfers-only parties on board, and the option of pre-reserving all of their golf excursions online prior to departing.

Cruise fares start at $4,755 per person, double occupancy, with golf excursions entailing extra fees.

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