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Norwegian Coastal's Nordkapp Runs Aground in Antarctica

On Tuesday, January 30, the MS Nordkapp of Norwegian Coastal Voyage (tel. 800/323-7436; www.coastalvoyage.com) struck underwater rocks near Deception Island, Antarctica, suffering minor hull damage. Though the ship and its 294 passengers were in no danger, all passengers were transferred to Nordkapp's sister-ship, MS Nordnorge, within 24 hours and brought to Ushuaia, Argentina, for debarkation. No injuries were reported, but subsequent reports indicated that small amounts (reportedly between 130 and 200 gallons) of light marine diesel fuel were discharged into sensitive Antarctica waters as Nordkapp's situation was being stabilized. At last report, the ship was anchored at Deception Island, surrounded by oil booms, a type of containment barrier used to combat spills.

Crystal and MSC Go Trans-Fat Free

First New York City mandated an end to trans fats in all the city's restaurants, then in early January Royal Caribbean became the first cruise line to move toward removing the "bad cholesterol" enabler from its menus, and now it's looking like a full-blown trend. Effective immediately, luxe line Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; www.crystalcruises.com) and Italian line MSC Cruises (tel. 800/666-9333; www.msccruises.com) have both gone trans-fat free.

Crystal's onboard chefs have removed all trans fats in favor of more than a dozen trans-fat-free oils, including sesame seed, pumpkin seed, walnut seed, corn oil, and several olive oils, providing more healthful and flavorful alternatives. The changes have been incorporated across the menus aboard both the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony and the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity, and include everything from French fries to salad dressings. Crystal's crew galleys have dropped the trans-fats as well, and crew menus are including more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

MSC's anti-trans-fat initiative applies only to the 1,586-passenger Lirica and 1,756-passenger Opera during their Caribbean itineraries, when the majority of their passengers are American.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, trans-fatty acids provide no known benefit to human health, increasing levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") in the blood while simultaneously lowering levels of HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization has recommended that trans fats be limited to less than one percent of overall energy intake.

Norwegian Wind to Leave NCL Fleet, Join Star Under New Name

As part of a long-term plan to completely modernize its once ragtag fleet, Norwegian Cruise Line (tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com) will dispose of the Norwegian Wind this coming June, sending her for service in Asia with NCL parent company Star Cruises (www.starcruises.com). The 50,760-ton vessel will debut in Hong Kong on June 22 under her new name, SuperStar Aquarius, and sail a series of destination cruises to China, including eight two-night cruises to Xiamen and four, two-night cruises to Haikou.

NCL Signs Environmental Agreement with the Port of Los Angeles

Are the cruise lines going green? Just one week after Princess announced an agreement with the Port of Los Angeles to turn off its ships' engines while in port and rely instead on shore-based electricity -- a move designed to reduce emissions and improve air quality -- Norwegian Cruise Line has done the same, agreeing to use the port's Alternative Maritime Power (AMP) program when it becomes active in 2008. In the meantime, NCL's L.A.-based Norwegian Star has begun using only low-sulfur fuel while at the port, and is also participating in L.A.'s Vessel Speed Reduction Program, which limits air emissions by slowing ships to 12 knots or less when within 50 nautical miles of the port.

"We applaud the Port of Los Angeles for their forward-thinking environmental initiatives," said NCL president and CEO Colin Veitch. "We are pleased to be in the forefront of port users in implementing the port's eco-friendly measures."

NCL has completed the initial technical modifications necessary to allow Norwegian Star to allow the use of shore power. A second phase, which includes the installation of the plug-in switchboard, is scheduled to take place by the end of 2007.

Lindblad Wins Award for Sustainable Seafood Program

In 2006, small-ship line Lindblad Expeditions (tel. 800/EXPEDITION; www.expeditions.com) launched its "Seafood for Thought" program, partnering with the sustainability-oriented Marine Stewardship Council (www.msc.org), the Blue Ocean Institute (www.blueocean.org), and the Chefs Collaborative (www.chefscollaborative.org) to be sure its vessels purchase only seafood harvested using methods that cause little damage to ocean ecosystems.

On January 28, the Seafood Choices Alliance (www.seafoodchoices.com), a global trade association dedicated to the issue of ocean-friendly seafood, named Lindblad among the four winners of its 2007 Seafood Champion Award, in recognition of its leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood choices and advancing the marketplace for ocean-friendly seafood.

"These Seafood Champions represent the very best in leadership and vision," said Seafood Choices Alliance director Mike Boots. "They are fostering change both within their companies and across the industry that will allow them to maintain profitable businesses and sell a variety of seafood for years to come. Their investments today to change business operations and reorient purchasing practices are helping ensure a diverse and abundant supply of seafood tomorrow."

Lindblad is the most actively conservation-oriented cruise line in the business, working with environmental organizations around the world to ensure sustainability. The line's founder and president, Sven-Olaf Lindblad, has been the recipient of many environmental awards, including the U.N. Programme Global 500 Award and recognition by Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg for his dedication to the conservation and environmental stewardship of the Galapagos archipelago.

SeaDream Drops South America, Adds Caribbean Itineraries

Ultra-luxe small-ship operator SeaDream Yacht Club (tel. 800/707-4911; www.seadreamyachtclub.com) has had a hard time south of the border. In winter 2005, the line ran a series of cruises visiting Spanish colonial cities and haciendas around Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, but rough seas at some ports put the kibosh on those itineraries. Now comes word that the line will not be repeating the South America cruises it's been offering this season, citing "a multitude of unexpected operational challenges" in the region.

"In light of many factors we have encountered in the region -- the strict cabotage laws, which forced continuous retooling of itineraries, the recessive regulatory environment, the challenges with provisioning and the current internationally publicized crime problems in Brazil -- we have determined that we are unable to consistently deliver our quality product and service to our guests which is, and will continue to be, our highest priority," said SeaDream President, CEO and Co-owner Larry Pimentel.

As a replacement for its winter 2007-2008 season, SeaDream will be offering a series of five- and nine-night Caribbean sailings aboard the 110-passenger SeaDream II, with visiting ports such as Tortola, Peter Island, Jost van Dyke and Anegada (BVIs), St. John and Virgin Gorda (USVIs), Culebrita and Vieques (Puerto Rico), and Saba, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barts. The redeployment will not affect sister-ship SeaDream I, which will continue to operate its published schedules for 2007-2008.

Guests currently booked on affected voyages will be provided the opportunity to rebook on Caribbean or Mediterranean voyages or cancel and receive a full refund.

Silversea to Debut "Priveleged Passage" Program with Buddha Bar DJ, Thai Cuisine

Received wisdom being what it is, we perceive the most luxe of the luxe cruise lines as bastions of tradition, where nothing ever changes. Tell that to Silversea (tel. 877/215-9986; www.silversea.com), which has decided to introduce its new "Privileged Passage" program with Buddha Bar's DJ Ravin and Chiva-Som's chef Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat -- definitely a step away from ultra-traditional.

The "Privileged Passage" program is a luxe version of NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" concept, doing away with formal nights and receptions, dress codes, extended open hours for fitness centers and spas, early embarkation and late disembarkation, personalized shore tours, and more casual-style entertainment. Its debut is now scheduled for roll-out on a test basis aboard Silver Cloud's July 13, 2007 cruise, sailing seven days from Athens to Istanbul. Highlighted will be performances by DJ Ravin, who gained fame as the resident DJ of Paris's renowned Buddha Bar, spinning world music in an eclectic, mesmerizing mix. Cuisine will be in the hands of Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat, executive chef of Thailand's multi-award-winning Chiva-Som luxury health resort. For this cruise, Cheewinsiriwat will present his signature Thai-European fusion cuisine in the restaurants and lead demonstrations and cooking classes.

Off-ship, guests will enjoy three complimentary shore excursions on the island of Mykonos, the whitewashed village of Lindos, and ancient Ephesus. Other port calls include Santorini and Patmos.

Fares for the inaugural "Privileged Passage" voyage start at $5,350 per person, including early-booking discounts.

Princess's New Private Excursions Appeal to Traditional Royal-Family Values

Nothing says "Alaska" like, oh, a chauffeur-driven tour in a stretch SUV, right? That's apparently the thinking behind the new slate of private touring options Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has just unveiled for its summer season. Who knew they took that "Princess" in their name so seriously?

The new private excursions are part of Princess's Adventures Ashore program, which offers a total of 171 Alaska tour options in 2007, including 21 new excursions debuting this season.

"Our guests have become more diverse than ever, and these private adventures offer outstanding new options for the independent-minded traveler," said Charlie Ball, president of Princess Tours. "We're fortunate to have very entrepreneurial Alaskan business partners who love to work with us each year to come up with new and novel ways to explore some of Alaska's most special places."

For 2007, Princess's private excursion options include:

  • A custom Hummer adventure in Juneau or Ketchikan
  • A "Ketchikan by Land" tour in a private stretch SUV
  • A Ketchikan by Sea" tour aboard a private 20-foot open-air skiff
  • A "Ketchikan by Air" tour by private floatplane
  • A tour of Skagway in a restored vintage Cadillac
  • A cruise adventure in Sitka aboard a new 30-foot catamaran

Each tour includes the services of a private guide/chauffeur who lends local expertise and suggests possible routes. Tours can accommodate between four and 10 guests, depending on the excursion, and prices begin at $499 per vehicle.

Windstar's Neamtu Wins Tops Vegetarian Honors at Cruise Chef Competition

The Bacardi "Bartender & Chef" Cruise Competition was established to provide incentives to cruise line bartenders and chefs to create new cocktails and menu items -- using Bacardi products, of course. This year, chef Daryl Neamtu of Windstar Cruises (tel. 800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com) took top honors in the vegetarian category with his beluga lentil and basmati rice cake with sautéed spinach and citrus poached carrots in a Bombay Sapphire gin butter sauce. The dish will soon be added to the menus aboard all three Windstar ships.

"We congratulate Daryl for his initiative in creating such an inventive and delicious vegetarian recipe," said Diane Moore, Windstar's VP of marketing and sales. "His creativity is an asset to the company and I am sure our guests' palates will appreciate his superb skills."

Chef Neamtu will travel to Miami's Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove for an awards gala on March 1, at which he'll receive a $500 cash scholarship for independent study from the Marine Hotel Association, which sponsors the contest in cooperation with Bacardi Global Brands Ltd.

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