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Princess Gets into the Music Business

Just in case your iPod downloads are lacking, Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS; www.princess.com) has released a music CD of island classics, including Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and Tito Puente. The compact disc is the first of a series of themed CDs from Princess that they'll hawk from the fleet's onboard shops (this one sells for $14.95). The songs represent a wide variety of local musical styles and unique instruments, from reggae beats to Latin jazz, steel drums and the ukulele.

"We wanted this CD to offer passengers an enjoyable way to take a bit of their vacation home with them," said Jan Swartz, Princess' senior vice president of customer service and sales. 

Featured tunes include: "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" by Jimmy Cliff, "So Nice (Summer Samba)" by Bebel Gilberto, "Segura Ele" by Andy Narell, "Corner Stone (Patchworks Remix)" by Bob Marley, "Watermelon Man" by Mongo Santamaria, "O Barquinho (My Little Boat)" by Karrin Allyson, "You Can Get It If You Really Want" by Desmond Dekker, "Little Grass Shack" by Ohta-San, "Evil Ways" by Cal Tjader & Carmen McRae, "Jamaica Farewell" by Alfred St. John's Trinidad & Tobago Steelband, "Oye Como Va" by Tito Puente and "Mas Que Nada" by Salomé de Bahia.

NCV Looks Ahead to 2007

Norwegian Coastal Voyage (tel. 800/323-7436; www.norwegiancoastalvoyage.us) has just released its 2007 brochure, with highlights including a new air-inclusive 16-day escorted "Scandinavian Smorgasbord" cruise tour package combining an exploration of Sweden and Norway with a six-day southbound voyage along Norway's coast. Rates range from $4,699 to $7,169 per person, double occupancy, and include transatlantic flights from New York, first-class hotels, deluxe motorcoaches, trains, most meals, the coastal voyage and port charges. 

Three new air-inclusive theme trips featured for next year include: the seven-day "Killer Whale Safari" in Tromso, Svolvaer and Oslo, with the focus on viewing orcas as they breach, lobtail and hunt (October-Dec); the nine-day "Sami Encounters" that offers an in-depth look at the ancient Sami culture, visits to a reindeer farm as well as time exploring Oslo, Kirkenes, Karasjok and Lapland (November-December); and the seven-day "Alta Igloo Hotel" package, which includes an overnight stay in the ice hotel and time in Oslo, Kirkenes and the North Cape (January-February). Prices are $2,149 to $3,369.

A pair of new pre-/post-packages in 2007 includes a seven-day package exploring Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo ("Scandinavian Capitals"); or a six-day tour St. Petersburg and Helsinki tour ("St. Petersburg Express") with a train trip between them. Two others take in Norway's best-known fjords with two days on either the Sognefjord or the Hardangerfjord; one offers a "Taste of Lapland," above the Arctic Circle for three days; another sends guests on a Gota Canal cruise -- seven days between Gothenburg and Stockholm; and the. Prices range from $499 to $3,019.

The promotional offers above can be combined with additional discounts, including AARP membership discounts; a senior savings for passengers 67 and older of $75 to $135 per person on most programs except in June and July; or a  $75 to $150 per person discount on the cruise-only fare of the six-, seven- and 12-day sailings between Bergen and Kirkenes for repeat cruisers who have sailed at least once since 2000; and a waived single supplement in selected cabin categories from Jan 1-April 30 and Sep 1-Dec 31.

Crystal Explores Asia

Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; www.crystalcruises.com) is introducing more than three dozen new land excursions upon its return to Asia in 2007. Between late March and May, the elegant 940-passenger Crystal Symphony is offering four 11- to -16-night Asia cruises that will visit 17 cities in nine different countries, including a maiden call at Chan May, Vietnam. Cruise fares begin at $4,295 per person, double occupancy. The port adventure options include: 

  • Culinary excursions including a Kagoshima exploration to learn about the brewing of rice vinegar and liquors and visits to local produce markets in Hong Kong and Vietnam in conjunction with regional cooking demonstrations.
  • Two- and three-night overland adventures to Hanoi, Angkor Wat and Laos.
  • Canoeing and snorkeling off the coast of Thailand.
  • Visits to the imperial city of Hue and the preserved, ancient Vietnamese seaport Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • A Mumbai Jewish heritage journey to the Gateway of India, Knesseth Eliahod Synagogue, the Magen David Synagogue and Magen Hassidin Synagogue, as well as a visit to the fascinating local laundry called the dhobi ghats.
  • Restorative hot springs soaks in Taiwan and energizing spa treatments at the Cheraim Spa in Thailand.

You Can Hear Me Now Â? Aboard the Wind Surf

Windstar Cruises (tel. 800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com) will offer cell phone service at sea on all three of its ships beginning with the 308-passenger Wind Surf in mid December just after a scheduled drydock. Windstar has contracted with Wireless Maritime Services for a roaming network on board its three yachts, and it will be installed on the 148-guest Wind Spirit in April 2007 and on its sister ship Wind Star in December 2007.

Guests will be able to make and receive calls or text messages while at sea using their own mobile phone. No special software is needed, but guests will need to check that their phone is enabled for International roaming with their cellular carrier, and the carrier must have a roaming agreement with Wireless Maritime Services. The network supports phones with GSM and CDMA technology. Charges will be determined by the guest's cellular service carrier and will appear on their regular monthly phone bill.

To make sure the ships won't feel too much like the office back home, talking on cell phones will not be permitted in public areas such as dining areas or lounges, and guests will be asked to set their phone's ringer to vibrate when in public areas.

As part of the line's Degrees of Difference initiative, all three ships will get a multi-million dollar facelift in 2006 and 2007. Upcoming work on the Wind Surf will include improvements to the WindSpa, the creation of two new suites, renovated bathrooms, and a new gathering spot on the main deck called the Yacht Club. Details are still to be announced for the Wind Star and Wind Spirit.

Stelios Cruises in His Own Back Yard

EasyCruise (tel. 650/385-0563; www.easycruise.com) has announced the easyCruiseOne is bound for Greece in the summer of 2007, visiting easyCruise founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou's home country of Greece. Ports include Athens, Mykonos, Paros and Ios as well as the unspoiled islands of Milos, Amorgos, Naxos, Folegandros, Sifnos and Serifos. First launching on May 31, 2007 from Athens, the new itinerary will allow you to book anything from a weekend break to a two-week holiday visiting 11 different ports. Fares are starting at less than $167 per person for a ten-night cruise, based on double occupancy.

Carnival Spreads the Fun Around

Beginning in June of next year, Carnival's (tel. 800/CARNIVAL; www.carnival.com) launching the first year-round service out of San Diego when it puts the 2,052-passenger Elation there to do 78 annual four- and five-night Baja California cruises. The ship will move from Port Canaveral, Fla. (Carnival has no plans to replace the ship there), where it currently sails year-round to the Bahamas. The Elation departs Thursdays on four-night cruises to Cabo San Lucas, and on Mondays and Saturdays on five nighters to Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, on a rotating schedule with fares starting as low as $339 per person.

In other Carnival news, the line's 2,056-passenger Fantasy returned to New Orleans late last month, a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the now recovering city. The ship's doing year-round alternating four-night cruises departing Thursdays and calling at Cozumel, and five nighters leaving Mondays and Saturdays and visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya. Fares start at $299 per person based on double occupancy. Fleetmate Carnival Triumph is also being based year-round in New Orleans beginning in Aug 2007 to do seven-night sailings, with rates starting at $529 per person.

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