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Got it! Thank you! Cruise News Roundup for the Week of October 25, 2007

A brand new Queen Elizabeth, yet another new ship from Costa, Lindblad breaks some ice, Hank Aaron sets sail, and more news from the seven seas.

Cunard to Build Brand-New Queen Elizabeth

Just like people, some cruise lines have big families and some lines have small families. On the one hand there's Costa Cruises, which seems to pop out a new megaship every few months. On the other there's Cunard (tel. 800/728-6273;, which goes the yuppie route: Wait 'til the time is right and the market is good, then name the baby after your favorite aunt.

Last week, the venerable old line that brought us Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2, and Queen Mary and Queen Mary 2, and the soon-to-be-launched Queen Victoria announced that it will soon begin construction on a new vessel to replace the great QE2, which will leave the fleet to become a floating hotel in Dubai in November 2008. The new vessel will be named Queen Elizabeth -- not QE3, possibly in recognition that no ship can replace QE2 once she's gone.

The new queen will be built by the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, will carry 2,092 passengers, and will sail her first itineraries in autumn 2010.

"The decision to order another ship for Cunard Line has been taken as a result of the strong booking response to the new Queen Victoria," said company president Carol Marlow, "and we are extremely pleased that Cunard will once again become a three-ship fleet so soon after the departure of the much-celebrated Queen Elizabeth 2 in November next year. Furthermore, we are delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given her blessing to our calling this new Cunarder Queen Elizabeth, after our first vessel of that name."

Costa Lays Keel of Costa Luminosa, Orders Two More Ships for Good Measure

Like we said about Costa (tel. 800/GO-COSTA;, the line procreates like a teenage bunny. Earlier this month, it celebrated the keel laying of the new 92,700-ton, 2,260-passenger Costa Luminosa at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. The keel laying marks the day when the first section of a new vessel is moved into the building dock.

Due for delivery in Spring 2009, Costa Luminosa will feature the highest number of veranda accommodations in the Costa fleet (68%), boast a pool deck with a retractable dome that covers two pools, have an extra-large spa, and offer a Grand Prix driving simulator and an 18-hole championship golf course simulator.

A sister-ship to Luminosa is scheduled to enter service in March 2010. Meanwhile, Costa Pacifica, a 114,500-ton, 3,780-passenger sister ship to Costa Concordia and Costa Serena, is scheduled to leave the Genoa -- Sestri Ponente yard in Spring 2009 along with Costa Luminosa.

But why stop there? On October 18, Costa announced that it had ordered an additional two sister-ships to Concordia, Serena, and Pacifica, to be delivered by Fincantieri in 2011 and 2012.

"By ordering two additional ships for our fleet of twelve, plus three ordered previously, we are not only reinforcing our position as the market leader in Italy and Europe, but also responding to the increasing demand for our product from our customers across the globe," said Pier Luigi Foschi, Chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere S.p.A. "We are very pleased to have Fincantieri build these two new Concordia class ships and to enjoy our continued successful relationship."

The two new orders bring the total number of new vessels built or ordered by Costa since 2000 to thirteen. By 2012, when the last of the new orders is completed, the Costa fleet will be 17 strong and have a total guest capacity of approximately 36,700, double occupancy.

Lindblad Expeditions Buys Ice-Class Polar Vessel

Lindblad Expeditions (tel. 800/EXPEDITION;, the up-market, small-ship line that operates in partnership with the National Geographic Society, has announced its purchase of the 150-passenger Lyngen, built in 1982 for Norwegian coastal company Hurtigruten. To be renamed National Geographic Explorer, the ship will be extensively renovated before sailing her first Lindblad itineraries in summer 2008, adding such features as multiple dining venues, a lounge area for educational presentations, a spa, and exploratory gear such as zodiac landing craft, kayaks, hydrophones, underwater cameras, and a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). Interested parties will be able to chart the ship's renovation on the LEX website ( via weekly updates from the shipyard.

The ship's name is a tribute to Lindblad Travel's first vessel, which was commissioned in 1969 by Lars-Eric Lindblad, father of Lindblad Expeditions' founder and president, Sven Lindblad.

"Adding the National Geographic Explorer to our fleet of ships enables us to bring to life, in the fullest sense, the name of my father's first ship, but with all of the best tools for exploring and the comfort of a 21st-century expedition ship," said Sven Lindblad. "This vessel will not only explore the remote corners of the world, but with our partners at the National Geographic Society, we hope to positively impact these regions through guest involvement in scientific research and conservation."

The vessel will be deployed from the Arctic next summer and will sail to Greenland, Iceland, the Canadian Arctic, and down the east coast of the United State before sailing to Antarctica via the west coast of South America.

Azamara Cruises Introduces Second Ship, Azamara Quest

Azamara Cruises (tel. 877/999-9553;, the near-luxury line started by parent company Celebrity Cruises earlier this year, is now officially a two-ship company. On October 22, the 694-guest Azamara Quest set sail from Miami for its first cruise.

Quest is a nearly identical sister-ship to Azamara Journey. Both vessels were built in 2000 for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, and were acquired in late 2006 from the Spanish company Pullmantur. Just a few months later, Celebrity announced its intention to use them as the core of a brand-new cruise line, dedicated to offering exotic, destination-driven cruises, with an onboard vibe somewhere between upper-mainstream and luxury.

The vessel arrived in Miami October 19 following a nearly $20- million makeover that transformed 48 staterooms into 32 larger suites; added two new alternative restaurants; transformed several public areas; expanded the spa; added a new art collection; and replaced carpets, exterior decking, and cabin soft goods throughout. For 2007/2008, she'll sail itineraries in the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Southeast Asia.

Read "Celebrity Grabs for the Brass Ring with New Azamara Brand" for a complete review of Azamara.

And Speaking of Pullmantur . . .

One might wonder what Spanish line Pullmantur ( got out of being bought by Royal Caribbean, which had no sooner inked the deal than it announced it was taking away the line's two best ships. Well, first they got Celebrity's old Zenith, a fine midsize vessel that no longer fit with Celebrity's megaship fleet. Now comes word that Royal Caribbean will give the Spanish line its own Sovereign of the Seas, the very first ship that was tagged with the term "megaship" when it launched back in 1988.

Sovereign of the Seas' last scheduled sailing for RCI will be on October 31, 2008. Two subsequent cruises, scheduled for November 3 and 7, will be canceled. Guests booked on those cruises will receive a full refund and an onboard credit for rebooking an earlier Sovereign of the Seas sailing during 2008 (excluding holidays). Monarch of the Seas, currently sailing from Los Angeles, will take over Sovereign's popular short sailings out of Port Canaveral as of November 10, 2008. Guests currently booked on Monarch's west coast sailings after October 13 will receive a full refund and an onboard credit for rebooking a 3-, 4-, or 5-night Caribbean sailing or a 7-night Mexican Riviera sailing in 2008 (excluding holidays).

Royal Caribbean has established a toll-free help desk (tel. 888/281-9344) to assist guests whose booked vacations are impacted by the ship switcheroo.

Baseball Great Hank Aaron to Sail with Crystal

Hero-worship time: To start off 2008, Crystal Cruises (tel. 888/799-4625; has snagged Hall of Fame baseball legend Hank Aaron to sail on Crystal Serenity's January 4 Panama Canal cruise, from Miami to Los Angeles. During the cruise, Mr. Aaron will speak about his time in baseball, do a question-and-answer session, and give passengers the chance to be photographed with him.

"The legend of Hank Aaron extends beyond the baseball field," says Bret Bullock, Crystal's vice president of entertainment. "Mr. Aaron is a gentleman who continues to be a role model for athletes and non-athletes of all ages. Crystal Cruises is honored to feature such an important figure in U.S. history."

The 15-day cruise calls in Grand Cayman, Cartagena (Colombia), Caldera (Costa Rica), and Puerto Chiapas, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas (Mexico). Fares begin at $4,495 per person, double occupancy.

Holland America's Rotterdam to Offer World Cruise in 2009

World cruises are really the ultimate, archetypal cruises -- the dream vacation that just goes on and on and on. For 2009, Holland America Line (tel. 800/522-3399; will offer a 117-day spectacular aboard the 1,316-passenger Rotterdam, the most classically styled vessel in the HAL fleet.

Departing from Los Angeles on January 19, 2009, the ship will sail a westbound route through the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, then on to the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, and Africa before making calls in the Caribbean en route back to Fort Lauderdale and New York. In all, Rotterdam will cover more than 35,100 nautical miles; sail on 15 different oceans, seas, bays, channels, and straits; and visit 39 ports in 27 countries across 5 continents. Guests can choose to debark in Fort Lauderdale on May 13 or in New York on May 16. Several segments of the journey, ranging from 22 to 69 days, are available for those wanting a shorter journey.

SeaDream Yacht Club Introduces "Signature Beds"

Ever since 1999, when Westin Hotels introduced its Heavenly Bed concept, the hospitality industry has been hot for sheets. Latest onto that long bandwagon train is ultra-luxe line SeaDream Yacht Club (tel. 800/707-4911;, which last week began touting the "Sweet Dreams Signature Beds" it's busy installing on the twin 110-passenger mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream III. Think thick mattresses and pillow tops fitted with Belgian linens, guest's choice of woolen blankets or duvets, and foam or down pillows. To up the comfy, all SeaDream guests receive complimentary blue-and-white, two-piece cotton pajamas with their names monogrammed on the tops.

Snuggly. The beds will be in place on the yachts by November.

MSC to Introduce First-Class Section on New Megaships

When MSC Cruises (tel. 800/666-9333; introduces its new 135,000-ton, 3,900-passenger Fantasia and Splendida in November 2008 and spring 2009, it will also introduce a new concept for the Italian line: a first-class section. Called the MSC Yacht Club, it will consist of 99 suites, a first-class bar, a solarium, two Jacuzzis, a pool with a skydome, and an observation lounge, all for the sole use of Yacht Club passengers. Suite guests will also get the service of a butler who's on call 24 hours a day, with each butler responsible for five suites. Butlers can perform such tasks as transporting luggage; unpacking and organizing; serving tea after 5 o'clock and en suite meals on request; securing cigars, wines, liquors, and champagne; booking spa treatments; reserving a table at the restaurants; reserving excursions; and organizing parties.

The butler program is being overseen by Giovanni Mautone, MSC's Dining Services Manager and a graduate of The International Butler Academy in Warnsveld, Netherlands.

Do I sense a new trend at sea? Possibly. With Cunard also planning a first-class area for its new Queen Victoria and lines across the spectrum offering VIP and concierge lounges for their suite passengers, "exclusivity" (i.e., excluding you and me) is definitely in the air.

Silversea Schedules Viking Cooking School Cruises for 2008

Introduced in August of this year, the Viking Cooking School at Silversea Cruises (tel. 877/215-9986; is a partnership with the Viking Range Corporation, maker of super-pricey stoves, refrigerators, grills, cookware, cutlery, and kitchen accessories -- the kind you see in the movies, when you're supposed to know the characters are rich, rich, rich. On Silversea's vessels, Viking chefs come aboard to present a curriculum designed to match the ship's itinerary. Highlights include cooking demonstrations with wine pairings, Q&A sessions, a "Lunch and Learn" event giving groups of 12 to 16 guests a chance to sample a meal of specially prepared dishes, and a "Market to the Plate" experience that provides an escorted tour of a local market followed by a cooking class.

For 2008, the Viking Cooking School will be offered on a dozen voyages:

  • 14-night Africa/Middle East, Feb. 23: Silver Cloud sails from Mahe to Dubai, with calls in Praslin, Salalah, Muscat, Fujairah, Khasab, Bahrain, Doha, and Abu Dhabi. Silver Sailing fares start at $5,097 per person, double occupancy.
  • 15-night Africa/Middle East, April 20: Silver Whisper sails from Dubai to Athens, with calls in Fujairah, Salalah, Jeddah, Safaga, Aqaba, and Sharm el Sheikh. Early Booking Incentive fares start at $6,296.
  • 18-night Africa, Dec. 2: Silver Wind sails from Las Palmas to Cape Town, with calls in Dakar, Banjul, Walvis Bay, Cape Verde Islands and Bom Bom Island. Advance Payment Bonus fares start at $7,471.
  • 15-night Panama Canal, May 16: Silver Shadow sails from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles, with calls in Cartagena, the San Blas Island, Costa Rica, Acapulco, Manzanillo, and Puerto Vallarta. Silver Sailing fares start at $4,917.
  • 11-night Mexican Riviera, Sept. 17: Silver Shadow sails from Los Angeles to Costa Rica, with calls in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, and Puerto Quetzal. Silver Sailing fares start at $3,957.
  • 15-night Panama Canal, Nov. 18: Silver Shadow sails from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, with calls in Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Puerto Quetzal, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. Advance Payment Bonus fares start at $6,596.
  • 15-night Northern Europe, Aug. 5: Silver Cloud sails round-trip from Copenhagen, with calls in the Orkney Islands, Lerwick, the Faroe Islands, Reykjavik, Isafjordur, Akureyri, Alesund, Bergen, and Sylt. Advance Payment Bonus fares start at $10,496.
  • 12-night Western Europe, Sept. 10: Silver Windsails from London to Lisbon with calls in Honfleur, St. Malo, Nantes, Belle Ile, Bordeaux, La Coruna, and Oporto. Silver Sailing fares start at $6,357.
  • 15-night South America/Caribbean, Feb. 15: Silver Windsails from Rio de Janeiro to Barbados with calls in Salvador, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Devil's Island, Grenada, and St. Lucia. Silver Sailing fares start at $6,057.
  • 16-night South Pacific, Oct. 24: Silver Shadowsails from Papeete to Los Angeles, with calls in Rangiroa, Nuku Hiva, Hilo, Honolulu, and Lahaina. Advance Payment Bonus fares start at $7,121.
  • 16-night Southeast Asia/Australia, Dec. 4: Silver Whispersails from Singapore to Sydney, with calls in Kura Kura, Bali, Darwin, Thursday Island, Cairns, the Whitsunday Islands, and Brisbane. Silver Sailing fares start at $5,747.
  • 16-night Transatlantic, Nov. 3: Silver Cloudsails from Barcelona to Barbados, with calls in Cadiz, the Canary Islands, Dakar, the Cape Verde Islands, and Grenada. Advance Payment Bonus fares start at $5,586.

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