Bob Hoelscher

August 20, 2018 Update – Group Cruise News

 
 

Bob Hoelscher
Published August 20, 2018

Welcome!  When asked why I spend so much time at sea (or traveling in general), I usually tell colleagues and acquaintances that if I’m not “on the road” seeking new experiences, I simply don’t have much to write about.  This fall I have an extremely varied itinerary scheduled for over three months continuously, beginning on September 7.  First I’m heading to St. Louis to visit my sister, attend a “70th Birthday Party” for members of my high school class of 1966, and make a Cardinals game.  Next I’ll be driving to New England for some general touring, repeat visits to several National Park units along the way, a meeting with the Scenic folks (new owner of Mayflower Tours, operator of both the Scenic and Emerald Waterways river cruise lines, and soon to launch Scenic Eclipse in January, the company’s first ocean-going “Discovery Yacht”) at their U.S. headquarters in Boston, and attend a few symphony concerts before making it back to Omaha on September 28.   From Nebraska I’ll be escorting a 10-day trip to the Canadian Rockies for one of my consulting clients, and after that trip, fly directly to Barcelona.  Upon arrival in Spain, I’ll meet up with my long-time friend and colleague, ‘Gig’ Gwin (who will arrive from escorting a group in Italy), and drive up to the magnificent medieval walled city of Carcassonne in Southern France for a three-night stay.  While here we also plan to see the Viaduc de Millau (the world’s tallest suspension bridge, with the longest cable-stayed bridge deck in the world, which spans the gorge valley of the Tarn River) and hopefully also tour the massive Airbus assembly plant in Toulouse.

 

Upon our return to Barcelona, we’ll embark on a one-week Pullmantur (primarily a value-oriented Spanish-language line, but they also communicate in English) Zenith (formerly of Celebrity Cruises) sailing to less-visited ports on Menorca, Corsica, and in Italy.  Next, Gig and I will fly to Muscat and spend a couple of nights in Oman before what is sure to be a luxurious 18 days aboard Silversea Cruises’ flagship Silver Muse, bound for Singapore with stops in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.  From Singapore, Gig will fly home, while I’ll head back to Barcelona for a couple of nights in town before another Pullmantur week-long cruise to more standard ports in Italy and Spain, this time aboard Sovereign (previously Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas).  On November 9, I’ll disembark Sovereign and immediately board MSC Cruises’ brand-new and reportedly spectacular megaliner, MSC Seaview, for another 18-day voyage, this one to Brazil, with en route stops in Spain, Portugal, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and three in Brazil before arriving in Santos, the port for São Paulo.  From here I’ll fly to Vancouver and spend a couple of nights to simply relax before returning to my Washington home on December 10.  Whew!

 

 

AIDA Cruises is touting the entertainment options to be found aboard the new AIDAnova, which is scheduled to enter service this November.  The new vessel will boast a total of 13 different venues offering a host of new entertainment formats exclusive to the ship, as well as existing AIDA shows such “AIDA Stars”, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Voice of the Ocean.”  The heart of AIDAnova, the “Theatrium,” will feature 11 LED walls, seven different laser shows and an LED tube including an “artist elevator,” and the evening “Showtime!” program on the 360° stage is being specifically tailored to the ship’s technical refinements.  Elsewhere, on a fall trip of AIDAprima to the Orient, guests will have the opportunity to get to know the world of motorsport in Abu Dhabi.  An available two-day pass for November 24 and 25 will include both the qualifying event and the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, the last race of the 2018 World Cup series.  World-class concerts at the Du-Arena on both evenings are also available.  In other news relating to AIDAnova, for the first time in the history of the company, an entire family will christen a new ship, as the Mirza family from Hanau in Hesse was selected from hundreds of applicants by a jury.  On August 31, Sonja and Asad Mirza with their children Sophia (age two) and Adrian (age three) will serve as AIDANova’s “Godfamily.”  25,000 spectators are expected to witness the event on the grounds of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg.  Interestingly enough, the Mirzas will also celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary on the same day.  Next, as reported previously, it has been AIDA’s aim to reduce emissions from its entire fleet as much as possible, supporting the climate objectives of the Paris Accord and the International Maritime Organization by investing millions of euros every year in the development and practical implementation of new, efficient environmental technologies.  As such, AIDA has been pioneering the development of alternative drive systems for years.  The company has already invested heavily in liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a propulsion technology, and by 2023, more than half of the line’s guests will be traveling on ships operating entirely or partially on low-emission LNG.  Currently, LNG in in use in port operations with dual-fuel engines aboard AIDAprima and AIDAperla, and AIDAnova will operate beginning this November as the world’s first cruise ship operating 100% on low-emission LNG, both in port and at sea.  By 2023, two more AIDA ships of this new generation will follow, also to be constructed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg.  And on a different topic completely, eight young people began three-year training regimens with the company on August 1st at the AIDA Customer Center in Rostock.  Trainees in tourism management, event management and office management are currently undergoing a one-month training and on-the-job training phase known as onboarding.  Next, from September 13 to 15, a major project will follow when 50 travel agency apprentices from all over Germany come to Rostock for the “EXPI YOU Power Days,” during which budding travel agents will be trained in workshops together with the current AIDA trainees, visit a ship of the fleet in Warnemünde, and experience the “Rostock Cruise Days” live in the Hanseatic city.  Finally, two dual-major Business Administration students will start working at the line on October 1.  www.aida.de/

 

American Cruise Lines announced on August 1 that its new American Song, under its own power, moved from the East Outfitting Basin at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland, to the yard’s outfitting bulkhead for her final outfitting touches.  The vessel is set to embark on its inaugural cruise from New Orleans on October 6, travel the Mississippi River for the remainder of the year, and reposition to the West Coast on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in 2019.  Sister ship American Harmony, second in the riverboat series, is currently five-and-a-half weeks ahead of schedule, and will be launched later this fall.  American Harmony will enter service in the spring of 2019 on the Mississippi River, where it will join two of the line’s Victorian-style paddlewheelers, Queen of the Mississippi and America.  www.americancruiselines.com/

 

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line will be hosting “PalmCon,” Palm Beach County’s original Comic-Con, aboard Grand Classica, October 12-14, for its eighth annual comic and entertainment convention.  Celebrating all things superheroes, anime, science fiction, video games, role-playing games, fantasy card games and pop culture, this will be PalmCon’s first gathering at sea.  The sailing will feature award-winning comic guests, celebrities, gaming, cosplay, writers/creators workshops, live entertainment, comics, toys, original art and contests.  Fares begin at $185 per person, based on double occupancy.  In other news, the line has partnered with travel agency and tour operator Viva Travel to host Latin star Jacob Forever onboard Grand Classica for a one-of-a-kind cruise this Labor Day weekend.  Departing August 31, the sailing will feature a concert on September 1st at 8:00 p.m. on the ship’s top deck.  www.bahamasparadisecruise.com

 

Carnival Cruise Line has revealed plans for a nearly $200 million bow-to-stern makeover for Carnival Triumph in the spring of 2019 that will include renaming the ship to reflect its transformation.  The ship will join Carnival’s Sunshine Class and will be named Carnival Sunrise after a two-month-long refurbishment that will take place in Cadiz, Spain, beginning on March 1.  The dry dock makeover will add all of Carnival’s iconic food, beverage and entertainment innovations, as well as update all staterooms to create a broad spectrum of new accommodation choices.  Following a renaming ceremony, Carnival Sunrise will re-enter service with a series of five to seven-day voyages from Norfolk, Virginia, beginning April 29, a summer schedule of four to 14-day departures from New York commencing on May 23, then move to Fort Lauderdale in October, 2019.  In other news, as part of Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Random House Children’s Books’ Dr. Seuss’s Word Challenge to promote literacy, kids sailing aboard the line this summer read an astonishing 213,000,000 Dr. Seuss words through educational activities conducted across Carnival’s 26-ship fleet, helping to far surpass the campaign’s goal of 100,000,000 Dr. Seuss words read.  Young cruisers sailing on Carnival ships in June and July were encouraged to read as many Dr. Seuss words as possible during book reading sessions on board, and then log their words and monitor their progress using a word tracker on www.Seussville.com.  Children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis…one of the brand’s favorite charitable partners…also participated.  All those who registered and entered their Dr. Seuss word count before July 31 were eligible to win a free Carnival cruise.  www.carnival.com/

 

Celebrity Cruises announced on July 23 that the first piece of steel had been cut on its newest ship, Celebrity Apex, at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France.  The second vessel in Celebrity’s Edge Series, Celebrity Apex is expected to make her debut in spring 2020, with the third and fourth ships in the series arriving in fall, 2021, and fall, 2022.  For Celebrity Edge itself, debuting this December, the line is promising the brand’s most technologically advanced main theater, the most production shows of any ship in the brand’s history, the largest cast of world-class performers on any premium cruise ship, and more entertainment venues than ever before.  The Theatre on Celebrity Edge throws away the curtain altogether, blurring the line between audience and performance and immersing guests in an entertainment experience like no other.  With four stage areas and three gigantic, moving projection screens, The Theatre offers an ever-changing canvas for the productions that live here.  The main stage extends into the audience creating a theater-in-the-round sensation.  A duo-directional rotating platform raises almost seven feet above the stage to take performances to a whole new level.  With two rotating spiral staircases, 10 synchronized panoramic projection screens, 16 state-of-the-art video mapping laser projectors, aerial performance rigging, and more, the technology behind the scenes will at times steal the show.”  Should be a real stunner!  www.celebritycruises.com/

 

Celestyal Cruises has announced the appointment of Josh Hepp as Business Development Manager, Western USA and Western Canada.  Based in Denver, Hepp will be responsible for growing Celestyal’s footprint in the West through existing as well as new trade channels.  He reports to Gordon Dirker, Vice President, Business Development.  Prior to joining Celestyal, Hepp served as National Sales Manager at Contiki Holidays, where he started as a Regional Sales Manager in 2013.  The line has also announced internal leadership transitions following Chris Theophilides’ move from COO to CEO on July 1st.  To ensure continuity in the midst of the roll out of a new commercial strategy and the ramping up of its global commercial presence, Leslie Peden has been promoted to Chief Commercial Officer, charged with overseeing all global commercial activities for Celestyal, including strategic business development, marketing and commercial public relations.  Captain George Koumpenas will step into the role of Chief Operations Officer, where he will continue to supervise operations activities while adding the day-to-day oversight of operations in the Piraeus (Greece) office to his responsibilities.  www.celestyalcruises.com

 

Crystal River Cruises has announced that “Book Now Savings” of $200 to $1,000 per guest are available on select 2018, 2019 and 2020 voyages booked through this September 30.  The line has also unveiled its collection of voyages for 2020.  Its fleet of five, all-suite luxury river ships…Crystal Mozart and the four identical sister ships Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel…will sail the waterways of Europe, with an array of seven to 16-day itineraries.  Visiting medieval towns and cosmopolitan cities that have graced riverside skylines for centuries, Crystal River’s 2020 deployment invites travelers to immerse themselves in the charm, architecture, traditions, festivals, Christmas markets, wines and cuisine of Bavaria and beyond, including opportunities to attend an Oberammergau decennial performance in conjunction with select sailings.  www.crystalcruises.com/

 

Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises also is offering similar “Book Now Savings” of $200 to $1,000 per guest on select 2018, 2019 and 2020 voyages for reservations made by this September 30.  In other news, the brand has unveiled the inaugural season of itineraries for its newest globetrotting vessel, Crystal Endeavor, from August, 2020, through January, 2021. Offering in-depth focus on some of the world’s most remote and fascinating regions, the luxury expedition yacht will sail voyages of 12 to 22 days, exploring the cultures and bio-diversity of Japan and the Russian Far East, New Zealand, Australia and Antarctica, with tropical wildlands also featured.  Crystal Endeavor journeys will open for booking on August 22, with expedition and excursion details to be announced at a later date.  The line will celebrate the next important milestone in the construction of the vessel, as her keel will be laid at MV Werften’s Stralsund shipyard on Tuesday, August 21 at 12:00 noon, Central European Summer Time.  Crystal will livestream the ceremony via Facebook Live on the Crystal Cruises Facebook  page, inviting travelers from around the world to celebrate alongside VIP guests in attendance.  Those guests will include Crystal President and CEO Tom Wolber, Genting Hong Kong’s Executive Chairman and CEO Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, plus German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will attend the event in her capacity as a member of the German Bundestag.  At 20,000 tons, Crystal Endeavor will reportedly be “the largest, most spacious purpose-built polar class expedition yacht, accommodating just 200 guests and boasting all the luxurious amenities and special touches for which Crystal is known.”  www.crystalcruises.com/

 

Cunard, on July 26, released a video that showcases the line’s iconic trans-Atlantic experience on its flagship Queen Mary 2.  Guests featured in the video describe the line’s signature seven-night ocean crossing, which travels between New York and London, as a unique and unforgettable way to escape day-to-day life, and detail their experience on the voyage as cherished time to relax and recharge, filled with innovative cuisine, peaceful spa days, engaging enrichment programs and entertainment.  Cunard is also introducing voyage and tour packages for both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, including new pre- and post-cruise programs in some of the world’s most beloved ports, including Rome, Hong Kong, Dubai and Cape Town.  Tour packages range from three to four days and include a mix of landmark sightseeing and cultural activities, as well as upscale hotel accommodations.  And on the evening of August 10, the line’s three ‘queens’…Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth…sailed from Southampton at 5:30p.m., heading for the Isle of Wight, and were sent off by the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobic Team, with a flying formation display.  The sendoff marks the first time in Cunard’s history that guests had the opportunity to witness the Red Arrows in action while onboard, including a special commentary while the jets performed.  Listeners in the U.K. were also able to tune into the commentary on their FM radios.  In addition to the air display, Cunard also hosted five lucky children who won a competition to visit the three ‘queens’ and enjoy a “Captain for the Day” experience.  http://www.cunard.com/

 

Emerald Waterways has announced the launch of its latest state-of-the-art “Star-Ship,” Emerald Harmony, which will accommodate up to 84 guests in 42 staterooms and suites.  Featuring authentic Asian design fused with the modern amenities of a boutique hotel, the vessel will navigate the waters of the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia beginning in August, 2019, with 13, 17 and 21-day cruise and tour packages.  Unlike most similar-sized Mekong River ships, Emerald Harmony is being built to allow access to the center of Ho Chi Minh City, meaning guests will not need to be coached in from outside the city.  Those who book sailings by this October 31 may choose free air or $3,000 off per couple, and those who pay in full by that date can save up to an additional $600 per couple.  Incidentally, this month marks a milestone five years since the line launched its first collection of European river cruises aboard its two original “Star-Ships,” Emerald Sun and Emerald Sky.  Since then, the Australian river cruise brand known for providing value and attracting younger, more adventurous cruise travelers has continued to grow, expanding its fleet of signature vessels to eight, while adding itineraries in Asia, Egypt, Portugal and along the coast of Croatia, as well as active excursions and new onboard enrichment activities.  www.emeraldwaterways.com/

 

Holland America Line hosted the “Home from the Sea” fundraiser luncheon for the Catholic Seafarers’ Ministry aboard Eurodam on July 21 at the Port of Seattle.  A raffle for a HAL cruise was held to raise funds for the center, and guests were invited to tour the ship after lunch.  Elsewhere, when HAL welcomes Nieuw Statendam to its fleet this December, the ship will showcase the design evolution that was introduced with Koningsdam, its first Pinnacle Class ship.  The new 2,666-guest vessel “will have an interior that balances a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the line’s renowned classic elegance, while continuing a bold course forward.”  Nieuw Statendam’s design and interiors are the work of hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany and marine architect Bjørn Storbraaten.  In other news, the Holland America Line Academy is introducing a new interactive e-Learning platform at www.GoHAL.com, which will reward travel professionals for their educational achievements.  Participants can earn the distinction of a Silver, Gold or Platinum reward level by completing a combination of core courses and specialist courses.  The academy is also featuring a new specialist course called “Northern Europe: Its Iconic Cities, Hidden Gems and Scenic Beauty.”  Next, when HAL’s O, The Oprah Magazine “Adventure of Your Life Cruise” sets sail for the Caribbean on October 28 aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, guests will be accompanied by some of the magazine’s editors and leading visionaries.  Senior Editor Molly Simms and Beauty Director Brian Underwood will be cruising along with “The First Lady of Nutrition,” Ann Louise Gittleman; Unplug Meditation teacher Christina Huntington; best-selling author and speaker Lori Harder; and “Functional Life Coach” creator Mastin Kipp.  Special programming during the roundtrip cruise from Fort Lauderdale will allow guests an opportunity to gain insight and knowledge from these presenters, and learn from their expertise.  www.hollandamerica.com/

 

MSC Cruises is introducing a new content master class across its fleet to teach families how to capture the best vacation snaps and videos with the help of ‘vlogger’ Luciano Spinelli.  Posting on social media has become second nature to many travelers seeking to share experiences with friends and family back home, as MSC alone receives over 4,000 tags a week on Instagram.  In a video series, Spinelli will give hints and tips on creating polished Instagram photos and well-scripted and filmed YouTube videos, as well as introducing the latest craze, “Musical.ly,” to kids (and their families) from MSC’s Young and Teen Clubs.  Participants will then embark on an interactive team game to put their creativity to the test and produce their own award-worthy content for the chance to win prizes.  www.msccruises.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line is partnering with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute to host its second annual ocean conservation-themed cruise on Norwegian Escape this fall.  Departing October 21 from New York, guests on the departure will have repeated opportunities to meet Guy Harvey, world-renowned marine artist, scientist, conservationist, entrepreneur and hull artist of Norwegian Escape, as he hosts specially-planned events about ocean conservation.  In other news, the line has announced the completion of refurbishments of three ships, the 2013-built Norwegian Breakaway, the 2001-built Norwegian Sun, and the 2001-build Norwegian Star, during dry docks in Brest (France), Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) and Barcelona (Spain), respectively.  As part of “The Norwegian Edge,” the company’s program designed to elevate the standard of excellence across its fleet, the revitalized ships now feature new designs and venues including “Los Lobos Cantina,” an upscale Mexican restaurant; the adults-only enclave, “Spice H2O;” and “Syd Norman’s Pour House”…an American rock ‘n’ roll bar and lounge, which makes its debut aboard Norwegian Breakaway.  Next, head mixologist, Razvan Dorel Cordea of the recently debuted Norwegian Bliss, was one of three cruise industry professionals recognized as a “2018 Diageo Global Travel’s Best Bartender” and as a semi-finalist for “2018 Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year.”  After successfully completing two challenges during the semifinals in Miami, Cordea will represent Norwegian at the global finals in Berlin from October 5 to 8.  There he will compete against 50 of the world’s best bartenders, the third time that Norwegian has been represented at this prestigious beverage competition.  Also, the wine selection at Cagney’s (steakhouse) on Norwegian Escape has been recognized by Wine Spectator with its “Award of Excellence.”  And finally, the line has announced that three award-winning Broadway songstresses…Melinda Doolittle, Sharon Wilkins and Melba Moore…will be starring consecutively in the Tony Award-winning musical After Midnight, as well as their own Supper Club Cabaret Shows, aboard Norwegian Escape through February 1.  Performances with Ms. Doolittle began this past weekend.  www.ncl.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, announced the next step in its efforts to reduce its environmental impact by eliminating single-use plastic straws across its fleet of 26 ships and two island destinations, Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye.  The company anticipates that it will eliminate over 50 million plastic straws each year with these changes.  As a member of the Ocean Conservancy’s “Trash Free Seas Alliance,” NCLH is actively working towards solutions that will mitigate plastic waste entering the ocean.  www.nclhltd.com/

 

Pearl Sea Cruises has unveiled its new 2018-2019 cruise catalog, including updated details on the expanded schedule of spring, 2019 dates for its 11-night “Cuba Cultural Voyages.”  The line will also host a series of 15-minute Cuba agent webinars, “Cruising Cuba in Spring with Pearl Seas Cruises,” throughout the remainder of 2018 for agents who want to familiarize themselves with the company’s all-inclusive spring, 2019 Cuba itinerary.  The first available webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 22, at 3:00 EST.  Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7983914960848911361.  These webinars are planned monthly for the remainder of 2018, and taped versions will be available on request after they conclude.  www.pearlseascruises.com/

 

Poseidon Expeditions celebrated its 2018 summer season when two of its ships rendezvoused in July in the newest frontier in polar expedition cruising, the Russian High Arctic known as the Franz Josef Land Archipelago.  This region was off-limits to foreign travelers until recent decades; it is now largely under management of the Russian Arctic National Park System.  Meeting on July 11 near Prince George Island, Poseidon’s 128-passenger, nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Years of Victory and its 114-passenger expedition ship Sea Spirit together celebrated their respective first voyages of the season to this remote archipelago of 190 glaciated and snow-covered islands.  Elsewhere, a new expedition cruise program aboard Sea Spirit will depart Edinburgh next spring on a 12-day exploration into the frozen north.  “From the Highlands to the High Arctic,” June 3 to 14, will pass over the Arctic Circle while crossing three seas and exploring islands representing three countries.  This cruise and the one that immediately precedes it (“British Isles: Legendary History & Wild Nature,” May 22 to June 3) will represent a regional first for the company.  For bookings made by November 1, guests receive “Early Bird” discounts of up to 10%.  www.poseidonexpeditions.com/

 

Princess Cruises’ “Sun Drenched Deals” sale is offering special savings to warm weather destinations sailing fall, 2018, through spring, 2019.  Guests can choose from cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Panama Canal, California Coast, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Asia and South America with savings of up to 40%, with per guest reduced deposits of 10% of the cruise fare.  The promotion runs through September 24.  In other news, the line has announced a memorandum of agreement with Fincantieri to build two new ships, which are slated to be delivered in late 2023 and spring, 2025.  The new vessels will be Princess’ first to be dual-fuel powered…primarily by Liquefied Natural Gas, the marine industry’s most environmentally friendly fuel technology and the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel, which will significantly reduce air emissions and marine gasoil. The ships, which be the largest by capacity in the Princess fleet, will be built at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.  Elsewhere, the line has unveiled new details of features onboard its new 143,700-ton Sky Princess, scheduled to debut in the Mediterranean during October, 2019.  “Sky Suites” centrally located on the top decks will feature the largest private balconies ever offered by Princess.  Measuring 700 square feet, the balconies will provide a private vantage of the ship’s “Movie Under the Stars” screen and create a large space for entertaining.  The two suites will also offer a 270-degree panorama and have sleeping capacity for five guests, making them ideal for families.  Also new will be the addition of a “Wakeview” pool on the aft decks and two deep-tank top deck pools, a restorative “Retreat Pool,” and more Jacuzzis than previous Royal-Class ships, including two cantilevered over the deep-tank pools.  Next, the line’s “Ernesto” burger will now be available on land for the first time, added as a featured item on the dinner menu of chef partner, Ernesto Uchimura’s Los Angeles-based neighborhood  restaurant and bar, Electric Owl.  Developed in collaboration with Uchimura, a founding chef of the original Umami Burger, the “Ernesto” is the signature offering at The Salty Dog Gastropub and the Salty Dog Grill, both found on select Princess ships.  Also, the brand has introduced newly enhanced beverage menus with globally-inspired signature cocktail offerings created by master mixologist Rob Floyd, who has selected destination-specific ingredients with flavors from every corner of the world.  In addition to the new cocktails, the line has added 20 new high-end and exotic spirits, 39 new wines by the glass, and 17 new international and craft beers to the new menus.  www.princesscruises.com/

 

Riviera River Cruises is increasing the number of cruises it offers exclusively for solo travelers in 2019 to four, with two departures in the spring and two in the fall, all without a single occupancy surcharge.  Solo traveler cruises will also expand from the Danube and Rhône Rivers to the Douro River.  The line’s departures for solo travelers debuted in 2018.  www.rivierarivercruises.com/

 

Royal Caribbean International has designed and built a first-of-its-kind tool that transforms travelers’ most memorable photos into an original, shareable soundtrack with a video to match.  More than a year in the making, “SoundSeeker” is reportedly a groundbreaking, patent-pending digital experience powered by artificial intelligence and specifically designed to use machine learning to seamlessly create original soundtracks based on the content of each photograph.  By simply visiting www.SoundSeeker.com/, users can upload three photos of their choice, and the program analyzes them based on color, landscape, backdrop, emotion, body language and facial expression.  SoundSeeker then turns them into a shareable, one-of-a kind soundtrack.  Fans can follow along on Royal Caribbean’s social channels, and by searching #SoundSeeker.  The line teamed up with experts from the Berklee College of Music and technologists from around the world to create the unique song generator.  www.rccl.com/

 

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has announced a series of Scenic Eclipse “Ultimate Voyages” that offer unique cruise itineraries by combining select back-to-back sailings of its new “Discover Yacht,” giving guests an opportunity to delve even more deeply into a variety of destination areas.  Programs range from the shortest of offerings, a 17-day “Ultimate Mediterranean Discovery” that features the history and cultures of the Portuguese, Moors, Spaniards, French, Romans and Greeks, to the longest, a 30-day “Ultimate Chilean Fjords & Antarctica” voyage which uses Lima and Buenos Aires as bookends to a journey through the Patagonian Fjords and the Antarctica Peninsula.  Extra ‘perks’ include guaranteed early-bird savings and a choice of a helicopter or submarine exploration excursion, plus guests can take advantage of any current promotion. Those who book and pay in full by this October 31 will receive an additional savings of up to $750 per person.  www.scenicusa.com/

 

Seabourn is returning to the “White Continent” with a series of five 21- and 24- day itineraries sailing to Antarctica and Patagonia aboard Seabourn Quest between November, 2018, and February. 2019.  Guests will experience adventure and explorations through complimentary Zodiac tours and landings, along with the line’s “Ventures by Seabourn,” an optional for-charge excursion program which includes guided kayak tours launching directly from the ship.  In addition, professional photographers will be on board to offer digital photography coaching, providing helpful tips for guests to capture images of the natural beauty.  The line is also heading to Australasia again this year with Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Sojourn operating multiple cruises around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific over the 2018-2019 season.  In other news, the line has received approval to begin sailing to Cuba from Miami and San Juan (Puerto Rico), starting with a 12-day cruise aboard Seabourn Sojourn departing Miami on November 4, 2019.  Seabourn becomes Carnival Corporation’s third cruise brand currently approved to sail to Cuba.  Guests can choose from four separate itineraries with five different departure dates.  The 11, 12, and 14-day sailings will visit five ports in Cuba, calling at three or four on each itinerary, providing guests an opportunity to discover the island’s different regions.  Finally, Seabourn has released the latest edition of its annual publication, “Extraordinary Worlds, 2019/2020 Cruise Collection,” which runs 128 pages, detailing more than 180 Seabourn cruises visiting more than 450 destinations in nearly 100 countries across all seven continents.  Covering both onboard and on-shore experiences, the book features everything from suite layouts to dining options and land-based excursions.  www.seabourn.com/

 

Silversea Cruises has developed a wine program to bolster its reputation as one of the top purveyor of wines at sea.  Selected by the line’s expert “Wine Ambassador,” Lawrence d’Almeida, approximately 160 different wines populate Silversea’s wine selection, which has been lauded for including one of the largest and broadest choices of complimentary wines aboard any cruise ship, featuring roughly 70 different labels.  Every major wine region in the world is represented in the complimentary range, as well as every major wine grape, yet Italian wines are particularly well-represented as an homage to the cruise line’s heritage.  When relevant to the ships’ visited destination, local wines are also added to the available selection.  And from October 18 to 31, Silversea’s Silver Whisper will cruise between Lisbon and Fort Lauderdale for Silversea’s next dedicated wine voyage, for which the line has partnered with Comitato Grandi Cru d’Italia and the American Fine Wine Competition.  In other news, sailings for the upcoming holiday season are being enhanced with specially prepared themed dinners and crafted cocktails, festively decorated public spaces with gingerbread house displays, evening caroling by the fleet’s entertainment staffs, and gala celebrations to ring in the New Year.  Next, the line is promoting November Caribbean departures with “Last-Minute Savings” through September 15, offering a $1,000 onboard credit and a one-category suite upgrade, plus free economy class round-trip air and transfers on select sailings.  And finally, another Silversea promotion is offering free economy round-trip economy air to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe on select 2019 departures.  www.silversea.com/

 

Star Clippers has announced that Star Flyer will spend the entire 2019-2020 winter season sailing out of St. Maarten, offering 13 departures between December, 2019 and March, 2020. Itineraries of seven, 11 and 14 nights will offer guests a variety of experiences aboard one of the world’s largest traditional clipper ships.  For those eager to visit the Caribbean sooner, Star Clippers’ upcoming sailing season runs from December, 2018, through March, 2019, and offers 37 departures ranging from seven to 14 nights.  Two of the line’s ships…Royal Clipper and Star Flyer…call on multiple islands that were affected in last year’s storms, including St. Maarten, Dominica, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, St. Barts, the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla.  www.starclippers.com

 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s onboard cinemas aboard S.S. Maria Theresa, S.S. Antoinette and River Countess are offering a new dine-in theater menu to accompany the films being shown.  In other news, the line is committed to banishing all avoidable single-use plastics in its offices and onboard its ships by 2022.  As part of a joint initiative with parent organization The Travel Corporation and its not-for-profit foundation, “TreadRight,” their efforts have reportedly already reduced plastic waste by 60,349 pounds; decreased chemical waste by 80% on Uniworld’s vessels over the last two years; eliminated all plastic straws, water bottles and related items from all ships and offices; and worked with outside contractors to avoid plastic wrapping on all supplies delivered to its fleet.  Finally, Uniworld is offering savings of 20% with a new “Explore the Exotics Offer” on select sailings in Egypt, India, Vietnam & Cambodia.  www.uniworld.com

 

Vantage Deluxe World Travel is promoting itself as “The Leader in Solo Travel,” with free single supplements on a wide variety of itineraries and dedicated solo cabins aboard its river cruising fleet.  www.vantagetravel.com/pr

 

Virgin Voyages has announced that the company will eliminate the use of single-use plastics as part of its aim to create one of the cleanest fleets at sea.  This initiative includes banning plastic items on board including straws, bottled water, other beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers, and take-away coffee and tea cups.  Instead, the company will emphasize the use of recyclable and reusable materials across its fleet-to-be.  Guests will have access to complimentary filtered still and sparkling water at all bars and restaurants, as well as at specially designed filtered water stations.  Also, the line’s first vessel, scheduled to set sail in 2020, will be named Scarlet Lady, a name which appeared on one of the earliest planes to fly for Virgin Atlantic.  The company plans to launch a “Scarlet Squad” program aimed at recruiting, supporting and mentoring female shipboard talent, and growing opportunities for leadership roles in onboard areas such as marine, technical and hotel management. www.virginvoyages.com/

 

Wild Women Expeditions, a pioneer of women-only travel is setting its sights on sailing adventures in Greece, British Columbia and the Bahamas, where its guests can learn to hoist sails and drop anchor while exploring fascinating islands.  The company will host 2019 departures for up to six guests each on six-night “Greek Goddess Sailing Adventures” from Athens on June 8 and September 14, priced at $3,495 per person, double.  In British Columbia, Wild Women will run exclusive departures of eight-night “Desolation Sound Sailing Adventures” on April 26 and May 4, 2019, at CA$3,895 each, double occupancy, for up to eight guests, as well as two 2018 departures of a six-night “Bahamas Sail the Exuma Islands” program on December 1 (Nassau to Staniel Cay) and 8 (reverse itinerary), for up to six guests at a per person double rate of $3,995.  www.wildwomenexpeditions.com/