Bob Hoelscher

December 19, 2017 Holiday Update – Group Cruise News

 
 

Bob Hoelscher
Published December 19, 2017

Welcome!  As promised last month, I’m pleased to let readers know about one of the finest cruises I’ve ever taken, nine days and eight nights aboard Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf from Barcelona, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, this past October.  The ship itself, food, service, staff, itinerary and weather were all simply outstanding.  Never have I been on another ship with more splendid gourmet cuisine at every meal than was served aboard Wind Surf, plus the deck barbecue was absolutely incredible.  I was really happy to discover that Windstar still offers such a thoroughly enjoyable onboard event on its sailings when cruising outside U.S. waters.  Sadly, the big lines have apparently stopped doing them, due to a late-2016 United States Public Health ruling (debatable, in my humble opinion) that the food & beverage director on Holland America’s Koningsdam told me about earlier this year.  Incidentally, Wind Surf’s genial executive chef stopped by diners’ tables each night just to chat and make absolutely sure that everything was indeed “up to snuff.”  It always was, attesting to a superior service level that another upscale, Seattle-based rival line would be wise to emulate.

 

The handsome, 14,475-ton, 310-guest Wind Surf is not a glitzy, brand new vessel, having entered service originally in 1990 as Club Med 1.  Acquired and renamed by Windstar in 1998, however, the flagship of the six-vessel Windstar fleet (and largest of its three “sailing yachts”) was most recently refurbished in late 2016 and is in great shape.  What makes it particularly attractive and highly distinctive, however, is that it is of an unusual hybrid “staysail schooner” design, and is powered by both four diesel-electric engines and by seven triangular, computer-controlled Dacron sails totaling 26,000 square feet, arrayed on five towering masts.  Indeed, the installation of a completely new set of sails was being completed as our cruise began.  Standard staterooms are all “outside,” well-designed and most comfortable, although they lack balconies (not de rigueur when Wind Surf was built, and not really important on an uncrowded vessel this size and with as much open deck space as is readily available nearby) and ours featured twin portholes rather than a single large window.  Public rooms and both indoor and outdoor facilities are plentiful, spacious, and include a spa, fitness center, small pool, twin hot tubs, casino, gift shop, sandwich and espresso bar, “Stella Bistro” alternative dining venue (no extra charge), plus a watersports platform positioned at the ship’s stern.

 

Our itinerary included a fascinating selection of attractive ports along the way…five in Spain (Tarragona, Ibiza, Cartagena, Almeria/Granada, and Malaga), plus Tangier in Morocco. Entertainment, as is the norm on many smaller, luxury ships, is substantially more limited than on their much larger “mass market” cousins.  However, a lively combo provided music for dancing and listening nightly in Wind Surf’s primary lounge, and a local Flamenco show came aboard in Malaga prior to the deck barbecue.  Plus, in addition to games of cards and trivia, catching up on good books, visiting the open bridge, and simple relaxation, one of the major attractions of traveling with typically well-traveled guests on upscale vessels is simply sharing stories of the numerous places visited and experiences enjoyed.  Incidentally, group airport transfers are provided upon arrival and departure, and there is no charge for soft drinks or bottled water throughout the trip.

 

The sole concern that I had with our voyage was with Tarragona and Ibiza shore excursions which were not delivered by Windstar’s ground handler in Spain (the vessel had just arrived here from the Eastern Mediterranean) as had been advertised in advance.  However, I spoke for over an hour with Ana, Wind Surf’s “Voyage Leader,” who seemed extremely interested in getting my thoughts, welcoming my feedback in order to make the changes that needed to be made, so this subject was handled admirably.  I am aware that other Wind Surf guests also registered some dissatisfaction with shore tours, so it was gratifying to see that action to remedy the situation was taken immediately, evidenced by the fact that even before I returned home, I received an e-mail from the line’s Spanish supplier involved with a sincere apology and promise to make the necessary changes.  Ana had obviously “read them the Riot Act.”

 

Needless to say, the Windstar experience earns my highest recommendation, a topnotch product which I had previously experienced in 2015 aboard one of the line’s three, 9,975-ton, 212-guest “motor yachts,” Star Legend.  Those seeking relaxed, informal, port-intensive itineraries on excellent, easy-to-negotiate, human-sized vessels, and have the financial means to “graduate” from massive mega-ships populated by thousands of fellow travelers hardly need to look further.  Group coordinators should be aware that on select dates, Windstar will provide one complimentary cruise with every seven paying guests.  On higher-demand departures, one free cruise is offered for every nine paying guests booked.  Furthermore, groups also receive discounted fares, as well as a $100 per person shipboard credit to use on things like massages, shore excursions, or beverages from the bar.

 

Best wishes to everyone for a happy holiday season and a memorable 2018!

 

 

 

Adventure Smith Explorations in 2018 will launch its premier program, “Great National Parks of Alaska.”  Trips begin with a week’s adventure cruise aboard the 60-guest Wilderness Adventurer, embarking in Juneau, and conclude 18 days later in Anchorage. The first of 13 land/sea departures is scheduled for May 26, and the season’s finale embarks August 18.  Per person double rates begin at $9,695, and savings of up to $200 are being offered on the May 26 departure.  Elsewhere, the company is seeking to expand the frontiers of small ship adventure travel with new-for-2018 itineraries that transport guests beyond the blue horizon to faraway lands including an Indonesian archipelago, Tasmania, frozen landscapes in Patagonia and Canada’s High Arctic, and a three-state/three-river adventure in the Pacific Northwest.  www.adventuresmithexplorations.com

 

Following AIDA Cruises’ AidaBlu’s scheduled shipyard stay from October 29 to November 10 at the Chantier Naval shipyard in Marseille, the vessel offers several new onboard amenities, including a new ice bar, a shop concept redesigned to be more open and friendly, plus the sports area on Deck 11 has also received a makeover.  And for this year’s Caribbean and Central America season, guests onboard AIDAdiva, AIDAluna and AIDAmar will be able to choose from an extended range of sporting, culinary and cultural activities.  In other news, after its first successful tests, AIDA will gradually begin supplying AIDAperla with low-emission Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for some operations during stays in the ports of Barcelona, Marseille and Civitavecchia, and possibly also Palma de Mallorca.  During the spring of 2016, the company proved the practicality of this technology with AIDAprima, the identically constructed sister ship of AIDAperla, plus AIDA will take the next step with the commissioning of AIDAnova during fall, 2018, as well as a second identical ship in the spring of 2021.  Both vessels, of about 180,000 gross tons and 2,600 cabins each, will be powered by four dual-fuel engines, both in the harbor and at sea, with what is currently the most environmentally friendly, low-emission fossil fuel. The construction of AIDAnova is currently progressing rapidly.  On December 11, the 120 meter long, 42 meter wide and now 19 deck high tail section of the vessel was the first of two huge ship modules at the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg unpacked and taken to the dockyard equipment quay.  On board a second module, which is scheduled to be put in place by late February, are the three LNG tanks and state-of-the-art laundry facilities.  Finally, AIDA is funding the Philippine SOS Children’s Village Iloilo with proceeds from the sale of its “Towel Origami” book in the amount of €6,000.  AIDA has now been supporting the work of SOS Children’s Villages in worldwide projects for disadvantaged children for more than ten years.  Finally, today AIDAcara becomes the first vessel in the fleet to reach the port of Sydney, Australia, as part of her current world tour, which is scheduled to visit 41 ports in 23 countries on five continents in 116 days.  On October 8, 2018, for the line’s second world trip, AIDAaura will depart Hamburg for 117 ports in 20 countries on four continents in 117 days. By February of 2019, many destinations will be visited for the first time in AIDA history, including South Africa, Namibia, Melbourne, Tasmania and the South Sea archipelagos of Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia.  www.aida.de/

 

American Cruise Lines’s new American Song, the company’s 10th vessel, is scheduled to enter service on the Mississippi River next fall, and transfer to Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest for 2019.  www.americancruiselines.com/

 

American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of American QueenAmerican Empress and the new American Duchess, has called 2017 “the most successful year in the company’s six year history.”  Delivering the most inclusive river cruise experiences in North America, the line’s three U.S. flagged paddlewheelers exceeded sales goals throughout the year and recorded the highest guest satisfaction scores to date.  The August debut of its first purpose-built boutique paddlewheeler, American Duchess, newly expanded wine voyages on American Empress in the Pacific Northwest, and American Queen’s 23-day Mighty Mississippi itineraries were among AQSC’s many reported 2017 highlights.  www.aqsc.com/

 

Carnival Australia has announced that P&O Cruises’ Sture Myrmell would expand his role to include regional responsibility for the organization’s shared services group.  Currently President of P&O Cruises Australia, Myrmell will become the regional President of Carnival Australia, which is the umbrella entity that supports the company’s seven brands sailing in Australia and New Zealand.  In other news Carnival Australia is chartering three of the company’s ships to support Papua New Guinea’s historic hosting of the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Port Moresby in November.  P&O Cruises’ Pacific Explorer and Pacific Jewel as well as sister brand Princess Cruises’ Sea Princess will be supporting the accommodation of up to 10,000 delegates and officials.  The three ships will be moored within the APEC security zones to provide hotel accommodation for those attending the Summit, which culminates in the Leaders’ Forum on November 18, with major economic sessions being held on either side of the one day forum.  www.carnivalaustralia.com/

 

Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it will expand capacity on its short cruise offerings from Galveston and New Orleans beginning in 2019.  Carnival Dream will launch four and five-day cruises to Mexico year-round from Galveston starting in May, becoming the newest and largest Carnival ship to operate a short cruise program from that port.  During the same month, Carnival Valor, currently based in Galveston, will shift to New Orleans to begin year-round four and five-day cruises from the “Big Easy,” becoming that city’s largest ship to offer a year-round, short cruise schedule.  Four-day long weekend cruises will depart Thursdays and visit Cozumel, while five-day voyages depart Mondays and Saturdays calling at Cozumel and Progreso.  In other news, as part of an ongoing effort to provide its guests with the widest variety of choices at sea, the line is transforming its shipboard shopping experience fleetwide with renovated spaces and products from some of the world’s best-known retailers, including Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski, Pandora, TAG and others.  The upgraded retail venues and expanded offerings are reportedly the result of months of intensive research and data gathering to customize its onboard shopping options to match the preferences of Carnival guests.  Furthermore, as part of its ongoing effort to keep its culinary offerings fresh and exciting, Carnival is revamping the menus for several of its specialty dining venues and reintroducing Baked Alaska across the fleet.  The menus for Carnival’s steakhouses, “Cucina del Capitano” family-style Italian restaurants, and delis, as well as main dining room breakfast offerings, have undergone a transformation with a variety of new items reflecting lighter ingredients, updated preparation techniques and presentation to keep pace with changing palates.  Baked Alaska, a classic dessert made of cake and ice cream topped with merengue, is also being reintroduced with waiters performing the time-honored tradition of parading the confection throughout the dining room prior to service.  Elsewhere, Carnival Panorama has been chosen as the name of the line’s new 133,500-ton, 3,934-guest ship scheduled to debut during fall, 2019.  The vessel will join sister ships Carnival Vista, which entered service in 2016, and Carnival Horizon, set to debut April 2, 2018.

 

Next, Carnival will position a newer, larger ship to Charleston when the 3,002-guest Carnival Sunshine kicks off a year-round schedule of four and five-day cruises there on May 18, 2019.  The move is expected to result in serving approximately 220,000 passengers annually from the port.  Four-day cruises will visit the Bahamian capital of Nassau, while five-day voyages will feature both Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.  And Carnival Fascination will undergo an extensive multi-million-dollar dry dock that will add a variety of the company’s iconic food and beverage innovations, including Guy’s Burger Joint, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, BlueIguana Cantina Mexican eatery, Cherry on Top sweets shop, the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, and a Bonsai Sushi Express venue.  The spaces will be added during a two-week dry dock taking place February 4 to 17 in Freeport, The Bahamas, prior to the ship resuming its year-round schedule of seven-day southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on February 18.   Carnival Fascination is currently being chartered to FEMA to house relief workers in St. Croix.  Finally, to celebrate Caribbean island destinations and promote the launch of its newest ship, Carnival Horizon, the line captured and canned real island air from tropical ports of call and invited New Yorkers to “stop and smell the tropics” with a unique and “scent-sational” experience that took place in Manhattan’s Greeley Square Park.  The event’s centerpiece was a vending machine dispensing the chance to win a Carnival cruise and free cans of real island air infused with natural scents including Wild Banana Orchid from Grand Cayman, Puerto Rican Coffee from San Juan, Sugarcane Rum from St. Kitts, Island Coconut from Cozumel, and Ocean Breeze from the sea.  Carnival designed this program to give consumers a “whiff” of their next vacation after a recent survey conducted by the line found that 95% of Americans agree that scent can trigger vacation memories and 56% agree that a particular scent has motivated them to plan a vacation.  Strange but apparently true!  www.carnival.com/

 

Celebrity Cruises has unveiled plans for a new, all-suite marine exploration vessel, Celebrity Flora, designed expressly for the cruising the Galapagos Islands.  Planned to be one of the most energy-efficient ships of its size in the archipelago, the 100-guest Celebrity Flora will reportedly offer “seamless sea-to-shore transportation,” and feature anchorless technology that maintains the ship’s position while protecting the sensitive sea floor.  An innovative outward-facing design will gives guests 360-degree views of the islands, while personal suite attendants, new dining venues, an open-air stargazing platform, and expert-lead ecological seminars will round out the experience.  Celebrity Flora will sail from Baltra year-round, making her first sailing on May 26, 2019.  On December 15, the ceremonial keel laying took place for the ship in Tolkamer, Netherlands, as a 49.2-ton block was lifted in the air and a “lucky” coin was placed in the dock before the block was lowered into position.  In other news, the line will continue sailing from Vancouver through the Inside Passage to Hubbard Glacier and beyond during the 2019 Alaska cruise season.  Featured will be more than 40 extended port visits and countless experiences in the region aboard three ships…Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Millennium.  The brand’s seven-night itineraries and shore excursions have been designed to bring guests “up close and personal” with many of Alaska’s must-see wonders.  Also, on December 5, the line released details on its 2019-20 Caribbean cruise season, which will feature 25 destinations in 19 countries, with more than 245 extended port visits.  Six ships will operate in the region…Celebrity EdgeCelebrity EquinoxCelebrity InfinityCelebrity ReflectionCelebrity Silhouette, and Celebrity Summit.  Together with more sailings to destinations in Asia, including India and Dubai, Australia, and North, South, and Central America, Celebrity’s full 2019-20 deployment will reach a total of more than 300 destinations in over 70 countries throughout the world, including more than 160 overnights, plus over 20 double-overnight stays in nearly 40 cities.  Finally, on December 14, Celebrity recognized the achievements of its top travel partners with 22 different 2017 annual awards.  www.celebritycruises.com/

 

CroisiEurope will celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2018 with themed eight-day Mediterranean cruises on La Belle de L’Adriatique, priced from $1,486 per person. The itinerary, round-trip from Naples departing on February 9, 16 and 23, features visits to the Aeolian Islands, Messina, Vibo Marina, Salerno and Capri.  Elsewhere, the line has announced details of a Danube River cruise that includes two nights in Oberammergau plus orchestra seats for the town’s famed Passion Play in 2020.  The eight-day itinerary includes a six-day Danube cruise aboard the premium-rated Symphonie, which was completely renovated and re-inaugurated in 2017, then two days in Oberammergau, or the reverse.  Prices for this itinerary begin at $3,831 per person, double occupancy.  Five departures have been scheduled for June 17, July 17 and 20, as well as August 19 and 26, 2020.  www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/

 

Crystal Cruises has unveiled an enhanced rewards program for travel professionals, with added benefits for top agents selling the line’s ocean, river and yacht expedition experiences.  The “Elite Partner Program” is open to all agents with qualifying revenue and includes tiered incentivized levels that increase commissions and add resources and complimentary travel rewards with increased sales.  New for 2018 are customized direct marketing campaigns and confirmation of complimentary earned voyages up to 60 days prior to voyage departure date for qualifying agents.  In addition to the post-sales rewards, Crystal offers a dedicated team of Strategic Business Development Managers to assist agents as they aim to grow their luxury business, and will soon introduce its online Partner Resource Center and expanded Travel Agent University to support agents in serving their clientele.  www.crystalcruises.com/

 

Cunard and 20th Century Fox Film partnered to host the world premiere of The Greatest Showman on December 8 aboard Queen Mary 2, while the ship was docked in New York.  This was the first time that a Hollywood movie premiere took place on a passenger ship.  http://www.cunard.com/

 

Disney Cruise Line’s new musical production inspired by Disney’s live-action adaptation of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” debuted aboard Disney Dream in November.  Furthermore, new spaces and new experiences designed for guests of all ages are coming to Disney Magic in March.  Enhancements will reportedly include family dining in an “enchanted kingdom,” a transformed teen club, and a sophisticated café exclusively for adults.  www.disneycruise.disney.go.com/

 

Emerald Waterways is offering guests aboard its August 4, 2018 “Sensations of Southern France” sailing the opportunity to improve their skills and learn to use their smart phones to take sharper, more captivating photos with professional photographer Jack Hollingsworth.  www.emeraldwaterways.com/

 

Holland America Line hosted the 22nd annual South Florida Business Leaders’ Luncheon for the Seafarers’ House aboard Oosterdam on November 17 at Port Everglades, Florida.  HAL President Orlando Ashford was in attendance to celebrate the long-standing partnership with the local organization.  During the event, Seafarers’ House honored Bob Swindell, the 2017 Business Leader of the Year. Swindell is president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward County’s official public/private partnership for economic development.  Elsewhere, Ashford has been named to the list of executives on Black Enterprise’s 2017 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America in the publication’s November/December issue.  Ashford joins an impressive collection of executives that includes both Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, as well as Julia Brown, chief procurement officer for Holland America’s parent company.  Furthermore, HAL has launched four new Academy Core Courses for its online program designed for travel professionals seeking to grow their premium cruise business.  Featured topics cover brand differentiators, onboard product, destinations and proven methods to enhance sales.  Launched earlier this fall, the interactive tools can be accessed through the “PartnerSHIPS” portal at www.GoHAL.com or www.halacadamy.com.  Next, the line’s “View & Verandah” promotion is back on select 2018 and 2019 cruises and Alaska Land+Sea Journeys.  Guests who book an eligible departure will receive a stateroom upgrade, onboard spending money up to $500 per stateroom and up to 10% off select EXC Tours (shore excursions).  In addition, guests who book a suite receive prepaid gratuities.  The offers are available on cruises embarking from March 28, 2018, through March 24, 2019, excluding Grand Voyages and Grand Voyage segments.  In other news, in anticipation of the upcoming float-out of Nieuw Statendam, HAL held the ship’s traditional coin ceremony on December 6, at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy.  On December 21 the new, 99.500-ton, 2,660-guest ship will be fully floated out and moved to an outfitting pier.  Finally, it was no surprise to hear that the line’s ultra-clean Eurodam recently earning its 13th consecutive perfect score of 100 on a surprise United States Public Health inspection conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on December 3 at Port Everglades, Florida. This is the third perfect score for Eurodam in 2017 and continues her six-year (!) run of perfect scores.  Anyone who understands the difficulty in keeping a massive vessel like Eurodam immaculate knows that this is truly an astounding achievement.  www.hollandamerica.com/   

 

On December 1, MSC Cruises officially celebrated the coming into service of its newest flagship, MSC Seaside, as she prepared to set sail across the Atlantic bound for her new home at PortMiami.  The vessel is the 14th addition to MSC Cruises’ fleet and the second ship for the company to enter service during 2017.  The line has engaged a star-studded lineup for MSC Seaside’s official naming ceremony, which is just only days away on December 21.  Latin pop star Ricky Martin and classical tenor Andrea Bocelli are set to perform on the mainstage during the event, and American TV host Mario Lopez will be the master of ceremonies.  The Miami Dolphins’ legendary quarterback, Dan Marino, will also grace the stage along with Sophia Loren, who will continue her tradition of serving as Godmother for MSC’s new mega ships.  In other news, the line has announced that its new MSC Meraviglia, launched this past June, will offer three sailings departing from New York City when she comes to the U.S. for the first time during the fall of 2019.  Included are two 10-night round trip sailings from New York on October 8 and 18, sailing to destinations in New England and Atlantic Canada, plus a 13-night Caribbean departure on October 28 ending at MSC Meraviglia’s new homeport in Miami.  Sales for these three cruises will open on January 2.  www.msccruises.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line has named its top travel partners for 2017 in a multitude of categories, including “Home-Based Partner of the Year,” “Breakout Partner of the Year” and its “Elite Partner of the Year,” which were awarded to Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations, respectively.  In other news, the line has announced that Elvis Duran, nationally syndicated radio and digital personality and on-air host of iHeartMedia’s “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” will serve as Godfather of its newest ship, Norwegian Bliss.  Duran will have an honorary role in the official ship christening ceremony on May 30, 2018, at Pier 66 in Seattle.  The line’s sixteenth ship will sail weekly seven-day Alaska cruises during her inaugural summer season, and beginning in November, Norwegian Bliss will begin sailing seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises each Saturday from PortMiami.  Elsewhere, Norwegian has introduced the next generation of its booked guest mobile application, the Cruise Norwegian app.  Designed to be an ideal travel companion from time of booking to day of disembarkation, the new app features numerous functions that help provide a stress-free vacation experience, helping guests make the most of their time on and off the ship as well as stay connected with their friends and family both on board and back home.  Finally, the line today revealed the fleet’s lineup of summer 2019 itineraries, which will be available around the globe, with five ships sailing in Europe; three cruising to Alaska; two calling on Bermuda; as well as itineraries that include the Bahamas and Florida, the Caribbean, Canada and New England, and the Hawaiian Islands. Guests who cruise aboard Norwegian ships can choose from up to 27 dining options, Broadway entertainment, and more than 20 bars and lounges.  www.ncl.com/

 

Three of P&O Cruises Australia’s ships…Pacific Explorer, Pacific Eden and Pacific Jewel…arrived in Sydney Harbour on November 9 at the same time, a rare meeting for the three vessels, which carried a combined total of 6000 guests onboard.  Elsewhere, the line is launching “The Big Laugh” comedy festival at sea onboard Pacific Explorer next June.  Fourteen big-name “down under” comedians will deliver 36 shows and a combined 2,000 minutes of jokes during the four night festival departing Sydney on June 20.  P&O will be offering its biggest-ever season of comedy, comprising 72 dedicated cruises during 2018 and 2019…a mix of two, three and four-night “SeaBreaks” departing Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns, and Auckland.  In other news, P&O is showcasing the hidden gems of the South Pacific in its 2019 winter program, which offers 43 separate cruises departing from either Sydney or Brisbane.  The launch coincides with a new marketing campaign featuring a series of TV spots showing Australians why a P&O cruise is the most effortless way to explore the South Pacific, providing travellers with access to unique destinations that can otherwise be difficult to reach.  Included are such remote places as the Conflict Islands, 21 small pristine, uninhabited islands in an atoll spanning 375 hectares in the Coral Sea, in southeast Papua New Guinea, which were previously only accessible by helicopter or a boat ride.  www.pocruises.com.au

 

Poseidon Expeditions’s 2017-18 Antarctic season began in November with the completion of its first voyage of the austral summer, which explored the Falkland Islands and remote South Georgia.  For the first time, the company has added packages that allow guests to spend several days in Buenos Aires and the wine region of Mendoza either before or after their cruise to Antarctica.  Poseidon, which focuses on remote polar cruise exploration in the high latitudes, offers cruises from October through February in the Southern Ocean.  Since taking over operations of the 114-passenger expedition ship Sea Spirit in May, 2015, Poseidon has led more than 20 successful expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.  In other news, the company is picking up 70 percent of the cost of roundtrip air from Reykjavik, Iceland, to the port of embarkation in Greenland for its May 30 to June 6, eight-day West Greenland & Disko Bay expedition voyage of the far north.  The value of the roundtrip air is $1,410 per person, but guests booking cabins on Sea Spirit pay only $499 per person. The roundtrip flight is to Greenland’s Kangehussuaq where guests are transported to Nuuk, the port of embarkation. This arrangement saves North American clients time and money, as heretofore they flew via Copenhagen, Denmark, to access the ship in West Greenland.  Limited air seats are available at this $499 price.  www.poseidonexpeditions.com/

 

Princess Cruises has now scheduled the debut of its newest ship, Sky Princess.  Her maiden voyage in the Mediterranean in 2019 will reportedly showcase the best features of her sister ships…Majestic Princess, Regal Princess and Royal Princess…brought together, plus new features to be revealed during the coming months.  In other news, the line has announced its 2019 program featuring the Japanese-built Diamond Princess, returning for her sixth season with roundtrip sailings from Tokyo (Yokohama) and Kobe.  The March to November season will feature 60 departures on 40 different itineraries, visiting 41 destinations in seven countries…more ports than ever before.  Offerings include access to 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites and nine late-night port calls.  Similarly, Princess has also released details on its 2019 Canada & New England season, featuring Regal Princess and Caribbean Princess on the cruise line’s largest fall deployment to date, plus the opportunity to visit Greenland round-trip from New York aboard Caribbean Princess.  The complete program will encompass three ships, 16 departures, 16 destinations on seven itineraries, three late-night ports and two overnight ports with access to four UNESCO World Heritage sites.  www.princesscruises.com/

 

Royal Caribbean International is adding business-ready features to its agent reservation system, Espresso.  New enhancements include “Category Swaps Made Easy,” Interactive Deck Plans,” and “Tour Conductor Credit Notifications.”  www.rccl.com/

 

Scenic has announced that industry veteran Rob Huffman is coming aboard Scenic and Emerald Waterways as their Vice President of Trade Sales-USA.  Huffman has spent more than 30 years in the travel industry, starting as a manager of Uniglobe H&H Travel in Tennessee, continuing with 20 years at Carnival Cruise Lines focused primarily on sales, training and marketing efforts, and then joining Viking River Cruises in 2013, rising to become that line’s director of trade sales for North America.  In other news, Joni Rein, Scenic’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing-USA, addressed guests at this year’s AVENUE Altruism Awards, held on November 13 at the United Nations in New York, which honored the work of Dr. Sylvia Earle and her organization, Mission Blue.  Finally, Scenic and its partner, leading luxury cycling vacation company Trek Travel, are enhancing their cycling program and increasing the number of dedicated European river cruise departures to 11 for 2018.  All-inclusive fares start at $6,999 per person, double.  www.scenicusa.com/

 

Seabourn is continuing its focus on “mindful living” with two new “Wellness Cruises with Dr. Andrew Weil” during the year ahead.  Bound for Alaska (aboard Seabourn Sojourn, June 16-28) and Greece (aboard Seabourn Odyssey, October 6-20), each voyage will feature experts in the field of integrative medicine and Dr. Weil, a celebrated physician and best-selling author who partnered with Seabourn to introduce “Spa & Wellness with Dr, Andrew Weil,” its exclusive “mindful living” program at sea.  Elsewhere, the line will be bringing new artisan K+M Chocolate aboard its fleet of ships during early 2018, striving to redefine the standard of an evening turndown sweet.  K+M Chocolate is the work of Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Keller (a Seabourn culinary partner) and Italian olive oil producer Armando Manni, who have teamed up to develop what they believe is the world’s highest quality chocolate.  Finally, Seabourn’s dedicated North America key account sales team is seeking to further strengthen its travel professional partnerships during 2018.  www.seabourn.com/

 

Silversea Cruises first crossover luxury expedition ship, Silver Cloud, arrived in Antarctica on December 7 during her first luxury expedition voyage to the White Continent, following a $40 million refurbishment and conversion into an ice-class polar expedition ship.  The visit was during a 10-night Antarctic Peninsula expedition, roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina.  The line has also announced a new series of 2018 and 2019 “Enriched Voyages” in Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and the Indian Ocean, plus a trans-Atlantic itinerary.  Featured are enhanced onboard enrichment with a culinary or wine theme, including five sailings developed in partnership with The Peninsula Hotels.  www.silversea.com/

 

Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper will offer a round trip sailing from Cannes on May 12, 2018, timed to coincide with the historic Grand Prix races in Monaco.  The vessel will dock in Monte Carlo on May 13, where interested guests can attend the races.  From there, the ship will call on Lerici, Sardinia and Elba, Italy as well as Bonifacio, Portoferraio, Palombaggia, Porticcio Beach and Ajaccio in Corsica, France, before returning to Cannes.  Pricing for this seven-day sailing starts at $1,845 per person, based on double occupancy.  The line is also offering departures aboard Star Flyer timed to coincide with Formula One Grand Prix trials and finals.  The May 19 Barcelona to Cannes sailing stops in Monaco on May 24 for the trials, and the May 26 Cannes round trip sailing docks in Monaco on May 27 for the finals.  Pricing for these itineraries begins at $1,690 per person, double.  In other news, to complement its unique sailing itineraries in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean between May and September, the company is offering complimentary pre and post-voyage stays at top hotels in Athens, Cannes and Rome on select departures.  Finally, guests who book a sailing by January 6 on any of Star Clippers’ three ships for travel through June, 2018, will receive a complimentary onboard massage, champagne and sweet treats to help enhance their journey.  www.starclippers.com

 

Un-Cruise Adventures is offering two “Family Discoveries” Alaska departures, June 17 and July 15, 2018, on its 88-guest Legacy.  There’s also group space available on any spring (April/May) “Alaska Awakening” sailing, also on the Legacy, as well as a November 3 “Rivers of Wine” cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers that is open for a large group booking.  www.un-cruise.com/

 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s River Beatrice will reemerge this coming spring as its newest “Super Ship,” S.S. Beatrice.  The vessel is scheduled to undergo an extensive bow-to-stern renovation in order to exhibit a fresh, sleek look, complete with a graceful bow, redesigned lounge, grand staircase, new suites and morewww.uniworld.com

 

Viking Cruises has signed on as presenting sponsor of “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition,” which made its North American debut on November 18 in New York City, giving guests a chance to experience an up-close and personal look at the history, fashion and culture of post-Edwardian England…as well as the iconic country home…that were featured in the Emmy Award-winning program.  Viking sponsored the series during the years Downton Abbey aired on PBS, and this new partnership builds on the company’s continued commitment to enriching cultural programming.  Elsewhere, on December 15 at PortMiami, Viking celebrated the kickoff of its inaugural World Cruise on its fourth and newest ocean ship, Viking Sun, welcoming guests for the sold-out 141-day itinerary.  Viking Sun will spend nearly five months on the voyage, which spans five continents, 35 countries and 64 ports.  www.vikingcruises.com/