Bob Hoelscher

June 20, 2018 Update – Group Cruise News

 
 

Bob Hoelscher
Published June 20, 2018

Welcome!  In the past, I’ve wondered when writing how many huge cruise ships in relatively small port towns such as those found in Alaska will be too many.  As it was during a May Norwegian Jewel sailing in the 49th State, there were four such ships simultaneously visiting Skagway, and five each in Juneau and Ketchikan, leading to elbow-to-elbow pedestrian traffic in the ‘downtown’ areas.  Consequently, it was a real treat to visit the highly photogenic Icy Strait Point, a cruise-specific destination near Hoonah, created in 2004 by the Huna Totem Corporation, owned by members of the local Tlingit native community, and located in a spectacular natural setting on Chichagof Island not far from the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park.  This was my first call at Icy Strait, and hopefully not my last.  First, there is room for only one ship at a time on the Icy Strait pier, and the land-based facilities nearby also reflect adequate space for only a single large vessel’s guests at a time.

 

But what facilities those are!  Here you’ll find friendly people; a handsome “Adventure (Visitor) Center;” attractive dining venues; wonderful, easy-to-negotiate walking/hiking paths along the water and through a magnificent forest; picturesque docks once frequented by fishing boats; exhibits and shops in a historic 1930s salmon cannery; plus what is billed as the longest zip-line in the world.  Available optional excursions feature the history and culture of the Tlingit people, tribal dances, whale watching excursions, kayaking, hiking, fishing for salmon and halibut, birdwatching, scenic and adventure touring by jeep, ATV, Zodiac boat and ocean raft, as well as sightseeing tram tours through the Alaskan rainforest.  I opted for the latter, which was guided by a Tlingit elder and an outstanding experience!  Bald eagles were plentiful, and two even perched on a pole immediately adjacent to our ship’s aft outdoor dining area.  Hopefully readers will have an opportunity to explore Icy Strait Point in the future on a day as excellent weather-wise as it was for us, and without additional ships to overcrowd the site.

 

Also, a new edition of the Berlitz Guide to River Cruising in Europe and the USA 2018-2019, the world’s most authoritative guide to river cruising written by highly-respected expert Douglas Ward, will be available from booksellers next month for $19.99.  Now in its 3rd edition and accompanied by a free app and eBook, the guide includes U.S. riverboats for the first time, and reveals Berlitz’s Top Ten Scoring river vessels from over 320 of them reviewed and rated.

 

Adventure Smith Explorations has added to its portfolio five new purpose-built vessels that will cruise Antarctica, reflecting growing interest in exploring the white continent.  Included are the 176-guest World Explorer, the 174-guest Hondius, the 69-guest Magellan Explorer, the 126-guest National Geographic Endurance, and a new 200-guest Quark Polar Vessel that is scheduled to enter service in 2020 but has yet to be named.  www.adventuresmithexplorations.com   

 

AIDA Cruises’ captain of the new AIDAnova will be Boris Becker, who was born in the Ruhr area and studied nautical engineering in Bremen.  After graduating with a degree in industrial marine engineering, he was hired by AIDA in 2004, and his successful career with the company, first as an officer, later as a staff captain, resulted in his appointment in 2010 at the age of 30 to be the then-youngest captain of AIDA Cruises.  During the course of his career at AIDA, he has successfully deployed several newbuilds, including AIDAluna, AIDAblu and most recently AIDAperla.  Currently Becker is working at the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg to monitor the last stages of AIDAnova’s construction on site.  The vessel is scheduled to be christened in a gala ceremony at the “AIDA Open Air” in front of the Werfthalle in Papenburg on August 31.  From December, 2018, AIDAnova will start its debut season with trips around the Canary Islands after arriving in Hamburg on December 2.  AIDAnova is the world’s first cruise ship to be powered entirely by liquefied natural gas (LNG).  In other news, AIDA is bringing four ships of its fleet to the Kieler Woche this year.  At the start of the festival week in Kiel on June 16, AIDAaura became its first vessel to arrive at the Ostseekai, with three sister ships following:  AIDAbella on June 17th and 24th, AIDAcara on June 17th and AIDAluna on June 24th.  AIDA supports this, the largest sailing event in the world, as a sponsor presenting a variety of unique experiences and innovations.  www.aida.de/

 

American Cruise Lines’ 2018 Alaska Season began on June 9th with one of the line’s two 15-day, 14-night Alaska Inside Passage cruises.  This longer itinerary is offered only twice per season, includes a rare overnight in Glacier Bay, and features the company’s American Constellation, inaugurated last year…reportedly the only fully stabilized small ship in Alaska this season.  ACL’s 2018 Alaska Inside Passage cruises are available through September 8th.  www.americancruiselines.com/

 

American Queen Steamboat Company has partnered with the Ensemble Travel Group as a part of the travel agent network’s expansion of its small ship program.  Through this partnership, AQSC joins Ensemble’s network of preferred partners.  The line has also announced early booking savings of up to $1,800 per stateroom for new paid-in-full 2019 bookings made by July 31, 2018.  www.aqsc.com/

 

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has announced that special performances by Tito Puente Jr. and his Latin jazz ensemble will entertain guests with several performances throughout the June 20-22 sailing of Grand Classica.  Puente will showcase a series of jazz, salsa and mambo hits by both his late father and Latin legend Celia Cruz, performed with special guest Melina Almodovar.  In other news, the line is celebrating summer with a variety of special promotions, events and giveaways geared towards cruisers of all ages.  With the addition of its newly-launched Grand Classica, the company is offering daily departures from the Port of Palm Beach, giving travelers the chance to customize a two-night summer getaway to Grand Bahama Island.  www.bahamasparadisecruise.com/

 

Carnival Cruise Line is refreshing its “Carnival Players Club” casino program to give members additional access to offers and experiences, both on board and ashore.  The program includes a new “Dealer’s Choice” offer with cruise savings opportunities, complimentary in-casino drinks for qualified guests, and invitation-only Carnival Players Club events.  www.carnival.com/

 

Carnival Australia has announced that a new international cruise terminal will be operating in Brisbane within two years after the company and the Port of Brisbane reached a commercial agreement.  The Brisbane International Cruise Terminal at Luggage Point is expected to be operating by mid-2020, and is projected to generate almost $5 billion in economic value for the Queensland economy alone within 15 years.  Following the announcement, it was also revealed that Carnival Spirit will become the brand’s first ever ship to home port in Brisbane.  www.carnivalaustralia.com/

 

Celebrity Cruises has unveiled details of The Spa on Celebrity Edge.  The 22,000+ square foot facility was designed by Kelly Hoppen, MBE, and will feature an assortment of treatments in collaboration with the line’s partners.  Celebrity Edge will be making her first sailing on December 1.  In other news, the brand is celebrating Pride Month fleetwide by hosting its second annual “Pride Party at Sea,” with Olympic Bronze Medalist Adam Rippon and two-time men’s figure skating Olympian Johnny Weir serving as ambassadors for this year’s celebrations.  To kick-off the party, Celebrity also hosted a pride parade at sea on board each ship.  Festivities commenced on board Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Reflection on June 5, in Sicily, Italy, and Cartagena, Spain, respectively.  www.celebritycruises.com/

 

Celestyal Cruises has announced the appointment of Mary Woody as Business Development Manager for the Central U.S. Region.  Woody, with more than 20 years’ experience in the cruise industry, will be based in Kansas City, Kansas, and will report to Gordon Dirker, Vice President, Business Development.  Prior to joining Celestyal, Woody served as Business Development Manager for Royal Caribbean International, where she also represented Azamara Club Cruises.  www.celestyalcruises.com

 

Crystal Cruises officially christened Crystal Debussy, the third of its four newly-built identical river ships during a VIP ceremony in Amsterdam on May 28.  The occasion featured Crystal president and CEO, Tom Wolber, the ship’s godmother, Broadway star Rachel York, and was hosted by Vice President & Managing Director of Crystal River Cruises, Walter Littlejohn.  In other news, Crystal has tapped two globally renowned firms to handle its public relations efforts and the development of a streamlined new website for its portfolio of luxury travel experiences.  The Brandman Agency will represent the company’s ongoing public relations efforts for Crystal, including Crystal Cruises, Crystal River Cruises and Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises.  For its website, Crystal will work with MRM//McCann, named Ad Age’s 2018 Business-to-Business Agency of the Year, on a redesign that will be relaunched near the end of the year.  Finally, transporting one of the world’s best soccer teams to the world’s most elite tournament, Crystal AirCruises’ Crystal Skye…the world’s most luxurious privately-owned Boeing 777-200LR aircraft…took off from Montevideo Carrasco International Airport in Uruguay on June 9.  On board were the players, coaches and members of the Uruguay National Football Association, on their way to compete on the world’s stage in Russia.  The aircraft was full, accommodating 88 guests in 180-degree lie-flat seats for the 15½-hour flight, with Crystal’s crew of 20 attending to the team’s needs along the way.  www.crystalcruises.com/

 

Cunard inaugurated its partnership with Bloomingdale’s by presenting a June 7th “Jet-Set Travel” panel program as part of the store’s “In Her Shoes” series.  The discussion took place in the newly renovated fifth-floor shoe department at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship in New York City, and covered topics about stylish on-the-go necessities, destinations of the season and tips and tricks for an off-the-grid journey.  Elsewhere, stage, film and TV star Alan Cumming will join Cunard as part of the line’s “Insights” program on the January 3, 2019 trans-Atlantic crossing of flagship Queen Mary 2.  While sailing on the seven-night voyage from New York to Southampton, Cumming will appear at a Q&A session for guests and host a screening of Instinct, his new TV series on CBS, in which he plays Dr. Dylan Reinhart.  Instinct, which premiered in March and was recently renewed for a second season, is an American police drama based on James Patterson’s Murder Games. www.cunard.com/

 

Disney Cruise Line will return to favorite destinations and home ports on a variety of itineraries during fall, 2019, including adventures to Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico’s Baja, Canada and the Caribbean, with cruises ranging from two-night getaways to weeklong vacations and beyond.  And this fall, the line will treat guests to a “wickedly good time as the ships transform into ghoulish wonderlands filled with frightfully fun events and activities, special decorations, unique menu items in the restaurants and themed parties.”  This year, “Halloween on the High Seas” will take place on most voyages aboard Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic from September through October.  This unique Halloween celebration will feature “spooky parties, lively entertainment and elaborate décor, including The Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms throughout the cruise.”  www.disneycruise.disney.go.com/

 

Emerald Waterways has announced its first foray into the African continent with two new Egypt cruise and tour itineraries.  With seven departures planned for 2019 and eight for 2020, the line is offering two tour options:  a 10-day Egypt & the Nile River Cruise Tour featuring five days on the chartered Hamees and four nights in Cairo, and a more in-depth, 15-day program that includes a journey to Jordan, with stays at Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea.  Emerald’s 2019 season will also include two new ways to explore the Danube River.  On the new 8-day “Classic Danube” river cruise, guests will sail from Nuremberg to Vienna with more time to learn about the military history of Nuremberg and Austrian culture in Passau and Melk.  The 8-day Lower Danube Waltz itinerary, which takes guests from Vienna to Belgrade, will visit Budapest before taking guests to Osijek, Croatia to enjoy lunch in the home of a local family and then on to the culturally rich Serbian town of Novi Sad.  Guests booking any of the brand’s 2019 European river cruises by this August 15th will receive free or reduced airfare depending on stateroom selection.  www.emeraldwaterways.com/

 

Holland America Line was recently presented with the Luminary Award from Clarabridge, Inc. at the 10th Annual Clarabridge Customer Connections event.  Clarabridge is reportedly the leading provider of Customer Experience Management solutions, and Holland America Line utilizes its software to analyze some 300,000 guest satisfaction surveys annually.  In other news, guests on the August 11th, “O, The Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life Cruise to Alaska” aboard Eurodam will be joined by five of the magazine’s editors and Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist, author and international speaker; Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author; and Sara Auster, sound therapist, meditation teacher and artist.  In related news, HAL has announced a three-day “Girls’ Getaway” cruise on its newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, departing January 30, 2019.  Oprah Winfrey will sail on the cruise, joined by O, The Oprah Magazine Editor-at-Large Gayle King and other members of the magazine’s editorial staff, who will host special presentations and events on board the ship, currently under construction at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy.  Winfrey will serve as godmother of Nieuw Statendam in a private ceremony at a date to be announced later.  Elsewhere, the season’s first batch of Copper River king salmon arrived in Seattle in late May, and Holland America Line was among the first to secure a supply of the premium fish for Eurodam.  Frits Van Der Werff, vice president, food and beverage experience, personally inspected the salmon before taking delivery of the shipment.  Known as a rite of spring in Seattle, the arrival of the fresh Copper River king salmon from Cordova, Alaska, kicks off the annual salmon season.  HAL is serving the prized seafood in the Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurants on all seven of its ships sailing in Alaskan waters this summer.  Next, Denella Ri’chard, senior director of trade communications and engagement, was named as one of Legacy Miami’s “50 Most Powerful and Influential Black Business Leaders” of 2018 at a gala event on June 2.  Also, HAL has launched a reimagined website centered around a new, intuitive online booking process, easy navigation, plus images and detailed information that capture the cruise experience.  The focal point of the homepage is a new cruise search toolbar that allows visitors to easily select where they want to cruise, the port of departure, dates and cruise length.  The homepage also features a top navigational menu that provides quick access to HAL’s cruising destinations, onboard experiences, cruise fare offers and information for guests who are already booked.  Finally, in recognition of International Sushi Day on June 9, HAL celebrated the popular delicacy by revealing the “Largest Sushi Roll at Sea” made on June 9 by Culinary Council Member Andy Matsuda while he sailed aboard Koningsdam on a special Food & Beverage Aficionado Cruise in Norway.  Dubbed the “World Mega Roll,” the creation measured 49 feet long (15 meters) before getting rolled, 3.3 feet (100 centimeters) wide and used 70 pounds of sushi rice.  The concoction was prepared around the Lido Pool so guests could join in the festivities and watch as Matsuda assembled the culinary feat.  Once delicately rolled, Matsuda cut it in half so guests could view the swirled ingredients that included rice, salmon, tuna, shrimp, crab, tamago (Japanese omelet), tobiko (flying fish roe), cucumber, red onion and radish.  I think I’d prefer one of the line’s excellent specialty burgers!  www.hollandamerica.com/

 

MSC Cruises has revealed that the company’s new digital personal assistant, which will launch on MSC Bellissima, will be named Zoe.  Elsewhere, the new MSC Seaview will feature the latest and most modern environmental technology that not only complies with the highest international standards, but has also received “Green Star 3 Design” recognition from certification organization, RINA.  RINA’s “Green Star 3” applauds excellence and attention to detail during design and construction, including in relation to the vessel’s exhaust gas cleaning system, advanced waste water treatment, systems for the prevention of oil discharge from machinery spaces, ballast water treatment system, and Environmental Management Plan.  On June 4, the line officially took delivery of MSC Seaview at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, and on June 9, the vessel was welcomed into service with live entertainment and speeches, fireworks and a gala dinner combined with traditional maritime festivities.  Sophia Loren, Godmother of all MSC Cruises ships, cut the ribbon on her 13th MSC Cruises’ ship, as well as the third ship for the company to come into service over the last 12 months. Finally, on June 14, MSC announced a newly-ordered fifth Meraviglia class ship, bringing its total to five LNG-powered ships on order.  Three significant milestones were also celebrated simultaneously at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard:  steel-cutting for the fourth Meraviglia Class Ship, now named MSC Virtuosa; the traditional Coin Ceremony of MSC Grandiosa, the first of the Meraviglia Plus class of ships; and the float-out of MSC Bellissima, the second Meraviglia-class ship, scheduled to enter service during March, 2019.  www.msccruises.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line executed an industry-first event in Seattle on May 31 with the christening of Norwegian Bliss broadcast throughout the ship’s multiple venues to the over 2,500 guests in attendance.  Following the official bottle-breaking led by Godfather Elvis Duran, a bevy of stars performed in six different venues including the Bliss Theater, where three-time Grammy award-winning rock band and headliner, Train, sang fan-favorite songs including “Drops of Jupiter,” “Calling All Angels,” “Hey Soul Sister” and their new hit, “Call Me Sir.”  Disco queen Gloria Gaynor, also performed some of her greatest hits including “I Will Survive.”  Performances from local Seattle talent included rapper and music producer Sir Mix-a-Lot, b-boy crew Massive Monkees, and the Northwest Tap Connection, a youth program with a mission to provide quality dance and job opportunities to under-served communities.  Also in the talent lineup was rapper Tone Loc, Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth, violin duo Sons of Mystro, the Molly Callinan Band and Wally Palmar of the Romantics.  www.ncl.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., in celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8, announced that it has partnered with the Ocean Conservancy to protect and ensure the long-term health of our oceans.  The company will join several of the world’s leading corporations and organizations in the Ocean Conservancy’s “Trash Free Seas Alliance,” actively working toward solutions that will mitigate plastic waste entering the ocean. www.nclhltd.com/

 

Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering a way for families to explore Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific together this summer and during the holidays through a joint program with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).  Through the partnership with WCS, the “Stewards of Nature” family program invites children and teens ages 7-17, as well as their family members, to discover and value nature through hands-on, interactive learning.  Also, up to $500 shipboard credit on balcony staterooms and suites on select 2018 and 2019 voyages of Paul Gauguin is being offered during the line’s “Live Large On Our Small Ship” promotion, when booked by July 31.  As an additional bonus, deposits have been reduced to $250 per person.  www.pgcruises.com/

 

Poseidon Expeditions, Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruising specialist, has announced newly instituted, eco-friendly initiatives aboard the 114-passenger Sea Spirit that include, among others, removing all plastic straws and stirrers…paper straws will be available on request; doing away with individual butter and jelly portions and replacing them with ramekins which eliminate the need for single-use plastics; using eco-friendly laundry detergents; and installing bulk body wash, shampoo, and soap dispensers instead of using individual plastic bottles.  www.poseidonexpeditions.com/

 

Princess Cruises’ newly announced fall, 2019, to spring, 2020 programs feature the maiden season of Sky Princess in the Caribbean, debuting in December 2019 on a three-day inaugural cruise, followed by a series of seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages.  Also, the line’s largest deployment ever to the Panama Canal will include the maiden season of Emerald Princess sailing through the new Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side of the canal as well as the new Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side, which opened in 2016.  And 14 departures to South America include voyages sailing to Antarctica and a 58-day circumnavigation of the continent offering guests the opportunity to visit such regional icons as Easter Island, Rio’s Carnival, Machu Picchu, Iguazú Falls and Patagonia.  In Asia, 45 departures departing November, 2019 through May, 2020 on sister ships Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess will take guests to experience the exotic cultures and sites of Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea, Malaysia and more.  In Mexico, highlights for the 2019-2020 season include the introduction of one of the line’s newest ships, Royal Princess, for her first full season based in Los Angeles.  Royal Princess will offer 27 total departures including seven-day Mexico itineraries, plus opportunities offering guests more time in port with an overnight in Cabo San Lucas on every 5-day “Cabo San Lucas Getaway” sailing.  Furthermore, as the only line to sail year-round out of San Francisco, Princess will also offer 10-day Grand Princess round-trip Mexico itineraries in 2019.  Elsewhere, new culinary offerings, upgraded accommodations, Lotus Spa enhancements and more have been added to Crown Princess during a recent ten-day dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas, before the vessel repositioned to the Mediterranean for her summer season.  Next, Princess is broadcasting all 64 games of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, culminating with the final in Moscow on July 15, aboard nine of its ships.  Games are airing on the line’s signature “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor screens, which have space to accommodate hundreds of guests.  Next, In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” summer programming, Princess has transformed Shark Week into a full season, with its first-ever “Summer of Shark” onboard Caribbean Princess for its summer sailings in the Caribbean.  In partnership with Discovery, Inc., the line unveiled a Phillip Colbert-designed shark decal on the starboard surface of Caribbean Princess during the official “Summer of Shark” launch activities.  www.princesscruises.com/

 

Riviera River Cruises has announced the selection of David Morris International to assist them in their introduction to the North America market.  Riviera, a British company, currently has a Reservations Center in Connecticut and two full time Regional Sales Directors located in Florida and New York.  David Morris, President, and Marilyn Conroy, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, will complement their sales efforts and focus on strategic plans to expand the company’s agent base throughout North America. www.rivierarivercruises.com/

 

Scenic and National Geographic Expeditions have announced new itineraries for the 2019 season:  “Gems of the Danube Christmas Markets,” sailing between Nuremburg and Budapest; “Dutch Sights & Belgium Delights,” roundtrip from Amsterdam during the tulip season; and “Unforgettable Douro,” an 11-day exploration of this World Heritage-designated region.  Each sailing will be accompanied by a National Geographic expert who will enrich the experience with presentations, informal discussions and added excursions throughout the trip.  A National Geographic photographer will also be on board to share professional techniques and help guests hone their photography skills.  www.scenicusa.com/ 

 

Seabourn’s newest luxury vessel, Seabourn Ovation, dedicated on May 11, will spend nearly the entire season cruising around Scandinavia and the United Kingdom before heading south to Lisbon in early October.  Elsewhere, the line returned to Alaska and British Columbia this summer on June 4, officially kicking off with a 12-day “Ultimate Alaska & Inside Passage” voyage sailing round-trip from Vancouver aboard Seabourn Sojourn.  In other news, the line’s 2019 season in Europe will have four vessels…Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Ovation…offering more than 66 individual departures from 14 different embarkation gateways.  There will be more than 200 different European destinations on cruises of 7 to 45 days around the continent.  www.seabourn.com/

 

Silversea Cruises has reported a marked increase in early World Cruise bookings when compared to the launch of similar voyages during the last five years.  With a record response rate from both existing Silversea guests and first-time cruisers, World Cruise 2020 has topped the booking charts, with Silver Whisper becoming the first ship to visit all seven continents on a 140-day world cruise.  Elsewhere, on June 3, Silversea Expeditions celebrated 10 years of luxury expedition cruising, marking the occasion with a two-day gala voyage between London and Dublin on Silver Cloud.  The vessel departed London’s Tower Bridge to honor Silversea Expeditions’ first voyage, which sailed under Tower Bridge for Svalbard a decade ago to the day.  In other news, Silversea is offering savings on a number of voyages to Asia in 2018 and 2019 with an “All-Inclusive Package” promotion now available on new bookings.  The savings program includes free economy roundtrip air or business-class air upgrade for $2,499 (CA$3,299) each way for flights from select U.S. and Canadian gateways; free one-night pre- and post-cruise hotel stay; free transfers between airport, hotel and ship; and at least one free shore excursion in every port.  An “Early Booking Bonus” saving of 10% is also available on select departures.  www.silversea.com/

 

Star Clippers’ upcoming Caribbean sailing season will run from December through March with 37 departures ranging from seven to 14-nights.  Two ships…Royal Clipper and Star Flyer…will call on favorite islands such as St. Maarten, Barbados and Antigua, as well as lesser-known gems like Isles de Saintes, Nevis, Dominica and Anguilla.  Travelers wishing to extend their Caribbean getaway before or after sailing can take advantage of complimentary two-night hotel stays plus breakfast and transfers in either Barbados or St. Maarten on select 2018 and 2019 departures. www.starclippers.com/ 

 

Tauck has announced details of its new-for-2019 “Arctic Allure: Spitsbergen and the Midnight Sun” small ship cruise itinerary, as well as plans to host BBC Earth filmmakers next year on select sailings of four different expeditionary cruises.  The new 10-day journey will explore the island of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago.  Located inside the Arctic Circle, Spitsbergen and the archipelago’s other islands are notable for their population of some 3,000 polar bears, which exceeds the area’s human population. www.tauck.com/

 

UnCruise Adventures has released its schedule of Alaska cruises for 2019, which will open the Alaska cruise season earlier than ever with its first adventure cruise departing on April 6.   Seven of the line’s small ships will sail 142 departures on 11 itineraries with a new “Alaska’s Glacier Country” itinerary sailing roundtrip from Juneau.  From April through September, adventure cruises lasting one to two weeks will depart from homeports of Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Petersburg and Sitka.  The vessels carry from 22 to 90 guests.  www.uncruise.com/

 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will be introducing the recently renovated, 124-guest Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer on the Yangtze river in China to its guests in 2019.  In other news, the line has identified its “Top Five Cruise Picks for 2019”…”Alluring Amsterdam & Vienna”…”Magnificent Moselle & Rhine”…”Remarkable Rhine & Historic Holland”…”Holland & Belgium at Tulip Time”…and “Authentic Danube & Prague.”  www.uniworld.com/

 

Virgin Voyages has assembled a ‘Creative Collective’ featuring some of the world’s leading interior design firms, none of whom have ever designed for the cruise industry before.  The line has partnered with Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio in London, Roman and Williams in New York, Concrete Amsterdam, Softroom in London and WorkAC in New York to create designs for the line’s first ship, due for delivery in 2020.  www.virginvoyages.com/