Bob Hoelscher

October 16, 2017 Update – Group Cruise News

 
 

Bob Hoelscher
Published October 16, 2017

Welcome!  Following two September weeks of land touring in Wisconsin and around both the northern shore of Lake Superior and the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario, I departed the U.S. on the 26th for over a full month in Europe.  On my schedule were three cruises…a nine-night Baltic sailing aboard Norwegian Getaway, round-trip from Copenhagen; another nine nights on MSC Preziosa on a repositioning itinerary from Hamburg to Barcelona; and an eight-day (mostly) Western Mediterranean experience from Barcelona to Lisbon on Wind Surf…as well as overnights in Copenhagen and Hamburg, and three-night hotel stays in both Barcelona and Amsterdam.  I’m about halfway through the trip at present, but unexpected adventures have certainly played a major role in this European sojourn.

 

First, the three different (but partnering) airlines I flew on to get across the pond managed to pool their resources to send my luggage to who knows where, requiring me to travel for fully two-and-a-half weeks with but the barest of essentials, including only one pair of trousers.  My suitcase and I were finally reunited yesterday in Lisbon, so I hope it had a nice journey without me.  Fortunately, I just happened to check the Scandinavian Airlines (the last of the carriers involved) baggage service website after we arrived in Portugal, since no one had bothered to contact either me or anyone on the MSC Preziosa cruise staff directly to advise that my bag had indeed been located and had been sent to the Lisbon airport three days earlier.  At least I was able to find out on my own, and have the bag delivered before the ship continued on to Gibraltar.

 

Next, my wallet was stolen on October 3rd by a pair of expert pickpockets in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Since then I’ve largely been without clothes, money, or credit cards, although happily, most of my arrangements had been prepaid, and with some welcome assistance from my traveling companion ‘Di’ Varnell, my bank, and both the cruise lines involved so far, as well as a few emergency purchases, I’ve been able to cope pretty well.  Furthermore, due to high winds and waves, Norwegian Getaway’s safe departure from the relatively narrow and shallow St. Petersburg harbor channel was delayed long enough so that our scheduled call at Helsinki, Finland, had to be cancelled.  And due to a general strike of workers in France, MSC Preziosa’s call at Le Havre had to be replaced by one in Zeebrugge, Belgium, which at least had the advantage of allowing a visit (my fourth) to the charming historic city of Bruges.

 

Finally, somewhere along the way I picked up a still-lingering chest cold and laryngitis, and was also aboard a Belgian taxicab when it collided with a large tractor-trailer.  Although no one was injured, we had an unexpected roadside delay until the local police and a replacement cab arrived on the scene.  Assuming that I survive the rest of the month unscathed, I’ll report on all three cruises and related happenings in my October Group Cruise News Update.  Elsewhere, however, my good friends Jon and Bess London recently returned from a well-received, 24-day Mediterranean cruise on Holland America Line’s Westerdam.  Jon graciously provided me with a detailed report on the sailing, which I have excerpted as follows.

 

“Our waiter told us that the ship had recently come out of dry dock, and the carpeting, paint and furniture all looked brand new.  Also during the dry dock, HAL added their Billboard OnBoard and Lincoln Center Stage entertainment venues to the Westerdam, which both proved to be welcome additions.  The food in the main dining room was very good.  I was especially impressed with the fresh fish that was served on several occasions; usually only frozen fish has been available on past cruises.  Soups in the main dining room were innovative and consistently excellent.  Also, Holland America has greatly improved its pizza, which was available most of each day in the buffet.  The Westerdam Lido Deck Grill, called Dive-In, featured excellent hamburgers at no additional cost.  The room service club and caprese sandwiches were consistently fresh and tasty.

 

“My favorite entertainment…by far was the twin piano players at Billboard OnBoard.  These two talented musicians played an incredible variety of Top 40 and country hits accompanied by amiable chatter.  (During) the all-request sets that were performed each night…the performers showed their ability to tackle just about any song that the audience wanted to hear.  As you know, I’m not a big classical music fan, but I still enjoyed the quintet that performed on the Lincoln Center Stage.  This was a vast improvement over the two-person Adagio String players that Holland America used to feature in the Explorer Lounge.  In addition to classical selections, the quintet performed jazz and even some rock.

 

“The other nightly entertainment venue was the BB King Blues Club.  I found this disappointing in comparison to the incarnation that I experienced last year on Noordam. On both ships, however, the volume level of the music was beyond excessive.  I was only able to listen from outside the showroom itself and do not understand why anybody would want to have their eardrums blasted by the noise level within.  The Main Stage entertainment seemed weak this time on the Westerdam, especially compared to what I saw last year on Noordam, or earlier this year on Royal Princess and Celebrity Eclipse.  The production shows were fine, with talented singers and dancers, but there were only four of these shows on a 24-day cruise.  The other singers, magicians, jugglers, and comedians didn’t seem up to the standards I have experienced in the past.  Perhaps HAL felt that the nightly entertainment was not as important on this cruise, since the itinerary was very port intensive.

 

“One factor that always makes a Holland America cruise special for me is the attitude of the crew. I don’t know if their friendliness and willingness to accommodate is an intrinsic quality of the largely Indonesian crew, or the result of a superior training program, but HAL staff at all levels always seem the most welcoming of all the cruise lines, and the Westerdam crew was no exception.  All in all, we were very pleased with Westerdam and were sorry to disembark when our 24 days were over.”

 

LOTS of news this month…

 

 

Aida Cruises, on September 21, announced that a module for its new AIDAnova was launched for the first time at the Neptun shipyard in Rostock, Germany.  It was the first of two so-called Floating Engine Room Units (FERU) to be lowered to the Warnow River with a special device.  The complex, 120-meter-long, 42-meter-wide and three-deck high module carries the newbuild’s four Caterpillar dual-fuel engines.  AIDAnova will reportedly be the first cruise ship in the world to be powered by the use of four dual-fuel engines in the port and at sea by the most currently environmentally-friendly and low-emission fossil fuels.  By using LNG, the emissions of fine dust and sulfur oxides are almost completely avoided, and the emission of nitrogen oxides and CO2 emissions are permanently reduced.  The second AIDAnova module, also 120 meters long and 42 meters wide, is currently under construction at the Neptun shipyard.  In other news, the line has received the German Fairness Prize for 2017, its fourth such consecutive recognition.  The German Institute for Service Quality annually conducted a comprehensive consumer survey in cooperation with n-tv, this year receiving about 45,000 customer comments on more than 500 companies, and covering such areas as value for money, reliability and transparency.  AIDA was again the best rated company in the cruise industry.  www.aida.de/

 

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Elation recently received a multi-million-dollar makeover, including the addition of a new WaterWorks park, Camp Ocean kids play area, 38 new cabins, 98 balconies to existing staterooms, and such food and beverage concepts as Guy’s Burger Joint, RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Cantina and Tequilla Bar.  The vessel has now resumed its year-round schedule of four to eight-day cruises from Jacksonville, Florida.  Elsewhere, Guy Fieri, a member of the American Royal National Barbecue Hall of Fame whose namesake burger joints are featured on 19 Carnival ships, will introduce a new full-service barbecue venue aboard Carnival Horizon when it debuts in spring, 2018.  An expansion of Fieri’s existing barbecue eateries on several Carnival vessels, “Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse/Brewhouse“ will combine authentic, down-home smoked-on-board barbecue and traditional sides created by Fieri, along with a selection of craft beers brewed on board within the restaurant.  www.carnival.com/

 

Celebrity Cruises has unveiled “The Meeting Place,” reportedly a state-of-the-art meeting venue that will be onboard its new Celebrity Edge.  Designed by Wilson Butler Architects, the 1,970-square-foot venue will be centrally located on the ship, and offer views that are promised to be “like no other meeting space on land or at sea.”  Features will include soundproof dividers, advanced audiovisual capabilities, varied seating options, private office space for event planners, mobile bar set-ups for food and beverages, and a fully equipped pantry with a bar.  In other news, on October 11, Celebrity announced that same-sex marriages performed onboard many of its vessels will now by legally recognized, marking a first for the brand.  A transformative vote in Malta, where a majority of the Celebrity fleet is registered, recently passed the country’s parliament 66-1.  The long-awaited move opens the door for the fleet’s captains to officiate legally-recognized same sex ceremonies.  www.celebritycruises.com/

 

CroisiEurope’s Christmas cruises through Alsace and the Black Forest will now stop at the lively Freiburg market, where guests can browse locally-made Black Forest crafts like blown glass, wooden toys, ginger cake and mulled wine. They will then travel on to the cinnamon-scented Christmas markets of Colmar in Alsace, plus visit the Eco-museum, which showcases Alsatian Christmas traditions.  This four-day program departs Strasbourg on November 28 and December 4, with prices starting at $771 per person, double.  For those looking to experience the spirit of French Christmas paired with the warmer weather of the South, the line is offering a new cruise through Provence and the Rhone Valley this December, departing December 21 in Lyon and returning on December 25, with stops in Viviers, Montelimar and Avignon.  Pricing for this itinerary begins at $1,409 per person, double.  www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/

 

Cunard has revealed that it will be adding a fourth ship to its fleet, an investment that is part of the company’s plans for its future globally.  Parent of the brand, Carnival Corporation & plc, has signed a memorandum of agreement with Fincantieri S.p.A. in Italy to build the new, as yet unnamed vessel that will join the Cunard fleet in 2022.  This will mark the first time since 1998 that the line will have four ships in simultaneous service.  http://www.cunard.com/

 

Emerald Waterways is offering travelers a 2018 Europe river cruiseAll-Inclusive Suite Deal” with the option to upgrade any Category E or D staterooms to a Category C or B suite, respectively, representing a value of up to $3,600 per couple; OR book a suite and receive a free Premium Drinks Package and all “Discover More” tours being offered, a value of up to $3,200 per couple.  Bookings must be made by November 30, plus those who pay in full by October 31 will save up to an additional $800 per couple.  In other news, the line held its final christening of 2017 for the Emerald Liberté…the third in its trio of new “Star Ships” to launch this year…on October 1 in Lyon, France.  Australian travel industry veteran and long-standing cruise and tour director Maxine Collins took the honors as Godmother during the official ceremony.  www.emeraldwaterways.com/

 

Holland America Line is touting the artwork on board Koningsdam, its newest vessel.  With a collection worth $4.1 million, hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany worked with art curator ArtLink and YSA Design to procure a thought-provoking collection of diverse works.  The result is a floating art gallery with 1,920 pieces ranging in value individually from $500 to $600,000 that spans the decks, public rooms and staterooms.  More than 21 nationalities are represented by Koningsdam’s artists, with the greatest number of contributors coming from the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom.  In other news, HAL’s Eurodam made it an even dozen by earning its 12th consecutive perfect score of 100 on a routine United States Public Health inspection conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The six-year run of perfect scores continues to set records in both the cruise industry and company history.  Eurodam’s unannounced inspection was held on September 16, during a turnaround in Seattle at the start of a seven-day Alaska cruise. The perfect score followed soon after Zaandam’s June score of 100 on its own health inspection.  www.hollandamerica.com/

 

MSC Cruises USA is observing CLIA’s October “Plan a Cruise Month” by offering travelers 50% savings until October 31 on brochure rates in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe and United Arab Emirates, plus such bonus perks in the Caribbean as onboard credit, internet and drink packages.  Finally, kids 11 and under will sail free on select sailings.  In other news, the line is looking forward to the upcoming holiday season in the Caribbean, when its newest mega ship MSC Seaside will be joining MSC Divina in sailing from PortMiami.  Special holiday cruises will include MSC Divina’s Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas/New Year’s sailings, departing November 18, December 9, and December 23, respectively, as well as separate Christmas and New Year’s sailings of MSC Seaside, departing on December 23 and 30, respectively.  www.msccruisesusa.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced an update to the line’s 2018-19 deployment, offering guests an opportunity to set sail from the Port of New Orleans to Caribbean destinations on one of the line’s newest and largest ships.  After returning from her summer, 2018, season in the Baltic, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway will reposition to the Crescent City for the winter 2018-19 season and cruise to such ports of call as Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and the company’s extensive new island destination of Harvest Caye, Belize.  The Jewel-class Norwegian Gem will now be sailing from New York City for the winter 2018-19 season.  Elsewhere, Norwegian’s “Distinctive Voyages” promotion is being extended through November 30, allowing guests on select nine-day or longer cruises to receive five distinct offers: a 120-minute phone call package, a 250-minute Internet package, a $50 credit per port shore excursion, up to $200 in air credit and a $100 hotel credit.  Finally, on October 11, Norwegian Escape’s Godfather and international music star, Pitbull, made a special appearance before many guests and fans, as well as Norwegian President and CEO Andy Stuart, in New York City to celebrated the vessel’s coming to homeport in the Big Apple during spring, 2018. Upon arrival next year, the ship will sail seven-day cruises to Bermuda during the summer months, and seven-day cruises to Canada & New England and the Bahamas & Florida, as well as a selection of longer cruises to the Western and Southern Caribbean during the fall/winter 2018-19 season.  At 164,600 gross tons and a (double occupancy) capacity of 4,266 guests.   Norwegian Escape will be the brand’s largest ship to ever homeport in New York.  www.ncl.com/

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, announced a partnership on September 26 with All Hands Volunteers, a leading disaster relief organization powered by volunteers, setting a goal to raise $2.5 million for the “Hope Starts Here” hurricane relief program.  Under this effort, the company is committing to match up to $1.25 million of donations from its guests, team members, suppliers and partners, in order to assist All Hands Volunteers (www.hands.org/), a 501(c)3 non-profit relief organization, and Happy Hearts Fund (www.happyheartsfund.org/) in delivering early relief response for the Florida Keys, and rebuild safe, resilient schools in the Caribbean islands impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Norwegian began its campaign with a $600,000 donation to help start the rebuilding process.  In other news, the company has been selected to join the S&P 500 Index, and was added to the S&P 500 GICS Hotels, Resorts & Cruise Lines Sub-Industry index at the open of trading on Friday, October 13.  www.nclhltd.com/

 

Oceania Cruises  has unveiled enhanced Concierge Level Stateroom amenities, which include:  room service from the Grand Dining Room menu during lunch and dinner; free laundry service for up to 3 bags per stateroom; priority noon embarkation; exclusive card-only access to a private Concierge Lounge aboard Marina and Riviera; unlimited access to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub’s private Spa Terrace; complimentary welcome bottle of champagne; priority online specialty restaurant reservations; iPad upon request for use onboard; free unlimited internet access; complimentary Oceania Cruises logo tote bag; cashmere lap blankets for use on verandas; complimentary pressing of garments upon embarkation; and complimentary shoe shine service.  Elsewhere, the line is promoting three Christmas & New Year sailings:  Marina’s “Caribbean Gems” 12-day Western Caribbean itinerary highlighting the Western Caribbean and Central America will sail round-trip from Miami on December 17.  Riviera’s “Sun-Splashed Holiday” to the Southern Caribbean will also sail from Miami, round-trip, on December 22.  Finally, Sirena’s 35-day “Festive Americas” cruise will depart San Diego for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 16.  And for new bookings made by November 15 on select Caribbean voyages departing from December through next April, Oceania will make a donation of $500 per stateroom to assist in fund raising efforts for humanitarian aid, and to help restore and maintain a vibrant tourism environment in the region.  Finally, Oceania has introduced its “Europe & The Americas 2019 Collection” of itineraries, which opens for sale on October 18th.  This diverse set of voyages features more than 85 overnight stays and late departures; 104 itineraries, 80 of them brand new, including 40 new Mediterranean voyages; 18 new Baltic, Scandinavia & Northern Europe journeys; five new Alaska sailings; six new Canada & New England voyages; and ten new Tropics cruises.  www.oceaniacruises.com/ 

 

Paul Gauguin Cruises is celebrating the October “Plan a Cruise Month” by rewarding those who book a 2017 or 2018 sailing of Paul Gauguin with a $100 per person shipboard credit for use in purchasing a spa treatment or souvenirs aboard the ship, or booking a shore excursion.  To give travelers a greater opportunity to take advantage of this special offer, the line has extending the booking period until November 11.  www.pgcruises.com/

 

P&O Cruises Australia has announced the appointment of Ryan Taibel to Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Australia and New Zealand, as the brand strives to grow the “new-to-cruise” market segment.  Taibel will head up the sales, marketing and digital teams responsible for brand strategy and positioning, consumer and trade advertising, strategic partnerships and sponsorships, web and loyalty marketing, research, brand development and communication.  He joined Carnival Australia in 2010 and previously held the role of Sales Director for P&O Cruises, where he led the trade sales and marketing activity across the Australian and New Zealand markets.  www.pocruises.com.au

 

Princess Cruises has presented its first donation from the Princess Animal Welfare Sponsor (PAWS) to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in the amount of $25,000.  PAWS was established by the line to donate a portion of proceeds from the sales of Stanley the Bear, its recently introduced plush bear, to local causes and charities that support nature, animals and wildlife.  In other news, the line has announced phase two of its “Across the Ditch Program,” designed to further immerse guests in New Zealand culture and cuisine.  Launching on Princess’ New Zealand cruises this coming summer (winter in North America), the enhanced program will continue to offer unique New Zealand experiences through a series of interactive onboard and shore activities.  For example, the “Matariki Festival” will be expanded to offer guests more opportunities to learn about Maori heritage and participate in traditional customs from authorized local ambassadors.  With a redesigned menu, guests will be able to enjoy a traditional Hangi dinner as well as New Zealand lamb and Pavlova dessert.  New Zealand beers, Speights Gold Medal Ale and Steinlager Pure will be added to the New Zealand beer and wine list.  Over the next 12 months, 50 new shore tours will be rolled out, including a Piha bush and beach eco tour in Auckland; a Te Puia Thermal Reserve, Maori arts and Agrodome tour in Tauranga; a Canterbury Station, Mt. Sunday, and Lord of the Rings sights tour in Akaroa; and an Oamaru and Moeraki Boulders tour in Port Chalmers.  Next, on October 11, the line celebrated the New York premiere of Born to Dance, the latest offering from its first-of-its-kind partnership with Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer of Wicked,  Godspell and Pippin.  Joining Schwartz aboard Regal Princess for the premiere was director/creator Daniel C. Levine, of Les Miserables and Mamma Mia! fame.  Born to Dance reportedly celebrates the aspirations, hurdles and triumphs of professional dancers, as told through tributes to Broadway’s greatest choreography in a “feel-good” story.  Finally, Princess is inviting travelers to experience a “Voyage of the Glaciers” cruise in 2018.  Featured are spectacular Glacier Bay National Park on every sailing, two different glacier viewing experiences, visits to frontier towns including the new port at Icy Strait Point, and cruising 500 miles further across the Gulf of Alaska, making this program the line’s top-rated Alaska cruise itinerary.  Bookings made now through November 16 will earn all of the line’s “3 for Free” promotion amenities…free stateroom location upgrade, free gratuities and free onboard spending money…plus a “double your onboard spending money” opportunity of $150 per guest.  www.princesscruises.com/

 

Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the largest cruise ship in the world when she debuts next April for her inaugural season in the Mediterranean.  The vessel will accommodate more balcony staterooms overlooking the open ocean, Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods than her sister ship Harmony of the Seas.  Furthermore, the Symphony will introduce a new generation of Royal Caribbean’s Boardwalk neighborhood, complete with new interactive experiences and entertainment venues.  For example, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will be the place to watch “big games” from around the world across 30 big-screen TVs.  New dining concepts and family activities, theater, aerial, ice and aqua facilities will join the lineup of Royal Caribbean exclusives, such as the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar, the AquaTheater showcasing high-flying, high-diving performances, and the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea.  The latest technological innovations will be integrated throughout Symphony, including a redesigned check-in experience that eliminates lines and bypasses the counter.  The new process will leverage a combination of facial recognition, bar codes and beacons to make boarding fast and easy.  Guests will reportedly check-in via the brand’s new mobile app and upload their security “selfies” to create their onboard accounts before leaving home for their cruises.  Upon arrival, guests will go through a security screening and then head straight to their staterooms, where keys will be ready and waiting.  The 25th ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, the vessel will cross the Atlantic after her European summer, and beginning on November 24, 2018, make PortMiami her year-round home, sailing seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages from the new Terminal A.  Symphony of the Seas will span 16 guest decks, encompass more than 230,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,500 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,774 staterooms.  In other news, the line has set the date for its first return to St. Thomas since the Caribbean destination was impacted by last month’s hurricanes.  On November 10, Adventure of the Seas will make its way to St. Thomas, RCI’s first call there since early September.  In partnership with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Royal Caribbean also has committed to undertaking the complete restoration of Magens Bay, one of St. Thomas’ most popular tourist attractions, with plans for a grand re-opening of the destination during Adventure’s first November visit.  With power and water to the island fully restored and most downtown shops, restaurants, bars and tour providers fully operational, guests will be able to experience a diverse and extensive array of dining, shopping and activities.  www.rccl.com/

 

Scenic has expanded its Christmas Market cruise offerings with two new itineraries for 2018.  The 12-day “Rhine Christmas Markets with Switzerland” adds a four-day, multi-city tour of Switzerland before or after an eight-day Rhine cruise; while the 11-day “Danube Christmas Markets with Prague” combines three days exploring the treasures of Prague with an eight-day sailing on the Danube River.  Elsewhere,  with little more than a year until its new “Discovery Yacht” Scenic Eclipse makes her debut in Cuba,  the company has announced an additional voyage to the iconic Caribbean nation, a 14-day “Cuba in Depth” sailing, to depart Miami on October 5, 2018, reportedly following increased demand from travelers eager to visit and explore the island.  Fares start at $9,295 per person, double, for the round-trip voyage, which will call at Havana, Isla de la Juventud, Cayo Largo Sur, Cienfuegos, Casilda, Santiago de Cuba and Antilla. This sailing is in addition to a “Cuba in Depth” sailing that was previously scheduled to depart Miami on October 18, 2018.  Finally, Scenic’s newest trip is an 11-day Egypt adventure that combines a five-day Nile sailing with six days exploring the sights of this historic region by land.  The line has privately chartered the recently refurbished, 36-guest Sanctuary Sun Boat III for this “Treasures of Egypt” program.  Fares for the five 2018 and six 2019 departures start at $6,395 per person, double. Other new programs include a 10-day land tour that focuses solely on the cultural treasures of Jordan; a 20-day exploration that combines the Egypt and Jordan trips; and a “mega” trip (with 34 and 43-day versions available) that begins in Africa’s southern tip city of Cape Town, visits several of the continent’s must-see sites including Victoria Falls and the safari park of Masai Mara, and concludes with the 20-day Egypt/Jordan itinerary.  www.scenicusa.com/

 

Seabourn is expanding its land-based excursion program, Seabourn Journeys.  Offering a selection of pre- and post-cruise trip extensions through land-based immersive experiences in unique destination areas, Seabourn Journeys are available in conjunction with select voyages in 2018 and 2019.  The fully-escorted packages have been designed to showcase the best of the destinations featured, including select meals, transportation, guided experiences and accommodations at luxury hotels and lodges, all timed to coincide with the beginning or conclusion of scheduled Seabourn cruises.  www.seabourn.com/

 

SeaDream Yacht Club will visit Cuba in 2019 from January through April, with itineraries departing directly from Havana and Cienfuegos.  The sailings are now on sale with only limited availability remaining.  Fares for the 7-day Cuba voyages start at $5,399 per guest, plus fees. The inclusive fare includes ocean view accommodations, gourmet meals, gratuities, wine with lunch and dinner and more.  Due to strong demand, a 9th sailing has been opened for general sale to the public, leaving from Cienfuegos on March 4, 2019, and disembarking in Havana on March 11.  A full list of SeaDream’s 2019 Cuba voyages is available online.  The line is also participating in CLIA’s October “Plan-a-Cruise Month” campaign by offering a $300 per stateroom spa credit, valid on any new individual bookings of itineraries 6-nights or longer made by October 31.  www.seadream.com/

 

Silversea Cruises has announced plans for Silver Wind and Silver Whisper to undergo refurbishment in several areas of the two ships this December.  The project is part of a fleet-wide program launched at the end of 2016.  Silver Whisper will incorporate technical improvements and a significant redesign of public areas.  Many of these areas will take inspiration from Silver Muse‘s décor, which will be reflected in carpet replacements and upgrades for La Terrazza, as well as the Observation and Panorama lounges.  Silver Wind will also be similarly upgraded with designs reflecting Silver Muse.  Public areas will receive enhancements, including the reupholstering of chairs and new carpets for the casino, and a new floor upgrade in the spa and beauty salon.  In other news, the line is introducing a new 2018 “Couture Collection,” a portfolio of nine pre- and post-cruise luxury land programs of five to 11 days, offering immersive travel experiences in some of the most remote and untouched regions of the Earth.  Packages include exclusive amenities ranging from private helicopter service in Mongolia to vintage rail in India, plus Gulfstream jets in and out of Antarctica. Prices average $34,000 per guest for each adventure, with the 11-day South Pole itinerary starting at $78,000 per guest.  Fully-escorted Couture Collection programs are limited to small groups and include most meals, beverages and exclusive culinary events. Guests enjoy inclusive luxury accommodations at renowned boutique hotels, lodges and private tents specifically built for these experiences.  www.silversea.com/

 

Star Clippers is waiving single supplements on a variety of 2018 Mediterranean sailings, ranging from five to 14 nights on board Royal Clipper and Star Flyer.  Examples of included Royal Clipper departures include a five-night Spain and Morocco itinerary from Lisbon to Malaga on April 23, and a 12-night version of the same sailing that goes on to the Balearic Islands, Corisca and Cannes.  Rates range from $1,385 for the former to $3,030 for the latter. On Star Flyer, a seven-night French Riviera sailing round trip from Cannes departs June 2, with rates starting at $1,690.  For solo travelers looking for longer journeys, the line has waived the single supplement on two trans-Atlantic sailings.  A 20-night eastbound crossing from St. Maarten to Lisbon aboard the Star Flyer, which features 19 nights at sea, departs March 31 with rates starting at $2,350.  And another 28-night eastbound itinerary from Barbados to Cannes on Royal Clipper will stop in the Azores, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, the Balearic Islands and France.  This sailing departs Barbados on April 7 with rates starting at $4,020.  www.starclippers.com

 

Tauck has begun taking reservations on two 2020 cruise itineraries that will feature Passion Play performances in the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau.  In 2020 Tauck will include the Passion Play (or “Passionsspiele,” as it is known locally) on two European river cruises, “The Blue Danube” and “The Romantic Rhine.”  www.tauck.com/

 

Un-Cruise Adventures has announced a new “Alaska Awakening” promotion, which offers travelers the opportunity to be among the first to enjoy Southeast Alaska in 2018.  As the area shakes off the winter chill, guests on the company’s small-ship Alaska cruises will have added chances to see wildlife, one-of-a-kind scenery, and the Northern Lights in places most other lines are unable to visit, plus springtime is often the driest season of the year in much of the 49th State.  UnCruise will the first line to arrive here next year, embarking on seven, eight and 14-night adventures during April and May, and allowing travelers to explore Southeast Alaska with fewer crowds, the colors of nature coming to life, animals visiting shore, views of sea-to-sky snow, and powerful waterfalls…all while saving on air and cruise fares.  Spring departures will also include pre-cruise hikes near Juneau led by Captain and CEO Dan Blanchard; expert guest hosts such as glaciologists, bear experts, photographers, authors, and personal trainers aboard most sailings; local festivities and celebrations; an orca adopted for guests in each cabin on the 14-night “Alaska’s Inside Passage & San Juans Cruise;” and sailing with UnCruise executives aboard S.S. Legacy’s April 15 departure.  The “Alaska Awakening” campaign applies to any April or May, 2018 departure booked through December 15.  Travelers will save $400 per cabin or $200 per person (single occupancy), plus the offer is combinable with UnCruise’s Loyalty, Referral, and Family Discoveries savings programs.  www.un-cruise.com/

 

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s River Beatrice will be transformed into the S.S. Beatrice during 2018, joining the ranks of the S.S. Antoinette, S.S. Maria Theresa, S.S. Catherine and S.S. Joie de Vivre as the company’s premier European river vessels.  River Beatrice’s relaunch will makes her the first vessel in the fleet to be upgraded, with two new, 375-square-foot Royal Suites, a new Owner’s Suite and upgrades to 12 existing suites.  In other news, the line’s “Exotics Offer” has been extended through December 31.  This promotion features select itineraries to Egypt, India, Vietnam & Cambodia or China, as well as savings of 15% on total cruise fares.  www.uniworld.com

 

Viking Cruises took delivery of Viking Sun, its fourth ocean ship, on September 25 at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Ancona, Italy.  On October 4, Viking Sun set sail from Venice, making her way through the Adriatic and Ionian Seas on her maiden voyage.  In early November, the vessel will cross the Atlantic to sail fall itineraries, then embark December 15 on Viking’s first-ever World Cruise.  Over the course of 141 days, Viking Sun will visit 35 countries and 66 ports, before the itinerary ends in London next May 5.  During 2019, the ship will continue to sail the globe on a recently-announced second World Cruise, spanning 128-days, five continents, 21 countries and 44 ports with 10 port overnights.  In other news, Viking has announced that American chemist, emergency room physician and recently retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher will be honored as godmother to its fifth ocean ship, which will debut next July.  The new vessel will be named Viking Orion after the prominent constellation and in honor of Dr. Fisher’s contributions to NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project.  The announcement was made by the line’s Chairman, Torstein Hagen, during a press conference celebrating the first call at New York City for the company’s third ship, Viking Skywww.vikingcruises.com/

 

Windstar Cruises has promoted Kristin Badgett to Vice President of Revenue Management and Itinerary Planning, reporting directly to President John Delaney.  Badgett has reportedly been instrumental in leading the small ship line to record growth, overseeing a team of eight in a variety of functions encompassing revenue management, budgeting and forecasting, pricing strategy, inventory control, advanced analytics and diagnostics, deployment development, itinerary planning, and cross-departmental planning and project implementation.  She joined Windstar in 2008, previously serving as Senior Financial Analyst, and then Director of Revenue and Inventory Management.  In the past, Badgett worked at both Cruise West and Holland America Line   Also, Victor Hernandez was recently promoted to Director of Digital Marketing and CRM.  He joined Windstar in September of 2015.  In his new position, Hernandez will plan and directs all aspect of Windstar’s digital marketing presence.  Prior to joining Windstar, he oversaw the Americas paid search program for Getty Images.  www.windstarcruises.com/