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April 12, 2015 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  Next Sunday, April 19, I will be embarking on a 22-day trans-Pacific cruise from Sydney to Vancouver aboard Holland America Line’s Oosterdam.  I’m planning on adding reports on the ship’s progress across the “pond,” as well as our scheduled visits to seven exotic islands, on Group Cruise News along the way, as long as the shipboard internet access is functioning properly, and I can get into The Group Travel Leader’s administrative site to make my postings relatively quickly.  Since this is my first effort in this regard, please tune in, and we’ll see how well this works together!   

American Queen Steamboat Company is offering a 20th Anniversary cruise departing June 5 to celebrate American Queen’s inaugural sailings on the Mississippi River in 1995.  Special events will include performances by Mark Twain tribute artist Lewis Hankins, who participated in the vessel’s initial cruises, presentations by guest historians Dennis Brown and Jimmy Ogle, portside ceremonies marking the anniversary, and a commemorative, limited edition 20th anniversary cruise gift delivered to all staterooms.

Avalon Waterways christened its tenth “Suite Ship,” Avalon Tranquility II, on April 6 in Strasbourg, France.  Acting as the ship’s godmother was Canadian singer and broadcaster Jann Arden, who was joined by senior company personnel, executives from the Canadian travel industry and members of the media.  Also, in unveiling its 2016 itineraries, the company is inviting travelers to “experience the views they deserve” when sailing European rivers by designing its staterooms so beds face the windows.  In other news, Avalon is offering savings of 15% on all 2016 France river cruises, 10% on all other 2016 Europe and Southeast Asia river cruises, and 5% on all China, Egypt and South America river cruises, when bookings are made by June 23.

Blount Small Ship Adventures will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016 by offering ten itineraries for the season, including both new and updated cruises.  The sailings, to run January to October, will visit Caribbean, Canadian and domestic destinations.  The anniversary will also be commemorated by a Boston to Montreal cruise with President Nancy Blount on board.

Carnival Cruise Line has returned to the Port of Baltimore by launching a year-round cruise program on March 30, when Carnival Pride departed on a seven-day cruise to the Bahamas from the Cruise Maryland Terminal.  The vessel’s year-round schedule from Baltimore encompasses departures ranging from five-day Bermuda cruises to 14-day voyages visiting destinations in the Caribbean, The Bahamas and Florida.

Celestyal Cruises is kicking off its Mediterranean cruising season with 20% bonus savings on new bookings of its new “off the beaten path” Adriatic cruise itinerary in October, as well as an extension of its 20% early booking discount valid on “Idyllic Cruise” sailings in July and August.  Both promotions are scheduled to run through June 30.

Celebrity Cruises has launched a new shore excursion program reportedly offering “an array of unique global experiences, featuring special-interest categories and more than 70 new shore excursions” in four different categories.  The line’s “Pick Your Perk” promotion is also offering guests’ cruise savings of up to $600 when booking air travel with Celebrity’s “ChoiceAir,” a free “Classic Beverage Package,” prepaid gratuities, or up to $300 to spend onboard its ships.  Vacationers who book a 2015 European summer vacation can also receive an additional $200 in onboard spending credit, and, for additional guests beyond the first two in a stateroom, 50% off cruise fares on select sailings.  “Pick Your Perk” is available on more than 180 programs departing from June through December, 2015.

Disney Cruise Line has announced that this coming November, the characters and music of the animated film “Tangled” will entertain audiences once again, this time as an original stage show at sea aboard Disney Magic, the first time that the Disney tale has been adapted for the stage.  “Tangled: The Musical” will explore Rapunzel’s fairytale world with production numbers and music including three new songs created exclusively for the show by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Glenn Slater.

Holland America Line has launched an Anniversary Sale to celebrate the company’s 142nd anniversary in April, featuring a shore excursion credit of up to $400 per stateroom, a dining package, free or reduced fares for third and fourth guests in a stateroom, and 50% reduced deposits. The Anniversary Sale is valid on a wide variety of the line’s summer, 2015 through winter/spring, 2016 voyages, when an ocean-view or above stateroom is booked by June 1.  In other news, following its inaugural Europe season in 2016, the line’s new Koningsdam will homeport at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The ship will sail a series of seven to 11-day Caribbean voyages and one four-day cruise to the Bahamas, from November, 2016 through March, 2017. Koningsdam’s Caribbean itineraries will be available for booking in late spring.

Hurtigruten is offering new “Norwegian Experience Tours,” three unique trips designed to bring Norwegian history to life through a series of excursions and lectures led by Dr. Terje I. Leiren, Professor of Scandinavian Studies and History at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Sailings, which take place in September, are priced from $2,199 to $4,115 per person, double occupancy.  The line is also noting that a strong USD/NOK exchange rate will offer value-conscious shoppers 2015 dollars yielding 30% more value in Norway than last year, plus savings of up to 40% with the line’s “Unspecified Cabin Guarantee.”

Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced a new offer in the line’s “Freestyle Choice” promotion, providing guests with up to four ways to enhance their cruise with as much as $2,090 in added value.  Guests who book a new three-day or longer cruise vacation through April 30 can choose from up to four special offers…a free “Ultimate Dining Package,” a free “Ultimate Beverage Package,” free gratuities and free Shore Excursion Credit.  Also, “Family & Friends Savings” on select sailings can make it possible for the third through eighth guest in each stateroom to sail for free.  Elsewhere, Norwegian has introduced three new South American pre- or post-cruise, land-based tours available for guests sailing on Norwegian Sun’s South America itineraries, beginning in November.  Ranging in length from three to five days, these in-depth experiences are hosted by English speaking local tour guides and are designed to take guests off the beaten path into the flavors, sights and history of Argentina and Chile.

Princess Cruises is partnering with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to screen the biggest movie musical of all time, The Sound of Music, onboard all 18 of its ships, while featuring sing-a-longs, trivia games, and other movie-themed experiences throughout the year.  The offerings celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the cruise line and the musical, and are part of a year-long campaign to honor the classic film and offer movie fans chances to win a free cruise and a $500 onboard gift card every month through December.  Also, Princess will offer an array of Japan voyages from Tokyo and Kobe in 2016 that circumnavigate the country, visiting top-rated Japanese ports along with visits to Korea, Taiwan and Russia.  The cruises are designed to offer opportunities to explore UNESCO World Heritage sites and to participate in some of Japan’s most celebrated cultural festivals and special events.  Voyages on Diamond Princess will range from four to 20 nights in length.  Finally, the line has announced a “Spring into Savings Sale,” offering savings of up to $800 per stateroom on cruise vacations to Hawaii, the California Coast, the Caribbean, Mexico and the Panama Canal.  Guests can also receive from $50 to $400 in free onboard spending money by booking through April 28.

Tauck has unveiled its 2016 river cruising plans, which include the debut of two new ships, a new itinerary along the Rhine, and a number of new exclusive onshore dining experiences, all at prices up to $1,200 per-couple lower than their 2015 rates.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will debut their newest destination, India, in January 2016.  Uniworld’s “India’s Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges” itinerary will take guests on a 13-day journey that includes seven nights onboard the 56-passenger, all-suite Ganges Voyager II, and five nights onshore at three Oberoi Hotels & Resorts in New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.  The line is also offering special pre-season 2016 savings on a wide variety of destinations when reservations are booked and paid in full by May 15, 2015:  either air fares from $899 per person plus savings of up to $1,600 per couple, or savings of up to $3,200 per couple.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel is offering groups the unique opportunity to cruise in comfort on small vessels, either by booking into its scheduled programs, or for an exclusive group experience, chartering a vessel outright.  The 130-foot boutique yacht La Perla, which accommodates just 26 guests in 14 cabins, typically sails on Adriatic cruises of medieval towns and “Old World” cities stretching from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, then up the Dalmatian Coast to Venice.  Similarly, the 40-guest motor yacht Harmony G offers itineraries featuring Sicily and Malta, Croatia and the Southern Adriatic, and Venice and Croatia.  Furthermore, the 48-guest, tall-masted sailing yacht Panorama cruises the Italian Riviera from Florence to Nice.

Viking River Cruises welcomed the newest additions to its fleet at simultaneous christening ceremonies in both Amsterdam and Rostock, Germany, on March 24.  The festivities showcased a total of 12 new river vessels, including 10 “Viking Longships” and two custom vessels for the Elbe River.  Viking’s latest celebration came just one year after it set a Guinness World Record for the most new ships launched in a single day.