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August 8, 2016 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  I sincerely hope that all of our readers are taking advantage of an opportunity to enjoy a fine summer vacation.  I’d love to hear from you regarding your cruise experiences this summer and fall, and will report on them during future updates of GCN…send your e-mails to  As for me, I have three sailings scheduled for the coming months that you’ll also be hearing about…an exceptional 12-night Mediterranean itinerary between Venice and Barcelona aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam in September, a most attractive, one-week Costa Rica and Panama adventure departure of Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager in October, and an unusual, 19-night trans-Atlantic and South America cruise aboard Costa Pacifica beginning in late November and featuring ten different ports between Barcelona and Buenos Aires.  Look for ‘reviews’ of all three both here and in The Group Travel Leader.


Adventure Smith Explorations has announced discounts on select 2016 and 2017 cruise departures in Costa Rica and Panama.  For bookings now through August 30, guests will save $350 per cabin aboard Safari Voyager on the company’s “Uncharted Isthmus…Sloths, Monkeys & Mangroves” itinerary departing December 17, 2016, plus January 7, 14, 21, February 4, March 4, 18, plus April 1, 15 and 22, 2017. On its “Pure Panama…Cultures, Coasts & Canal” program, travelers will also save $350 per cabin through August 30 on all 2017 departures from April through September.

American Queen Steamboat Company is offering “early booking” savings on 2017 cruises, resulting in fares from $799 per person, for bookings through September 30 or when all qualifying cabins have been sold.  Full payment at time of booking is required.

Carnival Cruise Line and Build-A-Bear Workshop have entered into an exclusive partnership that will bring the latter’s unique retail-entertainment experience to the line’s fleet.  The first Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea is being rolled out aboard Carnival Dream, and is expected to be available aboard all 25 Carnival ships by summer, 2017.  Adding to the line’s hosting of 700,000 kids a year, Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea will provide children of all ages with an opportunity to make their own cuddly bear that can be customized with a variety of outfits and accessories, from tutus and high-top sneakers to vacation wear like bathing suits and sunglasses.  In other news, Carnival Horizon will be the name of the company’s new 133,500-ton ship scheduled to be delivered in March, 2018.  Currently under construction at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marghera, Italy, the vessel will be the line’s second Vista-class ship, begun with Carnival Vista which entered service this past May.  Finally, the initial 2017 “Carnival LIVE” show lineup features country music stars Tim McGraw and Little Big Town along with comedians Jay Leno and Jeff Foxworthy, who will entertain on seven different Carnival ships departing from five U.S. homeports.  Performances are held in the ships’ main show lounges, ranging in capacity from 900 to 1,300, while the vessels are docked in Nassau and Cozumel.

Celebrity Cruises has scheduled year-round Caribbean sailings from Miami onboard Celebrity Equinox for 201724 departures will alternate between Western and Eastern Caribbean destinations, encompassing seven different itineraries.  Included will be a special 11-night “Signature Event” sailing with a double-overnight stay in New Orleans that coincides with the city’s famous jazz festival, as well as a special President’s Cruise departing on August 27, 2017.  Elsewhere, the line’s extensive wine program has been recognized for the fourth year in a row by the Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Awards, claiming nine awards in 2016.  In addition, Celebrity is the only ship-based winner this year among those honored with an “Award of Excellence” for its unique wine lists, which are featured in each vessel’s main restaurant.

Crystal Cruises has announced the appointment of Keith Cox as vice president of entertainment and enrichment, based in Miami.  In his new role, Cox will oversee onboard enrichment and entertainment efforts across all of the Crystal brands, and include programs like the Ocean Views panel discussion and debate series led by world experts, individual presentations by renowned world leaders in varied fields, digital filmmaking courses, as well as stage productions.  Cox comes to Crystal following four years with Costa Cruises in Italy, where he created numerous production shows specifically geared toward international audiences.

Cunard is promoting its “Summer Savings Event,” which features up to 40% savings off launch fares and free gratuities in Grill Suites on all three of the line’s ships.  Guests can reserve a voyage and realize these savings until September 13 on trans-Atlantic crossings, New England and Canada, Caribbean, Europe and Exotic Voyages.

Disney Cruise Line has scheduled themed Halloween and winter-holiday sailings across its fleet.  “Halloween on the High Seas” departures will begin on September 2, and starting November 5, “Very Merrytime Cruises” will feature “turkey day” fanfares, Christmas feasts, “snow flurries” and New Year’s Eve galas.  Also, the animated hit “Frozen” is getting the line’s theatrical treatment as a new stage show exclusively aboard Disney Wonder.  “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular” will debut, along with new enhancements to the ship, on cruises beginning November 10 from Galveston, Texas.

Emerald Waterways is waiving the single supplement on new bookings of its 2016 European river cruises.  In other news, the line’s regional sales managers will be conducting online webinars at 8:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 21, Wednesday August 24, Tuesday, September 20, and Wednesday, October 19.  Also, for 2017 “Tulip Time” cruises from Amsterdam booked by August 31, Emerald guests will receive €150 on board credit, a bouquet of tulips delivered to their homes, and air from $995 per person.  Next, the line has announced a special group promotion on select 2017 spring sailings, offering a 1 for 7 tour conductor credit, savings of $200 per person, air from $495 per person, plus up to €200 onboard credit.  Applicable departures are April 20 and 27, eight days round-trip from Amsterdam, of “Netherlands and the Beauty of Belgium;” April 20, ten days round-trip from Bucharest, of “Enchantment of Eastern Europe;” plus May and June departures, 15 days from Amsterdam to Budapest, of “Splendors of Europe.”  And finally, guests traveling on a river cruise with Emerald this year can win a free cruise or a GoPro camera by sharing some of their favorite vacation photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  By adding the hashtag #EmeraldJourney to the post, and sharing where the photo was taken and their impression of the scene, enters the guests in the line’s recently announced “Share Your Journey” photo contest, running through December 31.  The grand prize is an eight-day Danube river cruise for two, awarded next January, with two GoPro cameras being awarded at the end of August and October.

Fathom’s July 17 Dominican Republic sailing was reportedly the first ever cruise to the Caribbean focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming.  The seven-day cruise featured specialized STEM-focused workshops for educators that the line developed in close collaboration with the Center for Science Teaching and Learning.  Fathom subsequently will also play host to the fifth annual Clean Tech Competition, a research and design challenge for pre-college youth.  In other news, the line has entered into a new partnership with Airbnb, a leading, community-driven hospitality company, in a “give and get” opportunity to attract new Airbnb hosts in the U.S.  Those who sign up to become a new host with Airbnb will receive a $250 credit for a Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic or Cuba.

Holland America Line celebrated a construction milestone on July 12 when the first steel was cut for Nieuw Statendam, due for delivery in November, 2018, during a ceremony at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Palermo, Sicily, Italy.  The block being built there will later be moved to the builder’s Marghera yard, where the 99,500-ton, 2,650-guest ship will be constructed.  Nieuw Statendam will be the 15th vessel in the HAL fleet, as well as the second in its “Pinnacle Class,” following Koningsdam.  In other news, the line has appointed Jarvis Bowers to the newly-created position of vice president, digital marketing, responsible for working with digital and marketing teams to lead the development of next-generation digital communications and analytics from HAL headquarters in Seattle.  Most recently Bowers was at Expedia, where he led the global loyalty marketing team, and served previously as vice president, digital, for SunPower Corporation, a leading solar energy enterprise.  Elsewhere, HAL’s Explore4 promotion is back with four offers on select cruises from January, 2017, through April, 2018.  Guests booking any category stateroom or “Land+Sea Journey” will include a Signature Beverage Package valued at up to $1,400, dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, reduced cruise fares for friends and kids in the same stateroom, plus deposits reduced by 50%. Suite bookings also feature an Internet credit and prepaid gratuities.  Furthermore, the line’s travel partners who make an Explore4 booking will automatically be entered in a drawing to win a seven-day Caribbean cruise for two in a verandah category stateroom.  Bookings must be made by November 18 this fall.  Finally, on July 30, spectators at the Alaska Airlines Seafair Torchlight Parade in downtown Seattle watched a replica helium balloon of HAL’s new Koningsdam cruising down the street, among more than 100 floats taking part in this annual event.  At 45 feet long and 11 feet tall, the detailed float required 30 employees to guide it carefully through the city streets on the 2.5-mile parade route.

MSC Cruises has announced enhancements to its onboard family programs, including a new sports program as well as an interactive cooking class for kids, designed by Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco.  Children 11 and under sail free, while teens 12-17 receive a significant discount on the line’s cruises.  Also featured are a variety of cultural and educational experiences, including language courses where youngsters learn basic sentences in six different languages, plus an “MSC for UNICEF Day” that includes a variety of entertaining and educational activities for children centered on important topics about UNICEF and malnutrition.  In addition, as a result of MSC’s partnership with LEGO, a new LEGO MSC Cruises’ toy model of MSC Meraviglia is now being produced, which showcases the company’s new next-generation cruise ship scheduled to launch in June, 2017.

Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding its partnership with Margaritaville by introducing new “Margaritaville at Sea” restaurants on September 18 onboard Norwegian Getaway and October 9 aboard Norwegian Breakaway.  Building on its success onboard Norwegian’s new Norwegian Escape, the dining venue will feature a tropical menu offering signature items like the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Who’s to Blame Margarita,” available à la carte in an open-air eatery.

Poseidon Expeditions, reportedly responding to a growing interest in off-ship excursions, is increasing on-land camping slots from 30 to 40 per voyage into Antarctica.  The company is also reporting increased demand for sea kayaking on its expedition cruises to both Polar Regions aboard the 114-passenger Sea Spirit, which offers optional kayaking excursions through its Sea Kayak Club on select voyages in both the Arctic and Antarctica.

On July 6, Princess Cruises celebrated Gavin MacLeod, the actor who played Captain Merrill Stubing on the “Love Boat” TV show, for his 30 years serving as the cruise line’s global ambassador.  Santa Clarita, California, the company’s home town, honored MacLeod by proclaiming the day “Gavin MacLeod Princess Cruises Ambassador Day” during a special ceremony hosted by Captain Stubing’s TV daughter, actress Jill Whelan.  The event was reportedly attended by hundreds of Princess employees and fans.  In other news, the line is offering up to 35% off on short, three to six-day ‘getaway’ cruises during its “Great Getaways Sale.”  Included are four-day West Coast Getaways from $259; six-day Western Caribbean sailings from $449; five-day Cabo San Lucas Getaways from $349; and five-day Canadian Atlantic Provinces Getaways from $599.

Royal Caribbean International, catering to meetings, incentives and events at sea, has completed a major overhaul of its website, designed to “make the experience of meeting and event professionals seamless from start to finish” by  delivering an interactive experience that includes a fresh look, enhanced search functionality, streamlined site navigation, expanded content and planning tools.  In other news, dance-fitness specialist Zumba is teaming up with the line for the second year in a row to host a five-night “Zumba Cruise” from Miami on April 23, 2017, aboard Navigator of the Seas, which will be enhanced by special Zumba activities and experiences.

Scenic has published a complimentary guidebook to what it calls “The World’s First Discovery Yacht.”  Scheduled to launch on August 31, 2018, the 228-guest Scenic Eclipse will embark on her maiden voyage from Istanbul to Venice before sailing to the Americas, Antarctica, Europe and the Mediterranean, plus the Arctic and Norwegian fjords.  In other news, the line is redesigning its France-based “Space-Ships,” Scenic Diamond and Scenic Sapphire, for 2017, including reducing the number of cabins to 78 from 84, and guests to 155 from the current 167, while keeping the same crew count.  Additions will include two new 510 square-foot Royal Owners Suites, larger wellness centers, a vitality pool and a private cooking emporium offering tailored cooking classes.  New ‘Freechoice’ activities and “Scenic Enrich” experiences are also being added.

Seabourn and Molton Brown are introducing “Seabourn Signature Scents,” a creation of exotic fragrances designed exclusively for the line’s guests.  This marks the latest launch of the 14-year collaboration between Seabourn and the London-based fragrance creators.  In other news, the company is launching new pre-cruise, South Pole experiences for guests on select Antarctica & Patagonia itineraries during the 2016-2017 season.  Guests bound for the Great White Continent aboard Seabourn Quest can extend their adventure with two new travel packages that also travel to renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Both include stays at Union Glacier Camp in the southern Ellsworth Mountains, one of a few private, seasonally-occupied camps in Antarctica, operated by land-based tour operator Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions.  Finally, Seabourn is embarking on a new Extraordinary Worlds visually-driven brand campaign designed to break traditional category conventions and overcome “non-cruiser” consumer barriers.  By consulting luxury experts in the fashion, design, travel, and hospitality industries, Seabourn is attempting to further position itself as a top luxury lifestyle brand.

SeaDream Yacht Club’s vessels will be visiting over 20 wineries along the Mediterranean coast in order to further enhance the line’s culinary and yachting experiences.  These voyages are intended to allow guests to explore flavors and history from some of the world’s most renowned wineries, as well as less familiar but still notable vineyards.

Silversea Cruises has announced the biggest fleet-wide ship enhancement and renovation plan in its history, tagged at $170 Million.  According to the line, “this investment is not aimed at simply maintaining Silversea’s self-imposed high levels of excellence, but to reaffirm the company’s commitment to exceptional standards of guest comfort and timeless elegance.”  As components of this effort, Silver Whisper, host to the company’s World Cruise, will undergo a major refurbishment that will take place by the end of 2016, and extend to both Silver Wind and Silver Discoverer during their dry docks scheduled for this October.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is now offering savings of 5% on a second cruise when guests book consecutive itineraries in 2016 or 2017.  The line is also making available special rates on 2017 business class air to Europe and Russia:  $2,599 from select Eastern gateway cities, $2,899 from select Central gateways, and $2,999 from select Western gateways.  Quoted prices are valid only until September 30, 2016.

Windstar Cruises has appointed John Delaney as its new president.  Delaney, formerly Senior Vive President of Global Marketing and Sales for Seabourn, also has significant industry experience with The Walt Disney Company and Holland America Line.