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December 18, 2018 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  Friends, colleagues and those I meet along the way invariably seem to think that traveling the world and reviewing cruises is a wonderful job, but interestingly enough, in addition to the continuing challenges involved with long-distance air travel, over the years fully a quarter of the sailings that I’ve taken have turned out to be at least partially disappointing, and this year three of the nine I’ve completed have not met expectations, two if which I’ll be describing in GCN Updates during the coming months.  However, there are a number of varied (and mostly positive) 2018 experiences and reflections that I’d like to share with readers, thus the following listings in over a dozen specific categories.  Please note that I have not identified a “Best New Ship,” simply because there are several (including Nieuw Statendam and Celebrity Edge) that could certainly qualify but I haven’t yet experienced, and another that I have which missed the mark by a considerable distance.


My Best Cruise:  New Zealand and Australia aboard Holland America’s Maasdam, one of the line’s smallest, most well-traveled ships, proving conclusively that ‘newer’ and ‘bigger’ are surely not always synonymous with ‘better.’  Similarly, my close friend and very experienced cruise traveler, Jon London, registered an identical reaction to a subsequent, extended 34-day Maasdam voyage.


Most Consistent Mass-Market Cruise Product I’ve Found:  Norwegian Cruise Line.  


Best New Shipboard Idea I’ve Seen:  The installation of state-of-the-art elevator control systems aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaview, designed to substantially reduce frustrating waits and overcrowding exacerbated by clueless guests who press both ‘up’ and ‘down’ buttons, and/or crowd into ‘up’ cars when they actually want to go ‘down,’ and vice-versa.


My Biggest (Pleasant) Surprise:  The quality cruising experiences provided on well maintained, veteran vessels at very low prices by Spain’s value-oriented Pullmantur Cruises.  


Most Improved Performance I’ve Noted:  After a disappointing Costa Pacifica voyage in 2016, my Costa Deliziosa cruise this year was most enjoyable, and a great improvement.


My Continuing Improvement Award:  Technological advances in internet access provided aboard many ships throughout the industry are continuing to make service both significantly better and less expensive.  Any travelers like me who require reliable internet connections and are still paying high prices for intermittent service should find another line on which to cruise.


Most Significant Ecological Breakthrough:  AIDA Cruises’ new AIDANova is the world’s first large cruise ship to be powered completely by Liquefied Natural Gas.


My Cruise ‘Tip’ of the Year:  I highly recommend cruising the Mediterranean in late October and November, when the weather is excellent, fares (both at sea and in the air) have been reduced, plus the number of ships in ports and the crowds of travelers in general are noticeably smaller.


Popular Choices:  Everyone I’ve spoken with this year who has cruised with either Azamara Club Cruises and/or Windstar Cruises has had great things to say about the line(s), evaluations that I concur with completely.


My Biggest Unanswered Questions:  Whether the ‘high-end’ market and the environment will bear the addition of seemingly countless new luxury ‘expedition’ vessels either currently under construction or planned.  And why does one major line continue to spend literally billions of Euros on new hardware (ships), and apparently comparatively little on procuring and training competent staff to staff and run them?


Destination I Find Most Worthy of Additional Cruise Opportunities:  Japan.


Destination Experience I’ve Found to be Most Impacted by Too Many Mega-Ships:  Alaska, unfortunately.  And Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth will add to the congestion in 2019.


My Best Airline Experiences:  Emirates and Norwegian.


Most Incredible New Airport Facilities I’ve Encountered:  The astounding, palatial new terminal building at Muscat International Airport.






Adventure Smith Explorations is promoting an eight-day, four island (Maui, the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii, Molokai and Lanai) “Hawaiian Seascapes” itinerary aboard the 36-guest motor yacht, Safari Explorer.  And to reward travelers for new reservations made by January 31 on departures through April, guests will receive $100 off the beginning rate of $3,995 per person, double occupancy.  Through April, sailings also includes complimentary premium beer, wine and spirits, plus a massage.  Gear is included onboard for hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, yoga and snorkeling. Guests are served by a 15-member crew.


With a donation of €100,000, AIDA Cruises was a partner for the first time in the 23rd charity RTL “Spendenmarathon” on November 22-23, 2018.  All proceeds from the event and the advance donations were destined to aid the Foundation’s projects, including a center for eye cancer, a Peruvian therapy center for children with disabilities, and aid for Syrian refugee children in Jordan.  Under the motto “AIDA Gives Children a Smile,” AIDA also organized a special day aboard AIDAperla for 16 kids from the children’s home in Bremen.  In other news, AIDA accepted delivery of its newest ship, AIDAnova, from Meyer Werft Papenburg on December 12 in Bremerhaven, inaugurating a new generation of AIDA ships that will be fully powered by Liquefied Natural Gas.  The vessel’s first guests will be boarding tomorrow, December 19, in the Canary Islands at Tenerife.  And on December 14, AIDAsol successfully completed her two-week stay at the Chantier Naval de Marseille shipyard in France.  Projects included the installation of numerous visual innovations, technical updates, and the replacement of about 6,800 square meters of carpet.


Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has announced that Grand Celebration will return to her homeport, the Port of Palm Beach, and resume a two-night sailing schedule beginning this Friday, December 21.  Grand Celebration was chartered for the past two months to assist with restoration of service to communities impacted by the Massachusetts gas incident.


Carnival Cruise Line will kick off its 2019 West Coast expansion plans on New Year’s Day with its first-ever float in the famed Tournament of Roses Parade, as part of a year-long celebration of its first new ship to homeport in California in 20 years, Carnival Panorama, scheduled to debut next December 11th from Long Beach.  Also, the line’s “ChooseFun AirShip” will return for a month-long journey across California, launching on December 31 in conjunction with the line’s Rose Parade float on New Year’s Day.  The 120-foot Carnival AirShip will journey throughout Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties and then to Northern California, heralding the launch of the new vessel and inviting everyone to “Choose Fun.”  Elsewhere, Carnival Legend will operate the line’s most diverse European season to date with nine to 16-day voyages visiting 34 ports in 14 countries, including destinations in Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Croatia, Portugal, Greece, Greenland and Iceland during the summer and fall of 2020.  And on December 5, the line announced that it will name its new XL-class ship to be delivered in 2020 Mardi Gras, bringing back to the fleet the name of the first Carnival vessel that entered service in 1972.  Mardi Gras will be the largest Carnival ship ever constructed and the first in North America to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas, part of Carnival Corporation’s green cruising effort.  At 180,000 tons, the new Mardi Gras will be more than six times the size of its namesake.  Currently under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, the 5,200-plus lower berth vessel will reportedly offer “a variety of never-before-seen innovations and attractions,” among them the first-ever roller coaster at sea.  Built by Munich-based Maurer Rides, the all-electric “BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster” will be a heart-pounding rush of adrenaline offering nearly 800 feet of exhilarating twists, turns and drops with riders reaching speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour in motorcycle-like vehicles while racing along a track 187 feet above sea level with breathtaking 360-degree views.  Itineraries for Mardi Gras will be announced in January and go on sale later in the month.  Finally, on December 17th, the exterior completion of Carnival Panorama was celebrated at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, during which a commemorative coin was welded to the ship’s mast in a time-honored maritime tradition.


Celebrity Cruises’ 2020 European season will mark the inaugural season of Celebrity Apex, the newest addition to Celebrity’s fleet and the second ship in its innovative Edge Series.  Celebrity Apex is scheduled to make her debut in April, 2020, from Southampton, England.  In total, the line’s 2020 season in Europe will feature six ships, two of which will have been refurbished as part its $500-million-dollar revitalization program designed to introduce redesigned accommodations, reimagined spaces, and state-of-the-art experiences across its fleet.  On the continent, Celebrity plans to visit the most cities ever in a single season, with more than 90 ports of call across 27 different countries in 2020.  In other news, on December 4, after more than four years of hard work on the part of thousands of engineers, architects, artisans, designers and crew, Celebrity Edge joined the brand’s fleet after a ceremony at Port Everglades during which the ship’s godmother, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, was joined by all on board to “bless this ship and all those who sail upon her.”  The naming event brought together more than 3,000 guests, employees, crew members and students to commemorate the debut of Celebrity’s first new ship in six years and first new ship series in more than a decade.  Finally, the 2020-21 season will be the brand’s most expansive yet for cruises from North America, with Celebrity Summit based on the East Coast and Celebrity Eclipse on the Pacific Coast, plus the latter joining Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Solstice in Alaska.


Costa Cruises’ naming ceremony for Costa Venezia will be held in TriesteItaly, on March 1.  The ship, currently under construction at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone shipyard, will be the first Costa vessel designed specifically to offer the best of Italy to the Chinese cruise market.  Costa Venezia is part of a fleet expansion plan that includes seven new ships scheduled for delivery to the Costa Group by 2023, at a total investment of over €6 billion.  At 135,500 gross tons, 1,060 feet long and with a maximum capacity of more than 5,100 guests, Costa Venezia will be the biggest ship Costa has introduced to the Chinese market, offering a series of innovations designed specifically for Chinese customers.


Cunard has announced the appointment of Simon Palethorpe as its new president.  Palethorpe will continue to report to Carnival U.K. President Josh Weinstein, and he will be responsible for overall brand leadership, the end-to-end guest experience and future strategies.  The sales and marketing functions at Cunard’s head office have also been consolidated under Cunard’s current Vice President of Marketing, Angus Struthers, who is taking on an additional sales role, working with the trade to grow Cunard’s UK business.  In the changes, Struthers will take the title of Vice President of Sales and Marketing and will continue to report to Palethorpe.  In other news, Cunard’s “Upgrades on Us” promotion is available on select 2019 and 2020 voyages of all three of its ships, including the line’s signature trans-Atlantic crossings and New England & Canada voyages on flagship Queen Mary 2.  The offer is also available on Caribbean, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia voyages on all three vessels which sail between May, 2019, and November, 2020.  Guests who book by February 28 can receive:  free upgrade from inside to balcony stateroom; free upgrade from Club Balcony to Princess Grill; upgrade within Queens Grill categories; Grill Suite bookings receive free gratuities and free drinks package; past guests receive free gratuities in all categories; and all guests receive 50% reduced deposit.  Elsewhere, Cunard has developed a new spa concept, Mareel Wellness & Beauty, in partnership with wellness innovator Canyon Ranch, to be rolled out across its fleet.  Mareel is being launched on board the newly-refurbished Queen Elizabeth this month, to be closely followed by Queen Victoria, and on flagship liner Queen Mary 2 in November, 2020.  Mareel, meaning phosphorescence of the ocean, is taken from the ancient Norse language and speaks to the illuminating light and healing energy of the sea.  The new brand will offer a holistic approach with an extended spa treatment menu of mineral-rich seawater and marine-based experiences, as well as a redesign of each entire spa facility.  Finally, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, Cunard will be partnering again with The Greatest Generations Foundation to pay tribute to six heroes of World War II onboard flagship Queen Mary 2.  Thematic onboard programming experiences during the seven-night trans-Atlantic Crossing departing New York on May 24 will allow guests to interact with several WWII veterans, attend lectures and hear accounts of their battle experiences.


Emerald Waterways’ June 9 to 16, 2019 departure of “Legends of the Moselle, Rhine and Main” aboard Emerald Destiny will feature hands-on programs featuring master smart phone photographer Jack Hollingsworth.


Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines saw its most successful Monday in the company’s history on November 19, with sales for the day totaling nearly £1.6 million.  This achievement followed the early launch of two new itineraries for 2020-21, as well as promotion of a range of Scandinavian, Baltic and Caribbean cruises.  In other news, the line is offering guests ‘Free Drinks and Tips’ on over 150 ocean and river cruises in 2019-20, almost every sailing from January, 2019, to March, 2020, on all new bookings made by February 28.  Also part of the promotion are ‘Free Cashback’ of up to £100 per person on 21 ocean cruises in 2019-20; a ‘three cruises for the price of two’ multi-buy deal; and a number of solo traveler offers.  Next, the line has announced a new 28-night “Black Sea Discovery with the Med” sailing aboard the 880-guest Boudicca, departing from Dover on September 1, 2020, ahead of the unveiling of its full 2020-21 ocean cruise program in March.  And finally, those looking to set sail on a solo adventure can do so without a single supplement on more than 14 Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines sailings between March, 2019, and March, 2020, as part of a new promotion, when new bookings are made by February 28.


Holland America Line has announced dates for 23 “Food & Beverage Aficionado Cruises” during 2019 that showcase the talents of the members of its Culinary Council, Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff and the line’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker partners.  The Culinary Council comprises a collection of elite international celebrity chefs who bring global influence to dining venues across HAL’s fleet.  Elsewhere, the line’s Noordam is set to cruise a variety of unique, 10 to 26-day itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2019 that “showcase the region’s must-visit ports, bucket-list locales and iconic sites.”  Maasdam also will explore the area on its 11 to 30-day “EXC In-Depth Voyages,” which include a 30-day Australia Circumnavigation.  Many of the itineraries can be booked together to form longer, more in-depth “Collectors’ Voyages” of up to 51 days, which combine nonrepeating back-to-back cruises.  Next, HAL took delivery of Nieuw Statendam on November 29, officially making it the 15th ship in the fleet.  A hand-over ceremony took place at Fincantieri’s Marghera (Italy) shipyard, and Nieuw Statendam set sail for Venice on the following day, en route to Civitavecchia (Rome) for its premiere trans-Atlantic voyage with guests that departed on December 5.  Following the official handover of the vessel, HAL celebrated the opening of Rudi’s Sel de Mer Restaurant on board Nieuw Statendam with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Rudi Sodamin, the line’s renowned Master Chef and the venue’s namesake, performed the honor of officially opening the venue and welcoming its first guests.  The vessel will spend a full season in the Caribbean sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, where its official naming ceremony will take place on February 2.  And finally, to celebrate the upcoming “Wave Season,” HAL is launching a new “Why Not Now?” promotion to entice travelers to plan ahead.  The offer on cruises from summer, 2019, through winter/spring, 2020, includes free stateroom upgrades, shore excursion discounts, up to $1,000 air credit per stateroom and deposits from $99 person, if booked by February 28.  Guests who book a suite during “Why Not Now?” also receive up to $600 in onboard spending money.


Hurtigruten’s Fram, custom built over a decade ago for exploring the Arctic, Antarctica and other destinations, has been scheduled to receive a total makeover, and re-emerge as a brand-new expedition ship.  Leading up the 2020 season, Fram will be completely upgraded with new suites, new cabins, more environmentally friendly engines and a total makeover of all public areas, including new restaurants and the line’s signature, high-tech Science Center.  In other news, Hurtigruten is expanding its extensive expedition cruise program with a number of new destinations, including, from 2020, exploring the Alaskan wilderness on board the new, hybrid-powered Roald Amundsen, and the inaugural season of the hybrid battery-powered and eco-friendly Fridtjof Nansen exploring the unspoiled beauty of Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and the Norwegian coast.  After a 37-year career with Hurtigruten that began at age 17 as a galley assistant, Kai Albrigtsen, who has been a captain since 2006 and held the position of master of the line’s expedition cruise ship Midnatsol for the past two years, will be the first captain of a hybrid powered cruise ship when Roald Amundsen enters service next year.


Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic officially launched the newest addition to their fleet, National Geographic Venture, at a dockside christening ceremony in San Francisco Bay on November 30.  The occasion marked a major milestone for the line, as only the second new build in the company’s history.  Following the ceremony, the ship embarked on a two-night VIP mini-expedition that included travel agency partners, affinity/charter partners, media and other special guests.  National Geographic Venture next explored the Pacific Coast on two inaugural itineraries before beginning her seasons in Baja, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. 


On November 26, MSC Cruises cut the first steel for MSC Seashore, the first of the line’s two “Seaside EVO” ships currently on order at Fincantieri, to be built in its Monfalcone, Italy, shipyard.  Scheduled to enter service during spring, 2021, the 169,400 ton MSC Seashore will be the first of its kind, an evolution of the company’s existing Seaside Class of ships.  In other news, the line’s newest flagship, MSC Bellissima, will be named in Southampton, U.K., on March 2.  With a capacity of 4,434 guests (double occupancy) and gross tonnage of 171,598, MSC Bellissima is the second ship in the Meraviglia class and the fourth of MSC’s next-generation ships to come into service in just over 18 months.  Onboard will reportedly be the “world’s first digital cruise assistant,” a new tapas restaurant, and two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, Syma and Varélia.  MSC Bellissima will spend her inaugural season operating seven-night cruises in the Mediterranean before moving to the United Arab Emirates for winter 2019-2020.  Next, earlier this month, MSC revealed the ‘all-star’ cast of international chefs who will be on board MSC Magnifica during the line’s first ever World Cruise during the initial months of 2019.  The line-up includes current as well as former Michelin-starred chefs, chefs of the year, award-winning cookbook authors as well as recipients of other international culinary recognitions.  In related news, MSC has announced the opening of sales for its 2021 World Cruise…the company’s third such itinerary…sailing on board MSC Poesia and departing on January 5, 2021. The 119-day, round-trip journey from Genoa, Italy, will visit 53 destinations across 33 countries, including more Asian destinations for guests to explore.  Also, now through March 31, travelers can book select Caribbean or Canada & New England cruises on the company’s four ships serving the North American market, MSC Seaside, MSC DivinaMSC Armonia, and MSC Meraviglia (arriving next October) and receive free unlimited drinks (Heineken draft or bottled Miller Lite beer, select house wines by the glass, select house spirits and cocktails, non-alcoholic cocktails, soft drinks and fruit juices by the glass, bottled mineral water, and such hot drinks as espresso, cappuccino, caffé latte, hot tea and coffee) and free Wi-Fi access, plus reduced $99 deposits.  Finally, on December 10, MSC Armonia arrived at PortMiami to sail for the first time from Miami to Cuba, and departed that same evening.  The vessel will sail on a regular 7-night itinerary, including an overnight stop in Havana over the weekend.


Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has announced a partnership with Alaska Native-owned Huna Totem Corporation to develop a second cruise pier at Icy Strait Point, Huna Totem’s outstanding cruise ship destination in Hoonah, Alaska.  The pier is scheduled to be completed for the summer 2020 Alaska cruise season and will be built to accommodate Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus-class ships.  The partnership will provide NCLH’s brands with preferential berthing rights in the popular port destination and allow the company to increase its calls to Icy Strait Point.  Currently Oceania Cruises’ Regatta, Seven Seas Mariner, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Joy are scheduled to call on Icy Strait Point during the 2019 season.  In addition, the new pier will provide more guests with access to Icy Strait’s newly upgraded retail, restaurant and shore excursion amenities, including the world’s largest ZipRider zip line, the most accessible coastal brown bear viewing platforms in Southeast Alaska, whale watching and fishing excursions, local cultural dances accompanied by oral histories, and more.


On November 22, polar cruise operator Oceanwide Expeditions reached the remote emperor penguin colony on Snow Hill Island for the second year running.  Using the helicopters staged aboard its vessel Ortelius, Oceanwide flew passengers to this rarely visited Antarctic location, then led small hiking groups toward the site, one of the largest breeding colonies of the world’s most iconic penguin species.  


Paul Gauguin Cruises has announced its 2020 voyages, which include its popular seven to 14-night South Pacific favorites along with an exotic 16-night Fiji to Bali itinerary, as well as 12 and 13-night Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Islands sailings.


Princess Cruises announced earlier this month that it is now preparing Regal Princess as the second ship fully activated with “Princess Medallion Class” experiences that are currently delivering enhanced and personalized cruise vacations to guests onboard Caribbean Princess.  Regal Princess will be fully activated for her Caribbean season starting on February 17.  The complimentary Princess “OceanMedallion” is a wearable device that elevates the guest experience and has resulted in high guest satisfaction scores.  Elsewhere, the line is looking forward to welcoming the 3,500-guest Royal Princess to California.  The ship, which just completed a multi-million-dollar refurbishment, will be taking guests round-trip from Los Angeles to destinations including Mexico, the California Coast and Alaska, starting on March


Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced two shore excursion innovations designed to offer luxury travelers the most exceptional experiences in destinations around the world:  “Go Local Tours” and “Regent Choice” small group tours.  The line worked for seven months to curate 122 small local experiences for guests, nearly 50 of which are included in its complimentary “Unlimited Shore Excursions” program.  Go Local Tours are available on 2019 Mediterranean and Northern Europe voyages, along with 2019 voyages calling on Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Montevideo (Uruguay).  And approximately 250 excursions on 2019 Mediterranean and Northern Europe voyages will be offered as Regent Choice small group tours, which will host no more than 16 guests, allowing for more personal destination engagement with a knowledgeable guide, for a subsidized, supplementary fee.


Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has made booking groups more attractive by offering two tour conductor credits for every 10 paying guests booked, on dozens of select 2019 departures, if booked by December 31.  This promotion can also be combined with offers to paying guests of free or reduced economy and premium roundtrip flights, or discounts of $1,000 to $1,500 per person, depending on the length of the itinerary.  Scenic is also introducing a new “Group Value Program” that further enhances opportunities for increased agent commission or rewarding booking guests.  Itinerary choices range from eight to 15 days and are available on Europe’s Rhine, Moselle, Danube and Main Rivers; France’s Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne in Bordeaux; Russia’s Volga; and Southeast Asia’s Irrawaddy and Mekong Rivers.  In other news, the Scenic Group has announced the appointment of Jayne O’Brien to the position of Managing Director USA, where she will oversee the sales and marketing operations of Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Scenic Eclipse and Emerald Waterways.  O’Brien will be based in the company’s Boston office.  She has extensive experience in developing, implementing and overseeing branding, marketing and commercial leadership strategies with several global organizations including British Airways, Intercontinental Hotels, Regus PLC and Dubai Properties Group.  Finally, from January 1 through March 31, Scenic’s “Wave Season” promotion is giving guests the opportunity to choose from several options:  free premium economy flights on the 15-day “Jewels of Europe” or “Romantic Rhine & Moselle” or 12-day “Breathtaking Bordeaux” sailings, and free economy air on all other itineraries; or guests preferring to arrange their own air receive fare savings of $1,500 (premium) or $1,000 (economy); or free four to eight-day, pre or post-cruise land extensions, available on many of the itineraries; or a two-category upgrade on balcony suites and higher.  Additionally, any guest who books and pays in full by February 28 will receive an onboard credit of €300 (approximately US$340) per suites for the “Jewels of Europe,” “Romantic Rhine & Moselle” or “Breathtaking Bordeaux,” and €200 (about US$230) for all other sailings. These offers are available for new 2019 bookings only and are combinable with most other Scenic savings and referral offers.


Seabourn has announced its 2019 Signature Savings Event, featuring savings and value-added amenities on select 2019-2020 voyages across its fleet, including the new Seabourn Ovation, launched this past spring.  The promotion runs through February 19, and benefits may include complimentary Veranda Suite upgrades, complimentary 300-minute per person internet packages, up to $500 shipboard credit per suite, up to $500 air credit per person, 50% reduced deposit and up to 15% savings on combination cruises.


Silversea Cruises has advised that 12 members of its Expedition Team spent four days at pre-season training in the Chilean Andes.  Between October 29 and November 3, the team of expedition specialists undertook a number of educational activities, building on their existing skillsets and enabling them to enrich the offerings for the line’s guests in Antarctica.  The camp included four days and three nights of camping with skills-based learning and leadership development.  In addition to a challenging high ropes course, snow and ice awareness workshops, route-finding and orienteering sessions, a wilderness medicine refresher, and an emergency evacuation scenario, several team-building activities were included in the program.  Elsewhere, Silversea has unveiled a collection of 34 shore excursions designed for its new 16-voyage Cuba collection for 2019 and 2020.  The experiences in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos have been designed to provide immersion into the local way of life and showcase the most important attractions in and around each city.  And finally, through its partnership with Accessible Travel Solutions, a company devoted to expanding opportunities for disabled and senior travelers, Silversea is now offering new accessible excursions in nine destinations in the Caribbean and Central America, while additional shore excursions will be developed for the Mediterranean in 2019.  The collection of shore excursions incorporates such enhancements as vehicles with wheelchair lifts or ramps; trips to sites and attractions that have step-free access, accessible restrooms, and routes that avoid steps; and guides who are experienced with accessibility issues.


Star Clippers has been named the “World’s Leading Green Cruise” by the World Travel Awards.  The line’s three vessels are inherently ‘green’ because their major source of energy…wind propulsion…is both abundant and emission-free.


UnCruise Adventures has added two new itineraries for 2019:  a 10-night adventure in Costa Rica and Panama and a seven-night wine and culinary exploration along the Columbia & Snake Rivers.


Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is promoting a new 15-day “Alluring Amsterdam & Vienna itinerary, with prices beginning at $5,249 per person.  Also, guests on the brand’s “Connoisseur Collection sailing to Burgundy and Provence next October 27 to November 3, will be treated to special onboard and onshore wine and connoisseur experiences hosted by Sabina Vineyards and CHEFS Catalog, in addition to normal included excursions.  And the June 23rd departure of Uniworld’s “Authentic Danube & Prague” itinerary will feature a “Jewish Heritage Program” series of lectures by Connie Marco, a respected educator and speaker, and explore Central Europe’s enduring Jewish legacy.  Along the way, Marco will share an in-depth look at her family’s experiences during World War II.  Finally, Uniworld has announced a new pre-cruise tour extension for 2019, “Amman & Petra,” now available to add to its “Splendors of Egypt & the Nile” itinerary.  Traveling on this five-day extension helps guests support the Iraq al-Amir Women’s Cooperative in Jordan through a partnership with The TreadRight Foundation.


Vantage Adventures is making 2019 the year of the solo traveler with new solo-friendly departures on select river cruises and “Solo Connections” get-togethers on every sailing.


Virgin Voyages has revealed plans to build a new cruise terminal at PortMiami.  With this new facility and a long-term commitment, the company also announced that its first ship, Scarlet Lady, will sail to the Caribbean from Miami throughout 2021, and its as yet unnamed second ship will sail from Miami during the fall/winter cruise season of 2021-22.


Windstar Cruises has announced the “$250 Million Star Plus Initiative,” a major investment and expansion program.  According to company president John Delaney, “The initiative not only creates beautiful new suites and public spaces, but we will also take the opportunity to re-engine the ships with a more fuel efficient and environmentally responsible propulsion system. This will be a true game changer for Windstar and our small ship cruise experience.”  The initiative will expand guest accommodations on the line’s three all-suite vessels, increasing capacity from 212 passengers to 312 guests per ship, representing an overall capacity increase of 24% following the lengthening.  The work will be done to Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride in succession between October, 2019, and November, 2020, and take place at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Italy.