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Groups on Cruises: Cruise Line Announcements for June 2014

Prior to entering service on the Columbia and Snake Rivers this spring, American Cruise Lines Queen of the West received numerous upgrades, including new dining room and lounge furniture, a new bar and a new air conditioning system.  From late 2014 through spring, 2015, Holland America Line’s 1,432-passenger Volendam will sail a series of 14 to 17-day cruises in the Far East.  When the vessel completes a dry-dock this December, it will feature 21 new lanai staterooms, a “Mix” contemporary bar area and updated bathrooms in suites and several other stateroom categories.

Furthermore, the line is enhancing the Terrace Grill on all 15 of its ships, rebranding the lunch spot as “Dive-In at the Terrace Grill.”  The outdoor, bistro-style grill area by the ships’ Lido pool will feature new signature burgers, hot dogs and fries.  First in the fleet to open the new grill were Eurodam, Amsterdam and Maasdam.  Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has announced that their next new “Super Ship,” S.S. Maria Theresa, will be launching in spring, 2015 with a “Tulips & Windmills” itinerary before cruising the Danube between Amsterdam and Budapest.  Windstar Cruises debuted its all-suite Star Pride in Barcelona on May 5, during a christening ceremony and pier-side celebration marking the launch of the ship’s inaugural voyage through Spain, France, and Italy.

On May 9, Cunard Line observed the 10th anniversary of its flagship Queen Mary 2 with the arrival of its entire three ship fleet in Southampton, offering a rare occasion for onlookers to see all three “Queens” together.  Queen Elizabeth then headed to a Hamburg shipyard for her first scheduled dry-docking and multi-million dollar refit since entering service in 2010.  Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel re-entered service on May 17, following a two-week dry dock to receive numerous enhancements in advance of her arrival in Houston, scheduled for October 11 after a summer season in Alaska.  Norwegian Jewel is the first ship to be retrofitted with the line’s signature O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, introduced originally on Norwegian Epic.  Also in May, Norwegian Breakaway celebrated one year of sailing from New York City, during which the ship carried nearly 250,000 guests to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean.  And the inaugural season of Princess Cruises Sapphire Princess from its new summer home port of Shanghai began on May 22.

With demand reportedly far outpacing availability on its new ocean-going Viking Star, scheduled to enter service next spring, Viking Cruises has continued its rapid expansion by announcing itineraries for future sister ships Viking Sea and Viking Sky.  On May 5, Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Liberty departed on its inaugural voyage from Port Canaveral, becoming the line’s third year-round ship sailing from the Space Coast. With the arrival of Carnival Liberty, Carnival will be increasing its presence in Port Canaveral to annually serve some 600,000 vacationers on a variety of five, seven and eight-day Caribbean itineraries.  Carnival will also add a third year-round ship in Galveston when Carnival Freedom launches a seven-day cruise schedule in February 2015, representing a 38 percent capacity increase for the line in the increasingly popular Texas port.  Prior to its arrival there, Carnival Freedom will undergo a makeover that will add an array of new features that are part of the line’s “Fun Ship 2.0” product enhancement initiative.

…and Other Cruise Line Announcements

Louis Cruises is adding 12 new ports of call along the Ionian, Adriatic and Dalmatian Coasts to its 2015 itineraries, following the 2014 addition of nine new Aegean and “Turkish Riviera” destinations.  Tauck has unveiled its 2015 portfolio of ocean-going cruises.  The company’s collection of 15 small ship cruises will include three new itineraries featuring Australia and New Zealand.  Travelers seeking remote and rarely visited destinations can save big on Hurtigruten’s 2015 Antarctica, Greenland, Spitsbergen and Iceland sailings if they act fast.  Booking any departure by the end of this month (June) guarantees a price reduction of 25% and savings of up to $7,395 per person.  Finally, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it is investing more than $250 million in “Norwegian NEXT,” a program focused on bringing “new enhancements, experiences and transformations” across its fleet, with the goal of elevating guest experience and building on the success of the line’s newest vessels.