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Groups cruising in Europe

Celebrity Cruise Ship

The summer of 2013 will mark Celebrity Cruises’ biggest season ever in Europe, with Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection, which debuts in October, all joining Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Infinity in offering an extensive array of cruises and cruise/tours.

The flagship of the line’s Solstice Class fleet, Celebrity Solstice, will also become the first of its class to offer Alaska programs during the summer of 2013, joining Celebrity Century and Celebrity Millennium.

Princess Cruises has unveiled the maiden season itineraries of its Royal Princess, scheduled to debut in June 2013, as well as some additional features of the ship’s greatly expanded atrium.

Preceding her summer program of 12-day Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona, Spain, and Venice, Italy, beginning June 23, the vessel will depart June 16 on a seven-day inaugural voyage from Southampton, England, to Barcelona. There will also be two short “preview” cruises round trip from Southampton on June 10 and June 13.

SeaDream Yacht Club has added paddleboards to its collection of complimentary water toys.

Stand-up paddle surfing or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an emerging global sport, particularly popular in warm coastal climates and resorts. Unlike surfing, SUP is reportedly very easy to learn, and SUP surfers apparently don’t need to worry about high and low tides.

Carnival Cruise Lines will increase capacity on its seven-day southern Caribbean itineraries from San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as on its four- and five-day cruises from Miami, deploying newer, larger ships in both markets.

The 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor will launch a five-port, seven-day schedule from San Juan beginning Feb. 10, 2013, replacing the 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory, which will reposition from San Juan to Miami to assume the Carnival Destiny’s four- and five-day cruises on Feb. 4.

Carnival Destiny will offer a 16-day transatlantic crossing departing Miami on Feb. 4, arriving in Civitavecchia (Rome) on Feb. 20, to begin an ambitious 49-day refit and transformation project in dry dock at Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.  The vessel will undergo a $155 million makeover that will incorporate the line’s new Fun Ship 2.0 dining, bar and entertainment features, as well as a reconfigured layout, the addition of a partial deck, the expansion of two other decks and the addition of 182 new cabins. The ship will be renamed Carnival Sunshine in April, then embark on Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona and Venice from April to October, before launching year-round, seven-day Caribbean departures from New Orleans in November 2013.

Royal Caribbean International (RCI) has exercised its option to build a second Sunshine-class cruise ship to be delivered in the spring of 2015 by German shipbuilder Meyer Werft. In other news, RCI’s Rhapsody of the Seas has begun a monthlong $54 million revitalization in Singapore. Part of the line’s Vision Class of ships, the vessel, which entered service in 1997, is receiving a host of new dining and entertainment venues, technological upgrades, stateroom renovations and a bow-to-stern refreshing of all furniture, carpet and upholstery.

Beginning this month, couples wishing to “tie the knot” at sea can say “I do” during cruises aboard the ships of Cunard Line for the first time in the company’s 172-year history. Guests will be able to celebrate weddings conducted by captains on all three of the line’s vessels. Reportedly, demand is already high.

Also, on March 4, Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 was saluted by another historic vessel also now circumnavigating Australia — the Endeavour — as the two vessels crossed paths off the coast of Victoria. The encounter with the small ship, a replica of Capt. James Cook’s HM Bark Endeavour, occurred as Queen Mary 2 sailed from Adelaide to Melbourne. Carrying approximately 4,000 guests and crew, the 151,400-ton Cunarder dwarfed the 397-ton Endeavour, which is carrying 54 people.

On Feb. 28, the Disney Fantasy, newest ship of the Disney Cruise Line, arrived in New York City after traveling nearly 3,800 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany. The 4,000-passenger vessel was christened in the Big Apple on March 1, with award-winning recording artist Mariah Carey serving as godmother. The ship then departed for her homeport of Port Canaveral, Fla., and arrived there on March 6. With a maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, Disney Fantasy will be sailing seven-night cruises to the Caribbean and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

In 2013, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will be introducing another new build, the Queen Isabel, on its Douro River cruises in Portugal and Spain. This new ship will replace Douro Spirit, which Uniworld inaugurated in 2011. Queen Isabel will have a slightly smaller capacity of 118 passengers, allowing Uniworld to offer more junior suites.

Louis Cruises has announced the deployment of its Thomson Destiny into its own brand, on three- and four-day cruises operated out of Piraeus, Greece, and Kusadasi, Turkey, as of May. The vessel, renamed Louis Olympia, will replace Louis Majesty, which has been chartered to Thomson Cruises as being better suited to its seven- and 14-day itineraries.

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the MS Paul Gauguin, has completed a $7 million renovation of the vessel. The work took place during the ship’s 10-night crossing from Tahiti to Brisbane, Australia, as well as during the 11-night dry dock that followed, with extensive enhancements made to the ship’s interior and exterior.

Also, the launch of guest-host sailings proved so popular in 2012 that the line will be continuing this program on select 2013 sailings. Among the celebrity hosts will be environmentalist and oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who will offer lectures with videos of his work and accompany several dives from the ship.

For its upcoming European season, Crystal Cruises is offering new ways to explore the Christian history of the continent with new Christian Heritage Tours. Travelers cruising to the Mediterranean, Western Europe, or the North Cape will have nine new opportunities to make a pilgrimage, attend Mass, contribute to charitable works or learn about the relics and architecture of centuries-old sites of religious renown.

Also, the inspiring couple American astronaut Mark Kelly and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be boarding Crystal Serenity for a Mediterranean sailing from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rome on July 25. Kelly is scheduled to speak to guests about the power of the human spirit, with wife “Gabby” joining for a special appearance and photo opportunity at presentation’s end.