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Groups on cruises: Awards aplenty

Photo courtesy Seabourn Cruises

Celebrity Cruises is doing some “celebrating” of its own after being ranked No. 1 in the large-ship (2,500-plus guests) category of the annual Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Similarly, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises attained the No. 1 spot among river cruise lines, and Seabourn Cruises was victorious in the small-ship category.

Elsewhere, Cunard Line is trumpeting the top honors received by its Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, which swept first, second and third places, respectively, among the Top 10 Large Resort Ships rated by the “2012 Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.” Queen Mary 2 graces the guide’s cover.

• Heading Down Under • 

Two Holland America Line (HAL) ships, the Oosterdam and the Volendam, will sail expanded series of Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises during the 2012-13 winter/spring season. Visiting some 50 ports ranging from cosmopolitan Sydney,  and Melbourne, in Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand, to exotic Vanuatu and Fiji, the complete series of sailings, from 10 to 58 days in length, represents almost a 25 percent capacity increase in the market for HAL.

Sister company Princess Cruises will be sending Diamond Princess, Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Sea Princess “Down Under” in the 2012-13 season for 40 voyages of eight different itineraries in the region.

Princess’ new offerings will include a longer 14-day Australia and New Zealand  itinerary that adds two ports, a 33-day Round Australia and New Zealand route, a solar eclipse sailing and a cruise/tour to the Outback.

Furthermore, following its 2012 Alaska season, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Spirit will be offering 12-day Hawaii and 17-day South Pacific sailings en route to Sydney, where the vessel is now scheduled to be homeported.

• News from Silversea •
Silversea Cruises has announced a revamped entertainment program created exclusively for the company’s ships by Choozi Entertainment. In a move away from traditional production shows, the new concert-style concept will feature a cast of classically trained vocalists and musicians performing music from Motown to opera to pop and rock.

In 2012, the line will also expand its series of Bridge Sailings to 56 voyages, covering sailings from Auckland and Shanghai, China, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Each Bridge Sailing features a formal program of contract and duplicate bridge enrichment supervised by instructors who are certified American Contract Bridge League Life Masters. Guests can participate in daily bridge sessions and bridge lectures for both beginning and intermediate-level players, all complimentary.

Furthermore, Silversea has scheduled 20 voyages in 2012 that will feature the Relais and Châteaux L’École des Chefs interactive cooking school, also free of charge. Each curriculum will be designed to reflect the culture of countries on the ship’s itinerary. Hands-on instruction and special events are to be hosted by Silversea culinary trainer David Bilsland, a former instructor at London’s Le Cordon Bleu culinary school.

• Princess Expansion Efforts •

Princess will be featuring more Pacific Coast cruises than ever before in 2012-13. Fall and spring coastal voyages will range from overnight cruises to weeklong journeys, including a roundtrip California Coastal itinerary, a wine country cruise with themed onboard presentations, and four- and five-day samplers of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Finally, a fleetwide three-year project to add the Sanctuary, the line’s adults-only “pocket of tranquility” has now been completed. This feature, which debuted in 2006 aboard Crown Princess, gives passengers a place to relax in a private getaway with plush seating, massage cabanas, signature beverages, light meals, service by “serenity stewards” and personal entertainment.