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Groups on cruises: Cruise safety

Following the tragic Costa Concordia accident in January, Carnival Corp., parent company of Costa Cruises and nine cruise lines around the world, announced a comprehensive audit and review of all safety and emergency response procedures across all of the company’s operations.

Despite the publicity surrounding this very unfortunate incident, Carnival, as well as the cruise industry as a whole, has maintained an excellent safety record over the years.

“However, this tragedy has called into question our company’s safety and emergency response procedures and practices,” said Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival. “While I have every confidence in the safety of our vessels and the professionalism of our crews, this review will evaluate all practices and procedures to make sure that this kind of accident doesn’t happen again.”

The review is being led by James Hunn, a retired U.S. Navy captain with 32 years of Navy service and now the company’s senior vice president of maritime policy and compliance. 

• Celebrities at sea • 
Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center Program will host a lineup of more than 60 celebrated chefs, cookbook authors and television personalities from the culinary world.

Headliners will include YouTube and “The Next Food Network Star” personality Serena Palumba; “Top Chef: Just Desserts” participant Zac Young; and Chef Tony Maws, winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast.

News correspondents Bernard Kalb and Morton Dean, hostage negotiator Terry Waite, culinary icon Maggie Beer, broadcaster and monarchy expert Brian Hoey and television producer/director Terry Hughes are among the guest speakers in Silversea Cruises’ “Silver Perspectives” enrichment program this year.

And Grammy Award-winner Kenny G has chartered  Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium to create a special Alaskan vacation experience, May 17-24, 2013.  The renowned saxophonist will offer multiple performances, as well as mix and mingle with guests onboard throughout the cruise. Other artists yet to be announced will perform during the sailing as well.

• New products • 
The SeaDream Yacht Club will be offering a seven-day voyage on the Upper Amazon River, March 16-23, 2013. Ports will include Leticia, Columbia; Panelas, Brazil; Jutai, Brazil; Santo Antonio do Ica, Brazil; Amatura, Brazil; Monkey Island, Columbia; and Pebas, Peru. SeaDream has arranged for a team of experts — naturalists, a botanist, a historian and an expedition leader — to sail onboard.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ new ship, River Saigon, began its maiden voyage along Vietnam and Cambodia’s Mekong River on Jan. 19. Uniworld’s Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River itinerary is designed to take guests from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Cambodia’s Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, gateway to the legendary Angkor Wat temples.

American Cruise Lines has announced its 2013 schedule for Queen of the Mississippi. The new 150-passenger paddle wheeler, currently under construction and nearing completion in Salisbury, Md., will begin service this August from New Orleans. The vessel’s 2013 schedule will feature sailings beginning Feb. 9.

Queen of the Mississippi was designed to be a low-density ship with the highest square-foot-per-passenger ratio in the industry. Highly unusual these days, numerous single staterooms will also be available.

Princess Cruises has announced that an extensive three-week makeover has added a host of new features to Sapphire Princess. Guests can now enjoy a new  Piazza atrium featuring the International Cafe and Vines wine bar, plus Alfredo’s Pizzeria.

On the top deck, the ship now offers a giant  Movies Under the Stars screen, as well as the ship’s new “pocket of tranquility,” the adults-only Sanctuary. 

Princess is also looking for 1,000 passenger-submitted cruise vacation photos to permanently showcase aboard its new Royal Princess when the ship debuts in spring 2013. The line has launched a “1,000 Memories at Sea” contest inviting guests to submit their best cruise vacation shots, which will be displayed on the walls of hallways between staterooms and in other locations around the ship. One lucky photographer will win a cruise for two, including airfare, on the new vessel.