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An Initial Group Cruise News Update!

February 17, 2015:  Thanks for the many kind responses I’ve received on the inauguration of Group Cruise News earlier this month…please keep your feedback coming!  Hopefully everyone has enjoyed the Valentine’s Day/President’s Day Weekend, and hasn’t been required to shovel too much snow!  Following is my first update on industry happenings…links to each cruise line’s website are now also provided for those desiring further information.

Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that PortMiami will be the year-round home of its largest ship to date, the 133,500-ton Carnival Vista, currently under construction in Italy, when it launches six to eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning in December, 2016.  Also, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Liberty will be repositioned to Texas in 2016, joining Carnival Freedom and replacing Carnival Magic and Carnival Triumph in Galveston.  

Cunard kicked off the company’s 175th Anniversary celebrations in the U.S. by paying homage to the Queen Mary, when Queen Elizabeth docked in the port of Long Beach, California, on February 5.  This was the first time that a Cunard ship had berthed in Long Beach since Queen Mary arrived at her retirement home in October, 1967.  Queen Mary will celebrate the 80th anniversary of her Maiden Voyage in May, 2016.  Also, on May 25 in the U.K., Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will arrive simultaneously in Liverpool to celebrate Cunard’s anniversary year in dramatic fashion, an event that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the banks of the Mersey River.

Disney Cruise Line has introduced adventures and characters from the Star Wars movie series during a new day-long celebration entitled “Star Wars Day at Sea,” aboard eight special sailings of Disney Fantasy.  

Emerald Waterways has created a new 8-day “Rhine Main Discovery” itinerary from Nuremburg to Amsterdam, and has added additional departures of its 8-day “Danube Delights” program from Nuremberg to Budapest.

Holland America Line’s Eurodam became the first ship in the company’s history to achieve eight consecutive perfect scores of 100 on United States Public Health Inspections, at Port Everglades on February 1.  During the past year, Noordam, Zuiderdam, Statendam and Westerdam also earned perfect scores of 100.  When Koningsdam joins the HAL fleet next February, the ship will debut the line’s new dining and eatery concepts, venues and features which travelers can now preview through a video available at  In other news, HAL’s new “Seas the Day” promotion features savings up to 50%, reduced fares for third/fourth guests in a stateroom and up to $400 per stateroom onboard credits on several of the line’s exotic itineraries…including select 2015 fall/2016 spring Australia and New Zealand voyages, South America, Asia, Hawaii/Tahiti, Panama Canal, Grand Voyage segments and “Passage to the Far East” cruise…when booked before March 31.  Finally HAL recently hosted fundraiser luncheons aboard Westerdam in Port Everglades for the Symphony of the Americas, and the Ryndam in Tampa for the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

Norwegian Cruise Line is making a substantial expansion to the company’s North American sales team, almost doubling the number of business development managers in the field, and increasing the overall sales group by more than 40 percent.  The line is alsoadjusting its daily service charges for shipboard gratuities, effective for all sailings beginning March 1.  The new rates are $12.95 per guest per day for categories up to a mini-suite, and $14.95 per guest per day for any suite.  Guests who have previously booked a cruise and are sailing after March 1, or who are planning to book a cruise now through February 28, can prepay their service charges at the current rate by February 28.  Guests with existing cruise reservations who have already prepaid their service charges at the current rate will not be affected.

Paul Gauguin Cruises has announced a “Winter Sale,” offering savings of $850 to $3,500 per person off previously advertised rates, on select 2015 Tahiti, French Polynesia, South Pacific, Caribbean, and Latin America voyages, when booked by February 28, 2015.  Itineraries on the Paul Gauguin also include airfare from Los Angeles.

Princess Cruises, the backdrop of the iconic “Love Boat” television series, debuted a new cocktail for the line’s fleet in time for Valentine’s Day on the high seas.  Original series cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender, recently visited Crown Princess to demonstrate how to make “The Isaac” for the ship’s bartenders.  The drink’s components include white rum, pomegranate syrup, lime juice, club soda, and two pineapple leaves as garnish.  Princess has also announced a “Denali on Sale” promotion available now through April 14, offering fares as low as $99 per person per day on 10 to 14-night Alaska land and sea vacations combining a “Voyage of the Glaciers” cruise with a three to eight-day land tour including stays at Princess Wilderness Lodges and a rail journey featuring Denali (Mt. McKinley), North America’s tallest peak, as well as the surrounding area.  More information is available at  

Tauck has announced the names of the two new riverboats that it will launch next year, the Grace and the Joy, bringing the company’s fleet to a total of nine vessels, a 125% expansion of the company’s capacity in a two-year period.  The names were selected from a pool of nearly 400 entries submitted during a naming contest conducted last fall.  The Grace and the Joy will each have twenty-two 300-square-foot suites, thirty-two 225-square-foot cabins, plus an additional thirteen cabins ranging from 150 to 190 square-feet.