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January 18, 2018 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  Since we’re now firmly anchored in a new year, I thought I’d briefly review the ten cruises, plus the other trips and activities that made 2017 a particularly memorable year for me…


January:  Celebrity Constellation United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and Oman “immersion” cruise (best cruise itinerary I experienced in 2017); American Bus Association annual Marketplace in Cleveland; Norwegian Epic Caribbean Cruise from Port Canaveral

February/March:  National Tour Association annual TREX in St. Louis; Midwestern classical music symphony concert tour; visits to South Florida National Parks

April:  Koningsdam trans-Atlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Rome; visit to Paris and Raymonde Marne Canal barge cruise from Paris to Epernay

May:  Oosterdam Alaska cruise from Seattle

June:  Escorting a Southwestern National Parks tour for a consulting client

June/July/August:  Working as a ticket taker for the Tri-City Dust Devils, a San Diego Padres farm club in the half-season Northwest (“A”) League; attending the Bravo Vail, Aspen, Colorado, National Repertory Orchestra and Grand Teton Music Festivals; going whitewater rafting; visiting North Cascades and Glacier National Parks, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area; volunteering part-time for the Army Corps of Engineers in the Visitor Center at Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Snake River

September:  Touring Wisconsin, then continuing around the northern shore of Lake Superior and the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario

September/October:  Norwegian Getaway Baltic cruise from Copenhagen; MSC Preziosa repositioning cruise from Hamburg to Barcelona; visiting Barcelona during the height of efforts to separate Catalonia from Spain; Wind Surf Spain and Morocco cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon (best cruise ship I experienced in 2017); visiting Amsterdam

November:  Safari Voyager adventure cruise from San Jose along the Pacific Coastal parklands and preserves of Costa Rica and Panama, concluding with a canal transit (see my “Changing Horizons” column in the January issue of The Group Travel Leader)

November/December:  15-day tour of China with Sinorama Holidays, including a four-night Yangtze River Cruise aboard Gold 3 (see my “Changing Horizons” column in the February issue of The Group Travel Leader); National Tour Association annual TREX in San Antonio

The past year did have its ups and downs, and life has surely been interesting lately, but I won’t go into further detail here.  Now it’s a new January, and I’ve just completed an excellent, two-week Maasdam New Zealand and Australia cruise from Auckland to Sydney, which will be featured in the March/April issue of Select Traveler magazine. And on Sunday, I’m embarking on yet another two-week sailing, a Celebrity Millennium Asia cruise from Singapore through Thailand and Vietnam to Hong Kong.  Readers who have any questions or wish more information about any of the experiences I’ve listed above are welcome to e-mail me at  Happy travels!




AIDA Cruises has advised that on New Year’s Eve, three AIDA sister ships met in Madeira to witness a breathtaking fireworks display live.  AIDAprima, AIDAsol and AIDAvita were all anchored in the port of Funchal to offer guests a “box seat” for the spectacle.  On board that evening, guests enjoyed festive holiday decorations alongside a traditional eight-course menu, a live “Happy New Year” concert by the AIDA show ensemble, as well as other gala shows and New Year’s parties.


American Cruise Lines on January 5 became a national sponsor of PBS’ iconic series Washington Week.  Now entering its fifty-first year, Washington Week is the Peabody Award-winning weekly news analysis series airing each Friday night.  Moderator Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post, leads a group of journalists in a roundtable discussion of the week’s major national news stories in this, the longest-running primetime news and public affairs program on television.


Carnival Cruise Line has announced that Grammy Award-nominated, singer/songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen will perform a free concert aboard Carnival Splendor on February 17, as part of the Carnival LIVE Concert Series.  The concert marks the first time the line is collaborating with Universal Music Group and Brands (UMGB), the brand strategy and partnership division of Universal Music Group.  Elsewhere, Carnival and its newly appointed ad agency of record, Anomaly, are launching a new brand campaign called “Choose Fun.”  In related news, larger-than-life NBA Hall of Famer and TNT commentator Shaquille O’Neal – popularly known as “Shaq” – has been given a new job (celebrity spokesman) and title, joining Carnival as their newly appointed “CFO”…”Chief Fun Officer,” which personifies the new brand campaign.  Next, the line has announced the names of the four craft beers that will be brewed in Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse/Brewhouse aboard the new Carnival Horizon, which is set to debut in Europe on April 2.  Included are “ParchedPig” branded Smoked Porter, Farmhouse Ale, Toasted Amber Ale, and West Coast IPA.   Also, Carnival Victory is in the midst of an extensive, multi-million-dollar dry dock that is adding a wide variety of food and beverage innovations, as well as two Captain’s Suites and new deluxe ocean view staterooms.  The new spaces, which are being added during a 17-day dry dock taking place this month in Freeport, will include such iconic Carnival venues as Guy’s Burger Joint and the BlueIguana Cantina, plus new poolside bars.  Finally, Carnival Triumph will operate a diverse itinerary schedule in 2019-20, with a variety of four to 14-day departures from New York, Fort Lauderdale, and Norfolk, Virginia, visiting nearly two dozen destinations throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas, Canada, New England, Bermuda and the Panama Canal.


Celebrity Cruises’ inaugural season of Celebrity Edge has expanded, as the new ship will be completed ahead of schedule and enter service earlier than planned.  The change will now allow Celebrity to offer not one, but two distinct seven-night maiden voyages on Celebrity Edge’s alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries.  Travelers also have the option to book back-to-back sailings for a 14-night journey.  The “Maiden Voyage West” will be a seven-night western Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale on December 9, 2018, visiting Key West, Florida; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and George Town, Grand Cayman.  And the “Maiden Voyage East,” the previously announced seven-night eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale on December 16, will visit San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten.


CroisiEurope has announced its latest canal barge itinerary, a seven-day/six-night program departing from Paris and traveling along the Petite Seine through Evry, Melum and Saint Mammes.  With several on-shore excursions incorporated, travelers will have the opportunity to explore Paris as well as visit two of France’s most famous châteaux…Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte…as well as wander the medieval town of Troye, and enjoy a champagne tasting.  Prices start at $3,175 and includes all meals served on board and drinks from the bar, excursions listed in the itinerary, travel insurance and port fees.  Departure dates are October 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2018, plus the itinerary will also be available during September and October, 2019, with exact departure dates to be announced.  In other news, the line is also introducing a new extended Loire River itinerary for 2018, “Chateaux of the Loire Valley.”  This new program features a Loire Princesse cruise combined with visits to both Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau, plus an overnight stay in Paris.  Prices for this seven-day program start at $2,417 per person, with multiple departures dates available from April to October, 2018.  The six-day cruise is round-trip from Nantes and visits Saint Nazaire, Ancenis, Angers and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley.  Highlights include a full-day excursion through the Loire-Château d’Ussé, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau and the gardens at the Château de Villandry; a helicopter ride over the Loire Valley; wine tasting in the cellar of the Château de Brissac; exploring Nantes and its secret courtyards and passages; a tour of the Saint-Nazaire shipyard; plus the Muscadet Wine Route.

Crystal Cruises has appointed Kari Tarnowski as vice president of marketing, based in the company’s Miami office.  Reporting directly to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Carmen Roig, Tarnowski will lead all marketing efforts for Crystal including advertising, digital, direct mail, loyalty programs and marketing   Tarnowski brings with her more than two decades of strategic marketing experience in the cruise and hotel industries, including stints as head of marketing for a number of luxury cruise lines.  Most recently, Tarnowski was chief marketing officer for Elite Island Resorts, where she led marketing efforts for 10 all-inclusive resorts across five islands in the Caribbean.  She also served as senior vice president of marketing for Sandals and Beaches Resorts.  In other news, the line has announced a newly enhanced Partner Resource Center and updated Travel Agent University.  The Partner Resource Center, formerly the Travel Agent Center, has debuted with an enhanced aesthetic platform, improved functionality and a comprehensive collection of materials and tools.  Furthermore, travel professionals can increase their Crystal expertise through enhanced training modules via the Travel Agent University.  Modules have been completely redeveloped to accurately represent the distinctive attributes of each brand experience across Crystal’s luxury portfolio, including ocean, river, yacht expedition and air.  Next, on January 15, the company marked an important construction milestone in Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises’ expansion, as it cut the first piece of steel for Crystal Endeavor at MV Werften Shipyard in Stralsund, Germany, during a ceremony attended by company executives and local dignitaries.  And finally, Chef Ben Robinson of Bravo TV’s Below Deck series will bring his culinary expertise and personality to the galleys and dining venues of Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises’ Crystal Esprit, as he hosts two of the yacht’s spring West Indies sailings this year. During the weeklong sailings beginning on March 18 and April 1, Robinson will lead cooking demonstrations and host question & answer sessions, cocktail receptions and shore-side visits to local markets. Guests can also enjoy a multi-course dinner specially prepared by the chef and Crystal Esprit’s culinary team.


Cunard has announced that Australian travellers will have the opportunity to be part of Queen Elizabeth’s “Down Under” season next year, with a variety of cruises ranging from two to 18 nights being offered.  Carrying 2,080 guests, the 90,900-ton Queen Elizabeth will be based in Sydney and Melbourne between February and April of 2019, the longest deployment in Australia for any of Cunard’s current fleet of “Queens.”


Emerald Waterways is offering free air on 14+ night cruises, or $295 air on 7-13 night cruises; plus a free premium drink package and one free “Discover More” tour experience of the guest’s choice.  Alternately, those who prefer to make their own air arrangements can take $1,000 off their cruise price and still receive the drinks and free tour.  Another option is to book a stateroom without the bonuses and receive a complimentary two-category upgrade.  These offers are based on space availability and end February 28.


Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has just released his latest culinary masterpiece, an art table book called “Food Faces” that features more than 150 images of edible creations that display a cast of characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.  Sodamin began to design and photograph his stylized Food Faces several years ago as a labor of creative love in his own photography studio, fine-tuning the emotional coloring of each Food Face as he adjusted lighting, depth and focus.  In related culinary news, HAL is enhancing the star power on its Culinary Council with the addition of hometown Seattle chef Ethan Stowell.  Stowell joins the line’s team of renowned international chefs, which also includes Sodamin, Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner and Jacques Torres.      


Norwegian Cruise Line, on January 16, revealed selections from the fleet’s fall/winter 2019-20 deployment, which will feature numerous warm weather escapes to tropical paradises in the Caribbean, South America, Bahamas and Florida, as well as fall foliage sailings in Canada and New England.  Most of the brand’s largest and newest vessels will each call a new city home in 2019.  Norwegian’s varied new itineraries are now open for sale to returning guests and will be available to the general public today, Thursday, January 18.


Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., has announced enhancements to the organizational structure of its Asia Pacific operations that will enable it to further leverage its extensive corporate resources and expertise already in place in the region and continue to strengthen its presence in the Chinese cruise market.  Steve Odell, Senior Vice President & Managing Director Asia Pacific, has expanded his role to include the Company’s China operations along with the greater Asia Pacific region.  Alex (Yucheng) Xiang has been promoted to Managing Director of the Company’s China operations, reporting to Odell.  David Herrera, previously President of the Company’s China operations and based in Shanghai, will relocate back to Miami as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development.  In other news, on January 11, the company rang the “Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to celebrate the five-year anniversary of its initial public offering in 2013, and its recent listing on the NYSE.  The Company began trading on the NYSE on December 19 under the ticker symbol “NCLH”.


Poseidon Expeditions has reportedly enhanced its “Antarctic Awakening – Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Islands” itinerary aboard its all-suite, 114-passenger Sea Spirit.  Guests on the 20-day voyage from October 20 to November 8 will now visit three destinations heralding the Southern Ocean spring, including the South Shetland Islands and an early season exploration of the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Pricing is from $11,966 per person double, with lower per person rates ($8,996) for triple share accommodations.  The cruise begins in Argentina’s Puerto Madryn on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and concludes in Ushuaia, Argentina.


Princess Cruises is promoting a “Princess Anniversary Sale” offering up to $600 onboard spending money per stateroom, plus free specialty dining for all guests on selected 2018 voyages worldwide, when booked by February 14.  In other news, Star Princess has returned to service following a two-week, multi-million-dollar renovation, outfitting the ship with some of the line’s latest product innovations and enhancements to various onboard areas.  Resuming a season of 15-day Hawaiian Islands cruises round-trip from Los Angeles and Vancouver through April, before summer cruising in Alaska, Star Princess guests will enjoy new or updated offerings including the Princess Luxury Bed, Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, plus a revamped Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria.  Elsewhere, the line has unveiled its third production show created in collaboration with the Oscar, Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer of Wicked, Pippin, and Godspell, Stephen Schwartz, and his team of professional creators.  The Secret Silk is a tale of adventure, romance, and enchantment that features familiar music and reportedly brings together some of Broadway’s best.  The new show, created and directed by Tony Award-nominated John Tartaglia, will debut exclusively on Royal Princess in mid-February as the ship sails the Caribbean.  Finally, in an effort to provide support to local communities affected by the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, and after the sell-out of the inaugural group on the January 20 Crown Princess sailing, Princess and Fathom Travel are adding two additional spring sailings in 2018.  These unique seven-day sailings, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, allow guests to give with their hands and hearts to those who have been impacted by the storms, aboard Regal Princess departing March 18, and Caribbean Princess departing May 26.


Scenic is kicking off the 2018 “Wave season” with multiple offers.  Guests wanting to be one of the first to experience the company’s first “Discovery Yacht,” Scenic Eclipse, will receive early-bird fares of up to 10% off on 13 different itineraries between September, 2018, and July, 2019.  They also receive deposit protection at no charge, an early payment discount of up to $1,000 per couple, and free airport transfers to and from their homes on itineraries longer than 10 days.  Free roundtrip air is being offered on the 15-day “South America to Canary Islands” trans-Atlantic sailing in 2019.  All special Scenic Eclipse offers are on new bookings made by February 28, and are subject to the availability of space.  Those wishing to explore Europe’s rivers in 2018 on one of Scenic’s luxury “Space-Ships” can “Choose Your Savings,” a new program that offers a choice of either free roundtrip airfare, up to $1,500 per person fare savings, or a two-category balcony suite upgrade on any European river itinerary.  Bookings on “Choose Your Savings” must be made by February 15.


Seabourn is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a “2018 Signature Savings Event,” which features savings and an array of value-added amenities on select 2018-2019 voyages across its fleet.  The event runs through March 13 and includes such offerings as a complimentary three veranda suite category upgrade, a complimentary veranda for ocean view suite category upgrade, up to a $500 shipboard credit per suite, up to $500 air credit per person, 50% reduced deposit, and up to 15% savings on combination cruises.  The line is also expanding its fleet from four ships to five this year with the addition of Seabourn Ovation, beginning with an 11-day inaugural voyage departing May 5 from Venice, Italy, to Barcelona, Spain.  Seabourn’s newest vessel is set to “wow” guests with a new world-class art collection.  At the invitation of designer Adam D. Tihany, a team from ArtLink curated, collected and is working to place over 1,600 artworks by nearly 120 artists on board Seabourn Ovation. Sourced on five continents, the artworks and craftworks on board the ship will be windows to the world’s different climate zones, its flora, fauna and habitat, and imaginary travelers’ personal impressions.  In other news, Seabourn has announced major enhancements to the guest experience aboard Seabourn Sojourn, including the addition of the line’s new signature restaurant, The Grill by Thomas Keller, and the new mindful living program created by Dr. Andrew Weil.  The programs were launched following a recent dry dock period for the vessel, which also included a variety of updates throughout the ship.  Many of the public areas received new carpet and design touches, suites were refreshed, and Owner’s, Signature and Wintergarden Suites in particular were enhanced with new furniture and soft goods.


Silversea Cruises has launched a new partnership with ORCA, one of the UK’s leading marine conservation charities.  Silversea is working with ORCA to enable guests to discover and engage with marine life on their Silversea adventures and contribute to ORCA’s ongoing marine conservation work by helping to collect critical sightings data of whales, dolphins and porpoises.  ORCA conservationists will travel on board select voyages, complementing the Silversea enrichment program by sharing their knowledge of the rich diversity of marine life.  ORCA has championed marine conservation for over 15 years, striving to give everyone who cares about whales and dolphins an active role in safeguarding their future.  Elsewhere, the line’s all-suite Silver Whisper recently sailed from Los Angeles on a 121-day voyage around the world.  Encompassing Pacific Island paradises, ancient and modern wonders of Asia and the marvels of Arabia, the epic voyage will conclude in May in Rome.  The evening prior to departure, Silver Whisper‘s guests were serenaded with live orchestral music as they enjoyed a gala bon voyage dinner at the glamorous Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. The dinner is one of several unique complimentary benefits for World Cruise guests, including seven special cultural events that await them in Tahiti, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Mumbai and Sorrento.


Star Clippers is currently offering “Wave season” promotions on select 2018 sailings across all three of the line’s tall ships in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.  Guests booking a “Wave season” special will receive a cabin upgrade of up two categories, complimentary pre-paid gratuities and $100 onboard credit per cabin to be spent on anything from spa services to items from the Sloop Shop to drinks at the bar.  In other news, in order to make this task easier for travel agents looking to sell the line’s unique brand of sailing adventures, the company has launched a new, upgraded travel agent porta featuring an array of easy-to-use educational and marketing tools.


Tauck has again eliminated the single supplement on its Category 1 European riverboat cabins, waiving the supplement entirely for these cabins on each departure of every Tauck river itinerary.  In all, the single supplement is being waived on over 200 Tauck river cruise departures for the coming year.  Furthermore, Tauck is also reducing the single supplement by $1,000 on other selected cabin categories on 58 departures of 16 different river itineraries.


Un-Cruise Adventures is offering travelers the opportunity to explore Alaska in 2018 at a lower rate.  For bookings made through February 28, guests will save $225 per person, or $450 per couple, on any seven-night departure in Alaska aboard S.S. Legacy or Safari Endeavour. The offer also includes a $100 shipboard credit per couple.


Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is promoting its Floating Photo Workshops, led by renowned travel photographer Mark Edward Harris.  On select cruises in 2018, Mark will serve as Uniworld’s photography instructor and mentor, offering insightful tips, one-on-one critiques and opportunities to shoot alongside during the line’s cruises.  Elsewhere, the line is offering 15% savings on its “India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges” program, as well as other select 2018 itineraries in China, Vietnam & Cambodia, and Egypt with its “Exotics Offer,” now extended through March 31.


Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s 2019 departures are now open for sale, including both new adventures and existing traveler favorites. With supplement-free land tours and dedicated solo cabins on its river and small ship cruises, the company is suggesting that guests reserve early for the best selection of dates and to take advantage of free single supplements.


Viking Cruises, on January 5, welcomed its fourth and newest ocean ship, Viking Sun, to Los Angeles, also the home of the company’s U.S. headquarters.  The ship is currently sailing Viking’s sold-out 141-day World Cruise from Miami to London, and Los Angeles was Viking’s first U.S. West Coast port of call in the company’s 20-year history.  Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen greeted guests aboard the vessel, and during a press conference unveiled a new multi-channel brand advertising campaign entitled “Did You Know?”