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January 4, 2016 Update – Group Cruise News

January 4, 2016 Update – Group Cruise News

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year, and thanks to everyone involved for making the first year of Group Cruise News a resounding success! Although December is generally a ‘slow’ month in the travel industry overall, we have been able to collect a number of interesting news items during the past several weeks, regardless. We hope you have enjoyed a memorable holiday season, and that 2016 will have even happier things in store for all of us! 


Adventure Smith Explorations has revealed its list of trip offerings for the new year…10 to 90-guest, small ship voyages that include regions recently opened for cruising, along with new routes and the introduction of state-of-the-art, newly built vessels. Primary destinations include Tahiti, Cuba, Peru, Croatia, the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and Alaska.

American Queen Steamboat Company is offering specials on the following one-week March sailings of American Queen, with savings of up to $1,800 per stateroom: March 6 and 20 from Memphis to New Orleans, and March 13 from New Orleans to Memphis.

Carnival Cruise Line has expanded its “Carnival LIVE” entertainment program to include performances by Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian Kathy Griffin, aboard Carnival Fantasy on February 24 and Carnival Breeze on February 25.

Celebrity Cruises has introduced its 2017-2018 lineup, giving guests the opportunity to choose from among 282 destinations in 76 countries, including new ports of call, 236 overnights in 55 cities, and 31 double overnight stays in 10 different ports. The line’s new Alaska, Bermuda and Canada/New England cruises are the first in the “Go Celebrity!” campaign to open for sale. Two ships will benefit from a $16 million refurbishing initiative, Celebrity Infinity in Alaska and Celebrity Summit in Bermuda and Canada/New England. Celebrity will have five ships in Europe for 2017 and 2018 – the new Celebrity Reflection, plus Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Silhouette. And on “Signature Event Sailings,” the company’s vessels will takes guests to the French Open, the British Open, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Cannes Film Festival.

Crystal Cruises has announced the selection of Kim Guimaraes as the company’s new vice president of sales & strategic partnerships in North America. The appointment comes on the heels of Eric Graves’ decision to retire at the end of this year, after a 43-year career in travel industry sales, including 25 years with Crystal. Guimaraes will be responsible for the development and implementation of the line’s sales and partnership strategies, along with the oversight of the line’s North America sales team. He will report to Carmen Roig, senior vice president of marketing and sales, and be based in Crystal’s new Miami branch office.

Cunard has announced dining room renovations that will be done during Queen Mary 2’s extensive refit from May 27 to June 21. Kings Court, the ship’s informal buffet restaurant, will be given a major redesign, and The Verandah, reportedly popular among guests onboard both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, will replace the Todd English restaurant, and feature French regional cooking.  Also, jazz great Herbie Hancock will headline the latest in a series of the line’s “Blue Note” jazz at sea-themed trans-Atlantic crossings on board Queen Mary 2, performing three shows in The Royal Court Theatre during the vessel’s crossing from Southampton to New York departing on August 1.

ExploringCircle is a new company based in Seattle that intends to combine “a long adventure travel history with a strong sense of purpose, and is positioned to engage travelers around environmental and social issues by introducing them to far-flung destinations and environmental issues associated with such places.” The company will reportedly “‘Pay it Forward’ by donating up to five percent of client fees to a cause actively working to ameliorate such issues.” ExploringCircle is now accepting reservations for its “Classic Northwest Passage,” a 13-day cruise, August 12 to 24, that will explores the remote Northwest Passage and fjords of the Baffin Island coastline on the 92-passenger Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Accompanying guests will be marine researchers who will study the potential effects on wildlife and habitats of accumulations of plastics in northern waters, and share their research and concerns with other passengers throughout the voyage.

French Country Waterways, an American-owned company offering luxury barge cruises along France’s historic canal system, has announced a special incentive for bookings on April, 2016 departures of the company’s Burgundy itineraries. In addition to a $600 savings per couple, the company is offering a complimentary one-night pre-cruise stay at a luxury Paris hotel. April rates start at $4,195 per person on the 18-passenger Esprit and $5,895 per person on the 12-passenger Adrienne and Nenuphar barges. All trips depart on Sundays and last six nights.

Holland America Line has launched a “View and Verandah” sale on 2016 and 2017 cruises, including free stateroom upgrades, up to 10% off select shore excursions, and savings on “Collectors’ Voyages” if booked by February 29. Travel professionals who set up a new group on select sailings under the “View and Verandah” promotion will receive double ‘GAP’ points for the booking, including the option of earning a tour conductor with 10 paid guests rather than the standard 15. Double ‘GAP’ applies to select sailings on May, 2016 Alaska departures; 2016 Yukon and Denali “Land + Sea Journeys;” 2016 Mediterranean Cruises; fall, 2016 Canada/New England, South America and Asia departures; and 2017 Europe, Alaska, Canada/New England and Bermuda sailings. In other news, HAL’s Zuiderdam became the seventh ship in the fleet in 2015 to earn a perfect score of 100 on a routine U.S. Public Health inspection held on November 30 during a turnaround call at Fort Lauderdale.

Hurtigruten has announced new “Cultural Voyage” sailings along the Norwegian Coast inspired by Norway’s national hero, composer Edvard Grieg. Guests on these departures will experience an in-depth view of Norway’s music, art and cultural history while traveling along the country’s coastline, including 17 exclusive events not available on any of the line’s other Norway Coastal sailings. Savings of up to 30% are available on any of the 12 departures this April and May for bookings made by January 15. In other news, Hurtigruten’s “Explorer Program” will reportedly be expanded considerably for 2017, including a tripling of berths to Antarctica, a dedicated ship for more extreme experiences, the major refurbishment of four of its Norwegian Coastal Voyage ships, the launch of the new Spitsbergen, and the deployment of four ships (up from two this year) for expedition voyages. Hurtigruten’s Arctic program will stretch to the Newfoundland and Labrador provinces of Canada, adding to the current roster of Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland. Guests will be able to explore Greenland’s Kangertittivaq or Scoresby, the longest fjord in the world. Finally, there will be an Amazon River voyage starting deep inside the Brazilian rainforest, plus visits to Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced a new promotional offer for travelers seeking to explore Hawaii aboard Pride of America. The line’s Freestyle Choice Hawaii” program will allow guests who book any stateroom or category by April 29 for sailings through April, 2017, to choose from a free one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, a free Specialty Dining Package, free pre-paid gratuities for the first and second guest in the stateroom, or a free $50 per port shore excursion credits in up to four ports. Those who book a suite will receive all four premiums. Similarly, Norwegian’s new “Free At Sea Wave Promotion” covering the rest of its fleet allows guests who book any stateroom, any sailing by April 10 to choose from free unlimited beverages, free specialty dining, free Wi-Fi or a free shore excursion credit. Travelers who book accommodations in a suite or “The Haven” will receive all four offers.  In other news, on December 15, Norwegian announced its schedule of summer, 2017 ship deployments.