Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

July 19, 2018 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  Having not been at sea since my return from Japan and Alaska in May, I don’t have any significant commentary to add this month, although as always, readers will find numerous news items of interest below.  Also, by accessing the following website, you can reach the electronic version of Select Traveler magazine’s July/August issue, then continue on to pages 17 to 22 in order to view my feature article on an outstanding Wind Surf Western Mediterranean cruise last October:


Guests and crew of AIDA Cruises’ AIDAperla celebrated the ship’s first birthday on June 30.  One of the prominent well-wishers was singer and actor Gil Ofarim, who sang the birthday song and, together with dance partner Ekaterina Leonova, entertained the audience with a tango.  Also, Captain Dr. Friedhold Hoppert belonged to the circle of well-wishers.  All three will board the vessel again on November 12 in Tenerife for a special trans-Atlantic cruise to Barbados.  Elsewhere, on November 15, AIDA will receive the first of its new generation of ships from Meyer Werft.  Even before the maiden voyage of AIDAnova from Hamburg to the Canary Islands on December 2nd, guests will be able to experience the new flagship at pre-premiere events.  Due to high demand, AIDA has now launched an additional short trip from November 27 to December 2 from Hamburg to Rotterdam and back, which is bookable from €499 per person.  And interestingly enough, instead of appointing a celebrity godmother, which is typical for the cruise industry when a new ship is christened, Aida is currently seeking a family godfather for AIDAnova, reflecting the line’s dedication to the family cruise market.  On August 31, the new vessel will be christened on the grounds of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, accompanied by a celebration featuring a gala production and live concert by star DJ David Guetta.


Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is now the only ocean-going cruise line with no single supplement fees for outside staterooms on all sailings of its two-night vacations to Grand Bahama Island from the Port of Palm Beach.  In other news, the line has partnered with TravTech’s integrated booking application Cruisebase.  Opening the gateway for BPCL vacations to be available through online travel agencies (OTA), is the first leading OTA to now offer seamless booking for the line with the Cruisebase software addition. Cruisebase travel agent users and their consumers can efficiently access booking inventory for both Grand Celebration and Grand Classica directly online. The integration allows BPCL to connect with large intermediary partners and numerous consumers.


Carnival Australia’s Carnival Spirit arrived in Sydney on June 24 after a 14-day dry dock in Singapore and a 19-day cruise back to Australia.  The line invested some 350,000 man-hours into the dry dock to create additions to the ship’s onboard entertainment offerings, including a new creative craft studio named “SoulPlay;” “The Warehouse” video arcade; enhanced duty-free shopping opportunities; “The Pixels Digital Photo Gallery;” and an updated Fitness Centre.  Also, Carnival’s 2020 program is now on sale, offering travelers access to a record number of 75 sailings from Australia to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia.  Aussie fun-seekers can now book Carnival Splendor’s sailings between January and June, 2020.  The vessel will be the newest and largest ship to be home-ported year round in Australia.  Furthermore, following the news that Carnival Spirit will become the brand’s first-ever ship to home port in Brisbane, Queenslanders can now book 7-day cruises direct to the tropical wonderlands of Espiritu Santo, Mystery Island and Noumea.


Carnival Cruise Line, which has raised more than $16 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the past eight years and serves as its “Official Celebration Partner,” has been named the organization’s “Corporate Partner of the Year” for its support through innovative fundraising activities and on-site events for patients.  In other news, Carnival has announced that it will return to the Port of San Diego for the first time in seven years when Carnival Miracle arrives in late 2019.  The vessel will operate a winter schedule of three to 15-day voyages from San Diego from December, 2019, to February, 2020.  Included will be a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera departing December 1; 14 and 15-day Hawaii adventures departing December 8 and January 17, respectively; two five-day voyages that spend two days in Cabo San Lucas departing December 22 and January 12; two three-day getaways sailing to Ensenada on December 27 and January 3; a four-day New Year’s Baja Mexico cruise departing on December 30; a six-day cruise that includes two days in Cabo San Lucas and a day-long visit to Ensenada departing January 6; and finally a 13-day Panama Canal cruise that departs San Diego on February 1.  And on June 28, Carnival partnered with Operation Homefront to honor the men and women of the Armed Forces by hosting “Humor for Heroes” at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, featuring stand-up comedy performances, a barbecue and other activities.  Entertainers included “Workaholics” star Adam Devine, as well as two comedians from Carnival’s Punchliner Comedy Clubs, keeping the crowd of 500 service members and families laughing throughout the show.


Celebrity Cruises celebrated another milestone on June 21 with the unveiling of the line’s first ever brand-designed cruise terminal, Terminal 25 at Port Everglades, Florida.  Designed in collaboration with the port and architectural firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners, Inc., to accommodate the new Celebrity Edge, the facility features cutting-edge technology to create a superior guest experience.  And in other news, the line has unveiled “The Celebrity Revolution,” a more than $500-million reimagining of its fleet in partnership with more than 500 architects, designers and engineers, which has been designed to bring the rest of the brand’s fleet to the level of the new Celebrity Edge.  “We launched ‘The Celebrity Revolution’ to do one thing…transform the way our guests experience the world.  It began with the introduction of the industry-changing Celebrity Edge, and continued with the stunning Celebrity Flora,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises. “Our dedication to improving the way guests experience the world knows no bounds.  We are taking our entire award-winning fleet to the edge and giving people the vacation they truly deserve.”


CroisiEurope has released its 2019 cruise schedule, including perennial favorites like Normandy, Bordeaux, Provence and more. The new year will also mark the addition of a sixth ship on the Douro River in Portugal, the Amelia Rodregues, which will be used on a number of six and eight-day itineraries.  Guests who book a new 2019 cruise by this August 31st will save 10% per passenger by using the booking code EARBOOUS.


Crystal Cruises is offering more choices than ever for luxury travelers in 2020 through dozens of new itineraries aboard its Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity.  The collection of “Grand Journeys” allows guests to create adventures ranging from 14 to 57 days by combining shorter itineraries, with multiple overnights on every extended voyage and nearly no repeating ports.  Spanning the globe, these voyages visit both iconic and remote destinations, from the Holy Land and Western and Northern Europe to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.  Elsewhere, Crystal is the official cruise line sponsor of the Los Angeles production of On Your Feet!, the musical that showcases the life and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.  The production is currently playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles as part of its national tour. As a red-carpet sponsor, Crystal supported the opening night celebration and after-party on July 10.


Crystal River Cruises has honored Hungarian producer Mariann Peller as the godmother of the 106-guest Crystal Ravel, the company’s fourth new “Rhine Class” river ship.  Born in Budapest, Peller is renowned for creating the Hungarian television show “Virtuosos,” the world’s first classical music talent show, as well as founding the Young Virtuosos Foundation, which promotes the study of classical music for young artists. Crystal Ravel was christened in Budapest on July 11 during a traditional ceremony, which included a performance by talented Young Virtuosos artists.


Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises has produced a guide, now available, to its 2018-19 yachting itineraries aboard the 62-guest Crystal Esprit, showcasing the vessel’s 18 voyages through the Adriatic, West Indies, the Arabian Peninsula and Holy Land.  And adventurous travelers will soon be able to book journeys aboard the new Crystal Endeavor, being advertised as “the world’s most spacious luxury expedition yacht.”  The vessel’s inaugural season itineraries will be announced on July 31 and will be open for booking to Crystal Society members on August 8, and to the public on August 22.  At 19,800 tons with a PC6 Polar Class designation, Crystal Endeavor will accommodate a maximum of 200 guests and feature the luxury amenities and services for which Crystal is known.


Cunard has partnered with Julien’s Auctions to offer guests an opportunity to sail with fashion icon Bob Mackie and enjoy a special exhibition preview of Property from the Collection of Bob Mackie,” which includes some of the designer’s most famous pieces.  The Transatlantic Crossing will set sail from Southampton, England, on August 19, ahead of the auction which will take place on November 17 in Los Angeles and online.  Cunard is also partnering with The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation on its crowdfunding campaign to help build the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island.  The Museum, scheduled to open in 2019, will celebrate the Statue of Liberty’s story, explore how she has evolved from national monument to global icon, and be the new home for her original torch.


Disney Cruise Line, starting in early November, is adding holiday sparkle to Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, during “Very Merrytime Cruises,” with traditional “turkey day” fanfare, Christmas feasts, “snow flurries” and more.  During these voyages, special stem-to-stern holiday events include “Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic” and “Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball” in the atrium lobby, as well as Dickens-inspired carolers, family activities, youth crafts, a tropical holiday deck party and more.


Emerald Waterways is inviting guests to visit France during 2019 with offers for free flights or savings of $2,000 per couple when bookings are made by August 31, 2018.  Those who pay in full by August 15 will save an additional $600 per couple.  The featured itinerary is “Sensations of Lyon and Provence,” with or without extensions to Paris or Nice.  Similar savings and conditions are being offered (with $1000 for full payment by August 15) on 2019 departures of 15-day “Splendors of Europe” sailings between Amsterdam and Budapest, with or without a Prague extension.  Elsewhere, the brand’s new Egypt, Nile & Jordan programs include four days of Nile River cruising combined with touring the ancient sights of Egypt, plus the option of an additional five days in history-rich Jordan.  As with the above European programs, free flights from the U.S. to Egypt or $2,000 per couple savings are being offered, as well as one tour conductor credit for each nine paid guests on group bookings.  For early full payment by August 31, an additional discount of $600 per couple on 7 to 14 day itineraries, or $1000 per couple on itineraries of 15 days and longer is also available.


Holland America Line’s new “PartnerSHIPS Podcast” series for travel professionals, now being delivered bi-weekly, is exploring the brand and offering tips and news to ensure that travel professionals have the tools they need to sell the line’s cruises. The PartnerSHIPS Podcasts can be accessed at  Elsewhere, HAL hosted the American Cancer Society’s annual “A Toast to Life” fundraiser luncheon on June 23, aboard Eurodam at the Port of Seattle.  In other news, the line has announced that Prinsendam has been sold and will leave its fleet on July 1, 2019, and transfer to the German cruise company Phoenix Reisen.  Prinsendam’s itineraries after this date are scheduled to be assimilated by Rotterdam, Volendam and Veendam.  Prinsendam was built in 1988 as Royal Viking Sun for Royal Viking Line.  The 37,983-ton, 835-guest ship was operated by Cunard from 1994 through 1998 and then transferred to Seabourn, where it became Seabourn Sun in 1999.  In 2002 the ship joined the Holland America Line fleet and was renamed Prinsendam.  Also, HAL President Orlando Ashford participated in the first-ever ESPN Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge, held on July 1 at the University of Washington’s Husky Ballpark.  Ashford was among a group of executives who competed with employees, celebrities and Special Olympics athletes in multiple Unified Sports challenges to raise money for Special Olympics and the Seattle community.  HAL was also a presenting sponsor for the Seattle Art Mural project of the Special Olympics USA Games.  The event preceded the start of competitions at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle from July 1 to 6, staged by Special Olympics and ESPN.  Next, from this fall through next spring, two HAL ships will sail to the islands of Hawaii.  Guests can choose from nine cruises with itineraries ranging from 16 to 20 days aboard Eurodam and Amsterdam, departing from Seattle, Vancouver, San Diego and Los Angeles.  Most departures feature an overnight call in Honolulu and/or a call at Kona, as well as visits to Hilo, Nawiliwili and Lahaina.  Furthermore, from September this year through next April, the 1,916-guest Westerdam will be exploring China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam on cruises ranging from 10 to 31 days.  Ten different itineraries will depart from Yokohama (Tokyo), Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.  Late departures and nine overnight ports allow extra time for exploration, while Hong Kong and Singapore departures provide an opportunity for guests to add “Signature Experience” pre-cruise tours.  Finally, HAL’s “Explore4” promotion is back, featuring four offers on more than 600 cruises and “Alaska Land+Sea Journeys” from holiday season, 2018, through spring, 2020.  Travelers planning ahead for next year or beyond can take advantage of all the perks to sip, dine, sail and save.  Offers include complimentary beverages and specialty dining, reduced deposits and free or reduced fares for third and fourth guests in a stateroom.  Suite bookings also receive onboard spending money.  “Explore4” amenities for guests booking any category stateroom includes a “Signature Beverage Package” (valued at $1,400 per stateroom for a 14-day cruise), dinner at the Pinnacle Grill for two, free or reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom, and 50% reduced deposits.  Guests receive all benefits when bookings are made by this November


Katarina Line is offering group yacht charters featuring the charm of Croatia and the Adriatic Sea on its “Deluxe Superior” vessels…Black Swan, Ave Maria and Avangard.


MSC Cruises has continuously been offering a variety of promotions for winter and spring sailings of four of its vessels being marketed in North America:  MSC Seaside is sailing year-round from Miami to the Caribbean; MSC Meraviglia returns to the Mediterranean this winter; MSC Seaview, the line’s newest flagship, will explore the ports of Brazil, sailing from Santos beginning on December 7; and this December, MSC Armonia will begin sailing to Cuba, with an overnight stay in Havana, from Miami.


Norwegian Cruise Line  yesterday announced enhancements to its 2019 and 2020 itineraries to “leverage the strong global demand environment in highly sought after destinations.”  Norwegian Joy will join sister ship Norwegian Bliss sailing seasonally in Alaska during summer, 2019, and will offer Mexican Riviera and Panama Canal voyages in winter 2019-2020.  Norwegian Pearl will sail to Europe as the line’s sixth ship in the region in summer 2019, while Norwegian Jade and Jewel will significantly expand Norwegian’s presence in Australasia during winter 2019-2020.  Maintaining a commitment to serving the Chinese cruise market, Norwegian Spirit will sail seasonally in China beginning in summer, 2020.


Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced on July 12 that it has exercised previously announced options for the fifth and sixth “Project Leonardo Class” ships with Fincantieri S.p.A. for Norwegian Cruise Line, with deliveries expected in 2026 and 2027.  At 140,000 gross tons and accommodating approximately 3,300 guests each, this next generation class of ships is intended to build upon the successful offering of freedom and flexibility found across Norwegian’s fleet, including the most recent “Breakaway Plus Class” vessels.


P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer hosted a “Women in Maritime” event conducted by the Nautical Institute last month, seeking to give more women opportunities to become career seafarers.  The Institute and its guests were welcomed by six female third officers who are currently taking part in a special mentoring program aboard Pacific Explorer on their path to becoming senior deck officers on Carnival Australia’s ships.  In other news, fresh from the recent success of its inaugural “Tribute to the King” cruise,” P&O plans to rock and roll again in 2019 with a sailing featuring the music, Hollywood movies and concerts that make “The King of a Rock and Roll” a still much-loved icon of popular culture.  The three-night tribute cruise aboard the 2000-guest Pacific Explorer will sail from Sydney on May 17.


Princess Cruises returns to the West Coast in 2019-2020 with itineraries visiting top destinations including Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Diego.  Highlights include the introduction of one of the line’s newest ships to the California Coast, Royal Princess.  The vessel’s first full season based in Los Angeles will offer nine coastal departures and “More Ashore” opportunities, allowing guests to spend more time in port and enjoy evenings in San Francisco and San Diego.  Also, Princess is currently promoting a “Sip and Sail” offer of free onboard beverages for departures of six to 56 days in length to destinations around the globe and cruise-tours from summer, 2019, to spring, 2020.  Guests can also take advantage of a refundable, per person reduced deposit of 10% of the cruise fare.  Bookings must be made by September 5.  Next, the line is offering its largest hosted slot tournament with the highest cash and prizes it has ever offered, through a partnership with Scientific Games Corporation.  The “MONOPOLY Cruise for Cash” promotion is available on hundreds of cruises throughout 2018, culminating in a $200,000 slot tournament onboard Regal Princess departing on December 9.  Finally, guests aboard Sun Princess will now have access to new onboard enhancements following an extensive 14-day, multimillion dollar dry dock in Singapore, continuing the line’s “Come Back New Promise” commitment focused on investing more than $450 million across the fleet.  From Singapore, Sun Princess will be sailing the waters of Southeast Asia before returning to Australia for the 2019 winter season, where her itineraries begin on the western coast of the continent before transitioning to the eastern coast and New Zealand itineraries.


Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced that Joe Chabus has joined the line as Director of Public Relations, charged with providing strategic and tactical leadership in all aspects of communications and public relations.  Chabus comes from McDonald’s Corporation, where he previously led brand reputation efforts for about 7,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the eastern U.S.  Prior to that, he held senior communication positions with Darden Restaurants, Inc., and Universal Orlando Resort.  He reports to Megan Hernandez, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.  In other news, at Seven Seas Splendor’s keel laying ceremony on June 28 at the Fincantieri shipyard in Ancona, Italy, two full-size suite models provided a first look at the accommodations and attention to detail guests will enjoy when the luxury ship debuts in 2020.


Riviera River Cruises recently christened its new, all-suite Robert Burns in Vienna, Austria, with Omega World Travel founder, Gloria Bohan, as honored godmother.  The 167-passenger vessel is the first of two ships to be christened by the company in 2018 after the European river cruise operator launched four ships in 2017.  Two additional ships will launch in 2019, bringing the line’s fleet to 12 ships.  In other news, Riviera has introduced wine-themed departures with special guests Susie Barrie and Peter Richards, both of whom are award-winning “Masters of Wine,” television presenters and published writers.  Barrie and Richards will impart insights into the wine and spirits of areas visited on the company’s Rhine, Moselle, Rhône and Danube itineraries later this month, in August and October.


Scenic, working in partnership with PBS, is sponsoring the fifth season of The Great British Baking Show, airing in the U.S. on Fridays at 9 p.m. EST.  The series began on June 22nd.  In other news, Scenic unveiled a new Egypt and Jordan portfolio of tours and cruise/tours last year, featuring the recently refurbished Sanctuary Sun Boat III.  Strong sales for the original 2018 and 2019 departures has the company extending the 2019 offerings with new dates in September, October and November.  Guests are being offered free air or $1,000 price savings if they book any of the September, 2018, through November, 2019, departures by the end of this August.  Elsewhere, the company has announced that the launch of Scenic Eclipse, its first “Discovery Yacht,” has been delayed until late January, 2019.  According to Scenic Founder and Chairman, Glen Moroney, construction issues within the (Croatian) shipyard have caused the delay:  “Despite the best efforts of our Scenic Eclipse Build Supervision Team to make up construction time, we are not prepared to compromise the quality of the vessel and potentially impact guest experiences to meet the original late August launch date.  Next, Scenic is adding more goodies to its existing 2019 early-bird deals.  Guests booking any June, July or August European sailing next year by this August 31st will receive a €200 per suite on board credit and, for those booking sailings of 11 days or longer, free roundtrip door-to-door U.S. airport transfers.  This promotion is combinable with the free air, free single supplement, discounted flight upgrades, loyalty and travel show vouchers, and pay-in-full offers already available, although it is not combinable with group and National Geographic sailings.


Seabourn announced on July 2 that it has signed a Letter of Intent for the construction of two new luxury expedition ships with a new partnership between shipbuilders T.Mariotti and Damen.  The first delivery is expected during June, 2021, and the second ship is anticipated in May, 2022.  The 23,000 gross ton vessels will add new capacity for Seabourn in Antarctica, the Arctic and other exotic destinations around the world, while meeting PC6 Polar Class standards.  Each will feature 132 oceanfront veranda suites for up to 264 guests.  In related news, the line has promoted veteran expedition leader Robin West to Vice President, Expedition Operations & Planning, to oversee and continue development of the line’s expedition-oriented product in destinations worldwide.  West started at Seabourn by serving as expedition leader during Seabourn’s inaugural season of four voyages aboard Seabourn Quest in Antarctica and Patagonia between November, 2013, and February, 2014, and was promoted to director in 2017.  A native of South Africa, West is a graduate of the University of Port Elizabeth.  Elsewhere, Seabourn has unveiled a new line-up of “Seabourn Conversations” guest speakers and personalities, who will be aboard Seabourn Sojourn’s upcoming “Extended Explorations” voyages beginning this October.  The onboard enrichment program will host distinguished speakers and personalities from a variety of fields including anthropology, space exploration, culinary, military history, and the arts.  First-time and returning speakers will keep guests entertained and engaged as they explore the South Pacific, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.  Finally, a 146-day “World Cruise:  Extraordinary Destinations” has been scheduled for Seabourn Sojourn in 2020.  The ship will visit many noteworthy sites in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Arabia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, the South Pacific and Hawaii.  Seabourn Sojourn will depart Miami on January 4, 2020, and travel eastbound, arriving in San Francisco on May 28, 2020.


Silversea Cruises is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the introduction of its first crossing of the Northeast Passage, a remote and spectacular cruising route above the Arctic Circle.   Few cruise ships have transited the passage, which follows the extreme northern coastlines of Asia and Europe.  The luxury, all-suite, ice-class expedition ship Silver Explorer will sail the route of 5,019 nautical miles of dramatic wilderness on a 25-day voyage departing August 10, 2019, from Nome, Alaska, to Tromsø, Norway.


Star Clippers has launched its new, full-color “Sailing Collection” brochure, detailing the line’s sailing itineraries around the globe from October, 2018, through April, 2020.  The line’s fleet of three tall ships sail year round, with itineraries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indonesia and Thailand, as well as Atlantic Ocean crossings. Those interested can request a print brochure by mail or download a digital PDF on the company’s website.  In other news, in time for the opening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again on July 20, the company has unveiled a new Greece itinerary that pays homage to the popular film series with sailings that visit filming locations from the original Mamma Mia!  Beginning in May, 2019, Star Clippers is launching new seven-night “Mamma Mia Highlights” sailings through the Greek Isles from Athens.


Tauck has announced plans to introduce three new European river cruises next year:  a new family river cruise along the Danube timed for the holiday season, a 10-day autumn journey along the Rhine highlighting Oktoberfest in Munich, and an eight-day exploration on the Seine featuring Paris, Versailles and Normandy’s D-Day Beaches.  The new family cruise, “Holiday Magic: Danube Family River Cruise,” will feature two departures, on December 22 and December 23, 2019, sailing respectively on Tauck’s Savor riverboat and traveling from Vienna to Munich via Budapest, and on the Joy, traveling from Munich to Budapest.  Along the way, guests will enjoy special holiday-themed activities, including a visit to Oberndorf, Austria, where the song “Silent Night” was written and first performed in 1818, a workshop highlighting traditional treats in Passau, and a European holiday dinner aboard their Tauck riverboat, which will be specially decorated for the season.


UnCruise Adventures has unveiled new 10 and 12-night programs in Costa Rica and Panamá to highlight its 2019 schedule of adventure cruises.  Based in Seattle, the line operates eight adventure ships, plus a partner vessel in the Galápagos, carrying 22 to 90 guests in Alaska, coastal Washington, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Hawaii, Galápagos, Costa Rica and Panamá.


Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has extended its 2019 “Early Booking Savings” promotion through September 30, when payment is made in full.  The line is also inviting guests to join portrait and landscape artist Larry Aarons on its December 18, 2018, sailing of “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong” for a special “Floating Art Workshop,” during which he’ll teach a complimentary portrait and landscape class.


Vantage Deluxe World Travel is offering free international airfare…representing savings of up to $4,798 per couple…plus up to $1,600 per couple in onboard credit, on its 17 to 36-day, 2019 “Antarctica Adventures.”