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June 1, 2015 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  Please note that your feedback on Group Cruise News… or on any ship or cruise itinerary that you or your group has recently experienced…will always be appreciated.  I’m spending the summer based in Anchorage, Alaska (where the weather is currently glorious, I might add), other than a July trip exploring Athens, the Greek Islands and Turkey with Celestyal Cruises, so I can best be reached by e-mail to   

AmaWaterways has announced its 2016 Europe, Asia & Africa brochure, featuring two new ships which will sail European waterways, AmaViola and AmaStella, plus the introduction of a new “Taste of Bordeaux” itinerary in France and more than 30 wine-themed sailings through Europe’s renowned wine regions.  Guests booking before July 31 this year will receive a variety of savings on 2016 itineraries.

American Queen Steamboat Company has released its new brochure highlighting voyages for the 2016 season.  The 75-page publication highlights the line’s new 24-hour, personalized “Commodore River Butler Service” providing butlers for luxury suites; two “Mighty Mississippi Voyages” stretching the length of the entire river, and expanded theme programming including “Presidents & Politics,” “Five Rivers of the Heartland,” and “Holiday Markets.”

Avalon Waterways is continuing its program of “themed” cruises with aplomb.  In the last five years, the line has doubled its Christmas-themed departures, and in 2016 will offer seven different itineraries: “Alsace & Germany” (5 days), “Heart of Germany” (8 days), “DanubeWestbound” (9 days), “Danube-Eastbound (9 days), “Zurich to Prague” (12 days), “Frankfurt to Budapest” (13 days), and “Zurich to Budapest” (17 days).  Also in 2016, Avalon Waterways has scheduled four (4), legacy-inspired cruises, including a new “Habsburg History Cruise,” hosted by Carlos Felipe von Habsburg (10 days from Prague to Budapest, departing April 13); a  “World War I Cruise” (9 days from Amsterdam to Namur, departing April 4); a “Jewish Heritage Cruise” (12 days from Budapest to Prague, departing April 6); and “European History & Politics Cruises” (14 days from Bucharest to Vienna, departing April 24 and April 27).

Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Vista will reportedly debut a variety of one-of-a-kind, family-oriented features when it enters service next spring, including a unique suspended cycling experience called SkyRide, newly-designed “Family Harbor” staterooms and suites featuring a “family concierge,” and cruising’s first IMAX Theater, with 182 seats. “SportSquare,” an open-air recreation area, will feature a 270-foot-long suspended ropes course, a two-level miniature golf course, a 700-foot-long jogging track, and a variety of outdoor fitness equipment, plus a new indoor “Clubhouse” sports hangout will be equipped with mini-bowling, ping-pong, sports-themed video games, and arcade-style sports games.  Carnival Vista’s “WaterWorks,” will be the largest aqua park in the fleet, highlighted by the 455-foot-long, corkscrew “Kaleid-o-Slide,” the line’s first inner-tube slide, as well as its 300-foot-long “Twister” slide and “PowerDrencher,” a 300-gallon tipping bucket designed to elicit shrieks from youngsters with each drenching.  A kiddie area with 30 different water spray toys and mini-racing slides will also be available.

Celebrity Cruises and Diageo Global Travel Americas are partnering to launch “World Class™ Bars” aboard the line’s five Solstice Class ships, a new interactive experience that has already debuted on Celebrity EclipseIn other news, the line is introducing additional overnight stays on more than 40 Caribbean sailings for January, 2016, and beyond. The reported popularity of Celebrity’s current overnight program has led the line to enhance 43 different itineraries, giving guests the chance to enjoy evenings in such destinations as Cartagena, Colombia; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Cozumel, Mexico; Aruba; Curacao and Barbados. 

Disney Cruise Line will return to New York for a limited time during the fall of 2016, with sailings to the Bahamas that include a visit to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  New seven-night Caribbean cruises from Miami and a return to Galveston, Texas, will round out the line’s season.

Holland America Line has announced that Captain Emiel de Vries will be in command when its newKoningsdam sets sail in April, 2016.  Having been with the company since 1997, de Vries rose through the ranks from fourth officer to captain and has been master of the Amsterdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Zuiderdam.  He currently lives near Venice, Italy, close to the Fincantieri shipyard where Koningsdam is being built.

Hurtigruten, for the second year in a row, is conducting a ‘spirited’ experiment aboard its adventure ship Fram, to determine the effects of long-distance sea travel on the aging process of alcohol.  This year, Fram, in addition to carrying guests, is now also bearing a barrel of 25-year-old calvados—a French apple brandy—on its journey from pole to poleIn other news, the line will be moving Midnatsol to Antarctica for the 2016-2017 season, more than tripling the company’s guest capacity for sailings in the south polar region.  Midnatsol will join the Fram, increasing the company’s seasonal berths from 2,268 in 2015-16 to 6,800 berths in 2016-17.  Antarctica itineraries include highlights such as the Falkland Islands, Chilean fjords, Patagonia, the Magellan Strait and Cape Horn.  Sailings will depart from October, 2016, to March, 2017, with prices ranging from $5,999 to $6,666 per person, double occupancy.  In its first season sailing the southern hemisphere, the Midnatsol, will feature ten Antarctic voyages departing from Punta Arenas in the Chilean Patagonia and ranging from 15 to 18 days.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Freestyle Choice“ promotion has again been extended, this time through July 31.  In other news, the line‘s Norwegian Dawn had a temporary malfunction of its steering system on May 19, causing the ship to sail slightly off course as the ship was departing Bermuda, resulting in the vessel making contact with the sea bed.  With the arrival of high-tide, the ship was floated and moved to a nearby anchorage position where it remained overnight, then docked alongside at Bermuda’s Heritage Wharf on the morning of May 20.  Norwegian’s officers, engineers and lead technical teams, along with DNVGL inspectors, representing the ship’s classification society, and a team of independent divers, completed a total assessment of the vessel, confirmed the structural integrity of the ship, while the technical issue which caused the steering malfunction was identified and corrected.  The ship was cleared to depart Bermuda later the same day and resume sailing to Boston, with arrival there on May 22 as scheduled.  Throughout these procedures, shipboard operations, amenities and services continued as normal, and guests had the opportunity for additional time ashore on the island.  The ship was sailing on a seven-night Boston to Bermuda cruise with 2,443 passengers and 1,059 crew.  All guests on the voyage received a future cruise credit of 15% of their cruise fare to use towards a future Norwegian cruise.

Paul Gauguin Cruises has announced a new, seven-night “Cádiz, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal” itinerary on its 88-guest Tere Moana.  Sailing from the ancient city of Cádiz, visits are scheduled to Motril in the Andalucían province of Granada, then Málaga, capital of the Costa del Sol.  Next, is the British stronghold of Gibraltar en route to Portugal, and calls on Portimão in the Algarve region and the seaside resort of Cascais, before concluding in Lisbon.  Cruise fares start from $1,995 per person, based on double occupancy, for the November 22, 2015, cruise.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has announced the appointment of three new Sales Managers.  Lisa Willey will be working with the travel community in western Canada, to include British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and the Yukon; Pam Scott will cover the eastern and southern Florida territory, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; and Anne Mickey will serve as Midwest Regional Sales Manager in Chicago, covering Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  In other news, Uniworld has waived the single supplement fee on a number of its 2015 river cruises in Europe.

Viking Cruises’ new oceangoing vessel, the 930-guest Viking Star, was christened in the beautiful port city of Bergen, Norway, on May 17.  Thousands of locals and visitors celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day gathered along the waterfront for the festivities, which included a floating concert featuring performances by artists who have a personal connection to Bergen, as well as a fireworks display.