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October 10, 2016 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome!  In early September, I cruised aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam from Venice on a very enjoyable, 12-night Mediterranean sailing featuring calls in seven different countries…Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Salerno (for Pompeii, Sorrento and the Isle of Capri), Civitavecchia (for Rome), and Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), all in Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Toulon, France (for Marseille and Aix-en-Provence); and finally, Barcelona, Spain.  This proved to be a varied, well-designed itinerary that is worthy of a solid recommendation, although group coordinators might want to consider booking a departure later in the fall, as temperatures were just short of being uncomfortably warm and most ports were still packed with visitors.

As is typical of Holland America vessels, the 86,700-ton, 2,130-guest Eurodam has been spotlessly maintained, plus her shipboard accommodations, food, service, entertainment and choice of activities and shore excursions were all generally excellent.  Particularly attractive were the outdoor buffets or barbecues presented on Lido Deck aft that featured local specialties, as we sailed from several ports.  Furthermore, such onboard venues as B.B. King’s Blues Club, the Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard, the Culinary Arts Center, and a ‘Windows’ Digital Workshop are proof that HAL is not merely resting on its laurels and reputation, but striving to provide programming that appeals to a wide range of interests.

Incidentally, one of the highlights of the trip proved to be our call in Livorno, where eight of us assembled spontaneously and pooled our resources to arrange an exceptional full-day ‘taxi’ excursion (actually in a most comfortable, nine-passenger Mercedes-Benz van) to beautiful Florence.  Included were a scenic drive through the rolling hills and vineyards, a stop offering panoramic views of the city, five-and-a-half hours to explore Florence on our own, and a visit to Pisa to see the renowned Leaning Tower before our return to the Eurodam.  My total cost for the day, including a pizza lunch and driver gratuity, was a most reasonable €60, so in ports where security is not a significant concern, group leaders should never overlook the possibilities for arranging some special ad hoc sightseeing for their travelers.

As luck would have it, I was notified only 19 days in advance of departure that my Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager Costa Rica/Panama departure later this month is not going to operate, as the major renovation of the vessel has not yet been completed, and the job is still underway in Seattle.  So that trip will be postponed to sometime in 2017 or perhaps 2018.  However, now having a ‘hole’ in my schedule, I scoured around to see what I could fill it with and once again Norwegian Cruise Line came to the rescue, as they did last fall, but this time with a Pride of America Hawaii cruise from Honolulu over the same dates, October 22 to 29.  For some time, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to ‘review’ this ship, which, as you may know, is the world’s one and only large, U.S.-flagged cruise vessel, required by law to be staffed by an American crew as result.  Stay tuned to get my Pride impressions next month!



American Queen Steamboat Company has announced that the new American Duchess will join its fleet in June, 2017, as construction on a recently purchased American-made hull will result in the third vessel to be operated by the Memphis-based company. The 166-guest, all-suite vessel will reportedly feature the largest suites on the Mississippi and her tributaries.    And new for the line, American Duchess will also offer overnight stays in port, including in the heart of Nashville, as well as shorter roundtrip itineraries from both the “Music City” and New Orleans, plus departures from Ottawa, Illinois, in the Chicago area, for the first time.


Carnival Corporation & plc , beginning this month, will bring authentic travel experiences from its ships into homes across the country with three original television series during Saturday mornings on ABC (“Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin”), NBC (“The Voyager with Josh Garcia”), and the CW (“Vacation Creation”) stations.  Featured will be the journeys of celebrity hosts to exotic lands and their reports on unique locales, cultures and cuisines.  Learn more at #SailAwayTV.


Carnival Cruise Line has designated Miss USA, Deshauna Barber, to be godmother of the line’s newest and largest ship, Carnival Vista.  Barber made history earlier this year when she became the first woman serving in the U.S. military to win the title of Miss USA.  Barber will officially name the 133,500-ton vessel during a shipboard ceremony in New York that is part of an overnight gala event honoring Operation Homefront and featuring an exclusive, invitation-only concert by seven-time Grammy-award winning country music star Carrie Underwood.  In addition to the concert, the festivities will include overnight accommodations, meals, activities and entertainment for hundreds of military families.  The event is the culmination of “Honor. Family. Fun.,” Carnival’s year-long effort to raise funds for Operation Homefront and its mission of building strong, stable, and secure military families.


Celebrity Cruises and Bravo Media have extended their “Top Chef at Sea” program through 2017, and will offer “Top Chef” fans the opportunity to vacation with a lineup of four ‘cheftestants’ on a special, nine-night Eastern Caribbean “Top Chef Signature Sailing” departing this December 30 on Celebrity Silhouette.  Elsewhere, Celebrity Solstice will undergo an $8.5 million makeover later this month, which will add the line’s “A Taste of Film” experience under the stars, authentic Japanese cuisine at “Sushi on Five,” a reimagined Photo Gallery and other features.  Finally, Celebrity’s new global campaign entitled “Sail Beyond Borders” was featured in a 30-second spot that aired nationally during the first televised 2016 Presidential Debate on September 26.


Costa Cruises has selected four leading design firms to create the interiors of its two new 180,000-ton ships scheduled for delivery in 2019 and 2021.  While Adam Tihany of Tihany Design will serve as overall creative director, Jeffrey Beers International, Dordoni Architetti, PartnerShip Design and Rockwell Group were chosen to create a state-of-the-art interior design for the new “green” ships.  Reflecting comments and suggestions from Costa guests, the vessels’ layout will reportedly be designed to provide a more efficient use of interior spaces and create an enhanced onboard experience.


Cunard’s flagship liner Queen Mary 2 will offer a special Transatlantic Crossing to coincide with International World Space Week during October, 2017.  To celebrate this international event, a range of space themed experiences will be featured, including talks from renowned space exploration experts including Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, NASA Astronaut, scientist and former shuttle pilot; Charles Barclay of the Royal Astronomical Society; Stephen Attenborough, Commercial Director of Virgin Galactic; and Ken MacTaggart, NASA Historian.  Taking place every year from October 4 to 10 since it was established by United Nations declaration in 1999, World Space Week has grown into the largest public space event on Earth.  More than 1,800 events in 73 countries celebrated the wonders of space exploration in 2015.


Emerald Waterways is offering savings of up to $2,000 per couple through a fall sale that has been extended through October 31.  Guests may fly to Europe for $495 per person or receive a $700 pp air credit on shorter sailings.  On departures of 15 days and longer, guests may fly free or receive a $1,000 pp air credit.  A reduced deposit of $250 pp is also included, and on its “Sensations of Southern France” itinerary, a free overnight hotel stay in Lyon is an added bonus.


Fathom has added two Cuba sailing dates this fall, during the weeks of Sunday, October 9, and Sunday, November 6.


Holland America Line is supporting increased demand for Alaska summer cruises by redeploying Oosterdam from Europe to the 49th State for the 2017 summer season.  The addition brings the number of the line’s ships to seven in the region, with Oosterdam joining Amsterdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Volendam and Zaandam for an industry-leading total of 135 Alaska departures.  Elsewhere, HAL is introducing shipboard cooking shows produced in partnership with the long-running, public television show, America’s Test Kitchen, which the line sponsors.  Shipboard Culinary Arts Centers will be transformed to replicate the television set where the programs are recorded for broadcast by more than 350 public television stations nationwide, while the shipboard shows will be hosted by HAL chefs trained by America’s Test Kitchen experts.  Finally, HAL hosted a fundraiser luncheon and survivor celebration for the Puget Sound affiliate of Susan G. Komen Puget Sound on Saturday, September 10, onboard Westerdam at the Port of Seattle.  Breast cancer survivor Juliet Disparte spoke about her journey from her diagnosis at the age of 27 to her current role in numerous cancer organizations.


National Habitat Adventures has announced the addition of the 16-passenger Petrel to its privately chartered Galapagos fleet.  Built in 2015 and new to the Galapagos, this 115-foot luxury motor catamaran is the fourth and newest expedition yacht in the company’s “Classic Galapagos” portfolio.  Petrel will reportedly follow an out-of-the-ordinary route through this volcanic archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.


Norwegian Cruise Line, in partnership with Chef Jose Mendin, known for his Pubbelly Restaurant Group concepts, has announced the release of a digital cookbook featuring 30 innovative dishes for the home cook, Food Republic by Jose Mendin, available for download on iTunes.  In other news, as a component of its “Eco-Smart Cruising” program, the line has successfully completed the retrofitting of a new Exhaust Gas Scrubber Hybrid system on Norwegian Jewel, aimed at significantly reducing air emissions and the ship’s environmental footprint.  Norwegian is reportedly the first cruise line to retrofit a vessel with this system while the ship was in service.  Five scrubbers were installed, one per engine, covering the whole propulsion system.  Collectively, they are capable of reducing the emission of sulfur to air up to 99 percent and also reduce 85 percent particulate emission to the air.  A two year project, Norwegian Jewel’s retrofitting began in spring, 2014, and required more than 100,000 man/hours from numerous partner organizations.  Also, the line is currently making plans to celebrate 50 years since its Sunward made her first voyage from Miami to the Caribbean on December 19, 1966, signifying the birth of Norwegian Caribbean Lines, its original name.  To observe this golden milestone, Norwegian is inviting its guests, travel professionals, partners and team members to share fifty years of memories made through the company’s “#NorwegiansFirst50” Anniversary Campaign.  This writer initiated his own history with ‘NCL’ during a seven-night sailing aboard Southward in 1973, weather-wise a not particularly auspicious beginning, as it snowed in Freeport that week, and rough seas prevented us from making all but one port!  And finally, the line has extended its “Norwegian’s Endless Summer” promotion through October 31, 2016, through which guests can choose from up to five “Free at Sea” offers when they book a new cruise vacation.


Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has announced strategic changes to its leadership team.  Bob Binder has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Oceania Cruises, in addition to his current role as Vice Chairman of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which he has held since 2011.  Prior to that, Binder served as President of Oceania Cruises, where he played a key role in the development and design of new Oceania ships and new restaurant concepts for the line.  In addition, Andy Stuart, President of Norwegian Cruise Line, and Jason Montague, President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, will add the title of Chief Executive Officer to their expanded roles with their respective brands.  Furthermore, the organization recently reinforced its long-term commitment to the China cruise market as President and CEO Frank Del Rio appeared along with fellow company executives at the CruiseWorld China Summit in Beijing and the China Cruise Shipping Conference and International Cruise Expo in Tianjin to address China’s cruise industry leaders.  The Norwegian Cruise Line brand will deploy the newly refurbished, 2,300-guest Norwegian Star to sail Asia-based itineraries in December this year, upper premium brand Oceania Cruises will seasonally deploy the 684-passenger ship Nautica in Asia beginning next February, along with sister ship Insignia in March, 2017.  Luxury brand Regent Seven Seas Cruises will round out the company’s deployment in March, 2017, with springtime sailings of the 700-guest Seven Seas Voyager.


Oceania Cruises, in addition to repeating the news on Bob Binder noted above, has also announced the appointment of four team members to provide additional support and expertise to the line’s sales, marketing and public relations effort:  Todd Brown, Vice President of e-Commerce; Michael von Wittenau, Regional Sales and Marketing Director; Kari Roach, Regional Sales and Marketing; and Tim Rubacky, Head of Public Relations.


Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering those who book a 2016, 2017, or 2018 sailing on Paul Gauguin during CLIA’s “Plan a Cruise Month” in October a $100 per-person shipboard credit, which can be used aboard for a spa treatment, to purchase a souvenir or book a shore excursion.  The line is also continuing to offer savings of 50% off standard all-inclusive cruise fares on all voyages, plus included airfare from Los Angeles on Paul Gauguin itineraries.


Princess Cruises is touting a “3 for Free” cruise sale for guests booking select six to 60-day Cruises or Land & Sea Vacations by November 16, 2016, for departures from Summer, 2017, to Spring, 2018.  Features include free stateroom location upgrades, enabling guests to get the best stateroom available within the type booked for the lowest possible fare; free onboard gratuities; a free onboard spending credit of up to $300 per stateroom; plus a reduced $100 per guest refundable deposit.  Another “Great Escapes Sale” promotion, also available until November 16, offers up to $1,000 per person on cruise destinations including the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, Hawaii, the California Coast, Australia & New Zealand, Southeast Asia, South America and the South Pacific.


Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Voyager is scheduled to undergo renovations later this month as part of the line’s $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment program.  The vessel joins Seven Seas Navigator in receiving this update to the public spaces and suites onboard, with Seven Seas Mariner scheduled to receive a similar makeover in April, 2017.  The first post-refurbishment cruise will be a 23-night Barcelona to Dubai voyage departing November 9, which is also the line’s annual Reunion Cruise hosted by the company’s President and CEO, Jason Montague.


Royal Caribbean International recently featured Grammy award-winning artist Patti LaBelle onboard Allure of the Seas during the line’s first-ever President’s Cruise with President and CEO Michael Bayley.  LaBelle was onboard to serenade members of the Crown & Anchor Society program with a performance of her hits, including “Lady Marmalade,” “New Attitude,” “On My Own” and “You Are My Friend.”  The seven-night Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale visited Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas.


Scenic has unveiled a new Cycling & Culinary Wonders of Europe program, detailed in a 44-page online brochure.  The new cycling itineraries range from the most famous cycling route in Europe, the Danube Path, to the coastal region of Bordeaux’s Arcachon Bay.  Culinary offerings feature a new “Scenic Culinaire,” an onboard cooking school using dedicated space on three of the line’s newly rebuilt “Space-Ships” which will offer immersive courses in the cuisines of the Rhône and Bordeaux regions.  As with all Scenic programs, both cycling and culinary experiences are included in the price of the sailing.  In other news, Scenic is offering a series of consumer and travel agent informational sessions this fall at 5:30 p.m. in multiple locations.  Remaining dates include October 12 in Bellevue, WA; October 13 in Spokane, WA; and October 19 in both San Antonio, TX, and Lakewood, CO.  RSVP at


Seabourn has announced an exclusive partnership with Tim Rice, the acclaimed English musical theater lyricist of Broadway, West End and motion picture fame, and the winner of three Oscars, three Tonys, three Golden Globes and several Grammys.  The new show, “An Evening with Tim Rice,” was created in association with Belinda King Creative Productions, and will have its debut onboard the inaugural voyage of the line’s newest ship, Seabourn Encore, this coming January.  The production is also scheduled to be introduced across the rest of the fleet next year, as well as onboard the new Seabourn Ovation in spring, 2018.  Rice’s work has included Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatJesus Christ Superstar and Evita (with Andrew Lloyd Webber); Chess (with Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA); Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast (with Alan Menken); and The Lion King (with Elton John).  In 1994, he was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to music, and in 2008, his star joined the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Silversea Cruises has announced the appointment of Janet Bava to Vice President of Marketing for the Americas.  Based in the line’s Miami office, Bava will oversee all trade and consumer-oriented marketing activities, including advertising, direct marketing and e-marketing programs in both the North and South American continents, and report directly to Mark Conroy, Silversea’s Managing Director for the Americas.  Bava has previous marketing experience with Royal Caribbean International, NBC Universal, plus NationsHealth, Initia and Kramer Laboratories in the healthcare industry.  Silversea has recently also announced the appointment of Roberto Martinoli as its Chief Executive Officer, continuing an extensive career in the cruise and shipping industry.  Martinoli replaces Enzo Visone, and will be based in the company’s Monaco headquarters.  Finally, the line has released details on its 2018 itineraries. In all, the nine ships that comprise Silversea’s Classic and Expedition fleets will visit 130 countries, and its guests will have the choice of almost 1000 destinations worldwide, almost 600 via the Expedition fleet and over 400 with the Classic fleet.


Tauck is attempting to help its network of travel agents navigate the crowded European river cruising market with new sales materials that explain differences between Tauck’s river cruises and those offered by other lines.  In addition, the company is encouraging its agents to gain first-hand experience on Tauck’s river cruises and land tours through its Agent Rewards travel incentive program.  The company’s new sales materials are contained in a three-piece mailing which has been sent to agencies nationwide in recent weeks.  The mailing includes a River Cruising Sales Guide, an 11″x17″ poster highlighting Tauck’s river cruising innovations and onshore experiences, plus a printed comparison grid contrasting Tauck and its ships to other lines and their respective vessels.


Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is offering savings of $1,000 per person on all 2017 “Splendors of Egypt & the Nile” cruise/tours, when booked through the end of this month.

Viking Ocean Cruises is promoting May departures of its 15-day “Viking Homelands” itinerary between Stockholm and Bergen, at savings of up to $2,800 per couple when booked and paid in full by October 31.