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September 10, 2015 Update – Group Cruise News

Welcome…I hope that all of our readers have had a pleasant summer and are looking forward to an enjoyable autumn! During my travels, I’ve encountered some individuals who thought that evaluating cruise ships and itineraries must surely be one of the most “fun” jobs in the world, but were surprised to hear that of the six cruises I took in 2014, fully half of them were disappointing, which, believe me, takes quite a bit of the “fun” out of it. Happily, 2015 is off to a much better start. With fine cruises aboard Holland America Line’s Oosterdam and Celestyal Cruises’ Celestyal Odyssey and Celestyal Crystal already completed, I’m looking forward to a fall Mediterranean sailing of Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend, followed by a trans-Atlantic trip aboard Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, so hopefully my 2015 will conclude with nothing but positive experiences to report on here and in our publications. Incidentally, speaking of Royal Caribbean, I am indebted to the Steamship Historical Society of America’s August Ahoy! E-newsletter for the item below on Anthem of the Seas. The SSHSA is a wonderful organization, of which I have been a member for many years, and highly recommend to all serious ship buffs…for more information, access

Adventure Smith Explorations has announced $250 per person savings on its least expensive, nine-day Peruvian Amazon cruise, plus an additional $250 off if combined with a five-day Machu Picchu land tour, when booked by December 15, applicable to any departure through July 31, 2016. Lima is the gathering place for both tours. Cruise-bound guests take a private transfer to Iquitos to a visit a nearby Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center before boarding the 30-guest Amatista in Nauta to explore the Amazon and some of its tributaries.

American Queen Steamboat Company is offering last-minute savings on its one-week Oktoberfest theme cruise departing from St. Paul for St. Louis on October 3. A 30% discount is available for double occupancy bookings in all categories, and a $1,999 single rate in categories F and G. Programming includes tasting of German-style beers from the breweries of America’s Heartland, lectures by Kelly Lao, Assistant Director of the German American Heritage Center, to feature fun facts, cultural traditions and the overall history of Oktoberfest, plus performances by Brian Brueggen’s Mississippi Valley Dutchmen.

Avalon Waterways’ Asian offerings include cruises of the Yangtze, Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers aboard two 36-passenger “Suite Ships,” Avalon Myanmar and Avalon Siem Reap.

Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,124-guest Carnival Pride, which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, including the addition of new food and beverage outlets as well as a large “WaterWorks” aqua park, will be returning to the Port of Tampa in January and February, 2017, for a series of five to 14-day sailings. In other news, the line will have four different ships departing from five U.S. ports to Bermuda between April and November of 2016. Carnival Pride will offer five-day cruises from Baltimore departing April 10 and October 26, as well as seven-day voyages departing September 4 and 18. Carnival Victory will operate an eight-day sailing from Port Canaveral departing May 19. Carnival Ecstasy is scheduled for seven-day cruises from Charleston departing May 12 and November 5. Finally, Carnival Sunshine will make a seven-day sailing from New York departing October 1, and a five-day sailing from Norfolk departing October 23. Five-day itineraries feature an overnight call at Bermuda, seven-day cruises spend two nights docked at King’s Wharf, and the eight-day trip features three nights on the island.

Celebrity Cruisestheme-cruise organizer partner, Broadway Theatre Cruises, has announced that its inaugural program, “Sailing with the Stars,” will debut on November 5, 2016, onboard Celebrity Reflection. Guests who book the new package will reportedly have exclusive access to veteran Broadway stars at intimate shows and events.

Emerald Waterways held a dual christening event for its two newest “Star Ships” on August 21, on the Danube River in Budapest. Travel industry veterans from the U.S. and the U.K. served as godmothers of the new vessels, respectively Kelly Bergin of Emerald Dawn and Julie Kendrick of Emerald Sun. Each ship carries 182 guests in 72 suites and 20 staterooms, including two specifically built for solo occupancy. Also, the line has scheduled “Emerald Waterways InfoSessions” in seven different cities in order to introduce group coordinators and the travel trade to its programs. Drinks and snack will be served at all events, which will begin at 6:00 p.m. local time. Presentations will be given on Tuesday, September 15, in Denver, CO, Newport Beach, CA, and Northbrook, IL; on Wednesday, September 16, in Boulder, CO, and Brookfield, WI; and Thursday, September 17, in Downers Grove, IL, and Westlake Village, CA. For those in other parts of the country, an online seminar will be conducted at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, September 27. Please RSVP at the website shown below if you would like to participate in any of these programs. From personal experience, I know that Emerald Waterways is an excellent choice for those considering a European river cruise, so you will not be disappointed!

Holland America Line is inviting travel agents and tour operators to better assist their clients with the line’s “Alaska Land+Sea Journeys” by attending complimentary “On Stage Alaska” presentations that will be visiting cities across the United States and Canada this fall. The program, which is in its 33rd year, will feature the line’s 2016 “Alaska Land+Sea Journeys” destination film, plus a performance by people who have lived and worked in the 49th State. Reportedly, nearly 20,000 people attend some 300 showings of these presentations every year. Having spent the entire summer this year in Alaska myself, if your groups haven’t experienced the incredible wonders found here, it is definitely their (and your) loss!

Hurtigruten’s entire fleet of ships will moor in their individual ports overnight on Christmas Eve, and resume sailing on December 25, giving guests an opportunity to attend services at local churches and participate in other traditional Norwegian holiday activities, including a visit from “Julenissen” (Norway’s Father Christmas) and a Christmas Eve buffet offering such holiday foods as “Julegrøt” (porridge) and “Julekake” (sweet bread). In other news, to build on its record of promoting sustainable travel for over 100 years, the line has recently created The Hurtigruten Foundation in order to “enhance awareness and contribute their monies, knowledge and years of experience to protect the vulnerable nature and unique culture” of the polar areas through which its vessels cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering additional amenity dollars for group bookings on its newest itineraries through September 30. Furthermore, as we anticipated in our last GCN Update, Norwegian’s long-running “Freestyle Choice” promotion has again been extended, this time through October 31. Happy Halloween! 

Princess Cruises unveiled plans for its new “SHARE by Curtis Stone” specialty dining experience on August 17. Offering a menu of “signature dishes imagined for sharing, in an environment designed for conversing and creating memories,” SHARE is part of a previously-announced partnership with Chef Stone, and is scheduled to debut aboard Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess in December. The line is also offering a “3 for Free” cruise sale for guests booking Alaska, Caribbean and Europe cruises, or one of its Alaska Land & Sea Vacations, including more than 700 cruises in 2016 and 2017, when reserved and deposited by October 29. Included are free stateroom location upgrades to enable guests to book the best stateroom available within that stateroom type at the lowest possible fare; free onboard gratuities; plus free dining for two in one of the line’s specialty restaurants. Furthermore, this promotion features a refundable, $100 per person deposit, and a free bottle of wine for guests who book a suite or mini-suite. Examples provided of “3 for Free” cruise deals include 6-day Caribbean cruises for $599 interior, $849 balcony; 7-day Alaska cruises for $749 interior, $1,349 balcony; 10-night Alaska Land & Sea Vacations for $1,349 interior, $2,229 balcony; as well as 11-day Scandinavia and Russia cruises for $1,899 interior, $2,499 balcony. or

Royal Caribbean’s mammoth new, 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas will be home-ported year-round in the New York area at the line’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey. Beginning on November 4, the vessel will sail to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and New England on itineraries ranging from five to 12 nights in length. The ship, which spent its first summer in Europe, offers such innovative amenities as a deck-top sky ride, robot bartenders, a skydiving simulator, and a “SeaPlex” entertainment center which features bumper cars and roller skating.

Scenic is rewarding travelers who plan ahead with free international air transportation from numerous major US and Canadian gateways, when one of its 2016 11 or 12-day Bordeaux cruises is booked by October 31, in all categories of accommodations. The two itineraries are identical except for an overnight Paris hotel stay on the 12-day version.