Friday, May 21, 2004

FREE AIR FOR ANTARCTICA: Passengers heading for the Great White Continent at earth’s bottom next year with Radisson Seven Seas Cruises can count on comfort, safety and convenience in expedition cruising. Bonuses for the Jan. 15 and 26, 2005 sailings from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Shetland Islands also include free roundtrip economy air from 86 North American gates. Bookings by Aug. 15 start from $7,295 per person. Voyages include Zodiac explorations and a complimentary hotel night in Santiago or Buenos Aires. Capacity for the 394-passenger RSSC’s Explorer II is limited to 198 guests on these two adventures. With an ice-strengthened hull for cruising icy channels, the vessel brings a rare touch of informal refinement to Antarctic travel. Ocean view staterooms have picture windows, suites have private balconies, and the bridge is open 24-hours.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

FUN WITH VALOR: A special two-day Bahamas cruise cooked up by Carnival Cruise Lines showcases the new Carnival Valor. The 110,000-ton floating resort sails from the Port of Miami on Dec. 15-17, starting at $219 per person, double, including gratuities, with rates on tap for up to four in a stateroom. After the quickie with a day-long call in Nassau, Carnival Valor debuts seven-day Caribbean sailings on Dec. 19, as the largest Fun Ship ever based year-round in Miami. Carnival Valor, getting final touches at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, has 12 passenger decks with 22 bar / nightspots and a multi-level theater. Apart from a pair of main dining rooms, there’s a sushi bar, patisserie, poolside eatery, and supper club. Also aboard are a health club, casino and a duty-free shopping mall. Kids have play areas, a teen club, four swimming pools, and a water slide. More than half of Valor’s 1,487 staterooms have ocean views, many with private balconies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

ASHORE IN ALASKA: Big everywhere with Personal Choice options, Princess Cruises has gotten bigger within its Ashore In Alaska program, adding to an already stellar roster another 18 Alaskan tour options from sled dog mushing to mountain repelling. In Ketchikan, guests can do off-road go-karting. From Skagway, there’s Klondike rock climbing on granite walls of the White Pass. From Juneau, an Outback Helicopter Adventure provides for icy walks on a glacier. From Sitka, guests can explore remote areas with a four-mile, guided hike through the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Less rigorous pre / post Alaskan cruise adventure options in Canada include scenic trolley-hopping in Vancouver and either ghost / graveyard exploration or wine / chocolate truffle tasting on the island of Victoria. Tours are paired with Princess’ Gulf of Alaska or Inside Passage itineraries, with 116 departures on seven ships.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

FREE AIR TO SULTRY SOUTH PACIFIC: With a tiare flower, champagne and Polynesian hymns, guests are welcomed aboard Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’ elegant 320-guest Paul Gauguin. The vessel, sailing seven-night luxury cruises in French Polynesia, combines with exceptional values: Eight June, July and August cruises offering free roundtrip economy airfare from 86 North American gateways, plus Extended Early Booking Savings. Also on tap: Business class air upgrades from Los Angeles for $1,895. Sailing roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti, on June 5, 12, 26, July 3, 10, 17, 31 and Aug. 7, the week-long voyages visit Raiatea (Polynesia’s cultural heart), Tahaa (at the ship’s private islet of Motu Mahana), Bora Bora (model for Michener’s “Bali Hai”) and Moorea (inspiration for Melville’s novel Omoo).
NCL HOMELAND CRUISING: Scheduling for 2005-2006 expands Norwegian Cruise Line’s presence in the company's key Homeland Cruising markets. Next year, NCL deploys three “Freestyle Cruising” ships (Pride of Aloha, Pride of America, and Norwegian Wind) in Hawaii, sailing 7-, 10- and 11-day cruises out of Honolulu; puts a fourth ship in Alaska with three ships out of Seattle (Norwegian Star, Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Dream) and one out of Vancouver (Norwegian Sun); and continues as a leader for Bermuda with departures from three eastern seaboard cities (Boston, Philadelphia, and New York), featuring the only three-port Bermuda itinerary. NCL differentiates its Caribbean offering with innovative itineraries from five Homeland Cruising ports (Charleston, Houston, Miami, New Orleans and New York). Norwegian Star also continues as the industry’s only 8-day exotic itinerary out of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera, calling in Acapulco with a full day and overnight stay.
MOUSE SAILING WEST: In a first, since a 1998 debut for Caribbean sailings from Florida’s Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line’s flagship is set to head west for summer 2005 cruises from Los Angeles. Disney Magic, helping celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, will sail 12 seven-day cruises to the Mexican Riviera, the first time a Disney ship ever has cruised outside the Caribbean. Two Panama Canal repositionings between Disney Magic's traditional Port Canaveral homeport and Los Angeles depart on May 14 and Aug. 20, 2005. Rates for the seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises start at $1,209 per person, double, while rates for the 14-day canal sailings start at $1,099 per person, double. Transits include calls at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private isle), Curacao, Puerto Quetzal, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. Sister ship Disney Wonder, launched in 1999, remains at Port Canaveral for Caribbean adventure.
HOW CRUISING STACKS UP: Old industry jokes about the average age of cruisers being “deceased” no longer apply, with typical cruise vacationers now ranging from well-heeled celebrities to families next door. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) analysis conducted by TNS Plog Research snapshots today’s cruise buyer as a married, passport-holding Baby Boomer happy to travel often. In fact, Baby Boomers are the cruise market core, with 34 percent between ages 35 and 54. Three in four cruisers (76 percent) are married, and two in five (44 percent) are college grads. Only one in four (25 percent) is retired. Families are key. While spouses are the most likely cruise companions, 16 percent bring along kids under age 18. Repeat cruise bookings are high, with the average cruiser taking three (2.8) cruises in a lifetime, and two (1.6) within the past three years. Up to nine out of 10 (89 percent) of cruisers surveyed used a travel agent to book their last cruise. Often compared to visitors bound for places like Orlando, Nevada and Branson, recent cruisers also are among the most venturesome. They seek undiscovered destinations and are comfortable in other cultures. International travel potential is strong among cruisers, since 61 percent have a current passport, compared to 44 percent of visitors heading to Orlando, 45 percent to Nevada and 35 percent to Branson.
SEABOURN AT PINNACLE: A survey by Departures, the luxury lifestyle publication circulated to American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders, puts Seabourn Cruise Line atop all cruise lines. The online survey separated cruise lines into "large" and "small," and The Yachts of Seabourn scored 97.85, the best of any in either category. Results were posted on the magazine's password-protected website for three months, where more than 1,040 global nominees in every category of travel, hospitality and accommodation were available for review. American Express tabulated scores in 23 categories from 51,000 responses and published results in the magazine's May / June 2004 issue. The intimate, all-suite Yachts of Seabourn: Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend, each carry up to 208 guests to many of earth’s most desirable destinations.