Friday, June 11, 2004

GLUTTONS FOR ‘ALCATRAZ’ PUNISHMENT: A three-man Celebrity Cruises relay team headed by Jack Williams, president and COO, finished with flying colors during this month’s 2004 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. Competing as “The Celebrity X-Men,” Williams raised $50,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, backed by Craig Milan (president of Royal Celebrity Tours) and Carlos Torres de Navarra (the line's assistant treasurer). The grueling 27.5-mile event, in its 24th year and combining punishing physical competition with famed landmarks, has been tagged "one of the world's most dangerous” triathlons. Teams swim 1.5 miles in San Francisco Bay, bike 18 miles on coastal roads, and run eight miles along Baker Beach. Milan handled the swim, Torres de Navarra the cycling, while Williams took on deep sands and the 400-step Sand Ladder. Overall, the X-men placed 12th, and highlights will be televised this fall on Outdoor Life Network. Last November, Williams ran the New York City Marathon, raising $300,000 to combat CF. The 10-ship cruise line with the “X” logo sails the Arctic, Antarctic, Alaska, Bermuda, California, the Caribbean, Europe, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal and South America.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

GROW, GROW, GROW YOUR BOATS: This week's Seattle christening of Princess Cruises' 2,674-passenger Sapphire Princess caps an unprecedented growth spurt for Carnival Corporation, cranking out seven ship debuts in less than seven months. The marathon parade of newbuilds started when Costa Cruises unveiled the 2,720-passenger Costa Fortuna at cruise terminal in Savona, Italy last November. Since then, the corporate powerhouse has launched six more showstoppers. In January 2004, Cunard debuted Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger vessel ever built. The 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle started service in February, followed by the 2,674-passenger Diamond Princess in March and the 3,114-passenger Caribbean Princess the following month. April also brought Holland America’s 1,848-passenger Westerdam. Together, these newbuilds represent nearly 18,000 lower berths. Driving the record pace -- at a clip of about one ship per month -- was last year's merger by Carnival Cruise Lines with P&O Princess Cruises to create Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s only group on both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices. Despite what Chairman and CEO Mickey Arison calls a "torrid pace," all seven deliveries and start-ups went like clockwork, with more on tap yet this year. The 2,702-passenger Costa Magica debuts in November, followed by the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor in December. The juggernaut’s portfolio of 12 cruise brands also includes Seabourn, Windstar, AIDA, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises, Swan Hellenic, and P&O Cruises Australia. Together, the brands operate 77 ships totaling more than 128,000 lower berths with eight new ships set for delivery between November 2004 and December 2006.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

LAST FRONTIER SO COOL, IT’S HOT: Alaska sizzles as a cruise destination, reports Cruise Lines International Association. Despite a season running only May to October, Alaska trails only the Caribbean and Europe in cruise volume, thanks to expanding thrills. A CLIA 2004 season sampling shows: Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Spirit sailing 19 seven-day Glacier Route itineraries (marking its first departures from Whittier) and three Glacier Bay roundtrips from Vancouver with “extreme” snowshoe trekking. Crystal CruisesCrystal Harmony departs San Francisco on Sept. 3 with the Wine & Food Festival’s Great Chefs of California. Holland America‘s seven ships sail on 139 cruises to Alaska, with the 1,848-passenger Oosterdam departing Saturdays from Seattle to Hubbard Glacier. NCL’s SuperStar Leo, starring Freestyle Dining in seven restaurants including Maxim’s, Shogun and Tai Pan, sails from Seattle on seven-day Inside Passage routes. Princess Cruises, touting Inside Passage roundtrips from Seattle and San Francisco, is the only line offering Alaska’s two most popular attractions – Mt. McKinley and Glacier Bay – on every cruise tour. Radisson Seven Seas CruisesSeven Seas Mariner puts a “Spotlight on Food and Wine” on July 14 as chefs from New York’s Montrachet and Tribeca Grill team with Seattle restaurateurs and winemakers. Royal Caribbean International now markets the Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure (where participants in wetsuits explore kelp forests in Ketchikan) and the Four Glacier Adventure via Helicopter (ideal for guests with mobility disabilities). Silversea Cruises’ inaugural Alaska season has 10 different seven to 12-day itineraries, the highlight celebrating the line’s 10th anniversary, as Silver Shadow departs Vancouver on Aug. 16 for a voyage including a Juneau salmon / chicken / ribs barbecue extravaganza along rainforest creek banks.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

KIDS & COUSTEAU: Underscoring aquatic wonders of French Polynesia’s marine environment, Fort Lauderdale-based Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has hooked up in a joint venture learning program with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. Ambassadors of the Environment, optional at $50 per child, will run each summer aboard the 320-passenger Paul Gauguin, starting June 26. The Cousteau program, for ages nine to 15, focuses on marine and island ecosystems, emphasizing traditional Polynesian culture. During seven-night luxury voyages roundtrip from Papeete every Saturday, Ambassadors explore coral reefs, hike rainforest trails, visit ancient temples, see how black pearls and vanilla are cultivated, learn how to paddle outriggers from Polynesian youth, and more. For families, the Paul Gauguin now boasts 28 triples in categories C, D and E, with love seats accommodating average size adults. Categories B and above, and the ship’s wheelchair cabin continue using third berth rollaways. Per person fares from $3,145 include shipboard gratuities, wine with lunch and dinner, soft drinks throughout and an in-stateroom bar set-up. The June 26, July 3, 10, 17, 31 and Aug. 7 cruises also include free roundtrip economy airfare from 86 North American gateways.

Monday, June 07, 2004

MOBILE & MOBILITY: Seizing upon October 2004's kick-off of the first year-round cruise program from Mobile, Alabama, Carnival Cruise Lines touts pre-and post-cruise land packages at Grand Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in nearby Point Clear. Two- or three-night hotel packages can combine with four- or five-day Mexico cruises aboard the Holiday, beginning Oct. 16. The line’s oldest ship (entering service in 1985) departs the Port of Mobile on selected Thursdays for four-day cruises to Cozumel, and on selected Mondays and Saturdays for five-day adventures to Cozumel and Calica / Playa del Carmen or Costa Maya. The 450 room, 30-suite resort has 36 holes of golf, eight tennis courts, a trio of swimming pools, horseback riding and a spa. Rates for two- and three-night pre- or post-cruise packages start at $160 and $240 per person, double, and include a rental car.