Friday, July 30, 2004

WHERE THE BUOYS ARE: During the upcoming Caribbean cruise season, the world’s top lines continue a long tradition of selecting Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades to debut their newest, largest and most eye-popping ships. This fall, newbuilds sailing from Port Everglades include Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, Holland America’s Westerdam and MSC CruisesMSC Opera. Popular ships such as Princess CruisesStar Princess and Costa CruisesCostaAllegra for the first time ever will sail regularly from the Broward County seaport. What’s more, the Port celebrates first-time visits by the Pacific Princess, Carnival’s Carnival Miracle, and Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa. Requisite hoopla will involve welcome banners, water displays, gussied up passenger terminals and roses for each couple on inaugural voyages. Nearly 50 ships of 20 cruise lines call at the Broward County port, including Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Discovery Cruise Line, Discovery World Cruises, Imperial Majesty Cruise Line, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, SeaEscape, Silversea Cruises and St. Tropez. Fort Lauderdale provides plenty of pre / post cruise vacation choices from its easy-access port near both Fort Lauderdale International Airport and famed Fort Lauderdale (“Where The Boys Are”) Beach.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

BERMUDA SHORTS: A new pair of Bermuda briefs unwrap next year via Royal Caribbean International, now booking five-nighters aboard the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas from New Jersey’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, and five-nighters on the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore. The new cruises, from May through November, 2005, alternate with a nine-night Caribbean itinerary to Labadee, Ocho Rios, George Town and Freeport. In Bermuda, both ships dock overnight in King's Wharf at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard, providing two full days to explore. High-speed ferries also can zip passengers to docks around the island. And through the line’s Explorations! shore excursion program, guests can check out the Bermuda Triangle from beneath the waves; kayak the island's sheltered waterways; cast for blue marlin, wahoo and tuna while deep-sea fishing; or stroll historic St. George's. Shore excursions can be booked in advance. For details, call 800-327-6700.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

MORE SOUTH OF THE BORDER ACTION: Grab those sombreros for a red hot season now that Princess Cruises has lined up a Mexican Riviera escape for nearly every taste in 2005-06, with three vessels -- Sapphire Princess, sailing from Los Angeles, Dawn Princess, sailing from San Francisco and Regal Princess, sailing from San Diego. The most diverse set of choices for Mexican Riviera vacationers yet, the line features its own in-house LotusSpa program along with balcony staterooms perfect for warm breezes and spectacular sunsets. Early booking fares, per person double, for Mexican Riviera sailings begin at $599 for seven nights and at $899 for 10 nights.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

MAMA MIA, ANOTHER ONE!: Capitalizing on reversals among competitors in Europe, MSC Cruises (backed by deep-pocket container powerhouse Mediterranean Shipping Company) has scooped up a seventh ship for its fast-growing fleet. MSC Sinfonia was purchased at auction in Barcelona last week for 220 million Euro. The ship (launched in 2002 as European Stars by First European Cruises) now caught up in bankruptcy, will be adapted to the acquiring line’s Italian style before starting seven-night Mediterranean cruises next March. That gives North Americans another option for premium cruising with Italian flair. The 1,566-passenger ship, built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in France in 2002, joins MSC Opera, inaugurated June 26 in Genoa; MSC Armonia, purchased in April 2004; MSC Lirica, launched in April 2003; as well as MSC Melody, MSC Monterey, and MSC Rhapsody. Orders at Chantiers de l’Atlantique will increase the fleet to nine by 2007, with possibility for a tenth. The company also is in talks with Fincantieri for building two other ships. The line, with North American headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, offers 40 itineraries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America and South Africa.

Monday, July 26, 2004

FOR TEA & CRUMPETS: Yankees looking for global adventure with significant British overtones can check out P&O Cruises' two new world cruise itineraries for 2005 -- "Around the World in 80 Days" aboard Oriana, or a 103-day "Grand Voyage" aboard Aurora. Both sail roundtrip from Southampton, calling in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and South America while crossing six of Earth's eight oceans. The Around the World in 80 Days adventure -- encompassing 29 ports in 20 countries -- departs Jan. 7, returning March 29. Passengers with fewer than 80 vacation days to spare can book shorter segments from 13 to 61 days. The Grand Voyage departs Jan. 9 and returns April 22, taking in 40 ports in 23 countries. Segments of 13 to 83 days are also available. Early booking fares for the World Cruise and Grand Voyage start at $2,350 for 13-day segments. Full cruise rates begin at $12,200 for Around the World and $15,400 for the Grand Voyage.