Friday, May 19, 2006

Martha Stewart as Godmother ...

Domestic Goddess Reigns: Out of jail and sailing onward, Martha Stewart has been tapped by Princess Cruises as godmother for the line's newest ship, Crown Princess. She'll preside over official hoopla in New York on June 14, 2006, when she breaks the traditional bottle of champagne. The ceremony, the first at the city's new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, will honor the Domestic Diva's ascent to become America's premier authority on the home. That evening, across from the Manhattan skyline, the 3,080-passenger Crown Princess departs for Caribbean roundtrips. Crown Princess introduces all sorts of Princess fleet design firsts, including a dramatic new piazza-style atrium, new casual dining, and a brand new adults-only retreat called The Sanctuary. Signature Princess venues have been juiced up, including an expanded Sabatini's Italian trattoria, and the Crown Grill, where chefs do their thing with shellfish and cooked-to-order steaks. For details, call (800-PRINCESS).

MSC Coming on Strong ...

Targeting Northern Europe: MSC Cruises plans big-time Northern Europe expansion. Pierfrancesco Vago, top dog at MSC, detailed his Northern Europe strategy at a press confab in Copenhagen. Key to success: Strong ties between MSC Cruises and SAS (Scandinavian Air). MSC doubled capacity in the region this summer, with both MSC Lirica and MSC Rhapsody sailing new itineraries. In 2007, MSC Opera also positions in Northern Europe, and in 2008 MSC will have three ships there -- MSC Melody, MSC Opera and MSC Poesia. Projections: Northern Europe port calls will grow four times, from 12 in '04 to 44 in '08. This season, MSC Rhapsody cruises for the first time from Amsterdam on 7-nighters to the Norwegian Fjords plus a new route for Shetland Isles discovery. By '09, 12 MSC ships will offer "excellent service, the key to the company’s success,” says Rick Sasso, MSC (USA) president and CEO.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Carnival Goes Platinum-Grade ...

Fun Ships Getting Exclusive: To stoke up repeat bookings, Carnival Cruise Lines' new loyalty program provides boatloads of alumni benefits, including priority em/de-barkation, guaranteed supper club rez and dining times, personalized stationery, and custom logo stuff. “Platinum” cardholders sailing aboard Fun Ships 10 or more times get new “Carnival Concierge Club” perks, including petit fours/canapés delivered to cabin, complimentary $20 entry fee into blackjack tourney, Spa Carnival priority reservations and complimentary treatment upgrade, freebie wash/fold laundry service, and priority tender boarding. A concierge desk with a dedicated phone line for Platinum people stands next to the purser’s desk aboard each Fun Ship. Along with cruise docs, “Carnival Concierge Club” luggage tags are tucked in with a “Welcome Letter from Bob” -- Carnival Prez/CEO Bob Dickinson -- listing swell privileges on tap. For details, call 800-CARNIVAL.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cruise Shares Sink, But Hey ...

Now's Time for Fun Ship Bargains: Gas prices and interest rates are rising, but cruises remain a top vacation value, according to Bob Dickinson, Carnival Cruise Lines President & CEO. Moreover, as shareholders gnash teeth over today's $4-plus share plunge after news on revision of earnings estimates, prospective cruisers can be even more optimistic. Lines now have more incentive to fill cabins on the cheap (after all, the ship must sail) to hike profits on spa services, booze, casino action, and other onboard revenue-producers. This year even last minute bookers will find deals, with some "Fun Ship" departures at up to 20 percent lower than last year. "We have more and larger ships in the fleet than ever before, and that provides economies of scale ... to provide 21st-century cruises at 1980s prices," saidDickinson. With all-inclusive dining and entertainment, he calls cruising the "best value equation in the travel industry hands down." The Caribbean starts at $229 per person. Five-day Fantasy cruises from Port Canaveral, and seven-day Elation cruises from Miami, calling at the private Half Moon Cay, start at $349 and $449 pp. For details, call (800) CARNIVAL.