Friday, June 04, 2004

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: Don’t look for christening before 2007, but Cunard Line – still basking amid glow of its latest inaugural -- has earmarked a few million pounds for another regal ocean liner to be named Queen Victoria, all the while transferring the vessel of the same name now under construction in Italy to a sister line, P&O Cruises. The new 85,000-ton vessel, to be built by Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani SpA at its Marghera shipyard, will berth some 1,850 passengers with all the venerable line’s classic whistles and bells. Apart from a Queens Grill and Princess Grill, she’ll have a two-story Aquitania restaurant and a Todd English restaurant, a British pub, grand ballroom, and seductive library. Resounding success of the line's new showstopper, Queen Mary 2 (particularly demand for pricier suites and junior suites), prompted the switcheroo.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

PRINCESS FROM A TO Z: From Adelaide to Zanzibar, Princess Cruises’ Exotics Season blankets the globe with expanded sailings to Australia / New Zealand, more capacity to South America, summer / fall Asian adventure, and the best of Hawaii. Five ships, from 670 to 2,670 passengers, are set for 83 sailings on 21 itineraries, from 10 to 30 days. Even better, many are on newer vessels chock full of balcony cabins, not always the case on exotic itineraries. Diamond Princess takes over from another of the line’s glittering ships as the largest, most amenity-filled vessel ever Down Under. Pacific Princess does three sailings on the Asia / China route between Beijing and Bangkok. Regal Princess takes over from another of the line’s ships on the Cape Horn / Strait of Magellan route between Santiago and Buenos Aires. Island Princess does a second season of 15-day round-trips to Hawaii from L.A., including one wrapping together Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s. Tahitian Princess continues in French Polynesia, and the line’s Connoisseur Adventure Voyages tantalize with a 28-day sailing between Cape Town and Sydney and a 30-day cruise from Bangkok to Cape Town.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

OLD FAVE, NEW MONIKER: With a new name, new look and new berth to call home, one of Royal Caribbean International’s long-time favorites now reigns as Empress of the Seas, the first cruise ship to sail out of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The 1,602-passenger vessel -- with a stem-to-stern facelift to meld with the line’s other ships “of the Seas” -- now alternates on six- and eight-night Bermuda sailings through most of October. Also new aboard: a Portofino specialty restaurant, an expanded, bi-level spa and gym complex, and the line’s signature rock-climbing wall. Six-night Bermuda itineraries depart Sundays, calling at King’s Wharf and Hamilton. Eight-nighters depart Saturdays, calling at King’s Wharf, Hamilton and St. George’s. In late October, the re-named ship repositions to San Juan for a quartet of Southern Caribbean itineraries.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

ALTERNATIVE BUBBLES: In Nagasaki Japan, Princess Cruises took delivery of its latest gem, Sapphire Princess, from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard. The 113,000-ton, 2,670-passenger vessel arrives in Seattle on June 7 for a June 10 naming ceremony. Instead of champagne, sparkling wine from Washington State is on tap for the bow christening, a highpoint of inaugural hoopla leading up to the maiden voyage. The ship, sailing roundtrip weekly from Seattle through September, departs on June 13 on its first 7-day Inside Passage adventure, calling at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, B.C.