Friday, July 16, 2004

SEAGOING CULINARY KUDOS: On Sunday, Royal Caribbean International reels in an Achievement of Culinary Excellence Award from the nation's oldest, largest organization of pro chefs, the American Culinary Federation (ACF). It’s the first year the federation has given the nod to a cruise line. The awards -- from a panel including AFC brass, two past winners, and Robert Benes, Chef magazine senior editor -- are being ladled out during ACF's annual convention in Orlando. The line’s culinary team is headed by Frank Weber, Director of Food & Beverage Operations, and Corporate Chef Josef Jungwirth, backed by more than 3,200 shipboard chefs and cooks, and some 12,000 F&B workers on 19 ships. Dining choices range from multi-course meals in spectacular dining rooms to snacks in the casual Windjammer venue. Some ships also have Portofino and Chops Grille specialty restaurants, a 1950-style Johnny Rockets diner, and the Seaview Café.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

FROM THE TRENCHES: Later this year, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), representing most if not all the major players, plans setting up its first travel agent advisory board. The intention is to solicit “honest advice from CLIA cruise sellers” and provide “agency personnel with more input into CLIA's day-to-day operations." On the board-to-be: 25 CLIA-member retailers, from traditional brick-and-mortar agencies and online agencies to home-based and independent sales agents. Nominations are being accepted through Aug. 1.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

ECO-ECHOES: RCI announced their Environmental Ship Of The Year awards, with Radiance of the Seas honored by Royal Caribbean and Millennium honored by Celebrity. The annual kudos encourage competitive commitment between the two brands for environmental innovation and improvement, helping them advance environmental performances in ways that exceed regulatory compliance. Judging was conducted by the independent external auditing firm of Haley and Aldrich, auditing all 29 of the company’s ships for adherence to its Environmental Compliance Plans.

WHERE THE BOYS (AND YET ANOTHER CRUISE LINE) ARE: It’s official. Tapping Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades for homeporting its U.S. operations, MSC Cruises has leased long-term Andrews Avenue / Cypress Creek area office space while temporarily camping out next door. U.S. operations for the line, with ultra deep-pocket Italian roots, are headed by Rick Sasso, president and CEO, who’s the former top dog of Celebrity Cruises. The growing line’s new digs will house top brass, sales and marketing, back office operations and reservations. Sasso’s hiring 40 to 50 worker-bees right away, and plans eventually to employ several hundred while maintaining an existing rez center in Moonachie, N.J. Recently debuting in Italy, MSC Lirica and MSC Opera (the latter arriving in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 2 after an inaugural transatlantic crossing) will sail Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries. The line’s fleet (also including MSC Melody, MSC Monterey, MSC Rhapsody, MSC Armonia) increases to eight by 2007, with itineraries in the Mediterranean, northern Europe, Atlantic, Caribbean, South America and South Africa.

Monday, July 12, 2004

PUBLIC TV AT SEA: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’ one-of-a-kind cruise features popular hosts of public television’s MacNeil / Lehrer NewsHour, Ciao Italia, Great Performances, Antiques Roadshow, Find! and Frontline. The cruise also touts big value: Guests booking the 700-guest Seven Seas Voyager’s nine-night Nov. 12 Athens to Barcelona voyage can choose free economy class air from 86 North American gates, or a free biz class upgrade (when paying economy air add-ons), or a $1,000 per person slice off the cruise fare. That’s on top of mingling with public television personalities in one of Europe’s most picturesque regions. History and travel, art and antiques, literature, music, food and wine, personal finance, politics and current events are explored in keynote talks, panel discussions, tastings and cooking classes. Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer reunite, showing how the MacNeil / Lehrer NewsHour became the gold standard of TV news (changing to NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in ‘95 when MacNeil departed). The former co-anchors comment on election results and their latest books. Leigh and Leslie Keno, hosts of Find! and appraisers on Antiques Roadshow lead treasure hunts in key ports, later appraising guest finds. David Fanning, of Frontline, demystifies the making of an investigative documentary. Mary Ann Esposito, star of Ciao Italia, leads local market tours in Sicily and Rome and hosts three onboard cooking classes. Also enriching the shipboard experience: Hands-on Le Cordon Bleu workshops ($395 per person), wine tastings with experts, excursions lead by the TV personalities, a public TV book club hosted by Jim and Kate Lehrer and MacNeil, cocktail parties, and lounge / piano bar events. The Nov.12 nine-night Athens to Barcelona voyage calls at Kusadasi, Rhodes, Naxos (Taormina), Sorrento, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Monte Carlo. Fares start at $4,496.