Friday, August 27, 2004

MOVING UP IN AWARENESS: Viking River Cruises, a leader in river cruising, has cracked Travel & Leisure’s “Top 10 Small Ship Cruise Lines” for the current “World’s Best” Awards issue. The awards are compiled from nearly 450,000 of the glossy magazine’s subscribers rating recent travel experiences based on value, food, service, accommodations, destinations and activities. The line debuted on the list as the highest-ranked river cruise line. River cruising is all about getting up-close and personal with the destination, with quality service, gourmet cuisine and comfortable scenic cruising along Europe, Russia and China’s majestic rivers. Unlike mega-ships disembarkation, the cigar-shaped riverboats carrying well under 200 passengers make it possible for guests to move from stateroom to the riverbank in a flash. For details, call (877) 668-4546.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

TEEING OFF AT SEA: Golfers sailing on Carnival’s new 110,000-ton Carnival Valor can play the top Caribbean courses and get instruction from an on-board professional. The new 2,974-passenger “Fun Ship” launches year-round seven-day Caribbean sailings from Miami's Port of Miami Dec. 19. All-inclusive golf packages are part of the line’s fleetwide program managed by Elite Golf Cruises LLC of Sunrise, Fla. A certified golf pro conducts private lessons, specialty golf clinics, putting contests, accompanies golfers on excursions and organizes tournaments as needed. The comprehensive program also includes priority tee times and equipment rental, including clubs and “soft-spike” shoes. Each ship also features a “pro shop” for apparel and accessories. Courses include Maogany Run in St. Thomas, USVI; Cable Beach Golf Course in Nassau, Bahamas; Cave Chapel Golf Resort in Belize City, Belize; Sunrise Family Golf Center and The Links at Safe Haven in George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel Country Club in Cozumel, Mexico.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

CHARITABLE CHARLEY AFTERMATH: Carnival Corporation has anted up a $1 million donation to aid victims of Hurricane Charley. Half will go to the disaster relief fund established by the Volunteer Florida Foundation, the other half to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. “Those of us who live and work in South Florida feel a particularly strong level of compassion for the victims of Hurricane Charley as many members of our own community recall the difficulties faced following Hurricane Andrew,” said Chairman / CEO Micky Arison. “Among those who have been affected are fellow travel industry partners and customers and it is our privilege to lend support to them and the many citizens within these communities in their time of need.” Arison, managing general partner of Miami HEAT basketball, last week sent HEAT players, Burnie the HEAT mascot, HEAT Dancers, and the Xtreme Team, to lift spirits at several locations on Florida’s West Coast hit by Charley. The corporate powerhouse is the world’s largest cruise vacation group, with a portfolio of 12 brands comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, AIDA, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises, Swan Hellenic, and P&O Cruises Australia. Together, these brands operate 77 ships totaling more than 128,000 lower berths with eight new ships set for delivery between November and December 2006.
EXERSEAS & A-B-SEAS: From a family reading club to recreational fitness and youth spa treats, Carnival’s jazzing up its fleetwide “Camp Carnival” for kids. New whistles and bells enhance family-friendly amenities already on the line’s 20 “Fun Ships,” hosting a record 450,000 kids this year. A youth spa program, now on Carnival Miracle and going fleetwide, allows ages 12-14 and parents to experience luxurious body / beauty treatments together on port days at discounted rates in Spa Carnival. Mother / daughter and father / son combo packages include hair / nail treatments, health evaluations, and foot / scalp massages. Teen shore excursions and “Action Alley” teen clubs are on “Conquest-class” ships. Also new: ExerSeas encouraging kids to “get out and play” through obstacle courses, basketball, “steal the bacon” and “capture the flag.” A-B-Seas, a new reading program, takes place in ship libraries and in playrooms. H2Ocean features hands-on science projects. EduCruise now includes more interactive projects focusing on “Fun Ship” destinations. A new art program enables kids to create their own masterpieces in paper mache, oil and watercolors while learning pro techniques. It’s all included in the free “Camp Carnival” program, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Every “Fun Ship” also features indoor / outdoor play areas. Kids can dine with youth counselors on Lido Deck when they want, and there are 24-hour pizzerias and ice cream stations. The “Fountain Fun Card” allows unlimited soft drinks. Carnival ships have at least three swim pools and a corkscrew water slide. Babysitting, stroller and “bouncy chair” rentals are fleetwide. For details, call (800) CARNIVAL.

Monday, August 23, 2004

BACK TO COSTA RICA: Always 180-degrees from ordinary, Windstar Cruises returns to Costa Rica in 2005 after a two-year hiatus, with 10 new 7-day cruises. From Jan. 29 to March 26, and again in December, the 148-passenger Wind Star sails roundtrips from Puerto Caldera. Port calls include San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; Playa Flamingo, Quepos, Bahia Paraiso (Drake Bay), Curu Reserve, and Tortuga Island, Costa Rica. Costa Rican naturalist Carlos Picado will be aboard every cruise to share insights. The ship’s free water sports program, ideal for the tropics, has an aft platform for water-skiing, kayaking, sailing, banana boating, and windsurfing. Snorkel gear is also complimentary. Staterooms amenities include DVD and CD player, LCD flatscreen TV, stocked mini-bar and snacks, and white terry robes. Gourmet cuisine by chef Joachim Splichal and a Sail Light spa menu by Jeanne Jones combine culinary creativity and splashes of local flavor. The line recently pumped $6 million into its three sailing ships. Fares for the Costa Rica itineraries begin at $2,036 per person, double, for cruise-only bookings made by Oct. 31. Air/sea packages are on tap from San Jose. For details, call (800) 258-7245.