- NCL Loses 16.2 Million First Quarter 2010
- Royal Caribbean Beats Earnings Estimates
- NCL Offers Two Nickelodeon-immersive Cruises for Kids
- Princess Máxima of the Netherlands to name HAL Nieuw Amsterdam
- British Cruise Line Imposes Fuel Supplements
- Volcanic Fallout for Cruise Lines
- Mariner of the Seas Leaving California
- Volcano Roars Again - Cruise Lines Affected
- Alaska Lawmakers Cut Cruise Ship Taxes
- Celebrity Cruises Takes Delivery on Celebrity Eclipse
- Volcanic Ash Still Disrupting European Flights
- NCL Offering $99 Kid's Fares in Three-Day Sale
- Azamara Offering New $500 Onboard Credit Per Booking
- Royal Caribbean Offering Short Mega-ship Cruises in 2011
- Holland America Statendam Completes $Multi-million Upgrade
- Alaska Cruise Tax Settlement Gets Closer
- $200 Ship Credit on MSC Canada/New England Cruises
- Famous Yachtswoman as Celebrity Eclipse Godmother
- AARP Selects Norwegian Cruise Line As A Preferred Cruise Line Provider
- Disney Creates Gourmet Restaurant Concept for New Ship
- Art Auctioneer Park West Gallery Fights for Reputation
- Carnival Conquest Severely Delayed on Galveston Return
- Crystal Serenity Easter and Passover Events in Israel
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04-29-10 NCL Loses 16.2 Million First Quarter 2010 Norwegian Cruise Lines is reporting that the company lost just over $16,000,000 in the first quarter of 2010. This is compared to a $5.2 million profit in the same quarter last year. However, the Miami-based cruise company reported positive results for operations.
NCL is saying the line still showed a profit on "operations" citing currency exchange as the problem area, saying they had a loss of $300k vs. a gain of over $15,000,000 last year. They also attribute the loss to the departure of the Norwegian Majesty last October as a contributing factor.
But NCL is already selling cruises on Norwegian Epic, the brand new megaship scheduled for its first cruise June 24, 2010. NCL also noted the price of fuel has gone up significantly by the average cost of $488 per metric ton from $298 last year.
NCL had 14.2 percent growth in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), to $58.1 million from $50.9 million. Net yields were up 5.7 percent as a result of better ticket prices, better onboard revenue and other revenue. Occupancy was up to 107.9 percent from 106.9 percent.
Net cruise costs increased 2.7 percent on a per capacity day basis. Excluding fuel, net cruise cost per capacity day decreased 4.4 percent.
NCL was the last of the big three cruise lines to report first quarter earnings.
Carnival beat analyst estimates with a profit of 22 cents a share vs, estimates of 14 cents. But like NCL, the line's profit was down from the same quarter a year ago with 2010 profit of $175 million on revenue of $3.1 billion, down from $260 million profit from revenue of $2.9 billion.
Royal Caribbean reported earning $87.4 million for or 40 cents a share vs. a loss of $36.2 million, or 17 cents a share, last year. But those results included a 39-cents-a-share gain from a legal settlement, which meant the cruise line really earned just $.01 per share.
In the release, NCL said the 150,000-ton Norwegian Epic would be among the five-biggest cruise ships based on current rankings - the top four are Oasis at 220,000-tons and theree "Freedom-class" ships at 160,000-tons. The Queen Mary also claims to be larger than 150,000-tons in various specifications. Royal Caribbean is also close to introducing a sister to Oasis, Allure of the Seas, next December.
04-28-10 Royal Caribbean Beats Earnings Estimates for Q1 2010 Royal Caribbean International (NYSE RCL) just posted 2010 first-quarter profit that outpaced the estimates by analysts, saying demand is starting to pick up as cruise economies emerge from recession. The cruise line also raised its forecast for 2010 earnings.
"While the economy is still affecting our results, we are pleased to be reporting better than expected revenues and costs and we continue to see a gradual and steady improvement in the booking environment," CEO Richard Fain said.
The first-quarter profit came in at $87 million, or 40 cents per share. The same quarter a year ago brought a rare loss of $36 million, 17 cents per share. Analysts on average expected a per-share profit of 34 cents in a Reuters poll of 13 analysts.
"This recovery, combined with our cost containment efforts and improving fleet profile, bode well for improvement in our returns on investment and our balance sheet in 2011 and beyond," Fain said in a statement.
For the next quarter (Q2 2010) Royal Caribbean chaged their earnings estimate to 16 to 21 cents per share and raised estimates for 2010 earnings to $2.15 to $2.25 per share from $2.00 to $2.20. The Reuters survey came in at $2.16 for the 2010 yearly estimate.
RCL said the disruptions caused by volcanic ash created a reduction of less than 5 cents in earnings per share, with most of the impact to come in the second quarter.
"The majority of this effect will be recognized in the second quarter of 2010 and the company's EPS guidance for this period reflects this adjustment," it said.
The company's shares are trading down this morning about $1.00.
04-27-10 NCL Offers Two Nickelodeon-immersive Cruises for Kids Norwegian Cruise Line and Nickelodeon today announced the dates and itineraries for the two 2011 "Nickelodeon All Access Cruises." These special Nickelodeon-themed cruises will give guests exclusive access to a fun-filled, seven-day itinerary of Nickelodeon-themed entertainment all day, every day on board Norwegian Jewel from New York on February 20, 2011, and on the cruise line's newest ship, Norwegian Epic, from Barcelona on July 24, 2011.
"'Nickelodeon All Access Cruises' only on Norwegian Cruise Line will provide families with the ultimate vacation experience at sea," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's chief executive officer. "These immersive cruises offer the freedom and flexibility that Freestyle Cruising provides with the ability for families to get up close and personal with Nickelodeon."
"We are very excited to offer families unique and exclusive Nickelodeon entertainment programs on two world-class vessels, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic," said Howard Smith, executive vice president, Nickelodeon Recreation. "'Nickelodeon All Access Cruises' offer the ultimate cruise experience with a thrilling line up of Nickelodeon entertainment combined with Norwegian's world-class ships and exciting itineraries."
The inaugural "Nickelodeon All Access Cruise" on board Norwegian Jewel sets sail on February 20, 2011, with a round-trip seven-day itinerary from New York sailing to Orlando (Port Canaveral), Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian's private island. Norwegian Epic's "Nickelodeon All Access Cruise" departs on July 24, 2011, from Barcelona on a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise to Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), and Naples, Italy; and Palma, Majorca, Spain.
Cruises are priced from $1,349 per person, based on double occupancy, and go on sale Wednesday, April 28 to past Norwegian guests (Latitudes members) and May 1 to the general public. Travel partners and guests should call 866-234-5610 to book one of these immersive cruises. To learn more about these cruises join Norwegian's live "Inside Norwegian Cruise Line" webcast on Tuesday, April 27 at 3:30 ET. Register at http://video.webcasts.com/events/ncll001/34447.
These two specialty cruises will include access to exclusive meet and greets with Nickelodeon stars; screenings of never-before-seen episodes of hit Nick shows; interactive game shows for the entire family; Nick-themed Sailaway; Club Nick parties; and the opportunity for every family to get slimed.
To learn more about "Nickelodeon All Access Cruises" or "Nickelodeon at Sea" year-round programming, visit www.ncl.com/nickelodeon.
04-26-10 Princess Máxima of the Netherlands to name HAL Nieuw Amsterdam Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands will name Holland America Line's new Signature-class ship, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, in a ceremony in Venice, Italy, July 4, 2010. The 2,106-guest ship is the fourth to carry that name for the line and is being built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. in Marghera, Italy.
"The Dutch Royal Family is continuing a long and proud tradition of naming Holland America Line ships that started more than 80 years ago, and we are truly honored that Princess Máxima will name Nieuw Amsterdam," said Stein Kruse, president and chief executive officer of Holland America Line. "The naming ceremony will mark a signature moment in our company's 137-year history as Princess Máxima becomes godmother of Nieuw Amsterdam, which, with her sister-ship Eurodam, will share the distinction as the largest passenger ships ever to fly the Dutch flag."
Nieuw Amsterdam IV will be the 11th Holland America Line vessel launched by a member of the Dutch Royal Family. Previous ship dedications include ss Statendam III in 1929 by Prince Hendrik and ss Nieuw Amsterdam II in 1937 by Queen Wilhelmina. Then-Crown Princess Beatrix christened ss Statendam IV in 1957 as well as the ms Prinses Margriet in 1964. The ss Rotterdam V was launched in 1958 by Queen Juliana. Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet dedicated ms Prinsendam II in 1973, ms Nieuw Amsterdam III in 1983, ms Rotterdam VI in 1997 and ms Oosterdam in 2003. Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands served as ms Eurodam's godmother in 2008.
The naming ceremony will feature gala festivities in Venice, where an audience of special guests will witness an extravaganza of entertainment, the blessing of Nieuw Amsterdam and the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle across the ship's bow as the finale.
Princess Máxima was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 1971, as Máxima Zorreguieta. She was engaged to His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, March 30, 2001. On Feb. 2, 2002, Máxima wed Prince Willem-Alexander, who is Her Majesty Queen Beatrix's eldest child and first in line of succession to the throne. Upon her marriage, Máxima received the title Princess of the Netherlands.
Since October 2004, Princess Máxima has been a member of the Council of State, the Netherlands' most important government advisory body. Princess Máxima represents the Royal House at official occasions, often accompanying Prince Willem-Alexander. She also accompanies Her Majesty Queen Beatrix on state visits. The princess passed her baccalaureate examinations at Northlands School in 1988 and graduated with an economics degree from Universidad Católica Argentina in 1995.
In 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated Princess Máxima as his Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
Princess Máxima advises the Secretary-General on access to financial services and works to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to all forms of financial service. At the invitation of the United Nations, Princess Máxima was involved in the Advisors Group to the International Year of Microcredit 2005. Throughout 2005 the Group met on a regular basis to discuss progress towards achieving universal access to financial services.
She has worked at Boston Securities SA in Buenos Aires, the European Union Representative Office of Deutsche Bank in Brussels and in New York at Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and HSBC James Capel Inc.
Nieuw Amsterdam Defines "Premium"
The second in the Signature-class series of vessels, Nieuw Amsterdam's décor features stylized design elements from its namesake New York City, luxurious appointments and amenities as well as all the hallmarks of the Holland America brand.
Following its naming in Venice, Nieuw Amsterdam will sail several 12-day Mediterranean cruises, then embarks on an autumn trans-Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean, and will sail seven-day eastern and western island itineraries from November 2010 through March 2011.
04-26-10 British Cruise Line Imposes Fuel Supplements Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has announced that, due to the current high price of oil, it will be introducing a fuel supplement, applicable to all new bookings from Wednesday 5th May 2010. The supplement will be £3.00 per person per cruise night ($4.63) , to a maximum of £60 per person, and �1.50 per person per cruise night for third and subsequent occupants of a cabin, to a maximum of £30 ($46.30) per person.
The charges will apply to all bookings made on departures featured in Fred. Olsen's 2010/11 Worldwide brochure and the 2011 Preview brochure.
Fred. Olsen also announced that, should the price of Brent crude oil fall back to £45 per barrel or below, averaged across the month prior to date of departure, the fuel supplement will be refunded to the passenger in the form of on board spending credit.
These fuel supplements are non-commissionable for travel agents.
Significantly, they only apply to new bookings while many U.S. cruise lines have reserved the right to impose fuel supplements on exisiting bookings - althoughthat does not mean they necessarily will do so.
04-23-10 Volcanic Fallout for Cruise Lines All the airline delays and cancellations created by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland have disrupted the flow of passenegers coming and going to cruise ships on both sides of the Atlantic.
European-based cruise ships set sail absent hundreds of North American passengers unable to get aboard overly crowded flights as the backup of grounded passengers slowly settles. Caribbean based ships missed thousands of European passengers who were unable to get to North American ports in time for scheduled sailing dates in the Caribbean.
At least one cruise line offered a full 100$ refund, Royal Caribbean, who announced that guests sceduled to travel on cruises departing April 19 but unable to meet the ship due to airport closures will recieve a 100% Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise fare paid. Those who purchased air through Royal Caribbean receive a refund of their air fare.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines provided for hotel accommodations for 257 passengers who had disembarked from Braemar on April 17th and were unable to return to the UK from Barbados.
Princess offered passengers a per diem onboard credit for the number of days missed for passengers who were able to catch up with their ships at later ports.
04-22-10 Mariner of the Seas Leaving California 2008 was the year several cruise lines gambled on the burgeoning Mexican Riviera route with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean repositioing two of their larger ships to California permanently. For both a long trip around South America was required. Now, the larger of the two ships, the largest on the West Coast, will be returning to the Florida and eventuially the Mediterranean cruise regions.
Mariner of the Seas will leave Los Angeles in January 2011 and offer a short South America season before debuting in the Mediterranean as Royal Caribbean's record-setting 11th ship in the region for summer 2011. Mariner of the Seas will homeport at Rome (Civitavecchia) from March through October 2011, replacing Splendour of the Seas, which will now homeport in Venice, offering 10- and 11-night Greek Isles and Turkey itineraries for the season.
Mariner of the Seas will then return to North America for the 2011-12 winter season, offering seven-night Western Caribbean itineraries from Galveston, Texas, replacing Voyager of the Seas. As a result, Voyager of the Seas will herald Royal Caribbean's return to New Orleans in winter 2011-12, offering vacationers another Gulf Coast port to embark on a memorable seven-night Western Caribbean cruise.
Royal Caribbean says the Mexican Riviera has traditionally been an important market for them, with the Port of Los Angeles and Mexican government agencies playing a supportive role as valued partners. So, while Royal Caribbean International looks forward to returning to the region in the future, Mariner of the Seas will sail its final round-trip Mexican Riviera itinerary from Los Angeles on January 9, 2011.
Guests currently booked on Mariner of the Seas' Mexican Riviera sailings from January 16, 2011, and onward will be contacted with the following offer. Until May 6, 2010, affected guests can opt for a full refund of any fares paid, or enjoy $200 onboard credit per stateroom ($400 per suite category stateroom) when they rebook their vacation, at the same fare or lower prevailing fare, on a Mariner of the Seas sailing before January 16, 2011, or on the same 2011 departure date aboard Voyager of the Seas, sailing from Galveston.
On January 16, 2011, Mariner of the Seas will sail from Los Angeles on a 16-night itinerary to Valparaiso, Chile, followed by a 14-night voyage that cruises the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America to Sao Paulo (Santos), Brazil. The ship will then offer a short Brazilian cruise season, before crossing the Atlantic to debut in Europe at its new seasonal homeport of Rome (Civitavecchia.
Mariner of the Seas will sail seven-night Western Mediterranean and 12-night Mediterranean Holy Land and Mediterranean Egypt itineraries. In November 2011, Mariner of the Seas will debut at Galveston to offer Texas vacationers two roundtrip seven-night Western Caribbean itineraries through April 2012. Mariner of the Seas' new 2011 Europe and South America, and 2011-12 Western Caribbean itineraries, Splendour of the Seas' new 2011 Europe itineraries, and Voyager of the Seas' new 2011-12 Western Caribbean itineraries will be opened for booking in the near future.
Guests aboard Mariner of the Seas' new 2011 Holy Land itineraries can choose a variety of shore excursion options, at an additional charge, that visit some of the most sacred sites in Israel, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and many others. "Grand Overland" takes guests on the most comprehensive overview of this fascinating region with an overnight stay in Jerusalem. On the Egypt cruises, "Grand Egypt Tour" offers guests a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the awe-inspiring Pyramids and mysterious Sphinx at Cairo, and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
04-20-10 Volcano Roars Again - Cruise Lines Affected Just When British Air had announced it was set to resume a near regular schedule at 7:00 PM this evening the Icelandic volcano spewed a new ash cloud into the spreading southeast towards England.
The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) of Britain put out an announcement saying:
IN cruise related news - The brand new Celebrity Eclipse, scheduled for her naming ceremony in Southampton on April 24th has now cancelled the first part of her launch celebrations - scheduled to begin on April 22 - in order to assist U.K. travelers whose return from their Easter break has been halted due to the impact of the volcano in Iceland.
Celebrity Cruises is working with U.K. tour operators to collect these stranded vacationers affected by the airport closures and subsequent flight cancellations.
Celebrity Eclipse will arrive in Southampton as scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, and will depart that evening to Bilbao, Spain, where she is scheduled to arrive in the early hours of Thursday, April 22. Stranded travelers will join the ship throughout Thursday morning. The ship will return to Southampton, arriving late Friday evening. This sailing will replace the activities planned during the two-night, round-trip launch celebration cruise from Southampton.
Celebrity Cruises is working to accommodate guests who were originally scheduled to join the two-night launch celebration sailing on April 22 so they may now attend the two-night naming celebration cruise on April 24 April. Celebrity Cruises will contact all affected guests directly.
Royal Caribbean Cancellations:The closure of the U.K., Irish and northern European airports affected around 6 percent of guests trying to join Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International or Azamara Club Cruises vessel globally. This includes both those trying to complete return travel at the end of a cruise, or journeys to a ship to embark on a cruise.
Guests booked on a fly/cruise package directly with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International or Azamara Club Cruises, who were unable to join their sailing, are being offered alternative travel arrangements to join the ship mid-cruise, if possible. If this cannot be achieved, guests are being offered a full refund of their cruise fare in the form of a future cruise credit or an alternative fly/cruise. Fly/cruise guests who booked with a tour operator, and not directly with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., should contact their booking partner.
Cunard Update: Meanwhile, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is sailed to sail to the United States from Southampton on Thursday and it already has a waitlist of 1000 additional guests who want to join the ship rather than risk waiting for flights out of the UK to the U.S.
While the ship is currently already fully booked, it is very possible that many of the booked passengers will not be able to fly in to the U.K. to join the ship in time, and so many of those on the waiting list will be permitted to sail in their place.
04-19-10 Alaska Lawmakers Cut Cruise Ship Taxes The House of the Alaska state Legislature passed the cruise ship tax reduction bill last night (Sunday), while the Senate accepted with House changes without debate. The bill still needs to be signed by the Governor Parnell, but that i sbelieved to be a sure thing since he initiated the bill in the first place.
The bill the House passed Sunday will lower the head tax from $46 a passenger to $34.50, and allow deeper offsets for ships stopping in at least one of two ports, Juneau and Ketchikan. These chances are the basis of the agreement with the Alaska Cruise Association's to drop the lawsuit they filed against the state over the tax - approved by voters approved in 2006.
But debate between the two port cities that levy their own ffsets almost sank the bill in the house. Juneau and Ketchikan; each with head taxes, $8 and $7, respectively, will now get a piece of the state taxes, along with their local fees.
How soon this bill wil impact cruising in Alaska remains to be seen. Carnival Corp CEO Micky Arison has alrwady said it is too late to change 2011 schedules, but he could not speak for other cruise lines. In fact, last minute itinerary changes are not that unusual.
04-16-10 Celebrity Cruises Takes Delivery on Celebrity Eclipse elebrity Cruises today celebrates achieving "a perfect 10," as the third in series of five Solstice Class ships it brings Celebrity's fleet total to 10. Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of the brand's parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Celebrity's President and CEO Dan Hanrahan yesterday participated in a shipboard ceremony marking the transfer of ownership of Celebrity Eclipse from shipbuilder Meyer Werft to Celebrity Cruises.
On the heels of a series of promotional activities in Hamburg, Germany, and Southampton, England, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Eclipse will be formally named in ceremonies April 24, and will enter service April 26, presenting a series of sailings roundtrip from Southampton to the Mediterranean, Russia and Scandinavia throughout the summer. The stylish new ship will offer Caribbean sailings from the Port of Miami beginning this winter.
Celebrity's fleet currently consists of 10 ships. Its $3.7-billion investment in building five stylish Solstice Class ships between 2008-2012 represents the largest five-year investment in premium cruising. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit www.celebritycruises.com.
04-16-10 Volcanic Ash Still Disrupting European Flights The European cruise season is not in full swing yet, but the riverboats are already running and Mediterranean cruises are sailing. If you are scheduled to fly to Europe soon you had better be tracking the following:
Ash from the volcanic eruption in Iceland has halted air traffic across Europe for a second day, Friday, with almost 17,000 flights to be canceled, according to air traffic control officials. Instead of the usual 28,000 flights, Eurocontrol expects some 11,000 flights to take off, but also expects flight interruptions to last another 24 hours or more. Eurocontrol manages European air travel.
The ash has shut down some of Europe's busiest airports including Heathrow in London, and Amsterdam. Only emergency flights are allowed over much of the U.K.s airspace until Saturday 1 a.m. (8 p.m. ET Friday), according to Britain's air traffic authority. Airports in three major German cities�Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf are also shut down.
Only certain flights have permission to take off in Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as some North Atlantic air travel. Airports began closing after the eruption the previous Wednesday beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland - spewing ash into the air high enough to affect commercial flights. Volcanic ash can cause jet engines to malfunction and shut down.
Experts do not know when the ash will subside and when consistent normal air travel in Europe will resume. As of Friday the volcano was still erupting. This Wednesday has been mentioned as a target date.
04-16-10 NCL Offering $99 Kid's Fares in Three-Day Sale Kid's cruise on Norwegian from $99 each when booked as third through eight guests on select 2010 sailings for new reservations made now through May 31, 2010. Latitudes members (past guests) can book three days erlier, starting on Friday, April 16, 2010. In addition, reduced cruise deposits are offered on new summer bookings from now through May 2, 2010. Norwegian will announce several other promotional offers over the six-week Summer Blockbuster event which ends on May 31.
Guests can experience the ultimate summer vacation on any of Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising ships to popular destinations such as: Alaska; Canada & New England; Bahamas & Florida; Bermuda; the Caribbean; Hawai'i and Europe.
On April 24, 2010, Norwegian Jewel will begin offering its exclusive Nickelodeon at Sea activities and shows on board each and every cruise year-round, in addition to all the current on-board programming already offered. This programming will also be available on Norwegian Epic when the ship launches this summer. Hints of Nickelodeon will be discovered ship-wide with programs that include signature Nickelodeon activities, popular characters and interactive game shows the entire family can enjoy together.
Specifically, Nickelodeon will offer its Slime Time Live! and Nick Live! Poolside interactive shows; Story Time with Dora where guests are invited to gather around to hear stories about some of their favorite Dora the Explorer characters; Dora's Dance Party where kids will join Dora and the Nickelodeon cast to dance and sing along with all of Dora's favorite party songs; character breakfasts; meet and greets around the ship with Nickelodeon characters; Nickelodeon-themed arts and crafts, along with special enhancements to Norwegian's Kids Crew programming.
For more information on Norwegian or to book a cruise, call 866-234-7350, visit www.ncl.com or phone a travel professional.
04-15-10 Azamara Offering New $500 Onboard Credit Per Booking Azamara Club Cruises special offer of 2-for-1 fares on all sailings through March 2011 now includes an onboard spending credit of $500 per booking, as well as a $500 per-person ChoiceAir credit.
The new offer applies to bookings for Azamara Club Cruises' European voyages from April 25 through November 10, 2010 on Azamara Journey and voyages from May 3 through November 20, 2010, on Azamara Quest.
The offer is applicable to new, individual bookings in North America only, in all categories with the exception of Club Interior staterooms.
New, inclusive amenities just introduced this month:
Now, guests sailing on every voyage of Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest will be offered complimentary, vintage red and white wines from boutique vineyards around the world at lunches and dinners; bottled water, sodas, specialty coffees and teas, whether in public venues or in staterooms and suites; housekeeping, dining and bar staff gratuities; shuttle bus service to and from port communities, where available; destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs; specialty dining in the intimate specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina (complimentary for suite guests; stateroom guests are charged a $15 per person cover); true English butler service in suites; self-service laundry, and concierge services.
Among the European destinations in which guests sailing with Azamara Club Cruises can immerse themselves this year are nine first-time locations for the brand:
Azamara Club Cruises presents overnight stays in Europe this year in Florence (Livorno), Sorrento, and Venice, Italy; St. Petersburg, Russia; Barcelona, Spain; Stockholm, Sweden; Istanbul, Turkey; Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland; London (Greenwich), England; Bordeaux, France; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Late-night stays (departing at 10 pm or later) are featured in 21 European ports this year, including Dubrovnik, Croatia; Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt; St. Tropez, France; Volos, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, Greece; Dublin, Ireland; Ashdod and Haifa, Israel; Ravenna and Trieste, Italy; Valetta, Malta; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Kotor, Montenegro; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Lisbon, Portugal; Gijón, Spain; and Bodrum and Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey.
For more information, consumers are invited to call 1-877-999-9553. Travel Professionals are encouraged to dial 1-877-222-2526. Or, visit the Azamara Club Cruises web site at www.azamaraclubcruises.com.
04-15-10 Royal Caribbean Offering Mega-ship Short Cruises in 2011 The second largest class of cruise ship in the world, the very popular Liberty of the Seas, will return to South Florida in November and offer two five-night and a four-night short Western Caribbean itinerary from Port Everglades. Sister-ship Freedom of the Seas will alternate seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean roundtrip itineraries year-round from Port Canaveral, Fla., and feature a five-night pre-holiday getaway to the Western Caribbean on December 18 and a nine-night New Year's celebration cruise on December 30.
Liberty of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas boast an array of amenities that helped revolutionize the cruise industry, including the FlowRider surf simulator, the H20 Zone water park, a boxing ring, cantilevered whirlpools, and the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Presidential Family Suite that sleeps up to 14.
The world's largest cruise ships; the innovative Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas will continue their alternate seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Port Everglades, but Allure of the Seas will sail a special nine-night Eastern Caribbean holiday itinerary departing December 25, 2011, which features an additional call at Labadee and an extra day at sea to herald in the New Year.
The following sailing on January 3, 2012, offers a unique opportunity to sample an Oasis-class vacation on a five-night Western Caribbean itinerary, calling at Falmouth and Labadee. Or vacationers can combine the two sailings into a 14-night grand holiday voyage aboard the world's largest and most innovative cruise ship.
The smaller Jewel of the Seas will offer vacationers two five-night and a four-night Western Caribbean itinerary from Tampa, convenient to Southeasterners. Year-round, Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas will offer three- and four-night short Bahamas itineraries from Miami and Port Canaveral, respectively.
04-00-10 Holland America Statendam Completes $Multi-million Upgrade Holland America Line's ms Statendam departed Fort Lauderdale fresh from a stem-to-stern, multi-million dollar Signature of Excellence upgrade in a dry dock at Freeport, Bahamas. The 1,260-guest ship received a host of new facilities and features including new stateroom furnishings and bathroom upgrades; Canaletto, a complimentary Italian eatery; the sophisticated Showroom at Sea; and the stylish lounge called Mix, which combines three distinct bars into one area.
"With Statendam completed, we now have four ships sailing with these exciting enhancements," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "Our on-going commitment through Signature of Excellence means that our guests enjoy the finest amenities and the latest in programming, technology, activities and trends that premium cruisers seek today."
Statendam is the fourth ship in a series of five to receive extensive Signature of Excellence upgrades; the ms Veendam, ms Rotterdam and ms Ryndam refits are now complete. Maasdam is scheduled to receive upgrades in April 2011.
Public Areas Feature Latest Innovations During the Dry Dock
Canaletto, a complimentary, casual Italian restaurant, was added to ms Statendam and comes to life for dinner when a section of the Lido is transformed with glass partitions and an Italian ambiance with dishes such as putanesca and penne alla vodka. Although there is no charge to dine in the alternative venue, reservations are suggested. To create a more open, engaging environment for guests during evenings, Statendam underwent the reconfiguration of the existing Casino and Piano bars into Mix, a multi-themed area with three separate bars: Martinis, Champagne and Spirits & Ales, serving their namesakes. The high-energy Casino was redesigned and the main show lounge was transformed into the Showroom at Sea with the ambiance of a glamorous nightclub and several new shows. An upscale luxury jewelry shop called Merabella was added mid-ship to the completely renovated main shopping area with its Signature jewelry and watch boutiques. Other public areas around the ship also were refurbished and received new carpeting.
Staterooms Receive New Look and New Spa Category Added
Completing the enhancements, Statendam's staterooms received new carpeting, soft goods and completely renovated bathrooms with new vanities and cabinetry. Sixteen staterooms near the Greenhouse Spa (on Verandah Deck) became "spa staterooms" featuring a variety of enhanced amenities. Each offers exclusive items such as organic cotton bathrobes and slippers, a yoga mat, a soothing water feature, special room service menus and treatments, and more.
Explorations Team Expands the Exclusive Activities
Today's premium cruiser seeks enriching experiences and engaging activities. Ever responsive to guests' needs, Holland America Line broadened its onboard programming aboard Statendam and all ships with the Explorations Team � staff with specific, niche expertise ranging from technology to travel, who offer guests a range of programs to educate and entertain guests. The onboard Party Planner will host Explore Food & Entertaining events in the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine Magazine, significantly expanding the innovative program which brings more than 70 culinary experts on board each year in addition to classes and demonstrations on every sailing. As the destination expert on board under Explore Our World, the Travel Guide will give dynamic multimedia presentations about the ship's itinerary and be a one-stop source for port-of-call information. The Techspert will offer Explore Technology classes and Digital Workshops powered by Windows, where guests can learn how to blog, work with digital photos, arrange a digital scrapbook, create a slideshow or edit a movie. Leading Explore Wellbeing, the LifeStylist will offer new entertainment, fitness and sport activities. On cruises lasting 14 days or more, the Librarian also leads a book club.
Signature of Excellence tops $525 Million
The industry-leading Signature of Excellence initiative is an on-going and comprehensive program that touches every aspect of the Holland America Line experience and the investment now exceeds $525 million. Signature of Excellence features and amenities offer guests more luxurious accommodations, enhanced dining experiences, more enriching activities and exceptional levels of service.
04-14-10 Alaska Settlement Gets Closer A Senate panel in the Alaska state legislature has approved new legislation to lower Alaska's head tax on cruise ship passengers. If the measure goes on to pass the full senate and house of the Alaska state government then the cruise industry has agreed to drop a lawsuit it brought contending cruise lines had been unfairly singled out for taxation.
The bill is intended to lower the head tax from $46 to $34.50 a person, and reduce specific port taxes levied by various Alaskan cities.
While it may seem like $50 per person is not a lot to add to the price of a cruise, the curise lines have contended that in many cases it has meant the difference between aving a profitable vs.a break-even cruise.
Specifically, about 75% of the tax was supposed to be earmarked for the benefit cruise and tourism related projects in the state, but the cruise lines contend the only money that has been spent is the remaining 25%. That is the portion of the tax that is now scheduled to be rescinded.
This tax revision impetus was sparked by a visit to the recent SeaTrade cruise conference in Miami by the governor of the state of Alaska where he met with cruise industry leaders.
04-12-10 $200 Ship Credit on MSC Canada/New England Cruises Guests booking a fall foliage cruise with MSC Cruises by May 30 receive a shipboard credit of up to $200 per stateroom for use on Canada/New England 2010 cruises onboard MSC Poesia.
U.S. and Canadian guests departing on cruises from New York City or Quebec City on these inaugural Canada/New England cruises receive up to a $100 shipboard credit per person (maximum of $200 per stateroom).
Vacationers will discover the colonial history of the New England coast, experience the French charm of Quebec, and explore the quaint ships and beauty of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
The shipboard credit can be used on six, seven, nine, 10, 13, 14, 17, and 19-night Canada/New England cruises.Highlights of some cruises include:
Extended-stay hotel packages are available. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit www.MSCCruisesUSA.com, call 877-665-4655, or contact a local travel professional.
04-12-10 Famous Yachtswoman as Celebrity Eclipse Godmother Celebrity Cruises today announced the appointment of Emma Pontin, an inspirational UK-based yachtswoman, to serve as Godmother of Celebrity Eclipse, the third in a series of five stunning Solstice Class ships. Pontin will name the ship in Southampton, England, during the ship's formal naming ceremony April 24, which will conclude with a magnum of champagne, custom-made by The Corning Museum of Glass, commemoratively crashing against the hull of the 2,850-guest ship.
Pontin began her career as an ocean-racing yachtswoman in 2002 when she crewed on her first Challenge Transatlantic race with only one week's sailing experience. Her devotion to the sport grew to the point that, in 2006, she was selected to skipper a yacht for the ARC Transatlantic race. But, prior to the start of the race, Pontin was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to immediately return to the UK for a mastectomy, which culminated in a double mastectomy for precautionary measures.
Celebrity Cruises selected Pontin to serve in the revered role of Godmother in recognition of her positive and empowering fight against the disease, from which both her aunt and grandmother died. Throughout her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she continued to sail, instruct and race, and even went on to skipper several major races during the following 12 months, including the Fastnet and the Sydney-Hobart race.
"Emma is an outstanding individual with an incredible zest for life, and is an inspiration to women from all walks of life," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman of Celebrity Cruises and Chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Her determination to make every day count, her courage, and her positive attitude amidst challenging sailings, even during times of adversity, is tremendously inspiring for other women and their families who are, or have similarly, faced this disease."
"We are honored to have such a strong and energetic role model serve as Godmother of Celebrity Eclipse; someone whose candid and open approach has helped so many others understand the day-to-day battle against breast cancer," said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "Her personal triumph over the disease and her continued commitment to raise awareness through sailing is an inspiration and encouragement to thousands of women and their families in the UK and beyond."
In addition to surviving breast cancer, Pontin's numerous life and sailing achievements include logging more than 100,000 nautical miles and completing 15 transatlantic races, some of which are considered the most grueling sailing challenges in existence. During her treatment, BBC Radio followed Pontin's story as part of their "100 Lives" project, to highlight her courageous fight. During this period, she chronicled, in diary format, her battle against the disease, in what ultimately became a book, Beating the Blowfish.
"I am hugely honored and believe that serving as the Godmother of this wonderful ship is truly one of the greatest compliments to be bestowed on me," said Pontin. "I look forward enormously to taking up my duties in presiding over and naming this ship during what is one of the most important dates in a ship's life. It is extremely flattering to be recognized for what came naturally to me when fighting breast cancer, and I hope that through this association with Celebrity Cruises, I will continue to inspire and encourage many others. I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to name Celebrity Eclipse in one of the UK's sailing capitals."
Pontin is currently mounting her next big challenge: a full circumnavigation of the world (30,000 miles), with a planned departure from London in October 2011 to raise funds for, and global awareness of, breast cancer. Her team will be comprised of a small number of experienced sailors, combined with a crew of 42 selected members of the public, all of whom have had a very personal relationship with breast cancer.
And, on April 24, as part of the Celebrity Eclipse naming celebrations, the first "Celebrity Sunwalk" sponsored by Celebrity Cruises will see thousands of women, men and families walking through Southampton in decorated bras helping to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. The walk will begin and end in Mayflower Park, where Celebrity Eclipse will create a sensational backdrop for visitors while they watch the live broadcast of the ceremony on a big screen.
Celebrity Eclipse enters service April 26 from Southampton on a three-night Paris (Le Havre) cruise, then returns to Southampton to embark on the ship's official maiden voyage departing April 29 with a short 4-night cruise to Cork (Cobh), Ireland. The ship will present a series of Mediterranean and Russia and Scandinavian cruises throughout the summer, and will offer Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beginning this winter.
04-10-10 AARP Selects Norwegian Cruise Line As A Preferred Cruise Line Provider AARP and Norwegian Cruise Line today announced a new relationship that will give AARP members access to special rates on the cruise line's fleet of Freestyle Cruising ships, including the line's newest and most innovative ship, Norwegian Epic and the rest of the fleet which sails to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, Bermuda and more.
"AARP members live active lives and want options when it comes to travel," said John Wider, president and chief executive officer of AARP Services, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of AARP. "Cruising is popular among our members, so we are pleased to make more options available to them through this new relationship with Norwegian Cruise Line."
When booking a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, AARP members will receive a five percent savings for reservations made at least nine months prior to sailing. Norwegian also is making available a limited time offer to AARP members who book a cruise from April 1 through April 30, 2010 for travel anytime in 2010. The offer includes a $50 on-board credit per stateroom and a 50 percent reduced deposit on select cruises to Bermuda, Canada & New England, Western Mediterranean and the Bahamas from New York.
"When looking at travel options, AARP members should consider the incredible vacation experience that cruising offers," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. "Add to that our signature Freestyle Cruising experience, along with the newest, most contemporary ships at sea, and I am confident that AARP members will have the vacation of a lifetime when choosing to sail with us."
Norwegian Cruise Line's Freestyle Cruising experience gives guests the opportunity to customize their cruise vacation to suit their needs. This includes the choice of up to 21 restaurants offering traditional and contemporary options and a wide variety of cuisine styles; a variety of amenities including world-class entertainment; and the widest selection of accommodations at sea, including more family-friendly interconnecting staterooms and suites than anyone else.
For more information on Norwegian Cruise Line or to book a cruise, AARP members should call Norwegian at 866-953-1936 or visit www.ncl.com/aarp and provide proof of membership at the time of booking.
04-08-10 Disney Creates Gourmet Restaurant Concept for New Ship Disney Cruise Line debuts Remy � an exquisite, top-deck restaurant with incredible ocean views, its first-ever premier dining option with French-inspired, gourmet cuisine by two award-winning chefs on the Disney Dream. Remy melds classic and contemporary styles in a sophisticated new dining concept exclusively for adults.
Chef Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin two-star restaurant just outside Reims, France, and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World Resort, are collaborating to create a French-inspired menu featuring superior products and seasonal ingredients sourced from around the world.
"Remy, a first-of-its-kind onboard experience, takes Disney Cruise Line dining to new heights," said Ozer Balli, vice president, Disney Cruise Line Hotel Operations. "The extraordinary success of Palo on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder encouraged us to create this elegant, upscale and even more intimate dining experience for the Disney Dream."
Dinner at Remy is a lavish and leisurely affair, starting with a signature chilled Champagne cocktail, followed by eight to nine small courses complemented by a stellar wine list.
Lallement's cuisine is simple and stylish, such as roasted lobster with cream, and fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. Hunnel's innovative dishes offer small tastes of everything from wild caviar to Kobe beef and Japanese Wagyu strip loin. His cuisine earns Victoria & Albert's the coveted AAA Five Diamonds.
For more information, photos and videos, visit the Disney Cruise Line Public Relations media Web site at www.dclnews.com
04-05-10 Art Auctioneer Park West Gallery Fights for Reputation Park West Galleries of Michigan offers art auctions onboard most cruise lines' ships, with some exceptions. Right now, the Michigan company is fighting a defamation lawsuit it filed against an Arizona art company that specializes in authenticating and registering fine art, Fine Art Registry. Park West has taken the claim to a jury trial, in its home state of Michigan. The trial, which was expected to last about two weeks is already in its third week and the plaintiff (Park West) has just finished presenting its case.
The defendant, Fine Art Registry, will begin presenting its counter argument in court today. FAR has been posting very interesting video and text updates about the trial on its web site (www.fineartregistry.com). Court watchers believe Park West chose to tackle this case before it addresses the eight separate class action lawsuits brought on by dissatisfied customers also pending against the company as part of a strategy to nullify the arguments of "provenance" (the origin of a piece of art proving its values) brought on by Fine Arts Registry. Of particular importance is a number of Salvador Dali prints that were sold on cruise ships for tens of thousands of dollars in many case. FAR has suggested the vast majority of these pieces are forgeries, basically poster quality.
Although Fine Art Registry appears to be very confident in its stand, the local Michian press is not being so kind. Park West is a hugely successful company in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Crain's Detroit Business, a local Detroit business newspaper, quoted a local professor as saying, "Because libel and defamation generally carry a tough burden of proof, the fact that it is in trial now and that it survived a motion to dismiss before trial is significant," said Robert Sedler, professor of constitutional law at Wayne State University.
The judge in the case denied a pretrial motion for dismissal by the defense Feb. 26.
"So it's win-win for Park West at this point," Sedler said, "because if it can prevail in this case, it suggests the facts that allowed it to win also present a strong defense against fraud. And if it loses, that may be due to the First Amendment and case law in this field. It might not shed as much light on other cases ... though I'm sure the attorneys will look into that."
Not everyone agrees with assessment, however. Fred Gibson, another Michigan lawyer who practices defamation and libel law, said a win for Park West would give the company momentum and suggest a strong defense in the other cases, but added that losing on defamation can have a reverse effect and make a business reconsider how aggressively it defends other lawsuits.
"I'd be concerned (if the defamation case failed)," Gibson said in Crain's. "If the cases all arise from the same basic allegations about a business's practices, they'd go hand in hand. All sides are going to pay very close attention to this outcome."
Park West is suing Fine Arts Registry for over $40 million in damages. The total amount of damages in the yet to be heared class action suits by customers against Park West amount to $22 million total.
Two cruise lines which do NOT use Park West are Princess, and Disney Cruises per a recent decision. Disney would not say the decision was tied to the lawsuits. Disney went to Ft Lauderdale's West End Gallery. It should be noted that other art galleries besides Park West have been embroiled in similar controversies. In general, CruiseMates has always said art should only be purchased if you love and it is worth the price to you. Any claims that the art will go up in value should be ignored, as investing in art is a very risky business.
Fine Arts Registry released the press release below today:
Port Huron, MI (OPENPRESS) April 5, 2010 -- Fine Art Registry begins presentation of its case against Park West Gallery after the Michigan art gallery has spent three weeks presenting its case, claiming defamation, etc. The case is clearly a classic SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit by the world's self-proclaimed "largest art gallery" against web-based company, Fine Art Registry, which has been outspoken in its criticism of the Michigan gallery's sale of inauthentic and vastly overpriced art at "auctions" primarily aboard cruise ships, and has provided advocacy and other assistance to victims of Park West Gallery's broadly questioned art and sales practices.
Park West Gallery claims that Fine Art Registry has harmed its sales and reputation by publishing reports about its art and its sales methods and by assisting individuals who were unable to obtain assistance from Park West's customer services department. Fine Art Registry claims that Park West Gallery's reputation was already so low before Fine Art Registry ever began any reports of its activities that its reputation could not be further damaged; that the reports have all been factual and truthful; that a Park West Gallery principal specifically gave permission for Fine Art Registry to continue to publish similar reports and help dissatisfied Park West customers; and that all reports and assistance have been provided only in the public interest.
The case (No. 2:08-CV-12274) is being heard in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Washington, Southern Division, in Port Huron, with Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff presiding. The case began on March 15th with the plaintiff, Park West Gallery, presenting its case. It has spent three weeks doing so, including testimony from Park West Gallery CEO Albert Scaglione, Park West Gallery director Morris Shapiro, Park West executive over the Miami division of the company, Albert Molina, three French art dealers (one based in New York) appearing by deposition, an Arizona based art dealer, art appraiser and self-proclaimed Dal� expert, Bernard Ewell, two Park West customers, their client services manager and a damages expert whose cross-examination is the last part of Park West Gallery's case presentation. They also called Fine Art Registry CEO and Publications Director as well as the owner of The Salvador Dal� Gallery as hostile witnesses.
Fine Art Registry prepares to take the stand and present its case, beginning Monday April 5th. They will present leading international Daì experts and a renowned handwriting expert to prove that Park West Gallery has been selling fake Dalì prints as well as genuine prints with fake signatures. A number of Park West dissatisfied customers and ex-employees, auctioneers and other personnel, as well as Fine Art Registry CEO, Vice-president and Publications Director and a damages expert will testify on behalf of the Defendants and Counter-plaintiffs. Witnesses are flying in from the UK and France as well as from around the USA including Hawaii to testify on behalf of Fine Art Registry.
The case is a notable SLAPP lawsuit into which Park West Gallery has poured vast amounts of money to fund a battalion of lawyers and private "investigators", so-called experts and others in an attempt to try to silence a small but vocal critic who has been trying to put an end to numerous abuses in the unregulated art market. The Park West Gallery lawsuit strikes heavily at First Amendment rights and the rights of the public to find out about the gallery's practices which have been much criticized within the art industry as well as the cruise industry. This is a real, modern day version of David and Goliath.
The case is expected to last another three weeks while Fine Art Registry presents its side of the story. It will then be up to the jury to decide. Daily video updates can be found at www.fineartregstry.com.
"This is an extremely important case for art history and for free speech," said Fine Art Registry CEO, Teri Franks. 'We are looking forward to finally being able to reveal the ugly truth behind Park West Gallery art auction sales."
The case is open to the public and the press and anyone can come and attend the trial at the Port Huron courthouse. The court is in session Monday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and on Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30 am to 4 or 4:30 pm.
For more information please see the Fine Art Registry Web site www.fineartregistry.com. For an interview with Theresa Franks or additional information, contact she can be reached at 888-595-2787 (except during court hours) or by email at email@example.com.
04-05-10 Carnival Conquest Severely Delayed on Galveston Return Conflicting reports are causing a stir at the Galveston Port Facility. Passengers returning to Galveston after a cruise to Nassau and Key West were delayed until as late as 10:00 pm Sunday (Easter night). The ship was originally scheduled to begin disembarking passengers as early as 7:00 am.
First, a heavy fog kept the ship from negotiating the channel and delayed docking until 4:30 pm. By the time the ship arrived all many of the Customs and Border Patrol officers had gone home. The ones that remained on the job, however, apparently insisted on still checking everyone coming off the ship.
One passenger quoted in the Galveston News said she was not even allowed off the ship until 8:45 pm, although The Port of Galveston police reportedly told a local television station that instead of letting everyone off the ship in groups, as is the normal procedure, Carnival cruise officials let everyone off at the same time soon after docking. That overwhelmed the system, port officials told the TV station. But that report does not agree with what the passengers onboard said.
The disembarking passengers were cleared out of their staterooms by the time the ship docked, as usual, so people on board had to wait in public areas until the ship could dock and until they could disembark. In additon, people waiting to board for the next cruise, scheduled to be onboard as early as 1:00 pm, could not board until close to midnight.
There have been ongoing negotiations with the Galveston Pilots Association for the last year, which have been at odds with the cruise lines recently.
04-02-10 Crystal Serenity Easter and Passover Events in Israel Following 22 months of planning, preparation and meetings with local dignitaries and officials, Crystal Cruises hosted its second and final shoreside event for full World Cruisers this week at Israel's 2,000-year-old Bell Caves. With strong support and cooperation from the management of Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park, the caves were reserved for the Crystal event in spite of traditionally being available only to religious visitors and tourists during Passover.
After a warm welcome to Israel from Raphael Ben-Hur, senior deputy director-general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the nearly 200 guests on the 108-day voyage were treated to several live performances, including traditional Israeli drummers and Fire Dancers, the Black Hebrew Choir and acclaimed opera singer David D'Or. They then dined on local specialties in the expansive candlelit cave.
"We invest months � sometimes years � working with our tour operator and event planning partners worldwide to create truly unforgettable events at venues that hold historical and cultural significance, as these caves do, particularly at the time of Passover," says John Stoll, director of land programs. "It was thrilling to witness our guests' surprise and delight when they saw what we arranged especially for them."
After the introductory entertainment, curtains were dramatically lifted to reveal an even more massive cave adorned with long dining tables and elaborate candelabras. One attendee raved, "This was Crystal Cruises at its best and one of the best events we have ever attended."
Many guests spent that day ashore visiting such notable sites as the Western (formerly Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, where the faithful from around the world pray during Passover week, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which expects more than 150,000 visitors this Good Friday.
On board the evening before, more than 100 Jewish guests observed the first night of Passover with an extravagant traditional seder meal, blessed by a rabbi and served in Prego, the award-winning ship's Italian specialty restaurant. Religious services and an Easter brunch will also be held aboard Crystal Serenity this weekend.
Every Crystal World Cruise features two shoreside events exclusive to travelers taking the full World Cruise. For 2010, the first event was held last month at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 racing arena, and featured exhilarating demonstrations from professional drivers along with an elegant reception.