News Archive - January 2004

1-30-04 Weekend Cruise News *** Royal Caribbean is naming its New Jersey port Cape Liberty. RCI is developing a cruise facility at the former Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal peninsula, now called The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor; a 430-acre, man-made peninsula that extends into New York Harbor. The port is a 15-minute drive from Newark airport and easily accessible from the New Jersey Turnpike. "Cape Liberty Cruise Port is a fitting name as our guests will begin and end their vacations with a marvelous view of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan" said Adam Goldstein, executive vice president, Brand Operations, for Royal Caribbean. Voyager of the Seas and Nordic Empress will homeport at Cape Liberty starting this May to October. Voyager of the Seas sails alternating five-night Canada and nine-night Caribbean cruises while Nordic Empress offers alternating six-night and eight-night Bermuda itineraries. Royal Caribbean will operate out of existing structures for the immediate future. Long-term plans call for construction of a new cruise terminal and supporting facilities.

*** Royal Olympic Cruise Lines Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Greece for its remaining subsidiaries. While reorganization discussions continued, Royal Olympic said the subsidiaries might be forced to cease operations. Olympia Countess went to auction in Durban, South Africa on Thursday. So far, bids for the ship have been very low and the vessel remains unsold.

*** The design of Pride of Aloha will embody the history, art and culture of Hawaii and will include the first Bishop Museum Collection at Sea. Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts has worked with NCL. "We wanted to give the ship a sense of place, of history, of the diversity that is Hawaii," Philpotts said. "When people get off the plane they also want to know two things - 'where are the beaches and where are the waterfalls?' So we incorporated the beautiful, natural surroundings of Hawaii into the overall design." Public rooms on board feature artwork and memorabilia from Hawaiian history and include the Kumu A`o Cultural Center, Blue Hawaii Night Club, Outrigger Lounge, Mark Twain Library, Captain Cook's Bar and Cigar Club, the Plantation Club and a sports bar inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, the four-time Olympic swimming winner and world renowned surfer. Hawaiian cuisine will be available in the Pacific Heights alternative restaurant, one of six restaurants on board. Currently sailing as the Norwegian Sky, the vessel will enter drydock in San Francisco on May 17 emerging as the Pride of Aloha in June. She begins weekly sailings form Honolulu on July 4 calling at the four main islands featuring an overnight in Kauai, full day calls in Kona and Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, and an overnight in Maui.

*** Oceania Cruises' has announced new itineraries for Insignia including South America and Antarctica. Insignia will not call at Istanbul or Kusadasi on Greek Isles and Black Sea cruises this fall. The Turkish ports will be replaced on various itineraries by Athens, Mykonos and Santorini in Greece, Amalfi, Siracusa and Messina in Italy and Valletta on the island of Malta. Following the Mediterranean cruises, Insignia sails from Lisbon to Barbados on a 10-night transatlantic crossing departing November 13, 2004. She will then circumnavigate South America and call at Antarctica from November 23, 2004 through March 15, 2005 on the following sailings: Barbados to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, 12 nights, November 23, 2004. Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica to Valparaiso, Chile, 12 nights, December 5, 2004. Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, 17 nights, December 17, 2004 calling at Puerto Montt, Chilean fjords and glaciers, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Antarctic Peninsula, Puerto Madryn, Montevideo. Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, 15 nights, January 3, 2005 reverse January 18, 2005 to same ports as the Dec. 17 cruise, except the Falkland Islands replace the Antarctic Peninsula. Buenos Aires to Rio (overnight on board in both ports), 12 nights, February 2, 2005. Rio de Janeiro to Manaus on the Amazon (overnight on board in both ports) 15 nights, January 18, 2005. Manaus to Barbados 14 nights, March 1, 2005.

*** Small ship operator, Glacier Bay Cruiseline, has new ownership and new plans. The line's three vessels - the 87-passenger Wilderness Discoverer, 69-passenger Wilderness Adventurer and 31-passenger Wilderness Explorer - are equipped with their own fleet of sea kayaks for passengers' use. From May through August, seven-night Inside Passage/Glacier Bay cruises sail between Juneau and either Sitka or Ketchikan, or round-trip Juneau. Special six-night Glacier Bay/Icy Strait cruises sail round trip from Juneau. Special sailings for families are offered this summer and a range of pre and post cruise options are available including land stays at Glacier Bay Lodge and a cruise of Tracy Arm. Beginning this April, the company will offer its first seven-night adventure cruises on Oregon's Columbia, Willamette and Snake Rivers, featuring kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and an included jet boat ride into Hell's Canyon. Cruises depart in April and May or September and October, with prices starting at $1,200 per person.

*** Crystal Cruises will again hold a variety of theme cruises in 2004 with special guests and lecturers on board during each sailing. The Wine and Food Festivals return along with new themes for 2004 - a Wellness at Sea Series, five art appreciation cruises offered in conjunction with Sotheby's, a Book Club cruise, and two Flavors of South America voyages delving into the history, culture, cuisine and art of the continent. Other theme cruises are devoted to the best of Jazz, Big Band, Finance & Fitness, Arts & Entertainment, as well as a Cannes Film Festival cruise and Smithsonian voyages. For a complete list of theme sailings aboard Crystal Harmony, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, see CruiseMates' Theme Cruises page.

*** Royal Caribbean's new Jewel of the Seas enters service in Europe this spring sailing 12-night Scandinavia/Russia and 12-night British Isles/Norwegian Fjords cruises from Harwich, England. Jewel is the fourth of RCI's Radiance-class ships. Starting in May, sister ship Brilliance of the Seas will sail 12-night Mediterranean/Venice and 12-night Mediterranean/Greek Isles cruises from Barcelona. The third RCI ship in Europe for 2004, Splendour of the Seas, sails seven-night Mediterranean itineraries from Barcelona. Royal Caribbean's "Explorations! Ashore" program offers passengers 400 ways to experience Europe including touring The Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, toasting with glasses made from ice in Stockholm's Ice Bar, walking the beaches where the D-Day invasion took place, hiking Mt. Vesuvius near Naples, taking an off-road safari in Dubrovnik, biking through Barcelona, kayaking the fjords of Norway, and canoeing the lochs of Scotland. As part of its pre and post-cruise tour program, RCI offers the "Magical Tour of England"; an escorted tour of the English countryside, which traces the steps of Harry Potter from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The London & Paris cruisetour includes rail travel between the two cities aboard the Eurostar through the Chunnel. Back to Top

1-23-04 Weekend Cruise News *** Pride of Aloha will sport colorful hull art when she debuts in Hawaii July 4, 2004. The winning design in the hull art competition features Hawaii's symbol of welcome, the Plumeria lei. The winning entry was created by Hawaiian artist Linda Umstead who will receive a $10,000 cash award and a cruise for two aboard Pride of Aloha. Currently sailing as Norwegian Sky, the vessel will undergo a multi-million dollar remodeling in May and be reflagged into the U.S. registry. The 2,000-passenger ship sails from California to Hawaii in early June. An inaugural celebration and ship christening will take place in Honolulu on July 4th before the start of seven-day, Hawaiian island cruises.

As earlier reported, Pride of Aloha replaces Pride of America on the weekly Hawaiian sailings. Work has begun to refloat Pride of America which foundered in the shipyard at Bremerhaven last week. NCL expects the ship to be refloated within two weeks.

*** Cruises aboard Olympia Voyager and Olympia Explorer to the end of January have been officially cancelled. Royal Olympic Cruises has begun sending out refund checks or crediting the credit cards of passengers booked on cancelled sailings. The line announced it has reached an agreement with banks in Germany which allows the sale of Voyager and Explorer. It is possible that Royal Olympic will buy or charter the ships to continue published itineraries and allow the ships to be used as hotels during the Athens Olympics in August. Meanwhile, the Olympia Countess, under arrest in Durban, South Africa will be sold at auction on January 29. Royal Olympic has a new ceo. Leonidas Xanthakos replaces Yiannos Th. Pantazis who resigned following the arrest of the three ships.

*** Another European line is in urgent discussion with creditors. Festival Cruises/First European was hoping to resolve the situation this week as three of its ships are under arrest: Mistral in Marseille, European Stars in Barcelona and European Vision in Barbados. The three ships were built at Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France between 1999 and 2002.

*** Costa Cruises will welcome another new ship in 2006. The 112,000-ton 3,800-passenger vessel will be the largest in the Costa fleet and is as yet unnamed. It will be constructed by Italian builder Fincantieri for year-round Mediterranean service. Last November Costa's new flagship CostaFortuna entered service as the largest in the fleet at 105,000 tons and carrying 2,720 passengers. Sister ship CostaMagica will debut in the fall of 2004.

*** Holland America Line's fourth Vista-class ship will be named Noordam. The present Noordam is leaving HAL's fleet in November, 2004 while the new Noordam will enter service in January 2006. The four Vista-class ships are named for the four points of the compass: Noordam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam and Westerdam.

*** Carnival Cruise Lines is converting its on board photo labs to digital equipment. The line has also scheduled a beta-test of a new photo-retrieval kiosk featuring innovative "facial recognition technology" that matches a passenger's likeness with stored vacation photos and displays images on a computer screen for review. These various new technologies are creating a higher quality, faster, more user-efficient and environmentally friendly photo operation aboard Carnival's fleet. The multi-million-dollar digital photography conversion is already in place on six of the line's vessels and will be completed fleetwide by year end. Beta-testing of the photo-retrieval kiosk - the first of its kind in the cruise industry - is to begin this spring aboard the new 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle. With the new digital system, passengers can also customize their photos with colorful borders, backgrounds and other features.

*** Windstar Cruises has expanded its shore excursion program in the Caribbean to include cultural and eco tours, horseback riding, hiking, yachting, visits to private beaches, snorkeling and kayaking tours and helicopter flights. A number of special excursions are available as part of the "Romance Under Sail" program. In Nevis "Romance in Paradise" takes couples to Lovers' Beach, a secluded cove, for a picnic on the beach accompanied by a local musician or on St. Martin spend the day at an upscale resort for swimming, snorkeling or lounging by the pool. Prices for Windstar's Caribbean shore excursions range from US$22 to US$98. Prices for helicopter and ATV Safari tours are higher. Windstar Cruises will offer 34 cruises in the Caribbean in 2004 aboard the sailing ships Wind Spirit and Wind Surf sailing round-trip from St. Thomas. Information on all shore excursion programs can be found at

*** Seabourn Cruise Line has released details of its complimentary shore experiences in Europe this year. Every Seabourn cruise includes one shore experience designed to give passengers insight into the port of call and enjoy a memorable event. This year's European experiences include an evening of Moroccan music, cuisine and culture including belly dancing in Casablanca; Greek food, lively music and folk dancing in the gardens of Mon Repos Palace in Corfu; traditional afternoon tea and Madeira wine at Reid's Palace hotel in Madeira; a private evening of classical music in the torch-lit ruins of Ephesus; Roman treasures in the Bardo Museum and a private reception at Carthage; an exclusive private reception aboard the retired Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith, Scotland and a private fashion show in St. Tropez.

*** Clipper Cruise Line has redesigned its six-day culinary cruises of Northern California aboard the 138-passenger Yorktown Clipper for 2004. Headlining the California Wine and Cuisine Experience cruises are Bay Area chefs, who will host two special on board events during each cruise. Departing from Redwood City, south of San Francisco International Airport, the cruises call at coastal California and Napa Valley towns. The first evening aboard a reception is held featuring a guest pastry chef. During two days in Vallejo, passengers will be treated to a special dinner excursion aboard the restored 1915 Napa Valley Wine Train; a reception at the acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant Auberge du Soleil; a tour at COPIA - The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts; a hot-air balloon ride; and have time to explore the area's many vineyards. Also offered is a tour, private cooking demonstration, and lunch at the Culinary Institute of America's campus at Greystone � the training ground for many of Clipper's chefs. Chefs featured on the 2004 sailings include Alice Medrich, author of "Cocolat" and "Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts"; Joanne Weir, host of the "Weir Cooking�" series on PBS; Laurent Gras, executive chef at the Fifth Floor and San Francisco magazine's 2002 Chef of the Year; Robert Steinberg, co-owner of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, one of the world's premier chocolatiers; Gerald Hirigoyen, owner of the San Francisco restaurants Fringale and Pastis; Martin Yan, cookbook author and host of television's "Yan Can Cook"; and Traci des Jardins, owner of Jardiniere, also located in San Francisco. In addition, Brent Trojan, wine educator for the famed Napa Valley Wine Train, will lead discussions on pairing food and wines.

*** Chef, TV personality and author Emeril Lagasse will participate in "Shine Miami," a weekend of activities developed by Celebrity Cruises to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation, January 30-31, 2004. Chef Emeril - whose "Emeril's Miami Beach" restaurant recently opened on Collins Avenue - will make a special appearance at a black-tie gala and auction on Saturday night, at the Intercontinental Miami Hotel on Saturday, January 31, and will contribute a recipe for the evening's menu, to be prepared by the Intercontinental staff. Back to Top

1-21-04 - updated Pride of America Delayed; Ships Redeployed NCL has confirmed that Pride of America will be delayed entering service due to the foundering of the vessel this week in Bremerhaven. Pride of Aloha will be introduced early to replace Pride of America on one week Hawaii sailings from Honolulu beginning July 4. Currently sailing as the Norwegian Sky, Pride of Aloha will undergo a multi-million dollar remodeling in May and be reflagged into the U.S.registry to assume Pride of America's itinerary. The 2,000-passenger Pride of Aloha sails from California to Hawaii in early June with an inaugural celebration and ship christening on July 4th in Hawaii.

Passengers booked on Pride of America will be re-booked on Pride of Aloha. Pride of Aloha's three and four-night Hawaiian cruises which were to begin this October have been cancelled. Passengers booked on those sailings will receive an offer to move to the Pride of Aloha's new schedule. Once the delivery date of Pride of America is known, NCL will announce the itineraries for both ships.

NCL's parent company, Star Cruises, has transferred SuperStar Leo to replace Norwegian Sky on Alaska sailings from Seattle next summer. At 77,000 tons, Leo is the largest ship in Star Cruises' Asian fleet. Passengers booked on Norwegian Sky will be transferred to an equivalent or superior cabin aboard SuperStar Leo and receive a $25 per person shipboard credit. Back to Top

1-16-04 Weekend Cruise News *** Norwegian Cruise Line expects to refloat Pride of America this weekend. The vessel has been resting on the bottom and listing 15 degrees starboard at Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany since Wednesday night. The 72,000-ton ship took on water up to deck three at around 12:30am Wednesday during a severe winter storm. Three people slightly injured during the sinking were taken to hospital. A total of 14 workers were on board at the time of the incident. Pride of America was to be delivered in April to NCL America and christened on July 4 in Honolulu, her home port for year-round cruises to the Hawaiian Islands. Divers are already investigating the sinking. The extent of damage and exact cause of the incident will be determined after the ship is refloated.

NCL's Norway is berthed next to Pride of America and was not damaged during the storm. Norway is being used as a training ship for the American crew who will operate the NCL America ships in Hawaii. There is still no word from NCL on the future of the Norway which was badly damaged during a boiler explosion last May.

*** Star Cruises, parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America has announced a rejuvenation plan for its Asian fleet. Star is selling aging Star Cruises ships and replacing them with mid-size NCL vessels. The first to go is SuperStar Capricorn, built in 1973 as the Royal Viking Sky, which has been sold to Viajes Iberojet, S.A of Spain.

*** The government of Greece has stepped in to assist Royal Olympic Cruises which it sees as an essential part of the Greek tourism industry. Three of the Royal Olympia ships now laid up are needed as hotels during the Olympic Games in Athens this August. Olympia Explorer and Olympia Voyager are laid up in Long Beach and Ft. Lauderdale respectively while Olympia Countess remains in Durban, South Africa. The trio are to serve as hotels along with seven other cruise ships during the Athens Olympics as the city has a shortage of accommodation for the event. Reports from South Africa indicate that discussions with the Greek Embassy in Pretoria are underway for the release of the Olympia Countess.

*** Noordam will leave the Holland America fleet following her Rome to Lisbon sailing November 3 to 12. Following a major refit, the vessel will be renamed Thomson Celebration and sail in the Mediterranean under charter to Thomson Cruises of the U.K. Noordam will sail for Thomson with her sister ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam which now sails in the Med as the Thomson Spirit. HAL is promoting Noordam's European cruises from April 15 through November 3 as farewell sailings with special on board events and special pricing for past passengers of Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam. Built in 1984, Noordam is currently Holland America's smallest ship at 33,930-tons and carrying 1,214 passengers.

*** Celebrity Cruises has announced the launch of a new program, Celebrity Xpeditions, offering small-ship adventure cruising to the Galapagos Islands. The 2,842-ton, 100-passenger Celebrity Xpedition will begin sailing June 11 on 10-night Galapagos sailings. Future expeditions to the Antarctica, Arctic, Alaska and Florida are in the planning stages. Active excursions ashore are a part of the new sailings. In the Galapagos, snorkeling and hiking tours will be available while on future expeditions, passengers will have the chance to drive a Hummer in Alaska, sport fish in British Columbia or attend a race car driving school in Florida. The Celebrity Xpedition entered service in June 2001 as the Sun Bay I and has sailed under charter to various European lines. Dining venues on board include an outdoor grill featuring dancing under the stars and a main restaurant serving Celebrity's five-star cuisine. For entertainment there is a gym, spa, library, lounge with live music and a roster of enrichment lectures. "Our goal is to ultimately offer a Celebrity Xpedition on every cruise itinerary, from our year-round seven-night Caribbean product to our long, exotic European product," said Jack Williams, Celebrity Cruises President and COO.

*** Oceania Cruises' Insignia will be christened in Monte Carlo on March 28. Godmother is Virginia Watters, wife of Oceania Chairman, Joe Watters. Insignia, the former R1 of Renaissance Cruises, is undergoing a refit and sails her maiden voyage on April 3, a gala 10-day cruise from Barcelona to Athens.

*** Tahitian Princess passengers will soon have more flexibility in their air arrangements. On May 17, 2004 Princess Cruises will begin using Air Tahiti Nui as its carrier for 10-day cruises from Papeete. Passengers will fly to Tahiti aboard Air Tahiti Nui's A340-300 fleet. An advantage of the new carrier is the ability for luggage to be checked through to final destination, for those with connecting flights.

*** Windjammer Barefoot Cruises' Amazing Grace will sail to the Galapagos Islands and French Polynesia on new itineraries this year. The 94-passenger supply ship was built in Scotland in 1955 and today supplies Windjammer's fleet of sailing vessels throughout the Caribbean. This spring, Amazing Grace will head for Panama to offer 12-night sailings to Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands from June 4 to August 29, 2004. She will then sail to Tahiti to sail nine-night cruises, around the Society Islands including Tahiti, Rangiroa, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Makatea, Huahine, Fakarava, from September 27 to December 11, 2004. Positioning cruises sail from Trinidad to Panama, 15 days, May 21, 2004; Tahiti to Chile, 31 days or Tahiti to Trinidad, 60 days, November 27, 2004; Chile to Trinidad, 31 days, December 27, 2004.

*** Ports around the world are continuing to improve their facilities to attract cruise business. Jacksonville, Florida; The Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean; Shanghai, China; Barcelona, Spain and Brisbane, Australia have all recently announced they are working on new or improved cruise terminals to cope with an anticipated increase in cruise ship calls. Back to Top

1-14-04 NCL Newbuild Founders In Shipyard Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) Pride of America took on water at the ship at Lloyd Werft shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany during a large storm with high winds. The ship experienced a list of 15 degrees as water rose to deck three. NCL says the vessel will be refloated within a few days. Potential delays will be announced later. Back to Top

1-9-04 Weekend Cruise News *** Two more ships operated by Royal Olympia Cruises are being pursued by creditors. The Olympia Countess was placed under arrest in Durban, South Africa this week. The ship was sailing a season of cruises under charter to Starlight Cruises of South Africa. Starlight will fully reimburse passengers who have booked cruises, as it is too late to transfer another ship to Durban to take over the sailings. Reports indicate that the Triton was detained in Patras, Greece during her New Year's cruise. Passengers were taken by ferry to Venice and from there by coach back to Genoa, the port of embarkation and debarkation, for flights home. Several directors of the parent company have resigned and cruises of Olympia Explorer and Olympia Voyager continue to be cancelled, one at a time. Olympia Voyager sat out her holiday Amazon cruise in St. Thomas where passengers lived on board the ship, shopped and toured the island before returning to Ft. Lauderdale. Olympia Explorer is out of service, laid up at Long Beach, CA.

Passengers booked on sailings from U.S. ports are protected by The Federal Maritime Commission program which requires Royal Olympia to reimburse passengers, or credit their credit cards, for cruises that are cancelled. The FMC says the refunds will be made. However, expenses not related to the sea voyage, like air fare, hotel and transfers which are not part of the cruise fare, are not protected by the FMC program. Affected passengers should contact their travel agents and credit card companies regarding these expenses.

*** Carnival has arranged pre and post-cruise Beach Resort packages in conjunction with sailings from Jacksonville, Florida aboard Carnival Miracle, Jubilee and Celebration. Accommodation is at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Beach Club which features 508 guest rooms, six restaurants and lounges, three outdoor pools, a Cabana Beach Club, health club, tennis courts, horseback riding and five 18-hole championship golf courses, one of which is the site of the PGA Players Championship. The two- and three-night packages begin at $205 and $310 per person, respectively, based on double occupancy. The packages include Alamo rental car or round-trip ground transfers.

*** Astro-journalist Dan Benedict will be on board Seabourn Legend in the Mediterranean next May for the viewing of Come Q4 (NEAT). The comet will be more than 2.5 times brighter than Halley's Comet, last seen in 1986 and may be the most brilliant seen since Comet Hale-Bopp in 1996, the brightest in a generation. Astronomers know of none other likely to appear as bright in our lifetime. Dan Benedict is a contributor to ABC, CBS and CNN and founder of the Eye On The Sky astronomical news service. Benedict will provide commentary on comet viewing, star-watching and the night sky in general during shipboard seminars. The all-suite, 208-guest Seabourn Legend is scheduled to sail from Rome on May 9, 2004, on a seven-day itinerary expected to provide ideal conditions for viewing Q4 (NEAT). The comet is predicted to be of the first magnitude only between May 5 and 15. "One of the biggest problems for land-based stargazers is light pollution that can mask the dimmer sights in the night skies," Benedict explained. "�a ship can be many miles from most light and air pollution sources, so views of the sky found nowhere else are possible." Daylight hours aboard Seabourn Legend will include visits to Sardinia; Tunis; Sicily; Sorrento, Italy; Corsica and Monte Carlo.

*** Sir Edmund Hillary will be among the many special guests participating in the enrichment program aboard the Discovery in the South Pacific this year. Sir Edmund, best known as one of the first two men to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, will help Discovery passengers discover New Zealand, his native land. Also on board will be the Honorable Jim McLay, a former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and expert on the Pacific Basin. Discovery sails for the new company, Discovery World Cruises which specializes in destination focused, educational voyages. For more see the line's web site

*** CostaFortuna will not be sailing from Ft. Lauderdale for Costa Cruises' 2004-2005 Caribbean season as previously announced. Instead, both CostaMediterranea and CostaAtlantica will return to Florida next year. Itineraries have yet to be finalized but are traditionally alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean routes. A Costa Cruises spokesman indicated the new flagship of the fleet, CostaFortuna might sail from Ft. Lauderdale for the 2005-2006 Caribbean season.

*** Star Cruises' sister ship, SuperStar Virgo and SuperStar Leo were docked together at Singapore's HarbourFront Centre on January 7. Virgo sails regularly from Singapore on cruises to Malaysia and Thailand while Leo was on a positioning cruise, en route between Hong Kong and Fremantle, Australia where she will operate a series of cruises "down under". The reunion of the megaships is significant as Singapore was the first homeport for both SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo when they commenced operations in Asia in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The 76,800-ton ships carry 1,960 passengers and are the largest ships in the Star Cruises fleet. Back to Top

1-8-2004 Accident Victims Remembered When Right Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt, Anglican bishop of Winchester, blessed the Queen Mary 2 he also said a prayer in French for those killed and injured in the gangway accident in St. Nazaire last November. Most of the 15 who died were ship workers and their relatives on their way to tour the nearly completed Queen Mary 2 in drydock at the shipyard. Today's ceremonies also included a moving rendition of Amazing Grace. Back to Top

1-8-04 Queen Mary 2 Christened - updated With the refined fanfare worthy of royalty, Queen Mary 2 was christened today by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in Southampton. The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh were welcomed by Cunard president Pamela Conover and Commodore Ronald Warwick, master of the Queen Mary 2. The Royal couple toured the ship before naming ceremonies began. British broadcaster Michael Buerk hosted the event which was attended by 2,000 invited guests. The massed bands of the Royal Marines, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Heather Small and opera singer Lesley Garrett entertained during the ceremonies before Her Majesty gave the traditional blessing and launched a magnum of Veuve Clicqout champagne over the ship's name, on the side of the bow. Following the naming, Queen Mary 2 embarked on an overnight cruise complete with champagne reception and gala dinner.

The 150,000-ton vessel is the first new ocean liner in decades and is now officially sailing as the largest, tallest, longest, and most expensive passenger ship ever built. Too big for the Panama Canal at 1,132 feet in length and 135 feet wide, she will sail transatlantic crossings, interspersed with cruises in the Americas and Europe. Unique features on board include "Illuminations" the first planetarium at sea; the only Canyon Ranch health spa at sea which measures 20,000 sq.ft. and sprawls over two decks; the first Todd English restaurant at sea and the first Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar at sea. Like the QE2 before her, QM2 has a ship's kennel which can house a dozen pets. Shops on board include Harrods of Knightsbridge.

Security was extremely tight in Southampton this week in preparation for the naming ceremonies. Police dogs roamed the dock area and patrol boats kept a watchful eye on the harbor as part of the security efforts.

While the ceremonies went smoothly, the weather did not cooperate. A large tent protected Queen Elizabeth from the blustery and rainy weather. Back to Top

1-2-04 Weekend Cruise News *** In 2004, 12 new cruise ships and two new river boats will enter service while another seven make major changes. Here is a run down of what's happening this year:

  • Cunard Line starts the year with the much anticipated Queen Mary 2 sailing her maiden voyage January 12 and ends the year with the departure of Caronia to Saga Holidays of the U.K.
  • Costa Cruises' sends the CostaVictoria to drydock in January for a rebuild which includes the addition of 242 balconies while the new CostaMagica is due in the fall.
  • Carnival Miracle sets sail from Jacksonville Florida in February followed by Carnival Valor entering service in December. Carnival will also transfer the Jubilee to P&O Cruises Australia to sail as the Pacific Sun from October.
  • Two new river boats arrive in March - the Victoria Katarina debuts for Victoria Cruises on the Yangtze River in China while Peter Deilmann's Heidelberg sails the Moselle and Rhine.
  • Princess Cruises welcomes three ships this year: Sister ships Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess in March and June respectively and Caribbean Princess in April.
  • Holland America Line's third Vista-class ship, Westerdam enters service in April.
  • Oceania Cruises' Insignia debuts in April in Europe and sister ship Nautica (the former R5 of Renaissance Cruises) will be acquired for sailings beginning in 2005.
  • Royal Caribbean International's Jewel of the Seas, the fourth Radiance-class ship, enters service in Europe in May.
  • Radisson sold the Song of Flower last October. She will emerge after a refit as Le Diamant for the French line, Tapis Rouges Croisièers (Red Carpet Cruises) in May.
  • MSC Italian Cruises' Opera begins sailing form Genoa in June.
  • NCL America gets underway this year with the first newbuild, Pride of America entering service July 4 in Honolulu while Norwegian Sky will be renamed Pride of Aloha and begin saving form Honolulu in October.
  • The OceanBreeze, which is the former liner Southern Cross, might be saved from the breakers and end up back in Australia sailing for a new Australian cruise venture out of Fremantle. The liner entered service in 1955 for sailings from Europe to Australia and was the first modern passenger ship to have an aft funnel.

*** Two women are resting comfortably today in a Devon hospital after being taken ashore from the Queen Mary 2's Eve celebrations. They were among about 1,500 passengers, mainly friends and family of Cunard staff, on a two night cruise.

*** The Windstar fleet are ready for the new year after following the completion of upgrades to their on board facilities. The multi-million dollar fleet enhancement has updated the sailing ships to make them "just like new" said Tom Russell, Windstar's VP of Marketing and Sales. Aboard Wind Surf, Wind Star and Wind Spirit, all staterooms will have flat screen TV and DVD players as well as new soft goods. Around the ships, newly commissioned sculptures and floral displays add to the new decor. Teak decks have been reconditioned and contemporary furniture added to pool and deck areas. The fitness and spa facilities have also been upgraded with new amenities and equipment. Windstar sails in Europe, the Caribbean, transatlantic and year-round in Tahiti for 2004.

*** Holland America Line has released details of cabin upgrades which are part of the "Signature of Excellence" program. Under the $225 million initiative, all staterooms will be outfitted with Sealy Posturepedic Premium Plush Euro-Top mattresses specially designed for Holland America. Beds will be triple-sheeted with white cotton bed linens. Other soft good upgrades include new Egyptian cotton towels and waffle and terry cloth bathrobes. New amenities will include massage showerheads, 5x magnifying make-up mirrors with halo lighting and salon-quality hair dryers. A fresh fruit basket will be in every stateroom upon embarkation. All Penthouse and Deluxe Verandah suites will be outfitted with off-white duvets, fully-stocked mini-bars, personalized stationery, VCRs or DVD players and access to a video/DVD library. A new one-touch 24-hour concierge service will be available for suite guests. The Euro-Top mattresses will first be added to suite accommodations (categories PH and S) by the end of March 2004, and in all staterooms fleetwide by January 2006. All other stateroom enhancements will be added fleetwide by the end of March 2004.

*** Celebrity Cruises has signed an agreement with ESPN to broadcast live NFL games fleet wide. The games which will be shown are the Wild Card Weekend Jan. 3 and 4; the Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 10 and 11; Conference Championships on Jan. 18; and the Super Bowl XXXVIII on Feb. 1. Passengers can view the games on their in-cabin television or on screens in public areas.

*** Costa Cruises will return to Istanbul in 2004. The line had cancelled calls to Istanbul following recent terror attacks in the city however Costa ships will retain Istanbul in their Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea itineraries this year.

*** A new excursion is being created for Queen Mary 2's visits to Halifax, Nova Scotia. QM2 is scheduled to make overnight calls at the Canadian port on September 25 and October 7, 2004. An evening military show called 'Storming the Fortress' will be held at Citadel Hill, Canada's most visited National Historic Site. In festivities reminiscent of the Edinburgh Tattoo, the kilted 78th Highlanders, bagpipers, dancers, 21-gun salutes and firing of cannons will entertain the crowd. The 60- to 90-minute show is being arranged by Ambassatours Gray Line, Cunard's exclusive operator for excursions in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia.

*** The International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) issued a statement saying there are no specific threats against the cruise industry or particular cruise ships. The cruise industry increased its security following the Department of Homeland Security's recent move to threat level orange. Cruise lines have their own security measures in place and continue to work with the U.S. Coast Guard, port corporations and the Department of Homeland Security to make sure passengers enjoy a safe vacation. Back to Top

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