News Archive - January 2007

1-29-07: NCL Helping Port of Los Angeles to "Clean the Air" NCL Corporation (Norwegian Cruise Lines) and the Port of Los Angeles are working together in support of environmental issues at the cruise facilities in San Pedro. Los Angeles, once known as the smog capital of the U.S., takes its environmental issues very seriously, and the Port of Los Angeles is asking the cruise lines who use the facilities on a regular basis to voluntarily comply with certain measures to help clean the air.

NCL is one of the first to sign an agreement to comply with several specific air quality measures:

NCL's Norwegian Star, which is homeported in Los Angeles, has already been using only low-sulfur fuel (with less than 0.05 percent sulfur) since January 1st, 2007. The ship is also participating in the port's Vessel Speed Reduction Program which limits air emissions by slowing ships to 12 knots or less when within 50 nautical miles of the port.

In addition, NCL will turn off their diesel-burning engines while docked in Los Angeles and plug into cleaner, shore side electrical power, reducing air emissions while in port. This practice, more widely known as "cold ironing", means NCL will utilize Alternative Maritime Power (AMP) on its vessels when it becomes available to cruise ships at the port in 2008.

"We applaud the Port of Los Angeles for their forward-thinking environmental initiatives," said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL Corporation. "We are pleased to be in the forefront of port users in implementing the port's eco-friendly measures."

NCL has already completed the initial technical modifications necessary to allow Norwegian Star to plug into the port's AMP program. The second phase, which includes the installation of the plug-in switchboard, is scheduled to take place by the end of the year. Depending on the size of the ship, estimates are that AMP will reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) by one ton and take more than half a ton of sulfur oxides (SOx) out of the air for each day a ship is plugged in at the berth.

"The only way to clean the air in and around the Port of Los Angeles is to continue pushing the envelope in reaching new environmental agreements with our partner tenants," said Geraldine Knatz, Port of Los Angeles executive director. "We are very excited about the positive impact of this agreement and we look forward to working closely with NCL as we move forward."

Norwegian Star sails eight-day Mexican Riviera itineraries from Los Angeles January through April 2007 and October 2007 through April 2008. Back to Top

1-29-07: Queen Elizabeth 2 Deemed Safe for Hawaii Medical investigators say sanitation measures have contained the virus that had broken out on the QE 2. The ship made its way into Honolulu Harbor Sunday morning. The ship had started its world cruise in London, but when it arrived January 8 in New York, hundreds of passengers and crew came down with norovirus. The Centers for Disease Control boarded the ship in Acapulco, Mexico on January 19 to investigate and the ship made a stop in San Francisco after it was disinfected. CDC officials say measures taken by the crew when the virus broke out helped contain the virus such as stopping self-help buffets.

Several passengers gave comments to the Honolulu media:

"Over the next few weeks, we saw a few of the tables were empty at night," says passenger Diane Wilson.

Another passenger, Dr. John Clearwater, says, "the line was keeping everyone informed. They set up notices and extra hand-wash stations."

Dr. Clearwater and his wife boarded the ship in New York. They managed to stay healthy but doctors say the virus is highly contagious and many people get it through contaminated food. Dr. Philip Tierno of the NYU Medical Center says, "you start to feel a little sluggish, achy and then you might get nausea and vomiting and diarrhea."

Honolulu Harbor pier security says CDC officials were on board the ship on Sunday, but KGMB9 was unable to reach them or the ship's agent for comment. Passengers that got off the ship Sunday say it's not as bad as it sounds.

"I think the whole thing was blown out of proportion," says a passenger.

The ship is scheduled to leave Honolulu late Sunday to continue on with its world tour. Back to Top

1-28-07: Weekend News 1-28-07 *** The P & O ship Pacific Star, sailing in the south Pacific, has a bad sexual assault case unfolding in Australia involving a 16-year old girl who claims she was assaulted in a cabin by a passenger in front of two other men. A young man of New South Wales, 23, not a crewmember, was taken away in handcuffs when the ship docked in Brisbane, Saturday, and charged with possession of a dangerous drug, believed to be "ecstasy." So far, the man has not been arrested for the assault and police would not comment on whether he was linked to the sex assault allegations.

"Police can confirm they have investigated allegations of a sexual assault of a teenage girl on board a P&O Cruise vessel," a spokesman said. "The investigation will continue but at this stage, there is absolutely no evidence to charge anyone."

The story involves a "boozy top-deck theme party," according to local accounts, on Wednesday night, in which guests dressed in Hawaiian shirts and danced in conga-lines into the early hours. Witnesses claim the girl was among a number of underage drinkers, and that she left the party with the man she later accused of attacking her. She was seen later trying to jump overboard after the alleged incident and was restrained by security guards, passengers said.

As a side-note, CruiseMates noted in its last newsletter than alcohol is almost always a factor in these incidents, and that one way to vastly improve the already stellar safety factor on cruise ships is to avoid over indulgence in drinking and "partying."

P&O's reputation suffered a major blow after Brisbane mother Dianne Brimble died on the floor of a Pacific Sky cabin after taking a mix of alcohol with the drug fantasy surreptiously mixed in in 2002. She was also alledgedly raped by a non-crewmember. The company vowed drug sniffer dogs would check all passengers and surveillance cameras would be installed as part of a major security shake-up. Police sources said the latest allegations initially involved three men. As a result of the security cameras, another passenger was questioned after the cameras recorded him sitting on the top deck with friends late on Wednesday night.

He told the newspaper "Sunday Mail" that police asked about rape, drugs on board, and fist fights. "It was the worst trip I've had in my life," he commented. Rumors had swept the ship and most passengers disembarking yesterday said they had heard of the rape allegations. Many passengers said they saw the underage crowd drinking on deck that night. A Melbourne woman who went to the party said she saw security guards grab the girl in the early hours of Thursday morning as she was "up on deck and very upset and tried to throw herself overboard. Security guards grabbed her, pinned her down and she was crying on the deck."

The Pacific Star was immediately loaded for a seven-day return cruise to Noumea and Vanuatu.

*** The Queeen Mary 2 is already creating a stir in San Francisco as eager resident await the arrival next Sunday of what was recently the world's largest passenger ship. Eager residents are told the ship will arrive at about 3:00 pm, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, but that she will not dock at Pier 27 at the foot of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco until about 8 p.m. because of tidal conditions. The winter weather in the Bay can be tricky, nonetheless, the Queen will be met in the bay by fireboats spewing fountains of water, tour boats and hundreds of small craft. Even the venerable Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien, one of the oldest operating steamships in the world, will be on hand with about 800 passengers. The tickets, at $50 a pop, were snapped up weeks ago.

*** All U.S. cruise ships and all foreign cruise ships at U.S. docks will be held to a proposed set of regulations based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. The proposal is on hold pending public comment but the government should finalize it later this year. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the federal government's proposed rules would ban discriminatory practices aboard cruise vessels and would likely force all cruise ships docked in U.S. ports to become more accessible to the handicapped. International Council of Cruise Lines exec Ted Thompson said the implications of the proposal would not fully be known until any new ship design guidelines are revealed. Back to Top

1-25-07: Goodbye to Trans Fat: Royal Caribbean and Crystal Two cruise lines announced this week that they would stop using trans-fat in their cooking aboard all of their ships effective immediately. According to the National Academy of Sciences, trans fatty acids are not essential and provide no known benefit to human health. While both saturated and trans fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), trans fats also lower levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. The World Health Organization has recommended that trans fats be limited to less than one percent of overall energy intake. Back to Top

1-25-07: Queen Elizabeth 2 Hit by Norovirus The QE 2 appears to have been hit by a particularly virulent and enduring form of Norovirus. The disease normally runs it course in a victim in two to four days, but this strain appears to be highly contagious and so new passengers are getting infected continuously. The ship reported it first outbreak when it left London on January 8th to start its world cruise, and when it arrived it New York all but a few passengers had recovered. But upon embarking from New York a new strain is believed to have broken out affecting as much as 17% of the ship's population.

The CDC boarded the QE2 on Friday in Acapulco, Mexico, to investigate the infections and determined the emergency sanitation measures put in place by the QE2's crew, from disinfecting casino chips to halting self-service at the ship's buffet, were containing the outbreak. Upon arrival San Francisco the virus was said to have been well contained with all but a four people still sick, according to the cruise line. The CDC is still on the ship monitoring the situation. With the next stop scheduled for Hawaii, health officials for the 50th state are saying the ship must be proven to have contained the virus before they will allow it to enter the state. Back to Top

1-23-07 Passports Requirement for Air Travel Starts Tuesday Starting Tuesday (Jan 23rd), air travelers who are citizens of Canada, Mexico and Bermuda, as well as U.S. citizens returning home, must with few exceptions display passports to enter the United States. A second phase of the program requiring passports for entry via vehicle, cruise ship or on foot is to take effect next year.

Today's new rule brings U.S. flyers under the same rules that apply to all other travelers worldwide. Financially, resorts that rely heavily on Americans traveling spontaneously for a week or weekend abroad are expected to be most significantly affected by the change. Back to Top

1-22-07: MSC Cruises Launches Loyalty Program MSC Cruises has launched a new loyalty program to award repeat passengers called the MSC Club. MSC Club members earn points for every journey they take with MSC Cruises at the rate of one point for each night spent onboard.

"The more they travel with MSC Cruises, the more benefits they can earn, both on land and onboard. The points MSC Club members earn allow them to reach different levels of membership and, as the points increase, so do the benefits." says Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA).

MSC Club membership levels include Classic (up to 21 points), Silver (22-42 points) and Gold (43 points and over). Depending on the level, benefits include:

  • Welcome cocktail
  • Discounts on excursions
  • Discounts in all onboard boutiques
  • Discounts of 8-10 percent on cruises (restrictions, exclusions apply)
  • Silver/gold pin

    To become a member of the MSC Club, guests can complete the form found in their stateroom on their next MSC Cruises sailing or write to Back to Top

    1-22-07 Princess Ships to use Shore Power in Los Angeles Princess has signed an agreement committing to turning off the engines of its vessels when they dock at the Port of Los Angeles and "plugging in" to clean electrical power. The Port of Los Angeles' shore power capability will be available for use in 2008, and the technology is already available on the Princess ships which will call there.

    The project is similar to the shore power program Princess debuted in Juneau, Alaska in 2001 and in Seattle, Washington in 2005. Next year, the busiest port in the United States will come online with this program designed to reduce air emissions.

    The new shore power agreement is part of the Port of Los Angeles' Alternative Maritime Power (AMP) Program. Princess has been actively engaged in the development of shore power capabilities at the Port, and has provided technical support for the program. Shore power, also known as "cold ironing," enables ships to turn off their diesel engines and connect to electric power that travels to the ship from a specially designed transformer. As a result, shore-based electricity runs all onboard services during the day-long calls. Back to Top

    1-21-07 Disney Magic Moving to West Coast in 2008 The Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Magic will make the Port of Los Angeles (in San Pedro) its home port in 2008, with 12 seven-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera departing from the port from May 25 - Aug. 10, 2008. The Disney Magic was last homeported at the Port of Los Angeles in the summer of 2005. The ship received several major enhancements while in dry dock in 2006, including adding a 24-by-14 foot jumbo LED screen for poolside movies; an expanded spa and fitness center and an area designed for children ages 10-14.

    Two 15-night repositioning cruises will also be offered as the 2,700- passenger ship sails to the Port of Los Angeles from Port Canaveral, Florida and back. Back to Top

    1-20-07 Princess Cruises in Art Auction Scandal Princess Cruise Lines has been auctioning and selling fruadulent and unauthorized prints of artist's paintings, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times . So far, the incidents are limited to Princess Cruises' in-house art program. Most other cruise lines, including close sisters P&O and Cunard, are run by another company, Park West Gallery, which is not involved in the scandal.

    The "fakes" are so far associated with two specific artists; California artist Charlene Mitchell, who is known for her landscapes, nature scenes, portraits, and animal-in-action scenes, and John O'Brien. Both artists were working with a Los Angeles-based art reproduction company who sold the prints to Princess. The company, Fine Arts Treasures Gallery, in Van Nuys California, was owned by a Kristine Eubanks who is now in custody, held without bail, after a long investigation by the FBI, the IRS and the Los Angeles Police Department who seized 15 bank accounts connected to Eubanks. A source close to the investigation said several million dollars was frozen.

    Princess claims they had absolutely no knowledge there was a problem with these prints, and Eubanks is now known to have sold her fakes through many other venues as well, including eBay and her own satellite-based television show. But at the time of the purchase, Eubanks was on probation after an arrest on charges of forgery, fraud, and grand theft. She was convicted in June 2005 in Los Angeles and given three years' probation. According to court documents, Eubanks used her dead business partner's American Express to run up more than $100,000. In October, a judge revoked Eubanks' probation on the credit card fraud conviction, and she is back in prison. A federal grand jury is expected to issue a new indictment leveling charges against Eubanks for the prints she sold to Princess.

    Princess has promised to reimburse anyone who bought one of the fake prints. However, this is not the first time the Princess-connected onboard art operation has been in trouble, as an article in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times points out. There is currently a lawsuit from a couple who bought what they were told was a one-of-a-kind original painting which turned out to be one of a series of original paintings the artist was creating and Princess was selling, all of them as "one of a kind." Technically, there is nothing illegal about an artist copying his own work, but the couple who paid $71,000 for the pointing were quite upset to find an almost identical painting selling for much less on a trip to Europe. Then they also discovered the the same series was being sold on Princess ships. Back to Top

    1-20-07 Weekend News 1-20-07 *** The Queen Elizabeth 2 has become the first cruise ship in 2007 to suffer a serious outbreak of norovirus illness, with about 16 percent of passengers sickened since the ship left Southampton, England, on Jan. 2. Members of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will board the ship Friday in Acapulco, Mexico. So far 263 passengers and 27 crewmembers have shown signs of norovirus, a common ailment that causes vomiting and diarrhea for 48 to 72 hours.

    The Cunard Line ship is on a 106-night world cruise that included a stop in Fort Lauderdale last week. After a dockside meeting with Queen Mary 2, the two ships left Port Everglades on Jan. 10 on separate itineraries. Cunard spokesman Brian O'Connor said the norovirus outbreak began before the ship reached Fort Lauderdale, on its trans-Atlantic trip to New York. Cases began declining after it left New York. Four passengers were still sick on Thursday, he said.

    *** Norwegian Coastal Voyage has a limited number of cabins still available for last-minute travelers wanting to explore one of the world's last remaining frontiers -- Antarctica. All three itineraries -- the 19-day "Antarctica and Chilean Fjords," 21-day "Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands" and new 13-day "Argentina & Antarctica" -- offer round-trip flights between New York, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Ushuaia, five-star hotels and breakfast in the lively capital cities, Chilean domestic flights, selected cabin category, all meals on board, naturalist guides, Antarctica shore excursions, city orientation tours, port charges and transfers. Add-on air is available from other US gateways. AARP member savings is $150 per cabin. The sailings are aboard the 490-passenger MS Nordkapp and MS Nordnorge, both rated Ice Class C and limited to 350 passengers for these voyages.

    The soft-adventure cruises, designed for active, experienced travelers, feature naturalist guides, noted guest lecturers and PolarCirkel boat landings, and explore the pristine polar region of glaciers, huge icebergs, pack ice and abundant wildlife including gentoo and chinstrap penguin colonies, seabirds, humpback and killer whales, elephant and fur seals. The 19-day "Antarctica and Chilean Fjords" voyage offers a sixth day on the Antarctic Peninsula, and a day at Puerto Natales; the centerpiece of the 21-day "Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands," is a cruise that takes in Ushuaia, Antarctica and the isolated South Georgia and Falklands Islands, breeding grounds for millions of seabirds and home to King and other penguin species. The new 12-day "Argentina & Antarctica" combines the lively Argentinean city of the tango, Buenos Aires, with a five-day exploration of the White Continent.

    Departures for the 19-day sailings are January 31, February 7 and 14; rates are $6,235 to $9,800 per person, double. The 21-day voyage departs February 21 at prices of $6,375 to $9,975; and the 13-day itinerary leaves February 28 at fares of $4,299 to $5,999.

    Norwegian Coastal Voyage, known for a century of navigating some of the most challenging maritime environments along the Norway coast, is fast becoming a dominant player in the field of Expedition Cruising. Reservations, inquiries and brochures can be obtained from Norwegian Coastal Voyage, 405 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022; (800) 323-7436 or (212) 319-1300; fax (212) 319-1390; for brochures, (800) 582-0835, 24 hours a day;

    *** MSC Orchestra will join the fleet of MSC Cruises in May 2007. This new addition to the fleet replicates the high standards of construction already utilized by MSC Cruises and sets the benchmark for the larger ships in the fleet, according to the company. MSC Orchestra will be christened in the port of Civitavecchia, Italy in May and will depart from Venice June 2, 2007 on its maiden cruise between Greece, Turkey and Croatia.

    MSC Orchestra's size � 90,000 tons, 961 feet long and 108 feet wide � allows her to host 2,550 double occupancy (3,013 in total). As the sister ship to MSC Musica (which debuted in 2006) and MSC Poesia (scheduled to debut in 2008), MSC Orchestra is an innovative ship, able to guarantee an excellent level of comfort and wellbeing with impeccable service in an exclusive atmosphere.

    *** The Queen Mary 1 (permanently anchored in Long Beach) Scottish Festival for 2007 is scheduled For February 17 And 18. The sounds of bagpipes, fiddles, whistles and harps will fill the air aboard the Scottish-built Queen Mary for the 14th consecutive year. The lively event is scheduled for Presidents Weekend, February 17 and 18, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. One-day and two-day admission tickets for adults are $19/$25; $17/$23 for seniors and military and $13/$17 for children ages 5-11. Admission includes the Queen Mary Self-Guided Shipwalk Tour; parking is additional.

    Festivalgoers can extend their stay with evening concerts Friday and Saturday and a fun and informal kitchen piping competition on Sunday. All three begin at 8:00 p.m. Hotel Queen Mary Scottish Festival Packages are available for those who wish to stay aboard for the night - or the weekend. During regular Festival hours in the Exhibit Hall, more than 60 Scottish Clans will be present to share their history; Scottish and Celtic merchandise will abound; there will be live entertainment on two stages featuring Alex Beaton, Lalla Rookh and Men of Worth; the 4th Annual Classic Dart Tournament will be staged; and there will be bountiful British food and ales.

    Each day at Noon there will be a Grand Parade featuring the marching clans, a massed pipe band numbering more than 100 pipers, historic reenactment groups and the Gordon Highlanders with a firing demonstration. Evening activities begin Friday with a Whiskey Tasting at 6 p.m. in the Verandah Grill presented by Glenfiddich. The tasting is $20 per person and space is limited. Also on Friday, guests will enjoy the Scottish and Irish music and humor of Men of Worth at an 8:00 p.m. concert in the Royal Theater. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $15 per person. Once again, space is limited.

    Three Hotel Queen Mary packages are available for the Scottish Festival. The Laird's Package ($589 plus tax) includes a three-night stay for two in a deluxe stateroom, the Self-Guided Queen Mary Shipwalk Tour, Saturday breakfast at the Promenade Caf� and Champagne Sunday Brunch plus two-day admission for the Scottish Festival. The Highland Chief's Package ($420 plus tax) includes a two-night stay for two (Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday) in a deluxe stateroom and all the same amenities as the Laird's Package. The Clansman Package (from $169-$219 plus tax based on room type), includes a one-night stay for two plus the Queen Mary Self-Guided Tour and the Scottish Festival.

    Those who want more information may call (562) 435-3511 or log on to Complete details about the 2007 Scottish Festival and a downloadable order form are available. For Hotel Queen Mary reservations, please call (562) 432-6964 or (800) 437-2934 from outside the Los Angeles area.

    *** A judge has tossed out most of a 190 million-dollar jury verdict ordering a company that makes water pumps to pay Miami-based Celebrity Cruise Lines. The case involves an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease on a cruise ship in 1994. The federal judge let stand ten million dollars awarded in May 2006 for expenses such as refunding passengers, housing and transporting crew members and decontaminating the ship. But he tossed out 135 million dollars awarded for lost value to the business. The judge also ordered a new trial on the jury's finding that Celebrity should receive 47 million in lost profits. Celebrity had claimed several passengers contracted the disease, a respiratory infection, because a defective water filter in a whirlpool spa failed to stop the spread of bacteria.

    Back to Top

    1-17-07 CLIA Projecting 2007 as Record Year for Cruises The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is forecasting a year of formidable growth, with 12.62 million cruise passengers predicted to set sail in 2007, an increase of approximately one half-million guests over 2006. The forecasted 500,000-passenger increase represents a 4.1 percent year-over-year growth commensurate with the planned net increase in 2007 CLIA-member line capacity.

    Also newly released third quarter 2006 results and fourth quarter estimates reveal that CLIA-member cruise lines carried 12.12 million worldwide passengers last year, an 8.4 percent increase over the 11.18 million carried in 2005. CLIA-member lines carried 10.18 million North Americans in 2006 compared with 9.67 million in 2005, and also maintained their high utilization rates, posting a collective occupancy factor of 104 percent in 2006.

    Bolstering the influx of travelers choosing to cruise in 2007 is the introduction of 12 new ships worldwide - totaling 22,039 beds,an increase in ship capacity from 227,837 in 2005 to 246,759 in 2006. CLIA member lines have invested more than $15 billion in 30 new vessels that will enter service between 2007 and the end of 2010. This translates into 73,562 more beds - a 29.8 percent increase from 2006.

    Further evidence that supports a robust 2007 is positive feedback from CLIA-member travel agents, who report a strong start to the 2007 Wave Season, the January through March period that traditionally produces the heaviest cruise booking activity of the year. CLIA member lines are kicking off 2007 with a host of booking incentives and promotions, including stateroom upgrades, "kids sail free" programs, early booking savings, upgrades from Economy to Business Class air, shipboard credits and cruise giveaways.

    "Booking early, during Wave Season, has become increasingly important as CLIA ships begin to fill up further in advance each year," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA. "Not only are destinations like Europe and Alaska flourishing, but CLIA travel agents are reporting early booking sales to such regions as Asia, South America and the South Pacific, which are experiencing increased demand." Back to Top

    1-17-07 John Cleese to Host Silversea Film Festival British comedic legend John Cleese, originally of Monty Python fame, will hosts a festival of his own films aboard Silver Shadow's May 22, 2007 transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton.

    The John Cleese Film Festival will showcase such comedy classics as A Fish Called Wanda and The Life of Brian, as well as Die Another Day, the first James Bond movie featuring Cleese in the role of "Q." In addition, the line reports that Cleese, who is an animal advocate with a species of lemur named after him, considers the comedy Fierce Creatures, and the documentary In the Wild: Lemurs with John Cleese to be among his most significant achievements, as they shed light on the plight of lemurs facing extinction in Madagascar.

    Cleese will share insights and anecdotes from a fascinating career that goes well beyond his cinematic works. Renowned for his TV roles in Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers, the multi-talented British actor has also co-authored two best-selling books on psychology, taught at Cornell University, and spent twenty years helping to run Video Arts, a highly successful producer of management and sales training films. Most recently, Cleese was the voice of God in the Broadway smash hit Spamalot.

    The May 22 cruise aboard the all-suite, 382-guest Silver Shadow departs from New York City for Boston, Halifax, the Azores, Cork, Waterford, Plymouth and Southampton. Early Booking Incentive fares for this 16-day voyage start at $7,486 per person, based on double occupancy. Back to Top

    1-16-07 Changes in Princess Loyalty Program Princess Cruises is announcing changes in policy for its Captain's Circle loyalty program. They claim to be the first line to qualify members either by the number of cruises completed or the total number of days sailed. This gives enhanced recognition to passengers who sail on longer voyages.

    There are three membership levels - Gold, Platinum and Elite. Passengers will now qualify for the Platinum level with five cruises or at least 50 days cruise days. Elite members are those with 15 completed cruises or 150 cruise days. Gold membership continues to apply for passengers who have sailed on at least one prior cruise.

    Among the many perks available to the most loyal Princess passengers are a free mini-bar set up, free Internet access, free laundry services, priority tender embarkation, complimentary wine tasting, a boutiques discount, upgraded stateroom amenities, priority embarkation and a new benefit -- priority disembarkation. One change that was not included in the announcement is that the benefits no longer include unlimited Internet access. This has been replaced with a schedule of vouchers for credit for a limited number of free minutes depending on the length of the cruise:

    • $75 credit for cruises up to seven days
    • $100 credit for cruises 8-20 days
    • $200 credit for cruises 21 days or longer

    Here is a complete list of what is included with each level:

      Elite Member Benefits (16th+ cruise or 150+ cruise days):
    • Priority Disembarkation (new benefit)
    • Priority Tender Embarkation
    • Shoe Polishing Service
    • Complimentary Laundry Services
    • Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up
    • Deluxe Canapes Selection
    • Afternoon Tea in Stateroom
    • Upgraded Bathroom Amenities
    • 10% Boutique Discount
    • Complimentary Wine Tasting
    • (Plus all Gold and Platinum member benefits)
    • Platinum Member Benefits (6th-15th cruise or 50-149 cruise days):
    • Complimentary Cruise Atlas
    • Free Upgrade to Travel Care Gold when Purchasing Standard Travel Care Travel Protection Plan
    • Platinum Check-In
    • Platinum Members Lounge for Disembarkation
    • Complimentary Internet Access in Internet Cafe
    • (Plus all Gold member benefits)
    • Gold Member Benefits (2nd-5th cruise):
    • Preferential Pricing Offers
    • Members-Only Onboard Events
    • Princess Passport
    • Collectible Destination Stamps
    • Circle Host
    • Member Benefits Card
    • Princess Captain's Circle Quarterly Magazine
    • Princess Captain's Circle Center Online

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    1-15-07 Cunard's Queen Victoria Float Out Cunard Lines will hold a special ceremony today (Monday, January 15) to mark the float out of Cunard's newest Queen, ocean liner Queen Victoria, at the shipyard where the ship is being built -- Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard near Venice, Italy.

    The first ceremony will involve the welding of significant coins beneath the mast of Queen Victoria for good luck. Two coins have been chosen - a Euro (symbolising the fact that the ship is being built in Italy) and a gold Queen Victoria sovereign with St George slaying the dragon on the reverse side.

    After the coin ceremony, a further ceremony will take place on the dockside at which the ship will be blessed, and a bottle of Italian prosecco will be smashed against the hull. The valves of the dry dock will then be opened so the ship meets the water for the first time.

    The 90,000-ton Queen Victoria will not only be a classic ocean liner, according to the company, offering the very best of Cunard's heritage and traditions, along with all modern day luxuries, but will also feature some exciting innovations. These will include the first traditional West End-style private viewing boxes at sea in the Royal Court Theatre; the first floating Cunardia museum display, housing Cunard artifacts and memorabilia and the first two-story, 'spiral staircased' library at sea. The ship will also feature the line's celebrated luxury Grills accommodation and dining, further enhanced on Queen Victoria with exclusive deck terraces and an al fresco dining option.

    From the outside, the ship has the distinctive black and red livery of Cunard. Inside, the ship adherences to liner traditions of the past, with elegant public rooms, many on a grand scale, featuring rich wood panelling, intricate mosaics and gleaming chandeliers. There will also be a grand, colonial-style conservatory complete with a retractable glass roof. The ship has been constructed with impressive sea keeping qualities that will enable her to travel easily and efficiently through the world's oceans.

    As well as being the second largest Cunard liner ever built, Queen Victoria's arrival is particularly noteworthy as it will mark the first time that three Cunard Queens (she joins the world's largest liner Queen Mary 2 and the world's most famous and best-loved liner QE2) have been in service together in the company's 167-year history.

    Queen Victoria will depart on her Maiden Voyage on Tuesday December 11, 2007. This 10-night Christmas Markets Voyage will leave from the company's home port, Southampton, and will call at Amsterdam, Copenhagen (overnight call), Oslo, Hamburg and Bruges, enjoying the pre-Christmas decorations and traditional gift markets. After spending her first Christmas in the Canaries, Queen Victoria will embark on her 106-night Maiden World Cruise which will call at 37 cities in 23 countries. Every call, with the exception of Lisbon, will be a maiden call for Cunard's new Queen. Queen Victoria will circumnavigate the globe in a westbound direction and, after calling at New York, will transit the Panama Canal before making maiden calls at some of the world's most famous cities including Los Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Dubai, Athens and Barcelona. Queen Victoria will also transit the other of the great canals, the Suez, before returning to her homeport of Southampton on April 22. Early Booking Fares for the complete voyage range from $20,304 per person, based on double occupancy, to $203,404 per person, based on double occupancy. Back to Top

    1-14-07 Mary Wilson of The Supremes in Cruise Concert On October 14-21, 2007 Mary Wilson, formerly of the Supremes, will embark aboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas to perform a private concert alongside Shirley Alston of the Shirelles, The Dixie Cups, The Angels, and Arlene Smith (the original lead singer of the Chantels). Passengers on Prime Travel / American Express' Legendary Ladies of Rock N' Roll cruise will have the chance to attend two exclusive concerts by these entertainers - one in the ship's theater and another at the Renaissance Hotel in Aruba. A special autograph session will also be held with the groups.

    Mary Wilson's voice adorned classic hits like "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," and "Stop In the Name of Love." Her life helped inspire the Broadway hit musical "Dream Girls," now a major motion picture, generating a flurry of Oscar buzz. As a special promotion, the first 50 passengers that book this cruise will join Ms. Wilson for a VIP lunch aboard the ship.

    Pat Benti, of F.A.M.E. (Friends Against Musical Exploitation), will host the concert. In addition to the concert, passengers will enjoy an itinerary which includes stops in Oranjestad, Aruba, Wilemstad, Curacao, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Go to for more information. Back to Top

    1-14-07 Weekend News 1-14-07 *** Two passengers from the cruise ship Carnival Victory, a male and female both 23 from the Miami area cruising together, pleaded guilty to importation and possession of marijuana in Grand Cayman last Friday. The couple was arrested on Thursday morning when a K�9 Unit (drug-sniffing dog) was on duty and alerted officers to the defendants. They were taken to the Customs area and searched. A single marijuana cigarette, described in the local paper as a "ganja spliff" was found in the woman's handbag.

    Both defendants admitted having it for their personal use and (stupidly?) admitted having more marijuana (referred to in the local paper as "ganja") in their shipboard cabin. At that point, customs officers boarded the cruise ship and recovered a small plastic bag containing about 1.2 ounces of "vegetable matter".

    The couple were arrested and taken to the George Town Police Station, booked and processed. After that, they were taken to Customs headquarters where they were interviewed under caution and made full admissions. The defendants spent the night in custody, in separate police stations. They appeared in Summary Court in Grand Cayman on Friday afternoon.

    The magistrate fined them $1,500 each for the importation and emphasised that was in CI currency (about 20% more valuable), not US. She said the only reason they would not be remanded to their own country was that the prisons would overflow because drug use in the US was so prevalent. In Cayman, she further reasoned, there was no such difficulty, so if the court were so minded, it would be entirely appropriate to put them in custody as a warning to others who would import "ganja" into this jurisdiction.

    *** The new cruise passenger center at Grand Turk is proclaiming their first year open to be a resounding success. Built with the assistance of Carnival Cruises, the center finished its inaugural season with 136 cruise ship calls and 295,000 passengers, far exceeding expectations for the number of visitors for its first year of operation (the port officially opened in Feb. 2006).

    December was a record month with more than 46,000 passengers arriving on 28 cruise ship calls. Twenty of the calls were made by Carnival Corporation & plc brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, and Costa Cruises; the remaining eight calls were by Silversea, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania, Fred Olsen, Hapag Lloyd, and Ships of Discovery.

    *** A Canadian man, Dave Counter, who disembarked an unidentified cruise ship in Limon, Costa Rica, was shot by a local there in an attempted mugging. People on board had been advised not to venture more than two or three blocks from the cruise ship, but many tourists ignored the precautions and headed well into the town, Counter said yesterday.

    He remained within the safe zone and decided to take a stroll on the boardwalk with his son. A man in his mid-20s armed with a handgun jumped out from behind a palm tree, speaking Spanish and jabbing Counter with the gun. The assailant lunged at Counter, and when he tried to punch the would-be thief, he was shot on the left side of his torso. The man fled and Counter was left bleeding.

    His son Peter helped him to the nearby town hall, but none of the locals stopped to assist. Another couple from the cruise helped lead Counter back to the ship. "Then the craziest thing happened, we were being accosted by the locals" instead of being helped by them, Counter said. "People were grabbing at me. It was a nightmare." Another couple from the cruise helped lead Counter back to the ship.

    *** The Queen Mary 1 in Long Beach is offering the Stunt Junkies, and original Discovery Channel series, will be performing a motorcycle stunt January 15-19, 2007 at The Queen Mary In Long Beach. Mike Metzger, professional freestyle motocross rider, will attempt to clear a 75-foot gap between two enormous barges anchored in the channel alongside the Queen Mary with only the depths of Long Beach Harbor between them.

    The set-up begins Monday, January 15, and will continue through the 17th. A meet and greet with Mike Metzger will be held on Monday the 15th. The stunt itself will be performed on Wednesday the 17th between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Admission to the Queen Mary on the day of the stunt will be reduced to $5.00 and all are welcome aboard. Event sponsor, Monster Beverages, will provide free Monster Energy Drinks to the crowd. Back to Top

    1-11-07 Cunard Royal Rendezvous On January 10, 2007, two of the world's most luxurious ocean liners - Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 - set sail on simultaneous World Cruises from Ft. Lauderdale. Before sailing, hundreds of spectators turned out to view the iconic ships' ceremonial "Royal Rendezvous" just offshore. Queen Mary 2 embarked on her first-ever World Cruise - an 80-day circumnavigation of the globe - while Queen Elizabeth 2 began her "Silver Jubilee World Cruise" - an exotic 108-day voyage marking her 25th around the world. Back to Top

    1-09-07 Celebrity Names Solstice Class Clebrity has picked a named for its third ship of the new "Solstice" class to be introduced beginning in 2008. This new class represents 118,000-ton ships, the largest class for Celebrity yet, and all three ships have names with a "celestial" connotation.

    The first new Solstice ship to be introduced will the Celebrity Solstice in 2008 followed by the Celebrity Equinox in 2009. The ship newly named today will be the Celebrity Eclipse which will debut in 2010. The 2,850-guest ships will measure 1,033 feet in length and 121 feet in width. German shipbuilder Meyer Werft will build them. 90% of staterooms will be outside, and 85% (of total staterooms onboard) will have verandas. Back to Top

    1-9-07 Another Port of Miami Event Just one day after Port of Miami dominated CNN for the greater part of a day over the incident concerning three men from Dearborn Michigan described below, another security event took over the Port of Miami on Monday afternoon. A sensor detected explosives in a package ready for loading onto the Majesty of the Seas. Screeners got a positive signal for military-grade C-4 explosives about 2 p.m., according to Michael Sheehan, a spokesman for the Miami-based cruise company. The suspect package was tested six times, each time resulting in a detection of explosives.

    Passengers, who had already boarded the ship before its scheduled 5 p.m. departure, and several other people in a nearby port terminal were ordered to evacuate. The Miami-Dade bomb squad detonated the package about 3:30 p.m. in a secure area of the port, determining that no explosives or explosives residue were present.

    Police dogs were unable to detect explosives in the small pallet, which contained metal parts for the cruise ship's sprinkler system. Even though it turned out to be a harmless package, Port of Miami showed that it takes security seriously, which is above all the most important thing.

    The sprinkler parts had similar chemical characteristics to C-4 explosives, which may have caused them to set off the sensors, but they did not contain any actual dangerous substances, said Miami-Dade police Detective Robert Williams.

    The ship's 2,340 passengers were allowed back on the ship, which departed about 6 p.m., an hour after its scheduled time. The delay will not affect the cruise's four-night itinerary around the Bahamas. Back to Top

    1-08-07 New Fleet Commodores Named Both Princess Cruises and Cunard Line are announcing the appointment of new "Masters of the Fleet" for their respective cruise lines.

    With the retirement of the esteemed Caption Ron Warwick from Cunard Lines last year, at sea for over 40 years, captain of Cunard ships for 12 years and the master of each new vessel Cunard introduced during that period including the Queen Mary 2, Cunard lines has now named Captain Bernard Warner has been appointed Commodore of the Cunard fleet.

    Meanwhile, at Princess and P&O Cruises, Captain Michael Fatchen, a 40-year veteran of the company, has been named commodore of the company's 15-ship fleet. He becomes the senior master of the fleet and will represent the interests of all ships and their captains. The title of commodore is an honor that is traditionally bestowed upon the most senior captain of a fleet of ships, and the position represents the highest rank attainable to a Princess mariner. Back to Top

    1-08-07 Miami Port Security Update After an afternoon of frenzied speculation and waiting for possible plot hatchings, it turns out that the Miami Port security incident was mostly the result of a lack of communication abilities between the driver of "Middle Eastern Descent" and his two friends, all from Dearbourn Michigan, and the port security officer who spoke a version of English heavily spiced with Creole.

    Apparently, the man who "lied" about what was in his truck and the presence of his companions was not fully understanding the questions being given to him, or possibly was more concerned about trucking rules that forbid the presence of additional passengers in commercial truck cabins.

    In any case, after questioning by the FBI, Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Police, Immigration authorities, the TSA and various other security officials, it was finally determined that what happened was mostly a case of misunderstanding and mistaken identity. The three men of "Middle Eastern Descent" are all legal residents in Dearborn, Michigan, who had come to Miami to help off-load a truckful of car stereo equipment - just as the truck's manifest stated. Back to Top

    1-07-07 Miami Port Security Incident News reports are coming out concerning a security incident at the port of Miami. Updated reports say a man driving a container truck into the port's container area had improper port credentials, and he gave inconsistent statements regarding his business at the port when officials questioned him. Upon searching his vehicle, two other men of Middle Eastern citizenship were found hiding in the cab of the truck.

    Traffic to cruise ships was slowed down on this busy port day as the incident was cleared up, but by 3:00 it was reported that cruise ship embarkation was proceding normally. Only the container side of the port remained shut down.

    The man driving the truck, and one of the two men found hiding inside the truck, are reported to be Iraqi citizens, and the other man found inside is Lebanese, though it is reported they have legal U.S. entry credentials. Early reports said that one of the men is "wanted" by officials or police, but that has not been verified by further reports. No explosives or other dangerous devices were found in the container, which is being held in a secluded area for further inspection. Nor has it been determined what the men intended to do inside the container area of the port. The men are currently being held for questioning by the FBI, but no charges have been made as of yet. Back to Top

    1-05-07 Celebrity Cruises Ends Affiliation with Michel Roux Celebrity Cruises today announced plans to evolve its fleetwide culinary program, ending its affiliation with Master Chef Michel Roux. The mutual agreement coincides with the end of Roux's current contract with Celebrity.

    Celebrity's President Dan Hanrahan stated "Chef Roux ... played an integral role in helping our brand achieve the recognition it maintains today for offering fresh, gourmet cuisine. I thank him for all his contributions, and wish him the very best."

    Every Celebrity ship's Food and Beverage team has completed intensive training led by Chef Roux, both during his onboard visits (totaling well over 100 during the 15-year partnership) and also, in the case of a few of Celebrity's most promising chefs, training at his Waterside Inn restaurant in England.

    The company says that Roux will assist Celebrity during the transition to a new culinary plan, and will be available in the future to offer advice and guidance. Back to Top

    1-05-07 Weekend News 1-05-07 *** Reports have come out from Disney Cruises saying a 21-year-old New York man is under arrest in Nassau accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl on the cruise ship Disney Wonder. Investigators with the Bahamian police said that on New Year's Day, while the ship was sailing in international waters, the man told the girl he wanted to show her "something" on a lower deck and, when she refused to go, threatened to throw her overboard.

    Disney released a statement, saying, "Safety and security of our guests is our highest priority, and we immediately contacted the FBI about the situation." A spokesperson for Disney said the allegations were first reported to security personnel on the ship, who immediately notified the FBI. The FBI provided guidance on what do, and when the cruise ship arrived in Nassau on Tuesday, the Bahamian police took over. Police said the accused man was being held in jail until his arraignment.

    *** The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a teenager on Friday who suffered a head injury when he fell from a mast on the Carnival Cruise Ship Fantasy in the Gulf of Mexico. He was identified only as Tyler King, 18. His hometown was not known. The ship's doctor reported King fell 20 feet from the cruise ship's mast to the deck and landed on his head. He suffered head trauma, a hematoma behind the eye and a broken bone in his face. King was last reported in stable condition. The passenger rescue delayed the return of the cruise to its disembarkation point by a day.

    *** Royal Caribbean Cruises is agreeing to pay more than a million dollars to the estate of George Allen Smith who vanished from his honeymoon cruise after a night of heavy drinking aboard the cruise ship as it sailed the Mediterranean 18 months ago. Royal Caribbean denies any wrongdoing and does not admit to any liability for Smith's disappearance in the settlement, which still requires court approval.

    The FBI has been investigating this case since the morning bloodstains were found on a canopy that covers the ship's lifeboats, but no one has been charged and Smith's body was never recovered. In a statement, Smith's widow says the settlement should not end the investigation. She says the deal gives her access for the first time to records kept by the cruise line.

    *** Norwegian Majesty limped into port city Charleston, SC on Saturday with no air conditioning. NCL said two power-producing engines shut down off Florida on Friday and generators were used to power the ship. The generators didn't provide enough power for the air conditioners and passengers said temperatures in some cabins climbed into the 90s on their last night at sea.

    NCL canceled a week-long cruise scheduled to leave that night and offered passengers a 20 percent discount off a future cruise, plus full refunds and half off another 2007 cruise to those who had booked for the cruise that was canceled. Back to Top

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