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   Cruise Travel - Cruise News

Cruise Club is a free service, and when you join, you will begin receiving weekly updates including the latest cruise news and cruise specialsWelcome to this week's edition of Cruise News, the best place on the Web to find up-to-date information about cruises. To automatically receive Cruise News via email each week, join our Cruise Club.

For up to the minute news, stop by Cruise Talk anytime to post a message or find out what your fellow passengers and industry insiders are saying about a particular ship, cruise line or destination.

Cruise News - October 16, 2006

Don't forget to check out CruiseServer, the Internet's largest cruise database. With over 11,000 cruise itineraries and over 500 ship profiles, CruiseServer is the perfect tool to help you find the perfect cruise.

NCL Hawaii Fleet Safe Following Earthquake
NCL issued the following statement following yesterday's earthquake in Hawaii:

Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America ("NCL") continue to monitor the situation in Hawaii after the earthquake on Sunday, October 15th. We are very pleased to report that all ports in Hawaii are open except for Kona, which will open tomorrow. In addition, the vast majority of shore excursions on the islands will operate as scheduled. Please visit the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau at www.gohawaii.com for additional information.

Yesterday, NCL made the decision to keep Pride of Aloha in Honolulu overnight to accommodate as many guests as possible from the just ended cruise who were unable to depart as planned and to hold the ship for passengers who may have been delayed until today.

The airlines have informed NCL that flights are running as scheduled today although some flights may be subject to minor delays. NCL is working directly with the airlines to put a priority on our guests to enable arrival in time for Pride of Aloha's and Pride of Hawaii's planned departure times and to assist passengers in getting home.

Pride of Aloha will now depart Honolulu at 8 pm tonight per its new departure schedule. The ship's call into Kona, Hawa`i today had to be cancelled. The remainder of Pride of Aloha's itinerary will operate as scheduled. We recommend if passengers cannot make it to the ship by 8 pm (latest arrival in Honolulu by 6 pm); they should join the ship in Nawiliwili, Kaua`i on Tuesday or Wednesday.

NCL has made the decision to delay the departure of Pride of Hawaii until 9 pm to accommodate passengers who are arriving late into Honolulu because of two flight delays from Los Angeles and Houston impacting over 100 guests. NCL will continue to monitor flights. We recommend that if Pride of Hawaii guests cannot make it to the ship by 9 pm (latest arrival in Honolulu by 7 pm); they should join the ship in Hilo, Hawaii on Tuesday.

Itineraries for Norwegian Wind, Pride of America and Pride of Hawaii will not be altered.

NCL Passenger Goes Overboard
A passenger from Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Star is feared drowned after reportedly jumping overboard during a 8-day Mexican Riviera cruise from Los Angeles. The passenger, an unidentified female was reported missing around 7:00 pm on Wednesday by her traveling companion. The ship was cruising approximately 25 miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas at the time she was reported missing.

As soon as the crew was notified, the captain sounded an alert and crew members began searching for the missing passenger. The Norwegian Star along with a Mexican navy vessel retraced the path of the ship as part of the search following the drift pattern of someone who would have entered the water along the ship's path. A women's body that was discovered late Friday off the Mexican coast is presumed to be that of the missing passenger.

The Norwegian Star arrived in Los Angeles on Friday evening several hours behind schedule. FBI authorities boarded the vessel and interviewed passengers before allowing the ship to depart on the next scheduled cruise.

NCL's Norwegian Jewel Leaves Building Dock
Norwegian Cruise Lines, 93,500 gt cruise ship Norwegian Pearl left her covered building dock at the MEYER WERFT shipyard in Germany on Sunday. The undocking of the ship started around 8.00 am and was completed by 10:00 am and the ship is now berthed at the yard’s outfitting pier.

The move from the covered building dock will allow work to begin on the next NCL ship, the Norwegian Gem. The forward part of the ship is already in the building dock and the pre-fabricated engine room modules will now be moved into the building dock.

With the Norwegian Pearl being berthed at the outfitting pier, final outfitting work will be completed on the ship's exterior and interior. The Ems river passage of the newbuilding to the sea trials port in Eemshaven/Netherlands is planned for 4 November 2006. A detailed schedule will be published shortly by MEYER WERFT.

The new cruise ship, which features a lavish outer shell painting depicting a string of pearls, has a length overall of 965 ft, is 106 ft wide and can reach a speed of more than 24 knots. More than 2,400 passengers can be accommodated in the 1,197 cabins onboard. She is operated by a crew of about 1,100.

Celebrity Cruises' Solstice Takes First Step Toward the Sun
Celebrity Cruises has taken its first major step toward physically launching Celebrity Solstice in Fall 2008. The line's President Dan Hanrahan today ceremoniously pressed the start button for the plasma cutter at shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, creating the ship's first steel plate.

"This is a very exciting day for the Celebrity brand, as we take the first tangible step toward making Celebrity Solstice a reality," said Hanrahan. "While it's too soon to reveal any details, I'm convinced our travel agent partners and guests are going to find this ship to be the perfect manifestation of what they appreciate most about Celebrity."

Accompanying Hanrahan today were Celebrity's Executive Vice President Maritime & Newbuilding Harri Kulovaara, Celebrity Solstice Project Manager Jarmo Laakso, and Meyer Werft's Managing Director Bernard Meyer, Lambert Kruse and Project Manager Uwe Wulf.

The first in a class of three ships, Celebrity Solstice will be a 2,850- guest vessel measuring 1,033 feet in length and 121 feet in width, and will feature larger standard staterooms, a higher percentage of verandas, and an exceptional range of guest-inspired services and amenities.

Ambassadors International, Inc. Acquires 150-Passenger Columbia Queen
Ambassadors International, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMIE) (the "Company") announced today that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Ambassadors Cruise Group, has acquired the 150-passenger river cruise ship, Columbia Queen. Joe Ueberroth, Chairman and CEO of Ambassadors International, stated, "We are very pleased with our acquisition of the Columbia Queen. She is an excellent vessel and we were able to acquire her very attractively."

David Giersdorf, President of Ambassadors Cruise Group, stated, "We are pleased to add a seventh U.S.-flagged cruise vessel to our Majestic America Line fleet. The Columbia Queen is a spectacular, deluxe cruise ship that will operate extraordinary itineraries on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We look forward to introducing her into operations in the summer of 2007."

New Orleans Welcomes Norwegian Sun
Norwegian Sun entered the Port of New Orleans today as the first cruise ship to homeport in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. The ship docked at the city's new $37 million Erato Street Terminal, which is designed to accommodate larger cruise ships. Norwegian Sun calls the Crescent City home for the winter season sailing seven-day exotic Western Caribbean cruise with ports of call including Costa Maya, Mexico; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico.

"We're proud to demonstrate our commitment to the city of New Orleans by returning to the city with a big, new balcony-rich ship," said Bob Thye, senior vice president, revenue management and itinerary planning for NCL Corporation ("NCL"). "With 47 million potential passengers living within a 500 mile radius of New Orleans, this vibrant city is a key partner for NCL."

"The cruise passengers returning to New Orleans will see that the city's historic beauty and charm is still alive and thriving," said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. "With the addition of the Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Garage, the Port is poised to continue to create new cruising opportunities for cruise lines and passengers."

In 2004, New Orleans was one of the fastest-growing homeports in the US, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Cruise passenger embarkations and disembarkations in New Orleans grew an astounding 818 percent in the last 11 years prior to Katrina, from approximately 80,000 in 1993 to 753,000 in 2004.

The cruise industry also contributes $226 million to the city in direct and indirect sales, and supports more than 2,500 jobs.

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver revisits the subject of how a ship's appearance can affect the overall cruise experience.

It's what's on the inside that counts?

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled 'Do Looks Matter', which focussed on the external appearance of modern cruise ships. After debating the subject with myself, I came to the conclusion that 'Yes' they do matter, if you are a ship aficionado, and 'No' they probably don't if you are just interested in a vacation afloat.

In the interest of thoroughness, I have decided to revisit the subject - but this time from a slightly different perspective. Specifically, let's take a look at the question: "Does the internal decor of a cruise ship matter"?

Initially one might think 'No'; surely it is the overall experience (food, entertainment, ports of call etc.) that is important. However, most cruise lines must think that the interiors of their vessels really do matter, as they all spend a fortune on the internal decoration of their ships. The only exception that I can think of is 'EasyCruise' who have very minimalist decor and will sell you a 'no frills' cabin for a few pounds per night. (They are selling more of a floating youth hostel experience, than a cruise one).

Interestingly the average mass-market Hotel will often have quite unexciting décor. However, the average mass market cruise ships are an explosion of glitz, colour, neon and art works. Just have a look at images of the interiors of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise line vessels. So why is this?

Traditionally we have always associated travel by ship as being the pursuit of the very well off (…overlooking for unpleasant experiences of the millions of steerage passengers). We have all seen the photographs and movies of the rich occupying Titanic or Queen Mary's opulent public rooms and enjoying the finest food and service. Even today the word 'Cruise' is still associated in the publics mind with 'luxury'. The modern cruise lines are happy to perpetuate this association. In fact they are often keen to 'exceed our expectations' and deliver a product that is bigger and brighter than we could imagine.

It was the American cruise lines that made cruising the global mass-market pursuit that it is today. In order to make the product more accessible to the general public, the cruise lines replaced the more traditional styles of maritime decor to ones that emulated 'Las Vegas', 'Hotel Resorts' and 'Theme Parks'. After all, that's who they are directly competing with when they sell cruises to the masses.

The master of such decor is Joe Farcus who creates his mind-blowing "entertainment-architecture" for the Carnival Cruise Line and the Costa Cruises. It is astonishing, over-the-top, mega-glitzy, inspiring, confusing, and migraine inducing, all at once! It really has to be seen to be believed. The intention is to not only physically transport you to exotic ports, but to mentally transport you to a fantasy world. For example, Carnival Legend has a theme of 'Myth and legends', which are depicted in the 'fantasy' décor.

In fact, in recent years we have increasingly seen the creation of 'themed' ships. There are the 'Disney' ships for example, NCL have an 'American' themed ship (with public rooms based on the USA's great landmarks) as well as two 'Hawaiian' themed vessels. Cunard's forthcoming cruise ship Queen Victoria will have an 'Ocean Liner' theme.

Most modern cruise ships also have vast amounts of art onboard, giving the passengers the feeling that they are in a 'classy' floating Art Gallery. This art may be quite traditional in style featuring sculptures, and or oil and watercolor paintings of landscapes and historic ships. Alternatively it may feature vast modern pieces of art, which fill the ships atriums like some kind of giant Triffid.

Interestingly, you do not need to understand interior design, or art for that matter, for it to have an affect on you. We are all sensitive to our environment. Interior design has the power to inspire you or leave you decidedly unimpressed. Some ships and their public rooms will be to your liking and feel very welcoming and others will not.

Now I would not go as far as saying a ships decor alone could make or break a cruise. However, I do think it is important when choosing a cruise to match the onboard experience, which includes the decor, to your personal tastes. In short 'loud' décor often means a 'loud' cruise, likewise understated décor signifies a more refined experience.

Ask yourself if you would be happy to spend a week on a floating 'Las Vegas' (i.e. Carnival or RCI) or would you prefer a more sedate or traditionally decorated ship (i.e. HAL or Cunard)? Fortunately there are a whole host of ships/lines out there to choose from, each offering a different onboard experience. And how do you do the research you may well ask. I can answer is one just one word "CruiseTalk" - Travelpage.com's cruise chat forum.

Malcolm Oliver

HAL Completes Upgrade Program
When Holland America Line recently added a new Culinary Arts Center to the final ship in the fleet, all structural changes originally envisioned for the company's $225 million Signature of Excellence initiative were complete. The comprehensive Signature of Excellence upgrades announced nearly three years ago in November 2003 triggered an industry trend of fleet rejuvenations and enhancements to meet the demands of an expanding set of discriminating cruise vacationers.

Signature of Excellence features and amenities are evident in every aspect of the Holland America Line cruise experience, offering guests more luxurious accommodations, more enticing destinations, enhanced dining experiences, more creative activities and even higher levels of service.

"We invested to realize a vision, and that vision was to make our brand experience even more relevant to today's and tomorrow's premium traveler," said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line. "I believe we've not only delivered on our promise, but exceeded expectations."

All told during the two-year implementation, 12 Holland America ships spent nearly 200 days in drydock receiving enhancements such as the Mariner's Dream stateroom experience with premium comfort appointments, the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine, Explorations Cafe -- powered by The New York Times, exclusive Pinnacle Grill restaurant, refurbished Crow's Nest observation lounge, expanded youth facilities and enhanced Greenhouse Spa and Salon.

A broad range of employees led by Mike Novak, vice president, marine operations, was involved in every aspect of Signature of Excellence, from conception to the final products. Novak's team oversaw the work of nearly 2,000 people, including shipyard workers, contractors and ship personnel. They tested and retested hundreds of items to ensure quality, coordinated delivery schedules and oversaw complex installations.

Other statistics on Signature of Excellence include:

  - 10 million hours worked in dry dock -- the equivalent of 387 years.
  - 1.2 million pounds of steel installed on the ships.
  - 695,743 luxury items added to staterooms, from sheets to bathrobes to make-up mirrors.
  - 49,372 pieces of electronic equipment, from televisions to CD players, DVD players to computers, installed on the 13 ships.
  - 27,000 book titles added to Explorations Cafes. At one book a week, it would take more than 500 years to read them all.
  - If you stacked all the new Euro-Top plush mattresses end on end, they would reach 18,985 feet high -- just 1,300 feet lower than the summit of Alaska's Mt. McKinley.
  - 254 nautical miles of electrical cable installed on the ships -- enough to reach from Ft. Lauderdale to just off shore of Half Moon Cay, Holland America's private Caribbean island.

RCI Introduces Guests to the Wonder of 'Down Under'
Royal Caribbean International is combining its signature active cruising experience with crocodiles, kangaroos and koala bears, when the cruise line returns to the land of 'down under' for the 2007/8 season. Rhapsody of the Seas will sail a series of new itineraries to the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand as she heads for her recently announced Far East adventure.

Three out of the five new itineraries on Rhapsody of the Seas, sailing September 28, October 15 and November 24, 2007, have been chartered by Cruiseco, a consortium of more than 120 cruise specialist travel agencies in Australia. On Sept. 28, Rhapsody departs Honolulu for Sydney on a 16-night sailing, stopping in Maui, Hawaii, before she visits the distinctive and captivating island destinations of Papeete, Moorea, and Bora Bora, French Polynesia; as well as Lautoka in the Fiji Islands. On Oct. 15, Rhapsody will sail on a 12-night South Pacific cruise from Sydney calling on the exotic ports of Noumea and Isle of Pines in New Caledonia; Suva in the Fiji Islands; and Vila in Vanuatu, where visitors can discover the quaint French and English colonial architecture. On Nov. 24, she will depart on a 15-night cruise to Singapore, calling on Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns and Darwin in Australia and Bali, Indonesia.

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 10, Rhapsody of the Seas offers 14-night roundtrip cruises from Sydney to New Zealand, cruising through Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound and calling on the ports of Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga and Auckland. These sailings will be available for sale through travel agents in all global markets except for Australia where bookings for the New Zealand sailings will be sold exclusively through Cruiseco.

For guests wanting to enhance their cruise vacation with a land-based experience, Royal Caribbean offers some exciting cruisetour packages out of Sydney. Adventurers can take a charter flight to Cairns -- the best place to see crocodiles and native wildlife in Tropical North Queensland -- and experience the "Quicksilver" boat tour, which enables guests to participate in various marine adventures at the Great Barrier Reef, including swimming, snorkeling, diving or exploring the Reef from an underwater observatory. At the Olgas, vacationers have the opportunity to discover ancestral secrets of the desert land during the aboriginal Liru tour or visit the vividly colored dome rocks rising from the plains.

Royal Caribbean International announces exciting new itineraries confirmed since the cruise line's recent announcement of Rhapsody of the Seas' introduction to Asia. In January 2008, Rhapsody of the Seas will offer three 12-night open-jaw sailings between Singapore and Hong Kong calling on Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; and the exotic ports of Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hue and Hanoi in Vietnam -- a destination steeped in rich culture and art.

"Royal Caribbean's expansion into the South Pacific and Asian regions is part of our international business development and global expansion strategies," said Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean International. "Additionally, we are pleased to be working with Cruiseco to bring the option of an active cruise vacation to Australians."

"We are extremely delighted to have Royal Caribbean International return to the region for the 2007 season," said Kevin Dale, chairman of Cruiseco P/L. "Our agents are the leading cruise specialists in Australia, renowned for providing the best knowledge and access to the best products. Our team looks forward to marketing Royal Caribbean's award-winning brand to our Australian clients."

Stock Watch
The following are the latest closing prices for selected cruise line stocks.

Company Today's Closing Price Change (since last week)
Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE:CCL) 47.77 -1.1.%
Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) 40.10 + 1.13%
Star Cruises (HKSE:0678.HK) 1.47 + 0.00%

Cruise News Trivia Question:
During the Queen Mary's last voyage in 1967, a 14,559 mile journey across the Atlantic and around South America, she carried two very large pieces of unusual cargo on her main deck - what were they?

Answer - Will be published in next week's column along with the name of the first person to submit the correct answer. Send your answer to cruise2006@travelpage.com

Last Week's Question
Here's another Photo Cruise Trivia - This picture was taken from a dinner menu cover from a ship I sailed on in 1970. Name the ship. Bonus/Hint: She has a sister who is still sailing today - what's her sister's current name?

Click Here for a larger version of the picture.

Answer - The name is "Santa Paula" of Grace Lines. Sister ship is "Santa Rosa" sailing as "The Emerald" for Fred Thomson Cruises today.
courtesy of Karl.H.Bollmann@uscg.mil

Cruise News - October 9, 2006

Celebrity Cruises Cancels Offensive Advertisement
After canceling an advertisement that offended many Hawaiians and acknowledging its poor judgment in running it, Celebrity Cruises today accepted an offer from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to provide cultural training for its marketing staff.

In a letter sent to the company over the weekend, HVCB President and CEO John Monahan said, "It's likely that this advertisement may have been created and approved by Celebrity Cruises due to a lack of understanding of Hawaii's society, history and traditions. If so, HVCB will be pleased to make arrangements to help educate your marketing staff about our islands."

HVCB has put Celebrity in contact with the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association to provide cultural values and awareness training.

Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity Cruises president, reiterated the company's regret over the insensitivity of the company's ads, which depicted the King Kamehameha statue holding a champagne glass.

"We are deeply sorry that our ads offended so many people," Hanrahan said. "It was certainly never our intention to be disrespectful to the people of Hawaii, and we sincerely regret any concerns that were raised by our indiscretion."

Celebrity announced it will publish ads in two of Hawaii's major newspapers this week to make its apology to the Hawaiian people more public.

The original ads, which Celebrity immediately pulled after learning of their unintended effect, had appeared recently in several travel-agent publications.

Queen Victoria Master Appointed
Captain Paul Wright, a 26 year veteran of Cunard Line, has been appointed master of Queen Victoria, the company's newest ocean liner currently under construction in Venice that will enter service in December 2007, it was announced today.

Captain Wright first went to sea in 1965 as a cadet with Shell Tankers, and quickly progressed to passenger ships in 1969 when he joined Canadian Pacific. His first appointment with Cunard was to Cunard Countess in 1980 and since then he has served on Cunard Princess, Sagafjord and Cunard Dynasty. In 1999, Captain Wright was promoted to Captain of Cunard's flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 where he served until construction began on Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever built. He oversaw construction of QM2 in St. Nazaire prior to commission, and in 2004 was appointed Master of Queen Mary 2, rotating with the recently retired Commodore Ronald Warwick.

Having sailed to all seven continents, when asked what his most memorable moments at sea have been, Captain Wright cites two: meeting Astronaut Neil Armstrong who was lecturing onboard in the early 1990's and sailing Queen Mary 2 into Hamburg on her maiden call when half a million people lined the shore to greet her.

In commenting on his appointment, Captain Wright says: "I fully expect that sailing Queen Victoria into Southampton for the first time will give me a third most memorable event -- and I have no doubt it will be equally memorable for those who turn out to greet us; nothing stirs the imagination quite as much as a new Cunarder arriving in port for the first time. She will be a magnificent vessel built in true Cunard style."

Captain Wright and his wife Linda reside in the United Kingdom in a village near Truro, Cornwall.

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver takes a look at NCL's current brand identity program.


For the first time in 10 years, NCL Corporation Ltd. ("NCL") unveiled a new, all-encompassing brand identity program last week that was created expressly to "capture and articulate the company's Freestyle Cruising approach."

One way the brand is characterized is with a graphic treatment featuring a white fish swimming against the direction of a school of blue fish, depicting NCL's innovative spirit in the cruise industry, as well as the type of guest that NCL is looking to attract, one who is a "non-conformist".

I've commented a few times about the 'Norwegian Cruise Line' over the past six months, simply because they do tend to garb the maritime headlines. I can only applaud them for now regularly 'thinking outside the box'. However, this latest re-branding program must be costing a small fortune.

Now I'm no marketing guru, but I do wonder if the general cruising public will take much notice of the new logo (featuring a white fish swimming against a school of blue fish) let alone understand the meaning of it. I'm not sure I would understand the meaning of the new logo either, if I had not read NCL's explanation of it. I suppose lecturers and students of philosophy might, but how many of those take NCL cruises? Can you imagine NCL passengers filling out their customer feedback cards at the end of a cruise and adding "Great logo"? Maybe it works on a subconscious level? However, I must say the 'fish' do add a fun element to the updated and improved NCL web site.

As for attracting the 'non-conformist', I'm not sure such a person would really want to share a vacation, on a cruise ship, aimed at the mass-market, with 2000-plus other passengers - even if they can dine 'Freestyle'! (Some other lines are starting to adopt similar dining systems, although Carnival and RCI are still committed to the 'one large main dining room' concept, with the 'wow' factor that this brings.)

Personally I directly associate a 'brand' with what it delivers and how much the product costs. The logo is just a visual identifier and I do not have a problem with the existing NCL one. I do hope that a similar amount of money and effort to that being spent on re-branding NCL will be spent ensuring that their onboard experience is of the highest standard, within the constraints of their market segment.

Although I had a very good experience onboard the SS Norway in 2001, it's been a while since I have traveled with NCL. In general though, the NCL-brand product seems to have matured quite dramatically in recent years. Websites such at Travelpage.com (namely the 'CuiseTalk'forum) have become powerful sources of cruise information and a sounding board for both satisfied and dissatisfied customers. In fact I read much initial criticism of 'NCL America's' Hawaiian operation, from dissatisfied passengers, in terms of food, service and cleanliness. Hopefully these matters have already been resolved, if the criticisms were founded. (Lets not forget that issues about the quality of food and service etc. are particular subjective, anyway.)

NCL now certainly have some excellent 'hardware' in terms of many new state-of-the-art ships, with three dedicated to Hawaii and two mega-ships on the drawing board for 2009/10.

In the future, I think it will be the 'software' (food, service and entertainment) choices and quality, which will help differentiate the major cruise lines. This will be especially true, as all the ships within the major fleets increasingly become more 'mind blowing' in size and design. After all, ships under 90,000 gt are already starting to look small. By the end of the decade Cunard, RCI, NCL, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) and possibly Carnival will all be offering ships at around the 130,000 gt range or bigger. Those older ships at around 30,000 gt still in service will look like row boats, by comparison. I suspect we will also be witnessing a lot more re-branding with new logos as the marketing war between the major players, heats up.

Loyalty Schemes

After writing about cruise 'Loyalty Schemes' a few weeks ago, I received a comment that they are definitely NOT all equal, which I may have implied. I appreciate the feedback. What I actually meant is that most (all?) Loyalty Schemes tend to all operate in a similar way; after a set number of cruises you progress up the various grades of membership and the perks get better. I was also informed that The Royal Caribbean 'Crown and Anchor' program has many unadvertised benefits for the upper level members. I'm now really intrigued to know what these are? As I tend to try different cruise lines, I'm not really past the free 'Bum Bag' (Fanny Pack') stage yet, with many lines. I guess I will just have to wait until I have completed 24 RCI cruises to find out what's to come. Maybe there really is a 'golden rivet', after all?

Malcolm Oliver

Samuel Cunard Monument Unveiled in Halifax
Cunard Line and The Halifax Foundation made history today with the dedication of a bronze statue of Sir Samuel Cunard, the Halifax native credited with revolutionizing commerce and communications between continents by successfully introducing steamships to the North Atlantic nearly two centuries ago.

Prominently presiding over the Port of Halifax waterfront, the towering bronze statue appropriately depicts Cunard standing beside a ship's telegraph, an iconic symbol of steamship travel.

Joining the celebration were Sir Samuel Cunard's great, great, great, great grandsons (standing front) Benjamin and Samuel Paton.

The project has received moral and financial support from several sponsors including Cunard Line which made the initial contribution to start the fundraising efforts, CN (Canadian National Railway), The Halifax Foundation, The Halifax Port Authority, Secunda Marine Limited, The Bank of Nova Scotia, and The Waterfront Development Corporation and the committee members.

Pictured (L to R): John Langley, Chairman, Cunard Steamship Society; Jack Keith, President, The Halifax Foundation; The Honourable Alan R. Abraham, Vice Chairman, The Halifax Foundation; Commodore Ronald Warwick, (Ret.) Master, Queen Mary 2 and Honourary Chairman of the project committee; Carol Marlow, President, Cunard Line; Peter Bustin, Sculptor; Karen Oldfield, CEO, Port of Halifax.

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 Shines in New TV Special
Throughout the month of October, the golden age of transatlantic ocean travel will come to life in a new special produced by NBC owned and operated stations, appropriately titled "Onboard Queen Mary 2 - A Transatlantic Adventure." The 30-minute program takes viewers on an in-depth tour of the world's most famous ocean liner, tracing Cunard's pre-eminence as the first and only line offering regularly scheduled transatlantic ocean travel and offers a glimpse into the elegance and adventure for which the ship in renowned. Emmy Award-winning news anchor Jane Hanson hosts the special, which is scheduled to air in major U.S. cities this month.

"Queen Mary 2 is, quite simply, a marvel of engineering. She inspires a genuine sense of awe. Since her launch in 2004, we've delighted in sharing her on tours with countless visitors, but this NBC special now affords us the rare opportunity to share her with an even wider audience," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line.

The comprehensive special showcases life onboard a six-day transatlantic crossing highlighting the ship's state-of-the-art technology and signature White Star(SM) service. Viewers will also have a special tour of the bridge with Queen Mary 2's Captain Christopher Rynd and see the range of services and amenities -- from the Canyon Ranch SpaClub(R) to British Tea Service -- that have made Queen Mary 2 the most famous ocean liner in the world.

"Onboard Queen Mary 2 - A Transatlantic Adventure" is scheduled to air as follows:

  New York                Sat 10/7             7-7:30 pm
  Los Angeles             Sat 10/21            3:30-4 pm
  Chicago                 Sat 10/21            6-6:30 pm
  Philadelphia            Sat 10/21            2-2:30 pm
  San Francisco           Sat 10/21            7:30-8 pm
  Dallas                  Sat 10/21            1-1:30 pm
  Washington DC           Sat 10/21            2-2:30 pm
  Miami                   Sat 10/21            7-7:30 pm
  San Diego               Sun 10/22            5-5:30 pm
  Hartford                Sat 10/21            7-7:30 pm

  Check your local NBC listings to confirm day and show time.

NCL Expands Culinary Team With Three New Corporate Chefs
NCL Corporation (NCL) today announced the appointment of three new corporate chefs: Warren Pearson, James Wierzelewski and Christophe Le Cras to the company's food and beverage department. Reporting to Karl Muhlberger, director of culinary operations, the trio brings a combined 67 years of culinary experience to NCL.

Pearson, Wierzelewski and Le Cras will work as a team to develop dynamic new menu concepts for the NCL fleet and implement them onboard by the end of November. The chefs will spend five to six hours each day in NCL's test kitchen creating new recipes and making modifications to existing menu items as well as visiting various ships in the fleet talking with passengers to gather feedback. After the introduction of the new menus, the team will be responsible for maintaining the innovative Freestyle Dining product and ensuring that NCL keeps at the forefront of culinary trends looking beyond conventional industry practices.

These new additions to the food and beverage department follow the appointment of Alain Gruber, the new corporate chef for NCL America, who has led the recent introduction of new menus onboard Pride of Hawaii, Pride of America and Pride of Aloha.

"Warren, James and Christophe bring a world of experience to NCL, each with his own distinguished talents to create innovative cuisine for our guests," said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL. "The new menus we recently introduced on our NCL America ships in Hawaii have been well received by our guests and we look forward to rolling out new menus across the NCL fleet."

Pearson, Wierzelewski and Le Cras join NCL with varied and impressive culinary careers in top hotels and restaurants around the world:

Warren Pearson: With over 30 years of experience, Pearson most recently served as executive chef for the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza. He has worked as an executive chef and director of food and beverage at various five star properties around the world, such as Rosewood Hotels, the Shanghai Hilton, InterContinental Hotels and the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

James Wierzelewski: Wierzelewski brings more than 14 years of executive chef experience to NCL and has worked with some of the finest hotels in the U.S. and abroad. His most recent position was executive chef for VIX restaurant at Hotel Victor in Miami Beach. He has held positions at The Hilton International Bangkok, Shangri-La Hotel, The Regent Grand Palms in Las Vegas and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Chicago. Additionally, Wierzelewski was a corporate food concept and culinary development specialist for Disney Corp.

Christophe Le Cras: Le Cras boasts more than 23 years of culinary experience at Michelin-star hotels in England and France, and five-star cruise lines across the globe. His most recent position was corporate executive chef for Celebrity Cruises. He has also worked for Apollo Ship Chandlers and various properties in Peru and Switzerland.

New culinary program on NCL America

NCL America Corporate Chef Alain Gruber has led the introduction of the new menus onboard the Pride of Hawaii, Pride of America and Pride of Aloha. Gruber has more than 16 years of culinary experience beginning his career at Relais & Chateaux, an exclusive boutique hotel and restaurant collection in Europe. He has worked onboard several other cruise lines, including Seabourn, Cunard and Royal Viking. Before joining NCL in late 2005, he worked in a number of Ritz Carlton hotels in the U.S. and abroad.

New menu items for the main dining rooms for the NCL America fleet feature a fusion of American, Pacific Rim and Hawaiian elements. The main dining room menus feature American classics such as clam chowder and cobb salad; California contemporary dishes such as an arugula, walnut and goat cheese pizza; Pacific Rim cuisine such as Kahlua pork nachos and steamed mahi mahi in banana leaf with lemongrass coconut sauce; along with classic Hawaiian dishes including grilled wahoo with avocado and macadamia nut relish and huli huli chicken.

A new concept introduced in the buffet restaurants brings the chefs out of the galley and in front of guests, cooking fresh, prepared-to-order food at pasta, sushi, stir fry and carving stations.

NCL America's alternative restaurants have new menus featuring tableside cooking and more interactive elements, such as a prime rib trolley in Cagney's Steakhouse and an antipasto trolley in Papa's Italian Kitchen. Both bring items directly to the guests' tables and allow them to make their own selections. In addition, the children's menu now includes more healthy options presented in playful ways such as a mashed potato boat with a cheese sail.

Stock Watch
The following are the latest closing prices for selected cruise line stocks.

Company Today's Closing Price Change (since last week)
Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE:CCL) 48.30 + 2.46%
Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) 39.65 + 3.15%
Star Cruises (HKSE:0678.HK) 1.46 + 1.39%

Cruise News Trivia Question:
Here's another Photo Cruise Trivia - This picture was taken from a dinner menu cover from a ship I sailed on in 1970. Name the ship. Bonus/Hint: She has a sister who is still sailing today - what's her sister's current name?

Click Here for a larger version of the picture.

Answer - Will be published in next week's column along with the name of the first person to submit the correct answer. Send your answer to cruise2006@travelpage.com

Last Week's Question
Passengers in the top cabins aboard QE2 today eat in the Queens Grill Restaurant. It wasn't always that way. What was the space now occupied by the Queen's Grill called when QE2 first entered service?

Answer - The Queen's Grill Restaurant was known as the 736 Club when QE2 went into service in 1969. 736 was the building number assigned to the new ship by John Brown Limited of Clydebank. The Queen's Grill Lounge was to be a bowling alley but instead became a Coffee Shop and a Teenage Juke Box Room. When the first penthouses were added in 1972, the Queen's Grill Restaurant and Lounge were formed in the space.
courtesy of Larry Macdonald, Belmont, MA USA

Cruise News - October 1, 2006

Carnival Passenger Dies After Fall
A 48-year old female passenger on board the Carnival Conquest died from injuries after she apparently tried to jump overboard. The woman, who was traveling with her husband, was seen jumping from the balcony of her cabin and landing on the balcony of one of the cabins below. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Carnival Conquest was returning to Galveston, Texas after a seven day cruise to the Caribbean.

Carnival Cruise Lines Announces New Ship Deployments
Carnival Cruise Lines will switch the homeport deployments of its 2,124-passenger cruise ships Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle beginning in spring 2007.

Carnival Legend, which currently sails from New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will be deployed to Tampa to operate year-round seven-day western Caribbean voyages departing Sundays from that port beginning April 15, 2007. Currently based in Tampa, Carnival Miracle will be relocated to New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to operate eight-day Caribbean cruises from those ports beginning April 25, 2007.

"Carnival is always seeking ways to keep our product fresh for our guests. By deploying Carnival Legend to Tampa and Carnival Miracle to New York and Fort Lauderdale, we're providing these markets with exciting new 'Fun Ship' vacation choices aboard two of the industry's most sophisticated and technically advanced vessels," said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO.

He added that switching the homeports for Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend provides repeat guests sailing from Tampa, New York and Fort Lauderdale an opportunity to experience the unique interior designs and entertainment options available on these vessels. Since Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend are sister ships, guests' reservations will be automatically shifted to the new vessel with booking and stateroom numbers remaining the same.

Carnival Legend's new seven-day schedule from Tampa begins April 15, 2007, and includes extended calls at four magnificent Caribbean ports – Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya, each offering excellent beaches and interesting historical sites and attractions.

Prior to the start-up of its new seven-day itinerary, Carnival Legend will operate a special one-time four-day eastern Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale departing Monday, April 9, 2007, and visiting Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands; and Nassau, The Bahamas.

Carnival Legend will operate from Fort Lauderdale through the departure of April 1, 2007, before redeploying to Tampa.

Carnival Miracle's eight-day Caribbean schedule from New York begins April 25, 2007, and includes three different tropical destinations – San Juan, St. Thomas/St. John, and Tortola/Virgin Gorda – renowned for their spectacular beaches, outstanding restaurants and shops, and excellent duty-free bargains.

Prior to the start-up of this program, Carnival Miracle will sail on a six-day cruise from New York to King's Wharf, Bermuda; and Newport, R.I., departing April 19, 2007, as well as a two-day cruise departing October 18, 2007 (both voyages were originally scheduled to be operated by Carnival Legend).

Carnival Miracle will operate from Tampa through the departure of April 1, 2007, after which the ship will undergo an 11-day dry dock before re-deploying to New York.

Following its eight-day cruise program from New York, Carnival Miracle will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for alternating eight-day "exotic" southern and "exotic" western Caribbean cruises beginning October 22, 2007.

On this route, southern Caribbean cruises include St. Maarten, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts -- three tropical islands offering a lush landscape and magnificent beaches, along with myriad watersports and shopping and dining opportunities.

The western route features Colon, Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; and Belize City, Belize, offering guests a diversity of landside experiences, from ecotourism and centuries-old archeological sites and ruins, along with gorgeous white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters teeming with tropical fish.

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver takes a look at the question of passenger loyalty and Cunard's recent announcement that they were putting a mail box on Queen Mary 2.

A question of Loyalty

Just like the airlines, most of the major cruise lines have a passenger loyalty program. Basically, after your first cruise with the line, you are eligible to become a free member of their particular loyalty club. As a member of the program, you will be offered a variety of perks in an attempt to persuade you to cruise again with that particular cruise line.

There are normally several tiers of membership. The more cruises that you take with the cruise line, the further that you progress up the tiers, and the better the perks get. These perks often include gifts, onboard parties, cabin upgrades, onboard credit, future cruise discounts and preferential boarding.

Now this all sounds great, but in my experience the reality is not as exciting as the hype. One of my earliest cruises was with the Fred. Olsen cruise line. Now Olsen aims their product squarely at the UK market, and in order to preserve our great tradition of 'Rip-Off' Britain, they used to make a charge if you wanted to join the loyalty club. How bizarre is that? You had to pay them to become a loyal member - and only then would you get the perks, such as a small discount off a future cruise etc. I did like many passengers probably did and simply did not pay to join. Fortunately Olsen eventually saw sense and now it's free to join.

My first real experience with Loyalty was with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCI). Now I am not anti-RCI, in fact, I think that they offer a good mass-market product. Their loyalty program is really no different to the other major cruise lines. I am just using them as an example.

On boarding Splendour of the Seas for my second RCI cruise, my Seapass card (security pass) had the words Gold Member printed on it. At first I though it was some kind of sponsorship deal advertising the Austin Powers movie of the same name (...a James Bond spoof). But no, that was my newly gained status in the Crown and Anchor loyalty program.

RCI's program has four tiers. The Gold is RCI's bottom tier and then there is Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Plus, If you complete 24 RCI cruises you are promoted to the upper tier, Diamond Plus. (Obviously RCI could not think of anything more precious than a diamond, hence the "plus". Maybe they should have started at Silver).

So what did I get for my membership? Once onboard, I was invited to a welcome back member's party, however this only really comprised of one free glass of sparkling wine. We also got an Ultimate Value Booklet, which is a very impressive title for a modest booklet of vouchers.

I will never forget, our cabin steward handed it over as if it was priceless. He even ticked a sheet to indicate that we had taken delivery of this valuable item. The booklet mainly contained money off onboard sales vouchers, such as 10% off a Spa treatment. I can hardly regard this booklet as a perk, because you have to spend money to receive the discounts in the first place. The whole idea is of course is to actually make you spend more than you normally would.

On returning to my cabin, later in the cruise, I found the commemorative gift. It was a free Bum Bag (Fanny Pack) which clearly featured the Royal Caribbean name on the front to ensure some free advertising. (Have you noticed how pop and sports stars get paid to advertise while we are expected to do it for free).

Now I am sure that some multiple-cruise passengers do earn some reasonable perks and do enjoy them. However, here in the UK cruises often cost at least £100 per day for an inside cabin. I do not wish to sound ungrateful, but a glass of free wine, a book of discount vouchers and a free 'Bum Bag' worth a few dollars, is nowhere near enough to ensure my loyalty. Only a good overall cruise experience, which was value for money, would persuade me to rebook with the same cruise line.

For the record I did cruise with RCI again and enjoyed the experience. I got a free 'shopping bag' that time, complete with a big RCI logo on it. I do occasionally use it, but I've turned it inside-out, until RCI agree to pay me a sponsorship fee.

Cunard Pillar Box

Did you hear that a full-sized red style UK pillar box has been added to the 'Queen Mary 2'? It's outside the Golden Lion 'pub'. How very 'Walt Disney'.

Now these pillar boxes grace many UK streets and are designed to brave the British winds and rain. Hopefully the Queen Mary 2 version will not have to face any wind or water, or it will be very bad news indeed. In contrast the Queen Elizabeth 2 has a rather more discreet post-box which is essentially a wall mounted red letter box. This style is common on the inside of some UK buildings.

I doubt if the addition of a pillar-box would impress many Brits. I can only assume that the idea comes from the American management and is aimed at Cunard's American passengers. Whatever next, a red Telephone Box and a Black Taxi outside the chart room?

Malcolm Oliver

HAL Announces 2007 Alaska CruiseTours Line-Up
Holland America Line offers 29 different CruiseTours visiting legendary Glacier Bay and Denali National Park plus beautiful regions as remote as the Arctic, as colorful as the Klondike Trail and as charming as Homer at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. CruiseTour guests travel to the best places to see glaciers, mountains, wildlife and wilderness. Leisurely Inside Passage cruising aboard 5-star ships and luxury land travel via domed McKinley Explorer railcars and custom-built highway Explorer Coaches(TM) create the quintessential Alaska experience.

"Holland America takes guests to more national parks and recognized wilderness areas than any other CruiseTour company," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, senior vice president, marketing and sales. "Our carefully planned itineraries make it easy to enjoy ample time in Denali and to visit unique places like Kluane National Park and Tombstone Park in the legendary Yukon. We also feature intimate, small-group explorations of the Yukon River, Prudhoe Bay, Gates of the Arctic National Park, the lush Kenai Peninsula and pristine Kenai Fjords National Park."

"We are offering our guests more opportunities to get off the beaten path and have a more personal wilderness experience," said Meadows. "This is the primary reason guests come to the Great Land. Our program is designed to offer more chances to experience Alaska and the Yukon in smaller groups and in more remote and stunning areas."

New for 2007 - CruiseTour guests traveling the state's roadways will enjoy a brand new or recently enhanced Explorer Coach sightseeing experience with as much legroom as domestic first class, comfy leather seats, a mini-galley with cold snacks and beverages, an eight-channel in-seat audio system, and an enriched narration program including topical handouts and exclusive videos.

Guests on CruiseTours 3, 4, 5, and 6 will enjoy the scenic beauty and historical interpretation of the longest operating narrow gauge railroad in North America -- the nostalgic White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. After an investment of US$8 million, the railroad will be rebuilt to carry visitors from Skagway to Lake Bennett and Carcross over much of the same ruggedly beautiful route traveled by thousands of stampeders during the rollicking gold rush days. The trains will stop at the Historic Bennett Station Eating House and guests will be served a traditional northern style family lunch before continuing on their journey by Holland America Line ship or Holland America Line Tours Explorer Coach(TM).

More national parks, historic sites and thrilling excursions

Eighteen CruiseTour itineraries feature Holland America Line's "Double Denali" experience -- two nights at a classic wilderness lodge near the gates of Denali National Park, a comprehensive guided Tundra Wilderness Tour featuring the best wildlife and Mt. McKinley viewpoints, and an array of exceptional optional excursions that sample the great outdoors -- from mild to wild.

Holland America spotlights the special wildlife and unique geological features of Kluane National Park, home of five of the seven tallest peaks in North America; Tombstone Park in the Yukon, an ancient region of unique landforms that was once part of the original North American continent; the year-round playground of Alyeska near Anchorage; the Land of the Midnight Sun across the Arctic Circle; and the fascinating Visitor Centers and heritage sites that describe the Klondike gold rush era.

Carnival Fantasy Returns to New Orleans
To celebrate the return of "Fun Ship" cruising from New Orleans this fall, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering four and five-day Mexico voyages on the Fantasy starting at just $279 per person. The Fantasy's new schedule from New Orleans begins Oct. 26, 2006, and encompasses four-day cruises to Cozumel departing Thursdays and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Costa Maya departing Mondays and Saturdays.

Pre- and post-cruise land stays providing guests opportunities to experience New Orleans' legendary cuisine, entertainment and nightlife are also available. "We're very excited to bring 'Fun Ship' cruising back to New Orleans, one of America's truly great cities, and also what has historically been one of our most popular homeports," said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO.

The namesake vessel in Carnival's "Fantasy-class," the 2,056-passenger ship offers a variety of on-board amenities, including three restaurants, three swimming pools, a jogging track, a cascading water slide, and a 12,000-square-foot spa.

Also featured is an Internet cafe, including Wi-Fi access in a variety of public rooms and areas, as well as cellular phone service. "Camp Carnival" and "Club O2," offering supervised activities and expansive facilities for children and teens, respectively, are available, as well.

A variety of shore excursion opportunities, everything from scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and snorkeling to golfing, kayaking and Mayan ruins tours, are available during port calls in Cozumel and Costa Maya.

In addition to four- and five-day cruises aboard the Fantasy, Carnival will launch seven-day Caribbean cruises from New Orleans aboard the Carnival Triumph beginning September 2, 2007. Prices for these week-long cruises begin at $429 per person.

Carnival will be the only cruise line to operate two ships year-round from New Orleans. Together, the Fantasy and Carnival Triumph are expected to carry some 320,000 guests annually from New Orleans.

Carnival is currently accepting reservations for all of its various New Orleans departures.

Lose Weight on a Cruise?
Healthy eating and exercise while on vacation challenge contestants on an upcoming episode of the hit NBC television show "The Biggest Loser," filmed aboard Princess' 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess.

In this unique episode from the show's third season, producers wanted to put contestants to the test with the ultimate in dining temptation, while showing it is possible to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle choices on a cruise.

Airing on NBC stations across the country on October 4 at 9-10 p.m. ET. (8 p.m. Central time), the Sapphire Princess episode of "The Biggest Loser" gives the show's participants the opportunity to travel away from their "ranch" home base and learn how to maintain their diets and exercise programs while faced with the temptations of a luxurious vacation setting. The footage was filmed aboard Sapphire Princess during a spring Pacific coastal cruise.

During the episode, contestants make use of a variety of shipboard locations to further their weight loss goals. They work out in the Lotus Spa gym, the ship's pools and running track, and dine at the vessel's various restaurants, choosing among a variety of healthful meal options. In particular, coaches use Sapphire Princess' Horizon Court buffet to present a lesson in making healthy food choices and portion control.

In addition, contestants face the show's weekly challenge while onboard, earning a reward for the top finishing team. This competition takes team members throughout the vessel, showcasing many ship locations, including the Princess Theater, Lotus Spa, Grand Plaza atrium and pool decks.

"We were delighted to work with this top NBC show and, in a light-hearted way, show that if health and fitness are important to passengers, we have so many dining and activity options to support this, despite the many temptations," said Jan Swartz, Princess senior vice president.

Stock Watch
The following are the latest closing prices for selected cruise line stocks.

Company Today's Closing Price Change (since last week)
Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE:CCL) 47.14 + 2.32%
Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) 38.44 - 1.28%
Star Cruises (HKSE:0678.HK) 1.44 - 3.36%

Cruise News Trivia Question:
Passengers in the top cabins aboard QE2 today eat in the Queens Grill Restaurant. It wasn't always that way. What was the space now occupied by the Queen's Grill called when QE2 first entered service?

Answer - Will be published in next week's column along with the name of the first person to submit the correct answer. Send your answer to cruise2006@travelpage.com

Last Week's Question
For safety and speed reasons, the SS United States (now owned by NCL), once the fastest ship afloat, was constructed almost entirely of aluminium and steel. In fact, it was said that there were only two items made of wood on board the entire ship. What were those two items?

Answer - The two wooden items were the butcher's block and grand piano. I worked for US Lines from 1958 to 1969 as manager for Ontario and Western Canada.
courtesy of Cant@netscape.ca

Cruise News - September 25, 2006

Holland America Accused of Bilking Passengers
In court documents filed last week, Holland America Line was accused of defrauding passengers traveling on Alaska cruises through a series of "allegedly deceptive actions" in a proposed national class-action lawsuit. Among the charges are claims that the cruise line bilks passengers by levying what it claimed were government-imposed fines, and by accepting kick-backs by shore-excursion providers while hiding that arrangement from passengers.

Filed in US District court in Seattle on behalf of the proposed class by attorney Steve Berman, the suit seeks to represent all passengers who were charged a so-called Jones Act Penalty for boarding the ship at a port not of the original departure point and who paid for excursions while a passenger. Berman is the managing partner of Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

In July 2006, Ohio resident J.B. Miller's flight to Seattle was delayed, causing him and his family to miss the sailing of a Holland America cruise to Alaska. According to the complaint, Miller and his family were instructed to fly to Juneau, Alaska, in order to meet the ship. Once aboard, Holland America charged the Millers $300 per person for what it characterized as a "Jones Act Penalty."

According to Berman, while the government does have the ability to fine passengers under a similar act, the Passenger Vessels Service Act, the government never imposed the fine on Holland America. "Holland America forced the family to come up with $1,200 under the guise of a federal fine, and we know that Holland America knew the government would never ask for the money in return, and the government did not do so here," Berman noted. "In our view this is an egregious fraud and we believe this may be a wide-spread practice, involving a large percentage of those fined."

Holland America responded to the lawsuit by saying that it was nothing more than frivolous litigation. Some industry observers agree, pointing out that Holland America, and other cruise lines in similar situations, are simply obeying the letter of the law. The fact that the government has not yet collected the fine from the cruise line is a separate matter and the bureaucratic processes involved can result in a significant delay between the time of the incidents and the collection of the fine. They point out that it would be irresponsible for a cruise line to begin selectively following only those laws that they feel might be enforced.

The complaint also claims that Holland America accepts secret kickbacks from shore-excursion providers and hides that fact from passengers, in violation of the law. According to Berman, there is a law in Alaska that requires cruise lines to disclose any fees that they receive from providers of shore-excursions such as fishing trips or sightseeing tours. The suit alleges Holland America fails to make any disclosure.

Holland America responded to this claim by stating that is in full compliance with Alaska disclosure laws. The cruise line went on to say that "in the case of shore excursions, Holland American Line purchases excursions from vendors and resells the excursions to passengers, similar to a typical retail operation."

NCL Announces New Branding Campaign
For the first time in 10 years, NCL Corporation Ltd. ("NCL") unveiled a new, all-encompassing brand identity program last week that was created expressly to "capture and articulate the company's Freestyle Cruising approach."

According to NCL, "Freestyle Cruising turns traditional cruising on its head and is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation, up to 10 different restaurants and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options."

Spanning all consumer, travel agent and guest touch points, the comprehensive new brand identity captures the non-traditional, free-spirited attitude that is reflected throughout the NCL onboard experience. NCL's innovative onboard experience offers vacationers freedom from the stress and demands of everyday life and freedom to enjoy a less structured, more relaxed, resort style experience than traditional cruising.

The marketing plan features national television, radio, print, newspaper, out-of-home and online advertising, along with a completely new Web site. NCL's guests and travel agents will also see all new materials encompassing all cruise line correspondence, onboard and in-cabin elements and even port signage and terminal décor.

Consumers and travel agents will get their first look at the new brand identity when it debuts on Oct. 2, 2006 in a variety of media and online at the company's Web site, www.ncl.com.

The new brand identity breaks the mold of traditional cruise industry marketing with its light-hearted, experiential tone. One way the brand is characterized is with a graphic treatment featuring a white fish swimming against the direction of a school of blue fish, depicting NCL's innovative spirit in the cruise industry, as well as the type of guest that NCL is looking to attract, one who is a "non-conformist". NCL's research shows that the types of people who are attracted to Freestyle Cruising see themselves as individualists in a world in which increasingly everyone else is doing what they are told and accepting what is offered. NCL guests want to enjoy their cruise on their terms without the structure and regimentation that is still the central feature of traditional cruises.

"With NCL set to have by far the youngest fleet in the industry by 2010, with all of our new ships purpose-built for Freestyle Cruising and deployed in all major cruise destinations and our NCL America fleet now fully in place, the time is right to build large scale consumer awareness through a major brand identity initiative," said Andy Stuart, NCL Corporation's executive vice president of sales, marketing and passenger services.

"We believe bringing the brand to life in one unified voice across everything we do will help NCL and our travel partners expand the cruising population," said Scott Rogers, NCL Corporation's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "Our travel partners have done a great job helping educate their clients on the benefits of Freestyle Cruising and selling NCL cruises, and now we are ready to bring the story to everyone, driving more guests into their offices.

"Our research shows that non-cruisers and even those who have cruised but were not 'in-love' with cruising, readily identified with the traditional, staid norms of cruising such as dining and dress code as key barriers to try cruising or repeat," Rogers continued. "This all-encompassing brand identity truly illustrates how we are different from other cruise lines and seeks to create demand not only among those who have cruised before, but also with non-cruisers who are accustomed to more conventional, land-based vacations."

Branding agency GSD&M of Austin, Texas, created the new brand identity and is handling the media planning and buying.

"Our challenge was to bring to life the feeling of complete freedom a guest feels on an NCL cruise in every aspect of the brand experience. We created one unified look and feel that extends beyond advertising and surrounds consumers before, during and after their cruise," said Roy Spence, president and founder of GSD&M.

The brand identity campaign includes:

• Broadcast: Directed by Gerard de Thame and choreographed by Vincent Paterson, NCL will air nationally, two 30 second spots and a range of 15 second spots on a variety of network and cable television channels. "Watches," the first 30 second spot, opens with a choreographed mass of regimented vacationers sunbathing, playing shuffleboard and dining in complete unison, checking their watches persistently to keep on schedule. Then the images switch to illustrate NCL's Freestyle Cruising, with passengers relaxing and enjoying themselves according to their whims. The ads conclude with "NCL: Where You're Free to Whatever" and the animated fish graphic. In the New York metropolitan area, NCL will sponsor traffic and weather updates on key AM and FM radio stations;

• Print: Eight different print spreads in more than 20 national consumer and trade magazines, as well as newspaper, feature laidback, free-spirited copy that powerfully articulates NCL's Freestyle Cruising difference, including "Our dress code: wear something" and "Dinner will be served promptly at whatever o'clock";

• Interactive Media: Fun, playful banner ads on high reach portals such as Yahoo!, comparison shopping/search sites and niche travel sites;

• Out-Of-Home: Specific to the New York metro area, out-of-home elements include commuter rail posters, messaging on the ABC Super Sign in Times Square, and dry cleaning bags that read, "Whatever this is, you can wear it onboard";

• NCL.com Web site: Totally new Web site that has been developed with new features, enhanced content and functionality all within the new look reflective of the brand;

• Ports: By the end of the year, all NCL ports will be outfitted with signage that reflects the new brand. Port consultants will wear ties and scarves that feature the fish graphic;

• Onboard: All onboard and in-cabin signage from the cabin keys and welcome aboard packet to comment cards and restaurant reservation cards will reflect the new brand. Labels on traditional in-cabin amenities feature playful phrases, such as "flip flops and sandals need not apply" on the shoe polishing mitt. Rollout of the onboard elements will take place by the end of the year for NCL ships and by early 2007 for the NCL America fleet.

• Loyalty/Direct Mail: NCL's Latitudes frequent cruiser program and the company's direct mail and email marketing to both consumers and trade will feature the new brand personality.

Princess Adding Photo Kiosks
Princess Cruises sets sail this December with Lucidiom's Automated Photo Machine (APM) 2000, allowing passengers to make customized photo prints on board.

Fifteen ships cruising the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands will be outfitted in December with another two ships making their maiden cruises in April. Each ship features three APMs branded for Princess Cruises. The APMs feature customized templates to make cruise-specific themed prints and allow passengers to turn their digital images of their cruise vacations into instant memory keepsakes.

"With Lucidiom kiosks, our passengers now can enjoy their vacation memories before they even leave the ship, plus they can share prints with fellow passengers that they meet on board," said Ian Johnson, manager of photography and video, Princess Cruises.

The APM 2000 makes printing photos easy, with a large touch-screen and quick order workflow. Customers can take advantage of Lucidiom's Photo IQ suite of tools to adjust color, fix red eye and crop. Besides standard 4x6 prints, consumers can make photo enlargements, package prints, cruise-themed templates, index prints and photo CDs.

"Princess gives its passengers a fabulous vacation, and with our APMs on board, those passengers can get fabulous vacation photo prints to capture their vacation experiences," commented Stephen Giordano Jr., president, Lucidiom Inc. "On the business side, Princess Cruises can track how many photos their passengers take and what they like to print, thus allowing Princess Cruises to further customize their APMs as passenger tastes and trends change."

The kiosks come with Lucidiom's award-wining APM software and network support that allows Princess Cruises to manage all of its APMs online from any location and handle every business need--from analyzing business operations to tracking sales trends to providing customer support. The software also comes in 16 languages, letting passengers from around the world operate the kiosks in their most familiar language.

Southern Caribbean Itineraries Offer Less Crowded Waters
Unbeknownst to the uninitiated, Caribbean-bound cruise ships generally ply any one of three distinct but equally alluring routes: eastern and western itineraries, readily available from a wide variety of U.S. homeports, visit the Bahamas and the most popular Caribbean ports of call, while southern Caribbean sailings transport travelers deeper into the region, to the Leeward Islands and beyond.

Southern Caribbean cruises visit the idyllic and diminutive islands from Antigua south to Trinidad, and along the northeastern coast of South America. These voyages offer cruisers port-intensive itineraries that take in some of the Caribbean's lesser-known and most pristine islands.

"On Southern Caribbean cruises, travelers have the chance to visit islands renowned for their exclusivity, tranquility and African, Indian and European influences," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the primary marketing organization for 19 premier cruise lines and nearly 17,000 North American travel agencies. "Unlike visitors to land-based resorts, cruise guests uniquely enjoy a selection of exotic natural environments and diverse Caribbean cultures in one seamless vacation."

These cruises sail from San Juan, Barbados, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and ports in New York and Florida.

Most Southern Caribbean itineraries are seven days or longer, with port calls made virtually every day. Destinations include Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Margarita Island, Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago, plus several ports located at South America's tip.

Following is a listing of CLIA member lines that traverse Southern Caribbean on itineraries that sail out of Caribbean ports in 2006 and 2007.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES - Carnival Cruise Lines' 2,642-passenger, 101,353-ton Carnival Destiny operates year-round seven-day sailings roundtrip from San Juan that call at the islands of St. Thomas/St. John, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua.

CELEBRITY CRUISES - Celebrity Cruises' Galaxy sails roundtrip from San Juan on 10- and 11-night cruises, visiting Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Margarita Island, Curacao, Aruba, Dominica and St. Kitts, depending on the itinerary.

CRYSTAL CRUISES - Crystal Cruises offers a selection of seven-, 10- and 14-day itineraries that visit deep Caribbean ports, sailing roundtrip from Miami. Destinations include Antigua, Bonaire, Grand Turk, St. Lucia and Tortola.

COSTA CRUISES - Select sailings on the Costa Magica and Costa Mediterranea depart from Ft. Lauderdale and visit ports including St. Maarten and Tortola, while a variety of shore excursions allow guests to experience the natural beauty and culture of the islands.

CUNARD LINE - Queen Mary 2 sails two seven-day Caribbean itineraries from Ft. Lauderdale in December 2006; "Southern Caribbean Liner" and "Dreamers Western Caribbean." Calls include Barbados; St. Kitts; St. Thomas; Montego Bay; and Cozumel.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE - Holland America Line explores the Southern Caribbean with a variety of itineraries that range from 10 to 14 days. Five ships journey to 18 different ports of call on 36 departures.

MSC CRUISES - MSC Cruises' "Beautiful. Passionate. Italian." experience takes guests to such exotic ports as Grenada, Barbados, Tortola, St. Lucia, Martinique, Margarita Island and Samana (Dominican Republic), featuring the line's private paradise, Cayo Levantado.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE - Norwegian Cruise Line features nine-, 10- and 11-day Southern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from New York and Miami. Depending on the itinerary selected, destinations include Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Tortola.

OCEANIA CRUISES - Oceania Cruises' Regatta offers travelers an array of itineraries roundtrip from Miami that visit sophisticated St. Barts, lush Dominica, charming Antigua, beautiful Samana and the diving Mecca of Grand Turk.

PRINCESS CRUISES - Princess Cruises' features seven-, 10- and 14-day Southern Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, San Juan and Barbados. Destinations include Antigua, Dominica, Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Tortola.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES - Depending on the sailing date, Regent Seven Seas' itineraries call at Dominica, Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. Thomas and Tortola. Seven, eight, 10 and 11 days cruises are available from Fort Lauderdale.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL - Royal Caribbean International positions Adventure of the Seas, Empress of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas on deep Caribbean itineraries roundtrip from San Juan. Three-, seven- and 11-night voyages are available.

SEABOURN CRUISE LINE - Seabourn Cruise Line offers seven-day southern Caribbean voyages aboard Seabourn Pride from Barbados and St. Maarten in November and December 2006 and on Seabourn Legend from St. Thomas in early 2007.

SILVERSEA CRUISES - Silversea Cruises features itineraries ranging from seven to 12 days with departures from San Juan and Barbados aboard Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper in late 2006 and the first and last quarters of 2007.

WINDSTAR CRUISES - Windstar Cruises' Wind Spirit and Wind Surf sail seven-day cruises to the deep Caribbean from December through March. Wind Spirit sails roundtrip from St. Thomas. Wind Surf sails roundtrip from Barbados.

Carnival Profit Rises for 3rd Quarter
Carnival Corporation & plc reported net income of $1.23 billion, or $1.49 diluted EPS, on revenues of $3.91 billion for its third quarter ended August 31, 2006. Net income for the third quarter of 2005 was $1.18 billion, or $1.40 diluted EPS, on revenues of $3.61 billion.

Net income for the nine months ended August 31, 2006 was $1.86 billion, or $2.25 diluted EPS, on revenues of $9.03 billion, compared to net income of $1.92 billion, or $2.29 diluted EPS, on revenues of $8.52 billion for the same period in 2005.

Third quarter 2006 revenues increased 8.3 percent, primarily driven by a 5.2 percent increase in capacity and an increase in revenue yields (revenue per available lower berth day). Net revenue yields in current dollars for the third quarter of 2006 increased 1.0 percent compared to the prior year. Net revenue yields as measured on a local currency basis ("constant dollar basis"), which Carnival believes better reflects underlying revenue performance, were in line with the same period last year. Gross revenue yields increased 2.1 percent.

Net cruise costs per available lower berth day ("ALBD") for the third quarter of 2006 increased 4.8 percent compared to the same period last year. On a constant dollar basis, net cruise costs per ALBD increased 3.8 percent from the same period last year. The increase in costs per ALBD was primarily due to a 29 percent increase in fuel prices. Excluding the increased fuel prices, Carnival's 2006 third quarter net cruise costs per ALBD were in line with last year on a constant dollar basis. Gross cruise costs per ALBD increased 5.4 percent.

Carnival Corporation & plc Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said, "Despite rising fuel costs and softness in Caribbean business, we still managed to grow earnings by over six percent in a difficult environment. The successful introduction of three new ships along with strong European and Alaska cruise seasons helped us overcome $55 million in higher fuel costs and weakness in Caribbean demand," he explained. "Both our European and North American brands have enjoyed a very strong summer in Europe and the North American brands operating in Alaska also performed very well during the quarter."

According to Carnival, for the fourth quarter, advance booking levels are slightly behind last year at this time on a capacity adjusted basis, with average pricing slightly above last year in current dollars. As a result, Carnival expects that net revenue yields for the fourth quarter of 2006 will increase slightly (flat to down slightly in constant dollars) compared to last year's fourth quarter.

Net cruise costs per ALBD in the fourth quarter of 2006 are expected to be flat to up slightly (flat to down slightly in constant dollars) compared to 2005. Carnival's cost guidance for fuel is based on recent forward prices for the balance of the year which are in line with the average prices for the fourth quarter of 2005.

Based on these estimates, Carnival said that it expects diluted earnings per share for the fourth quarter of 2006 to be in the range of $0.46 to $0.48. This guidance is based on currency exchange rates of $1.27 to the euro and $1.87 to sterling.

Arison also noted that for the full year Carnival said that it is currently on track to post earnings per share of $2.71 to $2.73. This is slightly higher than last year despite significant challenges in 2006, not the least of which was a $210 million or $0.25 per share increase in fuel costs.

Looking to early 2007, Arison said that overall booking levels on a capacity adjusted basis, for the first quarter of 2007 are modestly down compared to the same time last year. The sluggish demand for the Caribbean is continuing into the first quarter of 2007 causing North American booking levels to be behind last year, while business for Carnival's European brands for that period is running ahead of last year's pace.

During the third quarter, Carnival said that its Costa Cruises brand took delivery of the new 3,000-passenger Costa Concordia, which launched seven-day Mediterranean cruises from Civitavecchia (Rome) on July 23, 2006.

Also in the third quarter, Carnival launched its first Asian-based cruise initiative, Costa Asia, with the newly refurbished Costa Allegra operating five-day voyages from Shanghai, the People's Republic of China, which began July 3, 2006.

Holland America Adding Broadband to Fleet
SeaMobile Enterprises, a provider of at-sea communications, connectivity and content services, announced last week it has signed an agreement with Holland America Line to provide wireless cellular phone and PDA services for Holland America Line's guests throughout the world. Installations of wireless broadband communications equipment will begin on board Holland America's entire fleet of 13 ships later this year.

The SeaMobile communications service will allow guests and staff of Holland America's ships to use their own cellular phones and wireless PDAs while at sea. SeaMobile's proprietary technology is a sophisticated IP/software-based solution that works with any type of wireless phone (GSM, GPRS or CDMA) used by the guest when accessing the SeaMobile network. This allows virtually anyone aboard any vessel at sea to use voice and data services available through their wireless home carrier, just as they would on land. Worldwide roaming agreements established by SeaMobile provide transparent connectivity for wireless services. Charges for calls and data services will then appear on the user's wireless bill from their home carrier.

"We are pleased to be chosen by Holland America Line as their communications partner and view this as an important milestone for SeaMobile," said Bill Marks, chief executive officer of SeaMobile Enterprises. "Holland America is known for offering premier services at a great value to its guests. Being chosen by Holland America Line further validates the leadership position that SeaMobile has earned very quickly in this industry. To be selected as a Holland America partner speaks of their confidence in SeaMobile to provide seamless communication services to their guests at an affordable rate. We will more than meet their expectations."

Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN), a SeaMobile company, already provides satellite connectivity and manages the Internet cafes on board Holland America's ships. These simple-to-use, high-quality services are expected to complement a host of premier services aboard Holland America Line ships.

Carnival Adds Water Balloon Attraction to Fleet
Carnival announced this week that it had entered into an agreement with Minnesota-based "Water Wars" that will allow it to feature an on board water balloon-themed attraction similar to one currently found in amusement parks in 22 countries throughout the world.

The "Jr. Dyno Water Wars" units consist of two custom-built "battle stations" in which participants propel water balloons through the air via catapults in an effort to splash their competitors. Currently available on Carnival's Imagination and Fascination, the units will be installed fleetwide by summer 2007 and located on ships' open decks adjacent to the main pool area.

"Water Wars" is the latest poolside activity aboard Carnival's ships which also feature swimming pools, cascading water slides, and acres of deck space for sunning and relaxing. The attraction is expected to be particularly popular among the 525,000 children who sail with Carnival each year.

"We're always looking for new and exciting outdoor diversions that will add to the enjoyment to our guests' vacation experience. 'Water Wars' is a great 'fun in the sun' activity for guests of all ages," said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO.

According to Tommy Woog, Water Wars' director of sales & marketing, the agreement with Carnival was reached after extensive planning and research over the past year. "After carefully evaluating Carnival's needs and specifications, we custom-designed a fun-filled attraction specifically tailored to the line's unique shipboard environment," he said.

Financial Highlights
The Board of Directors of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL; Oslo) has declared a quarterly dividend of 15 cents per share for shareholders of record at the close of business on September 29, 2006, payable on October 10, 2006. This is the 52nd consecutive quarter Royal Caribbean's Board of Directors has voted to declare a dividend to shareholders.

Stock Watch
The following are the latest closing prices for selected cruise line stocks.

Company Today's Closing Price Change (since last week)
Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE:CCL) 46.07 + 7.74%
Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) 38.94 + 5.56%
Star Cruises (HKSE:0678.HK) 1.49 + 0.68%

Cruise News Trivia Question:
For safety and speed reasons, the SS United States (now owned by NCL), once the fastest ship afloat, was constructed almost entirely of aluminium and steel. In fact, it was said that there were only two items made of wood on board the entire ship. What were those two items?

Answer - Will be published in next week's column along with the name of the first person to submit the correct answer. Send your answer to cruise2006@travelpage.com

Last Week's Question
The French Line's Normandie featured a distinctive covering over the forward deck that concealed the anchor chains, deck gear and mooring lines. What was this covering called?

Answer - The answer to the NORMANDIE question is - WHALEBACK.
courtesy of Rob Henderson, Sydney, Australia

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