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Greetings to the many thousands of readers the past month from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom as well as Russia, France, Germany, Japan, China, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam and Australia.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Holland America Line increases guest capacity for 2012 Alaska with four itineraries on seven ships

Holland America Line
(News Release) 
The ms Oosterdam navigates the icy waters of Alaska while visiting Hubbard Glacier.
Four itineraries on seven ships range from seven to 14 days

Seattle, Wash., April 4, 2011 — Beginning in May 2012, Holland America Line will feature four Alaska cruise itineraries on seven of its mid-sized vessels, totaling 130 departures from May 2 through Sept. 23. The extensive itinerary offerings will increase the line’s guest capacity in the region by nearly 6 percent

Royal Caribbean offers a wedding package fit for a Prince and a Princess looking to tie the knot at sea



(News Release)
Cruise Line Launches Honeymoon Registry for Couples Dreaming of Far-off Destinations
MIAMI, April 5, 2011 – Royal Caribbean International is celebrating the upcoming British royal wedding by offering an exclusive Royal Caribbean wedding package for couples looking to tie the knot at sea. The Royal Wedding package offers engaged couples, or those looking to renew their vows, the opportunity to have a truly regal experience in a symbolic ceremony onboard one of the cruise line’s 22 ships. The package, available to purchase through December 2011, commemorates the couple’s big day, April 29, and starts at $2,904. The cruise line also has launched a new honeymoon registry, providing a go-to spot for family and friends to help make a couple’s dream of a perfect honeymoon cruise a reality.

“Royal Caribbean’s full fleet of ships around the world will broadcast the royal wedding live so that guests may join in the ceremony’s excitement,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of Marketing, Royal Caribbean International. “Inspired by the pending royal nuptials, the Royal Wedding package and honeymoon registry offers guests the Royal treatment on their special day and honeymoon cruise.”

Disney Cruise Line makes inaugural visit to San Francisco with the Disney Wonder

 (News Release)

In a photo taken April 29, 2011, in San Francisco, the Disney Wonder cruise ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to the Port of San Francisco. This is the first time Disney Cruise Line has visited San Francisco. The ship stopped here for two days as part of a repositioning itinerary heading north to begin Disney Cruise Line’s first Alaska season. During the seven-night Alaskan itinerary, the Disney Wonder visits Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Tracy Arm Fjord. (Jimmy DeFlippo/Disney, photographer)

Azamara Club Cruises celebrates first South American Season with half-price savings


(News Release)

Guests Enjoy up to 50 Percent Savings Plus up to $1,000 ChoiceAir Credit on Select South America and Asia Voyages
MIAMI, April 29, 2011 – Azamara Journey will sail to vibrant South America for the first time this upcoming October to deliver the regions colors, cultures, and best-kept secrets. In honor of the ship’s inaugural season in the region, Azamara Club Cruises is offering up to 50 percent savings and up to a $1,000 ChoiceAir credit for up-market travelers to join in the celebrations on an amazing Azamara voyage. Not to be left out, up-market travelers also can enjoy the same offer on select Southeast Asia voyages aboard Azamara Quest.

Featuring longer stays and more overnight stays at more than 45 percent of port visits, Azamara Club Cruises’ guests can enjoy an immersive travel experience and take advantage of night tourism in destinations where the nightlife is even more vibrant than the day’s. On select South America voyages aboard Azamara Journey, guests can celebrate Christmas in South America with an overnight in Punta Del Este, Uruguay; herald in the New Year aboard, with VIP views of the New Year’s Eve fireworks off of Copacabana Beach, and then join in the revelry on shore at 1 a.m.; or spend three days in the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

N E W S
 Cunard Line Prepares for Royal Wedding Celebrations at Sea
 
Officers and crew of flagship Queen Mary 2 make final preparations before departing
New York on first Transatlantic Crossing of the season

    

Cunard’s White Star Bellmen carry cases of Veuve Clicquot champagne aboard Queen Mary 2 for
Royal Wedding commemorative cocktails during the ship's Transatlantic Crossing,
which embarked from New York on Thursday, 26 April.



Cunard Line’s Executive Pastry Chef Bosco Dourado puts the "Catherine and William" cake topper
on a commemorative Royal Wedding cake aboard flagship Queen Mary 2, which will
be on display during the ship's Royal Wedding celebrations.




Cunard Line's commemorative Royal Wedding dinner menu and champagne cocktails.

Photo Credit for above images: Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Cunard Line


 

Click on the above image to view video of Cunard's Royal Wedding preparations
aboard Queen Mary 2.

 
27 April 2011 As the world eagerly awaits the wedding of the century, Cunard Line and the youngest fleet at sea prepared for its own Royal Wedding festivities taking place whilst sailing during this momentous occasion.  Officers and crew of flagship Queen Mary 2 put final celebratory touches on board yesterday in New York as guests embarked for the ship’s first Eastbound Crossing of the 2011 Transatlantic Season.

Royal Caribbean redeploys Navigator of the Seas to the Caribbean for winter season 2011-12

(News Release)

    MIAMI, April 18, 2011 – Royal Caribbean International today announced the redeployment of Navigator of the Seas for the 2011-12 winter season, offering a wider selection of Caribbean vacation options. The ship will now reposition to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and sail a range of five- to nine-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries beginning November 20, 2011. Navigator of the Seas also offers a 14-night, trans-Atlantic itinerary from Rome to Port Everglades, departing November 6, 2011, and a 15-night return cruise to Rome on April 14, 2012. Sailings for Navigator of the Seas’ winter 2011-12 cruises are open for sale.


Monday, April 25, 2011

The warmth of the "aloha spirit" awaits on a Holland America cruise to fabled Hawaii

An overview of Hawaii's scenic Hanauma Bay near Honolulu where scenes from Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley were filmed. (Jim Fox photo)
    (c) By Jim and Barb Fox

   It isn't until you sail around the fabled tropical islands of Hawaii that you feel the real warmth of the "aloha spirit."
   Wanting a leisurely, upscale voyage with many "days at sea" en route to paradise, we opted for a 15-day Circle Hawaii cruise with Holland America Line.
Surf's up and palms line the shore in Hilo, Hawaii. (Jim Fox photo)

   Sailing round-trip from San Diego on the musically themed ms Zaandam, a spacious 1,440-passenger ship, it afforded a refined experience with service by an Indonesian and Filipino crew that's truly amazing.
   We arrived a couple days early and spent the time exploring the San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island and Old Town where we dined on Mexican food at Casa Guadalajara and took in a comedy show at the historic area's theatre.
   The Marriott San Diego Gaslamp Quarter hotel (www.marriott.com/sangl; 1-800-228-9290) put us right in the chic nightlife district with lots to see and do. The beautifully appointed hotel offers a cruise package with free transfers to and from the ship and parking while away.
   At the sail-away party as you cruise literally into the sunset, the anticipation of Polynesia doesn't get any better than this.
   Your "aloha" welcome onboard includes a silk lei as a prelude to being immersed in island culture. There are guest lecturers, a Hawaiian-themed evening with everyone adorned in real orchid leis, folkloric and hula shows, and a night-time luau poolside on the Lido deck.
A hula dancer performs in a folkloric show for cruise passengers. (Barb Fox photo)

   In keeping with its musical theme, the Zaandam has artifacts and memorabilia including guitars signed by the Rolling Stones, while the soaring three-story atrium has a working Baroque-style Dutch pipe organ.
   A bonus were the hundreds of jazz aficionados onboard as part of Jazzdagen Tours (www.jazzdagen.com), bringing with them four bands that kept everyone jiving day and night.
   Jack Prout of London was among the 200 Canadians onboard and he gracefully swept the ladies off their feet in his role as one of the four dance hosts.
   Seeing nothing but water, water everywhere for five straight days over and back are indulgent days at sea.
   They're made for rejuvenation or activities from dawn to dusk including culinary arts demonstrations, spa treatments, going to the movie theatre, hanging out in the Explorations Cafe where there's a well-stocked library, newspapers, magazines, music listening stations and Internet access.
   There are also art auctions, a casino, swimming pools, strolls around the promenade deck, bars - and all the jazz.
The ms Zaandam is shown dockside in Honolulu. (Jim Fox photo)

   The two-tier Rotterdam Dining Room offers delicious five-course menus, including caviar, escargot, lobster tails and filet mignon for the Captain's dinner. The Signature Master Chef's Dinner has performing waiters in a song-and-dance presentation.
   An observation lounge by day, the Crow's Nest lounge high atop the ship is the location for the Black and White ball to mingle with the captain and officers.
   An alternative restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill ($30 surcharge at dinner), features Pacific Northwest cuisine including 22-ounce porterhouse steaks, seafood and fine wines - not to forget the warm Grand Marnier chocolate volcano cake.
   Exploring the islands by ship as the natives did will leave you marvelling at the molten lava spewing into the ocean from Kilauea volcano, hearing the pulsating beat of the Hawaiian war chant at luaus and the seeing giant moai statues representing ancient Polynesian lore.
   In Hilo, gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is the Mauna Kea Observatory and don't forget to stop at Hilo Hatties, the island chain - also in San Diego - for fine clothing and souvenirs.
   Two days in Honolulu provides time to explore Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbour and Iolani Palace, last residence of Hawaii's monarchs.
   Chef-food critic Matthew Gray and Kiera Nagai of Hawaii Food Tours (www.hawaiifoodtours.com) took us Lunching With the Locals, hitting favourite off-the-beaten path culinary delights.
Keira Nagai of Hawaii Food Tours shows a box of Portuguese-style malasadas - airy fried dough confectionaries coated with sugar - that are specialties at Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu. (Jim Fox photo)

   We took in an authentic luau at Drums of the Pacific in Lahaina on Maui, a vacation playground with beaches, golf courses and resorts.
   Stepping into a "cloud forest," we hiked through a naturalist's private estate in Kona on the slopes of the sleeping Hualalai volcano and visited a nearby organic coffee plantation.
   Everywhere there are plenty of opportunities for shore excursions to view the volcanoes, flora and fauna by helicopter, snorkel, golf, go deep-sea fishing and even learn to surf.
Someone created this replica of a Hobbit House in Honolulu. (Barb Fox photo)
   Ensenada, Mexico is an evening stop with time for a tour and folkloric show, with crowd-pleasing unlimited margaritas and cervezas before returning to San Diego.
   Current (2011) Holland America itineraries offer 14-day round-trips from San Diego with one-day ports of call: Nawiliwili; Lahaina (Maui);  Honolulu; Hilo; and several hours in Ensenada, Mexico on the return.
   ---
 
   If you sail:
   - Circle Hawaii sailings (2011) are priced from about $1,500 a person (inside cabin) to $8,000 (deluxe veranda suite). Sailings this year include a 17-day Vancouver-Hawaii round-trip leaving Sept. 25 and 14-day Circle Hawaii, round-trip San Diego, leaving Oct. 22, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. A holiday trip, leaving San Diego on Dec. 21 for 14 days is about $2,100 to $10,000.
   Contact a travel agent or www.hollandamerica.com; 1-877-SAIL-HAL (724-5425).

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(This feature was first published in 2007 when two nights in Honolulu and a day at Kona were included in a 15-day, round-trip, San Diego.)
Jim and Barb Fox are freelance writers/photographers who can be contacted at outtosea50@hotmail.com

Article and photos are copyright with all rights reserved. Contact us for reprint rights.

Cunard Line Announces New Commodore: Captain Christopher Rynd

(News Release)
Captain Christopher Rynd to join the elite group of Cunard Masters


  

21 April 2011 Captain Christopher Rynd has been appointed Commodore of the Cunard Line fleet – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria – the youngest fleet in the industry and The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World.  Captain Rynd assumes the title held by Commodore Bernard Warner who retired from the company on 19 April 2011.

“I must put on record our appreciation for the marvellous contribution that Bernie made to Cunard Line.  We wish him and his family all the best for his retirement,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Holland America returns to Bermuda with weekly round-trips from New York City

The ms Veendam at anchor in this photo taken at Fort St. Catherine in St. George, Bermuda. (Photo by Jim Fox)
   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
   After an absence of 27 years, Holland America Line has resumed regular sailings offering stay-and-play fun in Bermuda.
The Veendam off St. George, Bermuda. (Photo by Jim Fox)
    The ms Veendam is again this year making weekly round-trips from New York City from May 1 through Oct. 9 to the tiny archipelago of Bermuda with its rich heritage of 400 years of colonial rule.
   Noted for its shimmering turquoise seas, powdery pink sand beaches, exotic tropical gardens, spectacular sunsets and dressy colourful shorts, Bermuda offers an upscale adventure to a semi-tropical isle that's 1,030 kilometres off the coast of North Carolina.
   We sailed to this oldest British oversea territory and were the first to experience Veendam's complete itinerary with an overnight at anchor at St. George and three nights "parked" right downtown in Hamilton, the capital city.
    The ms Veendam ties up along Front Street in downtown Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda. (Photo by Barb Fox)
   Previous sailings headed directly to Hamilton as high winds made the "tendering" of passengers to shore potentially dangerous via Bermuda ferries. The ship itself is too large to navigate the narrow "Town Cut" through the reef and tie up in St. George.
   Covering just 54 square kilometres, this refined land in the North Atlantic is warmed by fresh ocean breezes and scented with gardenias and spices while visitors are treated as distinguished guests.
   Johnny Barnes, Bermuda's unofficial goodwill ambassador, welcomes visitors and offers his best wishes to morning commuters in Hamilton. (Photo by Jim Fox)
   Along with town criers in St. George and Hamilton, you might come across Johnny Barnes, Bermuda's unofficial goodwill ambassador.
   He greets sightseeing tours and morning commuters at the Crow Lane roundabout where he waves and throws kisses at all.
   The Veendam, carrying 1,350 passengers, steams out of the Manhattan Cruise Ship Terminal on Sundays at 4:45 p.m. and down the Hudson River.
   The sailaway party is highlighted by the passing of the Statue of Liberty, after which the ship sails into the open ocean, arriving in Bermuda on Tuesdays at 8 a.m.
   The Veendam has undergone "Signature of Excellence" upgrades including the addition of lanai staterooms with sliding glass doors. These lead to the outdoor Lower Promenade, a wrap-around teak walking deck.
   New staterooms have been added to the aft along with a resort pool, the Retreat, Showroom at Sea and the Mix, a specialty lounge with popular cocktail mixing demonstrations.
   There's also the Canaletto casual Italian restaurant (no extra charge) in addition to the extra-fee alternative steak and seafood Pinnacle Grill.
   An imposing figure is the six-foot, seven-inch town crier welcoming the ms Veendam passengers -- and writer Jim Fox -- to Hamilton, Bermuda. (Photo by Barb Fox)

   Erik Elvejord, Holland America director of public relations, said the Bermudan sailings are popular with Canadians. On this cruise, there were 155 Canadians onboard as well as David Wood, hotel manager.
   Digital workshops, led by "techsperts," are new popular activities as well as cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Centre, Elvejord said.
   At mid-week, we took a scenic ferry ride to stay overnight at the Fairmont Southampton, a luxury resort on Bermuda's highest point on the south shore.
The Fairmont Southampton (Photo by Jim Fox)
   Each of the 593 guest rooms and suites has a private balcony and incredible views of the ocean, harbour or the hotel's 18-hole golf course.
   Dining at the Waterlot Inn, the hotel's 340-year-old, four-diamond restaurant said to have the best steaks and seafood in Bermuda, we watched the sun set into the ocean.
   Executive Chef Clifford Crawford, of New Brunswick, will even cook you up a Kobe beef ribeye for $145 U.S. and his dessert specialty, sticky toffee pudding.
Waterlot Inn Executive Chef Clifford Crawford (Photo By Jim Fox)

   Nattily attired in his red Bermuda shorts, island native Peter Frith, former Southampton director of sales, showed off the multi-level penthouse suite with views of the entire island and the luxurious Willow Stream Spa.
   The waterfront Fairmont Hamilton Princess, marking its 125th year, continues the fine tradition of afternoon tea. We dined the next day on "finger sandwiches," scones with Devonshire clotted cream and sweet pastries along with steaming pots of English tea.
Tea at the Hamilton Princess. (Jim Fox photo)

   Getting around Bermuda is easy and exciting whether by one of the spotless taxis with pleasant drivers (no rental cars are available), motor scooters or municipal buses and ferries.
   St. Peter's Church in St. George, completed in 1619, is one of the oldest Anglican churches in the Western Hemisphere and is where the Bermuda Parliament was founded. (Photo by Jim Fox)
   Historic St. George, founded in 1609, has narrow, twisting streets and pastel-painted houses along with forts from the 17th century.
   Hamilton, in the centre of the island, is close to the south shore beaches, with the ship docking alongside the many restaurants, shops and businesses.
   We learned about the many shipwrecks littered around the island and sea life at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, while the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, circa 1898, has 14.5 hectares of trees, flowers and shrubs.
   The Veendam sails from Bermuda on Fridays at 2 p.m., arriving back in New York City on Sundays at 7 a.m.

   ---

   If you sail:
   - Veendam's seven-night sailings to Bermuda are from about $700 U.S. a person for an inside cabin to about $3,000 for a deluxe verandah suite. www.hollandamerica.com; 1-877-SAIL-HAL.
   - Fairmont Southampton and the Fairmont Hamilton Princess have a variety of getaway packages. www.fairmont.com; 1-800-441-1414.

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Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com
(Text and all photos are copyright with all rights reserved. Contact us for reprint rights)

Exclusive cultural experiences await American Safari Cruises’ guests in Hawaiian Islands

36-guest Safari Explorer Sails in Hawaii from November 2011-May 2012

Seattle, WA, April 11, 2011 – Close relationships developed with local families on Moloka’i afford guests aboard American Safari Cruises’ yacht Safari Explorer exclusive authentic experiences while sailing among the Hawaiian Islands. From guided hikes learning how to “listen to the land” to joining a local family repairing ancient taro terraces, shoreside tours offer a unique opportunity to experience true Hawaiian culture.

Sailing weeklong or 10-night active, adventure un-cruises between Maui and the Big Island from November 2011 through May 2012, the upscale 36-guest Safari Explorer visits Moloka’i, Lana’i and Molokini. 

Princess Cruises' daily video journal chronicles Grand Princess makeover in drydock



Viewers Can Follow Progress as Ship is Transformed During
Line’s Most Extensive Drydock Ever

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (April 12, 2011) – Today Grand Princess begins the most significant transformation ever in Princess Cruises history, and viewers can follow along with a daily video journal chronicling the 24-day drydock.

Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, the videos, as well as photos, are available at princess.com/granddrydock and on YouTube and Flickr.  In the first installment, audiences get a first look at the beginning of the ship’s transformation as it sails to the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas.  The journal will include daily updates through May 4.

During the makeover, approximately 1,400 workers will be busy around the clock adding many of Princess’ trademark features, including the signature Piazza atrium.  Several new spaces will also be created including a unique tea lounge and library called “Leaves”; “Alfredo’s,” a full-service pizzeria showcasing this renowned Princess dish, and a new nightclub called “The One5.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eco adventure cruising and the "disappearing" totem pole of the Kitlope in B.C.'s Inside Passage

   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Cruisers hear from Henaaksia elder Cecil Paul of the Killer Whale Clan in front of the G'psgolox replica totem pole in the Kitlope. (Photo by Kevin J. Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures)
 The schooner Maple Leaf is shown in front of a huge, unnamed waterfall in the Great Bear Rainforest's Fjordland area. (Photo by Kevin J. Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures)


   Cruisers looking for intimate eco adventures off Canada's west coast will have a rare chance to view the authentic and mysterious "disappearing pole of the Kitlope."
   Maple Leaf Adventures, which operates expeditions in British Columbia's Inside Passage and north to Alaska, is offering private tours on a classic tall ship that include viewing the famed 139-year-old G'psgolox totem pole.
   The adventure cruise company, based in Victoria, has arranged "special visits" for its guests to the historic pole on two Great Bear Rainforest trips in June, said publicist Maureen Gordon.

Carnival Magic to debut in May; added Bermuda cruises and new homeports for 2011

From the launch of the new 130,000-ton Carnival Magic – set to debut in May with a series of Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona -- to an expanded schedule of Bermuda cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines has a number of exciting developments on tap for the coming year:

New Carnival Magic set to debut
Carnival’s newest “Fun Ship,” the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic is set to debut on May 1 with a series of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona.