Friday, March 20, 2009

Cunard announces design and itineraries for its newest liner, the Queen Elizabeth

Cunard Line will launch its newest ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth, on October 12, 2010 -- the third new liner introduced by the line in the past six years and the second largest Cunard ship ever built. It will join the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria in the Cunard fleet.

The new liner's name, of course, harks back to the original Queen Elizabeth, which was launched in 1938, and succeeds the recently retired Queen Elizabeth 2. So while it will be the third "Queen Elizabeth" ship, it will not be called the QE3.

The new liner will combine 21st-century amenities with traditional features such as Art Deco elements, rich wood interior panelling, mosaics, marbles and chandeliers. Public rooms and spaces will be on a grand scale, including a ballroom, garden lounge, and games deck.

In 2010, the Queen Elizabeth will make its 13-night maiden voyage out of Southampton, England, on October 12, sailing to Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and Madeira; fares will start at $2,995 per person. If you're looking for a more affordable introduction to the ship, consider the five-day "Gallic Debut" voyage from Southampton to Rotterdam, Brussels/Bruges and Cherbourg, with fares starting at $1,195 per person. The liner will also make four other voyages in 2010, including a 22-day holiday Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean in December, 2010.

You can begin booking the Queen Elizabeth's inaugural season on April 2 (2009). For information and reservations, call Cunard at 800-7-CUNARD or a travel agent; or go to the Cunard website here.

Photo of the Queen Mary 2 from Cunard.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cruise News Tidbits

*** Disney is doubling the size of its cruise line. Its current two ships, the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic, will be joined by two new ones in 2001 and 2012, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. The two ships are being built in Germany. (And yes, there is a Carnival Fantasy and an upcoming Carnival Dream, but there's no word on whether there will soon be a Carnival Mickey and Carnival Goofy.)

*** The Hawaii Superferry, whose beginning we chronicled back in June 2007, has suspended operations, at least for the time being. It has been ferrying passengers and cars between Oahu and Maui and, after today, will no longer make the run. The reason: the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that the company can't operate until an environmental review is finished, to determine its effect on whales and other wildlife. The case is under appeal.

*** Carnival's Alaska cruises will sail out of Seattle starting in 2010, rather than Vancouver, BC. This is part of a trend: Seattle passed Vancouver this year for the first time as the leading departure point for all Inside Passage cruises. Carnival's one ship in Alaskan waters, the Spirit, will make 17 seven-day sailings from mid-May through August in 2010; port calls will include Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Victoria, BC; Tracy Arm Fjord is also on the itineraries.

Photo of Carnival Spirit from Carnival.

Battle of the luxury cruise lines

Two weeks ago, we reported on Seabourn's slashing of prices on upcoming European sailings.

Regent Seven Seas and Crystal Cruises are also getting into the act.

Regent has announced what they call "ultra-inclusive" pricing, which comes on top of their traditional "all-inclusive" pricing, which already includes gratuities and alcohol. What's the difference? For starters, if you book by May 31 of this year, Regent is offering free (selected) shore excursions for most of the rest of its 2009 sailings and all of its 2010 sailings (some restrictions apply). Regent is also offering two-for-one price savings (that is, 50 percent discounts) and free air -- gateway cities are limited, so you may have to pay extra -- also dependent on booking by May 31.

Crystal, meanwhile, has announced its own "All Inclusive -- As You Wish" program, which offers shipboard credits of $2,000 per couple if you book a cruise of 11 days or longer. Crystal's program stresses individual spending decisions: you can spend your credit on shore excursions, alcohol, or whatever you want.

In the past, discounting has been much more typical of mainstream lines such as Carnival or Royal Caribbean than the luxury lines. The battle of the luxury lines indicates just how tough the competition is for the cruise dollar in these hard economic times.

Photo of Seven Seas Voyager from Regent.

Celebration Cruise Line inaugurates short cruises to The Bahamas

The new Celebration Cruise Line has begun sailing two- and three-night cruises this week from Port Everglades, Florida, to Nassau's Paradise Island. The line has scheduled seven departures for March and another 13 for April, as it gets into full swing. Two-night departures are on Mondays and Wednesdays, while three-night departures are on Fridays.

Celebration employs a single ship, the Bahamas Celebration, which holds 1,500 passengers. Rates range from a low of $99 per passenger for an interior bunk on the lowest deck on a two-night cruise to $639 per passenger for a deluxe suite on a three-day cruise over a holiday weekend.

The cruise line is run in large part by former executives from the now-defunct Imperial Majesty Cruise Line, which sailed to The Bahamas on the aging Regal Empress, which is apparently being retired rather than face costly safety upgrades. The Regal Empress -- if not Imperial Majesty itself, which had taken to practically giving away its cruises (amid annoying telephone promotions) the past couple of years -- will be missed. (For more on the Regal Empress, see Peter Knego's Sea Treks blog here.)

The Bahamas Celebration is itself nearly 30 years old, but has undergone extensive renovations to ready it for its new duties. It features four restaurants (one at additional cost), a casino, a nightclub with Vegas-style shows, a spa, and various bars and lounges. There are also children's facilities as well as a pool with waterslide. The ship spends a full day in Nassau, with shore excursions (such as snorkeling and glass-bottom boat trips) available for purchase.

For booking, call 800/520-2410 or a travel agent, or go to the Celebration Cruise Line website.

Photo from Celebration Cruise Line.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seabourn puts European luxury voyages on sale

The Yachts of Seabourn luxury small-ship cruise line is holding a one-week "Stimulate Your Summer" sale of selected European voyages departing in June and July of this year. Bookings must be made between March 9 and March 16, 2009.

The savings amount to up to 65 percent off regular fares for 14 sailings of one to two weeks in the Mediterranean and northern Europe aboard the Seabourn Pride, Spirit, Legend and the new Odyssey (whose maiden voyage is June 24 from Venice, but isn't part of the sale). All Seabourn yachts feature all-suite accommodations, open bars and complimentary water sports.

Spoecial fares begin at $2,840 per person, double occupancy, and are valid for all categories of suites on board.

For details, call Seabourn at 800/929-9391 or a travel agent, or go to the Seabourn website.

Photo of Seabourn Pride from The Yachts of Seabourn.

Fred. Olsen offers specials on Norway, Baltic cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, featuring relaxed British atmosphere aboard its five classic ships, is offering reduced prices on three sailings to Norway and one to the Baltic this spring through fall. Cruises leave from UK ports.
The 839-passenger Boudicca (pictured above) sails Norway for seven nights starting April 26, 2009, with prices starting at $950 per person (down from $1,110), and again for six nights starting June 15, 2009, with a reduced price of $641 per person, down from $956, for outside cabins.
The 987-passenger Braemar departs August 29, 2009, for seven nights in Norway for $951 per person, down from $1,189; and sails to the Baltic on December 14, 2009, for 12 nights, at a reduced price of $1,508 per person, down from $2,075.
You can expect great service aboard Fred. Olsen as well as interesting itineraries, featuring some lesser-known ports that bigger ships can't reach.
To book a Fred. Olsen cruise in the U.S., call Borton Overseas at 800/843-0602 ext. 21 0r 612/821-9701, or go to the Borton Overseas website.
Boudicca photo from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Variety Cruises Greek Summer (April-October) Sale

Variety Cruises, the four-year-old small-ship cruise line specializing in Greece, Turkey, the Red Sea, the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, is putting some of its Aegean cruises and cabins on sale for the summer 2009 season.

Couples booking into a double-occupancy cabin can save up to $1,500 on the line's "Classical Greece" and "Aegean Odyssey" itineraries, as well as receive two free nights at a four-star Athens hotel and a half-day sightseeing tour of Athens before or after the cruise.

Sailings are aboard the line's mega yachts Harmony G or Harmony V, departing from Athens or Crete. Port stops may include some of the lesser known Greek Islands including Patmos and Samos.

Possible sailing dates range from April 24, 2009, to October 30, 2009, but not all dates within those months are on sale, and cabins are limited to A, B, or in some cases C categories. See the Variety Cruises website or call 800/319-7776 (from US) or 866/944-8498 (from Canada) for more information on the sailings. Fares before the savings start at $2,290 per person.

Photo of M/Y Harmony V from Variety Cruises.