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February 27, 2005

Orient Lines Adds Two New Cruisetour Vacations To Its 2005-2006 Lineup

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ORIENT LINES ADDS TWO NEW CRUISETOUR VACATIONS TO ITS 2005-2006 LINEUP

Marco Polo offers new port call in Tripoli, Libya and returns to Alexandria, Egypt for the first time since 2001!

Destination cruise specialist Orient Lines Thursday announced it will add two European CruiseTours to its 2005-2006 lineup of itineraries, including an Ancient Civilizations & Empire tour and Ancient Egypt and the Ottoman Empire voyage. Both voyages offer a new port of call, Tripoli, Libya and mark the return of Orient Lines to Alexandria, Egypt. The new itineraries are on sale now.

The 2005-2006 program offers 60 separate European Cruise Tours and 11 Exotic CruiseTours on the Marco Polo, which recently celebrated its 10th year as Orient Lines' flagship.

"The 2005-06 deployment features the most diverse array of ports and turnaround cities Orient Lines has ever offered," said Andy Stuart, executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services for Orient Lines. "With the addition of these two new tours, Orient Lines offers more than 15 new ports of call, three new turnaround cities and more time in port than ever before."

The European CruiseTour program features the industry's only international ship home porting a series of cruises in Warnemunde in the former Eastern Germany combined with a two-night stay in the historic city of Berlin and overnights in many historical cities throughout Europe including Paris, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Copenhagen. Additionally, the ship will sail to several new ports this year, including Izmir, Turkey; Split, Croatia; Brussels (Zeebrugge), Belgium; Visby, Sweden; Gdansk, Poland, and Riga, Latvia.

As part of the exotics program, the 822-passenger Marco Polo will again return to Antarctica for an 11th year with a series of awe-inspiring CruiseTours to the White Continent. Additionally, the ship will sail around the southern tip of South America in a line-up of new Exotic cruises debuting Rio de Janeiro as an embarkation/debarkation port. Finally, Marco Polo will sail from Chile through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean with a new turnaround option in Montego Bay, Jamaica before returning to the Mediterranean for her summer season. New ports of call for the Exotic voyages include Florianapolis, Brazil; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Huatulco, Acapulco and Zihuantenejo/Ixtapa, Mexico; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; San Andres, Columbia and George Town, Grand Cayman.

Orient Lines' CruiseTour program offers guests in-depth experiences on land and sea. Passengers on all of the line's sailings enjoy first-class or deluxe hotel stays, sightseeing tours in embarkation/disembarkation cities, transfers, baggage handling and the services of an Orient Lines hospitality desk. In addition gentleman hosts make sure everyone joins in the dancing and shipboard activities.

2005/06 European CruiseTour Program:

Orient Lines' 2005/06 Europe program will be highlighted by two new itineraries, one new turnaround port and six new exciting ports of call:

  • Iberia and French Highlights, a completely new cruise for Orient Lines, features overnight stays in Lisbon and Paris as well as favored stops in Malaga and Cadiz, Spain with an optional tour to Seville;
  • Another new itinerary, Enchanting Cities, features three overnight stays in Amsterdam, Holland; Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland and Copenhagen, Denmark as well as new ports of call in Brussels (Zeebrugge), Belgium and Visby, Sweden;
  • The Baltic and Russia cruise features an overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia, the line's first-ever call to Riga, Latvia, and an overnight and turnaround in Warnemunde combined with a two night land stay in Berlin, Germany, a cruise industry first;
  • Also embarking from Warnemunde with a two-night stay in Berlin, Germany is the Medieval Cities CruiseTour with a new port of call in Gdansk, Poland;
  • Finally, the Venice and Aegean CruiseTour features two new ports of call for Orient Lines guests: Izmir, Turkey and Split, Croatia.

Previously called Voyage Around Italy, the Marco Polo's Adriatic & Amalfi Coast CruiseTour is not new but renamed in 2005 in honor of the ship's 10th Anniversary with Orient Lines and as a tribute to Marco Polo's birthplace of Korcula, Croatia and his long-time home of Venice, Italy.

Back by popular demand is Orient Lines' North Cape & Fjords from Copenhagen, Denmark with stops in Flam, Gudvangen, Hellsylt, Tromso, Norway; a cruise through the Geiranger Fjord before continuing her calls in Honningsvag, Trondheim, Bergen and Oslo,

2005/06 Exotic CruiseTour Program:

Orient Lines' Exotic CruiseTour program will feature an additional sailing to Antarctica, two completely new itineraries with new turnaround ports and eight new ports of call:

  • In 2006, Orient Lines will feature a fourth Antarctic Peninsula voyage, one more than previously offered;
  • A new CruiseTour, Rio Carnival & Chilean Fjords will feature Rio de Janeiro as a turnaround city for the first time as well as a new port of call in Florianopolis, Brazil;
  • Exotic Americas & Panama Canal, another brand new voyage for Orient Lines, features new ports of call in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Huatulco, Acapulco and Zihuantenejo/Ixtapa, Mexico; San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; San Andres, Columbia and George Town, Grand Cayman with Montego Bay, Jamaica debuting as a turnaround city.

The Orient Lines Difference:

Distinguished guest lecturers enrich the passenger experience by providing insight about the destination, including its history, culture and people. Guests who aren't able to attend the lecture can watch it in-cabin at their convenience.

Special cultural traditions - like Afternoon Tea in England -- and local folkloric performances further enhance guests' experience. Orient Lines believes that little considerations make a big difference. Guests receive a complimentary bottle of water upon leaving for shore excursions and are greeted by a friendly face ready to offer them a cool towel and cold lemonade or iced tea upon their return.

A Pampered Experience - From Beginning to End

Orient Lines offers a pampering experience from the moment CruiseTour passengers set foot in their overseas embarkation city. Guests are met at the airport by an Orient Lines representative and transferred by motor coach to a first-class or deluxe hotel property that has been carefully selected for comfort and proximity to key landmarks.

These hotel stays offer passengers a chance to relax after long flights and give them time to explore some of the world's great travel destinations. Other lines regard hotel stays as optional add-ons.

At the end of the pre-cruise stay, passengers are transferred by motor coach to the Marco Polo for boarding. Because ship check-in was processed at the hotel's hospitality desk, there's no waiting at the pier. And, because luggage was collected at the hotel, passengers simply walk aboard with their carry-on bags; porters bring the luggage directly to each passenger's stateroom shortly after embarkation.

After the cruise, passengers are transferred by motor coach to their post-cruise hotel. In addition to providing concierge services, Orient Lines representatives at the hospitality desk also schedule passengers' final transfer to the airport. It's a seamless transition, pampering passengers from beginning to end.

Press Release By Orient Lines

For More Information About Cruise Vacations Visit These Websites:
Alaska Cruises
Europe Cruises
Mexico Cruises
Tahiti Cruises

Posted by Denise at 12:56 PM

February 25, 2005

MSC Cruises shares Musica design details

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MSC CRUISES SHARES MUSICA DESIGN DETAILS

Genoa (February 23, 2005) - based De Jorio Design International will blend Art Nouveau and Art Deco with high tech and contemporary styles in its vision for the largest vessel of MSC Cruises.

MSC Musica is under construction at Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique for introduction in Spring 2006. The ship will debut in Europe and then operate in the Caribbean in Winter 06/07. The Panamax vessel is a new design with 1,300 passenger cabins and more than 242,000sq ft of public areas. Eighty-five percent of the accommodations are outsides, and 65% of all cabins sport balconies.

A three-deck waterfall will serve as the focal point of the central foyer, where a piano will give the illusion of floating in the air. MSC Musica’s entertainment venues will include a three-deck theater seating 1,200, a music hall, a panoramic disco and a versatile show lounge that can double as a theater or conference room. Locations for small jam sessions, classical duets, small orchestras and karaoke will be located throughout the ship.

Dining venues include the panoramic Garden Restaurant with columns and frescoed ceilings, a sushi bar with Zen garden and a self-service pizza and grill cafeteria seating more than 600. Lounges will range from a ‘cyber cigar room’ to a wine tasting bar.

The 13,000 square foot spa will provide space for aerobics and yoga and such treatments as aromatherapy, thalassotherapy, chromotherapeutic hydro-massage and a Turkish bath. Other rooms include a large casino, shops, a library, art gallery and children’s playroom.

Press Release By MSC Cruises

More Information & Specials On MSC Cruises!

New 2005 MSC Cruises Europe Information & Specials!

Posted by Denise at 08:45 AM

February 22, 2005

Construction Begins On NCL America's Pride of Hawaii

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CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON NCL AMERICA'S PRIDE OF HAWAI`I

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MIAMI, February 11, 2005 – Today, NCL Corporation (“NCL”) announced that cruise industry veteran Manfred Ursprunger will join the company as senior vice president of hotel operations reporting to Executive Vice President Fleet Operations William Hamlin. In his new role, which is effective immediately, Ursprunger will oversee the entire onboard product for the company’s three brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines.

“Manfred joins us with a strong record of performance and innovation in the Hotel Management both on shore and at sea,” Hamlin said. “His varied cruise and hospitality experience culminate a 20-year record of achievement that will help us continue our plan to further enhance our onboard product. We are very pleased to have him join the management team.”

Most recently, Ursprunger was consulting for the hotel industry and several cruise lines. From 1994 to 2001, Ursprunger was at Celebrity Cruises as senior vice president of Total Guest Satisfaction. He has also held senior positions at Renaissance Cruises and several land based establishments.

Prior to that, Ursprunger was with Costa Cruises as Vice President of Hotel Operations & Services responsible for the day-to-day operations, product development and planning. Previously, he served in key management roles at Crystal Cruises, The Plaza Club in Bradenton Florida, Cunard, Norwegian American Cruises and hotels in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Ursprunger lives in Miami Beach with his wife, Diane and their 3-year-old twin daughters, Caitlyn and Nicole.

For further information, please contact NCL in the U.S. and Canada at (800) 327-7030; visit NCL’s website at www.ncl.com or on AOL at keyword: NCL; or to download high resolution photography, visit www.ncl.com/hires.

Press Release by NCL

Norwegian Cruise Line Alaska Cruise Information
Norwegian Cruise Line Europe Cruise Information
Norwegian Cruise Line Mexican Riviera Cruise Information

Posted by Denise at 08:02 AM

February 21, 2005

Princess Cruises Adds 13 New Alaska Adventures Ashore

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Princess Adds 13 New Alaska Adventures Ashore

Options Swinging Through a Rain Forest or Riding a Harley Highlight Active New Choices for 2005

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (January 31, 2005) - Whether flying between trees on a zip line, exploring the waterfront on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or capturing the perfect photo as a whale surfaces, Princess' Adventures Ashore.program offers passengers a variety of new ways to experience Alaska. The company has added 13 new tour options for the 2005 season, bringing the total number of selections to 137 excursions - many available only through Princess.
"We are extraordinarily proud of the scope of the tour selection we can offer passengers," said Charlie Ball, president of Princess Tours. "Our local knowledge and years of experience in Alaska gives us an edge in finding the best quality tours for our guests. After all, experiencing the Alaskan wilderness and culture is an important part of visiting this magnificent state."

All Alaska shore excursions are currently available for pre-reservation. Passengers booked on an Alaska cruise can take advantage of this early reservation process by logging on the Cruise Personalizer on princess.com, to ensure they get their first choice of excursions. Many Princess tours fill up quickly, so passengers are encouraged to make their selections as early as possible. Princess pioneered online shore excursion booking, and this season marks the fifth year in which Alaska passengers have been able to use this convenient reservation system.

This season's new tours include:

Ketchikan

Rain Forest Ropes & Zip Line Challenge - An exciting new option enables passengers to expand their horizons with a skills course set in the heart of the southeast Alaska rain forest. Balance beams, a suspension bridge, a Tarzan rope, swinging log and other obstacles get participants ready to traverse a 175-foot zip line between the trees and a repel back to the ground. Those who are up to the challenge can head back to the starting point and enjoy the adventure again.

Harley Davidson Motorcycle Tour - Motorcycle enthusiasts now have a tour just for them - the opportunity to combine the beauty of Ketchikan with the exhilaration of riding a Harley along a scenic waterfront highway. The 55-mile tour includes local scenery, a coffee stop and a visit to the dramatic totem poles of Totem Bight State Park.

Raptor Exhibition & Native Storytelling (Princess exclusive) - A unique opportunity to meet the majestic birds of Alaska face to face and hear the ancient legends that bind them to the "Great Land." This visit to the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center features Alaska Native interpreters to teach visitors about the state's rich wildlife and Native legends about these intriguing creatures. Passengers can also photograph Alaska's only bonded pair of American bald eagles in captivity and see a presentation of many of the area's avian residents.

Totems & Lumberjack Combo - Two of Ketchikan's most popular attractions are combined for a full timber town extravaganza. Passengers will explore the colorful totem poles of Totem Bight State Park and learn the fascinating stories behind them. Then a rollicking lumberjack competition shows off the rugged athleticism of these frontier woodsmen.

Misty Fjords & Wilderness Explorer - An opportunity for Diamond Princess passengers to enjoy a luxury cruise aboard one of the fastest sightseeing vessels in Alaska as they explore the pristine beauty of Misty Fjords National Monument.

Juneau

Photo Safari by Land & Sea (Princess exclusive) - Photography buffs will enjoy this unique opportunity to see the best of Juneau in the company of a professional photography coach who will direct the group to local photo "hot spots." The flexible itinerary allows the tour to catch seasonal highlights and account for changing light and weather conditions. Guides will provide photo tips for all skill levels as the group travels to prime destinations by land and sea to capture the area's scenic wonder for posterity.

A Taste of Juneau (Princess exclusive) - A unique combination of Juneau "tastes" includes a visit to Mendenhall Glacier as well as the savory delights of the Alaskan Brewing Company and the Taku Smokeries' Smokehouse. Visitors will sample the brewery's hand-crafted ales and seasonal beers, as well as the smokehouse's tasty salmon products, plus can take home a souvenir glass and recipe cards.

Evening Whale Quest - This evening cruise with guaranteed humpback whale sightings is the perfect way to enjoy a later-in-the-day call in Juneau. Not only will participants get up close and personal with Alaska's graceful giants, but can treat themselves with provided appetizers and dessert.

Best of Juneau - A combination of three of the area's premiere attractions - the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest, the famous Mendenhall Glacier and the Original Alaska Salmon Bake - for a full Juneau experience. Passengers are not only guaranteed a whale sighting, they will also be able to view a world-famous glacier and enjoy an outdoor salmon feast.

Skagway Afternoon Red Light Delight - Passengers can enjoy a true Klondike experience, from the scramble for riches in the gold fields to the elegance of a historic brothel. Period entertainment and gold panning highlight a visit to the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp, and later the "madams" of the world-famous Red Onion Saloon and Brothel Museum host the group for a private party upstairs in the former brothel.

Deluxe Klondike Experience & Rail Adventure (Princess exclusive) - A unique combination of local attractions makes for a complete Skagway experience. Passengers will not only ride in an old-fashioned parlor car on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad but will also get to re-live the gold rush days with a virtual journey back in time at the Klondike Experience. Lunch is served at the Historic Skagway Inn, former home to many "ladies of the night."

Gold Fever Adventure & Exclusive Scenic Railway - An opportunity for passengers to ride the rails in style and experience the life of a prospector. A cast of colorful characters brings the days of the gold rush to life at the rollicking Klondike Gold Dredge where visitors can try their own hand at striking it rich. Then one of the costumed hosts will accompany the group on a private car journey up the town's famed White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. A champagne toast at the summit adds a unique touch to this special way to experience one of the area's most popular attractions.

Victoria

Dominion Observatory & Stargazing - Passengers can take advantage of an evening visit to Victoria with a tour to the city's historic Dominion Observatory, home of what was once the world's largest telescope. The working observatory still scans the sky for asteroids and other celestial objects, and visitors could get a chance to operate the massive 45-ton Plaskett telescope - which was the first telescope to map the Milky Way. Passengers can visit the facility's science center and planetarium as well as enjoy one of Victoria's best views from Little Saanich Mountain and take advantage of photo opportunities in the city's downtown.

Adventures Ashore excursions are offered as part of Princess' comprehensive 2005 Alaska cruise and cruisetour lineup, which will offer 125 departures aboard seven ships, and featuring three popular Alaska routes - seven-day Gulf of Alaska sailings between Vancouver and Whittier; seven-day Inside Passage from Seattle and 10-day Inside Passage from San Francisco. On land, 35 cruisetours options round out the offerings and feature the exclusive new Direct to the Wilderness rail service - an industry first in which trains will be ready and waiting right at the Whittier dock to whisk passengers directly to Princess' two Denali park-area lodges. As a result passengers will get to the wilderness faster and enjoy more time in the park area.

Press Release By Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises Alaska Cruise Information
Princess Cruises Europe Cruise Information
Princess Cruises Mexican Riviera Cruise Information
Princess Cruises Tahiti & South Pacific Cruise Information

Posted by Denise at 08:00 AM

February 20, 2005

Holland America Line Announces 2006 Deployment Featuring 13 Ships, All Seven Continents

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Holland America Line Announces 2006 Deployment featuring 13 ships, all seven continents

ms Noordam Debuts - ms Prinsendam Visits Libya - new Australia/New Zealand Voyages

Seattle, February 8, 2005 – In 2006, Holland America Line will debut the new ms Noordam, visit Libya for the first time, feature eight ships cruising Alaska, and Australia/New Zealand voyages aboard the ms Statendam. The 13 ships of the world's leading premium cruise line will offer nearly 500 sailings to all seven continents from more than 25 home ports. Itineraries range from two to 108 days and feature many ports, including such new ones as Benghazi, Libya; Pearl Island, Panama; South Georgia Island in the sub-Antarctic islands; and Narvik, Norway.

“We will be offering more cruises to more destinations in 2006 and guests will have more choices of itineraries and homeports,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, senior vice president, marketing and sales. “Our Signature of Excellence enhancements will be completed on 10 ships at the start of 2006 and all 13 ships by the fall, so guests will enjoy such new amenities as our Culinary Arts Center and Explorations Café powered by the New York Times.”

2006 DEPLOYMENT HIGHLIGHTS

The Noordam debuts in February offering 10- and 11-day, roundtrip cruises from New York to the Caribbean. The newest Vista-class ship will sail 13 cruises to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean Feb. 22 to Apr. 5 and Oct. 14 to Dec. 16; it will also offer two 16-day transatlantic sailings and fifteen 10-day Mediterranean cruises from Rome.

Eight ships will sail 159 cruises to Alaska. The ms Westerdam, ms Zaandam and ms Oosterdam will homeport in Seattle, and five ships will sail from Vancouver.
The ms Statendam will feature nine 14-day sailings between Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand, during “Down Under’s” summer – Jan. 7 to Feb. 18 and Oct. 27 to Dec. 22 – including a holiday cruise. The Statendam also sails from Australia to Indonesia, The Philippines, China, Korea, Japan and Russia in the spring and offers a 28-day South Pacific cruise from the U.S. West Coast to Auckland in the fall.

The 793-passenger ms Prinsendam sails the “Circle of the Sun” Grand World Voyage that showcases a total solar eclipse Mar. 29, features nine maiden ports of call including Benghazi, Libya, and explores such exotic places as Madagascar, Zanzibar and Mombasa. The 108-day journey departs from Ft. Lauderdale Jan. 5 to visit 36 ports in 22 countries on six continents, including South America, Antarctica, South Africa, East Africa, India, and Mediterranean before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Apr. 20.

The Prinsendam again will explore the Amazon River to Manaus, Brazil, on two South America cruises: a 28-day sailing from New York/ Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale on Apr. 23 and a 24-day cruise from Cape Town, South Africa to Ft. Lauderdale on Nov. 8.

ALASKA

Eight ships will cruise to Alaska in 2006, including the addition of a third ship sailing from Seattle. The Westerdam, Oosterdam and Zaandam will be homeported in Seattle and sail seven-day, southeast Alaska cruises May 5 through Sept. 29. The Statendam, ms Ryndam, ms Veendam, sail between Vancouver and Seward, visiting Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier. And the ms Volendam and ms Zuiderdam will offer seven-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver to Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm. Holland America Line’s CruiseTour options highlight the Yukon, Denali National Park, Canada’s Kluane National Park and Tombstone Territorial Park.

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND & ASIA

The line’s inaugural Australia/South Pacific season kicks off at the end of 2005 with a 35-day South America/South Pacific cruise from San Diego to Auckland on November 17, 2005, and a 16-day Australia/New Zealand holiday cruise from Auckland to Sydney on December 22, 2005. The ms Statendam then offers a series of nine 14-day cruises between Sydney and Auckland that spotlight port calls in Australia and Tasmania plus visits to the most noted sites on the north and south islands of beautiful New Zealand. A 16-day Australia, Orient and China cruise places the Statendam in Hong Kong for three 14-day China and Japan sailings followed by an 18-day trans-Pacific cruise calling in Japan, Russia’s Far East and Alaska.

CANADA/NEW ENGLAND

The ms Maasdam will sail between Boston and Montreal May 13 through Oct. 7, offering 16 seven-day cruises total. It also offers a 15-day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Montreal departing Apr. 28 and a 10-day cruise from Montreal to Norfolk sailing Oct. 7. Guests enjoy such ports as Martha’s Vineyard; Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Quebec. Summer sailings provide ideal opportunities for a family vacation and October itineraries are especially designed to take advantage of the region’s famous display of dazzling fall color.

CARIBBEAN

Holland America Line remains the leader in 10-day or longer cruises, offering seven distinctive itineraries ranging from 10 to 16 days in 2006. It also offers the most complete 14-day Southern Caribbean itinerary and more choices of seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa than any other premium cruise line. A total of 8 ships will sail the Caribbean in 2006, including the Noordam from its new homeport of New York.

Sailing to the Southern Caribbean, the Maasdam features its popular 11-day itinerary from Norfolk. The Volendam will continue its exciting 10-day Seafarer itinerary roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, while the Ryndam will offer premium 14-day cruises roundtrip from Tampa. The Zaandam will sail 10-day Southern Caribbean-Panama Canal Sunfarer itineraries, and the Prinsendam will feature two cruises that venture up the remote Orinoco River in Venezuela.

The Westerdam and Zuiderdam will offer seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, many of which call at Half Moon Cay, the line’s award-winning private Bahamian island. New activity choices include a horseback riding and swimming excursion, a stingray adventure, Half Moon Lagoon aqua park and an AquaTrax watercraft tour.

EUROPE & TRANSATLANTIC CRUISES

From May through October, Holland America Line is offering 55 European and transatlantic cruises on four ships in 2006, featuring the Noordam with 15 Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises roundtrip from Rome.

Sister flagships, ms Rotterdam and ms Amsterdam, and the Prinsendam also cruise Europe. The Rotterdam will offer 10- to 15-day sailings between “European Capitals” such as Lisbon, Athens, Rotterdam and Copenhagen, plus feature Scandinavia and Russia cruises, from Apr. 20 to Oct. 22. The Amsterdam also will feature Scandinavia and Russia cruises, sailing roundtrip from Copenhagen on 10-day itineraries from May 23 to Aug. 11. The Prinsendam will sail a series of exotic 16- to 21-day cruises to such places as Spitzbergen, Iceland, the North Cape in Norway, and Egypt, North Africa, Greece and the Black Sea.

Around its Europe schedule, each ship will feature two transatlantic crossings that offer guests unusual ports of call. This Noordam sails two 16-day transatlantics between New York and Rome. The Amsterdam will cruise a north Atlantic route that includes Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The Rotterdam will sail the south Atlantic between Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon, calling at the Canary Islands, Gambia, Senegal, and Morocco. The Prinsendam offers a 34-day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to the North Cape in the spring and a 22-day cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town, South Africa in the fall.

MEXICO AND HAWAII

Holland America Line’s Oosterdam will cruise Mexico in 2006, offering 29 seven-day cruises roundtrip from San Diego to sun-drenched Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. The Zaandam will sail three 10-day Sea of Cortez cruises, adding Topolobampo for optional tours to Copper Canyon, Loreto and La Paz to the above ports. Holland America Line is the only premium line to sail the Sea of Cortez.

San Diego is also the homeport for Holland America Line’s popular Circle Hawaii cruises. The Amsterdam leads with a 30-day Circle Hawaii/Tahiti/Marquesas cruise departing Jan. 6 and then offers five 15-day Hawaii sailings from Feb. 5 to Apr. 21. The Zaandam features four 15-day Circle Hawaii cruises in the fall, alternating them with its Mexico cruises from Oct. 7 to Dec. 21. Holland America Line is also offering an 18-day Circle Hawaii cruise on the Volendam that sails from Seattle to the islands and returns to Vancouver. Guests visit ports of call including Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Kauai; and Lahaina, Maui, and cruise past Kauai’s scenic Na Pali Coast and Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano.

PANAMA CANAL

In 2006 seven Holland America Line ships will feature 29 cruises highlighting the Panama Canal, including 15 roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. Itineraries range from 10 to 34 days and depart from Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, New York, Vancouver, Seattle and San Diego. Two transcanal cruises, departing Apr. 14 on the Zaandam and Apr. 22 on the Veendam, will feature a new port of call: Isla de San Jose on Pearl Island, Panama. While most transcanal cruises range from 17 to 21 days in length, the Veendam also features a 34-day voyage departing Sept. 24 from Vancouver to Tampa. En route, this cruise crosses the equator twice while exploring the Mexican Riviera, Caribbean, Amazon River and Brazil.

SOUTH AMERICA & AMAZON

Flagship Rotterdam and intimate Prinsendam will offer cruises to South America in 2006, providing guests with a distinct choice of itineraries. The Rotterdam will sail four 16-day cruises between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Valparaiso, Chile, departing Jan. 31 to Mar. 20 and two more Nov. 20 and Dec. 6. It will also feature two 20-day South America and Antarctica Explorer cruises with departures Jan. 11 and Dec. 22; these sailings add adventurous cruising along the spectacular Antarctic Peninsula. The Rotterdam’s South America cruises highlight capitals such as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, and stunning scenery including Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean Fjords. Some sailings include the Falkland Islands.

The Prinsendam will also feature two cruises that add an adventure up the Amazon River to Manaus, Brazil. A 28-day cruise will sail from New York/ Ft. Lauderdale on Apr. 23 and another 46-day cruise will sail from Lisbon, via Cape Town, South Africa, to Ft. Lauderdale on Oct. 17.

Press Release By Holland America Line

Holland America Line Alaska Cruise Information
Holland America Line Europe Cruise Information
Holland America Line Mexican Riviera Cruise Information

Posted by Denise at 03:34 PM

February 18, 2005

NCL America To Host Gala Fundraiser Cruise In Hawaii

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NCL AMERICA TO HOST GALA FUNDRAISER CRUISE IN HAWAI`I

Charity cruise is the third for NCL in Hawai`i following Norwegian Star in December 2001 and Pride of Aloha in July 2004

HONOLULU – (February 16, 2005) --NCL America announced today that it will hold an overnight fund-raising cruise on July 22, 2005 to benefit three local charities. The cruise is part of the inaugural festivities for the arrival of the brand’s second U.S.-flagged ship, Pride of America. The new ship, which will be based year-round in Hawai`i, is the first new U.S.-flagged cruise ship in nearly 50 years and showcases a “Best of America” theme.

All ticket revenue from the cruise will benefit Child & Family Service, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and Kapi‘olani Children’s Miracle Network. NCL America will donate the use of the ship and all food and beverage services and amenities for the cruise.

This is the third charity cruise in Hawai‘i sponsored by NCL.
“Our first two cruises raised more than half a million dollars for local charities,” said Robert Kritzman, NCL's executive vice president and managing director of Hawai`i Operations. “Hawai`i is our home and we are proud to partner with these organizations, which make such an important contribution to our community. We look forward to continuing and growing our partnership with them.”

Guests on the charity cruise will enjoy a full evening and morning of culinary delights with Pride of America’s eight different restaurants as well as a sail away cocktail party, live entertainment and a comedy show.

Prices for the overnight charity are per cabin and are:
o Inside Cabins $300
o Outside Cabins $500
o Balcony Cabins $700
o Family Suites $1,000
o Penthouse Suites $1,250
o Deluxe Penthouse Suites $1,500

Celebrating 100 years of caring for Hawai`i's people, Child & Family Service (CFS) is Hawai‘i's largest and most comprehensive private human services organization, with more than 36 program sites on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Maui, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i and the Big Island. CFS is dedicated to strengthening families and fostering the healthy development of children.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) seeks to support the advancement of Native Hawaiians through empowerment and informational activities. CNHA provides programs and services that promote collaboration, networking, information sharing, capacity building and partnerships among organizations.

Kapi‘olani Children’s Miracle Network is committed to developing and promoting state-of-the-art health-care services and programs dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of the people of Hawai‘i, the Pacific Basin and Pacific Rim.

Pride of America will be based year round in Hawai`i beginning July 23, 2005. She joins NCL America’s first U.S.-flagged ship, Pride of Aloha, which began sailing seven-day round-trip Hawaii voyages last July.

NCL America is a brand under NCL Corporation ("NCL"), an innovative cruise company headquartered in Miami, Florida, with a fleet of 14 ships in service and under construction. The corporation oversees the operations of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America, and Orient Lines. On July 4, 2004, NCL made U.S. maritime history when it introduced the reflagged Pride of Aloha, the first modern U.S.-flagged cruise ship in nearly 50 years. The 2,002 passenger ship is 100% U.S.-crewed, and sails year-round in Hawai`i under the NCL America brand alongside Norwegian Wind from sister brand, Norwegian Cruise Line. The company is currently building three ships, including two more for the NCL America brand in Hawai`i - Pride of America (delivery in June, 2005) and Pride of Hawai`i (delivery in April 2006). Norwegian Jewel will join the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet in August 2005.

Press Release By NCL

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Posted by Denise at 11:32 AM

February 17, 2005

Mexico

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MEXICO

Stunning white-sand beaches, lively art, exciting nightlife, exuberant energy, and wondrous architecture and archaeological structures such as the many Mayan ruins all contribute to Mexico's popularity with cruise vacationers. Open-air markets with hand-made crafts, jewelry and straw items abound in Mexico, as do excellent restaurants and festive bars.

A day visit to a Mexican port can be an opportunity to sunbathe and sip margaritas on one of Mexico's 440 beaches, explore some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea, climb the steps of Chichen Itza; or go shopping for outstanding values on silver, gemstones and souvenir items.

Who Cruises There:

Acapulco - In the 16th century, Spanish explorers came across the Bay of Acapulco and were captivated by its naturally protected shores and beautiful surroundings. Today, Acapulco remains a stunning Mexican hideaway that caters to all the needs of the modern tourist.

Acapulco is by far the largest, most opulent of all the resort cities in Mexico. An endless variety of dining, entertainment, and sporting options are available in town, assuring that you will never run out of things to do while visiting. In addition, it is quite close to the resort cities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo; two destinations providing a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of Acapulco.

Acapulco is the ideal location for either a relaxing or an exciting day under the sun. A typical day on the bay will find you spending the majority of your time outdoors. With an average temperature of 80 degrees, Acapulco enjoys some of the finest year-round weather in the world. While spending the day on a beautiful beach, you can either lie peacefully, soaking in the sun's rays, or instead enjoy the many adventurous water sports offered in Acapulco. Some of these water sports include scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and water skiing. In addition, you should not miss La Quebrada, where daring cliff divers take a 130 feet plunge into the ocean. Other sites you should see is the beautiful vegetated lagoon of Coyuca, the historical Fuerte de San Diego, built to protect Acapulco from dangerous pirates in 1616, or a glass bottom boat where you can view the submerged Virgin of Guadalupe on the ocean floor off Roqueta Island.

At the end of a tiring, sun-splashed day, head over to Pie de la Cuesta and watch the beautiful sunset. Once the sun is down, Acapulco turns into a city of the night. There are delicious cafes, shops, boutiques, and lively clubs throughout the charming streets of Acapulco.

Cabo San Lucas - At the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, lies the tropical paradise known as Cabo San Lucas. Excellent weather, miles of magnificent public beaches with crystal clear water, and championship golf courses set the mood for a vacation that entices you to unwind and refresh.

Once sought after by migrating pirates for its safe harbors, the Los Cabos (The Capes) area, and Cabo San Lucas in particular, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It has grown in recent decades to a city of over 25,000, with many of its residents drawn to its rugged and beautiful coastline, water-sports galore, and world-class golf resorts. Cabo is particularly famous among the sport fishing crowd because of its year round status as the Mecca of big game trophy fish.

No matter what the season, in Cabo San Lucas you can partake in the thrill of hooking a blue or black marlin, sailfish, dorado or tuna. There are also many great surfing opportunities in Cabo San Lucas. To add some underwater excitement to your stay in this beautiful city, go on a deep-sea diving adventure, where you can see spectacular gardens of black coral reefs, gorgeous sea turtles, and sand waterfalls.

The legendary spirited nightlife of Cabo San Lucas, as well as the wonderful fresh seafood served in its charming restaurants, also highlights this wonderful city. Shopping for creative Mexican arts and crafts, or spending the day out on a glittering white sand beach, are other ways that you can enjoy your peaceful stay here. It is no wonder that visitors return again and again!

Cancun - Cancun is a stunning Caribbean paradise with a dual history, one rich in ancient Mayan influences and Spanish imperialism, and the other a modern lesson on the growth of this slender island into a fascinating tourist Mecca.

In 1967, the government of Mexico began an exhaustive search to find a complete tourist destination on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. In Cancun, they discovered a site that had it all: unparalleled natural and cultural beauty highlighted in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the stunning white sand beaches, and the incredible off-shore reefs. Cancun enjoys 15 miles of beautiful powdery white sand beaches and an endless view of the Caribbean Sea. Its surrounding waters are ideal for aquatic sports including snorkeling, diving, and parasailing. Golfing is also readily accessible year round.

The surrounding areas are rich with Mayan influences, one of the most advanced ancient civilizations the world has ever witnessed. The Yucatan Peninsula, on which Cancun lies, is where the Mayan's had flourished for centuries prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519. More than 1200 archeological sites, many completely restored, are within a few hours drive from Cancun. Popular guided day tours of the ruins of Tulum, Coba, and Chichen-Itza can be arranged upon your arrival.

Two distinct landmasses comprise the Cancun region. Ciudad Cancun is on the Yucatan mainland and features shopping and restaurants, as well as pharmacies, banks, travel agencies, and other general establishments. It is also the starting point for many quick trips to the surrounding ruins of the Yucatan. The second region, Isla Cancun, is the heart of the resort city. Isla Cancun is connected to the mainland via two bridges, and features opulent resorts, championship golf courses, deep-sea fishing, diving, amazing beaches, and so much more!

Once the sun sets, Cancun offers a large selection of entertainment that includes Mexican-style bars and sophisticated nightclubs, playing anything from salsa music to modern dance club mixes. Dining in one of Cancun's excellent gourmet restaurants that offer live dancing and music shows, or browsing through an exclusive Mexican shopping pavilion, are just two of the many things you can look forward to on your visit to this Mexican paradise.

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Cozumel - If you're looking for a beautiful Caribbean style vacation within Mexico, then look no further than Cozumel, Mexico. This lovely hideaway is Mexico's largest island, yet remains somewhat undiscovered by Mexico's 20 million annual visitors. Cozumel is located 12 miles offshore of the city of Playa del Carmen. Yet only 3 percent of its land has been developed, making it an ideal place to explore the region in its pristine and nearly unaltered state.

Cozumel's history is centered on its importance to the Mayan culture as one of three ceremonial centers in the region, and this link to the past can be further explored by paying a visit to one of 40 archeological sites still present on the island. When the Spanish took over the island in 1519, Cozumel became a pivotal trading center in salt and honey. The collapse of the Spanish Empire in the late 16th century ushered in nearly 300 years of obscurity to this Caribbean land, yet it has recently flourished as a popular cruise and travel destination; luring people from across the globe to bask in its wonderful weather, amazing diving locations, and friendly people.

Cozumel, although not nearly as developed as its northern neighbor Cancun, still contains all the resources necessary for the ultimate cruise destination. Shopping is prevalent, and duty-free stores, selling everything under the tropical sun, invite the seasoned bargain hunter. Cozumel has been consistently rated the best spot in the world for scuba diving and snorkeling. Restaurants on the island are world-class as well as affordable. Finally, its proximity to the popular excursions of Xel-Ha Lagoons, the Mayan ruins at Tulum, and Playa del Carmen solidify its position as one of the top cruise destinations in the Caribbean.

Ensenada - Glittering in the Pacific sun, Ensenada is a lovely hideaway on Mexico's Baja peninsula. Just sixty-five miles south of the U.S. border, this warm, inviting town is known for its bustling harbor community and agricultural center nestled in the mountains.

In 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino discovered an undeveloped, seaside village and christened it Ensenada-Bahia de Todos Santos. Since then, it has blossomed into the thriving port of call that today is simply known as Ensenada. The coastal area is so thriving, in fact, that it is the second most visited Mexican port city. Ranchers first laid claim to the fertile farmland up and down the coastal area. Soon thereafter, the marina came to mature into what we now see as the ever-expanding Ensenada.

With its rich agricultural region to the east and thriving fishery to the west, Ensenada offers visitors a chance to see modern rural life in action. Flourishing vineyards, famous throughout Mexico and North America, attract thousands of wine aficionados throughout the seasons. Locals and tourists agree that anyone who comes to taste the bounties of the vine will find that Ensenada wines rival the famed vintages Southern France and Northern California.

Possibly its most alluring quality, Ensenada's locals keep visitors cheerful and comfortable while exploring the city's numerous treasures. The obliging residents have given this township an outstanding reputation, not only for its multitude of activities, but also for its attentive and gentle atmosphere.

Huatulco - Bahias de Huatulco is located on the gorgeous coast of Oaxaca in Mexico. This region is beautiful and bursting with activity, and the bays of Huatulco encompass over thirty tropical beaches. The entire community is, in essence, a beach, so you will never be far from the sparkling sea and the warm, shimmering sand. There are a couple of outstanding restaurants in the vicinity, and the shopping here is limited but still enjoyable. The Museo de Artesanias Oxaquenas is an extraordinary museum where you can watch artistic geniuses at work. Huatulco's popularity is increasing, but some tourists remain hesitant to visit because of the unfinished appearance of the area. It is not nearly as built up as Cancun or Mazatlan, but there is a certain allure that is unique to Huatulco. In fact, many seasoned travelers prefer the rustic look of Huatulco to the other more commercialized areas of Mexico.

The bays can be toured by boat, and while viewing the spectacular sunset, you may want to engage in some fishing, followed by dinner consisting of your fresh catch. If you would rather enjoy a meal at one of the local establishments, some excellent choices exist. The crystal clear waters of Huatulco are perfect for swimming, and a wide array of water sports is at your disposal. The coast of Oaxaca is largely uninhabited, and there are trails all around the bays of Huatulco that are ideal for exploration.

Manzanillo - The two bays of Manzanillo, the Bay of Manzanillo and the Bay of Santiago, are the standout attractions in this lovely region. The beaches here are marvelous, and there is an abundance of water sports and activities to keep you busy for hours in or out of the water. In the past few years, tourists have discovered the wonder of Manzanillo, and as a result, the economy and the state of life in Manzanillo have both improved dramatically. A great deal of building has been done, and the port here is now one of the biggest commercial centers in all of Mexico.

The word manzanillo translates to chamomile, and the acres of chamomile fields in Manzanillo are magnificent. Set against a backdrop of the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the flowerbeds, tropical brush and mountains, and golden-sand beaches are even further enhanced. Everywhere you walk, you will be amazed at the beauty and splendor of the region, and traveling around the bays by foot will open you up to how glorious this destination truly is. In 1995, a strong earthquake heavily damaged Manzanillo, and the years following were devoted to rebuilding and expansion. The Santiago Peninsula was completely modernized, and is now the most luxurious area of Manzanillo, filled with outstanding golf courses and fabulous eateries. The downtown area is centered on the vibrant harbor. It is certainly a different scene from the calm and tranquil Santiago Peninsula. The shopping and nightlife all around the city are superb. Sport fishing and sailing are both extremely popular here, and wonderful weather makes it the perfect place to enjoy a round of golf.

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Mazatlan - Exquisite Mazatlan, the "Pearl of the Pacific," is located 674 miles north west of Mexico City, and is truly a tourists dreamland. A city housing nearly 500,000 people, Mazatlan is the single largest port in between the Panama Canal and Los Angeles. Mazatlan is packed with a myriad of engaging features and activities that make it a fabulous place to visit.

The tremendous sportfishing, some of the best in the world, and the spacious, glorious beaches continue to be two of the most enticing features of Mazatlan. The golf scene is evolving and luring many tourists, as well. There aren't too many other places where you can tee off on a lush, sparsely populated course on a seventy-degree December morning. Mazatlan's elegant yacht harbor is becoming quite the destination for the rich and powerful. The best news of all is that the tremendous selection of accommodations and activities have not yet reached the masses, so the majority of resorts are less expensive in comparison to other Mexican destinations.

Old Mazatlán is known as the "Historic Zone" because of its culture and fantastic heritage. This region is an exciting place to do a little exploring. Recent restoration has truly enhanced the atmosphere of the area, and guided tours highlight the most fascinating aspects of Old Mazatlan. Sidewalk cafes and shopping make this a quite pleasurable experience.

Zona Dorada is the hustle and bustle of Mazatlan, and is fondly translated as "The Golden Zone". This is the location where you can find the majority of the tourist hotels, most of the upper echelon restaurants, and a tremendously active nightlife. The Golden Zone is any place north of Punta Sabalo, and this is where one of Mazatlan's most well known city attractions is located. This party haven is called Fiesta Land, and it is certainly "party central" of Mazatlan. Fortunately, almost all of the attractions, nightlife, hotels, and clubs are within walking distance of one another.

The first settlers of Mazatlan were the Totorames. Hunters, gatherers, and fisherman, the Totorames inhabited Mazatlan until 1531, when the Spaniards settled. During that time, the area was rich in gold and silver, and the settlers, pirates, and everyone else who passed through tried desperately to get their hands on some of the precious metal. In 1806, the city was incorporated, and then, in the 1830?s, a municipal government was established. It was at that time that Mazatlan started to emerge as an ever-growing seaport. Since then, the port has grown into one of the largest fishing fleets for shrimp and tuna in the world. Also a fabulous tourist resort, Mazatlan is opening first class hotels and premier restaurants all the time.

Playa del Carmen - Playa del Carmen truly defines how there is beauty in simplicity; a quaint town that has been on the brink of rediscovery with its newly built resorts and golf courses. Nothing can be better than being surrounded by the unique flair of local culture, while also having a more modern option as well. The enchantment of the native buildings, with all of the amenities from world-class resorts creates a perfect blend and an ideal cruise destination.

Playa del Carmen is a vacation that spoils your senses. The sapphire seaside invigorates and cleanses the imagination as the white sands dance with you amidst each perfect sunset. Stroll through picturesque streets uninhibited by cars and take part in a European atmosphere unique to this part of the Caribbean coastline. The opportunity to see it all by foot makes it very convenient for the visitor. There is no need to be constrained to a car, especially when there is so much to see and experience around every corner.

This small getaway is the perfect place to find those unique and unusual gifts one will treasure forever, providing welcoming reminders of an enjoyable vacation. So take pleasure in the plethora of shops and please your taste buds with the finest of restaurants. Allow this town to seduce your senses with its European flair. Situated right in the middle of the Caribbean coast, there is no excuse not to visit this fascinating land.

Puerto Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta is a land of gorgeous sandy beaches, majestic mountains, and small-town allure. Located in the heart of the Mexican Riviera, a beautiful stretch of coastline running from Mazatlan to Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta is second only to Cancun in its popularity with tourists.

The city of Puerto Vallarta traces its history back to the 1500's, when it was first visited by Spanish explorers. Later, migrating Mexicans and even pirates added their individuality to this unique city. Today Puerto Vallarta remains a place enriched with history and culture, welcoming all people to join in its beauty. Puerto Vallarta offers its visitors a wide range of lovely hotels, inns, resorts and restaurants, which are sure to fit any budget. Tours are offered year round to sites such as Los Arcos and Huichol Indian villages. Kids will find places to explore and learn about around every corner of this Mexican paradise. Puerto Vallarta is alive with the feeling of "old Mexico". It is not rare to see donkeys roaming the streets and artfully designed homes reminiscent of days long past.

While areas of Puerto Vallarta can make you feel as if you have entered early 20th century Mexico, only walking distance away, the same city offers the feeling of a modern world-class resort with all the amenities of home. The city's 26 miles of coastline offer some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with plenty of boardwalk on which to stroll or browse the wares of the street vendors, who always offer something unique as a reminder of this beautiful and historic city.

In recent years, Puerto Vallarta has also gained a reputation as being a prime area to take part in many adventurous "ecotourism" activities. Outfitters are springing up all over town, providing the necessary equipment and expertise to enjoy a day of mountain biking, sea kayaking, and deep-sea diving.

Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa - Just four miles separate Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, but the history and experiences of these two towns on Mexico's West Coast are far from alike. One is centuries old, while the other's entire history can be measured in decades. But both are sure to captivate your interest.

Zihuatanejo's name is derived from the Nahuatl dialect. It means "Place of Women," and is derived from Calzonzin, the ancient Taraskan King who would bring his many wives here for some relaxation and recreation.

In the 17th Century, Chinese ships carrying Oriental treasures would stop here on their way to New Spain, only to find they were unwelcome visitors, as pirates robbed them of their riches. Of course, visitors now are more than welcome to explore Zihuatanejo's small village charm and rustic setting.

For those seeking an all-inclusive tourist experience, Ixtapa is the place for you. In the 1970?s, Mexico's Federal Government sought a tourist-friendly site and found everything they needed just north of Zihuatanejo. White sand beaches and white rocky islands made for a pristine vista. They again chose a word from the Nahauatl dialect, naming their new nirvana Ixtapa, or "the white place."

Having two cities so close together geographically yet so different in character is advantageous for the traveler looking for a little of everything. Take a nature hike along Zihuatanejo's coastline and see parts of Mexico unchanged since pre-colonial times. Visit a mango or coconut plantation, or observe the tranquility of local fishing villages. Then, when you're tired of roughing it, allow yourself to be treated to every amenity you can fathom in Ixtapa. Play a round of golf at one of two world-class golf courses, and enjoy the breathtaking vistas afforded here.

Shopping and dining options are plentiful in both towns. But once you get here, you'll know that the main attraction of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa is the beautiful white-sand beaches. From Zihuatanejo's Playa La Ropa to Ixtapa's Playa Palmar, relaxation is the key word here. Let your cares fade away with the setting sun, and enjoy.

Information Taken From CLIA

Mexico Cruise Information

Posted by Denise at 02:19 PM

February 15, 2005

Bermuda Bound: CLIA Predicts A Buoyant 2005 Season

BERMUDA BOUND: CLIA CRUISE LINES PREDICT A BUOYANT 2005 SEASON

New York (February 11, 2005) - Sailing to quaint, picturesque Bermuda has never been easier – and with the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) member lines, half the fun is getting there. This year, CLIA member lines will offer Bermuda sailings from six convenient East Coast cities aboard eight cruise ships, each of which boasts its own decidedly distinct ambiance and amenities. In short, there’s something for everyone: families, singles, newlyweds and seniors. There’s a reason why 40 percent of travelers return to Bermuda again and again. First, there’s the lure of the island’s sugary pink sand beaches set against turquoises seas. Pastel houses are appointed with vibrant bougainvillea hibiscus and oleander. And although Bermuda provides travelers with all 21st century amenities, it has not lost touch with its Colonial past. Horse-drawn carriages still meander down Hamilton’s Front Street, and proper British afternoon tea is still a time-honored tradition. Last but not least, the island boast more golf courses per square mile than any other destination on the planet.

This veritable paradise is in easy reach. Cruise ships depart from ports up and down the U.S. Eastern seaboard, including Baltimore, Boston, Cape Liberty (Bayonne, NJ), New York, Norfolk (VA) and Philadelphia. “Last year’s Bermuda cruises by CLIA-member lines were a resounding success, and all indications point to a stellar 2005,” said Terry L. Dale, CLIA’s president and chief executive officer. CLIA is composed of 19 member cruise lines representing 95 percent of the cruise capacity marketed in North America and 16,500 travel agencies – making it the largest travel agency association in terms of membership. To ensure space on these highly popular sailings – and to obtain the very best values – Dale advises travelers to consult a CLIA-member travel agent and book as early as possible. “The buzz words for booking 2005 cruises are ‘book early.’ Member lines report that bookings are coming in at an extremely healthy clip.” Following is a list of CLIA-member fleet vessels bound for Bermuda in 2005:

CELEBRITY CRUISES Horizon and Zenith will operate on Bermuda itineraries roundtrip from Cape Liberty, Norfolk, and Philadelphia. Horizon will sail on seven-night itineraries roundtrip from Norfolk and from Philadelphia. Zenith, meanwhile, will sail on seven-night itineraries roundtrip from Cape Liberty. Celebrity Cruises features cuisine prepared under the guidance of award-winning Master Chef Michel Roux.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line will position two ships in Bermuda this season. Norwegian Crown will operate on a series of six- and seven-day itineraries roundtrip from New York to Bermuda as well as a roster of six-day roundtrip cruises from Philadelphia. Norwegian Majesty will sail on seven-day itineraries roundtrip from Boston to Bermuda.

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES Luxury cruise operator Radisson Seven Seas will offer 13 cruises to Bermuda from May through early September aboard the 490-passenger, all-suite Seven Seas Navigator. Customizing the shipboard experience for family groups, the Club Mariner children’s program will be available from June through August for kids six to 11 and 12 to 17.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL Grandeur of the Seas will sail roundtrip from Baltimore on alternate Sundays. Jewel of the Seas will operate on 10-night itineraries roundtrip from Boston to the Caribbean with an overnight at Bermuda’s King’s Wharf. Voyager of the Seas, meanwhile, will sail on five-night voyages roundtrip from Cape Liberty departing on alternate Sundays.

Press Release By CLIA

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Posted by Denise at 08:11 AM

February 13, 2005

Carnival Cruise Lines Launches Industry's First Wine Club

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CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES LAUNCHES INDUSTRY’S FIRST WINE CLUB

Initiative Seeks to Make Fine Wines More Familiar to Cruise Vacationers

MIAMI — Calling it a “club with a mission,” Carnival Cruise Lines has launched the Presidential Wine Club, the cruise industry’s first affinity group for people interested in wine. Members will receive two bottles of select boutique wines each month, and have access to an on-line wine information and communication resource.

All wines featured in club mailings are tasted and approved by Bob Dickinson, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, a noted wine collector and unabashed oenophile, or wine connoisseur. Many of the wines come from small, boutique wineries located in the world’s great wine regions of California, France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia.

Among the Dickinson Selection wines that members can expect to receive are Merryvale Starmon Sauvignon Blanc 2003, Napa, Calif.; St. Supery Cabernet 2000, Napa, Calif.; Pirramimma Shiraz, McClaren Vale 2001, Australia; Tasman Bay Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2004, New Zealand, and Oriel Courant Cote du Rhone 2003, France.

“With the Presidential Wine Club, we are doing for wine what Carnival did for the cruise experience — demystifying it,” said Dickinson. “The enjoyment of wine often is perceived as elitist, just as cruising used to be. We are making wine accessible to those who might otherwise be intimidated by the idea of fine vintages.”

While membership will be primarily marketed to Carnival Cruise Lines past guests, anyone with an interest in wine may join. The cost is $39.99 per month for two bottles, plus $9.99 shipping and handling. There is no contract and membership can be discontinued at any time without penalty.

Dickinson says the club’s mission is to educate people about the enjoyment and health benefits of wine. The club’s Web site functions as a wine information resource and has interactive message boards for members to trade opinions about wine and a monthly “Ask Bob” column by the cruise line’s president.

Additional member benefits include opportunities to participate in annual Presidential Wine Club cruises featuring wine tastings, food pairings and sessions with wine makers and other wine experts. Members also qualify for discounts on special wine purchases and wine-related products and accessories sold through the Web site.

Current plans for the club include making select Presidential Wine Club vintages available at designated bars on all Carnival ships. According to Dickinson, this will provide guests an opportunity to taste some of the club wines before becoming a member

“Our goal is to make wine the beer of tomorrow,” said Dickinson. “Beer is like a birthright to Americans, while people who drink fine wines account for less than 10 percent of the population. Carnival is set to carry 3.3 million guests in 2005, and I think we can reach a lot of those folks with our message.”

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Posted by Denise at 12:26 PM

February 11, 2005

The Far East and The Orient - Destination Guide

The Far East and The Orient - Destination Guide

To most North Americans, the Far East and Orient define the essence of exotic destinations. Far from home in nearly every sense, these lands have dazzled and enthralled travelers with their fascinating traditions, stunning beauty, rich history and rich cultural heritage.

The diverse countries and cultures of this area of the world encompass a vast area and countless ports of call from Japan to the Indian subcontinent. Those who journey here can experience the wonders of some of the oldest known civilizations - and delight in the region's unique architecture, cuisine and art.

Apart from world cruises, whose itineraries generally sample key ports in the Orient and the Far East as they circle the globe, most cruises in this part of the world focus on specific areas, such as Japan and eastern China, the South China Sea and Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean and India. Typically these sailings visit several countries, each with its own distinctive culture, along with stops at enchanting and beautiful islands.

Although many of these are voyages of 10 days or more, seven-day cruises are also available. A journey to these faraway places easily merits an extended visit, and most lines offer extensive pre- and post-cruise land programs to add another dimension to the experience.

Cruise Lines That Travel To The Far East & The Orient

  • Crystal Cruises
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Cunard Line
  • Holland America Line
  • Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
  • The Yachts of Seabourn
  • Silversea Cruises

Ports of Call

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Beijing - Although not a seaport, the ancient capital of China is within easy reach of land excursions from ships calling at Tianjin. With a history stretching back over thousands of years, Beijing ranks as one of the world's great cities, offering visitors a window to the marvels that dazzled Marco Polo and the life of modern China.

Beijing is the unquestioned capital of China. Though it lags behind Hong Kong and Shanghai in terms of economic firepower, the soul of the nation resides here. It has been this way for centuries. Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan, established the city of Beijing as his capital in 1278. After the Ming dynasty overthrew the Yuans, Yongle, the Ming emperor, relocated his capital to Beijing to capitalize on its more strategic northern position. It was Yongle who authorized the construction of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, both of which still stand today. It was also the Mings who authorized construction of the Great Wall of China.

The Qing Dynasty took over in 1644 and built on China's feudal tradition. However, its power eroded over the centuries, and China was subject to war and foreign occupation for the better part of a hundred years. It wasn't until Chairman Mao declared the birth of the People's Republic of China in 1949 that things began to settle down again in China. Mao's contributions to China are still fresh. Look at the communist monuments in Tiananmen Square, designed to make the individual feel small in comparison to the state.

While Beijing can be enjoyed by every traveler, it truly rewards the adventurous soul. It's a safe city, with plenty of room for exploration. Although you'll be tempted to spend most of your time near Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, it is best not to limit yourself. There is plenty to see around the city's outskirts, and a short trip to the Great Wall is a must.

Dalian - Dalian sits at the tip of the Liaodong peninsula, and is home to over one million people, making it a small city in a country of over one billion people. Because it sits right on the sea, the city is free from the heavy pollution facing other Chinese cities. But its advantageous geographical position has led to its occupation over the years by a host of foreign invaders. Russia set up a trading center here, before losing it to Japan in their war in 1905. Over the years, Western Europeans came to trade in Dalian, and their influence, combined with that of the Russians, Japanese, and Chinese, continues to set Dalian apart from most other Chinese cities.

Foreign companies continue to be drawn to Dalian because of a favorable tax status here that encourages local investment. Dalian's longtime mayor, Bo Xilai, is something of a hero around these parts, and you will hear the locals of Dalian speak in positively glowing terms about his leadership.

In the summer, Dalian transforms into a resort town, with Chinese families from the inland making the trek out to the beaches on the outskirts of the city. The twenty mile stretch of beach here is among the finest in all of China. Dalian is also home to an annual International Fashion Festival, along with a Spring Festival to ring in the Chinese New Year.

Bangkok - The exotic royal city of Thailand embodies the deep serenity of eastern tradition in the midst of an intensely alive, bustling metropolis. Life here centers on the Chao Praya River, which runs through the city. "Dragon boats" provide water-borne transportation along this artery, and the city's world-famous floating market serve as a key element in Bangkok's commercial life.

Royal Palace - Golden spires, temples and statuary mark this heart of Thai culture. Still home to the nation's royal family, much this complex of spectacular buildings and gardens is open for public tours, and visitors can easily spend an entire day exploring its grounds and marveling at the treasures there.

Bargains Galore - The open-air markets of Bangkok are renowned throughout the world for their wealth of bargains and unique selections of goods. Shopaholics won't want to miss the chance to wander among the stalls looking for treasures to take home.

Dining Delights - Thai cuisine is a culinary experience that visitors can enjoy to the fullest at Bangkok's many restaurants, where they will find an incredible variety of uniquely dishes featuring coconut milk, peanut sauces and spices.

Bombay (Mumbai) - On India's northwestern coast, Bombay embodies the bustling, multi-faceted complexity of India, as well as its long history.

Sampling the City - Escorted city tours provide cruise vacationers a way to capture a sense of the city's life and its sights, from open-air public laundries to the hanging gardens.

Elephant Island - A boat ride from the Gate of India takes visitors to see the spectacular Sixth Century temples carved from rock caves on this nearby island. Escorted tours provide English-speaking guides to explain the thousands of exotic, hand-carved images in the caves.

Crawford Market - Though its exterior is Victorian - Rudyard Kipling's father designed the building - the chaotic bargaining and trading inside is pure Indian, as are the fine jewelry, semiprecious gems, fabrics and apparel, crafts and other goods to be found there. Bargain hunters who enjoy negotiating for a better deal will find this pure heaven.

Hiroshima - Hiroshima is a city focused on peace. Painful scars still remain from World War Two, and Hiroshima's citizens make every effort to heal the physical and emotional trauma that is still present. Peace Memorial Park is the most popular tourist site in Hiroshima, as it commemorates both the destruction caused by the atomic bombing of 1945 and the triumph of spirit of Hiroshima's people that followed. The area has been rebuilt beautifully, and laced throughout the buildings and high-rises are lakes, parks, and fabulous museums that are sure to capture your heart. The population of this bustling yet tranquil city is one million, and both car and shipbuilding are highly promoted industries here. Hiroshima is on the rise, and now is the perfect time to visit. There are a number of exquisite restaurants and art expos to be found in the city. There are three wonderful museums in Hiroshima that are dedicated to art, and both the modern and ancient art displays are amazing. The Hiroshima Castle is a dazzling work of architecture, and this building is made all the more impressive because it was basically demolished in the bombing, and yet it is more remarkable today than ever. Unfortunately, the majority of the great landmarks, historical sights, museums, and nature areas were virtually brought to ruin in 1945. However, through intense work by the citizens and the government, the area has been restored beautifully. Nearly all of the locations that were so terribly damaged now appear to have been undisturbed.

The people of Hiroshima are not quick to forget the destruction and casualties that befell their city as a result of the bombing. Yet the citizens are known for their friendliness and acceptance, and they are quick to help you if you have a question or a problem. The service inside the restaurants is great, and nearly everyone speaks English. Formerly a war-torn city, Hiroshima has rebounded into a glorious destination full of extravagant sights and relaxing environments.

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Hong Kong - Many feared that Hong Kong's incredible rise to prominence would be stunted when Great Britain handed control of the island back to China in 1997. In the years since, however, Hong Kong has continued its meteoric rise to become one of the leading economic centers of the Pacific Rim.

This position of strength could hardly have been anticipated. When England gained control of Hong Kong after the 1841 Opium War, the island was regarded as little more than barren rock. In fact, most of its value came from its strategic trading position, for it stood as a perfect entryway to Canton. Hong Kong started to rise slowly, but exploded only after waves of mainland Chinese came to the island, fleeing the Communist Revolution. Many of the refugees included China's elite businessmen, who came to this small island and transformed it into a wealthy economic hub.

Hong Kong's skyscrapers actually take their name literally. Companies continually strive to outdo each other by building huge edifices, seemingly one on top of the other. But if you can escape Hong Kong Island, you will be enchanted by the less developed islands that surround it. A side trip to the island of Lantau will remind you that there is more to Hong Kong than tall buildings and money.

Hong Kong can be easily divided into three main sections. Hong Kong Island measures only thirty square miles, but this is where you will probably spend most, if not all of your time. Each district on the island has a distinct feel to it, with some more focused on fashion and others concerned with economy and industry. Kowloon is the peninsula that lies across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. Finally, the New Territories cover two hundred square miles of mostly pristine, undeveloped territory.

Nagasaki - The charm and elegance of Nagasaki is much more covert than other Japanese cities. While not an outright tourist town, Nagasaki does remain quite popular because of its grace and beauty. While it is true that Nagasaki is not filled with luxurious resorts, famous museums, and world renowned art galleries, the gardens and parks more than make up for its lack of man-made spectacles. The landscape is gorgeous, and Nagasaki relies on its intrinsic beauty to attract people from all over the globe. This tactic has worked, as cruise ships flock to this exquisite port city, with passengers eager to experience some of the wonder of Nagasaki.

The green hills are magnificent, and Nagasaki has one of the prettiest harbors in the entire world. It is a circular masterpiece, and surrounding it are small, close-knit neighborhoods full of people who are extremely proud and loyal members of the community. Nagasaki is known as one of the safest and most pleasant cities in the country, and the fact that it is culturally diverse makes it all the more interesting. The population here is right around 500,000, and the yearly festivals, great restaurants, and ancient temples combine with the aesthetic brilliance to form a spectacular atmosphere.

In 1571, the harbor of Nagasaki was opened to European ships for trading purposes. Soon after, it became a major port for many Western countries, especially Portugal and the Netherlands. This triggered the Chinese to get into action, and they quickly set up camp along the Nagasaki harbor. This region became a booming trade center in no time, and its fame spread throughout the world. Even during Japan's trade isolation, it was the lone city of Nagasaki that was allowed to continue trading with Western civilizations. This is an important, historic, and wonderful city that demands a visit. The scarring from the tragic World War Two bombing is almost nonexistent, and all that remains are memories, stories, and landmarks that pay tribute to the lost souls. If you look in the right places, you will be delighted by the great shopping facilities that are found throughout the city. Sometimes they may prove difficult to uncover, but half the fun is trying, as Nagasaki is compact and incredibly fun to explore.

Osaka - Osaka is one of the premier vacation spots in Japan. Beautiful and busy, graceful and lively, Osaka has it all. The rich heritage of the region is complemented by the modern feel and splendid architecture. The ancient landmarks are glorious, and you will be treated to marvelous wonders at every turn. The citizens of Osaka have great pride in their hometown, and they should, because it is magnificent. While there are a number of outstanding man-made achievements in Osaka, the best sites are those that combine the thought of man and the brilliance of nature. Two examples of such spots are the Floating Garden Observatory and the Osaka Aquarium, where locals and tourists can see nature in its truest and most exquisite forms.

In addition to the extraordinary intrinsic glory of the region, the Osaka government has really done a terrific job in the last few years of keeping the city clean, pristine, and full of activities. There are a tremendous number of enjoyable engagements to take part in at any given time, especially at night and on the weekends. The businessmen and employed population of Osaka are incredibly hard working, so when they get a little time off they love to party. Great bars, fabulous restaurants, and fun karaoke clubs line the streets in certain areas of Osaka, and a night out is a fun night indeed. During the day, there are spectacular museums and architectural triumphs to hold your attention, and the underground shopping network is extraordinary.

Osaka is located on Honshu's southern coast, and has a fascinating 1500-year history. Heritage is important to all members of Japanese society, and families have an incredibly strong bond within them. Assisting a parent or grandparent in need is always the primary duty of the children. This extravagant city, so full of energy and meaning, is the capital of Osaka Prefecture, and is the third most inhabited city in Japan after Tokyo and Yokohama.

Pusan - Located between the mountains and the sea, Pusan is Korea's second largest city, a vibrant port city booming with population growth and industry. Today, its more than 4 million inhabitants help create a fast paced environment of work and play. Much of the city's economy is supported by the fishing industry. And from boat making to fishing, visitors to Pusan get the feeling that all of the locals are involved in making the city run.

Pusan is famous for its dramatic skyline and the mountainous ring that encircles the city. Visitors to Pusan gush about the city's picture-perfect beaches, its white sands and gorgeous cliffs. This is a place that seamlessly incorporates a busy mass urban culture with an obvious respect and love of nature and serenity. Tourists can choose the pace at which they experience this city, and rest assured that there is something for everyone here. Whether you are an avid shopper, a food connoisseur, or just looking to relax on a beach or take a hike, you will be impressed by the choices you have here. Many tourists like to begin their day buying fresh seafood at the harbor, and then enjoying a morning shopping for Korean folk art. Afternoons offer endless possibilities to see the historical sites here, and evenings are a time for leisure.

Climate is one of the city's greatest assets. Pusan remains relatively mild all year long, and even summer, which is the rainy season, offers a tropical and vacation-friendly climate. The air is warm, the land is lovely, and the people are friendly.

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Shanghai - Shanghai is a paradox, both an anachronism and a look towards the future. The Pearl of the Orient has a rich history, replete with multiculturalism and international intrigue. After the Communist takeover, Shanghai hibernated, before beginning to reemerge in the past decade. Since Deng Xiaoping proclaimed Shanghai to be the head of the new Chinese dragon, the city has undergone a complete facelift, with a booming economy that accounts for nearly twenty percent of China's gross national product.

These happy days are reminiscent of Shanghai's past. The city was divided up into small, independent, autonomous concessions, with a British section, a French section, and an American section. While part of Shanghai remained Chinese, many locals chose to interact with the Westerners, and Shanghai became known as the Paris of the East. The Communist Party was born in Shanghai, and after it came to power in 1949, the city closed its doors to the outside world until recently.

Sixteen million people call Shanghai home today. The city is poised to become China's international face of the future, and a construction boom is fueling that feeling. The Pudong New Area is being transformed from farmland into the city's economic center. Shanghai's stock market is found here, along with some of the tallest buildings in the entire world. In just fifteen years, the number of high-rise office buildings has increased tenfold, and that number is still growing. This burgeoning economy has again attracted people from around the world, allowing the old spirit of Shanghai to re-infect people. The city has come full circle.

Information Taken From CLIA

Asia Cruises On Oceania Cruises

Posted by Denise at 09:58 AM

February 09, 2005

2005 Europe Cruises On CLIA Cruise Lines

2005 EUROPE CRUISES ON CLIA LINES: SEEING EUROPE ABOARD SHIP MAXIMIZES RISING EURO DEMAND IS HIGH – TRAVELERS WILL MISS THE BOAT IF THEY DON’T BOOK NOW

New York - Europe cruises will deliver a one-two punch this spring, summer and fall – the end result of which translates into a double whammy in value. The high cost of the euro against the U.S. dollar – coupled with extraordinary early booking opportunities offered by CLIA cruise lines – make 2005 Europe cruises doubly tempting.

“Travelers who plan land vacations in Europe will pay more this year and perhaps experience sticker shock, however while travelers who opt for all-inclusive cruise vacations will pre-pay in U.S. dollars, insulating them from currency fluctuations,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the premier marketing association for 19 leading North American cruise lines and 16,500 affiliated travel agents.

There is another reason to book early, said Dale. “Executives from CLIA-member lines are reporting that Europe itineraries are selling faster – and sooner – than virtually any time in history. To get the best deal, as well as the departure and stateroom of their choice, it would be extremely judicious for travelers to book their cruises as soon as possible.”

There is a style of ship and itinerary to meet any prospective vacationer’s desires. Travelers can choose between luxury yachts that carry as few as 100 passengers or contemporary mega ships that can hold up to 3,000. Cruise guests also have the option of extending their holiday with land tours before or after their cruise, which can also be paid in U.S. dollars before departure.

Following is a rundown of the diverse portfolio of Europe cruises CLIA-member lines are offering travelers this year.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES For the first time ever, Carnival Cruise Lines will offer a series of Mediterranean voyages featuring extended visits to some of Europe’s most charming and historic ports of call beginning this summer on the new 110,000-ton Carnival Liberty. The ship will sail on eight 12-day Mediterranean itineraries roundtrip from Rome from July 20 to Oct. 12. Featured ports include Naples, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Venice, Italy (two-day call); Messina, Sicily; Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, France; and Livorno, Italy. Carnival Liberty’s 15-day transatlantic itinerary on Oct. 24 will position the ship in Fort Lauderdale.

CELEBRITY CRUISES The line’s Century, Constellation, Galaxy and Millennium will operate in Europe and the Mediterranean this year. Century will sail a series of 12-night Baltic cruises roundtrip from Amsterdam, a Norwegian Fjords cruise, and several 10- and 11-night Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona. The Constellation will operate on a series of 14-night Scandinavia & Russia itineraries and several 14-night British Isles & Norwegian Fjords. The Galaxy, meanwhile, will set sail on 10- and 11-night Mediterranean sailings while the Millennium will offer its own set of Med sailings of 12, 13 and 14 nights.

COSTA CRUISE LINES The line will offer more sailings and itineraries than ever before. Costa will deploy its entire fleet of 10 ships-- Costa Allegra, Costa Atlantica, Costa Classica, Costa Europa, Costa Fortuna, Costa Magica, Costa Mediterranea, Costa Romantica, Costa Tropicale and Costa Victoria – in European and Mediterranean waters from April through November. Sailing from the ports of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Savona and Venice, Costa’s 10 ships will offer itineraries of three- to 16-nights to the Eastern and Western Mediterranean; Canary Islands; Spain and Portugal; the Baltics and Russia; Russia, Fjords/North Cape; Scotland/Iceland; and transatlantics.

CRYSTAL CRUISES Collectively, the line’s Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony will offer 29 Europe itineraries. Crystal Serenity will operate on an extensive program – 18 itineraries in all – of Eastern and Western Mediterranean itineraries from spring through fall. Crystal Symphony will offer 11 itineraries, including three new seven-night Mediterranean sailings. Cruises range from seven to 22 days. Mediterranean itineraries include at least one overnight in port. The line has added the several new ports of call, including Alesund, Norway; Belfast, Ireland; Oban, Scotland; Porto Venere, Italy; Monemvasia, Greece; Sámos, Greece; and Nesebur, Bulgaria.

CUNARD LINE Cunard Line’s legendary Queen Elizabeth 2 – the longest serving Cunard express liner in the company’s history with 35 years of service – is based in Europe year-round, save for her annual World Cruise. Cruise guests can choose from 14 wide-ranging itineraries that visit ports in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. Famous big sister Queen Mary 2, which celebrated her first birthday in January 2005, will operate on four European voyages interspersed with her transatlantic schedule. In all, the line’s Europe sailings range from 11 to 31 days in length.

MSC CRUISES This year marks the first time the line has positioned seven ships – MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Rhapsody, MSC Melody and MSC Montery – on European and Mediterranean itineraries. Also, this year MSC Cruises will use Civitavecchia as a homeport for the MSC Lirica and MSC Opera, which will sail primarily on seven-night voyages to the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, respectively. The line’s itineraries range from one to 11 nights in length with the fleet sailing out of the ports of Venice, Genoa, Rome and Copenhagen.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, which is scheduled to begin sailing in August, will debut in Europe. The ship is the company’s fourth purpose-built vessel offering Freestyle Cruising. It will operate on a 13-day “Mediterranean Treasures” itinerary roundtrip from London on Aug. 10; a 12-day “Baltic Capitals” sailing roundtrip from London on Aug. 23; and a 10-day “Path of the Vikings” voyage from London to New York on Sept. 4. As a Freestyle Cruising ship, the 92,000-ton Norwegian Jewel will feature 10 restaurants, two Garden Villas and Courtyard Villas with concierge lounge.

NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGE An alternative to traditional cruises, the Norwegian Coastal Voyage is a unique combination of first-class cruise ship, working ship carrying local passengers and cargo between ports, a lifeline to remote coastal towns and villages, and a major tourist attraction. Eleven ships, carrying from 171 to 674 passengers, sail daily year-round between Bergen and Kirkenes, calling at 34 ports along the 1,250-mile west coast of Norway. Passengers have a choice of seven-day northbound, six-day southbound and 12-day roundtrip sailings. The 12-day roundtrip is ideal for passengers interested in an in-depth Norwegian experience.

OCEANIA CRUISES The line’s Regatta and Insignia head eastward to Athens, Rhodes, Olympia, Kusadasi and Istanbul, Mykonos, Corfu and Santorini. Westward, itineraries visit Dubrovnik, Seville, Monte Carlo and Portofino. Northward voyages call on the Baltic capitals of Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and St. Petersburg. For the time, Regatta and Insignia will sail to Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. Regatta sails the Mediterranean, Western Europe and Scandinavia while Insignia will sail to the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles and the Black Sea. Nautica debuts Nov. 28 with a 24-day maiden voyage from Piraeus to Singapore.

ORIENT LINES Orient Lines has added several new sailings to its roster of Mediterranean CruiseTours, which include pre- and post hotel stays in such cities as Athens, Rome and Barcelona. This year Orient will offer a total of 10 Europe itineraries aboard Marco Polo, which include: the 10-day “Aegean & Adriatic,” 12-day “Italy & the Rivieras,” two 16-day “Iberia & French Highlights,” 17-day “Enchanted Cities I,” a 10-day “Baltic & Russia” sailing, a 10-day “Medieval Cities” voyage to Stockholm or Copenhagen; 17-day “North Cape & Fjords” sailing; and a 10-day “Scandinavia & Russia” sailing.

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES Seven Seas Voyager will sail the Mediterranean and Baltic, Radisson Diamond will operate on Mediterranean itineraries, while Seven Seas Navigator sails the Baltic, Iceland and Greenland. Seven Seas Navigator will also embark on the line’s first “Top of the World” voyage, roundtrip from New York. Sailing a series of northern passages to Iceland, Greenland, and the Baltic, the 56-night adventure is available in five segments, ranging from 10 to 14 nights. The line is also adding a host of new calls this year: Heimaey, Iceland; Gdansk Poland; Angmassalik, Greenland; and Tripoli, Libya.

PRINCESS CRUISES Princess Cruises will offer its most extensive Europe season yet, with four vessels sailing in the region. Grand Princess will sail on 12-day “Grand Mediterranean” sailings and two different 12-day Greek Isles sailings. Star Princess will operate itineraries from Copenhagen on two routes that showcase the best of the Baltic seacoast. Golden Princess will sail to the British Isles and Western Europe, offering three 10-day itineraries from Southampton. Sea Princess will offer voyages from Southampton that range from 14-day Mediterranean and Northern Europe routes to new seven-day voyages to Iberia and Scandinavia.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL In 2005, Royal Caribbean is once again offering exclusive European cruise-tours, pairing land trips to some of the most historic and beautiful regions of England, France and Spain with European cruises on Brilliance of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas in the Mediterranean and Jewel of the Seas in Northern Europe. Land-tour portions, ranging from three to five days, are escorted by knowledgeable, local tour directors. They include four- and five-star hotel accommodations and guided tours of top cultural attractions, as well as plenty of free time to pursue individual interests.

SILVERSEA CRUISES Silver Cloud will operate on 19 cruises of seven to 16 days, calling in France, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Spain and Northern Europe. Silver Wind will offer 19 cruises of six to 16 days, calling in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. Silver Shadow will operate on 27 cruises of seven to 11 days, calling in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. Silver Whisper will operate on 15 cruises of six to 12 days, calling in France, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Spain and Northern Europe.

SWAN HELLENIC Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II is offering more than 15 European cruises in 2005. The ship’s Europe season starts in April and runs through October. Cruises vary from eight to 15 days. Destinations include Malta, Italy, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Tunisia, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, the U.K., Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Norway, Finland, Channel Islands, Azores, Madeira, Ireland and Iceland. Swan Hellenic’s inclusive fares cover roundtrip flights between Minerva II and select U.K. gateways. Also included aree special tailor-made excursions in each port led by experienced local guides. Tips and gratuities are also included.

WINDSTAR CRUISES All three Windstar ships will sail in Europe this year, operating on Mediterranean and Greek Island itineraries. Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, Nice, Marseille, Venice, Monte Carlo and Malta will serve as homeports. Wind Star will sail 10 seven-day Mediterranean cruises from June through August, a 10- and 11-day Mediterranean voyage in the spring and three seven-day cruises in October. Wind Spirit will sail three seven-day cruises in April and again in October and November. Wind Surf will spend April through November sailing six- to 11-day Mediterranean itineraries, for a total of 27 voyages.

YACHTS OF SEABOURN Seabourn Pride will begin the Europe season with a pair of 16-day Mediterranean cruises between Iberia and Istanbul. Seabourn Pride sails the “Rivers of Western Europe” from Lisbon to London, then spends the balance of the summer sailing 14-day cruises in the Baltic, Russia, the British Isles and the fjords of Norway roundtrip from London. Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend will sail the Mediterranean from early spring until late autumn. A series of seven-day cruises may be combined for two, three, four or five weeks of cruising with different port content.

Press Release By CLIA

Europe Cruise Information
Alaska Cruise Information
Mexico Cruise Information
Tahiti Cruise Information

Posted by Denise at 09:19 AM

February 07, 2005

Catching The Cruise Wave

CATCHING THE CRUISE WAVE: SHIPS ARE FILLING FAST – SO BOOK NOW WHILE SAVINGS ARE STILL HOT!

New York - It’s a new year. And a new Wave Season – that time of year from January to March when cruise lines reel in their largest ‘wave’ of bookings for the year. “This year’s Wave Season is already off to a hot start,” said Terry L. Dale, president and chief executive officer of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). CLIA comprises 19 leading North American cruise lines with more than 150 ships and 16,500 member travel agencies, making it the travel industry’s largest association based on agency membership.

“CLIA cruise lines are reporting bookings that are even stronger than pre-9/11 Wave Season levels. Ships are also filling up fast. European cruises represent a particular value versus land-based travel in Europe because travel expenses including food, lodging and entertainment are fixed in dollars,” said Dale.

“Those travelers who want to choose from the very best itineraries and reserve the best staterooms should book as soon as possible,” he added.

To officially celebrate the launch of the Wave Season, and to further stimulate bookings for the three-month period, CLIA cruise lines are offering a wide range of attractive promotions to tempt travelers to sample life on the high seas. Several CLIA lines are offering promotions that feature attractive cabin-upgrade offers as well as sensational savings on cruise fares. (See attachment for a sampling of what some CLIA-member lines are offering.)

“In the end, it’s all about the early bird catching the worm,” said Dale. “Travel agents need to stress to clients that they shouldn’t wait and hope for the best cabins and itineraries. Our advice is to get clients booked now – to avoid ‘missing the boat.’ ”

CRYSTAL CRUISES Crystal Cruises is offering up to 20% additional savings on its three ships, representing up to $500 per person, on select spring itineraries to the Mediterranean and Alaska when travel is booked by Jan. 31. Offered in addition to specially priced fares already earmarked for these voyages, the savings vary depending on sailing date and range from 10% to 20%. The promotion is available for all new bookings made on any of five different cruises from April through June, including three Mediterranean departures, one Western Europe and one Alaska sailing.

CUNARD LINE Cunard is offering special rates starting at $1,799 for balcony staterooms on the Queen Mary 2’s April 10, April 16 and April 22 transatlantic crossings. For a limited time, Cunard is also running a “QM2 Winter Caribbean Special” that provides free upgrades on selected seven-day sailings. Fares range from $999 per person for standard inside staterooms to $1,499 for standard oceanview staterooms. Passengers can also take advantage of a free balcony upgrade when purchasing ocean-view staterooms on the Feb. 12, 19 and 26; and March 9, 17 and 25 sailings.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Holland America Line is again featuring its “View & Verandah” promotion to foster cruise bookings during this year’s Wave Season. The promotion features free upgrades on cruises booked from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28. Travelers can book an ocean-view outside stateroom for the price of an inside or a Deluxe Verandah stateroom for the price of an outside stateroom. If guests book a Deluxe Verandah stateroom, they’re upgraded to a Deluxe Verandah suite. Upgrades of up to seven categories range in value from $100 to $2,966.

MSC CRUISES MSC Cruises is offering several special promotions for this year’s Wave Season. During MSC Opera’s inaugural Caribbean season out of Fort Lauderdale, guests can sail on the March 26 seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise at special rates that include airfare from select gateway cities beginning at $790 per person. Guests will find two-for-one specials available on MSC Lirica’s Feb. 15, March 9 and March 31, 11-night Deep Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, as well as the Feb, 26 and March 20, 11-night Panama Canal cruises, also roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is offering special discounted rates, stateroom upgrades and generous onboard credits on a variety of first-quarter NCL sailings as part of all “Sale of all Sails.” NCL will offer exceptional values and prices including up to four-category upgrades on every 2005 ship and itinerary, up to 50 percent savings from published fares and a $50 shipboard credit on select sailings. The company’s fleet will expand to 12 ships this summer with the introduction of Pride of America and Norwegian Jewel. Pride of Hawaii joins the fleet in 2006.

NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGE Norwegian Coastal Voyage has reduced rates for solo travelers from $320 to $1,385 per person on NCV No Frills Vacations, 10- and 15-day air-inclusive cruise tours introduced in 2004 on small mid-generation ships plying Norway’s 1,250-mile west coast between Bergen and Kirkenes above the Arctic Circle. Year-round AARP member discounts of $100 to $150 per cabin and savings for seniors age 67 and up to $95 to $170 per person are available except in June and July can be combined. Departures are scheduled fix to six times a month.

OCEANIA CRUISES Oceania Cruises is offering guests free airfare and two-for-one cruise fares on all winter 2005-2006 voyages to Asia, China, the Caribbean and South America. For a limited time, guests may still take advantage of extraordinary savings and free airfare on select 2005 European voyages aboard Regatta and Insignia to the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Black Sea, Scandinavia & Russia, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. Two-for-one cruise fares begin at $1,599 per guest for European voyages and $1,199 per guest for winter 2005-2006 voyages to the Caribbean, South America and Asia.

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS CRUISES From February through May, guests can take advantage of two-for-one or 40% savings on five Caribbean and Panama Canal cruises aboard Seven Seas Mariner. Itineraries include: Feb. 24, seven-night Western Caribbean sailing with two-for-one prices from $2,198; March 3, 14-night Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles sailing, with two-for-one prices from $4,198; March 17, 14-night Los Angeles-Fort Lauderdale “Spotlight on Wine Sailing” sailing, with two-for-one prices from $4,198; April 22, nine-night “Bermuda & Colonial America” from $3,297, including 40% savings; and May 6, 14-night Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles sailing with two-for-one prices from $4,198.

WINDSTAR CRUISES All 2005 European and transatlantic itineraries aboard Windstar Cruises’ three motor sailing yachts are now available at two-for-one rates, or better, with the newly announced “Europe on Sail” promotion. Rates are based on brochure fares and apply to all sailings departing between April 2 and Nov. 13. Examples of pricing include $1,795 per person for a seven-day Malaga to Marseille aboard the Wind Surf; $1,895 per person for a seven-day Barcelona to Rome cruise aboard Wind Spirit; and $2,695 per person for an 11-day Rome to Istanbul cruise on Wind Star.

THE YACHTS OF SEABOURN Luxury cruise operator Seabourn is featuring some very special “Guarantee” fares for three Mediterranean cruises in April. The cruises are seven- to 10-day Mediterranean itineraries aboard Seabourn Legend departing from Lisbon, Monte Carlo and Barcelona and including ports of call in Spain and the Cote d’ Azur. Fares start from just $2,495 per person, double, and guarantee guests will sail in a 277-square foot ocean-view suite of category A or better. Specific suites will be assigned 30 days prior to departure. Cruise departures are April 7, 17 and 24.

Press Release By CLIA

Information on Alaska Cruises
Information on Mexico Cruises
Information on Europe Cruises
Information on Tahiti Cruises

Posted by Denise at 11:43 AM

February 05, 2005

MARINER - Review

SEVEN SEAS MARINER - REVIEW

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An all suite, all balcony ship, the Seven Seas Mariner caters to the most discriminating traveler. At 50,000 tons it only carries 700 guests. Onboard is a country club casual atmosphere which takes the stuffiness and formality out of cruising.

Public rooms are pleasantly decorated with contemporary furnishings in classic colours. The bi-level Constellation Theatre offers excellent sightlines and seating is tiered so that every seat has a great view of the stage. A large casino features slot machines and variety of table games, very impressive for this size of ship. A spiral staircase descends to Stars Nightclub which is a dark and cozy spot for drinks and dancing.

The Connoisseur Club offers cigar smoking with comfortable leather chairs. The Observation Lounge is perched high on Deck 12 with a bird’s eye view of the surroundings. The Mariner also boasts an elaborate book and video library, card room, and meeting rooms to host small conferences.

The central pool is complemented with 3 whirlpools and large open deck space.
The Clarita spa has a complete range of treatments as well as salon service. A good size fitness center has a large aerobics floor although a little limited on the number of cardio and weight machines. However for a ship this size the gym is seldom busy.

Dining is all open seating which allows ample flexibility for guests, with five different dining venues. The main dining room is Compass Rose Restaurant, neighbouring Latitudes has an African/Asian theme with unique décor and place settings. La Veranda Restaurant and Signatures are both elegant alternate restaurants and the Pool Grill serves casual fare. Complimentary wine is included with dinner as well as all shipboard gratuities. All soft drinks and bottled water are included as well as 2 bottles of premium liquor in each suite.

Suites on the Mariner range from the Deluxe Suite at 252 square feet to the elaborate 2-bedroom Master Suite at 2,002 square feet. Each suite has a sitting area, walk-in closet with bathrobes and slippers, marble bath with tubs and stocked bar, floor-to-ceiling windows and private balcony. Suites at the forward or aft end of the ship have large wraparound balconies. While spacious and well appointed, compared to suites found even on contemporary market ships her age, the Mariner lacks in the creature comforts that today’s travelers may be accustomed to. Televisions in the suites are small and none offered DVD players(all movies are played on VCRs). Though a generous marble bathroom filled with amenities, none had a Jacuzzi tub, not even in the Master Suite, and only the Master Suite bath had double sinks.

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Seven Seas Mariner would be perfect for couples looking for a six-star luxury cruise with small number of passengers, yet with casual, country-club atmosphere. Does not cater to families as there are only a limited number of triple suites available but no children’s programs onboard.

Pros:
1. Lots of space for the number of passengers onboard, so never crowded.
2. Lots of dining and entertaining venues for a ship this size.
3. Inclusions of wine at dinner, soft drinks, stock bar and gratuities mean added value.

Cons:
1. Suites lack some of the elements expected in a luxury hotel (eg. DVD players, Jacuzzi tubs, larger TVs).

Written By Ming Tappin, MCC

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Posted by Denise at 02:57 PM

February 03, 2005

Oceania Cruises Announces Nautica’s Inaugural Season of Voyages to Asia

OCEANIA CRUISES
Your World. Your Way.

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Oceania Cruises Announces Nautica’s Inaugural Season of Voyages to Asia

Oceania Cruises is proud to announce that on November 28, 2005, our luxurious world will expand exponentially with the arrival of Nautica, joining Regatta and Insignia to form an exquisite triumvirate that calls on the world’s most extraordinary ports in Europe, South America, the Caribbean and now, Southeast Asia and China.

Nautica, the third and newest member of our highly acclaimed, 5-Star fleet, charts a distinctly different course as she undertakes her inaugural season of voyages to Asia. Debuting on November 28, 2005, Nautica sets sail from Athens for the Far East, an enchanting land that overflows with history and fires the imagination. Beijing is a gateway to discovery, where you may explore the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China or march with the Terracotta Warriors in the famed city of Xian. Hong Kong, with its bustling harbor and famed skyline is a virtual treasure chest of exploration. Blissful Bangkok brims with 400 temples, surrounded by peaceful villages, teak forests, tropical islands and idyllic seaside resorts. An intriguing land that is nearly impossible to resist, our 2-for-1 cruise fares with FREE roundtrip airfare starting at just $3,299 per guest make Asia and the Far East simply irresistible.

“Having done extensive research and polling of our past guests and travel partners, Southeast Asia and the Far East were the resounding favorites among destinations they wished to sail to. Our Oceania Club members are extremely loyal, many of them having sailed with us 6 or more times to Europe, the Caribbean and South America,” stated Bob Binder, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Oceania Cruises. With eight departures ranging from 15 to 35 days in length, guests are presented with an enticing array of voyages from which to choose, many of which may be combined to create Grand Voyages of 50 days or more in length. “As a leader in destination cruising, presenting destinations rich in historical, cultural and culinary experiences is a top priority and we expect these cruises to be phenomenally popular among past guests and new guests alike,” added Binder.

Magical Maiden Voyage - Athens to Singapore
24 Days - November 28, 2005
Athens, Cairo, Luxor, Muscat, Dubai, Bombay, Cochin, Phuket, Singapore

Far East Fantasy - Singapore to Hong Kong
15 Days - December 22, 2005; January 6, 2006 (reverse); January 21, 2006
Singapore, Sianhoukville, Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi, Canton, Hong Kong

Pagodas and Palaces - Hong Kong to Bangkok
15 Days - February 5, 2006
Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Muara, Nha Trang, Saigon, Singapore, Ko Samui, Bangkok

Treasures of the Orient - Bangkok to Beijing
24 Days - February 20, 2006
Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Seoul, Beijing

Oriental Interlude - Beijing to Hong Kong
15 Days - March 16, 2006
Beijing, Seoul, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Okinawa, Sakishima Islands, Taipei, Hong Kong

The Route of Marco Polo - Hong Kong to Athens
35 Days - March 31, 2006
Hong Kong, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore, Phuket, Mormugao, Bombay, Salalah, Luxor, Aqaba, Sharm El Sheik, Cairo, Athens

Offering more overnights than any other premium cruise line, Oceania Cruises will bring you more culture, more history and offer a comprehensive, in-depth experience. You will experience overnight port stays in Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hanoi, Saigon, Kyoto, Bombay, Luxor and Dubai. With two full days and an evening in each of these ports, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, history, lore and cuisine of these magnificent cities and surrounding regions. And to allow you more time to explore the “Star Cities” that we embark and disembark in, you may take advantage of pre- and post-cruise hotel stays or extended land tours of three to nine days to such mystical locales as Chiangmai, Myanmar, Guilin, Siem Reap, Beijing and The Great Wall, Xian and the Yangtze River.

Of course, you will travel to these mystical, magical lands in Oceania Cruises’ inimitable style and flair. You’ll dine on the finest cuisine at sea, meticulously crafted by Master Chef, Jacques Pépin. Each and every suite or stateroom is an oasis of tranquility and comfort; the centerpiece is our exclusive Tranquility Bed which provides a sleep experience so sublime, it started a cruise industry revolution. And as one of only 684 guests being served by 400 staff members, you will receive a level of service and pampering that is unrivaled.

Oceania Cruises is the highest rated premium cruise line according to the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine in the 2004 “World’s Best Awards”. Featuring three intimate and luxurious 684-guest ships, REGATTA, INSIGNIA and NAUTICA, Oceania Cruises is setting a new, worldwide standard for luxury cruising with the finest cuisine at sea, exceptional personalized service, grand style, and luxurious accommodations coupled with extraordinary value.

Press Release By Oceania Cruises

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Posted by Denise at 09:04 AM

February 02, 2005

Wyndam Old San Juan Hotel In Puerto Rico

Wyndam Old San Juan Resort & Casino

Arriving at the hotel by taxi my first impression was it had a great location. The lobby was nice with a friendly doorman who greeted us and a large wide staircase inside that went to the second floor.

Reception was small and crowded. You could easily hear the casino noise because its located right off the lobby. We checked-in and were informed that due to the storm the day prior all rooms with king-size beds were having the carpets shampooed. When I made the reservation I had requested a room with a king-size bed that was non-smoking because we were on our honeymoon and my husband has allergies. We ended up getting a room with two double beds that was smoking.

I didn't want to complain because of what had happened with the storm. Although I thought it was unusual because when I had checked rates for the hotel after we booked it I was told that that particular night was soldout. So, if the hotel was soldout how could some of the rooms be empty because the carpets are being shampooed?

The room was a standard size with a bathroom to the right at the entrance and our windows looked at a car park across the street. There were a large entertainment center with a 25" or 27" TV. The fabrics on the beds were faded and the chairs wicker. The bathroom was plain white with many of tiles cracked. There were a few amenities in the bathroom such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shower cap & a hair dryer. The towels were well used and rough. Not soft to the touch.

Throughout the night we had 7 fire alarms go off at the hotel. 3 of which woke us up in the middle of the night when we were sleeping. It seemed like the alarm was right above our heads because it was so loud! If any were a real emergency I don't know that guests would have known what to do. No employee or manager contacted us regarding any of the alarms.

The people at reception were nice, but had poor customer service skills. When we were asked about our stay when checking out my husband brought up about the room and the alarms. The front desk clerk explained the alarm was going off because of the storm and then asked if we wanted the charges put through on the credit card we had on file.

I was disappointed in the way we were treated. Not only because we were honeymooners, but because of the terrible experience we had there. Let's just say I'm glad it was only one night!

Written By Denise Blackmore

For More Information About This Hotel Or To Book A Room Contact Denise at #1-800-738-8837 ext 22 or email her at denise@cruising2alaska.com

Posted by Denise at 09:30 AM

February 01, 2005

VIKING CENTURY STAR

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Viking River Cruises' Century Star

Exotic culture, fascinating history and luxury cruising are all on board Viking River Cruises' new Century Star on its opening season of Yangtze River cruising programs.

The adventure kicks off with a 3-day stay in the five-star Beijing Hotel, situated not too far from the sprawling Tiananmen Square in this, the second largest of China's cities, the seat of its government and home to its ancient rulers. Afternoon arrivals from West Coast cities can use the hotel's facilities for a little R&R after the lengthy flight across the Pacific and take time to adjust to the time difference with a good night's sleep before heading off on rightseeing tours the next day.

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The Summer Palace
First thing in the morning, guests will enjoy a scenic drive to Beijing's world-famous Summer Palace. It was first built in 1153 as an imperial palace for short stays away from the capital and rebuilt in 1888 by the Empress Dowager Ci Xi. The lady utilized her royal prerogative and did a little creative financing for her very expensive re-modelling job by appropriated to build a Chinese navy. Kunming Lake takes up to three quarters of the garden's more than 700 acres and the garden itself is divided into three parts: a political activity area with the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity as its center; the living quarters of the Empress with the Hall of Jade Ripples and the Hall of Happiness and Longevity Hill at the center; and a scenic area featuring Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. The groups of buildings, hills and lakes, together with the background of West hills, afford an ever-changing scenery. At the foot of Longevity Hill is a 2,388-foot covered passageway that links the three areas together, decorated by a series of literally thousands of paintings. The Summer Palace, a World Hertiage Site since 1998, was opened to the public in 1924.

Next, it's on to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. but warn clients that everywhere they go in this massive city, they'll be stalked by an army of street hawkers selling everything from hats and souvenirs to tourism guides and informational books on attractions. Should you decide to purchase any of these items, we recommend you to check your change carefully. The vendors are fond of using worthless Russian currency as change for hapless tourists.

In the heart of Beijing, the Imperial Palace remained the residence of the emperors for nearly five hundred years, from the 15th century to the early 20th century, and was the actual and symbolic seat of imperial power. Popularly known as the Forbidden City, it was built the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century. Many of the buildings of the Palace have been repaired and rebuilt, but their basic form and layout remain in their original state.

This magnificent complex covers an area of over 2,350,000 square feet with 9,999 rooms. It's surrounded by 10-foot-high walls topped by four observation towers and protected by a deep moat. Four large gates provide entry, each with three openings and a pavilion perched on top. The overall layout is centered on the three primary Halls of State: The Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Hall of Middle harmony and The Hall of Preserving Harmony. State ceremonies were held in the Outer Court of Forbidden City. here, the emperors governed from their thornes, holding court sessions with their ministers, generals and important visitors, as well as royal birthdays, weddings and official meetings. The Inner Court was the residential area of the emperor and imperial household, as well as the place where the emperor dealt with routine state affairs. Today, the Forbidden City's palaces and halls are filled with works of art and cultural artifacts.

On Day Two, it's time to head out of town again for a trip to the Great Wall in the Badaling Hills. Here, visitors can browse the myriad shops that line the main road before or after they make their way up to the wall itself. The winding and sometimes steep surface at the top of the hill - obviously, the wall must conform to the topography of the land itself - offers an invigorating exercise and some pretty expansive vistas. Next on the agenda is a unique lunch offered at a jade factory respldendent with an enormous assortment of jade products, as well as an informative and interesting exhibition of how the various pieces are designed, cut and polished. Still another stop is at the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs for a tranquil walk down a broad avenue lines with statues of lions and firece-looking imperial warriors.

Just prior to heading off for the airport and the 90-minute flight to Chonqquing to board the Century Star, there's time for a visit to a traditional Beijing neighborhood, one of the few remaining as a massive building boom eats away at the traditional structure of the city. Here, vegetable, bread, meat and fish vendors offer their wares to wary-looking shoppers as cruise passengers ride by on efficient pedicycles.

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Chonqquing and the Yangtze
An important inland port since its inception, Chonqquing was the starting point for an abbreviated 3-day cruise that officially launched Viking River Cruises' new, 186-passenger Century Star. On its regular itineraries - Chonqquing to Wuhan and reverse - the river cruise portion is seven nights. On this particular sailing, the inaugural festivities at the port included lion dancers, fireworks and visits by local dignitaries and tourism officials before heading east toward Wuhan.

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This ship itself is roomy - it boasts five decks - and is beautifully decorated throughout with all outside cabins and private balconies. Guests can enjoy cocktails, soft drinks or coffee on the observation deck or under a covered portion of the sun deck topside. There's also a well-equipped gym, Internet facilities and a spacious dining room. Dining is truly a pleasure on board and Viking River went out of its way to ensure its menu offerings would be geared toward western tastes, something that's not readily available on other ships that cruise the Yangtze.

The first stop was Shibaozhai Temple, a beautiful, multi-storied, pagoda-style wooden edifice built in 1650 and perched on a cliff. here, passengers had the opportunity to go ashore and climb a series of wooden steps to the top where still another smaller temple is located.

The next day, the ship arrived at the Three Gorges, where passengers boarded a smaller craft for a side trip up one of the Yangtze tributaries and some of the most beautiful scenery anyone will ever see. here, lush farm land gives way to mistshrouded high peaks, caves, waterfalls and small villages that line the tributary. In the afternoon, guests disembarked at a way station built specifically for Viking guests that is surrounded by several vendors selling food, soft drinks and a variety of souvenirs and crafts at quite reasonable prices. The reason for the stop is an elegant barbeque, which the Century Star crew had brought eariler and prepared for guests as they sailed up the tributary.

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Back on board, the entertainment for the last night of sailing was provided by the crew itself, all decked out in the traditional costumes of the regions from which they came. In the morning, the ship arrived at the recently completed Three Gorges Dam and became one of the first ships to traverse the 5-stage locks that will bring ships up a total of 328 feet so they can continue their voyages up the Yangtze. It was here where the inaugural guests disembarked and headed off to the airport for a flight to Shanghai and a 1-night stay at the beautiful Shanghai Sheraton before returning home.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT TO SAVE $500 PER CABIN ON 2005 CRUISES - BOOK NOW!

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Posted by Denise at 01:59 PM