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Old December 31st, 2005, 09:38 AM   #1
hkskyline
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Cruise the World in 80 Days?

Now you, too, can make like Magellan
Global cruises are pricey, but popular

Gene Sloan
30 December 2005
USA Today

Now you really can go around the world in 80 days.

Or so goes the pitch from Cunard, which is shaking up the cruise industry with its recently announced plans for the speediest around- the-world cruise in history.

The voyage, aboard the 2-year-old Queen Mary 2, will begin Jan. 10, 2007, in Fort Lauderdale and end exactly 80 days later -- more than 20 days faster than other ships sailing around the world.

The new offering from the much-ballyhooed ocean liner, which is among the speediest afloat, is just the latest sign of a resurgence in around-the-world cruises -- a tiny, often-overlooked niche of the fast-growing cruise industry that traditionally appeals to wealthy retirees.

"A few years ago world cruises were dead in the water," says Mike Driscoll, editor of industry watcher Cruiseweek. But the itineraries are drawing new interest as post-9/11 fear of global travel dissipates and "the market for far-flung destinations picks up after a four-year lull."

Driscoll notes that world cruises offered for 2006, which are scheduled to depart in just a few weeks, sold heavily. And there's an explosion of new offerings for 2007. Never before have cruisers had such a range of choices for the voyages -- from tiny, 300- passenger vessels to the giant Queen Mary 2, the world's largest cruise ship.

Thinking of going? Assuming you're sure you can block out the time (and have the money), now's the time to book for 2007 voyages, says Driscoll. Cruise lines offer their lowest fares for world cruises a year in advance, and they often fill up early, he says. "Most world cruise bookings (for 2007) will occur during the January to February period (when) early booking savings can add up significantly."

What lines plan:

*Silversea. The luxury line launches its first around-the-world cruise on Jan. 15, 2007. The 126-day sailing aboard the 382- passenger Silver Shadow, which starts in Fort Lauderdale, includes stops in Mexico, Peru, Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, India, Egypt and the Mediterranean. Prices start at $52,794 per person.

*Holland America. In a big expansion, the line has assigned two ships to world cruises in 2007, up from one in 2006. The 1,380- passenger Amsterdam will sail around the world in 105 days starting in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 15, 2007 (stopping in 38 ports in 26 countries). The 793-passenger Prinsendam, which has offered the line's around-the-world cruise until now, will sail two abbreviated world cruises, one 66 days and the other 56 days, that each go part- way around the world. Prices for the Amsterdam voyage start at $18,799 per person.

*Crystal. The 1,080-passenger Serenity departs Miami on Jan. 12, 2007, on a 109-day journey -- the line's 12th annual world cruise. The unusual new itinerary, which doesn't completely circumnavigate the globe, includes a transit through the Panama Canal before sailing down the west coast of South America and on to Antarctica. From there the ship will travel back up the east coast of South America before crossing the Atlantic to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Prices start at $47,290 per person.

*Radisson Seven Seas. The luxury line plans its most extensive world cruise ever aboard the 700-passenger Seven Seas Navigator, which will depart Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 9, 2007, on a 111-day circumnavigation. Among the stops are the line's first in southern and eastern Africa since 2003. Prices start at $54,995 per person.

*Cunard. The line that pioneered around-the-world cruising (in 1922) breaks new ground again with the introduction of the massive, 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2 on the route. Until now, most world cruises have been done by small ships.

Cunard's aging Queen Elizabeth 2 also will sail around the world in 2007 -- its 25th such voyage. Unlike the Queen Mary 2, the older Queen will take it slow, completing its circumnavigation in 108 days. The two ships will depart together from Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 10 and meet up again in Australia. Prices start at $21,195 per person on the Queen Mary 2; $16,845 on the Queen Elizabeth 2.

Driscoll notes that with all the additions, the number of berths available for world cruising will triple between 2006 and 2007 -- part of a larger trend toward more long cruises.
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Old February 26th, 2006, 11:23 PM   #2
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Oman, Anyone? More Ships, More Ports of Call
By AMY GUNDERSON
26 February 2006
The New York Times


An artist's rendering of cantilevered whirlpools planned for the Freedom of the Seas, a new 160,000-ton vessel for Royal Caribbean International.

ANYONE with sea legs will tell you that cruising is no longer just about sun-drenched islands. Sure, there are plenty of Mediterranean and Caribbean sailings this summer, but cruise lines are also sending more ships to Northern Europe (where you can, for instance, see the Baroque Catherine Palace, just outside St. Petersburg) and increasing capacity in Alaska (where you can take a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, a relic of the 1898 gold rush). There are excursions that whisk passengers farther and farther away from the ship (Antarctica, anyone?) and cruises that stop in far-flung ports in the Middle East and Asia, for those who want to mix, say, a little archaeology with their rest and recreation.

New Ships


Cruise passengers take pictures in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska.

There are six big new ships hitting the water this year: Holland America's Noordam, Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of Hawaii, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, the Crown Princess from Princess Cruises, and two ships from Italian operators -- MSC Cruises' Musica and Costa's Costa Concordia.

At 160,000 tons, the 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas ( www.royalcaribbean.com ) will supplant the Queen Mary 2 as the largest ocean liner in the world when it begins sailing in June on seven-night Caribbean tours out of Miami. The ship carves out plenty of niches for children, including an ice skating rink, basketball, golf and a sports pool for water volleyball. The FlowRider, the much-advertised surf park, looks like a cross between a resistance swimming pool and a Class V rapid (thankfully, lessons are included). For adults, the Freedom of the Seas is offering fitness amenities including a full-size boxing ring and a studio with eight Pilates machines.

The second-largest ship launch scheduled for this year is the 113,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Crown Princess ( www.princess.com ), which has an entire deck of 323-square-foot minisuites, plus interconnecting "family suites" that sleep up to eight people, a two-story spa and gym and new casual dining options, including an area that imitates a street cafe setting.

This month, the 1,918-passenger Noordam ( www.hollandamerica.com ) is scheduled to sail out of New York on a series of 10- and 11-day Caribbean cruises, which will run until April and start again in October. (During the summer, the Noordam is scheduled to head to Europe for 10-day Mediterranean sailings out of Rome.) At 82,500 tons, the ship is just a touch larger than the three other vessels in Holland America's "Vista" class of ships, with an additional 35 guest rooms, including 18 with verandas. It has all the upgrades that Holland America has been slowly rolling out on its other ships, including a culinary arts center. There is also a wine bar that will serve some 60 wines by the glass.

New Ports


Silversea's Silver Shadow in port in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Middle East has become an increasingly popular destination for cruise passengers, particularly those booking trips on luxury vessels.

"Dubai is hot again and Egypt is drawing passengers now that there is a lot of interest from the King Tut exhibit," which recently traveled to the United States, said Brad Ball, spokesman for Silversea Cruises ( www.silversea.com ), which has a fleet of four all-suite ships. This year, Silversea is making its first calls in 23 ports including Khasab, Oman (on a 14-day cruise that starts at $6,450.) But gaining access to the newest ports isn't without wrinkles.

Libya has been emerging as a destination for cruise operators since President Bush lifted a 23-year-old ban on travel to the country in 2004, but it is in danger of falling off itineraries this year because of difficulty in obtaining visas for American travelers. Last October, Silversea dropped Libya off one itinerary after the cruise line was told that American passengers would not be allowed to disembark, Mr. Ball said.

This spring, though, Silversea is still going ahead with plans to make its first stops in two Libyan ports, Derna and Tobruk, and in mid-February was working to secure individual visas for American passengers rather than cover them under a group visa. In contrast, Oceania Cruises ( www.oceaniacruises.com ), has removed Libya from its trips this year and next.

Entry to most ports doesn't involve navigating such rough political waters. Both the Baltic and ports in northern Africa and the Black Sea are popping up on itineraries as lines roll out shorter cruises in the region. Crystal Cruises ( www.crystalcruises.com ) plans to place the Serenity, a 1,080-passenger ship, in the Baltic this summer. It has scheduled a 14-day cruise in June that crosses the Arctic Circle to visit a new port, Spitsbergen Island, Norway.

For the first time, Orient Lines' ( www.orientlines.com ) 826-passenger Marco Polo will sail around Iceland, making stops in five ports including Reykjavik and Husavik. The cruise, leaving out of Copenhagen in July, also stops in Norway, Denmark, the Shetland Islands and the Faroe Islands, before reaching Stockholm 19 days later.

Seabourn ( www.seabourn.com ) is adding Sarande, Albania, and the former Venetian outpost, Rovinj, Croatia, to its roster, while Crystal Cruises has increased the number of its seven-day Mediterranean cruises. Crystal's world cruise aboard the Serenity includes a visit to Dubai, a destination the line hasn't visited in five years.

The Big Players


The Mediterranean continues to draw the cruise giants. Norwegian plans to put the 2,376-passenger Jewel there for 7- and 12-day cruises, and Carnival Cruise Lines' Liberty ( www.carnival.com ) will also return to the region this summer.

On the home front, expect to see more departure options, especially out of the Northeast.

Royal Caribbean is running cruises to Bermuda out of Philadelphia. This spring, Cunard Line ( www.cunard.com ) plans to base the Queen Mary 2 at the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook; in June, Princess Cruises' Crown Princess is scheduled to start nine-day Caribbean cruises from Brooklyn.

Back in Manhattan, itineraries on the Norwegian Dawn out of the New York Cruise Terminal add a stop in Bermuda on seven-day sailings to the Caribbean.

By the end of the year, the port of New Orleans will see a return of cruise traffic. Both Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines plan to resume trips out of New Orleans in October. Carnival's Sensation is scheduled to be refurbished after its post-hurricane duty with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And Princess Cruises will begin service out of the port in December, the first time it has operated out of the city.

Small Ships


Windstar Cruises ( www.windstarcruises.com ), is bumping up the number of its Greek Isles cruises to 38 trips. Two of its ships (essentially motorized yachts with large sails), the Wind Star and the Wind Spirit, sail between Istanbul and Athens. Itineraries have been arranged so that passengers can book back-to-back seven-day cruises this summer without repeating a port. SeaDream Yacht Club ( www.seadreamyachtclub.com ) is moving one of its two 110-passenger ships from the Caribbean to South America in November. "The Caribbean is overexposed. There are just too many ships there," said Ernie Beyl, a spokesman for SeaDream.

The SeaDream I will run between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires and 9-night, 10-day round-trip itineraries out of Buenos Aires that will stop in four ports in Uruguay, including Colonia del Sacramento, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Discovery World Cruises ( www.discoveryworldcruises.com ) now has an itinerary to the Galapagos Islands after it secured permission for its ship, the Discovery, to visit the area with 500 passengers (though it can hold up to 650). Cruise West ( www.cruisewest.com ) sails on 14-day tours of Japan for the first time this year on itineraries that visit a new port each day. The operator also has a large presence in Alaska with eight ships operating there this summer and about 70 percent more permits for entry into Glacier Bay National Park than last year. It added three- and four-night cruises from Juneau that include a full day of sailing in Glacier Bay National Park.

New Excursions


Some of the most adventurous excursions this year include Crystal Cruises' trek in the mountains of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and the Norwegian Cruise Lines' land excursion to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile -- a one-day side trip, offered through April for $2,000. In general, excursions are getting even more off the beaten path. For instance, Discovery World Cruises has added new ports in Georgia and Ukraine, including Sevastopol, where passengers can now tour a former Soviet submarine base, and Yalta.

But perhaps the biggest off-the-boat attraction is one that doesn't involve leaving the ship at all. Some cruise lines are positioning their ships in the Mediterranean for the solar eclipse on March 29. The Prisendam (Holland America) and the Clipper Adventurer (Clipper Cruise Line, www.clippercruise.com ) will be there with prime viewing spots.

Family


The Freedom of the Seas isn't the only ship that caters to families. Lindblad Expeditions ( www.expeditions.com ) has seen the number of children on its small-ship expeditions, which carry between 47 and 110 passengers, grow to represent nearly half of their passengers on summer cruises to the Galapagos, Costa Rica and Alaska. In response, the operator has created child-friendly menus on all its ships and recently trained its staff to cater activities to families and small children.

For Holland America, Alaska and families go hand in hand these days. "It's not uncommon to have a hundred or up to 200 kids on a sailing of 1,800 people to Alaska," said Richard Meadows, Holland America's senior vice president for sales and marketing. Starting in May, eight of Holland America's ships will begin cruising Alaskan waters, many traveling the Inside Passage and visiting Glacier Bay National Park. It will be the line's biggest presence ever in the region.

All but two of Holland America's ships in Alaska this summer have expanded areas for children and teenagers as part of the "Club HAL" program. Teenagers have their own lounge (no adults allowed) with a karaoke machine, television and computers for Internet access.

Some shore excursions have more appeal for youngsters than others. One might be Holland America's helicopter tour from Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier that ends with a 25-minute ride on a dog sled.

What's Next


Those who are cruise-obsessed are already browsing the 2007 brochures. Next year, Crystal will stop in Israel for the first time since 1999. Cruise West is starting 8-, 9- and 12-night trips around Vietnam. Seabourn will resume cruises to China in the first quarter of 2007. Princess will have two ships in South America, hitting six countries and cruising in Antarctic waters.

If you are looking to circumnavigate the globe, the Queen Mary 2 will embark on its first world trek, and Silversea will launch its first-ever world cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, stopping in Easter Island; Napier, New Zealand; and Salalah, Oman among 56 other ports. For those who don't have four months free, the cruise can be bought in segments as short as 11 days.
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