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Snorkel Surprise on Alaska Cruise

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The giant purple starfish had me trying to say “wow” in my snorkel mask. The big, spiky red sea urchin looked like dinner. The long, wavy sea kelp reminded me of TV “housewives” with flowing blonde hair extensions.

The colorful undersea delights might have seemed less surprising in a warm weather climate, say the Caribbean. But this was in Alaska.

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Cruise Your Way to Weight Loss?

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Somewhere off the Cote d’Azur, on a pre-inaugural cruise of the stylish 450-passenger Seabourn Quest, I indulged duo course of seabass with citrus fondue and barbeque glazed lamb shank with seared foie gras. So it was particularly weird to hear talk of people coming on Yachts of Seabourn ships and losing weight.

But an enthusiastic fitness trainer in the Quest’s fancy and sizeable two-deck spa swears that’s what happened with passengers on a recent three-month world cruise on year-old sister ship Seabourn Sojourn.

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Carnival Debuts First Shipboard Pub

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Somewhere between Venice and Dubrovnik, the brand new 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic ran out of ThirstyFrog Red draught beer.

This was significant not only because there was a whole lot of drinking going on from the very first night of the maiden cruise of Carnival’s latest “Fun Ship”—the 23rd vessel in the fleet—but also because Carnival clearly has a hit on its hands.

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Twiggy on the High Seas

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Okay, we admit we are tickled pink—maybe even 1960s hot pink—to hear that none other than Twiggy will serve as Godmother of the new, ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn.

For those of us who remember the ‘60s, Twiggy (Lesley Hornby) was a cultural icon, right up there with The Beatles. Guys may have cut their hair in Beatles shags. But for many of us gals (even preteens like me) the British invasion was also very much about the “supermodel” of the decade. To look like Twiggy, only 16 when she exploded on the international scene in 1966, we cut our hair short and begged our parents to let us wear minis and eye makeup. And we assessed our own lumps and bumps—Twiggy being the thinnest model we had ever seen.

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New Disney Ship’s (Michelin) Star Power

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Disney and Michelin-starred French restaurants may seem like an odd pairing, but when the new cruise ship Disney Dream debuts early next year, one onboard restaurant will have an impressive French accent. So much so that Disney Cruise Line decided to announce the restaurant, Remy, in New York, at a press dinner at Michelin three-star Le Bernardin.

The restaurant’s name is of course a nod to the diminutive star of Disney Pixar’s animated film Rataouille. But kids are not the focus here. Rather, Remy is adults-only with a cover charge (likely to top $75 per person).

Based on a sample menu served to journalists at Le Bernardin, it will be well worth the price—impressive dishes liked smoked bison with fennel salad and Honeywell oranges and market fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. Remy may just become the ship’s must-do attraction (well, along with the 4,000-passenger Dream’s AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea).

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Snowy Fun at Alaska's Famed "Fur Rondy"

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In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.

The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).

Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.

Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).

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The 'Bon Voyage' Party is Back!

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As a young kid I remember the excitement of driving to New York in the 1960s to see my parents’ friends and their kids off on an ocean voyage.

Everyone was dressed up and they had a bon voyage party onboard, in their cabins, complete with champagne and balloons and lots of good cheer.

The days of such send-offs have long passed, due in part to security regulations. Until now.

In a nostalgic return to tradition, Princess Cruises is reviving the bon voyage party with a new program that allows passengers to invite friends and/or family onboard for embarkation day—for a fee and with an advance reservation.

Called the "Bon Voyage Experience," the program is a new twist on the celebration of my youth. Passengers can invite guests to join them onboard for a four-course dining room lunch with wine, an organized ship tour and a souvenir photo.

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Good News for Solo Cruisers

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Let’s face it, the cruise industry has not been all that kind to solo travelers, with most ships charging as much as double to those who want to have a cabin to themselves. But, it's not all bad news for singles: Norwegian Cruise Line announced last week it would change the game when it launches its newest and largest ship, the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, in July. Epic is paying attention to solo travelers with a new category of very hip cabins (above) affordably priced for one. Known as "The Studios," the 128 identical cabins are small (100 square feet), have double beds, and do not offer views (they are all inside).

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Silversea Cruises Launches New Ship: Silver Spirit

The intimate ships of Silversea Cruises tend towards the contemporary, even Euro-trendy. So it was a surprise on a recent preview of the new Silver Spirit to find a more traditional, Art Deco-inspired elegance. But a very pleasant surprise, indeed. This is one pretty new ship for the ultraluxury crowd.

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Cruise Line Gets Clubby/All-Inclusive

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Azamara Cruises, the small-shipcruise line launched two years ago by Royal Caribbean, as an upscale sister line to Celebrity Cruises, this week got a new name—Azamara Club Cruises. And officials announced pricing will be going all-inclusive starting in April 2010, with wine at lunch and dinner, soft drinks, espresso drinks and gratuities included in the cruise fare.

200912-b-small-journeyjpgThe line operates two 694-passenger ships, Journey and Quest.

Why the redo? With Azamara not the big hit officials had hoped, Royal Caribbean brought in big-hitter, Larry Pimentel, as president and CEO (he previously helmed SeaDream Yacht Club and before that Seabourn). And he has ideas.

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