Travel Agent Central | A new U.S. bill aimed at increasing safety on cruise ships is set to become law. The Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act will require cruise lines to install peepholes on cabin doors, ensure rails are no lower than 42 inches and provide passengers with information on how to report crimes. The law means business: non-compliance can result in denial of entry into U.S. ports, civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment. (Image credit: Ryan Heshka)
Despite the ash cloud that closed European airports and stranded passengers in April, more Americans intend to travel to Europe this year. Yet many would-be vacationers are considering traveling by ship instead—and reliving the glory days of trans-oceanic travel.
“There’s definitely an upsurge in interest, which is terrific,” says Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Cruise Line which operates the Queen Mary 2’s six-night crossing between New York and Southampton, England. “There’s a feel-good factor about trans-Atlantic travel. It’s back on people’s radar.”
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.
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).
As top luxe line Crystal Cruises fêtes its 20th anniversary, I decided to check in with cruise director Scott Peterson, a 23-year industry veteran. Below, he reflects on what’s in store for the upcoming season.
Q: What is Crystal doing to celebrate its 20th anniversary?
A: Crystal’s 20th year anniversary is going to be a yearlong celebration. There are going to be special Captain’s parties and champagne breakfasts for guests, plus on the two cruises sailing on July 20, the actual day of Crystal’s anniversary, the first ever Crystal menu will be served at a gala dinner, along with wine selections sold at the original prices. Each ship will also host a games night featuring a Crystal trivia contest. The winning team will be treated to an evening at the Vintage Room for a multi-course meal with wine pairings. All the wine will be from 1990—which happened to be a very good year.
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.
The cruise industry’s largest trade organization let loose on critics of Royal Caribbean International today, saying that the cruise line is bringing relief aid to Haiti despite the ridicule and disdain that has been heaped on the company in the press and online message boards. Richard Sasso, chairman of the marketing committee of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), told a press conference this morning that RCI should be praised for its efforts, not criticized.
The controversy began soon after last week’s earthquake in Haiti, when the cruise line announced that it would continue visits to the undamaged port of Labadee and its private resort on the north side of Haiti, about 60 miles from the ruins of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The port calls have been characterized by some in the press and in the blogosphere as an out-of-touch decision to allow sunbathers and umbrella-drink aficionados to lollygag in the tropical sun while the number of dead and dying increased daily on the other side of the country. In fact, according to Sasso, the decision was driven by the need to deliver food, water, and other supplies at a time when the country’s main port has been nearly destroyed and its airport hampered by having only one working runway.
“They didn’t have to go back to Labadee,” said Sasso, his voice rising in outrage as he addressed a crowd of reporters at the annual CLIA media update in New York City. “Not now, not next year, or in three years. They put themselves out there despite all the criticism.”
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).
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.
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.
The 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.