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Technology Aboard Cruise Ships

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Gone are the days of heading out to sea and losing all contact with the world. Cell and Internet services are now standard (though free in-room Wi-Fi is not), and some lines have gone even further with their tech amenities. Holland America has introduced a series of classes covering such subjects as digital photography and blogging. And on its October voyage, Crystal Symphony will offer a digital filmmaking workshop, led by BBC producer Michael Rosenblum, that includes instruction on shooting and editing travel videos.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Crystal Cruises’ New Voluntourism Program

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This year, Crystal Cruises is taking voluntourism at sea to a new level with its just-launched You Care, We Care program, which offers passengers the option of free, service-oriented shore excursions on all 2011 itineraries. Each of the 58 trips has been carefully designed by local tour operators to help communities. You can decorate a children’s center in Lima, Peru; tend to an urban farm in Cartagena, Colombia; or help in beach clean-up efforts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Laurie Rosenwald

Celebrity Cruises Reacts Swiftly After Armed Attack in St. Kitts

St Kitts

Fresh from the Carnival Splendor mess, the cruise industry is facing yet another public relations problem after armed robbers accosted a busload of Celebrity passengers in St. Kitts. The cruise company was quick to respond. AOL Travel explains:

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines tells AOL Travel News a call at St. Kitts by the Carnival Miracle, scheduled for today, has been canceled "as a precautionary measure," while the line awaits information from tourism and law enforcement officials on the island...

The attack by the masked gunmen occurred over the weekend as passengers from the Celebrity Mercury were visiting Brimstone Hill Fortress, a popular tourist spot on bus tours of the island.

The masked robbers reportedly blocked the road with a fallen tree and then emerged from the bushes to rob those on the bus. The armed gunmen then disappeared into the woods.

No one was injured in the incident. The robbers made off with valuables including cash, jewelry and cameras. Local police are investigating.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.

Royal Caribbean's Record-Size Cruise Ship Nearly Ready

USA TODAY | Will Royal Caribbean's much-awaited new ship, Allure of the Seas, be ready for its late November unveiling? It's looking more and more like a sure thing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain—just back from touring the 5,400-passenger vessel at the shipyard in Finland where it is under construction—writes on his blog this week that he doesn't think he's ever seen a ship at this stage of construction so ready.

"Despite regular status reports and photographs from the newbuilding team, I was astounded by how far along she was," Fain says.

Fain goes on to hint things are going so well at the shipyard the company might even rethink inaugural activities planned for November.

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Strict New Regulations Set for Cruise Ships

201007-b-cruiseillojpgTravel 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)

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Interest Grows in Trans-Atlantic Travel to Europe

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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.”

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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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Behind the Scenes: Crystal Cruises

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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?

201003-b-cruise-5jpgA: 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.

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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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